Fanduel NFL Picks Week 1: Main Slate (Cash/GPP) Targets

The following is a breakdown of Fanduel’s Main Slate for Week 1 in the NFL. These recommendations are for Cash games and GPP’s.

QUARTERBACK

Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints- $8,100 (Cash or GPP): If there truly are few things in this world as certain as death and taxes, there’s an argument to be made that Drew Brees shredding opposing secondaries at home is probably on the shortlist of the others. Tied with the Seattle-Atlanta matchup for the highest Vegas-projected total on the main slate at 49 points, the Saints trail only Baltimore (28.25) in implied points on Sunday. 

Since the start of the 2018 season, Brees has posted at least 21 FanDuel points in ten of his last thirteen home starts and has topped 25 FanDuel points in more than half (7) of those games. The numbers get even more eye-popping if we take a historical look at Brees in home openers. Since 2008, the Saints have opened at home eight times. In all but one of those games, Brees has thrown for at least 330 yards and multiple scores, and in many cases, these have been shootouts. For whatever reason, the New Orleans defense, and the secondary in particular, tend to start incredibly slow, with the Saints yielding 35, 48, and 28 points respectively in their last three home openers dating to 2016. And the Saints weren’t facing Tom Brady in any of those. Tampa Bay also returns a front seven that is largely intact from last season when they fished as the top-ranked unit against the run. While the days of 600 pass attempts in a season may be behind him, the Bucs defense is more vulnerable through the air and the addition of veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders gives Brees arguably his strongest wide receiver one-two punch in years. He’s the “set it and forget it” option at quarterback this week, with a safe floor in cash and the upside to compete in GPPs.

Gardner Minshew- Jacksonville Jaguars- $6,700 (GPP): Minshew attempted nearly 35 passes per game over his twelve starts last season and was probably more effective than many realize, completing over 60% and tossing 21 touchdowns to just six picks while leading Jacksonville to a 6-6 record. Of course, that was with some semblance of a defense, not to mention a feature back who logged over 340 touches. This season he’ll have neither, which isn’t likely to improve his efficiency but may give him some circa 2015 Blake Bortles-esque garbage time upside, even with the Jags in full tank mode. 

Having finally shipped Yannick Ngakoue to Minnesota, the Jags complete dismantling of a once-promising defense is done. On Sunday they’ll face arguably the league’s best offensive line with veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers now taking the snaps, which explains why Indianapolis’s Vegas implied point total is the second-highest on the slate and equal to the Saints at 26.25. Undrafted rookie free-agent James Robinson has been the starting running back for about six minutes, and only veteran pass-catching specialist Chris Thompson has any sort of NFL track-record among the bodies in this backfield. Minshew has some built-in rushing upside of his own and there’s enough proven pass-catching talent here that he could easily hang an empty 300 yards and a couple of scores on the board even if the Colts win going away. 

Others to consider

Lamar Jackson- Baltimore Ravens- $9,400 (Cash or GPP): I would never try to talk anyone out of playing Lamar Jackson, especially in a good matchup against a banged-up Cleveland defense, but know that the price tag will significantly impact your roster construction. If Cleveland has trouble getting going against the Baltimore defense, Jackson may just wind up handing the ball off 40+ times.

Tom Brady- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- $7,600 (GPP): He’s the other side of the Drew Brees play and has some appeal against a defense that profiles similarly to the Bucs-better against the run than the pass. That said, the delta isn’t as large as it is for Tampa Bay, the Saints have the added luxury of playing at home, and Mike Evans’s status seems seriously in question. We don’t really know what to expect of Brady in a new spot, but it’s a Bruce Arians offense and with a healthy Evans the talent around him at receiver is better than what he’s had in New England the past few seasons. 

Jimmy Garoppolo- San Francisco 49ers- $7,400 (Cash or GPP): As good as the San Francisco defense was last season, for whatever reason Kliff Kingsbury and Arizona seem to have the right formula for attacking it. While the 49ers won both meetings, the games were closer than one would have expected, forcing Jimmy G and the San Francisco offense into 37 passing attempts at Arizona and 45 in a late fourth quarterback at home. Nearly 19% (741) of his passing yards and 30% (8) of his touchdowns came against the Cardinals last season. With DeAndre Hopkins now in the mix for the Cardinals, this game has some sneaky shootout potential and is going a bit overlooked.

RUNNING BACK

Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings- $8,700 (Cash or GPP): After a pre-season holdout threat fell flat, Cook is ready to strap it on in Week 1 and is playing for a new contract. And he’ll have every opportunity to make some noise against a Green Bay defense that did little to improve this offseason. When last we saw the Packers they were surrendering a 200-yard, four-touchdown rushing performance to Raheem Mostert in the NFC Championship. 

As good as Mostert was in the postseason, that breakout performance was more about the dam finally bursting for a Green Bay run defense that had been patching cracks all season long. After a strong Week 1 performance against the Bears, the Packers defense allowed at least 120 rushing yards nine times over the final fifteen games. And they did nothing to help themselves in the draft, spending their first three picks on a quarterback, a running back, and a tight end while waiting until the fifth round to select their first defensive player. The addition of free-agent Christian Kirksey at linebacker should help, but he’s not likely to be a silver bullet and Minnesota features one of the league’s better run-blocking offensive lines. 

Josh Jacobs- Las Vegas Raiders- $8,200 (Cash or GPP): Last season Carolina gave up a league-worst 29.18 Fanduel points per game to the running back position, which isn’t surprising given that the defense opened the season yielding at least 120 yards on the ground to four of their first five opponents and ended it by surrendering 150 rushing yards or more six times from Week 8 on. That was with now-retired All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly manning the middle. Now he’s in the front office. 

While the Panthers do have some intriguing young talent on defense, they enter 2020 inexperienced and with plenty of questions at all levels. That inexperience and inconsistency are what prompted PFF to rank them dead last as a unit coming into the season. With Jacobs rumored to be more involved in the passing game in 2020, and a soft matchup on the ground, the second-year back is likely to be a popular option this week, and for good reason. 

Jonathan Taylor- Indianapolis Colts- $5,400 (GPP): Over on DraftKings, Taylor’s price is flipped with starter Marlon Mack’s as he checks in as the more expensive of the two Indy running backs. That doesn’t make a lot of sense given that his preseason struggles as a pass-catcher date back to college and DraftKings utilizes a PPR format. But the disparity in scoring formats and the price tag are exactly what makes him an attractive option on FanDuel. 

As noted above concerning Gardner Minshew, the Jags have essentially gutted their defense, a unit that will be overmatched all day against arguably the league’s premier offensive line. While it’s hard to argue with Mack’s effectiveness over the past couple of seasons, he’s simply not in the same class as Taylor when it comes to pure rushing ability. As of midweek, the Colts are 8 point favorites and climbing so don’t be surprised if Philip Rivers’s debut as the team’s new quarterback involves handing it off to the rookie a bunch to close the day out.   

Others to consider

Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers- $10,000 (Cash): Much like Lamar Jackson, I’m hard-pressed to recommend a fade of CMC, but I’m also not convinced he’s the same lock and load option from last season right off the bat. Remember, this is a new coaching regime with a new offensive scheme and a new quarterback. While he figures to be popular and his upside makes him tough to fade completely, you still have to swallow a five-digit price tag to roster him.    

Zach Moss- Buffalo Bills- $4,700 (GPPs): Because of the limited preseason, August lacked the type of usual high-profile injuries that often open up chalk value plays for Week 1 since the sites release Week 1 contests as much as a month in advance. Because of that, the chatter around Leonard Fournette and Adrian Peterson being waived have created momentum for names like Antonio Gibson and James Robinson. But the lack of real clarity for either when it comes to their role in the backfield and their teams’ respective status as a touchdown or more underdogs, has me looking for someone with a more well-defined opportunity. Zach Moss could be that guy. By all accounts, he should at worst be on the wrong side of a 60-40 timeshare and see the goal-line work. One also has to assume he has a hand in the fourth quarter clock-killing as well, which shouldn’t go overlooked for a team Vegas pegs as a touchdown favorite.

Boston Scott- Philadelphia Eagles- $4,700 (Cash if Sanders is limited or GPP): Boston Scott is someone to monitor heading into the weekend, as news out Wednesday suggests starting running back Miles Sanders might not carry a full load this week due to a hamstring issue. Since Sanders was slated to get the lion’s share of the touches for Philadelphia that would likely mean an increased workload for Scott. The strength of the Washington defense is the defensive line, while the linebacking corps is suspect at best. Even better, it’s exactly the type of unit an undersized and shifty burner like Scott should run circles around if he were to get double-digit touches.

WIDE RECEIVER

Davante Adams- Green Bay Packers- $8,000 (GPP): The Packers did little to give Davnate Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers any help in the passing attack this offseason. While Green Bay wants to lean heavily on the run, Adams is still going to see a WR1 target share. The addition of Yannick Ngakoue for the Vikings aids the pass rush, but Rodgers can buy time in the pocket with the best of them and there’s a reason Minnesota selected cornerbacks with two of their first four draft choices. Both those rookies open the season listed second on the depth chart despite the Vikings allowing more than 31 FanDuel points per game to wide receivers last season (7th worst). Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith are as good a pair of coverage safeties as there are in the league, but they’ll also be called on to help in run-support frequently, and Adams should feast on mediocre boundary corners Mike Hughes and Holton Hill. 

Calvin Ridley- Atlanta Falcons- $6,600 (Cash or GPP): While he’s not likely to unseat Julio Jones as the top receiver in the Falcons offense just yet, all signs point to that eventuality as Ridley heads into his third season. Though his 2019 was cut short due to injury, after the Mohammed Sanu trade last season Ridley averaged better than eight targets and 80 yards per game, logging a touchdown in three of those six contests. The addition of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar will help a Seattle secondary that struggled at times last season, but the Seahawks pass rush is still an issue and Julio Jones will draw the most defensive attention. That inability to get to the quarterback also plays perfectly for Ridley who comes at a $1600 discount to Jones and has scored eight of his 17 career touchdowns from 20 yards or more.

D.J. Chark- Jacksonville Jaguars- $6,600 (Cash or GPP): Chark enters 2020 as the undisputed top option for a team that we’ve already noted has spent the offseason doing a full tear down, and plans on featuring a second-year quarterback in Gardner Minshew, with a gunslinger mentality. When Fournette left town he took a hundred targets from last season with him, catapulting the Jags from 31st in available target sure from 2019 to seventh

Back in 2015, the Jags had a pair of 1000 yard receivers (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) who each caught double-digit touchdown passes. That was also a very bad football team that finished 5-11 on the season and played from behind constantly. Blake Bortles threw more than 600 times that season and finished with 35 touchdown passes and a league-leading 18 interceptions. Vegas currently projects the Jags win total at a league-worst 4.5 games. For fantasy purposes, we shouldn’t care that Chark’s 2020 production is likely to be empty and largely come via garbage time. What we should care about is the fact that he’s a rising star mired on an awful team that will throw a lot and his Week 1 matchup features a Colts defense that lacks a true shutdown corner. 

Others to consider

D.K. Metcalf- Seattle Seahawks- $6,400 (GPP): Metcalf torched this same Falcons defense for a pair of red-zone scores last season, but it precipitated a second-half breakout and a weekly spike in usage that now has him entering 2020 as the 1B to Tyler Lockett’s 1A in the Seattle passing attack. The departure of Desmond Trufant means the Atlanta secondary lacks a true top-flight corner, and it’s certainly absent anyone that can contend with Metcalf’s size-speed combination. He’s an ideal FanDuel play as the type of player that can pay off his $6,400 tag in just a play or two. 

DeSean Jackson- Philadelphia Eagles- $5,700 (Cash or GPP): The path of least resistance against Washington is easily it’s secondary, a unit Jackson torched in last year’s opener for an 8-154-2 stat line before succumbing to a Week 2 pre-game injury that cost him nearly the entire season. But last year’s Week 1 performance wasn’t out of the ordinary. It was the second straight season Jackson had posted at least 145 yards and two scores in the opener. At this stage of his career, it’s best to think of Jackson as a finely tuned sports car, with the wear and tear of an NFL season, or even just a game now at 33 years of age, taking their toll. The Eagles are down starting wideout Alshon Jeffery, first-round pick Jalen Reagor, and offseason acquisition Marquise Goodwin (opted out of the 2020 season) at the position and will enter Sunday with just Jackson, 2018 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, and rookie John Hightower. Someone has to catch the football, and in this case, a healthy Jackson is the second option behind tight end, Zach Ertz.

Henry Ruggs III- Las Vegas Raiders- $5,100 (GPP): If you’re looking for the player who could post a monster Week 1 performance like Marquise Brown’s last season (other than Brown himself of course), it’s likely Ruggs. With respect to Josh Jacobs, we mentioned just how bad the Carolina defense will be this season, and if Ruggs gets even a step behind the secondary then no one is catching the rookie burner.  

Tight End

George Kittle 49ersGeorge Kittle- San Francisco 49ers- $8000 (Cash or GPP): Tight end is a great spend up spot this week, with George Kittle, Zach Ertz, and Marc Andrews all drawing tasty matchups. If you’re playing Kittle then the hope is that the number of high profile tight ends in good spots helps keep his ownership in check. Arizona was historically bad against tight ends last season, surrendering nearly four more FanDuel points per game to the position than the next worst team in the league. In the teams’ first meeting last season Kittle posted a 6-79-1 line, but he missed the second game where backup tight end Ross Dwelley caught a pair of touchdown passes of his own. 

With the 49ers battling injuries up and down the receiver depth chart, Kittle could be called on to run even more routes than usual, especially if this game does turn into another shootout. Kittle opened last season by having two touchdowns called back on penalties in a victory at Tampa Bay and it wouldn’t be surprising makes up for it to open 2020 and goes off for a big game here.  

Logan Thomas- Washington Football Team- $4,000 (Cash-Punt or GPP): Outside of top wideout Terry McLaurin the Washington receivers room is mostly a mess, yet somehow it has more clarity than the running back position. That said, there is a measure of clarity with the tight ends, where former Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has completed his transformation and sits atop the Washington depth chart. Thomas has drawn rave reviews in camp and with the ill-defined roles amongst the running backs and the lack of a true “banger” in the Adrian Peterson mold left in the backfield, Thomas could find his way into the red zone mix to open the season. He’s also priced way down at $4,000 and is a true salary saver.    

Others to consider

Hayden Hurst -Atlanta Falcons- $5200 (Cash or GPP): is priced as the twelfth-most expensive tight end on the slate despite facing the league’s second-worst defense against the tight end position last season. Hurst squares off against Seattle in a game with one of the highest Vegas projected totals on the main slate. Given Austin Hooper’s usage in the Falcons offense last season, Hurst is expected to flirt with TE1 production and isn’t priced as such to open the year.

Chris Herndon -New York Jets- $4,800 (GPP): The matchup against Buffalo is atrocious, as the Bills were near the top of the league in defending the tight end position last season. Still, presumably, someone will need to catch footballs for the Jets and outside slot receiver Jamison Crowder and running back Le’Veon Bell, the Jets depth at receiver is so bad that the ghost of Chris Hogan was listed as a starter earlier this week. It’s hard to see how Herndon doesn’t find his way in at least half a dozen targets in Week 1.

DEFENSE

Detroit Lions -$3,700 (Cash or GPP): Pay up options like Buffalo or Baltimore are great if you can fit the price tag into your build. If not, Detroit hosts Chicago and squares off against newly re-named starter Mitch Trubisky. While he’s had the Lions number in the past, this offseason Detroit added former Falcons corner Desmond Trufant to replace now-departed Darius Slay, as well as top draft choice Jeff Okudah, an elite prospect in the Jalen Ramsey shutdown corner mold. If the Lions can manufacture any sort of pressure then the remade secondary could make Trubisky look like…well, Trubisky.

Good luck this week!

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