Each week we’ll be using the treasure trove of game-charting data from Pro Football Focus to go deeper than ever into the weekly matchups. When paired with information from the PFF Fantasy WR/CB matchup chart and the official weekly projections, we should be able to find the best players for your DraftKings lineup each week.
After a sizzling preseason, Sam Bradford takes his Philadelphia squad to the fast track of the Georgia Dome where the Eagles are road favorites. The Falcons ranked in the bottom 5 of the 2014 PFF grades in both pass rush and pass coverage. Barring an immediate splash from No. 8 overall pick Vic Beasley, Atlanta will struggle to pressure Bradford. We don’t really know what to expect from Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, or Philadelphia’s tight ends, but when Jordan Matthews squares off against Robert Alford he should win easily. Alford, a 5’10”, 180-pound slot corner, allowed a ridiculously high fantasy points per route number in 2014 and received a pass defense grade of -7.
Salary: $6,900 Projected Points: 19.0
The Giants did one thing well on defense in 2014, but it’s fair to wonder how their pass rush will fare without Jason Pierre Paul’s 13 sacks, 9 QB hits, and 38 QB hurries. As a result, the Cowboys are big favorites at home and expected to hang almost 30 points on New York. Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley all hold projected advantages over Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, and Trumaine McBride despite the positive coverage grades for DRC and Amukamara.
Salary: $7,300 Projected Points: 20.5
Forte will be used more as a traditional running back this season, an unfortunate development for dynasty owners as plunges between the tackles do not play to his strength. The Chicago bell cow ranked No. 27 in Elusive Rating and also struggled before contact despite a solid rush block grade for the much-maligned offensive line. But Forte owns the top PFF running back projection for Week 1 due to a perfect opening matchup. Green Bay allowed 120 yards per game on the ground last season and received PFF’s second worst run defense grade. Moreover, the otherwise solid Packers pass defense struggled against backs out of the backfield in 2014. Once the Bears fall behind early, this game will play to Forte’s strengths.
Salary: $7,800 Projected Points: 19.1
Miami coaches finally seem on board with Miller, but he’s still relatively inexpensive in a Week 1 tilt with 2014’s last place finisher in PFF’s rush defense grades. Washington managed to disguise some of their foibles against the run by also finishing dead last in pass coverage. (Why run when you can score even faster through the air?) Not surprisingly, the Dolphins are a solid favorite against the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchise. An underrated runner, Miller earned a better “run” grade than Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster in 2014. He has a very high floor this week in terms of touches, per touch efficiency, and goal line opportunities.
Salary: $5,500 Projected Points: 15.7
Martin’s burst looked back in the preseason with a 54 percent Elusive Rating, the highest of any presumed starter and trailing only Tevin Coleman and Ameer Abdullah when you consider committee backs. Of course, those numbers pale next to his 166 Elusive Rating and 4.35 yards after contact. Game script is the biggest concern for Martin this season as he could lose passing down work to Charles Sims. That’s less likely to be a problem in a Week 1 pillow fight with the hapless Titans. Tennessee earned the fourth worst run defense grade a year ago. Tampa Bay will rarely be favored in 2015, but they are in this home contest. Martin’s salary should jump with a big game. If you want to play the bounceback, this is the perfect time.
Salary: $4,500 Projected Points: 11.5
Melvin Gordon’s preseason struggles are perhaps exaggerated, at least within the context of Woodhead’s performance. He averaged more yards after contact than the veteran (1.75 to 1.10) and nearly as many yards per route (1.19 to 1.00), but the Woodhead looks like a much better fit against Detroit. After finishing with a Top 5 rush defense grade in 2014, the Lions lost Ndamukong Suh (+17) but added Haloti Ngata (+9). Although Ngata’s availability for the opener is in question, it still makes sense for San Diego to use Woodhead against a defense that hemorrhaged receiving yards to running backs last season.
Salary: $3,700 Projected Points: 11:1
Odell Beckham Jr.
After authoring a rookie season for the ages, Beckham hasn’t been quite as trendy as you might expect heading into his sophomore campaign. Persistent hamstring woes and a preseason of Bad Eli offer partial explanations, but this might be a case where it makes sense to chase last year’s points. Beckham is tied with Dez Bryant for the week’s most favorable situation according to PFF’s WR/CB Matchups chart. Brandon Carr was torched for an opposing passer rating of 116 in 2014 and allowed 17.3 yards per reception. With a defensive back depth chart stocked with youth and depleted by injury, the Cowboys won’t have many appealing fallback options when the inevitable transpires here.
Salary: $9,200 Projected Points: 20.7
The 6’4” Green is likely to spend significant time against the 5’11” D.J. Hayden. This is the third most favorable matchup of the weekend by PFF’s combined fantasy points per route stat. Hayden allowed 68 percent of the passes into his coverage to be completed a season ago, numbers which left him with a 121.6 passer rating against. He received his worst grade of the season in Week 17 in a humiliating battle with the Broncos.
Green dealt with injuries in 2014 but led the position in yards per route. This helped him to a fourth place finish in fantasy points per opportunity where he tied with Antonio Brown and bested stars like Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones. Green also tied with Thomas to lead the targets per route category. Even with the return of Tyler Eifert, he lacks any serious competition for targets from the secondary receivers. It can be difficult to trust Andy Dalton, but this is as safe as it gets against last year’s 27th graded team in pass coverage.
Salary: $7,800 Projected Points: 17.1
Despite playing second fiddle to Andre Johnson from a target perspective and dealing with consistently pedestrian quarterback play, Hopkins averaged more 2014 yards per route than Randall Cobb. Now the undisputed No. 1 in Houston, the third-year receiver will rudely welcome Kansas City’s first round pick. Marcus Peters received a -1.2 grade in 67 preseason snaps even though he allowed only 22 percent of the passes into his coverage to be completed. The Texans are small favorites at home in what profiles as a low-scoring affair, but Hopkins should see a high volume of targets if the Chiefs swallow up Houston’s fleet of barely backup caliber rushers.
Salary: $7,400 Projected Points: 14.6
Robinson was the source of one glowing report after another this offseason before stumbling somewhat in limited preseason work. His WR Rating of 69.6 was dwarfed by Allen Hurns’ 122. As a result of these struggles and numerous WR bargains, he may be sparsely owned despite a palatable DraftKings salary of $5,400. With Julius Thomas and Marqise Lee no longer in the immediate picture, Robinson could challenge the league leaders in targets. Those targets should turn into fantasy points barring an unlikely Charles Tillman renaissance. The former Bears star earned a -6.1 coverage grade back in 2013 before missing most of 2014 with injury. More recently he’s been struggling with the aftermath of a preseason concussion. Although a prime IDP play, Tillman is a DB to target in early season DFS.
Salary: $5,400 Projected Points: 14.1
With plenty of cheap and intriguing options at RB and WR, not to mention Rob Gronkowski playing on Thursday night, Greg Olsen becomes the week’s no-brainer for Sunday contests. The Panthers lost 142 targets when Kelvin Benjamin went down. Devin Funchess missed too much training camp time to play a primary role early, and the hoped-for emergence from Corey Brown has not materialized. Olsen steps into the target vacuum, and does so against a team that struggled badly against tight ends last season. Offseason acquisition Sergio Brown may help, but the returning Jacksonville linebackers and safeties earned negative coverage grades across the board.
Salary: $5,300 Projected Points: 11.0
Many fantasy owners don’t realize that Walker eked out a yard more than Travis Kelce last season (857 to 856) and bested Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates in yards per route. He could find the end zone more this season with Marcus Mariota at the helm, and Week 1 looks like a solid bet for a score against Tampa Bay’s porous defense. The Buccaneers earned a -33.7 grade in pass coverage last year. Those overall struggles extended to defending the tight end position where they were one of the NFL’s worst units. Exempting the Thursday night game, Walker owns PFF’s No. 6 projection for the week and the best points per salary number among relevant tight ends.
Salary: $3,400 Projected Points: 10.6