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.
In order to help you build winning rosters, let's walk through some of the observations that I have made while doing my research for DraftKings this week. As you build out your lineups on DraftKings, try to consider the following commentary, which revolves around game strategy and how we will want to take advantage of what the masses are doing when they construct their own lineups.
CASH GAME TIPS
I know a lot of people, some of whom I respect, who will be playing cash games on this weekend's two-game slate...I will not be joining them. I do not have access to hard-core numbers to support my hypothesis, but I believe that there is not enough edge on two-game slates to substantiate playing cash games. To win cash games over the long-term, you need to win ~ 56% of the time in head-to-head contests (10% rake) and 58% of the time in DraftKings' low dollar double-ups (13% rake). On a typical NFL weekend, I feel confident that I can put together a winning roster for cash games that will win above those thresholds. That said, on Division Championship weekend with only four teams, even the most casual of fan is inundated with information about player injuries, usage, and likely gamescript; as a result, I think that it becomes very difficult to beat the masses > 60% of the time, which is basically where you need to be to win money over the long-term. If you are looking to make the games a bit more interesting and want to throw some of your earnings into the pool, my suggestion is to enter a single-entry GPP and avoid cash games altogether simply because there are not enough places for your opponent(s) to make mistakes in cash games; the difference between winning and losing will distill down to a player that you generally like least, which is effectively a prop bet in Vegas, where only the house (DraftKings, in this case) has an edge.
CASH GAME BUILD WITH AN OUTLIER:
If you are going to play DFS this weekend, my recommendation is to build one or two tournament rosters and enter them into single-entry GPP's. Doing so will limit the amount of overlapping entries that will assuredly occur in multi-entry tournaments; those multi-entry contests will have ties for the top spots, which will lessen the upside traditionally associated with winning a tournament. In single-entry tournaments, the problem will be similar, but not nearly as prevalent because those contests will not have a slew of pro players entering 150 slightly different entries that attempt to hit the most-optimal lineups; instead, you will see a lot of chalky, cash game-like builds that feature the best value players owned at high levels. To win one of those tournaments, you are likely going to have to take a similar approach, but then take a chance on an 'outlier' pick (or two) who you think could have a big day; doing so will give you a bit of diversity from the masses and catapult you up the leaderboard if that player has a nice day at 'low' ownership (defined as < 20% this weekend). In the end, my recommendation is that you do not play a lot of DFS this weekend..and I practice what I preach--I doubt that you will see the name 'tipandpick' in any contests across the industry and, if you do, it will be extremely limited.
Let's take a deeper look into some of the players who I will be targeting for my cash game and tournament rosters this weekend. There is little difference in terms of strength of selection between those players who have text to justify their appearance in this article versus those in the "also eligible" section; all are strong plays in their respective categories, but time and space restrictions do not allow for expansive written summaries of every player listed.
All-in on Matt Ryan ($7.7K): There just is not much reason to get away from Matt Ryan on Championship weekend. He is the likely MVP of the league and will be facing a Green Bay secondary that has been feasted upon by NFL quarterbacks since the beginning of December. In a list that includes Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Barkley, the Packers have allowed five straight quarterbacks to throw for 299+ yards, including multiple touchdowns in four of those contests (the exception was a game where Eli Manning had multiple touchdowns dropped by receivers in the endzone). Enter Matt Ryan, who has averaged 24.7 DraftKings points per game at home this season, not to mention multiple passing touchdowns in his last five games. Back in Week #8, Ryan toasted this same Packers secondary for 288 yards and three touchdowns for 24.42 fantasy points; with the likely pace of this game and the current state of the Packers defense, that would appear to be Matt Ryan's floor on Sunday.
Devonta Freeman ($7.2K) as a home favorite: The opportunity cost to nab LeVeon Bell at $10.3K is just too high because of what it does to the remainder of your roster. Consequently, it makes sense to drop a bit to Devonta Freeman, who has been a juggernaut in Atlanta this season, averaging nearly 50% more fantasy points (21.8) inside the Georgia Dome than when on the road (14.7). In his previous six home games, Freeman has scored a whopping 10 touchdowns. Tevin Coleman will certainly garner about 12-15 touches and could even steal a touchdown, but Freeman is the workhorse running back in this Falcons' backfield and he will be asked to carry the ball late in the game if Atlanta is able to build an early lead. The matchup against Green Bay's 14th DVOA rush defense is average, but with only two games on the schedule and the questions surrounding how carries will be split in New England, Devonta Freeman is a fairly safe play with upside in a game where the Falcons are 5.5-point home chalks.
Back to the well with Ty Montgomery ($5.6K): There are a lot of questions about the health of the Packers entering Sunday's matchup against the Falcons, but there is little doubt that Ty Montgomery should be heavily-used out of the backfield. Atlanta's 29th ranked DVOA rush defense has allowed more than 5.0 yards per carry over the previous month to a series of very pedestrian running backs; while Montgomery may not be an elite running back, he has averaged 15.5 touches and 18.0 fantasy points per game during the playoffs against better defenses than Atlanta. With the questions surrounding the health of the Packers' receivers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison all questionable) and the likely gamescript, Montgomery could be heavily-used in the passing game, which makes him quite valuable in DraftKings' full-point PPR scoring system. All the pieces are there for a big day from Montgomery and he is reasonably priced at only $5.6K, making him viable for all formats on DraftKings this Sunday.
Possible outliers: LeGarrette Blount's ($4.4K) usage was largely usurped by Dion Lewis (who was pegged as a DFS play in this column) last week, which will drive down his ownership levels this weekend. Blount has two-touchdown upside and Narrative Street working in his favor when he faces his former team in a home game as a 6-point favorite. If you want to save salary to spend up elsewhere, James White ($3.2K) is a dart throw for tournament play; if he finds the endzone, he will reach value on his paltry salary and also allow you to grab either LeVeon Bell or Antonio Brown in likely high-volume roles against the Pats, if you so desire.
Spending with Antonio Brown ($8.8K): The New England Patriots have not allowed a 100-yard rush performance from a running back all season and have not yielded a rushing touchdown since Week #8. Their 4th ranked DVOA rush defense is the best of the teams remaining in the playoffs, which tempers enthusiasm for rostering LeVeon Bell, especially at his elevated $10.3K price tag. Instead, it might make sense to spend your salary on Antonio Brown because the Patriots have struggled defending the pass for most of the season (23rd DVOA pass defense); Brown has scored a touchdown and/or accrued 100+ yards in every one of his four lifetime appearances against the Patriots. He will probably get shadow coverage from New England's best defensive back, Malcolm Butler, but Brown is matchup-proof and should easily finish this game with double-digit targets for the 13th time this season.
Saving salary with Eli Rogers ($3.4K) and Chris Hogan ($3.9K): A serious case could be made to try to snug Julian Edelman into your lineups, particularly in light of the fact that Edelman has double-digit targets in all but one game since Rob Gronkowski was put on the injured reserve list back in Week #10. That said, Edelman has only four scores on the season (versus 12 for Antonio Brown) which lessens enthusiasm about getting him into your lineups at a substantial $7.3K asking price. Instead, you might consider saving some salary and rolling out his stablemate, Chris Hogan ($3.9K), who was the clear WR2 behind Edelman last week, running nearly 100% of the team's snaps until he left the game with a thigh injury; despite leaving early, Hogan snagged four catches (on four targets) for 95 yards against a Texans secondary that is/was superior to the coverage he will face on Sunday. Another cheap WR2 option is Eli Rogers, whose $3.4K salary provides some salary relief without making you feel nauseous about his range of outcomes. The underrated rookie wrapped up his season with three consecutive 12+ point performances before a disappointing 2.9 clunker against the Dolphins on Wild-Card Weekend; he rebounded with a 7.7 fantasy point day against an above-average Chiefs' secondary last week on seven targets (second behind only Antonio Brown). With the gamescript in his favor, look for Rogers to finish with double-digit fantasy points simply due to implied volume.
Possible outliers: It is difficult to recommend any of the Packers wide receivers outside of Randall Cobb ($5.9K) because of their respective inability to practice in full throughout the week. As of Friday evening, Jordy Nelson (ribs), Davante Adams (ankle), and Geronimo Allison (hamstring) were all listed as game-time decisions, which makes each of them risky propositions for DFS play; if none of these three play, Cobb becomes a very interesting option based on volume alone...but do not sleep on Jeff Janis at $3.0K because he would be next in line for snaps opposite Cobb. Elsewhere, Taylor Gabriel ($4.9K) is a speed demon that could give the Packers underperforming secondary fits; if he gets behind their coverage, a likely scenario, he could score 10+ fantasy points on a single play at fairly reasonable ownership levels because the masses will roster Mohamed Sanu at a $500 discount. Lastly, Malcolm Mitchell ($3.7K) is trending in the right direction to be active against the Steelers this weekend and could go slightly under the radar due to missing last week's game and not having done much on the field in over a month; behind Edelman, names like Mitchell and Hogan are neck-and-neck for the WR2 role on the Pats offense, which is slated to score a hair over four touchdowns.
All-in on Jared Cook ($5.1K): If you read this column last week, you were advised to get a lot of Jared Cook against the Cowboys, who had struggled to cover the tight end position all season. If you followed that advice, you probably did well, as Cook ended the afternoon with 100+ yards and a score, including the key 34-yard reception that led to the Cowboys' demise. While Dallas ended the season as the worst defense against tight ends (fantasy points allowed), Atlanta is not far behind at 6th, allowing only 3.3 less fantasy points per game than the Cowboys. With the aforementioned question marks pervading the Packers' wide receiving corps, Aaron Rodgers should continue to feed Cook in this plus matchup; Cook gets bonus points for his 6'6" frame that easily makes him the biggest target inside the redzone for Rodgers. The other three teams rarely use their respective tight ends (Martellus Bennett, Jesse James, and Austin Hooper), which makes Cook as close to a 'must play' as there is on this limited slate.
Reluctantly...the Steelers ($2.3K): It is with great reservation that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the recommendation here, but the truth is that none of the defenses going this weekend are in good position to score fantasy points. The Patriots are the team best-suited for a decent day, but their $4.0K salary is just too high against a Steelers squad that is projected to score 22+ points and does not allow their quarterback to be sacked (21 sacks in regular season; 2nd in NFL). The game in Atlanta has the highest Vegas total on the season, which makes it very difficult to rationalize either of the defenses in that contest; if the Packer wide receiver triumvirate were all to be inactive on Sunday, rostering the Falcons defense as a GPP play would be understandable. Otherwise, it is probably best to save salary at the team defense position and roll with the Steelers, who have held their previous two playoff opponents (Miami and Kansas City) to an average of 14 points per game; New England's offense is certainly better than both of those offenses, but if Pittsburgh is going to have a chance in this game, they are going to have to curtail Tom Brady and the Pats' passing game. At only $2.3K, Pittsburgh is reasonably priced and brings quiet upside, as evidenced by their double-digit fantasy performances in two of their previous three contests.