RealTime DFS Strategy: Week 1

Fri Sep 8 8:58am ET
Contributing Writer

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Ridley can post big numbers

The return of the NFL regular season means we have loads of DFS options to sift through on RealTime Fantasy Sports. Let’s get right to the task at hand and highlight some players to consider for your entries, as well as a few to potentially avoid.


Lamar Jackson, BAL vs. HOU ($8,000): These two teams have very different expectations this season. The Texans will be rolling out rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud as they continue the early stages of their rebuilding process. The Ravens will deploy Jackson, who they hope can lead them to a deep playoff run with added weapons around him. Jackson does a ton of damage on the ground, and with Mark Andrews, Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers all available to catch passes, this could be the best statistical passing season for Jackson yet.

Derek Carr, NO vs. TEN ($5,300): Carr starts his career as a Saint facing a Titans team that allowed the most passing yards per game in the league last season. The Saints will be thin at running back with Alvin Kamara serving a suspension, but Carr will have his top two wide receivers available in Chris Olave and Michael Thomas. At this cheap salary, he could be well worth the risk in tournament play.

Player to Avoid

Matthew Stafford, LAR at SEA ($5,700): Stafford is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he was limited to nine games because of injuries. He is healthy for Week 1 this year, but he won’t have his top wide receiver in Cooper Kupp (hamstring) available. That leaves his top wide receivers as being Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell. With Carr having a salary that is $400 cheaper and a great matchup, there is no need to take a chance on Stafford thriving without Kupp.

Running Backs

Jamaal Williams, NO vs. TEN ($5,600): Kamara isn’t the only running back that the Saints could be missing Sunday. It’s not looking good for rookie Kendre Miller, who hasn’t been practicing because of a hamstring injury. Even if he does take the field, he would likely be limited. Look for them to rely heavily on Williams, who had 1,066 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns for the Lions last season.

Raheem Mostert, MIA at LAC ($5,400): The Dolphins were rumored to be in the mix for Jonathan Taylor and Dalvin Cook during the offseason, but ended up not bringing in any big names. With Jeff Wilson (abdomen) beginning the season on IR, that leaves Mostert to battle for carries with rookie De’Von Achane. The Chargers allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game in the league last season, so Mostert could get off to a hot start.

Player to Avoid

Javonte Williams, DEN vs. LV ($5,700): As evident by Jamaal Williams and Mostert, there are a few running backs with cheap salaries that carry significant upside. Don’t expect Javonte Williams to be one of them. He avoided the PUP list after tearing his ACL and LCL last year, which is an accomplishment in of itself. However, it could take him some time to get back on track, and the Broncos could limit his workload in the early going.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Ridley, JAX at IND ($7,000): Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence took a significant step forward last season and now he has Ridley as his top wide receiver. Ridley missed all of last season because of a suspension for gambling, and he hasn’t played in more than five games in a season since 2020. However, in that 2020 campaign, he caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. The Colts are thin at cornerback with Stephon Gilmore no longer in town, which could open up Ridley for a monster stat line.

Jahan Dotson, WAS vs. ARI ($5,000): Terry McLaurin suffered a turf toe injury during the preseason, which can be troublesome for wide receivers who need to make so many cuts. McLaurin has said that he plans to play against the Cardinals, but how effective he will be remains to be seen. That could leave Dotson with added targets. He came on strong at the end of his rookie season, posting 21 receptions for 344 yards and three touchdowns over his final five games.

Player to Avoid

Michael Pittman Jr., IND vs. JAX ($6,200): There is no question that Pittman is a talented player. However, getting a good quarterback to throw him the ball has proven to be difficult for the Colts. They have made yet another change at the position, turning the reigns over to rookie Anthony Richardson. Richardson is more known for his rushing ability than his passing prowess, so don’t be surprised if he has a rough adjustment to the NFL out of the gate. Given that Pittman’s salary doesn’t come at much of a discount, he’s awfully risky.

Tight Ends

Tyler Higbee, LAR at SEA ($4,800): Higbee set career bests last season in both targets (108) and receptions (72) despite Stafford missing so many games. Kupp also missed eight games, which contributed to Higbee seeing so many targets. With Kupp sidelined again for this matchup, Higbee could turn into a bargain.

Darren Waller, NYG vs. DAL ($4,300): As appealing as Higbee is, passing up Waller at this salary is difficult to justify. He’s one of the most talented tight ends in the league, but injuries have derailed his career of late. He is healthy coming into this season and has proven to be Daniel Jones’ top target during training camp and the preseason. If Waller can stay healthy, he could blow by 100 targets. As talented as the Cowboys’ defense is, Waller is still an excellent option.

Player to Avoid

George Kittle, SF at PIT ($5,700): Kittle has been battling a groin injury leading up to the first game of the season. While he might still play, this is not an ideal matchup on the road against a Steelers defense that has a healthy T.J. Watt. Kittle is a very good blocker for a tight end and the 49ers have plenty of other dangerous pass-catching options in Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and even running back Christian McCaffrey. They could opt to put Kittle in a blocking role more often than to try and help slow down the Steelers’ dangerous pass rush.

Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.

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Under the Radar Plays: Week 4

Player Notes
Desmond Ridder Oct 2 2:20pm ET
Desmond Ridder

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder struggled mightily in the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. The second-year Cincinnati product completed 19 of his 31 passing attempts for 191 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Atlanta scored just one touchdown and lost the game 23-7. Many have speculated that Taylor Heinicke could be given the keys to the offense after Ridder's early-season struggles, but head coach Arthur Smith said Ridder will remain the starter heading into Week 5. The Falcons host the Houston Texans in Week 5, so hopefully, Ridder can bounce back. Heinicke might be worth stashing in two-QB and superflex leagues. He could eventually be named the starter if Ridder can't turn things around.

From RotoBaller

Chase Claypool Oct 2 2:13pm ET
Chase Claypool

Dynasty | Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool will remain away from the team this week after expressing displeasure in regards to his role in the offense. Dynasty Analysis: After showing a ton of promise in his first two years with the Steelers, the wheels have fallen off the proverbial cart. Claypool was traded at last year's deadline but was only able to muster 14 catches for 140 scoreless yards in seven games with the Bears last year. Through three games this season, he has four catches for 51 yards and a score. This relationship seems fractured beyond repair as Head Coach Matt Eberflus is basically keeping him home instead of even being around the team. Expect a trade or release in the coming days. Claypool's ranking of WR81 has nowhere to go but up at this point.

From Dynasty League Fantasy

Jimmy Garoppolo Oct 2 2:10pm ET
Jimmy Garoppolo

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (concussion) is still in concussion protocol after missing Sunday's Week 4 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. He has now been in the protocol for a week. Head coach Josh McDaniels said the veteran signal-caller is still the team's starting quarterback when he returns from the injury. Rookie Aidan O'Connell threw for 238 yards and an interception in the Week 4 loss, but he did score a rushing touchdown on a QB sneak. Garoppolo's eventual return to the lineup should help Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers get back on track.

From RotoBaller

Jalen Tolbert Oct 2 11:40am ET
Jalen Tolbert

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Jalen Tolbert had his best game of the young season in the 38-3 shellacking of the New England Patriots on Sunday in Week 4. Tolbert hauled in all four of his targets for 53 yards, which was third on the team in this one behind tight end Jake Ferguson and receiver Michael Gallup. Both the catches and receiving yards were career-highs for the 24-year-old Tolbert, and he also made a big special-teams tackle early in the game. Fantasy managers can continue to ignore Tolbert, even in deeper formats, as he's currently behind CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Gallup on the receiver depth chart in Dallas.

From RotoBaller

Chase Claypool Oct 2 11:30am ET
Chase Claypool

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus told ESPN1000 in Chicago that wide receiver Chase Claypool will remain away from the team this week as they prepare for their Week 5 matchup against the Washington Commanders on Thursday Night Football. The Bears made some changes to their offense heading into the Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the biggest of which was making the struggling Claypool a healthy scratch. A report on Sunday also surfaced that the Bears are seeking to trade the 25-year-old wideout to a team that is in need of receiver depth. In the first three weeks this year, Claypool has just four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets. His fantasy value has hit rock bottom at this point, but a change of scenery could do him some good.

From RotoBaller

Brandin Cooks Oct 2 11:30am ET
Brandin Cooks

It wasn't much, but Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught a season-high four passes on four targets for 27 receiving yards in the team's 38-3 blowout win over the New England Patriots in Week 4 on Sunday in Dallas. Cooks returned in Week 3 from a knee injury after missing one game and he has six receptions for 44 yards on 11 targets the last two weeks. The Cowboys really haven't had to throw the ball all that much early on this year, which has hurt Cooks in his first year with the team. That won't remain the a case all year, but the 30-year-old veteran wideout probably isn't going to have a very dynamic role in this offense unless CeeDee Lamb or Michael Gallup miss time with an injury.

From RotoBaller

Pat Freiermuth Oct 2 11:20am ET
Pat Freiermuth

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth (hamstring) is getting his injured hamstring scanned on Monday. It's not just a tweak, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac. We'll have to wait to see what the tests show on his hamstring, but at this point, he seems pretty questionable to play in Week 5 against the division-rival Baltimore Ravens. Before leaving Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans, the 24-year-old had three catches on four targets for just seven yards. If you've been rolling with Freiermuth as your TE1, you'd be wise to start making backup plans for Week 5 now. If he's unable to play against Baltimore, Darnell Washington and Connor Heyward would both be in line for bigger pass-catching roles for the Steelers.

From RotoBaller

Demario Douglas Oct 2 11:20am ET
Demario Douglas

New England Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas hauled in two of three targets for 45 yards against the Cowboys in Week 4. The Patriots lost by a score of 38-3, falling to 1-3 on the season. Douglas seemed to impress the Patriots' coaching staff throughout training camp and the first four weeks of the regular season, with the exception of his Week 2 fumble. The Patriots have a somewhat deep but not very top-heavy receiving corps, creating the possibility for Douglas to earn more targets if he keeps playing well. Dynasty managers would be wise to stash the Liberty product.

From RotoBaller

Kendrick Bourne Oct 2 11:20am ET
Kendrick Bourne

New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne hauled in two of three targets for 36 yards in Week 4 versus the Cowboys. The Patriots lost by a score of 38-3, falling to 1-3 on the season. This was the Bourne's worst game of the season in terms of both statistics and fantasy production. The 28-year-old had a big Week 1, playing 91 percent of snaps and scoring two touchdowns, but has come back down to earth since then. Notably, he has yet to log more than 56 percent of snaps in a single game since the opener. He has lost playing time to DeVante Parker and Demario Douglas and isn't an appealing fantasy option for the time being.

From RotoBaller

Myles Garrett Oct 2 11:20am ET
Myles Garrett

Cleveland Browns All-Pro pass-rusher Myles Garrett (ankle) rolled his ankle in the Week 4 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and was seen in a walking boot after the game, but it doesn't seem to be a major injury. The Browns are heading into their bye in Week 5, and Garrett assured reporters on Sunday that he's not going to miss any time with his ankle injury. It's great timing for the 27-year-old, the Browns defense and fantasy managers that have Garrett rostered in IDP leagues, as he should be back and ready to rock in Week 6 at home against the San Francisco 49ers. Garrett is one of the best pass-rushers in football and has nine tackles (eight solo) and 5.5 sacks through the first four weeks of the 2023 season.

From RotoBaller

Trevor Siemian Oct 2 11:13am ET
Trevor Siemian

Dynasty | Embattled Jets quarterback Zach Wilson completed 28-of-39 passes for 245 yards and two interceptions in the Jets close loss on SNF to the Chiefs. Dynasty Analysis: The Jets decided to stop playing it safe with Wilson and just let him loose in prime time. The results were shocking as he made difficult throws throughout the night and genuinely looked like a player who should have been taken in the top five of an NFL Draft. This is a small sample size and Wilson still made a critical mistake on a late fumble but the talk of Trevor Siemian taking over will be extinguished for now. Wilson is still off the dynasty radar but he at least has a pulse.

From Dynasty League Fantasy

Justin Herbert Oct 2 11:10am ET
Justin Herbert

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (finger) suffered a fractured finger on his left, non-throwing hand in the Week 4 win over the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, according to sources. Herbert's finger also suffered a gruesome nail injury, but he somehow finished the game and with the team's bye coming in Week 5, Herbert shouldn't miss any time. Once he returned to the game after having a split put on his fractured finger, he didn't take any snaps under center, except for a fourth-down sneak late in the game. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said he doesn't see this being a major issue for Herbert moving forward. The 25-year-old saved his fantasy day on Sunday with two rushing touchdowns, but he should remain a strong QB1 option coming off the bye for a Week 6 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, Oct. 16.

From RotoBaller

Rhamondre Stevenson Oct 2 11:10am ET
Rhamondre Stevenson

New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for just 30 yards on 14 carries against the Cowboys on Sunday evening. He also hauled in two of three targets for an additional 10 yards through the air. The Patriots lost by a score of 38-3, falling to 1-3 on the season. Stevenson's relative struggles were the product of an ugly game that saw Mac Jones get benched in the second half. With that said, the Patriots face the Saints next week, which could be a bit more favorable. Stevenson should be treated as a low-end fantasy RB2.

From RotoBaller

George Pickens Oct 2 10:10am ET
George Pickens

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens caught just three of his seven targets for 25 yards in the team's 30-6 blowout loss to the Houston Texans. Still, outside of running backs, the second-year pro led the team in receiving yards. The entire Pittsburgh offense sputtered against a beatable Houston defense. They also lost quarterback Kenny Pickett (knee) and tight end Pat Freiermuth (hamstring) to injuries. It appears as though Mitch Trubisky could get the start against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5. The passing game can't get much worse, so Pickens will still be viewed as a flex option next week.

From RotoBaller

Jaylen Warren Oct 2 10:00am ET
Jaylen Warren

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren received 14 opportunities out of the backfield in the team's 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans. The second-year pro turned eight carries and six catches into 55 total yards. Warren and Najee Harris nearly split the touches 50/50. The starter ran the ball 14 times and caught one pass on two targets. Both backs saw 49% of the snaps in the blowout loss. Warren and the Steelers face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5. An already struggling offense could have a new quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, who is likely to start in place of Kenny Pickett (knee).

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Oct 2 9:50am ET
Ezekiel Elliott

New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed just six times for 16 yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. He added six receiving yards on two catches. The Patriots lost by a score of 38-3, falling to 1-3 on the season. Elliott was reportedly expected to handle the workload of an RB1 on Sunday, but that certainly did not happen. Not only did he and the offense struggle, but he was out-touched by Rhamondre Stevenson, 16 to eight. Elliott should not be started in fantasy football, and he can be dropped in leagues with 10 or fewer teams.

From RotoBaller

Najee Harris Oct 2 9:50am ET
Najee Harris

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris cobbled together a fantasy-relevant performance for the Steelers in their 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans. The third-year pro ran the ball 14 times for 71 yards and caught one pass for 32 yards. His 100-yard performance was his first of the young season, despite his lowest snap percentage of the campaign. Backup running back Jaylen Warren received 14 touches in the game. The Steelers scored just six points on the afternoon as the offense continued to sputter. Harris and the Steelers face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, where quarterback Mitch Trubisky may start in place of Kenny Pickett (knee).

From RotoBaller

Hunter Henry Oct 2 9:50am ET
Hunter Henry

New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry remained the team's most involved pass-catcher on Sunday, hauling in four of five targets for 51 yards. The Patriots lost to the Cowboys by a score of 38-3, falling to 1-3 on the season. Henry has 17 catches, 176 yards, and two touchdowns so far, ranking as the overall TE6 in PPR leagues. As much as the Patriots' offense has endured sporadic struggles, Henry has remained a relatively constant force and should be started in most fantasy leagues going forward. The Patriots face the Saints in Week 5.

From RotoBaller

Kenny Pickett Oct 2 9:20am ET
Kenny Pickett

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (knee) will miss some time but it appears he's avoided a season-ending injury. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports that an MRI showed no ACL injury to Pickett's knee. We'll have a better idea about Pickett's injury soon but expect Mitchell Trubisky to start in Week 5 against Baltimore. Following their tilt against the Ravens, the Steelers will have a bye week. Pickett hasn't been good for fantasy managers this season and isn't on rosters in standard-sized redraft leagues. The Steelers' offense has been a disaster so far in 2023 and a new quarterback may not solve the problem.

From RotoBaller

Mike Evans Oct 2 9:10am ET
Mike Evans

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) may not miss any time with what is believed to be a minor hamstring injury. The 30-year-old departed the game against New Orleans in the second quarter after snagging three catches for 40 yards. The Buccaneers are on bye in Week 5 which gives Evans more time to heal. They'll face the Detroit Lions in Week 6. If he is still unable to play two weeks from now, Chris Godwin will play the role of No. 1 wide receiver. Trey Palmer and Deven Thompkins would also earn more snaps.

From RotoBaller