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 6 shmoney time.
- Matt Ryan ($6,400 DK) at ARI
- Lamar Jackson ($8,200 FD) vs. CIN
Thanks to a position-leading Projected Plus/Minus of +4.2, Matt Ryan projects as the lone Tier 1 QB play on DraftKings. Since 2018, QBs projected for +4.0 or better in our NFL Player Models are averaging 21.3 DK points, a +3.9 Plus/Minus and 65% Consistency Rating. Ryan is yet to throw for under 304 yards and has tossed multiple scores in four of five games, and that should continue against a Cardinals defense ranked 27th in pass-defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders. Also, it helps that his own defense is ranked 27th in overall DVOA. As of this writing, 71% of bets and 91% of money is on over 51.5 in Falcons-Cardinals (see live odds here).
It goes overlooked that Lamar Jackson‘s career as a starting quarterback began with the cakiest slate of cake matchups he could have possibly asked for. Last season, each of his first five starts came against defenses ranked bottom-seven by DVOA: the Bengals (27th), Raiders (30th), Falcons (31st), Chiefs (26th), and Buccaneers (32nd). And this season, he got the pleasure of opening against the Dolphins (currently ranked 32nd) and Cardinals (30th). Predictably, Jackson steamrolled them, and a star was born. But against the three other defenses he faced last year (12th-ranked Browns, eighth-ranked Chargers twice) — and the three others he faced this year (seventh-ranked Steelers, 12th-ranked Browns, 18th-ranked Chiefs), he’s still been aight, but far from a lock.
- Jackson vs. defenses 26th or worse in DVOA: 22.2 FD points, +6.0 Plus/Minus, 100% Consistency (7 games)
- Jackson vs. defenses 18th or better in DVOA: 20.4 FD points, +3.0 Plus/Minus, 60% Consistency (6 games)
As luck would have it, his opponent this week, the Bengals, rank 31st, giving him the hat trick of facing bottom-three defenses just six weeks into the season.
Who is this rogue schedule maker that made sure Jackson and the Patriots defense are paying off? I want answers.
And I want Jackson in my FanDuel lineups. He’s the only QB whose Plus/Minus projection is north of +.4.0, and passers coming in at that level or above have posted 22.3 FD points per game with an average Plus/Minus of +5.3 and a Consistency Rating of 73% at home since 2018. Jackson is primed to chew up and spit out yet another bottom-tier defense.
For more on QBs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 6 Fantasy QB Breakdown.
- Malcolm Brown, Rams ($4,300 DK, $4,800 FD) vs. SF
- Le’Veon Bell, Jets ($6,400 DK, $6,800 FD) vs. DAL
- Chris Carson, Seahawks ($6,000 DK, $7,200 FD) at CLE
- Leonard Fournette, Jaguars ($6,700 DK, $6,800 FD) vs. NO
- Nick Chubb, Browns ($7,300 FD, $7,300 FD) vs. SEA
The first missed game of the season for Todd Gurley (quad, doubtful), kind of snuck up on us, didn’t it? Because his status wasn’t in doubt until mid-week, we get a free square in Malcolm Brown. Behind Gurley, Brown has played 88 snaps to Darrell Henderson‘s two, so the odds are in favor of him approaching or bypassing Gurley’s 75% snap rate.
We currently project that Brown will appear in 31-40% of tournament lineups, but you can actually leverage that wisdom of the crowds, so to speak, in cash games: The 84 RBs we’ve projected for at least 8 DK points and more than 25% ownership have averaged 22.5 DK points, a +6.0 Plus/Minus, and 73% Consistency at home since 2016, according to our NFL Trends tool. As is the case with all of the RBs listed to an extent, high expected ownership renders him better suited for cash games than tournaments.
Across the coast, Le’Veon Bell is an obvious buy-low in season-long fantasy and DFS. Bell’s 94.4% snap rate is approaching Christian McCaffrey levels, and his 25.8 opportunities per game trail only McCaffrey. The Cowboys rank 20th in run-defense DVOA and 21st against passes to running backs and have been one of the top fades of the week by big bettors, drawing 74% of bets but just 51% of money, according to public betting data from The Action Network App.
After playing hot potato with the ball to start the season, Chris Carson is trending way up:
- Week 1 (CIN): 21 touches, 81 yards, 2 TDs, 1 fumble, 76% snaps
- Week 2 (at PIT): 18 touches, 87 yards, 0 TDs, 1 fumble, 55% snaps
- Week 3 (NO): 16 touches, 50 yards, 0 TDs, 1 fumble, 45% snaps
- Week 4 (at ARI): 26 touches, 145 yards, 0 TDs, 0 fumbles, 76% snaps
- Week 5 (LAR): 28 touches, 123 yards, 1 TD, 0 fumbles, 84% snaps
Coming off 10 days of rest and facing the Browns’ 25th-ranked defense in rushing DVOA on a short week, Carson’s projected DK points per dollar of 2.8 is top four among RBs. Since the start of last season, RBs we’ve projected for between 2.6-2.9 have collectively averaged 17.4 DK points, a +4.4 Plus/Minus, and 6% Consistency.
Carson is a slightly better DK value than Leonard Fournette, but Fournette has the edge on FanDuel. Fournette is projected for 2.1 FD points per dollar while Carson (2.0) just misses the cutoff, and RBs projected for 2.1-2.2 have gone for 16.7 FD points, a +4.7 Plus/Minus, and 71% Consistency compared to 15.8/+3.8/58% for those between 2.0-2.1. Even in shutting down Ezekiel Elliott (18-35-1 rushing, 6-30-0 receiving), Zeke’s volume still got him up past 15.0 FD points; Fournette is a player with a 91% snap rate being fed 23.0 touches per game and will win out in these situations more often than not.
Nevertheless, for $500 more, Nick Chubb is another high-end option who also fits the 2.1-2.2 projected points per dollar trend. Starting in the second half of last season, Chubb has piled up 11 TDs in 13 games and could add to that total against a Seattle defense that has given up multiple scores to Gurley and Alvin Kamara over the past three weeks.
For more on RBs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 6 Fantasy RB Breakdown.
- Tyler Boyd ($6,400 DK, $6,800 FD) at BAL
- Cooper Kupp ($7,100 DK, $7,800 FD) vs. SF
- Odell Beckham Jr. ($6,800 DK, $7,600 FD) vs. SEA
Tyler Boyd has been the focal point of first-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor’s offense, drawing double-digit targets in four of five games and averaging 7.4 catches for 81.2 yards per contest.
Boyd has essentially been the aspiring poor man’s Sean McVay’s poor man’s version of Cooper Kupp. Since returning from his ACL injury, Kupp has seen double-digit targets and surpassed 100 yards in four of five games. Kupp is ranked second in receptions per game (8.2) and fifth in receiving yards per game (101.2).
Like Bell, Odell Beckham Jr. is a buy-low candidate primed to explode. OBJ has never finished a season outside the top 10 in per-game fantasy production but currently resides well outside the top 25. This has caused his DraftKings salary to plummet below $7,000 for the first time since his rookie year. In eight games with a DK salary under $7,000, OBJ has been good for 19.9 DK points, a +8.5 Plus/Minus, and 75% Consistency on average, per the Trends tool. Whether by design or necessity, OBJ will likely be force-fed against a Seattle zone scheme that has already been hit for 7-158-2 by John Ross, 8-60-0 by Boyd, 5-84-0 by JuJu Smith-Schuster, 5-54-1 by Michael Thomas, and 9-117-1 by Kupp.
For more on WRs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 6 Fantasy WR Breakdown.
- Austin Hooper ($5,000 DK, $6,400 FD) at ARI
- George Kittle ($5,200 DK, $6,500 FD) at LAR
- Travis Kelce ($7,000 DK, $7,500 FD) vs. HOU
We have Austin Hooper, George Kittle, and Travis Kelce each projected for 2.8 DK points per dollar, making them top-tier plays. Since the start of 2018, TEs we’ve at at 2.8-plus have produced an average of 13.7 DK points, a +5.0 Plus/Minus, and 66% Consistency. Kelce and Kittle are usual suspects, while Hooper enters the mix having now caught six or more balls in four of five games and ranking top-three at the position in per-game receptions (6.8) and receiving yards (72.6). The Cardinals released D.J. Swearinger ahead of last week and finally got through a game without a tight end going off on them, but they still rank last versus the position in receiving yards allowed (461) and TDs allowed (six).Hooper figures to maintain his high-volume production all season, as the Falcons have little in the way of a run game and defenses are forced to prioritize taking away not one, but now two, over-the-top threats in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
For more on TEs, check out Matthew Freedman’s NFL Week 6 Fantasy TE Breakdown.
- New York Jets ($1,500 DK, $3,100 FD) vs. DAL
With tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La’El Collins (knee) both missing practice all week and questionable to play, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are liable to gift some points to the Jets defense/special teams. The Jets are ranked 10th in defensive DVOA and the DST is averaging 11.3 DK/FD points per game and has the top Projected Plus/Minus at the position.
On DraftKings, Ryan, Bell, Carson, Brown, Kupp, Beckham, Boyd can fit with either Kittle or Hooper if you punt with the Jets DST. Both TEs are projected within a point of eachother.
On FanDuel, Jackson, Kupp, Beckham, Boyd, and Kelce all fit with most two-man combinations of Bell/Fournette/Carson/Chubb if you punt with Brown and the Jets DST.
You may notice a new column in Models for Leverage Plus/Minus, which is a metric I created that compares a player’s rank in projected ceiling at his position to a player’s projected ownership at his position. I’ll provide a more in-depth intro to it an a separate piece, but essentially, a positive score means a +EV tournament play and a negative score means a -EV tournament play. A score of zero means no edge either way.
The reason I like to use this as opposed to only raw Leverage Score is because the 1-100 percentile scale of raw Leverage Score is so wide that it can too harshly penalize high-ceiling studs who may have high ownership relative to the scrubs at the position, but still lower ownership than their projected ceiling suggests they should.
Take Kelce for instance. Kelce is projected for the highest ceiling among TEs but is projected to be the second- or third-highest owned TE behind Hooper and potentially Kittle. While Kelce’s raw Leverage Score sits at a middling 48%, his +1 Leverage plus/Minus indicates he’s one of only four TEs on the slate whose rank in ceiling is higher than his rank the ownership he’s expected to attract. Meanwhile, backup types like Josh Hill and Hayden Hurst are receiving too much credit for being in the lowest ownership percentile despite single-digit ceiling projections 15 points lower than Kelce’s.
In effect, sorting by Leverage Plus/Minus provides a simple, quick, and intuitive method for identifying the handful of players on a given slate worth owning at a higher rate than the rest of the field.
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
Fantasy and DFS players are right to decrease expectations for players listed as questionable on the injury report, but tend to do so to a greater degree than necessary in tournaments when it’s the player’s floor being impacted by the injury more so than his ceiling. David Johnson (back, questionable) will have a top-two ceiling projection if active, so there’s a lot of upside to owning him if he ends up in the 9-12% range as expected.
Christian Kirk (ankle, questionable) also projects to get barely any ownership even if active due to the 4:05 E.T. start. As a top-two receiver commanding 24% of the air yards and 22% of the targets in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo attack that will undoubtedly get more efficient as the year progresses, Kirk will have monster upside on a weekly basis. A matchup against a poorly-schemed, injury-ravaged Falcons defense that ranks 30th in pass DVOA is not one to fade, and he currently leads all players on the slate in Leverage Plus/Minus.
There are a bunch of good non-injury driven options here too. Mohamed Sanu has the highest ceiling projection of all WRs under $5,000 on DK, yet is projected for sub-5% ownership.
Devonta Freeman also pops. He’s quietly averaging 4.0 receptions for 34.6 yards through the air and could post a big stat line if he’s finally able to break through on the ground vs. a Cardinals defense that ranks 22nd in rushing DVOA. Both Freeman and Sanu provide massive leverage on this slate given that Hooper, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley project for more than 50% combined ownership.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Marquise Brown is another player whose ownership will be unnecessarily suppressed because of an injury designation. Brown ranks fifth in the league in air yards (539, per AirYards.com). Brown’s strong positive correlation with Lamar Jackson (0.70 DK, 0.63 FD) can be leveraged to arbitrage Jackson owners by fading him and going with Brown instead for a lesser cost and fraction of the ownership. UPDATE: Brown has been ruled out.
Tyler Boyd already has two 10-catch games and our models like him for a top-eight WR ceiling, so he will also be a +EV GPP play so long as his projected ownership (5-8% at the time of this writing) doesn’t go past the 9-12% range.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
The tackle situation will scare some people off Ezekiel Elliott, whom we have projected for at top-six ceiling but ownership in the 12-16th highest range. Per the Trends tool, in 16 games which we’ve had Zeke projected for 12% ownership or less, he’s averaged 20.3 DK points and scored at least 20 56% of the time.
I mentioned only four TEs currently project for a lower ownership than his projected DK ceiling dictates, and Jason Witten is among that group. Witten’s six red zone targets are tied for ninth-most, and his 33.3% red zone target share leads the team, yet his teammates are expected to appear in 10-20 times as many lineups as him.
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs
Odds are that Tyreek Hill (shoulder, questionable) will garner substantial ownership if it is reported he will be active ahead of the 1 p.m. ET start for Chiefs-Texans, which could in turn cause Demarcus Robinson to come in even fewer lineups than the 2-4% we currently have him projected for. Robinson is a poor cash game value, but his ceiling remains among the week’s highest by virtue of playing starter’s snaps with Patrick Mahomes. The expected absence of Sammy Watkins (hamstring, doubtful) should keep Robinson’s ceiling intact.
On the Houston side, the player that stands out is Carlos Hyde. Hyde is averaging 15.6 touches per game but is projected for single-digit ownership that pales in comparison to that of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Deshaun Watson.
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars
At this point, the Jags defense has a reputation that exceeds it quality, so there’s value on a host of Saints here. Like DJ, Alvin Kamara (ankle) has a top-two ceiling projection an a questionable tag that will likely suppress his ownership, which we currently have pegged in the 5-8% range. Per the Trends tool, When we’ve projected Kamara’s ownership in the 9-12% range or below, he has averaged 19.2 DK points and gone over 27.0 29% of the time. His +10 Leverage Plus/Minus as of publication is tops among RBs.
Then there’s Michael Thomas, who is tied for the highest ceiling among WRs but projects to be one of the lowest owned stud WRs on DK, a site whose scoring format suits his high-percentage, reception gobbling nature.
And Jared Cook is one of five TEs that currently rates as a +EV play on FanDuel. At $5,600, Cook is a nice price-point differentiation play, as upwards of three-quarters of the field is expected to land on an option priced $6,400 and above.
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings
Despite being a home favorite with a cost-effective price tag, Vikings DST won’t get much love this week because the Eagles are thought to be one of the better offenses in the league, but offenses that don’t hesitate to throw the ball are always liable to commit miscues against a Mike Zimmer-led defense. Minnesota has a top-three ceiling projection and is expected to top out at less than 5% ownership.
With Kelce, Kittle, and Hooper all a part of what are expected to be higher-scoring games, this slate also sets up well to pivot to Zach Ertz. The Vikings have already allowed three high-volume games to top tight ends (Hooper 9-9-77-0, Darren Waller 14-13-134-0, Evan Engram 11-6-42-0).
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Brandin Cooks is No. 2 among WRs in Leverage Plus/Minus on DK and No. 3 on FanDuel, while Robert Woods is eighth on DK and second on FD. Together, the duo barely projects for even half as much ownership as Cooper Kupp. And recency bias will likely cause Gerald Everett to be the choice in more lineups than Woods and Cooks, as well.
Meanwhile, Jared Goff is expected to be on less than 1-in-20 rosters despite averaging 27.1-of-40.0 passing for 353.7 yards and 2.5 TDs at home since the start of last season. The 49ers are a good enough team to both score points on offense and force Goff into the requisite early miscues necessary to force the Rams to play from behind or engage in a shootout.
On the other side, Jimmy Garoppolo will likely go overlooked after the 49ers running game took center-stage in prime time, but remember how different the Rams defense was without Aqib Talib last season. Jimmy G is among a select few QBs with a positive Leverage Plus/Minus on both DK and FD. The metric also shows that Hooper’s expected position-leading ownership creates value on George Kittle, and based on Jimmy G’s ownership expectation, the stack would do well to find itself in even 1% of all lineups.
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns
D.K. Metcalf has the second-highest ceiling projection among WRs under $5,000 on DK and projects for 0-1% ownership, and he’s also in the top three among WRs under $6,000 on FanDuel and projects for under 5% ownership there as well. Metcalf (29%) — not Tyler Lockett (27%) — leads the Seahawks in air yard share.
Metcalf makes for a good pairing with Russell Wilson, who has a top-four ceiling projection but likely won’t see his ownership outpace Jackson, both QBs in Chiefs-Texans, and both QBs in Falcons-Cards, thus making him the most valuable stud QB play.
Also, with a lot of attention on the offenses in this game, it’s easy to forget that with Monday Night’s debacle, Baker Mayfield has now taken 26 sacks, thrown 18 interceptions, and fumbled six times in 10 career losses. Seahawks DST has a better than average ceiling projection and project to be one of the lowest owned DSTs on the slate due to the ownership Browns skill players are expected to attract.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Delanie Walker has the top ceiling projection after Kelce, Kittle, Ertz, and Hooper but is projected for 0-1% ownership.
On the other side, Phillip Lindsay has a top-10 ceiling but projects to rank outside the top-15 highest-owned RBs.
Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins
Four games into Terry McLaurin‘s career, and it’s fair to wonder if Washington’s third-round pick will be more valuable to the team than this first-round teammate Dwayne Haskins. McLaurin’s first three pro stat lines are 5-125-1, 5-62-1, and 6-70-1, and he accounted for 43% of his team’s receiving yardage against the Patriots. Because he’s unproven relative to the other WRs in his price range on DK, his ownership will likely stay in the 5% range, which is ceiling greatly outpaces. The narrative surrounding Washington in the wae of the Jay Gruden firing is that they want to run the ball more, which will cause the public to fade the McLaurin-Case Keenum stack despite facing the worst pass defense in the league by DVOA.
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.
Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports.
Pictured: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8)