Now that the first game of the year is finally out of the way (that was a snoozer), we can turn our focus to the first Sunday of the 2018 daily fantasy football season.
It’s an exciting time of year and it’s also a very volatile setting. The NFL in general can be very difficult to gauge, but the one thing I love about it is, unlike baseball, your top studs almost never burn you. They might not always be the top performers and they might have bad games, but you don’t get a 0 when you roster high-priced NFL DFS options.
Well, unless they get hurt, of course.
Regardless, I’ve been looking over the week one salaries and matchups for over a month now and I’ve settled on my favorite lineup.
I am certainly paying for some elite studs and I have a few NFL DFS sleepers I think can help piece together an awesome lineup. Let’s take a look at my week one daily fantasy football picks as I try to take down the Sunday Million at FanDuel:
QB: Tom Brady – New England Patriots ($8.6k)
The goal here is an optimal lineup and I’m not sure you can get there without a great quarterback play. Drew Brees is the top-rated guy for week one by a lot of people, but based on who he was in 2017, I’m not sure I agree.
That could be Brady, who will be at home against a Texans defense he absolutely sliced up last year. That, and the Texans ranked just 31st against fantasy passers a year ago. Brady doesn’t have Brandin Cooks or Julian Edelman, but he still has Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan and a solid stable of running backs.
I think Brady lives up to his gaudy price tag in this one and probably ends up being the top passer on the main slate. Because of that, I need to have him.
Want to save some cash? Consider Andy Dalton against the Colts. I don’t see the same upside with him, but he’s cheap and Indy’s secondary has a slew of no-name talent starting in week one.
RB: Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints ($8.7k)
If you want to pivot off of Brady to Brees, that’s fine. I don’t hate the play, it’s just not my personal preference. I do love Kamara, though. Mark Ingram is suspended and the Saints already got so much out of this guy in his rookie year. They’re about to get a lot more.
New Orleans suggests his role won’t grow, but how can it not? Kamara is insanely versatile, explosive and best of all, highly efficient. It only helps that he is facing a Buccaneers defense that gave up the 2nd most fantasy points to running backs in 2017.
That, and he dropped 27 and 28 fantasy point performances on Tampa last season. I am anticipating more of the same.
RB: David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals ($8.6k)
I’d been extremely high on DJ going into season long fantasy football drafts and I absolutely love him for week one. This was the top fantasy back in 2016 and he had last year cut short due to a fluke wrist injury. He’s back with some ambitious goals and pretty much is the Arizona offense when he’s healthy.
Johnson is also seeking a long-term deal, so you better believe he’s out to make up for lost time – and make some money. He gets a nice home date with the Redskins, who happened to rank dead last against running backs in 2017.
WR: Chris Hogan – New England Patriots ($6.7k)
The activiation of former practice squad receiver Riley McCarron is somewhat annoying, as that could give Tom Brady an extra target and take him off of Hogan a bit. History suggests it won’t matter, as Hogan has been a monster for New England whenever he’s healthy and starting.
Hogan is a terrific price for a guy who could be fed early and often, while he did happen to torch the Texans for two scores in 2017.
I love Brady and I surely will want to grab a receiver or two to stack with him. You can also consider McCarron, Cordarrelle Patterson and/or Phillip Dorsett, but I only have eyes for Hogan.
WR: Keelan Cole – Jacksonville Jaguars ($4.5k)
Cole is going to be popular if a lot of NFL DFS gamers go my route and just stack some of the best available talent. He should be, too, as Marqise Lee getting hurt opened up a lot of targets in Jacksonville’s passing game. The Jaguars will still prefer to run the ball, but they’ll be on the road against a better than advertised Giants defense.
New York ended 2017 ranked just 25th against fantasy wide receivers, so I’m not overly worried here either way. The reality is Cole proved last year he can be effective and the matchup (and perhaps game flow) could greatly benefit him. I don’t expect the world here, but Cole is a real threat for 10-15 fantasy points if all goes well.
WR: Taywan Taylor – Tennessee Titans ($4.5k)
Cole could be popular, but I’m not so sure Taylor will be. He looked terrific in the preseason, but the Titans have a pretty fluid situation at wide receiver. Still, Rishard Matthews could be limited to start the year and that could give way to Taylor seeing a bigger role.
Miami isn’t an amazing matchup for wide receivers by the numbers, but Taylor should operate out of the slot as a third option. That should have him go a little more unnoticed and could allow him to pop off as a contrarian play.
TE: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots ($7.9k)
I’ll complete my Pats stack with The Gronk. He’s had a lot of off the field noise with retirement talk, trade rumors and an altered contract, but he remains the best tight end in the business. Houston is strong up front, but they truly don’t have a single cover man that can effectively stifle Gronkowski.
Whether he’s ripping off chunk gains over the middle of the field or terrorizing Houston in the red-zone, I see Gronk as worth his hefty price tag this week. Not interested in paying a premium for Gronkowski’s services? Consider Benjamin Watson ($4.9k) as a nice punt.
FLEX: Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers ($7.5k)
FanDuel is not a big PPR site, so what I’m looking for in the Flex spot is a ton of touches and a chance to score. McCaffrey looked great during preseason play and should have the role and upside to get you everything you need in week one. He’s actually coming in at an arguable discount when you factor in just how involved he is in the offense.
McCaffrey looks like a fine play against any matchup, but he’s at home against a Cowboys defense that gave up the 3rd most receptions to running backs last year, as well as 3rd most receiving yards. Considering his role in the passing game and added touches as a runner, McCaffrey feels like one of the easiest (albeit possibly one of the chalkiest) NFL DFS picks for the first week of the year.
DEF: Cleveland Browns ($3k)
The Baltimore Ravens are at home against Nathan Peterman and the Buffalo Bills. They’re my favorite defense, but they’re also the most expensive. Following closely behind them are the Jaguars and Saints. Again, great options, but far from cheap.
The roster I want is going to force me to make a tough call and if there’s one spot I don’t mind taking on some risk, it’s defense. This is simply an incredibly volatile position and all it takes is a few sacks and one return for a touchdown to see a risky play work out.
The Browns are looking to prove right away that they aren’t the same team that went 0-16 last year. Win or lose, I think they can sack Ben Roethlisberger a few times, force a turnover or two and contain the Steelers a lot better than some probably think.
Cleveland isn’t proven yet, but they greatly enhanced their roster and look a lot better defensively. Big Ben is also notoriously bad on the road, while it’s still possible stud running back Le’Veon Bell won’t play. Even if he does, he could be rusty and/or limited.
This all plays into Cleveland’s hands as the home squad, so at the bare minimum I will gladly roll the dice here.
I’d agree that much of my week one daily fantasy football lineup is rather chalky. It’s not cheap, though, so I’m hoping I’m wrong about that and my studs go nuts.
What this does is it forces me to take some deep dives and that’s where I should be able to differentiate from the rest of the field. For one, they won’t be paying up for every single stud I am here. Secondly, they won’t be using the same punt plays, either.
It’s hard to look at this squad and not be optimistic. Most would agree that – whether they plan on paying for them or not – Brady, Gronk, DJ, Kamara and McCaffrey should be strong performers this week. Hogan, Cleveland, Cole and Taylor need to also pan out, but if they do, this could be a very special roster.
Hopefully I help you in some manner. Either play this lineup as it stands or pick and choose your spots. Either way, I wish you luck in week one at FanDuel!