Preseason DFS Guide: Week 2 (2018 Fantasy Football)
One week of Preseason down and it is one week closer to the regular season. If that’s not something to celebrate, you’re likely in the wrong place. Week 1 saw top scorers that matched the tendencies that the research exposed: a young QB on a team with three QBs on the roster (Chad Kelly), a young and talented RB buried on the depth chart (Roc Thomas), and young WRs playing on the second and third team (Antonio Callaway and Jake Kumerow). It wasn’t that simple in narrowing down that those guys were the right plays, but following the data will continue to point us in the right direction. Now, onto Week 2.
How is Week 2 of Preseason different from Week 1?
So, in the breakdown of preseason weeks for the NFL, Week 1 is typically the week where coaches are trying to suss out their fringe-options on the depth chart to figure out how many of each position they plan on keeping for the final 53-man roster. We also know that Week 3 is traditionally the week when starters get to play for an entire half of the game (making it, typically, the most-watched week of preseason). So where does that leave Week 2? Floating in a bit of no-man’s land, quite honestly. This is where position battles and coaching philosophy become focal points for narrowing down lineups to enter into DFS slates. On one hand, coaches who have a firm idea of what their team is and who have veteran QBs that possess solid chemistry with their receiving corps have little to gain from keeping their starters in the game for any longer than one or two series. On the flip side, teams with QB position battles or teams with young starters can get a clearer picture of what kind of talent they possess and establish better team chemistry by leaving their starters on the field for a longer time. With that in mind, let’s dive into some data on how Week 2 playing time differs from Week 1.
Playing Time Breakdown
Again, for all playing time statistics, I will be using the data provided from the NFL Game Stats and Information System. In Week 1, our primary focus was to play the QB2 or QB3 on teams with three QBs on the roster. Here is a breakdown of Average Snap% for QBs in Week 1 and Week 2 of 2016 and 2017 on teams that fall into this category:
|Week 1||14.36%||46.08 %||39.69%|
|Week 2||31.02 %||41.59%||26.83%|
As seen, QB1 Snap% more than doubles on three-QB teams, however, QB2 still receives the most playing time, on average. Again, look at the offensive dynamic and try to read if a coach prioritizes increased chemistry/reps for his starters against the risk for injury. This will be the defining variable that should impact your decision. However, if you believe the starting QB will be in situations that can provide 1.44x in terms of fantasy points, this data would point toward playing a starter (in a vacuum where all reps are equal, this may be the case, but in cases where coaches are looking to protect QB1 more than QB2, it’s not quite as simple). On teams with four QBs, we see a similar pattern:
Here the jump is more defined for QB1, however, their playing time for both weeks is below that of QB1s on three-QB teams. So our rules from Week 1 still give us a solid guide in pinpointing teams to target, however, specific team dynamics are more important when finally selecting which QB to roster.
As outlined last week, most teams keep 5-to-7 running backs on their roster through Training Camp. Teams with less competition will once again see their players benefit with more opportunities for preseason playing time, however, age will be an important thing to keep note of when comparing backs on the same team. As a general rule of thumb, older RBs do not see as much preseason work as younger RBs, as the preseason adds unnecessary wear and tear to players (particularly RBs). Keeping that in mind, let’s compare average Snap% for RBs on teams carrying five RBs:
The data suggests similar tendencies between QBs and RBs. We see an uptick in snaps for starters. The biggest change, however, is for RBs deeper on the depth chart as the snaps for RB5 are essentially cut in half. So the middle of the depth charts are going to be friendly to DFS players this week, especially if younger backs can be found on these teams with five RBs. Now let’s address teams rostering six RBs:
Immediately, you realize that the increased competition really levels the playing field for Snap% at RB. It’s a little dicey trying to pick a player on teams with this many RBs, however, if there is a young talent at RB3 or RB4, they may be worth consideration as they will be playing against practice squad talent on defense. This may be of increased value to pass-catching RBs, as they can be found in space and don’t get any downgrade running behind practice squad talent on offensive line. Presented with little commentary (as it is a continuation on the previous point on competition) is the data for RBs on teams with seven RBs:
As stated previously, increased competition really limits upside for RBs. Unless the perfect situation/player comes through in your research, I would avoid teams with seven RBs.
As stated in last week’s article, the number of WRs on the roster has negligible impact on playing time, as the position has a higher degree of volatility. Therefore, I will just provide overall WR Snap% from Week 1 and Week 2 of the last two preseasons:
Okay, so there are a few points I’d like to address with this data. As a preface, breaking down WR spots on a depth chart is convoluted and has a whole mess of problems to try and take into consideration. The primary issue is that all receivers are not utilized equally. Coaches will have a WR to backup each role in their schemes – this means outside receivers backup outside receivers and slot receivers backup (you guessed it) slot receivers. Breaking down receiver roles is equally important as seeing how far they’re buried on the latest depth chart because the sixth-most talented WR may get the nod over the fourth-most talented WR if their roles in the offense are different. That being said, I think we can see that rule come to life with this data, a bit. We see a pretty even spread of Snap% for WRs. WR1 and WR2 see a nice bump in snaps, and nobody on the top half of the depth chart really sees any drastic drop in snaps. This means that the increase in snaps for the top of the lineup is coming from the tail-end of this data set, WR6 and beyond. The reason for this is because WRs that low on the depth chart are primarily being prepped and auditioned for roles in Special Teams. After Week 1, the snaps for the lesser receivers get cut as coaches begin to focus on which six or seven receivers can make an impact and have a spot in their offense (WR4, WR5, and WR6 all see significant playing time because of this).
The breakdown for TE is always foggy for preseason football, as roles for TEs (blocking vs. receiving) are even more important to consider than they are for WR. However, the notable difference in Week 1 TE data and Week 2 TE data is a jump in snaps for TE1:
As TE1 and TE2 now eat up roughly half of the snaps for the game, it seems viable that we shouldn’t have to dig too deep in their depth charts to select our pick.
Week 2 Plays
Note: This article was written on Wednesday, 8/15. 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.
Teddy Bridgewater (NYJ)
Last week, Bridgewater went 7-of-8 for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. His snaps, this preseason, seem to carry more weight than some others around the league as Bridgewater is seen by many as a potential starting QB. With Darnold on the team, the Jets won’t be using Teddy as their QB of the future, but he’ll have an opportunity to attract potential trade suitors while going up against Washington on Thursday night. On Sunday, in practice, Darnold took the majority of the first-team snaps and all indicators are pointing towards him being the starter for this season. This is a great opportunity for Darnold to get first-team reps in a preseason game and see how he fairs against the starting Washington defense. That will likely push Teddy’s reps to the second half, against second and third-team players. I’ll take that, gladly, when looking for a preseason QB.
Russell Wilson (SEA)
This is a choice that would be entirely dictated by previous years’ data: Russell Wilson has played for an average of 44% of snaps in Preseason Week 2 games over the last two years (39% in 2016 and 49% in 2017). Listen for any injury news, as even the slightest bump would likely cause the Seahawks to play it safe with their franchise QB, but I really like Wilson in Week 2.
Samaje Perine (WAS)
After seeing Derrius Guice go down with a torn ACL, all eyes are now locked on the Washington backfield as Samaje Perine, Robert Kelley, and Chris Thompson will help shoulder the load this season. Thompson is still trying to come back from his broken fibula that he suffered late last year so Perine and Kelley will have a premium opportunity to prove their talent this season. Gruden, traditionally, plays his starters 25-45% of the game in Week 2 of Preseason, so keep an eye on this rotation (and the wild card, Byron Marshall).
Ronald Jones (TB)
This week, Bucs Head Coach, Dirk Koetter named Peyton Barber the RB1 in Tampa. Regardless of whether you believe this will have an impact on the regular season RB rotation, it absolutely affects the preseason rotation. A coach only comes out to tell the media of a change on the depth chart because they’re addressing an injury or they’re trying to use it as motivation. If it’s the latter, that means he’s looking for Ronald Jones to prove him wrong and it is well within reason he will give Jones every opportunity to do so, starting this week. Jones is a young RB, with talent, in the middle of his team’s depth chart. This is exactly the type of player to target at RB this week.
Riley McCarron (NE)
Once again, this is a data-driven pick. McCarron was a disappointment last week, but let’s give the data a chance to tell it’s story. Last year, Bill Belichick gave Devin Lucien 59% and Austin Carr 88% of the snaps in Week 1 of preseason. In Week 2, Lucien received 65% and Carr 80% of the snaps. Belichick goes back to the well and allows for Week 1 performers to have a follow-up in Week 2. This can be seen in 2016 as well when Aaron Dobson logged 66% of Week 1 snaps and then 59% of Week 2 snaps. Now, back to McCarron: he led the WRs in snaps last week with 58%. He should at least be given another opportunity to capitalize.
Aldrick Robinson (SF)
In Week 2 of Preseason last year, the guys who had the top snap counts were a combination of fringe-candidates for the 53-man roster and young WRs learning the system. The first group included guys like Willie Snead (60%), Jared Abbrederis (62%), and Justin Hunter (55%). Aldrick Robinson is absolutely a fringe-option at this point for the 49ers. They brought in Dante Pettis and Richie James through the draft, this year. Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon have established roles and Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor have all impressed in camp. That WR room is just crowding out Robinson’s chances of making the final roster. He’ll likely have an opportunity this week to try and sort out exactly where he is on the depth chart, and he’ll look to show why Preseason DFS players consider him “Lord Aldrick.”
DaeSean Hamilton (DEN)
The second group, mentioned above, is where Hamilton fits in. Last year, Zay Jones (44%), John Ross (44%), and Taywan Taylor (48%) all saw extended playing time as they were trying to acclimate to the new system and the NFL game-speed. Hamilton should see plenty of snaps this week as he’s impressed in camp thus-far and could benefit from additional reps in the new system. Courtland Sutton is in a similar situation, but due to draft capital and his being an earlier draft pick, there’s a chance Sutton’s reps could be limited.
Dallas Goedert (PHI)
Goedert has all of the tools to be even more than Zach Ertz‘s backup. All signs are pointing towards Philadelphia finding ways to use Goedert as a regular weapon in this offense and even alongside of Ertz. This preseason, Goedert will get reps on reps on reps, as TE has such a large learning curve when stepping up to the professional level.
Harbaugh has had his defense ready to go and is notoriously aggressive in the preseason with their schemes. They’ll be facing an Indianapolis team that allowed three sacks to the Seahawks and have ample opportunity for sacks and turnovers (the focal point of what to look for in a DFS defense).
Finally, continue to trust the beat writers and use their opinions to rank talent. Meanwhile, defer to their quotes from coaching staff/reps seen in practice to help decipher playing time. Otherwise, enjoy the fact that another season is nigh on the horizon and use this preseason to mine deep regular season sleepers.