Week 1 Player Grid
This Player Grid will hold little value for you without first reading this.
READ THE SENTENCE DIRECTLY ABOVE!
Note: Players in a given tier are not listed in any particular order.
There are three quarterbacks I would feel very comfortable having on any cash or tourney roster. The cheapest you can get any of these guys is Deshaun Watson at 13.3% of the salary cap on FantasyDraft, but even then he’s not “cheap.” Typically, I prefer to pay down at quarterback; and when I pay up, I look to target someone with rushing upside. Watson is my main target here at the moment, but I could still end up with Brees on my main roster, simply because that pathetic Tampa defense introduces fewer question marks than “Watson on the road in his first game back from injury, against Bill Belichick.”
- Tom Brady :: I’m not concerned about the shuffling of weapons, or about the health of the Texans’ defense, as this still sets up as a very pass-heavy setup for the Pats, with no real between-the-tackles running back to lean on; the price tag is the biggest obstacle here, but all the value on the week makes it easy enough to justify this play
- Deshaun Watson :: The pluses are obvious; the only real drawback is the uncertainty surrounding “rust” and “matchup”; the Pats boosted QB production by at least 14.7% on all three sites last year; I’m setting my expectations for Watson at 22 points, but the upside is clearly there for more
- Drew Brees :: Tampa’s defense is #bad, and the Saints’ roster moves suggest they will be leaning pass-heavy this week; Brees can be played with Kamara for double-points on Kamara receiving TDs
The running back list is deeper than I can ever remember it being for Tier 1, which is great in tourneys. This creates an opportunity for some Game Theory thinking, allowing us to load up on a lower-owned guy (David Johnson and Carlos Hyde, for example) where other players in the same price range (Alvin Kamara // James Conner) are drawing all the attention.
- Alex Collins :: Collins is a huge home favorite with a locked-in workload, taking on one of the worst run defenses in the league. He has a great, workload-driven floor, and his ceiling is solid for the price.
- Leonard Fournette :: He has a chance to explode this year, with underrated usage and an elite set of skills. The Giants pose little threat, and Fournette will be involved in both the run game and the pass game.
- Alvin Kamara :: The Saints’ roster moves have signaled that they plan to ride Kamara this week and lean toward the pass, each of which drives Kamara’s floor and ceiling toward the top of the slate. He’s especially appetizing on FantasyDraft and DraftKings, with 100-yard bonuses and full-PPR scoring.
- David Johnson :: Who will touch the ball more, David Johnson or Alvin Kamara? Who has a better matchup, David Johnson or Alvin Kamara? Who is the more talented back? David Johnson or Alvin Kamara? The answer to all three of those questions is genuinely a tossup. But DJ will be far, far lower-owned.
- Carlos Hyde :: Who will touch the ball more, Carlos Hyde or James Conner? Who…okay, you get the point. Conner projects for around 20 to 22 touches, with three to five catches. Hyde projects for 18 to 20 touches, with three to five catches. Hyde is a better running back and has the better matchup, while ownership should swing heavily toward Conner.
- James Conner :: I broke down the James Conner “Must Play?” discussion here. I strongly recommend reading that if you want to get the most out of this week. (If you’re not a subscriber, that writeup is for subs only; but I created a way for you to access that page by setting up a temporary, free membership option to the site; for this week only, this will also get you access to the awesome Game Notes function on the NFL Edge.)
- Kareem Hunt :: Going severely, inexplicably overlooked in one of the best matchups on the slate. If the Chiefs are playing from behind, Hunt should eat through the air against a team that erases wide receivers.
- Melvin Gordon :: I prefer Hunt even before the ownership gap, but you know the deal with Gordon by now: he’ll be heavily involved and receive almost all of the goal line work. It’s going to be difficult for him to have a poor game, and his upside is awesome.
- Christian McCaffrey :: Only three teams in the NFL last year allowed more receptions to running backs than the Cowboys allowed, and only two teams allowed more receiving yards. CMC projects to take over most between-the-tackles work as well. His floor is tremendous. His ceiling is less projectable, but it is definitely there.
Wide receiver is much more thin this week than running back. This means that in cash games (and likely on my main roster in single-entry, small-field, and high-dollar tourneys as well), I will be allowing wide receiver to dictate my roster construction: making sure I have three of these guys before deciding which running backs I will play and/or am able to fit around them.
- Chris Hogan :: While I don’t expect him to become a Target God in these first four weeks of the season, he should average around 8.5 looks per game during this stretch. This makes him appropriately priced, and provides a strong floor in this offense. His red zone usage (eight targets inside the 10-yard-line last year — second on the team behind Gronk) gives him a strong ceiling for the price as well.
- Michael Thomas :: As detailed in the Saints/Bucs breakdown, this is one of the best matchups Michael Thomas could draw. The Saints appear set to lean on the pass this week, and Thomas should feast.
- Antonio Brown :: I don’t even worry about weather until Saturday afternoon, as people freak out too early in the week sometimes and discover by Sunday they were worrying for no reason. As such, this is subject to be updated on Saturday evening; but realistically (as explored in-depth in the Steelers/Browns writeup), the Browns force short-area throws, and those should not be heavily impacted by 20 MPH winds. A.B. currently projects as the top wideout on the slate. We’ll see if weather provides enough of a concern to bump him down by Saturday evening.
- Emmanuel Sanders :: Healthy; soaking up snaps in the slot; has a good rapport with Keenum; and the matchup against the Seahawks should actually be expected to boost production. Sanders costs only 10% to 10.5% of the salary cap on all three sites.
- Courtland Sutton :: This is the biggest surprise here, and you can feel free to ignore me on this one. But I’ll have Sutton on my core roster this week, over Keelan Cole and John Brown. Sutton projects for five to eight targets against Dontae Johnson, who will have no chance of hanging with him. I expect Sutton to quickly emerge as the #2 wide receiver on this team (and Emmanuel Sanders expects him to catch 10 touchdown passes this year and win Rookie of the Year). I will have Sutton in cash games and tourneys.
- Rob Gronkowski :: Edelman out. Sony Michel likely out. Phillip Dorsett as the Pats’ WR2. Gronk projects for seven to 13 targets, and it shouldn’t surprise us if he rises even higher than that. He has clear 20-point upside in this spot.
- Ryan Griffin :: I broke this down here, if you want to dig in more deeply; but with Stephen Anderson cut, and with the Pats focused on taking away DeAndre Hopkins, Griffin stands to see a floor of around five targets, with upside for seven or eight. He’s a good athlete, and the only reason we don’t think of him more often in DFS is because he’s rarely healthy. He’s healthy right now, and he’s practically free.
- Delanie Walker :: If you read the Titans/Dolphins breakdown in the NFL Edge, you know the Dolphins are tough on wide receivers. You also know they allowed the average tight end they faced last year to put up Pro Bowl caliber numbers over the course of the season. Delanie is off the injury report and should be heavily involved.
- Jack Doyle :: The more I have thought about this one, the less concerned I am that Doyle’s targets will be unpredictable this week. The Bengals are great against wide receivers, and the lack of RB depth on the Colts sets this up as a pass-heavy game. Doyle and Ebron (see Tier 3) are both strongly in play for their upside. But I also feel Doyle’s chances of posting a price-considered dud are extremely low. He’s firmly in play in cash as well as tourneys.
- Ravens :: No team is in a better spot in Week 1. You’ll have to pay up, but all the value available this week makes it easy enough to do so.
- Jaguars :: The Jags are the team likeliest to outscore the Ravens, if you are looking to pivot. Pat Shurmur will have Eli Manning focused on short, quick passes to eliminate sacks and turnovers, but it’s still the Jags.
- Alex Smith :: Too cheap on all three sites (maxing out at 11.5% of the salary cap, on FanDuel). With Patrick Peterson remaining on one side of the field this season, Smith can easily work away from him. He’s a solid way to save salary in cash games.
- Andy Dalton :: The line for this game has been moving favorably for Cincy, and we already discussed this game in the NFL Edge as a sneaky spot for offense on this side of the ball. It will feel strange to play Dalton in cash. But he absolutely works. We can’t bet on a blowup for him here, but he’s a safe option for the price.
- Saquon Barkley :: The workload and matchup actually keep him in play as a “floor” option, especially with his price considered. But the Jags’ skills at touchdown prevention will make it tougher for him to to reach his ceiling.
- Rex Burkhead :: More in play on DraftKings and FantasyDraft than on FanDuel (and you could bump him up to Tier 1 if you want). I’m expecting 12 to 15 touches, with at least five of those touches being catches.
- Danny Amendola :: No DeVante Parker. Amendola is currently healthy. And as we know, there is lots to like about his role. It feels dirty to roster Amendola. But his price is dirty as well.
- Charles Clay :: Upside is always iffy on Clay, but the Ravens’ weakest spot is the tight end, and there is really no one else for the Bills to feel good about throwing to. Clay should provide a high floor for his price.
- Blake Bortles :: Olivier Vernon is out this week, further weakening the Giants’ pass rush. Bortles should throw around 30 to 33 times, and he adds value with his legs. Underrated floor play, with upside.
- Ben Roethlisberger :: Ben has traditionally seen production spikes with Le’Veon Bell out. If the weather holds off, he’ll be overlooked as a strong tourney option.
- Russell Wilson :: Floor is a definite concern at Denver, but his legs and aggressive tendencies keep him in the tourney conversation for the week-winning upside he has in any matchup.
- Dalvin Cook :: Talent, Matchup, and Price look great. Opportunity is a question mark, as there are concerns the Vikings may ease him in (and may use Latavius Murray at the goal line). Worth a shot in tourneys if mass-multi-entering.
- Kenyan Drake :: If the Titans remain stout against the run and poor against pass-catching running backs, Drake could relegate Frank Gore to the sidelines. He has a lower floor than the Tier 1 backs, but the same price-considered ceiling.
- James White :: The Pats could seriously throw the ball 45+ times. If they do, White will see a large chunk of the action.
- Jeremy Hill :: Underrated play for how cheap he is. We literally have no idea what the Pats will do with their backfield. Would it shock you if Hill got 15 carries and all the goal line work? Worth a shot with a small, small percentage of bankroll.
- Stefon Diggs :: Slow pace. Low volume. Playing with a lead. Those are the concerns. But the matchup is ripe and Diggs is healthy. I say constantly that the reason to take risks is if you are taking on week-winning upside. Diggs has week-winning upside.
- Will Fuller :: Week-winning upside? Check.
- A.J. Green :: Targets are not as locked-in as we would like for his price, which knocks him out of Tier 1. But: OMG, this matchup…
- Tyrell Williams :: If you’re wondering why I won’t be on Keenan Allen this week, it’s simple: I believe Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green are all better plays than him. But as we discussed in the NFL Edge, Tyrell Williams sets up well in this spot and is worth a tourney shot if you’re taking on some risk in a few spots this week in order to capture some low-owned upside.
- Eric Ebron :: I expect the Colts to run “12” personnel a good 60% to 70% of the time. Ebron should see the field plenty, in a matchup vs a team that is strong vs wide receivers and weak vs tight ends. He has smash potential if you can stomach the floor.
- Ricky Seals-Jones :: So much we don’t know here. But we do know RSJ played most of the first-team snaps in preseason and is a great receiver. We also know the Cardinals are thin on receiving options.
- Jordan Reed :: I like all the Tier 1 guys more than Reed (with price taken into consideration), but it would be easy to make an argument for Reed belonging in Tier 1 on your list. He’s just not there on mine.
- Vikings :: Stud defense, at home.
- Saints :: Stud defense, at home, playing a backup QB.
- Bengals :: Ferocious pass rush and introducing a more aggressive DC in Teryl Austin, vs a rusty Andrew Luck. The Bengals have week-winning upside if things go their way.
- Chargers :: The absence of Joey Bosa knocks this team down a peg, but Mahomes is a gunslinger with turnover tendencies, and the Chargers’ defense is stacked. This is a strong option for differentiating in tourneys.
- Cowboys :: The Cowboys have strong pass-rush pieces. The Panthers have a poor offensive line. Cam Newton will try to attack deep, where the Cowboys’ defense is designed to make life difficult. It’s a long-shot, but it’s a great way to save salary and grab upside in tourneys if you want to go off the board.
- Panthers :: Dak Prescott has no elite weapons, and his line is banged up. He’s traditionally great at avoiding mistakes, but the Panthers have an outside shot at posting a surprisingly strong score.
Hopefully this gives you a great opportunity to compare your thoughts against my own.
I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend; and I’ll see you on the site next Thursday morning for the Week 2 edition of the NFL Edge!