Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, and most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.
After a disastrous Week 1, my advice heading into Week 2 was DON’T OVERREACT! EVERYBODY STAY CALM!
That ended up working out, as I was able to snag a seat in the DraftKings Fantasy Football Championship. In that lineup, I used a Matt Ryan/Julio Jones stack that was pretty decent.
My weekly position rankings are typically just a reflection of value—more my thoughts on cash games and pure value—but I do think quarterback is probably the position at which my tournament selections most resemble that in cash games. The reason has to do with weekly volatility. Quarterback play is predictable—at least relative to receivers or defenses—and thus there’s less incentive to be contrarian than at other spots. I especially like going against the grain at defense, so you’ll often see very different selections at that spot for me in cash versus tournaments.
The main consideration I have for quarterbacks in tournaments is “stackability” and how that affects their upside. We know we can pair Eli Manning with Odell Beckham or Matt Ryan with Julio Jones, but what about someone like Cam Newton? His lack of “stackability” probably hurts his tournament value, but I love to play passers like him in cash games.
Cream of the Crop
Eli Manning, NY Giants (vs WSH) – $7000
Manning represents a really interesting dilemma for me this week because I love to play Thursday night contests and then fade the Thursday night game since ownership on those players is through the roof. The problem is I love Manning in this game—a lot—and there are some other good values as well. Washington’s pass defense is atrocious, and they’re especially bad over the middle, where I like Larry Donnell. I think what will end up happening is I’ll limit my overall exposure to this game, whereas last week I had as much money in Thursday leagues, or more, as in those that began on Sunday.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (@DAL) – $7100
Vegas actually has Atlanta at only 23.5 points, which is probably a reflection of a lack of plays to be run in this game. Atlanta will push the tempo, but Dallas is going to run the ball a lot and let the play-clock drain to one second every play. That’s the Jason Garrett way. I still like Ryan a lot here, especially because I think he’s going to account for a very high percentage of the Falcons’ touchdowns this season.
Cam Newton, Carolina (vs NO) – $6800
Newton was outstanding last week and I think he has a very high floor again this week. He should be able to continue to get going as a runner. It would help him quite a bit if Drew Brees is able to play because it will keep New Orleans in the game and probably result in a larger workload for Cam.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs CHI) – $7000
This is mostly just a matter of price, as I think Wilson shouldn’t really ever be $7000. The matchup is ideal for a quarterback, although you could argue Wilson doesn’t benefit from it quite as much as a pure pocket passer. The main concern I have here is the spread. If Wilson doesn’t score Seattle’s early touchdowns, he might have a somewhat low floor since it could be a whole lot of running for the Seahawks in the second half. They’re favored by 14.5 points, but only one team has a higher Vegas implied total.
Middle of the Pack
Tom Brady, New England (vs JAX) – $7700
The Jags’ pass defense is pretty good, but Brady just torched the Bills and the Pats don’t seem to be letting up against anyone. Even though Jacksonville has allowed 1.5 points per game fewer than expected to quarterbacks over the past year, I don’t think it is going to matter against the top-projected offense by Vegas this week.
Nick Foles, St. Louis (vs PIT) – $5200
This is a huge risk, but Foles is underpriced facing one of the friendliest defenses for passers. Over the past 12 months, the Steelers have given up 4.4 points per game above expectation to quarterbacks, which is the worst mark in the league. The Rams are a one-point dog and could be forced to throw often, so I really like Foles (and Foles to Cook in tournaments).
Johnny Manziel, Cleveland (vs OAK) – $5100
Another punt play at quarterback, Manziel is always a difficult player to evaluate because his production doesn’t match up with defensive strength as well as some other players. Whereas a pocket passer like Carson Palmer is dependent on facing a poor pass defense, Manziel’s rushing ability means he can produce at any time.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (@TEN) – $7900
Luck has been atrocious through two weeks and I doubt he’ll get a lot of cash-game love in Week 3. Given how bad Tennessee’s pass defense is, though, Luck will at least be on my radar. The bulk attempts should be there.
Rest of the Field
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (vs DEN) – $6300
The Broncos’ pass defense is good, but they also end up seeing a lot of attempts against them since they’re typically winning. Stafford is the prototype of moderate efficiency combined with bulk attempts, and I think this is a 40-plus attempt type of game for him. He’s underpriced at home at $6300.
Brandon Weeden, Dallas (vs ATL) – $5200
The Cowboys are going to try to keep the ball on the ground, and they might have some success early, but eventually I think Weeden is going to be forced to throw the ball in Atlanta. Just because of the price and the quality of the Falcons’ secondary, Weeden offers value. It’s just a matter of whether or not you want to take on the risk.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota (vs SD) – $6200
I was a big Bridgewater fan coming into the year, but he has looked pretty awful through two weeks. Based on his salaries, Bridgewater has scored 1.79 points per game less than what we’d expect on DraftKings. The key for Bridgewater’s value is going to be whether or not San Diego sells out to stop Adrian Peterson, which I think has a good chance of happening.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee (vs IND) – $6100
Mariota might be higher on this list, but I’m not confident he’s going to be able to run the ball very well, or often, against Indy. This is just a flier based off of what we saw out of the rookie in the season opener.
NFL Wide Receiver Rankings – Week 3
NFL Tight End Rankings – Week 3
NFL Defense Rankings – Week 3