Top salary cap fantasy value picks for Week 1

One of the great things about the fantasy sports industry is that it continues to evolve. We’re no longer living in a time when your only option is to join a ten or twelve-man league. Cantor Gaming here in Las Vegas has something cool cooking for the 2012 season that I’ll be writing about soon, but websites like the one our friends at FanDuel.com operate offers another intriguing way of putting your fantasy knowledge to the test.

Hey, the more options we have to turn a profit, the better.

We’re partnering up with FanDuel once again for the NFL season and today our specific focus is to find some of the best Week 1 value picks being offered in the company’s weekly salary cap game. For those of you who are new to this style of fantasy football, here’s how it works:

Owners are given a salary cap of $60,000 to build a team that consists of a QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, a TE, D/ST and kicker. As usual, most points wins. You can play other owners head to head or join a bigger league, like the one FanDuel has set up for NFP readers. This league will be capped at 2,500 players, is completely free to enter and offers a prize pool of $1,000. You can click here to join the action. No need to worry about the Wednesday night kickoff game between the Giants and Cowboys because those players won’t be available. The pool consists of anybody playing in either a Sunday or Monday night game.

And with that in mind, here are some of my top value picks for the Week 1 NFP/FanDuel league:

WEEK 1 VALUE PICKS

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears (Price: $6,900): 13 signal-callers are currently being offered at a more expensive price, but few have as favorable a matchup (vs. Indianapolis) as Cutler. A home date with an upgraded receiving unit against a defense that surrendered an average of 19.1 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2011 makes this one of the best bargains on the board.

Drew BreesICONBrees' big-time performances in home games make the Saints quarterback worth the investment for Week 1.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (Price: $9,600): Granted, only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady cost more, but when it comes to the top-3 quarterbacks in the league, Brees offers the best bang for your buck. Over the last three years this guy is 19-5 at home while averaging 310.1 passing yards and 2.75 touchdowns per game. The LVH SuperBook currently has the total for this showdown with the ‘Skins listed at 50 points, meaning they expect to see some fireworks.

Mike Tolbert, RB, Carolina Panthers (Price: $5,000): No team is the league gave up more fantasy points to opposing running backs last season than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (27.1 pts/gm), who just so happen to play host to Tolbert and the Panthers in Week 1. I’ll admit that this one is a bit of a stretch. But if you choose to spend more money on the other skill positions, Tolbert will make for a nice acquisition with upside who has a very favorable matchup.

Ronnie Brown, RB, San Diego Chargers (Price: $4,500): If starting running back Ryan Mathews is unable to go in Week 1 due to a fractured collarbone suffered in San Diego’s preseason opener, Brown could be the guy who handles the bulk of the carries for the Bolts. The Raiders surrendered an average of 20.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season (seventh-most in NFL) and didn’t make any offseason moves capable of convincing us that things will be drastically different in 2012.

Jeremy Maclin & DeSean Jackson, WRs, Philadelphia Eagles (Price: $6,400 and $6,100): The Birds ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense last season (399.1 yds/gm) and are 8.5-point favorites for their opener at Cleveland, but that apparently isn’t enough to land either Maclin or Jackson in the top-18 at the wideout position for Week 1. Philadelphia is just too explosive on offense to let both of these playmakers slip through the cracks at those prices.

Robert Meachem, WR, San Diego Chargers (Price: $6,000): The Chargers ranked sixth in the league in total offense last season (393.1 yds/gm) and with Meachem stepping into the void left by Vincent Jackson’s departure, you’d be hard pressed to find another wideout with as much upside for such a cheap price. Oh yeah, don’t forget about the fact that Oakland surrendered an average of 25.6 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers last season (fourth-most in NFL).

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons (Price: $5,400): He may be 36-years-old, but Gonzo hauled in 80 receptions and finished the season as the fourth-ranked tight end in fantasy scoring in 2012. The Chiefs did a suspect job defending the TE position last year (8.1 pts/gm, 10th-most in NFL) and with Julio Jones and Roddy White commanding so much attention, look for Tony G to find space over the middle en route to a respectable stat line.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings (Price: $4,900): The Notre Dame product has been having a hell of a preseason up in Minnesota and is quietly emerging as one of quarterback Christian Ponder’s top targets. A Week 1 home date against the Jaguars offers the perfect opportunity for Rudolph to get his sophomore season off to a hot start, considering Jacksonville surrendered an average of 9.0 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends last season (fourth-most in NFL).

Houston Texans, D/ST (Price: $5,300): It’s hard to believe that you can get last year’s second-ranked fantasy D/ST at such a reasonable price for a matchup against a Dolphins team that is seriously lacking in firepower. The quarterback position is up for grabs and the wide receiving unit is as underwhelming as any in the league. The Texans should roll in this one.

Minnesota Vikings, D/ST (Price: $5,000): The Vikings led the league in sacks last season (50) and have the advantage of playing their home games inside a dome that is arguably the loudest in the league. This is a bad spot for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Take note that no Week 1 game is posted with a lower total (38) than this matchup.

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