Everyone knows to start Aaron Rodgers and Julio Jones most weeks in DFS. What can bring home the money in is finding players who will produce at a lower salary but might not be on many lineup cards. Each week we’ll release our top DFS value plays and bargain basement plays to help fill out your lineups.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel)
Palmer is now 37 as he starts his 14th year in the league off with a favorable matchup. The Lions allowed the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. If the preseason dress rehearsal against the Patriots was any indicator, Detroit’s secondary hasn’t improved. Tom Brady lit the Lions defense up in one-quarter without Julian Edelman. Palmer declined slightly from his big 2015 season but for fantasy purposes, he scored at least 18 DraftKings points eight times last year. He ranked ninth in passing yards, deep ball attempts and red zone attempts. The total in this game is 48 points, so the oddsmakers are expecting some scoring. Palmer is one of the better value plays on the board at $1,300 less than the top quarterback on DraftKings (Ben Roethlisberger).
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,300 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel)
Big things are expected out of Wentz this season and he has the matchup to get off to a fast start. The Redskins allowed 274 yards and 1.4 touchdowns per game to quarterbacks last season. Wentz had an up and down year in 2016. That was mirrored in his two games against the Redskins. He scored seven DK points in the first meeting and 18 the second time the teams played. Wentz averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt (28th in the NFL) but that number should go up this year with the additions of receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The Eagles want to run the ball more this year but until a running back emerges, the offense will center around Wentz.
Bargain Basement Play
Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel)
If you’re looking for a cheap punt play this week, give Hoyer a shot. Kyle Shanahan comes over from the Falcons to run the 49ers offense. While it may take Shanahan time to get his players, Hoyer has been productive for fantasy owners. In the past two seasons, Hoyer has thrown 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on 569 attempts. Hoyer played four full games last year. He threw for over 300 yards in each game and a total of six touchdowns. The Panthers allowed 285 yards to quarterbacks last year. Don’t be surprised if Hoyer goes for 300 yards again.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers ($5,400 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel)
There’s much anticipation to see how McCaffrey performs in the NFL. If you’re rooting against him, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed come Monday morning given McCaffrey’s Week 1 opponent. The 49ers defense is expected to be better in 2017. Let’s be honest, it can’t get much worse. Last season San Francisco’s defense allowed the most fantasy points to running backs by a country mile. The 49ers gave up 145.3 rushing yards, 1.4 touchdowns and 3.9 receptions per game to running backs. The good news is the 49ers defense will be better. The bad news is it still won’t be good enough to stop talented running backs like McCaffrey. Expect the rookie to make a strong opening statement.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel)
Wow, someone recommended using a Jet? Powell is going to be a great DFS play all season, or until the Jets run him into the ground. Powell is score proof. If the game is close, he’s going to be heavily involved. If the Jets are getting blown out, he’ll still catch passes out of the backfield, especially given the sorry state of the Jets receivers. In the final four weeks of last season, Powell averaged 20.5 carries and 5.8 targets per game. He finished second to only Le’Veon Bell in fantasy points over that span. He ranks sixth among running backs with 105 receptions over the last two seasons. Powell is that rare back that doesn’t need to gain yards on the ground to score fantasy points. He’s being undervalued early in the year.
Bargain Basement Play
Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel)
The Eagles aren’t settled on a running back right now. Sproles didn’t play in the preseason because he’s 34-years-old. Add those things together and it tells you Sproles very well might lead the Eagles in touches early in the year. Philadelphia signed LeGarrette Blount but he can only produce when wearing a Patriots jersey. Sproles has always been a hit or miss fantasy player but he could hit in Week 1 versus the Redskins. Washington allowed 4.6 receptions per game to running backs last season. Sproles only caught three passes in two games versus the Redskins but he did score a touchdown. He caught at least four passes seven times last season. Sproles is worth a shot as a low-cost flex play in Week 1.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals ($5,900 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel)
If you’re looking for a cheaper stack this week, consider the Palmer/Fitzgerald stack. The Lions ranked dead last in covering slot receivers in 2016. Fitzgerald lined up in the slot 45.2 percent of the time last season. That ranked 12th in the NFL. Lions cornerback Darius Slay recently said Fitzgerald gives him advice on the field. Well, Fitz’s advice this week is going to be “tap out” because he’s going to eat Slay alive. Fitzgerald may be the best point per salary play of the week.
Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel)
Crowder is $500 cheaper than teammate Terrelle Pryor on DraftKings but based on the numbers, he’s the better play. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked second defending No. 1 receivers last season, allowing 9.0 passes and 80.3 yards per game. However, the Eagles defense struggled versus secondary receivers. They ranked 17th defending No. 2 receivers and 18th against other receivers. In two games against the Eagles last season as the No. 3 target, Crowder caught five passes for 89 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. Now entrenched as the No. 2 receiver, Crowder is a strong Week 1 play at a moderate price.
Bargain Basement Play
Kendall Wright, Chicago Bears ($3,200 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
Someone has to catch passes in Chicago, don’t they? Wright played one season under Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in Tennessee. That year he saw close to nine targets a game. Wright finished with 94 receptions and 1,079 yards on 140 targets in 2013 with Loggains calling plays. The Falcons have a talented secondary but they allowed the 11th most fantasy points to receivers last year. They ranked 27th covering receivers not considered the No. 1 or 2 receivers. In other words, not outside receivers. Wright plays in the slot. Interesting.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles ($3,500 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel)
If you prefer a quarterback/tight end stack, how about Wentz and Ertz. Ertz is way too cheap to start the year. He’s finished fifth in targets and in the Top 10 in fantasy points each of the last two seasons. He has a favorable matchup to kick off 2017. The Redskins gave up the 10th most fantasy points to tight ends last season. In his Week 14 matchup against Washington, Ertz caught 10 of 13 targets for 112 yards. He scored 24 DK points. Get on Ertz now before his salary goes up.
Bargain Basement Play
Evan Engram, New York Giants ($2,900 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel)
It’s always a gamble to play a rookie in Week 1, especially a tight end, but Engram isn’t a traditional tight end. He’s more of a hybrid tight end/receiver. The Giants are expected to move Engram all over and line him up in the slot. Engram has an intriguing matchup in Week 1. The Cowboys allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends last season. The Dallas defense gave up a NFL-worst 7.5 receptions and 75.4 yards per game to the tight end position. At just $2,900, Engram is in the tight end conversation.
Atlanta Falcons ($3,300 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel)
On paper, this looks like a mismatch. Mike Glennon is making his first start since 2014 behind a suspect offensive line and without his No. 1 receiver. Other than that, the Bears offense is loaded. The Falcons defense was actually more productive on the road last season, averaging 8.1 DK points compared to 6.4 at home. In Glennon’s last five starts with the Buccaneers back in 2014, he threw six interceptions and was sacked 16 times. In a game where the Falcons could be playing with a lead, they’ll have an opportunity to rack up the fantasy points.
Bargain Basement Play
Philadelphia Eagles ($2,700 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel)
The Eagles were a solid fantasy defense last year and they should be even better in 2017. Philadelphia averaged just under 9.0 DK points. They scored at least 10 points eight times. That ranked second among defenses. Two of those times came against the Redskins when the Eagles scored 10 and 14 points. The Eagles defense was particularly tough in the red zone last year. They allowed teams to score touchdowns in the red zone just 45 percent of the time, ranking third in the NFL. The Eagles have one of the highest ceiling of any defense under $3,000 in Week 1.