My first few seasons playing DFS, I got crushed. Lineup after lineup, slate after slate, I just couldn’t do anything right. I was hemorrhaging my hard-earned money, and I really didn’t have much to spare. Just like those late-night infomercials, I had to find a better way!
I was making far too many mistakes to list them all here, but what I really needed then was a guiding hand, a voice (or an article perhaps?) that could, at the very least, help me understand who the best plays were, and more importantly — why?
This is that article.
Once I found FantasyPoints, and this article, everything changed. With a deeper understanding of which players are values (and why) I was able to make great strides in my own DFS play. And now, I’m writing this article.
Utilizing both Scott Barrett’s DFS SuperModel and our site projections, we can lock-in on the week’s top DFS values.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (AT HOU)
DK: +$286, 3.30X / FD: 2.47X
Taylor has done nothing but dominate as of late, averaging 32.9 FPG over the last four weeks. That incredible success is largely thanks to Taylor’s ascension to true bell cow status. He’s exceeded a 69% snap share in each of his last 6 games — a mark that he exceeded only twice in his previous 21 games. He’s also seen an uptick in passing-game usage, running 19% more routes and earning 11% more backfield targets over his last 6 games.
So, not only is he really good (+4.8 PAR this season, +3.6 PAR in 2020), he’s also, finally, seeing the workload of a top-3 RB.
And It’s hard to see Taylor’s dominance changing in Week 13 as he faces a Texans defense that ranks dead last in YPC allowed to opposing RBs (4.81) and 4th-worst in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (17.5). And that’s after averaging 5.6 YPC in his last three games against run defenses that all ranked in the top-12 toughest by YPC allowed to opposing RBs.
Taylor should be a popular play this week (on a slate without Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook) as the Colts are likely to take a run-heavy approach given they are favored by 9.5-points (the 3rd biggest spread on the slate). Thus far in his career, Taylor has averaged a completely ridiculous 30.2 DraftKings FPG and 26.7 FanDuel FPG when the Colts are favored by 8.0-points or more, (5 instances) with most of those games coming before his ascendance into bell cow-status.
30.2 DK FPG is 35% more than the RB2 on DraftKings (Austin Ekeler) is averaging this season, and 45% more than the RB2 (Joe Mixon) on FanDuel. Given that Taylor is only 11% more expensive than the RB2 on DK, and 12% more expensive than the RB2 on FD, it wouldn’t be hard to argue he’s easily the best value among the expensive RBs, and I’d be inclined to agree. Taylor can be safely relied on in both cash games and tournaments this week.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (VS. LAC)
DK: +$291, 3.28X / FD: 2.38X
Mixon has been on a tear over his last four games, averaging 24.5 touches per game, 27.5 FPG, and 22.1 XFP per game. Those are league-winning numbers, but Mixon is still expected to be on the more volatile end of RB1s going forward, as he’s earning basically the exact same role he did in 2020 — handling 78% of the team’s carries but just 49% of backfield targets.
That is, with one crucial difference. Cincinnati is a far better team this season than they have been over the previous three seasons, and that’s led to significantly better gamescript for Mixon, even in losses. Prior to 2021, Mixon had averaged 11.9 more FPG in victories (25.2 FPG) than losses (13.3). This season, he’s averaging just 2.7 more FPG in wins (20.6 FPG) than losses (17.9 FPG). So, with the Bengals winning significantly more games and keeping their losses much closer than in prior seasons, Mixon has reduced his gamescript volatility by almost 80%, and seen a 35% increase in his fantasy production in losses, relative to the three previous seasons.
And for Week 13, this sets up as a close to ideal matchup for the veteran RB. The Bengals are 3.0-point favorites and the Chargers are the ultimate run funnel defense (league-high +5.2% run rate over expectation), ranking 6th-best in passing FPG allowed to QBs (13.9) but 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed to RBs (19.8). They also rank 4th-worst in YPC allowed (4.64) and 8th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+2.6).
The risk of the Chargers dominating this game keeps Mixon out of cash game consideration, but outside of that, he’s an excellent play and a strong value in just about every regard this week.
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (AT DET)
DK: +$469, 2.28X / FD: 1.87X
Vikings’ RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder) is expected to miss at least the next two games - Sunday at Detroit and the following Thursday against Pittsburgh - with the hope being that he can return the next week for the Monday night Dec. 20 game at Chicago, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 30, 2021
With Dalvin Cook expected to miss the next two games, Alexander Mattison is poised to make his 5th career start for Minnesota in Week 13. Scott Barrett noted in the Week 13 XFP Report that, “In 4 career starts, Alexander Mattison averages 20.5 carries, 5.0 targets, 124.8 YFS, and 21.2 FPG. Or in his last 3 starts / his 3 starts Minnesota has won, he averages 24.0 carries, 5.3 targets, 156.3 YFS, and 27.0 FPG.”
Relative to Cook’s 2021 performance, Mattison has been roughly 29% more productive overall, and 64% more productive in Minnesota wins. Despite this, Mattison is cheaper this week on DraftKings than Cook has been all season, and on FanDuel, Mattison is $1,016 cheaper than Cook’s average price this year. So not only has he been more valuable than Cook when Cook is out (albeit on a small sample), he’s also significantly cheaper than Cook has been at basically any point this year.
With the Vikings favored by 7.0-points against a Detroit defense that ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+5.4) and 4th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (16.4) to opposing RBs, Mattison is a top-5 RB value and a strong candidate for cash game lineups in a week loaded with value RBs.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (AT SEA)
DK: 2.83X / FD: 2.07X
Elijah Mitchell is averaging 19.6 touches per game, which ranks just ahead of Christian McCaffrey and just behind Jonathan Taylor for 7th among RBs this season.— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) November 29, 2021
On Sunday, Elijah Mitchell earned a 70% snap share and handled 92% of backfield opportunities, scoring a season-high 27.8 fantasy points. Over the full season, a 70% snap share would rank 4th among all RBs, and 92% of backfield opportunities would lead all RBs, and is actually 5% more than the No. 2 player, Najee Harris. While I’m not sure Mitchell will continue to dominate backfield usage to this extent, he’s an RB1 if stays remotely close to those numbers going forward. So, at least on DraftKings where he’s the RB14 (by salary), he’s obviously underpriced, especially once we account for the outstanding matchup.
Seattle has given up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+7.0) to opposing RBs this season and has given up the most receiving FPG to opposing RBs this season (15.5) - an important note given Mitchell recorded 86% of RB targets (and a season-high 6 targets) in Week 12. Although, those receptions did come without JaMycal Hasty in the lineup, and Hasty is questionable to return this week. Should he be active, Mitchell’s receiving workload is sure to be reduced given Hasty has commanded 3.6 targets per game in the 5 games he’s been active.
Mitchell also may be in line for more rushing work than usual this week, with Deebo Samuel, who has averaged 6.3 rushing attempts per game over the last 3 weeks, likely out for the next 1-2 games. Although, the one knock on Mitchell this season has been his lack of consistency. He has averaged 20.2 FPG in his best four games, 8.2 FPG in his worst three games, and 12.9 in his one other game. So maybe he’s not as great of a play in cash games compared to tournaments. Regardless, it’s tough to look at him as anything other than one of the top RB values this week, at least on DraftKings.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals (AT CHI)
DK: +$1063, 2.66X / FD: +$359, 1.98X
Kyler Murray appears likely to play this week, and if he does, James Conner becomes one of the top RB values on the slate.
Conner has handled at least 77% of RB snaps in every game without Chase Edmonds this season, and over that three week stretch Conner has earned 74% of backfield opportunities. His results over that stretch? 25.5 FPG. And that was without Murray under center, who we know boosts the overall efficiency of the backfield. While Murray’s return may harm Conner’s TD expectation, it’s worth noting Kyler may still be dealing with the lingering effects of his ankle injury and was only averaging 6.1 rush attempts and 0.4 goalline carries per game this season prior to getting hurt — a 27% and 20% dropoff from his 2020 averages. And given this offense averaged 30.8 PPG with Kyler versus 21.3 without him, I’d say his return is massively beneficial for Conner even once we account for the probability of vultured TDs.
The matchup with Chicago is largely a neutral one, as the Bears have allowed the 17th-most FPG to opposing RBs this season (22.5). With Arizona as a 7.0-point favorite, the positive gamescript, usage, and matchup that Conner should see in Week 13 make him one of the strongest RB values of the week should Kyler return.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team (AT LV)
DK: +$771, 3.37X / FD: +$1188, 2.77X
Gibson has been dealing with a stress fracture in his shin for the majority of the season. In the 3 weeks leading up to Washington’s bye, he looked extra dusty, averaging 13.0 touches per game, 25.3 snaps per game, and 6.8 FPG.
But, after Gibson was able to rest during the team’s bye week, it appears he’s found new life.
In the three subsequent weeks, Gibson has averaged 27.0 touches per game, 45.3 snaps per game, and 17.6 FPG. Or, put another way, he’s seen nearly 100% more usage and has been roughly 150% more productive relative to Weeks 6 through 8, post-bye.
Among slate-eligible RBs, those numbers from the past 3 weeks would rank 1st-, 6th-, and 7th-best if extrapolated over the full season. Despite this, Gibson’s salary is actually $333 lower on DraftKings and $300 lower on FanDuel than his average price over his brutal 3 week stretch prior to his Week 9 bye. And on both sites, he’s the 2nd-cheapest he’s been all season.
Those aren’t the only reasons to be bullish on Gibson as a DFS value this week. He’s playing in the 3rd-highest total game of the slate (49.5) and is facing the Raiders, a team that’s given up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs this season (+5.2). So this is an ideal matchup for a clearly underpriced RB who’s seeing his best usage of the season.
The only legitimate knock on Gibson at this point is his pass game involvement. He’s averaging just 2.7 targets per game — the 38th-most among RBs. That’s led to some gamescript dependency, as Gibson has averaged 15.2 FPG in Washington wins compared to 13.1 in losses thus far in his career. Even so, he’s seen a moderate boost to his pass game role as of late, earning 12% more backfield targets and 7% more backfield routes over the last 3 weeks, compared to the first 8 weeks of the season.
Don’t see JD McKissic at practice either. Not great. Missed yesterday too.— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) December 2, 2021
But far more important than that is the potential absence of JD McKissic (and his 4.8 targets per game), who hasn’t practiced this week due to a concussion.
So, Gibson’s lack of receiving involvement thus far may be irrelevant, but even if McKissic plays, the Football Team are only 2.5-point underdogs this week. And that means Gibson’s risk of a bust performance due to Washington getting blown out is certainly worthwhile given he should still see more touches per $ of salary than just about any RB (other than maybe Sony Michel) this week.
He’s a top-5 RB value this week, albeit a much riskier one than, say, Jonathan Taylor.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions (VS. MIN)
DK: +$509, 2.98X / FD: 2.17X
D’Andre Swift went down in the 2nd quarter of Detroit’s Thanksgiving day game with an AC joint sprain, and appears unlikely to play for the next few weeks. In Swift’s absence, Jamaal Williams handled 74% of backfield snaps, 71% of backfield routes, and 89% of backfield opportunities.
So, without Swift, Williams became a bell cow. And keep in mind this is an offense that massively relies on it’s RBs, as the Detroit backfield has been responsible for 29.3 FPG this season, making them the 3rd-highest scoring backfield in fantasy football.
The Week 13 matchup with Minnesota can’t exactly be considered favorable, with the Lions as 7.0-point underdogs and Minnesota giving up -1.3 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs this season (14th-toughest). But regardless of gamescript, Williams should still be on the field and see solid usage, as he captured the vast majority of backfield routes and targets without Swift in Week 12.
With Swift inactive, Williams can be considered a top-5 RB value on DraftKings and a top-10 RB value on FanDuel where he’s relatively more expensive and pass game involvement is less rewarded.
Sony Michel, RB, Los Angeles Rams (VS. JAX)
DK: 2.19X / FD: +272, 1.58X
Darrell Henderson hasn’t practiced this week (thigh), and if he can’t suit up, then Sony Michel will almost certainly be the top projected value at the RB position.
Henderson has missed only one game this season (Week 3), and in that game, Michel earned a 74% snap share, 23 touches (96% of backfield opportunities) and 16.9 XFP (97% of backfield XFP). For a backfield that averages 19.9 FPG this season, a similar workload in Week 13 would translate to roughly 18.9 FPG, which basically makes Michel a free square on both sites, as he clocks in as the RB42 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB40 on FanDuel.
Not to mention the Rams are 12.5-point favorites, the biggest spread on the slate. So a run-heavy approach in the face of positive gamescript is extremely likely. Jacksonville has been a plus matchup for opposing RBs, albeit just barely, allowing +0.8 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (9th-worst). So, yeah, Michel is probably the most obvious play of the slate, and arguably one of the best RB values of the entire season if Henderson sits, which at this point seems more likely than not.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (AT SEA)
DK: +$480, 2.49X / FD: 1.64X
#49ers coach Kyle Shanahan with following injury updates:— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) November 29, 2021
WR Deebo Samuel (groin) -- It's a strain. Expected to miss 1-2 weeks.
LB Fred Warner (hamstring) -- Also a strain. He'll be out this week, hope to return for Cincinnati.
Fire up Brandon Aiyuk this week if Deebo Samuel is out. While much of what Samuel does, at least from a rushing perspective, is unrealistic to prescribe to Aiyuk, Samuel does leave behind 8.4 targets per game (29% target share), and some, if not all of that volume is likely headed Aiyuk’s way given the 49ers remaining WRs are Mohamed Sanu, Jaun Jennings, and Trent Sherfield.
Since the 49ers Week 6 bye, Aiyuk has averaged 6.7 targets per game. If we give him even just 40% of Deebo’s 8.4 targets per game, then we are looking at approximately 10.1 targets per game — a mark that would rank 7th among all WRs this season. Could that be a generous estimate? Sure. But it’s tough to argue against Aiyuk being, at the very least, a high-end WR2 without Samuel. We saw evidence of that in 2020, when Aiyuk averaged 9.8 targets per game and 17.3 FPG in the four games he played without Samuel in the 2nd half of the season.
I’d consider Aiyuk a strong play on both sites, but he’s potentially cash game viable (if Deebo sits) on DraftKings where he ranks as the WR23 (by salary).
Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears (VS. ARI)
DK: +$329, 2.50X / FD: 1.75X
Over his last three games, Mooney has earned an incredible 34% target share, 12.0 targets per game, 15.8 XFP per game, and 20.4 FPG. If sustained over the full season, those numbers would rank 1st-, 1st-, 15th-, and 4th-best among all WRs.
It’s obviously worth noting that two of those games came without Allen Robinson on the field. Robinson didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice, and given how fickle hamstring injuries tend to be, he seems closer to doubtful than questionable this week.
Should Robinson play, Mooney’s value takes an obvious hit, but he’s still viable in tournaments given 2 of his 4 best games this year have come with Robinson active. But if ARob sits, then Mooney can be considered a top-6 WR value on both sites.
The other question here is who will start at QB. Mooney’s value would take a hit if Justin Fields starts, as he’s averaged 16.1 FPG in the 3 games Andy Dalton has thrown at least 20 passes this season, compared to just 11.7 in games where Fields threw the majority of passes.
Arizona is on the tougher end of matchups, allowing -2.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs this season (3rd-toughest). But, the Bears are 7.5-point underdogs, and given the Cardinals are the NFL’s 2nd-highest scoring team with Kyler Murray under center (30.8 PPG), Chicago will almost certainly need to pass the ball at a significantly higher rate then they are used to, just to have a chance.
With how anemic the Bears’ offense has been this year, I don’t think I can trust Mooney in cash, but I’ll absolutely have tournament exposure, especially if ARob sits.
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets (VS. PHI)
DK: 2.25X / FD: 1.62X
Moore pops as a DFS value in our projections, and while I certainly agree, he does carry significant risk.
Moore averages 5.7 FPG in Zach Wilson starts, but 20.9 FPG in all other games. And that’s pretty incredible, given Mike White, Josh Johnson, and Joe Flacco are nowhere close to being considered average NFL QBs.
Wilson is, right now, the worst QB in football. Among QBs with at least 5 starts, Wilson ranks last in PFF passing grade (53.9) and last in passer rating (62.9). And per PFF, he’s committed a ‘turnover worthy play’ on 5.2% of his throws — by far the worst mark in the NFL.
But, on the bullish side of things, Moore has been a superstar. He ranks 5th among all WRs in total fantasy points since Week 8, and that includes his pedestrian 9.3-point performance in Week 12. And he’s PFF’s highest-graded WR (85.4) in that timespan. So, just like we discussed during the preseason, chances are Moore is going to be an incredible player. And, while they haven’t been great (9.8 FPG), Moore’s best two games with Wilson under center have been Wilson’s last two starts, so maybe they are starting to form a stronger rapport.
This is an interesting juxtaposition. On one hand, Moore is amazing, and has been a league-winner in his starts without Zach Wilson. And on the other hand, Zach WIlson, the worst QB in the NFL this season, is the Jets’ starting QB in Week 13.
I think you have to consider Moore a value, but just not one that can be played in cash, or even small field tournaments. For the larger GPPs, however, Moore’s upside relative to his price (WR26 on DK, WR28 on FD) is basically unmatched. Should he and Zach Wilson form a decent connection for the first time all season, Moore is about as likely to wind up on a tournament-winning roster as any other player in Week 13.
Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams (VS. JAX)
DK: 1.89X / FD: 1.47X
Since Robert Woods tore his ACL in practice prior to Week 10, Van Jefferson has run a route on 100% of Matthew Stafford’s dropbacks, recording a 19% target share, and earning 15.3 XFP per game. For reference, over the full season, only 5 WRs exceed a 95% route share, 30 WRs exceed a 19% target share, and 19 WRs exceed 15.3 XFP per game. So, with his new role post-Woods, Jefferson is a pretty clear value as the WR31 (by salary) on DraftKings and the WR33 on FanDuel. And his role was strong prior to Woods’ injury, as Jefferson had earned 7 or more targets in 4 of his last 5 games, and is averaging 12.0 FPG with a high of 18.3 fantasy points over that stretch.
This matchup with Jacksonville is on the plus side of things, as they’ve allowed the 9th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+0.8) this season. And it’s arguably better than that, as the Jaguars’ top CB (Shaq Griffin) is likely out as he’s recovering from a concussion.
Importantly, Odell Beckham (hip) didn’t practice on Thursday and seems legitimately questionable headed into Sunday. So, if Beckham sits, Jefferson goes from a solid target in tournaments to a top value-play in all formats.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Detroit Lions (VS. MIN)
DK: +$671, 2.79X / FD: +$272, 1.57X
Josh Reynolds has only played 2 games for the Lions, but in those games, he’s run a route on 90% of Detroit dropbacks and has earned a 17% target share. So, at this point, I think it’s fair to say Reynolds is right there with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond as the Lions top WR. With one key difference: Reynolds is $1,000 cheaper than both Raymond and St. Brown on DraftKings.
And let’s keep in mind this is a Lions’ team that will likely need to throw as 7-point underdogs in an excellent matchup against a Minnesota defense that’s allowed the most schedule-adjusted FPG (+7.5) to opposing WRs this season. Plus, Reynolds himself has an established rapport with QB Jared Goff, who targeted Reynolds 201 times during their four seasons playing together for the Rams.
As punt plays at WR go, it’s hard to think of a better setup than what we are looking at right now with Josh Reynolds.
Foster Moreau, TE, Las Vegas Raiders (VS. WAS)
DK: +$991, 3.56X / FD: +$211, 1.52X
#Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia says TE Darren Waller (knee) is "week to week."— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) November 29, 2021
Darren Waller appears doubtful to play this week, and if he can’t suit up, Foster Moreau is undoubtedly the top TE value on DraftKings, and a top-3 TE value on FanDuel.
Moreau ranked 2nd on the team in targets (6) and tied for 2nd in routes (30) in Week 7 with Waller inactive. The result? 18.0 fantasy points — by far the best fantasy performance of Moreau’s career. And after Waller left the 2nd quarter of the Raiders Thanksgiving day game with a knee injury, Moreau earned 4 targets in the 2nd half. For reference, 4 targets ties with Moreau’s season-high in the 10 games he’s played this year with Waller. And that was just in a half. So Moreau is clearly in for a significant volume bump, should Waller be inactive.
He’s an easy cash game play on DraftKings, where he’s roughly 13% more valuable than the next closest TE (James O’Shaughnessy), per our projections. On FanDuel, Moreau profiles as more of a tournament play, given that their condensed TE pricing lends itself more towards playing high-priced TEs, like Travis Kelce or George Kittle, in cash.