NFL DFS Picks
Another week, another NFL game moved due to COVID-19, as we lost the Bills-Titans game from the main slate yesterday with the NFL’s rescheduling of that matchup to Tuesday night. As I noted last week, being on top of the news is of paramount importance this season in DFS, and with positive cases confirmed not only in Tennessee, but also New England, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Kansas City, the 2020 season requires more than just keeping an eye on the Sunday morning injury report, it means having a plan for an unanticipated macro-level shift hours before kickoff. We haven’t seen it happen yet but were we to get news Sunday morning that a player had tested positive, all signs point to the NFL pulling the plug on that game. For most of us, that would mean significantly retooling our player on the fly and it’s one of the reasons you’re seeing me cover several options each week.
Every week this article breaks down a handful of players at each position to consider for your FanDuel and DraftKings cash and tournament lineups. While some of the plays may be on the safer side, you’ll also find some high risk-high reward options if you want to swing for the fences. Remember, even in tournaments there’s often no need to get super-weird and roster a lineup full of contrarian plays. Instead, look to build a strong core with upside and then identify a player or two that you think most of the field will be off and has a chance to have a big day.
Patrick Mahomes (Cash or GPP): Much as we expected, it’s been an even more chaotic first four weeks of the season than usual. The Chiefs are rolling and when the wins are easy, Mahomes’ floor seems to set in at 20 FanDuel points. If the Raiders can keep it competitive or sell out to stop the running game then there’s plenty of running room-see the 40 FanDuel points he hung on the Ravens. Divisional games, particularly in the AFC West, have always been hotly contested, and New Orleans in Week 2 is the only team the Raiders have held under 30 points this season. Mahomes is about as safe as they come and with plenty of upside this week, but to be honest, that’s just about every week with him.
Matt Ryan (GPPs): Carolina isn’t going to shut down the Falcons offense in Atlanta, and the only real thing to fear with Matt Ryan is that the Falcons jump out to a sizeable lead and give Todd Gurley a bunch of work. Even if that happens, I don’t expect it to slow down the Atlanta passing attack. Once you’ve watched your defense surrender a couple of multi-touchdown leads in the fourth quarter, it’s pretty logical to assume that at no point this season will Atlanta take their foot off the gas. They’ve tried it and the defense is simply so bad that they have no choice but to keep trying to score. Carolina’s defense has looked much improved in recent weeks, but I’m not quite sold. Note: Check the status of the Falcons wide receivers, as the absence of one or more of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, or Russell Gage, makes Ryan a significantly less attractive play, as you’ll want the bulk of his 35+ passing attempts going their way.
Daniel Jones (GPPs): The Giants are a bad football team and haven’t found much in the way of answers for the absences of Saquan Barkley and Sterling Shepard. That said, they face a Dallas team that has allowed 126 points and 1300 yards of total offense in just the last three games. I wouldn’t role him out with “confidence,” but due to the injuries and a lack of talent, the offensive production is likely to be highly concentrated, starting with Jones. The Giants also enter Sunday with a Vegas-implied team total of just over 22 points, which is a touchdown more than the G-men have scored in any game this season.
Others to Consider
Dak Prescott (GPPs): If you’re buying Daniel Jones as an option, then Prescott also needs to be on the radar as an alternative tournament play. He’s thrown for over 450 yards and accounted for at least three touchdowns in each of the last three games, mostly because the Dallas defense can’t stop anyone. The Giants offense has been pretty bad on the whole, but the Cowboys defense may be worse.
Deshaun Watson (Cash or GPPs): I was high on Watson last week and he rewarded us with good, but not great production-300 passing yards and a couple of scores, but with two fumbles. Jacksonville comes to town having given up 33, 31, and 33 points in their last three games respectively. Last week rookie quarterback Joe Burrow passed for 300 yards against the Jags defense, and this is a unit that has struggled to put pressure on the quarterback, recording just four sacks through the first four games. This is significant because Watson has been sacked a league-leading 16 times through the first month of the season. Second, on that list is Burrow at 15. Oh, and we can’t forget that Bill O’Brien is no longer calling the shots in Houston, which can only help the Texans offense.
Kyle Allen- (Cash Punt or GPPs): Allen should be an upgrade to the Washington offense, but this is still a unit short on talent and he’s mostly a price play. He posted six games with over 15 FanDuel points last season and in four of those, he went over 20 FanDuel points. He gives you the ability to jam a ton of high prices guys into your lineup and if he can flirt with that 15-20 range you could be in business.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Cash or GPPs): While he’s seen more than 66% of the running back snaps for Kansas City, he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 1. That should change this week with the Chiefs hosting a Las Vegas Raiders team that has allowed the eighth-most rushing yards per game (138.3), the fifth-most rushing yards per carry (5.0), and the most touchdowns on the ground (8). All of this is good for a league-high 34.15 FanDuel points per game allowed to running backs. A little of the shine is off CEH after his big Week 1, but he goes off here.
Kareem Hunt (GPPs): I’m not buying the D’Ernest Johnson hype for a second, as last week feels like exactly the kind of situation that would lead to an outlier performance like the one we saw. Part of the reason both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were splitting work in the Cleveland backfield is that they are Nickl Chubb and Kareem Hunt, two of the NFL’s best running backs. The injury to Chubb doesn’t mean everyone jumps up a peg and assumes the same workload. Instead, it means Kareem Hunt has bell-cow potential for as long as Chubb is out. It’s important to remember that Hunt came into last week nursing a groin injury and that after Chubb went down, ensuring he emerged relatively healthy from a game the Browns controlled for most of three quarters became of the utmost importance.
If we look at the way last week played out, Johnson got his first carry after a Dallas turnover in the second quarter, just two plays after Kareem Hunt does the bulk of the work to put the Browns up 21-14. He manages to rip off an impressive 28-yard run, but the next two carries go to Dontrell Hilliard and then to Hunt for the touchdown. Johnson got four more carries, all on the series leading into halftime, and then we don’t see him again until the midway through the third quarter when he logs a single first down carry, and then another late in the third with the Browns ahead 38-14. If we take the third quarter as a snapshot, Johnson was out-touched by both Kareem Hunt (7) AND Dontrell Hilliard (3) and then received nearly half (6) of his thirteen carries in the fourth quarter, which Cleveland entered with a 41-14 lead. All of this suggests a very defined role as a clock killer with the game’s outcome no longer in doubt. That’s not what I want in a game where the Browns are 1.5 point underdogs and facing an Indianapolis defense that is surrendering just 3.6 yards per carry and just 77 rushing yards per game. Part of the attractiveness of Hunt in season-long leagues was always that he became a top ten, and potentially top five back if Chubb were to miss time. Well, we’re there. The matchup isn’t great, but Hunt is super-talented and he almost certainly threatens 20 touches or more this week and I can’t imagine a scenario where if he’s healthy, he doesn’t see 75% or more of the running back touches.
Mike Davis (Cash or GPPs): Reggie Bonnafon’s dozen touches against Arizona last week was enough to make us a little nervous about the future workload for Mike Davis. Then Bonnafon landed on IR on Monday and now all that’s left behind Davis is Trenton Cannon and recently signed Pete Guerriero. Carolina is still without Christian McCaffrey and heads to Atlanta in a game that features a Vegas-implied total of 54 points (second-highest on the slate). Queue up 20+ touches for Davis in a fantastic matchup.
Others to Consider
Josh Jacobs (GPPs): Arrowhead isn’t quite so daunting without a crowd, and while improved, the Kansas City defense is relatively average and outside of Baltimore, has benefitted quite a bit from matchups. Jacobs is getting fed in this offense, averaging just under 25 touches per game, and faces a Chiefs team that just gave up 166 yards on 32 carries to an anemic New England offense. They’re also allowing 5.3 yards per carry on the season, which is the second-worst mark in the league.
James Robinsons (Cash or GPPs): Robinson didn’t find the end zone last week, but Sunday marked the third straight game he’s totaled more than 100 yards from scrimmage on 17 or more touches. Six weeks ago folks barely even knew who he was and now four games into the season oddsmakers have him as a top-five contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Texans have also been a bottom-five defense at the running back position, allowing 31.05 FanDuel points per game to the position, including 146 total yards and a pair of scores to Dalvin Cook last week.
Todd Gurley (GPPs): Gurley’s usage on Monday night, particularly in the red zone, is encouraging, but he’s still almost completely absent in the passing game and that’s a problem if you’re a running back in Atlanta. The matchup against Carolina (32.12 FanDuel points per game) is a great one, but he’s hard to trust outside of tournaments as long as Brian Hill and Ito Smith are soaking up the running back targets in the Atlanta passing game.
Amari Cooper (Cash or GPPs): In a vacuum, Cooper’s target share is impressive, but the Cowboys have had to throw so much that most of the Dallas pass-catchers have inflated receiving numbers. That said, Cooper’s numbers stand out. Through four weeks he’s averaging over nine receptions and more than 100 receiving yards per game, and it’s really just the lack of touchdowns that is keeping his overall production and therefore his price in check. Still, he’s second to Dalton Schultz in red-zone targets so regression seems inevitable. The Giants are bad enough that he could post a huge game here as Prescott’s first option, but the floor for Cooper also seems relatively safe.
Terry McLaurin (Cash or GPPs): Check back because McLaurin is currently battling a hamstring injury, but his current price tag is simply too cheap. McLaurin is a very good NFL wide receiver who has been saddled with some terrible quarterback play as Washington tried to justify its first-round selection of Dwayne Haskins. But the move to Kyle Allen should only serve to help his 2020 outlook since if there’s one thing we learned about Allen in Carolina last season, it’s that he can support a top tier receiver and running back, and isn’t shy about leaning heavily on his those options. The matchup with the Rams isn’t great, but the game script will be positive for him and Allen should start to do for McLaurin what he did for D.J. Moore last season.
Robby Anderson (Cash or GPPs): Anderson has at least 8 targets and 99 receiving yards in three of Carolina’s four games, and clearly has developed a connection with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Even more eye-opening is that he is second on the team in red-zone targets with six. That’s five more than D.J. Moore and double Curtis Samuel’s three, while Mike Davis leads the team with seven. As odd as it sounds, Anderson is making a serious case that he, not Moore, is the WR1 in Carolina. Facing a porous Falcons team that is allowing over 30 FanDuel points per game to wide receivers he’s a fantastic play that likely goes under-owned this week.
Brandin Cooks (GPPs): Cooks posted a bagel last week which makes him nearly impossible to feel good about. But even though it was Bill O’Brien that made the move to acquire him, one has to assume the Texans figure out how to better integrate him into the offense going forward. This game should shootout, and it’s hard to envision Cooks continuing to see so few targets as Houston tries to turn things around.
Olamide Zaccheus (GPPs): If Julio Jones and/or Russell Gage sit and we wind up seeing more of Zaccheus then he’s pretty interesting at this price tag. He’s not a guy that will take the top off a defense, but he can be dangerous in space and you saw him utilized as such on Monday night. We don’t often get sub-$5k wide receivers with this much upside on FanDuel, and his 15 targets, albeit mostly with Jones sidelined, over the last two games suggest both the coaching staff and Matt Ryan have confidence in him.
Others to Consider
D.J. Chark (Cash or GPPs): After seeing nine targets last week, Chark looks good to go and over his chest injury. He’s the top wideout in this offense and his 8-95-2 stat line was nice to see. Now we get a game with a healthy 54 point Vegas-projected total where the Jags are a seven-point underdog.
Darius Slayton and Golden Tate (GPPs): Similar to the Daniel Jones take above, this is a bet that the Giants can cobble something together on offense against an awful Dallas Cowboys defensive unit. Slayton is one of my favorite plays on the slate, but I’ve viewed him similarly in recent weeks and the results have been mediocre so far. I like using both Slayton and Tate as a bit of salary relief in tournament lineups.
Darren Waller (Cash or GPPs): The Raiders opted to roll this season with a relatively inexperienced wide receiver group that is now banged up and looks like it could once again be without one or both of Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards. Waller was already the number one option, but being so thin at the receiver forces Derek Carr to look his way even more often. After four weeks Waller is on track for 160 targets and will be the focal point of a Raiders passing attack trying to keep pace with Kansas City’s high-powered offense. This game has the slate’s highest Vegas-projected total and Waller should see double-digit targets.
Note: Jonnu Smith was the sub-$6,000 cash game option here and there’s no one else I love in this range. At this point, I think you either pay up or take a stab at a sub-$5k guy in cash.
Others to Consider
Travis Kelce (Cash or GPPs): It feels like a pay-up week at tight end, particularly in cash games, and Kelce is the cream of the crop. He should have his way with a Raiders defense that has been getting crushed by the ground game, which has made the numbers look better than they are against opposing passing attacks. We know Andy Reid doesn’t play that way and Mahomes is going to get his. Kelce, who has historically shredded the Raiders (29-427-3 over their last four meetings), and is my favorite pass-catcher here.
Evan Engram (GPPs): The production has been awful so far from a tight end many thought would easily finish in the top ten in fantasy scoring if he stayed healthy. That said, Engram finally saw double-digit targets last week and you either believe in chasing the Dallas matchup with a bad Giants offense or you don’t.
Ian Thomas (Cash Punt or GPPs): More of a dart throw based on matchup than anything else. Thomas has not been an integral part of the offense with the arrival of Robby Anderson this offseason and Mike Davis soaking up massive usage in the short passing game with Christian McCaffrey out. That said, Atlanta is surrendering a league-worst 22.52 FanDuel points per game and this game has the second-highest Vegas-projected total on the slate.
Baltimore Ravens (Cash or GPPs): If you have money to pay up at defense this week then the Ravens hosting rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals is probably the way to go. Burrow has been impressive so far, but the Baltimore defense he’s about to face is on a whole other level and is going to throw a lot at him. It’s a far cry from the Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville, and he’ll see quite a bit of pressure behind an ugly Bengals offensive line.
Dallas Cowboys (GPPs): Even if you think the Giants can stay in this game, Daniel Jones is going to make mistakes. After all, he’s turned the ball over at least twice in every game this season. He’s also been sacked 14 times already (third-most), all of which suggests there is pretty significant upside here for a defense that has largely been a disaster.
Good luck this week!