Welcome to the 2023 edition of The A List, your weekly guide to DFS Cash lineups. If this is your first time reading, you can check out the intro to last year’s Week 1 NFL DFS article for an overview of the column. Also, last year’s Week 2 article is an insight into how I approach DFS.
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 in Cash are much better. That can help you build your bankroll. In my opinion, being a good Cash player is the best way to increase your longevity in the DFS space.
As for Week 1, this is always a treacherous time for fantasy players. We’ve spent the entire offseason making predictions and doing research to understand the 2023 season. The truth is our best information will come once NFL games have started. Soon, we’ll have answers to questions like: How often will the Baltimore Ravens pass the ball? Will the Falcons actually split Bijan Robinson outside? Can Geno Smith repeat his 2022 success?
Because of this, Week 1 presents plenty of variance, which you will hear me discuss ad nauseam. Variance refers to the idea that there is a wide range of possible outcomes. Even when things appear to be going in one direction, they can switch in a seemingly opposite direction.
From a DFS Cash game perspective, this means we need to prioritize entering large-field contests and head-to-heads. I always employ this strategy, but it is especially vital in a week with so many unknowns.
First, large-field contests help reduce variance by increasing the number of players who could perform worse than you. Consider if you entered a 20-entrant contest and finished last. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where you scored 140 points, but it so happened that the other 19 contestants popped off that week. They may have even finished at the top of a larger contest. But in Cash, we just need to beat half of the contestants. Those 140 points would have gotten you over the Cash line in a different contest.
Second, head-to-heads increase variance, but in ways that can play in your favor. For example, if you enter a contest with 10,000 people and finish 5,001st, you missed the Cash line. But you still beat 4,999 people. When you enter a head-to-head competition, you’re placing a bet that you will face some of those 4,999 people and win the contest. Just be sure to set up your contests so the same person can’t place multiple contests against you.
Throughout the season, I’ll include strategic advice such as this, but you probably came here looking for player takes. Without further adieu, let’s get into my favorite picks for the Week 1 Main Slate.
Cash is in session.
NFL DFS Week 1
Bijan Robinson (DraftKings: $8,000 / FanDuel: $7,800)
Bijan Robinson is my favorite out of all the running backs I could pay up for this week. This is primarily based on the matchups. Many of the top backs are facing defenses that I expect to be good at defending the run. While I believe Carolina will have a decent defense this year, I have more faith in the Falcons’ run game, especially in a season where they should get better in the passing game. With that, I feel comfortable with the chances that Robinson can score a touchdown and haul in a few catches. That will allow him to pay off his high salary. Plus, this is likely the cheapest we’ll get Robinson all year. Get in while the getting is good.
Justin Herbert (DraftKings: $6,900 / FanDuel: $8,100)
The Miami Dolphins vs. Los Angeles Chargers game has the largest over/under line of the Main Slate. It’s currently set at 51 per Caesars Sportsbook. With the Chargers being three-point favorites, they have an implied point total of 27. This is tied for the most on the slate. Now that Kellen Moore is in LA, the Chargers are expected to push the ball down the field, and they will need to in what is expected to be a back-and-forth affair with the Dolphins. Herbert is priced so cheaply that he needs an average 20-point fantasy performance to pay off his salary. That should be a cakewalk for an elite quarterback with improved weapons. Lock in Herbert for nearly 300 yards and at least two touchdowns.
Aaron Jones (DraftKings: $6,300 / FanDuel: $7,200)
This is primarily a bet against the Chicago Bears’ defense. They were among the worst teams against running backs down the stretch last season. They gave up over 30 points per game from Week 14 onward. While they’ve added some weapons, I don’t expect this defense to take a huge step forward. Additionally, Green Bay must ensure Jordan Love works out to warrant them moving on from Aaron Rodgers. And what’s the best way to make it easy on your quarterback? Run the damn ball. Plus, people underrate Aaron Jones as a pass-catcher. He can provide solid upside on DraftKings.
Keenan Allen (DraftKings: $7,300 / FanDuel: $8,000)
If I’m in on Justin Herbert, you can imagine I’m likely in on one of his pass catchers. Keenan Allen is the darling of DFS Cash game players. He is one of the most consistent players when on the field. Allen is in line to remain the number one target-getter in this offense, particularly as the likes of Mike Williams and Quentin Johnston stretch the field and open up opportunities for Allen underneath. I especially love him on DraftKings, where we get that full PPR value.
Chris Olave (DraftKings: $6,500 / FanDuel: $7,300)
Who made this salary decision? Chris Olave has been going off draft boards in the second round the entire offseason. Yet, he feels like a value play for Week 1. How often are you going to get a dominant number one like Olave priced below $7,000? Further, the Tennessee Titans are a fairly stout run defense, and the Saints are down their starting running back. For the Saints to win this game, they will need to rely on their pass game. I would not be shocked if Olave finishes with double-digit catches, which will set up your Cash lineup for success.
Tyler Higbee (DraftKings: $4,800 / FanDuel: $5,300)
I don’t love that Tyler Higbee is making this column solely because Cooper Kupp is out for Week 1. If Kupp were starting, this would be where I inserted my Pat Freiermuth hype. But with Kupp out, Higbee easily steps up as the target hog. Target volume is precisely what we need from our tight end spot. If he ends up in the endzone, we’ll be sitting pretty. And don’t get cute in your Cash lineups with Puka Nacua and Van Jefferson. Those are decent tournament options, but you’re setting yourself up to get beat with those guys in DFS Cash.
Check the Chalkboard
Lamar Jackson (DraftKings: $8,000 / FanDuel: $8,900)
I have been waiting for months to watch Lamar Jackson play football again. Is he the most expensive quarterback on the slate? Yes. Is he worth it? You bet. If I told you Jackson has averaged over 60 rushing yards per game throughout his career, would you believe me? Yes, his rushing ability alone is worth a touchdown. He’s halfway to getting your lineup to cash if he scores a rushing touchdown. And that’s before he proves all the haters he can pass once again. While I expect the Houston Texans’ defense to be better this year, I think they still have a ways to go to slow down Jackson.
Hayden Hurst (DraftKings: $3,000 / FanDuel: $5,000)
I’m not going to lie; the tight end options are gross this week. I’m choosing to punt at tight end to fit in running backs like Bijan Robinson and receivers like Chris Olave. But there is a legitimate case to pay up for someone like Mark Andrews or T.J. Hockenson and punt elsewhere. Hayden Hurst is an interesting prospect for those looking for tight end value. The Panthers have minimal pass catchers outside of veterans like Hurst and Adam Theilen. While I have little faith in this offense, I could easily see Hurst falling into the endzone, which is all we need. He has the chance to be the number two target in what fairs to be a competitive division matchup.
Back of the Classroom Studs
Samaje Perine (DraftKings: $5,100 / FanDuel: $6,000)
A new era begins in Denver just one year after the previous one began. With Sean Payton in town, I expect the Broncos to rely heavily on the run game. Javonte Williams is coming off a significant multi-ligament knee injury. While camp reports were positive, I would be shocked to see the Broncos give him a full workload in his first regular season game back. Instead, I anticipate Samaje Perine taking the brunt of the work and adding value to the passing game. If you need to pay up for a tight end, Perine is a prime candidate for your DFS Cash lineup.
Brian Robinson (DraftKings: $5,100 / FanDuel: $6,400)
The Arizona Cardinals were the worst defense against running backs down the stretch last year, and there is no reason to believe that will change before Week 1. I expect Washington to roll over the Cardinals, playing from ahead and running out the clock. With that, Brian Robinson is a prime candidate for 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. Particularly on FanDuel, where touchdowns are so important, Robinson is an essential value play.
Jahan Dotson (DraftKings: $5,000 / FanDuel: $6,100)
I did not expect to be so in on the Washington Football Team offense at any point this season. But, with the state of the Cardinals’ defense, it’s hard not to pull for them. Jahan Dotson was a surprising breakout candidate last season. He is poised to take a step forward in 2023. Dotson can easily achieve five catches for fifty yards, providing a solid floor. Further, there is a chance that Terry McLaurin will miss time in Week 1 with a turf toe injury. This would significantly raise Dotson’s DFS Cash game prospects.
Romeo Doubs (DraftKings: $4,400 / FanDuel: $5,300)
Looking to punt at receiver? Consider Romeo Doubs, who will likely receive a solid target share in Green Bay. Before getting hurt last season, Doubs had a few games with at least eight targets, which is where Green Bay wants him to make his living. Sure, Christian Watson is there, but his role is the field stretcher. He’ll see deep targets and clear out space for guys like Doubs and Luke Musgrave to work underneath. Plus, Doubs is so cheap that all you need is a five-catch, 50-yard game for him to pay off.
Atlanta Falcons (DraftKings: $3,200 / FanDuel: $4,500)
Yes, I’m betting against the Carolina Panthers offensive line. They looked awful in the preseason. Further, being a rookie quarterback is hard, and I’m taking the stance that Bryce Young struggles in his first game, as one would expect. The Falcons could easily force a couple of turnovers and get a couple of sacks, which translates to opportunities for defensive touchdowns.
New Orleans Saints (DraftKings: $3,400 / FanDuel: $4,300)
Similarly, I’m looking at the New Orleans Saints, who face off against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are not a high-power offense. Vegas agrees as they have an implied point total of 19. The Saints’ defense looks promising this year. They can undoubtedly get to Ryan Tannehill, who is known to take a few sacks. Lastly, this will likely be a slow-paced game, increasing the likelihood it remains low-scoring.