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Dan Podheiser

Dan  Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

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Dan's NFL Week 1 DFS GPP picks

10 Sep 2015

By Dan Podheiser
Week 1 of the NFL season is finally here, kicking off Thursday night with the New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I love betting on the NFL – I do it just about every way that I can. And one of my new favorite ways to sweat football games on Sundays is by playing daily fantasy sports (DFS). Specifically, I enjoy guaranteed prize pool leagues (GPPs).

Unlike traditional fantasy football leagues, DFS GPP tournaments can have up to half a million entries, often allowing each individual player to enter multiple teams into the same GPP. They're my favorite type of game because you can win boatloads of cash. DraftKings, for instance, is guaranteeing $2 million to first place in its weekly "Millionaire Maker" event in Week 1.

I've already detailed my top 10 tips for the novice daily fantasy football player. I'm still somewhat of a newbie myself, though I'm coming off a full season of complete, unadulterated daily fantasy degeneracy.

Each week, I'll provide my picks for players who I think are good picks for GPP leagues on the two major sites: DraftKings and FanDuel. I'll be using these players in my actual lineups that weekend, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is.

Before we begin, it's important to note the scoring and salary differences between the two sites. For a full explanation of the differences, read this blog post by Daily Fantasy Sports 101. A couple key differences: DraftKings awards one point per reception, while FanDuel awards only half a point; and DraftKings gives bonuses for passing, receiving and rushing benchmarks (300 and 100 yards), while FanDuel does not. Because of these differences, I will recommend one running back and one wide receiver per site.

Without further ado, here are my GPP picks for Week 1.

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (DK: $7,400; FD: $8,000)

Tannehill was one of the most schizophrenic QBs in the league last year, and I know because I bet big on Dolphins futures bets before the season. In his third season in the NFL, Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards and 12 touchdowns with a QB rating of 92.8. Pretty good, but not great.

But if you dig deeper into the game-by-game numbers, Tannehill was one of the biggest "boom or bust" quarterbacks in the NFL in 2014. He had just as many games (six) with a 100+ QB rating as he did with a QB rating less than 80. And in his good games, he was in fact great.

Take his Week 7 performance against Chicago, one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Tannehill went 25-for-32 in the air for 277 yards, two touchdowns and zero picks. He also rushed six times for 48 yards. Or take his Week 16 game against Minnesota – 35-for-47, 396 yards and four TDs.

His opponent in Week 1 this year, the Washington Redskins, are projected to have one of the worst defenses in all of football. And now in his fourth season, I'm betting on Tannehill to come out and show that he's matured into one of the most polished quarterbacks in the NFL. I think his inconsistency last year has him underpriced for the beginning of 2015, so I'm nabbing him while he's still affordable.

Running Back (DK): Matt Forte, Chicago Bears ($7,800)

If you love guys who rack up yards every which way, Forte is your guy. I've drafted him in my season-long league every year since I can remember because I just love the guy so much. He's so damn consistent.

Forte is one of the few backs in the league who is the featured player in his offense, regardless of the flow of the game. Most running backs get the majority of their touches when their team is winning, as their carries help kill the clock and allow the offensive line to dig their heels into the defense. Typically, a running back on a bad team – especially one with a defense as horrible as the Bears' has been in recent years – would be a bad play for fantasy.

But Forte's specialty is not running between the tackles, or even running at all. He's a pass-catching machine who has recorded at least 44 receptions in each of his seven seasons in the league – last year, he had a whopping 102 catches for 808 yards, a ridiculous figure for a running back.

Vegas predicts the Week 1 showdown between the Bears and juggernaut Packers to be a high-scoring game that the Packers should likely dominate. But that won't slow down Forte; if anything, it will just create more opportunities for the tailback to get touches. He's a must-play for me in Week 1.

Running Back (FD): Chris Ivory, New York Jets ($6,400)

Unlike Forte, Ivory is not a pass catcher whatsoever – the Jets halfback had just 18 receptions in 2014. But that doesn't matter so much for FanDuel. What does matter is that Ivory's team is going up against the Cleveland Browns in what should be a Week 1 slopfest between two teams with pretty good defenses and not much offensive identity.

I predict new Jets head coach and defensive guru Todd Bowles will take a conservative approach in his first game with the team, and that dictates giving Ivory the bulk of the work. Ivory is a true featured back if there ever was one, even if he's not that great a player. Still, purely from a game flow and usability perspective, Ivory has to be one of the best plays on FanDuel this week, especially given his low price.

Wide Receiver (DK): Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs ($6,900)

The one that got away. Arguably the best receiver on the Philadelphia Eagles, he spurned his former team this offseason and signed with his former coach, Andy Reid, in Kansas City. Now Maclin will be the top target on a team that had zero – yes, zero – touchdown catches by wide receivers in 2014.

Maclin is going to be used so much by Reid in 2014 it will make Terrell Owens' usage with the 2014 Eagles look irrelevant. I predict double-digit pass attempts Maclin's way every week this season.

Another thing to look out for: Maclin had his best game in 2014 against his Week 1 opponent this year, the Houston Texans. And if you want to make the point that his quarterback is now Alex Smith – he had that game last year with the combination of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez under center.

Wide Receiver (FD): Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers ($5,000)

Or any wide receiver on the Packers' depth chart, really. Montgomery is the next guy up now that Pro Bowl wideout Jordy Nelson is gone for the season, and should be the top slot receiver in an offense led by the best quarterback on earth, Aaron Rodgers.

Montgomery, a rookie out of Stanford, will be the fastest player on the field whenever he lines up. He won't get a ton of targets, which is why his value is greater in FanDuel than in DraftKings. But expect Rodgers to take a few shots his way down the field, which could result in a couple touchdown opportunities.

Tight End: Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (DK: $2,500; FD: $4,900)

Again, insert "potential Packers pass catcher." Aaron Rodgers is simply too good to not turn any receiver in his arsenal into a fantasy threat. There are tight ends out there who will almost certainly outperform Richard Rodgers this week and this season, but given that the Packers will likely have a half dozen or more red zone opportunities in Week 1 against the Bears, he's a great value here.

Defense: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DK: $2,800; FD: $4,500)

In a battle of the top two draft picks, pitting quarterbacks Jamies Winston and Marcus Mariota against each other for each of their first NFL games, we are definitely going to see a game filled with turnovers. And when I see "rookie quarterback," I'll almost always target an experienced defense playing against that QB for my fantasy team.

Led by All Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Bucs defense should be much improved after a disappointing 2014 season. But this is more about Tampa Bay getting to play against Mariota and a pitiful Tennessee Titans offense than anything else. There are better defenses on the board, but the Bucs represent the best value.
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