Half the battle when trying to figure out which NFL players to use for DraftKings’ daily fantasy football preseason games is simply figuring out who is or isn’t playing. That can be difficult, as anyone who is remotely injured won’t play in a meaningless game and any starters are subject to either being sat or played for a short amount of time.
The decision-making does start to get a little easier when you hear about specific guys behind held out, other players needing to prove themselves for a role or roster spot and a lack of depth at a position pointing to someone getting a good amount of reps.
On Thursday night, we got some crazy production out of some odd places. It’s preseason daily fantasy football, so that’s to be expected and we can probably bank on the unthinkable again on Friday. We can’t predict any of that, though. Instead, all we can do is go with what we’re told by teams and the media, and hope for the best. With that, let’s take a look at Friday’s NFL preseason slate and see which players might make for interesting DFS options at DraftKings:
QB: Ryan Nassib (Giants), Joe Callahan (Packers), Landry Jones (Steelers), A.J. McCarron (Bengals), Cody Kessler (Browns) and Connor Cook (Raiders)
Two of last year’s best preseason quarterbacks hit the field on Friday, with Ryan Nassib and Landry Jones both likely to see about a half of football. Both passers were solid in August last year, finishing inside the top-5 for passing yardage in preseason play. Neither is actually technically a good player, but the playing time should be there.
Nassib specifically should play a good deal, as the Giants are expected to hold starter Eli Manning out. That does put Nassib against Miami’s first team defense, but he should play a good deal and could make for a solid DFS play. The same goes for Jones, but these guys really only get the initial edge based on what they did a year ago.
There might actually be more attractive options. Green Bay third stringer Joe Callahan, while as unproven and raw as a quarterback can get, could play an entire half or much more, should Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley both sit out. That was the expectation going into last week’s Hall of Fame game, but then that game got cancelled. Callahan was a stat-stuffer at Wesley College, so with some interesting talent around him and a beatable Browns defense across from him, he might be the most fun to be had in daily fantasy football tonight.
He could also be a total disaster. That’s why we need to also consider other rookies like Kessler and Cook, both of which are easily more polished and may play just as long.
It’s McCarron that excites us the most, though. He has experience as a starter now and with Andy Dalton playing little to no time tonight, he could be in for a good chunk of playing time.
RB: Zach Zenner (Lions), Paul Perkins (Giants), John Crockett (Packers), Duke Johnson (Browns) and DeAndre Washington (Raiders)
Zenner stands out without a doubt, as he was a monster DFS preseason asset last year and made the Lions’ 2015 roster because of it.
Preseason fantasy leaders, 2015:
QB: Brett Hundley, 55
RB: Zach Zenner, 43
WR: Rashad Ross, 51
TE: Chase Coffman, 31 pic.twitter.com/gVRubHTNBS
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 7, 2016
He’s in heavy contention for a solid role again in 2016, but surely needs another strong August run to stave off Stevan Ridley. You could also add Ridley to the mix here, but he seems a little washed up. I’ll be using Zenner confidently tonight.
Rookis Paul Perkins and DeAndre Washington are going to be fun tries tonight, simply because they’re very talented and should see the field a good chunk of the night. Neither are safe options based on their inexperience, but they can make some noise tonight and will be worth using.
Duke Johnson is probably not running with Cleveland’s first team, but either way he isn’t a safe bet to see a ton of action in Cleveland’s first preseason game. That being said, he’s really explosive and versatile, so forever long he’s playing, he’s a threat to spring some big plays. Even if it’s a quarter, he could be worth rostering.
Crockett is my dark horse, as the Packers aren’t likely to play their top rushers much and they seem to be high on him. He still needs to prove he is deserving of a roster spot, though, and he gets to attempt to do that against a bad Browns run defense. I like his chances to get around 10 touches and maybe find the end-zone.
WR: Jeff Janis (Packers), Jared Abbrederis (Packers), J.J. Nelson (Cardinals), Sammie Coates (Steelers), Sterling Shepard (Giants), Laquon Treadwell (Vikings), Tyler Boyd (Bengals), Terrelle Pryor (Browns), Corey Coleman (Browns) and Max McCaffrey (Raiders)
Wide receiver is all over the place, but I don’t see how you can make a team without Janis, who burst onto the scene the last two preseason and was huge in Green Bay’s playoff loss last year. He still has work to do, but he should get ample playing time and is so explosive that he only needs one touch to pay off.
Teammate Abbrederis should also play a ton and although he doesn’t have the same big play upside, he’s been impressive in camp and could see a lot of balls come his way.
I’m also looking at some interesting backups in good offenses, with Coates and Nelson taking the cake. Both guys can spring big plays and will need some time to prove themselves tonight. Tyler Boyd, Sterling Shepard, Laquon Treadwell and Corey Coleman are all uber-hyped rookies that have the talent to kill it tonight, as well.
Pryor seems like a gimmick to this point, but maybe he’ll really start turning heads tonight.
One other guy I’m interested in is Oakland’s Max McCaffrey. He was a solid receiver at Duke and has blazing speed. The difficult part will be trusting his playing time, as he’s reportedly gotten inconsistent opportunities in camp. Still, I’m interested in his speed and he could potentially see the field a good amount to close out the night.
TE: Jesse James (Steelers), MarQueis Gray (Dolphins), MyCole Pruitt (Vikings), Ryan Hewitt (Bengals), Justin Perillo (Packers) and Troy Niklas (Cardinals)
Tight end is one of the worst positions to try to predict during preseason games. James could be a good try with LaDarius Green possibly set to retire, though. The Steelers may need him to be their starter in 2016, so getting him a lot of extra work would probably be a good idea.
Ryan Hewitt and Justin Perillo doesn’t promote a ton of upside (or confidence), but Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft are all banged up. Based on sheer playing time, these guys are in the mix. I’m not overly into Troy Niklas just because Arizona doesn’t properly utilize the tight end position, but he’s actually quite talented and has been drawing “rave reviews” this summer. He should see the field a good amount and isn’t a terrible try at a weak DFS position.
Gray and Pruitt are no more stable than the other guys we touched on, but they both have found some success during past preseason games. With both guys being backups and playing for a roster spot, it wouldn’t at all be shocking to see either (or both) deliver solid performances, possibly out of pure desperation.
DEF: Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals
Defense is a total toss-up most weeks even during the regular season, but in preseason play, forget about it. We love the Jaguars yesterday, only to see the first and second team Jets’ units to fare pretty well. Not seeing Christian Hackenberg hit the field also hurt our upside with that particular unit.
Tonight we should just play the initial matchup odds, here, and all of these defenses have some potential. Cincinnati and Arizona are simply good defense in general, so maybe they can get some sacks or turnovers early and put you in a good spot. The Steelers can also do that, plus they’ll be facing a mostly drab Lions offense once the starters leave the field.
Cleveland is the dark horse here, as they’re facing mostly Joe Callahan. Callahan does have weapons and some upside, but he’s also super inexperience and could struggle mightily. You’ll need to pick a side here, but if you get the right one you should be rather pleased.
Got your own daily fantasy football preseason targets to share with us? Tell us all about them in the comments below!