NFL DFS Deep Dive: Week 1

As the Backstreet Boys once so famously said, “Oh my God I’m back again!” Last year’s weekly deep dive column was a roaring success and this year we’re going for even more success! Each week I’ll deep dive past the higher price plays, down deep into the mediocre and murky depths of the price ranges to try and find you value plays that can return good points to salary ratios. These players are the keys to unlocking lineups. You can’t play the likes of Christian McCaffery or Travis Kelce without finding some cheaper players. 

I’ve been playing DFS for around six years now, and I’ve been pretty successful along the way with multiple four-figure wins. I won’t lie to you, I’m no high stakes player. I typically enter contests up to the $30 range. Generally, I play a lot of cash or double-up games and sprinkle in a decent amount of tournament plays. The players I’ll be finding for you can have relevance in all areas of contests though, and if I feel strongly about a player being more suited to cash than GPP, I’ll always say so. It matters to me that you know the type of player I am, and also that my results matter to me too. Each week I’ll start this column off with a quick review of what went right and what went wrong with the previous week’s picks. When you’re diving deep for value it can be a little tricky to define what’s a good play and what’s a bad play, but typically I class Great plays as those who score 3x their salary (i.e if Tee Higgins is $5200 and scores 15.6 DK points, that’s 3x). Good plays can be 2x their salary if the pricing is right. Bad plays, anything below that. As I said, there’s some murkiness to it and no exact science, but I’ll always explain my reasoning for picking a player and be here the next week when it’s not lived up to expectations.

My 2020 results looked like this;

Great plays: 109 (45%)

Good plays: 77 (31%)

Bad plays: 56 (24%)

I’ll be here every week putting out this deep dive, but you can also catch my Stack of The Week on my site, nflbestball.co.uk, along with my $100 bankroll challenge. I’ll be trying to turn $100 into much more throughout the season, and each week I’ll review my process and results. As always, you can also find me on Twitter, @bestballuknfl – where I’m happy to answer any questions.

Week 1!

So without any further ado, let’s get into Week 1. It’s important to note that the Week 1 slate is unlike any other slate we’ll experience this season. Prices have been set for weeks. Since they were set we’ve seen multiple top-end running backs get ruled out for the season (my sweet prince J.K Dobbins amongst them), and various other roster moves that mean there is what can be perceived as screaming value all over the place. Draftkings typically price down players for the start of the season as well. Hoping to make it more appealing for casual players who want to field a stacked lineup. You’ll see me reference defensive stats for 2020 and whilst defensive schemes and personnel can change, sometimes these stats can carry over and be worth considering for this new season.

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill Vs Arizona Cardinals $6500 under/over 52.0 

I expect a lot of ownership to head towards Kyler Murray for this game and I wouldn’t call that a bad play either, but at $1100 cheaper Tannehill looks like an attractive play. Last season Tannehill averaged 21.9 DK points per game, and in home games like this, that jumped to 23.5. The Cardinals boast an electric offence, but a poor defence, and particularly are looking shaky in the secondary. Malcolm Butler retired during training camp and with Patrick Peterson now a Minnesota Viking, many fans will struggle to name a Cardinals Cornerback. The game features an over/under of 52.0, which is the second-highest of the slate. There’s a perception that the Titans don’t throw the ball a lot, but Similar to the Ravens they’re very efficient at throwing touchdowns. Since Tannehill took over the starting job in Tennessee he’s thrown for 55 touchdowns, which is the third-most in the league across that spell. Expect plenty of points.

Jameis Winston Vs Green Bay Packers $5200 under/over 50.5

After a year spent predominantly on the sidelines of New Orleans, Famous Jameis is back in a starting role. For how long remains to be seen, but the last time Jameis was a starter in 2019 he put up a top-five fantasy season. The pass-catchers in New Orleans are in a poor state with Michael Thomas currently sidelined, but Winston will be behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, with one of the best offensive play-callers in the league. Green Bay is favoured by 4.5 points, and they’ve had an easier time of prepping for this game, with the Saints having to contend with changing plans and cities, due to Hurricane Ida. It’s very easy to see a scenario where Jameis has to do what he’s known for doing and go all out to try and keep the Saints in the game. I know some people worry about Taysom stealing some valuable plays from Winston, but Taysom trained to be a quarterback specifically this year. Slimming down and focusing on different muscle groups. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s less effective in those packages in 2021.

Sam Darnold Vs New York Jets $5000 under/over 45.0

Has any quarterback ever had a quicker opportunity at a revenge game? Sam Darnold gets to welcome the Jets into his new home in Carolina, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come out like a man on a mission. The Jets have made obvious improvements since the dull and uninspiring rule of Adam Gase, but they still lack experience in key areas and would surprise a lot of people if their defence wasn’t a bottom-five unit. Under Matt Rhule’s watch, Teddy Bridgewater ran a reasonable offence in 2020, but he failed to make an impact in fantasy. Darnold can’t claim to have been a fantasy stud either, but with D.J Moore, Robbie Anderson, Terrace Marshall and Christian McCaffery, there is no doubt that he’s surrounded by more skill than he’s ever been in his professional career. Since Darnold entered the league he’s only managed to throw for three or more touchdowns in two games, and the last one came in November 2019. This is a bet on a player discovering a new lease of life in a more talented and better-coached team. Tougher games are coming where Darnold won’t be in play and whilst Sam Darnold may not get you 30 points a week, 20 at this price may just be enough. 

Honourable mentions 

Teddy Bridgewater $4800, Mac Jones $4400, Jimmy Garoppolo $5500 and Trevor Lawrence $6200.

Running Backs

Mike Davis Vs Philadelphia Eagles $5400 under/over 47.5

Much of fantasy twitter has spent the last few months debating one way or another how secure Mike Davis’s role in Atlanta is. The arrival of Wayne Gallman has fuelled that debate even further, but with Gallman being signed less than a week ago, and beat reporters saying “The Falcon’s signed Gallman to help on special teams”, I’m fairly confident in Davis for the time being. When McCaffery got injured last year Davis did a fine job filling in for the Panthers. Outdoing most people’s reasonable expectations and leading the league in broken tackles and also missed tackles forced after the catch. There were times where he appeared to struggle with the workload and nagging injuries, but I’m expecting a fresh Mike Davis to enjoy a good game against an Eagles defence that allowed 21.8 DK points to the position per game in 2020. 

Chase Edmonds Vs Tennessee Titans $4600 under/over 52.0

Like a lot of backfields, the Cardinals enter this season with some question marks over theirs. James Conner certainly looks likely to take a decent amount of goal-line work away from Edmonds who has only ever had one career rush from inside the six-yard line, and he lost yardage on that play. The area where Edmonds excels is the passing game and in facing up to the Titans he’ll be matched up to a defence that allowed 6.3 targets per game to running backs last year and also gave up the joint third-most touchdowns through the air to running backs. I expect the Cardinals to want to see what they have with Chase getting featured and in a potential shootout game, this could play perfectly into his skillset.

Javonte Williams Vs New York Giants $4000 under/over 41.5

Vic Fangio said this week that rookie back Williams “has earned that trust and we’re not at all against playing him in any situation, in any time of the game” This feels like a riskier pick than some of the others, but the Broncos have done nothing but praise Williams this offseason with Teddy Bridgewater saying “he possesses some of those qualities you see in Alvin Kamara”. Ask anyone what Alvin Kamara does well and they’ll mention his pass-catching ability. Williams faces a New York Giants defence that gave up a whopping 124 targets to pass-catching backs in 2020, and ranked bottom three. In DFS it can often pay to be early on a player rather than late. I’m hoping that by week 2 everyone else is catching up to Williams’ usage. I would only be playing Williams in tournaments and only where I need the incredibly cheap price tag, it might make for a tough watch if Gordon gets a healthy amount of work. 

Honourable Mentions

Antonio Gibson $5900, Damien Harris $5200 and Tony Jones $4000

Wide Receivers

** PLAY OF THE WEEK **

Tee Higgins Vs Minnesota Vikings $4700 under/over 47.5

The value at wide receiver is almost too good on this slate and cracking the right selections will prove to make or break your lineups. It’s tempting to start down near the minimum salary players but the player that jumps out to me is Tee Higgins. With Ja’Maar Chase reuniting with former college quarterback, Joe Burrow, it’s gotten a little lost just how impressive Higgins was in his rookie season, before Burrow’s injury. Excluding week 1 where he only played 22% of snaps, Higgins averaged 16.51 DKPPG in eight games. Chase ($4800), has reportedly struggled in camp but might pick up ownership from those high on him as a prospect. The Vikings defence wasn’t great last year, allowing a completion percentage of 66.17%, which ranked bottom 12. They also Allowed 7.7 yards per passing attempt, which was 3rd worst in the league and the ninth most passing touchdowns per game, 1.9. With all that said, Mike Zimmer is a defensive-minded coach and I expect their defence to be better this year, but it’s either the ageing Patrick Peterson or non-intimidating Bashaud Breeland faced with matching up with Tee Higgins on the outside, and I like the odds.

Michael Pittman Vs Seattle Seahawks $4100 under/over 50.0

It’s been a bumpy off-season in Indy so far. Changing to a new quarterback always requires work and Wentz’s injuries and close calls with Covid have slowed things down a bit. As such, there isn’t much pop around a team that boasts some talented players. Aside from LT Eric Fisher, who is still injured, the Oline is returning four out of five starters, and when that unit clicks it can play as well as most in the league. Wentz, reunited with Frank Reich, tends to latch onto certain targets and with T.Y Hilton injured to start the season Pittman has a great chance to make himself the man. In eight of the last 10 games the Colts played in 2020, Pittman saw at least five targets. The Seahawks passing defence was a steaming hot mess in 2020, and it’s hard to see them improving dramatically. The team allocates just $12.3m salary to CB, whilst paying Jamal Adams big bucks at safety, but utilising his strength which is closer to the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks gave up a league-high 13.3 attempts at 10+ yards per game in 2020 and the only help they’ve gained in the secondary is a fourth-round cornerback, Tre Brown and Sidney Jones who the Jaguars parted with in exchange for a sixth-round pick. 

Marvin Jones @ Houston Texans $3600 under/over 44.5

This is one of my favourite picks of the week, and one of the first prices that jumped out to me. Jones may not be the best choice of the Jaguars receivers to lead you to a title, but early season I’m expecting good things. He has the most familiarity with new OC Darrell Bevell’s scheme, thanks to their time in Detroit together and the veteran should provide a solid presence for Lawrence to rely on early doors. D.J Chark has had an up and down off-season, with Urban Meyer saying he played small last season. That’s not a problem with Jones who knows how to use his body type to take advantage. It would be very surprising if any team is worse than this year’s Houston Texans and the Jaguars must be grateful they get to play them twice. Last year the Texans defence allowed the highest completion percentage to quarterbacks of any team in the league at an offensively nice 69.69%, along with the second-highest passer rating of 109.6.

Honourable mentions

Marquez Callaway $3400, Rondale Moore $3000 & Terrace Marshall $3000.

Tight Ends

Robert Tonyan @ New Orleans (actually in Jacksonville) $4200 under/over 50.5

As usual Tight End can be pretty murky and finding value here is as hard as any position in DFS. I flip back and forth between punting the position and grabbing the higher-priced players quite often, but like everywhere, there is value to be found. Like most Green Bay pass catchers Tonyan has experienced a quiet offseason in fantasy chatter. Until Rodgers confirmed his return to Green Bay many people quite fairly didn’t know how to approach this team. Tonyan came out of nowhere last year to become an apparent favourite of his quarterback and finish the season as the PPR TE4, putting up 11PPG. It will be tough for Tonyan to score on 21.1% of his targets like he did last year, but those who earn Rodgers trust tend to retain it. The Saints defence allowed the third-most targets to Tight Ends in 2020, with 129. They also allowed the joint fifth most TD’s to the position (9). If you’re looking for exposure to this game outside of Alvin Kamara and Davante Adams, you could do worse than look at Tonyan. 

Austin Hooper @ Kansas City $4000 under/over 53.0

The Chiefs vs Browns game claims the highest over/under of the slate, which isn’t uncommon for games featuring Patrick Mahomes. Any game featuring him has the potential to turn into a shootout and there’s optimism around the Browns passing game taking a leap in HC Kevin Stefanski’s second year. The Chiefs have a good pass offence but were vulnerable to the tight end position in 2020, allowing the 5th most yards (954), and joint fifth most TD’s to the position (9). It’s tough to project Hooper for many huge scores, but coming off his first proper training camp with the Browns, we could see him involved more and as mentioned previously, it’s tough finding value here. 

Donald Parham @ Washington $3100 under/over 44.5

Those of us who enjoyed the XFL know all too well what a talent Donald Parham is. In a league devoid of players who could play in the NFL, Parham stood out as someone who deserved an opportunity to show he could. In 2020 he only put up meagre numbers with 10-159-3TD. Since then Hunter Henry has departed and Jared Cook has been signed. Cook, whilst a good player, lacks the dynamism that Parham can offer and GM Tom Telesco said that he expected Cook to play more in-line, which requires more blocking work. Parham is 6ft8 and runs a 4.68. With all three of his 2020 touchdowns coming in the end zone, he seems to already have Herbert’s trust. At $3100 we don’t need a whole lot to go right, to be right. Washington’s pass rush looks scary this season, and hopefully, that gets Parham involved in more frequent quick-strike targets.

Honourable mentions 

Chris Herndon $3300 and Jonnu Smith $4100

Defence

I don’t often spend too much time focusing on defence when constructing my lineups. Typically I love to pay down as much as possible.

Atlanta Falcons Vs Philadelphia Eagles $2000

Jacksonville Jaguars Vs Houston Texans $2700

As always, you can find me on Twitter for any questions you have @BestBallUKNFL

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