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Guiding DFS Tournament Principles
There are three keys to winnings large-field tournaments on FanDuel. First, we need to identify the “good chalk” — the popular plays who we want to build our lineups around. Second, we need to identify the less-popular plays who still have similar upside to the most popular players at their position. Lastly, we need to decide which young breakout candidates to target.
Every week, we will talk about these principles and identify the top targets in each category. These players will be listed below by category along with their projected popularity and then broken down in more depth in the position-by-position breakdowns in the following section.
1. Good Chalk
Patrick Mahomes II (14%) Mahomes is a force of nature and quarterbacks never end up as chalky as other positions.
David Montgomery (36%) Montgomery is the clear RB1 on the slate. Not only has his per touch production been elite over the last month but he has seen a huge increase in usage. The slate lacks sure things at the position, so it is a good move to just lock Montgomery in as your top back.
Travis Kelce (21%) Since Week 8, Kelce has scored more fantasy points than the next two highest-scoring tight ends on the slate combined. No need to overthink this.
2. Building unique lineups without sacrificing floor
Giovani Bernard (3%) It is a bit surprising Bernard is not expected to be more popular given his big Monday Night Football performance and the fantastic matchup against the Texans. The volume should be there and the price is right ($6,000).
Russell Gage (7%) While Ridley understandably gets all of the attention, Gage also should continue to see a lot of targets with Julio Jones out. It is rare to get a player who projects for 8+ targets in the sub-6K range and less than 10%.
3. Getting ahead of the pack with young, high-upside players
Jalen Hurts (7%) Part of getting ahead of the pack is not getting scared away from small sample size success if you feel it is not fluky. Hurts has massive rushing upside.
Tee Higgins (11%) With Tyler Boyd sidelined, Higgins should get plenty of chances to make plays against the Texans. Brandon Allen at quarterback limits the upside to some extent but it is worth gambling that Higgins can finish out a strong rookie campaign in style.
Noah Fant (10%) Fant had a breakout performance last week. We may see the second-year tight end emerge over the last few weeks as one of the future stars at the position and Denver would love to see Fant end the season on a high note with a couple more huge games.
Most weeks, we probably need our quarterback to score 30+ points to take down a tournament. It is really hard to put up 30+ without getting some of those points on the ground. Look at the Top 5 Quarterbacks in Week 15:
Each scored at least 8.9 rushing points and none of these quarterbacks would have scored 30 points without the rushing production. There are going to be some exceptions at times but the focus in our big tournaments should be on rostering quarterbacks with proven rushing upside.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia ($8,200 —7 %)
Through two games, Hurts has rushed 29 times for 169 yards and a touchdown. We should not view these huge rushing numbers as fluky. It is who Hurts was as a college player and this Philadelphia offense needs him to do damage as a dual-threat in their late playoff push. Hurts is a player who should be strongly considered in every main slate moving forward because he has realistic 20-point rushing upside in any given week on top of what he provides as a passer — which was quite a lot last week (338 yards and 3 touchdowns). The Cowboys allowed 94 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to Lamar Jackson a few weeks ago and will likely be without at least three regular starters on defense.
Xavier Woods, Antwaun Woods and Leighton Vander Esch are expected to miss Eagles game with injuries#DallasCowboys— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) December 24, 2020
Hurts will have a good chance to stay hot. Even coming off of a QB1 performance last week, Hurts is surprisingly not projected to be among the five most popular options at the position. Some may be hesitant to play him due to the small sample size but for those who watched Hurts in college, there is nothing fluky about the rushing production we have seen. Our consensus projections are for Hurts to post about 7.0 rushing points, which is a strong number. However, even that projection seems conservative given Hurts’ size and speed combination.
Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City ($9,400 —13% )
Mahomes may have a bit lower floor than many think this week given that the Chiefs would still be heavy favorites for the bye should they lose on Sunday. We have seen some games in recent weeks (the Rams against the Jets, for example) where one team did not gain much in terms of playoff positioning with a win and then came out flat. That is not beyond the realm of possibility here for the Chiefs. However, there is no denying the upside Mahomes possesses. Even in what felt like a disappointing fantasy performance against the Saints last week, Mahomes still posted 25.9 fantasy points. We are only a few weeks removed from Mahomes torching another AFC South defense, Tampa Bay, for 462 yards and 3 touchdowns. That type of passing explosion is well within the realistic range of outcomes against a Falcons defense that has already given up 4.241 passing yards and 34 total touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks this season. With the elite running backs off of the main slate this week, it also feels easier than normal to fit Mahomes’ salary in.
Other Quarterbacks to Consider
|Lamar Jackson||NY Giants||$8,800||11%||3 straight big games since coming back from COVID. Looks like 2019 Lamar.|
|Mitchell Trubisky||Jacksonville||$7,200||10%||Still priced down despite solid run of play|
|Deshaun Watson||Cincinnati||$8,500||9%||Watson has been putting up big numbers almost every week.|
|Russell Wilson||LA Rams||$7,900||9%||Wilson has been ice cold but could get back on track this week.|
|Baker Mayfield||NY Jets||$7,600||3%||Looks like different player over the last month. Great matchup.|
Many of the “usual suspects” we look to target at running back are off of the main slate. In fact, four of the five highest-scoring running backs this season are off of this slightly smaller 10-game slate: Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Aaron Jones. On the one hand, that makes roster construction a little bit easier. We should not feel like we have to budget a huge chunk of our salary cap for those elite running backs like we do many weeks. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. Assuming Christian McCaffrey is out again (which appears likely), there is only one running back on the slate priced above $7,800.
David Montgomery, Chicago ($7,800 — 36%)
Montgomery is “good chalk” this week. Given how well Montgomery has been playing, his increased usage of late, the great matchup, and lack of other good options at the running back position, Montgomery should be locked into our tournament rosters. Since Week 12, Montgomery is the overall RB1. He has rattled off four straight games of 22+ FanDuel points. The first few games, you could make a case that his numbers were a little bit fluky. He did a lot of his damage on a few big plays and had solid but unspectacular touch totals. That strong play has earned him more touches, however. He carried it a career-high 32 times last week and turned the increased opportunity into a career-best fantasy performance (162 total yards and 2 touchdowns). With the Bears right in the thick of the playoff chase and the Jaguars seemingly focused on the Trevor Lawrence chase, this is another prime spot for Montgomery. Jacksonville did not put up much fight against the Ravens last week, with the contest basically decided when Baltimore took a 26-0 lead into halftime. Chicago is favored by 7.5 points and an early lead for the Bears would give Montgomery a chance at a second-straight 30-touch game and likely a huge fantasy performance.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland ($9,000 —13%)
If you are building one tournament lineup, one of the first choices you should make is whether or not you want to roster Chubb. Given that he is priced $1,200 more than any other running back on the slate, this decision will have a big impact on what salary ranges you will find yourself in when filling out the last few spots on your team. The recommendation here is to pay up for Chubb. Yes, he is expensive and he will be fairly popular given how few other strong options there are at the position. However, the general weakness of the running back position is also the biggest argument in favor of rostering Chubb on this slate. Quinnen Williams is out, which should make for even easier sledding against a decent Jets defense.
Other Running Backs to Consider
|Miles Sanders||Dallas||$7,300||17%||Playing over 80% of snaps. Could have big game if Eagles get early lead.|
|James Robinson||Chicago||$6,800||17%||If healthy, too cheap for RB playing nearly every snap. Ozigbo in play if Robinson scratches.|
|LeVeon Bell||Atlanta||$6,400||25%||Will take on lead role with CEH sidelined.|
|Ito Smith||Kansas City||$5,000||7%||Anointed as the top back in Atlanta, for whatever that is worth. Price is right.|
|Giovani Bernard||Houston||$6,000||3%||Good matchup fresh off of outsanding MNF perfromance.|
|Austin Ekeler||Denver||$7,000||31%||Getting plenty of touches but has scored just once all season.|
|David Johnson||Cincinnati||$6,700||11%||Had not seen more than 4 targets in any game before getting 11 last week. Fluke?|
|J.K. Dobbins||NY Giants||$6,300||11%||Seems to be capped around 15 touches but has scored in 3 straight.|
|Melvin Gordon||LA Chargers||$6,400||10%||With Lindsay out, Gordon has little competition for touches and a solid matchup.|
This is a difficult week at wide receiver because many of the top options are not on the main slate. Plus, two of the three highest-projected players at the position (Tyreek Hill and Allen Robinson) are both listed as questionable with hamstring injuries. While both are expected to play, the risk of aggravation adds an element of risk to two of the best options on the slate.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland ($6,500 — 19%)
The Cleveland passing game has come alive of late. Over the last four weeks, Baker Mayfield is averaging 308.3 passing yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns per game. Landry has been his clear go-to target, seeing 9.5 targets per game over this stretch. Landry has stepped up with Odell Beckham sidelined and is playing at a high level. Over these last four games, he is catching over 76% of his targets and scored in all but one outing. While Landry is not the most exciting tournament option, he has a strong floor and multi-touchdown upside in this matchup.
On the season, the Jets are allowing 15 receptions (5th most), 187 receiving yards (5th most), and 1.14 touchdowns (6th most) to opposing wide receivers. New York is also dealing with some key injuries and may be down to their third or fourth-string slot cornerback for this matchup. Brian Poole is out for the season and backup Javelin Guidry, who has started the last three games, is also questionable this week due to a knee injury. Arthur Maulet might have been in line to start in the slot but has been forced into a starting role at safety. Landry is most likely to be lined up against Corey Ballentine or Elijah Campbell, meaning he should have a big matchup advantage.
Russell Gage, Atlanta ($5,800 — 7%)
The Falcons WR2 should never be priced under $6,000. The Falcons pass-heavy offense means guaranteed volume for the top passing options and Gage has been able to take advantage when Julio Jones has been out. In the last four games Jones was either out or playing a limited role, Gage has averaged 8.5 targets and 5.0 receptions per game. We can confidently project Gage for 8+ targets again this week in what should be a positive game script against the Chiefs. We know Patrick Mahomes II and Kansas City are going to put up points, meaning Matt Ryan should be forced to throw it a bunch. Gage and Calvin Ridley ($8,700) should both get a lot of opportunities to make plays. While Ridley, as the WR1, is the better option straight up over Gage, the $2,900 in salary savings and the big gap in popularity may make Gage the better overall play.
Tee Higgins, Cincinnati ($5,800 — 11%)
Higgins is poised to see a heavy workload against a shaky pass defense, making him a solid low-priced option with upside. With Tyler Boyd sidelined due to a concussion suffered during Monday Night Football, Higgins will serve as the top target for the Bengals. While Higgins’ production has been down significantly since Joe Burrow hurt his knee, he has still had solid involvement in the passing offense, averaging 7.0 targets over the past three weeks. With Boyd sidelined, Higgins saw an increase in slot snaps last week and looked surprisingly quick and effective in that role. Houston has given up 20 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season, third-most in the NFL. The Bengals are 7.5-point underdogs and are likely to be playing from behind, meaning Brandon Allen should be forced to throw a good amount. We saw Zach Pascal have 5 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns against this Texans pass defense last week and Higgins could produce a similar line on Sunday.
I’m going back and rewatching the Bengals game vs. Pittsburgh.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) December 24, 2020
After Tyler Boyd went out, it’s fascinating how they used Tee Higgins.
On some of the biggest plays, Higgins lined up in the slot. And his ability to change directions on a dime created great openings on 3rd down.
Other Wide Receivers to Consider
|Allen Robinson||Jacksonville||$7,500||30%||70+ yards in 7-of-8. Revenge narrative.|
|Tyreek Hill||Atlanta||$9,400||19%||Not much else worth paying up for.|
|Amari Cooper||Philadelphia||$6,600||21%||Would benefit if Michael Gallup is out with hip injury.|
|Robert Woods||Seattle||$7,400||22%||54 targets in last 5 games. Safe option but ceiling games have been rare.|
|CeeDee Lamb||Philadelphia||$6,000||5%||If Gallup is out, target distribution narrows benefitting super talented rookie.|
|Calvin Ridley||Kansas City||$8,700||23%||Has gone for 110+ yards in 4-of-last-6 Julio Jones was out.|
|Tyron Johnson||Denver||$5,600||2%||Hunter Henry is out. Keenan Allen is questionable. Mike Williams less than 100%.|
Travis Kelce should be in as many of your lineups as you can manage. If you cannot afford to pay up for the clear top option, Logan Thomas and Noah Fant are strong options in the middle of the main pricing tier. Austin Hooper ($5,100) provides a great deal of salary relief and has a solid floor considering the price.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City ($8,800 — 21%)
The benefits of playing Kelce do not take a whole lot of explanation. He has scored 241 FanDuel points this season and the second-highest scoring tight end on the slate, T.J. Hockenson, has scored 133.5. Since The gap between Kelce and the pack is even more pronounced of late. Since Week 8, Kelce is averaging 20.4 fantasy points per game. The next highest on the slate is Logan Thomas at 10.0 PPG. Kelce is scoring more than twice as many points as any other tight end option. While his price has been steadily creeping up, the advantage Kelce provides is impossible to ignore and worth making some sacrifices at other positions to lock into your lineup. If you need any more motivation to get Kelce onto your tournament rosters, it is also worth noting the Falcons have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. There is also a narrative angle as well with Kelce close to setting a couple of big tight end records.
Logan Thomas, Washington ($6,000 — 11%)
As noted above, Thomas is the second-highest scoring tight end on this slate behind only Kelce since Week 8. He has been seeing a ton of targets of late, averaging 10.3 per game over his last three. He had a career-high 13 catches and 101 yards last week against the Seahawks. With top wide receiver Terry McLaurin listed as doubtful, Thomas should again be the clear top target in the Washington pass offense. Outside of Kelce, Thomas and Mark Andrews ($7,000) look like the best options on the slate. The $1,000 in salary savings makes Thomas the stronger play between the two.
Tight Ends to Consider
|Noah Fant||LA Chargers||$6,200||10%||11 targets last week. Emerging as Lock's top target when healthy.|
|Austin Hooper||NY Jets||$5,100||9%||5-41-1 in first game back from injury. Top matchup.|
|Jordan Akins||Cincinnati||$5,100||6%||6 targets in each of last two weeks|
|Mark Andrews||NY Giants||$7,000||14%||5+ catches in each of his last four.|
|Baltimore||NY Giants||$5,000||17%||5 sacks last week and face another bad offense in this must-win game.|
|LA Chargers||Denver||$3,700||9%||Solid low-priced option against mediocre Broncos offense.|
|Houston||Cincinnati||$4,600||13%||Should be Brandon Allen at the helm for the Bengals.|
|Chicago||Jacksonville||$4,700||3%||Jacksonville is banged up and just playing out the string.|
|Kansas City||Atlanta||$4,100||2%||If Chiefs get out to decent lead, will be able to tee off on Matt Ryan.|
|Cincinnati||Houston||$3,200||2%||Defense quietly playing very well right now and the price is right.|