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Herein is another edition of “Fantasy Draft Dominator” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on FantasyDraft and make recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments. FantasyDraft is one of the few sites in the industry that allows you to see Ownership Percentage after roster lock but before the player’s game kicks off. To leverage this unique opportunity, we have compiled Ownership Percentages from the biggest Thursday GPP to help lend insight into both tournament and cash-game strategy for the Sunday Contests.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. Cash game players are the top overall values of the week and can be used without regard to expected ownership percentage. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games. Expected ownership levels is also a major consideration in determining the top GPP options. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he will fall into both categories.
FantasyDraft Dominator will be posted each Friday morning, but will also be updated throughout the week as new information becomes available. Should you have any questions or players you want to discuss, hit me up on twitter (@hindery).
Thursday GPP Ownership
Of the top fantasy quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins ($12,700) has the best matchup this week. He has the best combination of floor and upside at the positions this week and his price isn’t prohibitive. Matt Ryan ($13,700) is another strong option, though blowout concerns add a slight bit of risk and the $1,000 of extra salary compared to Cousins makes for some tough choices at other positions. Alex Smith ($10,600) is a solid near-minimum option if you are really looking to avoid taking major risks at the receiver position.
Kirk Cousins (Cash and GPP; $12,700) Cousins is the top option on the slate for cash games. His consistency has been amongst the best in fantasy football. Cousins has at least 17 FantasyDraft points in eight straight games. He also has proven upside, going for 25+ points in half of his games over that stretch (with a pair of 30+ point games). The matchup is solid as well. It’s a late season, non-division game in a week where many of the other top quarterback options are facing rivals for the second time. Washington has a huge implied team total of 28.5 points against a Carolina defense that has been vulnerable against the pass. The Panthers allow 7.1 yards per attempt and rank 30th in the league with 272.4 passing yards per game against. Carolina still has a stout run defense (3.7 YPC against), so expect most of Washington’s projected 28.5 points to come through the air. Cousins is the top option in cash games and a solid option in GPPs as well, where he has enough legitimate stacking options (Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed) to produce relatively unique tournament rosters even if his ownership is highest on the slate at nearly 20%.
Matt Ryan (Cash and GPP; $13,700) The Falcons implied team total of 32.8 points is one of the highest of the season. The Falcons are at home facing a defense that is last in the league in points allowed (30.2) and yards allowed (415.3). The 49ers allow 7.3 yards per passing attempt against and if this game turned into a shootout, Ryan could have a monster game. The obvious problem is that the Falcons are 14-point favorites and this game could easily get out of hand early, which would lead to a run-heavy game script. In a normal week, it would be a big enough issue to knock Ryan from cash-game consideration. However, almost all of the other top quarterbacks have brutal matchups. The risks here are reasonable compared to the other options in Week 15. Last week, in a game where the Falcons defense scored multiple touchdowns and Ryan threw just 28 times, he still managed 21.5 FantasyDraft points. Ryan has a solid floor and his ceiling is absolutely massive should the 49ers offense show up and keep the game competitive. He makes for a strong play in both cash and GPPs this week.
Alex Smith (Cash; $10,600) Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Smith hasn’t had a big fantasy game since Week 1. He plays a risk-adverse style and hasn’t been running as much as he did in past years. There is certainly a risk of a 200 yard, one touchdown performance here. However, there is also a lot to like about the matchup this week. First, the matchup is absolutely ideal. Tennessee’s top-notch run defense and awful pass defense funnels opposing offenses toward the pass, with opposing offenses throwing 66.6% of the snaps (highest in the league). Over the past eight weeks, Tennessee has given up six 300-yard passing games and seven multi-touchdown games. It hasn’t just been the elite passers like Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers who have put up numbers against this defense. We’ve seen Cody Kessler (336 yards, 2 touchdowns), Blake Bortles (337 yards, 3 touchdowns), Matt Barkley (316 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Trevor Siemian (334 yards, 1 touchdown) all put up big passing numbers against the Titans. While Alex Smith hasn’t been producing big fantasy numbers, he has been playing well in recent weeks and taking more deep shots. Smith also has his deepest group of weapons to date. Travis Kelce is currently the league’s best tight end and going for his 5th straight 100-yard game. Tyreek Hill has been a revelation in recent weeks and provides a big-play element the offense has been missing. Jeremy Maclin made his return last week and should be back to normal after getting up to speed last week. With the weapons at his disposal and what will almost certainly be a pass-heavy game plan against a bad pass defense, Smith makes for a strong play at just $600 over the minimum. It’s a tough week at quarterback and taking a high-floor option, banking major savings to pay up at other positions makes good sense.
Cash Game Considerations
Jamming in the high salaries of both David Johnson ($19,000) and Le’Veon Bell ($18,600) has been a winning strategy all season. There are some strong bargain options to fill the flex spots this week that make the strategy palatable despite the increased prices of the duo. Kenneth Dixon ($7,400) and Kenneth Farrow ($8,700) stand out and fit into lineups nicely alongside Johnson and Bell. LeSean McCoy ($16,700) is also a strong option and the $2,300 or $1,900 discount from Johnson or Bell makes a big difference in roster construction flexibility.
David Johnson (Cash and GPP; $19,000) We don’t need to spend a lot of time on why Johnson is a good play. He has a realistic shot at putting together an historic 1,500-yard rushing, 1,000-yard receiving season with 20 touchdowns. He’s scored 33+ FantasyDraft points in 3-of-4 games. The one down game he has had in recent weeks was in a monsoon in Miami and can be discounted as an obvious outlier. The Saints run defense has been surprisingly good this season, allowing just 3.8 yards per rush (7th best) and ranking in the middle of the pack in most fantasy related metrics. It’s just an average matchup. However, the Cardinals are 3-point home favorites with a strong 27-point implied team total. With Carson Palmer’s passing game weapons decimated by injuries, illnesses and the dumping of Michael Floyd, Johnson should continue to see a huge market share in the passing game in addition to his 18 rushing attempts per game. It’s tough to fade Johnson in cash games. In GPPs, his high ownership and high price makes him a middling option. If there were stronger options amongst the top receivers, it would be easier to recommend a tournament fade. But it’s tough to see where the strong, low-owned pivot options are this week so Johnson is a worthwhile tournament play.
Le’Veon Bell (Cash and GPP; $18,600) As with Johnson, the case for Bell is glaringly obvious. He’s averaging a ridiculous 161.6 yards from scrimmage on the season. Add in 6.7 receptions per game and you’re looking at almost 23 PPG without even considering the 100-yard bonuses or touchdowns. The matchup against Cincinnati is just average. The Bengals have been susceptible against the run this season, allowing 4.5 yards per attempt (27th) and 119.1 rushing yards per game (25th). However, the defense has been stronger in recent weeks. Cincinnati has pitched a shutout until what was essentially garbage time in each of the past two weeks. Vegas hasn’t moved the line from Steelers -3 despite 80% of the money coming in on Pittsburgh, which is a little bit of a red flag that the books are relatively bullish on Cincinnati in this spot. That could be more of a reflection of the ugly home/road splits for Ben Roethlisberger though. Bell has been immune to the Steelers road struggles however. Bell has been on fire and last week showed the dangers of fading Bell when he is going to be highly owned in cash games. As with Johnson, the high tournament ownership makes him a mediocre play but there aren’t obvious pivots with similar upside.
Kenneth Dixon (Cash and GPP; $7,400) If we want to pay up for Johnson and Bell, finding inexpensive options with solid floors is absolutely critical. Dixon fits the bill. The talented rookie seems to be slowly emerging as the RB1 in Baltimore. He received 42 snaps last week and a season-high 22 combined carries and targets (11 of each). Dixon’s prowess as a pass catcher is what makes him such an attractive cash-game option. He has at least four catches in three straight and has averaged 5.3 receptions per game over that stretch. At the very least, he should locked into solid pass-game usage this week which gives him a decent floor for the price. While the Eagles have been strong against the run, they are just 21st in DVOA against RBs in the passing game. The season stats for the Eagles defense are also a bit misleading. After a strong start, Philadelphia has faded in the second half of the season. Over the past four weeks, Philadelphia averages 18.8 fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs per game (12th-most in the NFL).
Kenneth Farrow (Cash and GPP; $8,700) When Melvin Gordon went down with an injury last week, Farrow stepped in to play 55 of 57 snaps. He logged 22 touches (16 carries and 6 receptions). While Ronnie Hillman is going to be active this week, it’s questionable whether the journeyman will significantly eat into Farrow’s workload. The Chargers are certainly preparing as if Farrow will be the main guy in the backfield this week. At 5-foot-9 and 219 pounds, Farrow is a bruising, between-the-tackles runner who also has shown soft hands. The matchup couldn’t be much better. The Raiders rank 26th in run defense DVOA and are also 23rd in DVOA against RBs in the passing game. Some will argue that the Chargers will go especially pass-heavy this week with Gordon out, but that is a recipe for disaster. Philip Rivers has 10 interceptions in his last four games and this offense needs to have some balance to be successful. For just $8,700, Farrow’s expected workload against a vulnerable defense is very attractive in both cash games and GPPs.
LeSean McCoy (Cash and GPP; $16,700) McCoy’s excellent season is not generating as many headlines as it should due to the monster seasons being put together by Bell, Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott. McCoy has averaged 107.8 yards from scrimmage per game and has scored 11 touchdowns in 12 games. He has seen an uptick in his pass-game usage in recent weeks, with 14 targets over the past two weeks. McCoy has a dream matchup with a demoralized and talent-starved 0-13 Cleveland coming to town. The Browns are fresh off of allowing 156 rushing yards to a struggling Bengals rushing offense and getting blown out in what was arguably their best remaining shot at avoiding a winless season. With Rex Ryan trying to save his job, the Browns can’t expect any mercy in Buffalo. As 10-point favorites, the game script sets up for a heavy dose of McCoy and he could easily outscore Johnson and Bell, who have tougher matchups. McCoy makes sense as a slightly lower-owned pivot in tournaments. The minor cost savings in cash games may or may not be worth it depending upon roster construction considerations.
T.J. Yeldon (Cash; $8,000) If Farrow or Dixon seem to risky, Yeldon is a high floor cash-game play against Houston if Chris Ivory and Denard Robinson are both out again. The Texans rank 28th in DVOA against RBs in the passing game and Yeldon is a good bet to catch at least five passes, which gives him a very nice floor for the price. In the four games where Yeldon has basically had the backfield to himself, he has averaged 17 rushing attempts and 7 targets. Yeldon has just three rushing touchdowns in 26 career games, so his upside is limited in what should be a low-scoring affair. Thus, he’s not a particularly attractive GPP option. In cash games, Yeldon’s market share and pass-game usage makes him a good play.
It’s almost certainly another week where it’s optimal to slot in four running backs and two receivers. The top backs have significantly higher floor/ceiling combos than do the elite receivers. The bargain running backs are also more attractive flex options than similarly priced receivers. Assuming the plan is to pay up for both Johnson and Bell at running back, $11,000 is probably the reasonable maximum we can spend for our WR1. Michael Crabtree ($11,000) is a strong option. We will also need at least one bargain option at the position. Rishard Matthews ($9,100), Marqise Lee ($7,800) and J.J. Nelson ($7,700) stand out as the best bargain options.
Michael Crabtree (Cash and GPP; $11,000) Crabtree has been a strong weekly option all season. He is seeing a huge amount of passes each week, with 9.2 targets per game. He’s also seen 21 red zone passes and is the clear go-to option down for Derek Carr down around the end zone. The matchup is above average. San Diego is allowing 261.4 passing yards per game (25th). Oakland is a 3-point favorite on the road (though the crowd should be a 50/50 split, so it’s not a true road spot) with a 26-point team total that is amongst the highest on the slate. The true intrigue is whether top-5 corner Casey Hayward will shadow Crabtree or Amari Cooper. Opinion is split and there isn’t a clear answer. While Hayward’s potential coverage is reason for some concern, Crabtree is going to see high-value targets regardless. He caught a touchdown over the smaller Hayward in the first matchup back in Week 5. Playing in San Diego is a nice tie-breaker in favor of Crabtree over similar options playing in freezing temperatures. For the price, Crabtree’s floor ceiling combination is very attractive and he’s a strong play in all formats.
J.J. Nelson (Cash and GPP; $7,700) The surprise mid-week release of starter Michael Floyd opens up a boatload of snaps for Arizona and Nelson should be the primary beneficiary. While Floyd wasn’t a huge part of the offense, he played 139 snaps over the last two weeks. While Nelson has been making plays in a reserve role, he has averaged just 29 snaps per game over the past four weeks. Expect that number to double in a favorable matchup against the Saints. In Nelson’s two previous games with 50+ snaps, he averaged 9.5 targets per game. The Saints rank 28th in pass defense DVOA and are even worse (30th in the league) against deep passes, where Nelson does much of his damage. At a bargain basement price, Nelson provides huge upside and a relatively decent floor as the top sub-$8,000 receiver on the slate. While he doesn’t fit the typical profile of a cash-game play, desperate times call for desperate measures and it’s worth the risk to fit in both Bell and Johnson without taking any major risks elsewhere on the roster.
Marqise Lee (Cash; $7,800) Lee has shown a surprisingly high floor this season. He’s seen at least six targets in every single game since Week 2 and emerged as the most productive receiver in Jacksonville. Houston’s season-long defensive numbers are strong, but the defense has been vulnerable in recent weeks as injuries have taken their toll. The Texans have allowed 29.6 fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers (sixth-most) over the last four weeks. While Lee doesn’t have quite the upside of Nelson, he probably has a higher floor. He is a more complete receiver and has a solid season’s worth of production to point to in his favor.
The pricing on top option Travis Kelce ($11,000) isn’t completely prohibitive, but he is tough to fit in alongside the top running backs. Greg Olsen ($9,300) has a more reasonable price point, but with Cam Newton struggling it isn’t a slam dunk to pay up for him. In the sub-$8,000 range, three players stand out: Ladarius Green ($7,300), Delanie Walker ($7,700) and Kyle Rudolph ($8,000). Jermaine Gresham ($5,000) is also in play if he is able to play through his knee injury.
Ladarius Green (Cash and GPP; $7,300) While Green still isn’t seeing a full complement of snaps, he has clearly established himself as one of the top targets in the Steelers passing offense with 17 targets over the past two weeks. On first blush, he may seem like too risky of a play for cash games, but the matchup is ideal and with cap space at a premium his bargain salary makes him a legitimate top option in the sub-$8,000 price range. On the season, no defense has allowed more yards to opposing tight ends than the Bengals. The history of recent Bengals-Steelers matchups also points to Green as a top play. The Bengals have done well against Antonio Brown. He has just one WR1 week in his entire career against Cincinnati. Where Ben Roethlisberger has given the Bengals fits has been throwing to the tight end. In the first Bengals-Steelers matchup this season, both Xavier Grimble and Jesse James scored touchdowns. In two regular season matchups in 2015, Heath Miller caught 20 passes. The extra attention paid by the Bengals to Bell and Brown opens up favorable matchups to the tight end. The risk/reward weighs in favor of rostering Green in all formats this week.
Delanie Walker (Cash and GPP; $7,700) The Chiefs have been amongst the league’s most stingy defense against tight ends but rank just 16th in DVOA against the position. Most teams target single coverage on the outside, but Tennessee should be an exception. Walker is the best pass catcher on the team and the Titans weak cast of characters at receiver do not have the speed or skill to make the Chiefs pay for pressing them outside. It is also worth noting that top linebacker Derrick Johnson was lost for the season in Week 14. While Eric Berry gets all the headlines, Johnson also deserves much of the credit for the Chiefs success limiting tight ends over the middle. Even in a mediocre-to-poor matchup, Walker makes sense priced down to such extremes. He has been too productive playing with Marcus Mariota to discount him at this price point in all formats.
If you have the money to spend, Buffalo ($7,400) is the clear top option playing as a big home favorite against the Browns. It may be tough to fit them in, so depending upon cap space remaining, Kansas City ($6,600), Green Bay ($6,300) and Baltimore ($6,000) each make sense as solid mid-priced options.
Buffalo (Cash and GPP; $7,400) Robert Griffin III III looked every bit as bad in Week 14 as his 12-for-28, 104 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 3 sack stat line suggests. He held the ball too long, made some horrible decisions and struggled with accuracy. He now heads on the road to face the Bills in a game that Vegas projects just 15.5 point from the Browns. As 10-point underdogs, the Browns are likely to be playing from behind and forced to abandon the run, which should lead to plenty of opportunities for the Bills pass rush to get home and for the secondary to make plays on the ball.
Kansas City (Cash and GPP; $6,600) The Chiefs should rank near the top of the list of defensive options every single week. That’s especially true when they are playing in Arrowhead as home favorites. No secondary makes more big plays than the Chiefs and the cornerbacks have favorable matchups across the board against a mediocre Tennessee receiving corp. The Chiefs are also getting healthy along the line with run-stopper Dontari Poe back to clog the middle and Justin Houston causing havoc off the edge. Tyreek Hill is a threat to score every time he touches the ball and brings real touchdown upside as a return man. The Chiefs are an especially attractive option in GPPs. Kansas City will come with low ownership but has arguably the best chance to score a DST touchdown on the slate.