The NFL is back on Thursday night. Kind of.
The 2018 NFL Hall of Fame touches down in Canton and while the game’s end result is meaningless and most of the stars won’t be on the field very long, it’s still real, live professional football.
Some don’t get too excited for preseason football, but when you add in the potential to win money via preseason daily fantasy football contests, things change.
It starts immediately with the first NFL preseason game of August, as FanDuel will be pushing out a Showdown game featuring this week’s clash between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens.
I’ve detailed a few of these one-game contests in the past and as you can imagine, it can be tough to win big money. One reason is people often share the same lineup and if you don’t nail the big performers, you’re in trouble.
This is preseason football, though. Nobody really knows what they’re doing, so extra research really helps you out. The main thing is to make sure all of your five players are active for this game and then to hopefully gauge how much they’ll play.
Generally speaking, the top stars and main starters will either play only a handful of snaps (up to two drives at the most) or not even suit up at all. Looking back to last year’s HOF duel between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, key players like Carson Palmer, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant didn’t even play.
You can probably expect the same for this game, which takes most of the usual starters off the board for me.
Instead, you’re looking for guys battling for a position, thriving in training camp and/or looking to lock up one of the final roster spots.
MVP: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Your MVP is basically the guy you think will do the best (1.5x the fantasy points earned). Every player you decide to roster is priced the same ($12k) for this contest, so it’s all about nailing this pick and then filling the remainder of the lineup out with guys that arent’t sack daddies.
That could be anyone, but my vote goes to former Louisville dual threat passer, Lamar Jackson.
Compared to Michael Vick and Deshaun Watson, Jackson is a freak athlete with a big arm. His accuracy and pocket work have been called into question, but he can take the top off of defenses and fly as a runner.
He’s also got a bit of a chip on his shoulder, as a bunch of jamokes have had the audacity to suggest he should play wide receiver in the NFL. He probably could, but this dude is a baller. He looks like a lock to get good run in this first game, seeing as the Ravens probably want to see if he could actually unseat Joe Flacco as soon as this year.
Robert Griffin III is also worth a look, but his awareness is utter trash. I have zero faith in him and I must roster Jackson for the upside on Thursday.
FLEX: Tyler Bray, QB, Chicago Bears
Mitch Trubisky probably won’t play on Thursday and even if he does, I can’t imagine Chicago risks their franchise passer much in the first of five preseason games. That should make for a good amount of Chase Daniel and a whole lot of Tyler Bray.
Bray is not an exciting play, but I think rostering two fantasy quarterbacks is a good decision considering they can easily rack up a lot of points. You also want guys that are actually going to play a good amount of the game and have the ball in their hands a lot.
Bray has accuracy questions and is no threat to run, but I trust his playing time in this game and he’s got a lively arm. He also knows Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s system from his days with the Chiefs, so provided he gets enough snaps, I think he could put up some yards and 1-2 scores.
FLEX: Tanner Gentry, WR, Chicago Bears
I want at least one Bears wide receiver. I’m not paying for running backs like Tarik Cohen or Jordan Howard (who probably won’t play), while the backup Chicago running backs aren’t very exciting. I’ll consider Benny Cunningham if he’s actually locked into some solid work, but I’m not anticipating any huge runs from him.
I’ll take a crack at Gentry, who is trying to make the roster and has had some rapport with Bray during camp. Bray can hit short and long passes and both of these guys are trying to showcase their abilities in this game.
For those that don’t recall Gentry, he went to the same school as Josh Allen and was a bit of a beast. He projects as a possession type in the pros but he can still make plays down the field if given the chance. Either way, I think he’s in for a good game on Thursday.
FLEX: Jordan Lasley, WR, Baltimore Ravens
I also will take a stab at a receiver from Baltimore’s side. Like Gentry with Bray, Lasley has developed some chemistry with Lamar Jackson this summer and there’s a chance that could bleed into the Hall of Fame game.
Many will flock to more recognizable talents like Breshad Perriman and I’m not exactly against him here. I just think Lasley will be lower owned and I like his big play ability.
Also consider Perriman and Bears rookie receiver Anthony Miller. I just think these guys could be chalky, so Lasley/Gentry are fun pivots for tournaments.
FLEX: Mark Thompson, RB, Baltimore Ravens
I want a rusher in this game for two reasons; the teams tend to grind the clock out late in these HOF games and short touchdown plunges are pretty common in preseason play. I actually like Thompson’s talent, as he’s a one-cut runner with underrated speed and power.
He’s not elite, but he should get a lot of work in this first preseason game. Alex Collins will be limited or out, while Kenneth Dixon (hamstring) will probably be held out. If so, Thompson’s role feels locked in. You can also look to Chicago’s side, but I’ll favor the Ravens running game in this one.
Overall, it’s admittedly a crapshoot even when you’re talking about full slates with multiple NFL preseason games to work with. Preseason daily fantasy football is not for the faint of heart, but if you scout the talent, pay attention to player roles and play the right guys at the right time you absolutely can profit from it.
I like this team for the HOF game and simply because football is back I’ll be rolling it out there. I obviously don’t love the volatility of preseason NFL DFS, of course, so I’ll probably limit my exposure to really cheap tournaments. I suggest The Sports Geek readers do the same.
Whether you use this lineup or pick your spots, I wish you luck in your FanDuel NFL DFS preseason contests. Enjoy the return of pro football!