Welcome to the NFL DFS QB Coach, where we identify optimal point-per-dollar quarterbacks for our lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Quarterbacks listed below are those for Sunday’s Main Slate, which means we’ll be excluding the stand-alone games (TNF, SNF, MNF).
The biggest factors in consideration when selecting QBs for our DFS lineups are matchup, projected game flow, and Vegas totals/spreads. In respect to matchups, we’re looking for QBs behind strong offensive lines (protection) who provide them with ample time in the pocket to find their targets, ideally when they’re facing weak defenses with subpar secondaries (cornerbacks/safeties). But that in and of itself is not enough.
For QBs to be viable DFS plays, we must drill down to matchups where we believe the games will stay close and competitive, or we think a team will need to spend the second half trying to catch up by airing the ball out and abandoning the run altogether.
In contrast, targeting QBs on teams that are large Vegas favorites is usually not ideal for our purposes. If the Chiefs are two-TD favorites against the Dolphins, it probably doesn’t make sense to pay up for Patrick Mahomes knowing he may well take his foot off the gas pedal in the second half and the team may just hand the ball off to running backs to wind the clock down. If, for some reason, you believe the Dolphins keep said game competitive, then using Mahomes in your lineup would make more sense.
Also, we are looking for quarterbacks on pass-heavy offenses, in competitive games or catch-up scenarios, with implied totals greater than 48 and a spread of five points or fewer. Quarterbacks who frequently scramble and gain yardage with their legs (rushing stats) are certainly a priority given the additional statistical output we might expect. That’s why you’ll likely see guys like Lamar Jackson (BAL) and Cam Newton (CAR) frequently recommended in this column.
Week 1 Matchups
Preferred plays in green.
Vegas lines as of Monday evening.
Let’s start with the most obvious omission – Patrick Mahomes. Each slate is its own animal and it’s important we review it from a macro point of view as well as in detail. There are simply way too many affordable options Week 1 where paying up for Mahomes on the road against a top-five defense is not the ideal spot for a huge ceiling. Mahomes frequently exceeded expectations in his monster breakout season last year but that Week 5 game against the Jaguars was the only game where he did not throw a touchdown pass. If you want to be contrarian, go for it. He just won’t be on many of my lineup builds with the plethora of cheaper alternatives available Week 1.
Chalky “ish” (For Cash Games)
Let me preface this by saying that QB ownership on both sites will be even more spread out than it usually is. Ownership rates do start to gravitate towards a few specific options once content starts rolling out over the course of the week and the Twitter buzz reaches great magnitude. With this column out earlier in the week, it should be interesting to track how close my initial projections fall to the game day actuals.
Jameis Winston stands to be one of the highest-owned quarterbacks in Week 1 – roughly 15-20% in big GPPs. Plenty of positive factors for his success in this one too. You’ve got one of the only games on the slate with an implied total of 50 or more; a game that is expected to be close (TB favored by a point) and a pass-heavy offense with some incredibly talented targets (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard). Moreover, the Niners ranked 25th against the pass last season and outside of veteran CB Richard Sherman who is still a decent defender yet quickly aging, their other two cornerbacks (K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon) were two of the worst-graded at their position last season, particularly Witherspoon (Williams is the slot guy and should match up frequently with Godwin). Add in the fact that Winston can do a little extra damage as a runner, and it’s a bonanza spot for Winston. He’s my primary selection for all cash game formats (H2H, 50/50, Double-Ups). That’s if you are able to spend up (lower-priced options listed in next section).
Kyler Murray (FADE) should be popular as well in a game with a close spread (DET -2.5 road favorites) though he’s not one of my favorite plays of the week. It’s his first career start against a Lions’ secondary that should be improved this year with the addition of sixth-ranked slot CB last season, Justin Coleman – in addition to stand out perimeter man Darius Slay. The Lions were a true funnel defense in the second half of last season as they were exceptionally stout against the run but ranked second-to-last in pass DVOA defense. This could well be a fun and competitive game, but I’d rather watch Murray a week and put my cards in other baskets this week.
Lamar Jackson and Carson Wentz round out the remaining cash game options most will run with. The Dolphins claim not to be in full tank mode, but after trading away Kenny Stills, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive back Kiko Alonso, it surely appears it’s going to be tough sledding for them in general this season. Even with the Ravens potentially getting off to a hefty lead against them in Week 1, Jackson should still be a viable DFS play this week even if all of his damage is done in the first half. Jackson led all QBs in rushing yards last season (695) despite essentially only starting half the team’s games. It’s a dream matchup and a good spot.
As for Carson Wentz, he’s simply underpriced over on DraftKings as the 12th priciest QB. It’s possible the well-rounded Eagles spank them, but much of the damage can come via the run (Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard) as well. Don’t mind Wentz but don’t see the massive upside against the Redskins this week.
Recommendations: Winston, Jackson
Affordable, with Upside (GPP Plays, but Cash Game-Viable)
Jimmy Garoppolo will be making his first NFL start since last September. He does appear to be fully healed but he didn’t look like typical dominating Jimmy G throughout training camp and his first preseason appearance. That is, until his latest preseason game against the Chiefs where he completed 14-of-20 passes for 188 and a TD. It may take him additional time to get his full groove back, but the matchup against arguably the worst secondary in the league is a fantastic upside spot. Among active, qualified cornerbacks last season, only two (Vernon Hargreaves III, M.J. Stewart) had a catch-rate (allowed) of greater than 80 percent. Both are still active corners on the Bucs.
Matthew Stafford is flying under the radar in season-long drafts coming off an incredibly disappointing season where he threw just 21 TD passes and failed to top 4,000 yards for the first time in his career. Stafford did lose primo WR Marvin Jones and pass-catching stud back Kerryon Johnson to injury, so he did not have his full complement of weapons last season. Yes, the Lions are expected to be a run-heavy offense under Matt Patricia, but this is still a fantastic spot for the Lions’ pass offense in a game that should be high-scoring and hopefully competitive.
Jacoby Brissett is simply a price play because DFS salaries were set before Andrew Luck retired so you’ll be able to fit almost all the high-priced position players (RB, WR, TE) in your GPP Brissett lineups. The issue, of course, is that the Chargers boast one of the NFL’s best defenses, particularly the shut-down members of their secondary. That’s the bad – but it’s outweighed by the ‘good’ in that Brissett is dirt cheap, can provide some additional fantasy points as a rusher and that the Colts *should* be playing catch up (read: throwing a lot) in the second half.
Nick Foles is going to fly under the radar this week and that’s a good thing for us. I mean, why the hell would you play Foles when you have nearly any other signal-caller to choose from? Well, because they’re playing the Chiefs – who not only had the league’s best offense but was also involved in numerous shootouts. Their defense saw more pass attempts by opposing QBs than any other in the league (632) as they allowed the second-most passing yards (4,374). Yes, the Jags should lean heavily on grinder RB Leonard Fournette most games but Foles is no slouch and has some talented weapons at his disposal – namely slot receiver Dede Westbrook. If you’re game-stacking KC-JAX you can get a couple big hitters from the Chiefs’ offense (Hill/Kelce) if you play Foles with Westbrook. This one is for tournaments only.
Recommendations (in order): Garoppolo, Foles, Stafford, Brissett
Even though the Vikings will be focusing on establishing the run with Dalvin Cook this year, I do prefer Cousins to Ryan in this specific matchup. First off, the game is in Minnesota as opposed to the fast-track dome of Atlanta, which bodes well for a Vikings’ defense that allowed the fourth-least fantasy points to opposing QBs (14.1) in 2018. On the flip side, the Falcons allowed the third-most points to opposing QBs last season (20.6). Cousins is also cheaper on both sites, though will be slightly more popular. The Vikings *should* be one of the more predictable teams to stack in tournaments with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Dalvin Cook eating up the majority of targets.
Recommendations (in order): Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan
Then there’s the ‘heavy favorites’ group that includes Russell Wilson (SEA home v CIN), Dak Prescott (DAL home v NYG), Philip Rivers (LAC home v IND) and Baker Mayfield (CLE home v TEN). Each of these are facing teams with inferior offenses and all are at home. Is there a possibility of one or two of these guys being the top-scoring QBs on the slate? Sure. Is it likely or worth paying up for keeping in mind the fantastic value we get elsewhere at the position this week? Probably not. Especially knowing that even though any of these QBs do their fair share of damage through the first couple quarters to secure a hefty lead (say 200 yds + 2 TDs), chances are their ceilings are limited if they establish the run in the second half of their games if they’re holding comfortable leads. Among these four games, the DAL-NYG interdivisional rivalry seems like the game most likely to stay close. And with likely no Ezekiel Elliott to rely upon, Prescott may be very active in the pass game. The key here is that wideout Amari Cooper is fully healed from his foot issue and healthy, otherwise Prescott’s upside is limited, and this could end up being a defensive battle.
In summary, there is generally less predictability in Week 1 (well, there is for those who aren’t prepared like we are). Studying matchups, projecting game flow and recognizing mispriced values is key to our QB selection – especially in this first week. Keep rushing capabilities in mind when building teams around quarterbacks this week, and note that you simply don’t have to spend up that much at the position in Week 1 given the numerous values in good spots. Good luck and let’s get that money!