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.
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (VS. MIA)
DK: 3.37X / FD: +$272, 2.76X
Josh Allen, the QB1 in fantasy football so far this year, is playing at home with the highest implied team total of Week 8 (31.5). Over the last two seasons, Allen has played in 11 games with a team total above 27.0, and has averaged 27.7 DraftKings FPG and 26.5 Fanduel FPG in those instances. For reference, those numbers (if over a full season) would constitute the 2nd-greatest fantasy QB season in NFL history. The Bills clearly want to put the ball in Allens’ hands and have been aggressive throwing the ball yet again in 2021, passing 4.6% more than expected (7th-most). That shouldn’t be a surprise given Allen’s outstanding ceiling, as he’s scored more than 34.5 fantasy points in 23% of his games over the last two seasons.
And Allen gets a strong matchup against Miami, who have allowed the 6th most FPG to opposing QBs (21.5) and rank 3rd-worst in schedule adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs over the last 5 weeks (+3.9). It’s easy to see why Allen is our highest-projected QB of Week 8, and our top QB value on both DFS sites.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (AT CLE)
DK: 2.63X / FD: 1.91X
Najee Harris is seeing the best usage of any player in professional football. He leads all players in XFP per game (23.1) and leads all RBs in targets per game (7.8) and routes per game (31.8). He ranks 1st in snap share (87%), 2nd in XFP market share (28%), and 1st in XFP positional market share (93%). He’s seeing a Christian McCaffrey-esque workload, but is understandably less efficient (-2.8 PAR) than CMC given the Steelers’ poor offensive line (3rd-worst PFF run blocking grade) and Big Ben’s noodle arm.
This Week 8 matchup against Cleveland doesn’t exactly jump off the page, as the total is a rather gross 42.0, and Cleveland is a tougher RB matchup, allowing -3.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (9th-best). That eliminates Harris from cash game consideration, but with the elite volume he’s seeing, he’s absolutely in play in tournaments (especially on DraftKings as the RB4 by salary) given he should carry relatively low ownership given the weaker matchup and scoring environment this week.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams (AT HOU)
DK: +$194, 3.43X / FD: 2.38X
RB usage leaders from the last 2 weeks:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) October 28, 2021
1. Fournette - 24.3 XFP per game
2. Swift - 21.0
3. Henry - 20.1
4. Henderson - 18.9
5. Herbert - 17.2
Henderson currently ranks 10th in touches per game (18.5), 5th in snaps per game (50.8), 4th in routes per game (26.0), 6th in goalline carries (7), but just 12th in FPG (17.1). Henderson’s usage, especially over the last few weeks, suggests we are dealing with a mid-tier RB1. Fortunately for us, Henderson is the RB11 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB10 on Fanduel this week with the Rams as 15.0-point favorites against Houston. Henderson was Week 7’s highest owned RB, and he scored just 6.4 fantasy points on 18 touches. That brutal performance is sure to have soured some DFS players on Henderson, and could lower his Week 8 ownership relative to what we saw last week despite another great matchup. Plus, I’m not sure anyone expected the Lions to come out the way they did — kicking a surprise onside kick in the first quarter, faking two punts, and playing incredibly aggressive up front defensively. That Lions’ game plan essentially stole the positive gamescript we all anticipated from Henderson and this Rams’ offense.
Houston, however, is a different story. They lack the kneecap biting intensity and aggression that has flooded the veins of Dan Campbell’s Lions, and instead have largely rolled over for their opponents, losing their last three games by an average of 19.0 points (worst), and giving up 157.3 rushing yards per game in the process (worst). And Houston ranks 6th-worst in PFF rushing grades (48.9 team rush defense grade) and 4th-worst in Football Outsiders rush defense DVOA (-0.2%). This is an outstanding matchup for a RB who is seeing strong enough usage to warrant being priced in the RB4-RB7 range on both DFS sites. Henderson will be one of the most popular RBs of Week 8, but arguably, he should be the highest-owned RB for the second week in a row given his current usage profile.
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots (AT LAC)
DK: 2.98X / FD: 2.53X
Over the last three weeks, Harris has averaged 16.3 touches per game, 93.0 YFS per game, and 17.6 FPG. Over the full season, those numbers would rank 10th-, 9th-, and 9th-best. Harris is, however, a complete non-factor when the Patriots can’t get the ground game going. He’s logged just 1.6 targets per game (56th among RBs) and has only averaged 9.3 FPG in New England losses, compared to 16.2 FPG in victories. So with the Patriots as 5.5-point underdogs to the Chargers, Harris isn’t playable, right? Well, no, because there aren’t many teams that are purposely giving up the run as much as LAC.
The Chargers are giving up 5.4 YPC (worst), 162.5 rushing YPG (worst), and 29.8 rush attempts per game (5th-worst). And they rank dead last in Football Outsiders rush defense DVOA (9.6%) and 31st in PFF rush defense grade (35.3). And they are largely inviting this, allowing 86 carries (5th-most) and 495 yards (2nd-most) with 6 or fewer defenders in the box. It’s a schematic decision, but the Chargers are giving up as much fantasy production on the ground as any team. In a matchup this good with a near-monopoly on backfield carries, Harris should be priced about $800 more on both sites. The potential for the Chargers to run away with this contest makes Harris a tournament only play, but an excellent one on a 0.5 PPR site like Fanduel, where pass catching RBs will have a much harder time out-producing him on just target volume alone.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (AT CHI)
DK: +$277, 2.56X / FD: +$600, 2.29X
Mitchell was the unquestioned lead back for San Francisco in Week 7, handling 75% of backfield opportunities on a 66% snap share. Given that the 49ers have had a top-4 backfield by total fantasy production in each of the last two seasons, it’s safe to say Mitchell is in an excellent spot to succeed. Last season, the 49ers RB1 averaged 14.5 FPG - a number that would rank 13th-best among main slate eligible RBs this week. And yet Mitchell is the RB17 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB29 (!) on Fanduel. Now Mitchell gets a Bears’ run defense that ranks 8th-worst in PFF run defense grades, and has given up 135 rushing yards to Packers and 171 to Bears backs over their last two games. He’s a solid play for DraftKings tournaments but an elite play on Fanduel, where he can be safely used in cash games.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (AT NYJ)
DK: +$209, 2.40X / FD: 1.86X
In his first seven games, Ja’Marr Chase has more receiving yards (754) and fantasy points (146.2) than any other rookie WR in their first 7 games in NFL history. That’s despite the fact he’s only been targeted 51 times - the 27th most targets by a rookie WR in their first 7 games all-time.
So Chase is destined to come back down to earth given he isn’t seeing the usage to justify these incredible numbers, right? That’s possible, but with each passing week it seems more and more likely that Chase is a truly generational player and that he and Joe Burrow have what we can only call a ‘magical’ connection.
Scott Barrett noted just how magical in the Week 8 XFP report, saying:
Chase isn’t just having the best start to a rookie season all-time, he’s having one of the best seasons of any fantasy player all-time. Chase has out-scored his expectation by a league-high +8.1 FPG, with 64% of his fantasy points coming on efficiency rather than volume (most). You can contrast that to the 2nd-most efficient player in fantasy football, Cooper Kupp, at +5.5 (25%). Or last year’s league-leader, Davanete Adams, +6.1 (31%) in an all-time great season (5th-most FPG by any WR all-time).
Chase’s 2.87 fantasy points per target average currently ranks 3rd-best since targets became a stat in 1992. His PAR (points above replacement) of +8.1 (or 64%) would be the most by any player at any position in any season since at least 2008.
Should we really be that surprised? Per Scott Barrett’s rookie model, Chase was the top WR prospect to come out since at least 2015. At just 19 years old, Chase was more productive than the WR who broke the modern rookie receiving record (Justin Jefferson), and on 13 fewer targets. Not to mention he reunited with his Heisman trophy winning QB, after the duo had combined for the greatest college receiving season on throws of 20+ yards since at least 2014, with Chase pulling down a record 14 TDs and earning 860 yards (2nd-most since 2014) on deep targets.
And that’s exactly what we are seeing (again) at the next level, as Chase has caught a league-leading 9 receptions of 20+ yards, resulting in a league-leading 375 yards and 4 TDs on deep targets. Encouragingly, Cincinnati has also started throwing more, as Graham Barfield noted in his weekly Stat Pack that Cincinnati’s neutral-situation pass rate has increased 10% (from 55% to 65%) in Weeks 4-6. And last week against Baltimore, Cincinnati chose to throw the ball 77% of the time in neutral situations. With the Bengals offense throwing more, Chase should see better usage, and his hyper-efficiency through the first 7 weeks of the season suggests that better usage from here would cement him as a top-3 fantasy WR for the foreseeable future.
Chase is our 2nd-best projected value at WR on DraftKings this week and our 3rd-best WR value on Fanduel. He’s an elite value anyway we chose to look at it, and while I don’t tend to bet on hyper-efficiency in cash games, I absolutely will in tournaments. Thus, Chase is one of my favorite GPP plays on both sites, assuming projected ownership doesn’t get out of hand.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (AT CLE)
DK: +$263, 2.31X / FD: 1.67X
From the Week 8 XFP Report:
Over the past two seasons, Johnson has played in 20 games with Ben Roethlisberger under center. He's been hurt in five of those games and was once benched for drops. Including the two injury games this season, but removing the other four games, Johnson has hit double-digit targets in 15 of 16 games, averaging 12.1 targets, 79.7 receiving yards, and 19.6 FPG.
And he’s even more of a monster this season, hitting at least 14.5 fantasy points in 5 of 5 games (despite 2 injury games). He's finished top-10 in XFP in 4 of his 5 games this year. You can contrast that to the position leader in XFP Cooper Kupp, who has 3 top-10 finishes in 7 games.
On a per game basis, he ranks: 10th in FPG (20.9), 3rd in deep targets (2.6), 2nd in targets (11.6), 2nd in XFP (20.9), and 3rd in XTD (0.74). So, keep in mind, Johnson's usage is not only significantly better, but he's being used in an entirely different way. He's jumped 2X in deep targets per game and 2X in XTD per game from his numbers last season.
Diontae is seeing the usage of a top-5 WR, but for the millionth time, he just isn’t priced like it. And now he gets a matchup with a Browns defense that’s allowed the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (+7.5). He’s obviously a strong play on both sites, but he’s an incredible one on DraftKings where he is easily $1,000 too cheap. Unless projected ownership gets astronomically high, Johnson will be my favorite WR play (by far) on DraftKings in Week 8.
Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (AT NO)
DK: +$331, 2.06X / FD: +$294, 1.83X
With Antonio Brown doubtful for Week 8, we are looking at another week of excellent usage for both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Given that Godwin is $600 cheaper than Evans on DraftKings and $300 cheaper on Fanduel, he’s the focus in this article as the superior value. In Week 7 Godwin saw a team-leading 11 targets and 34 routes, for a team-leading 111 yards on (yet again) a team-leading 23.3 XFP. This may surprise some people, but it’s Godwin, not Evans, who leads TB players in usage near and in the end zone. He leads the team (and is tied with Cooper Kupp for the league-lead) with 2.3 targets (1.0 more than Rob Gronkowski) inside the red zone per game, and Godwin leads the team (and is yet again tied for the league-lead) with 1.3 end zone targets per game.
And he’ll be matched up with Saints’ slot corner Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who’s abysmal PFF coverage grade of 46.8 suggests a strong matchup for a talent like Godwin. At the very least it's a significantly better matchup than teammate Mike Evans, who will be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore, and Lattimore shadows have resulted in a 19.3% reduction to a WR’s FPG average over the least two seasons. The usage leader on the best offense in football is in a plus matchup and is only the WR14 (by salary) on DraftKings and the WR13 on Fanduel? Yea, sign me up. Godwin is worthy of cash game consideration and is an excellent tournament play, assuming ownership remains reasonable.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos (VS. WAS)
DK: +$360, 2.76X / FD: +$206, 1.83X
Jeudy is finally ready to return from the Week 1 high ankle sprain that’s kept him off the field for the last 6 weeks. Jeudy injured his ankle with 9 minutes remaining in the third quarter of Week 1, but had been seeing elite usage up to that point in the game, and was on pace for 10 targets, 101 yards, and 16.8 XFP. If we were to anticipate similar usage for the remainder of the season, Jeudy would have to be considered a top-20 fantasy WR. Still, he ranks as the WR34 (by salary) on DraftKings and the WR31 on Fanduel.
And he gets the best matchup of Week 8 - Washington. The Football Team has allowed +10.7 schedule adjusted FPG to WRs (worst), 300.6 passing yards per game (worst), and 18.1 FPG to opposing slot WRs (2nd-worst). And they rank 2nd-worst in PFF coverage grades (37.0) and 4th-worst in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA (29.2%). This is the worst pass defense in the NFL, and a talent like Jeudy should have no trouble finding ways to get open against them.
Jeudy is my must-play WR of the week, but if ownership is insane, Courtland Sutton makes the most sense as a tournament pivot. He currently leads all WRs in air yards per game (141.3), deep targets per game (2.7), and tied for 6th in XTDs per game (0.6). Sutton, a lights-out deep threat throughout his career, is now seeing the best deep volume of any WR. That sounds to me like an ideal GPP pivot, dependent on Jeudy’s projected ownership, of course.
Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams (AT HOU)
DK: +$291, 2.01X
Routes run on 42 Matthew Stafford dropbacks:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) October 25, 2021
41 - Kupp, Woods
40 - Higbee, Van Jefferson 👀
29 - Henderson
4 - Michel
3 - Jackson
Full-time Van Jefferson? Full-time Van Jefferson.
After seeing no higher than a 77% snap share in his last four games, Van Jefferson logged a 94% snap share and a 95% route share against Detroit on Sunday. These weren’t empty snaps either, as Jefferson earned a season-high 7 targets and managed to score, finishing the day with 14.3 fantasy points. His target volume has stayed consistent all season, seeing at least three targets in every game, and at least 4 targets in his last 5 games.
Jefferson’s 9.9 FPG this season isn’t exactly eye popping, but his recent increase in route share combined with his consistent target volume suggest he’s (at the very least) one of the most reliable WRs available for less than $4,000 on DraftKings this week. And unlike most sub-$4k WRs, Jefferson has shown a decent ceiling, scoring over 14.0 fantasy points in 43% of his games this season. Not to mention that we’ve seen a history of success from the WR3 in this offense when they play a full-time role, suggesting Jefferson’s fantasy output could absolutely increase from here. Jefferson is a top value and should be a popular salary saving option on DraftKings in a Week 8 matchup with Houston, PFF’s 4th-worst graded coverage unit.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (AT DET)
DK: +$858, 1.90X / FD: +$826, 1.52X
H. Roseman: “Getting him in a role where it’s not just sharing time and he’s the guy, because in terms of our bargaining power, there’s going to be no discount on Dallas Goedert. We know that, so we want to get as much information and give him as much opportunity to take over…” https://t.co/mLfcG0HySP— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) October 16, 2021
Goedert is poised for significantly higher volume with Zach Ertz and his 10.5 XFP per game now in Arizona. Granted, that didn’t transpire last week, with Goedert only scoring 10.0 fantasy points on 7.5-point expectation. Still, Goedert posted an 88% route share, which would currently rank 2nd among TEs. A player seeing that kind of usage simply shouldn’t be priced as the TE7 (by salary) on DraftKings and Fanduel because as Scott Barrett pointed out in his Week 7 XFP Report, if we gave Goedert Ertz’ XFP per route rate and an 80% route share, that would put him at 14.3 XFP per game, which would rank 4th-best. And half of that equation has already been confirmed.
Now Goedert gets to play in a solid scoring environment (48.0 total) against Detroit - PFF’s worst-graded coverage unit (30.1 coverage grade). He’s the clear top TE value and is priced about $900 too low on both sites, and can be confidently used in both cash games and tournaments.