DFS Football, Week 10: Rookie wideouts come alive, and Jordy Nelson comes cheap

jordy nelson

A quiet Week Eight and a bye have knocked Jordy Nelson from the ranks of the top-salaried DFS WRs on both FanDuel and DraftKings.  Their loss, your gain.  Nelson is still a top-tier fantasy wideout whom you should target without hesitation.  This week, he’s joined by a host of productive rookie wideouts as major DFS values.

A couple of quick notes this week: (1) DraftKings plays and fades won’t be appearing this week, though I’ve included my own DK rosters; and (2) I’ll no longer be including Thursday players among my FanDuel plays/fades.  Just too much moving ‘n shaking goes down between Thursday and Sunday morning to make it wise to play the Thursday games.

Without further ado…

Fanduel Plays & Fades

by Justin Howe, DFS Editor/Content Manager

Quarterback

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

Play with confidence: You’ve of course seen the exploits of one Ben Roethlisberger (@NYJ, $8,300) over the past two weeks.

In becoming the first passer in history to post back-to-back six-TD games, Roethlisberger re-established himself as a fully relevant fantasy QB who belongs in the weekly QB1 conversation.  While regression is coming and he won’t be throwing for six scores or 500 yards again soon, you can feel confident playing him in an absolute cake matchup such as this.  No defense has allowed more fantasy points/week to opposing QBs than the Jets; they can’t cover anyone (their top two CBs are allowing a stunning 129.1 passer rating on a 65.5% catch rate) and they struggle to rush the passer from the edges (just 22 hurries and four sacks from their starting OLBs, per Pro Football Focus).  Deploy Big Ben and catch the tail end of a dazzling stretch of quarterbacking.

Fade with glory: It’s hard to explain Matthew Stafford’s (vMIA, $8,500) exorbitant salary this week.  Sure, he’s likely to get Megatron back, but he’s been a strict QB2 all year.  Even with Calvin in the fold, he posted an inconsistent stretch of 30, 15, and 7 FanDuel points; the Lions are really hurting with a non-existent run game and the lack of a deep ball.  But what’s most troubling about Stafford this week is his matchup with possibly the league’s best defense at the moment.  They cover well and get to the QB as well as just about anyone, and Stafford has been very shaky under pressure.  You want no part of him this week.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Matt Ryan (@TB, $7,800) – It’s strange to see such a prolific QB – with these receivers – take such a salary nosedive, but it’s been well-deserved: Ryan has struggled mightily since his demolition of the Bucs five games ago.  But there’s little that cures what ails ya more than a second date with that atrocious Tampa pass defense.  Since that Week Three beatdown, the Yuckaneers have been thoroughly worked over by QBs, culminating in Brian Hoyer’s 300-yard, two-TD showing last week.  The Falcons are bound to take advantage Sunday and get their offense back on track – to some degree, anyway – so I’d feel just fine paying the #13 salary for such a high-ceiling option as Ryan.

Joe Flacco (vTEN, $7,200) – Flacco checks in at #18 among FanDuel salaries and looks like a fantastic bargain.  After a great start to the year in defending the pass, the Titans have allowed 303 yards per game to opposing passers.  And there have been some bottom-level QBs getting in on that barrage: they’ve been scorched in recent weeks by Blake Bortles (32/46 for 336) and Brian Hoyer (21/37 for 391 and three TDs).  Both of their starting CBs land in Pro Football Focus’ bottom ten in yardage allowed per target, so if Flacco is given the green light to go downfield, expect big plays from his wideouts.  He’s also been throwing a lot in the red zone, a major boost for a QB who should be taking plenty of snaps there Sunday.

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Mark Sanchez (vCAR, $6,600) – You don’t need me to tell you how much Chip Kelly’s high-octane, high-volume offense boosts his QB’s scoring opportunities.  Couple that with Carolina’s porous secondary and shaky pass rush, and Sanchez looks like a solid bet to post a QB1/2 line this week.  And he’ll cost you less than benchman Charlie Whitehurst in the process.  Now, Sanchez isn’t much of deep-ball guy, so it’s tough to expect the long TD passes that have propped up Nick Foles’ numbers this year (Foles had the league’s highest deep-passing percentage in the league).  But I think he can run an efficient, low-risk game based on screens and swings and flirt with 250 yards with all of those playmakers.

Running Back

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS Play with confidence: It looks like things are turning the corner for LeSean McCoy (vCAR, $7,700).

And his Eagles face a pretty easy slate of run defenses going forward, starting this week against a terrible Panther unit that’s allowed a league-worst 4.8 YPC on the year.  Simply put, if the volume is there for a back against Carolina, he’s going to produce.  And the Eagles’ offense, which runs a whopping 72.1 plays/game, looks likely to lean on the ground attack with its backup QB making his first start.  If there were such thing as a RB1 lock anymore, McCoy would be one this week, and he’ll only cost you the #8 FanDuel salary.

Fade with glory: I won’t call you a fool for being seduced back onto the Mark Ingram (vSF, $7,600) bandwagon.  But I will decline politely and try to talk you off.  Yes, he’s racked up great yardage and TD numbers over the last two weeks, but I still don’t love his talent level and can’t trust the Saints to stay so focused on the run.  I don’t hate Ingram’s chances of posting a solid RB2-type game against a collapsing 49er run defense, but I’m not paying this salary to pray for huge volume.  Not when there are several mid-salaried options with good chances of equaling his output.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Justin Forsett (vTEN, $6,500) – The Titans are allowing 146 scrimmage yards/game to running backs.  That and game flow, thanks to their overall crappiness as a team, make Raven RBs smart plays this week, especially at their salaries.  The only one with a defined role is Forsett, who has amassed 85+ scrimmage yards in each of his last six games.  He’s a bona fide RB2 whose upside is even higher than that this week – and he checks in with FanDuel’s #21 salary this week.

Bobby Rainey (vATL, $6,700) – No defense in football allows more yardage, TDs, or fantasy points to opposing RBs than this putrid Atlanta unit.  So while Rainey comes with workload questions – how slowly will Charles Sims be eased into the offense? – he looks like a lock to have success when he touches the ball Sunday.  As a Sims owner in several leagues, I’m not expecting a major role for him just yet; the fact that they made him a healthy scratch last week suggests they’re comfortable with Rainey’s contributions.  So for at least another week, I think Rainey dominates the backfield and threatens 100 yards in a dreamy matchup.

Darren Sproles (vCAR, $6,300) – One of football’s most sporadic RBs looks likely to seize a much more consistent role with Mark Sanchez under center.  When Sanchez took the reins last week, the Eagles leaned very heavily on their dumpoff game; 20 of his 22 attempts (including one wiped out by penalty) were short passes.  Four of those 20 throws went to Sproles, and he caught three for 41 yards.  This wasn’t a fluky game plan; the Eagles love the screen pass like few other teams, and Sanchez has always struggled when asked to hold the ball and go downfield.  I think they again lean on the short ball, and Sproles looks like a good bet to catch five or more passes in addition to his handful of rushes.  That opportunity gives him a nice PPR floor for this price, and he’s always a threat to take one to the house.  He’s boom-or-bust, but one of the safer low-salary RB gambles.

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Charles Sims (vATL, $4,800) – Based on matchup and talent level, Sims could be worth the risk here if he’s active.  An accomplished back in the passing game, he projects as a three-down guy whom the team loves.  And as I just mentioned, the Falcon defense is an 11-man matador for opposing running backs.  Sims could pay dividends even in a timeshare with Rainey.

Wide Receiver

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

Play with confidence: Here’s a twofer, as two top-tier wideouts have seen their salaries drop markedly after a few quiet weeks.  Jordy Nelson (vCHI, $8,500) ranks seventh among FanDuel salaries, and Julio Jones (@TB, $8,000) inexplicably ranks 11th.  Fire them up this week with supreme confidence as they take on awful secondaries.  Nelson destroyed man coverage from Chicago in Week Four to the tune of a 10-108-1 line.  Rookie Kyle Fuller has been a revelation, but has battled injuries and may not suit up this week.  Their other two top corners, Tim Jennings and Al Louis-Jean, have been eaten alive, with Louis-Jean allowing a perfect 158.3 passer rating (7-87-1 on seven targets) against New England.  Jones has averaged a very human 4-61 line over the last three weeks and has seen scant red zone targets this year, but we all know his capabilities.  Facing a terrible Buc secondary that he trashed for 9-161-2 earlier this season is likely to be the turnaround point.

Fade with glory: As I discussed above, the Eagles’ pass game figures to change noticeably with Mark Sanchez under center.  While the deep ball won’t simply disappear, it won’t be utilized as often, making Jeremy Maclin (vCAR, $8,700) a dicey play at his salary.  How will he mesh with Sanchez?  And how much can he produce in a short passing game?  Maclin has certainly worked his way to the clear head of this passing game, and I still think of him as a high-end WR2 going forward.  But I’ll need to have some questions answered before I pay the #4 salary.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Percy Harvin (vPIT, $6,600) – The Jets weren’t screwing around.  They weren’t merely taking a cheap flier on Harvin; they clearly want to feature him in the offense.  In his two games as a Jet, Harvin’s seen 27 combined targets and rushes, including a monstrous 14 last week.  He’s definitively taken Jeremy Kerley’s role and turned it into something that’s actually useful for Jet QBs.  The Steelers have actually defended slot receivers well, but Harvin is so much more than that, a Swiss army knife utilized frequently at and behind the line.  He’s PPR gold at this price tag, just the 22nd-highest on FanDuel.

Mike Evans (vATL, $6,600) – Due to an increased price tag and the Bucs’ mind-boggling switch back to Josh McCown, Evans isn’t quite the bargain he was last week.  But he’s still playing tremendous football, and against Pro Football Focus’ second-worst pass defense, he looks likely to outplay the #22 FanDuel salary.  He’s a physical marvel capable of outmuscling any CB in football.  Evans has out-targeted Vincent Jackson 18-17 over the past two weeks, and Jackson didn’t have much of a connection with McCown early this year, so the ball will likely be up for grabs going forward.

Jordan Matthews (vCAR, $5,700) – The Eagles’ likely transition to a screen-based passing game bodes exceptionally well for Matthews, who runs almost exclusively screens and short routes.  34 of his 47 targets (72.3%) have come within nine yards of the line of scrimmage; he could be a bread-and-butter player going forward.  He’s also been a fine red zone target, turning eight targets into three TDs, giving him a healthy shot at conventional scoring as well.  He looks like a WR4 with decent upside, and the Panthers have been gashed by WRs all year.

Brandin Cooks (vSF, $6,400) – Yes, Cooks’ usage has been very sporadic, and yes, the 49ers defend the pass fairly well.  But Cooks has posted 15, 16, and 28 in his three home games thus far.  As Chad Parsons points out:

This is a bit of a dice roll, but who isn’t at $6,400?  The upside is very strong here.

Martavis Bryant (@NYJ, $6,100) – I’ve written quite a bit on Bryant already, so there’s need to rehash.  Just know that he’s for real, and so is his role in a suddenly potent Steeler offense.  His snap count has increased in all three weeks he’s been active, and he’s starting to look like Ben Roethlisberger’s preferred red zone target.  I’m expecting a line around 4-65 to become his weekly norm, and TDs are typically a solid bet for a guy of Bryant’s profile.  In other words, he’s a bona fide WR3/4 going forward, and the Jets’ atrocious secondary makes for a dream matchup, as Rich Hribar points out:

More from Jon Collins:

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Justin Hunter (@BAL, $5,400) – Zach Mettenberger spoke loudly with his play last week.  His statement?  I’m going to utilize Justin Hunter in ways Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst wouldn’t and/or couldn’t.  In the rookie QB’s first start, Hunter saw a career-high ten targets, including two in the red zone.  Now, there’s risk here for sure: Hunter is currently sporting a nasty 41.7% catch rate, lowest in the league among WRs with at least 36 targets.  And last year’s 42.9% mark wasn’t much better.  But the early returns on Mettenberger suggest Hunter will finally see enough volume to account for that, which would make him very fantasy-relevant.  Just an awesome price tag for such a sexy breakout candidate.

Tight End

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

Play with confidence: There haven’t been many more efficient TEs this year than Baby Gronk, better known as Travis Kelce (@BUF, $6,200).  He’s played on just 51% of Kansas City’s snaps, resulting in just 147 routes and 41 targets.  But he’s done more with his opportunity than any TE in football, cranking out a league-best (among qualifiers) 2.85 yards/route.  And he’s converted three of his seven red zone targets into TDs, the fourth-best rate among TEs (behind certified studs Gronk, Julius Thomas, and Greg Olsen).  He’s rounding into shape as by far Alex Smith’s best weapon, and while his price tag is starting to reflect his sheer awesomeness, he really looks like the week’s best non-Graham option in terms of value.

Fade with glory: Julius Thomas (@OAK, $7,300) is a very special case.  On one hand, he’s a week-winner in and of himself; like Gronk and Jimmy Graham, he’s a very real threat to find the end zone multiple times and crank out 18+ points from the position on any given week.  On the other, he’s a marginalized part of the Bronco machine, a specialist who’s seen just five targets outside the red zone over his last four games.  And even his red zone usage has dropped lately: after drawing nine such targets through his first four games, he’s seen just four over his last four.  And he hasn’t topped 27 yards in any of his last three (he averages just 45 on the season).  Thomas is a land mine, a litmus test for serious DFS players; there’s monstrous upside to attract the lazy eye, but his salary makes him a week-killer too often.  Do you really want to spend $7,300 on a guy just as likely to post a 4-30 as crank out double-digit points?

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Mychal Rivera (vDEN, $5,700) – Well that escalated quickly.  I don’t love the sudden, jarring rise in Rivera’s price tag, but he’s earned it with a 15-121-2 line over the last two weeks.  He’s drawn 20 targets from Derek Carr over that span and looks to be a focal point in the passing game as Raider wideouts continue to struggle.  Rivera drew a whopping four red zone looks last week – three from inside the 10 – and while that looks fluky, his overall usage is not.  Rivera is no great talent, but he’s probably worth your attention as a mid-salaried TE during a frightful season at the position.

Zach Ertz (vCAR, $5,100) – I’ll beat this drum until the day I die.  Free Ertz!  Like Kelce, he’s a Gronkian red zone talent who could see a usage boost as Mark Sanchez takes over the offense.  He certainly can’t get used much less – he’s seen six or more targets just four times all year, bottoming out with two against the Texans.  There’s serious talent here; anytime you’re looking for a low-cost TE, a gamble on an Ertz breakout is always a good call.  It’s coming.

Cheaper than Dirt

Jared Cook (@ARI, $4,800) – I’ll let Keanu’s shady attorney from The Devil’s Advocate take it for a moment: 2654380462_d25799c41e_m

I don’t like Jared Cook.  I don’t think he’s a good tight end.  I don’t expect you to like him. He’s been a terrible TE producer on both of his NFL teams; he’s been a destructive force in the lives of his fantasy owners.  He’s cheated both of his teams out of millions of dollars over the years.  I don’t like him.  But this isn’t a popularity contest; it’s a game in which we have a salary cap in which to fill out our teams.

OK, I paraphrased a bit there.  Keanu’s character was not, in fact, defending Cook or any football player in that trial.  And some of that speech dealt with legal-ish stuff that has no place here.  Still, the point stands: Cook is a very poor fantasy producer, but makes for a safe play if you’re looking to punt the TE position and stand with just a handful of points.  The Rams run a spread-the-wealth offense that allowed Cook to lead the team in targets last week – and let’s not forget that he saw 30 of them between Weeks Three and Six.  His floor and ceiling are both low, but there’s potential here for a 4-55 type of line that allows you to squeeze in an extra bona fide stud elsewhere.

Kicker

Robbie Gould (@GB, $4,500) – As always, we look to the Vegas lines to identify high-scoring games from which to pluck our kickers.  And no matchup projects to produce more scoring than CHI-GB, so while Gould hasn’t attempted a FG in two weeks, I like his chances to bang home serviceable kicking points this week.

Phil Dawson (@NO, $4,900) – Dawson has a great combination of scoring expectation (the SF-NO game is projected to produce 49 points, second-highest this week) and opportunity (he’s attempted 14 FGs over his last five games).  He’s been missing some, sure, but predicting/anticipating missed FGs is a fool’s game.  If you have $400 left over, trust the process and roster Dawson.

Defense

Miami (@DET, $5,300) – As much as I dislike streaming defenses on the road, there may not be a better unit in football right now than the Dolphins.  They’ve allowed 14, 13, and 0 points over their last three games, forcing a whopping ten turnovers in the process.  I love their pass rush, and with the Lions incapable of running the ball, I think Matthew Stafford will be forced to drop back more than enough to produce some defensive splash plays.

Green Bay (vCHI, $4,500) – If you’re looking to play cheap, you want the Packers and their minimum salary.  Now, I know this flies in the face of Vegas logic, but the Bears are in turmoil right now.  Over their last four games, they’ve allowed 12 sacks and coughed up nine turnovers – two areas the Packers are quite capable of exploiting.

Expert Rosters

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DRAFTKINGS

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Lead photo: “Jordy Nelson” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 Other photo credits: “Keanu Reeves” by gjkooljman is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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