Week 16 Thursday-to-Saturday Daily Fantasy Football Picks: The Worst Slate Ever
Imagine a fantasy football game which allowed you to pick whichever players you wanted, from any team, with no regard for price. Just make a lineup with your favorite plays of the week, click submit, and compete against the world.
You have that opportunity this week but with an unfortunate caveat. Instead of "from any team," you get to pick only from the Titans, Jaguars, Chargers, 49ers, Eagles, and Washington. And it's called the daily fantasy slate for Thursday to Saturday of Week 16.
This group of games is so lacking in good fantasy options that it's impossible to create a lineup on most sites that fills the salary cap, meaning price doesn't matter with these players at all. So we're left with the task of simply picking the best players in three games that feature some really frustrating teams in unflattering situations.
But there's money to be won, so let's take a look at the best options from each game to try to put together a lineup or two for this unique slate of games.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
When the Titans have the ball: The Jaguars have one of the league's most average defenses, ranking 15th against the pass and 18th against the run according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) data. Teams have succeeded in chipping away at them with running backs, as Jacksonville has allowed the sixth-most points per game to the position this season. But who do you target for the Titans to exploit that weakness?
Shonn Greene got the bulk of the carries in Week 15 but did nothing with them, while Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey didn't see enough action to be fantasy relevant. If I had to bet on one of these players finding the end zone, it's Greene, and I'd also bet on him to carry the ball most often. So if you're predicting a road win for Tennessee, Greene might be a good play. I'd reserve that for only the most ambitious of tournament lineups.
The Jaguars are a bit tougher to crack against the pass from a fantasy perspective and don't represent a good team to target for opposing passing games. Add in the general lack of talent in the Titans' passing game, and it's easy to pass on this unit altogether. Delanie Walker is technically a tight end option, but without price factoring into our decision-making, he's a tournament play at best.
When the Jaguars have the ball: The Titans are bad at defending the run from both a real and fantasy football perspective, as they rank 29th in Defensive Rushing NEP and are ranked the same in terms of fewest points allowed to the position. In other words, they're the fourth-worst run defense in the league no matter how you slice it. But Jacksonville doesn't have a good run game with Denard Robinson sidelined due to injury, leaving the boring, limited Toby Gerhart as your top play to take advantage of the lacking run defense for Tennessee. Are you willing to roll those dice?
The Titans are also bad at stopping the pass, as they rank 26th in our metrics against opponents' throws. This hasn't translated into fantasy production every week, as teams often run the ball against the Titans en route to easy wins, but in what should be a competitive game between two bad teams, the Jacksonville passing game is definitely in play for DFS. Blake Bortles is an option at quarterback (if he plays), as he has the added bonus of running ability. His receivers are all in play, as Cecil Shorts, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee all split the targets in this offense fairly evenly. They're all in play against Tennessee, with Hurns standing out as the one most capable of breaking a big play and changing your fantasy fortunes at any moment.
Under the radar plays: If you believe the Titans will chase this game, versatile back Dexter McCluster may see more targets in the passing game out of the backfield, while Nate Washington represents a large chunk of the target share on offense. For the Jaguars, Storm Johnson is a young back in waiting behind Gerhart and might get more looks this week if the veteran doesn't produce.
San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
When the Chargers have the ball: The 49ers have a strong run defense, ranking among the top-12 according to both our data and fantasy points against. This doesn't bode well for an average running game out of San Diego featuring a banged up Ryan Mathews. If Mathews is ruled out, the split between Branden Oliver and Donald Brown is shaky and tough to predict for fantasy purposes, so these players are tournament options at best in a bad matchup.
The Niners are among the stingiest when it comes to giving up points to fantasy football quarterbacks, as well, meaning an injured Philip Rivers is hardly a safe play despite his somewhat impressive season. Wide receivers usually don't flourish against San Francisco, either, so Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal are shots in the dark. Tight ends have found openings in the 49ers defense in 2014, however, as three players at the position have topped 10 points over the past five weeks. Fire up Antonio Gates as the top tight end option in this slate against a team that allowed 7 catches for 106 yards to Mychal Rivera just two weeks ago.
When the 49ers have the ball: The Chargers are better than you think against the run, ranking 10th in NEP and allowing the fifth-fewest points over the past five games. With the injury concerns for the Niners, avoid this position entirely.
The Bolts are susceptible to the pass, but can we trust Colin Kaepernick to go for a big game when price isn't a consideration? I'm not going to be investing in him, but I may consider Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree to fill out my receivers. Boldin is doing more with his targets this season despite seeing a similar workload over the past month, so trust the veteran if you're going to invest in the San Fran passing game.
Under the radar plays: Bruce Miller saw six targets last week as the 49ers ran out of other backs to use due to injury. Don't be surprised to see them go back to the fullback this week with Vernon Davis playing so poorly and with few other options in the short passing game. Donald Brown also saw a jump in targets in recent weeks and is a sneaky PPR play if Ryan Mathews is ruled out.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington
When the Eagles have the ball: Both of these teams have top-five run defenses, according to our data, but Washington backs that up with solid numbers in the fantasy department, as well. But LeSean McCoy is the best back in this slate, and also the one with the safest workload, and that makes him a virtual must-play if you're throwing lineups into these contests. He gets too many touches to not be in your cash game lineups.
Washington is awful against the pass, ranking dead last in several key categories I use when evaluating matchups. Mark Sanchez and all of his receivers are in play for this game, as well as his tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. I wouldn't be opposed to using Ertz or Celek in the flex on DraftKings along with Gates as a way to help your lineup stand out a bit.
When Washington has the ball: The Eagles have a tough run defense, but they still allow fantasy points to the running back position, which keeps Alfred Morris as a viable play this week. His role is nearly as secure as LeSean McCoy's, and his success in games with Robert Griffin III under center is well-documented. Alf and Shady are the top two plays at running back in this three-game grouping, and it's not really close.
The Eagles have been victimized through the air quite a bit this season, ranking 17th in NEP but giving up the third-most points to quarterbacks and the most points to wideouts. RGIII is definitely an option at quarterback, with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon representing two of his most likely targets. It's a revenge game for Jackson on national TV, so if you believe in that sort of stuff, here's your chance to prove it. Jordan Reed is theoretically the best tight end here but is not on the radar with much better options in this slate.
Under the radar plays: Roy Helu or Chris Thompson (health being the deciding factor) should see the targets out of the backfield for Washington, as Morris is a poor receiver from the tailback position. Riley Cooper has been seeing plenty of targets in recent weeks for the Eagles and could be a contrarian play for those looking to break from the chalky plays but still invest in the Philly pass offense.