Simply put: you’re going to want to check in here each week before setting your DraftKings lineups. That’s because I’ll be helping you sift through your DFS options without spinning my wheels talking fantasy scoring.
No, my goal will not be to opine to you on the highest scoring plays of the week’s slate; that’s a semi-fruitless task, and one you’re swarmed with on any other DFS advice site. Rather, I’m going to be reporting to you on the value of your options – their scoring abilities relative to their salaries. You’ll be filled in on the results of two weekly measures:
DK Points is the player’s DraftKings projection for the week, rooted in the offense’s and defense’s performances over the last three weeks. Please note that the goal of these projections is NOT to predict an exact point total; I’m not interested in supernaturally conjuring visions of A.J. Green’s next 40-point explosion. Rather, I’m keeping a tight view of a player’s capabilities and seeking the likely outcome of his matchup – in a sense, I’m seeking out his probabilities of reaching a certain scoring level. As a result, these projections are generally geared toward cash contests, where conservative estimates of player floors, not ceilings, rule the roost.
H-value is an attempt to reconcile a player’s scoring projection with his per-dollar value. You can’t fill a lineup with exclusively high-salaried players, and you’d never load up on just cheap, low-ceiling options. H-value brings the two together, marrying a player’s projected scoring and salary to lay out his true meaning to a DFS roster. The formula is simple:
(DK Pts^1.73205 / DK Sal) * 2,000
Please note that H-value is calculated based on my projections, which are rooted in recent performance in similar games. Despite the conservative nature of my model, we often see surprising outliers, especially when a guy is projected based on just one or two games. As a result, my H-value numbers serve as a guideline to my rankings, as opposed to generating my final list all by itself. Context is key, which is why you may see H-value numbers that don’t match my priorities. For my purposes, H-value is a generalized mapping of the slate’s value, a starting point from which common sense asks me to deviate a little.
On to my Week 10 DraftKings plays:
Aaron Rodgers (73.86)
Tom Brady (50.95)
The top two quarterback salaries both look deserving. And the gap between the two probably isn’t as wide as the H-values suggest. Rodgers and Brady are actually extremely close in value as high-dollar cash plays. share the same top-level ceiling – a 35-point day would be right in character for either. But these projections are based around a three-game sample, and Rodgers has easily hit 3.5x value in all three, while Brady pumped the brakes in one of his. That does seem to tilt the consistency/floor factor toward Rodgers, who has been a touchdown machine (10 over the 3 games) and a productive runner (110 ground yards) to boot. He struggled a bit with the Colts last week, but rebounded to cash and should fare better against the Titans’ burnable secondary.
That said, I won’t try to talk you out of banking on that crude 67% success rate and playing Brady. The volume hasn’t really been there; he’s averaged a ho-hum 33.5 attempts per game over his 4 starts, all comfortable wins. But his monumental efficiency has pulled him beyond 30 points in 3 of them. He’s matchup-proof, and even against Seattle’s defense – no longer legendary, but still upper-shelf – Brady has more than one avenue to cash value. He could throw either 40-50 balls in a tight game or 25-35 in a rout and have a shot to hit value either way, so his floor is real. And it appears DraftKings baked in a moderate Seahawks discount, dropping him $200 after a huge Week 8 and a bye.
Dak Prescott (59.04)
His salary has risen, but it’s still not in line with his consistent value. He’s topped 3x value easily in every game since Week 3, often even threatening 4x. He’s two weeks removed from his most productive game as a pro, which came against a strong Eagles defense; Sunday’s tilt with the Steelers’ subpar secondary projects nicely (20.12 points). Most importantly, Prescott will be fairly chalky, soaking up a healthy chunk of ownership from those not paying up for the top two. That means that, amidst a crowded tier of mid-salaried quarterbacks, Prescott is the correct cash play.
Ben Roethlisberger (30.90)
Drew Brees (43.09)
The H-values are a little wonky; Roethlisberger’s projection is based on two road games among his last three, and he’ll be in Pittsburgh this week. And in case you’re new, a quick refresher on the absurd home splits of these two quarterbacks, dating back to 2014:
Regardless of matchup, you can feel fairly confident that either of these guys can produce at least 3-4x value on a sub-$7,000 salary. I’m not put off by Roethlisberger’s knee recovery, nor Brees’ matchup with the Broncos. At worst, I figure those factors will temper the QBs’ ceilings, not obliterate them. And either could produce 26-28 points in even a subpar performance, considering their volume outlooks. I’ll be building around 75% or more of my GPP portfolio around these guys. When it comes down to it, of course, I’ll opt for Roethlisberger and avoid Denver’s defense. But both will be a big part of what I do this weekend.
David Johnson (90.68)
Sweet lord, that salary. Johnson is priced for excellence, so you have to worry about that cash value floor. He’ll need 25 points just to reach his mark, which is a lot to ask of a back. Still, Johnson has proved through three straight solid-to-awesome performances against three studly run defenses that he’s matchup-proof. His receiving prowess and short-yardage volume make any floor reachable. All told, though, there are just too many elite cash options this week to pay a 15-20% premium. DFSers can save $700-$1,400 and snatch up similar workhorse backs with similar floors.
But wait. Johnson is worth plenty of cash consideration because of his matchup and the heavy chalk he’ll carry. You certainly don’t want to guess wrong on an alternative and wind up one of the few DFSers hurt by an eruption. And an eruption seems more likely than ever before against a 49ers defense that’s allowed a near-impossible 30 points per game to its last 6 opposing lead backs. When the smoke clears, I likely won’t own more than 50% exposure to Johnson, and I’ll probably just hedge that way entirely.
Pick Your Bell Cow
- · Melvin Gordon III (97.14) – No one boasts a better combination of productivity, with 4x-6x scoring for 3 straight weeks, and matchup, against a Miami defense that’s allowed 5.36 yards per carry over its last 3 games. There’s no better scoring floor on the slate, as Gordon needs a very reachable 20-21 points for cash value.
- · Jay Ajayi (57.52) – He’s obviously in full terrorization mode, and he hasn’t touched the ball fewer than 26 times since Week 5. The floor is structurally sound, so his 21-point marker is in line with his midlevel projection. (My conservative model gives him 21.47.) And the ceiling against a flailing Chargers run defense actually broke my calculator.
- · DeMarco Murray (38.11) – His salary curiously dropped $700 after yet another performance of 20+ points, his 8th across 9 games. Take advantage; another 20 points looks relatively likely. After all, the last three lead backs to face Green Bay have hit that marker. Murray’s a home underdog, but he remains a bell cow in a plus matchup.
- · Ezekiel Elliott (43.50) – His price tag has ballooned to the point that his 3-week average (21 points) falls well below his cash value marker. He’s only a borderline cash play, but generally worth the plunge due to his chalky ownership and flexible floor against the Steelers’ ho-hum defense.
Darren Sproles (36.60)
I’m not really on board with Sproles in a vacuum, as his lead back status isn’t as attractive as it seems. The backfield remains crowded, the offense is low-paced, and he’s not catching passes at a very impressive clip. He’s only hit this 12.9-point marker once over the last 5 games, after all. But early whispers throughout the FBG staff have me convinced he’ll carry high ownership, so he at least warrants consideration as lead back salary relief.
Le'Veon Bell (41.04)
He should always highlight your list of tournament options. Only David Johnson can boast his ceiling, and maybe not even him. That’s because Bell’s receiving usage goes beyond that of even the most voluminous three-down backs out there. He’s utilized come hell or high water, out of the backfield or in the slot, and his weekly upside for usage is almost incalculable. Like Johnson, he’s a clear threat for 4x value in any matchup, and he’ll see depressed ownership this week in a sea of high-impact workhorses. Fit him onto any GPP rosters you can, or at least ahead of the bell cows listed in the cash section above.
LeGarrette Blount (86.18)
Depending on game flow, Blount can tilt a GPP contest by himself. He’s approached or exceeded 5.5x value three times this year, after all – when the Patriots control a game, Blount often controls the offense. You never love rolling the dice against the Seattle defense, but if New England can move the ball consistently into the red zone (they can and will), Blount will carry multi-touchdown potential. His shrunken salary means he’ll bring home GPP value with either 2 touchdowns or just 1 with 100 rush yards. Those are two avenues with nonzero chances of succeeding, so pay Blount’s tiny salary without argument.
Mark Ingram II (19.43)
Two factors converge to make Ingram a strong GPP dice roll. Ingram himself looked eruptive last week, amassing 171 scrimmage yards and 34.1 points (7x value), albeit against a 49er defense cobbled together of turnstiles and matador capes. More importantly, though, the vaunted Broncos have been gashed lately by the run. It’s clear the power of the Denver defense lies in the passing game; the last two lead backs to face them posted 22.5 and 34.7 points. Assuming the Saints keep the game flow under control in the Superdome, the occasional dual-threat Ingram should see enough opportunity to flirt with 4x value (or better).
Mike Evans (50.03)
Yet again, here’s your chalk play for the week. Evans has posted monstrous ownership levels of late, which is why I’ll have plenty of exposure even though I’m not as high on him as many of my fellow FBGs. In a vacuum, Evans is a gifted receiver with an astounding target share over 35%, but with real consistency issues between himself and his quarterback. With 2 clunkers of 11 points or less over his last 5 games, he’s not the safest stab at a 27-point marker. But as we know, it pays to follow the herd in cash contests, so Evans is a fine play to wedge onto your rosters.
A.J. Green (90.36)
What an eruption. Green has produced 33.9 and 24.1 points over the last 2 weeks, and it’s comforting that he’s the clear engine of the Bengals pass game even with Tyler Eifert back on board. Green will lose the chalk battle to Evans, who offers a touch more target volume and upside. But his outlook is sterling. Over their last 6 games, the Giants have allowed 7 wideouts to top 70 yards, producing a stellar 10.84 yards per target in the process. That would actually be a downgrade from Green’s recent production; apply it to Green’s projection of 14.9 targets, and we can easily expect another Sunday spent flirting with 150 yards. Even without projecting a touchdown, Green looks like a near-lock to meet his 25-point cash requirement. He comes at a marked discount from the top salaries, too, so he belongs in just about any cash lineup that doesn’t include Evans.
J.J. Nelson (56.82)
His actual production expectation isn’t easy to figure out. Nelson is a tiny (yes, smaller than John Brown) novelty receiver who has made his hay on infrequent long balls. Last year, he turned 11 catches into 299 yards and 2 scores before losing his role to Jaron Brown. With Jaron out, though, Nelson has slotted into surprising volume as the clear No. 3 wideout. He’s opening eyes, and he’s the reason this guy isn’t a thing anymore. It’s hard to project a specialist like Nelson going forward, but his salary has stayed alarmingly low despite 19 targets over the last 2 weeks. With his role seemingly cemented and the ever-present potential for dynamite, Nelson has multiple avenues to his 12-point cash marker. After all, he hit that mark two weeks ago against the Seahawks, needing just four targets to do it.
Stefon Diggs (31.18)
The target monster is back; now healthy again, Diggs has drawn 13 and 14 looks in his last 2 games. He hasn’t been efficient with them, “boasting” an anemic 5.78 yards per target over that span. But the volume is easily strong enough to provide a workable floor for this salary. He needs 18 points to cash, a very reachable number even without a touchdown for that kind of usage. With his high-percentage usage and stout catch totals, Diggs will bring value with another eight- or nine-catch game.
Eli Rogers (66.21)
Talk about high-upside salary relief. Rogers is clearly recovered from his early-season * injury and saw 10 of Ben Roethlisberger’s 45 targets last week. The intriguing young slotman turned them into 103 yards, including 3 chunk gains of 22+ yards. He’s clearly ingrained in the offense more so than Sammie Coates Jr or the tight ends, so he should benefit proportionately with Roethlisberger’s success. And when Roethlisberger plays at home – see above – you want in any way you can get in. To do so at $3,500 with a receiver of Rogers’ volume is almost too easy. Rogers is an elite GPP play in any format, and he fits beautifully with a power stack of Roethlisberger and Brown, both expensive options that require some wiggle room.
The Unholy Trio
Once priced near the point of being cost-prohibitive, these three have experienced various levels of success, but their shaky cash floors have deflated their salaries. That’s a huge deal as we start wedging them into our GPP lineups – you want big exposure to their mammoth upsides, and you can finally build a quality roster around them.
- Odell Beckham Jr Jr. (57.02) – He’s been disappointing, and the matchup is daunting, but that’s what gives Beckham the sexiest contrarian appeal on the board. He remains a target hog (a 26.1% share) and Eli Manning’s first read in the red zone. He’s as capable as anyone of erupting beyond matchup, so his 35-point tournament marker is in play.
- Julio Jones (39.43) – Don’t look now, but he’s catching touchdowns! After sparse red zone work that saw Jones post an anemic 6.3% touchdown rate from 2013-15, he’s caught 5 on 51 balls thus far in 2016. If this holds and bucks the trend of the last three years, Jones’ week-to-week upside is immeasurable. Lines of 7-10 catches are already commonplace, after all. The Eagles tend to do well against No. 1 wideouts, but Jones is Jones and is always a threat for 4x value (or higher).
- Antonio Brown (23.00) – His target share stranglehold has slipped, as Ben Roethlisberger is spreading the ball quite a bit. But in Pittsburgh, the Steelers passing game is all but indefensible, and Brown can hit GPP value by claiming around 35-40% of the team’s production. He’s done that plenty.
Kenny Britt (52.31)
That old-time Britt is peeking through the rubble of this shaky, shaky offense. Britt isn’t dominating targets (just 17% over the last three weeks), but he’s doing a lot with them (10.36 yards per look) for an offense that often finds itself trailing. Case Keenum is subpar, but he’s capable of delivering the ball to Britt at a decent clip. With his salary crawling upward but not ballooning, Britt is an elite source of salary relief in your GPP portfolio. He projects to a 5-catch, 70-yard day against the Jets’ burnable secondary; a touchdown or any extra yardage would nudge him into tournament value.
Emmanuel Sanders (33.40)
Demaryius Thomas (30.07)
He hasn’t been sexy in weeks, as Trevor Siemian is a replacement-level passer who minimizes Sanders’ and Thomas’ skill sets. But that should only serve to lower their ownership, so shrewd GPP players will look to cash in against the Saints’ ragdoll defense. Over the last 3 weeks, Siemian has thrown a healthy 12 passes from inside the 10, and no one has been thrown on more from there than New Orleans. That means a robust outlook for Sanders, who leads the league with 13 targets from there, and for Thomas, who’s currently drawing 30% of the Broncos’ overall looks and seeing some short-yardage work as well.
Jordan Reed (41.76)
Rob Gronkowski (48.05)
These two are elite, of course, comfortably above the pack in both low- and high-end projections. Both offer clear WR1/2 value at a hungrier position, and either would provide strong value punch to any cash lineup. Between the two, though, I break a bit from my projections and prefer Reed. He comes at a discount, despite a stronger floor – a 27% target share over his last 3 games, compared to 21% for Gronkowski – and a very similar ceiling. Reed is Washington’s passing game engine and a weekly touchdown threat, and he rarely sees too much competition from his teammates. Most importantly, the Vikings have become a fairly consistent defense to target for tight end productivity. Three of the last four to face them – all mid-level options at the position – have topped 4x value, and two of them actually hit 5x.
Lance Kendricks (56.28)
Yes, this is way too low a salary for a guy who’s topped 5x value in three straight games. Kendricks has seen 7+ targets in 4 of his last 5, and that’s been coming on an upward scale. In fact, his 20.2% target share leads the team over that span. If you’re not rostering a top salary, don’t overthink matchup or floor when a value play like this crops up.
Delanie Walker (44.98)
The Titans passing game is showing some dynamism, and Walker remains the top option, if only by a hair. He continues to hover around 20% of Marcus Mariota’s attention, and he’s showing well with it. He’s produced 9.14 yards per target over the last 3 weeks and hit 3-4x value in 2 of them. There’s plenty of floor there, but also ceiling for Walker beyond these midlevel projections (5 catches, 63 yards, 0.5 touchdowns). He’s topped that yardage mark four times already.
Greg Olsen (23.50)
Olsen’s outlook isn’t great against a Kansas City defense that has put the kibosh on tight end production. But we’re all familiar with the unpredictably high-flying nature of the Carolina offense; he could go off for 23 points at just about any time.
The sacks and takeaways have fallen off a cliff, but they couldn’t ask for a better safety net than San Francisco. The 49ers have given up 7 takeaways over their last 2 games and 11 over the last 4. The Cardinals’ 13.5-point Vegas spread only bolsters the outlook. Points may be given up, but the splash plays – which tell the tale for DFS defense – will be copious.
The Vikings are struggling to score, managing just 36 points over their last 3 games. That includes matchups with the Bears’ and Lions’ beatable defenses, by the way. Sam Bradford still looks very inconsequential on a football field, and as a result Washington is worth a look if you’re diversifying from Arizona.
The matchups seems counterintuitive – especially with the Panthers at home – but Kansas City always offers matchup-proof potential to be every week’s top-scoring unit. They’ve scored 10-11 points in 4 straight games and notched 35 in Week 3. With consistent sack and takeaway numbers, plus an opponent that tends to cough them up themselves, Kansas City is my No. 1 overall play of the week in either format.
They haven’t been forcing turnovers, but a date with Ryan Fitzpatrick could fix that. And more positively, they’ve allowed just 30 points over the last 2 weeks. They easily look like the strongest sub-$3,000 play on the slate.
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