2014 Fantasy Football: Week 17 Daily Fantasy Football Strategy
Below I’ve got my favorite value plays and my favorite expensive plays of the week at each position for Sunday’s contests on DraftKings. At the bottom of the post I have a chart where all those names are put together in one spot for you, and they’re ranked in the order in which I would prefer to roster them taking into account both price and expected production. Good luck this week.
Value Plays (Priced below $7,500)
Last week was a disaster for stud quarterbacks as Andrew Luck put up a bagel, and Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees disappointed finishing outside the top 12 at the position. That’s not the reason I’m leaning toward a couple of value plays at quarterback this week, but it does remind me why I like to go cheap at the position if value appears to be available. In contrast, the two expensive running backs and two expensive receivers that were recommended in this post last week put up DraftKings point totals of 34.8, 27.8, 26.3 and 17.4 points with a combined return of $290 per fantasy point. To give that some context, if you could get that return from your whole lineup, you’d score 172.4 points for the week, which is obviously great. The top options at the other position are just safer, in large part thanks to the PPR scoring system on DraftKings.
But it only makes sense to save your money at quarterback and spend elsewhere if there is a cheap, high floor option with upside. This week we have a couple of those options.
Teddy Bridgewater (vs. CHI, $5,900) has quietly been one of the most consistent quarterbacks of the last five weeks with five straight games of 14+ fantasy points and an average of 16.6 fantasy points per game in that span. And he hasn’t exactly had an easy schedule recently. According to 4for4.com’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA), the defenses he has faced rank as the 14th, 12th, 11th, 7th and 6th least fantasy friendly teams to opposing quarterbacks. In case you’re slow, that means he hasn’t had an above average matchup in this stretch of consistency. But this week he faces a Chicago team that is the second most fantasy friendly matchup for QBs according to aFPA. And according to Football Outsiders (FO) and ProFootballFocus.com (PFF), Chicago is one of the five worst pass defense in the league. We can safely set the floor at his 16-17 point average from the last five weeks and reasonably expect quite a bit of upside from there.
Josh McCown (vs. NO, $5,200) will face the Saints who are the 8th, 6th and 2nd best matchup for QBs per aFPA, FO and PFF, respectively. I’d be more into McCown if a) Bridgewater wasn’t such a good option and b) Tampa Bay wasn’t guaranteed the right to select Marcus Mariota in next year’s draft with a loss. Bridgewater shold be cheap enough that you don’t have to save $700 with McCown. But if you find yourself with a lineup you love that only leaves you with enough money for a near-minimum price QB, I’m good with McCown.
Studs (Priced above $7,500)
If you’re making just one lineup this week, I’d advise you take your chances with Bridgewater. But if you’re making multiple lineups, there are some pricey quarterbacks with a good chance not to disappoint this week.
Tony Romo (at WAS, $8,000) has exorcised the December demons that were only a narrative to begin with by scoring at least 20 fantasy points in each of his three games this month. Admittedly, he’s had some great matchups this month, but he gets another one this week against Washington who has the worst pass defense in the league per FO and PFF and who is the third best matchup for a QB per aFPA. Although it’s unlikely that St. Louis beats Seattle and San Francisco beats Arizona, if both of those things happen, then the Cowboys will get a first round bye with a win. Dallas plays at 1:00 ET, but Seattle and Arizona both play in the late afternoon games, so Dallas will not be eliminated from a bye until after they play. As a result, there should be no concerns about them resting starters.
On a per-game and per-drop back basis per PFF, the two best quarterbacks from Week 13 on have been Russell Wilson (vs. STL, $7,500) and Cam Newton (at ATL, $7,500). Both of their teams have everything to play for with Seattle clinching at least a first round bye with a win, and Carolina winning its division and making the playoffs with a win. There are absolutely no Week 17 usage concerns with these two.
Wilson has a matchup against St. Louis that is considered mid-pack across the board for quarterbacks. But his rushing production this year gives him a ton of upside in GPPs despite the matchup. He easily leads all QBs in rushing production this year with 842 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. As only the eighth most expensive quarterback of the day, you can’t rule him out as a potentially huge value. Again, the matchup isn’t great, so maybe he’s not a cash game play this week. But throw him in some tournament lineups.
Speaking of running the ball, Newton is back to producing on the ground as he has 12 carries and a rushing touchdown in each of his last two games. He looked fine last week in his return from injury after a car wreck and apparently came out of the game healthy. Cam will face Atlanta who has the third worst pass defense in the league per FO and PFF, although aFPA only has Atlanta as a mediocre matchup for QBs, probably due in part to the fact that Atlanta is so bad against the run. But as mentioned, Cam can exploit that rushing weakness.
Studs (Priced above $7,000)
Last week we discussed the absurdity of C.J. Anderson (vs. OAK, $7,000) not being one of the five most expensive running backs given his healthy workload and great matchup against Cincinnati. Anderson delivered with 138 yards from scrimmage, a touchdown and a PPR-friendly eight catches. He played 63 of 69 snaps last week, so there is no reason to be worried that his workload might diminish this week, and his matchup against Oakland is pretty damn good, even if not quite as good as it was against Cincy. Oakland is the third best matchup for backs in PPR leagues per aFPA . To be fair, both FO and PFF have the Raiders with a slightly above average run defense, but they have allowed a team’s running backs to total 30 or more fantasy points five times this year in standard leagues. It’s another good matchup and his price is just $100 higher than it was last week and still not among the five highest salaries for running backs. Deploy accordingly.
Going back to the Cincinnati run defense, they have to face the guy who hung 50.5 DK PPR points on them in Week 14, Le’Veon Bell (vs. CIN, $9,500). Bell put up another 28.9 PPR points the following week, which pushed his price up to $9,800 last week against Kansas City. Here’s what I wrote about Bell last week:
Let others try to keep riding Bell’s wave, hope he tanks and sees his price fall for another matchup with Cincinnati in Week 17.
Given the lofty standards he has set for himself, he tanked with just 14.2 PPR points last week. As a result, his salary is down to a still high, but slightly more palatable $9,500. The Steelers have clinched a playoff spot, but a win gets them a home game in Round 1 and a loss gets them a road game. Guaranteeing a healthy Le’Veon Bell in the playoffs by resting him might be more important than where they play their first round playoff game, but I highly doubt Mike Tomlin and Co. see it that way, so expect Bell to get a full compliment of touches against the team that is far and away the best matchup for a running back per aFPA.
Value Plays (Priced below $7,000)
Matt Asiata (vs. CHI, $5,000) isn’t an efficient running back. Of the 35 backs with at least 125 carries this season, Asiata is tied for the second lowest yards-per-carry mark (3.3). But he is a super efficient back when it comes to scoring fantasy points. Among those same 35 backs, Asiata is tied for fifth in fantasy points per opportunity (carries + pass routes) in PPR leagues per PFF (0.50). When he gets the work, the dude scores fantasy points. He played roughly three-quarters of the available snaps last week against Miami who is the 12th best matchup for RBs in PPR leagues per aFPA. But this week he’ll face Chicago who is the fourth best matchup for RBs. Other than this potentially being the Bridgewater show, I see no reason why he won’t continue contributing at a high level. I wouldn’t stack him and Bridgewater, but any lineup without Bridgewater should probably have Asiata in it.
Per FO and PFF Dallas has a below average run defense, and per aFPA the Cowboys are the sixth best matchup for running backs. If you’re only looking for one back in this price range, I prefer Asiata. But if you want to go with Romo, Dez (more on him later) and some other expensive pass catchers, Asiata and Morris would be a nice, cheap RB duo.
If you’re looking for lightning in a bottle, the Tampa Bay backfield is interesting. They’ve got a great matchup against New Orleans who is a bottom 10 run defense by any metric. Last week Doug Martin got 10 touches as opposed to seven for Charles Sims (vs. NO, $3,000), but Sims played 63% of the snaps per 4for4, and Martin only turned his 10 carries into 17 yards. Bucs coach Lovie Smith has been quoted this week as saying they will be getting some different guys in the mix this week, and he specifically mentioned Sims’ name. I won’t be going this cheap at running back, but if you’re so inclined, Sims is your guy.
Studs (Priced above $8,000)
This is probably the hardest section of this post to write this week because there is a fair bit of inconsistency between my projections and projected values of the top receivers and that of some other sites I look at like 4for4 and PFF. The guy I trust the most is Odell Beckham Jr. (vs. PHI, $9,600), but as he continues to put up big weeks his price continues to climb. If you can fit him into a lineup, go for it. But I think his price tag is going to make it difficult to fill out a solid roster. For that reason he’s more of a GPP play than a cash game play. However, he’ll either be seeing a lot of Bradley Fletcher, who has been torched by Dez and DeSean Jackson the last two weeks, or someone that the Eagles previously thought was worse than Fletcher. Either way, it’s a great matchup for arguably the best receiver in football right now.
The expensive receiver I like most this week is Dez Bryant (at WAS, $8,500). Washington has the worst pass defense in the league according to both FO and PFF, and they are the ninth best matchup for receivers per aFPA. And the one-on-one matchup for Bryant is about as good as it can be. The guy he’ll likely see the most of in coverage is David Amerson who is tied for the worst PFF coverage grade among receivers who line up primarily on the right side of the field. Last week Amerson spent most of his time covering Riley Cooper and allowed him to catch five balls for 53 yards and two touchdowns. The week prior he was in coverage on one of Beckham’s three touchdown receptions, even though he spent most of the day covering Reuben Randle. There’s a chance Dez could throw up a turkey in this matchup. XXX
Past that it’s hard to pick another stud receiver. I think Le’Veon is the play for the Steelers, so I don’t love Antonio Brown. The same can be said of Denver and Anderson, making Demaryius Thomas not overly attractive. Jordy Nelson will face a tough Lions defense and will have a below average one-on-one matchup with Darius Slay. Calvin Johnson has an average matchup against Green Bay, and I might be interested if he had a lower price tag. But I can’t justify spending more on Megatron than Dez this week. And Julio Jones has the third worst matchup for a receiver per aFPA against Carolina.
The best matchup for receivers per aFPA is Pittsburgh, so I’m in on A.J. Green (at PIT, $8,300) if we can get confirmation that he’s healthy enough to be effective. But if you watched the Monday night game against Denver, you know it’s going to be hard to trust Green this week. He was obviously in a lot of pain and was completely ineffecitve as a result.
Value Plays (Priced under $8,000)
As mentioned earlier, all Tampa has to do is lose and Marcus Mariota is a Buccaneer come April, but I can’t help writing up a third Tampa Bay player this week. Mike Evans (vs. NO, $6,100) has been a monster since Tampa’s bye week. From Week 8 on, Evans ranks sixth in fantasy points per snap played in PPR leagues per PFF. Per aFPA he has an average matchup against New Orleans, but FO and PFF have the Saints rated as the sixth and second worst pass defense in the league, respectively. And Evans has the 12th best individual matchup of the day per PFF against Keenan Lewis. As I said before, you don’t have to use McCown. But if you do, you have to stack him with Evans. And you don’t have to use McCown to use Evans.
Kelvin Benjamin (at ATL, $6,200) could also have a favorable individual matchup depending on how Atlanta deploys Desmond Trufant. I went back and read some recaps of the first Atlanta-Carolina game to see if he shadowed Benjamin, and some stories I read used the words ‘Benjamin,’ ‘Trufant’ and ‘shadowing’ in the same sentence. But the numbers don’t totally bear out that Trufant follows one guy around the field. He has lined up on the left side of the alignment 76% of the time this year per PFF, although that’s not weighted for the last five weeks or so when the Falcons have been without their other starting corner, Robert Alford. Without Alford the Falcons have had a bit of a revolving door on the other side of the field, which is where Benjamin lines up most of the time. The guy that has spent the most time across from Trufant is Robert McClain, and he has a brutal PFF coverage grade of 92 (1-to-100) scale. If Trufant doesn’t follow Benjamin around, Kelvin could do some serious damage. But the possibility that he sees too much Trufant keeps him from being a must-play.
If you use Bridgewater, you can probably stack him with either Charles Johnson (vs. CHI, $4,600) or Greg Jennings (vs. CHI, 4,300). Johnson has led Minnesota receivers in targets for three straight weeks and in five of their last six games. As a result, he leads Minnesota receivers in receptions, yardage and fantasy points over that span despite Greg Jennings having four touchdowns to Johnson’s two. My projections and projected values have both Johnson and Jennings as elite values with Johnson a slightly better value. PFF prefers Johnson, but FO prefers Jennings. Choosing one or the other is difficult. I plan on having more than one Bridgewater lineup, so I’ll mix it up.
Choosing a tight end is exceedingly simple this week. If you have money to burn, feel free to go with Jimmy Graham (at TB, $6,700). Graham got back on track with 53 yards and a score last week, but he probably should have had a second touchdown on a play that looked to be incorrectly ruled a fumble at the goal line. His matchup with Tampa is slightly above average, but matchups don’t have to be great for Graham to do damage.
If you don’t have money to spend on tight end (and I would recommend you go cheap at the position), Mychal Rivera (at DEN, $3,300) is a great option. He grades out as the top value at tight end by a wide margin according to both 4for4 and PFF. He’ll face Denver who is the sixth best matchup for a tight end per aFPA. Rivera damn near got shut out last week with just one catch for five yards, but that was against Buffalo who is the toughest matchup for tight ends per aFPA. Prior to the Buffalo game, Rivera had seven receptions in two consecutive games and turned those seven catches into 100+ yards and a score in one of those games. He has that kind of upside in this matchup, and it’s not unreasonable to set his floor at what he did the last time these two teams played: six catches for 64 yards and a score.
I’ll keep this short since we’re approaching 3,000 words (all for just $1!).
Your plays of the week are Seattle (vs. STL, $3,600) and Houston (vs. JAC, $3,200). Those teams are 1-2 in projected points at the position per 4for4 and also 1-2 in terms of cost per projected point. I’ll lean towards Houston a) because they’re $400 cheaper and b) because I like their matchup with Jacksonville slightly more than Seattle’s with St. Louis. Both teams have a lot to play for, so I expect them to go full bore.
If you need to go cheaper, you could go with Dallas (at WAS, $2,800) or Tampa Bay (vs. NO, $2,200), but I don’t really recommend it.