WATCH: MATCHUPS BREAKDOWN – WEEK 15
It’s a weird week on DraftKings because there’s not a lot to be excited about at the top of the QB and WR player pools. Matt Ryan will not have Julio Jones (toe), Aaron Rodgers is on the road in extreme cold, Tom Brady is in Denver’s no-fly zone, Drew Brees is on the road against Patrick Peterson’s squad, Ben Roethlisberger is on the road in division, Marcus Mariota has a difficult spot in Arrowhead vs. KC’s elite pass rush, Andrew Luck is on the road against the No. 2 DVOA pass defense and Matthew Stafford is facing the Giants’ white-hot defense on the road. Kirk Cousins would be the easy play at home against Carolina, but he’s not on the main slate. The bottom line is we can safely project what the most common roster construction will be this week: Expensive RBs, mostly cheap WRs and mid-range TE/QB. Deviating from that in tournaments will give us a unique build.
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 13 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Philip Rivers Without Melvin Gordon
We’ve reached the portion of the program where the Chargers throw all caution to the wind and let Philip Rivers go nuts. They’re out of the playoff chase, the Chargers could be playing their final games in San Diego, Melvin Gordon (hip) is out and they’re facing the rival Raiders. Rivers might as well sling it around against this Oakland defense which is 21st DVOA vs. the pass, 31st in YPA allowed, 15th in pass TDs allowed, 28th in sacks and 27th in pass yards allowed. Unlike many of the fellow “in play” quarterbacks mentioned in the intro, Rivers is at home in pristine weather. He’s also extremely cheap ($6,200) considering the elite floor he’s shown all season long. Rivers has at least 15 DK points in 10-of-13 games this year. We can save even more money by pairing Rivers with Kenneth Farrow ($4,400), the UDFA who is in line for 15-20 touches in place of Gordon. Farrow caught six passes last week, caught four in just 59 preseason snaps and caught 74 while at the University of Houston. Ronnie Hillman, already cut twice this year and just signed three weeks ago, is not a real threat.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Michael Crabtree Avoiding Casey Hayward
Chargers’ CB Casey Hayward has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, shadowing the likes of Demaryius Thomas (twice), Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin over the last two months. He’s given up just one TD to those guys and has held them all under 80 yards and six catches except Julio. It’s likely that Hayward will match up mostly with Amari Cooper this week, leaving Michael Crabtree to see a lot of rookie UDFA Trevor Williams and Trovon Reed (played 24 snaps all year). Craig Mager (elbow) is not expected to play. Crabtree getting the plus matchup is just fine by Derek Carr, who has targeted the veteran more times than Cooper in seven of the last 11 games. Cooper also leads Crabtree 22-15 in red-zone targets and is $1,200 cheaper.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace
As noted in Thursday’s WR Target Projection article, Mike Wallace continues to see volume. He’s played on at least 72 percent of the snaps in five straight weeks, averaging 6.8 targets during that span. But because he hasn’t been able to hook up with Joe Flacco on any big plays, his price has dropped from $6,200 down to $4,800 in that stretch. So we have Wallace at the cheapest he’s been since Week 2 in the best matchup he’s had recently. The Eagles’ sputtering defense is getting league-worst corner play from Leodis McKelvin, Jalen Mills and Nolan Carroll, resulting in big lines from big-play WRs. Over the last month, they’ve given up 3-102-1 to DeSean Jackson, 5-95-1 to Brandon LaFell, 5-113-2 to Davante Adams and 4-104-0 to Doug Baldwin. Flacco and Wallace combine to cost just $10,500 and are also likely to come at exceedingly low ownership.
WATCH: TY MONTGOMERY EXPECTED TO TAKE SIGNIFICANT SNAPS AS RB
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Ty Montgomery Running as a Strict RB
Montgomery has been a running back only for a couple months now, only going to RB meetings and operating exclusively out of the backfield. However, he continues to be listed as a WR on DraftKings, which is great for us this week because the RB position is so deep. We also have a situation where struggling James Starks has played a total of 14 snaps across the last two games and is now in the concussion protocol due to an early-week car accident. Christine Michael (illness) missed Thursday’s practice and has repeatedly proven to be a limited early-down runner. With Aaron Rodgers (calf, hamstring) likely to operate mostly out of the shotgun, it makes sense to let Montgomery ride side-saddle for a huge portion of the game, using him on quick passes as an extension of the run game. However, we should realize that Montgomery’s sickle cell issues have capped his snap count before as he’s failed to top 30 in any of the last six weeks. That’s why I feel more comfortable with Montgomery in tournaments rather than cash games.
2. Aldrick Robinson with Julio Jones Out
Robinson only finished with three catches for 42 yards last week, but led Falcons WRs in snap rate at 87.9 percent and tied for the team-lead in targets with six. Unfortunately for Robinson, the Falcons got up 21-0 midway through the second quarter via a 1-play, 3-yard “drive” and a defensive TD. If the Falcons needed to keep their foot on the gas, Robinson would have almost certainly had a much bigger game and seen his salary rise far more than the $400 it did ahead of this week. Julio Jones (toe) is out again, so look for Aldrick to handle a majority of the “X” receiver snaps as a Kyle Shanahan favorite (brought him to the Falcons from the Redskins) and a preseason dominator. Much like Robby Anderson, Rob Kelley and even Kenneth Farrow, Aldrick flashed in August with a 9-223-0 line on 96 snaps.
1. Kenneth Dixon Against the Eagles
It’s tempting to roster Kenneth Dixon after he out-carried Terrance West 11-2, out-targeted him 11-4 and out-snapped him 42-14 on national television Monday night. Dixon is the superior player. But are we certain we’ve seen a true changing of the guard here, or was Dixon’s usage extended due to a negative game flow for the Ravens? Note that we’ve seen Dixon get his nose out in front before, most recently in Week 12 when he played on 44.9 percent of the snaps and appeared set to take over while getting 17 touches. The following game Dixon was back down at 33.3 percent of the snaps and got just nine touches.
So while everyone tries to chase Dixon’s impressive usage and burst from the Monday nighter against the Patriots, we can gain a leg up if West is still heavily involved. ESPN Ravens beat reporter Jamison Hensley thinks that will be the case, saying he expects West to start and be the primary back in the red-zone. I currently can’t project Dixon for more than 10-14 touches, which is certainly fine for a player at just $3,800 but leaves a low floor. That’s especially true if the Ravens get a lead on the crumbling Eagles, as Dixon is used more as the passing back while the more physical West grinds between the tackles.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor
RB: David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman, Kenneth Farrow, Kenneth Dixon
WR: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Crabtree, J.J. Nelson, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Aldrick Robinson, Odell Beckham
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Delanie Walker, Kyle Rudolph, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert
D: Texans, Bills, Chiefs, Ravens, Lions
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.