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.
WHY WEEK #17 IS THE BEST WEEK TO PLAY NFL DFS. There are a number of reputable DFS analysts who claim that preseason DFS NFL contests confer the biggest edge to a sharp DFS player. I largely agree with the claims because, to be successful, a person needs to dig into the preseason camp reports and follow each team's beat writers to get a feel for who will be playing and for how long. A parallel exists between preseason football and Week #17 because there are a lot of questions about motivation and playing time, but one thing is dramatically different: the prize pools. In preseason NFL, the largest contests rarely surpass $50K, but DraftKings has well over a dozen tournaments that fit that description this week. Likewise, cash games are limited in preseason, but are plentiful as we wrap up the regular season. Below (and on this week's video edition of Tips and Picks), I've gone into a bit more detail about why I think there is a solid edge to sharp DFS players this Sunday. By reading this article, you fall into that category of player. Build your rosters accordingly.
Increased Size of Player Pool. By now, you have surely played these so-called "Captain Showdown" contests on DraftKings where you build your roster around a single game. If you haven't, you have probably played a "Primetime-Only" slate where you build a roster from two games. In both cases, the overlap between players is huge; often times, there are players who are rostered on 80+% of lineups. The difference between winning and losing in those contests largely comes down to a player who differentiates your lineups because he is "only" on 20% of rosters. Thus, the edge is minimal because poor DFS players have fewer options to make strategic mistakes. As the player pool gets larger, there are more ways for those poor DFS players to make mistakes, thereby conferring a bigger edge to profitable DFS players. This week, due to next week's wild-card weekend, all games are played on Sunday, which provides us with 30 teams' worth of players from which to choose...the biggest player pool of the season. Even better is the fact that those games are split somewhat evenly with seven being played early versus eight being played later in the afternoon. Thus, it is feasible (and recommended) to divide your cash games into three buckets this week: 1) early-only, 2) late-only, 3) all-day.
Questions About Playing Time & Motivation. This is a crazy week where it helps knowing coaches' historical tendencies and general believability. Jerry Jones has already stated that the Cowboys will play their starters in a meaningless (for playoff implications) game against the Giants, something he also said in 2016 in the exact same scenario. When the Cowboys' game kicked off in 2016, Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee did not play a single snap, Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant were limited to a few series, and the defensive starters were pulled at halftime. To expect anything different from the Cowboys this weekend would be folly. Similar situations exist across the league and our Phil Alexander has captured a lot of this kind of situation in his Week 17 Motivation Tracker article. Regarding individual motivation, there are some key situations that we should be monitoring, as well. Names like Davante Adams, George Kittle, and Saquon Barkley are all discussed in Trendspotting this week, where Ryan Hester has assembled some nuggets to help guide us. This week is also a week where interpreting player usage trends can be beneficial. One such example is the Bills' Jason Croom, who saw a major uptick in snaps last week when Charles Clay was a healthy inactive on Sunday morning. It would appear that Charles Clay will be released in the off-season and Seam McDermott is assessing his young tight end talent to get a better feel for the team's needs heading into 2019. Croom will be less than 1% owned in tournaments on Sunday despite being minimum-priced and receiving six targets from Josh Allen just last week.
Chalk is Excessive. Because there is so much uncertainty surrounding playing time and motivation (above paragraph), the casual DFS player tends to gravitate towards situations that are clear. For example, the Chiefs need a win to lock down home-field advantage in the playoffs, so we are fairly certain that Patrick Mahomes II, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce will be playing the majority of their game against a bad Oakland defense that yielded 40 points to them about a month ago. In line with that reasoning, Mahomes/Hill/Kelce are (by far) the highest-projected owned players at their respective positions...and Damien Williams is not far behind at running back. Does that make the Chiefs a poor GPP option this week? Absolutely not. However, there is no room for error at other positions because your core lineup will resemble ~25% of every other lineup in that given tournament. A potentially sharper move is to go underweight on the Chiefs players and hope that they spread the ball out to names like Chris Conley, Spencer Ware, and Demarcus Robinson, which could sink 25% of the field and elevate those lineups with minimal exposure to Kansas City's offense. To be clear, this is not just about Kansas City...there are other players who will be massive chalk on Sunday, including Saquon Barkley, Jamaal Williams, and DeAndre Hopkins, just to name a few. The key is to know when the implied ownership is excessive (i.e., Jamaal Williams) and how far underweight you want to go on that player.
Effects of Holidays on Research. With Christmas falling on Tuesday, travel to/from friends and relatives, and preparation for the New Year's holiday, the vast majority of the DFS-playing community is putting in less time towards their research than typical. If you are carving out the time to do your normal amount of research, there is a bigger edge to be had against the field this Sunday. Because I typically work 50-60 hours per week at a non-DFS job, but was on vacation this week, I was able to put more time into my research this week than usual. The result of that research is collated below in the "Picks" section of this article.
Best of luck to you this week & thanks for being a Footballguy!
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||OPPONENT||SALARY||CROWD EXPOSURE||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||NOTES|
|Patrick Mahomes II||OAK||$7100||21%||1||1||Averaging over 4x his salary this season.|
|Lamar Jackson||CLE||$5600||4%||2||10||Rushing ability confers solid floor.|
|Aaron Rodgers||DET||$6300||10%||3||7||Detroit has become pass funnel defense.|
|Blake Bortles||@HOU||$4400||2%||-||2||HOU: 20+ FPs allowed to 5 straight QBs|
|Jared Goff||SF||$6200||7%||-||3||Gurley being inactive helps upside.|
|Ben Roethlisberger||CIN||$7000||11%||-||4||Must-win situation. Big Ben at home narrative.|
|Tom Brady||NYJ||$6000||4%||-||5||Crowd is overlooking his upside, but why?|
|Josh Allen||MIA||$6000||4%||-||6||Love the cheap stack options at WR.|
|Deshaun Watson||JAX||$6600||6%||-||8||Jags no longer field an avoid defense.|
|Philip Rivers||@DEN||$6400||4%||-||9||400+ yards vs. DEN in first matchup.|
- Mahomes at home. For cash games, Patrick Mahomes II is arguably the safest quarterback option on an otherwise full slate. Mahomes would have reached cash game value (3x his salary) in 14 of the Chiefs' 15 games this season; in the outlier, he would have yielded 2.5x his salary, which is still respectable at over $7K. He is averaging 29.5 DK points per game this season and is leading the offense of a team projected to score 33 points by Vegas oddsmakers. The matchup is pristine against Oakland, the league's 31st-ranked DVOA pass defense, who allowed Mahomes to compile 33.0 DK points earlier this month.
- Moar Lamar. The Ravens are now 5-1 with Lamar Jackson as their starter and find themselves able to win the AFC North with a home win on Sunday against the Browns. Jackson is an attractive cash game option because of what he does on the ground. In his 6 starts, Jackson has rushed the ball at least 10 times in every effort and has finished with 70+ rushing yards in all but 1 game. He is affordably priced at $5.6K and needs only ~ 17 DK points to justify his slot in your cash game rosters, a plateau that he has achieved in every one of his starts this season. Because the Ravens need a win to lock down their division, we can expect Jackson to play four full quarters on a week where questions about playing time are abundant.
- The Immortal Bortles. Following the merciful benching of Cody Kessler last week against the Dolphins, Blake Bortles has been reinstated as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars’ last game of 2018. A true GPP option, Bortles has scored less than 10 DK points on 4 different occasions, the same number of times he has scored greater than 20 points. His matchup, however, cannot be ignored. The Houston Texans secondary has been a sieve since Thanksgiving; They have allowed 5 consecutive quarterbacks to compile ~ 20 DK points or more, nearly 5x Bortles’ salary this week. As 7-point underdogs, the gamescript sets up well for Bortles to throw early and often to keep pace with a Texans team that will be motivated to lock up the AFC South.
- Big Home Favorites. There are a number of heavy home favorites with high Vegas implied team totals this week. Historically, it is prudent to roster running backs in these situations, but Jared Goff, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady each have plush matchups that could see them thrive on Sunday. Goff will be without his star running back, Todd Gurley, which could result in additional opportunity for Goff as the Rams look to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs. Roethlisberger gets a soft matchup at home against a Bengals defensive unit that has allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks; he gets a boost because both James Conner and Jaylen Samuels are excellent receivers out of the backfield and can easily score in that capacity. Lastly, Tom Brady is finishing, by his standards, a subpar season, but the Patriots need a win to guarantee a first-round bye in the playoffs and you can bet that he will be on the field throughout to ensure that it happens; against the Jets, Brady should have little difficulty finding Julian Edelman in space against Buster Skrine while Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan round out a solid receiving corps.
|NAME||OPPONENT||SALARY||CROWD EXPOSURE||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||NOTES|
|Dwayne Washington||CAR||$3000||20%||1||3||Payton showed his hand by benching Brees.|
|Saquon Barkley||DAL||$8200||39%||2||1||Should get 10+ touches vs. DAL backups.|
|Peyton Barber||ATL||$3600||6%||3||5||16+ touches vs. 30th DVOA rush defense.|
|Royce Freeman||LAC||$3500||17%||4||11||Absorbs Lindsay role at a discount.|
|Elijah McGuire||@NE||$5300||11%||5||12||3x this salary in each of his starts.|
|James Conner||CIN||$7500||11%||-||2||Plus gamescript vs. terrible rush defense.|
|Jeff Wilson||@LAR||$4400||7%||-||4||Ignore gamescript. Big role as receiver, too.|
|Gus Edwards||CLE||$4400||3%||-||6||Betting on a home win and scoring TDs.|
|C.J. Anderson||SF||$5400||18%||-||7||Cannot ignore again after last week.|
|Sony Michel||NYJ||$5200||8%||-||8||Continues to see 20 touches per game.|
|Lamar Miller||JAX||$4600||1%||-||9||Went for 100/1 in first contest vs. JAX.|
|Jamaal Williams||DET||$6000||34%||-||10||Bellcow role as big home favorite.|
- ROY Campaigning. When the Dallas Cowboys last had a meaningless Week #17 game, they rested their best defensive player, Sean Lee, and the remainder of their starting defensemen played approximately one-half of football before yielding time to the Cowboys backups. With Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli still at the helm, there is not much reason to suggest that we will see anything different on Sunday against the Giants at the Meadowlands. With this history in mind, Saquon Barkley is a compelling play in all DFS formats for a number of reasons: 1) He could get 30+ offensive snaps against second-string NFL defensive players, 2) The Giants are 6-point home favorites, which supports additional usage later in the game, 3) There is recent talk that Barkley may not be the unquestioned NFL Rookie of the Year and the Giants could feasibly feature Barkley to nail down those well-deserved honors, 4) Odell Beckham Jr will miss yet another game and Barkley is averaging over 20 touches per game without having to compete for opportunities against OBJ. All in all, this is a potential blow-up spot for Barkley against a Dallas team that should be looking ahead to Wild-Card Weekend.
- Salary-Savers. After anchoring your cash game lineups with the pricey Saquon Barkley, you will need to find salary relief elsewhere. Dwayne Washington, Peyton Barber, and Royce Freeman are all cash game-viable running backs that will cost you less than $4K on DraftKings this weekend. Washington has not yet been announced as the starter in New Orleans, but the Saints have nothing to play for, as their playoff situation is unchanged by a win or a loss; thus, risking an injury to Mark Ingram II or Alvin Kamara is illogical and Dwayne Washington is the likely beneficiary. Only three teams in the league are more run-heavy than the Saints, which should mean that Washington, a 6'2" back with 4.44-second speed (40-yard dash), should get plenty of looks against a Carolina team that allowed Brian Hill to surpass 100 rushing yards last weekend. Meanwhile, Peyton Barber gets a home matchup against the Falcons' 30th-ranked DVOA rush defense. Barber has 15 or more touches in 6 consecutive games and is coming off games against Dallas, New Orleans, and Baltimore, 3 of the league's best rushing defenses--look for him to rebound nicely against this soft Atlanta front seven. Lastly, Royce Freeman should inherit the bulk of the rushes out of the Broncos' backfield now that Phillip Lindsay (wrist) is done for the season. Freeman is priced fairly at $3.5K and gets a nice matchup against the Chargers, who have allowed opposing running backs to score seven touchdowns in their previous four games.
- Conner's Return. After missing three games with an ankle injury, James Conner will return to Heinz Field for the Steelers’ season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers need to win (and a Ravens loss) to advance into the playoffs, which means that we should see their starters playing four full quarters. Prior to his injury, Conner was averaging 23.7 DK points per game, approximately 3x this week’s salary. As hefty two-touchdown home favorites, the Steelers could lean on Conner heavily in the second half. For their part, the Bengals pose no threat with their 28th-ranked DVOA rush defense that is allowing the 2nd-most fantasy points per game to Conner’s position.
- Gus the Bus. Needing a win to lock down the AFC North, the Bengals will continue to play ball-control at home against the upstart Browns. Since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, the Ravens have built their offense around the rush; entering week #17, only the Seahawks and Titans run the ball on a higher percentage of their offensive plays than the Ravens. Overshadowed by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' surprising playoff run, Gus Edwards has collected an average of 18.5 touches per game since being instilled as the starting running back in Week #11. Edwards has surpassed 80 rushing yards in every start and is averaging 13.9 DK points per game over that span, a number that is approaching the 4x multiplier needed to justify his place in your GPP lineups. On only 3% of tournament rosters, he offers two-touchdown upside at a reasonable price point and can be a differentiator from the masses.
- Other Thoughts. Lamar Miller is woefully underowned in our percent rostered projections at less than 1%. Miller should see 16+ touches in this week’s matchup against the Jaguars, which makes his $4.6K salary a bargain considering that the Texans are favored by a touchdown over an overrated Jags defense. In Los Angeles, C.J. Anderson will get his second straight start while Todd Gurley rests for the playoffs. In his Rams’ debut, Anderson racked up 167 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts behind a trailblazing Rams’ offensive line. This week, Anderson will get yet another start against the Niners' front seven, who have allowed rushing touchdowns in five consecutive weeks.
|NAME||OPPONENT||SALARY||CROWD EXPOSURE||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||NOTES|
|Robert Woods||SF||$6900||9%||1||2||7+ targets in 13 of 15 games in 2018.|
|Robby Anderson||@NE||$5600||16%||2||15||Darnold is locked on him. Plus gamescript.|
|Dede Westbrook||@HOU||$4700||3%||3||5||Texans are bleeding receiving yards of late.|
|Jordy Nelson||@KC||$4900||7%||4||6||Volume and PPR scoring provide solid floor.|
|Kenny Golladay||@GB||$6600||13%||5||4||Has been delivering vs. better defenses.|
|JuJu Smith-Schuster||CIN||$8300||12%||-||1||If AB sits, he will easily surpass 100 yards.|
|DeAndre Hopkins||JAX||$8100||20%||-||3||Matchup-proof. Few other receiving options.|
|Mike Evans||ATL||$7700||11%||-||7||Vying for receiving yards title vs. poor defense.|
|Brandin Cooks||SF||$6500||7%||-||8||With Gurley inactive, other Rams can score.|
|Tyreek Hill||OAK||$8400||27%||-||9||OAK DBs are sooo slow. Huge upside here.|
|Julian Edelman||NYJ||$7600||17%||-||10||Everybody beats Buster Skrine. Edelman's turn.|
|James Washington||CIN||$3100||1%||-||11||Should be secondary WR, if AB is inactive.|
|Randall Cobb||DET||$5000||1%||-||12||Avoids Slay. Most tenured WR if Adams sits.|
|Adam Thielen||CHI||$7400||5%||-||13||Mismatch vs. Bears' backup slot cornerback.|
|Chris Hogan||NYJ||$3600||1%||-||14||Provided all the rationale here. Sharp play.|
- Robert and Robby. Since Sam Darnold has returned from a foot injury that cost him three starts, he has displayed an incredible amount of chemistry with Robby Anderson. Anderson has scored in each of the Jets' previous three games and has averaged a shade under 25 DK points per game over that span. As heavy underdogs against a motivated Patriots squad, there is good reason to believe that the Jets will have to throw throughout this game and Anderson figures to be a key player on the Jets, particularly with both Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa already announced as inactive. On the opposite coast, Robert Woods will continue to serve as the cog in the Rams offense while Todd Gurley recovers from lingering knee issues. In last week's Gurley-less game, Woods was targeted 7 times and added another 2 touches on the ground, as he compiled 104 all-purpose yards and a pair of scores en route to 28.4 DK points. Woods will see similar action running out of the slot against the 49ers, who have allowed six consecutive slot receivers to score a touchdown heading into this week's contest. As such, Woods represents a perfect combination of floor and ceiling for all contest formats.
- Dede. As outlined in the Lamar Miller writeup (above), the Jaguars travel to Houston as touchdown underdogs against the Texans. The gamescript and personnel matchup favor solid production for the Jags’ top receiver, Dede Westbrook, who leads Jacksonville across all statistical categories this season. Westbrook will face a Texans secondary that has hemorrhaged passing yardage of late, as evidenced by 5 consecutive opposing WR1s surpassing 20 DK points. The last time that a running back not named Leonard Fournette scored a touchdown for the Jaguars was back in Week #7, which means that Westbrook's scoring equity should rise with the announcement that Fournette is unlikely to suit up for the Jags final game of the season.
- Elsewhere. The Oakland Raiders are all-but-guaranteed to be chasing points against a Chiefs team looking to win to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. If the Raiders are trailing, it should Jordy Nelson who most benefits, as the veteran has displayed increased chemistry with Derek Carr as the season winds to a close. Over the past month, Nelson has been targeted 36 times and has finished with at least 6 catches in each of those contests, including posting a 10/97/0 stat line against this same Chiefs defense just 4 weeks ago. In Green Bay, Kenny Golladay will lock horns across from Jaire Alexander for most of the day. Alexander, a first-round draft pick out of Louisville, has flashed glimpses of brilliance in his rookie year, but is no match for Golladay, who continues to beat defenders far better than Alexander. Also notable is the fact that Alexander gives up six inches in height to Golladay, which should bolster Golladay's chances of scoring inside the redzone. Add in a passing gamescript for the underdog Lions and all the pieces are there for a solid performance for Golladay.
- JuJu Redemption. In last week's heart-wrenching loss to the Saints, JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled away the Steelers' best chance of sending the game to overtime and possibly ended their playoff hopes with that fumble. He has since vowed to not let it happen again and will be looking for atonement against the Bengals on Sunday afternoon. Smith-Schuster posted a 7/111/0 stat line against a healthier version of this Bengals defense back in Week #6 and he has hit another gear since that time. In the past 6 weeks, JuJu has surpassed 100 receiving yards on 4 separate occasions and has twice scored 35+ fantasy points. On Sunday, he will face off against the league's 28th-ranked DVOA pass defense and could get a bump if Antonio Brown is limited or inactive due to ongoing knee pain; if Brown is inactive, JuJu becomes cash game-viable and could potentially post 150 receiving yards in this must-win game for the boys in Black and Gold.
- Patriots Receivers. Long-time readers of this column are well-aware that I like to pick on certain defensive backs because they provide fantasy goodness to the receivers they are slated to cover. This week, Buster Skrine is that poster boy, as Skrine will line up across from Julian Edelman in Foxborough as the Patriots seek a first-round bye for the playoffs. Skrine is currently ranked as the 117th (of 130 qualifiers) cornerback on ProFootballFocus and is allowing a quarterback rating of ~ 120 when passes come into his coverage. We should fully expect Bill Belichick to exploit this personnel mismatch throughout this contest to secure this much-coveted win. And while the Edelman-Skrine matchup is superb, do not ignore Chris Hogan against the Jets' exterior cornerbacks (Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson). Hogan is coming off a game that saw him run more routes than any Patriots receiver, but he finished with a goose-egg for his efforts. Thus, recency bias will keep his popularity low amongst DFS players, but he deserves consideration for tournaments because of his role on the team, their lofty implied team total, and established rapport with Tom Brady.
- Cobb Salad. At Lambeau, be sure to get a piece of Randall Cobb, who will avoid Darius Slay throughout the game. Slay rarely, if ever, goes into the slot, which means that Cobb will get plenty of action against either Teez Tabor or Mike Ford, both of whom rank amongst the bottom-dwellers of cornerbacks using ProFootballFocus' ranking system (Nevin Lawson, the Lions' starting slot cornerback was announced as inactive). With questions surrounding Davante Adam's health and general availability, Cobb is an intriguing GPP bullet that could differentiate your rosters in large-field tournament formats.
|NAME||OPPONENT||SALARY||CROWD EXPOSURE||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||NOTES|
|George Kittle||@LAR||$6300||13%||1||2||By far, the best SF receiver in plus gamescript.|
|Austin Hooper||@TB||$3500||3%||2||9||Limited Julio = additional opportunity.|
|Travis Kelce||OAK||$7200||30%||3||1||Murdered Oakland secondary earlier this month.|
|Zach Ertz||@WAS||$6700||12%||4||4||Always in play. 16 targets last week.|
|Vance McDonald||CIN||$4200||3%||-||3||CIN: 4th most FPs/game allowed to TEs.|
|Evan Engram||DAL||$5300||8%||-||5||Double-digit points in all games w/out OBJ.|
|Rob Gronkowski||NYJ||$5100||11%||-||6||True boom-or-bust GPP option.|
|Jason Croom||MIA||$2500||1%||-||7||McDermott is giving him a look. Sneaky.|
|Gerald Everett||SF||$2800||4%||-||8||Rams went to 2 TE sets w/out Gurley in last.|
|Chris Herndon||@NE||$3400||4%||-||10||7 catches for 57 yards vs. NE in early Dec.|
- Kittle, Record-Chaser. There are three expensive tight ends (George Kittle, Zach Ertz, and Travis Kelce) who are viable options for cash games on Sunday. Each has a substantial floor due to their roles in their respective offenses, but Kittle is the favored play for several reasons: 1) The 49ers are bereft of talent at receiver due to injuries to Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, and Pierre Garcon; Kittle's competition for targets includes Kendrick Bourne and Richie James, 2) Kittle has scored double-digit points in all-but-one game with Nick Mullens under center; the quarterback looks to Kittle throughout the game, which bolsters Kittle's weekly floor, and 3) the 49ers are projected to lose by two touchdowns, a margin that will create plenty of opportunity for Kittle to collect fantasy output throughout this contest.
- Hooper Trooper. While Julio Jones has played in every game this season, his snap counts and routes run have quietly diminished over the past two weeks. Jones' hip and ribs caused him to miss practice for most of this week and while he is expected to play on Sunday, it would not be surprising if Dan Quinn decided to limit his franchise player once again in a meaningless game for the Falcons. What hurts Julio, however, helps his teammates. Just last week, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu combined for 170+ receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Panthers, a trend that we should expect to see again this week in Tampa Bay. Look for Austin Hooper, however, to play a bigger role this week as he represents a chain-mover and redzone target for Matt Ryan when Julio Jones is limited. Of the lower-priced tight end options on this large slate, Austin Hooper is one of the safer options for cash games for these reasons.
- Old McDonald... A trend throughout this article is to get a piece of the Steelers offense on Sunday. And for good reason: Pittsburgh is in a must-win situation with a potent offense against a defense that mailed it in over a month ago...the perfect combination of factors culminate for fantasy production. So why not finish with a quick writeup to support Vance McDonald in tournament formats? McDonald has only three catches over the Steelers' previous two games, but he has the ability to blow up for a tournament-worthy performance on any given week, as he demonstrated in Week #3 against Tampa Bay (4/112/1) and later against this same Bengals defense (7/68/0). The matchup is stellar, as the Bengals allow the 4th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends and have been hit for five touchdowns to the position over the previous month.
- Elsewhere. If you are looking to zig with cheap tight ends while the masses are zagging with the likes of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz, you might consider either Gerald Everett or Jason Croom. Everett blasted onto the scene last week when we saw Sean McVay implement a new two-tight end scheme to employ in Todd Gurley's absence. The result was 6 targets to Everett and a 5/28/0 stat line for 7.8 DK points. At only $2.8K, Everett just needs to score to reach tournament value and without Gurley in the backfield, there is good reason to think that there should be scoring opportunities to be shared amongst Rams on Sunday, as their 30-point implied team total would suggest. In Buffalo, do not sleep on Jason Croom as a deep flyer for GPP formats. The verdict is in on Charles Clay and it appears that Sean McDermott has seen enough, as evidenced by Clay's healthy inactive last week. In his place, Croom enjoyed a season-high 72% of the Bills' offensive snaps and 7 targets en route to 9.5 DK points. This Sunday, Croom will go unnoticed again, but his opponent (Dolphins) has allowed four touchdowns to the tight end position over the past month and has allowed three different tight ends to post two-touchdown games this season.
|NAME||OPPONENT||SALARY||CROWD EXPOSURE||CASH RANK||GPP RANK||NOTES|
|Seahawks||ARZ||$3700||4%||1||1||Targeting Josh Rosen has worked all season.|
|Giants||DAL||$2100||10%||2||8||Salary-saver. Cooper Rush is not an NFL QB.|
|Vikings||CHI||$2500||3%||3||7||Punt alternative. Must-win game for MIN.|
|Chiefs||OAK||$2600||6%||-||2||Much better defense at home. Incentivized.|
|Rams||SF||$3900||4%||-||3||Plus matchup. Paying up to be contrarian.|
|Ravens||CLE||$2900||6%||-||4||Mayfield struggles vs. good defenses.|
|Saints||CAR||$2700||2%||-||5||Betting against Kyle Allen & poor CAR weapons.|
|Steelers||CIN||$3500||7%||-||6||Cinci has nothing left on offense. Must-win.|
TEAM DEF OVERVIEW:
- Targeting Poor QB Play. Because they handle the ball on every play, there is no more important position on the football field than the quarterback. It is not rocket science, but if good quarterback play can get a team into the playoffs, poor quarterback play can do the opposite. This week, you can build your cash game lineups around the Seahawks (versus Josh Rosen) or the Giants (versus Cooper Rush) for this reason. Josh Rosen has struggled all season and, for that reason, there is no team that has been more generous to the team defense position than the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen has not thrown a touchdown since Thanksgiving and it is difficult to imagine him doing much against the Seahawks, who are averaging 9.0 DK points per game at home. At the Meadowlands, you can punt the position entirely and take the Giants against Cooper Rush, who has make three pass attempts across two seasons in the league. Targeting Rush is more about the lack of offensive firepower that will be surrounding him than going after an established record of mediocrity (that we have not yet seen). The Cowboys will be resting their best players, which means that Rush will be throwing to the likes of Noah Brown and Allen Hurns, both of whom have been watching from the sidelines for the majority of the season. There is not much risk in paying down for the Giants' $2.1K salary and expecting them to hold the Cowboys to less than 20 points on Sunday in their home finale.
- Paying Up to be Contrarian. The Rams are an underrated defense that are getting healthy to close out the season. In the previous month, only the Eagles scored more than 15 points against this unit and now they get a prime matchup against the Niners, who have lost their starting quarterback, their starting (and backup) running back, and will be without their top three wide receivers for this contest. Nick Mullens will do what he can alongside Jeff Wilson, but it is difficult to concede that the Rams will not handle this patchwork 49ers offense. Aaron Donald enters this game on a tear (three sacks last week) and the Rams will be motivated to lock down a first-round bye to rest up for the playoffs. At $3.9K, a lot of DFS players will look to fade the Rams because there are equally attractive matchups at lower prices, but by paying the premium, you are differentiating your lineups without sacrificing upside.
- Laissez Les Bons Temps Roulet. An undrafted free agent rookie, Kyle Allen, will start the season finale at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans on Sunday. We do not know much about Allen beyond his unrealized potential. The former five-star recruit out of high school, Allen was named the starting quarterback during his true freshman season at Texas A&M. He eventually lost the job to Kyler Murray, this year's Heisman Award winner, before transferring to the University of Houston at the end of his sophomore year. After sitting a year due to NCAA transfer rules, Allen was the starter at Houston for four games before he was benched due to poor play. At the end of 2017, Allen announced that he was leaving college for the NFL draft; he went undrafted and the Panthers signed him shortly after the draft. In short, Allen is, at best, untested, and, at worst, unqualified as an NFL quarterback. Making matters worse, he will be without Christian McCaffrey, who will be rested in a meaningless game for Carolina. Going up against a Saints defense that has been stout against the run, the Panthers' only way to succeed on offense will be via the pass, which could be a dangerous proposition against the likes of Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple, who could feast on this rookie quarterback making his NFL debut in front of 70,000 hostile Saints fans gearing up for the playoffs.