DFS Picks Week 1 NFL – Studs & Values

DFS Picks Week 1 NFL – Studs & Values

DFS picks are here, because Week 1 of the NFL season kicks off this Sunday! We have a challenging slate to navigate for a couple of reasons: first, we don’t truly know how usage is going to shake out for rookies or old faces in new places, and second, the pricing by the big providers is really democratic this week.

As such, identifying a true “stud” and a true “value” is a bit more difficult as we kick the year off. There are, however, still some potential layups to leverage here. Note that like last season, I’ll write up one player at each price level per position each week, and provide a best of the rest set of DFS picks at the end of each of these articles.

I see the first slate of the season like this:

Quarterbacks

STUD – DeShaun Watson (@ New England)

At first glance, you might think picking the opposing QB heading into Gillette Stadium on Sunday is a borderline psychopath move to start the season. Here’s why it isn’t – for starters, the Patriots allowed the third most passing yards to opposing QBs last season. They finished the season as the league’s 21st DVOA pass defense, but were particularly soft to start the season, a phenomenon these Texans benefited from themselves in Week 3.

Watson also posted a 22-33, 301/2/2 line with 41 rushing yards on 8 attempts against New England last year in just his second career start. Watson’s injury shortened season was an extremely efficient one, and that efficiency provides a lot of reason for optimism about him here and throughout the 2018 season.

VALUE – Andy Dalton (@ Indianapolis)

The red rifle draws a matchup against a Colts team that finished 2017 as the league worst passing defense by DVOA standards. Lucas Oil Stadium offers the best possible weather environment for DFS cash games we can find: a dome. Dalton loves the matchup: he’s 3-1 against the Colts in his career, with 6 TDs and 0 interceptions in 4 starts. There’s some favorable lower priced stacking opportunities here as well for you with Dalton and his non-A.J. Green receiving options (although Green is fine, too!).

Running Backs

STUD – David Johnson (vs. Washington)

Well, it seems like it’s been longer than a calendar year since David Johnson was someone we could consider as one of our DFS picks. The dynamic Arizona tailback is fully healed from a 2017 Week 1 wrist injury that derailed a truly awesome run for the 26 year old out Northern Iowa: 15 straight games with over 100 all-purpose yards. Washington finished 2017 as the 29th DVOA rushing defense, but were much better in the passing game (4th) against the position. Still, with DJ poised to resume ownership of 65-75% of the carries and 15-20% of the targets in this offense, it’s hard to pass on him any week, really.

VALUE – Alex Collins (vs. Buffalo)

Hard sell here for this as a true “value”, but he’s significantly lower priced than the Johnson, Kamara, Elliott tier with a lot of upside. The Bills head into Baltimore with Nathan Peterman at the helm, making this one of the more favorable defensive matchups of the week, so this is a correlation play on one level. On another, Collins was better than you might remember at the end of 2017: he averaged 20 touches a game over the last quarter of the season; he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and just under 8.0 yards per reception on the year, and has no real immediate threat to his volume from either Kenneth Dixon or Buck Allen in Week 1. If the Ravens are running away with this one, Collins could also benefit from positive game script.

Wide Receivers

STUD – Keenan Allen (vs. Kansas City)

Allen finished 2017 with a 27.89% target share, a 64.2% catch rate and 13.7 yards per reception, but with only 6 total touchdowns on 102 receptions. Predicting touchdowns is the most difficult thing to do in fantasy football, but Allen feels like a regression candidate at that kind of target volume – which means I think he should see a few more total touchdowns this season.

The Chiefs finished 2017 as the 23rd DVOA pass defense, and were even worse against the WR1 – 31st in the league. Allen has a chance to be an overlooked stud WR this week with everyone looking to Antonio Brown (also a strong play, don’t get me wrong) to see increased volume with Le’Veon Bell out.

VALUE – Keelan Cole (@ NY Giants)

Opportunity for targets opened up for Cole when Marqise Lee went down for the season with a knee injury last month. Cole is listed atop the depth chart for Doug Marrone at the position this week, and for good reason. Cole averaged 17.8 yards per reception last season, and saw an average of 10 targets a game to close out the regular season for Jacksonville without Lee available. While I do expect Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, and rookie DJ Chark to be involved, it feels like Cole is the best bet to receive volume from Bortles against the Giants.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (vs. Houston)

Have you seen New England’s WR depth chart? That’s all you really need to know. Gronkowski is still the #1 weapon for Tom Brady in this offense, and faces a Houston team that finished 2017 as the 27th DVOA defense against the position last season. Gronk posted an 8/89/1 line on 10 total targets against this defense last year; without a true burner like Brandin Cooks available for Brady in this one, look for Gronk’s volume to potentially be even higher here. The only real barrier to rostering him? His price at his position. There’s always a lot of value at TE.

Mike Gesicki (vs. Tennessee)

I’ve had a bit of an obsession with Mike Gesicki all preseason because of his measurables he posted at the NFL Combine, Tannehill’s track record with TEs over the years, and his overall athletic ability. Here’s what I had to say this summer about TE’s in Miami under Tannehill:

Flat out, I think Gesicki is a lock for 10-15% of the total team targets this season. He could be an absolute monster if his athletic ability he had at Penn State translates to the NFL game. His price is one of the lower ones at the position; I plan on using him a lot this weekend in tournaments.

Best of the Rest

QB: Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill
RB: Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, James Conner
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, Michael Thomas, A.J. Green, Stefon Diggs, Jarvis Landry, Emmanuel Sanders, John Ross
TE: Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Jack Doyle, Tyler Eifert
DST: Ravens, Saints, Chargers, Cardinals

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