4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 1

The beauty of daily fantasy football is that, unlike a season-long draft where someone is tied to their top players all year, any top players in the NFL can make their way into your lineup. While that can be a blessing, it can also be a curse.

While being able to roster Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry all at once if a player truly wants to, it is unlikely that all three running backs are all optimal play at their respective salaries for a particular week. There are many elements to decide which players will, and a large aspect of daily fantasy is the matchup a player has.

While usually encompassed in some respects inside the salary figure, a soft matchup can take a good running back to a great week. On the other hand, a tough matchup can make superstars suboptimal to roster.

Especially in Week 1 with no current-season data, which matchups are lurking in this weekend's games that we can take advantage of on FanDuel?

Eagles Passing Attack vs. Falcons Secondary

There have been plenty of supporters around Jalen Hurts -- myself included -- entering this weekend, but it is for good reason.

Hurts was a mediocre passer in 2020. He averaged just 0.07 Passing Net Expected Points per drop back for the whole year, which was sandwiched between Kyle Allen and Nick Mullens. Hurts' teammate Carson Wentz (-0.12 Passing NEP per drop back) was much worse for additional context, though. Obviously, Hurts made up for that with his rushing skills to become a viable fantasy quarterback, and there is plenty of reason to be bullish on Hurts as a passer entering 2021.

The Philadelphia Eagles made great upgrades to their offensive coaching staff and roster. They added former Indianapolis Colts' assistant Nick Sirianni as the head coach, as well as drafted the Heisman winner DeVonta Smith in the first round. They also see the return of Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks to the offensive line, while retaining their strong duo of tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

This is still a below-average passing attack overall, but Hurts should be able to get 2021 off to the correct start against the Atlanta Falcons' secondary. The Falcons are PFF's lowest-graded secondary entering 2021, and it makes sense with all four starting members of the secondary graded below a 60.0 in coverage skills.

On a loaded Week 1 slate, many may overlook the Eagles' passing attack because of its perceived weakness. However, this matchup is phenomenal and it truly presents a now-or-never opportunity for Hurts to demonstrate he can be a successful NFL passer in this better situation.

James Robinson vs. Texans Defensive Line

The Houston Texans are going to be bad this year. No, seriously -- absolutely awful.

Houston's season win total on FanDuel Sportsbook is just 4.0, and with Deshaun Watson amongst a mass exodus in talent from their starting 22 players a season ago, it is easy to see why. No area may quite be impacted as badly as their front defenders, unfortunately.

PFF has the Texans ranked dead-last in terms of defensive line talent in the league, and that is going to make for comfortable passers and rushers all year. With rookie Trevor Lawrence at the helm, and an offensive line with a strength that appears to be inside, pounding the ball with James Robinson sounds like their best recipe.

The Texans already ceded the third-most Rushing NEP per play to opponents last year (0.15), and now without J.J. Watt amongst others, things could get far worse. Robinson should still see the bulk of the carries for the Jags now with Travis Etienne out for the year, and that makes him the primary target here at just $5,900 on FanDuel.

Adam Trautman vs. Packers Linebackers

Who needs to roster a star tight end in Week 1? We pay up at running back in this house, and therefore, it may be necessary to punt tight end already on Sunday. Enter Adam Trautman.

Trautman is not seen as an explosive athlete or dangerous pass catcher at large, but he does have ample opportunity to carve out a role in a depleted New Orleans Saints' passing game. Michael Thomas is out for the start of the year, Jared Cook is now with the Los Angeles Chargers, leaving truly only Alvin Kamara and Marquez Callaway as surefire prospects to receive targets from Jameis Winston. And, most importantly, Trautman has already been productive.

He averaged 0.70 Recieving NEP per target last season, and that was higher than his teammate Jared Cook. It was seventh amongst tight ends with at least five targets in 2020 overall, only trailing Robert Tonyan amongst projected tight end starters this season. That type of production -- on a larger scale -- could be a massive fantasy day waiting in the wings.

His matchup might allow for that production to scale quickly. The Green Bay Packers have the worst linebacking corps in football entering 2021 according to Pro Football Focus, and quarterbacks had a 121.0 passer rating when targeting a Green Bay linebacker last season. The Packers are staunch on the outside behind Jaire Alexander, but there is a weakness inside.

This Saints' offense might be a tough sell in general on Sunday, but Trautman is an interesting one-off tight end in a good matchup which allows for salary savings to attack another solid game stack like Cardinals/Titans without decent tight end options.

Broncos DST vs. Giants Offensive Line (and Daniel Jones)

Paying down at DST is usually optimal, but there is a mid-salaried temptation on the Week 1 slate -- and it is not even a home team.

The Denver Broncos are traveling to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants in their opener, putting the Denver defense in a good spot. While the G-Men's defense looks stout per usual, their offense could struggle against a Denver defensive unit that looks reborn to its 2016, championship state.

The Giants do not seem like a particularly menacing first test with Daniel Jones and company. Jones averaged -0.03 Passing NEP per drop back last season overall, and the expectation for him to get better is just not appropriate with the Giants entering 2021 with the worst offensive line in the league, according to PFF's annual rankings. Jones also provides plenty of fantasy potential to defenses, amazingly with more turnovers (39) than touchdowns (35) in his two-year career.

Not only are both Bradley Chubb and Von Miller healthy, but Denver's secondary added two monstrous pieces in Kyle Fuller and Patrick Surtain II. With bonus reinforcements on what was already the 11th-best mark in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, Denver should be a strong defense all year, but especially in a soft matchup with weeks to prepare for New York.