This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
I am excluding the Cardinals/Jets game from this write up since the Monday slate isn’t a part of the main slate. If I were to include those games most of the Cardinals would be in play including Carson Palmer ($7,700), David Johnson ($9,100), Larry Fitzgerald ($7,400), John Brown ($6,600), and even Chandler Catanzaro ($4,600). If everyone would prefer to see the Monday night games included in the write ups please let me know via email or twitter as listed below.
Without Palmer the clear choice at quarterback this week is Cam Newton ($8,900). Newton gets a great matchup against the Saints who are giving up the 5th worst yards per attempt to opposing defenses at 7.6 NY/A. I would expect Newton to continue the trend in a must win game for the Super Bowl runner up. Based on my current simulation model the Panthers have about a 10% chance of making the playoffs and need to win this week. They won’t take their foot off the pedal which should allow Newton to reach value.
The hesitation most people are going to have with Newton is that he is coming off a concusion that kept him out of the last game and knocked him out early the game before. I have seen studies on both sides of the fence on if players that have gotten a concussion will continue to get them. I am not doctor, but based on my observations it seems like players are indeed more likely to get another concussion once they have gotten one. As such you do have an added risk to Newton than most any other quarterback. The other negative from the concussion is that there is a good chance that Newton won’t take off and run as much as he would typically. On one hand this would mean less rushing attempts but on the other hand it could boost his passing yards. Overall, it would be a slight negative as his points per rush are typically more valuable than his passing attempts.
If you are going to go away from Newton there are a variety of guys to consider including Tom Brady ($9,000), Russel Wilson ($8,400), Tyrod Taylor ($7,800), Brian Hoyer ($7,000), and Alex Smith ($6,800).
On his blog, David Dodds has done a lot of talking this year about going with a slightly contrarian play to help you gain ground even in your cash games, especially as you move up the stakes. If you want to take that route this week Taylor makes for the perfect option. The Bills have been playing really good football the last three weeks which has coincided with good play from Taylor and increasing pass ratios, despite the leads. After adjusting for score and opponent the Bills true pass ratio is approximately 57% which is well above their year to date ratio of 53%. This means that the Bills will likely see their pass ratio regress towards the mean as the season goes on. Taylor has also been excelling on the ground with 25+ yards in each of his last four contests giving him a high floor and ceiling in a great matchup against the 49ers where he will likely be under 5% owned.
This week’s running back situation is as clear as it has been all year. You just need to plug in Le'Veon Bell ($9,300) and LeSean McCoy ($8,200) and forget it. Since Bell has returned to action in week 4 he has averaged just over 20 Fanduel points per game without reaching the end zone yet. The great thing about Bell is that he is game script proof. If the Steelers build a big lead they will have no problem relying on him in the ground game. If they build a lead they have no problem relying on him in the passing game. Don’t be surprised to see about 20-25 touches and 110+ total yards for one of the leagues true work horse running backs.
When the Bills aren’t relying on Taylor they are giving the ball to McCoy. Like Bell, McCoy is practically game script proof as he has yet to have a game under 19 touches and has only failed to reach value once which was in a brutal week 2 matchup against the Jets run stuffing defense. The Bills have a good chance of building a lead this week and relying heavily on McCoy and when they do the 49ers have given up the eighth worst rushing yards per attempt at 4.4 so I am expecting McCoy to continue his great play so far this year, unfortunately you won’t get him at the great ownership levels that we have gotten him at all season long.
As clear as the running back position is this week the wide receiver and tight end position is just as murky. Last week I recommended Jarvis Landry ($6,900) and he put together his worst game of the season being targeted only 3 times. Coming into the game Landry had collected at least 10 targets in each of his games and 8 straight dating back to 2015. Of course it’s tough to get double digit targets when your team is held to just 18 pass attempts as the Titans dominated the time of possession last week. The Steelers will likely build a lead against the susceptible Dolphins defense again and I expect the Dolphins to get a few more passing attempts playing from behind and Landry being back to the focus of the offense.
Coming into the season rookie Michael Thomas ($5,400) was picking up as much buzz as anyone due to a strong preseason and training camp. When the season started out Thomas hasn’t disappointed and he continues to gain steam as the season progresses, as expected for a rookie. Through the last two games Thomas has been targeted 20 times hauling in 11 catches for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns. With a big 6’3’ frame expect and Drew Brees throwing him passes don’t be surprised to see those touchdowns continue. The Panthers defense isn’t a favorable matchup but it hasn’t been nearly as scary as it has been in years past as they are allowing the league’s 7th worst NY/A (7.3).
Cameron Meredith ($5,400) stepped into the void left by the injury to Kevin White last week and was immediately targeted 12 times as the Colts put a lot of focus on the injured Alshon Jeffery and took him out of the game. Meredith’s success has been only one game against a terrible Colts defense and he added 2 fumbles which puts him at 3 on just 15 catches so he isn’t the safest option but he allows us to spend up at the running back and quarterback position.
Some other favorable options included Antonio Brown ($9,700), Brandon Marshall ($7,500), Julian Edelman ($7,200), Tavon Austin ($5,700), Robert Woods ($5,500) and the two big Oakland receivers Amari Cooper ($7,100) and Michael Crabtree ($7,000). Typically Brown would be our go to option here but with the pay up options being so strong at other positions, especially running back this may be the week I don’t have any exposure to Brown and look to go the cheaper route with my wide receivers.
You can go a lot of different ways at tight end and I may fill it out last depending on what type of money I have left over. Greg Olsen ($8,100), Delanie Walker ($6,700), Zach Miller ($5,800), Dennis Pitta ($5,400), and Gary Barnidge ($5,300) all give you good options at various price points. Just like at the wide receiver position I am likely to save money at tight end this week to save money for other positions. If I have enough money left I am likely to go with Walker who has been targeted at least 5 times in every game so far this year and has been involved in the red zone with two touchdowns on the season.
Kickers and Defense
On the defensive end the Bills have been racking up the sacks so far this year averaging 3.4 and surpassing 3 in all games but 1. This week they get a great matchup against Colin Kaepernick who has been sacked on 9% of his dropbacks in his career. With less weapons than he has typically had in his career I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bills get to Kaepernick 5+ times this week.
At kicker Nick Novak ($4,600) and Connor Barth ($4,500) are both cheaper options on teams that are likely to score some points this week. There is typically not any need to pay up at kicker and this week in particular I will be looking to save money here.