NFL Week 1 comes to a close with a Monday Night Football matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Las Vegas Raiders at 8:15 p.m. ET.
If you’re unfamiliar with the single-game NFL DFS format, it differs a bit on DraftKings and FanDuel. On DraftKings, you have one “captain” spot and five flexes. The captain will score 1.5x fantasy points, but he also costs 1.5x salary. That means if you want to roster Lamar Jackson at Captain and take advantage of the scoring boost, you’ll have to pay $18,600 as opposed to $12,400.
FanDuel’s single-game format features one “MVP” spot and four flexes. The MVP also scores 1.5x fantasy points, but he doesn’t cost any additional salary. That takes away a bit of the strategy and makes the goal simple: Get your highest-scoring player in the MVP spot.
Jackson is one of the top fantasy studs in all of football, so he is certainly in play in the single-game format. He’s arguably the best pure runner in the league, and he’s averaged at least 6.3 yards per carry in each of the past two years. He’s also racked up at least 1,005 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons.
Don’t sleep on his ability with his arm, either. His passing numbers weren’t great last year, but he led all quarterbacks with 36 passing touchdowns, a 9.0% touchdown rate, and an 83.0 QBR in 2019-2020. His passing is definitely set up by his rushing ability, but he has the ability to take advantage of what the defense gives him.
The Raiders represent a strong matchup for Jackson. They allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns last season, and 12.9% of opposing rush attempts went for at least 10 yards. Overall, the Raiders’ ranked just 28th in Football Outsiders’ rush defense DVOA.
They were equally poor against the pass, ranking just 26th in pass defense DVOA. Add it all up, and Jackson leads the slate with an Opponent Plus/Minus of +2.7. He should command massive ownership, particularly in the Captain and MVP spots, but it’s hard to argue against it.
Darren Waller is the other true stud on this slate. He’s coming off an excellent campaign last year, racking up 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. He was one of the busiest tight ends in the league, with his average of 9.1 targets per game trailing only Travis Kelce at the position. Waller’s target market share of 27% ranked first among tight ends.
Some of Waller’s more advanced metrics predict more success in 2021-22. He was the Raiders’ first read on 34% of their passing plays last year, which was the top mark for tight ends by nearly 10%. His 32% red zone market share was also first at the position. The Raiders did very little to upgrade their pass catchers in the offseason, so expect Waller to continue to dominate in those crucial areas.
The Ravens have a strong defense, but their biggest weakness in the passing game last year was defending tight ends. They ranked just 22nd in DVOA vs. the position, so Waller could get off to a strong start.
Derek Carr typically doesn’t draw a ton of interest on full slates, but quarterbacks are always strong targets in the single-game format. He owns the second-highest median and ceiling projections in our NFL Models, and his $9,800 salary on DraftKings comes with a Bargain Rating of 97%.
Carr is also in a split that he has historically fared well in. He’ll be playing as a home underdog, and Carr has averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.98 in that situation (per the Trends tool). That’s better than he’s done as even a home favorite, albeit over a smaller sample size.
Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown were the Ravens’ primary pass catchers last season. Neither player had a good year by their standards, but they dominated in the rate statistics for the team. Both players had a target market share of at least 22%, an air yards market share of at least 31%, and an endzone market share of at least 29%. No other player on the team even comes close in those categories.
That makes them the clear top options if you’re looking to stack Jackson with a pass-catcher or two. Brown is more of a boom-or-bust type play, while Andrews has a slightly safer floor. That said, the Raiders were significantly better at defending tight ends than receivers last year, so Brown would be my choice if you can only choose one.
Sammy Watkins was one of the Ravens’ big additions during the offseason, and he gives the team a reliable No. 2 option at receiver. He reportedly displayed nice chemistry with Jackson during training camp, so he’s a very reasonable option at his current price tag.
The Raiders’ running back situation will be an interesting one to monitor this season. They drafted Josh Jacobs in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he put together a strong rookie season. He finished with 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Unfortunately, his numbers took a step back in his second year. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he did salvage his fantasy stock thanks to 12 touchdowns.
The team brought in some competition for Jacobs this offseason in the form of Kenyan Drake. It’s unclear if these players will operate in a committee or if Drake will simply serve as a replacement on passing downs. Either way, it’s not good for Jacobs.
These two players are priced very similarly on DraftKings, and it’s hard to get excited about either option at their respective salaries. The Ravens have an outstanding defensive line, and the Raiders will be without starting guard Richie Incognito. That’s not a good formula for rushing success.
The price difference between the two players is much starker on FanDuel, and Drake has some appeal there. His $8,500 price tag comes with a Bargain Rating of 93%, which is tied for the top mark on the slate. The Ravens also ranked just 21st in pass defense DVOA vs. running backs last season, which fits Drake’s skill set better than Jacobs’.
For the Ravens, Ty’Son Williams should serve as their primary running back vs. the Raiders. They’ve signed a host of running backs in recent days, including Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray, and Devonta Freeman, but none of those players figure to be much of a factor vs. the Raiders.
That makes Williams extremely enticing. The Ravens ran the ball at the highest frequency in the league last season, and playing alongside Jackson creates a ton of running lanes. J.K. Dobbins averaged 6.0 yards per carry last year, while Gus Edwards averaged 5.0. Williams might not be the same player, but it’s quite possibly the best situation for running backs in the entire league. It’s hard not to love Williams as a potential workhorse.
The Raiders’ wide receivers are the biggest question marks on this slate. Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs are expected to serve as their top options this season, and there are some targets available with Nelson Agholor now in New England. Both players will be entering their second season, and both players bring something to the table.
Ruggs is a true burner. He ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Combine, which puts him in the 100th percentile at the position per PlayerProfiler. However, Edwards profiles more like a top receiver. He was a target hog at South Carolina – he posted a Dominator Rating of 48.4% – so he could be the more frequently targeted player this season.
- Defenses and Kickers: These options are always in play in the single-game format. As always, if you do play a defense or kicker, you’ll want to make sure your lineups are still positively correlated around them.
- Hunter Renfrow ($2,800 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Renfrow should serve as the Raiders’ slot receiver this season, which gives him some appeal on PPR sites like DraftKings. He stands out as one of the best points-per-dollar plays in our NFL Models, and his projected Plus/Minus of +4.07 trails only Jackson’s.
- Devin Duvernay ($2,600 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): The Ravens’ No. 3 wide receiver job is available for the time being. First-round pick Rashod Bateman is sidelined, and Duvernay is one of the players who is expected to pick up the slack. It remains to be seen if that role leads to any fantasy success, but Duvernay should see a handful of snaps at a cheap price tag.
- Zay Jones ($1,800 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel): Jones should see some snaps for the Raiders, which is all you can really ask for at $1,800.
- James Proche ($200 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel): Proche is a DK punt special at just $200. He should also be in the rotation at receiver for the Ravens.