My first few seasons playing DFS, I got crushed. Lineup after lineup, slate after slate, I just couldn’t do anything right. I was hemorrhaging my hard-earned money, and I really didn’t have much to spare. Just like those late-night infomercials, I had to find a better way!
I was making far too many mistakes to list them all here, but what I really needed then was a guiding hand, a voice (or an article perhaps?) that could, at the very least, help me understand who the best plays were, and more importantly — why?
This is that article.
Once I found FantasyPoints, and this article, everything changed. With a deeper understanding of which players are values (and why) I was able to make great strides in my own DFS play. And now, I’m writing this article.
Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints (AT NYJ)
DK: +$700, 3.36X / FD: 2.44X
Hill is currently dealing with mallet finger on his throwing hand, but is expected to attempt to play through it and likely start at QB for the Saints in Week 14.
Assuming Hill does start, he’s easily the top value QB of the week, at least on DraftKings. In his 5 starts over the last 2 seasons, he’s averaged 21.0 FPG — a mark that would tie with Matthew Stafford for QB7 this season. And he’s scored at least 17.5 fantasy points in each individual start, so he offers a stellar floor on the back of the 11.0 rushing FPG he’s averaged in starts. 11.0 rushing FPG, if sustained for a full season, would make for the most productive rushing season by any QB since 1975, just barely beating 2019 Lamar Jackson, who averaged 10.8 rushing FPG.
Even if Hill’s passing ability is hampered by his finger injury, he still offers a strong enough rushing floor to warrant being considered a DraftKings value, given he’s priced as the QB13. And if there was ever a game the Saints would go run heavy, it would be this week as 5.5-point favorites against the Jets – a team that’s allowed the 3rd-most rushing YPG (133.4) this season. He’s an easy cash game lock on DK.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints (AT NYJ)
DK: +$857, 2.15X / FD: 1.72X
Kamara has the best matchup of any RB in Week 14, with the Jets giving up an incredible +11.5 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (46% more than the next closest team). And Mark Ingram (COVID) appears unlikely to play this week, which almost certainly gives Kamara a higher share of backfield XFP given he captured 82% of backfield XFP before Ingram joined the team, compared to 71% when both he and Ingram were active in Weeks 8 and 9.
So this is a dream scenario for the swag captain of the NFL, right? Unfortunately, not quite. Taysom Hill is expected to start at QB this week, and Kamara averaged just 14.2 FPG and 4.0 targets per game during Hill’s 4 game stretch as the starter in 2020. Kamara also never exceeded 18 touches in any of those games, something he’s done in every game except 2 this season.
And it wasn’t just Kamara, the entire backfield took a hit with Hill as the starter. Since 2019, Saints RBs average 31.2 FPG with Drew Brees under center, 27.6 FPG with Teddy Bridgewater, 24.1 FPG with Jameis Winston, and only 20.5 FPG with Taysom Hill under center.
So what do we make of this?
Well, Kamara’s share of backfield XFP (should Ingram be inactive) and his matchup are undoubtedly the best on the slate. But he risks reduced target volume, lower backfield productivity, and the possibility Taysom Hill could vulture goal line TDs. So I think it’s fair to view him as the Kamara of old, but with significantly more downside risk than we are used to. That takes him out of consideration for cash games, but he’s still a strong value in tournaments given the backfield situation and the Jets’ egregious numbers against opposing RBs.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (VS. BUF)
DK: +$669, 2.55X / FD: +$1006, 2.22X
Over the last 4 games, Fournette leads all slate-eligible RBs in targets per game (7.8) and FPG (24.2), while also ranking 4th in touches (79). More importantly, Fournette has eclipsed an 80% snap share in each of the last 2 weeks, something he has only managed to do once previously during the regular season in his Buccaneers tenure (Week 4). His market share over the backfield XFP has jumped from 61% to 77% over the last 4 weeks. And, what’s most impressive is his involvement in the passing game. He’s seen at least 5 targets in 8 of his last 9 games, and averages 7.8 targets per game over his last 4. And he’s productive as well, averaging 14.1 receiving FPG over his last 4 games. (For perspective, Christian McCaffrey averages 13.1 receiving FPG throughout his career.)
Fournette is now a true bell cow on the league’s highest-scoring offense (31.4 PPG), commanding 79% of RB opportunities over the last 2 weeks in a backfield that’s averaging 27.9 FPG (6th-most). This is an extremely valuable role, and despite the tough on-paper matchup, Fournette still appears underpriced.
The Buccaneers are 3.5-point favorites this week, and their 28.0 implied team total signals that oddsmakers expect another strong offensive performance from the defending Super Bowl champions. That’s surely good news for Fournette, who averages 21.2 DraftKings FPG and 18.4 FanDuel FPG in Buccaneers wins this season, and 20.4 DraftKings FPG and 17.6 FanDuel FPG when the Bucs’ implied team total is over 27.5 this year. Both of those marks easily make Fournette a top-3 RB on this slate, and yet he’s the RB5 (by salary) on both sites.
Buffalo ranks as the 6th-toughest matchup for opposing RBs based on schedule-adjusted FPG this year (-2.7), but they’ve been significantly more vulnerable lately, allowing +0.5 schedule-adjusted FPG over their last 5 games (13th-most). So this matchup isn’t nearly as difficult as it initially appears.
He’s a top-3 RB on both sites by raw projection, and a top-5 value RB on both sites once we account for pricing. I’ll be leaning into the play primarily on Fanduel, where he ranks as our 2nd-best value RB and can be locked into cash lineups.
Elijah Mitchell / Jeff Wilson, RB, San Francisco 49ers (AT CIN)
DK: N/A / FD: N/A
Elijah Mitchell seems to have maintained his receiving role, despite the return of JaMycal Hasty:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) December 6, 2021
*49/53 backfield snaps (92%)
*16/18 backfield routes ((89%)
*3/3 backfield targets
It could be a one week outlier, but Elijah Mitchell maintained bell cow status even with pass catching RB JaMycal Hasty back in the fold. Should Mitchell continue to earn 90% of backfield opportunities going forward, then we are looking at approximately 19.9 FPG, given this backfield has averaged 22.1 FPG this season. That, on its own, makes Mitchell a clear value, as 19.9 FPG would rank 2nd among all slate-eligible RBs in Week 14, behind only Austin Ekeler.
He also draws a favorable matchup against a Cincinnati team (albeit as 1.0-point underdogs) that has allowed the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+2.5) and the 3rd-most receiving FPG to opposing RBs (14.0) – an important note given Mitchell has commanded 90% of backfield targets and 89% of backfield routes over the last 2 weeks.
With all that said, Mitchell has entered concussion protocol and is dealing with a knee issue, so he hasn’t practiced this week. With his Week 14 status looking iffy at best, Jeff Wilson becomes the obvious pivot, should Mitchell sit.
Practicing. He might still be listed as limited at the end of the day but he's currently the frontrunner to start in Cincy. 1. Wilson. 2. Hasty 3. New guy Brian Hill. https://t.co/6k3BtE9JDO— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) December 9, 2021
Without Mitchell, Wilson should see the vast majority of rushing work in the NFL’s 7th-most productive rushing backfield (125.9 YPG), which would make him a screaming value on both sites as the RB45 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB53 on Fanduel. But, Wilson will almost certainly be vulnerable to gamescript, as his work in the pass game is virtually nonexistent, averaging just 0.8 targets per game and 4.5 routes per game this season. That presents obvious risk for cash games, but Wilson is certainly still viable in those formats, especially on Fanduel where he is relatively cheaper and receiving work matters less.
And in tournaments, assuming Mitchell sits, I’ll likely have most of my Wilson exposure geared towards a San Francisco win, and that means pairing him with SF D/ST, rather than using him as a bring-back on Cincinnati stacks.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team (VS. DAL)
DK: +$1149, 3.08X / FD: 2.30X
With J.D. McKissic out, Gibson finally saw elite, bell cow-type usage in Week 13. He earned a career-high 82% snap share, just one week after setting his previous career-high in snap share (67%). And he captured 82% of backfield routes and 75% of backfield targets – a marked improvement on his 38% route share and 32% backfield target share from the first 12 weeks of the season.
So, if McKissic (who didn’t practice Wednesday) is out again in Week 14, then we can view Gibson as a true bell cow, high-end RB1.
That, on its own, makes Gibson a clear value as he’s priced as the RB14 on DraftKings and the RB8 on Fanduel. But he’s also playing in the 3rd-highest total game of the slate (48.0) and this game ranks 1st in Graham Barfield’s pace and plays game model, so we can add the outstanding game environment to the litany of reasons to be bullish.
With that said, Gibson is facing a difficult matchup, as Dallas ranks as the 2nd-toughest schedule-adjusted defense for opposing RBs (-4.6). While it’s reasonable to slightly ding Gibson for that, our projections suggest he’s still in line to see more touches per dollar of salary than any other player on this slate, and I’d absolutely agree. He’s an outstanding value, and an easy lock button play in cash should McKissic be out in Week 14.
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (AT TEN)
DK: 1.83X / FD: 1.50X
In Week 13, James Robinson saw just 9 touches, a season-low 26 snaps, and scored a season-low 2.5 fantasy points.
The way Urban Meyer and the Jaguars handled RB rotations in that game was strange, to say the least. So strange, in fact, that even Trevor Lawrence spoke about his frustration with James Robinson being kept off the field.
Here’s #Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence’s full answer on James Robinson and having continuity in the backfield:
“Bottom line is James is one of our best players and he’s gotta be on the field, and we addressed it, and I feel like we’re in a good spot.” pic.twitter.com/YJXDuYiSWA
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) December 8, 2021
Now, could Robinson’s lack of reps these last few weeks be the result of the heel injury he’s been nursing since Week 8? Absolutely. But, Lawrence’s statement that the Jaguars “are in a good spot” in regards to getting him more playing time suggests that Robinson may be headed for a similar workload to what he saw from Weeks 3 through 6, when he was their bell cow and averaged 19.8 touches per game, 17.3 XFP per game, and 21.7 FPG. Among slate-eligible RBs, those numbers would rank 4th-, 6th-, and 3rd-best. And yet, Robinson is priced as the RB18 on DraftKings and the RB21 on Fanduel.
So if he does return to being the JRob of Weeks 3 through 6, he’s easily one of the top RB values on the slate, despite a tougher matchup against a Tennessee team that’s allowed the 7th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG (-2.5) to opposing RBs. Gamescript is a concern given the Jags’ 17.25 implied point total, but excluding last week, Robinson has averaged 17.1 DraftKings FPG and 14.9 Fanduel FPG in his career when the Jacksonville team total is 20.0 points or lower (10 instances). So with his usual bell cow role, gamescript may not actually hamper him that much.
The problem is, though, that we have no way of knowing if Robinson will return to bell cow status this week. I think he will, but I’m certainly not confident enough to warrant calling Robinson anything close to a cash game play. For tournaments, however, Robinson represents an excellent contrarian play and a compelling pivot off of similarly-priced Antonio Gibson on DraftKings.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. LV)
DK: 1.86X / FD: 1.50X
This season, Tyreek Hill is seeing the best volume of his career, averaging 11.4 targets per game (+2.4 from his previous career-high) and 20.1 XFP per game (+3.1).
Given that Hill is a player who has always historically outperformed his expectation, the fact he’s seeing a workload on par with Davante Adams is absolutely huge. If Cooper Kupp wasn’t having potentially the greatest fantasy WR season of all-time, we’d undoubtedly be talking about Hill as the favorite to be the overall WR1 this season.
And let’s not forget Hill’s absolutely ridiculous upside. He’s had more 40+ point fantasy outings (6) than any other player since 2018, and has two of the top-60 best fantasy performances of the past 20 years under his belt. When Hill goes off, he goes off in a truly slate-breaking way.
Week 14 sets up as potentially another one of Hill’s slate-breaking weeks. The Chiefs have an implied team total of 28.75 – the highest of Week 14. Over the last 2 seasons, Hill has averaged an impressive 23.4 DraftKings FPG and 19.0 Fanduel FPG when the Chiefs’ implied total is over 28.0 points (24 instances). With that said, this play isn’t without some risk. Hill has fallen under 13.0 DraftKings fantasy points and under 10.0 Fanduel fantasy points in 5 games within that sample (21% miss rate). And Las Vegas has been solid at defending the deep ball this season, allowing just 1.62 fantasy points per deep pass attempt (4th-toughest).
So, if I’m paying up for WR in cash, I’m more in favor of rostering Deebo Samuel (if he plays), who hasn’t scored less than 10.0 fantasy points in a game this season, while Hill has fallen below 10.0 fantasy points on 4 occasions this year.
With that said, Hill’s unmatched tournament upside makes him a clear value in that regard. Because if he has anything resembling a ceiling performance, it’s a guarantee you’ll need him on your tournament rosters to have a chance at taking down a large-field GPP.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens (AT CLE)
DK: 2.06X / FD: 1.50X
Brown ranks 2nd among all WRs in targets per game (11.2) but 21st in FPG (14.6) over the last 5 games. So, he’s seeing outstanding, high-end WR1 volume (21.1 XFP per game since Week 7), but is massively underproducing (-6.5 PAR). Granted, it’s far from all Brown’s fault, as QB Lamar Jackson has struggled massively as of late, recording the worst PFF passing grade (40.6) of any QB since Week 9. History tells us Jackson surely isn’t this bad throwing the football, and that means better days are likely ahead for Brown, assuming he maintains this stellar volume.
Cleveland has been burned by opposing WR1s this season, allowing the 3rd-most schedule adjusted FPG (+3.4). Based on Brown’s production over the last 5 weeks, he’s looking at somewhere in the realm of 18.0 fantasy points in Week 14, using our schedule-adjustment. 18.0 FPG would rank 3rd-best among slate-eligible WRs, and remember, that’s with the assumption that Brown continues to massively underproduce relative to his expectation.
This is far too risky of a play for cash games with how poorly Jackson is passing the ball, but for tournaments, I anticipate Brown being one of my top targets this week
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (AT KC)
DK: +$277, 2.23X / FD: +$311, 1.62X
In Renfrow’s first game without Darren Waller, he achieved season-high marks in targets (10), and receptions (9) alongside his 2nd-highest yardage total (102) and fantasy point total (19.2) of the year. Among Raiders non-RB pass catchers with more than 25 targets, only Renfrow and Waller possess an aDOT under 10.5, suggesting Renfrow will be the primary beneficiary of the vacated underneath targets from Waller’s absence.
And Waller hasn’t practiced this week, opening the door for another high volume performance for Renfrow in a game the Raiders will need to air the ball out as 10-point underdogs.
Per Vegas, the Raiders’ win probability in this game is just 23%. So far this season, Derek Carr has averaged 43.0 pass attempts in Raiders’ losses. If we prescribe Renfrow the 26% target share he’s earned the last two weeks with Waller either out (Week 13) or injured and unable to return (Week 12), then we are looking at approximately 11.2 targets in Week 14 – a number that ranks 3rd-best among all slate-eligible players.
The Chiefs rank as the 17th-toughest matchup for opposing slots, allowing 12.1 FPG. So Renfrow is an easily justifiable value with a neutral matchup, a high likelihood of a pass-heavy game script, and potentially slate-leading levels of volume should Waller be inactive.
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets (VS. NO)
DK: 2.20X / FD: +$578, 1.67X
Elijah Moore ranks 2nd among all WRs in fantasy points scored since Week 9. Keep in mind, he’s accomplished this feat while catching passes from Mike White, Josh Johnson, Joe Flacco, and Zach Wilson. He ranks as PFF’s 4th-highest graded WR since Week 8 (83.2), and ranks top-6 in separation rate across the full season.
And his Week 13 performance was his most encouraging yet, earning 12 targets (32%), 187 air yards, 2 end zone targets, 4 deep targets, and 1 carry. He scored 20.6 fantasy points, his third performance with 20-plus fantasy points in 5 games, but saw a season-high in XFP (28.4). That ranked most among all WRs on the week, and was 71% more than his prior season-high. And those 187 air yards were also 48% more than his prior-high. So, although he’s been performing like a fantasy WR1 for quite a while now, this was the first week he’s actually seen WR1-levels of volume.
Obviously, QB-play is still a massive concern. Zach Wilson ranks dead-last of 31-qualifying QBs in PFF pass grade. But the good news is, any upsurge in volume should go a long way in helping to negate that deleterious effect.
Corey Davis will be out for the remainder of the season, and Moore draws an attractive on-paper matchup this week. The Saints rank 5th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs, and the Jets will likely need to throw as 5.5-point underdogs. QB concerns make Moore too risky of a play for cash, but it’s hard not to love the ceiling in tournaments, especially given his price of WR18 on DraftKings and WR26 on Fanduel.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (AT TEN)
Treadwell obviously isn’t a player I want to target in a given week, but with his current role and salary, he does appear to be a value headed into Week 14. Over the last three games, Treadwell ranks 2nd on the team in targets per game (5.3), routes per game (29.0), FPG (7.2), and 1st in receiving yards per game (42.0).
Is that an incredibly valuable role? No, not at all. But, as punt plays at WR go, Treadwell is one of the few who offer a guaranteed full-time role and a decent target floor (5 or more targets in each of the last 2 weeks), thus securing his value in a price range that’s devoid of consistency.
Jacksonville is a 9.0-point underdog this week — the 2nd-largest spread of the main slate — meaning the Jaguars will almost certainly need to air the ball out to have a chance. And the matchup is certainly favorable, with Tennessee allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+6.7) to opposing WRs this season.
It’s understandable to have trepidation with plays like this, but if you are looking to punt WR this week, Treadwell is arguably your best bet on DraftKings.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (VS. BUF)
DK: 2.32X / FD: 1.66X
Through 6 full games, Rob Gronkowski averages 8.0 targets per game, 14.0 XFP/G, 72.7 YPG, and 18.8 FPG. Among all TEs, those numbers rank 4th, 4th, 1st, and 1st (22% more FPG than next-closest, Travis Kelce). Heck, among WRs, he ranks 15th in YPG and 7th in FPG… At age 32, Gronkowski has shown no signs of slowing down. He ranks 2nd-best among all TEs in PFF receiving grade, he leads all players at all positions in end zone targets per game (1.14), and he’s eclipsed an 80% route share in each of his last 2 games (up from 59%).
He faces a tough matchup against a Bills’ defense that ranks as the 3rd-toughest for opposing TEs based on schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-5.0). But I’m not sure that can be considered a significant factor this week, given Tampa Bay’s 28.5 implied team total – the 2nd-highest on the slate. The Buffalo defense ranks as a bottom-3 schedule-adjusted matchup for all non-RB positions, and that’s because they allow just 16.3 PPG (2nd-fewest). But Vegas doesn’t think that’s particularly relevant, given they only shaved 2.9 points off the Bucs’ league-leading average of 31.4 PPG.
And if the Tampa Bay offense is expected to have a similar offensive performance to what we’ve seen throughout the year, then Gronk should have no problem getting close to, or exceeding his season-long averages. And that easily makes him one of the top TE values of the slate as the TE4 (by salary) on DraftKings and the TE3 on Fanduel.
James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars (AT TEN)
DK: 3.03X / FD: +$428, 1.57X
O’Shaughnessy is filling in for the injured Dan Arnold, and has averaged 5.5 targets per game (15% target share), 29.5 routes per game, 5.6 FPG, and 8.7 XFP per game in Arnold’s absence. Among slate-eligible TEs, those numbers rank 11th-, 9th-, 23rd-, and 11th-best. So, strong volume and usage relative to his price, but subpar raw fantasy production (-3.1 PAR).
Given his career 1.04 YPRR, I’m not sure we can expect O’Shaughnessy to meet, or even exceed his expectation on a weekly basis. But he’s a solid punt option given he’s locked into a full-time role, and should see top-12 volume among slate-eligible TEs, despite being priced as the TE26.