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
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
[DK: RB2, FD: RB1]
McCaffrey is just $9,000 (DK) / $9,700 (FD), which is to say he’s still $500 (DK) / $700 (FD) cheaper than his Week 1 salary. And, keep in mind, I was arguing he was still egregiously mispriced in Week 1.
McCaffrey appears back to full health and back to his typical workload, playing on 90% of the team's snaps last week, earning 10 of 11 carries and 8 of 8 targets out of the backfield.
If excluding Weeks 3-9 due to injury (38% of snaps in games played), McCaffrey has now finished top-2 at the position (by fantasy points scored) in 9 of his last 21 games (43%). Top-6 in 18 of his last 21 games (86%), And top-8 in 20 of 21 (95%).
McCaffrey has also hit at least 24.5 DK fantasy points in 4 of his 4 healthy games this year, and in all 3 of his games last year. And he hit at least 21.5 DK in 13 of his final 14 games in 2019, averaging 31.6 DK FPG over this stretch.
In other words, when healthy, he’s the most consistent player in fantasy. Maybe the most consistent player in fantasy ever. And his floor is still arguably higher than any other player’s median projection. And so, he’s a must-play in cash every-week regardless of matchup, or at least until his salary gets jacked up by $1,000 or more.
Unfortunately, this week’s matchup does look fairly difficult. Miami ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs over the last five weeks (-9.4), though, granted, they haven’t really played anyone of note. Ultimately, McCaffrey has only ever been the most consistent and most-matchup-immune player in fantasy, so I’m not going to over-react to that. And I’m probably just going to lock him into my cash lineups.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
[DK: RB24, FD: RB19]
In Sanders’ return to action last week, he played on only 46% of the team’s snaps, but gained 94 yards on 16 carries and 1 target. He fumbled early in the second quarter and then essentially sat out Philadelphia’s next 5 drives (minus one touch). But minus those 5 drives, he handled 15 of 18 touches out of the backfield (83%). He’s practiced in full all week and is off the injury report.
Philadelphia has fully recommitted to the ground-game in recent weeks, running on early downs a league-high 72% of the time, well above the next-closest team (New England, 61%). Since Week 8, Eagles RBs are averaging: 30.8 carries, 150.0 rushing yards, and 1.5 rushing touchdowns since Week 8. Or, 24.0 rushing FPG. You don’t need me to tell you that’s Derrick Henry-levels of production.
The Eagles are 3.5-point favorites (but that seems low), against a Giants defense that ranks 7th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+3.0) and 6th-worst in YPC allowed (4.55). Jordan Howard (12.8 carries per game, 10 carries last week) will sit out, leaving Sanders to split the backfield with Boston Scott (6 carries and 2 targets last week) and Kenneth Gainwell (0 touches last week).
The threat of a committee is a concern, but I think we’ll see Sanders locked in to about 70% of the work, with 90% being firmly in the range of possibilities. And the game-environment is near-perfect. You have to worry a bit about Jalen Hurts vultures (he’s the leverage play if Sanders is uber-chalk), but Sanders is no doubt a phenomenal value and a top play as just the RB24 on DraftKings.
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
[DK: RB11, FD: RB8]
The only thing I'll add to the analysis further down below is that: Robinson got in a full practice on Friday (his first full practice since Week 8). That, and, Jacksonville’s DST is one of the best value plays of the slate, only rivaling Houston’s DST. So, I really like the idea of stacking them both together for cheap (17% of your salary on DraftKings).
From DFS Values:
Robinson seems to be trending in the right direction health-wise, getting in his first Wednesday practice since Week 8. And with Robinson seemingly nearing full health, I think we should be expecting a full-on bell cow workload this week. And, thus, I think he should now be viewed identically to how we saw him last year — you know, when he finished 5th at the position in FPG, despite his team’s 1-15 record — which is to say, he should be valued as an easy RB1 this week, and throughout the remainder of the fantasy season.
Robinson played on only 63% of the snaps last week, but also handled 12 of 12 carries and 3 of 4 targets out of the backfield (90% of the backfield XFP). Seemingly, only losing empty snaps to Carlos Hyde (30% snap share). And so, it seems he already was a bell cow last week. And he clearly was prior to injury.
If excluding Weeks 8-10 due to injury, then Robinson averages 16.2 carries, 3.8 targets, 16.5 XFP (RB10), and 19.7 FPG (RB6) over his last 5 healthy games. Over this span, he’s handled 84% of the backfield XFP (RB2) on 74% of the snaps (RB5). He also ranks as PFF's 2nd-highest-graded runner (90.1) and 4th-best of 55-qualifying RBs in yards after contact per attempt.
And, in any case, he’s definitely an RB1 this week, probably a mid-RB1, and thus mispriced on DraftKings (RB11). Jacksonville enters as underdogs, but only by 2.0-points (best since Week 1), behind a 22.25-point implied total (best since Week 1). And the matchup is great; Atlanta ranks 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+4.9), and bottom-6 in both rushing and receiving FPG allowed to enemy RBs.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams
[DK: RB15, FD: RB10]
Henderson ranks 15th (DK) and 10th (FD) in salary this week. But, among all slate-eligible RBs, he ranks 8th in XFP/G (15.5), 10th in FPG (15.7), and 2nd in Snap% (75%). He averages 17.7 FPG in wins (would rank 6th-most), and the Rams are favored in this contest, albeit just slightly (-2.0).
That said, Green Bay ranks as a slightly-below-average matchup on paper (-1.8). And Henderson’s role seems to have taken a hit, as his snap share has dropped to 63% (down from 81%) over his last three games. And Henderson hasn’t flashed much of an upside this year (zero 25.0-point fantasy games, despite the Rams exceeding 33 points in 4 games), but he is still a fairly strong value, and does offer leverage against Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams.
Dontrell Hilliard, RB, Tennessee Titans
[DK: RB33, FD: RB31]
WR A.J. Brown, WR Julio Jones, and RB Jeremy McNichols are all out. And, so, priced outside of the top-30 RBs on both sites, Hilliard is a very viable punt-option for tournaments. Per Adam Caplan, “The team loves him.” We forgot to talk about him on the Livestream, but I wrote him up earlier in the week. Here’s what I had to say (with some slight updating):
Hilliard was signed off his couch and hadn’t played a single snap all year, until last week, when he scored 16.2 fantasy points on a 19.3-point expectation (8th-best among all RBs). On a 63% snap share, he earned 7 of 24 carries and 10 of 13 targets out of the backfield. And now Adrian Peterson, who had 2 targets and a team-high 9 carries last week, has been cut from the team.
There were a few confounding factors that went into this big game. A.J. Brown, dealing with injuries, ran a route on just 44% of the team’s dropbacks. The team’s typical scatback Jeremy McNichols missed the game with a concussion. And Tennessee trailed on 90% of their offensive plays. You may remember, in Tennessee’s only two other losses, McNichols averaged 1.5 carries, 8.0 targets, 5.5 receptions, and 59.0 YFS per game.
As we’ve seen all year (e.g. Conner, Williams, Johnson, Ingram, Stevenson, etc.) a depleted backfield can turn lower-tier talents into fantasy studs for a few weeks, so long as the volume is good and the offense isn’t wholly inept. With Peterson now out of the picture, I’d be viewing McNichols similarly to the second-half of 2020-version of J.D. McKissic (following the Antonio Gibson injury). Which is to say, he’s a great bet for nearly double-digit targets in games with predominantly negative gamescript. And this is a great week to test out that theory, as Tennessee enters as 7.0-point underdogs against a Patriots defense that has surrendered the 4th-most receiving FPG (13.5) to enemy RBs.
Other / Notes
If Aaron Jones sits, A.J. Dillon is exactly as strong of a play as he was last week, which is to say he’s a near-must-play; a top-5 projected RB priced as a mid-range RB2. Of course, the chance he gets scripted out of the game (like he did last week) is real, and that’s how you should think to gain leverage on him in tournaments, but in vacuum he’d still be one of the best plays of the entire slate. That said, it seems unlikely Jones sits out.
I’ll talk about Jonathan Taylor in the Michael Pittman section a little later, and really don’t have much to add beyond that. I think he needs to command a certain level of GPP exposure every week. (I’ll want to be at around 15% myself.)… I strongly prefer McCaffrey on DraftKings, but it’s a closer call on FanDuel…. Though I think you may be able to get by without paying up for a RB this week.
In last week’s article, I made the argument (actually JMtoWin’s argument) that McCaffrey and Taylor might be the only RBs actually worth paying up for ($7,000 or more) in any given week. But Austin Ekeler (who was off the main slate last week) might be the one exception…. (And, to be fair, there’s a lot less RB value this week)… Basically, to me, Ekeler should be viewed identically to 2020 Alvin Kamara. And he’s exceedingly cheap based on the production he’s given us: his 22.1 FPG is 85% a healthy McCaffrey and 90% of Taylor (full season), though he’s 92% the cost of Taylor on DraftKings. Denver ranks bottom-7 in YPC allowed to opposing RBs (4.55), but top-10 in every other stat, and top-4 in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-3.2). But, like with Taylor and McCaffrey, I think he’s proven to be fairly matchup-immune.
I don’t know that I would, but you can argue Najee Harris belongs in that Taylor-McCaffrey-Ekeler tier. He leads all players at all positions in XFP/G (21.8), averaging an absurd 19.4 carries and 6.5 targets per game. Basically, he’s 2017 Le’Veon Bell, only in a worse offense and behind a much worse offensive line. And the matchup looks great; Cincinnati ranks 6th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+3.6), with the bulk of that coming through the air (league-high 7.6 receptions per game allowed to RBs). Harris had 19 targets and 27.2 receiving DK fantasy points in his Week 3 meeting against the Bengals. No one is really talking about him.
Dalvin Cook might have the single-highest touch expectation of any RB on the slate. He’s at least a slight value on FanDuel, and his target-volume has picked up in recent weeks. But San Francisco has been stout on the ground and Minnesota enters as slight underdogs (-3.5). He’s a fine play, but personally, I’d rather continue with my approach of fading non-McCaffrey, -Taylor, and -Ekeler RBs in that price-range.
And I’m viewing Joe Mixon similarly to Cook this week. I spent a great deal of time on him here, but the crux of it is this: Mixon has long been heavily gamescript-dependent, and he’s still heavily gamescript-dependent. Since 2018, he averages 22.4 FPG in wins but only 13.9 FPG in losses… The Bengals are favored by 3.5-points. Pittsburgh shockingly ranks 4th-worst in YPC allowed (4.69), but 10th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-1.8). But he’s certainly in play (our projections say he might be the best play), and he’ll go lower-owned.
If Tom Brady-stacks are looking chalky (and I think they are), Leonard Fournette makes all the sense in the world as a leverage play. He averages 19.8 FPG over Tampa Bay’s last 5 wins. That would rank 4th-best on the slate, and he’s priced as just the RB8 (DK) and RB11 (FD). But that’s about the entirety of the argument, because, otherwise, Indianapolis is a top pass-funnel and ranks top-10 against opposing RBs by every meaningful metric.
If Cordarrelle Patterson plays, he warrants serious consideration on DraftKings. Since Week 2 (and excluding Week 10 due to injury), Patterson averages 20.7 FPG (low of 14.1) and 15.9 XFP/G. Those numbers would rank 3rd- and 8th-best on the slate, but he’s just the RB9 by salary on DraftKings. Qadree Ollison is out, and the matchup against Jacksonville is (surprisingly) only neutral on paper, though Vegas is expecting Atlanta to put up points. They have a 24.0-point implied point total, despite averaging just 17.8 per game, which makes me think we should be boosting Patterson by a similar margin (35%)… as he’s one of the team’s only two players who are fantasy-viable, and the other one draws double-coverage every week.
Elijah Mitchell (or Jeff Wilson if Mitchell is surprisingly out), is (in a vacuum) a very strong value play. But he needs to be viewed as essentially this: 50% chance he gets 90 rushing yards and nothing else (9.0 fantasy points), 50% chance he scores twice (or once with the 100-yard bonus) and drops ~20.0 fantasy points…. He averages 14.2 DK FPG this year. But that’s better expressed this way — he averages 20.6 DK FPG in his three best games, 8.2 DK FPG in his three worst games, and 12.9 in his one other game. San Francisco enters as favorites (3.5-points), and HC Kyle Shanahan wants to #EstablishTheRun above all else (maybe even above actually winning the game), but this is a top pass funnel matchup, and a tough matchup for opposing RBs; Minnesota ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (-3.3).
I spent a great deal of time discussing Myles Gaskin here. I’m worried about this week’s bottom-3 matchup (following a top-1 matchup) and Phillip Lindsay potentially eating into his work, but he’s no doubt a top-volume related value. Still, I don’t expect to have much (if any) exposure this week.
Saquon Barkley is popping as a slight value on DraftKings, but I don’t trust that he’s healthy. He has said this injury is going to continue to “nag” him over the next few weeks, and Barkley has not played well through ankle injuries historically.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
[DK: WR11, FD: WR9]
Johnson is sort of the McCaffrey of fantasy WRs. Granted, he doesn’t have his slate-busting ceiling, but he is unrivaled at the position in terms of consistency.
(If we exclude a few games from 2020, where Johnson suffered an injury in the first-half, and that one game he was inexplicably benched for drops, then…)
Johnson has seen double-digit targets in an astounding 17 of his last 19 games with Ben Roethlisberger under center. Over this span, he averages 11.9 targets and 19.2 FPG. Over the past two seasons, those numbers would rank: best and 3rd-best.
And he’s seeing even better volume this year. Despite two injury games and one game Roethlisberger missed, Johnson ranks 2nd among all slate-eligible WRs in XFP/G (21.1) and 7th in FPG (17.6).
And yet, he’s always priced no better than a low-end WR1. By salary he’s the WR11 on DraftKings and the WR9 on FanDuel. And this week he gets a Bengals defense he dropped 23.3 DK FPG on last year, and which ranks 6th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (23.7). I suspect he’ll be on nearly all of my cash lineups this week.
Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: WR18, FD: WR15]
I imagine every DFS player in the world will spend at least 45 minutes debating whether or not they should play Jonathan Taylor. For me, that debate boiled down to something like, “Well, it’s a brutal matchup, against arguably the best run defense in football. But Taylor just dropped 53.4 fantasy points on the Bills, which also looked like a tough matchup on paper. And RB1s have had some success against the Buccaneers in recent weeks — over their last 6 games, Myles Gaskin, Miles Sanders, Khalil Herbert, Alvin Kamara, Antonio Gibson, and Saquon Barkley collectively averaged 18.6 DK FPG against them. And, anyway, I think Taylor is basically the newest iteration of 2018 Todd Gurley, which is to say he should never be lower than 10% owned, and he has the potential to break the slate any week irrespective of matchup.”
A lot of time will be spent debating Taylor this week, but Pittman deserves similar consideration. Especially if Taylor expects to be highly owned in tournaments, when the easiest argument for Pittman is the easiest argument against Taylor. Just fade Taylor and play Pittman. They’re massively negatively correlated together (-0.39), and this is the No. 2 pass funnel defense in football (+5.7%). And Pittman is a top-3 pure value-play of the slate on both sites. Or, at least that’s what the SuperModel says.
Among all slate-eligible WRs, Pittman ranks 19th in XFP/G (14.4) and 15th in FPG (14.8), but 18th (DK) / 15th (FD) in salary. Tampa Bay appears deadly against WR1s, and especially in recent weeks, but they haven’t really played anyone of note (minus Terry McLaurin). Otherwise, the matchup looks extremely favorable, and I think it is, as they’re also giving up the 4th-most FPG to outside WRs (24.3), and no CB is likely to shadow (down two starters in Carlton Davis and Richard Sherman). So, I think that’s the most important datapoint.
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
[DK: WR18, FD: WR20]
Oh boy. Has it finally happened? The true Elijah Moore breakout we’ve long awaited?
Since Week 8, Moore leads all wide receivers in fantasy points scored, averaging 20.9 FPG. Over this span, he ranks 4th in YPRR (2.92) and 2nd in PFF grade (86.7). And he’s been the single most efficient WR in fantasy over this stretch, exceeding his volume-based expectation by a whopping 61%.
He’s now hit double-digit fantasy points in 5 of his last 5 games, and 25.0-plus fantasy points in 2 of his last 3 games. That seems… I don’t know… Good?
But up until last week, Moore’s production felt somewhat flukey. Or at least, hard to trust. Over the prior three weeks, Moore was clearly and inexplicably just a part-time player, running a route on only 51% of his team’s dropbacks. And, keep in mind, the team was without Corey Davis in two of those three games. But last week, Moore’s route-share jumped to 82%. And he looked dominant in that new full-time role, turning a team-high 11 targets into 8 catches for 141 yards and a score (plus 15 rushing yards on one carry).
What took so long? I have no idea.
I’m now back fully on board the Elijah Moore hype-train, but in order for him to come anywhere near Exodia-status, like I dreamed of this offseason, we need competent QB-play from Zach Wilson. We need him to be only Joe Flacco-, Mike White-, or Josh Johnson-levels of bad, rather than “worst QB in football”-bad. Because Moore averages just 5.0 FPG in Wilson starts, but 20.9 FPG without him. So, that seems to be the one thing that could derail the Elijah Moore hype-train and breakout campaign.
But, even with my distrust of Wilson, I’m still going to load up on Moore-shares this week. He gets a near-perfect matchup against a Texans defense that ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.8). And he’s pretty mispriced as just the WR18 (DK) and WR20 (FD) on the slate. (He ranks 12th among all slate-eligible WRs in our projections.)
Notes: If Corey Davis (Questionable, groin) is out, that only further boosts Moore in my eyes.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans
[DK: WR16, FD: WR17]
Cooks ranks as a top-6 overall value on DraftKings (3rd among WRs), per the DFS SuperModel. And well, he’s exactly the same sort of value he was last week, which is to say, he’s probably still too volatile for cash. The threat of bracket coverage is real, even against this dreadful Jets secondary, consisting mostly of practice squad-caliber players. But, though he’s extremely boom-or-bust, a “boom” performance seems more likely than not.
Cooks is the clear focal point and near entirety of the Texans’ offense, and is seeing terrific volume, but he’s only modestly productive, is woefully inefficient, and highly volatile. He’s hit 17.5 fantasy points in 5 (6th-most) of his 10 games, but averages just 7.5 FPG the rest of the time. He ranks 7th in target share (26%), 8th in XFP% (23%), 12th in targets per game (9.4), 14th in XFP per game (15.9), and 28th in FPG (13.7). So, fringe-WR1 volume, high-end WR3 production, and bottom-10 levels of inefficiency. I think that seems about right as an every-week expectation moving forward.
However, part of the problem is, Cooks has flopped in back-to-back games. And both games were near-perfect matchups. In Week 9, he scored 11.6 fantasy points against a Dolphins defense that ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WRs. In Week 11, after his bye, he scored just 3.8 fantasy points against a Titans defense ranking 3rd-worst. Clearly, he’s become very hard to trust and highly volatile.
But, still, I think you have little choice but to add some GPP exposure to him this week. Because this week’s matchup is again incredible on paper. Over the last five weeks, the Jets are giving up a league-high +10.9 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs, and the 4th-most to opposing WR1s (+4.2).
Cooks ranks 10th among all slate-eligible WRs in XFP/G (15.9), though 19th in FPG (13.7). But in this pillow-soft matchup, he’s a clear value priced as just the 16th (DK) and 17th (FD) most expensive WR on the slate.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, New England Patriots
[DK: WR31, FD: WR35]
Meyers got off to a relatively hot start, averaging 13.4 FPG through his first 4 games, but that's fallen to just 9.2 FPG in the 7 games since. Among all slate-eligible WRs, he ranks 23rd in targets per game (7.8), 28th in XFP/G (12.8), and 33rd in FPG (10.2). Obviously the flukey lack of touchdowns are hurting his numbers, but he has been fairly inefficient beyond that as well.
So, what’s going on?
I think Meyers has been underperforming due to an outlandishly and outlierishly difficult stretch of schedule. Over his last 8 games, he’s faced 3 teams ranking top-3, 5 teams ranking top-10, and 0 teams ranking bottom-12 by FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs. And that’s an issue, as that’s where he runs 68% of his routes. Luckily for him, he gets his softest matchup yet — the softest possible matchup for any slot WR; the Titans rank worst in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (18.8%).
As just the 31st- (DK) and 35th- (FD) highest-priced WR on the slate, he’s a strong cash-play, though I still question his upside for tournaments (due to the lack of touchdowns).
Chris Godwin vs. Mike Evans
Evans averages 19.6 DK FPG over his last 9 games. If excluding just one game (shadow coverage against Darius Slay in Week 6), then Evans averages 21.5 DK FPG over this span, with a low of only 12.8 DK fantasy points (another tough matchup, against Marshon Lattimore's shadow coverage). For perspective, 21.5 DK FPG would rank behind only Cooper Kupp (27.7), Deebo Samuel (22.6), and Tyreek Hill (21.8). Though, this week, he’s priced as just the WR7 (on both sites) on a shortened slate, up against a Colts defense that ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+8.7).
Antonio Brown is out, though Rob Gronkowski is back and his matchup is near-equally great. But Chris Godwin’s matchup looks significantly tougher on paper. The Colts rank 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (26.0), as opposed to 11th-best against slot WRs (11.4). That said, he’s still extremely in-play, averaging 22.8 DK FPG over his last 4 games. He’s priced $100 more than Evans on FanDuel, but $200 less on DraftKings.
On my own lineups, I’ll gravitate more towards Evans and Gronkowski, given the matchup.
Notes: And it does seem the Buccaneers are especially fearful of Darius Leonard in the middle portion of the field. If he’s the one player they’re focusing on most when game-planning against the Colts, I’d suspect that means fewer looks for Godwin who does most of his damage (71% of his receptions) in the middle of the field where Leonard resides. For comparison, Gronkowski is at 55% and Evans is at 42%.
Mike Williams vs. Keenan Allen
Here’s what I’ll add to the analysis below.
Allen now ranks 5th among all slate-eligible WRs in XFP/G (19.1) and 9th in FPG (16.7). And since Week 8, he ranks top-4 in both stats, averaging 20.0 FPG (low of 17.8) and 19.8 XFP/G (low of 18.1). And yet, he’s just the WR6 on DraftKings and the WR10 on FanDuel by pricing. He’s arguably the best overall value on FanDuel. And his matchup is a little softer than Mike Williams’ with Bryce Callahan out, as his healthy games are skewing the numbers slightly to make Denver look a little better against the slot than they have been.
Williams, however, has phenomenal upside, averaging 28.1 DK FPG in his top-50% of games (5.2 FPG the rest of the time) and is a strong leverage play off of Allen, who projects to be very highly owned.
From the Week 12 XFP Report:
Through the Chargers’ first 5 games of the season, Allen ranked 4th in XFP/G (19.9) and Williams ranked 6th (19.3). By FPG, Allen ranked just 21st (15.4) and Williams ranked 3rd (22.8).
At this point in time, I was shouting from the rooftops that Allen was a screaming buy-low candidate and a top-3 top positive regression candidate. I was certainly vindicated in that regard, but I also said that I felt confident in Williams returning WR1-levels of production throughout the remainder of the season. And, though I’m confident he turns things around, that seems nearly impossible now.
Over Los Angeles’ last five games, Allen has bested Williams in XFP in all five games. Over this span, he ranks 8th in XFP/G (18.2), while Williams ranks 41st (11.9). By FPG, Allen ranks 11th (18.0) and Williams ranks 57th (8.9).
But I am optimistic Williams will turn things around. He’s hit at least 20 fantasy points in five games (3rd-most), though he averages just 5.2 FPG in his other five games.
The good news is, I think all of his down-games (minus one) can be easily explained away. Williams dealt with a knee injury for several weeks during this down-stretch, and he also had a brutal CB matchup in all of his worst games (minus one) — shadow coverage from Casey Hayward in Week 4 (2.1 fantasy points), he played on only 36% of the snaps in Week 6 due to injury (4.7 fantasy points), shadow coverage from J.C. Jackson in Week 8 (3.9 fantasy points), and shadow coverage from Darius Slay in Week 9 (7.8 fantasy points). I’m not sure why he flopped in Week 10 against the Vikings (7.3 fantasy points), but I suppose he’s allowed one inexplicable down-game.
From here on out, I’m viewing Williams as high-end WR2 for fantasy, but one that is very boom-or-bust and matchup dependent. (HC Brandon Staley strikes me as the type of coach to always attack a defense’s vulnerabilities and steer clear of their strengths, so when Williams is shadowed by a top-5 CB, that’s going to be Allen in the slot.)
This will be a good litmus test as Denver doesn’t have any CBs who will shadow. And they rank 11th-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (22.6) and 13th-worst to slot WRs (13.8). So, this should be a favorable matchup to both Williams and Allen.
Expensive Wide Receivers
Probably the single-toughest question of the slate is, “Which WRs do we pay up for?” That, and, “What the hell is going to happen in [email protected] and [email protected]?” If you didn’t notice, it seemed as though we spent 50% of our time on the Livestream talking about only those two games.” And if you couldn’t tell, I didn’t really seem to have a great read. And I still don’t. (Sorry!)
But here are your options outside of the names we’ve already discussed:
Kupp is on pace to score the most fantasy points of any WR all-time. He’s priced like a high-end WR1, but not like a WR on pace to score the most fantasy points of any WR all-time… On paper, the matchup is tough. Kupp runs 69% of his routes from the slot, and even after losing Jaire Alexander, who primarily manned the slot prior to injury, the Packers have remained excellent against slot WRs (4th-best by FPG allowed). Chandon Sullivan, who has taken over that role, ranks top-6 in fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage. So, Green Bay is a top-6 reverse-slot funnel matchup on paper. And this is only Kupp’s 2nd matchup against a team ranking top-10 against slot WRs… Still, I’m not sure it really matters given how well he’s performed and how consistent he’s been. Kupp has seen a target share of at least 30% in 7 of 10 games, and now Robert Woods is out and Stafford should be healthier following the bye. I’m fairly certain he’s going to smash, more certain on that than any other WR. The only question is: “Does he bury you if you don’t roster him?”
Deebo Samuel, not Davante Adams, actually ranks 2nd among all slate-eligible WRs in FPG (21.8). And like Kupp, he’s on a historic pace; on pace for the 13th-most fantasy points by any WR all-time. And he’s not at all priced like it ($7,900 / $8,000). And unlike Kupp his matchup is clearly phenomenal; the Vikings rank dead-last in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs (+7.0). And his implied total is much higher (26.25, 2nd-highest)… Samuel has added an extra dimension to his game in recent weeks, further bolstering an impressive floor (double-digit fantasy points in every game thus far), averaging 6.5 carries, 57.5 rushing yards, and 11.8 rushing FPG over his last two games… Still, you can poke some holes in him. Just 7 targets the last two weeks, and just one catch last week in a soft matchup; Shaquill Griffin played just 52% of snaps due to injury, though, to be fair to Samuel, the game was effectively already over by the time he got hurt, and San Francisco leaned massively run-heavy from that point on (and won by 20). Further, a healthy George Kittle and a “freed” Brandon Aiyuk muddies the target distribution. Even so, he’s an amazing play.
Davante Adams averages 23.3 FPG over the last two seasons, which is 25% more than the next-closest slate-eligible WR. The Rams look like a tough matchup on paper, but only on paper. Jalen Ramsey hasn’t shadowed full-time once this year, and instead spends 63% of his time in the slot. The Rams, perennially top-5, now rank middle-of-the-pack in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (-0.1)… They rank 6th-best in FPG allowed to slot WRs, and 12th-best to outside WRs, but, interestingly, they’re giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (+4.9). For perspective, that’s implying a 24.7-28.2-point expectation this week. Over their last 6 games, we’ve seen big games from fellow WR1s against the Rams: Deebo Samuel (30.3), Brandin Cooks (20.3), Kalif Raymond (17.6, lol), Sterling Shepard (17.6), and DK Metcalf (26.8). A.J. Brown was the only WR to flop, scoring just 9.2 fantasy points on 11 targets.
After a Week 9 loss against the Ravens, OC Klint Kubiak said Jefferson was “deserving of more targets.” And that’s exactly what we’ve seen play out, as he’s averaging 10.5 targets and 33.1 DK FPG in the two games since. Last week’s matchup against the Packers looked tough on paper, but it’s hard to tell where this one ranks… Green Bay was bottom-15 against outside WRs, bottom-5 against slot WRs, and top-10 against WR1s. The 49ers rank top-5 against outside WRs, bottom-10 against slot WRs, and bottom-10 against WR1s. (Jefferson runs just 32% of his routes from the slot, but he’s clearly now the WR1.) So, you can argue it either way… Entering the game as underdogs, and up against a tough run defense, I do expect Jefferson to get double-digit targets again this week, but it’s tricky to say where he ranks among the other high-priced WRs.
Ja’Marr Chase is a slight value on FanDuel. He averages just 37.7 YPG over his last 3 games, but 95.0 over his last 6. His volume has been great over this span (17.3 XFP/G), and well ahead of Tee Higgins (14.4). The matchup looks great on paper; Pittsburgh ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+4.3). But, crucially, keep an eye on Joe Haden’s status (26th-best of 100 qualifiers in fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage). If he plays, this is a tougher-than-average matchup for Chase, and shifts the matchup far more into Tyler Boyd’s favor. (Pittsburgh ranks 5th-worst against slot WRs.) But if he’s out, Chase could go nuclear.
Notes: The Rams rank 6th in implied point total (24.5), San Francisco ranks 2nd (26.26), Green Bay ranks 13th (22.5), Minnesota ranks 12th (22.75), and Cincinnati ranks 8th (24.0). For clarity, Green Bay and Minnesota rank below Atlanta and Houston. This is mostly what I’m looking at to break ties.
Other / Notes
Brandon Aiyuk draws a Vikings defense that ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+7.0) and 5th-worst against opposing WR2s (+3.1)… From Graham Barfield: “After the first six or seven weeks, Aiyuk’s season looked lost. He was playing a normal, full-time role – but just not seeing any targets. The lightbulb has definitely come on as of late, though. Aiyuk admitted a few weeks ago that he was in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse because he was struggling in practice and that he has since turned a corner. Now the production is following. After catching just 9 balls for 96 yards in his first six games, Aiyuk has totaled 20/245/2 over his last four after having one of his best outings of the year against the Jaguars. The trust factor in Aiyuk is clearly back – he’s seen 7 or more targets in three of his last 4 games and has the same number of total targets (19) in his last three games as George Kittle. We like Aiyuk as a strong WR2 start in deeper formats against this Vikings secondary that was just shredded by the Packers even after getting CB Patrick Peterson and S Harrison Smith back.”
DeVonta Smith is a strong value on FanDuel, priced almost identically to Elijah Moore and Brandin Cooks. He has a tough on-paper matchup against James Bradberry’s shadow coverage (top-15 of 80-qualifying CBs in fantasy points allowed per route in coverage), but he ranks as PFF’s highest-graded WR since Week 7, and he’s got the better of Patrick Surtain and Marshon Lattimore in his last two games, catching 5 of 5 targets against them for 100 yards and a score. Still, the volume hasn’t really been there, and we do expect Philadelphia to lean run-heavy again this week.
Courtland Sutton is a little interesting as a super low-owned GPP play… Jerry Jeudy runs 79% of his routes from the slot, and draws a worst-possible matchup against Chris Harris Jr. Meanwhile, for Sutton, outside CB Asante Samuel and S Alohi Gilman will both be out… From Graham Barfield: “The Broncos play-calling tendencies are very dependent upon how the game is flowing. Because, when Denver is behind on the scoreboard, they go 73% pass-heavy – which trails only the Bills (74%) and Chiefs (76%). However, when they are playing with a lead, that all switches. OC Pat Shurmur goes with a heavy ground game and runs the ball 53% of the time when leading for the seventh-highest rate. The markets (-2.5 Chargers) view this game as tight overall, but if the Broncos are forced to play from behind and throw a ton, it should lead this game to filling up the box score with points.”
Our projections say Laviska Shenault is the top WR value on DraftKings, and Urban Meyer has talked about getting him more manufactured touches following Jamal Agnew’s injury. But, I’ve faded Shenault every week he’s been in the league and it’s seemingly never hurt me.
If you want to throw a dart at Odell Beckham Jr. for large-field tournaments (against the reverse slot-funnel matchup we alluded to in the Cooper Kupp section), I won’t talk you off of it. But I probably won’t be going that route myself. Van Jefferson would also be in play in the same matchup.
Cincinnati has given up the 6th-most FPG to outside WRs (23.7) and the 5th-most FPG to opposing WR2s (12.5), and Chase Claypool is coming off of a near season-high in XFP (25.8). Our projections are in love with Ben Roethlisberger, though I’m nowhere near as bullish. He’s someone I considered, but he’s best reserved for only large-field tournaments as Diontae Johnson leverage.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: TE7, FD: TE3]
Gronkowski is easily the best TE-play of the slate on DraftKings. From Start/Sit:
Through four mostly-healthy games, Gronkowski averages 7.3 targets, 63.8 YPG, and 17.9 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 4th-, 4th-, and 1st-best among all TEs. He’s seen at least one end zone target in every game thus far, and Tampa Bay is expected to score 4 touchdowns this week (28.0-point implied point total). And his on-paper matchup is excellent; Indianapolis ranks 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+4.7).
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
[DK: TE8, FD: TE10]
Since Week 6, Freiermuth ranks 6th in targets per game (7.4), 4th in XFP/G (13.6), and 4th in FPG (13.5). He’s seen at least 6 targets in 5 of 5 games over this span, or at least 7 targets in 4 of 5 games. He has 4 touchdowns over his last 4 games, and has also hit double-digit fantasy points in 4 of his last 5 games.
Keep in mind, TE Eric Ebron played in 3 of these 5 games, and when he was out, Freiermuth averaged 17.9 FPG, and his route share jumped from 57% to 70%. With Ebron now out for an extended period of time — potentially the remainder of the season — Friermuth needs to be viewed as an every-week TE1.
And that’s also how he should be viewed this week as well. Cincinnati ranks as an almost perfectly neutral matchup on paper (-0.2), but matchups don’t really matter too much for TEs unless at the polar extreme. So, he’s fairly mispriced on both sites, and especially on FanDuel where touchdowns are so important, as just the TE8 (DK) and TE10 (FD) of the slate.
Other / Notes
- George Kittle is the chalk TE on FanDuel this week, and rightfully so. His route share has been at 80% or higher in 5 of his last 6 games. He’s scored in 3 straight games, and averages 7.6 targets and 15.1 FPG over his last 5 games. Minnesota is a fairly tough matchup on paper, against Eric Kendricks in coverage, but he’s still too mispriced, within $200 of Kyle Pitts and Rob Gronkowski… I have him essentially tied with Freiermuth and totally dependent upon how much you need the savings, but if forced to choose, I’d lean Freiermuth. (Wes Huber agrees.)
- Dallas Goedert averages 6.7 targets (25% target share) and 65.5 receiving yards per four quarters following the Zach Ertz trade (87% route share). If over the full season and among all slate-eligible TEs, those numbers would rank 4th- (but best target share), best, and best (route share). He’s slightly mispriced at $4,800 (DK) and $5,900 (FD) in a perfectly neutral matchup.
- The Chargers are giving up 32.4% of their receiving fantasy points allowed to TEs (2nd-most, just barely behind the Eagles), and they rank 2nd-worst in FPG allowed (just behind the Eagles). That puts Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam in a great spot. The only problem is they’re cannibalizing each other’s production a bit. Fant ran a route on 76% of the team’s dropbacks last week. That’s a fairly high mark, but it’s just slightly ahead of Albert O (69%). Fant also averages 3.0 more FPG in games without Albert O. this year… Albert O. is legitimately in play as a punt, given his route share spike last week, but no one will play him.
- I feel like I’d rather lose $1M than win $1M with Evan Engram in my lineups, but he’s our top projected TE-value on DraftKings. All other Giants pass-catchers are hurt and it’s an undeniable top-1 matchup against the Eagles.
- Jared Cook is a “gross play” but an undeniable value and a viable punt-option on DraftKings, at just $500 off the minimum price (TE18). He ranks 8th among all slate-eligible TEs in XFP/G (7.8) and 12th in FPG (7.8), though both numbers have been trending down and it’s a bottom-3 matchup on paper.
- Graham likes Kyle Pitts a lot, writing him up here, though I’m less bullish. Still, he has slate-busting upside and won’t draw much ownership.
I think QB is a little bit easier for cash games this week. I over-reacted to the threat of P.J. Walker stealing snaps last week, but I won’t make that same mistake this time around.
Cam Newton is just $5,600 on DraftKings (QB11), despite finishing as the QB5 last week (26.2). Heck, he scored 11.7 in Week 10, on just 9 total snaps. He has 14 rushing touchdowns in 17 games over the past two seasons, which is more than Aaron Jones in 24 games. Miami is, of course, tougher than the Washington defense Newton faced last week, but they still rank bottom-10 in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+1.6), and tied for 2nd-worst in total passing FPG allowed (18.3).
Newton is your cash game play on DraftKings, but on FanDuel it’s Tom Brady (just $200 more than Newton). He’s the MVP-favorite. The QB leader by FPG — well, the QB leader on DraftKings, but now 0.2 FPG off of Josh Allen on FanDuel after his big Thanksgiving game. And he has the highest implied point total of the slate (28.0, highest by +1.75). Indianapolis is a top pass funnel, ranking 4th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs (+2.2) but 8th-best against RBs. They rank tied for 2nd-worst in total passing FPG allowed (18.3), and 3rd-worst in passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt.
Some other guys you can consider for cash, and especially tournaments are:
Jimmy Garoppolo is the first cheap QB I’ve considered on FanDuel in quite some time. He’s just $6,500 (QB21), tied with Sam Darnold, despite averaging 19.7 FPG over his last 4 games (~QB12). San Francisco has the 2nd-highest implied point total of the slate (26.25), and the Vikings are a top pass funnel. They rank 10th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG (+1.5) to opposing QBs, but 3rd-best against RBs (-3.3). And he has absolute YAC legends in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk to throw to. He’s legitimately in play for cash on FanDuel, depending upon how much you need the savings.
I think Justin Herbert is a little too volatile for cash, but an amazing play for tournaments. He averages 34.2 DK FPG in his top-50% of games, but 15.8 DK FPG in his bottom-50% of games. Herbert is an all-time freak athlete, who rushed for 93 yards on 6 carries (minus QB kneels) last week. And if they let him start running more, he might be a full-on Exodia down the stretch (2019 Lamar Jackson-plus). The matchup is a little below average on paper, but he’s still an incredible GPP-play.
Obviously, Brady dub-stacks are going to massively popular in tournaments this week, and rightfully so.
Tyrod Taylor is averaging 19.5 fantasy points per 4 quarters. He’s certainly in play on DraftKings ($5,300, QB17), against a Jets defense that ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs over the last 5 weeks (+4.1). They’ve given up a minimum of 18.5 fantasy points to each opposing QB they’ve faced over their last 7 games.
In tournaments, as always, get weird, get creative, have fun. The QB position is always more about the stack (and the leverage you’ll gain if that stack hits) than the individual QB play itself.
E.G. Jalen Hurts soaking up rushing scores, as leverage off of Miles Sanders, and living in Giants field position all game? Sounds good. Joe Burrow-to-Ja’Marr Chase stacks for all the money? Why not? Kirk Cousins dub-stacks winning the MIlly Maker for the 4th time this year? I could definitely see it. Matthew Stafford is finally healthy, going to resume his MVP-campaign, and is about to light up the Packers in a shootout? Vegas disagrees, but it could definitely happen. Zach Wilson as a YOLO-play? It’s possible. Hopefully, you get the idea.
Similarly, you should look throughout this article for potential mini-stacks. We wrote up Brandin Cooks and Elijah Moore, who are playing each other this week, so why not consider that as a mini-stack? Or Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp. Or Justin Jefferson and Deebo Samuel. Or Mike Evans and Michael Pittman. Etc.