4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 15

The beauty of daily fantasy football is that, unlike a season-long draft where someone is tied to their top players all year, any top players in the NFL can make their way into your lineup. While that can be a blessing, it can also be a curse.

Although you're able to roster Austin Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor, and Najee Harris all at once if you want, it is unlikely that all three running backs are optimal plays at their respective salaries for a particular week. There are many elements to decide which players are the best plays, and a large aspect of daily fantasy is the matchup a player has.

While usually encompassed in some respects inside the salary figure, a soft matchup can carry a good running back to a great week. On the other hand, a tough matchup can make superstars suboptimal to roster.

Which matchups are lurking in this weekend's games that we can take advantage of on FanDuel?

(UPDATE: Since the publication of this piece, Sunday's games between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team have been postponed. Those players will no longer be included on the main slate.)

49ers Passing Attack vs. The Falcons Secondary

The San Francisco 49ers are a run-first team, and that's what they'd rather do. Therefore, it's a little worrisome Elijah Mitchell likely has a better chance to play through a concussion and knee issue this week rather than last.

Still, my retort to Kyle Shanahan would simply be, "if it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Jimmy Garoppolo ($6,500) is hot at this moment. He's posted an above-average 0.14 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back the past three weeks, and he's entering a matchup with a Falcons secondary that is allowing 0.22 Passing NEP per drop back as a defensive unit -- third-worst in the NFL.

Now, Garoppolo's projected success would mean very little if the target tree hasn't been pared down so much, as well. Deebo Samuel has effectively been taken out of the passing game in this same span with just five total targets. That makes stacking the handsome quarterback simple -- it's George Kittle ($7,800) and Brandon Aiyuk ($6,600).

Those two have combined for 55.9% of Jimmy G's targets in this same relevant, three-game sample. Kittle has a whopping 29 of those targets, and that more than justifies his top-notch salary considering the positional advantage he gives at tight end. Still, Aiyuk has seen 23 himself, and he comes at a much lower salary.

While Samuel will still steal high-leverage work on the ground, and Mitchell could return, either receiving option -- or both -- are a solid stack against a weak Atlanta pass defense. Garappolo is also not a bad salary saver at a tricky quarterback position.

Devonta Freeman vs. The Packers Run Defense

Largely, I consider the Packers a defense to avoid, and their league-worst pace isn't exactly a daily fantasy target, either.

However, Green Bay opens up an obvious bring-back option to an offense with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams that is a great stack on the other side. It's on the ground with Devonta Freeman ($5,900).

Baltimore has rarely given one tailback a lead role, but Freeman currently has one. In the past three weeks, Freeman has played 60.1% of the total offensive snaps for the Ravens, and he's been rewarded with 23.7 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) as a result.

Green Bay's sturdy defense is most built on its prowess against the pass. On the ground, the Packers are actually allowing the third-most Rushing NEP per carry (0.10) in the NFL. Most teams abandon the run when trailing the Pack's prolific offense, but the Ravens (53% situational-neutral pass rate) typically don't -- regardless of matchup.

At a value salary, Freeman also helps offset the lofty ones on the Green Bay side, and he's an option regardless of his quarterback. He'll likely see more volume if Tyler Huntley starts, and the offense should generally be more efficient if Lamar Jackson plays through his ankle injury.

Mike Gesicki vs. The Jets

Guessing touchdown equity at tight end sometimes feels impossible, and Mike Gesicki ($6,200) is far from an exception.

It was encouraging to see Gesicki still saw 11 targets in Week 13 against the Giants despite a supremely-positive game script and the return of DeVante Parker. Gesicki's overall role is never the issue; he's just been very unfortunate in the touchdown column:

Name POS Team Targets Rec TDs Rec TDs Per Target
Cole Kmet TE CHI 69 0 0.00
Kyle Pitts TE ATL 88 1 0.01
Mike Gesicki TE MIA 89 2 0.02
Darren Waller TE LV 84 2 0.02
Evan Engram TE NYG 56 2 0.04

**Only Includes Tight Ends With a Minimum of 50 Targets

Gesicki is bottom-five amongst tight ends with at least 50 targets this season in terms of touchdowns scored per target. Overwhelmingly, an athletic, large tight end seeing this volume should be scoring much closer to the rate Dawson Knox (0.14) does than Gesicki's current rate.

This week's divine matchup should give him an opportunity to eat into this deficit. Gesicki's Dolphins face the Jets. Any regular reader knows the Jets stink on defense at multiple things, but tight ends are definitely not an exception. New York is allowing 1.71 Adjusted FanDuel points per target to opposing tight ends. That's second in the league to only Philadelphia.

A plus matchup and a 26.00-point implied team total could help the Fins' tight end turn around his season light on scores.

Rams D/ST vs. Seahawks Offensive Line

While many are riding high on Rashaad Penny and the Seattle Seahawks off a convincing win over the lowly Texans, a return to Earth could come fast against the Los Angeles Rams.

Seattle's offensive line is still surrendering a 31% pressure rate as a group. That's the second-highest mark in the NFL with only the Dolphins allowing pressure on a higher percentage of drop backs.

At least Aaron Donald is not on the other sideline, right? Oh.

Donald leads a stellar Los Angeles Rams D/ST ($4,200) that has the very top pressure mark as a defensive front (36%) in the NFL. The Rams have three-plus sacks in nine different games this year, and they're averaging 1.46 takeaways per game.

Coming off four sacks and two takeaways against Kyler Murray, they'll now draw Russell Wilson. Wilson had taken six sacks and turned the ball over four times in the two weeks prior to meeting the struggling Texans' defense.

At home, the Rams could fly under the radar with 13 other teams playing this weekend having a lower implied team total than the Seahawks.