FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Early-Slate Helper: Week 1

The Week 1 NFL DFS early slate on FanDuel features seven NFL matchups, all kicking off at 1 p.m. EST. While we have some high-powered offensive teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, the slate is balanced out with poor offenses like the Miami Dolphins and Washington.

Only the Chiefs-Jaguars game has a total that tops 50, while the Ravens-Dolphins clash is under 40. Lineup variance will be key if DFSers want to pull down big tournaments on these tight slates.

Let’s check out the best plays at each price point.

High-Priced Studs

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers ($8,900)

Our projections have Christian McCaffrey as the best running back on the slate, and you’ll need to pay up if you want him as he’s $1,500 more than the next back. CMC offers the safest combination of floor and ceiling on this slate, so he’s worth the price tag.

While Cam Newton is off of the injury report after a scare in the preseason, he may not want to push his luck against Aaron Donald. That could lead to more dump-offs to McCaffrey, as the Carolina Panthers want to keep their quarterback upright.

Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara shredded Cory Littleton on choice routes out of the backfield to the tune of 11 catches and 96 yards in the NFC Championship. Expect Cam and McCaffrey to do the same.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings ($7,400)

A cheat code in DFS last season was playing the running back that was up against the Atlanta Falcons. We should test that theory again this week, as Dalvin Cook is in a prime spot to explode onto the scene.

When Kevin Stefanski took over as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator for the final three weeks of the 2018 season, the team leaned on Cook. He answered the ball, posting a clip of 0.22 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry, which would have ranked first among all running backs last season. For reference, Todd Gurley led the league with 0.16 Rushing NEP per attempt, so Cook was mind-blowingly good in the final few games.

Without Latavius Murray lurking, Cook should get all three downs plus goal-line work against in a fantasy-friendly matchup. Lock him in.

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons ($8,500)

If Julio Jones chooses to suit up, which seems to be a big if as of writing this, then he might make for contrarian play due to his tough matchup. He is expected to be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes, so most people won’t want to pay Julio's high price for that matchup.

The good news is that Julio was the best receiver in the league against shadow coverage in 2018, averaging 2.81 yards per route run when shadowed, according to Pro Football Focus. Fade the public’s mindset and pay up for the Falcons’ ace with confidence.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,800)

Tight end looks like a dumpster fire on this slate, as only Travis Kelce is projected to produce 1.5-times his price (1.5 points per $1,000 in salary). Kelce hit 100 yards on eight targets in this matchup last season. Patrick Mahomes would be wise to funnel the ball to the middle to avoid the Jags’ cornerback tandem, making Kelce a safe play at a shallow position.

Mid-Priced Upside Plays

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens ($7,400)

The Dolphins are officially tanking. This can be very fruitful for fantasy this week as they are matched up with one of the run-heaviest teams. And no quarterback ran more than Lamar Jackson in 2018, as he led his position in carries while starting only seven games last season.

The Ravens could actually set rushing records against the Dolphins this week, as they project to see nothing but positive game script from the start.

This game has the lowest total on the slate, so Jackson might not see much ownership. DFS gamers also generally want to pay up for passing stacks, which the Ravens don't offer much of. But they do offer a quarterback-running back stack.

Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens ($6,600)

Speaking of that, Mark Ingram will reap the benefits of this soft Miami front. A year ago, the Ravens' offensive line offered the ninth-most Adjusted Line Yards and ranked first in Power Success Rate, according to Football Outsiders.

Gus Edwards averaged 18.8 carries per game as a starter last season, so Ingram could see 20-plus carries in this cupcake matchup. A Jackson-Ingram rushing stack is in the cards on Sunday.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars ($5,900)

Dede Westbrook is in a prime matchup with Kendall Fuller. The Chiefs’ slot corner should be busy on Sunday, as the new Jaguars offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, gave Adam Thielen 11 targets per game in 2018 when they were together in Minnesota. If the preseason was any indication, Nick Foles likes throwing to Westbrook, and this could be a high-volume play as the Jags throw to keep up with KC's electric offense.

Bargain Bin Prospects

Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills ($5,300)

The Buffalo Bills have the third-lowest implied team total, so you really don’t want to be targeting many players from this team. Devin Singletary is in a rare situation, though. The team parted ways with its incumbent starter, LeSean McCoy, and Singletary now only has the 36-year-old Frank Gore to compete with.

Singletary is not the best prospect out there, as he’s undersized, not a great pass-catcher, and not particularly fast, but opportunity is everything. We’re projecting him for double-digit touches this week, so if you need to pay down to jam in some better players elsewhere, you could do worse.

Albert Wilson, WR, Miami Dolphins ($5,000)

The criminally undervalued Albert Wilson is an obvious bargain on this short slate. He doesn’t need many targets to smash, as he gained most of his fantasy points with his 9.5 yards after the catch per target (first among receivers) in 2018, but he should see big volume with Kenny Stills out of town.

Stills played out of the slot slightly more than 20 percent of the time last year while Wilson was there on 29 percent of his snaps. Wilson should be there nearly full time this season.

While the matchup against Baltimore's tough defense may scare some, Wilson’s best game came against the Chicago Bears last season. He has the athleticism and ability after the catch to smash any defense with one play.

Jonathan Taylor Smith is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice Jonathan Taylor Smith also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jtsmittyyy. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.