Week 1 is unique because the salaries have been posted for six weeks now. It’s the only week of the year in which we’ll find so many players in drastically different situations than what their salaries reflect. It creates an opportunity to build “stars and scrubs” lineups, my favorite kind of lineups to build.
It’s also unique because of the time people have had to prepare. If Jordy Nelson got hurt in Week 8, I think Davante Adams’ ownership percentage would be around 25 percent. But because the public has had three weeks to digest the Nelson injury, Adams will likely be closer to 50 percent. All in all, Week 1 is not as easy as it seems – don’t overextend your bankroll.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap count, usage and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Jordan Reed’s health
It’s like a solar eclipse: When Jordan Reed is healthy, we have to go watch it. Reed has only played in 20 games over the last two years, but has flashed unique pass-catching ability in a lot of those outings. He’s averaged 4.7 catches for 48.2 yards, totaling three touchdowns. That’s included both goal-line fades and seam routes, showing his Aaron Hernandezesque skill set (on-field only, of course).
We know Reed is healthy now because he played on 36 snaps in the third preseason game and was not listed on the injury report this week. We also know the Redskins will be relying on him heavily with Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen both done. Reed’s only backups are new acquisitions Derek Carrier and Anthony McCoy. Also working in Reed’s favor is a quarterback upgrade in Kirk Cousins, who he showed good chemistry with last year – albeit in a small sample. In the two games Reed and Cousins played together last year, the tight end went 8-92-0 (at ARZ) and 5-54-0 (vs. TEN). The Dolphins are far more susceptible to the pass than the run, and the Redskins are at home as an underdog; the ideal situation for pass-game stats. Add in Reed’s near-minimum $3300 price tag and I have a lot of him.
2. Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green as a contrarian plays
Everyone is all Beckhamed up, all Dezed up, all Cobbed up. That doesn’t leave a lot of ownership to go around at the rest of the top tier. It makes for two easy GPP targets in Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, who are both in really plus situations.
Johnson has fought nagging knee and ankle injuries for the last two years. But he quietly had his healthiest offseason in recent memory, avoiding any surgeries and barely missing preseason practices. It’s going to be jump balls all day for Calvin against the Chargers’ sub-5’10” starting corner duo of Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. Megatron is 6-foot-5.
Green’s 2014 was also badly hampered by injuries, but he did lead the entire league in yards per route run. He’s also in a contract year and facing a Raiders secondary that projects as one of the worst in the league again this year. Also note that the CIN/OAK line opened at a surprisingly low CIN -3.5 and hasn’t moved – I don’t think this is going to be a blowout.
3. Mike Evans’ hamstring injury
I make sure I get exposure to Blidi Wreh-Wilson and the Titans’ rancid secondary every week. It’s getting easier to figure out how to do that this week as Mike Evans’ hamstring injury continues to linger. This was written by ESPN Bucs beat man Pat Yasinskas:
“A coach told me Jackson will take on an ever-bigger role in the game plan than usual because, even if Evans is healthy, he won’t be 100 percent.”
If we go down from Evans to Jackson, we save $1700 and get the healthy player. We also get to laugh at the Titans corners as they get lit.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Stevie Johnson against the Lions secondary
Detroit had the league’s No. 1 run defense in terms of both yards per game allowed and yards per carry allowed last year. Even though they’ve lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, they’ve added Haloti Ngata. The Chargers are going to have a ton of trouble running the ball in this game. Enter Stevie Johnson, a better player than the man he replaced (Eddie Royal) and a real threat to Keenan Allen’s status as Philip Rivers’ No. 1 target. The Chargers are also fighting a bad situation at tight end, where Antonio Gates is suspended and Ladarius Green has a concussion. The trio of John Phillips, David Johnson and Kyle Miller could combine for zero targets. Johnson has a floor of four catches and a ceiling of way more at just $3700.
2. Brandin Cooks against Patrick Peterson
Ideally, the Saints will lean on Mark Ingram and their upgraded offensive line in this game. If that’s unsuccessful or if they get behind, they’ll revert to their old pass-happy ways. But when they do that, Drew Brees won’t find Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills or C.J. Spiller (knee). Instead he’ll find a decrepit Marques Colston, Ben Watson at tight end and new No. 3 wideout Brandon Coleman. Those underwhelming options will lead Brees to funnel targets at Cooks, who will destroy overrated shadow corner Patrick Peterson. While everyone is going “stars and scrubs” this week, it’ll be contrarian to field a lineup of mid-priced players.
1. Chris Ivory and Jets defense
Chris Ivory is one of the best pure runners in the league. ProFootballFocus’ Elusive Rating measures a runner’s success independent of blocking. Ivory ranked third in that category last year (behind only Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy) and third in 2013 (behind only Adrian Peterson and Lynch. He’s playing for a talent-maximizing OC in Chan Gailey and has the clear-cut feature job, well ahead of passing back Bilal Powell and backup Zac Stacy.
The Jets also feature a revamped defense thanks to the additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Leonard Williams and Todd Bowles. They’re going to swallow up a Browns “attack” that is devoid of talent and headed by Josh McCown. That’s important as Ivory needs his team to be ahead and needs red-zone opportunities to be truly effective. He’ll get them in this spot.
2. Emmanuel Sanders and Broncos defense
The Broncos defense is really, really fierce. Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray off the edge with Chris Harris and Aqib Talib in the secondary. They’re playing at home against a Ravens team that trots out Grandpa Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Crockett Gillmore as their top-four pass-catchers. The Broncos D/ST is a fine play on their own, and they can be paired with No. 2 wideout and punt returner Emmanuel Sanders in large-field tournaments. If Sanders takes a punt to the house, we’ll immediately get 12 DraftKings points. We’ll also obviously get all the points he racks up while feasting on Lardarius Webb.
3. Naked Tyrod
I’m not going to go too deeply into this as I’ve been talking about it all week on the DFS Edge Podcast, Twitter and articles. But Tyrod Taylor is home as an underdog against a weak defense in an up-pace game. He has played 330 snaps across the last three preseasons (roughly 5.5 games worth) and compiled a 41-298-1 line in that span. That’s .903 rush yards per snap. I think 6-10 rush attempts for 40-70 yards is the expectation. If he can throw for 200 yards and one touchdown – something he looked very capable of in the preseason – he’ll smash value.
1. Bucs RB Doug Martin
It’s not often the Bucs are going to be favorites, at home and facing a bad defense like the Titans. If there was ever a time to roster Doug Martin, this would be it. Combine that with his very low salary of $4500 and I’m expecting there to be a lot of traffic on Martin Sunday.
My concern is that Martin has been one of the worst running backs in the league the last two years, in terms of both running and pass protection. What has changed? An offseason of puff pieces and a quality preseason? Yawn. The Bucs still have one of the league’s worst offensive lines and Martin will not play on pass downs as he can’t protect rookie QB Jameis Winston. If the Bucs get behind – and they are only 3-point favorites – Martin will be watching from the sideline.
WHO I’LL HAVE THE MOST OF IN DRAFTKINGS CASH GAMES
QB: Sam Bradford, Tyrod Taylor
RB: Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Jeremy Hill, DeMarco Murray, Chris Ivory
WR: Julio Jones, Davante Adams, Stevie Johnson, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews, Vincent Jackson (if no Evans)
TE: Greg Olsen, Martellus Bennett, Jordan Reed
D: Jets, Broncos, Seahawks