Week 1 always lends itself to unique roster construction because of all the value that annually emerges. Since DraftKings set prices more than a month ago, we have a fistful of players who are grossly underpriced like Dak Prescott, Marvin Jones and Spencer Ware. A majority of our opponents will be using these players, creating a ton of cap space for the highest-priced stars such as Julio Jones. When looking to make unique lineups for the major tournaments on DK, we can zig (mid-range players) while everyone else zags (stars and scrubs construction).
The point of this column is to use the news, snap count, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the 13 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Injuries to Colts defense
Week 1 represents the best spot Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ pass game will be in all season. An already shaky Colts defense will be without superstar CB Vontae Davis (ankle) and excellent DE Henry Anderson. Starting SS Clayton Geathers (foot) and nickel CB Darius Butler (ankle) are also unlikely to suit up, and DE Kendell Langford (knee) could be limited. As noted by beat man Stephen Holder, the Colts only have four healthy cornerbacks right now – three of whom weren’t on the roster at the start of camp and two of whom were signed this week. It’s a crisis situation.
It’s also bad timing for this crisis as the Lions are among the most pass-centric teams in the league. They ranked dead last in run rate last year and Stafford has averaged 37.3 pass attempts per game since Jim Caldwell took over in 2014. Matchups and personnel dictate that the Lions will attack through the air Sunday even more than usual. Stafford, underpriced Marvin Jones and potential PPR monster Golden Tate are all firmly in play across cash games and tournaments.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Jared Cook against the Jaguars
Jared Cook has always been long on athletic ability at 6’5/254 with 4.50 speed and a 41-inch vertical. He’s also been woefully short on quarterback play throughout his seven-year career, dealing with Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Sam Bradford, Austin Davis and Nick Foles. The upgrade to Aaron Rodgers this season is difficult to overstate.
It’s also likely Rodgers will look to Cook a significant amount Sunday, especially with Jordy Nelson (ACL) possibly being limited. Note that in the third preseason game, Cook was in for 19 of Rodgers’ 25 snaps – including 10-of-13 pass plays. Meanwhile, stiff Richard Rodgers was only in on 12 total snaps and 5-of-13 pass plays. The Jaguars defense has been a liability against tight ends under ex-Seahawks DC Gus Bradley, partially due to scheme (SEA also funnels targets toward tight ends) and partially due to a lack of pass-coverage personnel at linebacker and safety.
Perhaps most importantly, tight end is the most difficult position on DraftKings’ main slate. There’s no Greg Olsen, no Jordan Reed, Rob Gronkowski is overpriced with a balky hamstring and Coby Fleener is relatively priced up. Cook’s floor is low, but so is his $2,900 price tag.
2. A.J. Green against Darrelle Revis
Yes, you read that right. Instead of looking to avoid once-dominant shadow corner Darrelle Revis, we’re looking to use his name as a leverage play. Revis, now 31 years old, was often burned last season and players he shadowed fared roughly the same against him as they did in other games. He finished as PFF’s No. 39 CB in coverage grades. Many DraftKings players won’t click A.J. Green at $8,400 this week because he’s facing Revis, leading to depressed ownership.
Green has massive games in his range this week for two reasons. First, the Bengals will be without Tyler Eifert (ankle), Mohamed Sanu/Marvin Jones are gone, Brandon LaFell is not good and Tyler Boyd is unproven. When Andy Dalton drops back, he should be locked on Green. Second, Dalton will likely be forced to drop back a lot as the Jets fielded the NFL’s No. 1 DVOA run defense last year while ranking third in YPC allowed (3.58).
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins
No one should be scared of this version of the Ravens’ defense. It ranked 25th in pass defense DVOA last year, won’t have OLB Elvis Dumervil (foot) and will start Jimmy Smith (89th in PFF coverage grades) and Shareece Wright (47th) on the outside. Furthermore, no one should be scared of the foot surgery Sammy Watkins underwent a few months ago – he returned for the third preseason game and is not even listed on the Week 1 injury report.
Regular readers know I’m always looking for reasons to roster TyGod, who ranked third in fantasy points per dropback last year (behind only Cam Newton and Russell Wilson). We know he can get the ball to Watkins easily, it’s a #RevengeGame and his legs raise both the ceiling and floor. Over the final six games of last year, Taylor averaged a Cam Newtonesque 8.8 carries for 54.0 yards with two rushing TDs.
2. Brock Osweiler and Will Fuller or DeAndre Hopkins
People like to brush off unknown quarterbacks. They did it with Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor, Josh McCown and plenty of other guys who ended up being very, very viable in fantasy football. The quarterback that people are laughing at now is Brock Osweiler, but they won’t for long. Quarterback guru Bill O’Brien (of Tom Brady fame) made true freshman Christian Hackenberg look like an elite NCAA quarterback and then made Brian Hoyer viable at the NFL level. The Texans will play very fast (first in plays per game last year, third in neutral-situation pace), a big change from the “don’t blow it” scheme Brock was in last year while with the Broncos.
So our first chance to capitalize on Osweiler’s new setup is a good one. The Bears are certainly stronger up front than in the secondary, where they lack both talent and health. There will be a narrow concentration of targets as DeAndre Hopkins/Will Fuller are locked into every-down roles and Braxton Miller is the slot man. Fuller, the first-round burner out of Notre Dame, lit the preseason up for 8-144-2 on 82 snaps. Hopkins, as we know, was the No. 4 PPR wideout last year despite playing with Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden. A bonus play with this stack includes Alshon Jeffery, who averaged a whopping 12.1 targets per game in his seven full ones last year. As I discussed with Chris Raybon in Episode 56 of The Edge, there’s a strong correlation between opposing pass games.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Ezekiel Elliot vs the Giants
I’m expecting Dak Prescott to be the most-owned quarterback in Week 1. We can use that to our advantage in tournaments with leverage plays – ones that take direct advantage of an unexpected outcome. It’s extremely likely the Cowboys will ride Ezekiel Elliot very hard Sunday to keep their talent-deficient defense off the field and coddle their fourth-round rookie QB. By simply rostering a high-upside player like Elliot who has a chance to steal touchdown opportunities directly from Dak, we give ourselves a chance to shoot up tournament leaderboards.
2. Keenan Allen at the Chiefs
If Jamaal Charles (ACL) is deemed inactive, Spencer Ware’s ownership will likely sit in the 30-35 percent range. One leverage play against that is to roster Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce or Charcandrick West. Another way is to go in the same game is with Keenan Allen, who has the massive ceiling we’re going to need in a week with so much cap space available on DraftKings. Allen ranked sixth in PPR fantasy points per game last year, recording at least 12 catches in three of his eight outings. Note the Chiefs secondary no longer has Sean Smith, OLB Justin Houston (knee) is out and Tamba Hali (knee) will likely be limited. Allen will come at very low ownership because he’s in the same game as Ware and because he’s priced awkwardly at $8,000.
1. Brandin Cooks vs. the Raiders
Cooks had just two targets inside the 10-yard line last year but somehow still finished with nine TDs. It’s a reminder that he’s an excellent player, but at 5’10/189 he’s not someone the Saints will funnel offense through and is not someone with a reliable weekly touchdown expectation. The Saints also added Coby Fleener and Michael Thomas this offseason, adding to underrated Willie Snead and quietly voluminous pass-catcher Mark Ingram. C.J. Spiller also logged significant first-team reps during the preseason. So with Cooks priced at $7,700, a lot of mouths for Drew Brees to feed, a tough matchup with David Amerson/Sean Smith and projected ownership around 12-15 percent, I’ll be off him.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Drew Brees
RB: Spencer Ware, Christine Michael, Jeremy Langford, Latavius Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeSean McCoy, David Johnson
WR: Marvin Jones, Julio Jones, Tajae Sharpe, Donte Moncrief, Amari Cooper, Golden Tate, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Michael Crabtree
TE: Delanie Walker, Jared Cook, Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz
D: Seahawks, Eagles, Chiefs, Texans
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.