DraftKings Cost Efficiency Rundown: Week 15

A look at DraftKings' Week 15 player pool, with an eye on value and cost efficiency

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 Mike Evans' 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 15 DraftKings plays:

 

Quarterback

 

Cash Considerations

Aaron Rodgers

Another week, another solid 3x performance from Rodgers, this time against the vaunted Seattle secondary. He was mega-efficient Sunday, completing 16 of his 23 balls and posting his fourth straight game with a rating of 108.0 or better. Given his propensity to throw touchdowns (10 over the last 4 weeks) and typically strong floor for volume, Rodgers again stands atop the field in terms of downside/upside blend. Game flow isn’t much of a concern, either; he’s surpassed this 21-point marker in the Packers’ last 5 blowouts, including a 56-attempt, 326-yard, 3-touchdown humdinger against these Bears in Week 7. No concerns here, for as long as his cost stays below $7,500 or so.

Kirk Cousins

He’ll be very chalky this week in a matchup with the woeful Panthers pass defense, and that seems fair. Carolina has allowed 7 of the last 10 quarterbacks it’s faced to throw for 284+ yards, and 6 of those reached cash value. But Cousins himself has been a fine producer, averaging 335.7 over his last 7 and throwing multiple touchdowns in 5 of them. He’s not the rock-solid stud you’d associate with this swollen salary, but he seems squarely in place to cash it in for value. To top the 20-point barrier, all he needs are 2 touchdowns and a thoroughly reachable 290 yards. In a game Vegas projects to 51 points, that’s reasonable, especially considering the chalk he’ll carry.

GPP Options

Tom Brady

DFSers can indeed find themselves burned when dipping into the Brady well. For all of his volume, Brady is never a lead-pipe lock to reach 300 yards or 3 touchdowns. Game flow tends to dictate his opportunity, and his relative lack of deep-ball volume or rushing production can ding his weekly floor. A date with Denver’s daunting pass defense doesn’t make him seem much more attractive, especially with a top-four QB salary, but Brady can never be counted out for value Note that, in two meetings with the Broncos last year, he threw for 280 and 310 yards with 4 total touchdowns. This week, his Patriots will likely dictate game flow against a fairly toothless Broncos offense, keeping him on the field and his volume outlook steady. With 3 touchdowns and an approach near 300 yards – always in Brady’s wheelhouse – he’d easily bring home GPP value on what will certainly be his lowest-owned DFS week.

Alex Smith

He’s a weekly staple in the Footballguys’ value rankings, and I’m finally back on board for the week. His date with the Titans is mouthwatering, as is the dynamism throughout his receiving staff that really buoys his low-risk game. In Travis Kelce he has a dependable yardage machine, and in rookie Tyreek Hill he has an electrifying dual threat capable of maximizing whatever volume Smith carries week-to-week. Smith has only reached this 20-point GPP value marker twice all year, but his Week 15 odds seem strong. The Titans have allowed 300+ yards to 6 of the last 8 passers they’ve faced, including the likes of Matt Barkley and Trevor Siemian. Costing just $5,400, Smith is looking at strong odds of approaching 4x value.


 

Running Back

 

Cash Considerations

LeVeon Bell

Just play him. If you’re interested in ceiling, you know he’s a top-two weekly play (at worst) regardless of position. If you’re chasing floors in a cash game, you know his dual-threat dynamism and red zone efficiency are script-resistant, and that no other back inspires this much weekly confidence. Bell is indeed priced through the roof, but with RB workloads always uncertain and even top backs held in check unexpectedly, Bell is actually a safe, steady play at $9,800. With the Steelers on the road and Ben Roethlisberger likely to struggle, nothing obvious stands between Bell and a 25-touch minimum. His truly awe-inspiring production makes 25 touches a near-mortal lock for cash value – he’s reached this 29-point marker in 3 of his last 5 games and come up just short in the other two. Get on board, and enjoy the small but helpful discount from similar option David Johnson.

Ezekiel Elliott

He’s costly, sure, but he’s also a mega-consistent producer taking on an overwhelmed defense as a seven-point favorite. That’s typically a recipe for high volume and high scoring opportunity, so Elliott sits as the week’s top option for DFSers looking to avoid the top two salaries. He’s been given 25+ carries-plus-targets in 4 of his last 5 games, churning out yardage (114.5 per game) and touchdowns (3) at a solid rate over that span. This salary will require a small boost from that production, but he could hardly find himself with a better outlook for that. The Buccaneers have allowed 10 of the 14 running games they’ve faced to top 105 yards, and the Cowboys project to a solid 26.75 points Sunday. All told, I don’t like Elliott’s outlook more than that of LeSean McCoy, but the $700 discount is of prime importance with the week’s tight DraftKings pricing. And unlike McCoy, Elliott shares the backfield production with no one; if expected game flow holds up, he’ll threaten for the Week 15 crown in volume and find the end zone at least once.

Latavius Murray

It looks as though his volume and touchdown dynamism are finally panning out consistently. Murray has definitively held off all comers as the Raiders feature back, and this year, that’s been a valuable thing. As the offense has blossomed, Murray has quietly produced, and he’s reached this week’s 17-point value marker in 5 of his last 7 games. Much of that is due to volume, as he’s topping 20 touches consistently and catching nearly all of the backfield’s passes with Marcel Reece out of town. But he’s also shown marked upside, leading the league with 11 dark zone rushes over the last 3 weeks and totaling 4 touchdowns over that span. Still, his DraftKings price tag just won’t erupt; he’s still below the $6,000 mark despite an elite stranglehold over his backfield. This week he sits in a fine spot to hit his cash-value goal: the Chargers struggle to defend the run, and Vegas projects the Raiders to 26.25 points. Given recent history, there’s a strong chance Murray will factor nicely into their scoring.

GPP Options

David Johnson

Far be it from me to discourage you from using Johnson in cash games. Like Bell, he’s a certified stud and the absolute engine behind what his offense does, notching 100+ scrimmage yards in every game thus far. He’s generally matchup-proof, having shredded his share of stout defenses this year, and will take on a shaky Saints defense at home this week. His floor is just fine, generally speaking, but that $10,100 price tag is so cumbersome. Rostering Johnson requires you to play a low-salaried lottery ticket at another position, which is always risky in cash. That makes him a much better fit in tournament play, where we’re chasing upside and already looking to roster dirt-cheap value plays anyway. And aside from Bell, no DFS option on the slate, regardless of position, carries a sexier ceiling. Johnson would need at least 37-38 points to pay off in a GPP, a daunting task until you realize he’s reached that mark 4 times already.

Ryan Mathews

Mathews is nobody’s idea of a consistent, dependable option. He’s perma-hurt, he doesn’t catch passes, and he shares his backfield with an established change-of-pace back. But those factors only serve to push his salary and ownership levels down, and right now, he’s priced at the point that just a moderate lead-back Sunday would bring GPP value. With Wendell Smallwood out, Mathews is Doug Pederson’s primary ballcarrier, so 15-20 touches are almost certainly in the cards. And given the Eagles’ propensity to run the ball from near the goal line – only six teams have registered more dark zone rushes – the opportunity should be in play for Mathews to find the end zone, even against Baltimore. If he can score, all he’ll need to land tournament value is a solid day of 70-90 scrimmage yards. With a $3,900 price tag, he’s a very fair dice roll in deep GPPs, where a sub-1% ownership guy like Mathews can bring tournament-tilting value.


 

Wide Receiver

 

Cash Considerations

Jordy Nelson

It’s been a whirlwind season for Packers WR values, but Nelson has predictably emerged as Aaron Rodgers’ most dependable high-volume target. He’s drawn double-digit targets in 4 of his last 6 games, and he’s spun all 4 into 91 yards or more. That’s not to mention that he leads the league in dark zone targets and touchdown catches, including two from last week’s matchup with the Seahawks. But what makes him most attractive is his Week 15 salary, which is depressed from those of several top-tier wideouts in shakier matchups. Nelson represents a discount of $700-$1,100 from the highest salaries at the position despite carrying a similar floor and ceiling to all of them into Sunday. Kick back and enjoy the savings.

Odell Beckham Jr.

He’s likely to see some shadow coverage from Darius Slay, but not exclusively. The Giants will move him around the formation to find mismatches, and few weapons are as adept at exploiting weakness than Beckham. In other words, the cash-game floor we can expect from Beckham isn’t nearly as dead as you might think; DFSers often carry the bad habit of dismissing such cornerback matchups out of hand. Don’t lose sight of Beckham’s salary value – costing a reasonable $8,000, he can reach cash value on just 5 or 6 high-impact receptions. Since “high-impact” is pretty much all Beckham does, we can paste strong efficiency expectations on whatever volume he sees and feel comfortable in his approach to 24 points.

Malcolm Mitchell

The fantasy community will invariably flock to newly-minted Patriots starters, and Mitchell is probably no exception. His recent barrage has been very nice, averaging a line of 5 catches, 66 yards, and a touchdown over the last four games. But is he a cash option yet? Discerning DFSers will note that his target share hasn’t been elite; he’s averaging a hair under 6.0 during this stretch. Still, on a slate where premium running back costs are crucial, players will need to mine the WR ranks for value. Mitchell brings that, even if it’s mostly in ceiling. Besides, his floor isn’t especially scary. He’s priced as the WR42 and isn’t likely to cripple your cash roster at that discount. He’d likely flirt with cash value on just five catches.

Marqise Lee

Against all odds, and amidst the Jaguars’ broken season, Lee has developed into a semi-reliable week-to-week fantasy threat. He’s drawn 6+ targets in six straight games, and 8+ in four of those, a very big deal for a guy who’s looked more like a bust than even a contributor as a pro. That’s comparable volume to what Allen Robinson sees, though Lee’s short-oriented game is more dependable and conducive to PPR value. As a result, Robinson is stranded in pray-for-touchdowns mode while Lee is a weekly DraftKings asset. And at just $4,000, he’s a great value play; that salary doesn’t reflect his true floor. He’s reached this 12-point cash marker 4 times recently and approached it another. If you’re looking for ways to shoehorn top-flight running backs onto your roster, feel free to hold your nose and play Lee.

GPP Options

Sammy Watkins

He’s back from the dead, and he’s been particularly efficient with his good-not-great workload. Through three games back in the lineup, Watkins has produced a very solid 1.84 DraftKings points per target. That, of course, forecasts a huge day when he finally target-hogs for a whole afternoon. And considering he’s fully healthy, that could happen at any moment. Over the last two weeks he’s paced the team in targets, and with his subpar catch rate likely to correct, we could be on the verge of seeing a seven- or eight-catch day. You want in on that when it happens, and I presume you’d love to pay less than $6,000 for it.

Amari Cooper

Cooper’s Week 15 appeal stems not from his recent play, but from his potential for major opportunity. He’s averaged fewer than six targets per game over his last five, but could be looking at double digits Sunday. Michael Crabtree dislocated a finger last Thursday and has practiced on a limited basis since; he’s vowed to suit up against the Chargers, but could find his workload decreased. Fingers are crucial to a receiver’s dependability, as Sammie Coates would attest to, and it’s fair to wonder if Derek Carr will focus heavily on Cooper instead. And high-volume days for Cooper often result in fireworks. Prior to last week’s dud, he’d averaged a stunning 26.8 DraftKings points when seeing a double-digit target load (an 8-game sample). And his last meeting with the Chargers – a 6-catch, 138-yards, 1-touchdown affair – inspires a lot of ceiling confidence.

DeAndre Hopkins

Yes, ugh. What a nasty follow-up to a truly brilliant 2015. In any event, though, Hopkins’ price tag has dwindled all the way to Cole Beasley levels. It makes sense, as he’s topped five receptions just once since Week 3 and sits near the bottom of full-time wideouts in yardage efficiency. Blame his quarterback, but don’t point the finger squarely at Hopkins. He’s a mega-talent with the ability to transcend when the stars align, and this is too cheap for his ceiling. Brock Osweiler is bad, and the Texans offense is toothless, but Hopkins is the most gifted receiver in this salary range by several miles. Situation aside, no semi-cheap wideout is more capable of reaching 20 points.


 

Tight End

 

Cash Considerations

Travis Kelce

He’s been producing like crazy, and most of your fellow DFSers will be all over him, so Kelce just screams “cash play.” And it’s a bit wild that his salary hasn’t ballooned further over the past month, considering his four straight 100-yard performances. There’s reason for that, as Jeremy Maclin is (presumably) rounding into health, so projecting another week in triple digits looks foolhardy. But Kelce doesn’t necessarily need 100 yards to bring home cash value. His volume (9.0 targets per game over his last 7) is strong enough to easily withstand a mild Maclin-related dip; if we can project 7-8 targets, then another 5- or 6-catch day is well within reach. And given Kelce’s dynamism (a studly 13.1 yards per catch on the year), we can safely expect another strong yardage day. Maclin may be on the mend, but it seems unlikely he’ll fully supplant Kelce as Alex Smith’s top target just yet. The clustered salaries at the TE spot serve to make Kelce the premier value play among the top-tier options.

Kyle Rudolph

His volume is coming back, with 30 targets (and 19 receptions) over the last three weeks. Dink-and-dunk enthusiast Sam Bradford is clearly smitten with his lead TE, and while there haven’t been many fireworks between the two, there’s been plenty of opportunity. I don’t like Rudolph’s steady salary increase, from $3,700 to $4,300 over a three-week span, but it’s understandable and justifiable within any DFS roster. Cash players will love the targets, and GPPers will love the fact that he’s reached or landed within one point of this week’s tournament marker in three of his last five games. It helps that he’ll be facing a Colts defense that’s allowed the sixth-most catches and the third-most yards to TEs on the season. Rudolph is no slam dunk – who is, really? – but he’s a perfectly appropriate value play.

GPP Options

Jermaine Gresham

If you’re looking for a minimum-salaried tournament punt, hold your nose and consider Gresham. Yes, he’s a low-upside receiver with all the dynamism of a drugged manatee. Yes, he plays in a Bruce Arians offense, where TE production goes to die. But based on the last six weeks, he’s a shrewd stab at GPP value at his tiny price tag. With the Cardinals passing game in serious flux, Gresham has drawn 6+ targets in 4 of those weeks, hitting the 10-point GPP value marker in each of his last 4 outings. He’s no lock for anything, of course, but he’s also likely to rack up 4-5 catches and 40-50 yards from the very bottom of the salary chart. If you’re piecing together a GPP roster that’s heavy at running back or wideout, Gresham makes a ton of sense to plug in.

Ryan Griffin

If you can’t bring yourself to roster perennial afterthought Gresham, or you’re looking for a sprout of upside in your punt play, you might look Griffin’s way. He’ll likely start in place of C.J. Fiedorowicz, who still isn’t cleared to return from Sunday’s concussion, and is inpositionto take advantage of Brock Osweiler’s TE usage. Dating back to Week 3, Houston TEs have averaged 12 targets, 8 receptions, and 79 yards per game. Griffin would reach GPP value with just two-thirds of that production, with or without finding the end zone. And assuming he’s the only TE game in town Sunday, it’s a perfectly fair projection, with upside for 5x value or better.


 

Defense/Special Teams

 

Cash Considerations

Kansas City

Until proven otherwise, they’re the strongest weekly play. Winning DFS defenses are the ones that generate sacks and takeaways, and this attacking, opportunistic unit is generally solid there. They’ve racked up multiple sacks in five of their last seven games and scored a touchdown in three straight. That may strike you as fluky, but they’ve produced a TD in 6 of 13 games thus far after tying for the league lead last year. The Titans aren’t turning the ball over, but Marcus Mariota remains somewhat prone to sacks. Kansas City is fairly boom-or-bust this week, but which crapshoot defense isn’t? Besides, their floor is baked into their price tag, which falls outside the top five.

Atlanta

They’re the costliest defense this week, thanks to a home date with Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ bumbling offense. But given how clustered the pricing is – 12 of the 28 Sunday-Monday defenses cost $2,900 or more – they’re a perfectly fair chalk play. Last week’s inflated total was bolstered by five takeaways and two defensive scores, both unlikely to repeat, but your defense obviously doesn’t need 26 points to value. About 11-12 would do nicely, which the Falcons could certainly reach on sacks and scoring alone. The 49ers have scored just 23 points over the past 2 weeks, while Kaepernick has absorbed more than 3 sacks per start.

GPP Options

New England

They’ve underachieved, sure, but they’re a bit underpriced for this matchup. Trevor Siemian doesn’t create fireworks, and he’s been exceptionally sack-prone of late, going down 16 times over the last 4 weeks. With the Patriots favored comfortably, we can expect some degree of panic volume from Siemian, which would put him in play for multiple sacks and turnovers. The New England D/ST is simply priced too cheaply for that very plausible circumstance.

Green Bay

As 6.5-point road favorites, they’re already candidates to overachieve defensively. But against reserve-level starter Matt Barkley, the Packers sit in even prettier shape. Barkley has been serviceable, but he’s Matt Barkley, so a nose-dive into “worst starter of the week” status wouldn’t surprise anyone. He did, after all, post a truly atrocious 6-of-15, 81-yard, 2-interception line when these two teams met in Week 7.