The NFL season is finally here, which means it's time for daily fantasy football (DFS)!
For Week 1, I'm going to keep things relatively simple. I will go through each position and list one "safe" pick and one "high-risk/high-reward" pick. For those of you familiar with DFS, the first is essentially a cash-game play and the second is a GPP play. I also will make sure that said player is priced proportionately about the same across DraftKings, FanDuel, and the other major sites. For those of you unfamiliar with DFS, do yourself a favor and look up cash games vs GPPs. Or hit me up on Twitter (@MarkStrausberg) and I will explain it to you personally.
Whether you are experienced or a beginner, however, let me know what you want this column to be. Should I highlight only guys that seem mispriced? Do you want me to let you know who I am fading? Would you like to see what lineups I am playing? Those questions are just a start. Let me know. In the meantime, I'll let you know some of my favorite safe and high-risk/high-reward picks this week.
Safe Quarterback Week 1 Pick
Ryan Tannehill, Titans vs. Cardinals (DK $6500, FD $7700)
There are obviously some higher upside plays, especially if you are willing to spend up for them. But Tannehill is an affordable option that gives us a solid floor with potentially huge upside. For starters, this game has the second-highest over/under for the week. Next, allow me to copy/paste what I said in my QB rankings preview earlier in the week:
"...folks just don’t realize how good Tannehill could be this week. Many downgraded him because of his recent COVID status, but he has been cleared and is expected to be ready to go. Tannehill was the eighth-best fantasy quarterback last year and that was before the Titans added Julio Jones."
Let's move on, shall we?
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Week 1 Pick
Jalen Hurts, Eagles at Falcons (DK $6400, FD $7600)
Hurts did not really wow people with his arm last year. However, I think we see different Hurts this year, especially when this game becomes a shootout. The books have this game nearing 50 points and I don't think they're wrong.
First off, we know Hurts can do plenty with his legs and I don't think I need to waste time giving you the support for that. And I'll give a nod to Matthew Berry on this as he pointed out that Hurts' first season looks pretty similar to Lamar Jackson's first season. Yeah, right before he went out and won the MVP! I'm not saying Hurts will win MVP. But I think between improved pass catchers and a full preseason of being Philly's top guy under center, I think he has a big year. And that starts with the Falcons who gave up the second-most fantasy points to QBs last year.
Safe Running Back Week 1 Pick
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers vs. Jets (DK $9500, FD $10400)
Because he's Christian McCaffrey. Don't overthink it.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Week 1 Pick
Javonte Williams, Broncos at Giants (DK $4000, FD $5600)
It might be months before we see Williams as the primary back for Denver. However, at just $4K I'm willing to take a shot on it, especially against the Giants this week who gave up more than 23 fantasy points to RBs per game last season. At the minimum on DraftKings, I'm willing to take a chance and he makes for a great pivot in your large GPPs on FanDuel.
Safe Wide Receiver Week 1 Pick
Robby Anderson, Panthers vs. Jets (DK $5700, FD $6200)
For those who believe in those, that is definitely in play. However, let's talk about all the other reasons why Anderson is a safe pick this week. Anderson is coming off a season where he averaged more than 14 PPR fantasy points per game. He will now team once again with Sam Darnold, whom he had decent chemistry with when both were on the Jets (2018-19). Furthermore, New York allowed the fifth-most passing yards last year and more than 36 fantasy points per game to the WR position. It's hard to see Anderson NOT having a strong game!
High Risk/Reward Receiver Week 1 Pick
Quez Watkins, Eagles at Falcons (DK $3000, FD $4600)
There are actually quite a few minimum-priced or close to minimum-priced options I like this week. But I think Watkins might be the one in whom I'm most confident.
Watkins is currently locked in as Philly's WR3. Word is he worked with Calvin Ridley on his route-running over the offseason and it has apparently shown. I think we can all envision this game easily becoming a shootout, which means even the WR3s should see plenty of action. And know Watkins can be explosive.
Safe Tight End Week 1 Pick
George Kittle, 49ers at Lions (DK $6300, FD $7000)
First off, be aware that Darren Waller and Mark Andrews are not on the main slate, but if you're playing the entire weekly slate, I'd consider one of those two.
Meanwhile, the 49ers take on the Lions, who were one of the worst defenses last year. Kittle, who saw nearly eight targets a game in the eight he played in 2020, should once again be heavily targeted this season. He averaged more than 16 PPR fantasy points a game last year and should easily approach that total this week.
High Risk/High Reward Tight End Week 1 Pick
Dawson Knox, Bills vs. Steelers (DK $3400, FD $5000)
The Steelers were pretty swell last year on defense. And they allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to TEs in the league. However, Bills Mafia might be privy to quite the aerial show. The books have the Bills scoring 27 points and I think we can assume they are not expecting nine field goals! The Bills will score touchdowns this Sunday, that is for certain. They ran the ball barely more than 40 percent of the time last season and if the preseason is any indication, they will be passing quite a bit again in 2021.
Due to the Bills' sheer passing volume, Knox should see his share of targets this weekend. And few realize how good Knox was last season. He missed a decent chunk of the season due to injury, but from Week 12 on he had five touchdowns. The eight targets he saw in the AFC Championship Game could easily be what we see again this week.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 1 Pick
49ers at Lions (DK $4200, FD $5000)
I'm always cautious about making the high-end DST buy. However, I'm willing to pay up for the 49ers as they are one of the better defenses on the main slate visiting one of the weaker offensive teams out there.
San Francisco had the fewest missed tackles last season, which might help explain why they gave up the fifth-fewest yards in the league. Interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles were not elite, but all were in the top half last year. Meanwhile, the Lions were not exactly a prolific offense in 2020 and now Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay are both wearing different uniforms this season.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 1 Pick
Dolphins at Patriots (DK $2900, FD $4000)
Interestingly, I used the Dolphins in Week 1 in this space last year. That led to mixed results as the 'Fins held the Pats to 21 points, all three touchdowns coming on the ground. However, Miami's offense struggled, one of the reasons why New England dominated the time of possession (34:49 to 25:11). I think we see a much different game this year.
You might recall that Miami is returning from a season where the defense was top 10 in sacks and tied for the lead in INTs. Those 21 points the Fins gave up to New England were right on their average, as they tied for fifth in scoring defense (21.1 ppg). The Hooded One always seems to struggle with Miami and he has a rookie quarterback (Mac Jones), two reasons why I like Miami as a sneaky DST this week.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.