As always, please be aware that I’m not intending to touch on every player, but rather a few unique or pivotal opinions. If I don’t touch on some of your guys, by all means, reach out on twitter (@cshcwartz18) and perhaps I’ll get back to you.
Before I begin, I want to hit on some general themes. First – Detroit in the Superdome at the Saints. In season-long leagues, of course the Lions’ best offensive players are must-starts. Matthew Stafford is a mid-range QB1, Ameer Abdullah is a fine RB2, Golden Tate is a borderline WR1, and Marvin Jones is a startable flex option. Just know I won’t be mentioning these guys below because everybody else agrees. So it’s not exactly controversial or unique.
In fact, these players are actually largely overpriced in DFS. Stafford is priced like the overall QB3 or so (although admittedly cheaper and better value on DK). My overall feeling on these guys in DFS is they are sub-optimal in cash games, but fine GPP stacks if you want to try to guess the correct combos.
Second, I’ve been getting lots of questions about Amari Cooper trades after three consecutive bad games. Last game was a 1/8/0 mess, but that was with EJ Manuel at QB. The game before that was a 2/9/0, but that was against a Broncos defense that does this to plenty of WRs. That leaves just one bad game against Washington in Week 3. Cooper’s been through similar 2-3 week stretches before (end of 2015, for one example), and has not proven to be consistent yet in his career. But he is still mega-talented with a lot invested in him, and he has positive things going, including the return of Derek Carr, a healthy Michael Crabtree to take away defensive attention, and a sneaky easy fantasy playoff schedule (vs. Dallas, at Philadelphia). So no, don’t trade Cooper for the latest, greatest Kenny Golladay hype-train, and if you don’t own Coop, maybe try to buy low.
Now onto some of this week’s calls.
High-End QB Play: DeShaun Watson, HOU (vs. CLE)
Cleveland has held a lead for approximately two seconds this season. Remarkably, that hasn’t stopped them from allowing the 13th-most passing yards. This is because their pass defense is dreadful – bottom five in yards per attempt allowed, and dead last in opponents’ QB rating. Houston is a double-digit favorite against Cleveland, but along the way, they’ll get there via Watson throws. Add in some rushing stats, and he has a particularly high-floor, high-ceiling outlook, which is unique for such a high-spread game. He’s a great cash game option, and in season-long, I’d only be comfortable starting hall of famers Brady, Rodgers, and Brees over him.
Stack Partner: DeAndre Hopkins – Welcome back to elite WR1 territory, Nuk! Watson loves him, and he’s a PPR beast. He’s not yet priced like it on DFS sites.
High-End QB Play: Kirk Cousins, WAS (vs. SF)
It’s TIGHT for me between Watson and Cousins. I like Watson a bit more, as Cleveland is a more favorable opponent than San Francisco, but not by much. This is a secondary that Jared Goff tore up on a Thursday. Cousins should throw a lot early in the game, especially with Rob Kelley likely to miss, so he has a nice high floor and is a definite QB1.
Stack Partner: Jamison Crowder – It’s tough to guess Cousins’ beneficiaries from week to week, so you may as well go with the cheapest (realistic) one. Besides, they said they’d like to get him more involved, now that he’s perhaps healthier. Since he’s been so dreadful, his ownership will be low.
Sleeper QB: Case Keenum, MIN (vs. GB)
Unlike most bad QBs, he has proven he has some fantasy upside with an eruption against Tampa in Week 3. He may need to chase some points against Green Bay in a game with sneaky scoring potential, so it’s conceivable another big game could happen for him. He’s dirt cheap on DFS, so he makes for a fine GPP dart-throw, while being an option to start in two-QB leagues.
QB Fade: Matt Ryan, ATL (vs. MIA)
He’s one of the QBs favored to win by double-digits this week, so he has a lower ceiling than usual. Unlike a guy like Watson, he comes with higher weekly expectations and therefore a higher DFS price. Also, conditions aren’t so favorable for him, with his top two WRs banged up (and Mohamed Sanu likely out). I just don’t see why you’d use him in cash this week unless you use him every week. In GPPs, I suppose he’s a nice contrarian option, as these negative factors are likely baked into several people’s lineup decisions, and his ownership will be lower than usual.
High-End RB Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (vs. PIT)
It’s simple – no Ezekiel Elliot this week, and Le’Veon Bell has a worse matchup being on the other sideline against the Chiefs. So Hunt is our overall RB1 yet again, in a tier by himself, and a must-play in DFS cash games.
High-End RB Play: Mark Ingram, NO (vs. DET)
Sure Adrian Peterson stunk, but he took 30 touches away, or seven per game. If Ingram conservatively eats three of those, then he goes from a 14-touch to 17-touch guy. For perspective, that’s the difference between LeGarrette Blount and Carlos Hyde. With that volume he has enough talent to be a borderline RB1, just like Hyde. Even against a very solid run D like Detroit, the volume is enough to vault Ingram, and he’s not priced like it, as the AP trade happened mid-week.
High-End RB Play: Javorius Allen, BAL (vs. CHI)
Allen was more involved last week, and lo and behold, Baltimore’s offense looked better. The positive team results when Allen gets touches makes for a good indicator they’ll continue to give him touches. In general, Baltimore may take a page out of Jacksonville’s book and go extremely run heavy to beat mediocre offensive teams, and this week’s opponent qualifies. With Terrance West out, that should mean 15+ touches for Allen, making him a solid RB2 and PPR must-start.
RB Sleeper: Semaje Perine, WAS (vs. SF)
This is just a note that many expert rankings don’t yet reflect that Kelley is unlikely to suit up for Washington. In a game in which they’re heavily favored, they may run a lot, and small Chris Thompson will still be limited to 5-10 carries. Perine gets the rest. He makes for a great bye-week fill-in and also a cheap DFS dart throw.
RB Sleeper: Wayne Gallman, NYG (@ DEN)
Giants play on SNF and aren’t part of the main DFS slate (thank god), so this is more of a deep season-long play. Denver’s been historically good against the run this year, but they’re also that good against the pass. The Giants will need to give somebody some touches, and it may as well be their rookie RB averaging 4.5 YPC (which is like 10 YPC on this Giants team). He’s also looked good in the passing game, catching all 7 of his targets and picking up some blitzes nicely. Even if he averages 3 yards per carry, he could still produce flex value with 15 touches.
RB Fade: Melvin Gordon, LAC (@ OAK)
It was tough for me to find a RB fade, with expectations so low of guys around the league. I settled on Gordon, who I see as more of a mid-range RB1 rather than an elite one. I’m still not convinced he’s 100 percent after knee surgery. Sure, he broke out against a Giants D that was missing Olivier Vernon and that funnels throws to RBs/TEs, but he should face a slightly tougher test against Oakland. He’ll be hard-pressed to repeat last week’s two-TD performance with a low team total of 20. I prefer the equally priced Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman types, and the cheaper Lamar Miller and CJ Anderson, in DFS. Obviously if you have Gordon in season-long, start him with confidence still.
High-End WR Play: Michael Crabtree, OAK (vs. LAC)
Hopkins is my favorite elite WR this week, and I also like Michael Thomas, whom Darius Slay will not be able to stop. Beyond those guys, and into the WR2 range, I see a lot working in Crabtree’s favor. His value has never been lower, so his ownership should be low, and A) he’s working back to full strength, B) Carr is back, and C) Cooper is banged up and in a funk. It adds up to a nice combo of QB/WR talent and volume against a mediocre Chargers D allowing 7.1 yards per throw.
High-End WR Play: Adam Thielen, MIN (vs. GB)
He’s my preferred stack partner for Keenum, but I wanted to give him his own section since he’s worthy of rostering with any QB. He has been remarkably consistent, getting exactly eight targets and five receptions in each of the last three games, mostly with Keenum at the helm. He has yet to get a TD, which keeps his perceived value down, but regression should be coming (he had five TDs with less volume last year). I want to get out in front and say that TD regression will happen this week, with Stefon Diggs banged up and against Green Bay. Even without that TD, Thielen gets enough PPR volume to be a great DFS cash game play, especially as he’s much cheaper than Diggs.
High-End WR Play: Jarvis Landry, MIA (@ ATL)
Here’s a lesson in how to utilize Vegas lines. Miami has a low implied team total around 14 points, which is bad news for their TD dependent guys (Jay Cutler, Jay Ajayi). They also are large underdogs, which could be good news for their heavy pass volume guy – Jarvis Landry (especially with DeVante Parker out). If Miami loses 25-14 like Vegas implies, Landry will most likely pick up double digit targets and a ton of receptions along the way, as Miami plays catch-up. That makes him a PPR stud and great cash game play.
WR Sleeper: Taylor Gabriel, ATL (vs. MIA)
nlike Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, he’s not priced like an elite player, so if you want to target a Falcon against the bad Miami defense, he’s the guy. He also may have higher floor than usual with other WRs banged up, making him less of a boom-or-bust big-play threat, and more of your standard No. 2 WR. He’s a nice GPP play and flex option in season-long.
WR Fade: Jordy Nelson, GB (@ MIN)
Aaron Rodgers’ floor is so high that he’s never a fade, but when he has negative matchups, it could impact his receivers’ projections, since there are so many mouths to feed. That’s especially true when they’re all actually healthy, like they are this week. It all adds up to Nelson being more like a mid-range WR1 instead of a top-tier guy, and he’s priced/ranked like a top-tier guy on DFS sites. I prefer Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and (given price) Golden Tate this week.
WR Fade: Danny Amendola, NE (@ NYJ)
Amendola gets the poor man’s version of Nelson’s write-up. Like Rodgers, Brady is not in a great spot to put up a massive game. Like Green Bay, New England’s receivers should all suit up for the first time in a while, meaning Amendola is back to a part-time guy, one whom New England may treat with kid gloves. That’s bad news in a potentially run-heavy game script. You can do better with your WR3/Flex this week (I like Gabriel, DeSean Jackson, John Brown, and Marvin Jones more).
High-End TE Play: Evan Engram, NYG (@ DEN)
His value isn’t as high as it should be, coming off a 0/0/0. The fact of the matter is he’s the Giants’ new No. 1 weapon, and they have a full week to game plan him in more, instead of last week when the injuries happened mid-game. Even before those injuries, he was a 4/40 guy, and now he has upside above that. In a week where Kelce is banged up and Ertz already played on TNF, Engram is up there as the next best thing behind Gronk. Giants play on SNF, so this is a season-long call – don’t bench Engram after last week’s dud, and try to buy him low.
High-End TE Play: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. LAC)
Engram isn’t part of the main DFS slate, so the next best thing is Cook. Like Engram, he put up a stinker last week (although 3/25/0 is par for the course for TEs in 2017). Encouraging, though, is that Carr is back. In 4 games with Carr, Cook put up 40+ yards and/or 4+ receptions in each game. With Cooper a little banged up, he could see a slight spike in targets. By default, he’s a mid-range TE1 this week.
TE Sleeper: Ryan Griffin, HOU (vs. CLE)
If you’re looking for a Watson stack partner or a sneaky season-long fill-in, I like former the UConn Husky this week. As poor as Cleveland is at covering anybody, they’re particularly bad at covering TEs. Griffin had two bad games in a row, but showed he can produce three weeks ago against New England (5/61/1). If he had only good games, he’d be an elite TE1. As is, he’s a TE2 in a nice matchup, with some proven upside, who you should start over guys like Julius Thomas and Jack Doyle.
TE Fade: NOBODY!
TE is so bad this year, and expectations are so low, that there is nobody to “fade”. Beyond the top five or so, they are simply all lottery tickets to score a TD. In DFS, you should simply make your decisions based on price – for example, on FD, Cameron Brate is the fifth-most expensive TE, so he’s the smart fade there. On DK, ASJ is the fifth-most expensive, so he’s the guy to perhaps avoid. At the end of the day, though, these guys are all relatively equivalent in likelihood of scoring either 0 or 12 points, so monitor little pieces of news that could give any of them a slight edge.