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 13 DraftKings plays:
Brees plays at home this week, which is reason enough to fork over your salary dollars. Dating back to 2014, he’s an above-average QB on the road but a world-beater in the Superdome, averaging a stunning 345 yards, 2.8 touchdowns, and 29.2 DraftKings points. That’s obviously insane, but the sample size is enough to make me feel confident that he’s simply the best in the business when playing at home. He’s generally matchup-proof there, and Sunday’s tilt with the Lions is of absolutely no concern. Only seven teams allow more yards per attempt, and only five have allowed more air TDs than Detroit. Brees’ salary is high indeed, but it’s not prohibitive for this kind of outlook.
Wilson is fresh off a true clunker, there’s no doubt about it. But he keeps attracting us with his (typical) passing efficiency, dual-threat capabilities, and plummeting salary. He checks in at $6,300, giving him a cash marker of just 18-19 points that seems well within reach. That seems especially safe against a Carolina defense that’s allowed an average of over 310 passing yards over its last 8 games. And his ceiling takes an even stronger boost than his floor, considering Week 12 finally brought us a studly rushing line (8 rushes, 80 yards). Consider the Seahawks’ performance last week an anomaly; Wilson is a very sturdy play for this salary.
Roethlisberger is a perfectly fine play for cash games this week, but fits better into tournaments because he’ll be lightly owned in comparison to Brees and Wilson. You’ve read my fawning work over his home splits, which are dazzling and on a par with Brees’. The matchup isn’t prohibitive, despite the Giants’ solid secondary, and at this point it feels safe to pencil in 300+ yards and 2-3 scores (at a minimum) anytime Roethlisberger laces them up in Pittsburgh.
How the mighty have fallen, at least in terms of DraftKings salary. Like Wilson, Newton has seen his cost depress from the top tier among QBs into the middle on the heels of week-to-week uncertainty. He’s alternated weeks of 20+ points and easy 3x value with clunkers since Week 3, and we can no longer take for granted that he’ll overcome. But we can certainly pay a midlevel cost for his potential, now that he no longer needs a 30-point eruption to bring GPP value. If he can muster 40 rushing yards, he’d only need to rack up about 250 through the air and 2-3 overall scores to do it. Seattle is daunting, but not impenetrable – 4 of their last 7 opponents have topped 285 passing yards.
These two are ultra-expensive for very good reason: they’re dynamic and high-ceiling, but most importantly, they’re matchup-proof. Both are explosive, both utterly dominate their backfields, and both are woven so deeply into their teams’ passing games that even a bad performance is typically usable. Johnson, for example, has landed below 60 rushing yards in 3 of his last 4 games, yet he’s averaged an eye-popping 29.0 DraftKings points over that span. That’s thanks to high two-way volume – he’s caught 27 passes over that span – and an extraordinary touchdown resume. Johnson finds the end zone regularly regardless of game script, to the point that we can confidently project at least a TD per week, even in cash consideration. Bell may be the more appetizing option this week, coming at a small discount in a Steelers home game that almost guarantees heavy scoring. He’s also a weekly lock to hog massive usage, catch oodles of passes, and find the end zone (which he’s done four times over the last three weeks). But in any event, one of them needs to be the core piece in your cash portfolio this week. Pay up, and pay confidently.
He’s been a massive letdown in terms of rushing production: all told, he’s only finished above 3.9 yards per rush 3 times in 11 games. He managed a paltry 21 rushing yards in his first week sans-Giovani Bernard, and it’s hard to expect much of an uptick against a stout Eagles defense. But three factors work in Hill’s favor this week, and they’re biggies:
He dominates the backfield. Change-of-pace option Rex Burkhead isn’t much of a rusher, so Hill seems locked into at least 65-70% of Bengals carries.
He’s not coming off the field on passing downs. Long-maligned as a poor receiver, Hill caught all 6 of his targets for 61 yards; it’s clear he’s the three-down bell cow with Bernard out.
He’s dirt-cheap. DraftKings’ pricing algorithm isn’t impressed by his volume outlook, and he’s again priced around $4,000. That’s totally fair considering his lackluster production, but it also opens the door to a cash-value marker of just 12 points. A ho-hum performance of 30-40 total yards would hit that target if he finds the end zone – and he carries the usage potential to do it even without scoring.
Gordon’s appeal has slipped a bit in recent weeks, as his touchdown numbers have dipped from their remarkable early-season pace. But he’s still a near-elite cash option for Week 13. He checks in in the middle ranges of salary for clear-cut workhorses, and few touch the ball as often. Gordon was given “just” 21 touches last week, but he’s averaged a lumberjack-like 25.7 over 10 games since Danny Woodhead’s injury. He leads the league in dark zone rushes and sits second in TDs from there, and his come-and-go efficiency is actually on a bit of an upswing (4.65 yards per rush over his last 4). Altogether, a workhorse of this caliber is a solid bet to reach his 21-point cash marker.
Very quietly and without fanfare, Murray has ascended to the badge of “versatile GPP option.” Long derided for his mediocre efficiency and supposedly shrinking workload, Murray comes fresh off 5 straight games with 16+ touches. It’s actually encouraging that he remains the bell cow despite such uninspired rushing; if we can believe our eyes, then there’s no reason to assume he won’t touch the ball 20 times Sunday. He’s been able to approach or exceed cash value in each of his last three games, and there’s real 4x potential lurking. Buffalo has been gashed on-and-off by the run over the past two months, including a horrendous Week 12 showing against a ho-hum Jaguars unit. If Chris Ivory and Blake Bortles can eviscerate them in Buffalo on 17 carries, then Murray is in a good spot to bring home the 21 points he’d need for GPP value. Considering he dominates the Oakland backfield both in and out of the dark zone and catches 3-5 passes a week, he’s arguably the safest mid-salaried bet to do so.
His appeal, which is always one-dimensional, is slipping: Blount has brought GPP value only once in the last four weeks. He doesn’t catch passes, and his touchdown outlook is always at the mercy of Tom Brady’s arm. But anytime his Patriots are strong Vegas favorites, DFSers need to take notice. Dating back to last year, across 4 games as a favorite of 10 or more, Blount averages 5.6 more rushes, 29.6 more yards, and 0.57 more TDs than otherwise. All told, his DraftKings production shoots up by 48% in those scenarios; he’s simply their engine with a big lead. They currently sit at -13.5 for their home tilt with the anemic Rams, an outlook unlikely to change before Sunday. With a slipping salary, Blount is a fair GPP stab at 100 yards and multiple scores.
He’s pricey, sure, but few backs boast his blend of volume and efficiency. McCoy has drawn 20+ touches in all 8 of his full games thus far, averaging 117.3 scrimmage yards in the process. And while he’s far more productive in wins than in losses, those workloads have come across numerous different game scripts. That means he’s almost certain to wear a heavy-usage yoke against the Raiders, and with a relatively neutral Vegas expectation (currently Oakland -3), McCoy remains in line for a solid outing. He makes for a solid workhorse pivot from the Big Two salaries in contrarian-loving GPP contests.
Considering Ben Roethlisberger’s home dominance over the past three seasons, it’s obviously wise to go after his top target, right? It makes sense, as over those Roethlisberger home games Brown averages an absurd line of 9.4 catches, 126.8 yards, and 1.1 touchdowns. And Brown isn’t merely a volume leader; he’s a volume emperor. Over the last 3 weeks, he’s reclaimed his role towering over the Steelers passing game, drawing a suffocating 33% of Roethlisberger’s looks. Of course he’s catching his customary 79.4% of them, routinely turning short-to-intermediate throws into fireworks and scoring 4 touchdowns. The Giants secondary is stout, but they’ve allowed big games to No. 1 wideouts in 2 of the last 4 weeks. And obviously, Brown is a different animal than just about any they could hope to face. Even at a $9,000 salary, his floor looks safe and his ceiling is its usual, incalculable self.
Hill’s salary remains incredibly low despite his eruptive Week 12. We don’t want to overreact to a big day that involved kick returning, no, but it’s important to note that that wasn’t Hill’s first, nor even his second, eruption. He’s now topped 20 points in 3 of his last 5 games, and the first 2 didn’t require a rushing or a return touchdown. Hill is merely entrenched near the top of Kansas City’s Jeremy Maclin-less passing game, boasting 28 targets over the last 3 weeks. That makes him a true volume option – far more so than his tiny $4,800 salary calls for – in addition to a play-to-play threat for a long score. Another big target day would just obliterate his meager cash marker, and no option on this slate, regardless of position, has a better shot at 4x value.
Edelman is a weekly volume king with or without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. You know, of course, that he’s drawn a studly 9.7 targets per game since Wes Welker left town, and that his sky-high catch rates always keep his PPR scoring solid. But that target average leaps to 11.4 without Gronkowski in the lineup. We probably won’t know Gronkowski’s true availability until Sunday afternoon – probably once we saw his final snap count – but it’s comforting to know that Edelman will gobble up targets (and therefore catches) regardless. The fact that he still checks in with a salary below $7,000 makes him one of the slate’s safer mid-high investments.
We no longer draw a discount for Thomas, who’s suddenly priced alongside the studly likes of Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall. His rookie season has simply been that good, and his connection with Drew Brees that strong. But believe it or not, he’s actually valued appropriately for Week 13. Like Brown, Thomas is the apparent No. 1 option for a passing game expected to erupt through the stratosphere. Thomas will likely tangle a bit with stud cornerback Darius Slay, but Slay is returning from a hamstring injury, and the Saints boast enough receiving options to isolate the matchups they want. And right now, Thomas is squarely in the center of that rotation. The smart money is on Brees having his way with the Lions, and on Thomas being schemed open for the 6-7 catches he likely needs for his cash marker. Adding a touchdown into the mix would almost certainly land cash value.
For whatever reason, Green-Beckham remains priced at the DraftKings minimum. That makes him arguably the week’s top value play, as he’s drawn a studly 22% of Carson Wentz’ throws over the past 2 weeks (good for 18 targets). That kind of opportunity per dollar is generally safe for cash contests, but rostering a minimum salary is very iffy when we’re mindful of floor; even the best-looking dirt-cheap plays are always susceptible to week-to-week vanishing acts. Shrewd DFSers know this, and Green-Beckham will carry lower ownership than many expect. But if his recent target share holds, he won’t be able to help falling into tournament value. Just 3-4 catches should do it – and considering his every-down playmaking potential, he may not even need a touchdown.
We know Aaron Rodgers loves to throw touchdowns, and that he’s fantastic at it. And this week, we get a perfect storm scenario that should keep his receivers low-owned and high-value. Adams has been the most productive of late; after 2+ years of frustration, he’s entrenched himself as an upper-tier playmaking option. His relatively low $6,300 salary would, in most cases, draw gobs and gobs of ownership, but that should be split somewhat this week with the value Nelson brings. Nelson’s salary takes another nosedive, this time to $7,000, which will draw the eye of the DFS community and should keep Adams’ ownership under 18-20%. And obviously, at these costs, a power-stack of both makes a ton of sense. The opportunity and dynamism at play here is worth far beyond the $13,300 price tag in your GPP portfolio.
The squeaky wheel tends to get the grease, and Cooks squeaked loudly this week after somehow going target-less on 49 snaps last Sunday. It’s a good bet that Drew Brees will make it a point to look toward Cooks early and often this week, a potential workload that would make his $6,400 salary look appropriate. It helps, of course, they’ll play in the Superdome, where 300+ passing yards and 3+ touchdowns are the norm for Brees. His usual load, plus a big play or two, would launch Cooks into particularly low-owned tournament value.
It’s puzzling as to why DraftKings devalues Kelce’s last two weeks so drastically; $4,700 is too cheap. Through nearly 4 games with Jeremy Maclin sidelined, Kelce leads all NFL TEs in targets (37) and has crushed 4x value in 2 straight. His Week 13 outlook is sterling against the Falcons, who have allowed the sixth-most DraftKings points to the position, including recent value eruptions to Jermaine Gresham (5.8x) and Cameron Brate (4.6x). Not even a Maclin return – which is still no given – would damage Kelce’s prospects for cash value much at all. Overall, he’s topped 100 yards in 3 of his last 5 games, but he doesn’t need to even approach that mark to pay off. Five or six catches of good-not-great impact, with or without a touchdown, should handle that nicely.
Finally, he’s healthy and holds a major stake in this offense. With A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard out of the picture, Andy Dalton has looked Eifert’s way on 19% of his throws – a near-elite mark for a TE. There are concerns over the Bengals’ offense and ability to set him up near the goal line, but that’s a bit overblown. They’re facing a serious lack of scoring options once they do get close, and while they face an Eagles defense that’s allowed the second-fewest points to TEs, the outlook isn’t so bleak. Philadelphia has given up 26+ points in 4 of 5 games (and 5 of 7), so Eifert’s hefty stake could foreshadow trademark TD production as well.
You already know that Drew Brees is almost certain to erupt his week, and those eruptions tend to mean several touchdowns through the air. The opportunity to combine Brees’ Superdome prowess with a TE that’s facing Detroit is absurdly tempting. Only two teams allow more DraftKings points to TEs; the last 6 starters to face them average a line of 4.8 catches and 0.5 touchdowns. That’s a sturdy baseline, and it swells when we’re talking about the New Orleans offense. Fleener already looked like a strong bet to find the end zone – he’s drawn 3 of Brees’ last 11 targets from inside the 10 – but his overall outlook gets a strong enough matchup boost that he’s nearly plug-and-play in GPPs.
I don’t think he’s a good player either, but his stake is increasing in a passing game that’s showing signs of life. He’s seen 6+ targets in 5 straight games, topping 45 yards in 4 of them, and that’s all that’s asked of a $2,900 TE. Another five- or six-catch day would bring home low-owned GPP value even without a touchdown.
They play the Jaguars; do you need anything more? Blake Bortles’ ragged crew has averaged just 18.6 points over the last 7 weeks, and prior to last week’s blemish-free performance, they’d coughed up 15 turnovers over that span. The Broncos have been hit-or-miss defensively of late, but this is as sexy a setup as they could hope for. They come pricier than Seattle, but with a stronger floor.
Here’s your perfect storm: the dominant Seahawks defense, struggling to produce significant fantasy totals of late, draws a home date with the reeling Panthers offense. Vegas only projects Carolina to 19 points, and the expected game flow (currently Seattle -6.5) foreshadows a lot of late passing (and therefore sack/takeaway potential). In an iffy week for defensive value, the Seahawks stand a cut above almost everyone at a reasonable $3,500.
Their salary is way, way down – as well their ownership be – in preparation for a matchup with a dynamic Atlanta offense. But Kansas City’s is a high-powered, aggressive defense, one that racks up sacks and takeaways at a strong clip and is fully capable of excelling in a shootout. They managed 15 DraftKings points in last week’s 30-27 battle with the Broncos on sacks, a safety, and a touchdown, and in Week 7 racked up 11 against the Saints’ offense. Even if the Falcons gain yardage and produce points, Kansas City remains squarely in position to return 4x value.
Yes, ugh. Prior to last week, this unit had posted 1, 5, -3, and -2 DraftKings points in a row, and they’re no one’s idea of a safe play. But there’s strong GPP value in a matchup with the Texans’ punchless offense, which managed just 13 points in last week’s home date with the Chargers. The Houston offense is having to work for everything it gains, so chunk plays and spontaneous touchdowns aren’t really happening, and it’s coughing up turnovers left and right. The Packers don’t need to extend wild effort to reach GPP value here.
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