*Editor's Note: Each Thursday leading into the NFL games, contributing writer Jonathan Auping will break down a few things to consider as fantasy owners set their weekly lineups, including players to start or sit, along with trends to remember. Whether your game is the traditional fantasy league or the daily games from DraftKings, this weekly feature should help you get prepared for the fantasy weekend. *
Make the Smart Plays:
Aaron Rodgers:Week 1 DraftKings Salary $8,500
Coming into another season, Rodgers is still probably the safest bet for best quarterback in the NFL. He's healthy this season, and the Packers are going to score a lot of points, full stop. Jacksonville's defense is coming into its own, but there's a difference between a "promising defense" and a "defense that can stop Aaron Rodgers." If Blake Bortles is set to kick off a breakout year then Rodgers will be happy to play his role in an offensive shoot out.
Jared Cook:Week 1 DraftKings Salary $2,900
If you're on-board with Rodgers (and what reason has he ever given you not to be?) then Cook is an interesting low-cost option. He played well in the preseason and is athletic enough to potentially jump Richard Rodgers in the depth chart. If someone offered you Aaron Rodgers' potential top red zone target for cheap would you go for it? Well, he might be extremely available.
Willie Snead:Week 1 DraftKings Salary $4,800
After Week 1 you have to clamor for the breakout stars, but predicting those stars before the first snap of the season can feel like a fool's errand. Sometimes the safest play is to focus on a productive, high-volume quarterback and go with a receiver who that quarterback has confidence in. Snead was targeted 101 times by Drew Brees as a rookie last seasonand has been making highlight reel plays in the preseason. The Saints are still a threat to put up points at home, and while Brees has some new options at receivers, look for him to continue to build a rapport with Snead in the opener.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Joe Flacco: Week 1 DraftKings Salary $6,700
It's easy to buy into the idea that Flacco and the Ravens had so much bad luck last season that a return to his statistical mean is bound to be in store this season. But there's not quite enough evidence for that logic to entice me.
He hasn't played a game since before Thanksgiving of last year after tearing two ligaments in his knee. The Ravens' offense will open healthier than they finished last season, but it has not drastically improved. In the ten games he played last year he avoided throwing interceptions in just two of them.
You can be sure that Rex and Rob Ryan are looking forward to designing a blitz package for arguably the least mobile starting quarterback in the league.
What To Look For in Cowboys/Giants
Dallas Defense: Week 1 DraftKings Salary $2,500
You aren't hinging your success on the Dallas defense because they've done much to deserve it, or because there is some secret reason they could be much more formidable than anticipated. You would do it to fade Eli Manning, and hope he giftwraps the Cowboys a couple of big mistakes.
Dating back to 2008 Manning has thrown 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in opening games.If you narrow that down to when he has opened the season on the road during that span he's thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Not unlike his fellow NFC East mainstay Tony Romo, Manning isn't exactly the most conservative quarterback in the NFL. He takes risks on the field, which requires a certain degree of chemistry with the rest of the offense and coaching staff. Even if the Giants are able to move the ball on Dallas, Manning might be the highest turnover risk quarterback of Week 1.
Daily Fantasy isn't just about getting points, it's about getting points that other users aren't getting. The Cowboys' defense won't be a good fantasy play most weeks. This might be one time to get something of value out of them.
Alfred Morris: Week 1 DraftKings Salary $3,800
Everyone is waiting to see Ezekiel Elliot shine, and his numbers will come. But a rookie with limited preseason reps under his belt isn't exactly a lock to singlehandedly carry an offense in his first NFL game.
There's something about a healthy, young NFL veteran with a stellar offensive line that suggests good value even in a limited role. Alfred Morris checks those boxes.
Survivor League Pick of the Week:
Cincinnati Bengals over New York Jets
Before anyone has played an official down of football, this is probably the closest lock in week one to a game between a team that's a lock to make the playoffs against a team that's a lock to watch them from home. The Jets don't have answers to all of the Bengals offensive weapons.
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