This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
Once again Fanduel has priced their players extremely loose this week. It is unfortunate because it really takes away a lot of the fun in building lineups when you can afford pretty much anyone. Based on the pricing this week I think you need to consider paying up at quarterback. Your best options are Tom Brady ($8,300), Cam Newton ($7,800), and Ben Roethlisberger ($7,700). None are guys that I am starting my teams with but rotating between them makes plenty of sense. None of these players are priced in a way that will cripple the rest of your team so there is really not much need to pay down for anyone else.
Large Benjamin, as coined by Footballguys own Ryan Hester, made his first start since his week 6 injury last week. In the first game back from an injury players tend to underperform so it’s no surprise that Roethlisberger only threw for 264 yards and 51% completion rate. But one thing was clear, the Steelers have no problem relying on him as he threw 45 pass attempts, his second highest of the year. Roethlisberger’s matchup against the Cowboys isn’t ideal as they only allow 257 passing yards but he is priced like he is playing one of the toughest defenses in the league. All week long you will also hear about Roethlisberger’s home/road splits. I am not a big believer in those splits but they are going to drive Roethlisberger’s ownership level to one of the higher ones on the site so it doesn’t hurt to have exposure to him in a good spot when he is already popular.
The Patriots started the year red hot while Brady was suspended and they have continued to build on that success and are once again the best team in football. Brady has thrown for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in all but one of his games this season. The Seahawks represent a challenge for the Patriots passing game but aren’t nearly as scary as they have been the last few years. So far this year they are only allowing 255 passing yards per game and 0.8 passing touchdowns. Touchdown distribution, especially on the defensive end is typically fairly random so we should expect their passing touchdown rate to regress closer to the mean and if there is an offense that can effect that it is the Patriots.
Since returning from his concussion Newton has been very disappointing scoring only 14.6 and 12.8 points in back to back weeks. Both of these games were against fairly difficult opponents in the Rams and Cardinals which makes the performances a little more understandable. On the bright side the Panthers won both games to move to 3-4 and are back in the playoff hunt. Additionally, I had some initial concerns after the concussion that Newton would run less often but we haven’t really seen that as he has 7 rushing attempts in each of those two games which is right in line with his year to date pace. Just like Brady and Roethlisberger the Chiefs aren’t an ideal matchup but with the pricing on Newton which is $1,100 lower than where he was when he got his concussion it makes him well worth the risk.
Running back is where I am starting my lineups this week. David Johnson ($9,400) has been the best running back in the league so far this year and it hasn’t really been close. This has translated to the best average Fanduel points per game as well at 21.1. Johnson has scored over 20 points in all but three games this year and in those games he still managed to accumulate double digit totals which limits his downside. For example, one of those games was last week where the Cardinals fell behind against a tough run defense and Johnson was limited to 24 rushing yards on 10 attempts. However, he ended up with 7 catches for 84 yards to go with that. But not only is Johnson really good at Football he is playing the 49ers who aren’t. So far this year the 49ers are allowing 193 rushing yards per game. The second highest team is the Browns who are allowing 146. When Johnson faced the 49ers in week 5 he recorded 157 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 attempts. Johnson would be one of the best values on the board at $12,000. He is a steal at $9,400.
The other option that I am going to rely heavily on is Le’Veon Bell ($8,100). Bell hasn’t had a huge break out game yet this year but even so he has only failed to reach value on his low salary once which was last week which caused his salary to drop another $500. So far this season he has gotten double digit carries and 5+ receptions in every game. What he doesn’t have is a touchdown. That trend is likely to change this week in a home game against the Cowboys. You have plenty of money this week and the best way to spend it is to pencil in Bell and Johnson.
Wide receiver is a good position to get some diversity this week. In fact there are about 9 guys that I like fairly equally right now. That can and likely will change as the week goes on but if I end up with any of them in my lineups at this point I wouldn’t really mind it. First of all, Larry Fitzgerald ($7,200) gets the same prime time matchup against the 49ers that I talked about above. By pairing him with Johnson you create a higher floor that allows you to capitalize on either of them scoring TDs. It’s pretty likely that the Cardinals will be scoring some touchdowns with an over/under that is at 48 points and a 13 point favorite. Fitzgerald has gotten double digit targets in all but three games and has 10 and 9 catches respectively each of the last two weeks.
Since Vincent Jackson was injured three weeks ago Mike Evans ($8,500) has scored 4 touchdowns and received targets of 17, 11, and 13 and total yards of 150, 50, and 96. The best way to be successful in picking wide receivers is to make sure you follow the targets and no one is being targeted as often or as consistently as Evans. Even at his elevated price point he is well worth it considering this week is a middle of the pack matchup against the Bears.
Since Roethlisberger is back Antonio Brown ($8,600) is immediately back into the consideration for one of the top plays. In Roethlisberger’s return last week Brown got on the board immediately with a quick touchdown and 7 catches for 85 yards on 11 targets to go with it. When Roethlisberger was hurt earlier this year Brown was priced at $9,600 and he was nearly an auto play. You can get him this week for $1,000 cheaper.
Travis Benjamin is likely out this week which will open up plenty of opportunities for Tyrell Williams ($5,700). Williams has had an up and down season but if Benjamin misses the Chargers will be without one of their top options on the season. Just like Williams, Benjamin has been pretty inconsistent with his output but he has been pretty consistent when it comes to targets as he has gotten between 5-9 every week but last. With those targets ready to be redistributed elsewhere Williams will likely be the biggest beneficiary. Williams is banged up himself so don’t go overboard but if you want pretty much all stars on your team and want to punt with one player then Williams is a pretty easy way to get there this week.
Just like the other positions your best bet is to pay up for Rob Gronkowski ($8,000) who has been rolling since he started playing a full complement of snaps of snaps in week 5, which also happened to coincide with Brady’s return. Since then all he has done is put up Fanduel outputs of 13.4, 25.7, 17.3, and 19.4 going over 100 yards and/or scoring a TD in every game. Seattle’s defense has been stingy against the tight end so far this year but Gronkowski is nearly immune to such matchups so he should be in line for a solid game.
Although you can fit almost every star into your lineup it’s likely that you will need to pay down in at least one wide receiver slot and one other one. My most likely spot to make that second pay down is at tight end in the majority of my lineups because tight ends are so inconsistent and they aren’t really priced down as much as some of the other positions. I will have some Gronkowski but for the majority of my lineups I will be looking at some of the mid-tier options.
Two options that I like include Zach Miller ($5,400) that had 7 catches for 88 yards in the first game back for Jay Cutler and will likely be relied on heavily by Cutler. Earlier in the year when Cutler was healthy the Bears had a variety of receiving options but the majority have fallen off with injury. Miller has been under-utilized in this position but look for Cutler to correct for that. The other option that I like is Zach Ertz ($4,600) in what should be a high scoring game against the Falcons. Ertz has been a huge disappointment this year since returning from his injury in week 5. He had failed to go over 5 Fanduel points in every game until last week where he was finally targeted like you would expect. He isn’t a safe bet for points but does give you a savings opportunity if everything else in your lineup is working out.
Kickers and Defense
Kicker is fairly easy this week. Chandler Catanzaro ($4,500) is priced all the way down to the site minimum as he has been very inefficient in his output on the season because he just hasn’t been getting that many field goal attempts. But with the Cardinals facing the 49ers he should get plenty of scoring opportunities. I think Catanzaro is in one of the best spots for his price that any kicker has been in this year.
On the defensive end you can again go with the Arizona Cardinals ($5,200) against the 49ers who allow quite a few sacks and are likely to turn it over trying to play catch up. Teams that are big under dogs are often much better sources of allowing fantasy points to defense than teams that have low projected point totals. Another option that looks interesting to me is the interdivisional matchup between the Texans ($4,700) and the Jaguars ($4,100). Both offenses have struggled mightily and their quarterbacks are mistake prone. Whichever team builds up a lead early could likely put the other in a position to ask a lot from their quarterback which could lead to a defensive touchdown when they make a mistake.