Greetings and welcome to Week 17! 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 Conference Championship Games.
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: Patrick Mahomes II - $9,500
With the Chiefs still looking to lock up the AFC West, it is no wonder why Mahomes is tops among our projected exposure percentages for quarterbacks. Mahomes is leading all players in points per game by a comfortable margin and is scoring nearly five more points per game than the next best quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who along with Mahomes happens to be the only other quarterback with a projected exposure percentage of greater than 10%. Mahomes has proven to be matchup proof, for the most part, scoring under 20 FanDuel points only twice on the season. The matchup is as good as it gets this week though, as he faces off against an Oakland defense that has given up the ninth most points on average to opposing quarterbacks this year (18.9). Mahomes had his way with the Raiders in week 13, completing 23 of 38 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns, while also chipping in 52 yards rushing on nine carries.
Week 17 always presents quite a number of challenges, most specifically, discerning the motivation that teams hold when they are not outright competing for a spot in the playoffs. Our own Phil Alexander published a fantastic article this week that dove into this subject and I suggest you check it out here: Week 17 Motivation Tracker. Herein lies the toughest part of playing Mahomes this week. The Chiefs can lock up the AFC West with a win or a Chargers loss, and against a substandard opponent like the Raiders while playing at home, the Chiefs could very well have this game locked up by halftime. Any Reid typically doesn’t rest his players in week 17 if there is something to play for, but considering injuries to Spencer Ware, Sammy Watkins and the loss of Kareem Hunt, he may change his tune and pull Mahomes as soon as the Chiefs look to have the game in hand. There is nothing worse than getting less than a full game out of your most expensive player, especially one that is going to be the most owned player at his position.
RB: Jamaal Williams - $6,800
Jamaal Williams has quite a few things going for him this week, most notably his price. Aaron Jones was put on Injured Reserve two weeks ago and he is still more expensive than Williams in the FanDuel player pool, an oversight that has Williams as our highest projected exposure of week 17 at 31.4%. Williams had a fantastic game against a porous Jets defensive front in week 16, rushing 15 times for 95 yards and a touchdown, while also catching six passes for 61 yards. He had more than 80 yards rushing at halftime and it looked as though he was going to run all over the Jets, but an early turnover on special teams gave New York a sizeable lead and forced Green Bay into comeback mode. The Packers have been consistent about giving their lead running back a full complement of touches, and Williams has proven he can be successful in both the running and the passing game, making him one of the few running backs you can project for a heavy volume of touches in week 17. Furthermore, the Packers are a home favorite (-7) over the Lions this week, so the game script projects favorably for Williams.
On first glance, the Lions look to be a great matchup for opposing running backs. They are giving up on average, the 12th most points to opposing running backs (19.9 points per game) and have allowed five games of 100+ yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are somewhat deceiving though, as the Lions have become a much tougher opponent to rush on since acquiring Damon Harrison in week nine. Over the last three weeks, the Lions have limited their opponents to 92.3 rushing yards per game, including their game last week where they held the talented pair of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murry to 95 yards on 25 carries. Williams relies mostly on his vision and balance and can be tough to stop once he gets downhill. With that said, he is not a guy who is going to break a lot of tackles in the backfield or create plays on his own, which is why Williams is going to have a tough time finding running room this week. Williams salary is enticing, as his workload, but his projected exposure percentage makes him a player that you should be worried about
WR: Tyreek Hill - $7,800
Tyreek Hill comes into week 17 averaging the third most points (17.6) at the wide receiver position, trailing only Davante Adams (18.2) and Antonio Brown (18.1). He ranks sixth in yards (1,378) and third in touchdowns (11), despite being outside the top 10 in targets. Hill has had only two games under 50 yards receiving on the season, which is a big improvement on years past where he relied solely on long catches to pad his stats. He has become much more of a complete receiver, as well as a very good route-runner who understands how to use his speed and quickness to create separation. The pairing between he and Mahomes was a match made in fantasy heaven and projects to be one of the best quarterback/wide receiver combinations for years to come. Hill has our third highest projected exposure percentage at wide receiver (21.1%), behind only Adams and DeAndre Hopkins. With the Chiefs still playing for the AFC West crown and home-field advantage, Hill projects as one of the better plays at wide receiver and considering he has four games of 29+ FanDuel points on the season, you can make the case that he has the necessary upside to match his projected exposure percentage.
Much like Mahomes though, the problem with playing Hill this week is trying to figure just how much he will play. Unlike Mahomes, Hill can reach value in one long touchdown catch, so there is not as much risk from the playing time standpoint, but what should concern you is the long list of injuries that Hill has racked up over the course of the last three weeks. Starting in his week 14 matchup against the Ravens, Hill was forced to leave the game on three separate occasions with a combination of wrist, ankle and heel injuries, but he managed to gut out the pain and finish with 139 yards on eight catches. Then on a short week against the Chargers, Hill was questionable but ended up playing on Thursday night, finishing with 46 yards on only four catches. Then last week he was forced from the game in the fourth quarter after a long grab down the sideline although he only missed one play and finished with four catches for 74 yards. While the injuries turned out to be nothing serious, it is worth considering that Hill is starting to wear down from a full season’s worth of nicks to his small frame. When you combine that with the fact that Hill had his worst game of the season against the Raiders in week 13 (one catch for 13 yards) and the question of playing time, it is worth suggesting that Hill may not be the best choice for significant exposure this weekend.
TE: Rob Gronkowski - $5,800
At this point in his career, it seems as though Gronkowski is relying more on what he has done in the past for fantasy relevance, rather than what he is currently doing on the field. Gronkowski is third on our projected exposure percentage list for tight ends at 12.2%, trailing on Travis Kelce (25%) and Zach Ertz (12.9%). He has been limited to 12 games this season and has eclipsed 75+ receiving yards in only four of those games. Most concerning though is dwindling influence in the red zone and his lack of touchdowns. Gronkowski has just three touchdowns on the season, with two of them coming against the Dolphins and the Jets.
It is his matchup against the Jets this weekend that even gives Gronkowski a sliver of hope at being a difference maker in large tournaments, as he one of his better games against them earlier in the season, catching three of seven targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. The fact that I am mentioning that as one of Gronkowski’s better games should speak for itself. He has slowed down tremendously, and his back injuries have zapped much of his trademark athleticism. The Jets have been stingy against tight ends this season, giving up only 4.8 points per game, trailing only the Titans for tops in the NFL. With Kelce and Ertz light years ahead of the rest of the tight end group this season (and commanding most of the exposure), Gronkowski is picking up the scraps that are left over because there are so few viable options at the position. This is a situation best avoided though, as his upside is not what it once was and his exposure is still high enough that you are not getting the benefit when compared to the risk you are taking by rostering him.
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: Ben Roethlisberger - $8,700
Among the teams with the most to play for in week 17, Roethlisberger and the Steelers top the list of fantasy purposes. A gut-wrenching loss to the Saints last week put the Steelers behind the eight ball this week, as they will need to win against the Bengals and hope for a Ravens loss to the Browns just to get into the postseason. Roethlisberger’s projected exposure is right around 10%, which is a fair price to pay for his upside in tournaments. He has eight games of 300+ passing yards and 11 games of multiple touchdown passes. The best part is Roethlisberger faces off a Bengals secondary that has been absolute fantasy gold for opposing quarterbacks. The Bengals are giving up the most points to quarterbacks (21.3 points), the 13th most points to wide receivers (23.7 points) and the fourth most points to opposing tight ends (10.1 points). Not only is Roethlisberger a great play on his own, but you can stack him alongside Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster or even Vance McDonald and feel good about your chances of getting elite tournament production.
QB: Aaron Rodgers - $8,400
This has not been a banner year for Rodgers, as he is on pace to finish with the least amount of passing touchdowns since his first season as a starter in Green Bay. For most of the season, Rodgers yards per attempt was way down versus his career average, but that is to be expected when your wide receiver core is completely overhauled, and you have two rookies among your top three options for much of the year. Also factoring in Aaron Jones breakout season, the Packers balancing their offense more towards the run and the firing of Mike McCarthy, Rodgers season has not been as bad as it seems. He is on pace to shatter his best touchdown to interception ratio, as he currently has 25 touchdowns to only two interceptions. Rodgers is also coming off one of his best games of the season, a comeback win against the Jets in overtime where he threw for 442 yards and two touchdowns, while also gaining 32 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns.
This week Rodgers gets a familiar foe in the Detroit Lions. In a week five victory in Detroit, Rodgers matched his season high of 442 passing yards to go along with three touchdown passes (also a season high). Detroit ranks 12th in average points allowed to opposing quarterbacks (18 points per game) and have been even worse than that number over the second half of the season. The Detroit secondary has been getting beaten up on by opposing number one receivers, so this is a great spot to stack Rodgers alongside Davante Adams.
RB: Damien Williams - $6,900
Simply put, the Chiefs number one running back is guaranteed fantasy points. The offense is one of the best in the league led by Mahomes, and at the rate that they move the football, whoever is in the backfield is going to see a high volume of red zone touches. With that said, let’s not take away from what Williams has done in the wake of Kareem Hunt’s release. Williams is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, with 281 total yards and five touchdowns over the last three weeks. Even with Spencer Ware’s injury, Williams has earned the right to be the Chiefs bell cow back moving forward and I fully expect for Andy Reid to stick with him this week against the Raiders.
While Mahomes and Hill are two players that I am somewhat wary of due to their high projected exposure and chances of limited playing time, the same cannot be said of Williams. Remember, he was on the bench resting for much of the season and has not been used to an extreme over the last three weeks. The Chiefs have enough to play for that even if they get up 14+ points and choose to rest most of their starters, I would expect Williams to get a full workload and kill the clock at home against the Raiders. Oakland is giving up the seventh most points to opposing running backs (22.1 points per game) and has given up six 100+ yard rushing games this season. In his first game against the Raiders in week 13, Williams played sparingly but still averaged over seven yards per carry and caught two passes for seven yards. He is a great building block for GPP teams this weekend, regardless of Spencer Ware’s health.
RB: Nick Chubb - $7,400
The Browns may not be competing for a playoff spot, but to them, beating the Ravens on Sunday would be the next best thing. Cleveland is building something here, and it would do wonders for them culturally to beat a perennial divisional bully like Baltimore, especially with the Ravens needing a win to get into the playoffs. Chubb has been everything the Browns have hoped for in an early round pick, averaging 80 rushing yards per game with eight total touchdowns since earning the starting job in week eight. He’s had touchdowns in six of those eight games, and although he hasn’t scored in the last two weeks, he has rushed for 100+ yards in each of those games.
The matchup against Baltimore is not ideal for Chubb, as the Ravens are given up the second lowest amount of points to opposing running backs on the year (13 points per game), trailing only the Chicago Bears. Add to that Cleveland is traveling to Baltimore in what should be a raucous stadium and a city that wants to return to the playoffs. Do not be deterred though. Week 17 is a vipers pit for running backs, and what you really want is the piece of mind that one of your building blocks is going to receive a full volume of touches and is not in danger of being pulled early. Chubb has no such concerns, and he is also projected at less than 3% exposure, so a big game will separate you from the pack in a week where the top four running backs will command a large percentage of the total exposure.
RB: Elijah McGuire - $6,300
Elijah McGuire came into the season a distant third on the Jets running back depth chart, but injuries to Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell have thrust him into the starting spot, and he has responded very well. Since taking over the number one running back spot in week 14, McGuire has averaged 80 total yards per game, with 13 receptions and four total touchdowns, including at least one in each of the last three games. He is not the most efficient running back on a per touch basis, but what he lacks in that department, he more than makes up for in the red zone. McGuire showed his toughness in a week 14 win against the Bills when he refused to go down at the three-yard line and kept his balance before pushing his way in for the game-winning touchdown. The Jets have nothing to play for, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing hard and trying to build on Sam Darnold’s rookie season. The New York coaching staff wants to see what they have in McGuire, and that alone makes him a solid play with so many question marks at the running back position. The Patriots rank in the top half of the league in terms of points allowed to opposing running backs (18.5 points per game), but playing McGuire this week is more about his price ($6,300), his volume and his guaranteed playing time.
WR: Davante Adams - $8,500
Davante Adams has been the most consistent fantasy wide receiver this season, scoring touchdowns in 11 of his 15 games, while recording three 100+ yard games in three of the games where he did not score. He is privileged to play alongside Rodgers, but his success has just as much to do with his ability than it does his quarterback. Adams projected exposure this week (25%) is tops among wide receivers, but this is a situation where you do not want to overthink it. He is the perfect building block and comes at a $300 discount over Antonio Brown and $200 over DeAndre Hopkins.
In Adams first game against the Lions, he caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and consistently beat the Lions cornerbacks down the field. Adams does have some injury concerns as he is officially listed as questionable with a knee injury but is expected to play. Adams can break several Green Bay receiving records on Sunday, and although the Packers are not competing for a postseason berth, there is pride at stake and you can fully expect Adams to ball out.
WR: DeAndre Hopkins - $8,700
DeAndre Hopkins is our second highest wide receiver in terms of projected exposure (24%), but much like Adams, this is not a situation where you want to let exposure get in the way of a great play. The Texans, while in the playoffs already, could rise as high as the #2 seed with a win and Patriots loss, or drop to as low as the #6 seed if they lose against Jacksonville. Motivation is the number one factor in week 17, and it outweighs what could be looked at as a tough matchup against Jalen Ramsey.
Hopkins comes into the game second in receiving yards (1,425) and third in receiving touchdowns (11), and while that may not mean a lot to guys at other positions, the elite wide receivers are a competitive group and Hopkins will be gunning for Ramsey in their one on one matchup. In his first game against Jacksonville, Hopkins had three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. When facing a top 10 secondary, Hopkins has had at least a touchdown or 100+ receiving yards in every game, including six catches for 110 yards and a touchdown versus Tennessee and nine catches for 151 yards against the Cowboys. Big time players show up in big-time games, and this is a spot where I want Hopkins on my GPP teams.
TE: Zach Ertz - $7,800
Zach Ertz comes into week 17 first among all tight ends with 113 receptions, third with 1,138 receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns with eight. All of those numbers shatter his career highs (or tie in the case of touchdowns), as Ertz has never previously topped 78 catches, 853 yards or eight touchdowns. With the tight end position so shallow this season, Ertz, along with Kelce, has been a godsend. He’s had nine games of seven or more catches, and seven games of at least 15 FanDuel points.
Picking between Ertz and Kelce this week has a lot to do with projected exposure. Despite the Chiefs having the potential to sit their starters at some point during the game, Kelce is nearly double the projected exposure of Ertz (25% for Kelce to Ertz’s 12.9%). The Eagles need a win and a Vikings loss to get into the playoffs and will be playing their starters for the entire game. The Redskins rank as one of the better teams in defending against the tight end position, allowing only 6 points per game on average, but Ertz has had their number in the past and will likely be playing against the Washington second string. In their first matchup, Ertz caught nine passes for 83 yards on ten targets. He makes for a great building block at tight end, and his potential ceiling matches that of Kelce, only at a 50% discount in projected exposure.
Seattle Seahawks - $4,700
Paying up for defenses this year has been an inconsistent strategy at best, however paying up for defenses facing off against the Cardinals and Josh Rosen, that is another story. Rosen has 22 turnovers in 13 starts this season and ten turnovers in his last five starts. Interestingly enough, in his first matchup against the Seahawks, Rosen did not commit a turnover, one of only three times he’s failed to do so this season. The Seahawks technically have nothing to play for, as they already have their postseason position locked up, but with Rosen at quarterback and Pete Carroll saying he will play his starters, this is a spot that is too juicy to pass for the Seahawks defense.
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: Lamar Jackson - $7,700
Despite failing to pass for 205+ passing yards in any game this season, Jackson has found his way into fantasy relevance through running the football, similar to fellow rookie, Josh Allen. After throwing only one touchdown in his first three starts, Jackson has thrown four touchdowns in his last three starts and has done so without throwing an interception. His problem has been fumbles though, as he’s had eight in his six starts, including at least one in every game. For a rookie, there is no bigger stage than needing a win at home to get into the playoffs in week 17, and while the Browns rank 18th in the NFL in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks (17 points per game), they have been getting pressure on the quarterback. There are two ways to look at that, with the first being Jackson is going to have a really hard time finding open receivers when he’s barely able to get through his progression to begin with. The flipside is that the Browns pressure will allow Jackson to take off from the pocket early and get to the second level of the defense with ease. It will most likely be combination of the two, but I’d side with Jackson getting the best of the Browns defense on this day and going over 100+ yards rushing. With a salary of $7,700 and a projected exposure percentage of 4%, Jackson gives you salary relief at the quarterback position and a way to differentiate yourself from the field.
RB: Chris Carson - $6,400
As I mentioned above, the Seahawks don’t have anything to play for in terms of playoff seeding, but Pete Carroll has alluded to playing his starters due to “not liking the results when he’s sat starters in the past”. Whether you believe him or not, Carson does not have the benefit of being a full 16 game starter, and the Seahawks still need to know that they can depend on him in the playoffs. He’s had injury concerns throughout his early career and is still fighting off Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis for full control of the Seattle backfield. Carson has impressed as of late, rushing for consecutive games of 100+ yards while scoring touchdowns in five of his last six games. The matchup against the Cardinals is as good as it gets for running backs, as Arizona is the worst team in the NFL defending the position, allowing 25.3 fantasy points per game. Carson is projected at only 4% exposure this week, and after consecutive games of 23+ points, he more than has the ceiling to justify his inexpensive salary.
WR: Robert Foster - $5,800
Foster, an undrafted rookie, has come out of nowhere to provide a spark to an otherwise talent-lacking Bills receivers group. Despite averaging only five targets over last six games, Foster has averaged 81.6 receiving yards per game with two touchdowns, and that includes a one catch for 26 yards outing against the Dolphins. Despite going undrafted, Foster has some pedigree after playing for Alabama coach Nick Saban and has proven to be a savvy route-runner who knows how to use his speed to get behind the defense. With Josh Allen at quarterback, it is hard to recommend any Buffalo wide receiver because the rookie is just not an accurate passer yet and doesn’t understand how to manipulate defensive coverage. With that said, Allen has a big arm and throws a really good deep ball, which is exactly how Foster has been able to able to burst on the scene with three 100+ yard receiving games from weeks 11-15. The Miami secondary has played well this season, but they have had trouble defending deep ball wide receivers, as TY Hilton, Taylor Gabriel, Will Fuller V, and Jordy Nelson all went over 100+ yards receiving against them.
TE: Chris Herndon - $5,800
In what world is Chris Herdon the same price as Rob Gronkowski? Our current fantasy world of course, where tight ends are either goal mines or landmines. Herndon has been a little of both in his rookie season, catching touchdowns in each of his first three starts before failing to catch one in the next six games. Herndon did rebound last week though, catching six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown for his best game of the season against the Packers. Herndon has been up and down partly because the Jets offense has been up and down, but he has played well for a first year starter and has earned the trust of Sam Darnold. The Patriots give up the 12th most points to the tight end position, and have surrendered eight touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. They’ve also given up 100+ yard games to Trey Burton and Eric Ebron. With a projected exposure percentage of 4%, Herndon makes for a nice play in GPP’s this weekend.