Welcome to fantasy football playoffs, or just another Sunday in DFS! I’ll be focusing primarily on daily fantasy prices and strategy, giving a brief introduction for each position before diving into some specific players. In season-long, you’re focusing on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean Koerner’s tiers, but in DFS, there are tons of iterations and decisions involved, with the landscape changing each week depending on pricing. Hopefully some of the DFS sleepers that I mention can also serve as waiver-wire pickups for you in season-long, but if you’re unsure, please feel free to reach out on Twitter (@cschwartz18), as always.
Note that both sites are at least half-point PPR – DraftKings (DK) is full – and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if I say Golden Tate is a good play at WR, but then Matt Stafford is ruled out, you may want to scrap Tate. It’s such a dynamic process with tons of news coming all the way until kickoff, so check Twitter and only use this as a guide, not as gospel.
Here are the QBs not part of the main slate this week: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger (on DK). Russell Wilson is facing Jacksonville while Cam Newton faces Minnesota. There aren’t very many QB1s left! One guy gets my vote as the default cash-game QB option, while I think the optimal strategy in GPPs is to let it ride with a cheap flier in a good spot.
High-End Play: Alex Smith, KC (vs. OAK)
Brady is in Tier 1 by himself this week, and Alex Smith is the best value in the tier below, being a good deal cheaper than Carson Wentz on both sites. Vegas oddsmakers think KC’s offense turned a corner with Andy Reid no longer calling plays, as they are projected for 26.5 team points. Against a defense that yields 7.7 yards per throw, that should mean some nice stats for Smith.
Sleeper: DeShone Kizer, CLE (vs. GB)
His rushing gives him a nice floor, as he’s taken off at least five times in every start, with three TDs over his last five. Against a Green Bay team that allows a bad 7.8 yards per pass, Kizer has some passing ceiling to go with that floor. Vegas projects Cleveland to score around 19 points, higher than its average of 14.7, and he’s a good value at a bargain-basement price on both sites.
Sleeper: Blaine Gabbert, ARI (vs. TEN)
Tennessee’s run defense has been elite, averaging 3.5 yards per opponent carry, and it has come on even stronger lately. As a result, teams go pass-heavy against the Titans’ more pedestrian secondary, and they’ve seen more pass attempts against than any other team. I doubt Arizona will run too much with Adrian Peterson out and Kerwynn Williams “shouldering the load,” so Gabbert should put up stats. He’s put up 200+ yards and run at least three times in each of his three starts.
Fade: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. MIN)
Russell Wilson is also in a bad spot, facing Jacksonville’s elite pass defense. Wilson isn’t a total fade for me, though – he has a knack for making magical plays against even the best defenses, and he tends to explode in poor matchups while busting in great ones. I’d definitely consider a contrarian Wilson GPP lineup. At the same price, Newton has less going for him, including the fact that Devin Funchess is banged up, and that he’s not as good as Wilson. I’m okay fading Cam this week, even with so many high-end QBs unavailable.
Welcome to Gio Week! Giovani Bernard is a must-play at RB on both sites. You probably want an RB1 type beside him, so I’ll point out my favorite two options. It’s not optimal, but pairing Bernard with a cheaper RB allows you to roster 2-3 stud WRs and/or go contrarian with an expensive QB like Wentz, so I’ll point out a couple cheap guys I like too.
High-End Play: Giovani Bernard, CIN (vs. CHI)
Joe Mixon got hurt on Monday Night Football, when DFS prices for this week were already locked in. As a result, Bernard is an RB2 (or borderline RB1 in PPR) that is priced close to the minimum. He should be in cash and GPP lineups, as he may get 20+ touches and looked great last week – his backup Brian Hill doesn’t have a single carry in his NFL career.
High-End Play: Todd Gurley, LAR (vs. PHI)
This is a smart contrarian move, as Philly’s front seven is great against the run, but Gurley may get enough volume to produce anyways. Even if we project him for around 3.8 carries, the number of touches we project leaves him as the week’s overall RB2 (behind Le’Veon Bell of course). The tough matchup lowered his price closer to that of everybody else in the tier below him, so he’s worth it.
High-End Play: Lamar Miller, HOU (vs. SF)
This one is pretty simple: San Francisco is bad against the run, and teams expose it, allowing the fourth-most yards per game on the most attempts. Houston will certainly try to win this one on the back of Miller, making him a high-floor, high-volume RB1 with a nice price.
Sleeper: Frank Gore, IND (@ BUF)
Buffalo’s defense is a sneaky D to target, actually grading out as our most favorable D for opposing RBs. Gore is a good value, especially on DK, but he’ll be even better if Tyrod Taylor is ruled out, which would probably mean shorter fields, more possession and better game script for Indy’s RB.
Sleeper: Jamaal Williams, GB (vs. CLE)
Many DFS players see Cleveland’s 3.3 yards per carry allowed and automatically fade the opposing RB. This doesn’t factor in any context – like favorable game script for the opponent (leading to occasionally predictable run calls). Green Bay with Brett Hundley at QB is favored by three points on the road, and if they win, it likely involves a good day for Williams. His ownership may be lower due to the presence of Aaron Jones, but he seems like the guy (at least for now), making him a worthy GPP play (maybe in a stack with Green Bay DST).
Fade: Jordan Howard, CHI (@ CIN)
Cincinnati is missing several key starters on defense, including Vontaze Burfict and possibly Geno Atkins, which certainly weakens its defense. The best case scenario, though, is practically priced into Howard’s salary already, and he’s just not worth it when you can roster Bernard and a better stud. His floor and ceiling are both lower due to lack of involvement in the passing game, where Tarik Cohen has re-emerged as the guy.
For the first time in a few weeks, the value appears to be at the QB and RB spots, enabling you to roster two or three stud WRs. I have two in mind and will share them with you, while also giving you some cheaper WR2 or WR3 types to consider if you roll out a different type of GPP lineup.
High-End Play: Keenan Allen, LAC (vs. WAS)
Antonio Brown is the GOAT, but he’s unavailable on DK and too pricey on FanDuel. The next three guys are all projected for about equal production, but two of them are cheaper. Allen is one of them, despite the fact that he’s on an absolute tear. He’s always been a high-floor PPR guy, but Philip Rivers has lately looked for him in the red zone, adding some huge ceiling to his game. He has four TDs over his last three games, with double digit receptions in all three (insane). He should avoid Josh Norman by moving all over the formation and into the slot, and you shouldn’t avoid putting him in your lineups.
High-End Play: A.J. Green, CIN (vs. CHI)
Green is the other top WR that is worth his price. Cincinnati may have to score more than initially anticipated, with so many injuries on the other side of the ball. They’re also missing their top two rushing options, so they may mix in more pass calls. Green is the most likely guy on DK’s main slate to catch a TD, going against a below-average Chicago pass defense (by YPA and passer rating).
Sleeper: Josh Gordon, CLE (vs. GB)
Gordon was somewhat efficient (7.7 yards per target) against Casey Hayward and the Chargers last week, but I’m more intrigued by the 11 targets. Kizer force-fed him, and if that continues against a much worse Green Bay pass D this week, he could put up a monster score. We know his upside, and I like him in GPP stacks with Kizer.
Sleeper: Marquise Goodwin, SF (@ HOU)
Houston’s pass defense is straight up bad, allowing 7.8 yards per attempt. Goodwin has shown good rapport with Jimmy Garropolo, as well as an ability to be more than just a deep threat. He has averaged six receptions for 89 yards over the last two weeks, and if that continues (now that he has a real QB), he’s a valuable PPR guy. I like him as a waiver-wire add, particularly if you are out of contention in a keeper league and can afford to roll the dice.
Fade: Robbie Anderson, NYJ (@ DEN)
He’s having a magnificent breakout season, but he still shouldn’t be the fifth-priciest WR on FD and 10th on DK. Now that his hype and salary have reached those levels, he gets a matchup against Denver’s secondary and an angry Aqib Talib back from suspension. I think it’s time to fade in cash, although his ownership levels in GPPs will surely be low at his new price, making him a “sure, why not?” type GPP play.
It’s fitting that on the week of Rob Gronkowski’s suspension, there is a new Gronk impostor at the top of the rankings. Travis Kelce is a must-play in cash, and there’s not much else to discuss.
High-End: Travis Kelce, KC (vs. OAK)
Kansas City got him involved early and often last week, as Kansas City’s new play-caller Matt Nagy looked to send a message. That should continue against an Oakland team that we grade as a top 10 team to target with opposing TEs. With the Chiefs expected to score 26.5 points as a team, there exists a Gronk-like separation between Kelce and the No. 2 TE this week.
Sleeper: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ (@ DEN)
Denver’s good corners funnel passing production to opposing TEs, and the Jets’ best red zone receiver happens to be a TE. ASJ is my favorite cheap option at TE if you want to fade Kelce, which allows you to spend up on high upside guys at other positions.
Fade: Zach Ertz, PHI (@ LAR)
He has a lot working against him this week. First of all, he’s banged up. Second, the Rams bottle up opposing TEs. He’s usually a toss-up against Kelce, but this week there’s a sizable gap between the two. This isn’t reflected in salaries, making Ertz my odd-man-out.