You don’t have to play cash games to understand why it’s important to grasp them. Players we consider for cash are the ones we believe are the most underpriced, have the best floor/ceiling combo and feature a relatively tight range of outcomes. In other words, these are the best plays on the board once price, slate context and positional depth is accounted for. Those sound like pretty good options for GPPs as well.
The optimal GPP lineup will mix some of these cash-type plays with higher-variance options in correlated lineups. In cash games (where roughly 50% of the field gets paid out), we don’t worry about ownership or game stacks or correlation. In large-field tournaments, our ACO (average cumulative ownership) should stay reasonably low.
Slate context is also an important factor to consider. If every running back we were bullish on this week happened to be over $8000, guys like Jacoby Brissett ($4400) and Mark Andrews ($3000) could be in play. But since we have such strong values through the mid-range, Brissett and Andrews aren’t as appealing on this particular slate. They’re just not necessary.
WEEK 1 NOTE: As we all saw on Thursday, Week 1 is annually the toughest to project. We simply don’t have enough data on how players will be used, so we get things like Tarik Cohen playing slot receiver and Mike Davis playing ahead of David Montgomery. We believe most of the plays below are in relatively stable situations, but inevitably there will be surprises. We advocate a cautious approach for Week 1 DFS, including focusing more on GPP’s and Leagues as opposed to 50/50’s.
With all that said, these are our favorite Week 1 DFS plays. They are listed in price descending order (NOT ranked by “best play”). If a player’s salary is only listed for one site, we believe the price to be prohibitive on the unlisted site. This could still mean he is a viable GPP play, we just wouldn’t consider him a very strong option.
Jameis Winston, $6600 (DK), $7500 (FD) — Expect the 49ers’ front to handle Peyton Barber and the Bucs’ impotent run game. It’s all on Winston to torch a secondary which ranked 27th in pass-defense DVOA last season and did nothing to upgrade in the secondary. Clearly a better value on Fanduel, where Winston is the ninth-most expensive QB. He’s the third-most expensive on DraftKings.
Cam Newton, $6500 (DK), $7900 (FD) — With his August foot “injury” and 2018 shoulder woes in the rear-view mirror, Cam brings serious rushing equity to the table in another game where the offenses are likely to shine.
Russell Wilson, $6300 (DK) — Wilson will shred this matchup against Cincy from an efficiency standpoint. He was fourth among QBs in fantasy points per dropback last season and in 2017. Only downside is an extreme run-heavy approach from Seattle in a game they can likely win any way they want. Significantly better play on DraftKings.
Lamar Jackson, $6000 (DK), $7400 (FD) — Massive floor thanks to realistic potential for double digit carries. Also faces a seemingly tanking Dolphins team devoid of defensive talent.
Carson Wentz, $5700 (DK), $7600 (FD) — Back healthy, Wentz takes the controls of the strongest skill group he’s seen, and one of the deepest in the league. Expect plenty of plays for the Eagles with the Redskins offense projecting among the least efficient on the slate.
Kyler Murray, $5600 (DK), $7300 (FD) — Likely the cheapest we would go at QB in DK cash due to the context of the slate. Murray’s unique rushing ability gives him a Lamar Jackson-like floor, but his arm is significantly better. The downside here is Arizona’s new offense gets overwhelmed and exposed by Detroit’s quietly stout front.
Saquon Barkley, $9000 (DK), $9200 (FD) — Likeliest game environment sets up better for McCaffrey, but Barkley’s pass-game role in a condensed offense provides a unique floor/ceiling combo.
Christian McCaffrey, $8800 (DK), $8900 (FD) – One of the week’s likeliest shootouts sets up well for CMC, who goes into the year with only Jordan Scarlett and Reggie Bonnafon as backups. Even if the staff wants to reduce McCaffrey’s workload in theory, they’re highly unlikely to do it in practice.
Nick Chubb, $6400 (DK), $7400 (FD) – The NFL’s best runner last season by a slew of advanced metrics is now looking at a higher pass-game floor/ceiling with Duke Johnson gone. He also projects for 20+ carries in this home spot against an overmatched Titans team.
Leonard Fournette, $6100 (DK), $7200 (FD) — With TJ Yeldon gone and Alfred Blue (ankle) out, nothing stands between Fournette and a true 3-down plus goal-line role. He’ll be game-flow independent in this up-tempo home spot against a leaky Chiefs defense.
Dalvin Cook, $6000 (DK), $7400 (FD) – New OC Gary Kubiak and hard-headed HC Mike Zimmer are determined to build around Cook, who draws an excellent offensive environment at home vs. ATL. We’re expecting a three-down plus goal-line role in one of the best possible matchups for a fantasy running back.
Chris Carson, $5700 (DK), $6600 (FD) – After thoroughly outplaying Rashaad Penny all offseason and impressing the coaches with his pass-catching ability, Carson heads to Week 1 as the feature back. He won’t find a better spot than being home against the Bengals.
Austin Ekeler, $5500 (DK), $6400 (FD) – We’re projecting the carry split between Ekeler and Justin Jackson around 55/45. But the key here is that Ekeler projects to handle all the pass-down plus 2-minute work, a huge role in this scheme. The Chargers’ brutal offensive line and Philip Rivers’ high passing rate to RBs sets up well for Ekeler, who has averaged .12 receptions per snap in his career. He should play at least 40 snaps Sunday.
Odell Beckham, $8100 (DK), $8200 (FD) — Alleged hip “injury” should keep Odell’s ownership in check. But he’s practicing in full and looked very loose in videos from Friday’s practice.
Adam Thielen, $6800 (DK), $7400 (FD) — Thielen is a near-lock for a 25%-plus target share given the tight distribution of this offense. That number will projects even higher if Stefon Diggs (hamstring) is limited. The 6-foot-3 Thielen will match up against the 5-foot-10 Falcons slot CB Damontae Kazee.
Chris Godwin, $6200 (DK), $6900 (FD) — With DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries gone, Godwin is playing the Larry Fitzgerald/Reggie Wayne “slot plus” role in Bruce Arians offense. Volume ceiling is higher than Lockett’s given how often SF/TB shoots out vs. CIN/SEA.
Tyler Lockett, $6000 (DK), $6800 (FD) — Doug Baldwin is gone, DK Metcalf (knee) could be limited and David Moore (shoulder) is out. The explosive Lockett gets to tee off on Bengals slot CB BW Webb, who is on his eighth NFL team.
Dede Westbrook, $4800 (DK), $5900 (FD) — The Chiefs play fast, throw a lot and score points. That is a recipe for strong games from opposing wideouts. Westbrook was on the board of #TeamPreseason in 2017 (13-288-2) and won the Biletnikoff Award as NCAA’s best WR in 2016. As long as Marqise Lee (knee) sits, Westbrook will play every snap in the slot.
Curtis Samuel, $4200 (DK) — Explosive star of the Panthers’ entire offseason program will play nearly every snap opposite DJ Moore. Far cheaper on DraftKings than Fanduel.
Travis Kelce, $7100 (DK), $7800 (FD) — Jalen Ramsey will shadow Tyreek Hill, pushing targets towards Kelce. He went 5-100-0 on eight targets in this matchup last year and that was before Jaguars coverage maven Telvin Smith quit football.
George Kittle, $6600 (DK), $7300 (FD) — With San Francisco’s wideout corps underwhelming Kyle Shanahan, expect another year of focus on YAC machine Kittle. Fits well with Bucs pass-game stacks.
Zach Ertz, $6100 (DK), $7100 (FD) — Target projection lowered by additions of DeSean Jackson/Miles Sanders and emergence of Dallas Goedert. But saving $1000 off Kelce is nothing to sneeze at.
OJ Howard, $5000 (DK), $6500 (FD) — Was an every-down player during the preseason and part of Tampa’s condensed target tree. We’re projecting Evan Engram’s target share as more secure, but Howard’s natural talent and game environment are huge plusses.
Evan Engram, $4800 (DK), $6400 (FD) — With Odell Beckham gone and Golden Tate suspended, Engram and Sterling Shepard are Eli Manning’s only viable non-Saquon targets.
Hunter Henry, $3900 (DK), $6100 (FD) — The Colts’ zone defense was demolished by tight ends last season, as noted in Silva’s Matchups. Henry is significantly cheaper on DraftKings, where he’s a whopping $2700 less than George Kittle. On Fanduel, Henry is only $1200 less than Kittle.
Ravens $3800 (DK), $5000 (FD) at Dolphins — Major offensive line concerns are a big problem when your QB is turnover-prone Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Eagles $3600 (DK), $4600 (FD) vs. Redskins — No Trent Williams means 36-year-old Donald Penn at LT and massive liability Ereck Flowers at LG. Redskins also sporting Case Keenum, Paul Richardson, Terry McLaurin and Trey Quinn as their primary “playmakers.”
Cowboys $3500 (DK), $4700 (FD) vs. Giants — The corpse of Eli Manning against Dallas’ quietly nasty front.
Browns $3400 (DK), $4300 (FD) vs. Titans — Brandon Thorn’s No. 1 DL/OL mismatch of the entire week was Myles Garrett against this Titans line missing LT Taylor Lewan (suspension).
Seahawks $3100 (DK), $4500 (FD) vs. Bengals — Cincy’s offensive line, already battered by injury, now has to deal with a beefed-up unit bolstered by Jadeveon Clowney.
Chargers $3000 (DK), $4000 (FD) vs. Colts — No Derwin James hurts, but still as much talent as anyone in the league on defense. And they get Jacoby Brissett rather than Andrew Luck.
49ers $2200 (DK), $3700 (FD) at Bucs — Sneaky mismatch here as Brandon Thorn pointed out in the 49ers’ DL vs. the Bucs’ ugly OL. Plenty of upside given Tampa’s lack of run game and Jameis Winston’s turnover tendencies.
Panthers $2100 (DK), $3500 (FD) vs. Rams — Jared Goff’s road woes have been well documented. We can project a lot of road dropbacks here against a competent pass rush in a likely shootout.