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Week 5: Cash Game Cornerstones

Welcome back for week 5 of Cash Game Cornerstones.  Last week we hit on pretty much everything; Dalton had a huge week, Kamara, Zeke, MG3, Gio, and Sony went ham.  The same can be said for Boyd and Shephard.  The only spot I really missed on was Allen Robinson but considering Trubisky passed for six touchdowns I don’t really consider it to be bad process.  Hopefully, if you followed along last week you crushed your cash games.

I can describe this week 5 slate in one word. Uncomfortable. During the course of the 17 week NFL season, we’re going to have weeks like this where we just aren’t super comfortable with what we’re doing.  This week all of the best plays are really expensive or play for the Jaguars. Enough said.

The Falcons @ Steelers game features a ridiculous 57.5 total but both QBs are priced up (as they should be),  James Connor despite doing nothing since week 1 is $7.5k, Antonio Brown is at $9.1k, Juju 7.5k and on the other side Julio is at $8.5k despite not scoring a touchdown all year.  Calvin Ridley has caught 6 touchdowns over the last 3 weeks on a measly 15 targets (can you say unsustainable?)  is all the way up at $5,8k.

This week the Jags head to Kansas City without Leonard Fournette but their passing game doesn’t have a clear number 1 target on a weekly and Blake Bortles is still their quarterback.

The Vikings head to Philly to face a struggling pass defense but choosing between Thielen and Diggs is always tough for me and this week is no different as they’re both excellent plays.

Todd Gurley is on the road facing a Seahawks defense that is no longer the Legion of Boom while Melvin Gordon gets a tasty home match-up with a Raiders defense that can’t stop the run or the pass.  Deciding between Gurley and Gordon will be extra tough this week.

There’s just a lot of key decisions that will have to be made this week where I think from a raw projection standpoint there isn’t much difference but it’s football so the likelihood that one play significantly outperforms the other remains high.


Matthew Stafford: DK $5,700 / $7,600

The price for Stafford in this home match-up with the Packers is egregious.  Stafford has torched the Packers secondary for at least 323 yards and multiple touchdowns in four straight meetings.  While the Packers secondary is slightly better this year with rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, they’re still young and will be up and down.  The Packers defense has had mixed results this year. They’ve looked great when facing Josh Allen and Mitch Trubisky but have looked absolutely lost when facing Kirk Cousins.

The Lions receivers are certainly talented enough to take advantage of the Packers inexperience.  Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are both big speedy receivers on the outside that can win against man coverage.  In the slot Golden Tate has the best match-up as the Packers have rotated the aforementioned rookies Alexander and Jackson in that spot.

When you consider Stafford is playing at home, in a dome, with a 51 point total in which the Lions are projected for 25 points, there are certainly a lot of positive signs point to Stafford having a breakout game.  Below are the NextGen stats passing charts from Stafford’s last two games against Green Bay.


Russell Wilson: $DK 5,100 / FD $7,200

Eli Manning. C.J. Beathard. Josh Allen. Sam Darnold. Josh Rosen.  Those are the only five quarterbacks priced lower than Wilson on Draftkings this week.

I wish I had some nice stats to show that Wilson is on the verge of a breakout…but I don’t.  I wish I could write-off Wilson’s early season struggles as the result of poor game script…but I can’t.  I wish I could tell you that Wilson has historically crushed this match-up… but I can’t. The facts are that in his last four match-ups with the Rams defense Wilson has only eclipsed 13 Draftkings points once (21 in 2016).

My problem here is the price. I can’t play Wilson at $5,100 at home. I just can’t do it. On the bright side for Wilson, the Rams will be without stud corner Aquib Talib.  While Marcus Peters is a very good corner, he is beatable at times as shown last Thursday night.

Doug Baldwin is back and will face off primarily with Nickel R0by-Coleman in the slot who just got torched by Adam Thielen.

The Seahawks are at home and their defense without Earl Thomas is going to give up big plays and points to this Rams offense, meaning Wilson is going to have to drop back for likely 40 passing attempts.

Wilson has faced tough match-ups to start the season.  On the road to face the Cardinals, Bears, and Broncos and at home against an underrated Cowboys pass defense.  The biggest concern for Wilson is that he’s not running.  Wilson hasn’t run for more than 21 yards in a game this season.

Other Quarterbacks to Consider

Ben Roethlisberger – The struggling Steelers are at home with a 31 point implied team total against a defense that is in absolute shambles.  If you can fit him in, he’s obviously a super high floor/ceiling play.

Blake Bortles – I’m not sure I’ll ever have the stones to play Bortles in cash but if there were ever a week, this would be it.  Bortles excels without Leonard Fournette and now gets to face a Chiefs defense that ranks 30th in DVOA against the pass.  A sneaky good athlete Bortles also has some rushing upside as well against primarily man coverage teams like KC.

Running Backs

Running back is really tough this week.  On the high-end Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and Christian McCaffrey are all in great match-ups and have the pass-catching floor we love.  Moving down a little Saquon Barkley has reached 20 points in each of his first four starts and James Conner is at home in a dream match-up with a 31 point team total.  All of five of these running backs are cash game viable and the difference in projection on a points per dollar basis is razor thin.  I’d rank them this way for DK cash:

  1. Todd Gurley – I wouldn’t start my lineup with him but if I have the salary he presents the safest floor as this Rams offense is just incredible.
  2. Christian McCaffrey – He’s playing all of the snaps for the Panthers and despite not scoring a touchdown yet has been a PPR monster.  The Giants rank 29th in run defense DVOA.  McCaffrey’s price and lack of TD’s would probably move him to 5th on this list for FD
  3. Melvin Gordon – Gordon has been super involved in the passing game this season and has received double-digit targets in two of the Chargers four games this season.  The Raiders rank 28th in run defense DVOA this year.  The only negative for Gordon is that backup Austin Eckler is so good that he eats into roughly 25% of the Chargers backfield snaps.
  4. James Conner – The Steelers have got behind big in two of their four games this season and it’s reduced Conner’s touches.  The Falcons lost Grady Jarrett which per the Quant Edge’s Injury Impact Tool has a huge impact on the effectiveness of the Falcons run defense.  Without Jarrett on the field, the Falcons run defense success rate jumps from 53% to 67% and explosive run percentage climbs to 13% as well.
  5. Saquon Barkley – Barkley has the toughest match-up of this group as the Giants go on the road to face a Carolina team that is fresh off of a bye week.  Saquon is so explosive that it only takes a couple big plays to pay off his price tag and his receiving floor keeps him cash viable even in tough match-ups like this one.

    Other Cash Game Running Backs

    David Johnson – The price is getting a bit absurd ($6,300 on DK).  Last week DJ played a season-high 91% of the snaps and accounted for 58% of the Cardinals offensive touches. I think you have to ask yourself this question before deciding whether or not to play DJ in cash: Do you trust the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff to get David Freaking Johnson 25 touches? If the answer is yes, then you play him.

    T.J. Yeldon – Yeldon may end up being the chalk this week as the Jags go on the road and face the Chiefs who rank 32nd in run defense DVOA.  In two games this season where Leonard Fournette has left early, Yeldon has dominated the remaining backfield touches and looked great and scored in both games.  In the two games where Fournette was ruled out ahead of time, Yeldon has struggled and the team has mixed in fellow running back Corey Grant.

    Wide Receiver

    (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

    Adam Thielen: DK $7,700 / FD $8,300

    Adam Thielen is off to a monster start to the season.  Thielen leads the NFL with 56 targets (at least 12 in each game) and is second in receptions with 40.  Kirk Cousins primary weapon is also the first player in NFL history to have at least 100 receiving yards in each of the first four games of the season.  The Eagles are a pass funnel defense as they rank 3rd in Football Outsiders DVOA against the run and 12th against the pass.


    Juju Smith-Schuster: DK $7,500 / FD $8,000

    The Falcons have been getting crushed out of the slot and that’s where Juju runs 84% of his routes.  They did switch things up last week, putting their best corner Desmond Trufant inside but it wasn’t effective either as Tyler Boyd ripped up the Falcons secondary for 11 catches and 100 yards.  We’ll see if the Falcons stay with this strategy or not this week.

    On the season Juju only has four fewer targets than fellow wideout Antonio Brown and has two more catches and 144 more receiving yards.

    It’s hard to imagine there not being at least 50 points scored in this Falcons vs. Steelers game and the sportsbooks have set the over/under at a college like 58 points and you’re going to want exposure to this game in cash this week.

    Doug Baldwin: DK $5,000 / FD $6,700

    I’m not sure I’d play Baldwin in cash on Fanduel but the price on DK is tasty.  Baldwin returned from injury last week and played 75% of the Seahawks offensive snaps and led the team with seven targets, catching five for 41 yards.  On sheer talent, there is just no way that Baldwin should be priced at $5,000.  His lowest price on DK over the last two seasons was last year vs Jacksonville at $5,400.

    The one area of weakness of the Rams pass defense is over the middle of the field where they rank 22nd in DVOA per Football Outsiders.  Baldwin runs the majority of his routes from the slot where he’ll face off with Nickel Roby-Coleman who just gave up 12/135/1 to Vikings slot man Adam Thielen on Thursday night.

    Here’s Baldwin’s route chart from last week.  As you can see Baldwin operates primarily in the short to intermediate area which in theory increases the probability of his targets resulting in catches.


    Other Cash Game WR Options

    Antonio Brown – Still leads the Steelers in targets and has a 38% market share of the teams Air Yards per

    Julio Jones – Jones leads the NFL in Air Yards and in typical Julio fashion hasn’t scored a touchdown yet.  Julio has a 51% market share of the Falcons Air Yards and faces a Steelers defense that is 19th in Football Outsiders Pass Defense DVOA this year.

    Tyler Boyd – Andy Dalton has been playing like his hair has been on fire and Boyd leads the Bengals in both targets and receptions on the season.  A.J. Green will likely be dealing with the shadow coverage of Xavien Howard this week and Boyd should be primed for another big week.

    Lions WR’s – I mentioned my love for Stafford above and all of his receivers are in okay spots this week.  Tate is most likely to lead the team in targets, Golladay probably the favorite to score a TD, and Marvin Jones leads the team in Air Yards and has a great history against the Packers.

    Jaguars WR’s – The Chiefs rank 30th in DVOA against the pass but good luck trying to pick the one that goes off this week.  Moncrief is arguably the least talented of the three but has the best match-up and shockingly leads the team in air yards.  While Dede Westbrook leads the team in targets he’ll have the toughest match-up with Kendall Fuller in the slot.  That leaves Keelan Cole, perhaps the teams most talented receiver somewhere in the middle. I’ll have tournament exposure but the Jags receiving corps is too volatile for me in cash.

    Packers WR’s – They’re all hurt.  Adams (calf) and Allison (concussion) sat out practice on Thursday.  Randall Cobb is ruled out.  While it’s unlikely all three miss the game, there would be serious value opening if Geronimo Allison isn’t able to get out of the concussion protocol.

    Tight End

    I’ll be honest, I don’t love any of the tight end options this week.  It’ll be the last position I fill during my cash game roster construction.

    Vance McDonald: DK $3,700 / FD $4,600

    McDonald is probably my favorite tight end of the week.  I’ve mentioned earlier the Steelers 31 implied team total and the injuries sustained to the Falcons secondary.

    McDonald has five targets in each of the three games he’s played this year and has parlayed those targets into an impressive 12/200/1 receiving line.

    Historically, the Falcons are good at limiting tight end production. However, the injuries to both starting safeties and stud linebacker Deion Jones certainly have them trending in the other direction.  Last week Tyler Eifert was on his way to a huge day before suffering a gruesome ankle injury.

    Other Tight Ends to Consider

    Jimmy Graham – I mentioned the injuries to the Packers receiving corps above. Should multiple guys be ruled out Graham would certainly be in line for more work.

    David Njoku – We’re still waiting for Njoku’s breakout game to happen but he’s received 7 targets in three games this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done anything with it.


    I’m probably going off the board at defense this week.  If you’re spending up the Titans are certainly in play even on the road against the Bills.

    Carolina Panthers – Fresh off of a bye week the Panthers get Eli Manning at home.  Sign me up.  The Giants rank 26th in Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate.

    Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals only have 10 sacks on the season but have faced an Indy offense that focuses on getting the ball out quick, a very good Ravens offensive line, and a Panthers line that has only allowed 6 sacks this season.  The Dolphins lost their starting Center last week which should provide more opportunities for Geno Adkins to cause havoc on the inside.

    Thanks for reading! Make sure you jump in the TFA slack chat, we’ll be in there chatting all the way up until kickoff on Sunday breaking down the latest news.


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