There are a few days during the course of a calendar year that are borderline erotic for DFS players.
This is one of those days.
DraftKings released their NFL Week 1 salaries Sunday morning, meaning we all have 42 days (and counting) to sweat lineup decisions and dream about which contrarian stacks will lead to a major payday.
What follows are 10 takeaways from the initial salaries that we should keep in mind during the lead up to the season.
Kyler Murray is stupid cheap
FantasyLabs and Action Network employees are pretty much contractually obligated to love Kyler Murray, but $5,600 for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 draft is simply too low.
- Murray boasts a fantasy-friendly skill-set that includes elite rushing ability as well as the willingness to throw the deep ball.
- Our Action Network projection experts Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon and Matthew Freedman have Murray as their No. 12, No. 3 and No. 4 ranked quarterback, respectively. Your boy has Murray at No. 6. And yet: DraftKings has him slotted as the No. 14 highest-priced signal caller.
- The Cardinals are undergoing a schematic makeover on defense and will be without stud cornerback Patrick Peterson for six weeks. Their offense is expected to resemble the closest thing the NFL has seen to a true Air-Raid attack, meaning we should expect head coach Kliff Kingsbury to continue to engineer a high-volume passing attack at warp-speed pace.
Murray is pretty much the ideal dual-threat talent to make the most out of the Cardinals’ young and unproven offense …
Kyler Murray just averaged the most yards per attempt in a single season ever while simultaneously being a wizard as a runner (but he's short). pic.twitter.com/pEKpq4Mj3d
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 13, 2019
… but he’s not the only signal caller with an affordable Week 1 price tag.
Paying up for a quarterback in Week 1 won’t be necessary
In addition to Murray, there are a number of sub-$6,000 quarterbacks that offer some upside in their respective Week 1 matchups:
- Dak Prescott ($5,900) vs. NYG: Prescott joins Drew Brees and Russell Wilson as the only players to finish each of the past three seasons as a top-10 fantasy football quarterback.
- Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,800) at TAM: The 49ers added several capable running backs and receivers to help take the offense to another level in 2019 … yet Jimmy G’s salary to start the season against the Buccaneers’ atrocious secondary is just $100 more than his $5,700 price tag for 2018’s season-opening matchup against the Vikings in Minnesota.
- Carson Wentz ($5,700) vs. WAS: Wentz was the No. 2 quarterback in fantasy points per game in 2017 before slipping to No. 17 in 2018. The major difference between the two offenses was the lack of a viable field-stretcher last season, so it’d make sense if the addition of DeSean Jackson helps Wentz regain his MVP-level form.
QB yards per attempt with vs. without DeSean Jackson #SpeedKills
Donovan McNabb: 7.44 Y/A with vs. 7.02 Y/A without
Mike Vick: 7.79 vs. 6.44
Nick Foles: 8.13 vs. 6.58
Kirk Cousins: 8.42 vs. 7.53
Jameis Winston: 7.81 vs. 7.7
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 7.91 vs. 6.68 pic.twitter.com/1G0kGf6Lbm
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 11, 2019
- Josh Allen ($5,600) at NYJ: Allen is a natural GPP-pivot off of Murray, who will likely carry extreme ownership at his reduced cost in a cozy matchup. Allen worked as fantasy football’s No. 1 quarterback from Weeks 12-17 last season after returning from an elbow injury and (like Murray) has a fantasy-friendly combination of deep-ball volume and rushing ability.
Of course, not every fantasy football offseason darling is so cheap.
DraftKings is well aware of the Buccaneers’ firepower
The Buccaneers’ decision to hire former-Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has led to enhanced expectations for pretty much everybody involved in this offense.
A home matchup against the 49ers isn’t anything to be worried about, but Jameis Winston ($6,600, QB3), Mike Evans ($7,900, WR3), Chris Godwin ($6,200, WR14) and O.J. Howard ($5,000, TE4) are far from free at their respective price points.
Targeting either Ronald Jones ($3,900) or Peyton Barber ($4,000) will be a cheaper way to gain access to what figures to be at the very least a boom-or-bust offense, but that backfield will need to be monitored throughout the preseason.
Jones and Barber seem to represent the cheapest available three-down backs at this point.
Holdouts shouldn’t be too big of a factor
The Saints play on Monday night in Week 1, so we don’t need to worry about Michael Thomas at the moment.
Notable holdouts at this point that could potentially lead to lesser-known players gaining massive Week 1 roles include:
- Ezekiel Elliott ($9,200)
- Melvin Gordon ($7,500)
Gordon seems like the more-likely back to miss regular season time, and our experts have indicated that backup running back Austin Ekeler is the man to target in his absence.
There’s little doubt that Ekeler is #good at the game …
Austin Ekeler since entering the league in 2017:
Yards per rush: 5.3 (No. 3 among 60 RBs with 150+ rushes)
Yards per target: 7.8 (No. 3 among 55 RBs with 50+ targets)
Yards per touch: 6.8 (No. 2 among 62 RBs with 200+ touches)
Snap % in three games without MGIII: 78%, 68%, 95%
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 20, 2019
… but his $5,500 price tag hardly makes him a bargain.
The same can be said for presumed backup Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, who is already priced up to $4,500.
The tight end position has a bit more clarity.
Offseason or regular season: Three tight ends truly matter
Each of Travis Kelce ($7,100), Zach Ertz ($6,100) and George Kittle ($6,600) are unique in that they’re the league’s only three tight ends with both a quality quarterback and top-tier target share.
Like any player, there are some concerns for each ahead of the 2019 season:
- Kelce will turn 30-years-old in October and plays one of the more-demanding positions on the field.
- Ertz could theoretically give up snaps to rising second-year talent Dallas Goedert.
- Kittle will have to get re-acclimated with Jimmy G under center, as well as several new weapons at running back and wide receiver.
Still, these tight ends are a tier above the rest of the position at the moment, as evidenced by Howard being the next most-expensive tight end at $5,000.
Sometimes it makes sense to pivot off of good players in good matchups simply due to the extreme amount of ownership they’re expected to carry in tournament formats.
The following players could emerge as trendy options in Week 1, but you might be better off rostering their respective similarly-priced pivots.
- Quarterback: Chalk: Kyler Murray ($5,600). Pivot: Josh Allen ($5,600)
- Running back: Chalk: Dalvin Cook ($6,000). Pivot: Kerryon Johnson ($5,800)
- Wide receiver: Chalk: Christian Kirk ($4,700). Pivot: DeSean Jackson ($4,500)
- Tight end: Chalk: David Njoku ($3,700). Pivot: Hunter Henry ($3,900); Delanie Walker ($3,500)
There are a few cheap running backs that could be Week 1 workhorses
The following running backs boasted the highest rate of combined carries and targets per game in 2018 divided by their 2019 Week 1 salary.
- Adrian Peterson ($3,700): AP averaged 17.3 combined targets and carries per game last season. A road matchup against the Eagles’ formidable front-seven obviously isn’t ideal, but he’s a cheap salary-saving option if Derrius Guice (knee) is ultimately unable to suit up by the start of the season.
- Peyton Barber ($4,000): Barber averaged 16.4 combined targets and carries per game last season and has a pristine home matchup against a 49ers defense that allowed the 10th-most DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields last season.
- Jordan Howard ($4,200): Second-round pick Miles Sanders appears to be progressing well after missing OTAs with a hamstring injury, but it still wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Howard start the season as the Eagles’ lead early-down and goal-line back.
- Chris Carson ($5,700): Carson averaged a preposterous 19.3 combined targets and carries per game last season and has a home matchup in Week 1 against the Bengals, who boasted the league’s single-worst defense in average DraftKings PPG allowed to opposing running back units in 2018.
Every Chris Carson touchdown from inside the five-yard line.
Good luck tackling this man. pic.twitter.com/l4mARoOBn4
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 6, 2019
- Marlon Mack ($5,600): Mack averaged 18.4 combined carries and touches per game last season and appears to be locked in as the Colts’ featured back as long as he’s healthy enough to suit up.
Consider rostering Browns wide receivers not named Odell Beckham Jr.
The following wide receivers boasted the highest rate of combined carries and targets per game in 2018 divided by their 2019 Week 1 salary.
- Jarvis Landry ($5,600) and Antonio Callaway ($3,300): The Browns figure to boast one of the league’s more-explosive passing attacks with Baker Mayfield and OBJ leading the way. Landry and Callaway might not see the same type of week-to-week consistency as Beckham when it comes to targets per game, but each is capable of booming in an appealing Week 1 matchup at home vs. the Titans.
- Stefon Diggs ($6,700): Both Diggs and Adam Thielen finished as top-10 PPR wide receivers last season, but Diggs is the better play in Week 1 against a Falcons defense that hasn’t boasted a formidable secondary in quite some time. Diggs has gained at least 100 yards and/or scored a touchdown in seven of his 10 career games in September.
Stefon Diggs route running 💯 pic.twitter.com/OGXBw7YPw8
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 3, 2019
- Corey Davis ($4,900): Davis might not see the same absurd target share as he had last season with Delanie Walker back in the fold. There’s also plenty of competition at wide receiver now after the Titans drafted A.J. Brown in the second round and signed former Buccaneers slot maven Adam Humphries. With that said: We consider rostering pretty much any sub-$5,000 wide receivers that are their offense’s No. 1 pass-game option.
- DeSean Jackson ($4,500): D-Jax offers the type of big-play ability that makes him an ideal GPP target. Perhaps it’ll take him and Wentz some time to get acclimated, although this wasn’t the case in his NFL debut (6-106-0) or his first game with the Redskins (8-62-0).
Delanie Walker headlines underpriced tight ends
The following tight ends boasted the highest rate of combined carries and targets per game in 2018 divided by their 2019 Week 1 salary.
- Delanie Walker ($3,500): Walker was Marcus Mariota‘s go-to target before missing almost all of last season with a gruesome ankle injury.
- Jordan Reed ($3,600): Reed is apparently healthy and set up well against an Eagles defense that struggled to stop the pass last season … and proceeded to not add a single cornerback in free agency or the draft.
- Eric Ebron ($4,100): It remains to be seen if Ebron will demand anything close to the same target share in 2019 with the return of Jack Doyle as well as the additions of Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell.
- Austin Hooper ($3,200): Hooper won’t ever command a higher target share than the likes of Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley, but he was one of just eight tight ends that played over 75% of their offense’s snaps in 2018. Hooper was also one of just 10 players with double-digit targets inside the 10-yard line.
- Ricky Seals-Jones ($2,700): It remains to be seen what type of role RSJ will have in a Cardinals offense that figures to utilize plenty of 4-WR sets. Seals-Jones also faces competition from new additions Charles Clay and Maxx Williams.
The Panthers and Dolphins look like the best potential salary-saving defenses
There are numerous factors to consider when rostering a daily fantasy defense including: Home-field advantage, the opposing offense, pass rush, run defense and secondary ability.
The only defenses priced below $3,000 that are home in Week 1 are …
- Cardinals ($2,700) vs. Lions
- Jaguars ($2,300) vs. Chiefs
- Buccaneers ($2,200) vs. 49ers
- Panthers ($2,100) vs. Rams
- Dolphins ($2,100) vs. Ravens
The latter two matchups peak my interest the most.
Carolina added the likes of Bruce Irvin, Gerald McCoy and first-round pick Brian Burns to their defensive line and boasts a quietly talented pair of starting cornerbacks in James Bradberry and Donte Jackson. We’ll find out if an entire offeseason will help the Rams can fix their late-season offensive woes.
I don’t have anything nice to say about the Dolphins defense specifically, but they’re facing the league’s most one-dimensional offense in a home setting that figures to be incredibly humid. Defenses have historically offered more value in humid and high-temperature settings since 2014 (per our NFL Trends tool).