It's Week 1, so offenses are rife with uncertainty and volatility. That's why early cash-game lineups are so often structured according to projected volume; the safest DFS play is (almost) always the most heavily-targeted one. With that in mind, who's your pick to be the Week 1 target leader? In other words, whose volume do you trust the most, regardless of cost? And while you're at, give us one low-to-mid-salary receiver you expect to drastically outproduce his cost.
James Brimacombe: I want to say the easy answers of Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, but I feel like Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant will eat into Brown's production and he might not be needed as much in the second half if Pittsburgh can get up big in the game. Pittsburgh is a nine-point favorite and Atlanta is a seven-point favorite, and both game scripts could easily lead to more of a running back attack in the second halves.
The wide receiver that I like best is A.J. Green as I feel he has a fantastic matchup against the Ravens. It's a division game, and the Bengals have a three-headed running back attack at the moment. In his first 9 games last season Green averaged 11 targets and over 7 catches, and that all started in Week 1, in which he caught 12 of 13 targets for 180 yards and 1 touchdown. Green will likely come at lower ownership than both Brown and Jones, and he also comes at a discounted price tag.
My mid-salary wide receiver would have to be Alshon Jeffery as there is no attention on him leading up to Week 1. Everyone is focused on the cheap salaries of Zach Ertz and Carson Wentz or the impressive preseason from Torrey Smith that they are forgetting about Jeffery. Wentz had little to work with in the Eagles passing game in his rookie season, and now that he has Jeffery, it wouldn't be surprising to see him targeted at least 10 times a game. Wentz looked to Jordan Matthews for 10+ targets 7 times last season and started the year off in Week 1 with 14 targets, for a 7-114-1 stat line. I feel Jeffery is nice value early in the season, as no one really knows how well he will connect with Wentz out of the gate.
Jason Wood: I like James' choices and can't quibble with any of them.
I'm all over Allen Robinson in Week 1. The Jaguars' 2016 debacle guarantees low ownership, particularly against the "fearsome" Houston Texans defense. However, the Texans have questions in the secondary with A.J. Bouye gone, and I can't envision a scenario where Blake Bortles doesn't pepper Robinson with 10+ targets. The Jaguars should be playing from behind, and Leonard Fournette isn't 100% healthy, so we won't see the Tom Coughlin-era "ground and pound" playbook yet, if ever.
John Mamula: I love James' choice of A.J. Green this week. He makes for an excellent GPP stack with Andy Dalton. As far as the Week 1 target leader, that will be Julio Jones with double-digit targets. Vegas has the game total at 50.5 points, which is higher than I'd expected. The Falcons will come out of the gate strong under their new coaching staff and the offense will run through Jones.
My mid-salary target leader is Larry Fitzgerald who has started fast the past couple of seasons. Last season he had double-digit targets in each of his first three games. With a lack of quality options in the Cardinals passing game, Fitzgerald will once again be a target hog.
My low-salary target leader also comes from the same game. With the injury to Cameron Meredith, Kendall Wright is a lock for at least 7-10 targets this week. The Bears will be playing from behind and Wright is simply underpriced across the DFS industry.
Chris Feery: Excellent choices thus far, and I wouldn’t be opposed to rostering any of the names mentioned. For another name to consider, I’m loving Amari Cooper this week in a potential shootout against the Titans. There’s a natural concern that Michael Crabtree will continue eating into his volume, but I’m seeing big things for Cooper this year. As such, Derek Carr should be looking his way even more often, and he could prove to be one of the more productive receivers for Week 1.
On the mid-priced front, Larry Fitzgerald screams value this week. The Cardinals-Lions game is another potential shootout, and Fitzgerald remains the clear-cut second option in the offense behind David Johnson. I’m expecting a ton of targets to head his way. As per usual, Fitzgerald will haul in anything that’s at least remotely catchable.
Justin Howe: There really is a ridiculous glut of mid-salaried receiver talent this week. Larry Fitzgerald is too cheap across the industry, costing around 11% of your salary caps. His matchup is golden - the Lions were harangued by slot receivers last year, as shadow cornerback Darius Slay doesn't venture inside much. As the slot man and target hog among Arizona wideouts, Fitzgerald may be looking at a floor around 10-12 targets.
I also have a lot of love for Kelvin Benjamin this week. I'm not a huge believer in the guy as a long-term NFL contributor, but his Week 1 outlook is outstanding; it's even better when we consider how well he's priced. This is a guy who starts fast - his first 2 Week 1 stat lines have been 6-92-2 and 6-92-1 - and looks set up for his typical target co-domination alongside Greg Olsen. Over his 2 full seasons, Benjamin has drawn 23.7% of Panthers targets, and in a cake matchup, I like his chances to draw double-digits. With his tendency to provide high impact on his catches, he carries a ton of Week 1 value in my eyes.
Dan Hindery: A.J. Green and Antonio Brown are both strong choices. Amari Cooper deserves mention as well. While he averaged just under 9 targets per game last year, there are a few factors that point towards him being a target hog in Week 1. First, he recently turned 23vyears old and is due to step into an even more prominent role as a true lead receiver. Second, Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau's defenses always focus heavily on stopping the run and forcing teams to pass. Expect Derek Carr and the Raiders offense to be forced into a pass-heavy game plan. Finally, Tennessee's suddenly loaded offense should be able to put up points on a mediocre Oakland defense, so there is shootout potential.
Amongst the lower-priced guys, I like Larry Fitzgerald for the reasons Chris outlined above. I also see Pierre Garcon as a solid bet for double-digit targets. San Francisco is projected to be playing from behind and will likely have to throw a lot. Plus, the two other starting receivers for the 49ers (Aldrick Robinson and Marqise Goodwin) are both primarily used as deep threats. Their speed should attract a lot of attention, but Garcon is going to be the go-to receiver on shorter throws. He also averaged over 11 targets per game in the same role the last season he played in Kyle Shanahan's offense.