Are you excited that football is back? Do you want to win money playing daily fantasy Football? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the first edition of the weekly Daily Fantasy: Love it, Need it, Hate it, Lottery Picks article.
Each week I will take you through a bunch of players who fall under one of these four sections on DraftKings and FanDuel for that week. I will also have a strategy article that will come out on Saturdays, where I will take you through different strategies that you should be using for that week, and let you know some of the strategies that your opponents will be using, so you can gain an edge on the field.
To set the groundwork, I will first run through the types of contests on DraftKings and FanDuel that I will reference in this article. There are two main types of contests that I will talk about, the first of which is tournaments. Tournaments are the flashy contests that you see commercials for, where somebody enters $20 and wins a million dollars. There are plenty of other tournaments as well, but the main focal points are the same. Usually, the top 20-25% of entries in a tournament make money. So if you’re in a 100 person tournament, the top 20-25 people will make money, while the rest lose their entry fees. The higher you finish in a tournament, the more money you make. Got it? Moving on.
The other type of contests are called “cash” games. In these cash games, the top ~50% of lineups will make money, but they will simply just double the entry fee of the contest. For example, if you enter a 100-person $5 double-up, the top 50 people will make money. However, whether you come in 1st place, or 50th place, you make $10. Typically people will make a more “optimal” lineup for cash games, as they know they don’t need to finish in first, they’re simply just trying to play a safe lineup that finishes in the top 50%
Players in the “Love it” section are guys that I am excited to play in any format, regardless of the ownership that they may garner that week.
Kyler Murray ($7,600 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel)
Kyler Murray is the first player that I love this weekend, and it is for a multitude of reasons. One of the most valuable things a quarterback can have is rushing upside, and Kyler is probably second to Lamar Jackson in rushing upside at the quarterback position. Kyler’s rushing production dipped in the second half of last season after a shoulder injury he sustained in Week 9 against Miami and then injured further when he landed on his shoulder in Week 11 against Seattle. In Weeks 1-10, Kyler averaged 9.67 rush attempts per game, good for 67.11 rushing yards, and he ran in a whopping 10 touchdowns. The rushing touchdowns are unsustainable, but he showed that he is definitely capable of getting into the end zone with his feet. On top of his rushing production, he was simply an all around fantasy monster, averaging 31.38 DraftKings’ points per game pre-injury.
Moving into this week’s matchup with Tennessee, it seems like all systems go for Kyler. Tennessee boasted a shaky passing defense last season, who gave up the 4th most passing yards, and 2nd most passing touchdowns. Tennessee also ranked 7th-worst in yards allowed per rush, which adds more rushing potential for Kyler. So we’ve established that Tennessee’s defense last year was pretty beatable, and they’ve lost five starters from last year. Their starting corners are an unproven rookie in Caleb Farley who struggled in camp, and veteran journeyman Janoris Jenkins. The Arizona offensive line also improved with the addition of Rodney Hudson, which should help give Kyler more time to maneuver the pocket. The Cardinals also added speedster rookie Rondale Moore, who could provide some explosiveness with his big play ability. For all of these reasons, Kyler is the first guy who I love this week.
Dalvin Cook ($9,100 DraftKings, $9,400 FanDuel)
Dalvin Cook is the second play that I love for this opening weekend. There aren’t many things that are certain in life, but I do know three things that are: Death, Taxes, and Mike Zimmer giving Dalvin Cook the ball as many times as he can handle. Dalvin Cook averaged 22.29 carries per game last year as well as 3.86 targets per game. There are not a lot of players that you can practically bet the house on getting 20+ touches a game, and Dalvin is one of them. Gary Kubiak, who was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator in 2020, retired earlier this offseason. Gary’s son Klint takes over as the OC, which just leads me to believe that Minnesota will have a similar game plan as last season, where they ran the ball at the 6th-highest rate in the league.
Minnesota also improved their offensive line through free agency and the draft, which will lead to them having an advantage in the trenches against Cincinnati’s weak defensive front. The Vikings are also favored in this game, leading to a positive game script in which Minnesota will look to feed Cook. Dalvin doesn’t see the same passing game usage as other top end backs like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara, but Cook is still involved. I expect the Vikings to give a heavy dosage of Cook early and often, and I expect the fantasy players who restored him to profit off of it.
This section will contain guys who I believe are necessary when you are constructing a lineup for cash games. They are still viable in tournaments, but they aren’t necessary. I still like them as plays, but these guys may come with higher ownership, which could provide merit to fading them and going another route.
Alvin Kamara (DraftKings) ($8,600 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel)
The first player in the Need it section for this week is dynamic back Alvin Kamara. If you blindly just played the running back for the team matching up against Green Bay for the past two years, you probably would’ve been a profitable player in Daily Fantasy. Green Bay gave up an impressive 27.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in 2020, which was the fifth most in the league. In his eight career games without Michael Thomas in the lineup, Kamara has averaged 13.5 rush attempts for 78.0 rushing yards per game on the ground. Through the air, Kamara has averaged 7.0 receptions on 8.62 targets per game, good for 70.25 receiving yards per game. On top of the almost 150 scrimmage yards, he’s also added 12 total TDs in the games without Thomas. These numbers are good enough to average 31.05 DraftKings points per game and 27.55 FanDuel points per game. Sounds pretty good right? I agree.
You never want to put too much weight in one-game sample sizes, but when we saw the Packers and Saints play last year (in a game Michael Thomas also didn’t suit up for), Alvin Kamara had a field day en route to 47.7 DraftKings points. You’d think Green Bay will be game-planning to stop Kamara. With him being far and away the Saints’ best option, I’m worried that they will. You can make the case to not play Kamara in tournaments, but when it comes to cash games, he is the first player that I am plugging in. Kamara is far more of a need on DraftKings than on FanDuel. While Kamara is fine there as well, he’s a better play on DraftKings with full PPR scoring.
James Robinson (FanDuel) ($6,400 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel)
The next player that you need for your lineups on Sunday is James Robinson. Robinson is a good play on DraftKings as well, but with his pricing on FanDuel, I view him as more of a need on that site. Robinson saw a hefty workload last season, averaging over 17 carries per game and just over 4 targets per game. Carlos Hyde may eat into Robinson’s workload a little bit, but with Travis Etienne out for the season, I expect Robinson to hold a “semi-workhorse” role with Hyde coming into the game to spare him when Robinson is tired.
This also is one of the few matchups all year that Jacksonville will be favored, leading to a positive game script for Robinson. The Texans also allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs last year, and their defense has somehow managed to put out a less impressive group this year. A “semi-workhorse” back with a prominent red-zone role against one of the worst defenses in the league is only $5,900 on FanDuel. That sounds like a plug-and-play to me.
Players in the “Hate it” section are guys that I do not want to roster that week in DFS for a number of reasons. They may have a bad matchup, they may be projecting to have too much ownership, they may be too expensive, or it could be a combination of the three.
Justin Herbert ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel)
Although I am high on Justin Herbert’s year-long outlook, this is a week where I am looking to avoid the young stud. Herbert had a tremendous rookie year, where he had multiple impressive fantasy performances. Herbert averaged 24.52 DraftKings points per game and flashed a ton of upside with four outings of more than 30 DraftKings points. Despite the impressive rookie year, due to this matchup, I will be passing on Herbert this week.
The Washington Football Team boasts one of the most intimidating defenses in the league. They’re stocked with defensive linemen capable of wreaking havoc, such as Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and others. The backend of the defense is also stout, and they added stud corner William Jackson III in free agency. Washington allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2020, and there is no reason to think they’ll be any more attackable this season. Brandon Staley is a first-time head coach, and Joe Lombardi is going into his first game as the Chargers offensive coordinator. I am a huge fan of Brandon Staley overall, but a Week 1 matchup with the veteran defensive-minded Ron Rivera is not something that interests me. With new coordinators, there are usually growing pains, and I have no interest in experiencing these growing pains against this defense. With Justin Herbert priced around the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill, and Jalen Hurts, Herbert is not someone that I am looking to hitch my wagon to in Week 1.
T.J. Hockenson ($4,900 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel)
What is there to like about the Detroit Lions this year? Well, for Week 1, it certainly isn’t T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson actually shapes up to see a solid target share this year, and his in-practice chemistry with Jared Goff has been apparent. However, on Sunday’s, the Lions have to play against opposing defenses, not their own.
Despite having a boatload of injuries, the 49ers’ defense was stout against opposing tight ends in 2020. They gave up 4.8 FanDuel points per game to opposing tight ends, which put them at 2nd in the league. The 49ers have one of the best pass rushes in the league with Nick Bosa back healthy, and they have Fred Warner roaming the middle of the field. Warner makes life difficult for opposing tight ends, and with Hockenson being the Lions’ only solid pass-catching option, I’d expect that trend to continue on Sunday. I’d expect stopping Hockenson to be a huge part of the 49ers’ defensive game plan. Hockenson is also projecting about 10-15% ownership on both sites, which makes him an easy fade for me on Sunday.
The Lottery Picks section contains players who I think have the upside to be in tournament-winning lineups. As well as having the ceiling to win tournaments, these players also won’t come with too much ownership
Raheem Mostert ($5,800 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel)
As a Packers fan, I have nightmares every time I see Raheem Mostert’s name. Oh? What’s that? Mostert scored again on the Packers in the 2019 NFC Championship Game? Okay. Moving on. Mostert had an injury-riddled 2020 season, where he only appeared in eight games. Mostert averaged 13 carries and 2.37 targets per game in 2020 and was able to muster up 12.59 DraftKings points per game. You’re probably wondering how any of this could be good news, and to be honest, it isn’t much. But, we have to dig deeper. Mostert averaged about 15 touches per game in a running back room that had Jerrick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, and Jeff Wilson Jr. Now, all three of those backs are gone. What remains in the running back room is Raheem Mostert, JaMycal Hasty, who had 39 carries all of last season, rookie 3rd-rounder Trey Sermon, and rookie 6th-rounder Elijah Mitchell. A lot of people are excited about Trey Sermon’s season-long outlook, myself included. But for this Week 1 matchup, I expect the 49ers to lean on the veteran Mostert, and work in Sermon sparingly.
Looking at this matchup, Mostert has the potential to run rampant on this Lions’ defense. The Lions gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs last season, and there’s no legitimate reason to think they’ll be any better. The 49ers’ are favored by over a touchdown in this game, which sets up a positive game script for Mostert. When teams are leading, they tend to run the ball more and chew some clock. These lead to situations where we like to roster those backfields, and Mostert is just the guy this week. Trey Sermon is the only piece of the equation that causes me to worry. I could see Sermon taking the goal line role, and coming in to spare Mostert. I expect Mostert to dominate the touches between the 20’s, and he’s shown the ability to break off long runs. With the state of this Lions’ defense, it isn’t too unrealistic to expect Mostert to break off a couple. Mostert is projecting for single-digit ownership on DraftKings, and sub-15% ownership on FanDuel. Due to his low ownership and high ceiling in this favorable matchup, Mostert is one of my favorite targets in tournaments this week.
Julio Jones ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel)
Julio Jones had an up-and-down 2020 season, as he missed seven games due to injuries. His fantasy performances in the nine games he played in were boom-or-bust. Julio posted three games with single-digit DraftKings points, and three games with 23+ DraftKings points. Jones moves from the Falcons to the Titans, where he looks to join the high powered-duo of Antonio Brown and Derrick Henry.
This Cardinals-Titans matchup on Sunday is shaping up to be the shootout of the week, as it pits two high-powered offenses against two suspect defenses. I am a tad worried about Tennessee’s offense in the long term after Arthur Smith’s departure. But with all offseason to prepare for this matchup, I believe Tennessee will be just fine. Julio has always had extremely high upside on any given Sunday, but injuries have derailed his past few seasons. Well, when can we guarantee that he’ll be healthy? Going into Week 1! This game is garnering a lot of attention and ownership across the DFS industry, and I will talk more about that in my article on Saturday. Julio is projecting for single-digit ownership on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and that is too good to pass up. Getting a player with Julio’s upside at low ownership in this game environment is a steal. Julio Jones is one of my favorite tournament plays this week.