Before I begin with my DFS picks this week, I want to introduce myself. My name is Vernon Meighan, and like many of you reading this, I love the challenge of DFS. I currently work as an instructor for cyber systems, and I have learned many skills while working in this discipline. My approach to DFS is to utilize open source research and strategy along with scripting tools I develop in PowerShell to streamline my analysis process. The results of that process – admittedly still a work in progress – are what I present to you. I do try very hard to minimize my Philadelphia Eagles bias to ensure the best results, but it has been especially hard this year. My hope is that one day a unique selection that I present will help someone win a lot of money. My goal is to crack the uncrackable nut that is DFS. I hope you enjoy my musings.
**Player pricing reflected in article is from DraftKings**
Looking at the quarterback landscape this weekend, there are a few options that seem like sure things. For example, both Dak and Alex Smith should be played in a game projected to be pretty even. Additionally, Russel Wilson should be a solid play in both tournament and cash games. Here we highlight some other signal callers that aren’t so chalk.
Derek Carr – $6400 @ Dolphins
Miami is ranked 27th against the pass and 3rd against the run in DVOA which implies that Carr will be forced to attack the Dolphins secondary. Miami has given up four touchdowns of 25 yards or greater this year, and if we recall when Oakland faced Kansas City on Thursday Night Football there were at least two long TDs. Now it may appear that Amari Cooper came back down to earth in week 8, but let’s remember that the Bills defense they faced is currently 4th in fantasy points against by QBs. While the Dolphins are middle of the pack in QB fantasy points against, the QB’s they have faced only includes two names that one would expect to put up crazy points in Rivers and Brees, but even those two haven’t really seen the same this year. This play could be worth a shot if you are looking for a contrarian play.
Jared Goff – $5500 @ Giants
Normally, this wouldn’t even be a consideration, but Janoris Jenkins has been suspended by the team indefinitely. This should significantly impact the ability of the secondary to defend the pass. Looking at DVOA, the Giants are ranked 30th against WR2s and 22nd against tight ends and running backs. I expect Goff to continue spreading the ball around as he has been taking advantage of the various match ups sure to show up in Jenkins absence. Goff is on the road, but Pro Football Reference shows he is actually a better passer when traveling. Goff has 6 TDs/0 INTs on the road, a 63% completion percentage, and a 111.4 passer rating. No one is going to play Goff so this could be another solid contrarian play that saves a few thousand in cap space. I would heavily consider stacking him with Todd Gurley (averaging 5 targets per game) though as he is sure to see a decent amount of targets in addition to his carries. While Goff has only put up one performance of 20+ points, the Giants have yielded four 20+ point performances to QBs.
Fournette is facing a Bengals defense that is pretty good against the run, and Lamar Miller’s steady rise is sure to come to a halt with the Deshaun Watson injury. Adding to that, Bell, Howard, and Gordon are on bye causing us to dig deep for running backs in this week’s daily slate.
Ezekiel Elliot – $9000 @ Chiefs
However, while we all thought Zeke would be suspended, he was given an administrative stay of his suspension this week so we have him for one more week. This means you are surely playing him for the last time during the fantasy regular season. This offensive line is likely to dominate the trenches against the Chiefs. Looking at Football Outsiders Adjusted Line Yards (ALY), the average between what the Dallas o-line is getting and the Kansas City d-line is giving is above four ALY. This could indicate that the o-line will be able to control the game and impose it’s will. The Chiefs have allowed the fifth most rushing yards on the ground through eight games with 861 yards (4.53 per carry).
Todd Gurley – $8100 @ Giants
This may feel pretty chalky, but as mentioned earlier, Gurley is seeing more than five targets per game on average (Giants are 22nd in DVOA against pass catching RBs). This gives him an average of 25 opportunities per game when you add his per game rushing attempt. Some may look at the Giants in fantasy points against and scoff as the Giants are one of the better defenses against the run, but the ALY data weaves a different narrative. The Rams o-line has 4.78 ALY and the Giants defense is allowing 4.34 ALY. Of course this only pans out as a play if the Rams game plan lines up with this sentiment as well.
Mark Ingram – $7400 vs Buccaneers
While this is a chalky play like the previous two, Mark Ingram is the only running back that checks every single box regarding top 5 indicators for running backs. The Saints are a home favorite in a projected high scoring affair, he has been getting 22 carries per game since AP left town along with 5 targets per game in that span, Tampa Bay is 17th against the run in DVOA, and 21st against pass catching backs in DVOA. Add to those markers that Tampa Bay is dead last against the pass, means that New Orleans should be able to keep it really balanced and have more running room for Ingram to impose his will. The Bucs are 10th worst giving up fantasy points to the running back per ESPN, and have given up three 20+ point performances. This is at least a solid cash game play and it has the upside of a great GPP play.
Christian McCaffrey – $6500 vs Falcons
Everyone has been waiting for McCaffrey to become the dominant force in the running game everyone thought he would be after the combine. We see his receiving prowess, but he has not really produced on the ground. It seems the offensive line is to blame given the injuries they have sustained. In this match up there is no reason to worry about that because we know the Falcons have had trouble against pass catching backs this season. McCaffrey is averaging six receptions per game with a ceiling of 10 receptions so far this season. Add to that the target vacancy created by the Kelvin Benjamin trade and we have every reason to believe that McCaffrey will see more targets. This could be an opportunity for him to get something going on the ground with Atlanta being 29th in defending the run per Football Outsiders defensive line metrics.
Demarco Murray – $5400 vs Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens, prior to facing a hapless Dolphins offense last Thursday, have been allowing 145 yards rushing on average. This seems like a solid match up for Demarco Murray who is returning off of a bye week, which should have given his shoulder time to heal. What is interesting about the Titans injury report is that Marcus Mariota isn’t on it, which means he could be back to his running ways thus allowing more room for Murray to work. Being that the Ravens yield the second least points to the WR and QB positions says the Titans should lean heavily on the run to get this “W”. We should be able to lean on him to win a GPP because people seem to have forgotten about DeMarco per FanShare data as he is not even mentioned in the top 10.
This week for wide receivers requires us to dig deep with the byes, the trade deadline aftermath, and injuries. Due to Deshaun Watson’s recent ACL injury, the whole landscape has been turned on its head. Our prayers and thoughts are with him for a speedy and quality recovery. But this means that sure things like Hopkins and Fuller are no longer options, especially with Tom Savage as their QB and their current price. Let’s take a look at some possible performers.
Michael Thomas – $7600 vs Tampa Bay
We are still waiting for Michael Thomas to return to form from the second half of last season, and this could be the game to do it. Tampa Bay, while not as bad as others, has given up 3 performances to receivers over 20 points. Thomas is averaging near 9 targets and 6 receptions per game. Unfortunately, he only has 2 TDs in those 7 games. The challenge for Thomas’ fantasy value is this lack of TDs as he has only been targeted in the red zone 6 times this season. Kind of a head-scratcher for a guy who is 6’3″, but even more head-scratching is that New Orleans has passed more than run in the red zone (40 passes to 31 rush) according to Pro Football Reference. I fully expect positive regression for Thomas, and we should start to see that in this game as Tampa Bay’s is tied for 3rd worst in allowing TDs in the red zone (15 TDs). If Thomas is going to return to last year’s form then this is the game.
Marvin Jones – $5600 @ Packers
The Steelers were a tough match up last week and it seemed that Marvin Jones was determined to have a solid performance (18.8 fantasy points). Now that he is facing a Green Bay defense that is ranked 18th overall in passing DVOA and 18th vs WR2s. Green Bay has given up 20+ points to WRs 3 times and the Detroit has produced a 20+ point receiver 4 times this season. After watching some film of Brees against Green Bay, Brees seemed to attack the middle of the field more than the outside, so we could see Jones and Tate getting fed over the middle. Not saying that Stafford is Brees by any means, but Stafford can move the ball effectively. While either of these receivers could do some damage this weekend, in 1a/1b situations I will take the cheaper player.
Paul Richardson – $4700 / Tyler Lockett – $4600 vs Redskins
Washington’s defense is pretty strong up front and Seattle’s offensive line has been rough all year, but Seattle’s addition of Duane Brown before the trade deadline is sure to stabilize things a little. It seems Washington has more trouble defensively with mobile quarterbacks and we have seen how deadly Wilson is on the run. The Redskins have allowed twice as many TDs (8) on the road compared to home (4) which bodes well for Seattle. Doug Baldwin should draw short straw in this match up and face Josh Norman which is another reason that one of these two should perform well. We know will be throwing as well because they cannot run the ball….. period.
Tight end options are a little sparse this week, but I believe if we dig deep we should be able to find some options beyond Ertz against Denver who has given up two 20+ point performances to TEs this season, or Kelce who has generated three 20+ point performances. If your cap space permits it, you should definitely play them as Denver is 29th and Dallas is 31st in DVOA versus TEs, but let’s look at some other options.
Cameron Brate – $4500 @ Saints
If we look back a few weeks Buffalo Bills who appeared to be a top passing defense at the time having only allowed two passing TDs until Jameis Winston exposed them to the tune of three TDs. Two of those TDs went to O.J. Howard. The Saints have given up three TDs to tight ends so far this year which is great considering that Cameron Brate has four TDs on the season. Additionally, he has been averaging six targets per game which is a solid baseline for tight end opportunities. Consider this: All of Brate’s TDs have been in the red zone and New Orleans has given up five red zone TDs so far this year. Before the last couple of weeks Brate has a TD in 4 games straight, so I am willing to bet that his little drought is over.
Ed Dickson – $3100 vs Falcons
The fantasy points against Atlanta from the TE position indicates that this would be a bad match up, and Ed Dickson hasn’t done a whole lot since that crazy explosion of five receptions for 175 yards in week 5. He has averaged 6 targets per game since then, and Kelvin Benjamin has been shipped out to Buffalo. Benjamin’s targets have to go somewhere and Dickson could benefit. There is a little addition by subtraction here as well as it is possible that Carolina uses Curtis Samuel’s speed to stretch the field, which should open things up in the middle for Dickson. Atlanta has given up at least 2 TDs per game this season, and this game shouldn’t be an exception.
Philadelphia Eagles – $3300 vs Broncos
There are only two things to consider in this no-brainer selection. Denver is playing Brock Osweiler, and while he was serviceable when he was last with Denver, that was a different offense. Philadelphia’s ability to stop the run with the defensive line is number one according to Football Outsiders run blocking stats.
Indianapolis Colts – $2000 @ Texans
This is more of an opportunistic contrarian play. Since prices were set before the Watson injury we get to save at least $1800 in cap space which gives us the opportunity to upgrade elsewhere on our roster. The other side of this is that the Colts are now facing Tom Savage who was benched in favor of Deshaun Watson who was an unproven rookie at the time. This was one of the highest scoring games this weekend, but now I wager it will be a low scoring mess, and I believe in the Brissett side of this equation a little more than the Savage side. Is it worth the risk? Only one way to find out.