We see flukes happen all the time in Week 1. Just last year, the 49ers beat the Vikings 20-3 on a Monday Night home opener and proceed to lose six of their next seven games. Meanwhile, the Vikings went on to win the NFC North and finish 11-5. Titans RB Bishop Sankey went 12-74-1 and then quickly plummeted to the bottom of the depth chart. People who chased Rob Gronkowski’s 3-TD game from Week 1 all season were left unsatisfied.
Of course, the key is to be ahead of the curve when deciding what is real and what is a fluke. Were San Francisco’s and Baltimore’s defensive performances from last week indicative of future performance? Is Will Fuller going to keep taking a big chunk of DeAndre Hopkins’ market share? Do the Seahawks really have offensive problems? Can Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks sustain their success when on the road and against smaller corners? The idea is to figure out the answer to these questions before our opponents.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, 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. Cam Newton in a homerun spot
This is a perfect storm of spots for the Panthers. They go from the worst possible matchup (at DEN) to one of the best (vs. SF). They’re on an extra long week and facing a Niners team which overachieved in Week 1 by blanking the fighting Case Keenums. That Niners team is on a very short week and coming across the country to play a 1pm ET start on Sunday. That Niners team is coached by Chip Kelly, which means they’ll play extremely fast despite massive talent discrepancy and therefore allow their opponent to run a bloated number of plays.
Add it up and Cam Newton is set for an eruption this week. Even in last week’s impossible matchup, Newton finished with 22.2 DraftKings points and was eighth in fantasy points per dropback. Of course, he led that category last year by a wide margin and is now armed with Kelvin Benjamin again. The best part about this dream spot for Newton is that we can get him at reduced ownership and at a reasonable $7900 price. With everyone flocking to Eli Manning ($7600) and some taking the quality savings with Josh McCown ($5000), Cam is going overlooked.
2. Josh McCown at stone minimum price
It would be easy to brush off Josh McCown because he’s 37 years old and at the helm of the Factory of Sadness. That would be a mistake, as McCown has shown an extremely high ceiling when given opportunities over the last few years. Just last season he played seven full games for the Browns, averaging a whopping 294.2 pass yards and 1.71 pass TDs per game – and that was without Terrelle Pryor or Corey Coleman. McCown has played 22 full games over the last three years for the Browns, Bucs and Bears. During that span he has eight 300-yard days and 15 multi-TD days. We don’t typically find that kind of upside for the minimum $5,000 price, especially at home and facing a Ravens defense which played surprisingly well in Week 1, but was ranked 25th in pass defense DVOA last year.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Sterling Shepard against the Saints corners
I expect Odell Beckham to be the most-owned player on the entire Week 2 slate by a wide margin. It makes sense as Delvin Breaux (leg) is out, leaving an already historically bad Saints defense with Sterling Moore, P.J. Williams and Ken Crawley as their top-three corners. Moore is a 2011 UDFA who is on his fourth NFL team and was just signed by the Saints 10 days ago. Williams is a 2015 third-round pick who missed his entire rookie year with a hamstring tear. Crawley is a rookie UDFA out of Colorado. Of course, Sterling Shepard has just as good of a matchup as Beckham – but will likely come at half the ownership and almost half the price. The route-running specialist played on 92.9 percent of the Week 1 snaps, scored a touchdown and continues to draw rave reviews from coaches despite causing an interception against the Cowboys.
2. Vincent Jackson against Brandon Williams
In Week 1, the Falcons didn’t shadow Mike Evans with Desmond Trufant. That at least partially led to Vincent Jackson’s disappointing 2-18-0 line on seven targets. This week, however, we can expect Evans to be shadowed by elite Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson. That will leave third-round rookie Brandon Williams, who was roasted in the preseason and roasted by the likes of Chris Hogan in Week 1, to match up with V-Jax. Justin Bethel (foot) doesn’t appear ready to play on defense and Jerraud Powers fled in free agency. The time we want to use the 33-year-old Jackson is early in the year and when he’s extremely cheap ($4,000 Sunday).
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller
Yes, this is the exact same stack I discussed in this space last week. Yes, it will be very contrarian once again. Our suspicions were confirmed in Week 1 as the Texans got off 77 plays, Brock Osweiler showed predictable competence under QB maximizer Bill O’Brien, and first-round rookie Will Fuller continued his assault on the league. This week, the matchup looks bad in theory but in reality it’s not. The Chiefs aren’t the same defense with Sean Smith gone, Justin Houston (knee) out and Tamba Hali (knee) limited. Furthermore, there’s a lot of hidden DFS value in concentration of offenses. When the Texans score points, we know where it will come from: Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins and Fuller. That trio accounted for a whopping 79.2 percent of the Texans’ Week 1 touches.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Rashad Jennings against the Saints
Eli Manning and Odell Beckham will likely be the most popular stack of the week. Those people are unlikely to click on Rashad Jennings, giving us a leverage opportunity. The Giants showed a serious commitment to the ground at Dallas in Week 1, running on 24 of their 57 offensive snaps despite trailing for much of the second half. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve finally ditched their 3 and 4-man RBBC in favor of a strict two-man show. Rashad Jennings has averaged 19.4 carries across the Giants’ last five games and now gets to face the incompetent Saints. This is a unit that gave up the third-most fantasy points to RBs last year, was 27th in DVOA rush defense and got lit up by Latavius Murray/Jalen Richard last week. Jennings scoring two TDs and Odell scoring none is within the range of outcomes Sunday – and would send us shooting up leaderboards.
2. Julius Thomas or Allen Hurns against the Chargers
With Chris Ivory ruled out, T.J. Yeldon is ticketed for another 18-25 touches. At just $4,700 and facing the Chargers, he’ll rightfully be very popular. The clear leverage play against Yeldon’s ownership is in the Jaguars pass game, which was relatively quiet in a difficult matchup with the Packers last week but always has a high ceiling. Just last year, Blake Bortles put 329 yards and two TDs on San Diego, hitting Julius Thomas for 9-116-1 in the process. Chargers S Eric Weddle is now in Baltimore, upgrading the matchup further for a finally healthy Thomas. On the outside, look for Jason Verrett (probable, calf) to shadow Allen Robinson. That will leave playmaking Allen Hurns, who costs just $5,400, with the better matchup.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Josh McCown, Matthew Stafford
RB: David Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Rashad Jennings, DeAngelo Williams, T.J. Yeldon, Lamar Miller, LeGarrette Blount
WR: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, A.J. Green, Willie Snead, Marvin Jones, Sterling Shepard, Travis Benjamin, Tajae Sharpe, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree
TE: Eric Ebron, Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen, Jesse James, Julius Thomas, Gary Barnidge
D: Panthers, Broncos, Seahawks, Raiders, Patriots
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.