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.
Quarterback is the most interesting position this week. The big question is whether you trust going with Geno Smith ($5,000) as your starting quarterback. If you do you can open up some really elite teams at the other positions. Smith is replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick who threw 12 interceptions in the first six games as the Jets started the season 1-5 against the league’s toughest schedule. Looking at wins and losses this move will likely look good as the Jets have the second easiest schedule rest of the season but I am not sure the Jets offense will be much more effective under Smith. So far this year Fitzpatrick has averaged 12.3 points per game. During 2014, in Smith’s last real playing time he averaged 11.8 points per game. Neither of those point totals are going to make Smith a great play at $5,000 but if he is able to get a TD or two and throw in some yards on the ground his low price allows you to take advantage of some great plays that we will mention at other positions. I understand getting a piece of Smith just for this reason alone but don’t go overboard on your exposure.
Another quarterback that has had a disappointing start to the season is Blake Bortles who has seen his price go down to the lowest point of the season ($7,400). Many had high hopes for Bortles and the Jaguars coming into the season after a nice step forward last year. Unfortunately that hasn’t materialized and he has taken a step back. After averaging 20.9 points per game last year he is down to 17.8 this year and he hasn’t had a particularly tough schedule to boot. He did score 3 touchdowns (1 on the ground) against the Colts but only managed 207 passing yards in that great matchup and he had 329 passing yards against the Chargers. Over those two games he averaged 23.2 points. The Raiders matchup should be similar to these games as the Raiders are allowing 319 passing yards per game thus far which is the worst in the league. I don’t believe he will score 23 points this time around but I think for his reduced price he is too cheap to avoid and will be in my player pool.
Some more popular and safe options will be Matt Ryan ($8,700) and Tom Brady ($9,100). Both are off to great starts this season averaging 24.5 and 28.4 points per game and both are being mentioned as possible MVP candidates. Both have very favorable matchups as well as they face the Chargers and Steelers who rank 19th and 21st in points allowed to quarterbacks. In reality both of those defenses have been worse than that because their passing TD numbers allowed have been favorable so they are likely to see additional negative regression. There are two issues with these quarterbacks. First, as mentioned many times throughout this article so far there are some nice pay up options elsewhere so it makes sense to skip the quarterback pay up options. Secondly, for Brady in particular the Patriots could have a lot of success against the Steelers who are without Ben Roethlisberger and play a bit conservative as they won’t need to score as many points as normal. If that is the case it will be tough for Brady to reach the value he needs. Overall, though in favorable matchups I recommend having both of these quarterbacks as part of your overall game plan for the week. If some value plays open up at the other positions making either of these quarterbacks staples in your lineup would be very nice.
As tricky as the quarterback position is the running back position is a lot simpler. There are four backs that you should really be considering this week. Three of those backs are very expensive with LeVeon Bell ($8,600), DeMarco Murray ($8,700), and David Johnson ($8,500) as well as one that is super cheap in Jacquizz Rodgers ($5,600). Depending on how a few injury situations shape up there could be some other cheap options that play out as well like Mike Gillislee ($5,300) if Lesean McCoy ends up sitting as expected or Spencer Ware ($7,000) if Charles sits.
We all know plenty about how good Bell, Murray, and Johnson are at this point in the season. They are averaging 18.7, 19.3 and 23.2 points per game respectively. Of all the backs in the league they are the three that we can count on to consistently get touches for their teams. Consistently getting touches is what leads to the touchdowns that we need to be successful on Fanduel. Of this group Murray has the most favorable matchup against the Colts who are ranked 31st in points allowed to running backs and are allowing 4.7 yards per carry. The Titans offense is still not very exciting but in this matchup Murray has about as sturdy of a floor as you could ask for.
Bell and Johnson on the other hand have more difficult matchups. Johnson has to face the always stingy Seahawks defense who are allowing a paltry 3.3 yards per attempt so far this year. But as we learned last week matchups aren’t much of a concern for Johnson as he gashed the elite Jets run defense for 111 yards on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns along the way for 33 fantasy points. In fact Johnson has had one of the tougher schedules to date having to face the Patriots, Bills, and Rams already. In those games he scored 21.2, 24.6, and 12.4, respectively. Not only do the Cardinals love to run with Johnson but they have yet to target him less than 4 times in the passing game during any game this year. It’s a rough matchup but don’t be surprised to see Johnson succeed despite it.
Bell has a similarly tough matchup against the Patriots who are allowing only 92 rushing yards per game. Additionally he will have to face them without Roethlisberger. On the plus side the Steelers may rely more heavily on the run game than they would have in a potential shoot out but on the down side they are less likely to score as many touchdowns and any down tick in passing will likely hurt Bell as he is so heavily involved in the passing game. During Bell’s three games thus far he has had touches of 23, 29, and 16 last week against the Dolphins. I expect the Steelers to ride Bell very heavily this week to make up for no Roethlisberger but the Patriots are the best in the league of taking away their opponents best player. I have no problem putting Bell in my lineups but he comes with more risk than normal.
Finally, Jacquizz Rodgers represents a big pivot from these every down backs. Rodgers stepped in for the injured Doug Martin last week and got an insane 35 touches including 30 carries against the Panthers who have had a stout run defense. I don’t expect him to see that many carries this week but he should be more effective as he gets to face the 49ers run defense that has been atrocious allowing 174 rushing yards per game at a clip of 5.0 yards per attempt. Rodgers cheap price, lack of competition in the backfield, and prime matchup make for a great option if you are looking to get away from the expensive options at running back.
At wide receiver Rodgers teammate Mike Evans ($8,000) is one of the chalk plays of the week as Vincent Jackson has been declared inactive for the week. In the six games that Jackson missed with Winston at quarterback Evans is averaging 6 catches for 108 yards on three additional targets per week. Winston has been told by the coaching staff not to lock in on Evans but in this situation he may not have many other options. Evans should be the top play at receiver this week.
Two other great pay up options for the week are Julio Jones ($9,200) and A.J. Green ($8,500). We have already talked about how the Falcons have a plus matchup against the Chargers and I expect Jones to be the big beneficiary of that matchup as the Chargers secondary has been decimated by injuries the last few weeks. Jones crushed the Seahawks tough defense to the tune of 7-139-1 last week anything less than 100 receiving yards will be a letdown.
Green’s matchup is just as good as he gets to face the Browns who are allowing the second most passing TDs and ninth most passing yards despite being about average in passing attempts as teams have been taking their foot off the pedal due to big leads. Green has only found the end zone twice so far this year but this is a great matchup for that trend to regress to the norm. One watch out is that Tyler Eiffert may be ready to give it a go this week. Eiffert is only expected to play in high leverage plays but that could allow him to vulture one of those touchdown opportunities from Green.
Others to consider include T.Y. Hilton ($7,800), Marvin Jones ($7,700), Brandon Marshall ($7,400), Jarvis Landry ($7,000), and if you want to take a contrarian path to lower ownership levels you could consider Adam Humphries ($4,900) to pick up some of the targets lost by Jackson.
At tight end I think Rob Gronkowski ($8,500) will be the chalky play but it is very tough to pay up for him this week. Gronkowski is getting a lot more healthy as his snaps have trended up for 4 straight weeks going from 22% in week 3 to 70%, 81%, and finally to 89% last week. He may not be 100% yet but he is awfully close and if you can fit him into your lineup he is going to be as safe as they come.
If you don’t have the money to pay up for Gronkowski I recommend you mix and match some of the cheaper options such as Hunter Henry ($5,800), Dennis Pitta ($5,300), Charles Clay ($5,100), and Jack Doyle ($4,700). Pitta has been disappointing this year because he has yet to reach the end zone but his targets continue to consistent and eventually he will find the endzone. The Jets are the second worst team in the league against tight ends so this may be the week he finally breaks that trend. Jack Doyle is really interesting as well due to Dwayne Allen missing the game giving Doyle a chance to increase his snap count.
Kickers and Defense
At defense the Patriots ($4,400) are priced down and get a show down with Landry Jones. The Steelers still have some very good offensive players in Bell and Antonio Brown which could lead the Steelers into a conservative game plan but for the price there doesn’t seem to be a more safe option than the Patriots. The Ravens ($4,800) against Geno Smith and the Bills ($4,700) make for good pivot moves.
At kicker we stick with some of the higher scoring offenses in good matchups that aren’t priced up. So I like Matt Bryant ($4,700) in the matchup against the Chargers mentioned above and Mike Nugent ($4,600) against the Browns who can’t stop anyone.