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.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
When a novice daily fantasy player sits down to create a lineup, the question he asks himself with each selection is “What am I going to get?”
When the advanced player sits down to create a lineup, the question he asks himself is “What am I going to need to give up?”
This is called opportunity cost. Since DraftKings implements a salary cap, each selection you make comes with a cost—the opportunity to select other players. Want to use Antonio Brown and Julio Jones this week? You’re probably going to need to give up the opportunity to roster high-end running backs.
Opportunity cost is related to positional scarcity and salary distribution. All other things equal, we want players who are very scarce at their positions. Rob Gronkowski is the perfect example of scarcity.
We also want players we select to cost as little as possible relative to other players at their position. If Aaron Rodgers costs $9000 and every other quarterback were above $8000, that would probably be a pretty nice deal. If every other passer were below $6000, the opportunity cost—represented by the “loss” of thousands of dollars of cap space—would be massive.
With the way DraftKings is currently pricing quarterbacks, I think it makes sense to pay up for the big guys because there isn’t as high of an opportunity cost as in past years. The difference between Rodgers ($7900) and the 10th-ranked quarterback in salary—Joe Flacco at $6000)—is the same as that between Adrian Peterson and C.J. Anderson. There are capable backs every week priced under $5000, which creates a higher opportunity cost if you want to roster someone like AP.
My point is that until there’s a greater deviation in pricing at quarterback, I’m generally going to favor the elite players over the mid and bottom-tier guys.
Cream of the Crop
Michael Vick, Pittsburgh (vs BAL) – $5000
Mathematically, Vick is the top quarterback value and it isn’t really close. Due to his rushing ability alone, he’s highly likely to return value at this price. I will be playing him in Thursday cash games, although I think you could make a strong case for fading him in tournaments since he will likely be a popular pick because of the obvious value he offers.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (vs HOU) – $6900
I’m not really sure how Ryan is just $6900, but I’ll be all over him at home against the Texans. Houston has allowed 1.7 points per game above expectation to quarterbacks over the past 12 months. Ryan-to-Julio hasn’t been stopped yet, and I don’t see why this week would be the time that happens.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo (vs NYG) – $5800
He can run. He can throw. He can probably kick. The Giants are mediocre against the pass, but the matchup doesn’t matter as much for someone like Taylor since he acquires so much of his fantasy value as a runner. For me, it’s more of a matter of whether or not his price reflects his typical expected points (with a little adjustment for opponent and game flow), and at $5800, it doesn’t.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (at SF) – $7900
The Niners have an awful defense and Rodgers is one of the most consistent passers in the league. However, I’m generally off of Rodgers in tourneys, for two reasons. One is that he’s often so efficient early that he just doesn’t need to rack up late attempts. The second is he spreads the ball around so much he doesn’t necessarily offer great “stackability.”
Middle of the Pack
Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at PIT) – $6000
If you’re playing the Thursday night slate, I really like Flacco. The Steelers have been by far the worst defense in the league versus quarterbacks, surrendering 4.3 points per game above expectation over the past year. No other team is even close to that mark. I had Flacco rated higher, but moved him down over concerns that Pittsburgh is going to run the ball so much it will shorten the game.
Cam Newton, Carolina (at TB) – $7000
Because Newton has so much upside with his legs, he offers a really high floor from week to week. Not only does he account for a huge percentage of Carolina’s fantasy production, but he can also give you points even if he isn’t having a great day as a passer. Carolina is projected at just 21.3 implied points right now, though that means less with a player like Newton than with a true pocket passer.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (vs JAC) – $7800
I’m all over Luck this week. I haven’t decided if it will be in cash, although I’m seriously considering it. We know he’s a great fantasy quarterback, and I’m not going to let three weeks convince me otherwise. I especially like him in GPPs, though, where you’re getting a discount and probable reduced ownership. It’s worth noting Vegas thinks the Colts are going to score in bunches with the highest current projected total.
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia (at WSH) – $6000
Bradford is similar to Luck in that I’m confident his struggles won’t continue. It’s just that…I’m not as confident since it’s more about the system and I’m not entirely sure if Bradford is even a good quarterback. If he struggles this week, he probably sucks, since Washington is horrific against the pass, allowing the second-most points above expectation to quarterbacks over the past year.
Rest of the Field
Philip Rivers, San Diego (vs CLE) – $6100
I don’t love this matchup for Rivers, but he’s shown to be a high-upside quarterback in bad spots in the past. The concern is a slow pace, although the Chargers could get Cleveland out of that by gaining an early lead. Vegas likes the Chargers (26.3 implied points), and I like Rivers to Allen in GPPs.
Peyton Manning, Denver (vs MIN) – $7200
Vegas hasn’t been the biggest fan of the Broncos of late, which is scary. To be honest, I’m very concerned Peyton is a mid-tier fantasy quarterback at this point. Priced at $7200 in a decently difficult matchup, Manning is probably about where he should be. But…he’s Peyton Manning, and I’ll probably fall for that name at low ownership in GPPs.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (vs GB) – $5500
Kaepernick is the perfect example of why value isn’t all that matters in cash games. He’s one of my higher quarterbacks in terms of points per dollar, but guess what? He’s also risky as hell. I kind of like the idea of a Kaepernick lineup in tournaments because I do think he’ll run this week and everyone is going to be off him after last week’s disaster.
Derek Carr, Oakland (at CHI) – $5300
Carr is underpriced, but my problem with him is he doesn’t possess either the safety nor upside I want in a quarterback. He clearly doesn’t have a high floor, and his upside is limited by the fact that Chicago is going to do everything they can to limit their exposure to their own quarterback, which means running the ball every possible play and shortening the game.