NFL Preseason DFS Primer - Week 1: Friday, August 9th
Our analysts break down the main slate in detail, setting you up for success in your daily fantasy football contests throughout NFL Preseason.
Friday, August 9th
Hello Grinders. We have just a two-game slate after Thursday’s massive slate, but there’s still a lot to sort through for these four teams. My advice given a shorter slate is not to be afraid to eat some of the chalk because in Preseason Week 1 we’re really banking on playing time, but also don’t be afraid to throw in a low owned player in a lineup to differentiate yourself. If there’s someone on your radar that I didn’t write up, just go for it. Given the short slate and some of these contests having a ton of entries, you’re going to have to find a way to differentiate your lineup somewhere, so I definitely think this is the type of slate to take some chances.
One thing I need to call out is that for the most part, I’m not prioritizing the starters/studs unless we get firm confirmation before lock they are absolutely playing. This includes guys like Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Alvin Kamara, Derek Carr, etc. I’m not saying they are bad plays, I just don’t know how much they are actually going to play, making them risky. We saw on Thursday some starters find the end zone in just a series or two, so I am not discounting the idea of playing starters. But I do think we should be searching for the players who are expected to have the most to gain in Preseason Week 1, so that’s how I’m approaching this article. If you want to prioritize the starters and hope they grab touchdowns in a series or two, I completely get that thinking.
My other advice is to hang out in the NFL Discord chat if you can as that’s going to be the best place to get the most updated news. I would use this as a Primer to get up to speed, but the Discord chat is going to be active all the way until lock. Let’s dive in.
Buccaneers vs Steelers
Quarterback – The Bucs’ first unofficial depth chart under new coach Bruce Arians was as we expected. Coach Arians called out Jameis Winston as needing to stack good practices and he’s been doing that recently per reports. Winston had arguably his best practice yet on Saturday and Arians said Winston is “progressing nicely” under his offense. There’s been no indication yet what the split between Winston, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin will be, so I’m proceeding with caution here. Vincent Testaverde was waived on Wednesday, and Nick Fitzgerald has missed time with a hamstring injury so I’m not expecting much from him here. My main targets here are Gabbert and Ryan Griffin, who is fighting for his roster spot. While Winston could do damage if given a few series’, he’s someone I’m more looking to target in Preseason Week 2.
Running Back – Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones remain atop the depth chart for the Bucs, but it’s backup Dare Ogunbawale getting the preseason buzz. Ogunbawale mainly played on special teams last season but is potentially making a case to be the third-stringer as he’s battling with Andre Ellington and undrafted rookie Bruce Anderson. For what it’s worth, Ellington was listed ahead of Ogunbawale on the first unofficial depth chart but it could just be a case of giving the veteran the preference. Per this article, Anderson appears to be headed to the practice squad given he’s currently 5th on that depth chart.
The article here by beat writer Rick Stroud says Ogunbawale has looked good on inside runs and his role on special teams is vital. There’s another tweet here highlighting saying Coach Arians has liked what he’s seen of Ogunbawale in camp so far. The article also mentions Ogunbawale could be used as a third-down back, which would bode well for his chances of catching passes. He’s someone who could make some sense in Preseason Week 1 as I see no reason the team would push Barber or Jones here.
The Bucs were not known for their running backs catching passes last season, but the new offense under Coach Arians will likely stress that. There’s an article here detailing the importance of Jameis Winston checking the ball down to his backs in order to avoid picks and keep drives alive.
You can certainly take some shots on Peyton Barber or Ronald Jones and hope for an early-drive touchdown, but I find them extremely touchdown-dependent backs and I have to think they aren’t going to see much of an expanded role in this Preseason Week 1. Ogunbawale is my primary target here, and to a lesser extent Andre Ellington if the Bucs want to see what they have in him to determine who should win the RB3 battle.
Targets – Dare Ogunbawale, Andre Ellington
Wide Receiver – The Bucs are going to need to find some depth at the receiver position after trading DeSean Jackson and losing Adam Humphries to free agency. There’s a good article here about second year wideout Justin Watson being a potential candidate to replace Humphries in the slot. The Bucs did sign Breshad Perriman (who is reportedly having a decent camp) and drafted Scotty Miller in the 6th round as other potential options, but we could see the preseason being used to get a better look at Watson after he caught just one pass in his rookie season last year. I will caveat that none of these secondary receivers have had great practices. There’s an article here calling out Watson, Perriman, Miller and even Chris Godwin for their drops in camp. Perriman is probably the one with the most touchdown equity of this group, but Watson has the most potential for playing time given it’s just the first preseason game and is my preferred target of this group. If you’re into hometown narratives, there’s also a good article on Watson here highlighting this is a #friendsandfamily game where “about 50 family members on hand for Friday’s game.”
I’m sure Mike Evans will get some ownership just based on his name recognition and he can easily drop a hammer in a single series, but I will need some kind of confirmation he’s even suiting up before taking a shot on him. I’m not going to list him below in the targets, but we do have to consider him if we hear the starters will get any limited run. The same can be said of Chris Godwin, but like Evans, I don’t see a reason why the Bucs would push them in this meaningless Preseason Week 1. If they do play, I’d think it’d just be for a series or two at most.
One note on Scotty Miller – he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury and didn’t travel with the team per this tweet. The tweet also mentions wideout K.J. Brent not traveling. That makes me more willing to take some shots on guys further down the depth chart like Bobo Wilson and DaMarkus Lodge.
Tight End – There’s a few lines of thinking here. There’s a tweet here by beat writer Greg Auman stating he doesn’t expect to see much O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate or the injured Scott Orndoff, leaving time for Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson and Jordan Leggett. At the same time, O.J. Howard continues to be a beast in practice, catching touchdowns at an alarming rate. It’s really unclear how much playing time he will get here, but he has as much touchdown upside as anyone on this team. Even if he plays just one drive, you can bet he will get red zone looks if the team reaches that part of the field. My current lean is to not chase Howard or Brate because there’s a real potential for a 0 here and instead chase the playing time of one of these backups, but I would completely understand the rationale of playing Howard (if we get word he’s starting) and hoping for just something in his limited snaps.
It’s worth noting that the Bucs have used some three tight end sets as well per this article where Howard, Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair in a goal-line set, and Auclair got the touchdown. This is just to say that this tight end position is a bit muddled here as it appears the Bucs are willing to use different formations to get their tight ends open.
Quarterback – The Steelers seem set at quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, but fourth stringer Devlin Hodges is turning some heads in camp. There’s a good article here about Hodges, who broke Steve McNair’s NCAA FCS record for most career passing yards. The article also mentioned he is expected to play on Friday:
“They haven’t specifically said. They just said I’m going to play,” Hodges said of his expectations. “That’s all I can ask, is to get that opportunity.”
More important is the battle between Dobbs and Rudolph for the #2 job behind Big Ben. Ben Roethlisberger has been confirmed out per this tweet. I do think the Steelers want a good look at both Dobbs and Rudolph, so they are both on my radar. There’s a tweet here confirming Dobbs will start, but how long he goes is the question. He’s my preferred target here given we know he’ll start, but Rudolph makes for the contrarian play as the tweet above also confirms he’s coming in after Dobbs. Based on an article here from The Athletic, it sounds like Rudolph is the preferred #2 by the team, so I’m still somewhat interested in him despite him behind listed behind Dobbs on the unofficial first depth chart. Hodges is a deep GPP dart throw given his uncertain playing time, but he comes with some solid college accolades. I think he’s too thin of an option to play on this slate but if you’re building 150 teams, I don’t think it’s crazy to sprinkle him onto a lineup or two just in case.
Running Back – James Conner and Jaylen Samuels should be in for a big role in the regular season, so I would be shocked if they played any meaningful minutes in this game. Conner has also been getting limited reps in camp as it seems like the team is just trying to take it easy on him knowing he’s in for a big workload. This is a spot worth monitoring before lock because I would have some interest in Samuels if he drew the start. I would be shocked if Conner played.
I am much more interested in the backup Benny Snell. There’s an interesting tweet here showing Snell leads the team with five runs of 10+ yards this camp. Snell also becomes more appealing with the release of Ralph Webb on Thursday because of an injury (sorry Chris Gimino).
If you want to YOLO and go off the board, then Trey Edmunds is worth a look. He’s buried on the depth chart but one beat writer called him the most powerful runner in this backfield, and Preseason Week 1 would seem like a decent time to get a longer look at him. He’s a deep GPP option but should see a bump now with Webb out.
Targets – Benny Snell, Trey Edmunds
Wide Receiver – The depth chart was a bit of a surprise in that Ryan Switzer was listed ahead of Eli Rogers. Switzer has had a great camp per beat reporters and is drawing comparisons to Julian Edelman given the role he’s expected to play this season. At this point I’d rather take a shot on Switzer over Rogers and hope he gets an extended look here. He’s not a lock to make the 53-man roster with a lot of players battling for the remaining wideout spots behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, and James Washington.
If you want to take some chances on players lower on the depth chart, you can consider Diontae Spencer. Spencer was an undrafted free agent from the CFL with an outside chance of making the team and a more realistic chance of making the practice squad. A couple of tidbits on Spencer, per this tweet, he’s leading the team this camp in 20+ yard receptions with six (JuJu Smith-Schuster has five and Tevin Jones has four). Spencer also had a solid college career, once catching five-touchdowns in one game, something even Al Bundy couldn’t do.
The Steelers also have another Diontae wideout, Diontae Johnson. Johnson was a 3rd-round pick in this year’s draft and per this article, it sounds like he could give James Washington a run for his money as well. He’s on my radar as someone to give a strong look to.
I’m not going to target the starters like JuJu-Smith Schuster unless we get some kind of word he’ll be playing a series or two. Even in a single series, I’m willing to give JuJu a look as he could easily go off. I will list James Washington below as a potential target since he’s battling Johnson for his spot in the pecking order.
Tight End – Behind Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble, we have former rugby player Christian Scotland-Williamson, undrafted rookie Kevin Rader and 5th round rookie Zach Gentry, but there hasn’t been much buzz about any of these three in camp. I’d likely most take some shots on Rader or Gentry given their college experience as pass catchers. One beat writer called Rader the best tight end he’s seen behind McDonald and Grimble in camp, while I found another article mentioning Gentry is fighting for his 53-man roster spot, so it may make some sense to get a good look at him in the Preseason. I honestly don’t have a strong lean here on which one I prefer, so if you’re building multiple lineups it may make sense to get some exposure to both.
Defense – I just need to mention that the Steelers defense is probably my favorite defense of the four teams because they get to face Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin. My goal in choosing a defense is to attack the worst quarterbacks, and in my opinion the Gabbert/Griffin pairing is possibly the worst. My next favorite defense would be the Saints against Sean Mannion / Kyle Sloter of the Vikings, which we’ll get to next.
Vikings vs Saints
Quarterback – Things get pretty ugly once we get past Kirk Cousins. Sean Mannion and Kyle Sloter are fighting for the backup role, with Mannion listed second on the depth chart. It’s worth noting per this tweet that Sloter was splitting third-string reps with Jake Browning as of Sunday and no longer splitting second-string reps with Mannion, which suggests that Mannion does have the leg up as Cousins’ backup. For now I’ll list Mannion as my preferred target here, but Sloter could be worth a look if the team gives him extended playing time in the second half.
Beat writer Andrew Krammer did tweet here that Mike Zimmer said he will hold out “one” or “two” players, and then Krammer tweeted again he expects more to sit because the team has been cautious with veterans. There’s also an article here saying Cousins and the first team offense may play just one drive. It’s worth noting that Cousins also played just one drive in last year’s Preseason Week 1 game and did throw a 1-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs. Sure, Cousins has enough upside to find the end zone in his lone expected drive, but I prefer chasing the playing time of his backups as I do think they have higher ceilings.
Running Back – There’s buzz around camp that rookie Alexander Mattison is the Vikings’ Latavius Murray replacement. Mattison was listed behind Dalvin Cook on the unofficial depth chart and the 3rd round rookie is reportedly impressing the coaching staff. There’s a tweet here that reads:
“He’s doing good,’’ said coach Mike Zimmer. “He runs physical. He looks like he’s got vision, finding the seams. I think he’s done a pretty good job in protection.’’
I’d rather take a shot on Mattison on this two-game slate over Ameer Abdullah, who is listed as third on the running back depth chart but who is likely going to play more of a role on special teams. My one concern is that there’s an article here saying Mattison may be dealing with some kind of injury and isn’t a lock to play on Friday. That conflicts a tweet I found here saying Mattison was a full go in Wednesday’s practice. For now I’m proceeding as if he’s fine and is one of my top running back targets, but make sure you monitor the news on his status prior to lock.
I feel like one of Mike Boone or De’Angelo Henderson should get some playing time here, but neither have had standout camps. They aren’t really targets of mine on this slate but we should monitor this situation.
Targets – Alexander Mattison
Wide Receiver – Laquon Treadwell has not had a good camp, and per this article, he’s fallen behind Chad Beebe and is now the #5 receiver at best. There’s another good article here on Treadwell about how the former first-round pick is in the final year of his rookie contract and could be released. I’m willing to take some shots on Treadwell in case the Vikings want a long look here to determine his future.
I initially wrote up Chad Beebe, Jeff Badet and Jordan Taylor as dart throws, and I still think Beede is fine given his roster-bubble status, but perhaps Badet and Taylor was too much of a stretch. Instead, I think it’s worth looking at Olabisi Johnson, who is hyped up here. There’s a quote in the article that say:
“Asked before practice about the many young receivers fighting for roster spots behind starters Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Johnson was the first one coach Mike Zimmer patted on the back. Then, during practice, Johnson and Brandon Zylstra rotated in with the first team. When the Vikings went to three receivers, Chad Beebe came in. “Olibisi is doing well,” Zimmer said. “He’s playing a multiple number of spots. Catches the ball well. Gets to the right place most of the time.””
In terms of other wide receiver dart throws, Brandon Zylstra was mentioned above as rotating in with the starters and I do think he’s worth a look. There’s also a good article on him here about his journey. He’s buried on the depth chart and someone I may have overlooked initially, so I do think he’s worth a look.
Tight End – The two Vikings tight ends that catch my eye are Tyler Conklin and rookie Irv Smith Jr. There’s an article here on Conklin who is entering year two in the NFL. Conklin caught just five passes last season after getting drafted in the 5th round and does have a background as being a good pass catcher. I don’t mind him as a GPP dart throw.
Irv Smith Jr. has the ultimate narrative day. There’s an article here on Smith Jr. outlining this is not only a #hometown game as he’s from New Orleans, but this is also a #birthday game. Not only that, but his dad played for the Saints and will be in attendance for a #friends&family narrative. Excuse me for a second, I need to catch my breath from all this narrative goodness. I know that narratives are nutty, but if I’m trying to find players to target on a two-game degen NFL preseason slate, I’ll at least give the guy with all the narratives a look.
Quarterback – In last year’s Preseason opener, the Saints sat Drew Brees and played Tom Savage and Taysom Hill. This season, my guess is we see Teddy Bridgewater and Tayson Hill get the majority of work, now with R.J. Barrett waived. Bridgewater is especially attractive on this short slate and there’s a tweet here that says he will “play a lot” this week. There’s another tweet here saying this is the best he’s felt in six years. Bridgewater is my primary target here, assuming he draws the starting assignment, with Hill a contrarian option if you’re mass multi-entering given his rushing ceiling. My guess is one of Bridgewater or Josh Dobbs is the highest owned quaterback on this slate, with Bridgewater being my top choice.
Running Back – It seems unlikely Alvin Kamara will see meaningful snaps here. There’s an article here saying Latavius Murray does expect to play, and strangely enough, I have some interest in him considering he missed some time early in camp with an injury. I don’t expect Murray to play long, but it is a #revenge game and you’re really hoping for some goal-line work with Murray.
Undrafted rookie Devine Ozigbo is an interesting dart throw. He’s been drawing rave reviews in camp and he’s been getting so much buzz, that someone was willing to draft him at 1.7 in Dan Back’s Bestball. That tells us all we need to know.
A possible minor note, but the Saints signed Kerwynn Williams on Thursday for more depth. This gives the Saints Ozigbo, Dwyane Washington, Jacquizz Rodgers and Kerwynn Williams now behind Kamara/Murray.
Wide Receiver – The buzz around the team has been undrafted rookie Emmanuel Butler, who has been turning heads with his strong camp. The one caveat with Butler is that he missed an entire week with an unspecified injury, but he returned to practice on Wednesday. If we can get confirmation he’s good to go for this game, he’d make a prime target here as there’s already talk of him potentially making the 53-man roster.
It’s weird to say, but veteran Rishard Matthews is also worth being on our radar. He’s buried on the depth chart right now with Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood aka Kirkdiese, Tre’Quan Smith and maybe even Emmanuel Butler all ahead of him. Matthews did show some rapport with Bridgewater in practice and if he got some extended playing time, he could be a contrarian stacking partner with Bridgewater as Butler will probably draw more of the ownership.
Further down the depth chart we have all-time great name Lil’Jordan Humphrey, but he’s had a poor camp. There’s a clip here of him dropping a touchdown and missing another catch. He also fumbled the day before this clip. I haven’t found anything favorable about him, and instead I’d rather take a shot on Simmie Cobbs if I’m searching for some dart throws. Cobbs has bounced around the Redskins and Saints practice squads, but it caught my eye that he’s listed ahead of Humphries and even Rishard Matthews on some sites.
Tight End – Jared Cook and Josh Hill are likely locks for the team, with Dan Arnold likely going to stick around as well. I’m focused on Jake Powell with the position pretty ugly for the Saints. A Powell/Tayson Hill pairing is interesting in GPPs if you think both backups get some decent second-half run.
“The Saints are set at the top of the depth chart between free agent acquisition Jared Cook and a reliable backup in Josh Hill. But there’s plenty of opportunity for Derby to end up making the team if he can build trust with the Saints quarterbacks early on and carve out a role on special teams. With Griffin and Mack sidelined by their injuries, third-year wide receiver convert Dan Arnold is the only one standing between Derby and a spot on the 53-man roster.”
I think guys like Powell and Derby are worth a look on this short slate, especially Derby if he has a real chance of making the team given the injuries.
Targets – A.J. Derby, Jake Powell