This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
The staffers we talked to this week are Phil Alexander, Chris Feery, Will Grant, Justin Howe, Devin Knotts, Alex Miglio, and BJ VanderWoude.
Early Season Strategy
Hester: Many DFS players have stances on how to manage bankroll early the season. Some say that caution is the right approach since there isn't an abundance of data available to help make decisions. Others say that the early weeks are populated by players with less experience and can be more lucrative as a result.
Where do you fall on this scale? And is your typical cash game vs. GPP split different early in the season than it will be later?
VanderWoude: In years past, I have been in favor of an aggressive approach during the first two weeks for several reasons. The primary reason being the totals needed to win GPPs are significantly lower in Weeks 1 and 2 than in Weeks 3-17, so it made sense for me to get more lineups in play. As it relates to bankroll management, though, I don't think you need to have higher exposure to be aggressive. I am in favor of lowering the total sum of your buy-ins, while increasing the number of lineups you put in play. This means playing stakes that are at the lower end of your buy-in range, which also guarantees you will be playing against weaker competition, as there is a direct correlation between buy-in and skill level.
What it ultimately comes down to, though, is how comfortable/confident you are with the pricing structure for Weeks 1 and 2. This year, the pricing across sites is much tighter, so I will be taking a more passive approach compared to the strategy I used in 2014 and 2015. I will be putting the majority of my weekly exposure towards the lower end of my buy-in spectrum to get more lineups in play, but I will be budgeting roughly 70% of my normal weekly bankroll management plan. With the large prize pools being offered for Week 1, I don't see the need to be overly aggressive.
Alexander: My results the last two seasons tell me that I play much better the longer the data has a chance to normalize. As much as it will pain me to practice restraint this week (football is back and so is DFS in New York, baby!), I'll be scaling back what I put in play compared to what I'll usually have out there in midseason. BJ gave an excellent answer to this question. The only thing I would add is that for me personally, my cash game vs. GPP split will not change because I play 75-90% tournaments most weeks anyway. But if you're primarily a cash game player and you haven't had great early season results in the past (or are new to DFS), it wouldn't be a bad idea to invest less and try to take advantage of the unpredictability by focusing on GPPs for a week or two.
Knotts: I am extremely conservative with my Week 1 bankroll. I will only have 8% of my bankroll in play, and the primary reason is that there are so many unknowns heading into the season. When looking at a week by week analysis, Week 1 has been my worst cash game week over the five years that I have been playing DFS. Therefore, while my bankroll will be my smallest of the season, it will also likely be the highest GPP ratio of the season. I typically am not a contrarian player, but in Week 1 that changes as there are so many players who are going to be extremely highly owned due to the team hyping them up, despite said players not actually being that talented. Therefore, I take an approach where I go against the masses and hope that they're all wrong. Davante Adams, for example, was the highest-owned player in Week 1 of 2015 and only had four receptions for 59 yards. That wasn't horrible, but was worth it to not play him.
Howe: I’m also looking to get in on Week 1 GPPs, but it won’t affect my ultimate bankroll usage. I don’t ramp up my exposure for Week 1s, and I don’t expect to put more than 10-15% of my bankroll into play. Rather, I’m more interested in throwing as many varied combinations into tournaments as I can. As BJ points out, cashing totals are generally lower in Week 1, which makes all the sense in the world. We have no real data to project with, after all. I’m a fairly knowledgeable guy, but I’m not looking to outwit anyone with shrewd Week 1 insights, and my vDEF projections mean nothing as season-to-season defensive consistency is a myth. Since we’re all early in the learning curve, education and preparedness largely go out the window in favor of quantity, quantity, quantity. Establishing 10+ lineups with a solid core – players you believe with some confidence will produce – sprinkled with high-upside plays is clearly the way to go.
Feery: I fall on the side of the scale that believes the early weeks can be more profitable, but I’ll still stick to my typical range of 10% of total bankroll in play at any given time. While it’s true that there can be plenty of landmines in Week 1, there’s also a fantastic opportunity to jump on specific playing time situations that may be flying under the radar of more casual players.
For example, a casual player that’s excited to see the pro debut of Laquon Treadwell might place him on a roster or two, while a player that’s on top of playing time situations will know that the rookie has a ways to go to climb up the depth chart. On the other end of the spectrum, a casual player that’s looking at a Tennessee wide receiver to stack with Marcus Mariota may lean towards a familiar name like Kendall Wright, but they will quickly realize that he’s been bypassed on the depth chart.
In my experience, the early weeks present a good opportunity if you’re ahead of the curve on news surrounding the league. However, that can be somewhat offset by a simple fact that levels the playing field substantially for everyone: we’re all going off of last year’s data when building our rosters, and we never do know exactly how things will play out once the games finally kick off.
Grant: As odd as this is going to sound, I plan on playing a bit conservative in the first two weeks of the season, but with cash games. The GPP games, I'm going to maintain my normal play, meaning I'm going to be closer to a 60/40 cash/GPP split.
The theory goes that the first few weeks of the season include more new DFSplayers. However, I don't think that necessarily translates into easier money. The new money that is coming in are people who think their season-long skills are good enough to translate to the daily games. These are not the bottom quality players who are turning to DFS as a way to break even.
Add in the fact that there are a lot of surprises, especially at the WR position, in the first couple weeks and you can see how the right stack or GPP play can suddenly turn into a big payday. So these type of "lottery ticket" plays that blow up the game script and pay off big time. It's worth it to keep a couple extra GPP lineups in play looking to cash in.
Hester: Week 1 offers plenty of large field GPP tournaments. Unique stacks are a necessary differentiator in these tournaments. Discuss some unique stacking structures by position and how they can help in Week 1.
Miglio: I have found myself to be a bit skittish in terms of stacking this week. As much as we'd like to know how good offenses are going to be, we just can't be sure heading into Week 1. What if the opposing defense is much tougher than expected? What if a team decides to change its scheme to throw or pass the ball more? Vegas seems to be tighter than usual this week, which indicates the oddsmakers don't know what to expect, either.
That said, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott intrigues me as a unique stack. We normally don't go for a QB-RB stack, but this is a duo that could be a major differentiator in GPP lineups. True, Prescott will likely have a high ownership percentage, but who among those owners will be insane enough to start Elliott alongside him? Meanwhile, the Cowboys are liable to feed the running game to try to protect their rookie quarterback until he has to throw in a comeback bid during the second half. Prescott can also score points with his legs. Rushing touchdowns, anyone?
Alexander: I see the Detroit at Indianapolis game as an opportunity to stack the entire game, or at the very least both passing games. The Colts will be missing stud cornerback Vontae Davis and may also be without starters at the opposite cornerback, safety, and on the defensive line. After Week 10 last season (once Jim Bob Cooter was hired as offensive coordinator and had a bye week to install his system) Matthew Stafford ranked as the fantasy QB4, due in large part to facing a string of soft defenses. His matchup against the banged-up Colts might be the best one he gets all year. If Stafford has a big game, it should mean good things for both Marvin Jones (ridiculously cheap throughout the industry) and Golden Tate.
On the other side of the ball, Andrew Luck will be forced to the air to keep up with Stafford, putting Donte Moncrief, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, and even Phillip Dorsett in play. While each of these players (with the exception of Dorsett) should all have significant ownership, there won't be many rosters that include five or six combined Lions and Colts.
VanderWoude: I agree with Phil on the potential to super stack, and to an extent "game stack" certain matchups. The one that I will have the most exposure to is the Oakland at New Orleans game. I have several super stacks with Derek Carr/Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree and even went as far as including one of either Willie Snead or Brandin Cooks alongside Mark Ingram in the same lineup.
I like the idea of game-stacking, especially in a matchup that is projected to have the highest total of the week. The Raiders super stack comes at a very affordable price, making it rather easy to build a balanced lineup around them. Drew Brees averages 288 passing yards at home over his career. With that in mind, there is potential to stack Brees with Snead, Cooks, Coby Fleener, or Michael Thomas.
Miglio: I like this game, too. It figures to be high scoring one way or another, and stacking either side should be profitable.
Knotts: Alex mentioned it above, but quarterback and running back stacks are something that is not utilized enough in large GPPs. In smaller tournaments, it is typically not advised due to cannibalization of points (if the running back runs the ball into the endzone, it takes away from the quarterback's potential output). However, in large GPPs, what you are looking for is the team that is going to score 40+ points, and then you want every piece of the offense that you can get. Teams scored 40+ points 23 times last season, and in all but one of those games the teams scored five or more touchdowns. If you have a wide receiver, you may not be guaranteed to get any of those touchdowns, but if you have the quarterback and the running back you are likely to get a vast majority of those points and still the possibility of a double point touchdown if it is a passing play to the running back.
A perfect opportunity this week would be Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger and DeAngelo Williams as Pittsburgh at Washington should be a very high scoring game. This game may turn into something similar to last season's game against Oakland where Pittsburgh won 38-35. In that game, Williams went for 170 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, and two receptions for 55 yards. The combination of Roethlisberger and Landry Jones had 402 passing yards with two touchdowns. This would have performed very strongly in a GPP, and this week they face Washington, so Williams will have to play a strong role due to Josh Norman facing up against Antonio Brown.
VanderWoude: Devin and Alex made nice calls with the QB-RB stack, that is something that not enough players think to do, and it can yield high dividends for the right team(s). Pittsburgh is a great example. And considering the aforementioned array of weapons Brees has at his disposal in New Orleans, this might be a great situation to put Devin's idea to work and stack Brees and Mark Ingram. Ingram was heavily involved in the passing game before getting hurt last year, and if that continues into this season, I will definitely be targeting Brees/Ingram stacks going forward.
Howe: As Devin points out, 23 teams scored 40+ points last year. But those outbursts weren’t exactly predictable. That was especially true early in the year, where we saw the Titans (42 points), Bills (41), Rams (37), and Raiders (37) erupt far beyond expectations over the first three weeks. That’s to say that merely chasing Vegas totals is a misleading path to victory. Besides, the teams we most expect to explode will typically be expensive and highly-owned, negating much of their GPP appeal.
As far as stacking goes, I’m interested in combinations of guys capable of commandeering their offenses. The positional correlations don’t matter to me as much as merely owning most of a team’s offense, then banking theirs is one of the few to erupt (or semi-erupt) that week.
That’s why, in some tournament lineups, I’m rostering both Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. Note that last year, Jones posted 30+ DraftKings points four times during Freeman’s tenure as starter, and in those games, Freeman averaged 26.4 himself. The Vegas total for their matchup (47.5) is unimpressive, but solid and workable (sixth-highest of the week). And with Atlanta’s production so predictable, a big Falcons performance all but guarantees both will be busy and dynamic. There’s a good chance Freeman and Jones combine to consume most of the yardage (and possibly) two to four scores between them. That makes for a stacking ceiling – and floor – you can believe in. And Freeman, a true fantasy goat throughout this offseason, is unlikely to see wild ownership.
Hester: Great calls so far, guys. "Super-stacking," QB-RB stacks, and even a RB-WR stack offer owners plenty of options. What other lesser-used stacks could help differentiate for GPP purposes? Are there any RB-DEF stacks that you guys like?
VanderWoude: Great question, Ryan. With Spencer Ware's ownership projected to be very high, I think stacking the Kansas City defense alongside Ware is a great way to differentiate your lineups from the rest of the field. Ware is a polarizing play this week, as he is without a doubt the best value on the board at running back. With that said, his ownership ballooning will scare off a lot of sharp players as they realize the potential to crush 30-40% of the field if Ware underpeforms. I can see both sides of the argument, which is why I am capping my exposure to Ware at 20%. That gives me enough lineups to take advantage of a big game from Ware, but if he fails to hit value, it will not destroy my entire week. Adding in the Kansas City defense gives me a positive correlation, and should help to make my teams more unique.
Howe: I’m also on board with BJ’s suggestion of teaming Ware with the Kansas City defense. Ware should dominate the ball against an inferior divisional opponent, a game Kansas City seems likely to control (favored by 7.5 points). I’m also looking into the Giants’ sack-happy defense in a matchup with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. A preseason sensation, Prescott is likely to struggle in his first real start, and an aggressive Giants defense can capitalize cheaply. That could make backfield dominator Rashad Jennings a gem of a Week 1 start; if New York stays on top of the rookie, 25-30 touches are in play.
Feery: Great calls by everyone so far. I could definitely get on board with the scenarios that have been laid out. Another game that I’d like to add to the “super-stacking” list is the Pittsburgh at Washington game on Monday Night. This game features one of the higher over/unders of the week, and we mayjust be in for a shoot-out.
There are plenty of ways to attack the game as well, including Devin’s suggestion of a Roethlisberger-Williams stack. One way to gain full exposure would be to stack Kirk Cousins with either DeSean Jackson or Jordan Reed and complement that with Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams on the other side.
On the RB-DEF stack side of the ledger, one that could make a ton of sense is choosing Seattle’s defense to be complemented by Christine Michael, who should see a large amount of work in the early part of the season. The Seahawks are a huge favorite at home, and you also have the upside of a back that may fly under the radar in the form of Michael.
Grant: I might even take the Seattle stack a step further and consider stacking Russell Wilson along with their defense and Michael. Everyone knows that Wilson runs more than most of the quarterbacks in league. If Seattle gets out to an early lead, their running game is going to take over. But Michael has never been a guy that you can count on, and Rawls may be healthy, but he won't be at full speed either. Wilson's legs will be a way to balance the attack and keep the clock running.
I don't think I'd stack the Seattle receivers with Wilson since I don't see him airing it out, but as a runner Wilson could have a big day. On the receiver side, though, you might consider Miami's Jarvis Landry instead. The game script shows that Miami is going to be down big time in this game, and the Seahawks run defense is very stout. The Dolphins are going to have to throw a lot, and Landry should be the guy who benefits the most from that.
Hester: Which game with a Las Vegas Over/Under less than 46 has the best chance of going over its projected total and turning into a shootout? Which players will you be using in order to exploit this unforeseen circumstance and benefit in DFS this week?
Alexander: I've had my eye on Buffalo at Baltimore (over/under 44.5) since Week 1 pricing was released. The Ravens pass defense was atrocious last year, and it remains to be seen whether or not the addition of Eric Weddle, Ladarius Webb's move to safety, and the anticipated growth of some younger players are enough to fix their problems. Tyrod Taylor (in the ever popular revenge game against his former team) has a floor safe enough for cash games and a ceiling high enough for GPPs. Sammy Watkins is obviously the preferred stacking partner with Taylor, and his ownership should be fairly low considering he's coming off a high profile preseason foot injury and not many are expecting fireworks in this game. Charles Clay is a sneaky GPP option and should finish second behind Watkins for the team lead in targets.
Buffalo has their own problems on defense with stud defensive lineman Marcell Dareus suspended and their first two draft picks – defensive end Shaq Lawson and linebacker Reggie Ragland – out as well. We know that Baltimore Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman leans pass heavy. If Taylor and company force the Ravens to keep up, they could pass the ball an absurd number of times (Baltimore led the league in pass attempts last season). Joe Flacco will likely be less than 2% owned in GPPs and is priced affordably throughout the industry. I don't hate the idea of using him in tournaments with Watkins as a correlation play if the Bills passing game also hits (good luck figuring out which Ravens pass catcher to pair with Flacco though).
Howe: I'm also expecting interesting – not necessarily big, but interesting – things from Buffalo and Baltimore. The Bills were a truly high-powered offense last year, tying for sixth in the NFL in yards per play and the league lead in touchdown passes of 20+ yards. That matches up nicely with a Swiss cheese-like Ravens secondary that allowed the third-most long scoring passes. Sammy Watkins is healthy (he saw limited preseason snaps, a great sign) and shouldn't have much problem striking deep down the field.
Knotts: While there are not a lot of great options to choose from, I am going to go with Cleveland at Philadelphia. No one is expecting much from this game as Robert Griffin III takes on the rookie making his first start in Carson Wentz. This game has the potential to become a shootout not because of total yards and sustained drives, but both offenses will turn the ball over in this game, and the opposing offenses could be left with some short field opportunities. Therefore, I am targeting Patrick Murray in this game along with Ryan Mathews.
For Murray, the Eagles allowed the fifth-most field goal attempts in 2015, and their offense has gotten significantly worse as it heads into the 2016 season with the rookie Wentz under center. This should allow the Browns to start in better field position, which will give the Browns the opportunity to kick field goals. Looking at the Browns offense, they are made to move the ball between the twenties, but until Josh Gordon comes back, they should struggle in the red zone. This was seen last year as well where they were dead last in red zone touchdown percentage, so if the Browns are playing with a short field and are able to move the ball but not score, this should setup for a lot of field goal opportunities for Murray.
For Mathews, the Browns are going to turn the ball over as the Eagles were top ten in the NFL last season in turnovers. Also, Griffin has averaged one turnover per game throughout his career. I expect multiple turnovers in this game, and hopefully, there will be one or two in Browns territory. The Browns defense allowed the third most rushing yards in 2015 and did not do anything in the offseason that will make you feel as if they are going to improve in 2016. Mathews is a perfect DFS player, as when he is healthy he is productive, and I fully expect him to find the endzone at least once with the possibility of multiple touchdown upside.
Howe: I agree with Devin on Cleveland at Philadelphia, but I like some other options. The Browns look poised to strike down the field early and often, as well. New coach Hue Jackson admitted this preseason that Robert Griffin III is a dynamic deep-ball passer who struggles to throw elsewhere, and while that's typically not ideal, it's rare for shrewd coaches to bend their players too far out of their comfort zones. Since they'll likely rely so heavily upon the deep ball, GPP participants would be wise to consider Griffin at his measly salaries, but also to glance at his deep threats. Terrelle Pryor's go routes figured heavily into the preseason scripts, with he and Griffin hooking up for 49- and 50-yard completions. (Josh Gordon also caught a long ball from Griffin, and he won't be playing Sunday.) Pryor, of course, costs virtually nothing across the industry; I'd be shocked to see his ownership high, and he'll likely see more downfield money-balls than anyone near his price range.
Include the explosive Corey Coleman, and there's real big-game potential in the Browns passing game. There's plenty of downside and worry with Griffin, but a Week 1 showdown with a decimated defense may produce his best week of the season.
VanderWoude: I am going to cheat a little here because I think there is tremendous value to be had on both sides of the ball, but this game won't be a traditional shootout. I am going with Seattle vs Miami, but in this case, Seattle will be the team responsible for going over the current line of 44 points. Miami's secondary was torched repeatedly last year, and they did nothing to address it in the offseason. Miami let up 100+ yard games to Allen Robinson (6/155/2), Brandon Marshall (7/128/0), Nate Washington (9/127/2), Odell Beckham Jr (7/166/2), and Sammy Watkins (8/168/2). Throw in Julian Edelman (7/81/2) and you have five multi-touchdown games from wide receivers.
I am very fond of a Russell Wilson/Doug Baldwin stack. Baldwin had four consecutive multi-touchdown games last year, and I could see him going off against Miami. Due to the fact that Seattle will likely blow Miami out, the Dolphins offense will be in pass-first mode which means a lot of short targets for Jarvis Landry. Even with Seattle's talent at cornerback, Landry's targets are high percentage passes in the short field, so I could definitely see him getting 12-14 targets and at least 8-10 catches. If he's able to add a garbage time touchdown or break a big play, Landry could approach the 25 point range, generating around a 4x return on his salary.
Miglio: This makes me sad as a Dolphins fan, but BJ is absolutely right. Doug Baldwin seems like a steal this weekend, practically overlooked in spite of his incredible second half last season and a plus matchup against a patchwork Dolphins secondary. I also love newly-minted starter Christine Michael here, though he might have a significant ownership percentage because of all the hype.
Feery: One game that has been sticking out to me is Minnesota at Tennessee, which currently checks in with an over/under of 41 points. While I’m not expecting a shootout in the traditional sense, I think there’s plenty of value here for DFS purposes, namely in the form of both team’s running games. For Minnesota, we can expect a pretty run-heavy game plan in general, but it will likely lean even more heavily towards the run game due to Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending injury. Whether it’s Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill behind center, it’s safe to assume that we’ll see Adrian Peterson’s number called early and often.
On the Titans side of the ball, head coach Mike Mularkey had one of the quotes of the offseason by stating his desire to implement an “exotic smashmouth” type of offense. He has the tools in place to pull it off as well, and I’ve become increasingly intrigued by DeMarco Murray’s prospects for a big bounce back campaign in 2016. Murray has been flying well under the radar for fantasy purposes, but he put together a pretty solid preseason.
As for the game itself, it’s not out of the question for this game to exceed the current over/under of 41 points. If that scenario does, in fact, play out, there’s a fantastic chance that Peterson and Murray will have both delivered stellar fantasy performances.
Grant: Chicago at Houston is a game that could be a lousy offensive matchup or could turn into a passing shootout. The Bears have some serious question marks on defense, and if they can't get pressure on the quarterback, even a guy like Brock Osweiler can have a good game. Everyone expects him to flame out, but the Bears might be just the defense that he needs to prove he was worth the big offseason contract.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears are expected to be down big. For the first time in two years, Jay Cutler will have Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White on the field at the same time. Jeffery is playing for a big contract, and White is playing to show he is worth the high pick that the Bears spent on him. Cutler will have to throw to catch up and that could be big numbers for Jeffery and White this week.
Cash Game Staples
Hester: As fun as GPPs can be, DFS players need cash games to help build the bankroll and fund the lower-probability, high-risk tournaments. Give us three cash game staples around which we can build solid and safe lineups for Week 1.
Alexander: I'll begin by making it clear I am not using Dak Prescott in cash games this week. Yes, he offers significant cap flexibility, but enough value has opened up on the slate, it's not necessary to pay down so far at quarterback. While Prescott doesn't have to do much to reach cash game value at minimum price, the floor is scary low for a rookie fourth-round quarterback making his first NFL start against what should be an improved Giants defense. I'd prefer a stud quarterback playing at home, along the lines of Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, or Drew Brees, but if forced to pay down, I wouldn't go any lower than Tyrod Taylor in his revenge game against Baltimore's weak pass defense.
As for the aforementioned value that opened up on the slate, Spencer Ware should be locked into one of your running back slots, regardless of scoring format. Kansas City is the second biggest favorite on the slate (-7) and hosts San Diego, who fielded the worst rush defense in the NFL last season by just about any metric. With Jamaal Charles considered a stretch to play, Ware should have plenty of opportunities to gash a weak run defense he lit up for 19 carries, 148 yards and two touchdowns across two starts in 2015.
Week 1 pricing was released before Marvin Jones' role in Detroit became clear. Jones looks like a lock for seven or eight targets in what could be the highest scoring game of the week. Indianapolis' defense is currently a MASH unit, especially on the back end with stud cornerback Vontae Davis out for at least a month and the starter opposite Davis, Pat Robinson, nursing a groin injury. Jones' price across the industry and defensive matchup combine to make the risk of the unknown (how will he fit in with his new team) palatable, even for cash games.
Miglio: Cap flexibility isn't the only reason to use Prescott this week, though. He will probably have the highest ownership percentage everywhere because of his minimum salary – just look at all the answers in this week's Wisdom of the Staff –making him a relatively safe bet whether he succeeds or fails.
We can say similar things with higher expectations about Spencer Ware, as Phil mentioned. Ware is going to be a popular play because of his salary and likely role, and he should have a good-to-great outing against the Chargers, barring injury.
Since it wouldn't be fun to just copy Phil's list entirely, how about Coby Fleener for a third staple? Many Footballguys Staffers are predicting he will have a high ownership percentage in spite of his lackluster preseason. We have seen what Drew Brees' tight ends have done in the past, and he should be an integral part of the offense right out of the gate.
Hester: I love that call on Jones, Phil. His ADP rise in season-long leagues is a great illustration of how his value has changed since Week 1 DFS pricing was released and locked. With bargains at running back, it seems that paying up for wide receivers is going to be a sound strategy. Is anyone worried about using the best of the bunch – Antonio Brown – as he's likely to square off against elite cover man Josh Norman?
Howe: Brown's matchup isn't a death knell, and cash-game value is never particularly hard for him to come by. He's certainly not a fade; the volume coming to him this year could surpass even his 2015. But there's no need to chance it in a cash game with all of the quality value in play. Julio Jones offers similar volume and touchdown outlooks in a prettier matchup, while elite touchdown producers like Allen Robinson, A.J. Green, and Dez Bryant come at sizeable discounts.
But the cream of the non-Brown crop might actually be Randall Cobb. The dirty not-so-secret in Green Bay's passing game is that Cobb, not Jordy Nelson, is truly the team's premier touchdown producer in the red zone (where things are more cash-game predictable). Nelson relies more upon deep balls to find the end zone, while Cobb's scoring is typically more balanced and dependable. That could be magnified in Week 1, with Nelson expected to see limited snaps. The Jaguars coughed up red zone touchdowns at a fairly ugly rate in 2015, so Cobb has as strong a chance as anyone to wind up in the end zone. Buying both him and another high-dollar, high-floor receiver (say, Robinson or even Rob Gronkowski) seems like a fair move with so much deep running back value in play.
Feery: There are several players at each position that have made my short list for cash games, but there are some that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Here are a few of them.
Derek Carr: we have a projected shootout on the table for the game between Oakland and New Orleans. This game is attracting a ton of attention for fantasy purposes, and that interest is well warranted. It’s anticipated that both quarterbacks will be slinging the rock all over the field, and that opens up plenty of options on both sides of the ledger. Carr stands out as the best option to gain some exposure to this game for my money, and he should produce more than enough to cover his salary for the week.
T.Y. Hilton: another game that projects to be a shootout is the one between Detroit and Indianapolis, and there are also plenty of ways to gain exposure to this game. Hilton checks off all of the requisite boxes that we look for in a wide receiver, and he should be on the receiving end of plenty of targets from Andrew Luck. Speaking of Luck, he makes for an excellent option as well, as there’s a better than average chance that he’s chomping at the bit to return with a bang for his first regular season action since last November. Hilton offers us the chance to gain exposure to the Colts offense at a bit of a discount in comparison to Luck, and he’ll find his way onto my cash game lineups.
Travis Kelce: he typically comes in at a lower price than the bigger names at tight end (i.e. Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen), but he offers just as much potential upside. For fantasy purposes, not much is expected from the Chiefs passing game. Those expectations may begin to change this season, as the Chiefs have assembled a nice array of weapons at the skill positions. The offense looked to be fully in sync throughout the preseason, and there’s a good chance that carries over into Week 1’s date against the Chargers.
Grant: There have been a lot of good examples mentioned so far. I'll add a couple guys that could be easy to plug into your cash games.
As Alex mentioned, Fleener is a great mid-priced tight end who has the potential to score big. The Saints and Raiders are expected to be a shootout, with the over-under at 51 right now. Yet Fleener is significantly cheaper than Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, and even Jordan Reed. Fleener has a decent shot to be as good as – if not better than – those players this week. Is he going to be the Jimmy Graham of old? Probably not, but he'll have a great shot to reach cash value this week.
Zach Ertz is another potential cash play at tight end. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz gets his first start against a weak Cleveland defense. He won't light the world on fire, but a great pass-catcher like Ertz will be a nice safety valve for him if he gets into trouble. Ertz might not blow up the world, but he could finish with a ton of catches, and at his pricetag, that makes him a great candidate to reach cash-game value.
Speaking of Wentz, if you're going to start a rookie QB this week because they are bargain-basement price, I'd be much more likely to start Wentz against Cleveland instead of Dak Prescott against the division rival Giants. The pressure is on Wentz, and all eyes will be looking to see if he is the quarterback of the future. He looks ready though, and unlike Prescott who landed his job due to injury, Wentz is in because he looks like the guy who will give the Eagles a chance to win.
Knotts: At quarterback, I am avoiding the low-end quarterbacks in cash games even though it may come back to bite me. The cash game quarterback I am going with this week is Kirk Cousins, which is probably not going to be a popular selection. The reason I am using him is the Washington running back situation is a mess, and Pittsburgh’s defense allowed the third-most passing yards of any team last season. This game projects to be one of the higher scoring games of the weekend, and the only way that Washington will be able to stay in this one is if Cousins throws the ball at a high volume.
Ryan Mathews is my guy this week at running back. Cleveland’s defense was the third-worst at yards allowed in 2015, and the unit has actually gotten worse with the losses of Tashaun Gipson, Paul Kruger, Justin Gilbert, and Barkevious Mingo. This is a defense that has significant issues in the front seven, and Mathews should be able to run all over them. Mathews is always a great DFS play, as when he is healthy he typically produces (as long he doesn’t get hurt mid-game, which is the only risk here).
The aforementioned Marvin Jones is going to make it into a lot of my lineups this week, as he is simply underpriced. Another guy that I am targeting this week is Eric Decker. Brandon Marshall is still banged up, and Decker is one of the most consistent players each and every week who doesn’t carry a price tag of an expensive wide receiver. The Bengals defense is largely overrated as they were in the bottom third of the league in passing yards allowed, and while Decker may not have a huge game with yardage, he is almost a sure thing to catch a touchdown as he did in every game but three last season. He is a guy that I target quite a bit as he is so consistent, and the price never seems to really rise up to meet the production.
I typically will either go high or low at tight end, and this week is no different. I am going with Jordan Reed in lineups that can afford him and Eric Ebron when I need to save money. I already wrote about why I love the Washington offense, and Reed is a big part of that this week. For Ebron, the Indianapolis defense is among the worst defense in the league, and Golden Tate is nursing an ankle injury. Detroit only has four wide receivers on the roster, indicating that they are preparing to use Ebron in a big way this year.
At defense, Philadelphia is facing turnover prone Robert Griffin III and the Cleveland Browns. This game is projected to be one of the lowest-scoring games of the week. Even though I believe it will be higher scoring than Vegas thinks, the Eagles are in a prime position to force multiple turnovers with a touchdown being a possibility.
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