AAAAAANNNNNDDD WE’RE BACK! Week one of the 2018 season is here, and at one point I wasn’t sure it was ever going to arrive, but here we are! In my last writing, I discussed the change in my approach for daily fantasy football this season. Now it’s time for the application of the structured approach to the constant chase of DFS success.
There won’t be the “Droppin Stacks” and “Pinching Pennies” nomenclature of last season, but the spirit of that will still be maintained. This season I will discuss each roster position in the order that I use to build my roster through the script i mentioned in the article linked above: RB1, RB2, DST, WR1, WR2, WR3, TE, QB, and finally, FLEX. Keep in mind this is written for Draft Kings GPPs on the main slate. Let’s dive right in…
Melvin Gordon – $6800 – vs Kansas City
Yes, I know that Bell is playing Cleveland. I know that Kamara is playing Tampa Bay. I get it, but the reason that I am all about Gordon this week boils down to a few factors. First he is playing at home and favored in a high scoring game (47.5 O/U). We know he catches passes and I’m willing to bet he overcomes his disappointing career 3.8 per carry average starting with this game. Looking at his cost per opportunity per game (COG) he is not the absolute best value in the $6800+ grouping, but it is really good at $296 based on his opportunity average from last season. Looking at the COG metric may draw players to Zeke as it is the lowest ($275), but concerns about the health of the offensive line in addition to his price drive me away for most of my lineups.
Ezekiel Elliott – $7700 – @ Carolina
Speaking of Zeke, for $900 more you can buy into around 5 more touches per game over Gordon’s average. This game against Carolina does have a lower total at 44, but that could be good for a focal point like Zeke. There is no doubt that Zeke is behind one of the best offensive lines when they are healthy, so select him with the knowledge of the built-in risk. Travis Frederick has an autoimmune diagnosis keeping him off the field so the risk is very real. It is very possible that his replacement could be serviceable to good which would reduce the impact on Zeke’s performance.
Carolina is a better defense than Kansas City, and Dak Prescott hasn’t exactly looked great so one has to wonder how much the offense will be on the field and how that affects red zone looks. If they can resume form from last season though, they could have the most red zone looks of the weekend.
Christian McCaffrey – $6400 – vs Dallas
This game does have a relatively low total at 44. Many believe that McCaffrey can’t run between the tackles despite the evidence in this preseason and college film. Well I am a believer! Cam has been using CMac as a dump off option and he has the wiggle to turn a little into a lot. The COG is high for McCaffrey, but the scripts numbers are based off of last season. There is plenty of evidence to believe that his opportunities will be much greater than last season’s per game average. The Panthers are favored at home which is a solid indicator for running back performance and the spread indicating a close game provides further support for the selection.
Alex Collins – $5600 – vs Buffalo
This take may have an elevated temperature, but I believe that the Baltimore offense has improved it’s receiving core. What does this have to do with Collins? This should reduce the number of stacked boxes he sees over the course of the season from 33%. This should allow the 20+ average opportunities to be converted into higher production. Preseason has shown Collins to continue running with burst, power, and vision. With Collins ability to be a bruising back when necessary, a lower game total, and a 2017 average of 4.4 targets per game, he should turn in a solid return on investment. Let’s not forget his opponent in Buffalo who allowed the Browns to gain 6 YPC and 2 TDs, albeit in the preseason. Nonetheless, this gives me some concerns about Buffalo’s defense and I am willing to bet against it.
Alfred Morris – $3600 – vs Minnesota
Jerrick McKinnon is done for the season with an ACL tear which creates an opportunity vacuum for Morris. While Morris was just signed off the street, he now has an opportunity to re-kindle his career with Kyle Shanahan once again. In two years with Shanahan in Washington, Morris averaged 1400+ yards and 10 touchdowns over two years. Morris’ COG is right at $189 per touch assuming he reaches his previous touch average in Shanahan offenses. Even if the opportunities are 75% of what he got in Washington this will be the cheapest opportunity you can buy on this slate. His opponent would be the primary deterrent in selecting him, but if he rumbles his way to 80 yards and a TD you are far exceeding a 4X return. I like the idea of pairing a Morris with Bell if you really have to have him, or even roster him to offset the cost of a pair of expensive receivers.
Panthers – $3200 – vs Dallas
This decision was easy. The Panthers defense has always been solid, they are favored and at home for the season opener. This selection stacks with McCaffrey and Dallas has several concerns on their offensive line. We all saw how Dak crumbled when his o-line wasn’t 100% last season, and even though Zeke is recommended as a play in this very article, this is the option to choose if you disagree with the upside Zeke presents given his situation. I may seem a little biased as an Eagles fan, but my eyes tell me that Dak is unable to create in less than ideal situations. Therefore I am looking for Carolina to capitalize on this match up.
Chargers – $2800 – vs Kansas City
The Chargers are so good up front, that I believe they will be able to mitigate the losses they have had in the secondary. They are facing Patrick Mahomes who will be playing just his second regular season game. He is still very much a gunslinger type and likely to take some chances. I’m betting that these changes result in some turnovers especially with the pressure that Bosa, Ingram, and the rest of the front will be able to create. With an implied total around 22 points, things are looking pretty solid for this chargers pick. Stacking a defense that could perform well against a virtual rookie with Gordon is just a cherry on top of it all.
A.J. Green – $7300 – @ Indianapolis
Green has looked like his vintage self this preseason and the Bengals line appears to be improved, albeit slightly. The opponent is Indianapolis who gave up an average of 26 points last season and have made no discernible improvements on defense. Green is likely to have lower ownership due to the fact that the Bengals are not favored and on the road, but I have more tolerance for this situation when selecting receivers because the spread is small at +3. I am not sure what the wise guys in Vegas know, but I would pick against them based on what I have seen from both teams including Andrew Luck (the spread shrunk by the way by half a point). The total in this game is 46 which is an encouraging indicator for receiver success.
Michael Thomas – $7800 – vs Tampa Bay
Preseason games are hardly a good indicator of what will happen in the regular season, but the one thing I observed in the Saints’ preseason contests is Brees’ increased passing attempts. Offensive passing attempts seem to be regressing to the mean of Brees’ history and that is attractive for any of his pass-catchers especially when they have the skill set of Thomas. This is one of the highest total games of the week at 49.5 against Tampa Bay, who hasn’t really shown a marked improvement in defense. Good receiver + future hall-of-famer + mediocre-to-bad defense = good start. The only thing that could be a concern is that Kamara often soaks up targets which brings me to the third WR1 option….
Keenan Allen – $7500 – vs Kansas City
There aren’t too many ways to save at this WR1 spot, but Allen has the upside that could win weeks in DFS. He is the fourth most expensive receiver, but nothing has happened to change his status of team target hog. With Henry out for the year, it is possible that he will be the red zone target of choice. People, including myself for dynasty purposes, are hoping Mike Williams takes that role, but if that doesn’t bear out then we know that in Keenan Allen Rivers trusts. The Chargers are favored at home and this seems juicy for a game with a 47.5 point over/under.
Tyreek Hill – $6500 – @ Los Angeles (Chargers)
If you have watched any preseason and still have doubts about Tyreek Hill, then I suggest you watch some more NFL GamePass. Tyreek has looked more and more like a true WR1, and Mahomes has displayed the upside of his mobility and arm many times this preseason. While Hill is on the short end of the stick regarding the spread in this high-scoring game, but its close and this should be a good high upside selection for the second receiver on the roster. This selection also takes advantage of a seldom utilized edge: opposing wide receiver correlation. If Keenan Allen is your first receiver, I love this pick as your two. We know what he can do. He is young, improving his route running, can track the ball well, and can still burn people. In addition, last season’s volatility in Hill’s week-to-week performance should keep his ownership lower than normal for a receiver with WR1 upside, giving us an additional edge.
Chris Hogan – $6100 – vs Houston
This selection is a pivot from DeAndre Hopkins in the game with the highest over/under of the week. If we believe in the upside of the point total why not choose a receiver on the opposing side of an obvious choice. Chris Hogan is the best receiver New England has with Edelman out due to suspension. Before his injury last year, Hogan had more red zone targets than Gronk, and I love that type of upside. Keep in mind the Patriots had 100 pass attempts in the red zone. The next closest team of a receiver in the $6000+ range was Pittsburgh at 97 attempts. The next closest team after that had 19 less attempts over the course of 2017. This is an edge that many may not consider, but for our second receiver if we can find a receiver that meets your standard criteria and adds on little edges like this, it could be easy money.
Another Option: Pay Up!
It is possible to construct a roster with two of the receivers under WR1. If you can find some inexpensive upside at WR3 or Flex playing two of the suggested WR1s solidifies as a reality.
Chris Godwin – $4100/DeSean Jackson – $4600 – @ New Orleans
With this slot we are looking for high-upside receivers under $5000 where the opponent is ranked top-10 in DVOA versus top receiving options. Godwin has looked really good at the end of last season and this preseason, and even though Mike Evans is there Godwin has the upside of turning in the occasional WR1 game. The game is high scoring at a 49.5 point total, and of these two players, Godwin has better red zone upside with eight targets in 2017 to Jackson’s five.
Jackson on the other hand boasts the volatility we are all familiar with, however his upside is killer when it hits. He has been playing more in the slot lately which should have him matched up on the third best corner in 11 personnel which could provided more consistency than we are used to in fantasy football.
Marquis Goodwin – $4600 – @ Minnesota
Some may want to see real game success before buying into a new passer-receiver pairing, but in GPPs I want to take shots especially at WR3. Garoppolo appears to have solid chemistry and many analysts are talking Goodwin up as the top receiving option. This could draw the top coverage, but Garcon has looked solid as well presenting a “pick you poison” situation. Among receivers in this group (less than $5000) Goodwin had 15 more targets (105) than the next closest player last season. Facing Minnesota might scare people off, but getting the WR1 on a team with WR1-WR2 upside at this price is nice, not to mention the potential ownership edge you are getting.
Jack Doyle – $3600 – vs Cincinnati
Eric Ebron complicates matters, but Luck has worked with Doyle before. Jack Doyle had the lowest opportunity per game of the qualifying group (tight ends $5100 or less where their team is favored). Also, Doyle posted an average of 7 targets, 5 receptions, and 46 yards per game with a touchdown every four games. Some may say, “where is the upside?” However, I believe that he will be highly targeted especially with Luck unlikely to push his arm strength too much too early in his come back. This means a lot of short area passing, probably over the middle of the field, and we can use that.
Cameron Brate – $3000/O.J. Howard – $3100 – @ New Orleans
In one of the highest lines of the week at 49.5, the Tampa Bay tight ends are a great place to buy into the projected production. While the spread indicates the Bucs getting spanked, all it means to me is that they will be chasing points by any means necessary. I love point chasers that are capable at putting up points, and here we have two options at the position.
Since we want upside at the position, we have to look for scoring opportunities. I want to ensure that I am buying into red zone looks at a low price and Brate provides that kind of upside. He has one of the lowest costs per red zone target based on 2017 data, and at the sub $5100 price range he has the third most red zone targets last year. They also just paid the man so he will be used, but….
There is O.J. Howard who seemed to have more explosive play potential last season, and the stat sheet implies a better chemistry exists between him and Fitzpatrick. Howard is going to give you the added benefit of being lower owned than Brate, and I don’t mind buying into lower ownership for the edge in tournaments.
Drew Brees – $6800 – vs Tampa Bay
Last season we saw Brees’ passing attempts decline significantly, but there is nothing about his game last season that leads up to believe he’s declining. As a matter of fact, this preseason has shown he still has the velocity, touch, and accuracy very much in his control. I hear the phrase frequently “regression to the mean”, and this has to be one of those cases. On average, over the last ten years, Brees has thrown the rock about 100 more times than he did last season. This is why I believe stacking him with Thomas will be a great choice. One of the best passers in the league against a defense ranked 2nd worst in pass DVOA last year? Yes, Please!
Philip Rivers – $6400 – vs Kansas City
In building several possible rosters I often find myself drafting Rivers. He’s at home and favored in a high scoring affair (47.5 O/U). He’s matched up against the 23rd ranked passing defense in DVOA. Stacking Rivers with Melvin Gordon or Keenan Allen seems like a sure thing to pile on the points. We should see success here if the Chargers start out on their same pace for red zone passing attempts last year (76). I am just hoping that the Chargers fans show up so that it actually feels like a home game for the Chargers.
All the other decisions prior to this one are fairly simple. There is a set of criteria that cuts down the amount of reasonable choices to those that fit the historical profile of players on GPP-winning rosters. There are also price ranges that help with the bounds of making these roster decisions so that you have a greater chance of having a little wiggle room when selecting this last position.
Most will favor high upside for tournaments by default, and I don’t disagree with this position. There is value in considering if your roster is heavily dependent on upside at this point so that a rational decision can be made on whether the default action of high upside is the right one. With that in mind here are a few choices to chew on for the flex.
Rex Burkhead – $4200 – vs Houston
Playing New England running backs in your tournament lineups may often feel like you are leaving too much to chance, but in this case there is a lot of upside for a few reasons. Michel is unlikely to be ready after having his knee drained, and neither Gillislee nor Hill really impressed this preseason. Burkhead has been effective in the past often putting his three-down skill set on display. A running back as your flex would normally be considered insurance for your floor, but a back like Rex provides an upside that is hard to ignore. Weeks 9-13 Burkhead averaged 70 scrimmage yards, 3 receptions, and a little over a touchdown per game. That’s about 16 points and gives you almost a 4X per $1k return. Remember he was sharing touches with Dion Lewis then who is now in Tennessee.
Mike Williams – $3900 – vs Kansas City
This is a risky shot, but that’s what GPPs are all about. There is no data to back up this play, but there is also no Hunter Henry. Williams’ skill set is perfect for the red zone, and the Chargers are very familiar with that area of the field.
Corey Davis – $5700/Taywan Taylor – $3600 – @ Miami
If Davis is who we think he is, then this could be the cheapest we can roster him all season. Rishard Matthews is out, which makes more targets available and allows Davis to be more of a focal point for Mariota. I believe that he is more the receiver we saw in the playoffs against New England catching 5/8 targets for 63 yards and 2 scores. A performance like that would around 4X return.
Another receiver that I am excited for in 2018 is Taywan Taylor. I’m not sure what is up with the depth chart, but I think that Taylor has looked way better than Sharpe. This is a real shot in the dark at this point, but I could see a world where he surprises and spoils someone’s aspirations of winning a millionaire maker. This more of a gut feeling than anything concrete.
Good luck in week 1! So glad that football is back along with fantasy and DFS!