We've got football games tonight. Multiple NFL football games. It's the first preseason game, so we may not see many familiar names out on the field beyond the first few drives, but this is really our first opportunity to get eyes on the 2021 crop in competitive action.
It's also our first opportunity to play some DFS, with five games on the schedule for Thursday night's first real slate of preseason action. I'll probably throw a few lineups out there, because what the heck, I've missed Fantasy football. Plus, how many times can you lock in the likes of Brian Hoyer and Peyton Barber into a lineup? You've gotta take advantage of that if you can, right?
If you want to play tonight, head over to SportsLine.com for optimal lineups, projections, and more. And, I mentioned it earlier in the week, but make sure you subscribe to the new Fantasy Football Today DFS show at Apple, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts for real sharp advice. I dabble in DFS, but those guys can really help you win.
In today's newsletter, I've got a key thing to look for from each of the 10 teams in action tonight, plus the latest news from around the NFL and my bust picks for wide receiver. I've got three I'm not digging at their current draft price plus three I think could implode and really hurt your team, so make sure you read on for that.
And, as always, you can email me at Chris.Towers@CBSInteractive.com and I'll be answering your questions in a mailbag newsletter this week, so get 'em in!
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What to watch in Thursday's preseason games
Washington vs. New England
Line: WAS -2, O/U 36
- Antonio Gibson on third downs -- The key to Gibson breaking out -- and something we're all banking on -- is him taking at least some of the third-down work from J.D. McKissic. McKissic led the team with 32 touches on third downs while Gibson had just 11 -- six fewer than Peyton Barber! McKissic played on 83.1% of the team's third down snaps, compared to just 9.3% for Gibson. We want to see that close to 50-50.
- The QB battle for the Patriots -- Expect Cam Newton and Mac Jones to see the majority of the snaps for the Patriots, with Newton seeming likely to start. Will that mean he sees most or all of the snaps with the first-team offense against the first-team defense? That wouldn't make it particularly easy to get a good sense of where they stand relative to one another, though I suppose it would be its own kind of answer.
Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Line: PHI -1, O/U 35
- Offensive formations for Pittsburgh -- There's been an awful lot of talk about how different the Steelers offense is going to look, and we saw a bit of that in the opener against the Cowboys. However, I want to see what it looks like with Ben Roethlisberger. He'll likely be under center more often, but will that be a majority of the time? One-quarter? I'm very interested to see how that works out and how comfortable Roethlisberger looks doing something he hasn't really done in quite some time.
- Miles Sanders' usage -- So far in training camp, Sanders has seen about 60% of the RB carries with the first-team offense, while Boston Scott has been targeted more often. And there have been reports that Sanders' drop issues have carried over from last season. He has the skills to be a capable receiver, but if the Eagles have lost faith in him in that role, Fantasy players may not be far behind. I would love to see a downfield target for Sanders tonight.
Tennessee vs. Atlanta
Line: PICK, O/U 38
- Darrynton Evans' role -- We know Derrick Henry is going to get a ton of work, but there have been quotes from Titans camp suggesting Evans is going to have a bigger role this season. He dealt with a hamstring injury early last season and basically never got going, but he was drawing some Alvin Kamara comps last training camp. He won't be that good, but if they decide to carve out a complementary role for him, that could ding Henry's value just a bit.
- The Falcons RB competition -- Well, it doesn't really seem to be a competition for the top spot on the depth chart, because that is Mike Davis. However, I think Davis' hold on the job is probably pretty light, given his history. So, if one of Qadree Ollison or Javian Hawkins can show a spark in preseason action, I'll be moving them up my board as potential late-round sleepers.
Buffalo vs. Detroit
Line: BUF -2, O/U 37
- How does Devin Singletary look? -- With Zack Moss dealing with a hamstring injury, Singletary should get a decent amount of run in this opener. As should Matt Brieda, who is actually drawing very positive reviews in camp to date. Moss is viewed as the leader among the running backs, but if Moss can play well in multiple facets of the game, maybe he can push this to be more of a 50-50 split.
- How does Jamaal Williams look? -- Williams is in a similar position. We know from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn's comments that Williams is going to have a role in this offense, but the expectation is it's still something like what he had in Green Bay, where he was on the 35% side of a split. However, if he plays well with D'Andre Swift sidelined by a groin injury, maybe he can convince the Lions there's something more there.
Dallas vs. Arizona
Line: ARI -1.5, O/U 39.5
- How does the offensive line look for Dallas? -- Dak Prescott won't play. Neither will Amari Cooper. So we're not going to learn anything from the passing game hierarchy here. And, while it would be nice to see Ezekiel Elliott look good, there's no real risk of him not having his usual role come Week 1. So, we want to see the Cowboys line moving people around like they used to, and we definitely want to see them get out of this game without any injuries.
- Does Rondale Moore run with the first team? -- I'm very excited about Moore's potential in this offense -- he's one of my favorite sleepers at the position, after all. And because the Cardinals run more four-wide formations than any team in football, even if he's the No. 4, he'll still see the field. But he's listed behind Christian Kirk on the team's first unofficial depth chart in the slot position, and I'd love to see him surpass Kirk by Week 1. He'll likely play plenty tonight either way with A.J. Green sitting out practice recently and Andy Isabella on the COVID-19 list. Moore looks like the perfect after-the-catch playmaker for this offense, and hopefully, we'll get to see a lot of him early on.
WR Bust picks
Busts are always hard to write about because people will immediately take it as, "Why do you hate this player?" And that isn't what it's about. Every player I've got on my bust list is a player I can definitely see the value in. I just don't think they are worth the risk for your Fantasy team.
However, there is room for nuance here. Because, while there are players who I think are good but are simply being overdrafted, there are also some who I'm worried may just flat-out fall on their faces. So, I'm drawing that distinction here. The first three players listed are just guys I'm not quite able to buy at what they typically cost right now. The next three? I'm worried they could all burn you.
For more, check out Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings' bust picks here.
Not worth the cost
- CeeDee Lamb -- I get the excitement over Lamb, and he's a player I'll probably have to make sure I draft somewhere for a league that counts, just in case he does hit his potential this season. But I think his chances of hitting his high-upside outcome are being way overstated by his current price, which has risen to WR11 in NFC drafts since the start of August. Lamb is an excellent prospect in a very good offense, but he didn't come anywhere close to justifying this price as a rookie. Many will point to his best stretch, when he was on pace for 93-1,386-6 in five games before Dak Prescott's injury, as proof of his upside, but it's worth remembering he had just 16.7% target share with Prescott. He'll need to dramatically improve on that to come anywhere close to being worth this price, and I'm just not convinced he's going to match Amari Cooper in targets, let alone blow him away like he probably needs to at this price. While Lamb is the new, shiny toy in Dallas, Cooper was an even more highly touted prospect coming out of the draft than Lamb and has already been the kind of player everyone is hoping Lamb can become. Lamb should take a step forward this season, but I can't consistently buy him as a top-12 WR.
- Terry McLaurin -- The logic in McLaurin's favor is simple and obvious: He's been a very good Fantasy option despite playing in arguably the worst offense for WR production in the league, and now he gets a significant upgrade at quarterback. I get that and it makes perfect sense, and yet I still feel like the price of entry -- he's up to WR9 in ADP since the start of August -- is a bit too steep. Yes, the QB play should be much better in 2021 but there's also more competition for targets here on a team that is unlikely to drop back to pass 651 times again (including sacks). The addition of Curtis Samuel gives Washington a legitimate No. 2 WR for the first time in McLaurin's career, and while Ryan Fitzpatrick won't check down as much as Alex Smith did, he still throws to his running backs plenty, so don't expect J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson's role to disappear. I can definitely see McLaurin making a leap, but I wouldn't be so sure he's going to earn much more than the 134 targets he saw in 2020, so you're mostly betting on him just being a lot more productive. It's a reasonable bet, but WR9 feels closer to his ceiling. For the alternate, positive perspective, both Jamey and Heath listed McLaurin among their favorite breakout candidates for 2021.
- Mike Evans -- Evans has a high floor in this offense, because you know he's going to score a bunch of touchdowns and be efficient with the targets he gets. But I'm not sure he has the upside I'm looking for from a third-round pick, as WR14. There's a path for a top-five season here, but it would require one of Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown to miss significant time while Evans keeps his late-season rapport with Tom Brady that helped him finish so strong. His 15.3 PPR points per game in 11 games with both Godwin and Brown active would have ranked 20th among WR last season, and I would feel more confident if that's what he cost me on Draft Day.
Outright bust potential
- Adam Thielen -- I've got Thielen ranked 26th compared to an ADP of 22nd, but there really hasn't been a point this offseason where I've thought about drafting him. Someone always likes him a lot more than I do, and that's fine. I think the most likely outcome is he has another solid season, in the 900-plus yard range with a decent amount of touchdowns, though certainly not 14 like last year. However, Thielen is clearly in statistical decline as he enters his age-31 season, and he had just six games with more than 60 yards in 2020. The touchdowns covered up for that, and maybe the Vikings' run-first offense and the presence of Justin Jefferson mean Thielen will continue to feast in the red zone. But he's going to need to do that to be worth starting as much more than a fringe option, and he's at the age where he's probably nearly as likely to fall off completely as to maintain his production. You're better off chasing someone whose upside isn't totally tied to an outlier touchdown rate.
- Ja'Marr Chase -- So, I cover baseball as well as football for CBS Fantasy, and it gives me a different perspective on things sometimes. And one thing I've started thinking a lot about is how the likes of Chase, Rondale Moore, Rashod Bateman, and Nico Collins will fare coming off a season where they barely played. That's been an issue for top prospects in MLB this season, and rookies as a whole are performing worse than they have in any season over the last 20 years. Baseball may be a sport where live reps matter more, but I can't imagine it doesn't matter at all. Especially for Chase, who hasn't played in a live game since January 13, 2020. He's an elite wide receiver prospect and I have little doubts Chase will be a No. 1 receiver for the Bengals for a long time, but it's worth considering the possibility that he may need some time to knock the rust off early in the season. He isn't necessarily drawing rave reviews in camp so far, and with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, the Bengals could afford to bring Chase along slowly if that's what he needs. I'm actually okay with drafting Chase at his current cost (WR23), but he may be one of the bigger boom-or-bust players among the first five rounds on Draft Day, so I'm mostly targeting him if I need to take a big swing.
- D.J. Chark -- I don't want to write Chark off as a one-year wonder, because he's still young and talented. But let's consider the evidence: Chark finished 20th in points per game in 2019 and then followed that up with a WR43 finish in 2020. The QB situation in Jacksonville was obviously a disaster in 2020, so if you want to give him a mulligan, that makes sense. But Chark also had nearly half of his receiving yards and five of his eight touchdowns in 2019 in the first five games before averaging 52.3 yards per game on 6.5 yards per target over the final 10. In 2020, he averaged 54.3 yards per game. His last 23 games have been decidedly pedestrian, in other words. And now the Jaguars are likely to throw the ball a lot less under Urban Meyer than they did last season (616 pass attempts) and Chark has more competition for targets with Laviska Shenault looking to make a year-two leap and veteran Marvin Jones joining the roster. Trevor Lawrence could be good enough to support three Fantasy-viable wide receivers, but I think the more likely outcome is this is just a frustrating group who all settle in the boom-or-bust WR4 range. It doesn't help that Chark is dealing with a broken finger that required surgery, though he is expected back in time for Week 1.
Injuries, news, and notes
- Dak Prescott is having another MRI on his shoulder -- The Cowboys Twitter account announced Prescott was going for an additional MRI on the shoulder that has been bothering him for the last few weeks by saying, "It's not a setback. And it's not a reason to worry." Which … didn't do much for keeping people from getting worried! We have no reason to not take them at their word, and this very well could be just a follow-up to check on how the muscle injury is healing. We'll know more in the coming days.
- The Colts expect to have Carson Wentz available for Week 1 -- The initial news when Wentz underwent surgery was pretty depressing, as he was given a 5-12 week timetable for return. However, everything we've heard since then is that Wentz is trending toward an early return, and he was even spotted training camp Tuesday without a walking boot or a noticeable limp. There's still a risk of re-injury, but if Wentz is there in Week 1, you've gotta feel better about Jonathan Taylor's chances of an elite season, as well as T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman, and Parris Campbell's chances of emerging as viable starting options.
- Zack Moss is day-to-day -- Moss is dealing with a hamstring injury that will keep him out of the Bills preseason opener Thursday, but it doesn't sound like anyone is too concerned that it will linger for too long. It seems like he's likely to open the season as the team's lead back, but if he misses too much time and Singletary impresses, that could move in the opposite direction.
- Xavier Jones is drawing praise -- Apparently, Sean McVay has singled Jones out for praise consistently, telling reporters Tuesday Jones is "going to carve out a role for himself" in the offense. That role seems likely to be as a backup to Darrell Henderson, possibly in a third-down role, where McVay has also praised his work. Given Henderson's struggles to stay healthy, Jones is looking like an interesting late-round bench stash.
- David Johnson was list behind co-starters Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay on the unofficial depth chart -- Honestly, the Texans depth chart is incredibly hard to make sense of right now, which might be a sign that we shouldn't take too much from it. Still, this was a surprise, as Johnson was the clear No. 1 back in 2020. The signings of Lindsay and Ingram were both curious, to say the least, but maybe the Texans have more in store for them than we expect.
- Denzel Mims was recovering from food poisoning this offseason -- Mims apparently lost 20 pounds during the offseason due to his bout with food poisoning, which he says was part of why he got off to such a slow start in camp. It was a surprise to see him rarely working with the starters, but he's played with the first team over the last week and could be working his way back into the late-round sleeper discussion. He'll need to prove he has the coaching staff's trust, but he certainly has more upside than someone like Keelan Cole.
- T.J. Hockenson may not play in the preseason opener -- It's not clear what Hockenson is dealing with, but he got "banged up" Tuesday and sat out of Wednesday's walkthrough, so I would guess he's not going to see the field in the preseason opener. That's fine -- this team desperately needs him healthy for when the games start. Wrap him in bubble wrap if you've got to.