Week 17 of the NFL regular season just wrapped up, and that means Week 18 is just around the corner. As my readers likely know, DFS is the best version of fantasy football, and since DraftKings and FanDuel have released their Week 16 prices, it’s time to track down the obvious values and best plays.
Here are the plays that jump out to me for Week 18 DFS:
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (VS. LAR)
DraftKings: $6,000 (QB11) | FanDuel: $7,300 (QB12)
Seattle is still fighting for a playoff spot, and a win against the Rams this week would lift their playoff probability to 39%, while a loss would eliminate them entirely. And I’m rather optimistic about Seattle’s offense for fantasy purposes, given they are 6.5-point favorites while offering a 24.0-point implied team total – the 6th-highest of the Week 18 main slate.
In his five games this season as a favorite, Geno Smith averages 24.0 FPG, which would rank 3rd among QBs over the full season. And when these teams last played in Week 13, Seattle put the game in Smith’s hands, posting their 2nd-highest pass rate over expectation (+13.5%) of the season.
The only serious knock on Smith’s upside case this week is that the Rams are a bottom-10 schedule-adjusted matchup for QBs (-2.5 FPG). And while that’s not what we want to see, the Rams' defense does have a major weakness: covering outside WRs. Los Angeles is the 3rd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing WRs (+4.7 FPG). And it just so happens that 49% of Seattle’s total receiving yards have come from their outside WR duo in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
So, while Smith’s matchup is far from ideal, the overall matchup for the Seattle offense arguably is. He’s clearly underpriced at just QB11 on DraftKings given the current Vegas line and Seattle’s desperation for a win.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (@ DEN)
DraftKings: $8,900 (RB2) | FanDuel: $9,400 (RB2)
Brandon Staley: "There's certainly an advantage to being the five seed from where I stand, so we're going to try and get there."— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) January 2, 2023
Assuming Staley is true to his word, the Chargers should be playing their starters in Week 18. Denver is largely a brutal matchup for opposing offenses, ranking as a bottom-4 schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs and WRs. But, if the Broncos have a more vulnerable spot on defense, it’s against RBs, where they rank as the 9th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup (+1.6 FPG).
Ekeler earned a season-high 16 targets last time these teams played – the 7th-most targets by any player in any game this season. And I doubt that’s much of a coincidence, given Denver allows the 3rd-lowest aDOT (6.6) and the 8th-lowest deep throw rate (7.7%). Ekeler should be peppered with targets assuming both teams stay true to their tendencies in Week 18.
Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams (@ SEA)
DraftKings: $6,200 (RB14) | FanDuel: $7,300 (RB11)
The Rams have nothing left to play for, but that hasn’t stopped them from giving Akers the 8th-biggest workload among all RBs over the last two weeks (measured by XFP). Akers’ role is close to that of a true bell cow, averaging 23.0 opportunities per game, 16.0 XFP/G, and a 76% snap share over his last two games.
The only thing that’s missing is a reliable pass-game role, as Akers only has a combined 4 targets over that stretch. But, his 42% route share still easily leads the backfield, suggesting he will still be significantly involved even in the face of negative gamescript, which is a legitimate risk this week with the Rams listed as 6.5-point underdogs.
And we can’t forget the plus matchup. Seattle is the 4th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (+3.6 FPG), and they’ve allowed games of 51.3 DraftKings points, 36.7 DraftKings points, 28.8 DraftKings points, and 27.4 DraftKings points to individual RBs just this season. Cam Akers is a crucial piece for those looking to gamestack this contest.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (VS. CLE)
DraftKings: $6,100 (RB15) | FanDuel: $7,200 (RB12)
The Steelers need a win this week to maintain any playoff hopes, suggesting this offense should operate as normal in Week 18. Over the last four weeks, Najee Harris has averaged 16.0 XFP/G, 15.9 FPG, 3.8 targets per game, and 3.8 red zone opportunities per game. Among slate-eligible RBs, those numbers rank 5th-best, 7th-best, 10th-best, and 3rd-best. Obviously, Harris is a clear value priced as the RB15 on DraftKings before we even get into his matchup.
The Browns are the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs on the ground (+3.5 FPG), ranking as PFF’s 4th-worst graded run defense (37.4 team run defense grade) while allowing the 5th-most yards after contact per attempt (2.8), the 4th-most yards before contact per attempt (1.8), and the 4th-most missed tackles (103). In simpler terms: this is the perfect rushing matchup for Najee Harris, who should also get the benefit of positive gamescript with the Steelers listed as 2.5-point favorites.
Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets (@ MIA)
DraftKings: $5,800 (WR25) | FanDuel: $7,100 (WR20)
Garrett Wilson w/out Zach Wilson— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 27, 2022
10.3 targets per game
9.2 first read targets per game
111.0 air yards per game
If over the full season, those numbers would rank:
Wilson has averaged 17.8 XFP/G since Week 13, which ranks as both the 5th-best mark by a WR over the full season, and the 5th-best since Week 13. Wilson’s matchup provides more reasons for optimism, given Miami is the 8th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing outside WRs since Week 12.
Wilson is clearly one of the best usage-based values of the Week 18 slate, with a strong matchup as the cherry on top. The only problem? This game doesn’t mean anything for the Jets, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them dial back Wilson’s workload to keep him healthy for 2023. Mike White also has an underrated risk of benching, as he hasn’t thrown a TD and has 4 interceptions over his last three games. So, there is some serious risk with the play, but it’s still absurd that Wilson is priced as the WR25 after averaging 10.2 targets per game since Week 13.
Rashid Shaheed, WR, New Orleans Saints (VS. CAR)
DraftKings: $4,200 (WR46) | FanDuel: $5,800 (WR47)
Shaheed has been notably more involved since Jarvis Landry was placed on IR, setting a season-high in targets (6) and XFP (11.2) in the Saints' Week 17 win against Philadelphia.
So, Shaheed’s floor is solid (at least relative to his price tag), hitting at least 4 targets in his last four games. But his upside is what makes him a compelling DFS play, given he’s scored three TDs of 40 or more yards on just 28 total touches this season. It’s incredibly difficult to find a better combination of floor and upside in the low-$4k range on DraftKings this week.
Greg Dortch, WR, Arizona Cardinals (@ SF)
DraftKings: $3,800 (WR54) | FanDuel: $5,400 (WR64)
Greg Dortch is the full-time slot WR in Arizona, which is extremely notable given he’s averaged 9.0 targets per game and 15.5 FPG in the six games this season where he’s earned at least 25 slot routes. Over the last two weeks, Dortch has averaged 18.3 XFP/G – a mark that would rank 7th-best among all WRs over the full season, ahead of players like Mike Evans, CeeDee Lamb, and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
So, Dortch’s floor is legitimately unmatched in his price range, rivaled by only WRs who cost twice as much. But I do think it’s reasonable to question his ceiling, after he fell -13.8 points below his usage-implied expectation in Week 17 due to David Blough’s general incompetency at QB. Colt McCoy could certainly salvage things, but his Week 18 status is still extremely up in the air. If McCoy plays, Dortch is easily one of the top WR plays of the entire slate. The same may be true from a median projection standpoint if David Blough is the QB in Week 18, but it’s much easier to fade Dortch in tournaments in that scenario, given the offensive risk presented in a brutal matchup against San Francisco.
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Denver Broncos (VS. LAC)
DraftKings: $2,900 (TE24) | FanDuel: $5,000 (TE20)
Albert O emerged as the lead TE for Denver in Week 17 after Greg Dulcich was placed on IR, posting a 58% route share, 6 targets, and 10.1 XFP (the 13th-most among Week 17 TEs).
Should this usage continue into Week 18, I’m optimistic about Okwuegbunam’s upside given he’s an absolute freak athlete. And it looks like Denver will be forced to throw the ball in Week 18 with Vegas listing them as 3.5-point underdogs. There is added risk here given Denver technically has nothing to play for, but that didn’t stop them from keeping the starters in for the entirety of a meaningless Week 17 game.
This isn’t a play I’ll indulge in tournaments if it gets steamed. But, if we presume ~5% ownership for Albert O, I think you could do a lot worse if you need salary savings at TE.