Fantasy football has become a phenomenon in America and is now a respected aspect of the NFL culture. Traditional fantasy football has been quite popular for the last decade or so with it growing every year. Over the last couple of seasons, the emergence of daily fantasy sports has changed the dynamic. Between web sites like FanDuel and DraftKings becoming huge money making businesses and giving out as much as $1 million prize pools per week, the trend is going up for DFS and this season is likely to see a new high with Yahoo entering the game.
While it practices the same principles, daily fantasy erases some of the more negative aspects of traditional fantasy sports. If the superstar running back you select in the first round of your annual fantasy draft gets injured, your entire season may be over and you’re losing out on the fun due to one play. In daily fantasy, it goes week to week so you’re only committed to one player per weekly game. It also adds in a different strategy of finding what players have the best matchups that will get you the best bang for your buck. You set a salary each week by trying to mix and match the right lineup.
More than anything, the value is what you’re looking at with each selection based off how much their web site salary is. You can’t stockpile on superstars unless you want to add very cheap players at other positions based off a hunch. This is where I come in. Based off matchups, projections, salaries and many other variables, these are the 20 best plays you can use somewhere in your lineup when looking to school your friends or win some cash. I’ll be using the salaries from FanDuel and DraftKings since they’re the two most popular platforms.
20 Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks TE (FD: $6900, DK: $5600)
Everyone is counting out Jimmy Graham this year because he’s losing his reliable position of being Drew Brees’ top target in a pass happy offense. While it’s true that the Seahawks rely on the run, they have a superb QB in Russell Wilson and they finally have a great target for him to throw to. Graham is an athletic beast and a stud tight end on any team. He’s officially considered way below Rob Gronkowski on the tight end fantasy rankings, but he’s being valued in the tier with all the other tight ends despite being clearly better. If he has a big game, you may never see him at this cheap of a price again.
19 Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers RB (FD: $8500, DK: $7500)
Usually you want to stay away from the highest priced players at their position but you’re going to spend at one or two spots and in Week 1, running back is where you should go for stars. We’ve yet to establish any charming underdog running back stories, so look for a stud. Eddie Lacy is a little cheaper than some of the other top 5 RB stars in fantasy this week and he always plays well against a terrible Chicago Bears defense. Considering Jordy Nelson is done for the season, Randall Cobb is banged up and James Jones is still acclimating himself back with the team, the Packers may run more and Lacy should get more receptions.
18 Tyrod Taylor – Buffalo Bills QB (FD: $5000, DK: $5000)
This play is solely due to his price. If you’re comfortable taking the risk at one position in favor of getting elite talent at multiple other positions, this is the absolute cheapest you will get a starting QB for in daily fantasy sports. Tyrod Taylor has two important things going for him this week aside from the salary. First, he’s a running QB that gives you extra stats with his legs and that is huge in fantasy. Also, the Colts score a lot which means the Bills will be pushing to put up points and have to pass more than they’d like to. Many will stay away due to the risk but it could be a steal.
17 Alfred Blue – Houston Texans RB (FD: $5800, DK: $3600)
Similar to Tyrod Taylor, you can't find a starting running back going as cheap as Alfred Blue. With Arian Foster out and the RB depth behind him extremely weak, Blue is expected to get the majority of carries for Houston in Week 1. The matchup isn’t ideal vs. the Kansas City Chiefs but for such a low price, all you really need from him is either 60-80 total yards or very few yards and a touchdown. With how fluky touchdowns can be and how pricey starting running backs you feel comfortable with are, Blue could end up being the best play of the week.
16 Steve Smith Sr. – Baltimore Ravens WR (FD: $6700, DK: $6400)
The Baltimore Ravens have a couple of very interesting young receiving options but none of them are established or credible yet. The only safe WR target Joe Flacco has is Steve Smith Sr. and the Ravens will need to pass enough to keep up in points with the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Smith is a great long target and the best way for Baltimore to win this game will be by throwing the deep ball. I’m not entirely sure why the price is so low for Smith on the DFS sites. I assume it’s due to his age but Smith has looked great during the preseason and should have a big game here.
15 Richard Rodgers – Green Bay Packers TE (FD: $4900, DK: $2500)
Tight end is the most frustrating position to strategize for in fantasy sports this year. Unless you get Rob Gronkowski, there’s a lot of risk involved, especially in a week to week game. Early on in the season during DFS, your safest bet would be to look for a cheap option that you feel could realistically have a decent game. Looking at the Packers receiving issues, the superb QB play of Aaron Rodgers and the putrid Chicago Bears defense, it’s very feasible that Richard Rogers could have a big game. Most importantly, he’s among the cheapest starting tight ends available this week.
14 Owen Daniels – Denver Broncos TE (FD: $5500, DK: $3400)
Another very cheap tight end option that falls under the same thought process behind Richard Rodgers, except you have to feel more comfortable with Owen Daniels. Peyton Manning typically gives his tight end great numbers and Daniels has already had a credible career, so the only question surrounding his fantasy status is age. With the risks involving the other tight ends, you should definitely consider Daniels as he’s going against his former team and with Manning as his QB, there’s a very good chance he’ll end up in the end zone.
13 Larry Donnell – New York Giants TE (FD: $5300, DK: $3200)
Continuing the trend with one more promising tight end you can get for very cheap in Week 1, Larry Donnell is an underrated play at his position all season but especially in Week 1. Eli Manning loves Donnell as a touchdown target and the Giants vs. Cowboys game is expected to be a shootout. Statistically the Cowboys were ranked dead last in defense against the tight end last season. Factor in that Victor Cruz is likely to miss this game and you have more reason to believe in Donnell as a sleeper at tight end this week.
12 Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins WR (FD: $6900, DK: $5600)
The Miami Dolphins will have as much passing success as they want vs. the abysmal Washington Redskins pass defense. In daily fantasy, catches are usually one point per reception or a half point in some. This means wide receivers that make a lot of catches per game are fantasy studs and Landry is going to be a machine with total receptions this season. You can’t beat the combination of a decent price, a good situation and a great matchup. If he finds his way into the endzone, there could easily be a scenario where Landry is the top WR in fantasy this week.
11 Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins QB (FD: $8000, DK: $7400)
As just mentioned, the Miami Dolphins are facing the worst pass defense in the league as they will likely have an easy day with the dysfunctional Washington Redskins. Ryan Tannehill is also a very good running QB and that is to never be ignored. If he rushes for 40 yards or gets a touchdown, that’s a huge extra perk for a QB already facing a terrible defense. With Miami’s hopes of being able to finally challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC East division, this is close to a must win situation to start the season vs. a bad team as they can’t fall behind. Expect a huge game out of Tannehill and the Dolphins.
10 Marques Colston – New Orleans Saints WR (FD: $5500, DK: $6000)
The New Orleans Saints are going to miss Jimmy Graham as Drew Brees looks to make new stars on his offense. While Brandin Cooks is the hot fantasy pick and Brandon Coleman is the sleeper fantasy pick, Marques Colston may end up being the best fantasy WR in New Orleans. Especially early in the season, look for Brees to target his reliable weapon and make him a big factor again in fantasy football. Colston and Brees have always had a special chemistry and in a time when Brees may most need him, expect to get fantasy points out of it.
9 DeMarco Murray – Philadelphia Eagles RB (FD: $8500, DK: $6700)
In what should be a high scoring game, the Philadelphia Eagles are sure to put up a lot of fantasy points especially since the Atlanta Falcons had the second worst run defense in the NFL last season. DeMarco Murray’s only question is his health and you don’t have to worry about that as much when playing for one week. Between his talent, the explosive offense, a high scoring game and a terrible opposing defense, Murray is among the better elite RB options for you this week if you’re looking to spend at the position. In general, Murray may be the best top tier talent value on the board.
8 Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts RB (FD: $7500, DK: $5400)
Frank Gore is going for cheap because he’s likely going to be touchdown dependent this year since he’s a bit older and the goal of getting 1,000 rushing yards in a season like the glory days is difficult. The bright side for Gore’s value is he’s on one of the best offenses in the entire league. Before his injury last season, Ahmad Bradshaw was a good fantasy RB option because of the Colts offense. Even with his age, Gore is better than Bradshaw so expect him to get touchdowns, even against a tough Buffalo defense..
7 Tom Brady – New England Patriots QB (FD: $8400, DK: $7700)
The New England Patriots are an organization that practices revenge when they feel they’ve been wronged by a team or the league. With the NFL commissioner and many owners trying to get Tom Brady suspended, you just know the Patriots are going to look to win by as many points as possible and do so by padding Brady’s numbers. Opening night when the entire world is watching is the perfect stage for Brady to have a huge outing after beating his suspension in court. The Steelers are also a poor pass defense and the Patriots don’t have a great running back core.
6 Stevie Johnson – San Diego Chargers WR (FD: $4700, DK: $3700)
One of the most underrated players in fantasy entering the season has to be Stevie Johnson. After a bad fit with the San Francisco 49ers, Johnson already looks much more comfortable with the San Diego Chargers. Reports of instant chemistry with Philip Rivers and an impressive preseason put Johnson on the fantasy radar. Considering how much San Diego will throw while slowly implementing the running game of rookie Melvin Gordon, there’s a lot of potential in Johnson and he’s going for extremely cheap in Week 1. San Diego also happens to be facing a Detroit Lions defense that’s on the decline after losing a few star players.
5 Chris Ivory – New York Jets RB (FD: $6400, DK: $4100)
Despite the thought before the season, there was no competition for the starting running back job with the New York Jets as Chris Ivory dominated training camp and preseason, locking up the top spot on the depth chart easily. With Geno Smith out, the already weak QB faith has less confidence with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting Week 1. This gives more credence to the running game as Ivory will likely get 25+ touches vs. the Cleveland Browns. Even when playing decent overall defense last season, the Browns weren’t impressive against the run. Ivory is bound for a big season if healthy and a great week to start the year.
4 Lamar Miller – Miami Dolphins RB (FD: $7300, DK: $5500)
With more importance in the overall running game and more touches in the preseason, Lamar Miller is ready for a breakout season. If the Miami Dolphins want to make the playoffs, they’ll need Miller to have a huge year and they’re going to allow it starting in Week 1. The Washington Redskins are such a mess that Miller should be able to run all over them and be a threat in the passing the game vs. their weak defense. Expect Miller to blossom into a #1 fantasy RB this season and start that off by investing in him while cheap vs. a terrible team.
3 Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers WR (FD: $5500, DK: $4400)
Due to his cheap price and appealing matchup, Davante Adams is one of the best values at WR this week. Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL, the Chicago Bears are among the worst defenses in the NFL and Rodgers historically destroys the Bears. Without Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb’s health uncertain, Davante Adams quietly becomes the best passing option for Rodgers in Week 1. At least one or two receivers in Green Bay will have a massive fantasy game and Adams is the best bet. It’s almost impossible to pass up on Adams at this price, even if it means your opponents own him as well.
2 Sam Bradford – Philadelphia Eagles QB (FD: $7500, DK: $6900)
The only question about the fantasy outlook for Sam Bradford is his health and you can’t worry about that when banking on him for just Week 1. Facing a terrible Falcons defense and being the QB in Chip Kelly’s pass friendly offense makes Bradford an elite play to start off the season. The best part of selecting him is his price is significantly lower than all the other top options due to name value and an understandable lack of respect. Bradford has looked in sync with his receivers and had a stellar preseason so you have to feel safe with him as your top QB in daily fantasy on this Eagles team.
1 Julian Edelman – New England Patriots (FD: $7700, DK: $6600)
As mentioned before, this is going to be a game where the New England Patriots try to showcase Tom Brady and remind the league just who the champs are. With Brandon LaFell injured and a very questionable running game, the best weapons for Brady are Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. With the PPR (point per reception) or half PPR rules, Edelman becomes a fantasy stud as he is Brady’s main target. It is very possible Edelman will end up with 8+ catches, 100+ yards and 1+ TD which would likely make him one of the top fantasy WRs of the week. Until LaFell returns or another Patriots WR emerges, Edelman is a DFS superstar.