I’ll be breaking down intriguing leverage plays every week throughout the 2018 NFL season. The focus will be on analyzing our new proprietary metric, Leverage Score, which is based on projected ownership and ceiling.

Visit the FantasyLabs NFL page for more weekly breakdowns. You can also view all of this week’s Leverage Score data using the Player Models.


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The Chalk

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: $4,900 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel

We currently have both Shepard and Bengals running back Giovani Bernard projected in the 31-40% ownership range in our Models, but it’s a lot tougher to fade a pass-catching running back with a guaranteed workload against the Falcons.

That said, building lineups around Shepard makes a ton of sense. Odell Beckham Jr. will run the majority of his routes against Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (not that anyone in the league has a prayer against Beckham in man coverage). The draw with Shepard is volume and price in a matchup against a Saints secondary that has allowed the most DraftKings points per game to wide receivers this season.

Per the Week 4 stacks breakdown, tight end Evan Engram is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a knee injury — adding another data point that leads to Shepard eating targets in the slot. The Saints are dead last in the NFL in defending No. 2 wide receivers, per DVOA.

The Pivot

Corey Davis, WR, Titans: $5,300 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel

Fool me once…

I get it. Blaine Gabbert and Marcus Mariota refuse (or are unable) to consistently throw deep, which makes it that much more insane that Davis owns the 13th-highest target share of air yards in the entire league. A lot of it has to do with him being one of the teams’ only viable targets.

  • Delanie Walker, TE: Injured Reserve
  • Rishard Matthews, WR: Released

Both Davis and running back Dion Lewis ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel) own 94% leverage scores in our Models. That said, the Eagles — the Titans’ opponent in Week 4 — have allowed the ninth-fewest receptions and eighth-fewest receiving yards to running backs. Philadelphia funnels toward the passing game with a run defense that currently ranks second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

Despite the Titans offense getting off to an extremely anemic start to the season and the team being a 3-point home underdog, Davis is locked into volume and has significant talent-based upside relative to his price and projected ownership.

High Leverage Spot

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: $6,800 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel

You’re probably thinking: “You can’t pay up for a quarterback in a game with this large of a spread.”

This one really blew up in my face last week, when the Vikings lost to the Bills as 16.5-point favorites. The good news is that Kirk Cousins is not Rodgers, so I’m going back to the well with a 92% leverage score on DraftKings.

Of course, every situation is different. But the main reason I believe that Cousins struggled in Week 3 was because the Bills deployed a much more aggressive pass rush. That doesn’t bode extremely well for Rodgers (probable, knee), but he is also much cheaper to stack in tournaments with a similarly condensed target share to Green Bay.

Randall Cobb could benefit if Rodgers is under pressure, soaking up a lot of the short-intermediate work. Davante Adams (price) and Geronimo Allison (matchup) are tougher sells, but Rodgers is more than willing to fit throws into tight windows. Finding leverage with this passing game on what is shaping up to be a condensed week is certainly intriguing, despite the less-than-perfect peripheral situation.

Ownership is relatively flat at the quarterback position, but Davis Mattek makes an awesome case in his DFS Fringe Plays as to why Rodgers stacks could go considerably under-owned, despite the fourth-highest team total of the week.

Pictured above: Corey Davis
Photo credit: Christopher Hanewinkel-USA TODAY Sports