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.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers (@ ARI)
DK: +$257, 3.75X / FD: +$611, 3.10X
If Trey Lance starts in the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo this Sunday (which appears likely), look out, because Lance will be the top projected value at QB of the Week 5 main slate.
Lance crucially offers the best rushing upside of any QB in the 2021 class, and consequently, some of the best fantasy upside of any QB in the NFL, if he’s a Week 5 starter. During his lone season as the starter at NDSU, he earned an insane 5.16 yards after contact per attempt and forced 40 missed tackles on just 134 rush attempts. Playing for the coach who orchestrated Robert Griffin III’s illustrious rookie campaign and averaging 13.3 rushing FPG in college translate to Lance’s Konami Code upside being off the charts.
And what did we see in Week 4? Lance only played a half, but still managed to score 20.4 fantasy points, and is currently QB12 on the week. He also rushed 7 times for 41 yards. All that fantasy success came with HC Kyle Shanahan noting that “the gameplan wasn’t built for him” as the 49ers weren’t aware that Jimmy G couldn’t play until right before the 2nd half started.
Now imagine what Lance and this offense could do when they know he’s the starter, with a full week of practice under their belts? Yea, Trey Lance is arguably the biggest QB DFS value of the season heading into Week 5.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (@ JAX)
DK: +$486, 3.01X / FD: 2.32X
NFL Rushing Leaders:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) October 6, 2021
1. Derrick Henry - 510 yards
2. Derrick Henry AFTER CONTACT - 365
3. Nick Chubb - 362
4. Joe Mixon - 353
5. Ezekiel Elliott - 342
Just like last week, Derrick Henry is the overall RB1 by a landslide. And just like last week, he projects to see the best workload of any RB, this time as a 5-point favorite against Jacksonville, a team that’s given up the 7th-most FPG to opposing RBs this season (21.6). Over the last three seasons, Henry has averaged 26.5 DraftKings FPG and 23.5 Fanduel FPG when the Titans are favored by 4.0 or more points (12 instances). Henry has 113 carries through the first 4 weeks - the 5th-most carries by any RB through the first 4 weeks of any season all time. Over the course of the entire 2020 season, an RB only saw 30 or more carries 10 times. Henry has surpassed 30 carries twice this year alone. He leads the position, and is 2nd among all players in XFP per game at 23.3. And he’s seeing 4.0 targets per game (+2.1 per game compared to last season), currently more than Alvin Kamara (3.8), Kareem Hunt (3.8), J.D. McKissic (3.5), or Ezekiel Elliott (2.5). His volume is mind blowing.
Henry is nearly impossible to fade given the historic volume, projected gamescript, and opponent, making him an easy lock-button play on both sites, but especially on DraftKings where we project him as a 3X value. And he has the added bonus of both Julio Jones and AJ Brown being questionable with hamstring injuries, and should they both sit out, Henry’s touch floor is arguably higher than any other RBs touch ceiling. Henry is the RB1 in Week 5, and it’s really not close.
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (VS. TEN)
DK: +$694, 2.48X / FD: 2.01X
Robinson resumed his 2020 workload last Thursday night with Carlos Hyde inactive, seeing a 95% snap share, 19 total touches and scoring 20.6 fantasy points. Contrary to initial reports, Hyde was not “a healthy scratch”, and appears to have recovered from the surprise shoulder injury that kept him from suiting up in Week 4, and is expected to be active this week. Still, among RBs, Robinson ranks 8th in route share (60%), 8th in target share (12%), 5th in backfield XFP market share (76%), and 6th in snap share (71%).
Despite the bell cow-esque workload, Robinson is the RB13 (by salary) on DraftKings, and the RB9 on Fanduel.
As 4.5-point underdogs, Robinson’s cemented receiving role will keep him on the field in the event the Jags get down early, which helps negate the impact of Carlos Hyde stealing some of Robinson’s early down work. Robinson has historically excelled in negative gamescript, averaging 18.2 DraftKings FPG and 15.7 Fanduel FPG when the Jaguars are underdogs by 3.0 or more points. And should the Jaguars manage to put up points, Robinson should absorb most, or all of the backfield's TD equity, as no other Jaguars RB has touched the ball inside the 10 yard-line this season. Robinson is in play for cash on DraftKings, but I’m most interested in him as a tournament play, specifically on Fanduel where he should carry relatively low ownership.
Damien Williams, RB, Chicago Bears (@ LV)
DK: 2.42X / FD: +$441, 2.34X
David Montgomery has been ruled out for Week 5, leaving Damien Williams as the Bears lead rusher, presenting himself as one of the top RB values of the slate. This season, Montgomery has averaged 18.8 touches per game, 89.5 yards from scrimmage per game, and 15.0 FPG. Among the RBs who have played in every game this season, those numbers rank 5th, 10th, and 15th.
Rookie Khalil Herbert should rotate in, but given that he's only played 10 career offensive snaps, we can safely assume this is Williams’ backfield for Week 5. And let’s not forget that Williams is an underrated talent. He sat out the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, but in 2019 he ranked 4th among all RBs with 3.59 yards after contact per attempt (Derrick Henry’s career average is 3.74, for reference), and was 2nd among all rushers in PFF’s elusive rating with a mark of 89.2.
Playing the Raiders in Week 5 sets up the Bears as 5.5-point underdogs, but Williams should stay involved regardless, as he has a respectable career 1.44 YPRR, and has finished with a PFF receiving grade over 70.0 in five of his six full seasons. Backup RB Khalil Herbert only caught 10 passes in his best college season (2020), so he’s not a player I’d be very concerned about usurping Williams’ pass game role, especially given Williams relative talent as a receiver.
Williams’ price tags of RB21 on DraftKings (by salary) and RB28 on Fanduel just doesn’t accurately reflect his projected role on Sunday. He's still a fine value, but if DFS players are expecting Hyde inactive and ownership is higher than expected, I'd temper my expectations
Samaje Perine, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (VS. GB)
Perine pops as an obvious value in any projection model, as the potential absence of Joe Mixon would result in Perine earning the vast majority of carries in this Bengals backfield, at the stone minimum price on DraftKings. It’s worth noting, though, that Perine won’t have full control over the Bengals’ backfield Sunday:
Perine is still the RB2 and will get more touches but Evans is the better pass-catching RB and could see the higher snap share on third downs. https://t.co/JYiLPiU59B— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 7, 2021
Perine’s touch floor looks solid, but given he’ll suffer should the Bengals enter a negative gamescript, his touch ceiling is certainly a concern, especially with rookie Chris Evans poised to steal most of the pass game work. His career 3.8 YPC doesn’t inspire much confidence from a talent perspective, but absorbing even just 60% of Mixon’s 20.8 carries per game forces Perine into the cash game conversation given his $4,000 salary on DraftKings. For tournaments, however, the lack of pass game work, projected gamescript, and limited talent make me quite wary, especially at double-digit ownership. I’ll be underweight on Perine in GPPs as a result.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers (@ CIN)
DK: +$574, 2.09X / FD: +$917, 2.09X
Adams has averaged 24.0 FPG since Week 1 of 2020. Over a full season, that would rank 9th all time among WRs, and would be the best WR fantasy season since Antonio Brown averaged 24.3 FPG in 2015. Over that same time span, there have only been 10 instances of a WR scoring 40.0 or more fantasy points in a single game. Adams makes up 30% of those instances. He offers incredible TD equity, as Adams 52 red zone targets since Week 1 of 2020 rank 2nd only to Tyreek Hill’s 57.
Week 5 ushers in a matchup at Cincinnati, and while we may not have believed it at the start of the season, this game is expected to remain competitive, with the Bengals only 3.0-point underdogs in the 3rd-highest game total (50.0) of the Week 5 main slate. Unsurprisingly, Adams has historically crushed spots like this, averaging 26.5 DraftKings FPG and 19.5 Fanduel FPG since 2018 in road games with a total of greater than 48.5 (13 instances). Given his talent and usage, Adams should be about $1,000 more expensive on both sites, especially since he’s playing in one of the top scoring environments of Week 5. He’s $8,200 on both Fanduel and DraftKings, which is $742 lower than his average DK price over the last 14 games, and $1,092 lower than his average FD price. He’s likely to be the highest owned WR on both sites, but that’s typically what happens when we encounter a value this strong.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (VS. DEN)
DK: 1.89X / FD: 1.76X
Johnson ranks 1st among WRs in targets per game (11.7) and 8th in FPG (19.4). Over his last 18 games, Johnson has seen double-digit targets 13 times, and in the five games he didn’t see double-digit targets, he was either injured, dealing with an injury, benched due to drops, or Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play. So, with the exception of an outlier benching, in every healthy game with Big Ben since the start of last season, Johnson has seen 10 or more targets. This season, he leads all players at all positions in XFP per game (23.7) and XFP market share (32%).
That’s high-end WR1 volume that’s surely worthy of an equivalent price tag, right? Well, DFS sites don’t seem to agree, as Johnson clocks in as the WR11 on DraftKings and WR13 on Fanduel. That may be due to a perceived difficult matchup against Denver, but the Broncos have allowed 31.1 FPG to opposing WRs this season, good for 15th in the league. In a neutral-at-worst matchup, Johnson will either have another double-digit target game, end up injured, or do both, as he’s shown over the last two seasons there is no in-between.
Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears (@ LV)
DK: 2.52X / FD: 2.12X
Bears OC Bill Lazor called the plays today, for the first time since Week 17 of last year— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 3, 2021
Can we go ahead and just name him the interim head coach now?
Last 7 games as play caller
Bill Lazor: 29.3 points per game (24+ in 6 of 7)
Matt Nagy: 16.1 points per game (24+ in 0 of 7)
The days of Allen Robinson as the Bears’ uncontested WR1 appear to be over. Darnell Mooney currently leads the team in target share (24.8%), route share (94.5%), receiving yards (226), YPRR (1.88), targets of 20 or more yards (4), and FPG (10.2). That’s great usage for Mooney, but it hasn’t translated to anything resembling great production due to the anemic nature of the Bears offense through the first three weeks of the season. But now HC Matt Nagy has abandoned play calling duties, and Week 4 saw OC Bill Lazor orchestrate a 24-point performance - the best of the Bears 2021 season. And Mooney finished Week 4 with a career high 125 receiving yards and 18.5 fantasy points. Plus Mooney’s earned a team-high 29% target share and 48% yardage share with Fields under center.
With Bill Lazor calling plays, Mooney’s current price tags of WR45 on DraftKings and WR40 on Fanduel make little sense given his usage through the first quarter of the season. As 5.5-point underdogs to the Raiders this week, the Bears should be forced to throw, and given the change in play calling duties, we can finally have some confidence they will be able to put points up on the board. Mooney will be one of the main beneficiaries of that additional offensive output, and that makes him a clear value in Week 5.
Curtis Samuel, WR, Washington Football Team (VS. NO)
DK: +$891, 2.87X
The race to be the No. 2 receiving weapon in Washington is on, especially now that TE Logan Thomas has been placed on IR with a hamstring injury. Curtis Samuel’s season debut in Week 4 wasn’t flashy, as he earned a 37% snap share and ran a route on 31% of dropbacks, but he did still see four targets, which tied for the 3rd-most on the team. If there’s one thing we know about Ron Rivera, it’s that he loves to get Samuel designed touches. That was on display in Week 4, as despite his limited playing time, two of Samuels’ four targets were deemed ‘screens’ by PFF. We saw this the last time Rivera and Samuel were together with the Panthers in 2019, when Samuel led all WRs in carries (19) and ranked in the top-20 among WRs in screens (9). When we play min-priced WRs, we are almost always just trying to avoid complete disaster. Samuel’s locked-in touch floor makes the worst-case scenario of a goose egg score almost impossible, and that should make him quite a popular salary-saving option in Week 5. He’s still not an advisable play in tournaments, as his part time role and the risk of re-aggravating his hamstring clearly limit his ceiling. Those same risks are present in cash games, but the $3,000 price tag on DraftKings makes those risks easier to look past, especially given his relatively secure floor.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins (@ TB)
DK: +$377, 1.99X / FD: +$289, 1.49X
Miami is going to need to air it out this week as 10-point underdogs to Tampa Bay. DFS players are aware of this, and they are just as aware that the Buccaneers are a fantastic matchup for opposing WRs, allowing the 2nd-most FPG (34.1) through four weeks. So why write up Mike Gesicki? Shouldn’t we be focusing on Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker?
Which TEs are playing from WR alignments the most?— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) October 7, 2021
1. Mike Gesicki - 96% WR alignment rate
2. Dan Arnold - 84.4%
3. Logan Thomas - 79%
4. Kyle Pitts - 78%
5. Hunter Henry - 74%
6. Travis Kelce - 72%
7. TJ Hockenson - 68%
8. Zach Ertz - 65%
Well, what many are missing is that Mike Gesicki is a WR, who just so happens to carry a TE designation. Among TEs this season, Gesicki is 9th in targets per game (6.8), 5th in air yards per game (57.0), 9th in XFP per game (11.1), and 7th in target share (18%). And he earned those numbers against New England, Buffalo, Las Vegas, and Indianapolis - all much tougher matchups for WRs as they’ve collectively allowed 18.7 FPG to opposing wide outs. The Buccaneers have given up the 4th-most FPG to TEs lined up in the slot or out wide. And the 3rd-most FPG to TEs overall. The Dolphins questionable (at best) QB and offensive line play limit the overall upside of this offense, and that takes Gesicki out of the cash game conversation. But for tournaments, it’s tough to think of a better contrarian TE play when the rest of the industry is dialed in on these Miami WRs.
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Washington Football Team (VS. NO)
DK: +$351, 1.88X
Logan Thomas has been placed on IR with a hamstring injury, and that opens the door to a near full-time role for Ricky Seals-Jones in Week 5 and beyond. After Thomas left Washington’s Week 4 game against Atlanta in the 1st quarter, Seals-Jones earned a career high 62 snaps (93% snap share), finished 2nd on the team in routes (31), 3rd in targets (4), and lined up in the slot or out wide on 74.4% of his routes. That’s a very fantasy-friendly workload.
Prior to Week 4, Logan Thomas ranked 1st among all TEs in route share (93.2%), and 9th in target share (15.4%) while averaging 11.9 FPG (TE6). Now imagine he was a slightly worse player, and at the minimum price on DraftKings. That’s Ricky Seals-Jones in Week 5. Expect RSJ to be the TE chalk, and potentially the highest owned play in Week 5, as he’s a free square in cash games and an outstanding value in all other formats.