TipAndPick's: Tips and Picks, Wild-Card Weekend

Cash game and GPP selections for DraftKings

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.

TIPS...

In order to help you build winning rosters, let's walk through some of the observations that I have made while doing my research for DraftKings this week. As you build out your lineups on DraftKings, try to consider the following commentary, which revolves around game strategy and how we will want to take advantage of what the masses are doing when they construct their own lineups.

LIMIT YOUR CASH GAME PLAY: [Adapted from "Tips and Picks' from 2016 Wild-Card WeekendOver the past few seasons, cash games have gotten increasingly difficult to beat over the long-term. That trend can be blamed squarely on the availability of good information that was previously not readily available. Today, however, there are an abundance of data, tools, and articles on various websites that make constructing cash game lineups a straightforward endeavor. Like last year around this time, I am urging you to limit the amount of cash game action that you put into play because the overlap that occurs on smaller game sets, like Wild-Card Weekend, is absurd; Drew Brees, Leonard Fournette, and Michael Thomas are all going to be extremely highly-owned on this four game slate. As a result of this massive ownership overlap, the difference between winning and losing will often distill down to one or two players’ performance(s), which is less than optimal because of the variance associated with NFL scoring. The edge associated with playing DFS is far less defined on a shorter slate because there are less mistakes that can be made. With this in mind, I would encourage you to play less volume than you typically play on an NFL slate and also direct you to play a bit more of your cash game action in head-to-head contests, where you are not likely facing an all-or-nothing outcome.

GAMESCRIPTING: Because there are only four games from which to choose, my best advice this (and next) week is to mentally determine how you envision the games playing out and building your rosters accordingly. For example, I just cannot fathom how Head Coach Doug Marrone could put the ball in Blake Bortles' hands after his meltdown performance in Week #17, particularly when Bortles will be matched up against a defense that has bled yardage to opposing running backs since the beginning of November. Assuming I am right, there is very little value in the Jacksonville receiving corps and a lot of value in Leonard Fournette (see my rankings below); I will probably be close to all-in on Fournette this weekend because his salary is fair and I cannot envision him seeing less than 25 touches against this generous ground defense. I would encourage you to walk through every game in this manner and key and/or eliminate certain players based on how you would project the game actually playing out. Minimizing your player pool, particularly for mass multi-entry (MME), is essential for maximizing your likelihood of a top 10% finish in tournament play; this is the same reason I will not be rostering Matt Ryan, Tyrod Taylor, and Blake Bortles in DraftKings' $115K ($8 buy-in) Post-Pattern tournament on Saturday.

...AND PICKS

Let's take a deeper look into some of the players who I will be targeting for my cash game and tournament rosters this weekend. A short summary follows each respective table to fill in the gaps that led to the respective recommendations; that text represents only an overview of the methodology and rationale that goes into each recommendation. 

QUARTERBACKS

NAMESALARYCASH RANKGPP RANKCOMMENTS
Drew Brees 6400 1 1 CAR: Pass-funnel DEF. Averaged 285 YPG at home.
Alex Smith 6300 2 2 TEN: Stout up front, but banged up secondary.
Jared Goff 6700 - 3 Cannot count him out; leverage play from Gurley.
Marcus Mariota 5500 - 4 KC's man coverage scheme is susceptible to his style of play.
Cam Newton 6500 - 5 Tough to tout after 16 PPG in two regular-season games vs. NO.
Matt Ryan 6100 - 6 Has not reached 4x value on this salary in 2017.
Tyrod Taylor 4700 - 7 Terrible spot for Tyrod vs. JAX with hobbled offensive centerpiece, McCoy.
Blake Bortles 6000 - 8 If he has > 20 attempts vs. BUF, Marrone fails as a coach. 


 

QB OVERVIEW: Against a Carolina defense that funnels action towards the pass, Drew Brees represents an optimal choice at quarterback on a limited four-game slate. Brees finished the season with a ridiculous, career-high 72.0% completion rate, yet threw only 23 touchdowns, his lowest number since 2003; the rebirth of the Saints' ground game is the most logical explanation for that dichotomy, but there is little doubt that Brees still possesses the ability to post gaudy numbers against any NFL defense. Alex Smith is next in line with a plus matchup at home against a Tennessee secondary that ranks in the bottom 10 of several key pass defense categories (passing yards and TDs allowed), will be without LeShaun Sims (IR-hamstring), and whose starting trio of cornerbacks (Logan Ryan, Brice McCain, Adoree' Jackson) have allowed 11 passing touchdowns versus 0 interceptions this season. Behind Brees and Smith, the dropoff is dramatic--only Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota are remotely interesting for tournament play. Goff's lofty salary is prohibitive, particularly when everybody will want to get his $10K running back (Todd Gurley) into their lineups; meanwhile, Mariota has a plus matchup against the Chiefs' 31st (DVOA) pass defense, but Kansas City has been one of the best home defenses in the league, dating back to the beginning of last season, which tempers enthusiasm for jamming Mariota into DFS rosters at only a slight discount from surer names like Drew Brees and Alex Smith. Because of implied recent performances, home/road splits, implied gamescripts, and difficult matchups, it is probably safe to ignore Matt Ryan, Tyrod Taylor, and Blake Bortles.

RUNNING BACKS

NAMESALARYCASH RANKGPP RANKCOMMENTS
Leonard Fournette 7400 1 1 Excellent matchup vs. 29th DVOA rush defense.
Todd Gurley 9700 2 2 Only deterrent is the extreme price point.
Jonathan Stewart 3500 3 10 Punt cash flyer vs. susceptible NO front seven.
Alvin Kamara 8600 - 3 All-Pro rookie averaged 21 PPG vs. CAR in 2017.
Devonta Freeman 6300 - 4 Most likely path for ATL to move the ball vs. LAR.
Christian McCaffrey 6400 - 5 Gamescript-proof. Decent personnel matchup.
Mark Ingram II 6900 - 6 Ownership will be fair for price & multi-TD upside.
Kareem Hunt 8100 - 7 More usage with Nagy; lower due to strong TEN rush DEF.
Derrick Henry 6000 - 8 Gamescript hurts potential volume monster.
Tevin Coleman 4100 - 9 Always overlooked, but low price & ownership = in play.

 

 

RB OVERVIEW: With Todd Gurley's salary resting at $9.7K on a slate where salary savings are tough to come by, Leonard Fournette's $7.4K salary lifts him to the top of the cash and GPP boards. His ownership will be a notch below Gurley, but this author will have almost 100% exposure to Fournette on this wild-card slate because the matchup against Buffalo's 29th DVOA rush defense is too good to ignore. If salary were not a consideration, Todd Gurley would top the list, but his near-$10K salary should make DFS players pause on a week where value is a rare commodity; get yourself some exposure to Gurley and his unparalleled upside, but beware of the opportunity cost and do not overextend your rosters to jam him into those GPP rosters. For a bit of salary relief, you might consider Jonathan Stewart against the Saints' 20th-ranked (DVOA) rush defense; Stewart has fresh legs and Ron Rivera would be well-advised to feed Stewart for as long as possible to avoid a shootout that his team cannot win against Brees and company. Moving down the list, both Atlanta running backs are GPP candidates against a Rams defense that can be beaten on the ground; the risk in rostering Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman is that you could choose the wrong running back and/or the gamescript could work against heavy usage for either of them. Lastly, Derrick Henry will (again) be popular, but Kansas City is projected to win this game by 8.5-points, which works directly against Henry's involvement in the offense, particularly because he is rarely involved in the passing game (likewise, KC has been excellent defending against pass-catching running backs).


 

WIDE RECEIVERS

NAMESALARYCASH RANKGPP RANKCOMMENTS
Michael Thomas 7800 1 1 Only WR1 on slate with everything on his side.
Cooper Kupp 5800 2 2 Top-end matchup against beatable ATL nickelback, Poole.
Allen Hurns 4600 3 4 Best personnel matchup for JAX WRs. Cheap.
Brenton Bersin 3000 4 14 Salary-saver. 4 targets in each of last two games.
Ted Ginn Jr 5200 - 3 Speed mismatch vs. coverage. Underowned.
Tyreek Hill 6800 - 5 Could get behind untested TEN backup CBs.
Robert Woods 6600 - 6 WR1, but matchup vs. Trufant is off-putting at $6.6K.
Julio Jones 8000 - 7 Tough to justify cost with 3 TDs over 16 games.
Rishard Matthews 4100 - 8 Price is right, but primary matchup vs. Peters hurts upside.
Albert Wilson 3300 - 9 Recently hot & fair salary = Potentially overowned?
Mohamed Sanu 5600 - 10 LAR secondary has been generous to slot WRs.
Devin Funchess 5900 - 11 TD-dependent play. Lattimore should handle.
Eric Decker 3500 - 12 Redzone threat has been heating up of late.
Sammy Watkins 5100 - 13 Third-fiddle WR, but likely overlooked by masses.
Kelvin Benjamin 3500 - 14 Poor matchup, but size advantage and gamescript help.
Dede Westbrook 4400 - 15 Rough matchup vs. stellar BUF perimeter DBs.
Keelan Cole 5400 - 16 See comments for Dede Westbrook (above).
Corey Davis 3600 - 17 Fools' gold. 10+ FP only twice all season.
Kaelin Clay 3000 - 18 GPP punt flyer. Outsnapping Bersin.


 

WR OVERVIEW: Michael Thomas heads the list of wide receivers on Wild-Card weekend. Thomas has 15+ points in every game since the beginning of December except for Week #16, where he was limited by a hamstring injury; he is expected to be 100% entering this matchup and should have no issues handling shadow coverage from the beatable, James Bradberry. Assuming Bradberry does shadow Thomas, the ground-burner (and ex-Panther) Ted Ginn Jr should line up across from Daryl Worley, whose speed is no match for Ginn, making Ginn an enticing tournament play at a reasonable $5.2K price tag. The Falcons' nickelback, Brian Poole, ranks 31st (of 32) in coverage from the slot this season and will do his best to try to contain Cooper Kupp, who leads the Rams receivers in redzone looks (23) this season; Poole gives up 5-inches and considerable talent to Kupp, making the rookie a strong play for cash games and GPP contests. Speaking of slot receivers, Allen Hurns quietly returned to the field against the Titans last week (3/38/0) and should be on your short list of salary-saving wide receivers on this short slate. Hurns is underpriced at $4.6K and will line up across from the Bills' worst defensive back, Leonard Johnson (29th of 32 qualifying slot cornerbacks). Thereafter, the decisions should be based primarily on your roster construction and overall goals--diversify in such a manner that maximizes your upside (for tournaments) and do not completely ignore anybody on the above list for the reasons described in the comments column.



TIGHT ENDS

NAMESALARYCASH RANKGPP RANKCOMMENTS
Travis Kelce 7100 1 1 Best TE on slate with best matchup on slate. Yes.
Delanie Walker 4700 2 2 If Kelce is too expensive, he is only other cash game option.
Greg Olsen 5000 - 3 Cam's fave receiver. NO is stingy vs. TEs, however.
Austin Hooper 2900 - 4 Optimal GPP TE flyer. Needs to score to reach value.
Charles Clay 4000 - 5 #1 receiver in BUF, but tough sledding vs. JAX DEF.
Marcedes Lewis 2500 - 6 Total GPP flyer. Own < 10% of total TE exposure.


 

TE OVERVIEW: There are two tight ends worth discussing on this slate and they are fairly obvious to most casual players: Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker. Before discussing their respective matchups and DFS eligibility, let's address the remaining candidates: Greg Olsen is unabashedly Cam Newton's favorite target, but the Saints boast one of the toughest defenses against the tight end position (5th DVOA), which limits enthusiasm about his output in an otherwise promising spot (ditto, Charles Clay). That leaves Austin Hooper and Marcedes Lewis, both of whom possess scoring upside, but lack the volume that would make one feel comfortable considering them anywhere other than a tournament. Now...back to Kelce and Delanie: Kelce is the tight end of choice against the Titans, who field the league's 24th DVOA defense against tight ends. Meanwhile, Delanie Walker is model of consistency at a position where that is the exception and not the norm; he becomes attractive when one considers his $2.4K discount from Kelce, not to mention an implied gamescript that favors heavy usage from the sure-handed receiver.

 

TEAM DEFENSES

NAMESALARYCASH RANKGPP RANKCOMMENTS
Jaguars 4400 1 1 Without McCoy BUF matches up so poorly.
Chiefs 3400 2 2 KC has been stellar at home for 2+ years.
Saints 3200 - 3 Cam is 0-2 vs. this improved 2017 NO secondary.
Rams 2700 - 4 Punt home DEF vs. overrated ATL offense.
Bills 2500 - 5 If Marrone lets Bortles throw anything is possible.

 

 

TEAM DEF OVERVIEW: If the opportunity cost is not prohibitive, you should be getting the Jaguars' play-making defense into every lineup (cash and GPP) you possibly can--simply put, Jacksonville has the best defense in the NFL and will be playing against a team whose best player (LeSean McCoy) probably should not be playing at all. If salary savings, however, are necessary, Kansas City's defense is in play for cash games (and tournaments) at a $1K discount from Saxsonville; the Chiefs have averaged 70% more fantasy points per game (9.9 versus 5.8) at home this season and will face-off against Marcus Mariota, who has thrown only 5 touchdowns on the road this season, while allowing a whopping 11 interceptions. From there, the Saints are intriguing options at $3.2K against the Panthers, particularly given that they are 2-0 against Carolina this season and will be as healthy as they have for most of the season. To save some salary, you might consider the Rams at home against Atlanta, whose offense has stumbled since Kyle Shanahan departed for San Francisco in the off-season and/or the Bills, whose best bet to win their game is to create turnovers and offensive opportunities from Blake Bortles