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What to look for fantasy wise in the preseason

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Fantasy football is all about the numbers.

The team whose players record the most yards and score the most touchdowns on a week-to-week basis will ultimately have the best chance at reaching the top of the mountain and win that coveted league title.

But in preseason action, there is much more to look at then the basic numbers.

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After the first week of exhibition contests, Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL in passing yards, Gary Russell is the leader in rushing yards and Santonio Holmes and Shaun McDonald are tied for the lead in receiving yards.

The lone player from those four that warrants consideration in seasonal drafts is Holmes.

So if not the basic statistics, what can fantasy owners take from the preseason? Actually, the answer is quite a lot. But you have to look beyond the basic yards and touchdowns and instead examine these five important categories.

1. Completion percentage: We all love to watch quarterbacks throw tight spirals downfield to a quick wideout for a long touchdown, but the stat to watch in the preseason is completion percentage. While most first-team quarterbacks see limited action in the first few weeks of the preseason, we can still determine his confidence under center and rapport with teammates. The greatest example of that came in Dallas, where Tony Romo completed a solid 10 of 11 passes (90.9) and led his offense on two long scoring drives.

After the first week of action, a group that includes

Ben Roethlisberger (85.7 - two games), Marc Bulger (85.7), Matt Hasselbeck (80.0), Rex Grossman (80.0), Alex Smith (80.0) and Charlie Frye (80.0) all showed some real moxie under center. Accurate and efficient starts like these can be a good indicator that a quarterback is comfortable in his offense and confident his receivers will catch the football and make plays.

On the other hand, quarterbacks with less than impressive completion percentages need to be watched for improvement or continued struggles in their upcoming exhibition starts. Jeff Garcia (25.0) and Trent Green (40.0) are prime examples of those field generals who failed to impress fantasy owners in their first appearances and could be headed for a decrease in draft value if their fortunes don't change for the better.

2. New offensive systems: Teams with new coordinators will no doubt install new, innovative offensive philosophies, some of which will alter game plans and in turn alter a player's level of production. While some coordinators, like Jim Hostler in San Francisco, will continue to run a similar offense to the one his predecessor ran (in this case, Norv Turner), most coordinators will implement their own system.

A perfect example is Bruce Arians, who takes over the offense in Pittsburgh. While he plans to utilize Willie Parker and the ground attack in a prominent fashion, Arians will also increase the number of chances the offense takes downfield. That was evident in their first two preseason games, as the team showed some of its new identity. The fact that Roethlisberger's completion percentage is stout shows a comfortable level in the offense. That bodes well for his value and the value of both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

The fact that Romo was so tremendous under center against the Colts shows that he has embraced the new offense of coordinator Jason Garrett, who like Arians will take more chances downfield. Owners must also take note of the performance of DeShaun Foster, who recorded 62 yards on five carries and caught one pass for nine yards in Carolina's preseason opener against the Giants. Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson has implemented a new zone-blocking scheme that should be a perfect fit for the dynamic duo of Foster and DeAngelo Williams, and Foster's success in the first week is a real reason for optimism.

3. Backfield repetitions: Committee situations can be real headaches for owners, but they've become more popular around the NFL in recent seasons. As a result, the teams with a two -or three-headed monster should be watched closely to help determine who is more integral in the coaches' game plans.

In Dallas, Julius Jones started against the Colts but alternated series with Marion Barber before all of the starters were pulled. Tatum Bell was featured with the Lions' first-team offense in the absence of Kevin Jones, who could start the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Thomas Jones saw eight carries in his preseason debut for the Jets, and there's little concern he will lose massive amounts of work to Leon Washington. Chris Brown started for the Titans and received nine carries, but LenDale White could start the team's next preseason game and remains the favorite to finish atop the depth chart.

These situations and others, like the ones in Buffalo, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New York (Giants) and Oakland, should all be watched and examined over the next several days and weeks.

4. Rookie performances: If last season was an indication, rookies can become very important to an owner's potential success in fantasy football. Since coaches are looking to determine how their depth charts will look in Week 1, rookies will see more than their share of chances to earn important roles.

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While you should not take too much from Aaron Rodgers' good preseason start, the workload carried by Brandon Jackson merits consideration.

The Packers gave Brandon Jackson are hard look in the rookie's NFL debut, as he rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries in a win over the Steelers. With Vernand Morency out of action for at least a few more weeks, Jackson will have every chance to win the starting role and develop into a fantasy sleeper. Adrian Peterson didn't start but also saw excessive work (11 carries, 33 yards) for Minnesota. Calvin Johnson wasn't a starter for the Lions but hauled in both passes thrown to him, including a 24-yard throw from J.T. O'Sullivan.

Marshawn Lynch, one of NFL.com's top breakout candidates, was behind Anthony Thomas in the Bills' rotation and saw limited work in his first contest, but his repetitions will no doubt increase as the preseason rolls on. Owners should also watch the performances of Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Chris Henry, Dwayne Jarrett, Robert Meachem, Greg Olsen and Steve Smith, all of whom could earn vital roles for their respective teams.

5. First-team offenses: You won't see much of the offensive starters in preseason action until the third week, but it's important to watch how these units click even in limited time. Carson Palmer and the Bengals looked terrific in their preseason opener, as did Romo and the Cowboys. Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith showed that they still have a terrific rapport in Carolina, and Matt Hasselbeck showed confidence in his new No. 1 wide receiver, Deion Branch, in a 24-16 win over San Diego.

A few other first-team offenses to watch include Detroit, which is led by fantasy sleeper Jon Kitna; Houston, which now features Matt Schaub and Ahman Green; the Giants, which will look to replace Tiki Barber with a power running game led by Brandon Jacobs; Atlanta, which is without Michael Vick and must lean on Joey Harrington in the pass-laden offense of head coach Bobby Petrino; and Arizona, which could be explosive with new head coach Ken Whisenhunt at the helm.

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