My goal is to have the article posted Friday night each week. Then I'll update the projected ownership levels of each player I go over on Saturday.
By: Nick Zylak
Football. Is. Back.
I’ve been waiting months to write those three words so the fact that we can finally say it makes me so happy.
This is my second season writing this article, and I like to start off week 1 by going over it's goal. Picks are great. I know that many of you don’t have a lot of time to research each week so knowing which players to use is what you want. The problem with picks is that they don’t make you better, and they don’t help you when situations change.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m going to give you picks. But I also want to teach you to think critically. There is a case to play and to fade every single player each week. DFS is about understanding both ownership and ranges of outcomes. Some players are great values, but will be over owned for the upside that they carry. Since I can’t go over every player, I want you to learn why I’m picking certain guys and understand how you can apply that same logic to others that I don’t touch on.
So with that being said, lets dive into week 1!
Rob Gronkowski - $6,900 - (12%-15%)
How do you not play a $6,900 Gronk? Do you hate fun? Running through target projections it’s extremely clear that Gronk is the best TE play of the week. And It’s not even close. I’m still waiting on ownership projections but I’ll update this article when those come out. I expect Gronk to be MASSIVE chalk. Not only in cash games, but in tournaments as well.
His projection is around 6-7 receptions for around 100 yards and slightly over 1 TD. And that’s a projection. This Texans team should be improved this season after getting J.J. Watt back, but they were so bad against the pass last season and I just don’t see how that’s going to improve. The pass rush is going to be better, but Brady gets the ball out so quickly that it’s not going to have a massive impact. The Pats have the second highest implied total on the slate at 28.25 points so there is a real chance that they score 4-5 TD’s in this game.
Our job is figuring out where that production is going to come from. They are likely to have around 4-7 red zone trips on Sunday and Gronk is going to be the first read on all of them, with Hogan being second and whoever the RB is being third. Patterson and Dorsett could catch a deep TD or a screen pass, but they are unlikely to be early reads when they get close.
Here’s the thing with Gronk. You can afford him. I’ll go over all of the cheap options that should have big roles for their price, but trust me when I say you can afford him. What that means is everyone can afford him. If you don’t play Gronk in cash and he goes for 100+ and a TD (his projection) then you essentially lose on the spot. It doesn’t really matter what the rest of your lineup does at that point. The rest of the TE options are fine and should put up serviceable points…I just don’t see a scenario where you gain enough in salary to justify a Gronk fade in cash or single entry tournaments. You’re essentially banking on an injury at that point which doesn’t feel like an efficient use of your funds.
In GPP’s the story is essentially the same. You could play Doyle or Reed if you want, but it’s still going to be a negative EV play. I’m not saying that you need to lock him in. And my ownership level will depend on how highly he becomes. But as of right now he's projected to be just 15% owned. I'll gladly plug him in at 40%.
Alvin Kamara - $8,500 - (35%-40%)
Alvin Kamara should be in a lot of your lineups. There is more than enough value this week that you can fit him in with whatever QB and WR stack you want, and to add Gronk. There are a plethora of value plays to cycle in and out at RB and WR that there is just no reason not to play Kamara.
The Saints have the highest implied total of the week and are currently 9.5 point home favorites at home against the Bucs. One thing that you will come to know is that being a home favorite is a big thing I look for in a RB. The logic is simple. Teams typically play better at home, especially on defense. This means that they should be up late in the game, and teams up late shift to a very run heavy game script. The Saints are going to dominate this game, and will score a lot of points in doing so. I expect Kamara to score at least one TD, with the upside to score multiple. He comes with one of the highest floors because of his receiving ability and is in the best spot of any RB this week. $8,500 is at least $1,000 too cheap.
Keelan Cole - $3,800 - (18%-24%)
You basically have to play Cole in cash games. His price point just makes it possible to fit everything. Pricing for week 1 comes out extremely early, so the Marqise Lee injury isn’t factored into his price. At $3,800. There is nowhere to go but up for the Giants defense after giving up the second most yards per game in 2017. I attribute most of that to the injuries on offense leading to more opportunities for opposing defenses. Because of that I do expect them to improve. Just not enough to avoid Cole in cash games. Cole carried a massive target share over the final three weeks last season and is the top option ahead of Dede Westbrook and DJ Clark. The Jags are a run first team, but will still throw enough for Cole to crush his price tag in cash games. He will be one of the highest owned players, but fading him is too much risk to take in cash games. You can absolutely fade in GPP’s, but just play him in cash and single entries.
David Johnson - $8,800 - (6%-10%)
This is too cheap of a price tag for DJ. Washington’s defense isn’t bad, but they did allow 4.6 YPC last season and is projected to be a below average group in 2018 by Football Outsiders. DJ suffered a wrist injury in week 1 last season so it’s been a long time since we have seen him in action. There is a chance that this will lower his ownership. In 2016 he nearly had over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards to go along with 20 TD’s. He’s still just 26 with very few career carries. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see that same 2016 David Johnson again this season. He should be priced around 10K given all of the value options available on the slate. He's currently projected to be under 10% owned. I currently have 35%. The real question in cash games if you can fit both Kamara and DJ, so I’ll touch on that at the end of this section.
Rex Burkhead - $4,500 - (25%-28%)
The Patriots are currently 6-point home favorites and have the second highest implied total on the slate at 28.25 points. As of right now Burk is not in my cash lineup, but he’s right on the edge and someone that I will have in tournaments. With the Patriots projected to score so many points we have to think at least one TD will come from the ground game. The issue is predicting who it will be. I feel confident in saying that Burk will be around 8 TD’s if he stays healthy this season. But I couldn’t tell you when they will happen. It looks like Michel will be out this week and we all know that they lost Lewis and Gillislee to FA. That would leave Burk, White and Hill as the entire RB backfield. White is more of a scat back, but will still get work in the red zone in certain packages. Hill is purely a goal line back which means he could vulture a TD (which will be very tilting). Ultimitely it comes down to if you are playing Kamara and DJ or just one of them. If you want to play just one to fit in some better WR’s then Burk is a way to do that. If you are playing both then I can’t justify Burk in cash. There is also an interesting route where you play Freeman, Peyton and Burk at RB and fade DJ and Kamara. I’ll have to look into how the WR’s shape out, but that construction is better for a tournament than a cash game.
Peyton Barber - $4,100 - (2%-6%)
Barber displayed 3 down potential late last seasons and continued that into this preseason. He’s the clear-cut lead back over Ronald Jones, who looks like he’s not quite ready to be an NFL RB. Charles Sims is no longer with the team so the only other option for RB work is Jacquizz Rodgers. Barber dominated the first team snaps this preseason and will have a long leash given the other options in the backfield. He also lead all TB RB’s with 8 targets this preseason. There is a real possibility that he is a 3-down workhorse in the game with the second largest total. The issue with Barber is the spread. Tampa is currently 9.5 point underdogs, which does not bode well for RB’s. This isn’t an issue if they do choose to use him as a three down back (since the spread would lead to a pass heavy game script, and likely more receptions for Barber).
There is risk here and I’m not sure yet if I want to use him as one of my RB’s. I’m likely to use 3 RB’s in cash so there is a chance that he makes the cut. I’ll have to think more about the risk and I’ll update this page if I decide to go with him.
Keenan Allen - $7,500 - (27%-32%)
Allen is a great play this week against a mediocre Chiefs defense. The Chargers have the 4th highest implied total on the main slate and Allen has dominated at home over the past few seasons. Since 2015 Allen averages over 100 yards and over 20 PPR points per game at home. Another factor in his favor is the offense. It’s extremely similar to last season. Week 1 is going to have a lot of games that surprise us, but I highly doubt the Chargers offense will have any surprises. We know exactly how they are going to operate. This adds a layer of safety that can’t always be found in week 1. There are players on new teams, with new QB’s or with different weapons around them. The Chargers got Mike Williams back, but everything indicates that he won’t garner very many targets. Allen is a safe bet for 6-8 receptions, with upside for a Julio Jones type stat line. At $7,500 he’s expensive, but you can make it work. He’s currently not in my main cash lineup and that makes me sad. I’ll be overweight in tournaments though and if you can find a way to fit him in (Kamara, Barber, Freeman, Cole combo looks like how you would do it) then I’m more than ok fitting him in there.
Philip Rivers - $6,400 - (10%-13%)
Rivers is likely going to be my most heavily owned QB this week and I will be playing him in cash. If you want to play Brees or Brady then by all means go there. They are both in exceptional spots as well and I expect them to both have big games as well. Rivers however has a dream matchup against an embarrassingly bad Chiefs defense that will be starting three slot corners in Steven Nelson, Kendall Fuller and Orlando Scandrick. That’s a matchup nightmare against Mike Williams (6’3”), Tyrell Williams (6’4”) and Keenan Allen (6’2”). Rivers is a safe play with massive upside. I’ll be using him in tournaments as well and finding different ways I can stack that game.
WR’s: Green (10%-15%), Thielen (13%-17%), Sanders (15%-17%), Hogan (15%-17%), Crowder (1%-3%), Garcon (1%-3%)
RB’s: C. McCaffrey (17%-20%), Royce Freeman (5%-8%), J. Conner (10%-15%)
QB’s: Brady (10%-13%), Brees (10%-13%), Dalton (5%-7%)
Josh Gordon - $5,800 (1%-3%)
You basically have to have a Josh Gordon lineup. It’s a tough matchup, there’s going to be bad weather, he’s reported to be on a “Snap Count” (I don’t believe this), and he’s coming off a preseason hamstring injury. I don’t think you should put him into a lot of your lineups. However he should be in some of them. He’s one of those players that has legitimate 200 yard upside every time he steps onto the field. It’s unlikely to happen this week, but this also might be the lowest his ownership will ever be all season.
Tyreek Hill - $6,500 - (12%-15%)
Tyfreak is so fun to watch. He’s another player like Flash that you just need to have some of every single week. The Chargers are an absolutely brutal matchup and I actually think he could be over owned for how difficult the matchup is. I just don’t see how the Chiefs are going to slow down the Chargers. That means they will be playing from behind and Hill will have an opportunity to smash. In his career Hill has averaged 6 more PPR points in road games, and has 10 total TD’s in 15 road games. It only takes one play for Hill to hit value and I will definitely have some shares this week because of that. He’s not a cash game play though.
Kareem Hunt - $6,900 - (5%-8%)
Hunt is an exceptional tournament play this weakened. He’s going to be low owned because of the Kamara chalk and the low priced options. He’s also at a strange price point in between Collins and the high priced studs. When I find out ownership levels I’ll be going slightly overweight on him since the Chargers are slightly worse against the run than they are the pass and because this is one of the highest game totals of the week. Hunt has legitimate multi TD upside at potential sub 7% ownership.
WR’s: D. Hopkins (18%-22%), A.J. Green (10%-15%), S. Diggs (5%-7%), D. Thomas (5%-7%), P. Dorsett (1%-3%), Tyler Boyd (0.5%-2%)
RB’s: D. Johnson (6%-10%), Kamara (35%-40%), Fournette (8%-12%), M. Gordon (20%-24%), D. Cook (4%-6%), J. Mixon (3%-5%), Zeke (5%-7%), D. Lewis (1%-3%)
TE’s: J. Reed (3%-5%), J. Doyle (10%-13%), Ricky Seals-Jones (4%-7%), ASJ (8%-12%), Blake Jarwin (1%-2%)
QB’s: Brady (10%-13%), Brees (10%-13%), Rivers (10%-13%), A. Smith (0.5%-2%), Tannehill (0.5%-2%), Mahomes (1%-3%)
Ravens - $3,800 - (20%-25%)
Chargers - $2,800 - (4%-7%)
Patriots - $2,400 - (12%-15%)
Cowboys - $2,300 - (1%-2%)
Browns - $2,000 - (3%-6%)
Kenyan Drake - $5,900 - (2%-4%)
There is just no need to go here. He has risk since they added two new RB’s to the backfield so we have no idea what the split is going to be. The Dolphins are also have one of the lowest totals of any team on the week. Add to that the fact that the Titans run defense us much better than their pass defense and you just get a situation to avoid. There are some clear options at RB so it’s best not to get too cute with fringe options. Collins is the play in this range.
Alfred Morris - $3,600 - (1%-2%)
I know that this is a great price point, but like I keep saying, there are so many RB options this week. You don’t need the salary savings by going down to Morris. The 49ers also have an extremely difficult road matchup with the Vikings where they are 6.5 point underdogs and have the third lowest implied total on the slate. We might be able to use Morris in the future but there is absolutely no reason to play him this week.
Mike Evans - $6,700 - (2%-5%)
Evans has a brutal matchup with an ELITE Saints pass defense. The way to beat the Saints is by running the football and keeping the ball away from Drew Brees and those talented DB’s. Evans was already a fade for me in season long and now we’re going to start off the season playing him in exactly 0 of 200 lineups. He needs to get lucky to pay off here so it’s not a play for me.
James Conner - $4,500 - (10%-15%)
This is probably the biggest and riskiest stand I’ll take this week. I’m not going to have 0% Conner since I will have somewhere around 200 unique lineups, but I will be well below the field. Conner is cheap and will be very highly owned against the perceived terrible Browns defense. The thing is that the Browns are actually good against the run. Brown and Juju have great matchups, but Conner has a below average matchup and doesn’t have nearly the same pass catching abilities that Bell has. With all the other RB options I think it would be smart to avoid him and use that ownership to go overweight on some of the other options. Even if he get’s into the end zone, it’s not likely to sink your lineups. If he scores twice, then that’s an issue. I just don’t think that happens so I’ll be fading him on a full PPR site like DK.
The Lock Button:
For those of you who don’t know, the lock button is a term used when mass entering contests. When using a lineup builder the lock button ensures that a certain player is used in every single one of your lineups, even if they wouldn’t be used in the most optimal builds. In reality it’s rare to actually lock players in for football. This is especially true for week one when there are always so many low owned plays that surprise us. I’d rather make some unique lineups and try and hit on one of those. This section therefore is going to be about the player I will be the most overweight on this weekend.
I played with the idea of including a few people in this section. Gronk is an amazing play this week and I don’t think enough people are going to play him. However I really don’t ever want to lock in a TE since the position is so volatile and Gronk has suffered so many in game injuries. My next player was Kamara. He’s one of the best cash game plays and is one of the safest bets for 15+ points on the slate. His issue is that he is still $8,500 and I have made builds that I like without him. He’s also going to be massively owned so you gain less by going overweight on him. This is who I ultimately decided to feature in this section.
Alex Collins: $5,600 - (6%-8%)
Collins might be the best tournament play on the slate. I’m having a tough time determine what his ownership will be, but I expect it to be significantly lower than it should be. Once I find out I’ll try to be 5-6 times overweight (unless it’s really low in which case I’ll update what ownership I land with). Collins has everything you could possibly want in a RB this week. He’s a massive home favorite against a bad Buffalo defense. Buffalo allowed the 7th most yards per attempt last season and there is no reason to believe that will get any better.
The Ravens also treated him like the franchise RB this preseason. They gave him a total of 3 carries which he turned into 33 yards. That’s it. No he wasn’t hurt and no he wasn’t bad. They know what they have in Collins and they know that he’s going to be their workhorse this season. Dixon was terrible with the carries he was given, but both he and Allen are decent in the receiving game. There is a possibility that they use those two on third downs, which would limit Dixon’s upside. I just don’t think that will happen. He was one of the best RB’s in the NFL down the stretch last season and he showed that he can be involved in the passing game with 8, 4 and 6 targets over the final 3 weeks. Collins is an epic play and if he comes in at under 5% ownership then something is wrong with people.