JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL (TOP SHELF PLAYS)
Drew Brees ($8,900) - I’m going to keep sticking Brees in this spot until he inevitably goes bonkers, and makes me look smart. With a ton of value available at QB this week, I won’t have Brees in many lineups, but I’m not dismissing him entirely. Tampa Bay has given up the eighth most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season, and they’ve allowed three TD passes in back to back weeks (to Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger). I would expect Brees and the Saints to be focused at home after getting embarrassed on national TV against the Cowboys. Given his price, and the disappointing lines he’s posted recently (relative to his salary), Brees’s ownership level ought to be lower than usual, which makes him enticing in both tournaments and cash games.
Russell Wilson ($7,600) - The Washington secondary wasn’t very good when D’Angelo Hall was healthy. With Hall on injured reserve, the back end of Washington’s defense made Eli Manning indistinguishable from his older brother last week (300 yards, five total TDs). Washington has let up the sixth most fantasy points to opposing QBs, despite playing 50% of their games against Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne. Yes, Seattle is a run first offense, but Wilson’s efficiency (69% completion percentage) and legs (his 87 rushing yards are the third most at QB) make him one of the safest bets on the board. He hasn’t finished with less than 17.88 fantasy points on DraftKings in any game this season, despite being matched up with San Diego and Denver the last two weeks. A game against (arguably) the league’s worst secondary should allow Wilson to meet or exceed the 22.8 points you need for him to return value.
DeMarco Murray ($7,500) - There’s not much I can say about Murray’s fantasy greatness you’re not already well aware of. He’s handled 50.9% of his team’s touches this season (easily the best in the league), and ran for at least 100 yards and one TD in every game. I’ve picked on Houston’s run defense in this column every week to this point, and I’m not about to stop now. Houston has allowed 5.0 YPA on the ground this season. The last time they went up against a team with a bell cow RB, Rashad Jennings gashed them for 176 yards and a TD. A similar statistical output is not out of the realm of possibility for Murray this week.
Le’Veon Bell ($7,300) - Despite limiting Donald Brown to 1.9 YPA last week, the Jags have still allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Bell has seen 44.6% of his team’s total touches (second behind only Murray), and hasn’t gone under 100 yards from scrimmage in a game this season. While it’s disappointing he hasn’t scored since Week 1, Bell’s receiving prowess (4.75 receptions per game) makes up for it on DraftKings (full PPR). Besides, I’m not worried at all about Bell’s scoring potential in this game. Jacksonville has allowed six TDs to RBs through four games this season, and Bell has received nine red zone carries, the same number as Murray.
Calvin Johnson ($8,200) - Rolling with Calvin on a bad wheel is risky at this price, but if the time off agreed with him (he barely practiced and played only 37 snaps as a decoy last week), he’s going to torch the Bills at home. Buffalo’s only cornerback with a positive coverage grade (per Pro Football Focus) is Corey Graham, who got burned on a long DeAndre Hopkins TD last week. The ankle injury should drop Johnson’s ownership level, making him an attractive tournament play in an exploitable matchup. For what it’s worth, Johnson says he definitely feels better on the ankle than he did last week.
Jimmy Graham ($7,600) - Julius Thomas ($6,900) was nearly the pick here in a dream matchup against Arizona, but this isn’t the week to fade Jimmy Graham. Graham managed an 8-86-1 line last week despite the New Orleans-Dallas game going completely off script. This week he gets Tampa Bay, who just let up 10 receptions, 85 yards, and a TD to Heath Miller. Lovie’s Tampa 2 scheme also had trouble containing Greg Olson (8-83-1) back in Week 1. There’s a ton of great tight end options available on the cheap this week (see the Rubbing Alcohol section below), but make sure you throw a Brees-Graham stack into a GPP.
JACK DANIELS (MODERATELY PRICED PLAYS)
Philip Rivers ($7,000) - It’s hard to believe Rivers’ price is down $700 from last week after he lit up the Jags for 377 yards and three TDs. This week he gets to feast on an abysmal Jets secondary that’s ceded the fourth most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Rivers has thrown three TDs in each of his home starts, including the Week 2 matchup with Seattle’s vaunted secondary. Every QB efficiency metric I’ve ever heard of shows Rivers’ name at or near the top of the ranks. Twenty fantasy points is his floor playing at home against this sorry group of Jets corners.
Cam Newton ($7,200) - Everyone seems to think Chicago is a pushover against the run, but what if I told you they were the 12th best team at limiting RB fantasy scoring? Since letting up 174 rushing yards to the combination of C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Anthony Dixon in Week 1, the Bears have held opposing RBs to 3.54 YPA. It’s quarterbacks that have been doing the most damage against Chicago, as evidenced by Geno Smith and Aaron Rodgers exceeding 300 passing yards against them in each of the last two weeks. With Carolina’s running game in a state of complete disarray, they’ll have no choice but to pass in order to keep pace with Chicago (something Vegas thinks is likely - they have Carolina favored by three).
Rashad Jennings ($5,500) - Jennings is sure to be widely owned, but I don’t see how you can avoid rostering him this week. The Falcons are the preeminent matchup for opposing RBs. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon just dropped 213 yards and three TDs on them last week. Atlanta has let up eight rushing TDs this season - three more than the next closest team. What’s going to happen when Jennings (who leads the league in carries from inside the opponent’s five yard line) is unleashed on them this week? Vegas is predicting fireworks in the ATL-NYG game, setting the over/under at a league high 49.5 points. You’re going to want players in this game well represented in your lineups, and Jennings (who handles the ball on 40.7% of the Giants’ total touches) is a great place to start.
Emmanuel Sanders ($5,100) - I’m not entirely sure how Peyton Manning’s most heavily targeted receiver is valued at just $5,100 coming off back to back 100+ yard receiving games, but here we are. Sanders has seen 44% of the Broncos targets this season - a healthy 8% more than Demaryius Thomas. His 33.8% reception share places him behind only Jordy Nelson (GB - 38.4%) and Andrew Hawkins (CLE - 33.9%) for the league lead. At this salary, you only need about 15 points from Sanders to make him worth your while, which seems like a virtual certainty in PPR scoring given his usage thus far. It helps that he’s caught at least one pass of 40+ yards in every game this season, and that Denver-Arizona is the second highest over/under of the week (49 points).
T.Y. Hilton ($5,200) - Death, taxes, and T.Y. Hilton’s fantasy production at Lucas Oil Stadium. In 16 career home games, Hilton has piled up 84 receptions and 1,373 receiving yards, compared to 70 receptions and 862 yards in 15 road games - that’s over 25 yards per game better at home. Hilton has been quiet this season, but he’s still Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver, racking up double digit targets in all but one game. He’s coming off his best performance of the season (6-105), and the matchup against Baltimore isn’t scary. The Ravens have allowed big PPR games to A.J Green (6-131-1), Antonio Brown (7-90), Andrew Hawkins (7-87), and Kelvin Benjamin (5-76-1) this season.
Golden Tate ($4,900) - You’ll recall last week, DeAndre Hopkins was my Kings for a Day coverboy thanks in large part to his matchup with the Bills’ defensive backs. When Tate lines up in the slot this week (which he has on 65% of his routes this season), he’s sure to see some of Nickell Robey in coverage (Robey has seen more snaps in slot coverage than any other Bills CB). Robey has been a mess this year, giving up the sixth most yards and third most YAC when covering slot receivers. Tate looked great last week (8-116) and should continue to benefit from the added attention defenses must pay to Calvin Johnson (whether he’s healthy or not). Just keep an eye on Friday’s practice report, as Tate popped up with a hamstring injury on Thursday.
Kelvin Benjamin ($4,800) - Amazingly, Benjamin’s price has yet to catch up to his production. He’s become one of the most reliable fantasy wide receivers in the league, posting at least 100 yards from scrimmage, or a TD in three out of four games this season. As I mentioned earlier, if this game is going to play out the way Vegas is predicting, Carolina will have to throw the ball well, and Benjamin stands to be the biggest beneficiary.
Philadelphia Defense ($3,300) - Philadelphia leads the league in defensive TDs (3) and return TDs (2), making them the top scoring fantasy unit at the season’s quarter mark. Austin Davis has thrown a pair of TDs to the wrong team this season, and should be forced to throw more than usual as St. Louis tries to come from behind (Philly is favored by a TD). Philadelphia has let up the sixth most points in the NFL and ranks near the bottom of the league in sacks, so be advised they have a scary low floor. Consider the Eagles a high variance tournament play that can pay huge dividends.
LIMOUSINE LIQUOR (DIRT CHEAP PLAYS)
Blake Bortles ($5,200) - The stage didn’t look too big for Bortles in his starting debut last week (254 yards, one TD, two INTs, 24 rushing yards, 78.4% completion) - and that came on the road against a tough San Diego defense. This week he gets a home matchup against Pittsburgh, who just allowed 22 fantasy points to Mike Glennon. Much like Teddy Bridgewater did last week, Bortles should feed off a home crowd excited to see the new face of their franchise make his first start. The 14.6 fantasy points Bortles posted in Week 4 on DraftKings likely represents his floor in this matchup, making him a near lock to meet value at this price.
Fred Jackson ($4,500) - On the surface, Jackson has a rough matchup on the road at Detroit. Before Chris Ivory ran for 84 yards on them last week, the Lions hadn’t allowed an opposing rusher to top 46 yards in a game. But with the Bills playing catch-up late in games the last two weeks, Jackson has picked up additional snaps and targets in the passing game. Vegas has the Lions favored by more than a TD this week, making it likely Buffalo will once again be playing from behind. Jackson has racked up 17 targets, 14 receptions, and 130 receiving yards playing in those conditions the past two weeks, so the setup should be there for another nice (and cheap) PPR performance.
Bishop Sankey ($4,700) - If Ken Whisenhunt is to be believed, we’ll finally get to see Sankey in something other than garbage time this week. It’s a development worthy of your attention since the Titans are taking on the Browns, who have allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Sankey has shown well as his snaps have increased the last two weeks, running for a combined 95 yards on 16 carries (5.93 YPA) in lopsided losses to Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Tennessee still boasts the sixth best run blocking offensive line (per Football Outsiders), so he shouldn’t have a problem finding running room against the Browns. Volume won’t be an issue either, as Tennessee ought to be able to establish their offense in a game Vegas projects them to win by 1.5 points.
Rueben Randle ($3,900) - Randle has seen 20 targets in the last two games, and would be priced much higher if he hadn’t nearly missed touchdowns on two separate catches against Washington last week. This week’s matchup against the Falcons (who were last seen giving up 132 receiving yards to Jarius Wright) is a winnable one for Randle. If Eli Manning continues peppering him with looks (especially in the red zone where he’s tied for third in the NFL with eight targets) Randle will obliterate the 11.7 fantasy points you need for him to meet value.
Eddie Royal ($4,400) - I wish Eddie Royal would just disappear already. If he would only vanish, maybe the San Diego coaching staff would finally be forced to try Ladarius Green in the slot, where he’d be absolutely impossible to cover. Unfortunately Royal refuses to go away, and I can’t tell you to fade him for $4,400 this week. Kyle Wilson has been atrocious in slot coverage, allowing a catch on 80% of his targets against. Royal (who runs out of the slot on more than 85% of his routes) is on an epic heater with four TD grabs in his last two games. I expect the train to keep rolling for one more week before the wheels inevitably fall off.
Denver Defense ($2,600) - I’m not convinced one good performance at home against the 49ers means it’s wrong to target the defense playing against Drew Stanton. Stanton is the league’s least accurate QB (51.6% completion rate). All those errant passes will eventually lead to a bunch of interceptions. The Denver defense hasn’t played very well, but there’s a lot to like about them this week - they’re at home, coming off a bye, and playing as heavy favorites against a journeyman QB.
RUBBING ALCOHOL (MINIMUM PLAYS)
Khiry Robinson ($3,000) - Robinson has taken 26 of the 39 running back carries for the Saints since Mark Ingram went down. While he lacks upside in DraftKings PPR scoring (his two receptions last week were the first of his career), it’s rare to find the lead back on a good offense available for the minimum. If not for wonky game flow, Robinson would have had a huge game against the Cowboys last week. Now he gets a neutral matchup against Tampa Bay at home, in a game Vegas expects New Orleans to win by more than 10 points. I’d be shocked if Robinson doesn’t hit double digit fantasy points.
Jeremy Hill ($3,000) - Jamaal Charles (108 total yards, three TDs) and Knile Davis (16-107) reminded us last Monday that New England is a favorable draw for opposing RBs. Hill’s carries have been up and down this season, but he’s efficient on a per carry basis (5.1 YPA) and at the goal line (two of this three carries from inside the five have gone for TDs). I have to believe Bengals OC Hue Jackson realizes New England has been shredded on the ground in their two losses, and will go run heavy on the road in Foxboro. Giovanni Bernard is an excellent play this week, but Hill should see enough opportunity to pay off his bottom dollar price tag.
Allen Robinson ($3,000) - The Dez Bryant clone from Penn State has racked up 17 targets in the last two weeks. Now he’s in line for even more opportunity with Cecil Shorts (the Jags’ second most targeted receiver in Weeks 3 and 4) on the shelf with a hamstring injury. It may be a coincidence, but the Steelers have struggled to cover big bodied, high pedigree rookie WRs (Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans) in each of their last two games. Robinson’s stat line from last week (5-38-0) is an absolute worst case scenario in this matchup, and even if he can’t manage better production this week, it would still just about pay off his minimum salary.
Travis Kelce ($3,000) - Kelce will probably be the most widely owned commodity on DraftKings this weekend. After a coming out party (8-93-1) on national television, in which he looked more like Gronk than Gronk himself, how he’s available at the minimum is a mystery. It’s somewhat concerning Kelce was only in on 35 of Kansas City’s 67 offensive snaps against New England, but Andy Reid finally made a concerted effort to get the ball to Kelce in space. San Francisco has been a tough spot for tight ends this season, but if the Chiefs continue to deploy Kelce on short digs and bubble screens, it won’t matter. Linebackers cannot cover this guy.
Garrett Graham ($3,000) - If you need to diversify from Kelce, Graham has the matchup and sticker price you’re looking for. Dallas has let up a TD to a tight end in every single game this season. Graham hasn’t been heavily targeted, but he’s at least been involved, posting eight catches on 11 targets in the last two games. A five catch, 40 yard game at this price would get the job done. If Graham isn’t exciting enough for you, consider Tampa Bay rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins who should see an uptick in targets with Mike Evans on the shelf.