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.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (VS. WAS)
DK: +$586, 2.76X / FD: 2.11X
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey hasn't played in the fourth quarter and he still has more yards (161) than the Cardinals (147).— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) November 14, 2021
CMC was the 4th-highest scoring RB of Week 10, scoring 26.1 FPG on 13 carries and 10 targets — despite getting tackled inside the 2-yard-line an astonishing 3 times, and coming up just 5 yards short of the DraftKings 3-point bonus. So, he was just a stone's throw away from a slate-breaking 47.1 DraftKings points this week.
It’s safe to say CMC is officially back. And, if we take a look back at historical pricing, he’s even available at a discount if we assume he comes anywhere close to 2019-levels of volume.
CMC is $766 cheaper than his average DraftKings price throughout the 2019 season. On FanDuel, he’s only been cheaper than his Week 11 price tag once since Week 10 of 2019, and that one instance was last week.
McCaffrey draws a solid matchup in Week 11, facing a Washington defense that’s been a tougher matchup for opposing RBs, allowing the 6th-fewest FPG to opposing RBs this season (19.6), but crucially, just lost their best defender in Chase Young to a torn ACL.
After a 23-touch outing on Sunday, it should be obvious CMC will get peppered with targets and carries — granted it’s worth noting his TD equity is lower with Cam Newton starting. We saw Newton vulture two goalline TDs on Sunday, and I would expect that trend to continue as long as he’s the starter (Newton is expected to start in Week 11). Still, CMC was a fantasy cheat code with Newton starting in 2018, averaging 24.1 FPG. Even if we accept the reduced TD equity, 24.1 FPG would still lead all non-Derrick Henry RBs this season — and is 2.6 FPG more than the next closest RB (Jonathan Taylor). And if he’s better than that, say, 2019 CMC, then he’s probably 40% more productive than the next closest RB on the slate, despite only being priced 7% higher than the RB2 (by salary) on DraftKings and 11% higher than the RB2 on FanDuel.
It’s hard to argue McCaffrey is the top value RB of the week given the presence of A.J. Dillon and James Conner on this week’s main slate. But, with ownership likely concentrating on Conner and Dillon (and potentially Darrel Williams and Mark Ingram), CMC is shaping up as my favorite RB play in tournaments this week, especially on DraftKings.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals (AT SEA)
DK: 2.92X / 2.23X
James Conner scored 15.4 fantasy points yesterday. But...— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) November 15, 2021
- He played on 45/55 (82%) total snaps despite Arizona never being in the game.
- Earned 75% of Arizona's backfield opportunities in the first 3 quarters
Excellent usage in a backfield that's averaged 26.3 FPG in 2021.
Conner’s first week as the Cardinals’ lead back didn’t exactly go great, as he scored 15.4 fantasy points in a game where Arizona was dominated from start to finish, losing 34 to 10. When an offense scores just 10 points and earns 169 net yards, it’s nearly impossible for their starting RB to be on a tournament-winning team. But, those numbers did come with both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins out. Given that PFF lists Kyler Murray as a 7-point improvement over a replacement-level QB (and tied as the 2nd-most valuable QB in football), it’s easy to see how this offense failed in Week 10.
Conner is off the board as a potential play should Murray sit out in Week 11, given the massive difference the MVP candidate has made to the Cardinals offense. But should Murray play, then I’ll be looking at Conner as one of the top RB plays of the slate given the Cardinals averaged 32.1 PPG in Murray’s full games, compared to 20.7 PPG in the games Murray has either missed or not finished.
Conner’s Week 10 usage suggests he’s looking at somewhere between 72-82% of backfield snaps (82% snap share) and volume (72% backfield XFP%), and for a backfield that has averaged 26.3 FPG this season, that would translate to 18.4 to 22.3 FPG. Or, roughly somewhere between the RB7 (D’Andre Swift) and the RB2 (Jonathan Taylor).
And, assuming Kyler plays, this is one of the stronger scoring settings of the week, offering the 4th-highest total (48.5) of the Week 11 main slate. Plus the Seahawks have been vulnerable to RBs this season, allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+8.1) and the most receiving FPG to opposing RBs (16.0) — an important note given Conner has averaged 4.5 targets per game in Chase Edmonds’ absence.
Could a healthy Murray vulture TDs from Conner? Sure. But, Murray is averaging 2.2 less carries per game and 32.9 less rush yards per game this season, and given he will be returning from an injury, I’d expect this Cardinals ground game to be dominated by their RBs.
Conner can be safely used in cash games should Murray start, and should only be faded in tournaments by those worried about his massive ownership (which is likely) this week.
A.J. Dillon, RB, Green Bay Packers (AT MIN)
DK: +$271, 3.32X / FD: +$659, 2.73X
Dillon saw a career-high 23 touches on Sunday after Aaron Jones went down with an MCL sprain. Jones is doubtful in Week 11, and that opens the door for Dillon to lead a backfield that ties with Arizona as the 9th-most productive in fantasy football, averaging 26.3 FPG.
Once Jones went down near the end of the 3rd quarter, Dillon earned 86% of the Packers backfield opportunities and played on 84% of the team’s snaps. If we assume similar usage going forward, then Dillion is looking at approximately 22.4 FPG until Jones returns. That number would make Dillon the most valuable non-Derrick Henry RB in fantasy football on a per game basis. Green Bay drafted Dillon in Round 2 as the successor to Aaron Jones, and I’d expect the Packers to feed him at least in part to justify that questionable decision.
Minnesota is a fairly neutral matchup, allowing the 11th-most FPG (24.7) to opposing RBs, and with Dillon locked into 20 touches on a team with a decent implied total of 24.5, he’s the clear top value RB of Week 11 as the RB12 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB15 on FanDuel.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears (VS. BAL)
DK: 2.56X / FD: 1.93X
In the five games he’s played this season, Montgomery has recorded the 2nd-best snap share (73%) of any RB. And in his first game back from IR in Week 9, he quickly returned to his bell-cow role, earning a 85% snap share and 86% of backfield XFP. That’s outstanding usage, and with a post-injury price drop, Montgomery is now the 2nd-cheapest he’s been all season on both DFS sites — clocking in as the RB21 on DraftKings (by salary) and the RB17 on FanDuel — despite ranking 9th among slate eligible RBs in opportunities per game (19.4), 13th in red zone opportunities per game (3.0), and 15th in FPG (14.0).
With the Ravens ranking 13th in FPG allowed to opposing RBs (24.0), the primary concern for Montgomery in this spot is gamescript, as the Bears are 5.5-point underdogs and he’s hardly involved as a receiver, averaging just 2.8 targets per game. But even if you expect the Bears to lose, it’s worth noting that 4 of Montgomery’s 5 highest-scoring career fantasy performances have come in losses, rather than wins. I can’t recommend using Monty in cash games, but he will likely see middling tournament ownership this week, which sets him up as a solid GPP option given his discounted price.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (AT PHI)
DK: 1.85X / FD: 1.32X
With Alvin Kamara out in Week 11, Ingram recorded 14 carries, 7 targets, 22.5 XFP, and an 85% snap share. So, Ingram is clearly a bell-cow RB1 with Kamara out (just as we predicted), and well, Kamara practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but missed Thursday’s practice in either an apparent setback, or an effort by the team to rest him. Regardless of the reason, Kamara’s Week 11 status is in major doubt, and should he sit, Ingram is a top-5 value at the RB position for the 2nd week in a row.
The Eagles rank 7th-worst in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (15.0), 13th-worst in receiving FPG allowed to opposing backs (11.0), and 7th-worst in PFF rushing grade. Should Ingram capture 96% of backfield XFP (like he did last week) for a backfield that’s averaged 26.3 FPG this season, then he’s not only underpriced, but he’s an easy cash game play on both DraftKings (as the RB22 by salary) and FanDuel (as the RB18).
Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. DAL)
DK: 2.58X / FD: 1.94X
Darrel Williams has accounted for 67% of backfield XFP since taking over lead back duties for the injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a mark that would rank 12th among all RBs this season. And over his 5 week stretch as the starter, Williams has averaged 17.5 XFP per game, 17.8 FPG, and 5.4 targets per game. Or, put another way, Williams has averaged more XFP per game than Ezekiel Elliott, more FPG than Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb, and more targets per game than J.D. McKissic.
So, with Edwards-Helaire’s status for Week 11 still up in the air, Williams sets up as not just one of the top RB DFS values should he sit, but one of the top RB plays of the entire week. And given this game’s 56.0-point over/under and the Chiefs’ slate-high implied team total of 29.25, Williams — who ranks 4th in goal line carries since becoming the starter — has among the best TD equity of any main slate RB. Should the Chiefs get down in this game, Williams should still be able to produce, as he accounted for 82% of backfield targets last week, and 68% of backfield targets since becoming the starter.
While we may have to slightly ding Williams for the matchup (Dallas is the 8th-toughest matchup for opposing RBs, allowing just 20.8 FPG), his pass game involvement, goalline role, and this games scoring environment more than make up for it. He’s a top-5 RB value and is easily cash game viable should CEH miss Week 11.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans (VS. HOU)
DK: 2.27X / FD: +$833, 2.05X
No Derrick Henry, no Julio Jones. Who’s left? A.J. Brown.
Brown should be the usage king on a Tennessee team with the 3rd-highest implied team total on the slate (27.5) after the team lost 32% of team XFP to injury. In his career, Brown has averaged 21.8 DraftKings FPG and 17.3 FanDuel FPG when the Titans implied team total is over 26.0 (13 instances). And it's important to keep in mind that Brown has never played in one of those games without Derrick Henry. Given the Titans averaged 2.7 YPC in Week 9, and an even more pathetic 2.4 YPC in Week 10, a pass heavy approach may be their path of least resistance against Houston, even if they are 10.5-point favorites.
That brings us to the matchup. Houston is PFF’s worst-graded coverage unit this season (32.2 team coverage grade), and they only have one defensive back (Tavierre Thomas) who has graded out above average in coverage this season. A player as talented as Brown should have no problem carving up the secondary that’s allowed the most FPG to opposing outside WRs (25.8).
Brown is a solid play on both sites, but is arguably the top WR play of the week on FanDuel, where he surprisingly clocks in as the WR13 (by salary).
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks (VS. ARI)
DK: +$220, 2.10X
Lockett has recorded at least 21.8 XFP in each of his last two games, but despite this, has seen his price fall to its lowest point of the season on DraftKings. So cheap, in fact, that Lockett is $722 cheaper than his average price this season, and since the start of the 2019 season, Lockett has only been cheaper than this once.
Arizona is a more neutral matchup as they are allowing the 12th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (-0.8), but this game environment is certainly a plus, as it’s the 4th-highest total game (48.5) on the main slate.
Lockett is primarily known for his boom or bust nature, and that’s been true again this season as he’s recorded 20.0 or more XFP in 4 of his 9 games, and under 10.0 XFP in another 4 games. While that takes him out of cash game consideration, it does make him an ideal tournament play.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins (AT NYJ)
DK: +$329, 2.48X / FD: 1.63X
Since Week 6, Waddle is averaging 16.8 XFP per game, 9.6 targets per game, and 15.5 FPG. Over the full season, those numbers would rank 9th-, 8th-, and 12th-best among slate-eligible WRs. And despite a compelling matchup against the Jets, Waddle clocks in as the WR22 (by salary) on DraftKings and the WR17 on FanDuel.
No team has allowed more schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs over the last 5 weeks than the Jets (+6.6), and only one team (Cincinnati) has allowed more passing yards than the Jets over the last 3 weeks (299.7). Plus this game sets up as a much closer matchup than many would’ve initially thought, given the Dolphins are only 3.5-point favorites.
I’m fairly neutral on Waddle over on FanDuel, given his higher relative salary and the 0.5 PPR nature of the site. But in PPR formats like DraftKings, Waddle is a glaring value as our 16th-highest projected WR.
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (AT LV)
DK: +$740, 2.37X / FD: +$433, 1.62X
Tee Higgins sets up for potentially his best usage of the season with Ja’Marr Chase potentially being shadowed by Casey Hayward, and Tyler Boyd facing the 4th-toughest slot matchup (9.4 FPG allowed). Wes Huber also pointed out in Advanced Matchups that the Raiders run Cover 3 at a top-3 rate, and that Higgins has fared far better than teammate Tyler Boyd against that coverage. If we assume Chase gets shut down by Hayward (which is far from a guarantee), then Higgins is due for an obvious boost in pass game work this week.
And while Higgins has largely underperformed his expectation this season (-2.5 PAR), the plus matchup could easily lead to at least league-average efficiency. And if we project Higgins for his weekly XFP average (15.1), then he would rank as our WR10 (by projected fantasy points) this week, despite ranking as the WR24 (by salary) on DraftKings. That would absolutely make him cash game viable on DraftKings, and while I’d also like to play Higgins in tournaments, he’s expected to be fairly chalky, which speaks to the strong nature of this play.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. DAL)
DK: 2.18X / FD: +$767, 1.71X
Kelce is the clear TE1 this season, and he’s playing in the by far the best scoring environment of the Week 11 main slate. Among slate-eligible TEs, Kelce ranks 1st in FPG (16.7, +1.9 more than next-closest), 1st in targets per game (9.7), and 1st in XFP per game over the last four weeks (15.7). On FanDuel, Kelce isn’t just the cheapest he’s been all season, but he’s $890 cheaper than his average salary this season. And on DraftKings, Kelce is the 2nd cheapest he’s been all year, and is $570 cheaper than his average salary this season.
And once you account for this scoring environment, it becomes apparent just how mispriced Kelce is. The game total of 56.0 isn’t just the highest total on the slate, it’s the highest by 6.0 points — that means 12% more scoring than the next closest game. And the Chiefs have the highest implied team total of the slate at 29.25. Since 2018, Kelce has averaged 20.7 DraftKings FPG and 16.1 FanDuel FPG when the Chiefs implied team total is over 28.0. He’s the top TE play of the slate, and I’m not sure it’s particularly close.