This is it, folks. The last full slate of NFL games is upon us. Week 17 is one that always needs to be handled carefully. Playing time and workload is harder to predict when teams have little to play for or, in some cases, may choose to rest players in order to ensure their health entering the playoffs. Stay tuned in to the news as the week goes on. If you aren’t on Twitter, c’mon now, what are you waiting for? If nothing else, be sure you come to the Playbook every day and read Adam Levitan’s daily notes to stay up on the latest news.
We’re on to Week 17.
MORE NFL POSITIONAL TARGETS FOR WEEK 17
If you’re new to the daily fantasy community, welcome, you’re in for a whole lot of fun. If you have questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Cream of the Crop
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ Cleveland Browns) -$7,100
This week’s super-duper chalk play at running back is DeAngelo Williams. He’s a great cash game play because his usage is safe, his team is a large favorite and they need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. I wrote last week that no other back has the snap, carry and touch percentages that DeAngelo has, and nothing should change this week. He’s a lock for 25 touches this week against the Browns’ bottom-five run defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Seattle Seahawks) -$6,000
If David Johnson receives a full workload this week then you’ll want to own him because he’s still extremely underpriced at just $6,000. His talent has shined over the past few weeks since taking over the lead role in Arizona’s backfield, but it’s possible that Arizona is locked in to the #2 seed before this game starts and that could lead Bruce Arians to rest Johnson a bit here and give more touches to Kerwynn Williams or Andre Ellington. I’m going to keep him this high in the ranks because I don’t want to speculate on the workload dip until we hear more later in the week.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (vs. New Orleans Saints) -$7,600
Devonta Freeman is another back with fairly safe usage in terms of touches and snaps. That’s extremely valuable every week, but even more so in Week 17. He’s a strong bet for 20+ carries here and his heavy involvement in the Falcons’ passing game helps raise his floor and ceiling. The Saints are a defensive dumpster fire, ranking 29th in DVOA against the run and 31st against the pass to running backs, something that’ll serve Freeman and the Falcons well in this spot. Atlanta’s implied team total of 28.5 is one of the highest of the slate.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (@ Green Bay Packers) -$7,200
With the NFC North title on the line, you’d be foolish to think the Vikings won’t lean on their all-world tailback in a run-heavy game plan in Green Bay. His Week 15 ankle injury appears to be a non-issue as Peterson carried the ball 22 times for 104 yards and a score against the Giants on Sunday night. We’ve seen a bit more of the other Vikings’ running backs lately, but I think that’s with the intent of keeping Peterson fresh for the end of the season. That starts now.
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (@ San Francisco 49ers) -$7,400
Todd Gurley has been downgraded to doubtful for this weekend. Assuming he sits, Tre Mason is a strong value option in this matchup
We know how the Todd Gurley story plays out most weeks. If he and the Rams are playing with the lead, Gurley eats. If not, he barely sees the field. Last week, in a surprising twist, the Rams jumped up early on the Seahawks and the Rams rode Gurley for 19 carries and 85 yards, one of his best rushing days in the past two months. The Rams are 3.5-point favorites on the road against NFC West foe San Francisco so there’s a bit of risk here, but Gurley’s upside in tournaments is obvious.
Middle of the Pack
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) -$3,700
I was on Rashad Jennings last week and was surprised by how low he was owned in both cash and tournaments last weekend. I’m willing to go back to the well again. It’s still a great price for Jennings, in an up-tempo spot against division rival Philadelphia. Jennings’ percent of carries has been on the rise; his 57 carries over the past four games dwarfs the Giants next closest back, Andre Williams, who’s seen 18. Shane Vereen sees the majority of the passing down work, but Jennings gets enough third down snaps to keep him viable and prevents him from being a strict early-down back. He doesn’t need to do much to return value at this price.
Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Washington Redskins) -$4,900
The Redskins are one of the few teams that we know will be sitting some key players in Week 17. They’re locked in to their playoff seed and have little incentive to play their starters for four quarters. That works well for Darren McFadden, who’s been steady and unspectacular for a couple months now. He sees about 75-80% of the touches and has been solid but he’s limited due to the offense’s infrequent visits to the red zone. He’s more of a cash game play than a tournament play because of that limited upside and his team’s low implied team total.
Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints (@ Atlanta Falcons) -$5,500
Tim Hightower has been a pleasant surprise but I’d be careful about falling in love with his recent workload. The Saints have been in positive game flow situations a lot in the past two weeks against Tampa Bay and Jacksonville but the recent addition of Travis Cadet could change that. His Week 16 usage on passing downs leads me to believe that New Orleans would prefer Hightower be more of an early-down back while leaving the third down/passing situation snaps to Cadet. Vegas likes this to be a close game between two suspect defense’s and Hightower is priced so favorably that you can make a case that he’ll return value regardless of his passing down contributions.
Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Oakland Raiders) -$5,700
Kansas City is another team who could throw a wrinkle into Week 17 depending on what they do with their starters. They’re in the playoffs and could win the AFC West, but they need some help and we’ve seen Andy Reid rest players in the past. If I’m using a Chief though, it’s definitely Chacandrick West. He played 89% of the snaps last week, relegating Spencer Ware to strict backup duty and the projected game flow sets up favorably for West as the Chiefs are 7-point favorites at home.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (vs. Minnesota Vikings) -$4,500
It hasn’t been easy to trust Eddie Lacy this season, but his touch percentage is on the rise since Mike McCarthy took over the offensive play calling duties. Last week James Starks saw just three carries and didn’t do anything with them, while Lacy carried it 12 times for 60 yards and was the only back targeting in the passing game. Things got out of hand in the second half against Arizona, so don’t get caught up in Lacy’s box score. He’s really cheap and Minnesota has been struggling against the run lately. I really like Lacy in tournaments.
Rest of the Field
Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) -$4,300
There’s a chance that Jonathan Stewart suits up for this one but if he doesn’t you can take a look at C.A.P in Week 17. He didn’t do much in Week 16 as the Panthers tried to come from behind for the first time all season, but he lost a bit of competition for touches as Fozzy Whittaker is out with a high-ankle sprain this week. If Stewart sits again then we need to give the rookie some serious consideration in tournaments, even against Tampa Bay’s stout run defense.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (@ Buffalo Bills) -$4,500
There’s nothing sneaky about Bilal Powell anymore. His price has climbed up quite a bit over the past month but he’s now properly priced instead of being a great value. He’s seeing eight targets per game over the past month and has been eating into Chris Ivory’s early down work more and more each week. Last week saw Powell’s highest snap percentage of the season and he should be able to take advantage of Buffalo’s inability at defending the pass to running backs (29th in DVOA).
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Carolina Panters) -$6,700
Depending on the spread and the opponent, we can find Doug Martin at the top of this list one week and at the bottom the next. We know that Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay coaching staff wants Martin to win the rushing title, but in a game where the Bucs are 10.5-point underdogs I can’t see a scenario where Martin gets 20 carries here. As is, he’s sharing 30-45% of the snaps with Charles Sims and his early season work in the passing game has all but vanished. His touchdown upside remains intact so he’s tournament viable.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens (@ Cincinnati Bengals) -$4,400
If Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen can hold on to the ball I think he can be a player in this league. He’s well-rounded and has three-down skills, something that we saw last week in Baltimore’s upset win over Pittsburgh. He shared a few carries with Terrance West last week, but that shouldn’t be an issue here with a more negative game flow expected in this road tilt against AFC Central rivals Cincinnati. Look for Allen to handle to majority of the carries here and he’s a strong bet for 6-7 targets, as well.
Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit Lions) -$3,900
Jeremy Langford ran well last week against a strong Tampa Bay run defense, carrying it 19 times for 83 yards while out-snapping Matt Forte by 15%. Obviously Forte’s involvement minimizes the upside of Langford, but I think there’s some attractive upside here for under $4K.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (@ Kansas City Chiefs) -$5,200
I don’t love this matchup for Latavius Murray but he dominates his team’s backfield snaps and that alone is appealing. He’s like a poor man’s DeAngelo Williams right now, with a much less favorable matchup and offense. Ok, so that makes him very different than DeAngelo Williams, but he rarely comes off the field and that has value. Not in cash, but I like his ceiling because of his work on passing downs.
Steven Jackson, New England Patriots (@ Miami Dolphins) -$3,300
The report coming out of New England is that the Patriots would like to increase Steven Jackson’s workload this week. I don’t expect that to lead to more than 12-15 touches for Steven Jackson, and that’s probably generous, but at near min-salary and with an implied team total of nearly 30, you don’t need much from Jackson to pay off his price.