*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. *
Jason Witten, Tight End, Cowboys, (DraftKings Salary $5,000)
If you're looking for yards after catch you've come to the wrong place. One of these days Witten might catch the ball with some space and explode for three for four yards, but what we're looking for here is points per reception.
In DraftKings format, you'll get a point for every Witten catch, and he's still a safe bet to be one of the two or three most targeted tight ends on the day. Dak Prescott said this week that he doesn't expect defenses to be able to force them to go over the top like the Cowboys' first three opponents were able to do. That means punishing the Rams with safe plays and staying on the field.
Aside from handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott, there's no safer option to control the clock than throwing short passes to Witten. If one of those catches happens to be a touchdown then he'll already have surpassed the value of his DraftKings salary.
Make the Smart Plays:
Carson Wentz, Quarterback, Eagles (DraftKings Salary $6,600)
While the Cowboys worry about containing Jared Goff, the number one overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers will have their hands full with Carson Wentz, the number two pick in 2016.
Wentz has been given the keys to the Eagles' offense in his second year and he's trying to open things up. Only three quarterbacks in the NFL are averaging more pass attempts per game, and Wentz is one of just eight quarterbacks to already have more than 800 yards passing. The Eagles are the most aggressive passing attack the 0-3 Chargers have faced all season, and don't be surprised if Wentz takes off running against a mediocre linebacker core.
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Eagles (Draft Kings Salary $6,200)
Handcuffing yourself to a quarterback/wide receiver pairing is risky but can have huge dividends in a daily fantasy tournament. Wentz and Jeffery are a juicy option because they are both inexpensive and if they hit big, you'll likely be one of very few people who drafted them both, even in huge tournaments.
Jeffery is Wentz's favorite target and the Chargers don't have anyone to shut him down. Wentz is adept at throwing on the run and Jeffery knows when to break away from his routes to connect with him. Expect double-digit targets for Jeffery and that might just lead to triple-digit yardage.
Leonard Fournette, Running Back, Jaguars (DraftKings Salary $6,700)
Fournette has played three NFL games and has scored a touchdown in all of them.
Meanwhile, the Jets have already given up over 400 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns. The Rams might be their only competition for worst run defense in the NFL. So that might make Ezekiel Elliott a tempting play, but Fournette salary is $1,500 cheaper so I like him as the better value. He got plenty of rest in the Jaguars 44-7 blowout of the Ravens. Expect him to feast in New York.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys, (DraftKings Salary $8,200)
It's not that I don't like the matchup for Elliott. I actually like it a lot considering the Rams' run defense has been porous all season.
But right now, the salary assignments for running backs on DraftKings are all over the place, and this week I can't justify spending over $8,000 for a running back when there are much cheaper options with high upside. At that salary, a mediocre performance ruins your chances of placing in a tournament. What if the Cowboys blow out the Rams and Elliott gets fourth quarter rest? What if he runs well but never finds the end zone? In those scenarios you've spent too much salary on him.
Options like Fournette, Todd Gurley, Dalvin Cook, and Tarik Cohen are all much, much cheaper options with potential for huge performances.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
Dallas Cowboys over the Los Angeles Rams
The Cowboys have too many Super Bowl contenders on their schedule to lose to teams that they are clearly more talented than.
There was a little bit of flash to Dallas' comeback win over Arizona, but I expect the Cowboys to get back to dominating the time of possession against a Rams team that has yet to face a successful pass rush. The Rams rely on Jared Goff connecting deep with his speedy receivers, but the way DeMarcus Lawrence and company are playing, I wouldn't except Goff to have enough time to make those passes.