NFL Preseason DFS Breakdown: Friday, August 10th
Welcome to the official start of the 2018 NFL DFS season. Each day in which there are preseason games, we’ll be breaking down the games and recommending high potential targets across the landscape.
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Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Jets
Vegas Total: 35.5
Vegas Spread: NYJ -3.5
Injuries to Watch: Matt Bryant (WILL NOT PLAY – DO NOT ROSTER IN SHOWDOWN), Elijah McGuire (foot, out), Jordan Leggett (won’t play), Quincy Enunwa (thumb), Thomas Rawls (undisclosed), Terrelle Pryor (limited in some practices),
Primary Plays: Trenton Cannon, Chris Herndon, Sam Darnold
GPP Plays: Ito Smith, Eric Saubert, Chad Hansen, Russell Gage, Calvin Ridley
Dart Throws: Justin Crawford, Kurt Benkert, Marvin Hall, Christian Blake, Teddy Bridgewater
A quote from Dan Quinn: “One of the things that we’re really committed to is playing the rookies and the first-year guys. If you look back on our history of play time for the preseason it would show that. It’s such an important time to evaluate. We wouldn’t put them in if we didn’t think they had earned some play time here during minicamp and training camp to get ready. We’re totally committed to playing those guys and seeing what they look like.”
The backup quarterback battle is the most noteworthy among QBs, but Dan Quinn has expressed that all four QBs will play. That is not appealing. Neither Kurt Benkert nor Garrett Grayson is any good, but they’ll be looking to show enough to the Falcons that they can keep a spot on the 53 man roster. This is their Super Bowl. Matt Schaub will be the backup this year, but he won’t be next year. These guys want that job, as it is really one of the best jobs in America: being a backup QB to a high paid star and expert clipboard holder. The best option among them is Benkert, who is listed third on the depth chart. I think we can do better on this slate at QB, so he’s just a weak dart throw. I’m not interested in suggesting anyone else, though it’s your life… and both it and the slate are short.
It was easy to call out Ito Smith as a guy who could get reps in Falcons preseason. What I didn’t expect was that the Falcons may also be interested in giving some quality snaps to Justin Crawford. Both fit the description as laid out above as rookies, and both are in a primetime position to contribute on this short slate. Let’s talk athletics, where Smith is superior yet smaller. He’s compact at 5’9’‘, 200 and displays satellite back type traits with 77th percentile speed, solid burst, and an 88th percentile college target share. His floor is reliant on catching passes and I think we should see that. Justin Crawford is two inches taller and the same weight, but doesn’t have nearly the same burst or speed. We can consider him more of an all-purpose runner, and his value here is directly tied to volume. Ito is the higher probability option, while Crawford is a potential differentiator on a very short slate.
We saw people get nervous about some production from starters yesterday, and the Falcons are good enough that there might be a pretty good reason to be nervous again. With that said, we follow a process here. That process includes figuring out who will get the playing time, and focusing our attention on them. I don’t expect to see the starting WRs often, and nor do I expect to see the second group of receivers. So that makes Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Justin Hardy low expectation dart throws. Calvin Ridley is the first guy you can consider, but this is a potential trap. He’s good enough to score early in the game, but on a much shorter slate, we can try to outplay our opponents by knowing his playing time expectations. He’s a first-round draft pick and it’s already clear he will be available to us in regular season DFS as a player who will play substantially for this team. Expect him to be on the lower side of snap totals, and be judicious in your use of Ridley. He is guaranteed to see targets, and that’s the best reason to invest.
The bottom of the WR group is a challenge to decipher, but I’ll do my best. What we have here is seven rookies plus Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis who are young guys. I think the best thing to do here is rank them based on what I know, and you make the call since it’s brutal to distinguish.
1. Russell Gage – He’s a sixth-round pick with a bizarre reason to have a shot at making this team: He is EXPECTED to learn both the offensive AND defensive playbooks. At LSU he played some defensive back and he has been brought in with the understanding he can do both. I’m not sure we’ll see him play defense and I don’t have any clear indication that he will, but one thing I am sure of is that he has the most value to this team aside from Hall among this group. Therefore, I will use the “simplest answer is the best theory” and project him to play mostly WR.
2. Christian Blake – He’s listed at 6’1’‘, 182 and has had the most mentions in camp reports that I can see. He was totally off the draft radar and would be an underdog to be anything better than practice squad. His weight suggests he’s not some kind of freak and we have no previous indicators of success. What we do have is a favorable position on the initial depth chart as a fourth-stringer next to Gage, and that is an indication he could be a higher probability rookie in this game.
3. Marvin Hall – I think he may be too valuable in the sense that Matt Ryan had nice things to say about him and the fact we’ve seen him burn people on a Sunday already. “Marvin is having a really good training camp,” Ryan said. “I think he’s having a great offseason. He was really, really good for us in terms of training, attention to detail, his work during OTAs. He was excellent and he’s kind of continued that for the first week. I think he’s going to be a good reserve guy for us behind when you talk about those first three guys. Marvin is right behind that. He’s got great top … speed.” He’s a guy you would roll out hoping for a deep shot.
4. Reggie Davis: He is fast and listed as third-stringer, but he was cut by the Browns after not sticking with the Falcons last year. He’s ultimately not good and just a shot in the dark.
5. The Rest: Information on the bottom five guys is sparse. Most of them check out with very little to offer athletically and very little chance of concentrated run. I can’t find anything to hang my hat on short of the speed of Lamar Jordan, so it looks like I just won’t be hanging my hat here.
Dan Quinn has singled out Eric Saubert as a player he wants to see translate his outstanding offseason onto the field with the lights on. He fits the description of a young player with backup status but potential to need evaluation for regular season participation. Since he has demonstrated reasons to believe he is a factor in the red zone during camp, I am inclined to say he is one of the best plays on this team for tonight’s games.
New York Jets:
If training camp reps are anything to believe in, we can expect reps to go something like this for tonight’s game. McCown 15%, Bridgewater 35%, Darnold 50%. That makes perfect sense to me right now, and until I see a report that says otherwise I am going with this split in projections. Darnold becomes a high end QB play and potential core play at that level. We’ll seek further confirmation. Bridgewater is a dart throw to consider in case he accidentally outperforms the entire slate, but it’s a challenge to place bets on a QB like this without indication that he will play the most of the Jets QBs.
The running back position for the Jets comes down to who is actually healthy enough to play. Rawls missed a bunch of practices lately and his status is uncertain. If he is confirmed out, we have a preseason star waiting in the wings. His name is Trenton Cannon. Cannon is a 91st percentile speedster who is making an impact at camp. He’s just 5’10’‘, 185 but has great agility and is tough to bring down. He’s a sixth-round pick out of Virginia State, but has a chance to maybe outperform that if he keeps up this pace. He has value on special teams as a returner and may do some of that tonight. He did get banged up earlier in the week but participated Wednesday in practice. Our only concern here is that he’s not right with the ding. Otherwise, he’s the very best play on the entire slate, projected to receive 38% of carries and that includes a generous allotment to Crowell and Powell. Perhaps the starters get some extra work, but Cannon has proven that efficiency may be a secondary out in the event he doesn’t play as often as we want. We will monitor Rawls’ status as well as his injury, and keep you posted. It’s a huge deal.
The WR corps is rather disparate and not that appealing, with a lot of players who have been in the league but nobody that stands out. I have Chad Hansen projected for the biggest workload of the bunch. He has worked with Darnold in the offseason and has reason to be on the field a lot alongside of him. The rest of this group looks like dart throw central and I’m not making a random call on Ardarius Stewart, Andre Roberts, Charles Johnson, or Charone Peake. You can maybe try to luck box and early TD from Robby Anderson or Jermaine Kearse, but that is just not how I choose to play the game in the preseason.
The TE group is far more appealing. Chris Herndon has been a standout in training camp. Manish Mehta wakes up every day to a bowl of Jets cereal and bleeds green and white. He can’t stop talking about how hard he has flashed in camp.. He’s a fourth rounder out of “The U” and looks primed for a huge role in this game. He’s an awesome play. I’m otherwise not going to play Neal Sterling or Clive Walford, though I’d forgive any multi-entry game theorist who wants to capitalize on leverage during this short slate should they somehow trip into the endzone.
Detroit Lions vs. Oakland Raiders
Vegas Total: 37
Vegas Spread: OAK -3
Injuries to Watch: Seth Roberts
Primary Plays: Jake Rudock, Teo Redding, Chris Warren, Connor Cook
GPP Plays: Dwayne Washington, Jace Billingsley
Dart Throws: Matt Cassell, Kerryon Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Dontez Ford, Bradley Marquez, Ryan Switzer, Doug Martin, Martavis Bryant, Isaac Whitney, Marcell Ateman, Derek Carrier
The backup QB battle is where we turn our attention in this game. Jake Rudock is the player most likely to edge out a few extra snaps in this game. I think we’d rather have whichever QB is coming in third. I imagine somebody trails Matthew Stafford after a few series and then we see the second QB for the balance of the first half. At that point, we are looking at the third QB playing most of the second half. Right now Rudock is that guy on the depth chart, and that’s how my projections look at the moment. Rudock is a primary play option if this is the case. We will monitor reports.
The running back situation is a congested situation that we don’t need to focus on heavily. The issue is that the playing time should be a little too spread out. Kerryon Johnson should be a little overowned but certainly does have guaranteed touches coming his way. He would need high efficiency but that could easily happen. I won’t recommend Blount or Riddick, and that leaves us with Dwayne Washington, Ameer Abdullah, and Zach Zenner to throw darts at. I have Washington as the guy who will get the most snaps, and so I’d rank him as being a decent option while Abdullah and Zenner aren’t as appealing.
Teo Redding has been getting all the buzz in the offseason, and I for one am buying in. I talked him up in the Detroit Lions season preview, and intend to keep talking him up until he proves me wrong for doing it. Tonight, he will be one of my highest exposure receivers because I like fun and good players equally. Redding may not actually be a good player, but he has a chance to make this roster. Tonight would be a huge step for him if he can come through under the lights.
A deeper option at WR might be Jace Billingsley. He checks in at 5’9’‘ 189lbs and sports athletic measurements befitting a slot receiver. Golden Tate has that role on complete lockdown in terms of the 53 man roster, and his best bet to win the fifth (and TBD final) WR slot on the roster is via special teams as a returner. If they operate the offense as they do with Stafford, Billingsley could be a PPR guy.
Dart throw options include Dontez Ford, and Bradley Marquez. Ford showed up in preseason last year and is liable to do it again, but he is as noted a more contrarian way to build. Marquez has a superior position on the depth chart, and perhaps he’s earned that. I wouldn’t bank on him getting plays called with him in mind, but on the short slate we have to stay open minded.
The Lions starting group is full of studs at WR, and I won’t be mad if you want to speculate on a TD from any of the three: Golladay, Jones, or Tate.
If you want to play a TE here, it’s because you want to get a lower owned TD. None of them project well and I can’t call any of them high potential. Again, this is a situation where you are gambling on a score. I’m not even going to suggest one, because I won’t be doing it myself.
Connor Cook is the player to target if you are using a Raiders QB. He might even be the player who gets the most playing time across the board. Gruden has been extremely pleased with him, and noted that he hasn’t turned the ball over during the entire time in camp. This seems like one of the best times to get him quality reps, and I expect Gruden to run him close to half. E.J. Manuel is just a dart throw option here.
Running back Chris Warren has been flattening dudes, literally. Just ask Jarrad Davis, and he’ll tell you this 250 “bleeping” pound undrafted back out of Texas is not a friendly site charging through the A gap. With veterans Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin likely to see more carries later in the preseason, Warren is an excellent player to target banking on Jon Gruden being way too old school to ignore the practice tape on Warren. Can’t you just picture Gruden replaying Warren running over Davis over and over again in front of the team? I can, and it doesn’t take a big imagination to place Warren in the grasp of 30% of carries. I don’t love the idea of playing any of the other backs, but I would rank them like this: Martin, Richard, Washington, Butler, Lynch.
Don’t expect to see a lot of Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. So any rosters that include them are your assertion that they score on the first or second drive assuming we get word they are even playing. Gruden made comments to suggest they will start the game, but its still worth paying attention to. Martavis Bryant could make a big play, and he still has a lot to prove. I wouldnt say he’s in line for big snaps, but he doesn’t need them. I like him the best of the higher options on the depth chart.
Gruden traded for Ryan Switzer this offseason and it seems to me this will be the first chance they get to see how he can execute in the slot. Seth Roberts may not be available, and that means he could start the game or play very early on. I think he’s a pretty high floor option we should expect to see targets, but I think his position on the roster is safe enough that you shouldn’t be shooting for a ceiling here.
Isaac Whitney is a speedy receiver who has grabbed a nice position on the Raiders’ early depth chart. With a sub 4.4 40 time, he can get loose in a hurry against backups. We’ll call him one of the better options deeper on this roster. Marcell Ateman might also be on that list. He’s an “other” string option on their initial depth chart who was drafted in the seventh round this year. He doesn’t have great physical tools other than his size, but size is a really good one to have. He should be on the field quite a bit at least, and that can’t hurt. The balance of the WR group can’t be considered high probability, and that list includes Keon Hatcher, Johnny Holton, Saeed Blacknall, Dwayne Harris, and Griff Whalen. I think we’ll probably see them all, but in a diluted form. If you’ve got an angle on any of them, be my guest to share it with the group in Discord chat. Otherwise, we can put more focus elsewhere.
Derek Carrier is an interesting TE option. Gruden has said he wants to run varied personnel groups, and that should include a lot of two TE sets. I don’t think the playing time will be huge, but I do think the playing time will be enough to give him a chance to score. The draft profile for the rest of the deeper group is scary. Pharaoh Brown isn’t great at anything it seems. Marcus Baugh “has extremely awkward gait as a runner and is able to be re-routed”, and isn’t touted as a good blocker either. Paul Butler is here because of a tryout, something that didn’t work out for him in Pittsburgh last year. I’m failing to find the reason to take a chance on any of them.
Jared Cook still looks a little bit like Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern show, and for this reason, he’ll always have a special place in my heart as a big Stern fan. That said, I can’t endorse a dart throw with much emphasis on him, and Lee Smith is just a guy. Don’t bother.