DraftKings Cost Efficiency Rundown: Week 12

A look at DraftKings' Week 12 pool, with an eye on value and cost efficiency

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 12 DraftKings plays:

Quarterback

Cash Considerations

Aaron Rodgers (56.55 H-value)

His team is struggling, and Rodgers himself hasn’t looked strong. But you’d never know it from his production. The Packers’ lack of a run game – and a long run of negative game scripts – has kept him squarely in position to excel. He’s topped 27 DraftKings points in 5 straight games, throwing for 15 touchdowns and reaching the 300-yard bonus 3 times (he hit 297 in another). Rodgers has feasted on some poor defenses over that span, and Monday night’s date with the Eagles is a bit less of a cakewalk, but it’s certainly not prohibitive. They’ve permitted 267+ yards to 3 of their last 4 opponents, and all 3 of those reached easy 4x value. Factor in his massive dip in salary (a $600 drop), and Rodgers’ 21-point cash marker is well within reach.

Russell Wilson (45.90)

We may have reached a breakthrough point for Wilson. Over the last 3 weeks he’s averaged a studly 9.60 yards per attempt, and he’s topped universal 4x value in each one. The fact that he’s doing this with no real rushing production (35 combined yards over that span) is all the more impressive. Wilson clearly presides over a pass-first attack, and one that can produce and score even against strong defensive units. He faces a golden matchup: the Buccaneers have been shredded by the last two prolific passing games (Oakland and Atlanta) they’ve faced. Wilson needs only a modest 20 points to bring cash value, and he’s a safe option to do so with the upside for much more.

GPP Options

Drew Brees (44.70)

Brees’ Week 12 matchup isn’t rosy – the Rams have allowed a miniscule 5.61 yards per attempt over their last 3 games. In fact, they haven’t allowed a passer to top 225 yards since Week 6. That resume should stand to hold Brees’ ownership levels down, but it doesn’t make me nervous over his 4x chances. Brees is a Hall of Fame QB, but Superdome Brees is the greatest to every play the game; his splits since 2014 have been stark and stunning, Through 21 home games over that span, he's averaged an eye-popping 342 yards, 2.7 touchdowns and 27.31 DraftKings points. He's thrown 3+ TDs in 12 of those 21 games and hit the 300-yard bonus in 14 of them. Yes, any and every Saints home date is a cause for our attention, regardless of the matchup. He needs 28 points to deliver, right in line with his home average, and he makes for a great low-owned stab at a true Week 12 stud.

Carson Palmer (56.12)

Palmer has indeed underperformed wildly this year, but he’s intriguing because DraftKings’ pricing model has taken notice. He costs less than the likes of Blake Bortles and Ryan Tannehill; it’s as though he’s fallen off a cliff. But he’s actually brought home 4x value twice over his last four games, riding big yardage (319.8 per game over that span) to solid, 2015-quality results. All it takes for Palmer to reach GPP value is a perfect storm that creates touchdowns, and a date with the Falcons’ burnable secondary could provide just that.

Running Back

Cash Considerations

Jeremy Hill (37.25)

Giovani Bernard’s torn ACL was enough to make Hill a chalk king; A.J. Green going down just shoved it over the line. Hill is poised to dominate ownership in all of your contests, costing less than $4,000 despite being the face of an offense. Now, there are plenty of obstacles between Hill and fantasy fireworks. Of course it hurts his floor that he doesn’t catch passes (just 27 over his last 27 games), and he doesn’t profile to take on much of Bernard’s (overstated) receiving opportunity. And the Bengals offense has bordered on the ineffective this year, which makes Hill far less of a touchdown play than he was last season. I’m certainly not projecting Hill to much of a Week 12 line – 59 rush yards, 2 catches, 0.63 TDs. But that would be enough to bring value, and it’s not as though he lacks the upside for more.

Melvin Gordon III (51.91)

In cash contests, you want a workhorse back, and Gordon is absolutely that. No one this side of Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson dominates his backfield on Gordon’s level. Since Danny Woodhead’s Week 3 injury, Gordon has been responsible for a stunning 93% of RB carries and 71% of targets. He actually hasn’t registered fewer than 29 carries-plus-targets since Week 6. Even as his efficiency has waned, he’s remained a volume king and a weekly odds-on play to find the end zone. But for whatever reason, DraftKings consistently keeps him priced a solid notch or two below the other bell cows. At just $7,000, he carries as strong a path to 3x value as just about anyone on the slate. Take advantage.

David Johnson (52.63)

His floor is high – he’s topped 100 scrimmage yards in every game thus far – and there really is no ceiling. Johnson has been obliterating value markers all year, regardless of how he’s been priced, so this week’s $8,900 salary isn’t prohibitive. The 26-27 points he needs for value is a mark he’s reached in 6 of his last 8 games, and I don’t foresee much of an issue with expecting lightning to strike again. The Falcons run defense has certainly tightened, but Johnson laughs at tightening run defenses; he’s drawn 9+ targets in 3 of his last 5 games and produced 5 touchdowns over that span. He has multiple avenues by which he can reach value, even at this price point.

GPP Options

Jordan Howard (64.06)

DFSers should start preparing for Howard to be the unquestioned face of (what’s left of) the Bears offense week by week. The list of losses is long and crippling: Alshon Jeffery to suspension, and Kevin White and Zach Miller to injury. And Howard is no mere space-eater, but rather one of the league’s more talented young runners. His GPP profile takes a hit because the state of the team leaves him short on touchdown opportunity, but take heart. His Week 11 was encouraging, as he managed 25 carries-plus-targets in a Bears loss, and his disappointing DraftKings total (10.9 points) was the result of a fluky 1-of-8 receiving day. A typical performance would have added at least 7-8 to that total. Treat Howard going forward as an offensive centerpiece, and one capable of week-to-week dynamite. His high target share and 5.87 yards per touch make him a weekly threat for 4x value.

Latavius Murray (41.95)

Murray’s up-and-down career is currently in a mild up; over the past 3 weeks he’s averaging 4.53 yards per rush, and he’s catching passes consistently, mitigating much of his general inefficiency. And most importantly for GPP purposes, he’s been given a robust amount of work in scoring position. Over that three-week span, Murray has taken six of the Raiders’ seven dark zone rushes, scoring on three of them. That kind of touchdown outlook can swing a GPP contest from the middle salary ranks.

Wendell Smallwood (59.07)

Here’s another impressive rookie who’s in position to take over a hefty chunk of volume. Smallwood remains mired somewhat behind Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles in the offense, but it’s been a dynamic situation all year, and all three have been given opportunities to contribute. Smallwood himself has posted a pair of 70-yard performances, and that could be a fair expectation for Week 12. Mathews isn’t practicing as of Thursday, and Sproles could be limited with a cracked rib. If Smallwood is able to again seize a healthy share of touches and find the end zone – as Mathews does with regularity – he’ll be in play to meet his GPP marker (17.2). The efficiency should certainly be there; the Packers run defense has been badly exposed in recent weeks.

Wide Receiver

Cash Considerations

Julian Edelman (60.81)

Always a reliable, high-volume option, Edelman takes on added weight Sunday if Rob Gronkowski can’t suit up. Over 14 career games without Gronkowski on the field, Edelman’s averages enjoy a boost of roughly 3 targets, 19 yards, and 3.5 DraftKings points. With that in mind, Edelman’s Week 12 projections (8 receptions, 90 yards, 0.5 touchdowns) make him look like a near-lock for cash value. His salary surprisingly remained south of $7,000, and if Gronkowski can’t go, he’s plug-and-play in an offense Vegas projects to 27.25 points.

Jordan Matthews (46.62)

He plays the Packers, and that’s reason enough to target a mid-to-low-salaried wideout. Green Bay simply can’t snuff out opposing wideouts; over the last 4 weeks they’ve allowed 6 different receivers to top 55 yards and catch a touchdown. That’s all Matthews needs to easily reach cash value, and it feels more like a floor. Matthews thoroughly dominates targets among Eagles wideouts and carries a realistic upside of 7-8 catches. He’ll enjoy a pace-up by virtue of matchup, and with the running game unsettled, he could conceivably serve as the offensive engine Monday night. $5,000 is too cheap for his outlook.

Larry Fitzgerald (44.49)

He figures to draw a chunk of chalk this weekend, and why not? The Falcons secondary is a bit underrated overall, but they’re allowing 68.2% of passes to complete on the year, the third-worst mark in football. An ultra-reliable possession target like Fitzgerald, who catches 69.8% of his targets, is a lock to project to cash value in this matchup. My model expects a 9-catch, 86-yard line, and there’s real touchdown opportunity in play. The Falcons have allowed a hideous 16 of their opponents’ 27 dark zone passes to score, a big reason Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer will be a popular Week 12 stack. But with or without his quarterback, Fitzgerald looks poised to deliver a reliably high-volume line, and the path to his 21-point cash marker is relatively clear.

DeVante Parker (59.39)

Well, there he is. Parker, one of the elite playmakers to grace college football this half-decade or so, had been thoroughly derailed by injury through his first year and a half as a pro. He certainly seems healthy now, and he’s rapidly reminding us what he’s capable of. Over the last 3 weeks he’s averaged 8.64 yards per target – explosive for a receiver quarterbacked by Ryan Tannehill – and made a handful of impressive catch-and-run plays that just hint at his upside. But even in cash, where we talk about floor, Parker checks near the top of the Week 12 value rankings. He’s actually done the unheard-of in Miami: taken over the chief target share from slot dominator Jarvis Landry. Over the last 3 weeks, Parker has out-targeted Landry 22-17, and done far more with the opportunity. That’s a lot of floor for a $4,700 option, especially in preparation to take on the 49ers.

GPP Options

The Packers

Despite their struggles, the Packers aren’t struggling to throw for touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 15 over the last 5 weeks, making his projection of 2.02 TD passes feel like a floor. That level of opportunity makes his muddled target distribution more worthy of GPP attention than cash. I’ll even be stacking two of the following options, in the hopes of locking down the benefits of a 4-TD Rodgers performance:

  • Davante Adams (37.65) – The target leader over the past three games in which all options were healthy, he offers the best combination of floor, ceiling, and affordability.
  • Randall Cobb (34.19) – His recent production has been spotty, but his history suggests $5,700 is too low of a cost.
  • Jordy Nelson (15.46) – He’s exceptionally boom-or-bust due to volatile usage and high salary. But he makes sense to pair with one of the other options, as he remains relatively high-volume in the dark zone.
  • Ty Montgomery (25.20) – He still gets a small boost from his rushing usage, but has all but tumbled out of the rotation with Cobb’s health having improved.

The Saints

Be sure to see above to get a feel for the Saints’ passing outlook at home. Long story short: Drew Brees is virtually matchup-proof at home, and history probably places the over-under on his Week 12 touchdowns around 2.5. Parsing that opportunity is tough, as the team lacks a true dark zone dominator, but the options are still enticing in a GPP portfolio:

  • Willie Snead IV (22.15) – Surprisingly, he’s drawn four targets from the dark zone over the past three weeks, scoring on two of them. He also caught a one-yard score earlier in the year; it’s relevant because he probably carries the team’s strongest chance at producing a GPP-tilting, multi-TD line.
  • Brandin Cooks (22.05) – He doesn’t project especially well by the model (5 receptions, 57 yards, 0.25 touchdowns), but there’s no denying that elite 10.84 yards-per-target mark over the last 3 games.
  • Michael Thomas (21.91) – He’s slowed just a bit, but remains an upside play due to his flirtations with high-volume and high-TD production.

It’s a bummer that none of these guys come cheaper and more obvious, but all are capable of stacking with Brees for a monstrous line.

Tyreek Hill (52.71)

Hill was a Week 11 letdown, catching just 4 balls with Jeremy Maclin on the sidelines. But it’s worth noting his day would have been much bigger and reached 4x value had an underthrow not cost him a long touchdown. I’m still on board; Hill is a Percy Harvin type, having touches manufactured by his excited offense. Yet unlike Harvin, he’s woven into the downfield offense as well. He’s seen sporadic volume in a run-first, short-oriented offense, but carries such dynamism he doesn’t need reliable value to be a strong GPP play. And at his still-too-low salary, he really doesn’t need an eruption in volume to land value.

Tight End

Cash Considerations

Delanie Walker (46.12)

Tyler Eifert (45.89)

With Rob Gronkowski’s status up in the air and Jordan Reed playing on Thursday, I’d expect most of the ownership in most of your cash contests to roster one (or conceivably both) of these guys. Both boast outstanding volume outlooks: Walker consistently draws more than 20% of Titans targets and produces like a wideout, while Eifert is fully healthy and set to take on a massive role after the Bengals’ injury losses. Walker carries a bit more appeal with his $400 discount, but it’s hard to go wrong either way. Both project to catch 6+ passes and draw attractive dark zone volume, and both carry the upside of team-leading producers across the stat sheet.

GPP Options

Cameron Brate (37.47)

It’s no fluke that Brate has reached 4x value 4 times in 10 games. Leaguewide, only Jordy Nelson has caught more dark zone touchdowns, fulfilling a lot of preseason talk about Brate’s impressive connection with Jameis Winston. And Brate isn’t merely a TD-desperate punt play; he’s drawn 5+ targets in 3 of his last 4 games and posted a 7-catch, 84-yard line just 2 weeks ago. He could reach GPP value by catching 5-6 balls or by finding the end zone, a nice safety net for a punt.

Jared Cook (133.80)

Ignore that H-value, which is severely bloated on a one-week sample size, but this is why I targeted Cook relentlessly in season-long and best-ball leagues. He’s dynamic, his offense is high-volume, and his newfound connection with Aaron Rodgers was showcased throughout the healthy portion of his preseason. It’s certainly to soon to merely expect Cook’s massive Week 11 to slot him deeply into the offense; he’s just as likely to succeed as to slip into 2-catches-a-week territory. And the Eagles do field a strong defense against opposing TEs. But at the minimum TE salary, Cook makes more sense than anyone as a GPP punt. Merely catching two passes and a touchdown would vaunt him into tournament value.

Defense/Special Teams

Cash Considerations

N.Y. Giants (13.89)

They certainly got pricey and chalky, but that’s what a date with the Browns will get you. Three of their last four opponents have posted double-digit DraftKings points, and while you hate to pay up so highly for a defense, take heart that 10 points will provide cash value. And the Giants aren’t dependent upon Cleveland incompetence; over the last 3 games, they’ve registered 6 takeaways and a league-high 16 sacks.

Miami (13.73)

Like the Giants, they’ve been sneakily impressive of late and draw a shaky offense for Week 12. Last week’s clunker notwithstanding, the Dolphins are still forcing turnovers at an elite rate (eight over the past three weeks, tied for the league lead) and project very well against the 49ers.

GPP Options

Tennessee (11.66)

They’re a favorite of the Footballguys this week, but if the chalk doesn’t come in, they can provide a healthy GPP boost. Their sack outlook is top-notch – they’ve recorded eight over the past three weeks, and the opposing Bears have allowed nine. They also look poised to take advantage of a Bears offense that was turnover-prone before losing its quarterback. Matt Barkley, long one of the league’s weaker backups, could easily spend the afternoon fluttering interceptions

New Orleans (13.26)

You never expected to see them pop up as an intriguing play, but here we are. They’ll face a rookie quarterback, one who failed to create plays in his Week 11 debut, and they carry an impressive recent sack/takeaway record of their own. Vegas only gives the Rams 19 points this week, so the Saints deserve some attention from near the DraftKings minimum.


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