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DFS Week 1: Top lineup picks and stacks

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By TJ Hernandez, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Whether you are playing in the biggest tournament of the week on Yahoo or prefer to play in smaller GPPs, there are some general positional strategies that you can implement in any size tournament. These concepts include stacking, finding pivots off of popular players, and targeting players who won’t be on many rosters.

While it’s important to implement these into your lineup-building approach, the foundation of any tournament lineup is a solid core; usually, players whom you would use in cash games.

Stacks to Target

QB Baker Mayfield, Browns ($26)

WR Odell Beckham Jr., Browns ($20)

WR Jarvis Landry, Browns ($14)

WR Tyreek Hill, Chiefs ($34)

The Chiefs project to be the most popular passing game of the week in tournaments. This stack plays on the high correlation between opposing passing games while also saving salary on opposing players who should have relatively low rostered rates. Bringing it back with a popular Chiefs player offers upside on both sides of the ball in the game with the highest over/under of the week — Cleveland is one of two underdogs on the main slate with an implied point total over 24. The other — the Arizona Cardinals — figure to be one of the more popular offenses on the slate as well.

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Some might argue that the Browns run too much for a double stack but from Weeks 13-17 of last season, they ranked seventh in neutral passing rate with Baker Mayfield ranking in the top 10 in adjusted yards per attempt in that span. With Odell Beckham Jr. back to presumably 100-percent health, Cleveland should start the season by opening things up against the Chiefs’ fantastic offense.

Two prominent trends in the 4for4 DFS Correlation Tool support players in this stack. Last season, Baker Mayfield’s fantasy points had a 0.55 correlation with opposing quarterbacks — the league average for opposing quarterbacks is about 0.22. Meanwhile, Tyreek Hill’s correlation with Mahomes is 0.50, the highest on the Chiefs. In other words, both of these players have massive upside in a shootout where Mahomes goes off, but you reap the benefits of not having to roster the most popular quarterback of the week.

QB Kyler Murray, Cardinals ($34)

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals ($31)

RB Derrick Henry, Titans ($34)

Playing on the idea of a traditional QB/WR stack with a run-back option from the other team, this stack is unique by rostering the opposing running back instead. In addition to an unpopular positional stack, rostering Henry offers leverage opportunities galore. Both the Cardinals and Titans passing games project to be top-seven in cumulative rostered rate, according to 4for4, with Tennessee projected to be more popular than any passing offense besides Kansas City.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) and quarterback Kyler Murray
A stack with the Cardinals duo in it is a great way to attack a big DFS tournament. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Additionally, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are expected to be the most popular running backs of the week by a significant margin. Henry will still be relatively popular but should bring the overall rostered rate of a lineup down enough to allow it to climb to the top of leaderboards. While the leverage that Henry provides is enough reason to play him in GPPs, it’s a bonus that the Titans running back has a relatively strong 0.30 correlation with opposing passers when the over/under reaches 48.

DEF Panthers ($16)

RB Christian McCaffrey ($39)

Quarterback stacks are the foundation of building upside into tournament lineups, but one trend that shows up repeatedly among Baller winners is the use of a secondary stack or a two-player correlation in addition to the passing-game stack already in the lineup. One of the most popular secondary stacks to show up in winning lineups is running back-defense, especially when an unpopular defense is offsetting a popular running back or vice versa.

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Christian McCaffrey is expected to be the most popular player on the slate this week but with so many quality defenses with a salary below $15, it’s unlikely that many lineups will have Carolina’s defense, despite the team being favored by 4. Zach Wilson is making his NFL debut behind a questionable offensive line and the Panthers could find themselves in a game script that favors their defense if CMC and company get it going early.

Contrarian Plays to Target

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($18)

As mentioned with the Browns stack, the Chiefs should have the highest rostered rate of any passing game in Week 1. While targeting the opposing passing attack is a fine strategy, lineups that don’t include either passing game could gain huge leverage on the field if they roster the running backs in this contest. With the Browns backfield likely splitting time, Edwards-Helaire is easier to project on the side of the big favorites. When active last season, CEH averaged 65% of backfield touches — even a slight uptick would put him among the elite workhorses in arguably the best offense in football.

WR Brandin Cooks, Texans ($18)

No one is expecting much on either side of the ball from the Texans this season and that will leave them with suppressed rostered percentages nearly every week. As dire as things seem in Houston, Tyrod Taylor has been serviceable when called upon and Brandin Cooks is easily the best talent on the Texans’ offense. Houston, however, could easily find themselves in a pass-heavy game script, which should bode well for Cooks’s fantasy prospects. With James Robinson likely a popular value running back this week, Cooks could add correlation to lineups that roster the Jaguars back.

TE Hayden Hurst, Falcons ($13)

This might be the most contrarian option of the entire season, but Week 1 — when we have the least amount of information — is arguably the best time to go completely off the rails. The assumption is that Kyle Pitts is immediately going to step in and inherit the number two receiving role in Atlanta but rookie tight ends traditionally start slow — even if you categorize Pitts as a wide receiver, it’s more likely that they take a few weeks, if not months, to get up to speed as well.

New head coach Arthur Smith ran two-tight end sets at the third-highest rate in Tennessee last season and has the personnel in Atlanta to use a similar offensive philosophy. In a potential shootout with multiple players likely drawing significant rostered rates, Hurst could be the ultimate slate-breaker at a sub-1% rostered percentage.

Cash Game Strategy

The backbone of my cash game approach is 4for4’s proprietary value metric, which goes beyond simple point-per-dollar projections. That value calculation extends to a player’s odds of hitting cash game value based on their implied volatility according to their floor, median, and ceiling projections.

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Early in the season, paying up for the few knowns in cash games is worth it, even if it seemingly sacrifices floor at the other positions. Yahoo’s scoring system favors high-volume running backs and that’s emphasized even more in Week 1 when so much playing time is still in question.

Other than prioritizing high-end backs, locking in a mobile passer in high-scoring conditions is a virtual must.

QB: Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray

RB: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, James Robinson, Mike Davis

WR: Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, Marquez Callaway, Elijah Moore, Robby Anderson, A.J. Brown, Rondale Moore, Terrace Marshall

TE: George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Tyler Conklin

DEF: 49ers, Vikings, Jaguars, Broncos

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

TJ is a former full-time poker player who has been playing fantasy football for more than a decade. After online poker was outlawed, TJ ended his poker career and dedicated himself to fantasy football. His background in poker statistics and analytics translates to success in both daily and season-long fantasy football.

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