DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 1
Not only does numberFire offer multiple DFS articles (like this one) each and every week, we've also got the tools you need to build lineups and sort through projections that are specific to DraftKings scoring. And there is perhaps no better way to quickly see the big picture of how the slate is shaping up than by viewing the Matchup Heat Map. In addition to all the written content and awesome tools, numberFire has also podcasts that will dive into the action.
Because the pricing for Week 1 contests on DraftKings was released a month ago, many situations have changed and numerous players are now incredible values. That will lead to lineups full of expensive players with both very safe floors and extremely high ceilings. It's going to take a high score to cash, so let's get started by exploring many of the top plays at each position.
Tom Brady ($7,200): Among all players -- regardless of position -- competing in the 12-game main slate, Tom Brady sits atop our projections. He won't have Julian Edelman (four-game PED suspension) but still has running backs with pass-catching skills (like James White), tight end Rob Gronkowski -- appropriately priced at $6,900 -- and wide receiver Chris Hogan, who we'll discuss a little later. Our Matchup Heat Map makes it easy to see that the New England Patriots open the season at home with the second-highest implied team total and the slate's highest over/under. And according to our power rankings, the opposing Houston Texans finished inside the bottom 10 defensive units against the pass a year ago. Even though Brady comes in at $300 more than any other quarterback, TB12 is one of the top tournament options to consider.
Andy Dalton ($5,800): Cash game players should flock to Andy Dalton like Buffalo Bills fans spotting him at a local restaurant, because not unlike how he saved their team last year, Dalton is going to save us all lot of salary cap space in Week 1. From a points-per-dollar perspective, our projections have Dalton as the fourth-best quarterback value this week. He has the 10th-highest raw projection at the position and is one of only five expected to throw multiple touchdowns. Playing in one of the four indoor stadiums on the slate, this game has the third-highest over/under with the Bengals as a slight underdog. We typically want quarterbacks that are home favorites, but this is a fair trade. Dalton should find a lot of success indoors against the worst pass defense in the league, according to both numberFire's metrics and Pro Football Focus' evaluation.
Case Keenum ($5,100): While our models don't care much for Case Keenum this week, I think he'll easily surpass his projection for a couple of reasons. First, the amount of talent that has been lost on the Seattle defense this offseason is staggering. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas wasn't one of them, but he just ended his contract holdout. Byron Maxwell was brought back to play left cornerback, only to be placed on injured reserve a few days ago. The Denver Broncos also enjoy a terrific home field advantage in this spot. Not only is the competition dealing with altitude in their very first full game, but the temperature will be over 80 degrees at kickoff. According to PlayerProfiler, Keenum ranked 4th in true completion percentage and was 10th in adjusted yards per attempt last year. As a rusher, Keenum ran for 15 yards or more in 7 of his 15 games. Stacking Keenum with Emmanuel Sanders ($5,000) -- who's also viable in cash games -- is not a bad way to start a tournament lineup.
Alvin Kamara ($8,500): All the boxes are checked for Alvin Kamara, who ought to be the highest-owned player -- and by a wide margin -- in Week 1. Competing at home, the New Orleans Saints carry the largest implied total (29.5) and point spread (-9.5). Not only is Mark Ingram (PEDs) suspended for four games, but the team shed every other running back on the roster in favor of free agent signee Mike Gillislee, who was let go by New England. Staring down a massive opportunity share, it comes as no surprise that Kamara leads our weekly projections in rushing yards. Tampa Bay's rush defense was 21st in rushing success rate a year ago, per Sharp Football Stats, but was respectable in limiting explosive runs and were decent by our metrics. However, the Bucs have no answers for stopping the passing game. And that weakness extends to Kamara, who saw 100 targets as a rookie and posted identical lines of 7 targets, 6 receptions, and 84 receiving yards in his matchups against Tampa in 2017.
Melvin Gordon ($6,800): Playing at home against a woeful Kansas City run defense, Melvin Gordon comes in as a top value by our projections. Additionally, the Los Angeles Chargers own the fifth-highest implied total of the slate and are slight favorites. Sharp Football Stats ranked the incoming Chiefs' defense 31st in both rushing success rate and explosive rushing. In fact, Gordon found the end zone in both games against the Chiefs last year; rolling up a season-high 169 yards of offense in Week 15. With so much value up and down this slate, it makes a lot of sense to start a cash game lineup by locking in the aforementioned Kamara and pairing him with either Gordon or Christian McCaffrey. Both players are similarly priced and projected to perform very well. However, Gordon's touchdown probability is much higher and justifies paying the extra $400.
Rex Burkhead ($4,200): Now off the injury list, Rex Burkhead looks to start the season as New England's lead back. Rookie Sony Michel (knee) is still limited and could miss the opener. The Patriots are a home favorite and bring the second-highest total to the slate. The absence of Julian Edelman (PED suspension) should result in a number of outlet passes to both James White ($4,000) and Burkhead. While White was a touchdown machine during the playoffs, Burkhead closed the regular season scoring six touchdowns in the final four games. With Le'Veon Bell set to miss at least one game, there is going to be a lot of buzz around James Conner ($4,500). Not only is Conner $300 more than Burkhead, but he has a much tougher matchup. Last year, the Cleveland Browns ranked sixth in our metrics against the run and didn't allow a 70-yard rusher through their first 10 games. Our projections currently prefer Conner, but if Michel doesn't suit up a pivot to Burkhead could be in order.
Antonio Brown ($8,600): The absence of Bell means Antonio Brown is set for a monster day and becomes a near-must in cash games. Last year, Cleveland had the fourth-worst pass defense by our measure. Yet player-trashing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- who runs deep coverages that look like punt returns -- was retained. In last year's season opener, a rusty looking Bell struggled against a good Browns defensive front. So, Pittsburgh turned to Brown, who caught all 11 of his targets for 182 receiving yards. Further illustrating why the Steelers should feed their receivers with Bell out, Sharp Football Stats scored the Browns' defense as the second-best unit in rushing success rate while ranking near the bottom of the league in passing success rate.
In the last 16 Games without Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown has posted a ridiculous line of:
435 PPR Points#notbad
— Anthony Staggs (@PyroStag) September 5, 2018
As you can see, Brown has done very well for himself when Bell is not in the lineup. The combination of Bell's absence and a stout Cleveland run defense should allow Brown to reel in double-digit receptions and threaten to hit the 100-yard bonus on DraftKings. Our projections also give Brown the highest touchdown probability of any wide receiver.
Chris Hogan ($6,100): If you don't mind stacking teammates in your cash game lineup, the combined value of Burkhead and Chris Hogan might be too good to pass up. Last year, we rated the Texans inside the bottom-10 pass defenses. In last year's Week 3 shootout, Tom Brady threw for five touchdowns against the Texans, two of which went to Hogan. Gronkowski also scored and led the team in targets that day. That could certainly happen again, but Hogan's extremely attractive price tag and WR9 projection makes him the fifth-best value at wide receiver.
Keelan Cole ($3,800): The gateway to playing multiple expensive studs this week is Keelan Cole, who is cheaper than teammates Donte Moncrief ($4,000) and Dede Westbrook ($3,900). Thanks to a projected output that has him flirting with double-digit fantasy points, Cole comes in as the sixth-best wide receiver value. Priced just $800 above the salary floor, Cole opens up a lot of possibilities when building lineups. The opposing New York Giants had the 11th-worst pass defense last year and are home underdogs. However, a healthy Janoris Jenkins should help push the unit closer to league average and could dampen Cole's prospects a little if the two are matched up frequently. Cole's incredible price tag should rightfully lead to a heavy ownership percentage across cash games and tournaments.
Delanie Walker ($4,900): Last year, no opposing defense allowed more DraftKings points to tight ends than the Miami Dolphins. On the season they ranked first or second in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns allowed to the position. Leading into the week, Walker had been dealing with a toe issue but has avoided the injury report thus far. Assuming he remains in the clear, Walker's expected fantasy points make him the third-best tight end value. Rishard Matthews (knee) avoided a trip to the PUP list and is putting in full practices, but he is likely to play on a limited number of snaps. While Corey Davis could prove to be the largest beneficiary, Walker has the dream matchup and a proven connection with quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Jack Doyle ($3,600): Yet another value that is going to allow DFS players to easily build fully-stocked lineups is Jack Doyle, our top tight end value as the opposing Cincinnati Bengals were fourth in receptions allowed to tight ends a year ago. Looking very thin on capable pass-catchers, Doyle should be a frequent target of the returning Andrew Luck. After losing an entire season due to a mysterious shoulder injury, Luck has yet to let it rip. During the preseason -- albeit in a very small sample -- the average depth of target (aDOT) of his throws were a mere 5.7 yards. But that's just fine for Doyle, who recorded an incredibly low aDOT (4.9) with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for nearly all of 2017.
Baltimore D/ST ($3,800): With so much value at every position, many will gravitate to the Baltimore Ravens defense. At home, as the second-biggest favorite on the slate, Baltimore will face a dreadful looking Bills offense that has the lowest implied total of the slate. Starting for Buffalo is the infamous Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions in his first career start in Week 11 last year. However, Peterman played well in the preseason and earned the starting job on merit. If we see a conservative Buffalo offense, this play could short-circuit and fail to live up to the top defensive price tag. Casting even more doubt on the situation, Baltimore will be without their top cornerback -- Jimmy Smith -- for four games due to suspension.
New England D/ST ($2,400): Priced at only $400 above the salary floor for any position, the Patriots' defense is the secret value on this slate. Last year, in this same matchup, the Patriots scored half a dozen DraftKings points even though they allowed 27 real-life points to the Texans' offense. That's because Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. In only seven games last year, Watson was intercepted 8 times and sacked 19 times. Coming off an ACL injury and playing behind the worst offensive line in the league, Watson will likely be forced into multiple mistakes and negative plays once again. Despite all the expected scoring, our projections are on board with using New England, rating the unit as the second-best value.
Eric McClung is not a FanDuel employee. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.