Andy Dalton (DK – $6,800/FD – $7,300): Fantasy owners will get a double take when they see Dalton ranked as one of the top QBs in Week 1. Last year he passed for fewer than 275 yards in 14 of his 16 starts. Early in his career, Andy was a better play at home. In 2017, he threw 16 of his 25 TDs on the road, which included games vs. JAX, DEN, MIN, and BAL. Cinci has a developing RB with one stud WR. For Dalton to have success, he needs the secondary receiving core in the Bengals' offense to make a step forward. Last year the Colts were league average defending QBs (4,324 combined yards and 23 passing TDs). They did show more downside risk by allowing 8.0 yards per passing attempt. Dalton has a favorable matchup, but he needs the short scores to come via the passing game. Not quite a freebie, but one of the top choice at QB in Week 1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (DK – $5,000/FD – $6,200): Fitzpatrick threw the ball well in three of his games (290/3, 275/2, and 283/0) in relief of Jameis Winston in 2017 while coming up flat in his other game (187/1). His completion rate (58.9) was just below his career average (59.7) while falling short of Winston’ success (63.2). He went 2-1 last year, which gives the Bucs at least a fighting chance to win games over the first three weeks. Tampa has talent at WR and TE, which points to upside in the passing game in 2018. The Saints will score in this game, which will force Fitzpatrick to be active in the passing game. Last year New Orleans appeared to have growth on defense while finishing 19th in the league defending QBs in Fantasy points allowed. The Saints have one elite player on their defensive line (Cameron Jordan) and one developing CB (Marshon Lattimore). Beyond those two players, New Orleans has risk at multiple spots on their defense. Fitzpatrick is priced to pay off this week.
Matchup Risk/Against the Grain
Tom Brady (DK - $7,200/FD – $8,600): Entering to Week 1 at home, Tom Brady has the highest salary in DraftKings and Fanduel at QB while having plenty of question marks at the WR position. Rob Gronkowski remains a beast, and the Patriots will have success passing the ball to their RBs. Without strength at WR, Brady is going to be a tough start in the daily games out of the gate. Houston should be better defensively with J.J. Watt expected to play. Last year the Texans were the worst team in the league defending QBs (4,243 combined yards with 34 TDs). On 195 possessions, teams scored 48 TDs vs. Houston with 70.8 percent coming via the QB position. A favorable matchup, but I expect Tommy to be an against the grain play due to his high salary and weakness at WR.
Alex Smith (DK – $5,600/FD – $6,900): From 2011 to 2017, Smith was one of the best QBs in the league winning games. He went 69-31-1 over this span with a winning record each year. Despite only passing for 4,000 yards (4,042 in 2017) once in his career and never throwing over 26 TDs, Alex won games by not making mistakes (43 Ints over his 102 games). His completion rate has been exceptional in 2016 (67.1) and 2017 (67.5) while setting a career high in yards per pass attempts (8.6) last year. He led the NFL in QB rating (104.7) in 2017. Some of his growth last year can be attributed to more willingness to throw the ball downfield thanks to a hotshot QB sitting behind him on the bench. Over his last 76 games, Alex rushed for 1,672 yards with ten rushing TDs. Last year the Redskins’ QBs passed for 4,093 yards with 26 TDs while also rushing the ball 49 times for 179 yards and four TDs. Arizona was league average defending QBs (3,796 yards and 2 TDs) in 2017 while allowing only 6.7 yards per pass attempts. The key to his value will be the health of Jordan Reed. I don't expect Reed to be in top form in Week 1 even if plays, which makes Smith an avoid for me in the daily games.
Tyrod Taylor (DK – $5,400/FD – $6,600): Over three seasons as the starting QB for the Bills, Taylor went 22-20 while developing into a very good game manager. His best asset ended up being his ability to minimize turnovers (16 Ints in 42 games) while providing winning plays in the run game (310/1711/15). Tyrod has a respectable completion rate (62.4), especially when considering the weak receiving talent in his career with Buffalo. Even with his ability to run, Taylor did take 88 sacks over the last two seasons. Cleveland has receiving talent at RB and WR with a developing TE. His ability to run combined with his passing options sets the stage for an exciting Fantasy year if he keeps the starting job. The Steelers played well defending QBs in 2017 leading to the 9th overall ranking (3,610 passing yards and 20 TDs) while piling up 56 sacks. I expect Pittsburgh to have regression on defense in 2018. Taylor has a chance to be a great play in GPPs this week if Josh Gordon plays while putting Cleveland on the NFL map out of the gate.
Case Keenum (DK – $5,100/FD – $6,300): Over his first 26 games in the NFL, Keenum had a 9-15 record with 5,224 passing yards, 24 TDs, and 20 Int while gaining only 6.7 yards per pass attempts. An injury to Sam Bradford led to Case earning the starting job in Week 3 for the Vikings. Keenum went 11-3 with a spike in his completion rate (67.6). He finished 3,547 passing yards with 22 TDs and seven Ints. Keenum passed for over 300 yards in two games while delivering more than two TDs in three contests. Over his starts, Case attempts more than 33 passes in four games. Last year the Broncos’ QBs passed for 3,668 yards on 566 attempts with 19 TDs. Denver has talent at WR with scoring ability while Seattle appears to be on the decline on defense with much more risk in the secondary in 2018. Denver will try to run the ball while the Seahawks do their best to keep the game under control to give Wilson a chance to steal a win on the road. Keenum will need a couple of games to find his passing rhythm for the Broncos suggesting this pony spends Week 1 in the daily barn.
Eli Manning (DK – $4,700/FD – $6,300): Manning has a tough matchup for sure in Week 1 while facing the top QB and WR defense in the league. Even with a low salary, Eli is going to be a huge against the grain play. His receiving core is much better than many teams in the league, but Fantasy owners continue to overlook his upside with the new offensive team structure in 2018. In a way, I hope Manning post a low score in Week 1 with low ownership, which helps keep his salary down the following week. He's going to pay off more than once in the daily games in 2018. Wake up Fantasy world, bet on his supporting cast, not his 2017 stats. Island play with a pile of money waiting at the end of the rainbow.
Tough Matchup with Limited Upside
Russell Wilson (DK – $6,200/FD – $7,900): There's a lot of mixed emotion toward the value and success of Wilson in 2018. His receiving core is loaded with questions: Is Doug Baldwin healthy? Will BrandonMarshall be a factor in the passing? Can Seattle show improvement running the ball?. Much of Wilson's value is built on his ability to run and create a larger passing window, but he still needs viable receiving options. His first start is in Denver where he'll see plenty of pressure when throwing the ball. The Broncos don't have the same talent in the secondary as previous seasons, and Seattle doesn't have the talent to threaten their secondary either. Denver should play well vs. the run with a chance to be a top ten pass defense. Not my kind of dance on the opening weekend in the NFL.
Jimmy Garoppolo (DK – $5,700/FD – $7,100): The mystique of Garoppolo was almost cult-like after his trade to the 49ers. Jimmy has seven career starts in the NFL, which all ended in victories. He’s completed 67.3 percent of his passes in the NFL. Over his five starts with San Francisco, Garoppolo passed for 1,560 yards with seven TDs and five Ints while gaining an amazing 8.8 yards per pass attempt. Defenses only sacked him eight times compared to the 35 sacks taken over the other 11 games. Jimmy passed for over 290 yards in four of his five starts last year with 20 completions over 20 yards with five of those passes gaining 40 yards or longer. Garoppolo had this breakdown in catches, yards, TDs, and targets to RBs (30/294/0 on 39 targets), WRs (64/842/2 on 100 targets), and TEs (23/412/3 on 31 targets) in his first five starts in San Fran. His game is built to react to defenses by using the whole field and all his receiving options. For his Fantasy value, a Fantasy owner has to be fair when reading his passing options. The 49ers lack a true WR1, WR2, and an elite TE. Minnesota has one of the top defense in the league while holding QBs to the second lowest total in Fantasy points allowed in 2017. A tough matchup with more risk than reward.
Dak Prescott (DK – $5,500/FD – $7,000): Over two seasons as the starting QB for the Cowboys, Prescott has a 22-10 record with one playoff appearance. In his second year in the NFL, Dak has regression his completion rate (62.9 – 67.8 in 2016) while making more mistakes (13 Ints – 4 in 2016). His ability run (57/357) and score rushing TDs (12 over 32 games in his career) helps raise his floor from week-to-week. Prescott is a winning game manager with borderline starting value in the season-long games. The biggest question needed to be answered in 2018 is the value of his receiving core. His TE options are all but worthless plus his offensive line has multiple injuries entering Week 1. The Panthers placed 15th in the NFL defending QBs last year (3,969 passing yards and 25 TDs). Carolina had 50 sacks in 2017 while not allowing a rushing TD to a QB. I'll avoid Dak this week.
Ryan Tannehill (FD – $5,300/DK – $6,200): With no games played in 2017, I’ll take a look back at Ryan’s previous season. The stats for Tannehill had minimal playable value in 2016. His best two games throwing the ball came in Week 2 (387/2) and Week 3 (319/3), but he did toss four interceptions. Over his first three starts, he averaged 37.7 pass attempts. The Dolphins switched to a rushing attack from that point on leading to him attempting only 27.6 passes per game over his next ten starts. Ryan had fewer than 200 yards in five of those games. Over his last seven games of the season, he had 13 TDs and five Ints. His completion rate (67.1) was the best of his career plus he made a nice step forward in yards per pass attempt (7.7 – career high). Over his last two seasons, Tannehill has been less active as a runner (32/141/1 and 39/164/1). Last year Miami's QBs passed for 3,792 yards with 24 TDs. The Titans play well vs. the run plus they added more talent in their secondary over the winter. Ryan's receiving core is serviceable, but not explosive. I need to see Miami play one game before taking a dive into this offense. Both teams will run the ball leading to a controlled game on the scoreboard.
Joe Flacco (DK – $4,900/FD – $6,100): Over ten seasons in the NFL, Flacco has a 92-62 record with one Super Bowl title. His yards per passing attempts (5.7) was a career low with three straight seasons of regression. After setting a career high in completions (436), pass attempts (672), and passing yards (4,317), Joe saw his passing opportunity fall by almost 19 percent in 2017. Flacco had a league-low 29 completions over 20 yards. Last year Joe battled a back issue late in August putting his regular season at risk. He’s only missed six games in his 160 opportunities in his career. Baltimore tried to improve their TE talent in the draft (Hayden Hurst won't play in Week 1), and they cleaned house at the top end of the WR position. I hate his offensive line, which will lead to many short passes again this season. Only once in his career has Joe delivered more than league average passing TDs for a full season. The Bills did a nice job defending QBs in 2018 (3,844 yards with only 14 passing TDs). With Josh Allen expected to start in Week 1, the Ravens will play from the lead leading to a high volume of runs. Joe is an easy avoid in Week 1.
Josh Allen (DK – $4,400/FD – $6,000): Allen was asked to do a lot over the last two seasons at Wyoming. In his 25 games in 2016 and 2017, he passed for 5,015 yards while gaining another 727 yards on the ground. Josh had 44 passing TDs and 21 Ints in his college career with another 12 scores on the ground. His accuracy (56.2) isn’t where it needs to be to be successful early in his NFL career. Allen has a Vinny Testaverde feel with better wheels. His arm is top shelf while needing to prove he has the skill set to read NFL defenses and make better throws under a shorter passing window. Josh will be tough to tackle, but he needs to improve his pocket presence and decision making. The comparison to Carson Wentz could be a trap and push a team to draft him higher than his true value. I see more of a project than a Super Bowl winner. The injury to A.J. McCarron clears the way for Allen to start, but he’s not a lock. If he does start, I expect multiple mistakes out of the gate while offering minimal upside and a possible hook within a game. The Bills’ lack talent at WR and TE compared to the top teams in the league. Pure avoid in Week 1 while drawing a nice shining circle for those eyeballing the Ravens’ defense.
Cam Newton (DK – $6,900/FD – $8,100): There's a lot to like about Newton in 2018. He has his top TE back in the starting lineup plus a hotshot rookie WR. When you add an elite pass-catching back in Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess, and a sneaky Curtis Samuel, Cam has all the tools for a special 2018 season. His downside comes with a couple of injuries on the offensive line. The Cowboys will get after the QB, and their defense looks improved heading into this year. Both teams in this game will be running the ball, which means the clock will be moving on many plays. Last year QBs passed for 3,746 yards and 28 TDs vs. Dallas with minimal value on the ground (54/213/1). I don't expect a 30+ point game, which tells me Newton isn't a difference maker in Week 1.
Drew Brees (DK – $6,800/FD – $8,400): Brees had his lowest production in passing yards (4334) and TDs (23) in 2017 since 2005, but he did a great job handing off the ball off to his stud RBs. Even with a huge step back in opportunity, Drew still lead the NFL in completions (386) and competition rate (72.0). Over the previous seven seasons, Brees averaged over 650 passes per season. In 2017, he passed for 508 yards with three TDs and third Ints against the Bucs in two games. Tampa finished 30th in the NFL last year in QB defense with their three bad games coming in Week 3 (32.25), Week 4 (30.60), and Week 5 (43.30). The Bucs will struggle to sack the QB giving Brees plenty of time to hit on some big plays. You know Tampa wants to shutdown Alvin Kamara, which will be a positive for the deep passing game. Solid play at home with enough talent to beat his projections in a big way.
Deshaun Watson (DK – $6,700/FD – $8,200): The great one returns to the field in Week 1 vs. the Patriots after missing the last nine games of 2017 with a torn right ACL. Fantasy owners were taken on a fun ride by Watson from Week 3 to Week 7 last year. Over a five-game stretch, Deshaun passed for 1,472 yards with 18 TDs and seven Ints while gaining another 186 yards on the ground with another TD. His success over this span projected over 16 games would have led to 5,305 combined yards with 61 TDs. When looking at his passing stats, Watson never attempted over 34 passes in any game. He made plenty of big plays while taking 19 sacks on the year over 204 pass attempts. His offensive line is a huge problem, and defenses will have a whole offseason to come up with a scheme to slow him down. Last year he passed for 301 yards and two TDs vs. the Patriots. New England ranked 24th in the NFL defending QBs in 2017 while allowing 4,319 yards and 24 passing TDs. Watson has one stud WR plus a deep threat, which may not be enough his first game in 2018 with Bill Belichick having a summer to game plan for this game.
Ben Roethlisberger (DK – $6,600/FD – $8,000): A slow start to the season (11 TDs and two games with 300+ yards passing over his first nine games) due a tougher than expected schedule led to Roethlisberger underperforming his expected value in 2017. His game was much higher over his last six games (16 TDs and 325.5 passing yards per game) highlighted by three strong games (299/4, 351/, and 506/2). In his only game against the Browns on the road, Ben passed for 263 yards and two TDs and one Int. Cleveland finished 26th in the league defending QBs (3,881 passing yards and 28 passing TDs). I like the structure of Cleveland's offense this year, which points to an exciting back and forth game. Roethlisberger tends to offer less value on the road, but his WR core has explosiveness. Worth a ticket or two in GGPs.
Kirk Cousins (DK – $6,500/FD – $7,600): Last year the receiving talent in Washington was a step below his previous season leading to regression in his completion rate (64.4). Cousins will make plenty of plays downfield, which led to 7.8 yards per pass attempt over the last three seasons. In 2017, Kirk had five games with over 300 yards passing and six games with three TDs. The talent at the receiving positions in Minnesota has more upside while setting a high level in completion rate in 2016 (70.4) and 2017 (67.7), which bolds well for Cousins in 2018. The 49ers could be one of the most improved defenses in the league if their young talent makes a step forward. They finished 28th defending QBs in 2017 (3,943 yards and 27 TDs). The Vikings want to be a balanced team while having a top defense. Based on receiving talent, Kirk can't be dismissed. He just needs the 49ers to push him on the scoreboard.
Philip Rivers (DK – $6,400/FD – $7,500): This season the Chargers have one of the top wide receivers in the game plus a top passing catching RB. Their upside in the passing game may lie in the scoring ability of Mike Williams in 2018. Rivers is a player that makes his receivers better. The Chiefs have talent at linebackers, but they can be beaten at the cornerback position. Last year he passed for 464 yards and one TDs and six Ints in two games against Kansas City. The Chiefs allowed 4,131 yards and 23 TDs to QBs in 2017, but no team threw for more than two passing TDs over the last nine games. No the best resume in this matchup from last year plus LA lacks a viable TE. Sneaky play with both teams having depth in their talent at the skill position on offense.
Marcus Mariota (DK – 19.19/FD – $7,200): In 2017, Marcus passed for over 300 yards in two games while never delivering more than two TDs in any game. Over his three years in the NFL, Mariota hasn’t delivered a special season in line with his success in 2014 at Oregon (5,224 combined yards with 42 passing TDs and 15 rushing TDs with only four Ints. The new offensive coordinator invites intriguing upside to the 2018 offensive game plan. Matt LaFleur has been part of two great offenses in 2016 (Falcons – 33.8 points per game) and 2017 (Rams – 29.9 points per game). Marcus has value in the run game plus a developing WR1. The Titans' offense wants to run the ball while needing to walk before they can run. Miami will rush the QB with some risk defending the run, which isn’t a great combination for Mariota in this matchup.
Andrew Luck (DK – $6,100/FD – $7,300): Luck returns to the starting lineup after missing all of the 2017 season. He's a winning QB (43-27) who will need to throw the ball a ton in 2018. The Colts don't have a great defense, which will require Andrew to win games with his right arm. The Bengals do have talent at CB with strength in their defensive line. For Luck to have success in this matchup, he'll need to use his RBs and TEs in the passing game. Last year Cinci ranked 11th in the NFL defending QBs (3,657 passing yards and 23 combined TDs). Only one team passed for more than 300 yards (Green Bay - 313/3). There's one thing that can beat a good passing defense, and it's a huge number of passing attempts. Luck will throw the ball 40+ times, which gives him plenty of reasons to consider him as starting QB in Week 1 in the daily games.
Patrick Mahomes (DK - $6,000/FD – $6,700): Mahomes has the makings of being an upside QB in the NFL while starting his career with plenty of talent in the passing game. He has an elite TE and a top RB with pass-catching upside. His two WRs can make explosive plays in the passing game. It sets the stage for a run ride in 2018, but there will be a learning curve. The Chargers played well defending WRs in 2017 (7th overall in Fantasy points allowed), but their top two CBs are banged up in the preseason while already losing CB Jason Verrett for the year. I'm not a fan of their linebacking core, which points to a successful game by Travis Kelce. Overall, there is enough here to consider Mahomes an explosive play in Week 1 even with low projections. His downside would be a ball control game by LA helped by a few Ints by Kansas City. My guts say the sheep ride him into the losing dumpster.
Blake Bortles (DK – $5,600/FD – $6,600): After a strong push from Week 12 to Week 16 (1,563 combined yards with 11 TDs and four Ints), Bortles finished as the 13th highest scoring QB in 2017. More importantly, he was the best Fantasy QB from Week 14 to Week 16 (1,005 yards and seven TDs). On the year, Blake finished with only 23 combined TDs and 4,009 combined yards. Only twice all season did he attempts over 35 passes in a game (Week 10 – 51 and Week 16 – 50). Bortles had four games with over 300 yards passing, which came over the last ten games of the year. Over his first 11 games, Blake had one passing TD or fewer in ten games. The Jaguars are built on a strong defense with a top rushing attack, which will hurt the upside of Bortles in many games. The Giants had plenty of risk defending QBs in 2017 (4,199 passing yards and 35 combined TDs), which wasn't helped by a weak offense due to injuries. This season New York will have a top offense in the NFL with strength running the ball, which can only improve the play of their defense as far as time of possession. Bortles isn't dead in the water in this game, but it's not the layup either that he may be painted as in the daily games.
Sam Bradford (DK – $5,200/FD – $6,400): After a poor start to his career over five seasons with the Rams (18-30-1 record with 58.6 percent completion rate), Bradford proved to be serviceable over the last 2+ seasons (16-15) highlighted by success with the Vikings (71.8 percent completion rate) with an excellent TD to Int ratio (23:5). In 2016, he had only two games with over 300 yards passing and two games with three TDs. In his only full game last year, Sam passed for 346 yards and three TD. The Vikings struggled to block for him in five games (4, 6, 5, 5, and 4 sacks) in 2016. Bradford is a former first-round draft pick (2009) with one more chance to showcase his upside. The Cardinals will throw the ball, but they don’t have an impact TE with questions in their depth at WR. This offense will flow through DavidJohnson requiring Sam to be a good game manager. The Redskins ranked 13th defending QBs last year (3,692 yards and 23 TDs) while having one elite CB. Some of the downside to their pass defense was covered up by a poor run defense (2,146 yards and 13 TDs). May surprise with a favorable salary.
DRAFTKINGS CHEAT SHEET