Now that Week 1 salaries are out, my mind only sees news and stats through that framework. Oh Melvin Gordon might not play Week 1, what’s Austin Ekeler’s salary? (Answer: $5,500) Jakobi Meyers has a chance to start for the Patriots? How much does he cost?
While I don’t think building lineups is an effective use of our time so far from lock, I do think paying close attention to news, depth charts, injuries and holdouts while simultaneously processing Week 1 salaries is extremely valuable. Here are some important questions to ask ourselves for the Week 1 main slate.
1. Will Leonard Fournette ($6,100) have a three-down role against the Chiefs?
The wheels completely came off Fournette last year, his second NFL season. Injuries, immaturity and a sunk Jags season led to just eight games played with a pathetic 3.30 YPC. But there’s a ton of optimism around Fournette this year in full-PPR formats for a few reasons.
First, pass-down back TJ Yeldon is gone, leaving only early-down grinders Alfred Blue and Ryquell Armstead as backups. Second, new OC John DiFilippo notoriously builds offense through his running back — and specifically loves to highlight his running back in the pass game. And finally, Fournette is sneaky strong as a pass-catcher. He averaged 3.7 receptions per game as a rookie, is at a strong 8.4 yards per reception in his career and was being used as a pass-down player last preseason. Given the home spot against the Chiefs in Week 1 at just $6,100, a true three-down role with goal-line work would be exciting. At a whopping 52 points, the KC/JAX has the highest total of the main slate — and the Jags are only 3.5-point dogs.
2. Will Dante Pettis ($5,400) win an every-down role?
When I first glanced at the salaries, I thought Pettis at just $5,400 against the Bucs was one of the better wide receiver values on the slate. But over the past week, negative vibes have engulfed the second-year man. Pettis reportedly has struggled at camp to the point he’s now in a fight for his starting job. Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd all are putting the heat on. It’s at least possible Pettis will be a rotational player in Week 1 if he doesn’t separate from the pack over the next few weeks. That would make him difficult to roster and send more ownership toward George Kittle ($6,600).
3. Will Zeke show up and is Tony Pollard ($4,500) his true backup?
DraftKings priced Austin Ekeler up a bit at $5,500 just in case Melvin Gordon doesn’t report. But it left Pollard at $4,500, likely because it wasn’t exactly clear at the time who is Ezekiel Elliott’s direct backup. But over the past couple weeks, it’s become clear the fourth-round rookie would be the starter at home against the Giants if Zeke sits out. That’s exciting as Pollard has drawn loose comps to Alvin Kamara for his pass-catching ability and explosiveness. He played some slot receiver at Memphis and blazed a 4.42 at his Pro Day. He’d be hard to pass on with a floor of 15 touches at just $4,500 in this spot.
4. Is Chris Carson ($5,700) the unquestioned feature back?
We could make a case that the best RB spot in Week 1 belongs to the Seahawks. They’ll welcome the Bengals to CenturyLink Field, where they’ve gone 17-7 over the past three years. The Bengals already have lost AJ Green plus two offensive linemen — ballooning the line from -8 to -10. Cincinnati had the No. 26 DVOA rush defense last season, and there’s little reason to think it will be better there this year. On top of all that, buzz out of Seahawks camp is a priority to throw a bit more to Carson, who Pete Carroll claims has “the best hands on the team.”
Note that in the first preseason game, Carson rested along with most of the starters. Meanwhile, Rashaad Penny was asked to play 20 snaps along with the backups. It’s a surefire sign Penny is not putting much pressure on the clear-cut starter Carson. If we can project Carson for 80% of the RB touches against the Bengals, $5,700 is going to be a steal.
5. How much of the market share can Miles Sanders ($3,900) earn?
Sanders is widely expected to enter Week 1 as part of a three-man committee that also will feature Jordan Howard on early downs and Darren Sproles on pass downs. That’s by far the likeliest outcome, but there are different degrees of committees. If Sanders can earn 60% of the early-down work and 35% of the pass-down work, that’s far different than just 33% of the total RB touches. At just $3,900, there’s as lot of room for upside should Sanders end up with 15 touches in a home game against the Redskins.
6. Is Jordan Reed ($3,600) really back to his old self?
Although Reed played in 13 games last season, severe toe injuries on both feet limited him. After getting those toes repaired this offseason, the reports have been glowing. The 29-year-old repeatedly has been called the MVP of Redskins training camp and almost all beat writers say the explosiveness is back. That’s interesting considering the Redskins are going to start something like Terry McLaurin, Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn at wide receiver. They also very likely are to be trailing big in the second half of Week 1. At just $3,600, Reed would open up a lot of options at other positions. So would Hunter Henry ($3,900), pending his own health.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
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.