If you checked out the Hall of Fame Game breakdown last week, you hopefully made all of the #buckies. Now we are getting back into more “traditional” pre-season NFL DFS, and have a 12 game slate posted for Week 1. As a reminder, every player is priced the same in pre-season, so we literally just have to find the best plays. That’s exactly what I have set out to do here.
The plays below will be listed by position, and in order of preference. I will be making some updates to the piece on Thursday as I review any bits of injury news. Be sure to follow some local beat reporters who will be at these games. Inactives are not posted the same way they are during the regular season, but you can see who isn’t playing if you are at the game for warmups. Playing time is the most important factor in pre-season DFS.
Nate Sudfeld, PHI
Third string QB Matt McGloin played on 71 percent of the snaps in Week 1 of the pre-season last year, a spot now occupied by Sudfeld. Carson Wentz will not play as he continues to recover from a torn ACL, and we shouldn’t see Nick Foles either, who is immensely valuable to Philly, and has been dealing with neck spasms. That leaves just Sudfeld and Joe Callahan to take QB snaps. I expect the former to play most of the game, and the latter to mop things up in the fourth quarter.
Danny Etling, NE
The Patriots only have three QBs on the roster, and we know for sure that one of them won’t play. With Tom Brady on the bench, it will be veteran Brian Hoyer and the rookie Elting under center for New England. I wouldn’t expect Hoyer to play too much as the Patriots know what they have in him, and the beat reporters out of New England have said that Etling has been taking a ton of snaps in preparation for this game.
Tyler Bray, CHI
Bray played on 63 percent of snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and threw 34 passes in his time on the field. Mitch Trubisky is expected to appear in this game, but likely for only a series. Chase Daniel is an established veteran who does not need to play a ton. I expect Bray to play the entire second half.
Baker Mayfield, CLE
I feel obligated to list Mayfield here because he is my favorite rookie QB to come out in a while, and Hue Jackson has indicated they he will play “quite a bit” on Thursday night. It’s hard to know how much that will be with two other QBs on the roster not named Tyrod Taylor. The playing time upside is not as great here as with the other signal-callers, but the talent is there to do damage.
Dare Ogunbowale, TB
The Bucs have four RBs that are expected to make the roster: Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber, and Charles Sims. Those four players should not see a ton of action in this contest, and I would expect most of it to come in the first half, if not the first quarter. The only other back on the roster than Ogunbowale is Shaun Wilson, but he is injured and not expected to play, leaving big snaps for the former Wisconsin Badger.
Joel Bouagnon, GB
The Packers have some injuries at RB, with both Aaron Jones and Devante Mays not expected to play. Jamaal Williams is the Week 1 starter for the Packers, and Ty Montgomery is an established veteran with a deep injury history. Most, if not all, of this game should be covered by Bouagnon and Akeem Judd, who the Packers just signed over the weekend. I’m favoring the RB who has been on the roster all camp.
Tim Cook, JAX
The Jaguars have their top three RBs firmly established with roles in the offense: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, and Corey Grant. The beat writers are expecting Cook and Brandon Wilds to shoulder most of the RB load on Thursday. Of the two, everyone seems to be raving about Cook, but I think Wilds is also a viable play.
Ryan Nall, CHI
Nall played on 54 percent of the snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and should be featured again in this contest. Jordan Howard is injured and not expected to play, leaving Tarik Cohen to take whatever first team reps exist (a series or two most likely). After that, Taquan Mizzell and Benny Cunningham should split snaps with the second unit. Nall should have the third team left to himself, and has had his position officially switched to RB on the depth chart. He could approach 50 percent of the snaps yet again.
Javon Wims, CHI
Wims saw 10 targets in the Hall of Fame Game, nine of which came from Bray. A 26 percent target share is hard to come by in pre-season, and it’s something that needs to be attacked aggressively on this slate. Helping is cause are injuries to Taylor Gabriel and Josh Bellamy. Allen Robinson is also unlikely to play.
Tre’Quan Smith, NO
The Saints have a bunch of WRs that probably won’t play extensively in this game. Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn are established veterans, and should see limited time on the field if any. Cameron Meredith, Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis are dealing with injuries, and may not play at all. Michael Floyd and Brandon Tate have only been on the team for a week, so it’s difficult to know how much of the playbook they understand. That leaves Smith, Keith Kirkwood, and Josh Huff to take most of the WR snaps. I am favoring Smith here due to his talent, and highest likelihood to see snaps with either Drew Brees (if he plays) or Tom Savage. Taysom Hill and J.T. Barrett are not great passers.
Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien, NE
These are the three main WRs I will be pairing with Etling, in my preferred order. The Patriots have given big snaps to their slot players in the past for pre-season, with Carr and K.J. Maye each seeing over 70 percent of snaps in this game last season. Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, and Eric Decker are all unlikely to play due to player value, and Kenny Britt is injured. Cordarrelle Patterson and Matthew Slater figure to do more on special teams than on offense. I expect these three young wideouts to see the bulk of snaps Thursday night.
James Washington, PIT
This is more of a gut play than anything, but I’m taking it all the way to the bank. Antonio Brown is not going to play in this game, and I’d be surprised to see JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has been dealing with some injuries this off-season. Marcus Tucker and Darrius Heyward-Bey just returned from injuries, and could see limited playing time if any. Washington finds himself at the bottom of the WR depth chart, along with QB Mason Rudolph, who was Washington’s QB the last three years at Oklahoma State. Washington should be an absolute target hog whenever these two are on the field together.
Ian Thomas, CAR
Chris Manhertz, who saw 67 percent of snaps in last year’s Week 1 game, is injured and will not play. Greg Olsen likely will not play. That leaves just Thomas, Evan Baylis, and Jason Vander Laan at TE for the Panthers. Thomas is an athletic rookie who figures to see much of that playing time.
Hayden Hurst, BAL
In the Hall of Fame Game, Hurst led the team in targets with four, and played the most snaps of any TE with 46 percent. Maxx Williams was injured in practice earlier this week, and Darren Waller probably won’t play after just being reinstated by the league. Mark Andrews returned to practice Tuesday after missing two weeks with a soft-tissue issue, and may not play much if at all. That leaves Hurst to again do a bunch of work for Baltimore.
Good luck on Thursday!