DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Wild Card Weekend
The NFL regular season might be over, but daily fantasy rolls on throughout the playoffs. Not only is every postseason slate a small one, but given these are all winning teams that got into the postseason we'll see many situations in which good offensive players are pitted against a good defense. All those easy, flowchart-type matchups are no longer available to us. Thankfully, this Wild Card Weekend does contain some teams with very clear vulnerabilities that we can exploit.
Also, numberFire has several excellent premium tools to sharpen your process. The heat map provides a very useful overview of the slate while the projections and lineup generator can help you really fine tune things. Best of all, you aren't limited to just the NFL DFS tools. As a subscriber, NBA and NHL content is also available as those sports are each well into their respective regular season.
But you are here for football and this week's top plays on DraftKings. Let's get to it!
Drew Brees ($6,400) - On a playoff slate that features just eight quarterbacks, Brees is the top option, according to our projections. Not only does he carry the biggest raw number in terms of projected fantasy points, but he's also tied with Alex Smith as the top point-per-dollar values at quarterback. This will be the third time that the New Orleans Saints will see the Carolina Panthers this season. Back in Week 3, Brees squeaked out 220 passing yards but managed to score 3 touchdowns. More recently, in Week 13, he threw for 269 yards and 1 touchdown.
However, Carolina has really struggled against the pass in the second half of the year. Over their last eight games, opposing quarterbacks are averaging nearly 295 passing yards per game. While it hasn't been a prolific season by the lofty standards set by Brees in the past, his splits for this season offer no surprises: he's slightly better at home, especially in the Saints' victories.
Cam Newton ($6,500) - It goes without saying that Newton is always a guy who daily fantasy players are looking for a reason to roster. Facing the Saints in Week 3 was nothing short of a disaster, however. Newton only managed 167 passing yards, scored once on the ground, and was benched late in a blowout loss for Derek Anderson after taking four sacks to go along with three interceptions. Versus New Orleans in Week 13, Newton threw for only 183 yards, 2 touchdowns and led the team with 51 rushing yards. And that rushing production is what provides the floor for Newton. Since Week 6, he's averaging 10 carries and more than 60 yards per game. In other words, Newton is collecting 6 points per game solely as a runner. Add in a rushing touchdown, and that's already a dozen points before any passing stats are factored in.
Tyrod Taylor ($4,700) - Speaking of quarterbacks producing on the ground, Taylor should not be a man left forgotten this weekend. Sure, facing the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road is a daunting task, but the matchup is what provides some great savings. Taylor is priced $2,000 less than Jared Goff -- the most expensive quarterback on the slate -- and $800 less than Marcus Mariota, the only other quarterback priced below $6,000 this week.
Jacksonville is great versus the pass, but they have seen quarterbacks run on them. They are 6th in quarterback rushing attempts and 7th in rushing yards. In Week 14, Russell Wilson ran 5 times for 50 yards while Mariota recorded 60 yards on 10 carries just last week. According to Sharp Football Stats, both Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer were credited with an explosive run (10 yards or more) in their recent outings versus the Jags. If your cash-game approach is to pay down at quarterback to jam in all the studs, Taylor's rushing floor might help get you there.
Todd Gurley ($9,700) - At first glance, it might appear as though a running back facing the Atlanta Falcons is facing a difficult matchup. After all, the Falcons are 11th in limiting DraftKings points to opposing backs. However, Gurley has been brushing difficult matchups aside all year long. In Week 16, he rang up over 275 yards of offense on the road against the Tennessee Titans' solid run D. In Week 14, the Philadelphia Eagles gave up a total of 135 yards to Gurley. He also cleared 20 DraftKings points each time he played the Arizona Cardinals. And all three of those teams have done a better job than the Falcons have at suppressing DraftKings points to running backs.
In addition to that, where Gurley can really feast on Atlanta is in the passing game. The Falcons allowed the most receptions to running backs (110) this year; no other team reached 100 catches allowed to the position. Despite skipping the final game of the regular season, Gurley was first among running backs in yards from scrimmage, placing second in both rushing and receiving yards. Given the large workload and his contributions as a receiver, it's hard to envision a cash-game lineup that doesn't include Gurley.
Derrick Henry ($6,000) - DeMarco Murray suffered a sprained MCL in Week 16. If the injury is indeed a third-degree tear, as originally reported, that means Murray is extremely likely to sit out another week. Henry outplayed Murray all year and deserved to be the starter on merit months ago. Facing a Jacksonville defense that was living in the backfield for much of the game, Henry couldn't get much done as a runner last week. However, when Henry did get into open space, he turned a screen pass into a 66-yard touchdown. While he's unlikely to see enough targets to be your typical option in a PPR-friendly environment like DraftKings, Henry is priced nicely for someone who can easily see 20 carries -- if Murray sits -- against sixth-worst run defense, per our schedule-adjusted metrics. Don't be mislead by the Kansas City Chiefs owning the fifth-best opponent rank to running backs on DraftKings. Per Sharp Football Stats, KC ranks 30th in Rushing Success Rate and 31st in Explosive Rushing.
Marcus Murphy ($3,700) - It's hard to imagine that a player very few of us have ever heard of could make such a massive difference of this slate, but that's exactly where we stand with Murphy. This is because LeSean McCoy was carted off early in Buffalo's Week 17 road win at the Miami Dolphins and is looking like a game-time decision due to a sprained ankle. After McCoy exited last week, Murphy carried the ball 7 times for 41 yards while catching both of his targets for 7 yards in his first action on offense this season. Mike Tolbert ($3,600) compiled a similar stat line and would certainty touch the ball a fair amount should McCoy sit.
However, Murphy came off to the team's practice squad to replace Travaris Cadet, suggesting he would be the preferred target in the passing game. Since Week 12, a number of running backs have been quite successful against the Jags. During that time, they rank 24th in Rushing Success Rate and 26th in Explosive Rushing. The tricky part is having to wait until Sunday to see if McCoy plays. On Saturday night, Tevin Coleman ($4,100) is the other cheap running back to consider as Devonta Freeman is dealing with a knee issue and has only carried the ball 22 times over the last two weeks.
Michael Thomas ($7,800) - The wide receiver to pay up for this week is clearly Thomas. When deciding between Julio Jones and Thomas, it's important to note Julio's ugly splits when playing on a grass. Perhaps more importantly, the opposing Los Angeles Rams are ranked seventh by our metrics against the pass. After a hamstring issue limited Thomas to 58 percent of the snaps in Week 16, he looks just fine going forward after logging a 91 percent snap rate in Week 17. It doesn't hurt that New Orleans is at home and owns the highest implied total of the slate. While Carolina is a top-10 pass defense by our metrics, they are very much heading in wrong direction. Since coming back from a bye in Week 12, Carolina has really struggled in pass defense. In fact, no defense has conceded more passing yards than the Panthers since that time. Thomas did some of that damage in Week 13, going for 5 receptions on 9 targets for 70 yards and touchdown. That makes Thomas one of nine receivers to reach that mark during Carolina's ugly six-game slide.
Keelan Cole ($5,400) - This price can't be right, can it? Since Week 12, according to Josh Hermsmeyer's airyards.com, Cole leads the Jaguars in receptions, receiving yards, and air yards. In fact, his 505 receiving yards are the fourth-most by any wide receiver in that time. Marqise Lee did not practice on Wednesday and has been unable to get on the field since he was hurt in Week 15. Even though Cole wasn't productive in a meaningless Week 17 game, he did log 100 percent of the snaps for the first time.
The pass defense of the Buffalo Bills comes out favorably in our metrics, though. While they are 22nd in Passing Success Rate, Buffalo has been the best at limiting explosive passes. However, heavily-targeted receivers have been successful against the Bills in recent weeks. Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry (twice), and DeVante Parker all saw double-digit targets and cleared 90 receiving yards. Jacksonville would likely prefer to lean heavily on the ground game, and the matchup is terrific for that, but can Leonard Fournette capitalize? Since returning from a team suspension for Week 10, Fournette is averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per carry. He missed Week 15 with lingering quad and ankle injuries but was on the field for nearly all the snaps in Week 17.
Kelvin Benjamin ($3,500) - Far and away, the top point-per-dollar value on this entire slate, based on our projections, is Benjamin. In the midst of a turbulent season that saw him traded mid-year to go along with a lingering knee issue, Benjamin is still just a hair shy of averaging double-digit DraftKings points per game. He's also only $500 above the minimum for wide receivers. Benjamin has hit a single-digit floor in four of his six games with Buffalo, but he's reached a dozen points in the other two. Teammate Deonte Thompson is dealing with a shoulder injury while rookie Zay Jones has found a way to catch a mere 7 of his last 23 targets. If Buffalo can accomplish anything in the pass game, it will be either through Benjamin, their backfield or tight end Charles Clay ($4,000), who has also been limited with a knee issue of his own.
Travis Kelce ($7,100) - Not only is Kelce easily the top-projected tight end, his projection trails just Julio Jones and Michael Thomas among wide receivers. Kelce is -- after all -- the top receiving option for the Kansas City Chiefs. He leads Tyreek Hill for the team lead in targets, receptions, and air yards. And while the Titans' defense ranks in the middle of the pack against the tight end position, they haven't seen much in the way of competition. Jack Doyle caught 7 passes in each of his meetings against Tennessee, and Stephen Anderson popped up for 79 yards and a touchdown when he was called upon by the Houston Texans in Week 13.
As for Kelce, he's seen at least seven targets in seven of his last eight games while scoring a total of five touchdowns during that span. As a pass defense, Tennessee checks in sixth-worst, per our schedule-adjusted metrics, and they are easily the least formidable D to have made the playoffs. While he's not a must-play in cash games, Kelce is a luxury worth finding the value to get into lineups.
Delanie Walker ($4,700) - Walker is the top tight end value based on our projections and comes at a $2,400 savings when compared to Kelce. Like Kelce, Walker also leads his team in several receiving categories -- targets, receptions, receiving yards, and air yards. Kansas City has been successful in silencing tight ends like Evan Engram, Jason Witten, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but they have allowed some big weeks to the position. KC nearly gave up 100 yards to Zach Ertz, and Jared Cook did clear that mark in Week 7. Cook also got to 75 yards with a touchdown in Week 14. The only game in which Walker didn't see at least five targets was all the way back in Week 2. While Walker doesn't carry Kelce's upside, the consistent supply of volume creates a very reasonable floor.
Jacksonville D/ST ($4,400) - If you are paying up for a defense, of course it's going to be the Jacksonville Jaguars. They've forced a turnover in all but two games and, on the year, were second in both sacks and takeaways. Tyrod Taylor has taken very good care of the football this season -- only four interceptions while losing just two fumbles -- but he has been sacked at least twice in all but two of his starts. Also, LeSean McCoy is dealing with a sprained ankle. Jacksonville is bound to get Taylor on the ground, and if the Jags can force the Bills to play from behind, they could put up another big fantasy day. You are paying for the certain points, even though Taylor has kept the ball quite secure, putting a slight limit on the ceiling.
New Orleans D/ST ($3,200) - Over last four contests, the Saints have combined for nine interceptions and nine sacks. The last game in which they didn't pick off the quarterback was against the Panthers in Week 13. Back in Week 3, however, they got Cam Newton to throw three interceptions. That's something Newton just did last week, too, as a matter of fact. Although it's also Newton's first multi-interception game since Week 7. Despite all his rushing attempts, Newton hasn't lost a fumble all year and hasn't been sacked more than twice since Week 12. Even though the Saints allowed 3.5 more real-life points at home, their D/ST actually scored 1.4 more DraftKings points while playing in the Superdome.