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 my strategy is primarily going to center around the expensive running backs David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. They are simply too good of prices for how much their offense is leaning on them. I will be exposed to a chance of an injury but I am willing to take that chance. I also don’t mind paying up at quarterback since quarterback is one of the more consistent positions in DFS. But I will likely be rotating through my options. Because of paying up at running back and quarterback I will likely be somewhat limited in my spending at wide receiver and tight end. Since many of the pass catchers that I will be getting exposure to will be higher risk I will likely not be super exposed to any one player. If there are specific receivers that you feel particularly strong about I don’t mind going heavy on them but for now I don’t see myself doing that.
Quarterback is a good position to split up your action this week. I will likely be splitting my three lineups to be led by three different quarterbacks with the only question being which three as there are several good options.
Andrew Luck ($8,200) is the most expensive of the bunch but very likely the best option to hit value. Luck has reached two times his salary in all but one week since week 4. Coming off his second best performance of the year last week against the Jets where he threw for 278 yards and 4 TDs on Monday night. You can see some of the pre-injury Luck starting to shine through on the field and his stats are showing it. This week’s matchup against the Texans is key for AFC South title as the Texans, Colts, and Titans are all tied atop the standings at 6-6. The loser is going to be a long shot of making the playoffs and I suspect Luck will be going all out to get the win, including some extra rushing attempts.
Russell Wilson ($7,900) has been very disappointing the last two weeks where he has only combined for 1 TD pass. But digging a little deeper he had no need to continue to push the ball against the Panthers after the Seahawks built a big lead early. See details below. The week before against Tampa Bay the Buccaneers controlled the game tempo on the ground and held Wilson to the worst game of his career. This week Wilson gets a prime matchup against the Packers who are allowing 7.1 net yards per pass attempt. The Packers passing game led by Aaron Rodgers ($8,000) has played well of late and should score some points on the Seahawks defense which will force Wilson to pass more often than he has this year due to positive game scripts. Speaking of game scripts if you adjust the Seahawks pass ratio for game script they have the fourth highest in the league. I expect Wilson to take to the air more often in a closer game and Wilson to bounce back from his struggles the last two weeks.
Kirk Cousins ($7,600) has quietly been one of the quarterbacks with the highest floor this year as he hasn’t been below 18 Fanduel points in a game since week 6. He has played a fairly tough schedule during this time frame as well scoring 18 last week against Cardinals and 30 the week before against the Cowboys. Despite this solid run of good performances his price hasn’t really risen. This week he gets a rematch against the Eagles who started Cousins hot play back in week 6 when he went for 18-34-260-2. Washington is in a must win situation as they have about a 40% chance of making the playoffs so they should be motivated to pull out a win this week.
Cam Newton ($7,800) continued his up and down season by being benched to start the game against the Seahawks last week for breaking team dress code rules. Thanks to the benching the Panthers never got on track as Derek Anderson promptly threw and interception and the Panthers looked mostly disinterested thereafter. That game all but eliminated the Panthers from playoff contention for what was expected to be a trip back to the Super Bowl before the season started. As such there is plenty of risk that the Panthers will be disinterested again this week but Newton is priced at the lowest price of the season and his upside warrants strong consideration for your cash games and makes an even better tournament option. Newton isn’t a safe cash play but helps you diversify your quarterback selections.
Running back is the easiest position to fill again this week. David Johnson ($9,700) and Le'Veon Bell ($9,000) are just too cheap for the workloads that they are getting. Both should continue to get heavy workloads in both the running and passing games. Both running backs should see over 80% of their team’s rushing attempts and 20% of their team’s receptions as well as goa line carries. Both of them are pretty much game script proof as well. If their team’s fall behind they will be heavily involved in the passing game. If they are in the lead they will be icing it away on the ground. Matchups don’t really matter for both of these options but David Johnson gets yet another great matchup against the Dolphins who are allowing 4.7 yards per attempt, third worse in the league while Bell get a league average matchup against the Bills. If you want to take a contrarian approach you can take a look at Jeremy Hill ($5,800) and spend up at the wide receiver position but I wouldn’t recommend that with my primary cash games as there is plenty of money available on Fanduel again this week.
There are some great pay up options at wide receiver but if you are going to play the Johnson and Bell at running back like I suggest as well as some of the higher priced quarterbacks something has to give and likely that will be at wide receiver for me where I will take a myriad of mid-tier wide receivers.
Both of the Broncos options Emmanuel Sanders ($5,900) and Demaryius Thomas ($6,900) options have seen their prices plummet recently as Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch has them wishing for Peyton Manning to come out of retirement, even if it was only the Manning of last year. But this week they get a tasty matchup against the Titans who are getting absolutely obliterated through the air the last five weeks allowing 314 yards and 2.4 touchdowns over that time frame. If Lynch starts I would temper my expectations for both options but if Siemian is in then they are fair options to rotate into your cash games.
Jordy Nelson’s price ($7,100) has plummeted this week to his lowest level of the season because of a tough matchup against the Seahawks but I think they have moved Nelson’s price too low as the Packers game has been clicking the last few weeks as Nelson has started to get his rhythm back. As I mentioned above I expect the Packers and Seahawks to score more than normal which means that Nelson will likely be involved. His low price puts him in the range that will allow you to get the studs at other positions that I want to roster and will be a part of the wide receivers that I rotate into my cash game plays.
Marvin Jones Jr was a late scratch last week which immediately pushed Golden Tate ($6,300) and Anquan Boldin ($5,200) to cash game status and some of my highest owned tournament plays. Tate responded with an outstanding effort of 8 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets while Boldin struggled to 4-40 on 6 targets. Marvin Jones Jr is on track to play this week but he continued to be limited in practice. If Jones ends up playing I expect him to be limited in which case Tate and Boldin are decent plays against the Bears. But if Jones scratches again they should quickly move to some of the top plays on the board.
If you have the money you know that I always love paying up for Mike Evans ($8,900) who continues to lead the league in targets and gets a great matchup against the Saints. The Saints are ranking last in points allowed to wide receivers and I expect the Buccaneers to have a little more trouble controlling the game tempo against the Saints so don’t be surprised to see Evans with 10+ targets over 100 yards and a touchdown or two. It isn’t easy to fit Evans into your teams with all of the other higher priced players but I would make an exception for him or possibly Antonio Brown ($9,000).
Jimmy Graham ($6,600) is again the best price on the board in a great matchup against the Packers who as mentioned above have been struggling against the pass. They are about average against the tight end though so his upside is limited slightly. His high price makes it slightly more difficult to get into lineups so he will likely only be a part of my game plan verse a centerpiece.
Cameron Brate ($5,600) has been more heavily involved in the passing game the last few weeks with 5 or more targets in every game since week 8 and has scored a touchdown in four of the last six games. This includes last week’s successful outing where he picked up 6-86-1 on 9 targets as the Chargers paid close attention to Evans. In a game that will likely be one of the higher scoring on the board Brate makes for a cheap way to get action into the game.
Kickers and Defense
This week defense should be one of your easier positions to fill, just plug in the Vikings ($4,800). The Vikings defense has struggled since their insanely hot start having scored 3 points or less in 4 of their last 6 but this week they get Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense that has been awful all season long. Bortles leads the league in interceptions and when you can get his opponent at a discounted price sign me up.
As is normally the case kicker should be your last option and fill in where you have money left over. My favorite choice for the week is just saving your money for some of the better pay up options and plugging in Roberto Aguayo ($4,500) for the minimum in a prime matchup against the Saints. If you have a little more money available you can spend up on Graham Gano ($4,800), Matt Prater ($4,900), or Dan Bailey ($4,700) which are the best options at their respective price points.