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.
Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (VS. DAL)
DK: 4.16X / FD: 3.28X
Herbert’s playing in both the highest total (55.5) and fastest paced (based on pace/play volume above baseline) game of Week 2. Herbert has only ever played in three games with a total higher than 50.0, and he averaged 26.0 DK FPG and 23.0 FD FPG in those instances. Not to mention he’s facing a Cowboys defense that ranked 4th-worst in fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.53) to opposing QBs last season and don’t appear much improved this year - having just given up 379 yards and 4 TDs through the air to the Buccaneers.
Sure, Herbert and this Chargers passing attack aren’t Brady and the Bucs, but LAC’s 29.5 team implied total (4th-highest on the Week 2 main slate) demonstrates that Vegas firmly believes they are going to score… a lot. And let’s not forget that Herbert was one of the offseason’s most-hyped players, as Scott Barrett noted in 96 Stats, “from Week 4 on, Herbert ranked as the overall-QB5, averaging 23.4 FPG. This was just 0.1 FPG off of QB4, 0.5 FPG off of QB3, and 0.8 FPG off of QB2.”
Herbert’s an obvious cash game lock and the clear QB1 on Fanduel but may be relegated to a second-tier cash game option on DraftKings, given the presence of Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers at similar price tags.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (VS. LV)
DK: +$663, 2.33X / FD: +$1559, 2.52X
Top-5 RBs by share of backfield opportunities (carries + targets)— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) September 13, 2021
Najee Harris - 100%
Darrell Henderson - 94%
Christian McCaffrey - 94%
Clyde Edwards-Helaire - 90%
Antonio Gibson - 89%
Harris managed the ultimate bell cow workload Sunday, playing on 100% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps and seeing 100% of their backfield opportunities. And he ran 30 routes on Big Ben’s 38 dropbacks (79% route share). In a slugfest of a game that saw little scoring relative to what was expected, Harris’ extreme outlier of a workload didn’t translate to much fantasy production, as he finished the game with just 5.9 fantasy points on a 16.5 expectation (11th among Week 1 RBs).
Regardless of the fantasy outcome, the workload was undeniable. Pittsburgh is treating Harris like Le’Veon Bell 2.0, which is exactly what they hinted at post-draft. Outside of Christian McCaffrey, I’m not sure there’s an RB who we can anticipate seeing more snaps and touches in Week 2 than Najee Harris. He’s arguably the play of the week at RB16 on Fanduel (and still looks like a value at RB11 on DraftKings) in a far better gamescript environment than last week as 6.0-point favorites against a Raiders’ defense that gave up the fourth-most FPG (28.8) to opposing RBs last season.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (AT LAC)
DK: +$494, 2.56X
Throughout his entire 72-game career, Ezekiel Elliott has never been cheaper than he is this week on DraftKings. This is a historically great buy-low opportunity on one of the NFL’s most successful rushers over the last half-decade.
I know, I know, Zeke struggled mightily on Thursday Night Football, seeing only 11 total carries and 2 targets while finishing with a disappointing 5.9 DraftKings points. But he did play on 84% of snaps and his inefficiency can be blamed on the Cowboys’ pass-first approach and facing the league’s toughest run defense, as the Bucs allowed a league-best 3.36 YPC last year — and seem to be on track to put up similarly impressive defensive numbers in 2021.
The bottom line here is simple: Zeke is going to see an 80% or higher snap share, and receive the vast majority of offensive touches in the highest-total (55.5) game of the slate. In 18 career games with a total of greater than 50.0, Elliott averages 23.2 DK FPG. That’s impressive upside at the RB12 salary (and an absurd 3.75x value). Assuming ownership doesn’t get out of hand, then Zeke will be my favorite RB tournament play of Week 2 on DraftKings, and he likely presents enough value overall to be considered a strong cash-game play as well.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks (VS. TEN)
DK: 2.75X / FD: 2.51X
Carson was one of the most utilized backs of Week 1, logging a 77% snap share and seeing 16 carries for 91 yards while catching all three of his targets for 26 yards — finishing the day with a rather pedestrian 12.7 fantasy points.
That doesn’t seem like much, but Carson never exceeded a 70% snap share in any individual game last season. And we need to remember that snaps correlate more to fantasy production at RB than total touches. Granted, Rashaad Penny did suffer a calf injury in Week 1, so Carson’s Week 2 snap share could trend back towards his 2020 average of 51%. That’s the major downside risk of this play, but Carson’ still the lead back on one of the best offenses in football, and that carries with it significant upside.
Seattle are 6.5-point favorites against Tennessee and offer a massive 30.0 team implied total — the 3rd-highest of the Week 2 main slate. In Carson’s career, Seattle’s been favored by 6.0 or more points 14 times, and in those instances Carson averaged 16.1 DraftKings FPG while exceeding double-digit DraftKings points 11 times. And Carson averaged 17.4 DraftKings points and 15.5 Fanduel points on the five occasions Seattle’s game total has been over 52.0 (Seattle’s Week 2 total is currently 53.5). He’s been consistently impressive in these spots historically.
So what do we make of Carson this week? He’s probably not cash-game viable — given the very real risk of a 55% snap share should the Seahawks’ coaches opt to maintain the backfield committee they’ve historically preferred. Tournaments, however, are a completely different story. Carson projects for moderate ownership (10-15%) at the position across the industry, presenting a strong large-field GPP leverage opportunity in a fantastic scoring environment for both Carson and this Seattle offense. Given the way RB salaries shook out, I prefer Carson more on DraftKings than Fanduel — but he’s tournament-viable on both sites regardless. The upside with Carson this week is simply undeniable, and upside (especially at low-to-moderate ownership) is my favorite thing to chase in large-field tournaments.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (VS. DAL)
DK: +$340, 2.85X / FD: +$428, 2.29X
Allen picked up right where he left off in 2020, seeing a team-high 13 targets (28% target share) and catching 9 passes for 100 yards. Allen’s receiving role on this team is as secure and solidified as any role in the NFL, as he saw double-digit targets in 10 of his 14 games last year, and he scored double-digit fantasy points in 11 of 14 games. But even that doesn’t sum up how good Allen was last season, as Scott Barrett noted in 96 stats, “Over the past 4 seasons, Keenan Allen has finished 4th, 18th, 8th, and (last year) 7th in FPG… Tyrod Taylor started for the Chargers in Week 1. Due to injury, Allen played on only 17% of the team's snaps in Week 5 and only 36% of the team's snaps in Week 15…With those 3 games excluded, Allen averaged 12.2 targets, 19.2 XFP, and 20.5 FPG…If over the full season, those numbers would have ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd among all WRs.”
That’s massively relevant in Week 2, as the Chargers have the slate’s 2nd-highest team total (29.5) and are playing in the highest total game of the week (55.5) against Dallas. In Allen’s career, the Chargers have had an implied team total higher than 26.0 on 16 occasions. In those games, Allen averaged 21.6 DraftKings points and 16.4 Fanduel FPG. If extrapolated over the entire 2020 season, both numbers would’ve made Allen the WR4 on a per game basis. And yet he’s WR8 on DraftKings and WR9 on Fanduel by salary.
In a game the entire world projects to be a shootout, Allen may go under-owned relative to his Dallas WR counterparts, and that could present an elite leverage opportunity in tournaments. Regardless, Allen’s Week 2 value is undeniably great — making him cash game viable on both sites.
Amari Cooper / CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (AT LAC)
Cooper and Lamb were the most targeted WRs of Week 2, despite playing on the same team. Encouragingly, Dak Prescott looked like his 2020 self, and the Cowboys came out extremely pass heavy in a game against the defending Super Bowl champions, showcasing sharp play calling from OC Kellen Moore.
And, like I said, Cooper and Lamb were absolutely fed. Lamb, despite scoring 23.4 fantasy points, actually underperformed relative to his position leading 31.9 expected fantasy points. And Cooper led all Week 1 players with a 38.9 fantasy points performance. With Michael Gallup out in Week 2, Lamb and Cooper are poised for another high target outing, and did I mention they’re playing in the game with the highest total of the slate (55.5)? This is a dream setup for two of the NFL’s most talented WRs.
Since joining the Cowboys in 2018, Cooper has averaged 20.0 DraftKings points and 15.3 Fanduel points in games where the total is higher than 52.0 (8 instances). And in 25% of those instances, Cooper has gone over 35.0 DraftKings points. Similarly impressive, Lamb has only played 6 total games with QB Dak Prescott, but has averaged 19.7 DraftKings points and 15.2 Fanduel points in those games.
The value of both players is one of the more obvious aspects of the Week 2 main slate, meaning both WRs should be among the slate’s highest-owned players. With that said, the ceilings both Lamb and Cooper have shown are simply slate-breaking (and they play in the best scoring environment of the slate), so personally, I’m much more concerned with other ways to differentiate my lineups than I am with potentially fading them at high ownership.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (AT IND)
DK: +$649, 2.29X / FD: +$994, 2.22X
Kupp looked like the Rams’ WR1 and Matthew Stafford’s favorite target on Sunday, seeing a team-high 10 targets (+4 more than next-closest), catching 7 for 108 yards and a score. Given the massive upgrade Stafford undoubtedly is over the disaster that was 2020 Jared Goff, it’s not unrealistic to assume Kupp returns to 2018/2019 levels of volume and efficiency. For those who forget, Kupp was the WR15 (by FPG) over his 8 games in 2018 and was the overall WR4 in 2019. And if we are assuming Kupp returns to 2018/19 form, his Week 2 salaries of WR20 on DraftKings and WR27 on Fanduel seem completely ridiculous.
The Rams’ implied team total of 25.5 and the game total of 47.5 present a middling shootout environment, but Kupp has performed well in similar spots, averaging 17.4 DraftKings points and 13.6 Fanduel points over the past four seasons when the Rams’ have a team total greater than 25.0.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (AT CHI)
DK: +$486, 2.62X / FD: +$1022, 2.38X
Chase led Bengals WRs Sunday in snaps (62), routes run (30), targets (7), yards (101), YAC (37) and PFF receiving grade (79.8) while finishing with 20.9 fantasy points. He also led the receivers in route share (94%), ahead of both Tee Higgins (84%) and Tyler Boyd (84%). Despite the absurd preseason reports that Chase couldn’t catch a football, he appears, at least through one week, to be the Bengals leading WR. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that per Scott Barrett’s rookie WR model, Chase is the top WR prospect to come out since at least 2015. At just 19 years old, Chase was more productive than the WR who broke the modern rookie receiving record (Justin Jefferson), and on 13 fewer targets. For WRs specifically, breakout age is arguably the most important predictor of NFL success. Chase is as elite as they come in that regard.
Despite likely being Cincinnati’s WR1, Chase is priced as their WR3 on Fanduel and their WR2 on DraftKings. I don’t see that lasting much longer, as it seemed apparent on Sunday that Chase and Joe Burrow had resumed their 2019 LSU connection. With a Week 2 matchup looming against a porous Chicago CB room, Chase has the talent and should see the volume necessary to make him a strong tournament play - and clear value - on both sites.
Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans Saints (AT CAR)
DK: +$394, 2.49X
I had this to say about Callaway in last week’s Values article:
Callaway has been a preseason star, recording the best PFF receiving grade of any player (95.4), along with stellar marks in essentially every preseason receiving metric, ranking top-5 among preseason WRs in receiving yards (165), receiving TDs (2), and yards per route run (7.17). And he was one of two WRs with more than five targets to sustain a perfect passer rating when targeted (158.3) throughout the preseason.
All of that was done on just 36 total preseason snaps. This is completely ridiculous, but if we extrapolate Callaway’s preseason production out to a full regular season game (NO averaged 65.6 offensive snaps per game last season), he would average 52.9 fantasy points per four quarters. To some (myself included) that was both ridiculously and surprisingly impressive, but maybe it shouldn’t have been, given that Emmanuel Sanders told us Callaway would be a future star back in December.
Even without the strong preseason, Callaway has offered a strong camp, with plenty of media buzz suggesting he could be (or already is) the Saints WR1, especially given Tre’Quan Smith’s extended absence from practice and games during the preseason due to “an apparent leg injury”. Even with Smith ready to play this Sunday, Callaway may very well be locked into that WR1 role in New Orleans. That presents what’s likely the top WR value of Week 1.
Callaway is currently 31st in Scott Barrett’s season long rankings, 34th among WRs in our Week 1 DraftKings projections, and 33rd in our Week 1 Fanduel projections — yet he ranks as the 73rd-most expensive WR on DraftKings and the 53rd-most expensive on FanDuel. That’s obvious value, but the Saints also offer an ideal environment for gamescript purposes — as 4.5-point underdogs on the slate’s 3rd-highest total. And Jameis Winston has a penchant for throwing to outside WRs — a crucial note for Callaway given he ran 92% of his routes lined up outside this preseason.
The result? 1.4 fantasy points and 2 targets. Gross.
Still, Callaway ran the most routes of any Saints player (21) and does appear to be their WR1, despite the result. All of the reasons why Callaway was a strong Week 1 play still stand, with a crucial exception: Callaway’s Week 2 ownership will be a mere fraction of his position leading 24% DraftKings ownership in Week 1.
Callaway’s the ultimate version of an ideal game theory play this week. Who wants to play the guy who scored 1.4 points last week and ruined everyone's lineups? I do — at least when that player's role hasn’t changed and his projected ownership the following week is in the gutter. Callaway is that guy, and he’s one of my favorite tournament contrarian plays (at any position) of Week 2.
Cedrick Wilson, WR, Dallas Cowboys (AT LAC)
DK: +$457, 2.52X
Wilson was the primary beneficiary of Michael Gallup’s calf injury from last Thursday’s matchup against Tampa Bay, finishing the game with a 35% route share and catching all three of his targets for 24 yards. Crucially, Wilson was the only WR besides Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper to play a snap, and he earned the vast majority of his playing time after Gallup went down.
Wilson’s in line for a starter-level allocation of snaps in the Week’s highest total game against LAC, and he’s just $3100 on DraftKings - presenting one of the best values of the week - at least on paper. While I’m almost always team #CBMatchupsDontMatter, Wilson’s Week 2 matchup vs Chargers slot corner Chris Harris is legitimately concerning. On Thursday, Wilson ran 84% of his routes from the slot, and Harris has been, over his 11-year NFL career, one of the best slot CBs in the NFL. Just last year, Harris was again one of the most impressive slot CBs in the league, allowing a slot reception every 14.5 coverage snaps — nearly 4 snaps better than the next closest slot CB.
Cash game players may have little choice in whether they decide to play Wilson, as he’s one of the most obvious projection-based values on DraftKings. Tournament players, on the other hand, may be wise to avoid Wilson due to this matchup with Harris and the likelihood that Wilson’s ownership is among the highest on the slate. It’s a tough call, but personally, I see myself being way underweight on Wilson relative to the field if his ownership projects for 20% or higher.
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (AT IND)
DK: 2.54X / FD: 1.86X
Higbee’s 2021 season started about as well as imaginable, as the 6th-year TE ran a route on 93% of Matthew Stafford’s dropbacks - a massive 39% increase from last season - and the 3rd-highest route percentage among Week 1 TEs. And Higbee lined up in the slot or out wide on 54% of his snaps in Week 1, marking a drastic 38% increase from his 16% slot/wide alignment rate in 2020.
So why is that so important?
As Scott Barrett pointed out in Underrated Upside, “Over the past four seasons, TE Gerald Everett — now in Seattle — dealt with only one serious injury which caused him to miss time. This occurred at the tail-end of the 2019 season, when Everett played a total of four snaps across five games (Weeks 13-17). Over this span, Higbee led the league in receiving yards (522), exceeding 100 yards in four of five games. His 11.2 targets per game and 21.4 FPG weren’t just the most by any tight end over this stretch, but they were the most by any tight end over any five-game stretch that season.”
Week 1 marks the first time, since that incredible 2019 stretch, that we’ve seen Higbee get legitimate full-time TE1 usage. We could argue it was fluky, but that’s a difficult case to make, given the lack of talent behind Higbee in the TE room and the fact that Johnny Mudnt was the only other Rams’ TE to register a snap on Sunday Night Football - and was used as a run blocker on 12 of his 15 total snaps. The role of pass-catching TE in LA belongs to Higbee, and likely only Higbee.
The Rams are tied for the 9th-highest team total of the Week 2 main slate (25.75) and in a neutral-at-worst matchup against an Indianapolis defense, it’s difficult to argue against Higbee as the top TE value (on both sites) of Week 2.
Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders (AT PIT)
DK: 1.58X / FD: 1.71X
Note: This write-up is from Scott Barrett’s Week 2 DFS slate breakdown.
On DraftKings I like to pay down at TE. But on FanDuel, on slates with Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, I usually try to pay up.
And as much as I love Higbee, Waller is still extremely hard to avoid on DraftKings.
Waller is an absolute freak cheat-code, fresh off a 19-target (and a league-high 39.5-point XFP) game. He’s been the No. 1 receiver in fantasy, and by a landslide, since Week 13 of the 2020 season.
Based on VORP, owning a TE averaging 26.5 FPG, is equivalent to owning a WR averaging 30.7 FPG. At least, that’s true in 10-team ESPN (PPR) season-long leagues. But, even ignoring the immense intra-positional value he offers as a TE, you can make a compelling argument that he’s the betting favorite to lead all WRs in fantasy points scored…
And yet, Waller would be just the 3rd-highest-priced WR on DraftKings ($7,600), on a slate without Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams. On FanDuel, Waller would rank (laughably) 12th among WRs ($7,000). Yeah, he’s a phenomenal play.
Adam Trautman, TE, New Orleans Saints
DK: +$129, 2.43X / FD: +511, 1.62X
On Sunday, Trautman ran a route on 75% of Jameis Winston’s dropbacks, registering the 9th-highest route share among TEs. And despite earning just 6 targets, the pure lack of pass attempts from the Saints resulted in a 24% target share for Trautman - the 2nd-best mark of the position in Week 1.
And what happened?
Trautman was outscored by backup TE Juwan Johnson, 17.1 to 4.8.
While that’s obviously the opposite of an ideal result for Trautman, fantasy owners can take solace in the fact that Trautman earned twice as many routes (19 to 8) and twice as many targets (6 to 3) as Johnson. Trautman’s clearly in the more valuable role for fantasy, and (although it’s early) may be headed towards top-10 usage at the position this season (in both route and target share).
Week 2 presents a neutral-at-worst matchup against Carolina, and Trautman ranks as just TE26 on DraftKings and TE39 on Fanduel by salary. The value here is glaring, and while there is risk the Saints limit their pass attack and take a more run-heavy approach, Trautman’s role remains far more valuable than his salary implies. Had it not been for Tyler Higbee, Trautman would be a cash game lock button play at TE on both sites.
Value Stack: Justin Herbert + Keenan Allen + CeeDee Lamb DK: 3.41X / FD: 2.57X
Can you tell we really like this game? No stack projects to be a better value than Herbert/Allen/Lamb, and for great reason — this is the best scoring environment of Week 2 (55.5 total). While it’s sure to be chalky, there are still 6 other spots to fill out in our lineups, leaving plenty of room for contrarian options should we want to differentiate from the field. Regardless, if this game shoots out like it’s projected to, taking down a tournament without this stack (or any stack from this game) will certainly be easier said than done.