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Creating Your FanDuel Core – Week 1

Michael Dubner highlights the players he’s considering for his core FanDuel lineup in Week 1.

Football is back, FanDuel is back, which means we have the opportunity to make some money. Week 1 is always a wild slate:

  • Pricing comes out in early August. This can lead to value for (a) players with more defined roles by the time the season starts and (b) preseason injuries vaulting backups into starter snaps.
  • FanDuel removed the kicker and added a flex. I think change helps the more informed DFSers because it forces the public to consider (and mess up) a different roster spot.
  • There’s the greatest uncertainty heading into Week 1, especially for teams that made dramatic personnel and coaching changes. We can use this uncertainty to our advantage by being more informed than our opponents.

I usually have the vast majority of my money (80 percent) on one lineup, as I’m primarily a cash game and single-entry tournament player. I think playing one team forces me to make the optimal lineup rather than hedging with multiple lineups. Below are the primary players I’m considering for my core lineup on FanDuel in Week 1.

Path of Least Resistance:

Alex Collins ($6,700) as a Heavy Home Favorite

Collins enters Week 1 with a dream matchup as the Ravens are seven-point home favorites versus the Bills. Despite having a winning record last season (9-7), opposing teams identified the Bills’ run defense deficiencies, as they faced the seventh most rushing attempts per game (29) and allowed the fourth most rushing yards per game (124.6) on 4.3 yards per carry (25th). They allowed opposing RBs to rack up fantasy points in bulk by letting them fall into the end zone 22 times (32nd). I expect the Ravens to have a run-heavy approach.

While Collins will lose passing downs to Javorius Allen, we want to roster Collins in positive game scripts where he’ll have clock-killing volume. With Nathan Peterman as the opposing QB, the Ravens will get plenty of short fields, allowing them to get into scoring position. This makes Collins a good bet to score, with multiple TDs in his range of outcomes. Considering Collins should find his way to 20 touches in this game, he’s too cheap for his projected usage.

Michael Thomas ($8,500) Against the Buccaneers’ Secondary

In 2017, Thomas saw double-digit targets in nine-of-18 games and fewer than eight targets just twice. With Mark Ingram suspended, the Buccaneers quietly being decent up front, and the secondary being atrocious, the Saints’ game plan should be pass-centric. In 2017, Tampa Bay allowed the most FanDuel points to WRs per game, including the most receptions, the most receiving yards, and the sixth most receiving touchdowns to the position. Thomas’ talent and matchup make him one of the highest floor/ceiling combinations on the slate.

Antonio Brown ($9,000) Against the Browns

Brown is obviously a matchup independent play who has week-winning upside in any given week, and he’s historically smashed Cleveland, including recent performances of 23.7, 11.6, 31.2, 30.9, 15.3, and 20.1 FanDuel points. With Le’Veon Bell continuing to hold out, the RotoViz Game Splits App shows us that Brown is even more of a monster when Bell has been out of the lineup.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 8.14.00 PM

Brown is rightfully the highest priced WR on the slate, and with all of the value on the FanDuel Week 1 slate, I’ll make a strong effort to pay up for Brown.

The one cautionary note is to monitor the weather for winds reaching 15+ mph.

Andy Dalton ($6,800) Against the Colts

While the Bengals are road underdogs, I do like to see that the total was bet up to 48.5 after opening at 47, and it can’t hurt that the game is in a dome. After running the fewest plays in the league last year, the Bengals improved their offensive line, get back a healthy Tyler Eifert and John Ross, and Joe Mixon enters Year 2, so the team should have a better offense that runs more total plays. The Colts’ secondary was burnable last year, allowing the most 20-plus yard passes and the fifth most passing yards per game (263.8). While Cincinnati had a bad offensive line last year, they still ranked 20th in Adjusted Sack Rate (and made improvements this year), while the Colts’ defensive line ranked 31st in Adjusted Sack Rate. Dalton provides salary relief and should reach value.

Delanie Walker ($6,100) Against the Dolphins

Walker enters Week 1 without much buzz, probably because he’s missed practice due to a toe injury. However, Walker is expected to play and gets a juicy matchup against the Dolphins. Miami surrendered the second most fantasy points to tight ends last year, ranking bottom-five in receptions, yards, and touchdowns per game to the position. Walker has ranked top-six in targets in each of the past four seasons, and has cleared 800 yards receiving in each of those seasons. The Titans’ passing offense is expected to have positive touchdown regression, and Miami is vulnerable to TEs. I think Jordan Reed will be highly owned, but I would rather spend the extra $300 and get up to Walker if I can’t afford Rob Gronkowski.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,600) Against the Giants

If you want to punt TE and just hope for a TD, the Giants annually bleed fantasy points to TEs. In 2017, the Giants allowed 14 FanDuel points to TEs per game (32nd), including 0.87 receiving TDs per game (32nd) – 0.2 more per game than the 31st ranked Browns! While Seferian-Jenkins doesn’t project to be a yardage asset, he’ll have a red-zone role, which is where TEs clean up against the Giants. Seferian-Jenkins is a salary saver in a mouthwatering matchup with a chance to gain leverage on the field with a punt play touchdown.

Role Changes

Leonard Fournette ($8,000) as a Possible Three-Down Back

FanDuel is all about touchdowns, and we already know Fournette has one of the highest TD expectations every week. The only concern I’ve ever had with Fournette in cash is his lack of receiving usage compared to other high priced RBs. However, this preseason, we saw the Jaguars experiment with Fournette on third downs. While it’s certainly not a guarantee they keep Fournette in on third downs, it’s something to monitor early in the season. Fournette also is a capable pass-catcher – including playoffs last year, he saw 60 targets over 16 games. While the Jags are on the road, they are still three-point favorites. The Giants gave up 4.2 yards per carry (20th), and the Jaguars’ elite defense provides short fields. The Jaguars also added OG Andrew Norwell to solidify their offensive line.

Chris Hogan ($6,700) as the Patriots’ Lone Wide Receiver

The Patriots’ WR depth chart is Hogan, Philip Dorset, Cordarelle Patterson, and Chad Hansen. It’s safe to say Hogan will be a near every-down WR. Gronkowski and the RBs will be involved in the passing game, but Hogan should see his upper-range of targets (8-9 targets is reasonable). He has high TD upside as Tom Brady’s clear No. 1 WR. Additionally, Houston was atrocious against the pass last year. The Texans enter 2018 healthier, but Brady and Belichick have had plenty of time to prepare for this Week 1 matchup. While healthy, Hogan was a WR1 through the first eight weeks last year.

James Conner ($5,000) as a Feature Back

With Le’Veon Bell holding out, we get a near-minimum priced RB stepping into a feature back role. Last year, Cleveland was quietly fourth in run defense DVOA holding runners to just 3.4 yards per carry (second) and 97.9 yards per game (seventh). But after a strong preseason for Conner, we can expect him to be a near-every down RB, and opposing teams averaged 29.2 rushes per game against Cleveland. Yes Conner will be chalky, yes you should eat the chalk. Conner is as close to a lock as we’ll get all season.

Emmanuel Sanders ($6,300) Getting More Slot Receiver Reps

After a down 2017 season while fighting through an ankle injury, Sanders enters 2018 healthy, and gets a QB upgrade from Trevor Siemian/Brock Osweiler/Paxton Lynch the past two seasons to Case Keenum. Keenum funneled targets to Vikings’ slot receivers last year, and Sanders will move into the slot in three WR sets this year with Courtland Sutton on the outside.  Practice reports indicate Sanders is Keenum’s favorite target. The condensed target share for the Broncos adds certainty to a projected volume of 7-9 targets per game. Sanders also has an underrated matchup against the Seahawks defense, which is a shell of its former self. People might still think Seattle is a difficult matchup, which could drive ownership down. Good value and low ownership is an ideal combination.

Final Thoughts

  • Without having in-season data, Week 1 is the easiest and best time to be contrarian. Just roster your favorite plays even if it’s an unpopular take.
  • If I didn’t mention a player in this article, it’s because I’m not actively trying to play them on my core roster. Sure I might play some Rex Burkhead, Royce Freeman, and Los Angeles Chargers, but after digging into this slate, they have a more risk than I think the public realizes. I’m happy to discuss any of them in more detail on Twitter @Michael_Dubner.
  • For those who ask if you should limit your bankroll in Week 1 – no, play the usual amount. If you’re reading RotoViz, following offseason moves, and monitoring news closely, believe that you’ll make better decisions than your opponents.1

Good luck everyone, I hope to see you all at the top of the leaderboards.

  1. In fact, there might be more fish than usual in Week 1 because everyone is excited for the start of the season.  (back)

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