Herein is another edition of “Fantasy Draft Dominator” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on FantasyDraft and make recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments. FantasyDraft is one of the few sites in the industry that allows you to see Ownership Percentage after roster lock but before the player’s game kicks off. To leverage this unique opportunity, we have compiled Ownership Percentages from the biggest Thursday GPP to help lend insight into both tournament and cash-game strategy for the Sunday Contests.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. Cash game players are the top overall values of the week and can be used without regard to expected ownership percentage. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games. Expected ownership levels is also a major consideration in determining the top GPP options. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he will fall into both categories.
FantasyDraft Dominator will be posted each Friday morning, but will also be updated throughout the week as new information becomes available. Should you have any questions or players you want to discuss, hit me up on twitter (@hindery).
Thursday GPP Ownership
Cash Game Considerations
With so many of the elite quarterbacks in great matchups, it is a great week to pay up at the position. Drew Brees ($14,000) is the cream of the crop, but Andrew Luck ($13,200), Aaron Rodgers ($12,600) and Matt Ryan ($13,700) are all in play as well. Without feeling the need to try to jam in both Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson this week, we don’t have to risk playing a boom/bust option like Blake Bortles ($10,000) or Matt Barkley ($10,000).
Drew Brees (Cash and GPP; $14,000) The case for Brees is pretty simple: He has averaged 353 yards and 2.7 touchdowns per game at home this season. In 2015, his home numbers were even better (358 YPG and 2.9 TDs), so we can’t just chalk the monster home numbers up to a small sample size. Brees is a great bet to hit the 300-yard bonus and throw multiple touchdowns whenever he is at home. Overall, Brees has thrown for 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns in four of his last seven games. That’s exactly the type of game you’re shooting for to win a GPP. The Buccaneers are about league average against the quarterback. It’s not a dream matchup by any stretch, but average is fine when we’re talking about Brees at home. For cash games, Brees’ safety and likelihood of putting up 300 yards makes him the top play on the slate. Even with ownership of 10-15% likely in tournaments, Brees is an outstanding tournament option this week.
Andrew Luck (Cash and GPP; $13,200) Indianapolis has been on a hot streak on the road, scoring 31+ PPG in each of their last four (34 vs. Vikings, 41 vs. Jets, 31 vs. Green Bay, 34 vs. Titans). In each game, Indianapolis jumped out to a big lead early and was able to coast to victory. Traveling to Oakland in Week 16, Indianapolis is tabbed by Vegas to have another strong game with an implied team total of 25.5 points. Luck makes some plays on the ground (averaging 24 rushing yards per game), which adds both to his floor for cash games and his upside in GPPs. Surprisingly, Luck was only 3% owned in Thursday GPPs. With his proven upside and this dream spot against a mediocre defense in a potential shootout, Luck is a fantastic tournament play.
Tom Brady (GPP; $14,500) Paying way up for Brady in cash games in a potential blowout where the Patriots could go extremely run-heavy in the second half doesn’t make sense. But in tournaments, Brady is a strong play this week. Brady is running just behind Ezekiel Elliott in the Vegas odds for NFL Most Valuable Player. Against the hated rival Jets, could the Patriots try to pad Brady’s stats (after a subpar game against the Broncos) to boost his MVP case down the stretch? In terms of narratives, it isn’t far-fetched and this is the perfect spot to try to put up some big numbers. The Jets defense ranks dead last in DVOA against the pass. The Jets have been eliminated from playoff contention and look to just be playing out the string. Matt Moore torched them for four touchdowns last week. While the Jets run defense is nowhere near as good as their #3 ranking in DVOA, beating the Jets through the air is the path of least resistance. We’ve seen many pass-heavy game plans from New England against this defense in recent years. In two of his last three matchups against the Jets, Brady threw 50+ times (including the game four weeks ago). With so much focus on the three games with totals over 50 points, the Patriots and their slate-high implied team total of 30 points is flying a bit under the radar. Getting Brady in this spot at sub-10% ownership is a great way to take a shot in tournaments.
Cash Game Considerations
For the first time in weeks, the position feels wide open and there are no running backs who look like must-plays. LeVeon Bell ($17,700) and David Johnson ($17,300) will always be on our short list of options. But in tough matchups and priced way up, it’s reasonable to fade these two in cash. LeSean McCoy ($17,000) is also extremely expensive, but makes more sense playing at home against a poor Miami run defense. Ezekiel Elliott ($15,000) would be a no-brainer had the Cowboys not clinched home field already with the Giants loss on Thursday night. The risk of him getting rest in the second half is scary for cash games. Targeting the mid-tier heavily is probably the way to go in Week 16. Jordan Howard ($12,000) seems to be picking up momentum as the week goes on and may end up being the highest-owned back by the time rosters lock on Saturday morning. DeMarco Murray ($13,300) has been incredibly consistent all season and is a relative bargain if you plug him in as your RB1. Ty Montgomery ($11,000) and Carlos Hyde ($11,000) are also solid mid-tier flex options.
LeSean McCoy (Cash and GPP; $17,000) McCoy has been arguably the hottest back in the league. He’s topped 100 total yards in four straight and hit the 100-yard rushing bonus in three of four games and has five touchdowns over that stretch. For the season, McCoy is averaging an impressive 5.5 yards per carry. McCoy and the Bills offense has been especially tough to handle at home, where Buffalo has averaged 30 points per game. Buffalo has an implied team total of just 22.5 points this week, which is a bit of a concern. However, the Bills offense is the most run-heavy in the league, so Mccoy can do plenty of damage even in a lower scoring game. Miami is 22nd in run defense DVOA and 30th in the league with 132.5 rushing yards per game allowed. Over the past four weeks, the Dolphins have allowed 405 rushing yards to opposing running backs. They also have given up 36 receptions and 250 receiving yards to opposing backs over the past four. The starting back against Miami has scored at least 18 FantasyDraft points in four straight. With the possible exception of Ezekiel Elliott, McCoy has the best matchup of the elite running backs. He’s a strong pay-up option on a slate that is lacking in top-tier plays.
Jordan Howard (Cash and GPP; $12,000) Jordan Howard has been one of the most efficient running backs in the league this season. He is averaging over 5.0 yards per carry and over 10.0 yards per reception. He has been able to maintain a relatively steady workload, with at least 15 touches in eight straight games. He has amongst the skill position leaders having hit the 100-yard bonus five times already. He has a home matchup against a Washington defense that ranks 26th in DVOA against the run. Over the past three weeks, Washington has given up the 5th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Jonathan Stewart torched this defense for 125 rushing yards on Monday night to lead Carolina to victory. The upset loss made Washington a long shot to make the playoffs. Now they have to travel halfway across the country on a very short week and regroup quickly. It’s a tough spot for Washington and Vegas is relatively bullish on the 3-11 Bears. Despite 66% of the action coming in on Washington, the line has moved towards the Bears, who are just 3-point underdogs. Howard will be justifiably popular in both cash games and GPPs at his mid-tier price point.
DeMarco Murray (Cash and GPP; $13,300) This is basically a must-win game for the Titans. If Tennessee loses to Jacksonville, Houston can clinch the AFC South Saturday night against the Bengals. While Derrick Henry has seen his role in the offense grow in recent weeks, Murray’s usage floor has been incredibly consistent. He’s seen at least 20 carries plus targets in every game except Week 2 (when he had 19). Over the past four weeks, Murray’s averaged 23 carries+targets. Jacksonville’s run defense is solid (12th in DVOA), but they have allowed at least one rushing touchdown in four straight games. Murray and Henry combined for 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns against this defense in their previous meeting. Overall, it’s a solid spot for Murray and he is priced well below the elite options at the position. The cap savings of rostering Murray compared to the top backs makes him a top option in cash games. He will be relatively popular in GPPs, but remains a solid play in that format as well.
Ezekiel Elliott (Cash and GPP; $15,000) Elliott is fresh off of a career-high 159 rushing yards against a stout Tampa Bay defense that cemented his status as a top MVP candidate. Elliott is also chasing the all-time rookie record for rushing yards and acknowledged that he it would be “special” for him. He is just 258 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s 33-year old NFL record. The Cowboys are 7-point home favorites against the Lions Monday night and the game total has risen three points over the week. Despite having the best matchup of the elite backs, Elliott is priced at least $2,000 below LeSean McCoy, LeVeon Bell and David Johnson. Unsurprisingly, he was the highest-owned player in Thursday night GPPs. The Cowboys could wrap up home field on Thursday night with an Eagles win, so it will be worth watching the news in that scenario to see if there is any talk of resting Elliott. In the case of an Eagles win, he is a risky option in cash games. In GPPs, his sky-high ownership makes him a decent fade candidate.
Dion Lewis (GPP; $8,100) We’ve been waiting for the big Lewis breakout game ever since he returned from the PUP list and we almost got it last week against the Broncos. Lewis had 20 touches, 100+ total yards and should have had a touchdown (he looked like he was in, but the Patriots didn’t challenge). He set a career-high with 18 rushing attempts last week. It makes sense for the Patriots to try to get Lewis more work to get him ready for the playoffs in a game they should win going away (massive 16.5-point favorites). With bargain options on the slate limited, Lewis has one of the highest ceilings of the sub-$8,500 guys due to his explosiveness and involvement as a pass catcher (4.3 targets per game on limited snaps).
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
Without the need to stretch to fit in running backs with inflated salaries, we don’t have to take as many chances at the receiver position in Week 16 and can target mid-priced players who should see a bunch of targets. DeAndre Hopkins ($10,200) and Micheal Crabtree ($11,400) stand out within that tier. Paying up for a top option like Antonio Brown ($15,400), Mike Evans ($16,000) or T.Y. Hilton (14,700) is also a realistic cash game option this week if you choose to forego the $15,000+ running backs.
DeAndre Hopkins (Cash and GPP; $10,200) In the final 33 minutes of the Week 15 game against Jacksonville, Tom Savage targeted DeAndre Hopkins 15 times. He had a ridiculous 42% market share of the targets with Savage. While the final stat line (8-87-0) wasn’t overly impressive for Hopkins, the switch at quarterback seemed to breathe new life into the Houston pass offense and reinvigorate their star receiver. Brock Osweiler’s awful play has cast a pall over the entire franchise and the switch to Savage may have come just in time to save the Texans season and allow them to win the AFC South with wins over the next two weeks. It’s not a great matchup for Hopkins. The Bengals have the 18th best pass defense in DVOA and are 12th best against #1 receivers. But Hopkins is still priced way down and he’s too cheap for the amount of volume he should see from a quarterback who at least looks competent. Hopkins is tied for WR34 in pricing with the likes of Mohamed Sanu and Malcolm Mitchell. It feels safe to project 10+ targets for Hopkins, which makes him a great bet to hit cash game value this week. While he isn’t flying too far under the radar in GPPs, Hopkins has burned enough people in previous weeks this season that his tournament ownership shouldn’t get too out of control.
T.Y. Hilton (Cash and GPP; $14,700) T.Y. Hilton is exactly the type of small, quick receiver the Raiders 6’3 starting cornerbacks have struggled with this season. Travis Benjamin, Tyreek Hill, Ted Ginn, Marqise Lee, Steve Smith, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead have all burned the Oakland secondary for big fantasy games. Oakland is 21st in pass defense DVOA. While the Raiders pass defense isn’t terrible and has improved a great deal since some rough early season performances, it remains prone to giving up big plays. As Rich Hribar of Rotoworld noted, T.Y. Hilton leads the league with 25 receptions of 20-plus yardswhile Oakland is tied for the league lead with 54 receptions of 20+ yards allowed. Hilton sees a heavy workload (27% market share), has a great matchup in a game that should shootout and is priced in the tier below the elite options. He’s a strong play in cash games if you can fit him in. But it’s in GPPs where Hilton really stands out. He’s as likely to hit for a couple big pass plays as any receiver on the slate.
Michael Crabtree (Cash and GPP; $11,400) Over the past five weeks, Crabtree has 17 more targets than any other Raiders player and is averaging 9.2 targets per game over that stretch. Crabtree has only had four poor fantasy games the entire season and they were predictable beforehand based upon the matchup. He struggled against top pass defenses against top corners: Kansas City twice (with Marcus Peters primarily in coverage), Denver (Aqib Talib) and Houston (Johnathan Joseph). Against Indianapolis’ 27th ranked pass defense, Crabtree should have a very solid floor. Much of Crabtree’s ceiling comes from a relatively high touchdown expectation due to his heavy usage in the red zone. He has at least two red zone targets in seven of the past eight games. Sigmund Bloom, David Dodds and Maurile Tremblay each project Crabtree for at least six receptions and 0.6 touchdowns in this matchup. Of the mid-tier options priced under $12,000 Crabtree has the best floor/ceiling combination, which makes him a staple for cash games. He is a non-flashy veteran so he is going to go under owned in GPPs compared to his upside, so he’s a great play in that format as well.
Cash Game Considerations
Cameron Brate ($7,700) may end up being the highest-owned player on the entire slate this week. He is the clear pay down option at the position for Week 16 and a nice play in cash games. If you aren’t hurting for cap space, paying the extra $2,000 for Greg Olsen ($9,700) is a worthwhile move. He has similar touchdown expectations as Brate, but should see more targets and has a higher floor.
Cameron Brate (Cash; $7,700) One of the themes of this DFS season has been how everyone is operating with better information and the quality of the competition is way up. Cameron Brate in Week 16 is a perfect example of the changing paradigm in the industry. Two years ago, a guy like Brate (undrafted out of Harvard) would have flown relatively under the radar and his ownership might have been only 10% in a great matchup like this week vs. New Orleans. In 2016, Brate is going to be the chalk in cash games and one of the highest-owned players overall as the vast majority of DFS players have access to great information sources who are correctly pointing to Brate as the top value option on the slate at tight end. He has been Jameis Winston’s most targeted red zone option and scored in five of the past eight weeks. On the season, he has 17 red zone targets and has been incredibly consistent in that department, seeing at least one red zone target in 8-of-9 games. Overall, he has at least five targets in 7-of-8 games and is sporting an impressive 71% catch rate on the season. New Orleans 28th in DVOA against the pass and Tampa Bay sports a solid 24.8 team total in a game expected to shootout. It’s unwise to fade Brate in cash games. However, for a player who is somewhat touchdown dependent, he is an easy fade in tournaments with ownership expected to be over 30%.
Greg Olsen (Cash and GPP; $9,700) While Olsen’s elbow injury is somewhat worrisome (watch for injury news on his availability on Saturday morning), Olsen still profiles as the top tight end on the slate. He should blow past 1,000 receiving yards for the third straight season and has a plum matchup. By every metric, Atlanta allows a lot of production to opposing tight ends. We’ll highlight the matchup using a handy chart with Points Allowed vs. Expectations Sean Fakete of Fantasy Process showing Atlanta is worst in the league allowing 42% more fantasy points than average against the position. The Atlanta defense gives up a league-high 67% completion rate and 27 completions per game. They play a bend but don’t break styles that limits big plays over the top (to players like Ted Ginn and Kelvin Benjamin) and force you to march down the field with the running backs and tight ends. Given this style, it’s unsurprising that Olsen’s season-high in targets (13) came in the previous matchup between these two teams. We also know that tight end production is highly correlated (more than any other position) with high team totals. Carolina has a healthy 24.8 team total in what is projected to be one of the highest scoring games of the week. Olsen’s price is well down compared to early in the season and the massive GPP ownership of Brate will keep Olsen’s ownership down at reasonable levels, making him a great play in that format.
Cash Game Considerations
None of the cheaper defenses stand out as overly strong options this week, so we’re probably forced to pay up in cash games. The Patriots are the clear top pay-up option against a brutally bad Jets offense that is likely to be playing from far behind. In cash games, New England is as close to a must-play as you will see for a defense.
New England (Cash and GPP; $7,000) The Patriots defense is fresh off of an incredible performance in holding Denver to just three points. They also sacked Trevor Siemian four times and generated three turnovers. They return home to face the woeful Jets offense. New York has one of the lowest implied team totals we have seen all season at just 13.5 points. The expected game script is perfect from a fantasy as well, with the Patriots favored by a whopping 16.5 points and expected to jump out to a big early lead. The Jets have allowed opposing defenses to hit double-digit fantasy scoring eight times already, including last week when the Dolphins were the week’s best fantasy defense with 23 points. The Patriots are a must-play in cash games. The case is a bit muddier in GPPs, but with less chalky options on the slate overall, the need to diversify at defense is lower than normal and it doesn’t hurt to roll with the best overall option in tournaments.