Everyone knows to start studs in DFS. What can bring home the money in is finding players who will produce at a lower salary that might not be on many lineup cards. Each week we’ll release our top DFS value plays and bargain basement plays to help fill out your lineups.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs ($5,700 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel)
Smith lit up the Patriots defense in the opener. He completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Smith threw touchdown passes of 75 yards to Tyreek Hill and 78 yards to Kareem Hunt. He was the top-scoring fantasy quarterback in Week 1 (34 DK, 31 FD). Smith faces an Eagles defense that ranked 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last week but lost cornerback Ronald Darby to an ankle injury. Philadelphia plays a lot of man defense and now must rely on Patrick Robinson in the slot to cover Tyreek Hill. That’s a mismatch. The Eagles front seven is as good as any in the NFL but their cornerbacks with Robinson, Jalen Mills and Jaylen Watkins are a weakness. If Smith continues to push the ball downfield, he’ll be able to exploit a secondary that ranks 13th vs. No. 1 receivers and 23rd vs. slot receivers (Football Outsiders) after one game.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers ($5,800 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel)
Rivers had a tough Week 1 matchup against the Broncos but completed 22 of 33 for 192 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Despite being under pressure for most of the game, Rivers still finished as a Top 12 fantasy quarterback (18.7) in Week 1 at both DraftKings and FanDuel. The Miami Dolphins didn’t play last week because their game was postponed but Rivers is getting an easier matchup at the same salary. Rivers is expected to have ownership numbers over 10 percent this week but he also has one of the highest ceilings of any quarterback.
Bargain Basement Play
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel)
This is a game where the numbers might be misleading. The Cowboys defense allowed the fourth fewest points to quarterbacks in Week 1 but the Giants and Eli Manning never tested Dallas’ young secondary. New York was playing without Odell Beckham, Jr., its offensive line got whooped and Eli Manning played poorly. The Cowboys defense will get a much tougher test this Sunday in Denver. Trevor Siemian played well in the opener versus the Chargers, throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. Siemian finished Week 1 ranked as the No. 5 quarterback on DraftKings and No. 4 on Fan Duel (23.7 PPG). The Week 2 salaries were already set before the Broncos and Chargers played the late game on Monday night. We’re getting Siemian at a bargain against a defense that’s overrated based on its Week 1 performance.
Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel)
Lynch didn’t blow the doors off statistically in his first game with the Raiders (18 carries, 76 yards) but he passed the eye test. Beast Mode looked strong, running with aggression and power. He also just missed scoring a touchdown by a half yard. The 19 touches Lynch got in his first game back is a positive sign going forward. The Buffalo Bills gutted the Jets rush defense. The Jets allowed the third most fantasy points (38) to running backs in Week 1. Both LeSean McCoy (159 total yards) and Mike Tolbert (54 total yards, 1 TD) ate against the Jets. Game flow could also play a factor here. The Raiders are a 14-point favorite. If they get a big lead, Lynch will see plenty of work. Beast Mode costs $3,800 less than the top running back on DraftKings and he’s projected to have modest ownership numbers. The pieces are in place for Lynch to be one of this week’s top running back plays.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel)
Like Lynch, McCaffrey didn’t have big fantasy numbers in the opener but the volume is encouraging. McCaffrey touched the ball 18 times and gained a total of 85 yards. He out-snapped Jonathan Stewart 47 to 29 even though the Panthers were playing with a big lead for much of the second half. McCaffrey didn’t produce any explosive plays but those will come. The Jets went away from Bilal Powell against the Bills even though the game was competitive until late in the fourth quarter. Even so, the Bills defense allowed eight receptions to Powell and Matt Forte. McCaffrey has one of the highest ceilings this week because of his ability to catch the football but his ownership projections are expected to be reasonable. He’s a strong play versus a defense that likely looked better than it is taking on a dreadful Jets offense.
Bargain Basement Play
James White, New England Patriots ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel)
Mike Gillislee got all the love in the Patriots opener because he scored three touchdowns but don’t forget about White. He ran the ball 10 times for 38 yards and caught three passes for 30 yards. While Gillislee is clearly the Patriots goal line back, White out-snapped him 43 to 24 in Week 1. The Saints allowed the 10th most fantasy points to running backs after one game (27 DK, 21 FD). New Orleans was hurt both on the ground (138 yards) and through the air (6 receptions, 42 yards). White should once again see a lot of snaps this week. He’s a strong bargain running play with projected low ownership.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos ($5,900 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel)
As stated above, the Cowboys defense shut down the Giants in the opener. They rank fifth defending No. 1 receivers after one week (Football Outsiders). Thomas battled Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett in the opener. He caught five receptions for 67 yards on eight targets. Thomas’ eight targets were a team-high. Bennie Fowler vultured two touchdowns in Week 1 but Thomas’s cores will come. He’s seen 41 red zone targets over the last two seasons. Thomas has a salary under $6,000 at DraftKings but his ownership is still projected to be low. This is a great week to roster him. A Siemian/Thomas stack cost only $10,800 on DraftKings.
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel)
Hogan was expected to have a big role in the Patriots offense after Julian Edelman got hurt in the preseason. He then went out in Week 1 against the Chiefs and laid an egg. Hogan caught just one pass for eight yards. It’s one game, so he’s obviously useless, right? Looking deeper into the game tells another story. Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters covered Hogan for a majority of the time. Peters is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Hogan actually played the most snaps (73) of any Patriots receiver and was targeted five times. The Saints don’t have Marcus Peters in their secondary. New Orleans allowed the second most fantasy points (60 DK, 48 FD) to receivers in Week 1. Danny Amendola is questionable with a concussion and knee injury, so Hogan should get even more looks this week. Hogan is set up to have a big bounce-back game on Sunday.
Bargain Basement Play
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel)
This is likely the last time we’ll be able to use Kupp as a bargain basement play. Kupp caught four of six targets for 76 yards and a touchdown in his first career game. His six targets were a team high. This week Kupp gets a Washington Redskins defense that got torched by Philadelphia Eagles slot receiver Nelson Agholor (6-86-1). After one game, the Redskins rank 25th covering slot receivers. Kupp also ranked 15th in Week 1 according to Pro Football Focus in Yards Per Target (12.7). Jared Goff didn’t just target Kupp on short routes, he looked for him down the field. Even with his low salary, Kupp’s ownership is projected to be under 10 percent this week. That won’t last much longer. Take advantage.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel)
The Jaguars defense smothered the Houston Texans in Week 1. The one area where Houston had success attacking the Jaguars was the tight end. Jacksonville allowed the 12th most fantasy points (12 DK, 9 FD) to tight ends after one game. Walker has had success against the Jaguars in the past. He’s scored over 10 fantasy points in four straight games against them. Marcus Mariota played poorly in the opener but Walker still led the team in receptions (7) and yards (76) on nine targets. Walker is a good contrarian play in a week where his ownership is projected to be low.
Bargain Basement Play
Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders ($3,300 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel)
Cook had a solid debut for the Raiders, catching all five of his targets for 56 yards. He has the matchup in Week 2 to improve on those numbers. The Jets allowed the fifth most fantasy points on DraftKings (18.5) and the third most on FanDuel (16) to tight ends in Week 1. Cook was highly involved in the Raiders passing game last week. He caught the same number of passes as Amari Cooper and one less than Michael Crabtree. No other Oakland tight end caught a pass in the game, as Clive Walford saw just five offensive snaps. Cook has one of the highest ceilings of any tight end in Week 2 but is projected to have minimal ownership numbers. He’s being undervalued early in the season.
A.J. Derby, Denver Broncos ($3,300 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel)
If you’re looking for a real sleeper tight end this week, give Derby a shot. Derby caught all three of his targets for 34 yards against the Chargers. He also just missed scoring twice. Derby was stopped inside the two-yard line. Then Derby was the target a couple of plays later but Joey Bosa correctly diagnosed the route, forcing Siemian to run for a touchdown. The positive thing to take away from the first game is Derby is clearly the Broncos top receiving tight end and he got a look in the red zone. The Cowboys were bottom five at covering tight ends in 2016. Don’t be surprised if Derby finds the end zone on Sunday.
Tennessee Titans ($3,300 DraftKings, $4,600 FanDuel)
Lost in the Jaguars dominant defensive performance Sunday is their offense didn’t have to do much. Granted, that’s going to be Jacksonville’s recipe for success this season but it’s not guaranteed to work every week. The Titans defense didn’t do much in Week 1 against the Raiders (2 sacks) but they still have one of the best front sevens in the NFL. The Jaguars played with a big lead last week but they have no Allen Robinson. If the Titans can force Blake Bortles to throw, things could get ugly.
Bargain Basement Play
Cleveland Browns ($2,400 DraftKings, $4,100 FanDuel)
One of the more underrated storylines of Week 1 is how well the Browns defense looked without first-round draft pick Myles Garrett and the departed Joe Haden. The Browns defense completely shut down Le’Veon Bell (10 carries, 32 yards). The Steelers offense only scored 14 points. One touchdown came on a blocked punt. Cleveland’s defense allowed 14 points and 290 total yards. Now the Browns get a Ravens offense that was asked to do very little in its Week 1 win over the Bengals. Joe Flacco threw for just 121 yards in the opener. The Browns defense will have very low ownership but it has a chance to be a big surprise.