Put a Ring on It
Let me set the scene for you. It was Chico, California on a day that Californians would consider chilly (under 70 degrees). I remember the date now, but it was otherwise an anonymous Monday in November. There were still bodies in the streets around campus sleeping off their Halloween hangovers two days later, but I was a junior Wildcat and surprisingly studious and dedicated to my education. Chico State was and is still is known more for its rowdy nightlife than its rigorous curriculum, but it wasn’t an itch I needed to scratch more than a couple evenings a week.
I was 22 and a regular on the Butte County karaoke circuit. It was an older scene, but one that made me feel right at home. I felt like the episode of Rocko’s Modern Life when Rocko discovered that Heffer was living his best life as “The King” of the local roller rink. Monday nights were open mic night at Madison Bear Garden (or simply, The Bear) and drinks were dirt cheap. The bartenders at The Bear knew me well by then and appreciated that I was a good tipper. The Bear is known for a few things, including a literal cornucopia of random things attached to the walls and ceilings. The back bar room where they held karaoke in cooler months had an entire freaking stagecoach bolted upside down on the ceiling. This night was special because I ended up singing to someone special.
We look back on that first night fondly after 10 years of marriage. The way I “pretended” to be her boyfriend because a bunch of drunk douchebags were lingering around her and her best friend and I was big and scary. She dared me to sing “Your Man” by Josh Turner because she didn’t believe I could sing bass like him. I got her real phone number that night. According to her, it was because I used proper grammar and “had a nice butt.” It hasn’t been a fairytale along the way, like we envisioned, but our best shared laughs pertain to our many adventures through young adulthood together. She is my queen and I am her jester. I don’t think I could hope for any better.
Despite getting absolutely shellacked last week by Scott head-to-head, the Nimble cash process was incredibly solid. We cleaned up easily in 50/50s and multipliers by getting aggressive in certain spots. Our cash games process won’t win every week, but losses are rare and haven’t cast any doubt on whether it’s working. In DFS, you get to put a ring on a different lineup every week. I doubt my wife would be understanding of that lifestyle choice in a different context.
Week 9 Cash Plays
I have a slightly different view from the consensus on how to build winning cash lineups. Instead of focusing on players with a “high floor,” I instead focus on their expected workload. These players often have that safe floor as a result of the VOLUME of opportunities, but they also have a higher likelihood of returning the 3x+ value that most cash games require to end the day above the pay line. A smart cash player has to always consider ceiling as a part of the equation, just maybe weighted lighter than if building for a GPP. I ask myself the same question every time: Does this player’s expected volume of opportunities (EVO) have high odds of accomplishing 3 points per salary dollar, divided by 1,000 (x=3[y/1000]).
KEY INGREDIENT*** — SECRET INGREDIENT*
JOSH ALLEN: @ JACKSONVILLE ($8,200)
Buffalo’s strength of schedule has been truly laughable lately when it comes to opposing defenses. It does toughen up in the second half, but not until they bludgeon the Jags on Sunday. Allen is a rare bird and offers magnificent stability and upside. He’s a great play, as always.
PATRICK MAHOMES: VS GREEN BAY ($7,800)
Remember, I weight volume more heavily than anything else for cash games. The Kansas City defense has been so abysmal that Mahomes can’t help but be a safe play every week. Sometimes the guy has a bad game, like last week, but you can’t fade a player of Mahomes’ magnitude this week in good conscience.
LAMAR JACKSON: VS MINNESOTA ($7,300)***
The DK salary algorithm strikes again! Stars are priced down coming off their bye week because last week’s performance is weighted in the formula. He should be the most popular quarterback in GPPs, but the chalk isn’t so heavy that you ignore his amazing value in a likely shootout game. Jackson is my favorite quarterback play of the week.
JALEN HURTS: VS LA CHARGERS ($6,700)
Along the same lines as Mahomes and Jackson, Hurts played poorly last week and is priced down against the Chargers. Los Angeles defends outside receivers well, but not so much the middle of the field. Philly should do just fine scoring points, with plenty of consolation volume to come in garbage time when Philly is inevitably getting destroyed.
DANIEL JONES: VS LAS VEGAS ($5,600)
Similar to Hurts, Jones is struggling mightily to be a good quarterback this year. That does not mean he isn’t valuable for DFS purposes on any given Sunday. He has good rushing ability and faces a Raiders defense that has a good pass rush, but isn’t that good. Down in this price range, a 20-point performance is more than sufficient.
JORDAN LOVE: @ KANSAS CITY ($4,400)
Nobody should expect Jordan Love to put on a scoring clinic like Aaron Rodgers, but this is the lowest salary for a starting quarterback I have ever seen on DraftKings. The Chiefs have also been absolutely atrocious on defense all season. Just think of the studs you can play with a quarterback who might as well be free.
ALVIN KAMARA: VS ATLANTA ($8,200)
I held off on putting Kamara on this list until Taysom Hill was ruled out this week. Hill is the Kamara killer, doing more to eliminate the joy of rostering him than any defense can. With Trevor Siemian starting, Kamara is in line for a massive workload against one of the worst defenses in the NFL against the running back position.
AUSTIN EKELER: @ PHILADELPHIA ($7,900)
It’s funny how I compared Austin Ekeler to Christian McCaffrey for PPR purposes when CMC was on the shelf. Now that CMC is expected to return, I’m stunned that he is already more expensive to roster than Ekeler. Philly struggles mightily to slow running backs down, especially through the air. This is a smash spot.
AARON JONES: @ KANSAS CITY ($7,200)
A young quarterback’s best friend is a great running game. It’s also a tight end, but the Packers lost Robert Tonyan for the season last week. Jones is an exemplary receiver in his own rite and will be the tip of the spear against the abysmal Chiefs’ defense. His volume is very stable, even when sharing with AJ Dillon. He also is a bloodhound when it comes to finding the end zone, which gives him tremendous upside.
NICK CHUBB: @ CINCINNATI ($6,700)
I simply don’t understand this one. How in the world is one of the very best running backs in the NFL under $7k? I’m not complaining one bit. He only yielded five touches to D’Ernest Johnson last week. The lone touchdown by Johnson is skewing what really happened last week in Chubb’s first game back. He still got 17 touches against a tough defense. I wouldn’t say the Bengals are as good as the Steelers at stopping the run, so even a slight bump in volume could make for a fun afternoon.
MYLES GASKIN: VS HOUSTON ($5,800)
I really think Gaskin stinks as a running back. He doesn’t do anything particularly well and is getting outplayed by his former college and current Dolphins teammate, Salvon Ahmed. He is still getting more opportunities than Ahmed, especially in the passing game. Much like a metronome, Gaskin only scores more than 10 points in odd-numbered weeks. He also gets a date with the Texans for Week 9.
CHASE EDMONDS: @ SAN FRANCISCO ($5,300)***
Despite only scoring 5.4 points against the 49ers earlier in the season, I’m firing up Edmonds as my top cash play at running back this week. With the news that Kyler Murray is a game-time decision, I expect a bump in volume for both Edmonds and James Conner, with the latter useless to me without receiving volume. I expect Edmonds to catch at least five passes and break off a couple big plays on Sunday.
JAVONTE WILLIAMS: @ DALLAS ($4,800)
It has been a pleasant surprise to see the Cowboys in the top-10 of defending running backs this season. I’m not so sure it has to do with their stoutness up front as it does their suspect pass defense, but it beckoned me to dig deeper. The teams that have run the ball effectively against Dallas used a physical runner (Fournette and Harris). Williams is the type of back that should see his volume increase as the season progresses, starting as the tone setter against the Cowboys.
TYREEK HILL: VS GREEN BAY ($7,900)
Football is a game of adjustments. The Chiefs have been destroying defenses for three years with Hill’s speed down the field. Recently, defenses have put an umbrella of deep safeties over the top with soft man coverage underneath. Last week, the Chiefs took advantage of that by taking the free short yardage to Cheetah and let him run after the catch. This change in strategy makes Hill a fantastic cash game option, where he has traditionally been a GPP mercenary.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: @ BALTIMORE ($7,500)
Jefferson is so much fun to watch. He is a gifted technician on the outside, seemingly matchup-proof already in his second NFL season. I have a lot of respect for Marlon Humphrey, but he won’t be shadowing Jefferson on Sunday. He also has a massive disadvantage in the athleticism department when covering Jefferson. I love all the receivers in this shootout game.
ADAM THIELEN: @ BALTIMORE ($6,900)
Some of the Vikings games that turn into high scoring affairs turn into which Minnesota receiver scores 30 PPR points first (because they both do). With the Ravens’ secondary in rough condition, Thielen will have favorable zone looks on nearly every snap. I think he and Jefferson each get double-digit targets this week.
BRANDIN COOKS: @ MIAMI ($6,100)
Praise the Lord that Tyrod Taylor is back! Cooks wasn’t quite as reliable every week with Davis Mills in there, but now that Taylor is returning from the IR we should see a great bump in his usage down the field. Miami is 30th against the wide receiver position. I’m licking my chops this week because the Taylor/Cooks stack is also not drawing very much attention.
JALEN WADDLE: VS HOUSTON ($5,600)
On the other side of the Texans-Dolphins game, attrition is setting in for the Miami receiving corps. Devante Parker has landed on the IR, putting a narrower scope on Waddle and Gesicki. Hollins and the others also should see a bump, but Waddle’s volume when Parker is out has been staggering.
KADARIUS TONEY: VS LAS VEGAS ($5,200)
He’s not your average slot receiver, but Toney has been a reliable weapon for Daniel Jones when he’s on the field. I think he will get plenty of looks this week against the Raiders, especially in the second half. Vegas is probably going to destroy the Giants and I’m happy to cash in the recycling from garbage time.
JERRY JEUDY: @ DALLAS ($5,000)
Jeudy worked himself back in last week to the tune of four receptions for 39 yards. Most of his snaps came from the slot, which is a great place to attack the Cowboys’ secondary that ranks 24th against opposing wide receivers. Jeudy’s ankle passed the stress test against Washington, so a nice increase in targets is inbound.
HUNTER RENFROW: @ NY GIANTS ($4,800)***
The receiver that stands to see the biggest increase in work from the Ruggs fallout is Renfrow. His chemistry with Derek Carr is incredible and he seems to always make the clutch play. The Giants are terrible across the board on defense, so getting a skilled slot weapon for under $5k will be in nearly all of my lineups.
BRANDON AIYUK*: VS ARIZONA ($4,100)
A lot of DFS is spotting patterns. Aiyuk’s playing time and target share is trending upward, while his DK salary is trending downward. After seeing his potential in the second half of last season, I can’t see myself spending down any lower at wide receiver in a cash game with this opportunity screaming at me.
TRAVIS KELCE: VS GREEN BAY ($7,000)
Kelce is coming off a terrible game. His salary this week matches his lowest of the season and nobody seems to want him against the Packers. I see a player whose target volume has been as steady as any receiver in the league, save for last week’s aberration when Mahomes didn’t seem to even look his way. I expect that to change immediately this week.
DARREN WALLER: @ NY GIANTS ($6,200)
Waller is a gifted receiver. He has athletic traits that very few possess. Derek Carr loves to pepper Waller with targets every chance he gets. The Giants have a horrible defense. For all of these reasons, you should feel great about rostering Waller this week.
MARK ANDREWS: VS MINNESOTA ($5,500)
I will have plenty of exposure to the players in this game, especially with Lamar and Andrews. The one strength of the Minnesota defense is their pass rush, so having a tight end like Andrews is a great weapon to get open quickly and also adjust his routes when Jackson scrambles. Big week incoming for this offense.
MIKE GESICKI: VS HOUSTON ($4,900)***
Just like with Jalen Waddle, Gesicki stands to see a ton of target volume with Devante Parker hitting the IR. It’s great timing for Gesicki that he will step into that opportunity against the worst defense in the NFL against tight ends. To put it mildly, I’m ecstatic that Gesicki is under $5k.
DALLAS GOEDERT: VS LA CHARGERS ($4,500)
For how strong the Chargers are in coverage against outside receivers, they are equally bad over the middle of the field. They allow the third-most points to opposing tight ends, making Goedert a very nice play this week at a good value.
ALBERT OKWUEGBUNAM: @ DALLAS ($2,600)
It is believed that Noah Fant will not be activated in time for Sunday’s game with COVID, so Albert O is thrusted into a matchup with the porous Dallas Cowboys. I’ll also be monitoring the status of his knee injury. If anything happens to Albert O, Eric Saubert is at the minimum $2,500 and would be a nice pivot. You can also play Tyler Conklin of the Vikings at $3k.