With Week 1 in the books, we have a little more data to go on. Some teams showed us what we expected, and that makes it easier to project that going forward. Other teams looked clearly unprepared for the start of the season and gave us very little to work with. Either way, it’s a one-week sample size and an important factor this week will be sorting through the available information and deciding what is actionable data and what is just noise.
Another key this week is that four of the projected highest-scoring games have start times after 4 PM. This means that the ability to late swap, or to edit your lineup after the 1 PM games lock, will be a larger factor than normal. We can take advantage of this by understanding how our lineup works together, and by reassessing as the early games draw to a close. DFS is a game of incomplete information, but once those games have played out we know how our lineup is looking. If it’s doing well, and we didn’t play too many popular players, we can likely swap onto more popular plays in the late games. On the flip side, if our lineups are performing poorly then we need to swap onto plays that are unpopular to give ourselves a fighting chance. So for this week for example, if your lineup features a Cowboys-Chargers stack but you’re doing poorly heading into the late games, it might make sense to swap onto something like a Vikings stack paired with Ezekiel Elliott. You stand to gain a lot of ground if the Cowboys game underwhelms, particularly if it’s because they decide to feature Zeke more this week. If you stick with the more popular stack you’re likely doing yourself a disservice, because you won’t be able to compete with other lineups featuring that stack that didn’t have a bad time in the early games.
This week will start with a review of last week, followed by top stacks, top plays, and roster construction for the week ahead. If you missed last week check it out here to better understand the review. Or if that doesn’t interest you, feel free to skip down to the top stacks.
My review for last week on FanDuel really begins and ends with Raheem Mostert. After Trey Sermon was announced as a healthy scratch, Mostert became one of the clear best-projected plays on both sites. Unfortunately, Mostert carried the ball twice before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Elijah Mitchell came in and had a monster game filling essentially the same role Mostert would have had, rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Having Mostert in 56% of my 150 lineups made it tough to have any type of positive day. It also had the trickle-down effect of giving me less exposure to running backs like Melvin Gordon and Joe Mixon, who were both present in a lot of teams at the top of the leaderboard. The other big issue my lineups ran into was having about three times the field’s exposure to Josh Allen and about five times the exposure to Stefon Diggs. Allen threw the ball 51 times and rushed it nine times, but was very inefficient. Likewise, Diggs saw plenty of volume with 13 targets but was only able to turn that into 69 yards. Between Mostert, Diggs, and Allen it was a tough week, but I would play all three again given the opportunities they had, or in Mostert’s case would have had. All that said, results-wise it wasn’t a disaster as going heavier on stacking the Chiefs and the Cardinals helped mitigate some of the damage. The FanDuel bankroll lost $2.08, and after one week sits at $57.92
For the DraftKings single entry, the lineup I went with was more or less what I wrote up in the preview last week. Kyler Murray stacked with DeAndre Hopkins went really well, and Rondale Moore easily hit value. I never really considered Christian Kirk given his higher salary compared to Moore, who played less but was heavily involved when he was on the field, and AJ Green, who played more than Kirk but looked pretty bad. The Titans’ offense completely disappointed and there really wasn’t any strong option I could have ran the stack back with so I’m fine with having played Julio Jones. The rest of the lineup was Miles Sanders, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Logan Thomas, Parris Campbell, and Denver D/ST. Sanders and CEH were attempts to get away from the super-popular Mostert, while also getting some exposure to two games that figured to be high-scoring. Both running backs were rostered at under five percent and their teams did indeed score a lot of points. Sanders had a solid game, scoring over 17 fantasy points, but it was painful to watch his backup Kenny Gainwell score two touchdowns. CEH fell victim to a negative game script, as the Chiefs spent most of the game playing catch-up. I think in retrospect this was just a sub-optimal play, as Joe Mixon and Najee Harris were both cheaper and had more solidified roles heading into Week 1. Lastly, Parris Campbell was used as a pivot away from the chalk cheap receivers like Marquez Callaway and Marvin Jones. Good idea, poor execution as Zach Pascal played 91% of the snaps, compared to just 61% for Campbell, and hit a ceiling game on the back of two receiving touchdowns. My biggest regret with this lineup was the lack of secondary correlation, as aside from the game stack all of the plays were one-offs. Ultimately, this lineup missed the cash line by less than four points, and the Draftkings bankroll drops to $57.
Dallas Cowboys, team total of 25.75, and the Los Angeles Chargers, team total of 29.75
This game sets up as the best fantasy environment for the week, and both teams will be popular. The Cowboys showed last week that their offense is going to put up points on anyone and will be a mainstay in DFS lineups for as long as Dak Prescott ($6800 on DK/$8000 on FD) is healthy. Michael Gallup is out with an injury, which means the targets should be even more concentrated on CeeDee Lamb ($6400/$6800) and Amari Cooper ($6800/$7800). Lamb is the preferred play, as he offers a bit of a discount and led the team in air yards, but Cooper is also an elite play. Cedric Wilson ($3100/$4900) should play as the third receiver and is one of the best values on the slate. The tight ends split snaps last week so neither stands out as a great play, but both Blake Jarwin ($3100/$4400) and Dalton Schultz ($3300/$4800) offer cheap ways to get exposure to this game. Ezekiel Elliott ($6200/$7500) wasn’t a factor in the offense last week, but he played on 83% of the snaps. This is a much better matchup for him, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cowboys try to get him going early after he took a beating on social media for his performance.
For the Chargers, Justin Herbert ($6700/$7600) had an impressive Week 1 passing for over 300 yards on the road against a tough Washington defense. More importantly, the offensive line kept him clean for most of the game which means he should have ample time to pick apart the Cowboys this week. Keenan Allen ($7000/$7400) and Mike Williams ($6100/$5600) had 13 and 12 targets respectively. It was encouraging to see Williams deployed on some shorter routes, as opposed to just running deep as he’s done in the past. Both look great, but Williams in particular is simply too cheap for his role. Jared Cook ($3900/$5400) only played 58% of the snaps, but saw eight targets including two in the red zone and one in the end zone. Jalen Guyton ($3100/$4800) was the clear third receiver, earning five targets and one in the end zone. He is priced right around Wilson, but projects to be much less popular but with the same type of upside. Austin Ekeler ($7300/$7000) was able to play in Week 1 despite missing practice time with a reported hamstring injury, but he only handled 58% of the snaps and wasn’t targeted. He did get 15 carries, including one at the goal line that he cashed in for a touchdown, but he really needs the targets to be valuable for fantasy. My bet is that Week 1 was a fluke, possibly due to a game plan that saw the Chargers only target any of their running backs once or due to Ekeler’s injury, and I expect his targets to bounce back to prior year’s totals. Assuming he reclaims his old role in the passing game, Ekeler is one of the few running backs I’m comfortable stacking with his quarterback.
Buffalo Bills, team total of 25.5
As outlined in the review of last week, Josh Allen ($7200/$8100) had plenty of opportunities to produce but was ultimately disappointing. The Steelers deserve some credit for slowing down the Bills, but some of Buffalo’s issues were self-inflicted as they just missed on a couple of big plays. I’ll go back to the well again this week in a matchup with Miami that sets up as a better environment for Allen to thrive in. The Dolphins shouldn’t get as much pressure as Pittsburgh was able to generate. Stefon Diggs ($7700/$7500) earned 14 targets last week and 150 air yards but turned that into just nine receptions for 69 yards. He is a prime bounce-back candidate this week and will feature on plenty of my lineups even when he’s not stacked with Allen. Emmanuel Sanders ($4000/$5100) had eight targets and a really strong 149 air yard total. He played 92% of the snaps and is clearly an every-down player that will be featured heavily in this offense. His price hasn’t caught up to his opportunity, and his big-play potential makes him the preferred second option over Cole Beasley ($4600/$5400). From the Miami side of this game, most of my Bills stacks will include Jaylen Waddle ($4500/$5400) as the bring-back. Waddle is the perfect candidate here, as he combines an affordable salary with a game-breaking speed that threatens to turn into a big play on any touch. With Will Fuller out, Waddle isn’t priced up appropriately for his role.
Arizona Cardinals, team total of 27.75
If Kyler Murray ($8200/$8700) and the Cardinals are on the main slate I want them in my lineups. Last week the Cardinals jumped out to an early lead and were never forced to aggressively throw the ball, but they chose to do so anyway for most of the game. Even after Arizona took their foot off the gas in the second half Murray still finished with 34.6 DK points. The Titans’ defense might not be very good, but a matchup at home against the Vikings should be equally inviting. DeAndre Hopkins ($8000/$8500) led the team in every receiving category and was dominating before the Titans defense adjusted to force the ball away from him, and should be considered an elite option every week. Christian Kirk ($5000/$5600) caught two touchdowns last week, but he also was out-snapped and out-targetted by A.J. Green ($3700/$5300). Kirk is the more talented player at this point, but if Green can maintain that role he is priced way too low. Rondale Moore ($4000/$4900) sees a big price bump after last week, but he should be locked into his role as the go-to option on screen passes. As for a bring-back, Justin Jefferson ($7400/$7300) and Adam Thielen ($7100/$7600) don’t come cheap. Jefferson is the preferred option as the more talented of the two, and also the one who sees more down-field passes, but Thielen remains Kirk Cousins’ ($6200/$7400) first read in the red zone. K.J. Osborn ($3300/$4600) is a cheap alternative to those two, coming off a game where he played 80% of the snaps as the third receiver and turned nine targets into seven receptions for 76 yards. He’s too cheap for that role, and with Jefferson and Thielen drawing the defense’s attention he should have plenty of room to operate.
Russell Wilson ($7500/$8500) comes off a four-touchdown game and gets a date with a Titans defense that just got shredded by the Cardinals. He’s good enough to warrant consideration every week, but a home matchup with a bad defense looks like a great spot for him. Tom Brady ($6900/$8200) leads the team with the highest implied total on the week into a home game against a terrible Falcons defense. It’s hard to pay this much for a pure pocket-passer, but Brady has shown plenty of times that he doesn’t need to run to accumulate fantasy points.
Ryan Tannehill ($6300/$7300) should be playing catchup most of the game and doesn’t have Chandler Jones to terrorize him. He carries a bit of risk since the Titans will likely shift into a run-heavy game if they build any kind of lead, but his ceiling is as high as any quarterback on the slate. Teddy Bridgewater ($5400/$7000) is a strong option if you want to pay down at QB. He attempted 36 passes in a game the Broncos won comfortably, putting to bed some concern that the team would play too conservative, and was a K.J. Hamler ($3800/$5500) drop away from putting up a monster fantasy performance. Losing Jerry Jeudy hurts, but this offense still boasts plenty of weapons and should have a favorable matchup with the Jaguars in a game that has some sneaky shootout potential.
Najee Harris ($6300/$6100) will be the most popular running back this week, but it’s tough to fade someone who played 100% of his team’s snaps last week and is set to be a home favorite this week. The Steelers offensive line was as bad as advertised, but this price is too low for a true bell-cow running back. Nick Chubb ($7800/$8400) and Kareem Hunt ($5800/$5700) are both set up well, as the Browns have an implied total over 30 and should be running a lot as double-digit favorites against the Texans. Chubb has typically done well in these situations, but Hunt offers a discount in both price and popularity and that makes him a strong tournament play. Jonathan Taylor ($7200/$7200) and Nyhiem Hines ($4700/$5100) split the work almost fifty-fifty last week, but they might be the only offensive weapons still healthy for the Colts heading into a tough game against the Rams. If there’s one area to attack the Rams it’s with running backs, so both should feature heavily in the Colts’ game plan.
Damien Harris ($5400/$6200) is too cheap on Draftkings coming off a 23-carry game. His late fumble might scare some away from him for fear of benching, but Harris was too effective to lose his job over one mistake, especially when his primary backup also fumbled. Elijah Mitchell ($5000/$5800) was the star of the waiver-wire this week, but his DFS salary and popularity don’t seem to have followed. Mitchell should slide into a big role, and even if Trey Sermon ($4600/$5500) takes some carries away from him Mitchell has great speed and looked to be a natural fit for the 49ers’ offense. Similar to the man he’s replacing, Raheem Mostert, Mitchell shouldn’t need a ton of opportunities to put up a big game. Ronald Jones ($4800/$5300) was benched last week, and even if he gets to play this week he still has to compete with a crowded backfield. That said, his team has an implied total of almost 32 and should be in a position to run the ball frequently. Jones is always a threat to fumble and land himself on the bench, but he’s also a threat to utilize his speed to put up slate-breaking fantasy performances. Kenny Gainwell ($4000/$5000) is priced at the minimum after getting 12 opportunities last week and converting two of them into touchdowns. If the Eagles trail, he should be a bigger factor as the clear passing-down back.
Mike Evans ($6100/$6700) joins the list of Buccaneers that should entice DFS players this week thanks to their high implied total. He’s coming off a tough week, but the Falcons don’t have a corner to shadow Evans as the Cowboys did. Chris Godwin ($6000/$8000) and Antonio Brown ($6000/$6400) also project well, but I prefer Evans since he should be much less popular and is a bigger threat around the goal line, an area of the field Tampa Bay should be in a lot. Cooper Kupp ($6000/$6200) balled out last week but his price doesn’t reflect it. More importantly, Kupp played on 94% of the snaps compared to just 77% for Robert Woods ($5700/$6500) and appears to be the true number one receiver for the Rams. Kupp was the beneficiary of blown coverage by the Bears, which is encouraging for Tyler Boyd ($4700/$5700), Tee Higgins ($5400/$6000), and Ja’Marr Chase ($5000/$5500). Boyd is a DraftKings only play based on his pricing, whereas Chase is the preferred option on both sides after leading the team in snap percentage, air yards, and targets. Higgins played 74% of the snaps despite briefly leaving the game on a cart, and still figures to be the primary option around the goal line. He should be much less popular than Chase but has a similar floor/ceiling combination.
Terrace Marshall ($3300/$5000) saw six targets, including two in the red zone and one in the end zone. His role as a big slot receiver should give him plenty of chances to score touchdowns, and if he continues to earn that type of target share he provides an excellent floor for his price. Laviska Shenault ($4900/$5600) wasn’t used downfield at all, as his pitiful aDOT of 3.1 will attest, but he did get nine targets and a rushing attempt. There’s a clear emphasis on getting him the ball, and he’s athletic enough to break out on any play. Brandon Aiyuk ($5500/$5900) goosed us last week coming off an injury, but heading into last week he was universally viewed as being on the precipice of a breakout season. It won’t feel great, but this is a great spot to buy low on a very talented receiver in a good spot against a weak secondary.
Tyler Higbee ($4100/$5600) played 100% of the snaps last week and should be one of the most popular tight end options this week. Kyle Pitts ($5200/$5500) didn’t have a great debut, but his peripheral stats were strong. He played on 68% of the snaps and earned eight targets. Hopefully, he got some of his rookie jitters out of his system and should be heavily involved against a Tampa defense that funnels passes to the middle of the field. David Njoku ($3600/$4800) saw five targets and finished second on the Browns with 102 air yards. He played on 59% of the snaps and was utilized mostly as a downfield threat, while also earning a target in the red zone, and is exactly the type of tight end that we want to target when we pay down.
It wasn’t that long ago that any defense playing at home against Jameis Winston would be expensive, but the Panthers D ($2700/$3800) haven’t been priced up for a matchup against a quarterback who has a 30 interception season on his resume. The Eagles D ($2400/$3900) are another interesting cheap option despite a tough matchup thanks to their strong defensive line and general ability to generate pressure. Chandler Jones and the Cardinals D ($2900/$4400) are coming off a six-sack performance and get to face a Vikings offensive line that struggled with a much less talented Cincinnati front seven. The Chargers D ($2600/$3600) are cheap and will garner no popularity in a game that figures to be a shootout, but this is a defense with talented playmakers that faces an offense we know will throw the ball every chance they get. They’ll very likely give up several touchdowns, but they have a good chance to force some turnovers which could lead to a strong fantasy score.
With several games boasting high totals this week sets up as a good opportunity to prioritize both a game stack and a secondary stack. Cowboys and Chargers stacks will likely be the most popular, with Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Seattle not far behind. Those are all fine options, but for my single entry this week I’ll be prioritizing the Bills stack. Josh Allen threw for 51 times in a game that his team was either winning or within one score for most of the game, and he still appears to be the team’s primary rushing option with nine carries. He also has two receivers that saw at least 149 air yards in Emmanuel Sanders and Stefon Diggs, which means the offense is looking for big plays. Big plays mean fast scores, which means more possessions, which means even more opportunities. Jaylen Waddle provides an excellent bring-back option that is capable of his own big plays. As a secondary stack, I definitely want exposure to the Chargers and Cowboys. Austin Ekeler and CeeDee Lamb both have secure and valuable roles in their offenses. If Ekler gets his passing work back this is the type of game where he could post a tournament-winning score, and Lamb’s projected target share is a steal at this price. By using a less popular stack I feel comfortable eating some chalk at other positions, so players like Najee Harris and Tyler Higbee will be firmly on my radar. Kareem Hunt, Darrell Henderson, and Damien Harris will also get a look at running back, but for now, I am leaning towards Najee. At tight end, I really like the idea of either going down to Njoku or up to Kittle, but for now Higbee slots in nicely as a mid-tier option.
For max entering, I want to focus on getting different at the running back position by going heavier on some of the more expensive options. I’ll still have a lot of Ekeler and Harris, who should each be fairly popular, but I also want plenty of Kamara, Henry, Cook, and CMC. I expect those four to go a little under overlooked because of all the solid mid-tier options. I also will be a little more aggressive at tight end, where there’s a steep drop-off after the high-end players that actually command targets in their offense. For one-offs, I’ll be using a lot of Kupp, Chase, and Ridley at receiver. Lastly, I’ll be down on Seattle compared to the field because I think there’s a solid chance that the game plays slower than expected with two teams that would really prefer to run the ball if they’re able to.
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, Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, Kyler Murray
RB: Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry
WR: Stefon Diggs, Mike Williams, CeeDee Lamb, Jaylen Waddle, Cooper Kupp
TE: Darren Waller, George Kittle, Kyle Pitts, Noah Fant, Rob Gronkowski
DST: New Orleans, Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia
Good luck this week!
Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire