NFL DFS Week 1 Picks
WE’RE BACK BABY! The one article everyone thinks they don’t need but secretly want is back in action for the brand spankin’ new NFL season! There will also be some new changes to the format as well. What changes, you say? Only one way to find out…SCROLL DOWN!!!
With the new NFL season on the horizon, I feel obligated to mention the new and improved DailyRoto Optimizer that the great people over on DR have worked tirelessly on over the offseason. One of the new tools is the Volatility tool, a great way to customize your lineups even further to your liking. The idea behind it is to alter any particular player you feel has immense upside but the opto may be too low on the projection.
Normally, a boost could be sufficient enough to get a good chunk of your specific player in that scenario. But what if you want to streamline it even more to apply both the high upside and the low, low, soul-crushing performance that is possible? Bumping up the volatility to a certain percentage will have the projections reflect a potential high-end performance and the lows onto your teams, spitting out lineups that normally wouldn’t be possible with a small bump. For example, if you pick a player with a 20 point projection then increase volatility to 20, that player’s projection will then have a range between 16 (-20%) and 24 (+20%). It’s a good way to essentially massage your ego and make the projections skew towards your bias. Isn’t that what we’re all here for? To be proven right? That and become a millionaire, of course.
With all of that said, let’s focus on what you came here for – THE HOT TAEEEEEEKS!!! Instead of the usual sleeper picks section, I have now changed it into the BOOST ‘EM UP section! It’ll have my own personal favorite picks to out-perform their projections, even if I have to bump them up with the patented 2ToN “SCREW THE PROJECTIONS!” 100 point boost! Be advised that reading this particular section may cause fainting, irritable bowel syndrome, and/or stroking out.
While I’m sure most of the DFS community is on Jameis this week to push his ownership to possible fade levels, it still warrants a mention in what could be the highest-scoring game of the week. The Bucs were already a high-powered offense last year in the sense that they had a ton of snaps (6th most) with the 7th highest pace. While the actual results were mixed, an Arians-run offense should improve Winston’s overall numbers while keeping around the same offensive metrics from last season.
It also helps that the 49ers only really added Nick Bosa to the defense (and he’ll be coming off a camp injury) while their secondary continues to be banged up (Jimmie Ward unlikely to play) and showing little to no signs of improvement outside of Sherman. That means a PFF overall 37.5 graded 49ers coverage will probably hover around as a bottom-five all season. As long as Winston can keep his turnovers low and simply listens to Arians’ genius offensive plays, he’ll hit his projection (2nd highest among QBs).
While I’m not as bullish on Wentz as the projections are (best value QB), I can see the potential against a Redskins defense that lost several key pieces to an already average defense (20th overall DVOA). The Eagles were still running at a high offensive output without Wentz last year (9th most offensive snaps) despite the 27th slowest pace. The latter should only improve a little under Wentz (24th slowest in ’17) but the overall offensive play will be significantly better as Wentz’s mobility/deep passing helps stretch out the defense (and a higher YPT as well). That opens up more running lanes for their rush attack, and a 28th DVOA Redskins run defense could mean even more play-action bombs for Wentz. Things are looking up for Philly.
Obviously, with how terrible the Miami Dolphins roster is shaping up, Jackson is nearly a must-play at his price and upside. Sure, he could end up just handing the ball off to the Ravens’ three-headed monster of Ingram/Edwards/Hill against what possibly might be the worst front seven in the NFL. Still, you have to respect Jackson’s floor as a rushing QB in an offense that is specifically tailored to him, facing a 20th DVOA Miami run defense (that got much worse) woefully known for a lack of speed and vulnerability to mobile QBs over the years. Jackson averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry for 554 total rushing yards in his 7 starts last year, which is an insane amount for a rushing QB. He added an average of EIGHT points to his fantasy total just with his feet alone. From all accounts in camp and preseason, the Ravens offense still should run though Jackson and his game-changing speed. Trust me as a poor Dolphins fan – they do not have anyone to even slow Jackson down a bit.
With Patrick Peterson suspended and a likely starting duo of Trumaine Brock (60.5 overall grade) and rookie Chris Jones, the Cardinals suddenly look like a promising gold mine for Stafford to put up big numbers. While the Lions are trying to commit to this whole ESTABLISH THE RUN mentality, they’d be better served if they focused on the passing attack against a clearly vulnerable pass defense. At his price point, Stafford might just be one of the best value plays in the QB pool and may get a boost from what likely should be a fast-paced Cardinals offense that could force the Lions to play catch-up early.
BOOST ‘EM UP!
Yeah, the Andrew Luck retirement thing was pretty weird. Yeah, Brissett negotiating for a brand new contract without an agent and still getting PAID was pretty weird, too. Yeah, his price point as an absolute bottom of the barrel option is pretty cool. Brissett is the perfect volunteer to test out the volatility tool since the projections are playing it safe with him. The Chargers may boast a scary defense that ranked 8th best DVOA last year, but they did lose Derwin to a leg injury and will have some issues on offense with a low-end OL against an improved Colts defense that added Justin Houston to their pass rush. Chances are that Brissett actually might end up with more drives than many people may predict, so it’s up to him to make the most out of his opportunities. Crank up that volatility to a 20 which seems appropriate for someone of Brissett’s talent level and his high-variance of possible outcomes.
I love Dalvin Cook this week against a Falcons defense that was notorious for hemorrhaging catches/receiving yards to opposing RBs. The Vikings have made it clear that they are going to ESTABLISH THE RUN and stop being the pass-happiest team in the league. Cook has looked spry in camp and preseason, bunny-hopping his way to long touchdowns. The Falcons didn’t do much to address their 25th graded run defense, nor did they seem to add anyone, in particular, to help aid their issues in covering running backs outside of getting stud LB Deion Jones back alongside Keanu Neal. Here’s the thing though – they were already pretty bad with Jones/Neal in the rotation. I’m hard-pressed to think of a better RB play than Cook this week, especially with a potentially hampered Diggs pushing the RUN MORE narrative further.
While some others may question not picking Barkley (top RB in projections) or even fat Zeke as the other top RB play, I feel that the Dallas defense should bottle up Barkley quite well with their stud LB core and Eli Manning doing his best Magikarp impression. The Panthers are going to have a rather inexperienced receiving corps with Devin Funchess in Indy. They’ll be starting 2nd-year players D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, with only Chris Hogan and Torrey Smith as their veterans. Sure, there’s Greg Olsen but he can barely walk these days. Newton should likely lean on McCaffrey once more as a receiver, which bolsters his fantasy value since he shouldn’t have too much of an issue running the ball against a Rams run defense that allowed the 8th most rushing yards last season. Yes, Aaron Donald is a scary human being but he’s only one man on a lackluster run defense that lost a key piece in Ndamukong Suh. The Panthers should lean on McCaffrey heavily to counter the elite Rams pass rush and take advantage of a poor run defense.
I also love Carson as much as Cook this week, and his price point makes him a screaming value. He’ll face a dreadful Bengals run defense that gave up the most fantasy points to opposing RBs. The Seahawks clearly know they’re going to be a run-first team as they were the run-heaviest team last year (53/47 run/pass ratio), and I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon. The Bengals are trending towards the 2nd worst team in the league with the plethora of injuries suffered, especially on the offensive line. That should result in plenty of punts and early down runs for Carson. LOCK HIM IN!
With Melvin Gordon fuming and acting like a toddler, the Chargers backfield has clear fantasy value. However, there are some important stats to note with Ekeler.
The Chargers are likely to adopt a short-passing game with a banged OL holding back their offense, which should favor Ekeler’s game more as a receiving threat.
The Colts got roasted by scat-backs last season, giving up the 7th most receiving yards to opposing RBs. That number is unlikely to change with their personnel moves.
The Colts were a top-tier run defense last season, surrendering the 9th fewest rushing yards to opposing RBs. The addition of Justin Houston should bolster those numbers a bit.
Justin Jackson’s role is still relatively known at this point. Could the Chargers employ both in specific roles (Ekeler passing downs/scat-back, Jackson early downs/short-yardage and goal-line)?
In the three games without Gordon last year, Ekeler’s snap count went from 96% to 78% to 68% respectively. Thus far in the preaseaon (key word – PRESEASON), Ekeler has seen a 67% snap usage, being utilized as more of a pass-catcher than a runner. Take that for data!
I still like Ekeler as a great value play in what should be plenty of targets in a favorable receiving match-up, regardless of whatever Jackson may do to his snap count.
BOOST ‘EM UP!
After his shenanigans last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if your head automatically shook furiously in disdain. Still, it’s Fournette in a spot where he’s likely to get a tremendous amount of touches without the threat of yucky Yeldon taking away his deserved snaps. He’s apparently slimmer, less of a dill-hole, and ready to play with a real QB in Nick Foles. The Chiefs were the 2nd worst graded run defense and allowed the 3rd most rushing yards. They did add Frank Clark in the offseason, but Clark is known more for his elite pass rusher rather than for his run-stopping ability. The range of outcomes here for Fournette can vary wildly due to his known history of being an extremely inefficient RB that’s heavily reliant on high-usage. Good thing he’ll get his high-usage in a game script that should favor him regardless of how bad things spin out for the Jaguars. I’m going to use the volatility tool again and crank it up to a 30. We all know Fournette has a knack of pissing everybody off.
Named the RB1 on the depth chart, a favorable match-up against the worst graded run defense (sans the new addition of Suh), and has destroyed Tevin Coleman in terms of production both in camp and preseason. However, he’s still in a timeshare with a potentially decreased passing-down role if Shanny decides to utilize Coleman as a change of pace receiving threat. There’s also the possibility that the 49ers end up just passing all game trying to keep up with the Bucs. There’s no denying Breida’s talent and high upside, but let’s be realistic here and adjust accordingly to his situation. I think he’s got a real good shot to out-perform his projection with a shot at a high-end performance. I’ll be boosting him by 10 just to level him out a little bit and push volatility to 40 to account for his high upside and potential to do nothing.
As I stated before in the Stafford pick, the Cardinals may employ a bottom five secondary to start the season. Golladay had a big jump in his 2nd season last year, garnering 22% of the team’s targets that increased further when Golden Tate (27% MS/T) was traded to the Eagles. Golladay also saw an increase in red-zone work, gobbling up 15 RZ targets (23% MS/T) and turning them into four TDs. There’s huge potential for a top WR score from Golladay in a favorable match-up on a week where there’s a lack of clear WR values and a chance at low ownership.
Mike Evans is battling the flu and would likely get the harder secondary match-up lining up against Sherman on half of his routes. Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson are gone as well, which opens up 179 total targets to someone. That someone is Godwin, who is expected to be the main slot WR for a dynamic offense. Winston has always fared better throwing it to Godwin than Evans for whatever reason, and I expect that chemistry to show up in a big way against the (once again) 37.5 graded 49ers pass coverage. The means and opportunity is there for Godwin to have a monstrous day.
Due to the lack of WR values this week, Lockett pops as the clear value on the projections. I don’t disagree as he’ll have one of the tastiest match-ups of any WR if he’s to fill in Doug Baldwin’s shoes as the primary slot WR. He’ll be battling the ferocious B.W. Webb and his dangerous 61.9 coverage grade with 13.6 average per catch given up. Wilson had a perfect QB rating targeting Lockett last season (1st time it ever happened in NFL history), and I expect that number to stay the same after Week 1.
With Nick Foles taking over and giving the Jaguars pass attack a breath of fresh air, someone’s gotta reap the benefits of BDN. The likely recipient will probably be Westbrook, who was their most effective WR last year which I know isn’t saying much. With Moncrief off the team, that’s 90 targets gone that should mostly go towards Westbrook’s already team-leading 19% MS/T. Add in Westbrook’s 72% snaps in the slot and you’ll notice he gets a favorable match-up against KC’s primary slot defender (Fuller – 56/619/2 in coverage with a 110.5 rating targeting him). Good enough for me at his lovely price tag on all sites.
BOOST ‘EM UP!
His match-up against what should be a glaring weakness for the Redskins defense just looks too tempting after Alshon Jeffery showed up on the injury report. He’s been balling out in camp with Wentz and was one of the top YPRR last year (2.27, which would put him in the top 10 among eligible WRs). The Redskins lost one of their better secondary players in Haha Clinton-Dix and replaced him with Landon Collins, their big FA addition. Collins struggled last year in coverage after a spectacular ’17 campaign, rounding out as a 68.2 overall coverage grade with some very shaky games towards the end. I like Jackson’s chances to light up a burnable secondary with the play-action. I’ll put a 10 boost on Jackson with a volatility of 50. After all, it is big play Jackson who either shows up with a 4/120/2 line or just finishes with two points.
This will be repeated many, many times this season. There are so few TE plays that are absolute top plays outside of the top 2-3 TEs. It’s just a marginalized position that generally gets punted in favor of cheap guys who might see a target or two. Paying up at TE is only advisable if you’re going for the Kelces/Kittles of the world. Thankfully, this is a week where paying up for Kelce just might work out. Ramsey is expected to shadow Tyreek Hill (which he’s done successfully so in the past), and the Jaguars still should be stout against the run. That leaves Kelce (and to a lesser extent, Sammy Watkins) the main offensive cogs for Mahomes. The Jags were stingy against TEs in terms of yards given up (7th fewest) but gave up the 5th most TDs. Bad data? Possibly, but low ownership and potential to see 10+ targets is reason enough to gamble with Kelce as your top TE play.
Now, Kittle is the actual top TE play of week as far as match-ups go. You should know the deal by now about the Bucs/Niners game-high fantasy potential, could be a shoot-out, could be an awful turnover-ridden game. The Bucs not only were terrible against the pass AND the run, but they also gave up the 4th most yards to opposing TEs. Pick your poison.
A little bit of a risky play but I love Henry’s outlook this week as an under the radar guy with a favorable price tag. The Colts were the worst team against the TE last year (most yards gave up, 3rd most fantasy points given up), and Antonio Gates is finally gone from the Chargers. Henry was a red zone stud before his injury, ranking top 10 in RZ targets the last two seasons (even the injured year). Now with Melvin Gordon gone for the foreseeable future, that opens up a ton of opportunity for Henry to rack up the TDs since Gordon garnered 40% of the RZ opportunities (48!). Someone has to take advantage of that and I don’t think it’s their current RBs.
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He’s the forgotten man among the TEs since he had a season-ending injury during Week 1 last year. He’s now fully healthy and ready to remind people just why Mariota loves spamming him. In the ’17 season with Mariota, Walker put up a 74/807/3 stat-line on 114 targets. For whatever reason, everyone seems to have forgotten just how much of an offensive cog Walker was for Mariota. He gets a Browns defense that’s struggled to defend the position for years (9th most yards given up). Reports of Mariota regressing and bad preseason play makes me think he’s definitely going to rely on Walker check-downs to move the ball. There are also signs that the Titans might not be as run-heavy as many thought. Still, a favorable match-up and the clear favorite to lead the team in MS/T has wary of putting him on too many line-ups. A 10 boost puts him right underneath the clear TE options on the slate as the 7th highest projected TE. That feels about right to me in fairness to his risk/reward potential.