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Sometimes you need to change things up when things aren't going your right way. When it comes to one-week leagues, maybe a better strategy is needed when you haven't found fortune.
I came close last week -- close being a relative term. For the fourth week in a row I was good enough to finish in the Top 40 percent, doing better than that and getting inside the Top 30 percent for the first time this season (10,858th out of 40,229). At one point I was psyched to be in the Top 10 percent until I realized I had no players going on Monday night while others behind me in the standings did. Hence the dropoff. Ultimately, 137.1 points was enough to score a prize; I wound up with 130.06.
Previously we would load up our lineup with the lowest acceptable starters and then upgrade as needed until we spent much of our FanDuel budget. We quickly realized soon thereafter the importance of picking the right quarterback, preferably someone with sky-high upside without the whole world realizing it. We also found out how vital it was to pick the best possible defense, too. From there we scanned for cheap buys at running back, receiver and tight end before upgrading them as best as we could with our budget.
This week, we're going to still find the quarterback and defense we want to invest in before listing all of our favorites at running back, receiver and tight end. Then we'll weigh the potential of those players versus their price tags and make our decisions. Sound good? Let's do it.
One of the stunning things I saw from last week was that Philip Rivers was started in 18.4 percent more leagues than Aaron Rodgers! It's safe to assume that the price tags played a role -- Rodgers was $1,100 more than Rivers. Rodgers wasn't even starting in as many leagues as Tony Romo or even Teddy Bridgewater! Furthermore, Andrew Luck scored the most points among Sunday/Monday quarterbacks but at $9800 was owned in just 5.9 percent of leagues. Clearly, many people plot their lineups around finding bargains at quarterback with the hope that the player they pick is only a few points less than the expensive players. It makes perfect sense.
Don't expect many people to plunk $10,000 on Luck this week -- he's FanDuel's highest-priced player. Even Manning is less at $9,800. That makes guys like Rivers ($8,900), Matthew Stafford ($8,800), Matt Ryan ($8,500), Ben Roethlisberger ($8,300), Jay Cutler ($7,700) and Tony Romo ($7,500) look like bargains by comparison. But there's Eli Manning at $7,300, a full $2,500 less than his brother, with a fantastic matchup at home against a brutal Falcons defense. Maybe he's risky since he's coming off of an exceptional game, but as someone who's seen this Giants offense go from awful to awesome, he's worth the risk this week. I especially think Manning could fly under the radar with Roethlisberger taking on the Jaguars and Rivers taking on the Jets. This is a good start for our FanDuel team.
The range from the top defense to the bottom is $1,000. It might come back to haunt me, but I'm so discouraged with the Redskins offense and so optimistic about the Seahawks defense that it's worth it to plunk down the extra change for what should be one of the top performers of the week.
I don't want to waste much time on kickers -- they're important but ultimately tough to predict. Distance matters and matchups matter to some degree. We can afford to go cheap here, and most people will. Shayne Graham at $4,500 will be a very popular choice because he's the cheapest. Let's aim elsewhere. The Bills offense should be a bit more effective with Kyle Orton under center, but perhaps not too effective given the matchup. Dan Carpenter is one of Fantasy's top kickers and looks like a decent value at $5,000 -- exactly halfway between the cheapest and priciest kicker.
If we're serious about finding running backs with 100-yard, two-touchdown potential, we have to start with the big ticket guys. Lynch might be able to do it in his sleep against the Redskins, Bell could also be quite dominant against the Jaguars and Jennings should rebound after a quiet Thursday game against the Redskins. But we've been big fans of Sankey all week and think he'll finally get a big workload against the Browns and their suspect defense. He's the cheapest of the mid-range guys, so pairing him with Bell should give us a lot of wiggle room at other positions.
Big-ticket wide receivers ($7,000 and up): Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Emmanuel Sanders, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Kelvin Benjamin, Victor Cruz, Keenan Allen
Again, the point is to find receivers with big, big potential. To that end, it's hard to look at Brown, Maclin, Smith, Benjamin, Cruz, Hopkins, Matthews, Randle, Floyd and even Hurns and think they can't come down with at least a good game, if not a great game. We know the Panthers run game is in shambles, which means Cam Newton should have to throw a lot against a Bears defense that's made some plays but isn't exactly dynamic. Benjamin has a spot reserved in all my FanDuel lineups this week with an eye toward him getting over 100 yards and a touchdown.
The next two picks are tough -- I could roll with a stud like Calvin and a shot in the dark like Floyd or try to pair up two guys in the middle like DeAndre Hopkins and Jordan Matthews (I especially like Matthews' matchup against the Rams slot corner). If Megatron was healthier I'd feel better about him, but since I can't say definitively that he's "back," I'll play the matchup with Cruz against the Falcons. If Jarius Wright could take short passes a long way, then I know Cruz can too. I'm interested in saving pennies here for a splash at tight end, so I'll play another matchup and roll with Allen Hurns over Malcom Floyd. Both are good deep ball candidates with good matchups at home against bad defenses, but Hurns has more targets and is even averaging more yards per catch than Floyd is.
I wanted to make sure I had a lot of money left over to nab Julius Thomas. Mission accomplished with $8,300 left. Thomas takes on a Cardinals pass defense that can't cover tight ends and, frankly, might opt not to cover tight ends. I recall talking to Bruce Arians about it at the NFL Owners Meetings this offseason and while he admitted it was a weakness, he was also proud of how his cornerbacks did against receivers in those games when tight ends dominated. Whatever makes you happy, Bruce. I'll start Thomas with the hope he has a monster game.
QB: Eli Manning ($7,300)
RB: Le'Veon Bell ($8,600)
RB: Bishop Sankey ($5,900)
WR: Kelvin Benjamin ($7,100)
WR: Victor Cruz ($7,000)
WR: Allen Hurns ($5,300)
TE: Julius Thomas ($8,000)
K: Dan Carpenter ($5,000)
D: Seattle ($5,500)
Remaining salary: $300
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