This article is part of our DFS Tournament Guide series.
Week 1 wasn't exactly the highlight of my DFS career, thanks in large part to a bold/stupid(?) decision to use David Johnson over Alvin Kamara. Fortunately, there are 16 more chances to get it right, and losing weeks are the norm for any tournament-only player.
Week 2 means we have some actionable information from regular-season games, with added clarity on player roles that seemed uncertain throughout the summer. Catches, carries and targets are obviously important to track, but we can often learn even more from snap counts.
This guide focuses strictly on the main slate of Sunday afternoon games, with recommendations meant to be used for large-field, GPP tournaments. Player prices will only be mentioned for the two largest DFS sites, though much of what's discussed can be applied throughout the industry.
Point-Per-Dollar Value Plays
Variance and low ownership are desirable in large DFS tournaments, but we still need a few building-block players that are strong bets to outperform their price tags even if they don't have the highest ceilings and/or are likely to be popular plays. Sunday's slate doesn't have a ton of players that stand out in this regard, so we'll want to keep a close eye on injury situations with potential to create value for other players (this is covered at the bottom of the page).
RB Tevin Coleman, ATL (vs. CAR), ($5,300 DK; $5,900 FD)
Coleman gets bumped from 'injury situations' to 'top values' now that Devonta Freeman (knee) has officially been ruled out. You could make a case that ownership and matchup are serious concerns, but neither is enough to scare me away from this combination of price, expected workload and talent. We only need to look back to last November when Coleman had a three-game stretch with 59 carries and four touchdowns while Freeman recovered from a concussion. With little reason to believe the Falcons trust rooke fourth-round pick Ito Smith, we can comfortably project Coleman for 20 touches in a game his team is favored to win by six points. In a week with so many strong plays at running back, Coleman's ownership won't soar as high as it typically would in this situation. He makes for a nice correlation play with the Atlanta defense ($2,700 DK; $3,400 FD) against a Carolina team that's been decimated by injuries offense.
RB James Conner, PIT (vs. KC), ($6,700 DK; $7,00 FD)
This isn't quite the absurd value we got last week, but it's still a clear case of elite volume at a sub-elite price. Conner handled a 92 percent snap share Sunday against the Browns, while Stevan Ridley was limited to special teams and Jaylen Samuels didn't play at all. Much like Le'Veon Bell before him, Conner is noticing the benefits of a slimmer physique in his second professional campaign, showcasing improved agility and receiving skills. The Pitt product can reasonably be projected for 20 carries and five targets against a bad Chiefs defense in a game with the highest over/under (53.5) of the week. Conner is locked in as an RB1 in season-long leagues until Bell returns or the Steelers trust Ridley or Samuel to take some snaps.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (at SF), ($4,800 DK; $5,700 FD)
Marvin Jones and Golden Tate were options 1A and 1B in Detroit last season, combining for 230 targets and 2,104 receiving yards while Golladay and TJ Jones (97 combined targets) essentially shared the No. 3 job. It now seems we need to make room for Golladay as option 1C after he led the wideout group in snap share (93 percent) and receiving yards (114) in a Week 1 loss to the Jets. The Lions have the perfect roster to keep three wide receivers relevant for fantasy purposes, with shortcomings at tight end and on the defensive side likely funneling targets toward Golladay, Tate and Jones. The second-year pro is the physical freak of the bunch, boasting a size-speed combination that should lead to a nice mixture of big plays and red-zone targets. Don't be surprised if Golladay ends up with a 2018 stat line similar to what we saw from Jones last year.
Correlation plays are the centerpiece of any DFS tournament lineup, and this is usually where I start to focus on ceiling and ownership in addition to point-per-dollar projections. Not to say we can't also find value, but it's often worth a small sacrifice in that department to avoid the stacks that will crop up in a multitude of lineups. The ideal scenario allows us to match our QB with one of his primary targets as well as a pass catcher from the other team, hoping to capitalize on a tight, high-scoring affair in which both sides stay aggressive deep into the fourth quarter. With that mind, here are the games I'm focusing on for Sunday:
Chiefs at Steelers
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a DFS expert to point out a game with the highest over/under on the slate by a four-point margin. It's the type of contest we might sometimes avoid due to ownership concerns, but in this specific case I'm having a hard time picturing anything besides a shootout. Kansas City has the league's largest discrepancy between talent dispersion on offense and defense, with Pittsburgh arguably not too far behind. Add in likely absences for Chiefs safety Eric Berry (heel) and Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (hamstring) and we're left with the perfect recipe for fireworks unless Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) also sits. Assuming Big Ben plays, this is the type of game where we can run four or five players deep with a stack. We don't even need to worry about taking Conner out of these lineups, as there's a multi-year trend of positive correlation between fantasy scores for Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Bell/DeAngelo Williams. I'm also a fan of the KC half of this contest, with Patrick Mahomes ($6,100 DK; $7,500 FD) and Travis Kelce ($5,900 DK; $6,800 FD) making for an especially attractive stack on DraftKings. My favorite stack on DK is Mahomes-Conner-JuJu-Kelce, while on FD it isn't too hard to fit Roethlisberger-Conner-Brown-Kelce.
Lions at 49ers
Tied for third on the slate with an over/under of 48 points, this games usually makes more sense for a stack than the KC-PIT contest when trying to fit guys like Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley into a lineup. I've already discussed Kenny Golladay as a bargain, and we're fortunate to see Jimmy Garoppolo ($6,000 DK; $7,300 FD) and George Kittle ($3,800 DK; $5,600 FD) land in the same category. I'll also consider adding Dante Pettis ($4,000 DK; $4,500 FD) as the fourth man on a FanDuel stack if Marquise Goodwin (quad) is ruled out. On DraftKings I'm actually considering Alfred Morris ($3,600 DK; $5,800), who is cheap enough to provide a strong return without sabotaging Garoppolo's volume.
While not nearly as important as quarterback-receiver combos, RB-Defense mini-stacks present another opportunity to take advantage of positive correlations in tournament lineups. We're generally looking for teams that are comfortably favored to win, preferably with a starting running back who dominates goal-line and clock-killing work. We've already covered the excellent Coleman-Falcons stack, but there are also a couple of other options:
Royce Freeman ($4,300 DK; $6,000 FD) + Broncos D/ST ($3,300 DK; $4,500 FD)
With Devontae Booker all but out of the picture, Freeman finds himself in a timeshare with fellow rookie Phillip Lindsay, who is listed at just 5-foot-8, 190 pounds. The two rookies took 15 carries apiece Week 1 against Seattle, but the split should lean more in Freeman's direction whenever the Broncos play with a solid lead instead of taking part in a back-and-forth affair. With the Raiders coming to town as six-point underdogs on a short week after an ugly loss, the Broncos are in the type of spot that could lead to 20 carries for Freeman. The pricing makes this a stronger player on DraftKings, but there's enough correlation potential and upside to at least give it a look on both sites.
Alfred Morris ($3,600; $5,800 FD) + 49ers D/ST ($2,800 DK; $3,700 FD)
Hear me out before you get mad at me for recommending the same game for QB-WR-TE stacks and an RB-D/ST stack. I'm not saying you should combine everything in one lineup — this should be pretty obvious — but I do like Morris-49ers as a cheap correlation play that leaves plenty of salary for those expensive Chiefs-Steelers stacks. Also consider that Morris handled a 52 percent snap share in last week's 24-16 loss to Minnesota, despite getting stuck in a game script that should've worked in favor of Matt Breida (46 percent).
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (at ATL), ($7,000 DK; $7,400 FD)
My love for the Chiefs-Steelers game limits big spending elsewhere, mostly forcing me to turn toward second-tier stars like McCaffrey, who caught my eye with an 85 percent snap share in a Week 1 contest that theoretically should've encouraged more involvement from C.J. Anderson. This confirms our suspicion that Anderson will handle a much smaller role than Jonathan Stewart had last year, serving as a backup rather than a partner. The Panthers do have major issues on offense after losing Greg Olsen (foot) and three starting linemen, but the Atlanta defense faces a similar challenge without S Keanu Neal (knee) and MLB Deion Jones (foot). Best of all, the Falcons are working on a three-year streak of leading the league in receptions allowed to running backs. This is a spot where McCaffrey can provide a huge return without doing much on the ground, and his reliance on receiving stats even allows us to use him in a lineup with Coleman and the Atlanta defense.
Fading The Field
WR Michael Thomas, NO (vs. CLE), ($8,600 DK; $8,800 FD)
Everything lined up perfectly for Thomas last weekend when the Saints were forced into catch-up mode against a Tampa Bay team playing without its top cornerback. The result? A 16-180-1 receiving line on 17 targets — an anomaly in terms of both volume and efficiency. It's not that I think the Browns will give Thomas any issues, but rather that I expect his targets to be cut approximately in half. Drew Brees probably won't need to throw 45 passes again, and a better game script should allow the Saints to distribute a higher percentage of targets to their secondary and tertiary skill-position players. It's rarely wise to pay this kind of price for a wide receiver in a game with a 10-point spread, especially when we know ownership will be pretty high. The elephant in the room? That would be Alvin Kamara, who carries similar concerns regarding ownership and price, but without the same risk when it comes to volume. While not quite committed to a 100 percent fade, I probably won't have Kamara in many lineups this week (pray for me).
The Bargain Bin
QB Case Keenum, DEN (vs. OAK), ($5,800 DK; $6,700 FD)
RB Alfred Morris, SF (vs. DET), ($3,600 DK; $5,800 FD)
WR Mike Williams, LAC (at BUF), ($3,700 DK; $5,400 FD)
TE Jared Cook, OAK (at DEN), ($3,600 DK; $5,000 FD)
Pricing Discrepancies Between FD and DK
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook ($6,500 DK; $6,500 FD) stands out as an elite play on one site and just an okay option on the other, priced at RB16 on FD and RB8 on DK. He handled an 80 percent snap share in Minnesota's opener, providing a resounding answer to any concerns about a timeshare with Latavius Murray. That's not to say Murray won't still get some carries, but he shouldn't impact Cook's ability to get around 20 touches per week.
The story is similar for Eagles WR Nelson Agholor ($6,100 DK, $6,100 FD), priced at WR35 on FD and WR18 on DK for a matchup with the leaky Tampa Bay secondary. He's not entirely out of play on DK, but it obviously makes more sense to get your shares at the bargain price on FD.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the aforementioned Morris and Freeman, both of whom are cheap on DK but appropriately priced on FD.
And last but not least is Roethlisberger, priced at QB2 on DK and QB6 on FD. That isn't exactly a monstrous gap, but it's enough to push me toward Mahomes for most of my PIT-KC game stacks on DraftKings.
Injury Situations to Monitor
New England Backfield
With Sony Michel still recovering from a knee injury and Rex Burkhead now bothered by a concussion, James White ($4,500 DK; $5,900 FD) may be headed for a heavy workload Sunday in Jacksonville. White becomes an obvious play if both Michel and Burkhead are absent, but we probably won't actually know until the Patriots release their inactive list 90 minutes before the 4:25 PM ET kickoff. Given the respective pricing, scoring systems and RB alternatives, White is best used on DK. The Patriots probably won't give us any real clues about Michel or Burkhead before Sunday.
This is another one that may leave us guessing until around 3:00 PM ET on Sunday, with a Fournette absence potentially opening up a huge workload for T.J. Yeldon ($5,600 DK; $6,200 FD). Jaguars coach Doug Marrone did talk about getting Corey Grant more involved, but I'd still expect Yeldon to land around 15-to-20 carries and four receptions if Fournette isn't able to play. The combination of volume expectation and price would make Yeldon a strong play on both sites.
Here's one where we might actually get clarity before Sunday, as 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has generally been pretty transparent (or at least honest) about injury situations. Should Goodwin's quad injury lead to an absence, I'll have some level of interest in all three of Kittle, Pierre Garcon ($5,000 DK; $5,600 FD) and Dante Pettis ($4,000 DK; $4,500 FD), though not necessarily outside of a Garoppolo stack.
The Chargers ran Benjamin (shoulder) and Mike Williams as co-No. 3 wideouts in the season opener, with the latter doing damage late in the game to finish at five catches for 81 yards on six targets. Benjamin's probable Week 2 absence frees up Williams to handle the No. 3 job on his own, presumably getting regular snaps alongside Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams in an offense using a blocking specialist and an ancient artifact at tight end. This is our best path to get a cheap piece of an offense that should put up a bunch of points. As a bonus, (Mike) Williams could stay in the game even if it turns into a blowout and other key players are limited or removed.
Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday morning in North Carolina and is now expected to swing up north toward Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia early next week. Our thoughts go out to anyone impacted by the storm, particularly in the Carolinas.
It appears Florence won't have much of an impact on NFL games, and there aren't any other weather concerns as of Friday morning. Just make sure to check on the situation before locking in lineups, as there's still some chance the hurricane could lead to rain or wind in Nashville (MIA-TEN) or Jacksonville (NE-JAX). Light rain isn't a concern for offensive output, but wind starts to become a concern once its reaches the 15-20 mph range.