2022 Preseason Fantasy Football “Winners”

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The NFL preseason is over, and some players played their way into fantasy football relevance! Let’s talk about them!

Hey team, we made it! The NFL preseason is over, which means it’s time to start getting ready for games that matter. For most of you reading an article on a fantasy website, that means it’s drafting season! While most NFL teams opted to rest most of their presumed starters, some players played their way into fantasy football relevance over the past month: the preseason winners!

This article serves to give you a primer on three players on offense and three on defense I think earned a spot on your roster. Most of these players aren’t on people’s radars as studs yet, as the fact they even played in the preseason indicates. Fantasy leagues aren’t won by getting the first few rounds right, it’s by crushing your later rounds with players with massive upside. Let’s talk about some of those players!

Offensive Preseason Winners

Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans

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Am I allowed to write a fantasy article on preseason winners and NOT mention Dameon Pierce? No? Well ok! Let’s start with the hottest name in fantasy at the moment. No one has seen such a meteoric rise in ADP this preseason than Pierce. A fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, he has beat out Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead for the starting role down in Houston.

Deservedly so, might I add. Pierce sported a ridiculous 7.81 yards per attempt and grabbed a touchdown in his two preseason games. Especially after Mack’s release from the Texans, Pierce will be relevant in redraft leagues this year. The question, of course, is how relevant. His upside is a bit capped as Burkhead will take third-down snaps away from him, but he’ll still be worth a roster spot.

As is always the case in fantasy, it all comes down to cost. If you can get Pierce as your RB3/flex, you’re paying the right price. If you are drafting Pierce to be the second coming of Arian Foster in Houston, I will ask you to reconsider. From an afterthought on draft day to getting the starting gig, this was a fun storyline to follow throughout the entire preseason.

George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Every time I looked up, it seemed like there was another highlight play from George Pickens. There were some concerns about the torn ACL he suffered last year which limited his collegiate production in his final year, but Pickens has quickly silenced the doubters. Word out of camp was that he impressed the coaching staff, which translated nicely to on-the-field production.

Throughout the preseason, Pickens cemented a spot as a top-three wideout for the Steelers. In the three games he played in, Pickens racked up eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Look, I’m not going to advocate for drafting him above teammates Chase Claypool or Diontae Johnson, but you can do much worse than a late-round flier on the super talented Pickens. He’s a lottery pick I want shares of!

Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

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Going into the preseason, we knew that Olave was one of the more polished route runners from the rookie class. Olave has lived up to that hype and more. This preseason, Olave has gone off for four catches and 51 yards, and a touchdown, all on limited snaps in each game. He’s proven he can hang with NFL-level talent, but how will this translate to the regular season?

I will make the argument that it will translate rather well! First, look at the Saints’ depth chart. Michael Thomas continues to not be at practice, so we have no idea how ready he is to play. The only other threat to Olave’s stats is Jarvis Landry. Secondly, Jameis Winston has proven in the past he can support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers, so I’m not concerned about Olave — even when Thomas comes back.

Olave has all the tools and is in the right situation to finish the year as a top 30 wide receiver. he is presently being drafted around wide receiver 45, so you can get him fairly cheap. It won’t take much to invest in Olave, and I think he’ll end up paying off for you in a big way.

Defensive Preseason Winners

Quay Walker, LB, Green Bay Packers

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I simply can’t stop talking about Quay Walker. De’Vondre Campbell is the certifiable LB1 on this team, but the Packers have tipped their hand at how big of a role Walker is going to have on the team. He was the first linebacker taken in the draft, and word out of camp initially was super positive. Then the preseason happened.

In the final two preseason games, Walker grabbed seven combined tackles on 27 snaps played. This makes for an unreal 25.9% tackle rate. While we can’t expect that week in and week out, the young Packer exploded off of the screen and the production matched it. You can get him as your LB3 right now, and I think he’ll flirt with LB2 production. The sky is the limit for Walker!

Jalen Pitre, S, Houston Texans

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It’s not too late to get on the Jalen Pitre train! The biggest thing with safeties when it comes to IDP relevance, especially rookie ones, is playing time and how they are used in the defensive scheme. From what we’ve seen, Pitre appears to be checking both boxes.

On his 44 preseason snaps, Pitre was able to record 10 combined tackles and two tackles for a loss. This leads us to a 22.7% tackle rate, which is more than serviceable. The Texans don’t have a lot of secondary talent on the team, so the expectation is that Pitre is going to start immediately. If the preseason usage is any indication, he is going to be up on the line of scrimmage and racking up a ton of tackles.

I like him more for dynasty purposes, but I would not at all be surprised to look up at the end of the season and see Pitre in the top 20 or so defensive backs.

Nick Cross, S, Indianapolis Colts

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Nick Cross is another player that came into the preseason with a lot of expectations, but I don’t think anyone expected him to look this good this soon. With the surprise retirement of Khari Willis, we knew there was an opportunity for someone on the Colts to take a big step up. While who that was going to be might have been up in the air to begin the preseason, we know that it’s now Cross’ job.

Cross had seven combined tackles on 57 defensive snaps played, which might not seem like much, but he was in the position to make a bunch of plays. Much like Pitre before him, Cross is going to get a lot of playing time at a position in a scheme that IDP managers should be salivating over. Most fantasy apps haven’t caught on, so Cross’ ADP is very cheap. Go out and draft him and be glad you did!

Thank you for reading my article on preseason fantasy football winners! You can find my IDP Guys author page here if you want to read my other content. You can find me on Twitter at @mrecord21. Be sure to follow @IDPGuys to keep up with all the latest fantasy news!

Matt Record

I got started in Fantasy Football over 15 years ago and have never looked back! I'm just a regular guy who loves to analyze data and watch and talk about sports. Outside of all things fantasy, I enjoy playing disc golf, playing board games, and enjoying a nice hazy IPA. I can't wait to share with you all my thoughts on Fantasy Football!
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