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.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (AT JAX)
DK: 2.89X, FD: 2.29X
Taylor has been nothing short of a league-winner this season, averaging 22.9 FPG (a mark that leads all RBs with 10 or more games), while also leading the league in both rushing yards (1,734) and rushing TDs (18). 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).
Since Week 5, Taylor has averaged an otherworldly 25.7 FPG. Over a full season, that would constitute the 16th-best RB fantasy season ever, just ahead of 2017 Todd Gurley and just behind 1995 Emmitt Smith.
If we simply project Taylor for his usual output over his last 12 games (28.3 DraftKings FPG), then he’s a 3.04X value on DraftKings, which would tie David Montgomery for No. 1 among all flex-eligible players in our projections. And maybe that wouldn’t be optimistic enough, as Taylor has averaged an even more impressive 29.9 DraftKings FPG across the 6 games Indianapolis was favored by 8.0 or more points (15.5 this week) with an implied team total over 27.5 (29.75 this week).
Jacksonville’s run defense has actually been fairly underrated against opposing RBs this season, allowing the 8th-fewest YPC (3.9) while ranking middle of the pack in FPG allowed. But it’s tough to view this matchup as anything resembling a negative after the Jags gave up 29-146-2 to New England RBs last week. And we know a generational talent like Taylor is going to get all the carries he can handle, with near-perfect gamescript in a game the Colts need to win. He’s a cash game lock on both sites.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears (AT MIN)
DK: 3.01X, FD: 2.43X
For whatever reason, DraftKings absolutely refuses to price David Montgomery like a high-end RB1, though that’s clearly what he’s been over the last five weeks.
Over this span, he averages 19.0 carries per game (6th-most), 7.0 targets per game (most), 23.7 XFP/G (most), and 20.2 FPG (3rd-most).
7.0 targets per game is a crucial stat. That alongside his 76% snap share this season (2nd-most) means he’s not at all gamescript-sensitive; he’s a true bell cow. And the numbers bear that out. He’s been incredibly consistent over this span, despite mixed gamescript, finishing 1st, 9th, 3rd, 1st, and 8th among all RBs in XFP over the last five weeks.
So, this week’s spread — 5.5-points in Minnesota's favor — shouldn’t be as important as the on-paper matchup, which is excellent. Minnesota ranks 5th-worst in YPC allowed (4.53), 8th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (14.9), and 10th-worst in total FPG allowed (24.7). And over their last five games, Minnesota ranks 8th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+4.8).
And yet, Montgomery ranks just 10th among RBs by salary this week ($6,800).
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (VS. NYJ)
DK: 2.43X, FD: 1.95X
Over the last 4 weeks, Singletary has averaged 61.0 snaps per game, 18.3 touches per game, and 18.3 FPG. Or, put another way, over the full season that would be more snaps per game than any RB in football, more touches per game than Austin Ekeler and Leonard Fournette, and more FPG than Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and D’Andre Swift.
In Week 14’s loss, he turned 4 carries and 7 targets into 14.9 fantasy points. In Week 15’s 17-point victory, he turned 22 carries and 1 target into 16.6 fantasy points. In Week 16, a 12-point victory, he turned 12 carries and 6 targets into 18.8 fantasy points. In Week 17, a 14-point victory, he turned 23 carries and 1 target into 23.0 fantasy points.
Week 18 should be another lopsided victory for the Bills, and Singletary’s best matchup yet. The Bills will clinch the AFC East with a victory, and Vegas is expecting them to win by 16.5-points, while scoring 30.0 points (most on the week).
Against RBs, the Jets rank: worst in total FPG allowed (31.7), worst in rushing FPG allowed (19.4), 3rd-worst in receiving FPG allowed (12.4), 9th-worst in YPC allowed (4.46), and worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+10.6). That final stat is 46% more than the next-closest defense, 293% more than the defense ranking 5th-worst, and is the highest stat I’ve ever seen allowed by a defense this far into a season.
He’s a steal on both DFS sites this week, priced as just the RB18 on DraftKings and the RB20 on Fanduel.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (AT LAR)
DK: 2.77X, FD: 1.95X
Mitchell has been, at the very least, a borderline bell cow over his last four healthy games. Over this stretch, he’s earned a 66% snap share, 26.8 touches per game, 17.8 XFP/G, and 18.8 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 7th, 2nd (behind only Derrick Henry), 8th, and 4th.
He’s been assisted by an improved pass-catching role, earning 3.2 targets per game over his last 5 contests, compared to just 0.8 targets per game in the prior 5 games.
Ahead of a must-win game against the Rams, it should come as little surprise we are on Mitchell as a value relative to his egregiously low $6,000 DraftKings price tag (RB18).
The Rams are giving up the 2nd-fewest YPC allowed (3.7) to opposing RBs this season, but otherwise, this is largely a neutral on-paper matchup. But another potential cause for concern is the 49ers’ lowly 20.0-point implied team total, and the potential for their run game to be game scripted out of this contest given they are 4.5-point underdogs.
Negative gamescript won’t entirely neutralize Mitchell given he’s carved out a much larger receiving role than he had in the first half of the season, but it certainly reduces his overall touch floor. With that said, Mitchell has still performed very respectfully in these scenarios so far this season, averaging 16.9 DraftKings FPG when the 49ers team total is 22.5 or less (3 instances).
I’m viewing Mitchell as a stellar tournament play on DraftKings who makes for a great contrarian stack with the 49ers D/ST.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks (AT ARI)
DK: 2.52X, FD: 1.97X
Rashaad Penny is playing out of his dang mind. He’s hit at least 135 rushing yards (and scored a touchdown) in three of his last four games. He leads all RBs in fantasy points scored over this span, and he’s averaging 17.3 carries, 1.8 targets, 125.5 YFS, 12.1 XFP/G (RB26) and 23.6 DK FPG (RB2).
His PAR — the disconnect between his XFP/G and FPG — of +9.2 (or +76%) is absurd and extremely impressive, but also a little worrisome. (That number typically regresses to the mean.) And he’s not quite a bell cow, handling just 55% of the team’s snaps and only 62% of the backfield XFP over this span. However, he did hit season-highs in both metrics last week with (respectively) 63% and 85%. And this week’s matchup is pretty brutal — Arizona is favored by 6.5-points, and they rank 5th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-3.1).
Still, it’s hard to look past how effective he’s been in recent weeks. And as such he’s looking like a fringe- top-6 RB value on both sites, priced as just the RB12 (DK) and RB8 (FD) of the slate. Though he’s undeniably a top value, he’s one far better suited for tournaments than cash.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Tennessee Titans (AT HOU)
DK: 2.51X, FD: 2.00X
Foreman has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games, he’s handled at least 20 touches in three of his last five games, and he has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in three of his last five games. He’s looking a lot like early-season Elijah Mitchell or a very poor man’s Derrick Henry. Which is to say, he’s highly gamescript-sensitive and highly boom-or-bust for fantasy. But, luckily, everything is pointing towards a “boom”-game this week.
The Titans need to win this game to lock up the bye. They probably don’t care about keeping Foreman fresh, as Henry is due within the next few weeks. And they’re 10.0-point favorites behind a 26.5-point implied total (4th-most), against a Texans team that ranks worst in YPC allowed (4.89) and 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (18.9). They've given up 100 rushing yards or more to RBs in 12 of their last 15 games, and a league-high 23.6 rushing FPG to enemy RBs over their last six games.
Priced as the RB25 and RB17 on the slate, he’s a top-7 RB value on both sites.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (VS. SF)
DK: 2.56X, FD: 1.83X
Kupp has had nothing short of one of the greatest receiving seasons of all-time. His 2021 campaign currently ranks 5th-best all-time in receiving yards (1,829), 3rd-best in receptions (138), 17th-best in targets (184), and 5th-best in FPG (25.8).
He’s earned over 90 receiving yards in 15 of 16 games this season (next closest player has done so just 8 times), and has exceeded 20.0 fantasy points in 13 games (next closest WR has done so in just 7 games). So not only is he putting up all-time numbers, he’s quite literally lapping the field with his consistency.
The 49ers have allowed the 7th-most receptions (91) and the 10th-most FPG (14.4) to opposing slot WRs this season, and Kupp had no problem in their Week 10 matchup when he went for 11-122-0. So while I’d consider Kupp immune to even the toughest slot matchups, this matchup should certainly boost his already lofty expectation, even if just slightly.
Despite Kupp being 23% more productive than the next-closest slate-eligible starting WR (Deebo Samuel), he costs just 14% more on DraftKings. And when we add that on top of his already legendary consistency, his incentive to break a number of receiving records (for instance, he’s just 135 yards off of Calvin Johnson’s yardage record), and a strong matchup, it should come as no surprise we are considering him a near lock-button play in all formats.
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (AT BAL)
DK: 2.61X, FD: 1.86X
Diontae Johnson was added to the COVID-19 list on Thursday, making him a longshot to suit up Sunday. He leaves behind a league-high 12.1 targets per game in his wake. RB Najee Harris will certainly soak up some of those targets, but Claypool should be the primary beneficiary of Johnson’s absence.
Last week Claypool saw 9 targets while running a route on 88% of the team’s dropbacks (highest since Week 12), though he didn’t do much with it. When Johnson sat out in Week 3, back when JuJu Smith-Schuster was still healthy, Claypool earned a career-high 15 targets, catching 9 for 96 yards. That Week 3 matchup (Bengals) was excellent (top-6), but this week’s matchup against Baltimore couldn’t be any better.
The Ravens lost CB Marlon Humphrey (out for the year) in Week 14, after already losing CB Marcus Peters in training camp. And replacement CB Anthony Averett hasn’t practiced all week dealing with a fractured rib. Slot CB Tavon Young hasn’t been great, but he has been much better in comparison to the CBs Baltimore has been forced to start on the perimeter.
Baltimore has given up the 9th-most FPG to slot WRs (14.7) and the most FPG to outside WRs this season (24.5), and they’ve been even worse in recent weeks. They’ve given up an absurd 73.6 DK FPG to opposing WRs over the last three weeks, which is 59% more than the worst defense this season and 99% more than the league average rate.
When these two teams last faced off (Week 13), Baltimore still had CB Marlon Humphrey healthy. And Johnson scored 33.5 DK fantasy points on 11 targets against them. Since Week 11, they’re giving up between 22.2 and 25.6 DK FPG to opposing WR1s, depending on whether or not you want to call Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins Cincinnati’s WR1. And those numbers come out to +4.0 or +8.2 FPG if schedule-adjusted. And, well, Claypool is clearly the WR1 now.
So, priced as just the WR31 (DK) and WR33 (FD) of the slate, he’s arguably the single-best value of the week, at any position and on both sites.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (VS. CHI)
DK: 2.38X, FD: 1.92X
Since Week 10, Jefferson has earned 10 or more targets and 20.0 or more XFP in every game but one, while averaging 21.9 FPG. In fact, the 11.5 targets per game and 22.7 XFP per game Jefferson has averaged during that stretch would lead all players at all positions over the full season. And keep in mind just 3 of those 8 games came with Adam Thielen out of the lineup.
So, if Jefferson is seeing the best volume of any player in football, shouldn’t he be a cash game lock and priority tournament play as the WR4 (by salary) on DraftKings and the WR3 on Fanduel? Unfortunately not, for a variety of reasons.
For starters, the Vikings have nothing left to play for. In fact, this is one of just 2 games this week where both teams gain nothing from winning the game. But, at least right now, the assumption in Vegas appears to be that both teams will play their starters, and that’s obviously reflected in Minnesota’s 25.0-point implied team total – the 6th-best of the slate.
And this is a tougher matchup, with Chicago ranking as the 4th-toughest matchup for opposing WRs by schedule-adjusted FPG (-4.3) and 5th-toughest in FPG allowed to outside WRs (17.8). CB Jaylon Johnson has been good-but-not-elite this season, and is a threat to shadow.
So the risk Minnesota could pull Jefferson along with the risk the Bears secondary could do a good job defending him keeps him out of the cash game conversation. But Jefferson’s volume over the last 8 weeks, relative to his price tag on both sites, is undeniably great. And that makes him an outstanding tournament play.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (VS TEN)
DK: 2.49X, FD: 1.79X
Cooks is now, predominantly, a slot WR. Over his last three games, he’s run 50% of his routes from the slot, 19% of his routes from the left, and 29% of his routes from the right. Over this span, he’s seen double-digit targets and scored at least 19.6 DK fantasy points in three of three games. He averages 12.3 targets, 131.7 air yards, 2.7 deep targets per game, 19.3 XFP/G, and 22.3 FPG. Those numbers rank 2nd-, 3rd-, 3rd-, 6th-, and 5th-best over this stretch.
This decision to move Cooks around the formation has definitely helped to bolster his numbers and helped to make him more matchup-immune. But Cooks is also benefiting from Davis Mills’ return. Cooks has been targeted on 26.1% of his routes with Mills under center, as opposed to just 19.5% with Tyrod Taylor under center. And Cooks averages 16.4 FPG (~WR10) and 16.5 XFP/G in Mills’ full games started and finished, as opposed to just 11.7 FPG (~WR40) and 12.8 XFP/G with Taylor.
And Cooks has a phenomenal matchup this week, no matter where Houston decides to have him line up. The Titans rank 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to slot WRs (16.0) and 7th-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (23.0). And they’re giving up the 5th-most YPG to WRs on deep targets (53.9).
He’s a top-7 WR value on both sites, priced as just the WR14 and WR10 of the slate.
Very quietly, Meyers and Gage have had two of the toughest schedules of any player in fantasy. Meyers and Gage run (respectively) 61% and 49% of their routes from the slot, but the far majority of opponents they’ve faced are among the best teams at defending slot WRs. That doesn’t seem very fair, does it?
Meyers has faced a defense ranking top-12 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs in 10 of his 16 games (63%). Against top-12 defenses, he averages just 6.9 targets per game and 8.3 FPG. In all other games (6), Meyers averages 8.2 targets and 14.6 FPG.
Gage has faced a defense ranking top-12 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs in 8 of his 13 games (62%). Against top-12 defenses, he averages just 5.4 targets per game and 7.5 FPG. In all other games (5), Gage averages 7.6 targets and 15.9 FPG.
Good news! Both get favorable matchups this week.
Meyers gets a pillow-soft matchup against a Miami defense ranks 5th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (14.9).
Gage gets a Saints defense that’s given up the 12th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (14.3).
We have Gage ranked as the No. 1-overall WR value on FanDuel, and a top-7 WR value on DraftKings. Meyers ranks fringe- top-10 on both sites.
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals (VS SEA)
DK: 2.42X, FD: 1.9)X
Over the last three weeks, following the loss of WR DeAndre Hopkins, Kirk averages 9.7 targets per game, 100.7 air yards per game, 15.5 XFP/G, and 16.4 FPG. Among all WRs over this span, those numbers rank 14th-, 10th-, 20th-, and 12th-best.
And, so, clearly, he’s pretty mispriced now, as just the WR17 (DK) and WR22 (FD) of the slate. And his Week 18 matchup is excellent.
The Cardinals are expected to score 27.25 points (3rd-most on the slate). Kirk has run 73% of his routes from the slot over the last three weeks, and Seattle has given up the 3rd-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (15.3). Zach Ertz’s matchup is also strong, but both Antoine Wesley and A.J. Green can be easily faded. Wesley and Green have run (respectively) 85% and 96% of their routes from the outside, and Seattle ranks 2nd-best in FPG allowed to outside WRs (15.5).
Per our projections, Kirk ranks as our No. 3-overall value on FanDuel (1.9X).
Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals (VS. SEA)
DK: 2.17X, FD: 1.65X
Over the last three weeks, Ertz averages 11.3 targets per game (25% target share), 78.0 air yards per game, 18.2 XFP/G, and 12.6 FPG on a 91% route share. Among all TEs over this span, those numbers rank best, best, 3rd-best, 2nd-best, 5th-best, and best.
As the TE6 (by salary) on DraftKings, and the TE7 on Fanduel, Ertz is a glaring value given his role in this post-DeAndre Hopkins offense.
And this is close to an ideal game environment and matchup for Ertz, as Arizona has the 3rd-largest implied team total on this slate (27.25) and needs to win this game to have a chance at winning the division. Meanwhile, Seattle is giving up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+3.6) to opposing TEs this year.
Ertz is an outstanding value and a strong cash game play on both sites, but especially on Fanduel where we normally pay up for TE.