The NFL season has finally arrived, and that means DraftKings and FanDuel bring us a full Sunday of Week 1 NFL DFS action. This piece will examine the NFL DFS slate early in the week to find potential NFL DFS picks that will return the most value. Based on the salaries released by both DraftKings and FanDuel, we will be going over some of the best NFL DFS picks to build your lineups around, but keep an eye on the news as the week progresses. A value play early in the week could turn into a bust chalk play due to injury or COVID-related illness. The best way to stay plugged in for all the news and notes throughout the week is by catching all the Awesemo NFL DFS Strategy and Picks shows on the Awesemo YouTube Channel.
NFL First Look: Week 1 NFL DFS Picks
Josh Allen, PIT vs. BUF ($7,400 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel)
With one of the higher totals on the board, Buffalo is a 6.5-point favorite over Pittsburgh in a game with a 48.5-point over/under. With that in mind, Allen stands out as a premier pay-up option on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Allen took a major step forward in efficiency last year. He completed 69.2% of his passes for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns while retaining his goal-line rushing role. Towards the end of the year Buffalo completely abandoned the run, leading the NFL in situation-neutral pass rate. This showed up again in the preseason when Allen completed 20 of 26 pass attempts on just 33 snaps. With the Bills potentially airing it out even more than last year, Allen stands out as a strong DFS target in Week 1.
Jalen Hurts, PHI vs. ATL ($6,400 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel)
Philadelphia enters this road game as 3.5-point underdogs to Atlanta in a game with a 48-point total. Inserted as the starter for the final four games last year, Hurts displayed elite upside for DFS contests. Hurts eclipsed 300 yards passing in two of three games in which the Eagles played their starters the whole game. He also averaged 79 yards rushing during those three games. Philadelphia and Atlanta project to have two of the worst secondaries in football, giving this game elevated shootout potential. With new weapons in Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins to work with, Hurts provides stacking appeal in Week 1.
Joe Mixon, MIN vs. CIN ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel)
The Bengals are 3-point home underdogs to Minnesota in a game with a 48-point total. One of the more underpriced rushers on the slate, Mixon benefits from an uptempo, pass-heavy Cincinnati offense returning Joe Burrow. On top of that, Giovani Bernard left the team this offseason, vacating the third-down role. Mixon only played six games due to injury last year, but he showed feature-back potential. He touched the ball at least 20 times in all six games before injury. Already eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing twice and 30 receptions three times, Mixon stands out as a cheaper bell-cow back to target on this slate.
Austin Ekeler, LAC vs. WAS ($7,000 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel)
While not the most attractive game environment, the Chargers are 1-point favorites over the Washington Football Team in a game with a 44.5-point over/under. Injured for a portion of last year, Ekeler proved one of the most efficient backs in the NFL when healthy. He averaged 19.8 opportunities per game, with a 17.4% target share. This year the Chargers move forward with new head coach Brandon Staley and new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Lombardi comes over from New Orleans, where he previously maximized Alvin Kamara‘s receiving skillset. With the potential to go overlooked on both DraftKings and FanDuel, Ekeler is a solid contrarian option for Week 1 GPPs and tournaments.
Mike Davis, PHI vs. ATL ($5,400 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel)
Davis sits atop the Falcons’ depth chart at running back. Davis comes over from Carolina, where he sustained a breakout season without Christian McCaffrey. Davis’ top competition comes from Cordarrelle Patterson and Wayne Gallman, pointing to a likely three-down role for him. Davis showed his worth as a pass catcher last year, with 59 receptions on 70 targets. Atlanta is a rare favorite in this game, pointing to the potential for an elevated workload in a positive game script.
Trey Sermon, SF vs. DET ($4,600 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
One of the larger spreads in Week 1, San Francisco is a 7.5-point road favorite over Detroit in a game with a 45.5-point total. Sermon will form a two-person committee with Raheem Mostert in San Francisco’s backfield. With Mostert lacking size, Sermon may handle much of the early-down and goal-line work. On top of being enormous favorites here, San Francisco has the potential to finish as one of the top rushing attacks in football. While injuries ravaged this team a season ago, San Francisco finished second in yards rushing per game in 2019. Both Mostert and Sermon will get consistent work, and the scoring potential keeps both in play as salary savers.
Stefon Diggs, PIT vs. BUF ($7,600 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel)
Buffalo is a 6.5-point favorite over Pittsburgh in a game with a 48.5-point total. Seeing Diggs below $8,000 on both platforms is a shock. Buffalo projects to pass at one of the highest rates in football regardless of the game script, with Diggs operating as the clear alpha. Leading the NFL in most major receiving categories, Diggs finished with an absurd 29.3% target share and 34.2% air yards share. He should be among the most owned receivers on the main slate.
Cooper Kupp, CHI vs. LAR ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel)
The beneficiary of a quarterback upgrade, Kupp has an affordable price across the DFS industry. Matthew Stafford projects to contribute to increased efficiency for Los Angeles. Kupp saw a 23.7% target share and 22.7% air yards share. With many fearful of the Bears secondary, Kupp likely comes in with reduced ownership. Despite public perceptions, the Bears will trot out some combination of Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Victor and Artie Burns as their top three corners.
Laviska Shenault, JAC vs. HOU ($5,000 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel)
Injuries to Jacksonville Jaguars’ skill position players have thrust Shenault into a more prominent offensive role. Both D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones missed time this preseason, reducing their time to build chemistry with rookie Trevor Lawrence. Likewise, the Jaguars’ Swiss Army Knife Travis Etienne is out for the season. Because of that Shenault projects to play a much larger role than earlier this offseason. Last year he finished with 58 receptions for 600 yards on a 15.3% target share. Look for those numbers to increase early in the 2021 season.
Tee Higgins, MIN vs. CIN ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel)
Higgins led Cincinnati in receiving with 908 yards on 67 catches. He only recorded a 19% target share, but his role slowly grew over the course of 2020. The offense replaced A.J. Green with rookie Ja’Marr Chase. However, Chase had a horrific preseason and early reports indicate that he could rotate in and out with Auden Tate to start the season. With Tyler Boyd operating out of the slot, Higgins has a chance to operate as the Bengals’ clear alpha right away in 2021.
Marquez Callaway, GB vs. NO ($3,400 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
After pricing came out across the industry, Michael Thomas hit injured reserve, creating immense value among New Orleans’ ancillary pass catchers. Winning a training camp battle, Callaway looks like the primary beneficiary of this news. An undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2020, Callaway caught 21 passes for the Saints last year as a part-time player. He is now in a position to play every down and stands out at near-minimum price. Improving matters further, New Orleans named Jameis Winston its starter.
George Kittle, SF vs. DET ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel)
After an injury-riddled 2020, Kittle returns to a 49ers team expected to experience positive regression. While healthy Kittle recorded a 24.1% target share and 26.2% air yards share. A healthy Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk could reduce Kittle’s target share, but he still operates as the top pass catcher in an explosive offense. Kittle has upside similar to Travis Kelce and Darren Waller, but his price is far more affordable.
Kyle Pitts, PHI vs. ATL ($4,400 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel)
Pitts makes his season debut with Atlanta. He recorded 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games with Florida and was one of the best tight end prospects ever. Pitts operated in and out of the slot for the Gators, giving Atlanta much-needed versatility. With Julio Jones leaving, Pitts should immediately command volume. He has athleticism to match the elite players at the position, so taking a shot with Pitts makes sense here.
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