The season is finally here, and the Week 1 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Sep. 13, at 1 p.m. ET.
In this piece, I highlight the quarterbacks who stand out in our large suite of analytical DFS Tools, most specifically our FantasyLabs Models, and I include plenty of actionable analysis relevant to season-long fantasy as well.
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Top Quarterbacks in the FantasyLabs Models
There are three quarterbacks atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Lamar Jackson: $8,100 DraftKings, $9,400 FanDuel
- Kyler Murray: $6,400 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel
- Carson Wentz: $6,300 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel
Odds as of Tuesday morning and via DraftKings. For sports betting, get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today. For daily fantasy, sign up now at DraftKings and get free entries to both Thursday’s $2.5M contest and Sunday’s $5M contest for Week 1!
Lamar Jackson: Baltimore Ravens (-8) vs. Cleveland Browns, 48.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Browns starting CBs Greedy Williams (shoulder) and Kevin Johnson (liver) are both out, and backup CB M.J. Stewart (hamstring) is questionable. Cleveland is extremely thin at corner.
Jackson, Lamar … checking my notes … yes, he appears to be a good football player.
The reigning NFL MVP has averaged an unholy 25.1 FanDuel points per game in his 24 career starts (including playoffs). No quarterback has provided more value than Jackson has over the past two years with his +6.55 Plus/Minus, and last season he hit salary-based expectations in every game but one.
Only once in 2019 did he fail to finish the week as a fantasy QB1 (per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
With his Konami Code rushing ability, Jackson’s floor is higher than almost any other quarterback’s ceiling. On his way to an NFL-record 1,206 rushing yards (in 15 games), Jackson handily led the position last season with 11.7 carries and 1.8 red-zone carries per game (per Player Profiler).
The 2019 Ravens averaged an NFL-best 33.2 points per game in the regular season, and although the 2020 team is almost certain to regress, offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s unit should still produce as long as Jackson is healthy.
Jackson led the league with 0.85 FanDuel points per drop back last season (including playoffs) — and that doesn’t include the production he accumulated on all of his designed runs (per Pro Football Focus). For context: Ryan Tannehill at No. 2 had a mark of just 0.68.
In 2019, Jackson was simply in a tier of his own. He was Lamarvelous.
If you check out the season-long player projections in our Action Network Fantasy Football Tools, you’ll see that Koerner, Raybon and I collectively expect Jackson to take a slight step back in 2020.
- Passing: 3,424 yards | 28 touchdowns | 10 interceptions
- Rushing: 160 carries | 1,000 yards | five touchdowns
Of course, with those numbers Jackson will still be in the running to be the No. 1 fantasy quarterback this year. We’re projecting greatness — and that greatness should manifest itself in Week 1.
Jackson has an advantageous matchup against the Browns, who last year were No. 28 with a 61.2 PFF defense grade.
The Ravens have a slate-high 27.75-point implied Vegas total, and Jackson has asserted himself in his three career games against the Browns.
- Week 17, 2018 (at home): 26.2 FanDuel points | 179-0-0 passing | 20-90-2 rushing
- Week 4, 2019 (at home): 26.5 FanDuel points | 247-3-2 passing | 9-66-0 rushing
- Week 16, 2019 (on road): 29.8 FanDuel points | 238-3-0 passing | 17-103-0 rushing
No. 1 wide receiver Marquise Brown has a tough matchup against cornerback Denzel Ward, who last year allowed a catch rate of just 44.9%. Entering his third year, Ward is on the brink of an All-Pro breakout.
But Jackson isn’t reliant on any one receiver, and even if he does struggle through the air, Jackson should be able to get his points on the ground. In 2019, the Browns were No. 30 with a 56.0 PFF run defense grade while the Ravens were No. 1 with a 55% rush success rate (per Sharp Football Stats).
One way or another, Jackson will produce.
From a betting perspective, the Browns at least warrant consideration at +8: Opponents are actually 9-3 against the spread (ATS) vs. the Ravens in Jackson’s 12 starts as a home favorite, good for a 44.9% return on investment (per our Bet Labs database).
But that doesn’t mean I’m about to fade Jackson in fantasy. As a favorite, he is on the positive side of his career splits (per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool).
- Favorite (18 starts): 26.5 FanDuel points | +7.83 Plus/Minus | 83.8% Consistency Rating
- Underdog (six starts): 20.7 FanDuel points | +2.70 Plus/Minus | 66.7% Consistency Rating
Jackson is at least $1,000 more than every other quarterback on the slate, so he’s not cheap, but if you’re looking to pay up at the position, Jackson could not be a better candidate.
In season-long leagues, L-Jax is a no-doubt locked-in top-two quarterback who always must be started.
The top option in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models for FanDuel, Jackson has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections as well as a slate-best +3.61 Projected Plus/Minus.
For good measure, he’s also the No. 1 quarterback in the Bales Model for DraftKings.
Kyler Murray: Arizona Cardinals (+7) at San Francisco 49ers, 47.5 O/U
The 49ers went to the Super Bowl last year thanks primarily to their defense, which had a league-best 92.9 PFF coverage grade — but you wouldn’t know it based on the way Murray as a rookie put up fantasy points against them.
- Week 9 (at home): 23.0 FanDuel points | 241-2-0 passing | 5-34-0 rushing
- Week 11 (on road): 26.7 FanDuel points | 150-2-0 passing | 8-67-1 rushing
And it wasn’t just Murray who had success against them. As a cohort, the running quarterbacks who played the 49ers last season did well.
- Russell Wilson (Week 10): 17.6 FanDuel points | 232-1-1 passing | 6-53-0 rushing
- Lamar Jackson (Week 13): 22.3 FanDuel points | 105-1-0 passing | 16-101-1 rushing
- Russell Wilson (Week 17): 20.2 FanDuel points | 233-2-0 passing | 8-29-0 rushing
- Patrick Mahomes (Super Bowl): 26.3 FanDuel points | 286-2-2 passing | 9-29-1 rushing
As good as they are defensively, the 49ers are susceptible to running quarterbacks, and that’s what Murray is. While he didn’t put up Lamar-esque rushing number in 2019, Murray did rank No. 3 at the position with 5.8 carries and 1.2 red-zone carries per game.
With his rushing ability, he has a reasonable fantasy floor.
And Murray also has some passing potential. Last year he was outside of the top 20 with just 6.6 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) and a 7.6-yard average depth of target (aDOT, PFF), but he should improve in his second year under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, especially with the addition of No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who will likely run most of his routes split out to the left, outside of No. 1 cornerback Richard Sherman’s coverage.
Against the ragtag rotating duo of cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley (who gave up 80 yards in the Super Bowl) and Ahkello Witherspoon (who allowed 70 yards in back-to-back games before he was benched in the playoffs), Hopkins has the upside to gift 100 yards and two touchdowns to Murray all on his own.
And from a betting perspective, I like the Cardinals. Last year under Kingsbury they were underdogs in all eight of their road games, and yet they went 5-1-2 ATS (46.2% ROI).
Priced as a mid-tier option, Murray is the No. 1 quarterback in the Raybon Model for FanDuel and a QB1 with top-three upside in seasonal leagues.
Carson Wentz: Philadelphia Eagles (-6) at Washington Football Team, 43 O/U
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) is out, but rookie first-round WR Jalen Reagor (shoulder) practiced in full on Thursday and Friday and seems likely to play. Washington CB Kendall Fuller (knee) is doubtful to play.
Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson open the season on Thursday night, and Dak Prescott plays on Sunday evening, which means that arguably three of the four best fantasy quarterbacks in the league are not on the main slate.
As a result, Wentz is priced far too cheaply as the No. 8 quarterback on DraftKings.
Last year, Wentz’s most-targeted wide receivers were the ghost of Alshon Jeffery, the corpse of Nelson Agholor, the figment of Greg Ward Jr. and the abomination of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside — and yet he still passed for over 4,000 yards.
With one of the league’s worst wide receiver units, Wentz was still a fantasy QB1 in over half of his 2019 games, and he was never worse than a QB2.
Wentz underwhelmed in 2016 as a rookie: He was lucky not to be dead last in the league with his 5.7 AY/A. But in the three years since then, he has averaged 20.8 DraftKings points and been a QB1 in 65% of his 40 games (excluding his injury-shortened playoff appearance last season).
He has been especially sharp against Washington since 2017, averaging 26.1 DraftKings points with a +8.24 Plus/Minus and 100% Consistency Rating.
- Week 1, 2017 (on road): 23.9 DraftKings points | 307-2-1 passing | 4-6-0 rushing
- Week 7, 2017 (at home): 32.0 DraftKings points | 268-4-1 passing | 8-63-0 rushing
- Week 13, 2018 (at home): 23.8 DraftKings points | 306-2-1 passing | -4 yards rushing
- Week 1, 2019 (at home): 28.0 DraftKings points | 313-3-0 passing | 4-5-0 rushing
- Week 15, 2019 (on road): 22.5 DraftKings points | 266-3-0 passing | 3-9-0 rushing
Over his past five games against Washington, Wentz has passed for either 300-plus yards or three-plus touchdowns.
With the return of speedy veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Eagles offense should be as dynamic as it has ever been in Wentz’s tenure — and Washington enters the year with PFF’s No. 28 secondary.
Plus, Wentz is on the positive side of his career splits.
- Favorite (36 games): 20.2 DraftKings points | +2.08 Plus/Minus | 63.9% Consistency Rating
- Underdog (21 games): 16.5 DraftKings points | -0.07 Plus/Minus | 52.4% Consistency Rating
After his MVP-caliber campaign in 2017, the post-hype Wentz has been a profitable player to fade as a bettor: Regular-season opponents are 17-10 ATS (23.2% ROI) against the Eagles with Wentz as the starter over the past two years.
But in fantasy, Wentz is highly investable this week and imminently stackable with D-Jax, or tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert: In his one full game last year with Wentz, Jackson had an 8-154-2 receiving onslaught on nine targets. And last year tight ends were No. 4 in fantasy scoring against Washington with 14.4 DraftKings points per game.
For guaranteed prize pools, use our Lineup Builder to stack Wentz with his receivers.
Wentz is a mid-range QB1 in seasonal leagues and the No. 1 quarterback in the CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, Raybon, SportsGeek and Freedman Models for DraftKings, where he has a position-high five Pro Trends.
Upside Quarterbacks for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($7,000 DK, $8,400 FD): In the post-Marshawn Lynch era (since 2016), Wilson has been a subpar player on the road (19.2 DraftKings points per game, -0.44 Plus/Minus, 42.9% Consistency Rating), and the Seahawks are a West Coast team traveling east for an early afternoon game.
But the Falcons have PFF’s No. 30 secondary entering the season, and in his two seasons under OC Brian Schottenheimer, Wilson is No. 1 in end-zone target rate (10.8%) and deep-passing rate (16.6%). Wilson leads all main-slate quarterbacks with his DraftKings ceiling projection as well as his two-year mark of 0.17 passing fantasy points over expectation per attempt (paFPOEPA, per RotoViz Screener). UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Seahawks WR Phillip Dorsett (foot) did not practice on Friday. He is technically questionable but probably will not suit up. WR David Moore will likely play in his place. TE Will Dissly (Achiles) has practiced on a limited basis this week and might play.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints ($6,800 DK, $8,100 FD): In the playoffs, Brees disappointed with his 208-1-1 passing performance, but he was otherwise dominant in 2018, averaging 23.8 DraftKings points across his nine regular season games after returning in Week 8 from a thumb injury.
A flow chart home/away quarterback, Brees is at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Coors Field of fantasy football, where he has dominated over the past half-dozen years (24.1 DraftKings points per game, +3.59 Plus/Minus, 61.2% Consistency Rating). Brees has led the league in completion rate each of the past three seasons (73.5% overall), and the Saints-Buccaneers game could shoot out with its slate-high 49.5-point over/under. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Saints RG Cesar Ruiz (ankle) is out.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ($6,700 DK, $7,800 FD): The Falcons led the league last season with a 67.0% pass-play rate, and they will likely play with similar offensive aggression in 2020 given how poor their defense is. Ryan is the NFL’s only quarterback with 4,000 yards passing in each season since 2011 — when the team drafted No. 1 wide receiver Julio Jones — and he had a league-high 11 games last season with 300-plus yards passing.
Ryan’s matchup isn’t easy: The Seahawks have bolstered their secondary over the past year by trading for cornerback Quinton Dunbar and safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. But the Falcons’ offense is stacked with (former?) first-round talent, and Ryan might have the league’s best wide receiver duo in Jones and Calvin Ridley.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills ($6,500 DK, $7,900 FD): At times, Allen is hilariously bad. His “lateral” in last season’s playoff loss is the stuff of infamy. Despite his legendary arm strength, Allen was dead last in 2019 with his 28.4% deep-ball accuracy (per PFF). And we still don’t know whether we should call him “Josh” or “Joshua.” But he now has No. 1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who led the league last year with 635 deep receiving yards, and he has an exploitable matchup against the Jets, who own PFF’s No. 32 secondary.
A high-floor option, Allen was the No. 2 quarterback last year with 6.8 carries and 1.4 red-zone carries per game, and since becoming the full-time starter in Week 12 of 2018, he has averaged 21.9 DraftKings points per game in the regular season (excluding last year’s partial Week 17). Even in his embarrassing playoff performance vs. the Texans, he had 27.4 DraftKings points. For betting, Allen backers are 15-10-2 ATS (15.3% ROI) in the regular season.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,500 DK, $7,600 FD): The 43-year-old veteran has perhaps the best pass-catching options of his career with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and longtime tight end Rob Gronkowski, with the latter of whom he has exhibited drastic per-game splits since 2010 (289.2 yards and 2.18 touchdowns passing with Gronk; 257.7 and 1.66 without him).
Although Brady had just one 300-yard game last season after Week 6, he averaged 22.7 DraftKings points with five QB1 finishes in the campaign’s first six games — his only ones with both wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. As long as Brady has multiple high-end receivers, he has the ability to put up points. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Evans (hamstring) has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable but should still be approached with extreme skepticism.
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Bucs WR Mike Evans (hamstring) got in a limited practice on Friday after not practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, but he is still doubtful for Week 1. WR Justin Watson seems likely to replace Evans in three-wide receiver sets, although he might play in the slot with WR Chris Godwin shifting to the perimeter, where he could face Saints CB Marshon Lattimore. The Bucs also might play more two-tight end sets without Evans. Saints DE Marcus Davenport (elbow) is out. Slot CB P.J. Williams (hamstring) is questionable after being downgraded to limited Thursday and Friday practices.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers ($6,300 DK, $7,500 FD): The Packers are road dogs, and the team’s early picks in the draft (quarterback Jordan Love in Round 1, receiving-limited running back A.J. Dillon in Round 2 and blocking-destined H-back Josiah Deguara in Round 3) suggest that the 2020 offense might rely on the ground game. But the Vikings are without their three starting cornerbacks from last season, and from a betting perspective, Rodgers has historically crushed in divisional games, going 42-25 ATS (22.5% ROI).
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions ($6,200 DK, $7,300 FD): An eight-game sample isn’t large, but before missing the second half of 2019 with a back injury, Stafford averaged 23.3 DraftKings points per game in Weeks 1-9, and for the season — his first with OC Darrell Bevell — he was No. 1 with 10.7 intended air yards per attempt and a 23.4% aggressiveness rate with tight-window throws (per Next Gen Stats). He was an outright gunslinger.
The Bears are without last year’s No. 1 cornerback Prince Amukamara, and Stafford has one of the league’s most complement receiving quintets in wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola, tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Lions WRs Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and Danny Amendola (hamstring) are uncertain. Golladay is doubtful after missing Thursday and Friday practices. Amendola is questionable after limited practices each day. Bears EDGEs Khalil Mack (knee) and Robert Quinn (ankle) are both uncertain to play. Mack is questionable after limited practice all week. Quinn is doubtful after not practicing at all.
Cam Newton, New England Patriots ($6,100 DK, $7,300 FD): Ignore what Newton did in 2019, when he was hampered by a foot injury. Also ignore the last month of 2018, when Newton could barely throw because of a shoulder injury. Instead, focus on what Newton did in the 16-game stretch before that: Week 15 of 2017 to Week 13 of 2018 (including playoffs). In that stretch, Newton had a 3,930-31-15 passing and 138-656-5 rushing stat line and averaged 23.6 DraftKings points per game. Newton is reportedly healthy, and he now has HC Bill Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels guiding him. He might never be this cheap again. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Patriots WR Gunner Olszewski (foot) is out. TE Dalton Keene (neck) is questionable after limited practices on Thursday and Friday.
Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts ($6,000 DK, $7,100 FD): Reunited with HC Frank Reich, who resurrected Rivers’ career in 2013-15 as his position coach and then coordinator, the 38-year-old shot-putter has an investable opportunity against a Jaguars cornerback group that has witnessed the departures of Pro-Bowlers Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye over the past year. Constantly under pass-rush pressure for years with the Chargers, Rivers should now have as much time as he needs with the Colts, who have PFF’s No. 1 offensive line. Playmaking wide receivers T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. could gift Rivers with a 300-yard, three-touchdown debut.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders ($5,900 DK, $7,100 FD): The matchup is highly advantageous for Carr, who has a 69.6% completion rate and 7.6 AY/A in his 32 games under HC Jon Gruden. The Panthers are without three of their four top cornerbacks from last season, including No. 1 corner James Bradberry, and the Raiders have amplified their pass-catching potential this year thanks to the addition of wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards and running back Lynn Bowden Jr.
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers ($5,900 DK, $6,800 FD): Look elsewhere for rushing upside — Bridgewater has averaged just 0.8 yards per carry since his career-altering knee injury in 2016 — but he handled himself well last year with a 67.9% completion rate and 7.5 AY/A as an injury fill-in for Drew Brees.
If HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady are able to translate their dynamic Baylor and LSU offenses to the NFL, Bridgewater could have a surprise breakout season, especially thanks to the collective after-the-catch and downfield playmaking ability of wide receivers D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson, running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end Ian Thomas. The matchup is exploitable, as the Raiders last year were No. 29 with a 46.3 PFF coverage grade. For his career, Bridgewater is 27-7 ATS (55.5% ROI) and 17-3 ATS (66.2% ROI) as an underdog.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers ($5,800 DK, $7,400 FD): In his two games against the Cardinals last season, Jimmy GPP averaged 33.3 DraftKings points with an obscene 741-8-2 passing line. The Cardinals allowed a league-high 25.2 DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks in 2019, and they haven’t made any substantive year-over-year changes to the cornerback unit. Garoppolo underwhelmed in the postseason with a 5.7 AY/A, but in the regular season he was No. 9 with a mark of 8.3.
Garoppolo has an under-appreciated 2016 Matt Ryan-esque second-year-in-the-Shanahan-system MVP ceiling for the season and a position-high 54% DraftKings Bargain Rating for Week 1. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): 49ers WR Deebo Samuel (foot) is out. WR Brandon Aiyuk is questionable but trending toward playing after returning to practice (albeit on a limited basis) on Thursday and Friday.
Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars ($5,800 DK, $6,700 FD): As a sixth-round rookie forced into action last year, Minshew was No. 5 at the position with 4.8 carries per game and No. 13 with a 7.3 AY/A: He has a reasonable rushing floor and passing ceiling. Last season he averaged 18.1 FanDuel points with a 75% Consistency Rating in eight starts as an underdog, and in his lone start against the Colts he had a season-best 25.5 FanDuel points on the strength of 295 yards and three touchdowns passing. He leads all main-slate quarterbacks with a 75% FanDuel Bargain Rating.
Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers ($5,600 DK, $7,000 FD): During his 2015-17 stint as the starter for the Bills, Taylor was No. 2 behind only Cam Newton with his 283 carries, 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing. Taylor has an elevated floor thanks to his running ability, and he has a good matchup against the Bengals, who last year were No. 28 in pass defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders).
Taylor has a position-high +2.19 Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings, and as a starter he is 26-18-3 ATS (14% ROI). UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Chargers C Mike Pouncey (hip) is out, RG Trai Turner (knee) is legitimately questionable after not practicing on Friday and RT Bryan Bulaga (hamstring) is questionable after limited practices on Thursday and Friday. WR Mike Williams (shoulder) is questionable and a game-time decision. Bengals DT Geno Atkins (shoulder) is out.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears ($5,400 DK, $6,900 FD): Against all odds and reasons, Trubisky looks like the Week 1 starter. It’s doubtful he’ll be any worse than he was last year, and in his three games against HC Matt Patricia’s Lions defense over the past two years, Trubisky has averaged 28.9 DraftKings points on 866-9-1 passing and 10-30-1 rushing. Last year the Lions allowed a league-high 503.2 air yards and yards after the catch per game (per AirYards.com), and they now face the challenge of establishing defensive cohesion in Week 1 with three new starting cornerbacks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins ($5,300 DK, $6,400 FD): “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
Pictured above: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens
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