I never got comfortable with a cash-game lineup last week — especially after the Chiefs game got moved, knocking Clyde Edwards-Helaire off the main slate.
In challenging weeks like that, I like to lean on the high-floor/high-ceiling combo of the elite RBs. Elliott, Kamara and Cook did their jobs last week, although it was annoying to watch their backups combine for 4 TDs. If we get a couple of those, this lineup cashes.
But the real problem was the WRs and TE. A TD saved Golladay in what was a disappointing day from the Lions offense. Moore fell short of expectations, getting out-targeted 11 to 6 by teammate Robby Anderson.
And then there’s Cooks. The thesis behind the play: A talented, full-time WR playing with Deshaun Watson in a plus matchup against the Vikings.
Cooks was a full-time player, running a route on 93% of Watson’s drop backs. But Houston’s offense underwhelmed in what looked liked a good spot. And Cooks surprisingly saw only 3 targets on 33 Watson passes. Looking back, I probably should have considered that his only productive outing over the first 3 weeks came when Will Fuller was limited by a hamstring injury.
As for the other goose egg in this lineup, I don’t think Trautman was a killer. His $2,500 price tag let us get to those 3 stud RBs. And the other popular cheap TE play — Logan Thomas — scored just 1.8 DK points at $3,500.
The correct move at TE last week was to pay up for Darren Waller. But it was certainly possible to cash with Trautman. Punting with a cheap TE remains a viable move that I’m sure we’ll be making again this season.
OK, enough dwelling on the Week 4 loss. Let’s get to the Week 5 picks …
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs ($7,700)
I’ve talked in this article and on our DFS podcasts about paying up for QB making more sense this season. In the context of this week’s slate, I think paying up for QB is the move.
Dak Prescott ($7,400) is definitely in play, but this feels like a blowup spot for Mahomes. He’s at home for a Raiders defense that ranks 30th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. Mahomes has tossed 4 TDs in 2 of his last 4 games against the division rival.
The Chiefs are sporting a 34-point implied total this week — the highest we’ve seen for any team this season. So Vegas is obviously expecting a big day from this offense.
If you do wanna go cheap at QB, grit your teeth and click Daniel Jones ($5,400). He’s struggled so far this season but has faced 4 top-8 teams in pass defense DVOA. He finally gets a break this weekend vs. the Cowboys, who rank 25th. Jones also adds value with his legs, running for 20+ yards in all 4 games this season.
4 RBs stand out this week. Get 3 of these guys in your cash lineup.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys ($7,800)
His rushing production has been relatively disappointing only because Dallas has been playing from behind virtually all season. That script should change this week as 9.5-point home favorites vs. the Giants. Even if it doesn’t, Elliott will remain busy in the passing game. He ranks top 3 among RBs in targets (31), catches (23) and receiving yards (159).
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($6,800)
The rookie is seeing awesome usage, sitting 6th in carries and 9th in targets at his position. He’s had some poor TD luck, failing to score on any of his 9 carries inside the 10-yard line. Fourteen other RBs have 7+ carries from that range — and they’ve all scored at least twice.
A TD barrage is coming for Edwards-Helaire. And it could start this week against the Raiders’ 32nd-ranked RB defense.
Playing CEH with Mahomes should get us a piece of all of Kansas City’s TDs on Sunday.
Kareem Hunt, Browns ($6,500)
Hunt is averaging 17.4 DK points per game this season — the majority of that coming with Nick Chubb. We’ll see exactly how big a role he takes on sans Chubb. The groin injury Hunt played through last week that’s kept him limited in practice so far this week is a minor concern. But even if he takes over 60% of Cleveland’s RB work, he’s a strong play at this price. There’s upside, of course, for him to handle 80+%.
Hunt gets a Colts defense that’s allowed the 3rd fewest DK points to RBs. But LBs Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke and Anthony Walker are all banged up.
Mike Davis, Panthers ($6,400)
He’s been McCaffrey-lite over the past 2 weeks, handling 29 carries and 13 targets. Davis has scored 23.1 and then 22.1 DK points.
He might be even busier this weekend with the injury to Reggie Bonnafon, who’s handled 12 carries and 2 targets over the last 2 games. And Davis gets a sweet matchup vs. a Falcons squad sitting 29th in DK points allowed to RBs.
Amari Cooper ($7,400) or Tyreek Hill ($6,900)
It’s another tough week at WR. So I like getting 1 of these studs to anchor the group.
Cooper leads the NFL with a whopping 51 targets through 4 games. That’s helped him produce 17.6+ DK points each week. He shouldn’t have any trouble with the Giants secondary on Sunday.
Hill seems underpriced at $6,900. He’s scored in 4 straight to open the season and will be a total mismatch for a Raiders secondary that ranks 26th defending deep passes, per Football Outsiders DVOA.
Darius Slayton, Giants ($4,800)
The big-play receiver doesn’t feel like a cash play. But the usage Slayton is seeing gives him a higher floor than you might think. He ranks 16th among WRs in targets and 15th in air yards.
The fantasy production hasn’t been there for Slayton since Week 1. But he’s faced tough matchups against the Bears, 49ers and Rams. Now he gets the Cowboys, who’ve allowed the 2nd most DK points to WRs.
Olamide Zaccheaus, Falcons ($3,000)
Here’s the play that helps us get a high-priced QB and WR in our lineup.
Zaccheaus has been the Julio Jones replacement over the last 2 weeks. He’s posted 84% and 74% route rates and garnered 6 and 9 targets. That’s led to 8.1 and 16.6 DK points. Even that lower mark would be just fine at this price.
Zaccheaus gets a middling Panthers defense that ranks 15th in DK points allowed to WRs.
Evan Engram, Giants ($4,600)
None of the cheap TEs stand out this week. ($2,900 Trey Burton is your best bet if you’re punting the position.)
Engram, on the other hand, checks in as the 2nd best dollars-per-point value among all RBs, WRs and TEs. Like the rest of the Giants, he’s struggled against a tough slate of defenses so far. But the usage has been there. Engram ranks 3rd among TEs in targets and 2nd in pass routes.
The production should follow this week against a Cowboys defense sitting 22nd in Football Outsiders’ TE coverage rankings and 26th in DK points allowed to TEs.
It’s another ugly week at DST. The Steelers ($3,800), Rams ($4,000), Ravens ($3,900) and 49ers ($3,700) are strong units in nice spots. But I rarely think it’s worth paying up for a defense in cash.
Let’s save salary with the Texans. They’re 6.5-point home favorites against a Jaguars squad that’s allowed the 5th most sacks (13) through 4 games. Pro Football Focus ranks Jacksonville 21st in pass blocking. And QB Gardner Minshew has tossed an INT in 3 straight.