Two weeks in and we have a little more data to look at. Once is an anomaly, twice is a trend, or something like that. It’s still important to not put too much weight into most statistics so far, but we do have a clearer picture of how teams are utilizing their players. We also have more information about how our opponents are playing, and which players they may be giving up on too early. Those players present opportunities to buy low on players everyone loved pre-season.
As always, I’ll start with a review of last week, followed by top stacks, top plays, and roster construction.
The key to not having a terrible day on FanDuel was having more lineups with Derrick Henry than the field, as you obviously needed his 44.7 fantasy points if you wanted to win anything. Unfortunately, most of my Henry lineups were held down by underperformers. Going heavy on the expensive running backs, all of whom came were relatively unpopular, made me feel fine going heavy on the Chargers-Cowboys game, which was a huge disappointment. Playing almost four times as much Josh Allen as the field also sank a lot of lineups when he posted another underwhelming game, and while I had plenty of Kyler Murray he was mostly tied to DeAndre Hopkins who disappeared after the first quarter. I think playing as much of the Chargers game as I did was probably a mistake, as that game was extremely popular even on a slate where there were plenty of games with exciting game environments, but other than that I feel fine with the choices I made and don’t think the process needs correcting yet. The FanDuel bankroll drops to $56.25, but we’re nowhere near low enough to start worrying yet.
Draftkings went a little worse, as the lineup I entered was missing both Henry and Cooper Kupp. Kupp was a little too popular for my taste in a single entry contest, especially with all the other receivers in great spots, but when he drops almost 40 fantasy points and is on 20% of the lineups in the tournament it becomes almost impossible to cash without him. Combine that with a disappointing performance from the Allen to Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders stack, as well as a 1.8 point performance from Tyler Higbee, and you have the recipe for a lineup that just never had a chance. The mini-stack of Austin Ekeler and CeeDee Lamb didn’t go crazy, but both plays were fine. Najee Harris salvaged his day with a late touchdown, but it wasn’t enough. If two of those rushing touchdowns the Bills score go to Allen or the passing game, or if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t get hurt and crater the Miami offense, maybe things look different. But that didn’t happen, so the Draftkings bankroll drops to $54 and we’re on to next week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, team total of 28.75, and the Los Angeles Rams, team total of 26.75
You probably don’t need me to tell you this game figures to be one of the best ones to stack this week, but this game rates out so much better than the rest of the slate that I think it’s still worth highlighting. Starting with the Tampa Bay side, Antonio Brown is out which concentrates the targets even further to Mike Evans ($6300 on Draftkings/$7100 on FanDuel) and Chris Godwin ($6100/$7300). It also probably means Rob Gronkowski ($5500/$6500) continues to stay heavily involved in the offense and is one of the stronger tight end options available. Evans stands out on FanDuel where touchdowns matter more thanks to the half-PPR format, while Godwin is the cheaper of the two on Draftkings and projects to pile up more receptions. With all of his weapons projecting well we can go back to Tom Brady ($6800/$7800), who despite offering no rushing upside should have no issue paying off his salary. Scotty Miller ($3100/$4800) is a good value as the presumed fill-in for Brown, but I probably wouldn’t play him outside of lineups that are stacking this game.
For Los Angeles, we have a similar setup. Matthew Stafford ($6400/$7600) has his two main receivers in Cooper Kupp ($6800/$7900) and Robert Woods ($5700/$6100). Kupp will be the more popular of the two thanks to his fast start to the season, but Woods stands out as a cheaper and less popular pivot. Kupp’s ridiculous 38% target share just isn’t sustainable over a whole season, and Woods is still at least the clear number two receiver in this offense. The Rams haven’t been forced to pass very much – Stafford ranks just 23rd in pass attempts – but that should change this week. Tampa Bay has one of the best run defenses in the league as well as an offense that will likely force the Rams to play aggressively to keep up. Further, with Darrell Henderson ($5900/$6300) banged up it seems pretty likely that the Rams will look to pass more than they have so far. There should be more than enough to go around for Kupp, Woods, and the tertiary options. Tyler Higbee ($4000/$5500) played 100% of the snaps last week and wasn’t staying in to pass block, which is really all you can ask for out of a tight end in his price range. Van Jefferson ($3400/$4900) stands out as a value option with a high upside thanks to aDOT of 20.2, but he’ll be popular and has seen only three targets in each of the first two games.
Buffalo Bills, team total of 26.5
They have burned me the first two weeks, but I’m going right back to stacking the Bills offense. Josh Allen ($7000/$8000) had a rushing touchdown overturned last week by a matter of inches. In a game in which his team won 35-0 and his running backs scored three touchdowns, Allen still threw the ball 33 times and rushed it another five times. The volume is there, the red zone work is there, and the talent is there. The results will follow, and while his salary continues to fall I want to buy in every week until he pays off. Some may be scared off by the dangerous pass rush of Washington and point to Allen’s struggles so far this season with pressure, but Washington’s defense was just lit up by Daniel Jones so it’s tough to put much stock into their defense, especially when Allen has proven to be talented enough to overcome challenging matchups.
Both teams in this game play at a pretty fast situation-neutral pace and more plays mean more chances for fantasy points. Stefon Diggs ($7600/$7700) was slowed last week by shadow coverage from the Dolphins’s secondary, but he still earned eight targets and scored a touchdown. Washington’s secondary looks extremely beatable and doesn’t have a corner talented enough to lock up Diggs. He rates highly in metrics such as target share and percentage of his team’s air yards, and his volume of high-value targets ranks third behind only Kupp and Mike Williams among receivers. Cole Beasley ($4800/$5400) and Emmanuel Sanders ($4200/$5200) both look fine, but this is setting up as one of those weeks where Diggs just dominates and doesn’t leave much room for his teammates to produce.
For a bring-back, Terry McLaurin ($6900/$7200) has gotten pretty expensive, but it’s hard to argue with his salary after how well he’s played. McLaurin has earned a 28% target share to start the season, and a lot of those targets are on quick passes that are easy to complete which helps offer some safety in what should be a tough matchup against the Bills defense and Tre’Davious White. Antonio Gibson ($5900/$6100) is coming off a 10-day rest to heal up some of his nagging injuries and was heavily involved in Week 1. This may be the last time to buy low on him if he’s going to see 20 or more opportunities a game, and even after ceding a lot of the receiving work to J.D. McKissic last week Gibson still boasts an 11% target share.
New York Giants, team total of 25.25
Atlanta’s defense has been brutal to start the season so I’m going to target them until they give me a reason not to. Daniel Jones ($5800/$7400) is always an adventure, but this week he looks like a fun adventure. Jones has three career games with at least four passing touchdowns and has rushed for a touchdown in both games to start this season. A cheap, dual-threat quarterback facing a weak defense will always be appealing, but Jones is especially interesting as a stack candidate this week because he’s focused a lot of his targets on just two receivers.
Sterling Shepard ($5900/$6400) and Kenny Golladay ($5600/$5600) have earned target shares of 28% and 21% respectively, and are both very affordable this week. Golladay has had a slow start to the season, but he’s getting valuable targets down the field and should improve as the season goes on and his chemistry with Jones increases. There’s also some narrative here, as Golladay was seen shouting as his offensive coordinator last week. As a high-profile free agent receiver who doesn’t seem happy it would make sense for the Giants to make an effort to get Golladay some easy catches early in this one. Shepard is a little more expensive, but he’s been Jones’ go-to receiver and has looked great.
Saquon Barkley ($6500/$6000) stands out as one of the best running back plays on the slate, and he has shown enough pass-catching ability that I’d be comfortable running him and Jones together. Barkley is coming off a long week, was on the field a lot last week even if he wasn’t necessarily getting the ball, and is the type of big-play running back that can break the game open any time he touches the ball.
The Falcons’ offense goes through Calvin Ridley ($7000/$8100) and Kyle Pitts ($4900/$6200). Both have good peripheral stats but things just haven’t clicked for this offense to start the season. Assuming the Falcons don’t come out with a game plan to feature their awful rushing attack, Ridley and Pitts should have plenty of chances against a beatable Giants defense.
Patrick Mahomes ($8200/$8700) and Kyler Murray ($8300/$9000) deserve consideration every week despite their high salaries. Mahomes gets a matchup against the Chargers that features a high total, while Murray gets a date with the pathetic Jaguars’ defense that has made Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater ($5800/$7300) look like MVP candidates. Speaking of Bridgewater, he gets a fun matchup with the Jets and the Denver coaching staff has shown a willingness to let him push the ball down the field even when the team is winning comfortably, as they should be this week. Lamar Jackson ($7800/$8400) is the RB1 and starting QB for the Ravens and should shine in both roles against a weak Detroit defense that has lost two starting corners and a starting linebacker already.
Justin Fields ($5200/$6500) ran the ball 10 times to just 13 pass attempts, which makes him a little difficult to stack with. He should have had a long touchdown to Allen Robinson ($6200/$7000) but for a Robinson drop, but the real value in Fields comes from his cheap salary and that rushing upside. Derek Carr ($5900/$7200) is garnering no popularity despite carving up two of the better defenses to start the year. Miami isn’t an easy matchup, but if Carr is going to throw 40 times a game I’m not sure his matchup really matters.
Alvin Kamara ($8200/$8000) has had a nightmare fantasy start, but both games for the Saints have been pretty weird. They got out to a huge lead against a Packers team that couldn’t do anything on offense and then fell behind the Panthers and only managed six first downs the whole game. The Saints have to know they need to feature Kamara to have any type of working offense, and assuming he gets the touches we expect Kamara is just too cheap this week. Derrick Henry ($8600/$9700) figures to be very popular after his monster performance last week, which makes Jonathan Taylor ($6700/$7000) a great pivot option. Taylor’s getting all the goal-line work, has an 11% target share, and should be featured this week with Carson Wentz banged up. David Montgomery ($6100/$6900) should benefit from the wider rushing lanes that playing with a mobile quarterback offers, and dominated the snaps last week after splitting Week 1 with Damien Williams.
D’Andre Swift ($5800/$7400) stands out on Draftkings both because his game is very PPR friendly and because he looks completely mispriced. Swift’s 17% target share should keep him productive even when Detroit falls behind in this game, and his matchup with the Ravens is a promising one as the Ravens have struggled to tackle in space dating back to last season. Javonte Williams ($4900/$5800) looks great and is going to take over this backfield eventually. I want to be there when it happens, even if it means taking on the risk of being early. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($4800/$6500) might not be any good, but his salary on Draftkings is simply too low for the starting running back in the Chiefs’ offense. He’s a home favorite this week who should get some work in the passing game. Draftkings is tempting us to play him by pricing him so low, and I’m willing to bite.
A.J. Brown ($6500/$6800) has struggled with drops, but that’s usually something that takes care of itself. He’s still a scary athlete, even by NFL standards, and is still being utilized by the Titans as their number one receiver with a 21% target share. Better days are ahead for him, and a matchup with the Colts seems like a great get-right spot after they’ve been torched in back-to-back weeks by Cooper Kupp and Tyler Lockett. Likewise, Justin Jefferson ($7200/$7400) has gotten off to a slow start but retains his strong peripheral stats. He’s due for some positive regression, and the Seahawks’ defense should concern no one. Chase Claypool ($5800/$5800) should benefit from Diontae Johnson sitting out this game with an injury as Johnson leaves behind a 31% target share. Claypool is a big play waiting to happen, and while his quarterback’s arm strength is a major concern the Steelers will find ways to get Claypool involved. Tee Higgins seems likely to sit this week as well, which frees up 27% of the targets in Cincinnati. A lot of that will funnel to Ja’Marr Chase ($5400/$5900) and Tyler Boyd ($4700/$5600), and both project well against a banged-up Steelers defense. Mike Williams ($6400/$6000) is being utilized a lot more on short and intermediate routes, which has led to a 26% target share to go along with the upside he presents as a big-bodied wide receiver that can make plays down the field and around the goal line.
K.J Osborn ($3500/$5100) remains too cheap for his role as the third option in the Minnesota passing attack with a healthy 19% target share. Quintez Cephus ($3900/$5300) is similarly too cheap for his role and matches up with a Baltimore secondary that is dealing with several injuries. Elijah Moore ($3800/$5100) is getting the targets downfield, he just hasn’t been able to convert that into fantasy points yet. His quarterback’s struggles are well-documented, but Moore is a big play waiting to happen and comes at a cheap salary with almost no popularity.
Darren Waller ($7400/$7400) may not be the most expensive tight end on the slate, but he projects to be the best. His ridiculous 29% target share has led him to have almost double the number of air yards as the next closest tight end, and Waller is seeing a lot of high-value targets that should lead to touchdowns as the season goes on. T.J. Hockenson ($5200/$6300) has a similar, albeit less prolific, role in his offense but his salary hasn’t quite caught up to his production yet. David Njoku ($3500/$5000) continues to be utilized as a down-field threat and could be in line for more targets now that Jarvis Landry has hit injured reserve. Njoku ranks third among tight ends in air yards and is tied for the team lead with a 17% target share.
The Bengals DST ($2100/$3400) has shown some ability to generate pressure and should see plenty of chances to get after the quarterback against a Steelers team that passes a ton. The Titans DST ($2400/$4500) get a banged up Carson Wentz, who even at his healthiest loves to turn the ball over and take sacks. The Rams DST ($3500/$3900) and Buccaneers DST ($3700/$4000) are expensive and won’t be popular as they’re in the game with the highest total, but it’s important to remember that defenses score fantasy points by playing against passing plays. Both teams in this game will be passing a ton, and both defenses have no shortage of playmakers. Paying up for either defense is risky, but it’s a good way to differentiate your lineup from the rest of the field.
There are a lot of good, expensive stacks this week which leads me to want to play a cheaper stack. Doing that means that I should be able to get to a different roster construction than most other lineups as most lineups will be constrained by paying up at quarterback. Stacking Daniel Jones with Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay doesn’t feel great, as playing Daniel Jones never has for me, but for a combined salary of $17,300 and the upside of capturing a lot of the New York passing attack is too tempting to pass up in this spot. I also want a mini-stack from the Baltimore game since I am higher on that game’s chance to be high scoring than the field seems to be. Mark Andrews has had a slow start, but he’s still getting the targets and has a very exploitable matchup. D’Andre Swift is game script proof, has a favorable matchup, and is extremely affordable. Since I’m using Andrews as my tight end that leaves Calvin Ridley as my bring back from the Falcons, leaving the RB, Flex, and DST spots to be filled. I will definitely play a cheap defense, likely either the Bengals DST or the Titans DST, and from there, there are plenty of options for the two remaining spots. At RB, Alvin Kamara really stands out but playing him in this lineup forces me into an awkward salary range for my flex. Antonio Gibson is promising, but his role might not be secure if the Football Team falls behind by multiple scores. Austin Ekeler seems like a cheaper version of Kamara that gets to play in a better offense, and the salary savings he offers in this lineup let me access a higher tier of receivers in my flex. Michael Pittman, Ja’Marr Chase, Christian Kirk, and D.J. Chark stand out to varying degrees and will all be in consideration for that final spot.
One stand I want to take in multi-entry this week is having more Alvin Kamara than the field, which right now looks like it means having him in at least 30% of my lineups. From there, I want to be overweight on some of the top quarterbacks that look like they’re going to be less popular than they should be due to their price. Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Kyler Murray look like obvious plays, but so far the field doesn’t seem to agree. Lastly, Stefon Diggs and D.K. Metcalf both continue to pop in all of the models I look at, so it looks like for the third straight week I’ll have significantly more of them in my lineups than the field.
My top five plays at each position right now, by how much exposure I have to them:
QB: Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert
RB: Alvin Kamara, Antonio Gibson, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, Austin Ekeler
WR: D.K. Metcalf, Mike Williams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson
TE: Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson, Kyle Pitts, Mark Andrews
DST: Falcons, Browns, Broncos, Jets, Chiefs
Good luck this week!
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire