News & Analysis

DFS: Week 1 Tournament Leverage Plays

Winning a DFS tournament while competing in a field of 100,000 entrants isn’t easy. The best way to tilt the odds in your favor is to play into the chaos of the NFL week — profit disproportionately when things don’t go as planned. 

Here are three ways to build that kind of leverage into your DFS lineups for Week 1.

Buy Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals

Early ownership projections show the Cardinals as an unpopular team to bet on in Week 1. They face the stout 49ers defense on the road this week, and maybe that’s what is scaring people off. However, their game has the fourth-highest total on the main slate at 47.5 and Kyler Murray played well against San Francisco last year. He earned his third-highest weekly grade (75.3) in their second matchup. Murray also scored over 20 fantasy points and finished as a top-10 quarterback in both meetings.

If Murray was able to hang with San Francisco last year, his new No. 1 receiver should propel this team to a competitive game and loads of fantasy points in their first contest of 2020. DeAndre Hopkins, whom the team acquired via a trade with the Houston Texans, earned a top-five grade (87.8) at receiver last year while leading the Texans with 104 catches for 1,165 receiving yards.

Most importantly, San Francisco’s offense should be able to keep the pace of this game cranked up. The 49ers offense graded as a top-five unit (83.8) last year and added a first-round receiver in Brandon Aiyuk to the mix. This game has a chance to be a tremendous shootout that goes overlooked and under-owned. On top of that, Murray is the No. 7 quarterback on DraftKings at just $6,400. It’s all systems go on the Cardinals stack this week.

Attack the Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks Differently

This game will end up as one of the most popular games this week. Any showdown of Russel Wilson and Matt Ryan deserves to be highly rostered. Chris Carson is the key to getting a different approach to this game. Carson missed the final regular-season game of 2019 and still finished 12th in red zone carries (39). Based on PFF’s expected touchdowns, Carson should have found paydirt 1.4 more times last year.

Carson also has a newfound receiving role. He caught 37 passes in 2019, 10 more than his previous two seasons (18 games) combined. If Carson lands in the end zone twice, he’ll break Seahawks stacks across the board.

Hayden Hurst is going to be the least-popular play on Atlanta and could make for a good run-back option on the Falcons. Hurst was brought in from Baltimore as the Austin Hooper replacement. If Hurst assumes a decent portion of his role, he’ll be free money at $4,300. Hooper led all Falcons with 18 red zone targets last year. Half of those came inside the 10-yard line. He did this while missing three games. A Carson/Hurst stack is the best way to get low-owned exposure to one of the most obvious games of the week. Their scores would come at the expense of the more popular plays like Seattle’s passing attack and Atlanta’s receivers.

One final galaxy brain way to attack this game is rolling with the Seattle defense. Touchdowns are what allows a defense to win tournaments, and those come from dropbacks that turn into sack-fumbles and interceptions. If Carson gives Seattle an early lead, Ryan will be throwing at a defense with Jamaal Adams and Quinton Dunbar 40 or more times. 

Get Weird at Running Back

Because Week 1 features a lot of value across the board, it’s going to be easy to find the $10,000 required to roster Christian McCaffrey. He’s set to be the highest-owned player on the slate, and that doesn’t even make him a bad play. That also means you’ll need to be more unique with your second running back and third if you choose to flex one. There are a few cheap options that should do the trick.

Sony Michel outlasted the Lamar Miller (released) signing and Damien Harris (IR) training camp buzz to be the clear lead-back in New England once again. With Harris out, the Patriots called up UDFA rookie J.J. Taylor and will also have Rex Burkhead in the fold. Burkhead has started eight games in three years with New England while Taylor, at 5-foot-6 and 185 pounds, profiles more like James White than a runner between the tackles. With a top-five rushing OL/DL Matchup in Miami, Michel has 100-yard and multi-touchdown upside.

Nick Chubb costs $6,500 on DraftKings. That’s within $1,000 of Alvin Kamara, Miles Sanders and a host of other backs that will be more popular. Chubb was the No. 1 graded runner (90.3) last year and the Browns doubled down on him in the offseason. They added Jedrick Wills Jr. with the No. 10 pick and spent $42 million on Jack Conklin. Their line looks like a top-10 unit at the least after these additions. Chubb’s lack of pass-catching upside makes him a risky play as Cleveland is projected to lose by over a touchdown to Baltimore. That risk is worth taking to get a player like Chubb at low ownership.

Kenyan Drake falls in the same price range as Chubb and is a viable stacking option with Murray. Drake didn’t grade as a special receiver last year (65.1), but most of his poor performances came in Miami. He finished with a 76.3 receiving grade with Arizona. That mark would have ranked No. 11 (min 30 attempts) last year. 

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