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.
The pricing on Fanduel is a bit tighter this week than it has been in the recent past. Because of this you will likely have to make some concessions. The straight numbers are saying that quarterback may be the easiest route to find those savings but given the cash game strategy of paying for safer options at quarterback I am not sure I completely agree to go that route. Instead I will likely be splitting up my savings across a couple of positions in my multiple cash game lineups. Those spots are primarily tight end wide receiver 3 and likely some smaller exposure to a lower end quarterback. By differentiating at three different positions at varying price points it gives you the opportunity to mix up your lineups and hit other key players without costing your lineup projected points.
As mentioned above I will have a couple of pay up lineups at quarterback as well as going a cheaper route. The chalk play of the week will be Drew Brees ($9,300) and he will be anchoring at least a few of my teams. At $9,300 it is a bit of a challenge to fit him into your lineup. The cost will most likely be your primary receivers. But I think he is worth that risk. The Lions have been friendly against the pass allowing the 8th most passing yards per attempt. Brees himself has been about as consistent as they come. He has only had two games this season where he has scored less than 2 TDs and only 4 games with under 300 yards. Three of those four games were on the road with the only other one being at home against the Seahawks. This Lions defense isn’t the Seahawks and shouldn’t pose a big threat to the Saints passing game. With a floor of close to 300 passing yards and 2 touchdowns fire up Brees with confidence if you can find the right value plays elsewhere.
Easier to fit into your lineup is Russell Wilson ($7,700) who completely bombed last week passing for only 151 yards and no touchdowns with 2 interceptions which was his second worst game of his career. Go figure given the premier matchup. Thankfully he added 80 yards on the ground to partially salvage his day but if you played Wilson like me you probably had some issues. Part of the problem was the concern that I mentioned in my write up last week about Tampa trying to control the game tempo which they did holding the Seahawks to only 26 minutes of possession. This week’s matchup against the Panthers isn’t as favorable as the Buccaneers but it isn’t as imposing as some think. The Panthers rank 10th in net yards per attempt and haven’t been controlling the game tempo the same way the Buccaneers have been. The 80 rushing yards that Wilson compiled last week is a sign that he is indeed healthy. I expect a bounce back game for Wilson and you should be able to get him at much better ownership levels than last week.
Another option at a similar price point is Colin Kaepernick ($7,800). Despite an 0-6 record as a starting quarterback Kaepernick has been lights out as a fantasy option thanks primarily to his running game where he topped it off last week getting 113 rushing yards on 10 attempts. The 49ers have also been passing quite a bit more as their pass ratio has bumped up 6% since Kaepernick took over as quarterback. The Bears are an average matchup for the 49ers passing game but he is still underpriced and represents the savings that can help build the rest of your team.
Overall quarterback is pretty open this week so if you don’t like any of those three options I think you can spread the wealth and not really be too effected by it. Tom Brady ($8,500) is another good pay up option but I don’t trust him with Rob Gronkowski out. Tyrod Taylor ($7,400) and Carson Palmer ($7,000) both are good safe mid-range targets that have shown to have solid floors this year but aren’t going to win you the week. Finally, if you really want to go high on some of the other good position players this week I don’t really hate going with Matt Barkley ($6,000) in a great matchup against the 49ers.
Unlike quarterback running back is pretty simple. All you need to do is plug in LeVeon Bell ($9,300), Melvin Gordon ($8,000) or David Johnson ($9,200) since our other favorite running back Ezekiel Elliott played in the Thursday game. I am running out of good things to say about Johnson and Gordon. Last week Johnson had a terrible game script as the Cardinals were crushed by the Falcons 38-19 and he was only allowed 13 rushing attempts. Even with that situation he still managed 26.1 points due to 11 passing targets where he caught 8 of them for 103 yards and a touchdown. You can’t get much safer than Johnson, but wait, he also is facing the defense that is allowing the second highest yards per attempt. Fire up Johnson without worries.
Gordon didn’t have as much luck last week letting me down for only 10.9 points on 17-70-0 and four catches for 19 yards. He wasn’t as involved in the passing game as normally and didn’t get the goal line touch down that we have become accustomed to. This week he is matched up against the same Buccaneers team that shut down Thomas Rawls and Russell Wilson last week but they are still a favorable matchup allowing the seventh most rushing yards per attempt.
I don’t think you should make it complicated and just plug in these three options but I would be remiss to not mention that Jordan Howard ($7,400) gets the prime matchup against the 49ers that we all love each week. The 49ers run defense has improved greatly of late though shutting down Jay Ajayi to 18-45 and David Johnson to 19-55 three weeks ago. The 49ers are still a plus matchup but not enough to warrant passing on Gordon and Johnson.
If you go the cheaper route at quarterback this week your best options will be to go out and grab Julio Jones ($8,300) and Mike Evans ($8,500) whom I have been touting all year long. Evans continues to crush the rest of the league in targets as he is now up to 130 which is 10 better than Antonio Brown. Evans has been in double digits every week except for week 10 and had a monster 8-104 -2 last week in a tough matchup against the Seahawks. Evans matchup against the Chargers is a plus matchup as they allow 7% more catches and 10% more YPA to opposing WR1 than the league average.
Jones gets a plus matchup against the Chiefs who have struggled against WR1 on as well allowing 10% more pass attempts than a league average defense would allow. The negative side of Jones is that he is the opposite of Evans. He has 4 games where he has scored under 6 points and 6 games where he has scored over 18 points. He will likely either win you the week or lose you the week which makes him a good pairing with a low cost higher risk QB like Barkley as Julio can cover up for his short comings.
If you go with a more expensive QB like Brees then you are going to be looking at someone like Larry Fitzgerald ($7,000) or Doug Baldwin ($6,900) at your WR1 spot. Fitzgerald has been one of my primary targets for the last several weeks but he continues to underperform as he has failed to reach the end zone for the last 6 weeks straight and he has started to cool down a little on the targets the last two weeks. On the plus side Fitzgerald should see a good amount of burnable corner Kendall Fuller which should allow those targets to bounce up and help Fitzgerald find the end zone. The big risk with Fitzgerald is that he could very easily be shadowed by Josh Norman. But Norman isn’t nearly as good inside the slot so I don’t worry about that shadow as much as I would with an outside receiver. Like Fitzgerald, Baldwin has been on a cold streak lately as he has only seen 1 of his last 8 games end with a touchdown on the board. Luckily for his owners that game had three of them and won them the week on his own. But Baldwin’s targets have been consistent and he is good value at his depressed price in a favorable matchup against the Panthers.
Tyreek Hill ($5,800) is flying under the radar but has reached cash game value in four of his last six games receiving double digit targets in two of the last three. Hill’s recent hot streak coincides with Jeremy Maclin’s injury so it isn’t a fluke and we should expect him to stay hot in an exploitable matchup against the Falcons who end up in a lot of shoot outs due to their high scoring nature.
Part of the reason this week is a little tighter on salary is that the top tight ends are a little more attractive than they have been this year and the lower end tight ends not quite as attractive. You could certainly go to a lower end option like Martellus Bennett ($5,100) since Rob Gronkowski has been declared inactive. However, Bennett is far from 100% himself with an ankle injury and hasn’t been producing the last few weeks himself despite the great opportunity amassing only 22 and 14 yards. The Rams have also struggled against the tight end allowing 23% more points than expected. If Bennett can give it a go and play a full complement of snaps this should be his best opportunity of the year. But if I have to go to the lower end I would rather lean toward Antonio Gates ($5,300) in a great matchup against Tampa Bay who have given up 19% more points than expected to tight ends and Gates has been very involved in the passing game other than being shut down last week against the Texans.
However, I would rather pay up this week at tight end if I have the opportunity. The Seahawks have finally started to use Jimmy Graham ($6,400) like they should have all along. Graham hasn’t gone below 5 points since week 1 and has reached cash game value in 5 of his last 9 games. This week he gets the best matchup on the board against the Panthers who are allowing 45% more points than expectation to their opponents. Graham will be my prime go to option this week.
The other pay up option that I am interested in is Travis Kelce ($6,300) who has seen 6 plus targets in every game since week 8 but has only found the end zone once which has kept his price lower than is deserved. Despite not scoring a touchdown either of the last two weeks he has managed to reach cash game value while eclipsing 100 receiving yards. Kelce gets a plus matchup against the Falcons allowing 9% more scoring to tight ends than expectation. There are sacrifices to getting Graham and Kelce this week but I will be doing it more often than not.
Kickers and Defense
At defense my favorite option is the Patriots ($4,600) against the Jared Goff led Rams and the Broncos ($5,000) against Blake Bortles and the Jaguars. The Patriots will likely be the most popular option but I do have some hesitations. All year long the Patriots have been in good spots and have typically had pretty mediocre results only as they have only scored double digit points twice due to a lack of interceptions and sacks. Goff has been sacked 6% of the time and the Patriots should be in the lead forcing additional passing opportunities. But given their lack of sacks themselves I will be splitting them up with the Broncos who have better upside having scored double digits 5 times already this year and three times in the last four and Bortles continues to flounder this season.
At kicker basically build the rest of your team and put in the guy that fits Matt Bryant ($5,100), Stephen Gostkowski ($4,900), Wil Lutz ($4,800), Brandon McManus ($4,700), Dan Carpenter ($4,500) is my favorite options at each of the price levels. No need to pay up or down really this week.