Daily Fantasy Football: Divisional Round Players to Target and Avoid
It is the playoffs. There is fantasy football to be had for one more week -- well, two, but two-game slates aren't the same.
I'll spare you the long introduction and offer some suggestions for your daily fantasy football experience this weekend and explain the thought process behind what the numbers suggest.
Target: Aaron Rodgers - Rodgers has been, undoubtedly, the best quarterback in the league this year, and he gets to face a generous secondary in a crucial playoff tilt. The Dallas Cowboys ranked 23rd in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play this year, the worst mark of any remaining playoff team.
With a monster over/under of 53 (still second to the 54 mark in the Indianapolis and Denver game), Rodgers should have an easy time living up to his price tag even while being the most expensive quarterback virtually everywhere. He's the best value this week, has the highest floor, and has the highest ceiling, too, per our math. Paying up for him ($8,900 on DraftKings and $9,700 on FanDuel) isn't a bad choice this week.
Avoid: Russell Wilson - Wilson offers one of the highest ceilings in the entire NFL at the position because of his rushing ability. Excluding Week 17, Wilson had six games with more than 20 fantasy points this year. Well, this week, the Panthers and Seahawks have a tiny over/under (39.5). That's a full eight points fewer than the second-lowest scoring game on the slate, and that's bad news for Wilson.
The Panthers rank eighth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, which is our way of saying they have the eighth-best pass defense in the NFL. Coupling this with Wilson's inferior home splits (193.0 yards, 0.75 touchdowns, 0.75 interceptions) to his road ones (241.4 yards, 1.75 touchdowns, and 0.13 interceptions) and a 10.5-point spread in his favor, Wilson likely won't need to reach his ceiling this week.
Sleeper: Tom Brady - Brady offers a price reduction from Rodgers and plays the second-worst secondary left in the playoffs (Baltimore ranked 17th in the league this year). The Ravens boast the second-best run defense in the league, too, so Brady could be forced to throw and rack up yardage.
Target: DeMarco Murray - I swear I'm not just going to recommend the highest-priced guys at each position and tell you to play them, but Murray draws a good matchup. He's likely to touch the ball frequently in an attempt to control the clock -- the Cowboys ran the ball at the third-highest rate all year -- and the Packers ranked 22nd in run defense this season. He's the highest-priced back on DraftKings ($8,400) and is tied with Marshawn Lynch at the top on FanDuel ($8,900), so some might shy away from him.
Despite trailing for most of the game last week, Murray saw 19 carries. If you want safety at the running back spot, Murray is your guy.
Avoid: C.J. Anderson - I'm not saying to avoid Anderson at all costs, but if you're going to spend up at running back, you want to ensure that you're getting primo carries (like Murray). Nobody can guarantee that at this point for Anderson. In Week 17, Denver's most recent game, Anderson led Denver backs with 36 snaps. The problem is that Ronnie Hillman saw 35.
Anderson draws a great matchup: Indianapolis ranks 23rd in PPR points allowed to backs, and they were just 16th in run defense according to our metrics, but with Murray and Lynch on the board for roughly the same price on FanDuel, it's hard to trust Anderson unless you're playing in a big tournament or know for sure that he's going to be the main back in the offense.
Sleepers: Justin Forsett - Forsett is the fifth-most expensive back on DraftKings this week at just $5,400 and on FanDuel at $6,800. The Patriots ranked 17th in run defense this year, per our metrics, but finished fourth in pass defense. Grinding with Forsett will be the best way to attack the Pats -- just hope that the game is close enough to rely on the run.
Boom Herron - You're going to have to save money somehow somewhere or else you'll end up throwing darts at the wideout or tight end position. Herron has it rough and faces the 10th-best run defense from the regular season, but his huge day receiving last week (10 catches, 85 yards) and monopoly on the snaps (75% last week) makes him about as good a choice as any to try to save some salary.
Target: Emmanuel Sanders - Sanders can be had at a solid price ($7,100) DraftKings. He's a little pricier in relativity on FanDuel at $8,500. Either way, our projections like him and peg him for 5.56 receptions, 79.88 yards, and 0.71 touchdowns. That's not even a full fantasy point fewer than teammate Demaryius Thomas. Saving a bit by grabbing Sanders will help you spend up wherever you choose to do so.
Avoid: Kelvin Benjamin - I would honestly consider putting Benjamin in this spot no matter the matchup or the price ($5,000 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel). It "feels" like Benjamin has monster upside, but against the Seahawks, he's unlikely to realize that potential. With only one game of greater than 11.0 PPR points in his last six, Benjamin is tough to justify despite his depressed price.
Sleepers: Brandon LaFell - If you like Brady, then you probably like LaFell. Or at least the other way around. But the matchup is enticing, and LaFell is no stranger to big days.
Torrey Smith - I'm not big on the Ravens' passing attack this week, but this Smith has four touchdowns in his last three games. He's coming off a two-catch (one-touchdown) performance and faces that tough Patriots defense, but he was half a step from another touchdown last week, and others might be scared off because of the opponent.
Donte Moncrief and Terrance Williams - Both guys have eight catches in their last three games and can pay off their price tag in just one catch. You can't feel confident about either of these guys, but you literally have to scrounge in some spots to complete a roster this week.
Target: Jason Witten - Witten doesn't give you the upside of a Rob Gronkowski, but his consistency (at least four catches in his last four games) makes him worth the money if you can find it in the budget. Spending on Gronk is hard, but passing up on some near-guaranteed production for the cheaper tight ends could kill a good lineup.
Avoid: Greg Olsen - I'm not off Olsen just because of the matchup, though he did manage just one catch against the Seahawks in Week 8. Olsen is priced pretty high ($5,100 on DraftKings and $6,200 on FanDuel), and is the third-most and second-most expensive tight end, respectively. Olsen has just six catches over his last three games, and his consistency has evaporated. Olsen can go out and catch 10 passes, sure, but with a projected Vegas total of 14.5, you probably don't want to risk it. I know I'm avoiding both Benjamin and Olsen and that at least one of them will likely muster a modest stat line, but that's a guessing game I'm not willing to play.
Sleeper: Coby Fleener - I really can't peg any "sleepers" at the tight end position, though Owen Daniels and Dwayne Allen are cheap. Still, Daniels has just four touchdowns on the year, and Allen hasn't hit double-digit fantasy points since Week 9.Fleener allows some savings on DraftKings ($4,600). Sure, he saw just two targets last week (one fewer than Allen), and Allen had more snaps (62) than Fleener did (54), but Allen hasn't been over 10.0 fantasy points since Week 9. You probably don't want to risk a zero at the position by going with a guy like Luke Willson so Fleener -- or Allen -- might be your best bet.