Starting Stacks for Week 1

Scott Bischoff takes a look at the stacks that could pay dividends in Week 1 in GPP play on FanDuel and DraftKings.

Each week I take a look at every NFL game in an attempt to identify players that can be stacked together to maximize value in GPP play at FanDuel and DraftKings. I examine the spreads and totals for each game as well as the implied totals for each team and blend that with the likeliest script that these games will follow. In doing so, I attempt to find players that can pay dividends for your lineup. In some cases, I will also provide a pivot within the stack to another player and give reasons as to why a pivot might make sense. You can use this information as a guide, and you will have multiple options to help you to sort through the noise while you put lineups together that can offer a degree of security.

Note: I will be using last year’s statistics (DVOA and team stats from nfl.com) as data points in the article. Rosters have changed, and there are new players and schemes to consider, but it gives us a peek at something tangible while 2018 data is collected.

RISK-AVERSE STACKS

Drew Brees + Michael Thomas

FanDuel: Brees ($8,400) + Thomas ($8,500) = $16,900

DraftKings: Brees ($6,800) + Thomas ($7,800) = $14,600

Facing 2017 No. 31 ranked DVOA pass defense - 2017 No. 32 ranked pass defense allowing 260.1 yards per game

Game Total - 49.5

Implied Totals - Saints at 29.5 points and Buccaneers at 20 points

Game Line - New Orleans Saints -9.5

The New Orleans Saints bring Tampa Bay to town on Sunday to take on the Buccaneers in an NFC South matchup in Week 1. The Saints have the highest implied total of the week (29.5) and will not have problems putting points on the board versus the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers are vulnerable through the air, and Thomas has established himself as Brees’ clear No. 1 target in the Saints offense. Thomas will see plenty of targets and he has a chance to have a big game to open the season.

The Buccaneers gave up 57 passing plays of 20 or more yards in 2017 and only two teams in the league allowed more of these types of plays. The Buccaneers also gave up 12 passing plays of 40 or more yards in 2017 and only five teams in the league have given up more.

Thomas was targeted 149 times last season, catching 104 passes for 1245 yards and five scores. Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and he should be able to pick apart the Buccaneers defense to Thomas’ benefit in Week 1.

Pivot: Rostering tight end Ben Watson ($4,900 at FanDuel and $3,100 at DraftKings) gives you a piece of what should be a high scoring game and relieves some of the salary you would have to pay to roster a premier tight end.

Watson was incredibly effective in 2015 with Brees, catching 74 passes and scoring six times while being targeted 109 times. Watson missed the 2016 season, but played with Baltimore last year and has a strong season, catching 61 passes and accumulating 522 yards. Watson is a very intriguing option, is in a very potent offense, and in a matchup that should be high scoring.

Tom Brady + Rob Gronkowski

FanDuel: Brady ($8,600) + Gronkowski ($7,900) = $16,500

DraftKings: Brady ($7,200) + Gronkowski ($6,900) = $15,100

Facing 2017 No. 25 ranked DVOA pass defense - 2017 No. 24 ranked pass defense allowing 237.4 yards per game

Game Total - 51

Implied Totals - Patriots at 29 points and Texans at 22 points

Game Line - New England Patriots -7

The New England Patriots bring the Houston Texans to Heinz Field on Sunday for what could be a pivotal AFC matchup in Week 1. This game has the highest total of the week (51), and both teams should be able to put points on the board in this game.

Gronkowski is one of the game’s premier tight ends and is a matchup nightmare for the opposition. He is the No. 1 option as a pass catcher in the Patriots offense. He has earned Brady’s trust and that means plenty of opportunity in the passing game.

Brady is still a fantastic quarterback as time has not eroded at his game. He should be able to have his way with the Texans defense in Week 1. The Texans were the No. 27 ranked DVOA defense against tight ends in 2017 and in a high scoring game; it is easy to see a pathway for excellent production in Week 1 for Brady and Gronkowski.

Pivot: Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan ($6,700 at FanDuel and $6,100 at DraftKings) is a very interesting option in Week 1 as he should be targeted early and often in this game. I expect the Patriots to get the ball out quickly and that means a potential high workload for Hogan. The combination of high workload and high scoring is a great one, and it certainly is present in this matchup for Hogan.

Philip Rivers + Keenan Allen + Mike Williams

FanDuel: Rivers ($7,500) + Allen ($8,000) = $15,500

DraftKings: Rivers ($6,400) + Allen ($7,500) = $13,900

Facing 2017 No. 23 ranked DVOA pass defense - 2017 No. 29 ranked pass defense allowing 247 yards per game

Game Total - 47.5

Implied Totals - Chargers at 25.5 points and Chiefs at 22 points

Game Line - Los Angeles Chargers -3.5

The Los Angeles Chargers are home versus the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday for a pivotal AFC matchup in Week 1. This game has one of the higher totals of the week (47.5) and it looks like both teams should be able to put points on the board in this game.

The Chargers have a very potent offense, and they will be pushed by the Chiefs, forcing them to open things up. The Chargers should be in a fantastic position to take advantage of a lesser-than Chiefs pass defense.

Allen has become an incredibly high-volume target with Rivers at the helm, and he is the No. 1 target in the Chargers passing attack. Allen was targeted 159 times in 2017, catching 102 balls for 1393 yards and six scores. Allen is in store for a heavy dose of targets, and he has a chance to have an excellent start to the 2018 season.

Pivot: Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams ($5,400 at FanDuel and $3,900 at DraftKings) was a red-zone monster while at Clemson and he had a down season as a rookie after suffering a back injury during training camp. He has looked like a legitimate weapon for the Chargers in the 2018 preseason, and while rostering him is a touch risky, he has good touchdown upside and gives excellent salary relief to spend elsewhere.

HIGHER RISK STACKS

Andy Dalton + A.J. Green + John Ross

FanDuel: Dalton ($6,800) + Green ($8,400) = $15,200

DraftKings: Dalton ($5,800) + Green ($7,300) = $13,100

Facing 2017 No. 32 ranked DVOA pass defense - 2017 No. 28 ranked pass defense allowing 246.6 yards per game

Game Total - 46.5

Implied Totals - Bengals at 22 points and Colts at 25 points

Game Line - Cincinnati Bengals +3

The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Indianapolis on Sunday to face the Colts in a Week 1 AFC matchup. The Bengals are a three-point underdog on the road, and the passing game is in a favorable situation against a porous Colts secondary.

The Bengals will lean on Green to keep the offense moving, and he is easily Dalton’s favorite target. Green should be able to eat up the Colts secondary while seeing a heavy workload in this contest. Green was targeted 144 times last year, converting 75 passes into catches and totaling 1078 yards and eight scores.

The risk involved here is the low implied number for the Bengals. However, the Colts are forecast to score enough points to force the Bengals to open up the passing game, and that can only mean great things for Dalton and Green. I expect Green to have an outstanding day as long as the Colts offense pushes the Bengals passing game.

Pivot: Bengals wide receiver John Ross ($5,100 at FanDuel and $3,900 at DraftKings) is a big-play threat because of his speed and ability to take the top off of the defense. It will not take much for Ross to get to value as he is capable of scoring from long distance quickly, and like Green above, he could be in a great spot if the Bengals open up their aerial attack.

Deshaun Watson + DeAndre Hopkins

FanDuel: Watson ($8,200) Hopkins ($8,800) = $17,000

DraftKings: Watson ($6,700) Hopkins ($8,300) = $15,000

Facing 2017 No. 21 ranked DVOA pass defense - 2017 No. 30 ranked pass defense allowing 251.2 yards per game

Game Total - 51

Implied Totals - Texans at 22 points and Patriots at 29 points

Game Line - Houston Texans +7

The Houston Texans travel to Foxborough on Sunday to take on the potent New England Patriots in an AFC matchup in Week 1. Watson was incredible as a rookie last year before tearing his ACL, but he is fully recovered and ready to roll entering the first week of the season.

Hopkins is one of the game’s premier receiving options and is easily the first option in the Texans passing game. He will be heavily targeted and should have an excellent chance to put up excellent numbers against the Patriots.

This stack is risky, but it is also intriguing at the same time. Vegas has the Patriots as a big favorite at home, and that means the Texans will be throwing the ball plenty trying to catch up in this contest. Watson and Hopkins have a fantastic opportunity to play to value in what is being forecast as a high scoring game.

This stack is expensive, and the risk must be judged as there is potential for the Texans to score too few points to get Watson and Hopkins to value. The implied number for the Texans is low, and one has to weigh out the risk and reward possibilities before rostering this stack.

Watson and Hopkins have the potential to go off in this game, and I will have them rostered even though I see the risk in doing so.

DEFENSE/RB STACKS

Todd Gurley + Rams Defense

FanDuel: Gurley ($9,000) Rams ($4,700) = $13,700

DraftKings: Gurley ($9,300) Rams ($3,600) = $12,900

Facing 2017 No. 16 ranked DVOA rush defense - 2017 No. 12 ranked pass defense allowing 108.9 yards per game

Game Total - 49.5

Implied Totals - Rams at 26 points and Raiders at 23.5 points

Game Line - Los Angeles Rams -3

The Los Angeles Rams are at home versus the Oakland Raiders on Monday night for a Week 1 matchup. The Rams are a three-point home favorite, but they should have little problems handling the Raiders on both sides of the ball.

The Rams are loaded on defense, and they will bring significant pressure on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. There is potential for plenty of sacks, and it is not out of the realm to see the Raiders turn over the ball too.

The Rams defense should be highly owned in this matchup as they were a potent unit last year. That is before adding defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to an already talented unit. This defense looks scary and should bring plenty of opportunity for the Rams offense.

The game script looks outstanding for Gurley as the Rams should be up and pounding the ball while killing time in the second half of this game. Gurley will also catch passes to boost his value and is one of the better running back starts in Week 1.

Both sides of this stack have a chance to be extremely productive, and it is an excellent option in Week 1.

James Conner + Steelers Defense

FanDuel: Conner ($5,000) Steelers ($4,200) = $9,200

DraftKings: Conner ($4,500) Steelers ($3,400) = $7,900

Facing 2017 No. 16 ranked DVOA rush defense - 2017 No. 12 ranked pass defense allowing 108.9 yards per game

Game Total - 46.5

Implied Totals - Steelers at 26 points and Browns at 20.5 points

Game Line - Pittsburgh Steelers -5.5

The Pittsburgh Steelers go on the road to take on the Cleveland Browns in a Week 1 AFC North matchup. The Steelers are a 5.5-point road favorite, and they will be productive on offense as the implied number has them near four touchdowns.

The first thing to address here is I do not expect star running back LeVeon Bell to play as all signs point to him sitting out as of this writing. That means a big opportunity for backup running back James Conner, and he has looked excellent in the preseason. There is not anything tangible here, but it seems that every backup runner the Steelers play is productive.

The Steelers defense will look to pressure the Browns and should be in a position to generate sacks. Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor generally does a very nice job of protecting the football, but the Browns have weaknesses on their offensive line, and that might lead to a turnover or two.

The game script looks excellent for Conner and the Steelers defense and this is a very intriguing stack on FanDuel and DraftKings in Week 1.