If you’re one of the tens of millions of people who will be participating in fantasy football this season, you’re going to have some decisions to make each and every week. While I’m no Condia, I have done fairly well in the daily fantasy sports realm over the past few years and I’ll now be providing my recommendations on a regular basis here at The Social Gambler.
Week 1 can be a bit tricky for obvious reasons, but that can be a good thing, too, as the “advantage players” should have less of an advantage than usual. Here are a few suggestions:
*Note- as always with columns of this nature, each player will be evaluated based on his cost. In other words, if I list Adrian Peterson as a “sit” and Joique Bell as a “start”, that doesn’t mean I expect Bell to score more points than Peterson, only that he’s a better play in relation to his cost.
QB Matt Ryan (FanDuel price- $8,800)- Ryan is one of the pricier option this week, but he’s well worth it. He’ll be facing a Philadelphia secondary that was among the NFL’s worst last season, ranking 31st in pass defense, and he’ll have an elite tandem of (fully healthy) wideouts at his disposal in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Plus, the Philly offense figures to be a high-scoring unit once again and Atlanta was dreadful defensively in 2014, so Ryan will likely have to throw, throw, throw in order to keep pace. Anything less than a 300-plus yard performance and a couple of touchdowns would be a disappointment for his owners.
RB Mark Ingram (FanDuel price- $7,800)- All signs point to the Saints turning to the run game considerably more this season and that will be good news for Ingram owners, as the former Alabama star is now the clear lead back and will be running behind an offensive line that should be much-improved. This week the Saints will be facing an Arizona defense that lost some quality run-stoppers in the front seven– most notably nose tackle Dan Williams– but will have a dangerous, ball-hawking secondary. I expect Sean Payton’s game plan to be fairly conservative, meaning I think the Cardinals are in for a heavy dose if Ingram. And remember– the New Orleans running backs are generally heavily involved in the passing game and Ingram showed off some surprisingly soft hands this preseason. Expect him to be the target of a few screens.
WR Jarvis Landry (FanDuel price- $6,900)- Landry developed a great rapport with Ryan Tannehill last season and could be in for a big year if he can stay healthy. I really like him this week against the rebuilt Washington secondary, a group that will be heavily reliant on players who have washed out elsewhere. The Redskins should be pretty good in the front seven, though, so Lamar Miller may not find much daylight between the tackles, meaning the Dolphins will be forced to take to the air (the short passing game seems to be the bread-and-butter of Bill Lazor’s offense, anyway). Landry is good enough to be the team’s number 1 receiver but not so good that the defense will devise a plan to take him out of the game (not yet, anyway). He’ll get the ball thrown his way early and often this week.
TE Owen Daniels (FanDuel price- $5,500)- Many people have been touting Daniels as a potential breakout star in the Denver offense this season (though “breakout” may be an odd term to use for a 9-year veteran), and you can count me among those who have enjoyed a large serving of the metaphorical kool-aid. I mean, what’s not to like? When you consider the history of tight ends in Peyton Manning offenses and the history of Owen Daniels in Gary Kubiak offenses (in both Houston and Baltimore), it’s hard not to be really, really optimistic about Daniels’ prospects in 2015. Of course, there’s always the IF HE STAYS HEALTHY caveat– and indeed, Daniels has had trouble in that area throughout his career– but we know he’s healthy this week, and I look for him to put up big numbers against his former team. Jump on Daniels now before his price rises to more accurately reflect his value.
D/ST Oakland Raiders (FanDuel price- $4,000)- I know, I know. It’s the Raiders, and they’ve been a terrible defense to own (and a terrible team to back in any manner) ever since anyone can remember. They’re dirt cheap this week, though– the cheapest defense being offered, as a matter of fact– and I think they could be a sneaky-good play against a Cincinnati offense that has always struggled on the road under quarterback Andy Dalton. The Raiders have some talented, young pieces on defense and they just added another one today in Aldon Smith, one of the league’s most feared pass-rushers. Smith had been released by San Francisco due to some off-the-field issues but he’s eligible to play immediately, and after signing a 1-year “prove it” contract you can be sure that he’ll be playing with a sizable chip on his shoulder. New coach Jack Del Rio has quickly built strong defenses everywhere he’s been, and I expect Oakland to be vastly improved on that side of the ball this season. This one could blow up in my face, but I really feel the Raiders are a good value this week and I’ve got them in several of my lineups.
QB Cam Newton (FanDuel price- $8,400)- Newton is facing Jacksonville on Sunday, a team that has been terrible defensively in recent years, so many are plugging him into their lineups. This, I believe, is a mistake. The Jags should be better on defense in 2015, having added quality free agent talent like Davon House, Jared Odrick, Sergio Brown, and Dan Skuta, and Carolina projects to be more one-dimensional than ever now that star wideout Kelvin Benjamin has been lost for the season. Newton averaged just 219 pass yards per game in 2014 and with his current receiving corps he’ll be lucky to sniff that number this year, and he’s been less and less eager to take off and run as his career has progressed. He’s also turnover-prone at times, which has led to more horrific fantasy performances than one normally expects from a guy who many consider a quality option at the quarterback position. Newton should be kept out of your lineups this week.
RB Alfred Morris (FanDuel price- $7,400)- Morris is a tough runner who has been the primary back in Washington since coming into the league, but he’s not the same type of workhorse in the Jay Gruden offense that he was under Mike Shanahan, and I expect his workload to decrease this season thanks to the arrival of rookie Matt Jones. This week he’ll face a Miami defense that now features one of the NFL’s premier interior defenders in tackle Ndamukong Suh, a player who should transform a Dolphins front that was already good into one of the league’s best. It’s going to be tough sledding for Morris; I highly doubt he’ll be able to justify his price tag this week.
WR Sammy Watkins (FanDuel price- $7,600)- Watkins is an explosive young talent with a bright future, but this season he’ll be stuck in a run-first offense led by a quarterback who isn’t a conventional pocket passer. And the Colts, Buffalo’s opponent on Sunday, are better than most realize in the secondary but vulnerable against the run. Combine that with the fact that Rex Ryan will surely want to keep Andrew Luck and the Indy offense off the field, and all signs point to an extremely run-heavy game plan for the Bills this week. Watkins isn’t worth the money.
TE Travis Kelce (FanDuel price- $6,000)- Kelce is the third-most expensive tight end at FanDuel right now, and though he’ll surely be one of Alex Smith’s favorite targets again this season, I don’t think he’s a good play on the road in Houston this week. Not only has he been dealing with an injured ankle in recent days that has caused him to miss some practice time, but he’ll be facing a team that defends the tight end position very well, as only Buffalo surrendered fewer fantasy points to tight ends than the Texans in 2014. And Kansas City will surely look to get new arrival Jeremy Maclin involved in the passing game early and often, which could cut into Kelce’s touches. Remember also that Alex Smith is the consummate “Checkdown Charlie” whose conservative nature has led to the Chiefs ranking near the bottom of the league in passing yards every season that he’s been the starter. Look for your tight end elsewhere this week.
D/ST Green Bay Packers (FanDuel price- $4,500)- The Packers may have some issues defensively this season and this week they’re facing division-rival Chicago, a team with both the personnel and the know-how to exploit any weaknesses. Specifically, I’m concerned about the ability of the Green Bay defense to slow down Bears running back Matt Forte, a terrific player who has had big games against much better Packers defenses than the one he’ll see on Sunday. If Chicago can establish the run and put the Green Bay defense on their heels it’s going to be tough for the Packers to generate sacks or turnovers, the two primary areas where defenses generate fantasy points. I know turnover machine Jay Cutler will be under center for the Bears, but I still don’t think you can trust this Packers defense.