Ladies and gentlemen, it is officially the DFS season! Or, at least almost… kind of… sort of.
FanDuel finally released its Week 1 salaries, along with two different tournaments awarding $1M to first place. So, to get you pumped up for the more official start to the NFL DFS season (just four weeks away), we’ve decided to provide you with some early (too early?) Week 1 DFS analysis.
Because these prices are released so much farther away from gametime than is typical, Week 1 values are typically the most blatant and most egregious. But, at the same time, so much can change between now and September 13th. With that being said, here are the players I found to be the most glaring and best values at each position:
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Los Angeles Chargers ($7,000) @ CIN
In three years as a starter for the Bills, Taylor averaged 19.3, 18.1, and 14.9 FPG. What makes Taylor an attractive upside-and-floor play in a weekly game like DFS is his consistent rushing ability. He averaged 35.6 rushing yards per start for the Bills, and in Week 1, draws a Bengals defense that allowed the most rushing yards per game (30.6) and the second-most FPG (20.9) to opposing quarterbacks last year. Compared to what he was saddled with in Buffalo, he’s been given a massive upgrade in weapons with the likes of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and a great receiving back in Austin Ekeler. And you're getting him at a major discount, ranking 16th in salary but ninth in fantasy points per game according to our 2020 season-long projections.
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($7,600) @ NO
This game has shootout potential written all over it, with the highest over/under of the slate (49.5) and a projected pace of play that’s well above average. On top of that, Tampa Bay and New Orleans ranked first- (56.7) and second-best (64.9), respectively, in rushing yards allowed per game (to running backs) last year. This should force both quarterbacks to lean pass-heavy. And in Brady’s case--throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski--look for him to make a big statement in a clear statement-game in Week 1.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles ($6,800) @ WAS
Sanders is a breakout waiting to happen, but he isn’t priced like it in Week 1. Instead, he’s glaringly a value, ranking seventh according to our season-long projections (18.2 FPG) but just 13th in salary on FanDuel. Add in a plus-matchup, and he might be the best value on the slate. Positive gamescript feels like a lock – the Eagles are 6.5-point favorites – which gives Sanders 20-plus-touch-potential. In the second half of last season, we saw Sanders start to turn into that bell-cow running back that we envision him being this year, drawing over 80% of Philadelphia’s snaps in four of his last seven games. Keep in mind, he had his most productive game against this same defense (Week 15), with a season-high 122 rushing yards and 32.0 fantasy points. He’s a potential slate-breaker in Week 1.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals ($7,300) vs LAC
Typically, a workhorse running back (as opposed to a bell cow who is featured in the passing game) can only be as productive as their offense allows them to be. The Bengals’ disastrous offensive line play and woeful overall offense certainly weren’t doing Mixon any favors last year. He averaged 4.09 yards per carry and not even a full yard of that came before contact, as he averaged 3.15 yards after contact per attempt. Although his offensive line clearly didn’t do him any favors, his talent was still on full display, as he ranked fifth among running backs in avoided tackles after the rush per PFF.
With Joe Burrow stepping in at Quarterback, Round 1 left tackle Jonah Williams returning from injury, and a fresh A.J. Green on the mend, Cincinnati’s offense should greatly improve and help Mixon get into space much more often. This upgrade in talent isn’t fully factored into his salary, so building around Mixon in Week 1 could pay off right away.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts ($5,400) @ JAC
After spending three seasons playing behind a top-tier offensive line in Wisconsin’s run-heavy offense, Taylor really couldn’t have asked for a more ideal landing spot. The Colts are also a run-first offensive – running on 47% of their plays last year, which ranked fifth-most – behind one of the league’s best run-blocking offensive lines. According to PFF, the Colts have ranked top-six in yards before contact per attempt in each of the past two seasons.
There are some concerns about the split in work with Marlon Mack, but that appears to be priced into his RB27 salary. With positive gamescript almost guaranteed (7.0-point favorites) both could easily get enough work to be fantasy-viable, but can Taylor be a week-winner? That might come down to who gets the bulk of the team’s red-zone work. On paper, you would assume Taylor can win that role having the power advantage over Mack (226 lbs vs. 210), and given that he had no trouble scoring in college (50 rushing touchdowns in three seasons).
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings ($6,800) vs GB
Looking through the salaries for Week 1, Thielen immediately jumped off the page. He’s priced as just the WR13, but we have him ranked sixth in our season-long projections. Thielen struggled through a number of injuries last year, but he’s now back to full health. With Stefon Diggs leaving behind a 21% target share, and not much competition for it, expect Kirk Cousins to look at Thielen early and often in Week 1. I think a 25% target share isn’t unlikely, making him one of the best floor- and ceiling-plays of the slate.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers ($5,200) vs ARI
The 49ers have the second-highest implied point total of the week (26.75). With Emmanuel Sanders in New Orleans and Deebo Samuel a longshot to play, Garoppolo needs to target someone besides George Kittle. That makes Aiyuk an ideal GPP target. He can immediately step into a Deebo Samuel-type role where he is not asked to consistently beat his man in coverage, and instead will benefit from play-action-type play designs that will get him open in space. This will give him the opportunity to show off his 21.3mph-speed and elite yards-after-the-catch ability that made him stand out in college and worthy of a Round 1 pick. Per PFF, Aiyuk led the 2019 draft class in career yards after the catch per reception (9.9). For comparison, Samuel ranked fifth in yards after the catch (484) last season.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons ($6,600) vs SEA
It was a tale of two halves for Ridley last year. Before Mohamed Sanu was traded in Week 8, Ridley was just not involved enough in the gameplan (15.1% target share) to be a productive fantasy option. After Sanu was traded, his target share spiked to 19.0% and he rounded out the second-half ranking ninth in FPG (15.0). He was already a top value according to our season-long projections – WR11 by projections, WR16 by salary – but on top of that, I think this game has massive shootout potential. Seattle @ Atlanta sports the second-largest over/under of the slate (48.5), but the spread is close (+/- 1.0), and we know Atlanta will lean pass heavy (first in pass% last year) with their foot on the gas (second in plays per game).
Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons ($5,200) vs SEA
With how fantasy-friendly the Falcons offense is, there is no reason not to continue to look their way in Week 1. Hurst steps into a high-value role that saw Austin Hooper finish third in FPG (14.6) and on an 18% target share (7th among tight ends). Ranking 13th in salary but sixth in our season-long projections, he stands out as one of the best values on the entire slate. And I especially like him (for deeper tournaments) when stacked alongside Calvin Ridley on Matt Ryan lineups.
Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets ($4,800) vs SEA
Herndon was a potential sophomore breakout before he saw his season derailed by suspension and injuries. Although the buzz seems to have died down, I think that’s a mistake. There is plenty of upside in this offense, especially with 30% of the team’s targets and 52% of the team’s air yards now vacated thanks to the departures of Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas. This game also sets up nicely for the passing attack, as the team should lean pass-heavy as 6.5-point underdogs. With Breshad Perriman drawing elite shadow cornerback Tre’Davious White, I’m expecting a big game from Herndon, who is clearly mispriced as just the 20th-most expensive tight end on the slate.