With all of the top fantasy players at your disposal each week, it can be tough to decide between guys like A.J. Green and Julio Jones when building your lineup. In this weekly article, I’ll take a look at guys on the upper or middle range of salaries at each position (‘”retail prices”), identifying my favorite plays for the week. Make sure to complement these players with “value plays,” and as always be mindful of the different strategies that apply for GPP versus Cash contests.
FanDuel and DraftKings NFL Week 3 Picks: Top QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs and D/ST
Derek Carr (OAK, FD: $8,400, DK: $6,800) at Washington Redskins
Carr has shown no signs of rust through two weeks after exiting early last season in Week 15 with a broken leg. The Raiders are 2-0 and have the highest team total of 28.5 heading into the weekend. Carr is 45-60 with 492 passing yards and five TDs through two games. He’ll now face a Redskins defense that has allowed 279.5 passing yards per game in the first two weeks. With a high team total and less-than-stellar opponent, I like Carr to keep his hot start going in Week 3.
Cam Newton (CAR, FD: $8,100, DK: $6,600) vs. New Orleans Saints
It’s not a difficult choice to start a quarterback against the Saints, but I must mention Newton heading into this home date against New Orleans this Sunday. The Saints have allowed 396.5 passing yards and three touchdowns on average in their first two games. As NFC South division-mates, Newton has seen the Saints’ secondary plenty and he’s passed for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in three of their last four matchups, plus a rushing TD in two of those games. While the loss of Greg Olsen takes away a favorite weapon from Newton, I have no doubt Cam can still exploit the secondary with Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield. Plus, Olsen’s replacement in Ed Dickson has caught four TDs from Newton in his career, including one against the Saints last season.
Jay Ajayi (MIA, FD: $8,200, DK: $7,700) at New York Jets
Even in a division matchup on the road, the Dolphins begin Wednesday as six-point favorites over the Jets. Ajayi will head into the matchup after carrying the ball 28 times for 122 yards against the Chargers. This is clearly not the feared Jets run defense of old, as they’ve allowed 275 yards and three touchdowns to opposing backs through two weeks. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase has stated he thinks Ajayi will approach 350 carries this season if he can stay healthy, so we should have no qualms about his workload after a heavy job in Week 2. I love Ajayi as an RB1 this week, and think he has one of the highest ceilings on the slate.
Ty Montgomery (GB, FD: $7,200, DK: $6,900) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have played uninspired football in the first two weeks, and it’s hard to imagine them finding much success as 8.5-point dogs in Green Bay. Montgomery is seeing tons of snaps, having played 88% of the team’s total and at least 65 in each week. He’s touched the ball a total 39 times in those two games (29 carries, 10 receptions) and should see even more rushing attempts this week as the Packers likely will lead throughout. Ty Mont’s passing game involvement is what makes him such a fantasy treasure. With such guaranteed involvement in the passing and running game against a weak foe, Montgomery will be one of my top plays at the RB position this week.
Carlos Hyde (SF, FD: $6,600, DK: $5,200) vs. St. Louis Rams
Even though Hyde is on Thursday Night Football this week and won’t be available for the weekend slates, I still think he’s worth mentioning as one of my favorite plays of the week. He’s coming off a game against the Seattle Seahawks where he reached 124 rushing yards on just 15 attempts. He hasn’t seen a whole lot of action on the ground due to negative game script, but the Niners should be able to hang around with the Rams long enough to give Hyde close to 20 carries (Rams favored by two points as of Wednesday morning). Los Angeles allowed 229 rushing yards 5.9 yards per carry to the Redskins last weekend. With what Brian Hoyer has shown us (just 292 passing yards and 0 TDs/2 INTs), I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle Shanahan loaded up Hyde with carries on Thursday night. And we’ve seen Shanahan use Hyde more in the passing game than ever before, as he’s seen six targets in both games to begin the season.
A.J. Green (CIN, FD: $7,500, DK: $8,100) at Green Bay Packers
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Bengals and their fans, and Green didn’t beat around the bush when talking about the team’s problems. “We got to find a way to get our playmakers the ball. That’s it” he said. “It’s a superstar-driven league. You are not going to win without them.” And later in the post-Texans loss interview, “As one of the leaders of the offense, I feel we need a spark and need the ball in my hands somewhere, somehow. You have to find a way to get me the ball and we are not doing that right now.”
I can’t imagine Green getting fewer than 10 targets this Sunday after what’s gone on in Cincy. Offensive Coordinator Ken Zampese was fired after two touchdown-less games and replaced by quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. Lazor’s first three notes for his gameplan are likely “Get A.J. the damn ball!” as they head into Green Bay as 8.5-point underdogs. While Packers rookie Kevin King has graded as the 20th best coverage corner in the NFL through two weeks (in limited but increasing action), his defensive back-mates have continued to struggle, all grading out as below average or poor. Meanwhile Green has excelled on the road in his career. In 43 road games (compared to 45 home games), Green has caught 69 more passes for 1,124 more yards and has tallied seven more touchdowns. The Bengals will have 10 days to prep for the Packers’ defense, and the game plan will have to feature Green as the focal point. He’ll be nearly impossible to leave out of lineups, especially on FanDuel where he’s just $7,500.
Kelvin Benjamin (CAR, FD: $6,600, DK: $6,700) vs. New Orleans Saints
After just one catch on five targets in Week 1, Benjamin found a better rhythm with Cam Newton in Week 2. He caught six of eight passes for 77 yards and saw two red zone targets (both accounted for the incompletions). They’ll now host a Saints defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers through two weeks. It might get even worse for New Orleans this Sunday, as first round pick Marshon Lattimore left Sunday’s game with a concussion. Even if Lattimore plays, Benjamin will have a massive size advantage over any opposing corner. He stands at 6’5 while Lattimore and all Saints CBs are six feet or under. No pun intended. You already know I love Newton in this matchup, so his number one target is an easy choice for me against a terrible secondary.
DeVante Parker (MIA, FD: $6,500, DK: $6,300) at New York Jets
I love what Parker brings to the table this week against the Jets. He had a tough matchup against Casey Hayward in Week 2, but still managed four catches on nine targets for 85 yards. Jay Cutler praised Parker’s talent all off-season, saying he’s a faster Alshon Jeffery. Also, we saw Cutler’s trust in the third-year wide out, as he threw a jump ball that was destined for an interception, until Parker snatched it out of Hayward’s hands (pictured above). He’ll now face a Jets defense that’s allowed the third-most points to opposing wide receivers thus far, including four touchdowns. I love Parker’s floor and upside this week, making him an easy play for me on both sites.
Amari Cooper (OAK, FD: $7,700, DK: $7,100) at Washington Redskins
Once again, I’m matching up a wide receiver with his quarterback. It’s hard to predict which receiver will have a big week between Michael Crabtree and Cooper, as Cooper saw four red zone targets in Week 1, leading to one touchdown, and Crabtree saw two of his three touchdowns in Week 2 come on red zone looks. However, I’ll lean slightly towards Cooper in this matchup, as Crabtree will likely see more snaps against Josh Norman (Norman lines up at left cornerback 67% of time, while Crabtree sees 50% of snaps as the right wide receiver). Cooper has been less efficient than Crabtree, catching just 10 of 20 targets compared to Crabtree’s 13 of 15, but I still see him as the number one option in the passing game. With Crabtree’s price equaling Cooper’s on FanDuel and sitting $300 higher on DraftKings, I’ll give Cooper the slight edge heading into Sunday night’s matchup against the Redskins.
Zach Ertz (PHI, FD: $6,500, DK: $5,000) vs. New York Giants
The G-Men have struggled against tight ends in the early going, allowing 13 catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns through the first two games. Ertz has been Carson Wentz’s most reliable receiver through two weeks, as he’s caught 13 of 18 targets for 190 yards. With little apparent interest in the running game (just 82.5 yards per game on 20.5 carries), we’ll assume that Philly will run the offense through the sophomore QB’s arm for the third consecutive week. In his last three games against the Giants, Ertz has caught all 19 of his targets for 182 yards. I don’t see why he won’t catch 7-9 balls again this weekend, so fire him up with confidence.
Jordan Reed (WSH, FD: $6,700, DK: $5,400) vs. Oakland Raiders
After allowing Delanie Walker to catch seven passes for 76 yards in the season opener, Oakland didn’t face a tight end threat against the Jets. That will change this week when they take on Jordan Reed. Oakland’s starting linebackers both rate as poor in coverage according to Pro Football Focus, and should have a tough time stopping Reed this week. The tight end has caught 11 of 14 targets from Kirk Cousins this season, but has only seen one red zone target. I expect that to change in what should be a high scoring affair (game total of 54), and predict this will be Reed’s breakout game to remind everyone just how dominant of a tight end he can be.
Baltimore Ravens – (FD: $5,000, DK: $3,900) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore has racked up 10 turnovers (8 INTs, 2 FRs) through two weeks, and will now face a quarterback in Blake Bortles that has turned the ball over 75 times in 48 career games. While this is a “home” game for the Jags in London,, it’s essentially a neutral site, not that Jacksonville has much home field advantage at home. Jacksonville currently has an implied point total of just 18, and with Baltimore allowing the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game last year and just 170 through two weeks this season, Bortles will have to beat the Ravens defense through the air. He’s given us zero reason to believe he can do that, so load up on the Ravens’ D in your lineups this weekend.
Philadelphia Eagles – (FD: $4,500, DK: $3,000) vs. New York Giants
The Eagles home opener will be against the lowly New York Giants offense. Big Blue has scored just 13 points total through two games and have allowed eight sacks of Eli Manning. Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers was a human turnstile against Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah last week (three sacks) and Philadelphia will enter fourth in the league with eight sacks of their own, creating very high strip-sack potential. They’ve forced four turnovers and have notched a defensive touchdown, making them the fourth-highest scoring defense through two weeks. In his last three trips to Philadelphia, Manning has averaged just 232 passing yards, gotten sacked nine times, and has thrown five interceptions compared to two touchdowns. I love the Eagles chances of stifling a familiar opponent once again.