Man it would have been very interesting had yesterday’s Chargers-Chiefs game been on the main slate. That’s because Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were all fantastic plays (particularly Keenan Allen, who Rudy’s projections had as the #1 WR on the slate by far), and would have all had significant ownership. You’d be looking at many lineups with a bad performance (Kelce and his 9.2) and a complete dud (the zero from Allen as he got hurt). You’d also be looking at a lot of lineups that picked either Jackson or Damien Williams, but not both, and the difference (27.3 for Williams, 16 for Jackson) would likely put the Jackson lineups drawing very thin, and possibly render them drawing dead if they played Allen and Kelce with that money. Alas, the game was on Thursday, so while it made for great TV, and made for an interesting showdown slate, only those who played the full Thursday-Monday slate care about it’s effects on a full slate. If you did play the Thursday-Monday slate, and you played Keenan Allen (and you did not play Jackson or Williams), I’d highly suggest pivoting your lineup to high-upside non-chalk plays to try to make up the lost ground.
Lamar Jackson, $7,800 – I kind of want to put Lamar in the RB section and see how many people notice. Lamar is a RB playing QB right now. He throws like one too. But we don’t care that he can’t throw, we care that he puts up fantasy points via the ground. In his 4 games as a starter, he’s had rushing lines of 26/119, 11/71, 17/75, 14/67. He’s going to run, giving him a nice floor and his matchup is plum, going up against a Tampa Bay defense that has given up road point totals of 40, 48, 34, 37, 42 and 38 and have allowed over 400 yards in every road game but one (Giants only had 359). Considering how banged up the Tampa Bay defense is, the Ravens should be able to score points and Lamar Jackson’s legs are going to be the primary way they do this. The downside here is pretty easy, he’s going to get hurt one of these games with rushing totals like that since he isn’t Daunte Culpepper size or he’s going to get replaced by Joe Flacco because #AirRaid succeeds and the Ravens get behind and need to throw a lot and Lamar embarasses himself trying to do it.
Ben Roethlisberger, $8,600 – Ben is kind of expensive, but this slate is one the worst i’ve ever seen in terms of cash QB options. The best option is a running QB who if he struggles and the team gets down might actually get replaced by Joe Flacco. Roethlisberger is finally at home again and you know what that means? Throwing, and throwing effectively. The Steelers throw. They throw on first down and if that doesn’t work, they will throw on second down and if that doesn’t work, they will throw on 3rd down. With James Conner out, the Steelers should throw more, and the Steelers at home? These are Ben’s attempts at home: 60, 47, 29, 36, 25, 45. The 29 and 25, the Steelers won by a combined score of 93-38. For those scoring at home, that’s an average win of 27.5 points. Does anyone think that the Steelers are going to win by 27.5 points against the Patriots? Besides the fact that you can’t score half a point, the Pats are a much better team than the Panthers or Falcons and should be able to score on the Shazier-less Steelers D. This is a tad expensive for Ben, but the upside is undeniable.
Tom Brady, $7,900 – The other side of this game is Brady, who’s cheaper than Ben and has a lot of weapons to throw to and if this game does shoot out, Brady is likely going to be the one you want since he’s cheaper and he’ll wind up throwing just as much.
Also viable: The below GPP recommendation of Josh Allen is also cash viable. Jeff Driskel, $6,400 is viable if you want to pay all the way down and is Rudy’s top value play. Dak Prescott $7,300 has been cash viable most weeks with Amari Cooper and he’s indoors this week.
GPP Recommendation – Josh Allen, $7,600. Last week I pointed out that Josh Allen had rushed for more yards in his last two games than Lamar Jackson had, and his rushing upside made him a great play. I also mentioned that unlike Lamar Jackson, Allen’s rushing wasn’t necessarily by design (it’s all been scrambles) and that nothing in his collegiate profile or even the games he played early in the season suggested that this is going to continue. He then proceeded to rush 4 times for 48 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, en route to a 103 yard rushing day. He’s now the only QB in history to rush for 100 yards in back to back games, and he would have had three straight 100-yard rushing games if it were not for the fact that the NFL counts kneel downs as negative rushing yards. If you’re fully accepting that Josh Allen the scrambler/rusher is legit, he’s a cash play, as I alluded to in the also viable section. But if you’re still hesitant on that because it’s entirely ridiculous that someone who is this productive as a scrambling QB managed to go his entire collegiate career without scrambling or running at all, it’s tough to play him in cash because he’s been unfathomably bad as a QB – much worse than Lamar Jackson, for example. He’s been noticeably worse than almost everyone else who has taken snaps this year as a QB. I say almost anyone because Nathan Peterman was actually worse and I’m still not convinced Nathan Peterman wasn’t trying to Andy Kaufman troll the league by seeing how bad one could perform and still be allowed to play. Basically, without the rushing production, he’d be a complete dud as a fantasy player, and thus if you’re still hesitant on the reliability of his rushing prowess, the cash viability is suspect. But he’s still a great GPP play because at some point it’s not a fluke. There’s a good chance we didn’t see this in college entirely because Wyoming took one look at him and said “yup, pocket passer, no scrambling for you”.
Ezekiel Elliott, $8,800 – With CMC and Kamara playing on Monday night and Gurley playing on Sunday night, we’re left with two just high end RBs – Elliot and Saquon. Both are entirely in play as both are monster fantasy players right now. They both combine bellcow RB rushing volume with heavy pass-game usage and are the focal points of their respective offenses. I will be recommending both. But if you are choosing one, I lean Elliot simply because he’s $600 cheaper. He’s been a monster recently – averaging an absurd 26.78 FP in his last five games, and you can’t even accuse someone of using average to obscure some hidden downside/risk – his lowest total in the last five was 22.6. He’s got everything you want from a cash game play. If you prefer Saquon to him, that’s entirely understandable, but make sure you play at least one.
Saquon Barkley, $9,400 – Playing both is entirely reasonable too. He hasn’t been quite as good as Elliot recently from a fantasy perspective, as he’s averaging “merely’ 23.94 FD points in his last five games. However, that (small) difference is mostly volume-driven, as Saquon has been more efficient – whereas Elliot is averaging 4.89 yards per carry over his last five, Saquon is averaging 6.17. That efficiency difference gives Saquon a slightly higher ceiling. Also, Saquon Barkley is unequivocally the best situation-neutral running back in football right now. It’s not particularly close.
Dalvin Cook, $6,200 – When an OC gets fired because he didn’t run enough, you can bet the next week, the main RB is going to get volume. That the Vikings felt John DeFilippo.didn’t run the ball enough is hilariously stupid given that it’s borderline impossible to not run the ball enough, and even if it was possible, it wouldn’t be applicable to the Vikings since their main problem this year has been how bad they are at running the ball in early downs. Warren Sharp has them as the fifth worst team this year at rushing the ball on first down, with the only teams worse being some of the truly broken offenses (Washington, Tennessee, the Jets, and Arizona). They also rate out as the 2nd worst team at rushing on 2nd down. John DeFilippo was actually being smart by limiting the number of times they rushed on early downs, and not just because that’s a good thing in general, even just specific to the Vikings it was a good idea to not rush on early downs because they stunk at it. However, none of that really matters in terms of Dalvin’s DFS viability this week because Dalvin is too cheap and Miami sucks too hard for this not to be an elite play, given that he’s likely to get a lot of volume and in DFS volume is king. Dalvin is also Rudy’s top value play at RB.
Joe Mixon, $7,800 – Mixon is at home vs the Raiders, who are really quite bad at defending the run (27th in DVOA). Mixon can sometimes get game scripted out of a game if the Bengals are behind, but that likely isn’t going to happen here as the Raiders stink right now and he’ll get his usual workload because the game is close. And as last week showed (31 touches), the ceiling for touches is quite high (the last time the Bengals won a game, he had 24). Still not convinced? Mixon is Rudy’s 2nd best value RB on the slate.
Also Viable: Jaylen Samuels, $5,500, David Johnson, $7,400, Tevin Coleman, $6,100 (If Ito Smith is out), Chris Carson, $6,300
GPP Recommendation – Jalen Richard, $4,800 – One GPP tactic is to go in the complete opposite direction of where the chalk will be – in this case, with a lot of ownership concentrated on Zeek, Saquon and Mixon, going super cheap at RB can get you the leverage you need to win. It’s entirely possible Richard duds – while the Raiders are a joke right now, so are the Bengals, and who knows which team will show up or care or try hard and which team will just quit (or tank successfully). But whenever the Raiders do fall behind by a steep margin, they then abandon the run and Carr-to-Richard check downs become one of their bread and butter plays. When he gets 8+ targets, he crushes value. Will he get 8+ targets? I have no idea, but the Bengals are truly horrific at defending against passes to the RB (last in DVOA).
Amari Cooper, $6,600 – Rudy’s top value play of the slate has been been pretty, pretty, pretty good since being traded to the Cowboys. He was averaging 6 catches for 85 yards and 0.6 TDs in the first five games with the Cowboys – production that you’ll happily take for the $6,600 price tag. Then he proceeded to go nuclear last week with a 10-217-3 line. Normally FanDuel would jack a player’s salary up by at least $1,000 after they drop 40+ FD points, but this game happened on Sunday Night, after the salaries for the current slate had been released. Whoops. He’s going to be one of the chalkier plays we’ve seen this season. Be the snail.
Juju Smith-Schuster $7,800 – I’ll reiterate what I said above. The Steelers should throw a lot, and these 2 are the primary beneficiaries. In the Antonio Brown vs Juju Smith-Schuster battle, I lean towards Juju. The argument for Juju is that since week 10, he’s actually leading Brown in target share (25% to 24%) and has been way better at turning targets and air yards into production (1.4 RACR compared to .76 for Brown, this was created by Josh Hermsmeyer). And Juju has gotten 27 targets in the red zone compared to 19 for Brown, and yet even more, Juju has gotten 11 targets inside the 10 compared to 6 for Brown. Rudy likes Juju as a value more than Brown as well. Even if you aren’t convinced, Juju is $800 cheaper, so if you just believe Mike Tomlin flips a coin in his head or something in order to figure out which WR he wants to focus on this week, go with the cheaper one in cash.
Sterling Shepard, $5,200 – Odell is out, and the Giants need to throw to someone who isn’t Saquon at some point and Sterling is really cheap. The downside is the Titans are actually pretty solid at the whole defense thing and with no Odell to take attention away from Shepard, he will be keyed on.Another downside is that the next WR on the depth chart is Russell Shepard, which makes sweating Sterling kind of annoying if you see something like “R. Shepard TD” and forget that Sterling does not begin with an R.
Also Viable: Julian Edelman, $7,200, Taylor Gabriel, $5,100, Dede Westbrook, $5,500
GPP Recommendation – Antonio Brown, $8,600 – Since I said I lean towards Juju in cash, I’ll put Brown here. All the evidence in the world that Juju is now a better WR than Brown doesn’t matter with Mike Tomlin coaching. They do what they want. And maybe they’ll decide to throw to Brown a lot. What’s clear is that they won’t throw to both – Brown and Juju have an extreme negative correlation in their fantasy production (it’s -0.57). Don’t stack both of them with Ben. Or do stack both of them, because everyone else will read this article and not stack the two of them, so your decision to live dangerously and buck the negative correlation will give you immense leverage. It’s a GPP. You’re trying to be in the 99.99th percentile.
Eric Ebron, $6,500 – Ebron and the Colts are back at home where they actually score points and point scoring is good for Ebron since he’s the primary red zone pass catcher on the Colts with 21 red zone targets (this is because Andrew Luck throws to Tight Ends in the red zone, and pretty much every other TE for the Colts is hurt). In the last 5 weeks he also has a nice 17% target share and if Hilton is out, Ebron should see all the targets he can handle. Ebron has some rushing equity as the Colts love to have him lose 9 yards and then fumble. It’s a core part of their offense.
Also Viable: George Kittle, $7,400, Jared Cook, $6,300, Evan Engram, $5,200, CJ Uzomah, $5,000, Vance McDonald, $5,500
GPP Recommendation – Any random cheap TE with the possibility of getting a touchdown. Seriously. Just throw a dart out there. The two I’ll recommend are Levine Toilolo, $4,000 and Luke Wilson, $4,200 – the blocking and receiving TEs for the Lions (Toilolo plays more snaps than Wilson, but again, Toilolo, at 6’8’’ 268 behemoth, is mostly there for his run-blocking. With Bruce Ellington now out for the Lions, the WR depth chart for the lions is down to Golloday, T.J. Jones, and two players whose names are so generic they belong in video games as created players (Andy Powell and Brandon Powell). Maybe instead of throwing to the video game created players, they’ll throw to one of their TEs. And if that’s for a touchdown, well then, more power to your GPP lineup.
Atlanta Falcons, $4,000 – Atlanta is at home and Arizona has a -38.8% offensive DVOA. Seems like a good spot to me because you just want the other team to throw a ton and since Arizona’s offense is not likely to be able to score any points and Atlanta is, Arizona is going to be down and trying to come back, which means they will be throwing, which leads to sacks, interceptions and defensive TDs if you’re super lucky and defense in fantasy football is stupid since i’m recommending one of the worst defenses in the league despite being one of the most expensive plays on the slate and it’s entirely justifiable.
Chicago Bears, $3,700 – Bears are at home and the Packers offense hasn’t been clicking on any cylinders this year unless your name is Davante Adams, who’s awesome. This is too cheap for the Bears defense, who are moving into one of the best defenses in the last 30 years discussion. Also, if you’re hesitant to play a defense against Aaron Rodgers, just know that you shouldn’t be, he’s peak Eli Manning at this point in his career and that doesn’t scare anyone.
Dallas Cowboys, $3,400 – This week’s “cheapest defense that isn’t either nauseatingly bad or in a nauseatingly bad matchup” is the Cowboys. The Colts are certainly a respectable offense, but the Cowboys defense has been very good recently and at this price, you’re just hoping the DFS “gods” randomly throw the Cowboys a TAINT or a few sacks, and if not, you’ll take the 2-point result and get out with the money you saved by not running an expensive defense. In case I haven’t made it clear (and I have), defense in fantasy football is stupid.
Also Viable – Minnesota Vikings, $3,900, Buffalo Bills, $4,200
GPP Recommendation – Any defense. It’s defense, every single one of them is in play since every single team can randomly have an off day. But if you want a specific recommendation, fine, Detroit Lions, $4,200. Why? Because, as noted in the Josh Allen section, Josh Allen is terrible at throwing the ball, which is generally something a good NFL QB needs to be able to do. It would defy virtually everything we know about football and statistical analysis and regression for Allen to be able to continue rushing at this sort of success rate as a QB. Eventually it will stop. And when it does, we’ll be left with the single worst QB in the league right now, trying to throw the ball. That will be bad. It may not be this week, which is why I wouldn’t touch the Lions in cash, but hey, as a GPP dart, why not.
Random Other GPP Thoughts
I will include this section every week as long as these two are healthy – if you’re a multi-entry GPP guy, always include multiple Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. Except they played yesterday. So don’t do that.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!