The long wait is over. The NFL season kicks off on Thursday night and it feels like Christmas morning all over again. There is a lot of buzz about the Millionaire Maker event for Week 1, but there are a ton of cash games to take advantage of this week as well. There are so many new users on DraftKings that fielding a winning lineup in cash games should be a fairly easy feat if you know what you are doing.
The strategy in cash games is all about maximizing your lineup’s floor. As long as we can score above the mean consistently, we are going to cash in double-ups and head-to-head contests more often than not. In order to maximize our floor, we want to pay up for consistency at the quarterback and running back position and find the best values on the board. Here are my favorite picks for Week 1.
Aaron Rodgers: $8,600 (vs. Chicago Bears)
When it comes to cash games, I am looking for a high-volume, efficient quarterback that is on a team that is projected to score a lot of points. Rodgers checks all three boxes this week, as the Packers host the Bears in Week 1. While Rodgers did lose his favorite weapon in Jordy Nelson, he still has some great talent around him in Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. The Packers are currently projected with the fourth-highest team total of the week and we know they are going to score a lot of those points with the passing game. His matchup against the Bears is as good as any on the board, as the Bears are coming off of a historically bad defensive season.
Also on my radar: Matt Ryan: $7,500, Tyrod Taylor: $5,000
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DeMarco Muray: $6,700 (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
Murray and the term ‘workhorse back’ went hand in hand last season, as the Cowboys weren’t afraid to give him 30 touches per game. While Murray is projected to see around 60% of the touches out of the backfield in Philadelphia this season, that is more than enough to excel in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense. Murray is underpriced in Week 1, as he is the ninth-most expensive running back ($6,700). An MVP-caliber running back in Chip Kelly’s offense should not be the ninth-most expensive running back. Take advantage of the discount in Week 1’s matchup against the Falcons.
Doug Martin: $4,500 (vs. Tennessee Titans)
While we would all love to create a team of Pro Bowl caliber players each week, we have this pesky restraint called a salary cap to deal with. In order to afford the expensive players like Aaron Rodgers and DeMarco Murray, we need to save some salary cap space somewhere. One player that I will have some heavy exposure to this week is Martin. He has offensive line issues, but this may be one of the few times to target him when the Buccaneers are favored. Game script is critical for a running back, as we want him to be involved in the offense for all four quarters. Martin is extremely cheap, he draws a nice matchup against the Titans, and he is the clear-cut number one back in Tampa Bay.
Also on my radar: Eddie Lacy: $7,500, C.J. Anderson: $7,000
Julio Jones: $9,200 (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)
The Eagles/Falcons game has the highest total of the week. Both of these offenses have plenty of weapons, while both of their defenses are suspect. That should results in a ton of fantasy production for both offenses. While I usually don’t love paying up for receivers in cash games, there are enough value plays to easily fit Jones into your lineup this week. Jones will lead the Falcons in targets this season and he draws a favorable matchup against an Eagles’ secondary that continuously got beat deep last season.
Brandin Cooks: $7,100 (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
The masses are going to see Cooks’ matchup against the Cardinals and immediately rule him out in Week 1. The Cardinals have one of the best groups of corners in the NFL, as they have Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Antonio Cromartie, and Tyrann Mathieu. While that’s certainly an impressive list, they don’t have anyone that can cover the speed of Brandin Cooks, who projects to be the highest-targeted wideout on the Saints this season. With Jimmy Graham in Seattle, Cooks should see double-digit targets right out of the gate. He catches a lot of short routes, which increases his floor, especially on a full-PPR site like DraftKings.
Davante Adams: $4,400 (vs. Chicago Bears)
Adams should be locked into all of your cash games this week. He is the best value on the board, as the injury to Jordy Nelson has opened up a huge spot in the Packers’ offense for Adams. When salaries came out, he was projected as the third receiver in this offense, but without Nelson, he will immediately become the number two wideout. His matchup against the Bears is as good as any on the schedule and at a price of only $4,400, there is no reason to fade him this week.
Also on my radar: Dez Bryant: $8,700, Randall Cobb: $8,000, Jarvis Landry: $5,600
Greg Olsen: $5,300 (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
If you are playing in the slate of games that includes the Thursday night showdown between the Steelers and Patriots, Rob Gronkowski is obviously the top option at the tight end position. However, for the Sunday/Monday slate, there isn’t a clear-cut number one option. For that reason, I’m looking at Olsen, who consistently sees targets in the Panthers’ passing game. He also draws a favorable matchup against the Jaguars, who were inept at covering this position last season.
Also on my radar: Travis Kelce: $4,800, Martellus Bennett: $4,300
Defense / Special Teams
Carolina Panthers: $3,100
When I’m looking at prospective defenses to target each week, I am looking for quarterback pressures and potential turnovers. The Panthers square off against a very young Jacksonville Jaguars team that 1. Did not protect their passer well last season and 2. Turned the ball over at a high rate. The Panthers are affordable and they provide good upside in their Week 1 matchup.
Also on my radar: St. Louis Rams: $3,400, New York Jets: $2,900