DraftKings Starting Stacks Week 1

Justin Howe takes a look at the stacks that could pay dividends in Week 1 on DraftKings

SAFE CASH STACKS

Carson Wentz ($5,300) + Alshon Jeffery ($5,800) + Zach Ertz ($3,500) = $14,600

It’s not that I’m a proponent of power-stacking in cash games; it’s just that Ertz is so embarrassingly cheap he’s a clear cash fixture. He needs to generate a mere 10.5 points to provide cash value, so just four or five catches should do the trick. Considering his floor/ceiling combination, he should be the first entry into your cash lineups. The requisite volume looks like a lock, as he and Jeffery should combine to dominate Eagles opportunity. The team’s pass-catching depth is weak at worst and situational at best, so we can easily project the duo to combine for 16+ targets. That would require only moderate efficiency – roughly 1.74 DraftKings points per target – to provide cash value. We know that Jeffery and Ertz (a combined 1.72 career rate) are dynamic enough to hit that mark, and their strong matchup with this weak Washington defense only amplifies that.

And of course, if we’re rostering two or more receiver teammates, it makes sense to at least consider their quarterback by default. That’s a bit risky in cash games, but the risk is mitigated when he comes cheap and chalky. Wentz doesn’t boast much ceiling, but he offers plenty of salary relief and an opportunity to follow the cash-game herd.

Derek Carr ($6,700) + Amari Cooper ($7,200) – AND/OR – Michael Crabtree ($6,000) = $19,900

Carr and Cooper will both come relatively chalky, which makes sense. Vegas projects the Raiders to a solid 24.5 points with a +2 spread, suggesting a relatively high-flying game script. And the Titans pass defense was especially porous last year: opponents tended to avoid testing their punishing front seven and instead push the ball down the field. As a result, only two teams allowed more passing yardage, and only six allowed more completions of 20+ yards. That seems to set up Carr for plenty of opportunity to bring value, and suggests Cooper can ride a handful of downfield catches to the 100-yard bonus he’ll likely need.

In a vacuum, though, I much prefer Crabtree’s value. He saves you nearly 2.5% of your budget from a Cooper investment, and he boasts far more consistent productivity. He’s won the target battle between them in 18 of their 33 games together, and he dusts Cooper in terms of red-zone and short-yardage production. Last season he hit this 18-point cash-value marker in 8 of Carr’s 15 full games, while Cooper managed to hit his (21.6) in only 4.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that they twice reached those marks simultaneously, both in tight games that produced 30+ Raiders points. The similar Vegas outlook for this matchup suggests that’s on the table in a way power-stacking GPP players can appreciate.

Russell Wilson ($6,900) + Doug Baldwin ($6,700)

This will be a fairly popular stack; both players are priced toward the bottom of their respective tiers, and the matchup looks juicy. The Packers defense can be opportunistic, and they’ve certainly knocked Wilson around of late in terms of sacks and interceptions. But they’re also a very inconsistent unit in man coverage, rolling out a cornerback carousel riddled with burnable targets. Last year they allowed 8 of their 19 quarterback opponents to reach the 300-yard bonus – and 2 more exceeded 295.

Given Wilson’s rushing ability, he likely doesn’t need to top 250 passing yards and 2 touchdowns just to reach his value mark. That would land below his per-game yardage average from last year, for the record. And if Wilson posts a strong line, it’s a near-certainty Baldwin will be a major beneficiary. Baldwin garnered 22.5% of team targets last year, and across Wilson’s 7 games of 20+ DraftKings points, Baldwin averaged 21.4 himself.

DYNAMIC GPP STACKS

Cam Newton ($7,100) + Kelvin Benjamin ($5,900)

Newton is a bit riskier than I like my cash quarterbacks to be – his offseason back injury is ambiguous enough to be a real effectiveness concern. And I hate his salary, to be blunt. But in a GPP, in which I’m seeking ceiling and a somewhat depressed ownership outlook, I’m all over this stack. Newton's fully capable of posting 300-yard and/or multi-touchdown lines through the air, especially in matchups like this one. And we have every reason to expect Benjamin to be his prime beneficiary – he hogs decent volume, and he scores touchdowns well enough to supplement it to a weekly WR1 ceiling. The team lost Ted Ginn in the offseason, effectively stripping away all of its dynamism depth at wideout. It appears two rookies (running back Christian McCaffrey and slot receiver Curtis Samuel) are the only new threats to Benjamin’s target share, so he and Greg Olsen should be counted on to dominate Panthers targets until further notice.

Therefore, the floor here is relatively solid – and the ceiling is exceptionally high, especially at this price point. A Benjamin ceiling around 6 catches and 90 yards looks fair, so a touchdown or two would shove him into GPP value. I’m surprised he hasn’t been buzzed about more this week. And for those strolling Narrative Street, note that Benjamin is an exceptionally fast starter. He’s compiled 32% of his career DraftKings points in September games, and he’s posted 21.2 and 21.1 DraftKings points in his 2 Week 1 appearances.

Marcus Mariota ($6,800) + Delanie Walker ($4,300) – OR – Rishard Matthews ($4,200) – OR – Eric Decker ($5,000)

Again, Vegas loves this game. And I’m generally more on board with Mariota than Carr, in both cash and GPP settings, as I prefer his ceiling by a hair. But his stacks are less obvious and less dynamic; there are a lot more talented mouths to feed in Tennessee than in Oakland. As a result, these Mariota stacks – while extremely sexy – need to be risk-managed.

Matthews strikes me as a studly play. He and Mariota were remarkably efficient together last year, posting an elite 9.2 adjusted yards per attempt over their 93 targets and producing 9 touchdowns. He’s the incumbent No. 1, and a fine one at that, and I don’t foresee prominent activity for Corey Davis out of the gate. Matthews carries a nice floor for this price – a modestly solid line and a touchdown would produce value – and a ceiling far beyond it. He landed within 90% of this value marker in 6 of the last 8 games in 2016.

Walker is probably the safest stack of the three, considering his multi-year production resume and a salary that looks a bit too low. The problem with rostering him is the opportunity cost. There are much better and cheaper floors at his position.

Decker is an unknown – he’ll be involved, but I have to treat him as somewhat touchdown-dependent until I can see he’s a high-target guy. The Titans could ease him into the offense, rotating his slot snaps with Walker’s in three-wide sets and dinging both their outlooks. That touchdown outlook is outstanding, of course, what with a better career rate than the likes of Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson, and he’s produced even with bad quarterbacks. He’s not a bad risk to take but fits best as a low-exposure item in your portfolio.

Aaron Rodgers ($7,000) + Davante Adams ($5,200)

In the Packers’ 2016 meeting with the Seahawks, Adams was a contingency plan that worked out beautifully for Aaron Rodgers. While Jordy Nelson tangled with Richard Sherman, Adams enjoyed softer coverage and racked up 101 yards and a touchdown. It needs to be noted that that came one week after Seattle lost Earl Thomas, who will suit up this Sunday. But we also have to note Adams’ middling salary – he’s the WR24 by cost – and the very real possibility he gets behind Jeremy Lane and/or Shaquill Griffin for a long catch or two. A doable line like 5-90-1 would put him in solid GPP position.

Nelson, of course, was no marginalized deer in the headlights in last year’s meeting. He drew only seven targets, but caught six of them and found the end zone twice. He looks to carry rough floor and ceiling in this matchup but is worth a little token exposure for mass-entry folks.

Andy Dalton ($5,700) + Tyler Eifert ($4,600) – OR – A.J. Green ($8,00)

When this trio is healthy together, it makes for dynamic fantasy stuff. Over their shared games of the past two seasons, Dalton has been a solid QB1 and both Green and Eifert have been top-tier producers with monstrous weekly upside. This week, they’ll play at a solid snap pace against a Ravens team that Dalton has succeeded against of late. He’s scored 24% above his fantasy average against Baltimore over the past 5 years. This Ravens defense is strong on the whole, but they’re also exploitable – this is by no means a prohibitive matchup for Dalton & Co.

Eifert is one of my favorite GPP plays of the week, a great, underpriced way to diversify from Zach Ertz and simultaneously chase a big ceiling. He sees strong volume (6.0 targets per full game over the past 2 years) and finds the end zone as often as just about anyone (18 touchdowns on 121 targets over that same span). And the Baltimore defense is weaker against the tight end spot than many realize. Eifert – and a handful of other good TEs – posted strong lines against them in 2016.

As Dalton goes, so goes Green, so he also boasts a strong history against Baltimore. Over their last 5 meetings, he’s averaged 25.8 DraftKings points, and he’s toasted cornerback Jimmy Smith memorably along the way. Green has a lot of ground to cover to bring GPP value on this cost, but he’s topped 30 DraftKings points 5 times since 2014.

DeShone Kizer ($4,800) + Corey Coleman ($4,400)

This pure salary-relief speculation, of course, but there’s good reasoning behind it. These two showcased a strong connection in their third preseason game, with Coleman drawing four of Kizer’s seven first-quarter targets. We’re starting to forget what a supremely gifted prospect Coleman was just a year ago, and that whiff of high volume makes $4,400 seem low for GPP purposes. What’s great for this stack is that a strong Coleman game – say, 6 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown – would go a very long way toward locking in Kizer’s 18-point value marker, too.

It’s always nice to target potential volume hogs in cheap DFS offenses. It puts us in position to reach value with only one x-value to worry over. In contrast, a more conventional yet expensive stack, such as Matt Ryan/Julio Jones, still typically requires another productive receiver to carry the quarterback to value.

RUNNING BACK/DEFENSIVE STACKS

Todd Gurley ($6,000) + Rams D/ST ($3,200)

It’s widely expected that the Rams will harangue Scott Tolzien into That may be a fairly overstated fantasy, but there are turnovers and scoring bonuses in play. Gurley would cash in hard on an early Rams lead with volume and touchdown opportunity.

LeVeon Bell ($9,800) + Steelers D/ST ($3,600)

The cost is astronomical, but it’s arguably the most logical and likely such stack on the slate to crush its value. The Steelers, as nine-point favorites, carry a great shot at nursing an early lead with Bell’s legs. And he’s LeVeon Bell, so the receiving and touchdown dynamism is through the roof, as always.

Devonta Freeman ($7,000) – OR – Tevin Coleman ($5,400) + Falcons D/ST ($3,300)

With the Falcons boasting the week’s highest Vegas projection (28.75), it seems a given that at least one of these guys catches a handful of balls and finds the end zone. The smarter play looks like Coleman, who comes markedly cheaper and boasts the stronger efficiency profile. The defense, already in a plum matchup, would benefit from a big game by one or both.

Lamar Miller ($5,100) + Texans D/ST ($3,800)

The Texans come pricey for a defense, but that balances with the hefty value in Miller coming for just $5,100. There’s a very real path to the Texans dominating this game on the strength of BlakeBortlesmiscues and giving Miller gobs of second-half volume.


 


 

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