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.
This week’s slate is a bit shorter than normal thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and the Monday night game no longer being included in the main slate. Additionally, three key stars that we have been relying on very heavily lately all played yesterday and hopefully helped make you some money in the process. Without Antonio Brown, Ezekiel Elliott, and LeVeon Bell we are going to have to look at different spots to find ways to spend our money this week. There are a few pay up options that I really like for this week but in general I will likely be looking for a more balanced team without these normal star players in my lineup.
Earlier this year Russell Wilson ($7,500) was dealing with a knee injury that didn’t keep him out of a game but you can tell was severely limiting his game. Any type of leg injury to a mobile quarterback like Wilson is going to put a damper on his production. But the last three games he has started to look a lot more comfortable in the pocket and you can see it in his results as he has put up Fanduel points of 24.8, 26.5, and 26.3 all of which rank in his top 3 for the year. Despite this great play recently his price hasn’t budged as he was priced at $7,800 at the start of the run and is now actually priced lower at $7,500. This week Wilson gets a great matchup against the Buccaneers who are allowing the third most net yards per pass attempt at 7.3 in the league. The Buccaneers have tried to shorten the game and hide their defense the way the Cowboys have with a heavy dose of the run game but they haven’t been nearly as successful. It does open up a little risk for Wilson if they are successful this week but its one that I am willing to take.
Another mobile quarterback that has also had a bit of a disappointing year is Cam Newton ($7,800). However, just like Wilson, Newton gets a prime matchup this week against the Raiders who are allowing a nearly identical 7.3 net yards per attempt. Unfortunately, Newton hasn’t been showing nearly the same level of improvement as Wilson as he bombed last week in a prime matchup against the Saints putting up a pitiful 12.4 points on 192 passing yards and only 7 rushing yards. Newton is a good pivot from an all in Wilson approach but until he starts playing a little more consistently I can’t trust him as my prime play of the week.
Tom Brady ($9,100) ended up racking up 4 touchdowns last week two of which came in the fourth quarter which relieved his owners from a disappointing effort last week against the 49ers. Outside of the touchdowns Brady finished with 280 yards which was only his second game under 300 yards on the season. This week Brady gets an average matchup against Jets who are 20th in the league against the pass. As mentioned earlier in the article we are likely to have extra money to pay up for some of the top players so if you find you have some extra money left over Brady makes for a safe play and I tend to like to play it safer at quarterback than other positions.
Without Bell or Elliott to lean on we need to head to our next go to guys Melvin Gordon ($8,200) and David Johnson ($9,500). Johnson has been as consistent as any running back in the league. Last week he continued that trend crushing the Vikings last week to the tune of 31.5 fanduel points with 103 rushing yards on 22 attempts as well as 7 receptions for 57 yards to go with his 2 touchdowns. Outside of perhaps Bell no other running back is getting leaned on more heavily this year and Johnson is as safe of a play as you can get at running back even at $9,500. With an average matchup against the Falcons this week should continue to be smooth sailing for Johnson. With a lack of stud players to rely on Johnson is the best of the week to focus on.
On the surface Gordon hasn’t been that efficient of a running back this year averaging only 3.9 yards per attempt which falls all the way down to 3.5 if you exclude his week 9 manhandling of the Titans where he racked up 196 yards on 32 attempts. But that inefficiency isn’t really as bad as it may appear because of the number of goal line and red zone carries he is getting. He leads the league in both categories with 16 attempts inside the 5 48 in the red zone. If you exclude attempts in the red zone, where running backs tend to have a lower yards per attempt average, Gordon’s average bumps way up to 4.4 yards per attempt and he is pretty much on par with the rest of the league. He’s also been pretty successful at the goal line. On his 16 rush attempts he has 8 touchdowns which is slightly above the league average of 47% success rate. Most elite backs aren’t much different from this baseline once given a proper sample size. For example, this year David Johnson is 7/13, Demarco Murray is 4/7 and LeGarrette Blount is 7/15. Don’t penalize Gordon on his efficiency because his team is relying on him in the most high leverage plays, instead reward him for that and get him in your lineup.
Jay Ajayi ($8,400) gets the prime matchup against the 49ers that we have been talking about the last few weeks. But it does look like they are improving after holding David Johnson to 55 yards on 19 attempts and Blount without a touchdown last week. Although Blount did amass 124 rushing yards on 19 attempts which was his most efficient game of the year. Ajayi came out of nowhere in week 6 for 204 rushing yards and then continued that on with 214 yards the following week. Since then Ajayi has continued to be relied upon very heavily as the Dolphins have turned to the run game to try to control the clock. Since his breakout game he has received over 15 rush attempts in each game and has yet to go under 4 yards per attempt. With the 49ers still at 5.2 yards per attempt allowed for the year Ajayi should still be in play despite his high price tag. That’s one thing I would have never expected to say just a few weeks ago.
Like the last few weeks wide receiver is the position to diversify on again this week. Julian Edelman ($6,400) is the most obvious pick and just like last week you should rely heavily on him if Rob Gronkowski is out again as currently expected. Last week without Gronkowski Edelman was targeted a season high 17 times. Unfortunately he only hauled in 8 for 77 yards and a touchdown but the targets were even more than we would have expected and if he is a little more efficient with them this week we should be a safe play against the Jets. If Gronkowski plays I would scale back my exposure to Edelman significantly but since Gronkowski will likely be limited in a game that doesn’t mean a lot to the Patriots I would still like to get some Edelman exposure.
Doug Baldwin ($6,800) is another safe option for all the reasons mentioned above for Wilson. During the three games I mentioned for Wilson, Baldwin has been one of the biggest beneficiaries securing Fanduel point totals of 17, 26.9, and 11.9 over that time span. His targets have been consistent all season long but he has been a lot more efficient during this time frame. Against the Buccaneers he should be able to continue this string of success.
Rishard Matthews ($6,200) has flown a bit under the radar this year after his slow start to the season and his lackluster time in Miami. But since week 5 he has only gone under 10 Fanduel points once which was against the Colts in week 7. He got his revenge last week as he racked up 122 yards on 13 targets. Matthews big frame at six foot 217 has really helped him be a red zone target as well as he has scored 6 touchdowns in his last 7 games. Don’t let his lack of big name presence detour you from plugging him into your lineup.
Last week Martellus Bennett ($5,500) was the biggest let down of the week getting only 2 targets that he turned in to 1 reception for 14 yards. But even with such a disappointing week it really proved a few key points as I won all my cash games. First of all, tight end has been really poor all year long. Getting only 1.9 points out of the tight end spot isn’t going to kill your chances in cash games. Secondly, if players are super chalky and are going to be really high owned if they bomb you still have a good chance if you just play well in your other positions. Based on those factors, if Gronkowski is out, I am likely to rely very heavily on Bennett again this week and I am hoping that the field’s exposure is down this week vs last week. All of the factors that applied last week still apply this week except the Jets are even worse against the tight end. Give Bennett another chance this week, it’s the sharp move.
If you can’t quite bring yourself to relying on Bennett again look at Delanie Walker ($6,100) who has been very inconsistent but for a tight end he has at least shown he has upside or Tyler Eifert ($6,400) who should be relied upon heavily with A.J. Green out and the Ravens struggling against the tight end position.
Kickers and Defense
I am going to split up my exposure in the kicker and defense positions this week. This year I have actually been a little more concentrated in these positions than some of the years past but I don’t really see a clear stand out this week at either position that I must have. At defense I am a fan of Giants ($4,800) against the Browns who I continue to pick on each week and the Broncos ($4,900) against Chiefs.
At kicker I will continue to pick on the Browns and lean on Robbie Gould ($4,500) at the minimum and two of my long term favorites of Steve Hauschka ($4,700) and Stephen Gostkowski ($4,800) both of whom you know from above I like their offenses chances of putting up some points.