WATCH: DFS Edge 202: Matt Harmon Previews Wide Receivers
Daily fantasy football isn’t played in a vacuum — we are playing against living, breathing people. Therefore, our goal isn’t to score the most possible points, it’s to beat our opponents. For that reason, understanding what those opponents are thinking is one layer of the strategy needed in large-field tournaments.
We still have a month until Week 1 lineups lock, but we can begin to see where the field will land. These are the stacks I expect to be most-owned in the Week 1 Fantasy Football Millionaire aka The Milly Maker.
1. Tom Brady ($7,200) to Chris Hogan ($6,100) and/or Rob Gronkowski ($6,900)
An annual theme of Week 1 is value. Because the salaries are out so early, there inevitably will be injuries, suspensions and depth chart changes that lead to players underpriced relative to role. There are also already players such as Rex Burkhead ($4,200), Jordan Reed ($4,000) and Emmanuel Sanders ($5,000) who provide strong value. So it won’t be difficult to find the cap space for expensive stacks.
Speaking of expensive, Brady is the highest-priced Week 1 quarterback. But he’s at home against a Texans pass defense that ranked 25th in DVOA and 31st in yards per pass attempt allowed last season. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman is suspended, Brandin Cooks is gone and Danny Amendola is gone, leaving Hogan as the No. 1 wideout and Gronkowski featured. This is information that even casual players are aware of, which will lead to serious ownership on the Brady/Hogan/Gronk stack.
2. Drew Brees ($6,800) to Michael Thomas ($7,800)
The Buccaneers have added serious talent to an already plus front with first-round DT Vita Vea, DE Jason Pierre-Paul and DE Vinny Curry. But they remain very weak in the back end and head to the Superdome in Week 1. It’s a ripe spot for the Brees/Thomas stack as part of a game that likely will be popular as a whole. Thomas was a massive 29.9 percent owned at $7,200 last season for the Saints’ home game against the Bucs.
3. Deshaun Watson ($6,700) to DeAndre Hopkins ($8,300) and/or Will Fuller ($5,100)
You don’t need an elephant’s memory to remember Watson absolutely tearing through the league as a rookie. Everyone will remember Watson averaging 24.1 DK points per game in the seven he played in before an ACL tear — a run that included some difficult matchups including vs. Jacksonville, at Cincinnati and at Seattle. When Watson played at New England, who he’ll face in Week 1 this season, he posted 301 pass yards, 41 rush yards and two TDs. While the Watson/Hopkins stack is expensive, the bargain-bottom price on Fuller softens the blow. Fuller’s seven TDs in four games with Watson is obviously unsustainable, but the price tag reflects that. Expect a lot of Texans stacks to include a now-healthy Fuller.
4. Andrew Luck ($6,100) to T.Y. Hilton ($6,800) and/or Jack Doyle ($3,600)
When we last saw Luck in 2016, he averaged 282.6 pass yards, 22.7 rush yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game, good for a QB4 finish in fantasy points per game. In his other healthy seasons (2014, 2013 and rookie-year 2012) he finished as QB2, QB6 and QB9, respectively. But due to a scary shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2017 season, his season-long ADP and subsequent DraftKings Week 1 salary are depressed. For reference, Luck’s Week 1 salary was $8,300 in 2016, 2015 and 2014.
Assuming Luck’s shoulder remains attached to his torso in the preseason, he’ll be one of the better value quarterbacks in Week 1 against the Bengals. Luck’s presence also will raise the floor of the entire offense, particularly Hilton. Hilton has averaged just 10.8 DK points per game without Luck over the past two years (17 games) but 16.1 when the quarterback has been healthy over past three years (22 games). So with Luck, Hilton and Doyle all underpriced, expect this to be a popular spot.
5. Philip Rivers ($6,400) to Keenan Allen ($7,500)
The Chiefs were 26th in yards per play allowed last season and have since lost top CB Marcus Peters. Star SS Eric Berry is coming off an Achilles tendon rupture. So matchup-based players will be focused on the Chargers, whose target concentration was tightened by Hunter Henry’s May ACL tear. Of course, we don’t have to ask Rivers to lock onto Allen — Allen ranked fifth in the NFL last year in targets (159). This stack isn’t blatantly underpriced, but it is one of the more solid ones available.
6. Kirk Cousins ($6,500) to Stefon Diggs ($6,300) and/or Adam Thielen ($6,900)
I suspect this will be one of the popular “sneaky” stacks that actually becomes reasonably popular by the time lock comes. Even novice DFS players are building projections through implied team totals these days, and the Vikings have one of the biggest on the slate at 26. Diggs and Thielen also represent a tight concentration of targets at relatively cheap price tags. One reason this stack might go a little under-owned is because Dalvin Cook ($6,200) is one of the most mispriced players on the slate. If his ACL is right, he likely will be popular and steal ownership from the pass game.
7. Ben Roethlisberger ($6,600) to Antonio Brown ($8,600) and/or JuJu Smith-Schuster ($5,900)
The fantasy football community is well aware of Roethlisberger’s home/road splits. He’s averaged 26.3 DK points per game at home vs. 15.7 on the road over his past 61 games. On top of that, he’s averaged 2.3 more DK points per game in non-division games. So I suspect there will be some hesitation from users to pull the trigger on this stack, as it’s priced correctly. Sharp players also will recognize an early line move, which sank the Steelers’ implied team total 1.25 points. With so many strong quarterback options at home in strong spots (Brees, Brady, Cousins, Luck, Rivers, Cam Newton, etc.), Big Ben stacks likely will be on the lower end of the “chalk” ownership.
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.