One month from now, we’ll be basking in the glow of regular season NFL DFS. Until then, it’s important to take the temperature of our competition.
The beginning of the season is when the public consensus is most likely to be wrong, simply because we have the smallest amount of information. By the time Week 6 rolls around, the popular plays will be more “correct” because roles have been clearly established and baseline projections will be relatively standardized.
With that in mind, here are the five stacks I currently expect to be most popular come Week 1. This takes into account their salary, matchup and perception amongst the season-long community. Please note these are not my favorite stacks, they are simply the ones I expected to have the highest ownership.
1. Kyler Murray — Christian Kirk — David JohnsonAs I noted last week, the Cardinals’ salaries are not in line with their hype. Murray is the 14th-most expensive QB on a 24-QB slate, Johnson’s pass-catching gives him a big floor at just $7,700 and (arguably) the No. 1 WR, Kirk is just $4,700. The entire fantasy football community is abuzz over Murray’s dual threat ability and how fast/spread the Cardinals intend to play under new coach Kliff Kingsbury. All three of Murray, DJ and Kirk are going to be extremely popular in a home game against the Lions. While I do think this is not the best spot for the Cardinals as the Lions will play slow and have a mauling defensive line, which should overpower Arizona’s weak offensive line, it’s also unlikely we’ll get them this cheap again.
2. Jameis Winston — Chris Godwin — Mike Evans — O.J. HowardThe Bucs are not cheap, as Winston is the third-most expensive quarterback on the slate. But the cap is almost never tight in Week 1 as injuries/holdouts/depth chart changes create a ton of value. That will allow people to roster what looks like one of the best spots of the week. The Bucs’ inept run game and leaky defense projects to funnel attempts at Winston, Godwin ($6,200), Evans ($7,900) and Howard ($4,800). And if we’re using last season’s stats, the 49ers were 23rd in overall defensive DVOA and 27th in pass defense DVOA. A home game against these Niners – whose offense should be able to keep up with Jimmy Garoppolo (ACL) back – is intriguing.
3. Kirk Cousins — Dalvin Cook — Adam ThielenIt’s not often that a QB/RB stack projects as one of the highest-owned on the slate. But Cook’s egregious pricing at $6,000 in a matchup vs. Atlanta users love to attack is going to create a unique situation. Cook will likely push toward 40% ownership in some tournaments and Cousins/Thielen/Stefon Diggs are also underpriced. Note that Thielen’s volume really tailed off after Kevin Stefanski took over for John DeFilippo at offensive coordinator, but this is still a player who reached $9,000 on DraftKings last season. The $6,800 tag stands out. So even though the public rarely gets excited about Cousins, the thirst to play Cook and Thielen in a home game against the Falcons will push stack ownership up.
4. Cam Newton — Christian McCaffrey — Curtis SamuelThe hype on Samuel won’t stop. From the offseason program through training camp, beat writers have been raving about Samuel’s ascension to the 1A role next to D.J. Moore. Many are saying Samuel could actually out-produce Moore this season, a topic I hit on with Matt Harmon in Episode 268 of the DFS Edge. However, Samuel’s Week 1 salary is just $4,200 while Moore is up at $5,500. The hype combined with price is going to make Samuel popular, particularly in a quality game environment at home against the Rams. Stacking with the dual-threat upside of Newton makes sense as all reports are positive on the shoulder injury that crippled him last season.
5. Baker Mayfield — Odell Beckham Jr.The Browns have quickly gone from the NFL’s laughing stock to one of the most exciting offenses in the league. They’re also the betting favorite to win the AFC North and are currently a 5.5-point favorite against the Titans in Week 1. Only the Eagles, Seahawks and Cowboys are favored by more on the main slate. With Jarvis Landry and David Njoku failing to ignite the imagination of the fantasy community, and Nick Chubb playing a minimal pass-game role, the obvious stack is Baker to Odell. It’s certainly expensive as Beckham is the highest-priced wideout on the slate ($8100), but we can easily make that work given all the value. Beckham’s projected ownership also rises because Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown and Allen Robinson aren’t on the main slate. People looking to spend up at wideout will be forced onto Beckham, Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Tyreek Hill by default.
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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.