Safety is the name of the game in cash games, but FantasyDraft also pays out at least 25 percent of the field in every single contest, including tournaments, as well. This should motivate users to lean towards safe options in all formats on a site that puts #PlayersFirst. Without the top-heavy nature of tournaments, single entrants do not have to go with a “YOLO (you only live once)” mindset in tournaments, but can play for a solid cash instead. That makes life a whole lot easier.
Here are the “safe bets,” or players who can be inserted into lineups without fear of a dud, heading into long-awaited Week 1:
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, $15,000 – Spending up on quarterbacks (QBs) is not my forte in cash games but there are multiple ways to construct on a roster on FantasyDraft. If willing to sacrifice salary in the skill positions to roster a sure-thing QB, Russell Wilson makes all the sense in the world in Week 1. Although his offensive line is one of the worst in the league after losing Russell Okung to the Broncos this offseason, the Dolphins secondary is an absolute disaster. The team had been talking up cornerback Tony Lippett all offseason and recently he has been losing snaps to Chimdi Chekwa; a guy who struggled to see any game action with the lowly Raiders over the last four seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, nickel corner Michael Thomas rates as the team’s best and he barely ranked inside the game’s top 50 cornerbacks last year. Oh and Byron Maxwell is literally one of the game’s worst so the Dolphins should be in serious trouble this year on any play Ndamokung Suh and Cameron Wake (dealing with an Achilles injury) fail to reach the QB. Considering Wilson’s ability to elude the pass rush, he should be able to easily identify open men downfield in this one. Finally, once you factor in the likely rushing yards, it’s impossible to envision a scenario where Wilson doesn’t finish with at least 18-20 fantasy points.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys, $10,000 – The main reason Dak Prescott is safe is due to the price tag as opposed to Wilson’s reasoning which was solely based on matchup. For the minimum price, you can roster a starting QB who flashed all sorts of potential in both the preseason and over the course of his college career. Overall, Prescott completed 39 of 50 passes (78.0-percent completion) with 454 yards, five touchdowns (TDs), zero interceptions (INTs) and five rushes for 40 yards including two rushing TDs this preseason. He finished as Pro Football Focus’ top rated “backup” QB in the preseason and this is all without even mentioning his 3,793 passing yard, 29 passing TD, 583 rushing yard, 10 rushing TD final season at Mississippi State. Prescott, unlike Romo, excels at securing the football and rarely turns the ball over. Additionally, he can create fantasy production with his legs which adds another dimension to his game. At this price tag, it’s hard to imagine Prescott not competing for tops among all QBs in fantasy-points-per-dollar with the Cowboys implied to score 23.0 points. Even if Prescott only contributes to one TD, he’ll open up enough salary to make rostering him worthwhile (especially if he can make an extra impact with his feet). For that reason, he is as safe as they come despite not really being all that safe.
Latavius Murray, Raiders, $10,400 – Sometimes overall talent evaluation has to be temporarily pushed aside when a team/player you are lower on than most draws an ideal matchup. Last season, no team allowed more yards per carry (YPC) than the Saints’ 4.9 and only the Eagles allowed more rushing yards as a whole. Sure, New Orleans added Nick Fairley, James Laurinatis and Craig Robertson to the defense but those three do not magically transform this team into an upper-echelon run stopping unit. They should still be a team fairly (no pun intended) easy to run on especially for the Raiders considering their elite offensive line. Yes, the Raiders offensive line has now surpassed the Cowboys in terms of average rating per player, based on Pro Football Focus’ ratings, due to the addition of Kelechi Osemele. While I think Latavius Murray is just another guy, he still managed 1,000-plus yards behind this offensive line last year when they had J’Marcus Webb instead of Pro-Bowl caliber Osemele. Eventually, DeAndre Washington should eat into Murray’s early down workload but the Saints defense is likely to delay that process and make him look good in the opener. With a heavy workload upcoming against a bad defense, Murray should safely average 4.0-plus YPC (his season average last year) on 15-20 carries minimum.
DeAngelo Williams, Steelers, $10,000 – Whenever Le’Veon Bell is forced to sit, DeAngelo Williams automatically catapults into the RB1 conversation. Let me repeat: Williams is a RB1 when Bell is forced to sit. This is important because Williams certainly is not priced like a RB1. Last year, the Redskins rated as a perfectly neutral matchup against opposing RBs because they allowed the 16th most fantasy points to the position. It’s amazing because they rated smack dab in the middle of yards, TDs and receptions (RECs) to opposing backs so no certain type of back stuck out against them. Fortunately, Williams does a little bit of everything and it shows in the stat line. Games in which Williams touched the ball 18-plus times last season, he averaged a whopping 24.74 fantasy points. In fact, he failed to reach 16.6 fantasy points just once in that simple size out of seven games. In this concentrated Steelers offense, workhorse backs are the staple of consistency. Most of the time they are priced around $14,000, so take this price tag all the way to the bank.
Julio Jones, Falcons, $17,700 – The major concern for Julio Jones heading into Week 1 was his health and those concerns have been put to bed with statements made over the last few days. ESPN reported earlier in the week Jones was expected to resume practicing and Coach Dan Quinn now expects him to be full-go on Wednesday. Cornerbacks aren’t exactly a huge strength of the Buccaneers as Brent Grimes is the best they have to offer (rated as Pro Football Focus’ 51st corner last season). Meanwhile, Jones led the league in targets (203), RECs (136 – tied with Antonio Brown), receiving yards and even ranked sixth in red zone targets. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan hasn’t gone anywhere and he has a knack for keeping his top target involved as heavily as possible. As is the case for most weeks, Jones should be a lock to remain heavily targeted, which typically leads to good things (just gauging by last year’s numbers alone).
Jordan Reed, Redskins, $10,300 – There is only one tight end (TE) I trust rostering in cash games in Week 1: Jordan Reed. When analyzing the matchup for Delanie Walker, the only other guy I have any interest in, there is too much potential downside. While the Titans acquired a possession receiver (Rishard Matthews), drafted a sharp route runner (Tajae Sharpe) and loaded up at the RB position (DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry), most remained the same around the Redskins offense. In fact, a major contributor (Alfred Morris) exited stage left so there may theoretically be more focus on the passing game as compared to last season. The one thing I know for sure at the TE spot is Kirk Cousins seems awfully comfortable with Reed who scored yet again in the trial run game of preseason. In 2015, Reed caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 TDs in 14 regular season games and then caught nine passes for 120 yards and a TD against the Packers in the Redskins’ sole playoff game. Reed is the only player one can expect to produce Rob Gronkowski level production in Week 1…even over Rob Gronkowski (because Tom Brady is suspended). Having that advantage at TE is a nice perk especially with some cheap options at other positions.
Dwayne Allen, Colts, $6,300 – If spending up at TE does not float your boat, Dwayne Allen is the logical alternative towards splurging at the position. Not only is Dwayne Allen cheap but his team is likely locked into a shootout, per the game’s 51.5 point over/under (highest of the week). When converting to implied point totals, the Colts’ 27.5 points ranks highest of the week, and the game script projection just altered slightly towards higher scoring with Vontae Davis likely out for the Colts. Both teams should be throwing early and often but that’s not even the biggest selling point for Allen. Coby Fleener exited the picture in the offseason by departing to Saints so now all of the TE production should flow through Allen. He doesn’t have to split the targets for the position because they now should all be headed his way. He is priced like half a TE in an Andrew Luck-led offense when he is now a full TE worth of fantasy output. Literally he and Donte Moncrief are the only tall options worthy of targeting in the red zone so it’s probable one of them scores in a game loaded with offense. At the very worst, Allen should see five or so targets, and Luck should convert them at a reasonably high rate. With very low threat of a dud, and an extremely high ceiling for a guy priced like a scrub, starting Allen should not be the cause of your high blood pressure come Sunday.