As much as I think the ability of a great receiver to help his quarterback is severely underrated, there’s really only one team in this weekend’s conference championships – the Green Bay Packers – that sports an elite receiver corps. Outside of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, T.Y. Hilton is probably the best wide receiver option on any remaining team, and he’s probably aided more by Andrew Luck than most people realize.
The lack of wide receiver options this week is going to make for some really interesting decisions in DraftKings tournaments. I think everyone’s natural inclination is to fit two of the top running backs into their lineups because there’s a lot of scarcity there; after Marshawn Lynch, Daniel Herron, and Eddie Lacy, there’s really not much at the position. With Lacy in a ridiculously difficult matchup, I have a feeling we’re going to see a whole lot of Lynch/Herron lineups.
If that’s the case, we’ll probably also see a lot of usage on cheap wide receivers. Remember, all four quarterback options are elite players who cost a pretty penny, so there’s no ability to go cheap there. And if you want to find a way to get Rob Gronkowski into your lineup, you’re not going to be able to play any of the top-priced receivers.
My approach in cash games would be to pay up for two running backs and Gronk and save money at receiver. I think most users will extend that approach to tournaments, which means there might be some value in fading the “obvious” choices and paying up a little more at the wide receiver position. If you can hit on someone cheap (say, Brandon Bolden), you’ll be able to play some of the more expensive wide receivers, which could help differentiate your lineup.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay at Seattle, $7700 – I think the Packers are going to struggle offensively against Seattle because what they do well – get the ball to their outside receivers – is what Seattle defends perfectly. Of Cobb and Nelson, though, I prefer Cobb, for two reasons. The first is that he runs more routes over the middle where he could exploit Seattle. Actually, Cobb ran 87.3 percent of his snaps from the slot this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The second is that, at $100 more than Nelson – a clearly better receiver – I think Cobb will have lower usage.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay at Seattle, $7600 – Nelson doesn’t spend all of his time on the outside, but it’s still right around four-in-five routes. For me, I think Nelson is a player I’m going to fade completely.
Note that Vegas currently has Green Bay projected at just 20 points. Even with a potentially favorable game script, the Packers might struggle. Of course, you could be totally contrarian and use a Rodgers/Cobb/Nelson stack for the win.
Julian Edelman, New England vs Indianapolis, $7200 – Edelman is an interesting player this week. The Colts defend the pass well – they’ve allowed the second-fewest points to receivers this season – but they’re better on the outside than over the middle (like pretty much every defense this week). That could bode well for Edelman (and Gronk).
The risk here is that I think the Patriots are going to run the ball quite a bit in this game, employing basically the opposite strategy as last week. Still, if you think Indy will do everything they can to take Gronkowski out of this game, Edelman could be the main beneficiary.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis at New England, $7000 – The Colts split up their slot duties fairly evenly, with Hilton running 40.5 percent of his routes from the inside this year. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about him this week, as I think the Patriots are going to focus on him to make sure he doesn’t go off, but he could make up for it with bulk targets. I still prefer the tight ends for Indy in this game, though.
Brandon LaFell, New England vs Indianapolis, $6000 – LaFell draws the toughest assignment this week for New England on the outside versus Indy. It’s possible that the Colts will shift attention inside to defend Gronkowski, which might leave things open for LaFell on the outside, but I think Vontae Davis is more than up for the challenge. Even though LaFell might offer a bit of value at this price, I think you can see my general strategy this week is “attack the middle.”
Doug Baldwin, Seattle vs Green Bay, $5000 – Green Bay is the only defense playing this week that hasn’t dominated opposing receivers in terms of fantasy production. The Seattle wide receivers aren’t exactly the guys you’d generally prefer to try to exploit that, but here we are. Though Jermaine Kearse stole the show last week, I think Baldwin is still the clearly superior option, even at $1200 more. With the lack of options at receiver, this is about the only time that you could legitimately run out a Wilson/Baldwin/Kearse (or Luke Willson) double-handcuff for Seattle, though I wouldn’t recommend it. I think Seattle will keep the ball on the ground, so Baldwin might be their only receiver to get fantasy-relevant targets.
Danny Amendola, New England vs Indianapolis, $4500 – I wasn’t particularly high on Amendola last week because I was unsure of his workload, even though I had a good idea the Patriots were going to air it out. Now that I believe they’re going to keep the ball on the ground a whole lot more, Amendola is clearly out for me. Maybe that will come back to burn me – especially with users potentially jumping on him after last week’s breakout – but I don’t think he’s going to see more than a few targets.
Davante Adams, Green Bay at Seattle, $4300 – It’s tough to know what to expect from Adams this week because I think it depends on how Seattle defends Green Bay. Adams actually lines up in the slot less frequently (only 7.5 percent of all snaps) than Nelson. If Seattle keeps their starting cornerbacks on the outside, Adams will be rendered ineffective. If they move their nickel cornerback outside to cover Adams, he’ll have a lot more value.
Based on what they’ve done all season, I think Seattle will keep their cornerbacks on the outside. Richard Sherman played only 19 snaps in the slot all year, for example. That means Cobb is probably the receiver to own for Green Bay, even at his steep price.
Jermaine Kearse, Seattle vs Green Bay, $3800 – Kearse’s 63-yard touchdown last week was just his second of the year. Scrap that play – one that you can’t really predict from week to week – and he posted a line of 2/66/0. What’s scary is that those 66 receiving yards would have still been his third-highest receiving total this year! Not much upside here, so I won’t be on Kearse this week.
Donte Moncrief/Hakeem Nicks/Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis at New England, $3500/3200/2800 – I grouped the three Indy receivers together because I think they’re sort of interchangeable in terms of workload. I’d normally say to buy in on the cheapest option in that case, but Wayne has such limited upside that I won’t be doing that. The only option here who will be in my lineups is Moncrief, and he’s only in there for his ability to break off a long touchdown. I don’t think you can have too much exposure to him, but at least Moncrief gives you some form of upside at a low price tag.