Football has finally arrived and it’s for one of the more dreaded games in sports, it’s the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. Coaches and players absolutely hate playing in this game and Bruce Arians already stated that his starters will not be suiting up. Although it’s a meaningless game, it’s an interesting slate for avid Daily Fantasy Football players. Even though the Arizona starters are unlikely to suit up, the Cardinals will still carry ownership from people who aren’t paying any intention. This will obviously result in dead money, giving those who pay attention the upper-hand.
Arizona Cardinals vs Dallas Cowboys (Cowboys -1, O/U 35)
First thing first, the total is on the low side for a preseason game. However, since there are only two games on this slate, we are going to have to roster players from this game anyway.
Let’s start with the Cardinals side: Bruce Arians has stated no starters will play in this game. Does that mean all 22 starters? Probably not, but we are going to go ahead and cross out the veterans we know won’t suit up for the game.
AZ Players to Consider:
QB Blaine Gabbert: In 2016, Coach Arians rode his third-string QB all preseason (Matt Barkley) and I expect him to do the same in 2017. We can expect Carson Palmer to come out in shorts and a t-shirt, leaving the Cardinals with three quarterbacks on Thursday night. Drew Stanton didn’t get a ton of run in 2016, leading me to believe that Arians trusts his backup quarterback and doesn’t need him out there lighting up the preseason. All signs are pointing to former first round pick, Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is a solid backup quarterback but a really quality third-string quarterback with starting experience. Gabbert should take snaps for over a half of football before turning it over to rookie Trevor Knight. Look for Gabbert to be one of the more productive quarterbacks with over 18 passing attempts.
NOTE: Blaine Gabbert is slated to start the entire first half, per Darren Urban.
It appears Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden are like a co-WR3 today. Only getting reps with first team.
— Jess Root (@senorjessroot) July 29, 2017
WR Brittan Golden: John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald won’t be playing on Thursday night and Jaron Brown is dealing with an injury that has kept him from practicing fully. Assuming J.J. Nelson doesn’t play either, Brittan Golden will be the top WR on that depth chart. Golden has a solid latter part of the preseason in 2016 and even made appearances in a couple regular season games. Assuming all the guys ahead of him sit, Golden has the chance to be a target monster on Thursday night. I expect Golden to play a half of football with Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.
PRESEASON IS HERE
Elijhaa Penny boutta go to work.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 3, 2017
RB Elijhaa Penny: David Johnson will not suit up on Thursday night. Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson are competing with Kerwynn Williams for the #2 and #3 role. I expect Ellington and Johnson to sit due to their injury history and Williams to get the start. I have some interest in Williams but Bruce Arians has stated that he trusts Williams as a number two back. This leads me to believe there will be a short leash for Williams on Thursday night. That leaves the bulk of the carries for bruising back Elijhaa Penny, T.J. Logan, and James Summers. Penny is likely to get all the goal-line work, even in the first quarter. Logan is here to return kicks and punts but could steal some touches from Penny, especially in the passing game. Summers is a former QB in the process of converting to RB, they may give him some runs on Thursday but it sounds like he is just a camp body. Give me all the Penny, who could literally receive 12-15 touches on Thursday night. Penny had 50 touches in the preseason of 2016.
AZ Players to fade:
Any player that is of value: Like I said, this is a dreaded football game. Veterans and coaches hate preseason, they hate mini-camp, and they damn sure hate having a fifth preseason game.
WR Chad Williams: Chad Williams is going to garner some ownership because we love to hype up our rookies. However, Coach Arians was critical of Williams saying he was out of shape to start mini-camp. Do you think the head coach is going to run out an “out of shape” player for a fifth preseason game? Probably not.
The Cowboys coaching staff hasn’t blatantly said they’ll rest all of their starters but I would expect them to do just that.
Cowboys players to consider:
The #Cowboys making Rod Smith the third RB over Alfred Morris makes me very happy. Very smart.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) July 27, 2017
RBs Rod Smith, Alfred Morris, Ronnie Hillman: Rod Smith is most likely going to beat out Alfred Morris because of his special teams experience. However, he’s getting all carries with the third-team ahead of Morris. Ezekiel Elliott most likely won’t suit up on Thursday night and I wouldn’t expect McFadden to get more than a 2-3 touches if he even plays. This leaves an entire game worth of carries for Rod Smith, Alfred Morris and Ronnie Hillman. I expect Smith to get the bulk early and then turn it over to Morris and Hillman later in the game. I have an interest in all three but I’m going to go ahead and roll with Rod Smith and hope for an early touchdown.
Brice Butler is having himself a nice camp. Moore finds him for big yardage on the scramble. pic.twitter.com/lkTMKbq6na
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 30, 2017
WR Brice Butler: Brice Butler is clearly the 4th receiver on this roster but he still holds a ton of value to this team because of Dez Bryant’s injury history. I’m not sure how much Butler plays tonight but if he plays an entire half, he might end up being the number one receiver on this entire slate. My gut tells me they play him with Kellen Moore for a quarter and then turn it over to Luke McCown and deeper depth. Kellen Moore is awful and if my gut is right, Butler is under the fades list. However, I don’t know the situation, if we get word that Butler is slated to play an entire half against back-ups you must fire him up in all lineups.
2 guys I expect to be popular tonight that I will have none of:
— Anthony Amico (@amicsta) August 3, 2017
TE Rico Gathers: Jason Witten won’t play and Geoff Swaim has been limited all of training camp. Rico Gathers is their prized basketball convert and I expect him to start on Thursday night. After one-year of football under his belt, I expect Gathers to get a ton of run this preseason and he is far and away my top tight end option on this two game slate. I will most likely have 100% ownership of Gathers in hopes of a couple red zone targets. Cowboys players to fade: All Quarterbacks: Kellen Moore most likely gets the start but the Cowboys have also recently signed Luke McCown. There will be significant ownership on Moore because people will be concerned that the 13-year veteran McCown won’t play. However, McCown has had a few practices to pick up the offense and people will overthink this situation. I think Moore gets two quarters, McCown gets one, and Cooper Rush gets one in what will be a watered down preseason offense. If we find out that McCown isn’t suiting up, you can throw Kellen Moore into consideration pool but I would much rather play Blaine Gabbert.
Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans (Panthers -3, O/U 37)
The Panthers are the second largest favorites in preseason week one and I know why. The Texans aren’t going to run their prized rookie out with second and third-string football players. I think we are looking at a quarter from Tom Savage, a quarter from Deshaun Watson and two-quarters from Brandon Weeden. Two-quarters of Brandon Weeden is not good for your football team. Texans players to consider:
Jaelen Strong lined up in the slot on 69% of his routes last year, but I imagine he’ll move outside to replace Fuller while he’s out.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) August 2, 2017
WR Jaelen Strong: Will Fuller is out for three months with a broken collarbone so we are all going to peg Jaelen Strong as a starter. We know that starters don’t get a lot of run in week one of the preseason but the Texans have a different situation. They’ll want to get a look at their first round rookie quarterback and not while throwing to Wendall Williams and Justin Hardee. I expect Deandre Hopkins to play a series or two but Strong will most likely stay out there for the entire first half in hopes of giving their rookie quarterback someone to throw to.
WR Braxton Miller: (see Jaelen Strong) – extended run without Will Fuller.
TE Stephen Anderson: Stephen Anderson is a flashy athlete who should get a lot of run with Watson and Weeden. Anderson is my number two tight end behind Rico Gathers on this two-game slate.
Vets are talking up rookie RB Dare Ogunbowale, 5-11, 205. Hits hole fast, finds open spots, makes quick cuts and he’s off. Tough, 2.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) July 31, 2017
RB Dare Ogunbowale: The former Wisconsin Badger doesn’t offer much as a runner but he can catch a couple passes and pass-block. Keyword: pass-block. You might see Ogunbowale get extended run with Watson because he can pass-block. They’ll do anything to protect their rookie quarterback and the extended run could lead to a couple of extra touches, including receptions that result in one point each.
Houston Defense: Although the total in this game is higher, I prefer a defense from this game. The Texans might see a little Derek Anderson but they’ll see a ton of Joe Webb and Garrett Gilbert who offer nothing through the air, in my opinion. Look for the Houston defense to come away with a couple sacks, interception, and a possible special teams touchdown with Tyler Ervin returning kicks and punts.
Texans players to fade:
QBs Deshaun Watson and Tom Savage: These two guys are going to get an even split with the starters. I’d be extremely surprised if either eclipsed the 15 pass attempt mark. I’d prefer an entire half from Blaine Gabbert or Joe Webb.
TE Ryan Griffin: Ryan Griffin is a solid talent but he will garner a decent amount of ownership because he’s listed as number two on the depth chart. I expect Griffin to spend most of his time as an extra pass blocker and they’ll hand the receiving duties over to Stephen Anderson, at least for the preseason.
Panthers players to consider:
RB Cameron Artis-Payne: I expect Jonathan Stewart to sit this one out. If not, he only plays a series or two. Christian McCaffrey will get a series with a couple of forced touches but it’s probably not worth rostering in week one of the preseason. Fozzy Whittaker is their special teams demon and his roster spot is most likely safe without handling any rushing duties. That leaves me with Artis-Payne, and Jalen Simmons. Simmons could steal a couple of receptions but Artis-Payne should get a heavy workload, especially near the goal line.
WR Brenton Bersin: This preseason PPR monster has a history with Derek Anderson and Joe Webb. I expect Bersin to lead the team in targets next Wednesday night and he will be in 100% of my lineups. He’s probably the safest play on the entire slate.
NOTE: Fred Ross was carted off with heat related illness and missed practice on August 3rd. If this turns out to be serious you could see Bersin play the entire game out of the slot.
Carolina Panthers Defense: Hello, didn’t you read? They could get an entire half of Brandon Weeden!
Panthers players to fade:
RB Fozzy Whittaker: People don’t understand that he’s primarily a special teams player. Whittaker is a trap every preseason and people will never learn. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked away with only one or two touches next Wednesday night.
Follow me @SteveDraft_ on twitter for my positional rankings this afternoon.