Be Careful When Evaluating Pre-Season Play

Im excited that football is back. It was a practical barren wasteland of summer for me without it, and I must admit that I even watched part of the Hall of Fame game to get myself hyped up for the season. Fantasy is getting going too, and the SCU league is back with many of the same people who played last year. The one thing I see, is that with the start of the preseason, comes unnecessary hype for players who shouldn’t even be on the radar. Of course, there are collectors who cant tell the difference, so let this serve as your warning.

Every year, there is a player or rookie that plays well in the preseason. Whether it’s a few TDs here and there, or even an explosion of production, someone always makes these first four weeks their bitch. Inexperienced football prospectors jump on the cards of these guys, without the realization that doing well in the preseason rarely translates to more than a spot on the team for most guys. There is always an exception to the rule, but for just about every other player, its not worth your time to think about buying in.

A great example is David Clowney. Clowney was a rookie in 2007 and exploded for three or four TDs in one preseason campaign for the Jets or some high profile team like that. I remember there were two or three of his cards that sold in upwards of 15 dollars per auto at that point, even though Clowney was never going to be more than a special teams or utility player. Even though he did extremely well in that preseason, he has only caught 1 regular season TD pass.

Josh Morgan is another example, even though he has had more of a role for his team. In 2008, Morgan was a sixth rounder for the Niners who had a tremendous 2008 preseason. Because of a lack of options at receiver, people thought he would be getting on the field quite a bit as a result of his performance. Since 2008, he has only caught 6 TD passes and has less than 1000 yards in two seasons for San Fransisco. Not the worst case scenario, but for a guy who’s autos sold at over 20 bucks at one point, its not a good showing.

The moral of the story is that Preseason is a terrible judge of talent. Just because a player can excel against the scrubs of the scrubs, doesn’t mean he is going to have a great career worth you spending money on. Before going nuts on spending because a player scores a TD in week one, maybe its better to look at who he is playing against. If a guy only puts up reasonable numbers against the third team, what is he going to do against the starters playing at full speed? Its like using the Pro Bowl as a true measure of a game. The preseason is used as a way to fill out the rosters and to test the game plans, not as a way to adjust the depth chart at the top. Someone may win a job here and there, but those jobs are usually backups and special teams. For a guy like David Clowney, it was probably the time of his life, but for collectors, its not something you should view as the end all and be all of worth in the league.

Its Just Preseason

Every year there is one lower tier rookie that tears it up during the preseason, usually destroying defenses and scoring a few TDs. This usually causes a huge bump in cards that shouldnt really be worth what they are, mostly because people dont realize the role the player will actually have during the regular season.

In 2007, David Clowney was the guy, as he had a large role during the preseason, but didnt have a chance of doing anything during the regular season. His cards were going for a ton more than they should be, until people realized that investing in a guy that wouldnt catch a ball during the real games was a horrible idea. He was picked up by the Jets, but didnt put up a single stat in 2007. In 2008, he caught one pass during the regular season. The lesson? Dont let preseason numbers fool you.
This year, running back Glen Coffee has put up impressive preseason numbers. With Frank Gore in the backfield taking most of the important carries, Coffee will get some time, but not as much to make his cards go for what they are right now. Coffee showed he has some talent, but as a third round pick behind a player with a huge contract, it is really tough to put any money behind him without first letting the games play out.