Yahoo Week 1 Slate Breakdown with Cash and GPP Picks
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Week 1 is officially here, which means it is time to make a bunch of DFS lineups and sweat. Every Thursday you will see how I am approaching both cash games and tournaments for Yahoo!. After reading this, you should feel a lot more comfortable and confident as you head into Sunday’s action.
Main Slate Cash Game Strategy
Russell Wilson ($32) is priced as the QB6 on Yahoo!, behind guys like Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. That’s a mistake. While volume is a concern as such a big home favorite against the Bengals, Wilson is so efficient that it is hard to see him falter in such a smash spot. Cincinnati allowed 11.3 yards per completion last year (third-worst), as well as 13 passing plays of at least 40 yards, the fourth-most in football. Wilson, meanwhile, completed 46.7% of his deep passes, the second-highest mark among all signal-callers. Against a bad defense that allowed the ninth-most adjusted fantasy points (aFPA) a year ago, Wilson is as safe as they come.
Meanwhile, it is going to be very difficult to get away from Lamar Jackson, who comes into this game at just $26, the QB15 on the site. This is absolutely a misprice and Jackson’s weekly floor makes him an awesome cash game play. He scored at least 16 fantasy points in every start last year, while averaging an insane 17.5 rushing attempts per game. Just 20 of his 147 carries were undesigned, which is a great sign for what this offense will want to do in Jackson’s second year. The Dolphins allowed 23.9 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks in 2018, the third-most in the league, while only the Chiefs ranked worse in aFPA against quarterbacks last year.
Dak Prescott ($26) also has a very solid floor due to his rushing. He has scored exactly six rushing touchdowns in each of his first three years in the league and in 2018, Prescott handled 40% of Dallas’ carries from inside the five-yard line, which led all quarterbacks and was actually 25th among all players. The Giants defense allowed 2.36 points per drive in 2018 (sxth-most), while Dak was fourth among all quarterbacks in red zone carries per game with 1.2.
Ezekiel Elliott ($32) will be a staple in my cash games this weekend. Zeke should feast on a Giants run defense that allowed five different 100-yard rushers from Week 8 on of 2018. Those backs were Adrian Peterson, Peyton Barber, Rashaad Penny, Matt Breida and Derrick Henry. They also allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns per game last year.
When choosing running backs for DFS, we want home favorites. That is the case with Chris Carson ($23), as Seattle hosts the Bengals. Per Football Outsiders, just 14.3% of all carries against Cincinnati last year were stuffed, the second-lowest rate in football. The Bengals also allowed the fourth-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last year, as well as 1.1 rushing scores per game. As big home favorites in a run-heavy offense, Carson is one of the top plays of the entire slate.
Dalvin Cook ($27) is in line for a big season if he can stay healthy. Latavius Murray is gone and the Vikings are going to establish the run early and often this season. He gets a strong matchup against a Falcons team that has allowed the most receptions per game to opposing running backs over the last two seasons. Cook will be the workhorse, as Minnesota averaged around 27 rushing attempts per game during the final seven weeks of the 2018 season.
Nick Chubb ($23) has top-five upside this season and is priced below guys like Derrick Henry, Damien Williams and Todd Gurley. Like Carson, Chubb is a home favorite. Sure, the Titans have been strong against the run but in Weeks 7-17 of 2018, Chubb ranked fourth in rushing yards (823), 11th in rushing touchdowns (6), second in 10-plus yard runs (24) and second in yards after contact (686). Chubb will see 20-25 touches in a very strong offense this week and with Duke Johnson out of town, there is even more upside for pass-catching work.
A lot of the big-name wide receivers aren’t on the main slate. Having said that, my favorite high-end wideout available is Odell Beckham ($30). I expect big things in his first game with Cleveland, facing a Titans secondary that ranked 27th in aFPA to wide receivers last year. He’ll see plenty of coverage from Malcolm Butler, who coughed up the ninth-most yards (778) and second-most touchdowns (7) while in coverage last year. Opposing number-one wideouts averaged 8.8 targets per game against the Titans, too, the fourth-most in the league. And in case you forgot how good he is, Odell is averaging 18.5 and 19.2 fantasy points per game over the last two seasons.
I want all of the Dede Westbrook ($15) this weekend. A top-25 wide receiver for me entering the year, Westbrook is priced as the WR32 on Yahoo this weekend. We saw Dede targeted on seven of Nick Foles’ 10 pass attempts during the Week 3 preseason game and it isn’t very surprising. Per my colleague TJ Hernandez, Foles has targeted the slot at the sixth-highest rate over the last two years. Meanwhile, Dede lined up in the slot 89% of the time last season. Kansas City slot corner Kendall Fuller isn’t a bad corner but he did allow a league-leading 56 receptions in slot coverage last year, as well as the third-most yards after the catch (298). That bodes well for Westbrook, who averaged 3.3 yards after the catch per grab in 2018. He and Foles rank extremely high in 4for4’s Stack Value Report and it is a stack I’ll be using, for sure.
Chris Godwin ($20) is significantly cheaper than Mike Evans ($28) this week and the vast difference in price might make Godwin the preferred cash option. With Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson gone, the Bucs have 24% of their 2018 targets up for grabs. We know Godwin is set for a career year in 2019 and it starts against a 49ers defense that is vulnerable against the pass. 67.3% of the touchdowns allowed by San Francisco last year came through the air, the seventh-highest rate in football. Meanwhile, 73.4% of Tampa Bay’s offensive touchdowns came via the pass, which was the third-highest rate in the league. This game has the second-highest implied total of the slate, so fantasy points should follow.
You have the big three tight ends all available on the main slate. George Kittle ($27) is my favorite of the bunch, playing in the best game for fantasy purposes. Tampa Bay surrendered 66.3 yards per game to opposing tight ends last year (fifth-most) and we know Kittle has massive yardage potential, averaging 9.9 yards after the catch per reception last year to go along with 10.2 yards per target and 15.6 yards per catch.
Evan Engram ($19) is in line for plenty of targets with Odell Beckham Jr. gone and Golden Tate suspended. He posted a 16.8% target share last year, ninth-best among tight ends, but that number is sure to go up. During the final four weeks of the 2018 season (with Beckham hurt), Engram posted stat lines of 3/77/0, 8/75/0, 6/87/0 and 5/81/1, while averaging about eight targets per game. Dallas surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends in 2018.
Defense and Special Teams
The Jets ($17) are home favorites against an improved Bills team but one that still has major question marks on the offensive line. Buffalo ranked 29th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to defenses last year, while quarterback Josh Allen was under pressure on over 43% of his dropbacks. Of course, the Ravens ($19) are a fantastic option, facing Ryan Fitzpatrick and his turnover tendencies, while losing Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills hurt an already poor offense.
Cash Viable Plays
- QB: Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson
- RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Mark Ingram, Austin Ekeler
- WR: Odell Beckham Jr., Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Dede Westbrook, D.J. Moore
- TE: George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Evan Engram, Delanie Walker
- D/ST: Ravens, Cowboys, Jets
Main Slate GPP Strategy
The following are players who I will likely be overweight on compared to the field—not my entire player pool. It’s wise to have some exposure to players in what are expected to be the highest-scoring games, but they will only be mentioned here if I like them more than the public. When you do roll out highly-owned passing games consider some of these options as differentiators:
- Onslaught - Instead of stacking a popular quarterback with one of his pass-catchers, add a second pass-catcher, and maybe even the team running back to the mix.
- Game Stack - In addition to your two- or three-man stack, add a player—usually the primary pass-catcher—from the opposing team. This is obvious in shootouts but is often ignored (erroneously) in games expected to be lopsided.
- An off-the-board play - Rostering a pass-catcher who's being ignored in a popular passing offense can be an effective strategy for getting exposure to a chalky team while remaining unique.
For guidance on how to formulate exposures in your personal tournament portfolio, use 4for4’s ownership projections and this guide to leverage scores. All players mentioned as cash game options are worthy of consideration as core GPP plays.
Running Backs to Target
- LeVeon Bell ($33) is one of my favorite tournament options of the slate. Between his price (RB3) and concerns of potential rust, no one will want to play him, especially against a good Bills defense. However, this is still an elite fantasy producer and the way to beat Buffalo was on the ground last year, as nearly 39% of the touchdowns scored against the Bills came via the run (seventh-worst), while only the Cardinals allowed more rushing touchdowns per game (1.1). Buffalo also ranked 26th in running back aFPA last year. Many are worried the Jets ease them Bell back into it but if they don’t (or even if they do), he could have a huge game at lower ownership.
- Leonard Fournette ($20) is priced around guys like Chris Carson, David Johnson and Kerryon Johnson, which should limit his ownership. Like Westbrook, Fournette also saw a ton of targets from Foles in that third preseason game and with T.J. Yeldon in Buffalo, the Jags don’t have a true pass-catching back to take work away this year. Jacksonville will try to run the ball and keep Patrick Mahomes off the field but even if they fall behind, Fournette can get it done. The Chiefs allowed nearly six receptions per game to opposing running backs last year, as well as the third-most receiving yards per game to the position (56.4). Meanwhile, only Miami ranked worse in running back PPR aFPA in 2018.
- Some might view Kerryon Johnson ($22) as a cash play. I worry a bit about his lack of third-down usage during the preseason but he can still get it done against a Cardinals defense that allowed the most rushing touchdowns per game in 2018 as well as the fourth-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Passing Games to Target
- 49ers @ Buccaneers- Tampa Bay pressured quarterbacks just 25.8% of the time last year, the second-lowest rate in football. They also allowed over two passing touchdowns per game, while seven different passers reached the 300-yard mark against them. Jimmy Garoppolo ($31) was a bit of a mixed bag in the preseason but the matchup is there and the weapons in San Francisco have been improved.
- Lions @ Cardinals- Arizona will be without their top two corners in Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford. That leaves them with rookie Byron Murphy and veteran Tramaine Brock, both of which could have difficulty defending Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. The Lions will play up in pace against this new Cardinals system and Matthew Stafford ($26) has as much upside this week as he may have all season.
- Rams @ Panthers- Perhaps we see a more pass-heavy approach from the Rams if they limit Todd Gurley a bit. Regardless, the Panthers were a pass funnel last year and Jared Goff ($31) has all three of his receivers at full health and ready to roll.
Other Pass Catchers to Target
- Tyler Lockett ($22) vs Bengals- The running game should feast on the Bengals this week but Lockett could make some huge plays, too. He is the unquestioned top target in this Seattle passing game and likely sees 20-25% of the team targets. We know he has huge play potential, leading the NFL in yards per target last year at 13.6. The Bengals, meanwhile, allowed 11.3 yards per completion last year, the third-highest number in football.
- Tyler Boyd ($18) @ Seahawks- On the other side of this game, Boyd could go overlooked. Everyone will want to load up on Seahawks but I don’t think the Bengals get much love in a run-it-back situation. Boyd will dominate the targets here with A.J. Green sidelined and as big road favorites, the Bengals should be passing quite a bit here.
Defenses to Target
- Lions ($15) @ Cardinals- People are talking about Kyler Murray this week and this season. But this still a rookie quarterback behind a brutal offensive line and the Lions added Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels to their pass rush. Sacks and turnovers could be in play this weekend for Detroit.
- Cowboys ($14) vs Giants- A defense with little holes, the Cowboys have good corners, a very good pass rush and fast, young linebackers. Eli Manning is still starting for the Giants, while they are lacking game-breaking weapons outside of Saquon Barkley.
Overweight GPP Plays
- QB: Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff
- RB: LeVeon Bell, Kerryon Johnson, David Johnson, Leonard Fournette
- WR: Tyler Lockett, Tyreek Hill, Tyler Boyd, Marquise Goodwin
- TE: Hunter Henry, O.J. Howard, Mark Andrews
- DEF: Lions, Cowboys
Full Slate Notes
- Trey Burton is questionable to play Thursday night. Adam Shaheen ($10) has been a touchdown-scorer when given more run and could be a decent punt option at tight end.
- Josh Gordon is just $16 for Sunday night. He saw 18 red zone targets in 11 games last season and is the only vertical threat in this Patriots passing game. There is a ton of upside at his discounted price tag.
- While Yahoo! isn’t a full PPR site, it is half and Duke Johnson ($15) is now the lead back in a high-powered Houston offense. With Keke Coutee likely to sit, Duke may serve as this team’s intermediate target in the passing game, especially with plenty of question marks on the offensive line.
- The Raiders struggled to defend the slot last year, coughing up the second-most PPR points per catchable target to slot receivers in 2018, per Sports Info Solutions. That was the second-highest mark in football. DaeSean Hamilton should man the slot for the Broncos this season.