The 2015 NFL season is finally upon us. In Week 1, DraftKings daily fantasy players can hope to discover a star at a bargain price before he has his breakout game. While established names such as Aaron Rodgers ($8,600) and Adrian Peterson ($7,700) lead the way, the key to success is finding solid production from less likely sources.
Below are predictions for the top Week 1 scorers at each position, as well as more affordable options who may also put up big numbers.
Rodgers threw 38 touchdown passes last season, two fewer than league leader Andrew Luck ($8,300). Luck was picked off 16 times, though, whereas Rodgers only tossed five interceptions—a lower number than that recorded by 35 other quarterbacks.
Rodgers’ average of 23.4 fantasy points per game was second at the position to Luck’s 23.7. However, Luck faces a Buffalo Bills defense ranked second against quarterbacks, while Rodgers takes on the 31st-rated Chicago Bears. In two games against the Bears in 2014, Rodgers totaled 617 passing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Matt Ryan ($7,500) is cheaper than six other QBs on the board, but chances are he’ll be one of the week’s leading scorers. The contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons has the highest over/under of any game on the schedule—55 points, per Odds Shark—so offense should be plentiful. The Eagles also have the 30th-rated defense versus quarterbacks.
Last season, Ryan’s numbers were slightly better at home, where he averaged 1.4 fantasy points per game more than he did on the road.
Peterson took the field just once in 2014. The man who rushed for nearly 2,100 yards for the Minnesota Vikings two years ago is now back from suspension with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove he’s still the best running back in the game.
As Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press noted, Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater ($6,600) stated his intention to make Peterson the focal point of the offense in Week 1:
Over the final three games of last season, Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill ($7,100) rushed for 148, 147 and 100 yards, respectively. He carried the ball a total of 70 times in that stretch, scoring three touchdowns.
Among his “bold predictions,” ESPN’s Matthew Berry suggested Hill could finish 2015 as the No. 1 fantasy running back. Berry also pointed out that Hill was the league’s top rusher after Week 8 last year.
Considering he’s facing an Oakland Raiders squad ranked 32nd against running backs, it’s hard to imagine there are six RBs who cost more than Hill does.
Much of the case for Matt Ryan also applies to his top receiver, Julio Jones ($9,300). Jones was third in the NFL in both receptions, 104, and targets, 164, a season ago. The following highlight video makes a strong argument for why he’s one of the league’s premier wideouts:
Jones topped the 100-yard mark seven times last year, including an astounding 259-yard performance in Week 14.
John Brown ($4,500) has the opportunity to provide No. 1 wide receiver numbers at a No. 2 WR price.
Brown caught 48 passes for 696 yards last season, being targeted 103 times. Seventy of those targets were more than 10 yards down the field, making him a consistent big-play threat. After an injury-plagued 2014, the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback situation is now in much better shape with a healthy Carson Palmer ($6,500) in uniform.
A hand injury to Michael Floyd ($5,800) should also increase Brown’s role in the Cardinals offense in Week 1.
Rob Gronkowski ($7,000) already played on Thursday night. Jimmy Graham ($5,600) may not be the same guy now he’s no longer part of the New Orleans Saints’ pass-heavy offense. Who fills the void? How about Martellus Bennett ($4,300), who led all tight ends with 90 receptions a year ago?
SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio mentioned Bennett’s heavy usage at the goal line:
Bennett topped the 100-yard mark twice in 2014, with his highest total, 134, coming against the Green Bay Packers.
Using a system that projects points then divides them by cost, numberFire expects Bennett to have the 10th-highest value of any NFL player in Week 1.
Owen Daniels ($3,400) isn’t among the 10 most expensive tight ends, but he has a lot of things going for him from a fantasy perspective.
Now a member of the Denver Broncos, Daniels is a starting TE with an all-time great quarterback, Peyton Manning ($8,200), playing in a city highly conducive to a successful passing game. Manning also has a long history of excellent production from his lead tight ends.
The pair connected on four of five targets in a preseason game on August 22 against one of Daniels’ former teams, the Houston Texans. In Week 1, the Broncos take on Daniels’ previous club, the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a good bet Manning will look to get Daniels the ball, especially in the end zone.
The Seahawks ($3,400) surrendered just 267.1 yards per game last year, easily the best in the league. Seattle also held its opponents to a league-low 15.9 points per contest. In Week 1, the Seahawks visit a St. Louis Rams squad with the 30th-ranked offense.
New Rams quarterback Nick Foles ($5,300) also threw 10 interceptions in only eight games in 2014.
The Browns ($3,100) visit a New York Jets team with the 26th-rated offense that had the fewest passing yards in the NFL last season. In addition, New York is missing its starting QB, Geno Smith ($6,300), who’s out with a broken jaw.
Cleveland’s defense is coming off a year in which it averaged the ninth-most fantasy points per game but was also second in the league in total interceptions.
All prices and opponent rankings courtesy of DraftKings. Statistics via ESPN.com unless otherwise noted. Mark Vandeusen is a featured columnist for Nerdy Football. Follow him on Twitter @LucidSportsFan.
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