Hello friends, and welcome to this (new) tradition, certain to be unlike any other, the NoTicket Sports Daily Fantasy Football Primer for DraftKings and FanDuel. Each week, the intent of this column will be to breakdown the NFL slate position by position, and provide you with the players that you should be targeting in your cash games and tournaments.
Derek Carr – Firmly in the mix for MVP, Derek Carr gets to return home to Oakland to host the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. While Carolina’s secondary has improved over the past several weeks, they’re still starting two rookie cornerbacks and remain vulnerable against the pass. With the way that Carr is playing, and taking into consideration his price across the industry, he is one of the best dollar-for-dollar plays on the slate. I love stacking him with Amari Cooper in tournaments (and Michael Crabtree to a lesser extent), and I’ll be giving both Carr and Cooper strong consideration in cash games. Carr has absolutely massive upside as evidenced in his Week 8 performance against Tampa Bay in which he threw for 513 yards and 4 passing touchdowns.
Russell Wilson – Clearly back to full health, Wilson has been on absolute tear over the past three weeks, going for 26, 29, and 25 fantasy points. With their injury plagued running back corps, Seattle has turned to a pass-heavy offensive attack in which Wilson is absolutely thriving. Tampa Bay presents an absolute dream matchup this week on the road, especially when you consider that the Seattle defense is banged up, traveling across the country, and may not be able to blow the Buccaneers out of the water. If Tampa is able to keep this game close, Wilson should be be able to pile up stats left and right, and offers tremendous upside with his rushing abilities and touchdown equity. Wilson is cheap and offers a tremendous floor for cash games, and massive upside for tournaments, and I love stacking him up with Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, and Thomas Rawls.
Tom Brady – In terms of raw points, Tom Brady appears to offer the highest ceiling of the quarterback allotment in Week 12 in their road game against the Jets. While he is currently listed as questionable, Brady is fully expected to play, but he may be without stud tight end Rob Gronkowski. I expect the Jets to show up for this home game against their division rival, which means that Brady may be forced to throw the ball for all four quarters. While he comes with a hefty price tag across the industry, I think it’s imperative to have exposure to Brady in tournaments in this spot. I love Julian Edelman and his massive target projection, and pairing him with Brady is a good start to a tournament lineup.
Drew Brees – I’m desperately hoping that Drew Brees falls through the cracks this week in a home game against the Los Angeles Rams with a very pedestrian over/under total of 46. Drew Brees is notorious for his massive home splits, and I project for him to have an absolutely massive performance against this solid Rams defense. While L.A. presents a stingy matchup defensively, Drew Brees was able to find success at home against a much superior defense in the Denver Broncos in Week 10. Brees’ price falls between Tom Brady and Derek Carr/Russell Wilson this week, so I’m hoping that the masses will either pay up, or pay down, and look past Brees so that we can grab him at low ownership. The Saints have a bevy of pass catching options in their offense, but I really love pairing Brees with Brandin Cooks, who has caught 13 of his 19 career touchdowns at home. Michael Thomas remains a solid red-zone target, and I like him on sites that weight touchdowns heavier than they weight receptions.
Also Consider: Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota
David Johnson – Surprise, surprise. I’m mentioning David Johnson in this article again. Well, this guy continues to dominate every single matchup he faces, and this week he gets an incredibly juicy one on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. On the season, the Falcons are giving up the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs, and they’re also giving up the most receptions to opposing backs, too. Johnson averages nearly 5 more fantasy points per game on the road than he does at home, and this is a game in which his pass catching skills figure to be utilized heavily. Matchup proof, game-flow proof, and offering the highest floor of any running back in daily fantasy football, David Johnson will be the first player that I plug into my cash game lineups this week, and I will have heavy, massive exposure to him in tournaments. Don’t get cheeky, here.
Jay Ajayi – Oh, boy. The San Francisco 49ers and their 32nd ranked run defense are on the road in Miami this weekend to face off against Jay Ajayi. Although the Dolphins’ offensive line will be without key starters Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert, and are also in danger of being without Laremy Tunsil, I still love Ajayi’s usage rate, touchdown equity, and probability of success against this utterly inept 49er run defense. The Dolphins are committed to giving Ajayi the ball, and he should receive 20+ touches as a massive favorite at home – a very favorable situation to target for DFS. I like Ajayi more on FanDuel where touchdowns are more heavily weighted, but I still like him on DraftKings, too. He’s expensive, but very viable in a dream spot despite his offensive line woes.
Melvin Gordon – Appearing in the same price range as Ajayi, I may give the slight nod to Melvin Gordon this week as the Chargers go on the road to Houston to face their 25th ranked run defense. Gordon has received no fewer than 22 carries in his last 5 games, and has also become heavily involved in the passing game, which only further raises his floor week to week. The Texans remain a very stingy defense against the pass, and I could see Gordon receiving 25+ carries, catching a few balls, and having a very high probability of getting in the end zone this weekend. Don’t sleep on him.
LeSean McCoy – One name who has been relatively quiet in DFS circles so far this week is LeSean McCoy. At home against the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars’ run defense, I expect the Bills to continue to lean heavily on McCoy in this spot. The Bills have had some massive offensive performances at home, and should be able to develop a big, early lead against the turnover prone Blake Bortles. Correlating McCoy and the Buffalo Bills D/ST will be one of my favorite cash game and tournament stacks in Week 12. While McCoy left their Week 11 game with a thumb injury, he practiced all week and was seen catching balls with ease, alleviating fears that he wouldn’t be able to handle his normal workload this week.
Thomas Rawls – Devoid of any other viable running back options, Thomas Rawls will assume lead-back, third-down, and goal-line usage duties for the Seattle Seahawks as they travel to Tampa Bay this week. In his first game back from injury, Rawls received 14 carries for 57 yards, and caught 3 of 4 targets for 31 yards. Backup C.J. Prosise may not play again this year, which means that Rawls will receive heavy usage and have a high probability of finding the end zone.
Also Consider: Rashad Jennings, DeMarco Murray, Spencer Ware, Jeremy Hill, Doug Martin, Matt Forte
Amari Cooper – Not a whole lot needs to be said here after writing up Derek Carr. The Panthers secondary is burnable, you have an MVP candidate throwing this guy the ball, and, oh yeah, he’s really good at the football. I’m not sure that my cash game roster construction will fit in a receiver of his price, but, if I can get up to him, I’d love to squeeze him in. Lacking in the consistency department week-to-week, I believe that Cooper is best suited for tournaments, but he carries some absolutely incredible upside. Cooper has a realistic chance to catch multiple touchdown passes and eclipse 100+ receiving yards.
Odell Beckham – You’d be hard pressed to find a wide receiver playing better football than ODB over the past 2 months. While he has a truly cupcake matchup against the Cleveland Browns and struggling Joe Haden this week, it’s important that we consider that both ODB and QB Eli Manning have played drastically better at home than on the road. That won’t deter me from using these guys in my tournaments this weekend, but I’d rather side with RB Rashad Jennings as the cash game option in this game. Due to the likely blowout nature and their polarizing home/road splits, I’ll be stacking Eli and Odell in my tournaments, and passing on them in my cash game lineups.
Brandin Cooks – As mentioned under Drew Brees, I absolutely love Brandin Cooks this week at home. Catching 13 of his career 19 touchdown passes in the Super Dome, I like Cooks’ chances of catching number 20 and possibly number 21 this week. Cooks is averaging 9 more fantasy points per game at home this year than he is on the road, and he makes for both a tremendous cash game and tournament option this week.
Larry Fitzgerald – I really like targeting the Cardinals this week as they travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons who are just getting slaughtered by every opposing position in football. While Carson Palmer is clearly regressing before our eyes, he should still be throwing the ball 35-40 times this week as the Cardinals attempt to keep pace with the high-flying Falcons offense, which means that we need to get some exposure to the passing game. Fitz has been as reliable as any receiver in football this season, consistently seeing a high volume of targets, red-zone looks, and touchdown equity. The Palmer/Johnson/Fitzgerald stack is something I’m toying with, and will likely be deploying come Sunday.
Julian Edelman – Mr. Cash Game, himself. Without Gronk in the lineup for the Patriots last Sunday, Edelman received a massive 17 targets, and could be in line for a similar projection this week if Gronkowski is unable to suit up against the Jets. On the road in a situation where the Patriots will be throwing the ball, I’ll be getting plenty of exposure to Edelman in tournaments, and may just press the lock button on him in all of my cash games. While he doesn’t carry the highest touchdown probability, the Jets are still a very stingy run defense, which may lead to Brady throwing for multiple touchdowns to this guy.
Also Consider: Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, Tyler Boyd, DeVante Parker, Doug Baldwin, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall
Gary Barnidge – I’m not overly in love with any tight end option this week. The Giants give up the 8th most fantasy points in the league to opposing tight ends, and Barnidge gets Josh McKown back at quarterback, who loves him. I think he offers a very high probability of scoring a touchdown in a game in which Cleveland should be trailing for most of it.
Greg Olsen – While I’m clearly in love with the Raiders offense this week, that should also give us reason to love the Carolina offense, who should be throwing the ball for four quarters in this spot. The Raiders are becoming more solid by the week on defense, but they’re still vulnerable to the tight end position, which should equal plenty of fantasy production for Greg Olsen. If Gronk sits, Olsen will be the most expensive option on the board, and that’s typically not a position that I like to pay up for. However, given the uncertainty at the position this week, if you can fit him, Olsen is a great option.
Also Consider: Jimmy Graham, Will Tye, Delanie Walker, C.J. Fiedorowicz
Bills – As usual, this section of the article is starting off with the defense who gets to face the Jaguars. The Bills have generated the most sacks in the league so far this season, and get to face the most turnover prone quarterback in the league at home. Fantasy goodness.
Titans – Matt Barkley is starting for the Chicago Bears this week. The Bears will be without two of their top offensive linemen, and they’re also still going to be without stud wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and starting tight end Zach Miller. This could be ugly.
Saints – Feeling saucy? Jared Goff will be forced to throw the ball against the Saints this weekend as they’re certainly going to need to keep pace with the high-flying Saints offense at home. While the turnovers weren’t there in his debut at home against Miami, more pass attempts are on the horizon this week and that will certainly lead to some rookie mistakes. Intriguing.
Quite the interesting week of NFL DFS with the three Thanksgiving games already in the books. In cash games, I’ll be paying up at running back to lock in studs like David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, and LeSean McCoy who are all in tremendous spots. With no clear cut running back value emerging as of Saturday afternoon, I think it’s imperative to adopt this strategy in cash games, and take the midrange value options at wide receiver. In tournaments, anything goes, and coming off of David Johnson for slightly cheaper running backs in great spots really opens some roster flexibility.
Best of luck in your contests this week, and stay sharp out there.
You can find me on Twitter @_ryanpaulsen for more DFS nonsense.