WATCH: Where Landry falls among mid-tier WRs
It’s finally here! Fantasy football is back with a very solid 12-pack of games on the Week 1 main slate. As you put together your first DraftKings lineup of the regular season, there are several excellent places to shop for value. As I did each week last year, I’ll be highlighting my top value plays each week of the season. These players don’t have monster salaries, and they can help you balance the big-name stars you want to own by providing good production at an affordable cost.
Since the Week 1 salaries came out a few weeks ago, there are even more values than usual based on some player getting more opportunity than originally projected. Here are the options I think will offer the best returns at each position based on their expected roles and their Week 1 matchups.
QUARTERBACK($6,000 and under)
Alex Smith, WAS at ARI, $5,600 -– Smith will make his Redskins debut on the road against the Cardinals. Smith averaged the third-most FPPG last season behind only Deshaun Watson ($6,700) and Russell Wilson ($6,200) and just ahead of Tom Brady ($7,200). While Smith likely won’t duplicate those numbers this season, he is in Jay Gruden’s offense, which made Kirk Cousins ($6,500) a good fantasy options the last few seasons as an accuracy-focused passer. Smith should be serviceable in a similar mold and should have all his playmakers ready to go for Week 1 since Chris Thompson ($4,700), Jamison Crowder ($5,000) and Jordan Reed ($4,000) all will be available after missing time this preseason with various minor ailments.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, TB at NO, $5,000 -– Fitzpatrick will fill in the first three weeks of the season while the Bucs are without Jameis Winston (suspension). Tampa Bay’s coaching staff isn’t afraid to let Fitzpatrick air it out, allowing him to attempt 34, 37 and 44 passes in his three starts in relief of Winston last season. He had between 11 and 20 DKFP in those three starts, and he should be able to return that kind of value in Week 1 against the Saints, especially if Tampa Bay is playing from behind. The Bucs have a nice group of playmakers at WR led by Mike Evans ($6,700), who should make Fitzpatrick a good way to save salary under center.
RUNNING BACK($5,000 and under)
Rex Burkhead, NE vs. HOU, $4,200 -– Burkhead dealt with a minor knee injury in camp and didn’t play in any preseason games, but he should be very involved in New England’s Week 1 gameplan. Burkhead will rotate with James White ($4,000) and possibly Jeremy Hill ($3,300) and Sony Michel ($5,100) if the rookie can get over a knee issue of his own. The Patriots were comfortable enough with Burkhead and the rest of that group to cut Mike Gillislee ($3,400) and Brandon Bolden ($3,000), who found other NFL homes. Burkhead emerged last season as a trusted option near the goal line for the Patriots, finding the end zone six times in his last four regular season games. He also can operate out of the slot or as a receiver out of the backfield, which increases his value even more with New England short on receiver options and without Julian Edelman (suspension).
Peyton Barber, TB at NO, $4,100 -– Barber was expected to end up with the short end of the Tampa Bay timeshare with rookie RB Ronald Jones II ($4,900), but the third-year back out of Auburn vastly out-performed Jones and claimed the starting spot. Barber looked good working with the first team in the preseason and averaged 18 touches and 84 yards per week as the team’s primary running back over the last five weeks of last season. He had 17 rushes for 71 yards, a touchdown and 16.9 DKFP against the Saints in the final week of last season, and he’ll look to post another good week to get this year started.
WIDE RECEIVER($5,000 and under)
Marquise Goodwin, SF at MIN, $4,600 — Goodwin appears to be San Francisco’s top WR coming into the season as he looks to continue his solid connection with QB Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,700). After Garoppolo took over in Week 13, Goodwin averaged 16.3 FPPG over his final five games of the season. He had a monster 10-catch, 114-yard game against the Titans for a season-high 25.4 DKFP in Week 15, and he has a high ceiling due to his big play ability. He’s in a tough matchup against the Vikings, but he’s a great way to get a top WR at an affordable price.
Danny Amendola, MIA vs. TEN, $4,200 — Amendola has clicked right away with Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill ($5,300) after joining Miami this offseason as a free agent. In Week 1, Amendola should be in for a heavy dose of targets against the Titans since the Dolphins won’t have DeVante Parker (finger). His workload gives him a high floor as Miami’s slot receiver, a position where Jarvis Landry thrived.
Michael Gallup, DAL at CAR, $4,000 — There are lots of rookie receivers to watch in Week 1, but one that could make an instant splash is the Cowboys’ third-round pick out of Colorado State. Gallup should be on the field almost every play due to Dallas’s lack of WR depth. He showed a good connection with Dak Prescott ($5,500) and should get a heavy volume of work in a good matchup against the Panthers in his NFL debut.
Keelan Cole, JAX at NYG, $3,900 — Despite a quiet preseason, Cole enters the season as the Jaguars’ top receiver after the season-ending injury to Marqise Lee (knee). In each of the three regular season games Lee missed last year, Cole was targeted at least eight times and totaled 17 catches on 30 targets for 327 yards and a touchdown. From Week 13 to Week 16, Cole had three touchdowns and three games with at least 99 receiving yards. Since he has been working with the starting unit all preseason, Cole likely will get the most attention from Blake Bortles ($5,600) in Week 1 and is one of the top bargains of the week.
TIGHT END($4,000 and under)
Jack Doyle, IND vs. CIN ($3,600) — Doyle might have to share TE targets with Eric Ebron ($3,300), but there still should be enough looks to go around with the Colts’ lack of WR depth. Doyle had 80 catches for 690 yards and four touchdowns last year, but he first emerged as a fantasy weapon with Andrew Luck ($6,100) under center early in 2016. With Luck back, he should be able to take advantage of the Bengals’ D in Week 1, which allowed the fourth-most DKFP to TEs last season.
David Njoku, CLE vs. PIT, $3,400 — The Browns are hoping Njoku can make a leap in his second year in the NFL after the first-rounder had 32 catches for 386 yards and four touchdowns last season. Njoku should benefit from improved QB play, and Tyrod Taylor ($5,400) made Charles Clay a good option over the past few years for the Bills. Njoku starts with a touch matchup against the Steelers, but he has nice upside and should get a solid amount of targets.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS($2,800 and under)
NYG vs. JAX, $2,600 — The Giants’ defense has looked excellent this preseason, and it gets a good matchup with the Jaguars in Week 1. If the Giants can limit Leonard Fournette ($7,100) with their stacked front-seven, they should be able to force the ball into the hands of Blake Bortles ($5,600), which could result in some good chances for turnovers.
MIA vs. TEN, $2,400 — Miami opens at home against the Titans, who have struggled on offense throughout the preseason. The Dolphins had 20 DKFP against Tennessee in Week 5 of last season and were a pretty solid unit when playing at home. Even with the offseason departure of Ndamukong Suh, the unit should be improved from last year after adding Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker in the draft and Robert Quinn and Akeem Spence via trade. The Dolphins are a cheap play Week 1 in what should be a low-scoring game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) 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.