DFS Roundtable: Top-Heavy or Middle-Heavy?

Will you be building mostly top- or middle-heavy rosters for Week 3? Do you plan to deploy one or more top-level salaries in Week 3? Tell us your favorite high-dollar play and explain why he's worth such an investment this week. Or, if you'll be balancing your roster across the middle salaries, give us the three- or four-man core you plan to build around and why.

DFS salaries are tightening in Week 3, but the top level of salaries is shrinking down the pack. Le'Veon Bell, for example, cost us roughly 18-20% of our cap budget in each of the first 2 weeks, but finally scales back to affordability (for now). And Kareem Hunt, the top performer in fantasy football through two games, checks in with a salary that's hefty but fits reasonably into a cash lineup. Do you plan to deploy one or more top-level salaries in Week 3? Tell us your favorite high-dollar play - within the top 3-5 salaries of his position - and explain why he's worth such an investment this week. Or, if you'll be balancing your roster across the middle salaries, give us the three- or four-man core you plan to build around and why.

Jason Wood: Kareem Hunt absolutely figures into my plans this week, facing off against the Chargers in an early divisional battle. Hunt is projected to score more than 2x his salary on FanDuel and 2.6x on DraftKings. You don't pass that kind of value up, even if it pales to the arbitrage Hunt gave us in the first two weeks. 

At receiver, Antonio Brown remains attractive particularly with other higher-salaried options like Jordy Nelson (injury) and Odell Beckham (situation and injury) risky plays. Brown projects to return well north of 2x his salary on both DraftKings and FanDuel and should garner strong consideration in cash lineups.

Finally, Zach Ertz remains compelling even though his salary has jumped into the Top 5. Ertz is the most consistent player in Philadelphia and could lead the position in targets this year if Rob Gronkowski misses time.

Dan Hindery: On DraftKings, there isn’t enough obvious value at the bottom end of the salary scale for me to feel good going with a true stars and scrubs approach. Thus, my core players will probably not be the highest-priced options, but the players in that second tier. At running back, Ty Montgomery, priced as RB6 at $6,900 stands out as a relatively affordable option with an attractive floor/ceiling combination. Through two weeks, Montgomery already has 10 receptions and the Bengals allowed 92 receptions to opposing backs in 2016. With the Packers opening as 9-point home favorites, the game script is positive and Montgomery is also a good bet to see at least 15 rushing attempts. At wide receiver, I’m also going to be looking at the second tier of salaries. Mike Evans is WR6 at $7,500. The matchup against Xavier Rhodes and the Minnesota defense is less than ideal but I’m willing to bet on volume and talent with Evans. Especially when he is coming at an $1,800 discount compared to the top receiver. Michael Thomas at WR11 pricing ($7,000) is also an intriguing option. Thomas is off to a relatively slow start but has averaged a healthy 9.0 targets per game. In two matchups last season against Carolina, he caught every single one of his 10 targets. If he continues to see heavy attention, Thomas is due for a breakout performance and has his most favorable matchup of the season. 

On FanDuel, the pricing is much looser and it is easy to build lineups featuring many of the highest-priced players. It really only requires one “scrub” to assemble a star-packed lineup. That being said, there is real value in the second tier of pricing that makes a balanced approach especially attractive this week. A.J. Green, Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas are each priced at $7,500, which puts them in a five-man group tied for WR8. It’s easy to fit all three into a cash lineup together and run out three receivers that each have the potential to post a huge fantasy performance this weekend.

Justin Bonnema: I will be investing in top-dollar players, especially on FanDuel where, as Dan mentioned, pricing is soft. It's not difficult to get a combo of Bell/Hunt/Ajayi in your lineup and still plug in a top wide receiver option. So that's the approach I'll be taking: paying up for running backs that are guaranteed volume (Bell especially since I believe the crowd will be off of him to some degree), then rounding the roster out with a stud wide receiver, a medium-to-high-priced quarterback (Stafford/Wentz/Newton), and a pair of wild-card wide receivers (Geronimo Allison/Tyler Lockett). 

DraftKings makes it a little harder to pull that off. Montgomery is the obvious choice and I'll end up with a lot of him (again) even though he'll likely be one of the highest owned players (again). But thanks to full PPR scoring, you can grab a discount player like Chris Thompson, who is third in team targets and leads the team in yards and touchdowns, for $4,500 to free up your bottom line. That allows you to pay up for Antonio Brown, who will have no trouble dismantling the Bears' secondary, and A.J. Green, who I believe is in for a big game this week against the Packers.

Danny Tuccitto: I count four high-priced players on Draftkings that I'll be making sure to include in a plurality of my lineups, regardless of format:

At quarterback, Cam Newton is an undervalued player in the Top 6 of salaries. (So is Aaron Rodgers, but injuries around him make me skittish, especially in cash games.) Newton has a plus matchup against the Saints at home. According to my math, there's a 54% chance Newton achieves 3x in cash games and a 24% chance he achieves 4x in tournaments. These probabilities may not seem high, but:

  • the 3x and 4x thresholds mean a player needs only a 33% chance to be a value in cash games or a 25% chance to be a value in tournaments, and
  • probabilities as high as Newton's are rare for high-priced players.

The same arguments apply to my remaining high-priced options this week: Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Antonio Brown. All three have the combination of a good matchup and value probabilities that far exceed those of their high-priced cohorts.

Chris Feery: For this week, I’ll be paying up at quarterback, running back, and defense, but I’ll be looking towards the middle tier at wide receiver and tight end. There’s plenty of affordable players at the latter two positions this week, and that frees up the salary cap dollars to pay for elite players at the other positions. At quarterback, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Derek Carr are the three high-priced options I’ll be targeting. Offensive production across the board has left a lot to be desired through the first two weeks, and I’m more inclined to lean towards consistent production as an anchor for my lineup. I’ll still be building some lineups with cheaper options in good spots such as Kirk Cousins or Jay Cutler, but the majority of my rosters will be anchored by a high-priced signal caller. 

At running back, I’m leaning toward Kareem Hunt and Jay Ajayi at the top end of the salary spectrum. Both players are in excellent spots this week, and their respective salaries are not astronomical enough that it will hinder the rest of your lineup. There’s also a case to be made for cheaper options like Ty Montgomery and C.J. Anderson, and I’ll definitely plug them in to spread out the risk for the week. At wide receiver, there’s plenty of production to be found in the middle of the salary scale. Kelvin Benjamin, DeVante Parker, and Davante Adams are among the names that jump out, and all three offer the possibility of top-flight production that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for.

Over at tight end, Zach Ertz remains affordable in comparison to the top names, and he’ll find his way onto a number of my lineups. I’ll complement my Ertz lineups with cheaper options such as Hunter Henry and Jack Doyle. At defense, the expensive options are in great spots to produce, and I’ll have exposure to several of them. The Patriots, Dolphins, and Broncos are at the top of the list for me, but I’ll balance that out with some exposure to the Steelers and Packers. I’m also a big fan of finding a solid contrarian option at defense to key in on for a few lineups, and I’m intrigued by the Giants as a boom-bust option. Many folks will be on the Eagles this week due to the fact that the Giants offense is horrendous, but I’ll zag over to the Giants defense in anticipation of the unit stepping up to carry the team until the offense shows some signs of a pulse.

Devin Knotts: I am going with more of a balanced approach this week and really trying not to spend up on any of the top guys, including Bell and Brown. At wide receiver, the one player I may spend up on for is A.J. Green (on FanDuel), but on DraftKings, I just do not like the lower options enough to justify spending that much on a receiver. At quarterback, I don't really want to go below the Derek Carr/Carson Wentz/Cam Newton tier, and at the tight end position, I am really targeting Zach Ertz, as some people previously mentioned.