NFL PRESEASON DFS 101 – How to Attack, and Take Advantage of, the Slates

Provided you do your research, preseason NFL is a great opportunity to build your bankroll at FantasyDraft. Over the past couple of years there has been a huge advantage to anyone who understands the differences between the way coaches approach preseason and the regular season. No one is going to be playing a full four quarters, so at the end of the slate fantasy points are going to be much lower. All players will also carry identical salaries on FantasyDraft so you are really just looking to identify the best raw plays and can take dollars out of the equation. It does not matter if you have heard of the players you are rostering or not, you just need to know approximately how much playing time they are going to receive. The allotment of playing time varies from week-to-week and I will go over how this progresses over the course of the preseason shortly. First, we will take a look at what exactly we are looking to target with our players in the preseason.

PLAYING TIME

In all honesty, I could finish this article right here for simplicities sake. There is really one thing we are looking for in preseason DFS and it is playing time. I don’t care that Matt Ryan is the best quarterback on the Falcons if his ceiling in the first week of preseason is six pass attempts. Matt Schaub is a much, much worse QB, but in the first preseason game last year he threw the ball 15 times compared to Ryan’s four attempts. Pretty easy decision on who you want to play there.

It is no different for any other position – you want the players who will play the most. No one is going to play the whole game, especially in the first one of the preseason. Sure, Rob Gronkowski could catch a TD on his only drive of the game, but it is not very likely. The 3rd or 4th tight end on the depth chart will be a much better play if he is going to be on the field for almost two quarters.

TOUCHDOWNS

To win a GPP you will need to have rostered some touchdowns. Think about it – if players are only getting two quarters worth of snaps (and this is usually the maximum) the chances of racking up fantasy points via yardage are much less and this makes each six-point TD extremely valuable. With touchdowns being so hard to predict, you want players who are going to have as many opportunities to score as possible. Winning GPP lineups will be at about half of the fantasy points that they usually are for the regular season and a higher percentage of those points will be from touchdowns than what would be expected for a normal GPP. Look for players that should get opportunities in the red zone – running backs who are trying out for the goal-line back role, big WRs who will get jump-ball opportunities, etc.

In reality, that is about it as far as what you want out of a player. Do not be the person who rosters an undisputed bellcow back in Week 1 of the preseason, because you will be sadly disappointed when he ends up touching the ball twice on the first drive and has his shoulder pads off by the second. Bruce Arians is definitely not going to risk an injury with David Johnson in the preseason, he is more interested in seeing who is going to win the job behind him. He knows what Johnson will offer his offense once the regular season gets started. This general rule holds true for every unquestioned starter in the league. The only time “locked-in” starters will be in play will be in Week 3, when they might get an entire half of action in.

Now that we have found our way on to the subject of playing, time we might as well take a look at how it will shake out week-to-week. As a general rule, NFL coaches follow a pretty straightforward approach to the four preseason games.

WEEK 1

This week is more like an extension of practice than an actual game. Offensive and defensive schemes will be quite vanilla as coaches are more concerned with the basics of the game. The teams projected starters will play one, maybe two, series before being pulled out of the game and giving way to the second and third teamers. These backups are the players we will be heavily targeting for the first week. It is very important to stay up to date with the team’s depth charts going into the games as looking at these can help identify who is going to see the majority of the playing time. Beat writer info is also crucial in this regard and I will touch on their importance to preseason DFS at the end of this article.

WEEK 2

As the playbooks get more advanced, so do the reps for the starters, but we are not quite ready to roster them yet. Coaches will give their first-team offense the entire first quarter (sometimes a drive or two more) to get into a groove. For DFS purposes, we are not quite ready to use them yet. For one, they are still going to play less than the backups. Secondly, they are also going up against the first-team defense of the other team, so they have a tougher look from a matchup perspective. The backups are still the way to go with our roster construction. They will not get as much time to show their stuff in the third game (this will be our sole opportunity to play some starters), so if they want to make an impression they will never get a better chance than Week 2 The best places to look are places with competition for non-starting roster spots. A quarterback looking to win the backup job, for example. A running back hoping to establish himself as the change-of-pace back once the regular season begins or wide receivers looking to make the active roster as the third or fourth options are also in play. These players will all get their time to shine this week, once the starters hit the bench.

WEEK 3

Dress rehearsal week. Most established veteran players will not even dress for the preseason finale, so this is their last chance to get in rhythm before the games start to matter. As is the case with anyone in the preseason, they are not going to play the whole game, but they are going to play the entire first half and may even get a series or two in the second half. As we have said before, opportunity is what you want and a full half in the preseason is about all the opportunity you could ask for.

WEEK 4

If you are happy rostering players you have barely heard of, Week 4 will be the week for you. Most starters will not dress or will only play a series or two before taking a seat for the night. Some of the more important backup players will get a few reps as well, but this game is mostly for the players at the very bottom of the depth charts who are fighting to keep their jobs or put some good plays on tape to score a practice roster spot with their current team, or any others. Almost every snap in this game will be taken by the bottom end of the roster, so it is important to know who is motivated to have a good performance.

Preseason is not like the regular season where you can rely on cheat sheets, projections and optimizers. The success you have will be based on the research you put in and you need to know where to go for that info. Beat writers have important roles for DFS players all season, but it is most important now. Checking in with those who are around the team all day, every day, is the most crucial part of your research. This can help you with late breaking injury news (which can affect playing time), practice performances and roster notes. We will have all that info for you each week of the preseason at FantasyDegens with articles going into the slates and through our presence in the Slack Chat for timelier, late-breaking news that can shake up the slate. Don’t miss out!

You may also have heard of our recent partnership with FantasyDraft, and amidst all that excitement was the news that they are offering preseason NFL contests. This is a perfect opportunity to get your feet wet with FantasyDraft and we will have all the info here at FantasyDegens to make sure it is worth your time. The first preseason contest you play (provided you sign up through our link and play in a “real money” contest) in will get you an entry in to our Week 1 NFL contest with an amazing NASCAR VIP trip up for grabs!

Cecil Peters

Cecil Peters

You can catch Cecil Peters at FantasyDegens.com where we love to chat all things sports and have great tools available to help you evolve your DFS game or on Twitter @cecpetes.

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