Happy Thanksgiving! Three-game slates are a different beast because (obviously) the pool of viable plays is so small. That results in high concentration of ownership for two reasons: The best raw-production plays are so obvious and the gap between those plays and the second-best options is massive. For example, last week you could at least make a reasonable argument that Russell Wilson was a better play than Kirk Cousins or that LeSean McCoy was better than DeMarco Murray. But on a three-game slate, there isn’t much to pivot to – especially if Andrew Luck’s concussion forces Scott Tolzien to start. So instead of thinking about GPP lineups in terms of players, we need to think more about lineup construction and correlation.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings Thanksgiving Day slate only, aka the three Thursday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Le’Veon Bell’s Outrageous Usage
I discussed Bell in Leverage last week, but it’s impossible to talk about this slate without hitting on him again. Bell is being used a way so incredibly unique, I can’t recall anything like it. Since coming off suspension seven games ago, he’s playing on 96.2 percent of the snaps and averaging 18.2 carries plus 7.5 catches on 9.2 targets per game. Bell is obviously the goal-line plus pass-down back. That kind of usage makes it almost impossible for him to fail on a weekly basis, even as his DraftKings price surges to $9,000. Just because a player is expensive doesn’t mean he’s overpriced. As for this week’s matchup, it’s as good as last week’s against Cleveland. The Colts came into last week dead last DVOA against the run and are 28th in yards per carry allowed.
2. Pierre Garcon’s Rising Role
The Redskins have finally figured out how to use the talents of Pierre Garcon, who has played his best football of the season over the last few games. His average depth of target (aDOT) on the season is a low 10.2 yards, but that’s been bumped up to 11.6 in Week 11 and 13.1 in Week 10. Garcon has played on at least 75 percent of the snaps in five straight weeks and is averaging 8.0 targets during that span – even though DeSean Jackson was active for four of them. Now comes a spot against a Dallas defense playing without starting CB Mo Claiborne (groin) and starting SS Barry Church (arm). Garcon is $1,900 cheaper than Jamison Crowder even though Crowder sunk to 57.6 percent of the snaps last week and has only totaled nine targets over the last two weeks. DeSean Jackson is a strong play at $4,800 assuming his shoulder is fine, but Garcon isn’t far behind at $3,900.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Stefon Diggs Against Quandre Diggs
Last week, Diggs had to deal with dominant CB Patrick Peterson, PFF’s No. 10 coverage CB who trailed the Vikings’ slot man on 75 percent of his routes. The Cardinals also came into Week 11 with the No. 3 overall pass defense DVOA. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Diggs was held to just 9.7 DK points. This week’s matchup will be much more fruitful as Diggs runs routes at Lions slot CB Quandre Diggs (no relation), who is PFF’s No. 107 coverage CB among 119 qualifiers. The Lions came into Week 11 with the league’s worst pass defense DVOA. Given the state of the Vikings’ injury-ravaged offensive line, the no-brainer gameplan is to get the ball out quickly to Diggs and let him serve as an extension of a broken run game. There’s a floor of 6-8 catches here in a very plus matchup, which is massive given DraftKings PPR scoring. It’s an easy bounce-back spot for Diggs.
Editor’s Note: Stefon Diggs is on the Minnesota injury report, and Head Coach Mike Zimmer stated he’s unsure if Diggs will be able to play Thursday. Be sure to check his status before the game on Thanksgiving Day.
2. Theo Riddick Against a Softening Vikings Defense
We’ve seen the Vikings defense get exposed a bit over the last few weeks. David Johnson rung up 160 yards with two TDs last week, Rob Kelley went 22-97-0 in Week 10, Theo Riddick netted 14-70-0 in Week 9 and Jordan Howard went nuts for 202 total yards and a TD in Week 8. The Vikings have sunk to 18th in yards per carry allowed, are a middling 16th in fantasy points allowed to RBs and have the second-worst opponent plus/minus vs. RBs on the slate (only PIT is worse, via Fantasy Labs). So it’s not as imposing of a matchup as it seems for Riddick, who has at least 10 carries in 6-of-8 games this year and at least four catches in 7-of-8.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones
As noted by Peter Jennings on the Thanksgiving Edition of The Edge podcast, Marvin Jones’ price has fallen spectacularly. He was $7,600 in Week 5, $6,600 in Week 8 and $5,000 in Week 11. Now it’s gone even further as he’s $4,100 for Thursday’s game against the Vikings. Yes, it’s a very difficult matchup as the Vikes’ strength is in their pass defense where they’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts. But that’s why pairing Stafford with Jones will be relatively lightly owned, even on a three-game slate. Jones is still playing 93.6 percent of the snaps over the last four game and ranks third on the Lions in red-zone targets with 10. Only Anquan Boldin (11) and Theo Riddick (11) have more red-zone targets on the team.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Andrew Luck (if cleared), Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, Theo Riddick, Frank Gore, Rob Kelley
WR: Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton (if Andrew Luck plays), Donte Moncrief (if Andrew Luck plays), Stefon Diggs (UPDATED: If he plays), Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Eli Rogers, Marvin Jones
TE: Jordan Reed, Eric Ebron, Jason Witten, Kyle Rudolph
D: Steelers, Lions, Vikings
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is AdamLevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.