Articles by Mark Stopa

A listing of all the articles written by Mark Stopa for the RotoWire Blog.

Run-N-Shoot: Week 7 Thoughts for DraftKings

Every NFL week is odd in its own way.  As we enter Week 7, the weirdness comes via an incredible amount of injuries.  It seems like half the league is questionable, and not in a Belichick sort of way, either – lots of key players are legitimately questionable to play just 24 hours before lineups lock for Sunday kickoff.

As game time approaches, here’s how I see things as I contemplate Week 7 lineups on DraftKings.

Injuries = Narrower passing trees.  Golden Tate exploded in Week 6 to the tune of 8-165-1, exceeding his total yardage and touchdowns from the prior five games combined.  Old man Boldin got in on the act as well, posting 8-60-1 on 9 targets at just $3,900.  In retrospect, it’s easy to see why this happened:  Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick were both inactive, leaving Matthew Stafford few options in the passing game.

So who are this week’s version of Tate and Boldin, i.e. guys who will get more usage because of injuries around them?  That’s the question I’ll be asking myself until 1pm Sunday.

If LeSean McCoy is inactive, Mike Gillislee is a borderline must play in cash at minimum salary.  He’s a virtual lock for 15(+) touches on the NFL’s best rushing offense.

Jamaal Charles was severely out-snapped by Spencer Ware last week and tweaked his knee in practice.  Even if Charles plays, Ware has a great home matchup against the Saints 30th-ranked rush DVOA, but it’s a truly fantastic spot if Charles is inactive.

Ebron and Riddick are out again, and I’d think Josh Norman will shadow Marvin Jones (who is overpriced at $7,000 anyway), so Tate ($4,900) and Boldin ($4,000) are both sold options.  Boldin is the antithesis of sexy, but he’s a nice pivot off of Tate with the public chasing last week’s points.

The Lions D is last in DVOA, so with the public’s attention on SD/Atl and KC/NO, a Wash/Det stack may be sneaky.  Jordan Reed is out again, but Vernon Davis ran a route on all 35 of Kirk Cousins‘ passes last week.  At just $2,900 and facing a Lions D that has given up nearly a TD per game to opposing tight ends over the past two years, Vernon is playable in cash and GPPs.  So is Pierre Garcon at $3,700, especially if Desean Jackson doesn’t play.  But my favorite play from this game might be Matt Jones at just $4,200.  Jones won’t do much in the passing game, but 18 carries behind a terrific offensive line against a terrible Lions defense is going to yield 20(+) DK points.  Even with all the value at RB this week – Gillislee, DeMarco, Quizz, Ware – I see Jones as an option in cash.

SD-ATL has the highest O/U of the week at 53, so we know points are coming.  But from where?  Julio Jones always has the potential to explode, but I’m nervous about rostering him for $9,200 given his targets per game – 8, 5, 7, 15, 6, 9 – that’s far less than other top wideouts.  Plus, there’s a real possibility Atlanta runs all over the Chargers (21st ranked rush DVOA).  That makes Devonta Freeman is GPP viable at $5,900, particularly in a week where most folks will go stars and scrubs; mid-range guys are a way to differentiate.

Travis Benjamin is questionable, and if he’s out, the Chargers are down to Tyrell Williams, Dontrell Inman, and Griff Whalen at receiver.  Yuck.  In that scenario, look for stud corner Desmond Trufant to take Williams out of the game (something he’s done to every WR1 he’s faced this year), pushing lots of targets to talented rookie Hunter Henry, just $3,600, as the Chargers run lots of 2-TE sets.  Williams is only $4,400, but I actually like him more if Benjamin plays.  Consider Inman a GPP flyer at $3,300 if Benjamin sits.

Gillislee will be highly owned, so if you want to fade him in GPPs, Charles Clay at $3,000 is a nice pivot.  Robert Woods seems unlikely to play and Sammy Watkins is dead (sigh), so somebody has to catch balls for Buffalo.  Plus, Rex Ryan helped Clay go off in his first matchup against his old Dolphins team a couple of years ago; unlike most coaches, the #RevengeGameNarrative seems to matter to matter to Rex.

I like the setup for A.J. Green at $8,600 and Andy Dalton at $6,000.  Cleveland has been torched by opposing quarterbacks all year, and I’ve regularly profited by picking on them in DFS.  That said, I have two hesitations about stacking them in cash: (1) Tyler Eifert may return, and even if it’s on a limited basis, chances are those touches will come in the red zone; (2) this feels like the game Jeremy Hill – a viable GPP play in his own right at just $4,000 – might finally break out.

Joe Flacco wins the lottery this week, getting to face the Jets dumpster-fire of a pass defense.  But he missed two practices with a sore shoulder, and Steve Smith seems likely to sit.  Mike Wallace is a bit pricey at $5,800 but has 30 targets the past three weeks (yes, as many as Julio) and will be low owned as the public avoids the mid-range WRs.  Breshad Perriman is unpolished but will score from deep eventually; this week is as likely as any (think Sammie Coates versus Jets).  I’ll have exposure to Perriman at $3,500.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was finally taken out to pasture, but do we really trust Geno Smith to get the ball to Brandon Marshall?  I do, actually, particularly if Jimmy Smith is inactive.  Remember, it was only after Smith got hurt last week that Odell Beckham, Jr. went off.  Marshall is expensive at $7,600 but will be low owned, and I expect Geno to lock onto him all game.

The Tampa/SF game confounds me.  Jacquizz Rodgers at $4,300 will be massively owned, as will Mike Evans at $7,800.  Plus there’s Cameron Brate at $2,900, Adam Humphries at minimum salary, and Jameis Winston at $5,900.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Are the Bucs good enough to justify all of these DFS options, particularly on the road, heading out west, against a 49ers D that plays much better at home (think Week 1 shutout vs Rams)?  I’ll have less exposure to Rodgers than the public will.

Gerald McCoy is one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles; his expected return from injury pushes me off whatever poo-poo platter the Niners intend to throw out at running back.  It also makes me think a Colin KaepernickTorrey Smith stack is GPP viable, but Smith is, like the rest of the league, questionable.  Can Quinton Patton finally justify some of his preseason hype at just $3,000?  He did see 7 targets last week in Kaep’s return to the lineup, and Tampa is 22nd in pass DVOA.  It’s too bad Kaepernick has drawn so much attention to himself from the national anthem stuff, as that alone will drive up his ownership.

All this talk and no Oak/Jax?  There are lots of great options at WR in cash (Julio, Green, and Evans are the chalk), but I’m trying to fit Allen Robinson into my lineups.  The Raiders are 28th in pass DVOA and 26th against #1 WRs, so this should be A-Rob’s long-awaited breakout.  With the public hopping aboard the Amari Cooper train again, it may be time to go back to Michael Crabtree for $1,300 less, particularly with talented rookie Jalen Ramsey covering Cooper.  I’ve heard some Marquis Lee talk this week at just $3,200, and he has averaged 6.5 targets the past 4 games.  But if I’m taking a flyer in Jax, give me Chris Ivory for $3,400; I can see him posting a 2-TD game against the Raiders, who are just 29th in rush DVOA.

Quick Hitters:

The Colts defense is atrocious.  DeMarco Murray is a plug and play in cash at $7,200.  I’m actually glad he struggled last week; maybe that will scare off some folks.

With Terrelle Pryor questionable, I’m generally fading Cleveland.  If you insist on a full game stack, add Gary Barnidge at $3,200 to your Dalton/Green stack.

Everyone is ignoring Vikings/Eagles, and I understand why.  But Jerrick McKinnon is talented enough to be part of a winning GPP formula at just $4,300, and I have yet to hear his name mentioned by anyone in the industry this week.

Andrew Luck leads the NFL in sacks taken, and the Titans are among the league leaders in sacks.  Hello, Titans D/ST, at home, for just $2,500.

Will New England need to keep the foot on the gas against Landry Jones?  Nobody is talking about LeGarrette Blount, but this could easily be a Blount/Pats D kind of week.  Even if it’s not, the Pats passing tree is so broad – Gronk, Edelman, Hogan, White, Bennett – that it’s hard to justify playing any of them in cash given all the value elsewhere.

Follow me on Twitter, @MarkStopa, where I’ll be eagerly awaiting more injury info before 1pm on Sunday.

Run-N-Shoot: DraftKings Pricing, Week 6

Last week was one of the most fun Sundays I’ve ever had in fantasy sports.  I won again in cash, bringing me to 4-1 on the year.  But the true exhilaration was a third-place finish in a big GPP and having 9 lineups exceed 200 points in the Milly Maker on DraftKings.   (The million dollar lineup usually has about 245 points, so if you exceed 200, you’re in contention).

So, this week, I decided to mix in some GPP thoughts with my usual thoughts on cash games.  Without further ado:

Week 6 Suggestions on DraftKings (in rough order of how much I like them):

LeVeon Bell, $7,900:   LeVeon has hit value in cash games (3x salary) both games he’s played since returning from suspension despite failing to spike.  Given Ben Roethlisberger’s pronounced home/road splits in recent years and this week’s matchup in Miami, this looks like a prime spot for Bell’s touchdown variance to normalize.  I’m expecting a breakout week for Bell – think 30(+) DK points – and that we never see Bell’s salary below $8,000 again this year.

Tavon Austin, $3,900:  I rarely roster Austin in DFS, and I’ve never done so in cash.  But that’s going to change this week.  Austin has 45 targets in 5 games – that’s 9 per game for you non-math gurus – plus 9 more touches out of the backfield.  As much as I dislike Austin’s game, that’s incredible usage for a player who costs just $3,900 (compared to his Week 1 salary, $5,000).  If that doesn’t convince you, the Lions only good corner, Darius Slay, is likely to shadow Kenny Britt, and Detroit’s pass defense is 32nd in DVOA per FO even with Slay.

John Brown, $4,500:  The Jets have been crushed on the deep ball all year, which is precisely Brown’s specialty.  It’s a shame Brown isn’t on the Sunday slate, as he’s one of my favorite plays of the we – so much so that I’ll play some Monday games just to roster him.

Rob Gronkowski, $6,700:  Here’s the beauty of Gronk this week:  (1) his price hasn’t adjusted to him being healthy (long-time players know that his price in years past was typically around $8,000); and (2) for GPPs, many owners will chase Martellus Bennett’s points from last week, leaving Gronk’s ownership low.  I’m not certain I’ll play Gronk in cash, as Jimmy Graham, Gary Barnidge and others have solid arguments, but I’ll definitely have Yo Soy Fiesta in some GPP lineups.

Gio Bernard, $4,600:  The Bengals are the epitome of the running back timeshare in today’s NFL:  they have one guy, Jeremy Hill, who dominates touches if they’re winning, but a different guy, Gio, if they’re losing.  Many weeks, this is frustrating because it forces fantasy owners to predict game flow.  This week, though, Cincy is a TD-plus underdog in New England, so the game flow sets up perfectly for Gio.  Plus, Hill is nicked up, so Bernard may have seen more usage than normal anyway.  In a similar set-up in Week 2, Bernard went 9-100-1 through the air, with much of that damage coming in the fourth quarter of the Bengals loss.

James White, $4,100:  Predicting where the touchdowns will go in New England is going to be a weekly headache.  But at this price, White can give you the 12 DK points you need in cash simply by showing up:  4-5 catches, 50 yards, with a few rushes mixed in.  And if White happens to hit paydirt, at this price, he’ll be part of the formula for a winning GPP.

Cam Meredith, $4,100:  I generally don’t like rostering players whose salaries increased significantly after a huge game the previous week (what many in the industry call “chasing points”), and Meredith’s $1,100 increase after 9-130-1 on 12 targets certainly qualifies.  But Meredith is still just $4,100 and faces an unimposing Jaguars defense whose stud rookie corner is likely to spend most of his time covering Alshon Jeffery.  I’m fine with Cam in both cash and GPPs this week.

Cam Newton, $8,100:  Is it blasphemy to refer to anyone as “Cam” besides Newton?  On a week where Newton is headed into the Superdome, probably.  Barring a setback with his concussion, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Newton doesn’t post 25(+) DK points against the Saints.  GPP players might even benefit from others shying away given the injury concerns.

Jarvis Landry, $6,800:  Like Tavon Austin, Landry is a guy whose skill set I can’t stand; I drafted 91 MFLs and didn’t choose Landry once.  But the setup this week is juicy:  at home, as a TD-plus underdog, in what should, in theory, be a bounce-back spot for the whole Miami offense after a dreadful Week 5.  Landry had 10(+) targets each game entering Week 5, and it’s not hard to envision him starting another such streak as Ryan Tannehill checks it down the whole second half while playing from behind.

LeSean McCoy, $6,900:  McCoy is the centerpiece of the Watkins-less offense in Buffalo, and that bodes well in a game the Bills are a TD-plus favorite against a West Coast team.  McCoy often gets replaced at the goal line, but his three-down usage makes him a solid bet for the 20(+) points we need in cash games.

Jeremy Maclin, $6,300:  The Raiders are at or near the bottom of the NFL in most defensive categories, especially against the pass.  Maclin has yet to have a breakout game in 2016, but I like his chances this week.  Jeremy is probably too expensive for cash (his Week 1 salary was $6,500, and I’d have preferred his price come down more given the modest production so far), but I’ll definitely have him mixed into some GPPs.  If I can hold my nose long enough, I may even pair him with Alex Smith.

Dak Prescott, $5,900:  The Packers defense is fantastic against the run but subpar against the pass.  If you’re not paying up for Cam at QB, then Dak at just $5,900 in a spot where he might have to throw more than normal looks appealing.

Tyler Lockett, $3,600:  Lockett is not someone I’ll play in cash, as he’s coming off an injury and hasn’t been producing.  But Lockett’s boom-or-bust skill set bodes well for GPPs, especially with the Falcons leaky salary on tap and Lockett’s salary all the way down to $3,600.  (He was $5,000 in Week 1.)

Lamar Miller, $6,600:  Miller has zero touchdowns through five games and McCoy has a great matchup for just $300 more.  But the Colts defense is dreadful, and after Miller got just 8 carries last week in a bad loss, I can see Houston doing what they did in Week 1, giving Miller 28 carries and taking pressure off the struggling Brock Osweiler.    If that’s how Week 6 unfolds, it’s not hard to see Miller going 28-125-2, making him a viable GPP play.

Gregg Olsen, $7,000:  It feels weird to have Olsen cost more than a healthy Rob Gronkowski, so much so that it probably pushes me off of Olsen in cash.  But a GPP stack with Cam, Olsen, and some combination of the Saints pass-catchers is certainly a viable play.

Fades:

Todd Gurley, $6,700:  Gurley has managed to average 16 DK points the last two weeks despite an atrocious Rams offensive line on the strength of 8 receptions.  But that was with third down back Benny Cunningham inactive.  With Cunningham expected to play in Week 6, Gurley is likely to revert to his form from Weeks 1-3, when he totaled just 3 catches.  I’m off Gurley this week in all formats.

Ben Roethlisberger, $7,500 and Antonio Brown, $10,000:  In seasonal leagues, you have to play these guys.  In DFS, though, the very reasons I like LeVeon are why I don’t like Ben and Brown this week.

Martellus Bennett, $4,500:  I own Bennett in a ton of seasonal leagues and dozens of MFLs.  But with the public chasing points after his 3-TD explosion, Bennett’s ownership will be higher than I’d like in GPPs, and there are safer options in cash.  I could eat these words, but I see this as a Gronk week.

As always, I’ll share more thoughts on Twitter as Sunday gets closer.  @MarkStopa

Run-N-Shoot: Week 3 Recap of DK Cash Games, Week 4 Preview

Most of America missed it, after an hour-plus weather delay in Tampa, but the end of the Bucs game was the worst end-game coaching we will see in 2016.  Here was the situation:  down 37-32 with 49 seconds left and two timeouts, the Bucs completed a 12 yard dumpoff to Charles Sims.  He was tackled in bounds at the Rams 15, making it a first down with about 37 seconds left.

The strategy there is obvious (particularly since Tampa had an hour to prepare for it).  Call timeout and you have the ball at the Rams 15 with 35 or so seconds left, 1st and 10, and a timeout still in your pocket.

Yet what does Tampa do? 

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Run-N-Shoot: Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Preview of Cash Games on DraftKings

Playing cash games in DFS is a lot like playing blackjack.  I can accept losing here and there if I’m making the right plays. After all, everyone loses sometimes after doubling down on 11 against a 6. The difference with blackjack, of course, is there’s a “book,” so when I lose, I can feel better by telling myself I made the “right” play. In DFS cash games, there is no book … so how do I know when I made the right play and the result was just unlucky (like losing a double down against a 6), or if I lost because I stayed on 15 against a king? Practice. Experience. Being willing to study my thought processes, and the results, and learn.

I lost in Week 2 in cash games on DraftKings, so maybe that’s why I’m talking about the process. But in all honesty, just like blackjack, I’m comfortable, for the most part, with the plays I made.

What do you think? Am I rationalizing? Here’s how I constructed my cash lineup on DraftKings in Week 2, after which I’ll take an early look at Week 3.

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Run-N-Shoot: Cash Games on DraftKings

Having shared fantasy football advice on Rotowire for several years now, experience tells me my best work comes from writing about the topics about which I feel most passionate.   This year, that passion compels me to treat my weekly column, Run-N-Shoot, as a brief recap of some random observations from NFL Sundays, followed by insights on my own, cash games experiences on DraftKings.  My hope is that sharing my DFS experiences publicly, win or lose, will help me become a better DFS player and, hopefully, help you a bit in the process.  So, without further ado …

Random Sunday Thoughts:

Week 1 can’t make a season, but it can lose it.  I’m looking at you, San Diego.  Coughing up a 24-3 lead was tough enough for Chargers fans to swallow, but losing Keenan Allen for the year is worse.  Give Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, and Danny Woodhead a bump in fantasy, knock Philip Rivers down a notch, and plan on seeing San Diego draft in the top 10 in April.  Melvin Gordon owners might think he deserves a similar bump, but before celebrating the 2-TD day too much, they should pause and realize Woodhead out-snapped Gordon 50-23 despite a game flow that favored Gordon.

I bet the “under” on the Ravens season win total, am a zealous Bills fan, and invested heavily in Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins in fantasy.  Suffice it to say a 13-7 Ravens win wasn’t ideal.  After the Bills had zero downfield throws (literally, zero), several stupid penalties in key situations, and using his timeouts on the wrong side of the two minute warning, Rex Ryan has worn out his welcome.  It’s time to go.  Watkins, meanwhile, is experiencing pain in his surgically repaired foot.  Gulp.  At least there’s DFS.

NFL head coaches almost always err on the side of being too conservative, so I hate having to criticize Jack Del Rio.  But I can’t help but think going for 2 makes more sense in that spot with less time on the clock.  With 45 seconds left, the Raiders had just one chance to win (converting the 2) but two chances to lose (not converting, or by converting but the Saints scoring on the ensuing drive).

Andrew Luck is going to be fantasy’s top QB, unless you count the combined stats of the QBs who get to face the Colts each week.

The Ravens are a fantasy wasteland.  Nobody is very good and they share touches at all positions.  Pass.

DraftKings:  Cash Games Lineups:

Here’s how I constructed my cash games lineup on DraftKings this week.  The point here isn’t to brag, as I’m going to post this even on weeks I lose.  The point is to share the thought process – both so you can read it, and I can force myself to engage in it, sharpening my own skills.

Spencer Ware, $4,200: 35.9 points. The moment it became clear Jamaal Charles wasn’t going to suit up, Ware, a 3-down back playing at home as a 7-point favorite, became a must play.  56% of owners started Ware in the big 50/50 contest on DK, and if you were one of the 44% who didn’t, you overthought this one.  Fading Ware in a big tournament was defensible, but inexpensive, chalk plays are always the right answer in cash.

Donte Moncrief, $6,000:  18.4 points.  Moncrief, for me, looked to be underpriced by at least $1,000 in this format.  Once Vontae Davis got hurt and Indy was fielding a CFL-quality defense, it became obvious a shootout was coming in Indy.

Jared Cook, $2,900:  1.7 points.  With Rob Gronkowski hurt and Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen not playing on Sunday, the tight end field was pretty thin in Week 1.  I knew Cook’s floor was low, and cash games are more about floor than ceiling. But I liked Cook’s upside in his first game with Aaron Rodgers, and his low price let me spend at other positions.  In retrospect, I should have gone with Dwayne Allen, but with two Colts already, I feared going too heavy on one team in cash.  (Team stacks great in tournaments, but not in cash.)

Andrew Luck, $8,300:  38.5 points.  This was the key to my week.  Much of the field chose a minimum-priced Dak Prescott, but I was set on fading Dak.  A rookie QB making his first start had too much potential for a 0-TD game, especially with a great offensive line and stud running back ensuring a cowardly head coach could employ a conservative game plan.  Luck was obviously much more expensive, but with Indy’s defense looking so atrocious on paper and my ability to save at other positions (Ware, Cook), I thought Luck was worth the cost when 300 yards and 3 TDs seemed likely.  I contemplated Brock Osweiler at $6,300 at home against a bad Bears secondary, but I hadn’t seen enough from Brock to justify him in cash games yet.  When in doubt in cash, go with what you know, and this week, that was Luck (and Indy’s bad defense).

Marvin Jones, $4,600:  12.5 points.  54% of the field was on Jones in cash, and rightfully so.  The Colts defense is terrible, and Jones was too cheap for this spot.  I would have preferred to see Jones play in a Detroit uniform before going to him in cash, and with Eric Ebron healthy, I feared the Lions would spread the ball around, but this price was just too low to fade Jones.

Cardinals D/ST, $3,500:  6 points.  In cash games, I’m looking for one of two things with my fantasy defense:  a big favorite playing at home, or a super-cheap option with a solid matchup.  Seattle was in my cash lineup until Saturday, but when Rob Gronkowski and most of the Patriots starting offensive line didn’t travel to Arizona, I went with the Cardinals and saved $400.  For those who say the Vikings were the right play, I disagree.  Yes, it worked out that way in hindsight.  But if you choose road defenses whose team has a bad quarterback and is merely a slight favorite to win for your fantasy D in cash games, then you’re going to lose more often than not.

With this much of my lineup set, I needed a RB, a WR, and a flex and had $20K to spend.  The options were plentiful.  I contemplated Christine Michael once he was named the starter, but passed, despite his $3,700 price tag, because I feared he’d be splitting carries with Thomas Rawls and wouldn’t be used in the passing game, giving him a very low floor in this PPR format.  Remember, cash is more about floor than ceiling.  Ryan Mathews at $5,700 merited consideration against a bad Browns defense, but with Philly starting a rookie quarterback and a new coaching staff in place (making it unclear how Mathews would be used), I passed.  Eric Decker was an option at $6,600, especially when industry folks noted he’d be matched up against the Bengals backup slot DB.  Plus, Decker was very consistent in 2015 – a big plus in cash.  But Cincy’s D struck me as too strong to go with Decker at $6,600.

Latavius Murray, $5,600:  14.2 points.  Oak/NO had an over/under above 50, and I had nobody from that game in my cash lineup.  If Oak/NO went off, and I had nobody from that game, I might be in trouble, especially since so much of the field would be on players from both teams.  I don’t like Murray – I have zero shares in seasonal – but against the awful Saints defense, he seemed like a sure bet to earn 3x his cost (the typical goal in cash).  Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram all merited consideration, but each was about $1,000 more expensive, and since I didn’t love any of the three, I went with Murray, saved the grand, and got some exposure to Oak/NO.

David Johnson, $7,500:  23.2 points.  This is where it got tough.  I liked A.J. Green, as he’s the only decent target in Cincy, but he was nearly a grand more expensive than DJ and had to deal with Revis.  (In retrospect, Revis is no longer one to avoid, at least not for WRs with deep speed.)  I loved DeAndre Hopkins against the Bears secondary, but feared he’d no longer be a target monster with Will Fuller in town, and $8,800 was prohibitive.  I thought about Fuller at $3,700, especially since I hated the concept of missing out on all the Texans options, but a rookie WR in Week 1 in cash isn’t smart.  So I went with Johnson in a game where I was confident Arizona would get ahead and give him 25 touches.  Plus, this price point let me play Sammy Watkins.

Sammy Watkins, $6,900:  8.3 points. My Watkins love is well-documented, but was I being a homer here, going with Watkins in cash on the road?  He seemed to be healthy entering Week 1, and he was a beast the latter part of 2015, so I convinced myself this was OK.  A significant mistake, obviously, and I’m glad it didn’t cost me.  The low O/U from this game should have been the hint; the right play was to go with Amari Cooper in a higher-scoring game against a bad defense at basically the same price point.

Total:  157.2 points.  I made some mistakes, most notably on Watkins, but this was enough to win all my cash games and earn a tidy, four-figure profit.  So … let’s take what we learned and take a look at the Week 2 prices on DraftKings.
Remember, these are just early thoughts, bearing in mind that I never finalize my lineup until Sunday morning, as last-minute injury information or inactives (yes, I contemplated TJ Yeldon this past week after Ivory was declared inactive) can make cheaper options much more appealing as the week unfolds:

CJ Anderson, $6,800:  Indy’s defense was just shredded, and Anderson is the focal point of the Broncos offense, especially if Demaryius Thomas is unable to play.  I can’t imagine not starting Anderson in cash this week; I suspect he’ll be 45% owned, at least.

Odell Beckham, Jr., $9,500:  Deciding whether to roster ODB against the Saints is perhaps the biggest decision of the week.  The matchup is ideal, but he’s very expensive.  Should you start him in cash?  For me, this decision will come down to the level of comfort I feel about the cheap RBs and WRs I’ll have to roster to spend the requisite $9,500 on ODB.  If there’s a reasonable way to do it, I will.

Eli Manning, $7,600:  Some of the NFL’s best QBs have tough matchups in Week 2 (Luck is in Denver, Rodgers is in Minnesota), so Eli at a reasonable price against the atrocious Saints defense sure looks appealing.  Just as I paired Luck and Moncrief in Week 1, I’m not afraid to use two lineup positions from the same team, even in cash, if I’m super-confident in the matchup.  Osweiler at $6,100 against a Chiefs defense that’s not nearly as good as anticipated is an option, as is Siemian at $5,200 against the Colts, but I’ll probably roll with Eli this week.

Will Fuller, $4,200:  Fuller had an atrocious drop in Week 1, but he saw 11 targets, and with DeAndre Hopkins on the other side of the field, Fuller won’t see many double teams at any point in 2016.  $4,200 on a guy who just got double-digit targets (many of the downfield variety) is a nice way to build a cash lineup, especially when I’m trying to afford ODB.

Kelvin Benjamin, $6,500:  Benjamin dominated Cam Newton’s attention in Week 1 and it’s a favorable, home matchup against the Niners.  So why is Benjamin just $6,500?

Jeremy Hill, $4,300:  Hill isn’t as appealing in a PPR setting, but this price is simply too low.  I’ll be watching the Steelers run D closely on Monday night; if it’s bad, then it will be hard not to roster Hill at this price.

James White, $4,000:  White led the Patriots in targets in Week 1 despite a neutral game flow.  In DK’s full-point per reception format, this may be a way to save on other positions.

Virgil Green, $2,800:  Jordan Reed is definitely an option at just $6,800.  But if I need the salary savings, Green has a nice matchup, a low price, and should get a bigger share of targets if Demaryius Thomas is out.  Plus, Indy is on the opposite side of the ball in Week 2, and as matchups go, that’s as good as it gets.

Panthers D/ST, $3,900:  The cheapest defenses are $1,700 less, so a punt play is an option this week.  But I prefer to roster Carolina at home in a bounce-back game against what may be the NFL’s worst offense.  Plus, the Niners have to travel across the country on a short week.

Check my Twitter feed, @MarkStopa, for more thoughts during the week.

Why Pujols Won’t Sue Jack Clark

"Mrs. Pujols, isn’t it true that Albert’s testicles have gotten smaller over the years?"  It sounds like an absurd question, but it’s an example of the intrusive and ball-busting (pun intended) yet totally legitimate discovery that Jack Clark could initiate against Pujols if he filed suit.

You see, lawsuits don’t transpire like they do on television.  If Pujols sued Clark for money damages for defamation, they wouldn’t quickly go to trial, with Clark forced to admit he has no direct proof that Pujols ever used performance enhancing drugs (which, at this point, he presumably doesn’t).  Rather, before any trial takes place, Clark would get to engage in a months or years-long process called discovery.  Depositions, not only of Pujols, but of countless third-party witnesses.  Interrogatories.  Requests for production of documents.  Why?  It’s not just because Pujols and Clark have a lot of money and their lawyers would run up a big bill (which certainly happens in high-profile cases).

When a plaintiff files suit for defamation, truth is a complete defense.  If what Jack Clark said about Albert Pujols is true, i.e. Pujols did, in fact, use performance-enhancing drugs, then Clark can’t be liable for defamation.  From the court’s perspective, that is the goal of the process – to help both sides reach a just result by uncovering the truth. That’s why the discovery rules in most states are very broad – to help reach a just result.  Here, the "just result" would be the answer to the question everyone in the sports world is wondering – ascertaining whether Albert Pujols has ever used PEDs.

If Jack Clark walked into my office today asking me to defend him, I’d have an absolute field day with the discovery process.  Any good lawyer would.  Here are just a few of the ways I’d litigate the case that would make Pujols’ life miserable.  This sounds unfair, but that’s what any Plaintiff voluntarily endures as a byproduct of choosing to file suit:

– Obtain all of Pujols medical records from the moment he started playing baseball through the present (head size, back acne, any other PEDs symptoms or, for all we know, prescriptions). 

– Take depositions of Pujols’ wife ("testicles smaller?") and family members ("back acne?")

– Take depositions of Pujols’ former teammates, coaches, trainers (Everything from "ever seen Pujols use PEDs?" to "Has his hat size gotten bigger?")

– Take depositions of other known PEDs users – I’m sure ARod and others would love to throw Pujols under the bus, true or not.  I’m sure a depo of Jose Canseco would be fun, too. 

– Obtain phone records and bank statements reflecting any phone calls or monies paid to any of the notorious PEDs dealers.

If Pujols has ever used PEDs, then, as Clark’s lawyer, I’d find it eventually if I dug deep enough.  That’s why, if Pujols has ever been dirty, he’d be nuts to file suit against Clark.  Threaten suit, as he has?  Sure.  But subject your wife to questions about your testicles shrinking?  No, thanks.  There’s just no upside to filing this suit. 

Even if Pujols is clean, the discovery process would be so brutal, so intrusive, and so personal that it would be hard to imagine Albert filing that lawsuit.  Who wants to be subjected to all of this, even if he was clean?  Oh, and all of that discovery would likely become a matter of public record, for the media to circulate as it sees fit.  (There are exceptions, but typically information like this would not be filed "under seal.")

So if you’re hoping Pujols will file suit, don’t hold your breath – it won’t happen.  And even if it does, it will get dismissed or settled before we learn the truth. 

 

NFL Draft Wrap – Round 1

With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III going first and second, the first round of the 2012 NFL draft changed the landscape of fantasy football right off the bat. This year’s version could not have been more different. It took over an hour, and eight picks, before anyone was chosen who would make even a small impact in 2013 fantasy football, with speedy receiver Tavon Austin going to the Rams. It was nearly another hour before a quarterback was drafted, with E.J. Manuel going to the Bills. Manuel was the only quarterback taken, and no running backs were chosen. Let’s assess.

E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills: Manuel is raw and lacks polish, but he’s big, athletic, and goes to a Bills team that’s desperate for a franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, you’d probably have to share that same desperation to draft Manuel in standard formats in 2013. That said, we’ve seen rookie quarterbacks earn fantasy profits two straight years (Cam Newton in 2011 and Luck, Griffin, and Russell Wilson in 2012), and the Bills have some talent on offense – C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson, and a top-five offensive line. It’s unlikely Manuel makes a fantasy impact in standard formats this year, but the upside will force you to keep an eye on western New York this fall, particularly with Manuel’s rushing ability.

Tavon Austin, WR, Rams: Austin is small – 5-8 and 173 lbs – but he’s versatile, shifty, and has elite speed, qualities that should be accentuated by the turf in St. Louis. Austin can’t jump – his 32″ vertical is ridiculously subpar for an elite athlete, but the Rams weren’t likely to send him on those types of routes anyway. Jeff Fisher’s plan is clearly to get the ball to Austin in space, an area where he excelled at West Virginia. Expect Austin to be Sam Bradford‘s top option in 2013 out of the slot, replacing the departed Danny Amendola. There’s WR3 upside here.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: The Texans have had a gaping hole at their second receiver position for a few years now. They’re hoping Hopkins fills that hole. Even if he does, Houston loves to run inside the ten and Andre Johnson should dominate the targets again in 2013. I like Hopkins more than Patterson for sure, and I suppose there’s upside with Matt Schaub at QB, particularly if Andre Johnson gets hurt. It’s just hard to get too excited about a rookie receiver on a run-first team.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Greg Jennings is the only Vikings receiver most casual fans have ever heard of (remember, Percy Harvin is in Seattle), so obviously they needed help here. Patterson may be the long-term answer, but he’s raw and with an unsettled quarterback situation, I struggle to see Patterson making much of a fantasy impact in 2013.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: The Bengals drafted Jermaine Gresham in the first round in 2010, so it was more than a mild surprise to see them go back to this position in the first round in 2013. The comparisons to the Patriots two-TE system are inevitable, but even if you think the Bengals tight ends are comparable to those in New England, we all know Andy Dalton is no Tom Brady. It’s hard to see two tight ends having a lot of fantasy value in Cincy, especially with A.J. Green dominating the targets.