Welcome to the first DFS article I’ve ever written!
That opening sentence may not sound encouraging to you if you’re looking to take my advice, but I have played DFS regularly for the last 4-5 years, and I’ve had a lot of success. I’m just a little bit of an odd-ball when it comes to DFS because I have almost no interest in delving into the many nuances that DFS specialists master to set them apart and take down big tournaments. That’s just not my bag, but that’s obviously fine because when it comes to our DFS content, we have a group of 3-4 sharps who do the heavy DFS lifting for us.
But while I don’t particularly enjoy looking for DFS options that may potentially set me apart from the rest (i.e., mostly scrubs who few are inclined to start), I do enjoy winning, and I do enjoy forming rock-solid lineups that are more likely than not going to win my money in cash games. I particularly like 50/50 games, but I’ll also delve into head-to-head, which I also enjoyed.
So for DFS picks, you can call me “Johnny Cash Game” if you’d like, ‘cause that’s my jam.
This all started for me four years ago when, on a random Sunday in the middle of the season, I decided I needed some action. I was really feeling a couple of DFS plays that week, so I decided to do a 50/50 on DraftKings for $1000. I won, so I played it again the next week, and I won again. I played every week the final eight weeks of the season, and I went 8-0. It felt like a part-time job, since I was making a grand a week on just one lineup. Now, for some reason, I haven’t been inclined to do that again, but I do play 3-4 games a week. To give you an example of the type of success I usually enjoy, here are the last two weeks that I played more than one lineup on DK, which happened to be the Wild Card and Divisional round of the NFL playoffs last year (I didn’t play multiple lineups in Championship round because that’s too few games for me).
These are pretty random contests, but as you can see, I did pretty well:
Those were two of my better weeks to be clear, but that was an impressive average of 171 DK points with those seven lineups, which I’d guess would put me at an 80+% winning rate in a basic 50/50 contest. I know it’s tough to stay that consistent, but I’m still setting a lofty goal of 150 points per week for the lineups I list here in this column.
A quick note on my process
I’m focusing on all the same things I’d focus on when analyzing a player’s fantasy prospects for the week, including what the player brings to the table, the matchup, expected game-flow, the Vegas game totals, injuries, weather, etc. But I’m also marrying our projected fantasy points, which I build myself, with the player’s DK salaries. You can easily do this yourself with our DFS projections by sorting the players by FPTS/$, which is Point Per Dollar Value. The default is DraftKings, which is great because that’s the only site I play on.
With those introductions and self-serving items out of the way, let’s get into the players I’m into using in my cash games this week on DraftKings.
Jared Goff (LAR, vs. Dal - $5700) - It's a shame he’s not on the main slate, but Goff is my favorite DFS QB this week. I love the vibes on the Rams this year, love the matchup, and love the price. The matchups for Tyler Higbee and Cooper Kupp are especially appealing, as is the location to open their new stadium, and the 51.5 game total, which is the highest on the board after Thursday night’s game.
Mitchell Trubisky (Chi, at Det, $5400) - He really is tough to trust, but since the Lions play a lot of man-to-man, things are easily defined for him, which is ideal for Trubisky. That helps explain how he’s looked like he’s throwing against air against them the last couple of seasons. In his last three games against the Lions, Trubisky is completing 75% of his passes for 9.5 YPA, and 289/3 on average with only 1 INT. Confidence should not be a problem for Trubisky, and especially if he takes off and runs 4-5 times, he’s gotta come through with such a juicy matchup and an affordable price.
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF, vs. Ari, $5800) - I’ve had a good vibe on Jimmy G all summer, in large part because of his affordable redraft price around 150 overall. He’s not nearly the DK value that Goff is, but there’s upside to be had, obviously. In two games against the Cards last year, Garoppolo averaged 370.5/4 passing with a 75.5% completion rate and 9.0, all gaudy numbers. The Niners against the 49ers last year didn’t run the ball nearly as well as they did against most teams. Deebo Samuel is out, but I think Jimmy G can do enough with George Kittle and their secondary guys to deliver 18-20 fantasy points for Jimmy G, which would be a win for his price.
Ryan Tannehill (Ten, at Den, $5900) - Last year the Broncos did some creative stuff to slow down Derrick Henry, and it worked, as Henry ran for only 28 yards on 15 carries and the Titans lost 16-0. That was also the game, however, Marcus Mariota lost his job to Ryan Tannehill, as Mariota was benched late in the fourth quarter. I’m sure Vic Fangio will look to sell out and/or get creative again to try to stop Henry, and I can see the Titans combating that by coming out throwing early in the down. Denver just lost LB Von Miller, and their corners are vulnerable. I love AJ Brown in this one, and Denver gave up 6/70 per game to TEs in the final eight games of the 2019 season, so Jonnu Smith is a nice sleeper. Tannehill’s upside is always potentially capped due to a lack of attempts (it’s a lame 41 total expected), but there are a lot of things working in his favor in this one.
Joe Burrow (Cin, vs. LAC, $5800) - I’ve been a Burrow guy since watching him live last year more than I’ve watched any other college QB in a single season in a long, long time. He’s incredible, and I see a lot of Tom Brady in him on and off the field. Unlike Brady, Burrow might have underrated upside as a runner, eclipsing 35.0 rushing yards per game in each of his final two seasons at LSU. And while the Charger D is talented, they did lose S Derwin James, and their sack and turnover numbers last year were really bad, so I think Burrow will have a nice debut. I especially like the matchup for his guy Tyler Boyd, but AJ Green at 100% does help. Burrow will also have Auden Tate and John Ross at his disposal, plus two backs who can catch the rock. I think he’s going to be more than fine this weekend.
Higher-end guys I’m okay with
Dak Prescott (Dal, at LAR, $6900) - Shootout
Carson Wentz (Phi, at Was, $6300) - OL issues, so not featured, but it looks Reagor should play!
Matt Ryan (Atl, vs. Sea, $6700) - Expecting a lot of points here
Boston Scott (Phi, at Was, $4800) - It’s really between Scott and Gibson for the best value RB on the board this week. With Miles Sanders out, Scott is looking good for 15+ touches. He’s the backup all summer and he is clearly ahead of Corey Clement, who is also banged up. Scott is a very good play no matter what, but it’s his upside that is appealing because, if he scores, then he’s a good bet to approach 20 DK points and wind up as a major difference-maker in Week 1 DFS lineups. The Redskins front is nasty, but Scott can produce in the passing game.
Antonio Gibson (Was, vs. Phi, $4000) - It’s a leap of faith for sure, but Gibson doesn’t have to do much to deliver at only 4k on DK. In fact, per our projections (which, admittedly, is more guesswork than usual for obvious reasons), he’s the #1 value on the board in terms of Point Per Dollar Value. They had to scale back on their plans for him due to the lack of a normal off-season, but make no mistake: they had big plans for him. Pass catching is very important for RBs in this offense, which is one of the reasons they let Adrian Peterson go, so we’re seeing 12-15 opportunities for Gibson in Week 1.
Chris Thompson (Jax, at Ind, $4000) - It’s a little scary for me to advocate this guy because it feels like it’s been a decade since he had any fantasy juice, but he’s here for a reason: new OC Jay Gruden loves pass-catching specialists, and Thompson flourished under Gruden in Washington. And you might as well use him while Thompson is healthy, right? It’s all about catches in this one for Thompson, since they’re certainly not going to throw to UDFA James Robinson (although he can catch it). They are 7.5 point underdogs, so the game script should be a positive as well. And guess which defense gave up the most RB catches last year? The Colts.
James Conner (Pit, at NYG, $6600) - You have to love the Steelers in this one as 5.5 road favorites, and since it was a quiet summer for rookie Anthony McFarland, you have to believe Conner is locked into a 20+ touch 3-down role. This Giant defense gave up the 10th most RB receptions and the 8th most RB rushing TDs last year, and I think Diontae Johnson is going to abuse them on the back end with at least one big play, so I’d be shocked if Conner didn’t have a productive day with 100+ total yards. If he gets lucky with goal-line carries, multiple rushing TDs are in play.
Aaron Jones (GB, at Min, $6900) - I love, love Jones this week. Jones last year absolutely abused the Vikings, rushing for 23/116/1 and 23/154/2, good for 5.9 YPC on 46 carries. And that was with Linval Joseph in the lineup for the Vikings. He’s gone, and the guy they got to replace him, former Raven DT Michael Pierce, opted out of 2020 due to COVID. Rookie AJ Dillon will likely be mostly a spectator in this one, and if Jones does what I think he can do Sunday, the 2021 UFA might have a new deal by Week 2.
Marlon Mack (Ind, vs. Jax, $5300) - This one is so obvious I’m almost afraid to list it. But you’d have to think, if there was ever a time to use Mack, it’s Week 1, since rookie Jonathan Taylor--as least in my opinion--is poised to take over as the lead runner sooner rather than later. The Colts are 7.5 favorites on the road, so they are clearly the far superior team. It’s a great opportunity for HC Frank Reich to do what they’ve been talking about all off-season, which is running the ball 30 times a game with their top two backs. Taylor could certainly steal Mack’s thunder, but Mack is the veteran, the official “starter,” and, most importantly, is actually cheaper than JT (who is $5700).
Higher-end guys I’m okay with
Mark Ingram (Bal, vs. Cle, $5500) - Always a threat to score multiple TDs
Christian McCaffrey (Car, vs. LVR, $10,000) - He’ll probably get 30 opportunities
Josh Jacobs (LV, at Car, $6800) - They will improve, but they were bad against the run in ‘19
Diontae Johnson (Pit, at NYG, $4200) - I know he’s yet to truly break out and hasn’t worked with Ben Roethlisberger much, but the vibes otherwise have been great, so this $4200 price is a joke. Big Ben really warmed up to Diontae late in camp, and the Giants are in bad shape at corner, so I’m fully expecting at least one big play, and a breakout game is not out of the question. It’s a shame he’s not on the full slate, though.
DeSean Jackson (Phi, at Was, $4900) - We all know he went nuts in this matchup Week 1 last year, and that the Redskins are still beatable on the back end. I am worried about the Eagle OL holding up against a nasty front, but Carson Wentz has mobility, and DeSean has looked incredible this summer. He’s bulked up, yet he’s still running by DBs 10 years younger than him. Rest assured, they will take deep shots, and he’ll be open.
Preston Williams (Mia, at NE, $4500) - Before tearing his ACL, Williams out-targeted DeVante Parker 60 to 52 in the Dolphins' first eight games with Ryan Fitzpatrick. This week, Parker is banged up and likely locked into a matchup with Stephon Gilmore. Parker did get over on Gilmore last year, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening again. But I will bet on Williams coming through with a better matchup.
Marquise Brown (Bal, vs. Cle, $5100) - I know he’ll see Denzel Ward at times, perhaps a lot of him, but this price is too low for me to shy away. Brown and the Ravens have been chomping at the bit to get the bad taste of their playoff loss out of their mouths, so I’m expecting a healthy Brown to be unleashed.
Davante Adams (GB, at Min, $7300) - This one’s easy, since a healthy Adams can’t really be stopped by anyone, not to mention the two new starters at CB for the Vikings. Granted, they are both #1 picks (and I’m not sure 2020 pick Jeff Gladney will even “start”). Adams has averaged 8/97 against the Vikings in his last three games, including 7/106 and 13/116 in 2019 (a down year for him, lol). This bend-but-don’t-break defense will bend plenty for Adams, and they’ll probably also break (and not in a good way).
Jamison Crowder (NYJ, at Buf, $5200) - I know this one seems obvious, but it was obvious to me last year in Week 1, when I begged anyone who would listen on the radio and TV to start him against the Bills. Crowder in that game had 17 targets and 14/99 receiving. Granted, the Bills know it’s coming, but they knew it was coming in Week 17 last year, yet Crowder still put up 8/66/1 on 10 targets. This is a great defense, but they make their money on shutting down an opposing outside WR with stud corner Tre White (see you next week, Breshad Perriman), and by being a disciplined zone-based defense. Playing that way, they’re okay with Crowder catching balls and averaging 7 yards a catch, as he did on his 22 grabs against the Bills last year. Yeah, 22 catches in two games for Crowder in this matchup in 2019.
Marvin Jones (Det, vs. Chi, $5500) - He certainly has a great rapport with Matthew Stafford, and he’ll be needed this week with Kenny Golladay doubtful. The Bears defense is solid, but given Mitchell Trubisky’s success in this matchup and Detroit’s shaky RB situation right now, I feel good predicting a solid game from Marvin.
Anthony Miller (Chi, at Det, $5000) - Miller has had success in this matchup in the past, averaging a decent 4/63 against them his last three games, and I’m not sure what happened to slot corner Justin Coleman last year (he did change teams and schemes), but he was not good. Given Trubisky’s past success in this matchup, I’m optimistic about Miller, but he’s not crazy cheap.
CeeDee Lamb (Dal, at LAR, $4100) - Well, for one, he’s very cheap. I also have no faith in Amari Cooper up against Jalen Ramsey most of the day. Everyone I talked to close to the Cowboys this summer expects Lamb to line up mostly in the slot, which is ideal. We don’t know for sure who he’ll be up against (it could be David Long, who is a good prospect), but I’ll take my chances on the rookie here, and his great showing this summer definitely helps my confidence.
Higher-end guys I’m okay with
Chris Godwin (TB, at NO, $7100) - Not a great value, but volume up with Evans doubtful
Cooper Kupp (LAR, vs. Dal, $6500) - Not a great value, but love his matchup
AJ Brown (Ten, at Den, $6300) - Not a great value, but I’m feeling it
Tyler Boyd (Cin, vs. LAC, $6100) - Not a great value, but good matchup
Allen Robinson (Chi, at Det, $6500) - Have to consider him because his QB is only good vs. Det
DK Metcalf (Sea, at Atl, $5800) - Pretty affordable, and he could explode
DJ Chark (Jax, vs. Ind, $6300) - Volume all four quarters baby
Hayden Hurst (Atl, vs. Sea, $4300) - I’m feeling this one, as the Seahawks gave up the second-most points to TEs last year, and while they did dd Jamal Adams, he’s more of a box player and blitzer. There’s a promising total of 49 points expected in this one, and I can easily see this one turning into a shootout. Hurst is too cheap to ignore here. Good vibes all summer with Hurst.
Tyler Higbee (Dal, at LAR, $5000) - Dallas has been suspect against TEs for quite some time now. In fact, Higbee dropped 12/110 on them last year on 14 targets. Granted, they were playing from way behind, but who’s to say they won’t be this week, as well? I got some good intel on Higbee late in the preseason, so I’m optimistic that he won’t let his fantasy owners down in 2020. I may not be totally convinced he’ll be productive most weeks, but I’m about as convinced as I can be that he’s a good play in this matchup.
Noah Fant (Den, vs. Ten, $4200) - I actually don’t love the matchup, as the Titans safeties are quite good, but with Courtland Sutton banged up and the vibes good on Fant all summer, I like this play at this very low price. For what it’s worth, the Titans did give up 15+ FPG vs. TEs the final eight games last year.
TJ Hockenson (Det, vs. Chi, $4200) - He’s completely healthy and Kenny Golladay is doubtful, so for this list price that’s enough for me. Hockenson did catch 9 balls in this matchup last year, and given Chicago’s success throwing on the Lions defense, Hock is a good bet to get 7-8 targets in this one (maybe 10+).
Jonnu Smith (Ten, at Den, $4400) - He’s very sneaky this year, and the matchup is solid, as Denver gave up 6/70 receiving per game to TEs the second half of last year (14.6 FP/G). Given how the Broncos did so well slowing down Derrick Henry last year, I believe Tennessee will throw a little more than people expect, at least early in the game.
Higher-end guys I’m okay with
Hunter Henry (LAC, at Cin, $5300) - I kinda like it, solid matchup for sure
Zach Ertz (Phi, at Was, $5800) - DeSean opens everything up underneath
George Kittle (SF, vs. Ari, $7200) - He will be the man this week