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’ extensive 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!
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- Dak Prescott, Cowboys ($7,400 DK, $8,700 FD) vs. NYG
- Deshaun Watson, Texans ($6,900 DK, $7,900 FD) vs. JAX
Coming off three straight 450-plus yard games, Dak Prescott ranks No. 1 in Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings in our NFL Player Models. A lot of that was the result of trailing game scripts, which isn’t expected to be the case with Dallas favored by 7.5 at home against the Giants, but the Giants still present a strong matchup, as they rank 11th on run defense but 24th against the pass in Football Outsiders DVOA.
On FanDuel, Deshaun Watson edges out Prescott due to an $800 price difference. After a brutal slate to open the year, Watson faces the Jaguars’ defense, which ranks dead last in DVOA against the pass.
Running Back (Cash)
- Kareem Hunt, Browns ($6,500 DK, $7,000 FD) vs. IND
- Mike Davis, Panthers ($4,900 DK, $6,800 FD) at ATL
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($6,800 DK, $7,900 FD) vs. LV
Mike Davis has logged 21 touches in back-to-back games with Christian McCaffrey out, and with backup Reggie Bonnafon going on practice-squad IR, his backups will be Trenton Cannon, who hasn’t received a touch and was a healthy scratch last week, and fullback Alex Armah. Dollar-for-dollar, Davis is the highest-floor play at the position.
Kareem Hunt is averaging 14.5 touches per game even with Nick Chubb (IR) having played 44% of the team’s snaps this season. Hunt should push for 20-plus touches this week as the centerpiece of the Browns’ offense, and their heavy 12 personnel usage keeps his floor high.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire has handled an average of 21.3 touches per game and is chalk for good reason against a Raiders defense that ranks third-worst in rushing DVOA. He’s a good bet for positive TD regression, as he’s tied for sixth with nine carries inside the 10 but is the only player with as many carries yet to score in that situation.
Wide Receiver (Cash)
- Olamide Zaccheaus, Falcons ($3,000 DK, $4,500 FD) vs. CAR
- Isaiah Wright, Football Team ($3,000 DK, $4,500 FD) vs. LAR
- Robby Anderson, Panthers ($5,900 DK, $6,200 FD) at ATL
- Darius Slayton, Giants ($4,800 DK, $5,800 FD) at DAL
- Amari Cooper, Cowboys ($7,400 DK, $7,400 FD) vs. NYG
Olamide Zaccheaus is averaging 4.5 catches for 63.5 yards on 7.5 targets over his past two games. If Julio Jones (hamstring, questionable) is our, Zaccheaus is the top free square on the slate. If Jones suits up, I would pivot to Isaiah Wright, who has taken over for Steven Sims (toe, IR). Wright ran a route on 90% of Washington’s dropbacks last week and has gotten ample reps with Kyle Allen on the second-team offense.
Darius Slayton has been mostly quiet after a big Week 1, but the Giants have faced four of the league’s top pass defenses by DVOA (Seeelers, third; 49ers, sixth; Bears, seventh; Rams, 15th). The Cowboys tank 25th, so a monster game from Slayton is back in play, but he also has a high floor after drawing 6-9 targets in all four matchups.
Robby Anderson is averaging 7.3 catches per game and is being used all over the field. He’s the top value among WRs in our models.
Amari Cooper has taken a massive step forward in consistency this season, drawing at least nine targets and catching at least six passes in every game. Cooper projects for the second-highest floor at WR behind DeAndre Hopkins and is the better value of the two relative to salary.
Tight End (Cash)
- George Kittle ($6,600 DK, $7,100 FD) vs. MIA
George Kittle has the top Projected Plus/Minus among TEs after his 15-catch outburst last week. Game script is a mild concern — the 49ers aren’t likely to fall behind the Dolphins with Jimmy Garoppolo back in quarterback in place of either Nick Mullens or C.J.Beathard — but Kittle is a better value than alternatives at WR in his price range.
Defense/Special Teams (Cash)
- Washington Football Team ($2,600 DK, $3,800 FD) vs. LAR
- Dallas Cowboys ($3,100 DK, $3,500 FD) vs. NYG
DraftKings continues to be a punt-defense site, as the Panthers DST projects as the top value. I prefer to pay the extra $200 for the Football Team DST, though, as Washington ranks fourth in defensive DVOA and should get Chase Young back this week, which increase its sack expectation.
Dallas has not been good enough to go out of your way to jam in, but Cowboys DST makes sense on FanDuel at $3,500 against Daniel Jones, who is averaging 3.3 sacks, 1.1 interceptions, and 0.75 fumbles lost in 16 career starts.
Roster Build (Cash)
On DraftKings, you can fit Prescott, Edwards-Helaire, Hunt, Davis, Anderson, Slayton, and Kittle if you punt the third spot with Zaccheus/Wright and DST with Washington.
On FanDuel, you can fit Edwards-Helaire, Hunt, Davis, Cooper, Anderson, Slayton, and Kittle if you go with Watson over Prescott at QB and punt DST with the Cowboys,
Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets (GPP)
It’s not often you get to buy low on Hopkins, but he projects for the top ceiling on the slate at the 10th-highest ownership, giving him a Leverage Plus/Minus of +9. Kyler Murray is one of six QBs with a positive Leverage Plus/Minus, as well. Add in that the Jets rank seventh in run-defense DVOA but 22nd in pass-defense DVOA and you have one of the best GPP stacks from an ownership/matchup perspective.
Jamison Crowder has seen double-digit targets and Is a nice option against Arizona’s 23rd-ranked defense in pass DVOA.
Joe Flacco is starting in place of Sam Darnold (shoulder) and tends to lean on his tight ends, so Chris Herndon is also in play vs. Arizona’s notoriously weak tight end defense.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (GPP)
Matt Ryan is another one of the half-dozen QBs popping with a positive Leverage Plus/Minus in what should be a high-scoring game against Carolina. Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst both have positive Leverage Plus/Minuses, and their ownership will be kept in check by the questionable tag of Jones, either by Jones playing or Zaccheuus becoming chalk.
Todd Gurley is also a +EV play against Carolina’s 25th-ranked defense in DVOA against the run.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (GPP)
This game isn’t getting much buzz, which sets up a +EV stacking spot for Lamar Jackson with either Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews, both of whom have positive Leverage Plus/Minus scores.
Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins all pop with positive Leverage Plus/Minuses, as each is projected for ownership under 5%. Joe Mixon’s questionable tag sets him up to outproduce ownership yet again after his three-touchdown rampage following a questionable tag last week.
Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns (GPP)
Indianapolis has played the Bears, Jets and pre-Justin Jefferson Vikings, while the Browns have given up 30-plus points in three of their first four games, so this could be a higher-scoring game than expected. This sets up well to use Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper as high-leverage pivots off Hunt.
Positive game scripts have worked to reduce T.Y. Hilton’s snap counts, but he’s played on as many as 95% of dropbacks this season. His numbers have also taken a hit due to drawing four pass interference penalties for 63 yards, according to Football Outsiders. He’s due for a big game, and this is a great spot to target him at single-digit ownership.
In terms of routes per dropback, it was Trey Burton (57%) — not Jack Doyle (43%) or Mo-Alie Cox (23%) — who led Colts tight ends last week, making Burton an underrated play at 0-1% projected ownership against a Browns defense that ranks 31st in DVOA against tight ends, allowing 10.5 schedule-adjusted targets for 70.5 schedule-adjusted yards per game, per Football Outsiders.
Jonathan Taylor is also a +EV play coming off a somewhat disappointing 18 touches for 79 yards against the Bears last week. Taylor is averaging 20 touches per game since Marlon Mack (Achilles, IR) went down, and the close projected game script should help maximize his snap count.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (GPP)
Texans interim head coach Romeo Crennel is 0-for his last four against the spread, so James Robinson makes for a great pivot off Hunt/Edwards-Helaire. Robinson could end up with positive game script against Houston’s 29th-ranked defense in rushing DVOA.
Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (GPP)
The Raiders’ defense ranks bottom-three in DVOA against both the pass and run, and with Edwards-Helaire slated to attract the most ownership in this game, it’s a great time to go heavy on the Chiefs’ passing game. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce all project to rank lower in ownership than their projected ceilings, so this is a rare time when COVID-19 could actually result in a positive outcome.
Derek Carr and Darren Waller pop as +EV plays relative to ownership, as well, but Carr has been abysmal at Arrowhead over the course of his career, with the Raiders failing to top 17 points in all six of his career starts in KC, so an even sharper play would be to differentiate Edwards-Helaire lineups by stacking him with the Chiefs DST.
The Chiefs’ high-powered offense enables them to invite teams to run against its 27th-ranked defense in rushing DVOA, so Josh Jacobs is also in play here. Jacobs is averaging 24.0 touches per game and has caught at least three passes in every game.
Los Angeles Rams at Washington Football Team (GPP)
The fact that the Rams are favorites implies for over 26 points, yet nearly all of their skill players — Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson — have positive Leverage Plus/Minus scores, which indicates this game will be under owned as a whole after the Rams left 21 points on the table in a 17-9 slog of a win against the Giants last week. Rams DST is also an option against Kyle Allen, who will like play faster and looser than demoted former starter Dwayne Haskins.
Terry McLaurin vs. Jalen Ramsey is a tough sell in cash games, but as Matthew Freedman points out, McLaurin has gotten his versus a slew of the league’s top cornerbacks. He’s squarely in play in GPPs.
A less risky option with a high ceiling is Antonio Gibson, who has scored in three straight and faces a Rams defense ranked 28th in DVOA Ava ain’t the run. Gibson saw a season-high 17 touches last week, and now is the time to buy rookie breakout candidates.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (GPP)
Amari Cooper will likely see a lot of Giants top cornerback James Bradberry, but Cooper caught 10 balls against Jalen Ramsey and projects with the top Leverage Plus/Minus among Cowboys skill players. The Giants rank 11th in run-defense DVOA but 24th against the pass, so Cooper is a strong pivot of Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott and Cowboys DST have a +0.20 correlation, so pairing them can achieve differentiation to some degree.
This sets up as a blowup spot for Evan Engram, who ran a route on 96% of dropbacks last week. He’s one of the few tight ends capable of posting Kittle-level production and is nearly a must-play in GPPs if you’re going with Kittle in cash.
Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (GPP)
The top leverage play off Kittle is Brandon Aiyuk, who has run a route on 92% or more of dropbacks over the past two weeks. Aiyuk also has four carries over that span, scoring on two of them, which raises his ceiling.
For Miami, Myles Gaskin continues to be a cheap source of touches whose price has been held in check due to lack of a true ceiling game. Gaskin is averaging 16.5 touches per game, so that ceiling performance is liable to come at any time. He’s averaging 4.5 catches per game and is a strong contrarian option to bring it back with on 49ers game stacks.
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers (GPP)
This game is a popular under play, which will likely result in minimal ownership for the Steelers offense despite a solid 25.5 implied point total. Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner all have positive Leverage Plus/Minus scores.
In regard to the Eagles, most people will be out on Zach Ertz after he gained just nine yards on four catches last week, but that ended up being a positive game script spot for Philly, and Ertz ran a route on 100% of dropbacks, which is nearly unheard of for tight ends. He could rack up a huge catch total if Philly gets behind as 7.5-point dogs.
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Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network who 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: Dak Prescott
Photo Credit: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images