By the Numbers

DFS Value Finder: Week 1

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: September 12, 2020, 2:28 pm ET

This is a simple, straightforward piece. At the end of the week, I’m taking our weekly composite staff rankings from our Season Pass section and comparing those rankings as it pertains to players we see as starting caliber options to the pricing at FanDuel -- because that’s where I play my DFS -- in hopes of discovering some value.


Cam Newton vs. Dolphins -- QB9 (FanDuel, QB13, $7,400)


While Miami has one of the best cornerback duos in the league in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, this defense still looks extremely weak from a pass-rushing and front-seven standpoint. The Dolphins are going to be better in 2020, but this isn’t a matchup to fear, as New England’s offensive line should hold a distinct advantage over Miami’s front. Julian Edelman and James White, the Patriots’ top pass-catchers, will both avoid Jones and Howard on the boundaries. And with Damien Harris (finger, I.R.) hurt and Sony Michel (foot) likely not 100 percent, Newton is as good of a bet as anyone to find the end zone on the ground for the Patriots. Only the Cardinals gave up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Dolphins last season.


James Conner at Giants -- RB8 (FanDuel, RB17, $6,800)


Conner’s price is down after his injury-ruined and disappointing 2019, but the Steelers repeatedly confirmed Conner is going to be the team’s every-down workhorse back. And this offense should be so much better with Ben Roethlisberger back healthy. The Giants were absolutely demolished by opposing running backs last season, and Pittsburgh’s defense should dominate Daniel Jones and the G-Men. Conner should be in a positive game script all night.


Kenyan Drake at 49ers -- RB11 (FanDuel, RB19, $6,600)


Drake’s depressed price surely has to do with the 49ers being the foe. But Drake crushed the Niners in two matchups with DC Robert Saleh’s defense last season after coming over from Miami. In those two contests, Drake totaled 242 yards, one touchdown, and 10 catches. The way coach Kliff Kingsbury spreads out the defense creates severe mismatches in the Cardinals’ favor. I like the over on the Cardinals’ implied team total of 20.25 points.


Jonathan Taylor at Jaguars -- RB30 (FanDuel, RB38, $5,300)


The Colts should run all over what’s left of this Jaguars Defense that has been stripped of most of its talent in a tanking season. The Colts are eight-point road favorites and could conceivably run the ball 35-40 times Sunday. Marlon Mack should stay involved as the nominal starter, but Taylor is very much expected to see his fair share of work and is probably the more talented runner of the two. While it’d be nice to project a fuller workload for Taylor, an 18-15 carry split between Mack and Taylor is something that could easily happen, making both DFS options.


Tarik Cohen at Lions -- RB27 (FanDuel, RB40, $5,200)


With David Montgomery (groin) coming off a multi-week injury that didn’t allow him to get his condition up to snuff this summer, there figures to be more snaps for Cohen this Sunday. The Lions were annihilated by opposing running backs last season, giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Only three defenses surrendered more receiving yards to running backs, and nobody gave up more touchdowns through the air to opposing backs. Mitchell Trubisky has historically dominated the Lions, so there’s more reason to like this offense in this spot. Cohen isn’t exciting and comes with a scary floor, but he’s at least on the radar.


James Robinson vs. Colts -- RB40 (FanDuel, RB97, $4,500)


FanDuel obviously did their pricing well before Week 1, and that was when Leonard Fournette was still employed by the Jaguars. Robinson ended up overtaking Fournette for the No. 1 gig. The undrafted rookie out of Illinois State stands 5’9/219 and was a physical three-year college starter who led the nation in yards after contact last season. His hefty college workload (855 carries) and lack of speed (4.64 forty) were knocks against him coming out. But with Fournette gone, Devine Ozigbo (hamstring) on I.R., and Ryquell Armstead back on the COVID-19 list, Robinson has no competition for early-down work. Chris Thompson and recently-signed Dare Ogunbowale are third-down, pass-catching backs. While the Jaguars may get beaten pretty solidly by the Colts in this one, there’s at least a path to some volume for Robinson.


Antonio Gibson vs. Eagles -- RB25 (FanDuel, RB88, $4,600)


Gibson is another player whose price is way out of whack due to FanDuel putting out their pricing weeks ago when Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice were still on Washington’s roster. All four of Gibson, Peyton Barber, Bryce Love, and J.D. McKissic are all expected to be involved in this messy backfield, but game flow and projected game script of this one favors athletic rookie Gibson in a playmaking role. Gibson is very boom-or-bust, but OC Scott Turner has envisioned him as a Christian McCaffrey-like player with a similar skill set.


Adam Thielen vs. Packers -- WR9 (FanDuel, WR18, $6,800)


With Stefon Diggs now gone and first-round rookie Justin Jefferson failing to beat out Bisi Johnson for No. 2 duties, Thielen should vacuum targets as Kirk Cousins’ lone established connection in the wideout group. He could easily see a dozen-plus looks against Green Bay.


Calvin Ridley vs. Seahawks -- WR12 (FanDuel, WR23, $6,600)


Ridley’s price is just too low for his projected target share in what is viewed as a likely shootout. The Falcons are always at or near the top of the league in pass attempts, and this passing game is pretty concentrated at the top with Julio Jones and Ridley. Both should easily clear eight targets, and Ridley has long drawn Ryan’s eye in the scoring area.


D.J. Chark vs. Colts -- WR14 (FanDuel, WR23, $6,600)


Another No. 1 wideout who should see the vast majority of his team’s targets is too cheap. Chark literally has no competition for looks in this offense and could easily clear a 30% market share from Gardner Minshew in a game the Jaguars figure to be playing from behind. Chark and Minshew showed a very strong rapport last season, and Chark will have a distinct speed and athleticism advantage over either Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin or Xavier Rhodes.


Terry McLaurin vs. Eagles -- WR11 (FanDuel, WR24, $6,500)


McLaurin is in the same boat as D.J. Chark above. He’s his team’s alpha-dog, clear-cut No. 1 receiver with very little behind him. Like Chark, McLaurin could easily clear 30% of the target share from college teammate Dwayne Haskins. McLaurin lit the Eagles up in both matchups last season, posting 5-125-1 and 5-130-1 receiving lines. Philly now has Darius Slay as its top cover corner, but McLaurin is just way too cheap and far too talented to be ignored here.


Hayden Hurst vs. Seahawks -- TE9 (FanDuel, TE14, $5,300)


In Atlanta, Hurst will replace Austin Hooper as the Falcons’ every-down tight end. This staff obviously believes in Hurst given the cost to acquire him, and the athletic tight end has a ton of room for growth from a statistical standpoint. Hooper left 97 targets to fill and was fantasy’s overall TE3 in points per game last season. Hurst should immediately become one of Matt Ryan’s favorite weapons in the red zone at 6’4/245. Seattle was plastered by tight ends last season, giving up the fourth-most catches for the second-most yards and second-most fantasy points to the position. This game’s 49-point total has definite shootout appeal.


Chris Herndon at Bills -- TE15 (FanDuel, TE28, $4,700)


The Bills have successfully eliminated tight ends under coach Sean McDermott, so this is more of an opportunity and volume-based play with Herndon. He and Jamison Crowder are the lone Jets pass-catchers who have actually caught passes from Sam Darnold before. Chris Hogan merely runs wind sprints down the sidelines on the outside, and Breshad Perriman missed most of camp with swelling in his knee. Denzel Mims is out with a second pulled hamstring in the last month. Jamison Crowder is the preferred weapon for fantasy, but Herndon has a pretty safe target floor. It’s just a matter of if he can be efficient with the looks he sees.