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Daily Fantasy Football Primer – Week Four

After a brief hiatus, the article makes its glorious return just in time for a very interesting week of daily fantasy football.  First, we’re going to start with a little housekeeping, as there have been some significant changes to the industry landscape this week.  DraftKings has decided to exclude the Sunday Night Football game from its main slate contests, but it remains to be seen whether this will be a permanent change moving forward.  FanDuel and FantasyDraft will both be including the Sunday night game, so I will address the players I like from the Seahawks. (No Colts.) If you’re playing any of the afternoon/primetime slates, I’ll be including the players from the Chiefs and Redskins that I like most, also.  Additionally, DraftKings has quietly increased their rake alongside taking away SNF from their main slate.  Make sure you’re paying attention to the games that you’re playing over there, and be conscious of how much money the site is taking as their rake.  I’ll be shifting more of my action to FanDuel and FantasyDraft this weekend.  Now, let’s get to the slate.

QUARTERBACK

I’m going to start off the article by addressing the overall roster construction and flexibility for each site.  On DraftKings, the build remains tight, meaning that their is very little value to be confident in.  Because of such, I’ll be looking to pay down at quarterback in order to fit in the running backs and wide receivers I like.  On FanDuel, however, the build remains very forgiving, and you’re able to fit in an expensive quarterback without sacrificing too much at any other position.  FantasyDraft basically mirrors the pricing of DraftKings, so I’ll be continuing the strategy of paying down.

For cheap DraftKings quarterbacks, I’m looking most at Trevor Siemian in his matchup at home against the Raiders, Deshaun Watson at home against the Titans, and Tyrod Taylor on the road against the Falcons.  Siemian appears to be the safest option of the three, averaging around 24 DK points in two home games so far this season.  The Raiders have been getting absolutely torched by opposing quarterbacks, most notably last week against Kirk Cousins in primetime on Sunday night.  With two steady wide receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, alongside a pass-catching running back in C.J. Anderson, I love Siemian’s chances at pacing the Broncos to a big victory over the Raiders this weekend.  Deshaun Watson broke out on the road against the Patriots last week to the tune of 301 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.  He also added 41 yards on the ground.  Targeting a quarterback who can add points with his feet is always a plus for cash games.  The slight hesitation I have with Watson is that the Titans love to blitz under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, which could force him into some errant throws and sacks taken.  Admittedly, I was a lot higher on Tyrod Taylor earlier in the week than I am now.  Another quarterback who is a threat on the ground, I believe this side of TyGod’s game may be neutralized by the fact that Atlanta operates in mostly a zone defense.  I expect the Falcons to be up big for the majority of this game, meaning Taylor will have to be throwing, and he has a great outlet in LeSean McCoy for racking up easy passing yards.  Of these three, I’m most confident in Siemian for overall safety and floor.

On FanDuel, I think the guy has to be Russell Wilson at home against the Colts on Sunday night.  I’m hoping the exclusion of this game on DraftKings will consequently lower his ownership on FanDuel, because this is an absolutel smash spot for the Seahawks after showing signs of life in Tennessee last week.  Wilson tossed 4 touchdowns and threw for 373 passing yards in a losing effort against the Titans, which means that Seattle is desperate for a win at home after starting the season 1-2.  Even if top wideout Doug Baldwin is unable to play, I like Wilson’s chances of exceeding value with targets like Tyler Lockett, Jimmy Graham, and Chris Carson in the mix.

Branching out from the core of cash game options, I love Tom Brady this weekend if you’re going to spend up at the position to be contrarian.  The Carolina defense was just exposed against the New Orleans Saints at home, and now have the daunting task of traveling north to play in Foxboro.  Brady has thrown for 8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 825 passing yards in his last two games.  The ceiling is immense.  I love stacking him with Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, or both in a Patriots onslaught.  Dak Prescott has looked magnificent to start the season, and now has a fruitful matchup with the Rams at home where his team is nearly a touchdown favorite.  Sharp money has been pounding the over of the total of this game, and I think Prescott will continue his strong start to the season.  If you’re looking to get frisky, I think Phil Rivers is in a great spot at home against the Eagles who are coming off a walk-off win against the division rival Giants.  Eli Manning looked revitalized against Philadelphia last week where he threw for 366 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.  It’s now or never for the 0-3 Chargers. They’ll need a big game from Rivers and company.

RUNNING BACK

As usual, I’m looking to keep a tight core of running back plays this week.  Starting at the top, I love Zeke Elliott for both cash games and tournaments at home against the Rams.  For cash games, I’m always looking to find running backs whose team is installed as a big Vegas favorite at home, and Elliott checks both of those boxes.  The Rams have been getting smoked on the ground to start the season, even with stud defensive end Aaron Donald back in the mix.  The Cowboys are committed to giving Zeke the ball, controlling the clock, and cruising to victories.  Throw in that Elliott has already caught 12 balls through 3 games, and you have yourself an elite running back option.  Sliding down, someone I’ve been high on all year and who is still underpriced, Dalvin Cook.  The Vikings are 2.5 point home favorites against the Lions, and they’ve made no secret out of how much they love their rookie running back.  Through three games, Cook is 2nd in the NFL in carries, and 8th in snaps played among running backs.  Atlanta had their way with this Detroit run defense, and I expect Cook to see 20+ touches, passing game involvement, and red zone carries. Lock and load.  Another rookie running back who we can expect to see a significant workload is Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars as they travel to New York to face the horrid Jets.  The Jaguars are looking to hide quarterback Blake Bortles’ blemishes as much as possible, and that has led to nearly 22 touches per game to start Fournette’s career.  Jacksonville is a road favorite for the first time in six seasons (h/t Joey Bag-o-Donuts), which should bode well for Fournette’s game flow.  Even if the Jets are somehow able to muster up a lead in this game, Fournette has caught 8 balls on 12 targets through his first three games and would figure to be involved in the passing game.  Elliott and Cook I consider “must have” players for me this week in cash games, with Fournette just slightly behind them.  I’ll look at jam all three in on DraftKings.

A great tournament pivot off of Zeke’s hefty price tag is LeSean McCoy.  Atlanta struggles to contain pass-catching running backs, and I could see upwards of a ten target game for McCoy if the Falcons push this game out of reach.  Shady leads the Bills with 20 targets on the season and there’s no reason to think he won’t be involved in either game script.  While I do like him on both sites, Christian McCaffrey is a fantastic DraftKings play due to their PPR scoring format.  CMC caught 9 passes against the Saints last week while the Panthers were getting blown out at home.  Surely to be trailing most of the game versus the Patriots, I feel like Cam Newton and his bum shoulder will be leaning heavily on dump-off passes to McCaffrey.  Overshadowed by the Saints being a horrendous defense for several straight seasons, the Patriots are actually worse in most defensive metrics to start the 2017 season.  Load up in tournaments, and I won’t blame you for throwing him into cash games.  Perhaps about to garner his lowest ownership in recent memory, Lev Bell is turning into an afterthought in the DFS community due to his sluggish start.  Pittsburgh’s road woes are no secret to anyone closely following football, and they typically look to lean on Bell to keep them competitive in these games.  Lev has scored 18 of 27 career touchdowns on the road, and Baltimore will be without stud defensive stalwart Brandon Williams.  I love Bell’s upside and ownership combination in tournaments.

If you’re playing on FanDuel, Chris Carson is worth a strong look in cash games due to his depressed price, tremendous matchup and spot as nearly a two touchdown home favorite against the Colts, and likelihood of 20+ touches.  Joe Mixon is priced egregiously low on FanDuel, making him a tremendous buy-low opportunity in his matchup on the road against the Browns.  New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor appears committed to giving the rookie a crack at handling a full workload and finally easing Jeremy Hill out to pasture.  Finally, if you’re playing any slate that includes the Monday night game, Kareem Hunt is just an absolute stud and must be considered in any slate he appears on.  The Redskins have played stout run defense so far, but they’re not a unit that is scaring me away from using Hunt with confidence.

WIDE RECEIVER

Without a glaring source of value on this slate, I’ll be mostly focusing on the midrange priced wide receivers this week.  On DraftKings, there’s a group of wideouts priced in the $6,000-$6,500 range that I love: DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Emmanuel Sanders, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Golden Tate.  Hopkins has been a target monster with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, garnering 32 of them through 3 games.  The Titans secondary has been getting flamed regularly to start the year, and I’ll be loading up on Hopkins and his massive target share in cash games.  High floor, high upside play.  Larry Fitzgerald refuses to age. He currently ranks third in the league in targets, and first in the league in red zone targets.  Without David Johnson to lean on, Carson Palmer has been focusing on Fitz to move the chains for this offense.  A smash spot against the 49ers awaits this weekend.  Manny Sanders and Demaryius Thomas both get a great matchup against the exploitable Raiders secondary on Sunday afternoon at home.  So far, Sanders has 29 targets with 4 red zone targets, and has been Siemian’s go-to guy.  For me, it’s Sanders in cash due to his early chemistry with his quarterback and being the preferred target in the red zone.  Thomas is a great pivot off of Sanders for significantly less and ownership.  While Zeke Elliott will likely end up being the chalk running back on this slate, I think a fantastic leverage spot would be to fade him and roster Dez Bryant instead in tournaments.  Finally in a good matchup against the Rams at home, Dez has looked great in tough matchups against the Giants, Broncos, and Cardinals so far.  Golden Tate ranks last among this group for me, although, he will draw the best matchup for Lions wide receivers this weekend, with Marvin Jones likely to garner the coverage of shutdown cornerback Xavier Rhodes.  Due to his high passing game volume, Tate is a great cash game play with upside for more.

If you’re going to break away from the popular roster construction this week, paying up at wide receiver is a great way to do so.  DraftKings makes it nearly impossible to roster both a top tier running back and wide receiver, so if you decide to pay up for a Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, or A.J. Green, you’re certainly going to differentiate yourself.  We know that the Steelers struggle on the road, but Tone remains basically unaffected as he’s still a target monster and a threat to break off for multiple touchdowns in any given game.  With Bell’s early season struggles, Brown makes a great tournament option.  Julio Jones has still yet to catch a touchdown this season, but being a touchdown favorite to the Bills at home may be exactly what he needs to get off the schneid.  Stacking him with Matt Ryan will be expensive, and likely leave you displeased with your roster elsewhere, so it’s likely something I’ll be avoiding in my tournament lineups.  OBJ finally looked like himself against the Eagles last week, hauling in two touchdowns on nine total catches.  In a must-win spot for the Giants in Tampa Bay later on Sunday afternoon, I would expect Eli to be peppering Odell early and often.  Eli comes cheap, and makes for a solid, low-owned stack.  The one high-end receiver I’d love to fit in my teams this weekend is A.J. Green.  Coming at a discount to the three aforementioned wideouts, Green looks primed for a big rest-of-season under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.  We saw Andy Dalton getting rid of the ball much quicker, and looking for his favorite receiver early last week in Green Bay.  With rookie running back Joe Mixon giving the Bengals a threat on the ground, Green should be seeing some more open looks against the atrocious Browns secondary.

If you’re going to scrape the bottom of the barrel for some wide receiver value, there are two in particular that I find myself considering for cash games and tournaments: Rishard Matthews of the Titans and Tyrell “the Gazelle” Williams of the Chargers.  With no Corey David last week, Matthews hauled in 6 of 10 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown.  Against a defense that lost A.J. Bouye in free agency and Kevin Johnson to I.R., Matthews has an exploitable matchup and comes very cheap across the industry.  While I think you can use both Matthews and Williams in cash games, I would lean towards Matthews as the safer route, and the Gazelle being the guy you want to load up on in your tournaments.  Williams comes slightly cheaper than Matthews, and has a gorgeous matchup against flamable Eagles corner Jalen Mills.  Philadelphia has been playing solid defense across the board, except for their deep coverage, which is where the Gazelle should be prancing around.  Chargers teammate Keenan Allen also makes for a solid play on both the main slate and the afternoon slate, although his price has been increased on most sites.  Rounding out wide receiver, I think Brandin Cooks is in an elite tournament spot in a stack with Tom Brady (and possibly Gronk, too.)  The Carolina secondary was torched by Drew Brees and the Saints wideouts last week, and Brady found Cooks deep for two touchdowns in their game against the Texans last weekend. (Paging Rishard Matthews)  If you’re playing any slate that includes the Chiefs’ Monday night game against Washington, TyFreak Hill is always in play as an elite upside tournament play.

TIGHT END

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: tight end is a wasteland this weekend.  In cash games, I’m looking to spend down.  I won’t fault you if you want to pay up for Gronk at home against the Panthers, Zach Ertz on the road against the Chargers, or even Travis Kelce against the tepid Redskins tight end defense.  They’re all tournament plays for me.  (You can get away with paying up for a tight end on FanDuel) Cheap tight end punts I’m considering: Evan Engram against the Bucs, Charles Clay against the Falcons, Jared Cook against the Broncos, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins against the Jaguars.  Engram is my favorite of the bunch.  He’s caught: 4, 4, and 5 balls through three games, notching over 40 receiving yards in all, and hauling in one touchdown.  If the Bucs sell out to stop Odell Beckham, I think Engram will become a primary chain mover for a Giants team that’s devoid of a running game.  Engram offers a solid 3x value floor with an opportunity to smash if he finds the end zone.  Charles Clay will certainly attract a significant amount of ownership this week, too.  A favorite target of checkdowns from Tyrod Taylor, the Bills should be trailing for most of this game which could lead to heavy volume for Clay. The Falcons ranked 6th in touchdowns allowed, and 8th in yards allowed to tight ends in 2016.  Jared Cook remains cheap, the Raiders will be without top wideout Michael Crabtree, and Amari Cooper should be blanketed by the “No Fly Zone” in Denver.  Intriguing play.  ASJ is simply a tournament pivot off of Engram for me.  He caught 5 of his 6 targets for 31 yards in his debut last week, and now has a positive game script coming his way with the Jets expected to be trailing to the Jaguars.

D/ST

Going to be a very tight core of defense plays for me this week.  I love the Bengals going on the road to Cleveland to face rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer who leads the league with 7 interceptions through 3 games.  They also get stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict back from suspension, too.  The Jaguars elite defense gets to face off against the Jets, which is theoretically a gorgeous matchup.  Will the Jaguars have any type of London hangover from last week, though?  The Cardinals at home against the 49ers is the cheap defense I like this week.  Brian Hoyer should have some sense of false confidence after having a great game versus the Rams last Thursday night.  The Cardinals have enough pressure to generate sacks, turnovers, and hopefully an opportune pick-six.  If you’re looking to take some shots in tournaments, the Broncos, Jets, Steelers, and Ravens are all intriguing.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Feels great to be back after a two week hiatus, and this looks like a fantastic week to get some action out there.  Be cognizant of the games you’re playing this weekend, and do your best to avoid the games with increased rake.  Typically, these are going to be the small buy-in, large prize pool tournaments that each site is offering.  Head-to-head, double-up, and 50/50 style games are usually raked significantly less, which is where I’ll be looking to get most of my exposure.  If you’re looking to try a new site, FantasyDraft is offering rake-free contests in response to the hike from DraftKings and FanDuel.  They’ve always offered rake-free head-to-head games, and this is a site worth supporting as they’re placing their players first.

Roster construction is straight forward from my perspective: pay down at quarterback and tight end, fit in the 5-6 running backs and wide receivers you like.  This strategy goes for both sites.  DraftKings’ build is supremely tight, so, paying down into the Siemian/Watson/Taylor range at quarterback is a priority for me in cash games.  On FanDuel, it’s Russell Wilson in a smash spot against the Colts.  For tournaments, anything goes.  Breaking away from the cash game build will automatically differentiate your lineups and offer you significant leverage over the field.

Best of luck in your contests this week, and stay sharp out there.

You can find me on Twitter @_ryanpaulsen for more DFS nonsense.

Author: Ryan Paulsen