With the 2008 numbers in front of me, I see that DeSean Jackson saw 28 targets in August that year, catching 16 passes for 189 yards. It underscores that teams (other than the Baltimore Ravens) aren’t as willing to risk putting their key players on the field for preseason games.

Many teams nowadays prefer to get their key work done in controlled practices. That makes it harder to see identify potential breakout players in the preseason.

Consider the wide receiver position (last Sunday, I did running backs; this week I’m focusing on the pass catchers). In the last five years, 15 rookie wide receivers have finished with top-30 numbers (using PPR scoring). None of them had 60 receiving yards in August.

Contrast that to the previous 15 years. It included 28 rookies with top-30 numbers, and 11 of them went over 100 yards. In addition to DeSean Jackson, Julio Jones, Jordan Matthews and Kelvin Benjamin all saw at least 19 targets in the preseason of their rookie years, underscoring that they were going to be involved sooner rather than later.

In the chart below (which is in reverse chronological order) receivers with at least 100 preseason yards are tagged with black dots. You’re seeing the 43 receivers that finished with top-30 numbers since 2002, with the final column showing their targets, catches, yards and touchdowns in the preseason.

In today’s NFL, best to not get too concerned if your coveted rookie isn’t doing a ton in the preseason. Through the first two weeks of the preseason only one of the receivers taken in the first round, Quentin Johnston (pictured) has made it into the end zone. With how teams approach the preseason now, better to give more weight to your initial scouting reports and conclusions.

2022Drake London, Atl.728664184.6281-1-24-0
2022Chris Olave, N.O.721,0424202.2245-4-51-1
2022Garrett Wilson, NYJ831,1034217.7218-6-52-0
2021JaMarr Chase, Cin.811,45513306.655-1-16-0
2021Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det.909126227.32210-6-28-0
2021Jaylen Waddle, Mia.1041,0157247.8124-3-21-0
2021DeVonta Smith, Phil.649165187.6304-2-19-0
2020Tee Higgins, Cin.679086196.628COVID
2020CeeDee Lamb, Dall.749357219.722COVID
2020Justin Jefferson, Min.881,4007274.26COVID
2020Chase Claypool, Pitt.6287311216.923COVID
2019DK Metcalf, Sea.589007193.1294-1-8-0
2019A.J. Brown, Ten.521,0519217.1223-1-10-0
2019Terry McLaurin, Was.589197191.930did not play
2018Calvin Ridley, Atl.6482110208.82011-5-59-1
2017• Cooper Kupp, LAR628695178.92510-8-105-1
2017JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt.589178197.7206-4-35-0
2016Tyreek Hill, K.C.6159312219.01812-4-90-0
2016Michael Thomas, N.O.921,1379259.7710-6-95-0
2015• Amari Cooper, Oak.721,0706214.72115-8-124-0
2014Odell Beckham, NYG911,30512297.08did not play
2014• Jordan Matthews, Phil.678728202.22519-15-134-0
2014• Kelvin Benjamin, Car.731,0089227.81619-12-173-1
2014Jarvis Landry, Mia.847585189.4308-7-73-0
2014Sammy Watkins, Buff.659826200.0278-3-21-0
2014Mike Evans, T.B.681,05112245.1137-5-96-1
2013Keenan Allen, S.D.711,0468223.61810-6-48-0
2012• Justin Blackmon, Jac.648655184.82916-10-136-1
2012• T.Y. Hilton, Ind.508618187.02814-9-116-1
2011• Julio Jones, Atl.549598203.52121-10-157-0
2011A.J. Green, Cin.651,0577218.01717-9-96-1
2011Torrey Smith, Balt.508417180.03012-4-20-0
2010• Mike Williams, T.B.6596411227.4168-7-157-0
2009Austin Collie, Ind.606767169.7299-8-69-0
2009Percy Harvin, Min.607908200.5237-5-40-0
2008• DeSean Jackson, Phil.629124186.83028-16-189-0
2008Eddie Royal, Den.919805231.9146-4-80-0
2007Dwayne Bowe, K.C.709955199.5223-1-21-0
2006Marques Colston, N.O.701,0388221.81615-8-84-1
2004• Michael Clayton, T.B.801,1937244.31414-11-154-0
2004Lee Evans, Buff.488439194.8294-2-12-0
2003• Andre Johnson, Hou.669764186.62213-8-113-1
2003Anquan Boldin, Ariz.1011,3778290.7310-4-44-0

—Ian Allan