DraftKings Plays: Week 5
Each Friday this column will offer a lineup tailored for play in cash games offered by DraftKings (Head-to-Head, or 50/50 contests), followed by some thoughts on higher-variance upside shots for use in tournaments (GPP). The previous week’s recommended cash game lineup will be reviewed at the bottom.
The players in the cash games lineup are chosen primarily due to strong salary value, significant projected touch volume, and favorable matchups that occur in games with a high Vegas over/under. While not every selection will meet each threshold, the quest for a high statistical floor will be a common theme.
Week 5 Cash Lineup
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of DraftKings’ Millionaire Maker tournament. Of course if you’re reading this column it’s a safe bet a true #Degentleman like yourself knows all about the tourney even if you do reside below a rock – or more likely under your mom’s basement stairs.
Due to a resulting influx of interest from casual players, DraftKings has softened pricing considerably. This makes things both easier …and much harder. Most everyone’s lineup will look studly, so even if smart cash game practices are used you may still not feel confident in a top-half placing.
Since there are many avenues to a drool-worthy lineup, we’re just going to stick to the basics of cash lineup construction. Also, because essentially everyone will have an All Star team, I decided to dial-back how much I play – especially in 50/50 contests. Since this felt overly cautious, I got Justin Bailey’s (@jBails_3) thoughts on the matter while we were discussing this week’s players.
Justin writes “Joe 2 Pro” for RotoViz, a must-read series that DFS players of all experience levels would find value in reading. He recommended more Head-to-Head (H2H) games, which to this point I’ve been avoiding for a couple of reasons. I am not yet seasoned enough to know which sharp players/handles to avoid, and I’ve been finding success in large-field 50/50s. Basically it’s easier to avoid sharks when amongst a lot of fish. And like most people, I usually don’t have time to pick and choose a bunch of H2H matchups each week.
However, this week I’m going to put a sizable chunk of my cash budget into smaller H2H games, in the hopes of finding more casual than sharp players. Hopefully my opponents don’t read this column, since this is the lineup I’m going to be playing on DraftKings:
QB: Philip Rivers ($7,000) vs New York Jets (Over/Under: 43.5)
There’s zero doubt that the Chargers will throw often to avoid New York’s fifth-graded run defense (+17.8), especially given their own fourth-worst rated run blocking (-17.5). Jets opponents have thrown on 65.3 percent of snaps, versus 61 percent of the time in other games. Starting in Week 2, Rivers has averaged 23.7 fantasy points per game (2nd) on the 13th-most pass attempts. Over that same period, New York’s allowed 24.5 points to quarterbacks. With Vegas pegging the Chargers for more than 24 points, almost all of which should come via the air, Rivers makes for a screaming bargain as the 16th-most expensive quarterback.
RB: DeMarco Murray ($7,500) vs Houston Texans (46.5)
The Texans are only giving up the 15th-most fantasy points to running backs, but that’s skewed by a blowout of the Raiders in which Oakland only ran 13 times. Houston has the third-worst graded run defense (-14.4) and they haven’t faced a rabid plow-horse or offensive line like they will this Sunday. Dallas is handing off 32.5 times per game on average (2nd-most) as part of a ball-control strategy that’s been successfully hiding their own pathetic defense. Murray has 17 more rushing attempts (99) than any other back, and has added nine catches. When asked if Murray’s workload would be lightened, Scott Linehan said, “It’s too early to be thinking about pitch counts.” Murray’s already the top scoring running back and isn‘t slowing down this week.
RB: Rashad Jennings ($5,500) vs Atlanta Falcons (50.5)
The combination of price, opponent, and talent is irresistible. He’ll be as widely-owned and is one of two affordable defensive plays in our lineup that simply can’t be faded. Essentially bereft of talent, the Falcons defense is giving up the most fantasy points to running backs, the third-most yards on the ground, and the fourth-most points. Their awful coverage linebackers have allowed nearly seven receptions to running backs per contest – a key part of Jennings’ game that’s yet to be fully unleashed. He’s still the seventh-best PPR running back, with strong blocking skills that will rarely be needed against the fourth-worst pass rushing defense (-7.1) in the league. The only worry with the 16th-most expensive running back is a full-on blowout in which he watches the majority of the second half.
WR: Antonio Brown ($8,100) at Jacksonville Jaguars (47)
Brown is as close to a must-play wideout as it gets, and he provides a rock-solid foundation for our cash game receiving corps. He’s seen at least 10 targets each of the last three weeks (10.7 per game), and is averaging eight receptions for 103.7 yards and 1.3 touchdowns over that span. The Jaguars give up the second-most fantasy points to wideouts and, even though it’s close, are more awful against passing attacks than running games. Pittsburgh’s own defense is in shambles, and this one has sneaky shootout potential – much like last week’s game against the Buccaneers. Spend on Brown for his high PPR floor and hope the price tag (2nd-most expensive receiver) dampens his ownership percentage.
WR: Kelvin Benjamin ($4,800) vs Chicago Bears (45.5)
If Brown’s targets and potential ceiling are expensive, Benjamin’s are the exact opposite. The rookie is tied for seventh in targets and touchdowns among wideouts. He’s seeing 26 percent Carolina’s targets, and 45 percent market share among Panthers’ wideouts. His average depth of target is 14.1 (20th-deepest among wideouts) and he’s scored on plays of 26, 28, and 35 yards. Benjamin only has two red zone targets and that will undoubtably rise. The target volume gives a high PPR floor (21 receptions; 20th), but plenty of upside as well. The Bears are giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to wideouts, and Benjamin is the 33rd-most expensive receiver this week.
WR: Andrew Hawkins ($3,500) at Tennessee Titans (44.5)
Speaking of an affordably high floor, Hawkins is averaging nine targets and seven receptions per game. He’s had nine targets in each of his three games so far this year, which makes you feel safe and warm inside. His 77.8 catch percentage is a result of the tiny Hawkins’ even more diminutive 7.7 aDOT (91st-shortest). He runs just over half of his routes from the slot (51.8 percent), where Tennessee’s Coty Sensabaugh has allowed nine of 11 targets to be completed and owns a 95.8 quarterback rating against. Rostering Hawkins allows for three of the top running backs and the best cash game wideout to fit under budget, while holding serve at our third receiver spot.
TE: Travis Kelce ($3,000) at San Francisco 49ers (44)
You’re rostering him even if you don’t entirely buy in because 49ers surrender the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, boast the best pass coverage grade through four weeks, and deploy Patrick Willis (+2.1 pass coverage grade). Kelce has been incredibly efficient and leads the league with 3.6 yards per route run and 0.39 PPR points per snap. He continues to earn a bigger slice of the Chiefs’ passing game pie, and the loss of Donnie Avery will only help. His ridiculous price tag will guarantee a massive ownership percentage, making him a must-start defensive play in cash games. This isn’t the time to get cute and go with swimming in Clay Harbor.
Flex: Matt Forte ($7,800) at Carolina Panthers (45.5)
Carolina’s once-formidable and now-decimated front seven has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs and 389 yards on 60 carries over the last two weeks (6.5 yards per attempt). They’ve also surrendered five receptions per game to running backs this year. Forte leads all fellow backs in both targets (28) and catches (24), and is second only to Darren Sproles in receiving yards (194). Even with a relatively slow start to the season (for him), he’s the sixth-best PPR running back despite not yet scoring. He’s the most expensive running back out there and, along with Murray and Jennings, sets us up for a predictably safe foundation.
DEF: Denver Broncos ($2,600) vs Arizona Cardinals (48.5)
The Cardinals are road underdogs by more than a touchdown (8.5 points), and will be without Carson Palmer. Their much-maligned offensive line has held up, although against middling competition. The Chargers’ pass rush is ranked 19th (-2.6) and the 49ers’ grades out 23rd (-5.1). The Giants’ ranks ninth (+6.8), although they’ve run up a +6.6 grade in two wins since facing Arizona. Despite a slow start, the Broncos rank 10th in pass coverage and 11th in run defense. Book-end rushers Von Miller (+3.2 pass rush grade) and DeMarcus Ware (+1.8) are just rounding into form and they get linebacker Danny Trevathan back. Arizona’s Drew Stanton (-1.7 passing game grade) has held serve so far, but battling a likely negative game script on the road against a rested Denver defense will be his toughest test to date.
Total Salary: $49,800
Eli Manning should keep the good times rolling against the pathetic Falcons defense. They can’t do what Eli doesn’t deal with well – rush the passer. Even now Manning has posted a 49.1 quarterback rating when pressured, versus a 103.4 with a clean pocket. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they’re the 29th-graded pass rush team and the Giants are allowing pressure on a league-low 21 percent of Manning’s drop-backs.
New York’s passing game should be able to seize whatever it wants. The problem, at least for GPP purposes, is the running game will probably be gashing the Falcons as well. If the Giants get up by a couple of scores, will Grandpa Tom elect to pound Atlanta on the ground – something that wasn’t as easy to do on the road against a stingy Redskins’ run defense? Dual-success could limit Eli’s upside, as would a late-game clock grinding – two items that weren’t in play last we saw the G-men.
The fact that Vegas basically has the Bengals and Patriots game as a pick’em is a little spooky, but I’m still assuming that Cincinnati will find themselves on a positive game script. If that’s the case, there’s no reason not to expect Jeremy Hill to continue to carve out a large role for himself. He already has two touchdowns and is averaging over five yards per carry. He’s 16th in Elusive Rating, well ahead of teammate Gio Bernard (26th), and right behind Knile Davis – who just carved up New England a few days ago. Hill is also 12th in yards after contact per attempt.
The Patriots give up the fifth-most points to running backs and will only have had five days to lick their wounds, while the Bengals come off of a bye. Cincinnati is the most run-heavy outfit in the league. If they get up on New England, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Hill (minimum salary; $3,000) receives his heaviest workload yet.
With a lot of interest in Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Heath Miller, a sneaky way to get exposure to this offense is to roster Markus Wheaton. He’s tied for the 56th-most expensive receiver ($3,300) and has been quiet since Week 1, despite averaging seven targets per game. His slot snaps are slowly on the rise, from 3 to 4 to 8 to 10, and main slot receiver Justin Brown has underwhelmed. Wheaton saw five targets while in the slot last week (4 catches) and turned one into a 31-yard gain. Jacksonville’s slot cornerback, Will Blackmon, is not good at football and allows 103.8 quarterback rating against. If you’re looking for someone to stack with Big Ben, with an eye toward diversification, keep Wheaton in mind.
The big tight end GPP selections will probably be the minimum-salaried guys like Kelce, Harbor, and Garrett Graham, the high-end studs with good matchups like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas, or the mid-rangers that stack with popular quarterbacks, like Larry Donnell, Heath Miller, and even Jared Cook. Despite his status as fantasy’s fourth-best PPR tight end, I’m guessing Delanie Walker against Cleveland will again be overlooked.
As the ninth-easiest tight end defense the Browns don’t exactly jump off the page, but they’ve only played three games and the sample is volatile. If we combine an early exiting Dennis Pitta with replacements Owen Daniels, and H-back Kyle Juszczyk, the Browns are surrendering 6.7 catches (8 targets) for 72.7 yards and one touchdown per game. That’s 19.9 PPR points, or almost one point less than Jimmy Graham is averaging. You might not get that total out of Walker, but would you be surprised if you did?
Last Week’s Lineup
Colin Kaepernick (21.52) – In an odd game, he could have scored more had he hit a few open targets.
Donald Brown (9.40) – Damnit, Donald! Good process, bad results.
Matt Asiata (31.00) – Sometimes good process does lead to good results.
Michael Crabtree (9.30) – See Kaepernick. Had an easy walk-in touchdown scatter-armed out of reach.
Brandin Cooks (8.10) – A victim of Dallas’ keep-away offense. One of many.
Golden Tate (22.60) – Turned out as projected. His tweaked hamstring is the only thing keeping him out of our Week 5 cash lineup.
Jimmy Graham (21.60) – Saved his fantasy day with some late scores, which is becoming a trend.
Eddie Lacy (12.90) – Starting to eat a little more as the run defense sledding gets easier.
Detroit Lions (7.00) – Solid, if unspectacular, total on a day that felt like Geno would give even more.
Total Points Scored – 143.42
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman