What’s up Karma Nation! If you haven’t already, be sure to go checkout my game-by-game article which covers my thoughts on every player in my player pool for NFL DFS Week 1. Everyone that follows me knows that I focus a lot of my daily/weekly volume on cash games, and this will be the third season I’m covering the cash game article here for DFS Karma. I may end up splitting this article up some weeks into one separate one for FanDuel and one for DraftKings, but given that it’s Week 1 and it’s an anomaly, I will give my thoughts on each slate here in one article…let’s get it!
Carson Wentz- Wentz is currently my top overall Quarterback play on this slate for cash games, at home in the nuts spot against the Washington Redskins. Wentz has owned this Redskins team throughout his career, and has tossed nine touchdown passes against them in their last four meetings. The Eagles carry the second-highest implied team total on the slate at 27.5 points, and I don’t think that Quarterbacks “win” you a slate in cash games, so saving as much as possible at the position is normally my strategy. Despite his good matchup, and being a home favorite, Wentz is just the 12th highest-priced Quarterback on DraftKings.
Lamar Jackson- No Quarterback in football averaged more fantasy points per dropback in 2018 than Lamar Jackson, and he couldn’t be in a better first week matchup than the one he draws against the tanking Dolphins. Negative game-script could hinder him from a ceiling-type output, but his floor is so high due to his seemingly guaranteed rushing stats that it makes up for the potential blowout. I’m currently leaning towards Wentz on DraftKings, but they are close enough in price that Jackson is firmly on my radar and one of the best pivots at QB on Sunday.
Jameis Winston (FanDuel)- On FanDuel specifically, we can add Jameis Winston to the mix who is over $500 more than Jackson and Wentz on DraftKings, but just $100 more than Jackson and $100 less than Wentz on FanDuel. You’ll notice that there are many targets from this game below in this article, and that’s because it boasts a huge O/U in Vegas and features who extremely weak secondaries. I noted earlier this week that Winston topped 20 fantasy points in five of his last six games last season, and will benefit from the expected fast-paced game atmosphere. Since I won’t have much exposure to Winston on DraftKings, I don’t mind using him on FanDuel as a hedge.
Christian McCaffrey- We are always looking to spend up for the high-volume Running Backs in cash game builds, and this week my favorite is Christian McCaffrey at home against the Los Angeles Rams. This matchup is better than people realize, as the Rams ranked outside the top-25 in run-defense DVOA in 2018 and we know that he has a stable floor given his ability to catch the football — CMC saw five or more targets in every game except for one last season (not counting his limited Week 17). Much was made of the Panthers plans to “limit” McCaffrey’s usage this season, but those concerns were evaporated when the Panthers decided to keep just Reggie Bonnafon and Jordan Scarlett behind him on the final roster. In an expected shootout, CMC grabs my attention over fellow studs Saquon Barkley and Zeke Elliott.
Dalvin Cook- All hopes of Dalvin Cook not being the highest-owned Running Back on the slate were eliminated when he ripped off a monster 85 yard touchdown run in Week 3 of the preseason. Cook is set-up for a career season should he stay healthy in this new Gary Kubiak-run first Vikings offense. He also has one of the best matchups of the week against the Falcons who were one of the worst teams in the NFL in allowing opposing Running Back receptions again last season. All-in-all, play Cook in cash in Week 1, get weird in other spots.
Other Monsters in the Mid-Tier: With salaries being released so early, we are stuffed with value at the Running Back position which is part of why I don’t think it’s an absolute must that you spend up on a stud RB this week, contrary to the strategy we normally implement. Outside of Cook — all of Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Chris Carson line up in smash spots at home. I think you can easily pair Cook with two of those three, and I will provide my final analysis of this trio in my Final Thoughts cheat sheet that drops on Saturday morning.
Julio Jones- I’ll start out by saying I fully expect Julio Jones to play this weekend — see the red blurb below. I don’t expect anyone to have Julio in this position for cash games, and all signs point to Odell Beckham carrying the bulk of the ownership at the upper-tier of receiver on Sunday afternoon. I love Beckham, and I think he’s a great play, but I think the mixture of ownership and matchup makes Julio one of my favorite overall plays on this week’s main slate. Many will be off of Julio given his perceived tough matchup with Xavier Rhodes, who many don’t realize, graded out as one of the worst cover corners in the NFL last season per PFF. He also got routinely beat in the preseason, and I’m not fearful of one of the best receivers in football struggling in this matchup. Others will cite Rhodes positive historical splits against Jones, which I find funny. Obviously if Rhodes was once a top corner in football, he would have done well…we are taking advantage of the fact that he is no longer an elite corner, not what he did in 2016/2017. Indoors, where Matt Ryan is at his best, I see this as an absolute smash spot for Jones who’s a lock to come in under-owned after games lock.
Chris Godwin- Godwin is someone that has gained hype seemingly by the day since Bruce Arians took over as HC of this football team, and DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries departed. This hype resulted in Godwin being priced accordingly to start the season, but I also don’t think that price will keep his ownership down. This is one of the juiciest games on the main slate, and all signs point to Godwin assuming Larry Fitzgerald’s big slot role in this Arian’s offense — and Arians himself has already said he thinks Godwin can easily rack up 100 catches this season. Ability has never been the question for Godwin, it’s only been playing time, and his matchup couldn’t get any better than it does Week 1 as he matches up with one of the worst slot corners in the league, K’Waun Williams.
Tyler Lockett- Lockett is expected to take a massive leap in 2019 with Doug Baldwin out of Seattle, and he will be equally as high-owned as Godwin in the mid-tier. Like Godwin, Lockett will be taking over as the Seahawks primary slot receiver this season, which is good news for him considering he has graded out as one of the best receivers in the NFL in the slot over the past few seasons — Lockett hauled in five touchdowns from slot routes a season ago. He also has a supreme matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, and with the Seahawks carrying a huge 27 point implied team total at home, the sky is the limit for him and their offense in Week 1.
Curtis Samuel- If there’s one player in the NFL who received more hype than Chris Godwin this offseason, it was Curtis Samuel, and he will garner plenty of attention in Week 1 due to his price of just $5,900 on FanDuel and $4,200 on DraftKings. Samuel will be taking the leap to full-time receiver this season, and it’s important to remember that he saw a whopping 40 targets over the Panthers final five games a season ago. He’s a better route runner than most will realize, he’s electric in space, and this is another game that sets up well for a shootout given the quality of the Rams offense. This is the cheapest he will be probably for the rest of his career, and I expect the masses to take advantage of that, especially in cash games.
Note: I’m assuming that both Julio Jones and Stefon Diggs play, obviously if news breaks over the weekend or Sunday morning stating otherwise, that would drastically affect the slate and I will provide an update.
George Kittle- I expect most to have Travis Kelce in this spot, and rightfully so, but I never like to spend over $7,000 for a Tight End (in cash games) and Kittle provides what projects to be just as valuable of a workload for a few hundred dollars less, in one of the best games on the slate against the Buccaneers that currently sports a 51 O/U. Nobody on this 49ers team was able to pull away from the pack as the #1 receiving option this preseason, which means we should see a heavy dose of work headed Kittle’s way again, especially at the start of the season.
Evan Engram- Engram, for the price, is probably my favorite overall Tight End play on the main slate this weekend. Engram will be one of the main beneficiaries of the departure of Odell Beckham, he averaged over 10 fantasy points per game in the games missed by Beckham last season. He also excelled in this exact matchup with the Cowboys. scoring in each game with over 10 catches. He’s priced in the middle of Kittle and Henry, and I’m hoping that I can fit his price tag in on Sunday.
Hunter Henry- Henry actually figures to be the chalkiest option at this position given his price tag on both sites, but I personally don’t think he’s a must play given the above options. The Colts ranked dead-last in the NFL in 2018 in fantasy points allowed to Tight Ends, and their zone-heavy defensive scheme suggests that the middle of the field should be open for business for opposing offenses again this season. Henry missed all of last season after tearing his ACL, but was actually able to return in a limited role for the Chargers playoff run and he should be fully healthy after a full offseason of work. One of the most dynamic Tight Ends in football, Henry won’t be this cheap for long.
Written by Ben Hossler (Follow @BenHossler on Twitter)