Are you ready for some projections about which players are priced in such a way on daily fantasy sports sites that they will be extremely popular picks when football begins on Sunday?
Admittedly, that question lacks the brevity and catchiness of “Are you ready for some football?”
But for serious DFS players, it’s an important question just the same.
What follows are our best guesses — based on common sense, intuition, chatter on social media, and opinions shared across the DFS podcast-verse — as to who will be the “chalk” at every position this week. Prices in parentheses are for the two leading DFS sites, DraftKings and FanDuel. And we’ve also included some thoughts at each position on two wild cards at presumably lower ownership with high upside.
This has the feel of a Week 1 in which people spend up a bit to get a QB they can rely on, and Tom Brady (7200 DK, 8600 FD) and Drew Brees (6800 DK, 8400 FD), both playing at home, fit the bill despite their combined age of 80.
But the most popular play will be one that provides similar veteran stability at a slightly lower price: Philip Rivers (6400 DK, 7500 FD). Not only do you save a few bucks and a few years (Rivers is 36), but you get another home QB surrounded by strong skill players taking on a Kansas City Chiefs secondary with high turnover. It’s Rivers, Keenan Allen, and company vs. Eric Berry and a bunch of newbies to the system.
For DFS-ers looking to spend less, Andy Dalton (5800 DK, 6800 FD) on the road against a shoddy Colts defense and Case Keenum (5100 DK, 6300 FD), trying to continue last year’s Minnesota magic as the new signal-caller for the Broncos against an overrated Seahawks D, both bring some risk but could pay off big.
Look for similarly high levels of ownership here among one high-priced RB, one mid-tier back, and a couple of bargain-basement options.
Some will spend up for Alvin Kamara (8500 DK, 8700 FD), who averaged a preposterous 6.1 yards per carry last year and won’t be splitting touches with Mark Ingram for the first four games this year. Others will look to save money on Rex Burkhead (4200 DK, 6300 FD) or Peyton Barber (4100 DK, 5600 FD), who are underpriced for their potential roles (though Burkhead figures to be less popular on FanDuel due to the pricing).
And in the middle is Christian McCaffrey (6400 DK, 7500 FD), who jumped up season-long-fantasy draft boards during the preseason based on high usage. The Carolina rusher is a perfect example of a player who would have been priced very differently for Week 1 had salaries not been released a month ago.
There’s nothing sexy about Lamar Miller (5200 DK, 6500 FD), but he’s a three-down back priced like a guy in a timeshare. And if you aren’t on board the Burkhead bandwagon, his New England teammate James White (4000 DK, 5500 FD) could benefit big-time in the absence of Dion Lewis.
All the DFS chalk talk the last couple of weeks has centered around Keelan Cole (3800 DK, 4500 FD), who became the likely top WR on the Jaguars at a third-wideout-on-the-depth-chart price after Marqise Lee suffered a season-ending knee injury. Look for high ownership on Cole in GPPs and cash games, as you simply don’t find his scoring potential at FanDuel’s minimum price often.
Other popular pick-ups despite their hefty price tags will include Antonio Brown (8600 DK, 9000 FD), who even at the highest wideout salary is underpriced if Le’Veon Bell sits; Michael Thomas (7800 DK, 8500 FD); and Keenan Allen (7500 DK, 8000 FD). And for those looking to spend a wee bit less, Chris Hogan (6100 DK, 6700 FD) is going to be the primary fantasy beneficiary of Julian Edelman’s absence.
There’s nothing exciting about rostering eight-year vet A.J. Green (7300 DK, 8400 FD) anymore, but against Indy, he could very realistically outscore Brown, Thomas, and Allen at both a lower price point and lower ownership. And for those looking to save money, Danny Amendola (4200 DK, 5100 FD) should see plenty of targets from Ryan Tannehill in Miami, even if there isn’t a lot of GPP-winning touchdown upside.
Despite his high (and, on DraftKings, clearly intended to get a laugh) price tag, Rob Gronkowski (6900 DK, 7900 FD) could be looking at 2015-like levels of ownership this week. Just like Chris Hogan, he benefits from no Edelman. And ownership-wise, he gets a boost from having no Zach Ertz in the main slate.
At more affordable salaries, Jordan Reed (4000 DK, 5800 FD) is available at a big discount relative to his ability due to last year’s injury woes, and David Njoku (3400 DK, 5300 FD) is, like a lot of the Hard Knocks Browns, enjoying a preseason bump in buzz.
The simple rule in fantasy in recent years is to play whatever tight end is facing Cleveland’s defense. That makes Vance McDonald (3200 DK, 4800 FD) a high-upside play for cheap and teammate Jesse James (2700 DK, 4600 FD) a great option if McDonald is out or limited due to a foot injury.
It sure looks like the kind of week in which DFS players will spend up for a top defense. As unpredictable as this roster spot can be, there’s enough salary relief elsewhere to afford Baltimore (3800 DK, 4800 DK) against the Bills, Jacksonville (3700 DK, 4700 DK) against the Giants, or New Orleans (3600 DK, 4600 DK) against the Bucs. Maybe a cheaper D is worth gambling on in tournaments, but in cash games, the safe plays should be the most popular ones.
If you must spend down at D, Tennessee (2900 DK, 4200 FD) could be worth a shot on the road against a weak Miami team, or you could take a big chance on Cleveland (2000 DK, 3000 FD) at the lowest price in the league and hope for no Le’Veon Bell and a turnover-prone, aging Ben Roethlisberger on the road. We know that version of Big Ben shows up from time to time, making this a contrarian pick worth considering.