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.
Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers (AT KC)
DK: +$1191, 3.64X / FD: +$1222, 2.67X
Week 8 of the NFL season. In which current QB1 scorers this week include...— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) November 1, 2021
Jimmy Garoppolo 27.3 points (QB2)
Mike White 26.1 (QB3)
Justin Fields 25.3 (QB4)
Geno Smith 22.6 (QB7)
Davis Mills 20.4 (QB9)
Cooper Rush 17.2 (QB12)
Seemingly every week, the NFL surprises us. This week the surprise was that former MVP Aaron Rodgers has COVID, isn’t vaccinated, and thus, has to miss the Packers Week 9 matchup with Kansas City. That means a dirt-cheap Jordan Love will start against arguably the worst defense in the NFL.
We basically know nothing about Love’s ability as an NFL QB - the 2020 Round 1 pick has only ever played 18 snaps in regular season NFL games. So, there’s obviously a good deal of uncertainty with this play.
What we do know is that Love is far and away the cheapest QB on both DFS sites. Love’s $4,400 DraftKings salary is $600 less than the next closest slate-eligible starting QB, and his $6,000 Fanduel salary is the cheapest of any starter by $400. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Love is our top projected points per $ value at QB on DraftKings, and our 3rd best value on Fanduel. And even if we don’t think he’s very good, the matchup can absolutely make up for it.
Kansas City ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing QBs (23.5), 4th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+3.4), and 3rd-worst in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA (29.7%). This is an abysmal, potentially worst in the league pass defense. With Love as cheap as any QB we’ve seen this year, a solid scoring environment (48.0 total), and an excellent matchup, it’s tough to argue against Love as anything other than the one of the top QB values of Week 9.
For those intimidated by the uncertainty of the Love play, Taysom Hill (assuming he plays) is my favorite pivot as a value QB. Hill averaged 21.1 FPG in his four games as the Saints starter last season - a mark that would currently tie him with Justin Herbert for the QB9 this season. And he faces Atlanta, a team that’s given up the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs this season (+3.2).
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (AT PHI)
DK: +$857, 2.70X / FD: 2.09X
No RB has exceeded their usage-based expectation quite like Austin Ekeler, who is averaging 21.9 FPG (most among all slate-eligible RBs) and 16.8 XFP per game. He’s exactly what Scott Barrett said he was in the 2021 Bell Cow Report — a hyper-efficient scatback on steroids. And his efficiency is borderline unmatched, and maybe only comparable to Alvin Kamara with Drew Brees under center.
Among all players with at least 50 carries, Ekeler’s 1.31 fantasy points per touch ranks 2nd-best, behind only Cordarrelle Paterson while Ekeler’s 0.48 fantasy points per snap ranks 4th among all RBs. And Ekeler ranks top-10 among RBs with at least 50 carries in yards after contact per attempt (3.27), YPC (5.0), PFF rushing grade (80.0), PFF elusive rating (72.8), avoided tackles per rush attempt (0.23), and total EPA (9.8). If it weren’t for CPat, Ekeler would indisputably be the most efficient RB in football.
Now Ekeler gets a matchup with Philadelphia, a team that’s allowed the 4th-most FPG to opposing RBs (28.5) and the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs over the last 5 weeks (+8.3). Ekeler currently ranks 4th among RBs in targets per game (6.1), and the Eagles haven’t defended pass catching RBs well, allowing the 8th-most receiving yards and 4th-most receiving TDs to opposing RBs. For a player like Ekeler, this is an ideal matchup.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (VS. DEN)
DK: +$386, 2.96X / FD: 2.34X
Among slate-eligible RBs, Zeke ranks 3rd in touches per game (19.7), 1st in XTD per game (0.9), 2nd in XFP per game (18.2), and 5th in FPG (17.8). Still, he’s the cheapest he’s been on both DFS sites since Week 5, despite a solid matchup against Denver and the slate’s 2nd-highest implied team total (29.75), providing Zeke with arguably the best TD upside of the slate.
The Broncos rank 7th-worst in Football Outsiders rush defense DVOA (-4.9%), just lost one of their best run defenders in Von Miller (83.0 PFF rush defense grade), and have given up 4.8 YPC over their last 3 games (9th-worst).
Not to mention Zeke has historically performed quite well in similar scoring environments, averaging 23.2 DraftKings FPG and 20.2 Fanduel FPG in his career when the Cowboys are favored by 7.0-points or more. If extrapolated over the full season, those numbers would currently rank 2nd among all RBs. There is valid concern over Tony Pollard eating into Elliott’s workload, but Zeke ranking top-3 on the slate in both touches and XFP should dissuade any serious concerns. Zeke is clearly a top-3 RB option on the Week 9 main slate, but just isn’t priced like it as the RB7 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB6 on Fanduel.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (AT CIN)
DK: 2.73X / FD: 2.28X
Chubb didn’t exactly impress in his first game back, scoring just 6.9 fantasy points. Granted, that poor performance did come against one of the league’s toughest run defenses in Pittsburgh, who have allowed -5.7 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs this season (3rd-best). And Chubb still earned 17 total touches, showcasing the consistent volume Chubb is locked into with Kareem Hunt still on IR. Chubb was also out-carried in the red zone 2-1 by D’Ernest Johnson, which is something I wouldn’t anticipate going forward as Chubb leads the Browns, and ranks 6th in the NFL with 25 carries inside the red zone.
Week 9 ushers in a favorable matchup for Chubb, as Cincinnati has allowed the 5th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+5.1). It is worth noting that the Browns are actually 2.5-point underdogs in this game, something that makes Chubb a tournament only play. Since entering the league in 2018, Chubb averages 18.6 DraftKings FPG and 16.3 Fanduel FPG in Cleveland wins, compared to just 14.3 DK FPG and 12.5 Fanduel FPG in losses. I’ll have most of my Chubb exposure on Fanduel, where his $7,600 salary is $275 cheaper than his average salary over the last 8 weeks, and he won’t suffer nearly as much from his lack of receiving work.
Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons (AT NO)
DK: +$663, 2.62X / FD: 2.07X
CPat ranks 26th among RBs in total touches (96), but 6th in FPG (19.2) largely due to his receiving role and outstanding red zone efficiency. Patterson has scored 0.6 more TDs per game than expected, the most of any RB. But, it may not be just pure luck, as Patterson is the 4th-most efficient runner in NFL history (5.6 career YPC) and has been playing outstanding football (87.7 overall PFF grade). Plus we have never seen a high-volume CPat — he’s already eclipsed his career high in touches, and it’s only Week 7. We need more data points to know for sure, but Patterson is looking like a Tyreek Hill- or Derrick Henry-type of player, as in we can actually rely on him to consistently exceed his usage-based expectation.
His 5.9 targets per game rank 5th among RBs, and unlike almost all other RBs, Patterson is running WR routes — as his 3.5 aDOT and 25 targets from WR alignments leads the position. With Calvin Ridley out indefinitely, it’s fair to assume Patterson is the No. 2 pass catcher on this team, on top of the 12.3 carries per game he had been seeing. In fact, Patterson has averaged 4.7 more touches per game in the two games Ridley has missed this season. The 17.5 touches per game he has averaged in Ridley’s absence would rank 12th among all players this season, ahead of Aaron Jones, D’Andre Swift, Austin Ekeler, Leonard Fournette, and James Robinson.
Week 9 ushers in a tougher matchup against New Orleans, but Patterson’s ‘positionless’ nature makes him less likely to succumb to the Saints outstanding run defense (18.3 FPG allowed, 4th-best) than pure RBs like teammate Mike Davis. Patterson could easily be priced about $1,000 higher on both sites, and he should be quite popular in Week 9 given the price discount relative to his production.
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills (AT JAX)
DK: 2.68X / FD: +$400, 2.12X
Moss has seen at least 14 touches in every game the Bills have won by multiple scores. And this week they play Jacksonville, as a 14.5-point favorite. The Jags have given up the 6th-most rushing FPG to opposing RBs (15.7), and the 4th-most TDs (8). Moss is the undisputed leader for Buffalo inside the red zone, leading the team (and ranking 8th in the NFL) with 4.0 opportunities inside the 20 yard line per game. That’s reflected well on Moss’ TD expectation, as he also ranks 13th among RBs with 0.6 XTD per game. That usage in a game environment where the Bills should face plenty of positive gamescript suggests immense TD upside. Moss isn’t in play for cash games, but he is an ideal tournament play, especially on Fanduel where he’s the RB25 (by salary), as a multi-TD performance is absolutely within reach.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. GB)
DK: +$323, 2.35X / FD: 1.81X
This is the cheapest Hill has been on DraftKings since Week 12 of 2020. And he costs 5.6% less than Davante Adams on Fanduel, despite the fact Hill has been 9.2% more productive. Most importantly, Hill is seeing the best volume of his career, averaging 11.9 targets per game (+2.9 from his previous career high), 3.3 red zone targets per game (+0.4), and 20.7 XFP per game (+3.7).
Given that Hill is a player who has always historically outperformed his expectation, the fact he’s seeing a workload on par with Davante Adams is absolutely huge. If Cooper Kupp wasn’t having potentially the greatest fantasy WR season of all-time, we’d undoubtedly be talking about Hill as the favorite to be the overall WR1 this season.
It’s worth noting that Aaron Rodgers being ruled out for this game did tank the total, which is currently sitting at 48.0. That’s still the 4th-highest total of the Week 9 main slate, so despite Rodgers absence, this remains one of the more favorable scoring environments of the week. And let’s not forget Hill’s absolutely ridiculous upside. He’s had more 40+ point fantasy outings (6) than any other player since 2018, and has two of the top-60 best fantasy performances of the past 20 years under his belt. When Hill goes off, he goes off in a truly slate-breaking way. Hill is the top WR play in tournaments this week, especially on DraftKings where he’s inexplicably priced about $1,000 too low.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens (VS. MIN)
DK: +$549, 2.62X
Brown is priced as the WR15 on DraftKings despite ranking 5th among slate-eligible WRs in DK FPG (19.4). Compared to 2020, Brown is seeing 1.9 more targets per game, 1.0 more deep targets per game, 3.6 more XFP per game, 42.1 more air yards per game, and 0.9 more opportunities in the red zone or end zone per game. And the Ravens expected pass rate is 7% higher than in 2020. That’s a serious usage bump for a player who is currently playing the best football of his career, averaging a career high 2.29 YPRR and posting a career high 80.1 PFF receiving grade.
Brown’s Week 9 matchup with Minnesota certainly isn’t one to shy away from, as they’ve allowed the 10th most FPG to opposing outside WRs (24.3), the 4th-most FPG to opposing WRs on deep passes (11.0), and just got shredded for 341 passing yards on Sunday Night Football against Dallas. Should his current usage continue, within a few weeks I’d expect Brown’s DraftKings price to more closely mirror his Fanduel price, where he clocks in as the WR5 (by salary).
Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys (VS. DEN)
DK: +$520, 2.58X / FD: 1.77X
With Dak Prescott under center, Cooper hasn’t been cheaper than $6,000 on DraftKings since Week 12 of 2018, and he’s only been cheaper than $7,000 on Fanduel once since the start of 2019. With Prescott likely to play in Week 9, this is an excellent opportunity to grab Cooper at a massive relative discount in GPPs.
Dallas offers an implied team total of 29.25 this week, and Cooper has historically averaged 19.0 DraftKings FPG and 15.6 Fanduel FPG when Dallas has a team total higher than 28.0 over the last four seasons (8 instances). Those numbers would currently rank 10th and 9th among WRs this season, but more importantly, Cooper has borderline unmatched single-game upside. Since 2018, only Tyreek Hill (6) and Davante Adams (5) have more games of 35.0 fantasy points than Cooper (4). Comparable game breaking upside to Hill and Adams, for a roughly 30% salary discount on both sites? Yes please. Cooper is one of the top WR plays in Week 9 tournaments, especially on DraftKings.
Bryan Edwards, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (AT NYG)
DK: +$494, 2.95X / FD: +$444, 1.91X
With Henry Ruggs off the team, Bryan Edwards is the clear top option at outside WR for the Raiders this week. Ruggs was averaging 5.3 targets and 8.8 XFP per game during his time in Las Vegas. If we assume Edwards can absorb just 40% of that, then he would be averaging 7.0 targets and 13.2 XFP per game. Those numbers would rank 43rd and 38th among WRs, yet Edwards is just the WR54 (by salary) on DraftKings and the WR60 on Fanduel. And he’s our 31st highest-projected WR of Week 8. He’s clearly mispriced.
The matchup with the Giants is absolutely on the plus side, as they’ve allowed the 10th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+2.0) and the 7th-most FPG to outside WRs (16.2). Edwards is the top salary-saving option at WR on both sites, but especially on Fanduel where he offers a ridiculously low $5,300 price tag.
Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans (AT MIA)
Collins has emerged as the No. 2 pass catcher in Houston over these last three weeks, ranking 2nd on the team in targets (15), routes (84), yards (127), and FPG (7.6). Those aren’t exactly enticing fantasy numbers, but they come with the crucial stipulation of Davis Mills playing QB. With Tyrod Taylor expected to start this week, we should have a somewhat competent Texans offense again. And at just $3,600 on DraftKings, that means Nico Collins is absolutely in play as a salary saving GPP option.
Collins has the advantages of a high likelihood of negative gamescript (the Texans are 6.5-point underdogs) and a solid matchup given the Dolphins have allowed the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs this season (+5.5). Plus his recent emergence as the No. 2 pass catching option in Houston has been a bit overshadowed by the Texans complete offensive dysfunction, so I’m expecting fairly minuscule ownership for him this week. Collins isn’t a player I’m particularly excited to roster, but we need to identify some cheap WR options every week to give ourselves lineup building flexibility, and Collins is one of my favorite ‘punt’ options at WR on DraftKings this week.
Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants (VS LVR)
Toney is no doubt risky, dealing with multiple injuries (ankle, hand), but there’s immense upside as well. WR Sterling Shepard (8th in targets per route) is likely to sit out, and Toney has averaged 11.0 targets, 8.0 receptions, and 137.5 YFS per game in the two games he’s missed. Since Week 4, Toney ranks 2nd in targets per route (0.35) and 1st in YPRR (4.11). If we assume a 90% route share on the 40 dropbacks per game the Raiders are giving up, that would translate to about 14 targets and 165 receiving yards.
Giants OC Jason Garrett gets trashed every week on twitter, but he’s actually done a terrific job scheming up Toney; getting him open in space where he’s most dangerous, via designed plays, screens, pick-plays, etc.
He ranks just 28th (DK) and 34th (FD) in salary, and, I suspect, he’ll be one of my highest-owned players in GPPs this week.
“[The individual CB matchup is tough, but] this particular schematic matchup against a Raiders’ defense featuring the highest rate of Cover 3 simply leans too far in Toney’s favor to ignore. With the cutoff set at 10 receptions for individual coverage qualification, Toney ranks 2nd-best this season with 0.85 FP/Rt, leads all WRs with 5.06 YPRR, stands 7th in YPT (12.46), and 1st in target rate drawn when on the field against Cover 3 (41%). CB Nate Hobbs will be in the vicinity of Toney while he’s doing most of his work and the Raiders will stalk Daniel Jones with the league’s highest QB pressure rate. But my confidence in Toney this week would only be threatened by picking up another injury.”
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (VS LAC)
Goedert ranks as just the 10th-highest-priced TE on DraftKings this week. And, well, that’s pretty stupid.
Dallas Goedert has hit 70 receiving yards in back-to-back games following the departure of Zach Ertz. Over this span, he’s run a route on 86% of the team’s dropbacks, turning a 20% target share into a 41% yardage share. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 2nd-best, 5th-best and best among all TEs, and the latter stat would rank 3rd-best among all receivers. We like him this week as a top-3 option, in a TE-funnel matchup against the Chargers. Los Angeles has given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing TEs (17.3), with a league-high 34.5% of their total receiving production allowed going to TEs. (SB)