NFL Grind Down Week 1: Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints

Single-Game Projected Ownership – DraftKings

Welcome to the RotoGrinders NFL Grind Down, an all-encompassing preview of the week ahead in the NFL from a daily fantasy sports perspective. We’ll provide all the statistics, insights and analysis you need to set your lineups for this week’s contests.

NOTE: Games will be published as they are completed. Primetime matchups are free for all users. Main slate breakdowns can only be accessed by Premium subscribers.

Every game will be broken down statistically, with several key elements highlighted in our charts. Vegas lines are broken down to show projected team totals, to give you an idea of who is favored to win, and often more importantly, how many points they’re expected to score. Each contest is then analyzed team-by-team, with a focus on finding matchups to exploit and trends to follow.

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Vegas Overview

HOU @ NOS Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
NOS -7 53.5 30.25 -300
HOU 7 53.5 23.25 250

Spread Quick Take: The spread of seven points feels perfect for this game. I have incredible respect for both of these teams and wouldn’t be surprised to see them both win their divisions. The line opened at nine points, but is now down to the key number of seven. I don’t have a particularly strong take here, but I don’t like betting against Drew Brees in the Superdome. The Saints have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL and they can beat you in so many ways.

NO -7
Confidence Level: 5 out of 10

Over/Under: One of the strategies that I like to take when parlaying the spread with the total is trying to predict how the game will play out. For instance, if the Saints are able to establish the run and are able to dominate the time of possession, the under would be in good shape. If this game stays close throughout and the Texans’ offense is able to put pressure on Drew Brees to air it out a little more than expected, I could see the Texans covering while hitting the over. This doesn’t mean the Saints -7 and the over can’t hit or that the Texans +7 and the under can’t hit, but if I’m laying the points with New Orleans, I’ll take the under.

Under 53.5
Confidence Level: 6 out of 10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
Lamar Miller HOU RB O Knee 10
Keke Coutee HOU WR Q Ankle 6

Injuries to Monitor: Lamar Miller tore his ACL and his MCL in the preseason and isn’t expected back until next season. As a result, the Texans brought in Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde to lead their backfield. Oft-injured Keke Coutee is participating in limited portions of practice, but his status is still up in the air for Week 1. His absence would open up more targets for Will Fuller and Kenny Stills. Tight end Jordan Thomas was placed on IR, so the Texans will mix a few different players in at the position. The Saints enter the season relatively healthy.

Other News and Notes: The Texans couldn’t come to an agreement with Jadeveon Clowney and ultimately dealt him to Miami. While this is a significant hit to their pass rush, they brought back left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills. Tunsil should help bolster this offensive line and Stills adds another weapon for Deshaun Watson.

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: We have two elite offenses squaring off in New Orleans and both were ranked in the top half of the league in seconds per play and in situation-neutral pace in 2018. Similar to the Patriots, the Saints want to lean heavily on their run game to keep as much gas in the tank as possible for Drew Brees. In 2018, New Orleans was ranked 29th in pass percentage and fourth in run percentage. It was a different story for the Texans, who had the eighth highest pass percentage last year. Duke Johnson has been a better pass-catcher than runner so far in his career and Carlos Hyde hasn’t shown much in the last two seasons, so I expect another pass-happy approach for Houston this season. We can expect a fast-paced, high-scoring game in the Superdome on Monday night.

New Orleans Saints Offense vs. Houston Texans Defense: We can expect another stellar season from the Saints’ offense, but it’s not going to be the aerial attack that we think of when it comes to Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Brees is 40 years old and is coming off of a season where he didn’t take many shots downfield (29th in air yards per attempt). He was also ranked 25th in pass attempts per game, which is a far cry from a few years ago. The Saints leaned heavily on their running game and I expect that to continue this season. They will still put up points, but the days of Brees being a top-three fantasy quarterback might be gone. As for their matchup against the Texans, Houston was ranked 19th in DVOA against the pass and first in DVOA against the run in 2018. The Saints’ short passing game is essentially an extension of their running game, so I don’t expect them to have any issues moving the ball or finding the endzone in Week 1.

Houston Texans Offense vs. New Orleans Saints Defense: It’s crazy how much changes from year to year in the NFL. The Saints were basically the Coors Field of matchups two years ago where we could stream stacks against them on a weekly basis. We expected more of the same for 2018, but they ended the season ranked 11th in overall DVOA and third in DVOA against the run. With that said, they were beatable through the air, which should play right into the hands of Deshaun Watson. As noted above, the Texans were a pass-heavy team a year ago and they lost their starting running back (Lamar Miller) for the entire 2019 season. As 7-point underdogs on the road, the Texans will be forced to air it out even if they are able to generate yards on the ground. This is an elite spot for Watson and his pass-catchers.

New Orleans Saints Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Rank Proj ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Drew Brees NOS QB8 19.43 36.03 283.72 Rank 20 Rank 18 Rank 28 Rank 11

HOU Schedule Adjusted QB DVP (‘18): Rank #15

2018 Opportunity Metrics:
Att/Gm: 32.6 (Rank 25)
RuAtt/Gm: 2.1 (Rank #38)
DeepBall/Gm: 3.8 (Rank #26)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 3.2 (Rank #1)
Air Yards/Att: 7.5 (Rank #29)
AdjYPA: 8.7 (Rank #2)

Drew Brees is still a very good quarterback, but the Saints don’t need him to air it out 50 times a game anymore. In 2018, Brees was ranked 25th or worse in attempts per game, deep balls per game, and air yards per attempt. He was the most accurate quarterback in the NFL, but that’s to be expected when you aren’t taking chances downfield. He still has plenty of weapons to work with and there will be weeks where he is one of the highest-scoring quarterbacks. However, the Saints want to run the ball and they want to limit turnovers. Their overall philosophy isn’t great for the fantasy appeal of Brees. While he is a secondary option at best for the Thursday-Monday slate, there are only four quarterbacks to choose from in the two-game Monday night slate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust either quarterback in the Broncos/Raiders game. I prefer Deshaun Watson over Brees, but will have exposure to both in the Monday night slate.

Quick Summary: We currently have Brees projected as the QB8 and Watson as the QB7 for Week 1. While I prefer Watson, ownership could dictate which player I end up with more exposure to on Monday.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Alvin Kamara NOS 18.90 RB4 55% 15% Rank 8 Rank 26 Rank 20 Rank 34
Latavius Murray NOS 8.20 RB40 34% 3% Rank 37 Rank 37 Rank 40 Rank 12
Dwayne Washington NOS 0.59 RB96 2% 1% Rank 90 Rank 90 Rank 91 Rank 90

HOU Schedule Adjusted RB DVP (‘18): Rank #27

2018 Alvin Kamara Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 58.7% (Rank #16)
RZ Opportunity Share: 68.1% (Rank #13)

2018 Alvin Kamara Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 295 (Rank #19)
YPC: 4.6 (Rank #27)
Yards Per Route: 2.59 (Rank #6)

Alvin Kamara is one of the most explosive playmakers in football, which is why he was drafted in the top three of nearly every season-long draft. Even though Mark Ingram is no longer with the Saints, I expect a similar workload for Kamara in 2019. He had a 59% opportunity share in this backfield last season with a 68% redzone opportunity share. Every metric that you want to look at, he excelled at in 2018 and there’s no reason to think he’s going to slow down this year. He’s game flow proof given the fact that he’s heavily involved in both the running and passing games for New Orleans. I really shouldn’t have to list the reasons why you should be playing Kamara; he’s going to be a top running back target every week he’s on the field. The Texans were very good against the run last season, but we can basically throw out defensive statistics in the Superdome. Points are going to be scored and Kamara will have plenty of opportunities to find the endzone.

Latavius Murray isn’t a flashy running back, but he’s ready to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank. He’s being under-drafted in season-long and best ball leagues because he’ll have a significant role right out of the gate and would step in as the workhorse back if Kamara is ever forced to miss any games. Murray is not expected to see much passing work (3% target projection), but he’ll get a healthy dose of carries and potentially a few goal-line carries. If and when the Saints build big leads, I expect them to lean heavily on Murray to milk the clock similar to what they did with Ingram last season. Running back is surprisingly loaded for a two-game slate, so I doubt I’ll end up with much exposure to Murray, but he’s certainly a player to keep an eye on moving forward.

Quick Summary: Kamara is a strong play in the Thursday-Monday slate, which makes him close to a must play in the two-game Monday slate. Latavius Murray is a deep tournament flier that would need the right game script to pay off his salary.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Michael Thomas NOS 17.44 WR3 26% 9.37 Rank 18 Rank 61 Rank 1 Rank 95
Tre’Quan Smith NOS 10.62 WR43 17% 5.94 Rank 14 Rank 7 Rank 46 Rank 1
Ted Ginn NOS 6.70 WR92 11% 3.78 Rank 90 Rank 104 Rank 66 Rank 58
Austin Carr NOS 1.98 WR156 5% 1.80 Rank 141 Rank 145 Rank 132 Rank 141
Keith Kirkwood NOS 3.34 WR133 6% 1.98 Rank 124 Rank 127 Rank 105 Rank 123

HOU Schedule Adjusted WR DVP (‘18): Rank #9

2018 Michael Thomas Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 28.8% (Rank #4)
RZ Target Share: 30.5% (Rank #9)
Route Participation: 93.8% (Rank #5)

2018 Michael Thomas Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.89 (Rank #6)
ADOT: 8 (Rank #96)
YAC per Reception: 3.2 (Rank #3)

Michael Thomas was surprisingly inconsistent in 2018, but he checks the box in nearly every metric that we look at for a receiver. He was ranked sixth or better last season in target share, redzone target share, route participation, yards per route, and YAC per reception. He had a low ADOT, but that’s not necessarily bad. When you are running shorter routes, the likelihood of your targets being caught goes up drastically. He has great hands, a great quarterback, and he’s playing for a great offense. We have him ranked as the WR3 for the week, which is right in line with my projections. He has the ability to take over games and he sees a lot of fourth-quarter targets, even when the Saints are playing with a lead.

We know what to expect from Kamara and Thomas each week, but it’s tough to predict after that. Tre’Quan Smith will look to take a step forward this season as the number two wideout, Ted Ginn offers plenty of upside as a deep threat, and Austin Carr will be looking for any scraps he can find when it comes to snaps. We have Smith with a 17% projected target share, which is a lot higher than I was originally expecting. In my eyes, his fantasy appeal comes down to ownership. If he’s going to be popular in the two-game slate, I don’t mind looking elsewhere. If he’s going to be low owned, he makes a tremendous tournament play. As far as pass-catchers in this offense, I have Smith ranked behind Thomas, Kamara, and Cook.

Quick Summary: Michael Thomas is an elite play in all formats, while Tra’Quan Smith and Ted Ginn are worth a look in tournaments.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj ProjTar Rank ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Jared Cook NOS 9.81 TE7 15% 5.22 Rank 8 Rank 19 Rank 2 Rank
Josh Hill NOS 1.85 TE60 3% 1.08 Rank 56 Rank 57 Rank 53 Rank

HOU Schedule Adjusted TE DVP (‘18): Rank #8

2018 Jared Cook Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 19% (Rank #5)
RZ Target Share: 26.3% (Rank #4)
Route Participation: 70% (Rank #7)

2018 Jared Cook Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.3 (Rank #37)
ADOT: 8.5 (Rank #15)
YAC per Reception: 3.5 (Rank #5)

The Jared Cook hype train is not slowing down anytime soon. He’s coming off of his best season in the NFL and he played for the Oakland Raiders of all teams. He’s not going to have as big of a target share as he did last season, but this year’s targets will be much more valuable and he should see plenty of redzone balls thrown his way. Consistency has never been his calling card, but playing with Drew Brees should give him a higher floor than he’s ever had. He should see a nice mix of deep targets and we know he can make plays with the fifth-highest YAC per reception among all tight ends in 2018. There are rumors that the Saints are dusting off the old playbooks they had when Jimmy Graham was in town, which is just another reason to buy shares of Cook early and often this season. The Texans struggled against tight ends last year, ranking 23rd in DVOA against the position.

Quick Summary: I’m buying Cook in season-long leagues, in best ball, and in DFS for Week 1. All aboard the hype train!

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
New Orleans Saints NOS 7.08 DST11 2.98 0.81 23.91 Y Y

The Saints really struggled to get pressure on the quarterback last season. They had the fourth-worst pressure percentage and the fourth-worst sack rate in football. However, they are an opportunistic defense that is often playing with a lead. All too often, DFS players avoid defenses that are facing good offenses. We shouldn’t care too much about how many points a defense is going to allow because the real driver of fantasy production is sacks and turnovers. Deshaun Watson is a great quarterback, but he holds on to the ball longer than most and he’s stuck behind a porous offensive line. If the Saints can build a lead in this game, the Texans will be forced to air it out late in the game.

Quick Summary: The Saints are going to allow points here, but their defense could be able to create sacks and turnovers if they are playing with a lead. They are right there with the Broncos as the best option for the two-game slate.

Houston Texans Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Deshaun Watson HOU 19.46 QB7 37.32 266.09 Rank 27 Rank 29 Rank 27 Rank 10

NOS Schedule Adjusted QB DVP (‘18): Rank #13

2018 Opportunity Metrics: Att/Gm: 31.6 (Rank 28)
RuAtt/Gm: 6.2 (Rank #4)
DeepBall/Gm: 3.9 (Rank #22)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 2.8 (Rank #22)
Air Yards/Att: 9.1 (Rank #9)
AdjYPA: 7.5 (Rank #8)

Deshaun Watson is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL and he can make plays with his arm and his legs. Dual-threat quarterbacks are always on my radar because they have a higher floor than quarterbacks that have no rushing upside. While Watson was ranked 28th in attempts per game last season, the Texans could really struggle to run the ball, both in this game and as a whole this season. They lost Lamar Miller and while I like Duke Johnson, he’s a better pass-catching back than a pure runner. Watson takes a ton of shots downfield (top 10 last season in air yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt) and should have all of his weapons available against the Saints.

As for the matchup, it’s hard to envision a better one for Watson. New Orleans is great against the run and bad against the pass. The Texans likely won’t be able to run the ball even if they want to, so we can expect a lot of dropbacks for Watson. Their offensive line isn’t great, but the Saints really struggled to get pressure on quarterbacks last season. Even if they get pressure on him, Watson can make plays with his feet and when he evades pressure, it opens up more chances for deep balls downfield. The fact that this game is in the Superdome and that the Texans will likely be playing from behind all plays into the hands of Watson. We have him ranked as the QB7 for the week, but I expect him to finish in the top five. The Texans are going to score points here and I don’t think it will be through the run game (unless it’s Watson).

Quick Summary: Watson is one of my favorite quarterback plays of the week. He’s an elite option for all slates.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Duke Johnson HOU 12.72 RB21 43% 11% Rank 12 Rank 9 Rank 12 Rank 5
Carlos Hyde HOU 4.88 RB64 32% Rank 61 Rank 69 Rank 59 Rank 53
Taiwan Jones HOU 2.00 RB83 9% 1% Rank 76 Rank 76 Rank 74 Rank 76

NOS Schedule Adjusted RB DVP (‘18): Rank #29

2018 Duke Johnson Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 22.3% (Rank #74)
RZ Opportunity Share: 29.5% (DNQ)

2018 Duke Johnson Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 132 (Rank #48)
YPC: 5 (DNQ)
Yards Per Route: 1.77 (Rank #23)

Duke Johnson was a late addition to the Texans, but should have a huge role right out of the gate. Head coach Bill O’Brien said that Miller will have a strong knowledge of the offense heading into his first game with the team. He’s always been a great pass-catching back and he’ll now get the opportunity to lead a backfield in touches. We have his projected rush share at 43%, which is significant. Assuming the Texans are forced to air it out, this could still lead to 8-12 carries in addition to his work catching the ball out of the backfield. Many will view him as a boom or bust option in his first game with the team, but I see a high floor given the fact that he should at the very least get us a few catches.

Carlos Hyde was ineffective during his time with Jacksonville and wouldn’t have much of a role on any team if Lamar Miller didn’t go down with his season-ending injury. Hyde will need a very specific game script to warrant fantasy consideration because he’s not a great pass-catching back. He’ll be used on early downs and potentially near the goal line. The fact that the Saints were ranked third in DVOA against the run last year and the fact that the Texans are 7-point underdogs, it’s hard to envision a big game from Hyde. Even if he gets 40% of the carries in this backfield, that might only be 6-8 in this particular game script. Everything is pointing toward Johnson having the better game of the two.

Quick Summary: Even at higher ownership, Johnson is the running back to own Week 1 against the Saints.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 16.56 WR6 27% 9.89 Rank 46 Rank 74 Rank 2 Rank 110
Will Fuller HOU 11.44 WR36 19% 7.09 Rank 42 Rank 32 Rank 40 Rank 99
Keke Coutee HOU 9.09 WR59 16% 5.97 Rank 75 Rank 43 Rank 52 Rank 88
Kenny Stills HOU 9.57 WR55 6% 2.24 Rank 66 Rank 27 Rank 73 Rank 43
DeAndre Carter HOU 2.14 WR150 4% 1.49 Rank 142 Rank 148 Rank 159 Rank 143

NOS Schedule Adjusted WR DVP (‘18): Rank #5

2018 DeAndre Hopkins Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 32.9% (Rank #1)
RZ Target Share: 32.9% (Rank #3)
Route Participation: 95.5% (Rank #2)

2018 DeAndre Hopkins Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 3.26 (Rank #2)
\ADOT: 12.3 (Rank #44)
YAC per Reception: 2.2 (Rank #20)

Even though DeAndre Hopkins routinely garnered double teams and coverage from opponent’s best corners, he was still the best receiver in the NFL. He finished second in receptions (115) and second in receiving yards (1,572). He had the highest target share of any receiver and the third highest redzone target share. He’s not the most explosive after the catch, but he might have the best hands of any player in the league. I do expect his target share to drop off a bit this season with Will Fuller healthy and Kenny Stills now in the mix, but the Texans might be forced to air it out a little more this season. As noted above, Deshaun Watson was 28th in pass attempts per game. If that creeps into the top half of the league, Hopkins could see just as many targets even though his market share takes a small hit. I actually prefer Hopkins when he draws difficult cornerback matchups (Marshon Lattimore this week) because he’ll get more one-on-one opportunities. For whatever reason, we only talk about WR/CB matchups as being tough for the receiver. Well, guess what? This matchup will be incredibly tough for Lattimore.

One injury to keep an eye on all week is the status of Keke Coutee. He’s been participating in practice, but his status is still up in the air. He was a great security blanket for Watson last season, but his stock is quickly falling. Kenny Stills and Will Fuller are better deep threats and Duke Johnson might cut into some of those shorter targets. It sounds like the Texans want to use Stills on the inside a bit more than the Dolphins did, which could even further cut into the target share for Coutee. I’ll take the under on Coutee’s 16% projected target share and the over on the 6% share for Stills against the Saints. Fuller has a completely different skill set, but he’s essentially the modern-day Cris Carter in that all he does is catch touchdowns. He’s one of the fastest receivers in football, so when Watson extends plays with his legs it gives Fuller even more time to create separation from the secondary. He’s going to be a boom or bust fantasy option most weeks, but I’m certainly higher on Fuller than I am on Coutee heading into the season. He’s currently set to square off against Eli Apple, who was a corner we loved to pick on during his time with the Giants.

Quick Summary: DeAndre Hopkins is an elite option in all formats, Will Fuller is an elite tournament play, and I’ll take a pass on Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Jordan Thomas HOU 6.32 TE24 10% 3.73 Rank 20 Rank 14 Rank 24 Rank
Jordan Akins HOU 2.68 TE47 5% 1.87 Rank 46 Rank 45 Rank 36 Rank

NOS Schedule Adjusted TE DVP (‘18): Rank #30

2018 Jordan Thomas Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 6.3% (Rank #60)
RZ Target Share: 13.4% (DNQ)
Route Participation: 26% (DNQ)

2018 Jordan Thomas Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 1.89 (Rank #57)
ADOT: 5.7 (DNQ)
YAC per Reception: 3.1 (Rank #50)

Jordan Thomas cracked his rib and was placed on the IR, so Jordan Akins will be the team’s leading tight end. In an offense that features DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Duke Johnson, and Kenny Stills, it will be hard for Akins to really cut into this target share. We have conflicting information on the Saints in terms of their ability to defend tight ends. They were ranked fourth in DVOA against the position last season but allowed the third most schedule-adjusted fantasy points.

Quick Summary: Akins might have a big role eventually, but he’ll have a tough time seeing targets with everyone healthy in this receiving corps.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Houston Texans HOU 5.35 DST32 1.83 0.62 28.08 N N

The Texans have a good defense, but they traded Jadeveon Clowney and are facing the New Orleans Saints on the road in the Superdome. We want defenses that will be playing in favorable game scripts, defenses that will be playing with a lead, and defenses that can get pressure on the quarterback. The Saints do a great job at protecting Drew Brees and want to be a run-first offense this season. Fantasy production for defenses can be fluky, but the Texans will have a tough time exceeding value in this matchup.

Quick Summary: The Texans’ defense can be avoided in all formats.

DFS Recommendations

Optimal DFS Plays: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Duke Johnson (Monday slate), Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Jared Cook (Monday slate)

Leverage Plays: Drew Brees, Will Fuller

Secondary Plays: Tre’Quan Smith, Latavius Murray

About the Author

  • Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

  • Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.


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