Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday NFL Preseason Analysis

The decision by FanDuel to eliminate preseason NFL daily games appears to have generated additional interest in DraftKings' games, as we Footballguys have been inundated with requests for analysis on those game slates.  Tonight there is a two-game slate and, if you read further, you will find my quick DFS takes on those games.  But first, let's revisit a few caveats about playing preseason DFS:

  1. Two-game slates are extremely risky because the overlap is immense and missing out on one or two key players will likely kill any chances of you winning within that game slate.
  2. To be successful playing preseason DFS, the skill involved is in predicting who will get the most playing time in that given game.  Choosing a first-string QB is often times a poor decision because they will play a single series of downs and then give way to the backup QB. The goal is to choose players that will see the most playing time.
  3. As an extension of Point #2, the individuals who tend to play the most are those players involved in positional battles, where personnel decisions have to be made.  If a player is locked in as the WR1 on a given team, his playing time will be limited and sometimes non-existent; meanwhile, there may be multiple wide receivers vying for the last slot in the receiving corps and those players will get the most action to help the coaching staff make that decision.
With those points in mind, here are some thoughts on tonight's short game slate (my selections are highlighted in blue):

Buffalo Bills:

Tyrod Taylor has been announced as the starter for tonight's game after a nice performance by Taylor last week against Carolina.  Taylor is entering his fifth year in the league and appears to be competing against Matt Cassel for a starting gig; the Bills know what they have in E.J. Manuel and he is a non-factor at this juncture.  Expect about two quarters of play for both Taylor and Cassel as the staff further evaluates these two quarterbacks.  I give the edge to Taylor because of his ability to run the ball, as he displayed at Virginia Tech and limited NFL action.

The backfield is a mess and only Bryce Brown appears to be somewhat healthy entering this game. LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, and Karlos Williams are all nursing injuries, which means the Bills' staff might give the fumble-prone Brown extra time tonight to further evaluate his ability and fit with the team.

Sammy Watkins is the clear class of these receivers, but he will likely only see one series of downs, so one must look to other receivers to pair with Taylor.  Deonte Thompson is gunning for a spot on the roster and caught a 51-yard touchdown pass last Friday night; he probably earned a bit more playing time tonight and deserves your DFS consideration.  Florida State rookie Nick O'Leary is a tight end that will be on my radar tonight after getting called out by Rex Ryan for dropping a pass last week; the Bills have to make a decision on him soon after spending a 6th round pick on him earlier this year.

The Bills' defense is definitely a top option against the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland Browns:

Josh McCown is the starter and Johnny Manziel follows him on the depth chart (with Thaddeus Lewis far behind).  I cannot recommend any of these quaterbacks against the Bills tonight, despite both putting together touchdown drives last week.  If you feel compelled, Manziel has the most upside due to his ability to scramble (as he did for a TD last week).

Isaiah Crowell is the lead back, but he likely will not see much time because the staff knows what they have in him and there are questions about the health in his two backups; rookie Duke Johnson is still a week away and Terrence West came to camp too heavy and is just now getting into football shape.  With Ray Rice's name being thrown around camp, I think that speaks volumes as to how the Browns feel about their current backs.  I'm fading them all tonight.

The receiver I'm most excited about is Terrell Pryor, but he is not an option on DraftKings tonight. With Dwayne Bowe still injured, Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins will draw the start...of those two, I give a slight, but unenthusiastic edge to Hartline.  A possible flyer could be Travis Benjamin, but even he does not excite me against the Bills' defense.  Rookie tight end E.J. Bibbs is the one player on the Browns that I will seriously consider, as they will need to make a decision on him soon with the slew of tight ends they are carrying into the season.

Detroit Lions:

We can expect Matt Stafford to play minimally again, which means that we should see plenty of Kellen Moore and Dan Orlovsky competing for the Lions' backup QB slot.  Orlovsky put up decent numbers last week, but neither of these quarterbacks has an edge on the other.  Expect to see both playing about two quarters tonight, but there is significant rain in the forecast in Washington D.C., which limits my enthusiasm for rostering either one of them.  If I had to choose, I would give a slight edge to Moore, who will be lower owned.

Everything coming out of Detroit these days is about rookie phenom Ameer Abdullah.  The Nebraska alum looked great in his first NFL outing against the Jets last week and deserves consideration in DFS circles tonight.  With the rainy forecast, I might also recommend undrafted free agent, Zach Zenner, who looked impressive last week with 13 carries for 55 yards; he might be given similar opportunity tonight to prove that his performance last week was not a fluke.

With Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate being locked into the starting WR roles and Corey Fuller appearing to secure the #3 spot, the Lions will be looking to test their backup receivers.  Last week, it was Greg Salas who surprised, but I am not expecting a similar performance tonight; instead, I am looking towards Lance Moore and/or Ryan Broyles, both of whom are vying for one of the last receiver spots on the roster.

The Lions' defense could be a viable play tonight in the rain against a less than stellar Redskins' offense.

Washington Redskins:

Robert Griffin III was pedestrian in his 2015 debut against the Browns, going 4-8 for 36 passing yards; he was the victim of a Pierre Garcon dropped pass, which may have gone for a touchdown and salvaged a reasonable performance.  His backup, Kirk Cousins, was efficient, completing 12 of 14 attempts for 154 passing yards and even running for a touchdown.  Tonight, I expect a bit more of Griffin, a bit less of Cousins, and about the same from Colt McCoy, all of which equates to not much interest in this quarterback crew against a solid Lions' defense in the rain.

If you are going to roster a Redskin tonight, he should probably reside in their backfield.  Alfred Morris' time will be limited and rookie Silas Redd tore his ACL/MCL last week, so both of those player can be ignored.  That leaves Matt Jones and Trey Williams as sneaky running back plays; Williams gets the edge because he was likely going to be cut, but will get a second look now that Redd is out for the season.

My excitement for the Redskins' receivers is dampened largely by the weather and the poor QB play. Pierre Garcon will be limited and DeSean Jackson will remain sidelined by a separated shoulder, Rookie Jamison Crowder will be watching the game as well with a hamstring issue, which means that Ryan Grant will be given the start opposite Garcon.  Grant is a speedster and specializes in deep targets, which may be off the table tonight with the rain, so I am looking at Andre Roberts, who is competing for the WR3 spot and can run out of the slot quite well.  With Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen both suffering season-ending injuries, the tight end options are limited, but Je'Ron Hamm is the guy I would look at if you are desperate.

Best of luck in your games tonight and remember to limit your action!


  1. Excellent! I like Chris Hogan tonight, too. He's a preseason hero from yesteryear, and could get a lot of snaps with that receiver corps banged up.

  2. Great write-up as usual John. I will say that Detroit's Greg Salas is supposed to get some run with the 1s as well tonight, so I wouldn't discount his value - as far as preseason WR value goes. Finding any WR with >4 targets is going to be difficult tonight, and the skies just opened up here in Maryland!

    One other note, Colt McCoy is supposed to be the QB2 tonight for DC.

  3. Lance Moore out tonight with the birth of his child. I am with Jeff, big Salas fan tonight.