We have survived another offseason and an NFL Sunday is finally upon us. In what has become a regular occurrence, we have the most incorrect salary pricing that we will see all season. This happens because of the early release of contests and salaries in an attempt to fill the large tournaments typical of Week 1. We always have a longer list of players in Week 1 that we need to sift through in order to separate the good from the great and the fool’s gold from the treasure.
Quarterback may be the easiest position at which to identify targets this week. The glaring play that looks great for both cash and tournaments is Carson Wentz ($5,700). We don’t have preseason film to go by, but we do have glowing reports across the board from Eagles camp that he is all the way back to MVP form and the weekly QB1 consideration he was in 2017. Despite this, he’s priced as just the QB12 and should be the cash QB and the highest tournament exposure at the position.
There is no need at all given across the board pricing this week, but if you need a pay down spot at the position, Jacoby Brissett ($4,400) is the inexpensive point per dollar look after his ascension to starter.
In tournaments, the second-highest game total on the slate is in the San Francisco at Tampa Bay matchup and both Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,800) and Jameis Winston ($6,600) get opponents that were friendly to quarterbacks in 2018 and this game is the most identifiable potential shootout of the week.
With four of the week’s better quarterback matchups happening in prime time, the pool of the strongest plays at the position is thinned fairly easily.
Running back may well be the most difficult position to navigate this week as there’s more separating the great plays from the good plays than anything else. Let’s start with the cream of the crop on the great side and work our way down from there.
The top two running back plays on the slate are Dalvin Cook ($6,000) and Leonard Fournette ($6,100). They should be considered the best options for both cash and tournaments.
As if inheriting running back boon Gary Kubiak as his offensive coordinator wasn’t enough to love Cook in most any matchup to kick off the year at this price, that matchup turned out to be the Falcons. In 2018, the Falcons allowed running back receptions as if the allowance was somehow a benefit to them. Cook will see plenty of volume and brings a floor and ceiling on par with the priciest of the bell cows.
With Alfred Blue landing on IR, it’s all but confirmed Fournette will see a healthy dose of receiving work. We already know he is a good runner, and most importantly, he’s healthy. The Chiefs will remain as good of a matchup as any RB will see and Fournette, much like Cook, is seeing the stars align to have the perfect mix of Week 1 role and matchup.
The next thing to touch on is the top tier of three backs and how to view them. The most expensive one, Ezekiel Elliott ($9,200), will play but we don’t know the extent of the workload or his conditioning after missing the whole offseason program. He should be treated as just a one-off if played at all. Saquon Barkley ($9,000) is the strongest play of this group and has both cash and tournament viability. Christian McCaffrey ($8,800) has the ability and role to be the RB1 on any given slate, but the matchup with the Rams relegates him to tournament only for me.
The next group of backs to discuss are the cheaper options to get into tournament lineups. These three backs would be under strong cash consideration on other slates but aren’t here because of the strength of the other plays. Chris Carson ($5,700) averaged 20.0 DK points in home wins in 2018, and the team is set up to cruise to their first win of the year against the Bengals. Austin Ekeler ($5,500) will have the lead role and will see the highest value touches and brings ceiling. He will, however, be popular and that should be taken under consideration. Mark Ingram ($5,100) might fly under the radar this week and is a great candidate to grind down the lowly Dolphins and to see a perfect script for both volume and scoring opportunity. Both Ingram and Carson are great stacks with their team DST.
One note on Matt Breida ($4,000). His price is great, and the matchup is sound. He will be popular however and is very much in a time share. I view this as a spot to be underweight.
Two more cheaper but contrarian backs to grab some exposure to in tournaments are Kenyan Drake ($4,700) and Derrius Guice ($4,400). Drake’s team will probably be trailing the whole way and he remains the best pass-catcher on a team who will have their quarterback under duress and won’t be able to effectively run the ball. He could see a huge market share of targets. Guice will need a favorable game script to truly hit, but the price is good and can be a difference-maker if the script works out in his favor.
With many of the league’s top wideouts and roles playing in prime time and not being on the slate, it seems the best play to not pay up at wide receiver. The top receivers on this slate all have a wart or two to keep them from ideally going into a cash lineup and we’ll look a little further down for the top plays.
Chris Godwin ($6,200) and Tyler Lockett ($6,000) are both priced as WR2s and have exactly that floor, but both are in soft matchups and will see plenty of volume that can push them up to high-end WR1s on the slate. Both players will get both slot and outside work and project to lead their respective teams in targets. Yes, I’m aware of the presence of Mike Evans ($7,900). No, I don’t think his volume dries up by any means, but I also don’t believe he outpaces Godwin in targets. It’s probable Evans sees the higher value targets, and he is fine for tournament exposure, but Godwin should be the larger exposure and is the cash play.
The one player pricier than Godwin and Lockett that is in play for cash is Adam Thielen ($6,800). If Diggs misses or is limited, Thielen’s already bankable volume would increase, and the matchup is favorable as well. Even if you decide he’s thin for cash, you should get some tournament exposure.
The cheaper option in play for both cash and tournament is Dede Westbrook ($4,800). He will open the season as top receiving option and could remain that way even once the other pass-catchers get healthier. But even if he doesn’t, the matchup is one to attack in Week 1, especially at Westbrook‘s salary.
Some tournament receivers to grab exposure to for ownership and ceiling purposes are D.J. Moore ($5,500) and Dante Pettis ($5,400). Both players have an unknown floor but both are long on ability and will operate as their respective team’s top receiver in two of the highest total games of the week. Leave opinions on these players at the door for this week and attack the favorable pricing in favorable situations.
There is a head-and-shoulders best tight end play on the slate, and that is Evan Engram ($4,800). He’s earmarked for a role increase much like his rookie season and gets a matchup he beat both times last season, even in his down sophomore campaign. In two games against Dallas in 2018, Engram turned 15 targets to 12 catches for 148 yards and a pair of scores and hit at least 19.7 DK points in both matchups. He is your cash tight end and should be your heaviest tight end exposure in tournaments. The dilemma created with Engram is whether to play two Giants in cash. If you opt not to, Engram stays in and Barkley should be replaced.
In tournaments, it’s perfectly fine and even encouraged to pay up for the elite players at the position: Travis Kelce ($7,100) and George Kittle ($6,600). Their ceilings are unique, and some exposure to them is prudent. If paying down at the position, Delanie Walker ($3,500) likely sees a game script with his team trailing and having to throw more than they would prefer. He remains the best pass-catcher on the team and the salary does not reflect that. Speaking of being the best pass catcher on a player’s own team, Mark Andrews ($3,000) is just that in Baltimore. He will absolutely have ceiling games this season, and his Week 1 price is silly low. He will likely have to score in the first half of this one to truly hit but is a very sound punt.
This needs to be stated in no uncertain terms: this is not a week to get cute at D/ST by trying to conserve salary. There are five matchups to attack and they are all priced at $3,000 or more. Given the matchups, it’s a sound bet one of these units separate themselves from the pack: