NFL DFS Preseason Primer: Picks and Strategy for Thursday, August 22nd

Our analysts break down the main slate in detail, setting you up for success in your daily fantasy football contests throughout NFL Preseason.

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Thoughts on Week 2

We saw the same thing in Week 2 that we saw in Week 1: mouth-watering consolidation of ownership.

The field is significantly better at playing preseason DFS, and ownership does tend to have gravity towards the very few plays that have perceived safety. It is important to try to recognize the relative strength of that safety. If we’re willing to be wise and calculated in our assessment of when a player can be faded or treated as an “underweight” (which means we own that player at a lower % than the field), we can absolutely give ourselves a strategic edge in the long run.

There is a careful balance to be had when playing tournaments between rostering high fantasy point expectations and finding leverage against a field of opponents gravitating towards the same ideas. You’ll want to be identifying not just your favorite raw projection plays for tonight’s slate, but also the pivot options you can place in 2 to 5 spots of your lineup. These differentiation plays will put you in a better position to ascend large field leaderboards

New York Giants vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Game Total: 42.5
Spread: CIN -3

Core Options: None
Secondary Options: Ryan Finley
Third Tier GPP: Daniel Jones, Cody Latimer, T.J. Jones, Auden Tate, Tyler Boyd, Mason Schreck

New York Giants

The idea that this game will look similar to previous outings from the giants would be a 33% ceiling on the playing time of any QB. That is certainly just enough time to sneak in two passing touchdowns, but think about what you are asking for. You are asking for high efficiency with a starting defense on the field from an offense who will feature Cody Latimer as its #1 passing weapon. Without news that describes a contradiction to the quote above, I don’t feel the Giants are likely to be producing us the winning QB on tonight’s slate.

Wayne Gallman practiced in pads this weekend and should return for this game. There is a non-zero chance we see Saquon Barkley for a very brief time, but otherwise it’s fair to expect a similar even spread of the reps as we saw in Week 2. When we do this in player projections, we wind up with a collection of mediocre dart throws that don’t stand out on paper. The benefit to your speculation on any one of Rod Smith, Wayne Gallman, or Paul Perkins is likely low ownership. The choice will come with substantial downside.

At different times during this week, it was reported that Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, and T.J. Jones were with the ones. “It is an open competition that will play itself out over the final two preseason games.” It is unfortunate that the list is five names deep, as it becomes challenging to name a singular individual who is more likely than the rest to shine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Latimer look like anything close to a capable WR in seasons past, but he’s tentatively my choice to lead the pack after a strong offseason. The entire group of pass catchers (tight ends included) are only plays for GPP dreamers with big imaginations. On paper, I can’t make the numbers work to call them top plays.

Cincinatti Bengals

“I think the trend, and I don’t really care what the trend is, is the guys will play a series-or-two shorter than what has happened in years past. Whether that’s good or bad, that’s what we believe in — keeping our guys fresh and healthy. They’re getting enough work. We feel good about our plan.”

The above quote is not a playing time projection or some math problem we can just solve by subtracting 2 from some imaginary number of series we think they would have played if Taylor was the coach in prior seasons. It’s a window into the mindset, though. I won’t project a half of playing time for Andy Dalton given this mindset. With Jeff Driskel spending some time as punt returner this week and possibly experimental work at other skill positions… I can’t project him for much work at QB either. Jake Dolegala hasn’t seen the light of day through two games, and that leaves plenty of floor and ceiling for the snaps of Ryan Finley. He was outstanding in his Week 2 appearance, going for 77% completions on 26 attempts and two TDs. The QB position is surprisingly filled with question marks on this slate, and my very early instinct is to project Finley as one of the better options among them. There is certainly downside to the playing time, and that gives me some pause in going all-in.

“We look forward to Joe and Gio getting a great amount of carries and seeing what this offense looks like with those guys”

Coach speak on seeing the starters above contradicts with the earlier quote that their players could see slightly less time than you’d expect from a “dress rehearsal” game of seasons past. I have 40% of team rushing opportunities split between Mixon and Gio at the moment, with a little over 1 target projected. At this level of playing time, the starters are just tournament dart throws. It is absolutely possible to land on a top roster should one of them find the end zone, so I won’t try to talk you out of it.

The backup situation won’t have Trayveon Williams anymore, but it is possible we finally get to see Rodney Anderson carry the football. Anderson was a sick player in college when healthy, but unfortunately he has a laundry list of injuries that collapsed his draft stock. I currently have Jordan Ellis with a larger share of the work, but you can make the case Anderson could see enough work to sneak into the conversation.

Any snaps that Tyler Boyd sees are liable to be snaps where he is a heavily targeted player in the passing offense. That was certainly NOT the case last week, seeing just 1 target on 10 routes. This week could easily be different, and therefore I’d have him on the GPP radar.

Auden Tate is a player who I often bash, but all he’s done to reward my negativity is outperform my expectations. With the Bengals working through some issues at WR and missing the services of several key players… I’ve got an eye on him as a potential pairing with my guy Ryan Finley. Josh Malone, Damion Willis, and Stanley Morgan (if available) would be players you could also look to in GPP formats as players likely to play a lot of snaps in this game.

Let’s play count the bodies: Tyler Eifert played one snap last week, and I think we can cross him off the list for any huge time. C.J. Uzomah is available, so we can’t cross him off the list. Drew Sample didn’t practice tuesday, and he seems likely to miss the game. He’s out. Moritz Boehringer is a pathway program player yet to play a down. I did not see Jordan Franks and Cethan carter as huge threats to play a ton, though I am absolutely guilty on under rating their potential snaps last night when we recorded the RosterWatch preseason grind (they missed last week). Still, after I have walked through the bodies available at TE for Cincinnati… there is still some room for TE Mason Schreck to see some quality action on this game. He’s a low owned dart you can throw at a very hit-and-miss TE position.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Game Total: 35.5
Spread: BAL -5

Core Options: Ravens D, TBD Eagles (We need in/out news – but my instinct tells me we will get an Eagles core option or two), Trace McSorley
Secondary Options: Miles Boykin, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (watch for news – could become core)
Third Tier GPP: Mark Andrews, Lamar Jackson (could be upgraded or downgraded), Justice Hill

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are actually pretty healthy all things considered, so I consider it unlikely that they push the boundaries on playing time tonight for their starting group. They held joint practices with the Eagles all week, and quite frankly it seems tremendously unlikely that the Eagles will look to deploy many of their key players in this game. The net result would be a diminished opportunity for the Ravens to truly “rehearse” for the regular season any better than they did in practice this week. Let’s keep an eye out for pregame news here, and look for notice that the starters could be limited or withheld.

Until we get such news, Lamar Jackson has to be projected for something greater than a quarter but shorter than a half. We saw a play last week in which he dazzled us with his rushing ability, and all it takes is one rushing TD for him to break the slate wide open. It’s very hard to hold his projection back for this reason, despite my best efforts. It would be nice to get some clarity, because any downside in his playing time is strictly upside for Trace McSorley. Underwhelming would be a kind way to describe his performance thus far, and a 43 grade from PFF isn’t helping us feel confident that he’s a good player. That said, his playing time upside is huge given the scenario I outlined above with Baltimore. He’s a nasty, disgusting contrarian option that could quickly become chalky with news.

Justice Hill is the only RB we should be interested in here, and the workload is likely to be spread too thin among the other backs. Hill remains on the radar due to his passing game role and explosive play ability, but we can’t expect a massive snap count with 6 available half backs nor a huge rushing share with 2 running QBs layered on top of that.

With Marquise Brown and Seth Roberts remaining out, the obvious thing to do for the Ravens is to continue prepping Miles Boykin to play in the National Football League. That’s what he’ll be doing in just a few weeks, and his inefficiency has only served to embolden my feeling on his role. The fact that he’s being used so heavily is a good thing. His popularity was embarrassing last week at 50% ownership, and if you see anything close to that in my ownership projections … run away. If not, he’s the Ravens WR most likely to benefit your fantasy team on Thursday yet again.

The TEs are absolutely awesome on this team, but they have three and that takes away opportunity. They were reportedly crushing the Eagles D is practice, and I don’t hate the idea of chancing Mark Andrews or Hayden Hurst fishing for a TD.

The Ravens defense will face one of the following QBs at all times: 40 year old Josh McCown (signed days ago), Cody Kessler (12.3% career sack rate), and Clayton Thorson (graded out via PFF at 26 in his first appearance and was far from impressive against the deepest of deep Jaguar reserves last week). The fact that they even signed McCown is damning to the other two player, and McCown himself has been far from outstanding in his most recent visits to the gridiron. The Ravens defense is a premier option on this slate, and everybody will know it. Only ownership should deter you from using them, if even that.

Philadelphia Eagles

“As you now, I usually wait until the last minute of those types of decisions.” – Pederson on QB reps vs. Ravens

We have very limited intelligence on how much Josh McCown will play in this game. I think the answer is some. Alex Dunlap of RosterWatch thinks it could be none. One thing we can be quite sure of is that we really don’t have to play a bad Eagles QB against a good Ravens defensive scheme coming off some great joint practices as 5 point underdogs in a game total of 35. All of the signs point to lowering expectations on the Eagles.

In order for us to want to use any Eagles RB, we need at least 2 of them to get ruled out. I can’t offer any analysis on this situation until we get an understanding of who is playing in this game. For what it’s worth, I do expect we will get news along those lines. The joint practice thing is real, and they pulled similar hi-jinx in 2018. This team has moved on to the regular season IMO.

Presently, I have snaps allocated to Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor, and DeSean Jackson. Nothing would shock me less than for those players to sit this game out. This would open the door for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Marken Michel, Greg Ward, Carlton Agudosi, Josh Perkins, and Will Tye to essentially play the whole game. While this situation looks ugly for efficiency, you should be perking up at the ears at how small that list of names is compared to the stated playing time upside of the WHOLE GAME. Let’s be more ready than everyone else for his situation. WATCH FOR NEWS

Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcons

Game Total: 41.5
Spread: WAS -3

Core Options: Case Keenum
Secondary Options: Dwayne Haskins, Matt Ryan, Austin Hooper, Brian Hill
Third Tier GPP: Robert Davis, Darvin Kidsy, Kelvin Harmon, Ito Smith, Calvin Ridley, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus

Washington Redskins

My present expectation is that this is the most traditional dress rehearsal game on the slate, and that the Redskins will leverage this opportunity to play Case Keenum for a half. Of course, that would leave the other half for Dwayne Haskins. with fewer Atlanta Falcons starters and key players on the field. Both quarterbacks are on the table in my mind, and offer us stability at a position where there is much to be decided leading up to lock. I would call their floors strong, and their ceilings healthy enough to deploy in all formats if you want to be absolutely certain in how much your QB will be on the field. For what it’s worth, I have no special insight or commentary from the coaches but would choose Keenum as the player with more playing time upside in this specific situation. I don’t think Haskins plays more than a half, but its not out of the question that Keenum does.

There is a report from @JPFinlayNBCS that Semaje Perine is a “Gruden guy” and could see a lot of touches in this game. I can’t make a projection based on that but its worth sharing since he’s the #4 back. With 7 backs capable of playing this game now that Guice is in play for a few carries, we should generally stay away from them unless we want to trust the instinct of the NBC Sports Washington vlogger.

I don’t think Robert Davis is a lock to play a lot more than the 7 snaps he got last week, but I certainly have confidence in the projection. He torched the defense for a bomb, and reports are surfacing that Josh Doctson is a lame duck. With no Trey Quinn or Paul Richardson expected, I would love to see Davis out there with Keenum in the first half and I suspect we will. Terry McLaurin has a tail bone issue that kept him out last week and I have no flipping idea if he’ll play. Would be nice to get information on that but I doubt we will, leaving you to guess right along with me. Viable darts deeper down the chart: Darvin Kidsy (24 snaps last week), Kelvin Harmon (35 snaps last week).

Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan played 29 snaps in the Week 2 game vs. the Jets, and I expect that this is something close to a ceiling for what we’ll see this week. He did play the entire first half of 2018, but exited early second quarter in 2017. I projected 40% of opportunity for Ryan in my most recent update, and that is fair given the extended look last week. The Falcons also have 5 games this preseason, and I don’t foresee any kind of lock that he plays a full half. It is certainly on the table, and he’s GPP viable.

“I do (have time allotted for Freeman),” Quinn said. “Each of the guys, it’s individual. For him, it’s getting some of the game action. Even if it’s a small amount, it’s worth it.”

While we will get to see Devonta Freeman for a short space here in this game, we’re mostly interested in Brian Hill and or Ito Smith. They’ll get their chances to run with the ones, and continue jockeying for position. For what it’s worth, Quinn had nice things to say about all of their backs… and I suspect the winner of this battle will be nobody. I figure they use a committee in 2019, situationally deploying based on skill sets. For this game, Brian Hill in GPP (pass catching upside) is ok but otherwise I can’t label them among the core.

Calvin Ridley, Christian Blake, and Olamide Zaccheaus are three WRs you can mess around with in GPP, or perhaps better stated they are the options I foresee with the best chance to produce. I’m not a fan of Justin Hardy or Sanu, but those guys will be in there during the starters run. They are conducting a battle for the backend of the WR chart, which to me helps the chances of Blake, Zaccheaus, and Marcus Green the most.

Austin Hooper should be running with the ones for as long as they play, and his viability rests on how much time you believe that entails. At a full half, he’d be a great play. At closer to a quarter, it’s harder to justify. The uncertainty leaves him as mostly a GPP option, though I’d forgive anyone seeking the safety of his skill in high floor oriented builds.

Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots

Game Total: 42
Spread: NE -3.5

Core Options: Jacobi Myers, Jordan Scarlett
Secondary Options: Tom Brady, Curtis Samuel
Third Tier GPP: D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, N’Keal Harry, Patriots RB/WR/TE TBD by In/Out News, Patriots D

Carolina Panthers

We’re not that interested in 3 to 4 series of Cam. Anything is possible, but the QB situation here looks a bit congested on paper. I’ll suggest looking elsewhere.

Per this article, it sounds like Christian McCaffrey will be taking a few snaps this week against the Patriots. Coach Rivera has been adamant that this is a good “test” for their offense against the defending champs, and we can fairly expect to see a few series of CMC. I don’t suspect it’s enough to get truly excited, but if you want to throw a dart aiming at an early TD… its well within your rights.

Coach Ron Rivera wants to get (Jordan Scarlett) some reps with the first team on Thursday at New England to see what he can do. “We’ve really got to see Jordan Scarlett and Elijah Holyfield a lot. We have to see what those guys are made of, and if they have the ability to help us.”

The quote above has me more interested in playing Scarlett, as he is a multi-dimensional player with some upside in all phases. He’s the Panther back I want to play on this slate, and a borderline core option.

With the starters getting some run, you can uncork some Curtis Samuel this week fresh off 3 months of hype. This should be a popular move, and teammate D.J. Moore has somehow not been talked about nearly as much. He’s a better football player, and equally likely to be efficient with the first unit in this game.

New England Patriots

Tom Brady basically always plays a half per this article, but elite beat writer Jeff Howe presents some good reasons why that is not exactly a lock tonight. Brady – simply put – is a high upside GPP play with knowledge he is more than capable of playing 1/2 or more. No QB has more playing time upside than Brady given his history. If you are betting against a half for Brady, it’s hard to pin enough playing time on Hoyer or Stidham to get genuinely excited without news.

I expect most Patriots running backs to play in this game, and we can’t really trust any of them for that reason. Damien Harris seeing action late in the game is your best hope of finding value here, and it’s not fantastic.

Julian Edelman just came back days ago, so I really have no idea if he will play. The same is true for N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Phillip Dorsett, and Demaryius Thomas. All of these players have had their bouts with injury to varying degrees this summer. So, I can’t really help you with any kind of insight on how much they will play, though this article does about the best you can do. To no surprise, it’s Jacobi Myers listed within that piece as the most likely Patriot to see snaps and targets. This time, they’ll likely be coming from Tom Brady. He’s a core WR option until we get some kind of information that contradicts what we know. He’s been an absolute standout all summer, and the only concern I have is the Patriots never-ending quest to zig when you think they will zag. Not seeing Myers a lot would be nothing short of a complete troll.

The Patriots defense is well in play against a series of lackluster QBs behind Newton. They tossed a pick 6 last week in Buffalo, and that only serves to bolster the conception that this is a potentially mistake-prone group.

Green Bay Packers vs. Oakland Raiders

Game Total: 38.5
Spread: GB -2.5

Core Options: Robert Tonyan, Keelan Doss
Secondary Options: Dexter Williams, Marcell Ateman, Keon Hatcher, Mike Glennon, DeAndre Washington
Third Tier GPP: Tra Carson, Tim Boyle, Packers WR Roulette, James Butler

Green Bay Packers

Matt LaFleur isn’t saying whether Aaron Rodgers will play Thursday against the Raiders in Winnipeg. “That is to be determined,” he said. “I just want to wait and see. That will be a game-time decision.” Rodgers has practiced the last 2 days after back tightness.

We’re not playing Aaron Rodgers, and we’ll have to wait and see what kind of noise Tim Boyle can make pre-lock in terms of beat reports on his playing time. He played 33 snaps to Kizer’s 15 in Week 2. He’s got a decent arm, and has a lot of weapons at his disposal. The fact that there are 4 QBs here is tough, but any clarity of him playing a lot in this game would put him on the map.

Aaron Jones will play for a series or so, but the projections point us elsewhere. Jamaal Williams is currently out of my numbers, though he has returned from a hamstring in practice as well. I expect a cautious approach with both. We’re still aiming at Dexter Williams and Tra Carson for DFS viability, and their proven downside leaves them as options we can consider in GPPs. There is certainly upside.

The problem with having so many talented players deep down this WR corps is that none of them pop as a clear and trustworthy recommendation for playing time. The Packers will get Trevor Davis on the field a lot in this game, and that clouds the situation even more. Darrius Shepherd, Jake Kumerow, J’Mon Moore, Allen Lazard, and even Equanimeous St. Brown could all be the guy that gets the TD catch you need in GPP. This is a roulette wheel, and only new information can help improve the odds.

The TE situation is much easier to judge and one of my favorite spots on the slate. Jace Sternberger and Jimmy Graham are pretty likely to be out, which leaves just Marcedes Lewis in the way of a boatload of Robert Tonyan snaps. I have confidence in his playing time, and will call him the best TE option on this entire slate.

Oakland Raiders

Expect to see a lot of youth Thursday, as this becomes a make or break game for several players fighting for spots on the roster. Coach Gruden told the media that the upcoming game will serve as the last real shot these players have to proving their worth on the team. – from Raiders.com

Mike Glennon is going to be the QB playing first in this game, once Derek Carr makes a brief cameo. Glennon should see the most playing time based on the commentary, performance, and track records to date. Several other QBs grade out better on this slate, but by no means is this an avoid. There is certainly upside for Glennon to get a neck up on the rest of the field. ZING.

With comments from Gruden that suggest he’s looking at guys who have a chance to make this team, the RB that fits that description is DeAndre Washington. Most do expect him to do that, but he’s playing a bit more than some other backs through two weeks of the preseason. I kind of like the chances of him being the Raiders RB with the most involvement over somebody like James Butlers or Mack Brown. He has a chance.

Keelan Doss is fighting to earn a spot on the 53 man roster, and we saw Gruden give chances to young receivers last season to get that done. Among that group from 2018 was Marcell Ateman (who made it) and Keon Hatcher (who also made it … sort of). All three of those guys are battling it out again, and they have HUGE upside on this slate. When I say huge, I’m talking these three characters could be on the field for most of the game. That is a massive ceiling for their playing time.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Miami Dolphins

Game Total: 37
Spread: MIA -2.5

Core Options: Ryquell Armstead, Kalen Ballage
Secondary Options: Preston Williams, Mike Gesicki
Third Tier GPP: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kenny Stills, Dolphins D

Jacksonville Jaguars

For how long? Many Jaguars players are expected to make their ’19 preseason debut: Campbell, Foles, Fournette, Ramsey, Ngakoue, cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive tackle Abry Jones, wide receiver Dede Westbrook, linebacker Myles Jack and so on. The guess here is they will play into the second quarter, but not much after that: Enough to get some reps without undue injury risk. – From Jaguars.com

Nick Foles playing a quarter is not that appealing, and neither is any other Jaguars QB. We can avoid with confidence.

Ryquell Armstead looks primed to make a big time impact on this game, after we were forced to suffer through 2.71 YPC of Thomas Rawls and an impossible -.2 YPC from Devante Mays last week. We’ll see a touch of Leonard Fournette early on in this contest, but before too long we should be getting a true look at the Jags 94th percentile speedster out of Temple. His injury was a concussion, so we have no real risk of re-injury beyond the standard collisions any player would face. There is downside here, but I will bet on talent and roll Armstead because A) I like fun and B) there are plenty of positive that give him outs to a DFS performance we can be proud of. The matchup is certainly fine.

It’s hard to trust any Jaguars pass catchers with far fewer absentee bodies as noted above. I won’t name names beyond Tre McBride, who stole the show thus far. This is mostly just a passing game situation that qualifies as no better than a dart throw on all counts.

Miami Dolphins

It seems like Josh Rosen is the odd man out here, and that Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the starter treatment here in this game. Of course, this is just me reading the tea leaves. I don’t have a ton of confidence in the playing time projection (50%) or the matchup, but he grades out as viable if you want to ignore the latter.

Kalen Ballage is the Dolphins back that is easiest to offer market share to if we think the Dolphins treat this as the dress rehearsal. He’s the #1 back for now, and has enough juice to succeed even in a fairly tough matchup to start the game. As starters exit, he could be in a position to go off. I was as cautious as I could be with his numbers in the absence on direct mention of his playing time, and he still pops as one of the best running backs on the slate. He’s one news blurb away from being a clear core option and possibly the best play on the slate if that happens.

Preston Williams and Kenny Stills should see plenty of time with Fitzpatrick. Of course, they’ll also see plenty of time with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. We’re about to find out how good Preston Williams really is, or least start to get a real taste of where he stands. Given the expected playing time, he’s certainly viable on the slate. Kenny Stills is busy making news of a whole different kind lately, but you can risk his use if you presume a dress rehearsal workload.

Mike Gesicki is a TE we can have some confidence will get targeted near the goal line if the Dolphins are able to get there. He’ll also be running with the starting group, which until further notice is expected to play quite a bit. I like his potential as a GPP tight end, though to date he has given us no reason to love him when the lights come on. I suspect one day, we’ll see him emerge. Maybe that day is today.

About the Author

  • Chris Gimino (ChrisGimino)

  • Chris Gimino is a top mind in the DFS industry and one of the primary contributors at RotoGrinders including one of the most accurate ownership projection systems in the industry. A multiple time live-finalist, Chris delivers actionable tools and advice for RotoGrinders Premium subscribers that helps them make informed decisions for their lineup builds.

Comments

  • bnizzle52

    Every time I click on the Discord link I come up with nothing on the other end? Is there something I need to be clicking to get to the chat? Thanks for the help!

  • Linsanity88

    @bnizzle52 Was having the same issue as well, use this link instead (from the Discord tab in the RG header): https://discordapp.com/invite/GqgXZCk

  • bnizzle52

    Dude, thanks for coming to my rescue!

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