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Preseason FanDuel Guide: Week 1 DFS (Fantasy Football)

by Ethan Sauers | @ethansauers | Featured Writer
Aug 2, 2017

Tajae Sharpe should see extensive playtime while competing for his spot

That time of year is upon us, once again. We’ve made it past the fireworks and into August, the season of back-to-school ads and two-a-days. August is the magical time when all becomes right with the world, as football takes center-stage and the FanDuel lobby fills up with NFL contests. This August, you’ll notice that FanDuel has added an appetizer to whet your whistle before the action heats up in Week 1. Yes, this year, FanDuel is offering Preseason DFS for their NFL constituents, and there’s no better time to get in on the action. So let’s jump in with a primer to guide your approach for this week’s slate.

Check out FanDuel’s Week 1 preseason contests >>

How is Preseason DFS different from Regular Season? 

Preseason DFS is a completely different animal than regular season. The major difference that will immediately jump out is that all players are evenly priced. This means that there is no difference in cost between Aaron Rodgers and Blaine Gabbert. But before we go ahead and make our very own all-star team, let’s break down last year’s opening week of preseason to see who typically receives the most playing time.

Playing Time Breakdown 

Quarterback

According to the NFL Game Stats and Information System’s tracking of playtime percentage, there is a distinct bump in snaps for QBs on teams with 3 QBs as opposed to QBs on teams with 4 QBs (which seems obvious, right?). The advantage translated into a near 7% bump for any given team’s QB2 and an almost 8% bump for the team’s QB3. Breakdown seen here:

Depth Chart QB1 Snap % QB2 Snap % QB3 Snap % QB4 Snap %
3 QBs on Team 13.8% 44.65% 41.55%
4 QBs on Team 9% 37.82% 33.64% 19.73%

 

This is your first edge. Unless there is major chatter to imply otherwise (ie: coach says QB will get extended playing time beyond what is typical) find a team with 3 QBs on the depth chart and target their QB2 or QB3.

Running Back

Depth Chart RB 1 Snap % RB 2 Snap % RB 3 Snap % RB 4 Snap % RB 5 Snap % RB 6 Snap %
4 RBs on Team* 0% 0% 21% 58%
5 RBs on Team 11.11% 13.33% 22.78% 23.22% 28.56%
6 RBs on Team 9.63% 12.94% 20.06% 20.19% 19.63% 14.94%

 

*Note, only the Cowboys entered Week 1 last season with 4 RBs on their roster. Additionally, they gave FB Rod Smith 35% of the snaps as well, utilizing him in an RB role part of the time. Thus 4 RB data may be applied cautiously to 2017.

As you can see, RBs have a bit more even spread. If the data tells us anything, I would lean toward looking for teams with 4 or 5 RBs on the roster that have a young (first- or second-year) player buried on the depth chart. Last season, Week 1 had strong playing time for players in this role: Elijhaa Penny (36% – Arizona), Kenneth Dixon (38% – Baltimore), Terrell Watson (44% – Cleveland), C.J. Ham (54% – Minnesota), Kenneth Farrow (59% – Los Angeles Chargers). Most of these players had been talked up by coaches and beat writers in the days leading up to the matchup, but we’ll discuss this aspect more below.

Wide Receiver

Due to the volume of WRs on each roster, I won’t break it down by number of receivers on the roster (however the basic rule of less WRs on the roster = more opportunity still applies). Instead, the following data will show overall Snap % for WRs 1-6 on the depth charts for Week 1 of Preseason 2016:

WR 1 Snap % WR 2 Snap % WR 3 Snap % WR 4 Snap % WR 5 Snap % WR 6 Snap %
11.81% 16.81% 21% 29.25% 25.47% 27.22%

 
Seeing this breakdown pretty clearly suggests that WR1 & WR2 should only be considered for a spot in your lineup if you’ve heard explicit information from a coach or beat writer that they will see an unusually high amount of playing time. The best potential for volume will lie in WRs 3 and beyond on the depth chart. Again, youth will pay off in searching for playing time. Last year saw Sammie Coates (68% – Pittsburgh), Leonte Carroo (75% – Miami), Daniel Braverman (63% – Chicago), Paul Turner (61% – Philadelphia), and Robbie Anderson (53% – New York Jets) all come in with +50% of the snaps and ample opportunity to make an impact.

Tight End

TEs follow a similar pattern. The TE1 and TE2 for any given team typically don’t see a lion’s share of snaps — TE1 comes in at 11.72% and TE2 at 25.88%, so it’s best to dig down the depth chart to find your TE play. Keep an ear to the ground for buzz, particularly concerning pass-catching TEs in their second and third year, as the TE position is such a tough position to adapt to in the NFL. Rookies often don’t have the full skill-set under their belt, particularly in preseason. Players to watch this year will likely include Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles Rams), Rico Gathers (Dallas), Seth DeValve (Cleveland), and Matt Lengel (New England) who all fit this mold.

The Importance of Beat Writers 

Preseason DFS is all about listening to the blowing of the wind (read: Twitter). The best thing to do, in order to gain information and your competitive advantage, is to follow an extensive, frequently updated, list of beat writers to stay informed throughout training camp. Game day updates happen frequently and standout players will get plenty of chatter by coaches and writers leading up to their Week 1 game.

Week 1 Plays

Note: This article was written on Tuesday, 8/1. As I just mentioned, Preseason DFS is fluid. Keep an ear to the ground, but these will at least give you a solid starting point for your research.

Quarterback

Nate Sudfeld (WAS)
We already know that Washington will likely be looking for Kirk Cousin’s heir apparent in D.C. next season, so this preseason will be very important in testing their two backups, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld. I could see Sudfeld getting a large amount of playing time, Week 1, as the ‘Skins only carry 3 QBs on the roster.

Jacoby Brissett (NE)
New England is another team that carries 3 QBs and I would be very shocked if Brady sees the field for Week 1 against Jacksonville. Add to the fact that Garoppolo will likely be an insurance policy for Brady, there will be little reason to risk Garoppolo in the preseason opener. I could see Brissett earning upwards of 60% of snaps against the Jaguars.

Running Back

Donnel Pumphrey (PHI)
For those of you unfamiliar with Pumphrey, I’d certainly recommend watching some of his college film. Pumphrey is shifty and speedy in ways that will certainly be tantalizing to offensive coordinator, Frank Reich. With the depth on the Eagles depth chart, Pumphrey will likely see more opportunity early in preseason before the competition really heats up.

Tyler Ervin (HOU)
In a similar mold to Pumphrey, Ervin is an explosive young RB that’s buried a bit on the depth chart. Ervin should have ample opportunity to prove that he’s RB3 after Miller and Foreman. I would expect him to get between 25% and 35% of the RB snaps against Carolina this week.

Wide Receiver

Rashard Higgins (CLE)
As stated in the WR section, we’re looking to find a player who is young but cost their team decent Draft Capital to acquire. This is a great spot for Higgins, last year’s fifth-round pick out of Colorado State. Cleveland will likely be throwing a decent amount this preseason in an attempt to flesh out what they have at the QB position. Kessler, Osweiler, Hogan, and Kizer will all be aiming for a chance to impress, and this former college stand-out should get plenty of reps as they hope he transitions into a bigger role this season, with Pryor’s departure.

Tajae Sharpe (TEN)
Another WR entering his second year, Sharpe will see much more competition for his spot on the depth chart than he did last year. Sharpe is now stashed below Corey Davis, Eric Decker, and Rishard Matthews and competing with the likes of rookies Taywan Taylor and KeVonn Mabon. (Note: Sharpe has been on the PuP List since June, but chatter from the Titans is that he should be back in camp soon).

Justin Hunter (PIT)
Hunter has already earned high praise from those in attendance at Steelers Camp. Chris Adamski for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has already dubbed him the Training “Camp Darling” for the Steelers. I will expect to see Pittsburgh utilize him as much as possible throughout the preseason.

Tight End

Rico Gathers (DAL)
Buzz from Oxnard is sounding like Witten and Hanna will likely see negligible playtime this preseason as their spots on the roster are fairly secure. Gathers, however, should fill in for their absence and looks to earn his keep as TE3.

Kicker

Use any kicker on a team with one kicker. As of today this means any kicker not on the Jets, Bengals, Browns, Texans, Titans, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Bears, Vikings, Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers, and 49ers.

Defense

Tennessee Titans
Some things will translate from preseason to regular season, and this is one of them: Pick on the Jets.

Trust your sources as you hear from beat writers on who is shining and who is struggling in camp. It cannot be overstated how important this is. Look for opportunities that balance healthy talent with ample opportunity.

Check out FanDuel’s Week 1 preseason contests >>

Ethan Sauers is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Ethan, check out his archive and follow him @ethansauers.

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