After a long hiatus, we have our first NFL DFS Main Slate, and there are many games to target. Hence, the need to discuss some DFS Tournament Strategy. If you are new to DFS, check out our introductory pieces, such as DFS 101, Contest Selection, Stacking, Rostership and Leverage, and Lineup Construction. If you want to hear my thoughts on my five favorite games this weekend, you can also view my brand new DFS podcast, Cover 5, featuring special guest Josh Larky for Week 1.
.@JordanVanekDFS takes you through five games and outlines what info you need to know from a DFS standpoint
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) September 10, 2022
Double Stack 1: KC v ARI
- Stack: QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Marques Valdez-Scantling
- Runback: WR Marquise Brown
Last season was a down year by Patrick Mahomes’ standards, and that was due to the amount of Cover 4 he faced – think of Cover 4 as two safeties and two corners back deep in coverage. The only team to not play two safeties back on most plays was the Raiders, and Mahomes had no problems scoring against them. With a year of film, I anticipate Andy Reid to have a plan if teams continue to play two safeties back. I also don’t expect teams to utilize this coverage until the Chiefs can show their ability to win down the field without Tyreek Hill. The good news is they might not see it as often because the Cardinals blitz at a 21% rate, and against the blitz, Mahomes averages 9.6 yards per attempt. This rate hasn’t changed for the Cardinals against top quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers. If that trend continues, Mahomes will take advantage of it, and the Cardinals may even blitz more with the loss of Chandler Jones.
Regarding who to stack, I am not making Travis Kelce a priority in Mahomes’ stacks. The Cardinals were the second-best team against TEs that split out wide or in the slot, and that is where the majority of the production for Kelce came. I expect the Cardinals to utilize Isaiah Simmons, who was drafted to take away the elite-level TE, and for DFS purposes, stacking Mahomes without Kelce is a way to get unique against the field. The mismatch is with this Cardinals’ poor cornerback room, and I expect big games from Smith-Schuster and Valdez-Scantling. Last season, the Cardinals gave up the most touchdowns in the NFL to WRs, and I do not see an end to that trend. Starting CB Byron Murphy didn’t practice due to an illness Friday, and they traded for Trayvon Mullen from the Raiders, who is out with a toe injury.
For the Cardinals offense, my interest is with Marquise Brown, who will have a plethora of targets coming his way in the absence of DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and possibly Zach Ertz. I believe this Chiefs defense will be much better than people anticipate; however, Brown will see the volume that will outweigh the improvements. Brown should also see plenty of snaps in the slot, and that will allow him to work more freely.
Double Stack 2: CIN v PIT
- Stack: QB Joe Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase, WR Tyler Boyd
- Runback: WR Chase Claypool
The Bengals have one of the best WR groups in the entire NFL, and when stacking Joe Burrow, you will want to utilize two pass catchers. Ja’Marr Chase had a limited route tree as a rookie and still posted one of the best WR years ever. I expect him to see higher volume overall, which may result in less explosive plays. I also anticipate teams attempting to play more two high concepts, and that will result in a heavy dose of Joe Mixon. In this matchup, the Steelers will rely on their elite pass rush to get to Burrow to make mistakes, and put them in negative situations. However, the Bengals upgraded their offensive line significantly in the offseason and are a much improved unit. With teams playing more players deep, I expect Tyler Boyd to be the benefactor for this. The more players utilized to prevent the big play the fewer guarding the short portion of the field.
For the Steelers, with Diontae’s shoulder, I am intrigued with Chase Claypool, who could see more utilization in the slot this season. Last season, the Bengals gave up the 9th most fantasy points to slot WRs. George Pickens interests me as well, but I don’t see him getting utilized in the slot and I don’t see as big of a role in Week 1 for the rookie.
Double Stack 3: MIA v NE
- Stack: QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Tyreek Hill, WR Jaylen Waddle
- Runback: WR Jakobi Meyers
For this stack, I am going away from what our partner Sports Info Solutions is projecting, and instead focusing on how bullish I am with the Miami Dolphins passing attack. For starters, I expect them to get a lot of man coverage this year and that’s going to result in a lot of big play opportunities. The reason for this is because the best coverage against RPOs (run-pass option) is Cover 1 because you keep everything accounted for, and for the Dolphins, utilizing this coverage against Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will be a nightmare.
Mike McDaniel will carry over the Kyle Shanahan philosophy: get the ball to your best players and worry about the rest later. With McDaniel in Atlanta, they targeted Julio Jones 203 times, and if McDaniel’s plan was to run the ball more, the moves they made in the offseason did not accomplish that. They have a rotational backfield that can impact the game catching the ball; they signed Cedrick Wilson, utilized a draft pick into the WR position when they didn’t have many picks, and traded for Tyreek Hill. The Patriots did not replace the loss of J.C. Jackson and have very big questions on how they plan on moving the ball offensively with the loss of Josh McDaniels and utilizing multiple play callers. Tua Tagovailoa has all the eyes on him, and he will have chances to prove the doubters wrong on his abilities to push the ball down the field. The doubters are actually not data-driven, as The Edge, our flagship tool, pinpointed Tua Tagovailoa as the most accurate QB last year on throws of 21 or more air yards. In lineups where I am not getting to a full stack, I do believe in Chase Edmonds as well, and even considered him being a part of this build.
From the Patriots’ side of the ball, I am going with Jakobi Meyers because of his price and the game script I am anticipating. I believe the Patriots will play from behind, and Meyers will be targeted heavily. The Dolphins will be without Byron Jones, and the backup corners have all missed practices this week. The other injury to monitor is Raekwon Davis who is a crucial interior defensive lineman in stopping the run for the Dolphins, and in his absence I do not mind getting to the Patriots backfield.
*Added Double Stack 4: JAC v WAS*
- Stack: QB Trevor Lawrence, WR Christian Kirk, TE Evan Engram
- Runback: RB Antonio Gibson
The Commanders ranked last against quarterbacks last season, and without Chase Young, I don’t believe that changes. Trevor Lawrence has all the talent in the world, and with Doug Pederson coaching him, we should see that shine. This stack allows you to have $6,000 per player on DraftKings, and that’s without picking a defense. Christian Kirk was brought in for a lot of money, and this secondary gave up 31 completions over 20 or more yards down the field for ten total touchdowns. Christian Kirk had 13 receptions for 427 yards and three touchdowns last season on these deep throws. Engram hasn’t been the player he was since his rookie season, but Pederson has always put his tight ends in a position to win, and for $3,500, he is a very easy player to fit into the lineup. As for the runback, Gibson is going to get the full workload of carries, and in terms of popularity, he is coming in very low rostered. I am not forcing this runback, but out of the weapons on the other side, he is the best way to get different. Jahan Dotson is looking to be very popular, and Terry McLaurin is too expensive for what I want to do with my build. I am not going to this stack on FanDuel, but I see this as an intriguing play for DraftKings.
- Stack: QB Lamar Jackson, TE Mark Andrews
- Runback: WR Elijah Moore
Lamar Jackson is not getting his contract extended and is betting on himself to perform at a high level this season. In the first game against the New York Jets, I expect him to put on an absolute show and demonstrate why he should be paid. Gus Edwards will not play, and JK Dobbins is questionable, leaving room for Jackson to do most of the damage on the ground. I prefer Mark Andrews as the stack because of his price on DraftKings and how I believe most builders will gravitate towards Kelce, who is slightly cheaper. I like the matchup for Andrews a lot better than Kelce because the Jets gave up the third most points to tight ends last season without playing four of the top five scoring tight ends in football. They gave up over 100-yards on three separate occasions last season, and Andrews will be the primary target for this offense.
As for the runback, it’s simple for me to utilize Elijah Moore here because he was Joe Flacco’s primary target in their one game together, and I do not foresee that changing. The Ravens will have a much-improved secondary, but the passing volume will be high while playing from behind, and Moore will see many targets. The Jets did spend first round capital on Garrett Wilson, but every indication from camp reporters has been he is going to be in a rotation to begin the season and that makes me more bullish on Moore.
- IND @ HOU
Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor are projected to be two of the most popular players on the slate. I do not want to play them in builds that are not getting unique, but they are chalk I am willing to take. The preference between them relies on if I can go up to Taylor. As for the Texans, they will be taking on a new look Colts’ defense without Shaq Leonard, and with Gus Bradley calling plays. Bradley’s scheme is Cover 3 heavy – think three corners/safeties splitting the deep part of the field into thirds, and that is where I look forward to seeing what Nico Collins will do on the perimeter. Last season, Nico Collins was targeted on 29% of his routes run vs. Cover 3. Brandin Cooks and Dameon Pierce will be the two that draw rostership; however, in mini stacks, I will look to be contrarian with Collins.
- SFO @ CHI
Elijah Mitchell was one of five running backs in 2021 to have nine games with at least 17 carries. The Bears’ run defense is not supposed to be strong with the losses of Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack, and they are expected to struggle offensively. The 49ers have one of the top run-blocking units and schemes in the NFL, and I expect Mitchell to get a similar workload to last season. You have two pass catchers who should benefit from the negative game script, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney. Both players are expected to see plenty of work, and with the pricing involved, I prefer Kmet.
- GB @ MIN
AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones will be featured frequently this weekend, and I expect formations with both on the field together. The Packers simply don’t have a great group of weapons, and I don’t anticipate Aaron Rodgers being able to carve up the Vikings like years past.
The Vikings have a Vic Fangio disciple-calling plays on defense and are much healthier than they have been. Justin Jefferson will be the Vikings’ featured player on the offensive side of the ball, but this Packers defense is a top-end talent in the league. The offseason talk has been Jefferson getting the “Cooper Kupp” role from the Rams offense, and if that is the case, Jefferson is at a discount this weekend.
- LVR @ LAC
Davante Adams was the big addition for the Raiders this offseason, but I don’t plan on getting to him in Week 1 of the NFL season. For starters, this is the most talented pass-catching room he has had in the past few years, and in this specific matchup, I don’t believe he leads them in production. The Chargers’ weakness is against tight ends, and Darren Waller becoming the second option is a scary threat. The Chargers will also not have star cornerback J.C. Jackson, which means the bracketed coverage to Adams could lead to a significant advantage for Waller and Hunter Renfrow. There will be plays where these two get matched up against linebackers, and that will be where Carr goes with the football. The reason I am not looking for Derek Carr as a stack is because of the offensive line. Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack will be able to generate pressure without the Chargers blitzing, and Derek Carr, when pressured by four or fewer defenders, averaged 5.7 YPA (courtesy of The Edge).
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers will have a tough time keeping Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby in check. The reasoning behind not stacking with Herbert had more to do with the pricing of his pass catchers than the matchup. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler are all fine players to target in tournaments. Ekeler is the preference out of the group because I expect Herbert to find him out of the backfield frequently when facing pressure and the Raiders’ linebacking group struggled to cover running backs out of the backfield. It is a new scheme with the Raiders under Patrick Graham, and this mini-stack is in my pool, but not a priority.
- RB Christian McCaffrey
McCaffrey is one of the cheat codes of fantasy football, and when healthy, there aren’t any RBs better than him. In the three games he played in over 70% of the snaps last season, he averaged 14 DK points from just receiving stats. The Browns are an elite defense, the game will be slow-paced, but this is the cheapest McCaffrey will be all season.
- RB Nick Chubb
The Panthers’ defensive line is weaker against the run than last season, and heavily utilizing Nick Chubb is the key victory for the Browns. Chubb is also projected to be extremely low rostered on both websites due to the quarterback play and the players around him. In builds, I play many popular players; Chubb is my favorite way to get unique to counteract this.
- TE Kyle Pitts
Pitts had a disappointing 1000-yard season as a rookie for the fantasy community. The standards were astronomically high last year for the rookie, and now that he’s in year two, he is due for a massive boost. Marcus Mariota has shown the ability to effectively get the ball to tight ends, and with Drake London questionable, Pitts will likely see a massive target share at an underwhelming position. Nailing the TE position is a key part of DFS Tournament Strategy.
- TE Evan Engram
Engram is a punt TE option and one I will be getting to in some builds. Doug Pederson has been one of the better play-callers when it comes to getting TEs in a position to succeed, and Engram has always had the talent.
Player Pool (Projections done by SIS)
|Team||Player||Pos||DK Salary||DK Proj||FD Salary||FD Proj|
|IND||Michael Pittman Jr.||WR||$5,500||19.9||$7,200||16.1|