The NFL Week 1 DFS salaries are up at DraftKings, well in advance of the first NFL Sunday of the 2019 season. We’ve known the matchups since the schedule was released April 17, but plenty has changed across the league since then.
Training camp battles and injuries can overhaul depth charts around the league, making inexpensive players in July hot commodities come early September. Of course, ownership is more of a concern in Week 1 than any other time of the NFL season, as the entire fantasy community has had ample time to analyze, discuss, promote, and scrutinize the same players.
Additionally, basing matchup analysis on last year’s defensive numbers can be a grave error for fantasy roster managers. Coaching changes, rookies, free-agent additions/departures, and injuries can make impacts we can’t foresee until real NFL teams actually hit the field. Again, be careful to avoid hype trains led by coachspeak, small sample sizes, and public opinion.
It can be a good idea to play it safe and stick to cash games in Week 1. Ownership is less of a concern, and there’s no need to invest in an undrafted rookie who broke a 40-yard touchdown in the second game of the preseason while hoping for a breakout performance. But in the spirit of larger returns and stiffer competition, we’ll focus on GPP tournaments in our first-look breakdown of each DFS position.
The main slate excludes the Thursday night season opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, as well as Sunday Night Football between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. The MNF doubleheader featuring the Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders is also excluded from the main slate.
NFL Week 1 DFS first look: Quarterback
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes ($7,200)—the 2018 MVP—is rightfully the position’s highest-priced option. A road matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ still-formidable defense and a $500 jump from the No. 2 option (Andrew Luck, $6,700) may help deter ownership, but his upside is likely to be capped. CB Jalen Ramsey, DE Calais Campbell and LB Myles Jack front the talented unit trying to tame the MVP. The Jags tied for third with 53 sacks last season.
The opening-week hype may be too much for Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield ($6,400) who can be expected to be among Week 1’s highest-owned players. The sophomore is the fifth-most expensive QB option in a difficult, but home matchup against a Tennessee Titans defense which defended the pass well last season.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ($4,900) will enter the year as one of the cheapest starting options (expected backup Josh Rosen is $200 cheaper). He’ll face an overhauled Baltimore Ravens defense expected to feature four free-agent starters. San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,800) is modestly priced in his projected return from a torn ACL. He gets a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team which allowed more average fantasy points to QBs than all but three teams in 2018. Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins ($5,500) is extremely underpriced against one of 2018’s worst pass defenses of the Atlanta Falcons.
What to watch for
The only position battles around the league are expected to be in Miami and Washington, where rookie Dwayne Haskins competes with veteran addition Case Keenum ($4,900) for early-season playing time. Fitzpatrick and Keenum are expected to win the Week 1 jobs but poor preseasons could clear the way for the youth movements. Eli Manning ($5,000) has already been named the starter for the New York Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton ($5,000), already one of the cheapest (and least appealing) options on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, is expected to be without No. 1 receiver A.J. Green. Manning could also be without several of his best options as Golden Tate faces suspension and Sterling Shepard suffered a training camp injury.
NFL Week 1 DFS first look: Running back
The search for three-down backs is likely to lead many to Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook ($6,000) in an excellent matchup against the Falcons. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette ($6,100) is also an intriguing option with little competition in the backfield. Joe Mixon ($6,700) will have his upside limited without Green helping to draw off the Seahawks’ defense. Chris Carson ($5,700) and Rashaad Penny ($4,900) could get plenty of work for Seattle in a blowout.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard ($4,200) is getting plenty of work in camp and opens the season against a Redskins team expected to trail by large amounts from the get-go. Redskins RB Chris Thompson ($3,500) could excel on the flip side against an Eagles team which allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game to opposing running backs.
What to watch for
Several top RB options could be holding out early in the season. Absences of Ezekiel Elliott ($9,200) and Melvin Gordon ($7,500) would open doors for Tony Pollard ($4,500), and the duo of Austin Ekeler ($5,500) and Justin Jackson ($4,000), respectively. Likewise, injuries to Damien Williams ($6,300) and Derrick Henry ($5,900) could allow for extra work for Carlos Hyde ($4,100) and Dion Lewis ($4,700).
Le’Veon Bell ($7,100) is a risky Week 1 option with a high price tag following the offseason reports of new head coach Adam Gase being against the free-agent signing. Rams RB Darrell Henderson ($4,800) is the top-priced rookie back on Sunday’s slate with the chance for a large role alongside Todd Gurley ($7,900). Buffalo Bills rookie Devin Singletary ($3,600) is a name to watch through preseason with a chance for significant work behind veteran LeSean McCoy ($4,600) against the rival New York Jets.
NFL Week 1 DFS first look: Wide receiver
As with Mahomes, Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill ($7,600) seems overpriced in a road matchup against a Jacksonville team determined to prove 2018 – not 2017 – was the fluke season. Julio Jones ($8,000) is in a tough road matchup of his own against the Vikings’ secondary, but he’s already boldly claimed he “might mess around” and go for 3,000 yards in 2019. Rams WR Cooper Kupp ($5,700) returns from injury in Week 1 and faces a Panthers team which struggled against tertiary receivers last season. Brandin Cooks ($6,500) and Robert Woods ($6,400) will continue drawing the attention of defenses and fantasy roster managers.
Jarvis Landry ($5,600) could be a sneaky ownership pivot with managers locked in on Odell Beckham Jr. ($8,100). Beckham has a higher potential, but Landry will benefit from the PPR scoring. Jags WR Dede Westbrook ($4,800) has been impressing in training camp and could benefit from the potential shootout against the Chiefs.
Mecole Hardman ($4,100) and D.K. Metcalf ($4,000) are two of the most expensive rookies. The value is on 49ers WR Deebo Samuel ($4,000) in the plush matchup against the Bucs, and Marquise Brown ($3,800) as the potential No. 1 option for the Ravens.
What to watch for
Third-round rookie Miles Boykin ($3,000) has drawn praise in Baltimore, being compared to Michael Thomas by teammate Willie Snead. He could quickly climb the depth chart through the preseason. Green isn’t the only injured receiver in Cincinnati. Cody Core ($3,000) could be worth a look following a couple noteworthy games to end 2018. Hold off on DeSean Jackson ($4,500) in his return to Philly. His best games last season were a result of the Buccaneers trailing by large amounts –something the Eagles won’t do in the season opener against the Redskins.
Cody Latimer ($3,300) and Russell Shepard ($3,000) are currently the only two of the Giants’ top five receivers not dealing with injury or suspension. The Giants’ passing game is likely better off avoided altogether, regardless of who’s active. The Arizona Cardinals will be interesting this preseason in order to monitor which young receiver emerges behind Larry Fitzgerald ($4,900) to form chemistry with rookie QB Kyler Murray ($5,600). Christian Kirk ($4,700) and Andy Isabella ($3,400) could both be worthy of tournament play.
NFL Week 1 DFS first look: Tight end
Eyes are likely to be on Zach Ertz ($6,100, TE3) in Philadelphia, but Dallas Goedert ($2,900) could also get enough work and can more easily outperform his salary. Avoid 2018 breakout star Eric Ebron ($4,100) who’s headed for major touchdown regression from last season and opens against a Chargers defense which did well against tight ends and in the red zone last year. Browns TE David Njoku ($3,700) is another good pivot away from Beckham who still offers exposure to Mayfield.
Tyler Eifert ($3,100) should enter the season at full health and could see plenty of work with Green sidelined. He has been elite when (rarely) healthy in the past. Sophomore Mike Gesicki ($3,000) has little competition in the Dolphins pass-catching corps and could prove to be Fitzpatrick/Rosen’s safest option in the middle of the field.
What to watch for
Jets TE Ryan Griffin ($2,700) looks like a good punt play following the season-opening suspension to Chris Herndon. Watch for Seahawks TE Will Dissly ($2,900). He was one of the early surprises of 2018 before suffering a season-ending knee injury after just four games. He’ll have added work following the suggested retirement of Doug Baldwin. Monitor the Ravens’ preseason snap counts. Mark Andrews ($3,000) and Hayden Hurst ($2,700) could both have upside in QB Lamar Jackson‘s ($6,000) offense.
NFL Week 1 DFS first look: Defense
As mentioned above, the Ravens have a vastly different defense taking the field in Week 1. It’s the top-priced defensive unit at $3,800 while on the road and is best avoided. The Eagles ($3,600) are somehow cheaper while at home against the lowly Redskins. Ownership will be high, but it’s worth it for a double-digit score from a defense.
The Dolphins ($2,100) were a punching bag in 2018, but they’re a good contrarian punt play as Jackson works with a slew of new receivers and wasn’t lighting it up threw the air last season. The Panthers ($2,100) are discounted despite some key free-agent additions. They’ll be the litmus test for Gurley’s health to begin the year.
What to watch for
Falcons ($2,400) head coach Dan Quinn took control of the defense this year. He’ll have a healthy S Keanu Neal and LB Deion Jones to begin the season and should improve on last year’s dismal numbers. The 49ers ($2,200) are another road team in Week 1, but the Bucs are worth picking against until new head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles prove they’ve patched up one of 2018’s worst units.