Christmas is finally here, as DraftKings released their Week 1 salaries last week. We’ll spend the next few weeks combing through the prices before settling into our standard process in September.
Of course, a lot will change over the next month. There’s a decent chance a starting RB or WR gets hurt, therefore thrusting his backup into “must play” territory. But we should realize for now that the cap is tighter than usual for Week 1. The bottom-tier starting QBs are in the $6K range instead of the $5K range. Studs such as Julio Jones ($9,400) and Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,200) are way up from the 2015 Week 1 prices ($8,600 and $8,300, respectively). In other words, we won’t be building any All-Star teams.
Here are my initial impressions:
1. RB Latavius Murray – $5,600 at Saints
As of right now, I’m projecting Murray as the highest-owned player on the main slate. He’s a three-down back who received 81.8 percent of the Raiders’ carries inside the 5-yard line last year, tied for the highest rate in the entire league. Murray is also facing a Saints defense which ranked dead last overall in DVOA and 27th against the run DVOA. They gave up the third-most points to fantasy running backs. The additions of first-round DT Sheldon Rankins and free agent DT Nick Fairley won’t be enough to save this defense.
2. WR Marvin Jones – $4,600 at Colts
A lot of the No. 2 receivers are priced in the $5K range, such as Michael Crabtree ($5,500), Allen Hurns ($5,800), Tyler Lockett ($5,000) and Michael Floyd ($5,900). But Marvin Jones comes in a little cheaper and is a 1A receiver alongside Golden Tate. In fact, reports out of Lions camp this week suggest Jones has actually become the preferred target of Matthew Stafford. The key to this play will be deciphering how the Cotls deploy dominant shadow corner Vontae Davis. If Anquan Boldin plays the slot and kicks Tate outside, it’s possible Davis stays with Tate and leaves Jones alone. In that scenario, Jones would have massive upside.
3. TE Dwayne Allen – $3,200 vs. Lions
I’ve already talked about Allen a couple times this season, including in this article about Coaching Change Winners. Coby Fleener is gone, TE-friendly Rob Chudzinski is in charge of the offense, Andrew Luck is healthy and the Colts’ three-wide base is undersized. At the very worst, Allen will be a primary red-zone threat. Note that much like centers in DraftKings NBA, tight ends in football are often the most underpriced position. So Allen isn’t really grossly cheap when we consider Julius Thomas is $3,800 and Martellus Bennett is $3,400. But he’s still cheap.
1. TE Rob Gronkowski – $7,400 at Cardinals
Gronk averaged just 8.0 targets per game last year, fewer than Jordan Reed’s 8.1 and Delanie Walker’s 8.9. He was held to five catches or fewer in 11-of-16 games and had zero multi-TD games following his Week 1 outburst against the Steelers. Yet Gronk remains $7,400, $2,400 more than the second-priciest tight end on the opening slate (Travis Kelce). If we compare him to receivers, his volume pales next to the projected volume for Brandon Marshall ($7,800), Jordy Nelson ($7,700), Mike Evans ($7,400) and Golden Tate ($7,300). If we compare Gronk to tight ends, we can get two good ones like Dwayne Allen and Julius Thomas for a combined cheaper price than Gronk. Oh, and Jimmy Garoppolo is starting in place of suspended Tom Brady.
2. RB Adrian Peterson – $7,600 at Titans
I rarely roster two-down backs in full-PPR scoring formats. There’s just too much that can go wrong with the game script, which in turn can leave our player without a real role for much of the second half. So that means Todd Gurley, Doug Martin, Thomas Rawls and yes Adrian Peterson all come with caution flags weekly. That’s especially true when they’re very expensive as APete is in Week 1. Note that the Vikings are only a three-point favorite on the road here and facing a Titans team with a stated goal to ground-n-pound. It’s well within the range of outcomes that the Vikings get behind and Jerick McKinnon is the one on the field for crucial touches late.
3. RB Eddie Lacy – $6,700 at Jaguars
The Packers told Eddie Lacy he was too heavy last season and responded by training with P90X guru Tony Horton. Did it work? I’d like to see it with my own eyes first, especially after the Packers gave James Starks a new two-year contract in March worth $6M – big numbers for a 30-year-old backup RB. On top of that, the Jags quietly have a chance to be really good up front thanks to the arrival of DT Malik Jackson and DE Dante Fowler.
PROJECTING THE MOST POPULAR STACKS
These are not my favorite stacks – these are simply the ones I expect to be highest owned in Week 1 tournaments:
1. Derek Carr and Amari Cooper – Total $14,500
Everyone wants a big piece of the game with the highest total on the slate. Everyone wants a piece of the inept Saints defense. Everyone wants to believe in the roommate bonding. Add it all up and it’s a no-brainer to project Carr/Cooper as the highest-owned stack in Week 1.
2. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin – Total $14,500
Wilson’s truly historic second half last year is still fresh. Over the final seven games, he completed 70.9 percent of his passes with a 8.78 YPA and absurd 24:1 TD-to-INT ration. He’s only the fourth-most expensive QB in Week 1 at $7,900 and has a dream matchup with a Dolphins team searching the streets for corners. As for Baldwin, everyone knows he’ll regress off his 14-TD eruption from last year. That’s why he’s only $6,600, the 20th-most expensive WR on the slate.
3. Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks – Total $15,800
Expect a ton of game stacks with OAK and NO players. The chalk stack within the Saints will be Brees to his obvious No. 1 WR, Brandin Cooks. Just beware of the limited red-zone usage Cooks receives, as I noted here. Brees to Willie Snead ($4,800) also figures to be popular (along with Carr to Crabtree), especially if Snead holds off Michael Thomas for the No. 2 WR gig.
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.