NFL DFS Week 1 Value Picks

It’s almost that time again when beer heads are overflowing, crowds engulf stadiums with deafening roars, no-look passes silence away jeers, WRs look for flags after a CB shuts him down for a pick-six and Aaron Donald does Aaron Donald things. I can’t wait to see players like Saquon and CMC healthy and back on the gridiron, catching passes and snatching ankles.

For this series we are going to provide you a base to build your lineup off of with low-cost, moderate-risk players in DFS who we think will have low ownership% and/or are too cheap to pass up on. These picks sometimes, inevitably, in the worst of times… haunt you. But hey, that’s the game and we love it!

(Most, if not all, data and ranking is done utilizing both Pro Football Focus (PFF) and Pro Football Reference)

Cole Beasley (DK: $4,400; FD: $5,500)

The man lives in the slot with an Average Depth of Target (ADoT) of 7.6 yards. He lined up in the slot 88.8% of the time in 2020 with 119 targets and 96 receptions (80.7%). Cole is ranked second among all receivers who lined up in the slot*, behind some dude named Davante Adams.

Okay okay, so Cole Beasley is really good in the slot, what about Pittsburgh’s defense? Well, I’m glad you asked Mr. Naysayer…

Last year, the Steelers had Mike Hilton (primary slot defender), Terrell Edmunds and Cameron Sutton covering down on the slot. Hilton isn’t on the team anymore so we won’t be looking at his data. Minkah is a beast lined up in the slot, so he very well could be asked to cover down on one of the best slot WRs in the game from time-to-time. Joe Haden only covered the slot seven times.

Edmunds allowed a QB rating of 103.8 on 19 targets, but he also plays SS and with Diggs/Sanders on the outside he may be asked to remain deep more often than to lineup VS Cole Beasley.

Cameron Sutton is no scrub by any means, QB rating when targeted (38 targets) in the slot and Sutton was in coverage was 79.9 for 2020. Sutton ranked the 20th most targeted when guarding the slot (Hilton 24th), so it seems teams attacked the Steelers slot coverage quite a bit.

On the topic of slot corner, Matthew Marczi of www.steelersdepot.com wrote, “Pittsburgh has spent the offseason exploring alternatives, with Brooks being the primary candidate, and Arthur Maulet being another, but at this rate, it appears Sutton will be their primary slot defender.”

The loss of Hilton and the fact Diggs is on the outside could really open things up for the second best WR when lined in the slot Cole Beasley. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed, but with good over-the-top coverage I expect a decent number of short throws from Allen to suck the defense in before going deep to Diggs/Sanders.

One last time… Cole Beasley. Okay moving on…

Tony Avelar | AP Images

RB: Raheem Mostert (DK: $5,800; FD: $6,100)

The question for Mostert is whether he can remain healthy throughout the season, fortunately this is a one-game commitment. Last year was an injury laden year for him with a grade two MCL sprain and two grade three high ankle sprains. In eight game appearances (three of which he didn’t even finish) he managed a 104-521-2 line with 5.0 YPA and 16-156-1 receiving.

Mostert is known for breaking off big runs and this shows in his breakaway percentage of 31.7, just below Derrick Henry’s 31.8, however he didn’t grade very highly in 2020, ranking 23rd among RBs with a minimum of 100 attempts. Injuries most likely played a part in his decline since he ranked 11th in 2019.

Mostert is more than just a runner though, he ranked seventh as a receiver among RBs and was 4th in yards per route run for 2020.

Here’s why you should consider putting Mostert in your DFS lineup, the Detroit Lions graded AWFULLY at stopping the run. The only Lions DL/LB to grade in the top 50 for run defense was Trey Flowers (36th w/o LB, 44th w/LB) and only played in seven games.

The average yards before contact made with their current starting DL/LB would be 3.01. Mostert is still one of the fastest players in the NFL and if you aren’t touching him within three yards of the Line of Scrimmage (LoS) he is going to burn you.

Alim McNeill wasn’t graded last year since he’s a third-round rookie, however DL coach Todd Wash said this about him in early August, “… We knew he was a heck of a run defender, he’s stout at the point, but he’s a lot better athlete than he showed on tape, which for us was unbelievable…”

The team also added Michael Brockers to the DL and are hoping Austin Bryant is finally healthy after only playing 10 games in his first two seasons.

At his current price(s), against a weak Detroit D and the 49ers staff willing to part ways with Wayne Gallman, who looked pretty good in preseason, Mostert should garner heavy consideration in your lineup.

 Chris Keane | Getty Images

QB: Sam Darnold (DK: $5,000; FD: $6,500)

I felt queasy writing that.

Listen, the numbers for Sam Darnold aren’t good, they’re bad… really bad… but Darnold doesn’t have to do a crazy number of things to have a very successful fantasy day against his old team, 30th ranked pass defense and 19th ranked tackling defense New York Jets. The addition of Christian McCaffrey alone should elevate his numbers. Simple dump offs now have the real potential to turn into big gains and scores.

The WR group is also formidable with D.J. Moore, a familiar face in Robby Anderson and second round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. Sam Darnold probably has his best set of weapons he’s ever had.

The OL should also be a major improvement over his previous situation. The Jets ranked 31st in pass blocking and 20th in run blocking. The Panthers added Cam Erving to replace the loss of Russell Okung at LT and still have a solid RT in Taylor Moton.

Darnold is somewhat underrated in his mobility. In 2020 he scrambled for 209 yards on 26 attempts and was the third highest grading QB in rushing. Now, obviously nobody expects Darnold to go out there and look like Shane Falco on a fake FG, but he CAN run if he needs to and has room.

This is more about the matchups than anything else. The Panthers OL, WRs and CMC should be able to consistently beat their matchups and allow Sam Darnold to get some easy fantasy points…

Or it could all go down the blue smurf lagoon in the porta potty.

Danny Karnik | AP

TE: Kyle Pitts (DK: $4,400; FD: $6,000)

Kyle Pitts is being touted as the second-coming of Rod Tidwell and at these low prices, SHOW ME THE MONAAAAAY!

Standing 6’5”, 240Lbs, with a 4.44 40-time and a wingspan of 83 3/8” this talented all-around TE is going to be a problem for years to come.

He averaged 4.91 yards per route vs. man coverage in 2020, third highest in the country. He lined up in the slot 116 times in 13 games for 2019 and 67 times in eight games for 2020. The Falcons will definitely split Pitts out wide/in the slot and at that size/speed he’s going to create some serious mismatches.

Last year, the Eagles ranked 26th in coverage and while that sounds low, they are one of the best duo coverage safeties in the game. Traditionally the strongside LB would guard the TE, which leaves Genard Avery to cover down on Pitts.

According to PFF, Avery has been in coverage four times in the last two years. The last time Avery consistently played in coverage was in 2018 for the Cleveland Browns and allowed a QB rating of 115.4. He was ranked the worst LB/Edge rusher in coverage** that same year and this is his first time playing this position in two years which is why I included the safety ranks for coverage.

YOUR LINEUP COULD LOOK LIKE THIS:

DK: I was able to pair Adams/Callaway, Darnold/CMC and Harris/Beasley.

FD: I again paired Darnold/CMC, Beasley/Diontae, and for what it’s worth Mixon and CIN.

That’s it for this week!

Let me know who your value picks are on twitter @christopolees or maybe just complain about how awful my picks are.

I was an active-duty Marine from 2005-2014 serving as an analyst, doing all kinds of nerdy things with data… so let’s get nerdy.

*Minimum of 50 snaps in lined in the slot.

**Minimum of 50 snaps in coverage among linebackers and edge rushers.

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