The Fantasy Football Party: Week 1 DFS Analysis

Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY NETWORK

The Fantasy Football Party will post a values story every week at ZoneCoverage.com to help you set winning DFS lineups for the show listener league and all the other great games at FantasyDraft.com — our exclusive DFS partner for 2018!

Whether you’re getting a lineup set for our five-week survivor league, with a ticket to the $500,000 FantasyDraft NFL Championship on the line plus guaranteed overlay, or any of the other great cash game options and GPPs on FantasyDraft.com, you want to take advantage of the value plays on the board for this week — and avoiding the overpriced options.

Here are some of the players at each position who stand out one way or another using the modeling tool at FantasyLabs.com. All scoring projections/rankings are from their cash model for Week 1. (editor’s note: Get half off a trial membership at Fantasy Labs with the code 50OFF!)

QUARTERBACK (x2)

Tyrod Taylor at Pittsburgh: $10,300

Getting excited about rostering Taylor in DFS has taken some work in the past, and getting excited about rostering a Cleveland Browns quarterback has required a heavy dose of a liquid courage. But these aren’t your older brother’s Browns. FantasyLabs has Taylor as its highest-rated quarterback in Week 1 because his projection is 13th at the position while he’s priced as the 25th QB.

Aug 23, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) completes a pass during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor has the legs to get away from the Steelers pass rush and either run for a decent number of yards or find one of many good targets in this offense against a shaky Pittsburgh secondary. I expect Taylor will be his usual cautious self to minimize turnovers while mostly dinking and dunking his way to a useful fantasy output at home that will allow you to spend up elsewhere.

Tom Brady vs. Houston: $13,900

Quarterbacks like Taylor are why ones like Brady are tough to pay for. He has the second highest projection, but as the highest priced QB in a field of bunched up options, he’s still only the 15th-rated quarterback on the slate. I’d rather not chase a ceiling that I believe Brady will struggle to reach with the suspended Julian Edelman on the shelf and Houston bringing a for-the-moment healthy defense into Foxboro.

RUNNING BACK (x3)

Rex Burkhead vs. Houston: $8,300

I just noted the Texans’ defense above, but Burkhead’s price is simply too good to pass up. He’s the closest thing to a free square on this slate not because of his points projection (he’s 23rd at the position) but because of his price — which is tied for 53rdamong running backs. James White will get plenty of passing down work, but Sony Michel’s status is up in the air. But even if he plays, he’s missed so much preseason time and Burkhead’s been so productive when healthy that he’ll still project for more than enough touches to pay off his salary.

Melvin Gordon vs. Kansas City: $13,300

The reason you roster someone like Burkhead is that it allows you to pay up for a runner like Gordon — who, to be fair, isn’t even exorbitantly priced. He’s the sixth-highest at the position and his projection among running back is also sixth. But because this is a game of total points, not points/dollar/roster slot, that makes Gordon the second rated FantasyLabs runner on the slate.

Aug 18, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (center) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin checks all the boxes here: his O-line is improved, he’s supposedly going to get even more passing down work than last year, he’s the goal-line back and he’s playing against one of the league’s worst defenses at home.

Ezekiel Elliott at Carolina: $14,100

You really do have to look at the whole picture when considering FantasyLabs’ rating scale. Because you glance at Zeke and see the fifth highest price and the fifth highest projection — right in line with what Gordon was above — and can think he’s ready to plug and play.

But then you look at his rating and see it’s 26th among RBs. That’s what that extra $800 in salary will do! Plus I’m even more down on him this week than FantasyLabs considering what the O-line is dealing with from an injury/health perspective and that they’re on the road against a solid Carolina defense. Elliott should get enough work to put up a decent score, but there are cheaper guys I like a whole lot more.

WIDE RECEIVER (x3)

Davante Adams vs. Chicago: $11,600

The Bears defense is going to surprise some people this year. That said, they’ve got a long way to go before scaring me off the recently richer Aaron Rodgers’ number one receiver. I had the displeasure of witnessing Danny Trevathan’s brutal hit to Adams’ chin at Lambeau last year, and I think Adams gets some revenge on Chicago in this one. He’s well underpriced at No. 20 among receivers with the seventh-highest scoring projection at the position — good for the fourth-highest rated receiving play on the slate.

Mike Evans at New Orleans Saints: $13,300

Evans is a big, physical beast who can pay off his salary in any week with one big play — in garbage time or otherwise. And with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball, he’s likely to go pretty low owned. But I’m going to have a hard time pulling the trigger here. Even with the 13th-highest projection at the position, Evans’ floor is set lower than all 12 guys in front of him. That’s because all of those guys combine volume with touchdown upside.

Aug 24, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback De’Vante Harris (25) celebrates with teammate wide receiver Mike Evans (13) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The volume was inconsistent for Evans last year, and targets from Fitzpatrick aren’t always of the highest quality. And at the eighth-highest price, Evans clocks in as the 21st rated receiver this week. It’s hard to be much lower than that with his touchdown upside, but his floor and that price scare me.

Jarvis Landry vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: $10,100

If you’re playing in tournaments, you’re looking to make positive EV (expected value) moves. One of those moves is pairing a quarterback with his WR1, and since I’m bullish on Tyrod, I’ve got to point out his fellow Cleveland newcomer whose price tag is way down at 36th among wide receivers despite the 18th-highest point projection.

FantasyDraft is a PPR site, so while I don’t necessarily think Landry’s a good bet to get in the end zone, but at that price tag he doesn’t necessarily have to be. I expect seven-plus catches out of him to set a solid floor, and if he does reach paydirt he’ll turn into one of the most valuable receivers on the slate.

TIGHT END (x2)

Jack Doyle vs. Cincinnati Bengals: $7,400

There’s a consensus among fantasy prognosticators that it will be a good year for Indy tight ends if Andrew Luck’s shoulder holds up. But there’s a growing number of us — our own John Tuvey included — who believe that Eric Ebron will be the Coby Fleener to Doyle’s Dwayne Allen. Or something like that. Ebron has always had the athletic profile to be a prolific tight end — minus the hands.

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin (49) closes in on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) as Doyle catches a pass during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I just don’t see how suddenly this is the year when Doyle’s already got a strong rapport with Luck. The Week 1 pricing reflects this hesitation, but I have none. FantasyLabs has none, either, as Doyle’s got the ninth-highest projection with the 15th-highest price, making him their No. 2-rated tight end on the slate.

Jared Cook vs. Los Angeles Rams: $8,500

Funny that I just mentioned Ebron and here’s Cook — the other all-potential-no-production tight end that people like to think is still on the come. Sorry, not buying this one, either. Cook definitely has blow-up potential here and there, but as the eighth-highest price tight end with the 17th-highest projection, rostering him is a dart throw with a blindfold on. Doyle is one of several tight ends who cost less that I’d rather roster.

DEFENSE (x2)

New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans: $5,100

Anyone who saw DeShaun Watson play last year likely doesn’t feel great about targeting them in DFS with a fantasy defense. But the Texans sport perhaps the league’s worst offensive line and are playing in Foxboro. There should be ample opportunities for sacks, hurries and forced turnovers. And with 15 defenses more expensive than New England but only five with a higher projection, FantasyLabs has the Pats as their highest rated defense.

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers: $4,100

If you really want to go YOLO with your defense, Jerry’s bunch might just be the ticket. It’s risky for sure going on the road to face Cam Newton with upgraded weaponry, but like Houston, Carolina’s offensive line leaves quite a bit to be desired. If Dallas can keep the pressure on Cam they could force a couple of turnovers and be a solid value play. I mean, Indy and KC are both among 22 teams priced higher, for crying out loud. But the Cowboys land at 13th in team defense projections this week.

There is an endless trove of additional data plus incredible tools for modeling, lineup building and more at FantasyLabs.com. If you play DFS, FantasyLabs will make you a better player. Use the code 50OFF to get half off a trial membership.

The Fantasy Football Party is recorded each week by John Tuvey, Bo Mitchell and Anthony Maggio. You can also find a story from one of the three each week right here at ZoneCoverage.com. Subscribe to the podcast and never miss an episode by clicking here for iTunes or here for Android.

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