The first game of the 2021 NFL season was outstanding to fantasy managers who played the star players from Thursday night. It is not too late to set your DFS lineups there is one more day before the 1:00 pm kickoff on Sunday. There are plenty of intriguing options to choose from for lineups on Sunday. Here are some of the best value players on DraftKings who can outplay their value during Week 1.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
DraftKings Value: $6,400
It isn’t often that a top-12 fantasy quarterback emerges over the last four games of the NFL season. That is exactly what happened last year when Jalen Hurts took over as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. During that stretch, Hurts was the seventh-highest scoring fantasy quarterback ahead of stars like Justin Herbert, Deshaun Watson, and Kyler Murray who all finished as top-10 fantasy quarterbacks on the season. This is the full offseason Hurts has gone through where he has had minicamp, training camp, and a preseason. It is also the first full offseason he has to prep for the starting job in a new offense with better weapons. Hurts has every opportunity to build upon what he did last year as a real-life and fantasy quarterback.
In Week 1 Hurts and the Eagles will take on the Atlanta Falcons. Based on DraftKings scoring settings Atlanta gave up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season (second-most for standard fantasy scoring). Their defense is not expected to be much better than it was last season despite bringing in a new coaching staff. This is expected to be a high-scoring game which means a lot of opportunities for Hurts to both run the ball himself and throw the ball to a healthy group of weapons including first-round pick DeVonta Smith. He could very well finish as a top-3 quarterback and could be had for $1,000 less than the third-highest valued quarterback Josh Allen.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
DraftKings Value: $6,300
Kirk Cousins is not typically thought of as a fantasy quarterback. However, given the right matchup, he is extremely useful in fantasy because of the weapons he has been supplied with during his time in Minnesota. He currently has two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen.
Minnesota is taking on the Cincinnati Bengals in their first game in what could be a high-scoring game. Both teams have a lot of offensive firepower and below-average defenses. Even though Minnesota’s offense runs through Dalvin Cook, Minnesota could be pass-happy the first week of the season. Cincinnati is without their number one cornerback Trae Waynes leaving Eli Apple to start on the outside across from Chidobe Awuzie. That tandem could struggle to cover Jefferson and Theilen. If both Vikings receivers have great days it would mean a great fantasy day for Cousins. For a cheap price Cousins could finish the week as a top-10 fantasy quarterback.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
DraftKings Value: $6,400
In standard fantasy leagues, James Robinson was the waiver wire pick-up of the year. The undrafted free agent rookie rushed for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Jacksonville felt so comfortable with Robinson being their lead back before the season started they cut Leonard Fournette in the preseason. The new Jaguars regime has not shown a lot of faith in Robinson taking Travis Etienne in the first round. However, after a season-ending injury to Etienne, Robinson appears to have regained the lead running back role in this offense.
The Jaguars start the season against the Houston Texans who have been said by many to have the worst roster in football. Houston has a couple of intriguing offensive players, but are atrocious on defense. Similar to Houston, Jacksonville may not win a lot of games this season. But this is a game they could win and gain a lead early enough where they could run the clock out. The offense could very well run through Robinson in the second half. On top of that last season, Houston gave up the most points to running backs when applying DraftKings scoring settings. The Jaguars may take advantage of Houstons poor run defense and have a run-heavy game plan.
Last season Robinson played like an RB1. He may not be able to sustain that level of production this season after the addition of Carlos Hyde and a major upgrade at quarterback. However this week Robinson has a great opportunity to be a top-10 scoring running back with the upside to finish within the top-5. At the price, it takes to draft Robinson that is a great bargain.
Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
DraftKings Value: $6,300
The first running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft was Alabama running back Najee Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers took Harris to take a lot of pressure off of their 39-year-old running back Ben Roethlisberger. He is an immediate upgrade over what the Steelers had last season in their running back room. Last year Pittsburgh was one of the worst teams in the league at running the football.
In Week 1 the Pittsburgh Steelers go up against the Buffalo Bills in what could be an ugly game. Both teams pride themselves on defensive play, but the Bills weren’t great at stopping the run last year. When applying DraftKings scoring settings Buffalo gave up the 16th most points to running backs last season. Their pedestrian run defense could very well be taken advantage of by a physical running back like Harris. In order to beat the Bills, Pittsburgh will need to keep the ball out of Josh Allen’s hands. In order to do that they need to run the ball early and often throughout the game. Pittsburgh could also look to run the ball often early in the year so that way Roethlisberger and the offense do not run out of steam like they did late last season.
The volume Harris will receive combined with his talent could result in a breakout debut for him. At the value, it takes to add Harris he is a high ceiling play in DFS because once he breaks out it will be increasingly more difficult to slot him into your lineup each week.
Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers
DraftKings Value: $5,800
Raheem Mostert may be one of the most underrated players in the NFL. It was not too long ago that the San Fransisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl largely to how Mostert ran the ball down the stretch. He was seemingly impossible to stop during the 2019-20 playoffs. Last year was not great for Mostert because he missed half of the season because of injury and when he returned he definitely was not at 100%. Now the 49ers roster as a whole is healthy again and Mostert is still the lead back for one of the league’s best offenses and rushing attacks.
The largest blowout of Week 1 is expected to happen during the San Fransisco 49ers’ game against the Detriot Lions. It is the largest gap between roster talent throughout the Week 1 matchups. Mostert will either be a large reason why the 49ers are ahead or will receive a bulk of the carries to run out the clock once they are ahead. Either way, Mostert will get the opportunity to show he is still an extremely talented running back against the second-worst run defense using DraftKings scoring. Mostert is the 19th most expensive running back on DraftKings but has an opportunity to finish within the top-5. He needs to be in all DFS lineups at that value.
Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans
DraftKings Value: $6,800
After the NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons traded former All-Pro receiver, Julio Jones, to the Tennessee Titans. The addition of Jones propels Tennessee into the conversation for the most talented offense in the league. As crazy as it sounds Jones will be the second option in the passing game behind A.J. Brown. However, it is more likely that Jones is the 1B to Brown than a #2 similar to receivers like Adam Theilen and Cooper Kupp.
The matchup between the Tennesee Titans and the Arizona Cardinals could be one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend. Both offenses have multiple stars and playmakers scattered throughout. While both defenses have an upgraded pass rush, but question marks in the secondary. The Arizona Cardinals have a massive question mark at cornerback. They lost Patrick Peterson in free agency and replaced him with Malcolm Butler. However, during the preseason, Butler has contemplated retirement which would leave a gaping hole on Arizona’s defense. On top of that veteran cornerback, Darqueze Dennard was placed in Injured Reserve to start the season. The Titans’ game plan may be very pass-heavy to take advantage of the mismatch between their receivers and Arizona’s corners.
Even though A.J. Brown is perceived as the Titans’ number one receiver, this may be Julio Jones’ coming out party. Last year Jones missed time because of injuries but when he was on the field he was fantastic. Now that he is healthy and has a great matchup Jones could show the world that he is still one of the best receivers in the league. Jones could finish the week as a top-10 receiver and could be had at a premium.
Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
DraftKings Value: $5,700
Last season Brandon Aiyuk was arguably the best player on the 49ers offense. He stepped up in a major way when a lot of the team’s playmakers went down with injuries. The 49ers took Aiyuk in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Now that the 49ers are healthy, especially at the quarterback position, Aiyuk could have a breakout season.
Even though Aiyuk has a lower DraftKings value than Deebo Samuel, he could emerge as the 49ers’ number one wide receiver this season. They have a great matchup against a poor defense in the Detriot Lions in Week 1. Aiyuk could see a shadow from the 2020 third overall pick Jeff Okudah. However, if Okudah plays the way he did last season, Aiyuk could be in for a great day. Okudah struggled in his rookie season. The Lions’ defense won’t likely be much better than they were last season and will likely get exposed by all the 49ers’ playmakers. Aiyuk could be a major reason why the 49ers crush the Lions. At his value, he needs to be inserted into DFS lineups because he showed last season he is capable of putting up outstanding fantasy production.
Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers
DraftKings Value: $5,700
In his first year with the Carolina Panthers, Robby Anderson showed he is more than just a deep threat. He established himself as the 1B receiver in this offense to D.J. Moore. Anderson and Moore rotated throughout the season who was the team’s number one receiver. Now that Anderson is reuniting with former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the Joe Brady offense he played in last year he could play better than he did the season before. The chemistry Anderson has with Darnold could give him a slight edge in targets early this season.
In Week 1 the Carolina Panthers will take on the New York Jets. That is a revenge game for both Darnold and Anderson. The Panthers should plan for both of them to have outstanding games to have revenge on their former team. On top of that, it is not an outlandish statement to say that the New York Jets cornerback group is the worst positional group in the league. Going into Week 1 their starting cornerbacks are Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols. Darnold and Anderson could make a statement by stretching the field early. Then they could add insult to injury by giving Anderson a large target share throughout the same. Anderson has the same upside as D.J. Moore if not higher and has a lower DraftKings value than him. He could be one of the most productive players in Week 1.
DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
DraftKings Value: $4,500
For the first time since 1991, a wide receiver has won the Heisman award. Former Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith had one of the greatest seasons ever by a college wide-receiver. Despite all of that Smith was the third receiver taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. But out of all of the receivers taken in the first round, Smith has the greatest opportunity to succeed. Three of the first four first-round wide receivers taken Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Kadarius Toney are joining offenses with multiple receivers on their respective rosters that could be ahead of them on the depth chart. While Rashod Bateman is joining an offense that is extremely run-heavy and may not prioritize him early and often this season.
Smith should immediately assert himself as the Eagles WR1. Outside of Smith, the Eagles receiver room is made up of disappointing 2020 first round pick Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Smith’s biggest competition for targets are the Eagle’s talented tight end duo Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. It is very possible that Smith is the team’s leader in targets early in the season. He could see a 25% target share in this offense.
Smith will have the opportunity to assert himself as a star receiver in this debut game against the Atlanta Falcons. Over the last couple of years, Atlanta has been awful at defending the pass. Even after adding cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first round last season the Falcons ranked near the bottom at defending the pass. Last season the Falcons gave up the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers in all fantasy scoring formats. Their secondary and defense as a whole is not expected to be better than it was last year.
Smith may be the best bargain in DFS this week. He has an outstanding matchup, great opportunity, a high ceiling, and can be had for very cheap. According to DraftKings, Smith is tied for the 45th highest salary in order to add him to lineups. For perspective, he is tied with Colts practice squad wide receiver Keke Coutee and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk who could be fourth on the team in targets this season. He should be at least in the top-30 and has the ceiling to be a top-20 receiver this week. All these factors are reasons why Smith is a must-have for DFS lineups this weekend.
Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
DraftKings Value: $4,100
Last year the Indianapolis Colts took Michael Pittman Jr. early in the second round with the intentions of becoming their number one receiver down the road. It did not happen last year despite a down year from T.Y. Hilton. That is why the Colts decided to bring Hilton back this offseason. However, now that Hilton is starting the season on IR, Pittman Jr. has his opportunity to take the number one job especially with a new quarterback in Carson Wentz and new offensive coordinator in Marcus Brady.
Pittman Jr. will have a great opportunity to have a breakout game during the first week going against the Seattle Seahawks. What was once one of the best defensive units in the league for almost a decade has been lackluster over the last few seasons. The past couple of seasons Seattle has been near the bottom of the league at defending the pass. Last year the Seahawks gave up the fourth-most points to wide receivers using the DraftKings scoring system. The Seahawks lost their number one cornerback from a season ago Shaquill Griffin in free agency and replaced him with Ahkello Witherspoon. However, the Seahawks traded Witherspoon to the Pittsburgh Steelers before the season started. Seattle’s top three cornerbacks are DJ Reed, Tre Flowers, and Sidney Jones.
He could very well finish within the top-20 receivers considering the matchup and the fact that he is expected to lead the team in targets. Even if he finishes within the top-25 that is still a premium considering he is tied for the 54th highest salary among wide receivers on DraftKings. He is extremely likely to outplay his price tag which makes him an attractive player to add in DFS lineups this week.
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
DraftKings Value: $4,600
Former quarterback converted tight end Logan Thomas became the starting tight end for the Washington Football Team last season. Thomas broke out last season with 72 receptions for 670 yards and six touchdowns. In PPR formats he finished the year tied for third in fantasy points. Washington added a few pass catchers to their offense including Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, and 2021 third-round pick Dyami Brown. They also upgraded the quarterback position bringing in Ryan Fitzpatrick. So Thomas’ value and productions should be similar to what he did the year before. Early on Thomas may have a higher ceiling because Curtis Samuel was put on IR and will miss the first three games. It is logical to believe that Thomas would solidify his status as the team’s second option in the passing game.
This weekend Washington is playing the Los Angeles Chargers to begin their season. Last season the Chargers gave up the 12th most points to tight ends in the league last season. Outside of bringing in Brandon Staley to be the team’s head coach they have got to improve their group of linebackers, nickel-backs, and safeties that would be tasked with covering Thomas. The opportunity he has to get a lot of targets combined with the fact that he has an upgrade of quarterback and has a good matchup is the reason why Thomas is a great target for the tight end position for his value. Thomas could finish the week being a top-4 tight end and is significantly cheaper than some of the elite options.
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
DraftKings Value: $4,400
The rookie with the most hype heading into the 2021 NFL season is not first overall pick Trevor Lawrence, it is Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts. Atlanta took Pitts fourth overall in this past draft making him the first non-quarterback selected. It is not typical for the first non-quarterback selected in the draft to be a tight end. However, Pitts showed at his time at Florida that he is an extremely talented player and has an outstanding ceiling. There are not any tight ends in recent memory that are built or play like Pitts. He is expected to see a major target share in his first season since Atlanta traded away former All-Pro receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans. After Calvin Ridley, it is fair to say that Pitts has the opportunity to solidify himself as the team’s next best pass catcher. He is competing with wide receiver Russell Gage and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst for the team’s secondary targets.
Pitts will be going up against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first week of the season. This is a great opportunity for Pitts because this is expected to be a high-scoring game. It is also a good matchup for Pitts because the Eagles gave up the 11th most points to tight ends last sesaon when factoring in DraftKings scoring. The Eagles defense has some big names but overall is not that intimidating. This should not scare people starting Pitts in fantasy because the Eagles are notorious for their lackluster linebacker group that may not be able to cover Pitts. On top of that Avonte Maddox, Anthony Harris, or Rodney McLeod likely won’t lock down Pitts either. The only time Pitts would see one of the outside cornerbacks Darius Slay or Steven Nelson is if he lines up on the outside. Then Pitts would have a size advantage over both Slay and Nelson.
This is a great opportunity for Pitts to have a coming-out party early in the season. From a fantasy perspective, he is a great value play this week. Pitts could easily finish within the top-5 tight ends in scoring this week but could be added for $4,400 which is the eighth-highest salary among tight ends. He is a sneaky good candidate for the flex spot as well if a player is running low on salary and wants a major impact from that position. There are not many better options that have as high of a ceiling as Pitts for his price tag.
San Francisco 49ers DST
DraftKings Value: $4,200
The San Francisco 49ers Defense and Special Teams have the highest salary among their position group. But it is still a value because it kind of feels like money in the bank. Nothing is guaranteed in football, especially in Week 1. But Fantasy managers had to have circled this matchup when the schedule was first released. This matchup between the 49ers and Lions has the largest gap in talent among the games this week.
Just a year ago the San Francisco 49ers DST was the third-highest scoring unit in the league. They were loaded with talent all over. Last season the 49ers fell off due to injuries to stars like Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman. Also, it didn’t help that the offense was inefficient due to Jimmy Garropolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Raheem Mostert all missing a majority of the season. This year the 49ers are healthy and have the potential to once again finish the season as one of the highest-scoring units.
On the other side of the field, the Detriot Lions do not have high expectations this season, especially on offense. Last year the Lions gave up the 11th most points to defense and special teams units in fantasy last year. They could very likely be worse this year for a few reasons. First, the Detriot Lions traded Matthew Stafford for a package that included Jared Goff. The former Rams quarterback completed 50% of his throws for 198 yards two touchdowns and an interception in their first meeting. Then the second time Goff played the 49ers he completed 61% of his passes for 198 yards, two interceptions, and a fumble. Those are not great numbers considering the weapons he had around him then.
The weapons Goff will be working with a far worse than he had in Los Angeles and maybe the worst group of skill position players in the league. Detriot’s offense does feature young stars T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, but at the wide receiver position, the team is extremely thin. Their number one receiver is veteran Tyrell Williams who didn’t play last year. After Williams, the Lions have second-year receiver Quintez Cephus and 2021 fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown. Detriot is expected to run the ball early and often. But if they go down a couple of scores early they may have to rely on passing the ball to have a shot of winning. It also doesn’t help that their best two offensive skill players D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson were both on the injury report earlier this week.
On top of that left tackle, Taylor Decker will be out this week with a hand injury that could require surgery. This leaves the Lions’ offensive line very vulnerable against the pass rush which is what the 49ers’ defense is built on. On the other side, there have been reports that seventh overall pick Penei Sewell has struggled to make the transition to the right tackle. So the 49ers pass rush should be able to make plays especially their edge rushers with are two of the best in the league Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead.
So the facts that Jared Goff performed poorly last year against this defense, the 49ers will get to an early lead that will force them to pass the ball, Detriot has way below average wide receiver play, and the mismatch Detriot will have to deal with blocking the 49ers pass rushers are the reasons why the 49ers defense and special teams units are a must-have in DFS lineups for Sunday.
Carolina Panthers DST
DraftKings Value: $3,600
An intriguing matchup set to take place this weekend is the Carolina Panthers vs the New York Jets. It is a revenge game for new Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold who was traded from the Jets to the Panthers shortly before the NFL Draft. It is also a revenge game for Panthers receiver Robby Anderson who spent his first four seasons in the league with the Jets before signing in Carolina. An under-discussed mismatched in this game is how the Jets’ offense will do against the Panthers’ defense. This is likely because there are a lot of questions about how the Jets’ offense will look and play this season under new head coach Robert Saleh and new quarterback Zach Wilson.
Even though the Jets added a lot of new players to the offense including Zach Wilson, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft, and Alijah Vera-Tucker their offense should not be expected to play great early this year if at all. More likely than not the Jets will improve from last year but will likely finish as a bottom ten offense in the league. This could be a sneaky opportunity for a young Panthers defense to assert themselves as one of the better defenses in the league. The Panthers are loaded in young talent on defense. Their defense features veterans like Shaq Thompson, Daquan Jones, Donte Jackson, and Haason Reddick. But in recent years the Panthers have spent top-64 picks on players like Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn, and Jaycee Horn.
Carolina has the framework to have an elite defense in a couple of years. They currently have the talent to be better than league average and take over a game against a weaker opponent. Despite the talent added to the Jets offense, a rookie quarterback in his first start could be vulnerable to defense as talented as Carolina’s. DraftKings has them valued as the fourth-best defense and special teams unit and could easily finish first this week.
Denver Broncos DST
DraftKings Value: $3,300
The Denver Broncos went all-in on their defense this all-season giving defensive mastermind Vic Fangio the best unit he has had during his tenure with the team. They added Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and ninth overall pick Patrick Surtain II to their cornerback group that features one of the best nickel backs in the league Bryce Callahan. They also retained Shelby Harris, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, and Von Miller. Under Fangio, this unit could be one of the best in the league.
In Week 1 the Broncos are up against the New York Giants who made some major upgrades to their offense this offseason. New York added Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Kyle Rudolph to an offense that already features Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton, and Saquon Barkley. Despite all of these additions, the Giants offense is still a unit to target when looking at defenses to start in fantasy because of their quarterback Daniel Jones and lackluster offensive line. The Broncos’ secondary could be capable of shutting down their receivers, especially if Kenny Golladay misses this game. Denver’s pass rush could make life uncomfortable for Jones who has not played well when dealing with pressure. Jones has led the league in fumbles in each of the last two seasons.
Pro Bowler Bradley Chubb is a game-time decision for this game. If he misses this game Denver will still have enough defensively to make them an intriguing fantasy play this week. But if he doesn’t they are still a great play this week at their value of $3,300 considering they could finish the week as a top-5 scoring defense.
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