DFS Roundtable: Navigating the Quarterbacks

Whom do you prefer between Tom Brady and Carson Wentz? Who's the top name from beyond the top two that you're most confident in? And who's the cheapest QB you'll be on within your GPP portfolio?

With quarterback pricing relatively tapered off - neither of the consensus top-two options cost more than $7,400 on DraftKings or $8,700 on FanDuel - this seems like a week in which we'll see a wide array of QB ownership. That means more evaluation for us to do, of course, so fill us in on a few things:

1. Whom do you prefer for cash play between Tom Brady and Carson Wentz?
2. Who's the top QB from beyond the top two that you're most confident in for cash purposes? Or is there no one that touches Brady and Wentz?
3. Who's the cheapest QB you'll be on (say, greater than 10% of your exposure) within your GPP portfolio?

Justin Bonnema: I’m all about Brady this week for two reasons. First and foremost, the matchup is great. The last time we saw the Raiders, they allowed Jay Cutler to throw for 311 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. It was the third time this season a quarterback has thrown for at least 300 and 3 against this defense, and they are the only team in NFL history to go without an interception through 9 games. Not that we need to worry much about matchups when it comes to Brady, but when the matchup is particularly good, we should pay attention.

Second, and props to Jeff Pasquino for pointing this out: the Patriots dominated in Denver last Sunday night. They chose to not travel home, instead opting to stay in Denver for the week before traveling to Mexico City (international game). Part of that decision has to do with travel distance (sort of like west coast teams staying on the east coast when they have back-to-back road games). The other part has to do with altitude: Mexico City is at 7,300 feet. It makes sense that the Patriots would want their players to practice in Denver (at 5,300 feet). At least that’s the assumption I’m going with.

Wentz is a fine play, if not a great play. But I wonder how well the Cowboys will bounce back this week. That offense was a mess without Ezekiel Elliott and, more importantly, left tackle Tyron Smith. If Smith is out again, it could lead to shorter fields for the Eagles’ offense, which in theory leads to more scoring and fewer yards. Long story short, I might be more inclined to play Jay Ajayi.

Outside of Brady and Wentz, I sort of like Derek Carr for all the reasons I mentioned with Brady. I expect that game to be high-scoring, and even if the Patriots defense has been playing much better lately, they are still worth targeting. Carr has averaged over 340 yards per game in his last 3. Unfortunately, the touchdowns haven’t’ been there while the interceptions have. I think it’s worth chasing the “yards lead to touchdowns” theory.

I might avoid cheap quarterbacks this week. Salary is such that it almost isn’t necessary. But with that said, I’m tempted by Cutler and Eli Manning. Both choices are purely from a matchup standpoint, since they both take on awful defenses. Of the two, Manning is the most likely to be forced into volume, and the least likely to lose touchdowns to running backs. He’s third in both attempts and completions, despite losing one of the best wide receivers in the game early this season. A Manning/Sterling Shepard stack is worth chasing, but in general, I don’t love “value quarterbacks” this week.

Jason Wood: I like Wentz this week, particularly as part of a Wentz/Zach Ertz stack in cash lineups. But absent a stack I prefer Brady. The matchup is exceptional and, as noted, the salary differential between Brady and the average quarterback is soft, particularly on FanDuel. They're both on my short list this week, though.

No one compares to those two, but I would be happy to own shares of Dak Prescott if Tyron Smith is back in the lineup. If Smith misses the game, Prescott is a complete fade. Drew Brees is playing at his usual elite level, but the Saints defense and running game are so good this year that Brees hasn't had the touchdown output we're used to. Since I expect his ownership to be low, he's compelling as a GPP alternative, but in cash I can't justify Brees over Wentz or Brady. The last quarterback worth considering in cash is Alex Smith. Elite play, against a team that's given up on the season, and running a game plan that Andy Reid had two weeks to build (Reid is exceptional coming off byes).

Eli Manning is worth a cheap look. The Kansas City defense isn't very good, and Manning/Shepard/Evan Engram with no running game is enough to deliver fantasy-viable production – even if the team will keep losing.

Jeff Pasquino: I'm all in on Brady for the reasons that Bonnema mentioned. Plus, I fully expect for Bill Belichick to be pushing his offense to run as many plays possible – I expect 80 or so (league average is 64 on offense) – to try and gas the Raiders. While we debated how fast you can acclimate to altitude on the Power Grid this week (yes, the word "hemoglobin" was used – guess who), it is still a major factor. I'm all about Brady this week.

Outside of him, my second option is actually Alex Smith. When looking for quarterbacks, if two or more names at WR or TE keep popping up, then I'm naturally looking at their QB for a stack.  That leads me to Smith because I love Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill is also in a great spot.

Other cheaper options that also fit this path are Ryan Fitzpatrick (Mike Evans, Cameron Brate) and Case Keenum (Stefon Diggs, Adam Theilen, and also Jerrick McKinnon).

I would be remiss to not mention my favorite GPP quarterback who I think will have way too low of ownership, and that is Jared Goff. The MIN-LAR game is a likely shootout in my mind, and many others as well – but not for the public. Sharp stacks will be in that game, as well as a game stack or two.

James Brimacombe: I feel you can't go wrong with either Brady or Wentz this week; both are in high-total games and both have strong weapons around them to produce 2+ touchdowns. For Brady, you have the trend that Jay Cutler just threw for 311 yards and 3 touchdowns on Oakland, so imagine what Brady can do in the same spot. The Cowboys defense has allowed back to back two-touchdown games to Matt Ryan and Alex Smith, so it’s hard not to see Wentz going for multiple touchdowns. Wentz is on a roll right now with 17 touchdown passes over the past 5 games. For upside I think you could lean to Wentz this week, especially with him coming off a bye.

Outside of Brady and Wentz, I think there is a drop-off at the position, but I still don't mind the likes of Russell Wilson (off the main slate) and Prescott, as they have no run games right now and are forced to throw more than most quarterbacks. It is a similar situation to looking for volume running backs: you want the backs that see high volume, and at quarterback you want the guys that will attempt a high number of passes. Wilson is averaging 37 attempts a game, while Prescott is at 32, but with no Ezekiel Elliott those numbers could go up going forward. With Wilson and Prescott you also get added rushing yardage and touchdown potential, as Wilson has 290 yards and 1 touchdown while Prescott has 237 and 5.

I will be avoiding the cheap quarterbacks this week as there are others higher up that I am also interested in, such as Carr, Alex Smith, and Ryan. We are in Week 11, so trying to plug in a streaming quarterback on the cheap at this stage in the season just seems like a losing proposition.

Dan Hindery: I prefer Brady by a decent margin over Carson Wentz. With money pouring into Vegas on the Patriots and the over in recent days, the Patriots’ implied team total has shot up over 30 points. It is easy to see why: Brady is the league’s top fantasy quarterback through 10 weeks and is facing a Raiders defense that ranks dead last in team defense DVOA (and also dead last in pass defense DVOA). The Raiders had to place top rookie cornerback Gareon Conley on injured reserve this week and their best cornerback, David Amerson, is questionable to play with foot and shoulder injuries. I expect at least 300 passing yards and 3 touchdowns from Brady this week. 

Alex Smith is my #2 quarterback this week behind only Brady. Smith quietly ranks as the fantasy QB3 through 10 weeks. He has a great matchup against a scuttling New York Giants defense that has given up at least 26 fantasy points to each of the last three quarterbacks faced (including C.J. Beathard last week). This is another game where the early money has been coming in on the over. As of Thursday evening, Kansas City’s implied team total sits at a healthy 28 points. While I prefer paying the extra $700 on both DraftKings and FanDuel for Brady in cash, Smith is a great fallback option if you can’t comfortably find the cap space to get all the way up to Brady. 

Fitzpatrick is my favorite cheap quarterback this week. Ownership will come in lower than it might in this tempting matchup due to Fitzpatrick disappointing last week, when he was a popular play. Anyone who watched Cam Newton and the Panthers do whatever they wanted against the Dolphins defense on Monday night has to be intrigued by the idea of targeting this awful Miami unit. The Dolphins rank 31st in both pass defense DVOA and overall defensive DVOA. With one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, Fitzpatrick should have a number of favorable matchups with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, and company each likely to win the majority of their 1-on-1 matchups.

Justin Howe: I also don’t see the need to go cheap in cash game this week. Brady and Wentz will dominate the cash chalk and boast the best floor/ceiling combinations, so why get cute? They’re not cost-prohibitive, and both carry powerful stacking opportunities for both cash and GPPs. Brady's the play in my eyes, but not by much.

I do have GPP interest in several guys down the board, however. At the moment, Kirk Cousins is my top points-per-dollar option on DraftKings; he comes at just $6,100 even though there’s a solid chance he’ll be trading high-paced blows with Brees and the Saints. Games in New Orleans tend to be track meets, and Cousins has been discounted a bit too much. I like the Saints’ reborn defense, but it’s far from a lockdown unit. I also love the Kansas City-N.Y. Giants game for GPP value, and Alex Smith has real week-winning upside. When forced to throw, Smith has been nothing short of dynamic this year, and he’ll likely be facing a barely-there defense that’s thrown in the towel. And I’ll throw in a mention for Blake Bortles, especially on DraftKings, where a date with the Browns could carry him to his fifth straight week of 3x value or better.

Moderator: The panel overwhelmingly favors Brady over Wentz, by a margin of 4-2. And the most popular diversifying play by far is Alex Smith, who has both Vegas and his intermittently excellent 2017 production in his corner.