This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Hopkins on Fire
After the first three weeks of the season, it was assumed that Julio Jones was some kind of "cash game cheat code" that must be utilized every week. Beginning in Week 3, DeAndre Hopkins has at least eight receptions and 101 yards in every game, to go along with three total touchdowns in the four contests.
Do cash game lineups begin simply by searching "Hopkins" and then filling in the other eight slots? Or will Hopkins cool off like Jones did?
Phil Alexander: I wouldn't bet on Hopkins cooling off this week. The Dolphins came into Week 6 ranked dead last by Football Outsiders at defending the opposing team's WR1. Miami ranks in the bottom third of the league in both opponent yards per pass attempt (7.3) and opponent passing touchdown percentage (67%). Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer is averaging 8.19 yards per attempt and 73% of Houston's touchdowns have come via the pass this season -- both marks rank sixth-highest in the league. The only concern with Hopkins is a (long overdue) $900 bump in his price tag, but even at $8,600 Hopkins would have met cash game value in all games but one this season. Fade him at your own risk.
And speaking of Jones, I think we can all agree his decline was purely the result of his injured hamstring. Coming off 10 days rest and heading into a matchup with Tennessee's dismal cornerbacks, I'm rolling Jones out with confidence in all formats.
John Lee: At this point, DeAndre Hopkins should be at the top of your list every week on DraftKings. The full-PPR scoring system just sets him apart from every receiver on the site. Hopkins picked up another 15 targets this week, keeping his average targets per game at 14.8 on the season. Hopkins is catching ~ 60% (58.4%) of his targets this season, accounting for 8.6 fantasy points on receptions every week (14.8 targets x .584 = 8.6 receptions). At a $7,700 salary, Hopkins needs only 15 additional points (which is 90 yards and a touchdown) to reach cash game value.
I did a quick evaluation of value based on projected receptions/game (targets/game x reception percentage) divided by salary, and Hopkins scored a 1.01 on that undefined scale by my methodology. There were four wide receivers above or equal to him for Week 7, including Steve Smith (1.16), Keenan Allen (1.14), Pierre Garcon (1.07), Golden Tate (1.02), and Jeremy Maclin (1.01). Smith should see a heavy dose of Patrick Peterson in coverage (pass), Allen is nursing a hip injury (hold), Garcon is attractive against Tampa Bay's 29th-ranked pass coverage unit (buy), Tate gets an underrated Vikings' passing defense (pass), and Maclin is on the league's concussion protocol (hold). With that in mind, only Pierre Garcon presents the kind of volume-based value that Hopkins brings to the table once again this week, which means that I will be looking for cheap, value-based plays (in addition to Garcon) to try to squeeze Hopkins' $8,600 salary into my cash games this weekend.
10/24 Update: Maclin passed the concussion protocol, per Andy Reid. He's listed as questionable but should play Sunday. Allen says that his hip injury is no longer a concern. He's also listed as questionable but expected play.
Justin Howe: John did a great job enumerating Hopkins' value as the current overall PPR WR1. He checks every box -- monstrous usage, playmaking ability, and a strangehold on his team's red zone work. Even when he encounters a rough week of double-teams and/or particularly poor quarterbacking, his floor stays exceptionally high because there are few options with better touchdown outlooks. My red zone projections for Hopkins this week aren't out of this world: the numbers give him 0.27 red zone TDs, equal to the likes of Calvin Johnson and Keenan Allen. But in terms of sheer volume, he makes a DFSer very confident he'll find the end zone. Only Jarvis Landry can match his 10 red zone targets over the last four games. There are plenty of rational value plays like Garcon available, but none can be cash-trusted like Hopkins.
John Mamula: I agree with Phil, John, and Justin. Hopkins is a must play in cash games at his current salary or until he cools off. The Houston offense runs through Hopkins, and he is one of a few receivers in the league that are not game script dependent. If Houston is trailing, they are passing and targeting Hopkins. If Houston builds a lead, more likely than not Hopkins will have played a part in the scoring. This is not the case with other elite wide receivers such as Julio Jones. Atlanta can build a lead with Devonta Freeman as we saw a couple of weeks ago when they played Washington. Jones' role was minimal in that game due to the game script. Other elite wide receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr and Antonio Brown have had off weeks so far this season due to their respective game scripts. If Hopkins continues to receive double digit targets on a weekly basis, you are playing with fire if he is not in your cash game lineup. I made the mistake last week. It will not happen this week.
Chris Feery: Agree with all, Hopkins remains a must-play for cash games. The sheer amount of targets he receives points to continued production, and there are no signs that the Dolphins will be the team to slow him down. The bump in price makes it a little more difficult to roster him successfully, but there are always plenty of value plays available to help you manage the salary cap. Willie Snead at $4,300 and Eric Decker at $5,300 are two examples of players that fit the bill for value plays this week. Both players are key cogs in their respective teams passing attacks and should easily reach 3x value with a chance at 4x value. As for Hopkins, the inevitable cool down will occur but he may still have a few weeks of otherworldly production before that happens. After the Dolphins game, the Texans welcome the Titans to town before heading into a tough two-game stretch against the Bengals and Jets. I would circle the Jets game as the biggest potential concern and continue to roll with Hopkins until then.
At $5,000 against the team allowing the second-worst yards per carry average and the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, you're going to have to convince me why I should not put Todd Gurley in every lineup.
Make your best case as to why Gurley is an automatic cash game play or a possible contrarian fade.
Phil Alexander: You might not find a better point per dollar value in DFS this year than Gurley at $5,000 vs. the Browns. Gurley ranked as the cumulative RB7 on DraftKings in Weeks 4 and 5 (his only two weeks as a starter), yet he's currently priced as the RB14. Cleveland's struggles defending running backs are well documented, and Gurley will be coming out of the bye well rested and white hot. He's posted at least 159 yards from scrimmage in each of his last two games. Both performances came on the road against strong defenses, and his explosion at Green Bay was especially impressive because St. Louis fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter. Negative game script hasn't been a problem for Gurley, but it helps that the table is set nicely for him this week. The Rams are playing at home, favored by 4.5 points, and projected to score a not-too-shabby 23.25 points. Cash game value (15 fantasy points) looks like Gurley's floor in this match-up.
You could argue Gurley is a tournament fade based on what's sure to be high ownership (think 30ish percent), but I'd prefer to pencil him in and differentiate my lineup at other spots.
John Lee: Phil nailed it. There are three things that I look for when rostering a player in DFS: 1) salary/value, 2) opportunity, and 3) matchup. Gurley excels in each of those categories entering Week 8; for that reason, I foresee myself having close to 100% exposure to Gurley in cash games against the Browns.
Phil also brings up a good point about Gurley's likely high ownership in GPP's, but I think Gurley's ownership will be even higher than his estimate of 30%; given how sharp Gurley has looked against Arizona and Green Bay, I suspect Gurley will be closer to 50% owned than 30% owned on DraftKings. That said, he is a really tough fade for me because he should see 20-24 touches at an average of 5 yards per touch based on his ability and the Browns' worst-ranked rush defense; at that kind of volume and output, he should reach GPP value easily if he scores a touchdown...with an implied team total of 23 points, Gurley would appear to have a floor of one touchdown. With those thoughts in mind, my strategy will be to have a degree of exposure to Gurley above what I expect the masses to have in GPP's. On the Cracking FanDuel blog last week, Maurile Tremblay described in detail how you should approach exposure to specific players in GPP's; in this case, I project Gurley's ownership to be in the neighborhood of 40-45%, but I think that he will have a great performance (achieving or surpassing 4x value), so I will likely have 60-70% exposure to Gurley to try get a leg-up on the masses.
That's a great point, John. Many think that GPP lineups have to be completely contrarian, but that's not always true. You can have one or two "chalk" plays and differentiator elsewhere. And if you're the type who enters many lineups, you can own more of that "chalk" player than the rest of the field in order to have an edge on the field.
Justin Howe: That's right - GPP rosters need scoring as well as uniqueness. A lineup with chalk plays throughout will sink or swim along with the rest of the 30-50% that's stuck with the guy, so a poor performance doesn't doom you on the spot. But since there's that other 50-70% to contend with, of course, you need chalk plays that will produce that magical 4x value. Gurley isn't especially likely to reach 4x, even at this salary. The Rams aren't in the red zone much, and Gurley doesn't play the pass, so he lacks the ideal touchdown and reception outlooks to project confidently to 20 points. But as the others have discussed, he's about as easy a cash-game value pick as they come. The matchup is cherry, the talent is eye-popping, and the general rushing usage in the Rams offense makes him absurdly valuable.
John Mamula: I have been following the Rams extensively this season as I have been writing their Game Recaps. Jeff Fisher eased Gurley into action Week 3 vs. Pittsburgh alternating series with Tre Mason. In Weeks 4 and 5, Mason was an afterthought as Gurley received 21 and 30 touches. Gurley is the workhorse running back on a team that is determined to run the ball and play solid defense. Two concerns that I have are the Rams offensive line and Gurley being removed on 3rd downs for Benny Cunningham. The Rams offensive line has been below average for the majority of the season. Losing right guard Rodger Saffold will not help. Gurley has needed to create yards as holes are not often opened up for him. In certain matchups, this will be a problem. I do not think that will be the case this week vs. Cleveland. Gurley will receive ample opportunities vs. a bad rush defense. He is a must play in DraftKings cash games. I plan to have 100% exposure in my DraftKings cash games. In GPPs, you should have some Gurley exposure but nobody is ever a must play in NFL GPPs.
Chris Feery: Gurley is definitely automatic and should be a staple of both cash game and GPP lineups. The game script sets up very well in his favor this week, but as Phil mentioned, that doesn’t seem to matter too much to Gurley’s potential production. He has a high floor and is facing a team that has struggled stopping opposing running backs. What’s not to love? To echo the points about GPP exposure, it’s perfectly fine to have several chalk plays within your lineup. An entire lineup filled chalk plays is not likely to get you very far and a lineup full of contrarian plays is an extremely boom-bust strategy. Balance is the key and a solid chalk play like Gurley can help to build a solid foundation for your GPP lineups.
Kansas City vs Wide Receivers
Kansas City is the worst in the NFL in terms of allowing fantasy points to wide receivers. Is it worth going back to Antonio Brown this week?
Justin Howe: With Landry Jones under center, there's no way I'm rostering Brown at his still-prohibitive cost. There's a chance that phenom Martavis Bryant sucks some of the attention away and creates some openings, but without Ben Roethlisberger, this could be the NFL's worst QB situation for Week 7. Barring a blowout loss, I doubt there are more than 25-27 throws to be divvied up this week, and there's no way I'm bypassing a half-dozen elite WR options who (a) catch plenty of passes and (b) catch them from actual NFL quarterbacks. I know that Jones threw a couple of scores last week, but as a Steeler fan who follows camp and preseason closely, it's hard to name a worse third quarterback in football. And he truly looked lost against the Cardinals; his first touchdown was a wild throw that nearly got Bryant concussed, and the second was little more than a phenomenal catch-and-run.
Bryant makes for an intriguing GPP dice roll, though he'll be owned a little more than we'd like. But Brown's ceiling looks to be in the five-catch, 60-yard range, and not even a touchdown would push his value beyond that of DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, etc. Without Roethlisberger, he's almost entirely hands-off outside of the gutsiest of $1 tournament entries.
John Lee: I have to agree with Justin on this one; it's a tough sell to roster any of the Steelers receivers with Landry Jones under center. Jones has not shown much at the NFL level, and if Michael Vick could not make Brown fantasy-relevant, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where Jones can, particularly at Brown's hefty price tag.
Martavis Bryant has the more attractive matchup at $4,700 against Chiefs' coverage cornerback Marcus Peters, who has allowed more receiving touchdowns (six) than any other cornerback in the league. We were reminded last week that Bryant can generate yardage where there otherwise is none; he could do the same in this prime matchup, but he is 20% more expensive this week and he will be overowned due to his two-touchdown game last Sunday.
John Mamula: While it currently looks like Landry Jones will be the starting quarterback this week, I think there is a decent chance Ben Roethlisberger will surprise many and be named the starter on Sunday morning. Reports stated that Roethlisberger looked good in practice on Wednesday. Pittsburgh needs to keep winning to keep momentum heading into the Bengals matchup next week. Mobility may be an issue for Roethlisberger, but he has played through injuries in the past and is as tough as they come at quarterback. Regardless who starts at quarterback, I am off Brown in cash games. His DraftKings price of $7,900 is too expensive based on his recent performances. I would rather have a cheaper WR for GPPs. Bryant intrigues me for cash games and GPPs, but I am worried about his ownership percentage in GPPs after last week. I agree with Justin that both of the Steelers touchdowns were all Bryant and not Jones.
Chris Feery: I think Brown remains a fade due to price until Ben Roethlisberger returns. A salary of $7,900 is way too risky when you’re relying on Landry Jones to get him the ball. On the other hand, the Steelers should be able to have some success against the atrocious secondary of the Kansas City Chiefs. I feel much more comfortable selecting Martavis Bryant at $4,700. As John mentioned, he has the more attractive matchup and for a price under $5,000, I’d be willing to take the risk that he can have another productive game with Jones behind center. Looking ahead and perhaps with a little wishful thinking, if Brown’s salary remains around $7,900 when Roethlisberger returns, that could be a tremendous value opportunity.
Since this one appears to be unanimous, let's mix things up with another question focusing on poor pass defenses. Most of you mentioned Martavis Bryant in your replies. Would you rather roster Bryant ($4,700 at Kansas City), Michael Floyd ($3,200 vs Baltimore), or Willie Snead ($4,300 at Indianapolis)?
Howe: In a cash game, I'll take Snead. He's the most consistent and productive wideout for New Orleans, settling in with an acceptable floor around 10 points at a salary that's still cheaper than dirt.
In GPP contests, I'll certainly be looking into Bryant. He's a freakish talent who can maximize poor quarterbacking in terms of creating big plays; two poor Landry Jones passes became crucial touchdowns last week. And he's an early read in the red zone regardless of who's under center, so his touchdown ceiling is high. Playing him in a medium-sized tournament makes sense, as there are several game flow outcomes that would still allow him to reach 4x scoring value. A two-touchdown game or a four-catch, 100-yard stat line would return nicely on Bryant's palatable investment.
Feery: In order, I would take Snead, Bryant, and then Floyd. As Justin said, Snead is the most reliable target on the Saints. The game script tells us we're looking at a close, high-scoring game. Snead is a great way to get a piece of it at an affordable price. Bryant gets the nod over Floyd on the outside chance that this past Sunday's performance was indicative of chemistry with Landry Jones. As for Floyd, $3,200 is a very intriguing price and his eight targets from last week is a situation worth keeping an eye on.
John Lee: I have to roll with Snead of these choices. Bryant is a special talent, but I don't know if we can rely upon him making Landry Jones look serviceable two weeks in a row; Floyd did see a lot of volume last week, but to expect it to return this week after averaging about three targets per week before last Sunday is suspect. Meanwhile, Snead, as others have pointed out, has a decent matchup, a high implied team total, and should see double the volume of the other two options.
Who's your best "punt play" this week?
Phil Alexander: Prior to last week's tough match-up with Seattle, Ted Ginn had returned at least 4x his salary in three consecutive games. Ginn has an excellent chance to bounce back priced at only $3,300 in a match-up with the Eagles. Philadelphia's secondary has hemorrhaged fantasy points to wide receivers all season, and have specifically struggled to contain the opposing team's WR1. While there's no doubt tight end Greg Olsen is Carolina's top target, Ginn's 18.5% target market share leads all Carolina wideouts. The Panthers' 24.5 point implied team total is the fourth-highest in the league this week, which suggests their offense should be firing on all cylinders. Look for Ginn to get back to his usual six to seven targets and get behind the Eagles' weak corners for a long gain or two.
Justin Howe: Like Phil, I could also get on board with some Ginn ownership. Olsen remains top dog by a mile, but he's also been swallowed whole by a few defenses thus far; teams want Cam Newton to beat them with downfield passing. Ginn is the only guy with any shred of certainty among those wideouts, and Newton trusts him; no one since Chad Henne in 2009 has leaned more on Ginn as a receiver. Top Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell has come around a bit over the last few weeks, but as Phil points out, all it would take for Ginn to reach 4x value would be a line around 4-56-1. A few token catches and one long connection with Newton, and he's in the money.
And for the third time in four weeks, I'm on the Cecil Shorts bandwagon. God (and hamstrings) willing, Shorts will remain the team's top slot option and No. 2 in the pecking order throughout the year, and he's responded very well, cranking out 10, 9, 12, 20, and 10 DraftKings points across his five games. DeAndre Hopkins' 237-target pace is silly; it's highly likely he sees a 3-5% drop in market share at the very least down the stretch, and the team isn't bursting with great alternatives. Note that Shorts himself is paced for a ridiculous 144 targets - and that he saw 105+ in three straight incomplete seasons with Jacksonville. He's even been given more than a red zone target per game. His health may be a punchline, but his game is not.
Update: Shorts has been ruled out for this week. More on this below.
John Mamula: Two quarterbacks jump out to me as possible punt plays this week based on their respective matchups. Ryan Fitzpatrick is priced at $5,200 on DraftKings in a matchup in New England. Fitzpatrick should benefit from game script in this game playing from behind in the second half. He has developed a chemistry with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker this season. Through five games, Fitzpatrick's DraftKings fantasy points have been 14, 17, 17, 15, and 26. That is a great floor for a quarterback priced at $5,200.
Alex Smith is priced at $5,100 on DraftKings and is playing at home vs. Pittsburgh. Other than Week 4 vs. Baltimore when they allowed 150 rushing yards to Justin Forsett, the Steelers front seven on defense has played well. Their weakness is in the back end. The Steelers secondary has allowed the seventh-most passing yards this season. In Week 1, Rob Gronkowski went for 93 yards and three touchdowns vs. the Steelers defense. In Week 5 on Monday Night Football, Antonio Gates returned to post 92 yards and two touchdowns. I think Alex Smith-Travis Kelce is a great DraftKings stack this week.
Chris Feery: I agree with the calls for Ginn. Outside of last week's dud, he's been a reliable, low-cost option. Two more names I'll throw into the mix are C.J. Spiller and Michael Floyd. Spiller comes in at a price of $3,300 and while he hasn't done much outside of the Week 4 game against the Cowboys, the potential for him to break a big play is there at any given time if he receives the opportunity. Floyd is priced at $3,200 and received eight targets last week. He's a low-cost way to gain some exposure to the Cardinals offense for the Monday Night affair against the Ravens.
John Lee: I can also get on board with Nate Washington, who has averaged 7.0 targets per game this season and should see a few more this weekend, now that Cecil Shorts (9.8 targets/game) has been announced as inactive. At site minimum against a Miami Dolphins team that has allowed seven double-digit fantasy wide receivers this season, he offers nice potential value at a low price.
A wide receiver that has not yet been mentioned is Stevie Johnson at $3,500; if Johnson is active this weekend (he practiced on Thursday), he presents a decent floor with significant upside against the Raiders, who have allowed every team except for the Bengals to finish the day with two wide receivers posting 10 or more fantasy points.
Phil and Justin, is there any worry on your part about Devin Funchess' emergence (at least in terms of targets) last week? He had six to Ginn's four. Sometimes, when a trend changes after a team's bye week, that trend is here to stay. Do you think Carolina will send some of Ginn's target share to Funchess, or was last week more a product of Seattle "blotting out" an opponent's number one receiver?
Alexander: Funchess has caught just 27.8% of his targets this year, for a brutally inefficient 3.4 yards per target. Until he does something in a game to prove he's not terrible, I'm not worried in the least about Funchess.
Howe: I can't yet see Funchess as much beyond depth. A receiving corps as ordinaty as Carolina's can be very fluid, of course, but Ginn has a fairly long-term track record with Newton and is a better bet to connect on a deep ball or two.
Alexander: Speaking of Shorts' health being a punchline, he's been unexpectedly ruled out this week. I liked Shorts as a punt play, but I can talk myself into Nate Washington now. Anyone chancing a non-Hopkins Houston receiver in Shorts' absence?
Howe: Washington for me as well.
Lee: For what it's worth, I am not as high on Ginn as some of the others here because his volume is too inconsistent. We tend to refer to him as a WR1 because he is the top wide receiver in this offense, but that still makes him the fourth choice to get opportunities behind Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen, and Cam Newton. He has seven targets over the previous two weeks, which makes him the equivalent to a WR3 (or worse) for most other teams. The matchup is agreeable, but I could envision Ginn finishing the day with a goose-egg just as easily as I could see him finishing with double-digit fantasy points.
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