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Week 1 Cash Game Cornerstones

Week 1 of the NFL season is finally upon us and we’ve got your cash game cornerstones to help make you a winner on Draftkings and Fanduel this week.

Quick Cash Game Tips for New Players

In cash games, we’re trying to build the most optimal lineup possible.  I like to target players with a high floor with some upside as well.  Typically boom or bust type guys are best suited for GPP’s and not cash games.

Limit Variance

If you’re playing 50/50s or Double Ups target single entry contests with the highest number of unique entries as possible.  Doing this allows you to avoid the trains run by the “pros” in the large field double-ups.  You can also play H2H’s to limit some of the variances as opposed to all or nothing 50/50s and Double Ups.

Vegas Is Your Friend

As a general rule of thumb, I like to check the Vegas totals as the first step in my weekly research.  It kind of goes without saying but you want your fantasy players to score touchdowns so having a general idea of which NFL teams the Sportsbooks project to score the most points via the game total and spread is a great starting point.  

Keep an Eye on the Injury Report

While inactives aren’t typically listed until an hour before the game, NFL teams are required to submit an injury report after each practice.  Having a general idea of which players may be out for this weeks game can open up value as the backups are not likely to be priced as high. For example, let’s take Devonta Freeman who is normally priced as an upper mid-tier running back around $6,700 and his backup Tevin Coleman who still normally gets a fair share of touches each week is around $4,500.  In the event that Freeman was to miss the game and it becomes clear that Coleman is going to get the majority of the market share of touches and goal-line work, he becomes an elite value as a talented running back in a prolific offense, with a high likelihood of 20+ touches, at a discounted price.

Find Projections You Trust (Or Build Your Own)

Projections are just that. Projections. They aren’t perfect but they’re a great tool to use.  When we’re playing cashing games it’s all about finding the most optimal lineup possible. I like to use projections just to identify value on a Points Per Dollar basis.

THE PICKS

QUARTERBACK

Drew Brees: DK $6,800 / FD $8,400

Brees is probably a little expensive for me to use in cash on Fanduel but on Draftkings where he’s priced appropriately and highly likely to achieve the 300+ yard bonus he’s squarely in play.

The Bucs present a difficult match-up up front with Gerald McCoy and first-round pick Vita Vea clogging the middle.  I would certainly think that  Sean Payton would know this and set the game plan up to attack the weak back end of the Buccaneers defense.  The Saints of the highest team total on the board and Brees should be squarely in the middle of the Saints scoring opportunities.

Phillip Rivers: DK $6,400 / FD $7,500

Let’s talk Vegas for a second. The Chargers are playing at home vs the Chiefs with a 25.25 team total.  That’s pretty solid but I fully expect the Chargers to put up plenty of points in the home opener.  Last season the Chiefs defense was bad, but this year it might be worse.  In 2017 the Chiefs ranked 23rd in pass defense DVOA and 32nd in run defense DVOA per Football Outsiders.  The Chiefs then proceeded to trade away their best outside Cornerback Marcus Peters in the off-season and replaced him with Kendall Fuller who has primarily played the slot in his career.

Rivers has plenty of weapons with a healthy receiver corps that includes Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, and speedster Travis Benjamin.  Old faithful Antonio Gates even signed this week, giving Rivers yet another option in the red zone.

Andy Dalton: DK $5,800 / FD $6,800

It’s never fun playing Andy Dalton in cash games.  Dalton was all kinds of terrible last year playing behind a terrible offensive line and with a limited receiving corps.  However, the Bengals made some improvements to the offensive line in the off-season by trading for Left Tackle Cordy Glenn and then drafting Center Billy Price in the first round of the draft.  In addition to the upgrades up front Dalton adds speedy John Ross (4.22 40) on the outside and get a healthy for now Tyler Eifert back into the fold.  Don’t forget Dalton also has two adequate pass-catching running backs in Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard and I haven’t even mentioned this guy named A.J. Green that’s a top-flight talent as well.  Dalton is very much a sum of his parts quarterback, and at least for now his parts are really good.

The match-up for Dalton is also great as he faces off against a Colts defense that ranked 27th in Football Outsiders DVOA metric last year and projects to be equally as bad this year.  The Colts defense has two glaring weaknesses as they lack proven pass rushers and cornerbacks.  I’d expect Bengals OC Bill Lazor to get Dalton rolling early in the game and exploit the weak pass defense of the Colts.

Other cash viable quarterbacks: Dak Prescott and Tyrod Taylor 

RUNNING BACK

Alvin Kamara: DK $8,500 / FD 8.7K

The Saints are massive home favorites in week one against a Buccaneers team that’s missing Jameis Winston.  Mark Ingram has got himself suspended for four games and the Saints let veterans Terrance West and Johnathan Williams off their 53 man roster.  They did bring in Mike Gillislee on Monday but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be filling Ingram’s role in its entirety.  The only other running back on the roster is rookie Boston Scott who while talented, is more of a Kamara type satellite back than a between the tackles grinder.

The Bucs have an impressive defensive front but that’ll be somewhat neutralized by the Saints awesome run blocking line that ranked 2nd in Adjusted Line Yards per Football Outsiders in 2017.

In two games against the Bucs last year Kamara lit up the scoreboard for 32.2 and 30.8 DK points respectively.

Melvin Gordon: DK $6,800 / FD $8,100

Gordon gets a dream week one match-up with the Chiefs who ranked 32nd in Fantasy Outsiders run defense DVOA last season and don’t project to be much better in 2018.    The Chargers were a below average rushing offense last year but Melvin Gordon still finished 4th in the NFL in touches with a whopping 342.

The Chargers are adding 2017 2nd round guard Forest Lamp and Center Mike Pouncey from the Dolphins to boost the efficiency of the running game.  With Antonio Gates aging and Hunter Henry in injured reserve, I’d expect the Chargers to feature Gordon heavily in the red zone.  I’d be surprised if Gordon doesn’t find his way into the end zone at home in week 1.

Rex Burkhead: DK $4,200 – Assuming Sony Michel is out for week one, Burkhead is going to be the chalk on Draftkings.  In the offseason the Patriots let Dion Lewis walk during free agency, traded Brandin Cooks, Julien Edelman got himself suspended, and Danny Amendola decided South Beach was more his scene.

The Patriots backfield consists of Swiss-army-knife Burkhead, pass-catching specialist James White, potentially Sony Michel who has missed all of the preseason and between the tackles grinder Jeremy Hill.  Burkhead himself missed all of the preseason but his experience with the team makes that fact less concerning than it does for Michel.  Patriots beat reporter Jeff Howe was quoted saying,  “The team is overcautious with (Rex Burkhead) because they expect him to be a focal point of the offense during the regular season, especially while Edelman is suspended.”

Burkhead played 18 percent of his offensive snaps split out as a wide receiver last year which gives him a potential receiving floor in addition to likely being the week one leader in carries for the Patriots.  These factors along with the Patriots massive 28.25 team total make Burkhead a strong week 1 play.

Other cash viable running backs: David Johnson, Christian McCaffrey, and Alex Collins

WIDE RECEIVERS

Antonio Brown: DK $8,600 / FD $9,000

In cash games, we are trying to establish a high floor and there’s no better place to start than with this man.  Antonio Brown has established himself as the top WR in the game and perhaps by the time his career is finished mentioned in the same conversation as Jerry Rice.  He’s that good.  Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger has well-documented home/road splits but it hasn’t impacted  Brown’s performance in Cleveland in recent years.

The last three trips to the “Dawg Pound” Brown has racked up an average of 10.6 receptions and 148 yards per game.  That’s just insane.  The only thing missing is the touchdowns (only  1) but I have a feeling positive regression may hit on Sunday.  Fire him up with confidence this week.

Chris Hogan:  DK $6,100 / FD $6,700

The Patriots passing game got a huge makeover in the offseason as the team lost Brandin Cooks via trade, Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis via free agency, and then lost Julien Edelman to suspension.  In total, the Pats need to replace 235 targets from last seasons team but chose to replace them with Phillip Dorsett who caught a mere 12 passes last year and Cordarrele Patterson who only caught 31.

Throughout his career, Chris Hogan has been a very successful receiver and should thrive as Brady’s top target on the outside.  The Patriots have the second highest implied team total on the board and I fully expect Hogan to hit the ground running in 2018.

Keelan Cole:  DK  $3,800 / $4,500

I’m not going to lie, this pick makes me a little queasy and  I’m not 100% sure I’m going to go this direction in cash as the Jags want to run the ball and then run the ball even more.

With the season-ending injury to Marquise Lee and the departure of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns leaving there’s an opening at the top of the wide receiver depth chart in Jacksonville.  Cole will compete for targets with overpriced free agent acquisition Donte Moncrief and second-year slot receiver Dede Westbrook.

Cole broke out at the end of last year with three straight games of 99+ yards receiving and 16 catches over a three-week span and since he has established chemistry with Bortles would be my pick to lead the team in targets week 1.

Other cash viable wide receivers: Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, A.J. Green, Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders 

TIGHT END

Jordan Reed: DK $4,000 / FD $5,800

Is Jordan Reed healthy?  That’s a key question that we’ll hopefully find the answer to early in the season.  Throughout his career, Reed has been one of the most fantasy-friendly tight ends in the game when he’s been on the field.  The problem is he’s rarely been healthy.  Luckily in DFS, we don’t have to count on the health of Reed for a full season.

Reed only managed to play in six games last season due to a myriad of injuries but did receive at least five targets in the games he managed to finish.  This play is just a bet on the talent more than anything else as Reed is just under-priced.

Jack Doyle: DK $3,600 / FD $5,600

Doyle put together a stellar season last year, racking up 80 catches on 108 targets.   Doyle now gets an upgrade at quarterback with Andrew Luck back under center for the Colts.

The Bengals have historically struggled to cover Tight Ends and are now missing Middle Linebacker Vontez Burfict.  Doyle lit the Bengals up last year for 12 catches, 121 yards, and a touchdown.  While a repeat performance is unlikely, Doyle is still the best value on the board in week 1.

Other Cash Game Viable Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski, David Njoku 

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Baltimore Ravens: DK $3,800 / FD $4,800

The Ravens open the season as seven-point home favorites against the Buffalo Bills and the game total is currently at 40.5 points, which is the lowest on the board in week one.  The Bills have four new starters on the offensive line and have chosen Nathan Peterman as their starting quarterback.  Without question, the Ravens will be the high-end chalk.

New England Patriots: DK $2,400 / FD $4,200

The Patriots are six-point home favorites against Deshaun Watson and the Texans.  Last season the Texans offensive line gave up the 31st most sacks in the league and they don’t project to be much better this year despite the mobile Watson returning.  Last season the Patriots defense got off to a slow start but were very solid in the second half of the year.  Additionally, the Patriots defense will be adding two quality pass rushers in Adrian Clayborne and Derek Rivers.  Defensive scoring is predicated so much on creating pressure on the quarterback and I like the Patriots chances of forcing Watson into some mistakes in week 1.

The Patriots are much more of a value on Draftkings if you need some salary relief.

Other Cash Game Defenses: New Orleans, Minnesota, Jacksonville

Thanks for reading and best of luck in week 1!

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