What is this column? Each week 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 livestream every Thursday Night at 7:30PM 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: 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.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Pricing -- DK: QB10 / FD: QB12
Ownership -- DK: 9% / FD: 11%
Vikings RB Alexander Mattison projects to be the highest-owned player on FanDuel (35%), and the 6th-highest-owned player on DraftKings (21%), which means Cousins (FD: 11% / DK: 6%) is an amazing swing-for-the-fences leverage play for larger field tournaments. Mattison is a phenomenal value and a terrific play on paper, don’t get me wrong, but (if our ownership projections are correct) this also might be the best leverage play we’ve seen all season.
How might Mattison fail? Easy – Atlanta is one of the biggest pass funnel defenses in the league, and that’s especially true for RBs. Atlanta is actually giving up the 7th-fewest rushing FPG to opposing RBs (10.0), while ranking 10th-best in YPC allowed (3.82). They’re just giving up – by far – the most receiving FPG to opposing RBs (19.7), which balances that out. But Mattison has just 18 catches in his career, to 144 rushing attempts.
How might Cousins succeed? Easy – Atlanta ranks worst in FPG allowed to opposing QBs (30.9) and worst in passer rating allowed (118.3), while seeing opposing QBs outscore their season-long average by a league-high 8.0 FPG. Minnesota has the highest implied point total of the slate (29.0), and the spread (-4.0) is close enough to give us a significant amount of shootout-potential.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins
Pricing -- DK: QB12 / FD: QB7
Ownership -- DK: 13% / FD: 13%
The Dolphins are favored by 10.0-points with the 3rd-highest implied point total of the slate (28.5). They shouldn’t need to go pass-heavy at all, but when they do pass, Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to do whatever he wants. Kyler Murray hit a career-high 380 yards against the Jets last week (in a 20-point victory). Brett Rypien (who?) had success against them in Week 4, and Old Man (Philip) Rivers earned a 125.6 passer rating against them in Week 3. Fitzpatrick is very quietly averaging 24.9 DKFPG over his last 11 games, hitting at least 25.0 DKFP in 8 of these games. For perspective, this leads all QBs over this span, and ranks behind only Lamar Jackson on a per-game-basis. And yet, he ranks just 12th in salary on DraftKings this week.
All of this being said, I expect to be much higher-owned on Myles Gaskin than the options in the passing game.
Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots
Pricing -- DK: QB6 / FD: QB4
Ownership -- DK: 6% / FD: 6%
After being drafted as a mid-QB2 all summer, Newton burst onto the scene in Week 1, rushing 15 times for 75 yards and two scores against Miami’s man-heavy defense. In Week 2, Seattle forced New England to keep their foot on the gas, and Newton exploded in a big way – throwing for 397 yards and scoring another 16.7 fantasy points on the ground (11 carries). In Week 3, New England played down to their banged-up opponent and went slow-paced and run-heavy against the Raiders. Newton didn’t do much, while the RBs combined for a whopping 56.7 fantasy points.
As 9.5-point favorites this week, this could be another game like Week 3, where New England doesn’t feel the need to pass. But then again, it could look a lot like Week 1. Denver is one of the top pass funnels in the league, and they run out of man at the 6th-highest rate (50%). They rank bottom-10 in all meaningful QB stats. And even if this is a beatdown, the good field position might benefit Newton more than any other player. (Johnny brought up the idea of stacking Newton with New England’s defense on our livestream, and I like that idea quite a bit.) Before contracting COVID, Newton led all QBs in rushing attempts (35) and designed runs (31), and ranked 3rd among all players in carries inside the 10-yard-line (9). He ranks 7th among QBs in FPG (24.5).
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Brady always bounces back after a loss. This game offers the highest Over/Under of the slate (55.0). Green Bay runs Zone at the 2nd-highest rate in the NFL. Brady eats up Zone defenses all day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s the narrative, right? I asked Wes Huber, our resident coverage shell expert, and was met with a resounding “nope”. “Not the right kind of zone for Brady.” Digging deeper, I think that’s right. Brady has played against a Mike Pettine-coached defense 7 times since 2011, and in each game he fell short of his season-long average. Over this span, he averages just 13.8 FPG against Pettine (vs. a 20.8 FPG expectation) along with a pedestrian 80.4 passer rating.
And if Tampa Bay can’t keep things competitive, that makes me nervous for Rodgers. He’s been on a tear – ranking 6th in FPG (25.9) – but he’s also priced like it. He’s had the 4th-softest schedule among QBs (+2.2), but Tampa Bay is the 5th-toughest defense against opposing QBs (-4.0).
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions / Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit @ Jacksonville offers us the 2nd-highest Over/Under of the slate (54.5). But this game could just as easily flop as it does prove to be the highest-scoring game of the week. Ultimately, it comes down to how competitive Jacksonville makes this game. Jacksonville needs to force Detroit out of their shell, but if they do it should be a game ripe with fantasy goodness.
In spite of playing behind mostly negative game script all year, Detroit ranks 6th-worst in plays per game (62.0) while Stafford has failed to eclipse 33 pass attempts in three straight games. So, I think the way to attack this game is by full-on stacking it or avoiding it outright. Even for one-off plays like Kenny Golladay and T.J. Hockenson, you might be better off either stacking them with a player on the other side or just outright avoiding them. On paper, the matchup looks pretty good for both quarterbacks if it does shootout, and again, maybe only if it does shootout – Jacksonville ranks 4th-worst in fantasy points allowed per pass attempt, while Detroit ranks 5th-worst. But if looking at volume stats, both defenses look quite a bit better. Keep an eye on DJ Chark’s status, he might need to play in order for this game to reach its highest potential outcome.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans / Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Tannehill, like Cousins vs. Mattison, offers leverage off of Derrick Henry chalk – Henry projected to be the highest-owned player on DraftKings this week (27%), and the 2nd highest-owned player on FanDuel (29%). Because Henry doesn’t catch passes, he’s always an easy leverage fade for tournaments, and Tannehill is always in play as your best leverage option. How might Henry fail? The most likely option is Houston gets out to an early lead and keeps it, forcing the Titans to abandon the run and lean pass-heavy.
Granted, Houston has been far worse against the run than the pass, but they do also rank 3rd-worst in opposing passer rating (108.8). (Though they rank well above average in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs.) Still, Tannehill has long been a little too slept on in fantasy circles – over the past two seasons, Tannehill leads all QBs in passer rating (115.4), ranks 2nd in PFF Grade (92.5), ranks 2nd in fantasy points per dropback, and ranks 5th in fantasy points per start (22.4), less than 1.0 FPG away from 2nd place. And yet, he’s just the 12th-highest-priced QB of the slate on DraftKings, tied with Philip Rivers.
On paper, this shouldn’t be too tough of a matchup for Watson. Tennessee will again be without starters CB Adoree Jackson, CB Kristian Fulton, DT Jeffery Simmons, and maybe DT DaQuon Jones, while a number of other defensive starters are at least banged up and listed on the injury report. But then again, that didn’t stop the Titans from holding Josh Allen to just 18.3 fantasy points and a 77.6 passer rating last week. But, all in all, Tennessee looks like a perfectly neutral matchup on paper. Watson comes off of a big Week 5 statement game (29.9 DKFP), following the firing of Bill O’Brien, but that came in a top-5 matchup, and he was wholly underwhelming across his other 4 games.
- The arguments against Lamar Jackson are obvious (knee injury, underwhelming start to the year, expensive salary, favored by 10.0 points in a game that shouldn’t ever be competitive). The argument in his favor is, well, easy – he’s Lamar Jackson, and he’s likely to go lowly owned this week. And sometimes that’s the only argument you need.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Pricing -- DK: RB4 / FD: RB3
Ownership -- DK: 22% / FD: 24%
Henry is by no means cheap, but he is the top RB value on DraftKings according to our projections (3.37X), and the DFS SuperModel has him mispriced by nearly $1,500.
Among RBs, Henry ranks 4th in XFP per game (21.6), 3rd in XTD per game (1.3), and 1st in carries per game (25.3). He gets a top matchup, favored by 3.5-points, against Houston’s run funnel defense. Houston ranks 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (21.3) and 5th-worst in YPC allowed (5.19). Henry, meanwhile, averages 23.0 FPG over his last 11 games, finishing as a top-5 RB in 7 of those weeks.
However, the big concern with Henry, is that he’s a true afterthought in the passing game, which means he’ll always be highly-volatile and prone to getting scripted out of games. For this reason – I might consider fading him for tournaments if he winds up being one of the highest-owned players of the slate (currently projected at 27%), even though I do trust he’s one of the best values of the week.
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Pricing -- DK: RB5 / FD: RB10
Ownership -- DK: 28% / FD: 34%
Following Dalvin Cook’s injury, Mattison (34 snaps) dramatically out-snapped Mike Boone (4) and Ameer Abdullah (1) in Week 5, earning 18 of 20 carries and running 14 of 17 routes (one target). He finished the day with 136 yards on 23 touches. Through 5 weeks, Cook ranked 6th in XFP market share (24.9), averaging 18.4 carries and 3.2 targets per game – but this seems like one of those situations where Mattison’s workload this week could be even better than the workload Cook was getting. And with that volume, Mattison should do quite a bit of damage – Minnesota has the highest implied point total of the slate (29.0), favored by 4.0-points against a Falcons team that is giving up the 7th-most FPG to opposing RBs. According to the SuperModel, he’s the top overall value on FanDuel (+1,212) and ranks 3rd-best on DraftKings (+1,191).
But then again, like with Henry, maybe there’s credence to fading him for tournaments if he’s likely to be highly owned (currently at 21%). Atlanta is one of the biggest pass funnel defenses in the league, and that’s especially true for RBs. Atlanta is actually giving up the 7th-fewest rushing FPG to opposing RBs (10.0), while ranking 10th-best in YPC allowed (3.82). They’re just giving up – by far – the most receiving FPG to opposing RBs (19.7), which balances that out. But Mattison has just 18 catches in his career (18 games), to 144 rushing attempts.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
Pricing -- DK: RB17 / FD: RB19
Ownership -- DK: 22% / FD: 24%
Over the past two weeks (with Tarik Cohen out), Montgomery is averaging just 16.2 XFP per game – likely a function of those games coming against two of the top-5 toughest defenses for a RB – but he has seen 100% of the backfield’s XFP along with 83% of the team’s snaps. This week’s matchup, however, couldn’t be better. After giving up the most FPG to opposing RBs last year (30.1), Carolina is again giving up the most FPG to opposing RBs this year (36.4). Adjusting for strength of schedule, Carolina is allowing opposing RBs to out-score their season-long average by a league-high 13.9 FPG (nearly double the next-closest team). So, basically, if you want to do the math, it’s something along the lines of – Chicago’s backfield is averaging 16.8 FPG, and Montgomery is now getting 100% of that, so, 16.8 + 13.9 = 30.7 fantasy points.
And believe it or not, Carolina is now probably even worse now than however bad they’ve been, as starting defensive linemen Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Kawann Short are all questionable for this week’s game. Montgomery is rightfully one of the best values of the slate on both sites.
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins
Pricing -- DK: RB19 / FD: RB22
Ownership -- DK: 27% / FD: 17%
The Dolphins are 10.0-point favorites this week, and well, that’s just the 2nd time that’s happened this past decade. This very well could be a Fitzmagic game, behind the 3rd-highest implied point total of the slate (28.5), but Gaskin is certainly the better play on paper. And, truthfully, one of the best plays on the slate.
Gaskin totaled 25.4 XFP in Week 5, which ranked 3rd-most on the week, and represented a season-high for him. I don’t think it was uncoincidental that this came in a week Jordan Howard was a healthy scratch. Despite averaging just 4.5 carries per game, Howard was averaging 0.99 XTD per game (4th-most), serving as the team’s goal-line back. In Week 5, that role went to Gaskins, who saw all 5 of the team’s 5 opportunities inside the 5-yard-line. Through the first 4 weeks, Gaskin averaged 14.1 XFP per game (17th-most), earning just 53% of the team’s XFP out of the backfield. In Week 5, that shot up to 77%. If that was the case throughout the full season (77% of Miami’s RB volume going to Gaskin), he’d be averaging 21.5 XFP per game, or what would rank 5th-most. So, now, along with this new boost in volume, Gaskin draws a near-ideal matchup against a Jets defense that is giving up the 5th-most FPG to opposing RBs.
All of this being said, there is a chance Howard is active this week. I don’t think that’s likely, but it is a concern with Gaskin in the 4PM EST window.
Bell Cows in Bad Matchups
In fantasy, and especially DFS (where ownership is a factor, and perceived bad matchups suppress ownership), it’s always worth taking a long look at bell cows in bad matchups. Volume doesn’t always trump a tough matchup, but many times it does. (In some sort of order…)
Mike Davis is averaging a league-high 23.9 XFP per game since Week 3. Or since Christian McCaffrey’s injury in the 4th quarter of Week 2, 26.2 XFP per four quarters. Any way you slice it up, it’s unreal usage, comparable only to maybe Christian McCaffrey’s 2019 season. He averaged 83% of the snaps and 95% of the backfield XFP last week. He's averaging 25.0 FPG, along with 15.0 carries and 8.3 targets per game over three starts. So, seemingly, by both usage and production he’s basically 90% Christian McCaffrey, but he’s priced at just 70% of McCaffrey’s typical salary. The matchup is bottom-12, but it’s not one we’d worry about if this were McCaffrey.
Kareem Hunt played 70% of the snaps and handled 80% of the team’s RB XFP in Week 5, earning a season-high 21.1 XFP (4th-best on the week) on 20 carries, 4 targets, and 3 opportunities inside the 10-yard-line. Keep in mind, he came into that game banged up, still dealing with a groin injury, so he might see an even bigger workload in Week 6. That is so long as his injury (thigh) isn’t a concern – he was limited in practice all week but practiced in full on Friday. Pittsburgh ranks 4th-best in FPG allowed to opposing RBs, after ranking 5th-best last year. Though, interestingly, they only rank 18th-best if schedule-adjusted.
Remember what happened the last time Derrick Henry was chalk and Aaron Jones was available at a 1/3rd of the ownership? I do – Henry flopped in Week 2 (8.4 DKFP), and Jones went nuclear, scoring 48.6 DKFP. That was just one of his many slate-busting games over the past two seasons – actually, it was the 3rd time he’s exceeded 44.5-plus DKFP over his last 16 games, by far the most by any player over this span. Jones ranks 3rd in FPG (25.5), 2nd in XFP per game (24.0), and 2nd in XFP market share (28.9%). It’s another tough matchup on paper, but not insurmountably bad. Tampa Bay is giving up the 6th-most receiving FPG to opposing RBs, and Jones ranks 4th among RBs in receiving FPG (10.1).
Is Joe Mixon finally officially a bell cow? I think so. Across his last two games – one with very good game script (an 8-point victory), one with very bad game script (a 24-point loss) – Mixon is averaging 25.1 XFP, 24.5 carries, and 7.0 targets on an 80% snap share. For perspective, those numbers rank 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-best over this span. He’s a fantastic regression-candidate, ranking 3rd among all players in total XFP, but just 20th in total fantasy points. He looks boom-or-bust on paper, but he’s one of just 3 players to reach at least 15.0 XFP in each of the last 4 weeks. Unfortunately, the Bengals are 9.5-point underdogs, against a Colts defense that ranks 3rd-best in FPG allowed to opposing RBs. But this matchup might not be as bad as it looks on paper – Darius Leonard (PFF's 6th-best linebacker by Run Defense Grade) is doubtful to play.
Miles Sanders ranks 2nd in Snap% over the last two weeks (82%). He ranks 8th in XFP% and 10th in XFP per game (17.8), averaging 15.5 carries and 6.0 targets per game. He already proved last week he can hit in a tough matchup, but this week’s matchup is again brutal – Baltimore is favored by 10.0 and ranks 6th-best in FPG allowed to opposing RBs, and 9th-best if schedule-adjusted.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Pricing -- DK: RB11 / FD: RB8
Ownership -- DK: 14% / FD: 14%
Taylor is a very intriguing play on DraftKings – actually, he ranks as our top value on the site, as per the DFS SuperModel, mispriced by nearly $1,700. And especially if Jordan Wilkins (Questionable) sits out.
The Colts are 8.0-point favorites, against a Bengals defense that – for the 2nd-consecutive season – ranks bottom-10 in both rushing FPG allowed to RBs (17.9) and YPC allowed (5.26, 3rd-worst). Taylor – I promise you – is a far better talent than his 4.0 YPC implies. He’s also more of a home run hitter, which bodes well for tournaments, though we haven’t really seen it yet. His usage? That’s more of an issue. He’s averaging just 17.0 carries and 1.8 targets per game since his first start in Week 2. He’s seeing just 51% of the backfield’s total XFP over this span, with Wilkins siphoning off 16%. 63% of Hines’ XFP is coming through the air, and that won’t change, but he’ll still steal about 1/3rd of Taylor’s rushing work (by XFP.)
Still, Taylor seems locked into 17-plus carries in a plus matchup offering ideal game script. If this were Marlon Mack in 2019, we’d be all in at this price-tag ($6,400). From 2018-2020, Mack averaged 22.1 fantasy points per game in games Indianapolis won by 8 or more points (7 such games). The rest of the time he averaged just 10.8 fantasy points per game. (Games where Mack left early due to injury were excluded.)
- At just $4,300 on DraftKings or $5,100 on FanDuel, Phillip Lindsay would be a phenomenal play if Melvin Gordon sits out. We’ll get word on that on Saturday, so, if that is the case, you can expect a more detailed analysis in the Sunday AM Update.
- James Robinson is seeing good usage – 14.6 carries per game and 4.4 targets per game – and he’s been very productive and looks impressive on that good usage, but still he’s not quite a bell cow, having played on only 59% of the snaps in last week’s good matchup with poor game script. The Lions are getting absolutely hammered against the run, ranking worst in rushing FPG allowed to RBs (22.3) and worst in YPC allowed (5.57), but the line is close enough (Lions favored by 3.0) that he could again get scripted out of this game. He’s a fine tournament option, but someone I’ll only play stacked with one or more players on the Lions.
- James Conner is seeing good usage after a weird Week 1, averaging 17.9 (would rank 10th-most). Cleveland is more of a pass funnel (the 3rd-biggest pass funnel in the league), the other RBs have been stealing some work (just a 67% backfield XFP% for Conner since Week 2), and the spread implies a closer game than we’d like (-4.0). I’m not really on him.
- Ronald Jones is vaguely in play if Leonard Fournette sits, but that seems unlikely, and again, only vaguely in play. He’ll be ceding passing down work to Keshawn Vaughn and/or LeSean McCoy, which makes him risky in a game Tampa Bay is unlikely to dominate. Further, many will point to the fact that Green Bay is giving up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing RBs, but they’re giving up just the 11th-most to RBs on the ground.
- Similarly, Antonio Gibson is only vaguely in play. 39%, 44%, and 56% of the snaps over the last three weeks, 11.0 carries and 4.3 targets per game. That’s not going to get it done. A 2015 David Johnson-esque breakout is still somewhere within his range of outcomes, but there’s little reason to suspect that will be coming this week.
- Todd Gurley is a terrific leverage play off of Alexander Mattison-chalk. To his credit, he’s averaging 86.0 rushing yards and 1.3 rushing touchdowns per game since Week 3. I’ll always have a hard time writing up a favorable review of Gurley, but Wes Huber really likes him this week.
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pricing -- DK: WR25 / FD: WR33
Ownership -- DK: 11% / FD: 11%
So, uhhh, yeah…. Claypool scored 42.6 fantasy points last week. That’s sort of a big deal. Points chasing, etc. I get it, but we’ll only ever see a game like that only two or three times per season. Pittsburgh can’t just put that genie back in the bottle, can they? Especially not with Diontae Johnson out this week.
Ben Roethlisberger clearly locked onto his outside WR1 last week – Claypool ranked 3rd among WRs in XFP (26.7) earning 12 targets, 3 deep targets, 3 opportunities inside the 10-yard-line, 3 carries, and a 1.5 XTD – just as he did when Diontae Johnson was healthy, or when Antonio Brown was still on the team.
Claypool ranks just 25th in salary on DraftKings and 33rd on FanDuel, and well, that feels like an egregious mistake. Cleveland’s pass funnel defense is giving up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+14.2) and the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (+5.0). Is that now Claypool? I think so.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
Pricing -- DK: WR21 / FD: WR16
Ownership -- DK: 22% / FD: 18%
Brown bounced back in a big way after a multi-week absence, catching 7 of 9 targets for 82 yards and a score against a Bills defense that came into last week allowing the fewest FPG to opposing outside WRs. He gets another tough matchup this week but he’s still one of the best values of the week. DraftKings has him priced as just the No. 21 WR of the slate ($5,600).
He’s no doubt a phenomenal value, and a top play for cash games, but an easy fade if looking for leverage in large field tournaments. (He’s projected to be the highest-owned WR of the slate on DraftKings.) The argument against him is simple – he’ll get shadow coverage from Bradley Roby who ranks 5th-best of 90 CBs in yards allowed per snap in coverage, despite routinely shadowing and shutting down many of the league’s best WRs (Tyreek Hill, Marquise Brown, Chase Claypool, Adam Thielen, and DJ Chark.)
Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
Pricing -- DK: WR15 / FD: WR7
Ownership -- DK: 22% / FD: 20%
Through two games, Golladay is averaging 7.5 targets and 17.0 FPG. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, but Matthew Stafford threw just 31 times in both games, and keep in mind, Golladay was limited in both games, and is now back to practicing in full off of the bye. This week, he’ll get a Jaguars defense that is giving up the 5th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+4.3), and is egregiously mispriced as just the 15th-highest-priced WR of the slate on DraftKings.
But again, this feels like the exact same situation as Brown. Golladay is a great play for cash, but an easier fade for large-field tournaments. (He’s projected to be the 2nd-highest-owned WR of the slate on DraftKings.) You can argue the matchup looks good, but at the same time, much of Jacksonville’s production allowed is coming out of the slot – they’re giving up the 4th-most FPG to slot WRs, but the 5th-fewest to outside WRs, where Golladay runs 73% of his routes. Also, the volume hasn’t been there for Golladay, or really any Detroit receiver. For this reason, I won’t feel comfortable playing Golladay without stacking him with another player from Jacksonville.
Adam Thielen / Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Thielen ranks 1st target share (32%), 2nd in air yardage share (46%), 1st in XFP market share (25%), 2nd in XTD market share (29%), and 2nd in fantasy points per route run (0.66). What does that mean? It means Thielen is far and away the best WR play whenever Minnesota is expected to throw and put points on the board. And that’s exactly what we’re expecting this week – Atlanta is the No. 2 pass funnel in the league and Minnesota sports the highest implied point total of the week (29.0). Better yet, Atlanta is giving up the 2nd-most YPG to opposing outside WRs, which is where Thielen runs 82% of his routes.
Jefferson runs 46% of his routes from the slot, where the Falcons rank 11th-best, so his matchup isn’t quite as good, but he’s still very in play. Over the last three weeks, he’s averaging 6.3 targets, 100.3 yards, and 18.7 DKFPG. And better yet, after last week’s dud he should go lower owned.
For a more comprehensive breakdown, and a better sell, here’s what Wes Huber had to say:
Atlanta runs Cover-1 at one of the highest rates in the NFL… Since Week 1 of 2019, [Thielen] has run 22 percent of his routes against Cover 1. During that stretch, he’s tracked down 32 percent of his receptions, 35 percent of his yardage, 75 percent of his TDs, and his yards per route run (YPRR) increases by 37 percent. The scariest part about the Vikings’ offense is that Jefferson may end up being better against Cover 1 than Thielen. On 17 percent of routes opposed by a Cover 1, JJ has caught 37 percent of receptions, 49 percent of his yardage, scored his only TD, and, wait for it… his YPRR increases by an astronomical 63 percent! Pretty sure I’ve already revealed my favorite stack of Week 6.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Pricing -- DK: WR1 / FD: WR1
Ownership -- DK: 21% / FD: 21%
Adams has played in just one full game thus far – he saw 17 targets, totaling 44.6 DKFP.
Adams was almost never drafted above Michael Thomas this summer, but, maybe that was wrong. At the very least, 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. But Adams is about $500-1,000 cheaper than where a healthy Michael Thomas typically would have been priced. And Aaron Rodgers looks like vintage-era Aaron Rodgers – something we haven’t seen since maybe 2016.
All of this said, the matchup is pretty tough. Tampa Bay is giving up the 8th-fewest FPG to outside WRs (18.5), and he’s likely to draw shadow coverage from Carlton Davis. Davis has shadowed 5 times over the past two seasons – holding Michael Thomas, Allen Robinson, Julio Jones x2, and DeAndre Hopkins to an astounding 11.5 FPG on a whopping 10.6 targets per game.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Pricing -- DK: WR2 / FD: WR2
Ownership -- DK: 12% / FD: 23%
Week 4 was weird. Can we all agree Week 4 was weird? Week 4 was the only game Calvin Ridley failed to reach 100-plus yards on double-digit targets. He’s averaging 28.5 DKPFG on 11.3 targets per game if we exclude Week 4. The Vikings are giving up the 4th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs. They’re giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (+11.3). Is that now Ridley? Or is it Julio Jones? Could Jones be a slate-buster at low ownership (7%), and at an un-Julio-like price-tag ($6,700)? Or, is Jones still banged up and will only be a partial decoy this week further enhancing Ridley’s fantasy value, keeping defenses on their toes but not really eating into volume? I’m not sure, but I like Ridley’s tournament-upside a lot, just not as much as I like Thielen’s at a lower price.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
Pricing -- DK: WR4 / FD: WR10
Ownership -- DK: 11% / FD: 11%
Robinson has seen at least 8 targets in each of his last 11 games (averaging 11.4 per game), while also averaging 18.7 FPG over this stretch. Better yet, over the last three weeks (coinciding with the benching of Mitchell Trubisky), Robinson has seen 13, 10, and 16 targets, totaling 28.3, 23.1, and 19.0 fantasy points. Over this span, Robinson ranks 1st in XFP (64.7, 21.6 per game), 1st in fantasy points (70.4, 23.5 per game), 1st in targets (39, by +8), 3rd in end zone targets (4), and 5th in air yards (364). He gets a brutal matchup this week, but all of his matchups over the past three weeks have been brutal – actually the worst stretch for any WR (-6.6) – and it hasn’t really slowed him down at all. And then again, maybe the matchup’s not so bad – Carolina’s giving up the 6th-fewest FPG to opposing WRs, but the 7th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s. I like him a lot, and especially on FanDuel where he’s mispriced by about $700.
Min. Priced Wide Receivers
DFS players might get scared off of the cheap WR punts after Olamide Zaccheaus flopped last week, but I do like what I’m seeing at the bottom of the barrel this week.
Jeff Smith is only $3,000 on DraftKings, and, so long as Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims sit out again this week, he’s easily the best XFP-related value on the slate. Over the last two weeks, Smith averages 10.2 FPG, 17.7 XFP per game, 10.0 targets per game, 139.0 air yards per game, 1.5 end zone targets per game, and 3.0 deep targets per game. For perspective, those numbers rank 49th, 11th, 7th, 7th, 7th, and 4th. He ranks 75th in pricing. (Update: Mims is likely to play, Perriman is questionable.)
Damiere Byrd is just $3,500, but he’s seen 9, 3, and 10 targets over his last three games (20.1% target share), hitting 70-plus yards in two of those games. He has a cushy matchup, up against a Denver pass funnel defense that is allowing the 2nd-most FPG to outside WRs (29.6). (Julian Edelman, by the way, is badly banged up with a knee injury, and is playing like it. He’s averaging just 29.0 YPG since first popping up on the injury report in Week 3.)
You can also look at Darnell Mooney (5, 9, and 5 targets over his last three games) at $3,000 or Olamide Zaccheaus (6, 9, and 4 targets over his last three games) at $3,200 (if Julio Jones sits out again), but I don’t know that I’d prioritize them over the other two.
- Jerry Jeudy, projected at less than 1% ownership is easily my favorite low-owned play of the week. Jeudy was far-and-away Greg Cosell’s favorite WR in the class, comp’d to Antonio Brown, and deemed a generational prospect. My work had him slightly behind Lamb or slightly ahead depending on when in the offseason you asked me, but, also as a generational prospect. He’s hit 50 yards in every game thus far, earning 8, 7, 9, and 4 targets over this span. He gets a QB upgrade with Drew Lock back, but still no Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler, and maybe Noah Fant. He runs 84% of his routes from the slot, and, for the 3rd time in 4 seasons, New England ranks bottom-5 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (that’s a function of scheme). It’s possible, but still very unlikely Gilmore shadows him in the slot.
- Very quietly, Jamison Crowder ranks 2nd in fantasy points per game (22.50) and 6th in XFP per game (16.9). Through 3 games (one with Joe Flacco, two with Sam Darnold), Crowder totals 24.5, 17.4, and 25.6 fantasy points on 20.0, 14.8, and 15.8 XFP, hitting double-digit targets in each game. He gets a neutral matchup against the Dolphins, and man, these numbers are hard to argue against at his price-tag. Is he just Adam Gase’s new Jarvis Landry? He might be.
- DeVante Parker saw only 3 targets last week, which was highly disappointing. I was projecting nearly 10, and I felt confident in my reasoning behind it, and behind him becoming something of a true alpha WR1. Still, a 3-target outing is not good. And Miami won’t need to throw much this week – this game projects similarly to Miami’s Week 3 beatdown against the Jaguars where Fitzpatrick threw only 20 times, but did whatever he wanted against their hapless defense – but the matchup is attractive. The Jets are giving up the 7th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (25.9), and were just brutally exposed by Travis Fulgham. Who? Exactly.
- Who is Travis Fulgham? Such disrespect! Among all WRs, Fulgham ranks 3rd in fantasy points per game (22.45) and 23rd in XFP per game (13.5). In Week 4, Fulgham ran a route on 62% of Carson Wentz’s dropbacks, earning just 3 targets, but he caught 2 for 57 yards and a score. His productivity was well rewarded in Week 5, with a 83% route share that resulted in 13 targets, 146 air yards, 1 end zone target, 2 deep targets, and 22.0 XFP (7th-best on the week). Most impressively, he was highly productive on that good volume, scoring 31.2 fantasy points with a 10-152-1 line. At a price-tag of just $4,400 on DraftKings, with DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery still out, he’s a great option for tournaments.
- Laviska Shenault is pretty intriguing on his own, but especially if DJ Chark can’t suit up. He caught 7 of 8 targets for 79 yards last week, after catching 5 of 6 for 86 the week prior. The Lions are giving up the 10th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs. However, he along with D.J. Chark, are WRs I’m really only looking at for game stacks.
- Outside an injury-related dud in Week 2, Will Fuller has hit at least 15.0 DKFP in 4 of 4 games, but has yet to go nuclear. It’s a neutral matchup on paper, but Tennessee’s starting defense is also decimated by injury. Still, he’s only someone I’m really looking at for stacks.
- Robby Anderson has a brutal matchup, but he’s still pretty mispriced. He looks every bit like a true WR1. Through 5 weeks, he ranks 11th in XFP per game (15.8) while DJ Moore ranks 28th (12.5). Anderson has now exceeded Moore in XFP in three straight games, more than doubling the worth of Moore’s usage over this span (16.9 XFP vs. 8.0). Anderson ranks 10th in FPG (18.2), while Moore ranks 34th (13.2). He ranks 12th in salary on DraftKings, and 16th on FanDuel.
- If looking to play a Bengals WR, I’d prioritize Tyler Boyd over Tee Higgins. He was shut down by Marlon Humphrey last week and Chris Harris Jr. in Week 1, which, you know, makes sense. Those are the two best slot CBs in the NFL. But he averages 9.7 targets and 20.7 DKFPG across his other 3 games. The Colts rank 6th-best to outside WRs, but rank neutral to opposing slot WRs, despite not facing anyone of note. Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, and Jarvis Landry all hit season-highs against them, however.
- Among all slate-eligible WRs, Odell Beckham Jr. ranks 12th in FPG (16.3) and 8th in XFP per game (15.4), and is priced as the 10th (DK) and 12th-most (FD) expensive WR on the slate. He gets a top matchup, up against a Pittsburgh defense that’s giving up the 5th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (26.2). He’s in play.
- So, uhhhh, on paper JuJu Smith-Schuster is a pretty bad play. He ranks 26th in FPG (15.0), and just 60th in XFP per game (9.7). Somehow, he’s the 8th-highest-priced WR on both sites. But then again, maybe he’s good leverage off of Chase Claypool chalk (5% projected ownership), and in a near-perfect matchup. Cleveland is giving up the most FPG to opposing slot WRs (23.7).
Jonnu Smith is your best TE value on FanDuel. Mark Andrews is $1,800 more expensive, but their numbers are nearly identical – Andrews has only two more targets (29 to 27) and one more receiving yard (222 to 221), but they’re tied in receptions (18) and receiving touchdowns (5). Keep in mind, Andrews has played one more game than Smith, who ranks behind only George Kittle and Travis Kelce in FPG (17.5). The Titans will get back WR Adam Humphries from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but WR Corey Davis, TE MyCole Pruitt, and FB Khari Blasingame will still be out. The matchup is neutral on paper, but maybe only on paper, as I expect targets to funnel towards Smith, with Bradley Roby (who has been excellent this year) likely to shadow A.J. Brown.
Eric Ebron has seen 5, 7, and 6 targets over his past three games (on a 77% route share), averaging 10.5 FPG and hitting at least 40 yards in each of these games. He gets a top-3 matchup this week, against a Browns defense that is allowing opposing TEs to out-score their season-long average by +6.8 FPG. He’s probably your best pure value-play at the position on DraftKings, and a top-3 value on FanDuel.
TJ Hockenson is probably 2nd to Smith on FanDuel (though it’s not especially close), with Ebron ranking 3rd. Hockenson’s target-volume hasn’t been great (5.0 targets per game), but he has seen his route share jump from 62% to 80% over his last two games. And, ultimately, we should expect Hockenson to be highly successful on however many targets he does get, as Jacksonville ranks worst in fantasy points per target allowed to opposing TEs.
Although we just poured some cold water on Mark Andrews, at least relative to Smith, he’s also very in play. He saw a career-high in targets (9) and a season-high in XFP (17.5), and I think, not uncoincidentally, this all came in a game Jackson totaled just 3 rushing yards – the first time he failed to reach 40 rushing yards in 18 straight games. Jackson entered the game with a knee injury, and he threw 37 times in a 27-3 beatdown, the 2nd-highest mark of his career. Of course, Jackson is no longer on the injury report, but Andrews does draw a terrific matchup. The Eagles rank 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+7.2), and with Darius Slay likely to shadow Marquise Brown, I expect volume to be funneled towards Andrews.
Austin Hooper deserves a small shoutout. With David Njoku back last week, he ran a route on 74% of Baker Mayfield’s dropbacks, catching 5 of 10 targets for 57 yards. The week previous, he caught 5 of 7 targets for 34 yards and a score. He ranks 4th in XFP per game over the past two weeks (14.0). It’s hard to determine whether or not this is signal or noise. Will Njoku steal a larger percentage of his work in his 2nd game back? Could this bump in usage be related to the loss of Nick Chubb – more routes, less blocking? He gets a bottom-5 matchup, but he is cheap.
Speaking of cheap… Here’s what I had to say of Irv Smith Jr. in Week 6 Values:
On DraftKings, there’s always credence to out-right punting the TE position, and especially this year with the position being the absolute wasteland it is. Just note, you’re not paying down at the position to get some great value, you’re paying down to pay up elsewhere, at the other more important positions that offer more upside.
If paying down, your best option is Irv Smith Jr. ($2,500), who hit season-highs in route share (74%) and targets (5) last week, catching 4 for 64 yards. Smith’s Week 6 matchup also couldn’t be any better – Atlanta is giving up a league-high +11.0 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs. Greg Olsen scored 12.4 fantasy points on 4 targets against them in Week 1. Dalton Schultz scored 23.8 on 10 targets in Week 2. Jimmy Graham scored 24.0 on 10 targets in Week 3. Robert Tonyan scored 33.8 on 6 targets in Week 4. And then Ian Thomas flopped, seeing just one target last week. Smith very well could exit this week’s game with zero fantasy points, as he did in Weeks 3 and 4, but at this price-tag, he still may be one of the best plays at the position.
Trey Burton is a decent alternative if you don’t like Irv Smith.
Zach Ertz remains in play for the same reason we wrote him up last week and the week before, but who knows -- maybe he’s just cooked. I spent more time debating him here.