Daily fantasy football is back on Thursday night when the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals hit the field for the yearly Hall of Fame game.
The real games are still a month away, but thanks to DraftKings and FanDuel, we still have the opportunity to win cash in NFL DFS contests starting with the first NFL preseason game of the year.
This is just step one in a jam-packed month of preseason daily fantasy football opportunities, where we all can win big if we put in the research and follow the right logic. To give you a chance to make it in the green, we’re breaking down the basics for NFL preseason betting action of the daily fantasy variety:
One of the most important things to consider is what week any slate is located in. The first game of the year is the Hall of Fame game, but after that, every team typically plays four preseason games.
In week one we barely see the top players in the league. They either do not dress at all or they play very limited snaps. Coaches start to ramp up activity in week two and there we can see a few series and maybe even a quarter or two.
Week three is the big target day and this is probably the most competitive week of NFL preseason action. This basically is each team’s dress rehearsal before week one of the regular season and starters can play anywhere from a quarter to an entire game.
Things regress to cap the preseason in week four, as most teams don’t see a point in risking their top players in the final meaningless game of August.
In the Hall of Fame game and most week one contests, you are not going to want to stack up star talent. The best players in the league can pop off for a score on a big play here and there, but they won’t be on the field very long.
For every random 50-yard touchdown by Julio Jones, you’re going to get four or five sluggish performances where guys like Jordy Nelson finish their 1-2 series with no stats or one catch for 9 yards.
If you’re going after star players in week one, you’ll want to have a really good idea (listen to beat writers, read local newspapers and websites, follow on Twitter, etc) as to just how long the top players will play. Some will see the field longer than others, so this can be a way to exploit a slate.
That being said, week one is generally reserved for second and third stringers and that’s probably going to largely be the case in week two. Do your best to find out which quarterbacks are locked in for a quarter or an entire half. Targeting teams with specific position battles also shine a light on which lesser known players might have a chance to pay off.
Watching prospect’s college tape is a good way to learn about talented players you don’t yet know about while reading up on scouting reports and camp buzz can also help.
Once week three hits, you can safely use any star player as long as we don’t learn they will be out or have their playing time restricted for some reason.
When week four returns, all bets are off and you’re back to the drawing board when it comes to position battles or which players coaches reveal they want a long look at.
Keeping tabs on injuries might be the biggest aspect of finding success in preseason daily fantasy football. It’s the preseason, so even the slightest ailment is going to keep star players out or get them off the field if they have further issues.
Lesser known players might fight through an injury to prove their worth, but really anyone battling lower leg injuries is usually going to be off limits. If they’re not already being held out, let someone else take a chance on them if they play.
As we suggested, general news will be very key, as well. Beat writers and local papers/sites will usually give us an indication as to who will start and roughly how long the starters will be on the field. Beyond knowing as best as possible who is starting and what their playing time will be, you’ll also want a solid grip on the top backups, what roles they’re fighting for and how they’ve performed in camp.
While it’s obviously good to target players who have fared well in camp, it’s also good to look at talented players who are still looking for a chance to prove themselves. For instance, a wide receiver might be catching heat due to poor conditioning, but a shaky training camp could still give way to a breakout preseason performance.
This ties in with even the slightest whiff of player injury, but in general, this is preseason and the games don’t matter. Don’t get too caught up in the emotion of the game, in-game strategy or the player matchup.
Matchups don’t mean nearly as much in preseason football, as the starters only play so long and then even the most average player can be in an advantageous spot, facing second and third string talent.
While the fact that NFL preseason games don’t matter can work to our advantage, it can also hurt us. Coaches will yank players for costly mistakes or if they feel they’ve seen enough out of them in that specific game, while nothing such as few as new plays, role tests and certain players being flat out benched is off limits.
The latter is one we certainly need to be concerned with early on. There are often interesting players making noise in camp or fighting for a chance to show what they can do, yet they either see very limited snaps or don’t even touch the field at all.
There are other players who might see snaps but are facing special teams as their only legit route to making the team or simply don’t have plays dialed up for them. Much of what we see on both sides of the ball is “vanilla” game-planning and playcalling, as teams are really just trying to loosen their main guys up and see which feisty bench guys are worth holding onto.
Nobody really cares who wins or loses and the end game here is to achieve predetermined goals and most of all, stay healthy.
Playing preseason daily fantasy football is actually a lot more about research than skill. Actually, in a sense, that is a skill. Most people do not want to put in the time to figure out all of the active players, who has what role, who is actually talented and how they’ve performed in training camp.
They want to know that information, but this is a very finite section of DFS and it only lasts for a month. It’s also changing with every single slate, so we’re forced to adapt by the day, not just by the week.
Usually, you are forced to know a lot about each player and team, but that’s on a surface level most of the time. With preseason daily fantasy football, you really want to soak up as much information and data as possible and then make the best-educated decision you can.
More than anything, you want to always make sure every single player you choose is 1) actually playing and 2) seeing the field for a good amount of time. Field time, in general, can be a huge win, as you do not need to be an elite player to plunge for a short touchdown or catch a bunch of passes.
Ultimately, fill up your team with players with a lot to prove or that seemingly have fairly concrete roles in their specific game. If you do that, you’ll have a good chance at ending your NFL DFS slate in the green.
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