Preseason NFL DFS is totally different from the regular-season version, particularly during the first and last weeks of the exhibition schedule when starters barely see the field. The importance of individual matchups, opponent strength and over/under spreads all goes out the window in favor of simply identifying which players figure to get the most snaps.
Rookies and second-year players usually are the best bets for extended playing time, and it’s a bonus if they actually have the talent to turn volume into major production. Ideally, we’d like players high enough on the depth chart to get some run with the first and/or second-team offense, but who still have a lot to prove and could therefore stay in the game into the second half (or at least until halftime).
Depth charts thinned out by injuries are particularly worth targeting, as most teams are carrying at least nine wide receivers and five running backs at this point in training camp. If, for example, a team holds out its starters to rest and also has two reserve wideouts injured, only five or six receivers will be left to split snaps.
With that in mind, here are some recommendations for Friday night’s slate on DraftKings (Player prices aren’t listed because everyone cost $5,500 for the preseason):
Joshua Dobbs, Steelers (at Giants) - With Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) and Landry Jones (abdomen) doubtful, the fourth-round rookie is expected to start and could play into the second half. The only other healthy quarterback on Pittsburgh’s roster is undrafted rookie Bart Houston, who was a backup for most of his college career at Wisconsin. Dobbs, on the other hand, had 7,138 passing yards and 2,160 rushing yards in his four-year career at Tennessee. The Steelers hope he’s the eventual successor to Roethlisberger, or at least capable of replacing Jones as the top backup.
Wayne Gallman, Giants (vs. Steelers) - Gallman, Orleans Darkwa and undrafted rookie Khalid Abdullah figure to get most of the backfield snaps, as Shaun Draughn (ankle) is out, Shane Vereen (leg) is uncertain and Paul Perkins doesn’t figure to play more than a couple drives. A fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, Gallman could even mix in with the starting offense Friday, as the Giants ideally would like to find a larger back to complement the elusive Perkins. With a chance to play in both the first quarter and the third, Gallman is the kind of back you want to target in preseason action.
Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (vs. 49ers) - The Chiefs only have four healthy tailbacks, including incumbent starter Spencer Ware and 30-year-old C.J. Spiller. Hunt, a third-round rookie, already seems to be making a push for the No. 2 job, and he could also get snaps deep into the second quarter or possibly even the third. Unlike the aforementioned players, Hunt could also end up being useful in regular-season DFS.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (at Giants) - The second-round draft pick is an ideal stacking partner for Dobbs, as the USC product should play throughout the first half in the absence of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates (knee). Justin Hunter also figures to get a lot of run, and he’s proven to be a deep threat, if nothing else, throughout his career.
Roger Lewis, Giants (vs. Steelers) - Currently in line for No. 4 receiver duties, Lewis should get plenty of looks from the jump, as Sterling Shepard (ankle) isn’t available and Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall will be limited to one or two drives if they play at all. Lewis also figures to get work with the second unit, which is where he’s practiced throughout most of camp. The Giants have a couple injuries further down the depth chart that could leave them with only six wideouts if Beckham and Marshall are held out.
Tyler Kroft, Bengals (vs. Bucs) - C.J. Uzomah (ankle) is unavailable and oft-injured Tyler Eifert likely will be held out or extremely limited. That leaves Kroft, H-back Ryan Hewitt and seventh-round rookie Mason Schreck as the only health tight ends. Schreck also makes for a solid play.
Bengals (vs. Bucs) - There’s not much strategy behind picking a defense in the preseason, but I like the idea of stacking the Bengals D with WR Alex Erickson, who figures to get some opportunities in the return game. An Erickson return touchdown gives you double the points in this scenario, and he also figures to get quite a bit of playing time on offense.