The Player Models are the lifeblood of our NFL DFS 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: 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 look at a few players with the highest ceilings and values for this week’s slate.
Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the week after this article is posted. Consult the Player Models directly for any updates as we get closer to lock.
Finally, make sure to check out all the projections available for purchase (Chris Raybon’s come included with a FantasyLabs subscription) within the FantasyLabs Models. Subscribers now have the option to purchase Derek Carty’s THE BLITZ from our Marketplace. Projections from One Week Season and Establish the Run are available if you’re a subscriber to those specific sites (our optimizer is a separate add-on feature).
You can also combine them to create your own aggregate projections:
NFL DFS Quarterback Picks
Top Ceiling: Lamar Jackson vs. Indianapolis Colts – $7,700 on DraftKings, $8,200 on FanDuel
The big names are all there at the top of the projections this week, and Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert are hard to argue against. However, my favorite big-ticket quarterback to build around this week is Lamar Jackson, who will be home in Baltimore against the Colts. THE BLITZ projections have Jackson as the quarterback with the highest ceiling projection and the highest median projection on the board this week. His potential rushing production always makes Jackson’s ceiling extremely high.
The Ravens are 2-0 to start the year and Jackson found a nice groove in Week 2 against the Bengals. Part of that was definitely the return of his favorite target, Mark Andrews, and part of it was also his continued adjustment to the new offense under Todd Monken.
The Ravens’ receiving corps looks much stronger this year, with Nelson Agholor posting a big game against the Bengals after Odell Beckham Jr. left. Rookie Zay Flowers has also been impressive, so Jackson has better big-play options to work with than he has in recent seasons.
In Week 2, Jackson threw for a solid 237 yards with two touchdowns while adding 54 rushing yards for 22.88 DraftKings points and 22.88 FanDuel points. Moving forward, he’ll likely have to continue to carry the workload in the running game after the team lost J.K. Dobbins (knee) in Week 1 and possibly Justice Hill (turf toe) in Week 2.
This week, Jackson should be in a good matchup to succeed since the Colts have been very generous to opposing quarterbacks this season. They allowed a Trevor Lawrence to throw for 241 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, and in Week 2, they gave up two more passing touchdowns to C.J. Stroud, who amassed 384 yards on 47 attempts.
While the Ravens will hope Jackson doesn’t have to throw that much, his expected work on the ground gives him good opportunities regardless of the game script. So far this season, Jackson has been efficient and consistent, but he hasn’t broken out for a monster game.
He still has that breakout ability, though, and he could put it together this week at home in a favorable spot.
Top Value: Kirk Cousins vs. Los Angeles Chargers – $6,900 on DraftKings, $7,800 on FanDuel
While he isn’t a deeply discounted QB this week, Kirk Cousins is still a good potential value since he has an extremely high ceiling in what is expected to be the highest-scoring game of the week by a significant margin. The matchup between Cousins’ 0-2 Vikings and the 0-2 Chargers has a 54-point total, while no other game on Sunday’s slate has a total of 49 or higher.
Cousins tried to rally the Vikings last week against the Eagles and finished with 28.56 FanDuel points and 32.56 DraftKings points. He far exceeded salary-based expectations and racked up four touchdowns and 364 passing yards in that loss after throwing for a solid 344 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. Costly turnovers have held the Vikings back, but the yardage and touchdowns have been there for Cousins, and that trend should continue in this soft matchup against the Chargers.
The Chargers have given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season, and the Vikings have the fifth-highest Implied Team Total on the slate, even though they’re home underdogs.
Using a 50/50 blend of THE BLITZ and FantasyLabs projections, Cousins has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position on this slate. He also is one of just two QBs that match five Pro Trends on DraftKings. He ranks in the top five at QB for ceiling projection, whether you’re using THE BLITZ, FantasyLabs, or the blended projections.
If you need to spend down further at QB, Geno Smith is a great bargain option that I highlighted in my Early Look at this slate.
The models also show Desmond Ridder and Jordan Love as viable cheap options.
NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Top Ceiling: Tony Pollard at Arizona Cardinals – $8,000 on DraftKings, $9,400 on FanDuel
With Christian McCaffrey playing Thursday, Tony Pollard steps up as the clear pay-up play across all the models. He has the highest ceiling projection in both FantasyLabs and THE BLITZ projections, and the FantasyLabs projections also give him the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position as well.
Pollard has stepped up as the Cowboys top running back after Ezekiel Elliott’s departure to New England. In his first two games in that role, Pollard has delivered two ceiling games, hitting for two touchdowns in Week 1 against the Giants with over 80 rushing plus receiving yards. In week 2, he didn’t find the end zone but still had solid totals thanks to seven catches. In the two games, he has a massive 19 red zone touches and should be poised to continue to produce big numbers as long as his workload is so heavy.
This week, the Cowboys will look to improve to 3-0 as they visit the 0-2 Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals gave up three RB touchdowns in their first two games and let Saquon Barkley post over 27 DraftKings points before leaving with his ankle injury last week. The Cardinals’ struggles on defense help the Cowboys have the second-highest implied team total of the week.
Pollard has a similar upside to Barkley’s production last week since he’s in a similar role as a dual-threat feature back. If you have the salary, he’s a strong play to build around in this matchup.
Top Value: Jerome Ford vs. Tennessee Titans – $4,800 on DraftKings, $5,600 on FanDuel
After the season-ending injury to Nick Chubb (knee), Jerome Ford is sure to be a very popular value play at running back this week. The timing of Chubb’s injury in the Monday night football game didn’t even give the sites to adjust Ford’s salary up, so he easily checks in with the highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position in the FantasyLabs projections and THE BLITZ projections for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Ford was already involved in a fairly significant role prior to Chubb’s injury and took 15 handoffs in Week 1. In Week 2, though, the rookie stepped up with his first-ever 100-yard rushing performance and added his first NFL touchdown on a catch out of the backfield. He finished with 27.1 DraftKings points and 22.6 FanDuel points. Since he’ll be the featured running back this week, he should get even more work. The volume of work in a solid offense is enough to give him a much higher ceiling than other RBs with a similar salary.
His matchup is a tough one, though, against the Titans, who are very strong against the run. Hopefully, the matchup vs. Tennessee and the midweek addition of Kareem Hunt scare enough people away that Ford isn’t too chalky. If you’re playing cash lineups or differentiating in other spots on your roster, Ford’s upside is unmatched and it seems like a “free spot” play.
If you are looking to zig while everyone else zags, other bargains with lower projected ownership but still good upside include Joshue Kelley of the Chargers if Austin Ekeler (ankle) is out, Roschon Johnson of the Bears, and Tyler Allgeier of the Falcons.
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NFL DFS Wide Receiver Picks
Top Ceiling: Justin Jefferson vs. Los Angeles Chargers – $9,300 on DraftKings, $9,700 on FanDuel
With the Vikings projected for such a high total, you know Justin Jefferson is going to sit atop the projections at wide receiver. He is the most expensive option on the slate but also comes in with the highest ceiling projection by a wide margin.
He exceeded salary-based expectations in each of his first two games of the season with nine catches for 150 yards against the Bucs, followed by 11 catches for 159 yards last week against the Eagles. His 25 total targets are second in the NFL behind just the Rams’ Puka Nacua, who doesn’t play until Monday night’s doubleheader. He has an 80% catch rate on his 28.4% target share, so the numbers confirm what you see on the field–the ball goes his way a lot and he usually catches it.
Jefferson should be poised to torch the Chargers, who gave up a monster week to Tyreek Hill in Week 1 and allowed even the Titans to post good passing numbers last week.
There are other good options to consider among the top wide receivers, but if you can make the salary work, Jefferson has the highest ceiling and the highest floor of the group. Stacking Cousins and Jefferson will be a popular start to rosters this week, but with how much the Chargers’ secondary has struggled, it’s easy to see why they are an attractive play.
Top Value: Michael Thomas at Green Bay Packers – $5,300 on DraftKings, $5,800 on FanDuel
Using the 50/50 blend of FantasyLabs and THE BLITZ projections, Michael Thomas has the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus this week on FanDuel, with only Jefferson and Amon-Ra St. Brown ranked ahead of him. Thomas has a 39% Bargain Rating on FanDuel and is an especially attractive play on that site. His Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings is just a little bit lower, and he drops to just outside the top 10.
After being able to play just three games over the past two seasons due to foot and ankle injuries, the 30-year-old veteran is showing he still has enough left in the tank to be a solid fantasy play. He had five catches for 61 yards in Week 1 and seven catches for 55 yards in Week 2. He drew a solid total of 17 targets in those two games, including four looks in the red zone.
While Chris Olave has more big-play threat over the top, Thomas is getting plenty of good looks as a check-down option. Derek Carr has been good enough to keep both receivers well-stocked with targets, and that trend should continue this week against the Packers. If CB Jaire Alexander focuses on Olave, it could leave Thomas with more room to operate. The Packers have done well against receivers this season, but they could just be a “paper tiger” since they have only faced the Falcons and Bears.
Other wide receivers to consider based on their projections include Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who is especially affordable on FanDuel, and Josh Reynolds, who is especially cheap on DraftKings. Potential values on both sites to check out include Jerry Jeudy, Josh Downs, and Drake London.
NFL DFS Tight End Picks
Top Ceiling: Travis Kelce vs. Chicago Bears- $7,200 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel
It was a cruel summer for Travis Kelce, who sustained an injury just before the season started and was forced to miss Week 1. While he may not be out of the woods just yet, he was able to shake it off and return in Week 2. He found some blank space in the middle of the Jaguars’ defense and scored his first touchdown of the season while hauling in 4-of-9 targets for 26 yards. He was the only Chiefs player with more than five targets and could get even more work in Week 3 if Kadarius Toney (toe) is limited or sidelined.
Kelce is still working his way back to full strength, but this should be a great spot for him to get back in the flow of things. The Bears haven’t shown much on defense this season, and the Chiefs have the highest implied team total on the slate.
When healthy, Kelce is unmatched at the position in terms of reliable volume and ceiling. He has the highest ceiling projection in both THE BLITZ and FantasyLabs projections, with the Vikings’ TJ Hockenson in the second spot.
Top Value: Zach Ertz vs. Dallas Cowboys – $3,500 on DraftKings, $5,100 on FanDuel
No tight end in the NFL has more targets than Zach Ertz through the first two weeks of the season. The heavy usage has resulted in two games well above salary-based expectations for the 32-year-old veteran. He has totaled only 77 yards but has hauled in 12 catches. He also has two red zone targets, so a touchdown could be in his near future as well since he’s clearly one of the top targets for Joshua Dobbs, making him a PPR value to consider.
Using the 50/50 blended projections, Ertz has the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all the tight ends on the slate on DraftKings and the fourth-highest on FanDuel, where he’s a little more expensive.
Ertz and the Cardinals have a tough matchup against the Cowboys’ vaunted defense, but Dallas has allowed at least five catches and at least 50 yards to opposing tight ends in each of their first two games of the season. If the game script sees the Cowboys jump out to an early lead, as expected, it could mean more pass attempts from Dobbs and possibly more check-down targets for Ertz if Dallas drops deep.
Some of his production could definitely come in garbage time, but Ertz is likely to end up a good value at the end of the day.