2023 Wild Card Round DFS Early Look


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2023 Wild Card Round DFS Early Look

The NFL regular season just wrapped up, meaning Wild Card Weekend is just around the corner. As my readers likely know, DFS is the best version of fantasy football, and since DraftKings has released their Wild Card Weekend prices, it’s time to track down the obvious values and best plays.

Here are the plays that jumped out to me for Wild Card Weekend.

CJ Stroud, QB, Houston Texans (VS. CLE)

DraftKings: $6,800 (QB6)

If there is one thing we can say about CJ Stroud, it’s that he cooks single-high coverage shells. This season, Stroud ranks 2nd in YPA (9.0), 3rd in passing YPG (157.6), 5th in fantasy points per dropback (0.51), and 5th in passer rating (104.5) against single-high coverage.

Through that lens, Stroud has a near-perfect matchup for his first-ever playoff game; Cleveland runs single-high at the league’s highest rate (67%).

Regardless, we can’t forget how incredible Stroud has been for fantasy since Houston turned pass-heavy. In the five games since Week 9 that Houston posted a PROE (pass rate over expectation) of +3% or higher, Stroud has averaged 25.8 DraftKings FPG. That’s +2% better fantasy production than Josh Allen this year at a 15% cheaper DraftKings salary.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (VS. PHI)

DraftKings: $5,800 (QB10)

Mayfield dropped a total dud in a brutal matchup on Sunday, but now he’s $400 cheaper in one of the best possible playoff matchups. Since Week 12, the Eagles have allowed the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted passing FPG to opposing QBs (+4.2). Over the full season, Philadelphia has allowed over 30.0 DraftKings points to five QBs (29% of games), including games of 28.1 to Mac Jones (Week 1), and 35.0 to Sam Howell (Week 8).

Mayfield, meanwhile, destroyed the last bottom-tier pass defense he faced (Green Bay in Week 15) to the tune of 381 yards and 33.0 DraftKings points. Over the full season, he ranks 8th among all QBs in YPA (8.3) against bottom-10 schedule-adjusted pass defenses. Mayfield only scored 11.0 DraftKings points the last time these teams played, and he’s clearly hampered by injury, but he’s playing some of his best ball of the season (QB5 by FPG from Week 14 through 17), and he’s looking at a top-5 matchup in every regard.

Kyren Williams, RB, Los Angeles Rams (@ DET)

DraftKings: $7,300 (RB1)

DraftKings tends to condense pricing on shorter slates, but it’s safe to say they’ve made Williams way too cheap on this six-game slate. Williams is averaging +4.4 more DraftKings FPG than the next-closest slate-eligible RB, yet he costs just $400 more than the RB2 on this slate (Rachaad White). Among slate-eligible RBs, Williams is 1st in snap share (83%, +7% more than the next-closest RB), 1st in backfield carry share (69%, +7% more than the next-closest RB), and 1st in XFP/G (19.4, +27% more than the next-closest RB).

If Williams is earning +27% better usage, and is +24% more productive than the next-closest slate-eligible RB, why is he only $1,100 more expensive than David Montgomery (the RB9)? Sure, the Lions are the single-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (-4.9 FPG), but they still gave up over 20.0 DraftKings points to an opposing RB in 18% of their games this season. We know usage is king for RBs, and even in one of the toughest possible matchups, Kyren is the clear usage king of this slate, especially once we adjust for DraftKings pricing.

Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans (VS. CLE)

DraftKings: $5,700 (RB12)

In a must-win Week 18 game for Houston, Singletary played on 88% of snaps, running a route on 77% of Houston’s dropbacks, and earning 100% of backfield touches. To put that usage into perspective, there has only been one other game this season where an RB has earned a carry share over 90% (Week 5 Kyren Williams).

So, Singletary’s Week 18 usage is incredibly rare and unbelievably valuable – yet he’s priced as a complete afterthought on this slate. And the matchup isn’t nearly as tough as it appears; Cleveland is only barely a below-average schedule-adjusted matchup for RBs since Week 12 (-0.3 FPG). It’s fair to say Singletary will be right there as the best RB value on this playoff slate.

Puka Nacua, WR Los Angeles Rams (@ DET)

DraftKings: $7,200 (WR7)

Nacua just broke every notable rookie receiving record, and now he profiles as one of the most underpriced ‘expensive’ WRs on the playoff slate. Among slate-eligible WRs, Nacua ranks top-4 in both DraftKings FPG (18.8) and XFP/G (18.1), presenting solid value relative to his price.

But what really makes Nacua stand out as a value is this matchup and game environment. This is the highest total game on the slate (52.0 O/U), and the Lions have been the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for WRs (+10.0 FPG) since Week 12 – allowing a league-worst 289.5 passing YPG and 1.83 YPRR over that stretch. Expect Nacua to be one of the most popular clicks across all contests this week – he’s simply a great play.

Amari Cooper, WR Cleveland Browns (@ HOU)

DraftKings: $6,800 (WR10)

Cooper’s usage since Joe Flacco took over has been nothing short of absurd. In three healthy games together, Cooper averages a 34% first-read target share, 12.3 targets per game, 22.9 XFP/G, and 29.7 DraftKings FPG. Over the full season, those marks rank 5th, 1st, 1st, and 1st among slate-eligible WRs.

Cooper is an objective value on this slate, and he’s an even stronger play when we account for the matchup. The Texans are the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing outside WRs (+8.5 FPG) since Week 12, allowing the 3rd-highest YPRR (2.44) and the most yards per reception (17.2) to outside WRs over that stretch. I anticipate Cooper being one of the chalkiest players at any position on this slate now that he’s been truly unlocked by Joe Flacco.

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Los Angeles Rams (@ DET)

DraftKings: $3,600 (WR28)

Robinson is shaping up as one of the best pure values of the slate. Robinson has exceeded 13.5 DraftKings FPG in each of his last five games, earning almost as many end zone targets over that stretch (8) as Cooper Kupp (5) and Puka Nacua (4) combined. Or – framed slightly differently, Robinson has seen 82% of Cooper Kupp’s usage since Week 12 but costs just 48% of Kupp’s DraftKings salary.

We oftentimes note that cheap punts at WR only need a single TD to pay off their price tag. Not only is that true for Robinson, he arguably has the best TD equity of any Rams’ pass catcher in a slate-leading offensive environment (52.0 total). He’s a top value this week.

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns (@ HOU)

DraftKings: $5,600 (TE3)

It’s going to be difficult to avoid rostering Joe Flacco’s pass catchers this week, and Njoku is no exception. In his three games with Flacco and a healthy Amari Cooper, Njoku has exceeded 27.0 DraftKings points twice, averaging 10.4 targets per game, 19.6 XFP/G, and 24.3 DraftKings FPG. If extrapolate those numbers to the full season and treat Njoku as a WR, he would be the WR3 on this slate by both usage and production. Yet, Njoku is priced as the WR15.

Of course, one could argue that’s far too generous, as Flacco can’t keep throwing for 300-plus yards every game. While I feel relatively safe disagreeing with that notion, it’s difficult to see major regression from Njoku in a great matchup. Houston is the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing TEs over the full season (+2.6 FPG), allowing the most receptions (107) and the 5th-most receiving yards (1,024) to the position. It’s easy to see the path to another huge fantasy outing for Njoku, even if Flacco struggles, as Houston clearly can’t defend his position.

Jake Tribbey is the 2022 FSWA Football Writer of the Year and the leading Spring Football expert in the fantasy industry. He is a lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.