Again, we find ourselves desperate to cash in on the final week of NFL DFS play but without a stable slate of games to choose from. The two-game setup is arduous and tilts toward GPP success over cash, and cost efficiency brings far less of an advantage than it usually does. Oh well. There’s still plenty of football to be played this weekend and a handful of shrewd DraftKings plays. Just don’t expect stable cash lineups, and don’t expect your knowledge and process to save you as easily this week.
Here’s a tour through each game, with an eye on the smartest players/units and how to shoehorn optimal value into your (hopefully low-stakes, high-reward) lineups:
Patriots at Broncos, 3:05 PM ET
the play considerations
You obviously want the Patriots’ top-producing receiver, so take your pick between slot extraordinaire Julian Edelman ($7,500) and needs-no-introduction Rob Gronkowski ($7,600). Edelman’s long-awaited return went gorgeously; he caught 10 balls and reached the 100-yard bonus as Tom Brady’s primary target. And Gronkowski is who he is. Either would make a rock-solid cash play with such little competition for value on the two-game slate, but you want to lean more on Gronkowski for GPP purposes. He simply has touchdown upside that the slot-oriented Edelman doesn’t. The latter needs a monstrous, 10-catch performance to even sniff tournament value, while Gronkowski can accomplish it over a handful of plays… For major salary relief, flip a coin between Brandon LaFell ($3,300) and Keshawn Martin ($2,600), who have flip-flopped semi-relevance as supporting targets over the last month. Of the two, LaFell makes the more sense; Martin’s slot role is much more likely to be phased out with Edelman’s return… With QB pricing so tight and Peyton Manning a strict GPP-only option, there’s not much risk in targeting Brady ($7,400) in any cash game, even at the slate’s top price. The Patriots’ nonexistent ground attack means he’ll be relied upon for every scrap of offense, so volume makes him a cash dynamo. But his GPP upside could be capped by game flow… The Patriots defense ($3,100) is absurdly underpriced, an attacking unit that will tee off on the ghost of Manning. They’re not the ball-hawking takeaway threats of the past few years, but could tilt a tournament against Manning’s dying arm, and the slate-low cost allows for maximum roster flexibility.
Don’t waste much (if any) time considering Peyton Manning ($5,500) and the Broncos passing game; it’s for deep-GPP diversification only. There’s little salary relief to rostering either Demaryius Thomas ($7,000) or Emmanuel Sanders ($6,300), and I don’t like the tight ends’ upsides against the athletic Patriots linebackers. While the game flow expectation points to higher volume, it’s just hard to expect the receivers to make plays on the end of Manning’s weak throws. And bear in mind that top Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler held Thomas to one catch in their in-season meeting… Aside from James White’s moderate GPP appeal, there’s also not much to see in the New England run game. However, it’s prudent to diversify across all bases, so throwing Brandon Bolden ($2,600) into a tourney lineup is an option. He’s at least flashed utility in the short-yardage and passing games.
Cardinals at Panthers, 6:40 PM ET
JUST PUSH PLAY
You want in on these Cardinals receivers, and it’s hard to pick a wrong one. In fact, going deep on this passing game looks like the week’s cheat code. The Panthers pass defense was daunting for most of the year, but has come somewhat unraveled lately. Their second- and third-best cover men, Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere, are now on IR, and they’ve allowed numerous deep completions over the last two months. Hence, the value in Larry Fitzgerald ($6,900), Michael Floyd ($5,300), and John Brown ($5,200). Josh Norman doesn’t cover the slot, where Fitzgerald lives and Brown often ventures, so they bring healthy value at their low-end WR2 costs. They should roast the floundering Robert McClain, and Floyd brings awesome contrarian appeal as DFSers flee the Panthers’ scary reputation. On a week with few elite WR options, treat the Cardinals as a treasure trove… The quarterbacks offer their own brands of value, and both are thoroughly rosterable in any format. Carson Palmer ($6,800) has all of the weapons and a depleted Panthers secondary to work against, but volume is a concern – he’s thrown 32 or fewer passes in three of his last four games. That makes him an ideal GPP play but a slightly iffy cash one. Cam Newton ($7,200) comes at a slight premium thanks to his running ability, suggesting slightly more GPP value than otherwise; it’s unlikely he’s able to throw for more than 15-17 of the 21.6 points he’d need to cash. David Johnson ($6,500) doesn’t offer much value, but he’s a fine path to diversifying from the GPP pack in a tough matchup. He’s the every-down back and will have more opportunity (and more dynamism) than anyone else on the slate, so there’s a load of cash value there… Looking for bargain-bin WR production? Jerricho Cotchery ($2,400) may make a little sense. He takes most of the Panthers’ slot reps, and the Cardinals have struggled to defend that area since Tyrann Mathieu’s injury. A modest line around 4-50 would bring borderline tournament value, and a 5-70 could catapult you up the standings of a high-entry GPP.
I’m not interested in either running game in a traditional sense. Again, Johnson makes sense as a contrarian/volume play, but his value is modest and he has no real counterpart on the other side of the field. Jonathan Stewart ($5,900) has a rocky road ahead in finding yardage, and his lowered touchdown and reception potential make him a poor GPP fit. And there’s no other back on the roster to vulture pass-game reps in the event of a Cardinals blowout… The Panthers passing game is similarly murky and avoidable. If you’re willing to pay up for Greg Olsen ($7,100), you’re better served finding an extra $500 to roster Rob Gronkowski. And Ted Ginn Jr, Jr. likely won’t be isolated enough on non-Patrick Peterson cornerbacks to generate big plays. The Panthers offense certainly has its upside, but you’re probably able to harness it all just by buying Cam Newton.