As Week 1 starts draft season is over, but the team-building fun doesn’t have to end. Daily fantasy is great, but every year I see a lot of season-long players shy away from playing it. Whether it’s the idea of weekly entry fees, the different terminology, or the intimidating thought of going against professional players it seems that many who love fantasy football would rather avoid DFS.
That’s a shame, and it’s my goal this season to convert some of those season-long players into DFS fans. DFS doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun, and I’ll be tracking my results on two $60 bankrolls for the season, one on Fanduel and one on Draftkings.
So if you’re brand new to DFS, this weekly guide should give you a little more than just the top plays. I’ll go through strategy, roster construction, and I’ll review my results in a few of the low-stakes tournaments every week. If you’re a returning player there’s still be value here. I’ll go through some game stacks I’m targeting and less popular pivots to help differentiate your lineup. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone.
Since there’s nothing to review this week I’m going to start off with a general overview, followed by stacks to target, other top plays, and finally, roster construction for specific tournaments.
I’ll focus primarily on tournament plays, meaning the contests with a large payout to first place, as opposed to cash plays where roughly half the field gets to double their money but that’s the most you can win. So how well a player projects matters a lot, but so does how popular they’ll be in other players’ lineups. I’m also much more concerned with a player’s ceiling and care less about how safe they are.
Every tournament lineup I run will be a double stack with a runback, which means a quarterback and two of his pass-catchers plus a pass-catcher from the opposing team. The exception to that is if the quarterback scores a lot of their fantasy points by rushing as Jalen Hurts does, in which case I will mix in some stacks with only one of their pass-catchers. Stacking has been pretty well-covered elsewhere, but the general idea is that if a quarterback has a good game his receivers also had a good game. If one offense is scoring a lot it forces the other offense to throw more, which is good for the receivers on that team. Some running backs, like Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey, catch enough passes to qualify as pass-catchers, but most do not. Tight ends typically make more sense to pair with your quarterback, but elite options like Travis Kelce can make sense as a runback option.
Typically, I’ll avoid the quarterbacks that don’t add anything with their legs. It is just really hard for them to hit the same ceiling as someone that can run, and at the same time, pocket passers aren’t as safe because they don’t have the floor that rushing provides.
Arizona Cardinals, team total of 24.75, and the Tennesse Titans, team total of 27.75
The Cardinals play the Titans in what projects to be one of the highest-scoring games on the slate. This game also features a lot of players that are capable of breaking big plays, which means there’s a chance for a lot of fantasy points to accumulate very quickly. A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Derrick Henry are all capable of scoring a touchdown on any touch. Kyler Murray ($7600 on DK/$8400 on FD) should be one of the most popular quarterbacks, but it’s hard to get away from him. The Titans play a lot of man coverage on defense and that opens a lot of rushing lanes for a mobile quarterback like Murray to exploit. The Titans’ defense also wasn’t very good and doesn’t appear to have improved much in the offseason. Hopkins ($7800/$8200) is the clear choice to stack with Murray thanks to his monster target share, but Moore ($3000/$4900) is an explosive player who Arizona seems likely to feature a lot of designed touches for. Moore should see plenty of touches as the underneath option in this offense, and at his salary, he doesn’t need to do much to be a value. A. J. Green ($3800/$5400) is also a cheap option if you want to buy into him having a bounce-back season away from the Bengals, but his routes are more likely to overlap with Hopkins and Moore seems like a better play at a cheaper price. Chase Edmonds ($4600/$5900) catches enough passes to be stacked with Murray and provides some salary relief at running back, while also likely being much less popular than the Arizona receivers.
The Titans are in a similarly great spot, as their offense is loaded and the Arizona defense shouldn’t scare anyone. Stacking the Titans runs the risk that if Derrick Henry ($8800/$8900) has a monster game, then their passing game never really gets going, but the upside is incredible. A.J. Brown ($7100/$7800) and Julio Jones ($6800/$7000) are both elite receivers, and Ryan Tannehill ($6500/$7700) has been great since taking over as the starter. Jones in particular stands out because of the discount he offers compared to other elite receivers. He appears to be priced down either over concerns about his fit in the new offense or his injury history. Since it’s Week 1 this is likely to be the healthiest Jones will be all season, and as one of the best receivers in the league Jones should be able to command at least a few more targets than the 92 Corey Davis earned as the WR2 in this offense last season. Even dealing with injuries last year, Jones was still the WR14 in points per game in both PPR and half-point formats last season. Arizona’s secondary looks pretty thin, so both Jones and Brown should be able to exploit their matchups. Anthony Firkser ($3200/$4700) is a cheap option at tight end and a way to differentiate your Tennesee stacks.
With both teams presenting excellent options I will be stacking each in plenty of my lineups. Both feature a quarterback that can run, elite offensive weapons, and a passing attack that concentrates targets to just a few players. My favorite build is Murray, Hopkins, More, and Jones, but really any combination of these players looks great. Henry is an excellent way to get exposure to this game, but he does present some risk if the Cardinals can jump out to a big lead because Henry isn’t involved in the Tennesee passing attack at all. Almost all of my lineups will include at least some part of this game, as it’s really hard to see both of these teams disappointing in this matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles, team total of 22.5
The Eagles might not offer the overall upside of other teams, but Jalen Hurts ($6400/$7600) is simply too cheap. In his three full games last season, Hurts scored at least 23 fantasy points each game and rushed for at least 63 yards. Even in the final game of the season, the one where the Eagles pulled their starters to improve their draft position, Hurts still scored two touchdowns on the ground in the first half. There just aren’t many quarterbacks that match his ability as a runner. His passing numbers weren’t great, but he did throw for over 300 yards in two of the games and should be an improved passer this year. The Eagles added Devonta Smith ($4500/$5300), a receiver who dominated the SEC in college and figures to be the primary target for Hurts. Zach Ertz ($3800/$5000) didn’t end up getting traded this offseason, and there’s no reason to think he won’t command enough targets to pay off his cheap salary. Atlanta has a great offense that should force the Eagles to play aggressively on offense to keep up, and the Atlanta defense doesn’t project to be very good. As far as runback options go, Calvin Ridley ($7900/$8100) is elite and broke 100 receiving yards in seven of the eight games he saw double-digit targets in last season. Kyle Pitts ($4400/$6000) should also be able to exploit this matchup against an Eagles defense that doesn’t have great coverage linebackers and comes into this game pretty thin at safety.
Kansas City Chiefs, team total of 30
The team projected for the most points on the slate comes as no surprise, as the Chiefs have been dominant since Patrick Mahomes ($8100/$8800) took over. This stack is incredibly expensive, as Mahomes, Tyreek Hill ($8200/8500), and Travis Kelce ($8300/$8500) are all among the most expensive players this week. But there’s a lot of value out there, which makes stacking the Chiefs more accessible than it is more weeks. Most of the offense flows through Hill and Kelce, they combined for 280 targets last season, and both are capable of posting the type of scores you have to have if you want to win a tournament. Both went off for big games against the Browns in the playoffs last year, and there’s really no reason to think they won’t have success in this spot. The Browns offense should be good enough to force the Chiefs to play aggressively and I love bringing this stack back with Odell Beckham Jr. ($5400/$6500). Odell is cheap enough to fit in with such an expensive stack thanks to his injuries and his struggles to produce in the Cleveland offense. But he seems to be healthy now, he still looked like a dominant athlete when he played last year even if the statistics didn’t follow, and the Browns offense as a whole took a step forward in the second half of last season after they started figuring out their new scheme. Jarvis Landry ($6000/$6400) is a safer option, but you have to pay for that safety and even when Beckham missed time last season Landry only posted one game with over 100 receiving yards and no games with multiple receiving touchdowns. Donovan Peoples-Jones ($3000/$4700) is a super cheap option if you find yourself up against the salary cap. He’s a big-play threat that should play in three-receiver sets, and he really only needs to catch a touchdown to pay off his salary.
Josh Allen ($7400/$8100) and Russell Wilson ($7000/$7800) are the other high-end options at quarterback. Both are playing good defenses, but they’re essentially matchup-proof at this point in their careers. The Bills showed in the preseason that they intend to continue their pass-heavy approach to offense, and when they do run Allen figures to reprise his role as the de facto goal-line back. Wilson’s Seahawks have spent a lot of time this offseason talking about playing faster, and the Colts’ secondary he will face off with is nothing special. Russ averaged almost 30 fantasy points per game the first half of last season before the coaching staff stopped letting him cook, but if they return to running a more modern offense his upside is as high as any passer in the league.
For those looking for cheaper options, Carson Wentz ($5600/$6500) has been cleared to play and gets to face a Seattle secondary that also does not seem very good. Guard Quinten Nelson has been cleared to play, so the Colts should be at relatively full strength to start the season. Wentz was awful last year, but he can be a little awful at that salary as long as he finds the end zone a few times. Sam Darnold ($5000/$6500) gets a nice matchup in his revenge game against the Jets. Darnold hasn’t been a good NFL quarterback yet, but now that he’s free of Adam Gase we should find out if he has any potential. Don’t forget he’s younger than Joe Burrow, who made his rookie debut last season.
Christian McCaffrey ($9500/$10400), Dalvin Cook ($9100/$9400), and Alvin Kamara ($8600/$8600) all project to be their usual fantastic selves. Kamara in particular is in a good spot as he should function as the leading rusher and receiver for the Saints in a matchup against a Packers defense that has struggled to contain dual-threat running backs. James Robinson ($6400/$5900) is probably the top running back on FanDuel given his salary. He should be in line for an every-down role and gets a matchup with the seemingly pathetic Texans. He may not have been the most efficient runner last year, but the Jaguars’ offense figures to be better this season and that should help open some rushing lanes for him. Joe Mixon ($6200/$7200) should finally step into a consistent role in the passing game now that Gio Bernard is in Tampa, which means Mixon is way too cheap for his role even in a tough matchup against the Vikings.
Antonio Gibson ($5900/$7000) might not have an every-down role locked up, but he will be more involved as a receiver this year. He was a receiver in college and is a big play waiting to happen, so we know he has the skill set to take advantage of that type of work. He scored 11 touchdowns in just 14 games last season, and the offense should be better this season with Ryan Fitzpatrick providing more competent quarterback play. Damien Harris ($5200/$5800) should have a lock on the early-down and goal-line work for the Patriots, and their gameplan this week likely focuses on attacking the front seven of the Dolphins rather than challenging their talented secondary. Mike Davis ($5400/$6200) figures to get the majority of the backfield work for the Falcons, can catch passes, and is a home favorite this week. Those are all good indicators for running back success, especially for one as cheap as Davis is. Raheem Mostert ($5800/$6100) and Miles Sanders ($6500/$6600) are both capable of breaking big runs. Mostert is coming at a discount and lowered popularity because he might lose work to Trey Sermon ($4500/$5200), but he doesn’t need a lot of touches to return value especially in an easy matchup against the Lions. Sanders was a disappointment last year, but so was the rest of Philadelphia’s offense. He had three runs of over 70 yards last year and should benefit from an improved offensive line and sharing the backfield with a more mobile quarterback.
Stefon Diggs ($7600/$7900) led the league last year in targets, receptions, and receiving yards but is somehow the sixth most expensive receiver this week. He only scored eight touchdowns last year, so if he gets a little more touchdown luck this season he could improve on what was already a monster season. He’s in consideration every week, but this week in particular he stands out in a matchup with the Steelers, as Pittsburgh lost several defensive starters in their secondary. Justin Jefferson ($7700/$8000) and Adam Thielen ($7000/$7300) get an easy matchup with the Bengals and figure to split most of the Vikings’ targets between them. Keenan Allen ($6900/$7400) saw double-digit targets in ten games out of the 13 he played once Justin Herbert took over despite dealing with some nagging injuries and should see an increased workload if Austin Ekeler is limited in any way after missing several practices this week. Laviska Shenault ($5000/$5600) is an after-the-catch monster that should be featured in the Jaguars offense that will look to manufacture touches for him all over the field.
There are plenty of good cheap options this week on Draftkings, as the Week 1 prices always come out well before we know which younger players will emerge. Marquez Callaway ($3400/$5200) will be one of the most popular plays this week after taking over as the number one receiver for the Saints in the preseason. He has a tough matchup against the packers, but at his price, he doesn’t have to do much and should see enough targets to get it done. Elijah Moore ($3000/$5000) will be featured for the Jets due in part to injuries and in part to a standout training camp. He came out of college as a fantastic prospect and should be able to hit the ground running. Both Michael Pittman Jr. ($4100/$5300) and Paris Campbell ($3700/$5000) are too cheap in their new roles given that T.Y. Hilton is out and their plus matchup against the Seahawks. Dyami Brown ($3000/$4700) emerged as a late option this week after Curtis Samuel was ruled out, and provides a nice pivot off the rest of the cheap receivers. Reports are he had a nice training camp, and playing with Fitzpatrick he should have opportunities down the field.
Tight end is a position where you either spend up for a strong option, or you spend all the way down and hope for a touchdown. Logan Thomas ($4600/$5600) saw 110 targets last season and basically returns to the same role, especially with Curtis Samuel heading to injured reserve. Gerald Everett is in a good Seattle offense and the Seahawks are not very deep at receiver, so he should get plenty of opportunities to run routes at least. Jonnu Smith ($4100/$4900) is the cheaper of the two tight ends that got paid by the Patriots this offseason and should be featured in their offense as they look to attack the middle of the field on quick routes.
The Denver DST ($3300/$4100) has a good pass rush and gets to play against Daniel Jones and the Giants. They are by far my favorite play. Washington DST ($3200/$4200) has an even better pass rush, and are in play every week. A good pass rush leads to pressure on the quarterback, which leads to turnovers, which leads to fantasy points, so I’m not worried about the matchup with Herbert and the Chargers. The Buffalo DST ($2500/$3600) is a strong option if you’re looking to pay down at defense in a matchup against a bad Pittsburgh offensive line.
Playing off $60 for the whole season lends itself mostly to playing low-stakes single-entry tournaments, so for this article, I’ll focus on the $3 contest on Draftkings. It’s harder to find contests that are realistic to enter where you can enter 150 entries, which is what contests like the Millionaire Makers allow, which can make it harder to practice that style of tournament. FanDuel has the only viable option, a $0.05 contest you can enter 150 times, so for the purpose of lineup reviews, that’s the tournament I’ll be using.
Just because you can only enter one lineup in these contests doesn’t mean you should play it safe. You still need to aim for players with a high ceiling, because most of the prize pool is still tied to finishing in first place. Generally, you want to decide on a stack and make decisions from there. My favorite stack this week is the Cardinals, specifically the Murray, Hopkins, Moore, Jones version of that game stack, and I expect that to be pretty popular. Using a popular stack is fine, but it means your other players need to be less popular. Since this lineup wouldn’t be stacking other popular games like the Philadelphia-Atlanta game and the Kansas City-Cleveland game, it makes sense to use both Miles Sanders and Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6600/$6800). If they’re scoring points it’s likely their quarterbacks won’t be hitting their ceilings. I also wouldn’t play someone like Marquez Callaway or Kyle Pitts in this lineup, as both figure to be very popular and don’t provide enough to the lineup to justify adding even more aggregated popularity to it.
For multi-entry tournaments, you can get exposure to a lot more players, but it’s also important to not try to play everyone. You can’t just plug projections into an optimizer and expect to print money. If you do want to enter 150 lineup tournaments, you probably will need an optimizer as building that many by hand sounds like an awful experience. A lot of fantasy sites that provide premium season-long content will also have an optimizer, but if you don’t want to pay for one it makes more sense to play in 20-max contests, which still allow you to build a lot of lineups but are more manageable to make by hand.
My top-five players at each position as of now, by the percentage of lineups they’ll appear in, are as follows:
QB: Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Ryan Tannehill, Jalen Hurts
RB: James Robinson, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Raheem Mostert, Christian McCaffrey
WR: Stefon Diggs, DK Metcalf, Laviska Shenault, Tee Higgins, A.J. Brown
TE: Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Jonnu Smith, Logan Thomas, Kyle Pitts
DST: Denver, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Washington, Minnesota
Good luck this week!
Photo by Kevin Reece/Icon Sportswire