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
Lamar Jackson, Ravens vs. Browns (DK $8100, FD $9400)
I could give you a ton of reasons to fade Jackson this week, but I don't really believe a single one of them. It's Week 1, so we never know what to expect, but I think we can easily bank on LJax having 250 combined yards and a couple of touchdowns. I don't know if those will be land or by air. But I do know that Jackson's upside is easily more than 40 fantasy points. I will have multiple shares of him this weekend.
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Week 1 Pick
Dwayne Haskins, Washington Football Team vs. Eagles (DK $5000, FD $6500)
I know, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel. No starting QB is priced lower than Haskins. But that's exactly why I I like him.
There have been all kinds of rosy reports coming out of Redskins camp regarding Haskins. Those have to be taken with a grain of salt however as they are a bit subjective. What is far less subjective is how unimpressive the Eagles secondary is. Philadelphia's defense gave up the 12th-most completions last year and was equally generous (11th) when it came to touchdown passes.
Now Haskins is not going to throw for 350 yards or four touchdowns. But against this secondary, he should be able to throw for around 275 yards and two scores. And at this low price, that's plenty of profit with room for some studs.
Safe Running Back Week 1 Pick
Josh Jacobs, Raiders at Panthers (DK $6800, FD $8200)
I talked about Jacobs in my Week 1 running bank rankings. And everything still holds true. The Panthers gave up the most fantasy points to RBs last year (I was surprised too!) and that was with Luke Kuechly. Kuechly retired this offseason, making the Panthers even softer. Expect the 220-pound Jacobs to rack up more than 100 yards or multiple touchdowns. Or both.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Week 1 Pick
Christian McCaffrey Panthers vs. Raiders (DK $10000, FD $10000)
On the other side of that game lies McCaffrey. C'mon Mark! McCaffrey as a risky pick???? Yes, inner voice, he is. He'll produce, we know that. But as the only RB on both DraftKings and FanDuel to hit five digits in salary, he will have a much harder time producing value at this price. Sometimes the pricier players are actually the riskier players.
However, the Raiders were not exactly cement blocks against the run last year. And as we know, their offseason moves were much more focused on the offensive side of the ball. Furthermore, game flow and strategy also will predicate McCaffrey getting his usual targets if not more. Vegas set the over/under at 47.5 and I think even that's too low. McCaffrey is not going to have a four-TD game, but he'll produce enough to make a profit.
Safe Wide Receiver Week 1 Pick
Allen Robinson, Lions at Bears (DK $6500, FD $5600)
I'll be honest. I don't really love Robinson's ceiling this week. There are a few reasons, but much of that has to do far less with Robinson than it does with the guy Chicago is sending out there as the starting quarterback.
However, Mitchell Trubisky was Robinson's QB last year for 15 games and he still managed to haul in 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged nearly 10 targets a game in the NFL's 25th-ranked passing attack and should see a similar range this week. And the Detroit secondary has not had a lot of success lately. Last year the Lions gave up the third-most fantasy points to WRs. Robinson is a set-it-and-forget-it play for Week 1.
High Risk/Reward Receiver Week 1 Pick
Miles Boykin, Ravens vs. Browns (DK $4100, FD $4900)
Safe Tight End Week 1 Pick
Hayden Hurst, Falcons vs. Seahawks (DK $4300, FD $5200)
The safest play for the remaining slate is actually George Kittle. However, I've already told you earlier this week the reasons to play Kittle on Sunday, and there are better values out there. And Hurst is one of them. Hurst will easily take over the Austin Hooper role for the Falcons. You remember, Hooper, right? The guy who was targeted 97 times last year?
But that's not all. Not only is Seattle a West Coast team playing a 1 p.m. ET game, but that secondary is a shadow of what it once was a few years ago. Seattle was really bad against TEs last year too. The Seahawks gave up an average of nearly 15 fantasy points a game to TEs last year. That was the third-most generous amount in the league. Hurst will get his this week.
High Risk/Reward Tight End Week 1 Pick
Irv Smith Jr., Vikings vs. Packers (DK $3100, FD $4800)
Ironically, I highlighted Smith as a high risk/reward option in this space in Week 1 last year. I'll confess, it did not work out well. However, with Stefon Diggs gone and Kyle Rudolph fading out of the picture quickly, I'm going back to the well. And I'm bringing plenty of coins too.
I'd expect at least four or five targets for Smith on Sunday. And some could be of the huge chunk variety. The Vikings have been experimenting at camp this summer with lining Smith up on the outside. One long touchdown and you're on your way to Cashville, USA!
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 1 Pick
Dolphins, at Patriots (DK $2000, FD $3700)
There will not be a "safe" DST pick this week. Having no preseason games is admittedly a flimsy excuse, but I'm using it this one time that I can. The truth is I can make an argument against any DST this week. I know it won't happen, but I can see every team giving up 35 or more points this weekend.
And I was going to truly cop-out. Instead of providing any DST picks I was going to write "whichever one fits your budget." But I know how worthless that is. But if you're looking for a defense to gain some leverage with, it has to be the Dolphins.
The Dolphins were an absolute punching bag of a team last year, on both sides of the ball. Their defense had a league-low three fumble recoveries and an embarrassing 23 sacks last year. Warranted or not, folks will be scared to play the Dolphin D against the Patriots. But at this low price, I am absolutely willing to take that risk. With the additions of Shaq Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, and Byron Jones, there is no way this defense can be this bad again. One of the best ways to win a GPP is to grab players that barely anyone else grabs. That is the Miami DST, whom I will have multiple shares of in DFS this week. And it's a gamble I'm very happy to make.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)