The top two players on our list are the reigning NL and AL MVPs, highlighting just how valuable First Base position can be.
When you think of a first basemen, what do you picture? A big, long, and, sometimes, chunky player, who doesn't exactly have wheels, but can provide a lot of pop at the plate? Congratulations! You nailed it. Because first basemen are such an archetype, and dole out such similar production, it can be rare that one or a few rise to the level of first round talent.
This year, much like the past few years, really only one *cough* Freeman *cough* might go that high. It's absolutely what I'd call a high floor position. In the third round, you might be just as likely to get a guy who's outpaced by a player in the twelfth round, but, even then, not by much. When you look at what an accomplished 1B can bring to your team, it's easy to see that there's no reason to skimp.
Freeman isn't someone you'd describe as flashy or sexy, but the man rakes, and he rakes consistently. Out of his 10 full professional seasons, he has hit over .300 half of the time, and the rest of the time was within spitting distance.
He usually puts himself right around 20-25 homers, but he really shines as a guy who drives in runs. He's had over 100 RBIs twice, 90 thrice; and last season, if you prorated his number out to a full 162 games, he would've posted an astonishing 143.1 ribbies.
I don't even know how you'd notch a tenth of a run, which makes that feat more impressive. With only a couple seasons marred by injuries, you can pretty much count on the guy to be healthy and in the lineup everyday. He's twice played in all 162 and didn't miss a game last year either. All that being said, he'll be the only guy at this position anyone would consider at the end of the first round, so I'd say getting him at the top of Round Two is a steal.
A home run for Freddie Freeman. A souvenir for a fan. Welcome to the NLCS. (Via @MLBONFOX) https://t.co/diXcO4FVOI— Yahoo Sports MLB (@Yahoo Sports MLB)1602548047.0
Here's a deserving MVP after being the most steady hand on a team that went from the verge of greatness to actual greatness. He's a perennial favorite to lead his league in RBIs, SLG, total bases, and as a guy who just absolutely rakes. He's dealt with injuries for only one season in his career and only missed about 40 games. Unlike some of the guys below him, there's never been a down year to point to, and he represents a gun-to-your-head safe bet for 100 ribbies.
The only Polar Bear in Queens had himself a bit of a sophomore slump after an electric rookie season, in which he set the rookie HR record and led the league with 53 dingers. His average dropped nearly 30 points, showing a worrisome streakiness and a literal boom or bust potential.
But remember, you were never going to draft him for his average. If he can reach the high .240s, which seems more likely by the day, the homers and a decent chunk of the 120 RBIs from his rookie season should return to his stat sheet.
The lumber-swinging farm boy, who seemed like a trade deadline flier and depth piece, has become a starting All-Star quality first baseman over his time in pinstripes. Voit managed to lead the league in homers last season, essentially hitting one every third game and putting up a .277 average, all while dealing with "foot stuff" to boot.
Entering this season fully healthy and with a dangerous team around him should only mean more opportunities to hit dingers and drive in runs.
Like a fair number of players last year after the shutdown, Vlad Jr. started the season not quite in playing shape, and he didn't manage to reach the lofty expectations of his potential and bloodline. This was particularly difficult on the guy, who's notoriously and unfairly been maligned for battling to stay at his fighting weight.
Fast forward to 2021, and we enter the age of Slim Vaddy who looks a lot more like his daddy. Another thing to note: It probably didn't help his production that the Blue Jays were essentially brainstorming from Buffalo around the AL East, which was only settled weeks before Opening Day. Hopefully, having these two issues settled will led to increased powered numbers and the further ascension of Vlad.
THE NEXT TIER
I see the talent here as pretty interchangeable, so no reason to expound on anyone in too much detail. These all represent guys who will hit you DINGERS, then hover around the .240s or .230s or lower (except Goldschmidt, but that's why he's the top of this tier).
In last year's small sample size season, Olson and Muncy both slumped and went under .200, while Rhys and Rizzo managed to stay just above. None of that should bother you, because these guys could win you the HR cat every single week.
ALL THE REST
There's an interesting mix of guys in the group that land in different times, places, and points of their career. Some are looking for a comeback to previous success, some are old vets who have diminishing returns but bring leadership and other qualities to a team, and some are guys on the rise that could by season's end make us all look foolish for rating them so low.
He suffered through a wonky 2020 after mashing 37 homers in his first All-Star season the prior year. As a Pirate who seemed to transcend their inherent Pirate-ness, he became the center of trade rumors on a team that offered little to no protection for their switch-hitting power hitter. A fresh start in Washington surrounded by a different class of talent can only help Bell return to form.
Is 30 dingers too high to reach for? Maybe, but I would have to imagine 20 should be a low bar to clear.
Scoreboard. No really. Josh Bell hit the dang top of the scoreboard. @JBell_19 // #NATITUDE https://t.co/jjj54J5WzW— Washington Nationals (@Washington Nationals)1616806306.0
One of the most intriguing names on the board from a pure mystery standpoint. He played around a third of a full major league season. There are players who slumped for the duration of their entire career up until now and still made the All Star team.
He's absolutely crushed baseballs at every level, so the odds of him forgetting how to now are slim. In fact, he originally started as a shortstop, but his lack of defensive value prompted the switch to first base as a way to get his bat through the system faster. We could look back and wonder how we all missed an utter breakout season that was right in front of our noses, or how we all thought this guy was worth this eating and never hear from him again.
Ryan Mountcastle is in Ryan Mountcastle form 🔥 https://t.co/o1WMByFL8Z— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Baltimore Orioles 😷)1616715737.0
Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.
We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks
*Prices are from DraftKings
Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)
I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.
Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)
Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.
Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)
I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..
Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)
This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?
Monday Night Football Best Bets
Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.
Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points
Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:
D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard
Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.
T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD
I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.
AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts
I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.
Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.
If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.
Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54
The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.
Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers
Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.
- Cowboys ML (+160)
- Titans +6.5 (-105)
- Steelers ML (-225)
- Rams -3.5 (-110)
Five Props To Consider
- Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
- Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
- Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
- Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
- James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)
All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.
Can the NFL season be over before Summer officially ends?
After Week 1, half the teams are 0-1. Each of those teams has a chance to right the ship and get to .500 with a win this week.
However, there are three teams who are guaranteed to start the season 0-2 (barring a tie). Three games have matchups of 0-1 teams facing off against each other this week. The loser of each game will be 0-2 heading into Week 3.
Historically, 92% of teams who begin the year 0-2 do not make the playoffs. That number may skew a bit this year because a 17th game has been added to the schedule. And an additional playoff team has been added in each conference, but overall, starting 0-2 is not ideal.
New York Giants @ Washington Football Team (-3.5 40.5 O/U)
The Daniel Jones experience may be coming to an end in New York. He coughed up another fumble (his 30th) last week against the Broncos in New York. His career record is only 8-19, but amazingly he's 4-0 against Washington.
Saquon Barkley only played 29 snaps last week and is complaining about the short work week, with this game against Washington just days after Big Blue's brutal loss to the Broncos. It's obvious the Giants are trying to ease Barkley back, but they may not have that luxury. They'll need him to be productive to keep Washington's defensive end, Chase Young, away from Jones. Ideally, the Giants will try to employ a quick passing attack, however, it doesn't help matters that tight end Evan Engram has officially been ruled out with a calf injury.
Washington doesn't come into this game any better, having lost Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip injury. They've turned the reigns over to Taylor Heinicke, who actually was productive in relief of Fitzpatrick last week. The reality is, there's not much to get excited about for either team, and frankly, neither one probably should be 1-1, but the reality is, one will be.
In last week's games, neither team sniffed 20 points. Washington scored 16 points and the Giants only could muster 13 points. In this era of the NFL, it's hard to imagine a team not scoring 20-plus points, but the over-under is only 40.5, so Vegas doesn't feel either team will put up a ton of points. Out of the two teams, the Giants feel like they need it more, and Jones definitely does.
As bad as it was last season, Washington did prevail to win the NFC East last season, so the fan base should be more forgiving, especially with the Fitzpatrick injury. But for coach Joe Judge, this year was supposed to be the start of the turnaround for the Giants. Hey just cannot go 0-2, especially after seeing what the Eagles and Jalen Hurts did in Week 1 to the Falcons. The Eagles are vastly improved, as is Dallas, even though the Cowboys lost to Tampa Bay. It's going to take much more than a 7-9 record to win the division this year.
The 3.5 points is a nice bonus, but I think the Giants win outright, in a low-scoring affair. If you wanted to get frisky, take the Giants to win outright for +150.
Prediction: Giants 19-14
New England Patriots (-5.5 43 O/U) vs. New York Jets
Normally, a win could be penciled in for the Patriots and everyone would just move on. These aren't normal times. Tom Brady is no longer at the helm, and nothing should be taken for granted in New England. The dynasty is most assuredly over.
There is a narrative that coach Belichick dominates rookie quarterbacks. That just isn't so. On the road, in the last 12 games against a rookie signal-caller, Belichick is 6-6. And in games played prior to Week 10, he's only 1-5.
This game, like the Giants-Washington game, features two teams who scored under 20 points last week, although the two teams feel like they have a better offensive grasp. And each team had opportunities to score more points.
The line is hovering between 5.5-6 points depending on where you look. If you're inclined to take the Jets, try to find +6. If you like the Pats, look for -5.5. The line opened at 3 points, which means a ton of money is coming in heavy on the Patriots. The Pats do have more to lose in this game since their Week 1 loss was to the Dolphins, and they can't afford to not only start 0-2, but 0-2 in the division too.
And although the Pats are facing rookie QB Zach Wilson in his home debut, they are sending out a rookie themselves, Mac Jones, in his road debut, against a very hostile New York crowd.
Although I do think the Pats will prevail, I can't see them covering the number. Even if it's from a back door cover, I envision the Jets covering the 6-point spread. I also think both offenses will be much better than they were in Week 1. If I had to choose, I'd take the OVER. But I'd rather stick with Patriots outright or Jets covering the spread.
Prediction: Patriots 24-20.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (-11 48 O/U)
A few years ago Aaron Rodgers famously said "R-E-L-A-X." With everything that went on in the offseason, it doesn't feel like he's compelled to give the same message, and it definitely doesn't seem like the fans are receptive to hearing it.
Rodgers typically doesn't put up back-to-back stinkers, but this is unchartered territory. He knows he's not coming back next season; he's on borrowed time in Green Bay. Not that he's deliberately trying to sink the team, he is a fierce competitor, but he's also a complex person and many things are surely weighing on his mind.
The good news for Green Bay fans is that Rodgers has owned the Lions in his career, going 17-5 against them with a 104.8 passer rating. They are playing in their home opener and if anything can motivate a solid performance, an opening night crowd on Monday Night Football should do the trick.
The Lions are an intriguing opponent. The ending of their game against the 49ers last week makes this matchup quite interesting. After finding themselves behind early, 31-10 at halftime, and 38-17 after the 3rd quarter, they showed life and offense in the final quarter. Yes, it can be argued that it was garbage time and the 49ers were playing soft to kill the clock, but it still shows that the Lions have heart.
I'll put it this way, the Lions put up 33 points last week. The Packers only managed a field goal.
Although I don't see the Lions' offense putting up 30-plus again, mainly because that would be back-to-back atrocious games by the Packers' defense, their offense is good enough to score more than 20 points. Jared Goff was successful in getting the ball to his tight end T.J. Hockenson, as well as his two RBs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. They combined for 24 catches, 218 yards and 2 TDs. Williams also rushed for a touchdown.
The Lions can't bank on a disinterested Rodgers. They will utilize a ball control and short-pass/running gameplan to control time of possession and keep the ball away from Rodgers. And based on what happened in Week 1, we know Green Bay has the potential to give up points.
I'm willing to speculate that the Lions get to at least 20 points. Assuming they do, the play would be Lions +11 and over 48. That way, you're guaranteed no worse than a split.
If the Lions score 20, the only way you lose is if Green Bay puts up 32 or more points, which would be a combined 52 points. You'd lose the Detroit bet but win the Over.
Prediction: Green Bay 31-21
If it pans out like I think it might, the Washington Football Team, New York Jets and Detroit Lions will be 0-2, last place in their divisions, and already looking ahead, with one eye on the 2022 season. Thankfully, there is that extra game this year, and an extra Wild Card team.
One thing is sure, three of these teams will be facing the daunting circumstance of being 0-2.