Cash is in session! Welcome to The A List, your weekly guide to NFL Week 1 DFS Cash lineups. Each week I’ll discuss players to target in DFS lineups, accounting for favorable matchups, game scripts, and of course, value.
Next week, I’ll dive further into my approach for setting DFS lineups and writing these columns. But this week, I’m going to introduce this column and what you can expect from The A List.
As the name suggests, this column is focused on helping you set your cash game lineups. If you’re new to DFS, cash games are essentially 50/50 contests, where the top half of players double their entry fee. The potential winnings are lower than in tournament settings, where the prizes are skewed to the top. However, the chances of winning are much better, which can help you build your bankroll. For more detail on cash games and how I think about them, check out this incredible article from our former DFS columnist (and co-host of our DFS and Chill podcast), Kyra Wiaterowski. She says everything I could possibly say in better words.
As for The A List, think of this article as your weekly course in DFS, with me as the professor. Hence the tagline, Cash is in Session. First, I’ll discuss my Teacher’s Pet and who made the Honor Roll each week. Next, we’ll Check the Chalkboard and give out a Participation Grade. Finally, we’ll wrap up with Back of the Classroom Studs.
The Teacher’s Pet is straightforward. This will be my favorite player on any given week. This may be due to the matchup, the value, or a combination of both. Either way, the Teacher’s Pet is the player I’m making sure to start in 40% to 60% of my lineups.
After that, we will talk about who made the Honor Roll. Essentially, these are all players I love; they just aren’t the Teacher’s Pet. For the record, I will likely avoid players like Jonathan Taylor, Josh Allen, and Davante Adams in this section. They fit better in the next section.
Every week we will Check the Chalkboard. Here you will find a player that you should roster even though everyone else in your contest is likely to roster them as well. We all know elite players are weekly candidates for the Honor Roll. What we really need to know is when to eat the chalk on those players versus when to differentiate our lineups.
Next, I’ll hand out Participation Grades. These are my punt players of the week. If you’re not familiar with punting, this is where you start a player that is incredibly low value so that you can pay up for players at other positions.
Finally, we’ll turn to Back of the Classroom Studs. This section contains a few un-sexy names with incredible matchups that you might gloss over too quickly. Additionally, this is where I’ll provide a list of defenses to target for the week, as defenses are probably the least sexy aspect of DFS.
NFL DFS Week 1
Najee Harris (DraftKings: $6,400 / FanDuel: $8,200)
No, this is not about my belief that Najee Harris has the chance to be the number one running back in fantasy this year. It’s the fact that Harris is the 11th most expensive running back on DraftKings despite finishing as the RB3 in DraftKings scoring last year. He received the same number of targets as Austin Ekeler a season ago. Pittsburgh is likely to play from behind against Cincinnati, meaning there’ll be plenty of pass opportunities for Harris. Easy money.
Kyler Murray (DraftKings: $7,200 / FanDuel: $8,200)
I love to take advantage of early season value. That’s exactly what we’re getting with Kyler Murray. I’ll keep it short and simple, the Arizona vs. Kansas City matchup has the highest total line on the slate, set at 53 total points. Kansas City is favored by 3.5 points, so Arizona is expected to play from behind. Plus, the Chiefs gave up the third most points to quarterbacks in 2021, and through the first six games of 2021, Murray averaged 26.2 DraftKings and 25.2 FanDuel points per game. Smash that.
Elijah Mitchell (DraftKings: $5,400 / FanDuel: $6,700)
Elijah Mitchell is a prime candidate if you need to make room to pay up for Jonathan Taylor or Travis Kelce. Remember, when making your lineups, you are aiming for the player to triple their value in points, meaning for Mitchell, you’re hoping for 16.2 DraftKings points. San Francisco is favored by seven points against the Chicago Bears, and Mitchell has been the number one back when healthy. So go ahead and get you something nice with that extra cash you’re saving.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (DraftKings: $5,200 / FanDuel: $6,400)
I may get fired for this take, but I’m in on JuJu Smith-Schuster this year, particularly in this matchup against Arizona. Again, this is the highest line on the slate. But while Kansas City gives up points to opposing quarterbacks, Arizona is the favorable matchup against wide receivers, giving up the second most points per game last season. Additionally, they gave up the second-fewest points to tight ends.
Now, Travis Kelce is always a good person to bet on, and he will still have a solid outing. That said, with Arizona performing better against tight ends than receivers, I’m avoiding Kelce for the week and picking my favorite Kansas City receiver. For me, that’s Smith-Schuster.
Darren Waller (DraftKings: $5,400 / FanDuel: $7,200)
One of the matchups I’m most looking forward to is the Las Vegas Raiders versus the Los Angeles Chargers. This will be the first AFC West matchup this season, and I want a piece of it. Additionally, the Chargers gave up the third most points to tight ends last season, and this is one of the highest games on the slate, with the total set at 52.5 points.
The primary thing to keep in mind here is there have been mixed reports about Waller’s health throughout the preseason, so that is something to track, but in the meantime, I’m in on Darren Waller.
Check the Chalkboard
Jonathan Taylor (DraftKings: $9,100 / FanDuel: $10,200)
Is anyone shocked that Taylor is a chalk pick? This is almost a given on any given week, but I wanted to emphasize it because the Colts are favored by 8.5 points. The Texans also gave up the sixth most points to opposing running backs last year. While I think there will be weeks to tread lightly with Taylor now that Matt Ryan is the quarterback, I’m in on Taylor in this matchup.
Brevin Jordan (DraftKings: $3,100 / FanDuel: $4,800)
The Indianapolis Colts gave up the fourth-most points to tight ends last year. With the Texans expected to be playing from behind, Jordan could easily benefit from a touchdown in junk time. That is all you need for him to return at cost.
Zay Jones (DraftKings: $4,100 / FanDuel: $5,100)
Washington was bottom-ten against receivers last year, and there’s a tight spread in this matchup. That suggests potential late-game passing. There’s a risk here in that we need to see Jacksonville play before we know how they will deploy this odd combination of receivers. However, all you need is a couple of catches and a touchdown for Jones to return at cost.
Back of the Classroom Studs
Kirk Cousins (DraftKings: $6,100 / FanDuel: $7,300)
In 2021, Cousins averaged 19.3 DraftKings points and 18.1 FanDuel points per game, giving your lineup a solid floor. But what makes me love him is the matchup against Green Bay. With a spread of -2.0 in Green Bay’s favor, Minnesota is likely to have a negative game script, therefore, a pass-heavy approach.
Trevor Lawrence (DraftKings: $5.600 / FanDuel: $7,000)
First off, Washington gave up the most points per game to quarterbacks in 2021. And again, the spread is close on this matchup, meaning there’s a potential for plenty of passing work for Lawrence. Additionally, if you decide to punt with Zay Jones, the stack with Trevor Lawrence is a significant value. Plus, it will free up plenty of space elsewhere.
Nico Collins (DraftKings: $4,200 / FanDuel: $5,200)
Remember how I mentioned the Colts are favored to beat the Texans by 8.5 points? The Texans will likely be down in this game, so the pass-catchers should see a heavy target load. Brandin Cooks is, of course, a quality start here, but the DFS sites respect him a bit more than the fantasy community, pricing him at $6,300 on DraftKings and $6,600 on FanDuel. With that increased price, Cooks is less likely to return at cost, so instead, I’ll pivot to Houston’s number two receiver. Collins should return value with a few catches and a touchdown.
New Orleans Saints (DraftKings: $3,700 / FanDuel: $4,900)
Washington Commanders (DraftKings: $2,500 / FanDuel: $3,700)
Miami Dolphins (DraftKings: $2,600 / FanDuel: $3,800)
Before you set your lineups, be sure to check out Austin and Ryan’s weekly rankings!