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. Week 17 will be in a slightly different format than previous weeks. We don’t have GPP ownership numbers due to there being no Thursday game. We will also spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing each team’s motivation levels as pinning down usage will be the key to Week 17 success.
Below you will find a list of recommended players for both cash games and GPPs. Cash game players are the top overall values of the week and can be used without regard to expected ownership percentage in that format. GPP-only 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 many 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
There is little reason to reach for value at the quarterback position this week with all of the Week 17 values available at other positions. Paying up for Matt Ryan ($14,000) or Aaron Rodgers ($14,500) is a sound investment. Both are in great matchups at home and playing with almost playoff stakes. For Green Bay, it will almost certainly be a lose and go home scenario (assuming Washington handles their business as a big favorite). For Atlanta, a playoff bye is on the line and they certainly will want to avoid a round two road trip to Seattle as well.
Matt Ryan (Cash and GPP; $14,000)Ryan is the obvious cash game play this week at quarterback. He has been a top-3 fantasy and NFL quarterback this season. He has thrown for 4,613 yards (387 shy of 5,000) and has a 34-7 TD/INT ratio this season. His team is a 7-point favorite with a massive 56.5 game total and 31.8-point implied team total. He is playing at home in a dome with no weather concerns. He and his team will be highly motivated, playing for the #2 seed in the NFC and a first round bye. The matchup against New Orleans is also favorable. The Saints have allowed seven 300-yard passers this season and 10 multi-touchdown passing games. With all of the extra value due to backups getting extended playing time in Week 17, it is easy to find a little bit of extra money to pay up for a top option like Ryan or Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers (Cash and GPP; $14,500) Unless the Giants (7.5-point underdogs) upset Washington in the late afternoon game, Green Bay will be playing for their playoff lives Sunday night at Detroit. Even if Washington loses, Green Bay will still go all out with home field in round 1 of the playoffs on the line. In a week where so many teams have questionable motivations, rostering a player like Rodgers in cash games who is playing in what is likely to be basically a playoff game makes good sense. Rodgers has been the top fantasy quarterback since Week 7 and has shown incredible consistency in the process. Aside from an extreme cold-weather game played in Chicago, Rodgers has thrown multiple touchdown passes in each of his last 10 games. He also hit the 300-yard bonus in half of those 10 games. While the matchup against Detroit isn’t a great one (the Lions have been stingy in the second half of the season and are better than their season-long numbers show), Rodgers has been matchup-proof throughout his 10-game hot streak. He also dissected the Lions defense with four first half touchdown passes in their previous meeting before taking his foot off the gas.
Russell Wilson (Cash and GPP; $12,700) If looking to save a little bit at quarterback in your cash lineup, Wilson is the top mid-tier option. The Seahawks are 9.5-point favorites traveling to San Francisco to play one of the league’s worst defenses. Seattle will be highly motivated. They play at the same time as the Falcons and need a win and an Atlanta loss to wrap up a first round playoff bye. Wilson has been a bit up-and-down this season, but has thrown seven touchdown passes over the past two weeks and has been running more in recent weeks (averaging over 37 rushing yards per game in his last five). The game script is a legitimate concern should Seattle jump out to a big early lead and Wilson fits better as a GPP play. Though it is worth noting that Thomas Rawls is nursing a minor shoulder injury and this Seattle rushing offense hasn’t shown an ability to salt games away on the ground this season. So even with a lead, expect Wilson to keep throwing well into the fourth quarter.
Cash Game Considerations
David Johnson ($18,600) is the clear top option on the slate in terms of raw points and it is easy to fit him in with all of the Week 17 value options. Some of the top value options are at running back. Rex Burkhead ($7,000) should see approximately 20 touches, including 3rd-down and goal line work at a bargain basement salary. Rob Kelley ($8,800) remains priced down and is in a nice spot as a big home favorite.
David Johnson (Cash and GPP; $18,600) Any notions that Arizona might ease the workload of Johnson with their playoff hopes extinguished was put to rest in Seattle last week. He carried 28 times and was targeted 7 times in the passing game. With Le’Veon Bell set to get the week off, Johnson is the clear top option overall on the slate. No other running back projects to see as many touches and is as heavily involved in both the passing and running game. Arizona is a 6.5-point road favorite against the Rams with a team total of 23.5. The Rams are about average against the run, ranking 18th in yards against due to playing from behind so often. It’s not a great matchup and the division rivals have played Arizona tough, but Johnson is one of the few truly matchup proof players in the league (as he showed last week). In a week where salary cap space is abundant, plugging Johnson into the RB1 spot is an easy call in cash games.
Rob Kelley (Cash and GPP; $8,800) Washington has everything to play for in Week 17. Win and they are almost certainly in the playoffs as the #6 seed (as long as Green Bay-Detroit doesn’t end in a tie). Meanwhile, their opponent, the Giants is 100% locked into the #5 seed. While Ben McAdoo and the Giants players are talking about playing this game as if it was any other week, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they err on the side of caution with key players in the second half. Despite the majority of bets coming in on the Giants, the line has moved in the other direction with Washington moving to 7.5-point favorites. Kelley is in a great spot as a big home favorite regardless of how the Giants approach this game and remains underpriced considering his workload in recent weeks. The potential to face backups in the second half only increases his inherent upside and makes him one of the top plays at the position this week.
Rex Burkhead (Cash and GPP; $7,000) It’s looking as if Jeremy Hill will likely be inactive for the finale, leaving the Bengals backfield almost exclusively to Burkhead. Burkhead played 49 snaps last week and racked up 16 touches against the Texans. In a game where both teams struggled mightily on offense, he was still able to amass 67 yards and catch four passes (10.7 FantasyDraft points). That should be his floor again this week. He should touch the ball at least 16 times again (likely 20+) with heavy involvement in the passing game. He is also likely to get all of the goal line work. Burkhead has also looked surprisingly good this season. He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry (a full 1.0 YPC more than Jeremy Hill) and has caught 15 of 18 pass targets. It’s a tough matchup against a good Baltimore defense, but the heavy expected usage that will include goal line carries and 3rd-down work is enticing given the near-minimum pricing. Plus, while the Ravens run defense is tough, they have allowed the 5th most receptions to opposing backs (86). Burkhead and Hill combined for 8-80 through the air in the Week 12 meeting against Baltimore.
LeSean McCoy (GPP; $16,700) McCoy will likely go somewhat overlooked this week against a Jets defense that has a reputation of being stout against the run. The Jets run defense has faded down the stretch however. They have faded somewhat down the stretch however. Last week, they allowed 40/114/2 rushing to the Patriots and in Week 14 gave up 27/248/1 to the 49ers. The Jets looked like they packed it in for the season in a beatdown against the Patriots last week and locker room infighting has begun to creep in. With nothing to play for, a game script in which the Jets get blown out is within the realm of realistic possibilities. McCoy makes for a nice pivot off of the chalkier David Johnson. Even from a cross-positional perspective, McCoy makes sense as a pivot off of Jordy Nelson in tournaments.
Cash Game Considerations
Jordy Nelson ($15,300), Eli Rogers ($7,800) and Steve Smith ($9,700) should all be relatively chalky this week. Each is likely to lead his team in targets. Without as many elite options at running back this week, it is easy to pay up for Nelson, who has been the league’s best fantasy receiver since Week 8. Paying down for either Smith or Rogers at WR2 helps allow the ability to roster Nelson, David Johnson, Travis Kelce and an elite quarterback.
Jordy Nelson (Cash and GPP; $15,300) Nelson has been the hottest receiver in the NFL over the second half of the season. He put up yet another monster game in Week 16, with a 9-154-2 line against a tough Minnesota defense. Nelson leads the NFL in red zone targets and is the top weekly bet to find the end zone at the receiver position. He has scored in seven of nine games and has averaged 1.0 touchdowns per game over that stretch. Nelson has also put up some huge yardage games as well, hitting the 100-yard bonus in four of eight games. He’s had at least 91 yards receiving in 7-of-10 games going back to Week 8. He has a great matchup in Week 17. Detroit is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers over the past three weeks and just gave up a pair of touchdowns to Dez Bryant last week. Detroit may be without top corner Darius Slay, but even if he plays, Nelson has spent a lot of time in the slot and Slay rarely travels there. Plus, if he is not 100%, it is not necessarily a bad matchup for Nelson. In what is likely to be a must-win game for Green Bay’s playoff hopes, expect Aaron Rodgers to continue to lean heavily on his star receiver.
Steve Smith (Cash and GPP; $9,700) It is impossible to ignore the narrative street angle here: Smith has announced that this will be his last game of his career. Baltimore is eliminated from playoff contention and likely to make an extra effort to send their popular star out with a bang. Even without the narrative angle, Smith would be a solid play at this price. He is coming off of a strong 7-79-1 performance at Pittsburgh and playing a Bengals defense that he has always found success against. He torched the Bengals for 13-186-2 in his only game against Cincinnati last season and opened the 2014 season with 7-118-1 against the Bengals. Expect Smith to be fed double digit targets as Joe Flacco tries to send him out with a bang. At under $10k, that type of expected volume makes Smith a top option in cash games. The narrative angle is going to inflate his GPP ownership, so he is potentially worth fading in tournaments.
Eli Rogers (Cash; $7,800) Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Sammie Coates Jr are going to be inactive in Week 17, which leaves Rogers as the #1 receiver heading into a matchup against Cleveland’s awful pass defense that ranks 30th in DVOA. Backup quarterback Landry Jones will get the start and he fared relatively well filling in for Ben Roethlisberger earlier this season, throwing for 284 yards against the Patriots. The Steelers are 6-point home favorites in a game that Cleveland really doesn’t want to win (a win almost certainly would cost them the #1 overall pick and star DE Myles Garrett). Expect Rogers to see a heavy workload and he is talented enough to take advantage of it. Over the past two weeks, he has 159 receiving yards on just 11 targets (14.5 yards per target). Rogers will be the most popular bargain option of the week at receiver and will also be extremely popular in tournaments. Thus, he makes more sense in cash games.
Julio Jones (GPP; $15,900) Jones was somewhat limited in his Week 16 return to action. He played just 62% of the snaps and was only targeted seven times. "I was good throughout the whole game, but I was just trying to be careful," Jones said. "I was just in and out, not trying to let that flame up. I wasn't (on a limit.) It was just how I felt. I'm not going to put myself in a situation to hurt the team." Atlanta is a Week 17 win away from securing a playoff bye. The Falcons are big home favorites against New Orleans with a massive 31.8 implied team total. While the Saints held Jones in check in their previous matchup, Jones torched them for 149 yards in Week 17 last season. We know Jones has massive upside and we always want to target him in tournaments when his ownership is depressed. After Jones disappointed owners last week, he is likely to come with GPP ownership at just a fraction of that of Jordy Nelson despite what is on paper a better matchup. Jones makes for a great pivot off of Nelson and is the type of boom/bust option that can help you take down a tournament if he hits.
Cash Game Considerations
Travis Kelce ($9,300) looks like the one must-play option on the slate. He has averaged 7.0 receptions and 108.5 receiving yards over his past six games. Jimmy Graham ($8,400) is a decent flex option given his bargain salary and an expected increase in targets due to the injury to Tyler Lockett.
Travis Kelce (Cash and GPP; $9,300) Kelce may be the chalkiest player on the entire slate. For some inexplicable reason, his price has remained low despite his recent spike in performance. He has been on a torrid pace down the stretch of the 2016 season, putting up 100+ receiving yards in five of the last six games. He’s averaging a whopping 108.5 yards per game over that stretch. With the other top tight ends either injured or struggling in recent weeks, Kelce is a no-brainer. It helps that this is a hugely important game for the Chiefs with the #2 seed and a first round bye potentially hanging in the balance. Kelce has seen 57 targets (and 42 receptions) over the past six weeks and should again be a huge part of the Chiefs passing offense. He is a must-play in cash games and strong option in GPPs even with high ownership expected.
Jimmy Graham (Cash and GPP; $8,400) While Kelce is a much stronger option than Kelce in cash games, Graham’s low salary and plus matchup makes him a strong flex option to play alongside Kelce in cash games. San Francisco has been torched by talented passing offenses this season and Graham had a big game in the Week 3 matchup (25 FantasyDraft points on 6-100-1). Graham has seen his role in the Seattle offense shrink a bit down the stretch as Tyler Lockett emerged as the #2 option behind Doug Baldwin. But Lockett’s season-ending injury should again force more targets towards Graham, who had some of his best weeks early in the season while Lockett was limited with a knee injury. This is a spot where we will see a highly motivated Seattle team that still has a realistic shot at earning a bye despite losing a shootout at home to the Cardinals last week. Graham fits especially well as a GPP pivot off of Kelce. He has similar upside and will come at a fraction of the ownership.
Cash Game Considerations
There aren’t any overly strong pay up options at the position and cap space isn’t as tight as it has been in recent weeks. So it just comes down to picking the defense you feel has the most fantasy upside. The two that standout are Kansas City ($6,400) against a mistake-prone Chargers offense and Washington ($5,600) in a must-win game against a Giants team with nothing to play for.
Kansas City Chiefs (Cash and GPP; $6,400) Doubts about motivations for many teams and no glaringly obvious spots to exploit mean it’s another good weekend to go back to Kansas City. When in doubt, the Chiefs are the default option at defense. The Chiefs play a gambling style of defense that has allowed them to generate 2.1 turnovers per game. They face a San Diego offense that has turned the ball over at a prodigious rate (2.4 per game) and looks like they are mailing it in in the final weeks (coming off of an ugly loss to Cleveland). With the Chargers running game struggling down the stretch, Kansas City will be able to pin their ears back and get after Philip Rivers. Rivers has been a turnover machine of late. He has thrown at least one interception in six straight games and has thrown a whopping 12 interceptions since Week 10. Rostering the Chiefs defense also gets you exposure to the league’s most dynamic returner in Tyreek Hill and his potential to take a kick to the house shouldn’t be overlooked. Kansas City has a lot riding on this Week 17 matchup. They could land as high as the #2 overall seed and earn the bye or fall as far as the #6 seed, so there is no question that the Chiefs will be highly motivated for this matchup against the reeling Chargers.
Washington Redskins (Cash and GPP; $5,600) Washington is a heavy home favorite and their opponent has an implied team total of just 18.5 points. We also have no conferences that Washington will be highly motivated and playing all of their starters this week. This is basically a playoff game and Washington’s season hangs in the balance. At a sub-$6,000 price point, they check a lot of the boxes for what we are looking for in a value defense. There is some hidden upside as well with the Giants potentially resting some starters, especially if they fall behind early. We could see this game get ugly with Washington’s starters playing Giants backups in the second half.
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