This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
Cam Newton, CAR vs. CIN ($6,000): The last three seasons, Newton has been priced this low ONCE. Give me a quarterback as a home favorite who can get 50 yards rushing at this price all day long. I almost never play Newton in cash games because he can put up a dud, but at this price it would be hard to not hit at least 3x-3.5x value and there is an upside of 4x-5x. The last three seasons, Newton has hit at least 3x value in 13 of 23 home games. His average salary in those games has been $6,943.
Blake Bortles, JAX vs. TEN ($5,600): Which quarterback has been the BEST value over the last three seasons? My guess is you did not know but yep it is, Blake Bortles. His numbers:
2015 – 22.32 PPG, $57,00 average salary, 3.9x value
2016 – 19.25 PPG, $5,831 average salary, 3.3x value
2017 – 17.35 PPG, $5,106 average salary, 3.4x value
Even better when he is at home, with a 3.7x, 3.3x, and 4.1x value over the last three years. In 16 of his last 24 home games, Bortles has hit 3x value for a 75 percent rate! As of this writing, there is no Vegas total on the game due to the uncertainty of Marcus Mariota. But Massey Ratings' predicted total is Jaguars 24, Titans 17. Based on the 24 point total, Bortles' numbers get even better. The last eight home games in which the implied team total was at least 23 points, Bortles has averaged 25.6 PPG, with only one game less than 25. There is one pause in that when Leonard Fournette starts, the offense runs through him and will cap Bortles' output. But Bortles only needs 250 yards passing, two TDs and 40 rushing yards at this price to hit value.
Todd Gurley, LAR vs. LAC ($9,200): The landscape of elite running backs has been destroyed in just a few weeks. Gurley is the safest bet by far for cash game lineups, considering 2017 and so far in 2018. In cash games when spending up, it is not about the x value but more the raw points. Banking 25 points from Gurley insulates you from another player falling short. He will get 20-plus carries and 4-5 receptions every game along with multiple touchdown upside. The Rams are now the Super Bowl favorites after blowing out the Raiders and Cardinals, so they are not about to slow down on offense.
Chris Thompson, WAS vs. GB ($6,300): Thompson is the poster boy for what is taking place with running backs in the NFL. You want pass catching backs in full-point PPR formats. He has posted 24.8 and 22.3 PPG and is still reasonably priced at $6,300. Alex Smith is not throwing the ball downfield because he does not have anyone to stretch the field (please do not tell me Paul Richardson). The Packers have held running backs in check this year, but that is mostly because teams are attacking them in the air. Do the math: 10 receptions, 80-100 yards and a TD gets in the 20-24-point range as a floor.
Corey Clement, PHI vs. IND ($4,300): This is predicated on Jay Ajayi not playing this week as he did not practice Thursday. DraftKings has increased the price on backup running backs this year, but not on Clement. I think there is at least a $1,500 bargain on Clement if Ajayi is out. The Eagles get Carson Wentz back and are in a favorable spot as a -7 home favorite against the Colts, who have been one of the worst defenses in the NFL the last three seasons. The Eagles also have one of the best offensive lines in football for Clement to run behind. I can see Clement getting 15-18 carries and 3-5 receptions with total yards of 100 and a TD, which is a 18-20 point outcome. If he does start, he will be one of the highest-owned running backs, so just keep that in mind.
Michael Thomas, NO vs. ATL ($8,900): Thomas has been the beneficiary of the Saints not having that steady WR2 (was supposed to be Cameron Meredith) as he has seen 30 targets through two games. Meredith is back this week, but will be worked into the offense. Clearly Drew Brees trusts two people in this offense, Thomas and Alvin Kamara. A lot of roster construction is based on who else is in the player pool, and with no Antonio Brown, Thomas has become the safest wide receiver. Also, the context of why Thomas is getting such a huge market share is key. There is no Mark Ingram until Week 5, so we have two more weeks of monster volume funneled to Thomas.
John Brown, BAL vs. DEN ($4,800): Normally you would never want to target wide receivers against the Broncos, but they have allowed four receivers to hit for at least 3.5x value this year. Brown is still way underpriced and has become the leading target for Joe Flacco in the red zone. Brown posted 13.5 in Week 1 and 19.2 in Week 2 and his salary has risen from $3,700 to $4,800, so we do need him to post closer to that 19-point outcome to hit value. I like the Ravens in this spot at home coming off the Thursday night loss to the Bengals. The Broncos looked lackluster in their first two games at home and I can see the Ravens handling them this week.
Tyler Lockett, SEA vs. DAL ($5,300): It is all about opportunity cost in DFS and Lockett has presented that in the first two weeks. With no Doug Baldwin, Lockett is the No. 1 wide receiver in Seattle. While Lockett has not exactly set the world on fire, he has put up 3.5x value in both games and now the Seahawks are at home, favored, against the Cowboys. I like the spot for Seattle and Russell Wilson at home. While the Dallas defense has been tough and Seattle plays at one of the slowest paces in the league, Lockett's floor is very safe and the potential of a 100-yard game with at least one TD in is play with extremely low ownership.
Zach Ertz, PHI vs. IND ($6,800): With no Rob Gronkowski in the player pool on the Sunday main slate, we have Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz at the top of the salary feed. Kelce is projected as the highest-owned tight end, but it looks like Ertz will be maybe outside the top 5. Bear in mind that Ertz leads all tight ends in targets with 23. Even though Carson Wentz could be rusty coming back this week, I still like the spot for the Eagles and Ertz. The Colts have been notoriously bad against tight ends for several years and Ertz can get 100 yards receiving with multiple touchdowns in this spot. The Eagles are still without Alshon Jeffrey and now Mike Wallace, so Wentz will look to rely on Nelson Agholor and Ertz even more this week.
Austin Hooper, ATL vs. NO ($2,900): Swimming in the cheap TE pool can be tough, but one of the things I look at is red-zone targets and Hooper already has three through two weeks. He caught a touchdown pass last week and looked like the favorite target of Matt Ryan in the second half against the Panthers. The Falcons are at home and favored by three with a very high projected total of 53, which is the second highest on the Sunday main slate. His touchdown opportunity is very high and 3-5 receptions for 50 yards is as well.
Minnesota Vikings vs. BUF ($4,300): The Vikings are a 17-point favorite at home against the Bills, who have one of the lowest implied team totals in recent memory (12). The Vikings have been the most dominant team at home the last three years, so do not overthink it this week. They are a must play in all cash games.
Houston Texans vs. NYG ($2,800): When looking for under-owned defenses, I tend to go with this criteria:
• $3,000 or less
• Mediocre opposing QB
• Ability to rush the passer
• Opponent has low implied team total of 19 or less
• Total on the game is 44 or less
The Texans check all of the boxes this week against the Giants and project as the fourth-highest owned outside of the Vikings, Bears and Jaguars, so they make for a solid tournament play. If you watched the Sunday Night Football game between the Giants and Cowboys, you know the issues on the offensive line and Eli Manning. While I was on the Texans last week and they let me down, I will go back to the well once again this week.