- Should you pay up for both David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell this week? T.J. Hernandez says yes.
The Socratic paradox states, “I know one thing; that I know nothing.” (There’s actually no evidence Socrates ever even said this.) Keep this statement in mind throughout the season. DFS is a humbling game—successful cash game players lose 40% of the time. We’re going to get a lot wrong over the next few months. But so is everyone else. DFS isn’t necessarily about being right every time, as much as it’s about being wrong less than our opponents.
Don’t assume you have all the answers this year, and don’t assume I do either. Take in valuable information as much as possible and focus on the process of being a winning DFS player, since the process is the only part you can control. Question everything because none of us really knows anything (about the future at least).
What this column hopes to accomplish this year is to make you wrong less often than everyone else. Each week, I’ll give my overall DraftKings cash game strategy thoughts, and discuss how players fit into these strategies (or don’t). By gleaning a general approach to the week, along with a player pool to consider, you should walk away feeling well-equipped no matter your bankroll strategy or game selection process.
Main Slate Cash Game Strategy
To Bell and DJ, or to not Bell and DJ? The makeup of cash game lineups this week is going to be determined by how badly you want to pair LeVeon Bell and David Johnson. With both backs priced well over $9,000, a true punt or two is necessary to make this duo a reality. Fortunately, there's just enough value available this week to lock in their 55 combined projected touches. This is my preferred strategy this week. Remember, in cash games you want to be consistently better than average and you don’t have to blow away the field by being perfect at every position. If Bell or DJ somehow whiff, you’re not going to lose ground on the field, but fading either one could make it nearly impossible to have a profitable week if they both perform as expected.
Each position is going to be approached with the idea that getting to Bell and Johnson is the objective, and it starts with finding a value at quarterback. Carson Wentz ($5,300) is the top-projected value on the week against a Redskins secondary that sits 24th in projected quarterback aFPA. The line on this game has oscillated back and forth between the two teams, but Philadelphia currently sits as a 1-point favorite with a respectable 24.25 implied point total. Quarterback scoring is the flattest of all positions, meaning the gap between the top plays and replacement-level players is negligible relative to the other positions. DraftKings lends itself to saving at the quarterback position and with an eye on running back, this is the week to do it. Wentz is the cutoff for cheap signal-callers this week, though. The trio of Scott Tolzien ($4,500), DeShone Kizer ($4,800), and Jared Goff ($4,800) have floors too low for cash games. Aaron Rodgers ($7,000), Marcus Mariota ($6,800), Russell Wilson ($6,800), and Matt Ryan ($6,900) are packed in a pricing tier that would make it nearly impossible to fit the top two backs in your lineup.
It’s pretty clear by now what my plan is here. Johnson and Bell have the highest projected floors of any players this week and the highest non-QB ceilings. They are also the only two players who have a better than 50% chance of hitting their cash game value. The matter beyond these two is how to get a running back into the flex spot—Carlos Hyde ($4,600) allows for that. He’s not in an ideal situation as an underdog, but the 49ers are at home and are my pick for upset of the week. At the very least, Hyde is projected for 18 touches, which actually gives him a similar dollar per touch value as Johnson. If Bell and Johnson weren’t driving my decision-making, I’d strongly consider Todd Gurley ($6,000) behind an improved offensive line as a 3.5-point home favorite against a Tolzien-led Colts team that figures to leave the Rams with favorable field position more often than not.
Depending on how you maneuver your salary, there is a trio of mid-tier receivers to target as cash game anchors: Larry Fitzgerald ($5,900), Doug Baldwin ($6,700), and Michael Crabtree ($6,000). All three rank in the top eight at the position in projected odds of hitting cash-game value, with none coming in below 40%.
Fitzgerald is a top-two value on the main slate and will face a Lions secondary that allowed the highest red zone touchdown rate through the air last season. Few receivers see the volume Fitzgerald does in the red zone, as he ranked in the top 10 in red zone target share in 2016.
Baldwin will draw coverage from Damarious Randall, who allowed the second-most fantasy points per snap of any cornerback to play at least eight games last season. As a unit, the Packers secondary projects as the fourth-worst defense in wide receiver aFPA—fantasy points allowed to receivers is a very sticky year-to-year stat at the extremes.
Oakland’s two primary pass catchers, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, have nearly identical projections across the board against a Titans secondary beginning the season at the bottom of the wide receiver aFPA chart, but the former comes with a $1,200 discount. With an over/under sitting at 50.5 and a spread of just 2.5, this is one of the likelier shootouts of the week.
Unfortunately, rostering all three of the wideouts isn’t a realistic option, but Kendall Wright ($3,200) is the key to unlocking Week 1. With Cameron Meredith out for the season, Wright is now the safe floor play on the Bears. He will line up in the slot and should command team-leading target volume over Kevin White, who has yet to show he is ready to be the focal point of a passing game. There isn’t another trustworthy true punt option on DK this week.
With Jordan Matthews now in Buffalo, Zach Ertz ($3,500) will dominate middle-of-the-field targets for the Eagles, and he gets to face a Washington defense that projects as a bottom-10 team against tight ends. Stacking a quarterback with one of his pass-catchers isn’t a popular cash game option, but it also isn't one I necessarily shy away from, especially when both players are particularly inexpensive. Priced as the TE10 and just $1,000 above the salary minimum, there’s no need to get cute in cash at the most volatile position in fantasy.
Because of their affordability, the Rams ($3,200) are the top value of the week as 3.5-point home favorites. The Bills and Steelers are bigger favorites, but paying up at defense restricts the floor of the more valuable skill positions this week. One intriguing cash option is to completely ship this roster spot. If the top defenses don’t put up a monster number, which is hard to do without a touchdown, the separation in fantasy scoring is small at the position. San Francisco ($2,100) is a top-four value against a Panthers offense projected to rank in the bottom five in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses.