For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. FootballGuys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
On weekends where there are limited game slates, a different approach to DFS should be taken to maximize one's return on investment. There are multiple schools of thought, but here are a few 'tips' to ensure that you are being responsible with the money you have won playing DFS through the first 17 weeks of the season:
1) Limit your overall volume. My recommendation is that you play less than 10% of your normal volume, in terms of dollars invested. For example, if you typically play $100 on a weekend, do not play more than $10 this week due to the limited game slate. Why? ...because, with a smaller player pool, the edge that a sharp player creates through good analysis and projections is limited--identifying strong, value-based DFS plays becomes less difficult for the masses when there are less choices.
2) Be careful with cash games. I do not play cash games on game slates with less than five or six games and for that reason, I will not play cash games during the playoffs. The rationale for that mentality is similar to Point #1 (above), in that smaller player pools generally create excessive ownership overlap across cash games, where some players will be 75% owned or greater; when multiple players are owned at such high rates, your outcome will often distill down to the results of your one or two more unique players, who you may or may not have loved, but chose because of the limited player pool. For these reasons, I recommend shifting the majority of your volume to GPP's on playoff-based game slates.
3) Create a gamescript & build your roster around it. To win anything on a DFS slate with only two games, you will have to hit on every player. For that reason, the optimal strategy is to predict how each game will play out, identify players who will benefit, and build your roster accordingly. If you are correct on the gamescript, you will have a chance because of how you built your roster(s)..
4) Do not spend your entire salary. Ordinarily, you would want to spend as much of your allotted $50,000 salary on DraftKings, but it is entirely unnecessary on more limited game slates. Why? Simply put: Game Strategy. Less sharp players will be looking to maximize their output by rostering more expensive players to round out their lineups, which is an endorsed practice on double-digit game slates...but with limited games available, you can achieve roster uniqueness (Point #3 above) by just spending less than the masses. Do not overthink it--roster the players you like and if you are leaving $5,000 on the table this week, it is entirely acceptable.
5) Be responsible. This one is straightforward--if you've read this column for 17 consecutive weeks, you likely have finished in the black on the DFS season. Congrats! As we wind down NFL DFS, do not make the mistake of overexposing yourself on a playoff slate because, for the reasons outlined above, you could conceivably put a major dent into the hard work you have done to this point in the season. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, throw a dart or two into a GPP, and you will not have any regrets on Sunday night.
... AND PICKS
Cam Newton (Salary: $7200). Of the two games this weekend, the Arizona-Carolina game is the one most likely to result in above-average scoring. Of the two talented quarterback options in that game, I prefer Cam Newton for several reasons: 1) He is playing at home, where Carolina has not lost since November of 2014, 2) The Panthers have a higher implied team total than any other team this weekend, 3) Newton is a dual-threat QB and the Cardinals have struggled against running quarterbacks (Russell Wilson, Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick) this season. If Newton can run for 40+ yards and pick up a pair of touchdowns (passing or rushing), he should approach the 20-fantasy point threshold, which should be the top QB stat line on Championship weekend.
David Johnson (Salary: $6600). After a disappointing performance against the Packers last weekend, David Johnson would ordinarily be ignored by the DFS community in a tough matchup against the league's sixth ranked rush defense (FootballOutsiders' DVOA metric). However, options are limited with only four teams playing and Johnson is the running back who is most likely to see 20 touches this weekend, particularly because he is such a solid receiver out of the backfield. Johnson has 12 rushing touchdowns on only 140 carries this season and of all the players on the Cardinals, he is the most likely to score against the Panthers, despite his recent poor play.
C.J. Anderson (Salary: $4400). If the Broncos stand a chance of winning this weekend against the Patriots, Gary Kubiak will need to take a run-heavy approach to keep Tom Brady off the field at Mile High in Denver. The last time these teams met, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman ran all over the Patriots, combining for 212 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns on only 34 touches (6.2 yards per touch). A deeper look into the Patriots' season shows that they have evaded top-end running backs most of the year and have been susceptible when they have played a decent running back. Fellow FootballGuy and Broncos' expert, Cecil Lammey, wrote an excellent article earlier this week that describes how brilliantly Anderson has played since the mid-point of the season; Anderson has averaged 6.12 yards per carry over that span, which is tops in the league. Assuming Kubiak gives him the opportunity, Anderson could be the key low-owned player that wins the money in DFS contests this weekend.
Also eligible: Jonathan Stewart ($5900)
Julian Edelman (Salary: $7500). The Broncos boast the best secondary in the league and will need a great showing from Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby in order to have a chance to beat the Patriots on Sunday. That said, Julian Edelman should still get plenty of looks out of the slot from Tom Brady, particularly if Chris Harris continues to be hampered by a shoulder injury. After missing two months with a foot injury, Edelman saw 16 targets, catching 10 of them for 100 yards against the Chiefs last weekend. On a full PPR site like DraftKings, volume receivers like Edelman are always in play and he is a prime play this weekend with only two games from which we can select players.
Larry Fitzgerald (Salary: $6900). Since the Panthers lost slot cornerback Bene Benwikere to injury in Week 14, they have had problems containing opponents' WR1. Enter veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who led the Cardinals to victory against the Packers last weekend, compiling 176 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime to advance Arizona. The Panthers will have their hands full against Fitzgerald and since shutdown cornerback, Josh Norman, rarely comes into the slot, Fitzgerald should see the weakest coverage of the Cardinals receivers on Sunday. This is not the type of mismatch we might target during the regular season with a full slate of games, but it is one of the better matchups to exploit on this two-game set.
Corey Brown (Salary: $2800). In order to get the above two receivers into your lineups, you are going to have to take a flyer on a lesser receiver to save salary. My selection for the lower end of receivers is Corey Brown, who is the Panthers' secondary wide receiver behind Ted Ginn. Ginn will be blanketed and largely eliminated through shadow coverage provided by the Cards' Patrick Peterson, which should provide some overflow targets to Brown; Greg Olsen will also benefit (see below), but Brown gets the nod here because he plays more offensive snaps than both Jerricho Cotchery and Devin Funchess. It's not a comforting selection, but we have to take a few chances on limited game slates to differentiate our rosters and C.J. Anderson and Corey Brown are my 'differentiators' this weekend.
Also eligible: Michael Floyd ($5300)
Greg Olsen (Salary: $7100). This selection could have just as easily been Rob Gronkowski, but I give a slight edge to Greg Olsen because I think, in order to win, his team needs him more than the Pats need Gronkowski. Olsen, already the de facto number one receiver in Carolina, could be called upon even more often with Ted Ginn being largely eliminated from the game through shadow coverage provided by Patrick Peterson. In the second half of the season, the Cards allowed six receiving touchdowns to opposing tight ends, which bolsters the argument to get Olsen into your lineups. Lastly, I think Olsen will be somewhat lower-owned than Gronk, which makes him a better play because his floor and upside are similar.
Also eligible: Rob Gronkowski ($7500)
Patriots (Salary: $3100). Selecting a defense when there are only two games is painful because you know that negative correlations are almost unavoidable (i.e., if C.J. Anderson has a good day, the Patriots defense will be negatively affected). With that in mind, the Patriots are my recommendation because they get a Broncos team that cannot pass the ball effectively with Peyton Manning at the helm. Because the Broncos boast one of the better defenses in the league and are playing at home, I suspect this will be a relatively low-scoring affair with multiple field goals and the occasional touchdown. These teams are first (Broncos) and second (Patriots) in defensive sacks, but the edge goes to the Patriots here because Peyton Manning is the quarterback more likely to make an errant or ill-advised throw that could result in a pick-six.