In conjunction with Sean Koerner’s best-in-the-biz Tiers piece that comes out on Wednesdays, I’ll be posting this on Fridays, to highlight players that are either a.) ranked too high or low by most experts, or b.) are mispriced on daily fantasy sites. I’ll discuss more players this week to keep it relevant for more of you and give you more daily fantasy options. I’ll also be pointing out daily fantasy stack opportunities as we go along. I’ll be differentiating between high-end plays – which are no-brainer cash-game plays or must-starts in season-long leagues – from sleepers – who are more unique GPP type plays and guys that are relevant only in deeper season-long leagues. Since I can’t touch on every player, feel free to ask me your sit/start questions on Twitter.
High-End QB Play: Carson Palmer, ARI (@ IND)
Last week we had Carson as a guy to avoid, which worked out well for us. While the masses overreact to a game in which he threw a ton of picks in comeback mode, we’re reversing course and moving him back into QB1 territory. The David Johnson injury shouldn’t hurt him – they may be so ineffective on the ground that they have to throw a ton by default (think Matthew Stafford’s Detroit offense). That volume could work wonders against a shambolic Indianapolis team that got torn up by Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp.
Stack Partner: Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz is seemingly always on the WR1 radar, despite being undervalued in draft rankings and later priced too low in DFS. He’s a great cash and GPP guy this week. I also love J.J. Nelson as a cheap sleeper, especially if John Brown doesn’t play (monitor that situation).
High-End QB Play: Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. SF)
We’re not ready to throw in the towel on the NFL’s second-ranked all-time passer rating just yet. Sure the offensive line is terrible, but that has been the case for several years now, and he’s done just fine regardless. This week he has a nice chance to bounce back against a San Francisco defense that gave up a couple big plays to a shoulder-less Cam Newton and is now missing Reuben Foster.
Stack Partner: Jimmy Graham. I think Seattle will look to get him involved more after he no-showed last week in Green Bay. He also has a nice affordable price on DFS sites.
QB Sleeper: Joe Flacco, BAL (vs. CLE)
Sean touched on this – Joe Flacco is good for a few relatively explosive games each year, and we’re never exactly sure when they’re going to be. Looking at last year’s game log, two of those were against Cleveland (302 yards and two TDs in Week 2; 296 yards and three TDs in Week 9). He has a good chance to repeat that this week at home against a Cleveland defense that, while improved, is still susceptible to big plays on talent mismatches alone. He’s a nice cheap DFS option that allows you to roster studs like Julio Jones and Le’Veon Bell, and he’s a starter in two-QB leagues this week.
Stack Partner: Mike Wallace. The cheaper of the two 1a WRs in Baltimore and the more likely to hit a big play (despite Jeremy Maclin’s big TD last week).
QB Fade: Marcus Mariota, TEN (@ JAX)
This Jacksonville defense is no joke and still may be a bit underrated. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye form arguably a top-five CB duo, and Calais Campbell can still disrupt the heck out of the pocket (Note: Ramsey is banged up, and we may upgrade Mariota a spot or two in our rankings if Ramsey sits). Mariota is only a borderline QB1 in general, and in a week in which he has a negative matchup, he falls just outside our top 12. In DFS, he’s merely a contrarian stack option, as QBs like Jameis Winston and the aforementioned Wilson and Palmer make more sense.
High-End RB Play: Todd Gurley, LAR (vs. WAS)
There’s a narrative going around that Gurley “isn’t good.” First of all, that most likely can’t be true, given his ability to put up serious points just two years ago with no QB and stacked boxes. Second, regardless of his talent, he is one of the few undeniable three-down workhorses left, meaning he has a nice and high floor as your season-long RB1 and DFS cash game guy. Finally, until proven otherwise (meaning, against a team with real RBs, not the Blount/Smallwood/Sproles mess), Washington is a plus matchup for opposing RBs.
High-End RB Play: Melvin Gordon, LAC (vs. MIA)
We don’t disagree with consensus that Melvin is the No. 3 guy this week behind Bell and Ezekiel Elliott. I need to point out, though, that he is a great value and cash-game option in DFS. With the Chargers expected to score around 25 points – and favored to win – he’s a great bet for 20+ touches, 100+ yards, and a TD. Normally, Le’Veon, Zeke, and David Johnson (RIP) are all great cash-game plays, but Le’Veon and Zeke both have bad matchups (vs. Minnesota and Denver, respectively), and Gordon is the better value. He’s closer to those guys this week than he is to the tier below him (Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Marshawn Lynch, Jay Ajayi, etc.).
Stack Partner: Chargers defense. The Chargers are a borderline start-able defense this week in season-long and a nice sneaky option in DFS. Jay Cutler surely has a few pick-sixes left in him.
RB Sleeper: Robert Kelley, WAS (@ LAR)
This is more of a season-long play, as you’re not likely to roster Kelley in DFS, where PPR is the name of the game. I just want to point out that the biggest concern about Kelley going into the year was the lurking presence of rookie Semaje Perine, who could steal short yardage looks. Well, Perine played zero offensive snaps last week, so Kelley’s role and large share of potential TDs looks safe. We see him as an unsexy, back-end RB2 in standard leagues, despite consensus ranking him as an RB3/flex.
RB Sleeper: Javorius Allen, BAL (vs. CLE)
It’s funny that Buck was highly touted as a waiver wire guy this week, but then under-ranked by many experts for this week. If anything, Allen has value primarily in games the Ravens are favored to win by a lot, as he should get a ton of carries as Baltimore’s No. 2 (really 1b) RB. This week should be one of those games. He’s a nice cheap DFS play and worthwhile flex option if you’re already in a bind in season-long.
Stack Partner: Baltimore defense. The no-brainer No. 1 defense against Cleveland this week. You can roster them while still keeping your team unique by stacking them with Allen. If Allen gets 15+ carries, it probably means things went very well for Baltimore as a team, making this a high-leverage duo.
RB Sleeper: Chris Carson, SEA (vs. SF)
This is a super-duper sleeper, only worth it in DFS as a dart-throw GPP pick. I just want to point out that he has been Seattle’s most effective runner in preseason and now also Week 1, and Pete Carroll has proven that he’s willing to give out carries/touches based on merit and not necessarily draft capital (see: Thomas Rawls 2015). This week, Seattle faces a San Francisco D that we rate as the single best matchup for opposing RBs. If you’re feeling frisky, give Carson a whirl when it’s too early rather than too late.
High-End WR Play: Tyreek Hill, KC (vs. PHI)
’Reek was a souped-up gadget player last year, but in Week 1 against Bill Belichick’s defense, he looked like a No. 1 WR. This means he’s no longer a low-volume, TD dependent guy, but rather a must-start WR1 with PPR value. He may be matchup proof (who can cover 4.2 speed?), but he has a particularly nice matchup against Philadelphia, a team without a No. 1 CB after losing Ronald Darby (by the way, ew). We see him as a top-eight WR this week, making him well worth his price in DFS.
Stack Partner: Alex Smith. We don’t like overreacting to one game, but it appears the consensus is under-reacting here. Smith isn’t Brett Favre all of a sudden, but he has arguably the best RB/WR/TE trio of weapons at his disposal now, and should be good for 240ish yards through the air. That makes him worth his price in DFS and a solid back-end QB1 in season-long.
High-End WR Play: Adam Thielen, MIN (@ PIT)
Thielen averaged 14 YPR last year, displaying his YAC and big-play ability, despite Sam Bradford’s noodle arm. Now, he is the Vikings’ go-to slot guy, which is great for his volume in that offense. Put these two attributes together, and we have a very high upside guy, a guy who is here to stay as a WR2. He’s still way underpriced by DFS sites and a great cash game option, especially in a week where Minnesota may be forced to put some points on the board in order to win.
WR Sleeper: Marqise Lee, JAX (vs. TEN)
Lee was a popular waiver-wire add after Allen Robinson’s injury, but people are still hesitant to throw him into lineups after he put up a bagel in Week 1. He’s not a bad WR3/flex, though, and maybe even a cash-game option in DFS. Jacksonville may as well have been up 20 by the time A-Rob was ruled out, and Jacksonville hardly had to throw. They’ll probably have to do a little bit of throwing in a closer game against Tennessee, a team that we rate as the second easiest matchup for opposing wideouts. He could easily double his four targets from last week, and if he catches four or five passes, he’s well worth his price in DFS.
WR Fade: Davante Adams, GB (@ ATL)
Green Bay has never had better, healthier receiving options, which is great for Aaron Rodgers’ outlook, but not for Davante’s. Randall Cobb looked great in the slot last week, hauling in nine of 13 targets, and the Martellus Bennett/Lance Kendricks TE duo saw 10 targets, which has to be some sort of Green Bay record for tight ends. Adams couldn’t produce against Seattle’s backup corners after Jeremy Lane’s weird ejection, which is not a great sign for him going forward. The high-scoring matchup at Atlanta bumps him into WR3/flex territory (don’t bench him unless you’re stacked!), but it’s still not enough to make him a worthwhile DFS target. Bennett and Jordy Nelson are much better Rodgers stack partners.
WR Fade: Amari Cooper, OAK (vs. NYJ)
While the game is close, this is a great matchup for Amari. The thing is, it may not be close for very long. Carr is a high-floor guy, as he’s likely to put up, say 200+ yards and a couple TDs before the game gets out of hand, but a four-TD day in the passing game is unlikely, which is not great for Oakland’s WRs. Basically, when Seth Roberts scores to go up 21-0 just before halftime and Cooper is sitting on six points, you will be very scared that he is just about done for the day, and you will feel very, very bad. We are trying to help you avoid that feeling by ranking him as a low-end WR1 rather than a top-eight guy.
TE Sleeper: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. NYJ)
“But Corey, how can you hate Amari and love Cook when they’re on the same team?!” I’d like to point out that sometimes, it’s OK to feel differently about the relative values of two players on the same team, based on their relative expectations. Cooper is a stud you likely drafted in the second round in season-long, and he’s priced as a stud in DFS. In order to exceed value, he needs 100 yards and a TD or two. That is very unlikely in a blowout. On the other hand, Cook is a waiver-wire TE2, who is dirt cheap on DFS and needs just a few first-half catches in order to hit value. He may even score a TD! Rostering him in DFS is smart, and I prefer him as Carr’s stack partner (though I don’t recommend Carr as anything but a contrarian play).
TE Sleeper: Zach Miller, CHI (@ TB)
We largely agree with consensus on the order of the top-10 TE, so I’m going to point out another sleeper, and it’s Miller… again. Last week I mentioned he’s arguably Chicago’s most reliable pass catcher, and that appears to be even truer this week – six targets and one Kevin White season-ending injury later. Since we don’t love the value/price of any high-end TEs this week, I recommend Miller as a DFS punt that allows you to roster some of the elite RBs/WRs. Much like Cook, he only needs three or four receptions to hit value, and he’s also the most likely Bear to catch a TD pass.
TE Fade: Jason Witten, DAL (@ DEN)
Going on three years now, Witten has recorded at least seven receptions in Week 1 against the Giants (with three TDs in those three games). This makes sense, as the Giants have great corners and linemen, but much weaker linebackers. In the previous two years, these Week 1 performances stood out among Witten’s best, as Dez Bryant, Zeke, et al got more involved in other matchups. The same will be true again this year in Witten’s age 35 season. He should only be rostered in plus matchups, and he doesn’t have that this week against a Denver defense that held Hunter Henry to 0-0-0-0.0 last week.