DraftKings is one of my favorite sites to play daily fantasy football on. It’s very different from regular season long fantasy football in many ways.
For those still unaware the ins and outs of daily fantasy, I’ve laid out a bit of a beginners guide:
- First, you are able to build a new lineup each and every week on DraftKings so you can always play whoever you think will blow up that week especially if he is a sleeper and then brag to your friends about it on Tuesday morning. It’s still possible for injuries to burn you, but it won’t hurt as much as season long, which is especially the case this season with all the injuries in the NFL (I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been affected by an injury this year).
- Another thing I love about DraftKings is that it allows you to become a creative lineup builder where you’d have to build lineups with a mix of studs and sleepers. Whereas in season long, most people just play their studs and then pick up fillers from the waiver wire if there is a bye or injury. I know some people are trying to decide whether to start player A or B, but there just isn’t as much decision making and doesn’t require too much skill.
- Also, it really separates the best fantasy players from the average fantasy players. Many of you guys may be the best in your fantasy league or group of friends you play with, but on DraftKings you play against the rest of the world where you will really get to see how good you are and how good other people are.
- There are also different game types you can play, GPP or Cash games. GPP means playing in a large tournament where your goal is to beat hundreds or thousands of lineups. Winning a GPP requires your lineup to be very unique (so probably some good sleepers) and strong. Cash games are when you play against someone head to head or big tournaments where close to 40-50% of the top lineups are considered winners and cash out. This requires less risky lineups because you don’t need a super high score to win. A lineup that scores 220 points will win the same amount of money as a lineup that scores 140 points. But in GPPs 80 point difference could be thousands of dollars. The importance of unique lineups and picking correct sleepers are why I love GPPs and daily fantasy. It has very little to do with money.
- Besides the fact that you want to build a lineup just to get the most fantasy points, daily fantasy requires so many other strategies that really encourage you to think deeper about these games. Some of these strategies include stacking players like the QB with his WR/TE or a RB with his DST to get the most positive correlation, and even some game theory where you will want to pick your players based on what you think your opponents will pick.
- One thing about daily fantasy football is that luck is sometimes needed but it really is a game of skill. There is a lower probability of success if you don’t put in the work but that work will also pay off with success in your season long leagues too.
There are so many reasons to play daily fantasy if you love fantasy football. Now, most contests do require you to put money on the line but if you’re not ready to do that, there are contests that require just 25 cents per lineup, and also DraftKings provides plenty of ways to play for free or just with friends for fun and bragging rights. Also, if you’re wondering why I play DraftKings instead of FanDuel, it’s because DraftKings lineups do not require Kickers and is full PPR whereas Fanduel is .5 PPR. I prefer full PPR as it makes finding value players easier and I just absolutely hate Kickers.
Now that you know some more about daily fantasy sports here are some of my favorite studs, sleepers, and busts for week 9, and feel free to use the sleepers in season long for bye week hell…
Stud: Deshaun Watson (DK: $8,100)
As you guys will notice, I’m extremely high on this game this week. Vegas lists this game as the third highest point total of the week with 49 expected points. Houston is obviously expected to win as 13 point favorites at home against Indianapolis. According to Football Outsiders, the Colts have been somewhat decent at stopping the run but rank third to last in passing DVOA and are very prone to giving up the deep ball, one of Watson’s specialties. Based on pace of neutral situations this game rates as the third fastest game of the week. A former Penn State head coach and Bill Belichick understudy, Houston head coach Bill O’Brien is not known for letting his foot off the pedal. Both Houston and Indianapolis play extremely fast regularly and Houston even has the fifth fastest pace of play when they are leading. Expect there to be lots of plays and lots of fantasy goodness on Sunday in Houston. Watson is very expensive and may be tough to afford, but he is fully expected to have a big game and payoff his salary.
Sleeper: Jacoby Brissett (DK: $5,200)
According to Fantasy Labs, since 2014 one of the strongest correlations of fantasy points between two players is not just the QB and his WR1, but it is actually one QB and the opposing QB with a positive correlation of 0.44. Jacoby Brissett should be somewhat under the radar this week and will be a good cheap QB option on DraftKings and a QB streamer option if you happen to have Tom Brady or recently lost Aaron Rodgers. The Colts are expected to be playing from behind and should be trying to play catch up, this means there are plenty of opportunities for Brissett to reach the bonus of 300+ passing yards. Houston’s pass defense is nothing like it was from a year ago, the loss of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus has devastated their pass rush. The loss of A.J. Bouye also hurts the passing game as well. Besides Johnathan Joseph who is primarily a LCB, Houston’s two other starting CBs, Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson rank in the bottom 30 according to PFF’s CB grades.
Side note: I am also high on T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle. I even expect Donte Moncrief to have a solid game. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller should have good games as well but they are extremely expensive this week.
Bust: Matt Ryan (DK: $6,200)
I have been extremely low on the Falcons since before the season started. One of my bold calls was that the Falcons would miss the playoffs this season. It looked bad in the first 4-5 weeks but now this is starting to look somewhat possible. The offense has just been a mess since Steve Sarkisian took over as the new OC. Warren Sharp has used statistics to point out how bad his play calling has been this year. They always claim that they need to get Julio the ball more, but they have not been doing that at all. Now they travel to Carolina in a big divisional matchup against a Panthers team looking to fight for a playoff spot. Carolina has a very underrated defense as they are 7th in both run and pass DVOA this year. Atlanta has had some success running the ball, but that will unlikely be true in week 9 against a strong run defense. I expect underrated CB James Bradberry to shadow Julio Jones this week. Bradberry has had some success as a shadow corner this year, holding Brandin Cooks to 3/38/0 on 6 targets and Mike Evans to 5/60/0 on 8 targets whenever the ball is thrown his way. Carolina also provides a very tough pass rush by ranking 2nd in adjusted sack rate while Atlanta’s offensive line is a very mediocre 14th in adjusted sack rate. Matt Ryan should be pressured plenty and have a tough day.
Running Back Plays
Stud: Kareem Hunt (DK: $8,600)
Kareem Hunt has “disappointed” after struggling the last few weeks and dominating the early part of the season. This is a perfect bounce back spot for him on the road in Dallas. People who have payed up and rostered Hunt in the last few weeks will likely grow frustrated and probably not do so this week. This should lower his ownership percentage in the field. This is another game that I expect to be high scoring and Vegas seems to agree projecting this game to be the highest scoring game on the week with a total of 51 points. Hunt has still gotten over 20+ touches in more than half of the Chiefs games this season. The Chiefs offensive line is finally healthy again and should provide lots of room to run as the Dallas front seven ranks 8th worst in adjusted line yards. Not only that but they do not have strong tacklers in the secondary.
Sleeper: Adrian Peterson (DK: $5,600)
I hate to do this especially in a full PPR format, but there just aren’t a lot of great cheap RB plays this week (Marlon Mack is also a solid sleeper). I had zero shares of Peterson in week 7 against the Rams in London and am very low on him on the season. The Cardinals are on the road playing against a very leaky SF run defense. The Cardinals are only 2.5 point favorites but I do expect them to take control of this game for a few reasons. C.J. Beathard is bad and Jimmy Garoppolo is not expected to start this game. The Cardinals just lost Carson Palmer and I imagine they will want to keep the ball away from Drew Stanton as much as possible. This means that Adrian Peterson will get lots of chances against a very bad run defense. The Cardinals defense is also a good play with Peterson if you want that positive correlation play.
Bust: Todd Gurley (DK: $8,100)
I am not completely sold on Gurley as a bust but I do have some worries about him this week. One thing that I think is very underrated is the situation of west coast teams travelling east for a 1 PM Sunday game. This 3 hour difference really throws off teams out west because they are essentially playing games at 11 AM and waking up around 5 AM their usual Pacific Time. I also think that the Giants run defense is not terrible. They still have Damon Harrison who is PFF’s top graded interior defender against the run. The Giants defense will likely be focused on stopping Gurley. I still expect Gurley to get a large volume of around 20+ touches this week due to the Giants offense being bad and playing ball control, but I think it will be a very inefficient day for him.
Wide Receiver Plays
Stud: Dez Bryant (DK: $6,400)
As I said before, this game should be a shootout. The Dallas Cowboys may not play with star RB Ezekiel Elliott this week (or they might, who really actually knows?). But if he does not play, this dramatically boosts up Dez Bryant’s outlook for week 9. I don’t believe the Cowboys will run the ball as much with Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden as the starting RBs. I think they will just pass the ball more, especially in this game where I think the Chiefs could score a lot and cause the Cowboys to play catch up. If they lose Ezekiel Elliott, why not use your next best options on offense, QB Dak Prescott and WR Dez Bryant. Another thing going for Dez Bryant is that he lines up as the LWR on close to 50% of his routes this means that he’ll be going up against KC RCB Kenneth Acker who was recently named the starter opposite of Marcus Peters. I doubt he’ll be much better than Terrance Mitchell if at all. The Chiefs almost never shadow with Peters and I don’t expect that to change this week. This means that Dez Bryant should have a juicy matchup with an increase in volume due to the absence of Ezekiel Elliott.
Sleeper: Allen Hurns (DK: $4,800)
My sleeper was between Sammy Watkins due to Janoris Jenkins being suspended and Allen Hurns. But since Watkins is the bigger name I’ll go with Hurns. The Bengals have a pretty good defense but they are beatable down the middle of the field through the air. Leonard Fournette will be back this week after suffering an ankle injury a few weeks ago against the Rams. I know the Jaguars love feeding him 20+ carries each and every week but I think they may lessen his workload a little bit this week. Hurns will likely lineup in the slot for most of the game and will have a positive matchup against Darqueze Dennard. The Jaguars do not want Bortles to throw it that much but if they do take some deep shots down the middle of the field where the Bengals have given up 4 catches on 8 targets for 110 yards and a TD this season. Allen Hurns will likely be the beneficiary of this as he has received 50% of the deep targets down the middle of the field from Bortles this season. This is a very high risk high reward type of play.
Bust: Mike Evans (DK: $7,700)
The Saints pass defense has been legitimately good this season. First round pick Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State has proven to be one of the gems of the 2017 NFL draft. He currently grades as the top rated CB according to PFF. Mike Evans has been strongly affected by shadow corners this season as he has not done better than 5/60/0 on 8 targets when James Bradberry shadowed him in week 8. Most of his production does come whenever he happens to not be shadowed for a given week. His 3/95/1 game vs Arizona came when Patrick Peterson was off the field, as he recorded 0/0/0 on 4 targets whenever Peterson was on him. Through this season Marshon Lattimore has shadowed twice. He limited Brandin Cooks in week 2 for 1/15/0 on 3 targets while covering him and Davante Adams to 0/0/0 on 2 targets in week 7. I don’t believe an injured Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick will be able to help Mike Evans this week in fantasy. I see the Buccaneers going to the run game some more than usual.
Tight End Plays
Stud: Zach Ertz (DK: $6,800)
He is really good, but really expensive this week too. I would only use him in GPP lineups, not cash games as he will need to score 20.4 points to pay off. Ertz and Wentz seem to have a good connection this season and it has shown on the field. Everyone knows about how Denver’s secondary is known as the No Fly Zone, but there is actually a soft spot in this zone and that comes from the tight end position. Wentz will probably have a tough time getting the ball to his primary WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor so in order to move the ball he will likely look towards Ertz’s direction. Travis Kelce recently burned the Denver defense for 7/133/1, Henry finished with 4/73/0 in week 7 and Evan Engram collected a strong 5/82/1 line in week 6. The combination of Ertz and Wentz’s chemistry and the Denver pass defense funneling targets to the TE means that Ertz should be a strong play this week.
Sleeper: Tyler Higbee (DK: $2,800)
Higbee is a very cheap option on DK which will allow you to pay up at other positions this week. I do not have a strong conviction on this play but I will give my reasons why I believe Tyler Higbee is not a terrible play and it’s pretty simple. The Giants do not seem to like to cover TEs. They have allowed at least one TD reception from a TE this season in every single game they’ve played so far. The list of TEs that have scored on the Giants include Eric Ebron, A.J. Derby and a previously struggling Jimmy Graham. Even a 1/1/1 type of game for Higbee will almost be enough for him to pay off his very cheap salary. The one thing that concerns me about this play is that Jared Goff absolutely loves Cooper Kupp in the red zone. Kupp already has 13 red zone targets this season, which is over 34% of the entire team’s red zone target share. The 13 red zone targets is also tied for second in the NFL for most red zone targets this season.
Bust: Evan Engram (DK: $5,600)
Evan Engram has seen his target share rise dramatically ever since the devastating injuries to teammates Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. He has scored 18 and 19.2 fantasy points over the last two Giants games. I believe this streak will end this Sunday vs the Rams. The Rams have been very good at covering the TE this season. I believe that Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is also smart enough to understand that Engram is by far the Giants best offensive weapon. I can see him telling his defense to focus on Engram and forcing the Giants to beat them with other players. Mark Barron is in the top 10 in coverage among LBs and is a big reason why the Rams have been very good at covering TEs this season.
This has actually been one of my strongest plays over the last 3 weeks. I had 100% Saints D in week 6 vs Detroit, I had 50% Bears D and 50% Rams D in week 7, and my favorite defense in week 8 was the Eagles D.
Over the course of the season, I’ve actually come up with a process to evaluate just what defenses are going to pay off. It’s actually pretty intuitive and simple.
First, go to Football Outsiders to get adjusted sack rates for each offensive and defensive line. Then compare the rates for each game and grade them based on how often an offensive line allows a sack and how often a defensive line comes up with a sack. Then for the top graded defensive lines with the best matchup, think about how much you expect the opposing offense will throw the ball. If it is a lot because they either throw a lot regularly, are expected to play catch up, or because the offense is playing against a strong run defense, then that means there will be more opportunities for the defense to get turnovers like interceptions or strip sacks. I also check to see if there is an offense or defense that has a stronger propensity to turning the ball over or getting more turnovers. Most QBs do not perform very well when they are constantly being pressured, so not generating sacks can also mean bad throws as well. The defensive TDs are strictly luck, but if you can project defenses that cause more turnovers, then you are increasing the number of opportunities of getting a lucky defensive TD. One thing to note, DO NOT be afraid of defenses that could give up lots of points if you think it could still generate lots of turnovers. In week 8, the Seahawks gave up over 500 yards of offense and 38 points and still scored a solid 13 points. In week 6, the Saints gave up almost 350 yards of offense and 32 points but still scored a ridiculous 32 points against Detroit.
Favorite: Jacksonville Jaguars (DK: $3,800)
Sacksonville is usually a strong defense and is probably one of the best defenses in the league this year. They have a ridiculously strong pass rush that generates a league leading sack on 11.8% of QB pass attempts. They also have the best of defensive backs in the NFL too, so even if you managed to get rid of the ball, you’re throwing against CBs who don’t let their WRs get away from them very often. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are the highest rated duo of CBs in the league and slot CB Aaron Colvin is not too shabby himself. The Jaguars monstrous defense got even stronger by adding run stuffer Marcell Dareus to their front seven. The Bengals have already had a difficult time protecting Andy Dalton and this week will not be any easier.
Cheap: Carolina Panthers (DK: $2,700)
Going back to my take on the Atlanta offense, I just don’t think their really that good. I think the Panthers will be able to generate lots of pressure on Matt Ryan and possibly force turnovers. I also believe the Panthers run defense will cause the Falcons to be stuck in long 2nd and 3rd down situations which will mean obvious pass plays for the Panthers defense to prepare for. I also think that the Panthers will score points in this game and force the Falcons to play catch up as well.
Bonus: Philadelphia Eagles (DK: $3,300)
Bonus team for the week because I don’t want you to miss out on this one, but I love the Eagles defense this week too. And for one simple reason: Broc Osweiler. They should be able to get lots of pressure on the Denver offensive line as well. I think that Wentz is good enough for the Eagles to build a lead and force Osweiler to throw more than the Broncos would want.
And to end it, it’s only right we throw in a few locks of the week. Here are a few lines, in order of confidence, that I like this week:
- PHI (-8)
- Over HOU vs. IND (49)
- Under TB vs. NO (50)