NFL Week 1
Joe Burrow, Cin vs. LAC ($5800 DK, $6600 FD, O/U 44.5)
An argument could be made against choosing an untested, rookie quarterback in order to minimize risk. Normally, I’d tend to agree. However, I’m fully on board the Joe Burrow bandwagon with analysis of his historic ’19 season in tow. Burrow possesses the poise, rhythm, aggressiveness, and accuracy that may prove to exceed the likes of previous No. 1 overall selections such as Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, and Kyler Murray.
Burrow holds the atypical ability to produce stats worthy of instant DFS consideration. The “Tiger King” will face off at home against the Chargers’ soft cover-3 shell that, while impressively minimizing damage, allowed the league’s third-highest completion percentage, and fielding a linebacker unit that graded out as the 9th worst such unit in the NFL, per PFF.
The Bottom Line: This matchup should provide Burrow with a prime opportunity to pick apart a relaxed zone equipped with a potential juggernaut of weapons at his disposal. I believe Burrow is determined to establish this as notice to teams that his college performance was no fluke. We may never again see Burrow come in at such a low salary, particularly on DraftKings.
Gardner Minshew, Jax vs. Ind ($5800 DK, $6700 FD, O/U 46.0)
While I was initially tempted to go Lamar Jackson here, reports of the Ravens hoping to reduce his rushing attempts and recent reports of a quad injury gave me pause. With every intention of starting Christian McCaffrey and, on FanDuel, Michael Thomas in as many lineups as possible, I fully plan to fade Jackson Week 1.
Enter the “Jock Strap King.” Despite being benched in favor of Nick Foles following a Week 9 26-3 beatdown at the hands the Texans, Minshew deserved better. Having a sixth-round rookie pressed into action on opening day, conclude the season with a 21-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio, and 344 rushing yards should be viewed as far more than a fill-in pleasantry… it’s rather an amazing accomplishment, frankly.
The Bottom Line: With Foles no longer in the picture, Minshew will face multi-coverage secondary shells from the Colts on their home turf. During the significant snaps in which the Colts throw a Cover 1 shell at Minshew, they’ll fall directly into Minshew’s wheelhouse of targeting receivers deep down both sidelines.
Alternatives: Russell Wilson at Atl, Carson Wentz at Was
Christian McCaffrey, Car vs. LV ($10,000 DK, $10,000 FD, O/U 47.0)
A commonly held tourney-play misconception calls for all rostered players to fall below a certain ownership percentage. That’s entirely untrue! Research the multitude of millionaire-making lineups over the years for proof that winning lineups simply require a couple sub-five percent or so ownership plays for lineup differentiation. The remainder of the lineup is fair play for the crème de la crème.
Despite holding the top salary on the main slate, Christian McCaffrey maintains chalk status at the position on both platforms. Easily topping all RBs with 140 targets and a PFF receiving grade only exceeded by Austin Ekeler, CMC’s bell cow touch percentage is second to none. Consider that McCaffrey saw at least eight targets in 10 games last season, and 10 or more in six of his last seven.
The Bottom Line: McCaffrey would maintain must-start status with Kyle Allen returning under center and Scott Turner calling the plays. Both have moved on to Washington, with Teddy Bridgewater leading the show and Sean Payton protégé/aerial guru Joe Brady calling the shots. Put “Run CMC” in your lineups against the Raiders’ 24th-ranked running back PFF coverage grade and do not look back.
Austin Ekeler, LAC at Cin ($7,000 DK, $7,700 FD, O/U 44.5)
Should training camp reports from head coach Anthony Lynn hold true of Austin Ekeler taking his game “to another level,” a McCaffrey-lite season could be on the horizon. “Pound for Pound” came out of the gate last season during Melvin Gordon’s holdout to catapult many a DFS lineup to profitability, with over 26 DK and nearly 22 FD points per contest over the first five games.
Gordon has moved on to Denver and Ekeler will “share” the role with veteran Justin Jackson and rookie Joshua Kelley. As mentioned, only Ekeler was able to top McCaffrey’s PFF receiving grade last season. With offensive coordinator Shane Steichen installing a revamped Mike Shanahan-style offense sprinkled with a dash of the pistol deployed by the University of Oregon, Ekeler will be permitted to take handoffs from a variety of different looks than the shotgun-only offense of the past.
The Bottom Line: An alluring matchup on paper with a Bengals defense that struggled mightily in coverage of running backs combined with a known fast starter in Ekeler, the Chargers star RB provides ample reasoning for plug-and-play exposure.
Alternatives: Kenyan Drake at SF, Miles Sanders at Was, Le’Veon Bell at Buf
Health Check: Drake (foot), Sanders (hamstring), David Montgomery (groin), D’Andre Swift (leg), Sony Michel (foot), Ronald Jones II (foot)
Michael Thomas, NO vs. TB ($9,000 DK, $8,800 FD, O/U 49.5)
Michael Thomas averaged 36.3 DK and 28.6 FD points against Tampa Bay last season. The Buccaneers allowed the third highest fantasy points average to receivers positioned out wide, where Thomas lines up on the majority of snaps. A recent report from Saints camp relayed that Thomas was seen scorching top CB Marcus Lattimore for multiple long touchdowns in practice. Thomas in mid-season form, playing with the highest anticipated over/under, and facing a porous secondary? Oh my.
The Bottom Line: Attempting to sell “CantGuardMike” is the equivalent of a lemonade stand in the Sahara. However, a combo of McCaffrey and Thomas on DraftKings is nearly impossible and not recommended. If you fade C-Mac, play Thomas. On FanDuel, the additional $10K in salary comfortably allows for rostering both, and I will do so in the majority of my lineups.
Tyler Boyd, Cin at LAC ($6,100 DK, $6,100 FD, O/U 44.5)
While it can be tempting to stack multiple team receivers with your quarterback, I prefer to stick with a single teammate stack when working with a main slate. While I am thrilled that Joe Burrow will have A.J. Green in tow, I have zero confidence that he’ll even finish the Week 1 matchup without injury. John Ross III (DK: $4,200, FD: $5,200) is an appealing option, especially on DraftKings, considering this season will be of monumental importance after having his fifth-year option declined.
However, I am targeting Tyler Boyd against a secondary that, according to PFF, permitted the league’s third highest completion percentage, and whose starting slot CB, Desmond King, saw a large drop off in effectiveness last season. I consider Boyd to be a top-five wideout value on FanDuel at $6,100. It might be worrisome facing the potential slot coverage from new CB Chris Harris, but Boyd put up a 6/97/0 line on Harris during their 2018 matchup.
The Bottom Line: The fifth-year receiver had an up-and-down ’19 season due to inefficient quarterback play. Enter the polar opposite under center in Burrow, and it’s reasonable to believe that Boyd will emerge as his new Justin Jefferson connection out of the slot.
Jamison Crowder, NYJ at Buf ($5,200 DK, $6,000 FD, O/U 40.0)
A common mistake made by DFS tournament enthusiasts is entirely stacking players facing the worst defenses. Following this strategy certainly has its merits in cash games. Although, as evidenced by history, players consistently buck the trend to burn top defenses on the reg. Savvy roster construction-transparency ensures that your lineups automatically differentiate themselves.
The Bills feature a formidable defense with, arguably, the top cover corner in the league in Tre’Davious White. Buffalo additionally allowed the fifth-lowest fantasy points to slot receivers last season. However, they likely would’ve topped the category had Jamison Crowder not muddied the numbers with massive 11/83.5/0.5 averages over two games last season.
The Bottom Line: FanDuel’s half PPR scoring is not suited to Crowder’s strength. But Crowder borders on must play-status on DraftKings. With the Jets’ receiving unit significantly banged up, Crowder will be peppered with targets in what history suggests will be a tight game throughout.
Alternatives: Terry McLaurin vs. Phi, DJ Chark vs. Ind, DeSean Jackson|WR|PHI}} at Was, Henry Ruggs at Car
Health Check: Allen Robinson II (ankle), Stefon Diggs (back), Deebo Samuel (foot), Mike Williams (shoulder), Alshon Jeffery (foot), Breshad Perriman (knee), Dede Westbrook (shoulder), Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring), Denzel Mims (hamstring), Parris Campbell (concussion)
George Kittle, SF vs. Ari ($7,200 DK, $8,000 FD, O/U 46.5)
I will not have much exposure to George Kittle and will fade him entirely on FanDuel. Buyer beware that a bum hamstring could ultimately limit his snaps. However, the Cardinals were historically poor covering TEs last season. It’ll be interesting to see if the addition of Clemson utility defender and first-round pick Isaiah Simmons is enough to transform a man coverage unit that finished at the bottom in most important statistics last season.
The Bottom Line: Labeling the Arizona coverage of TEs as permeable would be a compliment after the Cards permitted 25% more fantasy points and 41% more touchdowns than any other team in the NFL to the position. It’ll be an extremely tough ask of Simmons to shadow what may be the top TE of this generation, if healthy. Should Kittle miss the contest, Jordan Reed would be an intriguing play at the minimum salary.
Hayden Hurst, Atl vs. Sea ($4,300 DK, $5,200 FD, O/U 49.0)
The Seahawks allowed the second-most fantasy points to TEs last season thanks, in part, to surrendering an average of 66.8 yards per game to the position. Hayden Hurst played a very similar in-line role with Baltimore last season, and his in-line snaps could actually increase in Atlanta. I would be careful not to overdue the exposure to Hurst since he’s never given us any indication of developing into a consistent fantasy asset. I normally hesitate trusting players who have done very little with their opportunities in the past. However, Hurst is relatively undervalued in comparison with his perceived opportunity, and the salary relief he provides is key toward rostering others on this list.
The Bottom Line: With very little position depth behind him, Hurst may never leave the field. It’s also common knowledge that Matt Ryan loves to target his TEs. Seattle’s lack of standout coverage defenders presents a golden opportunity for success during his Falcons’ debut as long as Hurst is ready to step up to the opportunity. If looking for an even lower salary-option, consider C.J. Uzomah (DK: $3,800 / FD: $4,600) or, on DraftKings, Jack Doyle ($3,600) and Ian Thomas ($3,400).
Alternatives: Mark Andrews vs. Cle, Darren Waller at Car, Jack Doyle at Jax
Health Check: George Kittle (hamstring), Devin Asiasi (foot), Ian Thomas (toe)