4 NFL FanDuel Studs to Target in Week 1

Spending your available salary in any DFS lineup on a stud can make or break your lineup. These high-salaried players will take up the majority of your budget, so it’s critical to carefully consider which ones you’ll want for each slate.

Whether it’s trying to capture a safe floor in a cash game or chasing a huge game to help you win a tournament, nailing the expensive players is one of the keys to making winning NFL lineups on FanDuel.

Football is finally back, and Week 1 offers a slate with intriguing options with high salaries at each position. Let’s look at one player at each of the positions that can lead to us winning some money this week.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

FanDuel Salary: $8,700
Projected Points: 22.9

Last season was the first one in the career of Patrick Mahomes where he had some doubters. By his lofty standards, it was a bit of a down year, as his fantasy points per game came in as the second-lowest output of his career. However, he ended with 4,837 yards and 37 touchdown passes, which most quarterbacks would take in a heartbeat.

In Week 1, he gets an up-tempo game that could be a shootout.

The Kansas City Chiefs take on the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. This game has the highest total (53.5) on the main slate, so it’s ripe for fantasy points. The Cardinals’ defense ranked fifth last year, according to numberFire’s metrics, but just 11th in pass defense. In free agency, they lost pass-rush extraordinaire Chandler Jones, who they couldn’t replace. Vegas doesn’t seem concerned with this matchup for the Chiefs, as KC owns the highest implied team total (29.5) on this slate.

The main question mark for Mahomes and the Chiefs headed into the new season is who will be the number-one receiver with Tyreek Hill gone.

Mahomes could look to new signing JuJu Smith-Schuster for short to intermediate targets and then look for Marquez Valdes-Scantling on deep passes. The Chiefs also took Skyy Moore in the second round of the NFL Draft, and it will be interesting to see where he mixes in. Of course, Mahomes still has Travis Kelce as one of the game's top tight ends, so we shouldn't be too concerned about a lack of weapons available to Mahomes.

The Kansas City signal-caller is projected as the slate's QB1. He is certainly a great option to use in tournaments with this game being one of the better ones to target in Week 1. There are a few different options to stack with him, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see Mahomes as a tournament-winning QB this week.

Christian McCaffery, RB, Carolina Panthers

FanDuel Salary: $9,500
Projected Points: 21.0

It's been a frustrating two seasons for Christian McCaffrey and fantasy managers who have had him on their roster as CMC has played just 10 games in the two years since his historic 2019 campaign.

The good news is that in those 10 games, he averaged a bit more than 19 FanDuel points per outing despite leaving two games early. He should be fully healthy heading into the new season and is poised to be the number-one fantasy running back once again.

The thing that sets McCaffrey apart from most other running backs is his ability in the passing game. In the last two full seasons he's played, McCaffrey had 223 receptions and is the only running back in NFL history with two 100-catch seasons. Receptions are still vital for running backs on FanDuel despite the scoring being half-PPR rather than full-PPR. The catches give CMC a weekly floor/ceiling combination that most backs in the league do not possess.

The Carolina Panthers once again will start the season with a new quarterback under center. While Baker Mayfield is not an elite signal-caller, he does have some good seasons under his belt and should offer an upgrade on what the Panthers have had under center in the past few seasons. This is a boost to all of the skill-position players, including McCaffrey, who should be in a better position to score more touchdowns.

Carolina is a 2.5-point home favorite against the Cleveland Browns to open the season. The Browns finished 2021 with the 26th-ranked rush defense, according to numberFire's metrics, so CMC should be primed for a big game. Another benefit of McCaffrey is that he is game-script proof, which can't be said for all running backs -- even others with high salaries.

Only Jonathan Taylor is projected for more points among running backs on the main slate, but McCaffrey will save you $700 in salary from JT and could be a bit safer. That makes CMC my preferred option in cash games.

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

FanDuel Salary: $8,100
Projected Points: 15.6

It's been a historic start to a career for Justin Jefferson. After breaking the rookie record for most receiving yards, he improved on that mark in his second season by over 200 yards, albeit with an extra game. There are reasons to believe that he can put up even better numbers this season.

It's safe to say that the Minnesota Vikings relied on Jefferson a lot last campaign. He had a massive 29.1% target share and accounted for 45.8% of the team's air yards. That was all under old-school coach Mike Zimmer, who was fired after the season. In comes new coach Kevin O'Connell, who comes over from the Los Angeles Rams and is expected to make the Vikings more of a passing offense.

Last year, Minnesota had a pass-to-run ratio of 1.41, which was in the middle of the pack among NFL teams. If they throw it more, Jefferson could even have a better season this year. He himself has even talked about going for 2,000 yards, which would be some feat, but it's a fool's errand to be betting against Jefferson these days.

Minnesota opens the season with a home divisional battle against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have a good defense, but they couldn't slow down Jefferson last season in this matchup. He caught eight balls for 169 yards and two scores when these two teams met up in Minny. His projection of 15.6 FanDuel points is the highest at the position despite Jefferson carrying just the fourth-highest salary.

If Jefferson is on the way to another record-breaking season, we'll want to roster him many times, and Week 1 is a good week to start doing just that.

Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens

FanDuel Salary: $7,900
Projected Points: 13.3

It was a breakout season a year ago for Mark Andrews, which saw him finish as the highest-scoring fantasy tight end. He had two games in which he recorded more than 30 FanDuel points, which is a rare ceiling for a tight end to reach. It will be hard for him to repeat that performance, but he should be getting the opportunity necessary to do just that.

The Baltimore Ravens relied on Andrews more than most teams rely on a tight end. His 26% target share was second among tight ends, and he received 30.7% of the team's air yards, the best clip at the position. This kind of volume looks likely to continue, as the Ravens lost number-one wide receiver Marquise Brown and didn't directly replace him. Andrews looks to be the first option in the passing game once again.

Baltimore will travel to face the New York Jets in Week 1. The Jets struggled to cover the tight end position, allowing the fifth-most points to tight ends last year. Overall, numberFire's metrics had Gang Green as the worst pass defense in the league last year, so Andrews and company should be able to feast in this matchup.

With the Ravens being tied for the biggest favorites (-7.5) on the slate and having tied for the fourth-highest implied team total (26.0), they are definitely a team you'll want a piece of in tournaments. Andrews is projected for the second-most points at tight end, per our model, and has a ceiling that most others at the position cannot match.

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