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 16 DraftKings plays:
Yadda yadda yadda, Drew Brees at home, check. His Week 13 hiccup aside, Brees is an absolute dynamo in the Superdome, which Footballguys readers surely know. Over his last 23 home games he’s averaged 337 yards, hitting the 300+ bonus in 16 of them and topping 3+ touchdowns 13 times. He’s priced for success this week – an $800 bump from last Sunday’s salary – but if we pay heed to history, we see he’s worth the cost. The Buccaneers pass defense has improved over the year and indeed held Brees in check in Tampa, but Superdome Brees is a different animal. Notching 300 yards and 2 scores would bring home cash value.
He plays the Browns Sunday, which in and of itself doesn’t mean as much as you may think. They’ve actually held 4 straight quarterbacks under 200 yards. But that’s a fairly hollow achievement; most of those underperformances have been tempered by blowouts, and two of those four passers threw multiple touchdowns en route to big wins. And in Rivers’ Week 16 case, we can project particularly solid usage for at least three quarters; a blowout-induced low-ball seems unlikely. With Melvin Gordon looking unlikely to suit up and a shaky running game behind him, Rivers looks like a mortal lock to throw 30+ passes. Against this defense, that means plenty of big-play and TD opportunity. Consider Rivers particularly likely to return to the 250-yard range, and it’s exceptionally probable the Chargers’ inevitable 24+ points will be motored through the pass.
Inexplicably still priced in the second QB tier, Rodgers stands as Week 16’s safest stab at GPP value. He’s underwhelmed twice in 3 weeks, but he’s generally a touchdown machine, throwing multiples in 11 of 14 games thus far. Multi-TD weeks are the lifeblood of GPP play, and with an always-scintillating dark zone outlook, it’s fair to take a shot at his ability to do so again. The Vikings boast a shutdown-type cornerback in Xavier Rhodes, and they’ve indeed limited some top-flight No. 1 wideouts throughout the year. But Rodgers throws to a cadre of talented pass-catchers, and he’s capable of posting stout numbers through multiple different circumstances and game scripts. He can throw 3+ touchdowns in blowout wins or losses, or top 300 yards with or without Jordy Nelson erupting. This is simply too cheap, and Rodgers’ GPP marker of 26-27 points is well within reach.
Here’s another often-elite fantasy producer whose salary has depressed too far. He hasn’t been much fun to roster this year, but most of that disappointment has come with a high salary. At just $6,600, Newton has his tournament marker well within reach. He remains a dual-threat dynamo, capable of erupting both through the air and on the ground on any given week. We’ve seen these rushing lulls before, and they tend to end dramatically. Newton is a solid GPP play regardless of matchup, but hosting the Falcons just adds more icing. They’ve been lit up by high-powered passing games throughout the year, and without shutdown cornerback Desmond Trufant, it’s hard to imagine them completely stifling Newton.
He’s finally priced behind fellow bell cow extraordinaire Le’Veon Bell, presumably due to a daunting matchup with the Seahawks. But since when does Johnson’s brilliance hinge upon matchup? This is a high-floor, high-ceiling fireball who’s roasted both strong and weak defenses equally. He’s run up 38.0 DraftKings points against the Vikings, 37.8 against the Jets, and of course, a studly 28.1 against this same Seattle defense. Johnson doesn’t need rushing efficiency to bring home cash value; he’s the absolute engine of the Cardinals offense and sees gobs of dual-threat usage regardless of game flow. He’s topped 100 scrimmage yards in every game thus far and rivals the league leaders in short-yardage use, so we can all but pencil in a floor around 20 points in any matchup, any week. His tendency to inflate that floor and hit his ceiling with regularity boosts his cash-game profile immensely. To cash in this week, Johnson needs to merely match his seasonal average (27.4 points), and he always has several avenues by which to do so. There are cheaper paths to floor this week, but only Bell himself can match Johnson’s blend of volume and dynamism.
Of late, he’s producing DFS fireworks right alongside the likes of Johnson and Bell. McCoy has churned out 23-35 DraftKings points in each of the last 4 games, on the backs of dynamite efficiency (6.16 yards per rush) and occasionally elite pass-game usage (4.5 receptions per game). He hasn’t seen 20 carries in any of those games, which seems like a ding to his cash-game prospects, but it doesn’t look the slightest bit damning for Week 16. Both McCoy and Mike Gillislee should be able to eat heartily against the Dolphins; over the last 4 weeks, they’ve allowed opposing offenses to run for 40 yards per game above the league average. Shrewd GPP players may shuffle Gillislee into their portfolios this week at half the salary, but McCoy’s cash-play prowess is nearly unmatched.
He’s not consistent by any stretch, but he’s a clear bell cow and touchdown monster and remains definitively underpriced for that profile. Hill needs just 15-16 DraftKings points to produce cash value this week, and he’s landed between 12 and 26 for 4 straight weeks despite a pitiful 2.60 yards per carry. Much of that semi-success has come from touchdowns – he leads the NFL in dark zone usage over that span – to the point that we can all but expect a weekly TD from him. He is, after all, one of the league’s elite short-yardage runners, and he’ll find the end zone virtually any time the Bengals stumble into 20+ points. Take that profile and apply even a slight boost in rushing efficiency – say, 60-70 scrimmage yards – and you’re almost certain to land cash value. And his too-low salary allows you to pair him with one of Week 16’s elite backs, thus rostering two TD-likely bell cows with little volume variance.
No, he’s not some mortal lock to produce another 33.3 points, and his salary has indeed skyrocketed as the Packers’ lead back. But while many DFSers cry “one-hit wonder” and scurry away from that price increase, the shrewd ones will connect the dots, that Montgomery is a dynamic dual-threat runner who will figure heavily into the equation when Green Bay approaches the end zone. And that’s something they do with regularity, so Montgomery carries a solid weekly ceiling for touchdowns in addition to volume. Christine Michael is little more than a rotational back, so Montgomery seems likely to hold him off for a solid majority of opportunity. If we can copy-and-paste his recent efficiency to a moderate lead back role – say, 15 rushes and 2-3 catches – in a high-powered offense, we come away with a weekly top-8 RB option. Montgomery’s versatility and explosiveness haven’t come out of nowhere; after all, he posted 122 catches (12.8 yards per) and 36 rushes (8.4) over his final 2 years as a wideout at Stanford.
Gore is a tricky sell this week: he’s not very efficient, he’s losing goal line work to Robert Turbin, and his DFS value largely depends upon the Colts icing a blowout. But given his Week 16 matchup and Vegas’ educated expectation of a 53-point affair, he warrants some degree of GPP attention. His salary sits at $4,800, near his season-low, and despite Turbin’s emergence he remains a relative bell cow (20+ touches in 6 of his last 9 games). Gore hasn’t found the end zone regularly in awhile, but expected game scoring – as well as the opposing Raiders’ difficulty at defending the run – puts him squarely into the discussion for 4x value. If he can manage a touchdown, he’d need a very doable 80 ground yards to reach his tournament marker. And for a lead back in a game projected this high, there’s always upside for more.
This is an especially tricky WR group this week, particularly in the top two pricing tiers. Top names like Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson face iffy Week 16 outlooks, while Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t on the main slate. As a result, we need to get a bit advanced to identify the chalkiest options, as well as the ones most likely to return on cash-game investments. And Hilton might just carry Week 16’s top outlook. His salary is a bit bloated, especially as a road underdog, but he profiles well against the Oakland secondary. They’re an improving bunch, but they’ve been back-broken by a handful of Hilton-type speedsters. Brandin Cooks, Travis Benjamin, Ted Ginn, and Tyreek Hill, all undersized deep threats, have reached value on the backs of dynamic deep-ball play, and a handful of others have chipped on long receptions along the way. If the Colts are going to produce fireworks down the field – and given Vegas’ 24.75-point projection, they probably will – it’ll have to come largely from Hilton. That means he’s a strong bet to reach value on volume as the team’s No. 1, but to exceed it on chunk plays and perhaps a long touchdown. The price tag isn’t where you want it to be, but Hilton lays a claim to be the week’s safest top-dollar play.
Amari Cooper is many things, but a consistent producer he is not, and Crabtree is adept and picking up the scraps. Cooper grabs the buzz, but over their 30 games together, Crabtree owns the stronger target share (25%-22%) and a far stronger touchdown outlook. Over that span, he’s drawn 16 dark zone looks to Cooper’s 6, making him the better play for both PPR consistency and TD potential. Let’s also consider his salary, which at $6,100 is simply too low for a de facto No. 1 wideout in a game of this magnitude. Vegas has projected the Raiders to the week’s second-highest scoring total (28.25), and considering the Raiders’ pass-heavy tendencies near the goal line, it’s almost a safe bet that Crabtree will find the end zone. That, coupled with his realistic 6-catch, 60-yard floor, places him squarely among the elite value plays for the week.
Travis Benjamin simply hasn’t panned out for the Chargers, largely due to injury, and Tyrell Williams can’t bear the entire passing game yoke on his own. As a result, Inman has earned a prominent role in Philip Rivers’ eyeline, and he’s hit the ground running with it. Dating back to Week 8 he’s averaged 7.3 targets and 14.68 DraftKings points a week while filling in those gaps. Even as the Chargers have veered more run-heavy, Inman has remained deeply woven into their plans as the team’s most consistent target. It’s nothing new, either: he stepped up during last year’s injury woes as well, posting three useful games of 3x value or better down the stretch. That kind of resume makes me ultra-confident he’ll at least threaten his 18-point cash marker against the Browns. He’s unlikely to see too much Joe Haden, and he’ll cash by simply posting a good-not-great No. 1 wideout day of 5-6 catches and a score. He’s reached one or both of those marks in six straight games, after all.
His Week 12 disappearing act (zero targets) is squarely in the rear-view mirror. Cooks has been targeted a studly 27 times over the past 3 weeks, capped off with a mammoth 186-yard, 2-touchdown performance in Arizona last Sunday. It may seem short-sighted to write that off as fluky, but bear in mind that Cooks now faces a home matchup (and we know what that means for the Saints) with a Buccaneers defense that’s allowed the fifth-most deep completions (20+ yards) in the league. Cooks managed just five catches in their Tampa date two weeks ago, but he projects far, far stronger in the Superdome. All told, he’s priced a bit high for his cash floor, but looks like one of the slate’s strongest bets to approach his ceiling.
Nelson has been dynamite, but he’ll likely frighten away a chunk of DFSers this week. His matchup with Xavier Rhodes is a true deterrent; Rhodes has recently stymied the likes of Allen Robinson (1 catch, 17 yards) and T.Y. Hilton (3 for 45) and will spend a ton of time on Nelson Sunday. But the veteran is simply too good to be bounced from cheatsheets due to matchup. Nelson remains ultra-dynamic, producing all over the field and casting a wide shadow over the rest of the league in dark zone production. He weekly carries a high-level ceiling between 25-30 DraftKings points, and a floor that’s always boosted by his ability to catch shot touchdowns. Given his marked pricing discount from the other elite wideouts, he makes for arguably the most sensible high-dollar GPP play of the week.
The annual training camp tease has finally latched on as a weekly contributor; the Bears’ eerie rash of pass-catcher injuries has thrust him into a starting job. Thompson has averaged 46 snaps over the past 4 weeks, and while he’s been churchmouse-quiet in 2 of them, he’s generated 15.4 and 19.0 points in the other two. Thompson is shuffled about with a host of other nondescript receivers, and he catches balls from Matt Barkley, so he’s as far as they come from a sure thing. But he’s still priced near the DraftKings minimum, so his 14-point marker is well within reach. Either a touchdown or another Sunday of threatening 7-8 catches would do the trick, opening up your roster elsewhere.
No one wants to follow Sam Bradford’s arm in DFS play, of course: he’s an exceptionally limited passer whose receivers always hunger for opportunity beyond dump-offs. Not even Stefon Diggs’ mid-level salary and matchup are enticing in this offense. But Rudolph has proven quite a beneficiary of that pop-gun arm, leading the team comfortably in targets (40) over the last 4 weeks. The Vikings aren’t finding the end zone regularly, but with these clustered, under-cutting TE salaries, Rudolph doesn’t need to score to bring home the cash-game bacon. Catching 6-7 passes of medium impact would land cash value here, and that’s entirely plausible against a Packers defense that’s allowed the ninth-most receptions to TEs.
So this is what the semi-muted preseason hype was about. Brate spent the summer and fall mired behind Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the minds of most, but impressing onlookers with his role and chops in the meantime. Once the mercurial Seferian-Jenkins was cut loose, Brate shifted into gear as a weekly touchdown threat with always-improving volume outlooks. Now, he’s perched at or near the top of my TE projections virtually every week, once his miniscule salary is taken into account. It’s swollen some of late, up to a season-high $3,900, but absolutely seems worth it. Securing 12 points is no daunting task for Brate, who’s averaged 6.8 targets over his last 4 games and sits tied for the league TE lead in touchdowns (7). Entrenched as Jameis Winston’s clear second weapon, and prepping for a game in which Vegas projects his Buccaneers to approach 25 points. You could do far, far worse than paying a sub-$4K salary for Brate and hoping for 4 catches and a score. At this point, that’s all but expected from him.
Henry isn’t used nearly as often with Antonio Gates healthy, averaging just 2.8 targets over his last 8 games. But he’s settling nicely into a rookie niche as a touchdown-gobbler. He’s found the end zone in four of the last five and seven times overall, boasting a 21.9% touchdown rate that not even Brate can boast. The Chargers TEs seems like odds-on favorites to score against a Browns defense that’s allowed more TDs (12) to the position than any other team, and Henry is a much cheaper stab at value than Gates. Either could boom or bust this week, but Henry needs far less – just 3-4 catches and a TD – to secure GPP value.
A handful of my season-long leagues took a hit with Cook’s injury-riddled, inconsistent Packers debut. But he’s shown faint signs of that dynamic preseason form, posting two strong lines over the last five weeks, and he could be in line for another this Sunday. Aaron Rodgers probably won’t be looking Jordy Nelson’s way as often as usual, what with Xavier Rhodes’ attention likely fixated on him, and the Packers’ complementary wideouts are explosive but inconsistent themselves. Cook comes cheaply ($3,000) and could be primed for big usage Sunday; simply catching 6 balls and/or a touchdown would land Cook in GPP value.
These will be the only two defenses I roster in this week’s cash games, as I project them head-and-shoulders above the pack in terms of raw points. How they fit into your desired lineup is up the air, but these are the strongest plays on a slate that doesn’t feature a ton of low-owned value. New England probably represents the better play; they’re running the gamut, racking up sacks and takeaways while holding bad offenses underwater. And they take on the Jets, who have allowed a 12.5-point average to defenses across Bryce Petty’s 4 recent games under center. But there’s something to be said for taking a $100 discount down to Kansas City. They’ve reached double digits in 4 of their last 5 games and 9 of 14 overall, and the opposing Broncos have been somewhat hemorrhaging sacks and turnovers, in addition to struggling to score.
As always, I’ll sprinkle in a handful of mid-salaried options into my GPP portfolio, but the Bengals will probably lead the pack. Their defensive chunk plays have largely come in bunches, but we can project a few Sunday against new starting passer Tom Savage. Savage looked downright competent in last week’s debut, but second games tend to be shakier than firsts as defenses spend the week preparing for what you bring. Besides, Houston has struggled to produce touchdowns of late and has underwhelmed against far worse units than this one.