For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. Footballguys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
In order to help you build winning rosters, let's walk through some of the observations that I have made while doing my research for DraftKings this week. As you build out your lineups on DraftKings, try to consider the following commentary, which revolves around game strategy and how we will want to take advantage of what the masses are doing when they construct their own lineups.
CASH GAME TIPS
TIGHT SALARIES: Slowly becoming a weekly theme, DraftKings continues to throttle salaries to the point where finding 'safe' plays for cash games is extremely difficult. Compounding matters is the fact that there are only nine games on the main slate due to Thursday, Sunday, and Monday Night Football, as well as a Sunday morning game in London. With only nine games on the main slate, our choices for both value and talent become more limiting, pushing us to make uncomfortable decisions about who to round out our cash game rosters. The two most popular plays in cash games will likely be LeSean McCoy and A.J. Green because of their implied volume, plus matchups, and recent success; getting them both into your lineups will cost you greater than one-third of your overall salary, which is going to send you searching for value elsewhere. This week, I suggest that you consider finding value at wide receiver and/or tight end, both of which have multiple options (see "Picks" section for more detail). Of those options, Josh Doctson and Tyler Kroft stand out as the most obvious choices; one could also try to make a case for Robby Anderson, Brandon LaFell, Jordan Matthews, and Jack Doyle, although none of them feel particularly compelling for varying reasons. My best recommendation is to play multiple lineups and diversify your play amongst head-to-head games, 50/50 contests, and a few triple-ups to maximize your potential return-on-investment without subjecting yourself to excessive risk.
WATCHING THE WEATHER: There are two games (Carolina at Tampa Bay; San Francisco at Philadelphia) on this week's main slate with significant weather implications that should be consulted on Sunday morning prior to lineup lock. In Tampa Bay, there are reports that wind could be an issue that could otherwise negatively affect an intriguing passing shootout between the Panthers and Buccaneers. With steady winds in the 14-17 MPH range and gusts surpassing 20 MPH, we could see these teams take the air out of the ball and rely more heavily on their running backs than we might have otherwise anticipated; history has demonstrated that wind speed dramatically affects a quarterback's fantasy output, which is why you should definitely follow up on the forecast closer to gametime. Likewise, the forecast in Philadelphia is calling for heavy thunderstorms that could affect field conditions and the ability to grip the football. DFS players tend to overreact to weather conditions more often than not, so monitor the field conditions closer to gametime and make an informed decision when you have more information. The most important thing you can do with regards to weather is the following: Monitor any movement in the Vegas odds on a team and/or total on Sunday morning--if weather is going to significantly affect the playability of the game, it will without question be reflected in the Vegas odds. My last bit of advice is to jump on Twitter to get a feel for what people are discussing...if you follow the right set of people, you'll know fairly immediately if you need to dial back your ownership on specific players due to weather concerns.
Let's take a deeper look into some of the players who I will be targeting for my cash game and tournament rosters this weekend. There is little difference in terms of strength of selection between those players who have text to justify their appearance in this article versus those in the "also eligible" section; all are strong plays in their respective categories, but time and space restrictions do not allow for expansive written summaries of every player listed.
CASH GAME PICKS
Russell Wilson (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $6,500). After opening the season with back-to-back stinkers against Green Bay and San Francisco, Russell Wilson has quietly put together solid performances in three of his last four games, averaging 27.0 DraftKings points per contest over that span. Despite that string of performances, DraftKings appears to have underpriced Wilson at only $6.5K against the Houston Texans at CenturyLink Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks are projected to score 26 points, yet have only scored a single rushing touchdown through six games this season because Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls have been punchless behind Seattle's subpar offensive line; this bodes well for continued high production from Wilson, who may have but no choice to continue to look towards his receivers to move the ball through the air. It may be easier to accomplish that task due to the fact that Houston will field a battered Texans defense that is missing key defensive stars Brian Cushing (suspension) and J.J. Watt (tibia), as well as LB Dylan Cole (hamstring) and DE Joel Heath (knee). To date, Houston's 7th overall DVOA defense is probably better on paper than in reality, as they have faltered badly in their three losses, allowing an average of 33 points per game in those efforts. With Vegas projecting yet another loss for Houston in this matchup (Seattle minus 6.5 points), the stars appear to be aligned for Wilson to put together another 20+ point performance at a modest price point.
Andy Dalton (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,700). On a week where the salary cap is painfully tight on DraftKings, we have to consider rostering the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton, in cash game lineups simply for salary relief. The good news is that Dalton's matchup is superb against a Colts secondary that has yielded an average of 300.7 passing yards to opposing quarterbacks this season, resulting in them allowing a schedule-adjusted average of 29% fantasy points above league-average to the quarterback position (30th in NFL, ahead of Tampa Bay and Cleveland). The matchup becomes even more appealing for Dalton this weekend, as the Colts will be without starting cornerback Rashaan Melvin and safety Malik Hooker, who represent the Colts' best pass defenders this season (five of seven team interceptions). Some will hesitate to roster Dalton because he has stumbled at times, but his poor performances have been isolated to tough opposing defenses (Baltimore, pre-injury Houston, and Pittsburgh); when tossing the rock against lesser defenses, Dalton has easily achieved the 3x value he would need to justify his spot in cash game lineups. At $5.7K, Dalton needs only 17+ DraftKings points to reach value, a number that every opposing quarterback against the Colts has surpassed in 2017; if there was ever a situation to consider Andy Dalton for cash games, this would appear to be as close as it gets.
Also eligible: Tyrod Taylor ($5,900)
LeSean McCoy (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8,700). Undefeated at home this season, the surprising Buffalo Bills find themselves a win out of a first-place tie with the Patriots atop the AFC East at the end of October. Their success can be squarely attributed to LeSean McCoy, who has thrived as a bellcow running back while virtually every receiver has failed to perform, whether it be due to injury (Jordan Matthews, Charles Clay), leaving the team (Sammy Watkins, Anquan Boldin), or just general ineptitude (Zay Jones). Since joining the Bills in 2015, McCoy has been spectacular as a home favorite, averaging north of 24 fantasy points per game, an output that is in line with the requisite 3x value needed to pay off his $8.7K salary. McCoy gets a plus matchup against the Oakland Raiders' 20th DVOA rush defense that has yielded 4.06 yards per carry to opposing running backs in 2017; they have stumbled against pass-catching running backs, allowing Melvin Gordon III and Chris Thompson to gouge them for 30+ DraftKings points largely due to their inability to defend the pass. Making matters worse for Oakland, they will be without two starting cornerbacks (David Amerson and Gareon Conley), which could force them to move players around on defense to fill the gaps, thereby creating additional weaknesses for McCoy to exploit. Of all the options on a limited nine-game slate, McCoy is probably the one player you want to build your cash game lineups around because of the implied volume, history of success, and plus matchup.
Mark Ingram II (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $7,400). When constructing cash game lineups on DraftKings, you are going to be tempted to slot Joe Mixon into your RB2 spot because he provides salary relief that does not exist elsewhere on the site in Week #8. And you will see that he is listed as a cash game recommendation (below), primarily because his salary is too low *if* we can safely assume that Marvin Lewis will give him the work that he deserves against the Colts' 21st ranked DVOA rush defense; however, Mixon called out the coaching staff after last week's game because he did not see (in his opinion) enough touches in the second half of the Bengals' loss to the Steelers. Because I am not 100% certain that Coach Lewis will not try to teach the rookie a lesson about how to speak to the press, I think it makes more sense to spend up for your second running back on DraftKings. Of the remaining options, Mark Ingram II looks to be in a great spot as a 9-point home favorite against the Bears. Since Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals after Week #5, Ingram has 56 touches across a pair of games and looks to be in line for similar usage on Sunday; no player on the Saints has more opportunities inside the redzone this season (17) and Ingram should get first looks again this week given that he has gotten into the endzone three times over the past two weeks. With the second-highest implied team total on the Vegas board (28.25), there should be multiple redzone opportunities for the Saints offense to get Ingram into the endzone for the third Sunday in a row.
A.J. Green (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8,600). After normalizing for strength of schedule, only the Tampa Bay Bucs have yielded more fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position than the Indianapolis Colts. Enter A.J. Green, who posted three consecutive games with a touchdown prior to last week's letdown performance against the Steelers. This is a get-right spot for Green against a Colts secondary that was bereft of talent before announcing that key components of their secondary (Rashaan Melvin and Malik Hooker) would both miss this contest with injuries. Truthfully, the Bengals should be able to do whatever they want to put points on the board against the Colts' 30th overall DVOA defense, which means that the running game is certainly an option, but Green represents the cornerstone of this offense, which makes him an attractive option for cash games, particularly when the Bengals' implied team total (26.25) is just a notch below the elite options of the week (Philadelphia, New Orleans, New England). Green should run the majority of his routes at rookie Quincy Wilson, who was a healthy scratch over the previous month after allowing opposing quarterbacks to log a 137.5 QB rating against him in limited action early in the season. Simply put, Wilson will be outclassed in this matchup and anything less than 7+ receptions for 80+ yards and a score would be a disappointment for Green on Sunday.
Josh Doctson (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,900). A salary-saving option, Josh Doctson will be one of the highest-owned players in cash games this weekend. Doctson is a 2016 first-round draft pick out of Texas Christian (TCU) who basically missed his entire rookie season due to Achilles tendonitis; he was brought back slowly in the off-season and has only recently begun to see appreciable time on the field. In fact, last week we saw Doctson supplant Terrelle Pryor as the WR1 in the Redskins offense (54 versus 30 snaps, respectively); since then, Coach Jay Gruden has publicly stated that they would "go with the hot hand" at receiver, but that feels more like coach-speak than reality, as Pryor has averaged only 3 catches for 37.2 yards and 0.2 touchdowns in extensive action with Washington to this point in the season. Meanwhile, Doctson was drafted to make plays, something he routinely did in college, and the time has come to see just how good he can be at this level. He will line up across from a combination of Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown, who have collectively allowed six touchdowns in limited action to this point in the season; their inefficiency inside the redzone could be a boon to Doctson's fantasy output, particularly when one takes into account that Doctson scored over half of his 29 college touchdowns from within his opponents' 20-yard line. At a bargain $3.9K price point, Doctson needs 5+ receptions for 60+ yards to reach cash game value, which should be a breeze given his likely volume and personnel matchup.
Jason Witten (Primarily cash games, Salary: $4,200). Full disclosure: As a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, Jason Witten is one of my favorite players of all time. However, I rarely play him in DFS because his upside is generally limited to catching touchdowns because his ability to run after the catch has been non-existent since the emergence of daily fantasy back in 2013. That said, Witten is one of the stronger cash game plays this weekend against the Redskins, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to the position in 2017 (17.9 DraftKings points per game). The 35-year old is averaging 7 targets per game this season and has already found the endzone thrice, matching his scoring output for both 2015 and 2016. Witten's uptick in production is most likely attributable to the Cowboys opening this season with a 3-3 record versus last year's ecstatic 13-3 onslaught of the league--last season, the Cowboys would build an early lead and ride Ezekiel Elliott and the ground game to victory, something that has not been consistently possible with the 2017 version of the Cowboys. Supporting this notion is the observation that Witten is averaging 8.3 targets per game in losses versus 5.7 targets when Dallas is victorious. Dallas is only a short favorite in this game, so we should probably expect Witten to be involved throughout this NFC East showdown. He needs only 12+ points to justify a spot in cash games rosters, which is a threshold he has met in all but two games this season, both of which were against defenses (Rams and Cardinals) that are known for their ability to shut down production from opposing tight ends, unlike the Redskins.
Tyler Kroft (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,000). The tight nature of the salary cap on DraftKings and an excellent personnel matchup have culminated to land Tyler Kroft into the cash game section of this article at the mid-point of the season. Kroft has been a forgotten man in the Bengals' offense since arriving on the scene in 2015, but Tyler Eifert's premature ending to the season thrust Kroft into the starting role back in Week #3. Since then, Kroft has averaged 4.3 catches for 39.3 receiving yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game (on 5 targets per game) for an average of 13.0 DraftKings points per game over the past month. Kroft's elevated scoring has inflated that number to some degree because it is unrealistic to expect him to finish the season with that level of scoring efficiency, but if he manages to continue to catch 4 passes for 40 yards, he will have met cash game value on DraftKings at his current $3.0K salary. Kroft's matchup is excellent against a questionable Colts secondary that has allowed touchdowns to the tight end position in four of their previous five games; as discussed elsewhere in this article (Andy Dalton and A.J. Green), the Colts will start multiple backups in their defensive backfield, which also bolsters the case for Kroft in cash game formats.
Also eligible: Hunter Henry ($4,800)
Eagles (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,800). In his NFL debut last week, C.J. Beathard turned the ball over twice and was sacked five times by the Dallas Cowboys, by far their best defensive performance of the season. This Sunday, Beathard will travel cross-country to play the 6-1 Philadelphia Eagles, who have four sacks and/or multiple takeaways in all but two games this season. As double-digit favorites over the visiting Niners, we should expect the Eagles to jump out to an early lead and force the rookie, Beathard, to try to keep pace via the passing game, a dangerous proposition when a rookie is forced to throw the ball 35+ times in a game. The 49ers' best player, Carlos Hyde, could be minimized if the gamescript plays out according to Vegas, which only bolsters the case for Philadelphia. Lastly, and potentially most importantly, the weather forecast for Philadelphia is ominous, with several inches of rain and gusts of wind approaching 20 MPH; if that forecast comes to fruition on Sunday morning, the Eagles defense becomes the must-play defense on the week, especially if Vegas backs that sentiment with a drop in the game total.
Bengals (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,600). For a few hundred less than Philadelphia, the Cincinnati Bengals are prime options for cash games because they will face an Indianapolis offense that is lacking any semblance of a personality without Andrew Luck. Only four teams enter Week #8 with a lower points per game average (17) than the Colts and Vegas oddsmakers project them to finish in that range against Cincinnati this weekend. The Bengals get after the quarterback quite well, averaging 3.0 sacks per game (7th in NFL), which does not bode well for Jacoby Brissett, who plays behind a Colts' offensive line that has allowed 4.0 sacks per game this season, worst in the league. For these reasons, this 10th overall DVOA defensive unit should have no troubles getting pressure on Brissett and containing the Colts offense; given that opposing defenses have averaged 13.0 DraftKings points per game against the Colts offense this season, Cincinnati's $3.6K price point feels like a relative bargain.
Matt Ryan (Salary: $6,800). You can build contrarian rosters on DraftKings in Week #8 simply by spending up at the quarterback position because the bulk of DFS players will start their roster construction with expensive running backs after watching Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, and Todd Gurley meet expectations on lofty salaries last Sunday. Recency bias combined with solid matchups will drive ownership on McCoy and Elliott north of 25+% this weekend and will almost assuredly prevent those same rosters from spending more than $6K on a quarterback because the remainder of those rosters would be relegated to sub-$4K flyers without the requisite upside necessary to win a tournament. As such, we can expect ownership levels of Matt Ryan to be in the low single-digit range despite a juicy matchup against a Jets secondary that is yielding 22% more over league-average fantasy points to the quarterback position after normalizing for strength of schedule, the same defense that allowed a combination of Jay Cutler and Matt Moore to throw for 300+ yards and four touchdowns in their most recent game. Ryan can be paired with either Julio Jones ($8.4K) or Mohamed Sanu ($4.9K), both of whom have been target-monsters when healthy this season; at the discount, Sanu is especially intriguing because he will face off against a cornerback with no experience from the slot, as both Jets' nickel cornerbacks, Buster Skrine (concussion) and Xavier Coleman (labrum), will miss this game with injuries.
Philip Rivers (Salary: $6,100). A week after Bill Belichick largely stymied the aforementioned Matt Ryan, DFS players may be reluctant to go back to the well with Philip Rivers and the Chargers in an early start game after a cross-country trip. But the combination of Rivers' salary, implied ownership, and upside are too much to be ignored for tournament consideration. What many people fail to appreciate is that this 3-4 Chargers squad could just as easily be 7-1 after losing 3 of their 4 losses early this season by a field goal or less. This Chargers team is a legitimate playoff contender and we should expect them to pull out all the stops against New England on Sunday as they fight to get back into the playoff hunt. The Patriots will run out the 28th DVOA pass defense that is allowing a league-high 310.3 passing yards per game and will be without 3 starters: Dont'a Hightower (pectoral), CB Eric Rowe (groin), and DT Malcolm Brown (ankle), a combination of talent that will only serve to further hobble this already suspect defense. Rivers will have his choice of receivers, headlined by Keenan Allen and followed closely by Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Henry, and even Melvin Gordon III, all of whom are capable of scoring against this secondary. The best part about rostering Rivers is that we know that Tom Brady will keep this game close and Rivers will be forced to throw for all four quarters to keep pace, which makes him an excellent option for tournament play.
Melvin Gordon III (Salary: $8,100). Nestled between LeSean McCoy's $8.7K and Mark Ingram II's $7.4K salaries is Melvin Gordon III at $8.1K, which is going to keep Gordon's ownership lower than it should be because most DFS players are going to feel compelled to spend a few hundred more/less to grab those "surer things" when building tournament lineups. But we should not be so quick to dismiss Gordon against the Patriots this weekend because he has immense upside and will be owned at rates half (or more) of McCoy and Ingram. Coming off a dreadful game against the league's best DVOA rush defense (Denver), Gordon is in a fantastic bounce-back position against the Patriots' 26th ranked DVOA rush defense that has allowed 4.76 yards per carry to opposing running backs this season. Only four teams have allowed more fantasy points per game to the running back position, which is an eye-opener when one considers that New England has played with a lead for most of the season. Bolstering the case for Gordon is easy--the Patriots (as discussed in the Philip Rivers' write-up) will be without three starters on defense, two of whom (Hightower and Brown) patrol opposing running backs. Furthermore, Melvin Gordon III is a redzone monster, leading (by far) the Chargers with 27 looks inside opponents' 20-yard line. Some will point out that Austin Ekeler's snap count and carries increased last week, resulting in a touchdown, but those opportunities were arguably moreso due to Gordon's nagging shoulder injury and a plus gamescript where the Chargers were leading and had the luxury of giving Gordon some extra rest. This Sunday, it is highly improbable that the Chargers will build another early lead against one of the best offenses in the NFL, so we should expect Gordon to be on the field early and often. It would be no surprise if he finished this game with multiple touchdowns and 100+ all-purpose yards; if he were to do it at single-digit ownership, it would thrust your lineups to the top of GPP leaderboards.
Matt Forte (Salary: $4,200). Questions about who is the starter in the Jets backfield should keep ownership of both Bilal Powell and Matt Forte to a minimum this weekend despite a solid matchup against the Atlanta Falcons' defensive front seven. In games where Forte has started (and finished), he has outsnapped Powell by about 25% which makes him an intriguing GPP option at a $600 discount from his stablemate. There is a public perception that Forte is the early-down back, while Powell comes in for passing down situations and that may be true to some degree, but Forte is still seeing plenty of action in the passing game with Josh McCown under center; in the three games where Forte was 100% healthy, he has actually been targeted more than Powell in the passing game (14 to 10 targets, respectively). If the Jets continue to use Forte in the passing game, he is a strong GPP play because only New England has been worse against pass-catching running backs this season. In fact, the Falcons' 30th ranked DVOA defense is allowing over 100 rushing yards and 50+ receiving yards to opposing running backs in 2017. At only $4.2K, Forte could easily achieve 4x GPP value if he finds his way to the endzone and collects 80+ all-purpose yards along the way, a yardage benchmark that he has surpassed in 75% of games he has completed this season.
Doug Baldwin (Salary: $6,900). Back in Week #3, Doug Baldwin suffered a groin injury that hampered his fantasy production for several games leading into a much-needed Week #6 bye. Last Sunday, Baldwin returned with a clean bill of health in a tough matchup against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and he looked fantastic, garnering 9 receptions on 12 targets for 92 receiving yards and a score. He and Russell Wilson were fully in sync throughout that contest, an encouraging sign for the Seattle offense moving into the latter half of the season. On paper, the matchup for Baldwin is less than stellar, as the Texans boast the league's 7th ranked DVOA pass defense, but outside of the Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and A.J. Green, they have faced a laundry list of no-name wide receivers thus far; as a result, their success is not entirely surprising, but should not scare us away from considering the Seahawks' primary receiving option at a reasonable $6.9K price point. Baldwin should run the majority of his routes at the oft-targeted Kareem Jackson, who is currently ProFootballFocus' 67th rated (of 76 total) coverage cornerbacks; Jackson is being targeted every six coverage snaps and has allowed 73.3% of passes thrown into his coverage to be caught, resulting in some gaudy numbers for opposing quarterbacks. The case for Baldwin is strengthened by the return of the Texans' most talented cornerback, Kevin Johnson, who does not generally go into the slot, meaning that Russell Wilson may decide to target Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson Jr (18 targets in previous 2 games) less than he has been using them recently, thereby creating additional opportunity for Baldwin in the better matchup.
Kelvin Benjamin (Salary: $6,400). One cannot ignore the alarmingly high production that wide receivers have routinely posted against the Tampa Bay Bucs' dreadful secondary to this point in the season; they enter Week #8 having allowed an average of 44.7 fantasy points per week to the position, including 100+ receiving yards and/or a touchdown to 7 different receivers. Compounding matters for the Bucs is the fact that they will be without two of their starting cornerbacks in Robert McClain (concussion) and Brent Grimes (shoulder), not to mention that safety (and backup cornerback) Josh Robinson will also miss this contest with a concussion. Reports suggest that the Sunday Tampa Bay secondary will be the most inexperienced trio of cornerbacks that has started together in the history of the franchise (29 total starts), which could spell incredible numbers for Cam Newton and his receiving corps. Of those options, we might consider ignoring Ed Dickson because the Bucs have been surprising stingy to opposing tight ends, allowing 38% less fantasy production to the position after normalizing for strength of schedule (4th best in NFL). That leaves Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess (plus Christian McCaffrey) to fluster this young Buccaneer secondary; both options are squarely in play at modest price points, but a slight nod goes to Benjamin, whose 6'5" frame and established history with Newton trump the recent emergence of Funchess. After scoring 16 touchdowns in his first two full seasons, Benjamin has but a solitary score this season and it would appear that he is in line for some regression to his historical production in the near future.
Jordan Reed (Salary: $4,700). After nursing a foot injury for the better part of two months, Jordan Reed will play his first game of the season following a week without appearing on the injury report. This weekend's game against the Cowboys comes on the heels of Reed's first two-touchdown game of the season last Monday night against the Eagles, a feat he accomplished six times over the previous two years. If Reed is 100% healthy (and all signs indicate that is the case), he is entirely too cheap at $4.7K for the type of upside he brings to the table. When these teams last met on Thanksgiving of last year, Reed pulled in 10 catches for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a back-and-forth effort where the Cowboys eventually prevailed 31-26. The truth is that Sunday's matchup between these two teams could develop similarly, as neither defense is imposing and both teams possess multiple playmakers on their respective offenses. Another factor in Jordan Reed's favor is the fact that there are multiple questionable offensive linemen for the 'Skins entering Sunday, which could result in additional action as an outlet receiver if/when Dallas gets pressure on Kirk Cousins. Lastly, if Terrelle Pryor is as limited as we might expect based on last week, Reed will be the biggest receiver on the field when the Redskins get inside the redzone, making him a clear candidate for those high-leverage opportunities due to his large frame, reliable hands, and established rapport with Cousins.
Jared Cook (Salary: $3,900). Quick...to this point in the season, who has more targets between Jared Cook and Michael Crabtree? Whoever you chose would make you wrong, as they are tied with 41 targets to entering this Sunday's matchup against Buffalo. Surprising, right? It is an interesting statistic to ponder for tournament purposes because both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are expected to be owned at levels surpassing 10%, while Cook offers salary relief and will be owned at less than half the rate of both Cooper and Crabtree. Oakland is a slight road underdog to the Bills, who will be without their most experienced cornerback in E.J. Gaines (hamstring), which favors Derek Carr and the Oakland passing game, especially on a week where Marshawn Lynch is suspended. Collectively, this advocates a stance for Jared Cook in tournaments as a leverage play over Cooper and/or Crabtree owners and could make a lot of sense from a matchup perspective because Buffalo is fresh off a week where they allowed the Buccaneers' tight ends to blow them up for 12 catches for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Also eligible: Jimmy Graham (Salary: $4,600).
Saints (Salary: $3,400). Averaging 16.5 fantasy points per game over the previous month, the New Orleans Saints are interesting GPP fodder at home against a rookie quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. The Saints rank 11th in the league in sacks (2.8 per game) entering the end of October and get a plus home matchup against a Bears squad that has allowed more than half of their opponents' team defenses to score double-digit fantasy points this season. Since taking over the lead quarterback role three weeks ago, Trubisky has made only 48 pass attempts, mostly because the Bears defense has kept them competitive and allowed Coach John Fox to lean on Jordan Howard to move the sticks; that may not be possible this weekend in New Orleans, where Drew Brees and company put up 52 points against a much better Detroit defense only two weeks ago. If you believe that the Saints will get close to (or surpass) the 28 points that Vegas oddsmakers have bestowed upon them, betting against a rookie quarterback with no NFL-caliber wide receivers feels like a shark move at only 7% ownership.
Seahawks (Salary: $3,200). Arguably a cash game option, the Seattle Seahawks defense has as much tournament upside as any team on the board this weekend. After back-to-back road wins, the Seahawks return home to CenturyLink Field, where they have allowed a total of 27 points to opponents in a pair of 2017 matchups. Seattle is exiting October on a roll, having allowed only 35 points over their previous three games (11.7 points per game) and averaging 14.3 fantasy points per game over that span. They will face off against a Houston Texans offense that has feasted against lesser opponents, but scored a grand total of 20 points against the only two top-10 DVOA defenses (Cincinnati and Jacksonville) they have played this season. The Texans are allowing 3.5 sacks per game (29th in NFL) and we would be remiss if we did not remind ourselves that Deshaun Watson is still a rookie quarterback, despite the success he has displayed against lesser opponents; it would not be surprising to see him take a step backwards this weekend with an unfavorable gamescript in an unfriendly environment.
Also eligible: Falcons ($3,100), Buccaneers (Salary: $2,600).