With the NFL season upon us, Andrew Perloff and Michael Beller give their Week 1 daily fantasy picks.
Daily fantasy consumed an inordinate amount of my mental energy in 2015. I often found myself walking down the street daydreaming about Gary Barnidge’s production. But I came out of the season with a flush account and am eager to put it on the line. Week 1 prices are out of whack since they’re set early. Last year Tyler Eifert, Chris Ivory and Carlos Hyde made people a lot of money. It’s time to bargain shop and leave enough money to play on fantasy monsters like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. Here’s my ideal lineup (using FanDuel and DraftKings prices) and position-by-position breakdown for Week 1 ...
Dak Prescott ($5,000 FanDuel, $5,000 DraftKings)
We have no idea if Prescott can replicate the success he had against vanilla preseason defenses, but at this price it’s worth the risk. Remember Marcus Mariota’s four-TD performance Week 1 of last season? The Giants and Cowboys always put up a lot of points and even if Prescott makes mistakes he could rack up numbers playing from behind. Prescott didn’t run much in the preseason but two of his seven carries were touchdowns and he might be more inclined to take off in real game action. Choosing Prescott could single-handedly take you out of the week, but he opens up all kinds of possibilities throughout the rest of your lineup. The biggest downside is that Prescott will be a popular DFS pick, so he may not win you much if he has a great debut.
Alternates: Drew Brees or Derek Carr are deservedly popular picks since the Saints and Raiders should put up points. And facing a depleted Colts D, Matthew Stafford should start the post-Megatron era with a nice day.
DeAngelo Williams ($7,100 FanDuel, $7,000 DraftKings)
Williams ran for 127 yards replacing Le’Veon Bell in last season’s primetime opener and has a chance for the same kind of success against a Redskins defense that ranked 26th against the run last season.
Melvin Gordon ($5,700 FanDuel, $4,600 DraftKings)
This is the cheapest you’re going to see Gordon this season. After a total of 0.0 TDs in his rookie season, Gordon had a running and receiving score during the preseason. The former first-rounder struggled against the Chiefs’ stingy run defense last year, but reports out of camp are saying he’s a different back.
Alternates: Philly’s Ryan Mathews is a juicy option against Cleveland.
Antonio Brown ($9,300 FanDuel, $9,800 DraftKings)
You don’t need me to tell you to pick the best fantasy player in the league, but the Week 1 bargains make it possible to make this play. Hopefully the Redskins will try to make cornerback Josh Norman earn that big salary by covering Brown one-on-one.
Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,100 FanDuel, $9,300 DraftKings)
See Brown above. But Beckham’s a bit cheaper and Giants-Cowboys could be a shootout. Here’s the caveat: Dallas had surprising success slowing down Beckham in 2015. By all accounts, Beckham was unguardable in Giants camp and will be eager to teach the Cowboys a lesson.
Amari Cooper ($7,100 FanDuel, $7,200 DraftKings)
Hoping the Saints-Raiders matchup is going to be wild and Cooper is the next receiver to jump to Pro Bowl level. Cooper caught 72 passes for 1,070 yards as a rookie. Expect those numbers to creep up closer to 90 catches for 1,300 yards.
Alternates: There’s always room for the Saints’ Willie Snead in my lineup and I love the Colts’ Donte Moncrief this season, but I had money to burn here. And this could be a great week to own Green Bay’s Randall Cobb.
Jordan Reed ($7,400 FanDuel, $6,600 Draftkings)
Reed’s numbers took off to Gronkowski-like levels at the end of last season when Kirk Cousins got on his hot streak. The Steelers tried to address their secondary in the off-season but have some work to do there and they did have some issues against tight ends last season.
Alternate: With Gronk out, it’s a good week for Martellus Bennett—unless Jimmy Garoppolo makes you too nervous. And don’t forget everyone’s favorite fantasy sleeper this season ... the Packers’ Jared Cook.
Josh Lambo ($4,500 FanDuel)
Had limited funds. Just made sure whomever I picked didn’t get cut. Lambo’s still a Charger, right?
Alternate: Whomever is kicking indoors and you can afford—Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski in New Orleans fits the mold.
Philadelphia Eagles ($4,800 FanDuel, $3,300 DraftKings)
Couldn’t quite squeeze in the Texans’ D against the Bears, so took a sneaky points-producing Eagles D at home for RGIII’s Browns debut.
Alternate: Was tempted by Rams’ potentially dangerous defense as well. The bargain-basement Browns were also tempting here against rookie Carson Wentz.
Week 1 is here, and with it comes a lot of intriguing matchups that we don’t get to see that often. Inter-conference battles between the Colts and Lions, Packers and Jaguars, Raiders and Saints, and Steelers and Redskins, are all interesting, and only partially because they all have game totals of 48 or higher. Those are going to be four games the DFS crowd targets strongly, and for good reason.
Below is my Week 1 ultimate lineup for FanDuel.
Matthew Stafford ($7,400) @ IND
Vontae Davis (ankle), Patrick Robinson (groin) and Clayton Geathers (foot) will all miss Sunday’s game against the Lions. That’s 3/4 of the Colts starting secondary. The group that will take the field has yet to play a snap together, even in the preseason. Now they’re being tasked with slowing down a pass-heavy offense led by Stafford, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. That would be hard enough in ideal circumstances, let alone down three starters. The game total sits at 51, and while there’s evidence that supports targeting games that go over their total rather than ones with high totals, this figures to be one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend. Stafford’s price makes him the best bang-for-your-buck pick on the board, and he has the potential to be a top-three scorer at the position this week.
Lamar Miller ($7,600) vs. CHI, LeSean McCoy ($6,900) @ BAL
There is no universe in which seven running backs should be more expensive than Miller, or in which Miller should be priced like a second- or third-tier receiver, and yet that’s exactly what we get in Week 1. Miller has yet to completely rid himself of the Miami offense stink, which is likely keeping his price tag down a bit. This could be the cheapest we see him all season. Chicago’s front seven is much improved, but the Texans are one of the best bets on the board at -6 for a reason. Miller is a true three-down back with the skills and environment to be the best fantasy back in the league this season. The Bears are not going to slow him down.
There isn’t much love for McCoy, from what I can tell, in DFS circles this week, and that’s a bit surprising. The expected pace of the Bills-Ravens game should play to McCoy’s favor. The next two backs on the roster are Mike Gillislee and Reggie Bush, and while the Bills aren’t going to treat McCoy like a workhorse, he’s a good bet for 20 touches on Sunday. There’s still some talent on Baltimore’s front seven, led by Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Timmy Jernigan, but this is not the run-stuffing unit it once was. McCoy may not be a top-five back in Week 1, but the price is right for him to turn a big profit in DFS formats.
Odell Beckham ($9,100) @ DAL, Allen Robinson ($8,500) vs. GB, Marvin Jones ($5,500) @ IND
Typically, the best way to build a winning DFS lineup is with value at running back and stars at receiver. The pricing this week let us punch a bit higher at running back while still finding value and not costing us anything at receiver. Beckham struggled in two games against the Cowboys last year, but that was last year. The bet here is that Beckham sees more of Brandon Carr than Morris Claiborne, but the Cowboys will need a second man in coverage all afternoon. You could talk me into DeAndre Hopkins over Beckham as the top receiver this week, but with Lamar Miller already in the lineup, team diversification broke that tie.
Early ownership percentages are out for DFS contests involving the Thursday night game, and if those carry over to the weekend, we’re going to get an advantageously low rate on Robinson. Nine receivers had higher ownership rates in contests starting Thursday, and that’s something you just don’t see very often for Robinson. Green Bay and Jacksonville are expected to play one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend, with an over/under of 48 and 77% of bettors backing the over. No defensive coordinator in the league schemes for better secondary play than Dom Capers, but Robinson is a star in the making.
Finally, let’s go ahead and stack a couple of Lions, thanks to their matchup with the depleted Indianapolis secondary. Remember, Week 1 prices were set back in July, so certain things are going to appear out of whack based on draft-season values. It’s safe to say that 54 receivers were not going ahead of Jones in drafts, but that’s where he lands on the pricing ladder this week. If Stafford has as great a game as I expect, it stands to reason that Jones and Golden Tate will, as well. Tate, however, checks in at $6,900. At $5,500, it’s hard to beat Jones this week. Understand, though, he’s likely to be one of the most widely owned players, regardless of position.
Dwayne Allen ($5,500) vs. DET
Before the Patriots ruled out Rob Gronkowski, I couldn’t think of any argument against using Allen this week. Now that argument comes in the form of Martellus Bennett, but a lot of people are going to bark up that tree. Instead, I’ll stick with Allen, who’s going to be lightly owned in a game that, as we’ve already discussed, should be a shootout. Based on scheme, personnel and the Indianapolis defense, there will be three fantasy-relevant pass-catchers in this offense more often than not. Allen is the best bet to be that third guy, alongside T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief.
Mason Crosby ($4,700) @ JAC
Crosby is a kicker tied to a strong offense playing in a game that could very well get up into the 50s. He’s also moderately priced. That checks every box for the position.
Philadelphia Eagles ($4,800) vs. CLE
I was down on the Eagles offense all summer, but their defense makes them one of the more undervalued teams in the league. There’s talent on all three levels, from Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin up front, to Mychal Kendricks in the middle, to Malcolm Jenkins as a stabilizing force at safety. They’ll also benefit from not being on the field for 1,148 plays like they were last year, thanks to the pace of Chip Kelly’s offense. Add in new coordinator Jim Schwartz, and there’s a lot to like about the Philadelphia defense. The Browns have an intriguing offense, but the Eagles should be able to get after Robert Griffin III and force him into some mistakes.