FanDuel Week 1 GPP Picks and Strategy
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Data shows that even in the largest tournaments, it’s not necessary to be contrarian across the board. Start with a solid core—usually players that are worthy of cash consideration—and surround that core with low-owned stacks or unpopular one-off players. In addition to traditional quarterback stacks, consider secondary correlation plays such as two pass catchers from one game or a running back-defense stack. On average, 2019 Sunday Million winners had over five players in their lineup with some correlation to another player in the same game.
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 that’s being ignored in a popular passing offense can be an effective strategy for getting exposure to a chalky team while remaining unique.
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Offenses to Target
Seahawks (-1.5) @ Falcons; O/U 49.0
In addition to this being the smallest spread of the main slate, it is also the highest over/under. Both sides of the ball are in play as Atlanta shows up with one of the more vulnerable secondaries in the league and Seattle lacks anything that resembles a pro-level pass rush. With concentrated passing games for each offense, the best way to build a unique roster with this game is to go for a full out onslaught or implement running backs from either side of the ball into stacks.
Raiders (-3.5) @ Panthers; O/U 47.5
Early in the season, there’s value in targeting the second tier of over/unders or implied totals as it usually takes the books a couple of weeks to get up to speed on which offenses are good. This game features what should be two of the worst defenses in the league and while both running backs will be popular, there is leverage in targeting some of the pass-catchers in tournaments. Darren Waller ($6,800) could see depressed ownership with George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Zach Ertz in smash spots while most players will likely shy away from Henry Ruggs ($5,100) since he has zero NFL sample.
Robby Anderson ($5,600) and Curtis Samuel ($5,500) will cannibalize each other’s ownership until the public sees if either emerges as the clear number two receiver in this offense while Ian Thomas ($5,100) is the wild card with Teddy Bridgewater’s short-throw tendencies. Because neither quarterback is known to take big shots, these offenses are worth targeting as secondary stacks with other offenses anchoring your primary stack.
Cardinals @ 49ers (-7.0); O/U 47.5
These teams combined for 115 points in two games last season and San Francisco surrendered at least 21 FanDuel Points to Kyler Murray ($7,700) in each contest. From their first game against Murray in Week 9 through Week 17, the 49ers allowed 21.96 FD points per game to opposing passers. With a banged-up defense and down a couple of key starters from last season, this defense will not be the dominant one that started 2019.
Of all the games with large spreads, this is the one that could go sideways in a shootout. Murray is worth pairing with both primary pass-catchers, DeAndre Hopkins ($7,800) and Christian Kirk ($5,800). With Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk iffy because of offseason injuries, Kittle’s ownership will be sky-high but pairing him with Jimmy Garoppolo ($7,400) should negate that chalk. This game can be stacked across the board, including the primary running backs on both sides.
Eagles (-5.5) @ Washington; O/U 43.0
Philadelphia projects as the most popular offense of Week 1 so there aren’t many ways to be unique, even with a team stack. Dallas Goedert ($5,200) should draw moderate ownership and running it back with Steven Sims ($5,100) instead of Terry Mclaurin will be a unique strategy. Rather than trying to build a unique stack from this game, anyone targeting the Eagles would be best served by being contrarian with a one-off play.
Jets @ Bills (-6.5); O/U 39.5
Seemingly every year, there is a team or game that goes off in Week 1 that is completely unexpected—last year it was the Ravens against the Dolphins and that game had an oddly similar spread and game total. Josh Allen is a cash game anchor this week but there are questions about how his passes will be distributed—Stefon Diggs ($6,600) is making his team debut and John Brown ($6,100) could take a back seat to Diggs. That uncertainty will lead to low ownership in what could be Buffalo’s coming out party. As outlined earlier this offseason, the Bills have as much upside as any offense in the league.
Low-Owned, High-Upside Plays
Tarik Cohen, Bears ($5,200) @ Lions
Pass-catching backs generally don’t ascend up the leaderboard on FanDuel, but Cohen could be a focal point of Chicago’s offense with David Montgomery out. Only two teams allowed more receiving yards to opposing backs last season and with Cohen’s versatility, he could leap Anthony Miller on the target totem pole, at least this week.
James White, Patriots ($5,300) vs Dolphins
The last time we saw Cam Newton play football, he was doing something he’d never done before—completing the ball at a high rate. Much of his success in 2018 had to do with quick, short passes, especially to his fantastic pass-catching running back. Probably Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels made note of that and we will see White deployed as a primary target in Week 1.
Marlon Mack, Colts ($6,100) @ Jaguars
Jacksonville is likely the worst team in the league and the Colts are massive favorites (-8) this week. Mack and Jonathan Taylor project for a similar workload, but Taylor’s hype and lower salary will push ownership towards the rookie, making Mack the ultimate leverage play.
Odell Beckham ($6,900) and Jarvis Landry ($6,300), Browns vs Ravens
Most of the top contrarian receivers this week are part of game or team stacks, and this is no different except that all of the Ravens were mentioned as cash game plays. This isn’t a spot to play the underdog quarterback but Beckham and Landry are run-it-back options that can make Ravens stacks unique. Baltimore will allow underneath passes, as evidenced by Landry’s big outings against them recently but Odell is 100%—unlike last season—and a revamped offense under Kevin Stefanski should be more efficient than the abomination that Freddie Kitchens rolled out in 2019.
Jack Doyle, Colts ($5,300) @ Jaguars
Tight ends benefit from positive game script and Indianapolis is the biggest favorite of the week. Ownership will be on the Colts running backs with T.Y. Hilton drawing some interest while Doyle goes ignored. Philip Rivers will use his tight end as much as any quarterback in the league, especially if that tight end is a reliable one like Doyle.
T.J. Hockenson, Lions ($5,300) vs Bears
Matthew Stafford had the most efficient season of his career in 2019 due in large part to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Where Bevell really turned Stafford loose was in letting him throw the deep ball. That gives all of Detroit’s pass-catchers weekly GPP upside but this game will likely be too low-scoring to target with a stack. While the Lions receivers are intriguing stand-alone plays, rostering Hockenson results in a unique roster build while most lineups pay up at tight end in Week 1.
Defense and Special Teams
Most weeks, four to six cash viable defenses will be enough to rotate throughout tournament lineups. Because defense and special teams scoring are so volatile, it’s rarely a good idea to use any single defense in more than a quarter of FPP lineups. While running back-defense is a relatively popular secondary stack, always be aware of which players can be used to double dip as kick or punt returners.
Lions ($3,700) vs Bears
Detroit is only favored by three and they are a bad real defense but this is a sneaky good fantasy spot. The Chicago offense—which is returning the same core and coaching staff—quietly threw at the seventh-highest rate in neutral game script last season. Mitch Trubisky—who was awarded the starting job over Nick Foles—ranked in the top half of the league in deep-ball rate in 2019, which suggests more time for a pass rush to get to him.
Chargers ($4,200) @ Bengals
Los Angeles is favored by just 3.5 but they will be facing rookie Joe Burrow in his NFL debut. Justin Edwards ranks Cincinnati’s offensive line as the worst in the league coming into the season and Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram could wreak havoc on the rook.
- QB: Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Kyler Murray, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz
- RB: Chris Carson, Todd Gurley, Raheem Mostert, Kenyan Drake, Tarik Cohen, James White, Marlon Mack, Alvin Kamara
- WR: Henry Ruggs, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Steven Sims, Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry
- TE: Ian Thomas, Dallas Goedert, Darren Waller, Jack Doyle, T.J. Hockenson
- DEF: Lions, Chargers