NFL Week 1 DFS Picks
I have risen from the dead.
It was a long and arduous journey through the brimstone and hellfire that is MMA. Blood, blood everywhere. And bad takes. Lots and lots of bad takes. That is all in the past now though, and I have returned to my honey hole that is NFL DFS Week 1 picks! Rejoice! For this year’s edition I have evolved from scorching bad takes to just kind of really okay takes that jibe with the BRAND SPANKING NEW DailyRoto Optimizer, full of fancy gadgets and thingamajigs that I have no grasp of.
But that is not my job to understand the new features such as being able to fully customize your lineups according to your incorrect opinions! That’s right! If you think David Johnson isn’t actually good, you can lower DailyRoto’s own projections on DJ to your liking while creating groups that adhere to your specific needs regarding certain players never ever showing up in your lineups. Sort of like your own personal blacklist. You could also do the opposite of that and make logical decisions based on your group’s specifications, but who has the time to use logic? No, no. I am here to impart my fantasy wisdom upon the millions and millions of my adoring fans all over the world. This is important work! Join me on the roller coaster that is NFL DFS, and I promise the ride won’t be as bumpy as rostering Nathan Peterman on any week.
It should be noted that I will focus on the main slates each week, ignoring the TNF, SNF, and MNF games respectively. It’s not that these games don’t matter, but it’s because they don’t matter. Off we go!
With the strange Le’Veon Bell situation still unfolding, Ben Roethlisberger really stood out as one of the best plays for the week. Considering Bell’s backup in James Conner isn’t exactly in the Bell mold or even DeAngelo Williams for that matter, I have a hard time not projecting for nearly 40+ pass attempts from Big Ben against a paltry Browns defense. Terrance Mitchell was tied for the third most touchdowns given up as well as fifth most yards during his time on the Chiefs. He joins rookie CB Denzel Ward as the incumbent starters for the Browns alongside new safety Damarious Randall, who had played cornerback for the Packers the last few years. That doesn’t bode well for the 26th ranked DVOA pass defense from last season. Ben feels like a safe option with high upside and that’s all you could ask from a top play.
For my other top QB play, I was stuck between Drew Brees and Philip Rivers as they both have plus matchups in my opinion. I decided to let the optimizer break the tie, which means Drew Brees is the other top QB play for the week! Sure, he’s coming off his worst statistical year in the past decade with the fewest touchdowns amassed. That could be due to the Saints switching to a more balanced gameplan, letting rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram control the tempo and flow of the offense rather than relying on Brees’ arm. With Ingram’s suspension, the Saints may opt for a heavier dose of their historically vaunted passing attack. Getting a Bucs secondary that ranked second-worst DVOA for their pass coverage certainly helps boost Brees’ ceiling. The Bucs revamped their front 7 to better guard against the run and gain leverage from outside pass rushes, but they never did fix the defensive holes in their secondary. Starters like Justin Evans and Vernon Hargreaves were easy pickings for opposing QBs, averaging a whopping 103.7 passer ratings when targeting those particular players. Brees is locked and loaded for my lineups alongside Big Ben with just a little sprinkle of human statue Philip Rivers.
This is where having an optimizer comes in handy. Press the button and bada bing, the ol’ trusty DR opto spits out a handful of projected value plays for any slate you choose as well as the specific DFS site you prefer. Let’s see if the optimizer agrees with me for Week 1. One of my favorite value plays for the week has been the Red Rocket, Dandy Andy Dalton. He faces possibly one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, as the Colts just simply do not bolster much talent at the CB/S spot outside of the first-round pick Malik Hooker. With several injuries and cuts, the projected starters for the Colts all grade out poorly in pass coverage and QB passer rating. That sounds like a smorgasbord for Dalton to feast upon with his improved offensive line and an emerging speedy weapon in John Ross being able to complement A.J. Green. It’s a Colts defense that finished dead last in passing defense and did little to improve it. The optimizer even agrees with Dalton being one of the better bang for your buck QB options! What more do you need?
I also don’t mind Dak Prescott as another value play against a struggling Carolina secondary that’s heavily reliant on generating a pass rush to hide its warts. While Prescott will be missing a couple starters on his OL and has some very questionable talent at his disposal, the threat of his legs and having Zeke back should keep his overall fantasy numbers stable enough to hit value at his low price. If the Panthers lose containment on Prescott enough times, his rushing yards alone could end up making Dak a worthwhile pick in all formats.
Few defenses suffered as many pivotal losses as the Seattle defense did in the offseason. Not only did they lose several core players such as Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, but they didn’t leverage those losses with gains of their own. They’ll be relying on a young front and secondary with little experience outside of Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas. That’s one of the main reasons why I really like Case Keenum as a sleeper QB play for the week at both a discounted price and ownership. Many may have forgotten just how good Emmanuel Sanders had been prior to last season’s bust due to injuries and poor QB play. Sanders had gone 3 straight seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards and appears to be Keenum’s favorite target in camp/preseason. Add in Demaryius Thomas and an improved offensive line, Keenum suddenly looks like a legit value pick against a lower end defense. If Keenum can get some of the magic he had with the Vikings onto a good complement of weapons in Denver, he very well could end up being the best QB value play across the board. Or throw 10 picks.
While the opto has DJ by far and away the top RB play for the week, I gotta disagree with the robot overlords and go in a different direction. I love Christian McCaffrey against the Cowboys, mostly due to his receiving prowess against a Cowboys LB core that ranked near the bottom in yards/targets given up in the air to opposing RBs (28th DVOA against RBs in the air). McCaffrey owned a whopping 21.9% market share of the team’s targets, and that number may very well increase even further in McCaff’s sophomore season. The Panthers have made it abundantly clear that the offense will revolve around the dynamic duo of Newton and McCaff. While the Cowboys boasted the third most effective pass rush from last season, their run defense was the eighth worst graded in the league. Did the Cowboys shore up their defensive line during the season? Nope. So while the smart people will ignore my McCaffrey rambling and go with DJ/Kamara for their top play of the week, I’ll be over here laughing at the donkeys who sneered at McCaff being a top play. Laughing all the way to the bank! Yes, I’m aware the optimizer has McCaffrey projected in the top three RBs. I will still laugh like a mad man!
I am mostly paying up for WRs, which means I gotta find value elsewhere. Thankfully for me (and us?), there’s a ton of value to be found in the RB pool across all sites. One of the names that popped for me while perusing the pool was sexy Rexy Burkhead of the cheating New England Patriots. He had some minor health issues during training camp but appears to be 100% ready to go for Week 1 in a pivotal offensive role for the Pats. With Dion Lewis’ departure, that opens up tremendous volume for Burkhead to gobble up in both rushing and receiving work. Burkhead doesn’t exactly have a great matchup on the ground, but receiving is likely where he should shine as the Pats are notorious for splitting out wide their RBs while utilizing them on quick dump-offs/screens. That is where Burkhead’s short price tag comes in handy on PPR sites, which allows rostering higher priced guys like Antonio Brown and the like. It certainly helps that the Pats were content at giving Burkhead goal-line back duties last season. Smells like a delicious value pick to me!
Obviously, with the Le’Veon Bell situation, James Conner will be a chalk value play for many players, so let’s see if we can’t find a healthy pivot against the Conner backers. Hmm, not a lot of options at his price tag. There’s Carlos Hyde, who’s excelled in preseason and appears to be the main early down RB but will cede most if not all passing downs to Duke Johnson. Alfred Morris? Nope. With Breida apparently getting the start and an already bad matchup, Morris is a dicey Week 1 play until further notice once we get a good idea for the 49ers’ RB rotation. What about Royce Freeman? Sure, the Broncos named Booker their starter but if you look further into their preseason snaps, it’s clear the Broncos view Booker more of a passing down RB than an every down RB. Freeman dominated the goal-line touches, ran for several touchdowns, and appeared to be the best overall running back on the roster. It’s the kind of pivot that could end up paying off handsomely against the aforementioned gutted Seattle defense. Sometimes you gotta risk it to get the biscuit
I have none for this week. I’m going heavy on higher priced receivers and just keeping it safe at the RB positions. I don’t think it’s a week to try and overthink about the position when there are clear values like Conner and Burkhead, while the top RBs like Johnson, Fournette, and Kamara all have decent matchups with upside. In fact, the only sleeper pick I could provide would be Derrick Henry, as I have absolutely no faith in my poor Dolphins at stopping any sort of consistent power running. Their front was gutted with the Suh departure, and the new defensive additions were more geared towards improving their pass defense (namely their nickel base). The LB core is what really concerns me, as they will employ essentially two rookies up front with McMillian and Jerome Baker. Plenty of mistakes were made during preseason that allowed for big RB gains, and the lack of a rather large presence up front doesn’t help their run defense one bit. That’s all I got for ya.
Now we’re talking. As I alluded to in my QB plays, I love the Steelers stack for the week. That includes both Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. I also love Michael Thomas‘ matchup against virtually any CB in front of him against Tampa Bay. However, as I build my lineups I find myself rostering A.J. Green the most among the elite WR tier. The competition Green will face in Indy is just borderline laughable for the perennial All Pro WR. The Colts were the 5th worst rated pass coverage unit from last season, added no help for the secondary, and even their only CB with reliable experience in Vontae Davis. I simply cannot see how Green doesn’t ravage that Indy secondary for the easiest 20+ point outing of his life. Maybe Ross ends up getting the more explosive plays and touchdowns, but this is Green we’re talking about here. It’s a slam dunk of a pick in my opinion among several very worthy candidates.
Keenan Allen also merits consideration as one of the top WR plays as he faces a decimated Chiefs secondary that traded away its best cornerback to the Rams. They did get rid of Terrance Mitchell and replaced him with Kendall Fuller from the Alex Smith trade, which is a massive upgrade and likely locks him as the starting nickel back. However, the lack of legitimate boundary cornerbacks gives the Chargers’ outside WRs a huge shot at long gains. The Chargers seem intent at actually moving Keenan all over the formation instead of sticking him in his usual slot duty (51% of snaps played in slot), which would line him up against both Nelson and Scandrick more often. That’s a bonafide matchup for Keenan to absolutely destroy the Chiefs on every route imaginable as he avoids coverage by the Chiefs’ best cornerback.
With injuries already shifting depth charts, there’s value to be found among the WR pool. Keelan Cole is a great punt option after the Jags lost Marquise Lee for the season during the preseason. Cole was actually performing well late last season and was one of Bortles’ favorite targets. He’ll likely get some of the easier cornerback matchups against the Giants, and has a decently solid floor which is why he pops as a top ten value among WRs.
Another reliable option would be Kenny Stills, one of Tannehill’s favorite deep passing targets. The duo hooked up for eight touchdowns on a very nice 17.1 YPC average before Tanny’s untimely knee injury. With DeVante Parker already ruled out for Week 1, Stills’ target number should increase and his previous chemistry with Tannehill only bolsters further his place as a value play.
Lastly, Jamison Crowder may be a name many have forgotten about due to his lackluster season. He gets a plus matchup against a non-Patrick Peterson coverage with a QB that prefers shorter routes. Crowder is a low ownership play that makes sense and could end up leading the Redskins in targets. With Peterson likely locking up Doctson or Paul Richardson, it leaves Crowder on Budda Baker Island, and that seems like a lovely vacation spot to me. Nearly 50% of Smith’s attempts landing in the 0-10 yards spot, it gives Crowder ample opportunities to stock up on the vaunted Smith dump-off pass. Even a 5 yard catch generates points!
Speaking of Crowder, how about the other side? Larry Fitzgerald may be older than the majority of you degenerates reading this, but he still merits attention as an elite play. He’s not priced among the elite players like Antonio, Keenan, or even Thomas, but he actually just might have one of the best matchups on paper. With the Alex Smith trade, the Redskins shipped arguably their best cornerback who had manned the slot, a position that Fitzgerald ran 62% of his routes last season. He will be facing second year CB Fabian Moreau who did not fare well in his limited snaps last year. Not to mention Fitzgerald has historically destroyed the Redskins, as per his game log over the past few seasons. An aging Norman who’s lost some of his skill-set, an inexperienced nickel back in Moreau, and an offense that’s been tailored to feed both Fitzgerald and David Johnson are all signs that point to a big Larry game. Don’t get left out!
Let’s face it. Gronk will almost always be the best TE play of the week, especially with Edelman’s suspension and some lackluster WR talent for the Pats. I won’t focus too much on Gronk unless there are some glaring weakness he can absolutely dominate off, or if somebody like Eric Berry decides to shadows him again. Otherwise, just lock ol’ Gronkosaurus as your top TE play of the week and move on to punt options as per usual. In fact, Gronk is the only TE in the green among the top TEs for projected points. Now that’s elite.
Okay, here’s another top play just to shut you all up. Who can name the LB that gave up the most yards in his coverage? His name rhymes with Rico Alonzo. That’s right! It was Kiko Alonso! He also gave up the sixth most touchdowns among all eligible Lbs. Sad but true. I can confirm that Alonso will still see some TE coverage duties, but the Dolphins may decide to shadow opposing TEs with rookies Minkah Fitzpatrick or Jerome Baker, which are considerable upgrades compared to Alonso. Still, even if Delanie Walker is only paired up against Alonso for even less than 50% of his snaps, it’s still a very good matchup for Walker to dunk a football. The last time the Dolphins were able to stop an athletic tight end was when Dion Jordan became the Gronk Destroyer for that one amazing game. Otherwise, their coverage against TEs have largely been negligible and I don’t see that pattern ending anytime soon.
Ah, yes. The punt option. Usually the most punted position in DFS, the TE position very rarely exceeds above the bare minimum (not counting Gronk weeks). Let’s go dumpster diving! Some of the plus matchups I noticed were Jack Doyle of the Colts and Vance MacDonald of the Steelers. The latter may or may not play, but merits consideration if Vance does end up playing as he faces a bottom five TE coverage unit from last season. Doyle has had his moments as a punt option and does have a little bit of chemistry/history with Andrew Luck, but will have Eric Ebron to contend for overall targets. Still, the Bengals were 30th DVOA in TE coverage from the past season, lost Vontaze Burfict, and added….no one else. In fact, they may have even regressed in that regard. As much as I’d like to assume Ebron takes away playing time from Doyle, I think what may end up happening is Ebron and Doyle play together more often in 12 personnel than Ebron simply replacing Doyle across all formations. That should make Doyle a relatively stable punt option at TE in a plus matchup.
This is a little off the beaten path, but I have a feeling Kyle Rudolph may end up on a couple of GPP winning lineups. The 49ers won’t have their star linebacker Reuben Foster for Week 1, and will have to rely on rookie Fred Warner and company to man the line in his absence. Their projected starting linebackers all combined for 27 total snaps last season. That’s three linebackers, mind you. Tartt is usually the guy counted on to defend against opposing TEs, but that won’t be the case all game with the Vikings mixing up their formations and forcing more base defense looks with Cook/Murray running up front. That could cause the 49ers to have to rely on their inexperienced LB corps to cover and assess Rudolph on most of his pass routes. Owning a 25% market share of the team’s touchdowns, Rudolph has always had a knack for the endzone. Facing such a green LB corps could just be enough for Rudolph to dunk all over the 49ers.