The NFL Preseason Primer is aimed to highlight the top plays of the weekly cheat sheet to help you build a winning roster.
NFL preseason is by far one of the harder sports to project as no ones playing time is guaranteed. For a majority of the preseason, we will be focusing on rookie opportunity and roster bubble competitions. No preseason week is like the other so our strategy will change with the times. Week one typically sees the starters touching the field for a series or two if at all. Guys who project out as roster bubbles will get the most run this week as it is going to be their brief chance to showcase their abilities. With neither DraftKings or FanDuel placing unique pricing on players, our potential for field leverage is the highest it has ever been.
Tyler Bray, CHI – Bray might not be the most attractive name in the player pool, but he very well could end up being the one with the most snaps/playing time come Thursday. Chicago is only carrying three quarterbacks, one of them being starter Mitch Trubisky who very likely will not play or very minimal. That leaves Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray as the only other active quarterbacks and I don’t imagine Chicago risking injury on Daniel, who is signed on a $3 million deal. Bray’s upside isn’t super exciting, but he checks the guaranteed playing time box.
Trace McSorley, BAL – With RG3 sidelined with a thumb injury, McSorley will start the preseason as the starter or backup, depending on how liberal Baltimore is with Lamar Jackson. Regardless, a current camp darling in McSorley should see plenty of field time to lock up a backup job in Baltimore. The rookie product from Penn State brings a 3:1 TD:INT ratio and 30 rushing touchdowns to the NFL. The Ravens did sign Joe Callahan to round out the roster, but McSorley is a near-lock for two-quarters of field time with dual-threat upside.
Joe Webb, HOU – Fellow quarterback AJ McCarron suffered a hand injury on Tuesday, which could leave the Texans with just DeShaun Watson and Joe Webb available against the Packers. We can’t expect Houston to push Watson too hard which leaves Webb as the current top option on the slate. Keep an eye on McCarron’s status, though Webb is a preferred play regardless.
Others to consider: Paxton Lynch, Drew Lock, Jarrett Stidham, Garrett Gilbert, Dwayne Haskins, Josh Rosen, Chad Kelly, Matt Schaub
Reggie Bonnafon, CAR – Bonnafon has been working in camp as a pass-catching running back which is music to fantasy owners ears giving points for receptions. The Panthers are only carrying six running backs and out of those six one is injured and one is Christian McCaffery. To add to that, Cameron Artis-Payne isn’t really there to prove anything as this marks his third season in camp with Carolina. That leaves Bonnafon and Elijah Holyfield as the primary backs for Thursday. Look for Bonnafon to see plenty of work with pass-catching upside. This makes Bonnafon a building block on DraftKings and a high percentage owned option on FanDuel.
Alex Barnes, TEN – Barnes saw his name go uncalled in the 2019 NFL Draft much to my surprise and the surprise of many others. Barnes doesn’t have the speed or burst to be a prototypical NFL starter, but he does have the size as he ranks out above the average size for NFL running backs. The Titans only have six active running backs on their roster and Derek Henry is currently nursing an injured calf. Aside from Henry, Dion Lewis is likely to only play a series if at all, and David Fluellen left last Friday’s practice with an ankle injury. On the Titans first released depth chart Jeremy McNichols was fourth, with Barnes behind him. I think there is a case that can be made for McNichols here as well, though Barnes will likely see equal carries against weaker competition. As it stands now Barnes is likely on the outside looking in for the first group of cuts, but no better time to show your worth than now.
Ty Johnson, DET – Much like the Titans, the Lions also only have six active running backs, though Nick Bawden is likely to land on the PUP list. Of the remaining backs, we can assume Kerryon Johnson and CJ Anderson will see the field very little if at all. That leaves Zach Zenner, Ty Johnson, and Mark Thompson to carry the load in the running game. The Lions already know what they have in Zenner, though he could be used in short-yardage situations. If you are just searching for a touchdown, Zenner may be worth a dart throw. Ty Johnson, however, is the most exciting prospect from this group and could be a true home run hitter this preseason as he is creating a lot of camp buzz.
Others to consider: Damien Harris, Dexter Williams, Jonathan Williams, Devin Singletary, Kerrith Whyte
Kelvin Harmon / Terry McLaurin, WAS – It was hard deciding between McLaurin and Harmon as both are rookies who have had very positive training camps leading into the preseason. The kicker for both of these guys is whoever is going to be throwing them the ball will have a strong, live arm which could give a slight edge to the speedsters in the receiving corp. Case Keenum, Colt McCoy (check status), and Dwayne Haskins all figure to see the field, with Haskins and McLaurin coming together from Ohio State. The Redskins have a rare receiving corp where there is no real established top guy, so rookies will be treating this camp as a strong audition for starting rights.
Javon Wims, CHI – Since the 2018 preseason, Javon Wims placement on the depth chart or standing on the roster hasn’t changed a whole lot. The only difference between this year and last are the rookies Chicago brought in to challenge Wims out of a roster spot. In 2018 Wims caught 15-of-21 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown stretched across Chicago’s four preseason games. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, and Cordarelle Patterson will likely only play a series or two, leaving a lot of the receiving work to Wims and rookies Riley Ridley and Emmanuel Hall. Ridley is a lock to make the roster, leaving Wims and Hall to battle for the final spot. I will have a high percentage owned of Wims when compared to the field.
Preston Williams, MIA – The Twitter hype for Preston Williams is almost loud enough to not want to roster Williams for leverage reasons, but the problem is that I agree with it all. Williams, a UDFA from Colorado State, has been the talk of camp for the Dolphins so far. At 6-foot-4 Williams has the size to mismatch third-or-fourth string corners that he will face on Thursday. Not to mention he will likely be catching passes from Josh Rosen who is trying to win a starting spot of his own. An under-rated aspect of choosing wideouts during the preseason is trying to link them up with who will be throwing the ball. The better the talent the better the spot to succeed.
Others to consider: Jacobi Meyers, Geremy Davis, Hakeem Butler, Myles Boykin, Rashad Ross, Keesean Johnson
Noah Fant, DEN – Tight end is by far the most difficult position to figure out in the preseason, so I mostly will be targeting rookies who have the highest chance of making the roster and having an impact. Fant already has one game under his belt, as he caught one of three targets for seven yards. Fant should be a large factor in the Denver offense and this is a good time to get his feet wet.
Tommy Sweeney, BUF – With three other tight ends currently injured, Sweeney has been seeing the first team work with the Bills. Sweeney is not a guy we would likely have any interest in, but injuries are going to force him into playing time which is what we are searching for most in the preseason.
Others to consider: Hayden Hurst, Josh Perkins, Jace Sternberger
Baltimore – The Ravens will be chalk on the slate but they currently come in with the lowest Vegas total. Baltimore is built on a strong defensive foundation and will be facing a Jacksonville team with a roster full of question marks.
Others to consider: New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals