Some of today's top plays include reliable standouts such as Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson...but it's Josh Freeman, Matt Forte and Julian Edelman who could really help you bring home the top prize today!
Welcome to the second edition of the 2013 NFL Fix! Each week the Fix will be dedicated to finding the top plays and value plays across the daily fantasy community. We'll provide a first run through that will be released each week before Thursday's games and then we'll freshen it up on Saturday based on practice reports and injury news during the week. Within the Fix you'll find detailed write-ups and recommendations by position with a featured daily fantasy site tied to each section. These featured sites are different daily fantasy sites around the industry that are hosting contests and the players referenced in those sections are players we find to be especially strong values on that site. In many cases those players will also be strong values across the industry, but make sure to check pricing on the site you're playing on to confirm! Our goal through the featured sites is to bring exposure to all the great (and different) weekly fantasy football contests being held throughout the industry, while also giving you a few site-specific value plays to start a foundation for your lineups. With each of the links associated with the featured site we have a first-time deposit bonus associated with new users so if you see a site that you haven't tried before, give it a look by clicking the link and get a great first time deposit bonus on us!
Before we get into this week's recommendations, we have to throw out a little disclaimer. It is important to remind everyone to understand your scoring format and the pricing of the individual players on the site you're playing. These vary from site to site and all daily sites price their players differently, which could make someone a must start on one site but not another. It is also important to double check injury reports as news often breaks after this column is written. In the space below I will break down the best plays by position and make notes as to which type of formats to utilize players. If you are new to the daily fantasy scene, there are daily fantasy websites which offer one day or one week contests. These contests are mostly salary cap games where you can take any players you want as long as you stay under the cap and meet the positional requirements and all are points-based (not roto). Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions regarding daily fantasy sports.
Quarterbacks - Featured Site: FanDuel (4 pt Pass TD)
Aaron Rodgers (GB) - Rodgers earns top play honors this week as he takes on a Redskins defense that should be plenty gassed after trying to keep up with Chip Kelly's offense on Monday (so a shortened week for them on top of that). Not only did the Eagles wear down the Redskins, but they also exposed holes in Washington's secondary. With Rodgers shredding the 49ers recently, he should be worth even high price tags in Green Bay's pass heavy offense. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb really re-established themselves as high end offensive weapons in week one, and Jermichael Finley got off to a great start in what he hopes to be a rebound season. Rodgers likely needs 20+ points to be worth his $9,400 on FanDuel. He can get there with 300 yards and 2 TDs or 200 yards and 3 TDs (needs 25 yards additional passing to offset any INT). Rodgers is also good for 15-20 rushing yards. With the Packers having the third highest team total of the week at 29, I'd be surprised if Rodgers isn't able to eclipse this bar.
Peyton Manning (DEN) - Manning may be priced too expensive to use on standard teams ($9,800 on FanDuel), but salary aside he is either the 1A or 1B option this week. There's not a whole lot to say here that you don't already know. He's one of the best QB's in the game leading a heavily pass-oriented offense (threw on 48 of 74 plays in the opener which is about 65% of plays). Manning has plenty of tools at his disposal including one of the best playmaking WRs in the game (Demaryius Thomas), two extremely reliable secondary receivers (Wes Welker and Eric Decker) and an athletic freak at tight end (Julius Thomas). Against a Giants team that lost their starting safety in the preseason and may be without starting CB Prince Amukamara (concussion), Manning is the safest week 1 option.
Colin Kaepernick (SF) - I think a lot of people may be fading Kaepernick as he heads into Seattle against a tough defense. This makes him a nice contrarian GPP play and even a solid value play on sites where his price is lowered due to the defense he is facing. Consider this: By FanDuel scoring Kaepernick has not scored less than 14.72 fantasy points since becoming the starting QB. In 11 games (including playoffs), he has averaged a whopping 23.28 fantasy points per start. The 49ers offense has evolved to become one of the best all-around offenses in the league, and they are in my opinion the best team in the league. So, until Kaepernick shows us otherwise, I have no problem continuing to play him given that he has demonstrated such a high floor and a high ceiling to this point. It's also encouraging that Kaepernick had some of his best games in the playoffs and in this year's opener when teams had plenty of time to prepare for him.
Next in line: Drew Brees (NO)
Best Value Play:
Michael Vick (PHI) - Anyone who watched Monday night saw that the Eagles offense has monster potential this year under Chip Kelly. My colleague Drew Dinkmeyer expects the Eagles' offense to give defenses fits early in the year as they are behind on their conditioning. He was certainly right week 1, and I expect the Eagles success to continue into week two. I'm not the only one as Vegas currently has the Eagles pegged with the highest team total on the week (32). Vick's price has not fully corrected itself on most sites after just one week of data, but he should be in for another big game. Football Outsiders has San Diego pegged as the 25th worst defense in the league, and they just allowed Matt Schaub to throw for 346 yards and 3 TDs. Vick is only $8,100 on FanDuel and should be worth that barring an extremely inefficient passing game marred by turnovers. Vick, who averaged 33 yards on the ground a game last year, had 9 rushing attempts in the opener including a designed red zone carry that went for a TD. Not only do these rushing yards create a nice base amount of points for Vick to work with (giving him leeway if the passing game is just average), but he also gets a boost over his peers in leagues like FanDuel where rushing TDs (6 points) are weighted more heavily than passing TDs (4 points).
Josh Freeman (TB) - It's hard to risk an uncertain commodity at QB on one-QB sites such as FanDuel, but if you are feeling a little risky or playing on a 2-QB site, I think Freeman is an excellent value play. Based on how Tampa Bay's games against NO went last year and the difficulty they had moving the ball on the ground in the opener against a suspect Jets run defense (G Carl Nicks was out week 1 and participated in limited practice yesterday), Freeman should have plenty of pass attempts which will create a nice floor. In their two meetings last year, Freeman attempted a combined 89 passes with more than 40 pass attempts in each of the games. There's quality on top of the quantity as well as the Saints ended last season as the 28th worst defense against the pass according to Football Outsiders (their post week 1 rankings have the Saints with the second worst defense in the league).
Tony Romo (DAL) - The Chiefs defense looked awesome in week 1, but playing Blaine Gabbert and an overmatched Jacksonville offensive line isn't the best of tests. I'm still expecting a KC defense that finished 31st against the pass last year (according to Football Outsiders) to have its troubles with a talented offense such as the Cowboys. On most sites, Romo is priced a tier below the top options ($8,200 on FanDuel), and he should be good for around 250 yards and 2 TDs, likely with a turnover (that would be 17 points).
GPP Play/Risky Value Play: Robert Griffin III (WAS) - Redskins should be throwing a lot from behind (similar to last week), but despite the end game line in week 1 Griffin looked very rusty making me hesitant to use him as part of my main team on the road in Green Bay.
Contrarian GPP Play:
Brandon Weeden (CLE) - At $5,200 on FanDuel I think Brandon Weeden is a good GPP play that will allow you to load up on studs elsewhere. A lot of people may be chalking up the Ravens week 1 performance up to Peyton Manning, but I think their defense (and secondary) is going to struggle all season long. With the exception of Lardarius Webb, the Ravens secondary turned in some awful performances in pass coverage week 1. In particular, Corey Graham and Michael Huff turned in poor performances, and both guys were inconsistent in pass coverage last season. Weeden did struggle versus Baltimore last year, but he also attempted a combined 89 passes in the two meetings. If those attempts stay high this week, the result will be much better for Weeden against a declining Ravens' secondary.
Running Backs - Featured Sites: DraftStreet (Half PPR) and DraftDay (Full PPR)
Lesean McCoy (PHI) - McCoy might end up being the #1 overall RB in season long leagues as Chip Kelly's offense seems to utilize him perfectly. Some sites corrected to McCoy's big week 1 and bumped his salary up quite a bit (include DraftStreet among those), but on others he is still priced too low and should be treated as the week's top back. Given the amount of offensive plays that the Eagles are able to run (83 in week 1), McCoy is all but assured 20+ touches in a game either through rush attempts or pass catches.
Arian Foster (HOU) - There's a lot of talk of Ben Tate receiving more share of the carries (he was far more effective week 1), but until I actually see that materialize, I'm expecting Kubiak to continue to give Foster 65-70% of the touches. Despite having his workload "limited" week 1, Foster still managed 24 touches. With the Texans defense likely to limit the Titans (lowest team total with 17), expect the Texans to control this game and run a lot with the lead (helps mitigate the Tate threat risk). The Titans defense finished last season in the bottom ten in rushing yards and TDs allowed and had the 29th ranked rush defense according to Football Outsiders. Foster is an underpriced stud on DraftStreet ($12,592) and DraftDay ($14,450).
Next in Line: Adrian Peterson (MIN), Doug Martin (TB) (bump him up if G Carl Nicks is able to play for Tampa)
Matt Forte (CHI) - I really like Forte this week. He's a bit overpriced on DraftStreet, but more affordable on DraftDay. As a Bills fan who experienced the Dick Jauron era, I know how painful it is to watch a cover 2 defense with terrible linebackers get worn down by the run. That describes the Vikings defense as Chad Greenway is declining, Erin Henderson is transitioning to middle linebacker and Xavier Rhodes is a rookie. The Vikings were terrible against the run in week 1 allowing Reggie Bush to run for 90 yards off of 21 carries. Football Outsiders has the Vikings as the 29th ranked defense. Kevin Williams is expected back (limited participant in practice yesterday), which will help the Vikings, but I still have Forte highly touted. One of the reasons Forte's fantasy stock has been held back in recent years is a lack of goal-line touches. As highlighted in Drew Dinkmeyer's Opening Drive article (posted yesterday), Forte "received all of the team's red zone carries and cashed in, finding the end zone against a stout Bengals front seven. Forte is in for a big year now that he has the goal-line duties to himself."
Steven Jackson (ATL) - I'm a little bit torn on this one. On one hand, I'm worried that a strong Rams' defensive line will give the Atlanta offensive line (did not run block real well in week one) a lot of trouble. However, despite a subpar day from the offensive line, Steven Jackson still managed to gain 77 yards on only 11 carries. With Atlanta a favorite at home against the Rams in week two, expect Jackson's touches to be way up in the running game and similar looks in the passing game (8 targets, 5 catches in week one). He's particularly a nice play on full PPR sites such as DraftDay. I think the increased amount of touches and a strong shot at a TD this week is enough to offset my concerns over the battle in the trenches.
DeMarco Murray (DAL) - Murray looked good in week 1 and is one of the best RB value plays out there ($11,771 on DraftStreet, $11,550 on DraftDay). As touched upon in Romo's blurb, the Kansas City defense is likely improved, but they were awful last season and Jacksonville is not a test. Murray is especially valuable in PPR leagues this week as he caught a career high 8 passes off of 10 targets in the opener. Look for him to log at least three pass receptions.
Trent Richardson (CLE) - Some of the best plays aren't fancy plays, it's just a case of the right price meeting the right volume. That's how I feel about Richardson. His price is down after receiving just 13 carries in the opener. While I said I like Brandon Weeden as a GPP play (partially due to his high number of attempts against BAL last year), if the Browns are smart and want to stay in this game they will give the Ravens a heavy dose of Richardson. This Baltimore defense was ranked 25th against the run according to Football Outsiders last year, and if anything they are in decline. I'm expecting Richardson's total touches over 20 this Sunday with a strong probability of finding the endzone.
Ryan Mathews (SD) - I've admittedly fallen into the Ryan Mathews trap more than once before, but I think he has a ton of upside this week, particularly given his low pricing ($8,619 on DraftStreet, $8,500 on DraftDay). Mathews was held to just 33 yards off of 13 carries in week one, but that was against a Houston team that has one of the league's better defenses. In an up tempo and projected high scoring game (second highest total of week 1 at 55.5), Mathews should see an increase in touches including a handful of passes out of the backfield. The Eagles run defense was so-so in week 1 and really did not get tested due to the big lead they had held. I think there's too much scoring/yardage upside in this game in general to not consider an all-around back like Mathews despite the playing time risk (saw just 20 snaps in week 1), which will be somewhat mitigated by the Chargers running more plays. Still, I'd stick to using Mathews on stricter pricing sites (like DraftStreet) or GPPs.
Stevan Ridley (NE) - Ridley got benched week 1 after putting the ball on the ground a couple of times. However, with Shane Vereen, Danny Amendoa and Zach Sudfeld all getting injured and likely to miss tonight's game, the Patriots will have to forgive him (and Bill Belichick said as much in support of Ridley this week). He's priced way too low as a result of the disastrous week 1 ($8,635 on DraftStreet) and will likely see a big role out of necessity. Ridley is also in the unique position of being a fresh body on a shortened week due to his benching and will be leaned upon heavily tonight.
Lamar Miller (MIA) - This might be more of a site-specific value play, but I think Lamar Miller is a nice source of salary cap relief ($5,955) on DraftStreet. Miller had an atrocious week 1, but as someone who is pretty high on the Cleveland defense, I'm not overly concerned by it. Look for the Dolphins to keep it on the ground more in week 2 against a Colts team that finished last season giving up 137.5 yards per game on the ground at a very high 5.1 YPC.
Additional Value Plays: DeAngelo Williams (CAR), Daryl Richardson (STL), Reggie Bush (DET) - PPR specialist and note he got the bulk of red zone carries in week 1
Eddie Lacy (GB) - Lacy's price is a bit higher than I expected to see this week which is why I do not have him listed as a value play. However, he's got some upside in an expected high scoring game that I think the Packers lead. There's 80 yard, 2 TD potential out of Lacy who received 3 red zone carries in week 1. The Redskins defense is coming into this game a bit tired after dealing with Philadelphia's fast paced attack and being on a short week. The Redskins run defense was atrocious in week one, and middle linebacker London Fletcher, who may be over the hill, was particularly bad (was bad in run defense last year as well).
Wide Receivers - Featured Sites: StarStreet (Full PPR) and StarFantasyLeagues (Half PPR)
Calvin Johnson (DET) - Calvin Johnson is the best WR in the league. I felt he came into the year an underpriced (or at least reasonably priced) stud, and after being robbed of a TD in week one, his price is even lower on several sites. After allowing Sam Bradford to throw for 300 yards and a couple of scores, you can bet Matthew Stafford and company will be slinging it this week.
Demaryius Thomas (DEN) - With Manning having more options in the passing game than Matthew Stafford, I think Demaryius Thomas is the number 2 WR option this week behind Calvin Johnson. He's still a top play however. He has incredible physical gifts and can make big plays in multiple ways. We witnessed this in week 1 as Thomas took a WR screen to the house but also scored on a go route.
Next in Line: Julio Jones (ATL) - missed practice yesterday, Brandon Marshall (CHI), Randall Cobb (GB), Victor Cruz (NYG)
Vincent Jackson (TB) - I mentioned in Josh Freeman's blurb how I expect a lot of pass attempts this week against New Orleans, and Vincent Jackson should be the target of many of those attempts. In two games against the Saints last year, Jackson was targeted 14 and 12 times, going over 200 yards in the first meeting. This is a Saints defense that had one of the worst defenses in the league last season, and in particular they yielded over 93 yards per game to the opposing team's number one WR. With a lot of targets, a poor defense and a WR with big play ability (Jackson averaged 19.2 YPC last year), V-Jax makes for a great GPP play despite a high price tag. On StarFantasyLeagues, Jackson should also be utilized in standard leagues ($10,691).
Jordy Nelson (GB) - With Aaron Rodgers listed as this week's top QB, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see his main target from week 1 mentioned as a value play. Jordy Nelson showcased his skills against the 49ers, making a bunch of tough catches and finishing with 7 catches for 130 yards and a TD. At $11,100 on StarStreet and $10,568 on StarFantasyLeagues, Nelson is a steal. The Redskins struggled in pass coverage week 1, and they'll have their hands full trying to contain Nelson and Cobb in this one.
Julian Edelman (NE) - Edelman had a couple of TDs in the opener and almost grabbed a third as he received 9 targets. With the Patriots receiving core decimated, we could see Edelman rack up to 15 targets tonight, which makes him an extremely valuable commodity in PPR leagues like StarStreet. I think he's got a high floor (13 points or so) in PPR leagues due to the expected amount of targets, and he's such a tremendous value on some sites (including our featured WR site StarStreet) that it may be worth playing the Thursday slate just to be able to utilize him.
Pierre Garcon (WAS) - I thought Garcon was underpriced heading into week one and still believe so this week ($10,200 on StarStreet, $8,691 on StarFantasyLeagues). I could see this game going one of two ways. Either RG3 shakes off the rust and we get a back and forth shootout, or he doesn't and the Packers run out to a huge lead early leaving the Redskins playing catch-up for the second straight week. Both scenarios likely work out well for Garcon who has big play ability in the passing game. Garcon was targeted 11 times in the opener, and I expect a similar number this week with an uptick in yards per catch. The Packers pass coverage was atrocious in week one, and the safeties were particularly poor. Don't be surprised if Garcon gets loose behind the secondary.
Eric Decker (DEN) - It seemed like everyone got in the act week 1 except for Decker. Look for Peyton Manning to keep all his receivers happy and get the ball to Decker this week. He will be the best value play from that offense based on price, and we shouldn't overreact to one bad week. Plus, it's not as if Decker was ignored; he still received 7 targets. I expect his targets to match that this week and even include a red zone opportunity or two, which makes him a solid value play on StarStreet ($9,400) and StarFantasyLeagues ($7,136).
Greg Little (CLE) - I'm a bit higher on the Browns offense than most heading into this week as a result of my disfavor for the Baltimore defense. Jordan Cameron is the number one target with Josh Gordon out, but there should be enough pass attempts to go around that another value play in this passing game emerges. I think it's Greg Little. While the 4 catches for 26 yards were disappointing in week 1, what we really need to focus on is 10 targets. That's a lot for a cheap WR ($8,700 on StarStreet, $4,999 on StarFantasyLeagues).
Malcolm Floyd (SD) - The Eagles secondary had a ton of issues last year, and we saw some of the same this past game as Patrick Chung made a huge mistake allowing Leonard Hankerson to get behind him for a TD. I prefer Floyd on half PPR sites but do like his big play potential in a game with a lot of offense. He's dirt cheap on some sites and comes with solid upside in an expected high scoring affair.
Additional value plays: Dez Bryant (DAL), Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Antonio Brown (PIT), Desean Jackson (PHI), Lance Moore (NO), James Jones (GB)
Tight Ends - Featured Site: FantasyFeud (Half PPR)
Jimmy Graham (NO) - As one of our subscribers noted, Jimmy Graham is going to get the Miguel Cabrera treatment this year. In other words, he's almost always going to be the top play at tight end. Graham is just that much better than the rest of his peers, and as a result he's someone you should be playing on looser pricing sites given the gap between him and the average tight end.
Next-in-line: Jason Witten (DAL), Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
Jordan Cameron (CLE) - The Ravens defense struggled with Julius Thomas in week 1, and with Cameron being an even better TE option I think he has success. The risk here is that the Ravens focus on Cameron (the Broncos gave the Ravens a lot more threats to worry about so we can't make a straight line comparison from Julius Thomas' success to what we expect Cameron to do). However, as I've noted already a couple of times, I have no faith in the Ravens secondary. Plus, even if Cameron gets extra attention from the defense, he also gets plenty of attention from his QB. In week 1, Cameron received 13 targets, and perhaps more importantly, he received 4 red zone targets. On sites like FantasyFeud where Cameron is priced more like a #2 TE, I think he is a solid value play this week.
Fred Davis (WAS) - Davis is just $42,800 on FantasyFeud making him a great value play. He had a rough week 1 (2 catches for 22 yards), but this is an athletic tight end with a lot of upside. We saw Vernon Davis rip the Packers to shreds last week, and Davis could have an impact in a game where the Redskins will likely end up throwing a lot. There's not much to lose on sites where Davis is priced towards the bottom of the barrel like FantasyFeud.
Brandon Pettigrew (DET) - Brandon Pettigrew isn't very skilled but at a low price on a lot of sites, all I care about is targets. After a horrendous performance by the Arizona linebackers in pass coverage week 1, leading to a monster Jared Cook performance (10 catches, 141 yards, 2 TD's), I expect to see Pettigrew's targets at least double this week (had 3 in week one). He doesn't have the same upside as Cook but a 4-5 catch day for 50 yards with the threat of a score is an acceptable day for a cheap tight end. On FantasyFeud however there are better value plays.
Other value play options depending on price: Jared Cook (STL), Jermichael Finley (GB) - missed practice yesterday to receive treatment on his toe, Zach Miller (SEA), Kellen Winslow (NYJ)
Defenses - Featured Site: FanThrowDown
Houston Texans - The Texans are facing the Titans who have the lowest team total of week 2 (17). Facing off against Jake Locker, I think this is a high upside defense. Houston finished 2012 as Football Outsiders 4th ranked defense according to their DVOA formula.
Chicago Bears - The Vikings have one of the lowest team totals on the week at 18. If the Bears can just contain Adrian Peterson (something they could not do last season), they should be able to feast on Christian Ponder. The Bears forced more turnovers than any team last season and were also top 10 in sacks. They ended the season as Football Outsiders number one ranked defense.
Cincinnati Bengals - The Steelers offensive line is an absolute mess right now. It was weak coming into the year, and now they just lost their best offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey for the season. With the Bengals arguably having a top 5 defense, they could have a field day against a Steelers team that struggled mightily to do much of anything against a Tennessee defense that finished last season ranked as the 25th worst defense by Football Outsiders' DVOA.
San Francisco 49ers - I would only use the Niners on sites where their price is deflated because of the matchup. However, I think they give Russell Wilson and the Seahawks a hard time, even on the road. The 49ers secondary struggled in week one against Aaron Rodgers and a plus receiving corps, but I don't think the Seahawks have the same receiving talent to make San Francisco pay. The key will be slowing down Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. This is a case where you have a chance to play an elite talent at a reduced price as a result of the matchup. FanThrowDown is not a site that takes into account opponent when ranking defenses (or at least it does not appear so by the 49ers high price tag), so the 49ers are not a good option there.
Oakland Raiders - The Raiders are the best value on FanThrowDown at $5,800. Oakland is expected to have an improved defense (had nowhere to go but up really) this season. The reason you are playing them in weekly fantasy though is the matchup. The Raiders take on a Jagaurs team that was just putrid in week 1. Now, a lot of that had to do with Blaine Gabbert being at the helm, so the matchup isn't quite as delicious this week with Gabbert out (Chad Henne is starting). It wasn't just the quarterback though. The offensive line was horrific in run blocking and had meltdowns in pass blocking as well. The Raiders d-line could dominate in this one making for another long day for the Jacksonville offense.
Other strong defenses are Cincinnati and New England. My sleeper defense of the week is Cleveland.
Kickers - Featured Site: DraftKings
NOTE: Kickers have a high variance from week to week. As a result of them being tough to predict, I generally opt for one of the cheapest price kickers on.
Sebastian Janikowski (OAK) - With Jacksonville a mess both offensively and defensively, Oakland should spend a lot of time in their opponent's territory even if Terrelle Pryor regresses from a surprisingly strong Opening Day start. Pryor's inexperience could lead to red zone issues and as a result, a lot of field goal attempts for Janikowski. It also helps that Janikowski has one of (if not the strongest) legs in the league which could lead to extra points on sites that reward kickers for longer FGs (DraftKings does this). With DraftKings pricing being soft week 1, this is one instance where it might be okay to not pay the minimum for a kicker (Janikowski is $3,300, minimum kickers are $3,000).
Randy Bullock (HOU) - I think the Texans manhandle the Titans this week and as a result should be spending a lot of time in Tennessee territory. Bullock is a safe choice (the Texans aren't getting shutout), but his upside may be capped if he's attempting a lot more extra points than field goals. He is $3,000 on DraftKings.
Alex Henery (PHI) - Henery benefits in a couple of ways from Philadelphia's fast paced offense. For starters, it is effective, and with the Eagles having the highest team total he becomes a safe choice just because we know points will be scored. Secondly, the Eagles likely will get more possessions (if not the most) offensively than other teams as a result of their fast pace. At that point it is just simple probability as more possessions equal more chances we get a Henery FG attempt. He is also the minimum on DraftKings at $3,000.