The true first week of the preseason is here and it will have a bit of a different look to it than the Hall-of-Fame (HOF) game from last week. The HOF game was played with zero regular starters from both teams seeing any snaps at all. While the starters will remain largely irrelevant for this week, they will be suiting up for a series or two for many teams. The first preseason slate of the year for FantasyDraft will focus solely on the Thursday games, making it a seven-game slate with many great options for your rosters!
There simply is not enough space here to cover every single player that will see the field in these games with the rosters being the size that they are. If you read my previous preseason article, you will know that the in the first preseason game the backups and some third-stringers are the only real players we can be rostering, so I will be paying specific attention to those players in this article. Yes, any player that is starting will of course have a chance to put up fantasy points, but even a player such as Drew Brees can only do so much with a drive or two. I will roster the player with a path to playing time over an established starter ten times out of ten. Finally, I will be paying no attention to matchups at all as playing time and opportunity are the only things we need to target. With all salaries being an equal $10,000 on FantasyDraft, we do not need to pay attention to that either.
The seven games on the slate are: Atlanta at Miami; Minnesota at Buffalo; Jacksonville at New England; Washington at Baltimore; Denver at Chicago; Philadelphia at Green Bay; and New Orleans at Cleveland. I will go through each game, listing the players that are locks to get significant snaps, players that will see the field, but their playing time is currently uncertain, and situations to monitor closely prior to lineups locking. I would list the players to avoid, but that would make this piece far too lengthy. If I do not mention them at all here, they likely are not in play at all. Bona fide starters such as Julio Jones and Aaron Rodgers lead this category.
ATLANTA at MIAMI
LOCK AND LOAD – Thomas Duarte is a TE who should see most of the second half plays for the Dolphins. He fits the prototype we look for in the preseason as an athletic player whose main role at the TE position is catching passes.
FIRE IF READY – Kenny Stills will miss this game with an injury and there are three Miami receivers in the running to pick up his snaps with the first team, while likely seeing second-team snaps as well. Leonte Carroo, Drew Morgan and Jakeem Grant. All will be in play for this Week 1 slate, but whomever looks to fill Stills role with the first team will hold the most value.
Atlanta is in an interesting spot at WR. Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel will not play at all and there are a whole host of options fighting for a roster spot at the position. Marvin Hall, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts and Justin Hardy will all get snaps and close to a full half for each.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – With the season-ending injury to Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler has been signed to fill the void. He is unlikely to be caught up enough to see any action in this game so Matt Moore and Brandon Doughty should get most of the work at QB. If there is any indication that Moore will play an entire half, he becomes a top play, as of right now it looks as though he will see snaps a series or two into the second quarter. Doughty has looked overmatched in practice and even with a full half would be a low-end option at best.
MINNESOTA at BUFFALO
LOCK AND LOAD – Week 1 is a week to play the backups, so Jerick McKinnon should see ample opportunity to show what he is capable of. He is a phenomenal athlete who should have no problem running against second-team defenses. Dalvin Cook has been listed as the starter and should get a full quarter at minimum. Bucky Hodges will be the top TE option for the Vikings tonight.
There are three main options to play at WR for the Bills – rookie Zay Jones, who likely has a spot with the first team offense locked up; Andre Holmes, the journeyman who is fighting for one of the last WR spots on the roster; and Rod Streater, a deep play threat who has looked good in camp and is also fighting to make the 53-man roster. Streater is my favorite play of the three, followed by Jones.
There is a pretty clear hierarchy in Buffalo at the RB position. LeSean McCoy is the starter, so he will not be an option this week. Jonathon Williams is the presumed number two and the team needs him to get reps to see what he can do and get him ready for the season.
FIRE IF READY – Bishop Sankey follows McKinnon on the Minnesota depth chart and could get some run for a quarter or more once McKinnon comes out of the game. He is a touchdown threat who could see some goal-line carries if the opportunity arises.
TJ Yates and Nathan Peerman will enter the season as the second and third QBs on the depth chart. They should both get more than a quarter of play in this game, but be warned – they are not very good! Logan Thomas is the most likely Bills TE to catch a few passes.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – Case Keenum is not a capable starting QB in the NFL, but he is better than the second-string defenses he is likely to see for a quarter. If he gets a bit more than that, he will be a great GPP play.
Nick O’Leary is another TE likely to play snaps for the Bills and could make some noise, but he is not the pass catching threat that Thomas is.
JACKSONVILLE at NEW ENGLAND
LOCK AND LOAD – Leonard Fournette is a rookie who needs to get playing time. The team wants to feature him, so they will be sure to get him ready in training camp. He will play a quarter at minimum, maybe a bit more, and they will run the ball with him. Guaranteed carries is all you can ask for in the preseason.
Jimmy. Garoppolo. Simple as that. They will not play a lot of Brady (if at all), so Garoppolo will get an entire half and he would be a starter on multiple teams in this league. Do not overthink it. Behind him is Jacoby Brissett and he will also get close to a half, making him another legitimate option.
FIRE IF READY – There are a whole slew of receivers fighting to make the roster for the Jags with Rashad Greene Sr. having the best camp of the bunch so far. He is the most likely to see some action here.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – Marqise Lee made a name for himself in the regular season, but is still listed as a WR2 and should see enough time to get three or four targets. That is more than enough for preseason play!
New England has a stable of RBs, but most of them are known quantities so they will not see tons of run here. If there is any late news of a back getting more time than the rest, fire away. If not, give D.J. Foster the nod as the best pass-catcher of the backups.
WASHINGTON at BALTIMORE
LOCK AND LOAD – Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy are known quantities to the coaching staff. Both should see reps this game, but look for Nate Sudfeld to see the bulk of the snaps at QB in this one.
With the injury to Joe Flacco, the QB depth took a hit in Baltimore. Flacco is expected to be back in time for the regular season, but Baltimore will want to have Ryan Mallet ready just in case. He should get close to a full half of work at minimum. Lock him in!
FIRE IF READY – Samaje Perine is a good play as a rookie who needs to show the coaching staff his skills. I would expect to see him play a lot of snaps and be fed carries.
Larry Donnell was signed by the Ravens to fill a need at TE after injuries decimated their depth chart. He is purely a pass-catching tight end, which is what we are looking for in fantasy. I would imagine he will get plenty of playing time and see a few targets. There have been a couple standouts at the WR position in camp as well, with Quincy Adeboyego and Tim White leading the charge. Both should see enough targets to make them viable for preseason DFS.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – I am not one to play starters, but Kirk Cousins and Terrelle Pryor may have upside stacked together in GPPs as they are still looking to build chemistry. With Josh Doctson out, this opens up some targets with the first offense.
Danny Woodhead and Terrance West seem locked into their positions with the Ravens going forward so Bobby Rainey, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen will all be in the mix for snaps this week. One will pay off, but good luck figuring out who!
DENVER at CHICAGO
LOCK AND LOAD – Denver has some enticing options in this game. DeAngelo Henderson a top RB option for the week, as he needs to show the coaching staff that he can earn a spot on the roster ahead of veteran Shane Vereen. Henderson has had a good start to training camp and is a lock for snaps and touches. Vereen should get some time as well, but as more of a known quantity he will not see the same amount of work that Henderson will. At WR there is another Henderson to keep your eye on, this one being Carlos. He is a deep threat fighting for the third WR spot on the depth chart and that sets up perfectly for preseason DFS. At TE, A.J. Derby is looking to solidify his spot on the roster as the primary pass catching tight end. Look for him to see a few targets, with red zone work being likely.
Third overall pick, Mitch Trubisky, needs live reps more than any other option on the roster and he will see most of the second half of this game. He is an unknown at this level, but has the talent to succeed.
FIRE IF READY – Trevor Siemian has been confirmed as the starter for this game and will play the entire first quarter, but no more. Paxton Lynch will come in relief of him and get some time with the first-team offense before leading the second team as well. Lynch has struggled in camp thus far, but an opportunity to play a series or two with the first-team against a backup defense is enticing.
Do not underestimate the power of training camp chemistry with a young QB and a WR. Tanner Gentry is that player for Trubisky, so he should see multiple targets in the second half of this game.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer both got some time on offense for Denver last season and should have roster spots locked up. They are the best players of the backup WRs likely to see snaps in this game.
PHILADELPHIA at GREEN BAY
LOCK AND LOAD – At RB, Donnell Pumphrey is one of the top plays of the slate. He should see the most snaps out of any back on the team and will be given every opportunity to make plays. Philadelphia is likely to run the ball for the majority of the second half and Pumphrey is the likely beneficiary. WR Marcus Johnson is shaping up as one of the best plays on the week as well. He has established himself as a second-team player in practice and has also seen time with the ones when Alshon Jeffrey was sidelined. If Jeffrey does not suit up Johnson is a clear lock, and even if he does he is one of the top options here.
On the other side of the field, Brett Hundley looks to be another top QB option on the slate. With Aaron Rodgers well-known distaste for preseason football Hundley and Joe Callahan will likely split reps here. Callahan was the star of last year’s preseason, but Hundley was injured at the time. Coach Mike McCarthy has spent a lot of time working with Hundley to develop him and will want to give him every opportunity here. Lock him into your rosters with confidence. Jeff Janis is another preseason star from last year who will once again have a chance to shine at the WR position.
FIRE IF READY – Nelson Agholor left a lot to be desired last year, but from all indications is playing much better in training camp this year. He is being given the first shot at winning the slot receiver role and needs snaps and targets in the preseason to get there.
The RB situation in Green Bay is tricky, but they have three draft picks looking to grab hold of the number two job behind Ty Montgomery. Jamaal Williams is the favorite to land the job and needs to get game reps so he is the top option this week. Devante Mays and Aaron Jones will split reps behind Williams.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – If Wendell Smallwood does not suit up for this game, Corey Clement should see plenty of action in his place. Clement has impressed in camp this year, and should see some snaps regardless, but if Smallwood is out, he becomes a much better option. Also having injury concerns for Philly is WR Paul Turner. Turner is a preseason star from a year ago and will again be a top play if healthy. If not, Bryce Treggs should see more run at the position.
Martellus Bennett will not play much at TE for Green Bay, so look for presumed backup Lance Kendricks to see some action. He has been a starter in the NFL before, so he will have no issue against a second string defense.
NEW ORLEANS at CLEVELAND
LOCK AND LOAD – Tommylee Lewis and Brandon Coleman have both had excellent training camps and are looking to make this roster on the bottom end of the WR depth chart, which make them great preseason plays.
Two options stand out in the Cleveland passing game – Ricardo Louis and Rashad Higgins. Both are fighting for roster spots behind Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt, so they should see extended playing time as the coaching staff gets a look at what they can offer.
FIRE IF READY – New Orleans has a whole host of options in the running game, but rookie Alvin Kamara is the one who needs game reps the most. Look for him to get extended run in this game. He is also a PPR threat, which is huge with FantasyDraft scoring. Travaris Cadet is also an option for this reason.
Brock Osweiler has been named the starter for this game, but his playing time is unclear at this point. Cleveland has three other quarterbacks that need to see the field with DeShone Kizer being the one who needs it the most. At some point this preseason Kizer will be a lock for playing time, but this might not be the week quite yet. At the running back position, Matthew Dayes is likely to see the most reps to see if he can continue his fantastic training camp.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT – One of David Njoku and Seth DeValve (maybe even both) will have value as a pass-catching TE option. Monitor the situation before the game starts, but Njoku seems like the prototypical red zone threat who could easily come out of the game with a TD catch.
It is not clear who will get the most snaps at QB behind Drew Brees, but Chase Daniel is the presumed backup and the best player after Brees. If he plays more than a quarter he is a fantastic option.
Please remember that the news is ever changing ahead of game-time, so staying on top of the news remains essential, even after reading this primer. As with any DFS slate, the best place to get up-to-the minute news is the FantasyDegens Slack Chat where we have the best minds in the business monitoring news for you as it happens.