Johnnie Walker Blue Label (Top Shelf Plays)
Peyton Manning ($8,800) - Manning’s ho-hum 269 yard, three TD Week 1 performance was enough to drop his price on DraftKings $1,300 from last week. While still the most expensive option on this week’s QB menu, Manning is a relative value according to my projections. He gets a great home matchup against a Kansas City team that has problems in the secondary. Cornerbacks Chris Owens and Sean Smith were both graded as bottom-10 players at the position by Pro Football Focus in last week's game against Jake Locker at Arrowhead. Vegas has the over/under for this game set at 51 - the second highest total of the week - and Manning hung 405 yards and five TDs on the Chiefs the last time they played. If you’re looking for a safe option in cash games, Manning is your guy (as usual).
Adrian Peterson ($7,400) - Peterson’s fantasy numbers didn’t jump off the page in Week 1, but I’m happy to pay up for him this week. In a game that went off-script against the Rams, Peterson accounted for 47.9% of Minnesota’s total offensive touches, sixth best of any RB. This week, Peterson gets a home game against New England, who gave up the most rushing yards in the NFL last week to Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller (not exactly an inspiring duo). I’m still convinced Peterson will see a nice bump in the passing game this year due to Norv Turner’s play calling, which is a plus on DraftKings (PPR). Despite seeing only three targets, Peterson was thrown to on 6.6% of his 45 snaps in Week 1. For comparison, LeSean McCoy was targeted on 7.1% of his snaps in 2013, and finished with 53 receptions.
Update 9/13: With Peterson officially deactivated by the Vikings following his indictment on charges of reckless and negligent injury to a child, you'll obviously want to make sure he's removed from your rosters. Matt Asiata ($3,000) ran with Minnesota's starters during the preseason and figures to receive the majority of the carries in Peterson's absence. Asiata is one of several minimum priced options to emerge as a strong RB punt play late in the week, with Jonathan Stewart and Darren McFadden (see below) also in line for an uptick in carries. If you need a high priced RB to fill Peterson's shoes, look to Arian Foster ($7,000) in a plus matchup against the Raiders. Foster handled 61.7% of Houston's touches in Week 1, best of any RB in the league. I'd also consider taking the discount on Jamaal Charles at $7,400 (down $1,600 from last week). Kansas City's only shot at keeping pace with the Broncos is to put the offense on Charles' shoulders - and even if Denver blows out the Chiefs, Charles should stay active in the passing game through all four quarters.
Montee Ball ($6,800) - I featured Ball in this section last week, and he managed to salvage an ugly rushing day (2.9 YPA) thanks to a hefty workload (25 touches), and a predictable touchdown. Ball’s situation looks unchanged to me this week. Once again, the Denver-KC game has a high over/under, and the Broncos are favored to win big (-13.5), which points to a ton of opportunity for Ball in the second half. The Kansas City defense looked like a joke in Week 1, allowing Shonne Greene to run for 71 yards on 15 carries, with 48 yards coming after contact. Things don’t figure to get much better now that two of Kansas City’s best run defenders, LB Derrick Johnson and DE Mike DeVito, are out for the season. Ball will once again be a staple in my cash game lineups.
Rob Gronkowski ($6,000) - Gronk’s price is down $700 from last week, enough of a discount to make me a buyer on DraftKings. Sure, Gronk played on only 38 of 86 offensive snaps against the Dolphins, but he still saw 11 targets, second most of any tight end. As I explained last week when I recommended Dennis Pitta (the only TE who saw more targets than Gronk in Week 1), targets are the stat I look to first in an effort to reduce the week-to-week volatility inherent to tight ends. It also helps that Minnesota, who gave up the second most fantasy points to the tight end position last season, is a dream matchup for Gronk. I’d be mildly surprised if he didn’t catch two TDs in this game.
Demaryius Thomas ($7,000) - I steered clear of Demaryius Thomas in last week’s column, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for my actual lineups. Thomas was the second most expensive WR on DraftKings last week ($8,100) and he wound up with just four catches for 48 yards in a tough matchup with Vontae Davis. On the bright side, Thomas remained a focal point of Denver’s high powered offense. Peyton Manning sent 11 passes his way against the Colts, with a league best four of those targets coming in the red zone. If that usage continues (and why wouldn’t it?), Julius Thomas won’t be hogging all the glory for very long. Enjoy the discount on Demaryius this week.
Jack Daniels (Moderately Priced Plays)
Tom Brady ($7,000) - Brady is a great bet to bounce back this week against a Vikings team that let up the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks a season ago. Minnesota’s defense just throttled the Rams, but I need to see them beat up on someone other than Shaun Hill or Austin Davis, before declaring them improved. It would seem Vegas shares my skepticism. They have the Pats-Vikings over/under set at 49 points - the third highest total of the week. I’m willing to chalk up Brady’s abysmal Week 1 (his 51.8% completion rate and 4.4 YPA were the worst of any QB) to the hot Miami sun. Brady is still the guy who’s averaged 315 yards and 2.2 TDs per game in his career when Rob Gronkowski is in the lineup.
Jake Locker ($7,100) - It may turn out the Kansas City defense is awful, but Locker did well to exceed value last week in a hostile road environment. This week he’s home against the Cowboys, who you may have heard can’t play defense. The theory that Ken Whisenhunt will help solve Locker’s accuracy problems appears to have some legs. After completing 70% of his preseason passes, Locker posted a respectable 66.7% completion rate in Week 1 - a number that improves to 75% if you take away dropped passes and throwaways. I like Locker’s chances to connect on a couple of bombs this week, after Colin Kaepernick was able to complete both of his 20+ yard pass attempts against the Cowboys last Sunday.
Giovani Bernard ($6,300) - Bernard is locked in as my number one RB play in PPR leagues this week. His affordable price tag on DraftKings is icing on the cake. Atlanta is shaping up as the matchup to target for opposing running backs. Their linebacker situation is one of the worst in the league, and it showed in Week 1, as the Saints racked up more fantasy points at the RB position than any team in the NFL. Concerns about Jeremy Hill cutting into Gio’s workload were unwarranted. Bernard handled 39.2% of Cincinnati's touches in Week 1 (11th best among RBs), including three carries inside the redzone - exactly the type of RB workload you want to target in DFS. Anything short of 100 total yards, a TD, and five receptions in this game for Bernard would come as a surprise.
Greg Jennings ($5,100) - I don’t exactly love Jennings this week, but he’s not properly valued on DraftKings after what we saw in Week 1. The Vikings didn’t have to throw much to clobber the Rams, but when they did, Jennings was the primary target. He saw a team high seven of Minnesota’s 24 targets, and accounted for 35.3% of the team’s receptions - the eighth best share of any wide receiver last week. Minnesota will have to throw more than 24 times to stay with the Patriots in a game Vegas projects for 49 points, and there’s speculation Jennings will avoid Darrelle Revis, which obviously bodes well for his fantasy prospects. Jennings’ 2013 splits with Matt Cassel (7.75 targets per game) suggest the heavy Week 1 workload is no fluke. Don’t be afraid to dial him up as a safe, affordable option in cash games.
Reggie Wayne ($5,300) - Much like Jennings, Wayne is a boring, heavily targeted veteran, playing in a game Vegas projects to be high scoring (PHI-IND has a league high 53.5 over/under). In 23 career games played with Andrew Luck, Wayne has been targeted an astonishing 11 times per game. Last week, in his first game back from an ACL tear, Wayne was thrown to 13 times, coming down with nine receptions for 98 yards. He may lack the ceiling of similarly priced teammate T.Y. Hilton (who makes an excellent tournament play this week), but Wayne has one of the highest PPR floors in the business.
Zach Ertz ($4,800) - Buying high on Ertz (up $700 from last week) doesn’t exactly fit my “chase the targets” tight end mantra. Ertz was thrown to just four times in the Eagles’ Week 1 thrashing of Jacksonville, the same amount as wet blanket teammate Brent Celek. However, with the aforementioned 53.5 point over/under, it’s a good idea to target Eagles pass catchers in this game. Despite the modest workload, Ertz was on the field plenty last week, and it was encouraging half of his targets came on throws of 20 yards or more. Nick Foles led the league in 20+ yard pass attempts per drop back last season (and in Week 1), making it likely Ertz will continue to be targeted downfield. Ertz may be better suited to tournaments than cash games this week, but I don’t think he’ll burn you against the Colts, who just let up 110 yards and three TDs to Julius Thomas.
Limousine Liquor (Dirt Cheap Plays)
Alex Smith ($6,300) - Alex Smith is not very good, but when Vegas projects a game to go over 50 points, and one of the QBs in that game is available this cheap, it warrants your attention. Smith welcomes back Dwayne Bowe in Week 2, and the entire Chiefs offense should benefit from the more Jamaal Charles-centric game plan Andy Reid promised after last Sunday’s ugly loss. It’s usually not worth putting much stock in player vs. team performance from year to year in the NFL, but it at least bears mentioning that Smith averaged 22.86 fantasy points per game on DraftKings in his two meetings with Denver last year.
Justin Hunter ($4,300) - Hunter makes his second consecutive Limousine Liquor appearance, despite a $500 price increase this week. As previously stated, I like Jake Locker to connect on some deep balls against Dallas, and Hunter is the most likely player to be on the receiving end of those throws. Masked in his mediocre three catch, 63 yard debut were Hunter’s team high eight targets, including three of the 20+ yard variety. With the over/under set at an encouraging 49 points in this game, Hunter once again possesses one of the highest ceilings on DraftKings. Just be prepared for him to be widely owned.
Tampa Bay Defense ($3,200) - Someone named Austin Davis is probably quarterbacking the Rams on the road in Tampa Bay this week. Davis was sacked four times in one half last week against Minnesota, and also threw a pick-six. Don’t overthink this.
Rubbing Alcohol (Minimum Plays)
Darren McFadden ($3,000) -You’ll never believe me, but I had McFadden pegged as a punt play before news broke that Maurice Jones-Drew had a mystery surgery on his hand. The Raiders have a nice matchup this week against the Texans, who gave up 6.5 YPA, and a pair of 15+ yard runs to Alfred Morris in Week 1. Despite MJD being named Oakland’s starter, he was only on the field for three more snaps than McFadden in the opener. It was a tough matchup against the Jets, but Jones-Drew was inexcusably bad, managing only 11 yards on nine carries. It wasn’t a stretch to think McFadden could carve out a larger role this week regardless of MJD’s health. But with Jones-Drew now expected to miss this week’s game, McFadden becomes a must play for the minimum price. Here’s hoping this is the opening McFadden needs to make my July Player Spotlight appear less boneheaded.
Jarrett Boykin ($3,000) - Jarrett Boykin’s minimum cost is an overcorrection to Richard Sherman erasing him from the box score in Week 1. What’s being overlooked is that Boykin was on the field for 49 of Green Bay’s 62 offensive snaps. Any receiver who gets that much run with Aaron Rodgers is a prime candidate to blow up in any given week. Derek Carr’s inability to expose the Jets beat up secondary in his first NFL start doesn’t mean Aaron Rodgers won’t pick them apart this Sunday. All of Green Bay’s pass catchers are in play for me this week (Jordy Nelson looks like a nice value at $6,600 as well), but Boykin possesses the best $/Point value given his minimal cost.
Larry Donnell ($3,000) - Colon exams feel better than adding Larry Donnell’s name to your DraftKings lineups. But if you need to save at tight end, you’ll get no argument from me for targeting the Arizona defense. As I mentioned last week when recommending Antonio Gates, the Cardinals let up the most receptions, yards, and TDs to tight ends last year. They’re less talented on defense this year, and haven’t looked any better defending the position since the preseason started. It appears Donnell has emerged as the Giants’ starting tight end, and he passed the usage test in Week 1. Donnell’s eight targets were the same number Julius Thomas received last week, and he was thrown to twice in the red zone - a very positive sign.
Washington Defense ($2,900) - Targeting Chad Henne on the road paid dividends last week, as a not very good Eagles defense posted 17 fantasy points on DraftKings. Washington's not very good defense should also be able to take advantage of Henne’s trademark inaccuracy and propensity for turnovers.