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.
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Wide receivers are unique because I think they differ in style so much. There are receivers like Jarvis Landry who take two steps and turn around, pass-catchers like DeSean Jackson who do nothing but go deep, and guys like Julio Jones who are robots who can do anything they want on a football field.
Whereas a position like running back is mostly just dependent on a certain workload for fantasy production, receivers have a wide range of outcomes based on what type of player they are. Guys like Antonio Brown are so safe because they see an abundance of short targets. Landry might not get you 150 yards and two scores, for example, but he’s very unlikely to turn in a dud just because he’s going to generally post a very high catch rate.
I think one thing most new daily fantasy players need to overcome is looking solely at median projections and really starting to visualize players’ ranges of potential outcomes. Mike Evans offers value this week, for example, which will lead some to use him in cash games (or at least they might if there weren’t health concerns). However, players like Evans are extremely volatile because their targets are so deep and they’re somewhat touchdown-dependent. Compare Evans to someone like Julian Edelman, who is worth “overpaying” for at times because of the reliability of his fantasy output.
Cream of the Crop
Randall Cobb, Green Bay (at SF) – $7400
Cobb is a top receiver option who is priced like a second-tier guy. The Niners’ defense isn’t something to be feared anymore, and Cobb is about as safe as they come given who is throwing him the football. I think this is almost must-play territory for cash games.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver (vs MIN) – $8100
DT has at least 11 targets in all three games this year. Even with concerns about Peyton Manning, I think he’s probably around $1000 too cheap here.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver (vs MIN) – $7700
The Vikings don’t have a poor defense, but I’m still very bullish on the Broncos’ passing game this week. Vegas likes Denver to score 25 points, which is one of the higher totals and up from their prior couple games. Like Thomas, Sanders has a very high floor. I much prefer DT in tournaments.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay (vs CAR) – $6400
Even offering value, Evans is a great example of someone who is underpriced who still isn’t worth the risk in cash games. In addition to his health, he’s just too volatile on a weekly basis to be counted on for a high floor. However, I do like the idea of getting him at a discount and with reduced ownership in tournaments.
Middle of the Pack
Cecil Shorts, Houston (at ATL) – $3500
Everyone is expecting Shorts’ workload to decrease. It probably will a bit, but I’m going to be on him until it does. Through three weeks, Shorts has 29 targets. He’s not producing at an elite rate because he’s not an elite player, but I will take him all day in cash games at this price, especially with Houston likely to air the ball out often in Atlanta.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston (at ATL) – $7300
Call me crazy, but I’m no board with a Houston double-stack this week that includes both Shorts and Hopkins. Hopkins has already seen an insane 38 targets this season, and he’s a truly elite talent in a quality matchup. I would have no problems with Hopkins in cash, though I do prefer Cobb for $100 more.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans (vs DAL) – $6100
Even with Drew Brees likely out, I think Cooks is priced too low in Week 4. Dallas has a tendency to struggle with receivers like him. I do think there’s probably limited upside here because of the offense and the slow pace at which Dallas will run their offense—limiting New Orleans’ play total—but I wouldn’t be totally anti-Cooks in cash.
Brandon Marshall, NY Jets (at MIA) – $6800
Marshall is coming off two straight 100-yard receiving performances and he’s scored a touchdown in all three games this year. Again, I’m looking at him as a cash option. I do think his recent success and the low price will make him very attractive in tournaments, where you could consider fading.
Rest of the Field
Ted Ginn, Carolina (at TB) – $3400
I’m probably a dumbass for playing Ginn in cash games this week, but I will be doing it because this price is too low given the number of targets he’s seeing. I wouldn’t be on Ginn if I thought there are some other cheap receiver options I could roster—Shorts is the only one—but when I want to go big at quarterback and running back, Ginn and Shorts might both be on my cash teams.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (vs STL) – $6500
I actually probably won’t have a ton of Fitzgerald exposure this week. For one, his ownership is going to be through the roof. There’s no way the payoff is worth the risk. For cash games, I think there are probably some safer options in better matchups at around this price tag, including Marshall. Still, I wouldn’t fault someone for taking the chance given that Fitz is an elite player with a quarterback who is rolling right now.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (vs BAL) – $9200
This week represents a really interesting scenario if you’re playing Thursday leagues. Brown is the most consistent player in football and almost a must in cash games, regardless of the price, but now he has Michael Vick at quarterback. I do think the quick screens will still be there, but if you think Vick won’t hurt Brown’s upside down the field, you’re crazy. I could probably be persuaded either way on this, but I won’t have too much exposure to Brown in tournaments because I think others will—so I’ll just fade him and pray.
Julio Jones, Atlanta (vs HOU) – $9300
Jones has the most receptions ever through three NFL games. It’s clear the Falcons are running their entire offense through him, and I’m not even sure a defense can possibly defend him right now. Even with the super-high floor, though, I’ll save the $1900 and roster Cobb, at least in cash.