STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 16

By: Corey Schwartz | December 22, 2017

I’m out next week, and during NFL playoffs, then my focus will shift to NBA regular-season DFS. Therefore, this will be my last NFL DFS piece of the season! Please feel free to give me feedback about how this could change next season to be more helpful – I’m already considering listing more players, without as much analysis and text. For now, though, just remember that I’m focusing primarily on DFS prices and strategy. In season-long, you’re honing in on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean’s Tiers, but in DFS, there are tons of iterations and decisions involved, with the landscape changing each week depending on pricing. Hopefully some of the DFS sleepers that I mention can also serve as waiver wire pickups for you in season-long, but if you’re unsure, please feel free to reach out on twitter (@cschwartz18), as always.

Note that both sites are at least half PPR – Draftkings (DK) is full – and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if Samaje Perine is ruled out and Kapri Bibbs is basically Washington’s only healthy RB, Bibbs could certainly be worth a punt play. It’s such a dynamic process with tons of news coming all the way until kickoff, so check twitter and only use this as a guide, not as gospel.

Quarterbacks

The same elite QB play works on both sites, and as a result, there’s not much else to say. In addition to that guy (who is my favorite in cash), I’ll point out a contrarian GPP play and a sleeper I like.

High-End Play: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. TB)

If you watched MNF last week, you probably saw Tampa defenders get hurt on seemingly every play. Their defense is one of the most banged up in the league, and they’re just about tanking at this point. Statistically just an average matchup, the injuries make Tampa an extremely plus matchup for opposing QBs. Cam has been good for about 6 weeks in a row now and has the best matchup of the elite QB1s this week. He’s priced like a 2nd tier guy on FD and at least a little below Tom Brady and Russell Wilson on DK. He’s the optimal play on both sites.

High-End Play: Dak Prescott, DAL (vs. SEA)

This is a contrarian play I like, against a defense that may scare away DFS players and lower ownership. With all the injuries to Seattle’s defense, they’ve allowed 28+ points in three of the last five games, including 30 to Jacksonville and 40 to the Rams over the last two weeks. I’d put Prescott in a similar tier to Blake Bortles and Jared Goff, the QBs of those two teams. He may be even better with Ezekiel Elliott as his RB actually, averaging 21.6 standard points vs. just 11.7 during Zeke’s suspension.

Sleeper: Drew Stanton, ARI (vs. NYG)

Stanton put up 14 and 15 points in his two starts this year – a repeat of that would be more than enough at his low price. He could even exceed that against a banged up Giants Defense that has no clue what to do when Landon Collins is off the field (he’s currently questionable, and certainly won’t play every snap). He’s my favorite punt play and allows you to roster all the stud RBs you desire.

Fade: Blake Bortles, JAX (vs. SF)

Jimmy Garoppolo was my fade here last week, so I won’t write about him again, even though he’s an obvious fade against Jacksonville’s defense. Instead, I’ll focus on his opposing QB, Bortles. The hype machine on Bortles finally caught up to his sneakily solid on-field performances, and now he’s too expensive. Leonard Fournette is back, lowering Bortles’ TD share of an already low-scoring matchup. I’d rather take advantage of Jacksonville’s ascending offense by rostering the cheap WR options than the expensive QB.

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell would be mega-chalk, but he’s playing on MNF and isn’t on the main slate. As a result, we get to pick from the jumbled up next tier of studs. The two or three most elite WR are a bit pricey in tough matchups this week, especially on FD. As a result, I like rostering as many elite RBs as you can. I’ll point out my favorites of those, while also throwing in some sleepers who may be particularly viable on DK, where PPR makes the pricey WRs a bit more valuable.

High-End Play: Melvin Gordon, LAC (@ NYJ)

A Chargers team fighting for its playoff life has the potential to blow out a Jets team led by Bryce Petty, even on the road. Game-script should therefore work in Gordon’s favor. The normally solid Jets front 7 will also likely be without its best player, Mohammed Wilkerson. With no Le’Veon in play and at a much cheaper price than Todd Gurley II (especially on DK, where his price looks like a typo), Gordon is a borderline must-play.

High-End Play: Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (vs. SEA)

On paper, Seattle looks like a tough matchup, but it may not matter, as he’s guaranteed tons of volume and comes cheaper than the other elite RBs. Also, he…um…should be well-rested.

High-End Play: Christian McCaffrey, CAR (vs. TB)

On FD, you probably want to roster two elite guys (i.e. Gordon and Zeke, or Gurley), but on DK, you may want to save a bit of dough for some WRs. The best way to do that is by rostering McCaffrey, who is basically a PPR-specialist WR with RB eligibility. I like sneakily stacking him with Newton, while most people don’t consider a QB/RB stack.

Sleeper: Dion Lewis, NE (vs. BUF)

He’s arguably New England’s most talented RB, and definitely their most talented active one now that Rex Burkhead is hurt. Buffalo’s defense cannot stop run games, ranking as our No. 2 tastiest matchup for opposing RBs. New England is finally willing to get its best RB more involved as they get closer to the playoffs, giving him 13 or more carries 6 of their last eight games. That was WITH Burkhead vulturing three downs worth of work. Lewis is a borderline RB1 at a discount price.

Sleeper: Carlos Hyde, SF (@ JAX)

Of course it’s a brutal matchup, so I wouldn’t trust him in cash. He could be a smart contrarian play, especially on DK where his price is so cheap. He’s a true workhorse who almost always gets around 16 carries, and he’s San Fran’s best chance to keep this close. If they score even one TD, there’s a good chance it’s him. That’d be enough to hit value on DK.

Fade: Devonta Freeman, ATL (@ NO)

I prefer Dion Lewis and Carlos Hyde, agnostic of price, and Freeman is actually more expensive in DFS. It was nice for him that Tevin Coleman was out, but Coleman will be back to take 10-15 touches away. Freeman goes back to being a borderline RB1 type who’s a bit TD dependent, while still priced like an RB1.

Wide Receivers

On FD, you’ll want some cheap guys that allow you to roster RBs like Gordon, Zeke, and Gurley. On DK, one particular elite WR looks to be worth his price tag – I’ll tell you which one. In general, I don’t remember a week where the WR rankings are so jumbled, with so many WR2 or WR3 types expected to score around 10-12 FD points, so just know how volatile rankings and projections can be as more news comes out.

High-End Play: A.J. Green, CIN (vs. DET)

For the second straight week, he makes this list. Last week, it was because he was so cheap that despite a poor matchup at Minnesota, the risk was worth the reward. Well, the wrong side of a 60/40 bet happened, which served to lower Green’s price for a better matchup vs. Detroit. Darius Slay is quite good at making game-changing plays, but I’m less worried about him shadowing Green than I was about Minnesota’s entirely good defense. Green is priced like a tier 2 type WR on DK and is worth it there. If Dalton wants to get anything going at all, Green will be peppered with targets and will put up a monster PPR game.

High-End Play: Tyreek Hill, KC (vs. MIA)

Hill is the most expensive WR that is even near-optimal on FD. He’s established himself as a top 10 or maybe even top five option, adding a nice high floor to his obviously high ceiling. Now he has a matchup against an average-ish Miami defense and is cheaper than other definite WR1s. He is a sneaky GPP play on FD where his teammate Travis Kelce will likely be a chalky option at TE, which would lower Hill’s ownership.

Sleeper: Keelan Cole, JAX (vs. SF)

Sean mentioned him in his tiers, and there’s not much more to say. He’s now a starting WR for Jacksonville and has shown great chemistry with Bortles, putting up a TD in three straight games. He should a bit lower than Dede Westbrook (whom I also like), but he’s a good bit cheaper. He’s my preferred Jacksonville player this week in DFS.

Sleeper: Kendall Wright, CHI (vs. CLE)

He turned back the clock with two straight good PPR games, averaging 8.5 receptions for 94 yards over the last two weeks. It means he’s emerging as Chicago’s No. 1 option while developing chemistry with Mitchell Trubisky. This week, he gets an obviously-bad Cleveland defense that allows huge cushions and plays particularly soft. I expect him to put up another nice PPR line at a cheap price, making him my preferred punt play (albeit one without much TD upside).

Fade: Sterling Shepard, NYG (@ ARI)

Look, I love Shepard – he’s a talented route runner and YAC guy, and he seems like he’s finally healthy. He broke out last week, which caused his price to go up a bit too much on both sites. He’s priced like a high-end WR2, which is more of his upside than his base case. The downside is still huge in a typically bad offense. To justify playing him at his price in all but a contrarian sense, he needs a plus matchup or a game with shootout potential. Even though he can avoid Patrick Peterson by moving to the slot, this is still not a plus matchup, and Drew Stanton is unlikely to make this a shootout.

Tight Ends

High-End: Travis Kelce, KC (vs. MIA)

On FD, Kelce is such a good value. He’s way cheaper than Gronk, despite being ranked close to him as the TE1b if you will. We grade Miami as a top five defense to target with TEs, and Kelce tends to have bounce-back games (by Andy Reid design) when coming off duds. On DK, he’s priced appropriately expensive, so you may want to go cheaper, enabling you to roster stud RBs in addition to a guy like A.J. Green.

Sleeper: Cameron Brate, TB (@ CAR)

Carolina is a tough matchup for any position, and especially TEs. This is about volume, though. Already a great Red Zone option, Brate could be due for more volume all over the field, with other TE O.J. Howard and starting WR DeSean Jackson both out for the game. He’s my favorite DK cash TE and is a nice punt play on either site. He’s questionable with hip/knee injuries, so be sure to check on his status if you’re considering rostering him. As long as he suits up, he’ll get targets.

Sleeper: Antonio Gates, LAC (@ NYJ)

Much like Brate’s situation – Hunter Henry’s injury opened up snaps and targets for him. I also like the narrative – if they blow out the Jets, they could look to get their Hall of Fame TE one final TD at the goal-line to add to his record-setting stats. He’s basically priced at the minimum.

Fade: None!

I guess I would count Gronk as a “fade” in the sense that I don’t think he’s optimal in cash. It’s tough to fully fade him if you multi-enter into GPPs, though, as he can break the slate any week. Other than Gronk, the rest of the TE are appropriately priced and are virtual lottery tickets for TDs.