NFL Preseason DFS Primer Week 1: Saturday, August 10th
Our analysts break down the main slate in detail, setting you up for success in your daily fantasy football contests throughout NFL Preseason.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Oakland Raiders
Game Total: 36.5
Spread: OAK -5.5
Los Angeles Rams
The article here mentions that the Rams are sitting their offensive starters, which includes Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. This means Blake Bortles will start. The article did not clarify how long he will go and who will come in after him but I found a tweet here Bortles is expected for only a couple of series. I’m putting Bortles as a Tier 3 GPP playa at best as I thought he’d see more time. Behind him are Brandon Allen and John Wolford, neither of which are targets of mine outside of a Showdown format or unless we hear one of them will get the majority of playing time tonight. Wolford did have some success in the AAF for what it’s worth but Vegas isn’t projecting many points to be scored from the Rams.
The running back position here is a complete question mark as I can’t find any info on what the Rams plan to do. We know there’s no Todd Gurley, and with Malcolm Brown backing him up and the insurance should Gurley not return to form, I have to also think they don’t risk playing him here. Do we start to see guys like John Kelly, Justin Davis and Darrell Henderson? These are all dart throws and given the uncertainty of this backfield, I’ll probably end up being underweight on this situation without getting some more clarity before lock. We did find a beat writer suggest Henderson should have a role on this team, making it unlikely he plays much in the preseason, although he could be a boom/bust option here given he showed explosiveness in college. I wish I had something more to go off of, but the Rams have been quiet on their plans.
Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds are locks to make the team. JoJo Natson has looked good in camp as both a receiver and part of the special teams unit. He’s been working with Bortles in the second unit during camp so he’d make for an interesting stacking partner should you roll with some Bortles. From what I’ve read, it does seem like Natson is someone who should make the team given his work on both units. This leaves the likes of Michael Thomas and KhaDarel Hodge fighting for the remaining one or two spots. There’s a good piece on Thomas here about how he’s look rejuvenated in camp this year after missing time with injuries and a drug suspension. It’s been a few seasons since Thomas has made any impact in the NFL, but the reports out of camp have been positive and he’s only 24. He also worked with Bortles in the second unit, so they should have some connection. I think both he and Hodge are worth looks as GPP dart throws, with Thomas my preferred option between the two.
As for the tight ends on this team, I’m just going to look elsewhere given the options aren’t appealing. I actually really like the Rams defense, and I think both defenses from this game are viable. Any defense facing Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman is a friend of mine.
Derek Carr, Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman. This is what the Oakland Raiders are working with, and Coach Gruden continues to praise all three. On a three-game slate, this gives us enough quarterbacks to work with that I don’t think you need to consider any of them unless you start building 10+ teams and want to mix in some exposure to this situation. But nothing in Glennon’s or Peterman’s NFL track record suggests these are quarterbacks we should fall in love with, and the only reason to target them is simply for their playing time. Glennon showed promise back in 2013 with a 19-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio and does own a career 60.9% completion rate, but he hasn’t played meaningful snaps in a regular season game since 2014. Peterman has been much worse with a career 3:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Glennon appears to be in the lead for the #2 job and maybe Coach Gruden can somehow salvage their careers, but I’m much more interested in playing the Rams defense against these two than I am playing either as my quarterback. The Rams defense is my favorite defense on this slate even without knowing what the timeshare will be amongst this trio.
The article here from The Athletic mentions not to expect the Raiders offensive starters, so I’m proceeding as if we’ll see more backups. There’s an ESPN article here stating that rookie running back Josh Jacobs has started to run away (oh, pun not intended!) with the starting role over Doug Martin. There’s been nothing but praise from Coach Gruden about Jacobs, and it feels like he’s the back we should have most interest in here but it’s unclear to me whether Coach Gruden views Jacobs as a backup at this point. If Jacobs is actually someone pushing for potentially the starting role, he may be someone who is also babied in this Preseason Week 1, so I’m viewing him more as a secondary option.
Antonio Brown continues to deal with a foot injury and has gone AWOL from the team. I’m not expecting him to play here. Tyrell Williams has stepped up in Brown’s absence but I don’t think the Raiders will push him either in a Preseason Week 1 game. My problem with all these Raiders receivers is that they will be catching passes from backup quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and Mike Glennon. J.J. Nelson has had the best camp and caught a 50-yard touchdown from Carr on Thursday. He’s being talked up and would be a viable GPP option if you decide to play any of these receivers.
Although he’s listed as a starter on the initial depth chart, Hunter Renfrow (not the baseball player) has been impressing tons of people in camp as well. The article here mentions he’s passed slot receiver Ryan Grant, who has been dealing with a sore back. If you want to chase the hype and hope he gets some playing time, I think that makes some sense given the limited options here. The article here about Renfrow calls him out as someone we may see plenty of despite his likely starter status. He’s my main target in this passing game.
Darren Waller has been a camp standout, has been quoted as being “unguardable”, and is getting praise from Coach Gruden. The problem is that beat writer Ted Nguyen tweeted here that Gruden expects Waller to not play against the Rams, which is a huge bummer. With Jared Cook out of town, the starting job belongs to Waller, and it seems like the team isn’t going to take any chances with him. Assuming Waller is truly out, I’d consider Foster Moreau, who was the team’s 4th round pick. There’s a tweet here saying Moreau has picked up Coach Gruden’s system quickly. It’s worth noting that Derek Carrier, Luke Willson and Paul Butler are fighting for one or two spots, and the team added Brandon Barnes on Friday, so it’s pretty crowded here.
I will say that the Raiders defense is somewhat interesting given they will go up against Blake Bortles and a bunch of their second stringers. I expect the Raiders defense to be pretty contrarian and low-owned too, so I don’t mind some shares if multi-entering.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Game Total: 36.5
Spread: KC -3.5
There’s a good article here detailing the game plan for Saturday. The gist of it is that Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are not expected to play so they can see the younger players. Tyler Eifert isn’t going to play as he returns from injury. John Ross is day-to-day and not expected to play.
Rookie running back Rodney Anderson was cleared for practice on Wednesday and there’s a good piece on him here that outlines his ugly injury history (broken leg, fractured vertebra, torn ACL). Anderson is currently 4th on the depth chart behind Mixon, Bernard and fellow rookie Trayveon Williams, but ahead of Quinton Flowers and Jordan Ellis, both of whom are fighting for a spot. I found a tweet here saying Anderson isn’t playing today, which makes sense given he’s coming back from a torn ACL and just got cleared to practice. This makes me most interested in Trayveon Williams, who only has Flowers and Ellis behind him. Williams was their 6th round pick and with Mark Walton out of town and Bernard being a free agent next season, it would make sense for the Bengals to see what they have with Williams as a potential long-term backup to Mixon. I’m considering him a core play.
In terms of quarterback play, the pecking order in practice (and on the depth chart) remains Andy Dalton > Jeff Driskel > Ryan Finley. I have not seen any word yet on starters, expected playing time, etc. Given the caution the team is taking with the other stars, I have to think Dalton doesn’t have a long leash here. I’m treating Dalton as if he’s playing a series or two, with the rest of the time going to Driskel and Finley. Unless we hear otherwise, I’ll assume around a 50/50 split, and I’ll side with Driskel given his previous preseason experience but you can certainly keep Finley in your GPP player pool in the event he does get half a game and surprises us all.
At the wideout spot, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Alex Erickson are pretty much locks for making the team. That leaves potentially two spots open for the remaining group: Damion Willis, Cody Core, Auden Tate and Josh Malone. These are familiar preseason names and they all bring something different. Willis has received the most camp buzz and seems to have already passed fellow rookie and investment banker Stanley Morgan on the depth chart. With Green out, there’s a chance Willis could be a legit part of the rotation early in the season if he can continue his hot start. Core can be used on special teams, so he has that going for him. I have no problems with Tate or Malone, and my preference is taking some darts on the talent from Malone between the two. This is probably one of the better groups of receivers we can work with on this slate. While none are going to be core plays, I do think getting exposure here is a solid idea and Willis is the most intriguing.
With Tyler Eifert a constant injury risk, the team drafted tight end Drew Sample in the 2nd round. We already know Eifert won’t play, and the Bengals now have a bunch of tight ends to work with. C.J. Uzomah is still around, Cethan Carter is a special teams player / backup tight end, while Jordan Franks and Mason Schreck still have some upside. With the comment of this game being for the young guys, I’m not focused on Uzomah here and instead will look to Sample first, followed by Franks (who appears to be running ahead of Schreck).
Kansas City Chiefs
Core Options: Patrick Mahomes (expected to play one quarter)
Secondary Options: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Carlos Hyde (assuming he starts)
Third Tier GPP: Darrel Williams, Mecole Hardman
“The reigning NFL MVP will play one quarter Saturday night. After that, it’s all about the reserves. Patrick Mahomes will get things started for the Chiefs against Cincinnati in the preseason opener for both teams at Arrowhead Stadium. Chad Henne will play the second quarter, Kyle Shurmur will take the third and last year’s practice-squad quarterback, Chase Litton, will play the fourth. The other positions’ playing time will largely mirror that of the quarterbacks’.”
So there we have it – one quarter of Patrick Mahomes, followed by one quarter of everyone else. Honestly, that’s enough for me even though I realize one quarter of action isn’t a lot. In all likelihood we’re probably looking at two series for Mahomes and company in that one quarter. I’m considering Mahomes a core play assuming the Chiefs stay true to their word, and I’m ignoring the other KC quarterback options here. One quarter of Mahomes is worth more than two-to-three quarters of a backup quarterback in another game.
There’s a good article here about Damien Williams being injured and how that has allowed Carlos Hyde to take on a larger role in camp. Williams is still the assumed starter, but now the Chiefs have Williams, Hyde, Darrel Williams, rookie Darwin Thompson and converted cornerback Tremon Smith fighting for touches. Damien Williams did return to practice on Wednesday, further complicating matters. Since Damien Williams is coming back from an injury I would be shocked if he played extensive snaps here, or even at all. This is a murky situation so I’m going to list Carlos Hyde as a secondary option assuming he gets the start, but guys deeper on the depth chart like Darrel Williams, Thompson and Smith aren’t as intriguing to me right now.
Tyreek Hill is back and I think both he and Sammy Watkins are firmly in play assuming they also get a quarter’s worth of action with Mahomes. I have no problem stacking one or both with Mahomes. I won’t go as far as calling either a lock/core play, but they are firmly secondary options and borderline core plays depending on your view of how much one quarter of this offense is worth to you. There is still a position battle at the wideout spot. There’s an article here outlining that Gehrig Dieter, Byron Pringle, and Rashard Davis are fighting for two open spots. It’s assumed that Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and 2nd round rookie Mecole Hardman are locks for four of the six receiving spots, so we could be looking at extended looks in the preseason for Dieter, Pringle and Davis. For what it’s worth, this article mentioned Davis as having the most consistent camp of this bunch. We also need to monitor the status of Dieter as I found an article here saying he missed Thursday’s practice with a back injury. If he were out, then guys like Davis, Pringle and Hardman become even better plays. Coach Reid said this preseason is all about evaluating the young talent.
There has been very little buzz regarding the tight ends out of camp. David Wells was waived per this tweet, meaning Blake Bell, Deon Yelder & Nick Keizer plus half-back John Lovett are behind Travis Kelce. My personal preference is to just focus on Kelce and not take shots on these backups, as it wouldn’t shock me if we saw them split up the remaining three quarters.
In terms of roster construction, the Chiefs are the most attractive team for me on Saturday’s slate. I don’t even mind the idea of some Chiefs onslaught stacks and hoping they do massive damage in their one quarter together. I’ll toy around with some Mahomes/Hill/Kelce or Mahomes/Watkins/Kelce stacks and chase the floor. What I’m still working through in my head is whether I want to create some lineups that include some of the pass catchers, but instead of playing Mahomes, I’d play the starting running back (whether that be Hyde or Williams) and hope the touchdowns come through the ground. I feel like Mahomes and a ground-and-pound back like Carlos Hyde don’t correlate as well, so it may make some sense to create teams that stagger them. I’m just sharing my thought process and will continue to wrestle with this.
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers
Game Total: 36.0
Spread: SF -4.0
The info on the Cowboys has been limited. I found this article saying Dak Prescott isn’t expected to play much and possibly just one series like he did last preseason. Given that limited amount, I’m not on Dak today. Instead, we should see plenty of Cooper Rush and Mike White. Rush is my preferred target between the two given his previous preseason success last year. I’m calling him a secondary but like Blake Bortles, I do see GPP appeal here.
Ezekiel Elliott continues to sit out, and that should open things up for rookie Tony Pollard. Pollard has been working with the 1st team in Zeke’s absence and per the article I linked above, it sounds like they want him to work on pass protection. I’m also viewing him as more of a secondary option with some solid upside depending on how much burn he gets.
Amari Cooper and Jason Witten are unlikely to play, again per the article above. It calls out Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin as options to get some limited work. I’m viewing them all as third tier GPP options because again, we don’t know how much time they will see but any one of them could find the end zone in a single series with Dak under center. If you want to chase the young players, Jon’Vea Johnson, Cedrick Wilson, Reggie Davis and Jalen Guyton are targets (with Johnson and Wilson the two getting the most camp hype). They are GPP dart throws as well and it’s tough to know what to expect here, but I don’t think it’s crazy to get some exposure if rolling out a ton of lineups and perhaps pairing one of them with Cooper Rush.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo will miss this game and play in the 2nd and 3rd games, per this article. It sounds like the 49ers want to keep both C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens on their roster as it’s likely one would get claimed on waivers if let go. Unfortunately, there’s a tweet here saying no QB1 has been selected for this game, meaning your guess is as good as mine who starts. I’ll assume a 50/50 split between Beathard and Mullens, and I’m listing both as secondary options unless we get some kind of clarity before lock. Unfortunately, this looks like a place where we may have to monitor news.
The 49ers have a ton of talented running backs at their disposal after signing Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal. Coleman appears to be the lead-back early in camp, and that’s even more sure now with Jerrick McKinnon suffering a setback. Per news here, McKinnon is feeling discomfort in his knee and will be shut down for the next two weeks.
Matt Breida proved to be a solid runner last season, and Raheem Mostert showed promise especially on special teams. It’s likely all play a role this season and we see some kind of committee. There’s a good article here that breaks down the running back position in San Francisco. In terms of this game, my guess is that none of these three see massive workloads given their importance now with McKinnon out. Mostert is coming back from a fractured arm and Breida also had a slight pec tear in May from weight-lifting and all three missed OTAs back in May, so it’s possible we see more rookie Austin Walter in this first preseason game. Jeff Wilson was on my radar but he hasn’t been practicing with a calf injury, so I would be surprised if he healed up enough in time to play in this game. This is a tough situation to gauge because I can’t imagine they risk their trio of studs, but I also can’t imagine Walter playing the majority of the game. I’m putting Walter as a secondary option but I’m willing to elevate him if we get confirmation he’s going to get a lot of run. Raheem Mostert is probably the most likely to get playing time of that trio, but I’d like to see more confirmation of his role tonight. For now I’m assuming some kind of Mostert / Walter split and the bottom line is we don’t know what’s going to happen here but the Niners are thin at this position.
Trent Taylor had a rough sophomore year after offseason back injury, and some are viewing him as a strong bounceback player in year three. He’s had a good camp acting as the team’s slot receiver and caught two of Jimmy G’s touchdowns in some recent red zone work, so he’s someone worth watching. There’s an article here discussing the receiving corp in general.
In a surprise twist, Dante Pettis hasn’t had a good camp and was replaced by Kendrick Bourne as a starter for camp drills per this tweet. Assuming he’s been replaced as a starter, Pettis is someone I have interest in as well assuming the 49ers are willing to use the preseason to try and get him going.
Rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are somewhat buried on the depth chart but I can see the team using the preseason to get them reps. I personally would still rather take the known talent of Pettis and Taylor if they get the starting nods, but I would keep Samuel and Hurd in my GPP player pool. The article I linked above calls out Samuel and Hurd as having the best hands on the team. If you want to go even further down the dept chart, Richie James and Jordan Matthews are both fighting for one of the final roster spots. Feel free to keep them in your GPP player pool if mass multi-entering.
I highly doubt George Kittle gets much run here, especially after he got hurt last year in the preseason opener, so I’m looking further down the depth chart for some targets. I’ll mention that backup Nick Mullins has had a good connection in camp with backup tight end Ross Dwelley, so the two may make for a nice stack if you assume both backups get some decent time together here. The article here mentions Garrett Celek hasn’t been medically cleared yet, so we should see plenty of Dwelley, rookie Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. Toilolo is listed ahead of Smith on the depth chart but the article calls out Smith having a great practice on Thursday and I would think the 49ers would lean towards keeping/developing Smith (their 6th round pick) over seven-year vet Levine Toilolo.