The first regular season NFL Sunday of 2020 will occur on Sept. 13. The fine folks at DraftKings have already released Week 1 prices, meaning we can get an early look at potential values and fades.
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What follows are nine initial takeaways in no particular order from the first slate of the 2020 season.
1. Tyrod Taylor ($5,600) is looking like Week 1’s prime cash-game QB
The Chargers have repeatedly labeled the artist formerly known as TyGod as more than a bridge QB throughout the offseason. No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert will likely find the field sooner rather than later, but at a minimum it will be Taylor under center to take on the Bengals’ flimsy (to put it nicely) defense.
Taylor is priced as the QB20. Only Sam Darnold ($5,500), Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles ($5,400), Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,300)/Tua Tagovailoa ($5,200) and Dwayne Haskins ($5,000) are cheaper among expected Week 1 starters. The difference between Taylor and this group is clearly his sky-high rushing floor. He’s truly a special dual-threat talent:
- Taylor’s average of 0.2 missed tackles per rush attempt is the highest mark among all QBs with at least 100 carries since 2010.
- The top four offenses in team-wide yards before contact per rush since 2015 have been: 2016 Bills (2.75), 2019 Cardinals (2.66), 2019 Ravens (2.48) and the 2015 Bills (2.45).
- Taylor averaged 35.8 rushing yards per game with the Bills from 2015-2017. That mark would’ve ranked behind only Lamar Jackson (80.4) among all QBs with at least five starts in 2019.
Nobody allowed more rushing yards to opposing QBs than the Bengals in 2019. Only the Texans allowed more yards per play. Get used to investing in Chargers talent during their soft start to the season, as they take on the Bengals, Chiefs, Panthers, Buccaneers, Saints, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars and Raiders before their Week 10 bye.
2. It’s probably worth paying up for Christian McCaffrey ($10,000)
This is certainly a steep price to pay, but CMC was regularly priced above $10,000 from Week 9 on in 2019. Incredibly, McCaffrey surpassed his salary-based expectation in six of 9 games with a five-digit salary last season (per FantasyLabs). Even the steepest pricing couldn’t quite account for the man who averaged a full 6 points more than the next-highest-scoring skill-position player in 2019 PPR leagues.
There’s a striking lack of continuity in the Panthers’ passing game, although it could ultimately be a net positive for McCaffrey considering Teddy Bridgewater is 1) Infinitely better than Kyle Allen, and 2) Known for his fondness of checking the ball down. Credit to the Raiders for adding talented free agent LBs Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski to the fold, but this is still hardly a matchup for fantasy investors to fear. Fading CMC in cash games and tournaments alike isn’t recommended.
3. 49ers RBs Tevin Coleman ($4,200) and Jerick McKinnon ($4,000) join Washington RBs Antonio Gibson ($4,000) and Bryce Love ($4,000) as the slate’s cheapest value RBs
Coleman was never quite healthy in 2019, spraining his ankle in the first half of the first game of the season. The results weren’t good. Coleman (4.0 YPC) was easily the backfield’s least-efficient back behind Raheem Mostert (5.6) and Matt Breida (5.1). His 30 targets were the fewest he’s ever had in a season in which he played at least 13 games.
Of course, this is a dynamic weapon when right.
Don't let Tevin Coleman spraining his ankle in the first half of the first game of 2019 distract you from the fact that this dude can be a lot of fun when rightpic.twitter.com/bJmaKLlYg5
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 31, 2020
The absence of Breida has led to a three-back projection featuring Mostert and Coleman on early downs with McKinnon as the pass-game RB. There’s a low floor for both of the latter backs considering the meh touch projections, but the cost is plenty reasonable considering the 49ers’ status as seven-point home favorites over the Cardinals’ likely porous defense.
And then we have our main pricing discrepancy. Derrius Guice’s dismissal from the Washington Football team means that Adrian Peterson should work as the starter, but second-round rookie Antonio Gibson and 2019 fourth-round pick Bryce Love should get plenty of work as well. It remains to be seen if the likes of J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber will also have a role.
Note that DraftKings’ decision to raise the price floor from $3,000 to $4,000 at the RB position makes these backs less appealing than they otherwise would be in a different week. Look to the WR position for true cost-saving value in Week 1.
4. D.K. Metcalf ($5,800) has the makings of Week 1 chalk
Metcalf finished the 2019 season on a tear. Overall, he posted exciting 6-81-1, 8-160-1 and 4-59-0 performances in the final three games of the season. Note that it took Doug Baldwin (four years) and Lockett (five years) quite a while to get triple-digit targets from Wilson in a single season; Metcalf did so as a rookie.
It’s not a stretch to call Metcalf the highest-upside WR Russell Wilson has ever played with from a raw talent perspective.
D.K. Metcalf's potential is unlimited with Russ under center (sorry)pic.twitter.com/M8VeFYhFGF
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) August 21, 2020
With Tyler lockett ($6,500) a good chunk more expensive than Metcalf, look for the public to pile up on the rising second-year stud. This makes sense: Atlanta’s CB room is incredibly unproven at the moment.
- A.J. Terrell: The Falcons’ No. 16 overall pick was a bit of a reach from PFF’s big board (No. 29), but did face plenty of steep competition at Clemson and possesses enough size (6-foot-1 and 190-pounds) to at least match up with opposing No. 1 WRs.
- Isaiah Oliver: PFF’s No. 105 CB in yards allowed per coverage snap among 136 qualified players in 2019, Oliver (4.5-second 40-yard dash) is poised to face one of the week’s steepest differences in speed against Metcalf (4.33).
- Kendall Sheffield: The 2019 fourth-round pick graded out as PFF’s No. 124 CB among 135 qualified corners last season. The Falcons have never made a habit of moving their corners around the field over the years, meaning the Seahawks should be able to isolate either Lockett or Metcalf against Sheffield whenever they please.
The entire Seahawks’ passing game is set up brilliantly, but the potential for them to exhibit their usual run-first game plan could make Chris Carson ($6,200) a solid GPP-pivot against a defense that routinely bleeds receptions to the RB position.
5. There are a number of high-profile WR/CB shadow matchups to look forward to
Certain corners are regularly asked to carry out tougher assignments and thus have more responsibility on a per-play basis. For example, Stephon Gilmore and Darius Slay deserve more credit than most for not only shadowing opposing No. 1 WRs, but also for making a habit of chasing them into the slot.
We probably overrate shadow matchups in fantasy football decision-making. Offenses are regularly able to scheme their receivers into different matchups, and most shadow situations produce the same matchup at more of a 50-60% rate than anything close to 100%.
With that said: It’s incredibly exciting and fun to hype up individual WR/CB matchups. I expect the following CBs to travel sideline to sideline with the corresponding WR on at least 50% of their snaps in Week 1:
- Terry McLaurin ($5,600) vs. Darius Slay
- DeVante Parker ($6,000) vs. Stephon Gilmore
- T.Y. Hilton ($5,800) vs. Tre Herndon
- A.J. Green ($5,700) vs. Casey Hayward
- Mike Evans ($6,900) vs. Marshon Lattimore
- Amari Cooper (Sunday night) vs. Jalen Ramsey
- Courtland Sutton (Monday night) vs. Adoree’ Jackson
6. It’s easy to find value at WR, but one really stands out
There are a number of true value WRs with serious upside priced below $5,500 in Jamison Crowder ($5,200), Marquise Brown ($5,100), Henry Ruggs ($5,100), Anthony Miller ($5,000), DeSean Jackson ($4,900), Steven Sims ($4,700) and Curtis Samuel ($4,600) to name a few.
Still, Parris Campbell ($3,900) is arguably the single-best WR value play on the slate. Campbell possesses an electric blend of size (6-foot and 205-pounds) and speed (4.31-second 40-yard dash) that helped produce many explosive plays during his days at Ohio State. The Colts’ 2019 second-round pick unfortunately played fewer than 200 offensive snaps last season due to injuries, but head coach Frank Reich was certainly high on the prospect entering the year, noting, “He's making legit, NFL, I'm gonna be a stud receiver type plays.”
The Colts drafted Michael Pittman in the first round, and T.Y. Hilton will remain the offense’s No. 1 pass-game option whenever he’s healthy enough to suit up. However, Campbell possesses the sort of explosive YAC-ability to warrant a handful of designed touches per game, something that could be scary for defenses to deal with behind the Colts’ league-best offensive line. Throw in the reality that 1) Hilton (hamstring) is already banged up, and 2) This is a smashable matchup against the Jaguars’ mediocre secondary, and Campbell deserves to be Week 1’s prime cost-saving WR option.
7. Chris Herndon ($3,300) is so cheap that I’m borderline offended
Herndon joins Mark Andrews, Rob Gronkowski, Hunter Henry, Heath Miller, Aaron Hernandez, Noah Fant, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz and George Kittle as the only rookie TEs to average at least 8.0 yards per target since 2000. Ryan Griffin was fine in relief of Herndon in 2019, but it's not like the Jets' talented third-year TE lost his job. Herndon was simply suspended and then injured before even having a chance to show what he could do. Either way, Griffin (ankle) remains on the PUP list with no clear timetable for return.
Reminder: Herndon was an absolute baller as a rookie.
Friends don't let friends forget Chris Herndon is a ballerpic.twitter.com/HBnEJBOpJI
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 1, 2020
After a few drinks I’ve found it’s even possible to convince yourself Herndon could be the Jets’ No. 1 pass-game option. Still not sold? Take a look at what coach Adam Gase had to say during training camp:
“He’s our starting tight end. Chris gives us a lot of flexibility. It’s rare to have a guy with the ability to be as effective as a pass catcher and a guy that’s explosive when he gets the ball in his hands, and still be an on-the-line tight end that can block in the run game and also pass protect. Chris does give you something that you just don’t see a lot with all tight ends across the league where you can say, ‘I can leave him in protection and feel comfortable.’ If we’re running a play to his side, I’m not worried about anything because he does a really good job of using the technique he’s coached, knowing what to do and he’s physical. Chris is a guy that has rare traits in that aspect.”
The training camp hype for Herndon is through the roof. DraftKings priced him as the Jets’ No. 2 TE when in reality he’s probably their No. 2 pass-game option. Take advantage of it.
8. The 49ers’ passing game might be a cheap contrarian stack worth pursuing
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,800) comes in as the QB17 on the main slate, but he’s set up rather brilliantly against a Cardinals defense he absolutely shredded last season:
- Week 9: 28-for-37, 317 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
- Week 11: 34-for-45, 424 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
The addition of Clemson S/LB Isaiah Simmons should greatly help the Cardinals’ league-worst defense against the TE position, but expecting their secondary to go from bad to even average is asking a lot to start the season. Overall, PFF graded the Cardinals secondary as the 19th-best unit in the league.
George Kittle ($7,200) is the slate’s highest-priced TE with Travis Kelce and the Chiefs playing on Thursday night. It remains to be seen if Deebo Samuel ($5,300) will suit up. Either way, Kendrick Bourne ($5,000) and Brandon Aiyuk ($4,500) are plenty affordable stacking partners who could help free up space to spend up at RB elsewhere.
This matchup truly checks all the boxes. The 49ers’ offense boasts the following advantages among all Week 1 matchups based on 2019 metrics vs. their respective opposing defense:
- Highest combined explosive pass play rate
- Lowest combined pressure rate
- Third-quickest combined situation neutral pace
- Tied for the highest combined net yards per pass attempt
Only the Ravens (28.5) are implied to score more points than the 49ers (27.5) on Sunday’s slate.
9. There are multiple affordable defenses with the chance to produce in a big way
I’ve never been a fan of paying up for defenses, and you won’t have to in Week 1:
- Chargers ($2,800): PFF’s No. 2 secondary after adding Chris Harris. Expect Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to have their way with the Bengals’ patchwork offensive line.
- Colts ($3,000): Underrated strong unit up the middle with DL DeForest Buckner, LB Darius Leonard and FS Malik Hooker. Gardner Minshew could have a long day; the Colts defense’s combined pressure rate with the Jaguars’ offensive line is tied for the highest mark on the main slate.
- Ravens ($3,100): Added Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and multiple top-three round picks to the front-seven of an already-great defense. This blitz-happy defense that boasts *3* high-end corners is plenty capable of clamping down Baker Mayfield and company.
- Patriots ($3,200): A rematch against a Dolphins offense that managed to shock the world in Week 17. New England lost plenty of key defenders to free agency and via opt outs, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is the sort of DGAF-gunslinger QB that warrants D/ST exposure on a weekly basis.