This week I’m doing things a bit differently. Before I go through player by player, I’ll give a little bit of an overall approach to each position. I’ll be focusing primarily on Daily Fantasy (DFS) prices and strategy. In season-long, you’re focusing on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean Koerner’s Week 11 Tiers, but in DFS, there are tons of iterations and decisions involved, with the landscape changing each week depending on pricing. Hopefully some of the DFS sleepers that I mention can also serve as waiver-wire pickups for you in season-long, but if you’re unsure, please feel free to reach out on twitter (@cschwartz18), as always.
Please note that both sites are at least half-PPR (DK is full), and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if I say it looks smart to roster two stud RBs in DFS, but then Leonard Fournette is ruled out, everything would change, as cheaper Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon become good plays and allow you to spend more at other positions. It’s such a dynamic process with tons of news coming all the way until kickoff, so check twitter and only use this as a guide, not gospel.
QB is the most straightforward position this week, as our two top-ranked QBs for Sunday’s main slate are both great options in all contests on both sites. Alex Smith is better on FD (where it’s more optimal to save a bit of money in order to roster stud RBs), while Tom Brady is the better play on DK. The other obvious QB1s on the main slate (Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott in one potential shootout, and Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins in another) are all good enough plays where, if you’re entering multiple lineups into GPPs, you probably want some exposure to all. Only one established QB1 is a fade for me on Sunday.
High-End Play: Tom Brady, NE (@ OAK)
Brady’s been deliberately picking teams apart, and he’ll continue to do so against an Oakland defense allowing the seventh-most yards per game and a league-worst 110.5 QB rating. Even if he wasn’t the optimal QB (as he is on DK this week), he’s such a safe, high-floor option that it’s worth rostering him in cash most weeks. This week, the ceiling is higher than usual.
High-End Play: Alex Smith, KC (@ NYG)
The Giants’ defense looks like it’s trying to get its head coach fired, making Jared Goff and C.J. Beathard look like Marino and Favre, respectively, the last two weeks. They’re allowing the fourth-most yards per throw (and been even worse as of late), so an MVP candidate should be able to have his way and find a myriad of open receivers. Throw in some running stats, and Smith has a very high floor and median projection this week, while being $700 cheaper than Brady on FD. The only thing keeping his ceiling lower is potential game script working against him.
Sleeper: Ryan Fitzpatrick, TB (@ MIA)
Tampa can’t be too happy that Fitzpatrick is starting this game that was supposed to be during Week 1. He was disappointing last week against the Jets, but underlying metrics suggest the Dolphins should pose less of a threat. The ‘Fins allow 7.5 YPA (6.9 vs. the Jets) and a 104.8 QB Rating (88.6 vs. the Jets), and they’ve given up 35 points per game over the last four, as their season has fallen apart. Fitz is the rare backup who isn’t gun-shy, giving him a high ceiling at his bargain-basement price (particularly on FD).
Fade: Jared Goff, LAR (@ MIN)
I love that Goff has broken out this year, looking like a top 12 QB in both real life and fantasy. The problem is that his DFS price now reflects that, as he’s the eighth-most expensive QB on FD and fifth on DK. That price, plus a matchup against a Super Bowl-caliber Vikings defense, means he’s just a bad value on a week where almost every other relevant QB is a decent play. I’d feel better about his floor if he provided any rushing stats or if his team wasn’t so likely to be involved in a low-scoring affair.
This is arguably the most dynamic position this week, with the moving parts at RB impacting how you should construct the rest of your roster as well. As things stand, three or four of the workhorse RB1s look like great plays on FD (with one looking like a fade). On DK, it’s a bit murkier, as some of the higher-end WRs look like better plays there (particularly given full PPR), so you may want to choose only one expensive stud RB rather than two or three. I’ll help you with this by identifying my top studs and also some cheaper guys that are better plays on DK.
Note: Just after the time this was written, Ty Montgomery was ruled out by Green Bay. This makes Jamaal Williams a great, cheap RB play on both sites and a startable RB2 in season-long.
High-End Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (@ NYG)
Like Smith, he gets to play a bad and checked-out Giants defense. His median game probably lies somewhere between his first few weeks and his last few. With his team projected to score 28 points and maintain a lead, this is a great chance for him to regress positively in the TD department. With Le’veon Bell having played already, he’s in a tier by himself on Sunday and a great cash play on both sites. In GPPs, you may want to choose between Hunt and Smith, instead of rostering both at the same time (which limits your upside).
High-End Play: LeSean McCoy, BUF (@ LAC)
Tyrod Taylor’s benching may hurt his efficiency a bit (running QBs tend to open up space for RBs), but the presence of a rookie QB should ensure volume for McCoy, as the offense will surely run through him. We have him projected for about 18 carries to go with his usual PPR volume. The Chargers have been a run-funnel defense, good against the pass while allowing the most rushing yards per game in the NFL. This gives Shady a high ceiling and floor, and he’s particularly valuable on FD.
High-End Play: Joe Mixon, CIN (@ DEN)
I wasn’t sure whether to call Mixon a “high-end” or “sleeper” guy, but I figured I’d put him here so you know he’s a borderline RB1 this week by default. Denver’s been a good run defense in terms of efficiency, but their defense overall is falling apart a bit in terms of points against. Andy Dalton won’t light them up like Wentz and Brady did the last two weeks, but they’re more vulnerable to scoring than we’ve seen at any point in the last few years, and Mixon is an underrated bet to score (to go along with maybe 50 yards on 15 carries). On DK in particular, he’s priced in the bargain-bin – same price as JacQuizz Rodgers and D’Onta Foreman – making him an optimal play.
Sleeper: Rex Burkhead, NE (@ OAK)
Burkhead’s snap count has been going up since returning from injury. He’s versatile – able to serve as a slot WR – so he’s been capitalizing on both his own better health and New England’s banged-up WR corps. Most encouragingly, he out-snapped and out-touched James White before garbage time last week. If that continues, consider him somewhat of a James White / Danny Amendola hybrid, who has the makings of a PPR beast. Pick him up in season-long, and consider him a nice cheap GPP play in DFS.
Fade: Leonard Fournette, JAX (@ CLE)
Even before he was announced as questionable, I was down on Fournette, given he’s priced like an elite RB1 option. Here’s a quick guide on how to account for Cleveland being a “dominant” run defense: they’re bad enough as an entire team where RB2 types are still guaranteed volume (keeping them as safe RB2s), but they’re good enough against the run to lower the ceilings of high-end RB1s. Throw in that Fournette is battling an ankle injury (and battled similar injuries throughout college), and he has a lower floor as well. Even if he suits up, I’d be worried he gets rested in a blowout. The most expensive RB on FD is a full fade for me this week.
Your choices at the WR position will largely be determined by how much you spend at RB this week. On DK, Mixon and some cheap PPR guys are more valuable, so I’ll give you some higher-end WR you can roster. On FD, you’ll need some cheap WR to roster along with expensive RBs. Overall, note that it’s a weird week for high-end WR – Antonio Brown already played, Julio Jones plays on MNF, Mike Evans doesn’t have his usual QB, and AJ Green has a tough matchup vs. Denver. Those last two guys are certainly too good to be full “fades” ever, but they are certainly not the optimal plays this week.
High-End Play: Michael Thomas, NO (vs. WAS)
He’s actually a full fade for me on FD, where he’s $800 more expensive than any other WR. On DK, however, he’s a nice high-floor, high-ceiling value. He showed last week that he can win you some money even without scoring, putting up a monster PPR line in just about one half of actually running a passing offense. At some point, a guy who had 9 TD last year and just 2 this year will see some positive regression – until then, I’ll keep mentioning him in these articles.
High-End Play: Sterling Shepard, NYG (@ KC)
He looks like a rock-solid WR2 who has the opportunity for volume and the talent to do something with it. Over the last two weeks (his first playing without Odell Beckham), he has averaged 11 targets, eight receptions, and 106 yards per game. The Giants will probably fall behind and play catch-up again, which makes him a borderline WR1 against a KC defense allowing the fifth-most passing yards per game. He’s a good choice to be your most expensive WR on FD.
Sleeper: Jamison Crowder, WAS (@ NO)
New Orleans’ pass defense is great this year, but they’re still likely to run up the score and force Washington into some passing volume. With Terrell Pryor and Jordan Reed out, much of that volume should go to Crowder, who quietly saw double-digit targets and averaged 100 yards over the last two weeks. Josh Doctson will get the hype, but Crowder is the better bet for a monster PPR line. I’d start him in season-long over guys like Mohamed Sanu, Cooper Kupp, Kelvin Benjamin, and Sammy Watkins.
Sleeper: Bruce Ellington, HOU (vs. ARI)
Arizona’s been a bottom 10 defense in terms of passing yards allowed per game. DeAndre Hopkins is a great play in DFS and season-long, as he owns a ton of Houston receiving market share. If you’re worried about Hopkins being shadowed by Patrick Peterson, then I recommend Bruce Ellington as a potential breakout candidate. He saw 17 targets over the last two games, and now Will Fuller is out and the coaches want to get him even more involved. As is, he has over 40 yards in 3 of 7 games and doesn’t need to do much more than that to hit value.
Sleeper: Keelan Cole, JAX (@ CLE)
Who? Well, he’s starting at WR for Jacksonville this week, with Allen Hurns and Arrelious Benn already ruled out, and with Dede Westbrook being potentially eased into his first NFL action. Westbrook is the high-ceiling guy, but that hype is already widespread. Cole is the guy many haven’t heard of, despite 47+ receiving yards each of the last 3 weeks. He’s a worthy GPP punt play against the bad Browns secondary and a deep-league add in season-long.
Fade: Adam Thielen, MIN (vs. LAR)
After many weeks being an underpriced, optimal play in DFS, Thielen is finally priced like a Pro Bowl-caliber WR. He’s the fourth-priciest WR on FD and third on DK, which comes at a bad time, as he faces a solid Rams defense in what could be a low-scoring matchup. Case Keenum revenge narrative aside, Thielen is a fade due to price, which is a testament to how much he’s broken out as a player this year.
Since you will want to spend up at QB and RB, you probably won’t be able to afford a stud TE in cash. Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce both have excellent matchups and make for great stack partners with their QBs in GPP, but they’re not optimal in high-floor cash games. I’ll tell you a few of the cheap guys that I like, even though one in particular stands out.
Sleeper: Vernon Davis, WAS (@ NO)
With Reed already ruled out, VD is the no-brainer cheap TE option of the week. He’s produced like a TE1 the last two weeks, averaging 10 targets, 6.5 receptions, and 74 yards against two good defenses (Seattle and Minnesota). Cousins loves throwing to his RBs and TEs, and he may have to do so a lot while playing catch-up in the Superdome. Davis is the optimal TE, and the only reason not to roster him is if you’re looking for a stack or a lower-owned play in GPPs.
Sleeper: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. NE)
Cook is starting to stand out as the best of the mediocre TE, scoring or putting up 100+ yards in three of his last seven games. This week, his matchup could be high scoring, giving him a nice ceiling at a cheap price and making him a nice alternative to VD.
Sleeper: Tyler Kroft, CIN (@ DEN)
Denver’s biggest weakness on D is covering TEs. We started out the season considering them an unfavorable matchup for TEs, but we’ve adjusted all the way to the point where we consider them a top 4 D to target. This makes Kroft a nice, cheap, and probably low-owned option, as well as a guy you should want to start in season-long over guys like Charles Clay, Julius Thomas, and Eric Ebron.
Fade: Eric Ebron, DET (@ CHI)
Ebron has three TDs over the last two seasons. His two this year have come against the Giants and Browns, arguably the two worst teams at covering TEs, and he has been a non-factor in just about every other game. Now he is back to facing not just a normal defense, but one that we rate as a bottom 10 matchup for opposing TEs. Do yourself a favor and roster one of the guys listed above, instead.