This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
DraftKings recently opened a couple NFL contests for Week 1, giving us more than a full month to obsess over hypothetical decisions based on information that will be mostly irrelevant by September. But the fact I know I'm wasting my time won't actually stop me from doing it, so I might as well have some fun along the way.
If nothing else, it'll be neat to look back at this post on Sept. 6 when I release my first DFS Tournament Guide of 2019. Summer injuries and news reports are sure to alter my strategy, but I'll bet there are two or three players that stay strong in the forefront of my mind between now and Week 1.
I'm looking at prices from the main slate of Sunday afternoon games, excluding the four primetime contests (GB-CHI, PIT-NE, HOU-NO, DEN-OAK).
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is the first name to stand out, ranking ninth among QBs at $6,000, and facing a Miami defense that might have the worst front seven in the league. You generally won't win much money stacking games with over/unders of 37, but I see genuine cause for optimism with the prices on Mark Ingram ($5,100), Kenyan Drake ($4,700), Kenny Stills ($4,000) and Mark Andrews ($3,000). Perhaps we use Jackson or one of the running backs as a standalone play, or even consider a Jackson-Andrews-Stills stack. The DFS appeal of this game will decrease if Josh Rosen gets the start instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Other favorable QB prices include Kyler Murray ($5,600 vs. DET) and Kirk Cousins ($5,500 vs. ATL), both playing at home in games that should be competitive (+1.5 for Murray, -4 for Cousins) and reasonably high-scoring (48.5, 47.5). The rookie is new and exciting, which should attract high ownership. Cousins is old and boring, but he's facing a weaker defense and is more likely to reach the 300-yard passing bonus.
I mentioned above that Miami might field the worst front seven in the NFL. My reason for uncertainty? The New York Giants, a team that yielded 4.3 YPC to running backs in 2018 and then downgraded an already-weak defense during the offseason. Ezekiel Elliott ($9,200) is deserving of the top price among all players Week 1, assuming he's back from his holdout. Saquon Barkley ($9,000) is a superior talent at a slightly lower price in the same game, but he'll actually have to face a real NFL defense.
My next question is whether I'll even want to consider the elite RBs when guys like Le'Veon Bell ($7,100 vs. BUF) Dalvin Cook ($6,000 vs. ATL) and even Leonard Fournette ($6,100 vs. KC) may start the season operating as three-down workhorses. Season-long drafters have valid reasons to doubt each player, but I don't really care about durability or reliability when putting together a DFS tournament lineup.
Looking further down the price scale, there's serious potential in a Week 1 matchup between the 49ers and Buccaneers, a pair of teams with unsettled backfields. Depending on what happens over the next few weeks, any of Tevin Coleman ($5,000), Matt Breida ($4,000), Peyton Barber ($4,000) or Ronald Jones ($3,900) could be a steal.
Last but not least, Nick Chubb ($6,300 vs. TEN) may not have passing-down snaps or a good matchup, but he has his own talent as well as his teammates' talent working in his favor. He'll have a shot at triple-digit rushing yards and multiple touchdowns every time he takes the field this season.
Between defensive reputation and the DvP stats from last season, high-priced WR ownership likely will lean toward Odell Beckham ($8,100 vs. TEN) and Mike Evans ($7,900 vs SF) over Julio Jones ($8,000 at MIN), Tyreek Hill ($7,600 at JAX) and Keenan Allen ($7,300 vs. IND). Individual matchups steer me away from Hill (vs. Jalen Ramsey) and also Allen (vs. Kenny Moore), with no real preference — at least not yet — among the other three.
I've already mentioned the favorable price on Kirk Cousins, so you know I'm happy to stack him with Adam Thielen ($6,800) and/or Stefon Diggs ($6,700). Once preseason injuries impact a few backfields to create obvious value, it'll be easy enough to build solid lineups that stack Cousins-Thielen-Diggs-Julio. But maybe I'm getting too far ahead of myself going that deep into lineup construction before the end of July?
In terms of individual WR plays, potential bargains include Tyler Boyd ($5,800 at SEA), Cooper Kupp ($5,700 at CAR), Dede Westbrook ($4,800 vs. KC), Christian Kirk ($4,700 vs DET), Curtis Samuel ($4,200 vs LAR) and Zay Jones ($3,700 at NYJ). There's a ton of potential in the mid-price range, and August hype likely will have too much of an impact on ownership. Apart from reports that contain info about playing-time expectations, it's generally better to go against the crowd here. A "quiet" summer from Kirk or Westbrook, for example, shouldn't impact the reality of the Week 1 role.
Kelce and Kittle
If there's one thing I can promise you, it's that I won't stop beating the drum for drafting premium tight ends early or spending big bucks to acquire them. Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz accounted for half of the 100-yard receiving games by TEs last season and finished the year with 14.6 percent of the position's total yardage.
I'm a bit worried about Ertz's reliance on volume he probably can't match (9.8 targets per game) now that the Eagles are healthier and better, but Kelce and Kittle have no such concern after tearing through the league with hyper-efficiency last year. As much as I like O.J. Howard ($5,000 vs. SF) in season-long or dynasty formats, the price gap probably isn't big enough to justify picking him over Kelce ($7,100 at JAX) and Kittle ($6,600 at TB).
If anything, I'm tempted to use Howard or a cheaper TE in the flex spot — maybe Hunter Henry ($3,900 vs. IND) or Jordan Reed ($3,600 at PHI). I even think Kittle+Kelce is a viable play, as both will be owned above 10 percent, but few lineups will use them together.
Defense, If We Must
D/ST is the one position where I start my browsing from the bottom rather than the top, only occasionally giving thought to the high-priced options. There's nothing in the bargain bin that stands out as an obvious choice at the moment, but San Francisco ($2,200 at TB) is at least worth a look for a matchup against turnover-prone Jameis Winston. There's a good chance Winston yields a couple turnovers and a few sacks even if he has a productive game moving the ball.
On medium-high end of the spectrum, the Seahawks ($3,100 vs. CIN) and Jets ($3,100 vs. BUF) both ease into the 2019 campaign with home games against problematic offenses. I also might pay up for the Browns defense ($3,400 vs. TEN) in a lineup that uses Chubb at running back.
Colts RB Nyheim Hines ($3,900 at LAC) isn't really on my redraft radar after doing so little with his touches (3.7 YPC, 5.2 YPT) last season. He's a passing-down specialist on a team that should play with leads for much of the year, but Week 1 presents a nice opportunity for volume — the Colts are three-point underdogs against a Chargers team that has Casey Hayward, Derwin James and Desmond King in the secondary. Quick throws to Hines would help Andrew Luck survive a tough matchup.
The QB and RB prices initially took my mind away from Rams at Panthers, but it's nonetheless a decent stacking choice given the favorable prices on WRs for a potential shootout. I am a bit worried about Carolina's rushing attack sucking clock and volume out of the game against a Rams defense that focuses on stopping the pass, so let's put this one in the TBD category for now.