When I’m looking into the DFS slate each week, I like to go game by game and identify players or situations that intrigue me. In every game, on every team, there’s a situation that’s relevant for DFS purposes. Whether it’s for a positive or negative reason, doesn’t matter. It informs us of how we should be attacking each slate. Each week, I’m going to go through that process here and give my view on a player or situation based on what we know so far and what we can expect to see in the future.
Heading into Week 2, I called for a fade of David Johnson ($7,200) here. Part of me was hoping I was wrong. Week 1 had to be an aberration, right? Rock bottom? Unfortunately, things got even worse for DJ owners against the Rams. On Sunday, he earned two air yards on two targets for a 1.0 aDOT. There may be a shakeup at the quarterback position but I’m not sure that I care all that much until the coaching staff is willing and able to use him properly. Their Pythagorean Expectation, per our Team Splits App, is .3 wins over the course of a 16 game season based on what we’ve seen so far. Even $7,200 seems too expensive for a guy in that offense who only saw 15 opportunities in Week 2.
It’s been an interesting start to the season for Matt Ryan ($5,700) and Julio Jones ($7,900). In Week 1, they lose 18-12 and Julio scores 31 DK points on 19 targets. Then, they win a close division game where he only manages 11.4 DK Points on 9 targets. Atlanta takes on the Saints at home — a team whose defense has seemingly taken a step back in 2017. New Orleans is giving up an average of 331.5 yards and 2.5 passing TDs on 29 attempts per game. The Falcons are home underdogs but are implied for a healthy 25 points. A Ryan-Jones stack makes quite a bit of sense in GPPs this weekend.1
John Brown ($4,800) is the most interesting GPP option in Baltimore. He’s scored a touchdown in each of the first two games of the season. What impressed me the most, though, is the willingness of Joe Flacco ($5,400) to take shots down the field to Brown when they needed a score. In Week 2, Brown saw over 220 air yards which were good for the third highest total in a game this season. He only caught 40 percent of his targets last week so there’s some room for positive regression. This particular Ravens stack this week allows you the flexibility to afford whoever you want to fit into your GPP lineups.
We’ve all seen that chalky backup RBs can often reach or exceed value. There’s the potential, at the time of this writing, that LeSean McCoy ($5,100) misses Week 3 with the rib injury he suffered against the Chargers. That would leave Chris Ivory ($4,000) and Marcus Murphy ($3,300) handling the backfield for the Bills. This is not a situation in which we want to roster a cheap backup RB, however. Buffalo is implied for only 12 points and are being given 17 points by Vegas. Any Bills player is a hard pass until further notice.
Christian McCaffrey ($7,800) finds himself in a remarkably similar situation to what Melvin Gordon had last week. The only difference is a plus in McCaffrey’s column since he’s a home favorite. McCaffrey was in on 63-of-67 snaps against the Falcons, pushing his snap percentage to right around 90. He’s up to 42 opportunities on the year, including six in the red zone. On a dollar per touch basis, it’s hard to argue with McCaffrey in Week 3. In his career, he’s averaged 18 PPR Points when the Panthers were favored by at least 3 with a total of 44 or above.
We’re two weeks into the season and the Arizona Cardinals have given up a score to the opposing TE each week. Trey Burton ($3,900) is under $4,000 and is coming off of a TD of his own on Monday night against Seattle. On the season, he’s seen nine targets (13.6 percent market share) including two in the red zone. As the 10th highest price TE, you aren’t investing a ton in the position and all it takes is a score to pay off. With a tough matchup for the WRs on the outside, look for Chicago to scheme some extra targets Burton’s way.
It’s been a tale of two defenses for the Panthers as they stifled Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in Week 1 but then gave up 31 points to division rival Matt Ryan. The Bengals are slight underdogs going on the road to Carolina. AJ Green ($7,500) as the 11th highest priced receiver coming off of a three-touchdown performance seems like a misprice. There could be more of an emphasis on the passing game anyway as Joe Mixon was already slated to miss time and now Giovani Bernard ($5,900) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Over the first two weeks, Green has accounted for 47.1 percent of Cincinnati’s air yards and a 24.3 percent target share. His usage isn’t going anywhere and the price is right, load him up.
Ezekiel Elliott ($7,700) is 9th in carries and 15th in receiving targets so far in this young season. He obviously missed time last season, but on a per game basis, he led the league in carries in 2017. The year before, in his rookie campaign? He was second in the league, just 0.4 carries per game behind Le’Veon Bell. This should be a low-scoring game in which Dallas might look to grind it out and run Elliott all day. The matchup with Seattle isn’t as scary as it used to be.
The Broncos are five-point underdogs but are facing a team in Baltimore that just gave up 51 DK Points to the opposing WR1 and WR2. Jimmy Smith is still on his four-game suspension so help isn’t arriving just yet. That means we can take a look at the Broncos passing game with Demaryius Thomas ($5,200) and Emmanuel Sanders ($6,400). I’ll take the cheaper option in Thomas this week for GPPs. He had one of the more unfortunate stat lines a WR could have. DT was targeted 11 times and only had five catches for 18 yards. Per Pro Football Reference, since the year 2000, there have only been 15 games where a player saw that target volume and turned it into that few yards. Not only is he averaging 10.5 targets per game, but he’s also already seen four red zone targets.
Green Bay Packers
Davante Adams ($7,600) and the rest of the Packers are heading to Washington this weekend. Green Bay is three-point favorites and implied to score 24 points. Adams is averaging over 100 air yards and has been a high-end WR2 in both weeks of the season so far. He should settle in somewhere around 10 percent ownership this weekend which is a bit too low. Washington has allowed an average of 18 DK Points to opposing WR1s so far this season.
Deshaun Watson ($6,100) didn’t look like himself in Week 1 against New England. He showed a few flashes of his 2017 self during Week 2 in Tennessee. Now the Texans go back to Houston for their home opener against a team that has largely looked awful to start the season in the New York Giants. With his floor of an extra 3-4 points from rushing, Watson should be a relatively safe option week in and week out. This is the type of game where they could jump out early on the Giants and put up the numbers we were accustomed to seeing last season from him. Stacking him up with DeAndre Hopkins ($8,300) and/or Will Fuller ($5,900) makes sense in GPPs as well.
Sometimes things just don’t make sense. The Jack Doyle ($3,500) vs. Eric Ebron ($3,400) debate is one of those things. Doyle has out-snapped Ebron 136 to 54 but is being outscored by Ebron 26.6 to 16. The usage has been great for Doyle, he just simply hasn’t found the end zone yet this season. He’s 11th in TE salary this week but is fourth in targets on the season. His production will catch up with his usage. Their opponent this week, the Philadelphia Eagles, just allowed O.J. Howard to score 19 points on only four targets.
Is Blake Bortles ($5,600) actually good? This is the same question we asked about Melvin Gordon last week. I’m going to give the same answer: I don’t care. He has the 20th-highest salary on DraftKings which is a major misprice. Bortles is good for three or four points of rushing production which raises his floor. If you’re reading this, you have access to Dave Caban’s Weekly Stat Explorer, including historical projections based on similar matchups. The Weekly Stat Explorer gives Bortles a median projection of 21 points this week. That would be a great way to start a cash lineup with enough savings to afford whoever you want at the other skill positions.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes ($7,000) is on pace for 80 touchdowns. I know there isn’t a universe where that happens, and I’m sure the regression monster is going to rear its ugly head soon. But it still speaks to his hot start and how everything is clicking for the Chiefs offense right now. It’s hard to envision a situation where he fails this week against San Francisco. Two weeks ago, Matthew Stafford looked like he had never played quarterback before and in Week 2 he went to SF and threw for 347 yards and 3 TDs. The move this week is to play a 3-entry max tournament and stack Mahomes with three different combinations of Kareem Hunt ($6,000), Travis Kelce ($6,700), and Tyreek Hill ($8,500).
Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Gordon ($7,400) is still a value this week. The Rams, with all of their offseason acquisitions, are clicking on defense and look as good as advertised. That same team, though, gave up nine receptions to Jalen Richard in Week 1. Then David Johnson and Chase Edmonds combined for six catches out of the backfield in Week 2. Gordon is averaging 22 opportunities per game and he barely played in the second half against Buffalo last week. Seven of those opportunities have come in the red zone. If the Chargers continue to use him like this, we could be looking at the overall RB1 at the end of the season and he’s under $7,500.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are home favorites by a touchdown. They’ve scored nearly 70 points over the first two weeks of the season. The Chargers were absolutely torched by Tyreek Hill in Week 1. This has a Brandin Cooks ($7,000) spike game written all over it. Cooks is being used all over the field with 17 total targets including three in the red zone. He’s also averaging 111 air yards so far this season. Cooks has yet to score a TD, but when he scores they can come in bunches. I’m anticipating a top-five WR performance from him against the other team from Los Angeles.
The Dolphins host the Raiders and are favored by a field goal. If the game gets away from Oakland, you could do worse than Kenyan Drake ($5,600). The Raiders have already given up two 100-yard rushers this year. Drake has been used in the red zone on five occasions already. The game script should help him hit value for his price.
Predictability, if there is such a thing in today’s NFL, is important when picking players in DFS. Projecting touchdowns is a fool’s errand, as we know, so we’re looking for volume. A predictable passing offense is one where there is a concentration of opportunity. Stefon Diggs ($7,800) and Adam Thielen ($7,800) have accounted for 53 percent of the targets and 84.5 percent of the air yards in Minnesota. There are only a couple of teams who have over 70% of their air yards going to two targets. Kirk Cousins’ ($6,800) adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) when throwing to Diggs and Thielen is 12.16 and 10.12, respectively, through two games.
New Orleans Saints
There might not be a price high enough to scare me off of Michael Thomas ($8,900). To say they’re peppering him with targets would be an understatement. He has the most fantasy points of any WR and the second-most targets, receiving yards, receiving TDs, and red-zone targets in the NFL through two weeks. The ceiling is sky high for Thomas as Drew Brees ($6,400) is showing the league that the Saints can still throw the ball around the yard. Hopefully, his price keeps the ownership from getting as high as it should be.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley ($7,600) has eclipsed 20 DK Points in each of the first two starts of his career. It’s not a great time to be a Giants fan, but it is a great time to roster Barkley. The offensive line is an unmitigated disaster. If he isn’t breaking off long runs, you’re going to have weeks where he only rushes for 2.5 yards per carry like he did last week. The good news for those who rostered him in Week 2 is that he caught 14 balls on 16 targets. Those numbers aren’t typos. He’s $1,600 cheaper than the most expensive running back this week with a similar workload. Add that to the fact that he’ll be lower owned than the top end guys too? Sign me up to be overweight in GPPs.
The Raiders got their doors blown off against the Rams in Week 1 and then lost a one-point game to the Broncos in Week 2. But luckily Jodn Gruden stopped thinking about why they can’t pressure the quarterback long enough to remember that they have Amari Cooper ($6,600). Cooper turned his 10 targets into 10 receptions for 116 yards. The Dolphins allowed two Jets receivers to eclipse 80 receiving yards last week. Cooper is a solid pivot from the higher-owned options around him in Week 3.
When a team signs a player off the practice squad on the same day they’re talking about another player missing time, you have to pay attention. That’s the situation for the Eagles and Jay Ajayi ($5,700), who has yet to practice this week and is trending toward missing Week 3. That would leave Corey Clement ($4,300) in position to handle the lion’s share of the work. Clement was in on just over 40 percent of snaps last week against Tampa Bay. He saw 12 opportunities, gained 85 yards from scrimmage and got into the end zone on the ground. I’ll take a potential three-down running back in a game where his team is expected to score almost 27 points and is favored by nearly a touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers
If the first two weeks are any indication, the 49ers will be playing catch up most of the day on Sunday in Kansas City. While that doesn’t bode well for the ground game, we could see San Francisco score in bunches. The Chiefs defense is almost as bad as their offense is good. Marquise Goodwin ($5,500) took a step in the right direction Wednesday by getting in a limited practice after missing last week’s contest. His salary is too low given his elite upside if he plays. The injury might be just enough to keep his ownership down, making him a great GPP play as a way to run it back with a Chiefs stack.
A close game could mean that Russell Wilson ($6,000) is forced to throw when he isn’t running for his life. It’s a bit of a narrative, but you have to think that the TD catch Tyler Lockett ($5,300) had on Monday night earned some trust with his QB. What isn’t a narrative is the fact that he went from 37 air yards in Week 1 to 134 in Week 2. If he can live in the 13-17 aDOT range and he keeps his catch rate around 70 percent, we’re looking at Tyreek Hill Lite in Seattle. This might be the last time we see Lockett in the $5,000s this season.
I guess I’ll suggest Corey Davis here, but it’s really only because I promised the editors here at RotoViz that I’d write every team up. The Titans, with or without Marcus Mariota, don’t interest me much at this point. Davis did see 113 air yards on 13 targets with Mariota in Week 1. He’s worth a GPP flier because of his price, but I’m largely avoiding the Titans.
Chris Thompson ($6,300) is #good at football. His price has caught up to his skill a bit, but I think it’s fair. Thompson isn’t going to get much of the work on the ground, but with 21 targets through two weeks I’m not sure we care. Couple that with four red-zone opportunities, and we have ourselves a running back that should be in play most weeks. Washington is getting three points at home against the Packers. In this same Vegas situation at home, Thompson averages nearly six additional PPR points per game.
- Note that Jones was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to tightness in his calf — watch this situation closely before putting him in your lineups. (back)