4 NFL FanDuel Tournament Pivots for Week 1
If you've played daily fantasy sports for a while, you realize by now the importance of being contrarian, especially in large-field tournaments. Being able to recognize which players are going to be owned by the majority of the field -- and to find players who you think have a similar point projection but will come at much lower ownership -- can help separate you from your opponents.
The purpose of this article will be to identify some players who will be the chalk at each position and how you can pivot off of them with high-upside options who could go overlooked.
Let's take a look at pivot options for Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Carolina Panthers
FanDuel Salaries: $7,100 and $6,800
There's a bit more uncertainty than usual entering Week 1 this year, which arguably makes it a little more difficult to predict how the public will handle certain spots, but there are still some players who stand out as likely popular options at the quarterback position.
Lamar Jackson ($9,400) should find his way on plenty of rosters pretty much by default. Russell Wilson ($8,400) and Matt Ryan ($7,800) go toe to toe in a potential shootout with a slate-high 49.0 total, which will likely be one of the most popular games to stack.
Beyond that group, the $7K range could be spread out a bit. Cam Newton ($7,300) should grab some attention as a lower-salaried home favorite against Miami. Guys like Carson Wentz ($7,700), Jimmy Garoppolo ($7,400), and Philip Rivers ($7,100) are also sizable favorites in their respective spots. Tom Brady ($7,600) opens his Tampa Bay tenure at the Superdome, which is always an appealing venue for fantasy points.
Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater aren't exactly the types of players who had your leaguemates groaning if you drafted them in season-long, and, frankly, in most leagues, they're probably still sitting on the waiver wire. However, their duel is tied with Tampa Bay-New Orleans for the third-highest total on the board and features two exploitable defenses.
While it's possible the Raiders' D is a better unit in 2020, they're coming off an abysmal showing last season that left them with the 31st-ranked pass defense by numberFire's metrics. Meanwhile, the Panthers were average against the pass last year, but wholesale changes leave this as a defense that could experience some growing pains this year. PFF ranked this secondary 31st entering the season.
Really, we could have a fantasy goldmine on our hands, and it's easy to like the stacking options on both sides, including chalk running backs Christian McCaffrey ($10,000) and Josh Jacobs ($8,200), along with affordable pass-catchers like D.J. Moore ($7,100), Robby Anderson ($5,600), Curtis Samuel ($5,500), and Ian Thomas ($5,100) for Carolina and Darren Waller ($6,800), Henry Ruggs ($5,100), and Bryan Edwards ($4,500) for Las Vegas.
No, neither quarterback screams upside at first glance, but this has the potential to be a far more exciting supporting cast for Carr than what he had last year, and Bridgewater did have a 28.26-point outburst against Tampa Bay in one of his five 2020 starts. These signal caller also may not be as bad at the deep ball as you might think and are equipped with the personnel to test the waters.
At his low salary, Bridgewater rates as the top quarterback value on the slate, per our model.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals
FanDuel Salary: $6,600
The popular running backs seem pretty clear this week, with Christian McCaffrey and Josh Jacobs likely leading the way, and Dalvin Cook ($8,700) probably getting up there, too. Alvin Kamara ($8,300) may see a lower roster percentage than usual, but his name value and a fairly high total in New Orleans should keep him from falling off the radar.
But one guy right below them who could go overlooked is Kenyan Drake in a tougher matchup against the 49ers. Drake averaged 15.4 rushing attempts and 4.4 targets per game in 2019, putting him right in the same volume range as other top backs.
San Francisco allowed the third-fewest FanDuel points per game to running back in 2019, but they ranked a less imposing eighth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, numberFire's metric for schedule-adjusted run defense. That may seem like a small distinction, but the numbers place them closer to being a middle-of-the-pack run D rather than near last year's elite run defenses like Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
We also saw Drake play the 49ers twice last year, and he performed well in those games, posting 26.2 and 11.0 FanDuel points. Arizona scored 25 and 26 points in two close losses.
With a 48.5 total that's just a hair behind Seattle-Atlanta, we could very well see another another high-scoring game between these two teams, and if that's the case, Drake has just as good a chance at a spike week as other mid-range backs -- and he comes in at a lower salary. Drake projects as an excellent point-per-dollar value this week.
DJ Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
FanDuel Salary: $6,600
There are loads of enticing wideouts in the $6K range, including Tyler Lockett ($6,800), D.K. Metcalf ($6,400), Adam Thielen ($6,800), Terry McLaurin ($6,500), T.Y. Hilton ($6,400), and Calvin Ridley ($6,600).
Although Jacksonville has one of the lowest implied totals on the board (19.00), they're also one of the biggest underdogs, so you know they're going to throw early and often.
And who else are they going to throw to other than Chark? Chark led the Jaguars in targets last season, averaging 7.9 per game. He projects for the 10th-most targets among wide receivers on the main slate, and he's got a lower salary than all nine players ahead of him.
The matchup is also a plus against Indianapolis. The Colts ranked 20th in schedule-adjusted pass defense last year and allowed the 7th-most FanDuel points per game to wideouts.
Chark isn't likely to be involved in a high-scoring game like some other wideouts, but enough opportunities should be there for a potential spike week.
Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers
FanDuel Salary: $6,000
Hunter Henry shouldn't go completely overlooked this week, but I expect him to get the least attention of the big-name tight ends.
George Kittle ($8,000) is the clear top tight end of the slate, with Zach Ertz ($6,600) and Hayden Hurst ($5,200) projected as the best top point-per-dollar options if you aren't paying up. Throw in Mark Andrews ($7,400) and Darren Waller ($6,800) as logical stack pairings in their respective games, and Henry could be the forgotten man in the mix.
The Bengals ranked just 30th in schedule-adjusted pass defense last season, so new quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a great opportunity to get this Chargers' passing game off on the right foot. Henry averaged 6.3 targets per game last year and has the fifth-best tight end projection of the slate.