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Daily Fantasy Football Strategy: Week 16 DraftKings Breakdown

Below is a breakdown of Sunday’s Week 16 NFL contests on DraftKings along with player rankings. Keep in mind that price has a huge impact on a player’s ranking.


  1. Blake Bortles – $6,500 – Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. Ben Roethlisberger – $6,800 – Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Cam Newton – $7,500 – Carolina Panthers
  4. Alex Smith – $5,100 – Kansas City Chiefs

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Blake Bortles, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton were the three highest owned quarterbacks in the Thursday contests over on Fanduel.* Cam was bit lower owned than the other two, so perhaps you can pay up to be contrarian with him, although the difference in ownership percentage wasn’t that large. That said, Cam has the most upside despite having the toughest (aka “least best”) matchup, so I do prefer him in tournaments given that he’s not complete chalk.

*Check out more Thursday ownership percentages from Moxyball.

Bortles and Roethlisberger have sweet, sweet matchups and make plenty of sense as cash game plays. Bortles will face the Saints who rank dead last in both 4for4.com’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) and Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. Roethlisberger will face the Ravens who rank 22nd in aFPA and 29th in pass DVOA.** The matchup may also be better for Bortles in that the Saints may be able to hang with the Jags a bit better than the Ravens hang with Pittsburgh (assuming Drew Brees plays). So put me on the Bortles side of this tossup. But were I to make the case for Big Ben, my favorite thing about him is that I like the value on his receivers a bit better.

**Cam will face the Falcons who rank ninth in aFPA but 23rd in pass DVOA.

If you’re looking to be contrarian and Cam doesn’t quite fit that description for you, I suppose I’d consider Alex Smith who was almost unowned in Thursday contests. Were this post including the Saturday slate, I’d have Kirk Cousins in that role. But for the Sunday-Monday slate, Smith strikes me as the best option despite a historical lack of upside.

Smith will face the Browns who rank 28th in both aFPA and DVOA. Though to be fair, if I’m knocking Roethlisberger a bit for Baltimore’s potential inability to keep that game close, I have to make the same knock on Smith because both Pittsburgh and Kansas City are about 10 point favorites. That said, there’s a price difference between the two that doesn’t necessarily require Smith to be throwing deep into the game to provide plenty of value.

Running Back

  1. David Johnson – $5,800 – Arizona Cardinals
  2. Denard Robinson – $5,400 – Jacksonville Jaguars
  3. Doug Martin – $6,600 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Adrian Peterson – $7,300 – Minnesota Vikings
  5. Karlos Williams – $4,500 – Buffalo Bills
  6. James White – $4,700 – New England Patriots
  7. Frank Gore – $4,000 – Indianapolis Colts

The chalk at running back this week is David Johnson as he was the highest owned back on Thursday being owned by a little more than a third of teams. But he’s got damn good reason to be so highly owned. He’s been effective in every game as a starter and absolutely went off last week. Plus, his price still hasn’t totally caught up to his production, so it’s little surprise he was the most popular back of the week on Thursday.

The case against Johnson in tournaments is simply the contrarian angle. How you handle Johnson in that format is more a matter of personal preference. If I were to try and make the case against him in cash games, I supposed I’d point out his matchup with Green Bay who ranks fifth in aFPA against backs in PPR leagues. They also rank sixth against running backs as receivers in DVOA. But Johnson has done most of his damage on the ground, and the Packers rank 18th in run DVOA, so the matchup may not be all that bad. Fade him at your own peril.

The other chalk backs in this slate are DeAngelo Williams and Charcandrick West. As you can see from the discussion of quarterbacks above, I’m hitching my wagon to the Pittsburgh and Kansas City passing games, though, again, that may not be super wise considering the spread on those games. But with West the presumed return of Spencer Ware to some role in the offense is a deterrent. And Williams will be facing the Ravens who rank third in aFPA and ninth in run DVOA. If you’re interested in being contrarian, Williams and West are guys to fade.

The next tier of Thursday ownership at this position brings three guys I like: Doug Martin, James White and Karlos Williams. Martin has such a good matchup against the Bears who rank 27th in aFPA and dead last in run DVOA. He’s flashed serious upside in the past and could deliver it again in this matchup. He is overpriced, but you can overpay in tournaments for upside potential when it’s not a chalk play.

Williams also has a good matchup against the Cowboys who rank 23rd in aFPA and 27th in run DVOA. Williams could have the same problem Charcandrick is potentially going to have with Spencer Ware as Mike Gillislee should see the work for the Bills. But at a lower price tag, splitting some touches wouldn’t hurt Williams as much as West.

As for White, his matchup against the Jets seems bad as they rank 12th in aFPA and first in run DVOA, but White does almost all of his damage through the air. The Jets rank 16th in DVOA against backs as receivers, so the matchup probably isn’t as bad for White as it is for New England’s other backs.

Slipping a bit further down the ownership percentage list you’ll find Denard Robinson and Adrian Peterson. Denard practiced fully towards the end of the week, and T.J. Yeldon is doubtful, so Robinson will have the opportunity to take advantage of the Saints who rank 32nd in aFPA, 29th in run DVOA and 31st in DVOA against backs as receivers. He could stand to be a hair cheaper given he’s been a reserve all year long, but he’s still cheap enough to be a fairly easy value.

As for Peterson, this is another spot where you can overpay to be contrarian. Peterson’s ownership rate on Thursday came in under five percent, presumably in some part due to an injury that knocked him out early last week. But he has a good matchup against the Giants who are below average in both aFPA and run DVOA. If it’s upside you seek, Peterson has more of it than almost any other back, and if he hits, too few will likely reap the rewards.

Need to go as cheap as possible? Frank Gore has a great matchup against the Dolphins who rank 31st in aFPA and 22nd in run DVOA. But Gore has little upside as he has cracked 20 points (actually, 19.9) in the PPR format just twice this season. But he was virtually unowned on Thursday, the matchup is great, he’s cheap, and he’ll get his 15-18 touches.

Wide Receiver

  1. Antonio Brown – $9,300 – Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Jarvis Landry – $6,400 – Miami Dolphins
  3. Martavis Bryant – $5,600 – Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Jeremy Maclin – $6,000 – Kansas City Chiefs
  5. Allen Hurns – $5,300 – Jacksonville Jaguars
  6. Kamar Aiken – $5,400 – Baltimore Ravens
  7. Reuben Randle – $3,500 – New York Giants
  8. Anquan Boldin – $3,700 – San Francisco 49ers
  9. Allen Robinson – $7,500 – Jacksonville Jaguars

As alluded to earlier, these receiver rankings are the best argument for Roethlisberger over Bortles in cash games. Despite being easily the most expensive receiver of the slate, Antonio Brown still projects to be a value somewhat easily. He and Martavis Bryant will face the Ravens who rank 27th in aFPA against receivers in PPR leagues. About the only reason not to roster them is that a) you’re rostering one and don’t want to roster the other, or b) you don’t want to roster Brown in tournaments because he’s going to be heavily owned. His ownership was over 40 percent in Thursday contests.

Other guys whose QBs were discussed above are Jeremy Maclin, Allen Hurns, and Allen Robinson. Maclin has come to life recently with 31 receptions in his last four games along with 373 yards and four scores. He’ll face the Browns who rank 30th in aFPA and 28th in pass DVOA. If you decide to go with Smith in tournaments, Maclin is obviously to be stacked with him. But even if you don’t go with Smith, Maclin is an option in either cash games or tournaments.

Choosing between Hurns and Robinson in cash is a bit of a tough call, and it should probably be something the rest of your roster construction dictates. Because if you actively choose to go Robinson over Hurns or vice-versa, the price difference is obviously going to determine how the rest of your roster shapes up. Shape up the rest of the roster and let that decide between Robinson and Hurns for you.

In tournaments, Hurns makes more sense. Robinson was the second most popular receiver on Thursday while Hurns was virtually unowned. Some of that has to do with Hurns’ health not being certain until a full practice on Friday, but it’s still likely that Robinson is much more highly owned. Plus, in his weekly breakdown of WR/CB matchups, PFF’s Mike Clay thinks the Jags who line up inside have the best chance to take advantage of New Orleans’ porous defense, and Hurns is inside more than Robinson.

Aside from Hurns, the receivers discussed so far were all among the five most popular receivers in Thursday contests. Moving down the ownership list a bit to the mid-single digits you’ll find Kamar Aiken and Reuben Randle. Randle was owned a bit more on Thursday and could see his ownership rate creep a bit higher with Odell Beckham Jr.’s suspension upheld. Randle has a mediocre matchup with the Vikings who rank 15th in aFPA and 14th in pass DVOA. But an increase in volume should be coming his way.

Aiken has a much better matchup against the Steelers who rank 32nd in aFPA and 27th in DVOA against #1 receivers. Despite not posting a really big game until last week, Aiken has been a steady producer for seven games now. Plus, all that game flow concern about the Pittsburgh passing game would work directly in Aiken’s favor if it comes to pass.

Moving on to the very contrarian options we’ve got Jarvis Landry and Anquan Boldin, who were owned in the low-single digits on Thursday. Boldin is really just a salary relief option, but Landry is a more legitimate option. The Miami receiver hasn’t scored in three weeks, but he does have 19 reception in his last two games, so he’s got a nice high floor in the PPR format. He’ll face Indy which is a middling matchup for opposing passing games as a whole. But Landry individually has an above average matchup working out of the slot and presumably avoiding Vontae Davis almost completely.

Tight End

  1. Julius Thomas – $5,100 – Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. Will Tye – $3,500 – New York Giants
  3. Greg Olsen – $7,000 – Carolina Panthers
  4. Ben Watson – $5,300 – New Orleans Saints

All four tight ends ranked here have solid matchups this week, but Julius Thomas and Will Tye have the combination of a good matchup and a reasonable price tag. Thomas faces the Saints who rank 32nd in aFPA against tight ends in PPR leagues and 32nd in DVOA against tight ends. Plus, like Hurns, Thomas lines up on the inside, which is where the Saints struggle the most. The only knock on Thomas is that he and Olsen were the chalkiest plays on Thursday with ownership rates just north of 10 percent, though that’s not a prohibitive level of ownership.

Tye will face the Vikes who rank 16th in aFPA but 26th in DVOA against tight ends. Like Randle, Tye should benefit from an increase in volume with OBJ out for the week. Tye was only owned in about five percent of leagues, so he’s an option in all formats. His salary relief makes him quite attractive this week.

Greg Olsen is probably too popular and too expensive to be used as anything other than a Cam stack, but if you’d really like to roster Cam, Olsen is the best stack option on that team. As for Ben Watson, he would be the most contrarian option of the four. He also has a great matchup against the Jags who rank 27th in aFPA and 28th in DVOA against tight ends.


  1. Kansas City Chiefs – $4,200
  2. Carolina Panthers – $3,700
  3. Denver Broncos – $3,400
  4. Miami Dolphins – $2,700
  5. Tennessee Titans – $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 Chiefs as they were the most highly owned defense on Thursday. The Panthers were the fourth most highly owned defense, but their ownership rate was noticeably lower than that of Kansas City’s.


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