Preseason FanDuel Guide: Week 4 DFS (Fantasy Football)
All good things must come to an end, friends. As quickly as it came, Preseason is now nearing its conclusion. Week 3 gave us starters, injuries, and perhaps even more questions than it did answers, but now Week 4 gives us clearly defined trends in playing time and an opportunity, once again, to gain an edge over the competition in this week’s DFS contests.
How is Week 4 different than Weeks 1-3?
Week 4, traditionally, has been the week in between roster cuts– the week after your 90-man roster is trimmed to 75 and the week before it’s cut to the final 63. This year, however, it is not. Teams are no longer required to cut their rosters down to 75 before the final cut this year and because of it, there’s a chance playing time could be spread a bit thinner than in years past. The main argument against this is the fact that coaches are creatures of habit– coaches won’t completely alter their approach just because they have a few extra players on the roster. I believe we may see a larger emphasis placed on position battles (beat reporters will be the best way to identify these opportunities) and playing time should follow suit.
Playing Time Breakdown
As we’ve used in previous weeks, all playing time statistics are provided by the NFL Game Stats and Information System. The previous three weeks have all been surging in the playing time provided for starters, each week getting those starters more and more time. This week, however, should see an even more defined pattern for playing time as measured by Average Snap%. Here’s a look at each week of the 2016 preseason:
Week 4 provides the clearest picture of playing time that we’ve seen all year and it comes on teams with three QBs on the roster, at the QB3 position. This is also seen with a very healthy sample size — this data was collected by 18 teams (all of which, again, had three QBs on their depth chart. Even before seeing the data on teams with four QBs, it’s clear that third-string options on teams with three QBs are going to be the primary targets at QB this week. It makes sense, as well, as these teams are likely already locked into their two QBs and will be seeing if there is merit in carrying three QBs on their roster for the regular season. For teams with four preseason QBs, there’s more of a time share as QBs are jostling for position:
For teams with four quarterbacks, the main difference comes with QB3 and QB4 — the time share is essentially split down the middle, while QB1 and QB2 time stays relatively unaffected. Therefore, the jump is so drastic, I would not look beyond rosters with three QBs on the roster (regardless of talent level) unless there is strong confirmation from inside the team that one of the QBs will receive 50% of the snaps or more.
For Running Backs and Receivers, there is another factor to remember when considering who will be getting playing time: Special Teams. If a player is on the bubble, their special teams play will typically be the deciding factor on their worth/value of that roster spot. That being said, if a player is already locked into a special team role, there is less incentive for them to receive snaps on offense when coaches can see what other potential players provide. So on teams with more RBs on the roster, that can often be a deciding factor. Let’s jump into our Snap% data on teams carrying five RBs:
In the era of RBBC, RB1 and RB2 both see significant protection in the final preseason game. The beneficiaries are the legs behind them at RB3-RB5. Young players and veteran role players will all get a chance to carve out their spot during this week’s games so it is important to review Weeks 1-3 and see who has the hot hand. Additionally, if there is a well-defined RB3 on the depth chart, it is worth investing in them (as we saw with DeAndre Washington, Terron Ward, and Rob Kelley in Week 4 last preseason). This rule, though, only seems true for teams rostering five RBs. Let’s explore the data for teams with six RBs:
This data seems to suggest that most teams will latch onto the three RBs and give them all a healthy workload to find who manages the most efficiency and production. RB4-RB6 on teams with six RBs all average a decent amount of playing time and rival the consistent playing time that RB3-RB5 see on teams with five RBs. Talent and buzz should help mold your choice for RB this week, but data may suggest keeping it to teams with five or six RBs on the roster:
The spread is so thin with seven RBs on the roster that it is hard to defend a choice of RB on a seven RB team. The data on RB7 in a situation is a bit misleading, as there were only five teams with qualifying roster construction. All of this to say, find an RB you like on a five or six RB team and ride him this week.
Sticking with consistency, we will, again, analyze the WR position as a whole, without regard to the number of WRs on the roster (as its impact is negligible due to the high volatility of the position). Here are the WR Snap% from Preseason 2016:
When targeting WRs for this final week of preseason, it is important to look for guys outside of the starting 3 — and even outside of the starting 4 for teams that have spread, four-wide looks on a consistent basis. By targeting the latter half of the depth chart, we should expect to find receivers who will see roughly 35% of the snaps this week. As with previous weeks, younger prospects have a better chance at seeing their playing time increased this week, as all reps are critical for young talent buried on the depth chart.
Week 4 playing time for TEs provides another opportunity, like Week 1, for players behind the top two on the depth chart:
With this information, it becomes valuable to identify TE3 and TE4 options that have talent and are in need of reps. By finding these choices, you’ll have a good chance at differentiating as TE can often times go overlooked.
Week 4 Plays
Note: This article was written Wednesday, 8/30. Preseason DFS is fluid so keep an ear to the ground, but these will at least give you a solid starting point for your research.
Jeff Driskel (CIN)
In the last three weeks, Driskel has gone 12 of 18 for 143 yards and a TD through the air with nine carries for 63 yards and a TD on the ground. This week, he’s going up against an Indianapolis team that allowed an average of 289 yards and three TDs over the first two weeks of preseason. I think Driskel is in a prime position to light things up and prove to the Bengals that he is worth the cost of carrying three QBs during the regular season.
Connor Cook (OAK)
Cook comes into Week 4 of preseason needing to prove himself in hopes of besting E.J. Manuel in a competition for the role of Derek Carr’s backup. Cook has thrown for 254 yards and a TD with 28 completions on 52 attempts through the first three games of the preseason. He faces a Seahawks team expected to play a very vanilla scheme this week with plenty of reps for their backups. Listen and see if Del Rio releases any information on the Cook/Manuel time-share but barring anything less than a 50/50 split, Cook should be strongly considered.
Alvin Kamara (NO)
Kamara is averaging 10.67 yards/carry through the preseason. He had one rushing touchdown and a 22-yard reception in his last appearance, and I expect to see more of his explosiveness and play-making ability sprinkled throughout their preseason finale against the Ravens. He also fits our criteria of being an RB on a team with (five or) six RBs.
Dwayne Washington (DET)
Washington and Zenner were the workhorse backs for Detroit last year in preseason as Abdullah and Riddick were being protected. This week should be fairly similar as they both prove their worth above competition Tion Green and Matt Asiata. As Zenner seems a bit more solidly positioned as the RB3 for the Lions, I think Washington is in a position where he will be playing with more motivation and opportunity as the Lions face-off against the Bills.
Justin Hunter (PIT)
Hunter was a Week 1 Preseason bust, but came back from that with value in Week 2, catching a TD pass and standing as a comfortable target for Josh Dobbs. This week, against Carolina, Hunter knows he needs a big game to try and find a spot on the roster. He, Eli Rogers, and Cobi Hamilton have been competing against one another and it seems Hunter is in a position that would require a big game to lock him in the current roster, as all three receivers have had their moment this preseason.
Tommylee Lewis (NO)
Moving from a bust of Week 1 (Hunter) to a darling of Week 1: Tommylee Lewis. Lewis has explosive potential every time he touches the ball. In Week 1, Garrett Grayson targeted him 11 times and got 10 receptions for 124 yards and a TD out of it. With Grayson competing against Ryan Nassib for a spot (QB3) that may not officially be available, it should be expected he will be looking for his favorite receiver throughout his audition.
Bryce Treggs (PHI)
Philly receiver, Bryce Treggs, has had a tumultuous preseason. He lit up the tape in Week 1, going for 91 yards on seven receptions as well as landing in hot water over his block on Damarious Randall. Week 2 he sat out with an Achilles strain and Week 3 he was quiet with only one catch. Week 4 is a golden opportunity for Treggs as he competes with Marcus Johnson and Greg Ward Jr. for the final receiver spot on the roster.
David Njoku (CLE)
Njoku didn’t play in Week 1 but his reps seem to be on the rise as he’s seen five targets over the last two games. Njoku fits the mold as a young TE, currently sitting 3rd on the most recent depth chart behind Randall Telfer and Seth DeValve. Njoku can use all the reps he can get at this point in time, and I would not be surprised to see him play the majority of the game.
According to Ourlads Depth Charts, the following teams currently have only one kicker on the roster (meaning they are all preseason viable): Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Lions, Packers, Saints, Cardinals, Rams, and Seahawks.
Picking on the Jets has been a profitable endeavor so far this preseason, and the Eagles have very solid depth on the defensive side of the ball this year. With that knowledge, I feel very confident rolling with the Eagles D.
It’s a bittersweet feeling for us Preseason DFS fans, seeing the preseason come to a close. Gaining an edge on the field will shift as we transition into the regular season but the information accumulated during this preseason will pay off as we see injuries begin to force some playing time for the depth on many teams. Until next time, enjoy this final preseason action and look forward to those big prize pools of the Regular Season.