With 36 days to go between now and the start of the regular season, it’s way too early to begin crafting DFS lineups that will actually be playable come September. But Fanduel released Week 1 NFL pricing Sunday night and if you’re anything like the crew here at Footballguys, you spent most of your Monday happily creating dozens of lineups, despite the certainty training camp fallout will blow up at least 80% of them before the season starts.
Just in case you happen across this article next month while prepping for Week 1, allow me to state the obvious:
You’re about to read my first blush, knee-jerk reactions to Fanduel’s Week 1 pricing. As summer winds down, some of these takes are going to appear downright silly, but we need to begin exercising our DFS brains in preparation for the season and it's never too early to begin checking a site's pricing for inefficiencies.
Here are some noteworthy items that jumped off the spreadsheet on my first pass through FanDuel's pricing:
Ryan Mathews is my Favorite Running Back Value Play
Things couldn’t be going much worse for Ryan Mathews in his first training camp under new head coach Doug Pederson. First, beat writer Jimmy Kempski referred to Mathews as “the Sam Bradford of running backs”, while postulating Mathews is not a good fit in Pederson’s offense. It got worse for Mathews when he injured his ankle and started camp on the NFI list -- reminding everyone he is the same player who presumably still has 12 metal screws attaching his shoulders to the rest of his body.
It’s plain enough to see why Mathews checks in as the RB29 on Fanduel ($6,100), which isn’t far removed from his current RB26 redraft ADP. But whereas in a season-long league, it might be fair to worry about Wendell Smallwood eventually siphoning carries or Darren Sproles stealing all the work on passing downs, our only concern in DFS is Week 1 and Mathews couldn’t be in a better spot as the Eagles default early down and goal line back.
The Eagles are 6.5 point favorites at home against the Browns, which is currently the second largest point spread on the Week 1 slate. The implied game script suggests Philadelphia will be in a position to run the ball at will, and the Cleveland defense figures to oblige. The Browns allowed 128.4 rushing yards per game and 4.5 yards per attempt last season, which placed them bottom-four in both categories. While Cleveland addressed their defensive line in the draft and free agency, it remains to be seen if the changes are enough to make them anything more than a middling run defense in 2016.
All the negative press swirling around Mathews masks the fact he’s coming off a great first season with the Eagles. Last year, Mathews was one of only two running backs with less than 35 receptions to average more than a PPR fantasy point per touch (minimum 100 touches). Provided Mathews receives the heavy workload the game script implies in Week 1, his rushing efficiency is exactly what we’re looking for on Fanduel where receptions are more loosely correlated with fantasy scoring. Plus, Mathews is also the Eagles best option at the goal line, where he scored on four out of six carries from inside the five-yard line last year. Philadelphia’s implied team total sits at a healthy 25.5 points, which hints at potential touchdown opportunity for Mathews.
Maybe it’s true Pederson prefers backs like Sproles and Smallwood who excel in space, but it shouldn’t matter in Week 1. Philadelphia will need a back who can wear down the Browns defense in this game, and there are no better options on the roster than Mathews.