The Cleveland Browns welcome the Washington Redskins to the pound on Thursday night, in what sadly (or awesomely) is probably going to be the most interesting game on the preseason slate. Whether you’re looking for sneaky DFS preseason fantasy football plays or some insight on position battles for season long fantasy football, we’re here to jot down the key things to watch for in this game. There’s a lot, so get your party hats on:
Johnny Football Returns
For all the jokes you can think of regarding Johnny Manziel, I actually think he’s turned the corner and we may be pleasantly surprised on Thursday night. He’s going to play a decent amount after Josh McCown is done with the first team, and against Washington’s spares I think he might have a good amount of success. He’s been turning it on in camp and was great in a recent scrimmage, so there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the notion he could come out and perform well again under the lights. Manziel still has a long ways to go to prove he can be a consistent, reliable NFL starter, but he has talent and McCown is McCown. A better than average showing on Thursday could help him a ton.
RG3 Gets a Quarter
There was a time when Robert Griffin III carried some of the hype Manziel had and actually backed it up for a full seasons. Since his amazing rookie run, however, he’s been a scared puppy in the pocket and his knee just hasn’t been the same. There’s hope that all the negativity surrounding the past two years is over and RG3 could develop into a steady passer in his second season under Jay Gruden. He certainly has the weapons around him to make it happen, but his awareness and decision-making need to improve. If he can come out and go nuts in what is expected to be about a quarter of play against a very solid Browns defense, he could start creeping up the fantasy football ranks.
Matt Jones Unleashed
Alfred Morris seems pretty entrenched as the starting tailback for the Redskins, and probably rightfully so. However, Matt Jones is an impressive talent who has displayed excellent vision, cutting ability and a solid burst in college. Whether or not his game fully translates is open for debate, but it will definitely be interesting to see how he’s used with the first team (if at all), as well as how he handles a bigger workload once Morris takes a seat. He’s clearly more of a Dynasty fantasy football hold for now, but he’s also not the worst handcuff in the world in redraft leagues, either.
Who Wants to Play Running Back?
Cleveland made waves recently for publicly calling out their entire offensive backfield. They were so disappointed with the likes of Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Terrance West recently, that they’ve entertained the idea of bringing in Ray Rice. Crowell and Johnson both still have massive upside in a run-based offense, but only Crowell will actually suit up tonight. West will probably join him, along with veteran retread, Shaun Draughn. Look for Crowell and West to get a solid amount of work as they both try to prove the starting job should be theirs.
Browns Wide Receivers in General
Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline are your starting wide receivers, Cleveland. Sorry about that. Bowe might actually have something left, but neither he nor Hartline scream “upside!” in fantasy leagues. Of course, their chemistry with Josh McCown will be interesting to see. I’m more keen on their younger talent at the position, as Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin have the wheels to be difference-makers if they can figure things out.
Browns Tight End Situation
Rob Housler looks to be the first guy up for the Browns, but this is a team that simply doesn’t have a go-to tight end right now. Housler and backup Gary Barnidge are solid athletes who hypothetically can stretch the field, but neither has gone nuts in camp. They’ll both look to prove themselves tonight.
The Redskins defense was all kinds of awful a year ago, but they changed defensive coordinators and patched up a ton of spots. They specifically got help at safety and on the defensive line, where they arguably needed help the most. Their run defense was stingy as balls last year, so if they can add a solid pass defense to the mix, they just might have something here. The story is similar on the other side, but the Browns actually need to stop the run better. Rookie Danny Shelton could be a big part of making that happen and he should be in for a good amount of snaps in his NFL debut.