FanDuel NFL Lineup Advice: Week 1 (Thurs/Sun/Mon)
You don’t have to wait until Sunday to get in on the NFL DFS action. The Thursday slate kicks the regular season off, and it extends through the two Monday Night Football games that aren’t part of the main slate. That’s six more teams’ worth of rosters to pick players from — or fade. This week, there’s a quartet of players I like from the additional contests, and they’ll be featured below. The players touted in this week’s piece are with GPPs in mind, though, the collection is fine to use in cash games as well.
Tom Brady (NE): $8,900 vs. Chiefs
Brady’s the priciest slinger of the pigskin in Week 1, and he’ll join the priciest possible backfield on a stars and bargains squad. New England is an 8.5-point favorite in a game with an over/under total of 48.5 points, according to Pinnacle. Team totals haven’t been released yet, but doing some simple math, the Patriots will be jostling with the Falcons for highest team total this week. That’s a good starting point. Brady is coming off of a huge season that opened with a suspension and ended with him hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The G.O.A.T. finished last season ranked second in Passer Rating (112.2), fourth in passing yards per game (296.2), tied for seventh in touchdown passes (28), third in passing TD% (6.5%), and second in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (8.81), according to Pro-Football Reference. He remains at the top of his game, and even with Julian Edelman out for the season, he has an embarrassment of riches to work with in the passing attack. He’ll likely be chalky based on his excellence as well as an extra bump from gamers who simply need some “action” in the Thursday Night Football contest, but his upside is worth using in GPPs even as a chalky option.
David Johnson (ARI): $9,400 @ Lions
Le’Veon Bell (PIT): $9,300 @ Browns
I’ll keep the analysis short and sweet for this pair. Johnson and Bell are the two best and most well-rounded backs in the NFL, and their salaries reflect that. They’re matchup proof and game-script proof since they’ll be leaned on heavily in games their teams lead to milk the clock on the ground or used heavily in the passing attack should their teams need to play catch up. Johnson was the only player to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year leading the league with 2,118, and Bell finished third in yards from scrimmage last year with 1,884 despite serving a three-game suspension to start the year and sitting out the regular season finale. Both will have high ownership rates, but as is the case with Brady, their upside’s worth investing in. This week’s roster as a whole is on the chalky side, but I suspect some of the remaining options will be lower owned than they should be, and the ultimate goal remains to shoot the moon for scoring regardless of ownership — even if getting a low-owned, high-scoring option is always ideal.
Chris Hogan (NE): $6,000 vs. Chiefs
Hogan is my preferred stack partner with Brady, and I like him more at FanDuel than at DraftKings due to the difference in point scoring for receptions (half-point at FanDuel and full-point at DraftKings). Hogan’s a big-play wide out as opposed to a possession/volume option. He was the best receiver running go routes (minimum of 10 targeted routes), per Eliot Crist of Pro Football Focus (PFF). Hogan also led the NFL with 3.6 yards of separation on his targets (minimum of 30-plus targets out wide), according to this Tweet from NFL.com’s Matt Harmon. Edelman’s season-ending injury opens the door to more playing time for Hogan, and while he has plenty of competition for targets, his ability to make big plays means he doesn’t need a lot of looks to hit value at just $6,000.
Adam Thielen (MIN): $5,700 vs. Saints
I love Thielen this week. Last year, he was a boom-or-bust option with six games tallying 65 yards receiving or more, and 10 games with under 55 yards receiving. The upside is big, as his 12-202-2 line in Week 15 against the Packers last year illustrates, but the floor may be a bit higher this year with news in late August indicating he’s getting more work from the slot. The matchup is great for Thielen this week against the Saints soft defense. New Orleans ranked 30th defending the pass last year, according to Football Outsiders (FO), 23rd defending No. 1 receivers, 26th defending No. 2 receivers, and 28th defending “Other” receivers, again per FO. They also yielded the sixth most FanDuel points per game to receivers, according to Pro-Football Reference, and the game’s over/under total of 48 points with the Vikings serving as -3.5 points is rather inviting to target with such an integral — yet cheap — piece of Minnesota’s offense.
Ted Ginn Jr. (NO): $5,600 @ Vikings
Speaking of cheap pieces of the first of the two Monday Night Football games, Ginn Jr. is $100 cheaper than Thielen and tied to a better quarterback. Already slated to play outside opposite Michael Thomas as a big-play replacement for departed Brandin Cooks, he could see a few extra looks in the aftermath of Willie Snead being suspended three games to open the 2017 campaign. Ginn Jr. is by no means a safe play given his shaky hands and reliance on home-run plays, but he has a high ceiling that’s desirable for GPPs.
Zach Ertz (PHI): $5,900 @ Redskins
Rounding out the featured plays for the Thursday Night Football slate of daily games at FanDuel is under priced Zach Ertz. Sure, the Eagles greatly bolstered their receiving corps with the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but Ertz remains a reliable safety blanket in the offense who has bested 800 yards receiving and tallied 75 or more receptions on more than 105 targets in back-to-back years. Last year’s numbers are the most important since they were accumulated with incumbent sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz. Ertz set new single-season highs in receptions (78), receiving yards per game (58.3), catch% (73.6%), and tied a previous high of four touchdown grabs. He was relatively quiet the first time the Eagles met the Redskins hauling in just one of three targets for 22 yards, but he clowned them in Week 13 when he reeled in 10 of 13 targets for 112 yards. Washington was a very favorable matchup for tight ends last year as they ranked 25th defending the position, according to FO. They also ceded the fifth most FanDuel points per game to the position. Washington certainly could improve against tight ends, but they have a far climb to merely be average defending them, and Ertz is an above-average receiver at the position.