5 NFL FanDuel Value Plays to Target in Week 1

Christian Kirk might carry a heavy load for the Jaguars early, but his salary doesn't imply that. Which other budget options stand out?

There isn't a better starting point for unearthing values for FanDuel NFL contests than numberFire's projection tool. Users can easily view the entire player pool or sort by position to see statistical projections for all players in FanDuel's player pool. Additionally, the column for value provides a sortable way to view which players offer the most bang for your buck, showing users the player's point-per thousand dollars of salary.

But, of course, factors such as a team's implied total and game's spread are integral for decision-making. Fortunately, numberFire patrons can peruse the Heat Map for that information and a wealth of other goodies.

Nevertheless, other considerations help inform my selection. So, this is your home for finding the five FanDuel values I'm targeting weekly for their main slate. Check this week's picks below.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings ($7,300)

Kirk Cousins has a challenging matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranks Green Bay's secondary as the fourth-best unit. Thus, it's understandable our projections don't love Cousins.

Nonetheless, I'm intrigued by him in a potential shootout with a new offensive-minded head coach. The Packers are just 1.5-point favorites, and Minnesota's implied total is 23.00 points. So, if the game slightly exceeds scoring expectations, the Vikings can join the elite offenses in scoring in Week 1.

New head coach Kevin O'Connell should breathe fresh air into the offense. He wasn't the play-caller for the Los Angeles Rams. Still, LA's tendencies could paint a picture of how the Minnesota Vikings will play this season. According to Football Outsiders, the Rams played at the fourth-fastest situation-neutral pace in 2021, and Minnesota was only 17th.

Additionally, per Sharp Football Stats, the Rams were tied for the sixth-highest passing rate (60 percent) in neutral game scripts, a few ticks higher than Minnesota's rate (58 percent). As a result, I want to get ahead of those who need to see Minnesota pass more and play faster to believe it.

Finally, Cousins' numbers in a dome with the Vikings have been tasty. According to my manual calculations of Pro Football Reference's dome stats for Cousins since 2018, he's averaged 264.39 passing yards per game with 74 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 36 games in a dome. I advise gamers to spend for an elite quarterback in cash games, but Cousins is an excellent value selection in tournaments.

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants ($6,800)

There aren't many bell-cow backs in the modern NFL. Saquon Barkley isn't a flawless back, but he's a dying breed as a back who is game-script-proof.

According to Pro Football Reference, before Barkley suffered a freak ankle injury in Week 5, the do-it-all back played at least 84 percent of the offensive snaps for three consecutive weeks.

The New York Giants have one of the worst running back rooms in the NFL, enhancing Barkley's stranglehold on the lead-back duties. The explosive back will also benefit immensely from Big Blue hiring offensive-minded head coach Brian Daboll from the Buffalo Bills and plucking Mike Kafka from the Kansas City Chiefs to serve as their offensive coordinator. The importance of ushering out dunces Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, and Freddie Kitchens can't be overstated.

The Bills and Chiefs played at fast paces and ran pass-heavy offenses. Presumably, Daboll and Kafka will stick with what they've known and succeeded with on offense. Fortunately, Barkley has the pass-catching chops to benefit from an uptempo and pass-heavy offense. In his career, Barkley has averaged 4.3 receptions and 33.7 receiving yards per game.

Finally, our projections peg Barkley as a massive value, issuing him the third-highest value score (2.18) among running backs on FanDuel's main slate.

Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons ($6,000)

Tight ends often have a steep learning curve and struggle to hit the ground running in the NFL. Yet, Kyle Pitts wasn't having any of that nonsense. Instead, he immediately stood out as a pass-catching weapon.

According to PFF, out of 35 tight ends with at least 40 targets in the 2021 regular season, Pitts had the fifth-highest Yards Per Route Run (2.02 Y/RR). In the same group, he was also fourth in targets (107), tied for seventh in receptions (68), third in receiving yards (1,026), and first in yards per reception (15.1). Sadly, he hauled in only one touchdown. Still, Pitts made his presence known immediately.

Moreover, Pitts had a season for the ages relative to other rookie tight ends. According to StatHead, Pitts' 60.4 receiving yards per game was the third-highest mark in NFL history for a rookie tight end who played at least eight games. So, our algorithm understandably loves him this week, projecting him as the TE4 with the third-best value score (1.61) at the position on the main slate.

I might be taking liberties by including the tight end with the fifth-highest salary in Week 1 in this space, but he's $2,000 less than Travis Kelce ($8,000) and $1,900 cheaper than Mark Andrews ($7,900). So, Pitts fits the spirit of this article.

Christian Kirk, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars ($5,800)

Christian Kirk is the frontrunner to be the No. 1 receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Getting a possible top pass catcher for his team at a sub-$6,000 salary is enticing.

Kirk secured the bag after a career year with the Arizona Cardinals. The contract has been criticized widely, but gamers shouldn't concern themselves with the criticism since it doesn't impact Kirk's FanDuel value. In fact, the big bucks can be viewed as a positive for head coach Doug Pederson's vision for Kirk in the offense if you want to take an optimistic point of view.

Again, Kirk is coming off of a career year in which he was rock-solid. According to StatHead, out of 106 receivers targeted at least 40 times, Kirk was 27th in receiving yards per game (57.8), tied for 21st in receptions (77), tied for 30th in touchdown receptions (five), and 14th in yards per target (9.5). Kirk was also tied for 26th with 1.81 Y/RR.

He can make a strong first impression in a good matchup out of the gates. PFF ranked the Washington Commanders' secondary 24th this offseason. They also have the sixth-worst pass defense in the numberFire Power Rankings. As a result, Kirk has the eight-highest value score (1.78) among receivers on this week's main slate.

Justin Watson, WR, Kansas City Chiefs ($4,700)

Justin Watson is a GPP special. Gamers shouldn't fire too many bullets on him, but he's generated some buzz in the offseason. The Kansas City Chiefs revamped their receiving room, including adding Watson to the mix. Although, he wasn't a high-profile signing like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and the team also spent a second-round pick on Skyy Moore.

Still, Watson's athleticism was a pleasant surprise for Patrick Mahomes when they worked out together in May. Thankfully, Watson's measurables support Mahomes' commentary. The duo also showed chemistry on a deep ball in the preseason.

Of course, it's intriguing Watson played with Mahomes and the starters in the preseason. Though, he was also getting first-team reps in camp.

The Chiefs have the highest implied total (29.50) on the main slate. Thus, getting an overlooked piece of a Mahomes-led offense in a possible shootout is exciting. Again, Watson is a boom-or-bust GPP-only selection.

Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. 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.