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Week 1 Preseason
Week 1 of the preseason is always an interesting time as we think we know how games are going to go, but the reality is that we are all just latching on to stories and narratives with the excitement of the NFL season just around the corner driving us. Often the winner can be based on a big play or even the coin toss as far as which starters will get the ball first.
This can be incredibly random at times, but we are doing our best to identify talented players, who are having strong camps, who should see a lot of playing time this week. There is an edge with preseason as far too often you will see opponents take a significant amount of starters in these contests or even players that are not playing. For example, I would guess that at least someone will take Joe Burrow or Kyler Murray when they are clearly not playing this week.
We will be focusing on the main slate this week given the contest sizes being so small of the early slate.
Jeff Driskel- FanDuel
Jeff Driskel could be the top option this week given that the Texans are only carrying three quarterbacks, and Brandon Allen is out with Covid. This leaves just Davis Mills and Driskel to man the quarterback position this week, and it seems highly unlikely that Mills will play for any more than a few series if at all as the team was non-committal to him starting. This leaves Driskel who has shown an ability to run the football as well as be a competent fantasy quarterback in regular season games essentially getting a full game of a preseason. He is nearly a must play this week given the amount of playing time that he will be getting. Driskel is a tight end on DraftKings, which makes him an absolute must play there.
The Rams are not going to be playing their starters in this game, which means John Wolford will likely start for Los Angeles, however there is some doubt that Matthew Stafford will be ready for Week 1, so how much Wolford will play remains to be seen. This should give a big opportunity for Perkins to play a significant portion of this game as the Rams need to take a hard look at whether they have a realistic backup in Perkins to justify the Rams keeping three quarterbacks. Perkins possesses a strong rushing attack which always helps in the preseason in which scoring is at a premium. With the Chargers not playing their starters, Perkins should see most of his action against the third string defense which should provide plenty of opportunity for him this week.
It seems unlikely that Tua Tagovailoa will play in this game and if he does, it will only be for one series which leaves the Dolphins in a two-quarterback game between Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson. Thompson by most accounts has been great in the preseason and has reports have him as potentially making the team after it largely seemed a big question mark heading into this training camp. The Dolphins know what they have in Teddy Bridgewater which is a solid fringe starter/great backup, but Bridgewater has his own injury history (including two concussions last season) which could lead the Dolphins to playing Bridgewater for a quarter and then pull him for Thompson to see what the 7th round rookie can do.
It seems unlikely that either Najee Harris or Benny Snell will play this week as they are both dealing with injuries. This will likely leave Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren, and Master Teague as the three running backs who will see the majority of the game this week, and while McFarland will likely be the most popular, Warren is extremely interesting in this one. Warren has reportedly been the most impressive running back on the roster during this training camp, and while undersized he has produced big play after big play in camp. This is a player who if he can make one big play could be an absolutely necessary piece this week. Master Teague is a plodder who is not going to have the upside that is needed this week unless he can find short yardage touchdowns.
According to neworleanssaints.com it appears that Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are unlikely to play and Tony Jones will get the start. However, they’re expecting a heavy dosage of Devine Ozigbo from the second and third quarter with Abram Smith finishing off the game in the fourth quarter. If you can get essentially a half out of any running back that is a massive advantage regardless of matchup. The matchup on paper seems to be a good one as the Texans allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2021 and are still a rebuilding organization that are transitioning with Lovie Smith as their head coach.
Both Spiller and Joshua Kelley should see a majority of the work in this game as the two are competing for the second running back position on the team. The fourth-round rookie has reportedly looked great in camp and is speculated to win the job as the backup to Austin Ekeler this week. With the Rams not playing their starters, they are not a particularly deep team given their draft history and willingness to trade draft picks, so the Chargers will be facing a depleted defensive line which should provide Spiller plenty of opportunity in this game. Expect him to play into the second quarter, which should hopefully be 10 or more touches this week.
The Saints team page anticipates that Olave will play nearly the full first half of the game this week, which if that is the case will be a massive play this week. Olave is likely the best pure route runner in this draft, and should have a quick transition to the NFL game especially against some of the second tier cornerbacks or in a base defense that are often played in the preseason. Olave has had a fantastic camp so far by most reports with the team calling him a “Pro” which is a great compliment for the rookie. With Michael Thomas not expected to play, Olave will be the top target for the Saints quarterbacks in this game.
George Pickens is getting tremendous hype this offseason and is likely going to be one of the more popular players on this slate this week. The Steelers need to figure out who their quarterback will be between Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett so keeping an emerging talented wide receiver in Pickens in the game could make sense for the team as they look to give the quarterbacks every opportunity within the game to make an impact.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniels has come out and said that Erik Ezukanma is the most impressive wide receiver outside of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle this training camp. That is high praise for a coach to be giving a fourth-round pick. What is interesting about the Dolphins is that Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and veteran Cedric Wilson are unlikely to play given that Tua Tagovailoa is unlikely to play. This leaves the Dolphins likely to see a lot out of Ezukanma as they continue to develop the rookie. The only concern here is that the Dolphins do have a lot of receivers on their roster as they are currently carrying 11 receivers as they try to figure out the depth behind Waddle and Hill, but if given the choice of one of the receivers it would be Ezukanma.
Other wide receivers to consider:
Jeff Driskel- DraftKings Must Play
DraftKings has completely screwed this one up in listing Driskel as a tight end. He is a must play at the tight end position and do not even consider another player.
Jace Sternberger- FanDuel
In terms of picking a tight end, unless there is a mistake like Jeff Driskel on DraftKings (Jacob Harris was also a mistake), picking a tight end is very difficult so you need to look at athleticism and how the team wants to evaluate the players. Jace Sternberger is battling with Kevin Rader for a roster spot this season. While they’re both solid plays this week, the only slight edge goes to Sternberger given that they’ve seen less of him as Rader saw game action at the end of last year. It is admittedly a flimsy argument, but expect that the Steelers need to decide what to do with Sternberger or if they need to involve Rader more in games two and three.