The beautiful smell of a new NFL season is in the air, and daily fantasy players are rejoicing. The NFL game is by far the most popular daily fantasy sport, and tournaments on FanDuel are going to be bigger and better than ever before. Each week, I will bring you five quarterbacks and running backs that I am targeting, along with a pair to avoid at each position. Let’s get right down to business and tackle the Week One slate!
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
Five to target
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers ($9,700)
2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ($8,800)
3. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles ($7,500)
4. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings ($7,200)
5. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills ($5,000)
If safety is what you desire in your quarterback selection, there’s nothing wrong with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers should move the ball with ease against a mediocre Bears Defense, and the loss of Jordy Nelson will likely be only a minor hiccup when it comes to Rodgers putting up elite numbers on a weekly basis. This matchup does favor the run game a little more, but Rodgers should be a safe choice for around 300 yards passing and multiple touchdowns in this game.
The one consistent thing we know about Chip Kelly and the Eagles is that they increase the fantasy value of their opponents every week because of their up-tempo offense. Everyone runs more plays, meaning there are more chances for fantasy points. The Eagles/Falcons game projects as one of the highest scoring games of the opening week (according to the Vegas odds), and Matt Ryan is an under-the-radar elite option at quarterback. He won't break the bank like some other top QB's, and he could easily surpass 300 yards with multiple touchdowns in this one.
Speaking of Chip Kelly and the Eagles, there is still room available to board the Sam Bradford bandwagon, but space is quickly filling up. Bradford looks to be a perfect fit for this offense, and he is coming off a sparkling preseason. Both teams are going to put up points in this game, and Bradford has plenty of offensive weapons to utilize given the rise of Jordan Matthews and the signing of Darren Sproles. Bradford is definitely one of the best mid-priced options at quarterback for opening weekend.
Another team that is generating a lot of buzz heading into the 2015 season is the Minnesota Vikings. The return of Adrian Peterson will certainly help their offense this year, but it’s the passing game that I would focus on for the opener. San Francisco has a fairly stout run defense and is more susceptible to allowing big plays in the secondary. That means we could see the Vikings air it out a little more than normal, and I expect a solid second season out of Bridgewater. He is a great tournament play as a quarterback that will likely get overlooked by most daily fantasy players this week.
Tyrod Taylor is the “shiny new object” that a lot of people will gravitate toward. He will also likely carry a higher ownership percentage than you will normally see for a cheap quarterback. The problem with taking a hard-line stance against Taylor is that it is hard to imagine him not reaching value for this price tag. He brings upside to the table because of his running ability, and in a full game of snaps he should be a lock for enough points to pay off a $5,000 price. if you want to go with the herd here — even in a tournament — I think it’s a reasonable way to go. Look to differentiate your roster elsewhere.
Two to avoid
1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens ($8,200)
2. Nick Foles, St. Louis Rams ($6,400)
As much as we all like the narrative of Steve Smith Sr. going out with a bang this season, the reality is that Baltimore’s pass-catching corps is one of the worst in the NFL. Rookie Breshad Perriman is already injured. That leaves a cast of Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, and others to compete for targets opposite Smith. Crockett Gillmore is currently the top tight end on the depth chart. It just doesn’t bode well for Joe Flacco. There’s no way I am paying $8,200 for him in a road game against a good team. Expect most of the Baltimore offense to flow through Justin Forsett.
It will be intriguing to see what Nick Foles does in a St. Louis uniform, but this is not the week to take a chance. Even without Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks Defense is an intimidating bunch. There are much better options on there this week, so don’t get cute and take a chance on St. Louis finding any traction against Seattle.
Five to target
1. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals ($8,600)
2. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers ($8,500)
3 Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens ($7,800)
4. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,900)
4. Chris Ivory, New York Jets ($6,400)
It would not surprise me in the least if Jeremy Hill ends up in the conversation as fantasy football’s top running back in 2015. That projection might be a bit overzealous, but I like him that much. He runs with a great combination of power and speed, and he easily took away the feature back duties from Giovani Bernard last year. This will likely be as cheap as you can find Hill all season, and the game script should flow in his favor against the Raiders. If the Bengals are milking a lead in the second half, Hill should see all the carries he can handle.
Based on the circumstances, Eddie Lacy could be one of the top overall performers of the week. Green Bay has lost Jordy Nelson for the year, Randall Cobb is banged up, and the team gets to face one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL in the Bears. Expect a more run-heavy approach from Green Bay, and Lacy might even see a few more targets out of the backfield as he has improved that part of his game over the past year. For a guy that is being drafted as a top-three pick right now in season-long drafts, he’s a DFS bargain as the eighth highest-priced running back on the board on FanDuel.
As I mentioned above with regards to Flacco, I expect Baltimore’s offense to run through Justin Forsett this year. The receivers are below average, and Mark Trestman loves to utilize his running backs as receivers. The 0.5 point PPR bonus on FanDuel is a nice boost for Forsett, who should see a large uptick in receptions this year. He should top 100-120 total yards in this game, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him catch 4-6 passes, too. If you target anyone on the Baltimore offense, Forsett is definitely the guy you want.
There are two very different schools of thought out there when it comes to Doug Martin. There’s the contingent that believes he will rebound this season on the heels of his #1 role and a strong camp. Then, there’s the contingent that points to his last couple years of data and says “run away.” Both sides can make valid points, but I am inclined to take a few chances on Martin this week because his price is so affordable. The matchup against Tennessee is a reasonable one, and a banged up Mike Evans might mean more work for the running game. If Martin explodes in the early weeks, you’ll be kicking yourself if you didn’t get in while the price was still affordable.
Chris Ivory projects as one of the best value plays on the board this week. The Jets appear committed to using him as their #1 running back, and this could also be a game where the Jets are possibly playing from ahead. Ivory isn’t a flashy runner, but his price on FanDuel is very cheap at $6,400. He is a solid fit as a second running back on your daily fantasy squad as the Jets take on Cleveland at home. If he manages to run for 80 yards and find the end zone once, it’s a solid performance at this salary tag.
Two to avoid
1. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins ($7,400)
2. Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys ($6,900)
The arrow is pointing straight down for Alfred Morris. He had a disappointing camp and preseason, while Matt Jones has been opening eyes. This has all the looks of a time share, and there’s no reason to be spending $7,400 on a declining Morris right now. The situation is completely hands-off for me until we get some clarity on how snaps are going to be divided. There are better options out there.
Speaking of hands-off situations, that definitely applies with the Dallas running back situation right now, too. The signing of Christine Michael means we have a three-headed backfield consisting of Michael, Darren McFadden, and Joseph Randle. The Cowboys have even said that they are not going to name an “official” starter. It appears as though they will ride the hot hand at running back, so this could be a fluid situation from week-to-week. As with the situation in Washington, steer clear until we get some game data to analyze.