Injuries were the story of Week 8, which means value plays are the story of Week 9. From Jeremy Langford to DeAngelo Williams to Stevie Johnson, cheap usage is easy to come by. The key will be figuring out which studs to pay up for and which of the inexpensive guys to avoid.

The point of this column is to use the news, snap count, usage and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs.


1. Julius Thomas against Todd Bowles’ defense

Before it was en vogue to attack the Raiders or the Giants via the tight end, the “in” crowd was going after the Cardinals’ TE defense headed by Todd Bowles on a weekly basis. That was because Bowles’ aggressive, blitzing defense leaves the middle of the field open on quick-hitting hot routes. It’s a perfect setup for Julius Thomas, who is not a blocker but is a weekly mismatch in the pass game. Now healthy off the bye, Thomas – who has 20 targets in three games this year — is looking at a significant workload against Bowles’ Jets Sunday. Via PFF’s Pat Thorman, Blake Bortles is already 6-of-7 for 67 yards with a TD when targeting Julius vs. the blitz and the Jets have blitzed on a massive 41.8 percent of QB dropbacks this year.

Yes, the Jets have given up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year, but that DvP stat is terribly misleading. Some teams they’ve faced (IND, OAK, PHL) barely use their tight end, Jordan Reed didn’t play in the Redskins game and the Dolphins spread it around. When Rob Gronkowski faced the Jets, he hit them for 11-108-1. The Jags project to be trailing (they’re 7.5-point dogs) and they’ll struggle badly to run the ball (Jets rank second in YPC allowed and first in rush yards allowed per game). Darrelle Revis will be shutting down Allen Robinson. I won’t be using Thomas in cash games at $4200, but he’s an elite tournament play for me at what will likely be miniscule ownership.

2. Alshon Jeffery against a banged-up (or sidelined) Jason Verrett

Jeffery is going to be very chalky this week – possibly the most-owned wide receiver on the entire slate. And when we thought Jason Verrett would be out there shadowing him, there was some merit to a fade in tournaments. But now that Verrett (groin) will either be less than 100 percent or completely out, it’s hard for me not to be on Jeffery. He’s seen at least 11 targets in all three games he’s played this year, Matt Forte (knee) is out and he costs $6700. Note that Alshon opened the year at $8300, a more appropriate tag for his talent/role with a healthy Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall gone.


1. Mark Ingram’s role with Khiry Robinson sidelined

Robinson was averaging 9.1 touches per game this season and had scored four touchdowns – vulturing Mark Ingram at times. That won’t happen anymore with Khiry (leg) done for the season. We’ve seen this story before, as Ingram averaged 29.0 touches per game in Weeks 4-7 last year when Pierre Thomas was hurt. The Saints aren’t afraid to saddle him up for massive workloads, especially in games where they project to be nursing a lead and in games where the run defense is generous. Both of those conditions apply this week as the Saints are 7.5-point home favorites over a Titans’ defense which funnels action into the run game. Already a strong play weekly as evidenced by his 18.2 DK points per game on the year, Ingram gets a massive boost this week based on both matchup and enhanced opportunity.

2. Antonio Gates looking healthy in face of Chargers injuries

Gates was only able to play on 50.7 percent of the snaps in Week 8 due to his low-grade knee sprain. But he emerged without setbacks, as evidenced by his surprising participation in both Wednesday and Thursday practice. We should see Gates back up around 75-80 percent of the snaps against the Bears on Monday night. Meanwhile, the Chargers will be without Keenan Allen (kidney) and Ladarius Green (ankle) is looking extremely doubtful. Their run game, hampered by an battered offensive line and an underperforming Melvin Gordon, is broken. Add in a team total of 27 points and we have a great spot for Gates. I prefer him to Heath Miller in cash if we can find the extra $2000 salary comfortably.


1. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb

There is a ton of DFS value in being to pinpoint exactly how an offense will attack a defense. I believe we can do that with the Packers Sunday. Fat Eddie and the run game is a poor bet to get going in Carolina, funneling action toward the pass. When Aaron Rodgers drops back, he’ll see bad matchups on the outside with Josh Norman and Charles Tillman against James Jones and Davante Adams. The place he’ll find the sledding smoother is in the slot, as Norman almost never goes in there. Of course, Randall Cobb runs 87.4 percent of his routes from the slot. Note that the Packers have a team total of 24.5 in this game – they’re going to score points and the most logical means to do it is with Rodgers/Cobb. Best of all, I think we’ll get each of them at sub-4 percent ownership

Who are you targeting at WR? Find out where they rank HERE

1. Malcom Floyd vs. Bears

Everyone wants to play Floyd at $3900 because of Keenan Allen’s injury. Slow down. Floyd is a vertical-stretching specialist while Allen is a precision route-running possession receiver. Asking Floyd to run the routes that Allen ran won’t work, and the Chargers know that. It’s why Floyd annually has one of the highest aDOTs (average depth of target) in the league. Philip Rivers has plenty of guys capable of soaking up those ball-control routes, namely Stevie Johnson and Antonio Gates. Floyd’s role will not change much, especially when we throw in underrated Dontrelle Inman and Danny Woodhead into the mix.

2. Ben Watson vs. the Titans

As discussed above, this has the strong look of a Mark Ingram game for the Saints. But even if it wasn’t, I’d be concerned about going back to the well on 34-year-old Ben Watson. Note that he was playing 85.8 percent of the snaps in Weeks 1-5, yet averaged 3.0 catches for 27.8 yards and scored one touchdown. His recent eruptions are impressive, but I don’t see how his usage has changed at all. That’s a recipe for regression even as people pile on him to chase last week’s 9-147-1.


(No particular order)

QB: Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Tyrod Taylor
RB: Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, DeAngelo Williams, Darren McFadden, Jeremy Langford
WR: Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Julian Edelman
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Heath Miller, Jordan Reed, Antonio Gates
D: Falcons, Broncos, Jets, Patriots, Vikings, Cowboys