This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
- Week 1 DFS Strategy
- Uniqueness and Stacking for the $10M Millionaire Maker
- Flex Position Strategy for Cash Games
- Contrarian Tight End Plays
Week 1 DFS Strategy
Looking back at past seasons playing DFS, should your strategy for Week 1 differ from other weeks considering we haven't seen anyone play real games yet?
John Mamula: Yes. Optimal strategy Week 1 should differ for cash games. You want to ensure that you roster players with a proven track record of performance in your cash games. Especially at the QB and RB positions. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from 2014 Week 1 when I rostered St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis in my cash games. He was minimum priced and I was looking to lock up as many high priced players as possible at RB and WR. It was Davis' first career start in the league. That strategy didn't work out so well for my cash games Week 1 last season! Editor's Note: Davis put up just 192 yards passing and has zero touchdowns with one interception. Yikes!
Make sure to target players with a high floor for your cash games -- even better if they have a high floor with a high ceiling. Vegas will point you in the correct direction with team totals. Search for players on reliable offenses with a high team total. A good example of a Week 1 quarterback that meets this criteria is Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay has one of the highest team totals of the week with 28.25 points. Rodgers has a history of dominating the Chicago Bears. He is a safe option for your cash games Week 1.
Justin Howe: Absolutely. The smart play when so much is unknown, of course, is to chase high floors more than high ceilings. Generally speaking, that means to lean further on the side of your cash game lineups and strategies. Predictability (mostly) rules the roost when you're still figuring out roles and talents, so the QB and RB positions are the best uses of your cash. Wide receiver play can be so variant and unpredictable that, beyond a handful of top-money studs and no-brainer WR2s, we're all rolling the dice on wideout values. All told, I'm going with the devil I know more often than not in Week 1.
Of course, the smart play isn't always the right play. There are still plenty of low-dollar "gambles" that aren't really gambles -- Davante Adams, John Brown, Chris Ivory, etc. It's not all about high floors; there's money to be made in the uniqueness of high-upside plays. I chase ceilings too, just a little less than I do most weeks.
So it sounds like the best Week 1 strategy is a blend of known roles and players whose value has increased since pricing was release (due to injury, depth chart situation, etc.). Regarding the latter classification, who are some players who fit the bill other than Adams and Brown, who were mentioned by Justin above?
Howe: Mark Ingram's value has ballooned as well. The Twitterverse was abuzz with C.J. Spiller hot takes, and it was assumed Ingram was the lesser option with lesser talent and no real upside. With Spiller ailing and certain to miss at least the first week, Ingram is the bellcow again. He's got great touchdown potential and is an easy top-eight play at the RB position for me.
I also like Kendall Wright at his price tag, considering he spent the preseason developing what looks like a strong connection with Marcus Mariota. Wright faces some pretty poor Tampa Bay slot cornerbacks this week and could catch seven-plus passes, And he costs less than Malcom Floyd.
Will Grant: As John and Justin pointed out, Vegas is your friend this week when looking for potential guys in your cash lineup. Right now, Philadelphia vs. Atlanta on Monday has an over/under of 55.5 with Philly being a three-point favorite. This means Vegas is looking for Philly to score 30 or more points in this game. Now the running back situation may be a bit of a mess, but one guy who consistently performs in a PPR league is Darren Sproles. Sproles is going off at $3,300 on DraftKings this week. This means that Sproles only needs 10 points in a PPR league to reach the 3x target value for cash leagues. In a game where Philly is expected to score 30 points, there's a pretty reasonable chance that Sproles will get those 10 points.
These are the guys that you want to target this week. Guys with a good track record that have proven themselves and have a high probability to reach the 3X value that you need in cash games.
Chris Feery: As others have pointed out, for Week 1 we're looking for clearly defined roles within the offense for the safety aspect. It's very easy to get seduced by the hot rookie or a new starter at a position -- here's looking at you, Zach Sudfeld -- but we should lean towards a proven track record until we have some data for 2015 to lean on. A couple of solid pricing situations to point out include Jarvis Landry and the aforementioned Chris Ivory. Landry should be a PPR machine for the Dolphins this season and could be a steal at a price of $5,600 against Washington. Ivory will have all the work he can handle for the Jets at a price of $4,100. A good mix of reliable high ceiling guys and players who are inefficiently priced sounds like a winning ticket for Week 1.
Uniqueness and Stacking for the $10M Millionaire Maker
With an anticipated field of 572,500 entrants, the Week 1 $10M Millionaire Maker on DraftKings is going to require a great deal of uniqueness. What are your favorite stacks for this week? Feel free to include a more "advanced" stack such as RB-DEF or WR-WR (opposing teams, same game) along with the typical QB-WR arrangements.
John Mamula: If you are playing in the $10M Millionaire Maker this weekend, you need to differentiate your QB-WR stack for the best chance of success. A good option is to use an alternate stack on a high scoring offense such as the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have the highest team total this week with 29 points. I anticipate that a Sam Bradford/Jordan Matthews stack will be very popular. Sam Bradford/Nelson Agholor may also have a high ownership percentage because Agholor is the shiny new toy in the Eagles offense. If you are looking for an alternate stack with the Eagles offense, consider a Sam Bradford/Darren Sproles or a Sam Bradford/Riley Cooper stack.
Sproles will be used more in the passing game this season, picking up some of Jeremy Maclin's 144 targets. Sproles has proven that he is capable of 100+ receiving yards and multiple touchdowns in the right matchup. Riley Cooper is an option that will be very low owned. He is rock bottom minimum price at $3000. Similar to Sproles, Cooper has multi-touchdown upside. Over the past two seasons, Riley Cooper has three multiple-touchdown games. If a receiver not named Jordan Matthews or Nelson Agholor have a big game, your Eagles stack could vault you up the $10M Millionaire Maker leaderboard.
Justin Howe: The stack I'm using most this week is a fairly unique one: Ryan Tannehill/Jarvis Landry. It's a great full-PPR stack if MIA-WAS follows the course I figure it will. First and foremost, my projections give Tannehill more attempts than anyone this week; this has the look of a semi-shootout, and Washington's secondary is exceptionally burnable. The Dolphins may have crowded their receiving corps, but Landry's only real competition for his role comes from the Ghost of Greg Jennings. And that role is juicy in this small-ball offense: the Tannehill/Landry connection burned through the last eight games of 2014 on a 104-catch pace and picked up where they left off this preseason. If Tannehill indeed slings the ball around a good amount, it's safe to expect Landry to gobble up around 25% of his targets and catch seven-plus passes.
Will Grant: The Philly stack has good upside. With a 55 point over/under, there's a good chance both teams are going to have good passing stacks to use. One that I'm strongly considering, but will wait for more information is Jay Cutler and Eddie Royal or Martellus Bennett. Alshon Jeffery has been banged up all training camp, and the Bears coaching staff went into "radio silence" mode on him a couple weeks ago. While he may play, Jeffrey could be limited and will certainly be the focus of the Green Bay defense.
With the Packers being a heavy favorite this week, and the new Chicago coaching staff looking to prove that they can beat the Packers, you can expect that this is going to be a dogfight to the end. If the Packers get up early, the Bears are going to throw a lot. Cutler's $6,800 price is 'OK' in that game script, but Martellus Bennett at $4,300 is good value and if Jeffery is limited, Eddie Royal at $3,900 becomes a must start. It won't take much for either of them to reach 3x or even 4x value with garbage time catches and points.
BJ VanderWoude: Aside from Tannehill/Landry, the stack I am putting in play the most is Matt Ryan/Julio Jones. Atlanta has a young running back corps that does not look capable of handling a full load, leaving Matt Ryan to throw the ball 35-40 times. Without Roddy White at 100% (or potentially not playing at all), Jones is in line for the most targets of potentially any wide receiver this week.
Not only is the game script friendly for Ryan/Jones, but they are also the home team, although you might not have guessed it from the high ownership percentages of Philly players.
We've mentioned various stacks in the Philadelphia-Atlanta game multiple times now, so how contrarian can they really be? Does anyone have anything so deep that it seems very awkward to even put it in a lineup? That kind of stack actually catching fire could be what it takes to win the $2M prize.
Chris Feery: The Philly stack looks great but will obviously be highly owned. I'm interested in a few other stacks that may fall under the radar a bit in Drew Brees-Brandin Cooks and Alex Smith-Jeremy Maclin. Many have been sleeping on Brees for 2015, but I'm fully expecting him to show he is not giving up his residence among the top five quarterbacks anytime soon. We have one of the higher over/unders of the week and a reasonably priced WR1 at $7,100. Cooks has looked great in the preseason and should get a ton of looks this week. Outside the box, Smith and Maclin have developed quite a bit of chemistry during camp and it was on full display in preseason Week 3. Maclin brigs a whole new element to the Chiefs offense. With defenses still needing to account for Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce, I like Maclin's chances of showing off his field stretching ability this Sunday against the Texans.
Great stuff, Chris. How about any "non-traditional" stacks? To beat this many people, the winner will probably be someone who thinks well outside the box.
Howe: Another great stack is RB/DEF (assuming the running back is the "workhorse" type). It's not concrete, but there's a pretty strong correlation between rushing success and high-scoring defenses. For the most part, a run-heavy, ball-control gameplan executed successfully will lighten the load on a defense, keeping them fresh and within their element.
More practically, a team running the ball voluminously is a pretty strong indicator that they're leading their game and putting pressure on their opponent to throw the ball excessively. Desperate fourth quarters tend to see the ball in the air a ton, with sacks and turnovers ringing up wildly.
That said, this stack only makes sense if:
- The back is a workhorse, expected to be used in a full-time ball-control attack. Danny Woodhead isn't ideal here; his big games are the 6-catch lines that are unlikely to result in an easier day for his defense.
- The DEF would be a strong standalone play. DeMarco Murray wouldn't by himself make Philadelphia a strong play against, say, the Packers.
There are a few strong Week 1 candidates for this stack. Jeremy Hill looks likely to headline the Bengals offense against a pitiful Raiders team. I don't love playing a road team in the DEF position, but it's a near-perfect example of this stacking philosophy. Eddie Lacy is another, likely heading a run-based attack against a dysfunctional Bears team. Many like the idea of a Jamaal Charles/Kansas City stack, but I'm wary of Charles week-to-week and prefer numerous other RB options this weekend.
Flex Position Strategy for Cash Games
For cash games, what position are you using to fill in your Flex spot? Why?
Justin Howe: As always, I'm aiming to Flex my latest-playing and most expensive option. This is so that, should I choose to replace him later in the week, I'll have the largest possible pool of options to choose from. Keeping the Flex nice and fluid is by far the best method of keeping some control over your lineup during the game slate. If my Flex is a guy like Eddie Lacy, who plays Sunday at 1:00, then my Flex is filled and exhausted by 4:30, meaning I can no longer consider any alternate options down the road. If I use my Flex on a bargain-play guy like Devonta Freeman, then I can only toggle other low-cost, high-risk options into the spot.
Luckily for us DraftKings folk, there's a cherry fantasy matchup this Monday night that allows us to juggle several options. I've got Jordan Matthews in my Flex spot in a couple of lineups, more as a placeholder than anything. As Monday night rolls around, I can gauge my best Flex play based upon what I need to cash in my contests. Am I trailing by a sizeable margin, to the point that I'd need a dynamite performance by my Flex to have a chance? Then I'll plug in a high-ceiling play, typically a receiver like Matthews or Nelson Agholor, one who could ride the game's high-volume pace to a huge line. Or, am I clinging to a tight lead and in need of a safe, dependable option? If so, I'm more likely to play a running back like DeMarco Murray, a guy who's almost guaranteed to see enough touches to reach a nice, acceptable floor.
Obviously, if you're playing Julio Jones this week, he and his $9,300 salary absolutely belongs in your Flex spot, assuming you're carrying four wide receivers.
John Mamula: Good point, Justin, about utilizing your Flex position every week. I consider the value plays that are available every week when building my lineup. Some week's during the season you will have a big name running back go down with an injury, and his backup will represent amazing value the following week. Last season, Alfred Blue comes to mind Week 11 as he was minimum price. There will be some weeks during the season where there are a number of solid plays at the RB position and that is the best option for your Flex. For Week 1, I believe the best value lies in the WR position. With Jordy Nelson's ACL injury, Davante Adams is underpriced at $4,400. If Michael Floyd is limited, John Brown is a value at $4,500. Jarvis Landry has a good matchup and is priced too low at $5,600. Kendall Wright's price looks to represent solid value in DraftKings PPR format at $5,100. If Eddie Royal is starting, he represents great value at $3,900. And we haven't even mentioned any of the top receivers on the board! After you build your roster, find room for a wide receiver from the Philadelphia-Atlanta game for your Flex position. Jordan Matthews or Julio Jones are the best options for cash games Week 1.
Will Grant: Count me in on the Philly-Atlanta bandwagon for tossing a wide receiver in that Flex position. If you read our Cracking DraftKings guide, you know that using at receiver in the Flex position can net you some big returns -- especially in the big GPP games. As Justin mentioned, having a wide receiver starting on Monday night can give you the most flexibility with that position and the Philadelphia-Atlanta game looks like it will be a shootout. Unfortunately the Minnesota-San Francisco game really doesn't offer any good candidates for the Flex position. The game is going to feature a lot of running, and is expected to be a lower scoring game for this week. It doesn't provide the kind of flexibility that you are looking for in that position.
Another possibility is the Dallas-New York Giants game on Sunday night. The NFC East is going to be weak this year, and the division matchups are going to be a big indicator of who could make the playoffs. Both teams will need to start off strong, and Vegas picks this one to be a 51 point game as well. Another opportunity to roster a couple different wide receiver options in the Flex position where a high-scoring game script can really give your team a boost.
BJ VanderWoude: In the Roundtable from the Cracking DraftKings book, I discussed using your latest player in the Flex in order to guarantee uniqueness when running deep in GPPs. Justin nailed many of the points regarding flexibility. GPPs are extremely top heavy, so when you do have the chance to run deep, it is important that you maximize that opportunity. In some cases, it can be more profitable to go with a player projected to score fewer points, if it gives you the ability to incorporate a unique player ensuring you the opportunity reach the top heavy portion of prize pools.
The only way to ensure you have this chance is if you have the Flex spot open with a player on Sunday or Monday night. It takes some foresight and time on the front end of roster management, but it will more than make up for it in the long run.
Chris Feery: For this week, I'll hop on board the SNF/MNF bandwagon as there are a ton of options at similar price points. On a typical week, I can go one of two ways with my Flex. If there is a very high priced player that I am very high on, I will most likely slot him in the Flex. For weeks when the higher priced options don't seem so appealing, I'll look to fill my Flex with other lower cost, high target receivers or lower cost backs that have passing down roles. Using that approach for Week 1 yields choices like Giovanni Bernard at $4,700, Shane Vereen at $4,200, Charles Johnson at $4,900 and Davante Adams at $4,400. In short, it really depends on the week, but I will generally approach the Flex with these two methods and see which roster I am most secure with.
Contrarian Tight End Plays
The top three tight ends on the Sunday slate (Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce) look to be great plays. But they'll probably be highly-owned. Considering huge anticipated field in the Millionaire Maker, are there any other tight ends you feel strongly about as a "contrarian" type of play?
BJ VanderWoude: Assuming Graham, Olsen and Kelce make up a large percentage of ownership, the most advantageous contrarian play would be Martellus Bennett. His role in the Bears offense as a possession receiver will be bolstered this year by the departure of Brandon Marshall. Considering the full PPR scoring, Bennett makes for an excellent play, especially when you factor in his relatively cheap salary of $4,300. In 2014, Bennett scored 15+ points in eight different games. He's got a solid base with enough upside to be a difference maker for your Milly Maker teams. The Bears vs. Packers game has the fourth highest O/U for the week, giving Bennett plenty of possessions to rack up catches and looks in the red zone. After Kelce, I don't see another TE capable of exceeding Bennett's ceiling.
John Mamula: I agree with BJ that Martellus Bennett has a great opportunity to succeed this weekend. The game script should work in his favor with a high probability that Chicago will be playing from behind and passing the ball in the second half. The loss of Brandon Marshall paired with the injury to Kevin White will open up some targets in the passing game. Bennett also has a track record of starting the season off fast. Last year, he was a rock solid tight end the first month of the season with 29 receptions, 295 yards and four touchdowns over the first four games. Reviewing past game logs, he also started fast in 2013 with 10 receptions, 125 yards, and three touchdowns over the first two games. If you are not starting one of the top three tight ends this week, Bennett is your best bet.
OK, aside from Bennett, do we have any other candidates? Can I interest you in a Jason Witten or Jordan Cameron selection? Or perhaps a very low-price option in Brent Celek with the Zach Ertz injury situation?
Will Grant: Well I already talked about Bennett in an earlier question, so my primary vote would be for him. That being said, Celek looks like another guy to consider with a super low $2,500 salary. In a game where the Eagles are expected to score 30 points, Celek should see a few passes thrown in his direction. He only needs a couple short catches to reach value and if he scores a touchdown, he'll immediately reach 3x value. The injury information will start to come out of Philly as the week progresses so keep an eye on if Ertz is practicing. If he's limited or not practicing on Friday of this week, Celek becomes a strong candidate to use in your lineup.
Delanie Walker's $3,400 price tag looks pretty good for the Titans as well. A rookie quarterback against a veteran defense with minimal run support means that the Titans will be looking for a lot of shorter passes and check down opportunities. Walker could finish with four or five receptions by the end of the game and even if he only gets 50 yards total, that's almost the 3x value that you're looking for in a bargain priced tight end.
Justin Howe: To me, Martellus Bennett is the #3 Sunday play this week. That salary is far too low in relation to Olsen/Kelce/Graham, as I think you can throw them all into a bucket and draw at random. Like Olsen and Kelce, he's got a strong volume outlook and the upside to catch seven-plus balls. Like Graham, he's likely to see solid red zone usage. But unlike the rest, Bennett has game script on his side. If Jay Cutler winds up throwing 40 passes, it would be impossible for Bennett to avoid the tippity-top range of his already rosy outlook.
Beyond that, there are a lot of intriguing plays. It's all a matter of what you feel comfortable rolling the dice on from a pool of flawed but promising options. (TE streaming/punting is going to be wild early this year; it is the most crowded and middle-heavy position on the board.) About 10-12 guys fall into the same profile for me: speculative weekly lotto tickets for a suddenly increased role and/or a few short tosses near the goal line. Steady starters like Jason Witten, Heath Miller, and Delanie Walker are available at varying costs.
But there's a high-upside tier I'm more into: guys who'll play a low volume of snaps, but play big red zone roles in good offenses (Josh Hill, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Richard Rodgers, Ladarius Green). Considering their ultra-low costs, I'd be fine with any of those five in cash or tournament games. That's what we should be chasing in either format, after all: touchdown potential -- far more so than just paying huge salaries for big-yardage games.
There's even a strong option from the deepest recesses of the bargain bin: Ben Watson is at $2,600. He's the starter in a great offense that targets its tight ends heavily near the goal line. Sean Payton has discussed Watson through the offseason as the clear and unquestioned number one and the most likely beneficiary of Jimmy Graham's departure.
Chris Feery: I'll agree that Bennett looks like the play, but three lower cost choices could really help with lineup uniqueness for such a large field and free up a bunch of salary cap space to boot. Larry Donnell is your prototypical boom-bust play at $3,200 but deserves consideration for a projected high-scoring Sunday Night affair. The Cowboys had some struggles against the TE position last season and allowed an average of 8.9 Fantasy Points per Game (FPPG) in regular scoring -- an average mark tied by the Cardinals and exceeded by only four other teams. As Justin pointed out, Ben Watson at $2,600 could be a steal. Many are finding it hard to get past their offseason love affair with Josh Hill, but all signs point to Watson being the TE1 in the Saints offense. Finally, I like Richard Rodgers to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the absence of Jordy Nelson. Rodgers could be an under-the-radar target to get a piece of the Packers offense in Week 1.
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