Making A Millionaire: Top DFS Value Plays For NFL Week 1
Tiebreaker.com brings you the top NFL Daily Fantasy value plays at each skill position each week through the regular season and into the playoffs, all the way to Super Bowl LIII. While the primary focus of this weekly article is the DraftKings Millionaire Maker, we will provide FanDuel pricing for each of our recommendations, and also share thoughts on the best players to use from Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games in other big-dollar tournaments. As for who should be in your Millionaire lineups, here are the top value plays for Week 1, with an eye toward low ownership and high upside.
Because the DraftKings Millionaire Maker format only uses the Sunday 1 p.m. and 4/4:25 p.m. ET games on its slate, there are only 12 games available this week. While it limits the size of the player pool, it also helps narrow that pool to a manageable level. Ownership is always key to our picks – the lower the expected ownership, the better the play, but quarterback is generally ownership neutral, so we’ll look primarily for the best values instead.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,800 DK, $8,400 FD)
The Saints in the Superdome in NFL DFS is like Coors Field for baseball: Numbers that are usually average on the road are always going to be inflated in games played in this building. Brees at home is almost always deadly, and with Michael Thomas now a legit receiving star, that combination should be hot and highly-owned this weekend. But as we mentioned, quarterback ownership is almost always spread out, so even if he’s the highest-owned, it probably won’t top 15-18 percent. That’s worth some chalky aftertaste in a matchup that’s almost too good to be true against the woeful Bucs and without their closer at running back to run out the clock.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns ($6,600 DK, $8,000 FD)
As we’ll get to in the running backs section, I have a lot of concern about Le’Veon Bell in this game, considering he still hadn’t reported to the team as of Monday. It’s going to be an awful lot to ask him to carry the load with such little time in pads – if he reports at all – and I think it’s going to force the Steelers to throw more than originally planned. And considering how sketchy the Browns’ secondary has been, that’s probably not a bad thing. This has 300 yards, 3 touchdowns written all over it.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs ($6,400 DK, $7,500 FD)
Another secondary that might be a bit leaky belongs to the Chiefs, and with Keenan Allen lurking on the outside, Rivers could be in for one of his typical big days. Remember Mike Williams? The big receiver was supposed to make a rookie splash last season, but injuries delayed his departure. He’s healthy now, and gives Rivers another prime target. Points will be scored here, and we can’t see many of them coming by handing off to Melvin Gordon. He might catch one for a TD, however.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts ($5,800 DK, $6,800 FD)
Did we mention bad secondaries? Dalton always has A.J. Green to count on, but now John Ross appears to have stepped up as the No. 2 option that should give Bengals an impressive air attack. If Tyler Eifert can make a full recovery from his back woes, Dalton might really have something here. Also, when Joe Mixon has been effective, it’s been as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. The Colts are not going to stop whatever Dalton chooses to do.
Discount Darling: Case Keenum, Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks ($5,100 DK, $6,300 FD)
Maybe the DFS powers that be just aren’t buying on what Case Keenum is selling. Maybe they think the Seattle secondary is still the Legion of Boom. Whatever the reason, the Broncos’ passing game is woefully underpriced this week. I absolutely LOVE a Broncos stack of Keenum, Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton, which pretty much allows you to play whatever high-priced backs and WRs you want.
Avoid: Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Bengals ($6,100 DK, $7,300 FD)
I think there will come a time this season where firing up Luck is going to be a smart play, maybe even a Milly Maker-winning play. This week isn’t that time. Although he showed flashes in Week 2 of the preseason, we still don’t know quite what we’re getting from Luck, and the Bengals’ pass rush could turn out to be the best one outside of Jacksonville. Keep Luck in the back of your mind, but keep him out of your lineups this week.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers ($7,700 DK, $8,300 FD)
I am guessing that the masses will flock to Alvin Kamara at $8,500, especially after Jonathan Williams was cut last weekend, leaving Boston Scott as the only viable backup (Michael Gillislee could also get touches). However, it is unlikely that Kamara is going to get some major boost in touches just because Mark Ingram is out. That won’t be the case for the Cowboys, who are talking about giving Elliott up to 30 touches in this game. That is a massive workload at a nice discount from Kamara, making him an ideal pivot in a tournament like the Milly Maker.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, ($7,100 DK, $8,000 FD)
I am a big believer in using top running backs in conjunction with a top defense, and there are two correlations this week that excite me. One is Baltimore’s Alex Collins (see below) and the other is Fournette and the Jags’ awesome defense. Fournette was among the league leaders in usage last season, and that might increase early on as the Jags adjust to the loss of receiver Marqise Lee. The Giants struggled to stop the run last season and with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram not 100 percent entering this game, it could be a long afternoon for the Giants, which plays right into Fournette’s hands.
Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans ($5,900 DK, $6,600 FD)
Opportunity is always key, especially when looking for running back value. The Miami coaching staff has been pumping Drake’s tires all preseason and are now indicating they would like their main back to get somewhere in the 15-20 touch range each week. That’s what we like to hear. The Titans forced teams to throw to their backs a ton last season, which is great for Drake, but they did change their defensive scheme this offseason, which might curtail catches out of the backfield, but with the Dolphins lacking downfield talent, Drake should remain busy.
Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills ($5,600 DK, $6,700 FD)
Everything is pointing toward a huge game for Collins, and the only concern here is potentially high ownership because of his discounted price. The Bills are going to be dreadful this season, particularly on offense. This game sets up as one where the Ravens dominate both field position and time of possession, and that means tons of Collins in scoring opportunities. Oh, did we mention the Bills were among the worst teams in football last season stopping the run. This is a spot where it’s ok to eat the chalk.
Discount Darling: Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints ($4,100 DK, $5,600 FD)
I suspect the “shock” value of the timing and severity of Jerick McKinnon’s knee injury is going to drive a massive amount of chalk toward Alfred Morris ($3,600 DK). It will also drive game-theory players to pivot to Matt Breida ($4,600). Neither are great plays at Minnesota and that stout defense. The true pivot is to Peyton Barber, who may be flying under the radar, as Charles Sims’ season-ending injury was weeks ago and not the story that McKinnon is. As we know, the Superdome is the Coors Field of football – stats are always inflated there. The Bucs will be looking to hide Ryan Fitzpatrick as much as possible, meaning Barber will be busy.
Avoid: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns ($9,400 DK, $8,900 FD)
Bell still hadn’t reported to camp as of Monday afternoon, and despite his obvious other-worldly talent, it is really hard to invest this much salary into a guy basically walking in off the street. Also consider that the Browns are going to be a much more competitive team in 2018 and last year in a similar circumstance, Bell faced the Browns in Week 1 and put up a relative dud. You can get two potential breakout performers at RB in Week 1 for less than Bell’s salary. That’s all you need to know.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns ($8,600 DK, $9,000 FD)
As we’ve noted with Big Ben and Lev Bell, this is a week where the Steelers are going to probably rely on the pass. Now, we understand that Brown is on the cover of Madden 19. We’ve even written about the Madden Curse here at Tiebreaker.com, but this is one week where Brown should avoid any pratfalls. All the pieces in the Steelers passing game are viable this week, but Brown will always be head and shoulders above the rest.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($7,800 DK, $8,500 FD)
The Buccaneers were one of the most charitable defenses for wide receivers last season and that doesn’t appear to have improved much going into this season. Brees should be locked into Thomas all afternoon long, and the third-year wide receiver seems poised for a monster breakout season. Alvin Kamara will get his in this game, but the vertical show belongs to Brees and Thomas, who make for an excellent stack.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers ($6,300 DK, $7,400 FD)
The Vikings get Davin Cook back, and its hard to remember that he was a high-impact prospect early last season. The Vikings also have Kirk Cousins under center, so there’s a bit of uncertainty as to where the offensive production will come from here. But one thing we saw for certain this preseason is the chemistry between Cousins and Diggs. Adam Thielen has been the man the last two seasons, but with Cousins that might be changing a bit. Look for Diggs to be the top target here early on.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks ($5,000 DK, $6,300 FD)
DFS players are always a little leery about the Broncos’ wideouts, because they expect production to split between Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. I think that’s becoming a non-factor, as newly-acquired Case Keenum is locking in on Sanders this preseason. This pass offense has a chance to be the sneaky slate slayer this week, as the Seahawks’ secondary is operating mostly on reputation only at this point, but that rep is enough to keep the Denver passing game’s ownership low. Take advantage.
Discount Darling: Courtland Sutton, Broncos vs. Seahawks ($3,600 DK, $4,700 FD)
While we’re on the subject, Sutton is looking like the top value play on the entire slate. He’s going to open the year as the No. 3 receiver. That’s no small thing considering how challenged the Broncos are at running back and tight end. Sutton is going to be plenty busy and he is already showing great chemistry with Keenum. If he goes 6 catches, 60 yards and a touchdown Sunday, that’s the 5X performance you need to win the big tourneys. Sutton appears more than capable.
Avoid: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars ($7,000 DK, $7,800 FD)
Beckham is healthy and he just got paid. He should certainly be motivated for a big season if he keeps his head and ankles on straight. But I can’t get on board with paying 7K – sixth-highest at the position on DK — for a receiver going up against the Jaguars’ secondary, especially if Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram aren’t 100 percent ready and can’t take any of the pressure off Eli Manning. In fact, I’d rather OBJ really struggle this week, hope his salary comes down, and grab him as a mega-value in Week 2.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans ($6,900 DK, $7,900 FD)
Welp, he didn’t retire, so get him in your lineups! With Julian Edelman suspended for four weeks, you just know Gronk is going to be the big-time target for Tom Brady, probably seeing double-digit targets on the regular. The running game is, as always, a bit muddled, and the deep threat is Philip Dorsett. Please. Eat the chalk and go with Gronk. There’s more than enough value at running back and wide receiver this week to take any sting out of Gronk’s salary.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals ($4,000 DK, $5,800 FD)
There’s only one week where it’s safe to put Jordan Reed in your lineup, and that’s Week 1. And even that’s never a sure thing, as he enters this weekend with an injury concern. But when he’s healthy, he’s pretty much all the Redskins have right now, and we know from watching Travis Kelce blow up the last couple years that Alex Smith makes the tight end a goldmine for fantasy. Get Reed some bubble-wrap and get him in your lineups if you’re pivoting off Gronk.
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers ($3,400 DK, $5,300 FD)
The Browns drafted Njoku in the first round last season for a reason – assuming there’s a reason for anything the Browns do. No, seriously, the Browns actually have a shot to be good this year, like 7-9 wins good. And a lot of it is going to come from the passing game, with Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon (we think) and Njoku, who had a solid preseason and showed flashes as a rookie of being an impact target. His price is modest enough to have confidence throwing him out there, even if the Steelers were pretty tough against tight ends last season.
Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals ($3,300 DK, $5,000 FD)
If you had him in season-long last year and didn’t cut him after about eight weeks, you were rewarded. We just need him to be great THIS week, and in a check-down kind of game, and with Ebron and Andrew Luck showing some good chemistry in the preseason, I like Ebron as a low-owned option this week. If the Colts get in the red zone, they will be pass-first and likely tight-end first. Let others roster Jack Doyle, I think Ebron is the man to have this weekend.
Discount Darling: Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans ($2,900 DK, $4,700 FD)
The Dolphins coaching staff really like Gesicki and with their receivers in a state of flux, the young tight end has a chance to make an early splash. The rookie didn’t have the most productive preseason (1 catch, 10 yards), but that hasn’t stopped head coach Adam Gase from singing his praises. He’s an interesting dart throw at near minimum salary.
Avoid: Evan Engram, New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,700 DK, $6,000 FD)
He’s apparently still in concussion protocol as of Monday, which makes him really hard to trust this week, especially facing the Jaguars defense. When healthy and facing a sub-optimal defense, he’s as good as there is. But that’s not his situation this week. Hard pass.
Thursday, Sunday, Monday targets
The introduction of the single-game “Showdown” option has killed the Thursday-to-Sunday slate just like video did to the radio star. Before this season, you could sign up for a large-field GPP with a $50K (or more) prize to the winner. Now, the best DK slate has an entire payout pool of $40,000. The end of the innocence. But if you play the slate, the same rules apply: Don’t play anyone in the Thursday night game and hope it’s a bust. That’s because the players on Thursday always carry disproportionately high ownership totals, because people enter the slate primarily to enjoy watching their guys play in this game. It’s a trap and it should be exploited, especially this week with two top defenses in Philadelphia and Atlanta squaring off. Some weeks, a Thursday play makes a lot of sense, especially when it’s the Steelers or Patriots, but not this week. DK has a Sunday-Monday offering with a $50K pool, and these Sunday-Monday night plays add to that mix.
Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions vs. New York Jets ($6,500 DK, $7,800 FD)
I don’t know if I’m quite ready to allocate $7,500 for Aaron Rodgers against the solid Bears defense in his first meaningful game in quite a while. I am pretty confident in the 1K savings I can get with Stafford, who is loaded at receiver and faces a Jets team that hardly resembles the Sack Exchange. The Lions running game has never been much of a factor, so Stafford should be in full throw-mode.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders ($9,300 DK, $9,000 FD)
Remember how we were worried about Le’Veon Bell at $9,400? Yeah, no worries here. The Raiders are already a huge mess, and you have to wonder how much time Jon Gruden will spend gazing up longingly at the ESPN booth on Monday night. There are a lot of viable weapons the Rams can deploy here, but you have to expect Gurley to be the top dog, making him the ultimate last-game hammer.
Kenny Golladay, Lions vs. Jets ($4,800 DK, $5,700 FD)
Golladay looked like the sleeper of the year after a great camp last summer, then a huge Week 1 performance. Then he got hurt, missed a bunch of weeks and didn’t really put it all back together until the last game of the season. But he’s had another strong camp, and with the Lions weak at tight end, he’s going to get his chance to re-ignite his young career. A date with the Jets offers another shot at exploding in Week 1 at a nice discount.
Trey Burton, Bears at Lions ($4,300 DK, $5,700 FD)
Burton was the darling of preseason DFS in 2017 with the Eagles, and he showed his promise in his regular-season cameos last year. He had another great Week 3 preseason game last month and Mitchell Trubisky seems to like his new tight end. Burton is a guy with great tools and should thrive in this offense.
Discount Darling: Terrelle Pryor, Jets at Lions ($3,400 DK, $5,200 FD)
Keep an eye on news out of Jets camp. With Jermaine Kearse sidelined, Pryor should become the No. 3 receiver in this offense, but he’s had limited practice time with Sam Darnold, so, again, keep an eye on news through the week to see if he will play and how effective he might be. If he’s a full go, he could be a nice value option.
Avoid: Derek Carr, Raiders vs. Rams ($6,000 DK, $6,600 FD)
The Raiders are a mess. They just cut receiver Martavis Bryant, which just makes Carr’s job that much tougher against a great defense. Expect the Raiders to get Beast Mode going early and often, which limits Carr’s upside in a big way.