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Week 1 DFS Plays for Medium and Small Field Tournaments

When it comes to Daily Fantasy football a lot of the focus appears to be talking about either “Cash Plays” or “MME GPP plays”, with very little in-between. Both styles can be fun, but that is a pretty wide gulf of DFS contests that doesn’t have a real dedicated focus. There are a number of really strong contests in this range at various price points and having a different mindset can help us become much more profitable.

What do we mean when we say Small or Medium tournaments?

Definitions can differ, but it’s generally fair to say that 100-1,000 entries should be considered small field, with 1,000-5,000 entries are medium size. Why should tournament size be a factor in the games we are looking for? Well for a couple of reasons really stand out.

First, and the most obvious is that it’s far easier to finish in the top spot or top 10 in a smaller or medium field, than one of these big tournaments. Yes the top prize is smaller, but you would have to finish in the top 10 or better in the large field tournament to match what you get by winning a tournament in the small or medium range at the same price point. The second reason to play smaller fields is that the payout structure is typically a little better, which makes it easy to be a sustainable player during some down weeks.

The last point that should be made before breaking down my plays for the week, is examining why cash or large field GPP mentality doesn’t work as well for these field sizes. A cash line-up is going to have a strong floor, and if a couple players have mini-breakouts you will be in a good spot for a min-cash in these tournaments. Unfortunately since you probably sacrificed a good bit of upside, your chances for a win or top 10 finish are pretty low. On the flipside if you enter with a large field GPP approach, you will have an excellent shot of winning the tournament when the ceiling hits. Though overall you are probably too volatile and will end up missing the cash line most weeks.

*Note all the top plays at these positions are absolutely guys you should play, but what I’m looking for are leverage plays who appear to be going under the radar. The players I’m looking for are going to have a good floor with a high ceiling potential.

Quarterbacks:

-Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray are fantastic plays this week, but their ownership is going to be super high. There are a couple easy pivots off of them, that will save you salary, ownership and have a pretty good chance to hit that 27-34 point DK range.

Russell Wilson:

-The inconsistency of this offense last year was infuriating to Fantasy players and Seahawks fans. In the first 8 weeks, Wilson’s lowest fantasy points were 24.9 and he cracked 30 4 times. In the second half of the year the highest Wilson scored was 23.1 and he only had two games with 20+ points. With a new offensive coordinator this season and talk of Seattle playing more fast pace, the hope is we see more of a high powered Seattle offense, and less of the grind it out one that ended the year. Wilson has a good opening match-up with a Colts team missing Xavier Rhodes.

Aaron Rodgers:

-Rodgers was the NFL MVP last season and had 25+DK points in 10 of 16 weeks, with 4 cracking 30 points. In what is likely his final season in Green Bay, look for Rodgers to continue to play at that MVP level and have the Packers offense run through him. Rodgers is really the perfect type of QB for this format because he is not overly priced, has a tremendous floor and enough upside to win in this field size.

He’s not likely for the 35-40 point totals you see needed to win the large field GPPs, but he’s able to win this type of tourney as he’s a better price per dollar player. When you pay up for a Kyler Murray or Josh Allen, you need them to hit that 35-40 point game to pay off. If they only get 28-30 DK points, you are now behind Rodgers led teams. His ownership looks to be in the low single digits, which is crazy given his really high floor.

Ryan Tannehill:

-Tannehill not our ideal DFS QB, but he offers a solid mix of 300 yard, multi-TD potential through the air, and rushing TD equity. He had 6 games last season with 26+ DK points and four of those hit 30 or more. So when the match-up right he can absolutely be a top fantasy QB, and at a nice price discount. In a week where the Titans are facing an up-tempo Cardinals team with a horrendous secondary, this looks like a week that Tannehill can hit his ceiling. What makes Tannehill even more appealing is that his ownership figures to be well below the top QBs.

Running backs:

-I’m playing plenty of Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara this week, but there are some other intriguing options at a lower price if you want to be different than the field.

Najee Harris:

-Despite his high draft status and pre-season hype, Harris isn’t seeing near the ownership projections you’d expect for a running back under $6,500. That seems like a big mistake as Harris figures to be highly involved in this offense, both running the football and catching the ball. The Bills have a good defense, but Pittsburgh figures to lean on their first round pick. If his ownership stays at this level, this seems like a tremendous play.

James Robinson:

-Robinson finished 2nd in rushing and receiving yards among rookie backs and Tied for 3rd with 10 total TDs, despite playing for one of the worst offenses in the league. Yet no one was talking about him in fantasy due to the drafting of Travis Etienne. That should change now as Etienne is on IR and Robinson is back to the lead role. Jacksonville does have Carlos Hyde on the roster, but Robinson should still be a true 3 down back. Jacksonville’s overall offensive output should be much higher, which should lead to more opportunities even if Hyde steals some work. On top of all of that, the match-up is fantastic versus the depleted Texans defense. Robinson could see a bell-cow workload in a game where his team could be up big, at a price well below the studs.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire:

-Though there is a bit more risk here than some of the other backs listed, Edwards-Helaire could be inline for a breakout in year two. He plays for the most high powered offense in the NFL, and the Chiefs went out and rebuilt their offensive line. Edwards-Helaire may find more room on the ground and is expected to be more involved in the passing game. This is the highest game total on the slate, so the upside is here.

Mike Davis:

-Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts are both expected to be in a lot of line-ups which will likely keep Davis as an afterthought for a lot of players. Given his price, and the fact that he looks like an every down back in this offense this makes for a really nice leverage play. This is a high total game, so you can get a cheap piece of it who figures on getting 20+ touches.

Myles Gaskins:

-Gaskins has a tougher match-up versus a good Patriots defense, but he clearly looks to be the top back in Miami. This Dolphins offense should be pretty good this season, and if Miami gets ahead of the rookie QB, expect Gaskins to have plenty of work in the 2nd half. The best part is that his ownership is going to be extremely low. For a back with a decent chance of 18-24 DK points that is surprising.

Wide Receivers:

-You can not go wrong with Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Calvin Ridley, Stephon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins or A.J. Brown leading your line-up, but there are other spots to fill and that is where I think you can find some good leverage plays.

D.K. Metcalf:

-You can make a similar case for Tyler Lockett as well, but Metcalf is a top tier receiver, who has an elite QB facing off with a Colts secondary that is a little banged up. The rumor is this offense is going to be up in pace this season, which means that Metcalf could have a monster year. Given that is ownership could be in the mid-to-high single digits you are getting some nice leverage here.

Justin Jefferson:

-Adam Thielen is another viable option, but Jefferson is clearly the number one option on this team. The Bengals secondary is not exactly strong, and the Vikings passing tree is basically Jefferson, Thielen and Dalvin Cook. In the second half of the season Jefferson got 10+ targets in 6 of 8 games, and he had 5 games on the year with 25+ DK points. He’s priced like the number 1 receiver that he is, but his ownership won’t reflect it.

Tyler Boyd:

-The Bengals receiving corps is the perfect example of the difference in DFS game styles. Tee Higgins is the high floor cash play, Ja’Marr Chase is the high ceiling GPP option, and Tyler Boyd is the guy who could gives you a bit of both. Higgins is definitely the better all-around play, but his ownership could be 20-25%. Chase has all the potential in the world, but his camp/preseason drop issues make him a risky option for this format. Boyd gives you a strong floor with enough upside to help you win a smaller size tournament. In Joe Burrow’s 9 full games last season, Boyd topped 20 points in 3 of them. The Vikings front 7 is strong, but their backend is still below average. Without a viable TE and Gio Bernard in Tampa Bay, I expect all three receivers to be heavily involved in this passing attack.

Corey Davis:

-While I’m typically more cautious when rostering receivers with rookie QBs, I do think this is a case where it makes sense. Corey Davis has been talked up as the Jets number 1 receiver and Zach Wilson’s top target all camp, but for some reason everyone wants to play rookie Elijah Moore over him. Moore is definitely underpriced given that he’s starting for Jamison Crowder, but Davis is also priced low and has a lot of potential. The Jets receiving corps is very thin week one, and NY figures to be playing from behind versus a young defense. Davis could easily have 10-15 targets in this game, yet see ownership under 10%.

Julio Jones:

-People want to knock Julio Jones and say that he’s done, but in 9 games last season he had 51 catches for 771 yards and 3 TDs. He wasn’t even 100% healthy even in those 9 games. In the 6 weeks where he had over 4 targets he had at least 15 DK points. While there is obviously risk for Jones for season long fantasy, but the reality is that when he’s on the field he’s making plays. He is on a new team now, but the Titans offense is highly efficient and plays at a fast pace. This match-up versus the Cardinals is incredibly favorable and could see both Jones and A.J. Brown have ceiling type performances. Jones though would be doing it at a lower cost, and a fraction of the ownership.

Tight Ends:

-Travis Kelce and Kyle Pitts are both in fantastic spots and offer 25-30 point upside, but both figure to be incredibly highly owned. Pitts can be a nice salary saver, but know that probably 30-40% of the field will own him. I actually could see Kelce’s ownership dip lower in these types of tournaments as players probably won’t play as many of the 3K receivers to fit Kelce in. Here are some top pivot options on the slate.

Logan Thomas:

-This projects as more of a defensive battle, but the injury to Curtis Samuel bumps Thomas to a strong option. He’s pretty safe for double-digit points, and has good TD equity. Thomas was a top 10 TE in the league last season, and Washington has very little behind him so he should be out there almost every snap.

T.J. Hockenson:

-This is definitely a terrible match-up versus a rejuvenated 49ers defense, but Hockenson has an okay floor. The Lions are devoid of playmakers on this offense, leaving Hockenson as potentially their target leader this season. With Detroit likely down in this game they could have to abandon the run really early leading to more passing than expected. Banking on the Lions offense is a risky proposition, but given the reasonable price, low ownership and high potential target volume he’s a worthwhile pivot play.

Austin Hooper:

-Two years ago with Atlanta Hooper was one of the top fantasy tight ends in the league. Last year his numbers dipped, but he changed teams in an offseason where they didn’t have a normal training camp/preseason. Hooper injury early in the season limited his fantasy output. This offseason the reports have been glowing on him, and “coach-speak” suggests he will be more involved.

If that is the case this is the perfect week to fire up Hooper. While the Browns aren’t favored to win, their expected points are higher than most teams who are projected to win. The Chiefs were bad versus opposing tight ends, and Hooper offers even a price discount from Kyle Pitts chalk. Hooper’s low ownership gives access to the highest Vegas total on the slate.

Robert Tonyan:

-Tonyan is a very reasonable price at $4,200, is coming off an 11 TD year and plays with Aaron Rodgers. Despite that his ownership is going to be in the single-digits. His target share won’t be  high, but he caught 88% of targets last year, and averaged more than a TD every 6 targets. He’s a tremendous Red Zone threat and the Packers have a good team total.



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