FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Preseason Helper: Hall of Fame Game Slate
Football is back -- sort of.
It's the preseason, and FanDuel is offering up some DFS slates. You might be thinking that preseason DFS isn't for you, but really, you can have a lot of success if you're tuned into the news and expected workloads for players.
At the very least, it'll give you a reason to tack on an extra four weeks to your football-viewing season.
Here's what you should know for the opening slate, which includes the Hall of Fame Game between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys and the Week 1 opener between the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers.
The preseason requires a good bit of game theory and overall slate breakdown. You probably want to fade the Hall of Fame Game pretty much entirely (it has an over/under of just 35 points). You can't do that on FanDuel because you have to roster a player from each of the two games (trust me; I tried).
Cardinals head coach has announced that Carson Palmer and the starters won't play in this game. Further, Drew Stanton won't even play, leaving Blaine Gabbert the passer of choice for the first half for the Cardinals. Trevor Knight will play the second half.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was less direct with the suggestion of sitting starters, but it's frankly unreasonable to expect them to see the field for any meaningful time. Overall, though, heavy reliance on the rush, keeping the clock moving, and getting their guys off the field is probably what we should expect in the Hall of Fame Game.
This makes things tricky because the only other game on the slate is next Wednesday. It's simply too early to tell what the Texans will do with their quarterback situation. If Deshaun Watson looks primed to be the starter, he might see his reps limited.
Let's get down to the player picks.
Blaine Gabbert - We know that these guys are each getting a half of football under center, and that actually means a good bit for the preseason. Keep in mind that only one passer scored more than 15 FanDuel points in Week 1 of the preseason last year, so don't think you need to have a high score at quarterback to contend. Prioritize Gabbert because it's likely each team will go run-heavy in the second half -- if not the first half as well.
Kellen Moore - Moore was the clear backup to Dak Prescott until the Cowboys signed Luke McCown. Fourth-stringer Cooper Rush has no guaranteed money, further suggesting he's last in line for reliable snaps. Moore should play a good chunk of snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, probably in the first half when things will be a little friendlier for fantasy purposes.
DeShaun Watson or Tom Savage - For all we know, one of these guys gets named the starter by Wednesday, which could open up more snaps for the backup. You can roll the dice and wait to see if these two split snaps, but you'll miss out on a guaranteed half from Gabbert. Last year, the Texans gave Brock Osweiler 7 attempts, Savage 24, and Brandon Weeden just 1 in the preseason opener. Watson is probably going to be the highest-owned quarterback on the slate, and if his role is limited, you can get an edge by fading him.
Joe Webb - The Panthers have pretty much the same quarterback situation as last year. In Week 1, Cam Newton had 6 attempts, Derek Anderson had 14, and Webb had 16. But like with the Texans, three quarterbacks is more than two, and that suggests Gabbert (or Moore) are the safest choices. The game isn't as promising from a fantasy perspective, so you have to pick your approach.
Takeaways - Watson is the top play, but you run the risk of having him be limited come Wednesday. In that case, you can late swap to Savage or Webb. Gabbert and Knight have some safety, given their "guaranteed" playing time.
Elijhaa Penny and T.J. Logan - Arians hinted that the Cardinals could keep five running backs on their roster. After David Johnson, Chris Johnson, and Kerwynn Williams, there are some holes to fill. That leaves Andre Ellington, Logan, and Penny. Ellington is back to running back after unsuccessfully trying to swap to receiver, and by now, you have to think that the team knows what they have with him.
Logan has some promising measurables, according to PlayerProfiler, but Penny had 15 and 23 carries in Weeks 1 and 4 of the preseason last year, respectively, and he got a carry on more than 50% of his snaps in both of those games. Only three backs had more than 12 carries in Week 1 last year, with Penny being one of them.
Rod Smith - Smith is third on the Cowboys' depth chart. Ezekiel Elliott isn't going to play, and Darren McFadden didn't see a Week 1 snap last year. With the off-field issues around Elliott, we shouldn't expect that to change in the Hall of Fame Game. Smith drew just two carries last year but had three targets in their opener. With Alfred Morris and Ronnie Hillman the other backs on the roster, both known commodities, Smith could get the bulk of the carries to show what he can do.
D'Onta Foreman or Akeem Hunt - Foreman has slipped behind (or never overcame) Alfred Blue on the depth chart and does genuinely have something to prove, but the Texans gave five different rushers a carry in Week 1 of the preseason last year and four of them at least four carries. That's not quite the safety you're looking for. Still, Tyler Ervin and Hunt had a preseason to show Houston their stuff in 2016, and that leaves Foreman and Dare Ogunbowale as the unproven backs in the backfield. This seems like a backfield to avoid unless it becomes clear someone will lead the backfield.
Jalen Simmons - Simmons' name could get lost in the shuffle that is the Panthers' backfield. People (hopefully) play Christian McCaffrey because of the hype, but he shouldn't see meaningful preseason work until Week 3. Other backs on the roster -- Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, and Cameron Artis-Payne -- are veterans. Artis-Payne is a second-year guy, of course, but Simmons is the unknown here. Expect him to be a sneaky bet for snaps in Week 1.
Takeaways - Prioritize Rod Smith and don't rule out Hillman (but he's not in the FanDuel player pool) for significant touches. Penny will be popular, and you can consider taking a chance on Logan instead. Just know that he's got a good grasp on a roster spot because of his special teams ability. Keep your eyes peeled for news on Foreman, but expect Hunt to be in the mix regardless. Simmons could be an under-the-radar tournament option.
Chad Williams - Williams has a 99th-percentile SPARQ-x rating, was a third-round pick, and isn't a starter. He could take advantage in this game and looks like one of the few receivers worth targeting on this two-game slate.
Andy Jones - You probably don't want to target any Cowboys receivers. There are too many non-starters to sort through, but if you do feel the need to take one, Jones might be the pick -- unless you think Brice Butler will get enough run. Jones has a 99th-percentile burst score, according to PlayerProfiler, but as an undrafted player who was waived by the team last season, there's nothing to get excited about.
Brenton Bersin - Last year, 11 Panthers receivers saw at least one target, but Bersin led the group with 6 (which he turned into 5 catches, 69 yards). Russell Shepard and Damiere Byrd could also be in play.
Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong - The Texans lost Will Fuller to a broken collarbone, so they'll need to figure out who is going to play opposite DeAndre Hopkins for the first few weeks of the season. Last year in Week 1, both Strong and Miller caught four of six targets.
Takeaways - Williams is worth a flier because of his athleticism, but the Hall of Fame Game should be a run-first affair. Focusing on the Wednesday game for receivers could be the right way to go, especially if you roster Watson, Savage, or Webb.
Ricky Seals-Jones - There isn't much buzz to go around in the preseason circle, but Troy Niklas is getting some talk. He had 2 catches (on 3 targets for 44 yards) in the opener last year but has just 9 career targets in three seasons. Seals-Jones is a converted receiver who should be a better bet to provide production if he gets snaps. Seals-Jones also is a college teammate of Trevor Knight, in case you didn't know.
Rico Gathers - Just four tight ends scores more than eight FanDuel points in Week 1 last year, so this is a tricky spot. Gathers, a converted power forward at Baylor in college, should hold significant ownership. That alone is enough to fade him in tournaments. But Jason Witten isn't going to play, and Geoff Swaim is primarily a blocker. Gathers could play most of the game just to see what he can do. He'll be popular, and it's for good reason, but you can definitely justify a fade.
Stephen Anderson - Anderson's athletic profile makes him worth a flier. The Texans' passing game has a hole without Fuller, and C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin combined for one target in Week 1 last year. Anderson saw two, one of which was a seven-yard touchdown.
Takeaways - Gathers makes the most sense, but with the volatility at the position -- particularly in the low-volume preseason -- he looks like a tournament fade. Anderson probably has the best path to targets of the other tight ends on the slate.
Phil Dawson or Dan Bailey - Despite the Hall of Fame Game being one we want to avoid, both the Panthers and Texans have two kickers on their rosters. Nick Novak has to contend with Ka'imi Fairbairn, and Graham Gano will need to fend off seventh-round rookie Harrison Butker. There's no reason to risk it with either of those four guys.
Arizona D/ST or Dallas D/ST - The anticipated run-heavy nature of this game should leave it low scoring, which isn't great for fantasy defenses, but with no starters coming near the field, turnovers could happen in bunches. With a limited chance of significant points being racked up, either defense is justifiable. Any of the four are in play, of course, and you can simply roster the one you think will have the lowest ownership or the one that doesn't oppose any of your offensive players.