Starting Sunday afternoon, roughly 500,000 people will be hoping to be the lucky bastard to take home $2 million courtesy of Draft Kings’ crazy “Millionaire Maker” game. There’s a $20 entry fee, and first place takes home $2 million and second place wins $1 million. After that, there are another 125,698 paid spots in the game, meaning odds of making at least a little cash are fairly decent. We’re here to help you get into the green, ya know.
But the season actually gets going on Thursday when the Steelers take on the Patriots. The aforementioned Millionaire Maker doesn’t include that game, but there are other contests that do, so we’ll cover it here. This is kind of a one-stop shop for DFS stuff for this week, so let’s get going.
5 Sneaky Sleepers
The term “sleeper” kinda implies “sneaky”, but whatevs. If you’re going to separate yourself from a playing field that includes half a million freaking people, you’re going to need to hit on a guy nobody else is rostering and hope he goes nuts. We’ll just roll through each position and give you one per position:
Jameis Winston ($6,000), QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hard to call the first pick in the draft a “sleeper”, but not a lot of people are going to be on him this week. He looked shaky during his preseason stints, and people punting the QB position are going to be flocking towards guys like Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater.
Fact is, Jameis has some stellar weapons at his disposal, and has a fairly easy matchup with the Titans in his first NFL start. He can pretty much just chuck the ball straight into the air and the odds are pretty decent that either Mike Evans or Vincent Jackson is going to come down with it. There’s plenty of reason to worry about interceptions (he did throw 18 picks in the weak ACC last year), but there’s also a chance he could scamper in for a short-yardage score, as well. I feel like Winston is a solid low-dollar, low-ownership option.
Andre Ellington ($6,400), RB, Arizona Cardinals
Running back feels like a position that would be super risky to fully punt on. Sure, there are some relative cheapies that should be in for decent roles (Alfred Blue, Ryan Mathews), but it’s especially tough to predict these things for Week 1.
Andre Ellington is a classic groan-inducer type just because we’ve seen the type of upside he has, yet he routinely seems to get derailed some way or another. But he’s probably never going to be healthier than he is right now, and he gets a tantalizing matchup against a Saints defense that was completely obliterated on the ground in 2014. This unit allowed over 6,100 rushing yards, which was second-worst ahead of only Atlanta.
Factor in the fact that Ellington’s a bit overpriced (just $300 cheaper than DeMarco Murray) and I don’t think he’s going to have many suitors. I love Ellington’s status as a pass-catching dual-threat type, and think he’ll be enhanced with the return of Carson “Palmy” Palmer.
Eric Decker ($6,000), WR, New York Jets
I know, I know, Ryan Fitzpatrick. And Eric Decker wasn’t much of anything last season. But now he’s got Brandon Marshall working on the opposite side, which should mean Decker has a little more space with which to work. Factor in the probability that Cleveland is going to sic Joe Haden on Marshall and you’ve suddenly got a fairly appealing matchup for Decks.
Of course, this could all fail miserably thanks in large part to shoddy QB play, but, again, I can’t imagine Decker having a large ownership percentage.
Larry Donnell ($3,200), TE, New York Giants
Tight end is largely a crap position that is probably best to pay up for. But there are a couple of decent cheapish options, which is where I’d categorize Larry Donnell. He burst onto the scene last year before fading towards the end of the season, but he gets a decent matchup with a sketchy Cowboys secondary on Sunday Night Football this week. Dallas is going to be paying tons of attention to Odell and Victor Cruz, which could leave Larry open as a cheap source of a TD.
Chiefs D/ST ($3,000)
The Texans were once a fairly formidable offense, but this week they’re running out a unit sans the likes of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Sure, DeAndre Hopkins is nice and all, but what else is there to fear here? KC’s defense was fairly inconsistent from a fantasy perspective last year, but I think they could be in for a solid week.
4 HARD Fades
“To fade, or not to fade” is the question of all questions when it comes to DFS. Sometimes, despite your gut feelings, statistical analysis or whatever other tools you have at your disposal, salary restrictions and/or lack of positional flexibility force you to just fade a guy. Sometimes it’s a rough practice, but you gotta take a deep breath and just do it. I may not hate any of these guys, and it could easily blow up in my face, but here are five hard fades I’ll be pulling in Week 1:
Andrew Luck ($8300), QB, Indianapolis Colts
I mean, it’s hard to feel too GOOD about fading Andrew Luck any time (unless it’s a playoff game, HEYO!), and I obviously wouldn’t knock you for rostering him. However, Luck and the Colts have a tough matchup against Buffalo on the road in Week 1. Of course, Luck could wind up being fairly matchup-proof, but there are just other options at QB I like more than him this week. You can do better than spending nearly $8k at this position. And hey, I’m not the only one advocating a hard fade of Luck in week one.
Jamaal Charles ($7900), RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City randomly phased Jamaal Charles out of its offense for parts of last season, which was probably the most bizarre fantasy-related development all season. A team with no weapons decided to straight-up just not use its only viable weapon at times. Makes sense!
While I think Charles could be in for a bounce-back year, going on the road to face a tough Texans defense isn’t an ideal way to start your campaign.
Emmanuel Sanders ($7900), WR, Denver Broncos
Sanders enjoyed a dream of an introductory season with the Broncos last year, hauling in over 1,400 yards worth of passes along with nine TDs. However, Denver’s scheme has been changed with the hiring of Gary Kubiak and his staff, and I’m not sure the new offense suits Sanders’ skills the same way it did under Adam Gase and friends last season. The Ravens aren’t the toughest matchup for a wide receiver, but I’m wanting to take a wait-and-see approach with Sanders, particularly at such a high price. There’s better value to be had.
Jimmy Graham ($5600), TE, Seattle Seahawks
$5600 is probably a bargain of a price for a player with Graham’s talents, but, as with Sanders, I’d like to see him in action before pulling the trigger. He’s on a new team with a new quarterback and a relatively unfamiliar system, and who knows if he’ll be utilized in the same fashion he was during his time in New Orleans. Either just pay up for Gronk/Olsen or get a cheapie.
3 Top Stacks
In case you’re new here, a “stack” is where you just load up on players from a specific team. You can’t use all players from one team (as DK won’t allow it), but you can go pretty heavy if there’s one matchup you’re feeling. Here are the three teams I’m targeting most heavily:
Atlanta Falcons offense vs. Philadelphia
QB Matt Ryan ($7500), WR Julio Jones ($9300), WR Roddy White ($6500), RB Tevin Coleman ($4800)
Philly may well boast one of the NFL’s premier offensive units this season, but that defense? Could be yucky, you guys. Atlanta has a recent history of playing pretty well on their home turf, and the crowd should be extra amped for the MNF home opener. This game has the highest over/under on the board this week (with good reason) this week, so you’re going to want some exposure to it.
Philadelphia Eagles offense vs. Atlanta
QB Sam Bradford ($6900), WR Jordan Matthews ($7200), WR Nelson Agholor ($5700), RB DeMarco Murray ($6700), RB Ryan Mathews ($3600), TE Zach Ertz ($3600)
Same deal here. This game should be a total track meet, so naturally I have a certain degree of interest in any of the names above. We don’t know for certain how much run Murray is going to get (can’t imagine he gets as many touches as he did last season), but he feels to me like a bit of a bargain at just $6700 in an offense that should supply him with plenty of space. Bradford is also a nice low-dollar QB option. Ertz is the only true risk, as he’s got a groin issue but is cheap as balls.
Dallas Cowboys offense vs. New York
QB Tony Romo ($7300), WR Dez Bryant ($8700), WR Terrance Williams ($4000), RB Joseph Randle ($5900), TE Jason Witten ($4000)
Given how unsettled the Dallas running game might be at this point, I’m not totally sold on Randle as a great option this week. However, if there was any week he was going to enjoy success, it’s probably this one against a Giants run defense that was porous (to put it politely) in 2014. The problem is we just don’t really know how the Cowboys are going to divy up the carries between Randle and Darren McFadden. Seems doubtful we’ll see a ton of Christine Michael since he was just brought in, but who knows? I do think the Cowboys passing attack should be fire this week, so don’t be shy about rostering the likes of Romo, Dez, Witten and Williams.
2 Rookies to Watch
I’m not necessarily saying you should be rostering these fellas right out of the chute, but Week 1 might help us get a good indication of their potential roles moving forward.
RB Tevin Coleman ($4800), Atlanta Falcons
I highlighted above the reason I’m into Falcons this week. I think most people are. Coleman apparently won the training camp battle with Devonta Freeman for the Falcons’ starting running back job, and $4800 is a light price to pay for a guy that should get a fair share of run. There’s still a chance we could see a committee type thing if Coleman struggles, but a strong showing against the Eagles should solidify his spot at the top of the depth chart.
WR Amari Cooper ($6700), Oakland Raiders
$6700 is a bit of a steep price to be paying for a rookie receiver playing his first game (a Raiders rookie, no less), but the opportunities should be there for Cooper right away. He’s going to get a ton of targets from Derek Carr as the instant No. 1 WR in Oakland’s attack. In fact, between Carr, Cooper and RB Latavius Murray, the Raiders could have the makings of a nice trio of youngsters on offense…
Then again, we’re still talking about the Raiders. So we should probably pump the brakes a bit.
1 Swell Lineup
Just going to get this out of the way off the top…I’m not using mathematical number optimizer or anything of the sort. This is just a nice, safe lineup that I’d feel comfortable throwing into a cash game, not necessarily one that’s going to be winning you millions right away. I just tinkered around a ton until I found my favorite lineup. And here it is (not eligible for the Millionaire Maker, since TNF players are involved, obviously):
QB Tom Brady ($7700)
RB Doug Martin ($4500)
RB Tevin Coleman ($4800)
WR Antonio Brown ($8900)
WR Davante Adams ($4400)
WR Dez Bryant ($8700)
TE Jordan Cameron ($3800)
FLEX RB Chris Ivory ($4100)
D/ST Miami Dolphins ($3000)
You can also use a similar iteration if you want to throw it into the Millionaire Maker. Obviously you’d just have to swap-out Brady and Brown (something like Matt Ryan and Calvin Johnson would do the trick).