This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
LeVeon Bell appears to have picked up right where he left off last season, registering 26.2 and 31.0 fantasy points in his two games this season. This week, he’ll cost you a whopping $700 more than the second-highest running back.
Is Bell worth it? If you’re paying up for him, where are you sacrificing elsewhere?
John Mamula: Yes, LeVeon Bell is worth the high price tag, especially in cash games due to his high reception floor. The Steelers offense will continue to run through Bell until Ben Roethlisberger returns from injury. Michael Vick will utilize Bell in the short passing game. Bell projects for a floor of six-to-eight receptions with 40-50 receiving yards. If you roster Bell, you are starting with double digit points off the bat.
If you pay up for Bell, you will have to sacrifice with either a top wide receiver or Rob Gronkowski. I recommend always trying to figure a way to get Gronkowski into your cash lineups because his floor/ceiling is much higher than any other tight end in the league. If you look at the top wide receivers this week, we have Julio Jones priced at $9,200 with a great matchup versus the vulnerable Redskins secondary. Also, Odell Beckham Jr is priced at $9,000 and gets a home matchup versus the 49ers. If you move down at wide receiver, there are some great values between the $6,800-$7,700 price point. Some alternatives in this range are:
- Larry Fitzgerald $6,800
- Julian Edelman $7,000
- Keenan Allen $7,200
- Randall Cobb $7,500
- A.J. Green $7,700
If enough value presents itself before Sunday, I would try to fit at least one of the three premium options (Gronkowski, Jones, Beckham Jr) into your lineup along with Bell to create a high floor for your DraftKings cash games. If value does not present itself, I would target at least two wide receivers that I listed in the $6,800-$7,700 price range.
Jeff Haseley: John, you and I are eye to eye on LeVeon Bell. We share the same ideas and principles of "trying to fit him in" without sacrificing other high floor players. Outside of his rushing ability, another reason to like Bell is his propensity to pick up receptions from Michael Vick. The Steelers have yet to unleash Vick as a downfield passer and are content with allowing him to make timely, short-ranged throws which is right in Bell's wheelhouse. Six catches for Bell is not a stretch. He has a high price tag, but he also brings a consistent point value that is difficult to find elsewhere in this week's running back stable. One possible lineup that includes Bell and my desire to have a Brady/Gronkowski stack is this: Brady, Bell, Gurley, Fitzgerald, Hankerson, Garcon, Gronkowski, Snead, Chiefs.
John Lee: As I see it, you have to try to get Bell into your cash game lineups this weekend. Julio Jones is the other guy that I really want to get into my lineups, but Bell gets a slight edge because we can almost guarantee that Coach Tomlin will put the ball in his hands 22-26 times on Monday Night. As John said, he should pick up at least six receptions and 40 yards in the passing game, which means that he has double-digit points before we even consider his rushing output. The implied team total for the Steelers is lower than the Falcons, but given how these teams have both been heavy on the running game, I think Julio Jones is the riskier play of the two pricy options (although still a great play).
To slot these guys in, you have to be considering the minimum salary RB, Anthony Dixon, who should get all the action he can handle against a Titans' defense allowing 18.3 DraftKings' points per week to opposing running backs. Likewise, I'm giving serious consideration to Todd Gurley – despite what appears to be a negative gamescript – at $4,300. Gurley is the type of back who can pick up several fantasy points at a time, and I fully expect Jeff Fisher to try to keep the ball away from the Green Bay offense by feeding the ball to Gurley as much as possible. In 20 games as the Rams Head Coach, Fisher has been a touchdown (or more) underdog 20 times, and his running backs average 26 carries per game in those games, which lends credence to the notion that Gurley could be in line for extended volume against the Packers. Lastly, Willie Snead has to be squarely on your radar this week after averaging 12.6 DraftKings points over the past three weeks and seeing increased snap counts over that time; at $3000, he should be a lock for nine or more fantasy points (which would see him reach cash game value at 3x) against an Eagles secondary that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.
Chris Feery: Great points so far, and while I love Bell’s upside and floor on a week-to-week basis, I think you can save the money this week and go for Jamaal Charles at $700 less without sacrificing too many points. Charles already has a three-touchdown game under his belt this season and has the privilege of facing the Bears defense on Sunday. In my mind, both players offer a similar floor this week with high upside. The counterpoint to that is as John mentioned, the Steelers offense will run through Bell until Roethlisberger returns. Bell could have much more opportunity than Charles this week, but the salary savings makes it a risk worth taking for me.
Neither back will come cheaply, but there are plenty of value plays available that can help you fit whichever one you choose under the cap. I like to find the high-floor value at running back and wide receiver and actually will use that as part of my core lineup. Using last week as an example, Karlos Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. were both priced at $3,400 and both returned more than four times value. That won’t happen every week of course, but the flexibility allowed me to fit Matt Forte, Randall Cobb and Julio Jones among others. This week, Todd Gurley, Dion Lewis and Anthony Dixon are standing out as fine values at running back. At wide receiver, I agree with John on Willie Snead and will add Kamar Aiken and Leonard Hankerson to the list.
Will Grant: I agree that Bell is a guy you really want in your cash lineups. With a 50 point over/under in the New England-Dallas game, Jeff Haseley’s Brady, Bell, Gronk stack looks like a great start.
To make up the difference, I’m going to look at guys like Darren Sproles at $4,200 or CJ Spiller at $3,800. The Eagles and Saints will be another potential shootout, and I think both of those guys can reach value with their pass receptions. Brandon Coleman at $3,200 could be a bargain WR too.
Last week, the game script question was an enlightening one in that it showed just how difficult it can be to predict NFL games. Let’s see if this week’s round of staffers can nail a few games.
So please pick a game on the slate this week and tell us how you think it will play out. Which player(s) will benefit from this script? Which become values?
John Mamula: One game that stands out to me is the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Chicago Bears. Chicago pulled out a win last week at home versus Oakland. Kansas City lost another game after getting behind early in Cincinnati. Vegas has set the line at Kansas City -9 with a total of 45 points. Kansas City’s team total is one of the highest of the week at 27 points. Chicago’s team total is the second-lowest at 18 points. I was a bit surprised that Kansas City is projected as one of the largest favorites of the week. I expected Kansas City to be a favorite of 5-7 points, not 9. When Vegas talks, I listen.
The pressure will be on Kansas City to pick up a win after starting 1-3. They will lean heavily on the running game. Jamaal Charles ($7,800) is in line for another huge stat line. Through four games, Charles is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has a minimum of four receptions in every game and has found the end zone five times. He will feast versus the Bears defense on Sunday. For GPPs, I am not opposed to a correlation play of Charles with the Chiefs defense. ($2,800).
Jeff Haseley: Good call on Kansas City and Chicago, John. I'll add that the Chiefs and Bears have allowed the most passing touchdowns to date (KC 11, CHI 10). Both teams are also allowing over 100 QB rating against. This has all of the makings to be a back and forth battle, especially if Chicago can hang against the Chiefs tough defensive line, which is not an easy task. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kansas City get at least one defensive score in this game.
Looking at the New England-Dallas game, I see the game unfolding as such: New England's offense continues to thrive against a Dallas team that has allowed 39 and 26 points in the last two games. The Patriots offense is clicking on all cylinders and shouldn't have a problem putting points on the board at Dallas, which is not a raucous home team crowd. If New England has a weakness, it's their run defense. This game could get into the 50s if Dallas finds success running the ball. I don't see Brandon Weeden taking flight on the Patriots, so any attempt at keeping pace will have to come from the running game. This could be the week we see more of Christine Michael, especially if Joseph Randle and/or Darren McFadden struggle early. Randle seems like the better back to use against New England. We saw DeAngelo Williams bob and weave his way through the Patriots defense in Week 1. Randle possesses some similar skills, where his quickness could help him find open holes and squeeze through the defense play after play. I don't see New England losing this game, but either way, expect Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to keep the gas floored from beginning to end.
John Lee: There are a number of games that appear to have a defined game script this week, including the ones already mentioned, but I find myself gravitating towards the AFC North matchup between Baltimore and Cleveland. The Ravens enter the game as 6.5-point favorites, which ordinarily would setup well for Justin Forsett, but this week could be even better for the veteran running back because the Ravens receiving corps is decimated with injuries right now. Steve Smith has microfractures in his back, Breshad Perriman is not close to coming back, Michael Campanaro just went on injured reserve, and Crockett Gillmore is still nursing a calf injury. With the unexciting Kamar Aiken-Marlon Brown duo catching balls for the Ravens this Sunday, I fully expect them to lean heavily upon Justin Forsett.
Forsett should see plenty of daylight against the Browns front seven that is amongst the worst in the league against the run (141.5 rushing yards per game, 4.8 yards per carry). Speaking of game script, Forsett has been a victim of poor play from his team for most of the season. Baltimore has only held a lead for 33 (out of 240) minutes this season, which has negatively affected Forsett's touches thus far. Despite trailing so often, the Ravens have still given Forsett around 21 opportunities (rushes plus targets) per game, including 28 opportunities last week against the Steelers. Some will argue that Lorenzo Taliaferro will steal Forsett goal line rushes, but Forsett still has twice as many redzone looks (eight) as Taliaferro (four) entering Week 5. With these factors in mind, I think Justin Forsett is a steal at $5,800 this weekend.
Chris Feery: Great calls so for. To add to the Chicago-Kansas City discussion, Jeremy Maclin looks like a tremendous value at $6,000. He has back-to-back 100-yard receiving performances and has been targeted 24 times over those two games.
One game I like to play out according to script is the game between Atlanta and Washington. Atlanta is a 7.5-point favorite at home in a game with a projected total of 48 points. The Falcons are rolling, and we saw what they did to an offensively-challenged team at home last week as they demolished the Texans. That’s not to say that this week will play out the same way, but chances are we can expect them to be up pretty big and protecting a lead.
Devonta Freeman is still very affordable at $6,300. We can’t expect him to keep up this pace forever, but we also can’t look past riding the hot hand for one more week. Julio Jones let many people down with his fantasy output last week, but still provides pretty good value at $9,200. For those that find Jones too expensive, Leonard Hankerson can be chosen for $4,000. He received eight targets last week and parlayed that into six receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons defense has jumped up in price after last week’s performance but still looks like a decent value at $3,200. We have a team that is rolling and playing at home facing off against a team that can be forced into mistakes, similar to last week’s game against the Texans.
Will Grant: As a Cowboys fan, I hate to go against them, but the Patriots are poised to roll all over them this week. With an extra week of rest, Tom Brady is worth the $7,800 price. Julian Edelman continues to creep up in price but at $7,000, he’s going to be a nice alternative to Rob Gronkowski at $7,500. LeGarrette Blount at $4,500 could be another good pick if the Patriots get up big and just hammer the ball on the ground.
Are Tom Brady ($7,800) and Aaron Rodgers ($7,900) actually somewhat contrarian plays this week? With Peyton Manning ($7,000) vs Oakland’s horrific secondary, Eli Manning ($6,800) vs San Francisco’s poor group, and Philip Rivers ($6,200) vs. Pittsburgh’s poor pass defense, do you foresee “the masses” not wanting to pay up at quarterback?
Even matchups like New Orleans-Philadelphia with Drew Brees ($7,200) and Sam Bradford ($6,000) and Chicago-Kansas City with Jay Cutler ($5,300) and Alex Smith ($5,500) provide attractive-for-the-price options.
John Mamula: Many will still want to pay up for Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers due to their name brand value. But, I don't see any quarterback dominating ownership percentage this week. When analyzing this week’s matchups, the QB position is as solid we have seen thus far this season. All of the players listed above are good targets in your contests this week.
I would also add a few to the list. The first is Matt Ryan ($6,700) who has a home matchup with a bad Washington defense that allowed three passing touchdowns last week to the Eagles. Carson Palmer ($6,600) is an attractive cash game QB who has a minimum DraftKings weekly score of 19.98 through four weeks. As mentioned, Brees ($7,200) is also a potential play versus a vulnerable Eagles secondary.
All of these quarterbacks have the potential to pass for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in their matchups. Nailing your quarterback stack will be key to a high finish in your GPPs this weekend.
Jeff Haseley: I am all over Tom Brady this week against Dallas. His price tag is among the highest, but so far in three games, he has shown that he will pass the ball on any down and distance at any point on the field, no matter what the score is. The Patriots have figured out their offense quickly this year. It's a fine-tuned machine that has "full speed ahead" written all over it.
Green Bay is close behind, especially at home, but the Rams matchup gives me slight pause. One way to beat Aaron Rodgers is to pressure him without blitzing. The Rams defense (NFL-leading 17 sacks) can do that and disrupt his game. They may not win at Lambeau, but they could do enough to keep Rodgers from having a big game. Some of the losses Green Bay had last year came against teams (Seattle, Detroit, Buffalo) with strong defenses – particularly the front four.
I don't see the Packers skating through this one, which is another reason why I'm on the Tom Brady bandwagon against a Dallas team that likely will be without their defensive captain, Sean Lee (concussion). Brady is my favorite cash game quarterback this week. I can see how some might think he's a contrarian play, but to me, he's the highest floor, safest quarterback play.
Chris Feery: This is a great week for value at the quarterback position, but I don’t think that will impact the popularity of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. There’s value to be found at quarterback every week, but some simply prefer the safety of the “name-brand” player at the position. For this week, I don’t expect it to be any different and think there’s actually very good reasons to look in the direction of the expensive quarterbacks. We have Brady and the Patriots continuing their mission to put up as many points as possible in a late afternoon game that will be available to the majority of the country. Besides the game being must-see TV, we can expect them to use the national platform to show off some offensive dominance. Rodgers was a let-down last week on the road against the 49ers but returns home this week to face the Rams. It’s pretty tough to fade Aaron Rodgers when he’s playing at home. He could very well bounce back with a huge fantasy output. In short, I think both quarterbacks will be as popular as ever this week but there is plenty of value to be found for those that wish to save the salary cap dollars.
Will Grant: I think Brady is going to be very highly-owned this week in both cash games and GPPs. With a week off and a banged up Dallas defense, the 50 point over/under makes perfect sense.
If you're looking to avoid the big names though, I do like Philip Rivers this week against the Steelers defense. Without Ben Roethlisberger under center, the Steelers are a different team, and I think that the Chargers are going to get a few more offensive sets than they would have if Roethlisberger were under center. That means Rivers is going to have more opportunities and with a weak Pittsburgh pass defense, that means plenty of opportunity for Rivers and his receivers.
As a 'what the hell' kind of play, I also think Alex Smith might be worth consideration. The Bears played pretty well against the Raiders last week, but they were at home and desperate for a win. This week they travel to Kansas City where it's always tough to play. Chicago’s defense still has the issues that it has had all season. Their secondary is weak at best, and their pass rush struggles at times. With a guy like Jamaal Charles to dump off to, the Bears can't blitz as often giving Smith time to pick the apart. He's a fraction of Brady and Rodgers salary at just $5,500, and I think he might be a sneaky play to reach value in a GPP contest.
John Lee: After the first four games, I don't think Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers will be contrarian plays for the foreseeable future. With 20 passing touchdowns between them in seven games and both teams having two of the highest projected scores on the weekend, these guys will both be well-owned on Sunday. As has been pointed out in some of the other Roundtable questions, there are some value-based plays (i.e., Anthony Dixon, Todd Gurley, Willie Snead, etc.) who can afford you the ability to construct rosters that contain these star quarterbacks for your cash games and GPPs should you want to take that route. To find a contrarian quarterback this weekend, I might suggest the readers check out Justin Bonnema's "The Contrarian" article that digs into that type of information each and every week.
Freeman's Rising Salary
Devonta Freeman’s salary has risen from $4,200 (Week 2) to $4,600 (Week 3) to $5,200 (Week 4) and is now sitting at $6,300 for this week.
Last week, Freeman torched a previously good rush defense at home. Is he still a solid cash game play for one more week despite another tough run matchup and the increased salary?
John Mamula: Yes, Davonta Freeman is a solid cash game play once again based on his price point. At $6,300, you need a score of 18.9 DraftKings points from Freeman to return value in cash games. Since Tevin Coleman went down with an injury, Freeman has taken the main running back duties and not looked back. Much of Freeman's value comes via the passing game. Through four games, Freeman's receiving stats are: three receptions for 29 yards, four receptions for 34 yards, five receptions for 52 yards, and five receptions for 81 yards. Based on these reception totals, Freeman has a reception floor of three receptions for 30 yards for 6.0 DraftKings points. If we apply 6.0 points to the required 18.9 cash game goal, Freeman needs an additional 12.9 points on the ground. Over the past two weeks, Freeman has 68 and 141 rushing yards. If Freeman can get into the end zone one time with 70 rushing yards for 13 DraftKings points, we meet our cash game value of 18.9 points. Freeman has found the end zone seven times over the past three weeks, so I like his chances of at least one touchdown.
Jeff Haseley: It's very close for me, because of Freeman's receiving ability, but ultimately I don't love the match up against Washington. I expect to see him on a lot of rosters this week due to his quick rise to fame, but I'm only going to start him in a few lineups. Justin Forsett ($5,800) Dion Lewis ($4,800), Todd Gurley ($4,300) and Danny Woodhead ($4,600) are better values in my opinion, especially if I want to spend high on a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski stack with Demaryius Thomas or Julio Jones as my top wide receiver. There's a lot of value plays at running back this week, which is another reason to consider shying away from Freeman.
Chris Feery: I think he still remains a great cash game play at $6,300. The game script calls for Atlanta to be up pretty big as they are a 7.5-point favorite at home. How much of the damage will Freeman do on his own to help build the lead? If they are up as expected, how much opportunity will he receive as they try to wind down the game clock? As Jeff mentioned, there's plenty of additional value at running back. Perhaps pairing Freeman with one of the solid lower-cost options could be the way to go as opposed to paying up for one of the expensive running backs. This method will free up plenty of salary cap space to roster some of the top receiving options and could provide a nice return.
Will Grant: I think Freeman is a fade this week. Going with him again feels like you're going to the well one too many times. Not to mention that Washington has a lot tougher run defense than he has in previous weeks. I think Atlanta is going to air it out, and that will be the difference in the game for them.
Jeff listed off some great alternatives at RB who can provide 3x or 4x their salary return given the right game script. Justin Forsett Is a little more expensive than the other guys that he listed, but he gets a very favorable matchup against the Browns. Chris Thompson also represents an interesting option at RB. He's dirt cheap at just $3,300, but he's a big part of the Washington passing game and with only 10 points needed to reach 3x value, he's at a reasonable floor with some upside in cash games.
John Lee: In GPP format, I will not have a whole of Freeman this week for a number of reasons. First, recency bias will dictate that he will be over-owned despite the fact that his salary has risen 33% over the past few weeks. Next, his output simply is not sustainable. Seven touchdowns in three weeks would equate to 35 touchdowns in the course of the season, which obviously will not happen. At some point, Freeman will go through some negative regression. Lastly, his matchup this week is not a good one. Washington is second in the league in defending the run (78.0 rushing yards per game) but can be beaten with the passing game, so I suspect we will see a bit more Julio Jones this Sunday after an off-week in Week 4.
In cash games, I understand why a person would want to have Freeman, but I am thinking that there are better options this week. I may have some exposure to Freeman, but it will be limited because of Freeman's increased salary and his tough matchup. The game script looks favorable, but the Redskins have been tough against the run for over a year now, which is enough to make me look elsewhere for my cash game running backs (LeVeon Bell, Justin Forsett, Todd Gurley, etc.).
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