Daily Fantasy Football Bargains, Best Buys and Busts: Week 5
In just a few days, someone will have a million dollars sitting in their DraftKings account, as the site is putting on its first million-dollar event of the season this weekend. That's a ridiculous amount of money to win for picking football players based on their performance, but I'm certainly not complaining.
To help get you ready for that big event, and all the other great games going on across the industry this weekend, I've got nine players to target or avoid this weekend in daily fantasy football. These players will be broken up into three categories. The first - Great Values - are pretty obvious. They're undervalued players who will allow you to spend more elsewhere. The next is Worth the Cost, which includes players who are more than worth a large chunk of your budget. The final category is Not Worth It, which includes high-cost players who aren't worth their price tag, and shouldn't be in most of your lineups this week.
Keep in mind that these players may or may not be used in our weekly optimal lineups. To see who the algorithms are selecting on the week, check out our optimal lineup section, and don't forget to use our custom optimal lineup tool.
Louis Murphy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Louis Murphy isn't even available on every daily fantasy site this weekend, but if he is, he's one of the best minimum salary plays in recent history. Mike Evans, the usual starting receiver for the Bucs, will be out with a groin injury he suffered during last Sunday's win against the Steelers.
Murphy stepped in for Evans during that game and showed that his preseason chemistry with quarterback Mike Glennon had not gone away. The second-year quarterback threw the ball his way 11 times on the afternoon, including a key pass for a big gain on the game's final drive.
The Buccaneers face the New Orleans this week, who will be without star safety Jairus Byrd and often struggle against secondary options at receiver (with Keenan Lewis covering the top receiver, but lacking other solid options to handle other receivers). The Saints rank in the bottom three in pass defense this year according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) data, and this should be a high scoring game. This could not be a better situation for the minimum salary Murphy.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers - Kelvin Benjamin has quickly become one of the safest plays in fantasy football, despite big concerns coming out of college that his hands were to inconsistent to be a reliable pass catcher in the NFL.
Those fears have been calmed so far, as Benjamin is the 10th-most targeted receiver in the NFL so far this season, and ranks sixth in our Reception NEP metric, which measures how productive a players' receptions have been. This week, he faces off against the Chicago Bears, who are coming off of a disastrous performance against the Packers.
The Bears aren't the worst defense in the NFL by any stretch of the imagination, but they're hurting in the defensive backfield, and the Panthers are dealing with a plethora of running back injuries as well. This all points to plenty of volume for Benjamin, who stands out as the best skill position player for the team so far this season.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars - Last week, Pittsburgh allowed a below-average young quarterback to post big numbers as Mike Glennon and the Bucs found openings in the Steeler pass defense to pick up an upset win.
This week, the Steelers face another young quarterback who hasn't quite taken the "next step" yet in Blake Bortles, who is currently hovering in the bottom half of our quarterback rankings. And while the Steelers may not lose to a Florida franchise for the second week in a row, there's a very big chance that they allow another productive day through the air to the Jaguars.
The Steelers have the fifth-worst pass defense so far this season, per our data, and that's a good enough matchup to roll with Bortles, who is cheap, and will get plenty of volume as his team will either be close or behind in this contest from beginning to end.
Worth the CostRashad Jennings, New York Giants - Rashad Jennings isn't really even that expensive this weekend on daily fantasy sites, but he fits under "worth the cost" because his floor is so high and he has upside beyond that in a great matchup against the Falcons.
The Giants' lead back got a bit of a breather last week as his team rolled over Washington, and will be ready for a matchup against the second-worst run defense so far this season in Atlanta. Jennings had 20 or more touches in each of his first three games, including a huge workload against the Texans.
This game is predicted to be the highest scoring contest of the weekend in Vegas, with the Falcons slightly favored, and Jennings versatility as a runner and receiver will keep him on the field no matter the game script. I don't know of a universe in which Jennings is not in my cash game lineup this week, and he probably shows up in quite a few tourney lineups as well.
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers - You don't need to do much research to know that "playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars" is sufficient reason to start a running back in fantasy football.
But because of Pittsburgh's issues on defense this year, this game could be closer than the Jaguars other games this season, meaning Bell may get the blowout treatment in the second half as he would with a better defense on his side.
Vegas sees this as a touchdown margin of victory for the Steelers, which means Le'Veon Bell should be on the field for most, if not all, of the afternoon. One of the best running backs going four quarters against the worst defense is a cash-game match made in heaven.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints - Heath Miller may have never actually been covered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, and if they repeat that trend against the New Orleans Saints, it could be a long day for Bucs fans.
Safety Dashon Goldson will sit out for the Bucs, who are already the worst pass defense in the NFL according to our (and many other) rankings. They simply don't have the talent or understanding of their scheme to matchup with Graham right now, who is coming off of a bit of a letdown against the Cowboys (in a game where he should have dominated.)
But that game was on the road, where the Saints are known to stumble, while this one is at home. Expect a huge day from Jimmy Graham, who has lit up the Bucs in the past, and will likely do so again under the roof of the Superdome.
Not Worth It
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos - The Arizona Cardinals have the tenth-best passing defense this season, but they won't be the toughest competition Emmanuel Sanders faces this weekend as the Broncos return to action after a bye week.
Instead, it will be a rebound-waiting-to-happen Demaryius Thomas, a healthier Wes Welker (who has been in practices and meetings for two weeks following a suspension that kept him from the team), and Julius Thomas who will keep Sanders from meeting his ridiculous pricetag across this industry this weekend.
There's just too much competition for targets to pay for Sanders when better red zone options like Thomas and Thomas are similarly priced and offer way more red zone upside. Scoring touchdowns is the name of the game in daily fantasy, and that's not where Sanders shines. Alshon Jeffery is cheaper on FanDuel, and has a matchup with the Panthers, who have no defensive backs who can even begin to cover him in the end zone.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - The New York Giants have the eighth-best pass defense in the NFL, which works against Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense, and makes him a risk to pay off his high price.
Ryan would appear to be a safe play, as he's currently our third-best quarterback in terms of Passing NEP, but he feasted on two bottom-three defenses in Tampa and New Orleans, and struggled mightily against the Bengals, who offer a similar level of competition against the pass as the Giants.
Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger are cheaper on FanDuel, and offer higher upside and a safer floor. There's just no reason to roll with Ryan this week, unless you truly believe that the Giants defense is total fool's gold, which doesn't appear to be the case despite a shaky Week 1 against the Lions.
Alfred Morris, Washington - Just in case you forgot over the bye week, here's a reminder: The Seattle Seahawks are really good on defense. This week, Washington will find that out first-hand, and it makes Alfred Morris un-startable despite a strong start to the season.
Morris has found the end zone early in the year, and has had touchdowns vultured away from him that point to possible positive regression for the third-year runner, but Seattle isn't the team to chase regression touchdowns against. They're sixth-best against the run so far this season, and will likely shut down the Washington passing game and destroy the balance of Jay Gruden's offense.
Rashad Jennings is among a handfull of running backs who cost less than Morris and offer higher floors and ceilings. Morris isn't even worth your time as a contrarian play this weekend. He's worth completely avoiding, as his offense may be completely shut down in primetime on Monday night.