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.
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears (AT CLE)
DK: +$391, 3.79X / FD: +$722, 3.03X
Justin Fields has 83 combined dropbacks from the preseason through the open of this season He has scrambled on 14 of them (16.9%) for 121 yards.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) September 23, 2021
Last year's highest scramble rates:
Fields has immense Konami Code-upside; he averaged 10.2 rushing FPG and 64.6 rushing YPG in 2020, after averaging 9.2 and 49.1 in 2019. On 92 snaps this preseason, he totaled 15.2 fantasy points on the ground, which would equate to roughly 10.6 rushing FPG. For perspective, 10.6 rushing FPG would have led the position last year (0.8 more than Lamar Jackson). And Fields averaged 22.8 FPG per four quarters this preseason, which, if extrapolated out for a full season, would’ve made Fields the QB9 last year.
As Scott Barrett noted in 96 Stats, “Fields’ 4.46 40-yard-dash ranks 4th-best of 372-qualifying QBs since 2000, behind only Robert Griffin III (4.33), Michael Vick (4.33), and Reggie McNeal (4.40). At 227 pounds, Fields’ Speed Score of 114.74 ranks 3rd-best, behind only Griffin (126.9) and Vick (119.5), and just ahead of Cam Newton (114.72) and Vince Young (113.7).”
And yet, Fields is the 4th-cheapest starting QB (QB22) of the Week 3 main slate on DraftKings, and QB24 on Fanduel. As DFS players, we almost never get the opportunity to play QBs with Fields’ rushing ability at this absurdly low price point. He’s the clear top points per dollar play on DraftKings, with a secure-enough floor from his rushing upside to be locked into cash lineups. On Fanduel, Fields isn’t in play for cash games, but he still presents an excellent ceiling for tournaments.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (VS. ATL)
FD: +$947, 2.05X
This is the spot to play Saquon Barkley. Last week didn’t bring much fantasy production for the former No. 2 overall pick, but it did usher in an impressive 84% snap share for Barkley — the 2nd-best mark of any Week 2 RB. That 84% snap share is critical to note, as Barkley eclipsed that mark in 7 of his 13 games in 2019, signifying that the NYG coaching staff is likely ready to unleash the talented 4th-year RB in the bell cow capacity we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. With additional rest from playing their Week 2 game on Thursday night, Barkley’s Week 3 workload could easily be similar to the 16.7 carries and 5.6 targets per game he saw in 2019. Not to mention this is by far the cheapest Barkley has ever been on Fanduel — and by $1200 in salary.
If Twitter discourse is any indication, people are still worried about Saquon’s performance post-ACL tear. And those worries are certainly rational, given Barkley looks closer to Falcons-era Todd Gurley than 2019 Saquon Barkley. But even if Saquon is 90% of his usual self on a full Saquon workload, we are still looking at roughly 15.1 Fanduel FPG — a mark that would’ve been good for RB10 last year. And yet Barkley is the RB20 by salary on Fanduel. So, as I see it, we are staring at the rare opportunity of a generational talent at RB priced as an RB2, and likely seeing lower ownership than he should due to concerns over his rehab and recovery. Which is to say, he’s both a lock-button play in cash games and an excellent leverage opportunity in tournaments on Fanduel.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. LAC)
DK: +$789 , 2.59X
This is the cheapest Edwards-Helaire has ever been on DraftKings — by $1,000 in salary. That salary discount isn’t without cause, as CEH has averaged a dreadful 3.3 YPC and 6.9 DraftKings FPG through two weeks. Still, CEH has seen 13 or more touches in each contest, and his 69% snap share ranks 13th at the position so far this year, while his 78% XFP positional market share ranks 8th.
He might be #NotGood, but he’s still the lead back on the best offense in the history of football. That’s absolutely worth something in fantasy, especially at his absurd RB34 DraftKings salary.
Week 3 ushers in (shockingly, I know) another high total game (55.5) for the Chiefs, with KC presenting the main slate’s highest implied team total (31.0). More importantly, the Chargers are an outstanding matchup for opposing RBs, as Brandon Staley’s defense has been daring opponents to run the ball this season, giving up the 7th-most rush attempts per game (29.0) and 6th-most FPG to opposing RBs (23.1). With Tyreek Hill’s game breaking speed always on display, I would expect the Chargers defense to play even more conservatively than they did in Weeks 1 and 2 — which should present an opportunity for CEH to have his highest-touch game so far this year.
I get that this isn’t a sexy play by any means (which hopefully reduces ownership), but the salary, game environment, and matchup are simply too good to pass up. It’s probably too cute for cash, but Edwards-Helaire is one of my favorite tournament this week. Granted, if he can’t provide value this week on his meager $4,800 salary, then he can likely be written off for the remainder of his KC tenure as a ‘generational bust’.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (VS. TB)
DK: +$380, 2.13X
Kupp ranks 1st among all non-QBs in FPG (30.3) and while we can’t continue to expect that level of dominance to continue, he does rank 3rd among WRs in XFP per game (20.7). And Kupp ranks 7th among WRs in targets per game (11.0), 1st in end zone targets per game (2.5), 3rd in YPRR (4.59). Yet, he’s the WR9 on DraftKings.
A matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that embarrassed the Chiefs in last year’s Super Bowl is never ideal, but this game does offer the highest over/under (55.5) of the week, and the Rams have the 6th-highest team implied point total of the slate (27.25). If we eliminate Jared Goff’s dreadful 2020 season from the equation, then Kupp has averaged an impressive 19.9 DraftKings FPG when the Rams’ implied team total is more than 27.0 points. And our own Wes Huber noted Kupp’s matchup with Ross Cockrell as one to target in his Advanced Matchups column.
Ownership here should get pretty heavy, so pivoting off of Kupp to other leverage options in tournaments is absolutely worth consideration. But for cash games on DraftKings, Kupp’s a must-play.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (AT KC)
DK: +$131, 2.24X / FD: +$517, 2.14X
Allen ranks 5th among WRs in XFP per game (20.3) and 5th in targets (21), but is just the WR11 by salary on DraftKings and the WR15 on Fanduel. And the Chargers are 7-point underdogs in the 3rd-highest total game (54.5) of the Week 3 main slate. In his career, as more than a 5.5-point underdog Allen averages 18.9 DraftKings FPG and 14.6 Fanduel FPG — numbers that both would’ve ranked top 7 among WRs last year.
The Chargers will almost certainly need to throw the ball, and Allen is going to see roughly 23-25% of those passes come his way. He’s a solid play on DK, but an excellent one on Fanduel at WR15, where he can absolutely be considered for cash game lineups.
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams (VS. TB)
FD: +$528, 1.98X
Confusingly, Woods has actually run less routes (50) this season than both Van Jefferson (56) and Tyler Higbee (51). Granted, we are nowhere near panic territory, as Woods is still averaging 15.4 XFP per game and has a 21.4% target share through two weeks — numbers that both rank 2nd on the team to Cooper Kupp.
And this is a great scoring environment, with the Rams offering an implied team total of 27.25, the 6th-best of the Week 3 main slate. In his career, Woods has averaged 13.9 Fanduel FPG — a mark that would’ve ranked 11th among all WRs last year. Still, Woods is the WR24 on Fanduel by salary.
I’m hesitant to recommend Woods for cash, as I’m not sure what to make of his route share, and there are stronger points per dollar values at the WR position on Fanduel. Regardless, Woods' target share and game environment are exactly what we look for in a tournament-winning WR.
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (AT KC)
FD: +$722, 2.00X
Williams ranks 2nd among all WRs in XFP per game through two weeks (22.5). And he ranks 2nd in end zone targets per game (2.0), 2nd in targets per game (12.0), and 5th in FPG (22.2).
Surprised? Well, you probably shouldn’t be if you listened to OC Joe Lombardi in June, when he noted that Williams was in line for a massively expanded, Michael Thomas-esque role.
And since this is a values article, I’m obligated to point out that Williams is the WR26 on Fanduel. In the 3rd-highest total (54.5) game of the Week 3 main slate, as 7-point underdogs. Despite ranking in the top-5 among WRs in all those aforementioned metrics. Absurd, I know.
Sometimes values just slap you across the face because they are so glaringly obvious, and Mike Williams on Fanduel is one of those moments. I’m not overthinking this spot, I’m just hitting the lock button on Williams.
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (VS CIN)
FD: +$522, 2.33X
Note: Claypool is only a value if Diontae Johnson (knee) is ruled out Sunday.
Assuming Diontae Johnson is inactive this week, Claypool is a screaming value as just the 30th highest-priced WR on Fanduel. Since Week 4 of last season, Claypool has averaged 19.9 FPG in games Johnson failed to see double-digit targets (5). For perspective, 19.9 FPG would’ve ranked 4th-best among WRs last season.
And let’s not forget that Claypool is really #good at football. He led all Steelers WRs last season in YPRR (2.00), PFF receiving grade (76.1), YAC per reception (5.4), deep targets (31), and passer rating when targeted (116.7). Plus this is a solid matchup, as Cincinnati’s defense gave up the 7th-most FPG to outside WRs last year (24.1).
Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, WRs, Cincinnati Bengals (AT PIT)
This trio has gotten off to a hot start this year, with all three players averaging 10.0 or more FPG through two weeks. From a production standpoint Chase has been the star of the show, ranking 20th among WRs in FPG (17.2) — but he’s far out produced his expectation — as he’s averaged just 9.1 XFP per game (70th).
Higgins (who is dealing with a shoulder injury) has seen the best usage of the three, as his 15.7 XFP per game ranks 21st among WRs, and his 15.9 FPG ranks 25th.
And then there’s Boyd, who feels like the odd man out but has still seen 13 targets through two games. While he’s my least favorite of these three from a season-long perspective, he draws an excellent matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that was a slot funnel last year, with 42.4% of their production allowed to WRs coming from the slot (4th-most). The slot funnel seems to have continued into 2021, with both Cole Beasley and Hunter Renfrow leading their respective teams in targets against Pittsburgh in Weeks 1 and 2.
So how do we view this group of WRs in Week 3? Higgins is a much stronger play on DraftKings (WR34) than Fanduel (WR23), while the opposite is true of Chase, who is WR27 on Fanduel but WR29 on DraftKings. Boyd’s a decent value on DK, clocking in at WR42. But I’m not touching Boyd on a half-PPR site like Fanduel, where he ranks as the WR34. All three are tournament-only options, and given the fairly equal target distribution, I wouldn’t expect heavy ownership on any of these players, making for an interesting leverage opportunity in tournaments.
Marvin Jones, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (VS. ARI)
Jones appears to be Jacksonville’s WR1 through two weeks, seeing a team-leading 19 targets and running a team-leading 81 routes. And Jones has been one of the league’s most utilized players in the end zone so far, as his 4 end zone targets ties Mike Williams for the league lead. That’s all translated to a great fantasy start for the season for Jones, who’s scored 18.7 points and 17.5 points in his two games (and is currently the WR16 this season), while currently ranking as WR14 by XFP per game (17.6).
Yet, Jones is priced as just the WR41 on DraftKings. He’s $400 cheaper than D.J. Chark, who’s likely the WR2 on this team. Our own Wes Huber acknowledged Jones’ matchup with Arizona CB Robert Alford as one to target, writing, “Jones has quickly ascended toward becoming Trevor Lawrence’s go-to receiver… For a $4.9K investment on DK, Jones provides the 12th-most routes/game (40.5), 10th-most targets/game (9.5), and third-most air yards/game (143).”
The value here is so glaring that it’s hard to see Jones as anything other than one of Week 3’s most chalky WR options. And how could he not be? The Jaguars are 7.5-point underdogs and will surely have to throw as much as any team in Week 3. That means plenty of volume for this passing attack, and Jones has proven through two weeks that he’s the main beneficiary.
Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears (AT CLE)
DK: +$134, 2.65X / FD: 2.04X
Mooney might be making a push to be Chicago’s WR1, despite the presence of veteran Allen Robinson. Through two games, Mooney leads the team in route share (96%) and target share (23%) — besting Robinson’s numbers of 90% and 22%. Even if we don’t believe that Mooney is the team’s leading WR, these numbers are still a massive improvement on Mooney’s 2020 route share of 78% and 2020 target share of 15%.
Wes Huber noted Mooney’s favorable matchup in this game, and acknowledged the Browns allowed the 7th-highest rate of deep completions, great news for Mooney given he led Chicago in deep targets last season (23), seeing a 20+ yard target an incredible 25% of the time. He’s obviously not in play in cash games, but his increased role combined with his WR57 salary make for a clear-cut value in tournaments, with the added bonus of minuscule ownership.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Buffalo Bills (VS. WAS)
DK: 2.63X / FD: 2.12X
Sanders ranked as the No. 10 positive regression candidate in this week’s XFP Report, as he averaged just 8.0 FPG on a 15.4 XFP per game workload. He’s clearly the WR3 in Buffalo, logging a 90% route share (2nd-best on the team) and a 14.3% target share (3rd). Among WRs, Sanders ranks 24th in targets per game (8.5), 6th in air yards per game (136.5), 14th in end zone targets per game (1.0), 24th in XFP per game (15.4), but just 74th in actual FPG (8.0).
So Sanders is either spectacularly inefficient in his age 34 season (a la 2020 AJ Green) or he’s just been unlucky and is a tremendous Week 3 value as the 58th most-expensive WR on DraftKings. Personally, I don’t know the correct answer, but I’m willing to go back to the well here in tournaments given the obvious workload-based value.
K.J. Osborn, WR, Minnesota Vikings (VS. SEA)
DK: +$549, 2.54X
Through two weeks, K.J. Osborn has run a route on 82% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks. And he’s been targeted on 15% of Cousins passing attempts, catching all 12 of his targets for 167 yards and a score. Unbelievably, on a per-game basis, Osborn is currently the WR19 in PPR. Minnesota, thin at TE, has clearly moved away from their usual 2TE usage in favor of more 3WR sets. In fact, they’ve increased their utilization of 3WR sets by 26% (from 38% to 64%) since last year. And Osborn is the big winner.
Week 3 brings the ideal game environment for Vikings’ pass catchers, as Minnesota faces Seattle in the game with the highest total (56.0) of the week. And Osborn has played 70% of his snaps from the slot; great news considering Seattle gave up the most FPG (16.5) to opposing slot WRs last year. Osborn is realistically mispriced by $500-1,000 on both sites, and given that I wouldn’t expect massive ownership here, he’s likely to be one of my favorite overall plays Sunday..
T.J. Hockenson TE, Detroit Lions (VS. BAL)
DK: +$191, 2.60X / FD: 2.14X
Hockenson currently ranks 2nd among TEs in XFP per game (17.6), behind only Darren Waller. For perspective, 17.6 XFP per game would’ve ranked 1st among all TEs last year, ahead of both Travis Kelce (16.7) and Waller (15.5). This wasn’t due to a singular blow up game, as Hockenson finished Week 1 as the TE2 by XFP (19.8) and Week 2 as TE1 (15.4). And he’s 4th in TE route share (87% — a 16% increase from last year) and 3rd in TE target share (21.5%). Not to mention he easily leads Detroit in both targets (20) and routes (87).
Through two weeks, it’s clear that Hockenson is the Lions’ leading receiver. And he may have the inside track to becoming fantasy’s TE3 if he can maintain this role long term.
With that said, for Week 3, Hockenson shapes up as one of the top projected points per dollar plays at the TE position. As 7.5-point underdogs, the Lions will need to throw as much as any team this week, and we can expect the plurality of those targets will go to Hockenson. And this is a Ravens team that’s given up a league-leading 17.7 FPG to opposing TEs this year. The value here is obvious enough that I expect Hockenson to be one of the highest owned TEs of the week on both sites, as, like I said, he’s one of (if not the) top projected points per dollar values.
Value Stack: Justin Fields + Darnell Mooney
DK: 3.54X / FD: 2.57X
This is the rare occasion where our value stack will likely see rather low ownership across the board, making it an awesome option in tournaments. Fields offers both the best floor and ceiling of any rookie QB starting right now, and he ranks no higher than the QB22 (by salary) on either site. Pair that with a sophomore WR who seems poised for a year two breakout, and you’ve got yourself the best value stack of the week.