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NFL Week 5 DFS Models Primer: How to Approach the Chalky Cowboys

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The Player Models are the lifeblood of our NFL product. They house our projections for each player, but that’s just the beginning of what you’ll find inside. After all, a projection is just part of the equation: things like salary, ceiling, and projected ownership all factor into which players stand out as the best plays each week.

Let’s dive into our Models and take a look at some of the players with the highest ceilings, value ratings, and projected ownership for the NFL Week 2 slate.

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Quarterback

Top Ceiling: Lamar Jackson vs. CIN — $7,900 on DraftKings, $8,900 on FanDuel

Jackson has not been as willing to run this season, but Jackson with slightly fewer carries is still the best rushing QB in the league. He’s averaged 9.75 carries and 58.8 yards on the ground through his first four games, and he’s also found the endzone once. That gives him an average of nearly 7.5 fantasy points per game before factoring in any of his passing numbers. It’s hard to beat that combo at the QB position.

He takes the field this week vs. the Bengals, who he absolutely torched last season. He averaged 32.03 FanDuel points and a +13.39 Plus/Minus over their two meetings, and he scored at least 30.64 FanDuel points in both games. Jackson also is a massive 13-point favorite in this contest, and he’s historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +8.72 when favored by at least a touchdown (per the Trends tool). There are a lot of strong QB options to consider this week, but Jackson remains the king in terms of ceiling.

Top Value: Dak Prescott vs. NYG — $7,400 on DraftKings, $8,700 on FanDuel

Prescott stands out as the top value on both DraftKings and FanDuel this week, leading all players at the QB position in projected Plus/Minus. His numbers to start the season are absolutely mind-boggling:

That has obviously translated into excellent fantasy production. He’s scored at least 33.48 DraftKings points in three straight weeks, and he’s eclipsed 42 DraftKings points in two of those contests.

Can he keep up this ridiculous pace? That remains to be seen. He has benefitted from some elite game scripts to start the year, but there’s no reason to expect that to change as long as the Cowboys’ defense continues to hemorrhage points.

Prescott is in another excellent spot this week vs. the Giants, who rank merely 24th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA to start the year. As long as the Giants’ offense can keep up their end of the bargain, expect another monster performance from Prescott.

Top Ownership: Patrick Mahomes vs. LV — $7,700 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel

Three quarterbacks are projected for at least 9-12% ownership this week on DraftKings: Jackson, Prescott, and Mahomes. Mahomes is coming off a pretty pedestrian outing by his standards in his last contest, finishing with “just” 20.24 DraftKings points vs. the Patriots. The Pats do have an elite secondary, so that performance seems like an outlier.

He should have no such struggles this week vs. the Raiders, who rank 30th in pass defense DVOA. The Chiefs are favored by 13 points in this contest, and they lead the slate with an implied team total of 34.0 points. Mahomes has unsurprisingly crushed in games with an implied team total of at least 30.0, posting an average Plus/Minus of +9.10 over 16 contests.

Running Back

Top Ceiling: Ezekiel Elliott vs. NYG — $7,800 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel

If you’re looking to fade the Cowboys’ passing attack in Week 5, targeting Zeke makes a lot of sense. He won’t be contrarian by any stretch of the imagination – he’s currently projected for 26-30% ownership on both DraftKings and FanDuel – but his production has been much more modest than Prescott’s to start the year. When factoring in the receivers, the rushing game for the Cowboys could be a bit undervalued this week.

The Cowboys are currently favored by 9.5 points, and if they can finally grab a lead on someone it should bode well for Elliott. Zeke remains one of the best RBs in football at grinding out yards between the tackles, and he is also extremely involved when the Cowboys get near the goal line. He ranks third in carries inside the 20 and first in carries inside the 10- and five-yard line this season.

Top Value: James Robinson @ HOU — $6,700 on DraftKings, $6,600 on FanDuel

If Robinson hasn’t convinced NFL teams to never draft a running back in the top five, I don’t know what will. He has provided similar production to Leonard Fournette despite being an undrafted rookie, and he’s done so at a fraction of the cost.

Speaking of cost, Robinson stands out as an elite value this week on FanDuel given his Bargain Rating of 98%. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in all four games this season, and he’s proven to be virtually game script-proof. He has the ability to get involved in the passing game when his team is trailing, and he remains their go-to back near the end zone. Robinson also has a solid matchup this week vs. the Texans, resulting in an Opponent Plus/Minus of +2.0.

Top Ownership: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. LV — $6,800 on DraftKings, $7,900 on FanDuel

CEH would be a solid choice for the top ceiling and value spots on this list – particularly on DraftKings at just $6,800 – but he really stands out from an ownership perspective. He is projected for near 40% ownership across the industry this week in a prime matchup vs. the Raiders.

Las Vegas hasn’t been able to stop a nosebleed this season, giving Edwards-Helaire a ridiculous +8.5 Opponent Plus/Minus. The next highest mark belongs to the Falcons’ RBs, and those guys have a mark of just +4.0. The Raiders unsurprisingly rank 30th in rush defense DVOA, and they’ve also surrendered a league-high 72.1 receiving yards per game to the RB position. Part of that stems from a matchup vs. Alvin Kamara, but they’ve also struggled vs. the Bills’ and Patriots’ RBs in the passing game.

CEH is definitely capable of getting involved as a receiver, and he should also benefit from the Chiefs being large favorites. That gives him the ability to contribute receptions and touchdowns, which is always appealing in DFS.

Wide Receivers

Top Ceiling: Calvin Ridley vs. CAR — $7,500 on DraftKings, $8,300 on FanDuel

I’m kind of cheating here because the top ceiling at the position actually belongs to DeAndre Hopkins. That said, the status of that game is currently up in the air after someone in the Jets’ organization tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

If Hopkins is unavailable, Ridley would be an excellent consolation prize. He has a strong matchup vs. the Panthers, who rank just 26th in pass defense DVOA this season. He also has the potential to see a larger target share than usual if Julio Jones is unable to suit up. Julio has missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday this week after leaving their last game early with a hamstring injury.

Even if Julio does suit up, Ridley has shown no problems producing with his star teammate on the field. He logged at least 109 yards and two TDs playing next to Jones each of the first two weeks, so you could even make a case that the presence of Jones is beneficial to him. Regardless, expect a lot of points in this contest given the 53.5-point total.

Top Value: Brandin Cooks vs. JAX — $4,100 on DraftKings, $5,200 on FanDuel

I’m cheating here as well. Robby Anderson leads the position in projected Plus/Minus on both DraftKings and FanDuel, but Matt Freedman already did a great job of covering Anderson in his Wide Receiver Breakdown. Trying to out-write Freedman is like trying to out-eat Joey Chestnut, so let’s talk about Cooks instead.

Cooks had a disappointing start to his tenure with the Texans, and he’s coming off a game with zero catches last week vs. the Vikings. Still, there is reason for optimism with Cooks this week. For starters, he has a much easier matchup vs. the Jaguars, who rank dead-last in pass defense DVOA to start the year. Cooks could also see a slight boost with Bill O’Brien getting the boot. Interim head coach Romeo Crennel might not be a huge upgrade, but things certainly can’t get worse for Cooks than they were last week.

He looks like a prime buy-low candidate on DraftKings at such a minimal salary.

Top Ownership: Amari Cooper vs. NYG — $7,400 on DraftKings, $7,800 on FanDuel

Cooper and teammate CeeDee Lamb are expected to be among the most popular options at wide receiver this week. Both guys have dominated from a fantasy perspective to start the year, which makes sense when your quarterback is throwing for approximately 450 yards per game.

That said, Cooper does have the “worst” matchup among the Cowboys receivers. James Bradberry is expected to shadow Cooper this week, and he has been one of the best cover corners in football this season according to Pro Football Focus. Cooper is still capable of winning in this matchup, but it is still a concern. Add in the fact that Prescott may not need to throw for 500 yards if the Cowboys can get in a positive game script and there’s enough here to make Cooper an interesting fade candidate.

Tight End

Top Ceiling: Travis Kelce vs. LV — $6,400 on DraftKings, $7,800 on FanDuel

The TE position has been very weak the past few weeks, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in Week 5. There are a bunch of strong options to consider, starting with Kelce vs. the Raiders. He hasn’t really had a true smash game yet this season, but he did score 26.7 DraftKings points in his first game vs. the Raiders last season. He also scored 42.8 DraftKings points two years ago vs. the Raiders, and he’s averaged 23.68 DraftKings points in four games vs. the Raiders with Mahomes at quarterback. If he puts up that kind of production this week, there are very few players who have the ability to match it.

Top Value: George Kittle vs. MIA — $6,600 on DraftKings, $7,100 on FanDuel

Kittle is slightly more expensive than Kelce on DraftKings, but he’s significantly cheaper than him on FanDuel. The result is a Bargain Rating of 99%, which makes him the clear top choice on FanDuel.

He also leads the position in terms of projected Plus/Minus for his matchup vs. the Dolphins. The Dolphins rank just 28th in pass defense DVOA this season, and it seems like Jimmy Garoppolo will be back at quarterback this week. Kittle was awesome last week without Garoppolo – he logged 15 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown – but he grabbed more than 50% of the 49ers total receiving yards in that contest. That seems unsustainable moving forward, and the offense should score more points with Garoppolo at the helm in the long run.

Top Ownership: Evan Engram @ DAL — $4,600 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel

Kelce and Kittle are expected to garner the most ownership at the position, but Engram should be the most popular option for those who aren’t paying up. He has been highly involved in the Giants’ passing attack to start the season, and he finished with 10 targets in their last game. He could do some serious damage vs. the Cowboys’ leaky secondary if he gets that many opportunities again this week.