Building an optimal lineup in daily fantasy football really isn’t that difficult. The goal is to piece together a team that – in your mind – is virtually perfect.
The main roadblocks you run into are deciding what the perfect lineup entails, what kind of lineup you actually want and what a perfect DFS NFL team looks like to you.
To gain any ground, you first need to decide if you’re trying to build the team for cash games or for big GPP tournaments. For cash games, you have a 50% chance of placing and cashing out, so you don’t need to hunt for value as much, be all that contrarian or fade the elite players. Instead, you might want 1-2 sleepers you are high on to differentiate your team, and mostly just go for the guaranteed hits.
That can work for cash games, but playing it safe for GPP leagues doesn’t always work. Needless to say, a perfect cash game team might look far more stable, while a perfect GPP team ultimately might look awful at first glance.
In our weekly look at building the optimal daily fantasy football lineup, we need to keep two things in mind: we’re aiming high in GPPs and the perfect team in our eyes may not be something you agree with.
However, we reach the latter point by assessing which contrarian plays are most interesting, which value plays can’t be passed up and which chalk plays need to be used, as well.
Below is our week one optimal lineup for daily fantasy football leagues at DraftKings, along with some analysis for why we chose each player for each spot:
QB: Russell Wilson – Seahawks ($7.9k)
It’s a GPP, so we definitely don’t knock anyone going for crazy cheap dives like RG3 or Dak Prescott. That could easily work out and allow a stacked roster to rise to the top, but if those guys don’t pay off, it could also hold a strong roster back.
Wilson is actually coming at a minor discount when you look at guys like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees all being priced over $8k. Wilson actually offers the most pure upside of those options, too, especially at home against a very beatable Dolphins defense.
RB: Christine Michael – Seahawks ($3.7k)
Running back can be very tough, as it has some pretty expensive (albeit elite) options, but some of them have tough matchups or could be the early focus of the defense they’re facing. Guys like Adrian Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott could be in for huge days, or their weak passing games could work against them in the worst way.
It’s fine to land a top shelf running back where it makes sense, but it might not be a terrible practice to fade them, altogether. Getting a cheaper rusher with a big role or some upside might be the play, and that brings us to Christine Michael.
Thomas Rawls is probably the guy most people have their eye on when it comes to Seattle’s backfield, but it’s C-Mike who is starting this week and Rawls (ankle) figures to only be sprinkled into the offense. If that’s the case, Michael could be in for a massive outing at home against a so-so Miami defense.
RB: Spencer Ware – Chiefs ($4.4k)
This is a pretty chalky value play, but why go against the guy who is expected to have a huge role with Jamaal Charles (knee) sitting out the first game of the year? It’s true that Ware may have to share the rock with Charcandrick West, but Ware was highly impressive in 2015 and also fared well in preseason play this past August.
Andy Reid doesn’t figure to let us in on his exact carry distribution, so we’re going to have to go with our gut here. West is cheaper and also intriguing, but Ware is the better back. If he gets more total touches, you won’t be sad you used him in a big GPP.
WR: Julio Jones – Falcons ($9.4k)
Jones is the most expensive wide receiver on the main slate this week and he’s without a doubt worth paying up to roster. Jones has destroyed a middling Buccaneers defense in his career and specifically terrorized them last year.
In week one Jones gets this tasty matchup at home, where he tends to showcase his speed. Wide receivers garner the most upside (and points) at DK, so getting at least one elite option is a must. If you’re only going to grab one, Julio is your guy.
WR: Sammy Watkins – Bills ($6.9k)
Watkins is a flat out baller, so of course we like him for a week one date with the Ravens. Baltimore is a bigger name than they actually play, seeing as they were among the league’s worst against both fantasy quarterbacks and receivers a year ago.
That puts the speedy Watkins very much in play this week and we know he has the upside to hand 150+ yards and multiple scores in this matchup.
WR: Marvin Jones – Lions ($4.6k)
The Lions look to be pretty pass-happy in 2016, largely because they have the talent to run that kind of offense, but also because they simply don’t have a reliable running game yet. They could go crazy in week one, where they’ve got a favorable matchup against an Indy defense that will be without their top two cornerbacks.
This Indy game is also a Vegas favorite, as the game has an insanely high total and is expected to yield plenty of points. With so much action to be had in this game, Jones makes perfect sense as a cheap starter on a solid offense.
TE: Martellus Bennett – Patriots ($3.4k)
With Rob Gronkowski officially ruled out for week one, Bennett climbs the ladder to be the top play at the tight end position. On the main slate (excluding MNF games) the top tight end is now Travis Kelce, so you can see why it may make sense to save cash and take your chances deeper into the position.
Bennett does that for you, but he doesn’t feel as risky as some other value tight end plays, seeing as he’s the #1 TE in New England’s offense. His road matchup with the Cardinals isn’t ideal, but the Pats could end up throwing a lot and a score could be in his immediate future.
FLEX: Doug Baldwin – Seahawks ($6.6k)
There are other strong options to consider here, but considering wide receivers can get the most points easier than anyone else, it always makes good sense to stack a fourth on your roster. It’s even better when they’re a speedy deep threat like Baldwin, who paired with Wilson gives us one of the best stacks out there in daily fantasy football.
DEF: Green Bay Packers ($2.8k)
Green Bay isn’t an elite team defense, but they averaged almost 8 fantasy points per game as a unit in 2015 (7.6) and in week one get a Jaguars offense that does seem to turn the ball over quite a bit. That offense can also shred defenses at times, but the Packers have a balanced unit and are facing a guy in Blake Bortles that turned the ball over a whopping 23 times a year ago.
The Packers aren’t exactly safe (then again, few defenses are), but they should get some turnovers and as the Vegas favorite (-6), they should be able to contain Jacksonville’s offense enough to get the win.
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