DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Primer: Week 1
The NFL might look at little different in a COVID-19 world, but football is finally back.
In this DFS preview, I'll focus on the Sunday main slate and group players into two categories based on their DraftKing's salaries: players to build around and value plays.
Players to build around are those with high salaries but even higher production ceilings, making them worth prioritizing in your lineup. Value plays are guys with lower salaries and typically come with some risk, but adding them to your lineup will help you afford the salaries of the stars on the slate.
All references to betting totals and spreads are from the FanDuel Sportsbook.
Players to Build Around
QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks ($7,000) vs. ATL
Russell Wilson has the second-highest salary at quarterback on this slate, behind Lamar Jackson ($8,100) but he still appears to be a favorable option based on this matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. In last year's meeting, Atlanta held Wilson to just 15.7 fantasy points, but that was due in large part to Seattle building a 24-0 first-half lead, causing Wilson to attempt just 20 passes with 4 rushing attempts. Atlanta gave up at least 20 fantasy points to seven quarterbacks last year, and the team made minimal changes on the defensive side of the ball with the exception of adding first-round cornerback A.J. Terrell.
QB Matt Ryan, Falcons ($6,700) vs. SEA
The Falcons enter Week 1 with the highest implied total (24 points) among underdogs, making this an ideal spot to roster Matt Ryan. Last year, the Seahawks allowed six quarterbacks to reach at least 20 fantasy points, and five of those were in games won by Seattle. So if this game script unfolds as expected, Ryan should have an opportunity to rack up points while playing from behind in the second half.
RB Christian McCaffrey, Panthers ($10,000) vs. LAV
Despite being the most expensive player on the slate, Christian McCaffrey is still worth adding to your lineups. McCaffrey was a superstar last season but could elevate his game to another level in an improved offense with new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Last season at LSU, Brady helped create 270 touches for Clyde Edwards-Helaire (215 carries, 55 receptions) and was a part of the New Orleans Saints offense during some of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara's best years. McCaffrey also draws a good matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, who allowed 6.5 yards per target to players out of the backfield last season, which ranked 24th in the league.
RB Todd Gurley, Falcons ($6,100) vs. SEA
Health is always a concern for Todd Gurley, but we can probably assume he's as fresh as we'll see him in his Atlanta Falcons debut. He'll face a solid Seahawks run defense in this matchup, but Gurley could make an increased impact in the passing game. Seattle allowed 7.8 yards per target to players out of the backfield, the second-worst rate in the league according to Sports Info Solutions. The Falcons averaged 6.1 targets per game to running backs out of the backfield last season, so Gurley should see enough of a workload to make an impact.
WR Michael Thomas ($9,000) vs. NO
The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are tied for the highest over/under of the week at 49.5 points, which should put all the offensive stars in this matchup on your radar. Michael Thomas looks like the best bet to put up big numbers based on his recent success against the Bucs. Thomas put up 44.2 and 28.4 fantasy points in his two games against Tampa last year and has averaged 25.9 fantasy points against the Bucs throughout his career.
WR Davante Adams ($7,300) vs. MIN
The Minnesota Vikings rebuilt their secondary in the offseason, parting with veteran cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander. In the long run, maybe these changes improve Minnesota's chances of shutting down Davante Adams, but in Week 1, without any preseason games to iron out the kinks, a unit featuring so many new faces seems particularly vulnerable. Adams posted 26.6 and 20.6 fantasy points in his two meetings with Minnesota last season.
TE George Kittle, 49ers ($7,200) vs. ARZ
The Arizona Cardinals allowed a league-worst 19.6 fantasy points per game to tight ends last season, which makes George Kittle the obvious front-runner to be Week 1's highest-scoring tight end. Arizona did invest a first-round pick in Isaiah Simmons in an effort to rectify this hole in its defense, but Kittle versus a rookie linebacker still looks like a mismatch the San Francisco 49ers should be able to exploit.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers ($5,900) vs. LAV
In his Panthers debut, Teddy Bridgewater draws a favorable matchup against an extremely young Las Vegas Raiders secondary. Last year, the Raiders ranked dead last in passing defense, allowing 8.3 yards per attempt through the air. Although the Raiders have invested heavily in the position -- four of their five starters will be first or second-year pros -- an inexperienced secondary without the benefit of preseason snaps could struggle in Week 1.
RB Zack Moss, Bills ($4,400) vs. NYJ
Third-round pick Zack Moss is expected to take over the Frank Gore role in Buffalo's offense, which makes him a potential touchdown vulture behind starter Devin Singletary. Last season, Gore led the Bills with 11 carries inside the opponent's five-yard line, compared to just two for Singletary and five for Josh Allen. Those 11 carries only produced 2 touchdowns for Gore, but Moss should be more effective in that role. Moss reached the end zone eight times on 15 carries inside the five at Utah last season.
WR Curtis Samuel, Panthers ($4,600) vs. LAV
For the same reason Bridgewater is mentioned above, Curtis Samuel is worth a look against a weak Raiders secondary. Las Vegas particularly struggled to defend slot receivers, allowing 8.6 yards per target to receivers line up in the slot, which ranked 28th in the NFL according to Sports Info Solutions. Samuel saw 34 percent of his targets from the slot last year, and that rate could increase due to the addition of Robby Anderson, who is expected to see the majority of his action on the outside.
WR Michael Pittman Jr., Colts ($4,400) vs. JAC
It's always a little tough to project rookie roles in Week 1, but there's a chance Michael Pittman Jr. is severely underpriced this week. According to Sports Info Solutions, new Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers threw at least 15 yards downfield on 23.5 percent of his attempts last season, the third-highest rate in the league. T.Y. Hilton will obviously see a lot of those targets, but Rivers has typically been paired with bigger weapons such as Keenan Allen, Vincent Jackson, and Malcom Floyd throughout his career. For this reason, Rivers may end up favoring the 6'4" Pittman on those valuable downfield targets. Against a rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars defense, Pittman looks like an ideal tournament dart throw in Week 1.
WR Laviska Shenault, Jaguars ($4,400) vs. IND
Another rookie receiver worth gambling on is Laviska Shenault, who is expected to play a versatile role in Jacksonville's offense. In the passing game, the Jaguars will likely try to create ways to get the ball to Shenault in space -- he averaged 7.6 yards after the catch per reception last season at Colorado, according to Sports Info Solutions. He may also factor into the running game, especially with Leonard Fournette gone and Ryquell Armstead out due to COVID-19. According to Sports Info Solutions, Shenault averaged 3.7 yards after contact per rushing attempt last season, more than any of Colorado's running backs.
Ryan McCrystal is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Ryan McCrystal also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username cfbfilmroom. 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.