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For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. Footballguys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
In order to help you build winning rosters, let's walk through some of the observations that I have made while doing my research for DraftKings this week. As you build out your lineups on DraftKings, try to consider the following commentary, which revolves around game strategy and how we will want to take advantage of what the masses are doing when they construct their own lineups.
LIMIT YOUR CASH GAME PLAY: [Adapted from "Tips and Picks' from 2016 Wild-Card Weekend] Over the past few seasons, cash games have gotten increasingly difficult to beat over the long-term. That trend can be blamed squarely on the availability of good information that was previously not readily available. Today, however, there are an abundance of data, tools, and articles on various websites that make constructing cash game lineups a straightforward endeavor. Like last year around this time, I am urging you to limit the amount of cash game action that you put into play because the overlap that occurs on smaller game sets, like Divisional Weekend, is absurd; LeVeon Bell, Julio Jones, and Rob Gronkowski are all going to be extremely highly-owned on this four game slate. As a result of this massive ownership overlap, the difference between winning and losing will often distill down to one or two players’ performance(s), which is less than optimal because of the variance associated with NFL scoring. The edge associated with playing DFS is far less defined on a shorter slate because there are less mistakes that can be made. With this in mind, I would encourage you to play less volume than you typically play on an NFL slate and also direct you to play a bit more of your cash game action in head-to-head contests, where you are not likely facing an all-or-nothing outcome.
GAMESCRIPTING: Because there are only four games from which to choose, my best advice this week is to mentally determine how you envision the games playing out and building your rosters accordingly. For example, Willie Snead has been in the Saints' doghouse for the entire season and Brandon Coleman has been the primary beneficiary, as evidenced by his continued play as a slot receiver; this week, Coleman is inactive (neck), which means that Sean Payton's hand might be forced to give Snead ample snaps from the slot. If that were to happen, I suspect Snead could be a salary-saving GPP play because Drew Brees' favorite target, Michael Thomas, will be dealing with shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes all afternoon, conferring overflow targets to Snead (and Ted Ginn Jr). Assuming I am right, Willie Snead represents a sneaky GPP option because he will be less than 5% owned on a week where that level of ownership is rare; his $3.0K salary affords you the ability to spend up elsewhere, so if he were to find the endzone in this matchup, you would be well-placed for a top-end GPP finish. I would encourage you to walk through every game in this manner and key and/or eliminate certain players based on how you would project the game actually playing out. Minimizing your player pool, particularly for mass multi-entry (MME), is essential for maximizing your likelihood of a top 10% finish in tournament play; this is the same reason I will not be rostering Nick Foles or Alshon Jeffery in the DraftKings' $75K ($8 buy-in) Post-Pattern tournament on Saturday.
Let's take a deeper look into some of the players who I will be targeting for my cash game and tournament rosters this weekend. A short summary follows each respective table to fill in the gaps that led to the respective recommendations; that text represents only an overview of the methodology and rationale that goes into each recommendation.
|NAME||SALARY||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||COMMENTS|
|Tom Brady||7000||1||1||TEN DEF: Funnels towards pass. Weapons everywhere.|
|Ben Roethlisberger||6200||-||2||JAX defense has been suspect of late.|
|Case Keenum||6100||-||3||Upside is there if NO can put points on the board.|
|Matt Ryan||5700||-||4||Homecoming game vs. 19th DVOA pass defense.|
|Blake Bortles||5000||-||5||Suspect that Bortles will be forced to throw often.|
|Marcus Mariota||5900||-||6||Blowout gamescript favors pass-heavy approach.|
|Drew Brees||6300||-||7||Can never count him out, but tough matchup vs. MIN.|
QB OVERVIEW: Tom Brady is the only cash game play recommended in this space on this short slate. The Patriots' implied team total (30.8) is the highest on the Vegas boards this weekend and their opponents tend to funnel action towards the pass (7th DVOA DEF vs. run; 28th DVOA DEF vs. pass). With two weeks to prepare, Brady brings a solid floor with upside at a price point that is not prohibitive. For tournament play, do not allow the reputation of the Jacksonville defense to steer you away from Ben Roethlisberger at home; Big Ben is averaging 20.0 DraftKings points per game at home this season versus only 15.9 on the road. While Jacksonville boasts the 2nd overall DVOA defense, they have stumbled late in the season, allowing 44, 24, and 27 points to San Francisco, Seattle, and Arizona, none of whose respective offenses struck fear into the hearts of opposing defenses in 2017. Some will be dissuaded from Roethlisberger because of LeVeon Bell's heavy usage, but Bell had 600+ yards (and multiple touchdowns) as a receiver this season, an observation that lessens concerns about rostering Big Ben in tournament formats. With the second highest implied team total on the weekend slate, the Minnesota Vikings' offensive players will bring sufficient fantasy upside to the table for GPP consideration; as such, Case Keenum, who has multiple touchdowns in 6 of his previous 9 games, is interesting at a reasonable $6.1K price point. Lastly, Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota have disappointed more than they have delivered, but their implied gamescripts argue that they will throw more than they have for most of 2017; both quarterbacks possess deep receiving corps and could collect substantial garbage time points at fair salaries as their respective teams play catchup.
|NAME||SALARY||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||COMMENTS|
|Latavius Murray||5400||1||2||Perfect gamescript. Multi-TD upside vs. 20th DVOA rush DEF.|
|T.J. Yeldon||3400||2||9||3rd down RB should see plenty of targets while behind.|
|Jay Ajayi||4600||3||1||Eagles' path to success relies on ground game.|
|LeVeon Bell||9600||4||5||No higher upside on the slate. Price and matchup hurt.|
|James White||4300||-||3||Leverage play away from Lewis. PPR helps prospects.|
|Mark Ingram||5600||-||4||Will be underowned for 2-TD upside. Price is fair.|
|Devonta Freeman||5900||-||6||If Vegas is correct, Freeman could see extensive action.|
|Leonard Fournette||6900||-||7||Jags will do their best to pound Fournette vs. PIT.|
|Alvin Kamara||7800||-||8||Price is biggest deterrent. Never count him out.|
|Tevin Coleman||4400||-||10||In play for same reasons as Freeman. Low-owned.|
|Corey Clement||3200||-||11||Low salary and redzone usage puts him in play.|
|Dion Lewis||6600||-||12||High-upside, low-floor with Burkhead/White returning.|
|Jerick McKinnon||4900||-||13||Usage has been erratic; price is fair for full-PPR.|
|Derrick Henry||7300||-||14||Mularkey will try to keep him relevant. Price hurts.|
RB OVERVIEW: Coming off Wild-Card weekend where attractive running back options were abundant, this weekend is a bit disappointing. LeVeon Bell represents the luxury item amongst the running backs available, but his matchup against Jacksonville's stout defensive front is somewhat unnerving. That said, Bell cannot be ignored because of the volume that he enjoys in this Todd Haley offense--he has 20+ carries in half of his games this season and has 6 or more targets in each of his previous 7 games. If the opportunity cost is not prohibitive, Bell feels like a shoo-in for 20+ DraftKings points despite the troublesome matchup. At the lower end of the salary scale, there are several attractive cash game options including Latavius Murray and Jay Ajayi. Murray has experienced increased volume of late, with 20 or more touches in the Vikings' last three contests, including substantial redzone usage during that span (14 opportunities). Ajayi is even cheaper at $4.6K and certainly in play given the increased usage he saw late in the season; prior to resting in Week #17, Ajayi was the clear leader in the Eagles' backfield and should be expected to get 16-20 touches in this matchup, as Doug Pederson will look to minimize Nick Foles' involvement if at all possible. For tournament play, it is a wide-open field, as names like Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman, and Mark Ingram all have multiple touchdown upside in their respective matchups. An intriguing lower-owned option is James White, who returns after missing two weeks with an ankle injury. White should retain the passing down work out of the Patriots' backfield, a role that was split between Rex Burkhead and him throughout the season; with Burkhead (and Mike Gillislee) expected to miss this game, White is going to be utilized more than many expect and will be underowned when compared to his stablemate, Dion Lewis, who is priced at a 150% premium. An otherwise difficult matchup against the Tennessee's 7th-ranked DVOA rush defense is misleading, as the Titans rank dead-last in defending pass-catching running backs, yet another reason to slot White into your tournament lineups over Lewis, who will be rostered at nearly 5x the ownership.
|NAME||SALARY||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||COMMENTS|
|Julio Jones||7900||1||1||Price is right for volume-laden receiver in plus matchup.|
|Eric Decker||3800||2||2||Salary relief helps. Best WR-CB matchup for TEN WRs.|
|Nelson Agholor||4800||3||7||Matchup vs. Poole is excellent. Weather helps prospects.|
|Antonio Brown||8100||4||5||Tough matchup, but bested JAX DBs earlier this season.|
|Corey Davis||3400||5||12||Upside is limited, but 3x value is within reach at $3.4K.|
|Adam Thielen||7600||-||3||Best WR-CB matchup for MIN. 9/157/0 in last meeting.|
|Chris Hogan||5200||-||4||Off injury report. Sneaky leverage play from Cooks/Gronk.|
|Ted Ginn Jr||5800||-||6||Rhodes vs. Thomas & no Coleman = Extra volume?|
|Dede Westbrook||4400||-||8||Most targeted Jags WR in passing gamescript.|
|Willie Snead||3000||-||9||Low-owned salary relief GPP flyer.|
|Mohamed Sanu||5700||-||10||PHI DEF: Throttled from slot late in season.|
|Michael Thomas||7200||-||11||Matchup vs. Xavier Rhodes + price + ownership = tough sell.|
|Stefon Diggs||6200||-||13||Shadow coverage from Lattimore = Limited upside.|
|Brandin Cooks||7000||-||14||TEN DEF: Excellent vs. deep passing plays = less Cooks?|
|JuJu Smith-Schuster||6000||-||15||Rookie has surprised throughout but price has risen.|
|Alshon Jeffery||5500||-||16||Perimeter WRs struggle vs. ATL DBs. Prefer Agholor.|
|Allen Hurns||4000||-||17||Massive size advantage (6") over Hilton in redzone.|
|Rishard Matthews||4500||-||18||2nd in targets for TEN this season. Plus gamescript.|
|Marqise Lee||5100||-||19||Should be 100% for first time in a month.|
WR OVERVIEW: An anchor for both cash and GPP formats, Julio Jones tops the list of high-floor, high-ceiling wide receivers on this limited four-game slate. Jones has double-digit targets in three consecutive games and will line up across from a combination of Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, both of whom have stumbled through the Eagles' otherwise stellar season. The other expensive option at the position is Antonio Brown, whose matchup against the Jags' top-notch secondary has caused his salary drop to a season-low at $8.1K. Brown scored 28.7 DraftKings points the last time these teams met in Week #5, which argues that he is in play across all contest formats, but monitor Twitter for his health status on Sunday, as he left practice on Friday with signs of the flu. For salary relief, look no further than a pair of cheaply-priced Titans receivers: Eric Decker and Corey Davis. As 14-point underdogs, the Titans will have to abandon the run at some point during this game and the combination of Decker/Davis would appear to be the most likely recipients of Marcus Mariota's increased passing volume (as well as Delanie Walker). Decker is the redzone option and gets the best WR-CB matchup against nickelback, Eric Rowe; meanwhile, Davis is dirt-cheap at $3.4K and has been the highest-targeted wide receiver on the Titans during their playoff run. In tournament formats, the Saints' secondary wide receivers (Ted Ginn Jr and Willie Snead) are intriguing options against an otherwise stingy Vikings defense. Normally a big fan of Michael Thomas, I am going to be underweight on him this week because of expected shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes, who has been bested only once this season (Marvin Jones on Thanksgiving); that leaves Ted Ginn Jr's big-play ability against Trae Waynes, who ranked in the bottom five in total yards allowed while in coverage this season (ProFootballFocus) and Willie Snead, who could absorb additional volume with Brandon Coleman announced as inactive on Friday afternoon. Thereafter, you could also consider Chris Hogan, who is 100% for the first time since early October, against a Titans defense that funnels action towards the pass; before his injury, Hogan was averaging nearly 8 targets and a touchdown per game, resulting in 17+ fantasy points in 80% of those contests. Lastly, do not forget about Adam Thielen running out of the slot against P.J. Williams, whose lack of experience (and speed) as a slot cornerback could result in a big day for the Vikings' breakout wide receiver.
|NAME||SALARY||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||COMMENTS|
|Zach Ertz||5800||1||2||23 targets in 2 games with Foles at QB.|
|Rob Gronkowski||7100||2||1||Double the upside of all other TEs on this slate.|
|Austin Hooper||3200||-||3||Salary-saver vs. 22nd DVOA TE DEF.|
|Delanie Walker||5000||-||4||Have to wonder if Belichick focuses on him?|
|Kyle Rudolph||4700||-||5||Tough matchup vs. 3rd ranked DVOA TE DEF.|
|Vance McDonald||2500||-||6||Total GPP punt play. Get to Hooper if you can.|
TE OVERVIEW: The biggest decision DFS players will make in tournaments this weekend is whether to roster Rob Gronkowski at the tight end position. Gronk will be upwards of ~ 40% owned in DraftKings' GPPs and potentially above 50% in high-dollar tournaments. That level of ownership mandates a discussion on whether Gronkowski is a sound tournament option. A case for Gronkowski starts with a stellar matchup against the Titans' 24th ranked DVOA defense versus tight ends, the best on the four-game slate. That said, Chris Hogan and James White will take the field for the first time in nearly a month, which should affect some of Gronk's recent target share. Verdict? If you have a single GPP roster, roll with Gronk, hope for a Gronk-smash (or two), and beat your opponents at other positions; if you have multiple GPP lineups, try to stay even with the field (~ 40%) and get some exposure to alternative tight ends in decent situations. Of those tight ends, Zach Ertz is arguably the best option to achieve a marked multiplier on his salary, as he has been peppered with targets in Nick Foles' two complete games; over those contests, Ertz has enjoyed a 32% target share (23 targets) of the Eagles' passing game. Given Alshon Jeffery's tough matchup against the Falcons' excellent perimeter defensive backs, look for Ertz (and Nelson Agholor) to continue to see significant attention across the middle. After Gronk and Ertz, the dropoff at the position is significant. Delanie Walker and Kyle Rudolph stand out as 'name-brand' options, but the Patriots have not allowed a touchdown to a tight end since Week #6 and the Saints field one of the better tight end defenses (5th DVOA) in the league. For frame of reference, at least 3/4 of my lineups with have either Ertz or Gronkowski in the tight end position.
|NAME||SALARY||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||COMMENTS|
|Patriots||3200||1||2||14-point fave could force ugly effort from TEN late.|
|Steelers||3800||-||1||Bortles' ineptitude confers most DEF upside on slate.|
|Falcons||3500||-||3||ATL defense has quietly excelled in 2nd half of season.|
|Eagles||2600||-||4||Do not overlook cheap rested home 'dog defense.|
|Saints||2800||-||5||NO's plus defensive backfield confers TD-upside.|
|Vikings||2900||-||6||Brees' accuracy lowers upside, but no better defense on slate.|
|Jaguars||3300||-||7||Upside is there, but Big Ben is looking for revenge at home.|
TEAM DEF OVERVIEW: There are a number of ways to go for team defense on Divisional weekend. For cash games, roll with the big home favorite Patriots, who are rested and have had two weeks to prepare for a Titans offense that is projected to score only 17.3 points and has not surpassed 24 points since Week #6. With all the talk about the Jaguars focusing on their running game to avoid exposing Blake Bortles' turnover tendencies, Marcus Mariota's ineptitude has gone overshadowed. The third-year quarterback has quietly thrown more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (13) this season and could be exposed in this game when he is expected to loft the ball 30+ times. Speaking of Bortles, he has put together back-to-back stinkers in Weeks #17 and #18, as evidenced by the following stat line: 27/57 (47.3%) for 245 yards (4.3 YPA) and a touchdown against two interceptions. While I do not believe the Steelers' 7th-ranked DVOA pass defense is as good as advertised, it is difficult to envision Bortles leading this offense to a repeat road victory against a well-rested Steelers team that is looking to avenge their surprise Week #5 home-field loss to Jacksonville. After New England and Pittsburgh, nearly all other defensive options (save Tennessee) are in play as tournament flyers. Both defenses in Philadelphia are viable options, as Nick Foles could implode and/or the Eagles are cheaply-priced, well-rested home underdogs who will be looking to gain respect as playoff contenders. In Minnesota, the Vikings boast the most complete defense in the NFL at this point in the season and could give Drew Brees fits in front of a fired-up home crowd; likewise, the Saints have exhibited an ability to get after the quarterback with stellar edge pressure from Cameron Jordan, which could feasibly result in turnovers from Case Keenum, who makes his first career playoff appearance.