The Chalk: DraftKings Week 1

How to approach this week’s highly-owned players for your tournament lineups.

As we begin researching our daily fantasy lineups each week, it becomes readily apparent that there are certain players that appear to be on everyone’s radar. Typically, these players are referred to as ‘must-plays’ or ‘can’t miss’ type selections, and that can leave you pretty confused on how you can fit all of them into your lineup - or if that’s even the right call.

That’s what this column will help you sort through each and every week. The Chalk will help you identify some of the week’s most popular plays, as well as some alternative ways that you can approach them. Sometimes fading a top play will make a ton of sense, while other times it’s best to just add them to your roster and look for differentiation elsewhere.

For the first week of the regular season, there’s typically a large number of chalk selections. When daily fantasy players and analysts have a good portion of the summer to devote to analyzing salaries and matchups, the finest looking plays become well-documented. That’ll level out a little when there’s only a week to analyze the salaries and matchups, but there will be plenty of chalk selections to sort through on a weekly basis.

Let’s get started on The Chalk for Week 1 by taking a look at the games that are popping up on everyone’s radar.    

Green Bay @ Jacksonville

The Packers and Jaguars game has the potential to turn into a shootout, as evidenced by its current over/under of 48 points. This game features two of the more productive fantasy signal callers in the form of Aaron Rodgers ($8,500) and Blake Bortles ($7,200), and big things are expected from both offenses in 2016.  

Here’s What Most People Will Do

We can expect to see plenty of stacks of the two quarterbacks and their top targets - Jordy Nelson ($7,700) and Allen Robinson ($8,300). There should also be a smattering of “super stacks” with the respective quarterbacks, their top targets, and their number two receiving options. For the Packers, that adds Randall Cobb ($7,600) to the mix, while for the Jaguars, that means Allen Hurns ($5,800).

Here’s Another Way To Approach It

While both signal callers look like fine plays, we can look to differentiate our lineups with the choice of stacking options. For the Packers, we could look to a Rodgers-Cobb stack, and pivot on the Jaguars side to a stack of Bortles-Hurns. Another way to attack it is to go outside the box with our stacking options, and pair up our chosen signal caller with their tight end. Jared Cook ($2,900) is an affordable target on the Packers side that would provide a ton of roster flexibility to boot. Julius Thomas ($3,800) is expected to have a bigger role in the red zone for the Jaguars, and Week 1 looks like a fine opportunity to jump on the upside possibility.    

Oakland @ New Orleans

The Raiders and Saints game has drawn a ton of attention for fantasy purposes, and that interest appears to be well-placed. We have an over/under that’s currently sitting at 51 points, a fast surface in New Orleans, and an intriguing duel on the docket between an up-and-coming signal caller - Derek Carr ($7,300) - and a veteran gunslinger in Drew Brees ($8,100).

Here’s What Most People Will Do

There will be stacks aplenty featuring Carr and Brees at the helm. For the Raiders, Amari Cooper ($7,200) should be the most popular pair, followed by Michael Crabtree ($5,500). The Saints are a little trickier, but Brandin Cooks ($7,700) will likely be the most popular play, followed by either rookie Michael Thomas ($4,000), or new tight end Coby Fleener ($4,900).

Here’s Another Way To Approach It

A stack with either quarterback appears to make a ton of sense in Week 1, but there’s actually an outside the box way we can look towards as a means to gain some exposure to this game. If we look at the running games of both teams, we find running backs with big roles in the offense at some really attractive prices. Latavius Murray ($5,600) and Mark Ingram ($6,600) offer up a little bit of a contrarian approach to gain some exposure to one of the week’s projected higher scoring games.  

Detroit @ Indianapolis

Another shootout could be in the works when the Lions hit the road to take on the Colts. The returning Andrew Luck ($8,300) should be chomping at the bit to kick off his 2016 Comeback Player of the Year Campaign, and it looks like we’re in for another year of Matthew Stafford ($7,200) slinging the rock all over the place.   

Here’s What Most People Will Do

You guessed it - there will be plenty of stacks featuring Luck or Stafford. T.Y. Hilton ($7,500) and Golden Tate ($7,300) will be pretty popular regardless of whether or not they are stacked with their respective signal callers, and secondary options such as Donte Moncrief ($5,300) and Marvin Jones ($4,600) should have plenty of supporters as well.  

Here’s Another Way To Approach It

This is another matchup in which we can look towards stacks with different targets, and save some valuable salary cap space in the process. For the Colts, the timeshare at tight end between Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen ($3,200) is over, and Allen should have a much bigger role in the passing game as a result. One free agency move that has flown slightly under the radar was the signing of Anquan Boldin ($4,500) by the Lions, but he projects to receive a nice amount of volume in 2016 in the WR3 role.   

Pittsburgh @ Washington

The first of Week 1’s two Monday Night affairs is chock full of fantasy options, and many DFSers have had this game circled on their calendars since the 2016 schedule was released. You could make a case for every skill position player in the game, but there are a few that will have ownership percentages that are through the roof.  

Here’s What Most People Will Do

On the Steelers side, a stack of Ben Roethlisberger ($7,800) and Antonio Brown ($9,800) will be one of the more popular combos of the week, and DeAngelo Williams ($7,000) will have a plethora of supporters as well. For Washington, a Kirk Cousins ($7,400) and Jordan Reed ($6,600) combo will likely be the most popular stacking combo.

Here’s Another Way To Approach It

Once again, we can look to secondary options as a means to separate our lineups from the pack while still gaining exposure to a potential fantasy bonanza. There are three other viable options on the Steelers side of the ball: Markus Wheaton ($5,400), Eli Rogers ($4,200) and Jesse James ($3,400). All three could be sneaky plays to stack with Roethlisberger, and there are plenty of combos to choose from for a super stack. For Washington, DeSean Jackson ($6,100) is the top pivot for another stacking option, and he remains a viable home run threat with the ball in his hands.

All four games will see a ton of interest for stacking purposes. There are no obvious fade candidates from any of them either, so that will lead to some tough choices for our Week 1 lineups. If you’re completely sold on one of the top stacks, feel free to employ it and look to shake things up a bit elsewhere on your tournament lineups. Those that find that these plays and matchups are far too popular for their liking can look towards one of the alternative approaches outlined above, or consider taking a contrarian approach to the Week 1 slate. 

Collectively, those four games have a great deal of Week 1’s chalk plays, but there’s still some more plays we'll have to figure out how to approach. Let’s take a look at the projected most popular play from each position that do not appear in one of the above games.

QB Dak Prescott, $5,000

Dak Prescott will man the reins for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, and plenty of people are pretty excited about his prospects. The rookie had a stellar preseason, and that’s led to plenty of optimism that we may just have a star in the making on our hands. While that may turn out to be true in the long run, we would advise pumping the brakes on the enthusiasm a bit. There’s a pretty big difference between the competition level he’ll be facing in the regular season as opposed to the preseason. While he has a great shot to pay off his low price for Week 1, your salary cap dollars can be invested elsewhere for both greater upside, and a lower ownership percentage.  

For those playing multiple lineups, you can certainly justify including Prescott on at least one of them. That being said, those that are placing all of their eggs in the Prescott basket are taking a pretty big risk, and the results may be the true definition of a boom or bust week. There are several options at a similar price point for those looking to save money at the quarterback position, namely Blaine Gabbert ($5,200) or Carson Wentz ($5,000). Both of those selections also carry some risk, so the wise move may be to bite the bullet and pay up for a quarterback in Week 1. All of the quarterbacks in the above chalk games make for fine options, as should Russell Wilson ($7,900), and Eli Manning ($7,500).

RB Spencer Ware, $4,400

The news that Jamaal Charles ($7,100) will be limited - if he plays at all - in Week 1 has led many DFSers to turn their attention to Spencer Ware. It’s easy to see why, as he proved himself more than capable of delivering a nice return on investment while playing in place of Charles in 2015. Ware looks like he may be one of the free squares of Week 1, so you should seriously consider having some exposure to him. For differentiation purposes, it’s a pretty good week for lower-priced running back options. Charles Sims ($4,400) checks in at the same price point as Ware, and we can find T.J. Yeldon ($4,100) a little further down the salary scale.  

WR Julio Jones, $9,400

The game between the Buccaneers and Falcons is pretty close to being a chalk matchup, but it’s not quite seeing the amount of love as the other matchups outlined above - outside of Julio Jones, that is. We can expect a pretty high ownership percentage for Jones, and he makes for an excellent play if you can fit him into your lineups. There’s no glaring reason to fade him outside of differentiation purposes, but you could pivot to Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,300) for a high-level wide receiver that may be slightly lesser owned if you’re so inclined.

TE Travis Kelce, $5,000

Rob Gronkowski’s ($7,400) matchup against the Arizona Cardinals is not inspiring a ton of confidence, mainly due to the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo ($6,200) will be at the helm. That’s leading many players to look towards saving money at the tight end position, and one of the first names they’re landing on is Travis Kelce. He looks like a solid option this week for the money, but you could also look to Delanie Walker ($4,500) for similar production at both a lower price point and ownership percentage.  

D Seattle Seahawks, $3,900

The Seattle Seahawks are the biggest favorite on the board in Week 1, and the upside that they bring to the table for a home game is well-documented. While it’s not quite a free square, it certainly looks like the most appealing defensive matchup for opening week. That being said, their ownership percentage should match the potential upside for the week, and you may want to switch things up if you’re playing multiple lineups. The Kansas City Chiefs ($3,600) are the second largest favorite on the board, and they offer up similar upside at home in Week 1.     

That takes care of The Chalk for Week 1. There are plenty appealing matchups on the table for players with high projected ownership percentages this week, and we should never hesitate to pull the trigger on the ones we are most comfortable with just for the sake of being different. By digging just a little deeper into these chalk situations, we can quickly sort through and narrow the list down substantially to find the players that should make our final rosters - regardless of ownership percentage.  

Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your Week 1 lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - feery@footballguys.com - with questions or comments.