DFS Player Pool Week 1
Daily fantasy sports is the bastard love child of sports obsession, gambling, and the fear of missing out. These compelling forces come crashing to a head-on Saturdays and Sundays before lineups lock as players grind out lineups. Going in without backup may work out, but more likely it will lead to a busted bank and broken dreams. This column will help offer a narrowed player pool to help everyone come out above the money line. Here is the DFS Player Pool Week 1.
DFS Player Pool Week 1*
*All prices and players are from DraftKings’ main slate.
With the annual emphasis on protecting quarterbacks and increasing offense, the quarterback position is an embarrassment of riches. There is some phenomenal value offered up in the mid-range of the QB pool. Here are some of the best:
Lamar Jackson, $6,000, @MIA
Jackson’s buzz in the fantasy community has reached a fever pitch. The obvious talent for him is the safe floor he offers. From the time he took over as the starter for Baltimore, he never scored fewer than 16.06 points in DraftKings.
Naturally, the temptation is to slot him in right away, especially against a bad team in the Miami Dolphins. Interestingly, the bad matchup might work against him. With the lowest game total of the week, this game could just be a slow slog up and down the field for the whole Ravens rushing attack. Jackson will not be asked to do much, limiting his ceiling. Fire him up for cash lineups, but be a bit more cautious in GPPs.
Dak Prescott, $5,900, vs. NYG
The Ezekiel Elliot signing offers some relief for fantasy owners and helps the whole Dallas offense. Elliot is talented enough to be effective without preseason work against what appears to be a mediocre defense. Dallas as a home favorite should be solid.
Carson Wentz, $5,700, vs. WAS
Wentz has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. His receiver core is healthy, the duo of Ertz and Goedert at TE is excellent, and the RB depth is as good as any team in the league. In the games Wentz was priced $5,700 or lower last season, his average ROI was 4.23. The scheme hasn’t changed, nor has the personnel, with the exception of an upgraded RB group. WAS has a very unproven WR group, questions along their line, and Case Keenum as their starting QB. The Eagles offense will have plenty of opportunities in this game.
Jimmy Garoppolo, $5,800, @TB
The matchup here overshadows any player concerns. Per Football Outsiders Tampa was 30th and 31st in Pass and Rush DEF DVOA, respectively, and were in the top 6 in fantasy points allowed to QBs, RBs, and WRs. The additions of Ndamukong Suh and Shaquile Barrett might pay off in the long run, but this game should be an offensive exhibition. Sportsbook agree, with this game’s total sitting comfortably around 50.
Matthew Stafford, $5,400, @ARI
Now physically healthy and past the removal of a brain tumor from his wife in April, Stafford is ready to resume his role as a top fantasy QB. Since 2011, Stafford has finished worse than QB10 just twice. Arizona will be down their top two CBs, losing Robert Alford to the IR and Patrick Peterson to suspension. Look for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. to have an easy time of things in Week 1. The tempo of this game might dictate the ceiling for Stafford, as fans have yet to see the Cardinals’ air raid offense really take off. If they can speed up the Lions’ plan to run and grind, then Stafford should have lots of attempts at the #3 and #4 CBs.
Jacoby Brissett, $4,300, vs. LAC
Not much needs to be said here: a starting QB priced this low has to have consideration in DFS lineups. Especially one that has shown previous success. There is a big price discrepancy from the Main Slate pricing to the Full Slate pricing. The main slate has Brissett priced as the QB31, by far the lowest price for a starter. In 2017, he finished as the QB20. That year he was sacked 52 times, and looked indecisive; or, exactly how a backup thrown into starting would be expected to look. Now, he has had more time to prepare for the starting gig this season and more experience overall. Don’t forget he was a 25-year-old backup with two career starts under his belt before that 2017 season.
Nick Chubb, $6,400, vs. TEN
Chubb is chalk this week, as his matchup and price demand a high level of usage across all formats. Continuing his success from the end of last year, Chubb will have very little in the way of competition for touches. The other current Cleveland RBs (Dontrell Hilliard and former AFL-er D’Ernest Johnson) have a combined 9 touches in their career.
Dalvin Cook, $6,000, vs. ATL
The legend of Gary Kubiak looks to write a new chapter with Dalvin Cook as the newest centerpiece of his outside zone system. Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer talked openly about establishing the run and using it more in the Vikings offense and backed that up with Kubiak’s hiring. First up is a Falcons team that just last year gave up the fourth-most points per game to RBs, fueled mostly by the 117 receptions (1st) and 934 yards receiving (2nd) to RBs.
Chris Carson, $5,700, vs. CIN
After Seattle’s Week 10 bye, Carson saw both his price and production increase nicely. He only had a ROI under three once, when he scored 13.8 points against a reeling San Francisco 49ers team. He was excellent down the stretch and will remain the focus of the offense. Pass attempts will likely be depressed by the favorable home matchup against a Bengals defense that allowed the most points per game to RBs last season. Cincy’s offense might not be able to do much with Jadeveon Clowney now opposite Ziggy Ansah going against the Bengals’ makeshift offensive line.
Leonard Fournette, $6,100 KC
Risky isn’t exactly the most accurate way to describe Fournette’s usage in DFS, but his stock is definitely down and people have moved onto greener RB pastures. Don’t forget how talented Fournette is, though. Last season the Chiefs’ defense had the 6th most rushing attempts and 13th most targets to RBs. The volume of plays Jacksonville will be looking at facing Kansas makes Fournette very attractive for DFS. Now, with T.J. Yeldon gone, the talk has been that Fournette will be getting more targets in addition to his rushing work.
Mark Ingram, $5,100, @MIA
The lead back in the leagues most rush heavy offense will face the presumed worst team in the league. Miami was ranked 24th in rush defense DVOA per Football Outsiders in 2018 and allowed the sixth-most points per game to RBs. That was before losing their linebacker and safety with the 1st and 3rd most tackles on the team.
Matt Breida, $4,000, @TB
Breida did nothing but produce last year when given a chance. The 49ers offense was down several key players and Breida was worked more than anyone outside of his immediate family probably dared dream. Now, the generous Tampa Bay defense will be on tap in Week 1. The pace of this game should be excellent for both offenses, and getting cheap exposure with Breida is an economical choice.
Odell Beckham Jr., $8,100, TEN
Odell always wakes up dangerous, whether he feels it or not. Finally playing with a QB in his prime, OBJ is about to be unleashed in a way that should scare defenses around the league. For his career, Beckham has never averaged fewer than 18.29 points per game.
His opponent was only 20th in defensive DVOA vs. WR1, per Football Outsiders, and they surrendered the 7th most receiving TDs to WRs last year. Beckham has Baker Mayfield now instead of Eli Manning, who had more fantasy points in his rookie season with the Browns than Eli did with the Giants since 2015.
Julio Jones, $8,000, @MIN
Minnesota is a tough defense and will be opening at home, so why Julio? The man throwing the ball to him is VERY good in domes. In his career, Matt Ryan has his best QB rating, TD/INT ratio, yards per game, and completion percentage in dome games. Julio has a limited ceiling, but his floor remains as safe as any receiver out there. The price isn’t an issue in a week with so much value to be found at every position.
Chris Godwin, $6,200, SF
Dante Pettis, $5,400, TB
Yes, this matchup again. Spoiler alert, it won’t be the last time. Both of these WRs will have bigger name players taking coverage attention away from them. Godwin’s hype is about as high as possible without seeing any regular-season action. The talk from new coach Bruce Arians about him never coming off the field is driving the volume truthers into a frenzied mob. Godwin is set up to take over the Larry Fitzgerald role in Arians’ offense and has the skills to not make that a ridiculous comparison. Last year, with Adam Humphries manning the slot and Desean Jackson outside, Godwin was a feast or famine type WR in DFS. Half his games fell into one of two ROI categories, 25% in the 1-1.99 and 25% in the 4+. Expect more feast than famine this year as his volume increases.
Pettis is the top WR facing a defense that gave up the sixth-most receptions and points per game to WRs, 5th most TDs to WRs, and allowed the second-most net yards per attempt overall. The secondary is still shaky and this game should be one of the first shootouts of the season.
Dede Westbrook, $4,800, KC
By every conventional measure, Westbrook was the top WR for the Jaguars last year. Upgrading from Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler to Nick Foles is huge for this team. KC was bad all season at stopping opposing offenses and tied for the 10th most points per game allowed to WRs. Exposure to a WR1 facing that kind of defense at under $5,000 is a bargain. The Chiefs lost their only defensive Pro Bowler and two of their top three CBs and have Morris Claiborne on suspension. The Chiefs seem doomed to repeat the defensive mistakes of last year, this season.
Jamison Crowder, $4,100, BUF
As the new slot receiver for Adam Gase’s New York Jets, Crowder will operate in the Jarvis Landry role. In the two years, they were together, Landry had 292 targets and led the NFL in receptions in 2017. That wasn’t a huge outlier for Landry, but Gase has a long history targeting his slot WR and letting them get the ball in space.
Targets per game for Adam Gase's primary slot receiver:
2013: Wes Welker (8.5)
2014: Welker (4.6)
2015: Eddie Royal (5.6)
2016: Jarvis Landry (8.2)
2017: Landry (10.1)
2018: Danny Amendola (5.3)
2019: Jamison Crowder (?)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 11, 2019
Travis Kelce, $7,100, @JAX
George Kittle, $6,600, @TB
Not much a risk to say that the top two TEs are the best bets, but that’s where the TE position is this year. Until we see definitively that 2019 will not suffer the same TE fate as 2018, if DFS players want to avoid risk for their lineups, paying up is the move. In Jacksonville, Jalen Ramsey will be covering Tyreek Hill, likely with bracket coverage like what the Jaguars did against him last year in Week 5.
Kittle has the great matchup against TB, a team that gave up the 4th most yards to TEs last season. It has to be repetitive at this point, but target this matchup. Kittle was and remains the top receiving threat for SF.
Mark Andrews, $3,000, @MIA
Since 2000, Andrews’s season line of 34/552/3 line is among the best for a rookie tight end. In terms of yardage, only Rob Gronkowski, Evan Engram, Jeremy Shockey, Aaron Hernandez, and John Carlson had more. He had a nice connection with fellow rookie, Lamar Jackson, and should see his fantasy stock rise as Jacksons does. That connection will be important as Baltimore is working in several new WRs and RBs, including three rookies. His game has some shades of George Kittle’s, mixing in a solid ability to pick up yards after the catch. If Andrews becomes the security blanket for Jackson, he will become an excellent value for TE usage until his price catches up.
Tyler Eifert, $3,100, @SEA
Yes, Eifert is more expensive than Mark Andrews. Yes, he is still extremely unlikely to finish the season healthy and play in all 16 games. That doesn’t matter. His red-zone resume reveals the ceiling Eifert offers whenever he does start. Among TEs with at least 15 targets, Eifert was tied for 12th in points per opportunity. He has made a career of maximizing his limited opportunities.
Cincinnati will face a bad game script and is down their top WR, A.J. Green. The offensive line is a patchwork and about to face a very aggressive Seahawks defense at home. Quick passes to Eifert, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon will be the best way for the Bengals to protect Andy Dalton while Seattle comes, again and again, to take him down. Of those three, Eifert is by far the cheapest option. It is not a play for the faint of heart, but it will help your lineup stand out in larger tournaments.