Mitigating Risk: Week 13 DraftKings Cash Game Plays December 2, 2016  |  Justin Edwards

The time to grind is here, boys and girls. While we throw our hard-earned money at DFS and hope to become the next Milly Maker, it is prudent for us to allocate a good amount of that into “safe” (or at least much ‘safer’) Cash Games. You can portion your weekly payroll however you see fit, but I prefer the tried and true 80%/20% split. I’m putting most of my money trying to double-up my investment, and I’m always looking for new ways to make that something a bit closer to a guarantee. Some of my favorite work of the offseason was done by Evan Silva (Identifying Top Scorers) and was later revamped a little bit by Sean Fakete (The RB/WR and QB/TE Profile). What I’ve done with the amazing prep work by these guys is picked the 5 most predictive categories and found the player (or players) who fit the most, if not all, of them in the upcoming week. The end goal will be to find guys who should have some of the highest floors for the Sunday slate and turn them into profitable lineups that can scoop Head-to-Heads and 50-50s/Double-ups alike.

I’ll explain the inclusion of a category below each position and briefly explain the importance. I strongly suggest you read the above articles if you have not; they both give you a much more intricate explanation than what you’ll read here. The point of this exercise is to try and predict who will definitely check a box (Something like “Home Team” is always a straight Yes or No) and at the same time find someone who might or should check a box (Ezekiel Elliot has 291 touches through 12 games; he’s a pretty sure bet to hit 18 touches every week).


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Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12
Pass Attempts > 35 67% 55% 53%
Favorite 69% 64% 59%
Home 61% 57% 53%
*Pass Defense >= 15th 69% 67% 64%
Team Total > 22.5 67% 58% 52%

*Opposing Pass Defense ranked 15th or worse in Football Outsiders’ DVOA

We’re looking for signal callers who typically chuck the ball around, on a team with a high implied team point total, playing a defense ranked in the bottom half of the league. Pretty simple, right?


Drew Brees, NO ($7,600)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (32nd) Yes (29.75)
  • -Also known as the biggest trap play on the slate, neigh, the year. Brees has 3 of the top-10 fantasy performances of the year, at home where he’s averaging 357-3.2-0.7 (with 2 rushing scores) through six games and he gets DVOA’s worst ranked passing defense. Oh yeah, and the Saints have the week’s highest implied team total. Something is fishy here. It’s almost too obvious of a play.

Tom Brady, NE ($7,500)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (16th) Yes (29)
  • -After coming back from suspension and averaging 33 pass attempts a game through his first five, Brady has thrown for totals of 40 and 50 against a slightly improved 49ers’ rush defense (they had nowhere to go but up) and a stout Jets’ defense. The extra attempts have effectively supplanted the running game as his first five game stretch correlated to a 9.85 yards per attempt while the last two games have been a lowly 6.29; a number that would rank him 33rd in the league (between Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles) if extrapolated over the entire season.
  • -The St. Louis Rams from Los Angeles should prove to be a similar adversary as the Patriots’ previous two adversaries: (more or less) tough on the run and (more or less) easy to move the ball on through the air. The Rams as a defense have a miserable 20:6 TD:INT ratio allowed on the year while Brady has an 18:1 ratio himself.
  • -Tom doesn’t have the ridiculous 5 or 6 TD ceiling that Brees has, but their floors aren’t terribly different. Could be a nice move for tournament plays being that their prices are so similar that most of the field is just going to go with the Saints’ QB.

Derek Carr, OAK ($6,500)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (19th) Yes (25.5)
  • -Even though he had to leave the game to pop his finger back into place, Derek managed 38 pass attempts en route to a 315-2-1 game last week, making it 8 out of 11 games in which he’s thrown the ball at least 35 times.
  • -Carr came through for us here in the article last week when he threw for 300+ yards for the 4th time this season (he’s thrown for 295+ 6 times for what it’s worth) and multiple scores for the 6th time even though he missed a series after dislocating his finger. He returned from the sideline with a glove on and proceeded to complete 11 of his following 18 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown, leading Oakland back to defeat the Panthers. Not only is his finger doing great, he thanks you for asking. Even better than his thanks, he was spotted practicing Thursday with only tape on his pinkie, without a glove.
  • -Though Buffalo has had their way with a couple of sub-par match ups against Blake Bortles and Andy Dalton the last two games, they still have been mediocre and are just now coming around from a first half of the season in which they were exploited often by explosive plays. Carr is definitely in play at a $1,000 discount from the guys above him in this list.

Carson Palmer, ARI ($6,000)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (18th) Yes (26)
  • -Averaging 41 pass attempts/game this year, Carson has missed the 35 mark just twice this year.
  • -Looking a little closer into the match-up it doesn’t get very juicy. Palmer already has 17 turnovers on the year, which at least part of which can be assessed to Arizona’s O-Line which ranks 26th in the league in pass protection. Washington is tied for 7th in the league with 28.0 sacks. This game has the 2nd highest O/U at my time of writing (DET-NO is highest at 54), but I think that is underestimating these two defenses while likely overestimating the offenses. Washington is incredibly exploitable on the ground. Which makes the next player the easiest – albeit the most expensive – pick of the week.

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Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12 Top 24
18+ Touches 92% 73% 66% 53%
Favorite 71% 63% 60% 54%
Home 61% 56% 55% 53%
*RB Defense >= 15th 75% 67% 66% 62%
3+ receptions 76% 71% 67% 58%

*Opposing Rushing Defense ranked 15th or worse in Football Outsiders’ DVOA

While some of that should be pretty self-explanatory (’18+ Touches’ for example, means that the no. 1 RB had 18 or more touches in that given week; a Top 6 will have 18+ 73% of the time, a Top 12 66% of the time, etc.), something like the ranking of the defense the running back is going up against is a little more precise. Just as a quick example, if we are looking for a Top 12 back in a specific week, we are going to need a two-thirds chance of him catching at least 3 passes.


David Johnson, ARI ($9,500)

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes Yes (32nd) Yes
  • -DJ tied his season high in catches last week with 8; he has caught at least 3 balls in every single week this year and has hit 18+ touches in all but two of his games.
  • -Dat price-tag tho.
  • -Washington has allowed 9 players to hit 100+ yards from scrimmage and David has 100+ total yards in all 11 of his games. He’s looking to become the first ever with 100+ yards in all 16 games and only the 2nd to hit 1,300-800-18 in a full season. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, he’s got DVOA’s dead last ranked rush defense in front of him, so, who knows?
  • -Dat price-tag tho.
  • -Even with this astronomical salary, Johnson would have hit the typical cash game value line of 3x four different times this season. But the thing is, we don’t need to aim for the 3x value when the guy is scoring 25+ fantasy points. Without delving too deep into general DFS strategy, we can pay down for value plays around big price guys because his floor is just so incredibly high. That being said, it’s almost impossible to pay this much if you don’t have great low priced guys to play (i.e. RBs with a full load on a back-up’s salary) in other positions. DJ might be the best in the league, but paying nearly 1/5 of your allotment for him is T-U-F-F.

Melvin Gordon,
 SD ($7,200)

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes Yes (20th) Yes
  • -In the last 5 weeks Melly has become a focal point of the passing offense, catching 23 balls for 243 yards and his 2nd career receiving score. He’s done all this without slowing down a bit in the running game, rushing the ball 22, 23, 32, 24, and 17 times over the span, coming 2nd only to Ezekiel Elliot in carries in those five scrums.
  • -Chasing a milestone just a slight bit different than the entry above, Gordon is 92 yards away from 1,000 which would make him the first San Diego RB to accomplish that since Ryan Matthews in 2013. Maybe it’s not exactly 2,100 scrimmage yards, but it’s still quite a feat for a team that was featuring a scat back last season (and the beginning of this one), limiting the rookie to 833 total yards through 14 games with 33 receptions. In his sophomore year he is already at 37 catches and 1,273 total yards in only 11 games, not to mention his 11 TDs.
  • -Even with Seattle questionably running the ball a lowly four times in the second half of last week’s game, Tampa Bay remains in the bottom third in the league in rushing attempts, rushing yards and YPC allowed.

Jordan Howard, CHI ($6,900)

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes Yes (30th) Yes
  • -Jordan has a low touch total of 15 and a high of 30 over the last month of action, catching 3 or more balls in 2/4 games.
  • -Somehow in this crazy mixed up world the 49ers haven’t been the slam dunk match-up they were through their first eight games. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re still not any good, but they’ve only allowed only 115 rushing yards/game after allowing nearly 180 a game through the first eight weeks. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY. As our good friend Keven McCallister would say: Woof. While the ‘clamps’ have been tightened on the running game it hasn’t really helped their defense as a whole as they’ve ranked 4th-worst in that span, allowing 84 points as a team. On the season San Francisco allows opponents to score an average of 31 points a game. With Chicago’s defense injured and generally pretty bad, we could be in for one of the ugliest shoot-outs of the season.
  • -It doesn’t seem as if he’ll be losing carries anytime soon, but he has a pretty horrendous (59.5%) catch rate for a guy receiving most of his targets at the line of scrimmage. We’ll have to hope his drops don’t knock him out of the passing game.

Latavius Murray, OAK ($5,400)

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes Yes (25th) Yes
  • -Since returning to action in week 7 Latavius has averaged 19 touches, finding pay-dirt 6 times in those five games.
  • -Latavius was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, same as last Wednesday. He went on to parlaying 49 snaps into 19-45-1 and 3-43 through the air with DeAndre Washington being marked down as a healthy scratch. Jalen Richard still gets his 7-10 touches, but there is no need to worry about Lat getting his against a bottom-third Buffalo rush defense this weekend. His going rate of $5,400 is a bargain considering he is one of the few sure bets in the league to get 20 touches.



Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12 Top 24 Top 36
6+ receptions 98% 86% 76% 63% 52%
Favorite 65% 57% 56% 54% 52%
O/U Result = Over 73% 64% 63% 58% 55%
*WR Defense >= 15th 63% 61% 63% 60% 59%
Age < 30 86% 85% 84% 84% 83%

*Opposing Team Defense ranked 15th or worse against that WR type in Football Outsiders’ DVOA

So we get lots of points from big reception games in PPR scoring, huh? Who would’ve thunk it! What might come as a surprise is the fact that correctly guessing which games go over the Vegas total is much more predictive for WR output than the Vegas point total itself. Not only that, but it’s also more predictive than that player’s team total. Finding games that we see as a good bet to surpass the O/U will be a sneaky way to fall into some upside. I’m not going to pretend to be an incredible sports bettor, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find games that are more likely to end up as a shootout (DET vs. NO) than others (PHI vs. CIN).


Julio Jones, ATL ($8,700)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (21st) Yes
  • -Julio is much more up-and-down than the other elite receivers in the league, averaging 6 receptions a game but finding himself below the line in 6 of his 11 games.
  • -Atlanta is averaging 303 yards/gm through the air and gets a KC defense ranked 20th in the league, allowing 260 yards/gm. The fake football problem with the Ryan-Jones connection is how it works so well in real football; once the opposing team starts to put too much of their attention on the big guy, Matt has no problem incorporating his secondary guys (see: Taylor Gabriel 4-75-2, Mohamed Sanu 8-65 on 8 targets week 12).
  • -As you may assume by this article’s namesake, I’m typically opposed to paying such a high price when the floor is quite literally 30 yards. However, if you feel the need to add some spark to your cash lineup I couldn’t blame you.

Doug Baldwin, SEA ($6,700)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (23rd) Yes
  • -Dougie remains right in our wheelhouse, averaging 5.5 catches/gm after a 7 catch outing last week (for 34 yards…..).
  • -Carolina’s secondary showed up against Amari Cooper last week, limiting him to 4-22 on 7 targets. While that stifling effort was going down Michael Crabtree was stringing together an 8-110 line on 13 targets.  With Seattle’s bottom-third pass protection allowing Russell Wilson to feel pressured far too often, we can expect him to get the ball out quick and get Baldwin a stat line somewhere snug between those of Cooper-Crabtree: not much of a ceiling, but a safe floor indeed.

Demaryius Thomas, DEN ($6,600)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (26th) Yes
  • -The slow but sure ascension of DT’s targets finally came to a halt last week when he received ‘only’ 8 and turned them into a modest 6-50. He has still fallen below 5 catches only once this season.
  • -Being that Jacksonville’s offense doesn’t score any points until the 4th quarter, their defense hardly ever gets tested with any sort of air raid offense. They have allowed the 4th-fewest yards in the league (2,247) thanks in large part to the fact that they have been passed on with the 3rd-fewest attempts (361).  Sammy Watkins’ three catches for 80 yards was only the 6th time a wide receiver has hit that mark against the Jaguars this year. Oddly enough, Demaryius has only hit that mark four times. His teammate has been over 80 yards five times this year, and actually has 92 more yards on the season with only 1 more catch. Actually, let’s just go to that guy;

Emmanuel Sanders, DEN ($5,900)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (27th) Yes
  • -The only thing that DT has that Emmanuel doesn’t is 5 scores to Sanders’ 3, even though Sanders has 16 red zone targets to Thomas’ 11. Rookie Paxton Lynch will be starting for Denver, but it really shouldn’t make much more of a difference than when Siemian was behind center. If I’m going for one of these guys with similar floor, Manny is my man.
  • -Week 5 with Paxton Lynch: DT  5-49-1 on 7 targets, ES 7-80-0 on 9 targets



Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12
Home 63% 55% 51%
Favorite 62% 57% 53%
*TE Defense >= 15th 65% 63% 59%
**WR Defense >= 15th 62% 60% 58%
1+ TD 92% 81% 66%

*Opposing Team Defense ranked 15th or worse against TE in Football Outsiders’ DVOA

**Opposing Team Defense ranked 15th or worse against WRs in Football Outsiders’ DVOA

These percentages are much lower than other positions, helping to prove the fact that finding top tight ends is not a very easy process. I definitely subscribe to the “star” or “stud” mentality when selecting the big pass catchers and typically make that pick last when setting a lineup; opting to base the decision on price much more than the rest of my team. There is a massive correlation between startable TEs and scoring at least one TD; the great news is that getting into the end zone is often all we need to hit value, the bad news being the difficulty in predicting who actually scores. I found it interesting that Fakete included the opposing defenses prowess (or lack thereof) in defending the Wide Receiver in his TE profiles and can see how we can use that as a predictive value in our work here.

Jimmy Graham, SEA ($5,500)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (20th) Yes (23rd) Yes
  • -Jimmy has strung together useful fantasy weeks and has delivered more often than he has let fantasy owners down, something that cannot be said for many (most) tight ends this season.
  • -A prime opportunity awaits Graham as Carolina was already less-than-stellar against tight ends (allowing the 2nd most TDs to the position) before losing former DPOY Luke Keuchly from the middle of their D. The only TE to check all the boxes this week, he is in consideration as a must-play if you aren’t planning on punting.

Martellus Bennett, NE ($4,800)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (22nd) No (10th) Yes
  • -Marty B has checked many of us in and out (and in and out and in, etc.) of the burn ward this season, producing a solid 42-540-4 line on the year but accumulating all of that in, let’s say, 3 games? With five games under 25 yards and three games over 100 yards, it is very difficult to predict when he will be a contributing part of the Patriots’ offense. Two of his huge games were with Gronk on the field, but so were three of his duds so that apparently has no bearing. Hopefully his ownership % is so low that he makes a great tournament play because the Rams offer a decent match-up; don’t bother with him in cash.

Coby Fleener, NO ($3,500)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (28th) No (14th) Yes
  • -Still at a reasonable price because of his muted production, he is in the game with the highest O/U on the team with the highest implied team total with the most highly productive quarterback in the league. His highest target total across the last six weeks is 6 and he hasn’t hit 70+ yards since the middle of October, but as we’ve heard for the better part of a decade: Drew Brees finds the open man. He is the sixth most expensive Saints pass catcher, and he gets a Detroit team that has given up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends on the season.
  • -Fun fact: both Eric Ebron and Coby Fleener have a rushing TD this season.

Ladarius Green, PIT ($2,800)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (23rd) No (4th) No
  • -How badly do you want to look like the smartest guy or gal in the room when you play Ladarius and he scores you a TD when everyone else thought he was just getting assimilated to the offense? Sure, there’s no payout bonus for being cute, but what if this is finally the week that he gets treated as a TE1? All these years of waiting and you’ll finally be able to say “I scored 25 points from my tight end position and it cost me less than $3,000! Can you believe he was ever $2,800??”. So it’s not very likely, but at this price it is tempting.

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