During 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 Fantasy Points, 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.
Gardner Minshew, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (@ DAL)
DK: +$1,060, 3.11X / FD: +$1,350, 2.45X
Gardner Minshew is expected to take over the league’s 2nd-highest scoring offense (29.4 PPG), while Jalen Hurts rests a sprained shoulder. In his 22 career starts, Minshew averages 19.0 DraftKings FPG – a mark that ranks 8th-best among slate-eligible QBs.
Despite this, Minshew is priced as the QB36 by DraftKings salary ($4,800), presenting one of the most obvious QB values of the 2022 season. That said, there are still some concerns here, to the point that fading the massively underpriced Minshew in GPPs is still viable.
Dallas ranks as the 2nd-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (-4.0 FPG), generating the highest pressure rate over expectation (+12%). In terms of expected pressure, Minshew has one of the worst matchups of the slate.
Digging deeper, only three QBs have exceeded 20.0 DraftKings points against Dallas. Even Jalen Hurts was limited to 16.9 DraftKings points the last time these teams met, his worst game of the season.
But, if Minshew only manages to score the 14.7 DraftKings FPG that opposing QBs have averaged against Dallas this year, he would still pop as a 3.06X value on DraftKings, making him the QB6 (by value) in our projections. The bottom line: Minshew is just too cheap, leaving a massive margin for a mediocre performance while still providing significant value.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers (VS. WAS)
DK: 2.31X / FD: 1.87X
McCaffrey has played 4 full games with the 49ers and without Elijah Mitchell. In those games, he’s finished 2nd, 1st, 13th, and 1st in XFP. By fantasy points scored, he’s finished 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 4th.
Here’s how McCaffrey (in games with the 49ers and without Mitchell) stacks up against some of the other top RBs in fantasy:
A 30-point projection for McCaffrey doesn’t seem at all outlandish. Because, without Michell, he is averaging 29.7 FPG, which is also +37% better than the next-closest RB (Austin Ekeler).
McCaffrey’s matchup might be the only argument against a 30-point projection. Washington is the 8th-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (-1.8 FPG), and Chase Young (who earned PFF’s 5th-highest run defense grade among edge defenders last year) will be returning to the lineup.
Maybe McCaffrey will have an uphill battle to be efficient in this tough matchup. I’m not sure. But I am sure he’s seeing the best usage (by far) at the position as long as Elijah Mitchell is out. McCaffrey is the top value RB because of it.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (VS. HOU)
DK: +$886, 3.12X / FD: 2.33X
Derrick Henry— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 14, 2022
in wins: 16.9 FPG
in losses: 7.0 FPG
in wins: 23.8 FPG
in losses: 13.4 FPG
in wins: 23.8 FPG
in losses: 12.0 FPG
in wins: 27.4 FPG
in losses: 18.2 FPG
in wins: 23.3 FPG
in losses: 13.9 FPG
In last week’s Usage Report, Scott Barrett discussed how Derrick Henry was (by far) the single most gamescript-sensitive player in fantasy. And how although he is also one of the most matchup-sensitive RBs in fantasy, that isn’t quite as important to him as gamescript.
He wrote, “Henry has reached 30.0 DK fantasy points 15 times in his career, with all of these games coming in wins. His career-high in a non-overtime loss is just 25.5 DK fantasy points.” But last week – in a non-overtime loss – Henry bested that mark with 29.3 DK fantasy points. This came against a Chargers defense ranking worst in YPC allowed (5.49) and 5th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (26.6). On the ground, he turned 21 carries into 104 yards and a score. Through the air – in a game Dontrell Hilliard missed – Henry caught all 4 of his targets for 59 yards (4th-most of his career).
This week Henry has a best-possible matchup, and one with ideal projected gamescript; the Titans are favored by 7.0 points, up against a Texans defense that ranks 4th-worst in YPC allowed (5.07), worst in rushing YPG allowed (141.3), and worst in rushing FPG allowed (21.4) to opposing RBs.
Throughout his career, Henry averages +7.6 more DK FPG when the Titans are favored by 7.0 or more points (11 instances, 23.1 DK FPG). He averages +7.5 more DK FPG when facing a defense that ranks bottom-7 in YPC allowed. And over his last 4 games against Houston, he averages an obscene 40.8 DK FPG, exceeding 38.5 DK fantasy points in each of these games.
Derrick Henry rushing last four games against the Texans:— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 20, 2022
Henry joins Christian McCaffrey as the top RB value of the week. Both players will be massively owned, and while I give a slight lean to CMC for those forced to pick between them, they are both outstanding plays.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots (VS. CIN)
DK: 2.27X / FD: 1.73X
Rhamondre Stevenson, who entered Week 15 questionable:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) December 19, 2022
66% of snaps
68% of backfield carries for 172 yards (9.1 YPC)
59% of backfield routes (3 targets)
Stevenson earned a monster workload and had a tremendously efficient game in Week 15 despite significant doubt if he would play. With an extra week of rest, he may get closer to his previous role – a high-end bell cow workload that saw him average 20.4 XFP/G (a mark that would lead all non-Austin Ekeler RBs over the full season) over his previous five games.
The matchup is a below-average one, with Cincinnati ranking as the 12th-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs since Week 10 (-2.1 FPG). But the spread (Bengals -3.0) should help Stevenson do additional damage in the passing game, where he’s scored 46% of fantasy points this season.
Stevenson’s usage is too good to pass up at a $7,100 DraftKings price tag in a likely negative gamescript. He’s not quite as strong of a value as Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, or Jerick McKinnon – but he’s still one of the top RB values of the slate.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. SEA)
DK: 2.71X / FD: 1.92X
Over the last three weeks, McKinnon averages 8.0 carries, 6.3 targets, 105.3 YFS/G, and 1.3 touchdowns per game. In other words, he averages 17.4 XFP/G and 26.2 FPG; numbers which rank 7th- and 2nd-best over this span.
McKinnon isn’t quite a bell cow right now, but he has seen an increased snap share in 4 straight games: 31% > 46% > 57% > 62%. And if this trend continues, McKinnon could definitely be a league-winner throughout the fantasy playoffs. After all, last year in the actual playoffs, McKinnon played on 75% of the team’s snaps averaging 105.0 YFS/G and 17.2 FPG with only 1 touchdown through 3 games.
McKinnon isn’t quite a bell cow right now, but he is the clear RB1 of this team – handling 64% of Kansas City’s backfield XFP over the last three weeks. And even if he isn’t a bell cow right now, he is – at least – a bell cow where it matters most.
Over the last three weeks, McKinnon has played on 82% of the team’s red zone snaps and 91% of the team’s goal line snaps, while handling 86% of the backfield XTD. He’s handled 76% of the backfield targets, but only 37% of the carries out of the backfield. Luckily for him, carries outside of the red zone are fairly worthless – outside of the red zone, a target is worth 3.0 times as much as a carry for a RB in PPR leagues. And they’re especially (relatively) worthless when you’re on a team that ranks 1st in pass rate over expectation (12.9%) as well as 1st in red zone drives per game (4.2).
So where does this leave us? With a slate-high 29.0-point implied total, the Chiefs face a Seahawks defense that ranks dead-last in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+4.6). McKinnon is easily the best value for those paying down at RB.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (VS. NYG)
DK: 2.54X / FD: 1.84X
Justin Jefferson is seeing volume no other WR (or player, for that matter) can rival. Jefferson has averaged an absurd 23.1 XFP/G since Week 9. If sustained over the full season, that would lead all players at all positions by 1.9 XFP/G. He has six games of 20.0 or more XFP over his last seven games. For perspective, only four other players have at least six games of 20.0 or more XFP over the entire season.
No player has more games with at least a 25% target share than Jefferson (12). He has six games with at least 130 receiving yards, the 4th-most all-time.
So Jefferson is seeing unmatched volume, and he’s putting up unbeatable scores (27.9 FPG over his last four games, most among all flex players by +2.5 FPG). And, if you needed another reason to play him, he’s faced with an outstanding matchup…
With Adoree Jackson out, Fabian Moreau has shadowed in three straight games (Terry McLaurin 2X, DeVonta Smith), giving up 100.3 YFS/G and 18.4 FPG to shadowed WRs in these games. Over the last 5 weeks, the Giants have given up a league-high +7.4 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing outside WRs, and a league-high +10.7 to left WRs (where Justin Jefferson has aligned on 55% of his routes.
Jefferson is right there (with WRs who cost $5,000 less) as the top WR value of the slate. If you are getting away from Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry, it should be to pay up for Jefferson.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (@ NE)
DK: 2.63X / FD: 2.08X
Chase ranks 6th among all WRs in his share of team positional XFP (49%) since returning from injury in Week 13, averaging 20.8 XFP (4th) over that stretch.
Since Week 6, Chase has averaged 25.9 FPG, which would lead all WRs by 2.5 FPG over the full season. And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence Chase became fantasy’s most productive WR from Week 6 onward. The Bengals have posted a +11.6% pass rate over expectation since Week 6, compared to a +3.1% PROE in their first five games. Joe Burrow’s fantasy outputs have notably jumped since the offensive shift, averaging 24.5 FPG (QB4) over that stretch (a 23% improvement on his output before Week 6).
The Bengals have arguably the best passing attack (for both fantasy and real football) in the NFL since Week 6. And I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t continue into Week 16.
New England has been the single-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing slot WRs since Week 10 (-5.3 FPG), while allowing just 3.5 YPC to opposing RBs. But they rank as a fairly neutral matchup for opposing outside WRs, and, importantly, as the 3rd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for left WRs since Week 10 (where Chase runs 40% of his routes). What does this all mean? The Bengals should shy away from feeding Joe Mixon against a tough run defense, while Tyler Boyd should be locked down, leaving Chase (and Tee Higgins) to absorb the vast majority of the offensive volume.
Chase isn’t quite the play Justin Jefferson is, but that should be reflected in ownership. Regardless, he’s an outstanding value at WR.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions (@ CAR)
DK: 1.88X / FD: 1.39X
Excluding games where Amon-Ra St. Brown suffered an injury or was on the injury report listed as questionable, he’s averaging 10.8 targets and 23.2 FPG over his last 15 games. He’s hit at least 15.0 fantasy points in 13 of 15 and double-digit targets in 12 of 15. Over the full season, 23.2 FPG would rank 2nd among all WRs, and 10.8 targets per game would rank 5th.
From a floor perspective, nobody outside of Justin Jefferson (who costs $1,500 more) can hold a light to St. Brown. He’s been 90% as productive as 2021 Cooper Kupp, but St. Brown costs just 82% of Kipp’s average DraftKings price in the final eight game of 2021 ($9,300).
The matchup is certainly favorable, with Carolina allowing the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+2.5) since Week 11 to opposing slot WRs. The only hole we can poke in St. Brown this week is Jared Goff’s extreme home/road splits. Goff averages +45.9 more passing yards and +2.0 more passing TDs per game at home (277.1 YPG, 2.5 TDs per game) than on the road (231.2 YPG, 0.5 TDs per game). Because of that pitfall, I would consider St. Brown a slightly worse overall play than Jefferson, Chase, and Metcalf – but only barely.
DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks (@ KC)
DK: 2.62X / FD: 1.89X
D.K. Metcalf should be the biggest beneficiary of Tyler Lockett’s absence, as well as this pillow-soft matchup. Metcalf has been a top positive regression candidate for a while, ranking 11th in XFP/G (16.2) but just 18th in FPG (14.7). And most of that stems from poor touchdown luck – he ranks 2nd in end zone targets per game (1.2), but just 14th in total touchdowns (6, tied with 7 other WRs). He’s on pace for only 7.3 touchdowns this year, but averaged 11.0 over his last 2 seasons.
This could be the perfect get-right spot – Kansas City ranks worst in DK FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (21.6), and as the 8th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing outside WRs (+2.1 FPG). He’s a top value in a perfect matchup – who should see added volume thanks to Lockett’s vacated 7.7 targets per game.
Isaiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton, WRs, New York Giants (@ MIN)
I don’t know why multiple Giants coaching staffs emphatically hated Darius Slayton’s guts. Because he looks pretty good to me – he ranks behind only Jaylen Waddle (11.2) and Justin Jefferson (10.3) in YPT average (10.2). And since Week 7, he ranks 20th in receiving yards (523) and 14th in yardage share (28.4%), despite ranking just 32nd in targets (50).
So, yeah… Believe it or not – Slayton has been one of the league’s most efficient WRs this season. And this could be the perfect matchup for him to showcase his hyper-efficiency. Against outside WRs, Minnesota ranks worst in fantasy points allowed over expectation (+121%) and worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+7.5). They also rank 3rd-worst in YPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep passes (62.8), which suits Slayton well, as 30% of his total receiving yards have come on deep targets (14th-most).
And then there is Hodgins, who is an even better value at just $4,100 and earns similar overall volume and a superior red zone role. Over his last three games, Hodgins has earned 50% of New York’s red zone targets (5 total) and 100% of the team’s end zone targets (2), averaging 5.3 targets per game (just 1.0 less than Slayton). But both of these players go from solid usage-based values to some of the best plays of the slate when we account for the matchup. The Vikings are the single-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing outside WRs (+7.5 FPG). Hodgins and Slayton are both strong values in the perfect matchup.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (VS. PHI)
DK: +$886, 2.24X / FD: +$217, 1.25X
Schultz ranks 4th in XFP/G (11.0), 1st in red zone targets per game (1.6), 1st in XTD/G (0.5), and 5th in air yards per game (51.9) since Dak Prescott returned as the starter in Week 7. Based on virtually any usage metric, he’s a compelling value priced as the TE8 on DraftKings ($4,200).
We are fine with Schultz in cash games. But if he projects as one of the most popular tournament options at TE, it isn’t difficult to find reasons to get away from the Dallas TE. Philadelphia is a brutal matchup for any passing game, and TE is no exception, with the Eagles ranking as the 4th-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing TEs since Week 10.
And Schultz has been remarkably volatile in Prescott’s starts, averaging 16.2 FPG in his best four games but just 4.7 FPG in his other three games. So, if Schultz has a low-end performance in Week 16, there is no way he ends up on the winning GPP lineups. He projects quite well, but his floor can still devastate an otherwise great tournament lineup.
Noah Fant, TE, Seattle Seahawks (@ KC)
DK: 2.41X / FD: 1.26X
Schultz is the clear cash TE, but I do find Noah Fant to be a far more compelling tournament option, assuming we get an ownership discount.
Tyler Lockett’s absence opens the door to more playing time for Fant, given the trio of Laquon Treadwell, Penny Hart, and D’Wayne Eskridge have combined for just 115 routes this season (or, roughly 8 routes per game). Fant (130) has doubled Will Dissly’s (63) slot routes this season, and he’s seen notably better usage in the end zone (0.8 end zone targets per game, compared to 0 for Dissly) since Week 10.
Fant carries significant risk. He’s fallen short of 5.0 fantasy points in five games this season. But he’s clearly Seattle’s most trusted receiving option after DK Metcalf and Marquise Goodwin. This passing offense draws an outstanding matchup against a Kansas City defense that’s allowed the most passing TDs (13) and the 2nd-highest completion percentage over expectation (+5.6%) since Week 10. Factor in the 10.0-point spread, and Fant should be looking at his highest-volume outing of the season.