This will sound like a contradiction at first but stay with me here. When it comes to winning consistently in DFS, there’s nothing more important than finding a process and sticking to it.

For at least a little while…

You need to find a routine every week, whether that routine takes you 10 minutes or 10 hours a day, find it, stay true to it, and test the results. The problem that newer players often make is they’re results-based in their decision making and chase previous week point totals from week to week. Not having a routine can make you reactionary in your lineup building process and won’t set you up for good long-term success. Don’t chase last week’s stats. The herd mentality is a bad thing for your bankroll.

Find a few writers that you like and read their stuff each week. (Well hello there, I’m Ryan. Come here often?) Think about how each game will likely play out if each team was to win, and leverage that to make decisions. Use Vegas lines. They have a huge incentive to set a strong line, so take advantage of implied-team totals and the game spread. Oh, and read (at least) one of Jonathan Bales’ books. Just this small list shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes a week to run through.

The reason that I said ‘for at least a little while’ is that it’s important to remember that good is the enemy of great. Don’t be afraid to get better. Tweak your process. Don’t fall in love with it if you’re not seeing the results after a few months. Add something to it. Take something away. Your opponent’s are getting better, so you need to keep up.

We’re on to Week 3.

As I’ve mentioned before, part of the early season struggle lies in understanding what data to apply to the analysis. How relevant is defensive data from last season? How safe do you feel trusting a player’s efficiency from one year to the next? I think there’s some gray in questions like that, and I’m going to help you weave your way through it. Once we get to Week 4 or 5, we’ll be able to use more relevant information based on what has actually happened rather than relying on a mix of what happened last season and what we expected to happen this season. Make sense?

Thanks to amazing sites like Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and 4for4, there has been a tremendous wave of actionable analytics in football over the past few seasons. I’ll be introducing you to some of those stats this season, and I hope you find them helpful to your lineup building process. I’ll also be referencing the Expert Consensus Rankings from FantasyPros in order to understand how players are viewed each week, and then related it to their price here on DraftKings.

If you’re new to the daily fantasy community, welcome, you’re in for a whole lot of fun. If you have questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.

Cream of the Crop

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Chicago Bears) -$7,400

For cash games, there’s no better way to address the running back position than by locking in Marshawn Lynch and then going from there. Beast Mode and the Seahawks are 0-2, but the scheduling-Gods have gifted them Jimmy Clausen and the Chicago Bears this week. After a rough start on the road, the Seahawks are 14.5-point favorites here against Chicago with an implied-team total of 29.3 points. Clearly the game script is setting up favorably for Lynch here, and the Bears have given up an average of 124 rushing yards and a score through the first two weeks. Marshawn will EAT.

USATSI_8814272_168381090_lowresAdrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. San Diego Chargers) -$7,500

If you had any real concerns about Adrian Peterson after his struggles in Week 1 I believe those were answered in Week 2. He dominated Detroit’s stout run defense, carrying it 29 times for 134 yards. He has yet to find the end zone this season but I believe that changes here in Week 2. Peterson has touched the ball on 48.5% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps, one of the top marks in the league, and as a slight home favorite (-2.5) there’s no reason to think the game script will turn on him here. San Diego is a neutral matchup in both aFPA (schedule-adjusted fantasy points against) and DVOA (defensive-adjusted value over average), so there’s nothing to fear here defensively, fire away.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ St. Louis Rams) -$7,500

The return of Le’VeGOD is upon us. Le’Veon Bell is back after serving his two game suspension for ‘ littering and…littering and….littering and…smoking the reefer.’ Allegedly. There was no doubt about it last season; Bell was the best back in football and PPR Gold in the second half. He was a top shelf option regardless of his opponent and completely viable regardless of game script. I’m interesting to see how Pittsburgh uses him in Week 3. Will they ease him in, even a little bit, due in part to his time off and the early season success that De’Angelo Williams has had? Or does he jump right back in and grab 85-90% of the offensive snaps? The other issue that we have to decided on is whether or not the Rams run D is truly this bad. They’ve been gashed for big plays in the first two weeks and have given up an average of 153 yards and a touchdown per game so far. This is a much heralded defense though, one that entered the season with high expectations, especially up front. I like Lynch and Peterson a bit more in cash games, but I can get down with some Le’Veon shares in tournaments.

James Starks, Green Bay Packers (vs. Kansas City Chiefs) -$3,000

That fact that Green Bay plays on Monday night could muddy the waters here, but if we know for sure that Eddie Lacy is out than James Starks is a lock-and-load min-sal cash game play. There really isn’t a huge talent drop off from Lacy to Starks, as strange as that may sound. I’m not trying to hate on Eddie Lacy, but Starks is a talented and very capable backup running back who’s able to step up when his number is called. A 12-point outing here would likely be considered a disappointment, but would still deliver 4 times his salary. If we’re targeting 2.5-3x for cash games then it’s easy to see why Starks is a layup. He’ll likely be in a ton of tournament lineups too, so there’s merit to fading him or at least limiting your exposure.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (@ Green Bay Packers) -$7,400USATSI_8019256_168381090_lowres

I loved seeing Jamaal Charles get 25 touches last week, but part of that was because the Chiefs got up on the Broncos early, something that may not happen here this week against the Packers. As far as elite backs go, Charles is the one who’s the least likely to get 20 touches every week, making him more GPP than cash. As a 7-point underdog on the road, banking on 20 carries is a mistake here, but Charles is always Kansas City’s best play-maker and is able to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He’s a solid tournament pivot from the guys listed above.

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (@ Seattle Seahawks) -$7,300

It’s pretty clear that Seattle’s defense is not quite the vaunted unit that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but they’re still strong enough to give Jimmy Clausen and the Bears nightmares heading into Sunday. Clausen will likely lean on Matt Forte, both on the ground and in the shorting passing game, giving Forte a strong projected floor despite the difficult matchup. He won’t have a ton of room to operate, and the likelihood of a touchdown feels slim, but no player in the league has a higher percentage of his team’s touches than Forte does (47.5%).


Middle of the Pack

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ New England Patriots) -$4,400

Guess who else is ranked among the top five in percent of team’s touches? Yup, it’s T.J. Yeldon. You cheated. You read the top line that said ‘T.J. Yeldon’, but I forgive you. Yeldon’s three-down role is important, especially considering he and the Jaguars are 13.5-point underdogs on the road in New England. We’ve yet to see Denard Robinson or Toby Gerhart eat in to Yeldon’s snaps, and they’ve featured him in both in the passing game and at the goal line. Despite hanging up some crooked numbers in the first two games, the Pats have been impacted by the loss of DT Dominique Easley early against the Steelers. They’ve allowed 147.5 yards per game on the ground so far and if Jacksonville has a chance to keep this a game entering the 4th quarter they’ll need to control the clock and keep the G.O.A.T on the sideline.

LaGarette Blount, New England Patriots (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) -$4,000

The ability and willingness to change game plans every week is at the forefront of Bill Bellichick’s success as a head coach. There are some games where you look at the opposition and what they do well and you know that New England will attack it to their advantage. I also know that it is fruitless work to guess what BB will do each week, but 13.5-point favorites at home has this feeling like a ‘Blount Game’. Jacksonville has been strong against the run so far but I’m hesitant to call them above average until we have a larger sample size. I’d be remiss if I don’t mention Dion Lewis ($4,200) who has been outstanding for the Patriots and has slipped nicely in to the Shane Vereen/Kevin Faulk role this season. Lewis is likely to limit a bit of Blount’s upside, but if New England is inside the red zone you’re likely to see a lot more Blount than Lewis.

Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (@ Cleveland Browns) -$5,800USATSI_8748766_168381090_lowres

On the road as 3-point dogs and with an implied-team total of just 19 points will keep a lot of people off of Latavius Murray, and I don’t blame them. That opening sentence should be enough for you to cross him off of your list for cash games, but for me, I’m interested in Murray for tournaments. His price is advantageous and he played in 76% of Oakland’s snaps in Week 2, up quite a bit from Week 1’s defeat. Clearly this tells us that when Oakland is close or ahead, we’ll see more Murray, and I like Oakland’s chances to stay close in this one. They lead the league in percentage of pass plays last season and they’re keeping pace with that total again this season, but I believe this will change if Oakland is within striking distance and not trying to come from behind here. The Expert Consensus Rankings at Fantasy Pros has Murray as a top-8 play this week, but he’s just the 15th ranked back in terms of salary in Week 3.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (vs. New Orleans Saints) -$4,900

With Drew Brees’ status for Sunday still up in the air, we don’t have any Vegas info on this one yet. Coming off of a terrible showing at home against Tampa Bay, New Orleans stays in the division and travels north to take on Jonathan Stewart and the Panthers. Due to the lack of talent on the outside, Carolina is leaning heavily on it’s running game, with Jonathan Stewart shouldering the load. He’s often vulture by his Quarterback inside the 5, but Stewart is by far the leading option not named Cam Newton and opportunity is the name of the game. Stewart hasn’t been very efficient with his touches so far, but he’s down $900 from last week’s price ($5,800) and that’s a deep discount.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts (@ Tennessee Titans) -$4,500

The Colts offensive line has been atrocious so far this season. They’ve failed to protect Andrew Luck and there have been limited holes for Frank Gore to run through. Some of that has to do with Indy’s first two opponents, as both Buffalo and New York (A) are excellent at stopping the run. On paper this appears to be a better spot for Gore because his Colts’ are 3.5-point favorite in this road tilt against Tennessee. Capitalizing on the general public’s impressions from an Island Game (only game on T.V.) has its benefits. We all watched the Colts crap down their proverbial leg on Monday Night Football, so few DFS’ers will be rushing to roster the Colts on the road.

Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers (@ Minnesota Vikings) -$4,400

I don’t think we’ll approach a point in the season where Danny Woodhead is completely useless for DFS purposes. He was on the field for more than 50% of the Week 2 snaps again, while Marvin Gordon was on the field for 46% of the snaps for the second consecutive week. I do think Gordon ($5,000) has some tournament appeal, but I love how San Diego uses Woodhead. Even last week where Gordon got off to a great start, Woodhead took his share of snaps and still returned 4.1x on his $4,000 salary. Minnesota has struggled against the run this season, so look for both Gordon and the cheaper Woodhead to have strong weeks.


Rest of the Field

Davonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (@ Dallas Cowboys) -$4,600

There’s no denying that volume breeds fantasy production, but volume doesn’t always translate in to value. After being out-played by rookie teammate Tevin Coleman, who was about to blow up and take command of this backfield, Freeman steps up and in to the starting lineup after Coleman cracked a rib in the first quarter of Sunday’s action against the Giants. Here’s the problem; Freeman is not a very good, or even an average NFL running back. He’s slow to the hole and stiff when he cuts, something that stands out when you watch him spell Coleman during a game. He’ll have no one competing with him for carries, but Dallas’ defense is playing well and looks much improved with Sean Lee back in the middle of it. They blew up Philadelphia’s line time and time again on Sunday, making it impossible for the Eagles to move the ball on the ground. I don’t like Freeman’s chances to fair much better, and the injury to Coleman will inflate Freeman’s ownership totals to unfavorable levels. Fade.

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers (@ Arizona Cardinals) -$5,400

Our very own Adam Levitan had a great point in his news and notes the other day in regard to Carlos Hyde’s usage. He pointed out that it was encouraging to see Hyde involved in the offense on passing downs, even running routes on 17 of his injury-shortened 44 snaps. This could all change once Reggie Bush returns from his injury, but that appears to be at least one more week away. We won’t know the severity of Hyde’s injury until they practice later this afternoon, but it doesn’t appear to be anything that’ll keep him off the field in Week 3. Arizona is playing well, and opened as a 6.5-point favorite at home against the 49ers, but if Hyde can contribute 3-5 receptions here he’ll likely return value at this price.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (vs. San Francisco 49ers) -$4,000

I really enjoyed Chris Johnson back in the day. Love that track speed and the ability to score every time he touched the ball. But see, um….that dude is long gone. Ironically, there’s a new version of that guy and he’s actually CJ’s teammate, David Johnson. Johnson doesn’t have that track speed, but he’s not far behind and he’s a bigger, more physically imposing presence than CJnomoreK is. Head coach Bruce Arians has wisely said that he’ll increase David’s role as the season goes along and the game script could set up well for him to get his largest workload of the season to date.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Cincinnati Bengals) -$6,000

I really like this price for Justin Forsett, but it’s difficult to ignore what’s going on in Baltimore’s backfield. There were some discussions around whether or not either rookie Buck Allen or returning backup Lorenzo Taliaferro would eat in to Forsett’s short yardage work this season but it appears as though none of Forsett’s snaps are safe. Despite playing from behind in mostly passing situations, Forsett only played in eight more plays than Taliaferro for the game, making this feel a lot like a committee than we first thought. I think it’s smart to stay away from this one and wait until we have more than just one game’s snap count.

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (@ Miami Dolphins) -$6,100

We know that Buffalo wants to run the ball this season, and they will, with success. I’m just not sold on the fact that LeSean McCoy will be the lone back to spearhead that attack. If healthy, there’s no doubt that McCoy is the best back in Buffalo but I’m worried about his toe and hamstring issues that seem to be carrying over from last season. He appears healthy right now though, so Buffalo may as well use him while they’ve got him. Running on the Dolphins and Ndamukong Suh presents its own set of challenges, and I’ll gladly stay away.

Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Atlanta Falcons) -$5,100

What a mess. Sorry Cowboys’ fans, it’s been a terrible start for your team. Dallas will play the next two months without their top offensive weapons, and will need to lean on their running game to keep Brandon Weeden from dropping back 35+ times a game. Look for Dallas to try and slow the game down, control the tempo and play a very different style of football than we thought that they’d play when they were healthy prior to Week 1’s game. With 32.5% of the offensive touches so far, Joseph Randle has clearly solidified himself as the top option in Dallas’ backfield, so I’m less concerned with Darren McFadden or Christine Michael than I was back during the preseason.

Some other quick notes:
  • Jeremy Hill ($7,300) put the ball on the ground twice on Sunday, and that made head coach Marvin Lewis’ decision pretty easy. Gio Bernard ($4,700) took full advantage of his opportunity as the lead back, rushing for 123 yards on 20 carries. I expect we’ll see a touches split similar to Week 1 (20/14), so there’s some value in both player’s with recency bias being strongly against Hill here.
  • I don’t want to take away from how well the Cowboys played, but Philadelphia’s offensive line looked broken. In a matchup against the Jets stout run D, it’s easy to fade DeMarco Murray ($6,600) and company.
  • Everyone loved Mark Ingram ($5,900) last week, and rightfully so. A 10-point favorite at home, Ingram was in a cushy spot against a Tampa Bay squad that was pillaged by the Titans in Week 1. Oops. That didn’t go as planned. Tampa played well, flipping the script and neutralizing the Saints’ offense. With C.J. Spiller ($4,900) back and ready to eat in to Ingram’s touches, this is a situation I’m avoiding.
  • The Hall of Fame enshrinement for Ameer Abdullah ($4,500) has been pause for a week. The rookie from Nebraska was limited to just eight touches in what appeared to be a great matchup against Minnesota. The troubling part was that not only was Joique Bell around to get in the way, but Golden Domer Theo Riddick was called on a lot during passing downs. This three-headed mess really limits the appeal of Abdullah moving forward.
  • I love Matt Jones ($4,000) and I touted him hard this preseason, but this feels like a committee at best. Alfred Morris ($4,700) isn’t going anywhere, and rarely will Washington find themselves in a situation where they’ll be running it nearly 40 times in a game. Don’t chase last week’s stats.

Continue Reading This Week’s Rankings Series

NFL Quarterback Rankings: Week 3
NFL Wide Receiver Rankings – Week 3
NFL Tight End Rankings – Week 3
NFL Defense Rankings – Week 3

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