GPP Domination: DraftKings Week 1

Looking for edges in DraftKings tournaments.

Week 1 Tournament Value Chart

The chart below is a value guide for this week’s DraftKings tournaments. In an effort to help the widest range of players, only tournaments ranging from $1-to-$100 buy-ins are listed. The color scaling favors lesser entry fees, lower entry limits, and flatter payout structures since these tournaments generally represent the best return on investment for average DFS players. But remember it’s important to consider your specific strengths and goals when choosing which tournaments to enter.

Do you excel at GPP roster construction and game theory? Then don’t avoid GPPs like the Millionaire Maker due to high entry limits and a top-heavy payout structure -- you can still profit in these types of tournaments while giving yourself a shot at a life-changing payday. Therefore, cells in red do not indicate tournaments to avoid. The color scaling serves primarily to highlight the differences between tournaments, which will make it easier for you to identify the best ones to enter based on your individual skills and goals.

DK Week 1 Value Chart

Roster Construction

Before constructing your own GPP lineups, it’s important to consider how most of your opponents will be making theirs. Due to the salary cap, figuring out the most common roster construction each week isn’t necessarily as simple as looking at a list of projected ownership percentages for individual players.

This week, there are a couple of near-certainties when it comes to how most people will build their rosters:

  1. We’re going to see tons of lineups with David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell, and possibly quite a few with both top backs jammed in. The majority of rosters that don’t include both top running backs are likely to feature one of Antonio Brown or Julio Jones along with Johnson/Bell.
  2. Zach Ertz is mispriced as the TE11 ($3,500). He’ll be a plug-and-play for about one-third of the field.

With these points in mind, if we want to spend up on the positions our opponents are not with the goal of creating unique lineups, tight end and quarterback seem like the spots to do so. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best week to pay big at tight end, since Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce both played in the Thursday night game. But starting a team with this week’s de facto TE1 -- Greg Olsen -- will get you building in a different direction than most of your opponents while giving you the 25+ point upside you’re seeking from the tight end position in GPPs.

Jamming in any two of Bell, Johnson, Brown, and Jones doesn’t leave much room for a quarterback in the $7,000 range. This should lead to slightly depressed ownership for Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, as they face off in what could be the highest scoring game of the week. Spending at tight end and quarterback will allow you to mine the middle pricing tiers for lower-owned running back and wide receiver values on a slate in which there is no shortage of options.

What About the Chalk?

Trying to build rosters differently than the majority of the field is not the same as fading the week’s top plays entirely. Your opponents are on these guys for a reason -- they’re projected to score the most fantasy points. Treating them as though they don’t exist for the sake of being contrarian will lower the scoring ceiling of your lineups significantly most weeks. Assuming you plan on making multiple GPP lineups each week, your decision on highly-owned players shouldn’t be whether to fade them completely, but rather how much exposure you want to them in comparison to their projected ownership.

Some suggestions on how to treat this week’s chalk plays (ownership percentages based on Steve Buzzard’s mid-stakes GPP projections):

QB: Marcus Mariota (vs. OAK, $6,800, 11% owned) - Mariota is appealing this week for obvious reasons. Tennessee hosts Oakland as favorites in the game Vegas has pegged for the highest over/under (51 points). He’s an ascending talent who generated plenty of preseason buzz in season-long circles, and the additions of Eric Decker and Corey Davis give Mariota his most talented group of pass catchers to date. The Titans offseason moves suggest they’re ready to loosen the reins on Mariota, but this is still the same team that called rush on over 47% of their offensive plays last year (third-highest in the league). When these teams met in 2016, DeMarco Murray (16-114-1) and Derrick Henry (10-45-0) both had success running the ball. It’s easy to envision a game script in which Tennessee leans on their running game to keep Derek Carr and company off the field. Mariota is certainly one of the quarterbacks who deserves your attention this week. Just don’t go heavier than the crowd on your exposure.

RB: Le'Veon Bell (@CLE, $9,800, 36% owned) - When Bell played Cleveland last year, it was like watching a lightsaber cut through a marshmallow. He finished with a 28-146-1 rushing line and added 8 catches for another 55 yards. Some would preach caution for a player who sat out the entire preseason, but it’s not like Bell was nursing an injury. On Monday, Bell promised he’s ready for a full load and we know Mike Tomlin won’t hesitate to give him one. Last season, Bell averaged a staggering 28 total touches per game -- nearly five full touches per game more than David Johnson. The only wide receivers to average more than Bell’s 6.3 receptions per game were Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green, and Stefon Diggs. Cleveland allowed 28% more fantasy points to opposing running backs than the league average last season, and the implied game script (Steelers -9) sets up for a heavier-than-usual dose of Bell. You want at least as much ownership as your opponents.

WR: Antonio Brown (@CLE, $8,800, 21% owned) - Brown's ceiling is as high as any wide receiver's on the slate, but the Steelers notorious home-road splits are troublesome. Since 2014, Brown's PPR fantasy points per game average in road games is a full 33% less than in games played at Heinz Field. Brown could still have a useful game -- think 20 fantasy points -- but it wouldn't come close to paying off his salary or justifying his projected ownership. Go lighter than the field.

WR: Julio Jones (@CHI, $8,500, 19% owned) - No wide receiver on the planet shares Jones' ceiling on any given week, and he has a great matchup against Chicago's underwhelming cornerbacks. He should be your highest wide receiver exposure. As you’ll read more about in the Jordan Howard blurb below, Falcons-Bears has the feel of a game that could go off-script. But even if Matt Ryan underperforms, Jones accounts for such a large share of Atlanta’s offense, he can still reach 30 fantasy points.

TE: Zach Ertz (@WAS, $3,500, 27% owned) - DraftKings released Week 1 pricing two days before the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews, leaving Ertz the most egregiously priced player on the site. Without Matthews in Philadelphia, the entire middle of the field belongs to Ertz. It just so happens Washington -- Ertz’s opponent this week -- struggled to defend tight ends, ranking 25th in pass defense DVOA against the position in 2016. When these teams met in Week 14 last year, Ertz racked up 10 catches and 112 yards on 13 targets. In short, as one of the few tight ends who doesn’t lack talent or opportunity, Ertz is the no-brainer cash game play of the week and deserves the high ownership he’ll receive in tournaments. Still, tight end is the most difficult skill position to predict from week-to-week and Ertz only reached 4x his current salary in about 25% of his games last season. If roughly one-third of your opponents are auto-clicking Ertz, the clearest path to a unique lineup is to fade him.

More Chalk Plays:

Player Pos Opponent Salary Proj. Own % Comment
David Johnson RB @DET $9,400 36% Would rather have more Bell. Think 25% exposure.
Amari Cooper WR @TEN $7,200 15% Ownership should reach 20+% as long as knee injury checks out. Take less than the field.
LA Rams DEF   IND $3,200 22% One of four defenses you want at least 20% of.

Core Plays

These players fall in the middle to upper-middle ownership tiers. Each has a path to top-5 numbers at their respective positions or a strong chance to exceed their salary-implied point expectation. You want more of them than your opponents.

QB: Aaron Rodgers (vs. SEA, $7,000, 10% owned) - Rodgers costs $800 less than he did during Week 16 last season, which feels like an overreaction to his matchup. Yes, Seattle’s defense is healthier than they were at any point last season, and they’ve added Sheldon Richardson which makes their defensive line frightening. But playing Rodgers when he’s at home, regardless of opponent, is the right move more often than not. Since 2014, Rodgers has averaged 30.5 fantasy points in his home games against top-10 pass defenses vs. 25.9 fantasy points in all other games -- a 17% increase in fantasy production against tougher opponents while at Lambeau. Rodgers finishing top-5 in fantasy scoring at his position was better than a coin flip proposition last year. If the matchup gifts him to you at depressed salary and ownership, take it and run.

QB: Russell Wilson (@GB, $6,900, 8% owned) - The Packers fielded one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last season -- the absolute worst if you’re grading by raw fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Green Bay has since revamped their defensive backfield but will be counting on significant contributions from rookies at cornerback and safety. The most likely game script (Green Bay -3, 50.5 point O/U) implies Wilson will be throwing often at the Packers suspect secondary to keep up with Rodgers. And while this may be somewhat narrative driven, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers has had trouble scheming to stop mobile quarterbacks in the past (check the 2015 game logs). Injuries caused Wilson’s rushing yards to decline by nearly 60% from his previous career average last season. A major course correction is on its way in 2017 and the matchup indicates it will start in Week 1.

RB: Carlos Hyde (vs. CAR, $4,600, 22% owned) - It’s a shame DraftKings decided to price Hyde as if he were a backup since he otherwise would have been the top contrarian play on the slate. His opponent is not ideal, but there isn’t another running back in Hyde’s price range locked into an 18+ touch workload. While Carolina limited opposing running backs to the sixth-fewest fantasy points last season, they were susceptible to pass catchers out of the backfield. Their 101 receptions allowed were third-most to running backs. If the game stays on script (Panthers -5.5), Hyde offers sneaky upside as a pass catcher in his first year playing for Kyle Shanahan. Last season, Shanahan’s Falcons produced the second-most running back receiving yards (946) and in 2015 they ranked 10th (775). Hyde’s 2016 performance (82% catch rate) suggests he has soft hands and has been underutilized as a receiver throughout his career. As the 49ers best back in pass protection (by far), Hyde will see plenty of passing down work to go along with his base down and goal line roles. And if the 49ers pull the upset -- like they have in their home openers in each of the last two seasons -- Hyde will be the main reason why. In San Francisco’s first home game in 2015, Hyde obliterated the Vikings (26-168-2) and he followed suit last year, mauling the Rams (23-88-2) in Week 1 (welcome back to Narrative Street).

RB: Todd Gurley (vs. IND, $6,000, 20% owned) - Gurley has the mother of all matchups this week at home against the Scott Tolzien-led Colts. According to our Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule, Indianapolis finished 2016 with the fifth-most schedule adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. Tolzien is a conservative quarterback who can limit turnovers, but his style (and skill-set) will also lead to plenty of three-and-outs, which should set up Gurley -- the engine of LA’s offense -- with short fields and scoring opportunities. Despite a down season, Gurley led the league in backfield workload market share in 2016 (84.5%), putting a 30 touch game well within his range of outcomes. At a middling $6,000 salary, he projects as a top dollar per touch play, with plenty of upside.

RB: Jordan Howard (vs. ATL, $6,300, 19% owned) - Though not as poorly priced as Hyde, Howard costs at least $500 less than he should in an exploitable home matchup against Atlanta. His low price will encourage entrants to roster him in what otherwise looks like a bad spot on paper. The Falcons are favored by a touchdown and have Vegas’ highest implied point total (29 points). No one is counting on Mike Glennon to keep up with Matt Ryan, but it just so happens the weakness of Atlanta’s defense -- run stopping -- aligns perfectly with the only things the Bears have going for them on offense (a strong interior offensive line and Howard, a young workhorse running back). Chicago’s plan will be to establish Howard to keep the Falcons offense off the field. If Howard gets off to a hot start, it wouldn’t be shocking if Atlanta -- fresh off two coordinator changes, the worst Super Bowl hangover in NFL history (it was 28-3!), and playing on grass -- underwhelms. If you’re into splits, all six of Howard’s 2016 touchdowns came in home games.

WR: Jordy Nelson (vs. SEA, $7,600, 11% owned) - If Rodgers has a big game against Seattle, it stands to reason he’ll bring Nelson along for the ride. When these teams met in Week 14 last year, Nelson found the end zone twice, which should come as no surprise considering he led the NFL in both red zone targets and targets from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Priced near or above more popular plays like Amari Cooper and A.J. Green, Nelson is a solid GPP option, even outside of Rodgers stacks.

WR: Rishard Matthews (vs. OAK, $4,200, 12% owned) - The Cliffs Notes version: Matthews is the cheapest way to get a piece of the game with the highest over/under the slate. He’s being severely underrated across all fantasy football formats, despite posting one of the most efficient wide receiver seasons of 2016 (both in and out of the red zone). And finally, his one-on-one matchup with Oakland cornerback David Amerson is absolutely mouth watering. For more on why Matthews is the best wide receiver value on the Week 1 slate, click here.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (@DET, $5,900, 20% owned) - Perhaps Fitzgerald is best left as a cash game play, but the matchup against the Lions beckons like a siren song. Whether Detroit throws D.J. Hayden or Quandre Diggs at Fitzgerald in the slot is irrelevant. Hayden goes 5’11’’ and Diggs 5’9’’, meaning the 6’3’’ Fitzgerald will have no problem boxing either cornerback out on high percentage slot and/or red zone targets. The Lions made a habit of selling out to stop explosive plays last year and were eaten up by short passes as a result (their opponents completed a league-high 73% of their passes). It doesn’t look like they added enough to their secondary over the offseason to change the game plan, which is a boon to Fitzgerald’s target volume and subsequently, his Week 1 PPR fantasy prospects.

TE: Greg Olsen (@SF, $6,200, 6% owned) - As mentioned back in the Roster Construction section, Olsen is a great way to cut the chalk at tight end while maintaining massive upside at the position. When these teams met last season, Olsen erupted for a 5-122-1 line, his best fantasy output of 2016. It looks like Cam Newton won’t have any limitations this week, so it’s safe to pencil Olsen in for his usual 8-10 targets against a 49ers defense that allowed the second-most normalized fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends a season ago. Many will view Olsen as lacking upside after he scored only three touchdowns in 2016, but Newton’s career low passing touchdown percentage is due to bounce back. Look for the positive regression to start this week and for Olsen to be the main beneficiary.

More Core Plays

Player Pos Opponent Salary Proj. Own % Comment
Carson Palmer QB @DET $6,000 3% Looked rejuvenated in the preseason. The matchup doesn't get much better.
Lamar Miller RB JAX $5,100 11% Recipe is there for 30 touch game script.
Bilal Powell RB @BUF $4,900 12% If Jets fall behind as expected, Powell cleans up in PPR scoring. He might regardless.
John Brown WR @DET $4,800 2% Splash plays were back in regular season dress rehearsal.
Doug Baldwin WR @GB $6,700 19% Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall must prove awful 2016 was a fluke.
Martellus Bennett TE SEA $4,100 6% Multi-touchdown upside in any given week playing with Rodgers.

Contrarian Plays

These players will appear in a small percentage of your opponent’s line-ups. The greater your exposure to these players, the farther your teams will separate from the pack if they have big games.

QB: Matthew Stafford (vs. ARI, $6,100, 4% owned) - Arizona at Detroit is the potentially close, high-scoring game not many people are talking about. Maybe it’s because there’s no obvious stacking partner for Stafford (who is Patrick Peterson going to cover?), but he’s going largely ignored despite performing well at home as an underdog of fewer than three points over the last two seasons (the Cardinals are favored by 1.5). Stafford has averaged 25.8 fantasy points in 12 games under those conditions since 2015, compared to 20.4 fantasy points per game in his other 20 games over the same span. The Lions don’t have much chance at running the ball against the Cardinals, who allowed the fewest raw fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2016. If Carson Palmer and Arizona’s receivers strike quickly on Detroit’s suspect defense, Stafford will be one of the busiest quarterbacks on the slate.

DeMarco Murray (vs. OAK, $7,400, 7% owned) - If Mariota is this week’s most popular quarterback, the crowd must assume most of Tennessee's offensive production will come through the air. A big day for Mariota is not out of the question, but Murray is the clear leverage play in tournaments. The Titans called the eighth-most running plays from inside their opponent's red zone last year and it was Murray who led the team in red zone receiving targets. The possibility of an expanded role for Derrick Henry has people spooked, but we shouldn’t assume Tennessee will be quick to abandon what worked so well for them last year. Murray checks off all the DFS running back boxes - home favorite, high implied team total, plus matchup, touchdown producer, involved as a receiver. He’s an excellent pivot from other high priced backs and a way to blow past traditional Mariota stacks if he has a multi-touchdown game. In fact, stacking him with Mariota (and cornering the market on all of Tennessee’s touchdowns) makes sense as a contrarian strategy this week.

Paul Richardson Jr (@GB, $3,700, 3% owned) - People don’t seem to remember Richardson -- the Seahawks second-round pick in 2014 -- finally getting healthy and playing on at least 67% of the team’s offensive snaps in each of their two playoff games last year. It’s surprising since Richardson made numerous highlight reel catches in those games, scoring 13.3 and 14.8 DraftKings points, respectively. With Jermaine Kearse banished to the Jets, Richardson has been named Seattle’s starter opposite Doug Baldwin just in time for a juicy matchup with the aforementioned Packers secondary. Richardson should spend the majority of time lined up against the beatable Davon House, and he only needs to flash his blazing 4.4 speed on one long touchdown to pay off his salary. Get on board the Richardson bandwagon early. Next week it will be standing room only.

More Contrarian Plays:

Player Pos Opponent Salary Proj. Own % Comment
Charles Clay TE NYJ $3,200 2% New OC Dennison likes passing to tight ends. Tyrod Taylor's most familiar target.
Sammy Watkins WR LAR $6,200 3% No Vontae Davis for the Colts. Leverage play on Gurley.
J.J. Nelson WR @DET $3,700 1% At least 7 targets in all four games without Michael Floyd last year.
Corey Coleman  WR PIT $3,200 3% High upside skill-set. Flashed rapport with big-armed Kizer in the preseason.

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