It’s been a long and winding road this offseason, but we’re ready for some football! It’s going to be an odd Week 1 as well. We didn’t have a preseason this year so we are flying about as blind as ever. We’ll be referring to 2019 plenty which isn’t always the best in the NFL. Things change in a frightening hurry but we don’t have a whole lot of data points yet. We’ve got a long way to go so let’s get into the NFL DFS Game by Game Breakdown: Week 1 and find our Core Four!
QB – With a full 12 games on this week’s slate, I can’t say I’m very interested in Aaron Rodgers. It’s not that he was overly poor last year by any measure. He finished 12th in points per game, on the outskirts of a QB1. The matchup does him no favors, especially with the Vikings recently importing star DE Yannick Ngakoue to pair with Danielle Hunter. Minnesota was already top-five in sacks last season. The flip side of the matchup is the perceived weakness at CB for Minnesota. Head Coach Mike Zimmer might be a great defensive mind but the depth at CB is questionable at best.
My biggest issue with Rodgers is the lack of weapons outside of WR Davante Adams. Green Bay was 14th in passing yards and 17th in passing attempts last season, which doesn’t equate to a whole lot of fantasy goodness. Rodgers has only thrown 25 and 26 touchdowns in the past two seasons. I never want to totally dismiss a Hall of Famer like Rodgers but he’s far from a primary target. If Green Bay can give him time, he could abuse the Vikings secondary with nothing more than Adams.
RB – We’re a good bit out from kickoff and I can already tell Aaron Jones and his price are going to mess with me. If we get the 300+ touch player from 2019, I’m not sure Jones is expensive enough. He exceeded 1,500 total yards, scored 19 times and finished 14th among running backs in receptions. Minnesota gave up the 11th most rushing yards last season and 11th most yards per carry. This is a matchup Jones can take advantage of, provided he’s the main back here.
The biggest fear is how much of a chunk of the workload does rookie A.J. Dillon take right off the bat? With no preseason, I lean not much and think there’s a lot of rookies that it will take a few weeks to really grasp NFL speed. He is the RB5 in pricing but he’s still likely not expensive enough in a game that should stay close. The touchdowns will almost have to come down, but Jones only had 33 red zone rushes last year, 13th most among backs. The regression might not be as severe as some predict.
WR – We’ll see how the lineups come together, but I want a whole lot of Adams this week. He should be able to feast on these cornerbacks. The only returning members are Holton Hill and Mike Hughes, who combined played 551 snaps last year. That’s not a whole lot and it’s easy to forget that Adams was the WR5 from a points per game perspective. He finished fourth in red zone targets, 18th on overall targets and was 23.5% of his teams targets. All this was accomplished in just 14 games. Considering the Vikings were the seventh-worst team in DK points given up to WR in 2019, this is a dynamite spot for Adams.
The second WR spot is really still a mystery. The smart money is on Allan Lazard, who was the default number two last year. That doesn’t say much as he finished with under 40 receptions and under 550 yards. Lazard out-produced Marquez Valdes-Scantling on fewer snaps, so we have to give him the inside track. Both Jimmy Graham and Geronimo Allison have moved on and they accounted for 22% of the targets last year. There’s production to have, if someone wants to seize it. If you have a Rodgers lineup, stacking with Adams and MVS could be a very fun approach.
TE – We thought that second-year player Jace Stenberger is expected to step into Graham’s role as the TE1 in the offense, but Robert Tonyan is the favorite to start. Rodgers hasn’t particularly utilized his TE for years now. Tonyan had all of 15 targets for a total of 100 yards and one TD in 13 games last year. It’s going to be a big leap for him and we can likely find better options as the Vikings were a top 10 unit to TE last year. I expect that to continue with safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris patrolling the defensive backfield.
D/ST – We like to try and get defenses that can rack up some splash plays, i.e. sacks and turnovers. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has thrown 16 picks the past two seasons combined, so that’s not a great avenue. Additionally, Minnesota only gave up 28 sacks so even with a low price, Green Bay doesn’t fit the mold we’re after even generating 25 turnovers and 41 sacks in 2019.
Cash – Jones, Adams
GPP – Rodgers, Lazard, MVS
QB – We have 10 quarterbacks priced under $6,000 this week and Cousins is one of them. Here’s the issue I have with Cousins – the way to attack the Packers in 2019 was on the ground. They got positively gouged by opposing running games and I’m not sure if Cousins throws the ball more than 30-32 times here.
To wit, last year he played the Packers twice and threw it a combined 63 times. He also had a 2:3 TD/INT ratio and scored 11 and 7 DK points. That really doesn’t scream must play. Cousins was the QB24 via points per game, not nearly enough for this spot. Some of the other options around his price could throw upwards of 40 times this week.
RB – We only have one back over $8,000 but Dalvin Cook is the RB2 in price on the slate and might well wind up the RB2 in points as well. He only saw one game vs the Packers last year but racked up 31 DK points. Green Bay was bottom eight in DK points given up, yardage and gave up the fifth-most rushing TD’s. Cook had some injury issues last season but was the only back not named Christian McCaffrey to average over 21 PPR points per game.
The Packers lost linebacker Blake Martinez and brought in Christian Kirksey to fill the void, but I’m not real convinced that solves all their issues to say the least. Only five teams gave up a higher yards per carry and Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is one of the best run game minds in the NFL in the past 15-20 years. Minnesota was top-five in rushing attempts and that’s no surprise. In his 22 seasons as coach or OC, his team has finished outside the top half in rush attempts six times. They’ve been top 10 a whopping 11 times. Look for Cook to get out of the box in a big way.
WR – When a team loses their target leader from the previous season, it’s a pretty big deal. Now Buffalo Bill Stefon Diggs leaves 96 targets, 24.2% of the pie from 2019. That means Adam Thielen is about to step into a monster role himself. He ran 32% of his routes out of the slot last season and that could be more this year, since Diggs took up 15.8% himself. It would make sense to keep Thielen in the slot and mostly off of the duo of Kevin King and Jaire Alexander. The injury-laden season in 2019 may have people forgetting the talent of Thielen but that’s a massive mistake.
The depth chart behind him is a real crapshoot. Rookie Justin Jefferson has been working with the second-team offense a good bit in camp. He’s played out of the slot as well, so perhaps he and Thielen wind up splitting duties. Olabisi Johnson worked on the outside but this passing attack likely won’t support multiple receivers many weeks. I’d rather take my shots on the next position group.
TE – The tandem of Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith are going to make some noise this year. Smith is interesting as they have experimented with him in different formations during camp. He played about 60% of the snaps last year and should help fill the Diggs void.
These two players accounted for 29% and 21% of the red zone targets last year as well. Rudolph had more targets and TD’s (five to two) but Smith converted more of his catches in the red zone. Green Bay was 13th in yards allowed to tight ends, so both options are in play here.
D/ST – The Vikings are awfully cheap here with the Rodgers Reputation on the other side. Green Bay is breaking in a new right tackle with the loss of Bryan Bulaga. Facing Hunter and Ngakoue is no easy task, and the linebackers are quite good for the Vikes as well. The weakest part is the corners, but they can get enough positive plays here to consider at just $2,500.
*Update* Hunter is on the IR for the start of the season, really putting a dent into the Vikings offense. With questionable cornerbacks and a downgraded pass rush, I’m passing here.
Cash – Cook, Thielen
GPP – Rudolph, Smith
QB – The Dolphins have rookie Tua Tagovailoa but he will have to wait for at least a bit as Ryan Fitzpatrick draws the start in Week 1. FitzMagic was a constant source of cheap production last year and it’s still funny to see he hung 27 DK on the Patriots in New England when the Pats had to win last season. He is very cheap but I’m not sure he’s the case I want to make on a full slate.
New England did lose some players as far as the opt-out of the season, notably linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung. This is still likely to be a very strong defense with Bill Belichick in house and not the spot we want to go after. The Patriots only allowed 12 passing touchdowns last year and the lowest DK points per game to the QB position. If you MME, have a couple Fitzpatrick lineups but nothing more than that interests me.
RB – Likewise at the running back spot, there’s not much to write home about in this matchup. Maybe the loss of Hightower sets New England back, but this defense allowed the fewest DK to backs last year and the fifth-fewest rushing yards. Running backs only scored twice the entire season, which is pretty ridiculous.
The tandem of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida seems destined for a thunder and lightning combo. Howard will get the bulk of the first and second down work, Breida spells him and gets the passing downs. New England held running backs to the fifth-fewest receptions in 2019, so I’m not sure either is a great fit. Miami isn’t a team that throws to the RB a ton either, with Patrick Laird leading with 30 targets. The personnel is different but I’m not test driving it in this matchup.
WR – Fresh off a breakout campaign that had been predicted since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, DeVante Parker gets to face Stephon Gilmore right off the bat. Gilmore did not give up a touchdown last year and he travels, unlike some elite corners. He played the right and left side 40-43% and even went down into the slot for 16% of his snaps last year. Parker faced the Patriots twice last year and recorded a 24.7 DK game and a 0. There are just too many other good plays in his range to be interested outside of MME.
The cheaper way to take a shot is Preston Williams, who is only 10 months removed from an ACL surgery. He could be on a snap count early but he’s also only $4,500. Now, facing off against Jason McCourty isn’t a walk in the park. He only allowed a 42.9 passer rating in 2019. Williams accounted for 16% of red zone targets and 11.7% of all targets last year despite playing in only eight games. He will have a significant role in 2020.
TE – Speaking of significant role….Mike Gesicki Hive Assemble! I expect big things out of the third-year tight end this season. He’s still learning the position but one noticeable shift was how he was utilized last year. In his rookie year, he played in the slot just 29% of the time. That jumped to 69.8% last year and the production followed.
He topped 50 receptions, 500 yards and scored five times. Gesicki will be even harder to cover with Williams back in the fold. Still only 24, a leap is well within reach this year. He already accounted for 13% of the red zone looks and 16.5% of all Miami targets. Just among tight ends, he finished tied for sixth-most targets overall. New England was actually tied for the sixth-most touchdowns allowed to the tight end spot so Gesicki has some sneaky upside here.
D/ST – I’m all about punt defenses and I might look at Miami this week. They’re basically minimum price and the Patriots are breaking in a new QB and system. That’s not a knock on Cam Newton at all, it’s just the reality this will be the first live game action he’s had with New England. He’s thrown double-digit interceptions every season of his career. It should also be noted that the Dolphins added Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson to the defense. They also get corner Xavien Howard back from injury so this unit should take a large step forward.
Cash – None
GPP – Fitzpatrick, Gesicki, Williams, Parker, Breida
QB – This is Newton’s first game with the Patriots and it’s tough to predict exactly what kind of offense they’ll run. Belichick and Josh McDaniels have been offensive chameleons for years now so there’s no set system. That holds especially true transferring from Tom Brady to Cam, who simply don’t get the job done the same way at all. Cam has averaged 7.5 rush attempts per game and if that holds true he could be a bargain at this price.
We mentioned earlier that just citing last year’s stats really isn’t the best idea and this is a prime example. Does the Dolphins defensive stats from last year have any weight given their additions? Not really. They led the league in touchdown passes allowed, but Jones and Howard should put an end to that. Cam is a grab bag that has a wild range of outcomes here and should only be considered in GPP.
RB – I’m likely not playing a single Patriots running back this week. They’re always a bit of a challenge to know who to play in the first place and my normal favorite on DK would be James White. He’s the RB13 on the slate for salary and I’m just not willing to pay that price. We know that Cam has no issues utilizing the RB in the passing game (waves at Christian McCaffrey) but White offers no savings.
If I knew for sure which of Sony Michel and Damien Harris was going to get the bulk of the carries, sign me up. Harris has reportedly had the stronger camp and isn’t coming off an injury, so he is my favorite of the group. Miami did get ripped up on the ground last season with the third-most rushing yards given up. Despite their additions to the defense, that could still be a key weakness for them. If the Patriots offense skews to the run game with Cam rushing as well, this running game has value.
*Update* Harris is on the IR, making it a bit more easy to look at White and Michel. Rex Burkhead could be involved as well, so I wouldn’t use any New England back in cash settings at all.
WR – Seeing how the Dolphins have two excellent corners, I think the best place to attack them is the slot. Howard played 9.7% of his snaps in the slot and Jones played 5.6%. They just didn’t move there and likely don’t feel super comfortable in that spot. Julian Edelman should remain a very large part of the offense, accounting for 29% of the targets last year. I’m not crazy about the price but he’s fine in cash with a solid, reliable outlook.
With New England moving on from Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry rounds out the top of the WR group but this might not be the spot to attack. If Edelman is in his normal slot role, Harry should see more work on the outside and see most of Howard and Jones. Harry had his rookie season derailed by injury. I won’t be playing these two this week without having any reference on the Patriots offense.
TE – Rookie Devin Asiasi has been drawing some really positive reviews in training camp so far and is very cheap. Miami was middle of the road against TE last year but passing games were abusing them elsewhere, so I’m not sure it says much about the finish. We’ve seen Cam have chemistry with a tight end in Greg Olsen in the past. I could see a game like T.J. Hockenson had in Week 1 last year where Asiasi goes absolutely nuts with a tough matchup for receivers outside of Edelman. He’s also a rookie on a Belichick team and could do legitimately nothing.
D/ST – I have virtually no interest in New England this week. First off, I just generally don’t pay up for defenses. It’s almost never worth it and this week there’s at least two other defenses slightly more expensive that I would play. Secondly, regression is almost surely to come for this defense. They lost important pieces and were two points per game better than Buffalo last year. Being +21 in turnover ratio seems tough to repeat as well.
Cash – Edelman
GPP – Cam, White/Sony, Asiasi, D/ST
QB – The Bears have made it official that Mitchell Trubisky will be the starter this year, but we have to imagine the leash is short. I’m not sure it’s so short we should worry I Week 1, but it’s something to keep in mind. Trubisky was only pressured the 18th most last season, but was only the 18th most accurate quarterback with on target throws.
Detroit was bottom five to QB’s last season and it’s a bit tough to envision them getting much better this year. What this comes down to is are you willing to take the risk on Trubisky? It’s an exploitable spot but Trubisky was 32nd in points per game last year. The fact he couldn’t cleanly beat out Nick Foles in camp seems…not ideal. I know StixPicks is on this game stack with Trubisky, but I believe he’s higher on the Bears QB than I am. I do like stacking a few pieces of this game however.
RB – The status of David Montgomery looms large in this game. If he’s in, you could run him in GPP. He was highly inefficient last year but not every rookie just hits the ground running. Detroit was hit hard by the backs last year, finishing fifth-worst via DK points given up. That included the ninth-most rushing yards and 13 scores on the third-most carries faced.
Whether Montgomery is out or in, Tarik Cohen is almost always in play on DK. He had an 18% share of the targets last season and finished third among running backs in targets with 100. He was a top 30 running back and if Montgomery is out or limited, he could see a few more carries as well.
*Update* Montgomery is back at practice and ready to go by all accounts. After a strikingly mediocre rookie season, he will be overlooked in this price range but I’m more on the passing games in this contest.
WR – I’m not crazy in love with the price (the price actually is pretty nice after further review), but Allen Robinson certainly has a really good spot on paper. Not only did the Lions give up the second-most DK points to WR last year, they traded corner Darius Slay as well. They are riding with Desmond Trufant and the number three pick Jeff Okudah at corner and that might be a problem. Trufant gave up a 106.6 passer rating last season in nine games and guarding Robinson in your first NFL game isn’t something I’d envy for Okudah.
Despite terrible QB play last season, Robinson finished second in targets overall at 150. He also finished 10th in points per game and the WR7 overall in PPR settings. With even some slight improvement, Robinson could have a monster game here. It’s a similar story for Anthony Miller. I like other receivers who are cheaper than him, but he could be a nice floor option. He was targeted 15.7% of the time last year in this offense and with the weakness Detroit should have in the secondary, it’s not crazy to think both could pay off.
TE – If Jimmy Graham couldn’t have a fantasy relevant season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the odds likely don’t favor him now. He was the TE21 last season and only found the end zone three times. The Bears also took the first tight end in the 2020 draft in Cole Kmet, so the workload split is tough to predict. Chicago didn’t break 600 passing attempts last season, finishing 13th in pass attempts per game. If you’re gambling on a “TD or bust” tight end, we can find better options.
D/ST – Are the Bears a good defense with talented players? They sure are but are they worth the D/ST4 price tag? That’s where I would say no. We don’t want to put full weight into the Lions offense last season since Matthew Stafford missed so much time. Detroit was also mid-pack in sacks given up and only had 23 turnovers. By contrast, the Bears had 19 takeaways so the matchup really doesn’t mesh well at the salary.
Cash – Robinson
GPP – Miller, Cohen, Montgomery, Trubisky
QB – Stafford really falls into no-mans land for me. There’s multiple QB’s a couple hundred dollars in each direction that I like better, especially given the matchup. The Bears were a top-eight defense against the QB and only surrendered 17 touchdown passes, the fourth-fewest in the league. In the eight games Stafford completed, he did finish with career highs in yards per attempt and completion. He’s going to be a part of our DFS lives this year, just not this week.
RB – This is a pretty gross spot for fantasy for both D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. First, their head coach Matt Patricia has been adamant about using multiple running backs. Neither player is going to get a lot of touches right away, at the least. Secondly, the Bears welcome’s back defensive tackle Akiem Hicks from injury. He was the run stopper in this defense last year. Chicago gave up under three yards per carry with him on the field. Off the field, the YPC sprung to 4.12 and the run success rate went up to over 43%. Both backs might be under $5,000 but that’s not enough to tempt me this week.
*Update* That was all written before Adrian Peterson was signed. I really want nothing to do with this backfield this week. Patricia is all in on RBBC which means I’m out for DFS.
WR – I might not particularly want Stafford, but both receivers carry some intrigue. Kenny Golladay is one of the best young receivers in the game. He managed to rack up almost 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns with Stafford missing half the season. As someone who watched JuJu Smith-Schuster become a total non-factor with backup QB play, I respect Golladay in a huge way for last season. Corner Kyle Fuller could see a good bit of Golladay and he gave up a 96.7 passer rating, nothing to be scared of.
Marvin Jones is also very much on this list as well. He only had two fewer red zone targets than Golladay and 20 targets behind in one fewer game. Bears corner Buster Skrine played man or zone virtually every snap last year and Jones racked up at least a 94.2 passer rating vs each coverage. He especially excelled in man coverage, catching 15 of 22 targets for three scores. Both players have interest in tournaments and could be paired with Robinson in some style of game stack.
*Update* Golladay has been downgraded to doubtful, which is a big blow to this game stack and the Lions overall. With players like Metcalf and Brown right around the salary for Jones, I don’t believe he’s a must-have in cash.
TE – The Bears were a bottom 10 defense to tight ends in 2019 and gave up the eighth-most yards, but there’s a catch. Second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson is still not quite right from ankle surgery. That’s far from what I’m looking for in my tight end, especially over $4,000. He didn’t even see 12% of the target share last season and after his Week 1 MONSTER game, he never exceeded 56 yards again. He only broke 40 yards twice the rest of the year. If you remember last year, Arizona was a sieve against tight ends. Hockenson did nothing outside the best possible matchup. I’ll pass this week with a questionable ankle.
*Update* You can argue for Hockenson more now with Golladay ruled out, but I do still prefer other tight ends.
D/ST – I love some cheap defenses but I’m not convinced Detroit fits the bill. They only racked up 18 takeaways last year to go along with being tied for the second-fewest sacks, just 28. The Bears offense is nothing to write home about and can certainly make mistakes. It’s just a question mark if the Lions can do anything with those mistakes, so I’ll likely go cheaper at the position.
Cash – Jones
GPP- Stafford, Hockenson
QB – Russell Wilson in the dome where he likely needs to put up some points sure sounds like a lot of fun. The Falcons were a bottom 10 defense to QB’s last year and gave up the seventh-most touchdown passes in the league. Russ finished as a top five QB yet again, even though the Seahawks only finished 24th in pass attempts per game. Can we just once, Let. Russ. Cook.
If you take away Lamar Jackson’s absurd, record setting rushing total, Wilson finished top-five in rushing yards among “regular” quarterbacks and top-five in rush attempts. By no means is it an end all stat, but it’s interesting that the Falcons were bottom 10 in rushing yards and attempts to QB’s. They also gave up the second-most rushing TD’s. It’s really not hard to see the ceiling for Russ in a shootout game here.
RB – When you have a team that runs the ball the third-most in the league, it’s kind of hard to overlook Chris Carson. He sometimes doesn’t get the respect he should in PPR settings because he was only 22nd in receptions among all backs. He still finished as the RB12 on the season on the back of the fifth-most attempts. Volume is the name of the game and Carson is going to get it.
There’s nothing particular about the Atlanta defense that stand out as a great matchup for Carson. It’s much more just guaranteed touches of the ball and the Seahawks generating the sixth-most rushing yards per game last year. Carson is one of the cheapest “bell cow” backs on the slate and shouldn’t be ignored.
WR – Hello D.K. Metcalf. The 2019 rookie was a very polarizing figure coming into last year, facing criticism of his route tree. Regardless of what he can or can’t run, the Seahawks emphasized what he did well and he’s basically like a cheetah out there. He’s listed at 6’4″ and 229 pounds. The Falcons have Isaiah Oliver who is 6’0″ and 210 and rookie A.J. Terrell, who is 6’1″ and 195 pounds. Good luck fellas, because Metcalf is going to be near impossible to cover as he evolves. His last two games in the playoffs combined for 14 receptions, 219 yards and a touchdown. He’s just scratching the surface.
*Update* Stix put Metcalf in his excellent cash game article, and he’s right on with his reasoning.
Oh, by the way, they still have Tyler Lockett as well. Even though the Seahawks didn’t pass the ball nearly enough, they do throw it in the red zone. Russ was second in attempts inside the 20 last season and the bodes really well for both receivers. They both had at least 15 red zone targets and Lockett led with 21. He also played over 67% of his snaps in the slot and should match up against free agent acquisition Darqueze Dennard. The former Bengal only allowed 17 receptions last year but I have zero fear in this matchup for Lockett.
TE – It would be an upset if Will Dissly had a big role early coming off a torn Achilles, so you can be happy to know it’s 249 year old Greg Olsen as the TE1 in this offense. I doubt the Seahawks signed him for $7 million not to use him, but the veteran has slowed down lately. He hasn’t played a full season in three years and hasn’t passed 600 yards in that same time period. Coming into a new team with no preseason seems iffy for his Week 1 prospects. The Falcons were average against the position last year and safety Keanu Neal should get the better of this matchup.
D/ST – The Seahawks did add safety Jamal Adams to make their unit more formidable, but this is a tall task. The good news is Falcons allowed the fifth-most sacks last year and had 25 giveaways. Seattle was a ball-hawk defense last year with 32 takeaways (third-most) but struggled generating sacks with just 28. They also only created the seventh-fewest pressures, so it wasn’t just a lack of getting to the QB. I’ll likely pass here.
Cash – Russ, GoatCalf, Lockett, Carson
GPP- All of the above
QB – Matt Ryan is a really interesting option on this slate. At his price range, his ownership should be very low compared to Drew Brees for $100 more vs the Bucs in a marquee game and Tom Brady for $100 less. That will really have my attention. One of the weak spots for Seattle was generating pressure and Ryan can pick apart any defense with time in the pocket. That was with Jadeveon Clowney playing in Seattle last year as well.
Looking at footballoutsiders.com, Ryan was under pressure over 30% of the time. He saw his yards per attempt from 7.8 with no pressure fall to 3.7 with pressure. That’s a massive difference, and if Seattle can’t capitalize here, it’s going to be a LONG day. I love Ryan in this tier since he should come in pretty low-owned.
RB – Gone is Devonta Freeman and he’s been replaced by Todd Gurley. The version from two seasons ago would have put this offense in a different stratosphere. This version brings a ton of questions, not the least of which why the Rams cut bait on his huge contract so fast. It’s interesting to note that Seattle finished last year giving up the second-most rushing TD’s at 18.
That drove their ranking vs RB’s because they only gave up the 11th fewest yards on the ground. Gurley was very dependent on touchdown’s last year, as he didn’t eclipse 900 yard rushing nor 210 yards receiving. His 14 total touchdowns really saved him. I very rarely played him last year, and Week 1 won’t be any different.
WR – If there’s a cornerback on this Earth that can really stop Julio Jones, I’m not sure I’ve seen him yet. He exceeded 1,350 yards for the sixth straight season, along with at least 83 receptions. He was the WR3 both on the season and points per game on a 25% target share. Seattle has a great secondary on paper, but this is Julio. Matchups aren’t the most relevant with him.
The more GPP-esque options are Calvin Ridley and maybe even Russell Gage. Ridley is coming into his third year and is one of the more popular “breakout” options in seasonal formats. You could argue that consecutive 800+ yard season on at least 60 receptions and a combined 17 touchdowns is already broken out.
It’s also a lot easier to live on the other side of Julio. He faced zone coverage 61% of the time in 2019 and had a 116.3 passer rating when targeted. Seattle should have a new slot corner and Gage has been making noise about having a role in camp. I would certainly tread carefully, as he had a 10% target share. The 14% target share in the red zone is nice but this is stacking territory only. Atlanta did play in three WR sets 61% of the time last season.
TE – The Falcons let Austin Hooper walk away as a free agent and swung a trade to replace him with former Raven Hayden Hurst. What’s interesting is Hooper only had a 6.5 aDOT (average depth of target) and that makes sense with the pressure rate Atlanta gave up.
I’m not sure if Hurst will fully replace the 21% red zone share or the 15% overall share Hooper had, but he will have a role. With Seattle not generating a ton of pressure and it being the first game action together, I would lean towards this one being more geared to the receivers than Hurst.
*Update* Hurst has been generating some chatter for cash, something we shouldn’t overlook.
D/ST – I really don’t play defenses against Seattle all that often. They give up sacks in part because Russ can be his own worst enemy there. However, he does not turn the ball over almost at all. Atlanta could get 4-5 sacks and give up 30+ points, making them an unappealing options. The Falcons were next to last in pressures and had only 20 takeaways.
Cash – Ryan, Julio, Hurst
GPP – Ridley, Gage, Gurley
QB – Carson Wentz had a minor injury pop up during the end of camp, but is ready to go. Given the unfortunate history with Wentz, it’s easy to get a little leery anytime he’s hurt. The Philly offense certainly had it’s share of injuries overall. Wentz will once again be working with a ragtag group of weapons opening the season.
The fear with Wentz is the cast around him. The offensive line is banged up, first round pick Jalen Reagor is not available for this game, the list seemingly goes on and on. Washington created the fifth-most quarterback pressures last year and added defensive lineman Chase Young. Widely regarded as one of the more complete pass rushers to come out of college the past few years, the pass rush could be lethal. Washington was in the bottom 10 in blitz rate, so Wentz is likely going to have to deal with it all day.
RB – We’ve been waiting for the Eagles and Doug Pederson to use mostly just one running back and the time may have finally come. Miles Sanders averaged over 18 touches per game from Week 11 on last season and finished as a top 15 back despite being 22nd in carries and 13th in receptions.
Washington was crushed on the ground last year, giving up the second-most rushing yards and the fifth-most receptions. As the RB10 in salary, he’s likely not expensive enough. If he gets the workload expected (Philly only has Boston Scott as a reliable second option), Sanders will be in the top-five in salary all season. With the Eagles only carrying three running backs after cut downs, Sanders is the man in this backfield.
*Update* Why do you hate us Doug Pederson? This would leave me sketchy on Sanders in cash, but he’s still a great GPP play.
*Update Two* There’s still rumblings of Sanders being eased in after his injury, so he’s not likely to be in many of my lineups. A very sneaky play could be Scott, who could see double-digit touches if it’s a true split.
*Update Three* Sanders didn’t even make the trip and is OUT, which is surprising. Boston Scott now becomes CASH GAME CHALK and will be a new part of the Core Four.
WR – With the temporary loss of Reagor, DeSean Jackson really stands out at his price. This is the same D-Jax and Wentz connection that scorched Washington for 9/154/2 in Week 1 last year. Even though he didn’t play, he’s now had a full season in this offense and not an overwhelming amount of competition. Washington saw receivers score 21 times last year and Jackson has an immense ceiling under $5,000.
Both Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are reportedly having strong training camps and but the return of Alshon Jeffery complicates matters for them. Both of the former players had under 30 receptions and under 280 yards last season in partial playing time. They also likely would have been rotational roles if Reagor were healthy, so they’ll likely fight for scraps in the passing game. That’s even more true with Jeffery looking like he’s active.
*Update* Jeffery has still not practiced at all, so the activation of the PUP might have just been procedural. Let’s see where the value falls for this corps at the end of the week.
*Update Two* The Eagles could be without three starting lineman if Lane Johnson is out. While it’s great to see Reagor back at practice, I’m really getting worried Wentz won’t have time to find he and D-Jax deep.
TE – Part of the reason they’ll be fighting for scraps is the tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. The reliable Ertz accounted for 25% of the targets last season and Goedert carved out 14%. These two and Sanders all combined for 53% of the red zone targets as well, so we know who Wentz is looking for when it matters most.
Ertz is always at his best in a PPR setting and if you’re in a large field GPP, stacking both tight ends is a risky and interesting route to take. If Wentz doesn’t have time to connect with the deep ball with Jackson, the attempts have to go somewhere. Goedert was on the field for at least 54% of the snaps in 14 of 16 games last year. I’m a little lower on Goedert with Jeffery back but I think the route is still viable.
D/ST – If I’m going to pay to the very top of the defense this week, I would go the Bills for $100 more probably at least 75% of the time. The Jets don’t scare me and I’m not sure Washington should either. Dwayne Haskins had some growing pains for sure, and Philly could well exploit that. They created the ninth-most pressures last season and Haskins has a 1.3 Y/A under pressure. Yikes. Philly only had 20 takeaways and Buffalo has a slightly better matchup.
Cash – Scott (lock), Ertz
GPP –Reagor, D-Jax, Wentz, Goedert
QB – Haskins was not exceptionally good last year, but I’m never too tough on rookie QB’s in pretty poor situations. Being the cheapest starter always catches me eye and Haskins is no exceptions. I mean, Jacoby Brissett is more expensive than he is. Philly was average as far as DK points given up goes last year, but they did surrender 25 touchdowns. That was tied for ninth-most and you really only need 15 from Haskins to make it worth it. I would have a Haskins-Terry McLaurin stack in a couple lineups if you play a bunch.
RB – Well, this situation was going to be a no-fly zone for me. Then Adrian Peterson was released. This first part still stands though. First off, the Eagles have been a funnel defense for a couple years now. That means that they shut down the run and the production comes from the passing game. To wit, last season they allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards and only 10 rushing scores. They were average in allowing receptions but here’s the other issue – who’s getting the touches here?
Peyton Barber, Antonio Gibson and probably even J.D. McKissic are going to mix in for touches. Now the hype is with Gibson, and he would be my favorite. He’s going to be a playmaker for the Washington team this year and he could exploit the Eagles weaker linebacking corps, while giving Haskins a safety valve. Gibson himself is openly surprised at the amount of reps he’s getting. Just remember, this is a rookie in a bad rushing matchup. He could be chalky now with the added opportunity, but I still don’t believe he does much on the ground. He’s going to have to do work in the passing game.
*Update* McKissic is the starter on the first depth chart of the season, but these team issued depth charts aren’t super relevant. Mark Andrews wasn’t listed as a starter last year for the Ravens. He did alright. Gibson is attracting a lot of attention in cash games at minimum price for an RB.
WR – The aforementioned McLaurin is just too cheap in this spot. He racked up 919 yards on 58 receptions in his rookie season, scored 7 times and accounted for 41% of the team’s air yards. He also accounted for 23% of the target share and the red zone targets. Bottom line is he was the passing game last year.
Now, the Eagles did improve their corner situation. Thank goodness for them because they gave up the fourth-most DK points to receivers last year. Adding Darius Slay is going to help a good bit. He moved all over when he was in Detroit, and likely should in Philly. Even still, McLaurin is so important to this passing game and he’s under $6,000.
I do have some interest in both Steven Sims and Antonio Gandy-Golden. If McLaurin does struggle a bit vs Slay, these two could benefit. Sims closed 2019 strong with at least 4 receptions and 40 yards in every game from Week 14 on. Running back Chris Thompson was second on the team with a 12.8% target share, so someone has to help replace that. Sims really could shine in this game.
TE – This is a spot sort of like the running back position for Washington, just without the buzzy potential upside. Logan Thomas has reportedly emerged as the go-to option in the first team offense this year. I’m not sure that says a whole lot, as Jeremy Sprinkle led the tight ends in target share last year at 7.8%. Philly was fifth-best to the position last year so this isn’t a situation we really need to mess with.
D/ST – We talked about using the Miami Dolphins as a punt defense, and Washington should be in that same conversation. The pressure rate was mentioned with Wentz’s breakdown, and pressure leads to mistakes. The Eagles were middle of the pack with 43 sacks given up and 23 turnovers, so there is potential for Washington. They averaged more DK than seven defenses on this slate even with giving up the sixth-most points, telling you they have splash play ability even before adding Young.
Cash – McLaurin, Gibson, D/ST
GPP – Haskins, Sims
QB – It still really hasn’t sunk in that Philip Rivers is the QB of the Colts yet. I get the feeling that we’re going to be picking on the Jaguars defense all year long. They are very far removed from their dominating presence the with trades of Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and others. Indy did finish 17th in plays per game last season and may not really play at a fast pace.
It’s also a fair guess that Rivers isn’t going to throw the ball all over the place in this game. The best guess is an efficient, 250-275 yard game with 1-2 touchdowns and I think we can find more upside elsewhere. Indy was 25th in passing attempts last year and should lean on the running game as big favorites.
RB – Rookie Jonathan Taylor is the new hotness and will likely be the starter at some point this year. However, I’m not convinced it happens in Week 1. Marlon Mack is cheaper and would be my preferred target here. If he’s going to get 15 or so touches against a Jacksonville unit that gave up the second-most DK points to RB’s, I’m in. He’s even showing improvement in the passing game, which would be a huge boost to his value. Indy was fifth in rushing yards per game last year behind that beastly offensive line, and they should have their way today.
WR – We don’t know fully what to expect here from the Indy passing game, but the first name that jumps to me is actually Paris Campbell. That may seem odd when an offense has T.Y. Hilton and spend a second rounder on Michael Pittman, but Campbell has been excellent in camp. He should see most of the slot role, and that could be the Rivers safety blanket as he gets used to his offense.
It’s clearly not a direct comparison, but Keenan Allen played almost 49% of his snaps in the slot and Rivers loved him. He has a habit of targeting the backs, tight ends and WR closer to the line of scrimmage. Campbell is really a stealthy bargain, and Hilton is cheap as well. He and Rivers have quickly got on the same page and Jacksonville really doesn’t offer any corners that we should run from.
TE – It looks like Trey Burton is going to be out for a bit. That means we can turn to the James Koh named “Rainbow Six” Jack Doyle as the lead TE for the Colts. If we look at what Rivers did last year with the Chargers, Hunter Henry got a 13% target share. That’s not bad considering his competition for targets. With injuries and other factors, Doyle actually led the Colts in overall targets at 72. This is really a strong match, and I suspect that Rivers throws a lot of dink and dunk style passes. They shouldn’t need to take a lot of risks as the heavy favorite here.
D/ST – There could be some potential for this Indy defense. They already averaged 1.4 turnovers a game last year and they got pressure on the QB about 21% of the time. Now they added DeForest Buckner to this unit, who is an excellent defensive lineman. Jacksonville was above average in giveaways and sacks allowed, but they continue to shed talent. Indy is in the mix and really have no issues at all playing them.
Cash – Mack, Doyle, Hilton
GPP – Campbell, Taylor, Rivers, D/ST
QB – If we assume that the Jaguars are going to be chasing the score often this year, Gardner Minshew could wind up being the king of Garbage Time. Minshew did struggle under pressure, with his Y/A dropping from 7.5 to 3.4. His DVOA dropped by almost 79% when he was pressured as well. What keeps him as a viable option is the expected volume. Jacksonville finished 12th in passing attempts and I highly doubt that’s going down this season.
Minshew has some flaws but one thing he did well was not throw interceptions. Having a 21:6 TD:INT ratio as a rookie with questionable talent is impressive. He was only the QB21 last year in 14 games but with any type of improvements, we could see a top 15 finish. This play is all about game theory and if the Colts have a big lead.
RB – My initial reaction to this spot with Leonard Fournette being released was to avoid. However, with all the backs just $4,000, maybe there is value to find. There’s not a real way to tell who takes the lead here. The best guess is Ryquell Armstead gets the early down work and is the hammer back. Chris Thompson should slot into third down/passing game duties, especially with his previous work with OC Jay Gruden.
There could be roles for either Devine Ozigbo and/or James Robinson, as Coach Doug Marrone said they are capable of playing on all three downs. He didn’t say that about Armstead or Thompson, so this is going to be a situation to watch up until inactives. Most teams don’t have four running backs active on game day, so we’ll see who suits up.
*Update* This was written before Armstead went on the Covid list. He is not playing anytime soon. Robinson is the lead back on the depth chart, but let’s see how practice goes this week before making a call.
*Update Two* It really is down to Thompson and Robinson. I believe Thompson is an excellent GPP pivot off Gibson and the Jags are saying he’ll get carries as well.
Though Chris Thompson is a change of pace, third-down back, Coach Marrone said he doesn’t have a problem getting him as many carries needed. #jaguars— John Reid (@JohnReid64) September 11, 2020
Though Chris Thompson is a change of pace, third-down back, Coach Marrone said he doesn’t have a problem getting him as many carries needed. #jaguars
WR – The locked in starter here is DJ Chark, who’s coming off a season where he accounted for 22% of the targets and 33% of the air yards. He was a top 20 receiver in PPR settings last year but his tier of salary is very crowded. Chark is a very solid play in any format as the Colts finished in the bottom 10 vs receivers in 2019.
This Jaguars offense is going to look different since Fournette accounted for a ridiculous 103 targets last year. His aDOT was 0.2 which….I don’t even have words for that many targets so close to the line. A big chunk of those targets could funnel towards rookie Laviska Shenault.
Minshew has complimented his route running already and with so many targets available, Shenault should see work right off the bat. He’s electric with the ball in his hands and has big-play ability. Dede Westbrook is also in play to help shoulder the vacated targets, as he had 95 himself last year. It seems a sure bet he’ll exceed 100 this season.
TE – The position as a whole wasn’t a priority for his team last year, but they didn’t really have anyone to throw to. Enter former Bengal Tyler Eifert, who has always had immense talent. He played all 16 games last year and was the TE20, but lacked quarterback play to help him along. Minshew is an improvement in that department, it’s just unknown what style of role Eifert has. You could do worse punting and hoping for a 3/30/1 line.
D/ST – This unit is short on talent with the Ngakoue trade, let alone others. Even though the Colts are breaking in a new quarterback, I’m hard-pressed to take the shot here. I think there’s other defenses cheaper with better talent and higher upside. I don’t think we’ll be using the Jags very much this season.
Cash- Chark, Minshew
GPP – Thompson, Robinson, Shenault, Westbrook, Eifert,
QB – There’s no denying that it was an abject disaster of a 2019 season for the Browns and especially Baker Mayfield. He barely threw more touchdowns than interceptions, but fantasy players can hope that the disaster was Freddie Kitchens related. Enter new coach, Kevin Stefanski. He emphasizes a play-action approach which hopefully will help Mayfield. He ranked 31st out of 32 quarterbacks in on target rate last year at just 70.6%.
Here’s what’s interesting about the theory that play action helping Mayfield. Pro Football Reference has him at the eighth-most play action attempts last year, ahead of Kirk Cousins. That’s somewhat poking a hole in the Stefanski theory. For me, this is a wait and see offense and I’m not about to go against the Ravens defense. Yes, they cut Earl Thomas but they also added Calais Campbell and rookie linebacker Patrick Queen. Baltimore blitzed a league-leading 54.9% of the time last season. Mayfield was pressured the 12th most times last season. There’s better options in my eyes.
RB – It was a tale of two games for Nick Chubb last year vs Baltimore. One game saw him rack up 42.3 DK points and the second one saw him score 4.5. Given that the Ravens were the fourth-best defense to running backs last year, I’d say the first performance was the aberration. They only gave up the ninth-fewest rush yards and if Queen can hit the ground running as a rookie, that has a good chance to continue this year.
We also have to deal with the presence of Kareem Hunt in this backfield. He averaged right at 11 touches per game last year, and that could be an issue. For the first three games Hunt was active, Chubb maintained a strong touch count. He had at least 20 carries in those games. After that, he never crossed the 17 carry threshold. Hunt also had just seven fewer targets than Chubb despite eight fewer games. It’s not hard to see he chewed away at Chubb a little bit. I’d want Hunt at salary before Chubb, but likely not heavy on either in this matchup. After all, the Ravens allowed the fewest receptions by a running back in the league in 2019.
WR – Despite finishing 10th in total targets and third in air yards, Odell Beckham was a significant disappointment as the WR25 last year. He wasn’t even the most productive receiver on his own team, with that honor being held by Jarvis Landry. They were almost dead even in targets and Landry finished as the WR12 in PPR. Landry played in the slot almost 58% of the time and should see plenty of Marlon Humphrey. Last year, Humphrey allowed a passer rating over 85 so he’s not exactly someone we should shy away from. Given Landry had an aDOT three yards smaller than Beckham and the Ravens blitz rate, I favor Landry here at cost.
TE – Part of the reason I’m not immensely high on the Browns in Week 1 for fantasy is the new mouth to feed, Austin Hooper. You don’t sign a tight end to the big money deal that Hooper got without big plans. The issue is the top four target leaders from 2019 are all back in the fold. OBJ, Landry, Chubb and Hunt combined for 364 targets on 534 attempts. That’s 68% so where are the targets being siphoned from? With a new coach, new OC and the target leaders from 2019 all returning, I have almost no interest as the TE7 in salary.
D/ST – Do you want to play a defense against the league-leading offense from last year with the MVP quarterback and improving weapons around him? Me either. Moving on.
GPP – Hunt, Landry, Chubb, OBJ, Hooper
QB – The real MVP, the fantasy MVP in 2019 and maybe one of the players that are most fun to watch is back in Lamar Jackson. He is the QB1 on the slate as he should be and is over $8,000. We normally want 3x on our players, which means right about 24 points. In 15 regular season games last year, Jackson did not hit 24 DK just three times. He exceeded 30 DK eight times, which is incredible.
It doesn’t seem like the Ravens are really going to dial back the rushing attempts for Jackson either. Talking to the team website, OC Greg Roman talks more about week to week than anything else and they have it available at all times. Until Jackson proves otherwise, he’s in play every slate and even at salary has a very safe floor. Rarely have we seen quarterback like this in the NFL.
RB – This is where things could get tricky. Mark Ingram is the incumbent and it should stay that way through the early part of the season. The price is really quite fair, but Ingram was also a bit boom or bust weekly in 2019. Seven of 15 games were under the 15 DK required for about a 3x return. A big part of that reason is because he had 40 red zone rushing attempts while Jackson took 26. They each had five rushing touchdowns from the red zone, which helped contribute to Ingram’s volatile nature.
Now we have to add in rookie J.K. Dobbins, who has drawn rave reviews at camp. Coach John Harbaugh has claimed he will have a “significant role” even though it might not happen right out of the gate. That really just adds to the volatility of Ingram, and it may be wise to steer clear of the backfield until we can see it in action.
WR – One thing that did go well for Cleveland was guarding receivers, in which they gave up the seventh-fewest DK points o the position. Corner tandem Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams certainly helped that ranking. Marquise Brown only played 50.9% of snaps last season and only finished as the WR46, but he was playing hurt almost all of last year. He’s healthy and already showed big play ability. He averaged 13.4 yards per catch and accounted for 23% of the team’s air yards. Hollywood just needs some health to fully breakout and I love him in GPP.
*Update* Greedy Williams is not practicing yet, one of three corners for the Browns to still be out. Hollywood could have a line like last year’s Week 1 thrashing of Miami with 4/147/2.
TE – We skipped the other receivers in the Baltimore offense because the number one receiving option last year was Mark Andrews. He led the team in air yards and target share, and the team then traded Hayden Hurst to Atlanta, who accounted for 9% of the targets. Andrews played under 45% of the total snaps last year, which is kind of mind-blowing. Considering the Ravens also threw the ball the fourth-least, even marginal increases in snaps and passing plays could really push he and Brown into the stratosphere. No other player saw more than 10% of the targets last season and the offense should continue to run between these two through the air. Cleveland was eighth-worst against the TE last year as a cherry on top.
D/ST – Baltimore finished ninth in takeaways per game and created pressure on the quarterback 23.4% of the time last year. They are priced pretty fairly, especially if the Browns continue to be tied for fifth in giveaways per game. The only real nitpick is they are in an odd pricing bracket. I might be willing to find $600 for the Bills, or just keep going further down the list. I don’t hate them at all and they could feast on a “new” offense. I typically go one extreme or the other for defense in salary.
Cash – Jackson, Andrews, Brown, D/ST
GPP – Ingram, Dobbins in MME
QB – I want to like Sam Darnold and the Jets offense. Really, I do. It’s going to be a tough sell this week against the Bills defense, which is one of the best defenses in football. Also, Adam Gase is still the head coach so that’s a red flag in and of itself. Darnold was the definition of average last year through 13 games, with the 15th best on target rate and only 19 touchdowns. He got dealt a bad hand with missing three games with mono, but the glimpses of life after that were faint. He was under pressure the fourth-most last year, 28% of the time. Adding rookie Mekhi Becton to the O-line helps but isn’t a full solution. The Bills got pressure 23% of the time despite blitzing the 12th most. I would much rather play Haskins or Trubisky at a cheaper price.
RB – He is infinite, he is eternal….he is Frank Gore. The Fantasy Footballers may have been the ones pumping that term but it has always got a chuckle out of me. The weird dynamic between Le’Veon Bell and Gase continued this offseason. It included Bell taking at least one rep with the second team, followed by cryptic tweets from Bell. They claim to have cleared the air, but I’ll continue to doubt Gase actually ever wanted Bell on the roster.
This really isn’t an advocation to play either. The Bills were top 12 against the backs last year, allowing the 13th least rushing yards and were middle of the pack in receptions allowed. The running back only found the end zone a combined 12 times last year. This just isn’t the spot for either, considering Buffalo only allowed 16.5 points per game last year.
WR – One side of the field boasts one of the best corners in football in Tre White. He generally played one side of the field at 77% of his snaps, while not allowing a touchdown and a 36.1 passer rating. I can’t particularly build a case for either Breshad Perriman or rookie Denzel Mims. They are both fighting injuries as is. The only choice I’m remotely interested in is Jamison Crowder. He owned 23% of the targets and they have to fill the 100 targets left by Robby Anderson, who departed for Carolina. Crowder ran 75% of his routes from the slot which will take him off White. Someone has to catch the ball, but Crowder is far from my favorite option.
*Update* Mims is out and the Jets receiving corps is looking at starting Chris Hogan. That’s not good at all.
TE – There’s a lot of people that want Chris Herndon to be a thing and that’s great. Maybe he will as he’s a talented player and the Jets need pass catchers. This week isn’t the time to test drive his involvement in the offense, as the Bills were the second-best team to the position last year. They allowed the third-fewest receptions, second-fewest yards and only five scores.
D/ST – This unit is devoid of talent on pretty much every level with the trade of safety Jamal Adams. They had the ninth-lowest pressure rate last year, only 1.3 takeaways per game and just 35 sacks. I can’t say I’m that interested here.
GPP – Crowder
QB – We should really love the Bills offense here and even with his real life flaws, Josh Allen is a very solid fantasy QB. Actually, he finished as a top 10 option in part due to his nine rushing touchdowns. He had 21 rushing attempts in the red zone and he improved his completion rate to 58.8%. That’s still sub-par for the NFL, but a big improvement on his 52% rate in his rookie season. The interceptions went down and the passing touchdowns went up as well. There’s work to be done but Allen deserves credit for taking some steps last season.
The Jets gave up over 18 DK points per game to the position last year and now we’re going to get to see Allen with what is a true number one receiver in my mind. The real question here is will Allen be worth the QB6 salary given who’s around him? Ryan, Brees, Russ and Brady are all within $500 of his salary. The Bills are big favorites and were 21st in passing attempts last year. I think Allen is safe, and he could actually match the ceiling of these other players in his range this week.
RB – This is another backfield that I’m likely steering far clear of in Week 1. I like Devin Singletary a lot but I’m not exactly sure the Bills have that same level of love for him. They drafted Zach Moss and the reports are Moss could siphon some goal-line touches, which is bad news for really all involved.
If Singletary turns into a back that gets most of his work between the 20’s and then have little TD upside, there’s not a lot of reason to play him. If Moss touches the ball 8-10 times and has to score to be worthwhile, that’s tough to get on board with. The Jets somewhat surprisingly only gave up the third-fewest rushing yards in 2019. I don’t expect that to be the case again as the defense is just flat-out bad and the Bills finished with the sixth-most rush attempts and should continue that this year. My fear is the touchdowns are split between Singletary, Moss and Allen.
WR – The Bills paid a pretty penny to pry Stefon Diggs out of Minnesota and I would have to assume that Buffalo will look to get this chemistry cooking right out of the gate. The three receivers the Bills have are actually pretty solid altogether and in 2019 John Brown and Cole Beasley combined for 49.5% of the targets last year. This is the first time we’ve seen Allen with an alpha in the passing game.
I would be surprised if Diggs doesn’t approach at least 25% of the target share this season. The Jets got abused last year by receivers and were a bottom 10 team to the position. That’s not going to get better with Jamal Adams in Seattle. Diggs could explode but Brown is a really great GPP target. Allen finished sixth in intended air yards per passing attempt last year, suggesting both receivers could pop off. A couple deep connections could rack up the points in a hurry this week.
TE – There’s some buzz around Dawson Knox, who was solid as a rookie. With tight end being notorious as one of the hardest positions to adapt to as a pro, he is quite interesting. My hesitation is the fantasy production didn’t exactly follow what he showed on field. Playing a little over 60% of the snaps is impressive but he only saw 11.7% of the targets. I’m not sure the arrival of Diggs helps, and I do prefer other options this week. It’s more of a name to keep an eye on and how he fits in the offense.
D/ST – If you pay up you may as well go top-shelf. The Bills were second in points allowed, got pressure over 23% of snaps, sacked the QB 41 times and was tied for sixth in takeaways per game. The Jets were 23rd in giveaways per game and were 29th in sack percentage at 9.08%. This is a really great spot for the Bills to pay off if you’re inclined to use them.
Cash – Allen, Diggs, D/ST
GPP – Brown
QB – To me, Derek Carr has always been the definition of just a guy. He finished as the QB17 but just the QB28 on a points per game basis, behind such luminaries as Kyle Allen and Andy Dalton. In some fairness, the Raiders only finished 22nd in pass attempts per game and Carr was over 70% in completion rate. He also ranked 30th in intended air yards per pass, so it’s not like he was taking shots all over the field with that completion percentage.
The Panthers are in complete rebuild mode and spent their entire draft on defensive players, so the middle of the road rank vs QB’s in 2019 doesn’t hold much weight. If you’re playing Carr, you’re banking on more passing volume and better weapons around him. That isn’t what I’m putting my money on in Week 1 with a pair of rookie receivers and playing three receivers sets just 54% of the time in 2019.
RB – Having said the Panthers are in rebuild mode, it’s hard to ignore the “on paper” matchup for Josh Jacobs. He finished 13th in carries last year on just 13 games and every back ahead of him played more. The Panthers were the only team to surrender over 2,000 rushing yards last year and opposing backs found the end zone a massive 27 times. Even with some positive regression baked in….yikes!
Not only did the Raiders finish 11th in rush attempts per game, Jacobs himself finished eighth in red zone carries. The jury might be out on his reception floor (only 20 last season and what should be improved weapons around him), but he should log at least 20 carries and have pretty high chances at a touchdown or more.
WR – This is where things get a bit tougher to project. What we know is Tyrell Williams is on the IR, opening up 14.6% of the targets last year. He was the only Raider with an aDOT over 10 yards last year, so that’s an important role that needs filled. Is that something that falls to rookie Henry Ruggs and his speed? Perhaps that’s how they break him into the NFL in Week 1.
Where does that leave fellow rookie Bryan Edwards? Is there a huge role with Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller? He’s been seeing first team reps but that’s not a true indication of how many targets we could bank on. My preference would be to stick with Renfrow and Carr’s dink and dunk approach. He had a 7 aDOT last season and should be in line for right around 14% of the targets like last year. Ruggs is worth a shot in case he burns someone and takes it for a long score. Carolina doesn’t have a secondary that scares me at all.
TE – The likeliest best play for the Raiders passing game is Waller, but it’s difficult to click his name when Andrews from the Ravens is $100 more and Ertz is $100 less. That makes him a super interesting GPP target however, since he carried the Raiders passing game last year with 25% of the targets and finishing third among tight ends for targets.
Waller did only get 11 targets in the red zone which isn’t the highest. My fears with Waller are how the targets are distributed now. Last year there was simply a lack of options around him. That’s not a knock on him, but Las Vegas spent draft capital and focused on improving the passing game. Ertz and Andrews don’t have those same concerns, especially this week.
D/ST – I generally have little interest in playing a defense when the O/U is this high. Las Vegas had a pressure rate under 20% last season, only sacked the QB 32 times and finished tied for last in turnovers per game. That’s a pretty tough sell, considering the circumstances.
Cash – Jacobs with a bullet point
GPP – Carr, Waller, Ruggs, Renfrow
QB – I’m trying to be cautious with QB’s in new situations, and that does apply to Teddy Bridgewater. Having said that, his price is really solid and he has some serious weapons around him. He did have a 9:2 TD:INT ratio in his time as the Saints starter last year but now he’s had a full offseason as the starter and that’s a very different environment. If Kyle Allen was able to put up points in this offense last year, I have to believe Bridgewater is capable as well.
Teddy B was on target on 81% of his throws, which would have been third in the NFL had he qualified. The Raiders gave up 33 passing touchdowns, which was the sixth-most in football. Everything is set up for Bridgewater to have a big game, especially if Las Vegas continues to not get pressure on the QB.
RB – I hope we don’t need to spend a lot of time on Christian McCaffrey here. He racked up 2,391 total yards last year and scored 19 times. He can do it all and finished 11th in the league in targets. He also earned 54 rushing red zone attempts which was second-most and 14 red zone targets. There’s no matchup that scares me and your only decision is if you like enough value to play him at $10,000 on DK.
*Update* With Gibson being chalky, I think CMC might well follow. You can build a lineup with Gibson and CMC and spend $14,000. That leaves you with $5,142 for the rest of the lineup with is plenty to play around with, especially if Hurst is chalk at TE.
WR – The Raiders finished last year giving up the 10th most receiving yards to receivers and it’s not hard to love D.J. Moore this week. He actually pulled just two fewer targets than CMC last year and finished as a top 15 receiver in PPR. Only one receiver ahead of him scored fewer times than his four touchdowns and he only had 12 red zone targets all year. Moore is an explosive player and almost had 400 yards just in YAC. A “Moore” accurate QB is going to do wonders for him. I may not be a dad, but I have the jokes on lockdown.
I wish I had an answer as to who the number two option is. Both Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel will be in the running, but I do wonder how sustainable they’ll be with CMC and Moore at the top of the food chain. The camp reports certainly favor Anderson as Samuel has reportedly been very quiet in camp. I would take a shot on Anderson, but that’s about as far as I go until we see this offense for real.
TE – Ian Thomas is going to be interesting if he’s healthy. He’s been fighting a toe injury that Carolina says isn’t serious but he needs to practice this week. It’s a great matchup based on last year as Vegas gave up the third-most scores to tight ends but it’s going to likely be TD or bust in this offense for Thomas most weeks. That’s fine at his salary if he’s active.
D/ST – Carolina was able to get pressure in the QB consistently last year, finishing eighth in pressures. The finished with just one fewer sack than the league leader as well on just a 26.9% blitz rate. Now the defense is vastly different than last year so this shouldn’t be taken as gold, and I prefer cheaper options. It’s more of an interesting note.
Cash – CMC, Moore
GPP – Bridgewater, Anderson, maybe Thomas
QB – For the first time in a long time, Philip Rivers is not under center. Tyrod Taylor is the seat warmer until rookie Justin Herbert is ready to play but I’m not sure how much I want to play TyGod this week. He hasn’t started a game since 2018 and he’s never been a player with an enormous amount of upside. Having said that, the Bengals were a sieve defense last year including QB.
Here’s the stat I don’t know what to make off. The Bengals led the league in rushing yards allowed to the QB. However, what catches my eye is the Browns are second. They both face Lamar Jackson twice a year. The Browns allowed 169 yards to Jackson and the Bengals allowed 217. If you subtract both totals from the team, Cincy would be 10th and Cleveland would be tied for 14th. My take is Jackson exacerbates things but both defenses still had issues. That’s something Tyrod could exploit and rushing yards are a cheat code. We just don’t know if that’s a focal point of the Chargers offense.
RB – At his price, I’m not super likely to play Austin Ekeler this week. I’m a believer, but the price is too high for my taste. I’d rather play Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Jacobs at their prices. The Bengals surprisingly only allowed the ninth-fewest receptions to the backs and we don’t know if Ekeler is going to see 18.5% of the team’s target again. Ekeler was 27th in broken tackles on rush attempts last year, which is not exactly special.
His YAC was incredible at 940 yards, second-most in the league. That seems difficult to repeat, although he ranked first on broken tackles on receptions with 15. It’s not surprising he’s more slippery in the open field. The sleeper is rookie Josh Kelly. Regardless of your feelings on Ekeler, he’s still going to split touches to some extent. Last year Melvin Gordon had 40% of the snaps and 30 red zone rush attempts. Ekeler had 16 so Kelly could carry some sneaky upside at a very cheap price since the Bengals allowed the fifth-most rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground.
WR – I watch a good bit of football and have played fantasy for a long time now. With Mike Williams out though the first couple weeks, I’m not sure I could name another Chargers receiver past Keenan Allen. He led the team in targets and finished seventh overall in the NFL. He’s going to see a ton of targets funneled his way and the Bengals have Vikings cast-offs as part of their secondary. The volume should be immense this week and he should see double-digit looks.
*Update* Williams may in fact be active here, which would put him in GPP discussion. He did individual drills Wednesday so that’s a positive step.
TE – Hunter Henry should also see a good dose of targets this week but much like Waller, it’s about opportunity cost here. Henry managed 13.7% of the targets last year despite playing 12 games, so we know he’ll be a main cog. The trio of Henry, Allen and Ekeler is going to carry the majority of this passing game. The Bengals weren’t overly poor to the position last year. The scary part is the Chargers could see a scale back in passing attempts from the 10th most last year with Rivers in Indy.
D/ST – I think this Bengals offense is quietly pretty loaded, but it’s tough to ignore it’s the first time Joe Burrow has stepped onto an NFL field. The issues are the Chargers got very little pressure on QB’s last season, sixth-least in football. That had a lot to do with injuries but they’re not off to a good start in that department either, with safety Derwin James out for likely the year. I believe we have better options and you only play them if you think Burrow is awful in his first game.
Cash – Allen, Tyrod
GPP – Kelly, Ekeler, Henry
QB – Burrow himself is an interesting candidate. He’s under $6,000 and working with great weapons. The rookie out of LSU is coming off one of the greatest seasons in college history and could be a fantasy asset right out of the gate. The obvious fear here is we have literally nothing to go of off. He’s a blank slate on the NFL stage. The Chargers still boast one heck of a corner trio in Desmond King, Casey Heyward and Chris Harris. They could definitely force some mistakes on their own and Burrow is just an MME option to me. I still wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Burrow comes out guns blazing.
RB – Fresh off an extension and having vanquished mysterious “migraines”, Joe Mixon is really a great option here. The Chargers finished as a bottom 10 team to the backs last season and gave up a combined 18 scores rushing and receiving. Mixon was top 10 in yards after contact and broken tackles, so he knows how to create yards for himself. Mixon was sixth in rushing attempts but just 29th in receptions but gets an upgrade at QB. Being eighth in red zone carries isn’t going to hurt either and there’s very little to pick at with Mixon this week.
WR – Based on salary, I’d want A.J. Green first and foremost. Tyler Boyd has a chemistry with Burrow if camp reports are to be believed, and that’s great to hear. However, if Green is really healthy he’s underpriced at not even $6,000. He missed all of last year but he’s been a top-flight receiver when he’s on the field. Rookie Tee Higgins is solidly third in the pecking order and not really in play for me.
I’m not going overboard on any of these receivers with the corners they have to face though. I believe that’s the toughest part of the test for Burrow. They could easily lean on Mixon and the running game, not taking many chances. Bengals receivers are MME only to me.
TE – You can make a stronger case for C.J. Uzomah now that James is out and the corners are a strength of the defense, but it’s still not a strong argument. He had a 5.7% target share last year so you need a touchdown. Uzomah didn’t cross 10% of the targets in the red zone and now Green and Higgins are in the mix.
D/ST – I have no real interest here because one thing Tyrod has always been good at is protecting the ball. The Bengals only sacked the QB 31 times on a 32.5% blitz rate although they did pressure 22.9% of the time. That could wind up flushing Tyrod from the pocket and biting them anyways.
Cash – Mixon
GPP – Burrow, Green, Boyd
QB – We can safely say if your lineup doesn’t have something from this game, there’s a pretty good chance that your lineup will fall down the board. This should be one of the chalkiest games on the slate and it’s not hard to see why. For the first time in his career, Tom Brady is not in New England. Tampa Bay finished last year as the fourth-highest passes per game offense and I doubt much changes.
I don’t even want to compare what Brady did last year. The weapons are so drastically different, it’s not worth it. I know that Jameis Winston was the QB2 last year with 30 interceptions. Brady has a ceiling in this spot, though I prefer the QB on the other side of this game.
RB – This is a situation to avoid in a pretty significant manner. The Bucs made an effort to sign Leonard Fournette, despite Coach Bruce Arians professing that Ronald Jones is their guy. There’s not a single reason to believe that, but as of now DK has not placed Fournette on Tampa Bay’s roster. The mix of Fournette, Jones and likely LeSean McCoy as a passing downs back is not fantasy friendly in the least.
The Saints were also a top-six defense to the position and allowed the second-fewest rushing yards. I will likely have no exposure to this portion of the game unless Fournette transfers, and even then he likely needs multiple scores to pay off.
*Update* Fournette is on Tampa for DK now but my thoughts still stand.
WR – Now we’re in business. The Saints bled production through the air and were a bottom-five defense to the position. Historically, Mike Evans has had some issues against Saints corner Marshon Lattimore. The corner is entering his fourth year and in the six games Evans has played since then he’s scored 10.9, 0, 12.6, 30.7, 12.5 and 2.3 DK points. That is really tough and it’s pretty easy to go heavier on Chris Godwin.
Yes, Godwin is $200 more expensive but he scored 13.7 and 34.5 DK last season. With an improvement at QB and still carrying a 20% target share, I prefer Godwin in this game as far as receivers go.
*Update* Evans missed the past couple of days of practice with a hammy issue. Now, I don’t trust Bruce Arians in the least but he’s saying Evans could be a GTD on Sunday. That’s definitely not encouraging, especially in Week 1. If he’s out, Godwin might become a higher cash priority and we could use Scotty Miller in GPP.
*Update Two* Evans is doubtful and I’m fine if you use Godwin in cash. When it comes down to Godwin or