This article is part of our DFS Tournament Guide series.
Our big story for Week 10 is the glut of cheap running backs who saw major bumps in workload last Sunday. David Montgomery leads the pack, joined by Devin Singletary, Damien Williams and Ronald Jones. None offers the slam-dunk value we got with Jaylen Samuels last week, so difficult decisions will need to be made.
Elsewhere, Patrick Mahomes returns to action with a lower-than-usual DFS salary for a sneaky-good matchup, while Jameis Winston and Kyler Murray could be headed for a shootout in Tampa Bay. The Saints have the largest implied total of the week at 32.25 points, but they also have the largest spread (13.5) for their matchup with the wounded Falcons.
As always, I'm happy to discuss strategy in the comments section below, or on twitter (@RotowireNFL_JD).
Note: All prices listed come from DraftKings, but most of the logic can be applied to other sites across the DFS industry. Discussion is limited to players from the "main slate" of games kicking off at 1:00, 4:05 and 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. The strategy below is meant for large-field tournaments, where payouts typically are limited to ~20 percent of lineups, with the vast majority concentrated at the very top.
These are the players with the best projections relative to price — the guys that are good plays both for cash games and large-field tournaments. While we don't want our tourney lineups to look like cash-game lineups top to bottom, there's nothing wrong with using a few "chalk" picks that have strong odds to outperform their salaries. These players, along with a couple passing-game stacks, tend to form the core that remains fairly consistent throughout my lineups.
- RB David Montgomery, CHI vs. DET ($5,300)
The past two weeks saw Montgomery enjoy his top two fantasy performances of the season while also handling his largest snap shares (74 and 73 percent). He now gets what might be the best matchup of his young career, facing a Lions defense that's given up the second-most DK points to running backs, including last week's 28-120-2 rushing line from Josh Jacobs. With the Bears favored by 2.5 points and Montgomery now getting more work as a pass catcher, it's hard to imagine anything less than 15 touches. On the other side of the coin, his workload ceiling is what we see a couple weeks ago against the Chargers — 27 carries and five targets.
- TE Rhett Ellison, NYG at NYJ ($2,500)
The nice thing about Ellison replacing an injured Evan Engram (foot) is that we already have a six-game sample of the same scenario from the past three seasons. Ellison averaged 3.5 catches for 46.7 yards on 5.5 targets in those contests, good for 8.2 DK points without the benefit of a single touchdown. I'm usually hesitant to accept a low ceiling in any lineup spot, but the $2,500 price tag is worth making an exception for. It helps that the Giants also are missing Sterling Shepard, while Darius Slayton has averaged just 4.8 targets since moving into a full-time role before Week 6. It all sets up well for Ellison to see a handful of targets and score at least seven or eight PPR points.
Stacks are the centerpiece of any tournament lineup, seeking to take advantage of positive correlations between players. It rarely makes sense to use a quarterback without one or two of his pass catchers, even if the player in question scores a decent portion of his fantasy points with his legs. Ideally, a stack also includes a pass catcher from the other side of the contest, hoping to take advantage of a tight game where both teams are still chucking the ball around late in the fourth quarter. (Implied team totals are listed in parentheses.)
Chiefs (27) at Titans (21)
The Chiefs finally have their full arsenal on offense, with Patrick Mahomes ($7,000) rejoining a unit that scored 24 and 26 points the past two weeks under the guidance of Matt Moore against a pair of NFC contenders. On the other side, Tennessee doesn't offer much to get excited about, but the offense at least has been functional since Ryan Tannehill ($5,100) took over at QB, averaging 23.3 points and 360 yards in three games, albeit with two coming against weak opponents.
The Titans' slow pace of play isn't ideal for game stacks, but a struggling pass defense (20th in DVOA) combined with a strong run defense (third in DVOA) should encourage Andy Reid's preferred approach of passing, passing and more passing. Kansas City's 71 percent pass-play rate in the first half of games is four percentage points higher than any other team, with the number bumping up to 75 percent in Mahomes' six healthy games.
Tyreek Hill ($7,700) is always a good stacking partner given the high value of his targets, and his matchup is better than it looks on paper, considering the Titans defense is trending in the wrong direction and just lost cornerback Malcolm Butler to a season-ending wrist injury. Sammy Watkins ($5,100) would be the slightly contrarian stacking partner for Mahomes, while Travis Kelce ($6,400) and Damien Williams ($4,900) offer value.
Kelce's price is at its lowest point all year, following seven straight games between 9.8 and 16.3 DK points. He's averaging 5.4 catches for 74 yards on 8.2 targets, so his big game should be coming sooner rather than later. Then we have Williams, whose reliance on pass-catching production makes him a strong play as the third or fourth piece for a Chiefs stack. Williams handled a season-high 72 percent snap share last week, so there's a real possibility we see him back in his late-2018 role.
I don't have any real interest in rostering Tannehill instead of Mahomes, but it's perfectly reasonable to use Derrick Henry ($6,400) or A.J. Brown ($4,300) with the hope of Tennessee putting up enough points to keep KC's passing game active deep into the fourth quarter. Henry has the better matchup and safer volume, but his price can be a little tricky for lineups that already have Mahomes and Hill/Kelce. I'll definitely lean toward Brown if Corey Davis is ruled out, with the rookie coming off season-high 69 percent snap share last week, including team highs for both targets (seven) and receiving yards (81).
- Best Stack: QB Mahomes + RB Williams + WR Brown + TE Kelce
Cardinals (23.75) at Buccaneers (28.25)
This game has the largest implied total (52) of Week 10, with a 4.5-point spread suggesting it should be fairly close. Public perception and win-loss record favor Arizona as the superior team, while DVOA, point differential and strength of schedule give us an explanation for a spread that tells us the Bucs would be favored on a neutral field.
In any case, everyone agrees both of these pass defenses stink, ranking bottom 10 in pretty much any metric you can find, whether it's QB fantasy scoring, DVOA, YPA or something else. The difference is that Arizona can also be beat on the ground, while Tampa is No. 1 in run defense DVOA and No. 2 in YPC allowed (3.4). It thus leads us to a confusing matchup, as Arizona has enjoyed better results since Kliff Kingsbury shifted away from a pass-heavy approach after Week 3. The Cardinals are 29th in first-half passing rate (53 percent) the past six weeks — seven percentage points below league-average. This week's matchup could lead to a reprisal of the pass-first attack, but I'm not quite sure how Kingsbury will weigh the various factors.
Either way, we should see high ownership for a bunch of players in this game, namely Jameis Winston ($6,800), Kyler Murray ($6,500), Mike Evans ($7,600), Chris Godwin ($7,400) and Christian Kirk ($5,200). The Tampa Bay receivers are the only ones underpriced relative to their 2019 production, and the matchup would seem to favor Godwin, with Evans potentially getting shadowed by Patrick Peterson (though PP wasn't a problem for Emmanuel Sanders last Thursday).
Ronald Jones ($4,300) hasn't shown the pass-catching skills we'd like to see for a running back to be stacked with his quarterback, but the price is low enough and the matchup good enough that it's at least a reasonable strategy to consider. The other backfield, against all odds, is actually less interesting for DFS, with David Johnson ($5,700) and Kenyan Drake ($5,500) likely to split work in a brutal matchup.
The fringe plays are O.J. Howard ($3,300) and Larry Fitzgerald ($5,500), but I can't really get behind the latter after three straight weeks with four or fewer targets. Kirk has drawn at least five each game he's played this season, and he also gets the occasional carry. Howard would be a bet on talent and matchup over volume, as his season high of five targets came back in Week 1. You may have heard by now that the Cardinals tend to allow lots of points to tight ends.
- Best Stack: QB Winston + WR Godwin + WR Evans + WR Kirk
We can pair a running back with his team's defense to double our bet on favorable game script in certain matchups. Just keep in mind that the scoring correlations aren't nearly as strong as those between quarterbacks and pass catchers, so it isn't worth forcing into a lineup unless the prices for each individual commodity make sense. We also need to account for specialized backfield roles, i.e., using Marlon Mack rather than Nyheim Hines in conjunction with the Indianapolis defense.
- RB Devin Singletary ($5,000) + Bills D/ST ($2,900)
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm also tempted by the RB/Defense stack on the other side of this game, as Nick Chubb ($7,000) and the 2-6 Browns ($2,500) actually are three-point favorites, facing a Bills team that's good at defending the pass but not much else. Basically, this sets up as an ugly game, with decent prices for the defenses and lead backs on both sides. I made a longer argument for Singletary on Thursday in my weekly matchups column, and we've now seen no shortage of hints that he can be the much-needed spark for a stagnant offense.
Honorable Mention: RB David Montgomery ($5,300) + Bears D/ST ($3,100) vs. DET
- Michael Thomas, NO vs. ATL ($8,300)
It's hard to pick just one this week, with Thomas, Christian McCaffrey ($10,500) and Saquon Barkley ($8,800) all in favorable spots. For what it's worth, I favor the Panthers' star running back over the Giants', but I also have fatigue from discussing why C-Mac is a strong play nearly ever week. I suppose we could say the same for Thomas, whose last game with fewer than 16.4 PPR points came in January. The outlook is even brighter than usual for Week 10, with Atlanta allowing a league-worst 10.3 yards per target to wide receivers.
Honorable Mentions: McCaffrey, Barkley, Hill, Godwin
Fading the Field
Every week we see at least one or two players carrying high ownership without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often to blame, but in some cases it even makes sense to fade a player with a strong projection, particularly when there are good alternatives at the same position and price range.
- WR Zach Pascal, IND vs. MIA ($5,300)
Pascal had two big games the past three weeks, and he's now serving as his team's No. 1 wide receiver for a lovely matchup against Miami. On the other hand, we also have reason for hesitance, starting with the likelihood of reduced passing volume in a game where the Colts are favored by 11.5 points and will either start Brian Hoyer or a banged-up Jacoby Brissett (knee) at quarterback. Marlon Mack is the only player with reliable volume in this offense, as Pascal is just two weeks removed from catching one of two targets for six yards on 92 percent snap share against the Broncos.
The SMASH Spot
Volume is king, no doubt. But we still need to account for efficiency, pinpointing situations that give players good odds to outperform their typical marks for YPA, YPC or YPT.
- Jamison Crowder, NYJ vs. NYG ($5,000)
With Le'Veon Bell (knee) banged up and Sam Darnold rarely finding enough time or courage to throw deep, Crowder may end up as the focal point of the Jets' offense for Sunday's picture-perfect matchup. The Giants are 27th in pass defense DVOA, allowing wide receivers to produce a 71.1 percent catch rate (28th) and 10.2 YPT (31st). Crowder has averaged 7.0 catches for 66 yards and 0.2 TDs in Darnold's five starts, and the slot receiver now figures to draw a primary matchup with rookie sixth-round pick Corey Ballentine, who was a desperation replacement for the incompetent Grant Haley. The Giants' secondary is still a joke.
Honorable Mention: WR Christian Kirk, ARZ at TB ($5,200)
The Bargain Bin
QB Ryan Tannehill, TEN vs. KC ($5,100)
RB Ronald Jones, TB vs. ARZ ($4,300)
WR A.J. Brown, TEN vs. KC ($4,300)
WR Darius Slayton, NYG at NYJ ($4,200)
WR Josh Reynolds, LAR at PIT ($3,800)
TE Mike Gesicki, MIA at IND ($3,100)
TE Rhett Ellison, NYG at NYJ ($2,500)
D/ST Cleveland Browns vs. BUF ($2,500)
D/ST Arizona Cardinals at TB ($2,200)
The "Sunday Scramble" doesn't need to be stressful. We can formulate plans ahead of time for the best way to respond once inactive lists are released.
- RB Ito Smith (neck), ATL at NO
I won't be excited about playing Devonta Freeman ($5,100), but the workload at least offers some level of temptation in the likely event of Smith missing another game. In three games above 70 percent snap share, Freeman has scored 12.5, 26.8 and 17.2 DK points
- QB Matt Ryan (ankle), ATL at NO
I'm not interested in using Ryan against the New Orleans defense, but I might consider Freeman, Julio Jones ($7,500), Austin Hooper ($5,500) or Calvin Ridley ($5,300)...if their quarterback is cleared to play. None is a priority for me this week, but each is a good enough play to fill out the last spot of a lineup (not exactly high praise, I know).
- WR Corey Davis (hip), TEN vs. KC
A Davis absence would lock in A.J. Brown ($4,300) as the No. 1 receiving threat in what could be a high-volume game for the Tennessee passing attack. Of course, the Chiefs have been surprisingly good in terms of per-play defensive efficiency against the pass, and we can't really trust the Titans coaching staff to use a Davis absence as a showcase for the rookie WR. My interest in Brown will probably be as an add-on to make the budget work for a high-priced Chiefs stack. I did find some cause for optimism with Brown earlier this week, making note of his small uptick in routes/snaps in my Hidden Stat Line column.
- RB Le'Veon Bell (knee), NYJ vs. NYG
It isn't clear if Ty Montgomery ($4,100) or Bilal Powell ($3,000) would serve as the lead back in the event of a Bell absence. I can deal with that uncertainty at Powell's price, but I'm not paying $4,100 for a guy with zero workload assurances in a terrible offense, one where Bell needs to dodge a million tackles just to reach 3.3 YPC
- QB Jacoby Brissett (knee), IND vs. MIA
I don't have any interest in rostering a half-strength Brissett, even against the lowly Dolphins. However, his presence would be mildly good news for Pascal and the other Indianapolis pass catchers, though we can't count on any of them for more than three or four targets.
- RB Trey Edmunds (ribs), PIT vs. LAR
Edmunds isn't someone I expected to care about this season, but his presence/absence for Week 10 could be the difference between 10 or 20 carries for Jaylen Samuels ($6,300). Even in a difficult matchup, it's hard not to like Samuels if his only competition for snaps is undrafted rookie Tony Brooks-James.
We don't have any forecasts for precipitation, but Green Bay and Cleveland may be impacted by wind. The current projections around 15 mph aren't a major problem for passing games, so it isn't something to worry about unless Sunday weather reports call for wind above 20 mph. Kickoff temperatures in Chicago and Green Bay should be around 40 degrees, which isn't cold enough to be a factor unless there are also heavy winds. Temperatures in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and New York are expected to be closer to 50 degrees.
Adjusting for FanDuel Prices
The prices listed in this article are from DraftKings, and while most of the logic applies to any DFS site, there are a few specific changes I'll need to apply for FanDuel:
- Jameis Winston ($7,900) and Kyler Murray ($7,700) both are priced a couple spots lower in the QB ranks compared to DraftKings, and Larry Fitzgerald ($5,400) is actually tempting.
- Ryan Tannehill ($7,100) is priced at QB14 rather than QB18, and looser pricing on FD allows for good RBs and WRs without making huge sacrifices at QB. That's gonna be a NO for me.
- Derrick Henry ($7,000) is priced as RB11 instead of RB10, but that's not a big enough gap given the difference in his value between the two sites. His typical game of 80 yards and a TD with one catch kind of stinks on DK, but it's perfectly fine on FD.
- Ronald Jones ($6,300) is more expensive than Damien Williams ($6,000) and right behind David Montgomery ($6,400). I already prefer Monty over the others on DK, and that's true to an even greater extent on FD.
- I know the matchup is tricky, but Calvin Ridley at $5,300 in a post-Sanu world seems way too cheap. Actually, it would be too cheap even if Sanu still played for Atlanta.
- John Brown ($5,800) is on pace for 1,206 receiving yards, with no fewer than 51 in any game. Of course, there are other good options at the exact same price point: DeVante Parker and D.J. Moore. Rostering all three would make it reasonable to fit Mahomes, Kelce, McCaffrey and Barkley into a lineup.
- Travis Kelce at $6,700 is an easy pick for cash games, right?