5 NFL FanDuel Value Plays to Target in Week 1

Studs with sizable salaries are frequently an integral part of winning money in daily fantasy football at FanDuel. However, to fit them under the salary cap, it's imperative to locate underpriced players who over-deliver.

A good place to start when attempting to unearth undervalued players is our projections tool. The tool offers a value option for sorting, showcasing who offers the most bang for your buck. In addition to matchups impacting projections, injuries do as well. On that note, players replacing injured starters are often among the top values. So, staying abreast of injury news and inactives until the start of games is a must with that in mind.

With the tone set for this piece, let's move on. The following quintet of players is among my favorite cap-friendly options in Week 1.

Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons ($6,200)

Mike Davis is the top back for the Atlanta Falcons. After dumping Qadree Ollison and recently replacing him with Wayne Gallman, Davis's standing atop the backfield is further cemented out of the chute. Our Power Rankings have the Philadelphia Eagles above-average defending the run, and they were stingy against the run last year. Still, volume trumps matchup, and Davis could have it at his disposal.

To that point, FanDuel sportsbook lists the Falcons as three-point favorites, potentially setting up for a positive game script. In addition, as you can see on our Heat Map, Atlanta's implied total of 25.75 points is the seventh-highest, enhancing Davis's outlook and potential for reaching paydirt. As for Davis's credentials, according to Pro Football Reference, he led qualified runners in rush attempts per broken tackle rate in 2020.

In addition to making tacklers miss, he's an asset in the passing attack. According to Pro Football Focus, out of 47 backs targeted at least 25 times, he ranked 13th in their receiving grade and 18th in yards per route run (1.23). From a traditional measurements standpoint, his 3.9 receptions and 24.9 receiving yards per game were meaningful marks, too.

Our projections pencil him in for roughly 18 touches and nearly 80 yards from scrimmage. A 20-plus touch effort is well within his range of outcomes, though. Further, he'd make good on his modest salary if he scores a touchdown with the projected 80 yards from scrimmage. He's my second-favorite bargain back.

Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers ($6,100)

My favorite value running back is Raheem Mostert. It is possible rookie Trey Sermon will push him for top honors at some point this year, and he could make some noise as well in a mouthwatering matchup in Week 1. However, as the following tweet demonstrates, Mostert received starter treatment in the offseason/preseason.

The lead runner is a good person to be opposing the Detroit Lions. We have them ranked as the fifth-worst run defense in the Power Rankings. Don't confuse Mostert for just a matchup-based suggestion, though. He also shares top-flight company in Pro Football Focus's rushing grade since 2019.

Also, as recently as 2019, Mostert ranked first out of 45 running backs who carried the ball at least 100 times with 0.15 Rush Net Expected Points (NEP) Per Carry. Additionally, Mostert gashed defenses for 5.0 yards per rush attempt last year, and he sports 5.6 yards per rush attempt for his career. He's a home-run hitter who's equipped to steamroll the Lions and take advantage of a likely favorable game script with the San Francisco 49ers favored by a main-slate high 7.5 points.

Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets ($5,800)

The New York Jets made a splash in free agency, agreeing to a contract with Corey Davis on the heels of a breakout 2020 season with the Tennessee Titans. According to Pro Football Reference, he ranked seventh out of 153 qualified pass-catchers in yards per target (10.7). But, incredibly, that's his least impressive efficiency metric. Davis also ranked tied for fourth out of 62 receivers with at least 75 targets in Target NEP Per Target (0.65) with Justin Jefferson and alone in fourth with 2.58 yards per route run.

Davis looks to get to work validating his breakout as presumably the number-one receiver on the Jets. If the preseason is an indicator of what's to come, he'll be a target hog. Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus tweeted the following after his first two preseason games.

Obviously, that's an unsustainable pace. Still, it looks like he's the apple of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson's eye.

DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,300)

DeVonta Smith enters the NFL after snagging a pair of prestigious collegiate awards, the Heisman Trophy and the Fred Biletnikoff Award (awarded to the top receiver in college football). According to Sports Reference, he erupted for 117 receptions, 1,856 receiving yards, and 23 receiving touchdowns. Arguably equally impressive, playing in the same offense with 2019 first-round picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, and a fellow 2020 first-round pick, Jaylen Waddle, in 2019, he shredded defenses for 68 receptions, 1,256 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns. Smith's ability to get open and command targets sharing an offense with other elite talents is eye-catching.

After a disappointing rookie season for Jalen Reagor, Smith is in a prime position to be the top receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. Theoretically, he should already have chemistry with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts after playing together on the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2017 and 2018, alleviating some concerns about the time he missed in August with a sprained MCL.

The duo has an opportunity to make sweet music together against Atlanta's suspect pass defense. The Falcons are our seventh-worst ranked pass defense in the Power Rankings. Additionally, the matchup might literally be the best imaginable for Smith after the Falcons failed to make a splash at cornerback in the offseason following a year in which they permitted the most FanDuel points per game to receivers.

Jonnu Smith, TE, New England Patriots ($4,900)

The New England Patriots double-dipped in the free-agent market at tight end, signing Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. They desperately needed talent at the position, and they should regularly be on the field together for a team with lackluster receiving talent. After all, head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had utilized two-tight-end sets in the past when they had the talent at the position allowing them to do so.

ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen believes Smith's a player to focus on in New England's offense.

Speaking specifically to Bowen's point about Smith's "catch and run traits," the athletic tight end is a yards-after-catch monster. According to Sports Info Solutions, Smith's 5.9 yards after the catch per reception tied for the sixth-highest mark among receivers, and tight ends targeted at least 65 times in 2020. Also, for his career, he's averaged 7.2 yards after the catch per reception.

Smith's tailor-made to excel in a quick-strike offense led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones. ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes noted his quick trigger after the team's first preseason game against the Washington Football Team.

To put his 2.53-second average time to throw in perspective, it would have ranked as the seventh-fastest mark among qualified quarterbacks last year, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Jones and Smith might be a match made in heaven, and in an offense lacking an established, elite receiver, there's a path to a hefty workload right away for the former Titan.

Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.