NFL Preseason DFS Primer Week 3: Friday, August 23rd
Our analysts break down the main slate in detail, setting you up for success in your daily fantasy football contests throughout NFL Preseason.
Please come and join us in our Discord group chat each slate leading up to roster lock. We’ll talk about DFS strategy, player options for tonight, and the ever-important late-breaking injury news that often impacts the slate in a big way. Come join us!
Cleveland Browns vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Game Total: 45.0
Spread: CLE -3
“We’re going to play our guys some Friday in Tampa but I don’t know how long yet.” – Coach Freddie Kitchens.
As you can see by the quote above by Coach Kitchens, it sounds like the starters will get some time but how much is unclear. Another tweet here by Baker Mayfield makes it sound like he’s planning to play and he’d like to play at least a half, but he also said it’s not up to him. Another tweet by beat writer Mary Kay Cabot here confirms the same thing that Kitchens will play his starters today but also mentions he’s “definitely not going to do it next week.” I did find an ESPN article saying Kitchens plans to decide playing time on an individual basis based on health and not by unit, so things are not going to be cut-and-dry here.
I do expect Baker Mayfield to be one of the highest owned quarterbacks on this slate, if not the highest owned. I was tempted to call him a core play because of that but the vagueness around his playing time has me hesitant giving him that status. I personally prefer Ryan Griffin on this slate as my QB1, but I can get the rationale if you want to roll the dice with Mayfield as your QB1. At the very least, you should get Mayfield exposure in GPPs in case he really does get his wish of a half.
In terms of players returning from injury, it’s worth noting that Damion Ratley returned to practice after missing the past three weeks with a hamstring injury, and Seth DeValve was cleared in the concussion protocol and participated in some individual drills. Wideout D.J. Montgomery also was placed on the IL this week. And in terms of moves made, the Browns signed wideout Braxton Miller and waived tight end Mik’Quan Deane on Wednesday. Miller is worth monitoring next week when we know the starters are resting and he’s had a full week to soak in the playbook. Lastly, to nobody’s surprise, Odell Beckham still looks unlikely to play in this game or in the preseason at all per this tweet.
Kitchens’ history of going easy on his starters has me treading carefully here. In last year’s Preseason Week 3 game, the Browns beat the Eagles in an ugly 5-0 slopfest where Tyrod Taylor went 11/16, Mayfield went 8/12 with an interception and Drew Stanton went 1/3. I don’t mind some exposure to Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Rashard Higgins, but all are secondary plays for me with their playing time so vague. Higgins has been acting as the defacto #1 receiver in the preseason with Landry/Njoku/Beckham all out so far, but I’d expect him to slide back into the #2 spot with Beckham likely out and Landry likely in.
The lack of depth at the wideout spot likely means someone will step up here, but I’d be lying if I told you who it would be. Derrick Willies and Jaelen Strong have received the most buzz about a camp battle for a spot, while Higgins has looked strong so far running with the preseason starters. I think what you do at wideout depends on your stance of Kitchens’ quote. If you think the starters get some decent run I’d focus more on Landry and Higgins. If you think he’s more careful with the starters I’d focus more on those down the depth chart like Willies, Strong, Dorian Baker, Damion Ratley (assuming he plays), etc.
We saw Kareem Hunt get two carries in his debut last week and maybe we see him get some additional run here with him suspended for the first half of the season. With the starters playing, I’m okay with exposure to Nick Chubb but like I mentioned above, I’m still keeping him in as a secondary play. Chubb was not a factor in the passing game and averaged just 1.8 targets per game last season, finding the end zone twice all season through the air. I’d likely stagger my Mayfield / Chubb exposure so in lineups where I have Mayfield, I probably wouldn’t pair him with Chubb since the two generally haven’t been complementary. We’ve been seeing a lot of D’Ernest Johnson this preseason but he’s someone I may focus on next week with Chubb likely getting some work.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
“Bruce Arians says only the players who have been out for a while are ruled out for Friday, and the rest of the recently sidelined will be a game-time decision. Said how much starters play will hinge on how things go. If it goes well, not much at all …” – beat writer Greg Auman per this tweet.
The Bucs have not unleashed Jameis Winston this preseason, where he’s thrown a total of 10 passes through their first two games. The quote above by Coach Arians has me thinking we once again see Winston in limited playing time, making him a deep GPP-only option for me. It’s always possible they let him chuck it in one series and then yank him like they did in the first preseason game where connected with Chris Godwin on a touchdown score and then didn’t pay the rest of the game. My guess is we may see Blaine Gabbert get some snaps as well before Ryan Griffin gets the bulk of the game. The Bucs still have 4th stringer Nick Fitzgerald but as of this tweet from Tuesday, he wasn’t practicing.
Griffin has actually been fantastic this preseason, throwing for 330 yards and a touchdown in the first preseason game and then 201 yards and touchdown last week. There’s a nice article here calling Griffin the best preseason quarterback. The article states Griffin is locked into the #3 role because the team values Blaine Gabbert and his veteran experience. It also mentions the team’s uneasiness to play Gabbert after they saw Eagles backup Nate Sudfield break his wrist. I have not found any new information on Nick Fitzgerald since his Tuesday status of a missed practice, so if we get word Fitzgerald is out, that should leave Griffin the heavy lifting here. He’s my favorite quarterback on this slate.
Ronald Jones is nursing a sore knee and Dare Ogunbowale was getting a lot of the first-team reps. This is worth monitoring in case the Bucs decide to play it safe with Jones. You can see here that he might’ve suffered a hyperextention in last week’s game. There is a tweet saying he practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I do think he’s good to go here. Still, I don’t have much interest in him here given the likelihood he doesn’t get much run. I’m going to keep going back to the Dare Ogunbowale train, who has impressed this preseason as both a rusher and pass catcher. I’m also calling him a Core Option.
Mike Evans is also nursing an injury and has been confirmed out. In other wideout news, Scotty Miller did return to practice this week and is running out of time to compete for a spot on the team. The article mentions he was seen doing punt return drills with Bobo Wilson and Spencer Schnell. If he’s healthy, we should see him out there, or at the very least we’ll get a good amount of him in Week 4 as the Bucs need to evaluate him given he’s missed the first two games. For what it’s worth, there’s a quote here of Coach Arians saying Bobo Wilson is in the lead for one of the final wideout spots. Greg Auman also called the wideout position the best position to watch in the second half of this game with the starters out and the team using that time for roster evaluations.
Assuming we get a big dose of Griffin, I like the idea of pairing him with tight end Tanner Hudson. The two have shown a good connection in camp and it carried over into the preseason games. Hudson had a 7-84-1 line in the first game and a 6-93-1 line last week. I’m calling Hudson a Core Option as well and my favorite tight end option on the slate.
As for the wideouts, I do think the team gives a decent amount of playing time to Scotty Miller, Bobo Wilson, Justin Watson and Anthony Johnson. I like them in that order. I actually think Wilson has the most upside of this group, but I’m guessing Miller gets the most snaps considering he’s missed time with his injury this preseason and has a lot of ground to make up.
The one wildcard on the Bucs is Spencer Schnell. He exploded like diarrhea for a 7-119-0 line in the first game but disappeared last week over six snaps. I found an article on Schnell here trying to speculate what happened. The article suggests maybe Schnell had a minor injury and the team scaled him back. Another idea is that the team wants to stash him on their practice squad without having him get scooped up, so they are not showcasing him in the preseason. I have him tentatively listed as a secondary option and would have interest if we get confirmation he’s playing “regular” snaps, but for now I’m proceeding with caution.
Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions
Game Total: 42.0
Spread: BUF -1.0
“#Bills HC Sean McDermott said on Friday against Detroit, the starters will “definitely” play more than they did vs. Carolina. The starters got about the first quarter versus the Panthers.” – beat writer Joe Muscaglia per this tweet.
Information has been scarce for the Bills, making them one of the harder teams to project on this slate. Based on the quote above I’m expecting a quarter of Josh Allen, followed by a decent dose of Matt Barkley before finishing the game off with Tyree Jackson. Barkley has been the most impressive of this trio this preseason, throwing a combined 17/24 with two touchdowns and no picks in two games. Allen is a secondary option for me with Barkley a third tier GPP option despite his good preseason. I just don’t have a ton of interest here unless mass multi-entering.
Lesean McCoy trolled us with a four-carry, six-yard game last week with a touchdown. I don’t love this backfield as we saw several players get carries last week: T.J. Yeldon (7), Marcus Murphy (6), Lesean McCoy (4), Devin Singletary (2), Christian Wade (2), Senorise Perry (1). I do think McCoy is the best bet for a touchdown if you want to chase it again. Singletary probably has the most potential upside here in terms of raw talent, but we’re really guessing here. I will point out Christian Wade has also made a big splash play in each game so far, taking a 65-yard carry for a touchdown in the first preseason game and then making a 48-yard catch last week. He’s a former rugby player and has looked good on the highlight reel so far.
On full-PPR sites, I don’t mind Cole Beasley. Josh Allen peppered him with quick strikes last week, and Beasley finished with a 5-44-0 line. If we get more of these quick release passes by Allen to Beasley, those passes can quickly add up. Outside of Beasley, my guess is Isaiah McKenzie and Ray-Ray McCloud are still battling for roster spots and make the most sense as DFS targets.
Tight End Dawson Knox returned to practice this week after missing several weeks with a hamstring injury. Per this tweet he is expected to play but how much he plays is up in the air. Tyler Kroft is going to be the team’s TE1 when he’s healthy, but it’s possible we see Knox end up being the most valuable tight end on the Bills before the season is over. Knox was their 3rd round pick in this year’s draft and he averaged 18.9 yards per catch in his junior year. Tight End Jason Croom is also day-to-day and could play today.
As you’ll see below, the Lions’ quarterback situation is a hot mess with Matthew Stafford having his status up in the air for this game. The Buffalo defense is my favorite defense on this short slate.
Matthew Stafford hasn’t played in the first two preseason games and he’s saying it’s not due to his back injury from last season, but there’s an article here that said Coach Patricia didn’t indicate whether Stafford will play here either. Stafford is leaving it into the coach’s hands but it’s definitely a bit concerning that there’s so much vagueness around his status for this tune-up game. Last season, Stafford played into the 3rd quarter in the third preseason game, so there’s reason to wonder if there’s something more going on here. The article here mentions nothing is set in stone regarding expected playing time for the starters like Stafford, and it may even be decided right before game time. Per this article, the backup quarterback situation is pretty ugly with Tom Savage, Josh Johnson and David Fales the current backups. The article speculates the situation is so bad that might be the reason why they aren’t risking Stafford in the preseason. Savage was the favorite for likely the one spot behind Stafford, but his concussion has made things trickier. I’m avoiding this situation unless we get clarity before lock that Stafford is playing.
At the running back spot, Ty Johnson has been getting the camp buzz but he only had four carries last week. For some reason, it’s been Mark Thompson who has been out-carrying Johnson in each game this preseason, and it was Thompson who found the end zone last week. It’s odd to me because Johnson is three years younger, and Thompson has spent most of his career as a practice squad player in different organizations. I still consider Johnson the higher-upside option, but Thompson has to be on our radar on this short slate considering the team seems willing to give him some goal-line work.
Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola also sat out last week’s game and the offense has looked awful through two games. On Tuesday, the team signed wideout Jordan Lasley and released running back Justin Stockton. Last week, wideouts Andy Jones, Brandon Powell and Travis Fulgham each had over 50 yards receiving, but they are nothing more than dart throws for me. I’d much rather target the wideouts from the Bucs, who will likely have more skilled quarterbacks throwing them passes.
If you really want to target the tight ends here, T.J. Hockenson is likely going to be the TE1 here with starter Jesse James unlikely to see much playing time. Hockenson did have a 22-yard catch last week but overall, the tight ends for Detroit have no done much.