JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL (TOP SHELF PLAYS)
Andrew Luck ($9,300) – Luck is the most expensive QB on DraftKings this week, as well as the most likely to go completely berserk. Vegas has the Colts projected for four scores at home vs. Houston, and Luck accounts for 81.25% of Indy's total TD production. The Texans have allowed 264 passing yards per game (fifth worst in the league), despite Mark Sanchez being the best QB they've faced since Week 8. Luck's floor is in the 300-2 range, and his ceiling may actually be higher than the 370-3-1 line he dropped on Houston back in Week 5, considering he plays at home this time. I wouldn't usually advocate a QB-WR stack in cash games, but pairing Luck with T.Y. Hilton this week (check his game logs vs. HOU) is a solid plan regardless of the format.
Drew Brees ($8,400) – Rolling with Brees and the Saints after last week's waking nightmare against Carolina is the DFS equivalent of running into a burning building. If New Orleans were playing anyone (and I truly mean anyone) besides the Bears this week, I wouldn't touch their offense if I were wearing a Hazmat suit. But Chicago is so bad defensively, you have to consider Brees in this spot. The Bears allow over 265 passing yards, and a league worst 2.3 passing TDs per game to opposing QBs. In the last five weeks, they've allowed over 20% more fantasy PPG to quarterbacks than the league average, despite games against Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater being included in that sample. For what it's worth, Vegas seems confident in a bounce back - the total for this game opened at 54 points, the second highest over/under of the week.
Le'Veon Bell ($9,600) - Bell's price is equal parts justified and prohibitive this week. Rostering him in a week with numerous enticing RB options available for 5K or less has its drawbacks, but numberFire's JJ Zachariason may have summed up how good Bell has been lately with this tweet:
If Le'Veon Bell only played the last three weeks this season, he'd be RB26 in PPR leagues.— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) December 10, 2014
Bell is best served for cash games, but 38.4 points will return 4x his salary in tournaments. He's exceeded that number in each of the last two games, and he now gets to punish Atlanta's awful run defense (league leading 19 total TDs allowed to RBs). Make room for him if you can.
Matt Forte ($9,000) - Over the last three games, the Saints have allowed a whopping 91.8% more fantasy points to opposing RBs than the league average. Jonathan Stewart's 20-155-1 breakout last week was actually the least total yardage New Orleans has allowed to a starting RB in their last four contests. Forte's involvement is clearly not in question - he's received the second heaviest overall workload of any RB this season, and his prominent role in the passing game makes him immune to lousy game script. If you're looking for a sure thing, and can't fit Le'Veon under the cap, Forte is your guy this week.
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. ($8,400) - Beckham is the fourth most expensive receiver on DraftKings ($100 more than Demaryius Thomas!), but this isn't the week to fade him. ODB has been absolutely dominant at home (per game averages of 7 catches, 110 yards, .75 TDs), and he's matched up with Washington's abysmal secondary. Washington ranks among the worst in the league in opponent's yards per pass attempt (7.7), and passing TDs allowed per game (2.2). Beckham is ideal for cash games due to his high floor (he hasn't gone under 15.3 fantasy points in his last seven games), but a 30 plus point performance is also very much in play this week. I'm playing him in GPPs despite what's sure to be a high ownership percentage.
Alshon Jeffery ($8,200) - Brandon Marshall's injury opens up over eight targets per game in Chicago. It's scary to think how many passes Jeffery (who was already receiving 10.8 targets per game in the last four weeks) may see from Jay Cutler in a plus matchup with the Saints. While it looks like Jeffery will see Keenan Lewis in coverage on the majority of his routes, it's only a mild concern. Football Outsiders ranks the Saints 27th in adjusted pass defense DVOA, and 28th at defending opposing WR1s. Vegas is encouraging us to invest heavily in Bears-Saints. I can't envision too many scenarios where the Bears score 25+, and their supremely talented, most heavily targeted receiver isn't a primary reason why.
Dez Bryant ($7,900) - Bryant failed to capitalize on this matchup Thanksgiving day (4-73-0), but Tony Romo was banged up and playing on short rest. Romo looked much better last week (though it was against the Bears), while the Eagles secondary proved they can still be exploited. Dez knows no rival when it comes to weekly multi-TD upside – he's scored more TDs than any pass catcher in the NFL since the start of the 2012 season. Bryant and Calvin Johnson share a similar ceiling this week, but Dez is available for 18% less.
Randall Cobb ($7,300) – Cobb has failed to reach double digit PPR points in two out of his last three games, which should keep him fairly low owned. I'm not incredibly high on the Packers in Buffalo this week (probably a mistake), but Cobb has a matchup in the slot with Buffalo CB Nickell Robey that's tough to ignore. Robey has allowed the second most receiving yards and YAC while in slot coverage this season. Arizona CB Jerraud Powers, who leads league in yards and YAC allowed from slot, has played 22% more snaps this season than Robey. I trust Aaron Rodgers will spot the mismatch, and exploit it.
Rob Gronkowski ($7,600) - Gronkowski is simply the only tight end worth paying top 10 WR price for on a weekly basis. Despite his rough first month of the season, Gronk has only had one game in which he failed to finish as a top 12 TE. His seven top five finishes are tied for most at the position. The Dolphins happen to be the stingiest team in the league against tight ends, but it won't matter as long as Gronk gets his customary 8+ targets.
Martellus Bennett ($5,900) – If fitting Gronk under the cap becomes too challenging, I'll be tabbing Bennett, and spending the additional $1,700 at RB and WR. I realize I've already suggested Jeffery and Forte, and there can only be so many Chicago TDs to go around, but Bennett is more than capable of crashing the party. He received a team high 15 targets last week, and figures to keep seeing a ton of intermediate, and red zone looks without Marshall around.
Detroit Lions Defense ($3,600) – When the Lions faced Minnesota on the road in Week 6, they sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times and forced three interceptions, on their way to 21 fantasy points. Maybe the added experience will keep things from going so far south Bridgewater this week, but it doesn't look promising. He's averaged 176 passing yards and .75 TDs per game on the road this season, and the Lions average nearly two takeaways per game at home. There's a reason Detroit is the highest priced D/ST on DraftKings this week.
JACK DANIELS (MODERATELY PRICED PLAYS)
Matt Ryan ($6,600) - This one is predicated on Julio Jones playing at something close to 100% health. We saw last week what a locked in Julio can mean for Ryan's numbers (375-4-1). If Sam Shields couldn't guard Jones, William Gay doesn't stand a chance. Here's a look at Gay's last four games courtesy of Rotoworld's Nick Mensio:
Julio Jones will run most of his routes vs. #Steelers RCB William Gay in Week 15. Gay has allowed 15-340-4 on 22 targets past 4 games.— Nick Mensio (@NickMensio) December 9, 2014
A 51 point over/under, Ryan's home/road splits (his fantasy PPG increase by 20% at home this season), and Pittsburgh's inability to pressure the QB (26th in sacks per game) all support Ryan as a great value this week.
Mark Sanchez ($6,500) - I would expect Sanchez's ownership levels to drop after a 96 yard performance against the Seahawks, but I'll forgive his poor game against a defense that hasn't allowed more than 149 passing yards in any of their previous four games. Sanchez has gone for 17 fantasy points or better in every other start he's made this season, including the Thanksgiving day game against these same Cowboys (21.48). As usual, the Eagles offensive pace will create a ton of opportunity for Sanchez, and the Dallas pass defense qualifies as a plus matchup. If you can't trust the Sanchize with your dough, consider Eli Manning who plays a Washington team he lit up for five total TDs back in Week 4.
Marshawn Lynch ($7,300) - I'm expecting most folks to either shell out for guys like Bell and Forte, or find RB value at $5,000 and under, which would make Lynch a nice tourney differentiator. The San Francisco defense is tough against the run, but Lynch has excelled in this matchup before, and can be trusted any time he's at Century Link where he's averages 19 carries, 85 yards, and 1.5 rushing TDs. You want your RBs to be skilled, playing at home as a heavy favorite, and seeing tons of carries. Lynch has you covered in every category.
LeSean McCoy ($6,600) - McCoy was a regular Galloping Gobbler when Philadelphia and Dallas met on Thanksgiving day (25-159-1). Not a whole lot has changed in two weeks, besides Shady's price tag, which has dropped $800. Like Sanchez, McCoy ran into a buzz saw last week. His 50 rushing yards against the Seahawks were 22 more than Seattle has allowed to any other RB since LB Bobby Wagner returned from injury in Week 12. Fortunately for McCoy, Dallas (4.4 YPA against) and Seattle (3.5 YPA against) reside on opposite ends of the rushing defense spectrum. Similar to Lynch, McCoy affords you the opportunity for high end RB1 production, at a significant discount compared to the rest of the position's top tier.
Mike Evans ($6,600) – After notching his third multi-TD performance of the season last week, Evans is now the cumulative PPR WR12. His pricing stands out in comparison to the rest of the position's top tier. With the exception of Jeremy Maclin (also a great value at $6,100), the other five WRs who have posted at least 900 receiving yards and 10 TDs this season, range in price from $7,300-$8,700. Evans is so affordable because he hasn't topped 50 receiving yards in any of his last three games, but he's also caught three TDs in that span, and has flashed a ceiling few WRs have rivaled this season (three weekly top five finishes). Tampa is only projected for about 18 points this week, which is scary, but Evans leads the NFL in TD market share (55.56%). He's capable of returning value, even if Tampa Bay doesn't score many points.
Kenny Stills ($5,700) - If we're operating under the assumption Drew Brees will bounce back, Stills offers terrific $/point value vs. a Chicago defense that can't stop anyone. Even if we include last week's wonky game in the sample, Stills has easily been Brees' most productive receiver since Brandin Cooks went down three weeks ago. He's second on the team in targets, and leads NO in receptions, and receiving yards by a wide margin over that span. I understand being leery of the Saints' offense, but the combination of Stills' efficiency (11.7 YPT, 77% catch rate) and matchup sets him up nicely for a 20+ point game.
Delanie Walker ($4,400) - Walker has soiled the bed sheets in each of the last two games, despite his status as the last man standing in Tennessee's receiving corps. He's got an accommodating opponent this week, in the Jets, who have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends this season. The home/road splits are in Walker's favor (per game averages of 5-62-.4 at home), and he's performed well this year with Jake Locker as his QB. It's tough to have much confidence in any piece of the Tennessee offense at this point, but a 20 point performance from Walker is within the range of outcomes this week.
LIMOUSINE LIQUOR (DIRT CHEAP PLAYS)
Johnny Manziel ($5,900) - It would have been much more fun to roll out Johnny Football against the Vontae Davis-less Colts last week, but he still has some appeal in a less than ideal matchup with the Bengals. Cincinnati has allowed big rushing games to Cam Newton (17-107-1) and Jake Locker (6-50) this season. If Manziel can rush for 50 yards and a TD (which doesn't seem like an absurd projection based on what we know about his game), he'd need only 150 passing yards to reach 3x value in cash games. Manziel's improvisational skills, strong, arm, and accurate deep ball give him enough upside for GPP usage as well. Just be prepared for high ownership - everyone likes a shiny new toy.
Jake Locker ($5,400) - With Manziel so close in cost, and minimum priced QBs sporting great matchups (check the Rubbing Alcohol section below), I don't envision too many folks clamoring for Locker's services this week. I'm not confusing Jake Locker with a good QB, but the Jets have allowed multiple passing TDs in every road game this season - a sample that includes recent matchups with Alex Smith, Kyle Orton, and Teddy Bridgewater. Supposing he's able to throw two TDs, as every other host QB has done against the Jets, Locker would only need about 220 passing yards to reach 3x value, which is certainly not inconceivable against New York's no name secondary.
Alfred Morris ($5,000) - As I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of attractive RB plays available for $5,000 and under this week. I could make a case for Steven Jackson ($3,800), Latavius Murray ($4,000), Daniel Herron ($4,900), Chris Johnson (3,600), and Chris Ivory ($4,200), but I see Morris as clearly ahead of that group. While I admit I was more excited about this pick when it looked like Robert Griffin III was starting (Alf's fantasy production increases by 23% with Griffin in the lineup), Morris still represents a bargain. The Giants (10th most fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs) are a plus matchup, and Alf won't have to contend with Roy Helu (turf toe), who's accounted for 38% of Washington's RB snaps this year.
Isaiah Crowell ($4,900) – Terrance West saw the most snaps and carries in the Cleveland backfield last week, but Crowell still doubled West's fantasy output against the Colts. Crowell is practicing in full this week, so my guess is we'll see the snap count shift back to a 65-35 split in his favor. With Johnny Manziel behind center, extra large running lanes should be there for Cleveland's backs against a Cincinnati defense that was obliterated on the ground by Le'Veon Bell last week.
LeGarrette Blount ($4,400) – Since being signed three weeks ago, Blount has seen 70% of the RB carries for New England, including seven out of the Patriots' 11 totes from inside the opponent's 10 yard line. Chasing carries in Bill Belichick's backfield is rarely advisable, but it seems we have a big enough sample to definitively state Blount is the Pats' lead back. Miami has been gouged on the ground in their last three games, allowing 529 rushing yards (5.81 YPA). New England is an eight point favorite at home against the Dolphins, which points to a game script that favors of a heavy dose of the run.
Marcel Reece ($4,000) – Latavius Murray will be the more popular play after running rough shod on Kansas City a few weeks back, but my money is on Reece to lead Oakland's backfield in scoring on DraftKings (full PPR). Murray may have received 23 carries against the 49ers last week, but I can't see him approaching that workload in Kansas City, where the Raiders are projected to lose by double digits. The game script clearly favors the Raiders' receiving back, and Reece (7-64-1 as a receiver last week) has been a big part of the game plan lately, whether the Raiders have been leading or trailing.
Donte Moncrief ($4,000) – We finally saw a changing of the guard last week, as Moncrief out-snapped Hakeem Nicks 50-18, locking him in as the Colts' WR3. Reggie Wayne is an empty husk at this stage of his career, and he's playing (ineffectively) through a torn triceps to boot. Even though it looks like Wayne will play this week, it's not a stretch to assume the talented Moncrief can get behind the Houston defense for a big play, or two. The Texans have allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing WRs this season, and four WR TDs in the last three games.
Marqise Lee ($3,600) - Lee has quietly emerged as the Jaguars' best receiver in the wake of Allen Robinson's season ending injury. His 194 receiving yards over the last three games are over 100 yards better than the Jags' next leading receiver (Cecil Shorts) despite the two seeing an identical number of targets (21). The game script usually sets up nicely for the Jags' passing game, and this week is no different. Jacksonville is Week 15's biggest underdog (+13.5), which makes it very likely we'll see a ton of pass attempts from Blake Bortles. Baltimore's CBs are Ladarius Webb (116.6 QBR against), and a bunch of street free agents. A Jacksonville receiver is going to have a big game in this matchup, and Lee is the best bet of the bunch, at a great price.
Carolina Panthers Defense ($2,600) – If Josh McCown and Mike Glennon were one quarterback, they would rank third in the league in sacks taken (38), and fifth worst in completion percentage. The Carolina defense hasn't been a bankable commodity this season by any stretch, but they managed double digit fantasy points against Tampa on the road in Week 1, and they've allowed 23% less fantasy PPG to opposing QBs than the league average over the last three games.
RUBBING ALCOHOL (MINIMUM PLAYS)
Marquess Wilson ($3,000) - Wilson will be a popular punt play across all DFS sites this week, as he steps in for the injured Brandon Marshall. At 6'3'', with a 34.5" vertical jump, he profiles as an excellent jump ball receiver, and red zone weapon for Jay Cutler. As we covered earlier, the matchup against the Saints doesn't get much better for opposing WRs, especially since New Orleans figures to focus most of their defensive attention on Alshon Jeffery. Given the matchup, opportunity, and the Bears' pass happy offensive scheme, Wilson has WR1 upside this week (albeit with a scary low floor).
Derek Anderson ($5,000) - Anderson's only start this season came in Week 1 against Tampa Bay, and he came through with a 230-2-0 line (18.2 fantasy points). Based on the Bucs' performance in nearly every game since, I see no reason why we shouldn't expect a repeat of those numbers for Anderson in the rematch. An Anderson-Kelvin Benjamin stack should prove both cheap and effective. Benjamin went for 6-92-1 in the Week 1 matchup with the Bucs, which built on the strong connection the duo established in the preseason.