Many will argue that information and statistics generated from preseason games are useless, and in the past, that was probably true. But now that we have access to in-depth player participation data and never-before-available statistical categories, that is no longer the case. We can actually learn a lot about a team's offensive game plan from the preseason.
I took a long, hard look at the participation logs and advanced metrics of each team during the 2014 preseason. My focus was on first-team offenses, but I was sure to examine each and every fantasy-relevant player who saw the field over the past month.
Below are 32 notes covering each of the league's 32 teams. We're calling this Fantasy 32, and we'll have a version for you every week during the NFL season to help you set your lineup. Use these preseason tidbits to dominate your draft or grab that sleeper off waivers before Thursday's opener.
1. Julian Edelman is a popular regression candidate, but consider this: He was on the field during 95 percent of the 74 preseason snaps run by the New England Patriots' first-team offense. That's well ahead of Kenbrell Thompkins (74 percent), Danny Amendola (59 percent) and Brandon LaFell (53 percent). Edelman is undervalued as a WR2 option in PPR leagues.
2. The Vikings' first-team offense worked 92 plays during the preseason. Cordarrelle Patterson was in on 90. Draft him in all of your leagues; the time to get him on the cheap is running short.
Need help making your Eliminator selections? Check out Insider's latest tool right here.
Sign up for ESPN's Eliminator Challenge here.
3. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin was on the field during 89 percent of the preseason snaps run by the Carolina Panthers' first-team offense. He's easily a WR4 and certainly has top-25 upside.
4. The Green Bay Packers (86 percent) and New York Giants (82 percent) were two of only three teams to use the "11" offensive personnel package -- three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end -- on at least 80 percent of their preseason pass plays. The Packers were third (79 percent) in the category last season. This is notable because former Packers assistant Ben McAdoo is now the offensive coordinator in New York. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarrett Boykin are going to play a lot and should be on your late-round radar.
5. The Dallas Cowboys passed the ball on 68 percent of Lance Dunbar's 28 preseason snaps, compared to just 48 percent of DeMarco Murray's 29 snaps. Murray will touch the ball enough to warrant first-round consideration, but it's clear Dunbar is going to play a significant role. Pick the elite wide receivers before Murray and take a late flier on Dunbar.
6. Giovani Bernard was on the field for 83 percent of the Cincinnati Bengals' 66 first-team snaps during the preseason. Rookie Jeremy Hill will steal a chunk of carries during the regular season, but it's clear that Bernard is the run-heavy Bengals' feature back.
7. Kendall Wright's preseason average depth of target was 10.4. That's up quite a bit from a 7.2 mark in 2013. The sample is small (seven targets), but hope is alive that Wright's route tree will expand under new Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. Wright continues to be an underrated option at receiver.
8. Undrafted Allen Hurns made his presence felt during the preseason, but before you rush to the waiver wire, note that he was fourth in line at wide receiver during the Jacksonville Jaguars' "dress rehearsal" against the Detroit Lions. Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee both played the first 15 snaps of the game, while Mike Brown worked six and Hurns three.
[+] EnlargeLadarius Green
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Ladarius Green is a popular sleeper candidate, but there's major bust potential there as well.
9. Travis Kelce and Ladarius Green are logical breakout candidates, but their snap counts remain a major concern. Kelce was on the field for only 27 percent of the Kansas City Chiefs' 96 first-team snaps during the preseason. During games in which Antonio Gates was also active, Green joined the San Diego Chargers' first-team offense on 46 percent of its 28 snaps. With Kansas City badly in need of offensive weapons, Kelce remains a solid-late round target. As for Green ...
10. The Chargers ranked second in the league in "11" usage (84 percent) during pass plays in the 2013 preseason. Despite operating a run-heavy offense last season, San Diego ranked in the upper half of the league in the category. This does not bode particularly well for Green. He's good enough to warrant a flier after the 11th round, but there's major bust potential here.
11. Having worked 63 percent of the Arizona Cardinals' 54 preseason first-team snaps, third-round rookie John Brown is shaping up as a fine late-round flier. Of course, as long as studs Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are healthy, Brown should be viewed as a WR5.
12. Markus Wheaton joined the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-team offense on 95 percent of its 62 snaps during the unit's final two appearances. Pittsburgh was one of only two teams (the Denver Broncos being the other) with three wideouts among the top 36 fantasy wide receivers last season. Wheaton is a major value at his 13th-round average draft position.
13. Of the four offenses that led the league in three-plus wide receiver sets last season, three (the Eagles, Packers and Broncos) finished in the top five during the preseason. This is promising news for Jordan Matthews and Emmanuel Sanders, and even more good news for the aforementioned Boykin.
14. The New Orleans Saints called a pass on 90 percent of Pierre Thomas' 28 preseason snaps. It's not inconceivable to think Thomas will improve on his position-high 77 receptions from a year ago. Just don't be surprised if his adjusted role leads to fewer than 100 carries.
15. Sleeper alert: The Atlanta Falcons' new No. 1 tight end Levine Toilolo was on the field for 86 percent of the 80 snaps run by the first-team offense during the preseason. He lined up at wide receiver 55 percent of the time, which isn't too steep a drop from retired Tony Gonzalez's 67 percent last season. Toilolo is not just a blocker.
16. Marlon Brown was on the field for a mere 17 percent of the 82 preseason snaps run by the Baltimore Ravens' first-team offense. Jacoby Jones was in on 50 percent, which means Brown is fourth in line at wide receiver in a run-first offense that will have a second tight end or fullback on the field often. Look elsewhere for a late-round flier.
17. The Patriots had a second tight end on the field on a league-low 5 percent of their preseason pass plays. Expect that number to increase significantly after their acquisition of Tim Wright, who should be on your radar in the later rounds.
18. The No. 8 overall pick in last year's draft, Tavon Austin was on the field for only 64 percent of the 70 preseason snaps run by the St. Louis Rams' first-team offense. That's not nearly enough for Austin -- an underneath target who won't see many looks near the goal line -- to make a major fantasy impact.
[+] EnlargeArizona Cardinals
G. Newman Lowrance/AP Images
Though his speed is enticing, it's tough to see Tavon Austin making a fantasy impact in 2014.
19. The Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers paced the league in usage of two-plus tight end packages during the preseason. This news bodes poorly for the snap counts of Stevie Johnson, Keshawn Martin, Jerome Simpson, Robert Herron and the aforementioned Austin. Cross these guys off your late-round-flier list.
20. The Oakland Raiders' first-team offense racked up 74 snaps during its final two preseason appearances. Rod Streater was in on a wide receiver-high 77 percent of those plays. James Jones worked 74 percent, and Denarius Moore handled 61 percent. Popular deep sleeper Andre Holmes was in on just one of the 74 plays. Ignore him on draft day.
21. The Cleveland Browns called pass only 45 percent of the time when one of Ben Tate, Terrance West or Isaiah Crowell was on the field during the preseason. One of these guys will be on the field on passing downs, but expect Cleveland to rank near the basement of the league in throws to its tailbacks.
22. The Miami Dolphins ranked fifth in the league in usage of "11" personnel on pass plays last season and were in the top 10 in the category during the preseason. Prior to suffering a season-ending injury last year, slot man Brandon Gibson was quietly fantasy's 29th-ranked wide receiver in PPR. He is a very deep sleeper.
23. The New York Jets called a pass only 45 percent of the time when one of Chris Johnson or Chris Ivory was on the field this preseason. It's reasonable to expect a three-headed attack here, with Bilal Powell (64 percent) handling some passing-down work.
24. Steelers rookie Dri Archer racked up nine targets and six carries in 33 preseason snaps. All eight of his snaps during the team's dress rehearsal against Philadelphia came with the first team. It appears likely that the third-rounder will make a bigger rookie-year impact than most realize. Target him in deep PPR leagues.
25. Jordan Todman was on the field for five of a possible seven third-down plays run by the Jaguars' first-team offense during the club's dress rehearsal against Detroit. Clearly in jeopardy of losing passing-down work, Toby Gerhart is best-viewed as a back-end RB2.
26. The Philadelphia Eagles averaged a league-high 5.1 yards per carry last season. This year, they averaged a preseason-best 5.3. As if you needed another reason to draft LeSean McCoy.
27. In the 10 games in which Jay Cutler played a majority of the Bears' snaps last season, Martellus Bennett was No. 8 in fantasy points among tight ends. In the six games in which Josh McCown was under center, Bennett was No. 17. McCown is gone, Cutler is back to full health, and Bennett can be had in the later rounds of most drafts.
28. In the Buccaneers' dress rehearsal against the Buffalo Bills, rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins was on the field during 92 percent of the first-team offense's 36 snaps. His chief competition Brandon Myers worked only 15 snaps and added three more with the second team. Rookie tight ends rarely make a big fantasy impact, but this usage suggests ASJ is absolutely worth a late-round flier.
[+] EnlargeC.J. Spiller; Tyson Alualu
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
A first-rounder in fantasy drafts in 2013, C.J. Spiller has seen his value plummet in the time since.
29. Bills tailbacks Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller have been about even in snaps this preseason, but Jackson has racked up 17 targets, compared to only four for Spiller. Already unlikely to see many touches near the goal line, anything short of a major role on passing downs would all but destroy Spiller's chances of finishing in the top 10 at running back. I moved him down a few spots in my rankings.
30. The Indianapolis Colts and Steelers were the only teams that failed to record a rushing touchdown during the preseason. Pittsburgh has a history of racking up a high percentage of its touchdowns via the passing game, but Indianapolis was below average in the category during the 2013 regular season. This adds slightly to the fantasy appeal of both Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount and Trent Richardson should be downgraded accordingly.
31. The Colts, Washington ********, Seattle Seahawks and Lions were the four teams closest to league average in usage of three or more wide receivers on pass plays during the preseason. Let this serve as a reminder to those of you taking fliers on Hakeem Nicks and Jermaine Kearse -- and to a lesser extent, Andre Roberts and Ryan Broyles -- that Coby Fleener, Luke Willson, Logan Paulsen, Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria are going to play a lot. None of the receivers I just mentioned are on my fantasy radar this year.
32. The Titans' first-team offense worked 68 snaps during the preseason. Bishop Sankey was on the field for zero of those snaps. The rookie has RB2 upside, but the opportunity simply isn't there yet. If you draft him, make sure you're prepared to leave him stashed on the bench for a month or so.