What is this column? Each week I’ll be listing the best and most-interesting plays of the week, grouped by position, and ranked and tiered in some sort of descending order. Keep in mind, we’re looking only at the players available on the main slate for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
This article is long. It’s going to be long every week. Ideally, it’s all you should need to know to be able to profit playing DFS in any given week.
Be sure to also watch our DFS Preview livestream every Friday at 3PM EST. Be sure to get in our Discord — if you’re not in there already, you’re missing out on a lot of important news updates as well as personal guidance and advice from our experts. And, most importantly, be sure to check back on Sunday mornings for the “Sunday Morning Update” – basically a TLDR version of this piece along with any injury-related updates we might need.
Anyway, let’s dive in…
TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read
D’Ernest Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
[DK: RB36, FD: RB38]
Notes: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Demetric Felton are all confirmed out.
Johnson is no doubt a ridiculously terrific value with Nick Chubb out, however, I do think there’s merit to fading him in tournaments if he’s uber-chalk. (He’s currently projected to be the highest-owned player of the slate.) Only 2 of his 24 opportunities came through the air in Week 7 (though Demetric Felton, now out, played in this game and saw 2 targets), and he totals 70 carries to only 7 catches over the past two seasons. And so, he seems at least a little gamescript-dependent, and the Browns are actually 2.5-point underdogs this week. (New England ranks top-10 in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs, but bottom-5 in receiving FPG allowed.) So, for large-field tournaments, I’d at least entertain the idea of playing Jarvis Landry or Donovan Peoples-Jones as leverage, or just pivoting to Mark Ingram (so long as Alvin Kamara is also out).
Nick Chubb is on the COVID-19 list (with a chance to play Sunday), and Kareem Hunt is still on IR, which potentially leaves D’Ernest Johnson as the bell cow for Cleveland in Week 10. If that’s the case, Johnson is far and away the top value play of the Week 10 main slate, as he clocks in as the RB36 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB38 on Fanduel.
The last time Johnson had this backfield to himself, he totaled 168 YFS and 24.8 FPG on 24 total touches. That really shouldn't have been surprising, as Cleveland’s backfield is the most valuable in fantasy football, averaging 35.1 FPG across the season. And this is one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in football, as Cleveland ranks 3rd best in PFF run-blocking grades (83.5), and 3rd-best in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards (5.05). So, basically any NFL RB would have to be considered an RB1 should they lead the backfield. And maybe Johnson is far better than the average NFL RB - he’s forced a ridiculous 10 missed tackles on just 37 rush attempts - but even if he’s not, it likely doesn’t matter given his projected touch count, offensive line, and his obscenely low DFS price tag. This play is dependent on the status of Nick Chubb, but if he misses Week 10, D’Ernest Johnson is a free square in all formats.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
[DK: RB41, FD: RB36]
Kamara played on 68% of the team’s snaps last week, and Ingram still walked away with 10 carries and 5 targets, totaling 64 YFS and 11.4 fantasy points (no touchdowns).
And well, now, Kamara is going to play zero snaps.
Remember, earlier in the season, I was touting Tony Jones as the most undervalued handcuff in fantasy. And that’s because, historically, when one of Payton’s two starting RBs are out, the other RB is deployed as a full-on bell cow and to great fantasy success.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray both sat out in Week 17 in 2020. Ty Montgomery, who had a total of -4 rushing yards through the first 16 weeks of the season, totaled 105 rushing yards on 18 carries in their absence.
Alvin Kamara missed two other games in 2020. What happened in those two games? Latavius Murray handled 91% of the team’s touches out of the backfield, averaging 24.0 carries, 9.0 targets, 153.5 yards, 2.0 touchdowns, and an astounding 34.4 fantasy points per game.
Mark Ingram missed the first four games of the 2018 season (due to a suspension). Over that span, Kamara averaged 34.0 FPG. But he averaged only 19.8 FPG after Ingram’s return.
Although 19.8 to 34.4 fantasy points feels like too lofty of a goal for the 31-year-old RB — Kamara is “only” averaging 19.8 FPG this year, despite easily seeing the best usage of his career, no doubt missing Drew Brees who always targeted RBs at the league’s highest rate — he only needs 13.5 fantasy points to hit 3X value on DraftKings, priced just $500 off the site minimum salary.
That said, the matchup is fairly tricky. Tennessee ranks 10th-worst in YPC allowed to opposing RBs (4.51), but top-12 in rushing- and receiving FPG allowed, and schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs. But, still, I think it’s basically a coin-flip between him and D’Ernest Johnson, though Johnson will be far more highly owned.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: RB13, FD: RB14]
What I’ll add to the analysis further down below is that Conner has a difficult on-paper matchup, but excellent expected gamescript. Kyler Murray is a game-time decision, but the Cardinals are still favored by 10.5-points with the 6th-highest implied point total of the slate (27.5) against the P.J. Walker-led Panthers. That implied blowout-script (and implied excellent field position) should heavily benefit Conner, and even if Murray is out, I’d expect them to lean heavier on the run (and even heavier on Conner near the end zone, without Murray to serve as the vulture). Carolina is giving up the 3rd-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs, though they gave up 33.0 fantasy points to the Patriots last week. And they rank 12th-worst in YPC allowed (4.40) and middle-of-the-pack in rushing FPG allowed.
From the Week 10 XFP Report:
In Week 9, Chase Edmonds suffered an injury on Arizona’s first play of the game, and Conner, in his absence, proceeded to break the slate. He turned a 20.0-point expectation (3rd-most) into 40.0 fantasy points, totaling 173 YFS and three touchdowns. He earned 21 of 31 carries and 5 of 5 targets out of the backfield, but, shockingly, just 1 of 1 opportunity inside of the 10-yard-line.
So, he’s now an all-time touchdown regression candidate. He’s scored 11 touchdowns this year (most), but on an XTD of just 5.4 (11th-most). His positive differential of 5.6 leads all RBs by 2.2 touchdowns. He's handled just 14 of the team's 30 rushing attempts inside the 10-yard-line (46%), but he's scored on 8 of them (57%). His 57% conversion rate inside the 10-yard-line is best in the NFL, and well above the league average rate (31%), and his 46% share of the rushing attempts inside the 10-yard-line ranks only 18th-best. (For perspective, Najee Harris and Joe Mixon are both above 80%.)
Conner now ranks 43rd in XFP per game (20.2), 32nd in YFS per game (62.8), and 21st in FPG (14.7). If he were perfectly average in touchdown efficiency (or, really, “touchdown luck”) he’d rank 34th in FPG (11.0).
Anyway, with Chase Edmonds out for the next 4-6 weeks, it’s hard not to like Conner as a fringe-RB1 this week. Yes, he’s due for a heavy regression to the mean, but he’s also locked into the lion’s share of the work on an Arizona offense that ranks 7th in team RB FPG (27.3).
In the only game Kenyan Drake missed last year, Chase Edmonds earned 96% of the team's snaps and 93% of the RB touches (28 of 30). Last week, Conner earned 82% of the backfield XFP after Edmonds went down, and he played on 94% of the first-half snaps in a game that was never really close.
During his Week 9 post-game press conference, HC Kliff Kingsbury was effusive in praise for Eno Benjamin who had 9 carries (0 targets), and has just 11 carries (0 targets) in his career. But I’d be shocked if Conner doesn’t handle at least 75% of the work this week. So, if you take Arizona’s average (remember, 27.3 FPG), and ignore the tough matchup, that would imply a minimum of 20.5 fantasy points for Conner this week.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
[DK: RB1, FD: RB3]
This might be the cheapest we’ll ever be able to play McCaffrey for the next few years. There’s concern that he’s still limited this week, but as Jake Tribbey showed here, he only needs to be 80% his typical self to still be the RB1 on the week. The on-paper matchup is fairly tough, and McCaffrey will be saddled with a backup-QB, but I’m still confident he’s one of the best plays of the slate.
Notes: As Johnny noted in Discord, P.J. Walker locked in on his pass-catching back Nick Holley in the XFL. He averaged 5.6 targets, 53.4 yards, and 11.9 FPG just as a receiver.
From the Week 10 XFP Report:
Prior to injury, Christian McCaffrey had either led all RBs or finished 2nd-best in fantasy points scored in 9 of last 19 games (47%). And he ranked top-6 in 16 of 19 games (84%), or top-8 in 18 of 19 games (95%).
For perspective, Alvin Kamara has finished top-2 in just 16% of his last 19 games. Austin Ekeler has finished top-6 in just 26% of his last 19 games. And Derrick Henry has finished top-8 in just 47% of his last 19 games.
McCaffrey was injured on the first drive of the second quarter in Week 3, and scored just 6.0 fantasy points, but was on pace for 20.0. In Week 9, his first game back from injury, McCaffrey played on only 49% of the team’s snaps, but earned 18 touches and totaled 106 YFS.
And that’s just about all I need to see from him to go back to ranking him confidently as, not just the overall-RB1 in fantasy, but the most valuable player in fantasy.
McCaffrey has played in just 7 of a potential 25 games over the past two seasons. So, the injury risk is still there. And that’s a warranted concern, but he’s also unrivaled in terms of upside, floor, and median projection when he’s actually out there active and on the field. But, of course, that injury-risk may also be something HC Matt Rhule has in the back of his mind. So, perhaps there’s a concern he continues to cap McCaffrey’s usage moving forward (in an effort to keep him healthy), but, then again, McCaffrey still has a long way to fall from “best usage of any player in fantasy” to “second-best usage of any player in fantasy”. (Prior to injury, McCaffrey was — for the third-straight season — leading all players in XFP per game, with 26.6.) And, realistically, 18 touches on 29 snaps in his first game back from injury doesn't seem to hint at a reduction in workload.
So, in conclusion, McCaffrey will be our highest-projected player in Week 10. He’s a lock-button-play on DraftKings ($8,400) and FanDuel ($9,000), priced at $1,500 less than his Week 3 salary on both sites. And, (despite missing five games this year), he should still be the betting favorite to finish as the No. 1 power-law player in fantasy. Which is to say, so long as he stays healthy, it may feel nearly impossible to win your fantasy championship without him on your roster. Or, at the very least, something like 40% of McCaffrey-owners (in ESPN leagues) will make it to their championship game. (In 2019, it was at 48%.)
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: RB3, FD: RB2]
I spent a lot of time on Taylor earlier in the week, so I’ll reshare that here. The only things I’ll add are: Indianapolis’ offensive line was seriously hurt up until Week 8. Since then, with their starters all healthy and active, they lead the league in yards before contact, with 36% more than the next-closest team. And the matchup, though nowhere near as soft as the Jets, seems neutral at-worst, favored by 10.5-points against the Jaguars.
From the Week 10 XFP Report:
If McCaffrey isn’t the No. 1 power-law player in fantasy, it’s probably Cooper Kupp, who leads all players in FPG (26.2), and all WRs by +5.0 FPG. It’s rare to see a WR rank as the most valuable player in fantasy. Usually, the top-3 players by fantasy wins above replacement (WAR) (in any given season) are all RBs. But Kupp is currently the league-leader, and a sizable distance ahead of the next-closest player (Derrick Henry, who is out for the next 6-10 weeks).
But if not McCaffrey or Kupp, my bet would be Jonathan Taylor, who ranks 3rd-best in WAR. And, since Week 4, he leads all players in FPG (25.7), and leads all non-Henry RBs by +3.3 FPG.
Jonathan Taylor's profile is that of a running back who would typically go top-5 overall
You can make the argument - easily in fact - that he had the greatest career of any running back in NCAA history
And yet, most experts don't even have him as the top back in this class pic.twitter.com/VezFrusf4J
Jonathan Taylor's profile is that of a running back who would typically go top-5 overall
Last season, Jonathan Taylor played on only 50% of the team’s snaps. He only eclipsed a 60% snap share three times. He ranked just 19th in XFP per game (13.4). And, yet, he still finished 9th in FPG (16.9). He was a rare outlier in terms of his production in contrast to his limited usage. But his volume and usage has significantly improved in recent weeks. Since Week 6, he ranks 9th in snap share (70%). And he’s finished top-7 in XFP in each of his last three games, averaging 19.2 XFP per game (5th-most).
And his usage is actually at least a little bit more impressive than these numbers seem to imply.
Taylor suffered an injury halfway through the second-quarter of last week’s game. Prior to that injury, Taylor had played on 20 of the team’s first 23 snaps (87%), totaling 18.2 fantasy points in just 1.5 quarters of play. He’d return to the game and end his day with 34.0 fantasy points and 200 YFS, his 6th straight game with at least 21.0 DraftKings fantasy points scored.
The week prior, Taylor played on 74% of the team’s snaps last week, which was the 2nd-most of his career. Most impressively, this was a game Indianapolis lost. And Taylor’s prior-high in snap share, in a game Indianapolis lost, was just 58%.
The week before that, Taylor played on 69% of the team’s snaps (2nd-most of his career up to that point), and more impressively, 80% of the team’s snaps through three quarters (before the game was well out of reach).
And the week before that, in a lopsided (31-3) victory, Taylor played on 65% of the team’s snaps (4th-most of his career up to that point).
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is this: I think Taylor is finally a bell cow. Prior to this recent stretch, Taylor was always seemingly inexplicably capped at something like 55% of the team’s snaps. And that was the only thing holding him back from being “one of the most valuable players in fantasy” as opposed to being (merely) “a low-end RB1.”
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
[DK: RB5, FD: RB1]
From Start / Sit:
Earlier this week I discussed how Cooper Kupp, Jonathan Taylor, and Christian McCaffrey should be the betting favorites to finish out the season as fantasy football’s Most Valuable Player. But I worry Harris may make me look foolish for not including him in that top tier.
Harris has been everything he’d been advertised to be. Which is to say, he’s seeing near-identical usage to peak-Le’Veon Bell, and for fantasy purposes can be viewed almost identically to peak-Le’Veon Bell. Or, rather, peak-Le’Veon Bell now saddled with an older and less-efficient quarterback, and stuck behind a bottom-5 offensive line.
Seasons w/ 300+ carries and 100+ targets
- Marshall Faulk (1998)
- LaDanian Tomlinson (2002)
- LaDanian Tomlinson (2003)
- Steven Jackson (2006)
- Le'Veon Bell (2017)
- Najee Harris (2021)
* on pace for 319 carries and 111 targets
Seasons w/ 300+ carries and 100+ targets
Harris has finished as an RB1 in all 7 of his last 7 games, averaging 22.0 FPG (2nd-most). His worst outing of the stretch came last week (16.8 fantasy points), finally ending his 6-game streak of 20.0-plus fantasy points in every contest. He’s also finished top-5 in XFP in 5 of his last 6 games, averaging 24.5 XFP per game (most by +3.3). Over this span, he leads all RBs in snaps per game (55.2), carries per game (21.5), and targets per game (7.7).
Pittsburgh’s offense runs through two players: Harris who ranks 3rd in XFP% (27.3%) and Diontae Johnson who ranks 5th (27.2%). It’s by far the most concentrated offense in football. And thus, if we should expect Pittsburgh to do well this week, we should expect these two players to do exceedingly well. And, well, Vegas is expecting Pittsburgh to score 25.5-points this week, 27% more than their per game average (20.1 points per game, 10th-fewest).
We’ll get to Johnson a little later — his matchup is strong — but Harris could be in line for a career-best performance. Pittsburgh is favored by 8.5-points, and Detroit ranks 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+9.0), 3rd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (18.5), and worst in fantasy points per target allowed to opposing RBs (2.54).
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
[DK: RB9, FD: RB9]
Zeke has arguably the best combination of matchup and scoring environment of any RB on the Week 10 main slate. The over/under in this contest is 54.5, +1.5 points more than the next closest game, and the Cowboys are 9.5-point favorites. Elliott has historically crushed in these environments in his career, averaging 24.0 DraftKings FPG and 20.4 Fanduel FPG when the game total is 50.0 or more and the Cowboys are favored by 3.0-points or more (12 instances). If extrapolated out for the full season, both of those numbers would rank 1st among slate-eligible RBs.
And then there’s the matchup. Atlanta has allowed the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs this season (+5.2) and the 6th-most receiving FPG to opposing RBs (13.0). Given that Elliott ranks 16th among RBs in targets per game over the last three weeks (4.5), this is obviously a favorable environment to be rostering the 6th-year RB.
There’s reasonable concern that Tony Pollard will steal some work from Zeke in this game, but it’s important to remember that Pollard is a non-factor near the goalline. Elliott has out-touched pollard 14 to 2 inside the 10 yard line, and 9 to 1 inside the 5. And Zeke averages a slate-leading 0.9 XTD per game compared to just 0.2 for Pollard. The Dallas RB TD equity in this game essentially only belongs to Elliott, and it’s arguably the best TD equity on the slate given their slate-leading 32.0 implied team total.
With so many great RB options on this slate, Zeke is likely to clock in with middling ownership, and that makes him an ideal GPP play.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
[DK: RB4, FD: RB6]
Here’s what I said in Start / Sit, when discussing why I had low expectations for Kirk Cousins this week:
[T]he Chargers are far-and-away the league’s top run-funnel defense. Opposing offenses have elected to run on Los Angeles 8.1% more often than their expectation dictates (based on down and distance plus gamescript). That leads the league and is over twice as much as the next-closest defense. And it’s not hard to see why — the Chargers rank worst in YPC allowed to opposing RBs (4.86) but top-10 in passer rating allowed (90.0). They rank 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (21.3) but 2nd-best in both passing FPG allowed (12.6) and schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (-4.4).
So, this is a tough matchup for Cousins, but a near-perfect matchup for Cook, against the league’s top run funnel defense. I say near-perfect, because while the on-paper matchup is excellent, gamescript is a slight concern. The Chargers are favored by 3.5-points, and Cook is averaging only 1.8 receptions per game over his last 5 games, down from 3.5 over the prior three seasons.
Still, he’s a phenomenal play, firmly within that top-tier between McCaffrey, Taylor, and Harris.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: RB15, FD: RB12]
Over Tampa Bay’s last four victories, Fournette averages 20.6 XFP and 21.4 FPG on a 65% snap share. Among all slate-eligible and active RBs, and if over a full season, those numbers would rank 2nd-best, best, and 7th-best. And yet he’s just the 15th- and 12th-highest-priced RB of the slate.
The Buccaneers are favored by 9.5-points, and are given the 2nd-highest implied point total of the slate (30.5). Tampa Bay may lean heavier on the run-game this week with Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski out, and Chris Godwin banged up, but, make no mistake, this is a clear pass-funnel matchup.
Tampa Bay is the most pass-heavy team over expectation, throwing +12.6% more often than their down-and-distance plus gamescript-based expectation implies (next-closest at +7.6%). And Washington is the league’s top pass-funnel defense, with opposing offenses opting to throw on them 7.5% more often than their expectation suggests (next-closest is Tampa Bay at +6.9%). They rank 2nd-best in YPC allowed (3.47) but 2nd-worst in opposing passer rating (107.6).
Washington is actually giving up the 11th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (but most to QBs, most to WRs, and 16th-most to TEs), but this is no doubt a tough on-paper matchup in my mind. However, factor in the total, projected gamescript, and his recent success in victories, and it’s hard not to view him as one of the better GPP plays of the slate.
So, I’ll just say this: I love Tom Brady stacks this week. And I like Fournette a lot on lineups without Brady or a Tampa Bay receiver.
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
[DK: RB18, FD: RB23]
From Start / Sit:
Mike White is set to start this week, which should be good news for Carter. With White under center, Carter is averaging 12.0 carries, 11.0 targets, 141.0 YFS, and 25.6 fantasy points per four quarters. He’s also been the intended receiver on 26% of White’s 88 passes, which would rank 8th-best among all WRs, and well above the next-closest RB (D’Andre Swift, 18%).
Since New York’s Week 6 bye, Carter has played on 66% of the team’s snaps, earning a 62% share of the backfield XFP. So, he’s not quite a bell cow, but his raw volume and production has been elite in spite of that handicap, averaging 19.5 FPG (5th-most) and 21.0 XFP per game (2nd-most).
He draws an absolutely brutal on-paper matchup this week, against a Buffalo defense that ranks bottom-5 in YPC allowed (3.75), rushing FPG allowed (8.7), and receiving FPG allowed to opposing RBs (7.0). But, I think, in lieu of his pass-game usage and recent success you have little choice but to start him this week as a mid-range RB2 at worst.
Other / Notes
- In Week 8, without Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift earned 12 of 17 carries and 5 of 12 targets out of the backfield. So, he actually saw a lower share of the team’s work than what he was getting with Williams active… So, initially I was off of him. But, after doing some additional digging (thanks to Darren from Discord), it’s clear he was a full-on bell cow. Before the game got ridiculously out of hand (in a 38-point defeat), Swift had seen 95% of the team’s snaps through the first three quarters. And so, even if Williams was active, he’d be a top play. And now Williams is out… He ranks 5th among all slate-eligible RBs in XFP per game (18.6) and 7th in FPG (18.4). But just RB10 (DK) and RB13 (FD) by salary… That said, it’s a brutal matchup. The Steelers are tough against RBs on the ground and through the air.
- J.D. McKissic is in play for GPPs, averaging 8.0 targets, 5.0 carries, and 86.3 YFS over his last three games. In Week 8, Antonio Gibson’s already declining snap share fell to just 33% (from 42%). And this feels like a McKissic-game anyway. Tampa Bay is favored by 9.5 points, and they rank best in rushing FPG allowed (6.2), but 5th-worst in receiving FPG allowed to opposing RBs (13.2). And McKissic’s snap-share jumps to 61% when trailing by multiple scores
- It’s exceedingly gross, but Brandon Bolden is in play if both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are out. He’s nowhere near as strong of a play as D’Ernest Johnson or Mark Ingram, but, also, he’ll catch much lower ownership.
- Cordarrelle Patterson remains a strong value. He ranks 5th in FPG (20.7) and 13th in XFP per game (15.9) since Week 2. And he’s up to a 64% snap share over his last three games. Yet, he’s just the RB11 (DK) and RB10 (FD) by pricing in a game that offers the highest Over/Under of the slate (54.5). He’s a strong value, and a good play, but there’s a lot of RBs I like more.
- Austin Ekeler is a strong play. Aaron Jones is maybe an even better GPP-play. But, simply, I just don’t like them quite as much as some of the other RBs we’ve mentioned.
- Every week people want to play Zack Moss (despite Josh Allen serving as the team’s goal-line back), and I never do. But this is actually his best matchup of the year, and best by a good margin. The Jets rank worst (by a margin) in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+13.0). I probably still won’t play him, but I like him more this week than any week before.
- James Robinson was fully back to being a high-end bell cow and the Robinson of 2020 prior to injury. And, so, I’ve been anxiously awaiting his return. But I won’t play him this week, in a brutal matchup and likely not close to 100% health.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
[DK: WR1, FD: WR1]
In his last 21 games with Aaron Rodgers under center, Adams has averaged 10.5 targets per game, 100.9 receiving yards per game, 2.9 red zone targets per game, and 23.9 FPG. This season, among slate-eligible WRs, those numbers rank 1st, 1st, 1st, and 1st. Adams should be regarded as the WR1 on the Week 10 slate by a wide margin, and yet he’s available at a relative discount. His Week 10 salary of $7,900 on DraftKings is $511 cheaper than his average DK salary this season, and his $8,700 Fanduel Salary is 8.7% more than the WR2 (D.K. Metcalf), despite the fact Adams has been 13.7% more productive this season. And he’s the only slate-eligible WR who ranks in the top-7 by FPG
Adams should have no problem continuing his dominance against a Seattle coverage unit that ranks 7th-worst in PFF team coverage grades (50.9), and has no CBs with a PFF coverage grade over 64.8. Plus this game is expected to be a shootout, boasting the 3rd-highest total of the Week 10 main slate. Since 2017, Adams has averaged 26.5 DraftKings FPG and 20.2 Fanduel FPG when the game total is higher than 50.0 (20 instances).
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: WR9, FD: WR9]
Chris Godwin is a pre-game decision. Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski are both out.
From Start / Sit:
Evans averages 8.1 targets and 19.4 FPG over his last 7 games. If we exclude Week 6 (shadowed by Darius Slay) and Week 8 (shadowed by Marshon Lattimore), he averages 9.8 targets and 23.7 FPG.
So, minus those two bottom-3 matchups, he’s been putting up more FPG than any player in fantasy minus Cooper Kupp. And now he gets a top-3 matchup against a Washington defense which ranks: worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs (+8.8), 4th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.6), and 3rd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep passes (10.9).
Oh, and none of Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski were able to practice on Wednesday. So, he should be in line for a lot more volume (especially near the end zone) as well. Yeah, he’s going to go nuclear this week.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
[DK: WR10, FD: WR9]
From Start / Sit:
(If we exclude a few games where Johnson suffered an injury in the first-half, and that one game he was inexplicably benched for drops, then…)
Johnson came into last week’s game having seen double-digit targets in an astounding 16 of his last 17 games with Ben Roethlisberger under center. Over this span, he averaged 12.2 targets (most), 80.8 receiving yards (9th-most), and 19.4 FPG (4th-most).
But last week Johnson inexplicably flopped. He stayed healthy, but finished the game with only 6 targets, 67 YFS, and 11.7 fantasy points. This was his worst healthy performance since Week 1 of last year, though he’s now hit double-digit fantasy points in every healthy game over the past two seasons.
Anyway, Johnson ranks 3rd among all WRs in XFP per game (20.6), 2nd in XFP% (27%), and 11th in FPG (17.1). And so, if he’s a mortal lock for double-digit targets every week, should we be expecting 20-plus targets this week, with WR Chase Claypool likely to sit out? I’m not sure, but he must be the heavy betting favorite to lead all receivers in targets this week.
And Johnson’s production is especially impressive in spite of the fact that he’s had the position’s 3rd-toughest strength of schedule thus far, worth in real terms a handicap of about 3.1 FPG off of his average. But this week’s matchup is much softer. The Lions rank 3rd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (19.5) and 2nd-worst in fantasy points per target allowed to opposing outside WRs (2.08).
In spite of his anomalistic down-game last week, start Johnson with confidence as a WR1 this week.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
[DK: WR15, FD: WR14]
Tyler Lockett saw 13 targets on just 24 routes in Week 8 (54%). He caught 12 of those 13 targets for 142 yards. Lockett averaged just 6.6 FPG over his prior five games, but 28.0 FPG over his other three games.
Perhaps this is a sign Lockett is back to full health. After the injury he suffered in Week 3, we warned exactly of this; that Lockett appeared to have suffered a serious injury, and he has a long history of playing through injury but not playing particularly well while injured.
And, I suppose, he should be even healthier this week, following their bye. And the same should be said for Russell Wilson, set to make his return. With all this in mind, Lockett seems badly mispriced on DraftKings, as just the WR15 ($6,500).
The Packers feature the sixth-highest rate of Cover 4 and fourth-highest of Cover 6. During the last three seasons, Lockett has posted 0.47 FP/Rt compared to 0.33 for Metcalf vs. Cover 4. And he’s submitted 0.38 FP/Rt compared to 0.30 for Metcalf against Cover 6. Lockett also holds the five-to-one combined TD advantage against those two schemes. Without Jaire Alexander and potentially without Eric Stokes for another week, a beat up Green Bay secondary will face off with a Seattle offense the very week they get healthy.
Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: WR17, FD: WR13]
Pittman is no doubt an immense value on DraftKings, and I especially like the idea of playing him on my non-Taylor lineups as leverage. Pittman ranks just 17th in salary, but, among all slate-eligible WRs, he ranks 10th in FPG (16.3), 10th in XFP% (20%), and 14th in XFP per game (15.8).
Carson Wentz has been playing out of his mind in recent weeks, and if we’re expecting a big game from Indianapolis (and we are, they have a 29.0-point implied total, which ranks 4th-most on the week), we should expect at least one big performance from Pittman or Taylor.
Together Pittman and Taylor combine for 42% of the team’s XFP (5th-most). Jacksonville ranks 3rd-best in YPC allowed (3.52) but 14th-worst in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (14.0). Jacksonville ranks 17th in passing FPG allowed to opposing QBs (16.5), but 3rd-worst in passer rating allowed (104.8). Indianapolis should be able to do whatever they want in this contest (run it down their throats, or let Pittman walk away with 100-plus yards and a score), though, admittedly, we could have said the same thing about the Bills last week.
The on-paper matchup looks favorable (fringe top-10) — the Jaguars are giving up the 11th-most FPG to outside WRs and the 8th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (+2.5) — but I worry it’s not as favorable as it looks. Rather, I’m expecting Shaquill Griffin to shadow. In three shadow games, he’s held A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and Stefon Diggs to a combined 55.3 YPG and 14.5 FPG. Still, this is probably only a neutral matchup at-worst. Though he should also receive another slight downgrade if T.Y. Hilton returns from his concussion.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos
[DK: WR28, FD: WR26]
Jeudy hasn’t had his breakout performance yet, but it’s absolutely coming, and it could come this week against an Eagles defense that’s allowed the highest passer rating (135.1) to opposing slot WRs this season and was just shredded by Chargers slot man Keenan Allen for 12/104.
The ankle sprain that held Jeudy out of Weeks 2-7 is clearly in the rearview mirror, as Jeudy has run a route on 77% of the Broncos pass plays since returning from injury. And last week, in a blowout of the Cowboys, Jeudy easily led the team with a 29% target share (8% more than the next closest player) and likely would have had his best game of the season had the Broncos not taken their foot off the gas. While I’m not typically a CB matchup guy, it’s hard to deny that Darius Slay’s shadow coverage on Courtland Sutton will have an impact, and could easily push further targets in Jeudy’s direction this week. Slay ranks top-15 of 100-qualifying CBs in yards allowed per snap in coverage. And he’s shadowed four times thus far, holding D.J. Moore, Mike Evans, Henry Ruggs, and Mike Williams to an average of 7.1 FPG, allowing just 8.8 fantasy points in his worst game (to Moore).
An elite talent like Jeudy should never go overlooked in DFS tournaments, and this week is no different as he should be playing in a much closer contest against the Eagles.
Other / Notes
- Chris Godwin is an excellent tournament-play if he suits up. Washington is giving up the 6th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs… If he’s out, Tyler Johnson is a strong punt, reaping the rewards of that soft slot matchup. Remember, Johnson is either a high-tier talent, or the worst (pre-Combine) miss in the history of my prospect model… If Godwin and Scotty Miller both play, Miller would leapfrog Johnson in the pecking order. But he’d be only barely in play as a punt, and probably only viable on Brady lineups.
- You can make a compelling case for either Mike Williams or Keenan Allen this week. I like both a lot, but I prefer Williams at ownership. The field will mostly fade him thinking he’s still hurt, but he looked excellent last week despite a brutal matchup against Darius Slay and an Eagles defense designed to stop the deep ball… And every one of his down-games makes perfect sense pre-hindsight: Darius Slay in Week 9, J.C. Jackson in Week 8, 36% of the snaps in Week 6, and Casey Hayward in Week 4. Outside of those games, he’s averaging 11.8 targets and 30.0 DK FPG. The Vikings rank 7th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs (+4.3), ranking equally bad (8th-worst) to the slot and out-wide.
- I don’t really love Terry McLaurin in a vacuum, against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 5th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (-4.0). But he is the obvious bring-back for Brady-stacks, which I do love. Still, I don’t think he’s a “must”, and I wanted to like him a lot more than I inevitably did.
- Cole Beasley is averaging 11.0 targets per game over his last three games, hitting at least 21.0 DK fantasy points in two of those games. The on-paper matchup is technically neutral (16th most FPG to slot WRs), though the Jets are also a top-10 slot funnel. And he should be the primary beneficiary if teams continue to increase their rate of Cover-2 against Allen, like the Jaguars did last week and teams have done to Patrick Mahomes all season.
- I spent a great deal of time on CeeDee Lamb here. He’s not exactly a value, but he is my preference for Dak Prescott-stacks… Michael Gallup is vaguely in play as a punt, even outside of Dak lineups.
- A.J. Brown is a solid low-owned tournament-play. He has a brutal matchup on the outside against Marshon Lattimore’s elite shadow coverage, but Lattimore doesn’t move to the slot, which is where he’s run 44% of his routes the last two weeks. That could be enough for a week-winning GPP score, against slot CB Chauncey Garner-Johnson’s backup. Brown averages 10.0 targets, 105.3 yards, and 21.0 FPG over his last four games. And he should see more work this week with Julio Jones probably out.
- I’m not really about it, but D.J. Moore is vaguely in play… P.J. Walker can’t actually be a downgrade on post-Week 4 Sam Darnold, right? Moore earned a 32% target share in Walker’s lone start last season, catching 7 of 11 targets for 127 yards. However, that was also with McCaffrey out.
- Jakobi Meyers’ last six games have come against the teams ranking (most-recent to least-recent): best, 2nd-best, 17th-best, 14th-best, 5th-best, and 9th-best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs. He gets his softest matchup yet this week, though one which still ranks fairly neutral overall, against a Browns defense that ranks 18th-best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs… Still, I don’t like him enough for cash, and I don’t think he has a high enough ceiling for tournaments.
- I might like Christian Kirk for tournaments, depending on what happens with Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and Rondale Moore. He ran 70% of his routes out-wide last week, but, I think, if Moore is out, he probably moves back into the slot, putting him in a bottom-3 matchup.
- Here’s what I said about Jarvis Landry last week: “Since returning from injury in Week 7, Landry ranks 3rd in targets per route (0.32). Over the past three seasons, Landry has played in 9 full games without Odell Beckham Jr., averaging 7.4 targets and 15.0 FPG over this span. Or, over his last six full games, 8.2 targets and 19.2 FPG (~WR6).” What happened? He earned a 23% target share in a game Baker Murray threw just 21 passes, but that resulted in him catching just 3 passes for 11 yards… The matchup is a little more in his favor this week, as he ran 76% of his routes from the slot last week, and New England ranks neutral against slot WRs, but top-12 against outside WRs… But we can’t forget about Donovan Peoples-Jones either. He’s hit at least 70 receiving yards in three straight games averaging 19.2 DK FPG over this span. But, then again, he averages just 4.7 targets per game (74% route share), so this feels at least a little flukey.
- Per Brett Whitefield, one of my go-to tape experts, who was not at all high on DeVonta Smith during the pre-draft process, he’s been “mind-blowingly good” this season. And the numbers back that up… Obviously, the production hasn’t been there, but he’s playing well. And the production was finally there last week, catching 5 of 6 targets for 116 yards and a score, though, granted, it came against two backup outside CBs… Well, good news! He might be up against two backup outside CBs again this week. Bryce Callahan is out and Patrick Surtain is questionable. I’m off him if Surtain plays, but will increase exposure if he’s out… Smith ranks 26th among all slate-eligible WRs in XFP per game (13.3), and ranks 28th in salary on FanDuel.
- Terrace Marshall might have a #BackupConnection with P.J. Walker. He totaled 88 yards on just 16 routes with Walker under center this preseason (5.5 YPRR). The Panthers seem to have already moved on from the Sam Darnold-era, so why not Robby Anderson and his 3.89 YPT average too? That said, it’s an incredibly thin play, probably too thin to even have mentioned, as Marshall ran a route on only 49% of the team’s dropbacks last week.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
[DK: TE1, FD: TE1]
From Start / Sit:
Since Week 4, and among all TEs, Pitts ranks 1st in air yards per game (107.2), 1st in deep targets per game (1.8), 2nd in XFP per game (16.0), and 3rd in FPG (14.3). Granted, he’s been highly volatile over this span — exceeding 23.0 fantasy points in two games, but falling short of 10.0 fantasy points in his other three games — but that’s elite volume, and this feels like a great spot for another spike performance.
Matt Ryan is quietly playing out of his mind, ranking as PFF’s highest-graded QB since Week 4. And Dallas is giving up the 5th-most passing YPG to opposing QBs. And Pitts, as the team’s No. 1 receiver, should be the primary beneficiary.
Pitts also leads all TEs and ranks top-10 among all receivers in gains of 15-plus and 35-plus yards. Meanwhile, Dallas has allowed the 2nd-most plays gaining 35 or more yards.
Kyle Pitts has run 69 routes lined up against CBs graded 69.0+ in coverage by PFF— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 11, 2021
That's exactly as many as Deebo Samuel and Marquise Brown. And more than Chris Godwin, OBJ, Tyler Lockett, Travis Kelce, and Darren Waller.
Brutal CB-schedule for any rookie, let alone a rookie TE
Atlanta is deploying Pitts as a true WR1, having him run 83% of his routes lined up as a WR in the slot or out-wide. That’s great for volume and fantasy production, but it’s hampered him in terms of efficiency, as opposing defenses give him the Calvin Ridley treatment. The good news is, even if Pitts spends the near-entirety of his day against Dallas’ CBs, I think that’s a fairly advantageous matchup. Dallas’ two starting outside CBs both rank bottom-12 of 109-qualifiers in yards allowed per snap in coverage. (And slot-man Jourdan Lewis will have his hands full with Russell Gage.)
Dan Arnold, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
[DK: TE13, FD: TE14]
From Start / Sit:
Arnold has reached 60 receiving yards and led the team in receiving yards 3 of his last 4 games. Over this span, he ranks 5th in targets per game (8.3), 6th in XFP per game (13.0), 8th in YPG (54.8), and 9th in FPG (10.5). So, he was already a mid-TE1 by volume and a low-end-TE1 by production (despite not yet finding the end zone). And now he gets a best-possible matchup against a Colts defense which ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG, worth in real terms a +5.5-point boost to Arnold’s per game average.
Other / Notes
- Over the last two weeks, with Eric Ebron out, Pat Friermuth averaged 6.5 targets, 43.5 yards, and 17.9 FPG. Even in Week 6, with Ebron active, he ran a route on 54% of the team’s dropbacks, catching 7 of 7 targets for 58 yards. Obviously, I like him less now with Ebron back, but do suspect Ebron is in line for a demotion. And still, he’s a top value-play on FanDuel, as he’s a great bet to score a touchdown and immediately hit value.
- I think Johnny (on our livestream) sold me on T.J. Hockenson over Kyle Pitts in tournaments. The crux of his argument was essentially this, “He’s off the injury report. I think he’s just finally healthy. And he’s an easy high-end TE1 when healthy.” Hockenson started off the year with 10.0 targets and 23.2 FPG in his first two games, then hit a major lull. In Week 8, prior to the bye, he caught 10 of 11 targets for 89 yards. This week he gets a perfectly neutral matchup on paper.
- Tyler Conklin has earned 7 targets in back-to-back weeks, hitting at least 45 receiving yards in three straight games (averaging 57.7 YPG). The Chargers are the No. 1 top TE funnel matchup, surrendering a league-high 33.5% of their receiving production to TEs. He’s a fine punt.
- Since Week 5, and if including plays negated due to penalty, Ricky Seals-Jones is averaging 12.6 XFP and 12.1 FPG on 100% of the team’s snaps. If over the full season and among all slate-eligible TEs, those numbers rank 3rd-, 4th-, and 1st-best. He’s just the TE12 (DK) and TE10 (FD) by pricing.
I think cash is pretty straight-forward this week. You play Dak Prescott on DraftKings, and you play Josh Allen on FanDuel.
For tournaments, Tom Brady is currently my favorite, though I’ll downgrade him slightly if Chris Godwin is out. Justin Herbert is a close 2nd. After that it gets tough… I might nibble on names like Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, and Taylor Heinicke at much lower ownership. But we’ll see. I’ll dive in deeper on all this in the Sunday Update.
Admittedly, Allen feels tricky to trust, but I’m willing to just write-off last week’s game as a complete outlier-performance. Jacksonville jacked up their rate of Cover-2 against Allen last week, a coverage shell he’s historically struggled against, and so, my only concern is New York does the same thing this week… Otherwise, he feels like a no-brainer…. Prior to last week’s game, Allen was leading all QBs in fantasy points per start (27.0), after leading all QBs by the same stat in 2020 (25.7). And gamescript didn’t feel like a concern, and it doesn’t feel like a concern this week, because Allen averages 28.4 FPG in Buffalo’s five victories of 15 or more points, also handling 50% of the rushing work inside the 5-yard-line… The Jets have given up at least 21.0 fantasy points to opposing QBs in four straight games, including 272/3 passing for Carson Wentz last week. New York’s defense got ravaged for 45 points and 532 yards in their defeat, and they suffered an even bigger loss with S Marcus Maye going down for the year with an Achilles injury.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
[DK: QB6, FD: QB4]
Toughest Schedules to Date
Dak Prescott (-2.2)
Derek Carr (-2.0)
Chris Carson (-3.9)
Dalvin Cook (-2.3)
Nick Chubb (-2.3)
Raiders WRs (-2.9)
Dallas WRs (-2.7)
Diontae Johnson (-2.6)
Deebo Samuel (-2.6)
Chiefs WRs (-2.4)
Robert Tonyan (-2.9)
Darren Waller (-1.5)
Toughest Schedules to Date
Dak Prescott is averaging 23.5 FPG this season if we eliminate his Week 2 outing against LAC, which currently ranks as the league’s 2nd-toughest fantasy defense for opposing QBs, allowing -4.7 schedule-adjusted FPG. And over his last 10 full games (minus the LAC game), Prescott averages 27.7 FPG.
23.5 FPG makes Prescott the QB4 this season, while 27.7 FPG would be the 2nd-greatest QB fantasy season of all-time behind 2019 Lamar Jackson.
There is a strong argument to be made that Prescott would be a DFS value if he was facing a league-average opponent in an average scoring environment this week. I won’t have to make that argument, however, because Prescott is facing one of the best possible matchups for opposing QBs, in the highest-total game (53.5) of the Week 10 main slate.
Atlanta ranks 6th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+3.2) and 4th-worst in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA (28.7%). That’s great, but what’s even better are Prescott’s historical numbers in these high-total games. Since 2018, Dak has averaged 30.3 DraftKings FPG and 27.6 Fanduel FPG in games with a total higher than 52.5 (7 instances). This is one of the best game environments we could ask for, and Prescott is a QB who has been playing at an all-time pace when healthy over the last two years. Expect him to be one of the most popular QB options of Week 10, especially on DraftKings where he clocks in as QB6.