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2016 NFL DFS: Week 1 DraftKings and FanDuel Breakdown

Below you’ll find discussions of the players that are “in play” at each position for Week 1 DFS contests on DraftKings and FanDuel. Players are arbitrarily listed in descending order of FanDuel salary and are not ranked in order of preference given differences between the sites and the varying types of contests you might be playing.

The DraftKings main slate only covers the 13-game Sunday slate, so you won’t see LA, Pittsburgh, San Francisco or Washington players discussed in the context of DK contests. But the FanDuel main slate is the 15-game Sunday-Monday slate, so a few of those Monday night players may be mentioned in the context of FD contests.

Before we get started, I want to link to some work done by 4for4.com’s Chris Raybon this offseason. Chris published DFS strategy articles for each position (which are linked below) that were excellent and illuminating. I highly recommend you read those, bookmark them, and refer back to them often.

Quarterback

Andrew Luck — vs. DET — DK: $8,300 — FD: $8,700

This Indy-Detroit game has the second highest total in Vegas, and the Colts are the favorite, which gives them the highest implied team total of the week. Raybon’s research shows that home favorites with high team totals are ideal at this position, especially in cash games, and Luck definitely meets that criteria. Early season matchup data is iffy to be sure, but Detroit ranks 28th in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to QBs, which takes into account offseason acquisitions.

The only real issue with Luck is price. There are cheaper options we’ll get to that have cash or GPP appeal, and this is a position where the cheapest possible option is preferable. That said, this game situation sets up well for cash games, and Luck doesn’t figure to be one of the most heavily owned QBs, so he’ll work for GPPs as well. If you have the cash for it or simply love Luck this week, there are decent arguments for paying for him.

Russell Wilson — vs. MIA — DK: $7,900 — FD: $8,500

Seattle is tied with New Orleans for the second highest team total of the week at 27, just a shade lower than the Colts implied total of 27.25. With the Seahwaks being at home, that favorite at home stuff applies just as much to Wilson as it does to Luck. With Wilson being a bit cheaper than Luck on both sites, I see no reason to choose Luck over Wilson in cash games, though there are cheaper options that may be preferable to Wilson. However, in GPPs, Luck figures to be lower-owned, so Luck could be preferable in GPPs.

Carson Palmer — vs. NE — DK: $7,100 — FD: $7,900

Palmer and the Cards are a 5.5-point favorite at home with a team total of 26.5. That’s appealing. What isn’t appealing is the matchup with New England who ranks 12th in aFPA, though that’s not enough to disqualify Palmer from consideration. His price on FD is a bit high and does rule him out for me on that site, but he’s in play at his price point on DK. Wilson or a cheaper option yet to be discussed probably make more sense for cash, but Palmer should be low-owned enough to be a GPP option.

Derek Carr — @ NO — DK: $7,300 — FD: $7,700

Carr and the Raiders are neither a favorite nor are they playing at home, which gives me some pause about using Carr. But the obvious appeal is the matchup with New Orleans who ranks 32nd in aFPA. That matchup should make him a popular play and thus someone to avoid in GPPs. I’ll likely look elsewhere in cash games, but he’s priced decently enough to be a cash option on either site.

Dak Prescott — vs. NYG — DK: $5,000 — FD: $5,000

Aside from the fact that Prescott is a rookie, all factors point to him being a solid cash game play. The Cowboys are favored at home and have a team total of 24. Their matchup with the Giants is a good one with the Giants ranking 26th in aFPA. And perhaps most importantly, Dak is the minimum price on both sites thanks to the early release of Week 1 salaries. The price tag is what really offsets the risk of starting a rookie QB Week 1 in cash games. If you just can’t stomach it, Wilson is an acceptable cash alternative. And you should definitely find an alternative in GPPs as Dak should be pretty highly owned. But there’s a good argument to be made that he’s the best option for cash games this week.

Behind the paywall you’ll find the rest of our Week 1 NFL DFS breakdown.

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Running Back

Todd Gurley — @ SF— DK: N/A — FD: $8,900

This position is all abut volume, and if you had to bet on one back to get the most touches this week, Gurley would probably be the best bet. San Francisco ranks dead last in aFPA against running backs, so all those touches arguably couldn’t come against a better opponent. Running back is another position where the cheapest sufficient option is preferable. Actually, that’s true of all positions other than receiver. But if you have money to spend on something other than a receiver, Gurley is an option.

Ezekiel Elliott — vs. NYG — DK: $7,300 — FD: $7,900

Zeke is in a class with Gurley, Adrian Peterson and Lamar Miller as guys who stand to see a fairly healthy dose of touches given the quarterback situations on their respective teams. Zeke is basically a poor man’s version of Gurley with a good matchup, though not as good as Gurley’s. Like Gurley, Zeke is really only an FD option and only someone to roster if you have extra cash laying around but not enough to roster Gurley.

Lamar Miller — vs. CHI — DK: $7,000 — FD: $7,600

Miller is another of that group of four backs likely to see a heavy workload, and he’s my favorite option of the bunch. His matchup with Chicago is just middling per aFPA, but RB is the position where matchup matters the least. What makes him most appealing from that group is simply cost as he’s the cheapest of the four. You don’t necessarily have to go contrarian at both RB spots in GPPs, so Miller could be used in tournaments if you get a bit contrarian in your second RB slot.

DeAngelo Williams — @ WAS — DK: N/A — FD: $7,100

With Le’Veon Bell out, Williams should see plenty of touches. In nine games in which Bell was out last season (excluding Week 17), Williams averaged 19.22 carries, which obviously doesn’t even include receptions. He’s only available on the FD slate and he’s cheaper than Miller there, so Williams is arguably the best RB1 option in cash games on that site. He figures to be one of the more heavily owned backs on the slate, even more so than Miller, so perhaps he’s not the best GPP option depending on what you do with your other RB slot.

LeSean McCoy —@ BAL — DK: $6,400 — FD: $6,900

McCoy isn’t likely to be one of the more popular backs, so he strikes me as a decent GPP option. With Karlos Williams out of the picture, McCoy should see a healthy dose of carries. In the four games last year in which Williams did not appear and McCoy was active, McCoy averaged 19 carries compared to 15.8 in games where Williams played. McCoy is active in the passing game, so he’s a three-down back. I like his price better on FD, but he’ll work on either site in GPPs.

Latavius Murray — @ NO — DK: $5,600 — FD: $6,600

If you’re looking to go as cheap as you can in your RB1 slot, Murray may be your guy. He’s quite a bit cheaper than Gurley/Zeke/Miller, and while he may not see quite as many touches as those guys, he should see an above average workload. The Saints rank 29th in aFPA and 27th in aFPA against backs in PPR leagues, which isn’t insignificant since Murray caught 41 passes last year.

Frank Gore — vs. DET— DK: $5,500 — FD: $6,200

Raybon’s research shows that running backs for teams that are home favorites score more fantasy points on average. The Colts are a five-point favorite at home and have the highest implied team total, as mentioned above. Also working in Gore’s favor is red zone/goal line work as well as likely low ownership. He could be an option in GPPs, especially on FD where he’s a better value.

Spencer Ware — vs. SD — DK: $4,400 — FD: $5,400

With Jamaal Charles doubtful, Ware should see a healthy amount of touches. At his price point his dollar spent per touch should be one of the lower figures of the week. The Chargers rank 28th in aFPA (though they rank sixth in aFPA in PPR), so the matchup is fine. But really the workload compared to cost makes Ware difficult to pass up, especially in cash. He’ll be heavily owned, but he can still be rostered in GPPs if you get a bit contrarian in your other RB slot.

Wide Receiver

Antonio Brown — @ WAS — DK: N/A — FD: $9,300

Just like at running back, you’re looking for volume at receiver, so targets are key. Opportunities for a receiver to see a significant spike in volume at a low cost don’t happen as much as they do at running back a la Ware. This is primarily because other pass-catchers on the team also receive the benefit of a heavily targeted receiver missing a game. And all this is one of the reasons that receiver is the best spot to spend your money.

Brown, only available on FD, is the most expensive option of the slate, which is fine given that he was the second most targeted receiver last season. There’s nothing wrong with the matchup against Washington, either on a team or individual level, so Brown is very much in play. That said, there are other elite options that are slightly cheaper that may be better options.

Julio Jones — vs. TB — DK: $9,400 — FD: $9,000

Jones was the most targeted receiver in the league last season and may be matched up often with a rookie CB on Sunday, albeit the #11 overall pick Vernon Hargreaves. There’s some concern about Jones having an ankle injury, but he has practiced fully the last two days. As long as he doesn’t end up with a questionable tag, Jones is a fantastic option.

DeAndre Hopkins — vs. CHI — DK: $8,800 — FD: $8,400

Hopkins joined Brown and Jones a cut above the rest of the league in targets last year, so he’s also a good option in a matchup with the Bears that doesn’t present any intimidating individual matchups. All three of these studs should be pretty heavily owned, but it’s more than OK to use one chalk play at this position in GPPs.

Brandon Marshall — vs. CIN— DK: $7,800 — FD: $7,700

Marshall is primarily listed here as an alternative to the big three discussed above in the event you aren’t able to afford any of them. Marshall is just a bit cheaper and still a heavily targeted player (fifth in targets last year).

Sammy Watkins — @ BAL — DK: $6,900 — FD: $7,300

Watkins isn’t exactly a target monster, so he’s probably best used in GPPs. He’s got plenty of upside in GPPs in a good individual matchup as he’s likely to see a lot of Jimmy Smith. Watkins is included here in large part because he’s priced decently on DK where they tend to aggressively price receivers due to the PPR scoring system.

Larry Fitzgerald — vs. NE — DK: $6,300 — FD: $7,200

With Palmer being a GPP option mentioned above and Fitzgerald likely to be fairly low-owned, a Cards QB-WR1 stack makes sense in GPPs. The Pats don’t present an individual matchup threat, and Fitz may end up seeing a rookie a fair amount in coverage. Like Palmer, Fitz is priced more attractively on DK, so stack them there if you like them.

Jarvis Landry — @ SEA — DK: $6,000 — FD: $6,600

Landry may seem like a counter-intuitive play against the Seahawks who rank 1st in aFPA against WRs both in standard and PPR scoring. But the strength of that Seattle pass D is on the outside, and Landry will line up primarily in the slot and have a much better matchup than his teammates. And don’t let the fact that Miami is a big underdog scare you off. The “throwing from behind” game script can favor receivers since volume is such a key at the position, though it doesn’t favor QBs where efficiency trumps volume. Speaking of volume, Landry ranked sixth in targets last season. For that reason, he’s a viable cash game option. And because the matchup with Seattle likely keeps his ownership low-ish, he’s also a nice GPP option.

Donte Moncrief — vs. DET — DK: $6,000 — FD: $6,200

Though QB-WR1 stacks are preferable, the individual matchups here indicate that Moncrief might be the better option to stack with Luck as opposed to T.Y. Hilton. Hilton should see tough shadow corner Darius Slay most of the game, leaving Moncrief to matchup with Detroit’s weaker corners.

Michael Crabtree — @ NO — DK: $5,500 — FD: $6,100

If you’re using Carr at QB, Crabtree may be a better stack option than Amari Cooper. Cooper is much more likely to see Delvin Breaux in coverage. Past Breaux the Saints have basically nothing at cornerback, so Crabtree should see some excellent individual matchups. Crabtree is projected for eight targets by ProFootballFocus, which would make Crabtree the best option listed here in terms of dollars you’ll have to spend per target.

Tight End

Instead of listing out each player, I’m going to discuss tight ends as a group because each player blurb would be about the same. Raybon’s research indicates you want to target tight ends playing for teams with an implied total of at least 24, preferably a home favorite. Matchup on a team level also matters a bit more here than it does at RB or WR. Four tight ends fit the criteria of playing for a home favorite with an implied total of 24 or more against an opponent favorable to tight ends: Travis Kelce (DK: $5,000, FD: $6,400), Jason Witten (DK:$4,100, FD: $5,500), Coby Fleener (DK: $4,900, FD: $5,400) and Dwayne Allen (DK: $3,200, FD: $5,500).

Because tight end is so touchdown-dependent and thus more volatile than other positions, spending as little as possible if the preferred strategy. That makes Allen on DK very difficult to pass up. Over on FD Allen, Witten and Fleener are all similarly priced, and Allen is the odd man out there. Witten has a great matchup with the Giants who rank 31st in aFPA against tight ends, but Fleener has a good matchup himself against Oakland who ranks 28th. Given that Flenner has Drew Brees throwing to him as opposed to Prescott, and given that the tight end has been a big part of New Orleans’ offense in recent years, Fleener is preferable on FD.

Being contrarian isn’t as important at this position, so I’m likely to go with Allen on DK and Fleener on FD in both cash and GPPs.

Kicker

DraftKings has gotten rid of the scourge that is kickers in fantasy football, but FanDuel still requires you to roster a waify dude who wears a sock shoe onto a football field.

Really all you’re looking for at kicker is a kicker on a team with an implied total of at least 24. Preferably they’ll play for a home favorite, but a road favorite kicker is acceptable as well. The cheapest kicker who meets this criteria is Matt Bryant at $4,500 on FD. The Falcons are a three-point favorite at home against Tampa Bay and have an implied total of 25.25. Bryant isn’t likely to be highly owned, so he’s an excellent GPP option. He’ll also work in cash if you don’t have extra money for a kicker. If you do have extra to spend on a kicker, Steven Hauschka and Adam Vinatieri at $4,800 are good options in cash games.

Defense/Special Teams

When picking a defense, you want a defense that will face a lot of pass plays. Fantasy point-scoring events like interceptions and sacks only happen on pass plays, and fumbles are actually more common on pass plays than rushing plays. That means you’re looking for favorites, ideally home favorites. And the lower the opposing offense’s implied total the better. Anything below 24 is acceptable, and anything below 18 is gravy.

The Seahawks, Chiefs and Eagles are the three biggest favorites of the weekend and are all facing teams with an implied total of 18.75 or lower. The Seahawks are the biggest favorite and facing the team with the lowest implied total, which makes them the best cash option on FD where they’re priced very similarly to the Chiefs and Eagles. But on DK the Chiefs are a bit cheaper than the Seahawks and the Eagles even a bit cheaper than the Chiefs. I’d recommend going with the Eagles on DK and only upgrading to the Chiefs or Seahawks if you have cash left over.

For GPPs I’m leaning toward a more contrarian option like Atlanta. The Falcons are a three-point favorite at home against the Bucs who have an implied total of 22.25. I also like Atlanta because there is a positive correlation between kicker and defense scoring, which makes K-DST stacks a viable strategy. Seeing as how I like Bryant at kicker, I quite like a Bryant-Atlanta DST stack on FD, which is where the Falcons are priced a bit more attractively. If forced to pick an alternative GPP option, I’d go with Baltimore as a three-point home favorite against Buffalo.

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