Can you believe that we have *proceeds to wipe a tear from my eye while typing* meaningful NFL games back in our lives on Thursday night? The 2021 season begins with a highly-anticipated matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s the return of Dak Prescott from a season-ending ankle injury versus Tom Brady, who is seeking to win what seems like his 20th Super Bowl ring.
While I’ll have an NFL DFS article for this weekend’s main slate (keep an eye out for that on Friday), I’ll be doing a weekly article on the showdown main slate on DraftKings for each Thursday Night Football contest. In showdown contests on DraftKings, there is a captain spot that costs 1.5x their usual price, and their points are multiplied by 1.5.
For the most part, quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers are the usual suspects inserted at the captain spot. All three of those positions bring the highest ceilings in most games, unless there are premier tight ends like Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle. With $50,000 in salary to spend on the DraftKings showdown slate, here are the players I’m liking from the Cowboys and the Buccaneers.
Captain spot considerations:
Tom Brady ($16,800)
What a shocker, right? When considering who to play at the captain spot, quarterbacks are usually the highest-owned players. And in the majority of times, the quarterback on the winning team can be a successful choice as your captain. Brady has arguably the best receiving trio in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, and if you’re like me, you are confident that the reigning Super Bowl champions will come away with a win on Thursday night. While the Buccaneers are nearly eight-point favorites at the time I’m writing this, Brady is going to be a reason why Tampa Bay can jump out to a lead in the game. I expect Brady to be the highest-owned captain for Thursday’s showdown slate on DraftKings.
Dak Prescott ($15,600)
There’s definitely a case to be made for Prescott to be the captain in your lineups on Thursday night. Some people may be wary of using Prescott as he plays his first game since sustaining a season-ending ankle injury. But for me, Prescott is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, and if Ezekiel Elliott struggles to find a rhythm on the ground — which I think happens — then Prescott will be needed to keep the Cowboys in the game. Before Prescott went down with an unfortunate injury last season, he averaged a whopping 30.3 points on DraftKings. Using Prescott and his wide receivers in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup is definitely a viable strategy for the first showdown slate of the regular season.
Ronald Jones ($7,500)
You could insert one of Tampa Bay’s wideouts here and I wouldn’t make a peep. However, I believe the Buccaneers could jump out to an early lead, which could lead to them leaning on the running game as the game progresses. During the team’s Super Bowl run last season, it was Leonard Fournette who emerged as the go-to guy in the backfield. That being said, Ronald Jones is the more talented runner, putting him in a position to be a cheaper player to use in the captain spot to differentiate your lineups. Given the effectiveness of Tampa Bay’s aerial attack, Jones could have plenty of running lanes against a Dallas defense that is adjusting to a new defense under new defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn.
Chris Godwin ($8,600)
Evans is absolutely an option at the captain spot or a flex spot, but I’ll elect to save some salary by siding with the other wide receivers on the Buccaneers. While Evans is considered the No. 1 WR on Tampa Bay’s roster, Godwin is the No. 2 wideout. Godwin is a perfect wide receiver for Brady, as he excels in the short-to-intermediate area on the field with his pristine route running. Despite missing four games, Godwin still recorded only 0.2 DraftKings points per game fewer than Evans in 2020. The secondary of the Cowboys is definitely one that defenses can take advantage of, as they allowed the 30th most DraftKings points to WRs last season. Even though Trevon Diggs could make improvements in his game, they have an inexperienced secondary that is playing in a new scheme under Quinn. Between Evans and Godwin, I’ll take the salary savings for Godwin.
Amari Cooper ($8,400)
Seeing that I believe Prescott is going to be busy through the air, I love his wide receivers on Thursday night. I’m an avid fan of Lamb for the Cowboys — and I believe he outscores Cooper in 2021 — but let’s not act like Cooper still isn’t a premier wide receiver in the NFL. When Cooper is healthy, he’s one of the best route runners in the league and Prescott definitely takes notice. The back end of the defense of the Buccaneers has some talented players, but the passing offense of the Cowboys is one of the best units in the NFL with Prescott operating it. While I lean toward Tampa Bay escaping with a victory, Cooper can still have a noteworthy performance that makes him worthy of a spot in your showdown lineups.
CeeDee Lamb ($8,200)
Speaking of Lamb, let’s talk about the second-year wideout. Lamb was on track for a special rookie season in 2020 before Prescott was sidelined for the final 11 weeks due to an ankle ailment. The Oklahoma product fell short of 1,000 receiving yards in 2020, but I don’t believe that will be said in 2021. Lamb’s quest to greatness this season begins in Week 1 versus the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. Of the three wide receivers on the Cowboys, Lamb should spend a decent amount of his time in the slot, leading to advantageous matchups for the talented playmaker. If I had to choose which of the three wide receivers I want in my lineups between Cooper, Lamb, and Gallup, I’d give the edge to Lamb.
Antonio Brown ($5,600)
It’s hard not to consider Brown in your lineups, especially with his discounted price on DraftKings. Compared to Evans and Godwin — who are both $8,600+ in salary — Brown comes in at a cheap $5,600 on the green site. Some people may be concerned with Brown sitting out of practice earlier this week, but it was revealed that it was just a veteran day off for the Buccaneers. With that in mind, Brown should have no limitations on Thursday night versus the Cowboys. Even though Godwin dealt with an injury last season, Brown led the Pro Bowl trio of wideouts on the Buccaneers with 7.8 targets per game in 2020. With Brady having the utmost trust in Brown, there’s no reason not to like him on Thursday night.
O.J. Howard (2.200)
I wanted to include one contrarian choice to put in your lineups and I was deciding between Giovani Bernard and O.J. Howard. While Bernard could carve out a passing-down role on the Buccaneers behind Jones and Fournette, Howard is expected to be the backup to Rob Gronkowski. Howard was limited to four games last season due to an Achilles injury. Both Brady and Bruce Arians have talked up Howard this offseason as he should be a prominent piece of the offense when they run 12 personnel. While coach speak can be dangerous to place too much confidence in, Howard is a former first-round pick that could benefit from having defenses focus on the other pass-catchers in Tampa Bay’s offense. Picking Howard allows us to save salary to use for the studs and all we need is a touchdown or a few big catches from Howard for him to pay off his extremely cheap salary on DraftKings.