Early Look at Week 1
It’s late July (as I write this, at least), but why not take a look at the recently-posted Draftkings week 1 salaries? This is almost completely meaningless, to be clear. So much will change as we finish up camp and go through preseason, but it’s been months without football and now it’s finally almost here, so let’s see what looks interesting!
First note: week 1 always ends up being chock-full of value due to roles changing and injuries before the season starts. That can make Week 1 one of the harder weeks out there because there is usually SO much value that it can be tricky to sort out what value is good and what isn’t. I don’t think we’re in a place to really know that yet, but maybe we can start to get some inklings.
Second note: Week 1 is a week in which we know VERY little about player roles and team identities (the only week in which we know less is Week 2, because we tend to overreact to what we saw in Week 1). My general Week 1 strategy is “play it safe in cash games by avoiding uncertain situations, embrace uncertainty in GPPs by going more off the board than normal.” That approach has generally served me well over the years. There are always guys who seem to come out of nowhere in Week 1 with much larger roles than anyone saw coming. Be willing to play for those outcomes in large-field tourneys.
The first place I always stop is team totals, where I look for games with totals over 50 and, preferably, a reasonably close spread. As of right now, there are five games on the main slate with totals of 50 or higher:
- Pittsburgh at Buffalo (with Buffalo a 6.5 point favorite)
- Arizona at Tennessee (Titans favored by 3.5)
- Seattle at Indianapolis (with a surprising 52 point total and Indy favored by 2.5, which feels odd to me with their QB situation, but Frank Reich always gets the most out of his teams)
- Cleveland at Kansas City (highest total on the slate with the Chiefs favored by 6)
- Green Bay at New Orleans (Saints by 2.5)
Now, there are some attractive games (and pricing) outside of these, but this is a decent starting point for where to look. Some quick thoughts on all 10 of these teams:
- The Steelers all look fairly priced to slightly overpriced (based on where they landed last season); on the road against the Bills doesn’t feel like a great spot to attack, to me.
- The Bills, outside of Allen and Diggs, are all under $5k. I don’t generally play running backs against the Steelers, and I don’t generally play Bills running backs at all, but I’d think one of the Buffalo secondary receivers has a decent shot at a solid game here. Noted anti-vax hip-hop artist Cole Beasley is $4,400 and everyone else is cheaper than that; not a bad deal.
- Arizona’s in a similar boat with Kyler and Hopkins priced at a premium but everyone else cheap. Chase Edmonds at $4,600 looks like a really tempting play if we believe (or get news) that he’s the real lead back, while similarly to Buffalo, all the non-alpha receivers are $4,500 or less. If Rondale Moore steps into a real role right off the bat, he’s just $3k.
- The Titans, as much as I loved using them last year, all look fairly priced here and will probably only find their way onto my rosters in a game stack situation.
- Seattle looks fairly priced for their primary guys, but every wide receiver outsider of Metcalf and Lockett is the stone minimum $3k, so you could throw a dart here (just keep in mind the WR3 role in Seattle has rarely produced tournament-winning scores). This is a game I’m interested in stacking, though, because….
- On the Indy side, with Carson Wentz out, starting QB Jacob Eason is just $4,100. His odds of being the highest scoring QB are minimal (he wasn’t a rusher in college at all), but you can make some interesting game stacks here as every Colt except Jonathan Taylor is wildly cheap. This is a high total game with Indy favored, and if that comes to pass, there are good ways to stack both sides of it. Note, though, that a $4,100 Eason could be an example of “bad value” – he could score 20 points and deliver an almost 5x salary performance, but if one of the top QBs has a monster day for 35 points, you’re still behind. Also note that Parris Campbell is back and healthy; Campbell was expected to have a big season last year and caught 6 of 9 balls in week 1 before getting hurt early in week 2. If he’s a starter, at $3,700 in a high total game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big game here.
- Cleveland is a team I have a really hard time ever playing, but they actually had some big offensive games down the stretch last year, with three games of 40+ points scored from Week 13 onwards. I’m not sure I’m confident going here with them on the road in Arrowhead, but betting on an Odell Beckham resurgence at $5,400 seems fairly non-crazy.
- On the Chiefs’ side, Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce are all priced at an absolute premium, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire is cheap for a running back in such a great offensive environment, and Mecole Hardman at $4,800 feels like a bargain (who will probably also be quite popular now that Sammy Watkins is out of town). In large-field GPPs it makes sense to also consider whoever the Chiefs’ WR3 ends up being (please don’t be DeMarcus Robinson again) at, presumably, much lower ownership than Hardman.
- Green Bay, following a similar theme, sees its main stud at $8,300, but everyone else is cheap. Heck, Aaron Jones at $6,800 feels like a huge bargain (he was over $7k every week but four last year), and you can get any of Lazard, Cobb, or Valdes-Scantling for $4k or less.
- New Orleans is hard to even think about until we know who the QB will be. Taysom Hill at $5,200 will likely be incredibly popular if he’s the starter (18.52 to 25.22 DK points in his 4 starts last year), but it’s hard to stack him with anyone – given how the Saints rotate their receivers and Taysom’s tendencies to just run, playing him naked might be the play. If Winston starts, that opens up a lot more interest in guys like Tre’quan Smith, Marquise Callaway, Deonte Harris, and Adam Trautman. Kamara at $8,600 feels overpriced given his likeliest range of touches and being without Drew Brees.
After those 5 games, we can start sniffing around value-town. There are a few spots that jumped off the board to me at first glance:
- A lot of rookies are incredibly cheap. Travis Etienne at $4,900, Michael Carter at $4,000, Trey Sermon at $4,500, Ja’marr Chase at $4,800, Devonta Smith at $4,500, Kyle Pitts at $4,400. At first glance I would guess Pitts is very popular, with the rest of these guys’ ownership depending on what news we get out of preseason about their roles. It would surprise me, though, if we didn’t see at least one of these highly-talented and inexpensive rookies put up a tournament-worthy score.
- The Bengals stand out to me as a cheap overall offense. Burrow at $5,700, Mixon at $6,200 in a voluminous role, Boyd/Chase/Higgins between $4,700 and $5,200…remember that Burrow was on pace to lead the NFL in pass attempts before he got hurt last year. This game isn’t a 50+ point total but it’s solid at 48. Last year I frequently utilized the “every roster must have at least 1 Viking rule” – well, the core Vikings skill players are awfully expensive on this slate, but bringing one back with a Bengals stack sure makes the salaries look a lot more workable.
- In the “it’s so crazy it just might work” category I’ll put the Carolina offense. They look pretty fairly priced, but picking on the Jets has been a tournament-winning strategy for years now. Sam Darnold is finally out from under Adam Gase, so could he elevate his game as so many other post-Gase players have? Could he be especially motivated in this one? I don’t know…but I’m always tempted to build some stacks of whatever team is playing the Jets.
Those are some initial thoughts. They will probably be mostly, if not entirely, useless by the time week 1 actually gets here. But it was sure fun to actually look at a slate!
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