DFS Building Blocks: Week 1 Fantasy Breakdown

·9 min read



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Quarterback

Chalk

Jalen Hurts
The Eagles made it clear all offseason that their plan is to pass more. They acquired A.J. Brown for a king's ransom and then gave him a $100 million contract. Then, in the preseason, they passed on 57 percent of their plays. More dropbacks for Hurts means an increase in his pass attempts and extra scramble opportunities. Against the defense that ranked 30th in dropback EPA last year, Hurts is a layup.

Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes
The 53.5-point total of KC/ARI is 1.5 points higher than any other game this weekend. Both offenses ranked inside the top 10 in situational-neutral pace and points scored last year. On top of that, the Chiefs led the NFL in pass rate over expected while the Cardinals threw the ball slightly more than expected. This game is an overwhelming favorite to be the most stacked of the weekend.

For tournaments, it makes sense to be contrarian in the early window of games and adjust before the later set of games starts. If you have two players go for 30 points at low ownership, stacking the chalk game to block your opponents and cruise to victory would be ideal. However, if the first set of games doesn't break your way, pivoting to LAC/LV or even GB/MIN is a must.

Pivots

Justin Herbert
Paying up for quarterbacks has been hard to get away from in recent seasons. The elite quarterbacks are producing big games at such a high rate that paying down often isn't an option. Because of this, I won't be getting too weird at quarterback in Week 1. Herbert won't be unpopular, but stacking his game will be more unique than buying the shootout in Kansas City. 

The Chargers have a 27.75 implied team total and are only favored by 3.5 points. Their game total isn't far from the Chiefs', but Herbert—or even Derek Carr—won't be as popular. 

Lamar Jackson
Historically, when Lamar is expected to win big, he goes nuclear. 

The Ravens are 7.5-point favorites over the Jets. The Jets ranked 32nd in both dropback EPA per play allowed and total EPA per play allowed last year. Without the bonuses for reaching yardage thresholds in play, Fanduel is tailor-made for Jackson's style.

Running Back

Chalk

Jonathan Taylor vs. Derrick Henry vs. Christian McCaffrey
With plenty of value at receiver on both sites, this trio will be a mainstay of most lineups. At high stakes, I see DFS players gravitating toward CMC. In more casual contests, the ownership will be split more evenly between the trio. I'll side with the DFS elites and say there should be a considerable gap between CMC's popularity and his competitors. He is one of just five FLEX players to average more than 29 PPR points per game in a season. He followed up that historic season by averaging over 30 points per game in his three 2020 appearances. Injuries have marred his career since, but McCaffrey's floor/ceiling combo is unmatched.

Najee Harris
Five backs averaged more than 21 touches per game last year. Harris is $1,100 cheaper than any of the other four on DraftKings. That should earn him some buzz as a value play, but the Steelers are 6.5-point road dogs with an offensive line ranked No. 30 heading into the season. He'll be less popular on Fanduel because of his elevated price, but he remains a stay-away on all sites.

Pivots

Austin Ekeler
Per RotoViz, Ekeler ranked fourth in combined rushing and receiving expected fantasy points. His team is a home favorite and has the second-highest team total on the main slate. The Chargers are the easiest team to pivot to when trying to avoid the chalk of KC/ARI. 

Clyde Edwards-Helaire and James Conner
This is pretty simple but if either of these backs is scoring touchdowns, that means the receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks in this game aren't. Conner's job as a goal-line back is locked in and he should have a strong role through the air. CEH has the profile necessary to do both, though his split of the backfield is a bit more ambiguous. He's only $5,400 on Fanduel.

Chase Edmonds
It's unclear what Edmonds' role will be in Miami. They gave him a three-year deal and cut one of his backups at the end of camp. He earned the bulk of the snaps with the starters during the preseason as well.

On the other hand, Edmonds has never been used at the goal line, and Kyle Shanahan's scheme, which Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel exported to Miami, has never placed an emphasis on throwing to its running backs. There's a lot of uncertainty in this backfield, but at low ownership, that's something we want to buy into.

Dameon Pierce
It looks like paying down at receiver is going to be the popular route for roster construction in Week 1. That could leave Pierce, who was dominant in the preseason and earned a Week 1 starting role, as a massive value at modest ownership.  

Rex Burkhead should slot in as the team's first choice on passing downs, but Pierce wasn't just an elite runner in college. He posted a 19/216/3 receiving line as a senior and averaged over two yards per route run. Pierce is live to be the cheapest bell-cow on the Week 1 slate.

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Wide Receiver

Chalk

Rondale Moore
Moore was slated to be everyone's favorite value play at receiver, but he may have suffered a serious injury in practice on Thursday. If he can't go, A.J. Green and Zach Ertz, who is also dealing with an injury, will project as solid values.

Marquise Brown
Brown, acquired for a first-round pick this offseason, has a monstrous ceiling. The loss of receiving talent around him could give him a considerable floor as well. Last year, he topped 20 PPR points in 25 percent of his games.

His high-volume role on intermediate and deep throws landed him at seventh in the league in total air yards. Competing with Moore and Ertz for targets, Brown is the Cardinals' best option to move the chains and go deep.

JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Chiefs' receiver room is an enigma, but Smith-Schuster has emerged as a constant during training camp. Formerly one of the most promising receivers in the NFL, Smith-Schuster struggled through injuries and poor quarterback play for three seasons before landing in Kansas City. If JuJu still has the talent he showed consistently during his first two seasons, pairing him with Patrick Mahomes should be lethal. Both DFS sites left him in the bargain-bin for Week 1.

Justin Jefferson
Jefferson led all receivers in air yards share and finished third in target share last year. He has already said that the team will pass more in 2022 and his offensive coordinator comes from the team that just turned Cooper Kupp into Jerry Rice. The GB/MIN game also has a sneaky total of 47.5. 

Pivots

Mike Williams
Williams ranked 10th in the NFL in targets 20 yards downfield and fifth in end zone targets last year. The Raiders won't be playing a single cornerback over 6'0 or 200 pounds, so Williams (6'4/218) could be a matchup nightmare for them. Keenan Allen is also in play, especially on DraftKings, but the upside of Williams is worth chasing. 

Josh Palmer
The people's Bolts play the best kind of football for DFS purposes. They ranked seventh in fourth down aggressiveness and fifth in pass rate over expected last year. LA was also sixth in situation-neutral pass rate. 

Because of this, Chargers games also went 10-7 against their total in 2021. This is the type of team we want to be ancillary pieces of, including Palmer. 

Rashod Bateman
The Jets' secondary was burned for 20 or more yards on 12 percent of the pass plays they faced last year. Bateman was schemed targets in the slot in his final collegiate season but won on the boundary as a deep threat with a 17.1 aDOT in 2019. He should be used at every level of the field with Marquise Brown gone.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The field will likely be confident in JuJu leading the Chiefs' receivers in targets. They will probably be correct. However, I always went to bet against the field correctly judging uncertain situations whenever possible. Because of that, MVSand even a sprinkling of Skyy Moore and Mecole Hardmanare great ways to create unique stacks with Mahomes. 

MVS in particular typifies the boom/bust archetype. He led the NFL in deep target rate last year, with 44 percent of his looks coming from 20-yard throws or longer. Adding Mahomes' arm to the mix could supercharge his upside.

Tight End

Chalk

Travis Kelce
It's Travis Kelce with the highest team total of the slate and no Tyreek Hill. This isn't rocket science. 

Kyle Pitts
There's a strong argument that the Falcons have the worst receiving room in the league, and Drake London, the team's only source of hope at the position, is dealing with a knee injury. Pitts is a strong bet to lead all tight ends in target share. However, he ranked outside of the top 10 tight ends in red zone target share last year. Atlanta has the second-lowest implied team total of the entire week. Pitts could get there on volume in DraftKings scoring, but I have a hard time seeing him return value in Fanduel's touchdown-centric format.

Pivots

David Njoku
There are plenty of good pivots at tight end because most of the popular plays will be expensive. If none of the costly tight ends break the slate, a roster construction featuring a punt tight end will be the optimal route. This is especially true on DraftKings, where the difference in price between the elite tight ends and the mediocre ones is wide.

The Browns gave Njoku a $55 million contract and don't have many great options at wide receiver. Njoku was 10th in yards per route run last year and will now be playing a full-time role. The offense isn't ideal, but that's more than baked into his $3,900 salary on DraftKings.

Mark Andrews
Of the elite tight ends, I see Andrews coming in as the least popular. There are volume concerns for his season-long outlook, but Baltimore may be forced to play more pass-heavy than expected to start the season. J.K. Dobbins is very questionable for Week 1 and Gus Edwards is on the PUP list. 

If they can't revert to their ground-heavy approach, Andrews' ceiling will remain intact, and his wide range of outcomes is exactly what we want for tournaments.