FanDuel Studs to Target in Week 1

With football season finally here, which studs figure to cash in on good matchups in Week 1?

Is it just me or do the football offseasons continue getting longer each year? I think most of our faithful readers can attest that it’s definitely not just me. But here we are in September once again, and we’re all ready for some football.

For fantasy football addicts, the emergence of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) has helped usher in this seemingly hopeless period of time between February to September. Why?

Because the thrill of salary cap management on a weekly basis by combining studs and sleepers in the quest for the perfect lineup is a different level of fun, particularly when you’re successful.

numberFire is here to help in achieving that success.

This weekly column will focus on studs for you to target as you build your lineups at  FanDuel.

So who are we targeting in Week 1? Let’s find out

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

FanDuel Price: $8,500
numberFire Projection: 18.29 points

Eddie Lacy is just about the safest pick on the board for Week 1. First, Vegas is predicting an over/under of 50 points scored in the game with a spread of four points. Some quick back-of-the-napkin math will tell you that Vegas expects Green Bay to score 27 of those points, typically accrued by scoring three touchdowns and two field goals.

It’d be reasonable to expect Lacy to get at least one of those touchdowns. Why?

Because Lacy is one of the few every down running backs fortunate enough to face a porous defense in Week 1. In terms of our signature player and team performance metric,  Net Expected Points (NEP), the Bears finished the 2014 season as the sixth worst run defense with an Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per rush of 0.04.

Catching 42 balls in 2014 and posting a Reception NEP of 34.56 (third among running backs), Lacy also has some ability out of the backfield, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he added some points to his tally via the air, especially given the fact that  Jordy Nelson won’t be on the field.

Lacy is expensive this week at $8,500, but he’s well worth the cap hit. Roster him with confidence. 

DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

FanDuel Price: $8,500
numberFire Projection: 17.23 points

DeMarco Murray is another stud running back worth targeting in Week 1. What makes him most intriguing is that he’s likely a safe choice for cash games and has the potential to be a good tournament option.

First, the Eagles’ matchup against the Falcons figures to be a very high-scoring with an over/under at 53.5 points. Also, it just so happens that he has as juicy a matchup as a running back could hope for against the Falcons, who possessed the second worst run defense in the league with a 0.16 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per rush last season.

And the Eagles’ fast pace of play should give him plenty of opportunities for carries despite the team’s insistence in involving  Ryan Mathews in the running game. All of these reasons make him a good cash game option in Week 1.

However, Mathews’ presence, coupled with Murray’s high price on FanDuel, makes him a good tournament option, as these factors will more than likely make him far less owned than Lacy. Play on your competition’s fear of Murray and reap the rewards.

Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers

FanDuel Price: $8,400
numberFire Projection: 16.63 points

Randall Cobb figures to be an absolute stud in Week 1. Despite suffering a recent shoulder injury, so far all indications are that Cobb will play in Week 1. And if Cobb plays, I’m rostering him.

First, he will be the first option in the passing game for  Aaron Rodgers. Second, he goes against the Bears, who sported the sixth worst Adjusted Passing NEP on a per-pass basis in 2014 and who haven’t made much improvement in their secondary.

Cobb’s recent work against the Bears is ridiculous. In his last four games against the team, he’s reeled in 7 touchdown grabs and 355 yards.

Not only that, he may also be a good tournament option as well given his recent injury, making potential owners skittish of rostering him, even in a game with an over/under sitting at 50.

Assuming Cobb plays, roster him and get that money. 

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

FanDuel Price: $8,700
numberFire Projection: 14.50 points

While we currently project  Dez Bryant to finish as the seventh-highest scoring wideout in Week 1, I actually think our projections are being a little conservative on him. Here's why.

First, Vegas predicts another high-scoring game with an over/under of 50.5. Second, the Cowboys face a banged up Giants secondary who finished 2014 as the 11th worst passing defense in terms of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.

Bryant’s recent work against the Giants has been encouraging; he torched the team for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns last season. And the opportunity to do even more against this division-rival team is even greater this season.

Bryant, who accounted for 30% of his teams total offensive touchdowns last season, has significant opportunity to improve on that percentage with DeMarco Murray no longer in town. With an unsettled running-back-by-committee manning the backfield, he figures to be even more of a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense, and the Giants are just the kind of team he can really feast on.

I’m rostering Bryant in cash games and tournaments in Week 1 and encourage you to do the same.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

FanDuel Price: $8,100
numberFire Projection: 14.64 points

Look, rostering  Rob Gronkowski doesn’t exactly need a ton of explanation, but there are plenty of reasons to put him in your lineups this week aside from his sheer dominance.

First, Vegas has the Patriots versus Steelers game pegged for the highest over/under of the week at 55 points, with a spread of 6.5. That means the Patriots are expected to score more than 30 points.

Second, Gronk will get to feast on the 20th best team at stopping tight ends from racking up fantasy points from last season.

And third, the Patriots receiving corps is banged up, with  Brandon Lafell on the PUP list and Julian Edelman unsure about his playing status for Week 1.

If those conditions aren’t ripe for a Gronk spike, I don’t know what is. Get him in your lineups if you’re playing the Thursday slate.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

FanDuel Price: $5,900
numberFire Projection: 9.73 points

Greg Olsen is another player I think our projections may be a little conservative on for Week 1.

As a diehard Panther fan, I’d understand your trepidation in listening to my recommendation. But really, who else is  Cam Newton going to throw to this week?

With  Kelvin Benjamin gone for the year, and Devin Funchess not having secured a starting lineup spot yet, Olsen easily remains the best weapon for Newton in the passing game.

Couple that with the fact that the Panthers get to face the 19th-best team at defending tight ends in the Jaguars, and I’m rostering Olsen if Gronk isn’t in my lineup. 

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

FanDuel Price: $8,800
numberFire Projection: 19.01 points

The cards are lining up for  Matt Ryan to have a big night on Monday. With an over under of 53.5 and a spread of 1.5, Vegas experts are betting that the Falcons score around 26 points. With a backfield full of question marks with the injured Devonta Freeman, and the recently returned-from-injury Tevin Coleman, my money is on the majority of those points coming via the air.

This makes sense because the Eagles were a much better run-defending team in 2014, boasting the fifth best Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per rush in 2014, than they were at defending the pass, finishing as the 20th best team in terms of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per pass.

Moreover, Ryan gets his matchup at home in the Georgia Dome, where his career yards-per-attempt of 7.55 far exceeds that of his on the road at 6.90, and where his touchdown to interception ratio of 2.44:1 easily bests his road ratio of 1.69:1.

Stacking Ryan with  Julio Jones likely makes for a good tournament play, but I’m targeting Ryan primarily for his safety in cash games in Week 1 given the expected point output and the advantage of playing at home against a below-average passing defense.