Editor's Note: Each Thursday leading into the NFL games, contributing writer Jonathan Auping will break down a few things to consider as fantasy owners set their weekly lineups, including players to start or sit, along with trends to remember. Whether your game is the traditional fantasy league or the daily games from DraftKings, this weekly feature should help you get prepared for the fantasy weekend.
Make the Smart Plays:
C.J. Anderson (Draft Kings Price $7,300)
Anderson's fantasy value has three things working in its favor: 1.) The Broncos are a run-first team with a competent, but cautious rookie quarterback. 2.) Their dominant defense puts their offense in position to generate a lot of run opportunities. 3.) Anderson is their number one option on first down *and *in the red zone.
That last part is no small factor in valuing Anderson higher than his somewhat disappointing 2015 might suggest. In each of Denver's first two games this year he ran the ball 20 times. He didn't reach that number once last season. In fact, he reached 15 carries only twice in 2015.
Kelvin Benjamin (Draft Kings Price $7,200)
Kelvin Benjamin has been the most dominant receiver in the NFL through two weeks and his Draft Kings price still hasn't caught up to that. He's a possession receiver with speed, and he has Cam Newton targeting him as his primary weapon.
Benjamin has three inches and 25 pounds on Dez Bryant if you want to talk about physical prowess.
According to Pro-Football Reference, 66 percent of Benjamin's targets have come with 7-10 yards needed for a first down. Why is that significant? Well, the Vikings' defense might be good enough to put the Panthers in a lot of third and long situations, but they might not be good enough to stop Benjamin from converting them.
Jimmy Graham (Draft Kings Price $3,000)
Jimmy Graham has lost a lot of his fantasy value over the past year. But the Seahawks have lost a lot of their healthy weapons with Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin both suffering knee injuries last Sunday that could be factors against San Francisco. With Russell Wilson still banged up from a hurt ankle, he might need a big target to rely on. It would be wiser to go in cheap on a healthy Graham than to gamble on any other Seattle receivers at this point.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Marvin Jones Jr. (Draft Kings Price $6,200)
Jones has led Detroit in receiving yards so far, and yet I think it might be a little bit of fools gold. He's getting more opportunities on the Lions so far than he did in Cincinnati, and there's no doubt he has taken advantage.
But coming off of a loss to the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are going to control the time of possession and limit Detroit's passing opportunities. Stafford struggled mightily against the Titans defense. This game smells like a blowout. Don't talk yourself into thinking Jones has the same value as someone like Randall Cobb who's much more likely to receive numerous end zone targets, if only because his team will actually find itself in the red zone.
Pick the Right Receivers For Cowboys/Bears
Dez Bryant (Draft Kings Price $8,400):
Bryant had his breakout game last Sunday versus the Redskins with 102 receiving yards and more receptions (7) in a game than he's had since 2014. Yet, we've seen him look more impressive and more dominant. There's likely more to come. There will be no Josh Norman to give him problems in Chicago. There's another week of confidence under Dak Prescott's belt. Bryant will be the number one target all over the field including the red zone, and the Bears are probably the worst defense the Cowboys will have seen thus far.
Eddie Royal (Draft Kings Price $3,500):
Through two games, Alshon Jeffery has been targeted 13 times by Jay Cutler. Eddie Royal has been targeted 12 times. There's a $4,500 difference in Draft Kings pricing between two guys who Cutler doesn't seem to discriminate between.
The Bears offensive line has been so disappointing that even the Cowboys might successfully rush the passer, and a veteran with speed is the best answer to a hurried quarterback. The Bears might be without Cutler this week after his thumb injury. But even with Brian Hoyer gets the start, look for Royal to get the ball often with screens and quick slant patterns.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
(Season Record: 2-0)
(Off the Board: Bengals, Ravens)
Kansas City Chiefs over New York Jets
In each of the first two weeks my picks have had to rally in the fourth quarter to keep me alive, including a Ravens comeback from down 20-2 over the Browns. So if you're playing for the thrill then keep taking my advice.
The Jets have a good defensive line, but Andy Reid will figure out how to use his offensive weapons to tear apart the rest of the New York defense. Don't be overly concerned if the Jets hang around early or even take a first quarter lead. I expect the Chiefs to be moving the ball with ease by the second half. And don't forget: It's still really, really hard to win at Arrowhead Stadium.