FanDuel NFL Value Plays: Week 1
It feels great having football back, doesn’t it? Besides the anticipation and excitement, Week 1 always brings a lot of uncertainty. Players have shuffled around between teams on offense and defense. New potential stars have been drafted. Coaches have been fired and hired. We know less going into this week than any other for the rest of the season. That may sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually an opportunity. The FanDuel salary algorithm knows even less than we do right now. Because player salaries have been set for weeks now, they’re based on old data. That creates salary inefficiencies that we can exploit to find value. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top values at each position.
DeShone Kizer (CLE): $6,000 vs. PIT
One of the things still up in the air when salaries were set was who would be the starting quarterback for the Browns, but now we know it will be second-round rookie DeShone Kizer out of Notre Dame. There’s some hefty inherent risk, and I would not recommend him for cash games, but it’s rare to get a locked-in starting QB for minimum salary. Hue Jackson has made it clear that Kizer has a long leash. They’re going to leave him out there regardless of mistakes. It’s a near-certainty that the Browns are going to be trailing in this game, which will mean a lot of passing attempts for Kizer. That’s what this play is about – volume. The Steelers’ defense isn’t fantasy-friendly for QBs (only 14.5 fantasy points per game allowed in 2016), but Kizer will get enough opportunity to put up points and perhaps become a Week 1 garbage time hero.
Carson Palmer (ARI): $7,300 @ DET
He may be getting older, but Carson Palmer is curiously underpriced in a matchup with the Detroit Lions, who allowed 2.06 passing touchdowns per game, second most in the league (all statistics via ProFootball Reference unless otherwise noted). Palmer is the 12th ranked QB in our Expert Consensus Rankings for Week 1, but just the 16th-most expensive on FanDuel. While those rankings don’t directly translate to DFS, the discrepancy does indicate that Palmer’s value is higher than his salary implies, which is exactly what we want. Arizona ran the second most plays per game and Palmer averaged 39 pass attempts per game last season, so the volume will be there. He still has his two best weapons, David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. With the Lions allowing the 5th-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, Palmer is a steal.
Isaiah Crowell (CLE): $6,500 vs. PIT
Unlike quarterbacks, running backs had their way with the Steelers’ defense last year. They surrendered the 5th-most fantasy points per game to RBs. They allowed 4.2 yards per carry, 12th-most. Hue Jackson has committed to running the ball more this season and Crowell is excited about it. He was excellent last year, averaging a strong 4.8 yards per carry. That’s good for 7th highest (minimum 150 rushing attempts), right in between Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman. However, the Browns only gave him about 12 carries per game. That made him a tough fantasy asset to trust on any given Sunday. He’s currently priced for that 12-carry average. If the Browns are going to commit to running the ball, Crowell will smash value.
Carlos Hyde (SF): $6,800 vs. CAR
The 49ers are running low on talent. When Brian Hoyer is your quarterback and the aging Pierre Garcon is your top wide receiver, you’re going to lean on the ground game. That’s especially true since Carlos Hyde is probably the most talented offensive player they have left. He has almost no competition for carries. The only other true running back on the roster is undrafted rookie Matt Breida out of Georgia Southern (fullback Kyle Juszczyk is technically the number three RB). In addition to guaranteed rush attempts, Hyde can catch passes. Over the last six games of last season, he averaged three targets per game and caught 83% of them. The matchup against Carolina isn’t great. They were tough on opposing RBs in 2016. In spite of that, Hyde is too cheap for his combination of talent and volume of touches.
Kendall Wright (CHI): $5,200 vs. ATL
The best values for Week 1 are at the wide receiver position. Wright is a great example of salaries being out of date. When they were set, the Bears had not yet lost Cameron Meredith for the season. Now their offense is a confusing mess. But they will have to throw the ball against the Falcons and those targets have to go somewhere. Wright is locked into his slot receiver role, with Kevin White and Deonte Thompson out wide. He’s got by far the most experience out of those three and quite possibly the most talent, as well. It’s not unreasonable to think he could lead the team in targets and he’s nearly free on FanDuel.
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI): $6,400 @ DET
Fitzgerald might be the most underpriced Week 1 player. He’s 13th in our Expert Consensus Rankings, but only the 26th most expensive WR on FanDuel – and I think the ECR is being conservative. Arizona likes to pass and Fitzgerald is likely to be the top target over John Brown and J.J. Nelson. Detroit struggled last season with allowing yards and especially touchdowns through the air. Fitzgerald runs most of his routes out of the slot, which should set him up for coverage mismatches. He may be getting older, but there still aren’t many linebackers who can cover him. He’s a top option this week. His bargain price is just a bonus.
Michael Crabtree (OAK): $6,900 @ TEN
I like both Crabtree and teammate Amari Cooper this week, but the greater value lies with Crabtree. The pair posted very similar seasons in 2016. Crabtree had more targets and touchdowns, while Cooper had more yards and yards per target. Both will continue to be the main targets for Derek Carr against the Titans, but Michael Crabtree offers a significant discount over Amari Cooper ($7,600 on FanDuel) for basically no reason. The Titans allowed the 4th-most passing yards per game and the 3rd-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. It’s a great matchup for both receivers, but the discount sells me on Crabtree.
Zach Miller (CHI): $4,500 vs. ATL
I mentioned above the carnage that is the remains of the Bears’ offense. Their top two receivers last year, Cameron Meredith and Alshon Jeffery, are out of the picture. Believe it or not, Zach Miller was the third leading receiver for the Bears last season – and he only played in 10 games. He averaged a decent six targets per game (eight over his last four full games played). He even tied Meredith for most receiving touchdowns (four). Basically, he’s the one part of the Bears’ passing game from last year that is returning. Everything is in flux in that offense, but I doubt they’ll ignore one of their best pass catchers. The Falcons allowed the 5th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends last season. They were much more vulnerable to TEs than WRs. Zach Miller is a great option for minimum salary.
Mason Crosby (GB): $4,800 vs. SEA
Kicker pricing doesn’t have a lot of variation and it’s one of the harder positions to project, but Mason Crosby stood out to me. He’s a capable kicker and Vegas expects a lot of points in this game. The total is set at 50.5 with the Packers favored by three, tied for the highest of the week. The Seahawks have a solid defense and I can see the Packers’ drives stalling as they near the red zone, forcing them to turn to Crosby for the field goal.
Buffalo Bills: $4,700 vs. NYJ
No need to get fancy here. The Jets are an embarrassment. Top to bottom, there isn’t a single offensive player who scares me. Josh McCown had the 6th-highest interception percentage last season (minimum 100 pass attempts), and he arguably had better weapons on the Browns. This game has the lowest Vegas total at 40 with the Bills as huge nine-point favorites. The Jets’ implied point total is the lowest of the week. The Bills D/ST should be the most expensive and is an easy value pick with the discount.
Steve Repsold is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Steve, check out his archive and follow him @SteveRepsold.