Week 1 NFL FanDuel Stacks: Kirk Cousins Is Back in Action
If you're new to daily fantasy football, then you'll have to make some changes to your fantasy football strategy. You don't have "your guys" on a weekly basis -- and you need to adjust to each and every matchup.
A big part of building your roster is weekly quarterback selection. In terms of salary, passers range from the top of the player pool to the bottom, with some replacement-level passers at the same price point as kickers and defenses on FanDuel.
Along with those quarterbacks, though, you have the option of pairing pass-catchers with your signal caller, and per 4for4's TJ Hernandez, a quarterback's top receiver has a moderately strong correlation to the quarterback's performance -- and his tight end and second receiver aren't too far behind.
If you're going to stack, though, you need to have a purpose. If you're trying to win a big tournament, you'll want to find a combination that can put up points in bunches -- all while being under-owned. Which teammates might fit the bill in Week 1?
Green Bay Packers
QB: Aaron Rodgers ($9,000)
WR: Randall Cobb ($7,200)
Let's the get this out of the way first: you can expect pretty significant ownership on Dak Prescott ($5,000), Drew Brees ($8,700), Andrew Luck ($8,700), Matthew Stafford ($7,400), and Derek Carr ($7,700) because of their high over/unders and shootout potential. We're going to look elsewhere.
Now, you still won't be fooling anybody by targeting Aaron Rodgers, the top-priced quarterback on FanDuel this week. About 84% of the public's wagers have been placed on the Green Bay Packers in their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, tops of the week, per The Spread, and the over/under has bumped up from 47 at its opening to 48, per Sharp Football Analysis. People are expecting this one to be high scoring.
Still, Rodgers makes for a great play against the Jaguars, who ranked 27th against the pass last season, per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric.
Ideally, Rodgers would be playing at home, but our algorithms see Green Bay winning this game about 65% of the time. Since 2013, quarterbacks with at least 10 pass attempts have averaged 19.3 FanDuel points per game in victories (compared to 17.1 across all 1,464 games in the sample). They've also secured 1.73 points above their salary-implied fantasy point total in victories and 1.95 points above their salary-implied total against defenses in the bottom eight in Adjusted Passing NEP per play, where the Jags ranked last year.
Now, Jordy Nelson is an interesting tournament dart throw, for sure, but his playing time will be on a "snap-by-snap" basis. For this reason, we should target Randall Cobb, who has averaged 15.48 half-PPR points in 22 games with Nelson since 2013 and just 10.21 in 16 games without him, per Rotoviz. The threat of Nelson should make Cobb a go-to target for Rodgers, who seems set up for a big opening week.
QB: Kirk Cousins ($7,800)
WR: DeSean Jackson ($6,600)
Kirk Cousins' 2015 breakout earned him no respect. Washington didn't give him a deserving contract, but that probably won't matter in Week 1 when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. Pittsburgh, who ranked ninth against the pass per our metrics last year, is a 3-point road favorite in a game with an over/under of 50.
Cousins averaged 22.01 FanDuel points per game at home last year and outperformed his salary-implied fantasy output by a whopping 7.4 points in those eight games. Roughly 70% of the public is on the Steelers in this one, and that could leave the Cousins/DeSean Jackson connection as an afterthought, especially considering they don't play until Monday night.
If anything, Cousins and tight end Jordan Reed ($7,400) could be the popular combo on this offense, but Jackson is easily the best target Cousins has had in his career, with an adjusted yards per attempt of 11.5, per Rotoviz. Among players to see at least 50 targets from Cousins, Reed (9.5) is the only other player above 7.5 yards per attempt.
New York Jets
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick ($7,300)
WR: Brandon Marshall ($7,700)
Ryan Fitzpatrick almost wasn't even a member of the New York Jets this year, but the two agreed to terms, and here we are. Fitzpatrick is tied for the 16th-most expensive quarterback in FanDuel's main Week 1 slate. With bargain players such as Dak Prescott below him, elite passers above him, and capable passers all around him, he's probably not going to be a popular option.
About 74% of the public is on the Cincinnati Bengals rather than the Jets, who are actually the home team in this matchup. Cincinnati ranked 14th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play last year, and the opening line of 42.5 has dropped to 41.5. The Bengals also jumped from 1-point favorites to 2.5-point favorites, further suggesting that the Jets' offense could be overlooked.
Throw in the orange "Q" next to Brandon Marshall's name on the FanDuel player selection screen, and there is more reason to think this stack will go under-owned.
At $7,300, you need about 17 points from Fitzpatrick, and he happened to average 20.6 FanDuel points per game in 14 games with at least 10 attempts last year prior to Week 17. Marshall needs about 14.5 points to pay off his salary, which is 10th among receivers.
This is a high-scoring pair with reasonable price tags, and you can expect low ownership given the potentially tough matchup. Of course, you can also consider Eric Decker ($6,900) at a discount rather than Marshall, though Decker never hit multiple touchdowns last year, something Marshall did twice.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB: Jameis Winston ($7,500)
WR: Vincent Jackson ($5,900)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't going to be the NFC South team that everyone is targeting. That'll be the New Orleans Saints against the Oakland Raiders. Or perhaps the Atlanta Falcons against these very same Buccaneers, who ranked 28th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play last year and have to contend with Julio Jones in Week 1.
Still, the Falcons ranked 18th against the pass in their own right, and they're likely starting two rookie linebackers against the Bucs in the opener. Winston didn't show too much upside in 2015 (only one game with more than 22.02 FanDuel points), but he never dropped below 13.26. You'll want at least 17 points from him at his price tag of $7,500, a mark he topped 8 times in 15 games last year, excluding Week 17.
Mike Evans burned a lot of owners last year with his inability to haul in some of Winston's passes (whether because of drops or inaccuracy), and he is the more likely candidate to post a big game even with Desmond Trufant shadowing him, but we shouldn't rule out Vincent Jackson in our stacks. Jackson is cheap ($5,900) but not as cheap as Marvin Jones ($5,500) in a more appealing game. Add in the "Q" next to his name, and Jackson is going to be overlooked.
Jackson drew one more red zone target (14) than Evans did (13) in 2014, numbers that were flip-flopped despite Jackson missing six games. At his price, you need only about 11 points to be happy, and he's a decent bet for a touchdown in a game with a pretty quiet over/under of 47.5.