*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. *
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys, (DraftKings Salary $8,300)
Ezekiel Elliott had the worst game of his career against the Broncos last Sunday and the Cowboys lost in a blowout. There are a couple of obvious ways of looking this. Denver might have the best defense in the league, and the Cowboys were playing behind for most of the game and abandoned the running game.
But going forward, there's an even simpler way of looking at this: If you don't believe Elliott can bounce back then you've pretty much given up on the Cowboys' season. Jason Garrett preaches having an identity and sticking to the process of forging that identity. The Cowboys are going to stick to running the ball. Elliott only had eight carries on Sunday. He never had less than 12 in a game all of last season. He has the best offensive line to run behind and he's arguably the most talented running back in the league. So even after a tough game, what running back is a safer option?
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys, (DraftKings Salary $6,800)
Dez Bryant's 25 targets through two games this season are more than he had in any back-to-back games all of last year. In Dak Prescott's sophomore year, he looks to be relying more on his most athletic weapon.
That can be good and bad. Both of Prescott's interceptions against the Broncos were forced passes to Bryant. But for fantasy purposes, it's only good for Bryant. He's clearly both a red zone threat as well as an option in the short screen game. In a point-per-reception league (like DraftKings) Bryant can outperform his $6,800 salary pretty easily.
Make the Smart Plays:
Julius Thomas, Tight End, Dolphins (DraftKings Salary $3,000)
The Jets gave up 10 touchdowns to tight ends last season, which was tied for third worst in the league. They gave up another touchdown to Charles Clay of the Bills in week one.
Thomas will be the Dolphins' primary red zone target on Sunday. You'll be hard-pressed to find another $3,000-player all season for whom that's the case.
Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seahawks (Draft Kings Salary $6,300)
Through the first two games of the season, who's actually happy with their fantasy quarterback? Nearly every quarterback has struggled in one of his first two games.
There's no getting around the fact that Russell Wilson has been running for his life behind the Seahawks' dismal offensive line, but the fact that he's running in general is a positive sign for fantasy owners. Wilson ran the ball 12 times last Sunday against the 49ers. The Titans are the type of team that can get caught up in a shootout. If he can find rhythm, Wilson is still the league's most likely quarterback to go for over 50 yards on the ground and over 250 yards through the air.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks, (DraftKings Salary $6,400)
The Russell Wilson play is based primarily on his ability to take off running. As long as his offensive line is keeping him on the run, he'll more resemble rookie-year Dak Prescott in the sense that it's going to be an equal opportunity passer. With Wilson scrambling, whoever happens to be open in the split second he's turned to them is the receiver getting the balls. In other words, Baldwin's number-one receiver status doesn't mean much for the time being.
Baldwin isn't a safe enough pick to justify his DraftKings salary.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders
Baltimore Ravens over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles is a mess. His quarterback rating through two games is 72.4. He might be the worst starting quarterback in the league and he's facing a team that's looked to have the best defense in the NFL this season.
The Ravens might have had the softest schedule through three games of any team. That said, they're good enough to capitalize on it. I wouldn't worry about Baltimore coming back from London 3-0.