FantasyDraft: Wildcard Weekend – Focused on Matchups

The fantasy football nor FantasyDraft season is not over. The playoffs may provide smaller slates, but there is still plenty to analyze to build a winning DFS lineup. This column up is one of the most extensive write-ups of the season because there was plenty to talk about in players we choose not to play. The information with regards to matchups for these players is as important as the players we are excited to play.

The two most important factors when building a roster in DFS is the projected opportunities and what a player can do with those opportunities based on their matchups. In shorter slates, this may mean you have to be more flexible in how you construct your lineup. In most cases, during the regular season, we filled both flex spots with RBs to play four RBs. Finding four RBs in solid matchups was easier to do on a large slate with more options.

For this week’s lineup, a WR and occupy the two flex spots. Based on matchups and price, there appears to be a higher likelihood these positions can return higher value.

The biggest struggle in lineup construction for this slate was the uncertainty around several Eagles players. It’s always wise to double-check the injury report before lineups lock. FantasyDraft does not allow late swaps, and the Eagles have several questionable players who play in the last game of the slate on Sunday evening. You don’t want to roster a player who is either inactive or is going to see their workload severely reduced because an injured teammate can play. These concerns especially apply to the Eagles RB corps.

QB (Salary on FantasyDraft)

NO QB Drew Brees ($13,400) has scored at least 22 points in each of the last four games with a high of 43.06 points against a very tough 49ers defense in Week 14. The Saints have had improvable events lead to their postseason exit for back-to-back years. Two years ago, MIN WR Stefon Diggs ($12,800) made a 61-yard TD in the final seconds of the game in the Divisional round. Now the two teams are rematched. To prevent a repeat, the Saints shouldn’t let up if they get a big lead. New Orleans is favored by eight points, with the game having the highest over/under projection at 47.0.

“If you were to take out the game Brees got hurt against the Rams, he’s thrown at least three touchdowns in each of his last seven non-Falcons games,” wrote Mike Tagliere for his weekly column The Primer at FantasyPros. “Brees has started 15 career playoff games throughout his career, and he’s averaged 317.3 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game in them. Looking a bit more recent, he’s totaled 1,220 yards and nine touchdowns over his last four playoff games (305.0 yards, 2.3 touchdowns) that took place in 2017 and 2018. He’s now back at home for a playoff game against the Vikings who’ve been somewhat of a funnel defense this year, allowing the 17th-most fantasy points through the air to opposing quarterbacks (no rushing).”

The Vikings defense has been dominant over the last four games against QBs. “They haven’t allowed a quarterback to score more than 10.3 fantasy points or throw more than one touchdown in each of their last four games,” according to Tagliere. “Though they did face-off against some struggling quarterbacks in David Blough, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, and Mitch Trubisky. Three of those four games were also in Minnesota, which helps. Still, holding four quarterbacks to just two touchdowns combined is an accomplishment. However, if you were to remove the games they played against Brandon Allen and Dwayne Haskins, the Vikings allowed at least 21 completions in every other game. With how accurate Brees is, especially while at home in the dome, we should see him rack-up the fantasy points, even if it’s eating them away little-by-little. He played against a better version of Mike Zimmer’s defense back in January of 2018 (divisional round), where he completed 25-of-40 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He’s one of the hottest quarterbacks on the planet, and it’s tough to see him slowing down at home against these Vikings.”

Alternative QB (Salary on FD)

BUF QB Josh Allen ($13,400) is the same price as Brees on FantasyDraft. On other sites, Allen is significantly cheaper. We think FantasyDraft got the price correct for Allen. He has the best matchup on the slate against a Texans defense that has allowed a fourth-most 23.2 fantasy points a game to QBs. Allen is a threat as a rusher, and Texans have allowed a sixth-most 291 rushing yards to QBs this season. If you are playing on another site, then strongly consider Allen.

SEA QB Russell Wilson ($12,700) is likely in the best position to put up numbers similar to Brees as he faces an Eagles team riddled with injuries. Wilson has performed nowhere near Brees. Over the last seven games, he only reached 20 points once, and that is Week 17 against the 49ers who had already secured a playoff spot. The savings is not substantial enough to play Wilson over Brees.

HOU Deshaun Watson ($12,000) is favored by the FantasyPros optimizer. That’s likey because he is always a threat to put up big numbers and is $1,400 cheaper than Brees. Watson didn’t put up huge passing numbers down the stretch, and the matchup is brutal against the Bills.

“Over the last three games he played, Watson has completed just 66-of-109 passes for 719 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions,” wrote Tagliere. “He also rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, which helped prop-up his fantasy numbers, but the bottom line is that Watson hasn’t thrown the ball particularly well over the last month. Now onto a matchup with the Bills, who didn’t allow a quarterback to average more than 8.32 yards per attempt all year while allowing just three quarterbacks to throw more than one touchdown. There was no quarterback who finished better than the QB10 against them, and that includes Lamar Jackson, who finished with 19.8 fantasy points and as the QB13 in Week 14. They held Jackson to just 40 rushing yards in that game, which was his second-lowest total on the season for him. It all makes sense when you see they’ve allowed just 2.77 yards per carry to quarterbacks, which is the lowest mark in the NFL.”

WRs/Flex (Salary on FantasyDraft)

NO WR Michael Thomas ($17,700) is the highest-priced player on the slate and the most likely to have a huge day. It would not be a surprise if Thomas received 15 or more targets in this game. Thomas has one the best CB matchup on the slate against CB Xavier Rhodes, who has allowed over a 75% catch rate and about 2.0 fantasy points per target. Despite his price, Thomas has an excellent chance of reaching 2X value. The path for 35 points for Thomas likely includes 10 receptions for over 100 yards and a TD, which is a reasonable expectation based on the matchup. Based on his price this week, From weeks 14-16, Thomas was constant at reaching near 2X production (33.40, 33,80, and 34.60 points). In that same time frame, the stack of Brees and Thomas averaged 66 points per game.

SEA WR D.K. Metcalf ($11,700) also has a terrific matchup against CB Rasul Douglas, who has allowed a respectable 50% catch rate but about 2.20 fantasy points per target. Metcalf may be technically the number No. 2 WR on the Seahawks, but through the course of the season, his production is only about 10% less than teammate WR Tyler Lockett (13,600). Lockett is $1,900 more than Metcalf and has a much more difficult CB matchup. Lockett will likely be covered by CB Avonte Maddox, who has allowed about a 55% catch rate but has allowed less than 1.4 fantasy points per target. There is a good chance Metcalf outperforms Lockett in this game.

BUF WR Cole Beasley ($10,500) has one of the fourth-best CB matchups on the slate Vernon Hargreaves III, who has allowed a near 70% catch rate and just under 2.0 fantasy points per target. Beasley had either six or seven receptions in three of the last five games he played with two games over 100 yards and a TD in three separate games. Beasley could easily see 10 targets and record another 100-yard outing with a TD.

“Despite not playing in the Week 17 contest, here’s a list of a few players Beasley scored more fantasy points than in 2019: Christian Kirk, Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson, Mike Williams, Marquise Brown, and Tyrell Williams,” wrote Tagliere. “The difference is that everyone wanted to play those guys as WR3/4 options, but nobody wanted to play Beasley. He finished with 9.0 or more PPR points in 12-of-15 games, which is something only 12 other wide receivers did more often. The list: Michael Thomas, John Brown, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Julian Edelman, Chris Godwin, Deandre Hopkins, Cooper Kupp, Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker, Allen Robinson, and Courtland Sutton. Every one of those receivers will be drafted in the top-24 next year. The Texans also happen to have an issue in the slot, as they’ve allowed 94-of-130 passing for 1,210 yards and 11 touchdowns as a team while covering the slot this year.”

Alternative WRs/Flex (Salary on FD)

HOU WR DeAndre Hopkins ($14,100) will likely see a fair amount of ownership as he is always a threat for a big game and is $3,600 cheaper than Michael Thomas.  Hopkins may be fools gold as he will likely be shadowed by CB Tre’Davious White, who has allowed less than a 50% catch rate and just over one fantasy point per target. When you compare that match up to what Thomas has in Rhodes and how well their QBs are playing, Thomas is well worth the extra cost.

TEN WR A.J. Brown ($14,000) has been on fire and appears to offer a cheaper option than Thomas, but also has a very tough CB matchup. Brown should be covered by CB Stephon Gilmore, who has allowed less than a 45% catch rate and one fantasy point per target. Both Hopkins and Brown are capable of getting loose for a big play, but there is a meager chance this weekend it happens twice in one game for either one of them.

NE WR Julian Edelman ($13,300) has a favorable matchup against CB Logan Ryan, who has allowed a near 60% catch rate and near two fantasy points a target. Edelman is dealing with shoulder and knee issues that have limited him in recent weeks.

PHI WR Greg Ward ($10,200) is not a household name, but that could lead to unreasonably low ownership based on recent production and his matchup. Ward has the best matchup on the slate against CB Akeem King, who has allowed an 80% catch rate and nearly three fantasy points per target. Ward has filled in for teammate WR Nelson Aghlor (knee) for the last four games and has 21 catches for 219 yards and TD. The issue with playing ward is the Eagles vs. Seahawks game is the last one of the slate. Early indications are Aghlor will likely miss again with swelling his kee. If Aghlor’s status is uncertain come Saturday morning, then it’s a risk to play Ward on FantasyDraft where there are no late swaps. Ward did see playing time in the three games before Aglhlor getting hurt, so he will likely get snaps regardless, but it would be less than ideal to have a reduced workload. In several of the lineups I built, Ward was swapped in for Beasley to save a few hundred to move up at another position. Ultimately, I felt the Beasley has a far higher likelihood of a big day than Ward.

TEN WR Tajae Sharpe ($7,400) is certainly in play as a very lower-priced option. Sharpe has the best and only decent matchup of any Titans WR. Sharp should be covered by CB Jonathan Jones, who has allowed a 50% catch rate and 1.67 fantasy points per target. Sharpe’s teammate WRs Brown and Corey Davis ($8,600) will be covered by CBs, who allow less than one point per target. The Patriots defense will focus on shutting down RB Derrick Henry (analysis later). They also should be confident in their CBs ability to limit WRs Brown and Davis. This means Sharpe will probably see man coverage on several plays and maybe the best option for QB Ryan Tannehill ($11,700).

It’s possible to fit Sharpe into this lineup build if you play HOU QB DeShaun Watson ($12,000) instead of Brees and replace the second TE with Sharp while also going down at defense.

BUF WR Isaiah McKenzie  ($7,000) is a low owned value play that could win you a GPP if he successfully exploits his matchup.  McKenzie has the second-best CB matchup on the slate against CB HOU Gareon Conley, who has allowed a respectable 58% catch rate but an extremely high 2.44 fantasy points per target. McKenzie only has one TD this season, which came way back in Week 2 against the Giants, and he scored a  season-high 12.40 fantasy points. Despite the matchup, it’s hard to project him above or even at a 2X return.

Note: This article frequently quotes Mike Woellert at 4for4. We didn’t this week due to the timing of publication. Woellert was consulted in choosing these WRs.

TE/Flex (Salary on FantasyDraft)

PHI TE Dallas Goedert ($10,800) has 36 receptions for 350 yards and one TD in the last six games while in large part playing alongside star TE Zach Ertz ($11,300). Ertz suffered from a lacerated kidney and cracked ribs two weeks ago. Ertz has was limited in a walk-through practice, but at the time of writing has not yet been cleared for contact. Based on the injury, it seems unlikely Ertz will play. Even if Ertz does suite up, Goedert is still very much in play. The matchup is outstanding against Seattle. The Seahawks were the second-worst defense against TEs from a fantasy perspective having allowed 97 receptions for 1,099 yards six TDs for an average of 15.7 points a game.

“Goedert will get the targets,” wrote Tagliere. “He’s now seen at least six in each of the last seven games, including 22 targets over the last two weeks with Ertz out of the lineup (even though he was partially available in Week 16). He hasn’t scored fewer than 7.1 PPR points since way back in Week 5 and now has one of the best matchups available to tight ends.”

PHI TE Joshua Perkins ($5,600) is a super cheap flex option that has tremendous upside due to the matchup against the Seahawks. The Eagles like to run a lot of two TE sets, and they target both of them, which is apparent by Goedert’s production with a healthy Ertz. If Ertz were to miss, Perkins becomes the second TE who has already seen five or more targets in two of the last four games. Last week, Perkins was forced into the role of WR due to injuries at the position and caught four of six targets for 50 yards and his first career TD for 15 fantasy points.

Alternative TE (Salary on FD)

BUF TE Dawson Knox ($5,700) will replace Perkins in this lineup if come Saturday morning Ertz still has a chance to play. It’s too risky to play Perkins if Ertz suites up. Knox provides an alternative who has had at least one reception in every game except one this season, so he is likely not going to post a goose egg. We don’t need much from Knox for at least a 1X return. Albeit that is about what we are expecting. Maybe we will get lucky, and that one of a couple of receptions end up being a TD.

RBs (Salary on FantasyDraft)

NO RB Alvin Kamara ($14,000) has scored two TDs in back-to-back games. The goalline forcefield that prevented Kamara from scoring for the nine games prior has been deactivated just in time for the playoffs. Kamara should get plenty of opportunities to continue what is now a scoring streak against the Vikings who may not be as good against the run as you might expect.

“The Vikings had been dominant against the run most of the year, though they’ve struggled a bit as of late while shifting focus to slowing down opposing passing games,” wrote Tagliere. “Over the last five games (since their bye week), they’ve allowed 636 yards on 137 carries (4.64 yards per carry) with five touchdowns on the ground, while allowing another 36 receptions for 237 yards and one touchdown through the air. Another plus is that Vikings opponents have averaged a rather-high 65.8 plays per game, which allows for plenty of running back touches, as they faced an average of 27.5 per game this year. Knowing their recent struggles, combined with Kamara’s resurgence into the end zone, it’s tough not to play him, as he’s game script-proof. He’s my preferred play from the top-tier of running backs, and he also happens to be the cheapest.”

BUF RB Devin Singletary ($11,300) is the cheapest workhorse RB who is also in a great matchup. Singeltary rested in Week 17. In Week 16, he had the toughest matchup possible against the Patriots and did little with his 15 carries and one catch. A look at the two previous weeks is more in line with what we should expect this week. Singletary had exactly 23 touches, which included a combined eight catches (6,2). Singletary faces a Texans defense that has allowed sixth-most 28.3 fantasy points a game to RBs. That is only 3.6 points fewer than the Panthers, who allowed the most at 31.9 points. With a week of rest and an opportunity for 20-25 touches, Singletary is in an excellent spot to exceed a 2X return.

Alternative RBs/Flex (Salary on FD)

TEN RB Derrick Henry ($15,400) may see more touches than any other RB or WR on the slate. It would not be a shock if the Titans feed him the ball 30 times against the Patriots and keep the ball out of Tom Brady‘s hand. Last week, Henry had 32 carries and three TDs against the Texans while coming off a hamstring injury. When you consider all of that, it’s a tough decision not to play him. Henry, however, has no catches last week and faces a Patriots defense that has only allowed one rushing TD this season. A generous projection for Henry is 25-30 carries for 125 yards with one TD plus two receptions for another 20 yards. That would result in a lovely day of 25.5 points. That projection is likely a ceiling for Henry. The more likely scenario is Henry scores less than 20 fantasy points. Patriots HC Bill Belichick has a long history of taking away the opposing team’s number one weapon. No question is Henry. It will be far easier for Belichick to focus on Henry knowing he has one of the best CBs in the league covering the Titans’ No. 2 weapon in A.J. Brown.

MIN Dalvin Cook ($14,600) is an enticing option against a Saints defense with a secondary that has dramatically improved over the last month.  The best way to stay pace with Saints and keep the ball away from Drew Brees is not likely the deep ball but a solid running game with short, safe passes. That’s where Cook excels. The Saints defense has been middle of the pack against pass-catching RBs having allowed 96 receptions to RBs for 628 yards for four receiving TDs. Cook missed the last two games of the season with a shoulder injury. Cook recorded a full practice on Wednesday and said he feels refreshed, but there is still a risk that one hit in the shoulder could again sideline him.

PHI RBs Miles Sanders ($11,700), Boston Scott ($10,900), and Jordan Howard ($9,300) drove me crazy when trying to build a lineup for this article. Sanders would most certainly be in my lineup if he had not suffered a mild high ankle sprain last week that has kept him out of practice as of Thursday. HC Doug Pederson has described Sanders as day-to-day but expects he will play. Pederson also said he expects Howard (shoulder) who recently returned from a six-game absence to have a role. If Sanders were to miss, then Scott would be a fantastic value at his price. Scott did well replacing Sanders last week against the Giants with 19 carries for 54 yards and three TDs plus he caught four of six targets for another 84 yards for 35.80 points. With no clarification of roles for this week, if Sanders plays, it looks like a three-way timeshare.

“The issue with the situation is that the Seahawks’ opponents have averaged just 24.6 running back touches per game against them (Eagles had just 21 in the Week 12 meeting),” wrote Tagliere. “When you factor in a three-way timeshare, it’s pretty ugly.”

Due to his use as a pass-catcher, Scott may offer value regardless if Sanders plays. “We can almost consider Scott a slot receiver at this point, as he’s seen at least six targets in each of the last four games due to the shortage in receivers available,” Tagliere continued. “This matchup should treat him well, as the Seahawks have allowed 7.56 yards per target, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the NFL. The 0.99 PPR points per opportunity they’ve allowed to running backs is the third-highest mark in the NFL, behind only the Panthers and Jaguars. If Sanders can’t play, Scott should be considered a lock-in cash games.”

There is a chance that no one RB of this trio touches the ball more than ten times. Because of that, I’m fading the entire group.

NE RB James White ($11.100) is a solid play because he offers a solid floor of about his value while providing high upside. There’s a good chance that upside may be capped a bit with the emergence of Sony Michell, who all of a sudden has averaged over four yards a carry in the past three games. White’s role as a pass-catcher would likely increase if the Patriots were to fall far behind in this game. While we think the Titans can win, we doubt they will blow the Patriots with a wealth of postseason experience.

SEA RBs Marshawn Lynch ($10,200) wasn’t exactly eased back in with 12 carries last week against a tough 49ers defense. Lynch also wasn’t efficient managing just 34 yards, but he did score a TD. What makes Lynch a decent flex option is that it’s the playoffs. We know the Seahawks love to run the ball, and there is no reason to hold anything back. It’s reasonable to expect that Lynch will see 20 touches in this game and likely will get all of the goalline work. The biggest concern is the teammate RB Travis Horn ($10,900) rushed 10 times for 62 yards and had five catches for 30 yards. Lynch did not receive any targets.  If Lynch remains untargeted, he becomes TD dependent on being viable. If you believe the timeshare will stay the same, then Horn has value.

Team Defense (Salary on FantayDraft)

The Philadelphia Eagles ($4,900) are what we could afford with limited exposure to offensive players against them. Philadelphia has some recent success against Seattle, scoring 11 points against them in Week 12 with six sacks, an INT, and a FREC.  I wouldn’t stress too much about defense this week. There is only about a 3-4 point differential from the top projected defense to the bottom. Even the Vikings defense at the lowest price of $4,600 is not a horrible option. Minnesota is the second-leading scorer on the season for defenses on the slate because they have averaged about close to two turnovers per game (17 INTs, 14 FRECs). Those turnovers create opportunities to score.

Putting it all Together

FantasyDraft: Wild Card Weekend

Photo Credit: FantasyDraft

This lineup has the stack of QB/WR stack of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, who, from weeks 14-16, averaged a combined 66 points a game. WRs D.K. Metcalf and Cole Beasley are both in great CB matchups and could lead their team in receiving.  TE Dallas Goedert has the best possible matchup. Either TE Joshua Perkins or Dawson Knox are dirt cheap flex options that have TD potential and are likely to score some points. RB Alvin Kamara has scored four TDs in the last two games and is game script proof. RB Devin Singletary should see a workhorse load and is in the best matchup on the slate. The Eagles defense is what we could afford, but they have had some recent success against the Seahawks.

Mix It Up

To protect yourself from a duplicate lineup, it’s wise not precisely to play any lineup you find on-line. This lineup will be entered into the FantasyDraft Hooters $75 K ($10k to 1st) Main Event and likely at least one other contest. If you are playing on FantasyDraft, please switch out at least one player.

Make the right selection with IroniqMedia for all of your DFS coverage.

Follow Dan on Twitter @sandiegosports.

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