Identifying high-upside plays who are flying under the radar is an important key to becoming the next millionaire on DraftKings. Each week we take a look at guys across the NFL who fit that mold.
Tom Brady, New England (vs WSH) – $8500
With some other top quarterbacks in sub-par matchups, Brady is in a league of his own in Week 9. The Redskins have allowed 4.1 DraftKings points per game above salary-based expected points to quarterbacks over the past year, which is the second-worst mark in the NFL. The Pats are projected at 33 points, which is the highest total I’ve seen this season.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs OAK) – $6600
Roethlisberger looked rusty in his first game back from injury, so there’s some risk here. However, he’s facing a Raiders defense that is pretty poor against the pass. With Le’Veon Bell out, the Steelers are going to have to rely on Big Ben, and I don’t think there’s too much risk of a negative game script here; the Raiders are just four-point dogs and I think they’re going to be able to throw on Pittsburgh as well.
Derek Carr, Oakland (at PIT) – $5500
After his past two weeks and at just $5500, Carr isn’t going to see low ownership in the Millionaire Maker. I still like him, though, because of the flexibility it allows across the rest of your lineup. I particularly like a Carr/Crabtree stack to save some bucks.
QB Value of the Week
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee (at NO) – $5300
Over the past 12 months, no defense in the NFL has been worse against opposing passers than that of the Saints (after adjusting for DraftKings salaries). They just got lit up by the Giants and will likely see a lot of attempts from Mariota in this game given that Tennessee is a touchdown underdog. I do wish Mariota would run a bit more—and there’s risk here with his knee—but he’s worth the flier, even with Kendall Wright out of the lineup.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta (at SF) – $8000
Freeman is the top fantasy running back in the NFL moving forward, ahead of Todd Gurley, and that’s because of his workload. He’s seeing more touches in the red zone than a lot of entire offenses, and he’s currently 12th in the NFL in targets among players at all positions. This is a dream matchup and, even with Freeman being a popular choice, I think he will be under-owned.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo (vs MIA) – $5500
This is just a matter of pricing, as it’s going to be difficult to find another back on a home favorite with the expected workload of Shady at or near this price tag. He has at least 15 carries in all but two games this season.
Melvin Gordon, San Diego (vs CHI) – $4000
Gordon isn’t listed as the “value of the week” because he’s too much of a risk. Is he underpriced? Probably a bit, but the Chargers just haven’t been able to move the ball on the ground and Gordon loses goal-line work to Danny Woodhead. However, I have a tough time believing he’s going to continue to post lackluster fantasy numbers with his workload, which included 18 carries and six targets last week.
RB Value of the Week
Darren McFadden, Dallas (vs PHI) – $4300
The Eagles actually have a quality run defense, but Run DMC is the best combination of workload and price at the running back position this week. Another positive sign is that the Cowboys clearly instructed quarterback Matt Cassel to be safer with the football after his three-interception performance in New York, and that resulted in eight targets for McFadden last week.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (vs OAK) – $8100
Brown’s price is down $1100 from its peak this season. He’s arguably the safest receiver in football when Roethlisberger is under center, and his market share of fantasy production will likely increase with Bell out of the lineup.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver (at IND) – $7500
One touchdown this year. I don’t care how bad you think the Broncos’ offense has been, there’s no way DT continues to not find the end zone. The guy has double-digit targets in all but one game this year and has proven to be an efficient red zone scorer.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago (at SD) – $6700
Jeffery has scored in eight of his past 10 games dating back to last season. The Bears will probably need to air it out in San Diego, and Jeffery could end up seeing more screens that normally would have gone to Matt Forte.
WR Value of the Week
Brandon LaFell, New England (vs WSH) – $3200
LaFell has a low floor because of how much the Patriots can spread the ball around—and the fact that they’re 14-point favorites—but he can also score touchdowns on a team projected to get into the end zone a lot on Sunday. I think he’s going to be popular, but a Brady/Edelman/LaFell trio could be a smart idea for the Millionaire Maker.
Rob Gronkowski, New England (vs WSH) – $8000
He’s probably overpriced, but he’s also such an outlier at his position that it can crush you if you fade him and he goes off.
Jordan Reed, Washington (at NE) – $4500
Reed is a high-variance play because I think he has the potential to tear up New England, but not if they deem him Washington’s top play-maker and the guy they want to take out of the game. I think the Pats are going to first focus on stopping DeSean Jackson from getting deep, though, which would bode well for Reed over the middle.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh (vs OAK) – $2700
Miller had 23.5 DraftKings points last week without even getting into the end zone. He’s a beneficiary of Le’Veon Bell’s absence, especially in the red zone. The Raiders have the second-worst defense against tight ends over the past 12 months.
TE Value of the Week
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay (vs NYG) – $2800
Monitor ASJ’s health, but if it looks like he’ll be ready to go, this represents an opportunity to roster a potentially low-owned, high-upside tight end in a quality matchup. The Bucs will likely need to throw a lot on the Giants, and the G-Men historically struggle with tight ends, allowing 3.0 points per game above expectation over the past year.
New England Patriots (vs WSH) – $3300
You can’t draw it up much better than this situation for New England: at home as a two-touchdown favorite against a quarterback who is prone to turning the ball over. This is my top defense in Week 9.
New York Jets (vs JAX) – $3100
Over the past year, defenses facing the Jags have scored 4.9 points per game above expectation. Blake Bortles has grown a bit, but Jacksonville is still projected at just 17 points in this contest.
Denver Broncos (at IND) – $3000
I like Denver as a high-variance tournament play. Andrew Luck will put up some yards, but he’ll also force the ball into traffic, especially when he needs to throw the ball late in the game. With the Colts projected at only 20 points, this is a situation that looks scarier than it is.
DST Value of the Week
Philadelphia Eagles (at DAL) – $2700
Even though return touchdowns are difficult to predict, the Eagles have demonstrated an ability to make things happen on special teams under Chip Kelly. If Philly can get up early and force Matt Cassel to throw low-percentage passes, they’re going to be in a great spot for a defensive touchdown as well.
Jonathan Bales is 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.
Follow him @BalesFootball.