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DraftKings Fantasy Football Early Look: NFL Week 1 Salary Release DFS Picks, Sleepers, Fades

Julian Edlow goes position-by-position breaking down some of the best and worst NFL targets for Week 1’s main DraftKings fantasy football slate, which locks at 1:00 p.m. ET on September 12.

NFL Week 1 salaries have been released on DraftKings! While plenty can change over the course of the summer, it’s always fun (and never too early) to start breaking down the slate.

Here’s what jumps out in my way too early first look at the 2021 Week 1 NFL main slate on DraftKings.

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Quarterback

Expensive

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans ($7,600) — This matchup has the highest point total on the Week 1 board, featuring a ton of big fantasy names, yet very little resistance on the defensive side of the ball. I’ll consider paying up for Murray, who fits with a lot of different WR options. Of course, DeAndre Hopkins ($7,800) is near the top of his position when it comes to salary, but Christian Kirk ($4,500) is cheap, and you can save even more on newcomers A.J. Green ($3,800) and Rondale Moore ($3,000). Arizona’s shaky running game also leaves more upside for Murray to use his legs here after scampering for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground last season.

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars ($6,900) — This probably isn’t going to be a popular name when it comes to Week 1. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Watson after his offseason, but if he’s indeed the Week 1 starter for the Texans, I’ll go against the grain and roster him on this slate. Houston lost a ton at the WR position, but Watson is still a big enough playmaker to put up numbers on his own. It’s not like we have a legendary defense on the other side of this matchup ... he’s at home vs. the Jags. In two matchups vs. Jacksonville last season, Watson averaged 27 DKFP, which also happened to be his average in home games.

Cheap

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings ($5,700) — Unfortunate ending to Burrow’s rookie campaign, but what we saw prior to the knee injury was a very promising QB prospect playing in one of the NFL’s most pass-happy offenses. Burrow makes his return at home against a Minnesota secondary that shouldn’t scare anyone off targeting against. The addition of Ja’Marr Chase ($4,800) after the duo put up historic numbers at LSU should only help Burrow’s cause. There is some terrific value at QB for this slate, which could lead to depressed ownership across the board.

Other Options: Ryan Tannehill ($6,500), Jalen Hurts ($6,400), Baker Mayfield ($5,900), Trey Lance ($4,500 — if named starter), Jacob Eason ($4,100 — if named starter)


Running Back

Expensive

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals ($9,100) — RB is a super tight position on this slate. Until we get any injury news leading up to Week 1, I don’t see many edges on the board at all. I’ll admit, I’d much rather pay up at WR. But in a dream scenario where I have the salary, Cook is in a terrific spot for a massive workload against what was an extremely poor Cincy run defense in 2020.

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks ($8,000) — Taylor is in an interesting spot. Personally, I’ll be very surprised if I wind up rostering him, but he’s in a position worth talking about for this slate. With Carson Wentz (foot) sidelined, does Taylor become more or less valuable? You can argue both sides. If you’re of the belief that Wentz’s absence just means force-feeding Taylor against opponents like the Seahawks, then maybe there’s value. But if a backup QB winds up down a couple touchdowns, then maybe Taylor isn’t as involved. But with this, the hardest position to figure out on the slate, Taylor has to be worth consideration.

Cheap

Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions ($5,800) — Again, the RB position is going to take some time to figure out leading up to Week 1, some of which will happen as injuries occur. The cheaper options below make some sense, but I think this is a spot that Mostert could dominate. The Niners are the largest favorites on the board, going to Detroit to face a putrid Lions squad that has an awful run defense (ranked 31st in DKFP allowed to RB last season). With less competition in the backfield this season, and coming in with his health (and offensive line health) that wasn’t there last season, there’s a high ceiling in this spot. In Week 1 of 2020, Mostert was leaned on heavily — 19 touches for 151 total yards and a touchdown (25.1 DKFP).

Other Options: Mike Davis ($5,400), Damien Harris ($5,200), Chase Edmonds ($4,600)/James Conner ($4,500)



Wide Receiver

Expensive

Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles ($7,900) — Julio Jones ($6,800) will be wearing a Titans uniform in Week 1, which further opens the door for Ridley to continue breaking out. Ridley was tremendous last season, particularly at home, where he averaged 24.6 DKFP. There are a lot of top options to consider at WR on this slate, and I have nothing negative to say about the other top five priced at the position. But for me, Ridley slotting into the WR1 role at home against a Philly defense that was top five in the NFL in DKFP allowed to WR last season is just too much to pass up.

A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans vs. Arizona Cardinals ($7,100) — Speaking of Julio Jones, let’s look at the WR he’ll now be lining up across from. As great as I expect Ridley to be this season, it’s not like having Jones as a decoy opposite you hinders your fantasy value in any way. Brown was money with Tannehill last season and gets a spectacular matchup against a brutal Arizona secondary on the road.

Cheap

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars ($5,300) — I already wrote up Burrow, and I think it’s fairly obvious the Cincy WRs are in prime position to roster for Week 1 value. However, I don’t think Cooks is an obvious play, but he is a very high upside one. Last year, Hopkins was shipped out, which led to some big games for both Cooks and Will Fuller ($4,600). With Fuller in Miami, Cooks should see a massive target share, which interests me as long as it’s coming from Watson. Remember, after a shaky start to 2020, Cooks scored 9.9 or more DKFP in every game from Week 5 on — a trend that started with an 8-161-1 line for 33.1 DKFP at home vs. the Jags. Cook averaged 19.7 DKFP in home games last season, and that includes a goose egg vs. the Vikings. He ended the season with 72.7 total DKFP in his last two games, both of which were at home. There’s elite upside here if Watson suites up.

Other Options: Odell Beckham Jr. ($5,400), Tyler Boyd ($5,200), Ja’Marr Chase ($4,800), Mecole Hardman ($4,800), Jaylen Waddle ($3,600)


Tight End

Expensive

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns ($8,300) — Kelce is a pretty clear-cut play here. He finished the season scoring 22.8 DKFP or more in all but one game from Week 8 through the Super Bowl. That streak included 27.9 DKFP vs. Cleveland, which was a bottom-five team in fantasy points allowed to the TE position. The only hurdle here is the price point. I like paying up at WR, but I do think RB could shape up into a position that we go for value. If that’s the case, we can find a way to roster a couple pricey WRs and Kelce.

Cheap

Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles ($4,400) — No NFL experience? No problem! Pitts should still find his way into becoming the most popular Week 1 play at TE. Pitts was an absolute beast at Florida and profiles as one of the elite pass-catching TE prospects. The TE position has always played a pretty solid role in Atlanta’s offense, but with Julio Jones out the door, Pitts should carve out a sizable role immediately. There’s a good chance Pitts’ salary takes one of the biggest salary jumps going into Week 2, and he may never be this cheap again. This is mostly a play on salary alone, but the matchup is also ideal — the Eagles ranked 27th in DKFP allowed to TE in 2020.

Other Options: Austin Hooper ($4,000), Jordan Akins ($3,000)


D/ST

Expensive

San Francisco 49ers DST ($4,200) at Detroit Lions — I doubt I’ll wind up paying $4,200 for a road D/ST in Week 1, but I don’t think the 49ers are overpriced at all in this spot. The Lions are going to be absolutely horrible this season, and I think we see the entire offense exposed. Anthony Lynn has proven to be one of the worst offensive play callers in the NFL, and the WR group is practically nonexistent.

Cheap

Buffalo Bills DST ($2,500) vs. Pittsburgh SteelersThe Steelers got off to a hot start last year, but the futures market expects significant regression here. The Bills were much better defensively at home in 2020, averaging 9 DKFP in Buffalo. For $2,5K, I think we’re getting good value here against an offense that shouldn’t scare us.

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