For the uninitiated, playing daily games on DraftKings can be an enjoyable experience, but equally sobering is the fact that season-long knowledge does not always translate to success in the daily space. FootballGuys will bring you a series of value- and strategic-based selections from a number of seasoned daily veterans throughout the NFL season. Herein is another edition of “Tipandpick’s Tips and Picks,” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on DraftKings and make value-based recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games; cash game players are consistent with high fantasy floors. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he may fall into both categories…let’s have a look.
Week 17 in daily fantasy is one in which I recommend taking a cautious approach to personal bankroll management. There are teams eliminated from the playoffs that have little-to-no motivation entering the off-season...there are other teams who will be highly-invested in this week's game because their playoff hopes are on the line...and there will be teams (Washington, Arizona, etc.) that rest their starters because they already have a seat at the figurative playoff table. As such, it takes a keen eye to research the Week 17 slate and to select players on teams with foreseeable courses-of-action, while avoiding those situations that are less predictable. For all of these reasons, I recommend that you lessen your weekly DFS volume in Week 17 and narrow your player pool for cash game rosters (which you will see has been done in this article, as well). Best of luck.
CASH GAME PLAYS
Matt Ryan (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5500). For cash game roster construction on DraftKings this weekend, you are advised to spend the bulk of your salary on the high-end options at running back and wide receiver because many of them have superb matchups. Consequently, you should be looking at lower-salary options at the quarterback position; this week, Matt Ryan looks to be in a great spot against the New Orleans Saints defense that has allowed 28 points per game over their past four games. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Falcons' implied team total is 28.5 points this weekend at home against a Drew Brees-led Saints squad that has traditionally performed well in Atlanta; if Brees can continue to perform at a high level, this game could evolve into a shootout (and oddsmakers agree...this game has the highest Vegas total of the week). Devonta Freeman will likely steal some fantasy opportunities, particularly near the goal line, but Matt Ryan's salary is low enough that he needs only a 250-passing yard performance with a single touchdown to reach cash game value...against this defense, that would appear to be his floor, but his ceiling is in the neighborhood of 30 fantasy points.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $5400). The crafty Ryan Fitzpatrick makes his first appearance in the cash games section of "Tips and Picks" this season against a seven-win Buffalo Bills team that has nothing to play for as they exit their 2015 campaign. The Bills subpar secondary is undersized and often overmatched, which is exacerbated by the fact that Mario Williams has given up on his team, a premise that is highlighted by the Bills' league-worst pass rush (ProFootballFocus). While the Bills will be playing for nothing more than pride, the Jets need to win this game to secure their post-season position...if they lose, they are likely out of the playoffs because the Steelers look like a lock to beat the Browns and steal that slot. As a result, expect the resurgent Fitzpatrick and his talented wide receiving corps to come out of the tunnels fired up and ready to lay it on the Bills on Sunday. Brandon Marshall will line-up across from Leodis McKelvin and Eric Decker will see plenty of Nickell Robey in the slot; both receivers have at least six inches over their respective coverage and lesser receivers have beaten both cornerbacks often this season. This is a total mismatch and at $5,400, Fitzpatrick needs only 16 fantasy points to reach cash game value, a number that he has missed only twice all season.
Also eligible: Brian Hoyer ($5100)
Devonta Freeman (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $7600). Julio Jones is a player that everybody will want to get into their cash games this weekend and for good reason--no team has allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than the New Orleans Saints. That said, the Saints are equally putrid in defending the run, as they have allowed a whopping 5.0 yards per carry this season (worst in the NFL). Since he was named the RB1 in Atlanta back in Week 3, Freeman has enjoyed astounding volume in the Falcons offense, averaging 19.1 carries and 5.8 receptions per game over that span (excluding Week 11, when he left the game early due to injury); of all running backs playing on Sunday, Freeman is the most likely to score a touchdown and should pick up another 5-8 points strictly from catching passes...add in his implied yardage in this plus matchup and Freeman should easily surpass the 20 fantasy point threshold. And if you are wondering, "Can I roster both Freeman and Julio Jones in my cash games?"...the answer is "yes."
Rashad Jennings (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3700). In the second half of the season, no team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing running backs than the Philadelphia Eagles; in fact, the least number of fantasy points scored against the Eagles by any RB1 was 13.2 points was Darren McFadden back in Week 9 (117 rushing yards). Meanwhile, after three months of uncertainty, it seems that Rashad Jennings has emerged as the RB1 in the Giants offense, having touched the ball an average of 19 times per game over the previous three games. In a week where you will want to take a "stars and scrubs" approach (expensive and value players), Jennings is a bargain at $3,700 because that equates to ~ $200 per touch, which is the best price per touch on the entire Week 17 slate. If Jennings hits double-digit fantasy points, he has done his job and you will have cleared enough cap space to insert names like Devonta Freeman, DeAngelo Williams, Julio Jones, and/or DeAndre Hopkins into your cash game lineups.
Also eligible: DeAngelo Williams ($7100)
Julio Jones (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8500). Each of the high-dollar wide receivers (Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr Jr., Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins) have plush matchups in Week 17, but Julio Jones is my favorite of the bunch. Jones has had double-digit targets in 13 out of 15 games this season (12.8 targets per game) and needs 16 receptions to tie the all-time record for a season...which is not out of the question against the league's 31st ranked pass coverage unit (ProFootballFocus). Over the past month, the Saints' historically bad defense has allowed a wide receiver to score multiple touchdowns in three out of four games including Allen Robinson, Golden Tate, and Ted Ginn Jr; expect Julio Jones to finish the afternoon with a similar stat line to those receivers at a lofty, but fair $8,500 salary.
DeAndre Hopkins (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $8400). The Houston Texans enter their Sunday contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars as touchdown favorites at home. After missing several games due to a concussion, Brian Hoyer will return to the field and should find himself throwing the ball early and often against a Jaguars defense that tends to funnel action through the air due to their stout run defense, but weak secondary; in fact, the Jags have the league's 31st ranked pass defense (FootballOutsiders' DVOA metric) and have allowed four consecutive WR1's to accumulate 100+ yards receiving. The Texans have a 26-point implied team total and it would seem foolish to suspect that Alfred Blue and/or Chris Polk will be able to do much against this Jags' front seven that are yielding only 3.6 yards per carry (3rd in the NFL), which means that the Hopkins should see all the action he can handle; Hopkins is all but guaranteed double-digit targets and a score against this 30th ranked pass coverage unit (ProFootballFocus).
Keshawn Martin (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3000). Danny Amendola made the trip to Miami this week, an indication that he will be active for the Patriots' game against the Dolphins on Sunday; Julian Edelman, however, is still inactive, which means that Keshawn Martin will absorb the WR2 role in the Pats offense. Truthfully, Martin is probably the third or fourth receiving option after Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and possibly James White, but he is offered up at DraftKings' minimum salary, his matchup is pristine (Miami is FootballOutsiders' 30th ranked pass defense), and the Patriots will be playing to win to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. To reach value, Martin needs a handful of catches for 40-50 yards, which alongside Rashad Jennings, should allow you to get two of the top end options at either running back or wide receiver.
Also eligible: Willie Snead IV ($4400)
Zach Ertz (Cash game format, Salary: $3600). No player in the NFL has more targets over the past two weeks than Zach Ertz (30). As we enter the last week of the season when DraftKings have done a good job of evolving most of their tight end salaries, Ertz represents one of the better value plays at his $3,600 salary; Ertz has excelled in the pedestrian Eagles' offense, averaging ~ 18 fantasy points per game since returning from a concussion a month ago. Ertz' reasonable salary is a reflection of his lack of touchdowns over the course of the season (two), but he has scored in two of his past four games, indicating that the Eagles may have determined how to best use Ertz' 6'5" frame inside the redzone. Lastly, his matchup could not be much better because the Giants have allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends this season.
Cooper Helfet (Cash format only, Salary: $2500). Purely a low opportunity cost play, Cooper Helfet could admittedly be a reach as a cash game option against the Cardinals this weekend. That said, I think he is a reasonable play for several reasons: 1) His $2,500 salary provides roster flexibility that allows one to acquire Devonta Freeman and two top-end wide receivers, 2) the Seahawks' regular starting tight end, Luke Willson, will miss this game with a concussion, which means that Helfet should see 50+ offensive snaps on Sunday, 3) With a similar snap count and no Luke Willson last week, Helfet finished with 4 receptions for 43 yards on 6 targets, 4) The Seahawks could go to Helfet a bit more on Sunday to take stock in how heavily they can target him in the Playoffs, if Willson is slow to return from his concussion, and 5) At such a low price point, Helfet needs to catch the ball only 3-4 times to reach cash game value using DraftKings' full PPR scoring system. Altogether, rostering Helfet in your cash games might feel like a rookie move, but it's a small price to pay (literally) to allow you to slot multiple high-salary players in other roster slots.
Also eligible: Zach Miller **Miller is OUT as of 11:30 AM EST Sunday morning--get him OUT of your lineups!!** ($4600)
Bengals (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $3300). The Bengals defense has performed at a fairly predictable level for most of the season--when they have faced inferior opponents, they have performed well and vice-versa; over the past five weeks, they have scored double-digit fantasy points three times (against the 49ers, Rams, and Browns), but managed only 5 fantasy points per game against the Broncos and Steelers. This weekend, however, the Bengals will play host to the Ravens in a game they must win if they hope to have any chance at a home-field game in the playoffs. Fresh off an upset win over the Steelers last week, I fully expect the Ravens to come crashing back to Earth in Cincinnati this weekend with Ryan Mallett at the helm, a rookie running back (Javorius Allen), and a stable of second- and third-string receivers. This game is a classic example of motivation to close out the season--the Bengals will have plenty and the Ravens may have depleted their reserves in last week's surprise win.
Cowboys (Cash and GPP formats, Salary: $2100). Jerry and Stephen Jones will have to reflect on a season that "could have been" after failing to secure a legitimate backup quarterback prior to the Cowboys' 2015 campaign. The fact is that, even without Tony Romo running the offense, the Cowboys have lost six games by less than a touchdown; if Dallas had an acceptable backup quarterback to run the offense, they likely could have snuck into the playoffs in the dreadful NFC East. They would have done so on the back of the defense, which has played quite well for most of the season. This weekend, that same defense will play host to a lame duck Redskins offense that will be looking to rest their starters in an otherwise meaningless game; the Skins have secured the NFC East and the outcome of this game has no bearing on their playoff opponent, so we should expect to see plenty of names like Colt McCoy, Pierre Thomas, and Rashad Ross after the first 15-30 minutes of football are played. With that in mind, the Cowboys defense is an entirely appropriate play at such a meager $2,100 salary.
Cam Newton (Salary: $7500). Because he is high cost on a weekend where everybody will want to spend up at the RB and WR positions, Cam Newton will be low-owned, particularly after last week's dud against the Falcons...has a plus matchup against the Bucs, who are stingy against the run (3.4 yards per carry--2nd in league), but have the league's 25th ranked pass defense (FootballOutsiders). With both Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker inactive, Newton's number could be called even more often, particularly near the goal line. High-upside, low ownership play.
Tom Brady (Salary: $7400). Similar situation to Newton, Tom Brady will be low-owned because rostering him means that you will have to forego rostering more popular high-end options at RB and WR. No team has a higher implied team total than the Patriots (28.5-points) and yet the Pats do not have an established 'every down' running back on the roster...which could mean that Brady shoulders the workload to ensure that the Pats lock up the #1 overall seed (and home-field advantage) for the AFC playoffs. Danny Amendola returns alongside Rob Gronkowski, both of whom will be complemented by lesser-name, but capable receivers like Keshawn Martin, Brandon LaFell, and James White.
Sam Bradford (Salary: $5300). Call it a hunch, but I suspect Chip Kelly's firing has a positive effect on the Eagles in their season finale. Multiple reports out of Philadelphia suggest that many of the Eagles' players were not Kelly's biggest fans...now that he's gone, those players might display their approval by playing up to expectations, something that has been missing for most of the Eagles' collective 2015 effort. Sam Bradford will not be on many people's fantasy radars, but the matchup is tasty against the Giants, who have allowed more passing yardage than any team in the NFL this season and have given up some huge games to opposing quarterbacks along the way. Stack him with Jordan Matthews or Zach Ertz for an affordable, high-upside, low-owned GPP play.
Darren McFadden (Salary: $4900). The veteran running back has flourished as the Cowboys' starting running back...currently sitting on 997 rushing yards and will surely break 1,000 against the Redskins, the first time since 2010. As 4-point favorites, McFadden should see additional action if the Cowboys build a lead--he has averaged 23.5 touches in the Cowboys' only victories since becoming the starter in Week 7. The Redskins allow 4.8 yards per carry this season (31st in NFL) and should be sitting key starters on both sides of the ball after a few series...presumably their backups are worse. If McFadden amasses 161 rushing yards on Sunday, he would surpass his career-high...do not be surprised if the Cowboys' offensive line tries to help make that happen.
Chris Ivory (Salary: $4400). Stablemate Bilal Powell has not practiced all week, but has been stealing a dozen high-value touches every week for over a month...if Powell sits (likely), Ivory could be in store for 20+ touches against the Bills, who are FootballOutsiders 31st ranked defensive rush unit. Ivory has not scored a touchdown in over a month and the Jets' passing game has been getting all of the headlines, which will drive down Ivory ownership in GPP contests...in a must-win game for the Jets, Ivory could "run mean" and getting multiple scoring opportunities inside the redzone.
Cameron Artis-Payne (Salary: $4300). Sheerly a gamescript- and volume-based play, Cameron Artis-Payne is a sneaky GPP play a week after he (and Fozzy Whittaker) disappointed against the Falcons...CAP did, however, display skills in limited action against the Falcons, picking up 49 yards on only 5 carries, as well as a reception for 7 additional yards. This week, Artis-Payne will not have to share carries with Whittaker, which should ramp up his opportunities against the Buccaneers, particularly in light of the fact that the Panthers are 10.5-point favorites. Tampa Bay's rush defense is solid, however, which should dampen ownership levels for Artis-Payne, making him a perfect high-upside, low-owned GPP play.
Frank Gore (Salary: $4000). As of Saturday night, there is still no Vegas odds on the Indianapolis-Tennessee game because there is no clear indication as to whom will be throwing the ball for the Colts on Sunday afternoon...what we do know is that Matt Hasselbeck is inactive, meaning that T.Y. Hilton and company will be relying on either Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley, or Stephen Morris to get him the ball; whoever is chosen will likely have a rough time of it, despite the plus matchup against the Titans' sieve of a secondary. Consequently, the 32-year old Frank Gore will be asked to carry a heavier load against a Titans' squad led by a lame-duck coach (Mike Mularkey) and starting a backup quarterback (Zach Mettenberger) on the road as 6-point underdogs. Advantage Gore. A week after scoring two touchdowns against the Dolphins, we now know Gore's fantasy ceiling...the question is if he can hit it again?
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. (Salary: $9000). Another big-name receiver in a plus matchup against a bad cornerback (Byron Maxwell), Odell Beckham Jr Jr. could close his sophomore season on a high-note coming out of a one-game suspension. The truth is that Beckham toasted Josh Norman multiple times in the infamous game against Carolina, but the stat line did not reflect his dominance of the elite cornerback; if Norman could not contain Beckham, there is zero chance that Byron Maxwell will be able to do much of anything...particularly when one considers that only seven cornerbacks have allowed more yardage while in coverage than Maxwell (787) this season.
Eric Decker (Salary: $6500). Both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have complete mismatches against their respective coverage cornerbacks, but give the edge to Decker who is offered up at $1,400 less than Marshall. Running out of the slot, Decker will tower seven full inches over Nickell Robey, who has allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 103.0 when in coverage this season...meanwhile, Decker has caught a touchdown in an astounding 12 out of 15 games this season, a glaring indication of his redzone prowess. In a must-win situation, Decker's number could be called often because of his seven-inch advantage over Robey.
Jordan Matthews (Salary: $4700). After a litany of disappointing performances this season, Jordan Matthews has put together two consecutive 100-yard games as the season comes to a close. Against the Giants, Matthews could feast...no team has allowed more passing yardage this season and the Giants have allowed 20+ fantasy points to three of the last four WR1's that they have faced. Most DFS players will likely avoid Matthews because he has failed in so many good spots this season, which should keep his ownership levels low enough to make him worth the risk he brings to the table as a GPP play.
Terrance Williams (Salary: $3300). At $3,300, Terrance Williams is a strong GPP play against the Redskins on Sunday because the opportunity cost is low, the potential return on investment is high, and most people will not be willing to roster a receiver with Kellen Moore guiding the offense...but Williams had 10 targets from Moore last Sunday and is the WR1 in an offense slated to score 22 points. If Williams can pull in a single touchdown against a series of backup defenders, he will easily achieve GPP value at less than 5% ownership. Using Williams as a salary-saver to slot in more expensive options elsewhere is the recommendation.
Greg Olsen (Salary: $6800). To be contrarian at quarterback and tight end this week, you will need to pay up at those positions...Greg Olsen is the perfect candidate because he is playing for a motivated Panthers squad that needs to win to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Panthers have an implied team total of 28.5-points and their most consistent wide receiver option over the latter part of the season, Ted Ginn Jr, is looking doubtful to play...with a stout run defense against him, Cam Newton could resort to his security blanket and target Olsen throughout the day. Olsen has multiple score upside and will be underowned because of his lofty salary at a position where most DFS players tend to seek value...for those reasons, he is a strong GPP play in Week 17.
Gary Barnidge (Salary: $4700). Travis Benjamin was limited in practice on both Thursday and Friday, which suggests he is hobbled, but will play against the Steelers on Sunday. Because he tends to stretch the field as a speed demon, Benjamin's presence should not affect Gary Barnidge's DFS value as a redzone monster...the Steelers need to win this game (and likely will), but have struggled to contain pass offenses for much of the season, as evidenced by their 278.2 passing yards per game allowed (30th in NFL). The last time these teams met, Barnidge was targeted 8 times and caught 6 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown (18.5 DraftKings' points)...if he can manage a similar stat line this Sunday with a play-from-behind gamescript and a backup quarterback (Austin Davis) known for having a propensity to check-down when pressured, Barnidge could be a stellar GPP play at a position where options are limited.
Colts (Salary: $2400). The Tennessee Titans will travel to Indianapolis in a game pitting two coaches not likely to be on the same sidelines next season; Mike Mularkey has amassed an unremarkable 2-6 record since taking over for Ken Whisenhunt in early November and Chuck Pagano has outstayed his welcome in Indy after a disappointing 2015 season. This game could be a real sleeper with two backup quarterbacks taking the reigns, lackluster backfields on both squads, and very few legitimate receiving threats (save T.Y. Hilton and possibly Donte Moncrief), all of which argues that the defenses should be in play. Of the two options, the Colts appear to be the optimal selection at home against an interception-prone Zach Mettenberger (12 lifetime touchdowns versus 13 lifetime interceptions), who has almost no backfield to support him and minimal receiving threats. The Colts have double-digit fantasy points in half of their previous six games and the Titans have yielded double-digit fantasy points to opposing defenses in back-to-back-to-back games.
49ers (Salary: $2200). The 49ers play host to a punchless St. Louis Rams team in a meaningless game to close out the season. The Rams have won three straight, including a shocker against the Seahawks last week, which will be enough to keep 99% of people away from the Niners' defense (not to mention their 4-11 record)...but the Rams are a different team with Todd Gurley, who will miss this game with a foot injury. With Case Keenum, Tre Mason, and little beyond Tavon Austin to lead the Rams' offense, there just is not much reason to trust that the Rams will score 20+ points in this effort...particularly given that the game means nothing for playoff implications. Likewise, the Niners have been fairly solid at home, allowing only 17.0 points per game (versus 29.5 points per game on the road)...as such, they are worth a GPP flyer at a minimal price point.
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