As with last week, I’m going to continue to advise all to focus on tournament play this week. It’s always the shrewdest method on small slates with lots of roster overlapping. Sprinkling a handful of smart options into several GPP lineups lets you in on the elevated odds of scoring big an a high-entry (thousands of players) contest.
That way, you’ll also be building your lineups with an eye on cost efficiency, identifying the guys whose outlook and ownership levels are far above their DraftKings prices.
Here’s the weekly rundown of ideal cash and GPP-style targets:
THE CASH PLAY
The only thing standing between Carson Palmer and 60% cash game ownership is passing volume. The Cardinals possessed a “dominant” switch this year, averaging a modest 35.1 attempts a game as a result. But Palmer’s efficiency – he led the NFL in yards per completion, yards per attempt, and net yards per attempt – suggests a strong fantasy showing in several possible game scripts. Assuming the Packers avoid a blowout, Palmer should see opportunity to wrangle the 19.5 points he needs to cash. That’s a wholly attainable passing line of two touchdowns and around 270 yards – a number he’s hit in nine of his last 11 games.
THE TOURNEY PLAY
I know you don’t want to roster Peyton Manning again, but he’s never come to you at just $6,000. There are concerns over game flow; neither Antonio Brown nor DeAngelo Williams will be playing, and Ben Roethlisberger can barely move his arm, so a Broncos blowout is possible. But the Steelers are nothing if not fast-paced, especially if their offense revolves around short, safe dumpoffs. Manning should be flushed with snaps and scoring opportunities against perhaps the league’s most talent-deprived secondary.
THE CASH PLAYS
Throughout our weekly DraftKings coverage, we often discuss “cheat codes” and the massive benefit of owning a player who outscores each of his peers by a wide margin. And I’ve shared why I consider David Johnson the closest thing to it this week. A dual-threat centerpiece of the league’s best offense, Johnson rarely leaves the field and has been productive across multiple game flows. As a seven-point home favorite, the script outlook tilts even further his way, and it’s pretty tough to expect less than his 18-point cash marker.
We were all a bit blindsided by Marshawn Lynch’s sudden scratch late last week, so here’s to Take Two. Lynch is reportedly free of practice restraints and ready to take the lead job from the inconsistent Christine Michael. The matchup is scary, but Lynch would reach cash value with 80-90 scrimmage yards and a score. Given his postseason resume and the lockdown nature of the Panthers pass defense, it’s a fair volume-based expectation.
This will be no cakewalk for the Patriots, so the pass-catching bunch should stay busy all day – and that (typically) includes James White in a noticeable role. His usage is spotty, but a five-catch day would likely pull him two-thirds of the way to his 15.6-point cash line. And his path to that is much clearer than those of most of his peers this week.
THE TOURNEY PLAYS
Spencer Ware has excelled in a tandem role. He’s turned 32 rushes into 143 yards and two short-yardage scores. He may not be the preferred option over Charcandrick West, but his goal line role hs proven more fantasy-valuable of late. And given the Patriots’ current free-fall, there’s far more reason to expect Kansas City’s ground volume to keep stable throughout the game. Ware’s path to 15-20 touches and another touchdown is murky, but not particularly daunting anymore.
The injury-smacked Steelers appear to be in big trouble depth-wise, so their Preseason All-Pro duo of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman will again rotate the rock. The matchup is terrifying, sure, but a full-PPR format smiles upon pass-catching backs for heavy underdogs. With Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder truly damaged and Antonio Brown sitting out, the Steelers will rely on dumpoffs more than ever, so one or both of these backs will carry solid GPP value. My preference is Toussaint, who dominated snaps and caught all four of the tandem’s passes last week. But in a tournament, it’s shrewd to lean on the cheaper and lower-owned Todman, whose track record suggests good receiving production and flashes of dynamism.
THE CASH PLAYS
Regardless of his QB, Demaryius Thomas has continued to post solid and overlooked, if underwhelming, WR1 numbers just about weekly. His matchups with Steelers outside cornerbacks Antwon Blake and Ross Cockrell are tantalizing, and few teams allow more pitch-and-catch red zone TDs than Pittsburgh, suggesting a fairly easy path to his cash line of 21 points.
It’s hard to go wrong choosing between Michael Floyd and John Brown, two elite big-play threats on the league’s most dynamic offense. But the week’s largest Vegas scoring projection deserves representation in your lineup, and luckily for us, both come very cheaply (either would need 15 points to cash). Floyd, the safer and preferred cash game target, closed the season with an absolute flourish, topping 100 yards five times from Weeks 10-16 and building a moderately solid volume outlook (eight targets per game over that span), as well. Brown hasn’t been breaking open downfield much, but he’s been an elite red zone producer of late, finding the end zone in each of the Cardinals’ last three meaningful games. He deserves real GPP consideration, but doesn’t look cash-ready.
With Antonio Brown out, Ben Roethlisberger will spend Sunday night dinking and dunking to an unideal batch of targets. That’s at least good volume news for Markus Wheaton, who will work heavily from the slot and should see a bevy of designed and non-designed underneath looks against the Broncos’ suffocating downfield coverage. True threats for 10+ targets from a Hall of Fame QB typically cost a lot more than $4,300, so take advantage.
THE TOURNEY PLAYS
He’s let us all down, I know, but Randall Cobb now comes so cheaply that he deserves automatic attention in a Vegas-projected shootout. Davante Adams’ absence only opens up more short-to-intermediate opportunity for Cobb, who could dominate the red zone passing game and then some. And with Tyrann Mathieu out, the Cardinals pass defense has wavered noticeably – particularly in the slot, where Cobb operates from. I’d assign the Packers roughly a 35-40% chance of keeping this game interesting and dynamic, so their top receiver is a strong consideration, especially with the most attractive matchup.
The Panthers pass defense was suffocating for most of 2015, thanks in large part to Defensive Player of the Year candidate Josh Norman. But cracks have begun to show – the team’s second- and third-best cornerbacks have been lost for the year, and the secondary’s performance has waned as a result. Most intriguingly for our GPP purposes, they’ve allowed the eighth-most completions of 30+ yards over their last four games. That spells potential value for Seattle speedsters Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse, either of whom could reach GPP value with a long touchdown catch and little else. I prefer Kearse for the salary relief, but either makes for a fine contrarian play in a large-field tournament.
The Cash Play
The Patriots’ athletic linebackers are a tough matchup for tight ends, but Travis Kelce holds the sexiest outlook among an uninspiring crop. Let’s not forget that Kelce is a sheer force of athletic nature himself – he did torch a similar Patriots defense for an 8-93-1 line last season. But most importantly for our purposes, Kelce’s already studly usage (29% of team targets over the last three meaningful games) should soar with Jeremy Maclin likely to be limited or out. He could dominate the position as Jordan Reed did last week, and he’ll be very highly owned – you don’t want to be left out on him, regardless of whether he reaches his modest 15.3-point cutoff.
The Tourney Play
This tight end slate sorely lacks high-ceiling options beyond the top-salaried guys. You want to be chasing production from those guys, not from Richard Rogers or Ed Dickson. At least one or two of Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Greg Olsen will erupt for 25+ points and knock most or all of the bargain hunters out of contention in one fell swoop. Considering the low-cost talent available at RB and WR, it seems counterintuitive to stab at one of the enticing dirt-cheap bin. Take the savings elsewhere and spend highly on the top tight ends; at no other position does the top tier so dominate the lower ones this week.
The Cash Play
You want in on the Broncos, who will be teeing off on a horribly disfigured Steelers offense led by a QB nursing a shoulder that sounds like it should be in traction. At worst, Ben Roethlisberger will put 40+ erratic wobblers into the air against a smothering man-to-man defense, with his All-World No. 1 on the sideline. At best, your fantasy defense will be hosting Landry Jones in a playoff game. Ashley Shaffer would agree that either way, you’re a winner.
The Tourney Play
If you’re looking for uniqueness here, the opposing Steelers might make the most sense. Peyton Manning is anything but a steady hand at the moment, and an opportunistic Steelers unit could easily force a handful of turnovers and produce cash value (10.8 points). And let’s not forget the sheer meltdown that Brock Osweiler posted against them last month, should he be called into action.