FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 1

Justin Herbert is coming off a stellar 2021 campaign, and he's a headliner in one of the top games of the slate. Which other players could hit the ground running on Sunday?

Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.

As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.

Now, let's run through some of this week's top plays of the slate.


Patrick Mahomes ($8,700 on FanDuel): Mahomes and Lamar Jackson lead numberFire's quarterback projections, but it's Mahomes who finds himself in the game with the much higher over/under (53.5).

While Jackson's rushing ability gives him a fantastic floor, even his ceiling benefits greatly from an elite game environment -- something he might not get against the Jets. In 2021, Jackson's three FanDuel performances of 30-plus points came in games where the two teams combined for 71, 56, and 65 real-life points.

As for Mahomes, he's entering uncharted territory in a new era without speedster Tyreek Hill. It remains to be seen whether he can achieve the same level of play without Hill, but he still has a solid stable of pass-catchers to work with between Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mecole Hardman.

Last season, Mahomes was one of just six signal-callers to average at least 0.24 Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, which was nearly 2.5-times the league average (0.10). Amazingly, this was actually the worst mark of his career despite ending the season ranked fourth in passing yards (4,839) and touchdowns (37).

Even with the revamped supporting cast, considering what Mahomes did in a "down" year, it's easy to get excited about his prospects in 2022. Only Josh Allen is projected for more fantasy points in numberFire's season-long projections.

Oh, and the matchup? The Cardinals' defense generally rated well in 2021, but they will be weaker without pass-rusher Chandler Jones and didn't make meaningful improvements to the secondary. This offseason, PFF ranked both Arizona's defensive line and secondary 27th.

Both teams were top-seven in situation-neutral pace in 2021, per Football Outsiders, further enhancing this spot as a potential track meet.

Justin Herbert ($8,400): The other game with a total above 50 points is this Raiders-Chargers matchup (52.5), so that puts Herbert firmly on the radar.

Herbert was outstanding in 2021, slotting in right behind Mahomes with an efficient 0.23 NEP per drop back, helping him to the league's second-most passing yards (5,014) and third-most passing scores (38).

Las Vegas didn't rate particularly well against the pass in numberFire's metrics last season, and despite the addition of the aforementioned Chandler Jones in the pass rush, they could struggle versus potent air attacks again in 2022, as PFF ranks their secondary just 29th.

The Chargers' signal-caller cracks the top-five at the position in numberFire's median projections, and the game environment opens up a clear path towards emerging as the slate's top scorer.

Jalen Hurts ($8,000): Kyler Murray and Hurts are the other two who round of this top five, and it's easy to see why given that both are tantalizing dual-threats. Murray is on the opposite side of that Kansas City matchup, so he's a no-brainer pivot away from Mahomes if you're stacking that game.

But to highlight another contest, let's check out Hurts in his tilt against the Lions. This is another one with an appealing over/under (48.5), and Detroit's defense left a lot to be desired in 2021. They could have a ways to go this season, sitting 26th (defensive line) and 25th (secondary) in PFF's defensive rankings.

Of course, Hurts' main draw is his immense rushing upside, and he's projected for the second-most rushing yards at the position behind Jackson in numberFire's season-long projections. Last year, he averaged 9.3 rushes and 52.3 yards per game on the ground, and he led all quarterbacks with an incredible 10 rushing scores.

Given his appealing salary, Hurts could shake out as one of the slate's more popular quarterbacks, but it shouldn't deter us from rostering him in a possible blow-up spot.

Running Backs

Christian McCaffrey ($9,500): You can make a pretty easy case for any of the running backs with salaries above $9,000, but CMC could still be the best of the bunch. While it remains to be seen whether McCaffrey will be used in the same capacity as years past, all indications are that this will be the case.

In his four healthy 2021 games where he played more than half the snaps, he averaged an absurd 33.5 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets). For context, Derrick Henry was the only back to average over 30 adjusted opportunities per game last season (31.0).

Normally, we might chalk up CMC's usage as a small-sample fluke, but know this is nothing new for him, and all we have to do is look at his last healthy season (2019) to remind us of the tantalizing upside.

This 41.5-point total in this game against the Browns leaves a lot to be desired, but none of those four healthy games I mentioned hit 50 combined real-life points, and McCaffrey still exceeded 20 FanDuel points in all of them.

Considering the lofty salaries we've seen CMC reach before, this could prove to be a low-water mark for him, and we should happily take advantage while we still can.

D'Andre Swift ($7,600): If you're rostering Hurts at quarterback, Swift is a logical way to bring it back in game stacks. In 2021, Swift averaged 6.0 targets per game, tied for the best at the position, so he should remain heavily involved regardless of game script.

The Lions' top back should also have an easier time finding running room behind a beefed-up offensive line. Per PFF, Detroit enters the season with a top-three offensive line, and Swift should comfortably average double-digit rushes per game again this season.

Overall, he averaged 23.6 adjusted opportunities per game last year, putting him just behind notable names like Austin Ekeler ($9,400) and Joe Mixon ($8,300), who both have much higher salaries on Sunday.

Aaron Jones ($7,400): Jones isn't expected to be a traditional feature back this season, but he and A.J. Dillon ($6,100) are being billed as "1A and 1A." That may not be hyperbole considering the two are literally the only running backs on Green Bay's roster.

Both players should get lots of work this season, but it's Jones who could benefit the most in the passing game. When Davante Adams was out in Week 8 last season, Jones saw a season-high 11 targets (31.4% share), and when paired with 15 carries, that amounted to a CMC-esque 37.0 adjusted opportunities.

While it would be foolish to think Jones will automatically garner that kind of receiving attention on a weekly basis, the murky pecking order of this post-Adams pass-catching group suggests that Jones ought to be heavily involved in 2022.

This Packers-Vikings matchup has a fairly appealing 47.5 total and tight spread, so this could be a game to target once you get past the headliners this week.

Saquon Barkley ($6,800): Among backs with salaries below $7,000, Barkley stands out as the top point-per-dollar value in numberFire's projections.

With a healthy offseason, new coaching staff, and potentially improved offensive line, many in fantasy circles are expecting a return to form from Barkley in 2022. As is, he averaged 23.9 adjusted opportunities in the 10 games he played over 50% of the snaps last season, and that can only go up from here.

Obviously, there are worries about whether Barkley will hold up over a full season, but we needn't worry about that so much in DFS.

Although this doesn't project to be an amazing game environment against Tennessee (43.5 total), the chance to buy low on a workhorse role is too good to pass up.

Wide Receivers

Justin Jefferson ($8,100): The first wideout off the board in most season-long fantasy drafts, Jefferson doesn't even have the highest salary at the position, making him that much more enticing to roster.

Jefferson compiled 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign, and the sky could be the limit under a new coaching staff that will almost certainly lean more on the pass. The dynamic wideout earned a 28.9% target share and 45.2% air yards share in 2021, and an increase in passing volume will only further bump up his raw numbers.

The Vikings' wideout is projected for the position's most FanDuel points, and given his fairly reasonable salary, he actually rates as an excellent point-per-dollar value, as well.

Marquise Brown ($6,900): If you're stacking the Chiefs and/or Cardinals, Brown makes a lot of sense as Murray's presumed top option with DeAndre Hopkins suspended and Christian Kirk now with the Jaguars.

Brown joins the Cardinals after notching his first 1,000-yard campaign, and this is a reunion of college teammates, which certainly can't hurt the chances of Murray and Brown developing a strong connection early in the season.

Known for his big-play ability, Brown averaged 1.7 deep targets (20-plus air yards) with the Ravens, and it's fair to expect him to be utilized in a similar fashion with Arizona. Murray was one of the most accurate deep ball passers in 2021.

Mike Williams ($6,600): In another game with loads of stacking potential, Williams is an ideal option to pair with Herbert at a more modest salary compared to Ekeler and Keenan Allen ($7,400).

Williams is another deep threat who can cash in on a boatload of fantasy points off a single play, averaging 1.6 deep targets per game last year.

While he only saw a 20.7% target share compared to Allen's 25.0%, that still amounted to 8.1 targets per game in an offense that runs through one of the best young quarterbacks in the game.

Christian Kirk ($5,800): The aforementioned Kirk isn't exactly in one of the premier games of the slate, but he's looking like Trevor Lawrence's top target following a promising preseason.

This Jaguars-Commanders contest has a 43.5 total, but this Washington secondary could provide some opening for Kirk and his new squad. While the Commanders could have a formidable pass rush, their secondary is just 24th in PFF's preseason ranks.

There are a lot of unknowns with Kirk joining a new team and a new coaching staff. But if we're getting a true No. 1 wideout at this modest cap hit, the volume alone could carry the day. Among wideouts with sub-$6,000 salaries, Kirk projects as the top value.

Tight Ends

Kyle Pitts ($6,000): If you've got room, Travis Kelce ($8,000) is the obvious target at tight end, and Mark Andrews ($7,900) is right there with him in numberFire's projections.

But oftentimes, it's hard to find room to pay up at the position, and Pitts gives us tantalizing upside at a more cap-friendly salary.

Pitts saw some inexplicably poor luck in the scoring department last year, notching a single touchdown despite accumulating 1,026 yards. His 19.9% target share was sixth among tight ends, and he should see substantial positive regression in 2022.

He could see a bump in targets early on, too, due to a shaky Falcons pass-catching group lacking big names beyond rookie Drake London, and London is already iffy for Week 1 due to a knee injury.

This isn't an inviting matchup against an upper-tier New Orleans defense, but Piits could still excel as a volume-based play at a sizable discount compared to Kelce and Andrews.

T.J. Hockenson ($5,700): If you can't work your way up to Swift or Amon-Ra St. Brown ($6,500) in Eagles-Lions stacks, then Hockenson is a worthwhile consolation prize.

The Detroit tight end earned a 21.1% target share in 2021, which came to 7.0 targets per game. He's projected for the fifth-most targets at the position behind only Kelce, Andrews, Pitts, and Darren Waller.


Tennessee D/ST ($4,600): The San Francisco D/ST and New Orleans D/ST are strong defensive units who lead numberFire's projections, but the cap hit to enlist their services might be a bit much in most lineup builds.

On the other hand, the Titans' defense projects for the third-most points and has a slightly more palatable salary. They have a solid matchup as 5.5-point home favorites over the Giants.

While New York should be more competitive pretty much by default under their new coaching regime, they'll still only go as far as Daniel Jones and their shaky wideout group let them. Jones has been prone to both sacks and turnovers over his career, and he could be forced into a negative game script as the road underdog.

Tennessee had an above-average defense in 2021, and they could be a borderline top-10 overall unit this year, per PFF's ranks.

Washington D/ST ($3,700): For a value play, the Commanders are slight home favorites over the Jaguars, another team that needs to prove that it's taking the next step in 2022. PFF is quite high on Washington's front seven, ranking their defensive line second overall. Even if you think that's a bit bold, Sharp Football Analysis places this line in the top 10, as well.

Like the Giants, Lawrence and the Jags can only go up from here, but the sophomore quarterback figures to still have some growing pains following a forgettable rookie season. Lawrence was tied for the league lead in interceptions last year (17).