This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
The biggest question of the week is should you trust Dak Prescott ($5,000) as the anchor of your team? Prescott was drafted in the fourth round out of Mississippi State. It isn’t typical that we see a fourth round quarterback starting in their first game but when Tony Romo was injured in the preseason that’s exactly where we landed. Typically I am not a big fan of playing super cheap quarterbacks in cash games because quarterbacks are the most stable source of points we can find and if your QB bombs you are going to be in a lot of trouble. A 4th rounder in their first game tells me all I need to know on why it makes sense to avoid Prescott.
However, I am not going to recommend you to do so because Prescott has a few things going in his favor. First of all he is the absolute minimal price because Romo’s injury occurred after salaries were announced. Secondly, Prescott has a strong supporting cast. Dez Bryant ($8,000) continues to be one of the best wide receivers in the league when healthy and makes any quarterback better, including Prescott. At 34 years old Jason Witten may no longer be the threat he once was but will be a good outlet for Prescott to continue to move the chains as will fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott. Each of the last two years at Ohio State Elliott recorded 27 and 28 receptions respectively so he has no problems in the passing game and should be effective on the ground behind the stout Cowboys line to keep moving the chains. Finally, Prescott’s floor is capped by his ability to run. When he doesn’t find Bryant, Elliott or the rest of the crew Prescott has no concerns about tucking the ball away and running. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 25 yards on the ground with a 20% chance of scoring a TD. Prescott isn’t likely to win your cash games and he won’t score the 20 points that David Dodds suggests you should require from your QB but at his price point he isn’t going to lose them either and should be a part of your cash game strategy this week.
I don’t think you should be all in on Prescott though because he could bomb in his first start and when he does you will be in trouble. If I am going away from Prescott I am going with some more established players in Russell Wilson ($8,500), Andrew Luck ($8,700) and Matthew Stafford ($7,400). All three are in a good spot this week and have more safety than Prescott. Stafford and Luck are likely going to end up in a shootout with a total just north of 50 and a spread of only three points. The Colts defense is going to be terrible to start the year and Stafford should be able to take advantage even in his first game without Calvin Johnson and Luck will do everything he can do to keep up. Finally, I typically like to go with running QBs in good matchups since they have a built in floor and I think Wilson is going to have a great season so I don’t mind throwing him into my lineups.
All of your lineups should start with Spencer Ware ($5,400) this week. Jamaal Charles has yet to be officially ruled out for week 1 but it is almost certain that he will be and if he isn’t he is going to be very limited. Last year in two games against the Chargers he accumulated 146 yards on just 19 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. The Chargers defense shouldn’t be nearly that bad this week but as a workhorse back at only $5,400 just add him to your lineup and look to the next spot.
Your second running back position is a little trickier and if you started with Prescott and Ware you are likely looking to spend some money. The best options here are Deangelo Williams ($7,100), Lamar Miller ($7,600) and Todd Gurley ($8,900). If you spent up at QB you could consider Christine Michael ($4,800) here as well. Last year when Williams got 15 or more carries he averaged 105 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per contest on the ground not to mention 27 receiving yards. When Le’veon Bell is out like he is this week the Steelers aren’t afraid to rely on Williams. At 33 years old there is a good chance that Williams won’t be able to hold up that type of production for long but luckily in DFS we only need for him to hold up this week. I expect the Steelers to give Williams 20 touches which will translate to about 100 yards.
Lamar Miller’s value resides in his matchup as well as his heavy workload. The Texans are likely to attack the Bears on the ground to help protect Brock Osweiler from looking like the big offseason mistake that he was. Additionally, the Bears were especially vulnerable on the ground last year allowing 120 yards per game. I think Houston will top that this week and Miller will be a major contributor and will likely go over 100 total yards.
If you haven’t seen the news on Christine Michael he has been listed ahead of Rawls on the depth chart and the Seahawks aren’t wanting to rush Rawls this week. There is a good chance that Rawls is active but even if so he is likely going to be pretty limited which gives you the perfect opportunity to use Michael. The biggest problem I have with Michael is that there is already great savings elsewhere this week and with the off chance that Rawls is given a full workload I think you can take better chances elsewhere.
My general rule at wide receiver is to load up on guys that catch a lot passes and aren’t reliant on the big plays or TDs to be successful. As such you will probably see me recommending Antonio Brown ($9,300) more than any player in the league and this week is no different. Brown’s price is especially fair this week given the savings we are getting at other positions. When Roethlisberger is in the lineup you can pretty much count on double digit targets 5+ catches and 70+ yards for Brown. No one else has a floor that he has and when we are getting good value at other positions we just need some safe players to put us over the top.
Julio Jones ($9,000) is the next best bet to expose a pretty weak Tampa defense. In two games against the Bucs last year Jones averaged 127 yards on 10 catches and .5 TDs. He could be in for a very similar day this week and since again we have plenty of money left over I don’t mind spending up to go and get him. He doesn’t have to be an all in type of player but I wouldn’t hate it if he was either. The rest of the spots will depend on how much salary you have available. I really like looking at some guys such as Amari Cooper ($7,100), Jeremy Maclin ($6,800), Michael Crabtree ($6,100) and T.Y. Hilton ($6,800) if you want to go the cheaper route. Crabtree in particular may be a good value as his ownership will likely be lower than it should be. I have been on the Crabtree bandwagon all offseason and have him in a bunch of my season long leagues. His matchup in a sneaky shootout against the Saints with an improved Raiders offense should work out well. If you are looking to spend more money Deandre Hopkins ($8,400) or Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,100) both make good plays as well.
Tight end is interesting similar to quarterback as you have Coby Fleener at ($5,400) representing one of the best potential deals at tight end. Fleener is expected to take on a role very similar to what Graham did when he was on the Saints and he has flashed the upside to be able to handle that time of workload. The problem is that he has had a very difficult time adjusting to the Saints playbook. This could certainly limit the number of snaps he gets especially in the critical red zone situations. His price is still very enticing in what could be the sneaky shootout I mentioned already but my exposure is going to be limited on Fleener.
When I don’t go with Fleener there are a handful of other tight ends that I am considering. Both tight ends in the Colts game with Fleener’s ex-teammate Dwayne Allen at a similar ($5,500) may look to upstage Fleener as he can easily catch a TD or two from Luck and Eric Ebron ($5,100) will be facing that terrible Colts defense that makes Stafford so appealing. But probably my favorite route is going back to my old reliable Travis Kelce ($6,400). The oddsmakers are favoring the Chiefs by 6.5 points with a game total of 44.5 putting the Chiefs at a crazy high 25.5 projected total. I like betting the Chargers with that point spread but under the chance that the odds are more accurate than my projections there isn’t much better ways for the Chiefs to score than through Kelce.
Kicker and Defense
At kicker there is no one that really stands out this week. Kickers are always the most difficult position to pick each week so unless someone is crazily mispriced I tend to rotate between several different kickers and this week won’t be any different. If you use some combination of Mason Crosby ($4,700), Chandler Catanzaro ($4,900), Chris Boswell ($4,600), and Adam Vinatieri ($4,800) you should be in good shape. One of the biggest concerns with kickers is the weather but there isn’t any such concerns this week.
On the defensive side I am all about the Eagles ($4,800) this week in a prime matchup against the Browns. Robert Griffin III has averaged just under 2.9 sacks per game started in his career which is about 25% more than the league average. Sacks lead to fumbles and which often lead to touchdowns. I tend not to go all in on defenses. Especially one as poor as the Eagles but this is the perfect opportunity to capitalize on a prime matchup. If I go away from the Eagles it will likely be the Browns in the same game. Did I say that sacks lead to fumbles which lead to touchdowns? Not many quarterbacks get sacked more often than rookies.