Football

Week 1 DFS Targets

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles against the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Weekly DFS is back! Following an exciting back and forth opener, the rest of the NFL slate is set to kick off this Sunday at noon (CT). Tennessee and Arizona should slug it out to the liking of fantasy owners a plenty. Relatively uninspiring matchups such as Philadelphia and Atlanta should provide fireworks as well. With plenty of strong matchups and plenty of value, let’s breakdown a few of the best plays this week.

Quarterbacks

Stud

Kyler Murray@ TEN (17th)DK: $7,600FD: $8,400

Murray will be one of the most intriguing fantasy commodities this week in a great matchup. A Hopkins-Murray stack probably offers you the most upside with the receiver’s insane target share (160 targets in 2020), coupled with the quarterback’s ability with his legs (819 rush yards, 11 touchdowns). You will have two players with the potential to get you a combined 55-60 fantasy points.

Tennesse’s below average secondary and lack of pass rush will allow Murray the chance to move up and down the field at will. Spending up at quarterback will force you to find multiple sleepers, but the production will be well worth the investment.

Mid-Tier

Ryan TannehillARI (27th)DK: $6,500FD: $7,700

Another strong stack option, the Tannehill-Brown combo (or as a pivot, Tannehill-Jones) has the chance to be a great play as well. Despite having Derrick Henry eating up red zone and scoring opportunities, Tannehill was very good as a fantasy quarterback last season, finishing in the top 12 on both platforms.

Arizona will have a strong pass rush with the return of Chandler Jones and newly acquired J.J. Watt, but they are still severely lacking at the cornerback position. Keying on Henry, Tennessee receivers should have their way with the secondary in a game that is projected to be the second-highest scoring on the slate. The run heavy approach towards the end zone limits his upside with both touchdowns and the 300+ yardage bonus, but should provide a solid floor that you can rely upon when constructing your lineup.

Jalen Hurts@ ATL (31st)DK: $6,400FD: $7,600

Hurts will begin the 2021 season in a fantastic spot against a defense that allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks (26.07) and most passing yards per game (293.6). The hesitation with Hurts is not necessarily the lack of confidence in a matchup, but more so a lack of confidence in a strong stack option.

Philadelphia’s depleted skill group was a sight for sore eyes, but now with both tight ends healthy, and reigning Heisman winner DeVonta Smith being drafted in April, he will have a slew of options to throw to, but not one that gives me confidence to roster. Still, due to being a dual threat quarterback, not stacking multiple Philly players will not hurt your lineup. His abilities with his legs give me more confidence in rostering him than Tannehill, and honestly could be a great pivot to differentiate your lineups from others.


Running Backs

Studs

Christian McCaffrey@ NYJ (11th)DK: $9,500FD: $10,400

McCaffrey will be in store for his fair share of touches. I would not be concerned coming off his injury-plagued 2020 campaign were separate ailments, neither of which should cause any concern for his future. In a revenge game for quarterback, expect the Panthers to put up points led by a running back that when last healthy, finished with 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving.

During the 2019 season, no one could touch his production, averaging 30.95 points per game on DraftKings, a whopping 8.85 points higher than the next-best running back. In limited time last season, McCaffrey still managed to lead all RB’s in the same category, with 30.13 fantasy points per game. There might not be a better floor on the slate this week, however the high salary will deplete your roster. With several running backs in good matchups this week, it will be a tough ask to lock in spending up for CMAC, but you cannot go wrong starting your roster build with the slate’s most expensive player.

Dalvin Cook@ CIN (21st)DK: $9,100FD: $9,400

Dalvin Cook’s production over the last two seasons on DFS platforms have been nothing short of spectacular. He finished 2020 with the most rushing attempts/targets per game (26.14) and yards per game (137.0), while scoring 17 touchdowns. Minnesota traveling to Cincinnati should have the recipe for a positive game script for the former Seminole. The Vikings’ offensive line matchup ranks as the third-best, according to PFF against a Bengals front that allowed 148.0 rushing yards per game (29th) in 2020.

Cincinnati’s secondary is by far the bigger strength for this defense and while they may not hold Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen out of the end zone entirely, the Vikings will have better opportunities to find pay dirt on the ground. The injury to Irv Smith Jr. only helps matters of Dalvin Cook being a short route safety valve for Kirk Cousins, only boosting his value. The tools are all there for Cook to have a monster start to the season. Though McCaffrey may have the edge in the target potential, Dalvin could very well be the week’s highest scoring running back, should he find the end zone on more than one occasion.

Alvin KamaraGB (26th)DK: $8,600FD: $8,600

Kamara should start 2021 with a very large workload with Jameis Winston at quarterback. With Michael Thomas sidelined for at least the first six weeks and the departures of both Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook, the Saints find themselves severely lacking in the passing department in terms of weapons. Kamara was the NFL’s most lethal weapon as a pass catcher out of the backfield last season, leading the NFL in receptions (83), receiving yards (756), and receiving touchdowns (5). The matchup is supreme as well, with New Orleans getting the sixth-best matchup this week in the trenches. Couple that with the fact that Latavius Murray was cut this week, and you get an juicy opportunity with potential touches. It is a very realistic possibility Kamara will begin the year with 10-12 receptions out of the backfield.

The only concern is if the Saints start the year slow in terms of having multiple long drives leading to points. This could very well limit his opportunity at scoring touchdowns or finding yardage bonuses on DraftKings. Even without a touchdown, it is completely reasonable to expect 20 points from the Pro Bowler with just yardage and receptions. If you are worried about Green Bay’s ability to contain him, look no further than last year’s matchup. He put together a 47.7 point effort on Sunday Night Football. I would not consider his floor as safe as either McCaffrey or Cook, but his ceiling can be just as high if not, higher. I would not put a lot of stock into making a lineup if one of these three are not in it this week.

Mid-Tier

James Robinson@ HOU (32nd)DK: $6,400FD: $5,900

James Robinson gets the benefit of the doubt as the best mid-range play due to the Etienne injury, essentially making him an every down back in 2021. He will also have absurdly strong matchup against the NFL’s worst run defense. The Texans allowed 160.3 rushing yards per game, while surrendering 33.56 fantasy points to the running back position, both of which were most in the NFL. The departures of J.J. Watt and Benardrick McKinney could make matters even worse in 2021. As an undrafted rookie, Robinson was the NFL’s top out-of-nowhere fantasy asset, accumulating the eight-most points among running backs, despite playing 14 games. His 21.43 touches per game ranked third among running backs that played at least 10 games and continuously returned value as a DFS player.

He starts the year mispriced, largely due to Etienne getting hurt after prices were set and should be considered a lock on FanDuel at sub-$6000, perhaps the only occasion he will be this low all season. Jacksonville will not be favored in many games this year, and this is one of the few near-guarantees they will be in a positive game script for their running back to thrive with a full workload. If this offense can get going early, he could realistically flirt with 4x value, which would be a great return for someone so cheap.

Joe MixonMIN (24th)DK: $6,200FD: $7,200

Mixon will enter Week 1 with a very RB1-caliber matchup, despite being only the 15th most expensive running back (ninth-highest on FD). The Vikings surrendered 134.4 yards per game on the ground and 27.23 fantasy points per game to running backs, both of which were sixth-most in 2020. The defensive line should be much improved this season, but being at home will give Cincinnati to possibly steal a game here.

Joe Burrow returning from a devastating knee injury should force the Bengals to ease him back into the fold, which is very possible if the game remains close. Mixon was limited to only six games last season, but in those games, he was given one of the biggest workloads at 24.17 carries/targets per game. This would have ranked fourth among his position. It will be tough to fade Robinson in a juicy matchup for the Jaguar, but this is likely the best pivot available in the $6,000 range. In FanDuel it will be even tougher for $1,000 more.

Value Plays

Damien HarrisMIA (6th)DK: $5,200FD: $5,800

Following the trade of Sony Michel, Damien Harris will enter the season as a potential workhorse behind an upgraded offensive line. Between Weeks 7-14 last season, Harris had great success running the football with the fourth-most rushing yards in that span at an impressive 5.0 yards per clip. The lack of touchdowns was certainly off putting, but with Cam Newton now departed, he should become the Patriots’ top goal-line threat. The offensive line has a top five ranked matchup according to PFF as well. With a rookie quarterback at the helm, expect Bill Belichick starting the year with a run-heavy approach to ease Mac Jones into the offense.

Do not be surprised if Harris is one of the few running backs to exceed 20 attempts on the ground. His lack of production as a pass catcher, but that should not be much of a concern at these prices. Being the 24th-priced running back gives a lot of leeway. There aren’t many guys at this price with as high of an expected workload, so this would be a good spot to pay down to open up your roster.

Chase Edmonds@ TEN (28th)DK: $4,600FD: $5,900

Edmonds’ price gap is relatively large, and ironically should be flipped on the two platforms to account for his abilities as a pass catcher. The departure of Kenyan Drake opens the door for Chase to take on the role of starting running back. While he is not built to be an every down back, the up-tempo offense run by the Cardinals provides him with an opportunity to be a very productive fantasy player. The Arizona/Tennessee game should be one of the slate’s highest scoring contests, which should lead to several productive outings from skill players. One of the biggest concerns in trusting Edmonds opening week is the touchdown dilemma.

Arizona continuously favored Drake and quarterback Kyler Murray in the redzone last season, with the pair combining for 21 rushing touchdowns to Edmonds’ one rushing score. With James Conner in the fold, Edmonds may out touch the former Steeler, but there is no guarantee he will have more scoring opportunities being the smaller back. Still, as a pass catcher he should thrive with a solid target share. The unknown makes me a tad weary to lock him in all my lineups, but he should still be one of the most popular sleeper running backs Week 1. He is a much more appealing commodity in DraftKings, rather than FanDuel considering the huge discount and PPR scoring rules.

Trey Sermon@ DET (31st)DK: $4,500FD: $5,200

The workload is a huge uncertainty going into Week 1 for the rookie, but the 49ers still possess the best matchup with a great potential for a positive game script for their running game. Sermon will start the year behind Mostert, but has received tons of hype as a potential fantasy sleeper, especially as the year goes on. Nevertheless, it is very likely his workload is not ideal for fantasy standards early on.

Still, he could be an interesting pivot play, provided San Francisco run up the score early. A potential blowout will likely split the workload between Mostert and Sermon more in the rookie’s favor. He will be a very touchdown-dependent player, especially if the game remains close, but he should not be highly-owned and could provide an opportunity for you to differentiate your lineup from others.


Wide Receivers

Studs

DeAndre Hopkins@ TEN (28th)DK: $7,800FD: $8,200

Hopkins will start the year in very intriguing smash spot against one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses. Arizona allowed the second-most points to wide receivers last season (46.43). The Hopkins-Murray pairing took no time to instantly connect in the former Texans’ first season in Arizona. He finished with 115 receptions and 1,407 receiving yards, both of which ranked second in the NFL behind only Stefon Diggs.

The additions of Rondale Moore and A.J. Green shouldn’t be expected to have elite production, but at the very least should open up the field more to allow Hopkins to thrive. Tennessee and Arizona will be one of the slate’s highest scoring matchups, which makes rostering multiple players from this game very appealing.

A.J. BrownARI (15th)DK: $7,100FD: $7,800

The A.J. Brown-Ryan Tannehill connection has been one of the NFL’s finest since the former Dolphin took over as the starting quarterback in the middle of the 2019 season. He is the only receiver in each of the last two seasons to have at least a 125 passer rating when being targeted. Despite having a 2,000 yard rusher as a backfield threat, Brown has been an incredible red zone threat, with 20 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Now with Julio Jones in the fold, one might think this will eat into his workload and though Jones is currently a better talent, I believe this will work in Brown’s favor. Defenses will key on either stacking the box for Derrick Henry or Julio Jones being the over-the-top threat, leading to Brown getting volume in the short and intermediate game.

Think Calvin Ridley last season. He averaged the fourth-most points among all wide receivers on FanDuel and DraftKings, despite Jones’ presence. Brown can arguably be considered the better talent, and he is younger. With the abrupt retirement to Malcolm Butler and departure of Patrick Peterson, Arizona will be extremely thin at corner this season. Like mentioned previously with Hopkins, it could very well be ideal to snag multiple players from this matchup. If this game is high scoring like anticipated, Brown should be in a great spot to return value.

Mid-Tier

Laviska Shenault Jr.@ HOU (18th)DK: $5,000FD: $5,600

Shenault will enter 2021 as Jacksonville’s main threat from the slot, and could be used in a variety of ways out of the backfield following the season-ending injury to first round pick Travis Etienne. In his final two preseason games in limited action with Trevor Lawrence at the helm, he was Lawrence’s favorite wideout with 10 targets, catching eight of them for 69 yards and a score. The yards per catch will not wow you, but it is an early indication of a high potential of usage for Shenault.

Houston trots on as one of the worst defensives in the NFL, which should lead to a high volume of scoring opportunities for Lawrence’s rookie debut. He is a great pivot against a several quality wide receivers in the high $4k range on DraftKings that will garner a good amount of ownership. 7-9 touches is a very realistic possibility, he will just need to put the yardage and have a few opportunities to score to really make some noise.

Value Plays

Michael Pittman Jr.SEA (26th)DK: $4,100FD: $5,300

Due to Week 1 prices coming out a month prior to the opener, Pittman Jr. finds himself incredibly mispriced, especially following T.Y. Hilton being placed on the IR to begin the season. The former Trojan did not have the strongest rookie season, finishing with just 503 yards and one score, but he has been a hot candidate for a breakout sophomore campaign, especially now that Carson Wentz is now in the fold. The Seahawks were atrocious in 2020 against the pass, allowing 285.0 yards per game (31st) and surrendering 45.08 fantasy points per game to wide receivers (29th).

Now without their top two cornerbacks due to offseason departure, the assignment will likely come in the hands of Tre Flowers, who has never finished with a coverage grade higher than 56.3 in three seasons. With Seattle finishing fifth against the run last season, Indy will need to find other ways to move the ball. This could lead to Pittman Jr. being the primary beneficiary. Not even being among the top 50 priced receivers, there is little to no risk for the potential volume he will receive. Anywhere from eight to 10 targets is completely reasonable, and the matchup could turn into Pittman Jr. being the best value play on the slate.

Marquez CallawayGB (3rd)DK: $3,400FD: $5,200

Callaway will enter the 2021 season as WR1 for New Orleans following a sensational preseason. The departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook, coupled with Michael Thomas being out the first five games (ankle), a huge opportunity presents itself for the undrafted second year pro. Though Green Bay possesses the top ranked corner from 2020 in Jaire Alexander, Callaway early on should not be considered a receiver that defenses should shadow with their best corner.

Winston will be looking to air it out, especially if New Orleans falls behind early, which could lead to a strong game for the wideout. Being near minimum price, Callaway will not need to have a strong game to return value, either. He should be the highest owned sleeper in his price range, which could lead to a suggestion of a pivot, but if you believe Jameis will be realitively solid in his first start, Callaway will be in for a solid opener.


Tight Ends

Mid-Tier

T.J. HockensonSF (1st)DK: $4,900FD: $5,700

Hockenson really came into his own in his sophomore season and with have the opportunity to progress even further now that he is arguably the number one receiving option in Detroit. Goff has been given a bad rep about his talents as a quarterback after being shipped to Detroit. However as a fantasy asset, he has been stronger than most people in the last three years, finishing 11th, 5th, and 5th in points scored. He turned Tyler Higbee into a strong fantasy commodity and can do the same with the 2019 top 10 pick.

The Lions will enter the week with the weekend’s highest spread deficit (-9). If that holds true, it will open up several passing opportunities that Hockenson could be primed to take advantage of. The matchup is not ideal, but the game script likely will be. This will likely be the cheapest he is all season, so take advantage of it while you can!

Value Plays

Kyle PittsPHI (27th)DK: $4,400FD: $6,000

Pitts has received massive hype after being the first patch catcher selected in the 2021 draft, and for good reason. His 83 3/8 wingspan was the longest of any WR/TE measured in 20 years. His 4.44 40 had scouts and teams in awe of his potential as a game changer. Typically tight ends struggle in their rookie years, but I would think this would be the exception considering the Falcons will not use him as a prototypical tight end. In a game with high scoring potential, coupled with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, Pitts could be a strong option out the gate.

The lack of preseason action leaves this as a bit of a risk compared to established tight ends, but there might not be a bigger chance for a boom than that of the Florida Gator. His hype and low price on DraftKings could make him the highest owned tight end this weekend. Use that information what you will.

Robert Tonyan@ NO (12th)DK: $4,200FD: $5,400

Tonyan came out of nowhere last season to shock the world, becoming a top seven fantasy option among his position after tying Travis Kelce with the league lead in touchdowns for tight ends (11). He established a connection with MVP Aaron Rodgers as the most reliable number two receiving option, and the is no reason to believe he will prove he will be a one year wonder in Green Bay.

With the game moving to Jacksonville, the Packers should have the advantage in a now neutral site matchup. Putting up the kind of points expected for 2020’s top scoring offense (31.8), Rodgers should be looking for multiple ways to reach the end zone, increasing Tonyan’s touchdown appeal. It is difficult to differentiate the options in this price range, but the Packer tight end should have the some strong upside as a red zone threat.


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