Daily Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Primer: Week 17
The final week of the regular season presents some unique challenges in fantasy football. Not only do we need to pay attention to the growing list of injuries, but the majority of the league has nothing to play for except pride. Ideally, we'll know ahead of time who is resting, but that isn't always the case, and it's smart to factor into potential decreased workloads for veterans playing for eliminated teams.
In this preview, I'll break down the wide receivers into three categories based on FanDuel's prices: players to build around, value plays, and players to avoid.
Players to build around are more expensive, but their ceilings are high enough that you should consider prioritizing them in your lineup. Value plays are cheaper options who usually come with some risk, but adding them to your lineup will help you afford the expensive stars. Players to avoid are guys you might normally consider at their price tag but have tough matchups and are unlikely to live up to their usual expectations.
All references to betting totals and spreads are from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Receivers to Build Around
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints ($9,200) -- Michael Thomas has ranked as a top-five receiver in five of his last seven games and has only finished outside the top 25 once this season. The New Orleans Saints have locked up a playoff spot, but are still battling the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC's top seed, ensuring their motivation to give Thomas his usual workload. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers -- with an interim head coach and rookie quarterback -- will have little motivation for this game.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons ($8,500) -- It's always risky using players in Week 17 who have nothing left to play for, but the Atlanta Falcons appear to be playing hard in an effort to close out the season on a high note. With Calvin Ridley on injured reserve, Julio Jones has absorbed his workload, racking up 35 targets over the previous two weeks. On Sunday, Jones draws a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense which has allowed a top-10 performance to a wide receiver nine times this year.
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys ($7,500) -- It's been six weeks since Amari Cooper ranked as a top-10 receiver, but the inconsistent production may work in your favor this week as he's at his cheapest price since Week 1. The Cowboys are still technically in the playoff hunt -- they win the NFC East with a victory and a Philadelphia Eagles loss -- so Cooper's workload should remain consistent. Despite being held to single-digit fantasy points in consecutive weeks, Cooper saw 12 targets in Week 16, and is clearly still Dak Prescott's go-to target.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots ($7,500) -- The Miami Dolphins defense has produced a top-10 scoring wide receiver in five of their last six games, including four top-two scores in that span. Julian Edelman is likely to be the beneficiary this week, as the New England Patriots will remain motivated in their quest to clinch the No. 2 seed. Edelman has ranked among the top 20 receivers eight times, tied for the third-most in the league.
A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans ($7,200) -- Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Tennessee Titans starter, A.J. Brown has ranked as a top-15 receiver four times, tied for the fifth-most among all receivers. Despite his consistent success, there are still 14 receivers priced above Brown on this slate. Just two weeks ago Brown posted 21.4 fantasy points against the Houston Texans and it's reasonable to assume Tennessee will attempt to replicate that success on Sunday.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants ($6,200) -- Despite shutting down the Cowboys offense last week, the Eagles secondary has struggled of late. In their previous four games, Philly allowed a top-10 fantasy score to a wide receiver. Since returning from injury in Week 12, Sterling Shepard has led the New York Giants with a 23.3 percent target share.
Justin Watson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,100) -- In Chris Godwin's absence in Week 16, Justin Watson stepped in as the Bucs' primary slot receiver, leading the team with seven targets from the slot (10 targets overall), according to Sports Info Solutions. Godwin did not practice on Thursday, increasing the chances Watson remains in a similar role for the season finale. With Watson hoping to earn a larger role in 2020 and Jameis Winston still fighting for his future in Tampa, it's reasonable to expect a strong effort from the Buccaneers' offense this week. This matchup between Tampa and Atlanta carries the highest total on the main slate at 48 points.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals ($5,900) -- Is this the last time we'll see Larry Fitzgerald suit up? Even though his fantasy production has been inconsistent -- he's ranked among the top 20 receivers just twice this year -- Fitzgerald might be a good tournament dart throw this week. Knowing it could be his final game, and with neither the Arizona Cardinals or Los Angeles Rams having anything on the line, Arizona might force-feed him the ball, especially near the end zone.
Greg Ward, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,600) -- Greg Ward has operated as the Eagles slot receiver in Nelson Agholor's absence and has seen 23 targets over the last three weeks. Agholor's status for Week 17 is up in the air, but if Ward gets the start, he draws an ideal matchup against the inept Giants defense. According to Sports Info Solutions, New York is allowing 9.83 yards per target to receivers in the slot, the worst rate in the league.
Receivers to Avoid
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs ($8,200) -- Given his big-play ability, Tyreek Hill is never a terrible choice for a tournament lineup. However, the Los Angeles Chargers are a less-than-ideal matchup given their heavy usage of zone coverage. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Chargers play zone coverage 74 percent of the time, the highest rate in the league. Since returning from injury in Week 6, Hill leads the Kansas City Chiefs with a 30 percent target share versus man coverage, but that rate drops to 22 percent (behind Travis Kelce) versus zone coverage.
All Ravens Receivers -- The Baltimore Ravens have locked up home field advantage and are planning to rest Lamar Jackson and a handful of other starters. Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback in Jackson's place. This could create playing time for some cheaper Ravens receivers, but it's hard to know how targets will be spread around in this situation. Additionally, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a must-win situation, making this a tough spot for Baltimore's backups.
All Rams Receivers -- The Rams are healthy heading into Week 17, but it's difficult to trust Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods or Brandin Cooks. What will their collective effort look like in Week 17 with nothing to play for, just one year after playing in the Super Bowl? Even though the team has made no announcement about their plan to rest players, it's reasonable to have concern about the usual starters getting a full workload in this game.
Ryan McCrystal is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Ryan McCrystal also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username cfbfilmroom. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.