Today will be our first look at fantasy football and my main focus is on the week 1 players available in FanDuel’s salary cap based weekly game formats. In case you missed it we are running a 100% deposit bonus, up to $200, promotion with FanDuel under the promo code OTC 100. We begin with the Quarterback Position and sometime in the next few days we’ll hit the running backs. From there will be receivers and tight ends, and we will close out with kickers and defenses before the regular season kicks off.
For week one in the NFL I like to focus on consistency for players in the first game of the season. Many players and teams are on fire in week one, seemingly year after year, while other players struggle and don’t catch their stride until week 2 and 3. For a season long playoff format we can deal with players not performing for the first week or two of the year since we need them peaking late in the season, but when we look at a weekly, fantasy format we want the best possible plays that week, not the best for the season.
The average week one expectation for the position is around 16.8 points, and in general our big stars produce the biggest points, but there are times for surprises as well. The biggest week one shocker of the last three years was Chad Henne’s 416 yard passing day back in 2011 where he also ran for 59 yards and a touchdown.
The safest play of the week, as long as there is no long term issue with his injury, is Drew Brees. Brees averages just under 25 points over the last three years in opening games and has never dropped below 21 points. He is a model of consistency. He opens the year against Atlanta who is a model of consistency in the opposite direction, allowing over 20 points to opposing quarterbacks in week 1. Brees isn’t cheap (his cap value is $9,700), but if he produces around 25 points you are paying him about $392 per point which is very reasonable for the high tier QB.
Moving into the next tier of QB I like both Colin Kaepernick ($8,500) and RGIII ($8,400). Kaepernick exploded last year against the Packers in his first game and QB’s who can run always have an advantage in week 1. His first game is in Dallas, who has been terrible defensively in opening games and in general just look to be terrible defensively on the season. RGIII has quietly averaged just under 24 points in his two week one games and they are playing a transitioning Houston team. I think both have better value than Brees but both come with more risk.
If you want to go very low cost on the position I’d watch the Jets situation closely. If Geno Smith goes down or plays poorly enough to get replaced, Mike Vick is a steal at $7,600. You can pencil Vick in for 20+ points in week 1 if he starts. Surprisingly Jets quarterbacks have done well in week 1 the last few years with Mark Sanchez being a 20 point player in 2011 and 2012 and Smith just a shade under 18 last season.
If Vick doesn’t play I would lean on Joe Flacco at $6,600 to be my starter. Flacco is another model of consistency at just under 20 points per game in week 1, he’s home, and playing a Bengals team that gives up right around 20 points to the QB every opener. Flacco may be the best value play of the week.
3 players I would stay away from are Andy Dalton (11 ppg in last three openers), Alex Smith (16.1 ppg and up against a surprisingly good week 1 Titans defense) and Johnny Manziel (opening against Steelers).
Here are the average scores for week 1 QB’s who have played at least two games over the last three years (fumbles not counted in the scoring).
While there are only a handful of true free agents coming up in 2015 there are a few potentially interesting contract situations that could have some impact on play or teams decision making
I’m not high on Alex Smith, who will be a free agent after the season, at all and I would be not think that I was getting a potential draft day steal by doubling own on two mediocre QB’s and believing that Smith has upside to surprise. If anything I would be a bit worried about him pushing things in hopes of justifying a Tony Romo/Jay Cutler style contract and putting up too many negative games.
Carson Palmer, on the other hand, I think is a much more intriguing option that could be a quality starter. The team improved their offensive line and that alone should help him cut down on interceptions. If he wants to keep playing there is no reason why he won’t be ultra prepared to get the last contract of his career and 8 digit payday of his career. He should be able to sneak into viable starter territory.
QB Cam Newton can not be happy with the lack of a contract extension in light of Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick receiving new deals. If that fact drives Newton to improvise more he should have a big fantasy year. He’ll be looking to get his rushing numbers up and spreading the ball around to help his passing stats and force Carolina into extending him at big dollar figures either during or after the season.
Rams QB Sam Bradford is essentially in a contract year, though I feel I’ve been saying that for at least two years now. I don’t think the Rams can afford to wait patiently for him, but he also has to know that all he has to show is a glimmer of hope and he could be staring at a $16 million a year plus extension based on his draft status.
Nick Foles is extension eligible after this season and would be looking at a similar deal as Dalton if he has another strong season, but I don’t know what to think about him. The team opted to play Vick over him initially last year and if he regresses I’m not sure they would stick with him. Last year was kind of a perfect storm for Philadelphia and their offense. I think Foles is better than his detractors think, but the Eagles are not exactly married to him yet either. The Eagles are always looking two steps ahead.
The class of 2004 are all very close to getting the final big contract of their careers. I see that being good for all three of the players. Last year Philip Rivers rebounded greatly when he knew his contract could be terminated and I’d expect similar play as he aims to earn $20 million a season. Ben Roethlisbeger is at a great comfort level in his offense and should produce as a strong lower level number 1. Eli Manning can’t be as bad as he was last season and his situation reminds me greatly of Rivers last year. The Giants have already set the market once with Eli and if he has a big season don’t be stunned if they do it again. He’s a gamble but I think he has some upside as a 2nd QB to push into 1st QB territory.
Remember you can sign up this season to play Fantasy Football at Fanduel, our partner for the 2014 season. You can find me in week 1 playing in the $5 dollar entry, 50K SUN NFL Rush league.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.