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.
My player selection philosophy is probably a bit different than that of most DraftKings players. To show why, take a look at my best Week 2 lineup (representative of the types of lineups I create in general).
I rostered Mark Ingram and Dion Lewis at running back—two players I don’t even think are good players. I’m actually fine using running backs who I think aren’t great athletes because so much of their production just comes via getting the ball. If I think a running back will touch the ball a lot, either as a runner or a receiver, then I’ll probably be willing to roster him.
At receiver, however, I care a whole lot about talent. You’ll rarely see me roster someone like Jarvis Landry, particularly in a tournament, because I just don’t think he’s a very good player. When receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Eric Decker—players I believe are elite or close to it—drop in salary, I will typically be all over them.
Notice anything else those guys have in common? They’re all big. Very big. I want my wide receivers to be able to score the ball with consistency, and small receivers typically have trouble doing that.
This is just something to keep in mind when filling out your lineups; we want talent at every position, but it matters more at those that least rely on bulk opportunities for fantasy production, i.e. wide receiver and tight end. That doesn’t mean I always play one type of receiver no matter what, but I do find myself continually targeting elite talents with big upside when searching for pass-catchers.
Cream of the Crop
Brandon Marshall, NY Jets (vs PHI) – $6200
The Jets got good news on Eric Decker’s knee and consider him day-to-day, but my guess is he’s still not a good bet to play on Sunday against the Eagles. We know Philly has problems in the secondary, and Marshall should be able to eat them alive. They weren’t able to stop Julio Jones in Week 1, even though they knew he was the primary guy they had to contain. With Decker out, I expect Marshall’s target count to increase, especially in the red zone.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (at STL) – $8900
It’s to the point that we shouldn’t even really care who the Steelers play—Antonio Brown is a good play. His salary increased just $100 from last week, probably because of the matchup, but the volume of quick throws he sees makes him so safe against anyone. I have no problem rostering Brown in cash games, even with Le’Veon Bell back and playing in St. Louis.
Cecil Shorts, Houston (vs TB) – $3500
Shorts has 20 targets in two games and he’s facing the Bucs. How in the hell is he $3,500?
Doug Baldwin, Seattle (vs CHI) – $4000
Baldwin is an example of a player I don’t think has elite skills, but he’s just too cheap here against the Bears. He has 14 catches in the first two weeks of the season, and Seattle is projected by Vegas to score the second-most points this week.
Middle of the Pack
Ted Ginn, Carolina (vs NO) – $3300
Ginn has only six catches this year, but 16 targets. He’s never going to be a guy who catches a high percentage of his looks, but it will be higher than the current 37.5 percent by the end of the year.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (vs SF) – $5800
Normally I don’t like to target receivers coming off huge games (in tournaments) because their ownership tends to spike. I’m not sure how much that will happen with Fitzgerald this week just because he’s in a perceived tough matchup. This Niners defense ain’t what it used to be, though, as they’re middle-of-the-pack against receivers over the past year. Vegas has Arizona projected over 25 points, too.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay (vs KC) – $7300
This is a situation similar to that with Fitzgerald. The Chiefs’ pass defense is actually pretty good, but they’ve been superior against backs and tight ends than wide receivers. Cobb probably won’t be matched up against any particular cornerback consistently, and I think he’s going to be able to find weaknesses in the Kansas City zones pretty easily.
Cole Beasley, Dallas (vs ATL) – $3300
Beasley was a popular cash play last week, but he turned in a pretty poor game. I do think Brandon Weeden is going to try to get the ball out quickly, however, and not too much else has changed for Beasley since last week; he still has a good matchup and a cheap price, albeit with a quarterback who is somehow older than my grandfather despite playing in the NFL for just four seasons.
Rest of the Field
Julian Edelman, New England (vs JAX) – $7000
Tom Brady is officially unbenchable. If the Pats are going to continue to throw a bunch while leading, Edelman is going to see a ton of targets and become even safer than he already is. He’s underpriced here, but I think you could argue he’s worth cash-game consideration even when he isn’t a great value—similar to someone like Antonio Brown—just because he has such a high floor.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver (at DET) – $8000
Thomas is the fourth-most expensive receiver, but he’s $900 cheaper than Brown at No. 3. The Lions’ defense has been average against receivers over the past year, and Thomas is currently on pace for 200 targets this season.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay (at HOU) – $5400
Mike Evans is back, but he sure didn’t look healthy last week. Until he shows he’s at 100 percent, I think Jackson is going to be a good value at or near this price tag. His salary has already dropped $600 this year, which is a trend that has historically led to a ton of DraftKings value.
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (at NE) – $5200
I’m very much undecided on Robinson. On one hand, he’s exactly what I want at receiver. He’s talented. He dominated in college. He can score consistently.
On the other hand, the Pats love to take away the opponent’s top option, and that’s clearly Robinson for the Jags. If I knew New England would play him straight up, I’d have Robinson much higher on this list. Consider this a high-risk GPP option.
NFL Running Back Rankings: Week 3
NFL Tight End Rankings – Week 3
NFL Defense Rankings – Week 3