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The first multi-game DFS slate of the NFL season is unofficially upon us. The dog days of summer are winding to an end as NFL teams wrap up training camp and prepare for preseason action as they seek to widdle their rosters down to only the 53 most deserving players. While the preseason certainly pales in comparison to regular season action, some football is better than no football at all, and some football means there is an opportunity for DFS players to make money in contests offered on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The approach, however, differs wildly from the typical NFL DFS approach many are familiar with in regular season contests.
Preseason dfs approach
NFL preseason DFS is an extremely risk-filled venture, and for that reason a more GPP-focused approach is recommended. While there are certain plays that are "safer" than others, very few if any are actually "safe" enough to warrant any significant investment in cash games. Early in the preseason snaps are thinly across first, second, and third team offenses and defenses. Identifying which skill position players are poised to see the highest snap counts is the most important forecast to make when playing preseason DFS. Typically, these players are either on depth charts with limited alternate options at the position or those who have earned additional reps through impressive training camp performances. Much more of the data is qualitative rather than quantitative in preseason DFS, which is the polar opposite from a sharp regular season DFS approach. Following along with beat writers throughout the week, as well as on gameday, is especially important to know who is and is not active, as well as how much that may impact each player's playing time. Without further ado, here are the top targets across each position for the season's first preseason DFS slate:
UPDATED 12:00 PM ET
Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
Brian Hoyer is currently second on New England’s quarterback depth chart behind the ageless Tom Brady. Behind Hoyer is a rookie out of Auburn, Jarrett Stidham, drafted by the Patriots in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft as a long-term project. In the everlasting Tom Brady-era, the Patriots have generally taken a very cautious approach to the preseason, allowing Brady to play at all in just one of the previous five preseason openers. Beyond the opener, the Patriots typically wait until the fourth game of the preseason to give the third quarterback, in this case Stidham, significant playing time. This leaves Hoyer, the second-team quarterback as the primary option for Thursday night’s opener against Detroit. In last season’s preseason opener, Hoyer led the Patriots’ offense onto the field in 83 percent of offensive snaps in the game. While he should not be expected to dominate the playing time in that manner again this year, he is still poised to top the charts as the most active, and most productive, quarterback on the opening preseason slate of the year.
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Josh Rosen is one of the highest-risk, highest-reward options available at the quarterback position for this slate. Rosen was acquired by the Miami Dolphins this offseason in a trade that sent multiple draft picks to the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was expected to arrive in Miami and immediately be the team’s future under-center. However, following the acquisition of Ryan Fitzpatrick, it is looking increasingly likely that Rosen will once again find himself holding a clipboard once the 2019-2020 regular season kicks off. Entering Miami’s first preseason game against Atlanta, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the team’s starter by new head coach Brian Flores. While Flores has declined to comment on expected playing time for anybody entering the game, given he is a product of the Belichick coaching tree, it is not unreasonable to expect Flores’ approach to mimic that of his old boss. This type of approach may lead to significant playing time for Rosen spread across the first, second, and third team offensive units. In this role Josh Rosen offers the perfect combination of talent and opportunity to provide a rare ceiling in preseason DFS contests. Be prepared, however, for the volatility that accompanies Rosen at this point in the preseason due to the lack of concrete information available on his playing time, but the upside may be unmatched.
Trace McSorley, Baltimore Ravens
Few will argue on behalf of Trace McSorley at this point in his career as a true NFL quarterback due to the apparent lack of arm talent he displayed at Penn State, but in the opening week of the preseason he will almost certainly be given ample opportunity to attempt to begin proving people wrong. McSorley is listed as the third quarterback on Baltimore’s depth chart behind Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III III, and ahead of the newly-acquired Joe Callahan. The Ravens have gone all-in on Lamar Jackson as the team’s franchise quarterback, which will almost certainly accompany an exceptionally cautious approach to the preseason. Additionally, Robert Griffin III III has been sidelined with a fractured thumb throughout training camp and will not play against Jacksonville in the team’s first preseason game. This leaves just McSorley and Callahan as active quarterbacks that are available for lengthy appearances on Thursday night. Joe Callahan signed on with the Baltimore Ravens as a depth-piece for the preseason and he will only have approximately one week with the Ravens’ playbook before taking the field with the team. From top to bottom, this situation is the perfect opportunity for Trace McSorley to prove to the Ravens (or potentially another suitor) that he deserves a spot on a 53-man roster as a backup. Beyond his impressive forecasted market share of offensive snaps, schematically, McSorley fits into Baltimore’s new offense centered around a dual-threat quarterback tremendously. In his final year at Penn State, McSorley ran for 798 yards (which includes all sack yardage as negative rushing plays,) so even if his accuracy is not at an acceptable level for an NFL quarterback, he should make up for that with more rushing production than others at the quarterback position.
Paxton Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
The Paxton Lynch experiment did not turn out as many in and around Denver had hoped. Following a year of inactivity, Lynch signed with the Seattle Seahawks as the expected third-string quarterback behind Russell Wilson and Geno Smith. Russell Wilson, like most other starters, is not expected to see much of the field Thursday night in a meaningless game, and Geno Smith’s status for the game is in question following a few missed practices leading up to the game. The injury does not appear to be serious, as the Seahawks have declined to bring in another arm for training camp to this point, but there is a good chance it will hold Smith out of action against the Denver Broncos. All of the chips seem to have fallen into place for Paxton Lynch to play nearly the entire game against his former team. While hope may be lost for Lynch to be a quality NFL starter, he will be given ample opportunity to prove the talent that John Elway saw in college is still in there somewhere waiting to be unleashed upon an unexpecting third string Denver Broncos defense.
Note: the status of Geno Smith is still unknown at the time of publication, updates will be added in bold red text as necessary. Should Geno Smith be active for the game, Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch will both be viable, but neither will be an outstanding option on the slate.
**12:00 PM ET UPDATE**
- Geno Smith WILL play for Seattle. Expected to be approximately a 50/50 split in snaps between Lynch and Smith. Neither are exceptional plays, but both are acceptable plays.
- AJ McCarron injured his hand on Wednesday during practice for the Houston Texans. This leaves Deshaun Watson, Joe Webb III, and Jordan Ta'amu (whom the team signed late Wednesday afternoon) as the only healthy quarterbacks. Expect a healthy does of Joe Webb III throughout the game. He jumps into the top-tier of quarterbacks on the slate along with Hoyer and McSorley.
Damarea Crockett, Houston Texans
The Texans decided to waive former second-round pick D’Onta Foreman earlier this week following his apparent inability to fully return to form following a torn achilles. This decision was, in large part, made easier because of the strong first impression made by Damarea Crockett and the other young running backs in Houston’s training camp. Crockett has been widely regarded by beat writers at Houston’s practices day-in and day-out as the most unexpected standout of the preseason. The running back position is especially difficult in preseason DFS because of the numerous options for every team, coupled with the high rate at which players are rotated in and out of the game on each and every possession. For this reason, projecting snap counts is more difficult and instead the focus turns to efficiency. Crockett has proven to be an explosive player with pass-catching abilities throughout camp, which make him a prime candidate to break off a few long gains against the Green Bay Packers under the lights in Lambeau Field in Damarea Crockett’s first taste of professional football.
Jeremy McNichols, Tennessee Titans
Jeremy McNichols slacked his way off of the Tampa Buccaneers roster in 2017 but, after bouncing around various practice squads last year, the 23-year-old has found himself battling for a roster spot with the Tennessee this year. McNichols was listed fourth on the first official depth chart released by the Titans behind Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, and David Fluellen. Derrick Henry sustained a lower-leg injury earlier in training camp that will keep him out of Tennessee’s preseason opener against Philadelphia. David Fluellen also left Tuesday’s practice early due to an undisclosed injury injury to his left leg and did not return. Head coach Mike Vrabel has not yet made any official statement regarding the amount of playing time that Dion Lewis, the only healthy running back ahead of McNichols on the depth chart, is expected to play, but given his veteran status it is safe to expect his involvement to be limited at best. McNichols has been impressive in his increased role at training camp and is making a serious case for the Titans to at least consider keeping four active running backs entering the regular season. McNichols is primed to lead the Tennessee Titans’ running back corps in both snaps and production once they unofficially kick off the 2019-2020 season in Philadelphia.
Reggie Bonnafon, Carolina Panthers
Reggie Bonnafon spent last season on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad after going undrafted out of Louisville, which has given him ample time to learn all of the ins and outs of Norv Turner's offense. While there was little hope he would be brought onto the roster last season, this season is a completely different story. As Jordan Scarlett, one of his primary competitors at the running back position, deals with an injury that will likely keep him out of Carolina's first preseason game, Bonnafon has shined in training camp this year and is building a strong case to be the final running back on the 53-man roster. Carolina will enter the game with only three active running backs, leaving plenty of playing time for Bonnafon to continue to build his case as the team's second or third best option in the backfield.
Dexter Williams, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers' running back corps has been riddled with injuries throughout training camp, as each of the team's top three running back options, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Tra Carson, are all currently dealing with an injury expected to keep them from participating in week one of the preseason. These injuries clear the way for Dexter Williams, a sixth round pick from Notre Dame, to lead the way in the backfield. Dexter Williams has taken the bulk of first-team reps throughout training camp, and is reportedly pushing to be the team's number two running back behind Aaron Jones. Given so few options at running back for their first preseason game, Matt LaFleur's new-look Packers will almost certainly turn to Dexter Williams early and often against the Houston Texans.
**12:00 PM ET UPDATE**
- Slight downgrade to Damarea Crockett's stock on this slate. Various reports saying Karan Higdon and Josh Ferguson are both also likely to get significant snaps in the competition for the final running back roster spot for HOU.
- Bo Scarbrough is expected to be one of only a handful of healthy running backs for Seattle. He jumps into the top-tier of running back options on the slate along with Jeremy McNichols and Reggie Bonnafon.
- Note: Seattle signed running back Xavier Turner for depth in advance of Thursday's game. In both the DraftKings and FanDuel player pool his is listed as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Because he is currently listed as a member of the Cardinals and will be playing for the Seahawks, he will likely earn 0 fantasy points regardless of his production. Unless the support team for each respective site addresses the matter (likely via e-mail or Twitter,) operate under the assumption that Turner will not accrue fantasy points and remove him from your player pool.
Jake Kumerow, Green Bay Packers
Jake Kumerow was one of the training camp standouts for the Green Bay Packers last season, but unfortunately he ended up on injured reserve at the conclusion of the preseason. The light at the end of the tunnel, however, was that following his return from injury the 26-year-old would return to make his first career regular season reception and score his first career touchdown late in the season. Fast forward to 2019, and Kumerow is once again raising eyebrows at training camp. Kumerow has earned the nickname “#TouchdownJesus” from Packers fans thanks to his continued red zone dominance. Should Kumerow carry this impressive chemistry over into live action once again this season, he will likely be one of the most popular and productive players on the first preseason slate of the year.
Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins
Preston Williams’ on-field performance and skill set warranted a selection on Day Two of the 2019 NFL Draft (second or third round) according to Miami Dolphins coaches and executives. Unfortunately, off-the-field issues prevented Williams from participating in the NFL combine and his interviews with teams were not enough to prove to them he was entirely passed this point in his life. The Miami Dolphins signed Williams as an undrafted free agent following the draft and Williams is adamant that he is a changed man who will not repeat the mistakes of his past. Josh Rosen and company surely hope he is correct because his performance on the practice field throughout training camp has been stellar. Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard, who regularly matches up with Williams in wide receiver/defensive back drills, has not been shy in his praise of Williams’ on the field ability. Howard believes Williams has the potential to be the number one aerial option for an NFL team in the future. Rosen and Williams have routinely connected for big play after big play throughout camp, and it would not come as a surprise to anyone around the Miami Dolphins organization if this carried over into the first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots
While the Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, another rookie wide receiver has been the talk of the town in Foxborough. Jakobi Meyers has been one of the most unexpected stories in the NFL throughout training camp. The undrafted free agent out of North Carolina State has shockingly climbed his way up the ranks in Patriots training camp, en route to a listed starting spot on the depth chart entering the team’s first preseason game. Meyers has been the most targeted and most efficient wide receiver for the Patriots in all 11-on-11 action throughout camp, and the team’s opening preseason game against the Detroit Lions is his first chance to prove his worth in real game action. Meyers’ playing time will likely not resemble that of other Patriots starters, considering his lack of NFL experience and recent emergence within the offense. Jakobi Meyers will likely see nearly 100 percent of his playing time while Brian Hoyer is under center, making the duo a very viable stack in any format of contests.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
Terry McLaurin has been one of the most impressive players in Washington Redskins training camp this season, according to head coach Jay Gruden. McLaurin, the college teammate of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins was drafted by Washington in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, seemingly at special request of Haskins himself. Immediately following being selected, Haskins took to Twitter to plead with Redskins management to bring one of his college teammates into town along with him. To this point in training camp, it seems that indulging Haskins has been the best move the Redskins have made all offseason. McLaurin and Haskins have almost certainly taken more reps together than any other quarterback-wide receiver combo slated to get any significant playing time in the first week of preseason games. The talent and chemistry of this young pairing should be the driving force behind their success against the Cleveland Browns in their first NFL action.
**12:00 PM ET UPDATE**
- D.K. Metcalf will play and, according to Bob Condotta, play "a lot" in Seattle's preseason opener. He is the top option to pair with either Geno Smith or Paxton Lynch and his physical traits make him a prime candidate for extremely valuable red zone targets.
Tommy Sweeney, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills have seen their fair share of injuries at the tight end position this training camp, with each of the team’s top three options getting injured. Fortunately, however, this has given players buried on the depth chart like Tommy Sweeney an opportunity to shine in larger roles within the offense. Sweeney, a seventh-round draft pick out of Boston College, was slated to be one of the team’s third-team tight ends, but due to injuries, he will likely be thrusted into action with the first-team in the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. The lack of depth at the position will also lead to Sweeney likely seeing extended run with the second and potentially third-team offenses later into the game. Sweeney has been listed as Buffalo’s training camp standouts by various beat reporters, including Rob Quinn of Cover1. While options at tight end are typically very limited in preseason DFS, Tommy Sweeney jumps off the page as one of the strongest plays on the slate.
Jacob Hollister, Seattle Seahawks **UPDATE: Hollister will NOT play Thursday night**
Jacob Hollister has been a very popular preseason DFS option in recent years in New England, but he has struggled to stay healthy, leaving him unable to contribute regularly during the regular season. Hollister is once again shining during training camp this season, however, this season it's with Seattle instead of New England. Hollister is building a strong case to be Seattle's number one tight end while Ed Dickson rehabs from offseason knee surgery, as noted by Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic. D.K. Metcalf may be all of the rage on social media due to his freakish athleticism and impressive camp, but Hollister has reportedly been equally as good in practices leading up to Seattle's preseason game against the Denver Broncos.
**12:00 PM ET UPDATE**
- Jacob Hollister will NOT play for Seattle in the preseason opener. In his absence, Nick Vannett is expected to get "a lot of reps", according to Andy Patton. Any tight end expected to see a significant number of reps is always intriguing in preseason DFS, and in this situation Vannett instantly becomes one of the top options at the position.
If you have any questions about the slate or any feedback about this article, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @ThaGreatZambino and I will make sure to answer any and all questions as soon as I possibly can. Good luck, and let's start this NFL DFS season off on the right foot!