This article is part of our DFS NFL series.
We're two weeks away from the kickoff of the 2023 regular season, but for now, we'll have to settle for the final week of preseason. The third week of the exhibition schedule starts Thursday night with Pittsburgh traveling to Atlanta and Philadelphia playing host to the Colts.
As has been the case all preseason, both DraftKings and FanDuel keep the price flat for all players at every position. That limits some of the significant variables typically involved in DFS, with playing time being king and projected efficiency also an important consideration when playing preseason contests.
Sam Ehlinger, IND at PHI
This pick is based on the projection that not only are we likely to see starters sitting entirely or playing minimally, but also backups as well. That narrows my potential player pool to Ehlinger, Mason Rudolph, Logan Woodside and Tanner McKee. Each has shown flashes this preseason, but Ehlinger boasts rushing ability — something none of the rest does.
Also Consider: Tanner McKee vs. IND
Godwin Igwebuike, ATL at PIT
Igwebuike has been a revelation this preseason. That can be forgotten as soon as we move beyond Thursday's exhibition game, but he has to be on the radar against the Steelers. If Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier play it will be for perhaps a handful of touches combined. Meanwhile, Igwebuike has handled 27 for 131 yards and a touchdown in the team's two games to this point. Carlos Washington has been far less impressive, but he's another back who projects for a lot of touches.
Trey Sermon, PHI vs. IND
The Steelers and Colts both have a mess of mediocrity among their backfield depth, which steers us to Philadelphia. That's not the most comfortable feeling given the glut of options the team boasts at the position, but I'll gravitate toward the bottom of the depth chart with more talent. Sermon has found the end zone twice this preseason, so even if he isn't efficient, there's a decent chance he can produce some fantasy points.
Calvin Austin, PIT vs. ATL
The Steelers have found a way to get the ball in the hands of Austin through two preseason games, whether it be on offense or special teams. He showed he knew what to do with the opportunity by racking up 73 yards on only two catches two weeks ago against the Buccaneers. That type of explosiveness can make a huge difference on a small slate with relatively unpredictable playing time. There is some risk that Austin doesn't see the field much, which ironically would boost his outlook come the regular season.
James Washington, IND at PHI
Washington carries the most name value of perhaps any other player recommended for this slate, but he joined the Colts last Friday. One day later, he hauled on a 41-yard pass from Sam Ehlinger against the Bears. Now, the Colts are likely to want to see a lot of Washington on the field as they decide whether he's worth carrying into the regular season. He's an even better fit on a roster with Ehlinger to build a nice stack.
Joseph Ngata, PHI vs. IND
Ngata has earned eight targets in two preseason games. Last weekend, four of those five targets came from McKee. Expecting McKee to play a lot, we can project Ngata for plenty of targets again Thursday. This is another nice stacking option.
Darnell Washington, PIT vs. ATL
College football fans are certainly familiar with Washington — a former Georgia Bulldog — in part due to his 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame. That makes him a prime target in the end zone, which we saw last week against the Bills when he drew a pass interference penalty. Playing time could be an issue Thursday, but he played with both Mitch Trubisky and Rudolph last week, so the Steelers haven't been particularly cautious with him.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. ATL
Picking a defense on a short slate is difficult, because it's a near certainty that the unit will face some of our offensive selections. What we know about the Falcons is that they aren't likely to take to the air much and both of their top two quarterbacks (Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke) are mistake-prone. That offers a safe floor and some ceiling for the Steelers.