This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
By the time I have started building my lineups I typically have a single quarterback that is going to lead the majority of my teams. This week though I don’t think that is going to be the case because I really like two quarterbacks which I will probably split approximately 50/50 in my cash lineups.
First of all, let’s start with Andrew Luck ($8,700) who is coming off a pretty weak game against a ferocious Broncos defense. Last week Luck had two key turnovers in the fourth quarter and ended up with only 197 passing yards and a TD on 40 attempts. My hope is that poor performance will keep his ownership level lower than what you would typically expect from Luck in a prime matchup. Make no mistakes about it this is a prime matchup as through the first two game the Chargers have allowed Blake Bortles and Alex Smith 329 and 363 passing yards respectively. In both games the Chargers built big leads right from the beginning, although they blew it against the Chiefs, which forced both teams to pass a lot. The Colts should be more competitive than that but they will rely on Luck to move the ball and at 0-2 they need to get a win because even the AFC South needs a few wins to be competitive in it.
The other player that I am interested in is Ryan Tannehill ($7,400). The Cleveland Browns are an absolute train wreck this year and are the worst team by a decent amount so you will see me picking on them a lot. Most of the time that will be on the ground because the Browns will likely be losing by a fair amount and teams will be grinding out the clock but the Dolphins don’t have a great run game this year. Instead I am thinking they build their lead behind Tannehill while peppering Jarvis Landry with a bunch of short routes to keep the chain moving. The Browns were abused by Dennis Pitta on these routes last week and Jordan Matthews two weeks ago. A great side benefit of have two quarterbacks that you are relying on being such divergent prices is that it forces you to build your two teams in a different matter and get good exposure across your teams.
Just like the first two weeks are lineups begin with DeAngelo Williams despite his price rising all the way to $8,800. Through two games Williams has 58 of the Steelers 63 running back rush attempts and 10 of their 46 passing attempts. Over those two games the Steelers are 2-0 and tied with the Ravens atop the AFC North. The Steelers plan has been to rely heavily on Williams until Le'Veon Bell returns and with it working so well so far I don’t see them changing it up this week. The only concern is how long Williams can hold up with this kind of a workload. We saw a lot of running backs get injured last week and Williams isn’t young but if he stays in the game he should be successful once again. The real question will be what the Steelers do when Bell returns. If they are smart they will continue to give Williams a fair amount of touches to keep Bell fresh for the playoffs given how well Williams has played.
This week Williams isn’t my only primary play at running back. Additionally, I am a huge fan of Melvin Gordon III ($7,100). Typically I would not be suggesting a running back on the team that I expect to lose and going so far as to pair him with the quarterback on the team I expect to win the same game. This is especially a poor idea in a tournament. The most likely game script for your quarterback to do well is score a lot of points which puts them in the lead and forces the other team to abandon the run game. In cash games I don’t think this is as big of a deal because if Luck has such a big game that the Chargers abandon the run game then I am already in good enough shape to likely win the game anyway thanks to Luck’s points.
So there is certainly a risk for the Chargers to abandon the run game. However, while they are running it Gordon will be the primary back thanks to an unfortunate injury to Danny Woodhead. Through the first two games the running back rushing attempts have been split as Gordon 38, Woodhead 19, and Farrow 4. With no Woodhead expect Gordon to be on the field for almost all the snaps. The Chargers wasted the 15th pick in the 2015 draft on Gordon this is a good time for him to start earning that draft status. All of these plusses outweigh the game script risk for me.
While I don’t recommend deviating too far from these two running backs if you don’t want to trust both in all your lineups I would look towards David Johnson at $8,400 is amazingly cheaper than Williams and should continue to see about 70% of the rushing attempts. Finally, if you are playing a slate with Monday night included you could do a lot worse than Mark Ingam ($6,900) in what should be a high scoring game.
At wide receiver if you are playing in slates that allow Monday night I think your lineups start with Julio Jones ($9,300). Unfortunately that isn’t the main slate so we don’t get to take advantage of him in most situations. But I did play him heavily on Thursday night.
My other favorite wide receiver play is Jarvis Landry ($7,000) who as I mentioned earlier should be the Dolphins go to option in the absence of a real running attack. Through the first two games Landry is averaging 11.5 targets and I expect that amount to be just as high this week. For our cash games we want a lot of targets and outside of Antonio Brown ($9,500) there aren’t a whole of other options that I feel as safe to get targets as I do Landry but Landry is much cheaper than those other options.
Speaking of Brown I will continue to build my cash lineups around him. I was very disappointed in his performance last week but I am going to write it off as an aberration. In a game Ben Roethlisberger started you need to go all the way back to week 16 of 2012 to find a game as poor as the one last week for Brown. He even had a couple of drops on plays that are pretty basic for him but he continued to get targeted 11 times. Brown should be back at it this week against the Eagles and should be back in your lineups as well.
The wide receiver position is especially deep this week so I recommend spreading around your exposure a bit. Some of my other favorite plays include
Travis Benjamin ($6,900) who should eat up the Colts defense,
Stefon Diggs ($6,400) who is averaging 10 targets per game and is dirt cheap despite the unfavorable matchup against the Panthers
Your tight end play should primarily focus on Dennis Pitta ($5,000) this week after receiving 12 targets and surpassing 100 yards last week. The tight end position has been rough to start the year with no Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham of years past to rely on but Pitta should be a consistent weapon for Joe Flacco and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the Ravens in targets yet again this week. If you have more money left over and aren’t a big fan of Pitta I would look to spend a bit more and search out Jordan Reed ($7,500), or Travis Kelce ($6,000).
Defense and Kickers
Your primary play at defense this week should be the Miami Dolphins who get to face a beat up Browns team being led by Cody Kessler. I expect Kessler to be forced into multiple sacks and turnovers and wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dolphins defense capitalize on one of those turnovers and turn it into a TD.
At kicker there are plenty of high scoring options that are pretty cheap this week. Mix and match between guys like Adam Vinatieri ($4,700), Mason Crosby ($4,700), Dan Bailey ($4,700), Andrew Franks ($4,500), and Josh Lambo ($4,500).