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
NAVIGATING THE SHALLOW QB POOL: With weather concerns across the country and injury situations abound, the tight pricing on DraftKings has really left us with minimal safe options at the quarterback position this week. Matt Ryan ($7.3K) is the most expensive option on the slate and has the highest implied team total on the Vegas board at 32 points, but the Falcons are hosting San Francisco, a team that is allowing 170.8 rushing yards per game to opponents this season; if Kyle Shanahan decides to feed Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on a week where Julio Jones is watching from the sidelines, you will have a tough time justifying why you spent $7.3K on Matt Ryan. Aaron Rodgers ($7.1K) missed practiced this week with a calf injury and will be playing in a historically cold game in Chicago that will minimize the pass. Tom Brady ($6.7K) will face the league's best secondary (1st DVOA pass defense) in Denver, which tempers enthusiasm about him continuing his hot streak on a short week of preparation. Drew Brees ($6.6K) has laid back-to-back stinkers and will face Patrick Peterson and Company in Arizona, while Ben Roethlisberger's ($6.6K) home/road splits are too outlandish to trust him against the Bengals in Cincinnati. Both Andrew Luck ($6.4K) and Matthew Stafford ($6.3K) face very good secondaries in the Vikings and Giants, respectively, and the list goes on...As a result, there is not a whole lot to like at QB this week and I have identified a few of my favorites later in the article, but suffice it to say that you are advised to spend less on this position this week and then spend bulk up on safety at the running back position.
EXPLOITING RB MATCHUPS: Unlike quarterback and wide receiver, there is actually quite a bit to like at running back this week and you will have to make some difficult decisions about which backs you will ignore for your cash games. David Johnson ($10.1K), Le'Veon Bell ($9.8K), and LeSean McCoy ($8.9K) are the expensive options, who are all well-poised for big fantasy days; you can mix-and-match these guys or just choose your favorite and build around them...there is no wrong answer for them. After the "Big Three," there are some value options that should be considered; Jerick McKinnon ($4.0K), Kenneth Dixon ($3.8K), and Justin Forsett ($3.0K) are all in good positions to achieve the requisite 3x value necessary to justify their existence in your cash game rosters. McKinnon looked to be in a great position heading into the weekend with touchdown vulture Matt Asiata missing practice due to injury and illness, but Adrian Peterson squashed those dreams by announcing that he would be active in Sunday's game, thereby capping McKinnon's upside. Both Dixon and Forsett are primed for heavy volume in their respective offenses and should see passing down work, which makes them very valuable on full PPR sites like DraftKings. My overall recommendation is to try to slot in two of the high-priced running backs and then get one of the lower-priced backs into your flex position for salary relief. Building your rosters in that order should help you make those tougher decisions at QB and WR.
BUILDING BALANCED SALARY LINEUPS: On a week where there are so many questions at quarterback, the masses are most likely going to gravitate towards the expensive running back options to anchor their tournament lineups. After all, rolling with Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson has been a winning strategy for more than a month now. The contrarian move this week might be to start your roster builds with a running back priced in the middle tier, which will force you to slot in some lesser-owned wide receivers who you could not afford if you spend ~ $20K on the Bell-Johnson combo. There are a number of justifiable options to employ this strategy, including LeGarrette Blount ($5.0K) versus a suspect Denver Broncos' rush defense, Latavius Murray ($5.8K) taking on the Chargers, and Jordan Howard ($6.0K) against the Packers in a game that should be grounded due to weather. Each of these running backs possesses multi-touchdown upside and can be had at a significant discount from the "Big Three," which means that your receiving options will not be restricted to those players priced below the $5K-6K range. Note that I am not suggesting a complete fade of Johnson, Bell, and McCoy, but instead proposing that replacing one (or two) of them with lower-priced running backs can provide you roster differentiation that can be invaluable for large-field tournaments.
GAME STRATEGY DISCUSSION--FALCONS' 32-POINT TEAM TOTAL: The Falcons have the highest implied team total on the entire season this weekend and everybody is going to want a piece of that fantasy pie. The issue, however, is that Julio Jones is not playing, which means that Atlanta will likely distribute the ball more evenly than they do when Jones is active. In last week's 42-14 shellacking of the Rams, eight different players caught passes from Matt Ryan and three different players scored offensive touchdowns. This week, the Falcons will return Mohamed Sanu, who missed last week due to a groin injury, which only muddies the waters further. Their offensive setup should be as follows: Aldrick Robinson and Mohamed Sanu on the exterior with > 80% of the offensive snaps, Taylor Gabriel from the slot on 40-60% of snaps, and a 60/40 snap split in favor of Devonta Freeman over Tevin Coleman in the backfield. Justin Hardy, Levine Toilolo, and Austin Hooper will mix in periodically, but can be ignored for fantasy purposes. The trick is going to be pegging the players who get into the endzone and it will not be easy because of how well the Falcons distribute the ball; Freeman and Coleman could both have huge fantasy days, but the success of one generally kills production from the other, as was evidenced last week when Coleman scored twice and logged ~ 20 DraftKings points while Freeman scored less than 5 points. In the receiving corps, I suspect that Taylor Gabriel will be the highest-owned player in daily circles, but he is my least favorite option because he will lose snaps this week when Sanu returns and because his touchdown upside is limited with his 5'8" frame. Instead, I will be looking at Sanu and Robinson because both are cheaply priced and could feasibly come away with 100-yard stat lines. If you can only choose one, Robinson is my favorite play because he is dirt-cheap at $3.4K and he will likely be the lowest-owned player of the entire bunch. Of the running backs, I think you can justify a case for either based on their usage, but I'm leaning towards paying the extra salary to get Freeman into some of my GPP lineups because he gets more carries and Coleman was the flavor-of-the-week last week, which might mean that Freeman gets his turn in this plush matchup. When Ryan is concerned, I will have some exposure, but it will be limited because I suspect there will be multiple rushing touchdowns in this game against the league's worst rush defense; furthermore, the Falcons may not have to rush the ball in the 4th quarter, which also lessens enthusiasm about getting him into my lineups. Quick summary: Due to pricing and how I foresee Atlanta distributing touches, I will have limited exposure to all of these players except Aldrick Robinson, whose opportunity cost and implied ownership is low.
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.
CASH GAME PICKS
Philip Rivers (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $6,200). After losing Melvin Gordon III to a back injury last week, the Chargers flailed against the hometown Panthers, mustering less than 300 yards of total offense on the afternoon. Undrafted free agent rookie, Kenneth Farrow, filled the gap left by Gordon, finishing the day with 21 touches for 78 all-purpose yards without finding the endzone. No doubt that Farrow is going to see his fair share of touches again this week, but we should probably expect the more seasoned Philip Rivers to do much of the heavy lifting against the Raiders’ 21st ranked DVOA pass defense. Oakland is allowing the 7th most fantasy points to the QB position despite playing a slew of second-level QB’s over the past two months, including Alex Smith (twice), Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, and Blake Bortles, among others. When the Raiders last faced the Chargers in Week #5, Rivers lit them up for 359 passing yards and 4 touchdowns en route to 31.4 DraftKings points. While that performance is probably on the high side of what we should expect from Rivers this weekend, he has legitimate receiving weapons in a healing Tyrell Williams, an emerging Dontrelle Inman, and an always reliable Antonio Gates, to put up 20+ DraftKings points, which would be in line with 3x value on his $6.2K salary.
Tyrod Taylor (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,700). A model of consistency this season, Tyrod Taylor has scored 15 or more DraftKings points in 11 out of his 13 starts. The knock on Taylor has been that his upside is limited, but upside should not be a factor when making decisions surrounding cash games where 3x value and safety are the primary endpoints. That said, we have seen Taylor's fantasy floor for much of the season; as the season winds to a close, we might be in store for what his ceiling could entail because he has two healthy wide receivers for the first time since the Bills' season-opener against the Ravens. Sammy Watkins is now 100% after several weeks of in-game conditioning and Robert Woods should also get a full bevy of snaps after playing only 52% of the Bills' snaps in the snow last weekend; collectively, these receivers bolster Taylor's fantasy prospects, particularly against the Browns' 31st ranked DVOA pass defense that has allowed multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games (except against the Steelers, where the wind grounded the football in Week #11). Some might be scared off Taylor in this spot because LeSean McCoy could (and should) have a big day, but the Bills' 26-point implied team total argues that there should be plenty of fantasy production to be had in Buffalo on Sunday and Taylor represents a bargain at only $5.7K.
Also eligible: Kirk Cousins ($6,800)
Le'Veon Bell (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $9,800). There are three solid high-end cash game running backs this weekend, including David Johnson ($10.1K), Le'Veon Bell ($9.8K), and LeSean McCoy ($8.9K). Of the three, McCoy has the best matchup against the Browns' worst-ranked DVOA rush defense, but there is still some concern that he will yield goalline carries to Mike Gillislee, which is a risk that does not come with Johnson and Bell. Both Johnson and Bell are justifiable options for cash games, but Bell has posted five consecutive games with 26+ DraftKings points and will be heavily-used against versus the Bengals' 23rd ranked DVOA rush defense that coughed up 113 rushing yards to Isaiah Crowell last weekend. We are all well-aware of Ben Roethlisberger's dramatic home/road splits, but Big Ben's ineptitude on the road has resulted in increased fantasy production for Bell and the Steelers' rushing attack. Furthermore, if Antonio Brown has an NFL equivalent of kryptonite, it comes in the form of the Bengals' secondary, who have contained him as well as any team in the league over the past several years; if they continue to hamper Brown's fantasy production, Bell is the most obvious beneficiary. Lastly, Bell is averaging 35 touches per game over the past month, an indication that the Steelers are content on maximizing his usage in this contract year. All systems are 'go' for another big week for Bell in this AFC North showdown.
Justin Forsett (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,000). If you want to slot in both Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson into your cash game lineups this weekend, you are going to need salary relief somewhere and Justin Forsett could represent the most extreme example of a salary saver in your 'flex' spot. Having spent time together in both Houston and Baltimore, Gary Kubiak displayed a lot of trust in Justin Forsett last week by playing him in an almost equal split (27-to-28 snaps) with teammate Devontae Booker despite him only being signed earlier in the week. With an additional week to learn the playbook, expect to see Forsett usurp the starting role from Booker this Sunday and get 15+ touches against the Patriots. Booker will get his crack at the RB1 again next season, but his 3.4 yard per carry average and poor pass protection will have him watching more than playing as the season winds to a close. The matchup for Forsett is not stellar, as the Patriots boast the league's 2nd best DVOA rush defense, but they have yielded significant fantasy points to pass-catching running backs this year, including Kenneth Dixon's 22.1 point performance last Monday night. If Forsett finishes his afternoon with 12-16 rushes and a handful of targets in the passing game, he will easily reach into double-digit fantasy points without needing to score a touchdown; if he finds the endzone, you could be looking at 8x value on his site-minimum salary.
Jordan Matthews (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5,400). After missing Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury, Jordan Matthews practiced in full for both Thursday and Friday, indicating that he will be full "go" against the Ravens this weekend. All the pieces are there for a high-volume afternoon for Matthews: First, the Eagles' backfield is in shambles with Wendell Smallwood hitting the I.R. earlier this week and Darren Sproles still on the league's concussion protocol; that leaves only Ryan Mathews (plus backups Kenjon Barner and Byron Marshall) to handle the running duties against the league's best rush defense (FootballOutsiders' DVOA metric) that is yielding only 75.5 rushing yards per game this season. Finding little on the ground, the Eagles will be forced to attack the Jimmy Smith-less Ravens through the air, which bodes well for Matthews, who has double-digit targets in five of his previous six games. Matthews will enjoy a five-inch height advantage over his primary coverage cornerback, Jerraud Powers, who has struggled in coverage this season (ranked 85th of out of 120 cornerbacks on ProFootballFocus); that height advantage will prove to be a huge edge when the Eagles get into the redzone and confers multiple touchdown upside on Matthews. Rounding out the case for Matthews is the fact that these offenses run a lot of plays every game, as both Baltimore and Philadelphia rank in the top five in the league for offensive plays per game (67.7 and 66.8, respectively). At only $5.4K, he could finish the afternoon with 6-8 receptions for 60-80 receiving yards and still reach value for your cash game lineups, a stat line that most likely represents his floor in this plus matchup.
Marqise Lee (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $4,000). With the continual downward spiral of Allen Robinson's 2016 campaign, we are quietly experiencing the emergence of Marqise Lee in his Junior year of the NFL. A highly-touted prospect and second-round draft pick out of USC in 2014, Lee has 728 receiving yards entering Week #15, which surpasses his cumulative total from the previous two seasons. Over the past month, Blake Bortles has targeted Lee a team-high 31 times (7.6 targets per game) versus only 24 targets for Robinson (6.0 targets per game). Meanwhile, Robinson continues to absorb the toughest coverage from opposing defenses and this week will be no different when ARob faces off against ProFootballFocus' 3rd best cornerback, A.J. Bouye; that should leave Lee to deal with Robert Nelson, who was beaten soundly by the Colts last week, including allowing a 35-yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton while in coverage. The downside of rostering Lee is that his touchdown upside is limited (only two touchdowns this season), but that lack of upside is baked into his pedestrian $4.0K price tag that affords you the ability to get those attractive, but pricey, RB options discussed earlier in the article.
Jack Doyle (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $2,700). On Friday afternoon, it was announced that the Colts will be without three starting offensive linemen against the Minnesota Vikings' 8th overall DVOA defense. Entering this weekend, the Colts had already allowed the second-most sacks (40) in the league, so losing three offensive linemen is not going to help Andrew Luck's ailing elbow and shoulder when the Vikings run blitz packages on Sunday. Expect Head Coach Chuck Pagano and Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski to build some quick reads into the Colts' game plan on Sunday to get the ball out of Luck's hands as quickly as possible. The most likely beneficiary of that approach will be Jack Doyle, who is consistently running ~ 50% more passing routes than fellow tight end, Dwayne Allen. Furthermore, the Vikings boast one of the league's best defensive backfields with Terence Newman, Xavier Rhodes, and Captain Munnerlyn, who should collectively drive passing action towards the tight end position, where Minnesota has stumbled recently, allowing double-digit fantasy points to opposing tight ends in four of their previous five games. Lastly, Donte Moncrief will miss this game with a hamstring issue, which has resulted in a fairly sizeable uptick in fantasy production for Doyle in those games.
Jermaine Gresham (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $2,500). With the issues described in the "Tips" section of this article surrounding quarterbacks (and wide receivers), the cash game roster build this week will likely include spending the bulk of your salary on high-priced running backs and saving at wide receiver and tight end. Jack Doyle was already mentioned as an inexpensive option with a predictable scoring floor and Jermaine Gresham fits a similar mold at the site-minimum $2.5K price point. Gresham has 23 targets over the past three weeks and should continue to enjoy similar volume amongst the Cardinals' dysfunctional receiving corps (exception: Larry Fitzgerald). Just this week, Michael Floyd was arrested for a DUI and later released by the Cardinals, which should thrust speedster J.J. Nelson into additional action; Nelson's role, however, will be to extend the defense and allow for underneath routes to Fitzgerald and Gresham. The matchup against the Saints is middle-of-the-road, as New Orleans has allowed an average of 12.0 DraftKings points to the tight end position this season. That said, Gresham's salary mandates that anything over 8-10 fantasy points is gravy for cash game purposes; at this low opportunity cost, slotting him into your cash game lineups helps achieve security with those pricey running backs in great situations.
Also eligible: Travis Kelce ($5,900)
Bills (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,700). If you can afford to get the Bills into your cash games this weekend, do it. Buffalo is a 10-point home favorite hosting a winless Browns team who have allowed more sacks (48) than any team in the league and have averaged an embarrassing 9.8 points scored over their previous five games. The return of Robert Griffin III did not restore any value to the Browns offense and, frankly, may have made it worse; fellow Footballguy and NFL.com analyst, Matt Harmon, put together a quick visual summary of RGIII's insufficiencies as a quarterback that further bolsters the case for the Buffalo defense. In his only two starts this season, Griffin has taken three sacks in each contest and will face a defense that has posted an impressive 33 sacks (7th best in the league). Although they have been quiet as of late, this Bills defense started the season with double-digit fantasy points in four of their first five games, an indication of the type of production they can provide against the right opponent...and Cleveland is the right opponent to target for fantasy production.
Ravens (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3,100). Losers of six of their previous seven games, the Philadelphia Eagles are ready for 2016 to come to a close. They have not won a road game since Week #2 and will take I-95 South to Baltimore to take on the Ravens' 2nd overall DVOA defense in a must-win game to stay competitive in the AFC North. Pit a highly-motivated, highly-talented defense against a dilapidated offense with no incentive and the outcomes are generally not positive for the latter entity. Expect the Ravens to get after Carson Wentz, who has one multi-touchdown game since Week #6 and has been sacked 11 times over the previous month. The Eagles have one of the lower implied team totals on the Vegas board with only ~ 17 points, which is yet another reason to consider Baltimore at a $600 savings from the aforementioned Bills.
Joe Flacco (Salary: $5,700). Outside of two tough matchups against the Cowboys' and Bengals' underrated pass defenses, Joe Flacco compiled some stellar fantasy games over the past month, including back-to-back 300+ yard passing games against the Dolphins and Patriots. Flacco's success has been largely due to the quickness with which the Ravens are running their offense these days; Baltimore is running 67.7 plays per game, good enough for 3rd fastest in the league. Their opponents, the Eagles, are running the 5th most offensive plays this season (66.8 per game), which should mean that this game could be a fast-paced, back-and-forth affair. With only Ryan Mathews in their backfield, the Eagles could look to get away from the run to some degree, further bolstering a case for a pass-filled game. Many will look at the Eagles' high placement (third) on FootballOutsiders' DVOA pass defense rankings and second-guess the case for Flacco, but the Birds do not field a strong secondary and have been beaten by receivers far less talented than Steve Smith and Mike Wallace this season (eight consecutive weeks allowing at least one 20+ fantasy point WR). Malcolm Jenkins is by far the Eagles' best coverage cornerback and his coverage will be wasted on Kamar Aiken out of the slot, which means that Smith and Wallace should have their way with Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll, who have allowed nearly 1,300 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns while in coverage this season. At the $5.7K price point, Flacco needs only ~ 23 DraftKings points to reach 4x value for tournament play, something he has done three times over the past month.
Trevor Siemian (Salary: $5,200). Priced close to the site minimum salary for quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian is an intriguing GPP option against a New England Patriots' defense that funnels action towards the pass. Indeed, the Pats are stout up front, allowing only 3.9 yards per carry and a stingy six rushing touchdowns all season; they can be beaten via the pass, though, as evidenced by allowing multiple passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in four of their previous five games (Jared Goff being the lone exception). These data set up well for the Broncos, who have questions in their backfield entering Week #15 with Devontae Booker failing to seize his opportunity as an RB1, while Justin Forsett lurks in the background. With the path of least resistance being through the air, the Broncos could ask Siemian to shoulder the load on Sunday, especially if the gamescript plays out according to Vegas' expectations where the Broncos would be playing from behind. With back-to-back 300+ games entering this matchup, Siemian certainly has the momentum and the receiving personnel (Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders) to post his third consecutive 20+ fantasy point game in as many weeks, a threshold that represents 4x on his pedestrian salary.
Jordan Howard (Salary: $6,000). Playing behind an average offensive line with a barrage of underperforming quarterbacks, what Jordan Howard is doing in his rookie season is beyond impressive. Howard is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and an astounding 3.1 yards after contact, which ranks him near the top of the league in that category. He has ten starts as the Bears' RB1 and has rushed for 100+ yards in half of those contests, despite playing with a winning gamescript only twice in that period of time. Simply put, Howard has been dominating, but nobody is paying attention because of how poorly the Bears have played this season. On Sunday, we should be watching him, though, as he should see a slew of volume in a game where passing is going to be very limited due to extreme weather conditions in Chicago; historical statistics back up this statement, which means that John Fox is going to pound the ball with Howard again this week against an overrated Packer defensive front that has feasted on lesser talented backs, but been throttled by names like Rob Kelley (24/137/3), DeMarco Murray (17/123/1), and Ezekiel Elliot (28/157/0). In fact, over their previous five contests, Green Bay is leaking yardage badly to opposing running backs to the tune of 5.1 yards per carry, numbers that are even more telling when one considers that two of those games were against the depleted backfields of Houston and Philadelphia. Considering the implied volume (20-24 touches), the weather conditions, and the matchup, it would seem that Jordan Howard has 100-yard and two touchdown upside at a fraction of the price (and ownership) of the more expensive running backs on this slate.
LeGarrette Blount (Salary: $5,000). Nobody likes to roster LeGarrette Blount on DraftKings because he doesn't catch passes out of the backfield. ...but you know what he does a lot of? Scoring touchdowns. That's right...through 14 games, Blount has found paydirt a league-leading 14 times and Bill Belichick continues to feed him the rock inside the redzone now that former redzone monster Rob Gronkowski is watching from the sidelines. With 82.7% of his team's carries inside the 20-yard line, Blount trails only Melvin Gordon III in redzone touches, a trend that bodes well for additional opportunities on Sunday against a Broncos defense whose weakness is defending the run. Things could get worse for the Broncos' rush defense this weekend when Brandon Marshall is unable to suit up due to a hamstring injury suffered in Week #13. Marshall is an elite linebacker who ranks 14th out of 89 qualifying linebackers on ProFootballFocus; his absence was felt last weekend when the Titans mustered a hard-fought 13-10 win against Denver, who allowed 134 rushing yards to DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Bolstering the case for Blount is the fact that the Patriots do not boast a wide receiver who is capable of getting open against the Broncos' elite cornerbacks, meaning that Bill Belichick could just give Blount additional action to put points on the board. Lastly, Blount always goes underowned on DraftKings, but he has multiple touchdown and 100+ yard upside in this matchup which could result in the 20+ fantasy points needed to justify his spot on your tournament rosters.
Larry Fitzgerald (Salary: $7,000). Held scoreless since Week #5, Larry Fitzgerald is in line for some positive scoring regression in the near future. The future Hall-of-Famer has 15 redzone targets since he last scored, which is encouraging because it demonstrates that Carson Palmer is still throwing to him in high-value situations, but it just has not recently panned out for Fitzgerald. Playing at home where he is averaging over 11 targets per game this season, Fitzgerald is in a great spot for some nice fantasy production with an implied team total of 26.5 points (2nd highest on the Sunday slate) and a personnel matchup that heavily favors Fitzgerald. He will line up across from the Saints' Sterling Moore, whose coverage skill set does not parallel Fitzgerald's, not to mention the five inches that he gives up, which could be a huge mismatch inside the redzone. Recency and age bias will work against Fitzgerald's ownership numbers, making him an ideal GPP target, particularly because of how heavily-owned David Johnson will be once again this weekend. He represents a sneaky leverage play against those 20+% of Johnson owners, conferring a hefty advantage if he were to find the endzone and steal that essential touchdown(s) necessary to legitimize Johnson as a tournament play.
Michael Crabtree (Salary: $5,900). The Raiders will fly to Southern California to take on the San Diego Chargers in an AFC West showdown that is entering 'must-win' territory for Oakland as they try to keep pace with the red-hot Chiefs. When these teams met back in Week #5, Oakland prevailed with 34-31 shootout victory; an argument could be made that a similar gamescript could ensue this weekend, as both of these teams continue to thrive through the air. Michael Crabtree is a strong GPP play this weekend because of how the personnel matchups are taking shape in the Chargers' defensive backfield. After losing both Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers to season-ending injuries early in the season, the Chargers have asked Casey Hayward to shadow opposing WR1's, leaving the far less-talented Trevor Williams to contend with the remaining wide receiver. In some cases, that approach has been successful, as Hayward has the ability to deliver and opposing offenses are not always stocked with a capable WR2 to best the lesser coverage on the other side of the hashmarks. This will not be the case on Sunday, as Michael Crabtree should be able to handle Trevor Williams' spotty coverage with ease; given that fact that Crabbie is averaging almost 10 targets per week over the past month, he could easily post multiple scores at a fair $5.9K price point.
Kyle Rudolph (Salary: $4,300). Who better to anchor your Christmas-time DFS lineups than a man named "Rudolph?" While the sentiment is laughable, there is a lot of reason to consider rostering Kyle Rudolph in your tournament lineups this weekend. Over the past month, no Vikings receiver has more targets than Rudolph and he continues to be the team leader in redzone targets as well. The Vikings are 29th in the league in redzone efficiency, scoring a touchdown only 45.0% of the time because they lack size and/or talent at wide receiver and running back; Rudolph, however, checks in at a towering 6'6" and 260 pounds, which makes him the best redzone option the Vikings have had all season. The return of Adrian Peterson this weekend is somewhat concerning for Rudolph's redzone usage, but Peterson's usage should be very limited and the matchup is appealing against the Colts, who have not defended the tight end position effectively this season, allowing an average of 14.1 points per game and the 3rd most yards to the position. For a modest $4.3K, Rudolph needs only to find the endzone and he almost assuredly reaches GPP value because of his continued high-volume role in this Sam Bradford, ball-control offensive scheme.
Eric Ebron (Salary: $3,700). Regular readers of this column know that Ladarius Green was a recommended GPP play a few weeks ago against the New York Giants; he paid dividends for those who took the advice, scoring 26.0 DraftKings points for a paltry $2.8K salary. For all the reasons that Green was touted in Week #13, Eric Ebron deserves attention this week. First and foremost, the Giants have a set of stellar coverage cornerbacks who have done a tremendous job in stifling opposing wide receivers all season; Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have allowed only two 100+ yard receivers all season, which has forced opposing quarterbacks to funnel action towards their respective tight ends to move the ball through the air. That plus coverage should minimize Matthew Stafford's favorite receivers and force his hand, er arm, towards Ebron throughout this matchup. Ordinarily, Theo Riddick might be the primary beneficiary from the overflow resulting from shutdown coverage on the perimeter, but Riddick is unlikely to play for the second consecutive week due a wrist injury and his backup, Dwayne Washington, does not catch many passes out of the backfield, which further supports a bigger role for Ebron this Sunday.
Also eligible: Antonio Gates (Salary: $4,100).
Texans (Salary: $3,800). There is not a lot of justification necessary to describe why rostering the Texans against Blake Bortles is a high-upside decision--it simply is. Bortles has demonstrated throughout his short career that he is willing to take chances and force the ball into tight spaces, which can often times result in turnovers that get returned for touchdowns. Bortles has thrown 'pick sixes' in almost a quarter of his professional games, a strikingly high percentage that forces DFS players to consider opposing defenses every time Bortles takes the field. This weekend, the Jags will travel to Houston to take on the Texans, who allow the 5th lowest number of passing yards to opposing offenses and have not allowed a 300-yard passer all season. They have, however, stumbled a bit more recently, having allowed two or more passing touchdowns in five straight games, but this is a 'get right' spot for the Texans, who are making a playoff push atop the AFC South entering this weekend. Vegas oddsmakers do not like Jacksonville's prospects in this matchup, pinning a pedestrian 17.5-point implied team total on the Jags as 4.5-point underdogs. But this selection is less about points allowed and more about the possibility of Blake Bortles forcing a pass intended towards Allen Robinson in tight coverage from ProFootballFocus' #3-rated cornerback, A.J. Bouye, who has the ability to intercept an errant throw and return it for a 6-point score.
Packers (Salary: $3,200). When a game opens with a 44-point total in Vegas and drops to 38-points by mid-week, we are forced to pay attention to what is causing such a precipitous drop. In this case, it is most certainly the weather in Chicago that is calling for bitter, blustery cold conditions that will result in sub-zero wind chill temperatures. This is inhumane weather for doing anything, let alone handling a rock-hard, strangely-shaped leather object with 300-pound men chasing you down to tackle you on frozen terrain. Mistakes are going to be made in this game and we should expect them from Matt Barkley, a quarterback who has turned the football over an astounding 13 times in only five career starts! Having played high school and college football in Southern California, expect Matt Barkley to struggle to handle the conditions on Sunday against a Packers defense that is well-adjusted to playing in those types of freezing temperatures.
Also eligible: Vikings ($3,500), Giants (Salary: $2,900).