We finally have the NFL back in our lives after 7 long months. The Eagles and Falcons already have given us a taste of what we’ve missed, albeit in a long and flaggy game. But the real season starts on Sunday (Monday morning for us in Australia) and with it, the best part of any season: daily fantasy football.
Each week, I’m going to have a look through the draw and players to try to find you a couple of great matchups and some cheap options to fill out your PlayON Daily Fantasy sides. Here are the picks I’ve found in Week 1.
PlayON PICK OF THE WEEK
Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos ($8.1m)
I’m pumped that I was able to snag Freeman in my dynasty start up this year. The kid is going to be a star. We know Saquon Barkley is the guy from the 2018 draft, but Freeman has the tools and opportunity to be this year’s Kareem Hunt. The same Kareem Hunt who was originally the backup, got the starting job by Week 1 and then destroyed the Pats championship celebrations with 246 yards all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns. I’m not saying Freeman will replicate that, but he does have the starting job in Denver after his preseason stats of 15 runs for 84 yards and 3 scores.
You might see the matchup with Seattle and worry about their defence cutting into his production, but this isn’t the same Seahawks “Legion of Doom” that once terrorised the NFL. Richard Sherman is gone (San Fran). Kam Chancellor is gone (retired). Michael Bennett, gone (Philadelphia). Cliff Avril, gone (retired). Sheldon Richardson, gone (Minnesota). K.J. Wright, out a few weeks (knee surgery). Rookie Shaquem Griffin will be taking his place (and what an amazing story that is). Earl Thomas was holding out and is now back with the side, but as of now they’re unsure if he’ll be ready for week 1. Freeman is going to see plenty of the ball and a decent enough defensive matchup to make him a great play.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings ($11.7m)
I’m also excited about Cousins prospects in Minnesota this year. In 2017, Captain Kirk threw for over 250 yards (including 5 games over 300 yards) and 1.7 touchdowns per game. And he did it all as a member of the Washington Redskins whose top offensive firepower consisted of names like Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Vernon Davis, Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. Now? Now he gets to line up with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, a group who made yearly backup Case Keenum look like a star.
On top of that, he faces a 49ers defence who were one of the worst units against quarterbacks a season ago. They gave up 235 yards and 1.7 touchdowns a game. I’m expecting a big week for Cousins in his Vikings debut.
Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns ($9.7m)
Speaking of old faces and new places, Tyrod Taylor makes his Cleveland Browns debut this week in a divisional showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. These divisional rivals met in week 1 last year which resulted in a 3 point win to Pittsburgh. That was a much weaker Browns and a stronger Steelers. The Browns haven’t won a game since week 16 of the 2016 season so they made a host of changes heading into the new year and are hoping Taylor is the answer while Baker Mayfield develops.
Pittsburgh as of right now are dealing with their star running backs holdout, they lost their best defender to a horrific injury midway through last season and also they aren’t the same team on the road. There’s a fair bit to worry about with this side right now. Taylor though, is a running, mobile Quarterback. What he lacks in passing production, he more than makes up for with his legs. He rushed 5.5 times per game in 2017 for an average of around 30 yards. And he’s a sneaky chance of a tuck and go when Cleveland get down near the endzone. That being said don’t discount him as a passing threat. With more dynamic playmakers than the Browns or Bills had in 2017, Taylor will produce more than what was asked of him in Buffalo.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($9m) vs. Saints, Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens, ($8.8m) vs. Bills
Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens ($10.1m)
Alex Collins needs to be in your lineup. It’s not that he’s exceptionally good. It’s more that the Bills defence is exceptionally bad. They allowed the 4th most rushing yards per game last year (124.6), equal 7th most yards per rush (4.3) and the most rushing touchdowns of any team in the NFL (22). Sounds juicy right?
Even better than all that is the fact that the Bills offense might be equally as bad. They’re running with Nathan Peterman as starting Quarterback. Remember him? He threw 5 interceptions in the first half of his debut game and then got benched again. He can’t possibly be that bad again, but that sort of play means that the Ravens offensive unit will be on the field a lot. And Collins is their guy. He had 19 carries per game in the back end of last year, and Baltimore hasn’t brought any one in to change that.
James Connor, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8.1m)
As I just mentioned, Le’Veon Bell is in a serious hold out as he refuses to play under the franchise tag with the Steelers. The positive for us is that is gifts James Conner the starting running back role against the Browns.
If you don’t know about this guy let me enlighten you. Conner is good. In his 2014 college season at University of Pittsburgh, he was Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) highest rated running back. Better than Ezekiel Elliot, Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. He tore his knee up in his first game of 2015, and then had to fight cancer. A fight he won. He was also PFF’s highest graded running back for this preseason. Like I said, he’s good. He’s not going to be a straight Bell replacement, but he will see a lot of work and is nice and cheap. Just what you need to in order to fit in his teammate below.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints ($15.3m) vs. Buccaneers, Jordan Wilkins, Indianapolis Colts ($6.7m) vs. Bengals
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers ($15.4m)
Bell being out also helps the best receiver in the game. We’re going to see a whole lot of AB here. I don’t know how much I need to sell you on Brown. I mean, he averages 116 catches, 1570 yards and 10 touchdowns a season over the last 5 years. But I’ll give you a little something extra anyway.
Anthony Staggs (@PyroStag) sent out a tweet a couple of days ago stating that “In the last 16 Games without Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown has posted a ridiculous line of: 146 Receptions 207 Targets 2,080 Yards 13 TDs 435 PPR Points #notbad”. Not bad indeed. Don’t overthink this.
Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars ($7.6m)
Cole is my favourite wide receiver play this week. He’s super cheap. He’s coming off a nice end to his rookie season, where he had 99 or more receiving yards in 3 of his last 4 regular season games. And Marqise Lee is out with a knee injury, meaning Cole is elevated to the top of the chain in Jacksonville. When Lee missed games last year, Cole saw at least 8 targets per game.
The Giants were bad against the pass last year too. They gave up the 3rd most receiving yards per game and led the league in receiving touchdowns allowed with 32. They actually have a pair of pretty good cornerbacks with Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple but Cole plays primarily in the slot so shouldn’t see these guys too often.
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots ($11m) vs. Texans, Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos ($9m) vs. Rams
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots ($12.4m)
Here are Tom Brady’s best targets for the opening game against Houston. 1) Rob Gronkowski. 2) Chris Hogan. 3) Daylight. That’s it. And the gap between 1 and 2 is still pretty large. Pure and simple, Gronk is the best there is at tight end. Last season, he had an extremely Gronk-like 69 catches with 1,084 yards and 8 touchdowns. Those are top 10 wide receiver numbers. Seriously. The 1,084 yards was good for 10th most in the NFL.
The Texans were susceptible to tight ends last year, giving up around 65 yards and almost a touchdown per game. But Gronk’s no ordinary tight end. He’ll shred this defence all afternoon.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts ($6.9m)
Outside of the big 3, the tight end is typically a crapshoot. Fortunately, we tend to see new, solid streaming opportunities on any given week. This time it’s Jack Doyle. Doyle was pretty good in 2017, posting 5.3 catches and 46 yards per game. He also had 4 touchdowns on the year. And he did it all with terrible Quarterbacks. Ok, maybe “terrible” isn’t all that fair. But they weren’t Andrew Luck who returns this season after a lengthy injury layoff.
There’s a good chance Luck wants to ease back into the NFL landscape, and he’ll look for a lot of safe checkdowns in order to get going. Doyle could have a big day right in the middle of the field against some loose covers.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals ($5.4m) vs. Redskins, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars ($5.8m) vs. Giants
Los Angeles Chargers ($6.7m)
The Chargers are one of my favourite defences in the NFL. They don’t get the accolades of a lot of other teams, but they are sneaky good. The Bolts have two of the best defensive lineman in the league in Melvin Engram and Joey Bosa. These guys get a ton of pressure on quarterbacks and led the team to a top 5 sack record a year ago. And when you get to the quarterback and apply pressure, he makes mistakes. The pressure led to 18 interceptions for the side, good for 6th in the league. I know a lot of folks are high on Pat Mahomes this season, but fact is, he’s an inexperienced Quarterback who’s in a side that wants to throw long. This is exactly the sort of scenario where the Chargers will feast.
Minnesota Vikings ($7m)
The very top tier of defences this year contains just 3 teams: the Jags, the Rams, and these guys. They were dominant in 2017 ranking top 2 in both passing and rushing yards allowed, and the very best in total yards and scoring. What let them down is that their turnover numbers weren’t really high. But when you’re never on the field, it’s hard to get turnovers.
The Vikes have brought back 10 of the 11 starters from that defense, with the only change being the addition of Sheldon Richardson, an elite DT when he’s on his game. And remember that the last time Minnesota took the field they got smashed 38-7 to the eventual Superbowl winners. This team will be fired up and they are only going to get better.
Tennessee Titans, $5.8M vs. Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, $6.5M vs. Buccaneers
PlayON PASS OF THE WEEK
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers ($10.3m)
Last year’s late season fantasy darling has been pinpointed as is a breakout player but is a very hard sell in week 1. Go back to the defence section and have a read through what I said about the Vikings. I’ll wait…. You done? You’ll notice that it said how good they are at shutting down the pass game, and rush game, and scoring.
Well, the 49ers just lost their big off-season acquisition Jerick McKinnon for the year. JMK was set to play a big part in the pass game from the backfield and Jimmy G will miss that dump off element to get him out of trouble when the formidable Vikings rush is causing his offensive line to collapse around him. We all want him to succeed, just maybe hold the expectations for a week at least.
That’s all for this weekend’s picks. Now be sure to get your lineups in and win a share of guaranteed cash prizes playing daily fantasy NFL at PlayON.