Week 1 DFS Breakdown
By: Nick Zylak
General Slate Thoughts
“If I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know”. I think this lyric from Kansas perfectly sums up how you should be looking at every single tout in week 1. Anyone who claims to know all the answers, very likely does not. We know so much less than we think in week 1…so if you have a play that no one is taking about…PLAY IT. There are going to be a boat load of players that go off at minimal ownership this week, and there are going to be a bunch of high owned plays that bust. Touts will gravitate towards similar plays, since we’re all working off similar reports…but we haven’t seen a single meaningful snap for some of these teams since December. A lot of things change each offseason, and we’re going to get a lot of things wrong to start the season.
Alright, so now that you trust nothing I say…I’ll tell you about how I see the slate shaping out! In general, people are under priced. By a lot. Nearly every single player is miss priced, so scores are going to be through the roof. Because of that, I’d stay away from safe players. If you see a sub 4K player that you know will score between 10-12 points, then you might be able to get away with playing them in cash…but you won’t win a tournament. You’ll need about 25 points from each player this week, so even if you see a nice points per dollar play for cheap, they still need to have some upside.
The second thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of really good RB plays in the 5K+ range, so you’re going to need to play 3 RB’s on rosters this week. There’s of course a chance that the winning roster doesn’t use a RB in the FLEX…but the odds that there aren’t 3 RB’s over 5K that go off is pretty low. So especially in cash, I’d be using a RB in the FLEX…and you’d have to absolutely love your lineup to not use three, even in a tournament.
My last note about roster construction is with QB. There are some decent options, but no obvious plays. Especially with 16 games on the slate, I expect QB ownership to be very spread out. Because of this, I wouldn’t go too heavy on one guy. Try out different stacks in tournaments, and for cash, build your roster first…and then see what QB fits with that build. QB wouldn’t be the spot I start when building a cash lineup.
Dalvin Cook vs Atlanta ($6,000 | 40+% Owned):
Unless this is your first season playing fantasy football, then you’ve heard about RB’s vs Atlanta. Over the past few seasons now they’ve systematically allowed RB’s to catch the ball out of the backfield at a league leading pace. This is a matchup where you play pass catching RB’s…especially when they have a large role on the ground as well. This game currently features a 47.5 point total…which isn’t massive, but is a good average outcome, in a game that could go a number of different ways…finishing anywhere from 40 to 70. The Vikings have an elite defense, and they want to run the ball a lot more this season…meaning there’s absolutely a chance that this game features fewer plays than people think. However, the Falcons are an elite offense, so it’s also possible that this game turns into a shootout. Either way, Cook is too cheap. The Falcons gave up a league leading 8.8 pass attempts per game to the RB position last year, after giving up 8.5 per game in 2017, 9.1 in 2016 and 8.9 in 2015. This is what they do. The allow receptions to RB’s. So we have a relatively inexpensive, home favorite RB in a dream matchup, and potential shootout…on a team that wants to feature the running game more heavily than last season. Sounds good to me!
Leonard Fournette vs Kansas City ($6,100 | 21% Owned):
I’m very interested to see how many people make this play. The public is routinely a slave to recency bias, so I have a feeling people might shy away from Fornette in week 1. But that would be a mistake. These are the other offensive weapons not named Dede Westbrook on the Jaguars:
Chris Conley/D.J. Chark (assuming he plays)/Keelan Cole/Geoff Swaim/James O’Shaughnessy
Those are the players tasked with beating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s not an exaggeration to say Fournette and Westbrook could combine for 20 targets in this game…since there’s not a single other name worth throwing the ball to more than a handful of times. Fournette is also the full time goal line back and third down back…with the team being very open about their plans to use him heavily in the receiving game. The only real risk with Fournette is injury, but from a single game perspective, that risk is greatly reduced. Plus, let’s think about how this game is likely to play out. We have a 52 point over/under…with Kansas City only 3.5 point road favorites. We can expect this game to stay relatively close, with the Jaguars forced to play catch up at points during the game. That’s the perfect game script for Fournette. He should get his usual amount of carries and red zone looks…but there should also be plenty of opportunity for him through the air. As just the 11th highest priced RB on the main slate, he offers a great floor, and a massive ceiling if this game exceeds the implied total.
Tony Pollard vs NYG ($4,500):
I’m done giving Zeke takes until he signs a contract. There’s a new report every single day that seems to pull a complete 180 from the day prior. There’s one thing I know for sure about this situation. If Zeke doesn’t play in week 1…then we’re locking Pollard into exactly 100% of our lineups. The Cowboys open the season as (currently) 7 point home favorites against the Giants. Pollard is the clear cut lead back when Zeke is out, and he’s going to have a massive role in the receiving game. Even without scoring a TD, there’s just no possible way he doesn’t at least pay off his price without getting injured. I know there are a ton of great RB plays, but you need to find a different way to differentiate your lineup if Zeke continues his holdout. Fading Pollard would be a mistake (and if you fade him in cash then you deserve to lose).
Update: Zeke signed, so don’t play Pollard
Chris Godwin vs San Francisco ($6,200 13% Owned):
I can’t even imagine not writing about Godwin in week 1. This kid has produced every single time he’s been given the opportunity, and he’s about to explode this season. Last year he was the team’s top red zone option, and finished as the WR 25 in fantasy…despite playing less than 65% of snaps. He now moves into a full time role, and will operate as the team’s slot receiver whenever they move into 3 WR sets. This is going to be a very popular game stack, as both teams feature above average offenses, and Swiss Cheese defenses. The total is currently 50, but this game has the chance to push well past that number. At least for cash, Godwin is my favorite way of gaining action on this game. The 49ers are likely to spread the ball around a lot, and Godwin has the best price point of the Tampa Bay skill position players. He’s not guaranteed to go off. But this isn’t a matchup or price point I’d fade. I expect him to be above 7K most weeks moving forward.
Hunter Henry vs Indianapolis ($3,900 | 17% Owned):
This price point doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sure he’s been out of the league for a season, but he’s been one of the most efficient TE’s in recent memory…and he finally has the full time TE role. This was going to be an epic game before Luck retired, but the total has now dropped to 44.5, with the Chargers installed as 6.5 point home favorites. That’s not ideal, as we’d rather target TE’s in higher scoring games…but that line still gives the Chargers 26 projected points, and Henry is still unbelievably under priced. Last season the Colts gave up the 4th most pass attempts per game to opposing TE’s, and gave up the 4th highest DVOA increase to the position. So Henry gets a good matchup, the team is projected to score about 3 TD’s, and he’s now going to be a full time TE for the first time in his career. Yet you can get him for $3,900. This will be the last week he’s under 4K, so I’d take advantage.
Top Tournament Stacks
Given the game total, I expect this to be a popular game stack. Both of these teams have trash defenses, and both teams feature explosive offenses. My favorite team to go heavy on this week is probably Tampa Bay. With their targets being so consolidated, we need to be targeting their skill position players whenever they have a high implied team total. The Bucs targets will go to Evans/Godwin/Howard. Other players will sprinkle in here and there, but those three are going to each have a massive share. Since we expect them to move the ball at ease through the air, and we know exactly where it’s going when they do so, we need to be targeting these players. My favorite trio is Winston/Evans/Godwin…but you could go Winston/Godwin/Howard as well.
The SF side is a little bit more difficult to figure out. They should be able to score a decent amount of points, but it’s going to be a lot more difficult to figure out where the scoring will happen. The have Pettis/Kittle/Coleman/Breida as the main targets…but they have some ancillary receivers that should be involved as well (it’s tough to know what their split will be at this point). Because of this, my lean would be to take Kittle if you want to run the stack back. Coleman and Brieda are fine, but you should only go there in large field tournaments. I wouldn’t play Coleman, as he’s priced right next to other elite options…but Breida is going to be so low owned that he’s for sure worth a shot if you’re game stacking. You could also use Pettis, but he doesn’t really come at a discount.
Ultimately, my favorite way to stack this game is Winston/Evans/Godwin/Kittle…with Godwin being my favorite one off.
This game might have a low over/under, but the Seahawks actually have one of the higher implied totals of the week. And since we know exactly where the volume is going in the offense, it makes stacking that much easier! With QB pricing so condensed, I wouldn’t have too much Wilson this week. He doesn’t come at any sort of discount ($6,300), and this will still be a low volume passing attack. What I am interested in, is Carson and Lockett. These two are going to get the vast majority of the offensive volume on the Seahawks side…and there’s a chance they account for all of the team’s TD’s. Lockett is the only real receiving threat that Seattle has…and Cinci doesn’t have the talent to take him away. So while Seattle might only need to throw the ball 28-30 times, there’s still a chance Lockett sees double digit targets. Carson is the teams clear lead back…and he should be more involved in the passing game this season. That makes Carson a massive home favorite running back, on a team that loves to run the football, playing a defense that not only can’t stop the tun, but also gave up the 4th most receiving yards to RB’s last season. The only reason he isn’t a cash lock is becasue there are a million great RB’s this week. But you should be overweight on him in tournaments, and I could very well end up using him in cash.
The Chiefs and Jags game could be a fun one to stack…and there are a number of different ways you could do it. You can play the defense doesn’t matter card and just go Mahomes/Hill/Kelce…then run it back with Fournette and Dede. I’m unlikely to play that card though. The Jags sold out hard to stop Hill last season, and I don’t love the price on Mahomes in this matchup. Kelce is absolutely an option (though expensive)…but the best play on KC is probably Watkins. He’s been great for KC when healthy, and he;s fully healthy to start the season. At just 5K, he offers exposure to this side of the ball, and allows you to get a game stack in with the Jags.
On the Jaguars side of the ball there are really only three possible plays. Foles/Fournette/Dede. Dede has a great matchup against the Chiefs mediocre slot CB Kendall Fuller. He’s drawn high praise in camp, and looks to be the top option by far in the passing game. I wrote up Fournette above, but he’s basically a must in stacks for this game. If it’s close, then JAX must have scored…and he’s by far the most likely of any player to score for them. He has 5-7 reception and multi TD upside in this matchup…and he’s priced very reasonably.
I like the idea of a Chargers stack this week. If the Colts can find a way to keep this game close, then there are going to be a few Chargers players that hit value. Ekeler and Henry are the most obvious two. They’re both very under priced for their expected roles, and you can pair the both of them with Rivers. The Chargers should score 3-4 TD’s in this one, so if all of them come through the air, then Rivers with the pass catchers is a great way to go.
A lot of people are going to stack this game…and honestly…the entire slate might be decided by the outcome. The Cardinals offense is expected to push for the fastest pace in the league, and the majority of their team is under priced. If they’re able to move the ball like many expect, then this game could put up points in a hurry. The Cardinals defense is an absolute joke, and the Lions have enough playmakers on offense to keep up with any amount of points the Cardinals score. So, if the Cardinals are able to get into the upper 20’s…then this game could turn into a shootout.
There are, however, reasons to be concerned with stacking this game in cash. The Lions are a run first offense, and there’s absolutely a chance that the Cardinals Air Raid attack takes a few weeks to get going. If the Cardinals can’t keep up, then the Lions are content to just play slow, run the ball, and take the W. Under that scenario the only Lions player I would want is KJ…and it would be tough to trust and Cardinals.
Best stack assuming the game shoots out:
Kyler Murray/David Johnson/Christian Kirk/Golladay/Kerryon Johnson
Can also swap Golladay for Jones
Best stack assuming the game stays close…but doesn’t shoot out:
Kyler Murray/Christian Kirk/Kerryon Johnson
Best one off plays:
As stated above with Dalvin Cook, this is an interesting game to stack. Both teams have the potential to go off, but there’s also a chance that this game features fewer plays than the public thinks it will. If it does shoot out though, then you’re going to want to have pieces of this game. The best pieces of Minnesota are Diggs and Cook. Their price points are both fair, and they have the best chances of success. Cook is the best play as a one off (for the reasons stated above), with Diggs being best played in a game stack (He likely has his best games when the Falcons get up quickly, and Minnesota is forced to go pass heavy).
As for the Falcons, I’d only play them in a game stack. Minnesota has an elite defense, and Freeman is the only player you could consider a value. Julio is far too inconsistent for cash, and if he goes off then you’ll want a piece of the Vikings to run it back with. Ridley is a fine one off in case he scores a pair of TD’s…but again…I’d only go there if you have a player on the other side. I’d stay away from Hooper. His matchup is brutal…and you’re really just hoping for a random TD from him. Since you don’t need his savings, we can leave Hooper for better matchups. Lastly we have Matt Ryan. This is another play I probably wouldn’t make. His price is fair, but you’ll be hoping he gets 3-4 TD’s in a tough matchup. I’m fine if you want to play him as part of a massive game stack…but that would need to look something like: Ryan/Julio/Ridley/Cook/Diggs…anything short of that and I’d rather just take two skill position players with a different QB stack. My favorite ways to attack this game are below:
Low Owned Dart Throws
DeSean Jackson vs Washington ($4,500 | 3% Owned)
John Brown @ Jets ($4,300 | 2% Owned)
T.Y. Hilton @ Chargers ($6,600 | 2% Owned)
Deebo Samuel @ Tampa Bay ($4,000 | 1% Owned)
Hair On Fire Play of the Week
Jacoby Brissett @ Chargers ($4,400 | 2% Owned)
On a normal week, this would be the cash game play. But you just don’t need the savings this week to make this play in cash. However, if Brissett has developed as much as the Colts have indicated, then there’s a non zero chance the Colts can keep this game close. And if that’s the case, then Brissett lineups could smash. He has the ability to add points with his legs, and the Chargers defense is weaker now with Derwin James Under this build you would want to pair him with TY…and you’d need to run it back with some Chargers players. But with the low total, and the public perception that Brissett is terrible, I expect game stacks to be very low owned.