Week 1 Yahoo Cup Picks
September 7, 2017 | Ian Goldsmith
A lot of DFS sites have rolled out league championship games this year, where you can play in one league with your friends all season long while still getting the enjoyment that comes with picking a new lineup each week. Somewhat unique among those is Yahoo’s season long Yahoo Cup, which last year had nearly 500,000 entries by the end of the season. Every week there is a freeroll (Week 1 is$10K); the person who has accumulated the most points throughout the course of the first 16 weeks of the NFL season is the overall winner, and gets a nice chunk of change. You can join in at any week for the weekly prizes, even if you have no hope for the year-end title.
Last year I recapped my ups and downs throughout the season here on TFF. I climbed to as high as #8 overall in Week 11, but two abysmal weeks in a row knocked me back down to earth, and I settled for 179th. It was a respectable finish, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed after being so close to tasting victory. I learned a few things on the way.
First and foremost, the Cup has to be treated like a cash game every week. While a monster week certainly puts you in position to do well for the season, adding risk also means that you can end up with sub-par outings and ruin your chances of finishing well. If you are close to moving up to another prize tier going into the last few weeks of the season, by all means play weeks more like tournaments.
Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t be dismayed if you finish one week ranked 50,000th or worse. I had two weeks last year where I ranked 90,000th or worse, yet still finished in the top 200 for the season. When you have a bad week, you need to have a short memory and move on to building the next lineup.
Over the course of the season, I’ll be talking about my weekly lineup thoughts here and then recapping how fellow Fake Football writer Doug Shain and I did. We’ll see what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we need to do to better our chances of winning the $50,000 prize at the end of the season.
I’ll break the plays down by position and salary, offering high-end, mid-tier, and value plays. Let’s get to it!
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – $40
Little needs to be said about the high-end QBs on this list. Matt Ryan dominated last season and has lost few weapons on offense. The most critical loss was OC Kyle Shanahan, but even a change of style on the field shouldn’t slow down the Atlanta juggernaut, especially against the woeful Bears. Atlanta has an implied total of nearly 28 points this week. It would not be a shock to see them fly past that (no pun intended), and Ryan will be a big reason why. That said, if I’m paying up for QB, I’d rather have…
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – $36
While Seattle’s name makes people think of defense, Rodgers had no problem tearing them apart last season in a 38-10 blowout. Vegas expects similar fireworks this year, as the game’s over/under of 51 is the highest on the slate. Rodgers and Co. should start the season on a high note, and at $36, it may be the cheapest you see him priced all season.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks – $33
On the other side of the field as Rodgers, sits the scrambling king. This year, however, he’s not hobbled by a bad ankle. I expect Wilson to bounce back and finish in the top-5 QBs this season in fantasy, and he will do so by starting the year off on a high note against the Packers. Green Bay gave up the most passing yards and third most touchdowns to opposing QBs in 2016. They may have held Wilson in check last year, but they won’t this week. I expect him to hit value easily.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers – $32
Newton was the QB I locked into my lineup when the Cup first went live. While I’m a data-driven guy, sometimes the gut just calls out. At least the feeling is not without substance. Newton destroyed this Niners team last year to the tune of 30.82 FP. This is obviously a new year, but San Francisco is not much better yet. The addition of Christian McCaffrey gives Cam an option to outlet the ball at RB, a luxury he’s never really had before. He shouldn’t have to do as much scrambling, and we should see both him and Kelvin Benjamin bounce back in a big way. If he turns into the Cam of old, you will not see $32 again.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles – $27
The Eagles have a plethora of running backs. Whether they have a running game is another matter entirely. Outside of Darren Sproles, none of the other backs have proven their merit during the preseason. I expect Doug Pederson to focus heavily on the pass to start the season, and he’s in a good spot with Wentz. Wentz should have no trouble establishing the passing game behind what is arguably the best offensive line in the league. The Eagles added a number of threats in the passing game, including Alshon Jeffery, who Josh Norman is likely to shadow this week (deep TDs to Torrey Smith, anyone?). At $27, he’s a tremendous value.
Value ($25 and below)
Jared Goff, LA Rams – $22
It is generally my MO in the Cup to take much more expensive quarterbacks. Rodgers and Brees are worth their weight in gold when you need to solidify a cash lineup every week. However, this matchup is just too juicy to pass up. Goff had an awful rookie year, but he has a lot of positives heading into 2017. Jeff Fisher is out and Sean McVay is in. Even if you don’t buy a 30-year old head coach, it’s hard to be less inspiring than Mr. Mediocre. The Rams actually have receiving weapons this year with the additions of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and rookie Cooper Kupp (who will lead the team in targets…calling it now!). The Rams are now favored in the game against the Colts, who will be without Andrew Luck and, more importantly, defensive backs Vontae Davis and Clayton Geathers. Even if Goff were to only throw for 225 yards and 1 TD, he’d be well on his way to helping your team solidify their score for the week. At $22, he potentially allows you to use both Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson if you so choose.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, $40
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals, $37
It’s Bell and DJ. ‘Nuff said. If you want to start both and can somehow free up $77 for only two players, I’m not going to argue against it.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings, $21
The rookie from Florida State has made a name for himself already, and gets a juicy Week 1 matchup to start the season. By any metric, New Orleans was terrible against the run last season. They gave up 18 rushing touchdowns to backs and another five through the air. They also gave up 868 receiving yards to opposing backs; only Atlanta gave up more. Cook will have a big stage on Monday night, and I say he takes advantage in a big way. At only $21, even a modest line would be enough to help him hit value.
Todd Gurley, LA Rams, $21
If Gurley can’t get off to a good start at home against a beaten down Colts team that allowed the fifth most rushing yards to backs in 2016, then you can write his season off. I, for one, think he’ll take advantage of the matchup and come through in a big way. Don’t be surprised if he posts top-5 RB numbers this week.
Value ($20 and below)
Bilal Powell, NY Jets, $16
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers, $16
I don’t like the matchup for either player. However, both backs have receiving skills that few at the position can match. Both players should see a healthy amount of targets–Powell especially. With guaranteed touches and 0.5 PPR on their side, getting to value at ~10 fantasy points is very achievable, even without finding the end zone.
As a rule of thumb, I almost never pay up at the WR position for the Cup. High-end running backs have much more predictable workloads, and it’s just hard to hit value. Look, let’s say Julio catches 10 passes for 150 yards this week and doesn’t find the end zone. That’s a massive game, but only represents 20 fantasy points for a multiple of 0.513. Not good enough. Remember, we’re treating the Cup like a season-long cash game. While Julio and AB may be incredible, I’d much rather have a low-priced, target-heavy receiver like Adam Thielen who is only $18. His upside isn’t as high, but his floor should be strong, and he could legitimately exceed 1X value. That’s not to say I always avoid these high-end receivers, but they are much more valuable on a full PPR site with yardage bonuses like DraftKings. If I were to pay for one high-end WR, then this week it would be Julio, hands down.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks, $24
Baldwin should have one of the better matchups of any wide receiver this weekend, going against the porous Green Bay secondary. At only $24, he is a high upside play that gives you a lot of cap space breathing room. A 6/70/1 slash would be enough to hit value at this price, a line that he could easily surpass in this high-scoring affair.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers, $21
Benjamin is one of my favorite plays of the week at the position. One of the biggest reasons (as I said above with Newton) is that that I believe the addition of McCaffrey will open up a lot of room on the field for the Panthers’ receiving options. At 6’5″, he is at least three inches taller than both starting cornerbacks he could be facing, Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson. Johnson lost time in the preseason with a concussion, and Robinson was PFF’s lowest graded corner last year. I expect Benjamin to bounce back from his relatively poor 2016 season, and exceed his rookie year numbers, starting this week.
Value ($20 and below)
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings, $18
I love me some target-heavy wide receivers during the Cup, especially if I can find them for under $20. I’m high on most Minnesota players this week against a New Orleans team that gave up 454 points last season, second only to the Niners. A move to the slot can only benefit Thielen. We saw this in the Week 3 preseason game against the Niners, where he and Bradford hooked up for a 5/50 line in the first half (another catch was called back due to a penalty). I expect Thielen to lead the Vikings in targets this year, and at only $18, I’m taking advantage while he’s cheap.
Cooper Kupp, LA Rams, $10
The rookie wideout will either lead the Rams in targets, or be a close #2. Jared Goff needs a safety net, and Kupp’s hands, poise, route-running ability, and quickness off the line make him a perfect player to fill that role. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him average at least six to seven targets each week. A line of four catches for 40 yards is enough to hit value, a line I expect him to exceed. His $10 salary allows you to potentially fit in both Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson, should you choose to do so. There is no way that Kupp is not on my roster this week.
I’m not paying up for tight end this week.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles, $18
Ertz always finishes the season strong, but can he get out of the gate quickly? He has a good chance against a Washington team he destroyed in Week 14 last season. At 9% of your salary, he’s not a huge bargain like he is on DraftKings (only $3,500), but he and Sproles should be Wentz’ favorite targets, especially given the mess that is the Eagles’ running game (just watch Smallwood take the field and run for 200 yards).
Value ($15 and below)
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills, $12
With Sammy Watkins gone, a rookie WR starting on one side, and a newcomer in Jordan Matthews who hasn’t been on the field in weeks on the other, I expect Buffalo to go with a strong dose of McCoy and Charles Clay this weekend against the Jets. In his last three games with TyGod Taylor, Clay scored 12.7, 16.7, and 24.5 fantasy points on Yahoo. Whether that was a trend or just a fluke, I expect a strong start from the Tulsa product.
Buffalo Bills – $19
Like Newton, I locked the Bills into my lineup from the start. My rule of thumb for defenses this year: don’t overthink it, and stream against the Jets. They could finish 0-16, and will make a lot of DST owners happy along the way. The Rams, at only $16, make for another excellent play if you need a bit more cap space for other positions.
Value ($15 and below)
Atlanta Falcons – $15
I don’t like a lot of the uber cheap options at DST this week on Yahoo. The Giants at $12 could pan out, but I’m not going to bet on their chances this week with a pissed-off Zeke and Cowboys team. Instead, Atlanta offers some mid-range value against Mike Glennon and the Bears, who are simply decimated. The problem is, I imagine their game plan is going to be extremely safe, limiting the chances of turnovers. While I’m paying up for the Bills and/or Rams this week, Atlanta could pan out.
If you haven’t joined the Cup, click here to join for the upcoming week. If any of you are playing in the tournament, let me know how you’re doing in the comments below or on Twitter @ian__goldsmith. We can discuss strategy, or you can gloat about how much better you did in Week 1. Up to you!