Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 7

Week 5 it was Devonta Freeman. Week 6 it was DeAndre Hopkins. My fading of highly owned players has certainly cost me the past two weeks. My teams performed well enough in Week 5 to survive Freeman's outburst, plus I did have him on a few teams, but playing Hopkins in Week 6 would've made me quite a bit of money, as most of my cash teams finished within 10 points of the money, and he outscored players I played in a similar price range by 20-plus.

Lesson learned on both, as you'll see below. They are STILL underpriced despite rising $1,000 or so from last week. This may be the final week of the season you'll get Hopkins for less than $9,000 and Freeman for under $8,000, and their matchups aren't intimidating. If you can fit both in cash games, do it.

As usual, top plays are more focused on players to play in cash games, but will be solid tournament picks if you diversify your roster elsewhere. Tournament shots are guys who are not safe for cash consideration on full-slate games, but could be difference-makers in a big GPP.

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Top Plays

Carson Palmer ($6,700) vs. BAL
Philip Rivers ($6,500) vs. OAK
Andrew Luck ($7,600) vs. NO

From three road suggestions last week to three home ones this week. Carson Palmer has a great argument for the top spot at QB altogether for cash games regardless of price, as he's yet to score fewer than 18 points in a week. The Ravens are dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and bottom-five in yards allowed and yards per attempt. Taking into account his price point, Palmer is the unquestioned top play of the week.

Philip Rivers is coming off a 500-yard week in Green Bay, and returns home to San Diego to face the Raiders. Oakland has been an average pass defense so far this season but is elite against the run, although that may not be sustainable. Regardless, the Chargers have struggled on the ground so far this season, and this projects as another high-volume week for Rivers, who has topped 48 pass attempts in each of the past two weeks.

Andrew Luck looked as comfortable as he has all season in last week's loss to the Patriots, and the Colts return home to face a Saints team that allows the second-most yards per attempt so far this season. Luck's priced has dropped from its early-season spot and still keeps him behind Palmer and Rivers, but he's a good option if you have some extra money, or you want to use him in a tournament.

Tournament Shots

Blake Bortles ($5,400) vs. BUF (London)
Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,200) at NE
Drew Brees ($7,000) at IND

Blake Bortles' shoulder issue didn't keep him from throwing 53 passes last week and with seven TD tosses in his past two games, he's as hot as anybody in the fantasy realm, where his subpar completion percentage doesn't count against him. The Bills have struggled to rush the passer this season, which could allow Bortles to work from a clean pocket, a deviation from his norm. A third straight big week is possible, although the floor still feels low.

Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't generally viewed as a high-upside quarterback, but unless the Jets get out to an early lead and can pound Chris Ivory at will, he's going to have to throw. A lot. That may lead to an interception or two, but could also lead to his first 300-yard game of the season. Sprinkle in the potential for multiple touchdowns with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker playing as well as they are, and you could get some nice production at a near-minimum price.

Speaking of shoulder issues, Drew Brees has also bounced back nicely after missing a week of action to rack up three straight 300-yard games. Problem is, his receiving corps is weak enough that he has yet to throw for three touchdowns in a game this season, and he has the fourth-highest price among QBs this week. He's a lock to go very low-owned and if he can pull out a 350-yard, three-TD performance against a poor Colts secondary, he could provide a nice boost if Palmer and Rivers don't explode.

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Running Back

Top Plays

Todd Gurley ($5,000) vs. CLE
Devonta Freeman ($7,900) at TEN
LeSean McCoy ($5,500) vs. JAX (London)

If you don't play Todd Gurley this week, good luck making any money in cash games. He has over 300 rushing yards since taking over the starting job, and the Browns rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. No more analysis is needed, and he's a really tough fade in tournaments too. He'll likely be a top play every week until his price rises closer to $7,000.

Freeman has four straight games with over 35 fantasy points and gets a Titans defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry. Sometimes this game plays itself, and that's the case with Gurley and Freeman this week. Fade at your own risk in cash games.

After the top two plays, there is much less clarity this week. LeSean McCoy looked good last week despite claiming he wasn't fully healthy, and the Bills gave him most of the backfield work. The Jaguars allow just 3.4 yards per carry but due to game flow, they've faced almost 30 carries per game and were gashed by Doug Martin in Week 5 away from home before holding Arian Foster in check last week in Jacksonville. Without Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin out, this week should be all about McCoy once again, giving him a decent floor at his price in a game the Bills are projected to control as four-point favorites in London.

Tournament Shots

Chris Ivory ($5,800) at NE
Lamar Miller ($4,600) vs. HOU
Christine Michael ($3,000) at NYG
With the Jets instilled as nine-point underdogs in New England this weekend, game-flow concerns will likely keep Chris Ivory from being highly owned. Maybe it's the Jets fan in me, but I'm not buying that spread and think this game will be played within a touchdown. The Jets know they have to ride Ivory to stay in the game, and the Patriots' run defense allows 4.9 yards per carry on fewer than 20 rushes per game. If the Jets stay close and Ivory gets to 20 touches, he could have another nice day with potentially low ownership.

Last week was a great time to use Lamar Miller in a tournament, but this week isn't too bad either with the Dolphins returning home as favorites against the Texans. New coach Dan Campbell is obviously committed to running the ball, unlike Joe Philbin, and Miller is still priced in the low-end RB2 range, which means he's about $1,000 underpriced. Most teams will take Gurley at this price point at RB, meaning Miller could still be somewhat underowned even with some chasing last week's points.

Even at minimum price, Christine Michael is the ultimate boom-or-bust play this week. He's never shown anything at the NFL level and while he may be starting this week, the Giants play solid run defense and his workload is uncertain. He's also likely to be somewhat highly owned, which is why he's only third on my list of tournament shots.

Wide Receiver

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Top Plays

DeAndre Hopkins ($8,600) at MIA
Larry Fitzgerald ($7,400) vs. BAL
Willie Snead ($4,300) at IND
Eric Decker ($5,300) at NE

I'm a week late to the Hopkins party, but I did recommend him in Week 5 on the Thursday slate. Anyway, enough about past regrets, and on to this week. Hopkins has been uncoverable this season, and he's seeing about 15 targets per game. With Brian Hoyer able to get him the ball better than Ryan Mallett, Hopkins' floor and ceiling are each insane. He's scored at least 27 fantasy points in five of six games, and could easily go for 40-plus in any given week. He's a must-play again this week, as Miami doesn't have anybody that can slow him down.

Larry Fitzgerald continues his 2015 resurgence with Carson Palmer under center, and he's yet to truly disappoint this season. A lock for at least 15 points, Fitzgerald gets a primetime matchup with a brutal Baltimore secondary. All members of the Cardinals' passing game are great options this week, with Fitzgerald being the top dog in cash games.

In order to fit players like Freeman, Hopkins and Fitzgerald into lineups, you have to go cheap somewhere. Enter Willie Snead, who looks to be the No. 1 receiver in New Orleans. I have my doubts as to whether Vontae Davis will shadow Snead this week, as I still think the Colts will put him on the more explosive Brandin Cooks. A reliable possession receiver who runs great routes, Snead's floor is high.

Eric Decker started the season overpriced at $6,000, but that has corrected itself over the past few weeks. He has scored in all four games he's played this season, and averaged 6.5 targets per game. That number isn't high enough to sustain great production without the scores, but Decker has a great chance to push 10 targets this week in a game the Jets project to be trailing in. While I don't buy the big spread, the Jets will need to throw to keep up, and any early lead they build will come with some production from Decker. The Patriots tend to shut down opposing No. 1 receivers, making Decker the safer play among Jets receivers this week.

Tournament Shots

John Brown ($5,500)/Michael Floyd ($3,200) vs. BAL
Martavis Bryant ($4,700) at KC
Allen Hurns ($5,300) vs. BUF (London)
Brandon Marshall ($7,800)at NE
I said all members of the Cardinals' passing game were great plays this week, and I meant it. I'll be rolling out a Carson Palmer-Fitzgerald-John Brown-Michael Floyd stack somewhere, and Brown is always a tournament option in good matchups. He's a little boom-or-bust, but he can provide top-five production at a mid-level price. Floyd has been more involved in the offense of late and is always a threat for a long TD or a look in the red zone (he had three last week). Brown will be the higher owned of the two, but both are nice plays.

If we knew Ben Roethlisberger was playing, Bryant would probably graduate to top plays this week over Snead. But with Landry Jones still looking likely to be under center, it's tough to fully trust a boom-or-bust player like Bryant, even at his sub-$5,000 price. He gets a great matchup against the Chiefs, however, who have allowed 14 passing touchdowns, second-most in the NFL. As seen last week, Bryant's ceiling is unreal.

Allen Hurns has been one of the surprises of the young NFL season, and No. 2 receivers have fared better than No. 1 options against the Bills this season. Hurns is $1,100 cheaper than Allen Robinson and while both are viable in a stack with Blake Bortles, Hurns is better as a standalone tournament play. He's shown the potential to push for 30-point weeks.

While I mentioned the Patriots tend to shut down opposing No. 1 receivers, Marshall has been unbelievably consistent this year. While the latter part of that sentence is generally better for cash-game consideration, Marshall could be a contrarian option in the top tier of receivers this week. If he gets an extra boost from expected volume and can beat Bill Belichick's schemes against him, he could post his first 30-point game of the season.

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Tight End

Top Plays

Antonio Gates ($5,000) vs. OAK
Travis Kelce ($4,900) vs. PIT

Antonio Gates is another obvious play this week in cash games, as he gets the Raiders' soft tight-end defense and has been rolling since his return. At an affordable price even with the other studs in great spots, Gates is a must-play in cash.

Travis Kelce could see a boost if Jeremy Maclin misses Week 7, but even if Maclin plays, Kelce should be forced targets against a Steelers defense that has struggled to slow down tight ends this season. The only thing that makes Kelce risky on a week-to-week is Andy Reid's playcalling, and there's a big gap between he and Gates this week. For the extra $100, just use Gates.

Tournament Shots

Julius Thomas ($4,500) vs. BUF (London)
Jacob Tamme ($2,900) at TEN

The Bills are vulnerable up the seam this season, especially with the success Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore have found on the outside. Gilmore has been a bit inconsistent himself, but an "up" week from him would be a boon for Thomas, who had seven receptions for 78 yards and a TD last week. Some may still be loathe to trust him coming off injury and being new to the offense, but he's definitely worth a play in tournaments as a pivot off the guaranteed-to-be-popular Gates.

Tamme is a cheap punt against a Titans team that hasn't covered tight ends well this season. If you're playing a lot of high-priced skill guys this week and need a low-priced TE or FLEX play, Tamme is worth a look in case he can get to double digits for the third time in six games. If he can't, he didn't cost much.


Rams ($2,400)
Seahawks ($3,800)
Bills ($3,100)
Redskins ($2,500)

The St. Louis defense is an excellent real-life unit, and comes off its bye week with a solid matchup against the Browns. Josh McCown has surprised this season, but predictably struggled against another strong defense last week against Denver. Only four defenses are cheaper than the Rams this week, and they're a borderline top-five unit. I see very little reason to use another defense this week, and they pair well as a correlation play with Gurley.

The Seahawks have a nice matchup against the 49ers, but Colin Kaepernick has been better of late since people were actually calling for Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks aren't a bad option for those with some extra money playing the Thursday slate.

The Bills have been a frustrating fantasy defense with their inability to get to the quarterback, despite having tons of pass-rushing talent. Will Rex Ryan adjust this week to get after a shaky Jaguars offensive line? It's tough to say, which renders the Bills just a tournament option.

Washington is another bottom-barrel play as far as price goes, but they host turnover-prone Jameis Winston and the Bucs. Despite being gashed on the ground for two straight weeks, this unit is still solid up front. If they can keep Doug Martin in check and force Winston to throw the ball 30 times, the turnover and scoring potential becomes high. Although for the price tag, it's hard to justify this unit over the Rams for any reason besides the desire to be different.

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