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Week 9 DFS Primer: Building blocks, fades and values

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Whether you've played Daily Fantasy on Yahoo before or are giving it a try for the first time, this weekly column will take an early look at the DFS landscape, revealing whom I like building lineups around, stars to fade, undervalued plays and bargain bin options to help you construct a better team.

Lineup building blocks

Ezekiel Elliott ($29) vs. Denver Broncos

Elliott returns home this week, where’s he’s averaged 6.0 YPC and scored five touchdowns over three games this season (and he’s looked much better this year no matter the venue). Dak Prescott is expected to be a “full go” for Thursday’s practice, and Dallas faces a disappointing Denver defense that ranked bottom-10 in DVOA before trading away Von Miller. The Broncos have already allowed 20+ fantasy point games to Najee Harris, Kenyan Drake and D’Ernest Johnson. The Cowboys have arguably the best offensive line in the league right now, so Elliott has an argument as this week’s top fantasy back yet has a salary outside the top-five RBs.

Kyle Pitts ($21) @ New Orleans Saints

Pitts was a huge bust last week after many pivoted to him Sunday morning in DFS after news broke Calvin Ridley was out. Atlanta struggled against a solid Panthers defense adding Stephon Gilmore to the mix, but the tight end saw a season-high in targets (10) when the team last had time to prepare for Ridley’s absence. While New Orleans also has a strong defense, the Falcons’ almost certain inability to run should lead to heavy passing. Given Pitts’ talent and projected volume with Ridley out, he has a real argument as fantasy’s No. 1 tight end moving forward (especially with Travis Kelce showing his age), yet his DFS salary is just the TE5 and not even a top-15 WR this week. Pitts may not be overly rostered after burning so many DFS players last week, too.

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: Kyle Pitts #8 of the Atlanta Falcons drops a pass during the Week 8 NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers on October  31, 2021 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kyle Pitts had a rough Week 8, which could make him an intriguing DFS play against the Saints. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Austin Ekeler ($30) @ Philadelphia Eagles

Ekeler isn’t a bargain at this salary in a 0.5 PPR format, but he’s plainly become one of fantasy football’s most valuable backs while seeing so many targets and getting goal-line carries. He has the third-most targets among running backs (despite getting none in Week 1 and LAC having a bye) and already has more than doubled the number of carries inside the five this year (five) compared to last (two). This week Ekeler gets an Eagles defense that’s allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs this season, so he’s a strong DFS building block.

Star to fade

Nick Chubb ($31) @ Cincinnati Bengals

Chubb has an argument as the NFL’s best running back right now, but he also hasn’t seen more than one target in a game since Week 1 and shares too many touches with a talented backfield partner (this week it’s D’Ernest Johnson) to have a DFS salary of a top-three RB. As a non-passing down back, Chubb relies a bit more on game script, and this week the Browns are underdogs on the road against a Bengals team with a top-ranked rush defense in DVOA and coming off an embarrassing upset loss. The injury to RT Jack Conklin doesn’t help either.

[Play in Yahoo's Week 9 Million Dollar Baller DFS contest]

Undervalued options

Elijah Mitchell ($21) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Mitchell has dominated SF’s backfield touches over the last two weeks following the team’s bye, when he’s run for 244 yards (6.8 YPC) and two touchdowns — Jimmy Garoppolo also somehow has more rushing touchdowns (three) this season than he had previously totaled in his career. Mitchell's suddenly gone from possible FAB mistake to waiver wire pickup of the year candidate. While fellow rookie Trey Sermon only plays special teams, Mitchell is acting as a feature back (albeit with few targets). He leads all running backs in yards after contact per attempt and in explosive carry (10+ yards) percentage. This week’s matchup doesn’t appear favorable against Arizona (and make sure Mitchell‘s rib injury is OK), which helps explain the highly affordable salary, but the 49ers' game script could be improved if Kyler Murray is forced to sit (or is hobbled) with a “legitimately” sprained ankle. George Kittle’s expected return would also be a boost to SF’s run game.

Taysom Hill ($22) vs. Atlanta Falcons

It remains to be seen who starts at quarterback for New Orleans this week with Jameis Winston going down, but if Hill is recovered enough to get the call, he’s an immediate fantasy option. It’s somewhat misleading, but Hill actually leads all QBs in fantasy points per dropback from 2011-2020, as his ability to run (behind an elite OL) is the proverbial fantasy cheat code. He’d get a favorable matchup this week at home against a Falcons defense with the fewest sacks and allowing the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Hill at the near minimum salary would be a bargain if he gets the start.

Amari Cooper ($22) vs. Denver Broncos

With Dak Prescott fully expected to return this week, Cooper is simply undervalued here (even if Michael Gallup returns). Prescott has gotten 9.1 YPA with a 10:1 TD:INT ratio over three home games this season and faces an injury-riddled Denver defense that just traded Von Miller. Despite Prescott missing time, Cooper is quietly on pace to finish the season with 1,200+ yards and 12 touchdowns; he doesn’t have a top-12 WR salary this week.

Bargain Bin

Derrick Gore ($10) vs. Green Bay Packers

This would depend on Clyde Edwards-Helaire remaining out, and Darrel Williams is still the favorite for passing down work, but Gore looked better than both when given the most work of his career Monday night. As the possible lead back in a KC offense projected to be among the highest scoring in Week 9 against a Packers run defense allowing 4.7 YPC this season, Gore is an intriguing tournament play at the DFS minimum.

Brandon Aiyuk ($11) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Aiyuk recorded season-highs in snap%, route% and target% last week and even got praise from Kyle Shanahan. It’s hard to ignore a WR at just $11 who was aggressively taken in the 4th/5th rounds of fantasy drafts not long ago and is now looking at more volume. The Cardinals’ defense has been terrific this season, but they’ve been middling versus fantasy receivers (and just lost J.J. Watt).

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