FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 1
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of this week's top plays of the slate.
Lamar Jackson ($9,400 on FanDuel): No surprises here -- Baltimore owns the top implied team total on the board (28.00) against Cleveland, so last year's MVP checks in as numberFire's top projected player across all positions. Lamar Jackson averaged a ridiculous 28.1 FanDuel points per game in 2019, and even with the possibility that he runs less often in 2020, no other player possesses the fantasy-breaking skillset he brings to the table.
Russell Wilson ($8,400): We've got a slate-high 49.0 total between the Seahawks and Falcons in a potential shootout brewing in Atlanta. Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan ($7,800) come in behind Jackson for the second- and third-highest quarterback projections, respectively, but Wilson is worth the extra dough for his added rushing points. The Seattle signal-caller will face an Atlanta defense that ranked 25th in schedule-adjusted pass defense by numberFire's metrics last season, and the unit isn't expected to very good in 2020, either.
Cam Newton ($7,300): The Patriots' new starting quarterback enters 2020 as the ultimate fantasy wild card, but if we get anything close to the Cam Newton of old, the sky's the limit. That's a huge "if" following a lost 2019 campaign, but Cam's opener against Miami makes for a tempting spot to test the waters. The Dolphins figure to be improved on defense after signing Byron Jones, among other moves, but they can really only go up after being by far the worst adjusted pass defense last season. However, there's also the question of whether Newton can do much with a limited cache of receiving weapons. Still, we're talking about one of the best rushing quarterbacks of all time, and he projects as one of the top values at the position.
Christian McCaffrey ($10,000): Even though he has the highest salary on the slate, Christian McCaffrey is a no-brainer core play and the top projected running back by a sizable margin. Under a new coaching staff, there's a chance McCaffrey sees his massive workload take a slight dip in 2020, but considering he's coming off a 93% snap rate with 17.9 rushing attempts and 8.9 targets per game, we have a lot of wiggle room to work with. This Raiders-Panthers matchup has the fourth-highest total (47.5) and grants us high-scoring potential between two lackluster defenses.
Dalvin Cook ($8,700): Dalvin Cook is another easy workhorse back to like against a Packers run defense that ranked 31st by numberFire's metrics. A chest injury he first endured in Week 11 would ultimately derail him down the stretch last year, but over the first 10 games, he averaged 20.3 carries and 4.8 targets per game and exceeded 20 FanDuel points seven times. And despite being hobbled by the end, he still managed to score at least one touchdown in 11 of 14 weeks.
Josh Jacobs ($7,200): Following McCaffrey and Cook, the floor opens itself up to a number of running backs you can talk yourself into, but they either have tougher matchups or workload concerns. Josh Jacobs falls in the latter category due to his modest target total last year (27 in 13 games), but it's arguably offset by his dreamy matchup against Carolina, which was numberFire's worst-ranked run defense in 2019. There's been talk of giving Jacobs more passing game work this year, too, so there's always the chance he surprises in that department. Regardless, he still averaged a robust 18.6 rushes per game last year and should be plenty involved in what should be a back-and-forth contest.
Kenyan Drake ($6,600): The matchup isn't great for Kenyan Drake against the 49ers, but this game is actually tied for the second-highest total (48.5), so there could be fantasy points to go around if things remain close. Upon joining the Cardinals, Drake averaged 15.4 carries and 4.4 targets per game -- so the volume will be there -- and he produced 26.2 and 11.0 FanDuel points in two matchups against San Francisco in 2019. Drake projects as a solid value at this salary, but the opponent could keep his roster percentage low.
Davante Adams ($8,000): It's obviously great if you can fit in Michael Thomas ($8,800), who tops the wide receiver projections, but he also has the third-highest salary on the slate, making it really difficult to pay up for the top running backs. Davante Adams comes in at $800 less but actually leads all wideouts in projected targets as pretty much the only show in town for Green Bay. The Vikings may have been a stout pass defense last year, but they've seen a lot of turnover in the secondary, perhaps leaving them more vulnerable than we've been accustomed to.
D.J. Moore ($7,100): The Raiders had the second-worst adjusted pass defense in 2019, once again reinforcing the shootout potential of this matchup. As a follow-up to Kyle Allen, new Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ($6,800) is an upgrade practically by default, and this can only mean good things for number-one wideout D.J. Moore, despite the uncertainty that comes with a new system. Last year, Moore led all Panthers wideouts with 0.75 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target (minimum 50 targets), besting teammate Curtis Samuel (0.54) by a wide margin and exceeding the league average (0.70). That's remarkable efficiency in the face of last year's poor quarterback play and is a promising sign for what's to come.
Calvin Ridley ($6,600): Calvin Ridley is a great way to gain exposure to the Falcons, coming in at a $1,600 drop in salary compared to teammate Julio Jones ($8,200). Only Jameis Winston and Jared Goff threw more passes than Matt Ryan in 2019, so you know there will be plenty of targets to go around in what should be a fantasy-friendly spot. Once Mohamed Sanu was shipped out of town, Ridley averaged 8.8 targets over his five healthy games the rest of the season.
Henry Ruggs ($5,100): By now, you've probably heard plenty about DeSean Jackson ($5,700) as a value play, who makes plenty of sense against a poor Washington defense (although a surprise return of Jalen Reagor to practice theoretically throws a small wrench in things). But if you're willing to take on some uncertainty, Henry Ruggs is even cheaper in a fantastic spot against an inexperienced Panthers defense that could really struggle this year. While we don't know exactly how targets will be distributed on the Raiders, it's telling that rookies Ruggs and Bryan Edwards ($4,500) impressed enough to earn starting jobs in a limited camp, and a season-ending injury to Tyrell Williams should only further open up looks.
George Kittle ($8,000): It's all lining up for George Kittle to drop the hammer in Week 1. He's facing a Cardinals defense that was eviscerated by tight ends last year, and the 49ers could also be missing Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, who are dealing with injuries. in 2019, Arizona allowed a league-high 16.1 FanDuel points per game to tight ends, which included a whopping 16 scores allowed (Cleveland was second with 10). Kittle easily bests the field as this week's top projected tight end.
Hayden Hurst ($5,200): If you can't find room for Kittle, hopping down to Zach Ertz ($6,600) is a more than fine alternative against Washington. But if you're still looking to drop down even further, Hayden Hurst gives us another avenue to the Seattle-Atlanta game. Hurst will essentially fill the Austin Hooper role for the Falcons, who averaged a healthy 7.5 targets per game last year.
Philadelphia D/ST ($4,500): Sacks and turnovers are the name of the game when it comes to fantasy defenses, and we're most likely to find that from a team that gets out to an early lead and forces the opposition to play catch-up. That shouldn't be a problem for Philadelphia as 5.5-point road favorites over Washington, and Dwayne Haskins isn't exactly the best candidate to complete a comeback -- particularly in a new offense. The Eagles sit atop numberFire's defense projections on the slate.
Indianapolis D/ST ($3,700): Of course, the preferred route is to pay down at a less predictable position like defense, and the Colts are one such option. No one expects the Jaguars to be any good this season, and they're predictably 7.5-point home 'dogs to the Colts. Outside of D.J. Chark, there just aren't many proven weapons on the Jags. The Detroit D/ST ($3,700) are also worth considering against Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears.