Best DFS Picks for NFL Week 1, 2021

| August 5, 2021 6:38 am PDT

The 2021 NFL season is drawing close, as training camps are in full swing, and preseason games are starting to drop into our laps.

Before long, the real thing will be here, and the top daily fantasy football sites are wasting no time, with week one salaries and contests being released.

I thought I’d get ahead of the chaos and point our readers to the top NFL DFS picks for week 1.

These top plays are pricier studs, but the goal is to get you off of certain names and point you to the top NFL DFS options that are least likely to disappoint and/or offer terrific value.

With that, let’s dive into the best NFL DFS picks for week 1, 2021.

Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles ($6.4k)

Everyone is talking up Hurts as the guy you want to snag late in fantasy football drafts. I don’t disagree, as he’s one of my top fantasy football ADP values for 2021.

That said, I have far more interest in him early in the year as a DFS play. There is concern surrounding Hurts as a whole, as his accuracy is in question, and nobody knows how good the Eagles will be.

While true, there are some things to love about Hurts.

  • He performed well down the stretch in 2020
  • He’s reunited with Heisman winner DeVonta Smith
  • He offers a nice floor due to his rushing ability

More specifically, Hurts was QB3 down the stretch for Philadelphia last year. His play didn’t result in much winning, and he even got benched at one point, but the guy is a fantasy asset.

In week one, he gets the Falcons, who have shown few signs of being anything but abhorrent offensively.

Atlanta allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last year, and Hurts enters week one with the fourth-best fantasy points projection at

Considering his talent, the weapons around him, the matchup, and the price Hurts is the quarterback play in daily fantasy football to start the 2021 NFL season.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers ($9.5k)

You usually will want to pay up at 1-2 spots when finalizing your NFL DFS picks, and in week one, CMC stands out as the main guy to invest funds in.

McCaffrey was a bust for season-long fantasy football after playing just three games, but he’s the consensus #1 pick again in 2021 for a reason.

Just look at what he was able to accomplish in his three starts in 2020.

  • Week 1: 28.5 fantasy points
  • Week 2: 24.8 fantasy points
  • Week 9: 37.1 fantasy points

It’s pretty clear that Carolina still wants to use C-Mac in a massive role, and being that he’s their best offensive weapon (and they just paid him a huge contract last year), there’s no reason to anticipate that changing.

You don’t have to concern yourself with injuries or long-term availability when looking at daily fantasy football picks for week one, either.

McCaffrey’s role and production are off the charts, and in week one, he gets a New York Jets defense that gave up over 23 fantasy points per game a year ago. Gang Green also coughed up the fourth most catches to running backs.

Robert Saleh comes over from San Francisco to give the Jets a boost defensively, but I doubt he has a huge impact immediately. McCaffrey’s role and efficiency offset that, and he comes into week one with the best projection among fantasy backs.

If you’re looking for a can’t-miss stud worth paying up for in week one, McCaffrey looks to be it. After all, he probably needs to get it going early if he’s to be taken seriously as an NFL MVP sleeper this season.

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Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons ($7.9k)

I doubt the Falcons/Eagles game stack will fly under the radar in week one, but that doesn’t mean I won’t gladly flock to it.

The top NFL betting sites have this game kicking things off with a lively 48 total, and it’s quite arguable that’s on the low side.

I expect plenty of scoring in a game with dynamic offensive players and weak overall defenses, while Ridley stands out due to his huge role in Atlanta’s passing game.

Julio Jones was still on hand for half of the 2020 NFL campaign, and yet Ridley blew up as WR4. I don’t know if he can really get much better, but it’s unlikely he drops off by much, either.

Ridley’s role is gigantic, and he’ll be in an up-tempo game against an Eagles secondary that allowed the 8th most fantasy points to wide receivers last season.

Obviously, last year’s numbers don’t always translate, but the writing on the wall is all of the positive for Ridley. It doesn’t hurt that Atlanta’s new #1 target comes in with the fifth-best fantasy point projection for week one, either.

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs ($8.3k)

If you’re not game for investing this much of your NFL DFS salary into the tight-end position, I feel you. I’ll gladly point to some value once I break down the best week 1 NFL DFS sleepers at a later date.

Still, Kelce is probably going to be worth it. The man had a record-breaking season in 2020, after all.

Nothing changes going into 2021.

If anything, the Chiefs lost a reliable weapon with wide receiver Sammy Watkins skipping town, and KC is in an advantageous spot against the Cleveland Browns.

Kelce shredded the Browns for an 8-109-1 line in the playoffs last year (27.9 fantasy points), and the Browns weren’t exactly great (30th) against tight ends last season.

Kelce doesn’t need some big sales pitch. He’s a beast, the Chiefs are tough to stop, the matchup looks great, and he projects for six more fantasy points than the next best tight end in week one.

The only question will be whether or not you prefer to pay up for another stud running back instead.

Carolina Panthers Defense ($3.6k)

I admittedly prefer to pay down for a cheap defense whenever it makes sense. I’ll get to my favorite plays in that regard when I touch on my top week one NFL DFS sleepers.

For now, my favorite pick to pay up for at the position is the Panthers.

The jury is still out on Sam Darnold as he tries to turn his career around, but C-Mac may be all the Panthers need to get the win here. It often makes sense to stack your defense with a running back in your roster, too.

In this case, I trust a rising Panthers defense more than a rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson.

To this point, the reviews of Wilson have been inconsistent. He’s a rookie, and he’s undeniably in for a change of pace as he moves from BYU to the rigors of the NFL.

Carolina only ranked 16th among fantasy defenses a year ago, but this will be a feisty unit moving forward. The Panthers have a slew of playmakers (11th in takeaways per game in 2020), and Brian Burns heads a maturing pass rush.

Ultimately, I like the Panthers (-215 favorites at BetOnline), and that should make their defense a strong play in week one.

Week 1 NFL DFS Advice

For me, one of the first steps to piecing together a great NFL DFS lineup is establishing a core I love. Part of the process is landing on the expensive studs I want and taking others out of my player pool.

Going into week one, these NFL DFS picks were all in my player pool, although I did already mention that for defense and tight end, saving cash might make sense.

To prepare for your own week one NFL DFS picks, consider the following.

  • Player salaries
  • Player projections
  • Ownership %
  • Matchups
  • Betting odds

The salaries I use are from DraftKings. You can play NFL DFS anywhere, but DK tends to be the most versatile spot for building competitive rosters and obtaining an edge.

Player projections should give you a good indication of which players are worth paying up for and which values could open things up for your lineup.

I’d also pay mind to projected ownership. That won’t be useful until we get closer to week one, but ignoring it would be a huge mistake.

Matchups are also key for each player’s team while factoring in the individual matchup for wide receivers and tight ends is also important.

Lastly, be sure to consider how the oddsmakers view games.

Games with higher totals tend to be the best spots to target (especially when it comes to game stacking), so be sure to look for the latest pricing at the top NFL betting apps.

Keep all of this in mind, and whether you use my NFL DFS picks for week one or someone else’s, just be sure to consider all aspects before finalizing your rosters. Good luck in week one!

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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