Whether you’ve played Daily Fantasy on Yahoo before or are giving it a try for the first time, this weekly column will take an early look at the DFS landscape, revealing whom I like building lineups around, stars to fade, undervalued plays and bargain bin options to help you construct a better team.
Lineup building blocks
Christian McCaffrey ($37) vs. Cleveland Browns
While not quite as valuable in 0.5 PPR, McCaffrey remains in a fantasy class all by himself compared to all other players — when he’s on the field. CMC enters 2022 fully healthy and not recovering from any serious offseason surgery. He’ll also get a big upgrade at QB, going from bottom-three-type production to somewhere around the league average with Baker Mayfield taking over.
Playing at home with fresh legs, McCaffrey’s salary is somehow $3 cheaper than two other Week 1 running backs, making him a no-brainer building block.
CeeDee Lamb ($25) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lamb is set to see a ton of targets with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, James Washington and Blake Jarwin all gone or unlikely to play Week 1; Noah Brown enters the season as Dallas’ WR2. With big splits with Cooper off the field and playing at home against a Bucs defense that’s sure to stuff Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys run game without LT Tyron Smith, it would be an upset if Lamb doesn’t see at least a dozen targets in Week 1. Six other receivers, however, somehow have a higher salary.
Leonard Fournette ($23) @ Dallas Cowboys
Fournette’s salary is incredibly modest for a back who led the NFL in high-value touches last season, and while there’s reason to be concerned about his long-term durability, he’s back in shape and fully healthy for Week 1. Especially with so many issues along the middle of their offensive line (and with Chris Godwin and Russell Gage dealing with injuries), expect a bunch of dump-offs to Fournette (Tom Brady has the highest target percentage to RBs among all QBs over the last five seasons).
In one of only a few games on the slate with an over/under north of 50 points, the TB/Dallas Sunday night game looks like a DFS matchup to target.
Star to fade
Najee Harris ($27) @ Cincinnati Bengals
Harris quietly missed August while dealing with a Lisfranc sprain, putting his Week 1 health into question. The Steelers openly spoke about lessening Harris’ workload earlier this summer, while rookie Jaylen Warren has emerged as an alternative the team seems to trust. And there’s also a worry Pittsburgh’s new QBs don’t throw to the running back as often as Ben Roethlisberger did. With the Steelers having one of the lowest implied point totals in Week 1, there’s no reason to pay $4 more for Harris than Leonard Fournette.
Saquon Barkley ($18) @ Tennessee Titans
Returning after last season’s unlucky sprained ankle and now two years removed from ACL surgery, Barkley looks ready to carry the load in Brian Daboll’s new offense. Barkley’s DFS salary as the RB20 appears to be pricing in his questionable ability to stay healthy this season, something DFS players don’t have to worry about as much with only Week 1 in mind. Barkley remains in his prime just one year older than Najee Harris, and he should be incredibly busy Week 1 with New York’s entire receiving corps a big question mark (Harold Landry going on IR for the Titans should also help).
I have Barkley as an easy top-five fantasy RB entering the year, so he’s a steal here.
Trey Lance ($25) @ Chicago Bears
The 49ers may enter the year with questions along their offensive line and a run-heavy game plan with Lance having so little experience (he’s made just three starts since 2019!), but he led all QBs in scrambles per dropback and had the highest Passer Rating by a rookie QB when not under pressure since 2016. He possesses a ton of fantasy upside right away in an offense that led the NFC in yards per play last season. The Bears lost Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack during the offseason, and Lance’s salary is barely that of a top-15 QB, so he’s a Week 1 bargain.
Kyle Pitts ($16) vs. New Orleans Saints
Mark Andrews is the only fantasy tight end I rank higher entering the year, yet eight others have a bigger Week 1 DFS salary. The first tight end ever to record 1,000 yards before turning 22 years old while also somehow finishing sixth (just ahead of Justin Jefferson) among all pass catchers last season in yards per route run versus man, Pitts looks ready to explode in 2022 with a new quarterback who attacks areas of the field that’s a far better fit compared to Matt Ryan.
With Atlanta playing indoors (and likely from behind while unable to run the ball) and with WR1 Drake London unlikely to be full speed after the rookie missed weeks in August, Pitts should see all the targets in Week 1.
Dameon Pierce ($11) vs. Indianapolis Colts
There’s some concern with Houston being Week 1’s biggest underdog, and Pierce is going to lose passing-down work to Rex Burkhead even if he’s the team’s clear starter right away. But Davis Mills got 7.9 YPA with a 12:1 TD:INT ratio at home last season, the Texans quietly have a nice tackle combo and Pierce looks like the real deal. He’s certainly worth playing in DFS at the near minimum.
Cole Kmet ($11) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Kmet would be even more valuable in full PPR, but he looks safe to project 8+ targets with only Darnell Mooney his main competition. The 49ers typically defend tight ends well, but their ability to shut down Chicago’s run game should lead to a bunch of targets for Kmet, who has a near-bottom salary.
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