Allow me to be the last to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Although there are three games behind us already, there is still a 13-game slate to chew on. It’s the reverse of last week, when we had a slew of low-priced wideouts in attractive spots. This week we have at least five running backs under $5000 that make plenty of sense.
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The point of this column is to use the news, snap count, usage and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. The below refers to the Thanksgiving slate only.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Jordan Reed against the Giants’ linebackers
Many believe the Raiders or the Saints are the worst team in the NFL against tight ends. I believe it’s the Giants. They simply don’t have the personnel to defend the position, as MLB Jasper Brinkley, WLB Jonathan Casillas and SLB Devon Kennard are too slow. Here are this season’s TE lines against the Giants, starting with Week 1: Jason Witten 8-60-2, Jacob Tamme 4-77-0, Jordan Reed 6-96-0, Charles Clay 9-111-0, Garrett Celek 3-26-1, Zach Ertz 4-43-0, Jason Witten 6-73-0, Ben Watson 9-147-1, Cameron Brate 1-17-0, Rob Gronkowski 5-113-1.
On top of that, RCB Prince Amukamura (pectoral) is finally back to pair with LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and form one of the league’s better outside duos – downgrading DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in the process. The best matchup for Kirk Cousins to attack will be with his favorite target in Reed, who already averages a team-high 8.2 targets per game. A truly unique separator who gets goal-line fades and goal-line slants called for him weekly, Reed has posted double-digit DK points in 6-of-8 games this year (averaging 15.7).
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Cheap running backs ticketed for high volume
The injury drain at the running back position has reached new heights this week. Devonta Freeman (concussion), Charcandrick West (hamstring), Marshawn Lynch (sports hernia surgery) and Justin Forsett (arm) are all either out or highly questionable. It creates a situation where the backups are both cheap and project for 15-20 touches. So whereas we normally have to pay a high premium for game-flow independent running backs, this week we get to save money yet get similar usage. I won’t be afraid to use three of Tevin Coleman, Spencer Ware, Thomas Rawls and Buck Allen in my lineups.
CONTRARIAN GPP PLAYS
1. Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin or Tyler Lockett
I’m expecting somewhere around 50 percent of the Milly Maker field to be on Thomas Rawls. Risk-tolerating owners in search of a leverage play against that can look to the Seahawks’ passing game. After all, the Steelers do have a top-6 run-defense DVOA and have given up just 3.84 YPC. They’re more susceptible through the air, where they have a No. 16 pass-defense DVOA and are 22nd in yards per attempt allowed (7.5). If this turns into a Russell Wilson vs. Ben Roethlisberger shootout and Rawls gets lost in the mix, we’ve vaulted past a huge portion of the field. Wilson is going to be under 5 percent owned.
Choosing who to pair Wilson with is the hard part. Jimmy Graham has a plus matchup and will be very lightly owned as everyone is gravitates toward Jordan Reed/Delanie Walker/Gary Barnidge. Doug Baldwin has 22 targets across his last three games and is the safe play. The true “Ricky Bobby” play is explosive rookie Tyler Lockett, whose snap percentage has spiked to 76.2 and 68.8 the last two games. He’ll square off plenty with DFS MVP candidate Antwon Blake, PFF’s No. 109 CB of 111 qualifiers. Lockett is also the Seahawks kick and punt returner.
2. Antonio Brown against the Seahawks
By just about every metric, the Seahawks have a top-3 pass defense. They also have Richard Sherman, widely known as one of the game’s best corners. These two factors will allow us to get Antonio Brown at an ownership percentage we won’t see again as long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy.
There are also plenty of reasons Brown can succeed in this spot. First, DeAngelo Williams is a really poor bet to get anything done on the road against a Seattle run defense that ranks sixth at 3.73 YPC against. Look for plenty of volume out of Big Ben, who has targeted Brown an outrageous 37 times over the last two weeks. Much like Julio Jones in Atlanta, the Steelers know how to get the ball in Brown’s hands no matter the situation. Furthermore, the 6-foot-3 Sherman often struggles with the quicks and speed of the smaller/elite receivers in the league. A good example is DeSean Jackson in Week 5 last year, who gave Seattle 5-157-1.
Finally, I’d expect DeAndre Hopkins’ ownership to be in the 40-50 percent range. His range of outcomes is wider than most believe against a Saints defense coming out of a bye with a new coordinator and talented Delvin Breaux ready to shadow. A Hopkins failure combined with a Brown eruption would be a huge key to a high GPP finish.
1. Chris Johnson at San Francisco
All of the Cardinals are going to be very popular this week. They lead the NFL in yards per game (417.3) and points per game (33.6) while the 49ers rank 28th in yards allowed per game (404.0) and 23rd in points allowed per game (25.2). However, I haven’t rostered Chris Johnson all year and don’t plan on starting now. Although CJ?K appears underpriced at $4600, his role ensures that he’s not. He has six catches and three touchdowns this season, death stats for running backs in PPR formats. It’s why he’s been under 15 DK points in eight of his 10 games this year. On top of that, Andre Ellington and David Johnson are always threats to get hot and steal work. Johnson is PFF’s No. 68 RB out of 68 qualifiers.
WHO I’M CONSIDERING IN DRAFTKINGS CASH GAMES
(No particular order)
QB: Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Brian Hoyer, Drew Brees
RB: Tevin Coleman (if Devonta Freeman is out), Spencer Ware (if Charcandrick West is out), Thomas Rawls, T.J. Yeldon, Buck Allen, Mark Ingram
WR: Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Stevie Johnson, Danny Amendola (if healthy), Larry Fitzgerald, Eric Decker
TE: Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker, Gary Barnidge
D: Chiefs, Browns, Bengals, Cardinals