Finally, the 2017 NFL season is here. After months of waiting followed by weeks of preseason games, the real stuff arrives this Sunday. Simply put, there is no greater time than right now in fantasy sports.
The arrival of the NFL season also signifies the start of the DFS season and once again, DraftKings is at our side as an immediate go-to hub for all of the exciting fantasy action. But you want to get off on the right foot, so this week we provide an optimal lineup that you can plug into your DraftKings lineups and eagerly watch on Sunday with the hopes of success. But enough talk, let's get started.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions - $6,000
Value plays are typically the way to go at the quarterback position and due to a down year in 2016, Palmer's price suffered a blow to begin the 2017 season. That's great news for us, because he should far outplay his price as the 14th-most expensive quarterback on the slate.
Palmer's poor 2016 season resulted from injuries to the wide receiver position and his own overall poor play. But he is no far removed from a MVP-caliber campaign in 2015 and Arizona enters this season with a healthy set of weapons at wide receiver. John Brown, who the team diagnosed with sickle-cell trait last season and his body never fully healed from lower-body soreness, isn't even listed on the team's injury report. With the emergence of David Johnson last season both as a running back and receiver, Arizona's offense is in better position than 2016.
To make everything even sweeter, Arizona faces a weak Lions defense. Detroit utterly lacks a pass rush, an issue that hurt them last season and the team failed to sufficiently address in the offseason, will give Palmer time in the pocket and allow Arizona's vertical-heavy passing attack to be more effective. All the pieces exist for Palmer to turn in a huge game and he could finish the week top-five in scoring at the position at a top-15 price, that is the definition of value.
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns - $9,800
We're not talking about practice, it's not happening. It doesn't matter if Bell held out for a majority of the offseason and missed the entire preseason, his legs are fresh. So even if he just arrived to the team's headquarters a week ago, we aren't concerned. Bell missed time to start the 2016 season, he returned in a monster way with 178 total yards in his first game back on the field. The year before, when he didn't play until Sept. 27, Bell finished with 132 total yards and a touchdown in his first game back.
There is no doubt Cleveland's defense made improvements this offseason and will slowly make the rise. But in the team's first game of the season and without Myles Garrett, Bell will find success both on the ground and as a receiver. He is set to get a full workload in this game, which means 24-plus touches and the chance to display the skills that make him the best running back in the league. We're talking about a game, a game that Bell will dominate.
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers v. Carolina Panthers - $4,6000
Volume, volume, volume. When you seek efficiency and value at a running back position, it's critical to find a running back who is guaranteed to receive the significant portion of a team's touches. It seems obvious and it should be, but sometimes people can't get too cute with matchups and in the hunt for value, they reach for a player who might have a great matchup but would have to be extremely hyper efficient on limited work to return the investment.
In Hyde's case, this is a player with guaranteed volume of touches in Kyle Shanahan's offense as the team's featured back. Colleague Vincent Frank included Hyde in his FanDuel optimization as well. All the points he brought up are accurate, especially the focus on Hyde's 4.6 yards per carry and his role as San Francisco's three-down back and the plethora of touches he should see from it. So while this matchup against Carolina's front seven presents a negative factor, Hyde's price and volume in Shanahan's offense makes him the perfect RB2 this week.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers - $6,700
Frankly, this price isn't fair. While Baldwin might not belong in the Julio Jones/Antonio Brown tier, he is a clear top-five receiver for this week's slate. But, for reasons we can't explain, Baldwin is more than $1,000 cheaper than the five-highest cost receivers this week. It feels like stealing, in fact it could easily be considered theft in some districts, but we're just going to take advantage of it.
Green Bay added Davon House and Kevin King to the secondary this offseason, it's an upgrade over what the team threw out there at the end of last season but it falls short of some dramatic turnaround. Baldwin is an excellent wide receiver and a favorite of Russell Wilson, in an offense that should further improve its passing attack this season. Jermaine Kearse's departure opens up even more targets for Baldwin and against this defense, the rewards are easy to identify.
Brandon Marshall, New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys - $5,100
There's a chance Odell Beckham Jr doesn't suit up for Sunday's game and even if he does, he carries the risk of being a decoy. Either way, we're targeting Marshall as our WR2 who can get a nice volume of targets from Eli Manning and someone who could also find the end zone. Marshall isn't listed on New York's injury report with whiplash from the massive upgrade from the Jets' offense to the Giants, so that's a good sign.
All jokes aside, this is a player and matchup to focus on. Dallas lost two of its top cornerbacks this offseason, the front seven is missing several key members due to suspensions and overall depth in the secondary is a concern. New York should look to pass and pass often against this team and that means lots of opportunities for Marshall. With so much attention given to OBJ if he suits up, Marshall will be free to work all over the field and rack up the points. $5,100 is the perfect price for him to suit up for us and return great value.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions - $4,800
Brown is fully healthy for the first time in what seems like ages and that means fantastic things. The young, speedy receiver who burst onto the scene in 2015 with a 1,000-yard season, now could return to us. The fact that it's in a great matchup and he'll have plenty of time to use his vertical speed thanks to Detroit's inept pass rush, represents all of the fixings needed to make a DFS breakout sandwich. But in order for it to be a sandwich, you need that final piece of bread to top it off. That's Brown's price at $4,800, perfect as a high-upside WR3 who will be under owned to start the year after last season's issues.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans v. Oakland Raiders - $4,300
Some trends you must be cautious with season to season. Things change, defenses make schematic and personnel changes to fix issues from the previous season. But Oakland's inability to cover tight ends remains and against one of the NFL's best tight ends in an offense that is set to a breakout 2017 season, 'disaster' is written all over this for Oakland. So, that's something we'll look to take advantage of at $4,300. It feels safe to bet on a touchdown for Walker, he is a go-to for Marcus Mariota and finished last season with 16 targets inside the 20-yard line. Pair that with his ability to rack up some yardage and Walker becomes a clear play at tight end
Los Angeles Rams v. Indianapolis Colts - $3,200