Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, and most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.
Week 1 is probably not what you’d call an “outstanding” week for me. A better term might be “worst week of all-time” or “the week Bales looked into possibly selling a kidney.”
But when you have a poor week of DFS, the only thing to do is sell your vital organs forget about it and move on. So that’s what I’m going to do with my picks this week—selections that could be horribly mediocre and still crush those from Week 1. Don’t forget I’m an expert at this stuff and everything I say is flawless.
Cream of the Crop
Russell Wilson, Seattle (@GB) – $7300
Wilson wasn’t particularly efficient in Week 1, but he did face off against one of the best defenses in the league in the Rams. I did see two positives, though, which were that Wilson ran the ball eight times and was able to hook up with Jimmy Graham in the red zone. Green Bay’s pass defense is okay, but I like Wilson to see a huge workload in this game.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (@NYG) – $7400
It sure looks like the Falcons are going to be getting the ball to Julio Jones a ton this season—even more so than normal, perhaps—which of course bodes well for Ryan’s fantasy outlook. It came against the Eagles, but Ryan’s Week 1 performance was very efficient, sans two interceptions. I actually don’t think Ryan is the top value at quarterback this week, but I do think he’s one of the safest.
Drew Brees, New Orleans (vs TB) – $7800
Brees is going to air it out a bunch this year, so he’s still going to be scoring at an elite rate, with or without Jimmy Graham. He’d probably be my top choice here against a different opponent, but New Orleans is favored by 10 points at home against the Bucs. They’re still projected at 28.5 points, but if Mark Ingram scores a few of the early touchdowns, Brees might not be in a position to continue to throw and his production is thus a little more fragile than normal. For that reason, I’m not 100% in love with him in cash games, despite the value.
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia (vs DAL) – $6900
I’m really not worried that the Eagles’ passing game was inefficient against Atlanta. Okay, maybe a little, but I do have confidence Chip Kelly will sort it out. And if not, they’re still gonna throw the crap out of the ball, so Bradford can put up 300/2 without even being good. The Cowboys lost their best pass-rusher in Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy will still be out for this game, so Bradford should have all day to pick apart a weak Dallas secondary.
Middle of the Pack
Carson Palmer, Arizona (@CHI) – $6700
With Andre Ellington out, the Cardinals could rely on the passing game even more than normal in Chicago. They’re currently projected at 23.3 implied points, which is mediocre, but I do think Palmer will account for a skewed percentage of the fantasy scoring Arizona does this week. Chicago’s pass defense isn’t good. My only concern here is potential wind, which could really hamper a deep-ball passer like Palmer.
Tony Romo, Dallas (@PHI) – $7100
If Dez Bryant were healthy, Romo would be my top quarterback in Week 2. Of course, part of the reason he’s this cheap is due to the absence of Bryant. This is the perfect example of when to not “trust” a model, as Romo is mathematically my top play. Still, I do think he’ll be able to move the ball on Philly—and Dallas could be down late in this one, too.
Philip Rivers, San Diego (@CIN) – $6700
Rivers was the lone quarterback to surpass 400 passing yards in Week 1, and he did it in what was supposed to be a lackluster matchup. He has another in Cincy in Week 2, where I think he’ll struggle more than what we saw on Sunday. The Bengals’ defense allowed 1.6 points per game fewer than salary-based expectations to quarterbacks last year. However, Rivers is still underpriced at only $6700.
Jay Cutler, Chicago (vs ARZ) – $6000
I hate playing Cutler. I’m probably not even going to play him in Week 2, but I do think a couple of his pass-catchers—Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte—could be in for big days. Arizona is below-average against the pass, but better on the outside. Alshon Jeffery might not be the smartest play, but I really do think one of Bennett or Forte is going to have a monster.
Rest of the Field
Eli Manning, NY Giants (vs Atlanta) – $7100
Manning was horrific against Dallas, and Atlanta’s pass defense look much-improved against Philly. Neither is as poor or as good as it seems, but I do think there’s a very real chance defenses have figured out better ways to neutralize Odell Beckham. All of Manning’s fantasy upside is tied to his top receiver, so if Beckham can’t go off, Manning will be a perpetually poor fantasy quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami (@JAX) – $7000
Tannehill is probably mathematically a better value than this, but I do have concerns the Dolphins will just pound the ball on Jacksonville and Tannehill won’t see much of a workload. The Jags’ defense actually allowed 1.3 points per game less than what we’d expect to quarterbacks last year based on their salaries.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee (@CLE) – $6000
There’s probably a decent chance Mariota comes back down to Earth this week, but the scary part is we haven’t even seen what he can do with his legs yet. He’s also still priced at just $6000. I do think there are safer options for cash games, while his tournament ownership will be inflated due to his initial performance.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (@PIT) – $6600
Kaepernick didn’t do crap as a passer on Monday night, but he was playing a top pass defense and also wasn’t forced the throw the ball very often. He did take off as a runner seven times, which I think is going to continue in Week 2 at Pittsburgh. The Steelers allowed 2.9 points per game more than expectation to quarterbacks last year. This is mostly a play of price-sensitivity rather than upside.
NFL Wide Receiver Rankings – Week 2
NFL Tight End Rankings – Week 2
NFL Defense Rankings – Week 2