NFL Preseason DFS Primer Week 2: Saturday, August 17th
Our analysts break down the main slate in detail, setting you up for success in your daily fantasy football contests throughout NFL Preseason.
Editor’s Note: Looking for NFL preseason betting picks? We have you covered with our best NFL preseason Week 2 betting picks for Friday night.
Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts
Game Total: 43.0
Spread: IND -3.0
Core Options: Browns Defense
Dontrell Hilliard (scratching him because it sounds iffy he plays due to injury), Rashard Higgins, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetrius Harris
Third Tier GPP: Jaelen Strong
There’s an article here stating that Kareem Hunt will make his debut, but that Coach Kitchens didn’t say how long Chubb, Baker Mayfield or the starters will play in this game. The starters only played one series last week, so it’s fair to be skeptical here that the starters see much more playing time here. I personally won’t be taking too many shots on the Browns starters, but in GPPs, sure, you can definitely hope they shine in a series or two. Last week, all of Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton, Garrett Gilbert and David Blough got playing time, with Gilbert getting the most time. This is an avoid for me.
*Update – there’s a good chance Dontrell Hilliard doesn’t play due to injury so moving D’Ernest Johnson to a secondary play and proceeding with caution on Hilliard
As for the running back situation, the introduction of Hunt makes this a bit more muddled. Hunt is suspended for the first eight games so it does make sense to give him some work in the preseason, but I also see no reason they would push him. If you take shots on Hunt or Chubb, you’re really hoping for a touchdown. Dontrell Hilliard led the backfield with nine carries last week and also caught three targets.
I would think he’s still the best bet for work here as he’s third on the depth chart and someone who could see an expanded role this season with Duke Johnson out. He’s my favorite option in this backfield just based on expected workload but just note he sat out practice on Thursday per this tweet, so we’ll want to monitor the news and inactives before lock to see if he’s a full go. If he’s not, his workload could be picked up by D’Ernest Johnson.
Rashard Higgins went off last week for a 5-98-1 line off six targets and he’s probably the best option in the starting unit if you decide to target it with the Browns unlikely to risk Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham nursing an injury. There is a quote here by Coach Kitchens saying Beckham could play if he wanted to, but given the vagueness I’m guessing they sit him here and not risk him if he’s not 100%. If you’re looking for wideouts with something to prove, there’s an article here about time running out for Jaelen Strong. Strong did have two catches last week and it wouldn’t be shocking if he continued to see work here as the Browns make a decision on his roster spot. Depth charts have him listed as the #6 wideout, so there’s a very real chance on he’s on the bubble and playing for his job. There’s also an article here about wideout D.J. Montgomery impressing the team after his 2-47-1 line last week. Lastly, wideout Damion Ratley did return to practice on Thursday from a hamstring injury but only did individual drills, so it sounds like he’s nearing a return but unlikely to play today.
With David Njoku hurt, there’s an article here about tight end Demetrius Harris having a good connection with Mayfield in the joint practices. Harris is buried on the depth chart when the starters are around but he should run as the TE1 today and given the glowing report, he’s worth keeping in your GPP player pool.
I listed the Browns defense as a core option, and you’ll see below that the situation with the Colts isn’t a great one so I’m willing to target the Cleveland defense on this slate.
Per this article, it sounds like Coach Reich wants his starters to go a little longer in this game. The article says he wants his “front-line players into the game for about a quarter” and to expect “cameo appearances from T.Y. Hilton, Anthony Castonzo, Darius Leonard, Clayton Geathers, Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Marlon Mack, Justin Houston, Kenny Moore II and a few others.” I’m taking this with a grain of salt and thinking maybe the key starters get a series or two after not playing last week. This quote isn’t enough to pique my interest, but you’re free to make your own judgement.
With the status of Andrew Luck up in the air, expect the Colts to continue to be cautious with now-starter Jacoby Brissett. Brissett only had five passes last week before giving way to Chad Kelly and Phillip Walker. It seems likely that Kelly and Walker will continue to see the bulk of work in this game, and I don’t really have interest in either. There is a pod here that seems to suggest Kelly will play more, so I’m adding him to a third tier GPP option just in case he surprises.
Aca’Cedric Ware and Jonathan Williams each had eight carries last week to lead the team, but neither found the end zone or did much with their carries. Williams was called out by beat writer George Breme here as having a good camp, so I suppose you could go back to the well with him. But I personally would rather target backs from offenses with a better quarterback and wideout situation to help move the ball down the field.
The wideout group took a hit this week when Daurice Fountain hurt his ankle and will require surgery. Fountain was a standout in Preseason Week 1 with a 5-63-0 line off a team-high seven targets. Deon Cain was called out here as a possible option to step up even more now after catching two passes last week. He’s a GPP dart throw at best, as all these wideouts take a hit catching passes from fringe talents like Kelly and Walker. To be frank, the Colts wideouts are the group I’m least interested in on this slate.
Overall, I’m more interested in playing the Browns defense as leverage against this poor Colts offense that will likely play the majority of the game with its backups.
New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans
Game Total: 41,0
Spread: NE -1.0
New England Patriots
Update – Tom Brady is now not playing, giving a boost to both Hoyer and Stidham.
The reinstatement of Josh Gordon yesterday should have a trickle down effect on the Patriots. Gordon can rejoin the Patriots on Sunday meaning he won’t be active for this game. His return is detailed well here. Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris are hurt and didn’t practice on Thursday, making their availability for this game questionable. Dorsett has a thumb injury and Harris has a lower leg issue. N’Keal Harry also has an injury and hasn’t practiced this week, making it unlikely he plays. The article calls rookie Jakobi Meyers a lock, leaving Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris and Braxton Berrios for possibly one spot.
Tom Brady is expected to debut tonight and maybe play a series or two per this article. He could definitely throw a touchdown or two in his brief time, so I’m at least going to consider him a tertiary GPP option. Still, the vagueness around his playing time makes me mostly looking elsewhere for my QB. It’s likely we continue to see a healthy dose of Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham as well, who split time last week. Hoyer looked solid with a 12-for-14 with 147 yards and 2 touchdown line, while Stidham held his own gong 14-for-24 with 179 yards and a touchdown as well. How much Hoyer and Stidham play in this game is unclear but I’m going to side with the talent of Hoyer if I’m taking shots on one of these two.
Jakobi Meyers had a massive 6-69-2 line last week and is likely going to draw a bit of ownership tonight after that game. My biggest struggle is that with Meyers looking like a lock for the team, do we start to see the Patriots be more careful with him in the preseason? I’m going to call him a Core Option for now assuming he plays in this game because I expect the industry will be on him too, but the Patriots can easily pull some shenanigans so I’m going to monitor the news careful on Meyers. Outside of Meyers, you can see the projected wideout depth chart here with Gordon back in the mix. Given the injuries, I’m expecting we see a lot of Dontrelle Inman, Braxton Berrios, Gunner Olszewski, Damoun Patterson and Ryan Davis today. I honestly don’t love any of them as the Patriots will likely rotate wideouts and spread the ball around, but if I had to choose one, it would be Berrios based on how highly targetted he’s been in practice (both he and Meyers are tied for the lead in targets from Brady).
Damien Harris was a surprise scratch last week when it was revealed later he had a minor wrist injury. This article suggests based on how he’s looked in practice he will make his preseason debut, but I just think it’s too risky to take a chance on today. The fact they held him out last week reveals he is likely going to be a part of their regular season plans this season, so I expect them to be very careful. Nick Brossette took over as the lead back last week and carried the ball 22 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Brandon Bolden carried the ball 12 times for 41 yards. I’m a bit skeptical we should chase that Brossette game, especially if Harris does make his debut. The article above mentions Brossette had some issues in pass protection last week and there’s no way they would put someone with pass protection issues next to Brady. Maybe he gets some garbage time or second half run, so I’ll at least consider him a secondary play, but there are reasons to think his huge usage may have been more a one-time thing.
The tight ends are not appealing here. Outside of Ben Watson, the team has Matt LaCosse and Stephen Anderson but both are injured and not expected to play here. Lance Kendricks is the best bet for targets, with Ryan Izzo more of a blocker and newly-added Eric Saubert still learning the playbook. You could certainly take a shot with Watson playing with Brady and the starters, or Kendricks with the backups, but the reports of our camp haven’t been glowing for this group. If Kendricks is out, we could see Saubert get a huge workload so I’m putting Saubert as a secondary play for now pending Kendricks’ status.
There’s a good article here about what to expect from Marcus Mariota in this game. He only played one series last week before giving way to Ryan Tannehill, who threw two touchdowns in relief. The expectation is that Mariota should see a bit more time here but the article notes that last preseason in Week 2, Mariota only played two series. I’m expecting more of the same here, making him an iffy play at best. Both Ryan Tannehill and Logan Woodside tossed two touchdowns apiece last week, so perhaps there’s some appeal with the backups here. I’ll consider Mariota and Tannehill both third tier GPP options with the likelihood we could see Tannehill get a healthy dose of playing time once again.
We didn’t see Derrick Henry debut last week and I have not found any confirmation whether he’s planning to suit up for this game. Last week, we only got two carries from backup Dion Lewis and a healthy dose of Dalyn Dawkins, Alex Barnes and Jeremy McNichols. Henry and third-stringer David Fluellen didn’t practice much this week, making me think we don’t see them again. McNichols is highest on the depth chart making him the most likely to lead this backfield if those two are indeed out again, but this has the makings of a committee where you’re mostly throwing darts.
This article mentions Delanie Walker expects to make his preseason debut tonight, while rookie wideout A.J. Brown could also debut. I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach with Walker considering he’s coming off a broken ankle, and I’m going to need confirmation Brown is playing before taking shots on him.
Taywan Taylor didn’t have a good preseason week 1, catching just two of his five targets. He was called out here as someone who had a strong practice this week and a candidate to bounceback. Wideouts Cody Hollister and Kalif Raymond each had good games last week against the Eagles and could be making a push for the roster. Hollister had a 4-58-1 line while Raymond led the team with 80 yards on a team-high eight targets. I’d expect both of them to get second half run with the backups so if you want to pair one of both of them with someone like Logan Woodside and hope they can repeat their success, I don’t hate that in the large field GPPs.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Game Total: 46.5
Spread: KC -2.5
Kansas City Chiefs
It’s hard to tell if Coach Reid is being truthful here, but this tweet says “the starters will play the first half or there about’…second string gets the third quarter, third will play the fourth.” It’s easy to be skeptical of a game plan where you would expose Patrick Mahomes and company in a meaningless game for a half, but for whatever it’s worth, Mahomes did indeed play a half in last year’s Preseason Week 2 game. That was a different scenario, however, with Mahomes not the established player that he is now. My guess is we see Mahomes for at least a quarter and maybe 1.5 quarters, but it would not shock me if Reid pulled the starters early if they have success in their first series or two. I’m proceeding with some caution but will call Patrick Mahomes a core play. I get it if you’re skeptical.
We didn’t see Damien Williams in last week’s game after he came back from injury but assuming he’s good to go here, I would think he’ll see run with the first stringers. Reports out of practice for him this past week were positive so it sounds like he’s good to go. I’m calling him a secondary play simply because we could easily see Carlos Hyde vulture some work. There’s also a tweet here of Darwin Thompson getting some goal-line work. Thompson had a nice debut last week, going 5-22-0 on the ground and 1-29-1 through the air, as well as showing good awareness in pass protection. Thompson is a worthy GPP dart throw in the event he gets some solid second half run.
Coach Reid confirmed here that wideouts Gehrig Dieter and Davon Grayson are out, as is tight end John Lovett. This is good news for Mecole Hardman, who is a near lock to make the team and had a solid debut as well with a 2-31-1 line (he also had one rushing attempt but it went for negative yards). Hardman is already drawing comparisons to teammate Tyreek Hill and I love him as a GPP option.
Your views of Andy Reid’s comments of the starters playing around a half will influence your views of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. In theory I suppose if I’m calling Patrick Mahomes a core option, I should consider these three core options as well, but I’m still somewhat skeptical all three get huge run. I have no problem stacking one or multiple of them with Mahomes and hoping Reid is true to his word. Stacking is my most likely strategy here given I could see Reid taking them out of the game early if there is some success on early drives. If the touchdowns come from the ground, there’s a route where these three could bust even in 1 to 1.5 quarters of play.
If you’re looking further down the depth chart at wide receiver, this article mentions Marcus Kemp and Byron Pringle likely have the last two wideout spots as of now, but Rashard Davis, Cody Thompson and Felton Davis are options to change that. I don’t have a strong lean on any of these backups and I’m not sure they need to be on our radar for a five-game slate, but beat writer BJ Kissel called out Kemp here as one of the five players he’s watching in this game.
I’ll point out that Deon Yelder led the team with six targets last week and did have a touchdown catch from Chase Litton. If Kelce doesn’t get much playing time this week, we could see more of Yelder and fellow backup Blake Bell. It does sound like there’s some competition between the two for the TE2 role.
Per this tweet, Mason Rudolph will start at QB for the Steelers while this tweet says Josh Dobbs and Devlin Hodges will also see some time at QB. This isn’t a huge surprise as Dobbs started last week’s game and the Steelers have shown a tendency dating back to last preseason of letting each of their backups get a start. This could also be bad news for Dobbs as he was just 5-for-8 last week with 85 yards, while Rudolph impressed with a 5-for-8 outing as well for 91 yards and two touchdowns while Devlin had a touchdown pass of his own. The splitting of snaps makes it hard to project any of these three for major fantasy production, but if I had to rank these three for this game I’d rank them as Rudolph > Devlin > Dobbs.
There’s a vague tweet here about Coach Tomlin wanting to use more starters this week. It wasn’t specific to the offensive or defensive side. I don’t think it means we see much, if any, of JuJu Smith-Schuster here so he’s not really on my radar. I do have interest in James Washington, who had a 4-84-1 line off five targets. The Steelers have JuJu and Donte Moncrief ahead of Washington, but Washington did look like their best player last week and it wouldn’t shock me if he saw some decent run again. I don’t mind a Rudolph/Washington stack here. Per this article, it does sound like Moncrief is close to a return and we could see him get preseason action tonight. I’d need confirmation he’s suiting up before playing him, but I think he’d make for an interesting GPP play given Tomlin’s comment about wanting to use more starters this week and the fact Moncrief has been out with a broken finger, so he might want some additional work. Still, I think they’ll be cautious with him given he’s replacing Antonio Brown in the offense.
I don’t have a strong read on the running back situation as I haven’t found much in terms of their plans for this week. Benny Snell led the team with 13 carries last week but finished with just 26 yards. I think he continues to lead this backfield as I don’t expect the Steelers to risk James Conner or Jaylen Samuels to injury here. Trey Edmunds also had five carries and could see some work here, but Snell is my preferred target here if taking shots on this backfield.
In terms of tight ends, Christian Scotland-Williamson missed Tuesday’s practice and Zach Gentry was day to day per this tweet as of Wednesday. The next day, they signed tight end Mickey Crum per this tweet. Gentry caught a touchdown in Preseason Week 1 and led all Steelers tight ends with three targets, so he’s someone worth monitoring especially if the Steelers are short-handed here.
Detroit Lions vs. Houston Texans
Game Total: 42.5
Spread: HOU -4.5
The Lions are a hot mess right now, and I won’t blame you for just avoiding them. They sat Matthew Stafford last week and let David Fales and Tom Savage split the quarterback duties, but Savage left with a concussion and Fales went 5-for-14 with an interception. Per this article, the Lions signed Josh Johnson and I’d expect him to get a decent workload here along with Fales. It’s unclear if Stafford will play, but I am going to mainly avoid this situation. The article did mention Johnson has looked good so far in camp but considering he has just a week under his belt, I’m more leaning towards playing the Texans defense more than anything.
Rookie Ty Johnson is expected to see another solid workload after rushing three times for 22 yards last week. He also had a 17-yard run called back because of a penalty. His 4.4 speed is an interesting complement to starter Kerryon Johnson and backup rumbler C.J. Anderson. The Lions only rushed 14 times last week and only threw the ball 17 times, so it was an overall ugly game. It would make the most sense for the Lions to use this game to see what they have in Johnson.
It sounds like the pecking order behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola is up for grabs per this article. It also mentions Chris Lacy and Tom Kennedy are battling for one spot, with Lacy in the lead. Travis Fulgham is also in the lead for the other wideout spot. Lacy, Kennedy and Fulgham all received just one target each last week, so even though they are fighting for a spot, their situations aren’t very appealing with the quarterback situation pretty dire. I’ll list Lacy and Fulgham as third GPP options, but realistically you probably don’t want to go here.
Joe Webb played the entire game last week for the Texans, going 25-for-40 with 286 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. With AJ McCarron sidelined and the team unwilling to risk DeShaun Watson in a meaningless game, Webb got all the run he could handle. Per this article, Watson is not expected to play much here either, meaning we should get another Joe Webb game. He’s a Core Option and arguably the top quarterback option on this slate just given the likelihood he plays 3 quarters. It’s worth mentioning the Texans did sign Jordan Ta’amu last week and he’s now had a full week of practice under his belt, so they could give him a quarter of run here too which would take some shine off Webb.
The link above also mentions to expect brief or limited time for starters like DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Lamar Miller, meaning it’s too risky to play them. Tight end Kahale Warring and receiver Keke Coutee are also hurt and not expected to play, meaning the Texans will be somewhat short on skilled position players. In terms of the running back position, the team used a committee of Josh Ferugson, Damarea Crockett, Taiwan Jones and Karan Higdon, with Higdon seeing a team-high eight carries but Crockett and Ferguson each scoring touchdowns. Given the four-headed committee, you’re also just throwing darts here and hoping the one you choose can find the end zone.
Webb spread out the ball like crazy last week. His 25 completions connected with 14 different players, with nobody catching more than three passes (wideout Steven Mitchell, wideout Stephen Louis and tight end Jerell Adams). Adams did catch Webb’s lone touchdown and saw a team-high six targets. With Kahale Warring out injured, we could see another heavy dose of Adams. In GPPs I don’t mind a Webb/Adams stack in case the two can continue their connection. Given how spread out things were, I really can’t trust any of these pass catchers.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams
Game Total: 40.0
Spread: DAL -2.5
Core Options: None
Secondary Options: Jon’Vea Johnson, DAL Defense
Third Tier GPP: Tony Pollard
Tony Pollard was announced as the starting running back in last week’s preseason game, but proceeded to just get four carries. Instead, Mike Weber and Darius Jackson each got six carries apiece, followed by Jordan Chunn with two. With the Ezekiel Elliott holdout on-going, I really thought the team would use Pollard to let him have a good game and gain some leverage in the contract negotiations, but it seems like the team wants to be cautious with him as he’s going to be a big part of the team. It seems likely that Weber and Jackson continue leading this group in a timeshare, but nobody here is enticing if this remains a four-headed timeshare. I’ll list Pollard as a third tier GPP option simply because of his upside, but I think there are genuine concerns how much the Cowboys will unleash him in the preseason.
The team led Dak Prescott lead a drive where he went 4-of-4 with 23 yards before giving way to Cooper Rush and Mike White. Given his importance to the team, I can’t imagine Prescott sees more than a series or two once again. This game is in Hawaii so perhaps they give the fans a little bit of Prescott, but for the most part I don’t see myself grabbing shares of this quarterback situation when I can get close to a full game of Joe Webb in the Texans game. If I were forced to roster one of these three it would probably be Mike White and hope that he can build off last week’s performance where he at least finished somewhat strong.
Rookie Jon’Vea Johnson led the team with eight targets last week, but only caught three of them and didn’t look impressive. Prior to this outing, he was receiving some camp hype so he’s worth a look as a potential bounceback candidate. If his drops continue, he could be looking at an uphill battle for a roster spot. Outside of Johnson I really don’t love any of these backup choices.
We’ll touch on this next, but with the Rams sitting their starters, the DAL defense is firmly in play as well.
Los Angeles Rams
Several of the starters didn’t make the trip to Hawaii per this tweet, including Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. I have not seen an official list of who didn’t go, but based on what we saw last week, it’s clear the Rams have no desire to risk any of their starters in meaningless games. Last week, the team used a near-even split of Blake Bortles, John Wolford and Brandon Allen at quarterback, with none of them really standing out.
With no Todd Gurley last week, John Kelly started and had just three rushes before giving way to rookie Darrell Henderson, who had a team-high six carries of his own. The article here mentions that the goal is for Henderson to increase his workload over the preseason to get used to the NFL. Even if he doesn’t start, he’s the back I’m more interested in.
KhaDarel Hodge led the team with six targets and 48 receiving yards last week, and he’s the “top” target on the Rams (I put top in quotes because this is a pretty thin list of receivers we’re working with). This article mentions Hodge in a battle with Mike Thomas and JoJo Natson for likely the last spot. Natson plays on special teams and has the advantage of this group, meaning Hodge and Thomas are likely on the outside looking in. I think Hodge, Thomas and Natson are viable dart throws here, but they are more appealing on a Showdown slate than the full four-game slate.