Simply put: you’re going to want to check in here each week before setting your DraftKings lineups. That’s because I’ll be helping you sift through your DFS options without spinning my wheels talking fantasy scoring.
No, my goal will not be to opine to you on the highest scoring plays of the week’s slate; that’s a semi-fruitless task, and one you’re swarmed with on any other DFS advice site. Rather, I’m going to be reporting to you on the value of your options – their scoring abilities relative to their salaries. You’ll be filled in on the results of two weekly measures:
DK Points is the player’s DraftKings projection for the week, rooted in the offense’s and defense’s performances over the last three weeks. Please note that the goal of these projections is NOT to predict an exact point total; I’m not interested in supernaturally conjuring visions of A.J. Green’s next 40-point explosion. Rather, I’m keeping a tight view of a player’s capabilities and seeking the likely outcome of his matchup – in a sense, I’m seeking out his probabilities of reaching a certain scoring level. As a result, these projections are generally geared toward cash contests, where conservative estimates of player floors, not ceilings, rule the roost.
H-value is an attempt to reconcile a player’s scoring projection with his per-dollar value. You can’t fill a lineup with exclusively high-salaried players, and you’d never load up on just cheap, low-ceiling options. H-value brings the two together, marrying a player’s projected scoring and salary to lay out his true meaning to a DFS roster. The formula is simple:
(DK Pts^1.73205 / DK Sal) * 2,000
Please note that H-value is calculated based on my projections, which are rooted in recent performance in similar games. Despite the conservative nature of my model, we often see surprising outliers, especially when a guy is projected based on just one or two games. As a result, my H-value numbers serve as a guideline to my rankings, as opposed to generating my final list all by itself. Context is key, which is why you may see H-value numbers that don’t match my priorities. For my purposes, H-value is a generalized mapping of the slate’s value, a starting point from which common sense asks me to deviate a little.
On to my Week 14 DraftKings plays:
I’ve debated Rodgers v. Russell Wilson all week as my premier value play, and for cash purposes, I’ve landed on Rodgers. Obviously cash games call for more of a look at floor than at ceiling, and Rodgers does face the Seahawks. But this defense, while stout, is no longer too prohibitive in fantasy matchups. That’s especially true with All-World Earl Thomas sidelined. Rodgers has thrown for 294+ yards in 6 of 8 games, and thrown multiple touchdowns in 5 of them. All told, the warts Rodgers carries right now simply don’t matter with his miniscule salary; he needs just 19-20 points to cash. That’s a mark he’s obliterated in six of his last seven games, and one that prolific Seahawks opponents consistently hit.
He’ll be all the rage this week, underpriced against a Packers pass defense that’s vacillated between mediocre and atrocious. Only three teams have allowed more touchdown passes, and five of their last six opposing QBs have reached universal cash value. Even struggling passers Carson Wentz and Brock Osweiler have landed near their season-highs in recent Packers matchups. Simply put, they can’t stop anyone consistently, so Wilson’s recent struggles should right themselves into cash value this week. He comes a bit too cheaply, especially if his dual-threat potential shows up.
He’s certainly underachieved lately, dinking and dunking with unpredictable efficiency as Rob Gronkowski sits out. Brady has only reached cash value twice over the last six weeks, with more volume-stable options panning out up and down each slate. Still, you want in on him in tournament play. His Week 14 salary has deflated, but his ownership will as well. Even at the discount, he still checks in as the week’s third-highest QB salary, a mark that should scare off chunks of recent Brady burn victims. Given his ever-present potential to casually toss 4 short touchdowns and/or provide 4x value, he should always be part of your GPP portfolio at such an affordable cost.
He’s a favorite of the Footballguys this week, sitting as my No. 5 value play and making the top threes of two other FBGs. He remains volatile, of course, as much of his fantasy appeal stems from unpredictable rushing touchdowns. But in his case, maybe we can see them coming by now. On the year he’s taken 8 rushes from inside the 10-yard line, just 1 fewer than Cam Newton, and scored with decent regularity. With his salary staying low, a TD on the ground would only require about 175 yards and another score through the -air to land GPP value. He’s arguably the safest bet among this sad, shaky pricing tier.
Once again, the two big daddies loom over the rest of the slate. Both these guys are high-ceiling and exceptionally high-floor plays, and despite their sometimes prohibitive price tags, both typically wind up returning cash value. In fact, we have to go back to Week 9 to find Bell’s last week under the 3x marker, and Week 8 for Johnson. Both are so woven into everything their offense does (Bell averages 27.0 touches per game, Johnson 24.3) that they really can’t help but stumble to their cash floors with even modest efficiency. Both figure prominently into their passing games, both see goal line volume, and both are dynamic enough to create out of bad situations. You want them in your cash lineups, regardless of the cost; this kind of production is what you were saving up for, anyway. A 30-point bombshell from one of them paired with a strong semi-punt elsewhere is generally a safer path to cash value than a mix-and-match of mid-tier options. In other words, you want a combination like Bell and Malcolm Mitchell more than something like Melvin Gordon and DeAndre Hopkins.
As shrewd DFSers know, opportunity is king in cash games, even surpassing talent and matchup in importance. There’s obviously merit to tracking the best players against the worst teams, but doing so as your cash-play lynchpin is shortsighted and a path to losing bankroll. Rather than anticipating efficiency numbers, you should be chasing guys whom you know will see the chance to produce, because football is exceptionally fickle. Great players and scintillating matchups can and will let you down tremendously. It’s in that vein that Hill gets another teeth-gritting cash recommendation; even if you don’t believe in his ability (and you shouldn’t right now), it’s typically wise to pay for the opportunities. Hill hasn’t thoroughly dominated the backfield sans-Giovani Bernard, ceding change-of-pace work to Rex Burkhead while taking just 53% of Bengals snaps. But he has won the touch battle in those two games 18-7 and 25-12. Burkhead is no Bernard, and this backfield has a clear-cut bell cow in play. DraftKings pricing is catching up to this, and $5,800 seems like a steep cost for such an underproducer. But Hill should see a minimum of 23-25 touches Sunday, and his matchup with the Browns only sweetens things. Chase the touches – and the chalk – in the name of security.
Many will be blinded by the top two options on the board, and even a few more will be nervous over McCoy’s recent injury stretch. That, of course, would just mean all of the McCoy value for you. He looks to be set up beautifully for a Sunday of easy cash value against a Steelers defense that’s shut down some anemic run offenses lately, but can be gashed by better ones. And his ownership levels – as well as the dynamic yardage potential he boasts – make him an equally strong play in GPP formats. He’d need to hit 30 points for that kind of value, yes, but he’s managed 32.4 and 29.1 over the last two weeks. And he hasn’t done it with touchdowns; it’s been the 6.47 yards-per-carry mark that’s maximized his volume to DFS-crushing levels. All told, he’s a very fair GPP pivot from the big two salaries, with a very similar ceiling.
DFSers are coming off of him in droves, with Johnson, Bell, and McCoy gobbling up the high-dollar ownership. It certainly doesn’t help that Gordon takes on a Panthers defense that’s traditionally stout against the run. But they’re anything but invincible – Thomas Rawls and the Seahawks just gashed them for 240 yards and 3 ground touchdowns last Sunday. And Gordon, for all of his warts, remains a bell cow and short-yardage stud in a matchup projected near 50 points. He’s run the ball from inside the 10-yard line more than anyone in football, and he’d likely benefit handsomely from a high-paced game that plops the Chargers in the dark zone a few times. That would make him an upper-crust workhorse priced significantly below those three names above.
The former fullback has been voluminous and productive through five games as Washington’s starter. Most importantly for our purposes, he’s priced much closer to his midlevel projection than his floor. Kelley carries almost all of Washington’s mail, with Matt Jones squarely in the rear-view mirror, and he’s dominated opportunity near the goal line. Over that five-game stretch, the team has run the ball 12 times inside the 10-yard line, and Kelly has taken 11 of those carries. That means he’s the bell cow for a successful offense, and he’ll see as much opportunity share to find the end zone as just about anyone league-wide. The only thing really missing is receiving production, but Kelley makes up for that upside with his touchdown capabilities. Registering 70-80 yards and finding the end zone are virtually all he needs to do to return GPP value.
You may feel that he’s let you down this year, particularly in season-long fantasy, but look closer. Beckham is on pace for a season of 100 catches, 1,353 yards, and 12 scores – right in line with the league’s top producers. And there’s been little week-to-week dynamism; he’s topped 20 points 6 times on the year and either achieved or approached cash value in 3 of his last 4 games. Why he comes markedly cheaper than three other WR options is puzzling, but I’ll happily take advantage. The Cowboys secondary is a shambles, missing its only truly capable cornerback and having allowed 343.3 air yards since Week 10. That includes noodle-armed Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ anemic offense, which managed to throw for 247 yards 2 weeks back. Eli Manning is slumping, but his connection with Beckham isn’t, and this is just a phenomenal matchup. Beckham’s hefty discount could hardly have come at a better time.
It’s odd that Brown checks in cheaper than Mike “Disappearing Act” Evans this week, but thanks, DraftKings. I’ll always jump at the chance to add the league’s most productive wideout at a modest discount. Brown needs roughly 26 points to cash in Buffalo, a mark he’s hit twice in 4 weeks, and he always boasts a devastating ceiling. While he spends much of his time in short-to-intermediate PPR heaven, don’t lose sight of the 11 touchdowns he’s already caught during his “disappointing” season. If you’re not rostering Beckham, then don’t overthink things, and don’t get psyched out by DraftKings’ pricing shift. Brown is as rock-solid as a wideout comes, and his ceiling is always incalculable on a David Johnson/LeVeon Bell level.
So that’s where Tom Brady wants to go with Rob Gronkowski out. These two have combined to draw 62 targets over the past 3 weeks, good for 46% of Brady’s throws. Mitchell’s play has been more dynamic – he probably fits better in GPP play, where his relative uncertainty won’t hurt you as much and his real weekly 15-point upside would pay off better. But Edelman is the stronger cash play by far, boasting 3.6x, 2.4x, and 3.1x value over those three games. He’s been Brady’s true security blanket for years now, and even on PPR-based DraftKings, his salary isn’t exploding like you’d expect. Still under $7,000, Edelman looks locked into a route to cash value. The Ravens’ stout secondary will likely funnel Patriots play inward, where his quick slants and screens could pay major PPR dividends. Again, he really should cost a few hundred dollars more.
It feels weird to suggest an Eagles receiver not named Jordan Matthews as a cash play, but here we are. Green-Beckham has clawed his way into the conversation with hefty volume, and while he hasn’t been very efficient, the laws of mean regression tell us to bank on him reaching 3x value this week. Skeptics will point out that his catch rate and team’s lack of dark zone opportunity dampens his value, and they’re not wrong. But shrewd DFSers note that he’s drawn 28 targets over the last 3 weeks as he’s clearly asserted himself into Doug Pederson’s plans. That does seem like an awfully robust workload for him, and dynamic guys like Green-Beckham can fall off the map at any second. But at just $3,800, he doesn’t need more than 4-5 receptions to hold water in your lineup. Volume like his fits well into both cash and GPP portfolios, and his ceiling could really turn either your way.
No one wants to choose among the Packers for cash purposes, but they obviously offer gobs of tournament value. With an elite quarterback who makes hay in the dark zone and has no real run game to lean on, this team has to project to multiple touchdown passes, even against a good-not-great Seattle secondary. Jordy Nelson is historically held in check by Richard Sherman, limiting his floor and ceiling, but Adams and Cobb stand as underpriced options to cash in on just that. Cobb carries strong appeal in that scenario, running his routes against medicore slot cornerback Jeremy Lane. But Adams looks like the real gem here. His target share isn’t elite, and he’s turned in DFS clunkers in two of his last four games. But $5,500 is too cheap for a guy who’s posted 3.9x and 4.7x lines over the past month and will likely see limited Sherman. Adams has produced in and out of the dark zone, so a shootout of any magnitude could easily steer 5 catches, 90 yards, a touchdown, and 4x value his way.
He’s back and flying largely under the radar, catching just six balls in two games since returning from injury. But both performances have hinted at stronger things to come. In Week 12 he scorched the Jaguars for 80 yards on just 3 catches, and last week he drew a team-high nine targets across 49 snaps, coming up just short on several connections with Tyrod Taylor. He could’ve easily racked up 25 DraftKings points last Sunday. And I really love his Week 14 matchup. The Steelers have been hard on wideouts lately, but they’ve also faced a pretty sorry batch of quarterbacks over the past few weeks. Their incredibly shaky safeties are typically ripe for downfield beatings and chunk plays, and few provide those with the aptitude of Watkins. As always, keep monitoring our news feed Sunday morning for reports of his health level, but be prepared to take the cheapish plunge.
Britt’s price tag is again deflating, but why? Sure, he’s in a mostly putrid offense and catching balls from a rookie, but it has yet to slow down his 2016 resurgence. Britt has scored in back-to-back weeks and nailed down 16 targets along the way; that’s a dominant 25% share of Jared Goff’s throws. Even with modest efficiency, he’s in play to reach solid GPP value against a Falcons secondary that’s overachieved without its top cornerback, Desmond Trufant. A letdown day in coverage would set up Britt to catch the 5-6 high-impact balls he’d need to reach 20 points.
It’s almost criminal to see his price tumble after a solid week of 2.9x value. Walker has barely hiccupped since his Week 7-10 eruption, yet he suddenly costs less than Will Fuller. It’s baffling, but I’m looking to take advantage. Walker’s target share has dipped a bit over the last two weeks, but certainly not enough to fret over – he’s led the team in targets in 5 of his 11 games thus far and could stand as its most dynamic threat. Even on weeks of lower volume (3-4 catches), his floor is bolstered by his down-the-seams prowess and strong 50-yard potential. There are several strong value options at TE this week, but none under $5,000 with Walker’s upside.
Like Walker, his target share is all over the place, though his floor and efficiency remain strong. And he’s on an upswing, too. Over the past two weeks, Graham has posted 67 and 63 yards while leading the Seahawks in targets. He’s a bit pricey, but his very real touchdown potential can easily carry him to cash value. Vegas projects Seattle to 25.25 points, and if we can project Graham as the 1B option at worst, it’s safe to tentatively expect a touchdown. Graham is no plug-and-play option, as this slate is packed with TE value, but his outlook is sturdy and dynamic.
Brate struggles to gain respect and traction in terms of ownership, which is great for his GPP value. He is getting a gradual boost from DraftKings’ pricing system, as he’s up to a season-high $4,100 for Week 14, but that’s not prohibitive at all. With his surprising usage (6.0 targets per game over his last 5) and touchdown chops (6, with a team lead in dark zone targets), he’s topped or approached this 16-point GPP marker 4 times already. Don’t be scared off by the price tag; many DFS will be, and they’ll miss out on his real 20-point potential.
So that’s what he can do in Pittsburgh. I’ve been driving the Green Bus for several years now – and I haven’t been alone, of course. His supreme size/athleticism blend and playmaking flashes have tantalized for years, but a murky injury situation cost him more than half of his 2016 Steelers debut. He’s hit the ground running, though, and his Week 13 snap explosion (from 14 to 35) bodes very well for his chances of spinning potential into gold. He’s no sure thing, of course, especially in a road matchup, in which Ben Roethlisberger’s production often dips noticeably. But it’s great that his price tag has yet to rise anywhere near his ability. He would’ve reached this 15-point marker last week even without reaching 100 yards or finding the end zone (both of which he did, for fun).
He’s been anemic lately, disappearing along with all of the dynamism we’ve come to expect from the Carolina offense. But take heart in his history, and that the Panthers could be all set to erupt in scoring this week. Their home date with the Chargers calls by Vegas for a 48.5-point total, and as I discussed in yesterday’s article, that might actually be a stingy projection. If the game becomes the shootout it certainly could, Olsen would need a line around 6 catches, 80 yards, and a score to hit tournament value. With so many owners recently burned by him, that could combine with low ownership to make him the week’s no-duh GPP-tilter.
They’re playing the Jaguars, but there’s more to their appeal. Over the past 3 weeks they’ve been stingy on scoring (19.0 PPG allowed) and solid on sacks (3.3), stifling some solid offenses along the way. They’ve also scored six defensive touchdowns on the year. The slate-high salary is a drag, but it’s not prohibitive; all of the strongest D/ST options are clustered at the top salary-wise. Minnesota represents the best floor for just a tiny premium.
They’ll be popular by virtue of matchup, and rightfully so. They’ve reached double-digit scoring twice over the past three weeks, and the Matt Barkley-led Bears offense is relatively anemic, and the takeaway potential here is relatively high. The Lions have forced seven turnovers over their last three games, including three picks of Drew Brees in the Superdome last week.
The Jaguars are awful and will likely lose to the Vikings, but that certainly doesn’t doom their D/ST prospects. The Minnesota offense is fairly toothless, managing just 33 points over the last two weeks, and this defensive unit is a tad underrated. They generate sacks at a dynamic, if unreliable, rate, and look destined for a showdown of the 17-16 variety. Coming with massive salary relief, you could do a lot worse than spending up elsewhere and rolling with this $2,500 crew. If it’s able to turn, say, Melvin Gordon into David Johnson, then you’re probably walking away with a net gain.