by Nick Ercolano
September 06, 2018
Week 1 of the NFL season is here players, meaning we've gotta start diving into DFS, DraftKings, Fanduel, sit/starts all that bullshit... so here we are.
Drew Brees vs. TB ($6,800)
Tampa Bay was one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL last year, I don't expect them to be much better. Gotta love Brees @ home in the dome - no Ingram I think they come out of the gate firing the ball and pass it more than normal. This game has one of the highest over/under totals (49.5) of the week, Saints are heavy FAVs (-9.5), and are projected to score over 30 points. Sure they might get ahead quick but Brees should pile it on early. Look for Michael Thomas to go off and take advantage of this week CB group. Love his chances to hit that 300-yard passing bonus as well.
Marcus Mariota @ MIA ($6,300)
Mariota's made me nervous this preseason but luckily gets a nice week 1 matchup in nice weather down in South Beach. Miami was also one of the worst pass d's in the NFL last year, and while they might be a little better in their secondary, they lost Suh to the Rams so look for there to be less pressure up the middle on Mariota. I think Mariota gets it done via his legs in this one, making him more valuable in this 4 PT per PASS TD settings.
Andy Dalton @ IND ($5,800)
People love flip-flopping on Dalton. One bad preseason game, his seasons over. A good one to finish up the year, everyone claims that they've loved him as a sleeper all along. The Bengals final (w/ starters) preseason game was an encouraging one for Dalton and this starting group - at least relative to last season. The weapons group looks to be at full health with A.J. Green leading the group, Mixon out of the backfield, John Ross developing as their clear-cut WR2, Tyler Eifert seemingly healthy while being used primarily near the EZ which is a good thing for Dalton's fantasy outlook.
The Bengals take on a brutal INDY secondary, while they get Andrew Luck back on the other side of the ball offering this game "shootout" potential, although I think the 47 over/under is an easy fade, and the under should be pounded. Optimism on these types of offenses is what shoots these point totals up. Always fade too much optimism. I think Dalton will get it done if you're not looking to pay up at the QB position - with a solid 250-2 TD line.
Jordan Wilkins vs. CIN ($3,700)
Depending on injuries, Wilkins could be the least expensive NFL starting running back to roster. Marlon Mack isn't practicing yet with his hamstring injury. Turbin is out for 4 games. Christine Michael doesn't make me nervous. Hines should have a pass-catching role if Mack is out, but if Mack is out, Wilkins will likely run with the ones, and by default think he sees himself an easy 13-15 touches in this one. It's a game in which game script shouldn't take Wilkins out in favor Hines, so he should be safe there. Wilkins is obviosuly risky with a low floor, but he's the cheapest back on this list.
Peyton Barber @ NO ($4,100)
Boy do I love me some Week 1 Peyton Barber. Early season DFS is where you need to utilize these prices people - they won't last. As I've talked about for the last month, Barber is the back to own in TB, and even if you think Jones comes on eventually, that's perfect, because Week 1 is the week to hammer Barber in DFS. As I mentioned with Brees - the Bucs are going to fall behind in this one, they're almost 10 point dogs - so look for the passing game to see a heavy volume of attempts and I'm of the belief that Barber is the pass-catching back here - he's run exclusively with the 1's all summer, Jones is dropping passes left and right, Charles Sims is on the I.R. - this should be Barber's coming out party. He'll probably be chalky, but it's hard to fade him at $4,100.
Rex Burkhead vs. HOU ($4,200)
The best part about Burkhead is that while every other RB on the roster seems to be game flow dependent, Burkhead is not - he diversifies the revenue on the GL, between the tackles, catching screens, from the slot - look for him to be heavily utilized in Week 1 with Edelman gone, and pessimism around 1st round rookie Sony Michel suiting up for Week 1.
Lamar Miller @ NE ($5,200)
With D'Onta Foreman officially placed on the PUP to begin the year, Miller will operate as the Texans 3-down workhorse, with only Alfred Blue behind him. Much like what I said for Peyton Barber holds true for Miller. The Texans travel to Foxborough where they'll be as near TD dogs, sporting the highest over/under total (51) in Week 1. Miller will be involved early and often, as they fall behind, look for Miller's reception total to creep up to that 5 or so mark. While Wilkins might be the cheapest starting RB, Miller is the cheapest featured back in an offense expected to score a lot of points.
Melvin Gordon vs. KC ($6,800)
KC's run defense should again be a spot to target for fantasy owners, ranking dead last in FO's rush D DVOA in 2017. Gordon has operated at as much of the featured back, if not moreso, for the Chargers this preseason as he has in each of the previous two years. Gordon should see a 20+ workload without hesitation.
This KC offense also intrigues me for Gordon's sake. I think it'll involve multiple turnovers from Mahomes and/or big plays setting up a lot of points. Both narratives work in the favor of Gordon. At just $6,800, Gordon's workload floor is as high as anyone's in the NFL in Week 1 and is probably one of the top bets to get into the EZ.
Alvin Kamara vs. TB ($8,500)
The only RB I'm willing to pay up for in Week 1 is Alvin Kamara - even at this price. He's going to play a monster role with Ingram out in September. The game script shouldn't affect him at all in this one, and we know the Saints are set up to dominate and score a lot of points - this is a good thing for not only Brees but the entire offense. They did just sign Mike Gillislee, but he's got like 8 seconds to get ready for Week 1 - I'm not worried about his supposed "early-down" role, at least not in Week 1. Kamara should see 13-15 carries, more if they get up big, and his usual 5-7 targets in this one. Kamara is a lock for 125+ total yards and a minimum of one score.
Bruce Ellington vs. NE ($3,400)
Lol, okay, so this one's probably going to be a bit crazy - but Ellington is that one sneaky play ready to push you over the edge in Week 1. He's an absolute favorite of Matt Harmon's reception perception, a fantastic route runner and now he's slated to be their starting slot WR in 2018. Their hyped rookie WR Keke Coutee has done nothing all summer, nursing a hamstring injury. Will Fuller's also nursing a hamstring injury and is day-to-day, but expected to be active for Week 1. Will he get his full slate of snaps is the question.
Again, they travel to NE, where the game could turn into a shootout. Watson should be throwing the ball a ton, and it would not at all surprise me to see Ellington finish the game in the 7-8 target range, behind only DeAndre Hopkins in targets. I also think there is no better team in the NFL, thanks to Uncle Billy, at taking out the opposing offenses best weapon - who is obviously DeAndre Hopkins. Bill has a lot of time to prepare for this game which makes me think the gameplan will be super tight on Hopkins - he's a fade for me in Week 1 as the 2nd most expensive WR at $8,300.
It's more of a reach play of course, but Adam Levitan who came out with a piece looking at trends of the people who've won the Milly maker over the last two years and 100% of the winners owned someone on their winning team that was less than 5% owned and 51% of them has someone less than 2% owned - Ellington could be that man.
Keelan Cole @ NYG ($3,800)
Y'all know I fuck with Cole - not only in season-long leagues, but I'm ready to use him right out of the gate. This was a bad pass defense last year, and I don't expect it to be much improved in 2018. With Marquise Lee's season-ending injury, look for the super talented Cole to operate as the WR1 for JAX and I think he starts making a name for himself right out of the gate. Cole isn't just a field stretcher but a legitimate wideout with a route tree. He gives you that possession upside in PPR leagues while also giving the ability to score 5 or 6 fantasy points in a single throw.
John Ross @ IND ($3,900)
For much of the reason I like Dalton, I find Ross on this list. I'll be honest, I probably won't play him in any of my DFS lineups, but the intrigue is there. He's operating as the clear WR2 here and has made a few big plays already this preseason. The former top-10 draft pick of the Bengals is a legitimate route runner and deep threat - I'm just not THAT sold on Bengals offense enough to put him in - a little too boom or bust for me - but couldn't argue against it at $3,900.
Emmanuel Sanders vs. SEA ($5,000)
Mannnn, do I love me some Manny Sanders in Week 1. And all year. This preseason, thanks in part to Courtland Sutton developing into a legit outside monster, Sanders has been running a huge % of his routes from the slot in the preseason, I believe the number is between 60-70% up from about 25% last year. He's also seen the highest target market share of any WR so far this preseason, a whopping 44% of Case Keenum's targets have gone to Sanders - which isn't a huge surprise after throwing the ball to Thielen in the slot last year over 140 times.
I don't need to explain the losses Seattle's D has taken this summer in terms of personnel, but they are not even close to what they used to be as an easy fade your guy type D. Sander is a must-start in Week 1, in both season long and DFS.
Sammy Watkins @ LAC ($5,100)
Hear me out here. Last year, the Chargers were 1-of-6 NFL teams to use shadow coverage in at least half of their games. I expect them to do the same this year with Casey Hayward. I think it's safe to say at this point, Tyreek Hill is the WR1 in KC and he'll have the tough sledding of lining up across Hayward, aka PFF's #1 overall graded CB in 2017.
If that is the case, Watkins will have a much easier road in Week 1. The Charges other DBs are no joke, but they lost Jason Verrett already for the year and Trevor Williams has missed a lot of time this summer with an ankle sprain. Last year, while the Chargers D was really good against the pass, their FO DVOA vs. opponent's WR2 ranked just 17th in the NFL - that's an area to exploit.
While the production has not been there this preseason from Watkins, he's actually out-snapped Hill in first team plays 67-64, and he's been lining up all over the formation as the X and the slot which is encouraging - the usage is there, and Mahomes did miss Watkins on an overthrow which would've been a walk-in TD. I think brighter days are ahead for Watkins and it could start here while Hill is shadowed by Hayward.
Jarvis Landry vs. PIT ($5,500)
Landry continues to be undervalued, especially in these full PPR formats. I think Landry is the easy, easy bet to lead this team in targets in Week 1. He saw a damn 10 targets in his last preseason game, that horrible 5-0 game vs. Philly. Josh Gordon has missed the last week of practice with a hamstring, he's since returned, but HC Hue Jackson said he won't start. That could mean he misses the first snap and plays 99% of the game after that, but the snap count uncertainty still scares me off Gordon - they should know that rushing a player back to quickly and putting to much work on their plate coming off something fragile like a hamstring leads to a high re-injury probability.
So, Landry is a volume play here, against a defense without Shazier that has looked not the best this summer. CLV is 5 point dogs in this one and I expect there to be a lot of passing from Tyrod in this one. Landry has an 8-target floor here and I wouldn't be surprised to see him push the 12 target mark in this one.
Stefon Diggs vs. SF ($6,300)
Y'all know I love Diggs, but this play is as much loving Diggs as it is FADING Richard Sherman. We like to talk about running backs coming off of achilles injuries? Well, Sherman is coming off a ruptured achilles. I've seen practice videos of Sherman - and I hate to say it, because he was such a ridiculously good player at his prime, but I think we witness the downfall of Sherman in 2018. 30 years old, coming off this achilles rupture - look for the youthful, unbelievably quick Diggs to take the old man for a ride here.
Don't forget how hot Stefon Diggs has started out each of the last two seasons. 7-93-2 in Week 1 of 2017, 7-103 Week 1 of 2016.
Diggs is a fast starter who gets an underrated juicy Week 1 matchup. Look for him to take advantage.
Odell Beckham Jr. vs. JAX ($7,000)
I really have no logical reason behind wanting OBJ in my lineup against the JAX pass defense other than I think OBJ will do absolutely everything in his power to absolutely ball out in his first game coming off this contract. He's going to want to prove he was worth it, against one of the NFL's best CBs in Jalen Ramsey. I think it's gonna be similar to when OBJ wanted to ball on Josh Norman - it's not an easy task, but at the end of the day I believe OBJ can get it done if he wants to. He might be a high-priced player that most people are fading due to the matchup and it's hard to imagine him being priced this low again for the rest of the year.
Michael Thomas vs. TB ($7,800)
I've talked enough about my love for the Saints in Week 1 - no reason not to love Michael Thomas in this slot. Per PFF, Thomas should line up against 21-year old, Carlton Davis - I'd imagine Thomas is going to make him do the Carlton dance numerous times on Sunday when he's got him switching directions. Thomas has 2 inches, 10lbs, and runs his 40 more than a tenth of a second faster than Davis - he's got the advantage everywhere. Not to mention Drew Brees is throwing to him. Thomas is the WR I want to own if I'm paying up.
Rob Gronkowski vs. HOU ($6,900)
- He's the only TE I'm playing in DFS this week. Idc, @ me, don't @ me, square up, whatever you want players. You guys have to understand that with Edelman out and this receiving core with almost 0 depth, Gronk is going to go nuts over the first month, use him accordingly. Last year Houston allowed the 5th most FPs to the TE position - Gronk played against them in 2017, went 8-89-1. They allowed 8 TDs to TEs over their final 11 games in 2017. It's a done deal for me.
- I don't hate Delanie Walker @ MIA at $4,900 - they gave up the 2nd most points to TEs last year. Per Graham Barfield - "Last year opposing offenses targeted TEs vs MIA on 25.8% of their passes, 3rd highest in NFL. Dolphins allowed 5.8 TE receptions/game - tied with CLV for most in the NFL." End of the day, I'd rather pay up for Gronk lol - Jack Doyle is the other guy I would think about swapping in, home vs. CIN for only $3,600 - They allowed the 9th most FPs to TEs last year - Doyle went off for 12-121-1 on them in 2017. With Luck maybe not at 100% in terms of deep balls, I could see him heavily targeting Doyle in thi sone.
- 6 teams in the NFL used shadow CB coverage last year in at least half (8/16) games.
1. ARZ (11/16) - Patrick Peterson vs. Redskins (not sure if he'll shadow Doctson or Richardson tbh).
2. Detroit (10/16) - Darius Slay vs. NYJ (Robby Anderson)
3. LAC (8/16) - Casey Hayward vs. KC (Tyreek Hill)
4. MIN (10/16) - Xavier Rhodes vs. SF (Marquise Goodwin)
5. NE (10/16) ** Note, only shaded in twice in first eight games, shadowed in final eight games of the season. - Malcolm Butler & Stephon Gilmore. Butler is in TEN now. Not sure if they'll use this defense again - but either way, like I said, I think NE will have a game plan to try and take Hopkins out and let them beat them another way. He did play NE once last year, he went 7-76-0 touchdowns.
6. NYJ (10/16) - Morris Claiborne vs. DET - they also brought in Trumaine Johnson so it should be interesting to see how they manage their CB/WR matchups this year.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Fabian Moreau (WAS)
- Last year, Washington had Kendall Fuller who finished the season as the #2 overall graded CB per PFF and #1 slot CB. Fuller was moved to KC in the trade for Alex Smith - so, this mans name Fabian will take over slot duties - he's a sophomore who played 59 snaps last year and graded out terribly in that limited sample size. He saw the single highest % of targets (29%) on routes covered and allowed the most yards per route covered (2.71) in the NFL last year. He was horrible, to put it nicely, and now he gets a Week 1 matchup with the OG Larry Fitz. Sign me up please.
Cooper Kupp vs. Leon Hall (OAK)
- Well, it's no surprise that this Oakland defense is going to be bad this year. I'm looking for Kupp & this Rams offense to exploit that right out of the gate. Leon Hall was PFF's 2nd worst graded slot CB in the league last year. Meanwhile, we have Kupp coming off his rookie year who has solidified himself as a real playmaker. I expect a hot start from Kupp, who coming into the 2017 season, we didn't really know how this WR situation in LA would play itself out. The Rams WR group will be hard to predict on a week-to-week basis, but I like Kupp's chances in this one against a super favorable defense and individual defender in Leon Hall.
Sticking with this game, the Rams are not going to be a fun defense to play against if you're a WR - Cooper and Jordy will have their work cut out for them lining up across from Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters in this one. I'll fade this entire offense, and Suh and Donald create havic up the middle and give Carr little time to get his passes off.
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