This article last updated 9/20/2018 – Featured image from the Associated Press
I preferred the format last week of including all of the positions in a single breakdown, so I’m going to carry it forward to this week’s analysis. I have to say that last week did not go too well for me in DFS. I called it the “Week of the Running Back” but it definitely was not that. In fact, while we know that the NFL has become a pass-heavy league, it seems that this year things have been kicked up a notch. Through 2 games, we have 7 quarterbacks averaging over 300 yards per game, with Fitzmagic (Ryan Fitzpatrick) averaging over 400 per game and Ben Roethlisberger just under that mark at 393.5 per game. I don’t think we should overcorrect too much… It’s only 2 weeks after all. But the key to gaining an edge over the competition in fantasy sports is picking up on trends and adjusting to them early. Right now, it looks like hitching yourself up to the right passing attack is the way to maximize your points.
Intriguing Matchups in Week 3
There are a few places that stand out to me for week 3 as good targets for production. The Kansas City Chiefs are hosting the San Fransisco 49ers in a game that currently has an Over/Under of 56.5 points. The Chiefs have an implied team total of 31.5, which tops the slate, so they’ll be producing some major offense. Patrick Mahomes will be a popular target as he starts the year on a torrid pace, with 10 touchdown passes through his first 2 games. One of the reasons that the Chiefs offense will likely be a good one to target all season, though, is that their defense is pretty lackluster and will cause them to be in a lot of shootouts. The 49ers only have an implied team total of 25, which is around the middle of the road this weekend, but they will likely need to air the ball out to keep up with the Chiefs, which makes Jimmy Garoppolo and his targets very interesting again this week.
According to Pro Football Focus, through 2 games this season the Chiefs are the worst-ranked Defense in the league. They have a decent rush defense, ranking 7th, but they’re the worst at tackling, in the bottom third of the league in pass rush, and the worst in the league in coverage. The 49ers aren’t much better, ranking 3rd from last in overall defense, including being the 2nd-worst-team in football in coverage, right behind the Chiefs. This game could be quite ugly defensively, which may lead to a lot of fantasy goodness! The winning strategy for the millionaire maker in week 1 was a game stack on the game with the highest Vegas total for the day. We may be looking at the same situation in week 3.
We have 3 other games with O/U above 50 right now. The Pittsburgh Steelers are traveling to Tampa Bay to face the Buccanneers, where the Bucs are favored by a point. Tampa Bay has been the surprise of the year so far, starting out the season 2-0 with a high octane passing attack led by Conner McGregor… I mean Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have to believe there will be some regression from the Bucs soon, though. Fitzpatrick went 27/33 last week for 402 yards. I don’t believe that he can sustain an 82% completion rate. DeSean Jackson once again had an amazing fantasy performance, with 129 receiving yards and a touchdown, but as he did in week 1, he maximized his performance with extremely low volume. In week 2, he caught all 4 of his targets and had a 75 yard TD reception to start off the game. Mike Evans, on the other hand, caught 10 out of 12 targets, for 83 yards and a TD. Playing Jackson at this point feels like chasing lucky points.
The Steelers, on the other hand, are presumed to be an absolutely stacked offensive juggernaut, but has Mike Tomlin lost his locker room? Antonio Brown took to social media on Monday
morning by saying “Trade me let’s find out” in response to a tweet indicating he was lucky that he was drafted by the Steelers and had Big Ben because he wouldn’t be able to put up those numbers otherwise. He also missed the team meeting on Monday. In an interview, Mike Tomlin said that he and Brown met for an extended period of time and that there was discipline involved for the missed meeting.
Ultimately, I think the Steelers will still put up fantasy numbers this year, but maybe we need to take what we’ve seen so far at face value. The Steelers have opened the season at 0-1-1, and haven’t looked great. Ben Roethlisberger had a 452-yard passing day last week, but Brown only managed to get 67 of those yards while catching 9 out of 17 targets. The volume is certainly great… I’d take 17 targets for AB any day of the week, but 2nd-year standout JuJu Smith-Schuster got 19 targets, caught 13 of them, and turned in a 121-yard performance with a TD to boot. Smith-Schuster has consistently produced since he’s been in the league, and I think we can take advantage of the fact that he’s still cheaper than Brown but is seeing similar volume with similar upside. I also think, though, that we can look at ownership projections leading into the weekend and try to gain an edge by leveraging ownership. It’s possible that many people decide to write AB off this week and ride the hot hand with JuJu. If we’re able to get a sneaky, low-owned Brown, I like that play a lot for tournament leverage.
Missing InformationSpecial shout-out to reddit user ‘NESMission’ for pointing out that I mistakenly left the Patriots @ Lions game off of the article when it was originally published. Good looking out!
The third game that Vegas thinks will go over 50 is the New England Patriots visiting the Detroit Lions. The Patriots are 6.5 point favorites over the Lions and look to bounce back after getting handled by the Jaguars last weekend. I think the Patriots will get a lead early, and Matthew Stafford will be throwing the ball a lot. While I don’t think the Lions have much of a chance in this game, I do think there is a chance of a shootout, so I like the offenses here. I doubt Josh Gordon has had much time to get integrated into the Patriots offensive scheme, and I’m not even sure he’ll play. Even if he does, I’m going to stay away for now. Next week I’ll re-evaluate, but I don’t trust the Gordon situation at all right now. Rob Gronkowski is going to be looking to bounce back just like his team. When healthy, it’s exceedingly rare for Gronkowski to disappoint two weeks in a row, and the Lions will not be able to stop him. For the Lions, Stafford appears to be looking to Golden Tate early and often. His 28 targets through the first 2 weeks are tied with Julio Jones for 3rd place in the NFL behind only Antonio Brown (33) and Michael Thomas (30) … That’s pretty good company! Outside of Tate, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are options, but unless you’re playing the single game slate, I would stick with Tate from the Lions offense.
The running backs from these teams are a mess. The Lions have a timeshare with uncertain usage for Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, and Theo Riddick. The Patriots backfield is always a mystery. Between James White, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead, who knows what might happen. I think that by the end of the year, the rookies, Johnson for the Lions and Michel for the Patriots, will lead their respective backfields assuming they stay healthy. Until then, I’m staying away.
Editor's NoteThe Detroit vs. New England and Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh games are not on the main slate, so player recommendations from those games will not be listed in the positional sections below.
The fourth game with a total over 50 is the New Orleans Saints visiting the Atlanta Falcons. Devonta Freeman remains out for the Falcons, which leaves the door open for more extra opportunities for Tevin Coleman, but his price has increased quite a bit. He’s still likely a value where he’s currently priced, but he’s much closer to the range of guys like Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, and Saquon Barkley. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the right choice, it just means that it’s not a free square no-brainer. Alvin Kamara is still in a great spot with Mark Ingram out another couple of games. The thing that is so appealing about Kamara, outside of his talent, is how high his volume floor is. I will say, though, with another week of practice under his belt, Mike Gillislee played a bigger role in the offense than he did in week 1. He received 8 carries, leaving Kamara with 13. The Falcons are grading out through 2 games as the 7th-worst rush defense but the 4th-best coverage defense. There’s a lot of offensive firepower in this game, and a lot of places to look for potential fantasy points. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after week 1 that he planned to get Calvin Ridley more involved in the offense. That proved to be true, as Ridley got 4 catches on 5 targets for 64-yards and a TD. He also got a carry and had the opportunity to return some kicks. At his low salary, if his involvement in the offense continues to trend in this direction, it might be worth getting him into a roster to have him when he has his breakout performance that is probably coming at some point soon.
What’s the greatest thing since sliced bread? How about Patrick Mahomes. He’s quarterbacking a truly great offense, and their defense sucks terribly, so he’s going to need to go full throttle pretty much every game he plays. Andy Reid is a good coach and a smart guy. He didn’t choose to send Alex Smith off after a career year for no reason. Mahomes is the real deal and is in a great matchup. He’ll be heavily owned, and there are lots of other QBs in really nice matchups, so he’s definitely not a “must play” this weekend, but he should be in your final list.
The other QBs who round out my top 5 for this week include Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, and Jimmy Garoppolo. I think probably half of the quarterbacks in the league are in good spots this week, so for the most part, I would stack your QB this week with the wide receiver you feel the most strongly about, assuming it fits within your salary constraints.
The quarterbacks who I will not be considering at all this week are Josh Allen, Sam Bradford, Marcus Mariota, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, Sam Darnold, and Joe Flacco.
Corey Clement looks like he may be this weeks chalk du jour. Jay Ajayi is considered day-to-day right now and most reports indicate that he is unlikely to play this weekend. Darren Sproles is also likely out for the Eagles, leaving Clement with a big volume opportunity at a reasonable salary across the industry in a decent matchup against the Colts. It’s important to monitor the status of both Ajayi and Sproles heading into the weekend. If both sit, Clement has a very clear path to hitting value. If Ajayi does play, Clement is still a decent option but becomes much less appealing to me personally. Clement is projecting north of 20% ownership on both sites early on in the week. I believe I’ll be under the field with my exposure to him.
The other chalky value running back this weekend will likely be Giovanni Bernard. Joe Mixon had a procedure done on his knee and is expected to miss several weeks. Bernard has had his moments for fantasy value over his time in the league, but is not an exciting talent and is also not at a bottom-of-the-barrel price tag right now. I don’t think I want to use a highly owned Bernard at a relatively high price tag. I’d rather fade him and hope that the field is wrong. Early projections have him at 15-20% ownership on both sites. Unless I notice something that I’m missing as I continue to do my research, I’ll pass.
Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara will once again carry extremely high ownership at extremely high salaries. Both guys are extremely talented and are in a position to dominate the touch-share in their respective backfields. The big question is going to be whether you have the salary to fit them in on a team that you like or not.
Kareem Hunt is a major value on Draftkings this week. He’s so cheap it seems like a trap. He’s playing on the team that has the highest projected point total for the weekend against a bad defense. So far, Mahomes has been dominant and the Chiefs have been very pass-heavy, but the Chiefs will likely vary their game plan throughout the year, and they’ll get Hunt involved at some point. It does scare me a bit that Andy Reid seemingly forgot about Hunt at times last season, but for $6000 on DK, it’s going to be hard to pass him up in this game. On FD at $7900, he seems like he is priced closer to where he should be, so I doubt I’ll have him in as many lineups there.
Dalvin Cook looks like he’s in a good spot this week too. Cook has not lived up to his expectations since coming into the league. He has only played in 6 games so far and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry over 100 attempts in those 6 games. He has also only managed to score two touchdowns and has fumbled the ball twice. Those aren’t great numbers, but here is where I see promise in this weekend’s matchup: over his 6 games, he’s averaging 16.7 carries per game and 4.7 targets per game. That is volume that we will take all day long from a talented RB at a reasonable price tag. He’s also going up against the Buffalo Bills as a home favorite. The Bills are in the bottom 20% of the league in plus/minus allowed to RBs and allow more than 1 fantasy point-per-game above expectation to opposing running backs. The Vikings also carry an implied total of 28.5 points and are likely to be playing with a lead, so the game script should favor Cook in this one. He didn’t practice on Wednesday because of a tight hamstring. He claimed that he was just cramping at the end of the game last week and that he is fine, but it is worrisome to see him sit out of practice based on his injury history. If he can’t play, I like Latavius Murray in this matchup as a much better value play than Clement or Bernard.
I believe that I may have a Melvin Gordon blindspot. He does not profile to me as a great running back. Other backs profile with their size, speed, vision, shiftiness, patience, hands, toughness, etc… Gordon just does not seem to be elite in any of those categories. Where he does seem to be elite is having a coaching staff that likes to give him massive volume and all of the touchdowns he can handle. Dating back to the 2016 season, he’s got 27 touchdowns in 31 games. He had a nose for the end zone in college too, scoring 32 touchdowns in the 2014 season alone. I’m putting him here not to recommend him in week 3… He’s going against the Los Angeles Rams, who are clearly one of the top defenses in the league right now. I don’t think this is where I want to spend big salary dollars. I’m mainly writing him up here because I should have mentioned him in a matchup last week against the Bills, and I should have played him in some lineups, but I didn’t because, for whatever reason, I just don’t like him. I need to get over my personal biases and let the numbers guide my picks.
Other running backs to consider:
- Lamar Miller (DK Value play at $5000 – less of a value on FD)
- Saquon Barkley (Listen… this may be the opposite of my deal with my bias against Gordon where I am TOO high on Barkley, but I think he is one of the best, if not the best, RB in the league right now. He’s got all the gifts, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before he has a crazy fantasy game. He’s still priced reasonably across the industry, and his matchup against the Texans isn’t soft, but they’re beatable.)
- Christian McCaffrey (Better value on FD than on DK with only $100 salary difference, but has big upside against the Bengals)
- Other DK Value Picks: Phillip Linsday, Alfred Morris, Adrian Peterson
- Other FD Value Picks: Ezekiel Elliott
Everybody and their mother is going to be flocking to Nelson Agholor and the Eagles passing game this week. They face a putrid Colts secondary and they’re getting their fearless leader, Carson Wentz back. I don’t hate the logic here, but I don’t think Agholor has the upside to provide good leverage at his projected ownership, which is currently north of 20% on FD and approaching that on DK. I wish Alshon Jeffery was going to be back this weekend to spread the Eagles ownership around some, but it looks like we’re going to be waiting at least one more week on him. Ownership is also going to be high on Zach Ertz, but we’ll dig in to that a bit later.
The Chiefs vs. 49ers game that I mentioned earlier is chock full of opportunity through the air. The tricky part is going to be picking the right guys to use. Marquise Goodwin (if he plays), Pierre Garcon, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, and both tight ends are all viable options from this game. My recommendation is to plan to use some pieces from this game, build out your lineup with other players that you feel strongly about, and fill out the remaining spots with the guys from this game who fit salary-wise.
Michael Thomas is on his way to a career year. This is the year that he becomes a “superstar” in the league, and he should be one of your top targets in week 3. He’s got 30 targets through his first 2 games, and he caught 28 of them. 269 yards on those 28 targets along with 3 touchdowns is really solid fantasy production. I don’t love that he has lost 2 fumbles already this year, but I’ll live with it if the rest of the production stays strong. He’s a strong play against Atlanta this week.
On the other side of this game, Julio Jones is a full $1000 less on DK, making him a great value play over there. On FD, at $8700, he’s still definitely in play, but he’s definitely less of a value there. I like DeAndre Hopkins as a lower owned pivot with the same sort of upside on FD. Both guys are matchup-proof, but both are also in good matchups.
Other wide receivers to consider:
- Cooper Kupp / Robert Woods (Woods is a tremendous value on DK, but both are in play on both sites)
- Larry Fitzgerald (likely to be very low owned and has good upside… good value too)
- Allen Robinson (low Vegas O/U will keep ownership low, but target volume is high for Robinson, and he’s a great value on both sites this weekend)
- Mike Evans (as I mentioned above, I expect some regression from Fitzpatrick and I’m uncomfortable with the volume from Jackson)
- Other DK Value Picks: Martavis Bryant, Ted Ginn, Donte Moncrief, Corey Davis, Kelvin Benjamin
- Other FD Value Picks: Amari Cooper, Adam Thielen, Geronimo Allison, Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Odell Beckham
Let’s circle back around to the passing game in the Chiefs vs. 49ers matchup. George Kittle and Travis Kelce are both firmly in play here. Both of these guys are key pieces to their respective offenses and have the potential to be the highest-scoring players at their positions this weekend. I think Kelce has a higher floor and more upside, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit him in.
Zach Ertz will be a popular target, as I mentioned earlier. With Wentz back, and against the Indianapolis defense, he’ll command a lot of attention. He is in a good spot to succeed and I like the play if he fits properly within your lineup construction.
One of my favorite plays of the weekend at TE is Kyle Rudolph. In week 1 Rudolph only got 2 targets, but he scored a TD. He bounced back with 8 targets and 7 catches for 72 yards in week 2 but didn’t score. The Buffalo Bills are the perfect team to put it all together and get targets, catches, yards, and a score. I also think he’ll come in pretty low-owned, so he’s my favorite target at the position this week.
Other tight ends to consider:
- Jordan Reed (he’s still healthy for now… great talent that we should play while he’s available!)
- Austin Hooper (like this play a lot… especially on DK where he is a great value)
- Jimmy Graham (I think Graham has lost not just a step, but maybe 2 or 3… but he’s in a decent matchup and should see some targets from Rodgers)
Defense / Special Teams
There probably won’t be a much higher ownership percentage on a D/ST this season than there is on the Minnesota Vikings this weekend versus the Bills. It makes perfect sense. The Bills are horrible, and the Vikings are 16.5 point favorites at home. Their defense is great, so if you have the salary and want to play them, please do so.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, though, it’s important to note that D/ST is an extremely volatile position and winning lineups in big tournaments often use lower owned defenses that make a big play or two and hit big.
Some other D/ST to consider if you’re looking to pivot off of the Vikings include:
- Baltimore Ravens
- Chicago Bears
- Miami Dolphins
Overall, I’m looking forward to a bounce-back week 3. This research and these thoughts have all happened before I’ve built any actual lineups. After I’ve begun building lineups and I’ve seen how the puzzle pieces are fitting together, I’ll either come back and update this post or create a new one to let you know how things are shaping up. Good luck this weekend!