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2018 Fantasy Football DFS Tips And Week 1 Picks

Week 16 Start-Sit
Photo Credit: Brook Ward

Before we get into the handful of NFL DFS tips and week 1 picks, let me do a little housekeeping.

First off, we apologize for some of the technical issues we have been having and they should hopefully be resolved soon. But let’s look forward as we are also going to try something new this year. We are going to rotate three regular articles between myself and two other senior writers, Zach Rhode and Mike Tomlin. So every three weeks, we will switch.

For now however, you have the privilege of my NFL DFS tips for this week and the next two. Hopefully, I can duplicate the success I had with last years DFS recommendations.

I do realize not all of you had the pleasure of reading last year’s column. So, I will restate that I generally prefer playing “GPPs” over “cash” games on DFS. For those that don’t know, cash games are typically games where approximately 50% of the field wins but GPPs are often large in size with a much bigger prizes but only 20 to 25% win any money. I do recommend cash games as they area good way to build up your stake, but if I’m going to stress about the outcome of games, I’d like the chance to do more than just double my money. Therefore, many of my weekly NFL DFS tips will be with the GPP player in mind more so than the cash game player.

However, lets start some with NFL DFS tips that are much more general.

NFL DFS Tips

NFL DFS Tips: Start With The Vegas Lines

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There is a reason they keep building casinos in Vegas. The betting lines that come out are usually a pretty good indicator of what is going to happen. If game A has an over/under of 50 points and game B has an over/under of 40, there’s a very high probability than game A is going to be a much higher scoring game.

But noticed I said start with the Vegas lines. Don’t refrain from playing a player in game B just because that game/team is expected to have less points. Ask yourself why those lines are what they are. Perhaps those two games should be closer in total score, but the lines reflect a key player that might not be in that day’s game. And yes, a team that is expected to score 27 points is likely to score more than a team that is expected to score 24 points. But take that with a grain of salt. If you like the player on the team expected to score less, take that player. Start with the Vegas lines, but don’t treat them as gospel.

NFL DFS Tips: Look At The Matchups

This is pretty self-explanatory. What kind of opposition is the player you’re considering going to see? However, I see DFS and seasonal players far too often misuse the match-up information and not look deep enough. The fantasy player was planning to start quarterback X, but because that quarterback is going against the 9th-ranked defense, they opt not to choose him. But if that owner dug a little deeper, they would see that the defense is the #1 rated running defense but #20 in passing. Perhaps it is only because they are giving up garbage yardage/points at the end of games. But garbage points count just as much as those scored in the first quarter.

Or look at the cornerbacks likely to cover the receivers. Do they play zone or do they play man? Is Mr. All-Pro Shut-Down Corner of the Year going to be covering the receiver you are considering, or will he be on the opposite side the entire time? Which brings us to an sub-consideration of the match-up: the history

Know The History

Whatever the reason may be, some players just play differently against certain teams. A.J. Green is a very good receiver. Yet the Baltimore defense is traditionally a very good defense as well and shuts down top notch receivers. Antonio Brown for example had only 34 yards when he visited Baltimore last year. However, for whatever reason, A.J. Green seems to have one of his best games of the year against the Ravens time and time again. Maybe crabcakes fresh from the Bay for Green is like spinach for Popeye. Who knows? You can believe a trend will end, but don’t simply ignore one, even if it is not quantifiable. Speaking of that….

NFL DFS Tips: Be Aware Of The Non-Quantifiables

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a big believer in “revenge games” or whatever other narrative the talking heads like to spin. But maybe you do. However, I do believe in the “dead cat bounce” that teams get when a head coach is fired mid-season. I also do believe that teams playing on the road for Thursday games are at a serious disadvantage and I expect those teams to be a little flat. That might present an opportunity to take players on the underdog. But be aware of these non-quantifiables. And be aware that sometimes those are actually baked into the particular site’s pricing. And while on the subject of a particular site’s pricing….

NFL DFS Tips: Compare Sites

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I may not play three or four different DFS sites every week, but you better believe I look at them. Fantasy Factor, Fantasy Draft, and Yahoo! are just three examples of other sites that have DFS games in addition to FanDuel and DraftKings. By comparing the different player salaries on different sites, I can see where potential values lay on the various sites. So if Player X is 20% cheaper (comparatively, not necessarily overall) on Site A than Site B, you know I’m going to have a lineup on Site A that includes that player.

NFL DFS Tips: Playing The Contrarian

Finally a recommendation specific for just GPP players. One of the best ways to take down a big GPP is to make one or two contrarian picks. It is also a good way to light your money on fire, but given the high reward for high risks in GPP, it’s a decent strategy. Here are three easy ways to pick players that will have low ownership;

Bad Match-ups

Great players often shine regardless of the situation. But a game against the top defense is going to drive ownership down. But that’s a great opportunity to take advantage

Status Uncertain

One thing fantasy players hate is uncertainty. So if a player’s status is unknown for that weekend, it’s a great opportunity to pounce on that player that usually puts up monster points. As with all of your picks, try to double-check close to kick-off and swap it out if necessary.

The Unpopular Kids

Some players are going to have high ownership every week. Tom Brady, Zeke, and Antonio Brown for example are probably not going to ever see ownership much below double digits. But players who have long been fantasy pariahs like Sam Bradford and Frank Gore or the lowly viewed Adam Humphries will off see very low ownership rates. So when they do have that great game they have every year, you will be among the select few with those points.

Week 1 Picks

In some ways, week 1 is the hardest week to pick as we have very little evidence on how many players will be used in their coach’s game plan. However, in some ways it is also the easiest as the sites don’t really know either so there are plenty of bargains to be had. Here are a few suggestions with the Draft King and FanDuel salaries in parenthesis. 

QB Cash Play: Drew Brees, Saints (DK $6800, FD  $8400)

So last year the Buccaneers were the 20th best defense. Do you have any reason to think their secondary is now better?

QB GPP Play: Sam Bradford, Cardinals (DK $5200, FD $6400)

Last year, the Washington Redskins were the 18th best defense. Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller were lost to free agency. Do you have any reason to think their secondary is now better?

RB Cash Play: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (DK $9300 FD $9100)

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The #1 pick this year vs. a Khalil Mack-less Raider defense? Yes, please

RB GPP Play: Carlos Hyde Cleveland Browns (DK $4500, FD $5900)

Hyde looked awesome this preseason, including a seven carry for 45 yard performance against the highly rated Eagles defense. Jump in on this huge contrarian play before people realize that the Steelers really haven’t found a way to replace Ryan Shazier.

WR Cash Play- Michael Thomas, Saints (DK $7200$7600 FD )

If Brees is the play, Thomas is a logical pairing.

WR GPP Play-Larry Fitzgerald (DK $6600, FD $7300)

If we are going with Bradford, we absolutely have to stack the Bridgestone spokesperson.

WR Cash Play #2-Doug Baldwin (DK $6200 FD $7500)

Baldwin is a better play on DraftKings, where he is priced outside of the top 10 WRs. But I am right there with Mike Tomlin and his bold prediction that Baldwin leads the league in touchdowns this year. I think he starts with Week 1.

WR GPP Play #2–Keelan Cole (DK $3800, FD $4500)

So the sights erred on the side of generating excitement versus accuracy and posted their salaries too soon. Whether you play GPP or cash game, you have to take advantage of the potential savings. And be aware that Dede Westbrook is an obvious and recommended pivot.

TE Cash Play-Rob Gronkowski (DK $6900, FD $7900)

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With all the uncertainty in week 1, why not go with the guy that topped all the preseason TE rankings? This game also has a very high o/u. In addition, Houston was the 6th most generous defense in giving up fantasy football points last year to the tight end. I don’t see that trend reversing in week 1.

TE GPP Play–Austin Seferian Jenkins (DK $3200, FD $4600)

Check the injuries report before selecting ASJ. However, Giants were the second most generous team against tight ends last year. It’s a gut call, but I like the chances of the Jags tossing a touchdown to a tight end this weekend.

FLEX

We are going to try something a little different this year as I provide one costly salary option and one cheap end option here.

High End Option–Keenan Allen (DK $7500, DK $8000)

This will be a popular play. But has the KC defense, with all of its defections this offseason, shown you anything this preseason? No, really, I want to know because I know nothing sticks in my mind.

Low End Option-James Conner (DK $5000, FD $4500)

The “no duh” option if Leveon Bell doesn’t play.

DST Cash Game and DST GPP Play: Baltimore Ravens (DK $3800, FD $4800) 

Some may be looking to save salary on defense. Not me. Baltimore is the play this week. I’m putting my money where my mouth is; I have more shares of the Baltimore defense than any other DFS selection this week.  

Mark Strausberg

Mark Strausberg

Mark Strausberg remembers making Jerry Rice his first round selection as well as taking a flyer on a young pitcher named Doug Drabek. His Fantasy analysis has spanned multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball, and even golf. A FSWA finalist, his fantasy analysis has been featured in various outlets including but not limited to SI.com, USA Today national magazines, Yahoo! and RotoExperts.
Mark Strausberg
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