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.
Utilizing both Scott Barrett’s DFS SuperModel and our site projections, we can lock-in on the week’s top DFS values.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers (VS. HOU)
DK: +$1237, 3.56X / FD: +$1172, 2.67X
For those putting stock into anything out of SF: a short story— Edwin Porras, DPT (@FBInjuryDoc) December 29, 2021
If Jimmy G legitimately has a grade III sprain of the UCL in his throwing thumb as @Eric_Branch reported, there’s a slim chance he plays. An even slimmer chance he plays well. I could be wrong but it’s hard seeing it pic.twitter.com/v7U5n8exEq
Jimmy Garoppolo appears unlikely to start according to FantasyPoints’ injury expert Edwin Porras. And assuming he sits (which appears even more likely after missing Thursday practice), Trey Lance is the clear top value QB of Week 17.
Lance — who averaged 77.0 rushing YPG and 13.3 rushing FPG throughout his career at North Dakota State — has massive Konami Code-upside. And he’s perfectly set up for success, with an elite offensive mind in HC Kyle Shanahan calling plays, and surrounded by three of the NFL’s best YAC monsters.
And what have we seen from Lance thus far? Through six quarters of play, Lance is averaging 232.7 passing yards, 15.3 rushing attempts, 86.7 rushing yards, and 22.6 fantasy points per four quarters. That’s 4.2 more carries and 22.8 more rushing YPG than Lamar Jackson. And 22.6 FPG would rank behind only Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. The 11.5 carries per game he’s averaged in his 2 games with more than 50% of snaps would best RBs like Miles Sanders, A.J. Dillon, Myles Gaskin, and Cordarrelle Patterson. And his 8.7 rushing fantasy points per 4 quarters would rank 9th-best since 1975 if sustained for an entire season.
So Lance offers a truly incredible rushing floor, and as the QB45 (by salary) on DraftKings and the QB32 on Fanduel, Lance’s value couldn’t be more apparent as our 14th-highest projected QB this week on both sites.
Lance gets a perfectly neutral on-paper matchup against the Texans. But the 49ers also have a 28.5-point implied total (4th-most) and a 12.5-point spread in their favor, implying terrific field position, positive gamescript, and plenty of opportunities for vultured rushing touchdowns.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (VS. LVR)
DK: +$486, 2.74X / FD: 2.10X
Taylor has been nothing short of a league-winner this season, averaging 22.8 FPG (a mark that leads all healthy RBs), while also leading the league in both rushing yards (1,626) and TDs (17). Taylor is tied for the league lead with 5.5 YPC, ranks behind only Nick Chubb in yards after contact per attempt (3.8), and is PFF’s 2nd-highest graded rusher on the season (89.6, min. 150 carries).
Taylor has hit at least a 60% snap share in every game since Week 6, after only doing so 3 times in his previous 21 games. And since Week 6, Taylor has averaged 25.8 FPG, which not only would easily lead all RBs this season, but would actually be the 16th-best RB fantasy season ever, just ahead of 2017 Todd Gurley and just behind 1995 Emmitt Smith.
But Taylor isn’t quite priced like an RB having a historic season, at least on DraftKings. He’s $1,400 cheaper on DK than 2016 Le’Veon Bell (26.5 FPG) was at his peak. He’s $800 cheaper than 2017 Todd Gurley’s (25.6 FPG) highest salary, and Taylor is $500 cheaper than 2020 Dalvin Cook (24.1 FPG) was at his peak. Taylor’s current salary of $9,000 is actually cheaper than 2018 Todd Gurley (26.6 FPG) was in every week of that season, with the exception of Week 4 and Week 14. So, there is a clear precedent for RBs having an all-time season to be priced at or near $10,000 on DraftKings, and yet, Taylor isn’t.
And this isn’t due to a tough Week 17 matchup, as the Raiders are allowing the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+4.3), and the 3rd-most FPG overall to opposing RBs (28.5).
Taylor is underpriced on DraftKings relative to other historically great RBs, and once we throw the plus matchup on top of it, it’s nearly impossible not to call him one of the top RB values of the slate.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears (VS. NYG)
DK: +$886, 2.65X / FD: +$912, 2.11X
Several weeks ago, we asked, “What’s wrong with David Montgomery?” And the answer was, “He’s not seeing the same target-volume he saw last year.” But that’s no longer the case. Now, in fact, he’s seeing the best target-volume of any RB in the league. Despite the handicap of a hyper-mobile QB — hyper-mobile QBs typically neglect their RBs in the passing game — Montgomery leads the position and leads his team in targets over the last four weeks (averaging 8.3 per game, up from 2.6 targets per game).
Over this stretch, Montgomery leads all RBs in fantasy points scored, averaging 19.5 FPG. He also ranks 6th in carries per game (18.3), 1st in targets per game (8.3), and 1st in XFP/G (25.2, +34% more than next-closest).
He’s finished 1st, 9th, 3rd, and 1st among all RBs in XFP over this span. And his 35.7 XFP in Week 16 was the 2nd-most by any RB in any week this season.
So, Montgomery is seeing the best volume of any RB in fantasy, and by a wide margin. And now he gets one of his softest matchups yet. The Bears are favored by 6.0-points against the Giants, who rank 8th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+2.3), and 9th-worst in YPC allowed (4.47).
And given the recent high-end RB1 volume and beneficial matchup, Montgomery pops as a value priced as the RB9 on both sites. He’s an excellent cash game play and could easily end up as the highest-owned RB in tournaments across the industry.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions (AT SEA)
DK: 2.17X / FD: 1.46X
Swift practiced in full on Wednesday, and will likely be suiting up for his first game since Week 12. In a slate loaded with mid-priced RB values, I think Swift could wind up as one of the sneakiest of the bunch.
So far this season, Swift has averaged 18.5 FPG and 18.9 XFP per game in the 10 games he’s started and finished. Among slate-eligible RBs, both of those marks rank 4th-best, which immediately makes Swift jump out given he’s priced absurdly low as the RB15 on DraftKings.
If we simply project Swift for his season-long average of 18.5 FPG, then he’s a 3.08X value, which would rank 1st among all slate-eligible RBs on DraftKings in our projections.
However, it’s worth noting that Swift isn’t projected for anything resembling his season-long average. In fact, across the industry, he’s consistently projected 2.0 to 4.0 full points lower.
The reason is obvious, we just don’t know what his role will be in his first game back from injury. Edwin Porras pointed out the risk of reaggravation, which obviously adds volatility to the play. So, I think that largely removes Swift from cash game lineups.
But in tournaments, I’m going to approach this situation as if Swift is back in his normal role, which likely means projecting him as a top-3 RB value on the slate, at least on DraftKings. With current industry sentiment, I’d expect middling ownership here, so I’m viewing this as a stellar leverage spot of the David Montgomery, Sony Michel, or Devin Singletary chalk in tournaments.
Sony Michel, RB, Los Angeles Rams (AT BAL)
DK: +$351, 2.53X / FD: 1.93X
Michel has seen at least 20 touches in each of his last 4 games, and eclipsed a 90% snap share in 3 of his last 4.
With Darrell Henderson on IR and Cam Akers likely to be eased in during his return from a ruptured achilles, it’s fair to assume this is Michel’s backfield in Week 17.
If Michel can maintain the 86% of backfield XFP he earned the last 2 weeks, then we can roughly estimate him for 16.6 fantasy points given the backfield has averaged 19.3 FPG this season. That would make him a 2.86X value on DraftKings (would rank 1st in our projections among slate-eligible RBs) and would rank 8th-best among slate-eligible RBs over the full season.
But the Ravens have been a tough matchup for opposing RBs this season, ranking 8th-toughest in both schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-2.9), and YPC allowed (3.84).
And we don’t exactly know how healthy Akers is. Given he’s already pulled off a miracle recovery, he may earn a significantly higher percentage of backfield XFP than anticipated. Or maybe he plays just a handful of snaps to get his legs back under him. Or maybe he’s just inactive as the Rams want to save him for the playoffs.
So, overall, I’d say this play comes with significant risk, despite the likely positive gamescipt with the Rams as 3.5-point favorites. We aren’t playing Michel in cash games, and for tournaments, I’m not sure I’m sold on him being a great play if he’s one of the higher-owned RBs of the slate (which I think he will be on DraftKings), as he hasn’t scored more than 21.9 fantasy points in any game this season. Still, when discussing Week 17 values, we need to include Michel given his projected workload relative to his current price of RB22 on DraftKings.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals (AT DAL)
DK: 2.09X / FD: 1.60X
James Conner has yet to practice this week, after sitting out Week 16 with a heel injury. If he’s out, Edmonds becomes a borderline must-play on both sites, priced as just the RB25 ($5,700) and RB21 ($6,500) of the slate.
HC Kliff Kingsbury has a long history of employing a bell cow RB, and employing a bell cow RB to great fantasy success whenever he’s lost one of his top-2 RBs to injury.
- Last week, without Conner, Edmonds played on 92% of the team’s snaps, earning 16 of 17 carries and 9 of 9 targets out of the backfield. He totaled 24.5 XFP (3rd-most on the week) and 26.7 fantasy points (6th-most).
- Over Arizona’s five games without Edmonds this year (Weeks 9-14), Conner averaged 17.4 carries, 5.4 targets, 20.9 XFP/G (5th-most), and 25.6 FPG on an 85% snap share. Those numbers ranked 10th-, 8th-, 5th-, 2nd-, and 1st-best over this stretch.
- In the one game Kenyan Drake missed last season (Week 7), Edmonds played on 96% of the team’s snaps, earning 25 of 26 carries and 3 of 4 targets out of the backfield.
- In Week 7 2019, David Johnson suffered an injury on his first touch of the game. (This was before Kenyan Drake joined the team.) And Edmonds totaled 35.0 fantasy points on the back of 27 carries, 4 targets, and a 94% snap share. The next week Edmonds himself suffered an in-game injury, but had played on over 90% of the snaps up until that point (late in the 3rd quarter).
Basically, this is an 8-game sample size, suggesting we’re looking at about 22.6 XFP and 25.2 fantasy points from Edmonds this week. Either number would lead all RBs, and by a wide margin. The on-paper matchup isn’t great (bottom-3 by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed), but I don’t think that matters as much as Edmonds’ guaranteed workload in contrast to his inexpensive salary.
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (VS. ATL)
DK: 2.48X / FD: +$400, 1.98X
Singletary was a barely-usable committee RB in the first 10 weeks of the season, averaging 32.4 snaps per game, 10.8 touches per game, and 9.0 FPG.
But then, something changed. Since Week 12, Singletary has emerged as the Bills’ lead RB. Over his last 5 games, he’s averaged 51.2 snaps per game, 15.2 touches per game, and 11.9 FPG. He’s hit at least 68% of snaps in 4 of those 5 games, something he only did twice in his previous 10 games.
Singletary earned just 29% of backfield goal line carries and 30% of backfield red zone carries over his first 10 games, but since Week 12, that's jumped to 100% of backfield goal line carries and 78% of red zone carries. And he has scored at least 14.9 fantasy points in each of his last 3 games, something he only managed once in the previous 12 games.
So Singletary is a borderline bell cow after capturing 72% of backfield XFP these last 5 weeks in a backfield that’s averaging 19.6 FPG. 72% of backfield production going forward would equate to roughly 14.1 FPG, which ranks 14th among slate-eligible RBs, despite Singletary being priced as the RB27 on DraftKings and the RB23 on Fanduel.
For Week 17, Singletary draws a stellar game environment. The Falcons are giving up the 7th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+2.4), but more importantly, the Bills are 14.5-point favorites with a slate-leading 29.25 implied team total. So Singletary should be getting plenty of red zone opportunities in a game where the Bills should have no shortage of positive gamescript.
Similar to David Montgomery, Singletary sets up as one of the most popular tournament RBs on both sites.
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos (AT LAC)
DK: 2.34X / FD: 2.21X
Javonte Williams has been about as good as we could expect any rookie RB to be. Among the 43 RBs with at least 100 carries, Williams ranks 13th in PFF rushing grade (77.8), tied with Jonathan Taylor for 1st with 58 missed tackles forced (despite the 15th-most rushing attempts), 5th in yards after contact per attempt (3.50, which is 0.18 more than Derrick Henry this season), and 5th in runs of 10 or more yards (24).
Williams has averaged 13.3 Fanduel FPG in his last 3 games, even with a healthy Melvin Gordon stealing 48% of backfield XFP. That would rank 10th among slate-eligible RBs, and yet Williams is priced as the RB24 on Fanduel, ahead of an outstanding matchup.
The Chargers are giving up the 5th-most FPG to opposing RBs (27.0), the 3rd-most YPC (4.63), and the 8th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+3.3) over the last 3 weeks. They rank dead last in Football Outsiders run defense DVOA (4.8%) and are giving up the 4th-most rushing YPG overall (140.3). This is a dream matchup for any opposing RB, especially one as talented as Williams.
The presence of Gordon may limit the overall upside of this play and keeps Williams from being cash game viable on DraftKings. And while I wouldn’t bet on it in cash games, I wouldn't be surprised if Williams saw one of his biggest workloads of the season after Gordon averaged a laughably bad -0.6 YPC on 7 carries last week. Javonte shapes up as an ideal tournament play on both sites in Week 17, and can be considered a cash game play on Fanduel.
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets (VS. TB)
DK: 2.10X / FD: 1.70X
Carter earned his highest snap share (74%) of the season last week against Jacksonville, running for a season-high 118 yards and scoring 14.4 fantasy points in the process. He earned 75% of backfield routes and 53% of backfield carries, but did cede goal line work to Tevin Coleman, getting out-carried 3 to 1 inside the 5.
While the risk of Tevin Coleman vulturing TDs is far from ideal, the gamescript sets up perfectly for Carter (who averages 4.3 targets per game) with the Jets as 13.0-point underdogs. So far this season, Carter has averaged 14.2 DraftKings FPG when the Jets are underdogs by 7.0 or more points, which would rank 14th among slate-eligible RBs, making Carter pop as a value given his RB36 salary on DraftKings. And if we project Carter for 14.2 fantasy points this week, then he’s a 2.78X value on DK, which would actually lead all RBs in our projections.
With that said, Carter is the definition of a tournament only play. The Jets could (as unlikely as it may seem) keep this game close, which probably means more snaps for Tevin Coleman. Or Coleman could simply steal every high-value touch near the goal line, which would force Carter to catch a litany of passes to hit value, and maybe that doesn’t happen with Zach Wilson under center as Carter has only averaged 2.7 targets per game in games Wilson has started and finished.
Interestingly, Tampa Bay is the league’s toughest defense for opposing RBs from a rushing perspective, allowing just 7.2 rushing FPG this season. But they are far weaker at defending RBs through the air, allowing 11.5 receiving FPG this season (tied for 7th-most). So, there’s the chance that if the Jets want to get their RBs involved, it will need to be through the passing game. And that should mean targets for Carter.
If Carter can yet again hit a 70% share of snaps in a game where the Jets will likely be forced to throw a substantial amount, it’s tough to argue against him as a value given his $5,100 DK salary.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (AT BAL)
DK: 3.11X / FD: 2.16X
Kupp not only leads all WRs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns — the esteemed triple crown — but he’s pacing the league (leading by 20% or more) in each stat, and, most importantly, by FPG. He averages 21% more FPG (+4.5) than the next-closest WR (Davante Adams).
Most Fantasy Points (PPR) by a WR in any Season All-Time— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 29, 2021
1. COOPER KUPP, 2021 (417.5*)
2. Jerry Rice, 1995 (414.0)
3. Antonio Brown, 2015 (388.2)
4. Antonio Brown, 2014 (386.9)
5. Randy Moss, 2007 (385.3)
6. Marvin Harrison, 2002 (384.2)
At $9,500 on DraftKings, he’s (merely) priced like a high-end WR1, but nothing quite like a WR on pace for the single-greatest fantasy season of all-time. His 28.1 DK FPG leads all players at all positions (including QBs). And is also the most by any WR in any season all-time.
And Kupp isn’t just the production king, he’s now also our XFP/G leader. He averages 22.0 XFP/G, which leads all players at all positions, and ranks 2nd-most by any WR in my database (spanning 14 NFL seasons). He’s sandwiched in between Calvin Johnson’s 2012 season (22.2) and DeAndre Hopkins’ 2015 (21.3).
If Kupp scores exactly 28.1 DK fantasy points this week (his per-game average), he’ll provide 2.96X value, which ranks best at the position. The next most-expensive WR (Deebo Samuel), in contrast ($8,700 vs. 22.1 DK FPG), would provide just 2.54X value.
And 28.1 fantasy points seems like a low bar this week, given Kupp’s drool-inducing matchup. Over the last six weeks, opposing WR1s are averaging 24.3 FPG against Baltimore, though they collectively average just 14.7 FPG in all other games. The Ravens are playing with a secondary made up of almost entirely backups, and it couldn’t have been more apparent last week, when they gave up the 4th-most passing yards in NFL history (525) to Joe Burrow and company.
Kupp would be a value in neutral matchup, but against Baltimore, he’s a near lock-button play in all formats.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (VS. ARI)
DK: 2.10X / FD: +$311, 1.69X
Lamb hasn’t scored more than 20.0 fantasy points in a game since Week 10, but I think that could change this week with a strong matchup and the Cowboys playing in by far the highest total game of the week (52.0, 2.5-points more than next closest game).
The Cardinals have massively struggled as of late against WRs, allowing +15.5 schedule-adjusted FPG over the last 5 weeks (2nd-most). WR1s are no exception, with Arizona allowing the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to WR1s over that same stretch (+3.0). And they’ve allowed by far the most fantasy points per deep pass this season (3.22) – an interesting note given Lamb ranks 20th among all WRs with 1.7 deep targets per game.
So we’ve established it’s a favorable matchup, but how does the game environment affect his expectation this week? Well, Lamb averages 18.4 DraftKings FPG and 15.1 Fanduel FPG this season when playing in a game with a total over 50.0 (8 instances). And his 3 best games of the season (Week 1, 6, and 10) have all come in those situations. On DraftKings, 18.4 FPG would rank 5th-best among WRs over the full season, representing a value relative to Lamb’s WR8 price tag. On Fanduel, 15.1 FPG would also rank 5th-best, and Lamb is the WR9 (by salary).
So he’s a value and a solid tournament play on both sites given the matchup and scoring environment, but I prefer him on FD where he is slightly cheaper and costs just 12% of the total salary cap, compared to 14% on DraftKings.
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (AT NYJ)
DK: +$1240, 2.39X / FD: 1.39X
Note: Brown didn’t practice on Thursday and appears truly questionable. Keep an eye on the injury report prior to kickoff to make sure he’s active.
Saying Antonio Brown was the whole show for Tampa Bay on Sunday somehow feels like an understatement. He recorded 14 targets for an otherworldly 50% target share, and 101 receiving yards for a 44% yardage market share. The result was 20.1 fantasy points, but that seems like it’s on the low end of reasonable outcomes going forward for as long as Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are out, given just how large of a share of receiving work AB carved out in a WR unit averaging 46.6 FPG so far this year.
FanDuel seems to have caught on to that fact, as they’ve already priced AB up to WR3 for the Week 17 main slate. But DraftKings hasn’t. And at this point, AB’s DK price looks almost comical.
The 19.2 FPG that Brown averages this year ranks 4th among slate-eligible WRs, and yet he’s priced as the WR18 on DraftKings. And keep in mind, 5 of Brown’s 6 games this season have come with Godwin and Evans playing. We saw Brown’s route share jump from 66% in his first 5 games to 84% last week. So 19.2 FPG is probably closer to an accurate floor for Brown (for as long as Godwin and Evans are out), rather than an average expectation going forward.
For his Week 17 matchup, the Jets rank middle of the pack in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs (+0.6), but, they do rank 4th-worst in PFF coverage grades (44.1), so I’d say the matchup is a favorable one. But then again, we could probably argue even a difficult matchup would be largely irrelevant given just how underpriced AB is on DraftKings relative to his target and yardage expectation in this elite offense.
Brown is a cash game lock and will probably be the highest-owned WR of the week on DraftKings, for good reason. But I do think there’s merit to playing him in FanDuel tournaments, where he still offers overall WR1 upside and should see very little ownership.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions (AT SEA)
DK: +$377, 2.45X / FD: 1.66X
St. Brown has seen 11 or more targets, and earned at least 73 receiving yards in each of his last 4 games. And in those games, he has averaged 22.4 FPG. Among slate-eligible WRs, that ranks 2nd-best, behind only Cooper Kupp.
Compared to his first 11 games of the season, St. Brown has seen a 117% increase in targets per game, a 165% increase in yards per game, and a 224% increase to his FPG. And he is commanding a strong number of the high-value opportunities that used to go to D'Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, as he ranks 3rd among all WRs with 12 red zone targets over the last 4 weeks.
And despite playing like a high-end WR1 these last 4 weeks, St. Brown is priced like a mid-range WR2 on both sites, clocking in as the WR19 on DraftKings and the WR16 on Fanduel. It’s truly an egregious mispricing, especially with St. Brown (who runs 78% of his routes from the slot) facing Seattle this week. The Seahawks are currently giving up the 6th-most FPG (15.3) to opposing slot WRs, and are a massive slot funnel, allowing a 51% slot target share, the most in the NFL by nearly 6%.
The return of D’Andre Swift could steal a few targets away from St. Brown, but even if it reduces his production by 20%, 17.9 FPG would still rank 5th-best among slate-eligible WRs. He’s one of the more obvious values of the slate, but with Antonio Brown almost identically priced (on DraftKings), I’m not sure he’s a great cash game play on DK. Still, he’s viable for cash on Fanduel and shapes up as an excellent tournament play on both sites, albeit one that’s likely to be quite popular.