Welcome back! The regular season is finally here, which means the return of our weekly top-5 QB-WR Stacks column. As we’ve done for the past two seasons, each week we’ll break down which passer-receiver pairings are most likely to help you land in the winner’s circle during Sunday’s featured slate.
The concept behind stacking a QB with his WR is simple; both players benefit from each completion, doubling the benefit of that play for your fantasy lineup. As Adam Levitan pointed out last offseason, 79 percent of the lineups that won DraftKings’ Fantasy Football Millionaire contests used a QB stack in their lineup.
The salaries for Week 1 get announced more than a month before kickoff, so there are some great discounts available – and some strategic ways to spend.
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5. Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,800)/Marquise Goodwin ($4,000), 49ers at Buccaneers
Want to zig while others zag? After an ugly start to the preseason, very few managers are going to be willing to pay for Garoppolo, the 11th most expensive starting QB. For context, FantasyPros’ “expert consensus ranking” – the average ranking of hundreds of analysts – have Garoppolo all the way down at 19th for Week 1. On top of that, many are likely to avoid the 49ers receivers due to the uncertainty over their depth chart. But the Buccaneers’ defense ranked dead last in defensive DVOA last season, as well as second-to-last in points allowed, third-to-last in passing TDs allowed, and last in passing yards-per-attempt allowed. They made solid efforts to improve in the offseason, but the big new additions to their secondary are all rookies. Especially early in the season, their pass defense should still be very bad.
Garoppolo averaged a decent 17.0 DKFP per game in his injury-shortened 2018, and he averaged 20.8 after being named the permanent starter in 2017. Dante Pettis ($5,400) is also a reasonable option to pair with Jimmy G, but Goodwin’s discount and Pettis’ bizarre usage during the preseason – they had him playing during the fourth quarter of some games, which is almost never done for a consistent starter – makes Goodwin more appealing. Goodwin averaged more targets per game last season, and Goodwin has been a fixture with the first team during the preseason. The risk involved in this stack makes it a better fit for GPPs, and Goodwin’s explosive speed unlocks the big play potential we want in those contests.
Arguably the most talented pairing available Sunday, Mahomes and Hill will have their work cut out for them against an elite Jaguars’ secondary. But as talented as the Jags’ CBs are, you can’t out-talent speed, and Hill is one of the fastest players in the NFL. When these two teams faced off early in 2018 – before the wheels fell off, when Jacksonville was still 3-1 and a playoff favorite allowing only 14 points per game, and before A.J. Bouye got hurt – Mahomes threw for 313 yards and 20.82 DKFP. The Chiefs game plan accounted for the Jaguars’ strength, as they got Hill two carries for 26 yards in addition to his four catches for 61 yards, ending up with 12.7 DKFP. Those numbers are already enough to keep a roster competitive, and if they are able to add a TD in the 2019 debut, they should more than return fair value.
This is another pick likely to be unpopular due to the combination of cost and opponent. But with the discounts available in Week 1, spending up for possibly the best stack on the board might be an excellent way to differentiate your lineup.
Sometimes the fantasy football world – and, fortunately for us, the DraftKings salary algorithm – suffers from a surprisingly short-term memory. Jones missed the last seven games of 2018, but he finished as a top-30 WR by DKFP per game. His final rank in 2017 was 11th among all WRs, and 15th per game. Yet he’s the 29th-most expensive WR Sunday, and on a slate that doesn’t include 25% of the league! Last time the 29-year-old played a full game, he was competing with both Golden Tate and Theo Riddick for targets, both of whom are no longer with the Lions. I’m highly skeptical that a rookie TE and 33-year-old oft-injured Danny Amendola can replace Tate’s and Riddick’s production. Not only is Jones a gigantic bargain, but the matchup is amazing. Due to suspension and injury, the Cardinals will be without both of their top CBs in the opener. Stafford doesn’t jump off the screen as a must-start option, but he’s a solid passer with a bargain-basement salary, just 17th among QBs on the main slate. And, of course, Stafford benefits from the same favorable passing matchup that Jones does.
Are you a skeptic of “Tyler Lockett, Target Hog,” like me? With Doug Baldwin now retired, many are expecting Lockett’s targets to jump, and his $6,000 salary reflects that expectation. But Baldwin was a shell of himself last season, frequently injured and matching the second-lowest target total of his career. Even with a diminished Baldwin, Lockett never saw more than seven targets in a game. In fact, he’s only reached nine targets once, in 2017. The more skepticism you have about Lockett’s target share, the more targets you should pencil in for Brown. And even if you believe in Lockett, Brown looks to be in line for a ton of work now that David Moore (shoulder; $3,500) is doubtful and DK Metcalf (knee; $4,000) is banged up. In any case, it’s hard to imagine a game-plan that doesn’t involve Brown getting roughly a half-dozen opportunities. The Seahawks briefly cut Brown late in the preseason, but they brought him back ahead of Week 1. It was a surprising sequence, but they landed back where we expected them – recognizing that they may need Brown to survive Week 1.
The Bengals allowed the most passing yards in the league last season, and they were fifth in passing TDs allowed. They overhauled their coaching staff, but most of the new staff’s history has been on the offensive side. Similarly, most of the Bengals notable offseason additions were on offense. The matchup looks favorable, and Wilson finished 2018 ranked third in Passing TDs.
Prescott is my favorite QB discount for Week 1. He’s the 10th most expensive QB starter on Sunday’s slate, but I expect him to finish inside the top-5. He threw for 387 yards and four TDs last time he faced Big Blue. The Giants’ defense ranked in the bottom 10 in yards, points and DVOA last season. They added some defensive talent early in the draft, and I like trade acquisition safety Jabrill Peppers, but odds are they still finish the season as a bottom-half defense. After the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper last season, allowing the offense to become more multi-dimensional, Prescott averaged 274 yards, 1.6 TDs and 19.7 DKFP. And, of course, Prescott provides added value as a runner, which could be particularly valuable in goal-line situations if the Ezekiel Elliott ($9,200) holdout lasts through Sunday.
So, why pair Prescott with Gallup instead of Amari Cooper ($7,000)? Cooper is too expensive, canceling out all the benefit gained by Prescott’s discount. Gallup has become the clear No. 2 option in Dallas, and if the preseason is any guide then he has improved entering his sophomore season. Including two playoff games, Gallup has averaged 13.3 DKFP over his last four contests. Gallup, like Prescott, is a bargain in this matchup.
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