Lamar Jackson, Ravens Set for DFS Dominance Against Jets
NFL Week 1 - It has been a long, long offseason. We have seen fantasy-relevant players switch teams at a higher rate than ever before and now, finally, we can start to see if our priors will be confirmed.
Each week in this column you'll find a plethora of content to help you attack DFS (daily fantasy sports) contests. Whether you are a cash game player or you prefer to grind out 150 lineups each week and chase the highest prizes on offer, there will be all kinds of players here you'll want to roster. Not only that, but you will get all the stats to back up the plays. I'll also suggest stacks and bring-backs wherever possible. Without further ado, let's dive in.
Lamar Jackson $7300 at New York Jets (44.0 Over/Under)
Week 1 of the season occasionally sees players priced at their lowest value all season, and at $7300, this could be one of those occasions. In 2021, Lamar Jackson threw the ball an average of 31.8 times per game, an uptick of over five more passes per game from is previous seasons in Baltimore. The reasoning behind this was crystal-clear: season-ending injuries to J.K Dobbins and Gus Edwards. The Ravens have played things cautiously with the return of both backs, and it remains to be seen how heavily Dobbins can be relied on in the early fixtures that Edwards will miss. The Ravens may still want to be a run-heavy team, but it seems unlikely early on with a bunch of uninspiring options on the roster, and against the Jets to open the season, a motivated Lamar Jackson is someone I'll be happy to use no matter the rostership.
Usage Suggestions: Jackson can be locked into all types of lineups this weekend, be they cash or tournament. Stacks with Mark Andrews might prove chalky, but by adding James Proche (who was the talk of camp till a soft-tissue injury occurred) or stacking Rashod Bateman and Isaiah Likely, there are still ways to be different. Running it back with either Elijah Moore or Michael Carter, who should see more passing down usage out of the gate, is a good way to further build out that stack.
Jalen Hurts $6800 vs. Detroit Lions (48.0 Over/Under)
The Eagles have put their trust in Hurts and will give him every opportunity to show he deserves to be their starter moving forward, and a Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions isn't a nightmare by any means. The Lions have had another solid offseason and the rebuild is in good progress, but the Eagles are a team starting to gather Super Bowl hype and they should want to make an early statement. In 2021, Hurts was a QB1 in 12 games and top-five four times; with improved weapons around him, that trend should continue. Hurts' ceiling is QB1 overall.
Usage Suggestions: This game has increased in popularity as the week has gone on, if you're stacking Hurts and A.J Brown, be aware you'll need to get different elsewhere if you're playing large-field contests. Hurts is a fine play on his own for cash games.
Trey Lance $6000 at Chicago Bears (41.0 Over/Under)
*Update - The weather report seems to be improving for this game. As a result we should have more confidence in the passing games.
Even the hardiest of Trey Lance truthers (yes, I am talking about myself) will admit that things won't always be pretty this year. The simple truth is that Lance is a raw prospect who has barely played in the last two seasons, but whatever the downfalls, he still has the athleticism and elite upside, in particular for fantasy. At $6000, we ideally need Lance to put up 18 to 20 points to make him a successful play for DFS. The Bears do not look like a team ready to put up a fight in 2022, and the over/under is dragged down because of that. Chicago's roster has holes and flaws in many areas, and last year they had the ninth-worst ranking in run defense DVOA. Whilst the team has been working on fixing the secondary, it has come at the expense of defensive players nearer the line of scrimmage. Lance might be a little bit of the unknown at this point, but if Kyle Shanahan decides to really attack the Bears on the ground, Lance might just pick up the hundred-yard rushing bonus.
Usage Suggestions: It's tempting to stack Lance with Brandon Aiyuk ($5200) after positive reports all year make them an alluring idea at just 22.4% of your salary. It's a stack that brings with it some risk, given the low over/under, so I wouldn't expect this to be commonly rostered. I would mainly consider this stack for smaller field contests with fewer than a thousand entrants. Otherwise, I'm also content using Lance on his own, without a stack. If George Kittle does miss the game due to injury, the Aiyuk play will be a lot chalkier.
Matt Ryan $5500 at Houston Texans (46.0 over/under)
In fantasy football, it's very unlikely that Ryan can ever reach the ceilings of the younger dual-threat quarterbacks already listed, but at this cost, we don't always need him to. The Texans have a lot more work to do in their rebuild, but they have a feisty enough offense that they can stay in games, to an extent, even if their defense struggles, which should help this game stay interesting. The Colts coaching staff has raved about Ryan all offseason, and if you're looking to pay down at the position he represents my favorite choice.
Usage Suggestions: Ryan doesn't have the ceiling worth playing in tournaments unless it unlocks really high-ceiling plays elsewhere. It's a borderline play for cash games if you believe Jonathan Taylor isn't a strong play at his cost.
Alvin Kamara $7600 at Atlanta Falcons (42.0 over/under)
The Saints start the season with a trip to their division rivals in Atlanta, a Falcons team that ranked dead last in all but two weeks of our DVOA metric in 2021. This game is the lowest over/under of the week, even lower than Monday night's Seahawks against the Broncos. Typically in DFS we want to avoid low-scoring contests, but there's something about a game like this that always draws interest. In Kamara's NFL career, he has had some of his biggest games against the Falcons, including once in 2018 when he saw a monster 20 targets. Whilst 20 targets might be out of reach without Drew Brees checking down to Kamara, teams are going to have to respect the Saints passing game more than they did last year. With an improved wide receiver corps, defenses won't be able to stack the box as heavily and Kamara should see strong usage against a team that has struggled defending against running backs in the passing game in previous years.
Usage Suggestions: At this price tag, there is an element of risk baked in, but for tournaments, Kamara has slate-breaking potential. Pairing him with Kyle Pitts gives you access to a truly high-ceiling correlation.
Saquon Barkley $6100 at Tennessee Titans (44.0 over/under)
By now we know it can be unwise to hope for too much from running backs coming off ACL injuries, but there is also enough data out there to suggest that running backs a year removed from their return tend to be much more productive. The Giants have given no indications that they plan to use Barkley less than in his glory days, and they have only Matt Breida of note behind him. It's also worth reiterating that Saquon's 2021 injury was a freak occurrence where his foot was stepped on by another player between plays. Brian Daboll was never a particularly run-heavy playcaller during his time in Buffalo, but with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Sterling Shepard all carrying various injuries into the opener, the Giants simply aren't blessed with options. Since Barkley's breakout year, he now seems set to play behind the best offensive line of his career and free from the sometimes perplexing play calling of Jason Garrett. We could be primed for a renaissance.
Usage Suggestions: At $6100, Barkley is cheap enough that he should be popular in both cash and tournaments. The Titans lack obvious bring-back suggestions with Robert Woods returning from injury and Treylon Burks struggling with conditioning through camp. A speculative play would involve paying down at tight end for Austin Hooper ($3700), who has reportedly shown good rapport with Ryan Tannehill this offseason.
Dameon Pierce $4800 vs. Colts
It's rare to find a starting running back as cheap as this in DFS, and Pierce's price will certainly rise to the mid-$5000 range next week, barring a truly awful display. The Colts aren't a great matchup for the Texans running back and it's possible that Pierce is scripted out if the Colts heat up, but at $4800 Pierce should be in consideration for cash game lineups and tournaments. The Texans have given us every indication they believe in Pierce's ability to handle this workload, with the latest proof being they cut Marlon Mack not once but twice in a week (once after he had re-signed to the practice squad). Pierce doesn't have the breakaway speed to turn a game on its head, but he does have the strong short-yardage ability to make him valuable around the goal line, and he holds his own in pass protection. Don't be surprised when he stays on the field consistently.
Usage Suggestions: Avoid pairing with Jonathan Taylor, as it's unlikely for opposing running backs to both hit ceiling outcomes unless both teams really shy away from the passing game.
Kareem Hunt $5700 vs. Carolina Panthers (43.0 over/under)
Another low-scoring game takes place in Charlotte, where much of the attention will be on the quarterbacks who are playing and one who isn't. The Browns opted to keep a hold of Kareem Hunt and his very tradeable contract, for now at least, and there has been no reason to expect his work will be less than in previous years. Hunt has played 28 career games with Nick Chubb during their time in Cleveland and averaged 14.17 PPR points. It has always been very possible for the two to co-exist and be fantasy-relevant. This game looks like one the field will be fading, and anytime that happens I become intrigued.
Usage Suggestions: Hunt's style of play makes him an interesting correlation for DJ Moore, with the idea being that if Moore scores lots of points, the Browns will be in hurry-up mode and Hunt should see more opportunities.
Elijah Mitchell $5400 at Chicago Bears (41.0 Over/Under)
Weather reports are improving for this game, but it sounds unlikely George Kittle will play. If Kyle Shanahan has any doubts about Trey Lance's ability, he's unlikely to make him pass a lot in poor conditions. Mitchell had an impressive rookie campaign putting up over 15 PPR points in 54% of his games played. Whilst Jeff Wilson Jr. and Tyrion Davis-Price should see some touches the backfield seems heavily in favour of Mitchell in a favourable matchup. The Bears spent lots of resources on addressing their poor secondary this offseason, but it has left them weaker up front and the Niner's creative run game will be able to take advantage.
Usage Suggestions: With Trey Lance also a recommended play, it would be unusual to pair the him and Mitchell together. Better to play one side of the coin that both.
JuJu Smith-Schuster $5200 vs. Arizona Cardinals (54.0 over/under)
Week 1's highest over/under comes in the Arizona desert with the type of projection that will draw a lot of interest. Both quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray) carry expensive price tags and will also see a high percentage of players roster them. The Chiefs' running game is a messy situation to get involved in and Travis Kelce is the second-highest-priced tight end on the slate, but at receiver, the options are far more appealing. For the first time in Smith-Schuster's career, we get a chance to see whether his usage in Pittsburgh was held back by Ben Roethlisberger's ageing ways. Camp reports have been effusive of Smith-Schuster, and it seems like he and Mahomes have built up a strong relationship on the practice field. On DraftKings with their PPR format, Smith-Schuster could see enough volume to easily rack up 15 or 20 points if this game goes the way Vegas expects.
Usage Suggestions: In small field tournaments under 1,000 entries this game looks prime for an onslaught stack of four to five options. It's entirely possible for Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Travis Kelce to all be fantasy-viable in this game. For cash games, Smith-Schuster's type of play looks the most sensible option.
Christian Kirk $5100 vs. Washington Commanders (44.0 over/under)
The Jaguars have washed away the stench of 2021, and 2022 is bringing a hint of cautious optimism from some Jacksonville fans. Opening the season against another team that has plenty of question marks is a good way to get the campaign underway, and Trevor Lawrence might be a little bit thankful that Commanders pass-rusher Chase Young is on IR for at least the first four weeks. Christian Kirk made a big impact on the wide receiver market when he was signed by the Jaguars, and all the reports this summer have said Kirk is looking the part of a No. 1 receiver so far. Washington ranked dead-last in in pass defense DVOA on third and fourth downs last year. They simply couldn't make a stop, but they have brought back many of the same starters and have the same defensive coordinator (Jack Del Rio). It's very hard for me to see a scenario where the Jaguars don't have passing success, and it feels very likely that runs through Kirk. At $5100, he's as cheap as it gets for a WR1 on this slate.
Usage Suggestions: This isn't a game many will attack heavily, and the best way to use Kirk feels like either as a standalone tournament play or as part of a small correlation with one Commanders receiver.
K.J. Osborn $4900 vs. Green Bay Packers (47.0 over/under)
Former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell kicks off his first season as a head coach with a divisional rivalry game against the Packers. Throughout this offseason, O'Connell has talked up Osborn as a player who will be depended on more than previously. Osborn is coming into his third season in the league on the back of a solid sophomore campaign where he picked up 82 targets and turned them into 655 yards and seven touchdowns. With the Vikings set to play more receiver-heavy formations, Osborn should see opportunities immediately. The Packers defense isn't an ideal matchup, but with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen commanding attention, Osborn could see some high-value opportunities.
Usage Suggestions: This is a good way to get access to this game without paying a high price. If you're tempted to stack Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson, it feels like a layup to add Osborn.
Josh Palmer $3800 vs. Las Vegas Raiders (52.0 over/under)
In 2021, Palmer flashed during his rookie season with occasional days of fantasy relevance whilst he split time with Jalen Guyton, who has re-signed on a veteran minimum this offseason. The WR3 role seems to be firmly Palmer's now, and after averaging 28.8% of snaps over the first 10 weeks, Palmer's usage jumped to 58.4% over the remaining weeks of the season. It would be surprising to see the Chargers put him back in the bottle now. With Palmer the most likely to see coverage from Raiders cornerback, Anthony Averett, he's an interesting play for people looking to pay down at the position.
Usage Suggestions: Too boom-or-bust for cash, but an excellent addition to any Chargers stacks.
Michael Pittman $5500 vs. Houston Texans (46.0 over/under)
It bears repeating that this Colts passing game should be more reliable in 2022, and at the heart of it will be Michael Pittman. The third-year receiver seems primed for a large leap with his ability to win all over the field. In 2021, Pittman ranked 18th in DYAR and the Houston Texans likely don't have enough talent to stop him. This price feels like a mistake and one to be taken advantage of.
Usage Suggestions: At this price and with this matchup, Pittman profiles to be a well-liked player, and I'd be happier including him in cash lineups than tournaments.
Randall Cobb $3400 @ Minnesota Vikings (46.0 over/under)
Allen Lazard looks set to miss the Packers opener and an already thin wide receiver room will become even thinner. Cobb doesn't profile as the type of fantasy player you want to roster in normal leagues but for DFS he stands out as someone who has his quarterback's trust and has produced with him. DFS managers will likely be drawn towards rookie camp sensation Romeo Doubs, despite the fact we've seen Rodgers talk constantly about how much he expects out of the veterans this year. $3400 is incredibly cheap at the position and with even a single touchdown could present the value and points you need for a winning lineup.
Usage Suggestions: Due to Cobb's low floor he's reserved best for tournaments.
A.J Green $4600 vs Kansas City Chiefs (54.0 over/under)
With Friday's news that Rondale Moore is out through injury, Marquise Brown's rostership will jump significantly and whilst he himself is an okay play, A.J Green comes with minimal rostership and had nine double-digit performances in Arizona last year. With Rondale Moore missing out, Zach Ertz doubtful and DeAndre Hopkins suspended, Green is one of only four healthy receivers on the Cardinals roster. The under/over hasn't dropped over the last few days and if we expect it to hit the mid-fifties then getting access to a cheap play like Green is a good way to go.
Usage Suggestions: I wouldn't play Green unless it was part of a stack or correlation.
T.J. Hockenson $4900 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
It seems to have gotten a little bit lost that Hockenson was on track to have his most productive season in the NFL before his injury. This was despite scoring touchdowns at a lower rate than his career average. The Lions offense looks to be ready to take another step forward, health permitting, and there should be enough targets for both Hockenson and Amon-Ra St. Brown to feast on the type of lay-up throws Jared Goff lives off of.
Usage Suggestions: Hockenson makes for an interesting stack with Goff in tournaments, or as a bring-back to Eagles stacks. The price is very attractive.
Isaiah Likely $2500 at New York Jets
Likely was one of the true stars of preseason 2022. Whilst many questioned the Ravens decision not to draft a replacement for Marquise Brown, the Ravens quietly went about their business and seem to have found a real receiving threat in Likely. Whilst his ceiling will be capped with Mark Andrews in town, beat reporters truly believe Likely can be the third pass-catching threat on this team.
Usage Suggestions: Whenever you can punt the tight end position completely to open up salary at every other position, it's interesting. It's not outlandish to suggest playing both Likely and Andrews in stacks for the Ravens, but be realistic with Likely's ceiling.
Baltimore Ravens $4000
A chalky and expensive pick as they face Joe Flacco.
Miami Dolphins $2600
Camp reports have been rocky for the Patriots. Miami might capitalize.
Jacksonville Jaguars $2500
The Jags might be able to rattle Wentz in his Commanders debut.
Stack of The Week
You might have already picked up on the fact that I'm high on the Ravens and Jets game this week. But that's not the only stack I'm high on. A.J Brown and Jalen Hurts can be paired together for 26.4% of your total budget, and against the Lions, I expect them to start with a bang.
Fade of The Week
The Chicago Bears. There will be weeks when the Bears are appealing for fantasy football, but Week 1 isn't one of them. The Bears' offensive line issues are well known by now, and the 49ers defense looks menacing and could give Justin Fields a nasty start to 2022.
Cash Game Locks
Kyler Murray $7200
Jalen Hurts $6800
Derrick Henry $8600
Najee Harris $6400
Ja'Maar Chase $7100
Rashod Bateman $5300
Juju Smith-Schuster $5200
Mark Andrews $6800
Gerald Everett $3800