Week 3 NFL DFS: Value Analysis Comes Into Focus

By Gerry Love - SPM Fantasy Staff

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With two weeks of the National Football League season behind us, we are starting to get a sense for the roles that players are likely to be playing within their teams’ systems as well as coaches’ play-calling tendencies and other indicators that can help us develop a true system for determining the best DFS value plays on a weekly basis.

We also are at the point where we can start bringing some subjectivity to the process of how we evaluate value and sprinkle some common sense into the equation. For example, no matter how highly Allen Robinson is rated or how good his price is, if he doesn’t produce this week he goes to the banished list.

But first, before we go farther and get into the Week 3 breakdown, let’s discuss the definition of value. Determining value as it pertains to DFS simply means figuring out which players are most likely to exceed their salaries in terms of production by the greatest amount for a given week.

Just because we provide lists of the players who we think are the best value plays each week doesn’t mean that you should fill your teams with only those players, although you can, and there’s nothing wrong with using that as a strategy on some of your teams. But in an ideal world we want to provide you with the lesser-valued players who are most likely to perform well instead of the really low-priced longshots who have high upside but also might put up a big goose egg.

It’s human nature to look for the best pure argain when we are shopping for anything. The same is true in DFS, as many players try to find the cheapest-possible options with the greatest potential upside for several positions so that they can also roster players like Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas and Travis Kelce.

Again, this is not terrible strategy, but it is very much boom or bust. Your $50 winning lineup one week might lead you into nine straight weeks of disappointment as your high-ceiling players actually produce closer to their low floors.

With our system, we try to provide you with information that will allow you to be profitable on a regular basis with a chance of cashing in big occasionally. We look at the players with the best value at each position, not just the cheap players who might blow up, as well as analytical breakdowns of what it generally takes to win small, what it usually takes to win big, when it is okay to follow the crowd and play the bigger-name players and how players are valued across various platforms.

This approach allows us to provide player options who consistently out-perform their assigned values while saving you a few dollars that can be spent to load up and go for higher-volume, bigger names who are likely to be more productive in other positions. The goal isn’t to tell you exactly what to do, but instead to help you build a consistent core or players who are likely to exceed their assigned value and let you combine that with your knowledge of the game, allowing you to make your own choices as far as selecting the top players who can really put you over the top.

If you do choose to go with just our selections, it’s a pretty good bet that you are going to be in the money on a regular basis. In the last two weeks our DFS selections have produced 12 winning lineups, so if you go with us, we are confident that you will be a regular winner. No matter how you want to play it, our value recommendations will set you up to be successful; it doesn’t matter if you are a big-money player who wants to use the core players we recommend along with every conceivable combination of high-priced guys or a small-time player who wants to add some excitement to your weekly football viewing while maybe winning a few bucks here and there.

We don’t always get it 100% right, but more often than not the players we recommend out-perform expectations. Our numbers and analytics are based on GPP formats, not 50/50 or other forms of cash games, that utilize a “classic” format But if you follow our recommendations and use the information that we provide, you should have success in “showdown” and cash games as well.

Since there are a higher percentage of winners in cash-games as opposed to GPP contests, obviously the scores needed to win in those contests will be lower – as will be the highest winning payouts available. And as far as salary-cap numbers go, since we analyze multiple platforms that utilize different salary caps, we determine a player’s value as the percentage of a team’s cap his salary he would command on each platform.

So, if a QB eats up 14.5 percent of the salary camp in Draft Kings but 11.5 percent in FanDuel, he is likely to be a better value in FD – but still could be a good value in both depending on other factors. For different games across the same platform that may have fewer roster spots or a different salary cap – like a single-game “showcase format” – it’s a pretty safe bet that the percentage of the cap a player would occupy will remain the same within the same platform. That same QB is likely take up 14.5 percent of the cap in any type of Draft Kings game no matter what his actual salary is.

Here are some other important general concepts to understand as you build your lineups:

· In 2019 NFL DFS GPP contests, the average lowest score to cash out was 177.9. If you can score 178-180 consistently you should win something.

· For similar contests in 2019, the average score to place first was 259.6. If you’re looking to win the big money, your target should be around 260.

· We want to make sure you are in the money and have an opportunity to be in the big money occasionally, so we have picked the number in the middle – about 218 – as our target.

· Using 218 as an overall target averages out to 24.22 per position, but please understand that team defenses generally don’t score that many points. Keeping that in mind, we shoot for higher and lower scores based on position in hopes of achieving that average across the non-defensive positions.

Target Scores by Position

QB: 28.12

RB1: 30.52

RB2: 25:51

WR 1: 27.90

WR 2: 23.98

WR 3: 21:08

Flex: 22.09

TE: 22:67

D: 16:13

Target Salary by Position

Salary as a percentage of salary cap:

QB: 12.9%

RB1: 14.0%

RB2: 11.7%

WR1: 21.8%

WR2: 11.0%

WR3: 10%

Flex: 10:14%

TE: 10.4%

Winning Ownership by Position

For larger-payout game winners:

QB: 8.2%

RB1: 27%

RB2: 15.3%

WR1: 21.6%

WR2: 17.9%

WR3: 8.5%

Flex: 7.3%

TE: 14.8%

What does this all mean? We will analyze these numbers as we explain our Week 3 value picks for each position below.

Week 3 Quarterbacks

First, to explain the numbers above as they pertain to quarterbacks in general: As you can see, the big-money winners are the ones who find the quarterback on a given week who are generally passed over by the vast majority of contestants but produce at top-tier levels. This happens on a weekly basis.

Look at the first two weeks of 2020, remembering that our target total to have the best chance of winning in almost any style of full-roster game is 218 points overall and 28 for our QB. Russell Wilson is the one “chalk” quarterbacks who went over 28 in Week 1, leading all QBs with 31.78. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers entered the season being doubted by almost everyone after a subpar 2019 but exploded for 30.76. Josh Allen, who many felt still needed to prove himself, had 28.18. Upstart Kyler Murray was fifth with 26.30, underpaid Cam Netown was sixth at 25.70 and the much-maligned Mitch Trubisky followed him at 25.7 Next was high-value pick Matt Ryan at 23.9

Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are pretty much slam dunks to eclipse the 20-point barrier each week but usually are priced much higher than the other QBs. Jackson ranked third at 27.50, so he at least was close to our winning target number, but Mahomes was 14th at 20.44 behind other much-cheaper players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, Gardner Minshew and Tom Brady. Mahomes finished less than a point ahead of veteran journeyman Teddy Bridgewater.

So while paying for Lamar Jackson wouldn’t appear to have hurt you and 20 points from Mahomes would seem to keep you in contention, the fact is that you need those guys to score much higher than our target because their salaries take up a much larger portion of a team’s salary cap. If you had saved $2,000 or even $3,000 and got 28 points from Josh Allen, you would have hit the target number and exceeded his salary in value. That allows you to spend more on another position and still survive if another player doesn’t live up to his value, which is pretty much a given to happen.

A look at Week 2 shows that Dak Prescott was an expensive proposition but eclipsed his value by scoring nearly 40 points. Checking Dak’s salary for Week 3, which averages to 14.3 percent of the cap, he would need a score of 31.17 to meet his value and keep your team on track. But again, if you think he’s guaranteed to light it up and want to spend that extra money on him, you need him to beat that number by a considerable margin.

His score last week would have accounted for 18% of your team’s targeted 218 points, so based on straight math alone he would have been worth the price at this week’s salary. But paying more for him means you would have had less to spend on other positions, which might have hurt your overall team performance. And if 40% of your competitors drafted Dak, you would have needed to find several other lesser-owned diamonds in the rough to maximize your earning potential.

The bottom line for the quarterback position is that you want to find the players who aren’t considered the “chalk” plays but who are going to score like those players. That’s why we look at the salary of each player on both Draft Kings and FanDuel in hopes of finding players that are over- or under-valued on either or both platforms. We also analyze each player’s average PPR ranking as determined by more than 100 experts along with every individual matchup. All of this information can be found in our raw data at the bottom of this article.

Looking at Week 2 again, Newton was underpriced and had the second-best QB total with 34.48, followed by the still-value-priced Allen (34.58), Wilson (33.42), Murray (32.14), Ryan (28.52) and Mahomes (28.52). The high-priced Jackson was 18th at 17.56. Several of our top value plays outscored the two highest-priced QBs, who again had decent weeks but didn’t score enough points to justify their value.

Of course, there are going to be weeks where Mahomes, Prescott, Wilson and Jackson go off for 45 or 50 points, and it would be great to have them in your lineup when that happens. That’s why finding value throughout your lineup is important; it can allow you to pick a guy like that if you want to and still be able to win. And if you don’t have the high-priced QB the week that he goes crazy, finding lesser-owned value at other positions can allow you to compete with the players who did draft him.

What you will notice this week is that Josh Allen’s performance the first two weeks has pushed his price outside of the value range for our purposes. Cam Newton mas moved out of the value category in Draft Kings, but not FanDuel. Aaron Rodgers is moving in that direction, too, and was very close to being too expensive for us to consider this week.

Instead of those guys, we turn our attention to a player like Ryan Tannehill, who has a solid matchup and is still very much undervalued despite scoring more than 20 points in every start since he took over in Tennessee during Week 7 of last season. Trubisky has a very good matchup this week coming off two strong weeks and can score with his arm and legs.

Ben Roethlisberger always has been a prolific fantasy performer but still has his doubters as an older player coming off an injury. Big Ben also is surrounded by potential game-breakers at all skill positions. Tom Brady hasn’t blown anyone away with his numbers yet in Tampa, but he’s been consistent as he finds his way with a new team and this week gets WR1 Chris Godwin back to go along with his other weapons.

You’ll notice Baker Mayfield hanging on around No. 10 on both lists in terms of value. Mayfield had a nice performance with a good matchup against Cincinnati last week. He’s not a consistency play but instead is a riskier high-upside play. If Washington’s strong defensive line can get pressure on him and force him into predictable situations by stopping the run, Mayfield won’t be able to take advantage of his receivers’ advantage over the WFT secondary. But if the Cleveland line protects him and allows the running backs to set up unpredictable and manageable down-and-distance situations, he is capable of putting up numbers that can propel you to a big payday.

It’s boom or bust for Mayfield. He’s not a core player, but we would consider taking a shot with him in one or two lineups in hopes that Good Baker makes another appearance.

Best QB Value Week 3 Draft Kings

1. Ryan Tannehill

2. Mitchell Trubisky

3. Ben Roethlisberger

4. Tom Brady

5. Aaron Rodgers

6. Phillip Rivers

7. Jared Goff

8. Drew Brees

9. Teddy Bridgewater

10. Baker Mayfield

Best QB Value Week 3 FanDuel

1. Ryan Tannehill

2. Ben Roethlisberger

3. Tom Brady

4. Matthew Stafford

5. Mitchell Trubisky

6. Cam Newton

7. Aaron Rodgers

8. Phillip Rivers

9. Jared Goff

8. Drew Brees

10. Teddy Bridgewater

11. Baker Mayfield

Week 3 Running Backs

You’ll notice that it’s okay to take a higher-priced, higher-owned back for your RB1 spot, with a 14.0 percent average cap hit for winning owners and nearly 30% average ownership.

Again, the goal is finding players priced in that ballpark who have highest probability of getting to the 30-point target for this position. Finding true RB1s priced at that level always is helpful but finding great value at other positions can allow you to spend a little more if you think a player like Derrick Henry is a lock to put up more than 30 points. Always remember that the more you spend over 14 percent of the cap, the more points you need that player to score to stay on track to win money.

At RB2 and the Flex position you’ll notice that average ownership drops to around 15 and 8 percent, respectively, further illustrating the need to find the lesser-appreciated, value-priced players who are likely to produce at those positions no matter what.

At the RB 1 position this week, Jonathan Taylor is the favorite play given his potential volume as the true lead back and the matchup. Miles Sanders had a strong first week back from injury and is still value priced and facing a very favorable matchup. People are still worried about James Conner’s injury history, but he got all the touches he needed to be very productive last week and should get plenty of opportunities again against the Texans.

Notice that the bigger names like Henry, Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb and Josh Jacobs make appearances in the FanDuel RB1 value list as they are priced within our value range on that platform. Those guys are virtually guaranteed to get the value needed to produce the numbers you need, but you always have to be careful to analyze the matchups.

We love seeing high-value players who are considered by many to be RB1-type guys but are priced at the RB2/Flex level. Joe Mixon, David Montgomery, Kenyan Drake, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon fit that description this week. We also love Devin Singletary’s price as a high-volume play with Zach Moss likely out this week for Buffalo. And Kareem Hunt can beat you in so many ways. He figures to get his points no matter what but can blow up as a pass-catcher if the Browns struggle in the run game or fall behind early. He’s a really good bargain play almost every week as an RB2 or Flex player.

Best RB1 Value Week 3 Draft Kings

1. Jonathan Taylor

2. Miles Sanders

3. James Conner

4. Austin Ekeler

Best RB2/Flex Value Week 3 Draft Kings

1. Joe Mixon

2. David Montgomery

3. Kenyan Drake

4. Devin Singletary

5. Todd Gurley

6. Melvin Gordon

7. Josh Kelley

8. Mark Ingram

Best RB1 Flex Value Week 3 FanDuel

1. Jonathan Taylor

2. Miles Sanders

3. Derrick Henry

4. Aaron Jones

5. Alvin Kamara

6. Chris Carson

7. James Conner

8. Austin Ekeler

9. Josh Jacobs

10. Nick Chubb

Best RB2/Flex Value Week 3 FanDuel

1. Dave Montgomery

2. Kenyan Drake

3. Joe Mixon

4. Devin Singletary

5. Todd Gurley

6. Melvin Gordon

7. Kareem Hunt

8. Josh Kelley

9. Mark Ingram

10. Leonard Fournette

Value RB Flex Plays DK & FD

1. Jerick McKinnon

2. JK Dobbins

Week 3 Wide Receivers

Similar to the running backs, it’s okay to go with a more popular player at the WR1 slot, because you never want to miss out on that guy who goes off for 200 yards and 2 or 3 TDs. Big-money winners picked WR1s who were owned by almost 22 percent of all players, and even at the WR2 position the average winning player had better than 17-percent ownership. Remember, though, the more you pay, the more you need them to score, and if you end up with the “chalky” WR1 and WR2 picks it becomes imperative to find a great value at WR3 and Flex, where players on winning rosters averaged between 7.3- and 8.5-percent ownership.

Our top-five WR1 value plays are identical for Draft Kings and FanDuel this week. Obviously, fireworks are expected in the Dallas-Seattle games as their receivers can be found throughout these lists. The prices and matchups are right, and all of those players have value for Week 3. Terry McLaurin is getting his numbers and a ton of targets every week as the only elite weapon in Washington’s offensive arsenal. There is high value in stacking Ju Ju with Big Ben (and don’t rule out a double stack with Ju Ju and Diontae Johnson) this week against a struggling Texans team. If the Steelers can keep Roethlisberger upright this week, he may really start to hit his stride and have a big week).

Stefon Diggs has been just what the doctor ordered in Buffalo and is worth considering for one more week as he could price himself out of the value range in the future with another strong effort. Odell Beckham Jr. could be boom or bust, but at his price in FanDuel we are more than willing to take a WR1 talent as a WR2 or WR3 – especially on any teams that have Mayfield at QB.

Now, a disclaimer. Allen Robinson and Adam Thielen – and Mike Evans to a degree – continue to be enigmas. They’ve shown enough in spurts over the years to stay on our radar as WR1 values, but if they don’t come through this week, we are moving away from them until they string together a few good weeks in a row. We preach value AND consistency. They have been far from consistent the past few years. Evans’ issues tend to be more injury related. Keep an eye on his status week to week, because he’s a tough matchup for almost any team when completely healthy. And as long as Brady says priced at a value level, stacking him with Evans and/or Godwin should be worth considering most weeks as their production only figures to improve as they get more familiar with each other.

For your WR2 and WR3 slots, the guys higher on the lists are the more consistent players who may be WR1s for their teams and are sure to get targets and opportunities to put up WR1 fantasy numbers. Marquise Brown, Robert Woods, T.Y. Hilton and Julian Edelman are all essentially No. 1 guys for their teams. The players lower on that list and on the Flex value list are you’re the types of higher-upside players who are less ikely to be owned but can help take you to the promised land with a big week.

Best WR1 Value Week 3 Draft Kings

1. DK Metcalf

2. Terry McLaurin

3. Tyler Lockett

4. Amari Cooper

5. JJ Smith-Schuster

6. Allen Robinson

Best WR2/W3/Flex Value Week 3 Draft Kings

1. Robert Woods

2. Michael Gallup

3. TY Hilton

4. Diontae Johnson

5. CeeDee Lamb

Best WR 1 Value Week 3 FanDuel

1. DK Metcalf

2. Terry McLaurin

3. Tyler Lockett

4. Amari Cooper

5. JJ Smith-Schuster

6. Stefon Diggs

7. Calvin Ridley

8. Allen Robinson

9. Mike Evans

10. Adam Thielen

Best WR2/W3/Flex Value Week 3 FanDuel

1. Odell Beckham Jr.

2. Michael Gallup

3. Marquise Brown

4. TY Hilton

5. Robert Woods

6. Julian Edelman

7. Diontae Johnson

8. Will Fuller

9. CeeDee Lamb

10. Darius Slayton

Value WR Flex Plays DK & FD

1. Robbie Anderson

2. Corey Davis

3. Tyler Boyd

4. Anthony Miller

5. Russell Gage

Week 3 Tight Ends

This year, more than ever, there appears to be a group of tight ends just below the top-tier level inhabited by Tracis Kelce, George Kittle and sometimes Mark Andrews who can put up consistent double-figure points with the potential of going above the key 20-point plateau and helping your team win some cash. The Tier 1 TEs are great players and consistent, but to afford them you have to give something up in other, more important positions, and need them to produce at a much higher level to make the spend worthwhile. And if you happen to take them on a week when they underperform, you’re going to be in serious trouble.

The good news about the value tight ends is that they aren’t likely to perform at such a high level so as to price themselves out of the value category. But because they are so closely grouped, it is imperative to study their matchups on a weekly basis and select the ones with the best chance of separating themselves.

Zach Ertz, Jared Cook and Dallas Goedert can be counted on weekly to keep your team competitive at the TE position. Goedert is still a great bargain, actually outplaying Ertz but still being underpriced with Ertz still considered the Eagles’ top target. Jared Cook seems to be more of an option than last year for Drew Brees and his obviously weakening arm. We recommend jumping on Jonnu Smith and Tyler Higbee now before they price themselves out of value territory, while Hayden Hurst, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant just need to show a little more consistency to become weekly considerations.

One TE strategy is to look for the bargain-basement, lowest-priced players who might score in double figures in hopes of being able to stack another position with higher-priced guys. Based on the analytics, this strategy is less successful overall, because these players also have a chance to literally score zero points. We’ve included some of those types of players as value options to open cap space below for those who are inclined to go that route.

Best TE Value Week 3 Draft Kings

1. Zach Ertz

2. Jared Cook

3. Dallas Goedert

4. Jonnu Smith

5. Hunter Henry

6. Hayden Hurst

Best TE Value Week 3 FanDuel

1. Zach Ertz

2. Tyler Higbee

3. Dallas Goedert

4. Jonnu Smith

5. Hayden Hurst

6. TJ Hockenson

7. Noah Fant

TE Value to Open Cap Space

1. Mo-Allie Cox

2. Logan Thomas

3. OJ Howard

Week 3 Value Analysis Raw Data

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