DRAFT Week 1 Breakdown and Top Plays
With the regular season finally upon us, it’s time to switch from best-ball, redraft, and dynasty mentality, to submitting season-long and DFS lineups. The site DRAFT has put together a format that marries redraft and DFS together into one exciting and different power couple.
Their weekly fantasy contests are not your typical salary cap format. Instead, they offer a series of snake-style draft contests with differing team amounts. You can choose from head-to-head, 3-team, 6-team, 8-team or 10-team contests, with varying dollar amounts per contest. With each draft, players must select five position players: 1QB, 2RB, and 2WR/TEs. There are no salaries, no ownership percentages, and no large tourneys.
Below I will look at some of the best plays of the week, according to league size. You will see multiple references to aFPA, which is our schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric. By using aFPA, we remove bias so that we can level the playing field and compare matchups in an "apples-to-apples" manner. One more note: remember that DRAFT is a snake-style format, so you must plan accordingly in larger contest sizes.
Since there are only two players here, your cumulative score just has to be higher than that of your opponent. With only 10 total players drafted, elite, DFS chalk is the way to go.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers @ CLE – In Week 1, Big Ben heads to Cleveland where the Browns were the seventh-worst team at defending the quarterback position in 2016, giving up an aFPA of 17.6 points per game. Roethlisberger is a beast on the road and has a huge arsenal of weapons at his disposal.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks @ GB – Wilson is a lock this week, as the Packers D/ST ranked 24th in the league at defending the pass last season, giving up close to 18 fantasy points a game to opposing signal-callers.
LeVeon Bell, Steelers @ CLE – Cleveland gave up the third-most rushing yards per game last season, and Bell is raring and ready to go after taking most of the preseason off. The Steelers running back should run all over the Browns' defense on Sunday.
David Johnson, Cardinals @ DET – Simply put, Johnson is a stud. With no salary cap, he should be drafted without question almost every week. He gets the Lions' D/ST Week 1, who gave up an aFPA of 23.2 PPR points to running backs in 2016.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Julio Jones, Falcons @ CHI – The Bears secondary just doesn’t have an answer for Jones, whose chemistry with Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is as solid as you can get. Last season, the Falcons wide receiver averaged 16.98 yards per grab, while Chicago’s D/ST gave up an aFPA of 33.7 PPR points to the wide receiver position.
Greg Olsen, Panthers @ SF – Secure with a new contract, the Panthers TE is ready for a productive 2017 season. The 49ers gave up an aFPA of 13.8 PPR points last season and may have some trouble covering the stout tight end in Week 1.
When you enter a contest with only three teams, you’re either picking two players at a time, or you’re in the middle of two drafters doing just that. Same studs apply here; draft accordingly.
6, 8 or 10-Person Draft
Here are a few more recommendations for Week 1 starters to assist in filling out five-player rosters when more players are involved. You’ll need to dig a bit deeper into the rankings to find a player or two who will shine above your opponents.
Marcus Mariota, Titans vs. OAK – The Raiders were in the bottom half of the league last year at defending quarterbacks and didn’t do too much to improve upon that over the offseason. Mariota gets a few shiny new toys in wide receivers Eric Decker and Corey Davis, plus his reliable tight end Delanie Walker is healthy to start the season.
Matt Ryan, Falcons @ CHI – Ryan ended last season with a bad taste in his mouth after that awful implosion in the Super Bowl. He’ll look to start the season out hot and has the weapons to do so. Chicago falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to quarterback defense and shouldn’t get in the way of Ryan’s Week 1 production too much.
Brian Hoyer, 49ers vs. CAR – The Niners quarterback is a player who could separate you from the pack this week, as he’s a bit off the radar. He actually played quite well for the Bears last season, averaging just over 240 passing yards per game before being sidelined early in the year due to injury. A combination of being reunited with his former offensive coordinator and now Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and facing an opponent ranked 28th in the league versus the pass could lead to a monster coming out party.
Todd Gurley, Rams vs. IND – The Rams have a new offensive-minded coaching staff this season and should be doing everything they can to get their ridiculously-talented running back involved. Gurley had a rough 2016 campaign, but should eat against a Colts D/ST that gave up an aFPA of 25.5 PPR points to running backs last season.
DeMarco Murray, Titans vs. OAK – Oakland wasn’t very tough against the run in 2016, allowing 24.2 PPR points per week to opposing running backs. Healthy after battling a hamstring issue during training camp, and lining up this year behind solid blockers, Murray looks to be in great shape to run all over the Raiders.
Dalvin Cook, Vikings vs. NO – The rookie running back gets a super cushy matchup in Week 1 against a Saints D/ST that ranked second to last in the NFL across the board. New Orleans gave up an aFPA of 29.3 PPR points to running backs last season, and Cook will be out to prove his value from the start.
Jordan Howard, Bears vs. ATL – Atlanta’s run defense is not their strong suit. In fact, they were the third-worst at defending running backs in 2016 with an aFPA of 28.1 PPR points. Howard is out to show his naysayers that last season was no fluke and that he can run be a consistent ball-carrier in the NFL. He should put up some decent numbers to start off the season at home.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Jordy Nelson, Packers vs. SEA – While Seattle is a solid D/ST, Nelson should still find a way to produce in Week 1. Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target is healthy to start the season, and the tandem is a tough one to defend for any secondary. Drafters may shy away from Nelson due to the matchup, so he could be easy to draft, even in 10-team contests.
Michael Crabtree, Raiders vs. TEN – Most drafters will be all over Amari Cooper this week, as the Titans rank at the absolute bottom of the league against the pass, giving up a whopping aFPA of 42.1 PPR points to wide receivers last season. I like Crabtree better here—he’s Derek Carr’s go-to touchdown guy and should see plenty of targets to start off the season.
Pierre Garcon, 49ers vs. CAR – Like Hoyer, Garcon is very familiar with Kyle Shanahan, racking up 1,346 receiving yards under Shanahan's 2013 Washington offense. Now in the Bay Area, Garcon is Hoyer’s primary target, should be productive in Week 1, and be fairly easy to get in your drafts.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals @ DET – Forever young, Fitzgerald gets overlooked often but is a constant producer of fantasy points. The Lions secondary is improved but still should have trouble with the perennial high scoring wide receiver in Week 1.
Zach Ertz, Eagles @ WAS – There are still question marks surrounding Washington’s safeties to start the season, with the potential for Ertz to snag tons of balls in the middle of the field on Sunday. In 2016, Washington allowed an aFPA of 15.6 PPR points to tight ends, the fourth-worst in the NFL. Ertz isn’t a sexy pick by any means but could be a difference maker in DRAFT’s format.
Evan Engram, Giants @ DAL – Although he’s a rookie and they don’t usually make the best fantasy candidates, Engram’s matchup is just too juicy to ignore. He’ll face a Dallas D/ST that ranked at the absolute bottom last year at defending the tight end position with an aFPA of 17.9 PPR points. Eli Manning loves to target tight ends in the red zone and he finally has one worthy of throwing to. Engram makes a nice pivot off the top tier tight ends this week.