Well, the first 3 weeks have just flown by and we’re almost done with Alvin Kamara as the solo RB on a team that throws 44 times a game, along with Michael Thomas ridiculous more TDs than incompletions. And even though you may think you know exactly what’s going to happen, projections like the ones here at Razzball will do a few things. First, they give you that base you need to make sure you’re not doing anything wildly stupid. Secondly, they give you options and other play ideas. You’ll notice that a sometimes I say that Rudy’s projections love a guy, and i’m not sure why but we go with it anyway. It’s because the projections take into account way more variables than our human brains can. The other thing that we’ve seen from the first 3 weeks, and it meshes with my philosophy – #NeverRun #AirRaid.

On to the picks…

QB

Matt Ryan, $8,100 – Ryan checks off the Vegas boxes of home favorite and high total. The Falcons have an average offensive line according to Football Outsiders offensive line stats, but the Bengals defensive line is below average, giving Ryan the time to throw. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s injury-plagued defense has been a debacle so far, ranking 30th, so the Bengals should be able to put up points on the Falcons forcing the Falcons to not go with a run heavy script. Rudy’s got him #2 in the projections, exactly 0.1 points behind Tom Brady, but $500 cheaper. Of course, the Falcons are known for screwing things up and having a poor game plan, which is the only reason I’d be hesitant on Ryan.

Deshaun Watson, $7,600 – When Will Fuller is in the lineup, all Watson does is generate fantasy points. He averages 316.6 yards, 3.2 TDs and 1.2 INTs with 5.4 rushes and 40.2 yards good for 28.28 FanDuel points. Whether it’s home or road, it doesn’t matter, all he does is put up points. Indy’s defense has been average this year, but on a talent level, they are below average

Blake Bortles, $6,700 – I’ll be honest – I’m not that confident in this play, but I do feel it should be mentioned. Rudy’s model has Blake Bortles as the #1 value for QBs on FanDuel. So while I may disagree with it, Rudy’s projections have a very strong track record and have been quite good, so something like this must be noted and considered.

Also viable: Ryan Fitzpatrick, $7,400, Drew Brees, $8,700, Philip Rivers, $7,800

GPP Recommendation – Eli Manning, $7,100 – The Saints have one of the league’s best offenses, and seem to be able to score every time they have the ball as long as their WRs don’t fumble (see Week 2). As I will discuss later in the article, the consequence of that is that teams playing against them end up throwing just as much, and the Saints pass defense is quite bad (they also have the best rush defense in the league). This leads to one of two results – either they pass deep early and often, and the game turns into a shootout, or they dink and dunk for 5 yards a a time and sustain clock-killing 10+ play drives that destroy overall fantasy value (because fantasy is a volume game). The possibility of the former result is why he’s a good GPP play, the possibility of the latter result is why he’s not a cash play. Eli’s also GPP-only because of the possibility that the Saints offense turns into a pumpkin once they’re not in a dome, as they were the first three weeks, and the possibility that Eli and the Giants simply manage to out-incompetent the Saints defense, and yes, I used incompetent as a verb there).

RB

Melvin Gordon, $8,700 – This is a complete smash spot for Gordon. Jimmy G got hurt last week, drastically reducing the 49ers offensive efficiency, meaning this should be an exceedingly positive game script for the Chargers. And their penchant for doing stupid things on 1st down (namely running the ball) will help Melvin Gordon put up those sexy DFS points. The 49ers defense is 25th in DVOA and have allowed the most receptions to RB (12.6). They do a good job not allowing yards (61) relative to the catches, but given that amount of opportunity it only takes one time for Gordon to move from good day to auto cash.

Alvin Kamara, $9,100 – The Saints offense is Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. They and Drew Brees are so good that it works, even with their garbage defense (only ranked 29th in DVOA). Kamara has a ridiculous 29% market share, which leads all RBs. The Giants give up 9.1 catches per game to the RB and only 28.7 yards per game, but have faced the Jaguars, the Cowboys and the Texans. Those 3 teams don’t exactly use their RB in the passing game, or in the case of the Cowboys, only use their RB in the passing game on 3rd down, which is bonkers bad. Because of game script (see below) he may not get the 31 touches he got vs Atlanta and we should consider the Cleveland game his floor (13 for 46 on the ground and 6 for 53 in the air), which is still very solid. I’ll make a note that Kamara has the highest projection in DFS Bot overall by 2.9, which is the highest differential i’ve seen.

Gio Bernard, $6,400 – Everyone knows that the Falcons scheme is to allow RBs to catch the ball and then tackle them, not allowing too many yards. But they have lost Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and that scheme is not working – the RBs are getting lots of yards to go alongside the high amount of volume. The last 2 weeks saw Christian McCaffrey catch 14 of 15 balls for 102 yards and Alvin Kamara caught 15 of 20 balls for 124 yards (and half a yard short of a TD). Gio has some pass catching skills and with Joe Mixon out, he will get plenty of running volume to go alongside the massive workload as a receiver. That volume at both rushing and receiving for $6,400 makes him an elite play and probably renders him the lockiest must-play of the slate

Also Viable – Ezekiel Elliott, $8,200 and Saquon Barkley, $8,000

GPP Play – Sony Michel, $5,900 and James White, $6,100 – With Rex Burkhead now on IR, the Patriots backfield is essentially these two and only these two (I’m not expecting just-signed Kenjon Barner to be anything other than Special Teams help). It’s also likely to be a fairly defined split where Michel gets the carries and White gets the bulk of the receptions. However, the Patriots have shown a willingness to throw 50 times or run 50 times in a game based on Bill Belichek’s mad genius game plan for that game, so unless the game gets lopsided in one direction or the other, neither is particularly cash safe. However, both get decent volume, and combined with the possibility of a lopsided score that gives either of them significant volume, and TD-equity, all for a very attractive price makes them great GPP plays. The fact that Rudy’s projections currently have them as the 7th and 9th best RBs further attest to their potential. The only other sub-$7,000 Running Back with a top-10 projection in Rudy’s model is the aforementioned best-play-borderline-lock Giovani Bernard. Pair one of these two with Gio and spend whatever you want creating a QB/WR/WR/opposing-WR game stack of a game you think turns into a shootout, or just spend on three high end WRs. Either is entirely viable as a GPP lineup.

WR

Odell Beckham, $8,600 – This is going to go one of two ways, either the Giants run up the score with a few quick scores via Odell and Saquon and the game is a massive shootout, or the Giants dink and dunk the middle of the field and this game goes well under since it’s a slooooooooow game where each drive for both teams take half a quarter. The slow way, Odell and Michael Thomas should get enough volume to be solid, but if the Giants get a few scores, look out, the scores here could get massive and that under has no shot. The Giants offense is condensed to Odell and Saquon with a little bit of Shepard, which is very good when we expect them to be unable to run the ball since their oline is beyond atrocious at run blocking (31st in run blocking) and the Saints so far have been the best rush defense in the league. Given the volume, Odell is pretty safe with the ceiling of the highest scoring player over a period of 3 weeks because he’s the best WR in the league, don’t @ me.

Michael Thomas, $9,000 – See above for the Giants/Saints game pace. Either way, Thomas is incredibly safe as well because the Saints offense is also condensed to Kamara and Thomas with a little bit of Ginn and Watson. The Saints are average at running the ball, which we know they will do more often than they should because Payton likes to run the ball with really bad players, but the volume that Thomas has received so far cannot be ignored and there’s no one on the Giants who can cover Thomas, giving him a very good floor and a ceiling that is a little bit lower than Odell because he’s not as good at breaking 75 yard slants.

Allen Robinson, $6,500 – Chicago has a lot of things going for them, but Tampa Bay being well below average at getting pressure at the QB is perhaps the best. There should be a clean pocket for Trubisky to throw the ball on Tampa Bay. The things that Tampa Bay has going for it on defense are they have NFL players on the team. They are 29th in DVOA and 27th in passing. They routinely get torched and their #AirRaid offense is high scoring, forcing the other teams to actually have to continue to score points. Robinson is getting 26% of the targets on Chicago with 320 air yards, good for 14th in the league.

Jarvis Landry, $7,000 – Already one of the league’s highest target-monsters (he leads the NFL in target share with 34%), he turned 10 Baker Mayfield targets into 7 receptions for 91 yards in a little more than one half of play (in fairness, the “little more” was the 2-minute drill to end the first half). While I’m as big of a Tyrod Taylor fan as any, there’s no debating that the Browns passing attack was infinitely better with Mayfield at the helm. Mayfield now leads the Browns into Oakland where we’ll get four quarters of Mayfield against the 31st ranked defense in DVOA (including 31st against the pass). It’s an incredibly juicy spot for a target monster like Landry, and he’s priced no different than what he was priced when Tyrod was under center. The value here is too good.

Antonio Callaway, $4,500 – Callaway’s firmly ensconced as Cleveland’s #2 WR with Gordon out of the picture. He got 10 targets last game (5 from Mayfield), which is even more impressive given the presence of Landry. The price here is simply absurd given the volume he should get combined with the fact that he’s facing the same pathetic Raiders defense that I referenced in the Landry section. There’s inherent risk in any Browns player because Hue Jackson is hilariously bad (even for an NFL coach), and the Browns may get up big and let Hyde run 30 times….hahahahahahahahaha, I’m just kidding, but they may get up by a score or two since Jon Gruden is on the other side, and with Hue coaching even a 7 point lead could be enough to go into “run, run, run, punt” clock killing mode the entire 2nd half. However, at $4,500, the risk is worth it and a dud wouldn’t even kill your cash lineup. Rudy’s projections are favorable to both Landry and Callaway, having both as the second best play in their price range (T.Y. Hilton and Taywan Taylor are higher) but I’ll throw caution to the wind and take the massively bold statement of disagreeing with the model here and putting Callaway ahead of Taylor and Landry ahead of Hilton.

Also Viable: Sterling Shepard, $6,200

GPP Recommendation – Corey Davis, $5,400 – Davis is a DFS Bot favorite (highest projection amongst WRs under $6,000) and with good reason. Working in Davis’ favor is Rishard Matthews is no longer with the team, so Davis and Taylor are the #1 and #2 WRs right now. The Eagles last year and this year have been gashed by #1 WRs and Davis already leads the team in air yards (206) and market share (30%) and that’s with Matthews playing. This year #1 WRs have brutally destroyed the Eagles to the tune of 11.7 catches and 117.7 yards per game, while last year was 10.1 and 71. Their defense is good enough and the Titans QB can’t feel his hand, so you don’t really want to go here in cash, but for GPPs, it’s a solid play just in case Mariotta peppers Davis with targets.

TE

Jared Cook, $5,400 – TE Flow Chart: Are you playing vs Cleveland? Yes. Okay, then you’re in play. Are you more than just a blocking TE? Yes. Okay, you’re cash viable.

Zach Ertz, $7,000 – Carson Wentz came back last week and peppered Ertz with 10 targets. That kind of volume for a TE is very nice. The Titans have played the Dolphins, Texans and Jaguars, not exactly a murderers row of TEs. I would expect Ertz to be one of the top TEs on the slate, and DFS Bot has him projected as the 2nd highest.

Eric Ebron, $5,500 – Chalk Eric Ebron failed spectacularly last week, and left a bitter taste in a lot of DFS players (myself included). That said, basing fantasy decisions on prior weeks frustrations is a good way to lose all your monies. Doyle has been ruled out again, and with Doyle out, Ebron once again is in a smash spot. He got 11 targets last week (only caught 5 of them, which is a comically low rate for a TE). The 11 targets were the most for any TE last week. He got 4 red zone targets (didn’t catch any of them). Andrew Luck’s arm is nowhere near 100% and the Colts have basically adopted the Chad Pennington in Miami offense (5.2 adot). Ebron’s going to get volume. Look, I get that he failed spectacularly last week, but unless you think he’s such a bad player that catching only 5 of 11 targets and going 0-4 in your red zone targets is routine for him (it’s not), he’s absolutely one of the best TEs to play this week.

Also viable: David Njoku, $5,200, Austin Hooper, $5,000

GPP Viable, Eric Ebron, $5,500 – If for some reason you simply can’t play Ebron in cash because of last week’s flop, at least give yourself some GPP exposure.

Defense

Los Angeles Chargers, $4,400 – Defense in fantasy is stupid, but here we go with the QB injuries. San Francisco lost Jimmy G to a torn ACL, which means CJ Beathard is now the starter. The 49ers only scored 17+ points per game last year with CJ Beathard under center. San Francisco is likely to run more than you would like from a defense you pick, but Chargers should be up big, so you will see Beathard pass a bunch late and take some risks, which is good for the Chargers defense.

Green Bay Packers, $4,300 – Defense in fantasy is stupid, and I know that the Bills just managed to shock the entire world last week and legitimately destroy the Vikings, but that game was aided in large part by some early personal foul penalties and then two strip-sacks deep in Minnesota territory. The Bills still stink. The Packers do not. I fully expect the Packers to jump out to a big lead and then Josh Allen will have to throw to catch up and that’s when you get the INTs and sacks you’re looking for.

Cleveland Browns, $3,500 – I have a very hard time recommending a Gregg Williams defense (he of the “let’s play the free safety somewhere in the next zip code” Angel formation), but the Raiders are really bad, and Larry Ogunjobi has been an Warren Sapp level of defensive monster for both the pass rush and for run stuffing. The Browns going across country to play a 4 pm game on the West Coast makes them less appealing than the other defenses, but you also save some money in the process. Sometimes, saving money at defense is more important as ultimately defense as a position in fantasy ends up just being borderline random variance (as evidence I submit last week, when two of the three chalky defenses, the Vikings and Cowboys, put up 0 and 2 points, respectively). That inherent randomness is a big part of why defense in fantasy is stupid.

Also Viable: Jacksonville Jaguars, $5,200, Seattle Seahawks, $4,400 Indianapolis Colts, $3,600

Random Other GPP Thoughts

Normally this is the part of the article where I include the following section on Tyreek and Mahomes. But they’re playing on Monday Night, and thus off the main slates. However, if you are playing the Sunday-Monday slates on either site, then please make sure to read this paragraph. 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 lineups. There is always a significant chance they’re the high scores of the slate, regardless of matchup.

Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!