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.