NFL Week 1 DFS Value Player Picks
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The 2016 NFL season begins!

Salaries are out already for both DraftKings and FanDuel so we can take a super early look at some potential value player picks to kick off week 1 of the NFL season!

Vegas lines are as of the time of this writing.

Updates will be made throughout the preseason as new info comes to light.

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Quarterback

Russell Wilson (SEA) – Salaries: DK – 7900, FD – 8500. Miami’s defense gave up 31 pass TDs, tied for the 5th most in the league last season. Miami also ranked 5th worst in passing yards per attempt (7.4) and rush yards allowed per game (126.19). The secondary is projected to be the weakest link to attack on this unit as well. Miami’s off-season moves (and/or lack thereof), may actually have this defense worse than last season.

The Vegas line currently has Seattle as 10 point favorites (largest on the board) with a game total at 44 in Seattle. Seattle’s Vegas projected points of 27 are the highest for the week.

This mostly bodes well for Russell Wilson (the exception being the wide spread). Wilson finished 3rd in fantasy points per game for QBs at FanDuel and 6th at DraftKings. Wilson ranked 3rd in rush attempts and rush yards for QBs last season, so he is always a threat to add points on the ground. Wilson’s salary of $7,900/$8,500 on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, ranks him 4th highest on both sites.

Last season, Wilson finished the final seven weeks of the season as the 2nd highest scoring QB during that stretch, where Seattle went 6-1. This successful game-plan adjustment with a greater emphasis on Wilson should carry over to 2016, especially with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s O-Line not the same as during their Super Bowl years.

Week 1 is looking like a very nice matchup for DangeRuss.

Update – Miami second-round rookie CB Xavien Howard is currently projected to start in week 1. He has yet to make an appearance thru three preseason games due to recovering from an off-season knee scope. Expect Howard to be heavily targeted by Wilson and co.

Derek Carr (OAK) – Salaries: DK – 7300, FD – 7700. Last season, the New Orleans defense was the worst in the league in points allowed, fantasy points allowed, QB fantasy points allowed, pass yards per attempt, TE fantasy points allowed, pass TDs allowed (by a large margin), 2nd worst in yards allowed, pass yards allowed, completion %, and 3rd worst in defensive fantasy points scored. On a positive note, first-round pick DT Sheldon Rankins is projected to start, which shouldn’t hurt.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 50.5, the highest on the board, with New Orleans as a 1 point favorite at home. I’m leaning towards the dog pick here.

For New Orleans to win games, they will need to do so in Brees shootout mode, and if the game script holds, Carr should have his opportunities to respond in kind. Oakland’s offensive line is projected to be one of the league’s top units, and the core of the offensive skill players all return this season. The Raiders face an opponent win percentage of .338 through the first five weeks.

Carr’s salary ranks him 10th/11th for QBs on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, making him a reasonably priced, potential solid-floor, high-ceiling play.

Update – New Orleans first-round DT Sheldon Rankins broke his fibula during practice and has been placed on IR.

Matthew Stafford (DET) – Salaries: DK – 7200, FD – 7400. The Colts’ defense ranked at or near the bottom third in relevant pass statistical categories last season, so other than Vontae Davis, there isn’t a lot of matchup concerns for Stafford here.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 49, with Indianapolis as 5 point favorites at home. Calvin Johnson’s retirement led to new free agent additions of Marvin Jones, then Anquan Boldin, to complement Golden Tate. Although Theo Riddick’s league high receptions for a back (80) are due for some regression, his role should remain relatively the same.

With Detroit’s pathetic run game and O-line (Detroit did spend two of their first three rounds on O-lineman), combined with the projected Vegas narrative, it’s a near-lock for a positive game script for Stafford in a heavy pass attempt, shootout scenario. What happens next is not a lock, as Stafford could just face-plant, Bolden has nothing left, etc.

Stafford’s salary ranks him 11th/17th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively. His FanDuel salary cost (12.33% of cap) may be reasonable enough to take a shot, but his DraftKings cost (14.4% of cap) is less attractive, considering the likes of Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer are priced at or less than Stafford’s cost.

Jimmy Garoppolo (NE) – Salaries: DK – 6200, FD – 6900. The defensive matchup is not good but the near bottom-barreled price tag may make up for that. Garoppolo’s salary ranks him 27th/26th for QBs on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, so at that cost, his floor value return should be decent.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 48, with the Cardinals as 5.5 point favorites in Arizona. If the Vegas narrative holds, Garoppolo should have his opportunities, as hiding him behind the run all game should not be an option. All New England skill players return, but this play becomes more attractive if Dion Lewis (knee) is a go in week 1. The new addition of Martellus Bennett is a plus, so the skill position assets for Garoppolo are all there.

Dak Prescott (DAL) – Salaries: DK – 5000, FD – 5000. With Tony Romo now out indefinitely with a broken bone in his back, the fourth-round rookie preseason surprise star will take the helm against the Giants in Dallas.

Last season, the Giants’ defense ranked 2nd worst in fantasy points allowed, and 3rd worst in points allowed and QB fantasy points allowed. Prescott’s salary on DraftKings and FanDuel makes him one of the cheapest starters available.

The Vegas line currently has a game total at 46 points in a pick ’em spread. Pre-Romo injury, Dallas was a -3.5 favorite.

Running Back

Thomas Rawls (SEA) – Salaries: DK – 6000, FD – 7400. Miami’s defense gave up the most fantasy points to RBs last season. The matchup and game script should be a positive one for Rawls (see Russell Wilson above) with the only current issue being the health of his ankle and availability for Week 1, for which he is currently projected to be ready.

Rawls’ salary ranks him 9th/15th on FanDuel/DraftKings, respectively, making him a reasonably priced option given the solid floor potential. If Rawls cannot go, 3rd round rookie C.J. Prosise, is currently the next-man-up, and his RB salary ranks him 54th/65th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, making him a cheap injury-replacement play.

Update – Prosise (hamstring) is at risk of falling to fourth on the depth chart due to lingering injury issues. Christine Michael would get a bump up if Prosise’s status continues to fall.

The Seahawks current depth chart has Michael as the RB1 heading into week 1, ahead of Rawls, then Prosise. It looks like it may take some time for Rawls to take the reins. Michael’s RB salary ranks him 58th/75th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively

Ryan Mathews (PHI) – Salaries: DK – 5700, FD – 6100. Mathews averaged a career high 5.04 yards per carry last season and won’t have DeMarco Murray around to cut into his workload. Mathews’ salary ranks him 18th/30th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, making him a solid value on FanDuel. He’s actually priced behind a couple of non-starters on FanDuel.

Cleveland’s defense last season ranked the 3rd worst in rush yards allowed, 4th worst in points allowed, yards per carry, and 5th worst in fantasy points allowed.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 41 with Philadelphia as 4 point favorites at home. Despite the presence of Darren Sproles and the addition of 3rd round rookie Wendell Smallwood, if the Vegas narrative holds, this scenario should favor Mathews, behind a decent blocking line. Mathews should be given all he can handle to avoid a potential Sam Bradford failure.

Update – RT Lane Johnson has been suspended for the first 10 games after testing hot for PEDs. This is his second such offense.

Johnson is now projected to be active for week 1 as his “B” sample test results have now yet come in.

Rookie QB Carson Wentz is projected to start for Philadelphia. Mathews and Darren Sproles should see an uptick in usage.

Dion Lewis (NE) – Salaries: DK – 5700, FD – 6200. Lewis is recovering from an ACL tear from last season but is tentatively expected to be available by week 1. Arizona’s defense basically ranked in the top ten in most every major statistical category, so the matchup isn’t great, but the game script should favor Lewis over LeGarrette Blount, as Lewis could be busy as Garoppolo’s safety valve (see Jimmy Garoppolo above). The game plan should have Garoppolo schemed for safe, high-percentage pass plays which would almost certainly involve Lewis. Lewis led the league in RB targets per game (7.14) last season.

Lewis’ salary ranks him 15th/23rd on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively. If Lewis is a no-go, James White may serve as a doable fill-in flier. White’s bottom-barreled salary ranks him 65th/63rd on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively.

Update – Lewis (ACL) is now likely headed for yet another surgery on his surgically repaired knee, and thus, would most likely land him on the PUP list to start the season.

Lewis has been placed on IR.

DeAngelo Williams (PIT) – Salaries: DK – 7000, FD – 7100. With Le’Veon Bell suspended the first 4 games of the season, Williams becomes the de facto workhorse back for Pittsburgh.

Adrian Peterson logged 4.54 yards per carry and 11 rushing TDs last season. So did Williams. Williams also lead the league in red zone TDs, and ranked 2nd in red zone rush attempts and yards.

The Vegas line currently has a game total of 50 points, the second highest on the board, with Pittsburgh as 3 point favorites at Washington. Washington gave up the 2nd highest yards per carry (4.8) and the 7th most rushing yards last season. With Martavis Bryant suspended for the year and Antonio Brown possibly tangling with Josh Norman, Williams’ usage could be very heavy in a potentially positive game script for him.

Williams’ salary ranks him 7th/12th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, and the safe floor makes him a solid value. He may end up being a popular play, but he could plausibly be one of the top 3 safest plays at the position.

Update – Le’Veon Bell’s suspension has been reduced to three games.

Spencer Ware (KC) – Salaries: DK – 4400, FD – 5400. At this point, there is a strong chance Ware will get the start over Jamaal Charles (ACL) in the season opener against division rival San Diego.

Last season, San Diego ranked 2nd worst in yards per carry allowed (4.8), 4th worst in rush TDs allowed (17), and 6th worst in rush yards per game allowed (125.31). San Diego’s third overall pick DE Joey Bosa had just recently signed his contract, and thus, has not seen any preseason action. He is projected to have a minimal impact, if any at all in week 1.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 44.5 points with Kansas City as -7 point favorites at home.

Ware’s salary ranks him 37th/47th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively. As a potential starter and the goal-line running back, on a run based offense, against a weak defense, with a positive game script, matchups like this do not get much better.

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper Salaries: DK – 7100, FD – 7200/Michael Crabtree (OAK) Salaries: DK – 5500, FD – 6100. There is potential value in the Raiders WR stack against New Orleans (see Derek Carr above).

Cooper’s salary ranks him 17th/20th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively. If Cooper’s slot is expendable, Crabtree’s salary ranks him 34th/44th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively. Crabtree slightly outscored Cooper in fantasy points last season, but Cooper dealt with an injured foot for the final 5 weeks of his rookie campaign. Both are healthy going into the preseason.

Eric Decker (NYJ) – Salaries: DK – 6600, FD – 6900. Decker, one of the most consistent wide-outs around, is a 1,000 yard receiver, double digit TD scorer, and scored double digit fantasy points in every game he played in last season. With Brandon Marshall on the other wing, and Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the fold, Decker provides a near matchup-proof, red-zone threat on a weekly basis, and this shouldn’t change heading into the 2016 season.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 42, with Cincinnati as 2 point favorites in New York. Decker’s salary ranks him the 22nd/23rd WR at DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, and his safe floor potential could return a higher value than some of the 21 costlier receivers in front of him.

Sterling Shepard (NYG) – Salaries: DK – 4900, FD – 5600. The Giants’ 2nd round rookie is slated as the WR2 and is projected to serve a possession role in New York’s west coast based scheme.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 49.5, the 3rd highest on the board, with Dallas as 3.5 point favorites at home. The Giants run plays at a decent clip, but their main adversity to this is Dallas’ keep-away, ball-control scheme. If the Vegas narrative holds, Shepard is in line for a positive game script, as Eli will need to keep pace, and Odell should command heavy attention. This scenario should lead to Shepard opportunities.

Shepard’s salary ranks him 43rd/56th on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, so his price is cheap and there is potential for a decent floor.

Corey Coleman (CLE) – Salaries: DK – 5100, FD – 6500. Philadelphia’s defense ranked the worst in WR fantasy points allowed, 2nd worst in pass TDs allowed, and 5th worst in pass yards and points allowed last season.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 43.5 with Philadelphia as 6.5 point favorites at home. This presents a positive matchup and game script for Cleveland’s WR1, which is currently first-round pick rookie Coleman (Josh Gordon is suspended the first four games). Coleman’s salary ranks him 33rd/39th on FanDuel/DraftKings, respectively.

Coleman, being a rookie playing in his first NFL game on the league’s worst team may fly under the radar and be lightly owned. He may be worth a flier as a surprise. Not many week 1 WR1s are priced this low, but there is inherent do-or-die risk involved.

Tight End

Julius Thomas (JAC) – Salaries: DK – 3800, FD – 5800. The defensive matchup isn’t stellar since Green Bay’s defense ranked in the top third of most major pass defense statistical categories, but the price tag is reasonable.

The Vegas line currently has the game total at 47 with Green Bay as 4.5 point favorites in Jacksonville. Thomas’ salary ranks him 10th/13th on FanDuel/DraftKings, respectively, but the potential scoring value could exceed his salary ranks, considering it’s plausible the Vegas narrative is spot-on, and Thomas will likely be a top two scoring threat through the air for Bortles.

Martellus Bennett (NE) – Salaries: DK – 3400, FD – 5100. Bennett’s salary ranks him 17th/21st on DraftKings/FanDuel, respectively, which would be a reasonable gamble for the price. Bennett could be an upside stack play with Garoppolo if they can connect in the red zone, which the opportunity may avail itself if the underdog script holds.

Gronk and Bennett on the field at the same time would present a matchup conundrum for any defense, so there is potential to exploit this. It will be interesting to see if New England rolls out such a formation in using play-action in the red zone.

Update – Gronkowski (hamstring) has been ruled out.

Defense

Minnesota – Salaries: DK – 3100, FD – 4600. The Vegas line currently has the game total at 40.5, now the lowest on the board, with Minnesota as 3 point favorites in Tennessee. The Vikings defense ranked 5th in points allowed, 7th in sacks, and 8th in fantasy points scored last season, in what seemingly appears to be a safe matchup against a Tennessee team that ranked in the bottom five for yards gained and points scored.

Minnesota’s salary ranks them 8th/10th on FanDuel/DraftKings, respectively, so they are a viable option if a top tier salary is not affordable.

Update – QB Teddy Bridgewater is now out for the season with a torn ACL and dislocated knee. It is projected that Shaun Hill will be under center for week 1.

The QB carousel continues in Minnesota as the Vikings have traded for QB Sam Bradford from Philadelphia for a first-round and conditional picks. The Vegas line now has the Vikings as favorites with a spread of -2.5 points. Hill is still tentatively expected to start as Bradford learns the playbook.

Check out the Week 1 schedule with spreads/totals/byes here.

Fantasy Football Strategy Links:

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