Thursday Night Football DFS Picks: Lions vs. Chiefs [9/7/23]
Congratulations! You have successful endured the 188 days between NFL games that count. On Thursday, the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs return to the field to face the (up-and-coming?!) Detroit Lions to kick off the 2023-24 NFL season. Not much has changed for the champs outside of some lateral moves on the O-Line and receiver room. On the other side, the Lions patched up a defense that allowed the 5th most points last season and shifted their running back room from D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams to David Montgomery and 12th overall pick, Jahmyr Gibbs.
Heading into Thursday, the biggest question mark is Chiefs TE Travis Kelce ($12K/$15K), who is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee and is officially listed as questionable. Be sure to follow along for the final injury report 90 minutes before kickoff. At his price tag, it will be hard to commit to adding him to a lot of lineups even if he is cleared to play. With that said, his ownership will most certainly take a hit and give you the opportunity to get a #1 WR at a lower %. Let's take a look at some of the best Captain and FLEX spot options for the showdown slate on DraftKings and FanDuel (DK/FD).
Captain's Pick (1.5x Points)
Jahmyr Gibbs ($12,300 on DraftKings, $11,000 on FanDuel)
In what was the biggest surprise of the first round in the latest NFL Draft, the Lions selected Jahmyr Gibbs out of Alabama with the 12th overall pick. Detroit clearly identified their top target and grabbed Gibbs early to the surprise of many draft experts. With elite speed and pass-catching ability, Gibbs will likely become an early and often crutch for Jared Goff and they will certainly need their new weapon in Week 1 vs. the defending champs. As someone who thinks the Lions can defeat the Chiefs this week, I envision Gibbs playing a large role in accomplishing that and will be well worth his price tag ($12.3K/$11K).
Amon-Ra St. Brown ($15,300/$13,500)
Kicking off the season without TJ Hockenson, Jameson Williams and with the addition of some new faces, Amon-Ra St. Brown ($15.3K/$13.5K) is the ultimate key to success for this Lions offense. Seeing 9+ targets in 12 of 16 games last season, St. Brown entered the conversation for top receivers in the league accumulating 106 catches for 1100 yards and 6 touchdowns. If early 2022 is any indication of the plan for Brown (24 targets, 3 touchdowns in Week 1 & 2 last season), he is close to a lock for the most targets for any receiver in this game.
Skyy Moore ($7,200/$8,000) or Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($8,100/$10,000)
Even if Travis Kelce suits up, it is unlikely that Kansas City run him out there for his normal number of snaps and routes. With Kelce at less than 100%, the three Chiefs who look to benefit the most would be Skyy Moore, MVS and Jerick McKinnon. I lean towards the top two receivers in the Captain slot with the additional competition in the RB room. Second-year wideout Skyy Moore will look to take a giant leap for the Chiefs after a bit of a disappointing rookie campaign. Without JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, Moore ($7.2K/$8K) will get the chance to shine early.
Valdes-Scantling ($8.1K/$10K) enters the second year of his 3/$30M contract. In a crowded room last year, MVS was still able to put up a respectable 700 receiving yards in 11 starts. He also had a huge performance in the AFC Championship game against the Bengals (6-111-1). Being more expensive than Skyy Moore, he is a solid target if you are looking for a little less ownership.
Flex Picks (1x Points)
David Montgomery ($6,600 on DraftKings, $13,000 on FanDuel)
Montgomery joins the Lions after a solid run with the Chicago Bears over four years with at least 800 yards and 5 touchdowns in each season. Signing a 3 year, $18M deal with the Lions, Montgomery is expected to adopt the Jamaal Williams, touchdown vulture role that tortured D'Andre Swift fantasy owners for years. A pick that a much prefer on DraftKings, Montgomery ($6.6K/$13K) can create value on his goal line touches alone and I may even pair Gibbs with Montgomery in some lineups.
Jared Goff ($9,900/$15,500)
Jared Goff enters his eight year as a pro and third with the Detroit Lions. After a rough 2021 campaign, Goff ($9.9K/$15.5K) and the Lions put themselves back on the map in 2022 where Goff threw for 4400 yards, 29 TDs and only 8 INTs. I am a bit worried about early season Goff, as he went 1-6 in the first 7 weeks last season including 4 games with 1 or less touchdown, but I think the momentum this team gained during the second half of 2022-23 will have them charged up heading into Kansas City. It is unlikely that the Lions lead this game early and I see plenty of opportunity for Goff to sling it to St. Brown and his new target, Jahmyr Gibbs.
Jerick McKinnon ($5,600/$9,000)
We have discussed the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the top receiving targets behind Travis Kelce in the Chiefs offense, but it is pretty apparent that the #2 option for Patrick Mahomes may be sitting in his backfield. With 512 yards and 9 (nine!) touchdowns through the air last season, Jerick McKinnon ($5.6K/$9K) has revitalized his career here in Kansas City. He will certainly be looking at a hefty ownership % if Kelce is ruled out, but it is hard to ignore a safe bet in Week 1.
Sam LaPorta ($5,000/$6,500)
The Lions decided to address some holes on their offense early in the 2023 draft with Gibbs and then Sam Laporta, the 6'3" tight end out of Iowa, with the 34th overall pick. A tight end out of Iowa is a pretty success recipe and LaPorta will have an opportunity early to gain Jared Goff's trust. His blocking ability will limit his time on the field with Brock Wright sliding in, but he certainly is one of the surest targets once Detroit hits the red zone. At $5,000 on DraftKings, he is worthy of a spot in some of your Goff lineups.
Josh Reynolds ($2,800/$8,000)
Expanding more on the options within the Lions offense, most of the ownership (25-30%) will be funneled to Kalif Raymond due to his $800 price tag. If you are looking for an alternative, look no further than someone who has spent almost the entirety of his career with Jared Goff in Josh Reynolds ($2.8K/$8,000). He hasn't played a huge role in his two years with the Lions, but Reynolds has still managed to bring in 56 balls for 800 yards in 20 games during that time. Reynolds is perfect for a Lions stack that needs a unique pivot.
Justyn Ross ($1,000/$5,500)
Among the bargain bin options, I am most excited about second year WR (sort of) Justyn Ross ($1K/$5/5K) who put together a really solid preseason and has a ton of natural ability. After sitting out the entirety of 2022 with a foot injury, Ross is ready to join a Chiefs receiver room that has some uncertainties. If you have filled your lineup with top priced talent, Ross is a solid flyer to give you some flexibility.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($5,400/$7,500)
Despite all that has been said about CEH throughout a tumultuous 2022-23 campaign where he lost his starting job to Isaiah Pacheco and additional work to Jerick McKinnon and some rumors swirling this preseason that he may be cut in lieu of Deneric Price, he still remains on this roster and could earn a bigger role at any moment. He may only see between 10-15 touches tonight, but if he shows some early success, he could create some huge value in your lineup at bottom of the barrel ownership. Putting Edwards-Helaire ($5.4K/$7.5K) in your lineups is not for the faint of heart, but he might be worth the risk.
Although there is certainly some appeal to either kicker or taking a flyer on one of these defenses punching home a pick-six or returning a kick, I just don't see enough upside to sub out a skill position player in what should be a game that goes north of the 52.5 point total. Patrick Mahomes ($12.2K/$18K) is an obvious option to slide into your lineup in Week 1, but I think it is worth fading the reigning Super Bowl MVP without a fully healthy Kelce and to create unique lineups for large field contests.
Be sure to take some chances, but don't overthink your lineup on opening night. For more NFL DFS content, be sure to follow me on X at @MiLBMan.