NFL DFS Week 1 Early-Only Slate Breakdown
Football is back! Here I will be breaking down the early slate (1pm only) and discussing my general strategy for both cash games and tournaments.
Cash Game Strategy
I probably won't be paying all the way up for Patrick Mahomes ($8,700 FD/$9,200 DK) against the Jaguars stout defense in cash, however, Kevin Zatloukal makes a strong case for him in his Main Slate optimal cash lineup on DraftKings. Instead, I'll look to the Eagles who are projected to score just as many points as the Chiefs this week. Carson Wentz ($5,700 DK /$7,600 FD) has averaged 275 yards and two passing touchdowns in the five games he's played against the Redskins. If you need a couple hundred on FanDuel, Lamar Jackson ($7,400) is in play but personally I'd like to see the offense on the field for a week before locking him in to a cash lineup.
My general strategy in cash games is to attempt to plug in three workhorse running backs and surround them with value plays at wide receiver and tight end. That, of course, starts with the best back on the slate, Christian McCaffrey ($8,900 FD/$8,800 DK). If we exclude Week 17, we can see that only his opponent Todd Gurley was better in terms of PPR points per game last season. Gurley's unknown usage makes him untouchable for me in cash but McCaffrey should smash in a potential shootout environment.
Dalvin Cook ($7,400 FD/$6,000 DK) looks like the chalk play but he should absolutely be worth locking in. Due to the Falcons defensive scheme, they tend to allow a ton of underneath targets to running backs and tight ends. Last season, they allowed the fifth-highest amount of PPR points to the RB position. Knowing that the Vikings new offensive system should revolve around the run game and Stefon Diggs popping up on the injury report, we should feel very good about Cook's volume this week.
The Jaguars are nearly four-point underdogs, on the road, against the best offense in the league. Last season we would've never considered Leonard Fournette ($6,100 DK/$7,200 FD) in this spot. However, Fournette's usage in the passing game is expected to ramp up which should keep him involved, no matter the game script. There's also the potential that Jaguars stacked defensive unit helps flip the game script, elevating Fournette's ceiling even more.
My wide receiver selection process is a bit different than the average player. Most people will tell you to only target receivers getting heavy volume and I won't argue with that. However, due to the way I construct my teams, I tend to favor players that have big-play ability as well, even if that means I may concede a few targets. My theory behind doing this is because my team is so dependent on the floor and ceiling potential of my running backs, if an injury occurred I don't want that to potentially sink my team.
Curtis Samuel ($5,900 FD/$4,200) is the prototype for what we are looking for. Not only should he benefit from game script but he's cheaper than D.J. Moore and last season he received a higher share of the team's air yards than Moore. It's easy to see why Pat James mentioned him in his DraftKings cash and GPP picks article.
Another name that Pat mentioned is Dede Westbrook ($5,900 FD/$4,800 DK). Similar to Samuel, Westbrook had a high share of the team's air yards and should reap the benefits of Donte Moncrief moving on. This matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs is as good as it gets. Their secondary was horrendous last year, allowing the most PPR fantasy points in the league to the Wide Receiver position. Going only off of the preseason, that hasn't changed much at all and Westbrook has become Nick Foles' favorite target.
Tyreek Hill ($7,600 DK/$7,600 FD) is extremely interesting in this game and the salaries in this slate allow you to fit him in. He may have a date with Jalen Ramsey but Hill's game-breaking speed makes him a tough cover for even the best coverage corners in the game. Although unlikely there's also the possibility that the Jaguars have Ramsey key in on Travis Kelce, in which case Hill could go completely bonkers.
Sammy Watkins ($6,300 FD/$5,000 DK) could also be in play if you believe that Ramsey will lock up Hill or Kelce. When healthy last season, Watkins posted at least 50 receiving yards in six of eight games.
If you believe that Jalen Ramsey keys in on Tyreek Hill, then Travis Kelce ($7,800 FD/$7,100 DK) is the easy play at tight end on this slate. The Jaguars appear to be tough on the position, however, there are only a handful of teams that emphasize using the tight end in the passing game like the Chiefs do. Paying up isn't what I typically do at tight end but it's easy to fit him in and there isn't a cheaper option that I feel really strong about. If Kelce has a top-end performance, that will give you a massive advantage.
Julio Jones is a big question mark because there are rumors he may sit this one out due to a contract dispute. I prefer he plays because he will be matched up with Xavier Rhodes and that could lead to Matt Ryan looking towards the secondary options in the passing game, like Austin Hooper ($3,200 DK / $5,500 FD). The Vikings aren't an overly great matchup for Hooper but there could be more targets available for him and the Falcons are expected to be playing from behind. His salary on DraftKings allows a ton of flexibility with the core of your lineup.
My tournament strategy is less about specific players and more about targeting games and offenses. Patrick Mahomes is projected to be relatively low owned (7%) against the Jaguars. However while most of us expect the Jaguars defense to rebound, they looked extremely beatable last season and the Chiefs look like an uncoverable offense.
Stacks to target
- Pat Mahomes-Damien Williams-Tyreek Hill
- Pat Mahomes-Damien Williams-Travis Kelce
- Pat Mahomes-Tyreek Hill-Sammy Watkins
- Pat Mahomes-Travis Kelce-Sammy Watkins
One of the best ways to gain an edge in DFS is to identify games that are being overlooked or players that are mispriced. The Falcons and Vikings game is the one that is getting overlooked. Both teams have a ton of offensive firepower and strong defensive units. Most players will have low ownership but this is a game with several potential outcomes and I want some exposure to that.
Stacks to target
- Dalvin Cook-Devonta Freeman-Adam Thielen
- Kirk Cousins-Adam Thielen-Calvin Ridley
- Matt Ryan-Devonta Freeman-Calvin Ridley
- Matt Ryan-Calvin Ridley-Austin Hooper
The thinking here is that if the Vikings maintain control of this game, it'll either be a defensive battle where each teams running back is productive or it's a game where the Vikings offense is clicking and the Falcons are playing catch up. If it goes the other way, the Falcons offense could explode and not many people will be on them. In a GPP I want to be more contrarian so I don't want much of Dalvin Cook who will be popular or Julio Jones who is expected to have high ownership, even in a tough matchup.
The core of my tournament lineups will be built around the Chiefs and Eagles point projections and finding value in the Falcons/Vikings matchup. If the Bears vs Packers game is any indication we can expect some rough football in the first week of the season so I'm banking on the top offenses in the league picking up where they left off last season.