FC Dirty Air NASCAR Season Preview NFL Player Comps

Hey everyone, I'm Matt Miles and I’ve been playing fantasy football since 1997 when we’d use the Monday and Tuesday newspaper box scores to tally up our team scores in high-school homeroom.  My first NASCAR race was Pocono Raceway in the womb back in 1980, and I’ve been a fan since.  It seems like every year there’s a big space between the Super Bowl and Baseball.  I love hockey, and March Madness brackets are always fun, but recent years have brought us new opportunities to play different fantasy games based on NASCAR’s Cup series drivers. 

I’ve played driver group games, pools, and “one-and-done” games for over a decade, and now with the fast spread of legal sports betting, NASCAR DFS games are one of the hottest growth segments in sports betting.  If you’re new to the sport of NASCAR, welcome in!  It’s truly a sensory experience to see live and is just as fun as fantasy football. 

If you’re well-seasoned with NFL DFS, this guide should help you get a good feel for which drivers will fall within your strategy in building teams to make that cash!  Again, these thoughts are based on past performance through a DFS and Fantasy game lens on a season-long timeline.  If you play other games like driver group games, one-and-done games, or even office pools, this guide will help gauge the value of your allocations of each driver to give you a fighting chance at a title in November.

        Kyle Larson – Cooper Kupp

Kyle Larson, the 2021 Cup Champion, had a bad 2020. He overcame a suspension and dismissal from Chip Ganassi Racing to join Hendrick Motorsports, one of the premier teams in the league, and just dominated the sport last year.  Last season, Kupp was looked at as a mid to late 4th rounder based on his 2020 season, but dominated in 2021. 

Larson, like Kupp, was an unknown going into 2021. Larson, like Kupp, also went off with 10 Cup series wins, across all types of tracks, en route to his first championship in 2021. Consistency was also key with 20 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes, more than any other driver last season in each category.  Larson is a threat to win everywhere, every week.  He’ll have some of the highest salaries each week, but that’s the price to pay for dominance.


       Chase Elliott - Patrick Mahomes

Chase Elliott is the perennial winner of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award.  Patrick Mahomes would probably hold the same type of award in the NFL.  Mahomes, nearly the QB1 in 2020 was just a little off in 2021.  Elliott, the 2020 Champion was just a little off in 2021 as well, with only one victory, despite improving his average finishing position over his championship season from 11.7 to 11.4.  

Mahomes finishing as QB4 matches Elliott’s finish as 4th in standings, as well.  Looking ahead to 2022, Elliott, like Mahomes, will be near the top in salary each week.  Like Mahomes, Elliott can give you good results any given week.


  Brad Keselowski – Matthew Stafford

Since we’re looking at the 2022 Super Bowl, this comparison stems from off-the-field moves in the off-season.  Both athletes are in the waning years of their careers. Both left the teams they made names for themselves on to rejuvenate their careers. Keselowski, in looking at what some other drivers are doing, has taken a part ownership role in the Roush-Fenway organization and is looking to build his own brand with a legacy team in the sport. 

Stafford could pop for some good games but is usually a middle-of-the-road salary option. Stafford always does best in situations where you might want to avoid higher salary options at a position.  Keselowski is the same way. He is an excellent driver at “plate races” like Daytona and Talladega as well as a good option for flat and skilled tracks further along in the season.


            Kyle Busch – Joe Burrow

This was a tougher comparison to make because Kyle Busch is almost incomparable.  Joe Burrow is a good comp in that each player is going to give you dominance or sometimes a complete dud.  Both have big swagger and a touch of a heel in their personalities. Burrow leaves it all on the field, Kyle will drive the wheels off the car, and second place is never good enough.  Like Burrow, Kyle has all of the tools and results to show dominance, but if something isn’t right, don’t look for him to ever settle for a “points” finish.

I think losing long-time sponsor M&Ms at the end of the season is only going to stoke the competitive flames and you’ll see even more push from the driver of the 18 car. Any race weekend that has practices and qualifying greatly benefit Kyle, don’t be afraid to roll with the 18 car in your line-ups on those weekends.


      Joey Logano – Davante Adams

Joey Logano is like having Davante Adams in your line-up.  Usually a higher salary driver, you get what you pay for, ceiling.  Logano seems to shine brightest at marquee races.  He was the first to win in the new generation car, at the LA Coliseum on February 6th going head-to-head with Kyle Busch for the win.  Logano also won the new-to-NASCAR Bristol dirt track race in 2021.

Logano and Adams are prime-time studs, while the lesser watched events might yield something less palatable.  If it seems like a big deal, pencil Logano into your line-ups. Otherwise, salary level may be an issue to consider most weeks.


      Denny Hamlin – Tom Brady

I’m not calling Denny Hamlin the GOAT, by any means, but the guy just knows how to be rock-solid and consistent. Hamlin, though driving for NFL Hall-of-Fame coach Joe Gibbs, has built his own team with a Gibbs alliance and backing from some retired NBA player named Michael Jordan. Despite the Super Bowl-winning coach and 6 time NBA champ's backing, Hamlin still has not won a Cup title.

Maybe the Hamlin-Brady comp isn’t necessarily off, considering that each veteran seemed to get better with age. Brady brought fantasy players in his final two seasons QB4 and QB3 finishes in his 40s.  Hamlin was the only driver to finish all 36 races last season, with 34 of those races finished on the lead lap, at just 41 years old.  In fact, Hamlin has only had two DNFs over the past three seasons, once again putting Hamlin square in title contention talk for 2022. Putting Hamlin in your lineup is like putting Brady in your DFS lineup; You know you’ll have a solid shot at a good finish at the price point any given week.


         Ryan Blaney – Austin Ekeler

In the looks department, Ryan Blaney could pull a Jimmy Garappolo comp as one of the heartthrobs of the sport, but heartthrobs don’t win you cash.  Blaney is a better comp to Austin Ekeler, who started his career behind some pretty good talent in former teammate Melvin Gordon.  Blaney started his cup career behind some pretty good talent in former teammate Brad Keselowski.  Ekeler developed into one of the league's true workhorse backs, while in DFS maintaining a mid-level salary early in the season. 

The same path might be possible for Blaney with Keselowski gone and sliding into a veteran role.  Blaney excels at plate tracks as well as some of the short tracks the league faces early in the season.  Blaney can be a nice value play early at his salary price point where his skills are suited best. Like Ekeler with a big touchdown count this year, Blaney can hit several victories but can also give some lack-luster performances.


     Austin Cindric – Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson seemingly came out of nowhere in 2020 as a rookie with a fantasy PPR finish of WR5 and backed it up with a solid 2021 season finish at WR4.  Austin Cindric earned the 2020 Xfinity Series Championship in his second season and just missed out on a back-to-back title season by five points in 2021. 

As a rookie sliding into Keselowski’s former team, the ceiling is very high for Cindric.  He has victories on nearly every style of track the Xfinity series runs on and has a premier team in Roger Penske’s group. Cindric will likely be a great DFS value early this season, as the new generation Cup Series car is likely to put more skill into the hands of talented drivers, and like Jefferson, Cindric has the talent to be a weekly threat to win.


  Martin Truex Jr. – DK Metcalf

DK Metcalf is talented.  Metcalf is surrounded by good talent.  Metcalf puts up good numbers at times.  Metcalf likely didn’t win you a ‘ship, despite a PPR WR1 finish at WR12. The same could be said for Martin Truex Jr. last season.  Truex, Jr. drives for Gibbs, a top team in the Cup series.  His pit crew is consistently fast. Yet sometimes the results don’t quite seem to fit the finish. 

Despite finishing 2nd in points, Truex, Jr. had a very up and down season in 2021.  His four wins tied for second-most in the league last year, but 20 top 10 finishes and 28 lead lap finishes were only 5th best, and lowest among the top 3 fighting for the title last year. It will be a bit of a gamble using Truex, Jr. in DFS lineups each week like it was using Metcalf throughout 2021.


       Alex Bowman – Tyler Lockett

Sticking with the Seahawks' WR tree, Tyler Lockett was an interesting player from a value standpoint.  Most weeks, you could get him for a value with a ceiling, but other weeks, a two for 27 day happens.  Alex Bowman had hot streaks of four wins last year, finishing the season with eight top-five finishes and 16 top-ten finishes.  However, the remaining 20 races resulted in only nine lead-lap finishes and five DNFs. 

The nice pattern that has evolved is that unique courses, like Dover, Pocono, Richmond, and Martinsville were victories for Bowman, so plugging him in at these types of tracks can be a good DFS value.


      Kevin Harvick – Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is a steady proposition at QB week in and week out.  He usually falls in a middle salary range and you get a consistent score most weeks.  Kevin Harvick is a lot alike with an average finish of 10th or better in six of the last seven seasons, and his worst average in that time was 11.1. Rodgers also has positive regression years where touchdowns had fluctuated. 

Harvick, after having 17 wins in the past three years before a winless 2021, is due for positive win regression.  Keep an eye on Harvick to give you solid salary value early in the year, especially with a long track record of solid weekly finishes.


      William Byron – Hunter Renfrow

Hunter Renfrow was a PPR darling this year, finishing as WR13 where most players grabbed him off waivers, and he never got higher than $5,000 all season. Prior to some changes with the Raiders mid-season, Renfrow already was a solid waiver wire grab. It did take some team dynamics that propelled Renfrow into a very high WR2 in 2021. 

William Byron is a lot alike.  With one win, 12 top-five finishes, and 20 top-10 finishes, Byron, in only his 5th season and 25 years old, could be poised for a solid breakout like Renfrow had this year, if some team dynamics break in his favor. Byron's team was very consistent on the style track NASCAR teams run the most. Keep an eye on him as a nice value play at 1.5-mile intermediate tracks this season.


Christopher Bell – Aaron Jones

“Free Aaron Jones” was the battle cry of a very prominent fantasy football analyst for a few years now.  There’s no doubt the talent is there, but he’s on a team that seems to always have someone just as good, or the game flow never seems to go their way.  Christopher Bell is a talented driver from the Gibbs stable.  His teammates are Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Denny Hamlin. 

It just always seems like if you were to put Aaron Jones somewhere he could be featured, you’d see a leap in production.  Maybe it's the same with Bell.  However, he is only entering his 3rd season in the Cup series, and the past two seasons without practice and qualifying rounds have probably slowed some of his development.  Bell did have a victory in 2021 and finished 32 of the 36 races.  He’s someone to watch heading into 2022.


     Bubba Wallace – Cee Dee Lamb

Ceedee Lamb was supposed to have a big breakout year and battle the likes of Adams and Hill for top alpha WR in the NFL.  Lamb ended up finishing as WR17.  Maybe it was Dak, maybe it was the renaissance of the run game, maybe it was cover 2 defenses, maybe all these things contributed to a more subdued WR2 season.

Bubba Wallace started the season last year with high hopes on the newly formed 23XI team, featuring Denny Hamlin’s guidance, a Gibbs alliance, and Michael Jordan’s money.  Unfortunately, with a new team, building cars to be used for only one year, and navigating other issues as the year went on, Wallace was quiet in developing.  A win at Talladega last fall helped propel the team into this offseason. The addition of teammate Kurt Busch to the stable and a brand-new car to learn might make this a make-or-break season for the young star. Like Lamb having Amari Cooper to learn from and Dak throwing the ball, Wallace now has help from a champion in Kurt and consistency from Hamlin.  The Daytona 500 is a great time to roster Wallace for maximum value.



I hope this intro helped you learn a bit about each of the top drivers you’ll be seeing throughout the season.  Coming soon will be more content. Please follow me at @DirtyAirFC on Twitter, search for DirtyAir Podcast on every platform where podcasts can be found, and DirtyAirFC on YouTube for more content throughout the season.

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