UPDATED 11/24 Noon CST
Greetings and welcome to Week 12! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl.
Thoughts on Chalk
Even though creating roster uniqueness has long been the default strategy for GPPs, there’s a reason why certain players hold the confidence of the public. Remember that fading a player simply because he’s popular checks in as one of the worst processes. You wouldn’t build a lineup full of chalk; nor should you ignore a great situation in the name of contrarianism. With that said, this section will be dedicated to finding reasons why you might consider fading the players listed below. Keep in mind that all of these players are expected to have big games, so outright fades are never recommended, and be sure to check out Steve Buzzard’s percent rostered projections.
QB: Lamar Jackson - $7,400
The Ravens’ offense knew exactly how to win with Jackson: don’t allow him to throw. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s allowed a longer leash against the Raiders, who have allowed the third most passing touchdowns this season despite facing Josh Rosen (three touchdowns), Nick Mullens (three touchdowns), and Ryan Tannehill (also three touchdowns). Jackson won’t match those touchdown totals, but he can make up for it by running the ball like he did last week (27 carries for 117 yards). He also managed to complete 68% of his passes but has obvious limitations, which were put on display with his lone interception.
Even if the Raiders sell out to keep him limited as a rusher, they’ll likely fail to keep Ravens away from scoring opportunities, as Derek Carr and Co. don’t feature an offense that poses a threat to the Ravens’ elite defense. This mathcup should put Jackson into favorable situations, especially if the Ravens utilize him as their main running back again. If you buy into that assumption, make him one of your top quarterbacks, but also recognize that the Ravens run-heavy attack may filter to their running backs this week, who have a tremendous matchup in front of them. If Alex Collins or Gus Edwards or Ty Montgomery happen to siphon a couple of scores, Jackson’s ceiling will collapse. His floor, of course, is safe.
RB: Melvin Gordon III - $8,900
Since Week 5, Gordon ranks fourth among running backs in FanDuel points per game and sixth in total yards. His involvement as a receiver cements a solid floor and provides a path to RB1 results every week. Since Week 9, he owns the second-most receiving yards and second-most rushing yards among running backs.
With his floor established, we should see his ceiling this week at home against Arizona. The Cardinals have allowed the second most rushing yards per game and the fourth most FanDuel points per game to running backs. But they’ve been much stronger lately, having allowed the seventh-fewest points to the position since Week 7 despite facing the Chiefs, 49ers, and Broncos—three above-average rushing attacks. Not that we need to stress this matchup or any matchup for Gordon. He should have no trouble smashing through the Cardinals’ soft front while also logging his typical 4-5 catches. The only reason to fade him comes in the form of value. Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Marlon Mack, and even Sony Michel all offer decent upside in cupcake matchups for a fraction of the cost.
UPDATE 11/24: All signs point to Gordon playing in an extremely limited fashion, or more likely, not playing at all. When he was held out in Week 7, Austin Ekeler ($5,400) played 95% of snaps and handled 17 touches. He wasn’t effective (netted only 68 yards) but this is a much better spot for him considering Arizona’s inability to stop the run. He’ll probably draw a lot of exposure if more clarity comes out before the game, but his price and matchup are too good to ignore. The problem is finding a late-swap away from him if needed. Both Kenyan Drake ($5,600) and Frank Gore ($5,500) work if you leave yourself a few hundred in cap space. If Ekeler is in your flex, Courtland Sutton, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills, and Jeff Heuerman are viable swap options.
WR: T.Y. Hilton - $7,500
Hilton ripped the Titans last week by catching all nine of his targets for 155 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores was a perfect example of his defense-stretching skills where he got behind the defender for a 63-yarder. He remains in the speed-friendly environment of Indianapolis this week where the Colts welcome a Dolphins’ defense that looks better on paper than on the field. Season-long FanDuel stats rank them 22nd against wide receivers. But we saw them get smoked in Week 8 by both Will Fuller V and DeAndre Hopkins, who combined for 44.1 FanDuel points. Davante Adams managed a pair of touchdowns in Week 10. Allen Robinson scored in Week 6 while Taylor Gabriel converted five catches into 110 yards.
Even if the matchup doesn’t provide the most exciting expectations, Hilton is finally healthy and his role in this offense has grown. He’s drawn 16 targets over their last two games and has produced the second most yards among wide receivers accordingly. With Andrew Luck playing his best football years, Hilton is a locked-in DFS all-star worthy of his price and exposure.
TE: Cameron Brate - $4,400
With O.J. Howard sent to IR, Brate finally lays claim to the Buccaneers tight end rotation. He was already one of Winston’s favorite red-zone targets and should see plenty of looks against the 49ers. Vegas expects a lot of points of this game because it features one terrible defense and one mediocre defense, while also featuring one good offense and one great offense. The Buccaneers still struggle the run the ball and their defense still struggles to keep points off the board. You add it all up and you’ll find ample volume between two teams that both play at a top-12 pace in neutral situations. This, of course, could completely fail us since Brate hasn’t done much all year. Meanwhile, the 49ers haven’t been a source for tight end fantasy points. Those are solid reasons to fade him but his price and situation suggests he’s worth his high exposure.
Core players need no explanation: they are the meat and potatoes of lineups. Developing a list and building around them is DFS Strategy 101.
QB: Baker Mayfield - $7,500
The Bengals’ defense has imploded and deserves to be targeted every single week. To the game logs!
|Patrick Mahomes II II||7||28||39||358||4||1||4||45||0||33.82||9000|
If you combine Fitzpatrick and Winston, seven quarterbacks have scored at least 20 points against this secondary, and even Jackson managed over 16 thanks to 27 carries. They do have 11 interceptions, but eight were gifts from Winston, Flacco, and Tannehill. Mayfield might contribute a couple more, but he has scored at least two touchdowns in four straight games and most recently took advantage of the Falcons’ shaky secondary by dropping 216 yards and three scores on only 20 attempts. With Freddie Kitchens in control of the offense, the Browns are trending up and should benefit from having a bye week to install more plays designed around Mayfield’s skill set. We should expect a bit more volume from him this week, especially if the Bengals’ offense turns things around against the Browns’ broken defense. The biggest concern regarding his ceiling is that of Nick Chubb, who could absorb a pair of touchdowns and cap Mayfield’s upside. But for a reasonable cost in a great matchup, that’s a risk worth taking.
QB: Nick Mullens - $6,000
Per usual, a quarterback versus Tampa Bay makes the list as a core play. Alex Smith is the only passer to not score at least 16 FanDuel points against this defense. Seven of 10 have scored at least 20 points with three of those passers scoring over 25.
Enter Mullens, who had his struggles against the Giants, managing only one touchdown versus a pair of interceptions. Both interceptions were unlucky tips to defenders, but he looked like the raw and inexperienced quarterback he is. A bye week and a date with the Buccaneers should return much better results on Sunday. The Bucs’ have allowed the second most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks, the most passing touchdowns, the fewest interceptions, and the highest completion rate. With both Kittle and Breida chipping in as receivers, and a potentially high-scoring game on tap (it features the highest over/under of the slate at 54.5 points), Mullens projects a good floor and has already demonstrated that, against bad secondaries, he has a ceiling greater than his basement salary.
On the other side, Jameis Winston looks like a strong play that will draw a ton of attention from the crowd. He’s worthy of consideration in this matchup so long as you can stomach turnovers and a downside that includes being benched at halftime.
RB: Saquon Barkley - $9,000
While guys like Chubb, Breida, Mack, and Gus Edwards all present discounted options in good matchups, Barkley presents a potential to roster one of the best running backs in the league. As the most expensive player on the slate and playing on the road against a defense that has allowed the 12th fewest points per game to running backs, this situation could be a trap. But Barkley has played against much tougher defenses than what the Eagles present, and even though their season-long stats look uncomfortable for opposing backs, they permitted 22.3 and 17.3 points to Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara last week, 33.7 points to Elliott in Week 10, and Barkley crushed them with 229 combined yards and a scored on only 22 touches in Week 6.
The bigger concern is the Giants’ offense, which could completely evaporate on the road against a division rival. But since their bye in Week 9, they’ve rattled off two straight wins while averaging 32.5 points per game. Things are pointing up for them and down for the Eagles, who have been ripped to shreds by over their last two games and now have a secondary full of question marks. They are six-point favorites, however, but Barkley’s involvement as a receiver keeps his floor alive and his ceiling within reach. Among running backs since Week 5, he ranks third in targets, total touches, total yards, and ranks sixth in total touchdowns. Add it all up and the only player he trails in FanDuel points per game over that stretch is Todd Gurley, making Barkley the best option on the slate.
RB: Joe Mixon - $7,300
Sort of like their defense, the Bengals’ offense has crashed and burned in recent weeks. They put together a big game against the Buccaneers, but managed only 10 points against the Chiefs and only 14 points against the Saints. Mixon has barely survived this downturn in production. He ranks 13th in FanDuel points per game since Week 5 and has averaged just 66 rushing yards per game over his last three.
But there is hope on the horizon. All signs point to A.J. Green playing on Sunday, which would instantly revitalize the Bengals’ offense. The Browns’ defense should also help. They’ve allowed the third most points per game to running backs since Week 5, despite facing three of the worst rushing attacks in that span (Ravens, Bucs, and Falcons). On the season, only the Buccaneers have allowed more rushing touchdowns and six teams have allowed more yards per game to running backs. Mixon is a strong play this week with multi-touchdown upside that may get lost in the shuffle as the crowd chases other values at running back.
UPDATE 11/24: Green is officially doubtful and we can’t expect him to play. That hurts Mixon’s upside slightly, since it lowers the Bengals’ ceiling, but not enough to downgrade him as a core player. If anything, Green’s absence gives Giovani Bernard a boost and makes Tyler Boyd a solid option in all formats.
RB: Marlon Mack - $7,000
While both Luck and Hilton figure to draw a ton of ownership, Mack registers as one of the best plays on the board. He disappeared against Jacksonville in Week 10 but still ranks eighth in FanDuel points among backs since Week 7. Over his last four games, he owns touches of 21, 27, 14, and 16. He has 18 red zone opportunities since returning to action in Week 6—easily the most among his teammates—and still leads the team in such opportunities despite Luck’s tight end tendencies.
On tap is a home tilt against a Dolphins’ defense that most recently handed Aaron Jones 30.7 points and ranks fifth in points allowed per game. They’ll be no match for a smokin’ hot Colts’ team that’s average 36 points per game over their last five and has seven games of at least 375 offensive yards. As 7.5-point home favorites, Luck and Co. set up as great bets to crush the Dolphins and Mack stands to benefit as the main ball carrier.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr - $8,500
Likely to be one of the most popular options of the slate, Beckham checks into Week 12 ranked eighth among wide receivers in FanDuel points per game on the season and fourth since Week 5. Over his last four games, he’s enjoyed facing the soft secondaries of Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, and Tampa Bay—a stretch that’s yielded 426 yards and four touchdowns on 37 targets. Now he gets a Philadelphia secondary that has allowed more yards and FanDuel points to wide receivers than every team except the Saints.
Back in Week 6, they held Beckham to 44 yards on six catches. That was more a function of his quarterback than the Eagles’ defense, which could rear its ugly head on Sunday. But Manning has played well lately and it’s unlikely that the Eagles will be able to suffocate Beckham considering his recent performances and all of the other weapons hosted by the Giants. Ignore his ownership and make room for him in your main builds.
WR: Julian Edelman - $7,400
We need to verify his injury status before committing, but if he looks likely, he gets a sweet matchup against the Jets, who most recently allowed Zay Jones to beat them for 93 yards and a score, and Robert Foster to get behind them for 105 yards on only three catches. On the season, they’ve allowed the fourth most receptions and sixth most yards to wide receivers, and even though they’ve been stingy with touchdowns, they’ll be an easy target for Tom Brady and Co.
Since returning from suspension, only eight wide receivers have drawn more targets than Edelman, and only two have drawn more red zone looks. He has two 100-yard games in his last three, and now gets a defense that has allowed the fifth most points to the slot, where he spends over 70% of his time. We can count on a big bounce-back from the Patriots after getting embarrassed by the Titans, and Edelman will be a big part of it.
WR: Tyler Lockett - $6,300
A steady performer, Lockett ranks 24th in FanDuel points per game among wide receivers. But that ranking jumps to 12th when you remove the players not available on this slate. His seven touchdowns tie Adam Thielen and Calvin Ridley for the sixth most, and his 604 total yards rank 23rd. None of those numbers, outside of the unpredictable touchdowns, make Lockett all that interesting, especially considering the slow pace this game is likely to produce thanks to Seattle’s commitment to establishing the run. But the Panthers’ secondary has some holes that previous wide receivers have blasted through. Most recently, they allowed Kenny Golladay to rack up 113 yards and a score on 14 targets. In Week 10, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for 186 yards and two touchdowns. And even Adam Humphries logged a solid afternoon with eight catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Lockett has the speed to get behind this defense and the Seahawks may be forced away from their run-heavy tendencies on the road against Newton and Co. Doug Baldwin could also be a solid option for only $100 more, especially after he finally put together a good game on the back of 10 targets. Vegas doesn’t expect a super high-scoring game out of this one, with the over/under set at only 47.5 points—a low number for 2018—but both of these quarterbacks can blow up any defense they face and light the scoreboard on fire while they’re at it. There’s a potential sneaky shootout brewing here that most of the crowd is going to miss because they’ll have their chips placed on the offenses of the Colts, Bucs, 49ers, Steelers, and possibly the Giants. So, tournament strategy begs us to load up on this game reap the rewards should it hit. Lockett has both a low floor and low upside, but taking bold stands on players that have nearly elite speed and are tied to good quarterbacks in tasty matchups while the crowd remains bearish is how you swing tournaments in your favor.
UPDATE 11/24: Baldwin will be a game-time decision. Should he not play, Lockett’s ceiling gets even more realistic as the main receiving threat in this offense.
TE: Rob Gronkowski - $6,900
Maybe Gronkowski is washed. Maybe he’s not healthy enough to consider rostering even if he starts. Maybe the Patriots’ offense is cooked. But when he’s on the field, he’s a threat to score multiple touchdowns until further notice, regardless of whatever narrative has trickled out of the media regarding his effectiveness. As mentioned with Edelman, the Patriots were embarrassed before heading into their bye week and you can bet they’ll come out with a vengeance against a division rival.
The Jets have been solid against tight ends this season, having allowed the fourth-fewest FanDuel points per game to the position, but that’s more a reflection of facing mediocre competition for most of the season. Miami (x2), Detroit, Jacksonville, Buffalo, and even Cleveland have all faced the Jets and none of those teams feature a tight end. With the Patriots fielding a healthy offense that features multiple weapons, the Jets will have a difficult time picking their poison, which should open scoring opportunities for New England against this vulnerable defense. Expensive for a tight end but cheap for Gronkowski, he’s worth a few shots on Sunday.
TE: George Kittle - $7,500
Even at the most expensive salary of his career, it’s going to be difficult avoiding Kittle this week. He takes on a Bucs’ defense that has been crushed by tight ends all season. They’ve allowed the most yards, the second most FanDuel points, the fourth highest points per target, and the sixth highest catch rate to the position. Meanwhile, Kittle has produced all year regardless of his quarterback. He ranks third among tight ends in market share of targets, third in yards, and fourth in FanDuel points per game since Week 5. He saw 10 targets last week and parlayed them into nine catches for 83 yards. In two games with Nick Mullens as the starter, Kittle has logged 13 catches for 191 yards and one touchdown on 14 targets. You can justify fading him by noting that high-priced tight ends have rarely been slate-wreckers this season and that the Bucs could just as easily get crushed by Matt Breida. But perhaps a Mullen/Kittle/Breida stack isn’t such a bad idea.
Pittsburgh Steelers - $4,100
Since Week 5, only four defenses have provided more FanDuel points than the Steelers. They’ve produced the third-most sacks over that stretch and have allowed the ninth-fewest points of the season. You could make a case that this game has shootout appeal in Denver, but that case includes scenarios where Case Keenum gets forced into additional passing attempts and subsequent interceptions (he has 10 on the season compared to 11 touchdowns). This game has a decent over/under 46.5 points, but most of them figure to come from the Steelers’ offense. Their defense makes for a solid contrarian option with top-five upside against a team that has scored 23 points or fewer in all but two games this season.
New England Patriots - $4,100
The Jets are one of the lowest scoring and least productive teams in the league. They’ve also yielded the second-most turnovers and will feature a quarterback coming fresh off a 135-yard, two-interception day. The Patriots, conversely, rank seventh in takeaways and have been solid when not facing great offenses. Even on the road, they’re one of the biggest favorites of the week and should provide a decent fantasy score for their price, which fits nicely into most lineup builds.
Similar to sleepers, contrarian players are those the crowd has completely mispriced and undervalued. In some cases, it’s a player coming off an injury or facing a difficult matchup but still carries a heavy price tag. In other cases, it could be a player that has struggled recently and therefore deemed untrustworthy. In all cases, guard your exposure to players listed in this section but get them in at least a few lineups.
QB: Russell Wilson - $7,700
Wilson seems likely to be somehow forgotten on this slate despite scoring the sixth most FanDuel points among quarterbacks since Week 8. Over that stretch, he has thrown 10 touchdowns and only one interception, while leading all passers in rushing yards. His low passing volume has been offset by his efficiency in the red zone, where only Newton has a better touchdown rate among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts.
Up next is a challenging road game against the Panthers, who have allowed the seventh most points per game to quarterbacks on the season. They did a fine job against Matthew Stafford and bruised Lions’ offense last week, but in Week 10, Ben Roethlisberger jumped them with 328 yards and five touchdowns, Ryan Fitzpatrick dumped 243 yards and four touchdowns on them in Week 9, and the combination of Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson managed 19.5 FanDuel points. The downside here is obvious. Per Football Outsiders, Carolina is the 27th slowest paced offense and Seattle is the 24th. But pace stats sometimes ignore situations where both quarterbacks could light their opponent’s defenses on fire even without much volume (the Seahawks have allowed 300-yard passers four times in their last six games, and have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in four straight).
Wilson has scored at least 18 points in all but three games this season and has scored at least 20 in four of his last five. This game provides sneaky shootout potential with a bunch of low-owned options that could tilt the slate. Wilson doesn’t necessarily need a stacking partner either, which allows us to get a high-floor, high-ceiling quarterback and still decorate our lineups with high-ceiling wide receives and running backs.
UPDATE 11/24: Baldwin is a game-time decision and in danger of not playing. His absence does degrade Wilson slightly. Consider reducing your shares of him if you were building lineups around him, but don’t let Baldwin’s absence create a total fade of Wilson.
RB: David Johnson - $7,900
We have Johnson projected to draw double-digit ownership, but with so many value options on the slate, he stands a good chance of being in the crowd’s blind spot, especially after he provided only 15.9 points in what everyone assumed was a smash-spot for him last week. Since Byron Leftwich took over as head coach, Johnson has logged touches of 20, 28, and 26, while compiling 437 yards—the third most per game among running backs. Now on the road to L.A. as the biggest underdogs of the week, the Cardinals are likely to fall behind and be forced into catch-up mode. That bodes well for Johnson, who has drawn 12 targets over their last two games. More importantly, he takes on a Chargers’ defense that has allowed more FanDuel points per game to running backs than all but two other teams since Week 7. Pushing those numbers is their soft coverage of pass-catchers. They’ve allowed an average 72 receiving yards to backs over that stretch—the most in the league—and have allowed the third most on the season. They’ve been stingy with touchdowns but most recently permitted Denver’s backs to score three. The Cards’ offense could disappear again on Sunday, a scenario this column warned about last week, but Johnson should survive either way and come close to the ceiling that his skill set and usage always promise.
WR: Jermaine Kearse - $4,600
It sounds like a Josh McCown will earn the start against the Patriots, which places a veteran option into the lineup against a vulnerable secondary. The Patriots’ stats against wide receivers look good from a season-long perspective, where they’ve allowed the only 29.8 FanDuel points per game (19th). But we’ve seen them get burned multiple times this season, particularly by slot receivers. They’ve allowed the fourth most yards and second most touchdowns to the slot, mostly thanks to Jonathan Jones, who has struggled for the majority of the season. Kearse, of course, plays for the Jets—a team that has scored a grand total of 43 points over their four-game losing streak. But with Robby Anderson out and no signs of a rushing attack, this is a spot where Kearse could draw a lot of volume and maybe even luck into a touchdown. His ceiling is extremely low, but from Week 8 to Week 10, his 24 targets were the ninth most among wide receivers, and for nearly site-minimum, he provides an opportunity to protect your roster’s floor while providing cap relief.
TE: Jeff Heuerman - $5,400
With a team-leading 21 targets over the Broncos’ last three games, Heuerman has clearly established himself the biggest beneficiary of Demaryius Thomas’s departure. Those targets have translated to only 107 yards and two touchdowns over that stretch, but that’s enough production to make him the seventh highest scoring tight end since Week 8, which includes his 20-yard dud (on five targets) last week. He gets an interesting matchup this week against the Steelers, who have permitted the 10th most yards and FanDuel points to tight ends. Most of those points were produced by Travis Kelce’s 109-yard, two-score day back in Week 2. But we’ve seen other tight ends manage decent games against this unit, including Mark Andrews (three catches for 50 yards), C.J. Uzomah (six catches, 54 yards), and Austin Hooper (nine catches, 77 yards). Given Heuerman’s involvement in the Broncos’ offense, and considering the likelihood of the Broncos being forced into a pass-heavy attack (both teams rank top-12 in pace), it’s worth chasing Heuerman’s volume and subsequent upside.
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