The injury status of each player is one of the most key inputs into our lineup decisions each week. The question isn’t only if the player will play but how limited will they be if they do play. However, the most important thing to consider is who will pick up their touches if they are limited or miss the game completely. Each week our resident injury expert Jene Bramel will break down the injuries and Steve Buzzard will break down what it means for your cash and GPP lineups. See this article for definitions of all DFS terms.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots $7,700
Bramel: Rob Gronkowski returned to practice on Thursday and Friday, fueling speculation he may be available on Sunday night. I don’t think the team is intentionally trolling us. Gronkowski’s practice participation is about reconditioning his body and getting comfortable wearing the brace he’ll be using when he returns. It’s still more likely he sits this week and returns next, but the Patriots may take him to Houston and evaluate him Sunday morning.
Buzzard: Gronkowski is always in play in DFS games that he suits up for. This week there is obviously a lot of questions around that and his status could be one of the bigger keys of the week. Unfortunately we are unlikely to know his true status by the kickoff of the early games unless he simply doesn’t travel with the team. As such we will need to take some educated guesses. My current guess is the Patriots won’t play Gronkowski this week because they already have the division all but wrapped up and are the favorites for a bye as well. So there isn’t really much incentive to play him in this situation. As such I will fade him in most games. Of course there will be a lot of people thinking this way which should drive his ownership rates extremely low so putting him in 1% of your GPP lineups makes plenty of sense to me just in case he does play. As always he will be a difference maker if he plays. Additionally, he will also force you to build a different lineup than your competition since Gronkowski is priced so much differently than the rest of the tight end options. This is a way that you can win first place in a huge GPP. But it is also the easiest way to finish near the bottom.
If Gronkowski is out, as expected, the rest of the passing game gets a big boost as there are a lot of targets to go around. One problem is that unlike most other receivers in the league the Patriots can’t just plug in other receiving options in and expect the offense to not miss a step. Gronkowski is one of the biggest difference makers in the league and the offense will be significantly less effective without him. That said there are still targets to be had. Last week the targets were broken up as follows Danny Amendola 13 ($5,200), James White 13 ($4,100), Brandon Lafell 9 ($4,700), Keshawn Martin 8 ($3,000), Scott Chandler 7 ($3,800), and Brandon Bolden 5 ($3,200). With so many targets to go around all of the receiving options would be GPP plays with my focus on Chandler and Amendola. Chandler’s price continues to be low even after putting up lines of 5-58-1 and 4-61-1 the last two weeks and makes a good cash game play.
Bramel: Julio Jones (probable) and Calvin Johnson (questionable) and DeAndre Hopkins (probable) were all limited in practice at different times this week but all are expected to play. Jones has fought soreness for much of the season and will play, but facing Josh Norman isn’t a great time to be less than 100%. There’s always concern when a player misses practice on Friday as Johnson did, but think of it as a Wednesday day of rest on Friday. He’s expected to play. Hopkins was a late add with a muscle strain but has been effective when playing through similar situations in the past. Add Amari Cooper (probable) to this list. His consecutive limited practices to end the week are reassuring.
Buzzard: Over the last few weeks the high end wide receivers have been the route to go. This week with so many injured and in less than ideal matchups it might be a good chance to take another route and spend on some more mid-range pass catchers that have a high upside. Of these three my favorite is Johnson who has scored 4 TDs in the last 2 games and is looking a little more like the Johnson of old since the Jim Bob Cooter offense has been implemented. But he is nothing more than a GPP option. If I am going to pay up at WR I would rather pay up for a healthy Odell Beckham ($9,100) who is on a run similar to last year. He has now topped 100 yards for five straight weeks after a slow start as he and the Giants have started to react to the defensive scheme changes that were imposed earlier in the year.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals - $5,600
Bramel: Tyler Eifert was cleared for full contact on Thursday and practiced again on Friday. That means the Bengals have no concern about Eifert’s strength and range of motion. While an aggravation cannot be entirely ruled out, expect Eifert to be used in the game plan as extensively as he was before this injury.
Buzzard: Eifert’s price has risen considerably with his great season that has seen him score 12 TDs in only 11 weeks. That makes him a bit of a risk at less than 100%. But you can be assured that he will be heavily involved in the red zone since he is such a TD monster. If the Bengals limit him it will likely be between the 20s where he hasn’t been nearly as effective this year anyway. As such I think Eifert makes a high risk but low floor GPP option. If Eifert is out for the game give a big bump to A.J. Green just like last week and puts him in nearly must play status with both high upside and a very high floor against the porous Steelers defense in a game that has a total of 50.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints ($6,200)
Bramel: I tweeted many thoughts on the confusion over Brandin Cooks concussion/non-concussion Saturday morning. Regardless of how the process unfolded this week, Sean Payton told reporters on Friday that Cooks has been cleared play this week. Willie Snead IV also looks likely to return after a full week of limited practice through a calf strain. Snead’s risk of aggravation is slightly higher than Cooks’ risk of recurrence based on current information.
Buzzard: Cooks has really come on the last 6 weeks averaging 80 yards and a TD over that span. He is continuing to build on his solid rookie season and has shown good progress. I don’t worry too much about Cooks missing this game or leaving early so he is a good GPP play. The bigger issue that puts him lower on my GPP list is that he has a less than ideal matchup against the Buccaneers and the fact that the Saints continue to spread the ball around so much which limits Cooks upside.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos $4,200
Bramel: C.J. Anderson is listed questionable but should be considered doubtful. He remains “very sore” and was unable to practice this week. Ronnie Hillman returned to a limited Friday practice and Gary Kubiak expects him to start. Reading between the lines this week, it’s unlikely any Denver running back will see a full workload. I don’t believe Hillman will see more than 10-12 touches.
Buzzard: As Jene mentions the Broncos backfield is a bit of a mess this week Ronnie Hillman ($4,700) is still priced at levels that are closer to when he was fully healthy and dominating the carries in the backfield. Juwan Thompson ($3,000) or Anderson shouldn’t really be trusted either. This isn’t your explosive Broncos offense of years past so we have to be a little more picky when it comes to utilizing their backs and this week with a messy situation isn’t the week to go after those backs.
Check the DraftKings blog on Sunday morning for the latest injury expectations.