Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Final Week - Bowl Challenge

Some of you may be playing in the final DFS NFL Contest on DraftKings this week, which is being called the "Bowl Challenge".  Last year it was the "Desert Bowl", as both the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl were in Arizona, but basically this year's version is the same.  Some DFS players commonly call this contest the "Degenerate Bowl", as only crazy people play.  But is there any rhyme or reason to picking players for this contest?

First of all, this is a nutty contest for sure, and you have to nail the players that score touchdowns.  With two very different games to think about, let's look at the past two Pro Bowls for some indicators of who to pick from the group.  In 2014, the Pro Bowl adopted new rules that reduced the game time, and as a result the scoreboard no longer approached 90+ points.  Even so, passing is the preferred mode of moving the ball, so if you want to pick any particular offensive players, wide receivers or tight ends are your best bet.

In the first year of the new format, Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21.  All six touchdowns came from the hands (or feet) of quarterbacks, as Cam Newton ran in for a score and five other quarterbacks threw for a touchdown - but none of them went to the same receiver twice.  No receiver topped 70 yards or six catches, but they still did much better than running backs, where only two of them even gained over 25 yards - but failed both at scoring and breaking the 45 yard mark.

Last year (2015), Michael Irvin's team outscored Cris Carter's squad, 32-28, but those 60 points still favored the passing attacks for both sides.  Four QBs had two touchdown passes each, and Matthew Stafford dominated with 300+ yards passing as well.  His playing nearly half of the contest really helped him to rack up the stats, as Tony Romo only had six passing attempts.  As for the receivers, two of them had 98 yards (Antonio Brown and Golden Tate) but neither found the end zone.  Five pass catchers did, including three that scored twice - tight ends Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen as well as Denver's Emmanuel Sanders.  Graham was helped by Drew Brees being the quarterback, and that highlights something to look for - a possible teammate connection.  Rushing was still not part of the game, although Mark Ingram had 72 yards with 11 carries and added a respectable 2-17 receiving.

So what about this year's contest?  I would recommend targeting receivers, but probably not quarterbacks as even a QB getting two touchdown passes in 50% of the game will likely not rival a Super Bowl starter who plays 60 minutes.  The same can be said for running backs, although a starter who catches the ball out of the backfield like Devonta Freeman is an interesting punt play.  I would target Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. and also Derek Carr to Amari Cooper as possible touchdown connections, and also consider the tight ends from this game who want to show off how they really belong like Tyler Eifert and Travis Kelce.

As for the rest of your roster - take your team defense from the Super Bowl along with your starting quarterback (either Cam Newton or Peyton Manning) and round out your roster with as many Super Bowl 50 players as you can squeeze in.  Also keep in mind the late swap option for DraftKings and set a few lineups that you can toy with before next Sunday if you strike touchdown paydirt in the Pro Bowl

Good luck, and play just for fun!

See you next season!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Championship Round Cost Efficiency Breakdown

Check in with the Championship Round Cost Efficiency Breakdown before lineup lock. On a tiny slate with two volatile matchups, you'll need to create your edge by squeezing every drop of delicious value-nectar from what DraftKings' pricing algorithm has drummed up. Find out which team's wideouts are the likeliest cheat code, which aged quarterback to avoid, and which bottom-salaried running back has a flicker of potential to lead his team in touches.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Conference Championship Round GPP Breakdown: AFC

Some quick notes before diving into this week's slate:

  • DraftKings is still offering head-to-heads and 50-50s this week. If you were still playing cash games the last two weeks, you likely found yourself in plenty of scenarios where three or less players decided the outcome of your contest due to roster overlap between you and your opponents. With two less games to choose players from this week, the overlap will be amplified. Any edge you had over your opponents no longer exists due to the razor thin player pool. More so than with the wildcard and divisional rounds, this is a week for GPPs only -- and even then you should be playing mostly for fun.
  • To that end, DraftKings is running some lucrative large field tournaments -- the $1 Million Conference Championship ($20 entry, 57K person field) and $1.25 Million Play Action ($3 entry, 479K person field) both pay $100,000 to the winner. Play what your bankroll allows, but if you were the type of player to enter two $20 GPPs per week during the regular season, I would suggest taking that $40 and spreading it out over 20 or so entries into smaller tournaments. To make a deep run this week, your margin for error is literally zero. If you don't get every single player who has a big game into your lineup, you'll be buried in the standings. Unless you get incredibly lucky, it's going to take a few variations to hit the right combination of players.
  • It's the last week of anything resembling NFL DFS until preseason starts up more than six months from now. Enjoy the last taste, but it's worth repeating -- even the best player's edge is minimal to non-existent on this slate. Don't give back the winnings you worked so hard to pile up this season just because this is the last action you'll see for awhile. 
Huge thanks to all the readers and Footballguys subscribers for making work a pleasure this year, and good luck on Sunday!


Denver ranked inside the top-8 in all of the pertinent pass defense metrics -- DVOA (1st), opponent completion percentage (8th), passing yards per game (2nd), passing touchdown percentage (8th), yards per pass attempt (1st), and sack percentage (1st). As a result, Vegas has shown the Broncos defense respect by setting New England's implied team total at 23.5 points. It's a number I envision Tom Brady ($7,400) and company cruising past fairly easily. The Patriots scored at least 27 points in every one of Julian Edelman's nine starts this season, and Brady finished with less than 23 fantasy points in only one of those nine games. New England had the sixth highest passing play percentage in the league, and we saw them slant heavily towards the pass last week against Kansas City (only seven rushing attempts by running backs). I'd expect the Patriots to once again play to their strengths against a Denver rush defense that let up a league-low 3.3 yards per attempt this season. It should also help Brady's cause that Broncos stud cornerback Chris Harris played with one arm the whole game against the Steelers last week.

With New England's offense in pass-only mode against the Chiefs, James White ($4,600) saw 72% of the running back snaps -- substantially higher than the 35%-40% he had been playing recently. It didn't result in much production (6.4 fantasy points), but on the chance White sees similar field time against Denver, I'll have him in about 30% of my lineups. For what it's worth, the Broncos gave up the eighth-most receptions and sixth-most receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs this season. Pricing is tight enough that fitting both Jonathan Stewart and David Johnson into a lineup is difficult, so White won't exactly be a contrarian play, but he will certainly check in lower owned than the NFC backs and probably C.J. Anderson as well. Steven Jackson ($3,000) played on 29% of the snaps and had six carries for 16 yards last week, putting him under 2.8 yards per carry in all three of his appearances as a Patriot. I suppose Jackson has touchdown upside, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to roster him. Even if Peyton Manning self destructs and New England gets out to a big lead, I don't expect expect Bill Belichick to start running Jackson into a brick wall -- especially if Brady has the short passing game humming. Brandon Bolden ($2,600) will be under 2% owned, but justifiably so after seeing only 7% of the backfield snaps last week.

Julian Edelman ($7,500) is the highest-priced wide receiver on the slate and very likely to be the highest-owned after returning from a two-month layoff to drop 24.1 fantasy points on the Chiefs. Nothing we've seen all season suggests Edelman won't once again act as Brady's primary chain mover on short and intermediate routes, which puts the chances he finishes with less than 15 fantasy points extremely low (it happened once in the eight games Edelman finished this year). Brandon LaFell ($3,300) is awful, but he profiles as a worthy contrarian play this week. He was out there on 90% of the snaps vs. Kansas City and was targeted a respectable five times. Denver is going to have to focus their coverage on Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, which should leave LaFell in soft spots where Brady can find him. Keshawn Martin ($2,600) hooked up with Brady for a 42 yard gain last week, but was in on only 17% of the wide receiver snaps. I won't argue against using him (or anyone really) to construct a unique roster, but I'd rather take my chances with someone like LaFell, who will at least be on the field. Danny Amendola ($4,400) will see a lot of Harris' coverage in the slot. If Harris' shoulder injury hampers him as much as it did last week, Amendola at least stands a chance. But like LaFell, he's an uninspiring contrarian option whose best selling point is that he'll be on the field.

Rob Gronkowski ($7,600) is the biggest fantasy difference maker on the slate and is priced accordingly at $100 more than Edelman. When New England and Denver met in Week 12, Gronk caught six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Dating back to 2011, he has 40 catches for 516 yards and six touchdowns in six games against the Broncos. With Greg Olsen only $500 less, there's no question I'll have more exposure to Gronkowski and his GPP-winning ceiling than Olsen (who I still like quite a bit) this week.

The Patriots Defense ($3,100) provides a bit of much needed cap relief and has upside in this matchup against Peyton Manning. Manning wasn't terrible last week against the Steelers, but he didn't do anything to prove the guy who threw 17 interceptions through the season's first nine games isn't still lurking behind that orange #18 jersey.


Speaking of Peyton Manning ($5,500), there are contrarian plays, and then there are just bad plays. Manning -- who completed only 56.8% of his passes against a notoriously leaky Pittsburgh pass defense last week -- qualifies as the latter. If he couldn't turn in a serviceable day at home against the Steelers, I have no faith he can do so against a Patriots team that should be able to pressure him (New England's 2.9 sacks per game trailed only Denver's 3.2 for the league lead). I also can't imagine Gary Kubiak's game plan is to beat New England through the air. 35+ pass attempts for Manning would probably mean Kubiak's (and Broncos fans) worst nightmare has come true.

Even in a down game for Manning, both Demaryius Thomas ($7,000) and Emmanuel Sanders ($6,300) were able to reach low double digit fantasy points against the Steelers. Neither receiver faces a particularly exploitable cornerback matchup, but they both qualify as high-floor options who have demonstrated 30 point ceilings. There aren't many players you can say that about on this week's slate, making both receivers viable options. It's worth noting when these teams met in Week 12 (with Brock Osweiler at quarterback) Thomas was limited to one catch for 36 yards, while Sanders posted a 6-113-0 line. Pro Football Focus grades New England's Leonard Johnson as the worst cornerback on this week's slate, but there's no mismatch we can exploit as a result. Jordan Norwood ($2,100) and Andre Caldwell ($2,000) split Denver's slot snaps pretty evenly, effectively cancelling each other out.

C.J. Anderson's ($4,400) price is up $700 from last week after he turned 17 touches into 16.3 fantasy points against a tough Steelers run defense. Anderson has run for less than 4.8 yards per carry in a game just once since Week 8, and has five games with over six yards per carry over that span. It's also encouraging his best game of the season came against New England in Week 12 (15-113-2 plus another 4-40 receiving). While Anderson is the far superior option to Ronnie Hillman ($3,900), the Broncos 50-50 backfield timeshare is here to stay, which caps the upside of both backs against New England's top 10 rush defense (DVOA). Ultimately, it will be difficult to avoid rostering Anderson due to his price and recent production, but Hillman makes for an interesting contrarian play as the cheapest source of 15 touches on the slate. I also don't hate the idea of pairing both Denver running backs with the Broncos defense in a unique roster construction. We can't rule out Denver winning this game at home, and the only way that happens is if the Broncos keep the ball out of Brady's hands by controlling the clock with the run and playing great defense.

Playing Owen Daniels ($2,300) on a two-game slate when Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen are your other options is, um, not optimal. Daniels was on the field for 70% of the snaps last week -- making him the clear play over Vernon Davis ($2,200) and Virgil Green ($2,100) -- but it resulted in two catches for 10 yards against Pittsburgh. If you're really trying to talk yourself into Daniels, I guess you can make a case for New England struggling against tight ends in recent weeks. The Patriots allowed four tight end touchdowns in their last five games of the regular season to the combination of Zach Ertz, Delanie Walker, and Jordan Cameron -- and Travis Kelce probably would have had a touchdown against them last week if Alex Smith hadn't overthrown him in the end-zone.

The Broncos Defense ($3,300) is absolutely dominant and probably comes with a six point floor due to their league-leading sack rate. I just don't see how they can win you a GPP this week against a Patriots offense that has rolled in every game they were completely healthy. There's also a greater than zero chance Manning implodes and leaves them climbing an uphill battle against poor field position. I'll have some exposure to the Broncos, but like most people I'll be going heaviest on Carolina's defense in hopes they keep up their dominant play at home.

Check back on the blog Saturday for the NFC breakdown.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Divisional Round GPP Breakdown: Sunday Games

If you missed my breakdown of the New England vs. Kansas City and Arizona vs. Green Bay games (along with some notes on how we can learn from week's Millionaire Maker results when constructing lineups this week), click here. Otherwise, go ahead and dig right in to the Sunday games.


I'm having a tough time deciding whether Seattle @ Carolina ends in a 13-10 defensive slug-fest, or a 30-27 shootout. Vegas landed in the middle, setting the over/under at 44 points, meaning neither team has an implied total above the 24 point mark I usually prefer to target. The line is fair -- Carolina allowed only 17 points per game at home (third-lowest in the league), with both of their late season shootouts coming on the road at the Saints and Giants respectively. I'd like Russell Wilson ($6,800) and the Seahawks offense much more if this game were being played in Seattle, but I do think Wilson warrants a spot on about 15% of your tournament rosters. He'll be lower-owned than Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, and Tom Brady, yet his demonstrated ceiling of 38 fantasy points is right there with each of them. Wilson has averaged 36.6 rushing yards per game in three meetings with Carolina over the last two years, which is nearly the equivalent of an extra passing touchdown per game on DraftKings. Prior to last week's impossible weather game at Minnesota, Wilson had scored at least 21 fantasy points in seven straight contests.

Barring any further surprises, Marshawn Lynch ($6,400) will be active for the first time since Week 10. With the running back position razor thin behind David Johnson, it's tempting to pencil Lynch into lineups, but I'm keeping my expectations in check. Carolina ranks 6th in rush defense DVOA, we have no idea what type of workload Lynch is ready for after such a long layoff, and with Christine Michael ($5,500) running well the last few weeks, it's entirely possible we see the two form some sort of rotation. Lynch is certainly viable on this slate due to his touchdown upside, but if he doesn't score, I'd bet you're looking at about seven fantasy points. I'd rather punt RB2 with someone like Fitzgerald Toussaint or one of the Denver backs, and spend the extra money at wide receiver (or even tight end). If you're looking for a strong case to play Lynch, check out what Dan Hindery wrote in this week's Roundtable.

The Doug Baldwin ($6,800) regression refuses to ever come. This season's cumulative WR7 is once again a strong play despite the tough matchup with Carolina's elite secondary. Baldwin runs 83% of his routes from the slot (per Pro Football Focus), which means he should avoid Josh Norman on the majority of his routes (Norman ventured into the slot on only 2% of his snaps this season). After catching a red zone touchdown last week, Baldwin now has five red zone scores in his last five games on the strength of an NFL leading 61% red zone target market share over that span. Tyler Lockett ($4,400) figures to see the most of Norman's coverage, which limits his appeal (even as a contrarian stacking option in the return game when paired with Seattle's defense). Jermaine Kearse ($3,200) is an interesting low-owned flyer for the second straight week. Before throwing up a dud in last week's ice bowl, Kearse had scored double-digit fantasy points in five of his last six games. Of the three Seattle receivers, he has by far the best one-on-one matchup with Carolina cornerback Robert McClain.

With Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce, Heath Miller (and even Richard Rodgers) on the slate, there is no reason to roster Cooper Helfet ($2,500) or Chase Coffman ($2,800)

It feels strange to say the Seahawks Defense ($4,100) isn't a top play, but considering their price and bad spot (on the road against a 15-1 team who employs the best quarterback in the NFL this season), there are better options.


If I were making 10 GPP lineups this week, Carson Palmer would be on four of them and Cam Newton ($7,500) would be on three. Your number one goal when constructing rosters this week is to assemble a team that can score the most raw points (as opposed to targeting the best point per dollar values at each position). Very simply, Newton has demonstrated the ability to score more points than any other quarterback, and there's a decent chance you'll need him to run deep in tournaments, despite the bad on-paper matchup. It's worth noting Newton's fantasy points per game average increased by about 16% in home games this season.

Jonathan Stewart ($5,800) will be active for the first time since Week 14, and we should see his ownership depressed a bit due to the injury layoff, bad matchup, and steep price tag (he's only $200 less than David Johnson). While Seattle does rank third in rush defense DVOA, Stewart has had their number. He posted a 20-78-2 line on the Seahawaks in their Week 6 meeting, and he reached 70 yards on only 13 carries in Carolina's blowout loss to Seattle in last year's playoffs. There's always the chance Stewart gets poached by Cam Newton at the goal line, but the narrative he doesn't have touchdown upside is a fallacy. From Week 6 (after he came back healthy from the Panthers bye week) through 14 (his last game played before getting injured), Stewart led the league in carries and touchdowns from inside the opponent's five yard line. As one of the few backs on this slate guaranteed at least 15 touches, Stewart is absolutely in play.

With Rob Gronkowski's murky injury situation, Greg Olsen ($6,900) is easily the safest tight end on the slate. I'm expecting him to be one of the three highest-owned players this week, but like Jordan Reed last week, this doesn't look like the spot to fade him. Seattle was exposed by tight ends on several occasions this season. They ranked 26th in pass defense DVOA to opposing tight ends and allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to the position. When these teams met in Week 6, Olsen exploited the matchup to the tune of seven catches, 131 receiving yards and a touchdown.

The rest of Carolina's receivers will either hold the key to a GPP win or sink your lineup completely. If you believe Cam Newton is going to look every bit like the league MVP in a tough matchup, it makes sense to pair him with flyers like Corey Brown ($3,500), or Jerricho Cotchery ($3,000) who will go under 5% owned. Ted Ginn Jr. ($5,000) found himself on several winning GPP lineups late in the season thanks to his deep ball skills. I don't like his chances of catching a bomb against a Seattle secondary that allowed the fourth-fewest pass plays of 20+ yards. If I had to choose a Panthers wide receiver to roster it would be either Cotchery (who has a plus matchup in the slot with Seattle cornerback Deshawn Shead), or Devin Funchess ($3,400). Funchess isn't guaranteed playing time, but he's proven himself as a playmaker in just about every opportunity he's gotten this season, and Carolina Head Coach Ron Rivera recently referred to his as the team's X-Factor for the playoffs.

Steelers @ Broncos Speed Round

It doesn't look like I have enough time left to give you my full thoughts on this game, and get it out in time to do you any good, so we're going lightning round on the final game of the weekend...
  • Ben Roethlisberger ($7,000) - The latest reports on Roethlisberger stated he was a full participant in Friday's practice and his arm strength looked the same as usual. The matchup is ugly, Roethlisberger's road splits are not promising, and he'll be missing his best weapon, but that report is encouraging enough for me to get at least one Steelers stack into the portfolio. The rest of the field will be scared to death to use Roethlisberger and there's a chance he can be set-up with numerous short fields if Peyton Manning looks anything like he did early in the season.
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint ($4,200) - The narrative states that with Antonio Brown out and Roethlisberger's arm at less than full strength, Toussaint should clean up in the short passing game. I buy it -- Toussaint was targeted eight times last week and generated 10 of his 15.8 fantasy points via the receiving game. Denver allowed the eighth-most receptions to opposing running backs during the regular season.
  • Jordan Todman ($3,800) - I've always liked Todman as a runner and he showed why last week with 65 yards on 11 carries against a tough run defense. But with Denver now favored by 7.5, the implied game script heavily favors Toussaint who played 66% of Pittsburgh's running back snaps last week. The only spot I'll have Todman is in a contrarian lineup that features both Pittsburgh backs, where I'm looking for the low priced combination to net me about 25 combined fantasy points.
  • Martavis Bryant ($6,000) - Bryant can score from anywhere on the field regardless of who he's lined up against. He belongs in your tournament lineups every week, and this game is no different. The Steelers have been trying to get the ball in Bryant's hands on short slants (and even rushes) in recent weeks, so he might not be ruined if Roethlisberger can't throw downfield. He'll also likely see an uptick in targets with Brown sidelined.
  • Markus Wheaton ($4,300) - Wheaton will take on an expanded role with Brown out, but I'm convinced he's a terrible player and he'll have to deal with shutdown corner Chris Harris on the majority of his routes. If having zero exposure to Wheaton is the reason I don't win money this week, I'm fine with that.
  • Heath Miller ($3,200) - Can Miller get you the 10-12 fantasy points you need for him to pay off his price tag -- especially with Brown sidelined? Of course. But the floor here is low and the ceiling not high enough for me to justify using him over Gronk, Olsen, Kelce, or my preferred tight end sleeper, Richard Rodgers.
  • Steelers Defense ($3,600) - This is a super-sneaky contrarian play that I'll be looking to get into at least 30% of my lineups. Everyone will be using a defense from a big home favorite, which will leave the Steelers under-owned in a matchup with Peyton Manning. Manning has an awful playoff track record, and threw 17 interceptions in nine games before getting injured. Pittsburgh may very well have the best on paper matchup of any D/ST on the slate.
  • Peyton Manning ($6,000) - I'm incredibly conflicted on Manning this week. I've already mentioned his suspect history in playoff games and how bad he's been this season. However, the weakness of Pittsburgh's defense is in their secondary, and Denver's receivers match-up with the Steelers corners so well it's hard not to like Manning at this price tag (and low ownership). Ultimately, I think Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are good enough to bring Manning along for the ride. I'll have 15%-20% exposure.
  • C.J. Anderson ($3,700) - Anderson has averaged over six yards per carry in five out of his last six games. He's been the better runner than Ronnie Hillman over the second half of the season, but unfortunately Anderson is no lock to receive more carries than his platoon-mate. Considering Anderson's recent explosiveness and the implied game script, there's a case to be made for him as the RB2 on this slate behind David Johnson.
  • Ronnie Hillman ($4,100) - I like Hillman a lot less than Anderson, but since the Broncos insist on trotting him out there for 15 touches per game, I'll be forced to split my Anderson and Hillman shares down the middle. You should too. It can easily be Hillman who benefits most if the Broncos get out to an early lead and take the air out of the ball late in the game.
  • Demaryius Thomas ($7,000) - Thomas is a nightmare for the Pittsburgh secondary, as evidenced by his two-touchdown performance against the Steelers in Week 15. He averaged 93.3 receiving yards per game in his 10 games with Manning this season, compared to 61.8 in the six games Manning missed. Given the matchup and Antonio Brown's absence, Thomas' ceiling on this slate is WR1.
  • Emmanuel Sanders ($5,800) - Sanders will be matched up against Antwon Blake, PFFs lowest graded cornerback on the slate. When Sanders last faced his old team in Week 15, he exploited the matchup to the tune of a season-high 39.5 fantasy points. The monster performance counted as Sanders' sixth 20+ point fantasy game this season, proving his ceiling is plenty high to help you land in a GPP winner's circle. I'll have lots of lineups that feature both Thomas and Sanders.
  • Owen Daniels ($2,500)/Vernon Davis ($2,900) - Don't do this to your rosters.
  • Broncos Defense ($3,900) - Denver is my favorite D/ST play of the week. Pittsburgh is not the same team on the road (21.8 points per game away vs. 30.6 at home). They have to face one of the best defenses in the league without two of their best weapons, and their quarterback may not be able to throw past the line of scrimmage. Denver has sacked enemy quarterbacks on 8.32% of their plays this season, the highest rate in the league. If Roethlisberger gets blown up and lands on his shoulder, there's a strong possibility we'll see Landry Jones for extended action. That is a recipe for a deep tournament run.

Cost Efficiency Breakdown, Divisional Playoffs

Don't let the slate start up without checking in on the Divisional Round Cost Efficiency Breakdown. Find the hidden gems and otherwise shrewd plays, salary-wise, for the NFL weekend.

Here's a sample breakdown:

It’s hard to go wrong choosing between Michael Floyd and John Brown, two elite big-play threats on the league’s most dynamic offense. But the week’s largest Vegas scoring projection deserves representation in your lineup, and luckily for us, both come very cheaply (either would need 15 points to cash). Floyd, the safer and preferred cash game target, closed the season with an absolute flourish, topping 100 yards five times from Weeks 10-16 and building a moderately solid volume outlook (eight targets per game over that span), as well. Brown hasn’t been breaking open downfield much, but he’s been an elite red zone producer of late, finding the end zone in each of the Cardinals’ last three meaningful games. He deserves real GPP consideration, but doesn’t look cash-ready.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Divisional Round Punt Plays

Divisional Round Punt Plays

Every week John Lee, Cecil Lammey and I (Jeff Pasquino) discuss our punt plays for DraftKings on The Audible to close out our weekly DFS DraftKings podcast.  These are players that we are looking at to fill in a last spot on our lineups that are relatively cheap.  We have all been there - we have only a few bucks left and 1-2 spots to go in our roster, and we need a good value play to fill in that gap.  The rules we play by are that the player must not cost more than $3,500.

Just like always, I can only use one on the show - and I am not going to steal the thunder from our three picks that make the airwaves - but I will share a few guys that did not make it for the final cut.  With such a small slate (four games) this week, there are not that many - but there are still a few to consider.  So who did I pick on the show?  You have to listen!  So, tune in for my pick this week, and give the following list of additional punt plays for this week a read and tell me what you think, either in the comments or on twitter (@JeffPasquino).   Here goes:

Steven Jackson, RB, Patriots ($3,300) - Rumor has it that the Patriots want to get Steven Jackson going this week to spark a New England ground game, and they could need him if Gronkowski either cannot play or is at less than full strength.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Seahawks ($3,200) - Carolina will blanket Doug Martin, so someone else has to step up to help Russell Wilson.  Jermaine Kearse could easily be that guy.  He has had 20 targets over the past four weeks, resulting in 16 catches and two scores over that period.  He's on the field plenty, so he looks like a reasonable roll of the dice.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Steelers ($3,000) -  With Pittsburgh now having to play without Antonio Brown, it will be all hands on deck for the receivers.  That means DHB moves up to #3 in the pecking order.  The question is, will it be all hands, or all stone hands?

Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs ($3,000) - If Spencer Ware is unable to go, Davis makes for a reasonable punt this week.  Davis was the RB2 last week for the Chiefs with Ware sidelined, rushing to close out the game, and he led off the game with a kick return for a touchdown.  Pairing him with the Kansas City defense is a bold contrarian move that could pay off big if he returns another kickoff.

Scott Chandler, TE, Patriots ($2,600) - New England  wants Rob Gronkowski to be ready, but if he misses this game (or is limited), Chandler is a competent understudy.  One touchdown catch makes 3x value for Chandler, which is not unreasonable at all if he moves up the depth chart for Saturday.

Thanks for reading as always, and be sure to check out The DraftKings' Audible episode every week, and subscribe to The Audible on iTunes.  Good luck this week!

Divisional Round GPP Breakdown: Saturday Games

Before we get into this week’s plays, some lessons from last week’s results:
  • I theorized last week, "If you want to have any shot at a deep run in tournaments, you’ll need to surround your core of chalk plays with at least two under-the-radar players (think 20% owned or less on such a short slate) and probably more depending on the size of the field." I was only partially right.
  • Last week’s winning Millionaire Maker lineup included four players who were owned by less than 20% of the field. Nine out of the 10 top scoring rosters did indeed include at least two players under 20% owned.
  • However, there was another path to a unique roster -- one that could be repeated this week. Travis Kelce was the only player under 20% owned in the lineup that finished in a seven-way tie for third place in the Millionaire Maker. Those seven entrants used Kelce in the flex next to Jordan Reed and passed up huge chunks of the field when both tight ends exploded for big games. Last week’s results are likely to make flexing a tight end more popular this week (especially with Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, and Kelce on the slate), but foregoing a running back or wide receiver in the flex will never sit well with the majority of entrants. Rostering two tight ends is once again a viable strategy for differentiating your tournament lineups in the divisional round.
  • It wasn’t just low-owned players, or unique roster construction that won all the money last week. You had to go down to 52nd place in the Millionaire Maker to find a lineup that didn’t include the highest-owned quarterback (Kirk Cousins - 31.8%), wide receiver (Antonio Brown - 66.2%), and tight end (Jordan Reed - 54%). Let this serve as a reminder that you don’t need to stray too far from the beaten path when building lineups this week -- especially now that we have four new teams full of well-rested, well-prepared players. You’ll want to build your core around the obvious plays on the home favorites this week and once again seek out a differentiator or two, whether it be in player selection or roster construction.
Keeping what we learned last week in mind, I felt it would be more useful to go team-by-team and touch on each of the fantasy relevant options, rather than focus on one GPP dart from each team like I did last week.


There’s very little to like outside of Travis Kelce ($5,100) on the Chiefs offense. Kelce exploded for 8-128-0 last week and tied a season-high with 10 targets. With Jeremy Maclin likely limited, Kelce would become Kansas City’s top receiving option. New England was a tough draw for opposing tight ends this season, but they have given up a combined four touchdowns to Zach Ertz, Delanie Walker, and Jordan Cameron in their last five games.

Running back is ugly enough that I was looking forward to using Charcandrick West ($5,500) in a bad matchup, but Spencer Ware ($4,500) returned to practice Thursday and would seem on track to play through his ankle injury. As long as Ware suits up, I won’t have much exposure to either Kansas City running back on the road in Foxborough, where the Chiefs are five point underdogs. It makes sense to have a few shares of Ware if you’re building multiple GPP lineups. He has 32 carries to West’s 21 over the last two games and there’s always a possibility he’ll fall forward for a few yards into the end zone.

Alex Smith ($5,400) simply doesn’t have the ceiling to win you a tournament, and that’s especially true this week with Kansas City projected by Vegas to score less than 19 points. Any upside he possessed is dinged by Maclin’s injury. I can’t envision Maclin being effective even if he plays, which could open the door for Albert Wilson ($3,800) as a GPP dart. Wilson would have been a more popular play this week if Alex Smith hadn’t overthrown him on what would have been a 58-yard touchdown against the Texans. With so many viable wide receiver options to choose from, I don’t see the need to roster Chris Conley ($3,000) unless Maclin sits.

The Chiefs Defense ($4,000) has scored less than eight fantasy points just once since Week 7, but there’s too many big home favorites on the slate to trust them in this spot.


As long as the knee injury that held Rob Gronkowski ($7,500) out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday checks out, he’s my favorite GPP play on the Patriots side of the ball. Kansas City ranked second in pass defense DVOA to opposing tight ends and allowed the least overall fantasy points to the position, but Gronk is no ordinary tight end. Considering Gronkowski’s knee injury (which reportedly required a pain killing injection), price (he’s more expensive than the WR2), mediocre performances in his last two games, and the presence of Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce in the player pool, we should get a break on his ownership percentage. I wouldn’t sweat Gronk's last two game logs -- the Patriots were being very careful not to put him in a position where he could get hurt (a plan which apparently didn't work out very well).

Kansas City has a stout run defense and the Patriots will be trotting out 32 year old Steven Jackson ($3,300) at running back. Jackson is cheap and had 15 touches (including a touchdown) at Miami in Week 17, but unless he scores multiple touchdowns, he probably won’t reach double-digit fantasy points in this matchup. Maybe he’s worth a shot in about 10% of your lineups, on the chance New England blows Kansas City’s doors completely off and goes run-heavy in the second half. If the Patriots decide not to test the Chiefs run defense, I’d expect James White ($5,200) to play a major role in the short passing game. White scored between 14 and 31 fantasy points in each game from Weeks 13 to 16. Adding him to a Patriots stack is a nice way to squeeze a little extra juice out of Tom Brady if the New England offense has a big game.

Tom Brady ($7,400) is a very interesting tournament option this week. I expect Carson Palmer and Cam Newton to be heavily-owned, and the crowd might hesitate to use Brady after his terrible last two games of the regular season. But offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (who got hurt during the Patriots Week 16 loss) will be back, which is a huge plus for Brady’s chances of withstanding the Chiefs pass rush. Brady will also get Julian Edelman ($7,100) back for this game. Over the last two seasons, Brady’s fantasy points per game are 50% higher in the 23 games he’s played with Edelman than the nine games he’s played without him.

As for Edelman, I expect we won’t see his ownership percentage get too high due his price (WR2) and the uncertainty surrounding his injury. Personally, I’m not too concerned about either. Edelman has flashed a 25-30 point ceiling on several occasions this season, and he’s been practicing for over a month. The matchup against Kansas City’s cornerbacks is winnable enough to support a big game. As far as GPP flyers go, you can do worse than Brandon LaFell ($4,000). The weakness of Kansas City’s secondary has been on the perimeter most of the year, and that’s where LaFell lines up on about 80% of his routes. LaFell has been appallingly bad this season, but he’s at least a theoretical red zone threat on a team with the third-most red zone scoring attempts. Danny Amendola ($5,500) isn’t really on my radar, but he should be healthy and he’s had some good games with Edelman in the lineup this season. If the Patriots have the quick passing game humming, Amendola could see 6-8 targets, which would make him a fine contrarian option for your Brady stacks.

The Patriots Defense ($3,500) is right there with the Broncos as my preferred D/ST unit. New England trailed only Denver in sacks per game this season, while Chiefs quarterbacks were sacked on 9% of their offensive plays -- the third highest rate in the league. Alex Smith will be overmatched in Foxborough and the Patriots should roll to an easy win, which points to a strong day for their defense.


The most common roster construction this week is likely to include Carson Palmer ($6,500), David Johnson ($6,000), and at least one Cardinals wide receiver. But if you’re looking to go contrarian, fading the Cardinals skill players isn’t the place to do it. Arizona is this week’s biggest favorite (-7) and they have the highest implied team total (28.5 points) by a wide margin over New England (23.75 points). Don’t be afraid to play Palmer and Johnson in a lineup together due to worries about negative correlation between quarterbacks and running backs from the same team. They are the top plays at their respective positions, and it’s not like there are many viable pivots (especially at running back). Besides, Johnson is such a talented receiver (at least three catches and 31 receiving yards in every game since Week 14), he’s much more likely to help Palmer’s numbers than hurt them.

Michael Floyd ($5,100) has been a favorite play of mine for most of the season. His salary is still nowhere close to reflecting his expected production against a Green Bay team he torched for 111 yards in Week 16. It looks like Floyd will have to contend with cornerback Sam Shields who missed the last four games with a concussion, but Shields may not be 100% after such a long layoff, and no one’s confusing him with Josh Norman anyway. John Brown ($5,200) should enjoy favorable coverage from rookie Damarious Randall on the majority of his routes. According to Pro Football Focus, Randall has allowed the third-most fantasy points per route defended among the cornerbacks on this week’s slate. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Brown’s 30 point ceiling, but he’s settled in as a high-floor option (11 games with at least double-digit fantasy points) who has the potential to go nuclear in any given week. I won’t have much Larry Fitzgerald ($6,500) since he’s comparatively expensive, Arizona’s other receivers possess higher ceilings, and he faces a difficult matchup in the slot with Casey Hayward. But I will be using Fitzgerald to cut the chalk in some spots based on high target volume and the possibility the bye week returns him to early season form.

The Cardinals Defense ($3,800) has as high a ceiling as exists for a D/ST, but I don’t plan on having much exposure with better options on the board and high potential for this game to turn into a shootout.


The Packers are my preferred underdog  to use players from due to the aforementioned shootout potential in their matchup with the Cardinals. After watching Green Bay’s offensive line hold off Washington’s solid pass rush, it’s doubtful we’ll see a repeat of the nine-sack performance that doomed the Packers to a 38-8 loss in their Week 16 visit to Arizona. Aaron Rodgers ($6,700) and the Green Bay offense have to be feeling more confident after their convincing Wildcard win, and they should be playing with a collective chip on their shoulder to get some revenge for that Week 16 drubbing. I’ll definitely be building some Rodgers-centric lineups in hopes the best quarterback in the game can keep the positive momentum going.

With Davante Adams likely out (addition by subtraction), Randall Cobb ($5,900) will line up on the outside more and see plenty of stud cornerback Patrick Peterson, but James Jones ($4,600) and Jared Abbrederis ($3,000) should help Rodgers’ cause. Jones saw a team-high 11 targets last week, which was consistent with his usage over the last four games of the regular season (team-leading 28% target market share). The combination of Jones’ guaranteed volume and big play ability (his 18 receptions of 20+ yards ranked 11th-best this season) makes him one of the best point per dollar values on the slate for the second consecutive week. Assuming Abbrederis takes Cobb’s place in the slot in three-receiver sets (he’s lined up there on 87% of his routes this year), he’ll enjoy coverage from Tyrann Mathieu replacement, Jerraud Powers. According to Pro Football Focus, Powers has allowed the second-most fantasy points per route defended among the cornerbacks on this week’s slate. You can do much worse for a minimum salary punt than the receiver seeing high percentage passes from Aaron Rodgers.

With Gronk, Olsen, Kelce and Heath Miller destined to tie up 95% of the tight end traffic, Richard Rodgers ($4,000) makes for an interesting contrarian play. When you adjust for strength of schedule, the Cardinals were one of the worst teams in football at defending the tight end. Over the last five weeks of the season, Arizona allowed over 35% more fantasy points per game to the position than the league average. With Adams out of the lineup, Rodgers could also be called upon for additional targets.

Running back is ugly behind David Johnson, so both Eddie Lacy ($4,400) and James Starks ($4,000) are worth a look. The duo combined for a 2.83x salary multiplier last week, which was actually pretty good considering the alternatives. It's tough to forecast much success for either Green Bay running back on the ground against Arizona's second-rated rush defense (DVOA). Either player would be best used in a unique roster construction along with Aaron Rodgers in hopes they can take a screen pass to the house (like Lacy did against the Cardinals in Week 16).

The Packers Defense ($3,400) doesn’t belong anywhere near your lineup this week.

Check back on Saturday for some analysis on Sunday’s games (Seahawks @ Panthers and Steelers @ Broncos).