Your $1 million fantasy primer

The rise of the daily fantasy sports industry has been incredible to watch over the last couple of years, as websites that were once awarding just $5,000 to winners of multi-player tournaments are now crowning millionaires on a weekly basis and sending other qualifiers to places like the Bahamas for a seven-figure payday.

Few, if any, should be surprised by the explosion. Season-long fantasy leagues take up to four months to crown a champion, while daily leagues are paying out wads of cash in a matter of hours. Additionally, fantasy owners who find themselves out of contention in season-long formats can easily turn to daily leagues for a fresh start on a weekly basis.

As a result of the ever-changing fantasy landscape, we’re going to start providing coverage here at the National Football Post for daily fantasy players who are looking for either insight or feedback (@JoeFortenbaugh) on any topics ranging from roster construction to money management.

This week’s column will focus on the website DraftKings.com, who has awarded a top prize of $1 million in each of the last two weeks in the company’s “Millionaire Maker” multi-player tournament ($27 to enter). The popularity of the contest has compelled DraftKings to offer another “Millionaire Maker” tournament for Week 7, which you can enter by CLICKING HERE. For those who decide to take a shot, note that DraftKings is offering a 100% deposit bonus (up to $600) for first-time depositors which is paid out in increments based on rate of play.

But before we get to some of our top recommendations for Week 7, a quick primer:

1. Unlike some of the other daily fantasy websites on the market, DraftKings awards a full point-per-reception. This is certainly worth noting, as less-targeted running backs like Le’Veon Bell and Andre Williams have slightly lower ceilings due to their infrequent contributions in the passing game.

2. Draftkings permits late swaps to your rosters, meaning you won’t be locked in to your selections once the 1:00pm eastern games kick-off. Instead, once the first wave of games commences, owners still have the ability to go back into their rosters and substitute players who don’t kick-off until later in the afternoon/evening.

3. Rosters consist of the following positions: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, D/ST, FLEX (RB, WR or TE), with owners being given a $50,000 salary cap with which to build their team.

4. When competing in a large multi-player tournament such as the “Millionaire Maker,” it is important to target some high-upside, long-shot/contrarian-type players. What I mean by this is that everybody knows Peyton Manning is going to put up a significant amount of points. And when you’re competing against 90,000 other entries, that type of information is unlikely to give you an edge. Take a look at the roster that won $1 million last weekend:

QB: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
RB: Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
RB: Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers
WR: Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders
WR: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
WR: Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens
TE: Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
D/ST: Denver Broncos
FLEX: Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals

See what it took to will $1 million? You need a combination of reliable, high-upside superstars (Julius Thomas, Jordy Nelson) and cheap, lesser-selected alternatives (Joe Flacco, Andre Holmes). However, in head-to-head and 50/50 leagues, which have far less entrants, you can afford to use a slightly more conservative approach.

5. A popular strategy is to pair your quarterback with one of his wide receivers, such as an Aaron Rodgers-Jordy Nelson, Drew Brees-Jimmy Graham or Peyton Manning-Demaryius Thomas combination.

We’ll be back next week to offer more insights into the strategy that goes into roster construction for all the different daily fantasy formats (tournaments, head-to-head, 50/50 leagues, etc.), but for now, let’s take a look at some enticing Week 7 options at DraftKings.

QUARTERBACKS

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (vs. Carolina, $8,800): Has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the three games since telling Packer Nation to R-E-L-A-X. Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 1, has completed 70.6 percent or more of his passes in two of his last three starts and faces a Carolina defense on Sunday that is on the second leg of back-to-back road games while permitting an average of 22.5 fantasy points per contest to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL). If you’re going to shell out the big bucks at the quarterback position this weekend, Rodgers is the guy to target.

Pair him up with: Jordy Nelson ($8,200) or Randall Cobb ($6,700), but note that using Nelson (43-632-5) will put a serious dent in your salary cap.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Atlanta, $7,700):

Pair him up with: Steve Smith ($6,700): Smith has notched 100 or more receiving yards in four of six starts this season, ranks ninth in the NFL in targets (55) and has posted just one dud performance so far since joining the Ravens (Week 6).

Russell WilsonWilson and the Seahawks are 8-1 since 2012 when coming off a loss.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (at St. Louis, $6,800): Big bounce-back spot for the Seahawks here, who are 8-1 since 2012 when coming off a loss. Wilson was uncharacteristically off his game last Sunday against the Cowboys, but was back in the film room at 5:00am Monday morning working to correct the issues, according to head coach Pete Carroll. The upside here is twofold in that Wilson is one of the few signal-callers in the league who can rack up big points with his feet (221 rushing yards, 2 TDs this season) in addition to the fact that the Rams are currently giving up an average of 21.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (10th-most in NFL).

Pair him up with: We would pass on using a Seattle wideout, as Percy Harvin is averaging just 4.4 receptions per game this season with zero receiving touchdowns.

Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, $5,600): If you want a shot at winning $1 million playing fantasy football, you’ve got to think outside the box and identify some high-upside contrarian plays. Hoyer fits the bill for Week 7, as the Cleveland Browns travel to Jacksonville to face a Jaguars defense that is surrendering an average of 23.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (sixth-most in NFL). The six-year veteran has tossed just one interception on the season and comes at such a bar gain basement price in Week 7 that you’ll have plenty of money left to throw around on big-name superstars.

Pair him up with: Tight end Jordan Cameron ($4,600), see below.

RUNNING BACKS

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (vs. NY Giants, $9,600): Leads the NFL in rushing attempts (159), rushing yards (785) and rushing touchdowns (6) entering a Week 7 divisional showdown with a New York Giants defense that is permitting an average of 23.1 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (sixth-most in NFL). Murray has found the end zone in five of six starts this season while notching 100 or more rushing yards in every single outing. However, if you’re willing to spend one stack of high society to land this guy, you’ll need to assemble a big portion of your roster with undervalued, high-upside options.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (at San Diego, $6,700): The Chargers have done a respectable job defending the run in 2014, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is a career 13-2 coming off the bye week, so you know Kansas City will have something up its sleeve for Philip Rivers and company. With an extra week of rest, look for a heavy dose of touches to head Charles’ way, especially when considering the fact that he’s recorded 192 total yards and three touchdowns over his last two starts.

DeMarco MurrayMurray has torn the NFL to shreds over the first six weeks of the season.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals (at Oakland, $6,500): His numbers to date have been underwhelming, but Ellington has a very favorable Week 7 matchup against and Oakland Raiders defense that is giving up an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season (seventh-most in NFL). The hope here is that Arizona jumps out to an early lead and spends the better part of the second half grinding down the clock via the ground game.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Atlanta, $5,600): No team in the NFL is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than the Falcons (29.7 pts/gm), so that alone should have you eyeing up the Baltimore depth chart. Forsett will likely lose some touches to cohorts Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro on Sunday, but the journeyman running back has found the end zone in two of his last three starts and is coming off an impressive 111-yard effort against the Buccaneers in Week 6.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (vs. Carolina, $4,700): Excellent price tag for a heavy workload running back squaring off against a suspect run defense that is permitting an average of 24.5 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (second-most in NFL). Lacy has been a major disappointment for fantasy owners in 2014, but he’s found the end zone three times over his last three outings. In addition, when it comes to roster construction for high-entry fantasy tournaments, sometimes you need to zig when everyone else is zagging.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Houston, $7,900): Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiving option is averaging 104.8 receiving yards per game this season with five touchdowns while ranking third in the NFL in targets (61). In addition, Brown has a favorable Week 7 Monday night home matchup against a Houston Texans defense that is currently surrendering an average of 25.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (ninth-most in NFL). All it real boils down to is whether or not Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is capable of calling a good game for a change.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos (vs. San Francisco, $5,900): Experienced a big drop in price following last week’s 3-38-0 effort against the New York Jets. But owners should take note that Week 6 was the exception and not the rule when it comes to Sanders who, despite having yet to find the end zone in 2014, is still averaging a healthy 9.6 targets, 7.0 receptions and 94.6 receiving yards per game this year while playing with the best quarterback in football.

Antonio BrownBrowns has a favorable Week 7 matchup with the Houston Texans.

Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cleveland, $5,400): Returned from a hamstring injury last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans to notch ten receptions for 103 yards on a team-high 16 targets. Shorts is the most experienced and polished receiver on the Jacksonville roster, which means he should function as rookie quarterback Blake Bortles’ go-to guy until one of the rookies (Hurns, Robinson, Lee) steps up and establishes himself as a consistent threat. Note that the Browns are currently giving up an average of 24.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (11th-most in NFL).

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (at Dallas, $5,300): The Giants were humiliated in a 27-0 shutout at Philadelphia last Sunday night, so expect Tom Coughlin and company to put in a good week of practice in preparation for Sunday’s divisional showdown with white-hot Dallas. Randle makes for a solid Week 7 value play due to a likely increase in targets now that No. 1 receiver Victor Cruz has been lost for the season (knee). Even with Cruz in the lineup, Randle had recorded nine or more targets in each of his last four starts.

Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders (vs. Arizona, $4,800): A roll of the dice for sure, Holmes is coming off a breakout performance against the San Diego Chargers in which the three-year veteran hauled in four receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a gutsy 31-28 defeat. Holmes has now posted nine receptions for 195 yards and three scores on 20 targets over his last two outings and gets a crack at an Arizona defense on Sunday that is giving up an average of 29.7 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-most in NFL). As always, garbage time statistics are in full effect when it comes to the Oakland Raiders.

TIGHT ENDS

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. San Francisco, $6,900): Through five games, Thomas has turned ten red zone targets (eighth in NFL) into a staggering nine receptions (first) for 60 yards (first) and seven touchdowns (first). Between future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning at quarterback and a plethora of offensive weapons (D. Thomas, Sanders, Welker) lining up alongside him, Thomas is as difficult to defend in the red zone as any player in the National Football League. You’re paying a hefty price here, but the resume suggests it’s well worth it.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, $4,600): Was on the verge of being hit with the dreaded “bust” label prior to last Sunday’s breakout effort which entailed three receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown on five targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Take note that the Jaguars are currently permitting an average of 12.1 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Cincinnati, $3,700): Allen has become one of red-hot quarterback Andrew Luck’s top red zone targets (6, 11th in NFL) and has now found the end zone in four of six starts this season. The reception and receiving yard totals are a bit of a concern here, but that’s right up until you realize the fact that no team in the league is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2014 than the Cincinnati Bengals (13.1 pts/gm).

J osh Hill, New Orleans Saints (at Detroit, $3,000): You won’t find a cheaper price with more upside at the tight end position this week than you will with Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham’s replacement. Hill has only been in the league for two years and runs into a tough Detroit defense on Sunday that is giving up an average of just 8.0 fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season (16th-most in NFL), but the Saints are coming off a bye and Hill has quarterback Drew Brees on his side. A true roll of the dice, but the potential for a breakout performance is present.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Buffalo Bills (vs. Minnesota, $3,400): One of the more underrated defensive units in the league, the Bills currently rank 11th in the NFL in total defense (336.7 yds/gm) and eighth in scoring (21.0 pts/gm) as they get set to play host to a Minnesota Vikings offense team that currently ranks 28th in the league in scoring (17.3 pts/gm) and is being run by a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who has already thrown three interceptions with zero touchdowns in two professional starts.

Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, $3,000): Not exactly the safest play on the board since the Browns currently rank 29th in the NFL in total defense (409.2 yds/gm), but definitely worth consideration since the Jaguars are surrendering more fantasy points to opposing D/STs this season than any other team in the business (16.0 pts/gm). Take note that Jacksonville has already turned the ball over 12 times (third-most in NFL) and ranks dead last in the league in total offense (13.5 pts/gm).

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