This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
Week 1 is finally here, and with it comes the largest tournament in DFS history , featuring a $10 million prize pool and $2 million for first place. In addition to the plus-sized millionaire maker, DraftKings has four GPPs with million-dollar prize pools, including a $3 entry contest that starts Thursday night. Best of all, there should be some overlay up for grabs in Week 1, with past patterns suggesting the Thursday contests provide the most hope on that front.
I'll discuss the highly anticipated Steelers-Patriots game at the bottom of this article, but only after I cover some of the injury situations that could lead to big games for low and medium-priced players…
Already an excellent bet to outperform his price tag, Davante Adams ($4,400) gets another boost if Randall Cobb (shoulder) can't play against the Bears. We should also see a lot of Eddie Lacy ($7,500) as both a runner and receiver, and I might even use Cobb (if he plays) in a couple of lineups, as the Chicago defense looks like an absolute joke, even after a slew of offseason changes. In all seriousness, I'm not sure that the Bears have a single defensive player who would start for the Broncos or Seahawks. Jordy Nelson's knee injury may have changed my Super Bowl pick, but I don't think the Green Bay offense will be bothered by his absence in Week 1.
On the other side of the game, Eddie Royal ($3,900) and Martellus Bennett ($4,400) also offer nice value, with the potential to be excellent options if Alshon Jeffery (calf) is limited or absent. Sure, Bennett and Royal mostly make a living on short passes, but volume can make up for a lack of big plays in DraftKings' PPR format, especially with the Bears likely to be playing from behind. Even if Jeffery's active, Royal and Bennett won't lack for snaps and targets in a Chicago offense that has minimal receiving depth.
If Tre Mason (hamstring) doesn't play, Benny Cunningham ($3,000) may be thrust into a three-down role against the Seahawks. Though he probably wouldn't have much luck on the ground, he would still be a good bet to produce double-digit DraftKings points, thanks to a favorable combination of expected snap count and pass-catching skills. It does sound like Mason could come down to a game-time decision, but the Rams thankfully have a 1 PM kickoff, and there are other minimum-priced options (albeit mostly at wide receiver).
In what sneakily has the potential to be Week 1's highest-scoring game, Larry Fitzgerald ($5,500) and (especially) John Brown ($4,500) become excellent options against the Saints if Michael Floyd (fingers) is out. And, even if Floyd plays, Brown will still be a nice choice for GPPs, facing a soft New Orleans secondary to start what could be a big season. The 5-10 speedster has a real shot to emerge as Carson Palmer's go-to guy.
With C.J. Spiller (knee) unlikely to play against the Cardinals on Sunday, there should be some extra snaps and touches for Mark Ingram ($5,600), who will likely have a moderate ownership percentage in large tournaments. The Arizona defense will scare people away, even though it's shed a ton of talent the last two years, most recently losing former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and run-stuffing nose tackle Dan Williams. While clearly the least well known of that trio, Williams will be the toughest to replace, as Arizona relied on him and superstar defensive end Calais Campbell to obscure a weak group of linebackers last season. The linebackers don't look much better this year, and the Cards will likely start a rookie fourth-round draft pick at nose tackle, which could be problematic against Saints center Max Unger, who was acquired in the Jimmy Graham trade.
Victor Cruz (calf) is unlikely to play against the Cowboys on Monday night, leaving Odell Beckham ($9,200) and Rueben Randle ($5,100) to gobble up plenty of targets for a Giants squad that doesn't have much pass-catching depth. Both of these teams figure to be far better on offense than defense, and I think the over/under (51.5) should actually be a bit higher.
Something else will probably crop up before Sunday, but as of Wednesday, those are the key injury situations that I'm monitoring. I'll provide updates in the comments once Friday's injury reports are released.
Anyway, here are some of my favorite players (besides those previously mentioned) for Week 1:
Tyrod Taylor, BUF (vs. IND), $5,000 – As a long-time Ravens fan, I've actually seen Taylor play quite a bit, albeit with second-stringers in the preseason and one meaningless Week 17 game. His arm strength, decision-making and athleticism impressed, but his shaky accuracy and lack of height have me thinking that he's probably just a mid-to-low-end starter. Even if that's true, he's a fantastic option at the minimum price, facing an Indianapolis defense that appears no better than mediocre. Taylor is arguably the fastest quarterback in the NFL (4.51 40-yard dash) and has a good feel for when to scramble on pass plays. His top-notch running ability means he's one of the rare signal-callers who doesn't need to be combined with one of his receivers in tournament lineups, but I do like TE Charles Clay ($3,700) among the glut of third/fourth-tier tight ends. Sammy Watkins ($7,000) should be an excellent real-life player, but he probably won't get enough targets to live up to his price tag on DraftKings.
Other options:Drew Brees, NO (at ARI), $8,000; Eli Manning, NYG (at DAL), $7,400; Tony Romo, DAL (vs. NYG), $7,300; Phillip Rivers, SD (vs. DET), $7,100; Carson Palmer, ARI (vs. NO), $6,500; Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. IND), $6,000
Chris Ivory, NYJ (vs. CLE), $4100 – Ivory fell just shy of 200 carries in 2013 and 2014, but he should finally cross the barrier this season, with Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy the only other options in Gang Green's backfield. Although Powell will probably handle most of the passing-down work, Ivory figures to dominate the carries, including goal-line and short-yardage situations. The Browns allowed an NFL-high 2,265 rushing yards last year, and while they did address the weakness during the offseason, they'll probably still rank in the bottom half of the league in run defense.
Other options:Eddie Lacy, GB (at CHI), $7,500; DeMarco Murray, DAL (at ATL), $6,700; Jonathan Stewart, CAR (at JAX), $5,800; Mark Ingram, NO (at ARI), $5,600; Lamar Miller, MIA (at WAS), $5,500; Doug Martin, TB (vs. TEN), $4,500; Brandon Bolden, NE (vs PIT), $3,000.
Stevie Johnson, SD (vs. DET), $3,700 – Serving as the 49ers' No. 3 wide receiver, Johnson disappeared from fantasy relevance last season, following a lengthy run in Buffalo as the Bills' under-qualified No. 1 option. Still only 29 years old, he's finally found a role that represents a happy medium, allowing him to be a key part of the passing game as a second or third option. Johnson should be a more-than-suitable replacement for Eddie Royal, who put up a 62-778-7 receiving line on 92 targets for the Chargers last season. That's good approximation of what can be expected from Johnson, but he should fare even better early in the season, with Antonio Gates' four-game suspension likely leaving some extra targets and snaps.
Other options:Julio Jones, ATL (vs. PHI), $9,300; Odell Beckham, NYG (at DAL), $9,200; Dez Bryant, DAL (vs. NYG), $8,700; Calvin Johnson, DET (at SD), $8,500; A.J. Green, CIN (at OAK), $7,800; Brandin Cooks, NO (at ARI), $7,100; Amari Cooper, OAK (vs. CIN), $6,700; Jarvis Landry, MIA (at WAS), $5,600; Terrance Williams, DAL (vs. NYG), $4,000; Harry Douglas, TEN (at TB) $3,000; Philly Brown, CAR (at JAX), $3,000
Travis Kelce, KC (at HOU), $4800 – Despite playing only two-thirds of his team's offensive snaps last season, Kelce ranked eighth among tight ends with 11.8 DraftKings points per game. Now expected to start and play nearly all of the offensive snaps, "Baby Gronk" should emerge as a top-five scorer at his position. He may have some quiet games when the Chiefs go run-heavy, but that shouldn't be too much of an issue in Week 1, as the Texans' front seven appears to be far better than the Kansas City offensive line.
New York Jets vs. CLE, $2900 – Even without Sheldon Richardson (suspension), the New York defense should be vastly improved from last year, following a busy offseason that included the additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and sixth-overall draft pick Leonard Williams. Playing at home, against what may be the NFL's worst offense, the Jets D/ST has both a high ceiling and high floor.
Other options: Carolina Panthers (at JAX), $3,100; Kansas City Chiefs (at HOU), $3,000; Miami Dolphins (at WAS), $3,000; Minnesota Vikings, (at SF), $2,800; Tennessee Titans, (at TB), $2,800; Oakland Raiders, (vs. CIN), $2,300
Thursday Night Game
I usually try to avoid the Thursday night players, as their ownership percentages tend to be sky-high in big tournaments. However, with both the Steelers and Patriots depleted at the offensive skill positions due to injuries and suspensions, the season-opener offers some fantastic value plays. The best of the bunch is Markus Wheaton ($3,800), who should get a steady flow of targets while Le'Veon Bell (suspension) and Martavis Bryant (suspension) are out. Antonio Brown ($8,900) and Heath Miller ($3,300) also figure to benefit, and it won't be surprising if the Steelers attempts at least 50 passes.
The Patriots are in a similar situation with their offensive personnel, but they still shouldn't have much trouble moving the ball against a lousy Pittsburgh defense. My favorite option from the Pats is Brandon Bolden ($3,000), who could get a surprising number of carries if the team is sitting on a second-half lead. Bolden's only an option for big tournaments, as there's also a decent chance he'll finish with fewer than five points.