Welcome in to a new year of Ben’s NFL DFS Building Blocks for DraftKings and FanDuel! In this article, I will highlight my favorite NFL DFS plays at each position for small-field tournament formats. If you’re interested in signing up for premium access, which grants you Core Plays for every slate, projections, Final Thoughts player pool + expert picks and our premium Discord click HERE. You can also sign up for our plethora of AI-driven sports betting tools and access to my weekly betting card by clicking HERE. Let’s get into the plays…
It was an amazing start to the NFL season with my premium Core Plays taking down tournaments on the first slate of the season!
Welcome in to the 2023 edition of Ben’s Building Blocks! This season, this article will look a bit different in years past. I no longer will be providing my player pool here — that player pool along with my expert grades for each player is available as a part of our premium DFS package. Instead, I will be highlighting my favorite plays and where I’m looking to build my lineups for higher dollar, smaller field GPPs. As the DFS landscape changes yearly, these are the contests I find myself playing more heavily now than even. Even more so than cash games on a lot of slates. With that being said, let’s dive into the QB position.
QB is pretty clear in Week 1 and like usual, the ownership is never going to get too crazy here. Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson will garner attention for people looking to spend-up, while Anthony Richardson and Sam Howell look like popular cheap plays for cash games. I will likely roster one of those guys on my cash game build, but won’t be invested in them for small or large-field GPPs.
My favorite QB this week is Geno Smith. Smith is listed as a 5 point home favorite, and I want to take advantage early of how bad this Los Angeles Rams defense is. They’re going to be one of the worst units in football this season, and I’m not sure people have fully adjusted to that based off name-brand value alone. Seattle was much more pass-happy last season than when Wilson was at the helm, and their decision to draft Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round forecasts that a pass-heavy approach looms again in 2023. Smith ranked top-eight in fantasy points per game last season, and this is one of the best match-ups he will see all season. They have 0 experience or quality players on defense outside of Aaron Donald and will be starting some very burnable corners. On top of my love for Geno, with Cooper Kupp out it’s very easy to stack this game cheaply and get premium ceiling pieces from other elite scoring environments on the slate.
Outside of Geno, there are a few QB’s I think are also very strong plays this weekend. Most users will be focused on Justin Herbert or Tua in the “game of the week”. I think those guys are fine plays, especially Herbert who I have a bet on for MVP at 12/1. I actually prefer Deshaun Watson and Justin Fields, however, for DFS this weekend.
Watson is in one of the premier games of the weekend — CIN/CLE features a 47.5 O/U — higher than every total minus LAC/MIA. We can take advantage of people being scared off his performance last season. If we are right and he’s closer to the 2020 version of himself, we will gain a massive edge on the field in what could be a shootout. Fields is in a much worse game environment, but is projected for little ownership despite a slate-breaking ceiling with his legs. Fields ran for 80+ yards six times last season, including three games over 100 rushing yards. Anything he adds passing is a bonus, and he now has a premier target in DJ Moore. Moore would be my stack choice, but I don’t think Fields needs to be stacked especially in small-field tournaments. Their offensive line is already banged up, and I think we will see him running quite a bit on Sunday afternoon.
Of those chalkier guys, Howell would be the one I would consider in small-field due to his price and sneaky rushing ability.
2023 Week 1 profiles very similarly to what we saw in 2022. The mid-range is going to dominate projected ownership, while pricing isn’t adjusted and users choose to force in expensive receiving options. All of the highest projected owned running backs are between $5,000 and $7,000 on Draftkings: Jamaal Williams, Raheem Mostert, Kenneth Walker and Joe Mixon. The lone exception is Austin Ekeler – who is playing in the highest total game on the main slate.
I’ll be approaching small-field looking to stay in the mid-tier but pivot off the higher-owned options. Jamaal Williams, Raheem Mostert and Joe Mixon are not typically players I like to be overweight on as chalk — especially Williams who offers a limited ceiling in a pass-funnel match-up against Tennessee.
Of all the higher-owned options – Walker is the one I am most likely to play based off his match-up against the Rams and due to him being a natural hedge off of my Geno lineup.
I’m curious to see what happens with Aaron Jones ownership. I was somewhat interested in him – playing the angle of a run-heavy approach from GB and hoping for him to pick up several passes from Jordan Love. He definitely gets a boost with Christian Watson now out and he checks into my short-list of guys I’m considering. There is a chance he leads the team in targets with Watson out, which would be especially valuable on a full-PPR site like DraftKings.
I also like Rachaad White in the mid-$5K tier in a game that I think will be a shootout and that the Buccaneers can win. You’ll find no bigger Sean Tucker fan than me, but I don’t think his role will be heavy to begin the season. White is a capable pass-catcher who caught 50 balls as a rookie playing behind Leonard Fournette. Bucs starter Baker Mayfield led the NFL in check down % last season and I believe this Vikings defense to be vulnerable. White is the best bet for goal-line work as well, and I think he could really pop off for his salary.
White’s opponent, Alexander Mattison, is a viable play as well as a home favorite locked into a three-down role. I actually prefer JK Dobbins in that $6K tier, however, in his match-up against the Texans. Baltimore are massive home favorites against what was the worst run defense in football a season ago. Dobbins is fully healthy for what seems like the first time in forever, and should be more involved catching passes under new OC Todd Monken.
I’ll likely be skipping the high-dollar RB’s this week. De’Von Achane and Evan Hull are viable as larger-field GPP punts, as well.
If I were to spend-up on one RB, it would be Nick Chubb in tournaments.
Due to the pricing, we are seeing very stars/scrubs build paths dominate in Week 1 which is going to force a lot of ownership onto the top guys in Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams. I don’t need to dive into why those guys are strong plays, they’re viable in all formats and can be used as one-offs or in stacks/mini-stacks. We also have a plethora of cheap options– with Marvin Mims, Tutu Atwell and Jayden Reed ALL in play at the minimum price of $3,000 on DraftKings.
In the mid-tier — both Calvin Ridley and Courtland Sutton (assuming Jeudy out) are popping for heavy-ownership as well.
Everyone listed above is a good play, but I’m finding myself lower on a lot of them than the field. I’m not going to write up everyone, but simply focus on the guys I really feel convicted on this week…Chris Olave and Jaylen Waddle.
Olave sets up in a clear pass-funnel spot — and should benefit from improved QB play with Derek Carr in town. Tennessee allowed the most passing yards in the NFL last season, while Olave ranked top-five in Air Yards % as a rookie. Olave can have a Davante Adams-like season in this offense and I want to capitalize on him early, especially at middling ownership.
Waddle presents a great pivot off Tyreek Hill, and is off the injury report heading into the weekend. With Terron Armstead out for Miami, we could see even more quick looks for Waddle.
Both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are strong plays in stacks or mini-stacks. Allen should once again be a target vacuum for Justin Herbert while Mike Williams will get a boost from Kellen Moore’s offense being more aggressive with downfield throws. Our NFL analyst Matt Domsic highlighted Williams success against Xavien Howard in the meeting between these two teams last season. Williams absolutely ate Howard up, and is priced at a salary he can absolutely destroy.
In my Geno Smith stacks, I want to take a stand and buy into Jaxon Smith-Njigba early. I’m a firm believer in JSN, and if he has a big Week 1 we will never get his little ownership on him. He is not even listed as questionable, and should be a full-go on Sunday. If JSN is too risky, I would lean Lockett — a historical Rams killer — over Metcalf in my Smith stacks.
I’m bullish on a big season from Chris Godwin — and he can be used in a stack of that game or mini with either Alexander Mattison or Justin Jefferson.
Other guys I’m higher on than the field this week are Brandon Aiyuk and Elijah Moore. Aiyuk has historically shredded man-coverage — while Pittsburgh plays man at a top-six rate. Moore is stepping into a new role for the Browns, and could see manufactured touches in an expected shootout.
Tight End is worse than usual in Week 1 with no Travis Kelce on the slate and both George Kittle/Mark Andrews dealing with their own health issues as well.
My favorite play on the board is Tyler Higbee, and I actually think he will be much lower owned than he usually would be with Cooper Kupp out – due to his price tag of nearly $5K on DK. Not only does he work as a run-back for my favorite QB, but the spot really couldn’t get better. Seattle ranked bottom-three in fantasy points allowed to TEs last season – while the Rams are installed as 5 points dogs here and should be throwing. In games without Kupp, Higbee averaged a healthy 25% target-share and hogged nearly half of the Rams red-zone targets. He is an easy bet to lead Los Angeles in targets on Sunday and he’s my favorite bring back for my Seattle stack.
Outside of Higbee, it looks like the cheapies in Luke Musgrave, Hayden Hurst and even Chig Okonkwo will draw the majority of ownership. My favorite cheap pivot is Cole Turner in a stack with Sam Howell. Turner is an athletic freak and I think that Eric Bieniemy will force him onto the field. Logan Thomas will be active and start this game, but he missed all of training camp while Cole Turner built his rapport with Howell. He is projecting for 1% ownership on this slate and allows you to spend just $6,400 total in salary on your QB/TE combo.
Written by Ben Hossler (Follow @BenHossler on Twitter)