In my NFL DFS approach, I always try to have a diligent process on a week-to-week basis that keeps me grounded and doesn’t allow me to get too high or low based on the previous week’s results. It starts with “Reflection” on the decisions and stands I made along with the process that led me to certain things and identifying blind spots that may have led to me missing opportunities. Next, I begin my “Preparation” for the following week by evaluating all the relevant factors and thinking about how the field will be approaching things and reacting. Finally, I begin my final phase heading into Sunday, which is “Playing the Game.” This phase is where I am building lineups, browsing ownership projections and other content to see what the popular views of the slate are for the industry/field, checking late week weather and injury news, and using my background and intuition to read tea leaves on certain situations.
The part of that process that I think most people skip and that is possibly the most critical is the “Preparation” phase. Many people will reflect on their previous week (although most will either overreact to results or blindly claim “trust the process” without truly evaluating themselves) and everyone will obviously “Play the Game” on some level (with some going much deeper than others) – but very few will take the time and energy to actually prepare themselves independently for what *they* believe about that particular slate. Instead, they will skip right from “Reflection” to “Playing the Game.” What I mean by this is they will be listening to content, reacting to news reports, and deciding who the “chalk” and “low owned” players are based on the same information and viewpoints that much of their competition will take. I have said often (as have others) that the best way to be contrarian is to think for yourself. The trouble is that most people never give themselves that opportunity.
That is a long set-up to explain what this article is all about. My off-season process involves a long period of “Preparation” that pretty much lasts from a couple weeks after the Super Bowl through a week or so after the NFL Draft. During this time I am actively following all of the NFL news (trades, signings, releases, draft moves, suspension and off-field news, etc.) but I am consciously avoiding content or things that provide “takes” on teams or situations. I do this so that I can build my own unique thoughts and approaches on what I think of teams and players heading into the season. Obviously I may come to a lot of conclusions that are popular or common based on the moves of teams, but the ones that I have a unique perspective on or have a particularly strong belief in help me leverage myself in season-long leagues and best ball tournaments, as well as giving me conviction to attack certain plays in DFS during the season. By establishing my takes and perspectives authentically, it allows me to truly think for myself (i.e. – be contrarian) during the 18-week sprint that is the NFL DFS regular season. In this article, I will share with you my “5 Strongest Takes” that came out of my “Preparation” phase of the off-season.
The Eagles had a strong defense last year, and their offensive line was once again one of the top units in the league. They have made several additions while limiting the losses in those areas, meaning the foundation of their team will be solid. Last year, Nick Sirianni tried throwing the ball a lot early in the season and the Eagles struggled to find much success. Later in the year, the Eagles shifted to one of the most run-heavy attacks in the league and were able to sneak into the playoffs. Enter AJ Brown. I don’t think a single non-QB player move in the NFL this off-season comes close to being as critical as this one. Adding AJ Brown to the Eagles offense doesn’t just add AJ Brown – it makes everyone else on the offense instantly better and more efficient. Devonta Smith is an immensely talented route runner with great hands, but struggled often against the size, physicality, and attention he drew as the top WR option on the team. Now, Smith will rarely, if ever, see the opponent’s top CB option and/or bracket coverage. Dallas Goedert was basically the only big bodied receiving option which made things predictable for times they would likely go to him, as well as forcing the Eagles to shift to such a run-heavy approach. Now, he will get isolation routes in the middle of the field and red zone against defenses that are stretched in a variety of ways.
The Eagles made some big moves this off-season, but one of the most critical things they did was the move they *didn’t* make – not bringing in a QB to challenge Jalen Hurts as the starting QB. This set the table for them to devote resources to making every aspect of their team strong: backfield, receiving corps, offensive line, front seven, and secondary. There really isn’t a spot where this team has a glaring need, and they have talent and depth all over the field. AJ Brown’s presence bumps everyone else into a role they can star in rather than a role they are struggling to fulfill. The Eagles schedule lines up very well, with half of their schedule coming against the NFC North and AFC South while the teams in their own division all have a lot of transition and/or turmoil surrounding them. I believe the Eagles are the clear best team in the NFC East and are one of the top three teams in the NFC, with a realistic shot at the Super Bowl. This is also Nick Sirianni’s second season with the team, giving them stability and consistency as they look to build off a promising year; one where Sirianni showed the ability to both adapt and play to his team’s strengths. With all of that being the case, I believe Jalen Hurts has the potential for a similar season to what Lamar Jackson did in his MVP year as he can put up such huge stats on the ground and ride a favorable schedule and elite supporting cast to solid passing numbers as well.
This one is pretty straightforward; I am a big believer in Brian Daboll. He is one of the sharpest offensive minds in the game and the stories his players talk about the relationships he has with them show that he is an assistant who should have success in his transition to the head coaching ranks. I think the Giants have a very realistic shot to be a .500 or better team this year due to their relatively modest schedule and the life I expect Daboll to inject into the team. If the Giants were to manage a 10-7 season, a realistic proposition, Daboll would be among the favorites to win NFL coach of the year.
Daniel Jones has a lot in common with Josh Allen, the QB who Daboll molded into one of the top players in the NFL, and I believe Daboll will put him in positions to succeed. Both QBs have big arms and are athletic and dangerous with their legs but have struggled with accuracy. Also, the analytics and Draft Twitter communities didn’t like where they went in the draft. One of the biggest differences between the two since entering the NFL is that Jones has been forced to play in boring, methodical offenses for old-school coaches while Allen had an offense built around him by Daboll. The Giants also did not heavily invest in QBs to threaten Jones’ starting job, and that stability/comfort often leads to improved performance.
At the very least, even if the Giants don’t have a huge spike in the win column they should be very entertaining and look completely different offensively than they did in the past. Jones has a terrific and underrated receiving corps with Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, 2nd round pick Wandale Robinson, and Darius Slayton – plus Sterling Shepard who should return from his achilles injury at some point. If Saquon can also resemble anything close to his old self, the Giants will be quite fun. I would expect something similar to how the Bills looked in Allen’s second NFL season, with a spread offense that throws a lot and uses his legs and athleticism to make plays.
This is a team that had everything go right for it last season and had a great schedule. This year, they have to face the loaded AFC West and the NFC East which has two teams (Dallas and Philadelphia) who look like contenders to win the conference. They also benefited last year from the Texans and Jaguars being completely awful and the Colts (ahem, Carson Wentz) handing them games. This year the Texans and Jags should be much more competitive and the Colts, with Matt Ryan under center, should be a much tougher out. The Titans also went 6-2 in one score games last season, something that is hard to duplicate. Add it all up and the Titans could be in store for some tough sledding this year.
Ryan Tannehill’s long-term situation is unknown and the Titans selected Malik Willis, an intriguing prospect who many thought could go in the first round, in the NFL draft. The Titans get the focal point of their offense back after Derrick Henry missed a good portion of last season, but their approach of leaning on a 28-year old, 250-pound running back who is coming off a foot injury as their offensive cornerstone is a highly fragile one. Their receiving corps has a lot of questions and Treylon Burks isn’t just going to step in and replace the presence of AJ Brown. Even the defense has been suspect at times and seems like their reliance on the offense to control the pace of games could be an issue if their offensive efficiency takes a hit.
I think this offense is going to struggle and combined with their difficult schedule, I believe this team could see the largest drop in wins from any team in the NFL this year. I really like Malik Willis in Best Ball formats as someone who could get a lot of starts down the stretch of the season and has an incredible ceiling due to his dual threat ability. He is a great 2nd QB option to pair with Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, or Aaron Rodgers (QBs who have late-season byes) with the thesis being that by the time the other QB has their bye week he will be starting. You could also use Willis as a third QB and pair him with a couple other later round QBs with late season byes, such as:
Now stay with me here, because this take is very counterintuitive. The Seahawks just shipped out their Hall-of-Fame QB, Russell Wilson, and have a coach near 70 years old who has been pounding the run game for years. The logical and easy thought would be that with a worse QB situation they are going to lean more heavily than ever on the run. That is likely the plan, but as Mike Tyson said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
My take on the Seahawks situation is that the loss of Russell Wilson and the success they had opening it up towards the end of last season (scoring 30+ points in four of their last six games) may help them see the light. Like someone who finally gets in shape after getting out of a long-term relationship, the Seahawks no longer have the safety blanket and comfort of Russell Wilson to bail them out of a sub-optimal offense and play calling approach. In either case, I think the Seahawks passing offense is likely severely undervalued this year, and despite a big hit to their efficiency, likely sees an increase in volume and counting stats. The Seahawks face a difficult schedule and will either continue pounding their running game that likely leads to big deficits and forcing them to abandon their plan; or they will see the light on their own and be more aggressive with tempo and passing on early downs because they can no longer rely on Wilson’s efficiency to bail them out of 3rd and long situations. I’m not sure how good or bad the Seahawks will actually be this year from a pure football standpoint, but for our purposes of fantasy football I am seeing a huge buying opportunity.
The ineptitude of Urban Meyer’s one year in Jacksonville can’t be understated. There are a LOT of players who were highly touted coming into the league and/or have shown their talent at various points in their careers. The energy around the franchise was so toxic that it is nearly impossible to take much away from the results when evaluating many of these young players. Trevor Lawrence was one of the best QB prospects we have ever seen entering the league. He struggled in Year 1, but are we really willing to write him off based on one Urban Meyer year? Imagine that last year just never happened and Lawrence was a rookie right now….where would we be taking him and his supporting cast in drafts? Likely far higher than the current market suggests. The logic here is really very basic. I don’t know how good the Jaguars will be, but I do know that last year was an outlier scenario of organizational dysfunction that is almost certainly being too heavily weighted by the market.