Week 1 is always unique because of the time between salary release and lock. This year, a full six weeks will pass before we are forced to make final decisions on our rosters. That creates a ton of unusual situations stemming from injuries, holdouts and fluid depth charts.
I don’t recommend anyone wasting their time building lineups now — too much will change. However, I do think wrapping our heads around the pricing structure and being aware of the soft spots is extremely worthwhile. As news breaks and perception changes through August, we’ll be thinking about it through the lens of DraftKings salaries.
So, here are six things that stood out to me when going over the Week 1 salaries.
1. The Cardinals hype is not reflected in salary
The fantasy community is enamored with the Cardinals. That’s what happens when we combine Kliff Kingsbury’s high-pace Air Raid offense, an expected reliance on shotgun/no-huddle, Kyler Murray’s dual-threat skill set and exciting skill players in David Johnson/Christian Kirk/Andy Isabella.
However, the pricing for a Week 1 home game against the Lions reflects an offense only marginally better than the one that ranked dead last in yards per play and 31st in plays per game last season. Murray is the 14th-most expensive quarterback on the 24-QB main slate, Johnson is a whopping $1,500 cheaper than Ezekiel Elliott, and Kirk ($4700) and Isabella ($3400) are cheap as well.
2. No bargains on holdout backups
We’re not sure yet how the Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott holdout situations will go. We do know the salaries are structured in the right way. If Austin Ekeler and Tony Pollard start, they are priced at a reasonable $5,500 and $4,500, respectively. If Gordon and Zeke suit up, those guys would be out of play for the most part anyway. Note that Alfred Morris, who just signed with the Cowboys, will be added to the player pool Sept. 2 if he’s still on the team. The salaries also protect against known injuries — for example Darrell Henderson is up at $4,800 as someone who should share time with Malcolm Brown if Todd Gurley sits.
3. No adjustment for Falcons’ defense
Last season, the Falcons were 27th in yards per play allowed, 27th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 28th in total yards allowed per game. However, the salaries of their Week 1 opponent (Vikings) have not been adjusted. Dalvin Cook ($6,000), Adam Thielen ($6,800), Stefon Diggs ($6,700) and Kirk Cousins ($5,500) are strikingly cheap for a home game against the Falcons — even if their defensive unit is improved via a return to health of key pieces.
4. Big adjustment for 49ers’ defense
On the other side of the coin, the salaries of the Buccaneers have indeed been adjusted for their Week 1 home game against the 49ers. Jameis Winston has a season-long ADP of QB11 but he is the third-most expensive quarterback on the main slate at $6,600. Only Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck cost more. Mike Evans ($7,900) is the third-most expensive wideout, Chris Godwin ($6,200) is priced right near proven studs like TY Hilton ($6,600), and OJ Howard ($5,000) is more than Evan Engram ($4,800). I’ve talked extensively on the DFS Edge podcast and in articles about why the Bucs’ offense excites me this season, but we’re not getting any bargains here.
5. Paying up at tight end will cost you
A key to winning in season-long last year (and also on DraftKings) was being on Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and/or George Kittle. Ertz broke the single-season receptions record for a tight end with 116, Kittle broke the yardage record with 1,377 and Kelce erupted for a 103-1,336-10 line. Were those seasons outliers? We’ll have to pay right out of the gate to find out. Remember that last year, Week 1 prices were Kelce $6,400 and Kittle $3,300 (Ertz wasn’t on the main slate). The most expensive tight end was Rob Gronkowski at $6,900, followed by Kelce and then down to Greg Olsen at $5,400. This year, Kelce is $7,100, Kittle is $6,600 and Ertz is $6,100. Meanwhile, the bottom range of tight end pricing remains extremely cheap with guys like Evan Engram ($4,800), Hunter Henry ($3,900) and David Njoku ($3,700) providing salary-relief options.
6. Quarterback pricing remains clustered
There was a time long ago when the top quarterbacks on DraftKings were around $8,000 and the serviceable options were all the way down around $5,000. If trying to make an optimal roster, that pricing created a no-brainer decision to take the value. Out of all the positions, quarterback outcomes are easiest to project and are have the smallest range. But those days are gone, as we can see in the Week 1 pricing. There are 12 quarterbacks priced between $6,700 and $5,700, from Andrew Luck down to Carson Wentz. The goal at the position won’t be to be extremely price sensitive, it will be to identify the quarterbacks with the highest floor/ceiling combo.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.