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.
Based on the nature of the salary cap and the deviation of prices at each position, I think the top wide receivers are currently overpriced on DraftKings. That doesn’t automatically mean they’re off the table—there are exceptions and I think the concept of seeking “pure value” is flawed anyway—but overall, the deals are on the other end of the receiver spectrum.
I think that creates a really interesting conundrum for daily fantasy players. Statistically, I think it makes sense to be paying for top quarterbacks and running backs right now, and perhaps even placing a tight end in the flex position in GPPs (certainly not in cash).
However, as we saw with Julio Jones on Monday night, it can be devastating to fade every top receiver because they have so much upside—ceilings most low-priced receivers just don’t have. That’s why I think it’s so important to project players in terms of ranges of potential outcomes. That helps to establish some of the value in cash games for guys like Antonio Brown, and some of the GPP value of someone like Julio Jones when the median numbers and traditional value calculations don’t show that value.
Cream of the Crop
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (vs SF) – $8800
Go ahead and look at Brown’s game log from the past two years. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Because of the all the short targets he sees, he’s completely matchup-proof. This is the perfect example of a player not being technically the best “value,” but arguably almost always having the most true value to you in cash games because of how much you can rely on him getting you substantial production. I do think he’s especially valuable in 50/50s (even over head-to-heads), where a high floor has the most value.
Jarvis Landry, Jacksonville (@JAX) – $5900
Landry is a poor man’s Antonio Brown. He caught eight of his 12 targets on Sunday, which I think is pretty much representative of what you’re going to see from a player whose average target length was 5.5 yards in 2014. This is a pure cash play to which I’ll have probably zero GPP exposure.
Cole Beasley, Dallas (@PHI) – $3300
Beasley is a poor man’s poor man’s Antonio Brown. Seriously though, with Dez out, Beasley is somehow now a starting wide receiver in the NFL. He’s going to see a whole bunch of targets—about as high of a floor as you’ll get at $3300, still without much upside.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans (vs TB) – $7000
I love to jump on players who performed poorly early in the year. Their price tends to drop (Cooks is down just $100, but in a better matchup) and the public tends to move off of them. I’d expect Cooks’ ownership to be around what it was in Week 1, but again, he’s in a dream matchup. We saw what a rookie quarterback did to Tampa’s defense in the first game of the year. ALL THE COOKS!
Middle of the Pack
A.J. Green, Cincinnati (vs SD) – $7500
I don’t think Green has much cash game value because he’s not a strict value and he doesn’t offer the same narrow range of outcomes as someone like Brown. But in tournaments, you’re getting one of the top wide receivers in the league in a pretty good matchup for $100 cheaper than Emmanuel Sanders.
Terrance Williams, Dallas (@PHI) – $4200
I don’t actually know how much the Dez Bryant injury is going to affect Williams. I think the Cowboys will end up running the ball more, with Beasley and perhaps Gavin Escobar becoming the main beneficiaries of Bryant’s absence in the passing game. However, I do know that $4200 is way, way too cheap for what is basically the No. 1 option on a top offense against one of the league’s worst pass defenses.
Brandon Coleman, New Orleans (vs TB) – $3300
With four catches for 41 yards and a score in Week 1, Coleman (and his seven targets) should have jumped a lot in salary in Week 2. Instead, he’s only $3300 against the Bucs. I think this is going to be a pretty chalky cash game play.
Eric Decker, NY Jets (@IND) – $5100
Total transparency: Decker is my Houston Astros of the NFL. I will play him every week, regardless of the matchup, and nothing I say about him is ever logical. All I know is he can score at an elite rate and he’s $1300 cheaper than Brandon Marshall.
Rest of the Field
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (vs MIA) – $4900
Robinson is the perfect example of the type of player I’m looking to target in Week 2. He was horrific with just a single catch in the first game of the season, but I’m really not worried about his involvement in the Jacksonville offense. The matchup against Miami isn’t great, but it’s more or less neutral, as the Dolphins have allowed the exact number of points they “should have” to receivers over the past 12 months (based on the receivers’ DraftKings salaries and expected points). Based on his skill set, I’m projecting a 14-point floor for Robinson, which is to say I think he’ll reach that number with an 85 percent probability.
Pierre Garcon, Washington (vs STL) – $5000
The Redskins have a really tough matchup and there’s a decent chance Kirk Cousins dies in this game. But someone will have to fill in for the deceased Cousins, and that quarterback will have to throw the ball to Garcon. Just because of the price and the fact that DeSean Jackson will be out, I think Garcon is in play.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver (@KC) – $8400
This might be an all-time donkey play, but I think Thomas is going to be a smart GPP play this weekend. He’s coming off a game in which his quarterback looks like someone sat on his arm for an hour prior to each throw. He’s expensive. He’s facing one of the league’s best defenses. Vegas has Denver projected under 20 points for what I’m assuming is the first time since Peyton came to town. But all of this is going to add up to Thomas being extremely low-owned, I think, and he’s still an elite player. I’m risking it because I’m an idiot.
John Brown, Arizona (@CHI) – $5100
Seven targets on Sunday. Brown is going to be an integral part of a potentially explosive offense, and he has a plus matchup in Chicago this week. I don’t like him in cash games because of the competition for targets in Arizona—and I also don’t love that so many people used him last week and he scored a touchdown—but I do think he’s a decent value.
NFL Running Back Rankings – Week 2
NFL Tight End Rankings – Week 2
NFL Defense Rankings – Week 2