Paddy Power Fantasy: 4 stars to build your team around in week 1

Fresh off a monster new contract, Ezekiel Elliott faces a porous New York Giants defense that was gashed often on the ground in 2018

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With Week 1 of the 2019 season finally here it’s time to set those fantasy NFL lineups and gear up for a monster weekend of football.

As is the case when playing any fantasy sport, it’s imperative to hit on the high-priced players in your lineup. They require a big chunk of your salary, and when paying up for a player, you shouldn’t have to worry about him letting down your lineup.

Heading into the opening week of the NFL season, here are four studs who should prove to be worth their high price tag.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 12: Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams recovers a fumble in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Price: £9,100
Projected Points: 17.3

After signing a massive new contract, Ezekiel Elliott should be suiting up for the Dallas Cowboys, and assuming he does, he’s in for a monster Week 1.

First, let’s peek into that New York Giants defence, which clocked in as one of the league’s worst in 2018 against the run (26th), and Elliott gashed them in Week 2 last year for 78 yards and a score in the only time he suited up against them a year ago. A season ago, the Giants gave up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing runners (21.2 points-per-game).

Vegas has installed the Cowboys as healthy favourites (money line -7.0 points), and Dallas has the fourth-highest implied team total (26.25 points) on Sunday’s main slate. If Elliot gets a strong workload as expected against this Giants team, the running back could put up monster results.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 08: Eddy Pineiro #15 of the Chicago Bears warms up during the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field on August 08, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Price: £7,400
Projected Points: 20.9

While a first-round loss to the Los Angeles Chargers certainly added to the growing list of detractors, Lamar Jackson gets a cream puff matchup to begin the 2019 season against a very poor Miami Dolphins defence heading in the wrong direction.

If you forgot about Jackson’s exploits last season, let’s remind you about how adept he was as a runner, averaging 17 rushing attempts last season. In the seven games that he started, he rushed for 557 yards — that’s not a bad 18.6 fantasy point-per-game average.

While Jackson had his hands full against the Chargers in that playoff contest, the ‘Fins certainly aren’t that defence, or anywhere close. They ranked last as a defence overall in 2018, last against the run, and second-worst against the pass.

While they will be on the road with only a 38.5-point over/under, it could lead you to avoiding Jackson — but fear not, as our highest-projected quarterback should be in line for a big score.

PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 09: Antony Auclair #82 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cannot make a catch while being defended by Robert Spillane #49 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of a preseason game at Heinz Field on August 9, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Price: £7,900
Projected Points: 13.9

There are two games with over/unders set at 50 points or higher, and with the explosive Tampa Bay Buccaneers in one of those contests, it’s time for Mike Evans to eat.

Coming off an 86-catch, 1,539-receiving yard, 139-target campaign (22.2% target market share), Evans was clearly a focal point of one of the best passing offences in the league, which we ranked as ninth-best in 2018.

For Evans, the likelihood of a big game rises even further attacking a San Francisco 49ers pass defence that ranked as the third-worst a season ago. And if pace stats from last year continue, where Tampa ranked seventh in situation-neutral pace (27.10 seconds per play), there should be plenty of offensive opportunities for this passing attack.

We project Evans as the top wide receiver on Sunday’s slate of games, so if you can afford the pricy pass catcher, he should be worth it.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 29: Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before a NFL preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 29, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Price: £7,800
Projected Points: 13.3

After the juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs offence shattered record after record in 2019, including passing for a whopping 50 touchdowns, they will get the chance to continue to prove their worth against a ferocious Jacksonville Jaguars defence in Week 1.

While the Jags took a step back as a team, this defence remained stout. It clocked in sixth overall and sixth against the pass, so why would we want to consider even rostering a guy like Travis Kelce?

If there was one soft spot exposed by teams, it was the tight end position. The Jaguars allowed only 17 passing touchdowns last season, but they allowed eight of them to oppose tight ends.

While Kelce has topped 100 or more targets in each of the last four seasons, he saw a whopping 150 targets a season ago — look for Patrick Mahomes to look his way early and often in this game.

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