DFS players around the world cherish the opportunity to win copious amounts of money every Sunday. Taking down the DraftKings Millionaire contest, or any other massive tournament for that matter, would objectively be awesome.
One must be bold in order to win a large-scale DFS tournament. Fading a chalky stud who busts in favor of an under-the-radar talent who goes off can be the difference between finishing in the middle of the pack and making a push at a top spot.
I like to call these under-the-radar selections “helicopter picks.” The criteria for inclusion is as follows:
- Player pool is restricted to Sunday main slate contests (doesn’t include night games).
- Cannot be among top-five highest-priced players at position.
- Cannot have a projected ownership over 5% on DraftKings.
- Prediction for RB/WR/TE must be at least 100 total yards and two scores; QB is 300 total yards and four scores.
We’re looking for undervalued studs with sky-high upside. What follows is a breakdown on my five finalists for the Week 1 helicopter play of the week listed in no particular order. I’ll drop down to name the winner via Twitter shortly after midnight on Saturday.
Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs ($6,400 on DraftKings, 4.6% projected ownership)
Don’t let the nation’s general distrust in Josh Allen distract you from the reality that Diggs remains one of the game’s best talents at the WR position. We just saw his best season yet from an efficiency perspective, as the ex-Vikings’ stud receiver and A.J. Brown were the only players to average at least 12 yards per target in 2019.
Only Michael Thomas (seven) and Chris Godwin (six) had more games with at least 120 receiving yards than Diggs (four) last season. PFF’s premiere field-stretching talent from 2019 enters an incredibly prime matchup against PFF’s single-worst ranked secondary. The Jets are expected to guard Diggs with an underwhelming mix of Pierre Desir, Blessuan Austin and Brian Poole.
I get it: Allen’s deep-ball accuracy comes and goes. Keep an eye on the weather, particularly the wind, before overexposing yourself to the Bills’ fantasy options.
Still, the Bills’ much-maligned QB hasn’t exactly had a problem enabling some big fantasy performances from his receivers over the past two seasons:
- John Brown: 9 receptions-137 yards-2 TD, 7-123-1, 7-99-0, 5-83-1
- Cole Beasley: 6-110-1, 7-108-0, 6-76-1
- Robert Foster: 4-108-1, 7-104-0, 2-94-1
- Zay Jones: 6-93-2, 4-67-2, 5-67-1
- Duke Williams: 6-108-0
I love Smokey Brown as much as the next fantasy analyst that seldomly engages in social activities. Still, Diggs is objectively the best WR to ever play with Allen. He’s facing off against one of the league’s worst secondaries. It's a crowded pack among WRs in the lower-$6,000 range, and Diggs is expected to be less chalky than his pricing neighbors Tyler Lockett ($6,500) and Keenan Allen ($6,400). I don’t hate the thought of stacking both Diggs and Brown with Allen, but it’s Diggs in particular that deserves the most exposure in this smash spot.
Check out my Week 1 WR/CB matchups breakdown for thoughts on the best and worst matchups on the outside around the league.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR D.J. Chark ($6,300 on DraftKings, 3.2% projected ownership)
Chark has already provided a helicopter-worthy performance against the Colts during his short career, catching 8-of-15 targets for 104 yards and a pair of scores in Week 11 of last season. Yes, that was with Nick Foles under center, but the Jaguars' talented rising third-year receiver managed to pop off for a similarly-huge 4-146-1 and 8-164-2 performances against the Chiefs and Panthers, respectively, with Gardner Minshew taking the offense’s majority of snaps under center.
Chark is the undisputed No. 1 pass-game target in this offense and is #good at what he does.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 8, 2020
PFF’s 26th-ranked secondary doesn't boast anyone's idea of a lock-down corner between Xavier Rhodes, Rock Ya-Sin and Kenny Moore. Only the Browns (+8) are larger underdogs than the Jaguars (+7.5) on Sunday’s main slate; expect Minshew and company to have to throw often in order to keep up.
Rostering players in potentially awful offenses doesn’t feel good, but Minshew and Chark have the potential to serve as the 2020 version of 2019 Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker: High-upside fantasy options on mostly otherwise miserable teams. Don’t be afraid to roll the dice on the Jaguars’ alpha receiver in this plus matchup.
Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley ($6,100 on DraftKings, 4.7% projected ownership)
I hadn’t thought much about Gurley this week until PFF Projection Master Kevin Cole talked about his plus spot on the Thursday episode of the PFF Fantasy Football Podcast.
I’ve questioned throughout the offseason whether or not Gurley will even see a real three-down role with the Falcons. Injury concern aside, Devonta Freeman played at least 60% of the offense’s snaps in just 14 of 36 games (39%) with Coleman and/or Smith healthy compared to 13 of 15 games (87%) with the Falcons’ backup RB injured.
Of course, Freeman and Coleman alike still managed to put together plenty of impressive performances over the years despite the lack of a true workhorse role. Gurley’s Week 1 spot might just be exactly what he needs in order to pop off in his debut when we take a look at the potential for this game to turn into a shootout:
- Seahawks-Falcons joins Texans-Chiefs as the week's only matchups featuring two offenses with positive combined EPA. Check out my Week 1 Mismatch Manifesto for more matchup-specific stats from around the league.
- The Seahawks-Falcons' game total of 49 points is the highest mark in Sunday's main slate.
- The presence of two high-end veteran QBs theoretically lends itself better to a high-scoring game in an offseason that has been short on in-person practices.
The Seahawks added S Jamal Adams and CB Quinton Dunbar to their secondary, but didn’t exactly find a true replacement for DE Jadeveon Clowney. Getting past LBs K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner is never easy, although it’s safe to say the Seahawks’ front-seven is a bit weaker than their secondary these days.
I’d be surprised if the Falcons’ various backup RBs don’t combine for close to 10 touches. Still, Gurley is seemingly in line for at least 15 touches himself in one of the week’s highest-projected games. His reasonable price tag is enhanced by the reality that most of the ownership at the RB position in the sub-$7,000 range will likely be focused on the likes of Josh Jacobs ($6,800), Miles Sanders ($6,300) and Chris Carson ($6,200).
Arizona Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake ($6,400 on DraftKings, 2.9% projected ownership)
Walking boot-gate caused many prospective fantasy investors of Drake to take a step back and wonder how ready he was for Week 1. Well, the Cardinals’ featured RB is apparently feeling just fine, as Drake wasn’t even listed on the team’s injury report to start the week.
This was a one-RB backfield in 2019, regardless of who the starter happened to be:
- Week 1: David Johnson (86% snaps)
- Week 2: Johnson (60%)
- Week 3: Johnson (87%)
- Week 4: Johnson (86%)
- Week 5: Johnson (69%)
- Week 6: Johnson (75% – injured)
- Week 7: Edmonds (94%)
- Week 8: Edmonds (61% – injured)
- Week 9: Drake (84%)
- Week 10: Drake (64%)
- Week 11: Drake (90%)
- Week 12: Bye
- Week 13: Drake (79%)
- Week 14: Drake (66%)
- Week 15: Drake (75%)
- Week 16: Drake (81%)
- Week 17: Drake (96%)
Check out my Week 1 RB committee breakdown for thoughts on the projected backfield splits around the league.
Overall, Drake worked as the PPR RB4 during Weeks 9-17. It remains to be seen if Drake will again have a near every-down role in 2020, but that’s his proven ceiling inside of this offense.
Neither DL Nick Bosa (muscle strain) nor LB Fred Warner (Covid) are listed on the 49ers’ injury report. Drake won’t face off against a weakened version of the San Francisco defense come Sunday, although this still might be a situation worth attacking. Drake popped off for 242 total yards and a score in eight combined quarters against the 49ers in 2019, proving to be a problem around the edge and as a receiver.
Drake ($6,400) is a pivot off the more-chalky Miles Sanders ($6,300), who doesn't exactly have an easy matchup himself against the beastly Washington defensive line. The Cardinals’ reigning league-best offense in yards before contact per rush scored 25 and 26 points against the 49ers last season. It won’t be easy to sustain this success in 2020, but we also shouldn’t discount the potential for this Cardinals’ run game to keep cooking.
New England Patriots QB Cam Newton ($6,100 on DraftKings, 5% projected ownership)
Newton has functioned as anyone’s idea of an elite fantasy option throughout his career:
- 2011: Fantasy QB3
- 2012: QB4
- 2013: QB3
- 2014: QB17 (missed two games, QB7 in FP per game)
- 2015: QB1
- 2016: QB17 (missed one game, QB13 in FP per game)
- 2017: QB2
- 2018: QB12 (missed two games, QB8 in FP per game)
Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry and James White aren't exactly the league's most-intimidating group of skill-position weapons. Still, it's arguably an upgrade over any unit that Cam has had other than perhaps the 2018 Panthers. The following WRs received at least 50 targets for the Panthers from 2011-2019: Steve Smith Sr., Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell, Curtis Samuel, Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown, Jarius Wright, Legedu Naanee, Brenton Bersin and Louis Murphy Jr. Newton’s National Championship team at Auburn included approximately zero additional names that non-Tigers stans will remember.
The Dolphins did a great job improving their secondary during the offseason by adding ex-Cowboys CB Byron Jones and first-round CB Noah Igbinoghene. And yet, last season’s single-worst defense in DVOA has a ways to go before we start treating them as even an average overall unit.
It’d make sense if the Patriots don’t load double-digit carries per game onto Newton, but don’t expect them to not tap into this aspect of his game at all. Ownership at the QB position tends to be relatively flat, so don't hesitate to load up on the slate's premiere mid-priced dual-threat talent. I’d like to see the Patriots operate as anything other than a great team before believing that will be the case for the first time in more than a decade in 2020. Newton is my 10th-ranked QB overall this week, but he always possesses the potential to function as the slate’s overall top-scorer.