WATCH: MATCHUPS BREAKDOWN – WEEK 14
It’s Championship Week on DraftKings as the Live Final is going down Sunday in New York City. The pricing is appropriately tight and it will be very difficult to feel great about your team. If you roster David Johnson ($9,800) and Le’Veon Bell ($9,000), you’re going to be scraping at cheap plays that are far weaker than last week’s choices. If you don’t play one or both of them, you’re missing out on a realistic 20-point floor. The theme of the below article will be finding some underpriced players in this difficult week.
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 main slate only, aka the 14 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Colts Prices Not Adjusting Off Monday Night
Salaries and contests on DK get posted Sunday afternoons, obviously well before Monday Night Football. So it’s fair to wonder what the prices of Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton would have been if they adjusted for the predictable eruption against the Jets’ perfect funnel defense. This week’s matchup isn’t quite as strong, but the Texans’ secondary has been hit for 10 TDs over the last four weeks by Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers. Starting CB Jonathan Joseph (rib) isn’t expected to play this week. With everything on the line in this battle for the AFC South, expect the Colts to lean on their strength (Luck) while playing indoors during a week when a lot of other pass games could be affected by weather.
Of course, Luck’s top target is clearly T.Y. Hilton, who is averaging 10.4 targets per game in the 10 this duo has played together this season. That would be good for fourth in the NFL, behind only Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham. Luck at $6,900 and Hilton at $7,500 are at least a combined $1,000 cheaper than they “should” be.
2. Sammy Watkins Quietly Returning to Health
Yes, Sammy Watkins is playing with a foot injury that ensures he’ll have a low floor the rest of the season. But when we can get a player who ranked ninth in PPR fantasy points per snap last year at just $5,300, we have to accept some level of risk. Watkins finally returned to the Bills lineup in Week 12, playing on 25-of-55 snaps (45.5 percent). He upped that to 49-of-72 snaps in Week 13 (68.1 percent), including being in on 36 of Tyrod Taylor’s 41 dropbacks. Watkins came out of that Week 13 outing relatively healthy as he upped his participation in Thursday’s practice. “I feel great this week. … I’m more comfortable running routes full speed. It’s more a game plan thing now, not a foot or body issue I can’t just go out there and play. No limitations. My body had to get used to the workload.”
Given the increasing usage we’ve seen in addition to that quote from Thursday, we can project Watkins to be in and operating at somewhere near full strength on at least 90 percent of Taylor’s dropbacks this week. If he were $7,000 or so, I’d say it isn’t worth the risk. But at $5,300 and a matchup against a Steelers defense which is 28th DVOA vs. No. 1 WRs, the price is just too appealing to ignore.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Delanie Walker Against the Broncos
The Broncos dominant corner duo of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris coupled with arguably the league’s top pass rush makes it impossible for opposing perimeter wideouts to succeed. It pushes opposing offense toward the middle of the field, as discussed on this week’s Edge Pod. That’s fine by Marcus Mariota and the Titans, as their best weapons Delanie Walker/DeMarco Murray operate there.
The key note here is that whereas Murray is difficult to fit in lineups at $7,000, Delanie provides much-needed salary relief at just $4,400. He also gives us a ceiling at a position where so many of our opponents are just hoping to squeeze out 10 points from low-floor puntish-plays. It reminds of the Travis Kelce situation in Week 12 as he was priced down at just $4,000 and was still low-owned because of a perceived bad matchup against the Broncos. Kelce ended up with a 8-101-0 line. The point here is that DraftKings is adjusting down prices of all players when they face the Broncos, but tight end is actually not a bad matchup vs. them. I’m not opposed to using Delanie in the flex this week.
2. Emmanuel Sanders Against Titans CBs
(If Trevor Siemian starts)
Manny Sanders has slightly outplayed Demaryius Thomas all year long. He’s ahead in yards per catch, targets and catches of 20+ yards. I thought it was telling that the Broncos moved Sanders around the formation against the Chiefs in Week 12 to get him matched up with Phillip Gaines (rather than Marcus Peters) often. So what we have is a high-volume wideout in one of the best possible matchups at $5,700. Sanders has seen at least nine targets in five straight games and is averaging a very healthy 9.6 on the season, he’s facing guys that were Perrish Cox’s backups (Valentino Blake, LeShaun Sims) and the Devontae Booker-led run game is broken. If Trevor Siemian’s foot is healthy enough for him to play as expected, Sanders can provide a solid floor/ceiling combo with some savings.
3. Taylor Gabriel Against Rams CBs Other than Trumaine Johnson
I normally try to avoid low-floor undersized gadgety players when their price is elevated above the $4,000 range, but Taylor Gabriel is in a unique situation. Julio Jones (turf toe) is likely to be limited and is expected to be shadowed by top Rams CB Trumaine Johnson. Mohamed Sanu (groin) is not expected to play. That leaves Gabriel with an expanded role and running routes at the likes of E.J. Gaines, PFF’s No. 119 CB among 122 qualifiers. So while Justin Hardy and Aldrick Robinson will also get chances, the Falcons have fallen in love with the explosive ability of Gabriel, who has seen at least five targets in four straight games – even with Julio and Sanu healthy for those. Note that Gabriel piled up a team-high three red-zone targets last week.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Naked Colin Kaepernick
People will be gunshy to go back to Colin Kaepernick after he attempted five passes and got benched last week. But I think it’s fair to chalk up that debacle to the weather, as the 49ers said Kaepernick was having trouble gripping the football. That won’t be an issue in San Francisco on Sunday, where it will be in the 50s and sunny. So if we can throw out last week, we have a quarterback with a massive floor thanks to his unique rushing ability plus a Chip Kelly scheme which encourages his quarterback to run. We also have arguably the best possible matchup against a dead Jets team coming across the country on a short week to play out the string. It’s a defense we’ve attacked with quarterbacks all year as they’re extremely stout against the run (2nd DVOA) and extremely weak against the pass (dead last DVOA). Of course, the best part about Kaepernick in a week with such tight pricing is he’s just $800 over minimum salary at QB.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Lamar Miller Against the Colts
It’s difficult to pull the trigger on Miller, who has battled nagging injuries all year and plays on an offense which ranks 28th in both yards per game and points per game. But this is the Texans’ Game 7, meaning they’ll expect Miller to put it on the line as the workhorse they signed him to be this offseason. It comes in an ideal matchup as the Colts may be forced to start four rookies on defense due to injury and already rank 31st DVOA vs. the run. Of course, the key to Miller smashing expectation at $5,100 is Brock Osweiler improving his play, thus creating positive game scripts and red-zone opportunities. He’s faced the strong pass Ds of MIN, DEN, JAX, SD and snow in five of his last seven games, which has at least partially led to his demise. When the Texans faced the Colts in Week 7, Brock had one of his best games (25-of-39 for 269 yards with 2 TDs) and Miller came right along (24-149-1 plus 3-31-1 receiving).
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Jameis Winston, Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernick
RB: David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, Melvin Gordon, Jeremy Hill, Thomas Rawls, Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller
WR: Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Taylor Gabriel (if Mohamed Sanu is out), Michael Floyd
TE: Jason Witten, Tyler Eifert, Vernon Davis (if Jordan Reed is out), Jimmy Graham, Delanie Walker, Cam Brate, Kyle Rudolph, Ladarius Green
D: Vikings, Broncos, Lions, Bengals, Falcons, Redskins, 49ers
PIVOT PLAY: GOLDEN TATE
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.