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Daily Fantasy Football Strategy: Week 12 DraftKings Breakdown

Below is a breakdown of Sunday’s Week 12 NFL contests on DraftKings along with player rankings. Keep in mind that price has a huge impact on a player’s ranking.

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  1. Carson Palmer – $7,100 – Arizona Cardinals
  2. Russell Wilson – $6,000 – Seattle Seahawks
  3. Brian Hoyer – $5,000 – Houston Texans
  4. Blake Bortles – $5,900 – Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Drew Brees – $7,300 – New Orleans Saints

Your safe matchups at quarterback belong to Carson Palmer and Brian Hoyer. Palmer will face San Francisco who ranks 29th in 4for4.com’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) and 31st in passing defense DVOA. Hoyer will face New Orleans who ranks dead last in both aFPA and pass DVOA. Thanks to those great matchups, Palmer and Hoyer were the most highly owned quarterbacks in the Thursday contests on FanDuel (see more ownership percentages here). For that reason, they should be faded in tournaments. In cash games, I prefer Palmer. Anytime the masses are so heavily on an unconventional play like Hoyer, I start to get nervous. Palmer isn’t under-priced, but he’s not over-priced either. He’s also good, unlike Hoyer, and his matchup is plenty good enough even if not the best like Hoyer’s.

The other three guys in the rankings are your contrarian options at the position. Blake Bortles and Drew Brees were owned in about five or six percent of Thursday contests, so they’re definitely not chalk. They were in a group of QBs who were the 4-7 most highly owned quarterbacks, but they were owned by few enough to be tournament considerations. Bortles probably represents the safer play of the two given that he’s $1,400 cheaper and has a better matchup against the Chargers who rank 19th in aFPA and 28th in pass DVOA. Brees might weirdly be a contrarian way to get exposure to Hoyer. If you like Hoyer in that one, game flow would likely set up in Brees’ favor, and fewer owners are likely to roster Brees.

If you really want to be contrarian, Russell Wilson was only owned in about one percent of Thursday contests and is probably too cheap. After starting the season priced at $7,800, Wilson has seen his price tag decline slowly to the point where it is now around $6,000. He’s only the tenth most expensive quarterback playing this weekend, but I have him ranked fifth among those quarterbacks. A guy with value who is likely to be so lightly owned is really tough for me to pass up in tournaments.

Thomas Rawls is getting a lot of love with Marshawn Lynch out, as evidenced by Rawls easily being the most highly owned running back in Thursday contests. But let’s not overlook the fact that Wilson put up 25.4 fantasy points last week with Lynch out. Fading Rawls and going with Wilson is a nice contrarian play this weekend. As for the matchup, Seattle will face Pittsburgh who ranks 11th in aFPA, 16th in pass DVOA and 13th in weighted total defense DVOA. It’s not a great matchup, but it’s not prohibitve.

Running Back

  1. Mark Ingram – $6,400 – New Orleans Saints
  2. T.J. Yeldon – $5,800 – Jacksonville Jaguars
  3. Javorius Allen – $4,600 – Baltimore Ravens
  4. Adrian Peterson – $7,300 – Minnesota Vikings
  5. Giovani Bernard – $4,500 – Cincinnati Bengals
  6. LeSean McCoy – $5,300 – Buffalo Bills
  7. Thomas Rawls – $4,500 – Seattle Seahawks
  8. Shaun Draughn – $3,800 – San Francisco 49ers

Woof. Running back is rough right now. Without Lynch and Devonta Freeman in action this week, the top end running back talent is getting even thinner. And even though DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden didn’t do a whole lot of damage on Thursday, they’re also out of the player pool. Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley are about the only two stud names left, but they’re both a bit rich for my blood, especially Gurley considering he doesn’t have a great matchup against Cincinnati. But AD’s matchup with Atlanta is fine as the Falcons ranks 28th in aFPA against backs in PPR leagues, 14th in run DVOA and 31st in DVOA against running backs as receivers. Peterson was the fifth or sixth most owned back in Thursday contests, so he’s not so chalky that you have to avoid him in tournaments, though he’s probably more suited to cash game use. I could say pretty much the same about LeSean McCoy who was owned by about the same number of teams on Thursday, though McCoy’s matchup is not as good.

The backs with safe matchups are the top three ranked backs. Mark Ingram will face the Texans who rank 23rd in aFPA and 19th in run DVOA, T.J. Yeldon will face the Chargers who rank 31st in aFPA and 32nd in run DVOA, and Javorius Allen will face the Browns who rank 24th in aFPA and 29th in DVOA. Yeldon and Allen are under-priced, but they were also the third and fourth most owned running backs in Thursday contests. Their matchups work for cash games, but I might look elsewhere in tournaments. And I’d start by overpaying to be contrarian with Ingram. I think Ingram is over-priced but not grossly so, so I’ll pay a little extra in tournaments to roster a guy who was owned in around five percent of Thursday contests and wasn’t one of the ten most highly owned backs.

As for Rawls, the masses are all over him. He was owned by almost a third of the players in the Thursday contests. He has been very effective, in part because he’s running behind a good offensive line, and he’s still cheap, so I get the appeal. But you can obviously make the case for fading him in tournaments given his ownership levels. I also think you can make the case for fading him in cash with a tough matchup against Pittsburgh who ranks second in aFPA and sixth in run DVOA.

If you really want to get contrarian, Giovani Bernard and Shaun Draughn were almost un-owned in Thursday contests. People must be off Gio because Jeremy Hill scored twice last week and because of what could be viewed as a tough matchup against the Rams who rank third in run DVOA. But the matchup may not be as bad for Gio who does a fair bit of his damage in the passing game. The Rams rank 27th in aFPA against backs in PPR leagues and rank 16th in DVOA against running backs as receivers. Gio caught eight passes for 128 yards last week, so don’t sleep on him. As for Draughn, he’s the cheapest guy I can recommend this week. He has received exactly 20 touches in each of his two games with San Francisco (12 receptions), so the volume should be there in a decent matchup with Arizona who ranks 18th in aFPA, seventh in run DVOA and 19th in DVOA against running backs as receivers.

Wide Receiver

  1. Julio Jones – $9,400 – Atlanta Falcons
  2. Larry Fitzgerald – $7,400 – Arizona Cardinals
  3. DeAndre Hopkins – $9,100 – Houston Texans
  4. Antonio Brown – $8,700 – Pittsburgh Steelers
  5. Stevie Johnson – $4,500 – San Diego Chargers
  6. Eric Decker – $5,800 – New York Jets
  7. Doug Baldwin – $3,800 – Seattle Seahawks
  8. Jeremy Maclin – $4,700 – Kansas City Chiefs
  9. Allen Robinson – $7,300 – Jacksonville Jaguars

This is the position where you spend your money this week. The value options are few and far between and do not inspire a ton of confidence. We’ve just covered quite a few cheap options at QB and RB, so spend on your receivers. That spending should start with the most expensive guy at the position, Julio Jones. On a team level, Jones’ opponent, the Vikings, are a middle-of-the-road matchup for opposing pass offenses. The Vikes rank 16th in aFPA against receivers in PPR leagues and 15th in pass DVOA. But on an individual level, the matchup looks much better for Jones. According to ProFootballFocus’ WR/CB matchup chart ($), Jones will move around the formation quite a bit, but he will probably see Xavier Rhodes the most in coverage, and Rhodes has been woeful this year. Jones is unlikely to be shadowed by one of Minny’s better corners, so he’ll certainly get his chances against Rhodes. Julio was the fifth most owned receiver in Thursday contests at around 12-13 percent, so he’s not necessarily someone so chalky that you should fade them in tournaments.

The chalk plays are DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald (along with Odell Beckham, who I’m not on this week). Hopkins was owned by almost half the teams in the Thursday contests, and I already expressed my inclination to fade Hoyer, so I’ll probably fade Hopkins as well in tournaments. I understand not being able to fade him in cash games, however. That said, I prefer Fitz to Hopkins in cash games if forced to choose. Fitz lines up in the slot a majority of the time, and that’s where San Fran’s weakest corner, Jimmie Ward, plays almost exclusively. Fitz was owned by more than a quarter of the teams on Thursday, so he is also probably someone to fade in tournaments.

Antonio Brown was owned more at Julio’s level on Thursday, so he’s a tournament option. He’s not a cash game option given how much Richard Sherman he’s likely to see, but he’s got the talent and upside to go off any week, no matter the matchup. I’m not sure I have the stones to roster him, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing so if you have some stones.

This week’s value options fall more into the contrarian group as none of the guys ranked five through eight were owned by more than seven percent of the Thursday teams. Stevie Johnson and Eric Decker had ownership rates around five or six percent, while Jeremy Maclin and Doug Baldwin were virtually un-owned. Stevie and Decker both have good matchups against Jacksonville and Miami who rank 12/30 and 23/25 in aFPA and pass DVOA. Decker probably has a slightly better individual matchup per the WR/CB chart, but with Stevie being $1,300 cheaper, he’s probably my preferred play of the two.

Baldwin is an intriguing name to me given my consideration of Wilson this week, and Baldwin’s recent performance is certainly encouraging. In his last two he has 13 receptions for 194 yards and a score. Baldwin works out of the slot the vast majority of the time, so he should see plenty of William Gay in coverage, and Gay is Pittsburgh’s worst coverage corner by a decent margin (again, according to the WR/CB chart). I quite like the Wilson/Baldwin stack in tournaments. And speaking of stacks, Allen Robinson is ranked in case you want to roll with Bortles. Robinson was fairly highly owned on Thursday, but he wasn’t one of three receivers owned by more than a quarter of teams, so he’s not totally excluded from tournament consideration.

Tight End

  1. Gary Barnidge – $4,800 – Cleveland Browns
  2. Heath Miller – $3,100 – Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Jimmy Graham – $4,800 – Seattle Seahawks

Also woof. It’s hard to recommend you pay top-end WR prices for Gronk against a good Denver defense, and Tyler Eifert is a bit pricey himself in what is an average matchup at best against St. Louis. Instead, I’m inclined to save a bit with Gary Barnidge or Heath Miller. I have Barnidge ranked third among tight ends playing this weekend, but he’s only the fifth most expensive tight end, so there is a bit of value there. He’ll face the Ravens who rank 10th in aFPA against tight ends in PPR leagues and 24th in DVOA against tight ends. He was the third most owned tight end on Thursday, so you might look elsewhere in tournaments.

Other tournament options include Heath Miller and Jimmy Graham, who were owned by less than four percent of the teams on Thursday. Graham is really listed here just as another stack option for Wilson. Miller is a more contrarian play than Graham while also being cheaper and having a better matchup. The Seahawks rank 28th in aFPA and 31st in DVOA against tight ends. At only $3,100, Miller is attractive salary relief.

The other contrarian option is Gronk who was owned in only four percent of Thursday contests. Like I said, I’m not wild about his price, but I am occasionally OK with overpaying to be contrarian. And if Denver isn’t great at one thing on defense, it might be stopping tight ends. The Broncos rank first in pass DVOA and ninth in run DVOA. They rank fifth in DVOA against #1 receivers, fifth against #2 receivers, second against ‘other’ receivers and fourth against running backs as receivers. But against tight ends they only rank 16th in DVOA. And they’re slightly outside the top 10 in aFPA at 11th. I wouldn’t call tight ends a weakness for Denver, but it might be the one thing they’re not elite at defending.


  1. Arizona Cardinals – $3,900
  2. Cincinnati Bengals – $3,000
  3. Minnesota Vikings – $2,300
  4. Indianapolis Colts – $2,000

Fill out the rest of your roster and then go as cheap as you need to with your defense. If you want to be contrarian, avoid the Cardinals. Cincinnati was fairly highly owned as well, but not so much so that they must be faded in tournaments. Minny and Indy were virtually un-owned on Thursday.


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