Fantasy Football: Best Week 1 DraftKings Cash-Game Plays (DFS)
The world of daily fantasy sports (DFS) is as big as it’s ever been. You have hundreds of thousands of players trying to “hit it big” in the millionaire maker, and thousands of others trying to win some of the smaller stakes tournaments. But what about those who just want to play for minimal amounts, trying to just have a positive return on their investment at season’s end? This is what we refer to as “cash games” in DFS.
For whatever reason, I’ve always fared much better in cash games, likely because I’m not great at taking on risk in my lineups, which is something you need to do in tournaments. For those of you who are like me, this article is for you. Each week, I’ll be going through and discussing my favorite cash-game plays at each position for DraftKings. Keep in mind that these players may not be the highest-projected point scorers, but they have a rare combination of a solid salary, expected performance, and safety compared to other players at their position and/or price-point.
Carson Palmer (at DET) – $6000
Likely the best cash game quarterback on the slate, Palmer offers stability at a reasonable price. There are others who may have a higher ceiling than him, but they also come with a higher price-tag. Palmer will match-up with a Lions defense that allowed seven quarterbacks to score 22 or more fantasy points against them last year, including six of them to crack the 300-yard barrier. They lost top linebacker DeAndre Levy this offseason and will be forced to start rookie Jarrad Davis at middle linebacker. Palmer will also have his wide receiver corps healthy for this game, from Larry Fitzgerald to John Brown to J.J. Nelson. The Lions allowed just five rushing touchdowns last year while allowing 32 passing touchdowns. Palmer is a QB1 this week, but is priced as a QB2.
Sam Bradford (vs. NO) – $5900
It’s never a great feeling when you stick Bradford in your DFS lineup, but you have to embrace the matchup he has in Week 1 against the Saints. Half of the quarterbacks that played them last year threw for at least 318 yards, though Jared Goff and Matt Ryan were the only two who threw for three touchdowns. There will be a lot of people who want to play Bradford in tournaments, but I’d argue he’s better for cash games this week. The Vikings did start the rebuild on their offensive line, but don’t expect them to come together for the run game in the first week together. Keep in mind that the Saints will be without their top cornerback Delvin Breaux and that they allowed multiple touchdown passes in 11 of their last 14 games in 2016.
LeSean McCoy (vs. NYJ) – $8200
It’s not typically my thing to pay up for running backs, but when you are getting an elite play at $8200, you take it, and that is precisely what McCoy is. While we love the value plays in cash-game lineups, we need to have some ceiling plays as well. Did you know the Bills are the biggest Week 1 favorite on the entire slate? They are 9.5-point favorites against the Sheldon Richardson-less Jets run defense that already showed some holes last year even with him on the line, as they allowed 4.3 yards per carry over the final eight games after allowing just 3.7 yards per carry over the first eight games. They also allowed seven touchdowns to running backs over the last five games of the year. There are just a few games that the Bills will win this year and this is one of them. Play the 29-year-old McCoy while he’s healthy because they are going to wear him out as the season goes on.
Todd Gurley (vs. IND) – $6000
Don’t scoff at this just yet. Regardless of how bad you think Gurley was last year (he was pretty bad), he still provided value in fantasy leagues due to his massive volume. Did you know there were just 11 running backs in all of football who offered you RB2 numbers on a more consistent basis? He’ll be playing against a Colts defense that allowed 4.8 yards per carry on the season, including 17 total touchdowns to running backs. Of the 16 games they played last year, there were just three running backs who didn’t score at least 15.7 PPR points against them. There were just five teams that allowed more DraftKings points than the Colts, and they’ll be led by Scott Tolzien this week. Gurley is the rare combination of a three-down back who is at home, favored, and in one of the best possible matchups. Don’t forget that Lance Dunbar, who was brought in to catch passes out of the backfield, started the year on the PUP list. Gurley is a game-script-proof this week, but the script should be in his favor.
Bilal Powell (at BUF) – $4900
It’s kind of crazy to see Powell down as the 25th most expensive running back, as the Jets were reportedly willing to move on from Matt Forte, but couldn’t find any takers. While he’ll still be involved on early downs, we know that Powell is the one who handles 70 percent of the passing downs, which is what you want. In the five games Powell saw 11 or more touches last year, he totaled 21.9 or more PPR points in four of them. The Bills were one of those teams he played in Week 17 when he totaled 137 total yards and a touchdown. The Bills defense lost starting linebacker Zach Brown, starting safety Aaron Williams, and starting cornerbacks Stephon Gillmore and Ronald Darby this offseason. In the 10 games they didn’t have Williams for the full game last year, they allowed three 200-yard games to running backs. At just $4900, Powell is one of the must-plays in Week 1.
Doug Baldwin (at GB) – $6700
This one may seem obvious, though some may hesitate due to the matchup these two played last year when Baldwin totaled just six catches for 46 yards. While that was far from ideal, Russell Wilson played one of his worst games of his career that week, so seeing Baldwin’s floor at potentially 10.6 points isn’t a bad thing. The Packers had tons of issues containing wide receivers last year, allowing 26 touchdowns to them, which led the NFL (closest was 21 touchdowns). They lost Micah Hyde in free agency and he was one of the cornerbacks who was playing well towards the end of the season. The Packers will start the trio of Davon House (was benched by Jaguars last year), Quinten Rollins (allowed over 15 yards per reception last year), and Damarious Randall (allowed a touchdown every eight targets in coverage last year) at cornerback. The over/under on this game is set at 51, the highest on the entire slate.
Larry Fitzgerald (at DET) – $5900
If his ownership isn’t through the roof, there were plenty of DFS players who didn’t do their research this week. Fitzgerald’s matchup with Quandre Diggs is easily one of the biggest mismatches at wide receiver, as Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, while Diggs was benched last year for poor play. This matchup was highlighted in the WR/CB article already, but in case you missed that, Diggs allowed 42 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns last year… on 46 targets. Yep, just four incompletions all year. Fitzgerald has started hot in each of the last two years and this should be no different. He’s a WR1 inside my weekly rankings, but you’re getting him as the 20th most expensive wide receiver. I’d want to play him even if his price was closer to the $7000 price range.
Stefon Diggs (vs. NO) – $6000
It’s the start of a new year and Diggs is healthy. When Diggs was healthy last year, big things happened as he averaged 9.3 receptions, 107 yards, and 0.33 touchdowns in the six games he was off the injury report. The Vikings have expressed that Diggs is not going to be just designated to the slot like he was towards the end of last season, which is great for his ceiling. He is still going to go inside the slot to create mismatches, but against the Saints without Delvin Breaux, he should be able to win matchups all over the field. The most common matchup he’ll see in Ken Crawley, who’s a former undrafted free agent who was dog-walked by the Seahawks and 49ers in his final two starting appearances of 2016, allowing nine receptions for 122 yards on just 11 targets in coverage. Diggs should be able to get his 2017 off to a hot start.
Zach Ertz (at WAS) – $3500
Ertz should be an auto-include in all lineups this week and you can’t convince me otherwise. Not only is he the only familiar face that Carson Wentz will be throwing to, but more importantly, Jordan Matthews won’t be out there. There were just two games that Matthews was out of the lineup last year, but in those games, Ertz totaled 22 receptions for 218 yards and three touchdowns. Those two games accounted for 38 percent of his total fantasy production in 2016, which should give you an idea as to why I like him. On top of that, the Redskins allowed nine tight ends to top 50 yards last year. The 1,100 yards they allowed to tight ends was the third-most in the NFL last year. Alshon Jeffery will have his hands tied with Josh Norman, which essentially makes Ertz the No. 1 target this week.
Delanie Walker (vs. OAK) – $4300
If you haven’t noticed a trend with these tight ends, it’s that you want a quarterback who has already established a relationship with his tight end. While Corey Davis and Eric Decker are going to eat into the year-long production of Walker, it’ll take time to develop chemistry with Marcus Mariota. On top of that, both of them are returning from injuries and may be at less than 100 percent. The Raiders allowed the fifth-most yards to tight ends last year, and even showed weakness in their third preseason game when Jason Witten crushed them for six receptions, 74 yards and a touchdown. Walker is one of the safest plays at an unsafe position.