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.
Phew. Week 15 already. Let’s enjoy the NFL DFS while we still can. I’ll get this out of the way nice and early: I will not be rostering any quarterback that’s playing in frigid, disgustingly cold temperatures. I’m looking at you Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Marcus Mariota, and Tyrod Taylor. Can these guys have above average games? Sure. Is it worth taking the risk knowing that quarterback production dips dramatically in the cold? Ehhhh, probably not. Onto the guys I do like this week: Phil Rivers, Derek Carr, Trevor Siemian, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan.
With such cold temperatures engulfing the northeast and midwest, it’s not the worst idea to target games that are being played on the complete opposite side of the country. Enter Oakland @ San Diego. Both quarterbacks are firmly in play in one of the more likely shootout games of the weekend. Derek Carr is 10 days removed from his last game against Kansas City, which should be plenty of time to recover from his finger injury on his throwing hand. His price has dropped, the Chargers are giving up points in bunches, and Carr has an excellent floor/ceiling combination in this spot. On the other side of the ball, Phil Rivers and the Chargers may be eliminated from playoff contention, but, there are still rumors that San Diego will be following the Rams to Los Angeles, and this is one of two remaining home games. #NarrativeStreet. Also, Antonio Gates is three touchdowns shy of breaking Tony Gonzalez’s all time- receiving touchdown record for tight ends. #NarrativeStreet. I love both Carr and Rivers in tournaments, and if you can afford to get up to either of these guys in cash, they’re both safe and offer tremendous upside.
If you’re trying to pay up for Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, or both this week, you’re going to have to find every single dollar you can. Enter Trevor Siemian. Sitting well beneath the likes of Carr and Rivers, Siemian is coming off of two fantastic games in which he’s thrown for a total of 702 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Denver is a three point underdog at home, could be trailing most of this game, and that would be forcing Siemian to throw the ball bountifully. Consider that Denver has a serious running game void and will be starting the likes of washed up Justin Forsett, you can safely project that the production for the Broncos will be flowing through Siemian to his two favorite targets: Manny Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Pairing Siemian with both Sanders and Thomas is one of my favorite tournament stacks on the slate.
I’m not the biggest Joe Flacco fan. However, the Ravens have thrown the ball 99 times in the past two games, and now get a juicy matchup against the burnable Philadelphia Eagles secondary. Although the Philadelphia defensive unit got off to a great start, they’ve come crashing back to earth and have been exploitable at the cornerback and safety positions as of late. It’s tough to predict where the production will come from outside of Flacco, but if you’re going to stack him with anyone else, it has to be between Steve Smith and Mike Wallace. Roll the dice. Finally, the most expensive quarterback on the slate whose team has the highest implied team total: Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is a massive favorite at home, but will be without stud wide receiver Julio Jones. If you want to spend your salary on Matt Ryan and his floor, I can’t blame you, but I think I can find my production at a much cheaper price.
Alright, we’re going to breeze through running back because it seems like the most straight forward position of the week. David Johnson at home against New Orleans. Yes, please. He’s expensive, but this matchup is absolutely incredible and Johnson remains one of the highest usage players in all of football. Le’Veon Bell on the road in sub-optimal playing conditions against the Bengals. Yes, please. We know all about Big Ben and his incredibly polarizing road splits. Do we all remember what happened last week when the Steelers were on the road in Buffalo? 298 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns. I’m not guaranteeing that level of production in Week 15 by any means, but the usage is there, the game script is there, and the conditions will favor Bell, as well. No brainer.
It’s really tough to fit both DJ and Bell in your lineup on DraftKings, but FanDuel it’s fairly easy. If you’re coming down from one of them, the first back you need to conisder is LeSean McCoy at home against Cleveland. Dream spot. High usage. Cold weather. Shapes up perfectly for a Shady game. Ezekiel Elliott remains an absolute beast who is a lock for 20+ touches against Tampa Bay, but, their defense is rapidly improving, especially against the run. I prefer Shady. Saving even more salary, Devonta Freeman is in a dream rebound spot at home against San Francisco and their league worst running defense. Two touchdown upside even with Tevin Coleman looking to spell him at times. Love him in tournaments. Latavius Murray is in the aforementioned Oakland/San Diego game and has been fantastic over the past month. Lamar Miller received 25 touches in Green Bay, has an excellent spot against Jacksonville, and should be relatively healthy after shaking off some nagging injuries. If you’re going really cheap, Kenneth Farrow of the Chargers will be the lead-back after Melvin Gordon was ruled out for Week 15. He’ll be involved in the passing game and should receive 12-15 carries on the ground.
As mentioned under their quarterback, I absolutely love Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas this week. Both of them can be projected to see 10+ targets in a possibly uptempo affair with Denver likely throwing the ball for four quarters. They’re both heavily involved in the red-zone and are two of the most high usage receivers in football. Can’t go wrong with either, or both. Amari Cooper should see Casey Hayward coverage, who is one of the highest graded cornerbacks in football. It’s a Michael Crabtree week. Another massive red-zone threat, I project Crabtree to see around 10 targets and be Carr’s go-to guy when they get close to the box. On the other side of this game, I like Tyrell Williams to continue to offer his massive upside.
Odell Beckham is in the best spot among the elite priced wide receivers. He moves all over the field, should mainly avoid coverage from Darius Slay, and offers a massive ceiling at home. Two touchdowns and 100+ receiving yards is not out of the question here. Antonio Brown has struggled greatly against the Bengals in his career, and he will likely be a fade for me at that price, and the same goes for Mike Evans. New Orleans and San Diego have done a great job the past two weeks in shutting Evans down, and forcing the Bucs to beat them elsewhere. I expect Dallas to do the same in primetime tonight. Jordy Nelson is in a dream spot, but the weather is a massive concern, and his ceiling definitely takes a bump down. I love T.Y. Hilton’s usage without Donte Moncrief, however, the Vikings are a very imposing matchup and Xavier Rhodes is a legit corner. Tournaments only, for me.
If you’re playing on DraftKings, Ty Montgomery is a wide receiver, but we all know that his true role with the Packers is a running back. He’s cheap, can project for around 12 carriers, and likely 4-6 targets in the passing game. Considering the cold weather nature in Chicago, Aaron Rodgers still hampered with injury, and James Starks being inactive, this is shaping up to be a great spot for Montgomery.
Other guys I’m considering: Dez Bryant against Tampa Bay, Julian Edelman/Chris Hogan against Denver, Jordan Matthews against Baltimore, J.J. Nelson against New Orleans, Aldrick Robinson/Mo Sanu against San Francisco.
Antonio Gates narrative week! Look for Rivers to pepper Gates in the red-zone for the rest of the season. Oakland gets smashed by tight ends. Kyle Rudolph gets the horrendous Colts defense this week at home, and is the red-zone target for the Vikings. Love the touchdown upside. Ladarius Green has been fantastic for Pittsburgh, and could see plenty of open looks if the Bengals continue down the path of double-teaming Antonio Brown. Interesting. Jermaine Gresham is minimum price on both DK and FD, and has been involved in the passing game for the past month. Michael Floyd was released, Carson Palmer can’t throw outside of the numbers, and Gresham is a red-zone threat. You can do worse than punting with Gresham.
Paying up? Travis Kelce has 4 straight games with 100+ receiving yards. The weather concerns me, but the matchup and the consistency is certainly there. Tyler Eifert is the lone source of consistent production for the Bengals, and they’re projected to be trailing to the Steelers. Considering his touchdown equity, he’s a very high upside tournament play. Zach Ertz has been receiving heavy amounts of targets over the past month, but, the Ravens have shut down the tight end position. Likely a fade for me, but I understand if you want to throw him in.
Bills at home against the Browns. Obvious. Ravens at home against the Eagles and rookie QB Carson Wentz. Cheap, generating a lot of pressure, facing a quarterback who is turning the football over…makes sense. Houston is at home against Blake Bortles. You know what to do there. Arizona is at home against New Orleans and turnover prone Drew Brees. Very interesting tournament play.
Apologies for the last minute version of the article this week, the weather concerns have kept everything in flux until late on Sunday morning. Monitor the weather conditions up until lock, try to avoid players who will be greatly affected by said conditions, and try to focus in on the games with high totals. The Oakland/San Diego game should offer plenty of fireworks, Lev Bell and David Johnson are both in tremendous spots, and the Denver wideouts are still way too cheap.
Best of luck in your contests this week, and stay sharp out there.
You can find me on Twitter @_ryanpaulsen for more DFS nonsense.