The Fade: FanDuel: Week 16

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

Week 15 was the week where kickers ruled. What a perfect reminder of how important that position is when it comes to shipping tournaments. If you don’t have the guy that puts up 15 or more points, it’s rather difficult to win. I’m still not going to write up kickers in my analysis. Hopefully, we can move away from that position in most formats someday, but I get the many people like it.

This week is a tricky week considering the main slate is on Saturday and has only three games with over/unders above 45.5 points. The Raiders hosting the Colts, the Saints hosting the Buccaneers, and the Panthers hosting the Falcons will likely be the source of heavy ownership. If you want to avoid the crowds, the Jaguars hosting the Titans and the Packers hosting the Vikings could have more offense than what Vegas is suggesting. You’ll want to take a few risks with players in those games.

Moving on to Week 16; we’re nearing the end of this column. Week 17 will be the final installment. In the meantime, enjoy this week as the season wears down, have a wonderful holiday, and don’t start Allen Robinson.   

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady - $9,000

It’s a dangerous game listing Brady as a fade against his most hated opponent, especially at home, and especially when his opponent’s secondary has allowed the fourth most passing touchdowns and the sixth most FanDuel points to quarterbacks. Touchdown Tom is a near 17-point favorite over the four-win Jets, pushing the Patriots’ projected total to 29.75—the highest of all teams. Vegas is telling us that there’s a butt-kicking in store and it’s possible that Touchdown Tom goes nuclear with four scores and a bevy of yards. I don’t doubt he’ll be one of the highest project passers in Week 16. So it’s with caution that I advise you select a different quarterback.

In redraft, most of us agree that waiting on quarterbacks is the best strategy. Value is tough to find in the early rounds at a position that is relatively flat. The same is true in DFS. Yes, Brady could give you that edge in a cash game and protect the overall floor of your lineup. But in tournaments, where ownership percentages are less important for this position and where being perfect at every position is ultra important, I think we can avoid paying up unless there is a matchup that’s just too good to ignore. This matchup is close. The last time these teams met, Brady threw the ball 50 times for 286 yards and two touchdowns. If he has that many pass attempts again, it stands to reason he’ll have a stat line closer to what he had in Week 14 against the Ravens (38/406/3). I won’t blame you for chasing it. But I will warn that Brady is the second most expensive player on the slate, and even if he has a tasty matchup, so does Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan. All of them are obviously cheaper than Brady.

Jared Goff - $6,200

Swinging to the complete opposite of the universe, I’ll admit that I am tempted by Goff’s friendly price tag and matchup. The 49ers have the kind of defense you want to target, especially when they’re on the road. Only the Browns have allowed more passing touchdowns and only two teams have allowed more FanDuel points. But the 49ers are not bleeding yards. In fact, they rank 16th in yards per game and 19th in completion percentage. Of course, that’s weak statistical footing and I’m not advocating that they’re any good at defending passers. If anything, they’re one of the worst.

However, Goff isn’t good. He might be someday. But not today. Since taking over as the starter, he has completed just 54.7 percent of his passes, has averaged barely over 175 yards per game, has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and worst of all, is averaging just under 10 FanDuel points per contest. Some of those numbers are dragged down by the obvious (he’s fairly new to professional football), like facing the Seahawks last week in Seattle and managing only 5.4 points. But the rest of them should be enough to give us pause. He could easily hit tournament value just based on the matchup only. But hitting tournament value with a rock-bottom salary is a lot easier to accomplish. And it’s not even likely with Goff. The Rams are terrible and they may just elect to run the ball and try to salvage at least one win for their rookie quarterback.

Running Backs

Todd Gurley - $7,900

This is the most expensive Gurley has been since Week 7. That’s what the 49ers’ run defense will do to pricing. His salary jumped $,1900 from last week. That’s a significant jump but he is still good value especially considering the matchup. The 49ers have the worst run defense in the league. In case you need a reminder, here’s what running backs have done to them over the last seven weeks:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Devonta Freeman 15 20 139 3 2 16 0 32.5 7700
Tevin Coleman 15 14 58 0 2 8 0 7.6 6500
Terron Ward 15 6 52 0 0 0 0 5.2 4500
Bilal Powell 14 29 145 2 5 34 0 32.4 5600
Matt Forte 14 3 8 0 0 0 0 0.8 7700
Jordan Howard 13 32 117 3 0 0 0 29.7 7400
Jay Ajayi 12 18 45 1 1 11 0 12.1 8400
James White 11 0 0 0 6 63 1 15.3 5900
LeGarrette Blount 11 19 124 0 0 0 0 12.4 7300
Dion Lewis 11 5 23 0 3 26 0 6.4 4900
David Johnson 10 19 55 1 5 46 1 24.6 9400
Mark Ingram II 9 15 158 1 2 13 1 30.1 6700
Tim Hightower 9 23 87 1 1 15 0 16.7 6100
Jacquizz Rodgers 7 26 154 0 1 9 0 16.8 5600
Peyton Barber 7 12 84 1 0 0 0 14.4 4500

Right. You get the picture. This is as good of matchup as you can ask for. Personally, I have a lot of bias towards Gurley because I still draft running backs in the first round and I have a season-long Super Bowl roster that will probably feature him. But I wonder if this is a trap. Gurley has scored more than 15 points just three times this season. The last time he had a tremendous matchup at home against a crap defense (the Falcons in Week 14) he managed only 15.8 points thanks to a late touchdown. The difference this week is the Rams might actually stand a chance of beating the 49ers. If that happens, Gurley might actually log more than 20 carries for the first time in six weeks. But there’s a lot of maybes surrounding him. I’ll have a little bit of exposure, but for the most part, I’m going to avoid this offense entirely even in an A+ situation.

DeMarco Murray - $8,400

The Titans pulled off quite the upset last week in Kansas City with a late field goal. If they can beat the Chiefs on the road, you have to think they’ll have no trouble with the Jaguars. But the NFL is weird sometimes and just never know when a team might implode. If ever there were a trap game for the Titans, it’s Week 16 on the road against a division rival.

Not that this negatively impacts Murray, whose presence in the offense isn’t at risk regardless of the game script. He excels as a pass-catcher and has a near monopoly on the backfield. But what is concerning is Derrick Henry’s presence goal-to-go situations. Henry plunged in for both scores last week and logged nine touches for 58 yards. He now has 29 carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns over his last three games. Maybe I’m overreacting, but this is starting to smell on awful lot like a timeshare going forward. Murray is still going to dominate snap counts and he’ll get his yards every week. But the mere thought of him not scoring touchdowns is enough for me to move to another player, especially when paying more than $8,000.

Jonathan Stewart - $6,400

A lot of people might look at raw defense vs position stats and see the Falcons at the top (ranked fifth in FanDuel scoring). What they miss by just staring at raw numbers is that Atlanta is actually decent at slowing down traditional rushing attacks. They’re allowing only 77.3 rushing yards per game, which essentially makes them a top-seven run defense. They have permitted 11 rushing touchdowns—slightly above league average. But the reason they've allowed so many fantasy points is because they can’t defend pass-catching backs. No team has allowed more receptions, more yards, or more receiving touchdowns to running backs than the Falcons. Stewart has only six catches all year.

We should also be concerned about a running back that played Monday night and then has to turnaround and play Saturday afternoon, especially after logging 26 touches for the second week in a row. There’s a real chance that Greg Olsen doesn’t play, or at least doesn’t get a full workload, which certainly opens up the possibility of the Panthers turning to Stewart as a workhorse. It’s also possible his absence negatively affects their ability to run-block. And then we should definitely be worried about game script. The Falcons could potentially blow out the Panthers, even on the road, and render their rushing attack useless. If anything, this is a game where we should target Cam Newton.

Wide Receivers

Brandin Cooks - $7,100

I have a hard time trusting players that disappear for weeks and then suddenly blow up with a career-best performance. Cooks lit up the Cardinals’ defense in the first quarter with a 65-yard bomb for a score and ended his day with seven catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. It was the third time this season he surpassed 100 receiving yards in a single game and the first time he visited the end zone since Week 10. His matchup this week is tempting. The Buccaneers will be coming to town with a seemingly vulnerable secondary and an over/under point total of 52.5—second highest of the week. But over the last six weeks, they’ve allowed only 22.7 FanDuel points per game to wide receivers—the fifth fewest in the league. And it’s not like they’ve faced soft passers over that stretch, including Brees just a couple of weeks ago (Cooks managed only 8.6 points in that contest).

That said, he is the definition of a GGP option. He could blow up for long scores on any given play. His quarterback is brilliant at home and should have no trouble navigating the Bucs’ defense. But since Week 9, Cooks has point totals of 9.1, 17.3, 8.4, 11.2, 8.6, and 34.1. That’s a dangerous floor and not an overwhelmingly comfortable ceiling. Brees spreads the ball around a ton. As a result, Cooks barely leads Michael Thomas for the most targets of all Saints players, and Willie Snead IV is not far behind. It’s also worth noting that the Buccaneers are terrible at defending pass-catching backs, having allowed the sixth most receiving yards in that category. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram II end up with enough targets to suffocate Cooks’ upside. If anything, Thomas is the better option to stack with Brees if you’re targeting this offense.

DeAndre Hopkins - $6,600

Don’t do it.

I know you’re looking at Hopkins’ game log from last week and thinking maybe Tom Savage is going to resurrect the once dominate wide receiver. Maybe that’s an okay strategy especially given his salary. But the Bengals’ defense is not one to mess with. Only the Vikings and the Broncos have allowed fewer FanDuel points to wide receivers this season. They’ve taken their lumps against some good and some bad players, but they shut down Antonio Brown twice already this season, including last week where he was held to just three catches for 58 yards. If you want to chase Odell Beckham Jr Jr.’s stat line from Week 10 (10 catches for 97 yards and one touchdown), or Jamison Crowder’s stat line from Week 9 (nine catches for 107 yards and one touchdown), or even the Broncos’ pair from Week 3 (combined 15 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns), be my guest. Just be warned that Savage isn’t a great quarterback and the Texans’ offense is hardly trustworthy. I get the appeal in tournaments. Hopkins is an excellent receiver stuck in a subpar situation. But that situation only got marginally better with Savage and Hopkins’ downside is still very real.  

Tight ends

Greg Olsen - $6,800

Olsen is the best tight end play on the board in the main slate. The Falcons have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to the position, thanks to eight touchdowns and over 63 yards per game on average. Olsen saw 13 targets against this defense back in Week 4, and converted six of them into 76 yards and a touchdown. That’s not even his ceiling. But he hurt his elbow late in the game last week and was used sparingly afterwards. The game was basically out of reach, so that certainly contributed to his reduced snap count. As of this writing (Wednesday), he has not practiced, and with the Panthers on a shorter week than normal, you have to wonder if he’ll practice at all. Olsen is eight yards shy of hitting 1,000 for the third consecutive season, which would be an NFL record for a tight end. I don’t doubt he’ll get that record. I just wonder how much he’ll be used on Saturday. Be cautious with your exposure to him.

Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates - $5,400

This is a tough situation because one of these guys will go off against a Browns’ defense that has been clobbered by tight ends all season and have now allowed 12 touchdowns to the position. But the Chargers are one of the few teams that run a committee approach with Henry and Gates effectively splitting snaps. Gates is the guy I’d feel more comfortable with in terms of catching touchdowns. But he hasn’t scored since Week 10 and has just 10 catches for 109 yards over their last three games.

Henry doesn’t have the targets, receptions or yards, but he has found the end zone in four of his last five games, and is playing enough snaps to warrant consideration as a GPP play. Given the matchup, you could almost start both of these players on sites that have a flex, but that is extremely risky. As tempting as the Browns defense makes this situation, I’ll be avoiding it completely.

Defenses

I’m sure the Packers for $4,600 will be a popular play this weekend. And it makes sense. Sam Bradford and Company are coming to town. But I’m a little worried that maybe they put together some offense considering the Packers’ defense isn’t very good.

I’m also not too high on the Titans defense on the road against a division rival. Not that the Jaguars scare anyone. But this game feels like a trap (I live in Nashville, so my bias is strong). Under no circumstances am I paying $4,900 for a defense that ranks 25th this year in FanDuel scoring.



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