A lot can happen over the next month as NFL teams prepare for the 2016 season. Even more can happen if you’re preparing for your fantasy football draft. Injuries, trades and role changes can dramatically alter player value, as well as how you look at players and how you ultimately draft them.
That frenzy you endure for the month of August is only magnified with each passing week during the daily fantasy football season, as you have to re-think matchups, stats and injuries a million times over before finalizing your roster.
Luckily for week one, FanDuel is giving us an entire month to figure out those tough decisions.
Oh, and we’re here to help.
With one glance over the week 1 FanDuel DFS salaries, we can see some matchups to avoid, others to exploit, some chalky plays everyone will be interested in and some insane value that will be very tough to pass up.
To gear up for the new season – and specifically the first week – let’s see which players you should be considering the most:
Worth the Money?
Using chalky players (guys pretty much everyone likes) is a good thing when the guys work out, but what if they don’t? If not, you’re spending a ton of cash on a guy who totally burned you and sucked money from the rest of your roster.
That’s not good for business. That’s not good for anyone.
But seriously, no one wants to pay up to see a guy burn them. Due to that, we’re pointing out some of the top-priced guys we’re at least a tad gun shy over heading into the first week of the season:
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts ($8.7k)
Most of the top fantasy quarterback for week one are either well priced or have fine enough matchups that they shouldn’t scare you away. Luck, however, may be too expensive for what he might end up giving you.
Not only was Luck awful in 2015, but reports suggest he currently has been “underwhelming” in practice. It’s likely he bounces back and is fine in 2016, but he’s pretty pricey to get the new year going and also faces a gritty Lions defense that was flat out mean in the second half last year.
Luck could be totally fine, but for that price we’d rather pay up for Aaron Rodgers or just pay less for someone like Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals ($8.8k)
Johnson should be a stud on the year, but three things worry us about him for week one. First, he’s expensive as heck. There is also the issue of mixed reports as to what his role could be. Some think he’s the true feature back in AZ, while others think Chris Johnson could end up stealing a good chunk of his carries.
Even if you don’t mind the price and aren’t worried about Johnson’s role, there is the matter of DJ’s matchup. The Patriots could be behind the eight ball offensively with Tom Brady suspended to start the year, but their defense was still solid last year and specifically held up against the run. At least for fantasy purposes, opposing running backs usually didn’t destroy New England, with the Pats allowing just the 6th most fantasy points per game to the position.
None of this is to say Johnson will tank in week one, but there might be better value (and better elite options) elsewhere.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers ($9.3k)
Ditto for Brown, who is a flat out stud and can obviously win in any matchup, but we need to consider a few things. For one, will the absence of both Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant (suspensions) allow the Washington Redskins to key in on Pittsburgh’s top receiver, and is his FanDuel price tag too rich for your blood?
We don’t love the price or the lack of supporting help, but the biggest red flag could be his matchup with Josh Norman. Norman is in a new system and very well could be exposed right away by Brown in week one, or he could show everyone immediately he’s the elite shutdown corner he appeared to be in 2015.
Last year Norman became a star for his cover skills, as he really did a number on some of the better wide receivers in the league. He kept Julio Jones out of the end-zone in his first meeting with the Falcons, he rattled Odell Beckham Jr. until late in a week 15 showdown, he helped hold Mike Evans scoreless across two meetings with the Buccaneers and DeAndre Hopkins sported a weak 5-53-0 line in week two.
Norman also ran into strong receivers like Allen Robinson (1 catch, 27 yards) and T.Y. Hilton (1 catch, 15 yards) along the way, shutting them down in the process.
That isn’t at all to say Norman was invincible. Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb had solid numbers against the Carolina secondary in 2015, while Julio Jones abused the Panthers in his second meeting with the team late in the year.
Still, Brown is the most expensive receiver in week one at FanDuel, his supporting cast is weakened and his direct matchup with Josh Norman is at the very least a little troubling.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants ($9.1k)
ODB is another wide receiver we’ll all want to use but perhaps shouldn’t in week one. This one is about the matchup, too, seeing as Beckham could not figure the Cowboys out for whatever reason a year ago.
In two meetings against Dallas, Beckham produced a pedestrian 9-79-0 line. Total.
It’s tough to buy Dallas stifling a receiver as good as ODB is twice again in back to back seasons, but they clearly had his number in 2015. That may not continue to start out 2016, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots ($8.7k)
This one makes more sense than anything, seeing as Tom Brady is out for the first four weeks due to a suspension. That puts the inexperienced Jimmy Garoppolo under center, which could dramatically impact The Gronk’s early season numbers.
A ton is working against Gronkowski in week one, as he heads out on the road to face a very good Arizona Cardinals defense in the desert. That alone is bad, but throw in a quarterback that is basically a rookie, with a likely stripped down and run-first New England offense, and projecting Gronkowski as fantasy football’s top tight end in week one simply isn’t something we’re likely to do.
If Gronkowski were at value, we could see it. But he’s the most expensive tight end in week one.
Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots ($5k)
The story could be much the same for New England’s kicker. There is an argument that with Jimmy G and the offense struggling, Gostkowski could be very busy trying to drive in long field goals, and if you buy that, he might be worth the steep price.
Then again, he’s a freaking kicker and it never makes a lot of sense to invest a ton of fantasy cash into the position. There is always value at kicker, so hunt for it and fade Gostkowski in week one.
Kansas City Chiefs DEF/ST ($5.1k)
It also doesn’t always pay to spend big on a “safe” team defense, seeing as matchups can often go the exact opposite of how you figured they would, or one or two key injuries can sap a defense’s upside.
In week one, I just think it all doesn’t add up for the Chiefs. San Diego has some offensive upside with Philip Rivers leading the way, while Kansas City may not have some key defensive players like Eric Berry (holdout) or Justin Houston (injury).
If that defense isn’t the same one that went on a tear to close 2015, they won’t meet lofty expectations in week one. Even if they are, teams like the Cardinals and Seahawks feel safer, while there are cheaper options that could potentially provide more value and with less risk.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys ($7.6k)
Romo is still one of the better quarterbacks in the entire league when healthy, and reports suggest he’ll be 100% when week one rolls around. That’s good news, considering he gets a Giants defense he has destroyed for much of his career.
Romo dropped 356 yards and three touchdowns on NYG in week one last year, and there’s a good possibility he does something similar again this year.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers ($7.1k)
With Le’Veon Bell likely to be handed a four-game ban to start the 2016 NFL season, everyone’s favorite backup looks primed for a huge start to the new year. D-Will would have a massive role yet again, and considering how well he fared with that workload in 2015, just about everyone will be on him in week one.
Williams is ridiculously cheap for what amounts to an elite RB1 in week one, while his matchup comes against a middling Redskins defense. He could be in for a huge week one performance.
Matt Jones, RB, Redskins ($6k)
Sticking with that same week one game, Jones could be in for a big role to get the 2016 season started. I don’t love the matchup with a pretty nasty Steelers run defense (gave up just the third most fantasy points to RBs last year), but he should see a lot of work and a touchdown would have him pay off at such a low price.
Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders ($7.1k)
I’m digging the Oakland hype this year, and it could start off with fireworks in New Orleans in week one. Unless the Saints suddenly have an elite pass defense, Cooper and the Raiders should be able to air it out and put up huge numbers in this matchup.
Even if he doesn’t blow up, Cooper is pretty cheap for his talent and upside, so he’s a solid risk with serious reward.
Marvin Jones, WR, Lions ($5.5k)
Anytime you can get a starter under $6k at FanDuel, you need to take notice. Jones is even more appealing, as Detroit’s passing game is changing a bit with Calvin Johnson’s retirement.
That means a lot of balls need to be accounted for, and it could be the former Bengal that ends up securing a good amount of passes. Jones is a big-play guy with major red-zone skills, so he could be a terror with a big role with the Lions. With Vontae Davis probably locked in on Golden Tate in week one, it could be the Marvin Jones show at a discount price.
Coby Fleener, TE, Saints ($5.4k)
Tight ends tend to thrive in New Orleans offenses, whether it be Jimmy Graham or Ben Watson hauling in passes from Drew Brees. Add the tall, athletic Fleener to the mix, and there could be a lot of fantasy upside to be had.
That upside could be seen right away in week one, too, with Fleener on the turf at home against a Raiders defense that was third worst against the position in 2015.
Chris Boswell, K, Steelers ($4.6k)
Pittsburgh has one of the best offenses in the league and dating back to last year this dude registered 10+ fantasy points in 8 of his last 10 games. He’s super reliable and even offers some upside.
Minnesota Vikings DEF/ST ($4.6k)
Defense may not be the spot to skimp in week one, but I like the Vikings enough to drop down and test the waters here. Minnesota gets the very beatable Titans on the road, and they were a very strong defensive unit overall in 2015.
Minnesota capped their season by holding the Seahawks out of the end-zone in their first round playoff loss, while in their last four regular season games they accrued 8+ fantasy points each time out. Tennessee is still a young team that has yet to figure things out, so this could be a great spot to use the Vikes.
Week 1 DFS Optimal Lineup
QB: Derek Carr – Raiders ($7.7k)
Tony Romo is another quality option here, but I like the idea of Oakland giving the Saints all they can handle in a week one shootout. Carr enjoyed a very strong 2015 run and if the Raiders are for real, I expect them to start off 2016 the right way. Win or lose, Carr and co. should put up numbers in this matchup.
RB: Matt Jones – Redskins ($6k)
I’d probably prefer to slide DeAngelo Williams here, but I can’t afford him with this current roster and Jones actually is an outstanding value on paper. His matchup is not great on paper, but he’s cheap and should have a nice role at home.
RB: Todd Gurley – Rams ($8.9k)
I want Gurley to start out 2016, as he’s in a heated division rivalry contest with the Niners, who were awful against the run a year ago. It only helps that Gurley closes out week one with the final game on the schedule, plus he destroyed the Niners the only time he faced them as a rookie. I like him to get the new year started off with a bang, so he’s one of the few elites worth paying up for.
WR: Julio Jones – Falcons ($9k)
Julio Jones is traditionally very good at home and he also routinely kills the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He gets those same Bucs at home in week one, so there is a lot to like. He certainly is not cheap and there are some better value plays across the board (DeAndre Hopkins, Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant, to name a few), but I love his upside to start the year here.
WR: Amari Cooper – Raiders ($7.1k)
Cooper is our second value play to enter our week one FanDuel optimal lineup, as he’s a good stack option with Derek Carr against the Saints. Even if you’re not a believer in Carr and/or the Raiders, Cooper is a strong play after a solid 2015 rookie campaign.
WR: Michael Crabtree – Raiders ($6.1k)
I’m not totally behind Crabtree, but if we’re buying into Derek Carr and the Raiders delivering some heavy blows to a bad Saints pass defense, he certainly makes good sense.
Crabtree still proved he can ball last year, so he should be even better with another year under his belt in Oakland’s system. Cooper is the high upside play with this matchup, but Crabtree might be even safer. In his last 10 games, he dipped below 7.5 fantasy points just once.
TE: Coby Fleener – Saints ($5.4k)
I’m not spending big on TE to start 2016, as Gronkowski is way too much for the situation he’s in and a bunch of the guys up top have matchup or health concerns. I’m sticking with yet another of our favorite value plays, as Fleener could blow up in his Saints debut at home against the Raiders.
K: Chris Boswell – Steelers ($4.6k)
I’m sticking with another one of our value picks here. Boswell saves me a little money at a position we’re meant to hate, but he’s also got a decent matchup and was remarkably reliable all last year. I see no reason to pay up at kicker in week one and Boswell basically is an elite option for less cash.
DEF: Seattle Seahawks ($5k)
I don’t see any value at the team defense spot for week one, so I’m paying up to land one of the best defenses in the league. Seattle is at home (where they rarely lose) and they get a Dolphins team that has a ton to prove. It’s pretty doubtful Ryan Tannehill and co. shock us all in week one.
Like our optimal lineup, value plays and players to avoid? Got some input of your own? Feel free to start the conversation in the comments below!
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