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.
I’m sitting in a hotel room right now, writing this at 6:45am. I would be shocked if this article turns out to be anything other than mediocre.
I’m all thrown off this week. I’ve been traveling, trying to work on the road, buying the internet on a three-hour flight for roughly the same price as my first car. I’m not in my regular routine, and thus I’ve been horribly inefficient with my work.
I’m headed back home on Thursday and very excited to just sleep in my bed and have a normal day. I’m planning to work on the bulk of my lineups then before flying out again.
I think developing a routine is one of the most overlooked aspects of being a profitable daily fantasy player. Some guys are able to do that even while on the road—CSURAM88 is sensational as a road DFS warrior—but I need to work on it. Basically what I’m saying is you’ll want to scoop my head-to-head games in Week 1 because there’s a decent chance I’m so tired I start John Kuhn or something.
Don’t underestimate the value of a sound process and a strict routine. If your significant other complains that you’re spending too much time on daily fantasy, just ignore it because they won’t be complaining when you win $2 million this weekend.
DFS > Normal Life Goals.
Cream of the Crop
Davante Adams, Green Bay (at Chicago) – $4400
I’ve said in the past that if I’m going to fade an obvious value at any position, it is wide receiver. Unlike running backs whose workloads are more stable, wide receivers are so volatile that you can sometimes gain a huge edge by identifying very clear values like Adams who will be in a ton of lineups and potentially getting away from them in tournaments.
But I won’t be doing that here. I just like Adams too much—he was my No. 1 receiver coming out of the draft last year—and he’s thousands of dollars underpriced. The only question I have is how much exposure I’ll have in tournaments, but I’m thinking quite a bit.
And in cash games, Adams is must-play.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (at New England) – $8900
Brown isn’t eligible for the Millionaire Maker, but he’s arguably the top cash-game option almost every week he takes the field. There’s just so much safety here—even against New England—that I think you can “overpay” just to secure the sure points. The Pats did have one of the top defenses against receivers last season, but it’s difficult to stop quick screens behind the line-of-scrimmage.
Julian Edelman, New England (vs Pittsburgh) – $6600
The philosophy behind Edelman is basically the same as with Brown: short targets that increase safety for cash games. I normally want receivers who can realistically score two touchdowns in a game for GPP use, but Edelman could see enough looks to give you plenty of upside. Actually, my model suggests he’ll surpass 22 DraftKings points with 15 percent probability.
Julio Jones, Atlanta (vs Philadelphia) – $9300
I think Adams is going to have the highest ownership this week. Jones is my prediction for No. 2. The Eagles probably have a better pass defense this year—we don’t really know yet—but this is going to be a game on which you’ll want to stack up. It has the highest projected Vegas total, and that over/under might not even fully capture the fantasy upside given the pace with which the game could be played. There’s a good chance there’s 150 or 160 plays run in this game, so we’ll see above-average overall output even with average efficiency.
Also, this is Julio Jones, at home, against Philly.
Middle of the Pack
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans (@Arizona) – $7100
Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing offense is actually one of my favorite under-the-radar GPP options in Week 1. I think there’s a general consensus that Arizona has a stout pass defense—probably because of their big-name cornerbacks—but they’ve been quite poor in the past; last season, the Cards allowed 1.6 points per game above expectation to quarterbacks (that is, 1.6 PPG more than what we’d expect based on the opposing passers’ salaries)—which was one of the worst marks in the league.
The Cards are particularly poor over the middle of the field. I like Cooks to potentially decimate them there.
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (vs Carolina) – $5400
Very quietly, Robinson was an extremely consistent player in his rookie season, catching at least four passes in every single game. Really, this is just a matter of price for me; I don’t love Robinson’s upside in this game, but I do like him as a cheap wide receiver play in cash games.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay (at Chicago) – $8000
I’m actually not as high on Cobb since the Jordy injury as some others; I think Adams is the obvious beneficiary, but I’d expect one of Ty Montgomery or Jeff Janis to really get a lot of Nelson’s looks. I also think the injury helps Eddie Lacy quite a bit, especially in the red zone.
However, Cobb is still a No. 1 receiving option on an offense projected by Vegas at 28.3 implied points—just 0.7 points behind Philly, the top offense in Week 1—and facing a horrific Chicago team.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (vs New Orleans) – $5500
Fitz clearly isn’t the player he once was, but he’s much better with Carson Palmer throwing him the ball. Against a mediocre pass defense, I’ll gamble on Fitzgerald’s upside at this price tag all day. He won’t be in my cash lineups.
Rest of the Field
Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia (at Atlanta) – $5700
I think it would be foolish to not have any exposure to the Eagles this weekend. They’re Vegas’s favorite team and run such a fast-paced, efficient offense. I’m not normally too high on rookie receivers early in the year, but I think Agholor is the real deal. Really, though, this is all about my confidence in Chip Kelly. The Falcons allowed 1.1 points above expectation to wide receivers in 2014.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay (vs Tennessee) $6000
Jackson is one of the most volatile receivers in the NFL. He could realistically post a 2/20/0 line, or he could go for 180 yards and two scores. I have no idea which one will happen, but I do know he’s worth the risk in GPPs at $6000, even with a rookie signal-caller. I almost never roster this type of player in cash games.
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia (at Atlanta) – $7200
I like the idea of stacking Bradford-Matthews-Agholor together in tournaments. There’s plenty of upside to go around, and long-term data suggests the QB-WR-WR double-stack is perhaps underutilized.
Cole Beasley, Dallas (vs New York Giants) – $3400
Cole and I have come a long way since this moment:
Just kidding. He still hates me.
But the Giants love to play Cover 2 against Dallas so they can more or less double Dez, which leaves things open over the middle. Jason Witten ranks quite high on the runs-like-he-has-really-bad-sunburn scale, so I do sort of like Beasley—gasp—in cash games, even if he looks like Steve the Pirate.