For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. FootballGuys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
In order to help you build winning rosters, let's walk through some of the observations that I have made while doing my research for DraftKings this week. As you build out your lineups on DraftKings, try to take into account the following commentary, which revolves around game strategy and how we will want to take advantage of what the masses are doing when they construct their own lineups.
CASH GAME TIPS
SAVE MONEY AT QB; SPEND AT RB/WR: For the last few weeks, I have been advising you to spend up at quarterback and it seems as though that strategy has been paying off because many of those recommendations have been finishing with 25-30 fantasy points each week. This week, however, it probably makes more sense to save at the QB position, so that you can afford elite options elsewhere. The luxury player to have this week is David Johnson ($8.4K) against a San Francisco 49'er defense that is on the verge of being historically bad; there are plenty of justifications in the "Picks" section (below) to convince you why spending that much money on Johnson is a sound strategy, but suffice it to say that I would consider rostering him at nearly $10K this week. The only risk (outside of injury) is if the Cardinals jump out to a four-touchdown lead early and decide to pull Johnson in favor of Andre Ellington at some point in the second half; if that happens, you just have to hope that you got your points prior to that decision. You will also want to spend some salary on a WR and that decision will distill down to either Antonio Brown or Mike Evans, whose salaries are separated by $100; both are target-monsters who project well, so you will have to choose your favorite (and/or diversify across multiple cash game rosters) and root accordingly. After that, slot in your favorite high-floor players, some of whom can be found below, to complete your rosters.
TIGHT ENDS: Ordinarily, I have only two or three tight ends who I deem to be worth of cash game consideration. This week, there are literally seven on my list, three of which are listed later in this article. You are going to have to make a decision on whether you want to spend up at tight end with a player like Travis Kelce ($5.6K) in a good matchup or to save salary with somebody like Zach Ertz ($3.6K) in a plus matchup against the Falcons. There is no 'right answer' this weekend, so just ensure that when you take a stance that your auxiliary players all fit the description associated with a cash game player (i.e., high volume, high floor, etc.).
HOW MUCH DAVID JOHNSON IS TOO MUCH DAVID JOHNSON: I expect David Johnson to be owned somewhere between 45% to 65% in tournaments on DraftKings this weekend. Because Johnson is $8.4K and the rough multiplier for tournaments on DraftKings is 4x, we need to garner *30+ fantasy points from him to justify his slot in our lineups; your overall ownership shares of him should be equivalent to the percentage of time you think he will reach and/or surpass that 30+ fantasy point threshold (given the same matchup). For me, I am going to have about 60-70% exposure to Johnson in tournaments based on this methodology. Your number may come in higher or lower than that based on your own thinking of how the game plays out, but that is the general strategy that should lead your roster construction where Johnson is concerned.
[*I estimated the number of points to ~ 30+ for this calculation because of H-value, a numerical value assigned to a player based on his salary and projected points. You can find out more about the importance of H-Value and how it is calculated on Page 87 of this year's "Cracking FanDuel" eBook HERE.]
A NICE CHANGE: This is the first week in recent memory where DraftKings has tightened up their salaries to make the game a bit more competitive. In doing so, there is not as much game strategy necessary to out-think your opponents--you just need to roster optimally without having to worry about massive overlap due to mispriced players. With that in mind, I will be looking to fill out my GPP rosters with players who have at least one of two parameters: 1) Ability to achieve 5x value on their salary (generally for bargain players with minimal touchdown equity), or 2) Ability to score two touchdowns based on usage and/or volume. Ensuring that these parameters are met ensures that I do not get sloppy when constructing my tournament rosters because upside is always 'baked into' those rosters. Of course, rostering a few low-owned players is always a nice bonus, but do not overthink being contrarian...in many cases, you will have exposure to one or two players who are less than 10% owned, which is more than enough uniqueness to pull down a big tournament victory.
Let's take a deeper look into some of the players who I will be targeting for my cash game and tournament rosters this weekend. There is little difference in terms of strength of selection between those players who have text to justify their appearance in this article versus those in the "also eligible" section; all are strong plays in their respective categories, but time and space restrictions do not allow for expansive written summaries of every player listed.
CASH GAME PICKS
Marcus Mariota (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,700). With an average of 20.2 DraftKings points per game this season, Marcus Mariota is an excellent value once again this week at only $5.7K against the Green Bay Packers. In his previous pair of games, Mariota has diced through the Jaguars' and Chargers' secondaries, ranked 12th and 5th respectively, for a total of 583 passing yards, 5 passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, and a stellar 71.4% completion percentage. This week's matchup presents a lesser opponent in the form of the Packers, who continue to field a subpar secondary without Sam Shields (concussion) and Casey Hayward (free agency); despite the lack of talent in the defensive backfield, the Packers have held opposing quarterbacks to a respectable 17.3 DraftKings points per game (17th in NFL), a statistic largely due to their ability to extend offensive drives (3:05 per drive, 3rd in NFL) and keep opposing offenses on the sidelines. That said, the Packers are a dichotomous defense, in that they defend the run quite well (3.3 yards per carry, 75.8 yards per game; best in NFL), but struggle to contain the pass, which means that Mariota should stay hot and put up some solid fantasy numbers in Nashville. At a modest $5.7K price point, Mariota needs only ~ 16 fantasy points to reach cash game value, a number that Green Bay has yielded to every team not named the Giants or the Browns this season.
Jay Cutler (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,300). After missing nearly six weeks with a thumb injury to his throwing hand, Jay Cutler returned to the field in Week #8 in a tough matchup against the Minnesota Vikings' 4th ranked pass defense (DVOA). In that effort, Cutler compiled a respectable 252 passing yards, completed 64.5% of his passing attempts, and picked up a score en route to an upset win as 6-point home underdogs to Minnesota. The Bears subsequently took their bye week to get healthy and will return both Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery at 100% for the first time this season; meanwhile, Jordan Howard has emerged as a reliable running back, rushing for 100+ yards in three of his last five games, which is keeping defenses from focusing all of their defensive personnel on Alshon Jeffery. Facing the Buccaneers, this is (by far) the best matchup Cutler has faced all season; his only three starts in 2016 have been against Houston, Philadelphia, and Minnesota, who boast the 7th, 1st, and 4th best DVOA pass defenses, respectively. The Bucs, however, rank 20th and are allowing the 4th most fantasy points (21.6 per game) to opposing quarterbacks, a number that would likely be much higher if they had not faced names like Derek Anderson, Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch, and Case Keenum for half of their games. Over their previous two games, Tampa Bay has yielded 857 passing yards and 8 passing touchdowns and show no signs of being able to slow down above-average quarterbacks; Cutler, with a full bevy of weapons around him, should have no trouble carving through this defense and is simply too cheap at only $5.3K for his floor and upside.
Also eligible: Carson Palmer ($6,500)
David Johnson (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8,400). There is not a lot that should be said in this space to convince you to roster David Johnson across your cash game lineups. Over the previous two weeks, we have had both Devontae Booker and Ezekiel Elliott in must-play situations; this week, that same scenario has set up for volume-monster, David Johnson, against a San Francisco rush defense that is pacing itself into the record books by season's end. The Niners are the first team in the history of the NFL to allow seven consecutive 100+ yard rushers and have allowed five consecutive games of 170+ rushing yards (first team since 1988). Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense is completely inept, which creates additional opportunities for their opponents, resulting in an abundance of plays for the opposing offense (71.4); when that voluminous expanse of opportunity meets talent like David Johnson, great things are bound to happen. Johnson enters this game with 100+ all-purpose yards in every game this season on an average of 23.9 touches per game; he is a three-down back, who is gameflow-indpendent and is targeted in all phases of the Cardinal offense. This is as good as fantasy football matchups get and you will want to douse your cash game lineups with Johnson, while also giving him serious consideration in GPP formats because of his immense upside.
Darren Sproles (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $4,300). First-year Eagles' Head Coach Doug Pederson has finally admitted what we have already known for weeks--that Darren Sproles is the RB1 in the City of Brotherly Love. While Ryan Mathews has seen 16 snaps (and 11 touches) over his previous two games, Darren Sproles has 122 snaps (and 36 touches) in those matchups, a clear indication of how Pederson feels about both backs' skill sets. The timing of this announcement could not be better, as the Eagles will play host to the Atlanta Falcons, whose 6-3 record is more of a reflection of the success of their offense (33.9 points per game, 1st in NFL) than how well their defense has played to date (28.8 points per game allowed, 30th in NFL). Sproles should see upwards of 16-18 touches in this contest and a significant portion of them may come through the air if Atlanta builds an early lead; if that were to happen, Sproles' value becomes even more pronounced on a full PPR site like DraftKings because he can quickly pick up several points at a time for a pittance of a salary at $4.3K. Strengthening an argument for Sproles in your lineups is the fact that the Falcons do not defend pass-catching running backs well, having allowed an average of 8/61/0.3 to the RB position this season (15.9 points per game via the pass alone; worst in NFL). There is somewhat of a concern that Ryan Mathews will continue his role as the goalline running back for Philadelphia, which could limit Sproles' upside, but Sproles should have no problems reaching 12-15 points in this matchup and possesses 25+ point upside, depending on how the gamescript plays out.
Antonio Brown (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8,900). If you rostered Antonio Brown last week against the Ravens, you were probably sweating his production until late in the game, but Mr. Reliable finished with a respectable 7/85/1 stat line (21.5 DraftKings points) on 11 targets from Ben Roethlisberger. That performance represents Brown's fantasy floor, as he has had only two games with lesser scores all season, one of which was a game where Roethlisberger was injured and the other was against the Bengals, who have always schemed well against Brown. This week is shaping up to be a great matchup for Brown, as the Steelers return home, where Roethlisberger's splits are heavily in his favor and because the Cowboys will be without their best coverage cornerback, Morris Claiborne, and over-the-top help from Safety Barry Church. That will leave Brandon Carr to try to blanket Brown, which just is not going to happen because their respective skill sets are not comparable; Brown is going to enjoy double-digit targets for the 7th time this season and should also benefit from the Cowboys' underrated, 8th ranked rush defense that has allowed only 3 rushing touchdowns all season. If you go cheap at QB and lock in David Johnson (my recommendation), you should still have enough salary remaining to slot in Brown without the opportunity cost being too high and sacrificing elsewhere on your rosters. He, along with Mike Evans, has the highest fantasy floor at the WR position, but gets the superior matchup at home against a depleted Dallas secondary, which is why he earns the write-up in this spot.
Alshon Jeffery (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $6,600). With key injuries plaguing the Bears all season, they enter Week #10 with the 31st ranked offense, having averaged only 16.4 points scored per game, which is a key factor in the pricing of their skill players across the DFS industry. Just about every (starting) player on the Bears is underpriced on DraftKings (and elsewhere) this week and Alshon Jeffery ($6.6K) is near the top of that list against a Tampa Bay secondary that has allowed the 9th most yards (182.4 per game) and 4th most touchdowns (12 total) to the WR position this season. Jeffery started his 2016 campaign with a hamstring injury that eventually healed up just in time for dump-off specialist Brian Hoyer to take the reins after Jay Cutler was relegated to the sidelines with a thumb injury; that combination of events has hampered Jeffery's fantasy (and real-life) production, but things aligned upon Cutler's return in Week #8 when Jeffery found the endzone for the first time all season. We know that Cutler will lock onto his primary receiver, as he has historically done with Brandon Marshall in both Denver and Chicago, and Alshon is the guy in the Windy City as evidenced by the 12 targets per game that he received when Cutler was healthy and starting last season. If we add in the elite matchup against rookie Vernon Hargreaves, who rates out as ProFootballFocus' 116th ranked coverage cornerback (out of 117 qualifiers), this is an ideal situation for Jeffery to build upon last week's admirable performance against the Vikings, a much tougher opponent than he will see on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Zach Ertz (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,700). After a series of disappointing games that saw Zach Ertz average 4.6 DraftKings points per game in October, the Eagles made a concerted effort to get the ball into Ertz' hands last week against the Giants. Ertz responded with an 8/97/0 stat line that resulted in 17.7 DraftKings points, his highest since he went on a tear to end the 2015 season. Plagued by poor receiver play (see Carson Wentz write-up, below), the Eagles have gone on record stating that they will try to get Ertz more involved in the redzone moving forward because he currently ranks 8th on the team in redzone targets with only three on the season, despite having the biggest frame and surest hands on the team. If the Birds are going to get Ertz more involved in their passing game, this would appear to be the week to do it considering their opponent, the Falcons, has allowed the 6th most fantasy points, 7th most completions (48), and 3rd most touchdowns (6) to the tight end position this season. Lastly, the Eagles will again be without two of their starting offensive linemen (Lane Johnson and Allen Barbre) this week, which could result in more checkdown passes to Ertz if the Falcons get behind the line of scrimmage before other receivers have the opportunity to find space between them and their respective coverage.
Zach Miller (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,600). The second of two recommended "Zachs" in the tight end section of this article, Zach Miller has been well-integrated into the Bears' offense over the past month, compiling 33 targets (8.3 targets per game) over that period of time. Miller is fairly priced at only $3.6K and has a solid matchup against the Buccaneers, who have allowed three touchdowns to the position over their previous two games and were absolutely shredded by the only legitimate TE they faced all season when Greg Olsen tagged them with a 9/181/0 stat line back in Week #5. Miller, like Alshon Jeffery, should benefit from the return of Jay Cutler, who certainly will look towards Miller in the redzone, as his 6'5" frame is a bigger target than any of the Bears' wide receivers. At only $3.6K, Miller needs ~ 10 DraftKings points to justify his salary in cash game formats, a number he has reached in five (out of eight) games this season, most of which were tougher matchups than he will see this weekend in Chicago.
Also eligible: Antonio Gates ($3,900)
Cardinals (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,700). To be fair, Colin Kaepernick has been a breath of fresh air to the 49'ers' offense since taking over in Week #6. In those games, San Francisco is 0-3, but they have at least managed to put some points on the board and muster a semblance of an offense, something that Blaine Gabbert could not accomplish with the same set of players. Just last week, Kaepernick scored 27.22 DraftKings points against the Saints after throwing for 398 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he will not be facing that caliber of defense this weekend when he travels south to Phoenix. The Cardinals will enter this game rested off their bye week and will look to put up double-digit fantasy points for the fourth time this season. The strength of the Cardinals' defense is their secondary, one that has allowed 75+ receiving yards to an opposing receiver only twice this season and has not allowed a receiving touchdown in over a month; their 10th ranked DVOA rush defense is no slouch either, allowing a paltry 3.9 yards per carry, which should be enough to keep the likes of DuJuan Harris and/or Carlos Hyde contained for the duration of this contest. This will be the best defense Kaepernick has seen all season and it would not be surprising to see the entire 49'er team suffer an embarrassing loss against a rested and prepared Cardinal team this weekend.
Redskins (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,000). The Minnesota Vikings have now lost three straight games after starting the season with a 5-0 undefeated record. In those three games, the Vikings have amassed a grand total of 36 points (12 points per game) and have allowed Sam Bradford to be sacked an astounding 13 times. That lack of protection does not bode well for Bradford entering this matchup against the Redskins in D.C., as the 'Skins rank 7th in sacks (22) and have over 50 hits on the quarterback this season. Furthermore, Washington has allowed only five touchdown passes since Week #1, which is tied for second in the league behind the above-mentioned Arizona Cardinals; they, like Arizona, will come into this game well-rested off their bye week. With the general lack of punch offered up by this Vikings' offense, the Redskins would appear to be a safe salary-saving pivot from the Cardinals to lock in some decent fantasy production, while providing scoring upside against a quarterback with few sure-handed receivers outside of Stefon Diggs.
Tom Brady (Salary: $7,300). Earlier this week on the Footballguys' Powergrid, I pondered the "Gisele Bundchen Special," which is a contrived term to describe rostering "naked Tom Brady" in tournaments this weekend, where he is not stacked with a specific receiver because of how well the Patriots spread the ball around in their offense. After some additional time to analyze this game, there are probably some decent stacks, including Julian Edelman (see below), but Tom Brady remains an elite GPP option at the quarterback position for a number of reasons. First and foremost, many DFS players are going to be afraid of rostering an expensive QB against the Seattle defense, whose reputation far exceeds their results over the past month; in that period of time, the Seahawks have allowed 3 out of 4 opposing offenses to score 24 or more points, including solid fantasy performances by all four quarterbacks during that timeframe. Digging a bit deeper, the Seahawks' defense thrived earlier in the season, but their opposing QB's were (in order) Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum, Blaine Gabbert, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, none of whom strike fear into the hearts of defenses and three of whom will likely not be a starter by season's end. Since then, the Seahawks have yielded over 300 passing yards per game and look much more pedestrian than they have in previous seasons. Enter Tom Brady, who has multiple touchdowns in every start this season and 300+ passing yards in three of his four starts; in his previous two starts against better Seahawks' defenses, he has throttled them for over 700 passing yards and a total of 6 touchdowns. This looks to be a great spot for Brady and the Patriots for all of these reasons, particularly when one considers that Seattle is traveling cross-country on a short week after playing 95, 76, and 86 defensive plays over their previous three games.
Carson Wentz (Salary: $5,400). With only a pair of 300+ yard games under his belt and no games with more than two passing touchdowns, it would appear that Carson Wentz' ceiling is capped, which might ordinarily make him a subpar tournament play; however, Wentz' matchup this Sunday might change all of that and you will want a piece of him at single-digit percentage ownership levels. Wentz will be under center against the Falcons, a place that has been good to opposing quarterbacks this season because Atlanta is allowing a league-high 23.4 DraftKings points per game to the position. In fact, the Falcons have only allowed less than 20 fantasy points to opposing QB's in three (of nine) games this season; making matters worse for Atlanta is the fact that they will be without their shutdown cornerback, Desmond Trufant (shoulder), meaning that the secondary should be even worse in Week #10. The Eagles do not boast the most sure-handed of receiving corps, having dropped an astounding 10.5% of catchable passes this season, but that should not dissuade anybody from rostering Wentz in this spot because 7 out of the 9 QB's that have faced Atlanta this season have finished the week in the top 12 of fantasy scorers. If we consider that Atlanta should be able to put up points against this overrated Eagles' defense, as they have done against every other defense in the league this season, this game has shootout potential and Wentz will assuredly be a major part of that, particularly when his lead running back, Darren Sproles, tends to be heavily involved in the passing game, as well.
Jonathan Stewart (Salary: $4,900). With All-Pro Linebacker Justin Houston's return to the Chiefs around the corner, this may be the last week we can seriously discuss targeting running backs against Kansas City; without Houston in the lineup, the Chiefs are allowing nearly 30% more rushing yards per game this season when compared to last year. In fact, their 124.5 rushing yards allowed per game ranks them 27th in the NFL and the 4.8 yards per carry that they yield is 30th in the league. Just a week ago, the Chiefs allowed the lowly Jaguars to achieve the 100 rushing yard plateau for only the second time this season (25/140/0). This all sets up well for Jonathan Stewart, as the featured back in the Panthers' offense, who is averaging 20 touches per game since returning from an injury back in Week #6. Stewart has two two-touchdown efforts in his past three games and will benefit from the return of the Panthers' Center Ryan Kalil, whose absence last week was felt when Stewart finished with an embarrassing 15/42/0 stat line against the Rams. Stewart always makes for an excellent tournament play because nobody wants to pay ~ $5K for a running back who yields goalline carries to his quarterback, which leads to continuous single-digit ownership levels. If Cam continues to yield those goalline carries to Stewart moving forward, you will want to be ahead of the ownership curve and have a piece of him before the crowds join in.
Chris Ivory (Salary: $3,400). A hat-tip to fellow Footballguy, Sigmund Bloom, for talking about Chris Ivory's fantasy prospects on our weekly PowerGrid show/podcast this week. With Bloom's interest, there was reason to dig a bit deeper and all the pieces are there for another big game from Chris Ivory, a week after he logged his first 100 yard performance of the season against the Chiefs. The first bit of evidence to suggest that Ivory will continue to put up good fantasy numbers is the fact that last week's big day came on the heels of the Jaguars making a change at the Offensive Coordinator position, firing Greg Olson and promoting Nathaniel Hackett from Quarterbacks Coach; in his first game as OC, Hackett force-fed Ivory, who responded with some very Ivory'esque-like downhill running between the tackles for the first time in recent memory. Ivory finished the afternoon with 18 carries for 107 yards (5.9 yards per carry), his highest total since Week #6 of 2015. Meanwhile, the matchup aligns nicely for Ivory because Houston has the league's 28th ranked DVOA rush defense, allowing 125.8 rushing yards per game (28th in NFL), but has actually defended pass-catching running backs well, as only five teams allow less fantasy points to RB's via the passing game. Lastly, if we consider the Vegas odds (Jacksonville, -2 points) and likely gamescript, this could be another solid fantasy performance from a well-rested Chris Ivory (58 rushes through 9 weeks) at a pittance of a salary.
Julio Jones (Salary: $9,500). At $9.5K, Julio Jones is going to be underowned on Sunday because (literally) half of the DFS-playing population will have spent nearly $9K on David Johnson and will not want to double-down on another $9K player in Julio Jones. That said, Jones is an elite, high-upside GPP option this weekend for that reason--he brings 30+ fantasy point upside to the table and should do so at reasonable ownership rates (~ 10%). Others are simply going to dismiss him because, on paper, his matchup looks tough due to the Eagles' current #1 pass defense ranking (DVOA). That said, Matt Ryan has carved apart better secondaries this season (i.e., Seattle: 335 yards & 3 TD's) and will have Narrative Street in his corner when he makes a homecoming appearance in Philadelphia, where he went to high school at William Penn Charter. Jones will run 70% of his snaps against either Nolan Carroll or Leodis McKelvin, who rank 86th and 87th in coverage (out of 117) by ProFootballFocus; just last week, McKelvin allowed three touchdowns while in coverage and eventually was benched in favor of rookie Jalen Mills, who enters this week as the worst-rated coverage cornerback in the league. How is the Eagles' secondary so highly perceived with substandard cornerback play? The answer is not surprising--they have not faced a lot of elite talent at the WR position this season and when they have, they have been beaten soundly (see Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant, and Antonio Brown). Lastly, the Eagles did not allow a pass TD for the first three weeks of the season, but have yielded 12 passing TD's since that time, which ties them for most in the league over that span, a trend that further bolsters the argument for Julio Jones in tournament play.
Julian Edelman (Salary: $6,000). If you are rostering Tom Brady in tournament formats, you can certainly justify pairing him with Rob Gronkowski because Gronk has either 100+ receiving yards and/or a touchdown in every game since Brady returned from suspension; likewise, you could go contrarian away from Gronkowski with his counterpart, Martellus Bennett, whose price is half of Gronk, but whose upside is similar, as we all saw back in Week #5 when Bennett scored three times against the Browns. The argument against going with a Patriot tight end is that Seattle has allowed the 3rd least number of fantasy points to that position this season, although it should be pointed out that they have not faced a tight end of the caliber New England will put on the field on Sunday night. One position that has given the Seattle defense fits, however, is the slot receiver; this past Monday night, Seattle allowed Robert Woods to compile 10 catches for 162 yards, not to mention a solid performance by Larry Fitzgerald (9/70/0) just two weeks prior to that performance. For the most part, however, the Seahawks have not faced elite slot receivers, which has largely hidden the fact that they line up one of the worst slot coverage cornerbacks in the league (Jeremy Lane) at that position; Lane is getting targeted about once every six snaps while in coverage in the slot, a number that could extrapolate to 10-14 targets for Edelman on Sunday night. If we take that analysis a step further and see that opposing quarterbacks are completing nearly 80% of those targets, Edelman could be in store for a huge night against Seattle, particularly because perennial All-Pro CB Richard Sherman will be locking down the perimeter and creating further opportunity for inside routes that favor Edelman's fantasy prospects.
Jordan Reed (Salary: $6,200). Coming off a bye week that was preceded by an early, relatively unwatched game in London the week prior, there is reason to believe that Jordan Reed could be underowned this week despite carrying as much upside as any player at the tight end position. Further supporting that logic is the fact that Reed and the Redskins will face-off against the Vikings, who boast the league's 4th overall ranked DVOA defense, which should prevent a majority of DFS players from wanting to pay Reed's substantial $6.2K price tag. That said, Reed is an excellent GPP play for a litany of different reasons. First, he is effectively the WR1 on this offense, averaging 9.8 targets per game and leading the team in targets despite missing a pair of games due to a concussion; that fact becomes more pronounced when we take into account that Desean Jackson will not play this Sunday, thereby necessitating the redistribution of his 7.0 targets per game to the other Redskins' receivers, including Reed. Inside the redzone, Kirk Cousins will have to decide between Jamison Crowder at 5'8", Pierre Garcon at 6'0", or Jordan Reed at 6'3", which makes the choice quite easy for Cousins. Some will point out that the Vikings have not allowed a touchdown to the TE position all season, which is fair, but they have given up back-to-back 15+ fantasy point games to Eric Ebron and Zach Miller, an emerging trend that favors Jordan Reed, who is the focal point of his offense and a superior talent.
Travis Kelce (Salary: $5,600). To be fair, Travis Kelce is a borderline cash game tight end this week, now that we know Jeremy Maclin (groin) will not be playing. Like Jordan Reed (above), Kelce should become the key receiver in an otherwise bland Alex Smith-led passing game. The thing is, however, that the Chiefs are going to have to pass the ball in order to be competitive against the Panthers because Carolina boasts one of the better rush defenses in the league (4th DVOA; 3.3 yards per carry, 1st in NFL). With the strength of that Panther front seven, Spencer Ware should be largely contained, thereby putting pressure on Alex Smith to find the open receiver; without Maclin, who leads the team in targets (56; 7.0 per game), Kelce should be the next man in line and will certainly be the primary receiver inside the 20-yard line, having already entered this game with a team-high 11 redzone targets with Maclin on the field. The matchup for Kelce is solid, as the Panthers have allowed the 4th most fantasy points to the TE position this season and that number is probably skewed low because Carolina has yet to face an elite tight end of Kelce's ilk. The big question will be where Kelce's ownership levels fall? Considering his salary is substantially higher than likely chalk favorites, Zach Ertz and Zach Miller, but only ~ $1K away from Rob Gronkowski, the possibility exists that he will go underowned despite the plus matchup and two-touchdown upside. For these reasons, he should be given serious consideration for tournament play in Week #10.
Also eligible: Martellus Bennett (Salary: $3,400).
Panthers (Salary: $3,200). The 3-5 Panthers will host the Chiefs in a must-win situation this weekend in Charlotte. Carolina is currently dead-last in the NFC South, but was a preseason favorite to win the division; if they want to cash in on that preseason glamour, the Panthers are going to have to put together a string of wins through the latter half of the season, including this contest against the Chiefs. The overall matchup against Kansas City is solid because Kansas City is best when they can set up their passing game with the run, but it is difficult to envision Spencer Ware finding space against this 4th ranked DVOA rush defense (3.3 yards per carry; best in NFL), particularly coming off a three-week hiatus; furthermore, the Chiefs will be without Jeremy Maclin, their leading receiver, due to a groin injury, which will certainly affect their ability to move the chains in key situations. Carolina can be beaten through the air, as evidenced by the 17 passing touchdowns they have allowed this season, but they are fourth in the league in sacks (24) and it is difficult to envision Alex Smith picking up the slack and carrying this Chiefs' team to a win without a significant contribution from Spencer Ware and Jeremy Maclin watching from the sidelines.
Rams (Salary: $2,900). Seldom will you find a visiting, non-dominant defense in this space, but the Rams represent an exception to that rule this weekend when they take the field against the Jets in the Meadowlands. The Jets are currently debating on whether Ryan Fitzpatrick can start this game due to an MCL sprain suffered last week, which could mean that Bryce Petty could get the first start of his career, if Fitzpatrick is unable to go on Sunday. Either way, the Rams are licking their chops at the prospect of facing off against either of those options; Fitzpatrick has thrown 13 interceptions (versus 8 touchdowns) this season, while Petty has a career total of 4 pass attempts, both of which are attractive options for the Rams, who quietly boast the league's 10th best defense against the QB position. Meanwhile, the Jets will be without both Center Nick Mangold and LT Ryan Clady, which is going to clog up the middle for Matt Forte against the league's 7th ranked DVOA rush defense. Add in the fact that the Jets have the 2nd worst red zone efficiency (38.2%) in the league and this could be a perfect storm to save money at the team defense position and still generate solid return on investment with the Rams.
Also eligible: Chargers ($2,900), Jaguars (Salary: $2,300).