The Week 2 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 15, 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 the industry-leading FantasyLabs Models.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
Let’s start with the quarterback at the top of the salary scale.
Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) at Oakland Raiders, 53.5 Over/Under
- DraftKings: $7,500
- FanDuel: $9,000
Coming off a league-changing Most Valuable Player 2018 campaign, Mahomes entered Week 1 with a tough matchup in Jacksonville. After all, the Jaguars were the only team Mahomes faced last year in the regular season to hold him to zero passing touchdowns.
No problem for Mahomes. Despite losing big-play wide receiver Tyreek Hill (collarbone) after just 12 snaps, suffering a minor ankle injury of his own in the second quarter and sitting out the final couple of series in a 40-26 blowout victory, Mahomes was 25-of-33 passing with 378 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He added a couple of yards on one rush. He finished the week as a top-five fantasy quarterback with 30.3 DraftKings and 27.3 FanDuel points against a defense that allowed just 14.1 DraftKings and 13.5 FanDuel points per game over the past two seasons.
Mahomes in 2019 very much seems to be the player he was in 2018 — and that player was the best in the league: He had NFL-best marks with his 9.6 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) and 80.3 Total QBR. With his 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns passing, Mahomes became only the second 5,000-50 quarterback in NFL history.
In his 16 regular season games, Mahomes dominated with a position-high 28.8 DraftKings points per game, and despite having consistently high salaries, he led all quarterbacks with an obscene +9.29 Plus/Minus.
Last year, Mahomes had more eruption games than any other quarterback.
300-yard, three-touchdown games by NFL quarterbacks in 2018:
7- Patrick Mahomes
5- Drew Brees
4- Jared Goff
4- Andrew Luck
4- Ben Roethlisberger
4- Matt Ryan
3- Kirk Cousins
3- Ryan Fitzpatrick
3- Mitchell Trubisky
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) September 2, 2019
And he’s in line for another big game in Week 2.
Hill is expected to be out a few weeks, so Mahomes will be without his No. 1 wide receiver, but he still has tight end Travis Kelce and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman. Last year, Kelce rocked the Raiders with a 17-230-2 receiving line on 22 targets in two games. Last week, Watkins went off with a 9-198-3 receiving performance on 11 targets. And in the NFL draft, the Chiefs selected rookie Hardman and his elite speed (4.33-second 40-yard dash) with a second-round pick: At a minimum, he should be able to pressure the Raiders secondary deep.
Even without Hill, Mahomes should be fine.
In theory, it’s not ideal that he’s on the road. In reality, it’s fine — maybe even preferable. The outdoor Arrowhead Stadium is a hard place to play, and the Chiefs actually did better offensively on the road than at home last year.
- Chiefs on road (eight games): 38.3 points per game, 325.3 yards and 3.88 touchdowns passing
- Chiefs at home (eight games): 32.4 points per game, 294.1 yards and 2.38 touchdowns passing
And last year’s scoring discrepancy is not a fluke: Under head coach Andy Reid (since 2013), the Chiefs are easily last in the NFL with their offensive home/road differential of -2.6 points per game. For whatever reason, Reid’s Chiefs are one of the few teams that score more points on the road.
And the team’s home/road splits manifested themselves in Mahomes’ performance last year.
- Mahomes on road (eight games): 33.0 DraftKings points, +13.6 Plus/Minus, 100% Consistency Rating
- Mahomes at home (eight games): 24.6 DraftKings points, +4.97 Plus/Minus, 62.5% Consistency Rating
On the road, he should be as good as he usually is.
Outside cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley had below-average coverage grades of 51.1 and 61.5 last season (per Pro Football Focus): It will be almost impossible for Mahomes to be too aggressive in targeting their coverage. And last year the Raiders were specifically No. 32 in pass DVOA against tight ends with a 39.7% mark. Mahomes could seriously get 150 yards and two touchdowns through Kelce alone.
As the highest-salaried quarterback, Mahomes is not cheap, but he’s also not prohibitively expensive. In a slate without Cam Newton, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston, you can probably afford Mahomes if you want to pay up at the position.
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: $6,700 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel
- Deshaun Watson: $6,600 DraftKings; $8,500 FanDuel
- Josh Allen: $5,300 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
Lamar Jackson: Baltimore Ravens (-13.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals, 46 O/U
What a difference one game can make.
Entering Week 1, Jackson was thought of as a dual-threat quarterback with Konami Code rushing upside and notable accuracy issues — and then against the Dolphins in Miami he had just six yards rushing on three carries but went 17-of-20 passing for 324 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
It helps that he was playing the
Dolphins Chum, who are already in full-on tank mode. But it’s hard to say anything negative about Lamar’s Week 1 performance. He led all quarterbacks on the week with 36.6 DraftKings and 33.6 FanDuel points. Additionally, Jackson was the starting quarterback in the Week 1 DraftKings Millionaire Maker-winning lineup.
It’s not a surprise that Jackson has improved in his second season. Most quarterbacks — especially young first-rounders — progress in their second NFL campaigns. Jackson completed just 56.8% of his attempts in 2018 at the age of 21, but he increased his completion rate each year of his college career at Louisville.
- Freshman (18 years old, 2015): 54.7%
- Sophomore (19 years old, 2016): 56.2%
- Junior (20 years old, 2017): 59.1%
With a full offseason to learn the offense under new coordinator Greg Roman, who respectively coached dual-threat quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor to career-best performances in 2013 and 2015, Jackson was always likely to build upon his rookie campaign.
And Jackson should be aided by the players around him. Over the past two drafts, the Ravens have invested top-100 picks on rookie wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin and second-year tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. With a drastically improved pass-catching unit, Jackson will have a high ceiling almost every week this year.
And even though Jackson had just three carries last week, his rushing ability gives him a high weekly floor. Despite entering the lineup in the middle of the season last year and running an offense built on the fly, Jackson averaged 18.9 FanDuel points across his eight starts in 2018 with an outstanding 87.5% Consistency Rating. In not one of those games did Jackson score fewer than 16.0 FanDuel points.
Jackson is in a wonderful spot this week. To start with, he’s at home, and last year he exhibited notable splits.
- At home (five games): 20.0 FanDuel points, +3.66 Plus/Minus, 100% Consistency Rating
- On road (three games): 16.3 FanDuel points, +0.74 Plus/Minus, 66.7% Consistency Rating
More importantly, he’s facing the Cardinals, who are without starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg, injured reserve). In Week 1, the Cardinals let Matthew Stafford go off for 385 yards and three touchdowns passing and another 22 yards rushing.
In Week 2, Lamar should be LaMoney. Jackson is the No. 1 quarterback in the Bales, Koerner, Raybon and Freedman Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high +4.55 Projected Plus/Minus.
Deshaun Watson: Houston Texans (-8.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 43.5 O/U
In 2017, Watson had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time, but last year he was notably outshined by Mahomes and regressed to more modest overall numbers.
From a fantasy perspective, he definitely took a step back on a per-attempt basis. Consider his year-over-year efficiency as represented by paFPOEPA and ruFPOEPA (passing and rushing Fantasy Points Over Expectation per attempt), which measure how effective passers and runners are at turning opportunities into fantasy points relative to historical expectations based on the line of scrimmage (accessible within the RotoViz Screener).
- 2017 (seven games): 0.25 paFPOEPA, 0.49 ruFPOEPA
- 2018 (17 games, including playoffs): 0.06 paFPOEPA, 0.15 ruFPOEPA
Watson’s rushing drop-off was particularly notable.
- 2017 (seven games): 7.5 yards per attempt, 0.61 success rate
- 2018 (17 games, including playoffs): 5.9 yards per attempt, 0.55 success rate
But Watson was still pretty darn efficient as a rusher last year, especially considering that he was returning from a 2017 season-ending knee injury and dealing with lung and rib injuries from Week 5 on.
And despite his diminished fantasy production, Watson as a passer last year was just as good as — and maybe better than — he was in 2017.
- 2017 (seven games): 0.51 success rate, 64.1 PFF passing grade
- 2018 (17 games, including playoffs): 0.52 success rate, 80.9 PFF passing grade
Even though Watson entered the season with less hype than Mahomes, he was nevertheless poised for a massive campaign.
And he didn’t disappoint in Week 1. At the Superdome — the Coors Field of Fantasy Football — Watson knocked his seasonal debut out of the park, completing 66.7% of his 30 attempts for 268 yards, three touchdowns and one interception and adding 40 yards and a touchdown on just four carries.
He finished Week 1 as the No. 3 quarterback with 31.7 points on DraftKings and FanDuel.
For Week 2, though, Watson has a tough matchup against the Jaguars, who held opposing quarterbacks to just 13.5 FanDuel points per game with a -1.95 Plus/Minus and 34.4% Consistency Rating for the 2017-18 regular seasons.
With a unit anchored by edge rushers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, tackle Marcell Dareus, linebacker Myles Jack and shutdown cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the Jags have one of the best defenses in the league.
In his two starts against the Jags last year, Watson was horrible at worst and barely sufficient at best.
- Week 7 (on road): 10.9 FanDuel points, 139 yards and one touchdown passing, 13 yards rushing
- Week 17 (at home): 22.0 FanDuel points, 234 yards passing, 66 yards and one touchdown rushing
The good news for Watson is that just last week the Jags proved they can be exploited by an elite quarterback: Mahomes shredded them for 378 yards and three touchdowns passing.
Plus, wide receiver Will Fuller looked like his old self in Week 1 after suffering a campaign-ending injury last year. On just three targets, he amassed 111 air yards and 69 receiving yards and led the league with an aggressive average depth of target of 37 yards.
In his 24 career starts (including playoffs), Watson has exhibited stark Fuller-based splits.
- With Fuller (12 games): 26.3 FanDuel points, 31.8 pass attempts, 286.6 yards passing, 2.75 touchdowns passing
- Without Fuller (12 games): 20.6 FanDuel points, 32.0 pass attempts, 235.5 yards passing, 1.25 touchdowns passing
Of any player targeted at least 10 times by Watson in his career, Fuller is the player to gift his quarterback with the greatest per-attempt efficiency (per the RotoViz AY/A app).
As long as Fuller is on the field, Watson always has a chance to go off, even in a subpar matchup.
Watson is too risky to roster in cash games, and it seems unlikely that slot receiver Keke Coutee (ankle) will be active, but he’s worthy of strategic tournament exposure.
Watson is the No. 1 quarterback in the CSURAM88, Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models on DraftKings, where he has a position-high nine Pro Trends.
He’s also the top passer in the CSURAM88, Levitan and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel, where he leads all quarterbacks in ceiling projection.
Josh Allen: Buffalo Bills (-2) at New York Giants, 43.5 O/U
I’m a long-time Allen cynic: I compared him to Jake Locker before the 2018 draft, and he’s done little in the NFL to make me question that assessment. In his three collegiate seasons as a starter, Allen had subpar completion rates.
- 2014 (Reedley CC): 49.0%
- 2015 (Wyoming): Injured
- 2016 (Wyoming): 56.0%
- 2014 (Wyoming): 56.3%
Seriously, the guy couldn’t complete even half of his passes at junior college.
But I get that there’s a significant difference between reality and fantasy, and for fantasy, Allen gets the job done.
Allen had a horrifyingly poor start to his rookie campaign last year, but after returning from a mid-season elbow injury, he was the No. 1 quarterback over the final six weeks of the season, averaging 26.6 DraftKings points per game with a +10.6 Plus/Minus and 83.3% Consistency Rating.
Over that time, he had a subpar 51.9% completion rate and 6.0 AY/A, but he compensated for his aerial inefficiency with a Tim Tebow-like willingness (or instinct) to pull the ball down and run whenever a passing play failed to develop quickly. From Week 12 on, he averaged 79.3 yards and 0.83 touchdowns on nine carries per game.
Whatever his inadequacies are as a passer, he’s an elite runner.
And Allen honestly might be getting better as a passer. Entering his second season, he was always likely to improve upon his rookie performance, and it helps that in the offseason the Bills made it a priority to increase the play-making and pass-catching talent around Allen via free agency and the draft.
- Running backs: Frank Gore (free agency), Devin Singletary (draft), T.J. Yeldon (free agency)
- Wide receivers: John Brown (free agency), Cole Beasley (free agency)
- Tight ends: Tyler Kroft (free agency), Dawson Knox (draft), Tommy Sweeney (draft)
Basically, Allen has seen upgrades at every skill position, and in Week 1, all of the roster moves paid off. Sort of.
Yes, he threw two interceptions (one went off his receiver’s hands, and the other was tipped at the line of scrimmage), and he also lost two fumbles (one on a sack, and the other on the center-quarterback exchange). He was far from perfect. But it’s not as if his turnovers were the result of egregious mistakes.
And he was still productive, completing 64.9% of his passes for 254 yards and a touchdown. On top of that, he added 38 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Of his 37 pass attempts, 28 went to new players, and 19 went to Brown and Beasley specifically. Together, they accounted for 64.2% of his passing yards, 66.5% of his air yards, 59.2% of his yards after the catch and his one passing touchdown.
With Brown, Beasley and the rest of his new receiving options, Allen truly might be a different player than the Blake Bortles impersonator we saw last year.
For Week 2, he has a good matchup. Last week, the Giants gave up 405 yards, four touchdowns passing and 36.4 DraftKings points to dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott.
In the offseason, the Giants added strong safety Jabrill Peppers and two first-round rookies in tackle Dexter Lawrence and cornerback Deandre Baker, but they also traded edge rusher Olivier Vernon and lost safety Landon Collins via free agency. Even if the Giants defense is better this year, it won’t be markedly improved.
In 2018, the Giants were No. 27 with a 68.8 PFF coverage grade. They’re exploitable.
Allen is a strong option for guaranteed prize pools if you’re looking to pay down at the position. Use our Lineup Builder to stack him with Brown.
Allen is the No. 1 quarterback in the Bales, Levitan and Raybon Models for DraftKings, where he has a position-high +4.81 Projected Plus/Minus.
Upside Quarterbacks for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($6,400 DK, $7,800 FD): Brady went off for 341 yards and three touchdowns passing in Week 1, he gets wide receiver Antonio Brown this week (assuming he’s not inactive due to recent sexual assault allegations), the Pats lead the slate with an implied Vegas total of 32.25 points, the Dolphins allowed a league-worst 43.7 DraftKings points last week to the Ravens quarterbacks and Brady has position-high floor projections in our Models.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys ($6,300 DK, $7,700 FD): Dak has averaged 22.2 DraftKings points across his 12 games with wide receiver Amari Cooper (including playoffs), he’s coming off a massive Week 1 performance in which he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns and the Cowboys seem to have a newfound aggression and inventiveness on offense under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams ($5,900 DK, $7,600 FD): Goff might have reduced ownership on account of his disappointing 186-yard, one-touchdown passing performance in Week 1, the Rams are -2.5 home favorites over the Saints in a game with a slate-high 53-point total and Goff has averaged 22.9 DraftKings points with a +5.62 Plus/Minus across his 21 games as a home favorite under head coach Sean McVay.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers ($5,800 DK, $7,600 FD): Daily fantasy investors might fade Big Ben because of his milquetoast 276-yard, zero-touchdown showing last week, but of any quarterback to start more than a few games as a home favorite over the past half decade, Big Ben is the most profitable, averaging 25.4 DraftKings points with a +6.13 Plus/Minus across his 33 such games.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals ($5,400 DK, $6,500 FD): This week, “contrarian” is spelled with a “K.” Maybe.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders ($5,100 DK, $6,600 FD): Carr was highly efficient in Week 1, completing 84.6% of his passes with a 10.7 AY/A, and the Raiders will need to throw to keep up with the Chiefs, who just allowed Nick Foles and a sixth-round second-string rookie quarterback to combine for 350 yards and three touchdowns passing.
Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,800 DK, $6,400 FD): Minshew passed for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdowns last year in HC Mike Leach’s Air Raid system at Washington State, in Week 1 he came off the bench to complete 88% of his 25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns and the Texans just allowed 370 yards and two touchdowns passing on Monday Night Football.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: Lamar Jackson
Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports