*Note: Wide receivers playing on Thanksgiving are marked by an asterisk.
Like every week, my lineup construction starts at the wide receiver position. Since production is more talent-based than at running back, I feel as though player evaluation is more difficult, which creates a larger potential edge. That’s especially true in tournaments, where I use a wide receiver in the flex more often than any other position.
Top Five Wide Receivers
Demaryius Thomas, Denver at Kansas City, $9500 – I have pretty much the same stance on Thomas this week as I did in Week 13, when I said that I love him in tournaments and don’t like him in cash games. Of course his three touchdowns could have really propelled you up the 50/50 leaderboards, and he probably has the most upside of any receiver every week at this point, but I’m still not going to pay $9500 to put him into cash games given that there aren’t really any very obvious cheap running back or quarterback plays. I’ll definitely fork over the dough for GPPs, though.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh vs New Orleans, $9000 – You could make an argument that Brown is in a better position than Thomas this week. I’d still prefer Thomas’s touchdown-scoring ability, but Brown has scored four times over the past month. He also has 38 catches in the past four games, which is just nuts. He’s on pace for 128 catches and 15 touchdowns, and he’s facing a New Orleans defense that he could very well burn on Sunday. I think his incredible consistency means you can even perhaps overpay for him a bit in cash games.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver at Kansas City, $8700 – Sanders is overpriced here, and most people are going to recognize that. There’s no way that he should cost more than Jordy Nelson, Josh Gordon, and A.J. Green, in my opinion. He’s not going to be in any of my cash lineups, but I will probably roll out a Peyton/Demaryius/Sanders stack given that Sanders should see low usage.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay vs New England, $8400 – This Packers-Pats matchup is going to be really interesting just because I’m not entirely sure how Bill Belichick will elect to defend the Green Bay receivers. My guess is that he’s going to do something similar to what we saw last week against the Pats, which is to place the bigger cornerback in Brandon Browner on the opposition’s big receiver (Nelson, in this case) and give him safety help over the top. That would mean that Randall Cobb would draw Darelle Revis, so this isn’t an ideal situation for either player.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland at Buffalo, $8300 – It was pretty clear that Gordon was severely underpriced last week. Now that we saw him produce right out of the gate and we know he’s going to see nearly every snap, we should have expected Gordon’s price to jump. Despite the big $2000 price increase, though, I still believe Gordon offers value. He’s one of the top two or three receivers in the game, the focal point of his offense, and in a decent matchup. He should be closer to $9000, in my opinion.
One thing to monitor is the health of tight end Jordan Cameron. As poorly as Cameron has played this year, he could steal a couple red zone looks from Gordon if he’s in there.
Five Others to Consider
A.J. Green, Cincinnati at Tampa Bay, $8200
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis vs Washington, $8100
*Dez Bryant, Dallas vs Philadelphia, $7900*
Bryant is the most expensive wide receiver on Thanksgiving, but almost a must-play. He’s $900 more expensive than Calvin Johnson, but I actually still prefer Bryant in a perfect matchup at home against Philly. His usage will be through the roof, but I don’t think this is a situation to fade.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay vs New England, $7500
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay vs Cincinnati, $7300
Five Mid-Priced Wide Receivers
Julio Jones, Atlanta vs Arizona, $7200 – Jones will draw the red-hot Patrick Peterson in Week 13. Given that Atlanta is still having major problems protecting Matt Ryan, I’m not as high on this situation as many others will be. It looks as though Jones is underpriced, and maybe that’s the case, but he could actually have a pretty low ceiling relative to the cost.
*Calvin Johnson, Detroit vs Chicago, $7000* – I think a decent strategy for the Thanksgiving games is to look at the top handful of players, all of whom we know will have high usage, and figure out one or two that you want to fade. If someone like Megatron is 60 percent owned but doesn’t return value, you’ll have a nice leg up on the field if you fade him. And Johnson is indeed that player for me; he appears to be in the perfect situation against the Bears, but he’s again limited in practice and I just don’t have confidence that he’s healthy.
*Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia at Dallas, $6800* – Maclin is only $200 less than Megatron and I have a hard time believing that most users won’t pay up the extra couple hundred bucks for the better player. I think that’s going to result in lower usage for Maclin (relatively speaking, since there aren’t a ton of options). I could envision Maclin getting behind the Dallas secondary a couple times on Thursday.
Odell Beckham, Jr, NY Giants at Jacksonville, $6800 – It looks like Beckham is going to be good to go on Sunday. There’s so much hype surrounding the rookie, but this might be a situation of which we should be wary. Beckham’s ridiculous Sunday night catch has propelled him into the spotlight, but he’s at least close to being priced where he should. The Jags’ defense has been playing pretty well of late, and while Beckham isn’t someone you necessarily need to avoid, I also don’t think there’s anything here that screams “must play.”
*Golden Tate, Detroit vs Chicago, $6600* – Tate is a really interesting player to me because, with Johnson’s health problems, he’s still producing for Detroit. He nearly went for 100 yards last week with Revis on him, and the Bears certainly don’t have that quality of cornerback to man up Tate. I think his price is slightly high and going to force people to overlook him, which is exactly what you want in a three-game slate. So while this might seem like the dumbest move in the history of daily fantasy sports, I’m off of Johnson at $7000 and on his less-talented teammate for just a $400 discount.
Five Others to Consider
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina at Minnesota, $6600
*Brandon Marshall, Chicago at Detroit, $6400*
Marshall and Jeffery have had similar numbers all season, and both are probably underpriced on Thanksgiving. I’m not a huge Jay Cutler fan, but he’s high-variance enough that he could certainly dissect the Lions D given the quality of his pass-catchers. I think PHI-DAL is the game to be on, but you’ll need value elsewhere and both Bears receivers can provide it.
*Alshon Jeffery, Chicago at Detroit, $6300*
Brandon LaFell, New England at Green Bay, $6100
Keenan Allen, San Diego at Baltimore, $6000
Five Value Wide Receivers
DeSean Jackson, Washington at Indianapolis, $5900 – The reason I don’t normally play Jackson or players like him is that he has a low floor since he doesn’t see many high-percentage targets, but he also doesn’t have much access to his ceiling since he’s so reliant on long touchdowns for upside. If I’m going to try to hit a home run on someone like Jackson, I’d prefer that he’s as cheap as possible, so I’d much prefer to just play Mike Wallace (in an easier matchup) at $1300 cheaper.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo vs Cleveland, $5800 – Watkins has come back to reality with just 10 total catches and no more than 35 yards over the past three games. He’ll face off against Joe Haden on Sunday, and while I still kind of like the discount we’re getting on Watkins, I think there are cheaper options with a higher probability of returning value.
*Anquan Boldin, San Francisco vs Seattle, $5700* – I think the 49ers are going to have major trouble moving the ball on Thursday night. Both Boldin and Michael Crabtree are big players who play on the outside, which is exactly what Seattle defends best. The Niners don’t have a dominant tight end anymore, nor do they have a running back who can consistently beat defenses as a receiver out of the backfield.
*Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia at Dallas, $5700* – If this were a few weeks ago, we might see decent usage on Matthews against the Cowboys. With the way that he’s played since Mark Sanchez has taken over, though, I expect Matthews’ usage to be quite high. Even though he’s not as talented of a player, I think Terrance Williams is a superior play because you’re going to see a bigger benefit if you hit on someone like that on Thanksgiving. Williams is $1800 cheaper and certainly has two-touchdown upside in Dallas’s offense. I’m not saying Matthews isn’t playable by any means – he’s probably a smart choice if you’re playing Thanksgiving cash games – but I like Williams more in GPPs.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay vs Cincinnati, $5400 – My initial reaction is to consider Jackson at $5400 a superior value to teammate Mike Evans at $7300. However, Jackson’s cost is 74 percent of that of Evans, yet the veteran has scored only 64 percent as many points this year as the rookie. That’s a crude way to analyze things and more goes into projecting a player than cost and past production, but I think it highlights the idea that Evans really is the man in Tampa Bay now.
10 Others to Consider
Steve Smith, Baltimore vs San Diego, $5000
Percy Harvin, NY Jets vs Miami, $5000
Andre Johnson, Houston vs Tennessee, $4900
Eric Decker, NY Jets vs Miami, $4900
*Michael Crabtree, San Francisco vs Seattle, $4700*
Mike Wallace, Miami at NY Jets, $4600
As mentioned, I like Wallace at this price. The veteran doesn’t have a single 100-yard game all season, yet he’s managed to find the end zone seven times. I still think he’s capable of a 30-point fantasy performance, and what better opponent to break out against than the Jets?
Andre Holmes, Oakland at St. Louis, $4500
Pierre Garcon, Washington at Indianapolis, $4400
Justin Hunter, Tennessee at Houston, $4000
*Terrance Williams, Dallas vs Philadelphia, $3900*