News & Analysis

The top DFS plays for Thursday/Friday of preseason Week 1

By Tyler Loechner
Aug 10, 2017

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LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 20: Mack Brown #37 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball during a preseason game against the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field on August 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

We’ve had one DFS “slate” of preseason games already, but it consisted of just two games. The real deal starts on Thursday night, with a solid seven-game slate to whet our appetites.

Preseason DFS is actually easier than it sounds. If this is your first go at it, I highly suggest giving this primer a read and then come back to this article.

Week 1 of the preseason is always trickier to figure out, since we have no new data to go on. This is hearsay and hype week. But that doesn’t mean we can’t dig through the mud to find some strong plays for Week 1. Here’s a look at the first run of games for this week. Check back Saturday for a look at the weekend games — there’s no sense in planning too far ahead for preseason DFS.

Quarterbacks

Last year, Aaron Rodgers attempted just 13 passes in the preseason. Packers backup quarterback Joe Callahan attempted 92 passes, the second-most of all quarterbacks in last year’s preseason. For this reason, I like Brett Hundley and Callahan. Hundley has been taking first-team reps, so I think I slightly prefer him this week. Either way, both should see plenty of opportunity.

For similar reasons, you should look at Garrett Grayson in New Orleans. He had 73 pass attempts last preseason, seventh-most among all quarterbacks. Drew Brees had just 30.

I’m okay with Paxton Lynch on Thursday night. He will reportedly play with the second team against the Bears and the first team in the team’s second preseason game (against the 49ers), but he should see plenty of run in both contests. Lynch had 528 passing yards last preseason, fifth-most among quarterbacks.

Running backs

Jonathan Williams is a valuable asset in Buffalo behind the often-banged-up LeSean McCoy, but he could see a decent amount of playing time in the preseason, as he did last year when he gained 110 rushing yards and scored twice. Williams has been splitting first- and second-team duties with Mike Tolbert. He’s as good of a bet as any running back in the slate to score a touchdown.

Remember Mack Brown, last year’s preseason rushing leader with 227 yards? He has a chance to defend his “crown” starting Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens. Brown is buried on the Washington depth chart behind Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, and Chris Thompson. In the preseason, that’s not a bad thing.

Eagles running back Byron Marshall was given 34 attempts last preseason, good for 15th-most (tied) among running backs. His 86 yards and no touchdowns on those carries were nothing special, but he’s an option again on Thursday night with the new preseason upon us. Marshall is fifth on Philadelphia’s unofficial depth chart. He should see plenty of attempts again as they sort out their crowded backfield.

Wide receivers

Give Denver’s Jordan Taylor a look. His 192 receiving yards in last year’s preseason ranked third among wideouts, and his 21 targets were tied for third-most.

Josh Bellamy was one of those players tied with Taylor for third-most targets (21) in last year’s preseason, and he’ll be suiting up against Taylor in the CHI-DEN tilt. Bellamy’s success in last year’s preseason makes him a viable option again this week.

Rashad Ross had three touchdowns in last year’s preseason as a member of the Washington Redskins, and this year he finds himself on the Buffalo Bills as one of their speedsters, along with Brandon Tate and Corey Brown. Three touchdowns in last year’s preseason are mostly meaningless, but with no 2017 data to go from yet, it’s a good place to start. We know Ross can find the end zone. Also, in the preseason, it’s perfectly fine to target players who are so far down the depth chart that they get their number switched in such a fashion:

Dede Westbrook is on my target list for this slate. He has reportedly been impressive in training camp and has hauled in some long touchdowns. The Patriots, Jacksonville’s opponent on Thursday night, gave up six receiving touchdowns in last year’s preseason, tied for sixth-most.

Devin Lucien of the New England Patriots has apparently been performing really well in practices lately, and at least one video of him scoring deep against Jacksonville (they’ve been holding joint practices) has been circulating around Twitter.

Tight ends

Apparently Julius Thomas had poor rapport with Ryan Tannehill, so the upgrade/sidegrade/downgrade to Jay Cutler might be a positive thing for him. There’s also the Adam Gase narrative for both Thomas and Cutler at work. The Falcons were bad against tight ends last year (seventh-most points given up) and were the only team to give up two touchdowns to tight ends in last year’s preseason as well. Thomas could be worth a look.

A.J. Derby is emerging as Denver’s top option at tight end, so he could get a fair run with the first team on Thursday. Denver’s opponent, the Chicago Bears, gave up the third-most yards to tight ends in last year’s preseason (163). Oh, and Derby? He led all tight ends with 105 yards in last year’s preseason.

Virgil Green was second in last year’s preseason with 86 yards. He’s also on the Denver Broncos, so choosing between Green and Derby could be tough. I’ll consider both.

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