QBs Tim Tebow & Matt Barkley, Eagles – Tebow wants to make the roster almost as much as Chip Kelly wants him to. To bolster their cases for booting current #3 QB Barkley, Tebow will need lots of preseason reps. Expect these guys to split time evenly on Saturday – they each quarterbacked six possessions last week against the Colts – and both make for very smart DFS plays in this frenetic offense. With Tebow, you roster a historically poor passer but also a RB2/3 unto himself; Tebow the starter is always in the mix for good rushing production and a solid chance at a short-yardage touchdown. Barkley will also see lots of reps and threw the ball well to the second team last week. But Tebow needs more work on his game than Barkley and has the most at stake, so I’m banking on Tebow seeing slightly more playing time.
RB David Johnson, Cardinals – Finally healthy after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury, Johnson will see his first pro action on Saturday. A dazzling athlete and SPARQ superstar, Johnson’s upside is enormous if he can climb the RB ladder. Team reporter Mike Jurecki expects Johnson to play the majority of the second and third quarters, which makes sense given the fact that brittle starter Andre Ellington needs to be treated with kid gloves. The team wants to finally see his wares, so a solid workload – especially on throws out of the backfield – should be in order.
RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Panthers – The Panthers’ is a definitively run-dominant offense, and their backfield terribly lacks proven, dependable bodies. Jonathan Stewart didn’t play last week, ceding the start to change-of-pace back Fozzy Whittaker, who produced nothing (trust my firsthand observation there). Artis-Payne was the featured runner through the second and third quarters and didn’t produce much, but you have to like the volume outlook here. He’s a good candidate for 10 touches Saturday.
RB David Cobb, Titans – Bishop Sankey’s struggles have carried over into his second preseason, and rookie Cobb has outplayed him thus far. Ken Whisenhunt has announced that Cobb will see extended time this week, perhaps including snaps with the startingoffense. He’s no dazzling talent by any stretch, but looks primed to again see a double-digit carry total.
RB Matt Asiata, Vikings – The Vikings hold a deep RB depth chart, with five backs behind Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon that they’d like to give some run to in the preseason. Asiata gets the nod over Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams because of his short-yardage prowess, which boosts his touchdown chances significantly. Asiata has been given 13 touches through his first two preseason games and makes for a relatively safe DFS play with touchdown upside.
TE Trey Burton, Eagles – Tight end production is largely a crapshoot in the preseason, so I seek out talented young options jockeying for depth chart position. Burton is a highly athletic TE/WR hybrid entering his second year and fighting for #3 duties in Philadelphia. He excelled last preseason and picked up there last week, subbing for Zach Ertz with the starters and barely missing on an 80-yard scoring catch. His playing time is clearly a priority for Chip Kelly, and Brent Celek has nothing to prove in the preseason, so the road is clear for Burton to post solid numbers against Baltimore.
WRs Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb, Packers – WR is a tricky, tricky play during the preseason, and I fully agree. Teams typically carry over a dozen wideouts into camp and like to get a look at all of them during preseason action, so many only see a few snaps and few, if any, targets. As my colleague Alex Miglio has pointed out, traditional #1 wideouts are generally the smart play during the preseason. They’re likely to see just as much time – 1-3 series of action – as most other individual WRs on roster. Whom do you trust more to produce in equally limited time: the starters or the reserves? This week, I’m rolling with Nelson, who could simply flay the Steelers’ pathetic secondary on a timing connection with Aaron Rodgers over their handful of snaps together. Cobb also makes for a nice play, but is generally more of a red zone threat; I’d rather bank on Nelson’s ability to score from anywhere at any time than hope Cobb plays enough to drive the ball deep and catch a short touchdown.
WR Corey Brown, Panthers – With Kelvin Benjamin shelved and Devin Funchess set to miss Saturday’s game, Brown becomes quite possibly the Panthers’ #1 option for the time being. He’s small but an absolute blazer, and Cam Newton showed appreciation in his deep game last year. Brown will start Saturday and likely see extended time as he proves his worth in this shell-shocked WR corps.