A few years ago, my brother entered a team into a $1 daily fantasy league with around 56,000 people taking part. He entered several other teams into other leagues, some of which required a $20 entry, some $10, and so on.
By Monday night, all but one of his teams were out of the running. But in that $1 league, he wasn’t just in the money. He was in first place. And though he admittedly did his research with all of the lineups, that $1 team was more of a “gut” team, where he just kind of went against the most obvious choices, stacked Russell Wilson (5 TDs) and Doug Baldwin (3 TDs), had a vintage AP performance (158 yards, 2 TDs), got production from role players (29.6 pts from Brandon Marshall, 17 points from CIN DST), and the rest was history. A couple days later, he was $12,000 richer, and he’s been an advocate of going with his gut feeling ever since.
The morals of this story are a) that I like bragging about his first-place DFS finish and I got some free bottles of booze out of it, b) playing DFS can change your life, and most importantly c) that although research is important, you should go with your gut if you really, really feel something about a certain player.
The below recommendations are based primarily on research, but I also let my instinct filter through. And, please, if one of the picks just doesn’t sit right with you, then don’t take it. That’s where people win in DFS.
Because DraftKings and FanDuel offer different prices for certain players and have a different cash total overall, one primary option will be listed for each app, followed by other good options.
FanDuel: Jameis Winston ($7,500)
You better invest in Winston while people are still skeptical about his fantasy viability. Week 1 provides a great time to do this, and while DraftKings seems to buy into the hype (he’s their third most expensive quarterback), FanDuel has him at No. 11. The Niners defense is… bad. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are primed and ready to go. The Buccaneers defense is… really bad. In shootouts, Bucs QBs often put up major numbers due to the lack of a run game (Ryan Fitzpatrick was the No. 1 QB through Week 3 last season after three shootouts) and Bruce Arians should bring a new element of quarterback-whispering to bring out the best in Winston. The volume will surely be there, and he simply has to put up numbers with such a friendly matchup. Stack with Evans/Godwin.
DraftKings: Nick Foles ($5,300)
Foles is significantly lower than some shocking names – Josh Allen and Derek Carr, to name a couple – and he’s playing against the best offense in football, meaning the Jags should have to pass the ball quite often. The defense should keep the Chiefs in check, so while a shootout may not be the outcome of the game, Foles will have to do his part to keep the Jags alive. In fact, a lot of people have Foles coming out as the victor in this game, and a splashy debut is what Big Di-… Big Game Nick will need to truly impress Jacksonville fans and get the team in the win column. Also a good buy on FanDuel ($6,500). Stack with Dede Westbrook.
FanDuel: Tony Pollard ($5,200)
Zeke is back! So, that means you should draft… Tony Pollard? The backup whose chance to steal the spotlight in Dallas was taken away with Zeke’s new contract? Yep. Reports are that Zeke won’t have a full workload in Week 1 (20-25 snaps) which means that there are 35-40 snaps that he won’t play based on their plays per game from 2018. And the Cowboys probably won’t need Zeke to play the whole game, anyway. The Giants don’t seem like the team that will require an all-out effort from the Cowboys, and Pollard may have an entire half to run freely. And he’s really cheap, surrounded by names like Nyheim Hines, CJ Anderson, and Chase Edmonds.
DraftKings: Chris Carson ($5,700)
His ownership is going to be very, very high. This one seems almost too obvious. The Bengals are bad against the run (second-most fantasy points allowed to RBs), and the lead back on a run-oriented team playing at home in a blowout scenario has no excuse but to find fantasy success. It’s okay if Carson is highly owned if he puts up over 100 yards and a TD or two, and it really doesn’t seem like a stretch to expect this. Those numbers would indicate a top-five or top-10 performance, and he’s going as the No. 18 running back here.
Others: Mark Ingram ($6,600 FanDuel, $5,100 DraftKings) and high-risk Ravens backups (Gus Edwards/Justice Hill – both very cheap); Justin Jackson and Miles Sanders – worth it more on DraftKings ($4,000 and $3,900, respectively)
DraftKings and FanDuel: Antonio Brown
FanDuel: DeAndre Hopkins ($9,000)
He’s the most expensive wide receiver, $500 more than Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, and yet this steal feels like a bargain. The Saints allowed the most fantasy points against wide receivers last season and haven’t gotten much better. Meanwhile, their offense is still nasty and will put up its fair share of points against Houston. Hopkins is going to have a field day. Anything short of 10 catches, 100 yards, and a touchdown would quite honestly come as a shock to me, and a floor that high means that you should spend whatever you want to get him.
DraftKings: Adam Humphries ($4,000)
Marcus Mariota never seems quite in sync with Corey Davis, and though he may still be the No. 1 option in Tennessee, I’d like to look at a cheaper option that clicked with Mariota right away in the preseason. Mariota played one drive against the Eagles in Week 2 of the preseason, went 4-of-8 passing, and found Humphries for all four completions. The Browns offense is no joke, and I feel confident that the Titans will have to play catch-up the whole time. Humphries is a cheap option that should be a safety valve for Mariota, and the possibility of a high reception total means that $4,000 is great value.
Both: George Kittle ($7,300 FanDuel, $7,100 DraftKings)
Sure, Kittle is expensive. But here’s the way I look at it: Kittle is playing against a god-awful Tampa Bay defense and is clearly the No. 1 option in San Francisco’s offense. Thus, he has the potential to, and probably will, put up WR1 numbers. Whereas most WR1 candidates go for $8,000-$9,000 on both DraftKings and FanDuel, you can get that same value for just over $7,000 at a position where those numbers rarely occur. There’s no point taking a risk on a tight end that could be a complete bust even if you pay low for him. $7,300/$7,100 is relatively low for someone who is going to put up monstrous numbers. I’m not really looking anywhere else at tight end this week.
Both: San Francisco 49ers ($3,700 FanDuel, $2,200 DraftKings)
Why would you draft the Niners in a game where I chose Jameis Winston to be a great quarterback option in a likely shootout? Last season, Jameis put up more than 30 fantasy points in a Week 5 performance against the Falcons after a shootout. He also threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball twice. More opportunities to play defense means more opportunity for turnovers, and with Jameis, there’s always potential for a few interceptions. So, while Winston is still a great candidate to score a lot of fantasy points, he can still do so while turning the ball over a few times, and who knows? Maybe one will go for a six.
Others: Buffalo Bills ($4,000 FanDuel, #3,000 DraftKings)