By Gerry Love - SPM Fantasy Staff
If you follow our value picks and surround them with “chalkier” high-end and high-volume players who have the best matchups, for the most part you will find yourself in the money in a good percentage of your NFL DFS contests on a weekly basis. We don’t stop there, though, as we’re always digging deeper and looking for any edge that can be the tipping point and put you and us in the big money.
Something we like to look for – especially as the season wears on, injuries pile up and player roles change – are players who are surging in terms of their performance over several weeks, but whose DFS salary has yet to catch up with their recent performance. This also can go in the other direction, with a lesser-value player who puts up huge numbers one week being overvalued and priced too high. So you have to be careful and do your homework.
The key is to find the players who may be emerging on weaker teams because of an injury, always playing from behind, a coaching change or just poor performance by the player who was in front of them. You want to find players who are going to maintain or improve their roles and who play for teams that may be overlooked by the public. Rostering a player who takes up less than 10 percent of your salary cap and who can put up 15 or more points while allowing you to spend more on other positions can put your team over the top.
Be wary of the player who has exploded onto the scene for a good team and will be the hot commodity because of his low price. If he ends up being 50-percent owned and you grab him, even if he over-produces it won’t help you nearly as much in terms of moving up in the standings. And if that player bombs, no matter how many people own him, it may put you in a bad situation from which you can’t recover.
It’s also important to research the team dynamics for these players. A player who is No. 4 in the rotation filling in for an injured starter for two weeks may take big step back in terms of snaps and targets when the starter returns to the lineup.
Volume always has to be considered as well. If you have a choice between a player who came out of nowhere to score three touchdowns on five targets over a two-week span and a player who only scored once – or didn’t score – but played a majority of his team’s snaps and put up a slightly lower number of points on many more snaps and targets, take the higher-volume guy every time if the salaries are comparable.
The final piece to the puzzle, as always, is the player’s matchup for the upcoming week. It’s usually not worth taking a gamble on a player who is matched up against s top-five passing defense that allows a low number of fantasy points to receivers or tight ends just because he has put up big points for a couple weeks. Don’t fall in love with the combination of a low salary and strong recent performances just because that can help you pay for some bigger names in other spots. Taking players who don’t produce doesn’t help you no matter how cheap they are. Recency bias is a dangerous thing.
Sometimes the DFS platform’s algorithm misses and prices a player too low for a given week or is too slow to respond to a player’s new role and uptick in performance. But many times, the salary hasn’t gone up because the matchup isn’t favorable or a player figures to not continue getting the same slice of the pie for one reason or another. If this was easy, we’d all be rich.
Keeping all those factors in mind, here is a list of some recently surging players who are priced well below the level at which they have been performing:
Chase Claypool – He burst onto the scene with a four-touchdown performance two weeks ago and turned in another solid performance last week. Still priced at just 11.4 percent of the salary cap in DraftKings and 10.7 in FanDuel, that makes him a value as a WR2 in DK and a WR3 in DK. But his performances have been so strong that everyone is looking at him, AND Diontae Johnson, who actually gets the largest share of the snaps among Steelers’ receivers when healthy, returns this week. Claypool and Ju Ju Smith-Schuster generally get about the same number of snaps when Johnson is in the lineup, so it’s almost inevitable that Claypool’s playing time and targets will go down this week. The matchup against Tennessee is a pretty good one, though, especially with the Titans having to deal with all of Pittsburgh’s weapons.
Travis Fulgham – Philly already played this week, but Fulgham has emerged as their No. 1 receiver and for good reason. He’s big, strong, athletic and runs well enough. Has very good hands. This week he was priced at 10.8 percent and 9.8 percent of the cap in DK and FD, respectively. Worth a look every week until the price rises, depending on the matchup of course.
Tee Higgins – Like Fulgham, Higgins is performing like a No. 1 and is still pricesd at a WR3 or Flex level. He’s got the Browns this week and is worth using in multiple lineups as a value play.
Brandin Cooks – New coach, new life. Two big weeks for a player many have given up on. Play him until the matchup is too tough, the price rises or his ownership share goes up. Will Fuller is the No. 1 in Houston on paper, but that also means he draws more attention from the defense. Cooks is on a roll and is priced at 10.4 percent of the cap in DK and 9.8 percent in FD. A great WR3 or Flex play.
Keelan Cole – Way under the radar on a bad team, Cole has been the go-to for Jacksonville QB Gardiner Minshew and quietly put up great numbers the past two weeks. Priced at below 10 percent of the cap on both platforms and with an average matchup against the Chargers, Cole is worth a shot as a WR3 or Flex in some of your DFS lineups this week.
Henry Ruggs III – Emerging as the top deep threat for the Raiders, Ruggs is priced below 10 percent of the cap in both FD and DK. He’s risky, however, as a true boom-or-bust player who is dependent on big plays and getting into the end zone. Coming off a bye with a bunch of COVID-19 issues swirling around his team and a tough matchup against Tampa Bay, Ruggs is probably one to stay away from this week. Keep an eye on him, though.
Tim Patrick – Patrick is doing exactly what was expected of injured wideout Courtland Sutton this year. Despite the presence of Jerry Jeudy, Patrick has emerged as the top option for Denver this season no matter who has been at quarterback. He has 10 receptions for more than 200 yards and a TD on 15 targets in his last two outings. He’s still priced below 10 percent of the cap on both platforms. It’s a tough matchup for the Broncos against the Chiefs this week, but somebody is getting the targets, and that person likely is Patrick. Having Drew Lock back helps as well. Volume is good when looking for DFS values.
Darren Fells – As long as Jordan Akins is out for the Texans and Fells is priced below 9 percent of the cap, he is worth a play almost every week as a bargain tight end on all platforms.
Dalton Schultz – Dallas has no other real option at TE, and that position always is a big factor in the Cowboys’ offense. Priced at below 8 percent of the salary cap and playing against a Washington team that hasn’t covered a tight end for 20 years this week, he’s a must play in some of your DFS lineups.
Rob Gronkowski – He was overpriced for too long, and now he’s underpriced. Given his history, though, that won’t last long. Grab him now while you can. He appears to be back in football shape and has regained Tom Brady’s faith. That means plenty of targets and red-zone opportunities, especially with O.J. Howard out. Gronk has a favorable matchup against the Raiders this week. Just. Do. It.