Jonathan Bales is a DraftKings Analyst and the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.
Let’s dive right in.
Philip Rivers, San Diego ($6200) Rivers is matched up against a Steelers defense that has allowed 3.8 points per game above what you’d expect to quarterbacks over the past year. They struggle quite a bit on the outside, where I think Rivers is going to be able to do a lot of damage with Keenan Allen. The quarterback is underpriced, but a few other clear values should help keep Rivers’ ownership down in workable territory.
Alex Smith, Kansas City ($5500) What am I doing playing Alex Smith? This is insanity. Well, the Bears obviously have a poor defense, and Vegas is projecting the Chiefs just shy of 28 points. That’s a lot, and while it bodes really well for my favorite running back of the week, Smith could benefit a lot if Charles doesn’t punch in the scores. I think you can make a case for pairing Smith with Maclin, Kelce, or even Charles.
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia ($6000) This is mostly a case for targeting a cheap quarterback with lots of volume. The Eagles run such a fast-paced offense that Bradford can be just decent in terms of efficiency and still have quality fantasy output. Actually, he’s been mediocre to bad most of the season and still been okay at times, so I think there’s a lot of meat left on the bone here for him to really return a lot of value.
VALUE OF THE WEEK
Matt Ryan, Atlanta ($6700) This is the most obvious value at quarterback, in my view. Julio Jones’ ownership should be through the roof, by Ryan’s hasn’t been that high all year. He’s facing a Washington defense that is really good against the run but is going to get lit up on the outside.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville ($4400) There are a few backs it appears most people are going to be on this week. My guesses are Devonta Freeman, Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, and Todd Gurley will be the highest-owned. Meanwhile, Yeldon is just $4,400, which is about as cheap as you’ll get for a workhorse who has two games with at least 22 carries this season.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City ($7800) Of the popular backs I mentioned, my guess is Charles is the only one to whom I will have more exposure than the field. Like I said, Vegas loves the Chiefs, and Charles obviously accounts for a high percentage of their scores. He’s also incredibly safe for cash games.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore ($5800) I don’t think Forsett is going to fly under the radar since he’s too cheap, but I do think he’ll have moderate ownership when it should be quite high. The Browns have allowed an additional point per game to running backs over what they “should” based on opponent salaries, and Forsett is bound to get utilized more as a pass-catcher.
VALUE OF THE WEEK
Todd Gurley, St. Louis ($4300) A lot of people would have Freeman as the top value this week, but I’m scared off by the Redskins’ stout run defense and the fact that I know a huge percentage of players are going to be on him. Gurley is also probably going to be over-owned, especially when you consider how big of dogs the Rams are, but I’ll still have some exposure to him given the insane savings at only $4300.
Leonard Hankerson, Atlanta ($4000) I don’t really think Washington is going to be able to stop Julio, but they might (astutely) just double and triple him every play. Hankerson, who is getting more looks than most expected in the Falcons’ offense and has some big-play ability, could benefit from that. It’s worth noting most are going to prefer Martavis Bryant at $3800.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver ($8100) I have a feeling Thomas is going to be semi-unpopular, which is the perfect time to pay up to be contrarian. He’s facing a mediocre Oakland defense and, even if Peyton Manning is toast, Thomas is still getting plenty of looks. He’s scored just once this year, so there’s going to be touchdown regression (in a good way) coming soon.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit ($7400) Again, this is just another example of a stud who is priced too low. This matchup against Arizona will scare most away, but they’ve actually been almost perfectly average against receivers over the past 12 months after adjusting for DraftKings salaries. The defense also takes a lot of chances, so Megatron should be able to make a play or two downfield.
VALUE OF THE WEEK
Willie Snead, New Orleans ($3000) There’s little doubt that Snead is underpriced at the minimum for a receiver. I’m worried he might not have enough upside to warrant GPP use, but I could be wrong if you think 1) New Orleans will run a lot of plays against Philly (probable) and 2) they’ll get down and be throwing often late. The Eagles have allowed 1.8 points per game above expectation to opposing receivers—the second-worst mark in the NFL, behind Pittsburgh.
Rob Gronkowski, New England ($7500) One thing I’ve noticed is people sort of getting cute at tight end, and I think that has the potential to happen again this week with Gronk probably under 20 percent owned, and perhaps even under 15 percent. I’m going to have him in a lot more of my lineups because I think he’s going to decimate the Dallas defense. You can pair him with Julian Edelman, too, given that they rely on different stats for their fantasy production, i.e. they won’t cannibalize one another’s upside.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City ($5200) “Baby Gronk” can score at a high rate and is on an offense that could very score as many points as the Pats this week. The scare is that the Chiefs get up big and then don’t pass late, which isn’t as much of a problem with New England given that they’ll probably air it out even when up 14 points. For the $2300 savings, though, you could argue Kelce is the superior play, perhaps.
Larry Donnell, New York Giants ($2900) Donnell has seen at least six targets in each of the past three games. The Niners have allowed 1.1 points per game above expectation to tight ends over the past year, which is really poor.
VALUE OF THE WEEK
Jason Witten, Dallas ($4500) Witten is likely underpriced given Dez Bryant’s absence. New England typically takes away the opposing offense’s top option, but it’s tough to tell who that is in this case. I think you could argue Witten is somewhat risky, even if he’s a value, because the Pats could deem him that player they want to shut down. It’s a positive that Dallas is highly likely to be down late and throwing often in this one.
Philadelphia, ($3000) This is certainly a risky play, but if you saw the Saints game on Sunday night, you know Drew Brees was under pressure all night against a Dallas defense that doesn’t really even get to the passer. The Eagles have consistently shown to be able to make big plays via their defense and especially special teams. If you like Darren Sproles, pair him with the Eagles D for double-points on a return touchdown.
Baltimore ($2900) The Ravens are nearly a touchdown favorite and Cleveland is projected just north of 18 points. Defenses that are (-250) or better to win a game have historically scored 1.36 points per game more than you’d expect based on their cost.
San Diego ($3100) San Diego is going to be low-owned because, well, they aren’t a good defense. This is certainly not an option in cash games, but I do kind of like them in GPPs for the simple fact that Vick holds onto the ball. He’ll probably gash them with his legs at times, but he’s also going to take some sacks.
VALUE OF THE WEEK
Kansas City ($2800) The Chiefs are in a great spot against the Bears. You could argue it’s even better because Jay Cutler is playing since he holds onto the ball and forces it into coverage so often. Given how much Vegas likes Kansas City to win, this has all the makings of a high-turnover Cutler performance.