Herein is another edition of “Fantasy Draft Dominator” where we will examine the salaries of players at each position on FantasyDraft and make recommendations for both your cash games and tournaments.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both formats. Cash game players are the top overall values of the week and can be used without regard to expected ownership percentage. GPP players generally have high-upside, but are too risky for cash games. Expected ownership levels is also a major consideration in determining the top GPP options. In some instances, the value for a player is so strong, he will fall into both categories.
FantasyDraft Dominator will be posted each Friday morning, but will also be updated throughout the week as new information becomes available. Should you have any questions or players you want to discuss, hit me up on twitter (@hindery).
Cash Game Considerations
The numbers point towards Carson Palmer ($10,500) as the top option at just $500 above minimum salary and in a favorable matchup against the Falcons. However, Derek Carr ($11,400) has looked a much better player this season and is also surprisingly cheap at just $900 extra. Russell Wilson ($12,600) and Aaron Rodgers ($13,200) are also in play if your roster construction at other positions makes it relatively painless to pay up.
Top Cash-Game Options
Derek Carr (Cash and GPP; $11,400) Carr’s DFS pricing (QB10 this week, just $200 more than Blake Bortles and Colin Kaepernick) has not caught up to his status as one as one of the NFL’s best passers. On the season, he has thrown 20 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions and has already passed for 2,800 yards. But for a number of pass interference penalties in the end zone against Denver Week 9 that led to a trio of 1-yard touchdown runs for Latavius Murray, Carr would be riding a streak of three straight games with 3+ passing touchdowns. On paper, the matchup against Carolina is solid, if unspectacular. Carolina is ranked 19th in pass defense DVOA (and 6th vs. the run, which funnels opposing offenses to more pass attempts). But a deeper look shows that Carolina has been especially vulnerable through the air when facing quality opponents. They’ve given up big games to Carson Palmer (363-3), Drew Brees (465-4) and Matt Ryan (503-4). While the Raiders are on a short week after a Monday nighter in Mexico, they return home while the Panthers have to travel 3,000 miles west. The Raiders are home favorites and have one of the slate’s highest team totals at 26 points.
Carson Palmer (Cash and GPP; $10,500) Age looks to be catching up to Palmer on the football field and interceptions have been an issue (back-to-back two interception games), but he continues to put up big fantasy numbers. Palmer has passed for 342 or more yards in three of his past four games. He is in a great spot this week traveling to face Atlanta. The Falcons have given up 283 passing yards per game on the season and have given up 3+ passing touchdowns in half of their games. Since Week 8, the Falcons are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing passers. In what is expected to be a low-scoring Week 12, the Cardinals-Falcons matchup is the only game with a total of over 50 points. Rostering both Palmer and David Johnson is a viable strategy for both cash and GPPs. In cash games, you essentially lock up all of the Cardinals offensive touchdowns for a reasonable price. For GPPs, the stack provides both safety and plenty of upside as the Falcons have given up big numbers through the air to opposing backs.
Top GPP Option
Russell Wilson (Cash and GPP; $12,600) After struggling through an injury-plagued first half of the season, Wilson is reemerging as an elite fantasy option. Finally healthy, he has posted 25+ fantasy points in each of his past three games. The “eye test” shows Wilson regaining the shiftiness that allows him to buy time and make the big plays down the field that made him the top fantasy quarterback in the league down the stretch of the 2015 season. For proof that the worst of the leg injuries for Wilson are mostly in the past, look no further to Wilson’s receiving touchdown in Week 11. The matchup against the Buccaneers may not look overly appealing on first glance. Tampa is middle of the pack by most measures against the pass (18th in DVOA, 7.7 yards per attempt, 267 passing yards allowed per game). But the Bucs have given up huge numbers when facing top quarterbacks. Tampa has faced just four quarterbacks this season priced above $11,000 on FantasyDraft. In those four games, they allowed an average of 31.5 fantasy points to the opposing passer. Just in the past month, they allowed 513 yards and 4 touchdowns to Derek Carr and 344 yards and 4 touchdowns to Matt Ryan. Wilson is especially appealing as a GPP option with massive upside and relatively lower ownership, but he also makes sense in cash games for those not sold on the cheaper options.
Cash Game Considerations
David Johnson ($16,700) and Melvin Gordon III ($13,300) are almost must plays given the matchups and their projected workloads. Jay Ajayi ($14,300) is a tougher call due to his lack of impact as a receiver, but the matchup at home against San Francisco is prime. Rashad Jennings ($10,600) also has a very favorable matchup (against the Browns) and is a strong flex option. Thomas Rawls ($10,600) and Doug Martin ($9,700) don’t have quite as favorable matchups, but are talented and should see a lot of touches, which makes them decent pivots should roster construction considerations or a difference in opinion push you off of one or more of the top four backs. It looks to again be a week where playing four running backs in cash will be popular.
Top Cash-Game Options
David Johnson (Cash and GPP; $16,700) Johnson’s 38 FantasyDraft points against a stout Minnesota defense in Week 11 serve as further proof that the star runner is basically matchup proof. Not only is Johnson averaging 86.3 rushing yards per game, he is also averaging 51 receiving yards per game on 7.1 targets per game. The matchup against Atlanta is ideal for a player like Johnson. Not only do the Falcons allow 102.9 rushing yards per game with nine rushing touchdowns allowed, Atlanta has been gashed for 8.1 receptions and 63.4 receiving yards per game by opposing backs. Johnson has averaged 6.8 receptions per game over his past four games and 6+ receptions is a reasonable expectation against the Falcons defense. The massive passing-game usage gives Johnson the highest floor of any player on the slate and his upside is through the roof as well. He is a must-play in cash games. In GPPs, with expected ownership of over 50% and a high price tag, fading Johnson is a reasonable option.
Melvin Gordon III (Cash and GPP; $13,300) Gordon is a top cash-game option every week due to his incredibly heavy workload. Over the past five weeks, he has averaged25.6 carries and 5.6 targets per game. Even when he has an inefficient week and doesn’t find the end zone, he still has a huge floor due to all the touches. Week 10 was his worst game in recent weeks (less than 3.0 yards per carry) but Gordon still managed 18.2 FantasyDraft points due to touching the ball 29 times. Gordon has an incredibly favorable matchup this week. Since Week 8, the Houston defense has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing backs. The Texans have been especially vulnerable to backs who are active in the passing game. Houston allowed 10 catches, 199 receiving yards and two touchdowns to Oakland’s backs on Monday night. Houston is coming off of a short week after playing in Mexico Monday night to face a well-rested San Diego team coming off of the bye. It’s a great spot for Gordon, who is priced way too low for a back seeing the ridiculous workload he is handling in a good offense. Fire him up in both cash and GPPs.
Jay Ajayi (Cash and GPP; $14,300) Ajayi came out of nowhere to explode for 204 rushing yards against Pittsburgh in Week 6. He has been the go-to offensive option for the Dolphins ever since and has keyed a five-game winning streak for Miami. Since his emergence, Ajayi has seen at least 20 combined carries and targets in each game. He has the dream matchup against the league’s worst rush defense. The 49ers are allowing a ridiculous 179.5 rushing yards per game and have allowed the 100-yard rushing bonus to eight different backs this season (no other team has allowed more than four). Miami is a 7.5-point home favorite with San Francisco heading to the east coast for an early kick, so the spot couldn’t get much better for Ajayi to have a big game. It is worth noting however that he has managed just four yards per target this season and has caught only 15 passes, so his floor is lower than a true dual-threat back like Melvin Gordon III. Gordon’s the better play, but with the ability to use four backs on FantasyDraft, rostering both backs in cash games is a strong option. In GPPs, we’ve seen Ajayi’s upside (back-to-back 200+ yard rushing games) and he could easily go off against the 49ers, so he is a top play despite what is likely to be high ownership.
Rashad Jennings (Cash and GPP; $10,600) Over the past five weeks, the Browns have allowed a whopping 36.2 FantasyDraft points per game to opposing backs. The Browns run defense, respectable early in the season, has collapsed. Over the five game stretch, they’ve allowed 166.4 rushing yards and 1.6 rushing touchdowns per game to opposing backs. Jennings has seen a major increase in his usage in recent weeks 36 carries and 12 targets over the past two weeks (and 70% of the snaps last week) and has responded with back-to-back games with 100+ total yards. The Giants are favored by a touchdown against the Browns, so the game script should set up perfectly for another heavy workload for Jennings against what is the league’s worst run defense over the past handful of games. The matchup makes Jennings the top cash-game play in the mid-tier of pricing at the running back position.
Top GPP Option
Thomas Rawls (GPP; $10,600) As Sheil Kapadia of ESPN recently noted: “It's obvious that the plan going forward will be for Rawls to carry the ground game. There's really no other option.” To Kapadia’s point, Christine Michael has been cut, promising rookie C.J. Prosise is out for an extended period with a shoulder injury and practice squad call up Troymaine Pope is out with an ankle injury. Besides Rawls, only rookie Alex Collins (averaging 1.9 yards on his 10 carries) remains in Seattle. Rawls will see as many snaps and touches as he can handle this week against Tampa Bay’s 20th ranked rush defense in DVOA. While Rawls isn’t a major threat out of the backfield, he does have at least three receptions in every game this season and is averaging a solid 72 yards per target. With Jennings priced identically at $10,600 and facing Cleveland, Rawls could fly slightly under the radar in GPPs and makes for a high upside play at what should be relatively low ownership.
Cash Game Considerations
Jordan Matthews ($9,900) is tough to pass on given his four-game stretch of double-digit targets, favorable matchup against Green Bay and sub-$10,000 pricing. Tyler Boyd ($7,800) will also be a chalky option given his salary and what should be a major increase in targets with A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard out. Julian Edelman (12,700) is a strong target in the middle tier, especially if Chris Hogan ends up missing another week. Roster construction (the attractiveness of the high-priced running backs) makes it somewhat difficult to get up to top options like Amari Cooper ($14,600) and Odell Beckham Jr Jr. ($16,600). It may be worth slotting in Boyd or a cheap RB into a flex spot to fit one of the top receivers in, but the matchups for the top running backs look favorable enough that it’s probably a four-RB week in cash.
Top Cash-Game Options
Jordan Matthews (Cash and GPP; $9,900) Over the past month, Matthews has been one of the most targeted receivers in the league. He has seen at least 10 targets in each of his past four games and has averaged seven receptions per game over that stretch. The matchup against the Packers awful secondary couldn’t be much more favorable. After a solid start, the Packers have slipped all the way to 23rd in pass defense DVOA. Over the past four weeks, Green Bay has allowed nine opposing receivers to score at least 14 FantasyDraft points against them and given up 11 passing touchdowns. Even after being gashed by Rob Kelley last week, Green Bay still has a top-5 defense against the run (in DVOA) and generally funnel opposing offenses towards the pass. The Packers allow only 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, but a shopping 8.1 per passing attempt. In a week where the value options on the Sunday slate of games are few and far between, Matthews stands out as the clear top value in his Monday night matchup. He is the clear go-to receiver for Carson Wentz in a game where David Dodds’ game predictor projects Wentz for 25 pass completions, one of the highest on the slate. Matthews is almost a must-play in cash games where his ownership will be high. He is a decent fade at high expected ownership in GPPs, though he gives you the best bang for your buck if you’re looking for a Monday night hammer.
Tyler Boyd (Cash and GPP; $7,800) Throughout the draft process, Tyler Boyd drew comparisons to Jarvis Landry and Keenan Allen. Like those two, Boyd lacks speed but has shown a knack for getting open and catching everything in his area. It’s worth remembering those pre-draft comparisons now, as both Landry and Allen didn’t emerge until late in their rookie seasons. Both made a major impact down the stretch of their rookie seasons. Landry averaged 7.0 catches per game in the final six games of his rookie season (2014) while Allen averaged 5.0 catches in his final six (2013). Boyd could break out in a similar fashion (5-to-7 catches per game is a reasonable projection) after the Bengals lost A.J. Green (11 targets per game through nine weeks) and Giovani Bernard (5.1 targets per game) to injury in a disastrous Week 10. That’s a whopping 16.1 targets per game that will have to be redistributed on the Bengals offense. Only so many can go to Tyler Eifert, who is going to see a lot of double teams going forward. Expect Boyd to be the primary beneficiary in terms of increased targets. Without Green in Week 10, Boyd saw a season-high eight targets and responded with a breakout 6-54-1 receiving line. The matchup against Baltimore’s 10th ranked pass defense is less than ideal, but the Ravens are even better (1st in DVOA) against the run so the Bengals are likely to be forced to throw the ball a lot on Sunday (Game Predictor shows 35 attempts for Dalton and that could go higher if the Bengals fall behind early). Boyd projects to see at least 20% of those targets, which is a lot of volume for a player priced under $8,000.
Julian Edelman (Cash; $12,700) Edelman is the safest cash-game option over $10,000. With Rob Gronkowski out last week, Edelman saw a whopping 17 targets and responded with his biggest game of the season. With Gronkowski out again and Chris Hogan questionable, Edelman should be in for another heavy workload against the Jets. The Jets are the most extreme “funnel defense” in the NFL this season. They are excellent against the run, ranking 2nd in DVOA and allowing just 3.5 yards per attempt. Against the pass however, the Jets are brutal, ranking 30th in pass defense DVOA. Expect a pass-heavy game plan like the Patriots employed in their win against the Jets last season in which Brady threw 54 times. The Patriots team total of 27.3 is one of the highest on the slate and Edelman is the most obvious way to get exposure to the Patriots passing game without paying way up to roster Brady.
Top GPP Options
Doug Baldwin (Cash and GPP; $12,000) Baldwin was listed as a top option for cash and GPP here last week and he responded with his second-straight 20+ point fantasy game. The Seahawks passing game is again heating up in the second half and Doug Baldwin has been a prime beneficiary of the resurgence. Russell Wilson’s increased mobility over the past few weeks has been glaring and that has re-opened the door to the big Wilson to Baldwin scramble drill plays that were so common down the stretch of the 2015 season. Sigmund Bloom projects Baldwin for 0.9 touchdowns this week. It’s a huge number, but justified by recent history as Baldwin has averaged just a fraction under 1.0 touchdowns per game over his last 17. Tampa Bay’s starting clot cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah was suspended this week for PEDs and will miss the next four games. The Bucs options to replace him in the slot are murky and dependent upon whether Brent Grimes is healthy enough to play, but Baldwin could end up seeing plenty of backup Josh Robinson. No matter who lines up in the slot, it is an above average matchup for Baldwin.
Amari Cooper (GPP; $14,600) Cooper was having a forgettable game on Monday night against Houston until late. In the bin of an eye, he caught a short pass, made a ridiculous cut and zipped past a defender for a long game-winning touchdown. It was the type of play that typifies why Cooper is such a great GPP option every week. He has the speed and elusiveness to break a huge play off at any moment. He is especially enticing this week against Carolina. The Panthers rank 27th in DVOA against #1 receivers, allowing 84.3 yards per game. Carolina is especially vulnerable to opposing receivers with elite speed. They’ve been torched for 12-300-1 by Julio Jones, 7-173-1 by Brandin Cooks, and 8-79-2 by J.J. Nelson. While the Panthers defense has shown enough improvement in recent weeks to make Cooper a risky cash game play, his GPP upside is immense and he has one of the best matchups amongst top receivers in what could be a shootout in Oakland.
Cash Game Considerations
Tight End is wide open this week. With ownership likely to be fairly concentrated at running back, the position will be a key differentiator in cash games and worth spending some extra time on. C.J. Fiedorowicz ($6,400) is the top cheap option. But Travis Kelce ($7,800) is now priced down to within $1,400 in the middle tier and should be the top target for Alex Smith with Jeremy Maclin out. With no tight end priced above $11,000, Greg Olsen ($11,000), Tyler Eifert ($10,500), Jimmy Graham ($10,000), and Delanie Walker ($9,300) are all solidly in play as well.
Travis Kelce (Cash; $7,800) Kelce is somewhat inexplicably priced down to under $8,000. He’s averaged 8.0 targets per game over his last four and pulled in 7 catches and 100+ yards in two of those games. Denver has been solid against the tight end this season, allowing just 48.7 yards per game but they have also been excellent against opposing wide receivers. Jeremy Maclin is again unlikely to play, so Kelce should be the top option in the passing game as the Broncos have a clear talent edge in each of the CB vs. WR matchups. Volume alone should push Kelce to a solid day given his bargain pricing. He may not be exciting given the matchup, but he is a high-floor option and projects well in points per dollar.
Greg Olsen (Cash and GPP; $11,000) The Raiders have by far the NFL’s tallest starting cornerback duo, with both David Amerson and Sean Smith checking in at 6’3. They’ve struggled against short, quick receivers but have mostly excelled against big, physical receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. The Panthers typical height advantage outside will not be present this week and their top receivers could struggle. With Derek Carr playing at an MVP level, the Panthers are going to have to be productive in the passing game to keep up and Olsen projects to have the most favorable matchup over the middle of the field. The Raiders allowed 10 catches and 128 yards to the Texans receivers and Olsen has the potential to put up those type of numbers should the Panthers fall behind early in Oakland. He makes for a strong GPP play and is likely to outscore Kelce if you have the extra money to spend up at the position in cash games.
Cash Game Considerations
The key this week is to look more at the opposing offenses we want to target and not worry too much about the talent levels of the defenses. Because if we were purely basing this on best defenses regardless of matchup, Tennessee ($5,600) and New Orleans ($5,600) wouldn’t be anywhere near our radar. But Matt Barkley has been awful to date in his pro career and the Bears are now missing six starters on offense, making the Titans a strong play. Jared Goff looked shaky in his first start and could really struggle in his first road game in as a pro behind one of the league’s most offensive lines as the Rams travel cross country to face the Saints.
Titans (Cash and GPP; $5,600) The Titans have allowed 29.8 PPG against over their last five games, so it feels a bit strange for the Tennessee defense to be one of the top plays. However, over that five game stretch, the Titans have faced top quarterbacks Andrew Luck (twice), Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. This week journeyman Matt Barkley is the opponent. Barkley has a career passer rating of 34.2 with zero touchdowns and six interceptions. Not only are the Bears down to their third string quarterback, Chicago will also be without their top two passing game targets (Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller) and their top two offensive linemen (Josh Sitton and Kyle Long). The strength of the Titans defense is in the trenches (allow just 92 rushing yards per game and average 2.7 sacks). Tennessee should dominate the beat up Bears line and force Matt Barkley to try to beat them through the air, which is a good formula for generating defensive fantasy points. The Bears implied team total is just 18.5, so this is a low-risk, low-priced option with real upside should Barkley struggle as much as he has in his prior appearances.
Saints (Cash and GPP; $5,600) Who would have thought two months ago that the Saints would be one of the top cash-game options at any time int he 2016 season? Hard as it may be to believe, here we are. The Saints have shown real improvement, allowing less than 23 points per game since mid-October. This still isn’t a good defense, but given the pricing and the ideal matchup against an awful Rams defense, New Orleans is good enough to give serious consideration in both cash and GPP. The Rams team total is just 19 points and they are road underdogs by a touchdown. They also feature an awful offensive line and a shaky rookie quarterback making his first road start. Being able to get a big home favorite in this spot at just $5,600 is rare, but the reputation and early season struggles of New Orleans makes this price point possible and gives us a nice value opportunity to bet against the Rams offense.
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