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For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. FootballGuys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
CASH GAME PLAYS
Tom Brady (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8500). The defending Super Bowl MVP, Tom Brady, is averaging 344 passing yards and 2.9 passing touchdowns per game through his first seven contests this season; at that pace, he would break his 16-season career-high in passing yards and come close to breaking his 50-touchdown campaign in 2007. Through seven games, Brady has finished no worse than the QB7 on any given week and has three finishes at QB3 or better. This week, Brady and the Patriots have the highest implied team total in the entire season at 33 points and they are playing the FootballOutsiders' 22nd ranked passing defense (DVOA metric), the Washington Redskins; the Redskins will have no answer for the weaponry at Brady's disposal and I fully expect him to accumulate some 'wicked good' statistics (see what I did there?). Ordinarily, I tend to avoid the higher-priced quarterbacks on DraftKings because there is generally a lower-priced option that is equally-safe, but Brady is almost assured 300 passing yards and multiple touchdowns against this Redskins squad, which will be enough for a minimum of 23 fantasy points...but I would not be at all surprised to see him surpass the 30 fantasy point plateau.
Philip Rivers (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $6900). If you want to save some salary at the QB position and avoid Brady, Philip Rivers is a perfectly acceptable substitute. The Chargers' running attack has been largely non-existent this season, as the Chargers tend to use short passes to Danny Woodhead as a surrogate for running the ball; as a result, no QB in the league has accumulated more passing yardage than Philip Rivers thus far, including the aforementioned Tom Brady. Just last week, Rivers lost his WR1 (Keenan Allen), but Steve Johnson should quickly fill the volume role in this offense with Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead, and Dontrelle Inman all serving complementary roles. On Monday night, Rivers will face a Bears secondary that ranks 24th in the league against the pass in FootballOutsiders' DVOA metric. Rivers has averaged 26.6 fantasy points per game over the past five weeks and with the 4th highest implied team total on the board, this would not appear to be a spot where his productivity is subject to take a hit; roster Rivers with confidence for both your cash games and GPP's.
Devonta Freeman (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8000). After scoring nine touchdowns in five weeks, Devonta Freeman came back to Earth over the past few weeks and experienced some negative regression (he did not score a touchdown); that said, Freeman's workload (touches) and productivity (yards per carry) were largely unchanged in those two weeks, as he has averaged 27 touches over that span alongside 130 total yards per game. This week, Freeman will face-off against the 49ers, who are playing for nothing more than the rights to draft the top-rated quarterback in the draft next year. As seven-point favorites, the Falcons will feed Freeman often and he is as close to a lock for a touchdown as any running back playing this weekend. Look for him to surpass the 100-yard mark, picking up the three-point bonus and at least one touchdown, along the way...if he adds in a few receptions (he has five or more in 5 of his last 6 games), he will then achieve cash game value on DraftKings.
Darren McFadden (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $4300). After extensive off-the-field problems and disappointing on-the-field performances, the Cowboys released Joseph Randle this week, leaving Darren McFadden as the bellcow RB in the Dallas backfield. For his part, McFadden has not flinched at the 57 touches he has enjoyed over the previous two weeks, which have resulted in an average of 22 DraftKings per week. The matchup against the Eagles is less-than-stellar, particularly when one considers that Philadelphia has had two full weeks to scheme against this Matt Cassel-led offense; that said, the volume that McFadden is receiving, including 16 passing targets over the past three games, is just too valuable for his price point at $4300. Against one of the better rush defenses in the league, McFadden needs only 70 total yards and a handful of receptions to reach cash game value, but with only Christine Michael to spell him, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where McFadden does not exceed that minimum output.
Martavis Bryant (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5500). Last season, Martavis Bryant was used to stretch the field and as a redzone target; he was successful in doing so, as he logged eight receiving touchdowns on only 26 high-value receptions. After serving a four-game suspension for violating league policies, Bryant's role in the 2015 offense appears to have taken a leap forward; the second-year receiver is averaging nearly double the targets he saw in the same offense during his rookie season (8.3 versus 4.8). The entire Steelers' passing game is in play this weekend against a Raiders secondary that has allowed half of the WR2's they have faced to score more than 15 fantasy points, which is approximately the number of points needed for Bryant to reach cash game value this weekend. Bryant has largely surpassed Markus Wheaton as the WR2 in this offense, as evidenced by his 33% more offensive snaps over the past few weeks. When Bryant lines up the Raiders' coverage cornerbacks on Sunday afternoon, he will have a talent and size advantage over each of them; if you cannot afford Antonio Brown for your cash game rosters, Bryant represents a solid "Plan B" that has a high likelihood of paying off his reasonable $5500 price tag.
Michael Crabtree (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $4900). Opposite Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on Sunday will be two other talented receivers in the form of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Cooper has been nothing short of spectacular in his rookie season and Crabtree has experienced his best games as an NFL receiver with Derek Carr at the helm. Both should be solid plays against a Steelers' secondary that has not gotten over the retirement of future Hall of Famer, Troy Polamalu; the Steelers are ProFootballFocus' 31st ranked defense in pass coverage (only Tampa Bay is worse), which bodes well for these young receivers. Crabtree appears here because his salary is more reasonable and because he has seen six redzone targets versus only one for Cooper; while that discrepancy is likely to change, Crabtree is still the most targeted receiver in the Raiders' offense and should fare well against the Steelers' porous secondary. 15 fantasy points, which is what one would need for cash value, would appear to be his floor given the gamescript, his likely usage, and the matchup.
Steve Johnson (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3200). This one is pretty simple: Only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have more targets than Keenan Allen entering Week 9...but Keenan Allen's season is over after a kidney injury in last week's matchup against the Ravens. Allen's 11 weekly targets will have to be redistributed to the remaining Chargers receivers and nobody is more primed to take over that role than Steve Johnson. Johnson is averaging 6.2 targets per game entering this weekend and that number is surely primed to jump by 3-5 additional targets without Allen sucking up so much of Philip Rivers' attention; Stevie is an undervalued receiver, who has never been in a prime situation to thrive...fellow Footballguy and NFL.com expert, Matt Harmon, outlined all the reasons Johnson could thrive in San Diego in the preseason. In this matchup, Johnson will face-off against Sherrick McManis, who is allowing a despicable 152.3 QB rating when passes are thrown into his slot coverage this season. At $3200, it is not just possible, but likely that Johnson will achieve 6x value for your cash (and GPP) rosters this weekend. This is as close to no-risk as a DFS play can be.
Antonio Gates (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $4700). If you can somehow slot Rob Gronkowski into your lineups on Sunday, go ahead...his floor is probably 18-20 points, but Gronk is too obvious to include here. Instead, Antonio Gates is a player at the mid-range of salaries that would be a viable cash game play. Gates received 27 targets in the two weeks where he was healthy, but has fallen off some DFS players' radars because he was inactive two weeks ago and played limitedly last week; he is practicing late in the week and has a Monday night game, which should place him in a good spot to be ready for his matchup against the Bears in a Monday Night Football matchup. As was the case with Steve Johnson, Gates should see an uptick in targets due to the loss of Keenan Allen, which puts him in a good spot to score the 14 fantasy points he needs to reach cash game value. With the third highest implied team total on the weekend and a heavy role in the offense, Gates is a solid play at the mid-range of the tight end position.
Heath Miller (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $2700). In Week 1, Ben Roethlisberger was without LeVeon Bell and Heath Miller finished the game with 8 receptions (11 targets) for 84 receiving yards; last week, after Bell left the game with a severe injury, Miller piled up stats once again, going for 10 receptions (13 targets) for 105 receiving yards. The bottom line is that Miller is a much bigger part of this offense when LeVeon Bell is not on the field...and without Bell for the rest of the season, Miller's DFS (and season-long) value is about to take a hike; this week, you can have him for $2700, where he needs only 7 fantasy points to reach value. Did I mention he's playing the Oakland Raiders, who are the league's worst team in defending the tight end position? This is one of the safer plays on the entire slate and one of my highest recommendations on the weekend.
Falcons (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3400). If you have read this column regularly, you are aware that I advocate taking strong home favorites for your team defense in cash games. This week, I am recommending a 7-point road favorite with an average defense simply because of their opponent: the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners just benched Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert, a career 53.2% passer with a 23:24 TD to interception ratio. The Niners just lost their top two running backs (Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush) and will be starting undrafted free agent rookie, Kendall Gaskins, who has 5 career carries. The Niners will be without Anquan Boldin, leaving Gabbert to throw to Torrey Smith, who runs routes that are out of Gabbert's skill set. In other words, the Niners are terrible and have almost no chance of scoring more than 14-17 points in this game. With Gabbert's propensity to throw interceptions, the Falcons represent a solid play for your DFS squad in Week 9.
Saints (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $2200). The New Orleans Saints yielded 49 points to Eli Manning and the Giants last week, yet they appear as a cash game play this week?! Again, this pick is more about the opponent than the recommended defense. The Tennessee Titans are averaging only 17.9 points per game this season (31st in the NFL), they allow the 4th most sacks in the league, they will start a dreadfully slow RB (Antonio Andrews), and will be without their best receiver, Kendall Wright, in their first game with interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey. The questions are bountiful around the Titans offense, while the Saints defense is offered up at only $2200; at that price point, the Saints need only a few sacks and a turnover or two to reach value for cash games...if they allow less than 28 points, there is virtually no way the Saints cannot achieve value. If you need a salary saver, here is your solution.
Ben Roethlisberger (Salary: $6600). Raiders' rush defense is strong (2nd in NFL at 82.9 rushing yards per game), but pass defense is bleeding yardage at a clip of 302.1 yards per game...should force Roethlisberger into throwing 35-40 times against a secondary that has been toasted by far worse personnel this season. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Heath Miller each could score in this one and the one common denominator is Big Ben. Owned at less than 5% in Thursday contests on another site, which indicates he could be underowned this weekend.
Peyton Manning (Salary: $6300). Narrative Street, anyone? Headed back to Indy for only the 2nd time since being let go in favor of Andrew Luck, Peyton could be looking for some quiet revenge against a suspect 3-5 Colts team. Demaryius Thomas is the only wide receiver in the NFL averaging > 10 targets per game with only a single touchdown; positive regression is coming and a big game is in the near future...but will it be against Vontae Davis? The addition of Vernon Davis to the Broncos adds a talented receiver, but more importantly, sures up the poor offensive line blocking that has troubled Peyton Manning for most of the year. At less than 10% ownership with one of the higher team totals on the weekend, it would not be surprising to see Manning take it upon himself to remind Colts' fans that they gave up a bit too early on him.
Kirk Cousins (Salary: $5100). A deep sleeper, Cousins will not occupy too many DFS rosters, but he is near the site minimum and will be facing a gamescript that almost guarantees that he will throw the ball 40+ times. Assuming that happens, Cousins could reach cash game value by volume alone...look for an ugly 300-yard, 2-touchdown, 2-interception effort that would yield 20+ points, which is close to the 4x GPP multiplier needed on DraftKings. DeSean Jackson returns this week, but Jordan Reed is probably the best stack of the bunch here because Cousins has demonstrated he will look to the tight end no matter what the gamescript. Should also be low-owned to help differentiate your roster.
Mark Ingram (Salary: $6500). Khiry Robinson is out for the season with a fractured tibia, which means that Mark Ingram should get all the action he can handle against the league's 30th ranked rush defense (FootballOutsiders' DVOA metric). Ingram averaged nearly 26 carries per game last season when Khiry was inactive; C.J. Spiller will steal some looks, but only on passing downs. As big 11-point favorites with a high implied team total, Ingram should see plenty of volume...will be lower-owned than he should be because others will try to capture lightning in a bottle with Brees two weeks in a row. Ingram is a borderline cash game play with GPP upside.
Doug Martin (Salary: $5700). Over the past month, Doug Martin's weekly opportunities (carries + targets): 25, 27, 22, 24. His opponent, the Giants, have been gashed by running backs over the same period of time, allowing 4.7 yards per carry to the likes of Mark Ingram, Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray, and Carlos Hyde. Martin has multiple touchdown upside, as he demonstrated in Week 5, when he scored 40 DraftKings' fantasy points; many have already forgotten that performance, but it would be foolhardy to ignore Martin given his volume, matchup, and ceiling.
LeGarrette Blount (Salary: $4800). Since returning from suspension in Week 2, LeGarrette Blount has carried the ball a dozen or more times in four out of six games; the two games in which Blount saw limited action where "close" games, by Patriots' standards (8 point margin of victory or less). In the remaining games, Blount averaged 16.2 fantasy points and was used to wind down the clock in the second half...as 14-point favorites against a Redskins team that has given up over 100 fantasy points to opposing running backs over the past three weeks, this would appear to be a spot that Blount could exploit. With the masses trying to slot Brady-Gronk, Brady-Edelman, or Brady-LaFell stacks into their lineups, the shark move could be to take Blount's reasonable salary, low ownership, and two-touchdown upside as a GPP flyer.
Melvin Gordon (Salary: $4000). Melvin Gordon's game logs are miserable. He is the only running back in the league with > 100 rushing attempts, who has yet to log a rushing touchdown; his 3.8 yard per carry average will not excite anybody, either...but if there is a week where Gordon could finally reach paydirt, it will be in Week 9 against the Bears. Chicago is FootballOutsiders' 31st ranked rush defense (DVOA metric)...the Chargers have the 3rd highest implied team total on the weekend slate and are 4-point favorites, which further support using Gordon, at a very fair price tag, as your "Monday Night Hammer" for GPP entries.
Chris Thompson (Salary: $3300). Nobody will have Chris Thompson in their DFS lineups on Sunday, which is exactly why he makes for a savvy, but risky, GPP play. Thompson's role in the Redskins offense is largely in the passing game, which should be in full-force on Sunday as the Redskins play catchup against the heavily-favored Patriots. In the Skins' last three losses, the diminutive back has caught 20 passes on 28 targets for for 116 receiving yards and a touchdown, plus another 56 yards on the ground (14.4 fantasy points per game); if he experiences a similar workload against the Patriots, who have given up 30 receptions to running backs over the past month, Thompson could be a sneaky, high-upside, salary-saver for your GPP lineups.
Odell Beckham Jr (Salary: $8800). According to ProFootballFocus, no wide receiver has a more advantageous matchup than Odell Beckham against the Buccaneers' Mike Jenkins, who is allowing an opposing QB rating of 114.9 during his coverage this season. Frankly, no coverage cornerback is a match for Beckham's skillset, as perennial All-Pro Richard Sherman indicated last year during Beckham's rookie campaign. Ownership will be a concern, however, as Eli is fresh off a 6-touchdown performance, of which three of those touchdowns went to Beckham...the duo will likely be highly-owned (20-25?), which is generally a good time for a DFS fade, but this matchup is too attractive to ignore. If you make multiple GPP lineups, give youself at least moderate exposure to ODB, as he is entirely capable of repeating his Week 8 performance in this matchup.
Demaryius Thomas (Salary: $7500). As discused above, Demaryius Thomas is the only receiver in the league with > 10 targets per game, who has only a single touchdown on the season. It appears as though Vontae Davis will cover Thomas on at least half of his snaps, which will keep the vast majority of DFS players away from him; any time a player of Thomas' caliber is < 5% owned, he should be on your GPP radar because of the inherent upside of rostering that player. Our very own David Dodds projected Demaryius Thomas to finish 2015 with 12 receiving touchdowns, which means that the star receiver is seriously overdue for some massively positive regression; heisgoing to have a multiple touchdown day in the next two weeks...it's just a matter of planting your flag on which week (or both?).
Amari Cooper (Salary: $6700). The Rookie of the Year candidate will go against a Steelers secondary that was lit up by A.J. Green (11/118/1) a week ago and John Brown (10/196/0) two weeks prior to that...Cooper will get the majority of his routes against Steelers cornerback, Antwon Blake, who is ranked 76th out of 77 qualifying coverage cornerbacks this season. He will be underowned because Michael Crabtree has more targets, more redzone looks, and is $1800 less...but Cooper's upside is just as high as Crabtree, which makes for a perfect contrarian play in GPP format.
Allen Hurns (Salary: $5300). No player in the NFL has a longer (active) consecutive game touchdown-scoring streak than Allen Hurns, who has five games in a row reaching the endzone with ball in tote. The receiver should have a legitimate chance at extending that streak this week against the Jets, as the Jags' WR1, Allen Robinson, will be shadowed (and likely eliminated from the gameplan) by Darrelle Revis...which should put Allen Hurns (and Julius Thomas) in Blake Bortles' sights. Hurns saw 15 targets in Week 4, when Robinson was blanketed by Vontae Davis, which sheds light on the type of action he could see this weekend with a similar situation like to play out with Revis.
Dorial Green-Beckham (Salary: $3100). The deepest of deep GPP picks that will be less than 1% owned..."DGB" is a Dez Bryant clone, but has not yet been integrated into the Titans offense. Interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey has stated that he wants to get the ball into Green-Beckham's hands more often, so it will be interesting to see if he follows through on that notion against a Saints secondary that yielded six passing touchdowns just a week ago. DGB is seeing increased snappage each week and he is too talented to continue putting up 2-catch stat lines...when he is fully implemented into the gameplan, he is going to be a redzone monster--you will want to be on that (inexpensive) train before it leaves the station.
Rob Gronkowski (Salary: $8000). Not much explanation necessary here...the highest team total of 2015 with the #1 redzone target on that team. The $8000 salary will scare some away, perhaps for good reason, but Gronk has as much upside as any wide receiver in the same price range this weekend.
Julius Thomas (Salary: $4200). A very sneaky play against a Jets defense that most casual DFS players hold in high regard. Thomas was injured and did not play for the first four weeks of the 2015 season and was brought back slowly in his next three games (10/102/1) before the Jags' bye last week. He should return 100% against a Todd Bowles defense that historically (back to his days in Arizona) can be beaten by tight ends due to blitz-heavy packages that render the defense susceptible to quick outlet passes. The Jets have only faced one top-end tight end this year (Rob Gronkowski) and Gronk finished the day with a 11/108/1 stat line, which is in line with the type of day Thomas could see with the aforementioned Allen Robinson largely eliminated by Darrelle Revis.
Zach Ertz (Salary: $3200). Zach Ertz is quietly seeing dramatically increased action in the Eagles offense; after hovering around the 70% mark for most of the season, Ertz has been seeing about 90% of the Eagles' offensive snaps over the past few weeks, which is in line with the increased targets that he has enjoyed in those games. The Cowboys have been relatively solid in defending the tight end position this season, but Chip Kelly has had an extra week to scheme against the Cowboys defense, so it would not be surprising to see some additional plays built in for the talented tight end, given that Jordan Matthews is struggling with dropped passes (worst in the league).
Patriots (Salary: $3300). Kirk Cousins is subject to a meltdown at any time...particularly when he is playing catchup. In each of the Redskins' four losses this season, Cousins has thrown at least two interceptions; with the Vegas spread at +14, we might expect another multi-turnover game for Cousins here. In three of those four losses, the Redskins' opponents' team defense scored double-digit fantasy points. Their ownership will probably be higher than most defenses, but the GPP upside is definitely there for the taking.
Jets (Salary: $3100). The Jets are coming an embarrassing west coast loss to the up-and-coming Oakland Raiders, which should keep their ownership low despite a juicy matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a perfect bounce spot for the Jets, whose defense is far better than it showed last week...the Jags are coming off a bye week, but continue to start Blake Bortles, who can throw multiple interceptions without notice. With the Jags' best player largely eliminated by a trip to Revis Island, they will have limited offensive options to beat the Jets. The Jags have allowed opposing team defenses to score double-digit fantasy points in over half their games this season...advantage Jets.
Broncos (Salary: $3000). Some may shy away from rostering the Broncos against the Colts in a matchup that would traditionally be a full-fledged shootout, but this year is different: the Colts offense is struggling to do anything right and the Broncos defense is one of the better defenses we have seen in the past decade. Andrew Luck has thrown multiple interceptions in 5 out of 6 of the games he has played this season and he has yet to face a secondary nearly as talented as the one that the Broncos will field on Sunday afternoon. This could be a long day for Luck and the Colts...and the Broncos bring double-digit fantasy upside with them every week.
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