Ladies and gentlemen, football is back! Which means fantasy football is back. Which means DFS is back. Which means I get to go back to ignoring all of your start/sit questions and spending all of my time (literally every waking moment) working on this column.
What is this column? Each way I’ll be listing the best and most-interesting plays of the week, grouped by position, and ranked and tiered in some sort of descending order. Keep in mind, we’re looking only at the players available on the main slate for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
This article is long. It’s going to be long every week. Ideally, it’s all you should need to know to be able to profit playing DFS in any given week.
Be sure to also watch our DFS Preview livestream every Thursday Night at 7PM EST. Be sure to get in our Discord – if you’re not already in there, you’re missing out on a lot of important news updates as well as personal guidance and advice from our experts. And, most importantly, be sure to check back on Sunday mornings for the “Sunday Morning Update” – basically a TLDR version of this piece along with any injury-related updates we might need.
Anyway, let’s dive in…
Note 1: As always, Week 2 is a great week to go contrarian. With everyone overreacting to a 1-game sample size, there’s credence to fading just everything that happened in Week 1. Based on our ownership projections, it’s an EXCELLENT week to go contrarian. On FanDuel, one player is projected to be 35% owned. On DraftKings, 5 of the top-10 highest-owned players are all playing in the same game. That said, it’s a much trickier week for cash-game and single-entry tournament players. Note 2: Some of you really hate reading, I get that. Or, “Just tell me who to play. And keep the list short.” I get it. That’s what Sunday morning’s article is for. We’ll narrow today’s article down to just the top-10 or so plays of the week.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (v. CLE)
[DK: QB1 by salary, FD: QB1 by salary] As has been the case for a while now, because both sites refuse to appropriately price Jackson, the top question at QB is almost always – “Play Lamar Jackson, or don’t play Lamar Jackson.” And the answer is usually, “Play Lamar Jackson.” Against Deshaun Watson and the Texans, we should see Jackson forced to keep his foot on the gas a bit more than we saw last week when he put up 25.4 fantasy points in the first three quarters. That said, I don’t think he’s necessary this week, with so much good value elsewhere.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys / Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
If you look at the top values of the week, as per the DFS SuperModel or our DFS projections, you’ll find a number of players (nearly every player) from this game rank quite highly. Usually, DFS sites jack up salaries for players in the game with the highest over/under of the week (53.0), but it appears they didn’t go anywhere near far enough this week. In what should be a fast-paced, pass-heavy, high-scoring shootout, I suspect the biggest DFS question of the week is “To fade or not to fade this game” (based purely on reasons related to ownership) and then, if you’re not fading that game, the question becomes “Who don’t you want?”
This game makes it a very tough week for just about every non-MME DFS player. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, or Russell Gage? Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, or CeeDee Lamb? Dak Prescott or Matt Ryan? It’s tricky.
Why play Prescott? Well, look at what Atlanta’s porous secondary (the 3rd-worst secondary in the NFL per PFF) gave up to Russell Wilson last week. Why play Ryan? Well, look what Ryan did last week, throwing 54 times for 450 yards. And his matchup this week should be even softer. Dallas will be without linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee. Last year, without Vander Esch (7 games), opposing QBs averaged 22% more fantasy points per game. Over the past three seasons, without Sean Lee (18 games), opposing QBs averaged 19% more fantasy points per game.
I think in cash games – though I usually pay down at the QB position – I’m leaning towards Prescott. Atlanta doesn’t have any pass rush, but Dallas could be without both their LT and RT. That’s a concern, but, then again, a little pressure could actually help Prescott’s rushing expectation. But, in any case, Ryan really isn’t too far behind. He’ll have the better gamescript, and Todd Gurley feels like a lesser threat than Ezekiel Elliott to cap QB upside via rushing touchdowns. For single entry tournaments, I might prefer Ryan, stacked with at least one pass-catcher, and run back with Ezekiel Elliott.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
[DK: QB3, FD: QB6]
Rodgers is probably also in play for cash games (on FanDuel), and for tournaments, easily stacked with Davante Adams. Here’s what I wrote a few days ago:
Rodgers was lights out in Week 1, scoring the 2nd-most fantasy points on the week (30.8), but maybe we shouldn’t have been too surprised. Minnesota is clearly a bottom-5 pass defense and Rodgers was easily one of the league’s most matchup-sensitive QBs in 2019. Quoting a previous article: “In 2019, Rodgers averaged 27.8 FPG against teams ranking bottom-6 in FPG allowed to opposing QBs. In all other games, he averaged just 14.3 FPG. For perspective, that’s either 0.4 off of Lamar Jackson for first-place or 0.1 off of Mitchell Trubisky for dead-last among all QBs.” Is Rodgers really “back” or was this just another good matchup? We can’t know for sure until Week 3, because this week’s matchup might be even better. He gets a Darius Slay-less Detroit Lions defense that gave up the 5th-most passing fantasy points last week, after giving up the 3rd-most passing FPG in 2019.
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
[DK: QB5, FD: QB4]
Allen is either a good play, or one of the best plays of the week. Miami is weaker against the run than the pass, so maybe he doesn’t dropback 53 times this week as he did against the Jets. But still, he also could be one of the best plays of the slate. Like Rodgers, he’s extremely matchup-sensitive, historically feasting against bottom-tier defenses. Quoting a previous article: “Since entering the league, Allen averages 25.8 FPG against bottom-12 defenses (by FPG allowed). If over a full season that would rank 6th-most all-time, comparable to Peyton Manning’s famed 2013 season (26.3).” He’s also especially dominated Miami (31.1 FPG) and against man defenses (defensive backs have their backs turned to the QB, allowing easy yardage via the run). Miami ran man defense at the highest rate in the league last week, and Cam Newton exposed them, rushing 15 times for 75 yards and 2 scores. You can play Allen naked or stack him against Stefon Diggs (who is equally excellent against man-heavy defenses).
- Kyler Murray probably rivals Dak Prescott as the best cash QB play on DraftKings this week. Rushing 13 times for 91 yards and a score last week, with 41.2 rushing yards per game over his last 15 starts, shows he has the rock-solid floor we desire for cash games. Washington’s pass rush is good, but that may only help his rushing floor, forcing him to escape pressure, flee the pocket, and look for free yardage on the ground. He’s in play for tournaments as well, and then the stack is obvious – obviously DeAndre Hopkins.
- If making multiple tournament lineups, I’m going to want some exposure to Tom Brady against Carolina’s inexperienced and likely inept pass defense. This should be the sort of game, where Tampa Bay never needs to keep their foot on the gas, content to pound the rock against a bottom-3 run defense. That said, it could also be a sort of “get-right” game for Brady. A “prove the haters wrong”, “show the NFL Brady is back” game. That’s very narrative-street, especially for me, and a little thin with Chris Godwin questionable, but I could see it happening. And, at least, stacking is easy (Mike Evans, Scotty Miller).
- For MME players, you can also consider a Rams/Eagles gamestack. As John Proctor pointed out on the livestream, that game’s going overlooked but it’s ripe with fantasy potential… Greg Cosell came away highly impressed by Ben Roethlisberger’s tape in Week 1. He’s an easy stack with Diontae Johnson against Denver’s pass funnel defense… I like Daniel Jones paired with Darius Slayton (who is surprisingly drawing very little ownership after a big Week 1)…
- You want to get weird? Let’s get weird. As I said at the top, this is a brutal week for cash games, but it feels like a great week for contrarian tournament players. For tournaments like the Milly Maker, where your odds of winning are near-zero, and there’s always a big advantage in fading the highest-owned player of the slate, you can get creative with some pivots off of the Jonathan Taylor chalk. You have to imagine a scenario where Taylor fails. Perhaps if Minnesota runs away with a big lead, and the Colts are forced to abandon the run. Who would be most successful in such a scenario? Would it be Adam Thielen, or would Minnesota just lean heavy on Dalvin Cook? Would Nyheim Hines then dominate snaps out of the backfield, racking up easy fantasy points via quick Philip Rivers dump-offs? Could Rivers himself be in play against this porous secondary Aaron Rodgers just exposed? Parris Campbell is one of the best value plays on the slate, Mo Alie-Cox is another top value, and T.Y. Hilton is going to go low-owned though he might have the most upside. These are the questions you need to ask yourself. Another super-contrarian large-field tournament play I don’t hate is Jimmy Garoppolo stacked with Brandon Aiyuk and/or Jordan Reed against an all-time pass funnel defense. One more (full YOLO play) is a cheap stack of Sam Darnold (yuck) stacked with Breshad Perriman or maybe Chris Herndon.
High-Priced Running Backs
I mean, this really could be the only time we get Christian McCaffrey at his typical price-tag (which is always a little less than it should be) and somewhat low ownership. That said, and as I’ve talked about elsewhere, I do think Teddy Bridgewater hurts his target expectation, and this was the only defense to stop McCaffrey last year (and they did it twice). They were by far the best defense against RBs last year – RBs fell short of their per-game average by 9.4 FPG against them last year – they also stopped Alvin Kamara twice last year, and held New Orleans RBs to just 64 rushing yards on 28 attempts last week.
Derrick Henry averages 206.5 yards and 3.0 touchdowns per game in Tennessee’s last two home games against Jacksonville. No Darrynton Evans means he’s going to be a near-every-down player for Tennessee this week. Henry averages 22.1 carries, 124.0 rushing yards, and 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game since Ryan Tannehill’s first start as a Titan. Favored by 9.0-points, with Darrynton Evans and A.J. Brown out (and Corey Davis dinged up), and against a Jacksonville team that traded away all of their talent on defense, yeah….. This one’s easy.
Ezekiel Elliott is my favorite way to get exposure to this ATL/DAL game that everyone wants a piece of. The “Tony Pollard is too good not to eat into Ezekiel Elliott’s workload” narrative seems to have been significantly overstated. And the “Cowboys want to get Elliott more involved in the passing game” narrative seemed true enough. He saw 22 carries, 4 targets, 87% of the snaps, and scored 24.7 fantasy points last week. He should have the highest projection of any player in this game, though he might not draw the highest ownership.
If forced to choose, I think I like Henry very slightly more than Elliott, but really, I think I’m just going to play both on the majority of my lineups.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: RB15, FD: RB22]
We already told you the biggest question of the week – how to approach the ATL / DAL game. The 3rd biggest question of the week is “Derrick Henry and/or Ezekiel Elliott.” The 2nd biggest question is “What the hell do we do with Jonathan Taylor.” Taylor ranks 8th in our projections, and yet he’s just the 15th- (DK) and 22nd-most expensive RB (FD) this week. Taylor is easily one of the best RB prospects to come out in over a decade, and, with Marlon Mack now out for the year, is now the confirmed Week 2 starter. The only questionable area of his game was as a pass-catcher, and on Sunday he turned 12 routes into 6 catches for 67 yards. The reason to play him is “Duh.” The reason why not to play him is because he’s easily going to be the highest-owned player on the slate (projected 25% on DK, 35% on FD).
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
[DK: RB6, FD: RB6]
The historically great Kansas City juggernaut offense is going overlooked this week. Why? Should we ever allow that to happen? This seems like a mistake.
Much was made of Edwards-Helaire’s lack of targets and poor goal-line efficiency, but, I mean, isn’t the better takeaway that he led all Week 1 RBs in XFP in his debut (29.2)? He saw 25 carries, 2 targets, 6 opportunities inside the 5-yard-line, and 67% of the snaps, totaling 138 rushing yards and 19.8 fantasy points. Even if he isn’t as featured in the passing game as we all thought, should that really be a concern favored by 8.5 against the Chargers?
Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: RB20, FD: RB20]
As I said at the top, don’t be surprised if HC Bruce Arians makes this a “statement game”, letting Brady beat up on a bad defense in a game they should win easily. But if that’s not the case (and even if it is in the first half), the ground game should dominate against what’s arguably the worst run defense we’ve seen in a number of years. Since Week 8 of last season, RBs are averaging 36.7 FPG against Carolina. LeSean McCoy was used as the scatback last week, though that role should net very few snaps this week, as 9.5-point favorites. Leonard Fournette is waiting in the wings, ready to take over the backfield, but he played just 8 snaps last week. Still, the threat of Fournette, makes Jones a tournament-only play, but his upside makes him a strong one.
- We had Kenyan Drake as a late-Round 1 draft pick all offseason for a reason, and now he ranks just 13th (DK) and 14th (FD) in salary this week. I’m not concerned that Washington stopped a pair of backup RBs last week, and he should see a ton of work in a game Arizona is favored by 7.0. Drake is one of the best plays on both sites, but Edwards-Helaire got the feature because he’s projected to draw just a third of Drake’s ownership.
- David Johnson and Melvin Gordon are the sorts of RBs we’d typically hammer in DFS, and maybe we should this week. With Duke Johnson and Phillip Lindsay both out, Johnson and Gordon should both see bell-cow usage. What does that mean? Nearly an every-down role, with extensive usage as both a runner and a pass-catcher. What does that mean? It means they shouldn’t be as game script-sensitive as a Nick Chubb or Joe Mixon. That said, game script isn’t good at all for either player, and neither is their matchups.
- Benny Snell is a strong value on FanDuel if James Conner sits, but I don’t think he does. I’ll cover that in the update if so. - Todd Gurley is definitely not a good play on paper, but he does have tremendous upside as a contrarian play. Everyone wants exposure to the DAL/ATL game, but no one wants to play Gurley.
- If Miles Sanders was 100% healthy he’d be a phenomenal play. But I don’t think he’s 100% healthy, and neither does ProFootballDoc. If he’s 100% healthy, why bring in Devonta Freeman for a workout?
- I definitely don’t like Nyheim Hines anywhere near as much as Taylor on paper, but he is probably the best way to fade him while gaining a contrarian edge.
- Zack Moss could have a nice game in a great matchup, but I’m going to always struggle to roster a Bills RB. It’s a full-blown committee and Allen is effectively the goal-line back.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
[DK: WR52, FD: WR33]
After hyping Johnson all offseason, many subscribers were left underwhelmed by his performance in Week 1. Sure, he only caught six balls for 57 yards, but he also led the team in targets with 10 (4 more than next-closest). He ranked 15th among all WRs in XFP last week (17.0), but ranks just 52nd in salary on DraftKings this week. Look for similarly good volume, but much better production this week against Denver’s dreadful and banged-up secondary. This is one of the guys we hyped up all offseason – of course I’m going all-in this week.
Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: WR52, FD: WR46]
Campbell is a prospect I didn’t just love, I adored. After an injury-marred rookie season, I was overjoyed to see him have a big game in Week 1, turning 9 targets and 7 touches into 80 yards. Still, I think this is only scratching the surface of Campbell’s potential, and HC Frank Reich and QB Philip Rivers seem to agree. He ranked 18th in XFP last week (16.3), but ranks outside of the top-45 WRs by salary on both sites. Indianapolis will be without Jack Doyle this week, and Campbell draws a top matchup against a banged-up and inept Minnesota pass defense that surrendered a 8-136-2 line to receivers out of the slot last week (where Campbell runs 95% of his routes). He’s another borderline must-play.
Scotty Miller, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: WR63, FD: WR49]
In Week 1, Miller ran 78% of the routes, drawing six targets and turning six touches into 79 yards. Brady had little choice but to lean heavily on Miller, with Mike Evans effectively a non-factor, banged up and drawing shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore. Miller had a difficult draw in his own right, squaring off against Janoris Jenkins on nearly all of his routes, but gets a far softer matchup this week against Donte Jackson (bottom-10 in yards allowed per snap in coverage last year) and 4th-round rookie Troy Pride Jr. (who ranked worst by the same stat in Week 1). Game script is more of a concern this week than last, but that’s negligible when considering Chris Godwin is doubtful, and Miller is just the 63rd-highest priced WR on DraftKings this week.
High Priced Wide Receivers
- Should we really have been so confident in drafting Michael Thomas over Davante Adams? That almost never happened in fantasy drafts, though their numbers imply it should have been much closer. Since 2018, Thomas averages 21.1 FPG, hitting 16.0 fantasy points in 70% of his games. Adams, meanwhile, averages 20.9 FPG, hitting 16.0 fantasy points in 86% of his games. Adams was a slate-buster last week, arguably has an even better matchup this week, and isn’t priced anything like a “Michael Thomas.”
- We just hit on Miller’s great matchup, but that’s the same matchup Evans is going to see this week. From this week’s Start/Sit: I spent a great deal of time this offseason trying to convince you that if there’s any honest coach in football, it’s Bruce Arians. Well, if that’s the case, we should expect Evans to see a ridiculous amount of targets this week. On Tuesday, he lamented not getting Evans more targets, not lining him up all over the field to put him in more advantageous matchups (he was followed by elite shadow CB Marshon Lattimore). He said he “feels bad if Evans has less than 10 targets in any game.” Expect at least that many targets this week, and possibly more if Chis Godwin sits out (concussion). Against a Panthers defense that ranked bottom-10 in PFF Pass Rush Grade and PFF Pass Coverage Grade in Week 1, with James Bradberry no longer on the team, this is now a top-flight matchup.
- Yeah, so… Atlanta at Dallas is a problem. Who do I want? Everyone. Who is the best value? Everyone. It's just really hard to nail down. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb are all going to be extreme-chalk this week. All should benefit slightly from the loss of Blake Jarwin. Lamb is the best value, but certainly has the toughest matchup of the three. Cooper saw the best volume last week (14 targets for 81 yards), though Gallup would have surpassed him in yardage on six unofficial targets had a questionable (47 yard) OPI penalty not been called. But then again, even when Ramsey was on Cooper, Prescott was still forcing him the ball. With Atlanta, it’s pretty much the same thing. Greg Cosell favorite Russell Gage is the most slept-on, but he, like Lamb, has the toughest draw. Cosell also came away highly impressed with Calvin Ridley’s tape – “he looked smooth as silk.” He has the same high-end matchup Julio Jones will get, but probably a few fewer targets. Apologies for not having a better read on this situation at the moment.
- We liked Marvin Jones a lot last week. Kenny Golladay is still out, and he’s just about the same price. Though he’s likely to draw shadow coverage from Jaire Alexander, and he’s struggled against Green Bay in recent seasons. I also don’t think we should sleep on Quintez Cephus after seeing 10 targets last week. - Adam Thielen is in play, but I don’t think he’s as strong of a play as ownership will imply. Indianapolis has been terrific at limiting WR1s in the Matt Eberflus-era, more likely a result of scheme than personnel. Since 2018 they rank top-7 in WR1 weeks allowed.
- DeAndre Hopkins could follow up his big 14-catch performance in Week 1 with another big game against Washington’s middling secondary. He’s a great play, I just don’t think I like him as much as Adams, Evans, and the DAL/ATL WRs… Tyreek Hill, same thing. Though I do think it’s extremely noteworthy that he’s projected to draw contrarian levels of ownership this week. - I’m avoiding Terry McLaurin and Will Fuller, given their matchups. Marquise Brown sneakily has a very difficult matchup this week (Bradley Roby), but it’s not tough enough to totally scare me away.
- On our livestream, Johnny recommended D.J. Moore as one of the best under-priced low-owned plays on the slate. He had an ADP of WR10 all off-season, but ranks 14th (DK) and 16th (FD) by salary this week. I’m a little less bullish, but he’s in play for sure.
- After a blowup spot last week (7-101-0 on 8 targets) and with A.J. Brown out, Corey Davis is looking very intriguing at only $4,000 / $4,900. But after his first three years in the league, can we really trust Corey Davis-chalk? Personally, I’m skeptical, and especially after being limited in practice with a hamstring injury most of the week. - Breshad Perriman is an easy top value on DraftKings and shouldn’t go overlooked. He’s a terrific boom-or-bust option for tournaments… Mike Williams is certainly too cheap on DK… I don’t think we should sleep on names like Stefon Diggs, Brandon Aiyuk, and Darius Slayton (who I briefly touched on at the top of this article)… I feel like I’m forgetting someone, but if so I’ll cover it tomorrow in the update.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
[DK: TE3, FD: TE2]
The argument against Andrews is he’s sort of expensive, and we typically like to pay down at TE / there’s a lot of TE value this week. The argument for him is the matchup looks great on paper, and there’s a good chance he’s $1,200 more expensive 7 weeks from now.
From this week’s Start / Sit:
“If you own Andrews, you already know you need to start him. But, man, start the [REDACTED] out of him. This FantasyPoints favorite is looking like a true league-winner. After spending 7 games on the injury report listed as questionable (foot, shoulder, knee, ankle) and while running a route on just 63% of Lamar Jackson's dropbacks (in games active) last season, Andrews ran a route on a career-high 90% of Jackson's dropbacks in Week 1. If you’re not fully grasping what this means, allow me to illustrate. So, last year he finished as a top-five fantasy TE averaging 13.9 FPG. Again, this was on just 63% of Jackson’s routes. A 90% route share would imply 19.9 FPG, or what would rank 2nd-most all-time, behind only Rob Gronkowski’s famed 2011 season. As a bonus, this week’s matchup is strong, with Marquise Brown likely to draw shadow coverage from the underrated speed demon (4.39 forty) Bradley Roby, thus funneling more targets to Andrews.
Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
[DK: TE13, FD: TE14]
If Courtland Sutton sits out (GTD), Fant is for sure your best non-Andrews, non-Punt, non-stack TE play of the week. It’s hard not to get excited about the young hyper-athletic TE who posted a 5-81-1 line on 5 targets in the first-half of Week 1. He should see good volume against Pittsburgh’s pass-funnelish defense, in a game Denver is likely to trail.
Remember, there’s always some utility in punting the TE position in DFS (especially on DraftKings). You wouldn’t be playing one of these TEs for what they can do, you’re playing them for the salary cap relief they provide. And there is quite a bit of value at the TE position this week.
Johnny said it best Thursday Night (on the Livestream) -- “If George Kittle is out, just play Jordan Reed. Every single lineup.” I think he’s right. I think that’s the move. But in case you disagree… Logan Thomas saw shockingly good usage in Week 1, ranking second in XFP (15.2), second in XFP% (28%), and fifth in route share (86%). And this really might be the same defense that got curb-stomped by every TE they faced last season. I thought No. 8-overall pick LB Isaiah Simmons was drafted to address that concern, but I’m pretty sure I was wrong. He played just 8 snaps in coverage last week and was brutalized, surrendering 3 catches, 86 yards, and 2 touchdowns on 3 targets.
Chris Herndon is hard to avoid at only $3,400. With Jamison Crowder out, he’s the team’s only viable pass-catcher beyond Breshad Perriman, whom Darnold struggled to connect with in Week 1. Jonnu Smith isn’t quite the same value, but he’s still firmly in play on DraftKings ($4,200). Like Herndon, he saw 7 targets. Like Herndon, his QB might not have much choice but to feed him the ball – A.J. Brown and Darrynton Evans are out, and Corey Davis is banged up.
On FanDuel, if looking to punt (and the play is thin so I’m not sure that’s your best option), you can consider Dalton Schultz. He’ll probably go overlooked, despite being in the game (53-point Over/Under) that everyone wants a piece of. In the second half of last week’s game, after Blake Jarwin suffered a season-ending ACL injury, Schultz saw 4 targets, running a route on 22 of Dak Prescott’s 24 dropbacks.
For what it’s worth, Matthew Berry disagrees with Johnny and prefers Mo Alie-Cox ($DK: $3,000 / FD: $4,000) to Reed.
- After disappointing last week, Hayden Hurst makes a lot of sense this week. He’ll draw lower ownership than probably 5 WRs from that game.
- Wes Huber made a very compelling case for Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki here.