In this piece, I’ll be focusing primarily on daily fantasy (DFS) prices and strategy, giving a brief introduction for each position before diving into some specific players. In season-long, you’re focusing on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean Koerner’s 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.
Note that both sites are at least half PPR – DraftKings (DK) is full – and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if Alex Collins has a migraine and is ruled out, drop everything and roster Javorius Allen. 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 as gospel.
On both sites, one of our most elite fantasy QBs is a great play. I have come to prefer rostering the best value among the elite guys in cash, and locking in something close to 20 points, at a position that shouldn’t be too volatile. On FanDuel (FD) especially, it looks quite optimal to roster a cheap QB and stock up on elite RBs and WRs, in GPPs, so I’ll point out my favorite option for that set-up.
High-End Play: Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. LAR)
Seattle has the fifth-highest expected team total in what could be a shootout against the Rams. No player has a larger share of his team’s production than Wilson, and any time the game is expected to be a shootout, he’s expected to put up a ton of points. He’s in a tier by himself this week while priced lower than Tom Brady on both sites and equal to Drew Brees on FD. He’s the logical cash-game QB.
High-End Play: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. GB)
Newton is clearly healthier and more comfortable, averaging 21.6 standard fantasy points over his last five, with 14.5 last week as his lowest. His 17.0 average points over the last two weeks is solid considering it came against two top defenses, New Orleans and Minnesota. This week, he gets a Green Bay pass D that hemorrhages yards to the tune of 7.8 per attempt. Further, the return of Aaron Rodgers should keep the game higher scoring and gives it shootout potential. I like capitalizing on Rodgers’ return in a contrarian way by rostering Newton, and I like stacking him with Devin Funchess, who has proven to be matchup-proof on volume and Red Zone chops.
Sleeper: Nick Foles, PHI (@ NYG)
The Giants defense is awful, even with All-Pro Landon Collins on the field. Collins has a banged up ankle and is doubtful, which means the Giants will basically be fielding a CFL defense. Foles’ talent level may actually be higher than most of the Giants defenders he’s up against, and he has proven upside, putting together an entire Pro Bowl caliber season at one point. With weapons like Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor at his disposal, he’s definitely the best of the bad (and cheap) QBs this week.
Fade: Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (vs. TEN)
In season-long, Garoppolo makes for a great pick-up, especially if you lost Carson Wentz or Josh McCown last week. So far, he has clearly belonged as a starting QB in the NFL. The hype around him has already picked up enough, however, to raise his DFS price to bona fide QB1 level. It’s not as bad on FD, but on DK he’s priced like Brees, Newton, and Kirk Cousins. He lacks the upside to justify this, in my opinion.
Last week, Giovani Bernard was a cheap, must-play RB, who paid off with a solid game. This week, at least so far, we don’t have a guy like that, so the optimal RBs are mostly studs. I consider Kenyan Drake to be a stud now, but he’s not priced like it on either site, making him a great play on both – I won’t even blurb him, just know he’s in there. On FD, it looks good to spend up and pair him with an elite guy, while on DK, due to pricing and full PPR scoring, it may make more sense to spend up on elite WRs instead. To cover all bases, I’ll recommend my favorite elite option, while also pointing out some valuable RB2 types.
High-End Play: Le’Veon Bell, PIT (vs. NE)
Kenyan Drake had a Le’Veon Bell game against New England last week, nearly going 100/100. This wasn’t a fluke – New England allows 5.0 yards per carry (most in NFL) and is also one of the worst teams at defending passes to RBs. This is not a good sign for their ability to defend Bell. Pittsburgh virtually clinches the No. 1 seed if they win this Sunday, so look for them to go all out now in order to maybe rest some starters for 2-3 weeks. Bell is in a tier by himself this week (with Todd Gurley in a tough match-up and Alvin Kamara coming off a concussion), so he’s worth his price tag.
Sleeper: Mike Davis, SEA (vs. LAR)
Davis had 15+ carries each of the last 2 weeks, emerging as Seattle’s most effective back during the stretch run. This week, he faces a Rams defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry and 124 rushing yards per game, both in the bottom 10 in the NFL. While Wilson may be chalk, I like Davis as a more contrarian way to capitalize on a potentially high-scoring game.
Sleeper: Alex Collins, BAL (@ CLE)
Collins is no sleeper in season-long, where he’s emerged as a high-end RB2 type. He’s also not the sneakiest play in DFS, coming off a 166 total yard outburst against Pittsburgh in primetime last week. He’s still valuable at his current price-tag in DFS, however, especially in a game that should be more favorable than most, script-wise.
Sleeper: Samaje Perine, WAS (vs. ARI)
For the past month or so, Perine’s upside has been something like 100 rushing yards and 1-2 TDs. Byron Marshall had been a capable 3rd down, receiving back, which limited Perine’s upside. Now Marshall is on the shelf, and Washington is running out of options at RB, meaning Perine could see 3-down work. This volume gives him more upside in PPR and helps his cause against a typically stout Arizona run defense.
Fade: Jamaal Williams, GB (@ CAR)
I had him as a guy to target in DFS last week, but this week I’m fading him for a few reasons. First – Carolina’s run D is amongst the best in the league, allowing just 89 yards per game (third-fewest). Second – with Rodgers back, Green Bay won’t lean as heavily on the run, particularly in the Red Zone, where I can see them calling for short passes just to get Rodgers on the board and get the team excited about his return. Third – Aaron Jones is healthy and at any point could become the “hot hand.” Lastly, his price is now in borderline RB1 territory, meaning he’s no longer a good value on starting status and volume alone.
I’ve already mentioned that on DK the optimal lineups seem to feature Drake and an RB2 type at RB, which leaves you enough salary to roster 2-3 studs at WR. On FD, Bell is too good to fade, which means you’ll need to find some cheaper punt-plays to roster at WR. Thus, I’ll point out a nice mix of studs and sleepers at this position.
High-End Play: Antonio Brown, PIT (vs. NE)
Did you know that he’s really good? I don’t need to spend much time telling you why he’s worth rostering in DFS. Just know that there are enough other cheap guys to be able to fit him in, that this game has more shootout potential than your typical Steelers game, and that he’ll be looking to rack up some stats before potentially sitting out a meaningless game or two to end the season.
High-End Play: A.J. Green, CIN (@ MIN)
People are just too scared of shut-down corners sometimes. Xavier Rhodes couldn’t eliminate Funchess last week, and Green has more talent in his pinky toe than Funchess has in his whole body. NFL defenses aren’t just about 1-on-1 matchups 100 percent of the time – there is a lot of teamwork involved that goes over most of our heads. Minnesota’s entire defense is quite good, but Green’s price is still too cheap, as he’s priced like a Josh Gordon/Robby Anderson type. His median projection is much higher than those guys, and this week gives you a nice chance to roster him on the cheap next to Bell and/or Brown.
Sleeper: Dede Westbrook, JAX (vs. HOU)
As you’d expect from a rookie who missed the first half of the season, his role has been growing more and more each week. The surprising part is just how quickly he’s risen to borderline WR2 territory. His quickness and talent makes him a nice bet for 5+ receptions, and he caught his first TD last week to boot. Now he has an easier matchup against a Houston defense that has really struggled against the pass. He’s my favorite cheap WR who you can pair with Brown while providing both a high floor and a high ceiling.
Sleeper: Trent Taylor, SF (@ CHI)
Marquise Goodwin has gotten all the hype (and deservedly so) amongst 49ers’ receivers, but Taylor is only two weeks removed from a six-catch, 92-yard performance with Garoppolo under center. He’s of course also capable of a stinker (and put one up last week), but he’s cheap enough to be a worthwhile punt play that can sneakily rack up PPR points.
Fade: Josh Gordon, CLE (vs. BAL)
Of course, Gordon has proven 200-yard upside, so he’ll always be a decent option in GPPs. He is a poor value this week, though, against a top Baltimore D that has shut down everybody but Antonio Brown this year. On such a poor team with mediocre QB play, Gordon either needs a cheap price tag or a prime matchup in order to be valuable. His price tag went up to borderline WR1 territory, and he has a bad matchup. I’d fade him this week, at least in cash games.
So many studs at QB, RB, and WR, are worth rostering this week, that you probably will want to go cheaper at TE. I’ll point out a few guys below the top echelon that are worth it at their prices.
High-End: Delanie Walker, TEN (@ SF)
Walker has finally seen some positive TD regression, scoring his first two TDs of the season over his last three games. He’s now all the way up to the No. 6 overall TE on the season (in half PPR), with just the 2 TD. This speaks to his consistent volume, as he’s reeled in 4-7 catches over each of his last eight games. Against a pretty bad San Fran D, he’s a better bet than usual to score a TD in addition to the typical volume, so he’s our top ranked TE in the main slate, who isn’t nicknamed Gronk. He’s cheaper than Jimmy Graham on FD and Evan Engram on DK, and seems to be the optimal TE on both sites.
Sleeper: Charles Clay, BUF (vs. MIA)
Clay hasn’t done anything the last two weeks, but that’s been mostly with Nathan Peterman under center and a blizzard in Buffalo last week. Barring more bad weather, he should have much more opportunity to succeed this week with Tyrod Taylor back from injury. Miami struggles against TEs, so he’s a fine cheap punt play that allows you to roster maybe one more stud at another position.
Fade: Zach Ertz, PHI (@ NYG)
Last week, my advice to fade Ertz didn’t help much, as he was ruled out well before kick-off anyways. So I’ll tell you to fade him again this week, especially as his ownership level could be quite high against a bad Giants defense that can’t cover TEs. His price-tag simply isn’t worth it without Wentz under center. Who knows if he’ll be 100 percent, and who knows if he’ll have the same chemistry with Foles as he did with Wentz. The Eagles also may blow out the Giants, eliminating the need to throw short passes to the TE. I like the much-cheaper Walker to actually outscore Ertz this week.