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Taking advantage of a favorable matchup by selecting a player at a cheaper cost over a star with a huge price tag can be the difference between having to sweat out a Sunday evening, or just finishing in an average way when it comes to GPP play. Trust me when I tell you that you want to sweat these things out, the sweat is real and it’s incredibly exciting.
Look at our defensive guru Aaron Rudnicki as your Sherpa, here to get you to the top of the mountain. Aaron and I hope to be your guides, here to help you find a path of your own to the mountain’s top while avoiding some mistakes that could set you back.
Let’s look at some favorable matchups that you can roster without breaking the bank, and some situations to avoid in Week 1 at DraftKings.
Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia @ Atlanta ($6900)
Bischoff: Atlanta doesn’t have the personnel to match the Eagles from a pass catching perspective. The Eagles are going to run fast, and they are going to spread out the Falcons with receivers Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Riley Cooper. This game has the highest point total at 55, and Bradford should have no difficulty throwing touchdown passes in this game to go with 280+ yards. I’d say I see Bradford as a three-times value play.
Rudnicki: Atlanta is undergoing a defensive transformation under new coach Dan Quinn, but they don’t have the pieces in place yet to play like the Seahawks. Regarding the pass rush, they added a couple upgrades in rookie Vic Beasley Jr and former Buccaneer Adrian Clayborn but both are probably average at best among starting edge rushers. In the secondary, Desmond Trufant is an excellent cover corner but Robert Alford and the other options are very beatable, and Bradford should be able to take advantage.
Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas vs. New York Giants ($4400)
Bischoff: The Cowboys are going to go with a bit of a committee, but McFadden is going to get a real crack at a nice number of touches in this game. This will be another high scoring game, and I like McFadden’s big-play ability along with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. If McFadden scores, he’ll be a very nice GPP play.
Rudnicki: The Giants defense in general looks very vulnerable early in the season. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is unlikely to play anytime soon, and that figures to give the Cowboys offensive line a huge advantage here. Jon Beason is returning to the starting lineup, but he missed a lot of practice time in camp with a knee injury and hasn’t been a dominant player for a while now. The secondary is strong on the outside but vulnerable at the safety position unless rookie Landon Collins can make a quick transition. As long as McFadden gets the touches, he should be productive here in what could be a high scoring matchup.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay vs. Tennessee ($4500)
Bischoff: Martin looked like he was running in mud before he was hurt last year and in this preseason he looks slimmed down and his explosiveness is back. This game doesn’t look like a shootout like some others, but there will be plenty of work for Martin as a runner, and as a receiver out of the backfield. The full point PPR is a good reason to take a shot on Martin.
Rudnicki: The Titans have some quality building blocks in place on defense, but they have not been able to consistently play well as a unit. DE Jurrell Casey is one of the best at his position and a great run defender, but they don’t really have anybody else that teams would want to avoid. Their linebackers have potential, but not much in the way of proven talent at this point apart from newcomer Brian Orakpo who is more of a pass rusher. In general, the Titans likely have a below average front 7 so Martin and the Tampa Bay running game should have a solid outing here.
Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati @ Oakland ($4200)
Bischoff: Before the foot injury last year, Jones had emerged as a relevant fantasy play in a very powerful offense. At times last year, the Bengals were missing receiver A.J. Green, Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert, and it sapped the offense of any strength it had. Jones is back with everyone else, and the Bengals offense won’t sputter in Week 1 out in Oakland. This is a great week to take a flyer on Jones as he could easily produce three-times his cost, representing a great value.
Rudnicki: The Raiders front seven should be the strength of the team, and Khalil Mack is poised to become a star pass rusher in his second year. That being said, the secondary looks like it could be a disaster. SS Charles Woodson is the one reliable option but he’s a month away from turning 39 years old. The cornerback spots are manned by inexperienced players D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie, who should have a lot of trouble handling the Bengals receivers in this matchup.
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee @ Tampa Bay ($5100)
Bischoff: This comes with this caveat; the Titans going will not go nuts offensively in this game, but Wright will be open all day for rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans will try to make this game plan simple, and they’ll want Mariota to get the ball out quickly, all leading to plenty of catches for the quick and shifty Wright.
Rudnicki: There’s not a lot to fear with regard to the Tampa defense, so Kendall Wright should have a better than average game. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks are both capable of good games, but neither was very consistent last year. Also, the defense used in Tampa often asks the corners to try and reroute receivers near the line of scrimmage, but Wright’s strength is quickness so he should be better equipped to escape the jam and get open here.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle @ St. Louis ($5600)
Bischoff: Graham as a high-risk play against the St. Louis Rams this week. While there isn’t all that much talent in the Rams secondary, they are loaded in their front seven, and they’ll pressure quarterback Russell Wilson, forcing him out of the pocket where Graham isn’t nearly as successful. I’d roll with other options at TE this week.
Rudnicki: The cornerbacks are the best spot to take advantage of the Rams on defense, but the pass rush often makes that difficult. Seattle’s offensive line may have trouble slowing down the Rams defensive line, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they asked Graham to contribute more as a blocker in this game than you’d typically expect from a player like him. I’d also expect the Rams to focus on taking Graham away, perhaps with a LB/S combination as he should immediately become the primary target in the passing game.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington vs. Miami ($5500)
Bischoff: The Washington football team is a mess, particularly on offense. They will not have any success running through the middle of the Dolphins defensive interior, and Morris is not a field stretching type. This just is not a very good matchup for him.
Rudnicki: Obviously the Dolphins added a huge upgrade to their defensive line when they acquired DT Ndamukong Suh this offseason. Few teams had any success running against the Lions last year, and that trend could repeat itself in Miami this year. MLB Kelvin Sheppard is a potential weakness of the Dolphins front seven, but it may not matter much if Morris can’t even get to him regularly.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego vs. Detroit ($5500)
Bischoff: The Chargers take on the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday, and the Lions will continue to be a very tough team to run on, particularly because their defensive ends defend the run very well. Yes, Suh is no longer here, but Haloti Ngata is, and he is a very stout run defender who will eat up blocks and free up linebackers to flow to the ball. I’d also be a little skeptical about Gordon’s ability to stay on the field on third downs, which reduces his PPR value.
Rudnicki: The Lions had the best run defense in the league by far a year ago, and they don’t figure to take a big step back in 2015. They lost Ndamukong Suh in free agency but signed Haloti Ngata to replace him in the middle of their defensive line. They also have a strong group of linebackers with Stephen Tulloch back healthy. Gordon is a very talented rookie, but I’m not sure he’ll get enough touches in this matchup to be worthy of playing.