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FanDuel NFL Week 1 Picks, Sleepers and Strategies

The leaves are turning, the air is cooling, the pigskin is flying through the air and everyone and their mother is playing daily fantasy sports. Fanduel Week 1, that time when any and everyone can win big money before strategies become clear and performances become more predictable. NOW is the time to strike, and strike big.

But why, you may ask, should you listen to me, a fantasy baseball expert? Good question. And thank you for allowing me to brag. Yes, I have won a daily league, which brought home a cool $5,000 (right in time for Christmas too, so thank you Santa). And I have a great number of top 10 finishes, earning me a pretty little “highly-experienced” star next to my name. So you are in good hands my young grasshoppers. As for general strategy, always pick based off matchups; after all, its daily fantasy. Also, look at Vegas totals and line movements often. Those experts are brilliant and very accurate when it comes to game outcomes, so following the lines can help steer you where to look for the best potential daily fantasy performers. As a note, these picks are based on Sunday only leagues, so players on Thursday and Monday night will be ignored.

Quarterbacks

The Locks

  • Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders ($7,700) – Taking the quarterback of one of the two teams with the highest projected total this week (51 points) is a pretty safe place to start. Coming off a brilliant 2016 campaign derailed only by a horrific leg injury, Derek Carr should be back and as good as even with stud wide receiving duo Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Sure the Raiders made a sexy plunge and added smash mouth running back Marshawn Lynch to their potent arsenal, but do not be fooled by that signing. This is a pass first offense, and as a two point underdog I see Carr throwing early and often against a team that excelled last year against the run but finished near the bottom of the league against the pass.
  • Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins ($8,100) – I love Captain Kirk Cousins this year. On a prove it one year deal with no real reliable running back in sight (sorry, Robert Kelley), I see Cousins going (and throwing) for that monster pay day this year. With a versatile and dynamic crew behind him, look for Jordan ReedTerrell Pryor, and Jamison Crowder to create matchups nightmares for defensive coordinators all season long. In a tight “pickem” game Week 1 at home against a division rival, I am looking for Cousins to be at his best and to rely on their improved and fully healthy aerial attack.

Sleeper

  • Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals ($7,300) – Not really priced like a Fanduel sleeper, but why is no one talking about Carson Palmer this year? Sure he is old and injury prone. But the best fantasy player in the history of the universe resides on this team (how are you David Johnson, I will meet you again very soon), and the ageless Larry Fitzgerald and breakout candidate John Brown will be roaming free in secondaries all season long. With a high total, I could see this matchup turn into a scoring frenzy, and Palmer’s ownership should be relatively low.

Running Back

The Locks

  • David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals ($9,400) – No real shock here. David Johnson in a dome against one of the worst defenses in the league? Yes please, and twice on this Sunday (or three or four times depending on how many Fanduel teams I make). But this pick will not come cheap as Johnson is the highest priced player on the board. In the end it does not matter, as he is one of only a handful of players with limitless upside in a given week. Before his price skyrockets into the $10,000 range I will be riding him to glory.
  • Todd Gurley, RB, LA Rams ($7,300) – Todd Gurley?!?!?! A lock?!?! Ha, you must be joking! No I ain’t ladies and gentlemen. Gurley looks primed for a monstrous Week 1. The Colts are perennially known to struggle against running backs (we all remember Jonas Gray) and in a game where the Rams find themselves as small favorites, clock management and ball control will be the key to victory. Jared Goff has a new deep threat in Sammy Watkins, so lanes should be open all day for Gurley, who also possesses good hands and can help rack up solid receiving numbers. Also, with Andrew Luck officially sidelined for Week 1 and Scott Tolzien getting the nod, I expect the Rams to create turnovers and lead throughout this game, allowing for Gurley to bleed the clock away and rack up a great point total.

Sleeper

  • Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets ($6,300) – The Jets suck. Their offense sucks. Their defense sucks. They may not win a game this year. But someone has to run and catch the football for them, and that someone is Bilal Powell. We saw the amount of damage Powell could do as the focal point of the Jets offense at the end of last year, and I see the Jets employing the same strategy this year (i.e. feeding Powell until his legs and/or head fall off). Not many people will be buying into Powell this week (or this year because, well, the Jets). But don’t be surprised to see him rack up a ton of yardage in both the running and passing game.

Wide Receiver

The Locks

  • Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks ($7,500) – Doug Baldwin, how I love you so. I could write an entire article about how much I love Baldwin (I personally have him ranked in front of studs such as Amari CooperBrandin Cooks and Dez Bryant). Russell Wilson is fully healthy for this upcoming season and the Seattle Seahawks still lack a reliable running threat, so expect Wilson to throw, throw, throw in Green Bay, a game with the second highest projected total (50.5). As Wilson’s #1 and #2 receiving target, look for Russel to extend plays with his leg and Baldwin to improvise with him, leading to a potential massive day for this superstar in the making.
  • Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers ($9,100) – The Cleveland Browns were already going to struggle on defense this year, and then they released cornerback Joe Haden. So now who is going to “cover” Antonio Brown? No idea, maybe the Browns should host tryouts pregame. You can try and box him in, but good luck containing Le’Veon Bell and Martinis Bryant with that approach. Each one of these three fantasy studs could breakout Week 1, but I will stick with old reliable Antonio Brown who has torched the Browns in his career (43 catches for 636 yards and 4 scores in his last 5 games against the Browns). You’ll pay a high price, but with AB it is almost always worth it due to his high floor.
  • Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders ($7,600) – See Carr, Derek above. The Tennessee Titans field one of the worst secondaries in the game, and this game projects to be a shootout. Yes, I understand Amari Cooper can pull a Harry Houdini and disappear at times, but from all reports Cooper looks primed for a monster year. Cooper still profiles as one of the most dynamic and skilled wide receivers in the league and he plays with an all-world thrower on a team looking to score, and score often. Look for the Carr-Cooper connection to get off on the right foot this Week 1 as these two high-scoring offenses look to throw heavy blow after heavy blow.

Sleeper

  • Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears ($5,600) – Well, someone has to gain yardage for the Bears, right? Akin to Powell on the Jets, Kevin White is the only real receiving option for the Chicago Bears this year. With Cameron Meredith out for the season, White should operate as the clear-cut WR1 for the Bears, and any WR1 for any team, regardless, needs to be considered as serious factor for fantasy purposes. I do expect a few growing pains for White, but his volume should be very high this season. In a game where the Bears should be playing from behind, Mike Glennon will be looking White’s way early and often as they attempt to keep up with the Falcons fast-paced offense.

Tight End

The Locks

  • Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers ($6,600) – Ho hum, another year, another top 4 tight end finish for this fantasy football beast. Greg Olsen is as consistent as it comes at the tight end position for fantasy football purposes, catching 77+ balls for over 1,000 yards in each of his past 3 years. With Cam Newton‘s security blanket full healthy, Olsen should feast in a Week 1 mismatch against the San Fransisco 49ers.

Sleeper

  • Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,900) – Let me introduce you to my 2017 fantasy football tight end sleeper. Did I buy into the Zach Ertz phenomena his first year in the league? Of course, and I got burned for it. And I have correctly stayed off his bandwagon ever since, watching tearful managers draft him in the mid rounds only to see him produce inconsistent numbers. But THIS is the year I buy back in. And no, it is not because of Carson Wentz, who I actually do not like all that much for fantasy purposes. Rather, it is because the Eagles have next to no one else to throw the football to. Alston Jeffrey is a nice new weapon, but injuries and inconsistency have plagued his career. Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor? Yeah, no. Their third and fourth best receiver might be Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Take Ertz Week 1 and enjoy the output against a swiss cheese defense and an offense looking to keep up with the aforementioned Captain Kirk. He’s sooooo good, it Ertz (stuck the landing).

Kicker

The Locks

  • Dan Bailey, K, Dallas Cowboys ($4,900) – In what should be a close contest, field goals will be key in this division rivalry game Sunday night. And there are not many better in the game than Dan Bailey who, for his career, has made almost 90% of his kicks. He also has quite the boot, making nearly 70% of his kicks from 50+ yards out. He will get a boost if the NFL suspends Ezekiel Elliot for Week 1 as the Cowboys will struggle finding the end zone without him, settling for field goals instead.

Sleeper

  • Phil Dawson, K, Arizona Cardinals ($4,500) – In a dome and a high-scoring, closely-battled projected affair. And a leg that would make Cristiano Ronaldo cry. Phil Dawson checks all the marks you need for a cheap kicker. Plus with this veteran’s boot and sniper-like accuracy he will be able to quickly pile up a ton of points with 50 yard chips shots in Ford Field. Confidently fire him up at the lowest price Fanduel offers.

Defense

The Locks

  • Houston Texans DST ($5,100) – The Houston Texans DST faces off against the inept Blake Bortles led Jacksonville Jaguars Week 1, and that should only mean one thing for the Texans defense: a lot of fantasy points. Between Bortles inability to hit and open receiver and J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney’s ability to get after the quarterback, I expect the Jaguars to have problems putting together any offense. Also, this game features the lowest total on the board (39.5, the only game in the 30’s Week 1), so you have the Vegas thumbs’ up of approval.

Sleeper

  • Jacksonville Jaguars DST ($4,100) – Well if Vegas tells me this has the potential to be an ugly defensive battle, let’s fly with the other defense. The revamped Jacksonville Jaguars DST faces off against Tom Savage, and that is basically enough for me to buy in. Priced only at $4,100, the Jaguars look like they could be a steal. Unless Bortles throws multiple pick 6’s, in which case the Texans could score 30+ points.

And that’s a wrap for Fanduel Week 1 analysis. Remember to always look at the matchups and Vegas totals, which are always telling, and do not be afraid to admit they know more than you, because they usually do. Until next time, good luck and don’t forget to tip me 10% of your earnings. Thanks in advance.

To contact me with any questions or general fantasy football discussion, please email me at redsocker45@gmail.com or tweet me @AJGamballer.

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