5 NFL FanDuel Value Plays to Target in Week 8

Studs with sizable salaries are frequently an integral part of winning money in daily fantasy football at FanDuel. However, to fit them under the salary cap, it's imperative to locate under-salaried players who over-deliver.

A good place to start when attempting to unearth undervalued players is our projections tool. The tool offers a value option for sorting, showcasing who offers the most bang for your buck. In addition to matchups impacting projections, injuries do, as well. On that note, players replacing injured starters are often among the top values. So, staying abreast of injury news and inactives until the start of games is a must with that in mind.

With the tone set for this piece, let's move on. The following quintet of players is among my favorite cap-friendly options in Week 8.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons ($7,200)

Matt Ryan was a train wreck in Week 1 after a preseason in which new head coach Arthur Smith hardly used the offensive starters for the Atlanta Falcons. In retrospect, the offensive struggle shouldn't have been a surprise. Since then, Matty Ice is humming along to a more fantasy-friendly tune.

Because the Falcons had a bye in Week 6, I'm opting to use games two through six to level the playing field in the following raw statistics comparison. In those games for all quarterbacks in 2021, Ryan ranks fifth in passing yards (1,504) and tied for seventh in touchdown passes (12) while completing 69.38 percent of his passes, per Stat Head.

Beyond Ryan's sparkling numbers, he's a desirable option because he's tied to a pass-happy offense. According to Sharp Football Stats, when the offensive scoring margin is between trailing by seven points and leading by seven points from Week 2 through Week 7, Atlanta's passing at the third-highest rate (64 percent).

Finally, according to our heat map, the Falcons have a respectable implied total of 24.5 points. So, I'll gladly use Ryan as a bargain quarterback on FanDuel's main slate.

DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles ($6,200)

Spoiler alert, but DeVonta Smith isn't the only receiver from the Philadelphia Eagles in this space. However, he's the better option of the two across all game types as the clear top pass-catching option in Philadelphia's offense.

The rookie wideout leads every meaningful receiving category for the Eagles save for touchdowns. Smith leads the team in targets (53), receptions per game (4.6), and receiving yards per game (58.0), per Pro Football Reference. Additionally, according to Pro Football Focus, Smith's 270 routes are a whopping 45 clear of the second-highest total on the team.

This week, he has a drool-inducing matchup with the Detroit Lions. Detroit's pass defense ranks as the fifth-worst in our power rankings. Also, there's one more nugget that makes this a tantalizing matchup for Smith. However, I'll save that for Smith's forthcoming teammate's write-up.

I'm not alone in loving Smith this week. Our projections award Smith the second-highest value score -- a measure of points per one-thousand dollars of salary. As I mentioned above, Smith is an excellent fit in all game types.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans ($6,000)

Brandin Cooks is another player popping in our projections, netting the seventh-highest value score among receivers.

Like Smith, Cooks dominates every meaningful receiving category for his club. The veteran speedster leads the Houston Texans in targets (64), routes (226), receptions per game (6.4), and receiving yards per game (71.7), and he's tied for the team lead with one touchdown grab.

Despite lackluster quarterback play from rookie Davis Mills for most of this year, Cooks ranks well across the league in a few notable categories. According to Pro Football Focus, out of 73 receivers with at least 20 targets, Cooks is tied with superstar Justin Jefferson for 16th with 2.22 yards per route run. In addition, according to Sports Info Solutions, Cooks ranks fourth in target share (31.4 percent) and fifth in intended air yards (836).

Finally, Cooks should get a lift from the expected return of Tyrod Taylor this week. Before Taylor left with an injury in Week 2, he attempted 44 passes, with 12 going in Cooks' direction for 10 receptions, 163 air yards, and 182 receiving yards.

Taylor's return brightens the outlook for Houston's unexciting offense, and it does so for no one more than their top fantasy option, Cooks.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers ($5,800)

First, let me address the fly in the ointment with Elijah Mitchell. The rookie running back has only four receptions on four targets for 30 yards in four games.

Last week in JaMycal Hasty's return from injured reserve, Hasty netted six targets. Comparatively, Mitchell tallied a donut in the target column. However, Mitchell ran 15 routes versus only 12 routes for Hasty. So, maybe there is potential for Mitchell to snag the occasional reception.

Thankfully, Mitchell owns the backfield's rushing workload, and the San Francisco 49ers are 3.5-point favorites against the Chicago Bears. Mitchell handled 18 out of 21 carries for San Francisco's running backs last week, rumbling for 107 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell has rushed for 100-plus yards in two of four games played.

The Chicago Bears represent an average or better matchup for Mitchell this week. They rank as the 12th-worst run defense in our power rankings. Also, according to Pro Football Reference, Chicago's coughed up the sixth-most rushing yards (762) at 4.65 yards per rush attempt.

Coupling Mitchell's primary ball-carrier role with a juicy matchup yields a nifty sub-$6,000 option at running back this week.

Quez Watkins, WR, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,300)

Quez Watkins is the teammate I teased in Smith's write-up. As for the matchup nugget that I teased sandbagging, according to Sharp Football Stats, the Lions have yielded the second-highest average explosive pass rate (15 percent). I attacked Detroit's susceptibility to big passing plays last with DeSean Jackson and got burned.

Thankfully, Watkins is significantly more involved in his team's offense than D-Jax, elevating his floor while still enjoying the ceiling provided by using a field-stretching wideout against a team getting torched by explosive passing plays. In Philadelphia's first game after trading Zach Ertz following their Week 6 contest, Watkins' 30 routes tied for the third-most on the team.

Also, the Eagles cranked up their 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three receivers) usage last week. According to Sharp Football Stats, from Week 1 through Week 6, Philadelphia used 11-personnel at a 69 percent rate. Last week, they used 11-personnel at a whopping 81 percent clip.

Finally, circling back to Watkins' vertical usage, he has an average depth of target of 13.8 yards downfield, per Sports Info Solutions. Interestingly, Smith is used a bit deeper, with an average depth of target of 14.1 yards downfield.

Nevertheless, I love both wideouts against the Lions this week. However, Watkins is best reserved for GPP usage only.

Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.