The NFL is back for the biggest season ever, as teams move to a 17-game regular season for the first time. With only three primetime games in the Week 1 schedule, 26 of the 32 teams are on the main DraftKings Sunday NFL slate, providing plenty of options to consider for what should be an afternoon of fantasy football goodness.
Nine games kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET with four games taking the 4:25 p.m. ET spotlight. As usual, Week 1 has plenty of value plays due to situations that have shifted since salaries were released. It’s definitely a week to consider going stars-and-scrubs for roster construction with so many cheap plays loaded with upside. Each week, this post will focus on the best plays from the cheaper end of the player pool.
($6,000 and under)
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs, $5,900 – Baker and the Browns face a tough road test in Week 1 against the Chiefs, but this matchup should have plenty of points since it has the highest over/under of any Week 1 contest on DraftKings Sportsbook at 54.5. Mayfield is expected to get Odell Beckham Jr. ($5,400) back, and the Chiefs did allow the third-most DKFP to opposing QBs last season. Much of that production came as teams tried to rally from behind against Kansas City, and Mayfield could also put up big numbers if that’s the game script this week.
Zach Wilson, New York Jets at Carolina Panthers, $5,000 – Wilson will make his NFL debut in a nice matchup against the Panthers. He put together a dazzling preseason, going 15-for-20 with 191 yards and two touchdowns and posting an 85.7 PFF Grade. Per Next Gen Stats, he was an even more impressive 5-for-5 for 94 yards on throws of 10 air yards or more. Wilson didn’t flash his rushing ability in the preseason but still brings the added dimension of possible rushing production. While I expect growing pains later this year, he sets up well for a hot start and brings a high ceiling for just $5K against Carolina.
Other Options: Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,500), Mac Jones ($4,400)
($5,000 and under)
Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions, $4,500 – The third-round pick from Ohio State is expected to share the backfield in San Francisco with Raheem Mostert ($5,800) coming into the season. While the timeshare makes his workload uncertain, there should be enough work to go around in coach Kyle Shanahan’s run-heavy attack. The 49ers should be able to dominate on the ground in this elite matchup against the Lions, and if they’re playing from ahead they may try to rely more on the rookie while preserving Mostert for later in the season.
James White, New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins, $4,400 – New England’s timeshare is always tricky to figure out, but White’s role as the primary passing-down back is secure. The Sony Michel trade made things less crowded in the backfield, and White is now expected to rotate with Damien Harris ($5,200). As a PPR-producer, White always has potential, and Mac Jones ($4,400) will likely be focused on shorter, high-percentage routes, setting White up for a big game as a receiver out of the backfield.
Other Options: Chase Edmonds ($4,600), Ty Johnson ($4,400)
($5,000 and under)
Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks, $4,100 – With T.Y. Hilton (neck) on IR to start the season, Pittman becomes the top WR for the Colts. He had an inconsistent rookie season in 2020 but went off for seven catches and 101 yards in the only game that Hilton missed. He also had multiple catches in nine straight games to finish the year and added five catches for 90 yards in the playoffs. He could be poised to make the second-year leap and should be busy, especially while Hilton is sidelined.
Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, $4,100 – Sanders looks ready to jump right into a big role with his new team after being heavily targeted this preseason, including leading the team with eight targets in the first half of their final preseason game while Stefon Diggs ($7,600) was sidelined. Diggs should be back and get most of the targets, but the Bills’ offense is expected to be pass-heavy enough to give Sanders a shot at a revenge narrative game against the Steelers.
Marvin Jones Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans, $3,600 – Jones is also making his first start for his new team, and he should be a great security blanket for Trevor Lawrence ($6,200). Jones quietly had one of the best seasons of his career last year, setting career-highs with 115 targets and 76 catches. He averaged 14.8 DKFP per game last year and gets a great matchup to start his Jags career against the Texans, who just traded their top CB Bradley Roby to the Saints.
Elijah Moore, New York Jets at Carolina Panthers, $3,000 — With Jamison Crowder ($4,600) on the reserve/COVID-19 list and uncertain to play, Moore could set right into a huge role. Moore didn’t play this preseason due to a quad injury, but the reports out of camp when he was healthy were that he was very impressive. He’s a bit of a flier at the minimum salary, but the upside of a rookie Wilson-Moore value stack is extremely high and gives you plenty of roster flexibility at other spots.
Other Options: Mecole Hardman ($4,800), Tee Higgins ($4,700), DeVonta Smith ($4,500), Cam Sims ($4,000)
($4,000 and under)
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills, $3,900 – The Bills gave up the second-most DKFP to opposing TEs last season since their strong secondary forced teams to go to their TEs more. Ebron had a solid first season in Pittsburgh with 63 catches and 620 yards while averaging 10.1 DKFP per contest. Even with rookie Pat Freiermuth ($2,500) in the mix, Ebron had a strong preseason and should get enough targets at this salary.
Tyler Conklin, Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals, $2,900 – With Irv Smith (knee) sidelined for the season, Conklin looked locked in as the starter before the Vikings traded for Chris Herndon ($3,300) last week. Herndon was third on the team’s depth chart, though, and doesn’t seem to be quite up to speed on the offense yet. Conklin missed the preseason with a hamstring issue, but as long as he’s healthy, he’s a great punt play after finishing last year with at least three catches and at least 7.0 DKFP in four straight games. The Bengals allowed the seventh-most DKFP to opposing TEs last season, so this also should be a good matchup.
Other Options: Evan Engram ($4,100)
($2,800 and under)
Buffalo Bills DST vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, $2,500 – The Bills averaged only 2.4 sacks per game last season but finished with a total of 26 takeaways, which was third-best in the NFL. They get Star Lotulelei back on the inside and drafted Gregory Rousseau to bring pressure off the edge, which he definitely did this preseason, posting the highest QB pressure percentage of any player, per Pro Football Focus. If Rousseau can key an improved pass rush, the Bills’ ball-hawking secondary should be in for another strong season. The matchup isn’t ideal, but I still love the upside.
Indianapolis Colts DST vs. Seattle Seahawks, $2,300 — The Colts were the second-most productive DST on DraftKings last season, averaging 8.6 DKFP per game. The Seahawks are a tough matchup (less so away from Seattle), but this is way too cheap for an elite unit that is anchored by All-Pros Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner and features another promising young edge rusher in Kwity Paye.
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