The season is nearly upon us. That means fantasy football is almost all the way back. You've either already drafted your season-long redraft fantasy leagues, or it is on the horizon this weekend. Of course, we here at NFL Fantasy are excited about seasonal teams, as well. However, we are quite thrilled at the prospect of playing daily fantasy football on FanDuel this year.
Daily fantasy brings a breath of fresh air to the industry, with an emphasis on the excitement of drafting a new team every week. We all know that the late summer drafts and the thrill of analyzing the weekly matchups are the best part of playing fantasy football. FanDuel's daily game merges those two together to form the newest wave rocking the fantasy world.
Here in the weekly FanDuel roundup column, we'll break down everything you need to know to pick the best plays on the site's weekend slate.
Top quarterback plays
The quarterback position can be one of the more predictable in daily fantasy. In general, it's often best to take one of the top players like Aaron Rodgers because their production is so lock solid. However, you'll have to make major sacrifices to get players like that into your lineup. If you want your roster flush with high-end receivers and running backs, or one of the top tight ends, you'll need to search for better value at quarterback.
When mining for those value quarterbacks, you're not so much looking at the individual player, but rather the projected game script. You want to pluck passers from the games that carry a high projected point total. Even if the value is slightly better, you don't want to pick your DFS quarterback from a game that might end up being a 17-14 contest. The Falcons play the Eagles in Week 1, and that could be the highest scoring game of the inaugural slate. So Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan are good quarterback targets.
There's also some merit in targeting quarterbacks on teams who will be playing catchup all game. You don't want the passers whose team projects to get blown out that week -- Jay Cutler figures to lead people into this trap many times this year. Garbage time volume can be a fluky dance partner. Rather, go for the quarterbacks in close games, but feature plenty of scoring.
Top running back plays
Running back is another position where finding value plays is quite dependent on game flow. This is especially true on FanDuel, which only awards .5 PPR.
We know that teams inherently run the ball more when they are winning to salt away the contest. If you aren't paying up for a workhorse, you want to target running backs on teams that project to come away with a victory that week. They'll get plenty of carries, and are strong bets for a touchdown. Chris Ivory, the Jets clear cut starter, will be the lead back in a game New York is projected to win at home against Cleveland. He's an excellent Week 1 value play.
Top wide receiver plays
Wide receiver may be the most important position on FanDuel, as the site requires you select three starting receivers. As such, this is where I typically like to target the most high-end players. The top wide receivers get peppered with targets, and are often attached to good quarterbacks who help them convert the chances into fantasy points. Going after at least one of the players from the Julio Jones/Antonio Brown tier can bring the big points.
When looking for value, a similar approach to the quarterback position is advised. You want receivers in high-scoring games, especially in tight shootouts. Matchups are also important to consider. There are always three or four secondaries that consistently allow big daily fantasy days to opposing wide receivers, such as the Buccaneers and Ravens last season. It makes sense to target ancillary receivers from the offenses facing those defenses.
All in all, your wide receiver targets depend largely on what you want to get out of your lineup. If you're looking for safety, and goals are just to finish in the top half or to best one other user, you want to chase players with a high target volume; think Jarvis Landry. If you thirst for upside to vault you to the top scoring players of the weekend, you may target the players with a bit more variance. You can place a premium on receivers like John Brown or Martavis Bryant, and roll with the downside in hope for an explosive touchdown.
Top tight end plays
Just as in redraft leagues, tight end is a bit of a mess in daily fantasy. Generally, I go with the famous "Gronk or bust" strategy. I don't mind starting off a lineup with Rob Gronkowski even if it calls for sacrifices at other positions. He has the undeniably rare combination of the highest floor and ceiling at his position. Of course, you can't construct 100 percent of your lineups around Gronk. Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce have the target volume and upside, respectively, to merit weekly consideration from the second tier.
If you choose to eschew Gronk, the next best approach is grabbing a value tight end with high touchdown upside. Pay attention to the matchups here, as well. Last season, the Cardinals, Jets and Bears allowed a flood of points every week to opposing tight ends. Going after athletic or red zone threats in good offenses at the tight end position facing these types of defenses is a good methodology for finding value. Jordan Cameron, Kyle Rudolph, Josh Hill and Dwayne Allen will be favorite targets in this vein.
Stack of the week
Stacking is when you play both a quarterback and at least one of his pass catchers in the same daily lineup. The objective is to exploit good matchups and favorable passing game scripts and maximize the points scored. If a quarterback projects to score a high amount of fantasy points against a poor secondary in a shootout-type game, his receivers (especially the No. 1 target) will be the mutual beneficiary.
Finding the optimal stack for a given week can vault you to the ranks of top scoring lineups. Every week in the roundup, we'll look at the top combination of a quarterback and wide receiver with a favorable game script and matchup.
Best contrarian play
Unlike your typical leagues, when competing on a daily fantasy site you go against thousands of other teams. As such, there's some merit to differentiating your lineups from the rest of the field, if your goal is to finish near the top. There are always a few players that the crowd is overlooking for DFS, whether because of their reputation, a narrative or a recent dip in production. Being a contrarian and putting a player like this in your lineup can give you a massive advantage over the field, if he hits.
Every week, we'll try to estimate the ownership percentages for some under the radar players, and decipher if any proves a good contrarian play.
Best obvious plays
While the strategy is merited, sometimes daily fantasy players can get caught up with being too contrarian. They'll take a player with such small odds of hitting value, and eschew a proven commodity who has just as good a chance to put up similar points. Trying to find the hidden value can often lead daily fantasy owners astray from an obvious play.
In the DFS roundup, we'll take a sobering approach to the values of known commodities. We'll look at the guys who are properly valued, but the public is just off of, for one reason or another. Sometimes overthinking can be the death knell to fantasy players, especially those in daily. We spend too much time looking for the hot sleeper and varying up our lineups that we miss on the glaring star staring you in the face. Sometimes Eddie Lacy against the Bears in Week 1 is the clear best play, rather than scoring the bottom of the available player list. But no more spoilers.
Cheat code of the week
We know about value, and sticking with your stars, but every daily fantasy player is dying to know who the one player is that can tilt your lineup. Sometimes it's a well-known player who is absolutely going to explode, on the other hand it may be a player listed at or near the minimum to bring wild value. When you find those players, you can earn a big advantage by either having the top-scorer of the week, or a minimum player that allows you to stock the other positions with elite players. In daily fantasy, we need these cheat codes to win.
Okay, one more spoiler. In the Week 1 edition of the DFS roundup, we'll be looking at one minimum player who will give you a massive advantage when constructing your lineups. Make sure you come back next week, and all the ones to follow, to get an edge when building your FanDuel lineups.
Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter **@MattHarmon_BYB**. He's going to be tilting with you all year in DFS, and couldn't be happier about it--until about November, that is.