Welcome to the first installment of my “Player Grid.” The format will vary slightly from JM’s Player Grid, as we each see things slightly differently and play in slightly different contests, but should complement his thoughts and content very well for those looking to build their lineups for the week. The format of this article will likely evolve as the season progresses, but should provide a lot of value. Enjoy!!
This is a list of players that stand out to me at each position from using my “Checking the Boxes” criteria outlined in my Checking The Boxes course. This list is a starting point, from which I build out lineups using game theory and roster construction concepts (which we will also touch on) with the mindset being to find the best plays with big ceilings. Low ownership is a bonus, but not a must. This section will focus primarily on three positions – running back, tight end, and defense – as the other two positions (quarterback and wide receiver) tend to have more dependent tendencies which I try to attack from other angles (which we will get into in the other sections). I like all of these plays on all sites, unless otherwise noted:
No need to complicate things. The best in the game when he’s healthy. Should have the best QB play of his career and only one other consistent option among Panthers skill players to compete with.
Kamara’s ADP in drafts this season was depressed due to ongoing concerns over a potential suspension, but his role is deserving of a price near the top at the position when looking at things on a weekly basis. This week, he has a great matchup against a bad team that was near the bottom of the league against running backs in 2021 and hasn’t done much to change that outlook in the offseason.
The Chargers have tried all offseason to find a complement to Ekeler, but appear to still be searching. This is a great matchup and game environment, with Ekeler likely to see several targets and all of the high value red zone work out of the backfield. Going overlooked among the high priced RBs, Ekeler is a GPP dream this week.
Similar to Kamara, Conner’s ADP is lower than what his weekly outlook would warrant. Most people rightfully question Conner’s durability for the course of a season. However, Week 1 is the healthiest you can expect any NFL player to be and Conner is likely to see 20+ touches in the game with the highest projected game total of the week. The Cardinals are hurting at the skill positions with DeAndre Hopkins suspended and Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz both looking very iffy to play. The Chiefs are best attacked on the ground and in the middle of the field, making Conner’s role even more likely to be a key and increasing the chances he is used heavily as a receiver. After paying Kyler Murray a massive contract extension this offseason, it would make sense to keep feeding Conner the goal line touches as well. This is a “solid floor, massive upside” play at very low ownership.
Not a ton to say here. Kelce is a monster and the top option for Patrick Mahomes. In three playoff games last season, Kelce averaged eight receptions, 100 yards, and one touchdown – good for 26 DK points per game. He’s still got it, Tyreek Hill is now gone, don’t overthink it – worth every penny.
I have been high on Goedert since he came into the league and that belief went to another level once the Eagles acquired AJ Brown this offseason. Goedert’s price is significantly below the top tier tight ends, but I believe Brown’s presence opens up the Eagles offense and will give Goedert more room to operate and better matchups. I view Goedert as a top-5 tight end for the season and he’s currently priced in the middle of the pack; I want to be in on him early before price and public sentiment catches up. I will be somewhat surprised if he doesn’t score a touchdown this week.
Call this the “Joe Flacco play.” The Ravens defense was decimated last season and repeatedly was burned down the final stretch of the year. However, they are now healthy and with their defensive mentality are sure to be ready to put last season to rest. Now they get a matchup against Joe Flacco, who John Harbaugh knows very well from his time as the Ravens QB. Flacco threw a pick six against the Giants backup defense in the preseason and is susceptible to those back breaking plays at this point in his career, especially when forced to throw. I was legitimately shocked when I saw projected ownership so low for Baltimore this week, especially considering how soft pricing is and how easy it is to get up to them if you want to.
Let’s remember that for as awful as last year’s Jaguars season was, their defense was actually pretty solid. This is the team who contributed to many people saying the league had “figured out” the Bills (who just smashed the world champions) when they held them to six points and made Josh Allen look very bad. Washington’s defense is projected to be the highest owned defense on the slate. A chance to leverage the field’s certainty at the most uncertain position, while betting against Carson Wentz, and getting salary relief – that’s basically the nuts in a GPP. Sign me up.
Read my NFL Edge writeup for the full breakdown, but to summarize – Patrick Mahomes is in a prime setup and has the chance to show the world he didn’t need Tyreek Hill to be great.
Both Vikings wide receivers, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, are projected to have a decent amount of ownership but Kirk Cousins is looking like he will go overlooked. This offense should look similar to the Rams offense from last season and Cousins is underpriced relative to what Matthew Stafford was able to do in that setup last year. Cousins and Thielen’s prices are both very low, making a Cousins double stack very possible and you could use either GB running back or one of their cheap receiving options as a correlation piece to build on the “story” of the Vikings having a big offensive game through the air. Green Bay’s defense is very strong, but these teams have had several shootouts over the years and the Minnesota offense can be so condensed in these high leverage games that this stack has huge potential.
Stay with me here. We really don’t know that much about how the Steelers or Mitchell Trubisky will play this season. This was an offense that was limited by Ben Roethlisberger and tailored around his preferences and lack of arm strength in the past. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada now gets to put his own stamp on things and open things up. There has been a lot of talk in the industry about Brian Daboll’s effect on the Giants and potentially resurrecting Daniel Jones’ career, but Trubisky could fall in the same bucket. After struggling with decision making, accuracy, and turnovers (like Jones), Trubisky spent last season with the Bills under Daboll and reportedly made a lot of strides. He looked very good this preseason and outplayed first round pick Kenny Pickett, who also played well. We know Trubisky has the tools to put up big fantasy numbers as he did from time to time in Chicago and we know he is facing one of the more explosive offenses in the league. We also know the Steelers have a very bad offensive line and if they are going to keep up it is unlikely to come from pounding the running game. Pittsburgh’s receivers are extremely talented and this play actually gets even more interesting for me if Diontae Johnson plays, but is limited, and we can use Trubisky with one or two of George Pickens, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth. You have plenty of options for “bring backs” from Cincinnati, with my lean going to Ja’Marr Chase due to the salary that a Pittsburgh stack opens up and the game breaking ability Chase has that could be what “springs” this game (while Tee Higgins is just coming back from shoulder surgery). I’d probably prefer to use this stack with just one Steelers pass catcher, as a big Trubisky game would likely involve him having around 40 yards and a score on the ground, and even in this game script the Steelers will struggle to score more than 3 touchdowns.
Christian McCaffrey (CMC) appears likely to be the highest owned running back on the slate, and for good reason. When healthy, his skillset and fantasy ceiling are unmatched and his Week 1 price is probably about $1k below what he deserves. A common thought among DFS players is to not play running backs from opposing teams in the same game, something that often holds true but there are exceptions to every rule. In my NFL Edge writeup for this game, I dug into the likelihood of this game being controlled by the Browns through their running game and short area passing. Using these two players together will be very unique as Chubb is projecting to have single digit ownership and those who use him are unlikely to do so with CMC. While CMC is not game script dependent, a scenario where Chubb is breaking big runs to build a Cleveland lead would undoubtedly lead to a plethora of CMC targets and the Panthers pushing the issue and needing to score more points later in the game.
JT and Pittman will both carry ownership, but the ratio of rosters that will have both will be relatively low. Among those that do have both, most will also play Matt Ryan for the full team stack and the Texans player they bring it back with is likely to be Dameon Pierce or Brandin Cooks. I love this trio as it gives you access to an outcome of the Colts moving the ball and scoring (which is likely) while still allowing you to access a QB with a nuclear ceiling and having a unique correlation from the other side. Nico Collins is a talented, athletic player with a big role. If the Colts offense is supporting both JT and Pittman, the Texans should be forced to throw the ball often especially later in the game and it would not be surprising to see Collins close the gap on Cooks significantly this season – something I want to get out ahead of.
In my “Core” section, I touched on James Conner’s setup for this week. The entire Chiefs passing attack is in a good spot and should get a lot of attention this week. As outlined in my NFL Edge writeup, the Cardinals are a blitz heavy team and Patrick Mahomes historically thrives against the blitz. I like the idea of playing multiple Chiefs pass catchers without Mahomes and “bringing it back” with Conner. Almost everyone who plays multiple WR/TE from the same team also uses their quarterback (and I love full Chiefs stacks as well), but at Mahomes’ salary he could throw for 350 and 4 TDs (33 DK points, 30 FD points) but not be someone you “had to have” and a cheaper quarterback could easily end up nearing those point totals while giving you a unique combination and extra salary to raise your ceiling at other positions. Choose two of Travis Kelce, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and bank on Kelce’s dominance, Juju’s new role, and the big play ability of MVS in single coverage. Again, using Mahomes with them is a great play as well, but removing him and using this player block opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your rosters.
Leaning into that play, if the Ravens are smashing the Jets and creating turnovers and possibly scoring TD’s, then the Jets are going to be forced to the air. Enter, Elijah Moore. During Flacco’s appearances last season, Moore saw his best stretch of his rookie season and had a massive target share from Flacco. In the scenario where the Ravens defense is smashing, 10+ targets for Moore is well within the range of outcomes.
I wrote an entire “Fanduel Edge” course you can find in our DFS Education Marketplace that focuses on strategies and concepts to be used specifically for Fanduel. As noted earlier, all players and plays in my Player Grid are viable on all platforms, but every week I will highlight a few players that I specifically like on Fanduel but may not be looking to use on Draftkings.
Dillon may be the second best non-QB among the Packers offensive skill position players, behind Aaron Jones. The Packers (and most importantly, Aaron Rodgers himself) have spoken to the need to get both running backs on the field and build their offense around them. This should result in Dillon seeing a workload equal to or greater than many featured backs for other teams. Dillon’s role is more suited to Fanduel pricing and he has a good matchup this week with multi-touchdown upside. His price is very affordable and gives you access to a potentially high scoring game at relatively low cost while much of the field will focus on high priced RB’s or those who project for a higher percentage of their team’s backfield touches.
Williams had six touchdowns in his first five games last season, and two in his final two games. In the middle of the season the Chargers had a bit of a dry spell and Williams battled injuries. Now healthy, with a solid matchup in a high scoring game, Williams has a ceiling FAR above his price and those who are priced around him.
Waller missed most of training camp with an “injury,” which was really just him trying to leverage his way to a new contract. He’s now playing in a projected high scoring game where Davante Adams should draw a lot of attention from the Chargers as well as DFS players. Chargers cornerback JC Jackson will likely be ruled out and they will need to divert scheme and coverage attention to Adams to try to contain him. The ripple effect of this should be more favorable matchups for Waller to exploit rather than past seasons where he was the focus of the opposing defense – especially in the red zone where he struggled last season. His price is probably higher than it should be on Fanduel, but salary isn’t a huge concern this week and this should result in minuscule ownership for him.
Let’s crash the leaderboards this weekend!