Welcome to the 2017 NFL DFS season! I can’t believe we’re already here, but I’m not complaining. As you may have noticed, my MLB article has been shelved as I transition my time and research to NFL. I may still post something on days where I really like a MLB slate and have time to put in some research, but for now my primary focus will be on the NFL.
The one thing I can say that we all know going into Week 1 is that none of us really have a complete understanding of what we’re going to see on the field. Some players will perform as expected, others will fall short of expectations, and we’ll have a handful of plays that nobody saw coming. Because of this uncertainty you can take some chances and trust your gut in the early weeks.
This year I’m going to do things a little different, listing my core plays on the slate to give you a handful of solid players to build your lineups around. Granted that could change in a week or so, but that’s the plan as of now. With that said, let’s jump into those plays for Week 1 NFL on FanDuel. Be sure to check back every Saturday for Neil’s DraftKings selections.
QB: Marcus Mariota – Titans
Mariota is my favorite QB going into week one. This game is expected to be close and high scoring. It is currently the second highest implied score on the slate, with the Titans as the favorite. The Raiders were 24th against the pass last season and have always struggled over the middle to tight ends in years past. For that reason, I also like pairing Mariota with Delanie Walker. Mariota does have some new weapons, but we did see him look for his trusted target in the red zone in the preseason.
While I will have exposure to Walker, there’s a reason I’ll be rostering Mariota naked (and not stacked with his playmakers), which you’ll discover below. I think you’ll be surprised at how accurate Mariota is going to be this season. Throw in the upside he provides with his legs and he should have a field-day in this shootout style game.
RB: Todd Gurley – Rams
I think Gurley will have a bounce back season this year, and that will all start in Week One. With Jared Goff under center, and showing some sign of life in the preseason, this offense shouldn’t be nearly as putrid as it was last year. With that said, I don’t think new Rams coaches want to put Goff in a situation to go out and win this game with his arm right off the bat. Expect Gurley to get plenty of touches on the ground and more targets in the pass game than we saw last season. Throw in a matchup against the Colts and this becomes even more enticing. I think Gurley has a safe Week One floor with solid upside as well.
RB: Le’Veon Bell – Steelers
RB: David Johnson – Cardinals
I’ll probably be pairing Gurley with Le’Veon Bell/David Johnson. I won’t spend too much time talking about them, because obviously they’re both in a league of their own. Just flip a coin or whatever else you may do to pick one and ride with them. I’ll probably be more on Bell, because this brings me to the place where DFS and being a diehard fan intersect. David Johnson plays the Lions, and being a Detroit fan there’s no way I can watch the game rooting for him to do well.
WR: Terrelle Pryor – Redskins
Pryor’s price and talent is not matching up for Week One. I expect him to be priced in the mid to high $7,000 range most of the season, so I’m going to exploit this opportunity right out of the gate. He was a lone bright spot in Cleveland last season, and comes into a much better situation for the 2017 season. He generated a lot of buzz in training camp, and although he’ll probably need a little time to gel in sync with Kirk Cousins, I just can’t get away from him at this price.
WR: Kendall Wright – Bears
Wright is the next man up in Chicago after a slew of injuries and departures. At $5,200 on FanDuel, he makes an excellent salary saver. Due to Kevin White’s inability to show any consistency so far in his career, and Wright’s heavy target load from Mike Glennon in the preseason, I fully expect Wright to lead the team in receiving. He has a realistic chance at 10 targets in this game, which gives him a safe floor and plenty of upside. He’s a steal!
TE: Zach Ertz – Eagles
I know I lightly mentioned Walker above, but in a vacuum, I prefer Ertz. I will probably be getting most of my shares of Ertz on DraftKings (paired with Carson Wentz), but I’m still tempted to take him above Walker, even in the lineups I’ll have Mariota. Walker has a lot more teammates who could steal his looks. Ertz really only has to compete with Alshon Jeffrey, who I think Josh Norman will be able to negate. This will leave Ertz plenty of looks and ample opportunity to be the highest scoring tight end of the week.
Update – After gauging estimated ownership percentages, my preferred play would be Walker in tournaments and Ertz in cash. Ertz could reach 25+ percent owned, and that’s too much for me in tourneys, but perfectly fine in cash.
Each week I try to do my initial research without any outside noise (ie. podcasts, articles, etc). This prevents me from being biased to certain players and helps me form my own opinions. In many cases, the guys I like will be the same as the touts on all of the aforementioned podcasts and articles. Other weeks, I may be thinking much different.
After writing up my plays above, I’m starting to get the sense that a few of these guys are going to be higher owned than I’m comfortable with – especially in the mid to high dollar tournaments, where my goal is to win, not min-cash. I still think these are solid plays and would fire them up in cash games without a second thought. With that said, here are a few bonus plays this week where I’ll be pivoting in tourneys.
RB: Isaiah Crowell – Browns
Crowell comes in at a discount from Todd Gurley, and I think his ownership will be only a fourth or fifth of Gurley’s. Gurley isn’t four or five times more likely to outscore Crowell, therefore, I’m sold that this is the right pivot in tournaments. I think Gurley’s floor and ceiling are probably only a couple points different than Crowell. I expect the Browns to pound the ball on the ground and could easily see Crowell reach 20+ carries with a 2-3 targets in the passing game. Behind a revamped offensive line and a run heavy game plan, this could turn out to be one of the sneakiest plays of Week One.
WR: A.J. Green – Bengals
This is my gut play of the week. He’s still going to be a target monster, and there’s no denying the guys talent. In his last seven (healthy) games this past season, Green had over 10 targets five times, with a high of 18 targets. Green will be owned at a lower clip than the other top dogs like Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, but it would surprise no one if he was the WR1 for Week One.
WR: Amari Cooper – Raiders
If you read my articles last year, you know full well that I have a man crush on Amari Cooper. I think this is the year he fully breaks out and stakes his claim among the elite wide receivers in the NFL. The savings that I have found going down from Gurley to Crowell is going to allow me to go up from Terrell Pryor Sr. to Cooper. Don’t get me wrong, I think Pryor is a solid play at his price, but there is a scenario where the lack of chemistry we saw from him in the preseason with Kirk Cousins spills over into the season and he lays a dud in Week One.
With his ownership percentage predicted to be well higher than Cooper, that one zig when the field is zagging would give us a big advantage if Pryor does happen to under perform. Cooper should get plenty of looks in this high scoring affair and is the perfect pairing with the Mariota/Walker combo mentioned above.
That’s it for this week. Best of luck! As always, if you have any questions, you can hit me up on Twitter @mrclutchdfs
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