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.
QB Kyler Murray vs. WAS ($6,100)
Murray is a rushing-threat QB coming off a 27-fantasy-point performance on the road against the defending NFC champs, now returning home to 'Zona with an implied team total of 26.5 points for a matchup with a football team named Football Team. The WFT gang does have an impressive pass rush, but so do the 49ers, who have yielded an average of 25.7 DK points in three career matchups with K2. This $6,100 price seems like an error, so the only downside for tournaments is that Murray will be heavily rostered
WR Diontae Johnson vs. DEN ($4,500)
Johnson's season debut was spoiled by a drop and a fumble, but his usage couldn't have been any more encouraging, as he drew a team-high 10 targets while playing 86 percent of snaps and running a route on 94 percent of Ben Roethlisberger's dropbacks. Johnson's 32.3 percent target share was tied for sixth-largest in the league last week, and he now figures to run a bunch of his routes against Broncos rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia. (Check out Week 2 Start/Sit for a more detailed analysis of the matchup.)
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.
Football Team (19.75) at Cardinals (26.75)
Dwayne Haskins ($5,100) is more than I can stomach, especially when Murray ($6,100) is arguably the best value on the entire slate. And given the prices on Kenyan Drake ($5,900) and Christian Kirk ($4,300), it seems like a pretty easy decision to roster two of Murray's teammates. Target hog DeAndre Hopkins ($7,700) should probably be one of the two, though it wouldn't be unreasonable to fade him in favor of a Murray-Drake-Kirk stack. My preference is the Murray-Hopkins-Kirk option, while Drake will fill one of my RB spots in lineups that stack a different game (chalky, I know, but there are plenty of other ways to differentiate).
There are two solid options to "bring it back" on the Washington side — WR Terry McLaurin($5,900) and TE Logan Thomas ($3,600). As much as I love Steven Sims, it's hard to get behind him at $4,700 on a slate with so many other WR options in the same price range or lower. The Cardinals have been notoriously bad covering the middle of the field since the start of last season, while McLaurin could be shadowed by CB Patrick Peterson. That gives Thomas the relative matchup advantage, though Terry is still the better player and the safer bet to pile up volume.
This game is highly promising in terms of overall play volume, considering Washington worked at the fourth-fastest pace in neutral situations last week, while Arizona was just one spot lower at No. 5. And the Cardinals went no-huddle on a league-high 43 plays.
Best Stack: QB Murray + WR Hopkins + WR Kirk + TE Thomas
Falcons (24.5) at Cowboys (29)
Dallas carries the No. 1 implied total on the slate, facing a perennially shaky Falcons defense that just got roasted by chef Russell Wilson. This would normally be a spot where Dak Prescott ($6,800) was massively rostered, but it shouldn't get too out of hand this week, considering Murray is underpriced and Lamar Jackson ($8,200) faces a defense that was last seen folding like a lawn chair in a primetime game.
Anyway, it's pretty clear where Dallas will send the ball, especially after Blake Jarwin suffered a season-ending knee injury (Dalton Schultz, $3,700, stunk it up when he replaced Jarwin last week). The options are Ezekiel Elliott ($8,200), Amari Cooper ($6,300), Michael Gallup ($5,600) and CeeDee Lamb ($4,700). It was Cooper who gobbled up targets last week, but Gallup ran a route on 96 percent of Prescott's dropbacks, and Lamb wasn't far behind at 89 percent, i.e., each of the three is a full-time player in an offense heavily based around 11 personnel (three WR, one RB, one TE).
We've certainly seen Prescott and Elliott both put up big numbers in the same game, but a quick look back through the game logs does show that most of Elliott's true blow-up performances coincided with mid-range outings for his QB. Despite his three-down role, Elliott hasn't typically been a priority in the passing game apart from the second half of the 2018 campaign.
There's nothing wrong with Cooper at $6,300, but we can probably get lower ownership and greater salary flexibility by pairing Prescott with his other two receivers, both of whom are extremely talented and well positioned for at least six or seven targets per week (arguably more) moving forward.
Garbage-time hero Matt Ryan ($6,600) is a tough sell on a slate with Prescott at basically the same price and Murray significantly cheaper. But Julio Jones ($7,400) is always a solid tournament play, and Calvin Ridley ($6,800) is right on track for his widely anticipated breakout. Hayden Hurst($4,600) was a total dud last week, but he does give us a way to differentiate from the deluge of Prescott-Cooper-Ridley/Jones stacks that figure to populate tournaments.
The Cowboys were first in overall pace and first in neutral-situation pace last week. The Falcons were third and 11th, respectively. Looking back to last year, Atlanta ranked fifth and ninth under the same coaching staff. Dallas had a different head coach but the same OC (Kellen Moore), and finished second in both overall and situation-neutral pace. Long story short, we should expect a lot of plays, and probably a lot of passes. There's potential for both teams to run 70-plus plays.
Best Stack: QB Prescott + WR Gallup + WR Lamb + TE Hurst
Ravens (28.5) at Texans (21.5)
Lamar Jackson ($8,200) is facing a bad defense, and he might be overshadowed by Prescott and Murray in DFS. The price shot up on Marquise Brown ($6,200) after last week's solid performance, but he still has massive upside as the clear No. 1 receiver in a prolific offense, squaring off with a terrible Houston secondary. Then there's TE Mark Andrews ($6,300), who saw career highs for snap share (71 percent) and routes per dropback (.87) in the season opener. He's getting more work with Hurst off in Atlanta now.
It's a tough matchup all around, but we did get encouraging Week 1 usage signs for Will Fuller($6,300) and Jordan Akins ($3,300), with the former drawing 10 targets while the latter played 88 percent of snaps. Fun fact: Fuller and Akins ran the same number of routes (32) last week.
Both teams bring back most of the same coaches from last season, and both played in Week 1 games where the outcome was mostly decided by the end of the third quarter. It therefore seems nearly pointless to look at the pace stats from last week, but here they are if you're curious: Baltimore - (28th overall, 23rd neutral-situation); Houston - (13th overall, 28th neutral-situation).
As for last year, the Ravens were 32nd overall and 27th in neutral situations. The Texans were 15th overall, and 14th in neutral situations. Long story short, this game doesn't have the same volume expectation as the contests in 'Zona or Dallas... but it does have Lamar Legend!
Best Stack: QB Jackson + WR Brown + TE Andrews + TE Akins
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 David Montgomery rather than Tarik Cohen in conjunction with the Chicago defense.
RB Ronald Jones ($5,200) + Buccaneers D/ST ($3,000) vs. CAR
Things didn't work out so great for the Bucs in a visit to the Superdome, but their defense actually played pretty well, and Jones got 19 of the 26 touches (73 percent) that went to running backs. Even if Leonard Fournette does earn more work as the year moves along, it won't necessarily happen this week, following a subpar showing (five carries for five yards) in his Bucs debut. Jones should see at least 15 touches again, and this time he'll be working as an 8.5-point favorite against the feeble Carolina defense, rather than trying to find holes against a stingy Saints front that limited RBs to only 3.7 YPC last year. The Tampa defense is also a strong play, sitting fourth in my weekly D/ST rankings but only 12th in price on the main DFS slate.
RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. ATL ($8,200)
The Seahawks gave off strong Angry Birds vibes while abusing the Falcons through the air last week, but it's probably a pick-your-poison situation with the Atlanta defense, rather than a consistent pass funnel. In any case, Elliott should have some aerial involvement, after handling four targets and 88 percent snap share in the Week 1 loss to Los Angeles. Maybe Tony Pollardeventually gets more playing time, but what we've seen so far is a continuation of the familiar plan — Zeke, Zeke and more Zeke.
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.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire at LAC ($7,400)
This is a reasonable price for the Chiefs' lead back, but his matchup isn't particularly enticing, while some of the other top-tier RBs — namely Elliott and Henry — get home games against weak defenses. The Chargers have a solid front seven, and the Chiefs' interior line could be exposed by tougher competition. There's also the matter of Darrel Williams stealing passing downs, which wasn't a problem against the Texans last week but could create issues against tougher defenses that aren't so easily knocked back off the line of scrimmage.
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 T.Y. Hilton vs. MIN ($5,700)
For his career, Hilton has averaged 15.4 PPR points in home games and 13.1 on the road, with the split widening to 3.7 points if we instead compare games played outdoors to those played in a stadium with a retractable roof (he does really well in Indy and Houston... elsewhere, not so much). After tying for the team lead with nine targets last week, Hilton returns home to face a Minnesota defense that just surrendered a combined 22-314-4 receiving line to Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. It doesn't hurt that the Colts are already losing some bodies around Hilton on offense, with Marlon Mack (Achilles) out for the season, Jack Doyle(ankle/knee) looking shaky for Week 2, and both Zach Pascal (ankle) and Michael Pittman (toe) a bit banged up. Hilton and Jonathan Taylor should be leaned on heavily Sunday afternoon.
The Bargain Bin
QB Mitchell Trubisky vs. NYG ($5,500)
RB James Robinson vs. TEN ($4,400)
WR Diontae Johnson vs. DEN ($4,500)
WR Parris Campbell vs. MIN ($4,500)
WR Christian Kirk vs. WAS ($4,300)
WR Mike Williams vs. KC ($4,200)
WR Jalen Reagor vs. LAR ($4,100)
WR Scotty Miller vs. CAR ($4,100)
WR Corey Davis vs. JAX ($4,000)
WR Breshad Perriman vs. SF ($3,800)
TE Chris Herndon vs. SF ($3,400)
TE Jordan Akins vs. BAL ($3,300)
TE Ian Thomas at TB ($3,200)
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 Phillip Lindsay at PIT
A toe injury forced Lindsay to miss the second half of Denver's Week 1 loss, yet Royce Freemanfinished the game with only six offensive snaps. That suggests Melvin Gordon ($5,200) will see a ton of snaps and touches if Lindsay is out this week, arguably becoming the best value on the board if we were to only look at price and expected volume. The problem, of course, is the matchup at Pittsburgh, and Gordon has never been the type to create a ton of yards on his own without any blocking help. I'll probably prefer David Johnson ($5,800) in a home game against Baltimore if I'm targeting the aforementioned combination of reasonable price, big-time volume and a tough matchup, though Gordon does have some appeal if you have less than $5,500 remaining to fill out the final spot of a lineup.
WR Chris Godwin vs. CAR
Guys who land in the concussion protocol usually miss at least one game, but early reports suggest Godwin's symptoms aren't too bad. Mike Evans ($6,300) already has a good matchup, and we could see Scotty Miller ($4,100) in an every-down role if Godwin is out. There's also some appeal to Rob Gronkowski ($4,100), who was quiet last week but did handle a full workload (77 percent snap share). Justin Watson ($3,500) would be the hail-mary play, while O.J. Howard($3,900) is the point-chaser's special.
WR Kenny Golladay at GB
Marvin Jones ($5,700) was a bust last week, finishing with a 4-55-0 receiving line and somehow getting out-targeted (10-to-8) by rookie Quintez Cephus ($3,800). Both wideouts are DFS options if Golladay sits again, and T.J Hockenson ($5,200) would also get a small boost. Jones could see shadow coverage from Packers CB Jaire Alexander.
WR Courtland Sutton at PIT
If you're bold enough to mess around with a road game in Pittsburgh, it's at least worth noting that Jerry Jeudy ($4,900) saw eight targets last week. Personally, I'd rather take a shot on Noah Fant($4,400), who looked awesome on Monday Night Football and plays a position with fewer viable fantasy options.
WR Jamison Crowder vs. SF
Crowder is looking questionable with a hamstring injury, and the 49ers likely will be down two cornerbacks (including Richard Sherman, who is now on IR). There's an opportunity for Breshad Perriman ($3,800) to have a nice game, but TE Chris Herndon ($3,400) is even cheaper and was more involved in the passing attack last week.
WR DeVante Parker vs. BUF
This is yet another situation where the potential for added volume is somewhat offset by a difficult matchup. Preston Williams ($4,800), Isaiah Ford ($3,500) and Mike Gesicki ($4,000) will be the best bets for Miami targets if Parkers sits out with his hamstring injury, but none of the bunch inspires confidence in a matchup with Buffalo.
WR Golden Tate vs. CHI
This isn't exactly huge, but another absence for Tate would give a slight boost to the target projections for Sterling Shepard ($5,500), Evan Engram ($5,300) and Darius Slayton ($5,000). The latter is the obvious tournament play, as he lead the team in every major receiving category last week, plus he tends to see his targets further downfield.
TE Jack Doyle vs. MIN
Backup tight end Mo Alie-Cox ($3,000) might be a stretch, but we can at least give T.Y. Hilton($5,700) and Parris Campbell ($4,500) a tiny boost if Doyle is out of the lineup. The most likely response to a Doyle absence would entail throwing more passes to wide receivers and running backs. One could also make an argument for Nyheim Hines ($5,300), but at his new price it kind of feels like we're paying a premium for last week's production.
TE George Kittle at NYJ
Can Jordan Reed ($2,600) break our hearts one last time? It isn't entirely clear if he'll even have the chance, as Kittle (knee) seems to be heading for a game-day decision.
TE Gerald Everett at PHI
We can give Tyler HIgbee ($4,700) a little boost if Everett ends up sitting out with a back injury. Of course, Higbee played 89 percent of snaps last week anyway, and Everett seems to be less of an issue than the fact Higbee is sometimes used as a pass blocker.