Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 5

Last week wasn't my best week, but Devonta Freeman's second straight explosion made sure the week wasn't a total loss. He was only listed as the No. 4 option on my cash plays, but he really should have been No. 2 ahead of Frank Gore and Melvin Gordon, especially with Andrew Luck sitting. Gore turned out just fine but Gordon busted, which shouldn't be surprising considering his timeshare with Danny Woodhead. In the end, I'm glad I only had Gordon in my afternoon cash games.

On to Week 5 though, which provides many good options on DraftKings. Again, the format of this article will be changing, and it will include "Top Plays" and "Tournament Shots" rather than cash and tournament suggestions. In reality, Top Plays are the top plays in any format, and using 1-2 of the players listed in "Tournament Shots" could be a good way to differentiate your teams while not going too contrarian, something I've been guilty of in tournaments so far this season.

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Top Plays

Carson Palmer ($6,600) at DET
Peyton Manning ($7,000) at OAK
Philip Rivers ($6,200) at PIT

Carson Palmer has scored 20 fantasy points in three of four games so far, and the fourth saw him drop 19.98. The Lions' pass defense has struggled this season and even on the road, I think Palmer is the safest play at quarterback this week, especially since his price has remained relatively stable.

Peyton Manning has been anything but consistent so far this season, but a matchup with the Raiders should help him post a respectable stat line. The upside isn't what it once was, but he's played well in his two good matchups this season at Kansas City and at Detroit. This week should be no different, although I'm playing Palmer over Manning wherever I can.

Philip Rivers never seems to get the respect he deserves, but a home date with the leaky Steelers secondary is a good spot for him. Rivers has averaged over 25 points per game in two games in San Diego this season.

Tournament Shots

Marcus Mariota ($6,000) vs. BUF
Sam Bradford ($6,000) vs. NO
Jay Cutler ($5,300) at KC

Marcus Mariota is the type of quarterback who can beat the Bills' blitz-heavy defense with short passes by getting the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately in the short field and using his legs to extend plays and escape the pocket. Any blitz-heavy defense tends to be vulnerable on the back end, and the Bills' defense is 29th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to QBs, but it's tough to trust a rookie against Rex Ryan in cash games. In GPPs, however, Mariota is a nice stack with Kendall Wright and/or Delanie Walker.

Sam Bradford finally showed a willingness to attack down the field last week, and it almost helped the Eagles even out their record at 2-2. The Saints' secondary is unlikely to offer much resistance if Bradford continues to stretch the field, but this offense's inconsistency so far makes its QB impossible to trust in a cash-game lineup.

Jay Cutler made a surprise return to the lineup last week and was very effective as the Bears edged the Raiders without Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery seems likely to return this week, and the Chiefs have allowed an NFL-high 11 touchdown passes. With Cutler's near-minimum price, he's a tempting stack with Jeffery and/or Martellus Bennett.

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Running Back

Top Plays

Dion Lewis ($4,800) at DAL
Eddie Lacy ($6,700) vs. STL
Le'Veon Bell ($8,500) at SD
Todd Gurley ($4,300) at GB
Justin Forsett ($5,800) vs. CLE

A Patriots back has to be excellent to find his way into the circle of trust, and Dion Lewis has been just that. He's still underpriced and has a great matchup with the Cowboys this week. The game should be high-scoring, at least for New England, and while the large point spread means LeGarrette Blount could be involved late again just like he was in Week 3, Lewis will a big part of any big lead the Patriots build in Big D.

Despite being a consensus top-five RB to enter the year, Eddie Lacy still isn't priced like one. The Packers are a big home favorite against the Rams, whose run defense has struggled so far this season. Despite his pedestrian numbers so far, Lacy is trustworthy in cash games and a great tournament option, as his "struggles" may keep him somewhat under-owned this week.

Le'Veon Bell is expensive, but the Chargers have allowed a league-high 4.9 yards per carry this season. Bell's involvement in the short passing game always gives him a high floor, but a matchup like this gives him a sky-high ceiling as well. He's easily the No. 1 RB play on the board, but Lewis and Lacy provide better bang for the buck.

Todd Gurley busted loose against a good Cardinals' defense in the second half last week and should be a lock for 15-20 touches in Green Bay this weekend. St. Louis could fall behind quickly, which would mean more work for Benny Cunningham, but top-tier talents like Gurley don't sit at $4,300 for long. Despite the big spread in this game, I think the Rams are a good enough to keep this game close, and Gurley will be a big part of that.

Justin Forsett finally came through last week, and with Steve Smith Sr. unlikely to play this week, the Ravens will need to rely heavily on their running game. Even with an increased focus on stopping the run, the Browns are still likely to give up a ton of yards; they've allowed 141.5 rushing yards per game so far this year. Forsett had four receptions in every game before last week's explosion as well, boosting his floor.

Tournament Shots

LeGarrette Blount ($4,500) at DAL
Matt Jones ($4,000) at ATL
Doug Martin ($4,700) vs. JAX
T.J. Yeldon ($4,400) at TB
C.J. Spiller ($3,800) at PHI

The Patriots could be in for a repeat of last week, which makes both Lewis and LeGarrette Blount viable options in tournament play. Blount could easily find himself with 10-15 carries in clock-killing mode, but expecting another three TDs is crazy.

Matt Jones can't be fully trusted but if you want a potential tournament-winning play this week, he's as good a choice as any. We've seen his upside, and it's high, and the Falcons have allowed a league-high seven rush TDs. He could see some goal-line work, and has the skills to bust a big run or two as well.

Martin is coming off a big game, but that doesn't mean people are going to trust him enough to expect another, especially splitting work with Charles Sims. Martin's 20-carry upside in a good matchup is hard to find under $5,000, and another 20-point week isn't a crazy thought.

T.J. Yeldon has yet to go off, which means he'll be very low owned in tournaments. He's an every-down back who has seen 20 carries in a game twice already this season, and the matchup is good despite the loss of starting guard Brandon Linder. The Jaguars probably won't get blown out, so they can keep the ball on the ground and feed Yeldon, which could lead to a nice day that few will have rostered.

C.J. Spiller is nothing more than a shot in the dark until we see confirmation that his usage will increase, but his 80-yard TD catch to win the game in overtime last week showed the Saints what he can do, and provided fantasy owners with a glimpse of his upside. Mark Ingram could have a tougher time than usual against a good Eagles' front seven, which could result in more snaps for Spiller along with his work in the passing game.

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Wide Receiver

Top Plays

Julian Edelman ($7,000) vs. DAL
Pierre Garcon ($5,300) at ATL
Jeremy Maclin ($6,000) vs. CHI
Julio Jones ($9,200) vs. WAS
Kendall Wright ($5,400) vs. BUF

Julian Edelman is always a great cash-game play and the Cowboys' pass defense has played over its head so far this season. Expect a slight correction this week, even playing at home, and there will be plenty of targets for Edelman to meet his 10-reception-per-game average. 

Pierre Garcon has a limited upside with Kirk Cousins at QB, but his floor is enticing at his price point. With at least five receptions and 11.4 fantasy points in every game this season, he's a safe bet even in an average matchup. Luckily for him, Desmond Trufant doesn't shadow opponents' No. 1 receivers. I'd lean away from Garcon in tournaments where possible, although he could push for 20 points with a touchdown. Or garbage-time receptions.

Jeremy Maclin is another player who is limited by quarterback play, but it hasn't stopped him from averaging nearly 30 fantasy points over the past two weeks. The Bears have allowed 10 passing touchdown, second-worst in the league, and even if Alex Smith keeps Maclin out of the end zone for the fourth time in five games this season, the receptions and yards will be there.

Julio Jones is the top WR play this week and if there's any week he may go slightly under-owned in tournaments, it's after last week's gameflow-induced bust. The key word is slightly, because most will recognize why Jones' numbers were low last week, but every percentage point matters in a GPP, especially when you're talking about a guy who could post the highest point total of the week. I'm locking him into at least half of my tournament lineups and hoping some overreact to one bad game.

Kendall Wright and Marcus Mariota are perfect for each other, and the Bills have struggled with receivers who thrive in the slot this season. Wright plays everywhere and the Titans will move him around, meaning he'll see enough snaps away from Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby to give him a good floor. He also has the skill set to take a short pass to the house on any given play, which is always a possibility against a team that blitzes a lot and leaves fewer defenders in the back end.

As a quick addendum, DeAndre Hopkins is a great play on the Thursday slate if Vontae Davis sits out for the Colts. If Davis plays, I wouldn't go out of my way to play Hopkins, although he should still be solid. He's a Thursday-slate cash-game lock without Davis.

Tournament Shots

Willie Snead ($3,000) at PHI
Leonard Hankerson ($4,000) vs. WAS
Michael Floyd ($3,000) at DET
Terrance Williams ($4,300) vs. NE
Rueben Randle ($4,400) vs. SF 

At minimum price, Willie Snead is a sneaky GPP play this week. At 5-11, 195 pounds he doesn't scream touchdown upside, but adding a score to his six-catch, 89-yard game last week gets you 20 points from a $3,000 player. Even if he doesn't score, his floor is good enough for GPP consideration at his price in a matchup with the Eagles, and Drew Brees trusts Snead arguably more than any other receiver on the roster.

Leonard Hankerson has been a boom-or-bust player so far this season, with two weeks of single-digit scoring and two weeks with at least 19.7 points. The Redskins' secondary scares nobody and if they focus on stopping Julio Jones, Hankerson could be in for another nice day. It's possible that more than a few of your opponents will be on him at $4,000 after last week's big game, however, which keeps him behind Snead for me.

Unlike Snead, Michael Floyd's size-speed profile screams touchdown upside, but he's never actually put it all together on the football field. His role in the offense is increasing, however, after his five-catch, 59-yard game last week. It's a definite shot in the dark, but Floyd could break loose for a long touchdown and pay off his salary with just one play.

Terrance Williams is not fit to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and the Patriots have stopped their opponents' top target on numerous occasions. There's a ton of risk using Williams, but that will keep the general public away from him and, like Floyd, he always has the ability to bust a big play for a score. Plus, he may see some extra looks in garbage time if Dallas falls behind. If they stay competitive, it'll likely be because Williams has already scored.

Rueben Randle will probably never gain anybody's trust, but a great home matchup with the 49ers and touchdowns in two straight weeks gives him legitimate upside at $4,400. Just don't be shocked if he grabs two balls for 28 scoreless yards, either.

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Tight End

Top Plays

Jason Witten ($4,500) vs. NE
Delanie Walker ($3,800) vs. BUF
Charles Clay ($4,100) at TEN

Jason Witten is easily the position's safest bet for 10 fantasy points outside of Rob Gronkowski, especially with Brandon Weeden's checkdown tendencies. The Patriots have struggled against tight ends so far this season so while Witten's upside is limited for GPPs, he's a bankable cash-game asset.

Like Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker has benefited from Marcus Mariota's arrival in Tennessee with at least 13 fantasy points in the two games he's played so far this season. Walker could be Mariota's hot read against the blitzing Bills in Week 5, giving him a nice floor along with decent per-dollar upside and a likely low ownership.

Charles Clay was a chalk play last week and could very well be again this week, despite his $800 price rise. With Sammy Watkins likely to sit once and a great matchup against the Titans, Clay is a good cash-game option. I might look elsewhere in tournaments, since he could very well be highly owned, but that's not a certainty after his price jumped almost 25 percent.

Tournament Shots

Owen Daniels ($2,700) at OAK
Zach Ertz ($2,900) vs. NO
Derek Carrier ($2,500) at ATL

Owen Daniels will be a popular play this week thanks to Oakland's well-publicized struggles covering tight ends, but I can't bring myself to trust him in cash games. That probably means I won't use him at all since he'll be highly owned in tournaments, but I couldn't avoid mentioning him this week. At his price, he's very, very viable.

Zach Ertz is the one player of these three who's likely to be on virtually no teams this week thanks to his terrible start. Plugging him in is not much more than a blind-faith move based on his receiving talent and a great matchup, but it's possible it pays off. Just not likely.

Derek Carrier has a great physical profile at 6-4, 238 pounds with a 4.5 40-yard dash, but he's never really had an opportunity to shine during the regular season. Jordan Reed's injury has provided Carrier with that opportunity, and Kirk Cousins loves to pepper his tight ends with targets. He'll likely be more highly owned than Ertz but less so than Daniels, making him a nice contrarian play at this price level.

Team Defense

Top Plays

Ravens ($2,900) vs. CLE
Giants ($2,900) vs. SF
Chiefs ($2,800) vs. CHI
Packers ($3,100) vs. STL
Patriots ($3,300) at DAL

Pairing Justin Forsett and the Ravens defense is a viable correlation play in tournaments this week, as is Eddie Lacy and the Packers defense. LeGarrette Blount and New England's defense is another solid tournament pairing, and I don't mention Dion Lewis there because he will be on A LOT of teams. Still viable, though.

The Giants have a great matchup against turnover-prone Colin Kaepernick and if they build an early lead, they'll neutralize San Francisco's offensive strength - running with Carlos Hyde - and expose their linebackers less. The Chiefs will be low-owned this week, but playing at home as a big favorite makes them a solid contrarian option, albeit one I'm shying away from. I just don't buy the nine-point spread but if you do, fire up Kansas City.

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