It’s Christmas in July, guys! Week 1 salaries have been released in the NFL forum on DraftKings, and it’s never too early to start breaking down the first football slate of the season. With two MNF games, and the usual TNF and SNF games, the Week 1 main slate is a 12-gamer. Here’s a look at some of the salaries that standout the most.
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All lines and odds are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
ExpensivePatrick Mahomes, KC @ JAX ($7,200) — Even with Tyreek Hill ($7,600) suspension-free, I see some regression coming for the Chiefs this season. That could start with a tough Week 1 matchup in Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked seventh in DKFP allowed to the QB position last season, and played Mahomes tougher than anyone else. Jacksonville traveled to Kansas City in Week 5, and while the Chiefs got the win, the Jags held Mahomes to 22-for-38 (his third lowest completion percentage of the season) for 313 yards, and his only game of the regular season without a passing touchdown. This time, the Chiefs will be on the road, in a place that can be difficult to play due to heat early in the season. While his 28-DKFP average from 2018 deserves a high salary, this matchup is tough to justify rostering Mahomes as the most expensive QB by $500.
Jameis Winston, TB vs. SF ($6,600) Does Winston belong in the same class as Mahomes and Andrew Luck ($6,700) as the third-most expensive QB on the Week 1 slate? Not even close from the perspective of a season outlook, but this is a really strong fantasy spot. The 49ers had a historically poor defense in 2018, and while we expect some improvements, this secondary had a mere two interceptions last season — ranking 25th in DKFP allowed to QB. We saw this exact matchup in Week 12 last season, and Winston managed 25.88 DKFP in a 27-9 Buccaneers victory. This time around, the Bucs are just 1.0-point favorites, and the 48.5-point total is the third-highest on the slate. A closer game with a high total leaves Winston with an even higher upside, making him a potential tournament play.
ValueKyler Murray, ARI vs. DET ($5,600)
All aboard the Kyler Murray hype train! Murray’s being criminally underrated entering the season because of his rookie status. He’ll make mistakes, and the Cardinals won’t win many games, but he’s in a tremendous fantasy spot to kickoff the season. Between the coaching style of Kliff Kingsbury, Murray’s rushing abilities, and the Lions ranking just 23rd in DKFP allowed to QB in 2018, there’s nothing not to like here. Hopefully the public is just afraid to roster a rookie in Week 1. Murray’s been impressing his coaches and teammates early in training camp, and Arizona’s lack of a defense could turn this one into a shootout. We’re looking at a potential cash play here in Murray.
Other value options: Philip Rivers ($5,900), Day Prescott ($5,900), Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,800), Carson Wentz ($5,700)
ExpensiveEzekiel Elliott, DAL vs. NYG ($9,200) — So the big question right off the bat here is if Elliott will even be with the Cowboys for the start of the regular season. Contract negotiations will determine that, but Dallas likely knows it can’t afford to go much time without Zeke — the numbers prove the offense just hasn’t been the same without him. Assuming Zeke is in uniform, he’s in a tremendous spot — the Giants ranked 30th in DKFP allowed to RB in 2018. Elliott had a modest game in Week 2 against the Giants, as his 17 carries were well below his season average, and while he brought in 5-of-6 targets, the nine receiving yards were a season-low.
The Cowboys should focus on feeding Zeke in Week 1, especially if the game script holds as 7.5-point favorites. Elliott put up much better numbers at home in 2018, averaging 4.3 DKFP more in Dallas (25.3 DKFP). If Zeke’s not yet with the team Saquon Barkley ($9,000) will be an even more popular option on the other side of this matchup. Dallas ranked 24th in DKFP allowed to RB, and Barkley averaged 26 DKFP in two games against the Cowboys as a rookie.
David Johnson, ARI vs. DET ($7,700) — We saw flashes of the old Johnson last season, but in the end, the team just didn’t have enough playmakers to feature an elite fantasy option. Stiffs were at QB all season, and Arizona found itself trailing in plenty of games. Kingsbury and Murray should really help boost this offense, and bring DJ back to fantasy glory. The Lions were average against RB last season, but DJ did catch 8-of-10 targets against them last season — the problem was that he only managed 12 yards with the defense keyed in on him. Expect this season to be much different, with immediate results in a high-scoring game against the Lions.
ValueDalvin Cook, MIN vs. ATL ($6,000) — Injuries have defined the fantasy value in Cook’s young career, but when healthy, he’s proven to be a talented, workhorse-type RB. Once healthy, he got into a groove down the stretch in 2018, scoring double-digit DKFP in the final six games of the season, peaking at $6,900. With the same role in the offense, he comes at a discount, playing at home as 3.5-point favorites against the Falcons — who ranked dead-last in DKFP allowed to RB last season. Cook averaged 18.43 DKFP during that six-game stretch to finish the season, and easily has 20-plus DKFP upside in this matchup.
Other value options: Chris Carson ($5,700), Marlon Mack ($5,600), Austin Ekeler ($5,500)/Justin Jackson ($4,000) — if Melvin Gordon is out, Devonta Freeman ($5,300), Mark Ingram ($5,100)
ExpensiveOdell Beckham Jr., CLE vs. TEN ($8,100) — Of the four WRs over $7,500, Beckham likely pops the most in the player pool. Julio Jones ($8,000) and Hill ($7,600) face the top 2 defenses vs. WR from 2018, which makes them tournament considerations, but are in really difficult road spots. I may slightly prefer Mike Evans ($7,900) to OBJ, because of all the reasons I wrote up Winston. But Tennessee surprisingly ranked just 21st in DKFP allowed to WR last season, and we know OBJ will be looking to put on a show for the Cleveland fans in his debut at home.
Adam Thielen ($6,800)/Stefon Diggs ($6,700), MIN vs. ATL
Both Vikings WRs feel like studs coming at a mid-tier price, bringing all the upside of a higher-priced option. They face a soft Falcons secondary, which ranked just 28th in DKFP allowed to WR in 2018. Thielen peaked at $9,000 in salary last season, while Diggs hit $7,700, which means these guys are priced way below their ceiling. Thielen in particular comes cheap, and is also the safer option of the two. But that makes Diggs an even more appealing tournament option, with big-game upside.
ValueTyler Lockett, SEA vs. CIN ($6,000) — Lockett is one of my most undervalued WR coming into this season, and that’s the case right out of the gates for Week 1. Consider this — Lockett put up a 61-1,085-10 line last season, averaging 14.4 DKFP and only scoring single-digit DKFP twice … while never seeing more than seven targets in any game. This is a super consistent player, who will now step into the unquestioned WR1 role for Seattle, which should to wonders for his production. He comes with plenty of Week 1 upside, playing at home against the Bengals (25th vs. WR) as large favorites.
Other value options: Chris Godwin ($6,200), D.J. Moore ($5,500), Dante Pettis ($5,400), Larry Fitzgerald ($4,900)
ExpensiveTravis Kelce, KC @ JAX ($7,100) — There are three clear-cut players at TE that stand above the rest at a very weak position this season. George Kittle ($6,600) and Zach Ertz ($6,100) are those guys, along with Kelce. Ertz has the toughest Week 1 matchup on paper, and averaged well below his season numbers in two games against Washington. Philly also has a lot of mouths to feed on offense. Kittle is the play that should challenge Kelce for the top Week 1 TE — the Bucs ranked just 24th in DKFP allowed to TE last season, but we still need to see how this San Francisco offense will operate. Kelce is almost the favorite by default, and while I may lay off Mahomes and Hill as plays, Kelce managed 18 DKFP in this matchup last season, and Jacksonville was average against the position in 2018.
ValueEvan Engram, NYG @ DAL ($4,800) — Things are getting beyond ugly for the Giants’ pass catchers. Sterling Shepard ($5,000) has a broken thumb, Golden Tate ($4,800) is facing suspension and Corey Coleman is done for the season with a torn ACL. Engram could be the man by default, and showed some really promising signs as a receiver during his rookie year. He had a particularly strong finish, going for 10-plus DKFP in each of his last four games, upping his point total each week (16.15 DKFP during that span). Engram crushed the Cowboys (21st vs. TE) last season, putting up his two best games of 2018 — 19.7 DKFP in Week 2, and 21.1 DKFP in Week 17.
Other value options: Hunter Henry ($3,900), Delanie Walker ($3,500)
ExpensiveRavens D/ST @ MIA ($3,800) — One game really catches my eye in terms of defense on this slate. If you want to pay up, that brings you to the most expensive defense on the slate. Baltimore’s 8.1 DKFP average in 2018 finished only behind the Rams D/ST, which had a flukey amount of touchdowns. Miami has the lowest set win total in the NFL at 4.5, and is undergoing a complete rebuild. It shouldn’t matter if it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick ($4,900) or Josh Rosen ($4,700) at the helm, the only downside here is being on the road for the Ravens. The total in this game is set at just 37 points.
ValueDolphins D/ST vs. BAL ($2,100) — I really like going to value on the other side of this matchup with the Dolphins. Miami’s set as 4.5-point underdogs, meaning they should keep this one close. With the total set at 37, that still leaves Baltimore’s point-projection at 20.75 points. Jackson isn’t scaring anyone at QB this season, and proved to be turnover prone. His rushing abilities help move the chains, but his inability as a passer leads to interceptions and stalled drives. Miami should be able to rally at home here and exceed value at near minimum salary.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) 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.