For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. FootballGuys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
In order to help you build winning rosters, let's walk through some of the observations that I have made while doing my research for DraftKings this week. As you build out your lineups on DraftKings, try to consider the following commentary, which revolves around game strategy and how we will want to take advantage of what the masses are doing when they construct their own lineups.
CASH GAME TIPS
BEWARE THE OVERLAP: Because DraftKings releases their pricing for Week #1 over a month prior to the start of the season, there are invariably personnel changes that result in mispriced players whose extreme value (i.e., see Zach Ertz below) results in them being extremely highly-owned in head-to-head and 50/50 contests. This year, I think that DraftKings did a much better job pricing backup players to help alleviate some of these mispriced players, but there are still shortcomings that are going to result in 40+% ownership for some individuals. It will not surprise me to see the ownership levels of LeVeon Bell, David Johnson, Kendall Wright, and Zach Ertz all exceed 30% in cash games on Sunday. Bell and Johnson appear to be some of the safest running backs on the board due to their implied usage, but their salaries reflect that heavy usage; slotting in Wright and Ertz on those same rosters will provide much needed salary relief without sacrificing a reasonable fantasy floor (for reasons I describe in the “Picks” section of this article). At the team defense position, 80% of rosters will be occupied by either Houston, Buffalo, or the L.A. Rams due to their respective home matchups. Collectively, this means that a majority of cash game rosters will have about half of their players with significant overlap on the field. When this occurs, the difference between winning and losing can come down to one or two fringe players on your respective roster, a prospect that is unappealing and generally undesirable. For this reason, my recommendation is to enter more than one cash game lineup this week to diversify around those core players and to spread out the risk of the players in which you have less confidence reaching our goal of 3x value. If making multiple cash lineups makes you equally uneasy, my suggestion is to lessen your overall volume for Week #1, enter a few more GPPs than you might otherwise do in a typical week, and wait for next week to resume your typical level of cash game play.
BUILDING A DIFFERENT ROSTER: The standard build for GPPs is going to be reflective of what I described above for cash games: Start with LeVeon Bell and David Johnson and then slot in players around that core of running backs. Because they are so expensive, the remainder of your roster is going to look like a slew of other rosters in tournaments this weekend: Cheap QB, inexpensive receivers, a high-upside TE, and a popular defense (Texans, Bills, Rams, Steelers). Because you’ve read our “Cracking DraftKings” e-book (you have, right?), you know that going with the masses in tournaments is a guppy move that will only serve to drain your bankroll; this is why the sharks build their rosters with a contrarian mindset. Now, some people simply do not have the mental makeup to intentionally build a contrarian lineup, but it is possible for everybody to build a lineup “backwards”—instead of starting with Bell and Johnson and building around them, start with an expensive QB-WR combination, which will force you to get away from either (or both) Bell and/or Johnson, thereby conferring uniqueness to your roster. There are certainly RB options outside of Bell/Johnson this week who possess similar upside without the lofty price tag; my suspicion is that the big winners in Week #1 will have had the foresight to avoid at least one of those players, while landing on an alternative RB who finishes the week with 30+ points at a far cheaper price point.
BILLION DOLLAR TOURNAMENT: If you have been living under a bridge with no access to social media, television, or the internet, you may not know that DraftKings is running a freeroll promotion for Week #1 that includes a $1 billion (yes…with a “B”) grand prize to anybody who drafts the perfect lineup. Of course, this is a marketing move on behalf of DraftKings to get new players to sign up and use their product, but it’s a chance for the rest of us to win PowerBall-like money doing something that we love. Myself, I do not think I have ever come close to rostering a perfect lineup on a weekend, but that will not stop me from throwing a dart in this contest on Sunday. Since it is free, there is literally no risk, but substantial upside. If you were to win the tournament, but not put together the perfect roster, you would still walk away with $500 for your time (it pays out extremely far…nearly 140K places). My biggest piece of advice with this tournament is the following: If you enter, use the same lineup in a more traditional GPP that pays a bit more to first place because it would be devastating to finish in first place out of 750K+ entries and walk away with only $500.
Oh…and if you win the billion, I’m not embarrassed to ask you in advance to help pay for my daughter’s college education! Best of luck!
Let's take a deeper look into some of the players who I will be targeting for my cash game and tournament rosters this weekend. There is little difference in terms of strength of selection between those players who have text to justify their appearance in this article versus those in the "also eligible" section; all are strong plays in their respective categories, but time and space restrictions do not allow for expansive written summaries of every player listed.
CASH GAME PICKS
Marcus Mariota (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $6,800). No game on the NFL opening slate has a higher Vegas game total (51 points) than the Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans. As short favorites, the Titans will run out their most talented squad in recent memory, led by third-year quarterback, Marcus Mariota. In the off-season, the Titans made strides to acquire talent at the wide receiver position and did so by signing Eric Decker and drafting the NCAA all-time receiving leader (5,285 yards at Western Michigan), Corey Davis, with their fifth overall pick in this year’s draft. Davis has been dealing with a hamstring issue and is still playing behind Rishard Matthews, who led the Titans in receiving last year (65/945/9) and finished the season as a top-20 WR in PPR leagues. With these weapons, Mariota is poised to have the best season of his short career and it could start very well in a juicy matchup against an Oakland Raiders secondary that was 25th DVOA against the pass last season; to address their poor defensive backfield, the Raiders did draft cornerback Ohio State alumnus, Gareon Conley, with their first-round pick in this year’s draft, but rookie cornerbacks tend to struggle in their first NFL season, so there is no concern that his presence will improve the mediocrity that pervaded the Raider secondary last season. With Oakland fielding an impressive offense of their own, this game should be a high-scoring affair, meaning that Mariota could feasibly be throwing deep into the game. At $6.8K, he is the one of the safer options to achieve the 3x multiplier value you are seeking in that upper tier of QB pricing.
Carson Wentz (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,300). With a combined salary of over $19K, David Johnson and LeVeon Bell will eat up nearly 40% of your overall salary allotment on DraftKings, should you decide to go that route in cash games. If you do, you will surely be looking to save salary at other positions and Carson Wentz is the safest candidate for cash games at the lower end of the QB pricing scale. Wentz started 2016 on fire with four consecutive wins, where he averaged 252 passing yards, 1.8 touchdowns, and 17.9 DraftKings points per game; that level of play was short-lived, however, and Wentz and the Eagles stumbled thereafter, going only 3-9 to finish out his rookie year. The Eagles made some changes in the off-season, trading the enigmatic Jordan Matthews to the Bills and signing the best available free agent wide receiver on the market, Alshon Jeffery, as well as deep threat, Torrey Smith, to help lengthen the defense. On Sunday, Jeffery will have his hands full with expected shadow coverage from All-Pro CB Josh Norman, which stills leaves plenty of other capable targets for Wentz including Smith, Zach Ertz, and Darren Sproles, among others. Outside of Norman, the Redskins’ cornerbacks are shaky at best, as both Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller ranked in the bottom 15% of all coverage cornerbacks in 2016 (ProFootballFocus), allowing 71.1% of passes thrown into their coverage to be completed.
Also eligible: Aaron Rodgers ($6,900)
David Johnson (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $9,400). Outside of his exorbitant salary, there is nothing to dislike about clicking the “plus” button beside David Johnson’s name on DraftKings. The third-year running back was the focal point of the 2016 Cardinals’ offensive scheme, touching the ball nearly 400 times en route to averaging 26.6 DraftKings points per game across the entire season. Johnson surpassed 100 all-purpose yards in every game except for his last, a game where he left in the second quarter due to a knee injury that kept him off the field for the remainder of the game. This is the type of consistency that is worth paying for in cash game formats and the primary reason that Johnson appears in this space. Johnson enters 2017 with a clean bill of health and gets a superb matchup versus last year’s 29th ranked DVOA defense against pass-catching running backs, the Detroit Lions; as such, Johnson would appear to be in line for a healthy stat line, given his high usage in the Cardinals’ passing game (80/879/4 in 2016). Ordinarily, one must contemplate the opportunity cost of rostering players in this price threshold, but there is enough value at other positions to safely get Johnson into your lineups without sacrificing at those positions. Load him up.
Lamar Miller (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,100). While most people will be looking to cram LeVeon Bell’s $9.8K salary into their cash game lineups next to David Johnson (for good reason), you might consider saving $4.7K and dropping down to Lamar Miller as a solid home favorite against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a plus gamescript in his favor, Miller should see 20+ touches at a very reasonable salary against the Jags; in two games as 5+ point home favorites last season, Miller averaged 16.3 DraftKings points per game, which would be in line with the 3x multiplier you would be seeking to pay off his $5.1K salary on Sunday. We should fully expect Bill O’Brien to lean on Miller this weekend to help take pressure off Tom Savage, who has two career starts under his belt and has not yet thrown a touchdown pass in nearly 100 attempts. Given the strength of the Jaguar secondary, manned by top tier cornerbacks, A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, O’Brien will constantly feed Miller and ask him to bring this victory home for the Texans.
Larry Fitzgerald (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,900). In the first half of last season, Larry Fitzgerald averaged 11 targets, 6.8 receptions, 68.7 receiving yards, and 0.5 touchdowns (16.7 DraftKings points) per game. However, the latter half of the season was marred by mediocrity (11.2 DraftKings points per game), as Fitzgerald began to show his age, finding the endzone only once over his final 11 games. With nine months to rest, one has to assume that Fitzgerald, a consummate professional, will have his 34-year old body ready to go this weekend against the Lions in what may be his final NFL season. The matchup could not be better for Fitzgerald, as he will line up across from a combination of Quandre Diggs and/or D.J. Hayden in the slot, both of whom are diminutive slot cornerbacks who struggled mightily in coverage last season (81st and 104th out of 119, respectively). Meanwhile, Darius Slay, a shutdown cornerback will play the perimeter and minimize contributions from John Brown and J.J. Nelson, forcing Carson Palmer to look underneath to the future Hall-of-Fame receiver to move the sticks on passing plays. At $5.9K, Fitzgerald needs to score approximately 18 DraftKings points to justify his salary, which should easily be met if he finds the endzone or manages to collect double-digit targets, both of which are entirely possible in this plus matchup.
Kendall Wright (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,200). Arguably my favorite play of the week, Kendall Wright is the primary beneficiary of the ugly season-ending injury suffered by Cameron Meredith in the preseason. With Meredith watching from the sidelines, the Bears are hoping that former first-round pick, Kevin White, will step up and assume the WR1 role they lost when Alshon Jeffery left for Philadelphia in the off-season. White, however, will have his hands full as he will earn shadow coverage from one of the league’s best coverage cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant, who has frustrated far more proven receivers than White. If possible, the Bears would like to put the ball in the hands of their breakout running back star from 2016, Jordan Howard, who finished the season with over 1,600 all-purpose yards and a 5.2 yards per carry average in his rookie season. The problem there is that the Bears are touchdown underdogs at home, which generally limits the ground game and forces the trailing team to throw the ball to keep pace. All of this points towards Wright, who is reunited with his former Offensive Coordinator, Dowell Loggains, after signing with the Bears this off-season; when Loggains was the OC in Tennessee, Wright averaged 8.7 targets per game versus only 6.0 targets per game without him, yet another sign that his usage could see an uptick in this offense. Given that Mike Glennon’s only other receiving targets are Josh Bellamy, Zach Miller, and a blanketed Kevin White, it would not be surprising to see Wright end the day with 8-12 targets at a pittance of a salary on DraftKings.
Jimmy Graham (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,100). After a disappointing first season with the Seahawks in 2015, Jimmy Graham bounced back in a big way last year and finished as the fourth-highest scoring tight end in fantasy football (PPR/DraftKings scoring). That fact is even more encouraging when one considers that his quarterback, Russell Wilson, was plagued by injuries (ankle, knee, pectoral) last season, but enters 2017 with a clean bill of health. In fact, Wilson’s preseason performance (26/37, 406 yards, 3 TDs) was reminiscent of his dramatically efficient 2015 campaign that saw him log 4,000+ passing yards and 34 touchdowns against only 8 interceptions. Assuming that Wilson's health is once again 100%, we can only expect better things from Graham in 2017, who himself shed 20 pounds in the off-season to help with his speed and agility. This particular matchup against the Packers is intriguing for a number of reasons: First, it should be a high-scoring game, as depicted by the 51-point Vegas total. Next, the Packers allowed the 12th most fantasy points per game to the tight end position last year. Lastly, the Seahawks backfield is riddled with question marks entering this game, as Thomas Rawls is battling a high ankle sprain and just started practicing this week, while C.J. Prosise has been hampered by groin issues all preseason, leaving only Eddie Lacy, who has not done anything to impress the Seahawks’ coaching staff since being signed in the Spring. All of this could mean that Pete Carroll might ask Russell Wilson to carry the offense in their opener to get out of Lambeau with a win; if that were to happen, Jimmy Graham is surely going to play a big role in the offense on Sunday.
Zach Ertz (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,500). There may be no higher-owned player in the DraftKings’ player pool on opening weekend than Zach Ertz. Simply put, Ertz was mispriced by DraftKings and should be at least $500, if not $800, more expensive for his implied role in the Eagles offense this weekend. That said, Ertz is a bargain at only $3.5K because he should see all the targets he can handle in this excellent matchup against last year’s 30th ranked defense against the tight end position (15.8 DraftKings points per game allowed). The Eagles best receiver, Alshon Jeffery, will have his targets limited due to shadow coverage by Josh Norman, leaving Carson Wentz to divide 35+ passing attempts between Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, and Zach Ertz; of those options, Ertz is the likely volume receiver because Smith is the deep threat, Agholor has no trust due his 16.3% drop rate last year (90th of 96 WRs), and Sproles/Pumphrey will be only on the field in certain situations. Most importantly, when Wentz was without his WR1 last season (Jordan Matthews), Ertz became his de facto favorite receiver, averaging 15.5 targets, 11 receptions, 109 receiving yards, and 1.5 touchdowns per game; while those gaudy numbers are extremely unlikely to occur again this Sunday, it would not be surprising to see Ertz achieve 5x value or more on his pedestrian $3.5K salary making him an excellent cash game play at the tight end position.
Also eligible: Zach Miller ($2,800)
Bills (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,900). There is nothing special about the Bills defense this season and they may not appear in this section of this article again for the remainder of 2017. However, they get the luxury of hosting their home opener to the worst team in football, the New York Jets. The Jets are going to be the weekly whipping boy in the NFL and their opponents will be fodder for DFS defenses throughout the season because of the anticipated ineptitude of their offense. Josh McCown, who threw 12 passes in the preseason, will run the offense that “highlights” receivers named Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, ArDarius Stewart, and Charone Peake, none of whom have ever logged a 700-receiving yard season (to be fair, though, Stewart is a rookie). At running back, the Jets will call on some combination of 31-year old Matt Forte and Bilal Powell; Powell will likely be the focal point of this offense, but is not talented enough to carry it to victory. With an implied team total of 16 points, there is little reason to worry about the Jets making the decision to spend $3.9K on the Bills’ average defense; if you have the salary, pull the trigger and take the easy points.
Texans (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,800). At a $100 discount from the Bills, you could consider taking the Houston Texans at home against Blake Bortles and the Jaguars. Bortles has thrown 51 interceptions in only 46 NFL games, including 11 for return touchdowns; that, alone, makes the Houston defense an intriguing high-upside play for DFS contests. The Texans, however, took a major hit when they decided to forego resigning A.J. Bouye, who will be on the opposite site of the field in a Jaguars uniform when this game is played; that leaves an average secondary to contain Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, and Allen Hurns. That said, Houston may not need a strong secondary when one weighs the strength of their front seven that features names like Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, and J.J. Watt, all of whom will have Blake Bortles rushing throws throughout this contest. Our own offensive line guru, Matt Bitonti, rates the Jacksonville offensive line as the 27th worst in the league, which does not breed confidence for their ability to keep Bortles off his back in a hostile environment on Sunday.
Eli Manning (Salary: $5,600). The Giants will open their season at Dallas, as they have done for the previous two seasons; both of those contests were nail-biters, with the margin of victory being 1 point in each instance (Cowboys 27, Giants 26 in 2015; Giants 20, Cowboys 19 in 2016). The Cowboys open their 2017 campaign as 4.5-point favorites over the Giants and will be fired up to have Ezekiel Elliott on the field despite Roger Goodell’s attempt to have him suspended for questionable off-the-field behavior. With a favorable gamescript, Eli Manning’s number may be called early and often in this matchup, particularly when one considers the multitude of questions in the Giant backfield. Paul Perkins, a second-year back out of UCLA, will lead the ground game; Perkins averaged 4.1 yard per carry in his rookie season, but was unable to score a touchdown on 112 rushing attempts (for reference, NFL average is 1 touchdown for every 30 rushing attempts). Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen will spell Perkins, but neither of them should be considered a threat to do much against a Cowboys’ defensive front that finished with the 8th best DVOA rush defense last season. Dallas’ secondary, however, is full of question marks after losing Brandon Carr and Barry Church to free agency in the off-season, leaving behind Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, and second-round draft pick, Chidobe Awuzie, to man the defensive backfield in 2017. Scandrick is the only proven cornerback on this squad and even he has stumbled over the past two seasons; Carroll was absolutely dreadful in Philadelphia last year, grading out as one of ProFootballFocus’ worst NFL coverage cornerbacks and Awuzie is unproven at this level. It appears as though Odell Beckham will not play in this game, which will deter many DFS players from rostering Manning, but he has other competent weapons in the form of Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, all of whom are dangerous redzone options. At $5.7K, Eli Manning is a sneaky GPP option with 3+ touchdown upside in a game where the personnel and implied gamescript fit in his favor.
Jared Goff (Salary: $4,800). One year removed from being the first overall pick in the NFL draft, the DFS world is down on Jared Goff due to a poor rookie season that was mired by factors beyond his control, including an incompetent head coach, subpar offensive line play, and a general lack of talent within his receiving corps. It is difficult to believe, but the Rams’ front office may have addressed all of those concerns in the off-season. First, they fired the overrated and antiquated Jeff Fisher and replaced him with the Redskins’ former Offensive Coordinator, 31-year old Sean McVay. McVay is thought to be largely responsible for Kirk Cousins’ development as an NFL quarterback and many feel that he will do the same for Goff. Meanwhile, the Rams signed left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, one of the top offensive linemen in the entire league to a $36-million dollar deal in March. Lastly, the Rams acquired Sammy Watkins in a trade with the Bills over the Summer to beef up their receiving corps after drafting Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett in the Spring. Collectively, these are significant reasons to believe that Goff is in line for significant improvement in his sophomore campaign. His opening matchup could not be better against a uninspired Colts team that will be without All-Pro cornerback, Vontae Davis, on the defensive side of the ball; in the two games that Davis missed last season, opposing quarterbacks (Matthew Stafford and Trevor Siemian) averaged 303 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns. At less than 5% ownership, Goff possesses 5x upside at his $4.8K salary and is a leverage move against Todd Gurley, whose ownership will likely approach 20% by kickoff on Sunday.
LeSean McCoy (Salary: $8,200). One of Footballguys’ resident DFS experts, Steve Buzzard, is supplying the site with projected ownership numbers for DraftKings’ tournaments this Fall (check them out HERE). According to Steve, both LeVeon Bell and David Johnson will be owned around the 40% mark, while LeSean McCoy’s ownership will be nearly 8x lower! If McCoy’s ownership is less than 10%, it will be an opportunity to capitalize on his significant upside across DFS tournaments this weekend while diversifying your roster from the masses. McCoy has a pristine matchup against the Jets’ 28th ranked defensive front as hefty 8-point favorites at home. Since arriving to Buffalo in 2015, McCoy has destroyed opponents when the Bills are pegged as touchdown (or more) favorites—he has averaged 31.2 DraftKings points per game in those instances. Even at lesser thresholds, McCoy has excelled; when the Bills have been a home favorite (0.5-points or more), McCoy has averaged 25.0 DraftKings points per game. After releasing Jonathan Williams last week, the Bills have virtually no depth at the running back position and they traded away their best receiver (Sammy Watkins) to the Rams in August, both of which should result in all the action McCoy can handle. After watching New England lose their home opener on Thursday night, you can bet that Buffalo will play conservatively and feed McCoy as often as possible to secure the win and sole possession of first place in the AFC East after Week #1.
Ameer Abdullah (Salary: $4,300). An under-the-radar selection, do not be afraid to consider Ameer Abdullah for your tournament rosters on opening weekend. As a rookie in 2015, the Nebraska alumnus averaged 4.2 yards per carry on limited usage (< 10 carries per game); he was expected to play a larger role in the offense last season, but suffered a lis franc injury in Week #2 and missed the remainder of the season. A year later, it seems that recency bias-prone fantasy footballers have forgotten that Abdullah was a second-round pick, who amassed over 5,000 all-purpose yards and 43 touchdowns as a starter in the Big Ten Conference. Abdullah looked impressive in preseason play amassing 78 rushing yards on 17 attempts while picking up 4 receptions and 44 receiving yards in the RB1 role; most will be scared off him due to Theo Riddick’s presence in the backfield, but Abdullah’s $4.3K salary takes that fact into account. Given the strength of the Cardinal secondary (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu), the Lions could take the path of least resistance and pound the ball against a Cardinals’ front seven that will be without Pro Bowler DE Calais Campbell (free agency) and LB Deone Bucannon (ankle). The short spread (Cardinals -2) and relatively high game total (48 points) are equally intriguing, as this game could turn into a back-and-forth slugfest with lower ownership numbers than we assuredly will see with players from Oakland-Tennessee and Seattle-Green Bay.
Kelvin Benjamin (Salary: $5,900). In his rookie season, Kelvin Benjamin took the fantasy world by storm when he amassed a 1,000-yard season and 9 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 with an ACL injury and returned last season with a weight problem that many attributed to a disappointing year where he failed to reach 1,000-yards despite being the most talented wide receiver on an otherwise mediocre WR corps. That said, Cam Newton dealt with his own health issues for most of 2016, including a concussion early in the season and a partially torn rotator cuff in December that visibly affected his accuracy. Prior to Newton’s concussion, Benjamin scored in three out of four games despite seeing coverage from some of the league’s best cornerbacks in that timeframe, including Aqib Talib/Chris Harris, Xavier Rhodes, and Desmond Trufant; suffice it to say that Benjamin is a highly-talented player who has struggled when his quarterback has done the same. Enter this week, where the Panthers travel to the Bay area to take on the 49ers on their home turf; the Niners will be an improved team this season under Kyle Shanahan, but their secondary is full of question marks (Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser, and KWaun Williams) and will give up at least four inches to Benjamin in all matchups. The Panthers are projected to score nearly four touchdowns on Sunday and it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Benjamin is not involved inside the redzone, particularly given his massive size advantage over the San Francisco coverage team.
Eric Decker (Salary: $5,000). The general lack of excitement around the arrival of Eric Decker to Nashville is baffling. Sure, Decker turned 30-years old earlier this year and he is coming off a torn labrum that cost him most of the 2016 season, but he averaged over 1,000-receiving yards for the preceding four years, one of which was with the lowly Jets. A labral tear does not have the same effect on a player’s speed or agility as a knee or ligament injury, so there is little reason to expect Decker to be dramatically less than he was in 2015 with the Jets, where he finished the season with an 80/1027/12 stat line with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. With Marcus Mariota at the helm and a far more balanced offense than he had in New York, Decker should benefit across the board: Less double-coverage, more defensive focus on the run, and more opportunities inside the redzone, where he thrives. If those predictions come to fruition, Decker’s touchdown prowess, discussed here by fellow FootballGuy, Chase Stuart, could become even more historic as a Titan. From a matchup perspective, Decker will run most of his routes from the slot across from rookie, Gareon Conley, who gives up three inches and a lot of experience to the veteran. In a possible shootout, you are definitely going to want a piece of the passing game from one or both of these teams; getting a piece at a reasonable price and moderate ownership will be difficult, but Decker appears to fit the bill.
Delanie Walker (Salary: $4,300). Fresh off the Eric Decker write-up (above), there should not be much justification as to why you might want a Titans receiver in your GPP lineups on Sunday, given the lofty Vegas total and likelihood for a barn-burner of a game. From a matchup perspective, however, Delanie Walker appears to be well-placed for a potentially huge game against an Oakland Raiders defense that has yielded big games to opposing tight ends over recent history. Last season, the Raiders allowed 14.2 DraftKings points per game (24th in NFL) to opposing tight ends, which was a slight improvement over 2015 when they allowed 15.4 DraftKings points per game (30th in NFL). To specifically address their shortcomings in defending the tight end position, the Raiders drafted safety Obi Melifonwu in this year’s draft, only to see him placed on the injured reserve earlier this week after undergoing knee surgery. NFL guru, Evan Silva, has stated that the Raiders have the “worst off-the-ball LB corps in the league,” which only further solidifies the argument for Delanie Walker in your DFS rosters this Sunday. The last time that Walker faced this Raider defense in 2015, he finished the day with 6 catches for 91 yards, but did not find the endzone; if he puts up similar numbers alongside a score this weekend, he will definitely reach tournament value on his modest $4.3K salary.
Evan Engram (Salary: $2,900). A rookie with 4.42 speed out of Ole Miss, Evan Engram is a quiet sleeper play for DFS tournaments on opening weekend. The matchup is excellent against a Cowboys defense that allowed 17.3 DraftKings points per game last year (31st in NFL) and is not expected to dramatically change its defensive scheme under Rob Marinelli this season. Reports out of New York suggest that Engram should be on the field for somewhere around 60% of the team’s offensive snaps, which will be enough for him to make a splash should Eli Manning decide to throw in his direction. There is good reason to think that Manning will do exactly that, as Odell Beckham is looking like he will not play against the Cowboys, leaving Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard to fill the void left in his absence; while the Cowboys’ inexperienced secondary focuses their attention on the Giant wide receivers, Engram should get plenty of looks across the middle and in the redzone due to his 6’3” frame and aforementioned speed. Furthermore, Engram has experience running out of the slot in college, which might be necessary because Shepard will likely move to the perimeter to replace Beckham. At $2.9K, the opportunity cost is low and a touchdown from Engram could almost assure the necessary 4x tournament value needed to justify his place in your roster.
Also eligible: Tyler Eifert (Salary: $4,600).
Jaguars (Salary: $3,700). The Jaguars made significant strides to improve their defense in the off-season including signing star free agent cornerback A.J. Bouye, Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, and safety Barry Church. With Bouye manning the secondary alongside second-year phenom, Jalen Ramsey, the Jags will boast one of the better defensive backfields in the league. Likewise, Campbell will provide an outside pass rush to complement Yannick Ngakoue, who led the team in sacks (8) last season. The matchup against the Texans is intriguing, as Houston will start an untested Tom Savage in their home opener; Savage has only two career starts in the league and is certainly subject to making a mistake, particularly with Campbell or Ngakoue breathing down his neck. If Savage elects to make a risky throw, a pick-six is not out of the question given the talented nature of the Jaguar secondary.
Giants (Salary: $2,600). Speaking of talented secondaries, the Giants return one of the better defensive backfields in the league. Headed by Pro Bowlers Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, opposing wide receivers will have their work cut out for them this season. Likewise, Eli Apple is returning for his second year in the league after displaying legitimate signs of brilliance in his rookie season. Against the run, the Giants are coming off a 2016 campaign that saw them finish as the #2 overall DVOA defense, a scary statistic considering that they are returning the same personnel in 2017. The matchup against Dallas is interesting, as the Cowboys do not match up well against the Giants’ personnel. Last season, Dez Bryant was stifled by shadow coverage from Jenkins, resulting in 2 catches (on 14 targets) for 18 yards across 2 games; even Ezekiel Elliott, whose rookie season was one for the record books, was limited to 158 yards and a single score on 44 carries (3.6 yards per carry versus 5.9 yards per carry against all other opponents). If we take into account the personnel changes on the Cowboys’ offensive line (loss of Ronald Leary to free agency; retirement of Doug Free), there is considerable reason to ask how the Cowboys are going to move the ball effectively against this underrated defense. At $2.6K, they are certainly worth a flyer in tournament formats.
Also eligible: Steelers ($3,600), Falcons (Salary: $3,300).