DraftKings NFL GPP Lineup Advice: Week 1
This year’s DraftKings NFL GPP Lineup Advice column will take on a slightly different look. Below, I’ve highlighted my favorite pair of studs, a couple of value plays, and my favorite stack.
Studs Worth Their Salary
Michael Thomas (WR – NO): $9,000 vs. Buccaneers
Last year, Thomas set a new single-season NFL high for receptions by hauling in 149 grabs. His record-setting reception total resulted in 1,725 receiving yards, good for the seventh-most in a single season. He also reeled in nine touchdown grabs.
In short, he was a dominant force. He’s been the unquestioned top target in the Saints’ offense, and that’s not going to change this year, even with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders to the mix. Thomas has been at his best at home, and he’s averaged 7.8 receptions and 92.8 receiving yards per game while scoring 18 touchdowns in 32 games at home in his career, per Pro-Football-Reference. Last year, he took a blow torch to defenses at home, averaging 10.9 receptions and 128.4 receiving yards per game while scoring six touchdowns in eight games. Fire him up with confidence.
Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN): $7,900 vs. Packers
Cook is the second-most expensive option at running back this week, but he comes at a sizable $2,100 discount from Christian McCaffrey. CMC averaged nearly 10 more DraftKings points per game than Cook did last year, but if I’m picking between him and Thomas as my top stud, the latter gets the nod.
Further, Cook has a cushy Week 1 matchup that softens the blow of spinning down to him from CMC. The Packers ranked 27th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) against the run last year, according to Football Outsiders (FO). Cook faced the Packers only once last year and trounced them for 154 rushing yards and a touchdown carry on 20 rushing attempts and added three receptions for 37 receiving yards on three targets.
Cook’s game script proof as a talented pass-catching option, but the fact the Vikings are consensus 2.5-point favorites is a plus for his outlook against Green Bay’s weak run defense.
Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV): $4,500 at Panthers
Renfrow blossomed as his rookie season went on last year, and he’s one of few familiar faces to quarterback Derek Carr. Their chemistry could be especially helpful in a year without preseason games. Further elaborating on Renfrow’s finish to last year, the slot wideout capped his rookie campaign with back-to-back 100-plus yard receiving efforts, barbecuing the Chargers for a 7-107-1 line on nine targets and thumping the Broncos for a 6-102-1 line on nine more. In seven games played from Week 8 through the end of the regular season, Renfrow caught at least four passes in six games, bested 50 receiving yards five times, and hauled in a touchdown in four games.
Renfrow should be a valuable safety valve on an offense projected to score at a high clip in Week 1. The Raiders are three-point favorites in a game with a projected total of 47.5 points, leaving them with an implied total of 25.25 points.
Hayden Hurst (TE – ATL): $4,300 vs. Seahawks
Hurst played second fiddle to Mark Andrews at tight end with the Ravens, but the Falcons traded a second-round pick to Baltimore in order to acquire him. He’ll step into a tight end gig that was quite kind to Austin Hooper. The departed Hooper vacates 97 targets amassed in 13 games last year. Simply expecting Hurst to duplicate Hooper’s production is foolish, but the path to a viable role in a high-powered, high-volume passing attack is there for the taking for Hurst.
I discussed Hurst in-depth as one of my three must-have players in season-long leagues in a piece I penned back in July. You can check out that piece here to read about my general reasons for optimism regarding Hurst in 2020.
This week specifically, I love his bargain salary and tantalizing matchup. Hurst is just the 10th-most expensive tight end to roster. He’s also in a great matchup against a Seahawks defense that got pummeled by tight ends in 2019. The Seahawks yielded the second-most DraftKings points to tight ends in 2019 and were one of only three teams to allow more than 1,000 receiving yards to the position. Their offseason activity doesn’t suggest they’ll turn things around against tight ends. In fact, NFL analyst Lance Zierlein noted “concerns with coverage duties” in his overview of Seattle’s first-round pick, linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
Gardner Minshew II (QB – JAC): $5,700 vs. Colts
D.J. Chark Jr. (WR – JAC): $6,300 vs. Colts
The Jaguars are 7.5-point underdogs with an underwhelming implied total of 19.5 points. They seem like a team to avoid, right? Well, maybe. However, I’m bullish on Minshew’s year-two outlook after a surprising rookie season that stacks up favorably against other recent rookie quarterbacks — which I discussed in this piece for numberFire back in June.
While you should take Jacksonville’s meaningless Week 17 win over the Colts last year with a grain of salt, Minshew did rip them for 295 passing yards, three touchdown passes, one interception, and seven rushing yards on five attempts. That was also his lone start against the club (Nick Foles started Jacksonville’s other game against the Colts in 2019). In 2019, the Colts allowed the 11th-most DraftKings fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and they ranked 19th in pass defense DVOA. They’ve made some offseason moves that could help them take a step forward on the defensive side of the ball, but they don’t project to be an elite defense to avoid.
Also of note, after the surprising retirement of Andrew Luck and the switch to Jacoby Brissett as the starting quarterback, the Colts played at a much slower pace in 2019 than in 2018. In 2019, they ranked 25th in situation neutral pace of play, per Football Outsiders. In 2018, they ranked second in situation-neutral pace. If head coach Frank Reich is comfortable with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers’ ability to lead an up-tempo offense like he utilized in 2018, there’s potential for Minshew and the Jaguars’ offense getting a fantasy lift this week from game pace.
As for Minshew and Chark, the two had great chemistry last year. Chark was the top pass-catching option for the Jaguars and led the team in targets (118), receptions (73), receiving yards (1,008), and touchdown receptions (8). He had stellar per-game averages of 4.9 receptions and 67.2 receiving yards per game. Both will have to adjust to playing in a new offense headed by offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, but the presence of Gruden could be great for Minshew. Gruden has succeeded with other quarterbacks with arm-strength limitations such as Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins.
Also, Gruden was also effusive with praise for Chark during camp. He has an opportunity to be a target hog this year starting this week. I suspect that this duo could be under-rostered in GPPs, which adds to the appeal of using them in those contests.
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