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 chalky play at quarterback this week is making his season debut after a four game suspension for deflating footballs nearly two years ago. Tom Brady ($8,700) gets an easy debut against the Cleveland Browns who are giving up the 27th most points per game at 28.7. The Browns allow 6.7 net yards per attempt which is only slightly worse than the league average of 6.5 but their defense is consistently being put in bad positions by their offense which allows opposing teams to start at their own 31.3 yard line which is also the 27th worst in the league. This is the perfect debut for Brady and I expect him to fully take advantage of it. Don’t buy into the narrative that “Mad Brady” is going to set the league on fire after this game but sit there and enjoy it with your winnings this week. The only concern is that the Patriots are such large favorites that they could take their foot off the pedal. But that will likely be after a couple of Brady touchdowns.
If you aren’t going with Brady the next best option is Brian Hoyer ($6,000) who also gets a cupcake matchup against the Colts. Pretty much any time a QB is priced at $6,000 and playing the Colts they are going to find their way into my article. Really, pretty much any quarterback playing the Colts will find their way into my article. The Colts defense is giving up 7.3 yards per attempt and 31 points per game. The benefit that Hoyer gets over Brady is that the Colts are likely to put some points on the board and keep this game close which is the exact type of game we are looking for with our quarterback.
On the other hand Hoyer has some risk too. Specifically, around his receiving weapons. Right now Eddie Royal and Zach Miller are questionable heading into the weekend and Alshon Jeffery has been well less than 100% this year. The Bears have already lost Marquess Wilson, Kevin White and Jeremy Langford to injury. If any of the other injured Bears scratch as well Hoyer is going to be running out of bodies to help him out. Of course at such a cheap price in such a good matchup he may not need much help. Just double check the injury report before going too heavy on Hoyer.
There are a bunch of other options that are pretty reasonable this week including Ben Roethlisberger ($8,600), Aaron Rodgers ($9,100), Derek Carr ($8,100), and Ryan Tannehill at ($7,100). Tannehill in particular is likely to slide a bit under the radar but the Dolphins have been very aggressive in their play calling and after adjusting for opponent strength and score of the game they are calling the 3rd highest pass ratio. Despite Tannehill’s slow start his price is too low and shouldn’t have issues hitting value.
The running back position doesn’t have a clear stand out this week for the first time all season. Instead I think I will be mixing and matching my running backs pretty strongly this week. One of the most interesting options is likely to be DeAndre Washington ($4,700) who is priced at nearly the site minimum and is likely going to be thrust into the lead back role if Latavius Murray misses the game as expected. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington grab 50% or more of the teams carries and 10% of their receptions. At such a low price it will allow you to pay up for a quarterback like Brady.
Another player who is taking over for an injured back is Jordan Howard ($7,200) whom I wrote up last week in this same article. In his first outing he racked up 111 rushing yards on 23 carries and added 4 catches for 21 yards through the air. His price got a big bump this week going from $5,600 to $7,200 but that shouldn’t scare you away with a matchup against the Colts coming up. As mentioned above the Bears have a lot of banged up players and may have to rely on one of their only healthy weapons. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Howard with about 50% of all the team’s touches. When that type of playing time is coming against the Colts sign me up.
Jerick McKinnon ($6,200) is coming off a Monday night game where he was significantly under owned, even in the prime time only contests. He didn’t disappoint either, logging 18 attempts for 85 yards and a touchdown at only $5,800. Since his game was Monday night Fanduel didn’t adjust his price for the solid performance. McKinnon has explosive play making ability and could easily hit value in one play and he will likely get 15-20 chances to make that big play this week. Odds are in your favor if you are a McKinnon owner.
The last two weeks I have written up Melvin Gordon III ($7,700) and he has rewarded us by hitting value in both contests scoring 15.8 and 20.9 respectively. Unfortunately those big games were primarily driven by touchdowns as his running game has been pretty bad amassing only 71 yards on 35 attempts. The stabilizer has been his receiving game which has contributed 86 yards on 10 catches. This will be the week I am going to start cutting my Gordon shares as the Chargers will likely play a little more pass heavy if they don’t build a huge lead only to squander it again by running the ball with an ineffective Gordon. I am not avoiding Gordon 100% but I don’t expect him to be the focus of my lineups this week.
As you probably expected I am starting my lineup with Antonio Brown ($9,400). Last week Brown only had 5 targets in the 43-14 Sunday romp of the Chiefs. The last time Brown had so few targets is all the way back to a meaningless week 17 game in 2012. So you would think Brown owners might have been disappointed but not so much as he still managed to hit cash game value at 20.4 points thanks to two touchdowns. We have seen Brown’s floor twice this season in two different ways (low targets and low catch rate) yet he is averaging 19 points per game which is right around value at his $9,400 price tag. Keep Brown going regardless of opponent.
Jarvis Landry ($7,500) is a poor man’s Antonio Brown as he has been about as consistent as can be with receptions of 7, 10, 7, and 7 on targets of 10, 13, 12, 10. You aren’t going to find that type of consistency from any other wide receiver in the league at such a low price. Unfortunately his receiving yards have been a bit inconsistent and he only has one touchdown due to the poor play of Tannehill. I would expect those stats to even out a bit making him a good bet to hit cash game value with all the passing the Dolphins are likely to do.
Another safe option, if healthy, is Julian Edelman ($7,000). With Brady back in the lineup look for the Patriots to get back to passing the ball a lot more aggressively. So far this season they are near the bottom of the league in pass ratio as they are actually running more than passing. The only other teams in that situation are the 49ers and the Cowboys. The big difference for the Patriots is their ratio has primarily came because they have been winning so handily. The Patriots true pass aggressiveness is 4th in the league and it will only grow with Brady under center. Edelman has a high floor even if his ceiling may not be as high as someone like Brandon Marshall ($7,600) who makes for a good higher upside pivot with Eric Decker likely out for the week.
Last week Cole Beasley ($5,500) completely let me down by getting only 3 receptions on 4 targets both of which were season lows despite Dez Bryant missing the game. I had mistakenly thought that he would get more offensive attention. This week I have tempered my expectations but still think he is a legitimate cash game play as he should easily see a quarter of the team’s receptions if you need the savings for other positions Beasley should have a high enough floor to keep your team afloat.
Like Brady, Zach Ertz ($5,600) picked the perfect time to make a return to the lineup after missing the last two games. The Detroit Lions are allowing 89% more points to tight ends compared to other teams facing the same opponents which is worst in the league. Carson Wentz has surpassed many people’s expectations averaging 256 passing yards per game. But in doing so he hasn’t been taking many shots downfield. This isn’t a problem for Ertz who will have many routes falling in this range. Watch the injury report to make sure there isn’t an injury that pops up late in the week but if not roll Ertz out with confidence.
If you don’t feel comfortable rolling out Ertz coming off his injury you should go with Kyle Rudolph ($5,500) who has been nearly as consistent as Landry. Through 4 games Rudolph has targets of 8, 8, 10, and 7 with receptions of 4, 3, 7, and 5. He has also scored a touchdown in each of his last three games. The Vikings passing game has exceeded expectations so far this year and their defense puts them in a good position to score.
Kickers and Defense
This week Mason Crosby ($4,500) managed to get priced at the league minimum despite being on the same offense as Aaron Rodgers and playing the New York Giants. I like to spread my kicker exposure around but if you go all in with Crosby I wouldn’t fault you one bit.
If you are looking to mix things up Stephen Gostowski ($5,100) always makes for a legitimate play as long as Brady is in the lineup and the same can be said for Adam Vinatieri ($4,700) and Andrew Luck.
At defense the Vikings ($4,800) are a bargain as they have started the season out on fire allowing only 50 points through the first four games to go with 15 sacks, 6 interceptions, and 5 fumble recoveries. This week they get the opportunity to face the Texans led by Brock Osweiler. Sign me up. The Patriots ($4,800) against the Browns make for a great pivot for diversity.