Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-1 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s DFS slate. In this article, we’re breaking down all relevant WRs, after already covering QBs, RBs, and TEs.
We have an exciting collection of teams featuring the best-of-the-best facing off in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Follow along as we examine each positional grouping for each team to identify the DFS value/upside on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Before digging too deep into the individual players, I did want to mention a few important notes this week:
1) On a typical full-game slate, I want to feel comfortable with every player I’m rostering. Ideally, even my punt plays are tremendous values with high upside. On a shorter slate like this (six games or three games depending on which tournament you enter) it’s okay to roster a relatively “gross” name if you feel they give you a stronger lineup overall – allowing you to pay up elsewhere.
2) I can’t stress enough the importance of late-swap on these smaller slates. If you have any tournament lineups that seem unlikely to cash, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding exposure to some “riskier” lower-owned players. And, I suppose, there is something of an edge towards players with games later in the weekend.
3) In the TLDR, I’ve listed out the top plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict. And in some cases sort of arbitrary. But it also doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as most of my readers think it does. What really matters, and especially with this short slate, is that you’re building a lineup that’s well correlated. Or, as Johnny would say, “That tells a story.”
DK: Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Allen Lazard, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Cyril Grayson, Byron Pringle, Randall Cobb, Stefon Diggs, Tee Higgins, Isaiah McKenzie, Mike Evans
FD: Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Allen Lazard, Tyreek Hill, Tee Higgins, Gabriel Davis, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Byron Pringle, Cyril Grayson, Isaiah McKenzie, Mike Evans
Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receivers (@ TEN)
Ja’Marr Chase [DK: WR4/ FD: WR5] reminds me a lot of peak Tyreek Hill. They both have obscene levels of upside, really unrivaled upside with the potential to single-handedly break the slate in any given week (and especially on a week like this with only eight teams in play). To the point where it’s almost as though the entire slate comes down to one question: “Did you play him? Because, if not, you didn’t win any money.” But, like Hill, it’s so hard to predict ex-ante in any given week. Matchups haven’t tipped us off in any meaningful fashion. Really, it feels as though it comes down to this one question: “Did the team defend him with bracket coverage on every single play? Because, if not, he hits big.” And that’s not something we’ll know before the game gets underway.
That’s what I wrote about Chase last week, but now I’m leaning more towards something like this: Chase is the team’s clear WR1. This is not a WR1A/WR1B situation. Tee Higgins [WR9/WR10] is the clear WR2, as evident by his one-catch for 10 yards versus Chase’ 9 catches for 116 last week. Chase is a generational prospect on par with peak Julio Jones, just as my model predicted. He’s already a top-5, maybe top-3, WR in the NFL, and he’s going to command the levels of volume that that sort of talent dictates. He led all WRs in XFP last week, he led all WRs in XFP in Week 17 (before a meaningless Week 18), and he earned 10 targets the week before that. The Bengals have leaned significantly more pass-heavy in recent weeks and they’re going to lean even heavier on Chase now, in the playoffs when it matters the most. And they’ll want to continue to push the momentum they’ve gained over their recent hot streak.
Seemingly, the only thing holding Joe Burrow — who led all QBs in passing fantasy points per pass attempt during the regular season — and this passing attack from reaching Patrick Mahomesian levels of awesome was a lack of volume and a more run-heavy approach. But over Burrow’s last three games, pass attempts are up by 28% and Cincinnati’s early-down pass rate has jumped from 50% to 64%. Over this span, Burrow is averaging an absurd 405.0 passing yards, 3.3 touchdowns, and 30.2 FPG with a 136.4 passer rating (10.2 YPA). Chase has hit at least 115 yards in all three games, averaging 10.7 targets, 169.0 yards, and 34.9 DK FPG. Higgins has fallen short of double-digit fantasy points in two of these three games, but is still averaging 7.3 targets, 88.7 yards, and 19.2 DK FPG. Tyler Boyd [WR12/WR13] has hit double-digit fantasy points and scored a touchdown in four straight games, averaging 5.5 targets, 70.8 yards, and 16.1 DK FPG over this span.
When asked about the things he noticed when watching the Bengals’ game with the Raiders, Titans HC Mike Vrabel said (paraphrased) he thought the Raiders did a good job defensively of keeping everything in front of them, but not allowing the big play. At least in theory, if Tennessee rolls out a similar strategy and is successful, Tyler Boyd would be the primary beneficiary (at least relative to price). Minus deep targets, here's the WR trio by FPG: Tee Higgins (12.4), Ja'Marr Chase (10.8), and Tyler Boyd (10.2).
That said, I don’t expect the Titans to be anywhere near as successful as the Raiders. Las Vegas ranked 3rd-best by FPG allowed to WRs on deep passes (4.7). The Titans rank 6th-worst (8.9). (The Bengals offense ranks top-5 by the same stat.)
Though, Boyd does have the matchup firmly within his favor. The Titans rank 2nd-worst among all teams in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (16.7). The Raiders ranked best in the league, and Boyd still out-produced Higgins last week.
But the Titans are pretty bad on the perimeter as well, where they’re giving up the 7th-most FPG (22.9). More specifically, the 4th-most FPG to the left and the 7th-fewest to the right (Janoris Jenkins’ side of the field). HC Zac Taylor moves his WRs around the line of scrimmage a lot, but Chase typically runs 47% of his routes from the left, versus Higgins’ 34%. Jenkins is going to play, but, after missing Wednesday’s practice (ankle), I don’t think he’s going to be at full health.
If, somehow, Chase gets shut or slowed down, Tee Higgins could hit big (-0.13 CORREL). And Higgins’ upside is quite a bit underrated in relation to Chase, having secured highs of: 46.4, 31.8, 26.4, and 19.4 DK fantasy points over his last seven games, but with lows of 2.0, 9.2, and 4.3, providing an average of 19.9 DK FPG.
Ruling: This feels fairly tricky, because you can make a compelling case for all 3 WRs. Really, we like all of them, and that’s a big reason why we have Joe Burrow as the 2nd-best QB-play of the slate on both sites… Chase ranks as a top-3 value on both sites, so he’s clearly the priority, but it’s also tough to fit him outside of Burrow-stacks with Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams so close in price. So, my personal ownership levels probably aren’t going to reflect that ranking. Still, I expect to be overweight relative to the field… Boyd ranks top-5 for us on both sites, and at a much cheaper cost. And I don’t think he’s the floor-play most will consider him to be; he has some seriously underrated upside, especially given this matchup… Higgins ranks as only a fringe-top-10 value on both sites, but has legitimate week-winning upside should Chase disappoint…
Tennessee Titans Wide Receivers (vs. CIN)
As I said in the Ryan Tannehill section in the QB slate breakdown, I don’t know how Tannehill even mildly hits if A.J. Brown [WR8/WR8] does not hit big. But I do know the return of Derrick Henry should be beneficial for him (0.16 CORREL). And the matchup is firmly in his favor.
Cincinnati ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (24.4) and 10th-worst to slot WRs (14.6). Brown runs 35% of his routes from the slot, versus 65% out wide. None of Chidobe Awuzie (RCB), Eli Apple (LCB), or Chidobe Awuzie (SCB) need to be feared. Apple is the only one who ranks above average by fantasy points allowed per route in coverage, and he looks fairly elite in that regard, but he also ranks among PFF’s worst-graded CBs.
In games Brown has played on at least two-thirds of the team’s snaps this year, Brown averages 16.3 XFP/G and 16.3 FPG. Both numbers would rank 12th-best among all WRs, and 6th- and 9th-best on the slate. There’s been some massive volatility in those games (10.4 STDEV) and across the full season. He averages 27.0 FPG in his three best games over this span, but just 9.1 FPG in his other 10 games (high of 16.8).
And maybe the return of Henry is more significant than anyone thinks. Heading into the 2021 season, Brown was averaging 20.0 DK FPG over his prior 20 games, and 28.0 DK FPG in his top-50% of games. That represents a stark contrast to his 14.6 DK FPG this year. Or is that due primarily to injuries (hamstring, knee, chest) and not Henry? I’m not sure, but he should be close to full-health after a full week off.
And it’s weird to see such a massive fall-off considering Brown is easily seeing the best volume of his career. Since entering the league, Brown has been the single-most efficient WR in fantasy, out-scoring his expectation (PAR) by +3.0 FPG, or 24%. He’s produced as a mid-range WR2, but on only mid-range WR4-levels of volume. Brown ranks 5th in 100-yard games (12) over this span, but he ranks just 56th in double-digit target games (5), with three of those games (60%) coming over Brown’s last seven games. He’s seen at least 9 targets in six of his last nine games, and, across the full season, ranks behind only Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams in targets per route (0.29), up from 0.23 (12th).
Ultimately, it’s really hard to say what’s going on with Brown. Or to provide a recommendation beyond something like this: “Well, he’s definitely a little too cheap on DraftKings, but he’s also incredibly highly volatile. But he offers terrific upside. He’s a must for Tannehill stacks, but I don’t know how many Tannehill lineups you’d actually want.”
You can make an argument for Julio Jones [WR13/WR15]: “A.J. Brown drawing bracket coverage, future Hall of Famer maybe finally putting in full effort now that we’re in the playoffs, etc.” But I wouldn’t. He posted a 5-58-1 line last week, on 9 targets. And had a 100-yard game in Week 2. But outside of that, he has season-highs of just 6 targets, 59 receiving yards, 8.9 fantasy points, and 0 touchdowns.
With A.J. Brown and Julio Jones back to full health, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine [WR24/WR24] is the WR3, Chester Rogers [WR30/WR31] the WR4, and Racey McMath [WR32/WR38] is the WR5. But it’s something of a committee situation, as they’re (respectively) only looking at ~55-70%, 15-25%, 10-20% of the routes. Westbrook-Ikhine would, obviously, be the preferred punt from the group, but he’s very low on my list overall.
Ruling: We have Brown as just a fringe-top-10 value on both sites, but I like him at least a little bit more than that. And then, even more than that for tournaments. Again, he’s a must for Tannehill-stacks, but I don’t think you’re going to want too many of those… Jones and Westbrook-Ikhine can be safely avoided unless you’re one of those maniacs who rolls out 150 lineups per slate…
San Francisco 49ers Wide Receivers (@ GB)
Cooper Kupp is looking like Jerry Rice reincarnated, and he’s probably the best on-paper play of the slate (ignoring ownership). But Deebo Samuel [WR3/WR3] is really not far off Kupp at all. Certainly, much closer to Kupp than public perception implies. Like Kupp, Samuel isn’t just good, he’s historically good. His 339.0 fantasy points (in 16 games this season) ranks 25th-best all-time. He hit double-digit fantasy points in 16 of 16 games during the regular season, and exceeded 16.0 in 13 of 16 games (7th-most all-time). And then he dropped 20.0 fantasy points last week. Within this context, his price-tag seems too low. For instance, on DraftKings, he’s 12% cheaper than Davante Adams but only 4% less productive. Still, I really don’t like him anywhere near as much as all this implies.
Samuel is a really tricky evaluation for someone like me. His role, and maybe even his position (wide receiver to wide back) has drastically changed over the second-half of the season. Through his first 8 games he averaged 10.1 targets, 0.75 carries, 110.3 receiving yards, and 21.2 FPG. Over his last nine games: 4.8 targets, 7.0 carries, 62.3 receiving yards, and 21.5 FPG.
Deebo Samuel has 415 rushing yards over his last nine games, which is more than Ezekiel Elliott (411) had in his final 10 games.— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) January 19, 2022
So, just 7.0 carries and 4.8 targets per game? That’s significantly lesser volume than Cordarrelle Patterson, who was always $1,800 cheaper. The new role seems less attractive to me. And not really sustainable. All of this is evident by the dropoff in XFP/G from 18.1 to 12.0. And the increase in rushing work (9.9 rushing FPG) has come at the expense of his receiving work — he’s had more carries than targets in 7 of his last 8 games. And, yet, in spite of all this, he’s averaging more FPG in this lesser role.
In a perfect world, Samuel is the receiver he was in the first-half and is also getting 6-10 carries per game. That would represent a stratospheric upside, arguably over any other player on the slate. But we’ve yet to see that materialize, outside of maybe Week 16. But what I do know is,
Samuel’s new wide back role has helped Brandon Aiyuk [WR11/WR12]. He averages 96.3 YFS/G over his last three games, and has reached at least 12.5 fantasy points in 8 of his last 11. He ranks 17th in YPG (71.3) since Week 11, which ranks (surprisingly) 5th among all slate-eligible WRs over this span. So, if I liked Jimmy Garoppolo more, I might really like Aiyuk. But I don’t, and so, he only seems appropriately priced to me.
After going nuclear in Week 18 (27.4 fantasy points), Jauan Jennings [WR28/WR27] saw his route share drop back down to 58% in Week 19. And outside of that Week 18 game, he’s seen a route share of at least 66% only twice, only one game over 5 targets, and only one game over 30 receiving yards. I don’t really like him this week, but Greg Cosell does, so we bumped him up in our projections.
I haven’t spent much time on the matchup, because it’s fairly tough to get a read on. Especially if CB Jaire Alexander is back, likely not shadowing and manning the right side of the field. On paper, Green Bay is perfectly neutral to slightly below average against WRs in every regard; against slot WRs, against outside WRs, against WR1s, against WRs on deep passes, etc. But, what’s most noteworthy to me is, Samuel had his worst game of the year against this Packers defense in Week 3. So, that, in conjunction with my disdain for Jimmy Garoppolo, means I’m not too high on any 49ers WR this week.
Ruling: I think Samuel is priced too closely to Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, and Ja’Marr Chase for me to be even neutral to the field in terms of ownership… Jennings is viable on DraftKings, but there’s at least three similarly priced WRs I like significantly more… Our projections are pretty low on Aiyuk (point-per-dollar: WR23/WR17), but I like him quite a bit more than that. Still, he’s not as cheap as I had expected, and still not very high on my radar overall. But he would be my preference (over Samuel but not Kittle) for Jimmy Garroppolo-stacks…
Green Bay Packers Wide Receivers (vs. SF)
Excluding a meaningless Week 18, Davante Adams [WR2/WR2] averages 10.7 targets and 29.7 DK FPG over his last 6 games, hitting at least 33.5 in 4 of 6. Across his last four postseason games (2019-2020), Adams averages 11.8 targets per game (low of 10) and 27.0 DK FPG (low of 21.6). In 5 career games against the 49ers, Adams averages 30.8 DK FPG, hitting at least 25.0 in all but one game.
Against the 49ers in Week 3, Adams caught 12 of 18 targets for 132 yards and a score. He walked away with a 55% target share and a 51% yardage market share. His 48% team XFP market share led all wide receivers in all weeks this season. The next most-productive WR was Marquez Valdes-Scantling who posted a 3-59-1 line on 4 targets (2X as much as the next-closest receiver). Green Bay won in a shootout, 30-28.
And, well, it really could be the Davante Adams Show again this week. I think it could be, should be, and will be. Because if the 49ers play Adams the way they played CeeDee Lamb, and, I think that’s also probably the way they played Adams in Week 3, he should go nuclear. To really understand the schematic matchup in his favor, I encourage you to read this breakdown from Troy Aikman.
.@TroyAikman told @dfwticket (The Musers) that he and Peyton Manning were talking at John Madden's memorial service about #Cowboys-#49ers and how they couldn't understand why a single-covered CeeDee Lamb didn't see more targets. Aikman said it is commonplace in the NFL anymore. pic.twitter.com/RmDKSYZSph— Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) January 19, 2022
And, otherwise, yes, the on-paper matchup is wildly in the WRs’ favor, and especially for Adams.
Across the final five weeks of the regular season, opposing WR1s averaged 24.9 FPG against San Francisco (most), and +9.8 if schedule-adjusted (2nd-most). If we take Adams’ 29.7 DK FPG over his last six games, that would imply a Week 20 expectation of 39.5 fantasy points.
As those numbers might imply, we’ve seen a serious degradation of San Francisco’s secondary in the second-half of the season. Through the first seven weeks of the season, San Francisco ranked top-5 in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs, but over the past five and nine weeks, they rank bottom-5. (Keep in mind, Adams’ big game in Week 3 came long before their steep decline.) Across the last 5, 9, and 19 weeks of the season, San Francisco has ranked fringe-bottom-12 against slot WRs. And they’ve given up big games to the few competent slot WRs they’ve faced over their past 8 games: Cooper Kupp (24.8), Brandin Cooks (19.6), Russell Gage (23.1), and Tyler Lockett (19.8).
Again, it really could be, should be, and probably will be the Davante Adams-show this week. But, this is a rare week where I actually really like dub-stacking Aaron Rodgers. Both Allen Lazard [WR15/WR11] and Randall Cobb [WR31/WR21] are exceedingly cheap, and both have terrific matchups.
Lazard’s route share has jumped to 76% over his last three games without Marquez Valdes-Scantling (doubtful). He has five touchdowns over his last five games, hitting at least 70 yards in three of fuve. He’s averaging 5.6 targets, 0.6 carries, 64.4 YFS, and 16.6 FPG over this span. Keep in mind, MVS played in 4 of these games, and this sample also includes a meaningless Week 18 game where Lazard caught 5 of 6 targets for 75 and 2 scores on just 17 routes (!) and only two quarters of work. Further, 21% of Lazard’s targets have come on deep passes over his last 8 games, which would be on par with Ja’Marr Chase (23%) and Mike Williams (21%).
That’s an important point, because the 49ers rank dead-last in YPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep passes (58.2), and bottom-10 on a per-target basis. So, that’s good news for Lazard, but also Adams who ranks 6th in receiving yards on deep passes.
Randall Cobb seems risky, in his first game back since Week 12 (core muscle injury), but also seriously mispriced, at just $3,100 on DraftKings. In that Week 12 game, Cobb ran just 14 routes and played in less than two full quarters of work, and still walked away with 4 catches for 95 yards and a score. He also has two more multi-touchdown games beyond that, though he’s done nothing else in his remaining 9 games (4.0 FPG).
Ruling: I really love all 3 WRs, and my love of all 3 WRs has me a lot higher on Rodgers than the industry consensus. (He’s my 2nd-favorite QB for tournaments.)… Adams vs. Kupp is one of the most-difficult questions of the slate. Maybe, more difficult than it’s been all year. I have Adams higher on FanDuel, and Kupp higher on DraftKings. And will try to make lineups where I’m playing both… Allen Lazard is a top-6 play for us on DraftKings, and I firmly agree, though he slips to only fringe-top-12 on FanDuel… Randall Cobb ranks a bit lower but is still one of the better punts of the slate…
Buffalo Bills Wide Receivers (@ KC)
In a pretty tough matchup last week — shadow coverage against J.C. Jackson — Stefon Diggs [WR7/WR7] caught 3 of 4 targets for 60 yards. Dawson Knox was the team’s leading receiver (5-5-89-2), while Emmanuel Sanders [WR19/WR16], Gabriel Diggs [WR14/WR19], and Isaiah McKenzie [WR27/WR30] all saw three targets, gaining between 35-45 yards. Notably, Cole Beasley [WR21/WR22] saw just one target.
Here’s how the receivers ranked by route share last week: Dawson Knox (93%), Stefon Diggs (79%), Gabriel Davis (62%), Emmanuel Sanders (55%), Isaiah McKenzie (41%), and Cole Beasley (28%). So, Beasley — who has just one double-digit fantasy outing since Week 9 — is apparently now the WR5.
Diggs is the clear WR1 (obviously), but beyond that it’s a super-gross 3-way committee for WR2 and WR3 duties. And by target share, Josh Allen has done a great job of spreading the ball around after Diggs.
It’s not going to happen, but if Emmanuel Sanders retired tonight, Gabriel Davis would be an amazing play. Without Sanders there to cannibalize the production of the other younger (better?) WRs, that WR2 role has proven to be immensely valuable. Gabriel Davis (without Sanders) or Isaiah McKenzie (with Davis out), when serving that WR2 role, has averaged 9.0 targets and 17.2 FPG in four games this season.
Over the last six games in which Sanders, McKenzie, and Davis all played, Davis leads in FPG (10.6), ahead of Sanders (6.5), and then McKenzie (3.6).
McKenzie had that big 29.4-point game in Week 16 with Davis out, but has done literally nothing beyond that (one game over 12 yards, which came last week). Sanders has reached 30 receiving yards just once over his last seven games (last week with only 36). But, over his last eight games, Davis averages 17.1 FPG in his top-50% of games.
I think this is mostly just a gross WR-by-committee situation beyond Diggs. Davis is the clear next-best option to me, but his upside is still heavily capped in this committee, and you’re really just gambling and hoping your guy is the one who lucks into 1-2 touchdowns. (Though there’s a great chance at least one receiver scores multiple touchdowns this week.)
So, what about Diggs?
Although people kept chasing it, 2021 Stefon Diggs was not much like 2020 Stefon Diggs, who rounded out the 2020 season averaging 11.2 targets, 109.6 receiving yards, and 25.5 DK fantasy points per four quarters (adjusting for the one game he left early) over his final 11 games (including the postseason). For perspective, 25.5 DK FPG would rank 10th-best all-time. This season, Diggs is averaging just 9.6 targets and 17.1 DK FPG. And he hasn’t had much of a ceiling, reaching 24.0 fantasy points only once.
But minus shadow games against J.C. Jackson, Diggs has hit double-digit fantasy points in 10 of his last 10 games, averaging 9.7 targets, 71.5 YPG, and 18.4 FPG. However, his worst game of the year came against this same Kansas City defense in Week 5. He caught 2 of 5 targets for 69 yards. Davis, Beasley, and McKenzie were all held under 3.0 fantasy points. Sanders posted a 3-54-2 line on 5 targets, which tied Diggs for the team-high. (However, I wouldn’t chase that, as he fell off a cliff soon after, which is somewhat understandable in his age 34-season.) Knox caught 3 of 4 for 117 and a score.
On paper, the matchup appears perfectly neutral for all Bills WRs, except for Diggs. And in his case, it can be argued he has a terrific matchup. We’ve seen some highly productive outings from WR1s against Kansas City over their last six games: Hunter Renfrow (28.7), Keenan Allen (19.8), and Ja’Marr Chase (55.6). Though they held Denver’s WR1 in check (whoever that is, unless it’s Tim Patrick who turned 10 targets into 95 yards) and Diontae Johnson was sort of neutral both meetings (15.8 FPG).
Update: Chiefs CB Rashad Fenton is questionable but didn’t practice all week, which provides a significant boost to all Bills WRs but (less so Beasley and McKenzie who spend more time in the slot) especially Diggs. Among all 29-qualifying slate-eligible CBs, Fenton ranked 8th-best in fantasy points allowed per route in coverage, and his replacement Mike Hughes ranks worst.
Diggs undoubtedly feels too cheap on DraftKings this week, at just $6,500, but I’m hesitant to call him a great value, though I know nearly everyone else will. Since Week 11, he ranks 16th in target share (24%) and just 26th in yardage share (25%), behind Tee Higgins (28%) and Brandon Aiyuk (27%). He ranks just 28th in YPG (59.4 ) over this span (high of 85), ranking behind Rob Gronkowski (77.3), Brandon Aiyuk (71.3), and Tyler Boyd (59.9). So, to me, and like with the other WRs, it feels like you’re just praying he’s the one who scores multiple touchdowns.
Ruling: Per our projections (but not my rankings), we have Diggs as a top-3 value on both sites, and I’m sure all other sites will have him just as high. But, I think I disagree. He feels like a value trap. And, I think for tournaments, and especially if I’m rolling out 20-plus lineups, I’d rather just sprinkle in exposure to the other cheaper WRs and hope my guy is the one who lucks into multiple touchdowns. That’s what it feels like you’re chasing with Diggs. And that’s something that’s pretty random and hard to predict ex-ante. Although Diggs certainly has the best odds, you have significantly more upside with the other cheaper WRs if one of them hits… Davis is your best bet after Diggs. He’s a top-10 value on FanDuel, but not as cheap on DraftKings. And still, not too far ahead of the other WRs who all rank top-20. Again, this situation is murky, but there’s massive upside if you pick correctly (luckily?)…
Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receivers (vs. BUF)
Tyreek Hill [WR6/WR6] is weirdly cheap on DraftKings, and it’s making me really uncomfortable. He’s just $6,600. It’s the first time he’s been priced under $8,000 all year, and he’s $2,200 cheaper than he was six weeks ago.
Hill is dealing with a heel injury, and probably isn’t quite at 100%, as evident by him playing just 3 snaps in the 4th-quarter of last week’s blowout. Perhaps due to this injury, Patrick Mahomes spread the ball around a lot more than is typical, but Hill caught all 5 of his targets (2 off the team-high) for 57 yards (14% YMS) and a score.
Now, the obvious argument is that he’s at least 20% cheaper than he’s been all year, so the injury discount seems more than priced in. I think that’s accurate, but, also, Hill has never played particularly well throughout his career when dealing with injuries. However, notably, Hill suffered this same injury (according to HC Andy Reid) in 2018. He didn’t miss a game, but did spend one week on the injury report listed as questionable. In that first game, he scored only 8.1 fantasy points (19% YMS) on 3 carries and 7 targets. But over his next two games he scored 13.1 (27% YMS) and then 31.6 fantasy points (36% YMS). So, at least in 2018, it seems he made a fairly quick recovery. And, he’s practiced in a full capacity all week.
I think this is going to be one of the most important questions of the slate, because Hill, like Chase, has ridiculous upside; always with the potential to single-handedly wreck a slate. And, like with Derrick Henry — another one of the most important questions of the week — the risk seems to be priced in.
As far as tournament plays go, Hill is the archetype of boom-or-bust. In 13 games off the injury report and playing on at least 50% of the team’s snaps, he averages 19.7 FPG. But that’s better expressed this way: he averages 32.1 FPG in his best 6 games, and only 8.2 FPG in his 6 worst games. And for tournaments, that slate-breaking upside is far more valuable than whatever our point-per-dollar projections will suggest. So, like with Chase, just make sure you have some level of exposure to Hill in tournaments.
I argued last week that Byron Pringle [WR17/WR14] was the clear WR2, and though he hit big, that wasn’t really true. Instead, we saw a WR-by-committee situation for the WR2 and WR3 roles. Demarcus Robinson [WR26/WR24] led in route share (64%), just barely ahead of Pringle (62%), and not too far ahead of Mecole Hardman [WR23/WR20] at 53%.
Pringle caught 5 of 7 for 37 yards and 2 scores. Robinson caught 4 of 5 for 76 yards. Hardman caught 4 of 4 for 43 yards. Essentially, like with Buffalo’s WR2, WR3, and WR4, there’s not really much separating them, and you’re just praying your guy lucks into 1-2 touchdowns.
When these teams met in Week 5, Tre’Davious White (I.R.) covered Hill on 60% of his perimeter routes. Hill caught 7 of 13 targets for 63 yards. Kelce caught 6 of 10 for 57 and a score. Hardman, interestingly, caught 9 of 12 for 76. That was a career-high in targets and catches. He does deserve some credit for having some success against this offense earlier in the year, but keep in mind this was prior to his Week 10 demotion to WR4 (at least by route share). No other receivers were really involved.
On paper, the matchup is absolutely brutal. The Bills have had a fairly soft stretch of schedule, but they’ve given up just 24.9 FPG to opposing WRs, which ranks best since 2017. They rank best (by a landslide) in FPG allowed to outside WRs (13.0), and 6th-best against slot WRs (11.4). But, notably, by market share, they are most vulnerable to slot WRs. 28.8% of their total receiving fantasy production allowed has gone to slot WRs, which ranks 2nd-most. That’s good news for Hill who runs 53% of his routes from the slot. Some (at least seemingly) bad news for Hill; they’ve given up absolutely nothing deep, just 7 total catches all year (league average is 21) and just 10.8 YPG to WRs on deep passes (average is 43.1). Though, surprisingly, Hill ranks just 22nd in deep FPG (3.2) this year, down from 5.6 (most) in 2020.
Ruling: Surprisingly, we don’t have Tyreek Hill as a top-10 value on either site. But I have him a bit higher, and, especially for tournaments, significantly higher than that… Byron Pringle ranks 10th on DraftKings and 15th on FanDuel per our projections, and based on Wes Huber’s writeup (digging into the schematic matchup), he’s probably a way better play than that (or my write up above) implies… Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman are a much wider distance behind Pringle, and behind most of Buffalo’s WRs.
Los Angeles Rams Wide Receivers (@ TB)
Listen, you don’t need me to tell you Cooper Kupp [WR1/WR1] is a beast; an all-time power law player in his 2021 season. Most fantasy points by any WR in any season all-time. Blah, blah, blah. He’s a monster. But maybe you do need me to tell you, he also has a phenomenal matchup against CB Sean Murphy-Bunting in the slot (questionable but expected to play), where he runs 66% of his total routes.
Since his return in Week 11, Murphy-Bunting has given up the 2nd-most yards and the 2nd-most fantasy points of any CB. Over this span, Tampa Bay ranks bottom-3 in receptions and fantasy points allowed to opposing slot WRs.
On the perimeter, the matchup is very favorable on the left (Jamel Dean) and very tough on the right (Carlton Davis), which comes out to be more of a neutral matchup overall for both Odell Beckham Jr. [WR10/WR9] and Van Jefferson [WR17/WR17], who will see a near-even mixture of both CBs. So, a slightly neutral matchup for both, which means a significant drop down from their top-5 matchup last week, though one in which the team leaned massively run-heavy. (But that won’t happen this week, against the league’s top pass funnel defense.)
Same as last week, I do think OBJ is worth paying up for over Jefferson on Matthew Stafford-stacks. Jefferson’s route share has been all over the place. He played over OBJ last week (86% vs. 77%), but tied with Ben Skowronek in Week 17 (50%). And those two extra routes didn’t do Jefferson any good last week, drawing just one target. And marking the 5th time in 6 games he was held to 2 catches or less. OBJ has now out-targeted him in six straight games. And he’s hit double-digit fantasy points in 6 of his last 8 games, averaging 12.5 FPG (high of 19.7).
And when these two teams met in Week 3, Stafford threw for 343 yards and 4 touchdowns on 38 attempts (134.0 passer rating). DeSean Jackson led the team in receiving yards (120), but Kupp dropped 30.6 fantasy points on 12 targets. And the matchup is much better for him now with Murphy-Bunting back in the lineup.
Ruling: Unlike last week, there’s a legitimate question as to whether Kupp is the best or 2nd-best WR-play of the slate, behind Adams. I prefer Kupp on DraftKings and Adams on FanDuel, but it’s damn near a coin flip… OBJ ranks as a fringe-top-10 WR on both sites, though I’d have him a tier or two below that… Van Jefferson ranks fringe-top-25 and that feels about right…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receivers (vs. LAR)
Without Antonio Brown (for about two-thirds of the game), a seriously hobbled Mike Evans [WR5/WR4] still walked away with a (7)-4-47-1 line in Week 17. In a meaningless Week 18 game, Evans totaled (7)-6-89-2. In a brutal matchup last week, shadowed by PFF’s 3rd highest-graded CB Darius Slay, Evans went (10)-9-117-1. Over his last five games with a snap share above 25%, he’s hit 89 receiving yards in 4 of 5, averaging 21.3 FPG.
Without Brown and Chris Godwin, Brady likely has no choice but to look Evans’ way early and often. (And especially now with WR Cyril Grayson and WR Breshad Perriman also banged up.)
Well, Evans and TE Rob Gronkowski. Over their last three games, they combine for a 42% target share (next-closest is Tyler Johnson at 14%) and a 53% yardage share (next-closest is Johnson at 10%). It’s been the Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski show for three straight weeks, and I’d bet we’re going to watch a repeat again this week.
If the Rams pass defense has a weakness anywhere, it’s surprisingly (in stark contrast to previous seasons) against opposing outside WR1s, where they’ve given up the 11th-most FPG, and games of 20.0-plus DK fantasy points to Deebo Samuel (2X), D.K. Metcalf, Michael Pittman, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks, and A.J. Green.
Now, of course, there’s a slim chance CB Jalen Ramsey could shadow, flipping this into a bottom-5 on-paper matchup for Evans, but I’d bet heavily against that, as he hasn’t shadowed full-time all season.
Los Angeles ranks perfectly middle-of-the-pack against slot WRs over their last 5, 9, and 19 weeks of the season. But it’s hard to like SWR Tyler Johnson [WR27/WR27], who has hit double-digit fantasy points just once this year. Though, to argue in his favor, he’s the clear WR2, averaging 5.8 targets and 35.7 YPG over his last four games without a healthy Godwin and Brown. And each of his last two games came in bottom-5 slot matchups.
Cyril Grayson [WR19/WR22] is questionable, and probably likely to play, though maybe not at 100% after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday (hamstring). If he suits up, he’d be risky due to his poor health (hamstring), but would be the team’s WR3 at-worst and the WR2 at-best. And as far as cheap low-owned punt plays go, I’m not sure anyone offers as much upside relative to cost. He averages 14.9 FPG over his last three healthy games, culminating in a (8)-6-81-1 line on 78% of the routes in Week 16. And Wes Huber loves his matchup this week.
With Breshad Perriman confirmed out (abdominal), Scotty Miller [WR29/WR29] is now somewhat viable as a punt. And especially if Cyril Grayson is also out, leaving them with only Jaelon Dardon and possibly John Brown on the practice squad. Miller has seen highs of just 8 routes and 1 target since Week 16, and has a high of only 18 receiving yards all year. So, it's thin, but he did eclipse 80 receiving yards three times last year.
When these two teams met in Week 3, Brady threw for 432 yards on one score, throwing 55 times (6th-most of his career), Ramsey spent 62% of his time in the slot, though that dropped to just 23% over the final seven weeks of the regular season (and just 10% last week). Evans was the leading receiver in Week 4, catching 8 of 10 targets for 106. Antonio Brown was out. Gronkowski got hurt halfway through the game. And, interestingly, though Godwin was active, Tyler Johnson had nearly his best game of the year 6-63-0 (6).
Ruling: If you’re going to play Tom Brady, I think Evans and Gronkowski are a must…. Outside of Brady lineups, Mike Evans is a seriously good play, but the problem is, that's true for nearly all of the top-9 WRs by salary. All seem at least a little mispriced. And though I like Evans’ matchup slightly more than Rob Gronkowski's, and I'd bet he out-scores him, Gronk is the better value on paper. And Evans ranks quite low overall… Cyril Grayson is a phenomenal punt and overall-value if he plays without serious limitations… Tyler Johnson is a slight value, but without much upside… And Scotty Miller isn’t really in play if Grayson suits up…