JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL (TOP SHELF PLAYS)
Drew Brees ($8,900) - After two solid, but unspectacular road games to open the season, Brees finally gets to play at home against a Minnesota pass defense just waiting to be flame broiled. The Vikings have actually given up the least amount of fantasy points to opposing QBs this season, but don’t get hoodwinked by small sample sizes. In Week 1 they enjoyed the Shaun Hill/Austin Davis experience, and game flow robbed Tom Brady of the opportunity to skewer them last week. Vegas is as skeptical of last season’s league worst secondary as I am, projecting the Saints to put up 30 points on Minnesota this week. Brees (as you’re probably aware) plays much better indoors, averaging over 50 more passing yards and 0.66 more TDs per game inside a dome. He’s a safe bet to lead all players in scoring this week, and you’ll want to target his receivers as well.
DeMarco Murray ($7,900) - Murray is the most expensive RB on DraftKings, but he also projects as the highest scoring. St. Louis has only allowed the 22nd most fantasy points to running backs, but once again the favorable ranking is fool’s gold. Opposing running backs have not had a chance to carry the ball from inside the five yard line on the Rams this season, so they have yet to surrender a RB touchdown. A closer look at the Rams’ performance shows they’ve allowed the seventh most rushing yards, and a league leading eight runs of 15+ yards to opposing backs. Murray has handled more than 50% of the Cowboys’ offensive touches in the opening two weeks, and the monster workload has predictably yielded spectacular fantasy results (he leads the league in rushing yards and has scored in each game). Besides the price tag, I don’t see a reason to fade Murray in this spot.
Jordy Nelson ($8,400) - Jordy leads the league in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and is tied for second in red zone targets. Aaron Rodgers is absolutely locked in on Nelson, there’s nothing scary about this matchup, and Green Bay-Detroit has this week’s highest over/under (52 points). Nelson is the ideal WR for cash games until further notice. Brandon Marshall ($8,300) is a viable high priced alternative, playing against the terrible Jets cornerbacks on Monday night.
Jimmy Graham ($8,000) - I targeted the QB and TE playing the Vikings in this space last week, and while game script didn’t allow Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to exploit the matchup against Minnesota, the odds of Matt Cassel knocking a second consecutive game off kilter by throwing four interceptions are slim. Graham reminded us last week why you shouldn’t throw rocks at the throne, by posting a 10-118-2 line on 13 targets vs. Cleveland. The Vikings were a great matchup for tight ends last season, and Drew Brees is primed for a huge game, making the case for Graham more obvious than usual this week.
New England Defense ($3,500) - Rookie QB on crappy West Coast team travels east to play against Bill Belichick in Foxboro as a 15 point underdog. I’m pretty sure I know how that story ends.
JACK DANIELS (MODERATELY PRICED PLAYS)
Ryan Tannehill ($6,300) - Tannehill has been a thoroughly uninspiring fantasy QB thus far, ranking 23rd at the position. But if you’ve been reading this column the last two weeks, you’ll remember I enjoy picking on the Kansas City secondary. None of the Chiefs cornerbacks has a positive rating according to Pro Football Focus, and it’s shown up in the box score, as KC has allowed the sixth most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Tannehill sports a 22:14 TD:INT ratio in 17 career home games vs. a 17:18 ratio in 17 games on the road. He’s also scored all three of his career rushing TDs at Sun Life Stadium. If you don’t have the stomach for Tannehill, Geno Smith ($6,100) should put up decent numbers at home against the Bears, and I like Jake Locker ($5,500) as a cheap, contrarian tournament play against the Bengals.
Rashad Jennings ($5,200) - Houston ranks a middling 15th in fantasy points allowed to RBs over the first two weeks, but that’s owed in large part to game script. The Texans have won both of their games by double digit points, forcing their opponents to abandon the run early. Alfred Morris and Roy Helu carved up the Texans run defense on a per carry basis in Week 1, and even Darren McFadden managed a respectable fantasy day in last week’s blowout loss. This week, Vegas has the Texans favored by only 2.5 points on the road in New York, so I expect to see Rashad Jennings dominating touches for four quarters. Through two weeks, Jennings has seen 45.2% of the Giants’ offensive touches, the seventh best share of any RB. And despite the preseason talk about Jennings ceding to Andre Williams at the goal line, he’s received the third most carries from inside the five yard line in the NFL. Jennings should prove one of the safest options on the board this week.
Shane Vereen ($5,100) - Vereen is risky given his sparse Week 2 usage (only seven total touches), but I like him to bounce back against a Raiders team that has allowed the third most fantasy points to RBs this season. With the Patriots a 14.5 point favorite over Oakland, Bill Belichick may once again turn to between-the-tackles grinder Stevan Ridley to salt away the game in the second half, but the more explosive Vereen could be a primary reason New England opens up a big lead in the first place (it helps that the Raiders are tied for fourth in 15+ yard runs allowed). With Ridley available at only $4,600, both Patriots RBs profile as strong plays this week.
Joique Bell ($5,400) - The Jack Daniels tier is loaded with attractive RB options this week, as Bell gets a home game against the Packers, who’ve allowed the sixth most fantasy points to opposing RBs. In a turn of events that comes as no shock to yours truly, Bell has seen over 33% of Detroit’s total touches, while Reggie Bush has received 23.7%. It was especially encouraging to see Bell targeted 11 times in the passing game last week compared to only six for Bush, as the Lions attempted to come from behind against the Panthers. In his career, Bell has scored eight TDs in 17 games at Ford Field vs. four TDs in 17 games on the road. Detroit-Green Bay has the highest over/under this week (52 points), making it even more likely Joique punches one in.
Demaryius Thomas ($6,600) - Thomas’s salary is on the high end of the Jack Daniels range (Gentlemen Jack?), but I’m listing him here because it’s likely the cheapest you’ll find him all season. I understand the modest price tag after a relatively quiet first two weeks, and the tough matchup against Seattle, but Thomas remains Peyton Manning’s most heavily targeted receiver (18 total targets, including a league leading five in the red zone). The over/under in the Denver-Seattle game is on the high side (48.5), and you know Manning has had this one marked on his calendar. I may not roll Demaryius out in cash games, but he makes a nice contrarian tournament play at a significantly lower salary than the rest of the position’s top tier.
Dennis Pitta ($4,400) - Pitta’s always going to be a favorite of mine because he’s heavily targeted and rarely cost prohibitive. Through two weeks, he’s been targeted the same number of times as Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski (17) and has seen just as many red zone opportunities as Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas (4). I’m not expecting a monster game from Pitta, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t return value on DraftKings (PPR scoring) against a Browns team that couldn’t handle Graham last week.
Indianapolis Defense ($3,100) - I’ll continue to pick on Chad Henne for as long as the Jaguars insist on trotting him out there. Henne’s been sacked 13 times in two weeks, nearly twice as many as the next closest QB (Tony Romo - 7), and his trademark inaccuracy has been on full display (53.5% completion percentage). I usually like my defenses to be playing at home, but Henne makes me want to break all the rules.
LIMOUSINE LIQUOR (DIRT CHEAP PLAYS)
Donald Brown ($3,500) - The DraftKings salary algorithm must not have gotten the memo on Ryan Mathews’ MCL sprain. We can safely operate under the assumption Brown will soak up the majority of the carries usually slated for Mathews. Over the first two weeks of the season, Mathews was priced at $5,400 and $4,500 respectively, making Brown a relative bargain against a Bills team who hasn’t been anything special against the run thus far. Don’t get me wrong - Brown isn’t going to win you a GPP on his own this week, but outside of the dismal Shonne Greene, “Dammit Donald” is the cheapest available running back who figures to lead his team in carries. 75-100 total yards, three-to-five receptions, and a 50-50 shot at a TD is the best case scenario, but you can do worse for $3,500 than the starting RB on the seventh most run heavy team in the league.
Khiry Robinson ($3,900) - Just a friendly reminder that Vegas projects New Orleans to score 30 points and win by more than a TD. With Mark Ingram on the shelf, the Saints will likely turn to Robinson to run out the clock late in the game, and his role at the goal line provides an extremely high ceiling (New Orleans has more rushes from inside the five yard line than any other team this season). Pierre Thomas ($4,900) should see an uptick in usage also, making both Saints backs nice values this week.
Travis Kelce ($3,700) - Get ahead of the curve and plug Kelce into your lineup before his inevitable breakout game occurs. The matchup against the Dolphins this week is irrelevant. As soon as Andy Reid realizes his most talented pass catcher ought to play more than 37% of the team’s offensive snaps, Kelce is going to blow up regardless of matchup. As Sigmund Bloom pointed out earlier this week, Kelce is averaging a ridiculous 11.8 yards per target, and he was able to lead the Chiefs in receiving in Week 2 (84 yards) despite seeing only six looks from Alex Smith. Kelce’s efficiency all but guarantees he can meet value at this price, even without the requisite playing time. But if this is the week Reid decides to unleash him, Kelce could lead you to tournament glory.
RUBBING ALCOHOL (MINIMUM PLAYS)
Malcom Floyd ($3,000) - If you’re looking for a sneaky tournament play, Floyd has a strong chance to exploit his individual matchup against Bills CB Leodis McKelvin this week. McKelvin has allowed a reception on 12 of his 16 targets, letting up 149 yards in the process (fourth worst in the league). Opposite Floyd, Keenan Allen draws Corey Graham, who’s been targeted more than any other CB in the league, and has only let up a reception about 36% of the time (fifth best in the league). Philip Rivers is good enough to expose bad coverage (and avoid good coverage), so Floyd could easily post a line similar to the 4-50-1 he dropped on Arizona in Week 1.