UPDATED 12/8 at Noon CST
Greetings and welcome to Week 14! 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: Drew Brees - $8,500
You won’t find many quarterbacks with less volume or better efficiency than Brees. His 27.3 attempts per game since Week 8 rank 31st, his yards per game rank 21st yet his FanDuel points per game rank eighth. That last stat was made possible by extreme touchdown efficiency. Only Patrick Mahomes II has thrown more in the given sample, and of quarterbacks with at least 140 passing attempts, only two have a higher completion rate than Brees. Last week, none of these stats mattered. The Saints’ offense was jumped by one of the best up-and-coming defenses in the league and managed only 176 yards and 10 points, both of which were season lows. Things, obviously, tilt in a much more promising manner this week against the Buccaneers—a defense that has been a mainstay in this space as one to pit quarterbacks against. There’s no need to reboot how bad of a passing defense they present beyond noting that only the Saints, Falcons, and Bengals have allowed more FanDuel points to quarterbacks.
That said, no quarterback has scored more than 21.2 points against this defense since Week 6. They rank 16th in points per game over that stretch despite facing Cam Newton twice. They’ve also faced the likes of Baker Mayfield, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, and Nick Mullens, so take this for what it’s worth. Brees is an elite quarterback who will be forced into volume this week, assuming the Buccaneers’ offense continues to dump yards and points on their opponents—something the Saints defense typically invites. But even though we don’t need to concern ourselves too much with ownership at quarterback, it’s worth noting that in three of his last seven games, Brees has managed under 172 passing yards, and this could be another situation where the Saints’ running backs control the game. Keep your exposure to him about even with the crowd.
RB: Jaylen Samuels - $4,600
In almost ironic fashion, Samuels looks like this week’s Spencer Ware: he’s cheap, he faces the Raiders in Oakland, and he could have a firm grasp on lead duties with James Conner sidelined. Of course, this tweet could change the public perception and rattle exposure percentages:
Notes on #Steelers projected Week 14 lead RB Jaylen Samuels:— Evan Silva (@evansilva) December 6, 2018
* Never topped 12 carries in a college game
* Left NC State with more career catches than carries
* Best comparable on Player Profiler is Marcel Reece
* Top-4 TE play where eligible behind only Kelce, Ertz, Ebron
Ware failed spectacularly given his 60% ownership and expectations. But he was worth chasing due to his price and respective offense. You can make that same case for Samuels this week. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have consistently used “one guy” as their back. They’ve also never been forced this deep into their depth chart since their Wild Card game against the Bengals during the 2015 postseason. Even in that scenario, Fitzgerald Toussaint played 66% of snaps compared to 19% for Jordan Todman. But both backs earned double-digit carries, with Toussaint checking in with an additional four catches for 60 yards. That last stat matters if you believe the Steelers somehow end up in a game script that stresses the throw. He’s an upside pick that won’t crush your roster if he fails thanks to his basement salary.
WR: Chris Godwin - $5,600
If DeSean Jackson sits again, Godwin will earn another chance to operate as the deep threat against a defense that struggles against deep threats. He nabbed five catches on six targets last week for 101 yards and a touchdown while logging his highest snap-share of the year. The Bucs bring an aggressive offense that ranks first in total yards, most of which come via the pass, where they rank fourth in attempts and touchdowns. Jameis Winston has separated himself from the player that was benched a few weeks ago. He has zero interceptions and four touchdowns over his last two games and a healthy 72% completion rate. That bodes well for Godwin, who benefits from Mike Evans drawing the top cornerback of every defense they face.
And it may not even matter against the Saints. They’ve allowed the most FanDuel points, most yards, most receptions, the second-highest completion rate, and the sixth-most touchdowns to wide receivers. Gathering all of those stats and combining them with Godwin’s salary makes him a nearly impossible fade. You can make a case for it if Jackson plays, or you can pivot to Mike Evans and hope he breaks out of his slump. But Godwin is in prime position to make good on his salary.
TE: Eric Ebron - $6,400
No player saw more targets than Ebron last week, who logged a ridiculous 16 and parlayed them into 10 catches for 81 yards. He’s clearly the top option in this offense thanks to injuries and Andrew Luck’s reliance on the tight end position. The duo gets a soft matchup this week in Houston, where they’ll face a defense that’s allowed the seventh most points to tight ends and the second highest completion percentage to the position. Reasons to fade him pretty much begin and end with his injury status. But he misses multiple practices every week and still ends up playing the majority of snaps come gameday. If you expect this game to end up being high scoring like many folks do, then make him one core players and don’t worry too much about exposure percentages.
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: DeShaun Watson - $7,800
If you’re on Team Efficiency > Volume, then Watson should march right into your lineup. Of the 30 quarterbacks that have attempted at least 100 passes since Week 8, he ranks dead last in attempts per game and 24th in yards per game. But thanks to rushing production and elite efficiency, he ranks sixth in FanDuel points per game over that stretch and third in completion percentage. On tap is a home tilt against the Colts—a defense that Watson abused in Week 4 (416 total yards and three touchdowns). He’s not the only quarterback to find success against this secondary:
They may have held the likes of Kessler, Gabbert, and Smith to lackluster box scores, but pretty much everyone returned solid numbers. With Luck coming to town, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Watson gets forced into a heavier passing attack. The Texans’ defense has allowed 700 passing yards over their last two games, and even though we saw Luck struggle against a solid defense last week, he’s in line for a bounce-back game (assuming his offense is healthy). Both defenses offer mediocre coverage, both offenses play at an above-average pace (the Colts run the fastest offense of all teams), and both offenses rank top-10 in success rate. This game should easily surpass the 49.5-point over/under, setting up Watson (and Luck) with bankable upside.
QB: Aaron Rodgers - $8,100
It’s difficult to muster a lot of excitement for the Packers’ offense after they made a coaching change to someone who hasn’t called plays since the late-90s. But Rodgers is the type of player that can overcome this situation and, if reports are true, he wasn’t happy with the direction of the Packers’ offense anyway. So, maybe this will help him return to the vintage slate-wrecker we know and love.
The matchup certainly looks appealing. The Falcons have allowed the second-most FanDuel points, the seventh-most passing touchdowns, and the fourth-highest completion rate to quarterbacks. Eight passers have managed at least 20 FanDuel points against this defense on the year, and it was just a couple of weeks ago that Brees dumped four touchdown passes on them with only 15 completions. This is the cheapest Rodgers has been since Week 14 of 2016, and we’re getting him with a slight discount at ownership with the crowd likely afraid to roster the guy that ranks 19th in FanDuel points per game since Week 8. But after last week’s embarrassment, we should expect Rodgers to pick himself up and deliver a monster box score in a premium matchup at home.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott - $8,800
Even if you remove Adrian Peterson’s lucky 90-yard touchdown from last week, the Eagles’ defensive line hardly shakes our confidence in Elliott returning a solid box score. Saquon Barkley blasted this defense twice (33.4 points in Week 6; 29.7 points in Week 12). Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara combined for 211 yards and three touchdowns in Week 11. And Elliott feasted on them in Week 10 (187 yards, two touchdowns). The Eagles’ secondary is running on backups and should allow Dak Prescott and Co. to slice chunks of yardage on every possession, which will set up Elliott with multiple scoring opportunities. Since Week 8, no player has owned a larger market share of opportunities (targets + carries), and only three players have earned more red zone opportunities. We shouldn’t be so naïve as to think the Cowboys are an automatic win in this situation. They’ve certainly been punched in the mouth by lesser teams, but Elliott’s production remains immune to game scripts. He’ll smash in this spot regardless if they win or lose. Make him one of your core building pieces.
RB: Alvin Kamara - $8,300
Make no mistake about it, Kamara still runs the show in New Orleans. He ranks eighth among all player in total touches since Week 8 with 107, while Ingram ranks 21st with 80. Kamara leads the team in both red zone opportunities (21) and FanDuel points per game (excluding Brees) over that stretch, and even though he hit the Dallas wall last week, things look as rosy as ever this week.
The Bucs’ defense has been a source of fantasy production for most of the season. They’ve been particularly vulnerable to pass-catching running backs. Kamara crushed them in Week 1 with nine catches for 112 yards and one score. Since then, they’ve allowed the 10th most receiving yards and more receiving touchdowns than all but two other teams. If you’re banking on the Bucs forcing a high-scoring game, Kamara should be an auto-draft pick. His salary is plenty affordable and his upside is as high as anyone on the main slate.
RB: Gus Edwards - $6,400
Most of the narrative spewing out of the Ravens’ recent success has rightfully been about Lamar Jackson, whose 265 rushing yards are the most by a quarterback in his first three starts. His 55 carries over that stretch rank fifth among all players and his 55.4 FanDuel points ranks 13th among quarterbacks despite scoring only three touchdowns and attempting only 65 passes. For $7,400, he definitely qualifies as a GPP candidate.
But lost in all of those stats is the fact that Edwards has the fourth most carries among all players and the fifth-most rushing yards since Week 11. His skills as a back are clearly limited, but we’re in the business of chasing volume, especially when that volume comes with efficiency (5.2 yards per carry) and runs into one of the softest defenses in the league. The Chiefs have allowed more yards per game to running backs than every team except the Bengals. And even though a lot of those yards have come via the pass, they’re also getting smashed on the ground to the tune of 5.1 yards per attempt and nearly 110 yards per game. This could be a spot where Ty Montgomery goes off, but Edwards has handled 61 carries over their last three games, two of which saw him surpass 100 rushing yards. The touchdowns will eventually come, especially considering Jackson’s limitations as a passer. For $6,400, Edwards offers 20+ touches and multiple touchdown upside. He’s a great way to get one or two of the top-priced running backs in your lineup without lowering the overall floor.
WR: Davante Adams - $8,700
The Packers’ offense has struggled to generate yards and points lately, but Adams still ranks first in receiving yards since Week 8 and fifth in FanDuel points per game. On the season, only Antonio Brown has scored more touchdowns among wide receivers, and only Tyreek Hill and Adam Thielen have scored more fantasy points. Adams gets another soft matchup this week, especially when he winds up in Robert Alford’s coverage. Alford, according to Pro Football Focus, has allowed the fourth most yards to wide receivers. In total, only three teams have allowed more touchdowns to the position, and even though they’ve been relatively stingy with yardage, Adams should have no trouble converting his heavy target share into GPP-worthy fantasy points. This game offers the second highest over/under total of the week at 50.5 points, and after getting embarrassed last week, resulting in Mike McCarthy’s departure, we should expect a huge rebound from Rodgers. Feel free to lock in a Rodgers/Adams stack while the crowd likely avoids it.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr - $8,000
UPDATE 12/8: Beckham has been ruled out and won't play. The obvious transition here is Saquon Barkley, who should see even more targets. Both Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram become interesting as well. But there's a good chance this offense just shrivels up and produces little for DFS purposes.
Only three teams have allowed more yards to wide receivers than Washington, who’ll trout out a banged up secondary against one of the best in the league. Beckham’s target share has fallen off a bit since Week 8, but he still ranks fifth on the season in that category and has suddenly become a source of touchdowns to make up for his “lack” of volume. He has scored four times in his last four games and ranks seventh among wide receivers in FanDuel points. When these teams met in Week 8, Beckham managed eight catches for 131 yards despite spending plenty of time lined up across Josh Norman. He may draw shadow coverage this week but it doesn’t matter. According to Pro Football Focus, Norman has allowed the 16th most yards among all pass defenders and a healthy 108.2 pass rating. It’s fair to have concerns about the Giants’ offense, especially in a game that features Eli Manning vs. Mark Sanchez, but the matchup is too good to ignore and Beckham’s salary fits nicely into most builds.
WR: Josh Gordon - $6,700
Either the Patriots forgot that they were facing busted-up secondary last week, or they intentionally limited Gordon’s volume in the first half so they could surprise the Vikings with him in the second half. He saw zero targets until catching a 24-yarder late in the third quarter and then scoring on a 24-yarder a few plays later. At the end of the day, he finished with three catches on three targets for 58 yards and a score. This week, he gets to take on another busted secondary that will be missing its top cornerback. On the season, the Dolphins have corralled opposing wideouts by holding them to 11th fewest points and 13th lowest catch rate. But a lot of that was because of Xavien Howard (expected to miss this game) and some of it was because of how bad their run defense is. Teams are choosing to simply smash the Dolphins with running backs, which has led to Miami facing the ninth fewest wide receiver targets. When you adjust for that, you find the 12th friendliest secondary from a points per target standpoint.
New England is perfectly capable of taking a ground-and-pound approach in this one, and they’ll limit Brady’s reps accordingly. But Gordon should still be able to take advantage of this matchup, especially when the Dolphins sell out to stop the run. Playing the “tournament value” game, he doesn’t need much to pay off his salary.
TE: Vance McDonald - $5,500
While the crowds load their rosters with Samuels, McDonald stands out as a superb matchup play in the week’s highest over/under. The Raiders have been demolished by tight ends all year and most recently allowed Travis Kelce to score the most single-game fantasy points of his career. McDonald, of course, doesn’t share that same skill set, but he’s not far from it either. On the season, only the Chiefs have allowed more yards per game to tight ends than the Raiders, and no team has allowed more FanDuel points per game to the position. Kelce obviously inflates those stats, but the game logs don’t lie. Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser combined for 115 yards and one touchdown in week 12. Jordan Reed tagged them with seven catches for 71 yards and a score in Week 11. And Jeff Heuerman logged 10 catches for 83 yards and a score in Week 9. That’s a trend we want to follow. The downside is that McDonald doesn’t have full rights to the tight end rotation. He and Jesse James seem to switch every week in terms of snap share. But since Week 8, McDonald has run the sixth-most routes among tight ends and has drawn the seventh-most targets. If the Raiders’ offense even so much as puts up a fight, McDonald will turn in a big day.
Buffalo Bills - $4,200
Likely to end up as the chalkiest defense of the week, the Bills get the honor of hosting a broken Jets’ team that will have Sam Darnold under center. The last time we saw him, Darnold barely completed half of his passes while contributing four interceptions to the Dolphins secondary. He has thrown 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions with a 55% completion rate in his rookie season. We could stop right there and leave the rest alone, but what fun is that! Enter the Bills, whose defense has made fools out of every mediocre quarterback they’ve faced this year (except for Joe Flacco in Week 1). Over their last five games, they’ve held the combination of Tom Brady, Mitchell Trubisky, Josh McCown, Blake Bortles, and Ryan Tannehill to 171.6 yards per game, and have allowed only five passing touchdowns to six interceptions. The Jets have turned the ball over more times than all but three other teams and will probably take the lead in that stat after this week. Fire up the Bills regardless of their projected roster percentage.
New England Patriots - $4,200
Since Week 8, the Patriots have registered 10 sacks and six turnovers, while allowing the fewest points per game to opposing offenses. Altogether, those numbers create FanDuel’s sixth highest scoring defense over that stretch. Up next is a road tilt against a vulnerable Dolphins’ team that’s scored the eighth-fewest points and managed the fourth-fewest yards on the season. They’ve turned the ball over 17 times (tied 13th most) despite running the second-fewest plays. The Patriots’ defense has its vulnerabilities too, but Miami isn’t the kind of team that can take advantage of them. Even though it’s a road team facing a divisional opponent, the Patriots check into Week 14 with a fair price and a lot of upside.
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: Baker Mayfield - $7,500
After last week’s debacle, it makes sense that the crowd fears rostering any Browns’ players. Particularly Mayfield, who looked like a rookie and threw the most single-game interceptions of his career (three). He also threw for the most yards of his career (397) and still managed nearly 17 FanDuel points despite his mistakes (and mistakes by his wide receivers, for that matter). On deck is another challenging matchup that will likely force the Browns into another pass-heavy attack (assuming Cam Newton is healthy). But this time, Mayfield gets a secondary that’s allowed more passing touchdowns than all but three other teams, and has permitted the sixth most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks (the second-most since Week 8). They’ve allowed at least two passing touchdowns in every game but two this season, and have allowed five passers to throw for over 300 yards.
Mayfield is still raw and the offense is still coming together, but it has looked much more cohesive under Freddie Kitchens. Since Week 8, Mayfield has as many fantasy points as Philip rivers (QB10), has thrown the eighth most touchdowns while completing a respectable 69.5% of his passes. He’s a solid play this week and doesn’t require a stacking partner (although, David Njoku makes for an interesting contrarian play himself).
RB: Sony Michel - $6,900
Violating all of the “chase volume, avoid committees” rules, Michel gets a plug here because he’s inexpensive and gets a dream matchup. The Dolphins have been smashed by running backs all year, having allowed the fourth most rushing yards per game and the seventh most FanDuel points per game. They’ve also given up a lot of receiving yards to backs, which obviously tilts towards James White. But Michel has handled 23 and 18 touches over their last two games. Even with Rex Burkhead back in the fold, it’s fair to peg Michel with 20+ touches and an upside that includes multiple scores. He has logged 10 red zone opportunities over the last three games, including eight over the last two—more than any other Patriot. Vegas expects the Patriots to head into Miami and win by at least a touchdown. If they get up big, Michel stands to benefit the most. He’s risky due to the Patriots’ committee approach, but he makes for a solid contrarian option that could swing the slate in your favor.
WR: Michael Gallup - $5,100
Marcus Mosher wrote a great piece for The Athletic ($) detailing how the Cowboys upset the Eagles a few weeks ago, and what they need to do to complete the sweep on Sunday. He noted that the Cowboys ditched their traditional two-tight end set in favor of more 11 personnel (three receivers, one running back, one tight end) knowing that the Eagles had holes in their secondary. It worked beautifully as the Cowboys ran the ball with little resistance. But he also noted that Dak Prescott struggles mightily when blitzed, and if the Eagles bring a lot of pressure and dare him to throw on Sunday, the entire offense might suffer.
Even if that’s not how the game plays out, it’ll be interesting to see if the Cowboys do, indeed, attempt to run out of more 11 personnel. Regardless, the Cowboys’ receivers should have no trouble beating up on the Eagles’ no-name cornerbacks. Their secondary has been destroyed by injuries, and has now allowed the second-most yards and third-most receptions to wide receivers. While this bodes well for Amari Cooper, who has been excellent since joining the team, Gallup has made some big plays this year and has actually seen more targets since Coooper’s arrival. It’s not crazy to think the Eagles send additional attention towards Cooper’s side of the field, leaving Gallup with more one-on-one situations. He’s a risky play that could pay off big time if this game ends up being high-scoring.
TE: Jordan Reed - $6,400
Since Week 8, only two tight ends have run more routes than Reed, who leads the team in targets, catches, and receiving yards. Of course, the presence of Mark Sanchez could change everything. The good news is that all five of Reed’s targets last week came with Sanchez under center, and with the offense getting healthy around him, it should help keep defenses distracted. The matchup on tap is so-so. The Giants have allowed the 11th most yards to tight ends but only three touchdowns, effectively making them a middle-of-the-road defense. Given the matchup, quarterback situation, and pricetag, Reed jumps off the page as someone to totally avoid. But taking a bold stand and betting on talent is how you swing tournaments in your favor. Rostering Reed does both.
Arizona Cardinals - $3,700
If you’re looking for a contrarian defense, the Cardinals enter Week 14 with the third-highest sack rate of all teams and get to host a broken Lions team short on playmakers. Matthew Stafford has thrown five interceptions in his last four games and has led Detroit to an average of 16.2 points per game over their last six. Without Marvin Jones Jr, Golden Tate, or Kerryon Johnson, this offense has completely fallen apart. Conversely, the Cardinals’ defense just held Rodgers and Co. to 17 points, in Green Bay of all places. They’re not a smash-play by any means due to lack of defensive touchdowns, but for $3,700, you can roster a home team known for getting to the quarterback playing against a quarterback that tends to throw ugly interceptions. The Cardinals are a solid GPP pivot away from similarly priced teams such as the Dallas Cowboys.