This is the toughest week we’ve had on DraftKings all season. Yes, C.J. Prosise and Martellus Bennett have new roles and are underpriced. But outside of that duo, virtually every other player is priced reasonably. We can see it in the elevated RB salaries of guys such as Le’Veon Bell (now $8,800 after being $7,700 last week) and LeGarrette Blount (up from $4,900 to $6,500). We can also see it across entire teams, as Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker and DeMarco Murray are all priced way up. The result is likely that no one will truly feel great about their teams this week and the ownership percentages will be spread wide.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the 12 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Kirk Cousins’ Ceiling Against the Packers
Cousins has played 33 full NFL games and averaged 283.4 passing yards per game. That would be the most in NFL history, ahead of Drew Brees (282.7), Matthew Stafford (277.9), Andrew Luck (271.9) and Peyton Manning (270.5). Cousins also has thrown for at least 300 yards in 15 of those games, an astounding 45.4 percent of the time. It’s important to make sure we have a ceiling when we pay down at quarterback so we don’t run into a Jay Cutler situation from last week. Whereas the Bears have tried to turn Cutler into a game manager (zero games with more than 40 pass attempts in his last 14 games, one 3-TD game 24 games), the Redskins are willing to lean on Cousins. And they’ll need to do just that in a matchup with a Packers team which has scored at least 25 points in four straight games. Both teams rank in the top-11 in terms of plays run per game.
2. Spencer Ware Going Down in Price
Whereas many running backs are getting more expensive on DK, Spencer Ware is getting cheaper. He was $6,800 in Week 8 against the Colts when he left early with a concussion and then $6,700 for a difficult matchup at Carolina in Week 10. So with two bad games in row, Ware’s price has sunk to $6,000 for a home date with the Bucs. It’s a prime buy low opportunity on a player who out-snapped Charcandrick West 41-20 and out-touched him 16-5 last week (Jamaal Charles is on IR). While the Bucs are capable of playing strong run defense with Gerald McCoy healthy, they’re still 18th DVOA vs. the run and have given up at least 100 rushing yards to RBs in six of their nine games. Pairing Ware with the aggressive Chiefs D/ST against pass-happy Jameis Winston in Arrowhead oozes upside.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Le’Veon Bell Against the Browns
Just because Le’Veon was underpriced previously doesn’t mean he’s overpriced now. This is a three-down plus goal-line running back logging 95.6 percent of the snaps and averaging 9.3 targets per game – more than Brandon Marshall, Michael Crabtree, Jarvis Landry, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb and tons of other top-tier wideouts. Bell’s usage is incredibly unique and unprecedented.
As for this week, the Browns have the NFL’s No. 31 DVOA run defense, rank 27th in yards per carry allowed, 28th in rush TDs allowed, 31st in rush yards per game allowed and 30th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. It’s not an exaggeration to say this is an expansion-caliber defense, even with ex-Patriot Jamie Collins now playing every snap at outside linebacker. Perhaps most importantly, Bell hasn’t been subject to the same home/road splits that Ben Roethlisberger has notoriously struggled with. Whereas Ben has averaged 28.24 DK points at home vs. 16.44 on the road over his last 36 games, Bell’s splits are 23.16 at home vs. 23.05 on road. Throw in a forecast of 30 mph winds and we have a massive floor for Le’Veon.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Russell Wilson, C.J. Prosise and Jimmy Graham
I suspect the Seahawks initially wanted to change their offense from a rugged, run-based scheme to a more spread, Russell Wilson-centric plan. But they couldn’t do it at the beginning of the year because Wilson’s ankles/knees rendered him immobile and third-round rookie C.J. Prosise was hurt. Now Wilson is healthy and Prosise has been unleashed, as we saw against the Patriots last week. I suspect Thomas Rawls (leg), playing in his first game since Week 2, will be eased in for a 6-10 early-down carries at most. The vast majority of work should go to Prosise, a former college wideout who was the MVP of that upset in New England. That raises Wilson’s volume projections in a nice spot against an Eagles team going across the country following a big home win over the Falcons. Their CB situation has become dire with Jalen Mills grading out as PFF’s No. 117 coverage corner among 117 qualifiers, Nolan Carroll not far behind at No. 103 and Leodis McKelvin getting whooped weekly as he battles a balky hamstring. Throwing the wildly impressive Jimmy Graham into the stack gets us away from chalky Martellus Bennett and also gives us leverage against the popular Doug Baldwin.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Isaiah Crowell Against the Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will likely be three of the most popular plays on DK this week. But what if the Steelers lay an egg and the desperate Browns scratch their way to a win? In that scenario, Isaiah Crowell will likely be a big part of it. The Steelers are quietly giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs, including Zeke Elliot’s 21-114-2 last week, LeGarrette Blount’s 24-127-2 in Week 7 and Jay Ajayi’s 25-204-2 in Week 6. Note that those are all inside power runners, just like Crowell. On top of that, coach Hue Jackson said he’s rededicating to the run as the Browns come out of a long week. “My fault,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I take responsibility for that. This guy (Crowell) is a really, really good player and we have not rushed the ball as well over several weeks now and that is disappointing. … I have to put him in better situations because he is a very, very talented player.” At just $3,900, it will be hard for Crowell to completely torpedo lineups. He also provides savings in a week there isn’t much.
2. Ladarius Green Getting Healthy
Rostering a $2,500 player at likely minuscule ownership immediately makes our lineup different because we have access to far more cap space than our opponents. It’s also a leveraged play this week because of how highly-owned Martellus Bennett will likely be. So although Ladarius Green is a very thin play, using him now is a chance to get on board a week early. He logged 12 snaps in his 2016 debut, but they were very fantasy-friendly snaps. Green blocked zero times, ran 12 pass routes and was targeted four times (catching three). With Cobi Hamilton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton giving the Steelers absolutely nothing, Ben Roethlisberger is desperate for playmakers beyond Antonio Brown in the pass game. The talented 6-foot-6 Green is at worst a red-zone threat and will be a factor as his snaps rise. And of course, the Browns have the league’s stone worst DVOA pass defense and have given up more fantasy points to TEs than any team in the NFL.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson
RB: C.J. Prosise, Le’Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, Ezekiel Elliot, David Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Spencer Ware, Theo Riddick
WR: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Julian Edelman, Donte Moncrief, Doug Baldwin, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, Cam Meredith, Pierre Garcon (if DeSean Jackson is out), Eddie Royal
TE: Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker, Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett, Zach Miller, Eric Ebron
D: Seahawks, Steelers, Giants, Chiefs, Lions, Vikings, Rams, Dolphins
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is AdamLevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.