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Scott Barrett's Week 18 DFS Breakdown

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Scott Barrett's Week 18 DFS Breakdown

What is this column? Each week I’ll be listing the best and most-interesting plays of the week, grouped by position, and ranked and tiered in some sort of descending order. Keep in mind, we’re looking only at the players available on the main slate for both DraftKings and FanDuel.

This article is long. It’s going to be long every week. Ideally, it’s all you should need to know to be able to profit playing DFS in any given week.

Be sure to also watch our DFS Preview livestream every Friday at 3PM EST. Be sure to get in our Discord — if you’re not in there already, you’re missing out on a lot of important news updates as well as personal guidance and advice from our experts. And, most importantly, be sure to check back on Sunday mornings for the “Sunday Morning Update” – basically a TLDR version of this piece along with any injury-related updates we might need.

Anyway, let’s dive in…

TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read

Notes: Usually, in the final regular season week of the year, we’ll get a high-number of near minimum priced players you can feel amazing about. WRs projected for a 20% target share but at a salary of just $3,000. RBs at $4,100 you can realistically project for 90-plus percent of the snaps and 15.0-plus fantasy points. (I mean look at this list of names scoring 20-plus.) But for whatever reason, I’m seeing very little (cheap) value this week. Hopefully that changes, and things open up for us… And I do suspect a lot of what you see above will change within the next 24 hours. Keep an eye on Schefty updates on Saturday night, and on inactives Sunday morning… For instance, Alvin Kamara would get a significant boost if Mark Ingram is out. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle would get a big boost if Jimmy Garroppolo starts. Chris Evans could be the top RB play of the slate if we get word Cincinnati is going to rest Samaje Perine. Etc…

Running Backs

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: RB1, FD: RB1]

Taylor has been nothing short of a league-winner this season, averaging 22.9 FPG (a mark that leads all RBs with 10 or more games), while also leading the league in both rushing yards (1,734) and rushing TDs (18). Taylor is tied for the league lead with 5.5 YPC, ranks behind only Nick Chubb in yards after contact per attempt (3.8), and is PFF’s 2nd-highest graded rusher on the season (89.6, min. 150 carries).

Since Week 5, Taylor has averaged an otherworldly 25.7 FPG. Over a full season, that would constitute the 16th-best RB fantasy season ever, just ahead of 2017 Todd Gurley and just behind 1995 Emmitt Smith.

If we simply project Taylor for his usual output over his last 12 games (28.3 DraftKings FPG), then he’s a 3.04X value on DraftKings, which would tie David Montgomery for No. 1 among all flex-eligible players in our projections. And maybe that wouldn’t be optimistic enough, as Taylor has averaged an even more impressive 29.9 DraftKings FPG across the 6 games Indianapolis was favored by 8.0 or more points (15.5 this week) with an implied team total over 27.5 (29.75 this week).

Jacksonville’s run defense has actually been fairly underrated against opposing RBs this season, allowing the 8th-fewest YPC (3.9) while ranking middle of the pack in FPG allowed. But it’s tough to view this matchup as anything resembling a negative after the Jags gave up 29-146-2 to New England RBs last week, and the 2nd-most rushing FPG to opposing RBs over the last four weeks (19.3). And we know a generational talent like Taylor is going to get all the carries he can handle, with near-perfect gamescript in a game the Colts need to win.

He’s a cash game lock on both sites.

James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: RB14, FD: RB15]

Chase Edmonds has been ruled out for Sunday, leaving James Conner as both the presumptive lead back, and, I think, the best RB play of the slate.

HC Kliff Kingsbury has a long history of employing a bell cow RB, and employing a bell cow RB to great fantasy success whenever he’s lost one of his top-2 RBs to injury.

- Over the last two weeks, without Conner, Edmonds played on 86% of the team’s snaps, averaging 17.0 carries, 7.0 targets, and 20.0 FPG. He finished top-3 among all RBs in XFP in both weeks.

- Over Arizona’s five games without Edmonds this year (Weeks 9-14), Conner averaged 17.4 carries, 5.4 targets, 20.9 XFP/G (5th-most), and 25.6 FPG on an 85% snap share. Those numbers ranked 10th-, 8th-, 5th-, 2nd-, and 1st-best over this stretch.

- In the one game Kenyan Drake missed last season (Week 7), Edmonds played on 96% of the team’s snaps, earning 25 of 26 carries and 3 of 4 targets out of the backfield.

- In Week 7 2019, David Johnson suffered an injury on his first touch of the game. (This was before Kenyan Drake joined the team.) And Edmonds totaled 35.0 fantasy points on the back of 27 carries, 4 targets, and a 94% snap share. The next week Edmonds himself suffered an in-game injury, but had played on over 90% of the snaps up until that point (late in the 3rd quarter).

Basically, this is a 9-game sample size, suggesting we’re looking at about 22.4 XFP and 23.9 fantasy points from Conner this week. Either number would lead all RBs, and by a wide margin. And this is before we even account for the outstanding matchup, as Seattle is allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs this season (+7.2). And also the most receiving FPG (14.9) to opposing RBs – an important note given Conner ranks 8th in YPRR (1.61) and 2nd in YPT (10.3).

Relative to his RB12 price tag on DraftKings and his RB14 price tag on Fanduel, Conner is easily the most underpriced RB of the week. [JT]

David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
[DK: RB10, FD: RB10]

For whatever reason, DraftKings absolutely refuses to price David Montgomery like a high-end RB1, though that’s clearly what he’s been over the last five weeks.

Over this span, he averages 19.0 carries per game (6th-most), 7.0 targets per game (most), 23.7 XFP/G (most), and 20.2 FPG (3rd-most).

7.0 targets per game is a crucial stat. That alongside his 76% snap share this season (2nd-most) means he’s not at all gamescript-sensitive; he’s a true bell cow. And the numbers bear that out. He’s been incredibly consistent over this span, despite mixed gamescript, finishing 1st, 9th, 3rd, 1st, and 8th among all RBs in XFP over the last five weeks.

So, this week’s spread — 5.5-points in Minnesota's favor — shouldn’t be as important as the on-paper matchup, which is excellent. Minnesota ranks 5th-worst in YPC allowed (4.53), 8th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (14.9), and 10th-worst in total FPG allowed (24.7). And over their last five games, Minnesota ranks 8th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+4.8).

And yet, Montgomery ranks just 10th among RBs by salary on both slates.

Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
[DK: RB18, FD: RB20]

Over the last 4 weeks, Singletary has averaged 61.0 snaps per game, 18.3 touches per game, and 18.3 FPG. Or, put another way, over the full season that would be more snaps per game than any RB in football, more touches per game than Austin Ekeler and Leonard Fournette, and more FPG than Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and D’Andre Swift.

In Week 14’s loss, he turned 4 carries and 7 targets into 14.9 fantasy points. In Week 15’s 17-point victory, he turned 22 carries and 1 target into 16.6 fantasy points. In Week 16, a 12-point victory, he turned 12 carries and 6 targets into 18.8 fantasy points. In Week 17, a 14-point victory, he turned 23 carries and 1 target into 23.0 fantasy points.

Week 18 should be another lopsided victory for the Bills, and Singletary’s best matchup yet. The Bills will clinch the AFC East with a victory, and Vegas is expecting them to win by 16.5-points, while scoring 30.0 points (most on the week).

Against RBs, the Jets rank: worst in total FPG allowed (31.7), worst in rushing FPG allowed (19.4), 3rd-worst in receiving FPG allowed (12.4), 9th-worst in YPC allowed (4.46), and worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+10.6). That final stat is 46% more than the next-closest defense, 293% more than the defense ranking 5th-worst, and is the highest stat I’ve ever seen allowed by a defense this far into a season.

He’s a steal on both DFS sites this week, priced as just the RB18 on DraftKings and the RB20 on Fanduel.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
[DK: RB18, FD: RB7]

Mitchell has been somewhere between a highest-end workhorse and a borderline-bell cow over his last four healthy games. Over this span, he’s earned a 66% snap share, 26.8 touches per game, 17.8 XFP/G, and 18.8 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 7th, 2nd (behind only Derrick Henry), 8th, and 4th.

He’s been assisted by an improved pass-catching role, earning 3.2 targets per game over his last 5 contests, compared to just 0.8 targets per game in the prior 5 games.

Ahead of a must-win game against the Rams, it should come as little surprise we are on Mitchell as a value relative to his egregiously low $6,000 DraftKings price tag (RB18).

The Rams are giving up the 2nd-fewest YPC allowed (3.7) to opposing RBs this season, but otherwise, this is largely a neutral on-paper matchup. But another potential cause for concern is the 49ers’ lowly 20.0-point implied team total, and the potential for their run game to be game scripted out of this contest as 4.5-point underdogs.

Negative gamescript won’t entirely neutralize Mitchell given he’s carved out a larger receiving role than he had in the first half of the season, but it certainly reduces his overall touch floor. With that said, Mitchell has still performed very respectfully in these scenarios so far this season, averaging 16.9 DraftKings FPG when the 49ers team total is 22.5 or less (3 instances).

I’m viewing Mitchell as a stellar tournament play on DraftKings who makes for a great contrarian stack with the 49ers D/ST. [JT]

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Tennessee Titans
[DK: RB25, FD: RB17]

Foreman has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games, he’s handled at least 20 touches in three of his last five games, and he has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in three of his last five games. He’s looking a lot like early-season Elijah Mitchell or a very poor man’s Derrick Henry. Which is to say, he’s highly gamescript-sensitive and highly boom-or-bust for fantasy. But, luckily, everything is pointing towards a “boom”-game this week.

The Titans need to win this game to lock up the bye. They probably don’t care about keeping Foreman fresh, as Henry is due back within the next few weeks. And they’re 10.0-point favorites behind a 26.5-point implied total (4th-most), against a Texans team that ranks worst in YPC allowed (4.89) and 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (18.9). Houston has given up 100 rushing yards or more to RBs in 12 of their last 15 games, and a league-high 23.6 rushing FPG to enemy RBs over their last six games.

Priced as the RB25 and RB17 on the slate, he’s a top-7 RB value on both sites.

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
[DK: RB12, FD: RB8]

Rashaad Penny is playing out of his dang mind. He’s hit at least 135 rushing yards (and scored a touchdown) in three of his last four games. He leads all RBs in fantasy points scored over this span, and he’s averaging 17.3 carries, 1.8 targets, 125.5 YFS, 12.1 XFP/G (RB26) and 23.6 DK FPG (RB2).

His PAR — the disconnect between his XFP/G and FPG — of +9.2 (or +76%) is absurd and extremely impressive, but also a little worrisome. (That number typically regresses to the mean.) And he’s not quite a bell cow, handling just 55% of the team’s snaps and only 62% of the backfield XFP over this span. However, he did hit season-highs in both metrics last week with (respectively) 63% and 85%. And this week’s matchup is pretty brutal — Arizona is favored by 6.5-points, and they rank 5th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-3.1).

Still, it’s hard to look past how effective he’s been in recent weeks. And as such he’s looking like a top-10 RB value on both sites, priced as just the RB12 (DK) and RB8 (FD) of the slate. Though he’s undeniably a top value, he’s one far better suited for tournaments than cash.

Sony Michel, RB, Los Angeles Rams
[DK: RB18, FD: RB9]

Michel is priced as the RB18 on DraftKings this week, despite 5 consecutive weeks with at least 20 touches and 75 or more YFS. He’s played on over 90% of the Rams snaps in 4 of the last 5 games, and has eclipsed 20.0 XFP in 3 of the last 5 games, including each of the last 2.

There’s really no way around it: Michel is a bell cow. And a bell cow with a mid-range RB2 price tag is always going to be considered a value.

This week, Michel should be aided by positive gamescript with the Rams as 4.5-point favorites in a largely neutral on-paper matchup with the 49ers. And positive gamescript is surely important to note, given the Rams starting RB has averaged 3.5 more FPG in wins (16.7) than losses (13.2) this season.

The biggest outstanding question with this play is just how much action Cam Akers ends up seeing.

Given Akers is just 7 months removed from a torn achilles, I think it’s fair to assume he doesn't play much, leaving a clearly underpriced Michel to resume his duties as LA’s bellcow. But maybe the Rams want to push Akers a bit to see what he can handle prior to the playoffs. That could translate to 30% or more of backfield snaps, and in that scenario it’s much more difficult to call Michel a compelling play. Unlikely, I know, but it’s a possibility we must consider.

So I think it’s reasonable to call Michel a high-risk, high-reward tournament-play. In most scenarios, he easily hits 2.5X value and sees 20 or more touches priced as an RB2. But in the unlikely instance Cam Akers earns a surprisingly high snap share, Michel probably busts. [JT]

Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
[DK: RB41, FD: RB34]

Carter was a full participant at practice on Thursday, coming off of a concussion, and the Jets are “hopeful” he can play this week. He’s priced as just the RB41 this week ($5,000) but has been much closer to an RB1 than a RB4 when healthy.

Since Week 7, Carter averages 13.8 carries, 5.9 targets, 18.2 XFP, and 16.1 fantasy points per four quarters. Those numbers would rank 18th-, 4th-, 9th-, and 12th-best among RBs over this span.

Last week, Carter gained 63 yards on just 4 touches before exiting early (late in the first quarter) with a concussion. The week prior, Carter played on a season-high 74% of the team’s snaps, turning 16 carries and 3 targets into 124 YFS.

The Bills are a fairly neutral matchup on paper, ranking middle of the pack against RBs by FPG allowed (16th-worst) or schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (15th-best). But the Jets are also 16.5-point underdogs, expected to score just 12.5 total points (worst on the week). That’s not great, obviously, and RB Tevin Coleman is back this week, but Carter still feels mispriced by $800 or more on DraftKings. And I think the Jets are looking to get their exciting rookie to end on a high-note.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: RB29, FD: RB33]

If we get confirmation Vaughn is fully healthy and all-systems go for Sunday’s game against the Panthers, with Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard confirmed out, Vaughn would rank as a fringe-top-7 value, with excellent upside for GPPs. If not, this situation would be too murky to target outside of reserving just a small percentage towards Vaughn in only large-field tournaments.

From Wes Huber’s Advanced Matchups:

The Buccaneers saw two offensive weapons other than Brown leave the field. On his second carry of the third quarter, Ronald Jones II left the game for good with an ankle injury. He will not play in Week 18. It’s unknown exactly when Ke’Shawn Vaughn injured his ribs since he played through the pain. But Le’Veon Bell ended the second half with a 23-to-14 lead in offensive snaps over Vaughn. Vaughn put all doubts as to his Week 18 availability by participating in full during Tampa Bay’s first full practice of the week. It simply didn’t happen last week.

It was the Jets. The script called for Vaughn to blow up. But the rib injury wasn’t the only issue. NYJ built an out-of-nowhere, 24-10 lead over the Buccaneers at the 6:56 mark of the third quarter. The expectation was for a positive script providing the backfield with all of the touches they could handle. Instead, the Bucs passed 29 times vs. 11 carries in the second half. Last week was last week. Looking ahead, RoJo is out of the rotation. Vaughn just put together a 7/70/1 rushing line against Carolina in Week 16. In addition to the featured carries, Vaughn will also play a much heavier role in the passing game. The downside of Jones being out is that Vaughn will likely draw a lot of attention. That makes it impossible for us to ignore Vaughn this week. And I think he will do well behind Tampa Bay’s mauling O-line, landing just outside of my top-five RBs at No. 7.

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
[DK: RB2, FD: RB2]

Courtesy of Jake Tribbey:

Mark Ingram is questionable for Week 18, which would open up even more work for Kamara. Ingram has played on at least 40% of the team’s in each of his last five games, while Kamara has played on just 68% of the team’s snaps since he joined the team (down from 83%).

Kamara averages 27.2 FPG in his last four games without Ingram (Weeks 5, 7, 14, and 17), but just 13.6 FPG with Ingram. And, remember, there’s a historical track record to back this up. When HC Sean Payton loses one of his top-2 RBs, he typically lets the other RB feast in a true bell cow-workload. For instance, Latavius Murray averaged 34.4 FPG without Kamara last year. And Kamara averaged 34.0 FPG without Ingram in 2018

And Kamara is already seeing obscene levels of volume. No RB has captured a greater percentage of his team’s XFP this season than Kamara (31%). In fact, Kamara has actually earned more XFP/G (19.4) than Jonathan Taylor, who is at least $1,000 more expensive on both sites.

But, there’s a problem. Taysom Hill starting has historically crushed Kamara’s production. In 2020, Kamara averaged 29.2 FPG in games without Hill, compared to 14.2 with Hill. This season, Kamara averages 14.6 in the 4 games Taysom Hill has started, compared to 19.8 FPG without him. But it’s important to note that Kamara is seeing much stronger volume this season (17.8 XFP per game) with Hill starting compared to last (12.9). So unlike last year, he’s very much still in play (at least in tournaments) with Hill under center.

And thankfully for Kamara, Atlanta is a plus matchup for opposing RBs, allowing the 5th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+2.7) and 9th-most receiving FPG (10.8). While the Saints 21.5 implied team total doesn’t seem inspiring, Kamara’s DK FPG average jumps 22.8 when the Saints have scored (merely) 10 or more points, hitting at least 15.0 in 9 of 9 games. And if the Saints end up lighting up the scoreboard, then Kamara (and his league-leading 31% team XFP) should end up with something resembling a tournament-winning score.

If Ingram suits up, Kamara is only vaguely in play as a contrarian pivot off of Jonathan Taylor or Dalvin Cook, who are both a lock to be significantly higher-owned. If Ingram is out, Kamara might be an even better play than Taylor for tournaments (at least once we factor in ownership).

Other / Notes

I’ll share my writeups on Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Najee Harris below, but I like them all a lot less today, as they’re hard to afford. And earlier in the week, I was expecting a lot more value to open up.

Dalvin Cook is a strong tournament-play, in a game Minnesota technically has nothing to play for, but one in which we’re confident (and Vegas is confident) HC Mike Zimmer goes all-out to win. And we’re especially confident Cook goes all-out to win, dedicating this game to his father… In full games, Cook is averaging 22.6 carries, 3.3 targets, 18.6 XFP/G, and 17.6 FPG. That would rank as the most carries, and the 4th-most XFP/G and FPG among all slate-eligible RBs. He's reached at least 18 carries in 9 of 10 full games, and at least 20.5 fantasy points in 5 of 10 (averaging 24.1 FPG in those top-50 percentile games)…. Chicago ranks bottom-12 in both YPC allowed (4.46) and rushing FPG allowed (14.2) to opposing RBs and will be without top-graded run defender Akiem Hicks this week… That’s the good news, the bad news is Cook hasn’t been too effective in recent weeks, averaging fewer than 4.0 YPC in five of his last six games. Still, he’s a strong tournament-play if you can afford him.

I really liked Najee Harris earlier in the week when it seemed likely Diontae Johnson would miss, but less so now, in a bottom-10 on-paper matchup. Though, maybe only on paper. Baltimore has given up the 11th-most FPG to opposing RBs over the last four weeks (24.3)… And, besides, Harris has exceeded 100 YFS in four of his last five games, and is fresh off of a monster Week 17 (in another bottom-10 on-paper matchup), which saw him turn 31 touches into 206 YFS. He’s fully gamescript-immune and leads all slate-eligible RBs in XFP/G. He’s just 0.2 FPG off of Alvin Kamara to rank 2nd-most among all slate-eligible RBs, and yet, Kamara is $1,100 more on DraftKings.

Prior to missing Week 17 (COVID), Antonio Gibson has exceeded 20.0 XFP in 4 of his previous 7 games, while averaging 15.9 FPG during that stretch. And while many of those games were marred by either negative gamescript or incompetent QB play, Gibson will have the benefit of a 7.0-point spread in his favor and Taylor Heinicke back under center… In Washington’s 6 wins this year, Gibson averages 17.3 DraftKings FPG and 15.1 Fanduel FPG – marks that would rank 6th-best among slate-eligible RBs on both sites. As the RB18 on Fanduel and the RB23 on DraftKings, Gibson is an obvious value, albeit one that carries notable downside risk given the Football Team has nothing to play for and could pull their starters if the game stops being competitive in either direction… If Gibson is out, Jaret Patterson would be only barely intriguing. He scored 20.8 fantasy points last week, but on just 62% of the team’s snaps with an XFP total of only12.3 (25th most among RBs)…

Samaje Perine appears poised to take over the Cincinnati backfield after Joe Mixon was placed on the COVID list. And even if Mixon were to clear protocols in time for the game, the assumption this week is that the Bengals are resting their starters in preparation for the playoffs. With Perine priced as RB25 on DraftKings and RB22 on Fanduel, he pops as an obvious value if he’s able to capture even just 80% of the 16.7 XFP per game (11th-best among RBs) and 18.2 FPG (7th-best) that Joe Mixon has averaged this season…. This is a largely neutral matchup, and gamescript isn’t a concern, as Perine has scored more fantasy points as a receiver than a rusher. But what is concerning, beyond Brandon Allen starting and the team’s lowly 15.75-point implied total, is that Cincinnati might deem Perine as a pseudo-starter, worthy of being rested. Or, like Wes Huber suggested, perhaps they want to reward him with a full-on bell cow workload. Unfortunately, we just have no way of knowing…. Hopefully we get more clarity later in the week. And, keep in mind, that could mean Perine sitting out, with Chris Evans getting an extended look and nearly 100% of the team’s snaps. As we love to chase volume at the RB position, that would make him a clear top-3 RB play at his RB59/RB67 salary.

We could get some surprise value from Cleveland’s backfield, but I’d bet against it. I think the team rests (or severely limits) Nick Chubb, who is dealing with a ribs / chest injury, and D’Ernest Johnson (COVID) and Kareem Hunt (ankle) both sit out. Instead, I think we’ll see a mix of Demetric Felton, Dexter Williams, and Artavis Pierce.

It’s a longshot but A.J. Dillon could be an absolute smash play this week… I’ll discuss this in more detail in the “Quarterbacks”-section, but I think there’s a chance Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s starters play the full game. Or, at least, I think the odds that that happens are far better than whatever their ownership will imply. And that makes them all in play for large-field tournaments… Aaron Jones is listed as questionable with a knee injury, practicing only in a limited capacity all week. Again, it’s a longshot. But what if they save Jones for the playoffs, but Rodgers and Dillon play the full game?… Across their last five games, Jones has out-targeted Dillon 18 to 12, but Dillon has seen more work on the ground (66 carries to 55) and significantly more work near the end zone (11 opportunities inside the 10-yard-line to Jones’ 3)… Jones scored 41.5 DK fantasy points when these teams last squared off, in Week 2. And Detroit ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+4.7)… However, we’ll need some additional news to justify playing Dillon, so just keep this all in mind for now.

Damien Harris is currently listed as questionable, but that’s been true for multiple weeks now, so I’m not getting my hopes up for Rhamondre Stevenson. I’ll have an update for you tomorrow if I’m wrong.

Wide Receivers

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
[DK: WR1, FD: WR1]

Key Quote: “[Cooper Kupp] is locked in. He knows what's at hand and you'll never hear it from him, but you want to beat that record. You want to have that. I think the most important thing he cares about – which is the most important – is winning that game and putting ourselves in the best situation. I'm looking forward to being a part of history, hopefully, on both ends – (with) a win and a record (broken).” — Odell Beckham Jr. on Friday

Kupp has had nothing short of one of the greatest receiving seasons of all-time. His 2021 campaign currently ranks 5th-best all-time in receiving yards (1,829), 3rd-best in receptions (138), 17th-best in targets (184), and 5th-best in FPG (25.8).

He’s earned over 90 receiving yards in 15 of 16 games this season (next closest player has done so just 8 times), and has exceeded 20.0 fantasy points in 13 games (next closest WR has done so in just 7 games). So not only is he putting up all-time numbers, he’s quite literally lapping the field with his consistency.

San Francisco ranks 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+2.7), and 2nd-worst over the last five weeks (+8.5). Against slot WRs, they’ve allowed the 7th-most receptions (91) and the 10th-most FPG (14.4). Kupp had no problem in their Week 10 matchup when he went for 11-122-0, and San Francisco’s secondary is a great deal softer now.

The 49ers currently have 4 of 6 CBs on the COVID list, likely forced to start some combination of CBs Josh Norman, Emmanuel Mosely, and Ambry Thomas. So, Kupp will either face an unnamed practice-squad CB in the slot, or one of these three CBs who have near-zero experience playing on the inside. (Yikes.) All other CBs are out or on the COVID list.. FS Jimmie Ward is out and SS Jaquiski Tartt is questionable.

So while I’d consider Kupp immune to even the toughest slot matchups, this matchup should certainly boost his already lofty expectation.

Despite Kupp being 23% more productive than the next-closest slate-eligible starting WR (Deebo Samuel), he costs just 14% more on DraftKings. And when we add that on top of his already legendary consistency, his incentive to break a number of receiving records (for instance, he’s just 135 yards off of Calvin Johnson’s yardage record), and a strong matchup, it should come as no surprise we are considering him a lock-button play in all formats. And yes, ahead of Jonathan Taylor.

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
[DK: WR5, FD: WR4]

Since Week 10, Jefferson has earned 10 or more targets and 20.0 or more XFP in every game but one, while averaging 21.9 FPG. In fact, the 11.5 targets per game and 22.7 XFP per game Jefferson has averaged during that stretch would lead all players at all positions over the full season. And keep in mind just 3 of those 8 games came with Adam Thielen out of the lineup.

The Vikings have nothing left to play for this week, but we do expect (and Vegas expects) HC Mike Zimmer to go all out to win this game. And this is a tougher matchup, with Chicago ranking as the 4th-toughest matchup for opposing WRs by schedule-adjusted FPG (-4.3) and 5th-toughest in FPG allowed to outside WRs (17.8). CB Jaylon Johnson has been excellent this season, and is a threat to shadow.

So the risk Minnesota could pull Jefferson along with the risk the Bears secondary could do a good job defending him keeps him out of the cash game conversation. But Jefferson’s volume over the last 8 weeks, relative to his price-tag on both sites, is undeniably great. And that makes him an outstanding tournament play. In my estimation, probably the No. 2 high-priced WR play of the slate, behind Kupp, and just ahead of Diontae Johnson and A.J. Brown.

Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
[DK: WR7, FD: WR8]

Johnson leads all WRs in targets per game (12.1) and ranks behind only Cooper Kupp in XFP/G (21.1). He’s also the only WR to rival Kupp in terms of consistency; earning double-digit targets in 13 of 15 games (87%) and exceeding 15.0 fantasy points in 11 of 15 games (73%). He ranks 6th among all slate-eligible WRs in FPG (17.6), but is priced as just the WR7 (DK) and WR8 (FD) of the slate. So, already he seems like a slight value. But he’s a tremendous one this week, given this best-possible matchup against Baltimore.

The Ravens lost CB Marlon Humphrey (out for the year) in Week 14, after already losing CB Marcus Peters in training camp. And replacement CB Anthony Averett hasn’t practiced all week dealing with a fractured rib. Slot CB Tavon Young hasn’t been great, but he has been much better in comparison to the CBs Baltimore has been forced to start on the perimeter. (Johnson runs 93% of his routes from the outside.)

Baltimore has given up the 9th-most FPG to slot WRs (14.7) and the most FPG to outside WRs this season (24.5), and they’ve been even worse in recent weeks. They’ve given up an absurd 73.6 DK FPG to opposing WRs over the last three weeks, which is 59% more than the worst defense this season and 99% more than the league average rate.

When these two teams last faced off (Week 13), Baltimore still had CB Marlon Humphrey healthy. And Johnson scored a season-high 33.5 DK fantasy points on 11 targets against them. Since Week 11, the Ravens are giving up between 22.2 and 25.6 DK FPG to opposing WR1s, depending on whether or not you want to call Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins Cincinnati’s WR1. And those numbers come out to +4.0 or +8.2 FPG if schedule-adjusted. So, that comes out to an expectation of 21.6 or 25.8 fantasy points for Johnson this week.

Even with Ben Roethlisberger looking uber-dusty, Johnson is still one of the best high-priced plays of the slate. And especially if they have him throw 45-plus times for the second-week in a row, in what would be the finale of Roethlisberger’s farewell tour.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans
[DK: WR14, FD: WR12]

Cooks is now, predominantly, a slot WR. Over his last three games, he’s run 50% of his routes from the slot, 19% of his routes from the left, and 29% of his routes from the right. Over this span, he’s seen double-digit targets and scored at least 19.6 DK fantasy points in 3 of 3 games. And he averages 12.3 targets, 131.7 air yards, 2.7 deep targets per game, 19.3 XFP/G, and 22.3 FPG. Those numbers rank 2nd-, 3rd-, 3rd-, 6th-, and 5th-best over this stretch.

This decision to move Cooks around the formation has definitely helped to bolster his numbers and helped to make him more matchup-immune. But Cooks is also benefiting from Davis Mills’ return. Cooks has been targeted on 26.1% of his routes with Mills under center, as opposed to just 19.5% with Tyrod Taylor under center. And Cooks averages 16.4 FPG (~WR10) and 16.5 XFP/G in Mills’ full games started and finished, as opposed to just 11.7 FPG (~WR40) and 12.8 XFP/G with Taylor.

And Cooks has a phenomenal matchup this week, no matter where Houston decides to have him line up. The Titans rank 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to slot WRs (16.0) and 7th-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (23.0). And they’re giving up the 5th-most YPG to WRs on deep targets (53.9).

He’s a top-7 WR value on both sites, priced as just the WR14 and WR10 of the slate.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: WR17, FD: WR22]

Over the last three weeks, following the loss of WR DeAndre Hopkins, Kirk averages 9.7 targets per game, 100.7 air yards per game, 15.5 XFP/G, and 16.4 FPG. Among all WRs over this span, those numbers rank 14th-, 10th-, 20th-, and 12th-best.

And, so, clearly, he’s pretty mispriced now, as just the WR17 (DK) and WR22 (FD) of the slate. And his Week 18 matchup is excellent.

The Cardinals are expected to score 27.25 points (3rd-most on the slate). Kirk has run 73% of his routes from the slot over the last three weeks, and Seattle has given up the 3rd-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (15.3). Zach Ertz’s matchup is also strong, but both Antoine Wesley and A.J. Green can be easily faded. Wesley and Green have run (respectively) 85% and 96% of their routes from the outside, and Seattle ranks 2nd-best in FPG allowed to outside WRs (15.5).

Per our projections, Kirk ranks as our No. 3-overall value on FanDuel (1.9X).

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
[DK: WR12, FD: WR9]

Update: It looks like Jared Goff will be starting this week, which is definitely worth a slight upgrade to St. Brown. We spent some extra time on him during our Livestream, and Johnny mentioned he thinks St. Brown is going to go low-owned (single digits). In that case, he’s easily one of the best tournament plays at the position. A WR who is priced as a fringe-WR1 on DraftKings and has hit 23.5 DK fantasy points in four of his last five games (averaging 25.6 DK FPG) should not be that lowly owned. Further, the matchup may be a bit better than I alluded to below. Green Bay ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs over the last five weeks (+9.6).

St. Brown has seen at least 11 targets and gained at least 70 yards (or scored at least 15.0 fantasy points) in five straight games. He’s finished top-6 among WRs in fantasy points scored in four of his last five games. And, over this stretch, he averages 11.4 targets, 1.2 carries, 18.5 XFP/G, and 24.6 FPG. Among all WRs over this span, those numbers rank 5th-, 6th-, 6th-, and 3rd-best.

Those numbers are ridiculous for any WR, but almost unfathomable for a rookie WR. He’s scored 125.0 fantasy points over his last five games, which is a feat only two other WRs have accomplished as rookies — Randy Moss and Odell Beckham Jr.

On one hand, he’s been one of the top-5 most productive, and arguably the single-most consistent, WR over the last five weeks. And he’s no doubt still a little mispriced on DraftKings, as just the WR12 of the week ($6,800). But on the other hand, it’s plausible to assume he takes a slight step back this week.

St. Brown has run 69% of his routes from the slot over this hot-streak. Each of his last five opponents ranked bottom-16 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs, but Green Bay ranks 12th-best (11.7).

Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills
[DK: WR38, FD: WR58]

Over Buffalo’s last four games, the non-Emmanuel Sanders WR playing in the Emmanuel Sanders-role has averaged 7.5 targets and 20.1 FPG. Sanders is doubtful to play this week, so Davis should reprise that role.

After scores of 15.3, 25.5, and 32.4 fantasy points through the first three games without Sanders, Davis scored only 7.0 fantasy points on 3 targets last week, but he also fell only 12 yards shy of the team-high, and Allen inexplicably posted a career-worst game by passer rating (17.0).

This week’s matchup is phenomenal, against CB Brandin Echols and the Jets’ Cover-4-heavy defense. Allen, and especially Davis, have been dominant against Cover-4 schemes throughout their respective careers. (Wes Huber covered the matchup in more detail here.)

Priced as just the WR38 (DK) and WR58 (FD) of the slate, Davis is a strong value (a top play on FanDuel), and the preferred option for Allen-stacks.

Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
[DK: WR18, FD: WR21]

Since Week 8, Darnell Mooney averages 9.3 targets, 112.9 air yards, 15.4 XFP/G, and 14.2 FPG. Those numbers rank 12th-, 4th-, 15th-, and 19th-best over this span.

So, already, he’s looking like a value, priced as the WR18 (DK) and WR21 (FD) of the slate.

And Mooney’s numbers jump to 11.3 targets (WR4) and 17.2 FPG (WR13) with Andy Dalton under center (3.5 games). Or, rather, 18.3 fantasy points per four quarters (WR7) with Dalton under center.

And, good news, Dalton is starting this week, with Justin Fields on the COVID-19 list. And this week’s matchup almost couldn’t be better. The Vikings are giving up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (23.7), the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+5.7), and the 2nd-most FPG to opposing WRs on deep passes (9.4).

Jakobi Meyers & Russell Gage

Very quietly, Meyers and Gage have had two of the toughest schedules of any player in fantasy. Meyers and Gage run (respectively) 61% and 49% of their routes from the slot, but the far majority of opponents they’ve faced are among the best teams at defending slot WRs. That doesn’t seem very fair, does it?

Meyers has faced a defense ranking top-12 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs in 10 of his 16 games (63%). Against top-12 defenses, he averages just 6.9 targets per game and 8.3 FPG. In all other games (6), Meyers averages 8.2 targets and 14.6 FPG.

Gage has faced a defense ranking top-12 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs in 8 of his 13 games (62%). Against top-12 defenses, he averages just 5.4 targets per game and 7.5 FPG. In all other games (5), Gage averages 7.6 targets and 15.9 FPG.

Good news! Both get favorable matchups this week.

Meyers gets a pillow-soft matchup against a Miami defense ranks 5th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (14.9).

Gage gets a Saints defense that’s given up the 12th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (14.3).

We have Gage ranked as a top-7 value on both sites. Meyers ranks fringe- top-10 on DraftKings.

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
[DK: WR14, FD: WR15]

From Wes Huber’s Advanced Matchups:

In Miami’s Week 1 victory over the Patriots, Jaylen Waddle created a 4/61/1 receiving line on five targets. He connected with Tua from three yards out to account for the TD. He also added a 17-yard hook-up inside the coverage of J.C. Jackson. It was an impressive debut for a rookie destined to overtake Anquan Boldin for the most receptions in NFL history from a rookie WR. Waddle only needs two to tie and three receptions to break the record set by Boldin 18 seasons ago. If he manages to collect at least 12 receiving yards, Waddle will be the 24th rookie WR in history to post 1,000 receiving yards.

New England will be dealing with a considerable issue in their attempt to prevent Waddle from rewriting the record books. Myles Bryant, their starter in nickel sets, tested positive for COVID as an unvaccinated player. With Jonathan Jones already out for the season, Belichick will either be forced to put Joejuan Williams on the field – something he has avoided doing on anything other than a couple reps since Week 12 — or his options will be down to getting creative in shifting a defensive back inside from another group or adding an untested practice squadder to the fold. In addition, the Pats may also be without breakout strong safety Kyle Dugger. It’s a lot to process, especially for New England. All told, the setup for Waddle’s attempts at history – as well as in our investment in his output – could not be playing out any better.

Cyril Grayson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: WR51, FD: WR39]

Per sources, “Tom Brady loves him.”

Per Johnny, “He’s a great play, because even if Tampa Bay benches their starters at half-time, he probably remains on the field.”

From Wes Huber’s Advanced Matchups:

I scratched my head upon seeing Cyril Grayson on the field at the expense of a proven commodity like Scotty Miller or the upside play of Jaelon Darden. I fully expected one of those two or Breshad Perriman (when he cleared COVID) – a proven Cover 1 assassin – to send Grayson back to the bench. I knew Grayson had outstanding speed after being a track star at LSU, and we could definitely see that speed for ourselves. But to go from playing zero football in college to starting for the defending Super Bowl champions just didn’t mesh. I was wrong. Grayson is the guy that should benefit from Antonio Brown’s career-defining temper tantrum. Put it this way, on the 11 targets to Grayson the last two weeks – as well as the 50-yard TD he caught in Week 8, he’s returned a perfect 158.3 TPR.

With 162 receiving yards the last two weeks, his 3.12 YPRR, 17.7 YPT, 15.7 AY/Tgt, and 6.7 yards after the catch average have all of the hallmarks of the Bucs already having Brown’s long-term replacement on the roster. As we get more data, we’ll be able to identify his coverage strengths. Until then, we do need to go in blind. But his world-class speed has already allowed to burn right past Cover 4 and Cover 6 – schemes designed to eliminate deep passing – for receptions of 33, 50 and 62 yards. Just don’t assume Grayson is being limited to situational packages. During the second half after Brown left the field, Grayson was one the field for more snaps than any other TB wideout. And he also led the Bucs' WRs in snaps in Week 16… against the Panthers. So, we already have a 3/81/0 receiving line and 14-yard run to account for his ability to punish Carolina.

Other / Notes

Tyler Lockett averages 11.3 targets, 127.3 YPG, and 30.1 FPG in his last three games against Arizona. D.K. Metcalf is fresh off of a 3-touchdown game. And Arizona has given up the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs over the last five weeks (+19.0). For perspective, that number is 3.3X more than the worst defense on the full season. To put it bluntly, their secondary is in shambles, forced to start Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton on the perimeter. Byron Murphy has been a little better in the slot, but they’ve still given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs over the last four weeks (2nd-most to the perimeter)… Basically, this situation is a lot like with Cincinnati’s WRs last week, though obviously Seattle carries a lot more risk. Either one could go nuclear, but it’s hard to know who that might be. If we knew who Seattle’s highest-scoring WR would be, he’d be the highest-owned player of the slate. But, because we don’t, neither one are popping as top values. (Though both are still top-10 values on FanDuel.) And neither one will be too highly owned… Initially my lean was to just play whichever WR was lower-owned, but Wes Huber believes (emphatically) that Metcalf is the play. And, well, that’s good enough for me. You can read his full write up here.

I think it’s highly unlikely that Jimmy Garoppolo suits up, but if he plays, Deebo Samuel demands some level of GPP exposure as a potential slate-buster. He averages 21.3 FPG in Garoppolo-starts, and you can boost that by another 1.0 FPG in games Elijah Mitchell also played…. Jalen Ramsey has never shadowed Samuel, who averages 8.0 targets, 2.0 carries, 108.7 YFS, and 24.3 FPG in his last three games against the Rams.

A.J. Brown is an excellent tournament-play, on a week where slate-busting upside feels pretty scarce. I discussed here, how Brown is finally seeing high-end WR1 volume, after 30-plus games of Brown producing as a fringe-WR1 on only high-end WR3-levels of volume… Houston is giving up the 11th-most FPG to outside WRs (21.9), but Wes Huber wrote this up as an only neutral scheme matchup… So, I like him but don’t “love” him this week. I suppose my exposure will come down to his projected ownership, relative to the other high-upside high-priced WRs.

Again, we’ll talk about this in more detail later, but I think there’s a good chance Green Bay’s starters play the full game. If that happens, Davante Adams is the obvious pairing partner for Aaron Rodgers stacks. Detroit is giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (+3.9), and the 3rd-most over the last five weeks (+8.2).

Marquez Callaway has returned a 29.2% target share over his last four games, which ranks 7th-most over this span. Of course, on the sloth-paced and run-heavy Saints, that hasn’t amounted to much. But he has reached 95 yards in each of Taysom Hill’s last two starts, averaging 9.5 targets, 104.5 YPG, and 16.5 FPG…. He has the softest matchup of New Orleans’ WRs, but New Orleans will also be getting Tre’Quan Smith back this week. So, Callaway is popping as only a “slight” value on paper, but he’s certainly the preferred stacking partner for Taysom builds.

Last week Chase Claypool (WR31/WR32) saw 9 targets while running a route on 88% of the team’s dropbacks (highest since Week 12), though he didn’t do much with it. And, yes, Big Ben stinks at this point in his career. But this matchup is drool-inducing. Diontae Johnson could drop 33.5 DK fantasy points again, but maybe that could be Claypool. Or, more likely, maybe both hit…. Baltimore ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR2s over the last five weeks (+10.5). And we’ve seen some relatively big names from some underwhelming names over their last 8 games: Odell Beckham Jr. + Van Jefferson (25.2), Tee Higgins (43.4), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (20.8), Donovan Peoples-Jones (90 yards), Marquise Goodwin (20.4), Albert Wilson (87 yards), and Isaiah Ford (84 yards).

With Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios, and Corey Davis confirmed out, Jamison Crowder immediately steps into the Braxton Berrios-role that saw him draw 12 targets and score 26.7 fantasy points last week. Though it’s not quite as good, as Crowder won’t do much on the ground or on special teams. Plus, the matchup against Taron Johnson is brutal… I’m not really on it, but I suppose he’s in play as a punt-option.

Michael Pittman looks like a slight value on paper, but it feels to me like a trap, as I’m expecting CB Shaq Griffin to shadow. So, to me, Pittman is only in play as leverage off of Jonathan Taylor (-0.23 correlation)… Realistically, there’s no chance Jacksonville forces Carson Wentz to lean pass-heavy, right? But, hey, you never know.

Odell Beckham Jr. has out-targeted Van Jefferson in four straight games, and Jefferson also (seemingly) earned a demotion last week, watching his route share drop to just 50%. But OBJ has seen at least 6 targets in five of his last six games, averaging 7.2 targets, 13.6 XFP/G, and 13.4 FPG (~WR31) over this span… The 49ers are giving up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs over the last five weeks (+12.5), and they look even worse now… San Francisco currently has 4 of 6 CBs on the COVID list. All other CBs are out or on the COVID list… So, keep an eye on who gets activated and who does not. Because this could be an eruption spot for both OBJ and Cooper Kupp…

D.J. Moore has seen double-digit targets in 4 of his last 5 games… Sam Darnold is averaging 33 passes per game. Moore has a 27.7% target share with Darnold under center, which would rank 3rd-most among all WRs, and come out to about 9.1 targets per 33 pass attempts… So, Moore is no doubt a top XFP-related value, priced as the WR21 (DK) and WR24 (FD) of the slate. But, obviously, that’s just one variable within our evaluation, because… On one hand, he’s averaging 15.3 DK FPG in Darnold starts, and 23.9 DK FPG in his top-40% of games with Darnold. But on the other, he’s averaging just 11.2 FPG over his last 12 games… And, on one hand, the Buccaneers are giving up the 8th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (22.5). But, on the other, I’m expecting Carlton Davis to shadow. He held Moore to a 5-55-0 line on 12 targets just two weeks ago… So, Moore is only very vaguely in play this week. I think, far more likely than not, Davis holds Moore in check and Darnold implodes once again.

At his $4,000 price-tag on DraftKings, Allen Robinson is vaguely in play as a punt option. It’s no doubt a top-3 matchup for last season’s overall WR9, but Robinson has failed to reach 11.0 fantasy points in 11 of 11 games this year.

K.J. Osborn has hit at least 14.0 fantasy points in four of his last five games, averaging 6.2 targets and 13.8 FPG over this span. CB Jaylon Johnson is likely to shadow Jefferson, leaving Osborn to feast in top-7 matchups… Johnson typically mans the right side of the field when he isn’t shadowing. And Chicago is giving up the 5th-fewest FPG to the right, but the 7th-most to the slot (38% slot rate for Osborn) and the 2nd-most to the left… Unfortunately, Osborn is not at all as cheap as I had anticipated. So, he’s just a “pay up to be contrarian” option for [email protected] stacks.

I’m not going to be playing Ja’Marr Chase, but I suppose there is a 5% chance he plays the full game (which would be very dumb) in pursuit of the rookie receiving yardage record.

Tight Ends

Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
[DK: TE1, FD: TE1]

Andrews has never done well against Pittsburgh, which is also a bottom-6 matchup on paper. And Andrews is exceedingly pricy. We, of course, prefer to pay down at the TE position. Especially for cash.

But, for tournaments, there’s an argument to be made that Andrews has the best slate-busting upside of any receiver not-named Cooper Kupp.

Over his last four games (Tyler Huntley’s last four games), Andrews is averaging an obscene 13.3 targets, 116.3 YPG (low of 89), and 28.6 DK FPG. He’s hit at least 29.5 DK fantasy points in three of those four games, and at least 14.9 in 7 of his last 8 (averaging 21.7).

Factor in the inherent positional advantage he offers in contrast to any WR — essentially, how comparatively gross the rest of the TE position is — and the fact that we’re projecting single-digit levels of ownership, and it’s hard to argue against him as one of the best GPP-plays of the slate. By my measurements, 21.7 or 29.5 DK FPG is akin to a WR averaging 27.4 or 34.3 DK FPG. But Andrews is priced as just the WR8 on DraftKings.

Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: TE6, FD: TE7]

Over the last three weeks, Ertz averages 11.3 targets per game (25% target share), 78.0 air yards per game, 18.2 XFP/G, and 12.6 FPG on a 91% route share. Among all TEs over this span, those numbers rank best, best, 3rd-best, 2nd-best, 5th-best, and best.

As the TE6 (by salary) on DraftKings, and the TE7 on Fanduel, Ertz is a glaring value given his role in this post-DeAndre Hopkins offense.

And this is close to an ideal game environment and matchup for Ertz, as Arizona has the 3rd-largest implied team total on this slate (27.25) and needs to win this game to have a chance at winning the division. Meanwhile, Seattle is giving up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+3.6) to opposing TEs this year.

Ertz is an outstanding value and a strong cash game play on both sites, but especially on Fanduel where we normally pay up for TE.

Other / Notes

We were expecting to get a few more min. priced TE plays this week, but it’s looking like Dan Arnold is clearly going to be “that dude.” Arnold flopped in Week 11, and then played just 5 snaps prior to injury in Week 12. But, prior to that, he was smashing in the Laquon Treadwell-role… He had hit at least 60 receiving yards and led the Jaguars in receiving yards in 4 of his prior 5 games. And from Weeks 5-10, Arnold ranked 3rd in targets per game (8.4), 4th in YPG (58.8), 5th in XFP/G (13.1), and 7th in FPG (10.9)…. He gets an A+ matchup against a Colts defense that ranks 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+4.9).

John Bates and Brevin Jordan are two more super-cheap options in play, but who aren’t quite on the level of Arnold.

I think it’s highly unlikely that Jimmy Garoppolo suits up, but if he plays, Kittle demands serious consideration. And he’d be a near must-play on FanDuel, where he’s $1,600 cheaper than Andrews. He averages 9.0 targets and 24.8 FPG over Garoppolo’s last four starts… You can make the same case with Kittle that we did with Andrews, except Kittle would be even lower-owned… Absurdly, Kittle has hit at least 16.0 DK fantasy points in 7 of his last 7 games against the Rams, averaging 22.0 DK FPG over this span.

Wes Huber made a case for Cole Kmet here. Minnesota is giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs over the last five weeks (+9.2), and Kmet has seen obscene levels of volume in recent weeks (3rd-most targets since Week 12). But I like him less with Andy Dalton confirmed to start.

Hayden Hurst would be a really strong play if Kyle Pitts gets ruled out, but that seems unlikely.

Quarterbacks

For cash, I’m mostly looking at Josh Allen on FanDuel, and Trey Lance on DraftKings. If Lance is out, you can pivot to either Taysom Hill or Tyler Huntley. Hill is my preference, but Huntley is fine if you need the extra $500 in savings.

For tournaments, as always, get weird, get creative, have fun. The QB position is always more about the stack (and the leverage you’ll gain if that stack hits) than the individual QB play itself.

Graham and Johnny both think [email protected] game-stacks are the best way to go. Lance is an obvious value, but if he’s out, Garoppolo may actually help the odds this game goes over. He’d be in play for tournaments, and would make Deebo Samuel and George Kittle far more compelling. (Both average over 20.0 DK FPG in their last three games against the Rams.) But, if Garoppolo plays, Stafford would be the clear preference, against this depleted San Francisco secondary.

Wes Huber’s favorite QB-play for tournaments is Russell Wilson. I’ll share his full write-up further down below. And I like [email protected] stacks nearly just as much as I like [email protected] stacks. Kyler Murray is also extremely in play, and is perfect for tournaments as Christian Kirk and Zach Ertz are both excellent plays this week. (Antoine Wesley and A.J. Green should be avoided in a bottom-3 matchup.)

It’s no doubt extremely risky, and somewhat conspiratorial, but I really like the idea of playing Green Bay stacks this week…. No one else is on it, expecting Green Bay to rest their starters for the full game, or at least the second-half. But I think there’s something like a 60% chance Green Bay’s starters play the full game, and a 100% chance all Green Bay players are <1% owned in tournaments. So, it’s a risk-reward play, but one I’m willing to gamble on… That said, I’ll only have some exposure, and will probably limit my exposure only to large-field tournaments like the Milly Maker… Per Rob Demovsky, “The Packers are planning to start Aaron Rodgers on Sunday and then LaFleur will see how the game goes.” Per LaFleur, “I don’t think [Rodgers] necessarily needs to play. I think he wants to play and I think he wants to keep the momentum going.”… But Rodgers wants to play. Rodgers wants to win MVP. And he holds all of the leverage in this scenario, as Green Bay is desperate to have him back when he hits free agency next season…. Green Bay’s starters played the full game in each of their last two Week 17s, despite having already locked up a first-round bye. Rodgers played every snap (including 55 passes in 2019) and averaged 24.5 FPG… The Lions rank: 2nd-worst in passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.525), 4th-worst in rushing FPG allowed to RBs (17.3), 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+3.9), and 2nd-worst in YPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep passes (59.1). So, all of Rodgers, Dillon, Adams, and MVS would be in play.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
[DK: QB8, FD: QB8]

Wilson is Wes Huber’s No. 1 QB-play of the slate. I don’t like him quite that much, but, given Huber’s insane track record this year, I felt compelled to share his thoughts in this space. Here’s what he had to say:

Here it is, the happy hunting ground of the entire Week 18 slate. I have my blinders and earmuffs in place to shield my consciousness from anything Vegas attempts in their arsenal of tricks to dissuade my belief that this is THE matchup to target. And it all begins with Russell Wilson. Over the last five weeks, Seattle is averaging 29.6 PPG. Consuming a completely-acceptable defeat at the hands of the Rams in Week 15 – Wilson’s continual Kryptonite in the Jalen Ramsey-involved world, and the Seahawks should really have won four of their last five. I am choosing to avoid a discussion of the 15-yard TD scored by Jimmy Graham to upset the ‘Hawks in Week 16.

In a dreamworld of NFL equality, Arizona’s defense would present a considerable challenge to Seattle this week. We don’t live in that dreamworld. The Cards are dealing with some overwhelming challenges in the secondary. Both Robert Alford and Marco Wilson are very likely to miss Week 18, especially Alford. Arizona featured Antonio Hamilton and Kevin Peterson on the perimeter in Week 17. With Michael Gallup suffering a significant injury, Hamilton’s numbers offer little in the way of reliability. But Peterson did not step up to the challenge.

The Cardinals and Vance Joseph dedicate themselves to the craft of coverage scheme masking. In addition to the top-15 rates of Cover 1, 3, 4, and 6, Joseph added the sixth-highest rate of Cover 2 to the rotation last week. It’s a maddening venture spent attempting to decipher the reasoning behind each face of the rotation. However, one chink in the armor did emerge, it seems Joseph is unwilling to throw his backup corners into the one-on-one situations Cover 1 demands. And the only other QBs on The Professor's level of excellence when attacking each of the major zone coverages are Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes II, and Matthew Stafford. Breaking down the reasoning in opposition to each scheme would be an article all to itself. Trust me when I say that this is a perfect schematic matchup for Wilson to attack vulnerable corners.

Other / Notes

The Bills offer the 2nd-highest implied team total of the slate (28.5), and that obviously brings Josh Allen in cash game consideration. Over the last 2 seasons, Allen has averaged 26.3 DraftKings FPG and 25.2 Fanduel FPG when the Bills’ implied team total is over 25.5 points (24 instances). So we have a massive sample suggesting we can project him for a 3.24X on DraftKings, and a 2.89X value on Fanduel this week. And with the Jets allowing the 6th-most FPG to opposing QBs (19.3) and touting PFF’s 3rd-worst coverage grade (40.6) it’s tough not to consider Allen the top cash QB on this slate, especially on Fanduel. [JT]

Though the sample size is incredibly small (10 quarters), Trey Lance is averaging 22.4 fantasy points per 4 quarters. Among QBs this season, that would rank 6th overall, just behind Kyler Murray and just ahead of Patrick Mahomes. And with Lance averaging 12.4 carries per 4 quarters (a mark that would best RBs like Javonte Williams, CEH, and Aaron Jones), it’s reasonable to assume Lance offers one of the safest floors of any QB. But there are still plenty of caveats that at least somewhat taint this play. Apparently, Jimmy G is questionable and has a chance to play. And the 49ers are 4.5-point underdogs in this contest, so the designed runs we’ve grown accustomed to with Lance may happen less frequently if SF is playing from behind. Still, with a $5,500 DraftKings price and a $7,000 Fanduel salary, it’s hard to consider Lance one of the safest QB values of the slate if he starts. [JT]

Taysom Hill has averaged 20.5 FPG in his 8 career starts, which would actually rank 5th-best among slate-eligible QBs, despite Hill being priced as the QB9 on DraftKings and the QB7 on Fanduel. And he draws a compelling matchup with Atlanta giving up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs (+2.7) and the 2nd-most rushing FPG to QBs (4.1). He’s a top-5 value at the QB position on both sites, but especially for tournaments, I think there are far more compelling options given Hill has never exceeded 27.0 fantasy points in an individual start. [JT]

Kyler Murray needs to be discussed as a cash game option given the Cardinals’ impressive 27.25 implied team total, the 4th-highest of the slate. He’s crushed these spots historically, averaging 25.5 DraftKings FPG and 24.2 Fanduel FPG when the Cardinals implied team total is over 26.5. And it’s tough not to consider the matchup a bonus, as while Seattle ranks a neutral matchup in most fantasy points against metrics, they do grade out as PFF’s 7th-worst coverage unit (49.7 team coverage grade). I’m viewing Murray as right there with Josh Allen as the top cash game play of slate, and while I’d lean Allen on Fanduel, Murray’s QB4 pricing on DraftKings just seems far too low. [JT]

Tyler Huntley has thrown over 30 passes in 4 games this season, and in those games, he averages 18.8 FPG. While that’s obviously impressive for a backup QB, it’s worth noting that his incredible Week 15 performance (when he scored 35.9 fantasy points) is the only instance in that sample where Huntley exceeded 16.0 fantasy points. So, in his 3 worst games, Huntley averages a quite pedestrian 13.1 FPG. Still, Huntley has eclipsed 40 rushing yards in every game this season, and averages 8.3 rushing FPG this season – a mark that would rank 2nd among all QBs this season and would actually constitute the 9th-best fantasy QB rushing season since 1975. That rushing ability keeps Huntley in the conversation as a top QB value, but his relatively low scores outside of Week 15 prevent him from being a viable cash game option on either site. In a slightly negative matchup with a Pittsburgh team allowing the 8th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG (-1.1) to opposing QBs, I like Huntley as a high-risk, high-reward tournament play, especially in smaller/single-entry fields. [JT]

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and Lead DFS Writer.