DFS Roundtable: Saving Salary at Tight End and Defense

Imagine you're building a GPP lineup expensive at the key positions. Which TEs and DSTs will you use to fill the gaps? Are there any near-minimum TEs you expect to get a sniff at the end zone, or DSTs off the top salary tier who you think will overachieve?

Typically, we're able to save salary dollars in our GPP builds by targeting low-salaried (and low-owned) options at tight end and defense. These are volatile positions that can swing whole DFS contests at low cost and low expectation. This allows us to both chase upside at those positions AND stock up on mega-studs elsewhere. (I can't count the number of times I've benefited from a 10-catch, 2-touchdown Antonio Brown day made possible by a low-cost defense unexpectedly posting 20 points.)

Imagine you're building a GPP lineup and stubbornly insisting upon stacking the expensive Panthers-Saints game, or forcing in both Julio Jones and Brandin Cooks. Assuming you're spending in the middle tier at the other main positions, which TEs and DSTs will you use to fill the gaps? Are there any near-minimum TEs you expect to get a sniff at the end zone, or DSTs off the top salary tier who you think will overachieve?

Justin Bonnema: There are three options at tight end that intrigue me as salary-savers (and it varies by site):

Charles Clay ($4,100 on DraftKings) – It's no coincidence that he logged 4 catches on 4 targets for 60 yards in Tyrod Taylor's first game back. The matchup isn't the best on paper but the volume will be there for him.

Hunter Henry ($5,400 on FanDuel) – I don't think his blowup game against the Cowboys was an outlier. He's a major part of this offense and he gets the Browns, who have played much better lately against wide receivers, but are still getting whooped by tight ends.

Cameron Brate (both sites) – Ryan Fitzpatrick ignored Brate but Jameis Winston loves him. The only concern here is O.J. Howard's rise in snap counts and usage going forward. It's worth noting that Howard has played more snaps than Brate in all but two games this season.

As for a minimum-priced guy… I hate to throw darts but Josh Hill will get the start over Coby Fleener, who is out with a concussion. It's not a strong play by any stretch, but Hill is a cheap way to buy into what many think will be one of the highest scoring games of the week.

For defenses, I'm pretty much locking in the Jaguars and logging out. But for a cheap option, the Bears taking on the 49ers and an unproven quarterback at home is at least worth consideration. Per Football Outsiders, Chicago has the 15th-ranked pass DVOA, 12th-ranked run DVOA, and 5th-ranked adjusted sack rate.

Jason Wood: I'm not inclined to value-dive at tight end this week, but for those who want to shoehorn in expensive options elsewhere, I would consider the following players:

C.J. Fiedorowicz ($2,800 DK / $4,600 FD) – Fiedorowicz hasn't done much since returning from injured reserve, but he is coming off an eight-target game and was the team's top red zone target before getting hurt. The Titans have been an average defense versus opposing tight ends this season, but have softened up in the last month. When you're investing in a minimum-salary tight end, you're hoping for a touchdown, and Fiedorowicz is as likely a candidate as any.

Hunter Henry ($4,700 DK / $5,400 FD) – Henry isn't a bargain-basement price, particularly on DraftKings, but he's cheaper than many other options and is a fantastic GPP choice. The Chargers face a Browns team that's the easiest against opposing tight ends.

Marcedes Lewis ($2,700 DK / $4,700 FD) – Lewis has always been a "TD or bust" player even in his prime, and he's returned to that role for a mercurial Jaguars team that's vying for the division title in spite of inconsistent offensive play. The Colts are decimated in the secondary, and were awful before the injuries, so it stands to reason Lewis could catch a touchdown or two if this game gets out of hand.

On defense, I'm going with the Chargers and Jaguars almost exclusively, but for bargain hunters out there, I would consider Denver, Miami or Green Bay. All three face teams that are happy to cough up the ball and allow sacks, and the game scripts are favorable.

Chris Feery: For tight ends, I’m comfortable saving salary this week and looking at low-cost options. The two names that keep popping out to me are Jared Cook and Charles Clay. The volume should be there for both of them in games that could be closer than the respective spreads suggest. The Raiders are too inconsistent to assume they’re going to blow the Giants out – even with Geno Smith at the helm – and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could turn into a sneaky shootout. The Bills are fighting for their playoff lives, and it’s safe to assume they will at least be playing catch-up with the Patriots. As such, it’s not too hard to see some extra targets sailing in the direction of Clay.

On defense, the low-cost option that I find most appealing is the Green Bay Packers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming to town with a whole bunch of problems, including some serious troubles along the offensive line. The Packers are playing some spirited football, and that should continue in front of the home crowd. Several sacks and some turnovers are not out of the question, and a defensive score would amount to icing on the cake at such an affordable price. Outside of the Packers, this looks like a good week to bite the bullet and pay up for either the Jaguars or Chargers, but there's also some appeal in the Titans as they face off with turnover-prone Tom Savage and the Texans.

Danny Tuccitto: If the goal here is to basically punt these positions, then the tight end part of my answer is Fiedorowicz. Jason made the primary case, I'll just add some statistical seasoning to that steak. Tennessee's pass defense has allowed double-digit points to the tight end position in five of their past six games. Fiedorowicz plays around 90 percent of snaps, so for all intents and purposes he'll be the sole beneficiary of that points-allowed average. At $2,800 on DraftKings, all he needs is 11.2 points to achieve 4x value, which corresponds to, say, a 6-52-0 stat line. Add in a touchdown and that takes him above 6x. If this seems eminently doable to you, my math agrees: Fiedorowicz has a 28 percent tournament value probability, which is higher than the 25 percent (i.e., 1/4x) threshold that's desirable on DraftKings. All of this at the low, low ownership rate of 2 percent as projected by our own Steve Buzzard!

With respect to paying way down at defense, give me Miami at $2,900. First, they're at home. Second, the Broncos' offense ranks 30th in interception rate, 26th in sack rate, and 29th in adjusted sack rate (per Football Outsiders). Third, they have a tournament value probability of 36 percent, which is well above the aforementioned threshold. Finally, Steve projects 4 percent ownership, which is less than half of what he projects for the trendier of the two defenses in this game (Denver at 9 percent).

John Mamula: For tight end, I am planning on building around Cook, Clay, and Henry. All three of these tight ends can provide you with a top-three ceiling without breaking the bank.

On defense, I also prefer paying up for the Jaguars or the Chargers this week. Both defenses have an opportunity for multiple sacks and turnovers. The low-priced defenses that I am interested in are the Broncos and Bears. Would it surprise anyone if Jay Cutler imploded this week? The Bears have a 1pm home matchup against the 49ers who are traveling east. Nobody truly knows what to expect with Jimmy Garoppolo's first start for the 49ers.

Justin Howe: Brate has to be the target for bargain-seekers. He’s actually so obvious that I’m worried his ownership could spike this week as more and more catch up to the pro-Brate data. Simply put, Jameis Winston loves him dearly: Brate averages five targets and half a touchdown when Winston is under center. He’s been a slam-dunk TE1 for virtually the entire length of Winston’s 2017, and DraftKings has underpriced him massively. He’d still be an easy $4,500+ tight end if not for these weeks of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

And, yes, I’m also interested in Fiedorowicz. He’s always been a favorite prospect of mine, a stout blocker with sneaky athleticism and an occasional mismatch up the seams.

Defensively, I have a little love for the Raiders; we all know what Geno Smith is. But my favorite low-dollar play for GPPs is the Saints. They’re sacking at a decent clip (3.0 over their last 4 games), and they’re an aggressive coverage unit that looks to jump routes and return interceptions. The Panthers’ volatile offense has been known to provide giveaways in bunches.