Gerrit Cole is the undisputed ace for the New York Yankees, who’ll be looking to continue his run of dominance in 2021.

Jim McIssac

There's a consensus top trio this year, and unless you're drafting with a bunch of amateurs, they will all be off the board by the end of Round One.

For my money, you cannot go wrong with any of the three-headed-ace monster.

THE TOP THREE

Jacob deGrom

Gerrit Cole

Shane Bieber


Each of these pitchers posted sub-1.00 WHIPs, sub-3.00 ERAs, and over 8 quality starts. Bieber and deGrom vaulted over 100 Ks in the shortened season, and Cole nearly got there with 94. While other pitchers that will go later had similar numbers, these are the guys in the best position to repeat/exceed their performances.

If you are dead set on going for a starter early, or if one happens to fall to you in the back half of the first round, I wouldn't think twice about selecting these workhorses. (As someone who's relied on streaming pitchers after going offense-forward in past drafts, I think building a strong rotation from the jump provides peace of mind for the homestretch and playoff push).

THE REST OF THE TOP TEN

The drop off from the top to the next group is not as steep as many might imagine, especially as pitchers continue to use advanced analytics, such as spin rate, to perfect their games. With the added talk of a deadened baseball, which allows a better grip, I think it's safe to assume a lot of the following dudes will be well worth a pick at their projected draft slots. However, I want to issue a buyer beware for a couple.

Yu Darvish

Trevor Bauer

The enigmatic Twitter presence had a career year of career years in 2020, earning him a much sought after Cy Young. He parlayed his success into a massive contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which pays him $38 million in 2021 and includes player opt outs after each season that could tack on $2 million, if exercised the first season, or $15 million for the second (maybe don't get too used to Bauer in Dodger Blue is all I'm saying).

Don't get me wrong, his only full season in Cincinnati was obviously spectacular. 100 Ks, 1.73 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 9 quality starts will get teams to smash their piggy banks. However, this is a guy, who has only two seasons of an under 4.00 ERA. The first was in 2018. How did he follow that up? A hefty 5.09 between his time in Cleveland and Cincy.

The change of scenery is worth mentioning here, as well. The NL Central looked like the dredges of baseball for most of last season. The Cubs were the one team to finish truly over .500, and they fell in the first round to the Miami Marlins, the Cards jumped in and out of quarantine so much that they didn't even play a full season, the Brewers went the way of Christian Yelich (who suffered with no video replay) and the Pirates were officially the league's worst team, posting a mere 19 wins.

Remember these are THE ONLY teams that Bauer pitched against last season, due to COVID rules. Facing even slightly stiffer competition from intra-divisional rivals, like the Padres, and across the league will undoubtedly have an effect and not a positive one. Throw in MLB's vendetta against sticky stuff, and I think it's very possible we see a much more average (by his own standards) season from Bauer.

Max Scherzer

Walker Buehler

Trust me, I'm not just picking on Dodgers pitchers here. Buehler possesses the raw skill and tools that most starters would kill for if given the chance. There are really only two red flags going into his fourth season.

First, the Dodgers historically have employed extreme caution about wearing out the young hurler's arm. They tend to ramp him up slowly, and he's never cracked 200 innings over a full regular season. (He and Giolito are the only two in the top ten not to sniff 190).

Now, he's coming off a shortened season in which a record number of pitchers experienced injuries, and he put up a total of only 60 innings. He only had one start go over six innings, which explains his one quality start. Usage alone might be reason enough to go in a different direction in the second round.

The other reason for concern is his paltry output this spring. Take this all with a grain of salt, but he's sporting an 8.10 ERA in his five exhibition starts, and a decreased velo on his fastball is to blame. Normally, he's sitting around 96, as opposed to the 93-94 that he's currently rocking. Do I believe that he'll build up and regain his form at some point? Absolutely.

But how long are you willing to wait for a top pick to find his juice? A month or two might be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

Lucas Giolito

Jack Flaherty

Luis Castillo

VALUE IN THE 11 TO 20 RANGE

These five guys will almost definitely fall into the fourth and fifth rounds, giving you an opportunity to bolster your rotation without breaking the bank. We run the gamut from established number ones to aging wunderkinds to a Cy Young-winner and World Series stand-out to a bevy of ascending aces.

These are pitchers that will offer a little more volatility than their higher-ranked brethren for a variety of reasons that range from age to injury to stuff not matching production:

Aaron Nola

Blake Snell

After winning the Cy Young, Blake Snell dealt with "loose bodies" in his left shoulder that required surgery in 2019 and had some lingering soreness in 2020 that led to a decrease in innings and productivity. However, his effectiveness down the stretch this past season and into the playoffs is noteworthy, especially his sterling Game 6 start against the Dodgers coupled with his early hook that may have spelled the end of his time in Tampa.

His trade to the Padres represented the first of many dominoes to fall in San Diego's direction, and it appears as if it will pay big dividends for them. Snell had a clean bill of health coming into Spring Training, and the results reflect that with no earned runs to his name and a 0.75 WHIP over nine and a third innings pitched.

Sure, those stats are all meaningless until they aren't, but seeing Snell looking healthy and dangerous could mean a full-on return to form for the former top pitcher in the AL.

Clayton Kershaw

Tyler Glasnow

Brandon Woodruff

Stephen Strasburg

Zac Gallen

Kenta Maeda

Corbin Burnes

Lance Lynn

Early in his career, Lance Lynn was a consistent third or fourth starter, who predominantly threw sinkerballs to induce soft contact and groundouts. It led to a success at the major league level that's impressive but hardly enviable. The glory in being a dependable guy that manufactures outs is almost always twinged as a little backhanded.

It came to a head when before the 2018 season; he was a free agent that had to wait until camp to get an offer. That's when two things changed that put him on an entirely different trajectory. First, he began to pitch from the 3rd base side of the rubber, which allowed him to drive harder through his lower body and generate more power behind his pitches. Second, he returned to a pitch that he abandoned as a member of the Cardinals organization: the four seamer.

These two tweaks have taken him from free agency afterthought to trade chip for a team with championship aspirations. Over his last two seasons in Texas, he has proven to be a different "D" word: Dominant. He's led the league in innings pitched, tied for first in starts with Aaron Nola, and tied for fifth in strikeouts with Max Scherzer. That's the kind of company Lynn deserves to mentioned in and drafted amongst. He'll be, dare I say, a pitcher to depend on.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

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.

File:Derrick Henry 2019 12-08.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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.

Best 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.

Long-Shot Parlay

  • 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.

Saquon Barkley | Running back Saquon Barkley of the New York… | Flickr

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.

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