For Week 4, as always, cash rules everything around us. The money we made/lost last week is blamed upon the salary cap restraints of Week 3, and the money we’ll make/lose Monday night will be tied directly to the DraftKings dollars we allocate today. With that in mind, it’s important we examine the true value of the top Week 4 DFS plays to fill out a stable, efficient lineup.
Aaron Rodgers ($7,900)
He’s pretty much always the highest-projected scorer of the week, but his cost efficiency of course takes a hit with the No. 1 QB salary. Still, he’s not cost-prohibitive or anything; I’ve managed to slot him into all of my DraftKings cash lineups and am quite satisfied with what I’ve got around him. Simply put, he’s the safest play at the position and also offers quite a bit of dynamism. Concerns about game script are invalidated by his absurd 11.0% touchdown rate, which tells us Rodgers and the Packers offense can produce regardless of game flow. But what’s truly exciting about playing Rodgers is that he’s surged to the No. 1 QB spot despite a ho-hum 13 passes within the red zone, fewer than the likes of Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins. Rodgers projects very well this week as usual, but huge things are in store on the weeks that the Packers play 60 minutes as dominantly as they played the last 30 Monday night.
Tyrod Taylor ($5,900)
He’s not quite this good, I’m sure, and regression to some degree is coming. But it won’t happen this week in a likely home shootout with the Giants, whose struggling defense has allowed 300+ yards in all three games. That includes 316 from Kirk Cousins last week. Taylor is pushing the ball downfield as much as any QB, with 13 completions of 20+ yards through three weeks, tied for the league lead. But he’s not as boom-or-bust as you think: Taylor’s legs (32 rushing yards per game) boost his floor to acceptable levels. His miniscule salary makes him a cornerstone for cash and GPP lineups.
Derek Carr ($5,300)
Lo and behold, the Raiders suddenly boast a dynamic, versatile offense capable of winning mismatches and generating points. And Carr may actually be staking a true claim as the man for the long-term gig. He’s on the same page with rookie phenom Amari Cooper, and they’re making plays on all levels of the field. Carr and the team still have plenty of unanswered questions, but they’re a strong bet to keep the momentum going against the Bears’ woeful defense.
Colin Kaepernick ($5,800)
Kaepernick just wrapped up a Week 3 that was beyond dreadful, but there’s still strategic value to playing him in a low-variance tournament. In a recent staff discussion, our own John Lee ran the math on the true value of Kaepernick’s low salary and ownership. He explained to us that, with Kaepernick so scarcely owned this week and priced so affordably, he’d need to be able to produce 20-23 fantasy points less than 1% of the time to wind up a profitable GPP play. With a high Vegas scoring expectation and gobs of garbage time likely on the horizon, Kaepernick is almost certain to at least approach that mark, making him a shrewd punt play at worst and a Millionaire Maker winner at best.
Karlos Williams ($3,400)
The value play of the week was uncovered early, when Rex Ryan all but ruled out LeSean McCoy in a Wednesday interview. Williams will step into the overwhelming lead role and has been among the league’s most productive No. 2 backs thus far, running for an absurd 7.75 yards per rush and scoring in all three games. Extrapolating his success from 24 carries into a full-time workload would be a stretch, but the explosive rookie really does carry a high-end RB2 (or better) outlook into a cherry matchup. He’s highly-owned, but a near-guarantee to offer 4x value; the Giants are allowing a stunning 28.9 DraftKings points a game to opposing RBs thus far.
Latavius Murray ($6,300)
With all workload questions put to rest – no fewer than 18 touches in a game, while Roy Helu has yet to register a single one – Murray has emerged as a force in the Raiders’ burgeoning young offense. A big-bodied speedster, he’s been utilized mostly through creases between the tackles and in the passing game, and has responded beautifully. His per-touch yardage has increased in every game as the offense has exploded. Perhaps most encouraging were the eight red zone touches we saw last Sunday, setting up Murray as a plug-and-play RB1 option against an anemic Bears defense.
Devonta Freeman ($5,200)
Week 3 explosion may have overstated Freeman’s upside – he’s not a particularly gifted runner, sporting a career 3.34 yards per carry mark prior to last Sunday. But the Dallas game was encouraging in terms of volume. No other back received a carry, suggesting the Falcons won’t be rotating in Terron Ward much while Tevin Coleman sits. Freeman remains the bellcow for the time being, in both aspects of the offense. And the price tag is very attractive for such a commanding floor, still sitting far below those of Mark Ingram and C.J. Anderson.
Frank Gore ($4,700)
Gore has underwhelmed thus far, but his two-touchdown Week 3 reminded us of the RB1/2 potential he holds as the dominant back in an explosive offense. He’s getting ample rushing opportunity (29 rushes over the last two weeks) to make a RB1 splash, if only he’d get more involved in the passing game. Colts RBs have seen just 13 targets thus far, a figure likely to progress toward the mean as soon as this week – the Jaguars are allowing opposing RBs to catch 8.3 passes per game. Assuming Andrew Luck is healthy and the offense is indeed untangling itself, Gore carries solid volume and touchdown outlooks into Week 4 and beyond.
Danny Woodhead ($4,600) / Lance Dunbar ($3,600)
Each week, DraftKings’ full-PPR scoring and low-ball pricing for part-time RBs creates a handful of solid value plays way down the salary tiers. Woodhead, the Chargers’ only RB consideration in the passing game and the red zone, is routinely underpriced and offers the strongest ceiling/floor combination of the third-down backs. He takes meaningful snaps from Melvin Gordon and is always a fair bet to find the end zone from short range. Dunbar has caught 8, 3, and 10 balls as the Cowboys’ lone passing back, so he carries a much stronger floor than you’d expect from a back with just two carries on the season. Of the two, I prefer Dunbar and his near-minimum salary as Brandon Weeden operates with only moderate pass-catching talent, but either would bring awesome budget relief with their RB2 ceilings.
I’m generally a fan of this type of stack: two opposing #1 wideouts who dominate their offense’s attention and square off in a likely shootout. Vegas’ projection (47 combined points) jibes with my expectation that both teams will throw and score and throw and score. In that scenario, this would make for a fine pairing in either cash or GPP contests. Jones has served as the Le’Veon Bell of the young season, the ultimate high ceiling/high floor option in every winner’s lineup. Finally a key piece of the Falcons’ red zone offense, Jones is both the safest and most dynamic DFS option at the moment. Hopkins hasn’t displayed the same otherworldly efficiency, but his sheer volume – no team has run as many plays nor thrown as many passes as the Texans – has steered him into easy-WR1 territory. He’s also showed very well in the red zone, turning three of his seven targets into touchdowns. As long as Arian Foster is sidelined, Hopkins remains the offense’s featured attraction and worthy of a salary like this.
You want in on the Packers this week (28.25 projected points), so stacking Aaron Rodgers with one or both of these guys is actually a shrewd play in both cash and GPP setups. Neither should face much resistance from a 49ers defense that’s allowed 680 passing yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks, and Davante Adams’ likely absence would only increase their pie slices. And more importantly, these two are the engine that drives the Packers near the goal line. Cobb and Jones have combined to draw seven of Rodgers’ 11 throws from inside the 10, and five of six from inside the five. Cobb scored on three of those short tosses Monday night and had a fourth nullified by penalty; he’s the primary player here and well worth his affordable No. 9 WR salary. Jones presents awesome value in his own right, checking in with the No. 25 price tag but a much sexier scoring outlook. He’s found the end zone in every game thus far and would benefit even more than Cobb from Adams’ absence. Rostering one of these guys gives you unusually high touchdown and 100-yard bonus probabilities; rostering both could boost your contest finish exponentially if Rodgers eviscerates the 49ers as expected.
Amari Cooper ($6,300)
Chicago’s opponents haven’t filled the stat sheet through the air, but that’s due to the fact that all three have handled them easily and iced the clock on the ground. This matchup looks far more even, so game flow should afford Derek Carr another high-volume game. And Cooper should see plenty of separation in the secondary: starting cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball have surrendered a nasty 11 yards per target and four touchdowns thus far. Cooper is nearing weekly WR2 territory on his own; he’s the real deal as an all-around weapon, averaging a 7-97 line through his first three NFL games. It’s natural to feel some pull toward Larry Fitzgerald and his similar salary, but Cooper will be owned far less throughout your contests and actually carries a similar floor.
Percy Harvin ($4,600)
Harvin has bonded with Tyrod Taylor and quietly put together his best all-around start in years. He’s been reliable and dynamic from the slot and a solid target down the field, meshing well with Taylor’s big-play flow and generating a very solid 10.7 yards per target. Harvin would make for an intriguing GPP stab even under normal circumstances, but the absence of Sammy Watkins puts him squarely on the volatile WR2 map. At this cost, he’s an ideal tournament WR3.
Michael Crabtree ($4,600)
Crabtree has served well as Derek Carr’s underneath blankie, and this matchup suggests he’ll maximize those skills into a proficient yet cheap PPR line. The Bears defense is a mess, and that’s true at no position more than cornerback, so Crabtree should find plenty of short-area separation Sunday. A line similar to his 9-catch Week 2 isn’t out of the question.
Allen Hurns ($3,900)
Very quietly, the underrated Hurns has reached double-digit DraftKings scoring in all three games thus far. And the stage is set for his biggest game of the young season in Week 4. Teammate Allen Robinson is likely to draw most of shutdown cornerback Vontae Davis’ attention, which would afford Hurns a bump in usage against a poor and injury-ravaged group of complementary DBs.
Cecil Shorts ($3,500)
Shorts excites no one with his 9.3 yards per reception and lack of red zone presence. But as the #2 option in the league’s most pass-happy offense, he carries an underappreciated outlook into a highly-projected matchup with Atlanta. He’s averaging 10 targets a game and should provide enough low-impact PPR value to make for a solid WR3/4 punt play.
Greg Olsen ($5,400)
Oh, there he is. Olsen was a man among boys in obliterating a hapless Saints defense to the tune of 134 yards and two scores in Week 3. Look for similar dominance of the pass game this Sunday: Cam Newton has performed markedly better on the road than at home recently, and the (likely) close nature of this divisional matchup should keep the Panthers airing the ball. With little dynamism and no consistency among his pass-catching peers, Olsen has the look of a weekly top-four TE play. He’s in the mix for WR2 production at a TE price tag.
Kyle Rudolph ($3,200)
Rudolph doesn’t boast much of a ceiling, but his cash game floor is well worth the miniscule cost. He’s enjoying a comfortable team lead with 19 targets and has reached five catches in two of three games. Rudolph isn’t getting down the field, but Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t want him to; this is a sanitized passing game that values reliable hands like Rudolph’s near the line of scrimmage. The underdog Vikings will have to throw more than they’d like Sunday, and with the wideouts squaring off with a dominant set of cornerbacks, Rudolph has fine PPR upside to go with his high-TE2 floor.
Coby Fleener ($3,200)
If Dwayne Allen sits Sunday and Andrew Luck suits up, Fleener looks like a strong under-the-radar TE1 option. Luck has famously locked onto his TEs near the goal line dating back to his days alongside Fleener, Zach Ertz, and Levine Toilolo at Stanford. And Fleener tends toward big production in Dwayne Allen’s absence, averaging 88 yards and catching four touchdowns over his four missed games last year. Assuming Luck is under center, I’d be shocked to see Fleener fail to provide at least 3x value this week.
Owen Daniels ($2,700)
Any Peyton Manning tight end deserves some degree of GPP consideration, if only for the expectation of red zone usage. Daniels, Gary Kubiak’s career-long TE pet, is a prominent part of the Broncos’ short-yardage pass game, and a fair $2,700 touchdown dice roll to open up your DFS budget elsewhere.
As I work to perfect my projection model for defenses, I’m really just focusing on recent sack/turnover trends. Garbage time is wildly variant and skews points-allowed projections, but playmaking units are playmaking units, so that’s where I’m steering with my (typically) low, low salary allocations for defenses.
In that vein, I’m loving the semi-expensive Cardinals ($3,400) and Broncos ($3,330) in cash games. Cardinals-Rams, like all defensively-rooted divisional matchups, doesn’t look like a particularly easy game flow call for me; anything can happen, and any projection possibility is in play. But Arizona has picked off seven passes already, returning three for touchdowns, so at the very least Nick Foles will have an awful lot to process Sunday. And Denver’s high-pressure rush and smothering secondary should overwhelm Teddy Bridgewater, who’s digesting the NFL game 5-7 yards at a time and still learning to protect the ball.
The Colts ($2,800) look like the strongest of the mid-tier defenses. They’ll host Jacksonville and Blake Bortles, who loves to throw sacks and errant balls the defense’s way. And with Andrew Luck hobbled, I could see the Colts showing a renewed emphasis on the running game, salting the clock and minimizing the Jaguars’ scoring opportunities.