Our lead editor Jack may be done saying it, but I’ve got to get it in one more time. FOOTBALL IS BACK! And with that comes an opportunity to win money on the game we all love and adore. Week 1 DFS is one of the best times to gain an edge as there are tons of new players and players holding on to their season long fantasy opinions.
This article will focus mainly on GPP contests. The targets will focus on players who have a combination of lower ownership and high upside. The fades will consist of players who are expected to be highly owned but may not return value. Some names below will surprise you, but the best players are not always the best DFS plays.
Gardner Minshew (DK: $5,800, FD: $6,700)
The Colts are one of the biggest favorites on the slate and the public seems to agree. Minshew will garner little to no ownership this weekend, but looking at the numbers shows there is plenty of upside. He had multiple top 10 QB1 weeks last season. On top of that, he exceeded value in 7 of 12 starts. Per PlayerProfiler, he has the third highest true passer rating on the slate behind Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.
While the Colts have a solid defense, they struggle against the pass, averaging the 10th most passing yards allowed per game in 2019. If the game plays out according to Vegas the Jags will be down early and often. Which means Minshew will be forced to keep throwing the ball and rack up those garbage time points. He is one of my favorite plays this week.
Matt Ryan (DK: $6,700, FD: $7,800)
The Falcons/Seahawks game has the highest total on the slate at 49 and this will be a great spot to get fantasy points. You won’t be surprising anyone with this play, but it’s too good to pass up. Seattle ranked ninth in average passing yards allowed last season and lost most of their pass rush to free agency. This game should be a shootout as they look to hang with the Seahawks high powered offense, and I will gladly take the $300 savings over Russell Wilson as he offers the same if not more upside.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (DK: $5,300, FD: $6,400)
By now we all know what Fitzpatrick brings to the table. He could sink the ship or he could throw for 500 yards and 5 TD’s. The Patriots defense is severely weakened from last season and they may not be able to keep up with the weapons Miami has. Since regaining the starting job in mid October of last season, he attempted at least 33 pass attempts in every game with multiple 300 yard and/or three TD games including 27.3 DK points in NE last season. The upside at this price is too hard to ignore.
Lamar Jackson (DK: $8,100, FD: $9,300)
Like I mentioned before, the best players are not always the best DFS plays. Lamar Jackson offers the highest floor of any QB and is a fantastic cash game play where you only need to beat 50% of lineups. Tournaments are a different story. He is $1,000+ more expensive than any other option which can really hamstring your lineup. There is also little value this week, and that combined with high ownership makes it difficult to build a unique lineup with him. There is a lot of upside on the cheaper end of the spectrum that allows you to fit in more stud RB and WR. He is a top end cash play, but someone I’ll be underweight on in tournaments for Week 1 DFS purposes.
Tom Brady (DK: $6,500, FD: $7,500): He is another player I expect people to flock to with a ton of risk involved. He is in a new offense with one of his top options already hurt. Even if Mike Evans plays, he will most likely see shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore who has shut him down the past few years. He is the fifth most expensive QB this week and offers nowhere near the upside as the options around him.
Marlon Mack (DK: $5,300, FD: $6,100)
Jonathan Taylor has been one of the fantasy darlings of the offseason and it is spilling over into Week 1 DFS lineups as he is more expensive and projected to be higher owned than Mack. But all indications are that Mack will be the lead back to start the season and see the bulk of the work. He faces the Jaguars defense who allowed 139.3 rushing yards/game last season, fifth worst in the NFL. Mack also scored 19 DK points in both games against Jacksonville. He may not have the upside of some of the top backs, but offers a great floor at a low end price.
Kareem Hunt (DK: $5,100, FD: $5,800)
Kareem Hunt quickly earned a role in Cleveland, averaging five receptions per game and 12.6 PPR points per game in the second half of 2019, 0.4 points less than Nick Chubb earned in that time frame. Baltimore are huge favorites in this one and Hunt should be on the field plenty as the Browns try to claw their way back. He comes at a significant discount over Chubb and is in prime position to put up big numbers.
Christian McCaffrey (DK: $10,000, FD: $10,000)
Like I said in the intro, Week 1 DFS is nothing like season long and the obvious studs may not be DFS viable. McCaffrey falls into the Lamar Jackson category of incredibly expensive and will one of the most popular plays. He has the highest floor of any RB and is a core piece for cash games. However, he is $2,000+ more expensive than any other skill position and eliminates the ability to use other high priced studs. I’m not saying he won’t score big points, but the value won’t be there. There are plenty other good spots to attack at RB this week.
Antonio Gibson (DK: $4,000, FD: $4,600)
Gibson will be the chalkiest Week 1 DFS value play by a wide margin as the only player projected for more ownership is CMAC. But why? Sure there is upside, but there is no guarantee he will even have 10 touches. J.D. McKissic is listed as the starter, with Peyton Barber and Bryce Love threatening for touches as well. A RBBC is the most likely scenario and good luck figuring out how those touches will be split. He is worth a flier or two but leverage that high ownership by spending a little bit more for the more secure role in Hunt.
DJ Chark (DK: $6,300, FD: $6,600)
Stacking is the most viable strategy in approaching tournaments and Chark is a great pairing with Minshew. He is the clear number one receiver in Jacksonville and will see the lion’s share of targets. With Fournette gone the passing game should be utilized even more than originally expected. As mentioned above, the Jags should be playing from behind most of the game forcing them to air it out to keep up. The Minshew to Chark deep ball was one of the most efficient in the NFL last season and hitting on one will return value in and of itself. Anything extra is an added bonus.
Steven Sims Jr. (DK: $4,700, FD: $5,100)
While the Eagles have been terrible against the pass in the past few years, they signed Darius Slay in the offseason and should shadow McLaurin this week. Sims didn’t get much run until the end of the season but had at least seven targets in the last four games and had 15+ points in the last 3. He has also been incredibly efficient averaging 7.3 points/route run. He’s the #2 receiver in Washington and could see big work with them trying to claw back into the game.
Preston Williams (DK: $4,500, FD: $5,300)
Stephon Gilmore shadowed Devante Parker in both matchups last season but it’s Williams the Patriots should be worried about. Before his injury he was the preferred target of Fitzpatrick and hit double digit points in five of eight games. He led the team in points/route run and targets when he was healthy. If the Dolphins get behind look for them to target him more than Parker. He is a fantastic Week 1 DFS play in all formats.
Mike Evans (DK: $6,900, FD: $7,500)
Even though he was upgraded to questionable it’s unlikely he makes an impact Sunday. Marshon Lattimore held him to four catches for 69 yards over two games last season. Also, with Brady in the fold no one knows how the targets will be distributed. Evans is a full fade this weekend.
Terry McLaurin (DK: $5,600, FD: $6,500)
Most people will see his 10 catches for 255 yards and two TD’s against the Eagles and lock him in so cheap. Slay is expected to shadow him and he should struggle to get open against the top flight CB. The price makes him a lot harder to fade, but this is about ownership. He is expected to be chalk this week and will be a huge leverage play if Slay can hold him in check.
Jack Doyle (DK: $3,800, FD: $5,300)
Philip Rivers loves throwing to tight ends and Doyle is as reliable as they come. Outside of Hilton the WR group in Indy is still up in the air. Add in that there are no options at TE behind him he should see the majority of the snaps. Head coach Frank Reich has a very TE friendly system and should end up being the top target on Sunday and be the first person Rivers looks to in the red zone. A Minshew/Chark/Doyle stack is one of my favorites and could return immense value.
T.J. Hockenson (DK: $3,800, FD: $5,300)
With Golladay out everyone is looking at Marvin Jones but it could be Hockenson that benefits the most. His points/route and target share are nearly equal to Jones and should be the primary red zone target. Fully healthy now he is poised to take the next step and should start off with a bang against Chicago.
Chris Herndon (DK: $3,300, FD: $4,800)
Herndon is immensely talented, there is no doubting that. However, it is still to be decided how big his role will be. Also, weather is expected to be an issue in Buffalo which limits the upside of the passing game. Tight ends have not been typically the focus of Adam Gase’s offenses in the past, so he will need to show he has a defined role in this offense before committing to him.
Darren Waller (DK: $5,900, FD: $6,800)
Waller put up huge numbers in 2019. How much of that was due to lack of receivers is still to be seen. The offense has been revamped with draftees Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, and all indications are Josh Jacobs will see more receiving work this year. He is being priced as if he is the top option in the offense. If you plan to spend up at TE Ertz, Andrews, and Cook are all better options.
Miami Dolphins (DK: $2,000, FD: $3,500)
The Dolphins are min priced on DK and close to it on FD. They have rebuilt their defense (including adding Belichick favorite Kyle Van Noy) and face the first Patriots offense in 20 years without Tom Brady. No one knows the Patriots better than Brian Flores. At min price there isn’t much to lose and no one will be using them. Take advantage in Week 1 DFS.
Baltimore Ravens (DK: $3,100, FD: $4,800)
The offensive line was a big weak spot for the Browns last season and the Ravens have a forceful defensive line. Even if they are improved the sacks should be there. Mayfield also struggled with INT last year and the Ravens have one of the most well rounded secondaries in the league. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens score a pick six.
Indianapolis Colts (DK: $3,000, FD: $3,700)
Search ‘Colts Defense’ on Twitter and see what comes up. Go check the SleeperHQ app, they are the most added defense this week. The Colts have a very solid if unspectacular defense but are susceptible against the passing game. For some reason playing in Jacksonville seems to be their kryptonite as they haven’t won there since 2014. They have also given up 30+ points in all but one of those games. They will have plenty of time to shine, just not this week.
New England Patriots (DK: $3,200, FD: $4,600)
The Patriots lost several key pieces to their defense both on the field and on the coaching staff. It’s not wise to count a Belichick out but there should be some growing pains as they learn to adapt. While not a powerhouse offense Miami can cause them some problems. They are projected to be the highest owned by far and fading them is a great leverage play.