After researching the NFL player pool at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end each week over the past few seasons, I will go on a new path for the daily games in 2021. I continue to make the projections for Sports Illustrated, and this baseline will be used to identify possible values at each position during the season.
In the daily games, we see each week players with low salaries post difference-maker scores. The key to winning is mixing a core of studs with some undervalued options that post impact scores for their price point.
The target is to find players that will score four times their salary to have a shot at GPP (grand prize pool). If you are playing in smaller leagues, the winning scores will be much lower. To succeed in GPPs, we are looking for players who will score three times their salary.
Top Tier: Kyler Murray, ARI (DK – $8,200/FD – $8,700)
The Cardinals played well on both sides of the ball in Week 1, leading to an easy win over the Titans (38-13). Murray finished with 309 combined yards with five scores while gaining 9.0 yards per pass attempt. His improved success as far as distance came from six completions of 20 yards or more. Minnesota showed risk vs. the Bengals’ wide receivers (13/196/2 on targets), but Cinci turned to the run in the second half (Joe Burrow only threw the ball 27 times). Murray is a high-floor player with improving options in the passing game. He ranks first in the early week projections at quarterback (34.29 fantasy points).
Runners-Up: Tom Brady – 32.00 fantasy points, Josh Allen – 31.97
Value: Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (DK – $5,900/FD – $7,200)
The Bills held Roethlisberger to only 188 passing yards with one touchdown, and their offensive line failed to create any holes for the run game (21/75). Pittsburgh tends to be a much better team at home, where Big Ben had more success last year (2,695 passing and 22 touchdowns over nine starts). The Raiders finished 25th vs. quarterbacks in 2020 (4,353/28). Baltimore’s wideouts beat their secondary for 11 catches for 171 yards and one touchdown on 16 targets in Week 1. The Steelers have talent at wide receivers, and Los Vegas needs to clean up their run defense (34/189/2). Roethlisberger projects to pass for 328 yards and three touchdowns.
Runner-Up: Justin Herbert – 29.43 fantasy points
Top Tier: Nick Chubb, CLE (DK – $7,800/FD – $8,400)
After an excellent start, game score led Chubb to see minimal action in the second half against the Chiefs. He finished with 101 combined yards with two home runs and two catches while edging out Kareem Hunt 31 to 28 in snaps. Houston had the second-worst defense in the league against running backs in 2020 (29.22 FPPG), with nine opponents scoring over 30.00 fantasy points. In Week 1, the Jaguars failed to establish the run early, and a chaser game led to mostly passes after halftime. Derrick Henry dominated the Texans in two starts last season (514 combined yards with four touchdowns and two catches). I expect Chubb to break a long run with multiple scores in this matchup.
Value: Najee Harris, PIT (DK – $6,300/FD – $6,100)
Based on his mid-range salary, I expect Harris to be a popular play in the daily games in Week 1. The Steelers had him on the field for all 58 offensive plays, which bodes well for his success if Pittsburgh grabs an early lead. Harris finished with 16 rushes for 45 yards and one catch for four yards against the Bills. Last season, Las Vegas allowed the fourth-most fantasy points (27.84) per game to running backs. The Ravens’ backs gained 147 combined yards with two touchdowns and five catches in Week 1.
I also like the Pittsburgh passing game at home while expecting them to be a lower percentage.
Runner-Up: David Montgomery – 21.16 fantasy points
Top Tier: Keenan Allen, LAC (DK – $7,000/FD – $7,400)
The Chargers’ passing game looked sharp in Week 1 (337/1) against a good Washington defense despite a couple of turnovers by Justin Herbert. Allen caught nine of his 13 targets for 100 yards while typically playing better at home (69/701/4 on 94 targets over seven games). All four of his games (13/132/1, 10/125, 9/103/1, and 16/145/1) with over 100 yards receiving in 2020 came in Los Angeles. This week, Dallas lost one of their better pass-rushers while struggling to defend wideouts in Week 1 (17/250/2). The Cowboys also ranked 29th in wide receiver defense last year (40.11 FPPG). Allen projects to catch eight passes for 113 yards with a touchdown.
Runner-Up: DeAndre Hopkins – 31.21 fantasy points
Value: Laviska Shenault, JAC (DK – $4,900/FD – $5,600)
The Jaguars threw the ball 51 times in Week 1 in a game that was expected to have a high volume of runs against the Texans. Shenault caught seven of his nine targets, but he gained only 7.1 yards per catch. Nevertheless, he has the look of a difference-maker with upside scoring once Trevor Lawrence finds his rhythm passing the ball. Denver held the Giants to only 13 points, but their wideouts did damage (17/246/1). Shenault looks to be on a path for six catches for 76 yards with a seventy-five percent chance of scoring.
Value: Ja’Marr Chase, CIN (DK – $5,000/FD – $5,500)
Low ownership looks to have kept Chase’s salary from making a significant jump in Week 2 despite shining against the Vikings (5/101/1 on seven targets). The Bengals slowed down the clock in the second half with the run game, leading to only 27 passes by Joe Burrow (averaged over 40 in 10 starts in his rookie season). Chase brings a stud feel, and Cincinnati gave him WR1 snaps in Week 1. The Bears struggled to defend the Rams’ wideouts (14/236/2 on 19 targets), setting up a potential big air day for the Bengals on the road. I’m playing Chase due to his explosiveness until his salary becomes a more challenging decision.
Value: Donovan People-Jones, CLE (DK – $3,000/FD – $5,000)
The whole fantasy world will have the Browns’ run game tied up in the daily games, creating possible angle play for People-Jones. Cleveland already stated that Odell Beckham wouldn’t play this week. They gave their number two wideout 80 percent of their snaps vs. the Chiefs, but he finished with only one catch for four yards. Nevertheless, his training camp reports painted an upside picture, and his price point does offer salary camp relief. He only needs to hit on one bomb touchdown to fill his salary bucket.
Runner-Up: Tyler Boyd – 17.89 fantasy points
Top Tier: Darren Waller, LV (DK – $7,600/FD – $7,000)
With Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews off the main slate on Sunday, Waller wins the high floor play award at tight end while offering a top-shelf salary ($7,600). The Raiders looked his way 19 times in Week 1 (10/105/1), giving him 53 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns over his previous six starts or 28.75 fantasy points per game. Last season, Pittsburgh didn’t allow over 18.00 fantasy points to a tight end. Waller falls into the "hot" category, but his matchup and salary should lead to an against the grain type play.
Runner-up: George Kittle – 15.77 fantasy points
Value: Noah Fant, DEN (DK – $4,200/FD – $5,700)
The change to Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and the injury to Jerry Jeudy should lead to Fant being much more active in the passing game this season. He caught six of his eight targets for 62 yards against the Giants while receiving 77 of Denver’s tight end snaps. The Jaguars gave up four catches for 67 yards to Houston’s tight end in Week 1 while ranking 25th in tight end defense (13.33 FPPG) in 2020. As a result, I have Fant projected for five catches for 70 yards with a 60 percent scoring chance.
Runner-Up: Jarod Cook – 13.49 fantasy points
The Week 2 projections are up at Sports Illustrated, with a second update coming Saturday in the morning after all practices close Friday night.
Get fantasy and betting analysis in your inbox by signing up for the Winners Club newsletter: SI.com/newsletters
More Fantasy & Betting Coverage:
- Week 2 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running Backs
- Week 2 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Wide Receivers
- Week 2 Rankings: Wide Receivers
- Week 2 Player Prop Bets for TNF
- Week 2 NFL Betting Preview
- CFB Week 3 Composite Picks
Senior analyst Shawn Childs is a multi-sport, high-stakes fantasy legend with lifetime earnings in the high six-figures. He has been providing in-depth, analytical break downs for years all while helping his subscribers to countless titles and winnings across season-long & DFS. An inaugural inductee of the NFBC Hall of Fame, Shawn can teach you how to prep like a champ!