What a start to the season! I cannot recall ever seeing scoring like that in the six years that I’ve been playing DFS. Absolutely incredible. Last week with the soft pricing and the fact that the salaries were released so early, it was pretty hard to build a cash game team on Draftkings or Fanduel that you felt uncomfortable with. It looks like the sites (especially DK) have really tightened up the salary structure this week making value a little more difficult to come by. With that said, let’s move on to the Week 2 with some Cash Game Cornerstones.
Tips for Week 2
I discussed in last week’s article the importance of game selection and mentioned that if you’re playing double-ups to target the single entry contests rather than the massive multi-entry double-ups as the cash line is often higher in those contests. Week 1 was a prime example of this as the cash line in the Draftkings $25 single entry double-up (4,597 entrants) was 186.76 compared to the $25 massive multi-entry double-up (16,950 entries) where the cash line was 204.82. You would have needed 18.06 more points in the multi-entry contest to cash. Game selection is so important!
By nature, the NFL is a small sample size game so don’t overreact to week 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 35 years old and for his entire career has been a fringe starting level QB. He did not suddenly turn into Aaron Rodgers. Kareem Hunt is still good and not invisible in the red zone. Chris Hogan is not a complete afterthought in New England. Michael Thomas is not going to catch 16 of 17 targets each week. The Falcons are going to score touchdowns in the red zone…okay maybe not. The Buccaneers, Jets, and Ravens are not going to score 47+ points every week. You get the idea…just don’t overreact to the results of week 1. It’s much more valuable to focus on snap counts and player usage than purely the end statistical result.
THE CASH GAME CORNERSTONES
Ben Roethlisberger DK: $6,900 / FD: $7,600
Big Ben looked pretty terrible in week 1 and is now reportedly battling an elbow injury so keep an eye on his status leading up to Sunday. This appears to be a get right spot for Ben and the Steelers offense as the Chiefs come to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Last season the Chiefs allowed the most fantasy points to opposing Quarterbacks on the road. That trend continued in week 1 as Phillip Rivers dusted the depleted Chiefs secondary for 424 yards and 3 touchdowns in week 1.
Since 2014 Big Ben has been significantly better playing at Heinz Field, averaging 29 fantasy points at home while just 17 fantasy points on the road.
Roethlisberger noted in the off-season that he was excited to run more no-huddle under new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. I’d expect to see the Steelers push the pace at home in week 2.
Lastly, the Chiefs vs. Steelers game has an over/under of 53 points which is the highest total currently on the board. The boys in Vegas certainly think this one has the making of a shootout.
Deshaun Watson: DK $6,300/FD: $7,400
Watson led the NFL in Intended Air Yards last season and in week 1 continued his aggressive style, posting an average of 11.6 Intended Air Yards per pass attempt. Only mid-game replacement Josh Allen and absolute gunslinger Patrick Mahomes averaged more Air Yards per attempt than Watson in week 1.
Last week Watson struggled to complete passes against a Patriots defense that was prepared for Watson’s deep throwing attack Without speedster Will Fuller (hamstring), coverage was frequently rolled to Deandre Hopkins side of the field and Watson really struggled. Below is Watson’s week 1 passing chart via NFL’s NextGen Stats.
Fuller is likely to return this week and his presence should improve Watson’s efficiency numbers. Keep an eye on his status this week as his presence as a deep threat raises Watson’s weekly ceiling.
In seven career NFL starts Watson has averaged 5.8 fantasy points per game with his legs alone which significantly boosts his floor. This rushing floor combined with Watson’s propensity to push the ball down the field makes him a high floor/high ceiling cash game play.
Other Quarterbacks to Consider: Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Ryan
If you can find the salary savings to pay up for Alvin Kamara (DK $9,500/FD $9,000) and/or Todd Gurley (DK $9,200/FD $8,900) in cash games go for it. Those two players are on elite offenses, in great match-ups, and will be on the field regardless of game script. They’re just very expensive so for the purpose of this article I’m going to focus on some players a little further down the board.
Christian McCaffrey: DK $7,000/FD $7,400
McCaffrey busted to some degree in week 1. He fumbled in the red zone early in the game and after that the Panthers turned to Cam as their primary red zone ball carrier.
The good news for McCaffrey is that he played 85% of the snaps and accounted for 39% of the Panthers targets in week 1. Greg Olsen appears to be out for an extended period of time which should solidify McCaffrey’s role as the focal point of the offense.
The Falcons lost two key starters to injury in week 1 in Linebacker Deion Jones and Safety Keanu Neal. Schematically the Falcons defense likes to funnel targets to the Running Backs. The Birds gave up the most receptions to that position each of the last three seasons. All things point to a spike week for McCaffrey in week 2.
James Conner: DK $6,700 / FD $7,000
Le’Veon Bell chose to sit out week one to prove a point. Unfortunately for him, the only point he proved is that he’s replaceable. Conner carried the load for the Steelers to the tune of 31 carries for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns while also catching five of six targets for 56 yards. The second-year Running Back played 92% of the Steelers offensive snaps and handled 62 percent of the teams’ total touches.
The price on Conner has risen but not to the point where it needs to be.
Per Sharp Football Stats the Chiefs defense allowed the Chargers to run successfully on 59 percent of the teams 23 attempts. As you can see from the Next Gen Stats Carry Chart below Conner did most of his damage between the tackles which is an area the Chargers backs were successfully attacking the Chiefs in week 1.
The Chiefs linebackers also struggled mightily in coverage allowing a career-best 9 catches for 113 yards on 13 targets to Melvin Gordon and 5 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown to change of pace back Austin Eckler.
Between the price, workload, and match-up, Conner should be a cash game cornerstone in week 2.
Other Running Backs to Consider: Melvin Gordon, Lamar Miller, Tevin Coleman (if Freeman is out), James White (if Burkhead and/or Michel are out) and Peyton Barber (DK)
Antonio Brown: DK $8,800 / FD $8,900
Volume is the most important thing I look for when building my cash game lineup. In week 1 Brown racked up 9 catches on 16 targets, including a ridiculous TD grab over rookie Cornerback Denzel Ward. Big Ben was a bit erratic in the poor conditions in Cleveland but back at home, I’d expect those efficiency numbers to normalize week 2.
As noted by Pro Football Focus’ Scott Barrett in his last 14 games without Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown has seen both his usage and efficiency improve. In those 14 games, Brown has averaged 9.6 receptions for 131.6 yards and 0.86 touchdowns per game which is good for 28.1 PPR per game.
Keenan Allen carved up the Chiefs defense in week 1 for an impressive 8/108/1 line on 11 targets. The Chargers secondary receivers also had chances to make big plays against this secondary but dropped several deep passes.
The Chiefs secondary features two Cornerbacks, Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick that are both bad and playing out position. As Barrett notes, Nelson and Scandrick were both in the bottom 20 of Pro Football Focus’ yards per route in coverage in 2017.
To make matters even worse for the Chiefs, Eric Berry missed week 1 with a heel injury, is still working his way back from a 2017 Achilles tear and not practicing again this week. It looks like we’ll be targeting this Chiefs secondary on a weekly basis.
Not that match-up particularly matters for Brown. He has the talent to overcome any match-up and should be viewed as a modern-day Jerry Rice. If you can afford him, lock him into your cash lineup this week.
Emmanuel Sanders: DK $6,000 / FD $6,800
The preseason speculation of Sanders moving primarily into the slot this season came to fruition as Sanders dusted the Seahawks secondary for 10/135/1 on 11 targets. Also, a continuation from preseason is that Sanders appears to be the preferred target for newly acquired Quarterback Case Keenum as Sanders led the Broncos with a 28% market share of the teams’ total targets.
Sanders now gets a Raiders secondary that just got picked apart by Jared Goff, on a short week and is traveling to Mile High Stadium to play at altitude.
Per Football Outsiders the Raiders secondary ranked 31st last season in efficiency against deep passes. While Goff wasn’t able to connect on any deep balls on Monday night, the Rams did draw two pass interference calls where Brandin Cooks had gotten past the Raiders secondary. I’d expect the Broncos to dial up a few deep shots of their own this week and I like Sanders chances of burning 33-year-old slot corner, Leon Hall for a long touchdown.
Jarvis Landry: DK $6,300 / FD $6,700
In his stint with the Miami Dolphins, we got to know Landry as a possession receiver who spent most his time running high percentage routes with a low aDot out of the slot. It appears Todd Haley has bigger plans for Juice this season.
Landry racked up 223 Air Yards (per AirYards.com) on 16 targets in week 1, good for second-most in the league behind only Julio Jones. Landry had an aDot of 13.9 yards in week 1 on those 16 targets. While in Miami Landry never eclipsed an aDot of 8 yards per target for any season.
As you can see from the NextGen Stats Route Chart below Landry is getting targeted all over the field and appears to be playing the Antonio Brown role in Todd Haley’s offense.
This week Landry gets to head to the Coors Field of the NFL and take on Saints defense that just got lit up by Ryan
Fitzmagic Fitzpatrick in week 1 for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns. Look for Landry to “Bless ‘Em” in week 2.
Chris Godwin: DK $4,600 / FD $6,100
The Bucs offense went haywire in the Superdome on Sunday. Perhaps lost in the shuffle was that Desean Jackson left late in the game with both a shoulder injury and a concussion. D-Jax looks unlikely to play in week 2, which will push slot man Adam Humphries onto the field in three-wide receiver sets. While Humphries is a decent player the real beneficiary should be the second-year receiver, Chris Godwin.
Godwin is a big physical receiver who as Rotoworld’s Evan Silva notes has played 40 or more snaps in four career games. In those four games, Godwin has averaged 16.7 DK Points per Game.
Player Profiler identifies Godwin as having a 95 percentile SPARQ score and ran a 4.42 40 yard dash at the combine. Godwin figures to match-up plenty with Eagles Cornerback Jalen Mills. Mills went undrafted out of LSU and turned a super slow 4.62 40 yard dash at his pro day.
In the event that D-Jax is able to suit up this Sunday, I’d feel comfortable swapping to either Kenny Golladay or Quincy Enunwa in a similar price range.
Other Wide Receivers to Consider: Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Golden Tate (DK), Kenny Golladay and Quincy Enunwa
Jared Cook: DK $3,600 / FD $5,000
Had Jared Cook’s 9/180/1 eruption happened on Sunday afternoon his price certainly would have jumped significantly. Fortunately for us, this was not the case. Cook has always flashed big-play potential in the past and finally under coach John Gruden, appears to be a key part of the offense. Cook finished third among Tight Ends in week 1 with 103 Air Yards (via AirYards.com).
I always like to look for elite athletes at the tight end spot as if you can nail down a big play from the Tight End spot you’ll gain an advantage on the field as they’re rarer than the other positions. While he’s aged a bit Cook put up one of the most impressive combine numbers for a tight end. At 6-5, 246lbs Cook ran a freakish 4.49 40 yard dash and posted a 41 inch vertical.
Only the Browns, Dolphins, and Giants allowed more fantasy points to Tight Ends than the Broncos last year. After the Denver defense allowed Will Dissly (yeah I’ve never heard of him either) to go 3/105/1 on 5 targets in week 1, it certainly doesn’t appear to be much better this season.
George Kittle: DK $3,800 / FD $5,800
Kittle emerged from week 1 as Jimmy G’s preferred target with Marquise Goodwin off the field. The second year Tight End out of Iowa put up a nice 5/90 line on 9 targets against a Vikings defense that suppresses fantasy production at every position.
Kittle led all week 1 Tight Ends with 118 air yards and now gets to face a Lions defense that has to travel across the country on a short week after being picked apart by the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history.
Athletically Kittle fits the mold for what I like to look for. Per PlayerProfiler Kittle is a 6-4, 247 lb monster that ran a 4.52 40 and finished in the top 89th percentile in all of the athletic tests the combine.
As you can see from the NextGen route chart below, the 49ers tried to get the ball deep to Kittle often in week 1.
Ben Watson: DK $3,400 / FD $5,100
The ageless Watson played on 80% of the Saints offensive snaps in week one and secured all four of his targets for 44 yards. Gregg Williams defensive scheme funnels targets to tight ends as they ranked 30th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to tight ends a season ago. Week one did not show any changes in defensive philosophy from the Browns as Steelers Tight End, Jesse James battled bad weather and bad Quarterback play to put up 3 catches for 60 yards on 5 targets.
The Saints have a lot of expensive options to consider but Watson gives you a cheap option to get exposure to this high-powered offense.
Other Tight Ends to Consider: Jordan Reed, Jack Doyle and Jonnu Smith
Los Angeles Chargers: DK $3,600 / FD $4,400
The Chargers are going to be the chalk defense this week. I personally will be going another direction but after the egg the Bills laid in week 1 there’s certainly merit to playing them.
The Bills offensive line is a joke. Bills Quarterbacks were sacked six times in week 1 and turned the ball over twice. On the outside the Bills have no players that can create separation or get behind the defense. It looks like the Bills have ended the Nathan Peterman experiment and will turn to rookie Josh Allen in week 2. Allen has a big arm but is widely inaccurate and he only completed 56% of his passes in his final year at Wyoming.
Shady McCoy is the only real threat on this offense and he only touched the ball eight times in week 1 and gained a measly 21 yards.
I typically don’t like to target west coast teams traveling all the way across the country for 1 P.M. start. The Chargers are a little expensive, especially for a defense that just got lit up at home and only recorded one sack and no turnovers but the Bills have no offensive line and no receivers that can create separation down the field.
The Bolts will also be missing stud Defensive End, Joey Bosa (foot) again this week and this certainly hurts their sack and turnover potential.
However, until further notice whatever defense is playing the Bills is in play for cash games.
Los Angeles Rams: DK $3,700 / FD $4,800
Pivoting off of the highly owned Chargers in cash makes some sense as defensive scoring is often hard to predict. The Rams have an elite secondary with Marcus Pieters and Aquib Talib manning the outside corner positions. Up-front the Rams are no slouch either with game wrecker, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers.
As massive 12 point home favorites and have a high ceiling against an immobile Sam Bradford playing behind a porous offensive line.
Other Defenses to Consider: Redskins, Texans and Broncos
Injuries to Monitor:
Aaron Rodgers – The Packers already have a tough match-up against the Vikings and Rodgers has missed both Wednesday and Thursday’s practices. If for some reason Rodgers isn’t able to play the Vikings defense get a dream spot against the turnover prone Deshone Kizer.
Leonard Fournette – Fournette is going to test out his hamstring Friday and is likely a game-time decision on Sunday. If Fournette is forced to miss Sunday’s game vs. the Patriots, T.J. Yeldon would step in. Yeldon scored 15.9 DK points last week despite Fournette playing 21 of the Jags 63 offensive snaps. Should Fournette miss the game, Yeldon would be a solid play at $5,600 on Draftkings and $6,200 on Fanduel.
Devonta Freeman – Freeman has missed all of the Falcons practices this week and the team is preparing for Sunday’s home match-up against the Panthers as if Tevin Coleman (DK $5,300 / FD $5,900) will be the lead back. Coleman has looked great in his role and I’d be excited to see him with expanded opportunity.
Rex Burkhead – Burkhead popped up in the concussion protocol on Wednesday’s injury report. If he’s unable to play the Patriots would be super thin at Running Back. Sony Michel is still limited in practice and unlikely to play. Jeremy Hill is on IR. The team brought in Kenjon Barner this week but he’s more of a special-teamer than reliable option. James White could be the last man standing. At just $4,500, White could be in play against the Jaguars who really put the clamps on opposing Wide Receivers.
Marquise Goodwin – Goodwin left the game early against the Vikings missed practice on Wednesday with a quad injury. If he’s unable to suit up Sunday Pierre Garcon would fill he’s role and likely see shadow coverage from Darius Slay. Rookie Dante Pettis looked legit in Goodwin’s absence last week going 2/61/1 against a Vikings secondary that is light years better than Detroit.
Corey Davis – Davis popped up on the week 2 injury report with a hamstring injury. Davis battled hamstring injuries as a rookie and this Titans team cannot afford another injury to the pass catching corps. Delanie Walker is done for the year with an ankle injury. Rashard Matthews missed all of camp with a knee injury and didn’t receive a target in week 1. Should Davis miss week 2 I would think the biggest beneficiary would be Taywan Taylor but at the moment this situation is unclear.
Titans Offensive Lineman: The Titans were without Right Tackle, Jack Conklin (knee) last week against the Dolphins and now may be missing Left Tackle, Taylor Lewan (concussion) as well. Both Tackles have missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices this week. Their availability is a definite downgrade all of the Titans offense and provide a major upgrade to the Texans defense which has an imposing defensive front with Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt.