NFL Week 1 Targets by Tier

QUARTERBACKS

The High-End Model ($7000+)

Aaron Rodgers ($7000) – Quietly, the Packers have one of the highest Vegas-implied totals in Week 1 with 27 points, and I think that Rodgers make for a fine contrarian option on this slate. Having all of their starters back and healthy for Seattle certainly makes them a much more dangerous D than what we saw the second half of last year (i.e. after Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett went down), but there are definitely some question marks here that Rodgers can exploit. Also, I think we can count on Sherman to shadow Nelson, and Seattle will probably also use Thomas over the top to limit the big plays, so this should open things up elsewhere. Assuming this configuration, that would put 3rd-round rookie Shaq Griffin on Adams, with Cobb running out of the slot against Jeremy Lane. It is really tough for CBs to immediately come into the NFL and shutdown a WR, so I definitely expect Adams to get some open looks. The match-up of a healthy Cobb against Lane really intrigues me here as Lane was PFF’s 95th-worst CB last year. The Seahawks’ d-line was very scary to begin with (they were 3rd in run DVOA last year), but now that they added Sheldon Richardson, I won’t be surprised if they allow <80 yards per game this year. Thus, I think that the Pack will have to move it through the air here.

Mid-sized Pricing, High Ceilings ($5500-$6900)

Russ Wilson ($6900) – On the other side of this game we have Russell Wilson. He just falls into this tier, but Russ has a plum match-up to start out the year. Last year, the Pack gave up the most passing yards and the 3rd-most passing TDs in the league. They also didn’t upgrade their secondary in the off-season, so I don’t expect much to change this year. While their safeties are pretty darn good, their CBs are #bad. They plan to start Davon House and Quinten Rollins, who were PFF’s 100th and 87th-graded CBs last year respectively (out of 110). Baldwin will be able to spank both of them repeatedly throughout the game. Jimmy Graham should have a field day here as well since GB’s linebacker coverage is also spotty at best. Jake Ryan, their starting LILB, is an average 43rd-best in coverage, while Blake Martinez is an abysmal 70th (out of 75). Their starting outside linebackers don’t offer much hope either. While Nick Perry grades out pretty well overall, his coverage is by far the weakest part of his game, and Clay Matthews graded out an atrocious 96th-worst out of 110 edge defenders last year. Furthermore, it is harder to run on the Packers as they gave up the 12th fewest rush yards to RBs last year (they were 14th in run DVOA), which paired with Seattle’s very bad offensive line, doesn’t instill one with much confidence in their ground game. Finally, as Vegas projects them to trail (I think that this seems reasonable), gamescript dictates that they will throw more anyway. Once we combine all of these factors, it sets up perfectly for Hurricane Russ to hit GB in Week 1.

Hopefully We Can Use this Lemon to Make Lemonade (<$5500)

Carson Wentz ($5300) – Wentz had an up-and-down season last year where he started out extremely hot, which prompted the Philly beat writers to dub him as the second coming of Christ crossed with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. This promptly crumbled down as Philly’s woeful ground game and the suspension of Lane Johnson caught up with the offense. (Side note, I swear to god, Lane better not get suspended ever again.) Philly’s ground game looks woeful again, so their best chance at winning games this year comes through the air. Washington’s defense seems fairly inept in all areas as they were 24th in DVOA against both the run and the pass last year. Since Norman was a top-25 CB per PFF, this implies that the rest of the Washington D was really, really bad against the pass. This is fully borne out in the numbers. Bashaud Breeland was the 83rd-worst CB, while Kendall Fuller was even worse at 89th. While I’m not sure if Agholor can really take advantage of Fuller, the other Philly pass-catching options are intriguing. I have some concerns about Jeffery due to reports of him having trouble picking up the playbook, but as Scott Barret pointed out, his best routes dovetail nicely with the ones that Norman is worst at covering. Furthermore, per Warren Sharp’s football stats, Washington gave up a very high passer rating of 125 to balls thrown deep middle – this becomes a jaw-dropping 158 on 3rd downs – so if the Eagles’ coaches are competent, and I’m not guaranteeing that they are, they should take a couple of shots to Torrey Smith in this area. Finally, if all else fails, I fully expect Wentz to target Ertz often this year as he clearly has the most chemistry and rapport with him. Just in case you were wondering, Washington ranked 25th in DVOA against TEs last year and gave up the 3rd-most receiving yards to them (average of 70.6/game). While Ertz was quiet his first game against them, he did light them up for a line of 10-112-0 last December. Ertz will be chalky here as he is mispriced at $3500, but I won’t be fading him.

Late Week Additions: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota

Running Backs

The High-End Model ($7000+)

Le’Veon Bell ($9,800) and David Johnson ($9,400) –  I don’t think much needs to be discussed here.  With the prices released before many injuries and roster changes, there are enough cheaper plays to use at other positions to fit these two in your lineups.  I will have PLENTY of Bell and DJ.  A case could be made in Week 2 to fade either one once pricing normalizes for usage for other positions.  It will be important to follow up on Tomlin’s treatment of Bell holding out.  In a juicy matchup against Cleveland, 27th DVOA last year against the rush, I wouldn’t look much into it as Bell can do some serious damage even if he is punished for a quarter or two.

Also Consider: LeSean McCoy ($8,200)

Mid-sized Pricing, High Ceilings ($5500-$6900)

Todd Gurley ($6,000) –  A home matchup against the team ranked dead last in DVOA last year, I’ll take it.  With Tolzien under center week 1, Indy likely won’t be able to move the ball as efficient as they would with Luck which could lead to some nice starting positions for their drives.  The Rams take an early lead and Gurley could see some nice run.  I also wouldn’t mind a Gurley/Rams DST stack.

Also Consider: Jordan Howard ($6,300)

Hopefully We Can Use this Lemon to Make Lemonade (<$5500)

Carlos Hyde ($4,600) – This is purely a volume play as Hyde should get enough touches to pay off that savings you receive at 4.6k.  We saw in preseason under the new scheme Hyde torch the Vikings on quick slants.  In a PPR site like Draftkings all he needs is a few catches to hit value.  CAR isn’t the best matchup but we need the savings when playing Bell or DJ, or both.

Bilal Powell ($4,900) –  The Jets offense is putrid.  However, Powell is a PPR back that can rack up the check downs from a lackluster QB situation.  We saw this explosion in week 3 of preseason.  This is a tournament only play.

Late Week Additions:  Christian McCaffrey, Isaiah Crowell (GPP ONLY)

Wide Receivers

The High-End Model ($7000+)

*Fading this pricing tier*

Mid-sized Pricing, High Ceilings ($5500-$6900)

Doug Baldwin ($6700) – Baldwin will be a popular WR choice at this price tag but I think you can find some contrarian ways to get him in your lineups. I really like using Rodgers and bringing Baldwin in for the game stack. If you think Rodgers has a chance at passing TD’s to separate players I do not mind a naked Rodgers with Baldwin. The game should shoot out as we mentioned earlier and it is great way to get pieces on both sides of the ball. Baldwin has more PPR equity than TD, so he is better to take on Draftkings vs Fanduel.

Martavis Bryant ($6,000) – Martavis is my favorite play in week 1 – PERIOD. There certainly is risk in taking a guy that hasn’t played a snap in over a year but he found a passion for weight lifting and training in the off season which shows me he is taking football more seriously than years past. In 21 games started in Bryant’s career he has 14 TDs and over 1,300 yards. His size gives him a more favorable red zone target than AB who will command much attention from the Browns defense.

Larry Fitzgerald ($5,900) – Fitzgerald led the NFL in catches a year ago, leading both Antonio Brown and OBJ with 107. He tends to get off to fast starts early in the year while his body is injury free.  The Lions secondary is surprisingly decent but they will have to get all the help they can on David Johnson. At this price you have to play Fitzgerald, and I think the general public will stay away from an aging player like him.

Also consider: Jamison Crowder & Terrelle Pryor

Hopefully We Can Use this Lemon to Make Lemonade (<$5500)

Brandon Marshall ($5100) – We have to keep an eye on OBJ’s status throughout the week. If OBJ cannot suit up I really like the high floor with BMarsh. He is going to be the Giant’s red zone target regardless but I cannot ignore the increase in volume without OBJ.

Marvin Jones ($4100) – Marvin Jones showed early last season what he is capable of early in the season, posting over 200 yards and 2 TDs against the Packers in week 3, and 11 targets with 118 receiving yards in week 2. I would expect PPatt to spend majority of the time on Tate, opening up some opportunities for Marvin. He doesn’t need much to pay off his value.

Zay Jones ($3500) – Zay Jones was a monster at East Carolina and he has the upside for GPP’s at $3500. With Jordan Matthews chest injury (expected to play but not fully healthy), Zay could see an uptick in usage with Tyrod under center as well. He should get his fair share of looks in the slot that could add up in PPR scoring.

Others to consider: Randall Cobb, Allen Robinson (GPP), Pierre Garcon (GPP), Kenny Britt (GPP), Cooper Kupp (deep GPP)

Late Week Additions: Kendall Wright, Kelvin Benjamin, Rishard Matthews, Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree, Davante Adams

Tight Ends

Jimmy Graham ($5100) – I love the stack of Graham + Wilson and coming back around with a Packer WR. Graham will be a lower owned option at TE since majority of people will pay down for value like Ertz. Graham has TD equity against this porous Packers defense and will be a top target for Russ.

Delanie Walker ($4300) – Delanie is a safety blanket for Mariota and I see this trend continuing even with the added weapons of Decker and Corey Davis. Mack is the lone stud in the Raiders LB core to contain Delanie, but I think he will get ample opportunities throughout the game and see red zone targets to pay off his salary.

Eric Ebron ($3600) – Keep an eye on Ebron’s hamstring but as of August 28th he was back at practice and expected to play in the week 1 opener. Ebron had a very efficient 2015 season bringing in 5 TDs in only 8 games started. Last year he struggled more to find the red zone but averaged almost 7 targets per game. I think Ebron is a good pivot from Ertz in GPPs and can leverage game stacking Ebron with Fitz & DJ if this game shoots out.

Zach Ertz ($3500) – This is a simple mispricing and he will be the highest owned TE in my projections. Wentz and Ertz had great chemistry towards the second half of last season and I expect that to continue in 2017. His last game against the Redskins he had 13 targets and 112 yards.

Also consider: Zach Miller

Late Week Additions: Charles Clay

Defense

ATL ($3300) – Normally I like to target the defenses of home favorites, but this isn’t a rule I follow 100% of the time and I won’t be following it Week 1. There are several enticing options here including the Texans hosting the Jags, but I really like Atlanta at Chicago for a paltry $3300. Cam Meredith going down really hurts the Bears’ offense as their new WR1 is Kendall Wright. Let me say that again – Kendall Wright is a team’s WR1. Inconceivable. While the Falcons did rank 28th against the run last year and Jordan Howard is a good back, I just don’t see why a team won’t stack the box every single play against the Bears this year. Furthermore, while I do expect the Falcons offense to regress from last year, they should easily handle the Bears here as they were ranked 17th against the pass and 29th against the run. Thus, Mike Glennon is going to have to pass a lot to bad receivers against a secondary that sports Desmond Trufant. Good luck with that.

BUF ($3,900) – Yes, they will be chalky.  However, each week you can target defenses opposing the NYJ.  The Bills don’t have the strongest defense on the slate.  They do get a juicy matchup at home against arguably the worst offense in the NFL.  With Kearse as the team’s top WR, you can see that there is a lack of offensive weapons on the Jets offense.  Keep it simple and target defenses facing off against the Jets.

LAR ($3,200) – With Tolzien leading the charge for the Colts on the road, I will have plenty of exposure to the Rams.  Currently the second lowest Vegas O/U line of the main slate at 41.5 behind the Bills/Jets, this defense offers a viable pivot from the chalky Bills with a $700 savings.  Yes, Donald may not be available for the game as he holds out for a lucrative contract.  If we get news later in the week that Donald is in, I will bump up my exposure significantly.  Even without Donald I’ll take my chances against Tolzien and a running charge led by veteran Gore.

Also Consider: Texans, Jaguars, Bengals


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