Strategizing and developing a DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) team that earns you a profit is challenging, but 100% doable. Like normal Fantasy Football, winning DFS contests takes a little bit of research, a little bit of forecasting or having a “gut feeling,” and a little bit of luck for it all to come together.
DFS services such as DraftKings and FanDuel often times offer contests that are free to enter, and the winners still get cash prizes. If you are inexperienced in DFS, I suggest you start there so you don’t break the bank. The simplest way of playing on DraftKings is their “Classic” style, which is a 9- player lineup while staying under the $50,000 salary cap.
For my Week 1 DFS lineup I am entering their “The Boys are Back Free Football Contest presented by The Boys,” which is all of Sunday’s 1PM EST and 4PM EST games with no entry fee and $5,000 worth of cash prizes. I can’t speak on the luck, but below is an outline of who I’m choosing, as well as the research and predictions I am making to justify the selections.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, $5,800 vs. Arizona Cardinals
I know what you’re thinking here – what wide receivers does Jimmy G have to throw the ball to? We all know what George Kittle can do, but we can’t throw to Kittle every play. Deebo Samuel suffered a Jones Fracture in June and is ruled out for Sunday. Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has been dealing with a hamstring strain, but returned to practice this week and is listed as “questionable” for Sunday. Kendrick Bourne should be the top target behind Kittle, who finished 2019 with 30 receptions, 358 yards and 5 touchdowns; not the best, but certainly serviceable.
Although Garoppolo’s top weapons at the wide receiver position are in question, he gets the nod in my DFS lineup for a couple reasons. First, Garoppolo absolutely torched the Cardinals’ defense in 2019. In two games against his divisional opponent, Garoppolo threw for 741 yards and eight touchdowns. Arizona did not do much this offseason to improve their defense and with Kyle Shanahan’s dynamic play-calling for San Francisco, another great performance should be reproduced. Oh, and DraftKings has Arizona ranked dead last in the league as far as stopping opposing Fantasy quarterbacks; they’re not great at it. Secondly, top Fantasy quarterbacks in this set of games are going for much, much higher. For example, the most expensive Fantasy quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is listed at $8,100, so if you spend up him you will need to go cheap on the rest of your roster. With Garoppolo’s cap hit only being at $5,800, it leaves room for us to go out and grab a highly coveted skill position player who may cost a pretty penny.
Running Back: Mark Ingram, $5,500 vs. Cleveland Browns
Seeing Mark Ingram’s price tag this low was a shocker, but I get it.
J.K. Dobbins is in town and people are scared that he is going to see less touches in this loaded Ravens backfield. Although I do believe his touches may trend down this season, it is going to happen gradually throughout the season. After a 2019 where Ingram produced 1,265 total yards and 15 total touchdowns, he will not be losing his job to a rookie right off the bat. An experienced coach in John Harbaugh will work Dobbins in slowly, making Ingram a very good option for this cheap price tag. In Baltimore’s two games against Cleveland last season, Ingram averaged 5.9 yards per carry in the first meeting, and 6.9 yards per carry in the second meeting. The threat of Lamar Jackson on the Ravens’ option plays opens things up for Ingram to duplicate this strong average in this run-heavy attack. At $5,500, we’re still saving money for an elite playmaker who is going to cost more.
Running Back: Dalvin Cook, $7,900 vs. Green Bay Packers
Here it is; we’re breaking the bank for an elite running back in Dalvin Cook. 2019 was a breakout season for Cook, who rushed for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns, while catching 53 balls for 519 yards in just 14 games. The last time Cook played against the Packers was Week 2 of 2019, where he went for 154 yards on the ground, 37 in the air and one touchdown. He absolutely dominated in that game, but this isn’t even why we’re willing to pay top dollar for him.
This is the debut of this Vikings’ offense led by Gary Kubiak. You’ve heard of quarterback gurus; Kubiak is a running back guru. His scheme has had success for over 20 years in the NFL, and although I’m sure it has evolved, nobody can seem to stop it. Under Kubiak, Terrell Davis had the best three-year stretch in NFL history for a running back. Clinton Portis had back-to-back 1,500 yard seasons. In Houston under Kubiak as head coach, Arian Foster had numerous huge seasons. This scheme has helped running backs such as Justin Forsett, Steve Slaton, Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary all have 1,000 yard seasons. The pairing of Cook and Kubiak is going to be dangerously lethal this season, and with Cook’s success against the Packers last season we are projecting big-time numbers for Week 1.
Wide Receiver: T.Y. Hilton, $5,800 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
T.Y. Hilton being listed at $5,800 vs. the decimated Jaguars’ defense was another shocker. Hilton was banged up for a lot of 2019, but in only 10 games, he had 45 receptions for 501 yards and five touchdowns with Jacoby Brissett throwing him the ball. All due respect to Brissett, but he is not a starting-caliber quarterback in this league.
Phillip Rivers is the new quarterback for the Colts, and this new offense is going to be night and day compared to last season. Rivers is playing with a chip on his shoulder after being shooed out of LA, and is reunited with Head Coach Frank Reich who was his Quarterback Coach during his most successful statistical seasons for the Chargers. Reich had Nick Foles playing at an MVP level in Philadelphia after Carson Wentz got injured, and now Nick Foles is the backup for Mitchell Trubisky. Reich is a quarterback whisperer. Hilton has a knack for getting past opposing teams’ secondaries and now he has a quarterback who can get him the ball.
Against this dismal Jaguars roster, watch out for this Week 1 debut.
Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson, $4,900 vs. Washington Football Team
This is definitely a “forecasting” or prediction pick. Having a healthy DeSean Jackson is huge for the Philadelphia Eagles. Alson Jeffery is injured, and it appears rookie Jalen Reagor is the top wide out paired with Zach Ertz – who is one of the most dynamic tight ends in the league. This will leave Jackson as the third option, which is great for his skillset in his later years.
Jackson, in his old age, is still one of the best receivers at sneaking over the top of defenses. Before getting injured in 2019, Jackson caught nine passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the three games that he played. Eight receptions, 154 yards and both touchdowns came against the Washington Football Team. Jackson has said he feels “rejuvenated” after the injury and surgery that ended his season last year. For a price of $4,900, Jackson is a “must buy” for us, and this cost helps with our salary cap.
Wide Receiver: DJ Chark, Jr., $6,300 vs. Indianapolis Colts
We’re buying DJ Chark, Jr. based off of the fact that he is the only real threat for his team. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a General Manager in David Caldwell who is being accused of “tanking,” and the accusers may or may not be correct.
What we do know is production will need to come from somewhere, and Chark, Jr. is that guy. In 2019, Chark accumulated 73 receptions, 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns, solidifying his spot as the top receiver for Jacksonville.
He is going to be force-fed the ball this season, simply because there aren’t any other options. Indianapolis should win, which means Jacksonville will be playing from behind and throwing the ball to catch up. Management may be tanking, but the players never do. Expect Chark, Jr. to be great in Week 1 in an offense lacking a running game and playing from behind.
Tight End: Hunter Henry, $5,300 vs Cincinnati Bengals
Hunter Henry played 12 games for the Chargers in 2019, accumulating 55 receptions, 652 yards and five touchdowns. The weakness of the Bengals’ defense is why he’s worth spending your $5,300 on this often-injured tight end. Luckily for us, there are no injuries coming into this season and when Henry is on, he’s on.
Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler are going to be the focal points for the Bengals’ defense, which will leave Henry with very favorable matchups. LA is beginning a new era after the departure of Phillip Rivers, and there is nothing better for a new starting quarterback than a solid tight end option to dump the ball off to.
Flex: Terry McLaurin, $5,600 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Same as Chark, Jr., where is the production going to come from? There’s no running threat here either.
The Washington Football Team have one weapon, and it’s McLaurin. If Washington has any hopes in staying in this football game with the Philadelphia Eagles, McLaurin is going to get numerous targets.
McLaurin finished 2019 with 58 receptions, 919 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. He was the top target after quarterback Dwayne Haskins became the starter late in 2019, and if they have any game plan of competing with the Eagles in Week 1, McLaurin needs to be a huge part of the game plan. $5,600 for the only threat on any team is a must-buy.
Defense: Los Angeles Chargers, $2,800 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
I love picking on rookie quarterbacks. The only one starting in Week 1 is Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and without any preseason he is going to go through growing pains before success. Despite the injury to Derwin James, Jr., this Chargers defense is as scary and one of the most underrated defenses coming into the 2020 season.
Starting with arguably the best pass-rush combination in the NFL, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are sure to generate sacks against the Cincinnati Bengals’ mediocre offensive line. New addition Chris Harris and veteran Casey Hayward Jr. are two of the top cornerbacks in the league. Without any experience, Burrow is going to make mistakes and I anticipate one of those mistakes being taken to the house for a touchdown by this studly defense full of playmakers.
Salary We Used: $49,900/$50,000
Like I said before, in DFS it is hard to pick a team that makes you a profit. Spending 100% of your cap space is not necessary to win, it’s a combination of picking cheap sleepers and spending money for studs. If there is cap space leftover, don’t switch your selections just to fill the cap- stick to your gut. My hope in you reading this is that I can convince you to pick up maybe one or two of these players.
2020 is a season like none other, so best of luck to you all.