The beginning of the 2019 NFL season is finally here and with it, expert picks and analysis from Collin Hulbert for your Week 1 DFS lineups.
Welcome back to NFL DFS season! I’ve been waiting a very long time to continue this weekly article and it’s finally here. All the nonsensical pre-season games and non-stop social media hype of certain players is now at an end. Thank God.
Last season, over the course of 17 weeks, our rosters averaged 133 points. The FanDuel average cash in 50/50 and head to head contests is around 120 points, so we managed 13 points higher over the course of the season. I put in a lot of research last season and committed a lot of effort to bring you the best picks each week. This season, I will be doing the same.
Take my picks for what they’re worth and over the course of the season, we should end up ahead of the average. If there’s a bad week, I will make adjustments. Don’t worry, I am not fixated on one formula. All that being said, I’m expecting big things this season and I can’t wait for this weekend.
What to expect in Week 1
Week 1 is already underway. I originally contemplated releasing this article including the Thursday night game, but due to the contest rigidity for Thursday games, I opted to wait. Many of the Thursday to Monday contest types don’t fill the minimum quotas, so it’s better to go with the Sunday slates.
As for Thursday’s game, I didn’t feel very strongly about any of the matchups. I liked the idea of Allen Robinson and David Montgomery, but I still haven’t seen enough from the Bears to give me confidence in them on a week by week basis, which is why I picked their players so rarely last season.
As for the other games, there are a few ripe for DFS potential. I’m looking at the total points line for the 49ers/Bucs game (50.5 over/under). The Lions/Cardinals game (47 over/under) is another intriguing one. I think both teams will eventually get into an offensive rhythm, since neither defense is very good, though I also believe the Lions defense are primed for a few big plays in this one, facing a rookie quarterback. The third prime game here is Falcons/Vikings (48 over/under). There are some serious imbalances in matchups primed for exploitation. The Falcons have glaring holes on defense. Adam Thielen is nearly impossible to blanket, and Dalvin Cook is healthy and facing a questionable rush defense. The Falcons should be able to move the ball and keep up in this matchup. I like the Vikings weapons here.
Cheers to a great start in 2019.
Matt Stafford (DK-$5,400/FD-$6,600)
Matt Stafford is a “Known Commodity” facing an weakened secondary in the Arizona Cardinals. Though the Cardinals were ranked dead last against the run last season and 4th against the pass, it was more of an indictment against them being just so bad, opposing teams would get a lead and run the ball to minimize risk. The Cards rush defense was so awful that teams were able to just continue rushing the ball the entire game. Quarterbacks didn’t have to do much against the Cardinals last season, which is why the Cards ranked so high against QBs.
For this game, I expect the Cards will be able to more the ball and score against the Lions. I also realize the Cards know the Lions want to establish the run, so their primary focus will be stopping the run and the Lions receivers have some absolutely stellar matchups on the other side. Stafford is talented enough to take advantage of bad matchups. He will have an efficient game, but I’m not sure he’s going to have the volume like some other guys will.
Jameis Winston (DK-$6,600/FD-$7,500)
Speaking of volume, Jameis is my second-favorite play this week (Lamar Jackson is my favorite). Jameis, last season, would have been the #2 QB in fantasy last year if you combined his and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s production, so there’s a passing ceiling here most people don’t even realize exists. The 49ers ranked 21st against opposing DFS QBs in 2018, which is almost impressive given how many games they lost.
The 49ers offense was relatively productive, despite lacking receiving weapons outside of George Kittle and being in a negative game script through most of their matchups. The 49ers were still potent enough on offense to incentivize opposing teams to continue to pass, even late in games. Winston was a wrecking ball in matchups against bad passing defenses last year, so opting with Winston and stacking him with Evans or Godwin seems like an obvious winning combo here.
Lamar Jackson (DK-$6,000/FD-$7,400)
Lamar Jackson was exposed in the Wildcard matchup with the Chargers. That blueprint is out there, but the Ravens are not a poorly run franchise. They will be planning around his strengths and limiting his potential to be exposed (unlike the Bears with Mitch Trubisky). The first game is lining up beautifully and this is exactly why you want — a quarterback who brings a dual-threat ability into a game like this.
The Dolphins were the 29th ranked defense in 2018 and they just traded away their best young offensive lineman (Tunsil) and best receiver (Stills) just days ahead of the season. It’s clear they’re not trying to actually compete this year, so get in on the slaughter before it begins. Also, look to stack Mark Andrews with Jackson at a big discount.
Dalvin Cook (DK-$6,000/FD-$7,400)
Dalvin Cook is healthy. Traditionally, when Dalvin Cook is healthy, you play him. In 2018, when Cook was in games he avoided tacklers better than anyone else, at a rate of .27 missed tackles per touch. Cook will be facing the 25th ranked rushing defense from 2018 in the Atlanta Falcons. This has all the makings of a week winning performance and I want all the shares of Cook I can get. I will start him in multiple lineups this week.
Leonard Fournette (DK-$6,100/FD-$7,200)
Fournette, like Cook, is the kind of player you’re going to want to start when healthy in 2019. Fournette will enter his third season with a new quarterback, Nick Foles. Unlike Blake Bortles, Foles can make touch passes and go through read progressions like a quarterback should be able to. Fournette will be facing the Chiefs rush defense, which ranked 27th last season. If there is ever a time to start Fournette, it’s in a game where he’s healthy and the defense can’t commit to having eight men in the box to stop him because the QB is an actual threat. That and the Chiefs pass defense is actually worse than their rush defense.
Christian McCaffrey (DK-$8,800/FD-$8,900)
McCaffrey isn’t my favorite pick this week, but the Rams weren’t very good at stopping the run in 2018. They were 23rd against opposing running backs and McCaffrey will not have the prospect of facing Ndamukong Suh up the middle, as Suh has moved on to Tampa. With the Rams defensive prospects not looking so promising in 2019 and the Panthers getting re-acclimated to having Cam Newton in the offense, McCaffrey should see a heightened workload this week and should also have at least a moderate rate of success.
Adam Thielen (DK-$6,800/FD-$7,400)
We already discussed the Falcons and their poor rush defense earlier. Their passing defense is even worse (27th). Thielen will have a great cornerback matchup throughout the contest, wherever he aligns himself. Kirk Cousins won’t be under as much duress as he normally would be, given that the Falcons lack a consistent pass rush. Their positive turnover margin (+1) indicates they might even be worse on defense than they were a season ago. I love Thielen in this one.
Marvin Jones Jr (DK-$4,800/FD-$6,100)
Marvin Jones carries immense value in this matchup. For starters, he’s going to have very soft matchups outside, all day. Second, Jones is being undervalued because he only had part of a healthy season last year on his resume. We haven’t seen him in action for so long, it’s reasonable to price him so low. The great part here is, Jones can be one of those guys who can have a monster game in the right scenario and this game has all the ingredients to make that a reality.
Mike Evans (DK-$7,900/FD-$7,900)
Stacking is always fun, especially when you get that connection for a touchdown and see your points total jump through the roof. Mike Evans has the talent, ability, and opportunity in this game to completely dominate. Much like Thielen and Marvin Jones, all the ingredients are here for Evans as well. This game could potentially turn into a shootout, but the ineffectiveness of the Tampa running game is enough reason to put faith in the likelihood they continue to pass the ball throughout the game, regardless of game script.
George Kittle (DK-$6,600/FD-$7,300)
Kittle broke the tight end receiving record in 2018 and did so using three different quarterbacks. None of these quarterbacks performed very well either. Kittle’s production was a result of a lack of other receiving options, as well as negative game scripts and his immense athleticism at the position. With the receiving corps in question again in 2019, expect Jimmy Garoppolo to lean on Kittle throughout the game. There’s a good chance the 49ers will be in a shootout or negative game script here, so Kittle’s opportunity should be plentiful here.
Mark Andrews (DK-$3,000/FD-$5,400)
Mark Andrews didn’t get much for volume or opportunity in 2018, but when he got the opportunities, he cashed in. Andrews averaged a whopping 16.2 yards per reception in 2018 and had 28 first downs with only 34 total receptions. This season, there have been rumblings that Lamar Jackson will be attempting a lot more passes than he did a year ago. There’s also a strong chance that due to the offensive structure, Jackson should be targeting Andrews at a disproportionate rate. The Dolphins aren’t going to offer much in the way of resistance in this matchup (25th ranked pass defense).
Evan Engram (DK-$4,800/FD-$5,900)
Engram is one of the few healthy receiving options available for the Giants this week. Sterling Shephard (thumb injury) should be playing, but Engram is more of the X factor due to his size and speed combination. At the position, I like the value you can get for Engram here. The Cowboys gave up the 13th most fantasy points to tight ends in 2018 (875 yards and 7 TDs).
Eagles D (DK-$3,600/FD-$4,600)
The Eagles and their high-pressure defense is back in 2019. For now, they’re healthy. This unit is currently the #1 ranked pass rush, according to Pro Football Focus, for 2019. Despite concerns in the secondary, this unit will be facing the Redskins in their opener, thus alleviating all concerns you may have for their secondary, as Case Keenum will be behind center. Expect a few turnovers here but a few more sacks.
Lions D (DK-$2,900/FD-$4,100)
I’m opting with just two defenses this week since the options are both relatively inexpensive. If you want a third option, choosing the strong>Colts or Chargers at $4,000 and $3,600 will be a discounted shocker for all as I anticipate that game will be surprisingly low scoring.
The Lions, on the other hand, should be able to force some turnovers in this game. They have some defensive stars in the secondary and have occasionally flashed in other areas. I expect they will force turnovers early and have the Cardinals offense in a bit of a daze for a good portion of the game, but don’t be surprised if the Cardinals rally late for a few garbage scores.
Chris Carson (DK-$5,700/FD-$6,600)
Carson just has a great matchup here against the league’s fourth-worst rushing defense and last-ranked defense overall. The Seahawks have expressed their desire to force-feed Carson the ball in 2019, so I can see the Seahawks coming out and rushing early and often. This was much like what they did in 2018 when they were the league’s most run-heavy offense. Carson has a beautiful matchup here. He will pay off tenfold as he’s my start of the week this week, so you’d better buy your shares and start him in every format.
Chris Godwin (DK-$6,200/FD-$6,900)
Chris Godwin is being hyped as the next great thing in Tampa as some people have even made the joke, “Mike Evans is the best #2 receiver in the league”. It’s funny but many people believe Godwin’s ceiling is among the elite of the NFL. His prop line for yardage this season is a whopping 950 yards and 6.5 touchdowns. This firmly plants him in the argument as a top 20 fantasy and DFS receiver in 2019. This week should be cause for taking note of just what you can expect from him this opening weekend against a weak secondary.
Dede Westbrook (DK-$4,800/FD-$5,900)
Nick Foles really likes to target slot receivers. Dede Westbrook should be the go-to option for Foles in 2019 as he led the Jags in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns last season. He’s a low priced option, albeit not one I’m recommending with confidence. Alas, if you need a guy at a discount who could exploit a bad matchup and have a really solid output this week, look no further than a man who should get the lead target share against one of the weakest passing defenses in the NFL.
Collin is a former Army Intelligence and Logistics officer who got a little too into Football analysis. Since leaving the Army, he’s practically the Jack Ryan of football analysts. But he spends most of his days with his wife and two daughters, so he is clearly a better father than Jack Ryan.
Follow Collin on Twitter @CollinHulbert