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.
Jared Goff, QB, Detroit Lions (VS. CHI)
DK: +$757, 3.38X / FD: 2.55X
Goff averages 21.6 FPG at home (would rank 5th-best if over the full season), but only 12.3 FPG on the road (would rank 33rd). So, here’s some good news – Goff plays at home this week. Plus, the Lions offer the league’s 2nd-highest implied team total of the week (29.0), and Goff has averaged 22.9 DraftKings FPG (QB3 production on this 13-game slate) across his career when his implied team total is over 28.0 (22 instances) – scoring over 40.0 DraftKings points in 9% of those games.
And better yet, he’s at home in a near-perfect matchup against the Chicago Bears. Since they traded away DE Robert Quinn and LB Roquan Smith in Week 9, they rank worst in opposing passer rating (101.2), worst in YPA allowed (8.3), and 4th-worst in FPG allowed (22.4) to opposing QBs.
Goff is the clear-cut cash game QB this week and should easily be the highest-owned QB in tournaments.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers (@ LV)
DK: +$463, 3.12X / FD: 2.38X
In McCaffrey’s full games without Elijah Mitchell, he’s averaging an absurd 22.6 XFP/G, a 79% snap share, 6.4 targets per game, and 27.6 FPG. For perspective, 22.6 XFP/G is 8% better than the current RB leader in XFP (Austin Ekeler) and 33% better than the RB6 by XFP (Derrick Henry). A 79% snap share ranks 2nd-best among all RBs over the full season and is 15% better than Ekeler (the current RB1). His 6.1 targets per game rivals WRs like Gabe Davis (6.4 targets per game) and Jerry Jeudy (6.5 targets per game). And 27.6 FPG would rank as the 9th-best RB fantasy season ever, if it were sustained for a full year.
McCaffrey has scored at least 25.8 fantasy points in four of five full games without Mitchell. His upside is incredible (demonstrated by his 40.3 fantasy point performance in Week 8), but it might be reasonable to call his floor into question after he dropped just 13.2 fantasy points against Washington in Week 16.
But Washington is a bottom-7 matchup for opposing RBs, and Las Vegas is the polar opposite, ranking 4th-softest by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs this season (+3.6 FPG). Could the 49ers win this game in a blowout (as 10.0-point favorites) and limit CMC’s workload as a result? Yes, that is a legitimate risk. But McCaffrey might only need 3 quarters of work in a great matchup to outscore every RB on the slate. He profiles as the top value RB, assuming you can find the salary to play him in cash.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (VS. IND)
DK: +$757, 2.74X / FD: 2.16X
Barkley seems to have found his groove again after a midseason lull, averaging 25.2 FPG, 20.1 FPG, and 9.0 targets per game over his last two contests. And he draws a great matchup this week, as 6.0-point favorites against the Nick Foles-led Colts, which have given up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+7.2) to opposing RBs since Week 12.
And Barkley has historically crushed as a favorite, averaging 24.8 FPG (RB1 by 2.4 FPG), compared to just 17.0 FPG (RB10) as an underdog across his career. It’s the ideal spot for Barkley, but he doesn’t quite project well enough to qualify as a cash game play.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals (@ ATL)
DK: +$869, 2.47X / FD: +$488, 2.04X
Highest RB snap % in a single week— Chris Wecht (@ChrisWechtFF) December 27, 2022
1. Week 13 - R. Stevenson
2. Week 16 - J. Conner
3. Week 12 - J. Conner
4. Week 14 - J. Conner
5. Week 10 - J. Conner
14. Week 15 - J. Conner
Conner is leading the NFL in Pass Snap % & RZ Snap % since Week 12
Conner is seeing easy top-5 levels of raw volume. But his usage is 2019 Christian McCaffrey-levels of elite.
Since Week 10, he is averaging 19.3 carries, 5.3 targets, 18.4 XFP/G (4th-most), and 20.9 FPG (2nd-most). Over this span, Conner has played on 92.3% of the team’s snaps (most by any RB over this span) while handling 90.2% of the backfield XFP (also most). By both stats the next-closest RB doesn’t really come all that close – Dalvin Cook (80.7% snap share), Derrick Henry (80.2% backfield XFP%).
Given this usage, and Conner’s plus matchup – the Falcons have given up the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs over the last five weeks (+3.9) – it’s clear he’s one of the best cash game plays and high-floor values of the slate. But he is fairly fadeable for tournaments, given that QB David Blough (career 62.2 passer rating) is expected to start for the Cardinals this week
James Conner [2021-2022]— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 27, 2022
w/ Kyler Murray: 13.9 FPG (~RB18)
w/out Kyler Murray: 22.5 FPG* (~RB1)
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots (VS. MIA)
DK: +$349, 2.09X / FD: +$941, 1.81X
Excluding Week 14 (due to injury), Rhamondre Stevenson has hit at least 14.9 XFP in every game since Week 5, averaging 19.4 XFP/G, 6.1 targets per game, and 18.2 FPG. Among slate-eligible RBs, those numbers would rank 2nd, 3rd, and 5th.
Since Week 6 (minus Week 14), he ranks 6th among all RBs in FPG (18.2). Over the same span (with Week 14 excluded), he ranks 3rd in snap share (78%), 1st in target share (21.6%), 2nd in XFP/G (19.8), 1st in team XFP market share (29.5%), and 1st in XFP per play (0.32).
So, Stevenson is a clear value relative to his RB11 DraftKings price tag ($6,800) before we even get into his matchup.
The Dolphins are the single-softest schedule-adjusted receiving matchup for opposing RBs (+4.4 FPG), and have allowed 114% more receiving fantasy points to RBs than expected (2nd-most). In other words, this is the perfect matchup for a RB who is as heavily involved in the pass game as Stevenson.
He’s a strong play, but the recent news that Damien Harris is off the injury report suggests Stevenson’s usage could take a step back in Week 17 – especially with Stevenson dealing with an ankle injury.
Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ HOU)
DK: +$1,286, 2.34X / FD: +$119, 1.82X
Etienne has seemingly struggled throughout Trevor Lawrence’s recent hot streak, averaging just 10.0 FPG over his last 5 full games (down from 23.9 over his previous 3 games). But then again, he’s cleared 100 YFS in back-to-back games. And his usage – even during this recent cold streak – has been among the best in the league. Since Week 10, and excluding Week 12 due to injury, Etienne has played on 76% of the snaps (4th-most) while handling 81% of the team’s backfield XFP (2nd-most).
Further, Etienne has also been saddled with the position’s toughest strength of schedule in recent weeks – five of the last six defenses he’s faced over this span rank top-12 by rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs. But good news – this week he gets a best-possible matchup, favored by 4.5-points up against the league’s top run funnel defense; against QBs the Texans rank 8th-best in opposing passer rating (84.4) and 3rd-best in passing FPG allowed (11.7), but against RBs they rank 4th-worst in YPC allowed (5.09) and worst by rushing FPG allowed (21.2).
Tyler Allgeier, RB, Atlanta Falcons (VS. ARI)
DK: 2.70X / FD: 1.95X
Tyler Allgeier this season:— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 28, 2022
-PFF rushing grade: 86.8 (No. 7 among 40 running backs with 100-plus carries)
-Yards per carry: 4.9 (tied for No. 7)
-Yards after contact per carry: 3.5 (tied for No. 6)
-Missed tackles forced per carry: 0.25 (tied for No. 5)
Allgeier has exceeded 100 YFS in back-to-back games, averaging 17.5 carries, 3.0 targets, 16.3 XFP (10th-most), and 18.2 FPG (9th-most) over this span. Granted, he’s only seen 52% of the team’s backfield XFP over this stretch, but that’s also up from 39% across the first 14 weeks of the season. Conversely, Cordarrelle Patterson has fallen from 52% to just 35%.
I think there’s a chance he goes overlooked in DFS this week, despite his very-palatable price tag ($5,300, RB29) and his top-5 matchup (Arizona has given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing RBs), which also includes near-ideal projected gamescript (favored by 4.0-points).
Brian Robinson, RB, Washington Commanders (VS. CLE)
DK: 2.81X / FD: 2.17X
Robinson has earned at least 18 carries in four of his last six games. He’s been far more efficient as of late, exceeding 4.5 YPC in three of his last four games (with the lone exception being against the league’s toughest run defense in San Francisco) after falling under 3.9 YPC in his first 7 games.
For a player like Robinson, who has just 11 targets on the year and has scored 80% of his fantasy points on the ground, we are looking for a strong rushing matchup, and positive gamescript.
Thankfully, Robinson should get both in Week 17. Washington is a 2.0-point favorite, facing a Cleveland run defense that is the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted rushing matchup for opposing RBs (+3.7 FPG), while grading out as PFF’s worst run defense (33.5 team run defense grade), and allowing the 6th-highest YPC (4.9), the 5th-most yards after contact per attempt (2.8), and the 2nd-most yards before contact per attempt (1.9).
Put more simply: this is the only run defense that might be as bad as Houston’s, setting up the perfect rushing matchup for Robinson. Plus, it looks like there is a real risk Antonio Gibson could miss this game, setting Robinson up with his best workload of the season. Robinson is a strong play if Gibson suits up, but he becomes one of the best plays of the slate if Gibson is absent from Sunday’s contest.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions (VS. CHI)
DK: 2.24X / FD: +$119, 1.74X
Over his last 16 healthy games, Amon-Ra St. Brown averages 10.8 targets per game and 22.7 FPG. For perspective, those numbers would rank 4th- and 2nd-best among all WRs this season.
If only counting home games over this span, St. Brown averages 24.4 FPG (would lead all players at all positions).
And St. Brown’s Week 17 matchup seems fairly perfect. Since trading away DE Robert Quinn and LB Roquan Smith in Week 9, the Bears rank worst in opposing passer rating (101.2) and YPA allowed (8.3). And, (although Buffalo’s WRs failed to capitalize) in Week 16 they placed their two starting perimeter CBs on IR. This moved slot CB Kyler Gordon out wide, leaving St. Brown to feast against someone (a UDFA rookie I’ve never heard of) named Josh Blackwell.
St. Brown is the top value among the expensive WRs this week, thanks to the plus matchup at home, combined with a drool-inducing 29.0 implied team total.
Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets (@ SEA)
DK: +$877, 2.40X / FD: 1.50X
Wilson has an absolutely brutal matchup this week, up against a Seahawks defense ranking 2nd-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (-5.1) and best overall in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (11.6). This is important. This matters. But it doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that Zach Wilson will be moving back to the bench this week.
Garrett Wilson w/out Zach Wilson— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 27, 2022
10.3 targets per game
9.2 first read targets per game
111.0 air yards per game
If over the full season, those numbers would rank:
So, Wilson pops as one of the most obvious values of the slate at just $5,500. He’s a borderline must-play in cash builds.
For those looking for salary savings: Teammate Elijah Moore is a similarly impressive value at just $3,500 (WR73) and draws a far superior matchup. He averages 13.9 FPG and 7.0 targets per game without Zach Wilson (numbers that would rank 23rd- and 35th-best among WRs).
Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons (VS. ARI)
DK: +$360, 2.58X / FD: 1.51X
Drake London has an absurd 54% receiving yardage market share over his last 3 games. For perspective, across the full season, Justin Jefferson is the only WR with a yardage share over 38%. London averages 10.7 targets, 6.7 receptions, and 87.0 YPG over this stretch, and leads all receivers in target share (39.5%) and first-read target share (42.6%). Across the full season, he ranks 5th in target share (29.1%)…
Unfortunately for him, 1) The Falcons run a sloth-paced offense – Atlanta ranks 4th-worst in plays per game (61.1). 2) Their offense is WW2-era levels of run-heavy – Atlanta ranks 2nd-worst in pass rate over expectation (-11.8%). 3) Their QB situation is terrible – Marcus Mariota ranks worst of 33-qualifying QBs by off-target throw rate (20.3%). And Desmond Ridder has been even worse (30.5%)… London would probably be a league-winner on just about any other team, unfortunately, it seems he’s landed in the least-ideal landing spot.
But in the meantime, he’s still very playable in DFS (despite a bottom-8 matchup), priced as just the WR34 ($4,900) on this week’s slate.
Greg Dortch, WR, Arizona Cardinals (@ ATL)
DK: +$834, 3.23X / FD: 1.41X
Greg Dortch was either inactive or earned 0.0 XFP in four straight games. But that ended in Week 16, as he paced the WR group with 17.3 XFP. His usage has been remarkably streaky, and seemingly unpredictable this season…
Greg Dortch's expected fantasy points by week:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) December 27, 2022
14.4 (Week 1)
17.3 (Week 16)
The Dortch-coaster has been something this year. He's either a mid- to high-end WR2 or... a special teams player?
But, it’s not that unpredictable. Every game where Dortch scored double-digit fantasy points has one thing in common: at least 25 routes from the slot. It was easy to get bamboozled into thinking Dortch was relegated to a permanent bench role after Marquise Brown dominated the slot in Week 15 (and Dortch himself ran just 4 routes). But Week 16 presented a total offensive shift, with Dortch manning the slot full-time (team-leading 29 slot routes).
Given Dortch has averaged 8.8 targets per game and 17.5 FPG in the games he’s earned at least 25 slot routes, his $3,000 DraftKings price tag is truly laughable if we assume that role persists into Week 17. Especially in this best-possible matchup up against Richie Grant in the slot. But there’s always the risk that something changes. Dortch’s slot role magically returned in Week 16, and I suppose it could disappear just as easily. I’m hesitant to call Dortch a cash play due to that risk (and the additional offensive risk presented by David Blough starting), but he’s a fantastic value in even the most conservative projections at his price – especially so if DeAndre Hopkins sits, which is certainly possible. If Hopkins does sit, Marquise Brown would almost certainly be full-time on the outside, which cements Dortch’s full-time slot role. He would be a cash game lock in that scenario.
Evan Engram, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ HOU)
DK: +$991, 2.39X / FD: +$756, 1.47X
Among all TEs, Evan Engram has finished 1st, 1st, and 3rd in targets over the last 3 weeks. And by receiving yards, he’s finished 1st, 5th, and 2nd. Over this span, he averages an obscene 10.7 targets, 16.9 XFP, 3.50 YPRR, 112.3 receiving yards, and 23.9 FPG. Among all wide receivers over this stretch, those numbers rank: 5th-best, 7th-best, 3rd-best, 3rd-best, and 2nd-best. For further perspective, he has 9 more targets than the next-closest Jacksonville receiver over this stretch, and also 3X as many receiving yards as Davante Adams (38.0 YPG).
Somehow, Engram is priced as just the TE7 on DraftKings this week ($4,400), up against a Texans defense giving up 26.8% of their total receiving fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs (6th-most).