DFS starts, fades and undervalued options

By | September 15, 2023

Whether you played Daily Fantasy on Yahoo Before or if I’m trying it for the first time, this weekly column will take a look at the DFS landscape, revealing who I like to build lineups around, fading stars, underrated plays and cheap options to help you build a better team.

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Constituent elements of training

Christian McCaffrey ($40) to the Los Angeles Rams

McCaffrey had his longest run in Week 1 since arriving in San Francisco and finished with the most rushing yards (and RYOE: higher-than-expected rushing yards) in the league despite facing the highest percentage of eight-man fronts. CMC also didn’t lose as many touches to Elijah Mitchell as they did at times last season, staying in the game even when the score was lopsided. McCaffrey was also one of only two RBs who he earned 100% of his team’s snaps in the red zone. The 49ers have one of the highest implied team totals this week against a shaky Rams defense that has benefited from injuries on Seattle’s offensive line. CMC stands out at running back.

Amon-Ra St. Brown ($28) vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Lions averaged an NFL-high 33.1 points at home last season, where Jared Goff posted a TD:INT of 23:3 (6:4 on the road). St. Brown scored all six of his touchdowns last season at home. He’s become a top-five earned target in the league and gets a favorable matchup this weekend against a Seattle secondary that’s allowing the second-most EPA/freshly-fired passes by Rams WRs without Cooper Kupp (though Jamal Adams and/or Devon Witherspoon may return). Detroit has one of the highest implied team totals this week in a fast-paced matchup, and St. Brown should remain the center of the Lions’ offense. I can’t wait to see his next touchdown celebration on Sunday.

Calvin Ridley ($28) and Trevor Lawrence ($34) vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Ridley carried his preseason hype into a big first half in Week 1, when he finished with elite target action numbers. He should be treated as a borderline top-five fantasy WR moving forward. This matchup has the highest over/under (51 points) of the week and should be targeted in DFS. We can stack Ridley with Lawrence, who threw darts in Week 1. Kansas City gets Chris Jones back, but the Chiefs allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.

Fading star

Garrett Wilson ($30) to the Dallas Cowboys

Wilson’s salary is a top three receiver this week, but he’s out of my top 20 in my ranks with Zach Wilson now his quarterback. Garrett Wilson was the WR60 with Zach Wilson last year and the WR8 without. He I didn’t catch any touchdowns over nine games together. Life wasn’t any better in the first week, when 48 different players had multiple targets and air yards compared to Wilson. The game plan will be different after practicing knowing who will start at QB, but the Jets get a dominant Cowboys defense allowing the second-lowest EPA/passing on the road this week. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: The loss of Aaron Rodgers was devastating to Wilson’s fantasy value.

Undervalued options

James Cook ($21) vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Cook didn’t score high in week one, but has seen encouraging usage as the preseason. The Jets defense is one of the best in the league, and almost all of Cook’s the distance came after the contact. He had good route sharing and saw six targets – a number reached by Devin Singletary just five times in 37 games with Buffalo. Cook also led all running backs in average depth of target, so the only concern is goal line work. The Bills are at home after an extremely disappointing loss and are among the biggest favorites on the board this week. The Raiders gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs last season, so things are looking good for Cook.

Nico Collins ($16) vs. Indianapolis Colts

Collins saw the fifth-most targets, third-most air yards and ranked in the top 10 in first-read target share in Week 1. He was one of only five receivers to post a 50% share of aerial yards and a target share of 25%.. The Texans had, encouragingly, a higher-than-expected passing rate in C.J. Stroud’s first NFL start (on the road), so there’s upside even in a lackluster offense. The Colts have a vulnerable secondary and run their offense at a light pace, so Collins is underrated in DFS this week.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba ($16) to Detroit Lions

Smith-Njigba had a quiet but immediate debut led Seattle in goals per route run (ending with five). It was a strange game that saw the Seahawks run just 14 offensive plays and get just one first down (via penalty) in the second half after losing several linemen. Era the lowest production in meters in the second half of the year since 2008. O-line remains an issue for Seattle, but this weekend’s matchup should feature a much different game script. Seattle and Detroit are both hustling, and the matchup is indoors against a Lions team that had the most combined points (51.8) in games last season. Detroit gave up the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season, so JSN is a sneaky DFS play that will likely get overlooked this week.

Bargain basket

Denver Broncos DEF ($12) vs. Washington Commanders

Denver arguably remains the best home-field advantage, and the Broncos get a favorable matchup on Sunday. The Commanders allowed six sacks and a defensive score at home to the Cardinals. Washington’s offensive line might be the worst in the league, and so can Sam Howell holds the football too long. The Broncos’ DEF could be one of the best fantasy plays this week with a low DFS salary.

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