The NFL regular season is just one month away, and that means we are merely a month away from fantasy football. As anyone reading this likely knows, DFS is the best version of fantasy football, and since DraftKings recently released their Week 1 pricing, we can get started on researching that right away.
Here are the most glaring values I’ve found after analyzing pricing.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers ($6,100) (AT BUF)
Since 2014, Roethlisberger has only started six games where the Steelers’ were implied underdogs by 4.0 or more points, averaging 24.8 DraftKings points in those games. And he’s averaged 23.3 DK points in games with an over/under greater than 49.5. While there is a valid concern the Steelers will go more run-heavy this season, there's no threat of that happening in Week 1, as 7.0-point road dogs against the juggernaut-like Bills.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Washington Football Team ($5,500) (VS. LAC)
Since 2018, Ryan Fitzpatrick has averaged 19.1 fantasy points in the 27 games he’s started. That would’ve ranked 12th among QBs last year, yet Fitz is just 18th in QB salary. And in the 23 games he’s started and finished (playing on at least 90% of his team’s snaps), he averages 22.6 FPG. For perspective, only two QBs average more FPG over this span — Patrick Mahomes (24.5) and Lamar Jackson (24.2). Unlike the past three seasons, Fitzpatrick faces minimal risk of being benched if he performs poorly, which further helps secure his floor. In a neutral-at-worst matchup vs LAC, Fitzpatrick’s $5,500 salary offers a 3.5-4.1X value if he performs in line with his average as a starter from the past three seasons.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals ($6,200) (VS. MIN)
Joe Mixon ranks 12th among running backs in our season-long projections — and seventh in Scott Barrett’s running back rankings — and yet he’s just the 15th most expensive running back on the slate in Week 1. More importantly, 2021 marks the first true bell cow opportunity of Mixon’s career.
Mixon has been seriously gamescript-dependent during his time in the NFL, averaging 25.2 FPG in wins but just 13.3 FPG in losses over the past three seasons. Giovani Bernard’s departure to Tampa Bay opens the door for Mixon to garner more receiving involvement, and that appears to be coming true in camp as Bengals beat writers have noted Mixon is lining up more as WR and should expect to see “the largest workload of his career” in 2021. Increased receiving involvement will limit Mixon’s gamescript-dependency, which means that unlike previous seasons, Mixon will remain offensively involved even if the game gets out of hand.
Even if Mixon only manages to repeat what he did last year, he’s still a screaming value at $6,100, as he ranked 3rd in carries per game (19.8), 13th in targets per game (4.3), 9th in FPG (16.9) and 2nd in xFP per game (19.2) in 2020. Tack on an above-average matchup against Minnesota and it’s clear Mixon is one of the top values at the position.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team ($5,900) (VS. LAC)
An even more glaring discrepancy than Mixon, Antonio Gibson ranks 8th in our season-long projections but just 18th in Week 1 RB salary. Again similar to Mixon, WFT coaches have been quite complimentary of Gibson this offseason. HC Ron Rivera stated “I expect he can make a big jump" when asked about Gibson’s year 2 outlook while RB coach Randy Jordan suggested Gibson is finally getting familiar with the nuance of the position. And ESPN beat writer John Keim noted that Washington wants to get Gibson more involved in the passing game.
Scott Barrett expands more on Gibson’s 2021 outlook here, but this all shapes up as a clear sign that Gibson is going to see a boost to the workload that earned him 16.9 FPG prior to his Week 13 toe injury. Given that 16.9 FPG would’ve been good for RB10 last year, it’s safe to say Gibson is a strong value with a salary of $5,900.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team ($6,400) (VS. LAC)
This is the cheapest McLaurin has been since Week 7 of last season. He ranks 9th among WRs in our season long projections, 10th by positional ADP, but 13th in Week 1 salary. He now has Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him passes, which is a huge improvement in both accuracy and aggressiveness compared to McLaurin’s 2020 QB duo of Dwayne Haskins and Alex Smith. And McLaurin played through TWO high ankle sprains last year and averaged 17.7 FPG prior to injury, which would’ve made him the overall WR6 if he sustained that for the entire season. Mclaurin’s a clear value anyway you look at it.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals ($4,800) (VS. MIN)
Chase may never be cheaper than this. He’s WR22 in our projections and is WR23 by ADP, but is 37th in WR salary. Per Scott Barrett’s rookie model, Chase is the top WR prospect to come out since at least 2015. At just 19 years old, Chase was more productive than the WR who broke the modern rookie receiving record (Justin Jefferson), and on 13 fewer targets.
There were obviously no bad destinations for Chase, but reuniting with his college QB on the team with the 10th-highest neutral-situation early-down pass rate is pretty close to optimal. The Week 1 matchup is stellar, as no team gave up more fantasy points to outside WRs on a per target basis than Minnesota did last year (2.18). Joe Burrow’s Week 1 status is still up in the air, and that’ll be important to monitor, but Chase should see the target volume Week 1 to provide value on his borderline-disrespectful $4,800 salary regardless.
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets ($3,000) (AT CAR)
Moore has been simply incredible this offseason, and all reports out of Jets’ camp back that up. HC Robert Saleh said Moore is “already ahead of the game” in regards to his development in the Jets offense while beat writer DJ Bien-Aime stated that Moore “has been unstoppable” through his first week of training camp.
This isn’t an aberration, as Moore was also an outstanding player at Ole Miss. Both Scott Barrett and Wes Huber dive deeper into this in their own breakdowns of Moore, but his 2020 college production is as good as it gets. Scott notes his most impressive feat, averaging 157.1 yards from scrimmage per game over the 2020 season, which is “the most by any WR since at least 2000, and maybe ever.” That was in his age 20 season, which makes it the 2nd-best age-adjusted receiving YPG season for a power-5 WR since 2002.
So yeah, Moore is really, really good. And he ranks 47th in our season long projections, 55th by ADP, but 90th by WR salary. If Moore is as good as we all think he is, this is the only time you’ll ever be able to roster him at anything resembling the minimum WR price on DraftKings. He’s a near-lock button play in Week 1.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons ($4,400) (VS. PHI)
Similar to Chase, Kyle Pitts may never be this cheap again. He’s TE5 in our projections, TE4 by ADP, but just 8th in salary. He’s arguably the greatest TE prospect ever and probably would’ve been a Round 1 pick if he played WR. The Julio Jones trade means there are plenty of vacated targets for Pitts to take advantage of, and his Week 1 opponent, the Eagles, are the 7th-best matchup for opposing TEs. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not missing the chance to grab a future Hall of Fame TE at what may be the cheapest DK salary of his career. Pitts is the top value at the position.
Adam Trautman, TE, New Orleans Saints ($2,900) (VS. GB)
The Saints enter 2021 with the 8th-most vacated targets and their top returning WR (Michael Thomas) sidelined for the first-half of the season. That presents a huge potential opportunity for Adam Trautman early on. Trautman’s only competition for playing time is Nick Vannett, so it’s safe to say he’s a lock to be the Saints starting TE. In recent memory, we’ve seen TE1 seasons from former Saints Jared Cook (TE7) in 2019, Benjamin Watson (TE11) in 2017, and Jimmy Graham, who was no worse than the overall TE2 from 2011-2014.
Trautman has a chance to be the Saints next fantasy TE1, and based on beat reports so far, he’s definitely trending that direction. The prospect of Taysom Hill starting would lower the Saints’ passing volume and thus Trautman’s target floor, but without Michael Thomas, Trautman sets up to potentially be the Saints No. 2 pass catcher after Alvin Kamara. And he’s TE16 in our projections, TE15 by ADP, yet TE29 by Week 1 salary. Had it not been for Kyle Pitts, Trautman would be the biggest TE value of Week 1.