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.
Last week I mentioned Andrew Luck as a key play for cash games and I still ended up playing him a good amount but I did limit my exposure with the injuries that were swirling around him when all things were said and done. Luck had a solid game but wasn’t quite the deal as my other primary play in Ryan Tannehill. Situations like Luck’s as well as Shane Vereen’s coming in for the injured Rashad Jennings are a great example how you shouldn’t lock down your final lineups until the game’s are ready to kick off. Make sure you are following myself and the rest of the Footballguys staff on Twitter on Saturday night and Sunday morning for all the late breaking news.
This week I am starting my cash lineups with Cam Newton ($9,300). I have heard some initial conversations of people saying that Newton’s price is too expensive and you should be fading him but I think that’s a mistake. Newton has a prime matchup against the Atlanta Falcons who are allowing the 29th most passing yards as well as a league leading 10 passing touchdowns. I don’t expect Newton to have much trouble moving the ball through the air and on the ground. If Atlanta can keep it close, which I expect, Newton should be one of the safer plays this week.
If you are looking to save some money you should be looking at Kirk Cousins ($7,600) who is continuing his hot finish to last season. Over the last 8 games he has topped 300 yards in 6 of the last 8 games, not to mention the 296 yards he got last weekend. This week he gets to face the Cleveland Browns who are allowing 403 total yards per game which ranks 26th in the league. For someone that has been producing at such an elite fantasy level Cousins’ price has yet to rise to reflect that. In fact, his price is lower this week than it was to start the season and about where it was 8 games ago. The one problem that may give me hesitation with Cousins is that Washington has been passing a lot due to trailing quite a bit so far this year. As 8 point favorites against the woeful Browns they could ease off the gas a bit this week in which case he doesn’t have quite as much upside. But if they have scored enough to ease of the gas then he will have likely reached value which makes his floor high even if it caps his upside.
The last few weeks there have been some clear cut options at running back but this week I think it’s a lot close which will cause me to split up my lineups a lot more evenly on Fanduel. Melvin Gordon ($7,600) had the ideal matchup last week against the Colts and was in the majority of my cash games. Somehow Gordon got 16 rush attempts and only amassed 35 yards in such a great matchup. Luckily for us Gordon still scored a TD and added 43 yards through the air showing how good his floor really was. This week Gordon gets an even better matchup against the Saints who are dead last in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed this season and are allowing 5.0 yards per attempt. Hopefully the low yards per rushing attempt last week will throw folks off the Gordon bandwagon but I still see that he will dominate the workload, be involved in the passing game and has a prime matchup. Keep him rolling.
So far this year we have rode the DeAngelo Williams train but that came to a complete stop last week and its time to hop over to the LeVeon Bell ($8,300) train this week. From weeks 3-7 last year when Bell started and finished the game he averaged 20.6 rushing attempts per game which is insane usage. Last week we saw that Williams was still a good play, even if it didn’t work out, at a price tag of $9,300. This week Bell is priced at a much more attractive $8,300 in a better matchup and as a better player.
The only concern for Bell owners will be how the Steelers use Williams who over the last two years has proven that he can successfully handle a lot of touches. If I were running the Steelers I would split the workload a lot more evenly than the Steelers have done in the past in the hopes of keeping Bell healthy for a possible playoff run. Unfortunately, I have learned that coaches tend not to be the most rationale group and all evidence from the past points to Bell be used heavily. I am playing Bell in his first game back but temper your exposure as there could be some downside risk.
A couple of other running backs that I really like come at different price points and different skill levels. David Johnson ($8,700) may be the best running back in the league right now and has had a great start to the season despite one of the tougher schedules having faced the Patriots, Buccaneers, and Bills. Over those games he is averaging 15.6 rush attempts to go with 5.6 targets. The Rams aren’t a favorable matchup allowing only 3.4 yards per attempt but the Cardinals want the ball in Johnson’s hand and they will do so.
On the other hand we have probably the worst starting running back and lower priced options on the slate in Jordan Howard ($5,600). Howard will be thrust into the starting lineup with last week’s high ankle sprain to Jeremy Langford. Howard doesn’t have much competition left on the team besides freshly signed Joique Bell. However, I don’t expect him to garner more than a handful of carries. Howard was a 5th round pick out of Indiana University where he had a great season amassing 6.2 yards per attempt on 196 carries so he has shown he can carry a heavy workload and still have good efficiency. Howard shouldn’t have trouble reaching cash value and opens up plenty of opportunities to afford more expensive players like Newton.
I think I have stated this a time or two but play Antonio Brown ($9,400) in cash games. Coming off his weak outing in week 2 he came right back to the Antonio Brown that we have come to know and love by getting 12 receptions and 140 yards on a crazy 18 targets. Keep Brown rolling this week.
Travis Benjamin ($6,600) was one of my favorite plays last week and his price came down this week. As mentioned with Melvin Gordon above the Chargers were slightly disappointing against the Colts. Even with that slight disappointment Benjamin was still able to accumulate 4 catches for 82 yards on 7 targets. At that price point you can hardly complain and I don’t think his floor is much lower. This week he gets the same plus matchup as Gordon against the Saints. I am coming back to the well and counting on Benjamin in an offense without a lot of weapons to put up some points against the Saints.
Last week I missed the boat with Marvin Jones ($7,600) who had 6 catches for 205 yards and won you all the money if you played him. I am not one to chase points but Jones price is not to where it should be yet given the roll he has in the current offense. He has been getting about 23% of the teams receptions but more impressively he is averaging 22.7 yards per reception. The number two receiver in the offense, Golden Tate is being used almost solely on short routes averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and not much higher is Anquan Boldin at 9.5 yards per reception. We know from past experiences that Matthew Stafford likes to take shots down field and when his options are those two, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick we can expect Stafford to consistently look Jones way instead of all his checkdown options. He may be a bit inconsistent but when he hits value he will likely crush it the way he did last week and win you your cash games by himself.
Finally, another option is Cole Beasley ($5,200) who is the opposite of Jones and a safe high floor option. With Dez Bryant expected to miss the game there is a good probability that 25% of the receptions are available to be filled by someone and Beasley likely fits that bill. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beasley snag 30% or more of the receptions in the Cowboys offense which will allow him to easily reach value.
The tight end position has been a bit of my Achilles heel so far this year as I have had a few really good tournament teams derailed by poor tight end play. But my cash game selections have been ok. Last week I was a big fan of Dennis Pitta ($5,400) and while he gathered a solid 8 targets he didn’t capitalize on them with only 42 yards on 6 targets. This week I am going to stick with Pitta as my top tight end play in an offense without a ton of weapons. Pitta should see another 8 plus targets this week and hopefully against a terrible Raiders team that has allowed a league worst 1,020 passing yards he should see better efficiency and have a chance to reach the end zone.
Honorable mention at the tight end position goes to Hunter Henry ($4,500), Zach Miller ($5,000), and Travis Kelce ($6,500). Of this group I prefer to just go the cheap route and grab Henry in his great matchup against the Saints but will likely have exposure to each of them.
Kickers and Defense
At kicker we will continue to pick on the Saints and Browns. I guess that is what happens when the Colts are off the slate due to their game in London. Dustin Hopkins and Josh Lambo have two of the better matchups of the week and are priced all the way down at $4,500. What more can you ask for.
At defense there are about 7 or 8 options that I am ok with this week but the Redskins against the Browns for only $4,600 is a pretty safe route to go and be able to save money along the way thanks to the Redskins weak defensive performance to date.