For Sean Koerner’s complete DFS projections for Week 3 of the preseason, check out our NFL Models.

Week 3 of the preseason is the closest thing we’ll get to real NFL action before the Bears take on the Packers on Sept. 5. Expect to see plenty of starters play for at least a half, and some teams might even be feeling themselves enough to play their studs for up to three quarters.

What follows is an analysis on the optimal daily fantasy strategy and picks for the Preseason Week 3 DraftKings slate.

General Preseason DFS Strategy

Action Network NFL expert Chris Raybon wrote an incredibly helpful and actionable piece titled The Definitive Guide to Crushing Preseason DFS that tackles some of the unique nuances of preseason daily fantasy football.

Some of Raybon’s key takeaways were:

  • Fade starters/weekly regulars outside of Week 3.
  • Target players who are considered in the running for a spot on the 53, but without much prior tape of live NFL game action.
  • Feel free to target undrafted players at running back, wide receiver and/or tight end, but quarterbacks who post top-10 preseason results tend to be drafted more often than not.
  • Experience is not a big factor at quarterback. Less experience has also been better at running back and wide receiver. Experience has historically meant the most at tight end.
  • Running backs have had a slight edge as flex options, but wide receivers have been similarly productive. The tight end position should generally be avoided in the FLEX and faded completely in one-game contests.
  • Target teams with only one kicker on the roster and don’t hesitate to use a kicker or D/ST in the 1.5x spot in one-game contests.
  • Limit quarterback stacks to one pass catcher on large slates.
  • Stack DSTs with running backs or wide receivers vying for return jobs.
  • Don’t overrate Vegas odds.
  • Be aware of preseason coaching tendencies.
  • Local team beat reports are key.
  • Preseason lends itself to tournaments.

As you’ve probably realized by now: Evaluating opportunity is more important than ever compared to discerning talent gaps when it comes to preseason DFS.

Thursday’s NFL DFS Slate Breakdown

Everyone costs $5,500 on DraftKings this week, so there’s no need to concern ourselves with any pricing discrepancies.

Quarterback

The following quarterbacks are my favorite plays on the board for Thursday.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones (foot/rest) won’t suit up, but there are still few things working in Ryan’s favor.

  1. The Redskins ran zone coverage at the 10th-highest rate in the league last season. Ryan posted a 101.8 QB rating, averaged 1.9 touchdowns per game and 7.9 yards per attempt against defenses that ran zone at a top-12 rate last season.
  2. Ryan has averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with a 5.1% touchdown rate while completing 67% of his passes to produce an average of 18.2 fantasy points per game over his career indoors. Those numbers fall to 7.1, 4.4%, 63% and 17.3, respectively, when Ryan has played outdoors.

Ryan has thrown double-digit passes during each of the Falcons’ last three Week 3 preseason matchups, and he even attempted 14 passes last week. He’s more than capable of stringing together a couple first-half scoring drives with each of Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper expected to be available.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

All the cool kids laughed at the Giants when they drafted Jones with the sixth overall pick, but he’s managed to overcome the nation-wide disrespect and pretty much dominate the first two weeks of the preseason. Overall, Jones has completed 16-of-19 (84%) passes for 228 yards (12 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

While this is obviously a small sample size, Giants fans have good reason to be excited about the performance of Jones through two weeks.


Jones displayed the ability to cycle through multiple reads during last week’s performance. He’s demonstrated plenty of arm strength throughout the preseason, and we haven’t even seen him tap into his potential rushing upside yet (17 rushing scores in 36 career games at Duke).

The Bengals defense ranked 25th in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA and fourth-most DraftKings points per game to the quarterback position last season. Jones has a chance to smash with the potential for two quarters of work.

More QBs to Consider:

  • Dwayne Haskins, Redskins: Haskins showed off his b-e-a-utiful deep ball last week and has even showed off some improved rushing ability by converting three scrambles into 23 yards on ground.
  • Lamar Jackson, Ravens: Jackson has continued to offer up-and-down results as a passer in the preseason, but he reminded everyone just how quickly he’s able to rack up fantasy points last week.

 


Running Back

Our search for preseason fantasy football stars at running back will involve identifying players with…

  • Three-down size
  • Receiving ability
  • A fairly barren depth chart

The following running backs especially stick out as potential workhorses come Thursday night.

Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens

Hill has racked up a league-high 10 broken tackles this preseason (per Pro Football Focus). The Ravens’ fourth-round draft pick looks legit #good and has proven to be equally adept at exploding away from defenders as he is at bouncing off of tacklers inside the tackles.


Mark Ingram is fully expected to start Thursday night and Week 1, but Hill could carve out a decent-sized role sooner rather than later in an offense that lacks real explosiveness in the backfield.

The Ravens’ rushing attack doesn’t have the easiest matchup in the world against an Eagles defense that ranked ninth in DVOA against the run last season. Still, Hill and Co. should continue to benefit from wider rushing lanes stemming from Jackson and Trace McSorley’s dual-threat ability.

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles haven’t had a true three-down back during the Doug Pederson era. Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and even Josh Adams (reach) have flashed the ability to produce at a high level for short periods of time, but we’ve yet to see Carson Wentz work inside of an offense with a true game-changing talent at the running back position.

Enter: Sanders, who has turned heads during training camp and possesses a three-down skill-set that is unrivaled in the Eagles’ backfield. Sanders’ explosiveness was evident at Penn State in 2018 when he proved to be one of the tougher running backs in the country to get to the ground.

Miles Sanders’ Ranks Among Draft Eligible RBs (Pro Football Focus)

  • Forced missed tackles: 47 (tied eighth)
  • Yards after contact: 845 (seventh)
  • 10-plus yard runs: 38 (tied fifth)
  • Yards after contact per rush: 3.8 (13th)
Miles-Sanders

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Miles Sanders

It remains to be seen if the Ravens’ sixth-ranked defense in rush DVOA will continue to function at such an elite level without stud middle linebacker C.J. Mosely, who signed with the Jets this offseason.

More RBs to Consider:

  • Josh Jacobs, Raiders: Jacobs worked alongside Derek Carr and the first team offense last week and racked up 21 yards on just four carries. He should get more work in Week 3 and has a chance to rack up fantasy points in a hurry thanks to his ability to thrive as a pure receiver.
  • Leonard Fournette, Jaguars: The Jaguars have yet to expose Fournette to any preseason action, but his usage in Week 3 of last preseason (10 carries and three receptions) is tough to ignore. The Jaguars have the most snaps, fourth-most carries and most targets available in their backfield based on their roster carryover from 2018 to this season.
  • Kalen Ballage, Dolphins: Kenyan Drake is hurt, so the era of the ‘Ballage Mahal’ might just be now. Ballage might not be in the same stratosphere as Drake when it comes to pure talent as a runner, but he possesses a fantasy-friendly blend of size (6-foot-1 and 210 pounds), speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash) and receiving ability (posted an 82-684-2 line during his career at Arizona State).

Wide Receiver

Touches are even more scarce at wide receiver. Every team has at least 10 wide receivers on their depth chart at the moment, so expect to see low individual target shares around the league.

We can focus on drafting straight-up ballers with this in mind, or at least players who have managed to stand out from their competition to this point in training camp. If our players are going to get only a handful of targets at most, we might as well make sure the receivers have the ability to make big plays with their limited opportunities.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

One of the most popular breakout candidates entering the season is Samuel, who is locked in as a starting wide receiver alongside D.J. Moore in the Panthers’ two receiver sets. We saw Samuel (42 targets) barely work behind Moore (43) over the team’s final six games of 2019 once Devin Funchess was delegated to a backup role. Of course, Christian McCaffrey (53) continued to lead the way over that stretch.

The main reason for optimism behind Samuel ahead of Thursday night’s matchup against the Patriots is his status as the offense’s primary field-stretcher. Cam Newton’s shoulder is apparently feeling better than ever, and Samuel is the only returning Panthers’ receiver who boasted an average target depth of at least 10 yards.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers

The Packers are expected to ride with Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and MVS in 3-WR sets. MVS is the most-physically gifted of the group, as Valdez-Scantling has the size (6-foot-4 and 206 pounds), speed (4.37-second 40-yard dash) and athleticism (71st-percentile SPARQ-x score) of a true baller.

MVS (13.8 average target depth) was more frequently utilized down the field in 2018 compared to both Allison (13.3) and Adams (11.7). The Raiders managed to largely take away opponent’s No. 1 receivers last season (No. 2 in DVOA), but struggled mightily against No. 3 and No. 4 options (No. 30 in DVOA).

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Valdez-Scantling won’t need more than one or two successful connections from Aaron Rodgers to boom Thursday night.

More WRs to Consider:

  • Calvin Ridley, Falcons: Ridley should be stacked with Ryan. Ridley joins Randy Moss, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Williams (the Tampa Bay one) as the only rookies with double-digit receiving touchdowns over the past 25 years.
  • T.J. Jones, Giants: Jones has emerged as one of the most productive receivers in the league this preseason, reeling in nine-of-10 targets for 104 yards and a pair of scores. He’s a prime stacking partner in lineups with Danny Dimes at quarterback.
  • Tyler Boyd, Bengals: Andy Dalton has gone out of his way to feed Boyd in his brief action this preseason and now gets a matchup against a Giants defense that allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to slot receivers in 2018.
  • Josh Doctson, Redskins: Neither Trey Quinn nor Paul Richardson are expected to suit up, while third-round receiver Terry McLaurin has played a grand total of one snap through two weeks. This leaves Doctson as the the most-likely candidate to get some deep ball and/or red-zone against an underwhelming Falcons secondary.
  • Jakobi Meyers, Patriots: Meyers leads all wide receivers with 14 targets, 12 receptions and 151 receiving yards through two weeks. We can tentatively expect the high volume to continue considering Meyers has racked up 44 and 53 snaps over the past two weeks.
  • Hunter Renfrow, Raiders: Renfrow is seemingly set up to work as the Raiders’ starting slot receiver. His potential for a big night is fueled by the potential to see up to a half of action from ‘Captain Check Down’ Derek Carr.
  • D.J. Chark, Jaguars: Chark was reportedly the best wide receiver on the Jaguars during training camp. He’s a prime candidate to be the first recipient of one of Nick Foles’ patented tear-drop deep balls thanks to his combination of size (6-foot-3 and 199 pounds) and speed (4.34-second 40-yard dash).
  • Preston Williams, Dolphins: Williams balled out during the first week of the preseason and was inches away from again paying off for any and all fantasy investors last week.

 


Tight End

Remember to fade the tight end position in the flex spot.

The following tight ends are athletic pass-catching types on shallow depth charts:

  • Evan Engram, Giants: Engram worked as the PPR TE5 as a rookie in 2017 when Odell Beckham Jr. played in just four games, then as the TE2 over the final four games of 2018 with OBJ sidelined.
  • Austin Hooper, Falcons: Hooper converted 88 targets into a season-long 71-660-4 line in 2018. This included three games with at least nine receptions. He was one of just eight tight ends to play at least 75% of their offense’s snaps.
  • Darren Waller, Raiders: Waller has been on the tip of every beat writer’s tongue throughout the offseason. It’s easy to see why: He’s big (6-foot-6 and 255 pounds), fast (4.46-second 40-yard dash) and apparently has developed early chemistry with Carr.

Defense

The following matchups have the smallest game totals (per our Live NFL Odds page):

  • Ravens at Eagles (35.5)
  • Jaguars at Dolphins (38.5)

I’m inclined to ride with the visiting Jaguars. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jalen Ramsey and Co. earn their worth in less than a half of action against the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.

Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured: Justice Hill