These are the players with the best projections relative to their DK salaries — good plays both for cash games and large-field tournaments. While we don't want our tourney lineups to look like cash-game lineups top to bottom, there's nothing wrong with using a few "chalk" picks. These players, along with a couple passing-game stacks, tend to form the core that remains fairly consistent throughout my lineups.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. LVR ($6,800)
The rookie hasn't scored a touchdown or ripped off a long gain since Week 1, mostly settling for smaller chunks of yardage in three straight matchups with defenses in the top 10 for fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs. He still scored at least 12.1 PPR points in each game, averaging 17.8 carries and 4.75 targets on 67.5 percent snap share — similar to Kareem Hunt's 2017-18 workload — through the first quarter of the season.
Edwards-Helaire should land back in the neighborhood of 20 fantasy points this week, with the Chiefs carrying the top implied total (33.5) of the week against a Raiders defense that's given up a league-high 38.8 DK points per game to running backs. Part of that is due to matchups, but the Raiders also rank 30th in run-defense DVOA, which is adjusted for opponent strength. It's hard to find a silver (and black?) lining for allowing 5.4 YPC and 7.1 YPT to running backs.
WR Darius Slayton at DAL ($4,800)
Slayton is the clear No. 1 receiver for the Giants with Sterling Shepard (toe) on injured reserve, drawing six or more targets in each game while running a route on 93.7 percent of Daniel Jones' dropbacks. The second-year pro ranks 10th in the league for team air-yard share (37.3) and 20th among wide receivers in target share (20.7 percent), though it hasn't led to much production since he burnt the Steelers for 102 yards and two TDs in the season opener.
That's partially on account of tricky matchups, as each of the Giants' last three opponents sits in the Top 8 for both pass-defense DVOA and fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Dallas, on the other hand, is 25th in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in DK points surrendered to WRs.
Honorable Mentions: RB Mike Davis, CAR at ATL ($6,400); WR DeVante Parker, MIA vs. SF ($5,900); WR Sammy Watkins, KC vs. LVR ($4,500); WR Brandin Cooks, HOU vs. JAX ($4,100); TE Evan Engram, NYG at DAL ($4,600)
Stacks are the centerpiece of any tournament lineup, seeking to take advantage of positive correlations between players. It rarely makes sense to use a quarterback without one or two of his pass catchers, even if the player in question scores a decent portion of his fantasy points with his legs. Ideally, a stack also includes a pass catcher from the other side of the contest, hoping to take advantage of a tight game where both teams are still chucking the ball around late in the fourth quarter. (Implied team totals are listed in parentheses.
Panthers (26) at Falcons (27.5)
Overall Pace: Panthers - 26th (28.70 seconds), Falcons - 2nd (24.41)
Neutral-Situation Pace: Panthers - 22nd (30.58), Falcons - 4th (27.18)
Carolina was first in overall pace and fifth in neutral-situation pace last year, but the new coaching staff seemingly prefers to work a little slower, and Teddy Bridgewater (73.0 completion percentage) rarely throws incompletions to stop the clock. On the other side, it's the same story as ever, with Matt Ryan averaging 41.75 pass attempts per game for a team that can't play a lick of defense.
Running backs had been hogging the Carolina touchdowns until Bridgewater broke out for three (two passing, one rushing) in last week's 31-21 win over Arizona. He's a strong play at only $5,900 on DraftKings, currently on pace for 4,588 passing yards and another 280 on the ground. A lack of TDs is keeping his price low, but he should push for 20-plus DK points this week against an Atlanta defense that somehow has managed to allow 16 total TDs to quarterbacks, four more than any other team.
D.J. Moore ($6,000) and Robby Anderson ($5,900) also are excellent plays, and a double-stack is probably the right call for any lineups with Bridgewater, as the two wideouts have accounted for 48.6 percent of Carolina's targets and 76.3 percent of the air yards. Oddly enough, it's Moore with the deeper aDOT — 12.0 to Anderson's 8.9 — while Anderson actually has seen a couple more targets overall, i.e., the exact opposite of what everyone expected. It's only a four-game sample, so both those things could ultimately drift back toward preseason expectations.
Last but not least, RB Mike Davis ($6,400) has a three-game streak with six or more targets and is coming off back-to-back games with more than 20 DK points. His receiving workload makes him a reasonable addition to Bridgewater lineups, and the target distribution has been narrow enough for Moore, Anderson and Davis to conceivably all have big performances in the same game. FWIW, Christian McCaffrey scored 24.8 DK points in a Week 2 game in which both Anderson and Moore went over 100 yards (and McCaffrey left that game early, giving way to Davis in the fourth quarter).
Matt Ryan ($6,100) won't get you rushing stats, but he's always a decent bet for the 300-yard passing bonus and multiple touchdowns. The only problem here is that the Panthers actually have been decent against the pass, while RBs have run all over them for a second straight year. Todd Gurley ($5,700) hasn't seen enough receiving work to justify using him in a Ryan lineup, but he does make sense as a bring-it-back play for any Carolina stacks.
Figuring out the stacking partners for those Ryan lineups will be a bit trickier, as it largely depends on whether Julio Jones (hamstring) is able to play. He'll be hard to trust if he suits up, but his absence would set up Olamide Zaccheaus ($3,000) as the best min-priced option on Sunday's slate. Zaccheaus played 79 and 76 percent of snaps the past two weeks, catching 12 of 15 targets for 127 yards.
A Jones absence might also lead to huge volume for Calvin Ridley ($7,500), who went 0-for-5 last week while nursing a few injuries of his own. He doesn't appear in danger of missing this game, but it is a little concerning that the Falcons have listed Ridley with ankle, thigh and knee injuries the past two weeks. You probably still want him in a Ryan stack if Julio can't go, but it does seem pretty clear Ridley is less than 100 percent.
The other regulars in this offense are slot man Russell Gage ($5,100) and TE Hayden Hurst($4,600), both of whom seem slightly overpriced relative to the roles/workloads we've seen so far. To be fair, Gage was forced out of the Week 3 game with a concussion, and if we throw that one out, he's averaging 5.7 catches for 60.7 yards. Hurst, on the other hand, is averaging only 3.3 catches for 40.5 yards, largely surviving on touchdowns (two) so far.
Best Stack: QB Bridgewater + RB Gurley + WR Anderson + WR Moore
Giants (22.75) at Cowboys (31.25)
Overall Pace: Giants - 9th (25.72), Cowboys - 1st (19.95)
Neutral-Situation Pace: Giants - 18th (29.71), Cowboys - 1st (23.55)
The Cowboys have been consistently uptempo for a second straight year, while the Giants have been more middle of the pack when they haven't been forced into catch-up mode. Of course, there's a pretty good chance they end up playing from behind this week, as Dallas is favored by 8.5 points.
Excluding two-minute drills, the Cowboys rank No. 2 in no-huddle plays (57), and the Giants are No. 3 (53). (Arizona is first with 129, in case you were wondering.)
Daniel Jones ($5,400) hasn't looked startable so far, but this will easily be the worst defense he's faced in 2020, and any points the Giants score likely will come from him. Not my cup of tea, but there's an argument to be made, especially given the certainty of low ownership.
Slayton we already discussed above as a first-rate play, and teammates Golden Tate ($4,600) and Evan Engram ($4,600) also are awfully cheap relative to the workloads they've seen. Engram is third among tight ends with 20.7 percent target share, while Tate has seen five-to-seven targets in his three games. But both are predominantly getting short passes, with Engram at 4.7 aDOT and Tate at 5.2.
Devonta Freeman ($4,600) took on a larger role last week with 11 carries and four targets on 54 percent of snaps, but between his lack of explosiveness and the poor blocking in front of him, it's hard to envision any real upside beyond 15-18 DK points (and even that sounds like a stretch, maybe).
Amari Cooper ($7,400) and Michael Gallup ($5,400) were neck and neck for the team target lead last season, so I can't help but think the latter is a better tournament play when he's $2,000 cheaper, lower-owned and seeing his passes deeper downfield (17.2 aDOT to Cooper's 9.5). It's a new season, and the decline of the Dallas O-line favors more passes going to Cooper, but there's just no way the 2.1-to-1 Gallup-to-Cooper target ratio holds up in the long run. There's a middle ground between last year's evenly matched number and the utter dominance by Cooper we saw the past four weeks.
Plus, we know the Dak Prescott ($7,400) stack will be chalky, and leaving Cooper out is a good way to differentiate. CeeDee Lamb ($6,000) and Dalton Schultz ($4,800) are the other options from Dallas, though I can't say I love the price in either case.
Best Stack: QB Prescott + RB Elliott + WR Gallup + WR Slayton
Jaguars (24.5) at Texans (29.5)
Overall Pace: Jaguars - 12th (26.44), Texans - 7th (25.19)
Neutral-Situation Pace: Jaguars - 28th (31.66), Texans - 13th (29.16)
Both teams have spent most of the season chasing deficits, but neither has been especially fast-paced from a philosophical standpoint. Most of the stacking appeal for this matchup is based on the defenses being hot garbage.
Gardner Minshew ($6,200) has been similar to Bridgewater, but with more touchdowns, currently on pace for 4,552 passing yards and 276 rushing yards while completing 71.2 percent of his passes. He's been less impressive from a non-fantasy standpoint, turning the ball over five times the last three weeks and accumulating a good chunk of his production in garbage time.
DJ Chark ($6,500), Keelan Cole ($4,700), Laviska Shenault ($4,500) and Tyler Eifert ($3,400) are the viable stacking partners, though none besides Chark has reached 20 DK points in a game this season (Eifert and Shenault haven't even come close). Shenault had his best game last week, catching four of five targets for 81 yards while playing 67 percent of snaps pre-halftime. Unfortunately, he picked up a hamstring injury along the way, dropping to 41 percent snap share and one target in the second half... and now landing on the Week 5 injury report.
A Shenault absence would put Chris Conley ($3,300) in play as a punt, but mostly it would just increase the appeal of a Minshew-Chark-Cole stack. Eifert is also usable, kind of, but his 4.0-target-per-game average isn't super attractive.
(I'm not forgetting about James Robinson; I'm just not interested in using $6,700 on him.)
Finally freed from Bill O'Brien's supposed tyranny, Deshaun Watson ($6,900) shouldn't have too much trouble with an injury-riddled Jaguars defense that ranks dead last in DVOA against the pass. Already struggling, the Jags lost LB Myles Jack, CB CJ Henderson and slot corner D.J. Haydento injuries in last week's loss, and they now have top pass rusher Josh Allen missing practice with a knee issue. Hayden is already on IR, and it's highly likely at least one or two of the others won't be able to play.
Will Fuller ($6,600) is the obvious stacking partner, but Brandin Cooks ($4,100) is much cheaper and isn't far behind in target share (17.9 percent to 17.1). Using both is perfectly reasonable, while Randall Cobb ($4,600) feels more like a sucker play, with 14.6 percent target share and a 7.2 aDOT (where's the upside, bro?).
David Johnson ($5,200) has been a disappointment this year, but he's seen three or four targets in each game, and he got 16 carries last week even with Duke Johnson returning from an ankle injury. There's nothing wrong with adding Johnson to a Watson lineup, or using him on the other side of a Minshew/Jags stack. It's not too hard to envision a scenario where Johnson helps the Texans jump out to a lead, and Minshew then puts up a bunch of points trying to mount a comeback (that's kind of his specialty, right?).
Best Stack: QB Watson + RB Johnson + WR Chark + WR Cooks
We can pair a running back with his team's defense to double our bet on favorable game script in certain matchups. Just keep in mind that the scoring correlations aren't nearly as strong as those between quarterbacks and pass catchers, so it isn't worth forcing into a lineup unless the prices for each individual commodity make sense. We also need to account for specialized backfield roles, e.g., using Joe Mixon rather than Giovani Bernard with the Bengals defense.
RB David Johnson ($5,200) + Houston Texans D/ST ($2,600)
Johnson is one of the cheapest starting running backs on this DFS slate, and the Houston defense is the only sub-$3,000 D/ST from a team that's favored to win. We can't exactly say that either one inspires confidence, but that's kind of already baked into the price, right? Anyway, this is a different option for approaching the Jags-Texans game if you aren't on board with the passing-game stacks mentioned above.
RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. NYG ($7,800)
Elliott has landed between 17.8 and 27.7 PPR points each week this season, getting 44 carries over the first two weeks and 19 targets over the last two. He may not be a big-play threat, but his three-down role means 'bust' games are rare. Stretching back to last season, Zeke has topped 15 PPR points in 11 straight games, with 20-plus in eight of those. There isn't much upside to a fade, as even one of his relatively "bad" games likely would mean a 2-2.5x return on this price.
Honorable Mentions: TE George Kittle, SF vs. MIA ($6,600)
Fading the Field
Every week we see at least one or two players carrying high ownership without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often to blame, but in some cases it even makes sense to fade a player with a strong projection, particularly when there are good alternatives at the same position and price range.
WR Amari Cooper vs. NYG ($7,400)
Game script has consistently worked in Cooper's favor this season, with the Cowboys chasing a deficit each week and thus facing defensive schemes designed to cut off big plays and force short/intermediate throws. That's not to say he'll have a bad game Sunday, but he could be down toward 6-8 targets instead of his current average of 12.75 per game, as the Cowboys are favored by 8.5 points over a Giants team that's been abysmal on offense and unexpectedly half-decent on defense. This should be a week where we see more carries for Zeke and more downfield chances for Michael Gallup.
Other Fades: WR Tyreek Hill, KC vs. LVR ($6,900)
The SMASH Spot
Volume may be king, but we still need to account for efficiency, pinpointing situations that are likely to lead to impressive production in terms of YPA, YPC or YPT.
WR D.J. Moore at ATL ($6,000)
Given the discussion surrounding him, you'd never know that Moore is averaging eight targets and 72 yards per game, down only a tick from last year's breakout numbers. His three drops have been part of the problem, but his track record of sure-handedness means it isn't something we really need to worry about (not to mention that drop rate isn't a sticky stat).
In any case, both Moore and Robby Anderson are set up nicely this week, facing a Falcons defense ranked 29th in both receiving yards (205.5 per game) and YPT (9.8) allowed to wide receivers. Atlanta hasn't given up many touchdowns to the position, but that should change soon enough, as every other aspect of the Falcons' pass defense has been dreadful.
The Bargain Bin
QB Teddy Bridgewater at ATL ($5,900)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at SF ($5,600)
QB Daniel Jones at DAL ($5,400)
RB Antonio Gibson vs. LAR ($5,000)
RB Myles Gaskin at SF ($4,800)
RB Nyheim Hines at CLE ($4,300)
WR Sammy Watkins vs. LVR ($4,500)
WR Brandin Cooks vs. JAX ($4,100)
WR Isaiah Ford at SF ($3,500)
TE Logan Thomas vs. LAR ($3,500)
TE Tyler Eifert at HOU ($3,400)
TE Chris Herndon vs. ARZ ($3,200)
D/ST Cleveland Browns vs. IND ($2,700)
D/ST Houston Texans vs. JAX ($2,600)
D/ST Miami Dolphins at SF ($2,400)
The "Sunday Scramble" doesn't need to be stressful. We can plan our response ahead of time for various scenarios that could emerge once inactive lists are released.
RB Raheem Mostert vs. MIA
This is the biggest injury to watch for Sunday, considering Jerick McKinnon ($5,800) got 21 touches and 92 percent snap share in last week's loss to Philadelphia. McKinnon will be in all my lineups — both cash game and tournament — if Mostert is inactive this weekend.
WR Julio Jones vs. CAR
This on we already discussed in the Carolina-Atlanta game stack section. Calvin Ridley ($7,500) and Olamide Zaccheaus ($3,000) get a boost if Jones is out, while Hayden Hurst ($4,600) and Russell Gage ($5,100) get smaller bumps.
TE Jordan Akins vs. JAX
Red-zone lord Darren Fells ($3,400) would be a reasonable stacking partner for Deshaun Watson if Akins is unable to play after suffering a concussion last week. If Akins does play, it's probably best to avoid the Houston tight ends altogether.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo vs. MIA
I'm not interested in using Garoppolo, but his return from an ankle injury would be good news — or at least relevant news — for teammate George Kittle. Of course, Kittle's fantasy production didn't suffer with poor QB play last week, as it instead resulted in an onslaught of targets with the 49ers playing from behind. In any case, it'll be interesting to see if Garoppolo, Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard ends up starting this weekend. Keep in mind that Deebo Samuel ($5,300) played only 34 percent of snaps last week and could be limited again for Week 5.
RB Kareem Hunt vs. IND
Hunt doesn't appear in danger of missing Sunday's game, but it does seems his groin injury was a factor in D'Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard getting so much work after Nick Chubb (knee) was forced out of last week's win over Dallas. While Hunt offers massive upside with Chubb out of the picture, it's probably a better idea to 'fade' if reports suggest the groin injury is still an issue. Of course, the Browns probably won't broadcast their workload intentions before the game, so we may be left to guess. FWIW, Hunt was a limited practice participant both Wednesday and Thursday.