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Daily Fantasy NFL Football Picks for FanDuel, DraftKings, and Starsdraft - Week 1
Editor's note: If you haven't heard of Chris Raybon yet, get ready. And, you're welcome. Here's his insightful article on NFL's week 1! He's done an amazing job breaking down the top plays of the week, but obviously, he could never include every single great play. If you want point projections for individual players? Go ahead and get access to the exclusive projection system that produces these picks. Sign up now and get a free 3 day trial to our lineup construction tool for FanDuel, DraftKings and Starsdraft.
Since this is my first column here at DFSR, I’ll use the space in the intro to summarize my general philosophy for each position.
At QB, I’m looking for efficiency, so I want a QB to be a Vegas favorite in a good matchup against an opponent that will struggle to rush the passer and cover. At RB, volume correlates more strongly to fantasy success than efficiency, and volume is largely determined by game script, so I look at whether a RB’s team is a Vegas favorite first, then judge the quality of his team’s offensive line and his opponent’s run-stopping capability second. At WR, I’m looking for targets. I tend to zone in on WRs who will command the largest target market share of their team, and those who are one of their team’s top options in the red zone (where two-thirds of receiving TDs are scored). TEs are the most inconsistent fantasy position from week-to-week because they don’t see high workloads relative to the other positions, making them highly TD-dependent. Therefore, I’m looking for TEs who are one of their team’s top red zone options on teams with QBs capable of throwing multiple TDs on a consistent basis. With Ks and D/STs, game script is again the most important thing, so I’m looking for Vegas favorites. A K’s team needs to play with a lead to ensure that they don’t forgo FG attempts to go for it on 4th down, and D/ST need to play with a lead to force the opponent into passing situations, where most D/ST fantasy points are scored via sacks and interceptions.
Of course, everything I mentioned above is relative to a player’s price point. Most players I highlight at the cheap price points aren’t necessarily guys that happen to have a good matchup that week, they’re guys priced incorrectly because they’ve been thrust into larger roles. I’ll generally list players in order of how great a $/point value I believe they are.
Sam Bradford - FD 7500 DK 6900 Starsdraft 7100
Bradford is priced in the middle tier across the industry, which is great because he’s a top play in Week 1 in a game that has all the ingredients of a shootout. Vegas odds makers project a close, high-scoring game: the Eagles are 3-point favorites, the over/under of 55 is this week’s highest, and the Eagles are projected to score 29 points. That projected total is important, because over the last five seasons two-thirds of offensive TDs come via the pass, with 63 percent of Eagles offensive scores coming through the air last season. For the Bradford non-believers, consider that before coming into Chip Kelly’s system, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez combined for a 56 percent completion rate, 6.5 yards/attempt, and a 3.5 percent TD rate. Under Kelly, those numbers shot up to 63 percent completion rate, 8.0 yards/attempt, and a 5.7 percent TD rate.
Andy Dalton - FD 7100 DK 6100 Starsdraft 5600
Dalton’s top three pass-catchers (A.J Green, Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert) missed a combined 34 games last year, but with all three healthy in 2013, Dalton managed a 4,296-yard, 33-touchdown season, finishing as a top-6 fantasy option. All three are healthy now against a Raiders team. Dalton struggles under pressure -- consistently finishing in the bottom-third of the league in PFF’s passing-under-pressure metrics – but thrives with a clean pocket. There’s a good chance his pocket is clean this Sunday, as only one team had less sacks than the Raiders last season (despite the presence of stud LB Khalil Mack), and the Bengals return all five starters from PFF’s 4th-ranked offensive line.
Aaron Rodgers - FD 9700 DK 8600 Starsdraft 8600
Rodgers is the premier expensive option at QB in a game Vegas expects the Packers to score 28.5 points, one of the top-4 totals on the slate (top-3 if you don’t count the Patriots Thursday night contest). The loss of Jordy Nelson hurts, but Rodgers is talented enough to carve up a Bears pass defense that’s starting four new players in the secondary. Rodgers is behind an offensive line that returns all five starters and was ranked first in pass blocking by PFF a season ago.
Tyrod Taylor - FD 5000 DK 5000 Starsdraft 5100
Minimum-priced QBs are usually very valuable assets when they get thrust into action in the middle of the season, but it’s unnecessary to take the plunge on such a cheap option in cash games with all the other value around. However, in tournaments, Taylor gives you a lot of flexibility. Vegas oddsmakers don’t think the Bills will be a complete disaster, as they’re installed as only 3-point underdogs and projected for a 21-point total. At minimum price, Taylor could have a poor game by NFL standards and still return solid value.
Eddie Lacy - FD 8500 DK 7500 Starsdraft 7600
The Packers are a 7-point favorite and Lacy – like most running backs – excels when his team is favored. In his career, he’s averaged 16.4 FanDuel points per game when a favorite, but only 12.67 when an underdog. As I mentioned in Rodgers’s blurb, the Packers return all five starting offensive lineman, four of which had positive run blocking grades from PFF last season. The Bears defensive front seven contains five players who received negative run blocking grades from PFF, and one rookie. It’s also possible that Lacy receives more work in the passing game with Jordy Nelson’s huge target market share gone; Lacy’s targets per game were already trending upward in the second half of last season.
Jeremy Hill - FD 8600 DK 7100 Starsdraft 7400
The Raiders have a solid defensive line, but the Bengals offensive line was ranked seventh in run blocking by PFF a season ago and returns all five starters. Hill should see good volume, as the Bengals are 3.5-point favorites against the Raiders. Hill will be his team’s goal line back, which is important because 61 percent of all rushing TDs occur inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.
Chris Ivory - FD 6400 DK 4100 Starsdraft 4300
Ivory’s Jets check in as 3-point favorites over the lowly Browns, who finished 31st in run defense DVOA a season ago. Ivory should be able to rack up plenty of volume, because it’s hard to foresee the Browns offense having any offensive success against the Jets given the state of their offensive skill (I use that term lightly) position players. Ivory excelled when his team was a favorite a year ago, averaging nearly double the amount of fantasy points (13.3) than he did when the Jets were underdogs (7.66). It’s also a good sign that Ivory was seeing for receiving volume than usual this preseason.
Lamar Miller - FD 7300 DK 5500 Starsdraft 7000
Lamar Miller is yet another RB that excelled when his team was a favorite last season, averaging 15.7 FanDuel points/game as a favorite, but only 9.6 in seven games as an underdog, The Dolphins are 3-point favorites against the Redskins. The ‘Skins did have a solid run defense a season ago, but the Dolphins are able to counteract that by spreading the defense out with their four solid wide receivers (Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, DeVante Parker) and receiving tight end (Jordan Cameron), resulting in running lanes for Miller.
A.J. Green - FD 8300 DK 7800 Starsdraft 7200
There are so many juicy WR matchups that Green is flying under the radar, but he shouldn’t be. The Raiders will likely struggle to pressure Andy Dalton, and their CB combination of D.J.Hayden and T.J. Carrie isn’t prohibitive. Then, there’s the matter of Green’s home/road splits, or should I say, road/home splits. He’s played 30 games at home and 30 on the road in his career, but inexplicably averages a 6.8/101/0.7 receiving stat line on the road, compared to 4.2/61.4/0.47 at home.
Davante Adams - FD 5500 DK 4400 Starsdraft 5100
Adams is a chalk play; he’s pretty much a must-start in cash games, but you should be sure to go contrarian at a bunch of other positions if you choose to build around him in tournaments. The injured Jordy Nelson leaves behind 29 percent of the Packers’ targets, and Adams is a good bet to pick up a good portion of the slack as the Aaron Rodgers’ new number-two WR against a Bears’ defense that –as I mentioned earlier – is starting four new players in their secondary.
Odell Beckham - FD 8900 DK 9200 Starsdraft 8200
Beckham already had some of the highest upside on the slate before the Cowboys lost CB Orlando Scandrick. Beckham failed to dip below 90 receiving yards in any of his last nine games, and with Victor Cruz unlikely to play, there’s no reason to foresee a drop in workload. OBJ has multi-TD upside (he scored 2 TDs in both meetings vs. Dallas last season) and double-digit reception upside (he notched 10-plus receptions four times in his last six games). His DK price makes him more of a strictly-GPP play, but he’s affordable enough to play in cash games on FD given the value at other positions.
Jarvis Landry - FD 6900 DK 5600 Starsdraft 5200
On the low, Landry has started his own streak of games with at least five receptions, a la Antonio Brown. Landry has nine straight games with at least five catches, and should keep his high-floor play going against the Redskins, who finished near the bottom of the NFL in terms of defending WRs a year ago. The Redskins’ defensive personnel doesn’t boast any LBs, slot CBs, or safeties adept at covering the middle of the field, where Landry does most of his work. He’s a great play on DK, although on FD I’d go with Jordan Matthews ($6800) at this price point.
Greg Olsen - FD 5900 DK 5300 Starsdraft 4800
The injured Kelvin Benjamin leaves behind a 27 percent receiving target market share and a 29 percent red zone target market share. With the Panthers starting replacement-level WRs Ted Ginn and Corey Brown on the outside, Olsen figures to be fore-fed the ball by Cam Newton as the Panthers only viable receiving target. Any time there’s a tight end that projects for a high volume of targets all over the field at an affordable price tag, you have to jump at the opportunity, because tight end is the most inconsistent and volume-deficient position in DFS.
Martellus Bennett - FD 6200 DK 4300 Starsdraft 4200
Bennett starts the season priced at $4,300 on DraftKings, even though his price dipped no lower than $5,200 over the final month of last year's 90-catch season. He’s still priced reasonably on other sites, and with Brandon Marshall gone and Matt Forte’s record-setting reception total likely to regress (especially since Mark Trestman is gone), Bennett looks to again be in line for a ton of targets from Jay Cutler in a game where the Bears will inevitably have to throw.
Jason Witten - FD 5800 DK 4000 Starsdraft 4200
The Giants have major weaknesses at both LB and Safety, the two positions usually responsible for covering tight ends. These positional weaknesses are nothing new to the Giants of late, and Witten has taken advantage to the tune of five TDs in their last four meetings.
Defense and Special Teams
New York Jets - FD 4400 DK 2900 Starsdraft 3300
Vegas expect no team to score fewer points than the Browns in week one (18.25). The Jets are 3-point favorites in the game, and are facing arguably the worst offensive skill position group in the NFL. Defenses get the majority of their production from sacks and interceptions, and Josh McCown finished ranked last in interception percentage and third-to-last in both completion percentage (which is a better predictor of future interceptions than interception percentage) and sack percentage (a QB trait) amongst 33 qualified QBs.
Carolina Panthers - FD 4800 DK 3100 Starsdraft 4200
The Panthers are 3-point favorites against Jacksonville, who has one of the lowest Vegas team totals of the week at 19.25. Last season, Blake Bortles finished in the bottom-two amongst 33 qualified QBs in both sack rate and interception rate, and was also the sixth-worst in completion percentage. Bortles sterling preseason should be taken with a grain of salt, as he had an even better preseason last season. Panthers CB Josh Norman is likely to suit up, and if so, he’s capable of eliminating the Jaguars best receiving option, Allen Robinson. Norman (who shut down Julio Jones twice last season) finished ranked third out of 73 qualified CBs in PFF’s yards per coverage snap—only Chris Harris and Richard Sherman were better.
Miami Dolphins - FD 4700 DK 3000 Starsdraft 3900
The Dolphins are 3-point favorites against the QB-deprived Redskins. Kirk Cousins has given the ball away once every 17 touches in his career, which is exactly what you’re looking for in an opposing QB. The Dolphins finished second in PFF’s pass rushing grades last season, and have since added Ndamukong Suh, so they should be able to force Cousins into mistakes, whether it be turnovers or sacks.
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- Cowboys Giants Football: (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)