This article is a data-driven deep dive on strategic decision-making and roster construction for DFS cash games and tournaments. It relies heavily upon FantasyLabs’ large suite of analytical DFS tools, as well as advanced metrics and film study. First, I walk through narrowing down the player pool at each position. Then, I lay out how to choose the highest-floor lineup combinations for cash games. Finally, I go game-by-game to present the biggest edges (stacks, pivots, leverage opportunities, etc.) in each.
Week 5 shmoney time.
- Deshaun Watson ($6,700 DK, $8,000 FD) vs. ATL
Deshaun Watson‘s Projected Plus/Minus is above +3.0 on DK and above +4.0 on FanDuel. At home, QBs projected for Plus/Minuses above those benchmarks have produced a 72%/75% DK/FD Consistency and +4.4/+4.7 DK/FD Plus/Minus. Dak Prescott also fits the bill, but will be without left tackle Tyron Smith and has a floor projection 3 points lower than Watson’s in our Models. A Falcons defense that is down difference-making safety Keanu Neal (Achilles) and just got lit up by Marcus Mariota last week (227 yards, 3/0 TD/INT) should provide little resistance for Watson. Atlanta is tied for the second-fewest sacks (5) and fourth-fewest passes defensed (9).
For more on QBs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 5 Fantasy QB Breakdown.
- Christian McCaffrey, Panthers ($8,700 DK, $9,100 FD) vs. JAC
- Alvin Kamara, Saints ($8,600 DK, $8,200 FD) vs. TB
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings ($8,400 DK, $8,200 FD) at NYG
- David Johnson, Cardinals ($7,500 DK, $6,800 FD) vs. CIN
- Leonard Fournette, Jaguars ($6,400 DK, $6,900 FD) at CAR
- Carlos Hyde, Texans ($4,300 DK, $5,600 FD) vs. ATL
As I write this, there are no true Tier 1 RB options on DK (projected points per dollar of 3.0 or more), but Christian McCaffrey and Carlos Hyde both make Tier 2 (2.6-2.9), which has produced 63% Consistency and +4.2 average Plus/Minus since 2018.
CMC is projected for 2.2 FD points per dollar, however, making him the lone Tier 1 RB play there. RBs proejcted for 2.2 or more FD points per dollar have returned 78% Consistency and a +7.1 Plus/Minus since 2018. No defense in the league is equipped to handle McCaffrey, and a Jaguars defense that is ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders‘ run-defense DVOA and 24th in DVOA on passes to running backs is no exception.
It’s somewhat surprising Hyde is popping this much, but he makes sense paired with Watson, as Hyde (3) and Watson (2) have combined to handle all of Houston’s carries inside the 5.
Alvin Kamara is averaging a career-high 19.8 touches and 70% snap rate and owns the second-best projection on the slate among RBs. Right behind Kamara is Dalvin Cook, who is also posting career bests in per-game touches (21.6) and snaps (70%).
Speaking of snaps, Leonard Fournette (94%) is barely coming off the field for the Jags and faces a Panthers defense ranked 31st in explosive rush rate, according to Sharp Football Stats. Per our NFL Trends tool, Fournette is the rare RB unhindered by tough road matchups, as he is averaging 80%/81% DK/FD Consistency and a +7.3/+7.0 DK/FD Plus/Minus in his career as a road underdog.
David Johnson is yet another high-usage back (76% snaps, 85% of backfield touches) in a good spot against a Bengals defense that is ranked 30th in Pro Football Focus‘ team grades.
Kamara and DJ are each projected for 2.1 FD points per dollar (70% Consistency, +4.6 Plus/Minus since 2018), while Cook is projected for 2.0 (56%, +3.3).
For more on RBs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 5 Fantasy RB Breakdown.
- Julio Jones ($7,700 DK, $8,200 FD) at HOU
- Michael Thomas ($6,600 DK, $7,700 FD) vs. TB
- Larry Fitzgerald ($6,000 DK, $5,800 FD) at CIN
- Auden Tate, Bengals ($3,500 DK, $5,300 FD) vs. ARI
- Golden Tate, Giants ($4,600 DK, $4,500 FD) vs. MIN
- KeeSean Johnson ($3,500 DK, $4,600 FD) at CIN
This is a smash spot for Julio Jones, who is averaging 68%/62% DK/FD Consistency and a +3.2/+2.5 DK/FD Plus/Minus as a road underdog since 2014. It’s a great time to buy Julio when he’s under $8,000 on DK, as he’s gone off for 23.1 DK points, a +5.4 Plus/Minus, and 71% Consistency in 24 such spots dating back to 2014.
Michael Thomas continues to be peppered with targets despite the conservative Teddy Bridgewater now at the helm and now gets a Bucs defense that has allowed the most targets in the league to opposing wideouts through four weeks (108).
Along with DJ, Larry Fitzgerald and KeeSean Johnson both benefit from the absence of Christian Kirk (ankle), who leads the team in targets (37) and catches (24). Johnson has averaged 2.8 grabs while playing 59% of the snaps, but could play a full complement this week with Kirk and Damiere Byrd (hamstring) banged up. Johnson has a top-five Projected Plus/Minus on both DK and FD, while Fitz is a better play on FD, where he has the fifth-best Projected plus/Minus among WRs; his higher DK price tag despite the lower cap knocks him way down the list on there.
In that same game, Auden Tate will ascend to No. 2 wideout duties in Cincinnati with John Ross (shoulder) sidelined. Tate leads the team with 10 catches over the past two weeks and has seemingly become one of Andy Dalton’s favorite targets.
Golden Tate‘s minimum FD price tag makes him punt-worthy. He has the top Projected Plus/Minus and is going up against the Vikings backup nickel corner, Mike Hughes, whose 47.2 PFF coverage grade is one of the worst in the league. The slot has been a sore spot for the Vikings D, as usual starter Mackensie Alexander (elbow) had been playing just as poorly (47.6).
For more on WRs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 5 Fantasy WR Breakdown.
- Tyler Eifert ($3,200 DK, $4,600 FD) vs. ARI
Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz both have FD Projected Plus/Minuses of at least +2.5, making them top-tier options on the site. TEs who fit that trend have posted 62% Consistency and a +3.4 Plus/Minus since the start of 2018. We project Eifert to also be the highest owned TE on DK, making him a better cash than tournament play. Per the Trends tool, TEs on DK priced from $3,000-$5,200 and projected for at least 9-12% ownership have posted 58% Consistency and a +3.2 Plus/Minus.
For more on TEs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 5 Fantasy TE Breakdown.
- Los Angeles Chargers ($2,800 DK, $4,600 FD) vs. DEN
Chargers DST is the cheapest among the six DSTs on the slate projected for at least 8.0 DK/FD points (Patriots, Bears, Titans, Vikings, Eagles). Per the Trends tool, teams that play on the road in the prior week and then return home as a favorite with an opponent’s implied total under 20 are averaging 9.3 fantasy points per game since 2014.
Punting with Hyde, Eifert, and Auden Tate on DK allows you to get in Watson, CMC, Julio, Fournette, Thomas, and Chargers DST.
On FanDuel, you can get in Watson, CMC, Kamara, Cook, Julio, and the Chargers if you punt with Eifert, Golden Tate, and KeeSean Johnson. Another option is swapping KeeSean for Fitz and Cook for DJ. Though there’s a slight worry that the Vikings may try to appease Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at the expense of Cook and the run game, I still prefer the former build’s lesser investment into the Cards offense.
Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Matt Ryan are all projected to be the highest owned at their position, or close to it, but there’s some value on each of the No. 2 receivers in this game. Will Fuller has the third- and seventh-best Projected Plus/Minus among WRs on DK and FD, respectively, but is projected for roughly half the ownership of Nuk. Ridley isn’t as strong of a value, but he also isn’t expected to crack double-digit ownership. While we’re at it, neither is Austin Hooper or Mohamed Sanu. Jordan Akins is also a sneaky play, as the Falcons are banged up at safety and have allowed the league’s fifth-highest target rate to opposing tight ends (26%).
I’m not a fan to digging too deep at RB in GPPs because it’s easier to predict who the top scorers will be, but Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde have multi-TD upside, as well. Basically, there’s a case for everyone in this game. It’s the top game-stack option of the week.
New England Patriots at Washington Redskins
Tom Brady has the third-highest ceiling among QBs in our Models but is projected to be owned in the sixth-ninth highest range. Due to the big spread and lackluster performance against Buffalo last week, Brady will likely go more overlooked than he should, but he has averaged 301.7 yards and 1.92 TDs passing with another 0.23 TDs rushing in 13 games with Josh Gordon when he’s not against Buffalo. Brady should get whatever he wants to Gordon, Julian Edelman, and Phillip Dorsett (who pops with a top-10 ceiling projection among WRs in our Models) against a Redskins defense allowing the second-highest passing TD rate (7.6%) and notching tied for the second-fewest QB hits (13). All of the Pats WRs project for single-digit ownership — under 5% in most cases.
Also note that Sony Michel has no correlation with Brady and is positioned to rack up clock-killing work against a Redskins defense that has been gashed for the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the league (147.5). Michel is projected for less than 5% ownership.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Sans Davante Adams (toe) and coming off numerous scoring-position gaffes through the air in last week’s narrow loss to the Eagles on Thursday Night Football, the Packers are likely to feed Aaron Jones, who has converted four of his six totes inside the 10 into scores. Per our NFL Correlations Dashboard, there has been a negative correlation between the Packers’ and opponent’s RB1, as well as between the Cowboys’ and opponent’s RB1, so Jones provides leverage on Ezekiel Elliott, who is expected to be in three times as many lineups. Jamaal Williams (concussion) being ruled out is an even bigger upgrade for Jones, as the coaching staff doesn’t seem to trust rookie Dexter Williams, who has yet to play a snap this season.
On the other side, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was never shy about bringing pressure and playing man behind it, and after getting gashed by Philly last week, he’s likely to employ a lot more base defense than usual. As his units are notorious for giving up production to opposing No. 1 wideouts, there’s leverage to be had by pivoting from Elliott to Amari Cooper, who is projected to attract only half as much ownership. With similar projected ownership, Cooper is a better play than Dak Prescott, who has a larger roadblock to a GPP-winning week without left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle).
New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles
The Luke Falk–Robby Anderson connection was always destined for failure against the Patriots’ prohibitive pass defense, but the two showed solid chemistry down the stretch in Week 2 against Cleveland, with Anderson finishing with a 4-81-0 line. The Eagles have allowed the most fantasy points in the league to WRs. Anderson is projected for 0-1% ownership.
On the Eagles side, this is a great spot for Alshon Jeffery. The Jets have given up big games to every No. 1 wide receiver they’ve faced — John Brown (7-123-1), Odell Beckham (6-161-1), Julian Edelman (7-62-1) — and also gave up six catches to a similarly big-bodied perimeter threat in Josh Gordon. Jeffery is projected for sub-5% ownership and has a positive correlation with top-flight QB play Carson Wentz (0.32). Jeffery also has a negative correlation to Zach Ertz (-0.27), who is projected for roughly triple the ownership.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Despite being cash-viable, Alvin Kamara is also a strong GPP play. His ceiling projection is second among RB behind only CMC, but he is projected to be only the sixth-ninth highest owned RB. Kamara and Michael Thomas have a positive correlation (0.34), but Kamara is expected to appear in only half as many DK lineups.
For Tampa, Ronald Jones is positively correlated with both Mike Evans (0.35) and Chris Godwin (0.28) but comes at a fraction of the price and ownership. Jones’ snaps have gone from eight to 23 to 36 over the past three weeks, and he’s scored double-digit DK/FD points in each of his past two games, averaging 17.5 touches per contest over that span.
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals
Auden Tate is expected to be the highest owned WR on the slate but has the 12th-best ceiling projection at the position, while Tyler Boyd is expected to be in one-third as many lineups but has the fifth-best ceiling projection on the slate. Even with a quiet 3-33-0 line on Monday Night Football, Boyd is still averaging 9.5 targets and 6.8 receptions per game on the season. He’s a good bet to return to his high-volume ways against a Cardinals defense seeing the fourth-most opposing offensive plays per game (67.5). Boyd and Tate have a (admittedly small four-game sample) negative correlation (-0.32).
KeeSean Johnson is also in play here, as he is projected for significantly less ownership than Larry Fitzgerald. They have a strong positive correlation with each other over the first four weeks (0.87), though, making them both stackable together with Kyler Murray.
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
The Broncos are lacking at corner outside of Chris Harris Jr., who is expected to shadow Keenan Allen. This sets up well for Mike Williams, who has scored 10 TDs and is averaging 16.1 yards per catch since the start of last season. Williams has a negative correlation with Allen (-0.40)and is projected for only half as much ownership. Williams also has a positive correlation with Philip Rivers, who has a top-five ceiling projection but is expected to be in the 10th-14th most lineups among QBs.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe) had a down game in primetime on Monday (3-15-0) and popped up on the injury report, which should suppress his ownership ahead of this week’s matchup. The Ravens have been torched for high volume by inside/outside types such as Christian Kirk (6-114-0), Larry Fitzgerald (5-114-0), Sammy Watkins (9-64-0), and Jarvis Landry (8-167-0).
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants
After voicing his frustration with the (lack of a) passing game in Minnesota and getting a direct public apology from Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen has blowup potential against a Giants defense allowing the most yards per target in the league to WRs. Thielen is projected to be in 9-12% of lineups; Cousins, 2-4%, has a strong positive correlation with Thielen (0.66). To a lesser extent, the same applies to Stefon Diggs, though his correlation with Cousins isn’t quite as strong (0.39), and his standing with the team is in question. Most important, though, is that Diggs (-0.68), Cousins (-0.18), and Thielen (-0.12) each have a negative correlation to Dalvin Cook, who is projected to be one of the five highest owned players on the slate.
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders
Chase Daniel is a notorious check down artist who is averaging just 9.4 yards per completion in his career. In the two games he started last season, the downfield passing game was de-emphasized in favor or Tarik Cohen, who racked up an incredible 19 catches for 201 yards in the two games. Overall, Cohen averaged 15.0 touches for 122.5 yards and 0.50 TDs in Daniel’s two starts, compared to 9.3 touches for 57.6 yards and 0.28 TDs in his other 18 games since Matt Nagy took over. Cohen is projected for 0-1% ownership — a tenth as much as David Montgomery (9-12%).
There’s a bit on value on Darren Waller, who has the second-highest ceiling projection on the slate but is expected to be in the 3-6 range in terms of highest owned players at the position.
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry might be my favorite GPP play on the slate. The Bills limit opponents through the air but have struggled in run defense, ranking just 23rd in PFF’s grades. The Titans welcome back left tackle Taylor Lewan, who ranked 27th among 127 qualified tackles in PFF’s run blocking grades last season. In the eight games that the Titans have been favored since the start of last season, Henry is averaging 1.25 TDs per outing. We have his ownership projected at just 2-4%, giving him one of the top Leverage Scores on the slate. Also note that Henry has a strong positive correlation with Titans DST (0.61).
Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers
With 20% more money than bets on the under in this game as of this writing (see live odds and betting percentages with an Action Network EDGE subscription), the Panthers DST and Jaguars DST are the top options in this game after Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette. Carolina is allowing a league-best 3.9 net yards per pass and is projected for the fourth-best ceiling on the slate. Jacksonville is 13-7-2 against the spread under Doug Marrone, per Bet Labs, and is expected to be 0-1% owned.
Greg Olsen is also a strong TE play against a Jags defense allowing an above-average target rate to the position (23%). Olsen has a top-four Projected Plus/Minus on both DK and FD and is projected to be in fewer than 5% of lineups on each.
Let’s get this shmoney!
Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network and a host of “The Action Network” on Sirius XM Fantasy Radio every Wednesday-Friday at 10 a.m. ET. He also hosts the weekly NFL Betting edition of The Action Network Podcast and is featured each week on The Fantasy Flex edition of the pod, as well. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.
Pictured above: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22)
Credit: Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports