The calendar has turned to August — less than six weeks from the first Sunday of the 2022 NFL season — and DraftKings isn’t making its daily fantasy customers wait any longer to build their Week 1 lineups. Once the season begins, DFS players typically have six days to play around with salaries and stacks for each slate. But for the season-opening contests, the public gets seven times as long to tinker.
DraftKings released its pricing for the 13-game Week 1 main slate on Friday, and those prices won’t change even if a superstar suffers a preseason injury and a minimum-priced backup is thrust into a starting role. So, as happens every year with NFL Week 1, a few obvious value plays are bound to open up, leaving lineup builders to decide between riding and fading that chalk.
There are plenty of tournaments to choose from already, but two stand out because of their million-dollar first-place prizes. One costs $5 to enter and will gather nearly 1.2 million entries, generating a prize pool in excess of $5 million. The other is a lot more expensive and a lot less impossible to win, with a $100 buy-in, a mere 28,000 entries, and a $2.5 million prize pool.
The Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games aren’t part of the main slate, so Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and, uh, whoever is playing quarterback for the Seahawks won’t be a part of any million-dollar lineups just yet.
Here’s a quick look at the highlights and lowlights of the Week 1 DK pricing and who might play a hand in making someone a millionaire.
One can already guess which games are going to draw the most stacking attention, as there are two among these 13 for which sportsbooks have set the total points over/under above 50 — and both have spreads in the vicinity of a field goal, leaving all four teams with implied totals between 24 and 28 points.
Those games are the Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-4, 51.5 total) and Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (+3, 52.5 total). Three of these four QBs are pricey: Patrick Mahomes has the highest salary at $7,700, followed by Justin Herbert at $7,600 — while Kyler Murray isn’t too far behind with the fourth-highest QB price at $7,200. That leaves Derek Carr as an intriguingly cheap option at just $5,900 in his first game with new toy Davante Adams.
The other notably expensive QBs are Lamar Jackson ($7,300 at New York Jets), Aaron Rodgers ($7,000 at Minnesota and quite possibly low-owned with fans not sure how many yards he’ll rack up without Adams), and Jalen Hurts ($6,800 at Detroit). Jackson, Murray, Rodgers, and Hurts are all up against defenses with green numbers in the “OPRK” (opponent rank) column, which makes them look appealing to DFS-ers — although how applicable OPRKs based on 2021 team performances are is an open question.
Other than Carr, possibly popular cheap options include Trey Lance for $6,000 at Chicago and either Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton for just $5,300 at Atlanta, depending on which QB is starting for the Saints. The cheapest semi-viable option — unless an injury in the next six weeks causes a backup to become a starter — would appear to be the Giants’ Daniel Jones at Tennessee for a mere $5,000.
And if a DFS player is really looking to spend down at QB and roster one who might rack up points as a tight end, there’s always the Taysom Hill ($4,600) option, assuming a rib injury doesn’t sideline him through Week 1.
Taysom Hill is listed as a QB on DraftKings. Where are we rendezvousing for the riot?
— Jeff Edelstein (@jeffedelstein) July 29, 2022
The biggest spread on the sports betting board is the 8 points by which the Indianapolis Colts are favored over the Houston Texans, which should make Jonathan Taylor a popular play even at the highest RB price of $9,100. But there’s an excellent chance Christian McCaffrey will be even more popular, as the perennial fantasy stud’s $8,500 price tag is a steal if he’s back at full health.
There are two cheaper and possibly chalkier options to keep an eye out for based on starter availability. First, if Alvin Kamara is handed a suspension in connection with a battery arrest, Saints backup Mark Ingram becomes a great play — although his mid-range $5,900 tag suggests DraftKings’ pricing team took Kamara’s situation into consideration.
And if, by chance, the Ravens are without the ACL-tearing duo of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards for opening day, then whoever starts for Baltimore — Mike Davis at $4,400, perhaps? — becomes a popular salary-saver in a game the Ravens are favored to win against the Jets.
Circling back to that stacking mentioned in the QB section, a Herbert stack featuring either Keenan Allen ($7,000), Mike Williams ($6,600), or both, with a Davante bring-back (at $8,100, the highest-priced WR on the slate) has gargantuan upside, though it’ll take a lot of value plays elsewhere to make three or all four legs of that fit under the $50K salary cap. Of course, Carr-to-Adams with one of the Chargers receivers as the bring-back is a bit more affordable.
Another potentially chalky stack is Cardinals QB Murray to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown ($6,200) while DeAndre Hopkins serves his suspension. In that same game, Mahomes suddenly has some very affordable WR weapons following the departure of Tyreek Hill — namely JuJu Smith-Schuster at just $5,200 and rookie Skyy Moore at only $3,800. Moore might also prove a popular cost-cutting play in lineups without the K.C.-Arizona stacks.
The Saints’ situation is interesting. If Michael Thomas can return to being Michael Thomas post-injury, he’s a couple thousand dollars below his typical past pricing at just $5,700. Talented New Orleans rookie Chris Olave also figures to interest some DFS players at his $4,500 price point.
And if you’re looking to pay the absolute minimum to help with the rest of your lineup, pay attention to how Zach Pascal does in his first training camp with the Eagles. He’s a bargain-basement $3,000, an easy price to pay off if he emerges as Philly’s No. 3 wideout over Quez Watkins.
This position is going to put lineup builders to the test. Will they spend up at TE for Mark Andrews ($6,800) or Travis Kelce ($6,600), or will they hope to hit with a veteran value play like Zach Ertz ($4,400) or Austin Hooper ($3,700)?
The potential polarization created by that choice may leave the middle range under-owned. We know Darren Waller ($5,400) and T.J. Hockensen ($4,900) are capable of smashing. Then again, hopes for either to be available at low ownership are dinged by both having those pesky green OPRKs next to their names.
There’s a defense for every price preference in Week 1. No, really: DK has exactly one team at every possible salary from $4,100 down to $2,600, then two teams apiece at $2,500, $2,400, $2,300, and $2,200, and one each at $2,100 and $2,000. So it is possible to fill in the other eight positions in a lineup, see how much of the $50K cap is left over, and plug in whichever defense fits.
But for those looking to place a little more emphasis on strategy with regard to rostering a defense, here are four potentially popular possibilities:
Washington: Only $2,500 at home vs. second-year QB Trevor Lawrence.
Chicago: Even cheaper at just $2,200 at home against essentially a rookie QB in Lance.
Cincinnati: Not so cheap at $3,600, but there might be value depending on which QB gets the start for Pittsburgh.
Cleveland: Even more expensive at $3,800, but can you really put a price on the narrative of the Browns defense trying to torment Baker Mayfield?
Photo: Denny Medley/USA TODAY