Fantasy Football: XFL Week 1 DFS picks for DraftKings, FanDuel

All week long, we've been getting you up to speed on the XFL in advance of Week 1. We shared our mock draft, looked at the Week 1 matchups and went over the key takeaways from yesterday's release of the full Week 1 depth charts. Now it's time to pick the top DFS plays on DraftKings and FanDuel. 

A couple of important notes. First of all, for cash games, try to target the most secure workloads you can find. I'll be discussing them below, but it makes far more sense to be looking at guys listed on the first team for their offense than some of the big names who were surprisingly listed as backups. It also makes some sense to spread out your exposure across multiple teams, and to target teams who are listed as favorites, as they are our best guess as to who might put up Fantasy production right out of the gate. But the reality is we don't know which offenses will succeed, and it's likely at least a couple will have a rough start, so balancing your roster is the best way to a higher floor. 

For tournaments, I recommend being more imbalanced. In other words, stacking. With only four games on the slate, it's entirely possible the best plays all come from one or two offenses who really show well in Week 1. If we look back at Week 1 in the AAF last year, Orlando and Arizona scored 40 and 38 points right out of the gate, two more teams scored in the twenties, and then four teams scored 15 or fewer points, with three at 6 or fewer. 

The XFL has rules designed to enhance scoring, but Week 1 in the AAF was a reminder that the talent level is significantly lower in these secondary leagues, particularly at the all-important quarterback position. It's often said that there aren't enough good quarterbacks to fill the 32 starting spots in the NFL; we're going to be watching guys who couldn't even stick around as backups. 

That doesn't mean the XFL is without talent, and there are several quarterbacks I'm excited to see play. Josh Johnson and Landry Jones are both banged up and may not play Week 1, but they qualify if they do. Of the guys we know will be out there, Cardale Jones stands out, while Aaron Murray impressed me more than most other observers, it seems, with his play in a poor Atlanta offense down the stretch in the AAF. 

Let's get into the Week 1 picks. 

Quarterback

Phillip Walker (FanDuel salary: $18, DraftKings salary: $7800)
Cash or tournament viable

Walker earned the starting nod over Connor Cook for June Jones' Houston offense that should be wide open and lists four starting wide receivers. Emory Hunt gave us a strong review on Fantasy Football Today, mentioning his downfield passing ability. Walker's also said to be a mobile quarterback, which we like for Fantasy, and comes at a bit of a discount to the highest-priced passers, especially on DraftKings

Aaron Murray (FD: $18, DK: $9000)
Tournament option

I'm a bit concerned about the role Quinton Flowers might play as double-pass option, and Flowers is listed at RB and is someone to consider in large-field GPPs. But Murray should still get to throw the ball plenty in Marc Trestman's offense, and with the Vipers slated for the game with the week's closest line, we could get some back-and-forth action late that can drive up passing volume. 

Cardale Jones (FD: $20, DK: $10,200)
Cash or tournament viable

As a big home favorite, Jones is usable in both cash and tournaments. My concern is whether DC will need to throw a lot right out of the gate against the league's worst projected team, and it has me leaning on their running game a bit more. 

Running back

Jhurell Pressley (FD: $18, DK: $7900)
Cash or tournament viable

Pressley is the lead back for DC, a big home favorite. The AAF's leading rusher last year, Pressley is a talented back who can also catch passes, and should see plenty of work out of the backfield. If you're making several lineups, it would be very difficult to fade Pressley. 

Cameron Artis-Payne (FD: $19, DK: $6800)
Cash or tournament viable  

You get a nice discount on Artis-Payne at DraftKings, and he's the other lead back — along with Pressley — who is a big home favorite in Week 1. Salary isn't a huge concern when building cash lineups because there are some solid cheaper options, so I'm locking in these two to start my cash lineups. 

De'Veon Smith (FD: $16, DK: $6300)
Tournament option

I noted I'm high on Tampa Bay's offense, and Smith is their No. 1 back. Smith didn't catch many passes in the AAF, but I'm hoping that could change now that he's playing for Trestman, who has a long history of offenses that target the position. 

Ja'Quan Gardner (FD: $9, DK: $3600)
Tournament option

Gardner is the lead back for a big road underdog and will likely split work with two other backs in Kenneth Farrow and Trey Williams. He's not a top option for me, but he was productive in the AAF and he's woefully underpriced after being listed as Seattle's No. 1 back. If Seattle is able to cover the spread in DC, Gardner may be a reason why. 

Andre Williams (FD: $19, DK: $3800)
DraftKings tournament option

Williams is the second most expensive back on FanDuel, and he's not in play there. The trouble is he was never a good pass-catcher at the NFL level, so his game makes more sense in the half-PPR format. I list him here almost solely because he's a home favorite at a cheap price tag on DraftKings and could fall in for multiple scores (or potentially conversions) in Houston's likely pass-heavy offense. 

Also consider: Christine Michael and Elijah Hood are both road underdogs at pretty hefty price tags, and both offenses could struggle, especially if Hood's quarterback Josh Johnson sits. I'm (very) loosely expecting both to see a higher percentage of their team's work than someone like Gardner, who is in the same road underdog spot, and I like Michael and Hood more in a vacuum. I'm considering both Michael and Hood in cash games, but I expect both to be reasonably highly owned and will likely be underweight on both in tournaments. 

Wide Receiver

Sammie Coates (FD: $20, DK: $9300)
Cash or tournament viable

I expect Coates to be one of the better receivers in the league, and while he's an expensive option in Week 1, he's in a good offense and I trust the talent. The only concern I have is if June Jones' four-wide spread offense spreads targets too thin, and it might mean Coates' (and other Roughnecks' receivers) target numbers aren't consistent week to week. Still, there are few receivers whose roles we can trust early in the season, and Coates figures to be one. 

Mekale McKay (FD: $17, DK: $9900)
Cash or tournament viable

I'm not particularly high on Matt McGloin, New York's starting quarterback, and it has me a bit concerned for McKay, who I rank behind Coates this week and for the season. But as the starting X receiver in Kevin Gilbride's system, I do believe the 6-5 McKay is locked into targets and should see some red zone looks — he's perhaps the best bet for a receiving touchdown in the league.

Reece Horn (FD: $13, DK: $3400)
Cash or tournament viable

Listed among the starters for Tampa Bay, the AAF's fourth-leading receiver is my pick to lead the team in targets. I expect Horn's price will rise throughout the season, and this early-season discount makes him a staple of my cash lineups. 

Kahlil Lewis (FD: $16, DK: $4100)
Cash or tournament viable

Lewis is listed among the starters for Houston, and it's Horn or him as the cheap receiver option in cash. I lean Horn, who I expect to lead Tampa Bay in targets, because I believe Coates is likely to be Houston's No. 1, and the remaining targets could get split among the other three starting receivers for Houston. Still, Lewis looks locked into a high-snap role on a pass-heavy offense. 

Jeff Badet (FD: $19, DK: $8800)
Tournament option

With Jazz Ferguson banged up and listed among the second-teamers, Badet looks likely to be the top option in Dallas's passing game. But Badet's a speedster, and likely the kind of high-variance receiver that makes more sense in tournaments even before you consider that his starting quarterback, Landry Jones, might not be active. 

De'Mornay Pierson-El (FD: $15, DK: $6200)
Tournament option

Pierson-El is a slot receiver who performed well for the AAF's Salt Lake Stallions, and while I'm not particularly high on St. Louis quarterback Jordan Ta'amu and think the offense could struggle, Pierson-El could rack up catches in comeback mode if the BattleHawks trail and Dallas' defense plays off in the second half. 

Keenan Reynolds (FD: $13, DK: $8100)
Tournament option

A former quarterback in college who rushed more than twice as many times than he threw at Navy, Reynolds is one of the more interesting players to watch given the XFL's rules regarding double passes. If Jim Zorn decides to get creative, Reynolds — who rushed for 88 touchdowns and threw for 31 more in college — could find the ball in his hands a decent amount. Listed as a starting receiver while another starter, Kasen Williams, has been declared out, it seems likely the Dragons have big plans for Reynolds. 

Also consider: I'm shying away from Rashad Ross due to his being listed on the second team, his high price tag and my belief DC may not have to throw a substantial amount in Week 1, but Ross is undoubtedly one of the league's most talented receivers with the ability to break the slate if he gets enough volume. Other tournament options I'm considering include secondary receivers in good offenses like Cam Phillips for Houston, Jalen Tolliver and tight end Nick Truesdell for Tampa Bay, Flynn Nagel for Dallas and Malachi Dupre and Eli Rogers for DC. 

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