Week 9 optimal DraftKings lineup: Swinging for the fences
So you’ve got $20 and you want to enter the DraftKings Milly Maker for a shot at $1 million — or, if not the top prize, at least your share of the pot. Which lineup should you roll out?
We’ve typically gone over cash game options in this weekly column, but we’re switching it up this week to present a viable tournament lineup.
Not everyone can enter multiple lineups, let alone enough lineups to give you exposure to every player you might like that week. There are DFS bargains and locks to consider, wideouts with plus matchups, and players in potential breakout spots. Once you’ve done all the research, you’ll likely end up with a host of players you want to own that week, but ultimately, you’ll have to narrow it down. Here’s an example of what that narrowed down lineup might look like.
Below you’ll find my optimal DraftKings lineup for Week 9’s main slate — tournament edition.
QB: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers ($7,000)
I expect Newton’s ownership to be suppressed this week, due to the fact he’s coming off a touchdown-less game and he’s wedged in between Drew Brees and Andrew Luck in price, both of whom have excellent matchups.
But Newton’s ceiling continues to be just as high as — if not higher — than any other quarterback. He ranks fifth in fantasy points per drop back (0.52), and he has carried the ball at least five times in five-of-six games. The rushing gives him a high floor, and his efficiency means he can rack up the points in a hurry.
Another reason people may be off of Newton is because of his matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams do have an above-average defensive unit, but they are still giving up big games. They have ceded 28 points to the 48ers, 32 to the Buccaneers, 30 to the Bills, and 31 to the Lions so far this year.
Newton offers a strong floor with a 30-plus point ceiling. Any time I can get a player like Newton at low ownership, I’m eager to pounce. And while you usually stack a quarterback with a receiving option, it’s not always necessary with Newton, due to the fact he often spreads the ball around or just scores himself. I’m rolling with “Naked Cam” this week.
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys ($7,900)
I’m not bold enough to fade Elliott this week. His ownership rate in tournaments and cash games — regardless of what site you play on — is going to be insane, so if you’re feeling contrarian, then go ahead and fade Elliott. But when he hits, then you’ll be left holding the bag.
Elliott is going to eviscerate the Cleveland Browns. They rank last or near last in every major rushing defense category, including rushing yards, touchdowns and YPC ceded to enemy backs.
The Browns have also given up eight runs of 20-plus yards (second-most) and three runs for 40-plus (also second-most). That bodes well for Elliott, who has 12 runs of 15-plus yards on the year, second-most in the league.
Elliott is the chalk, and I don’t care. I’ll differentiate elsewhere.
RB2: Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers ($6,100)
Speaking of differentiation, here’s one place to do it. You absolutely need to monitor Hyde’s health over the weekend — he was a non-contact participant on Thursday, which isn’t a great sign, but it’s still days away from Sunday — but if he suits up, I’m all in on him.
Hyde has scored six touchdowns in six games this year, and his Week 9 matchup features the New Orleans Saints, who have given up 12 rushing touchdowns in seven games. The Saints have allowed a score on 6.6 percent of rushing attempts against them, also the most in the league. That works out to about one rushing score every 15 attempts.
Considering Hyde carried the rock 18 times per game from Weeks 1 to 6, I love him in this spot, health permitting. If he doesn’t suit up, there are several viable alternatives to switch to at the last minute, including his opponent, Mark Ingram ($4,800).
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants ($8,800)
The chatter this week is that there’s no need to pay up for wide receivers, so I expect receiver ownership rates to be distributed relatively evenly. That means Beckham could be lower owned than a player of his caliber should be, especially when his name has a dark red “7th” next to it on DraftKings, to symbolize the difficult matchup he draws against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But on closer inspection, Beckham actually draws a plus individual matchup against Nolan Carroll, who has the sixth-lowest coverage grade among this week’s projected starters, per our WR-CB matchup article. Given that Beckham possess potential for a 10-200-3 line any given week, you can always feel confident when including him in a tournament lineup. It’s an even better feeling when you know his matchup is actually good while everyone else thinks it’s bad.
WR2: Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts ($5,800)
This figures to be another chalky pick, but we have enough other picks in this lineup to absorb it. Moncrief returned to the field in Week 8 and played 89.4 percent of Indianapolis’ snaps. There was no “easing back in.”
His eight targets led the team last week, and while he gained just 41 yards, he did score. He also had a 45-yard touchdown called back late in the game. So while his final line of 4-41-1 looks average, it would have been 5-86-2 — a light’s-out line. If that play hadn’t been called back, everyone would be on Moncrief this week.
This pick also gives the lineup exposure to the Indianapolis-Green Bay game, which we have projected to be one of the three highest-scoring contests of Week 9.
WR3: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs ($3,400)
Tyreek the Freak! Over the past four weeks, Hill has caught eight of eight targets for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He has scored 1.06 fantasy points per opportunity — first among wideouts by a wide margin — and he has gained an absurd 3.84 yards per route run, tops among wideouts who have seen at least 25 percent of snaps.
Would Hill be able to keep up these astronomical numbers if he saw eight targets per game, instead of eight over the course of four games? Of course not. Do these efficiency-based numbers suggest that he’d do some serious damage with eight targets per game? Absolutely.
Nick Foles will be under center for the Chiefs this week instead of Alex Smith. While the sample size is small, Foles’ average pass traveled 9.9 yards down the field last week, compared to Smith’s paltry 7.5 average depth of target. More downfield passes means more opportunity for a touchdown machine like Hill.
Note also that Hill has carried the ball three times for 30 yards over the past four games. That may not seem important, but given that the Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles to IR and may be without Spencer Ware as well, they may hand Hill the ball a few additional times.
This pick is not without risk — there’s no guarantee Hill is going to see more playing time in Week 9 — but he costs only $3,400 and has immense, untapped upside that the Chiefs figure to flirt with soon.
TE: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers ($3,000)
I’m not in love with this pick because his floor is painfully low, but Gates is cheap, and he’s been a target hog ever since returning from injury a few weeks ago. Over the past three weeks, Gates leads all tight ends with 24 targets.
Gates’ snap rate since returning in Week 5: 34.6 percent, 47 percent, 50.7 percent, and 67.9 percent. He’s trending in the right direction, and Hunter Henry’s presence is clearly not keeping Gates sidelined.
The matchup against the Tennessee Titans is also a great one. I highlighted Gates as a potential breakout player earlier this week, noting that the Titans have given up the seventh-most PPO to opposing tight ends and have been gashed for a combined 23 receptions, 231 yards and two touchdowns by tight ends in their last two games.
Gates only needs to post a 6-60-0 or a 3-30-1 line to return 4x value on his $3,000 salary, which is the barometer for a good tournament play. His ceiling is much higher than that. He’s one of the top DFS bargains of the week.
Flex: Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams ($4,400)
Britt is usually in play for tournaments, but he’s going to be particularly interesting this week. His ownership rate may be a bit higher than it has been in week’s past — due to the fact Britt helped win some tournaments just a few weeks ago and the matchup against the Panthers is now a known plus for receivers — but he remains a cheap bargain wideout who can explode for 30 DraftKings points.
The Panthers have given up the fourth-most fantasy PPO to wideouts so far this year, so it stands to reason that either Britt or Brian Quick is going to have a big game against them in Week 9. My bet is on Britt, as he has played 85 percent of Los Angeles’ snaps this year, compared to Quick’s 62.1 percent rate.
Note: If you’re going to use this lineup or a variation of this lineup, ensure that you put Britt or Moncrief in the flex spot. Carlos Hyde may end up being a game-time decision, and he plays in the late afternoon. If Hyde doesn’t suit up, you’ll give yourself more flexibility for last-minute adjustments by having Britt or Moncrief in the flex, as they also play in the late afternoon.
D/ST: Kansas City Chiefs ($3,500)
Even as the third-most-expensive D/ST unit on the slate, the Chiefs will likely be the highest-owned defense in tournaments this week. But I’m differentiating this lineup from all the other Chiefs D/ST lineups by including Tyreek Hill as well, for the double-dip potential (Hill is the punt returner). Plus, even though they are the chalk, the Chiefs are playing against Blake Bortles, the D/ST version of Santa Claus.