"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy..." - Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody"
At this point, you've done your pre-draft scouting, ranked your players and drafted the best team you possibly could. Now you're staring at numbers and trying to determine if they actually mean something or if it's a case of "how to lie with statistics".
I feel your pain and I'm here to lend a helping hand. Every week, I'll take a sampling of players throughout the league to let you know if they can maintain that level of production or if it's just a one-off performance. In other words ... is it fantasy or reality?
Since we've yet to see any regular season games, we'll have to make do with preseason numbers. Then again, if you play the way you practice, hopefully we can glean some insight from what the last few weeks brought us.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
Preseason stats: 29/38, 374 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
It escaped plenty of people's attention that Schaub had a phenomenal preseason. The Texans QB completed more than 76 percent of his throws and finished with a 113.3 rating in three games. It's just par for the course for Schaub. Since taking over as Houston's stater in 2007, the former Virignia Cavalier has been one of the more consistent fantasy signal callers around, averaging nearly 15 fantasy points per game (in standard-scoring NFL.com leagues). The only thing that has slowed Schaub has been the trainer's table. If he's healthy, he'll produce.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Preseason stats: 39 rush, 195 yards, 1 TD
If you've ever watched more than 10 minutes of NFL Fantasy LIVE, you probably know where this one is headed. If you're new to fantasy football, there are some things to [keep in mind](http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/09000d5d82b0026e/article/five-fantasy-football
-guidelines-for-success). Chief among them is this: Mike Shanahan hates your fantasy football team. Alfred Morris was outstanding in the preseason -- good enough to push Tim Hightower onto the unemployment line. The rookie from Florida Atlantic looks fully capable of being a productive running back. But Shanahan's not going to let that happen.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Preseason stats: 12 rec, 122 yards, 0 TD
Cruz has been the source of plenty fantasy football consternation this preseason. Maybe it has something to do with his perennially underrated quarterback, Eli Manning. Can Cruz duplicate 2011's breakout numbers (1,536 rec yds, 9 TDs)? Doubtful. But he is still a big play guy working in an offense that threw the ball nearly 59 percent of the time last season. Even with Hakeem Nicks on the other side (and maybe even because of Nicks), Cruz should produce again in 2012.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Preseason stats: 6 rec, 78 yards, 1 TD
The word on Gates entering the preseason was that he was in the best shape that he'd been in for several seasons. It seemed to show right away with a touchdown catch in the preseason opener. His numbers the rest of the way were nondescript. That had something to do with the lack of playing time for the Chargers starters (with injuries along the offensive line, coach Norv Turner limited playing time for his first team offense). It also had something to do with Philip Rivers' preseason flirtation with the interception. But with Vincent Jackson now in Tampa and Vincent Brown out with a broken ankle, Gates is San Diego's prime pass-catcher. He might not be the same player he was in 2005, but 900 receiving yards and 8-10 touchdowns isn't unreasonable this year.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Preseason stats: 45/60, 549 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
There's a new look to the Falcons offense this year with the Dirty Birds expected to utilize more three-receiver sets. It suited Ryan just fine in the preseason, spreading the ball around to the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. With Harry Douglas as the likely third receiver and Jacquizz Rodgers as a potential pass-catching option out of the backfield, this should be the year Ryan makes the leap to the next level of fantasy football QBs.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Preseason stats: 39 rush, 195 yards, 5.0 ypc, 1 TD
Bill Belichick may not hate your fantasy team as much as Mike Shanahan, but The Hoodie still is a source of fantasy frustration (Beli-tricks?). Case in point: last season BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the most consistent Patriots running back, but a rotation with Ridley and Danny Woodhead limited him to just 667 rushing yards. With Woodhead and Shane Vereen hanging around the depth chart, expect more of the same this year. Combine that with a suspect offensive line and there's plenty of reason to be wary of Ridley.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Preseason stats: 3 rec, 83 yards, 1 TD
Of all the training camp battles across the NFL, the tilt between Edwards and Terrell Owens was certainly one of them. Okay, maybe it didn't exactly fill reams of parchment outside of the Pacific Northwest, but Edwards winning the job was notable because of WR uncertainty in Seattle. But with Sidney Rice claiming to be as good as ever and Doug Baldwin rounding back into shape, Edwards is the third option, at best. The veteran Michigan Man showed big play potential, but we've known for a long time that he possessed that ability. His troubles turning potential into production lead me to remain skeptical.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Preseason stats: 5 rec, 62 yards, 0 TD
Earlier this preseason, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he believed Olsen could post Rob Gronkowski-like [numbers](http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/0ap1000000052667/article/nfl-fantasy-football-
notebook-back-up-mike-vick-in-drafts). Olsen had a nice preseason, but there was nothing to indicate that he'll be the must-have fantasy accessory in 2012. The Panthers are still a pretty run-heavy team -- having two respectable RBs in your rotation will do that -- and Cam Newton still targets Steve Smith far more than anyone else on the roster. With Jeremy Shockey gone, Olsen's production should increase this year, but don't expect him to be anything other than what he has been so far in his career: a nice spot start option.