FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Early-Slate Helper: Week 9

With Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey both hitting $9,000 this week, which of the running backs should you insert into your lineup? Who else should you consider rostering in Sunday's early games?

The Week 9 NFL DFS early-slate on FanDuel has six games, all kicking off at 1 p.m. EST. Most matchups have low totals, with only the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Minnesota Vikings topping 43.0 on the slate. This usually consolidates ownership, but there are still plenty of great players outside of this game.

The numberFire NFL DFS Matchup Heat Map will be referenced for all implied totals and spreads throughout this article, so be sure to check it out.

Let’s look at the best plays at every price point on the slate.

High Priced Studs

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers ($9,700)

McCaffrey is officially matchup-proof after smashing through the San Francisco 49ers defense for 25.5 fantasy points last week. This week he gets an equally challenging Tennessee Titans defense that ranks fifth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. Still, our projections have McCaffrey with the most touches both on the ground and through the air. Even at his $9,700 price tag, he's still the second-best value per dollar on the slate. If you weren't fading CMC last week, you can't this week.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings ($9,000)

The one running back who has nearly matched McCaffrey's consistency and efficiency is Dalvin Cook. McCaffrey has shown a wider range of outcomes, as he's posted a game with 6.3 fantasy points and one with 44.7, but Cook has flashed a better floor, having never dipped below 12.4 in a week.

Cook is also in a far better matchup, as the Chiefs rank 28th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per game. He'll also be in a better scoring environment, as this game's 48.0 implied total is easily the highest on the slate, so he's probably the safest pivot off of the pricy Panthers' running back.

Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets ($7,000)

Everyone likes saving money. Therefore, everyone should play Le'Veon Bell this week. Not only is his 84.8 percent opportunity share the fourth-highest in the NFL, but his monster workload costs $2,000 less than the other top backs.

He's also facing the Miami Dolphins, who rank dead last in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play and fantasy points allowed to running backs. Given his high share of the New York Jets' backfield touches, Bell is likely to smash his price tag. Our projections agree as he is the best value per dollar by a wide margin.

Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears ($7,200)

Mitchell Trubisky isn't the best thrower of the football, but he does lock onto his alpha receiver, which is great for fantasy football. Allen Robinson averages 10 targets per game when Trubisky has started and finished, giving him an insane floor. He's also matched up with Ronald Darby and a Philadelphia Eagles defense that is prone to giving up ceiling games to receivers.

Philadelphia's efficiency has improved in recent weeks, as they now rank 21st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, but they still rank last in fantasy points per game to receivers. Robinson's volume is an easy buy against this beatable secondary.

Mid-Priced Upside Plays

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans ($6,800)

While the Carolina Panthers rank third against the pass, they actually rank last in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. The Titans want to hide Ryan Tannehill with good defense and a strong running game, meaning Derrick Henry's streak of 15-plus carries in every game should continue. With Cam Newton still out and Kyle Allen showing that he is capable of making some bad mistakes, Tennessee could see plenty of short fields and red zone opportunities.

John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills ($6,200)

In what should be much better weather conditions, John Brown should torch this Washington defense that ranks 26th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. He should spend plenty of time on Josh Norman, who isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore at the age of 31. Even with younger legs, Norman ran a 4.66 40-yard dash, so Brown's 4.34 speed makes for an obvious mismatch.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs ($6,000)

Total gut call, but Sammy Watkins has a shot at repeating his Week 1 performance.

In his first game back from injury, Watkins saw eight targets from Matt Moore -- only one less than Tyreek Hill. The Vikings have been solid against the pass, but they did give up a monster game to a similarly built player in Marvin Jones. We have seen Watkins at his best this season, and that was 42.3 fantasy points against the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to, his average depth of target was only 5.2 yards in Week 8. While those short targets aren't as valuable as deep shots, Watkins is more than capable after the catch, as he ranks fifth among receivers in YAC, despite only playing in five games this year. He is the ideal mid-priced tournament upside play.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs ($6,700)

If you don't want to take the risk on Sammy this week, Travis Kelce is a far safer play at just $700 more. He has seen at least eight looks in all but one game this season. Minnesota has also given up the second-most targets, third-most receptions, and sixth-most receiving yards to tight ends. On a slate without much sure-fire talent, paying up for Kelce is a great option.

Bargain Bin Prospects

Jaylen Samuels, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers ($5,000)

With James Conner getting banged up against the Miami Dolphins after the game was already out of reach, Jaylen Samuels becomes an intriguing option. At 225 pounds with Trey Edmunds as the only other healthy back, Samuels would likely get all of the work in the backfield in the absence of Conner.

He is also the most capable pass-catcher, as he played tight end at North Carolina State and accumulated a 20.2 percent target share (97th-percentile, per PlayerProfiler). Even if Conner suits up, the Pittsburgh Steelers have shown a willingness to split the work between them. In Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals, they each saw 18 touches, and both finished as top-6 running backs.

Jonathan Taylor Smith is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice Jonathan Taylor Smith also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jtsmittyyy. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.