DFS Week 1: By the Numbers
By: Jamy Bechler @WinningDFS101
Each week I will bring you information, statistics, and facts that I find helpful in picking the players that I will be targeting on the DFS NFL main slate. Unless otherwise noted, the points, salaries, and advice are primarily focused on DraftKings. Remember to have a good process while playing DFS and realize that there is a lot of variance in the NFL from week to week so have fun and stay within your bankroll.
Favorite DFS Stud
Christian McCaffrey, RB (CAR) $8,900 – Saquon Barkley is not a bad play but I am not sure about this year’s Giants offense in a rivalry game that tends to be a little slower paced. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Julio Jones went off – even in a tough match up – as Dirk Koetter tries to establish himself as the O.C. But I am most confident in McCaffrey meeting expectations and then some. He is a flat-out stud that is a three-down back with goal line duties. He ended last season with double-digit targets in four of his last six games. Cam Newton is still a little gimpy, which will make the Panthers rely a little bit more on McCaffrey than they did last year. This game is also expected to be a shootout. I will be paying up and building my core around McCaffrey.
Favorite DFS Core Play
Dalvin Cook, RB (MIN) $6,000 – Cook will probably be highly-owned this week but that doesn’t mean he is not a good play. He is a home favorite against a Falcons defense that ranked as the fourth worst fantasy defense against Running Backs last year. Last year, Cook battled injuries and gave up some of his reps to Latavius Murray. Cook appears healed and there is no established RBs in Minnesota that he has to compete with. The Falcons have given up the most RB targets each of the last three years. Cook finished up last year averaging 5.5 targets per game. He averaged 18.8 DKFP the last five games of the season. It looks like Cook will be a three-down back with goal-line duties this year. That bodes well regardless of how this week’s game flow.
Favorite DFS Value
Hunter Henry, TE (LAC) $3,900 – For the majority of the week, Tony Pollard was the no-brainer value play of the week but now that Zeke is signed, we have to use our brains. I really like for one of the second tier Tight Ends (Njoku, Henry, Doyle, etc…) to break out this week as all of the attention is on the top tier of guys (Kelce, Kittle, Ertz). You may have a bit of a decision to make on FanDuel where the price difference between the top tier and the next tier is not so pronounced. However, on DraftKings, the gap is huge. It might be tempting to play one of the big guns but TE is typically a volatile position.
Remember that Kittle was an “unknown” $3,900 play last year in Week 1. Henry is talented and highly-regarded in the Chargers organization as being the guy to take over all-time great Antonio Gates. As a rookie in 2016, he caught eight touchdown passes. In 2017, that number dropped to only four but was targeted more by Philip Rivers than future Hall of Famer, Antonio Gates. He missed all of last year with an ACL injury but returned for limited action in the playoffs and played 93% of first-team snaps this preseason. The Chargers have a potent offense and they like to use the TE. On DK, he will be a plug and play for most of my lineups.
Favorite DFS Punt
Jacoby Brissett, QB (IND) $4,400 – Rarely is a Quarterback considered a punt play because they are normally priced up (even the backups). Punt plays are normally risky near-minimum priced options. This is one of the few times that I actually feel comfortable with a punt play. With Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement, Brissett will be thrust into the spotlight. I don’t expect him to be the highest scoring QB on the week, but he is at a bargain basement price tag and doesn’t need to do much to return value and a decent game has him smashing value. His ability to make plays with his feet gives him a solid floor but the weapons around him give him ceiling opportunity, as well.
We want usage and opportunity with our DFS plays and here we have a Quarterback that will be at the center of the action for only a fraction of the price of other Quarterbacks. He will be my most owned QB on DraftKings at his free-space bingo-like price. On FanDuel, I will be distributing my ownership shares a little more evenly between Brissett and Josh Allen (though he costs more). Brissett performed well two years ago (13 touchdowns to only seven interceptions) on a terrible Colts team. Frank Reich knows how to put players in positions to succeed (see: Nick Foles, Super Bowl). Playing a QB at this price tag opens up a lot of options elsewhere for high-volume RBs and WRs with upside.
Six-Pack of Interesting DFS Facts
- Not counting the out-of-this-world season that Patrick Mahomes had last season, only 4.9 DK points separated the number two quarterback (Matt Ryan) and his 24.4 average and the number 16 quarterback, Russell Wilson and his 19.5 average.
- In the last six games of last season, only Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott averaged more fantasy points than Josh Allen. The Bills rookie quarterback averaged an astounding 79.3 rushing yards per game during the last six games.
- Even though there are a lot of good cheap value plays at Tight End this week, if you are wanting to win a million dollars on DK, you will only want to play one of them. According to Adam Levitan, only two of the past 45 Milly Maker lineups on DK used a Tight End in the Flex position. Running Back was used 25 times with a Wide Receiver occupying that spot 18 of the 45 winning lineups.
- The Atlanta Falcons defense gave up 117 catches to the Running Back position last year, which was seven more than Philadelphia and Indianapolis. This was also the third such year that the Falcons gave up the most RB catches. This especially bodes well for Dalvin Cook, who looks to be under-priced and doesn’t have to worry about splitting carries with Latavius Murray. Additionally, Chris Thompson (especially playing from behind against the Eagles), and Austin Ekeler (or even Justin Jackson with Melvin Gordon sitting out but I like Ekeler’s pass-catching abilities) are interesting based on Philly and Indy giving up almost as many RB receptions as Atlanta.
- Andrew Luck’s retirement caused the Colts projected Vegas season total to plummet from 9.5 to 6 wins. Less wins could spell doom for Marlon Mack. According to Scott Barrett from Pro Football Focus, 70% of Mack’s fantasy points last year came in Colts games in which they won by at least 14 point. He was barely a top-50 RB on the year in the games that the Colts won by less than two touchdowns.
- Bruce Arians is the new Tampa Bay head coach. Each of the last four teams he has taken over, either as an OC or a HC has seen an increase in wins and scoring in that first season. On average, the four teams have won five more games and scored 6.4 more points in Arians’ first year. In addition to a track record of success, he is known for airing it out and throwing the ball down the field. According to ESPN’s Matthew Berry, the Bucs QB Jameis Winston would have led the NFL in deep ball completions and attempts per game if he had met the NFL’s minimum qualifications for games played.
RB Targets (Week 1 Last Year)
- Melvin Gordon – 13
- Alvin Kamara – 12
- Jalen Richard – 11
RB Targets (2018 Season)
- Christian McCaffrey – 7.8/game
- James White – 7.7/game
- Saquon Barkley – 7.6/game
- Alvin Kamara – 7.0/game
- Ezekiel Elliott – 6.3/game
- Todd Gurley – 5.8/game
- Tarik Cohen – 5.7/game
- Chris Thompson – 5.5/game
- James Conner – 5.5/game
- Melvin Gordon – 5.5/game
- TJ Yeldon – 5.5/game
RB Total Touches (Week 1 Last Year)
- James Conner – 36
- Adrian Peterson – 28
- Melvin Gordon – 24
RB Total Touches (2018 Season)
- Ezekiel Elliott – 25.4/game
- Todd Gurley – 22.5/game
- Saquon Barkley – 22.0/game
- James Conner – 20.8/game
- Christian McCaffrey – 20.4/game
- Joe Mixon – 20.0/game
- David Johnson – 19.2/game
- Chris Carson – 19.1/game
- Kareem Hunt – 18.8/game
- Melvin Gordon – 18.8/game
WR Targets (Week 1 Last Year)
- Julio Jones – 19
- Michael Thomas – 17
- Antonio Brown – 16
WR Targets (2018 Season)
- Davante Adams – 11.3/game
- Antonio Brown – 11.2/game
- Julio Jones – 10.6/game
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – 10.4/game
- Odell Beckham, Jr. 10.3/game
- DeAndre Hopkins – 10.2/game
- Stefon Diggs – 10.0/game
- Adam Thielen – 9.7/game
- Jarvis Landry – 9.3/game
TE Targets (Week 1 Last Year)
- Jared Cook – 12
- Jack Doyle – 10
- Zach Ertz – 10
TE Targets (2018 Season)
- Zach Ertz – 9.8/game
- Travis Kelce – 9.4/game
- George Kittle – 8.5/game
- Delanie Walker – 7.0/game
- Eric Ebron – 6.9/game
2018 DFS Week 1 DK Milly Maker Lineup
Take note of the fact that last year’s winner played a lot of the “chalk” plays. Ironically, his username was “Chalk”. The low-owned plays he used were part of a projected high-scoring game that was overlooked because he took the underdog part of that game.
2018 DFS Week 1 FD Sunday Millions Lineup
“Skipbidder” also won a million dollars with a little help from Fitz Magic and DJax on the forgotten side of a high-scoring game. It is not about playing low-owned players that are bad. Winning lineups utilize talented players that are going to be less than 5% owned but still have a clear path to value based on expected game flow. Don’t take crazy chances. You can still be contrarian and zig when someone else zags without being overly risky. Even Kenny Skills was getting some buzz going into Week 1 of last week with his expected role in the Dolphins offense.
Favorite DFS Non-TE Plays Under 4K
- Miles Sanders, RB (PHI) – $3,900
- Albert Wilson, WR (MIA) – $3,900
- Cole Beasley, WR (BUF) – $3,600
- Duke Johnson, RB (HOU) – $3,500
- Chris Thompson, RB (WAS) – $3,500
Favorable DFS Matchups This Week
- Kerryon Johnson (DET) vs. Arizona (32nd in RB fantasy pts. allowed last year)
- Chris Carson (SEA) vs. Cincinnati (31st in RB fantasy pts. allowed last year)
- Leonard Fournette (JAX) vs. Kansas City (30th in RB fantasy pts. allowed last year)
- Kirk Cousins (MIN) vs. Atlanta (32nd in QB fantasy pts. allowed last year)
Home Favorite (4 points or more) Workhorse Running Backs
- Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) – $9,200 (DK); $9,100 (FD)
- Nick Chubb (CLE) – $6,400 (DK); $7,400 (FD)
- Chris Carson (SEA) – $5,700 (DK); $6,600 (FD)
- Mark Ingram (BAL) – $5,100 (DK); $6,600 (FD)
Home Quarterbacks w/Implied Team Totals of 26+ Points
- Carson Wentz (PHI) – 27.7 vs. Washington
- Russell Wilson (SEA) – 27.0 vs. Cincinnati
- Kirk Cousins (MIN) – 26.0 vs. Atlanta
- Dak Prescott (DAL) – 26.0 vs. NY Giants
DraftKings Values (vs. FD price)
- T.Y. Hilton, WR (IND) – 10th WR ($6,600) vs. 4th WR ($7,700)
- Matt Ryan, QB (ATL) – 8th QB ($6,100) vs. 4th QB ($8,000)
- Carson Wentz, QB (PHI) – 13th QB ($5,700) vs. 8th QB ($7,600)
- Curtis Samuel, WR (CAR) – 39th WR ($4,200) vs. 32nd WR ($5,900)
- Justin Jackson, RB (LAC) – 36th RB ($4,000) vs. 24th RB ($5,900)
- Miles Sanders, RB (PHI) – 40th RB ($3,900) vs. 22nd RB ($6,000)
- Seattle Seahawks DST – 8th DST ($3,100) vs. 4th DST ($4,500)
- Jacksonville Jaguars DST – 18th DST ($2,300) vs. 12th DST ($3,900)
FanDuel Values (vs. DK price)
- Todd Gurley, RB (LAR) – 8th RB ($7,600) vs. 4th RB ($7,900)
- Tyreek Hill, WR (KAN) – 32nd Overall ($7,600) vs. 13th Overall ($7,600)
- Jameis Winston, QB (TAM) – 9th QB ($7,500) vs. 3rd QB ($6,600)
- Amari Cooper, WR (OAK) – 35th Overall ($7,500) vs. 23rd Overall ($7,000)
- Lamar Jackson, QB (BAL) – 13th QB ($7,400) vs. 9th QB ($6,000)
- Chris Carson, RB (SEA) – 18th RB ($6,600) vs. 15th RB ($5,700)
- D.J. Moore, WR (CAR) – 26th WR ($6,200) vs. 20th WR ($5,500)
- Tony Pollard, RB (DAL) – 43rd RB ($5,200) vs. 27th RB ($4,500)
Princess Leia DFS Lineup of the Week
I was 7 years old and Leia was not only a Princess but a goddess. She was my first crush. I fell madly in love with her at first sight. She was beautiful and could work a laser blaster as well as anyone in the galaxy. I was in love with Princess Leia BUT I didn’t end up marrying her. On first look, she was the love of my life but later I realized someone else was the real love of my life.
On Sunday nights, I always make out an early cash game lineup that is based on finding the best balance of players that give the lineup a solid floor but with upside. This lineup is usually put together without doing extensive research. Typically, I love my first lineup that I create but don’t end up using it completely in my cash games (which I won at a 60% clip last year, by the way, #humblebrag). Here was my early lineup this week that I probably won’t end up marrying.
Jamy Bechler writes a weekly article for Couch Potato GM and is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and a leadership consultant, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommended in this article.
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