Weekly Fantasy Football Picks for FanDuel, DraftKings, DraftDay and Draftster Week 1, 2014
NFL is here!!!! Sorry for the excess exclaiming, but we're pretty damned excited. NFL season means the most players, the most money, and the largest collection of people donating their money to sharks like you. But let's stop with the foreplay. Let's get on to the picks.
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Colin Kaepernick - FD 8500 DK 8000 DD 4900 DFSTR 7500
With Crabtree seemingly past last year's hamstring issue, Kaepernick brings the full weight of the 49ers offensive might against a Cowboys team that allowed the third most passing yards and the sixth most rushing yards last season. The 49ers double-threat proved he could do it over a full season last year, and he rates to only get better as he continues to get reps with basically the same cast of offensive characters from year to year. If you're new to our ranking systems, this doesn't mean we think Kaepernick will score the most points over all, but it does mean that we think he'll score the most points per dollar. And, as a rushing Quarterback, his relative upside is considerable for large tournaments with top-heavy prize structures. The Niners are a 5 point favorite in a game with a 51 point total, and one has to figure that Kaepernick will be all over the points they do score.
Drew Brees - FD 9700 DK 9700 DD 5000 DFSTR 9000
If you're looking to spend at the QB position during week 1, our projection system likes Drew Brees the best on a points per dollar basis. With Graham and Colston looking sharp, and the addition of young Brandin Cooks, Brees rates to have a very strong game against the Falcons - a team that allowed the 13th most passing yards last season. The Saints are favored by 3 in the game with the 3rd highest total this week (52), and it could go even higher if both teams have their offenses clicking. As our free fantasy football eBook points out, upside comes from touchdown potential, and with no clear red zone target on the rushing end, Brees and his merry crew of receivers could absolutely go off.
Nick Foles - FD 8500 DK 8500 DD 5000 DFSTR 8300
A lot of people seem bored with Foles, but I'm not one of them. I guess you can argue that he isn't the most talented QB in the league, but he has been ridiculously efficient over his short career in Chip Kelly's offense. While Jackson is a significant loss, he'll still have some explosive weapons with the return of Jeremy Maclin and one of the best pass-catching running back duos in the entire league in McCoy and Sproles. Plus, Foles to Sproles just sounds like an awesome hookup. Throw in a Jaguars team that allowed the 7th most passing yards last year and the fact that this game has the 2nd highest total on the day, and you have the makings of a potential monster. The one thing holding Foles' ranking back is the point spread. There's some chance that this turns into a blow-out, which could take the ball out of Foles' hands early. For me? I'm likely to take a shot on him in some lineups at the very least.
Matt Cassel - FD 5400 DK 5600 DD 4900 DFSTR 3000
If Matt Cassel was good enough for rickmilitar's million dollar weekly fantasy football win from 2013, he should be good enough as a buy low upside play for you in week 1! With another year of reps with Cordarrelle Patterson and a healthy Greg Jennings, this has the potential to be a nice bounce back year for Cassel. And while the Rams were stifling at defending against the run last year, they were worse than league average at defending the pass - leaving an opening here for a decent game for the Vikings' offense.
LeSean McCoy - FD 9400 DK 8400 DD 5000 DFSTR 8100
It's rare that I'll recommend a RB/QB stack, but this might be the time to do it. The Jaguars are actually worse against the run than against the pass, and the dual threat Eagles RB could absolutely maul them. Our projection system isn't worried about the appearance of Sproles, and frankly, I'm not either until I see how Sproles' presence affects him. If the Eagles do run away with this one, it will likely just mean more action for the steady McCoy, and the potential for red zone touches means that the upside will match the safety.
Montee Ball - FD 8000 DK 7000 DD 4900 DFSTR 6000
With Moreno gone, Ball stands to get the Lions' share of the carries of the league's best offense. A lot of people have put forth questions about Ball's ability to handle all three downs, but given how disinterested the Broncos seemed in retaining Moreno's relatively cheap services, one has to think that they are ready to go crazy with him. Sure, he's not going to offer the safety of a back whose job is secured - but if Ball goes off in this one his price could jump 15% in a week. I think this will either be Ball's highest or lowest salary of the season, and I'm betting that it is his lowest. The Colts' defense allowed the 7th most rushing yards last year as well. Could be a monster.
Fred Jackson - FD 5800 DK 4400 DD 5000 DFSTR 3000
Check it - if you're going to make a big splash in GPP format tournaments, you're going to have to take some risks. That's why I present to you, without as much trepidation as you might imagine, one Fred Jackson. Here's the thing with Jackson - dude had a ton of a red zone carries last year. 43, as compared to CJ Spiller's 17. They trust him down there, and I don't see why that would change for this year. In fantasy football, upside is going to come from a guy's ability to score touchdowns, and while facing the Bears at home leaves Buffalo as a significant underdog here, the Bears were the league's most generous defense to opposing rushers last season. I'm not saying you should play him for safety purposes, but if you need to catch lightning in a bottle? You could do a lot worse.
Andre Ellington - FD 6800 DK 6000 DD 5000 DFSTR 5700
Ellington was dynamite on a per-carry basis last year (5.5 YPC!), and all indicators are that he's the man in Arizona. With good ball catching skills and dynamite speed, Ellington's draft stock has priced out a lot of his value in full season leagues, even while a ton of upside remains in daily leagues. San Diego is no slouch against the run, but Ellington should get a lot of looks as Carson Palmer slowly eases into the offense. Not a safety play by any stretch, but Ellington could provide serious value if everything shakes out the way it could. Update: Looks like Ellington is going to miss at least week one. Jonathan Dwyer could pick up his carries and if so makes a great punt at min prices.
Michael Crabtree - FD 6500 DK 6100 DD 5000 DFSTR 5900
Back, and seemingly fully healthy, Crabtree will ply his trade against the dilapidated Cowboys' pass defense as Colin Kaepernick's favorite target. This is another case where Crabtree's price is probably at its highest or its lowest for the season while the sites try to figure out if he's going to be a legit #1 or a bust. Right now he's priced somewhere in the middle. You can afford the risk in large tournaments with top-heavy payout structures, so I suggest you take it.
Andre Johnson - FD 7400 DK 6600 DD 4900 DFSTR 6600
Of all of the high priced receivers out there today, I like Johnson best. Let me explain why. First of all, when teams get a new quarterback, it's often the true #1 receivers that are affected least. Why? Because they are so good that anyone can throw to them. If Fitzpatrick gets uncomfortable out there, he's going to look for #80. He's not going to decide he likes DeAndre Hopkins better or something crazy like that. In fact, I think there's actually a ton of upside to Johnson today. The Redskins are a below average passing defense, and Fitzpatrick's discomfort could lead to a lot more targets than Johnson will have for the rest of the season.
Jeremy Maclin - FD 5000 DK 5700 DD 4900 DFSTR 5400
If you're a believer in Nick Foles, the guy to pair him with should be Jeremy Maclin. While he's not the same guy DeSean Jackson is, he put up some very nice years even before the Eagles really started to "fly" (!!!) under Chip Kelly. With Jackson gone, in stands to reason that Foles will be looking for someone to pick up those targets - and Maclin seems to be first in line. The injuries are a little scary, but I'm hoping others are off him because of some question marks.
Brian Hartline - FD 4900 DK 4500 DD 4900 DFSTR 4700
This is going to be a sneaky value play. With Revis gobbling up Wallace on the outside, it should leave Hartline open for considerably more targets and receptions. Definitely some risk here against the Pats' improved pass defense, but one that could pay off for you.
Kendall Wright - FD 6200 DK 5700 DD 8600 DFSTR 5400
Wright put up one of the quietest 94 catch seasons that I can remember last year, largely due to having both the lowest yards per catch and total touchdowns among any receivers in the top 20 in receiving yards. Now, a lot of that small touch down number is because of the Titans relatively sparse number of total passing tries in the red zone, but it sure seems like something has to give when it comes to Wright's bad luck. All it would take is a slight increase in red zone opportunity or conversion to turn Wright into a fantasy monster, and if that happens, you'll be glad you bought low on him early on. Plus, his great target numbers mean he has a relatively high floor even if the ceiling never comes to fruition.
Emmanuel Sanders - Check it out - people are pumped about Emmanuel Sanders this week, and I totally get it. With Welker out, he should see a lot of looks. He's definitely a fairly priced and high upside play. Here's the thing, though - Sanders is already priced pretty aggressively, and while Peyton CAN make anyone look like a star, he's got some reliable targets that he might trust a little bit more. I'm not saying, but I'm just saying. I love Sanders this week, but probably not quite as much as the accepted industry opinion is on him (i.e., that he's a must play).
Jimmy Graham - FD 8100 DK 7200 DD 5000 DFSTR 6800
Watching Jimmy Graham play is just a pleasure. And even more of a pleasure when he goes out and runs roughshod all over an opposing defense. If you've read Chris Raybon's work over at 4for4.com, or our take on it in our free eBook, you'll know that Tight Ends are the most volatile position from week to week. This should rightfully spook you in double up formats - even tight ends of Graham's caliber will no show for you relative to their price. But when everything's clicking? They'll just crush what you can invest elsewhere. Graham does it all. He's Brees' favorite red zone target, he's capable of big plays, and he's on the field regardless of what's going on in the game. The Falcons were basically a league average defense against receivers last year, and that won't be enough to stop the Saints' big man.
Vernon Davis - FD 6300 DK 4800 DD 7200 DFSTR 4600
Like Graham, Davis was his team's premier red zone target last year. And while some of that will come back to Earth with the return of Crabtree, a lot of Crabtree's production is priced into Davis' less than elite price. And listen - Davis doesn't need to provide the same total number of touchdowns this year to be a huge upside play from week to week. Aside from Graham, he is the single elite TD upside play at the position, and at the deep discount to Graham's incredibly high prices, you could do a lot worse than rolling the dice with him.
Kyle Rudolph - FD 5700 DK 4300 DD 5000 DFSTR 3900
Against the Rams' tough defensive line, it stands to reason that Cassel will stick with targets he's comfortable with. One such target should be Kyle Rudolph. The young Vikings tight end makes a nice, big, reliable red zone target, should the Vikings get down there, and is a plenty good possession target between the 20s as well. IF the pass rush keeps Cassel from going down field to his more explosive options, I think Rudolph could put together a very nice outing.
Frankly, ranking kickers is sort of beneath me. So what I'm going to do, instead of give you a long and drawn out explanation for each, is give you a little insight into our kicker strategy, and give your our top plays on a points per dollar basis.
Here's brass tacks: I rarely stack a kicker with my offensive players because that limits their collective upside. I try to take kickers in good weather in games where they are a favorite with high totals. Cool? Here's who our system likes:
This is what happens when you combine one of the league's stoutest defenses with an offense that averaged a simply awful 4.52 yards per play last year. The Panthers allowed the 27th most passing yards and the 31st most rushing yards. So, yeah - things are not looking great for the chances of the utter mess that is the Tampa Bay offense.
New England Patriots
With the new faces in the New England backfield, things aren't going to look good for opposing offenses. Miami scored the 7th fewest points last season, and I'm simply figuring that the Pats will be able to hold them down relatively easily. Big plays are hard to predict on a year to year basis, but I think New England is as good a bet as any to go out there and have a solid fantasy performance.
With the Texans, you're gambling that their elite pass rush can generate both sacks and turn overs against a below average Washington offense. While the quick pass to Garcon should be there, it's tough to imagine RG III and company generating any down field plays at all, and if they try it, it may lead to the very turnovers you're hoping for if you roll the dice with the Houston D.
The Ravens were the very worst team in the league on a yards per play basis last year, and why am I supposed to believe they'll be better this year? Ray Rice will be at home, beating his wife (in Madden 2015 - get your mind out of the gutter), while Flacco and company attempt to take on the defense that allowed the 5th fewest passing and 5th fewest rushing yards last season. Forrealtho - it's not looking good for the team with the league's ugliest uniforms, and the Bengals make an intriguing (if expensive) play.
Also considered: Want to take a risk that could pay off? Our projection system likes the Eagles against the inexperienced Jags O.
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