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Week 1 NFL DFS TE and DST Picks

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It’s finally Week 1 of the NFL and I’m looking at what can sometimes be the last two pieces you plug into your NFL DFS lineups – tight ends (TEs) and defenses (DSTs). There’s plenty to discuss, so let’s dive right in!

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Week 1 Tight End NFL DFS Cash Game Plays 

Zach Ertz, PHI vs. WAS

FD ($7,100)         DK ($6,100) 

Ertz caught the second-most passes of any player last year (116) and saw 156 targets. He’s in a great Week 1 matchup and is a consensus top 3 TE in every possible format. There may be ample reasons to enumerate the many attributes of some of the remaining TEs in this rundown, but I shouldn’t cloud your mind with too many competing thoughts in my cash game recommendations. Ertz is top dog this week in cash.

Evan Engram, NYG at DAL

FD ($6,400)         DK ($4,800) 

Engram is the best receiver available on the Giants and they are going to inundate him with targets against the Cowboys are just middle-of-the-road when it comes to defending opposing TEs. The third-year TE had a TD in each of his games vs. Dallas in 2018 and offers a little more safety than Travis Kelce and O.J. Howard, with just a tad less upside.

Week 1 Tight End NFL DFS GPP Plays

Travis Kelce, KC at JAX

FD (7,800)         DK ($7,100) 

The tough matchup will keep a chunk of the field away and that’s what we want for a guy with this much upside – especially in a game with a 51.5 total. I’ll tolerate some risk at my TE spot because there’s a shot to play both – and I’ll have a lot of exposure to a Kelce-Ertz combo on both sites, since they could both score three TDs and make incredible value just under the price point of stud RBs.

George Kittle, SF at TB

FD ($7,300)         DK ($6,600) 

Traditional ownership in GPPs dictates that the better value with the lower risk gets taken, so Kittle makes perfect sense as a GPP pivot from Ertz, who’s cheaper on both sites. Kittle is a one-man offensive powerhouse who can take over a game with 200 yards and score 2-3 TDs, so he’s a fine GPP play in Week 1 facing the relatively weak Bucs defensive unit.

Hunter Henry, LAC vs. IND

FD ($6,100)          DK (3,900)

There’s just a ton of upside to Henry’s 2019 season, and it all starts in Week 1 facing the Colts. He’s blessed with a capable, adventurous QB in Philip Rivers (who has a history of torrid love affairs with his TEs), caught eight TDs as a rookie in 2016 (the fourth-highest mark for a rookie tight end in NFL history) spent a year in an expanded role while out-targeting Antonio Gates, and then missed the entire 2018 regular season with a torn ACL. Low projected ownership and a prime matchup make him a solid GPP play this week.

Week 1 Tight End NFL DFS Punt Plays 

Mark Andrews, BAL at MIA

FD ($5,400)         DK ($3,000) 

Andrews emerged as a viable TE option in 2018 and promises to once again be a useful safety valve for Lamar Jackson. There’s not an overwhelming sense of limitless upside with Andrews from a season-long perspective (and I think most folks who drafted him would be happy with Top 10 numbers), but the Dolphins LBs are an inexperienced unit at risk of giving up huge numbers to opposing TEs. Andrews is a cost-effective way to fit in a bunch of solid RBs and WRs, though you’ll be assuming a considerable amount of risk not looking to the obvious top TEs.

Delanie Walker, TEN at CLE

FD ($5,400)         DK ($3,500) 

Walker makes for an interesting GPP play at just $5,400 on FD, and he qualifies as a punt for his low salary on DK. Walker probably has a little more upside than Andrews but the three-time Pro Bowler makes plenty of sense as a lower-risk option heading into a Week 1 contest that might be a little more lopsided than expected and have the Titans playing from behind. Walker played just one game in 2018 (dislocated ankle) and will look to rebound with a big Week 1, and Jonnu Smith isn’t much of a threat  to his targets.

Additional GPP/Punt options:

Will Dissly, SEA vs CIN (FD $4,000, DK $2,900)

Tyler Eifert, CIN at SEA (DK $3,100)

Darren Waller, OAK vs. DEN (FD $4,800, DK $3,000)

Week 1 NFL DFS DST Cash Game Plays 

Baltimore Ravens (BAL at MIA)

FD ($5,400)         DK ($3,800) 

The Ravens lost some defensive starters in LB C.J. Mosley and DL Willie Henry, and there’s been some question as to the effectiveness of their pass rush, but they remain a perennial powerhouse and there’s no easier team to pick on in cash games than the Dolphins. Since Miami is a team in turmoil, Baltimore is the consensus top defense in the weekly rankings and there’s plenty of value to be found throughout the rest of the roster, so it’s no problem looking at the Ravens this week, even as the highest-priced DST on both sites.

Philadelphia Eagles (PHI vs. WAS)

FD ($4,600)         DK ($3,600) 

There’s plenty of appeal to both the Ravens and this Eagles unit in GPPs, since there’s plenty of opportunity to differentiate our lineups elsewhere. But the goal of cash games is to limit risk and maximize cost – and there’s just not a lot of difference cost-wise between the top and bottom defenses. Philly is still running the Jim Schwartz system of constant pressure and this group is a fine blend of experience and youth. They are deep, they are talented, and they are home in Week 1 to face the paltry Redskins. Don’t overthink it.

Week 1 DST GPP Plays

Los Angeles Rams (LAR at CAR)

FD ($4,400)         DK ($3,200) 

There’s a considerable drop after the top couple ranked DSTs this week, so they’ll be my only cash game recommendations, but the Rams are a formidable unit facing a much more potent offense. Whether Carolina’s Cam Newton is 100 percent is the main factor in the Rams making most of my GPP builds, and if I’ll look to some of the following options as a pivot. With that said, the Rams are a consensus Top 12 defense this week and the team’s offensive prowess sometimes forces opponents into silly mistakes (30 takeaways last season). This is where you can capitalize in GPPs. They offer relatively low ownership because of the higher price, but they’re still a few bucks cheaper than the elite DSTs, so they make sense as last-piece fit.

Seattle Seahawks (SEA vs. CIN)

FD ($4,500)         DK ($3,100) 

Plenty of question marks surround the newer pieces (Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney) in the Seahawks front seven and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is out the door – so DFS players could look at this unit with some trepidation and steer clear in Week 1. But the Bengals are a team without its star WR for the first few games and I know that Scott Engel would be annoyed if I didn’t acknowledge his squad’s upside in this cushy spot and just how good these linebackers and lineman can be in 2019.

Cleveland Browns (CLE vs. TEN)

FD ($4,200)         DK ($3,100) 

The Browns are a couple years removed from being a laughingstock, and this play might not be all that contrarian with the DST’s cost down. But Cleveland had 31 takeaways last season (17 INTs and 14 FRs) and should be an improved unit in 2019. The Titans aren’t too much of a threat to score 25+ points and a Nick Chubb/Browns DST game script could be a decent starting point in GPP builds.

New York Jets (NYJ vs. BUF)

FD ($4,200)         DK ($3,100) 

The Bills and Jets defenses both feel a lot like the same amount of risk and upside, so this should be a fun Week 1 contest to watch. It’ll be even more fun if you click the Jets into your DFS lineups and they force a bunch of turnovers from Josh Allen and the dubious Bills offense. The Jets unit is a risk, because they’re susceptible to the big play, but the flip side is the positive variance they offer. I’ve seen them as high as second on some Week 1 rankings and as low as 30th – the definition of a GPP option.

Week 1 DST Punt Plays 

Los Angeles Chargers (LAC vs. IND)

FD ($4,000)         DK ($3,000) 

The Chargers are cheap, they get to the opposing QB, and they have plenty of upside facing a Colts team without Andrew Luck. I’m comfortable going here in Week 1 for this affordable cost.

San Francisco 49ers (SF at TB)

FD ($3,700)         DK ($2,200) 

The 49ers are loaded with talented defensive lineman but have a weak LB corps, and they don’t stand out as particularly safe facing the Bucs in Tampa Bay. But if you’ve got to make it work with just a few bucks left in salary cap, they make plenty of sense. The biggest area of concern for the 49ers this season is +/ in turnovers, where they ranked last in the league at -25 in 2018. The addition of Nick Bosa, however, promises to change some of that and Week 1 is a fine place to take advantage of the cost savings this improving unit offers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TB vs. SF)

FD ($3,500)         DK ($2,200) 

The Bucs were second-to-last in turnover differential last season and offer a similar risk-reward scenario in Week 1 facing the 49ers. I could see easily see pick-sixes for both teams and a 20-17 final score, which would be an acceptable outcome given the variance at DST and our aim at providing a modicum of upside without overwhelming risk.

Zach Ertz featured image via Jason Peters.

I'm a writer from upstate NY in a cool little Hudson River town called Coxsackie. Too many interests to list, but the films of David Lynch, the books of Kurt Vonnegut, the music of Jack White and the maddening sport of golf are near the top of my list. Big into DFS, specializing in baseball, football, golf and hoops. I've written for FFToday.com, RotoExperts and Baseball America, to name a few.

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