FanDuel NFL Week 17: In-Depth Player Pool With Expert Analysis
Happy New Year! While 2020 was my most profitable from a FanDuel/DFS perspective, here is wishing that 2021 is a better all-around year for all of us!
Week 17 is always tricky from a DFS perspective as you have to weigh different team’s motivations to play well. This Week 17 is better than most in only the Chiefs have clinched a first-round bye and therefore expected to rest their stars. Throughout this article, I’ll reference the playoffs and what is at stake for the player’s team discussed. I’ll also be using projections the most that I have. Optimizers tend to perform better as the season progresses, and there is more data to pull from to make more accurate projections. Therefore, I use them more in my research and the lineup builds towards the end of seasons.
Research, The Mikes
As regular readers of my column, you will not only see my research of stats but the analysis of some of the best experts in the industry (If you can’t beat them, join and credit them). Mike Tagliere of FantasyPros and Mike Woellert of 4for4 are quoted frequently. Tagliere does not have a column this week, so it will not be quoted.
Tagliere’s weekly column, The Primer, is the most compressive look at Fantasy Football. It’s typically about 20,000 words and had well thought out information on every fantasy-relevant (and not so relevant) player. Tagliere takes into account defensive injures, schemes, matchups, and historical numbers. I admire Tagliere’s work. This article is somewhat modeled after The Primer but reduced to only the players I’m using.
Woellert is an expert at WR vs CB matchups. He continually finds low owned undervalued players that have huge weeks. When spending up at WR, it’s great to know they are in advantageous situations. As the season progresses, patterns emerge, and it becomes clear which CBs should be exploited. Our goal will be to play WRs covered by CBs, who average near or above 2.0 fantasy points per target.
Week 17 FanDuel Player Pool
Lamar Jackson (BAL, $9,000) has the highest projected total at 4for4 and FantasyPros at about 24.5 points. The Ravens clinch at least a playoff spot with a win over the Bengals. The game has a low over-under projection at 43.5 points, but the Ravens are favored by 13. That gives them the second-highest implied score of 28.5 points.
Deshaun Watson (Hou, $8,700) has the second-highest projection at both sites and just over 24 points. Watson has the highest projected ceiling of all QBs on FantasyPros at 32.4 points, two more points than Jackson. The Texans are out of the playoff hunt but face the Titans. With a win, Tennesse would clinch the AFC South. The Titans have allowed the fourth-most points to QBs at 20.87 points a game. The game has one of the highest over/under projections at 56 points. The Titans are favored by 7.5, which provides an implied total of 24.5 points, which is still plenty for Watson to rack up fantasy points through the air and on the ground, and Watson should be airing it out until the end.
Justin Herbert (LAC, $7,600) is projected to score 20.5 points on FantasyPros. With this projection, Herbert has the third-highest projected return to value at 2.69 X. The Chargers are out of the playoff picture, but a win would mean that they finished the season 4-0 and won three straight division games. That may be enough to save HC Anthony Lynn‘s job, so there is plenty to play for. The Chargers will be aided by the fact that the Chiefs will not play several of their star players because they have already clinched a first-round bye. This should allow the Chargers offense to start drives in good field position and have less resistance to finishing drives out for a score. Herbert is a value play that will likely be less owned than in most weeks because DFS players in Week 17 typically avoid games that do not have playoff implications.
Davante Adams (GB, $9,300) is the highest-priced WR on the slate and has the highest projection with an average of 21.3 points between FantasyPros and 4for4. He is the one player that consistently appears in the optimal lineup on both sites. Adams caught 11 of 12 passes for 142 yards and three TDs to score 37.7 points against the Titans on Monday night. The Packers would clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Bears. Adams is the type of star that teams lean on when an important game like this.
A.J. Brown (TEN, $8,400) makes is the logical choice to have an opposing WR to DeShaun Watson. Brown should be covered by CB Vernon Hargreaves III, who has allowed a 65.3% catch rate and a high 1.79 fantasy points per targets. Brown has a projected average of 15.9 points between FantasyPros and 4for4. That’s about a whole touchdown less than Adams.
T.Y. Hilton (IND, $6,300) has been relatively quiet over the last two weeks after posing back-to-back games of over 20 points. We know Hilton still has some magic left in him, and now is the time to let it shine against Jaguars CB Chis Claybrooks. “The Colts need some help to make the tournament, but they can help themselves with a win over Jacksonville,” wrote Woellert. “In their first go-round, Hilton received nine targets, and over the last four weeks, he’s been targeted 31 times. Claybrooks hasn’t seen a high target volume over the last few weeks, mainly because teams are running all over their defense. I think that changes this week. Claybrooks has allowed touchdowns in two of his last three games and is allowing 2.5 fantasy points per target.”
Michael Gallup (DAL, $6,200) is the most likely of the lower-priced WRs to go off. Gallup has four TDs in the last four games. That includes two TDs last week against the Eagles when he also caught six of eight passes for 121 yards. Woellert and I were on Gallup last week and are looking to reload. “I am Galluping back on Michael’s back again this week,” wrote Woellert. “Last week, Gallup burned Michael Jacquet for 40 yards, three first downs, and a score. He also got Javon Hargrave in coverage and burned him for a 21-yard score. Dallas needs to win this game and get some help from Washington in the form of a loss. Gallup has scored in consecutive games and had his highest yardage output since Week 3. Opposing QBs have tormented Isaac Yiadom all season to the tune of a 122.1 QBR when throwing in his direction. Yiadom has allowed 331 yards in coverage while being responsible for six TDs, resulting in 2.2 fantasy points per target.”
Tyler Boyd (CIN, $5,800) makes for a great opposing WR to Lamar Jackson. “The Ravens’ defensive backs have allowed nine touchdowns with no interceptions since Week 10. Pass defense DVOA has dropped from 7th to 26th,” according to a Tweet by Doug Farrar of USA Today. “I know the Bengals don’t have anything to play for, but it’s a division game, and they can knock the Ravens out of the playoffs, ending 2020 on a high note,” wrote Woellert. “Boyd suffered a concussion last week but has put in limited practice, which is a good sign for his availability this week. Brandon Allen can sling it, and I like Boyd’s slot matchup opposite Tramon Williams. The Ravens are dinged up in the secondary, and Williams should matchup on Boyd for most of his coverage snaps. Williams is allowing 1.8 fantasy points per target.”
Jalen Guyton (LAC, $5,300) has the best matchup of the Chargers WRs. Guyton should be covered by Chiefs CB Antonio Hamilton, who has allowed a 75% catch rate and 1.88 fantasy points per target. Guyton has three catches on the year for greater than 50 yards, with two going for more than 70 and a TD.
Chad Hansen (HOU, $5,200) has the best possible matchup. Hansen should be covered by CB Titans CB Adoree Jackson, who has allowed an 83.3% catch rate and league-worst 3.73 fantasy points per target. That almost a full fantasy point more per target than the next worst Eagles CB Michael Jacquet at 2.77, who is not on the slate. Hansen has averaged four targets a game over the last four and could see closer to seven if Keke Coutee ($5,700, foot) does not play.
Josh Reynolds (LAR, $4,900) could be a fantastic value play with Cooper Kupp (IR, COVID) out. Reynolds should see more targets and has a great CB matchup to exploit. Reynolds should be covered by CB Cardinals CB Kevin Peterson, who has allowed just a 50% catch rate but a high 2.04 fantasy points per target. “No Cooper Kupp, a few running backs down, and no Jared Goff is what faces the Rams this week,” wrote Woellert. “However, the Rams are still playing for a Wild Card spot if they win and Chicago loses. Some extra targets could open up with Kupp’s absence, but John Wolford is an unknown. Reynolds is coming off a 10 target game against Seattle, and I like the matchup with the other Peterson, Kevin. Kevin Peterson could see more snaps this week and will see Reynolds for the majority of his coverage snaps. In a small sample, Peterson is allowing 2.7 fantasy points per target over 65 snaps.”
Darren Waller (LV, $7,800) appears in the optimal lineup at FantasyPros with a 15.1 point projection. I think that is a bit high because the Raiders play the Broncos, who have allowed a ninth-best 11.52 fantasy points a game to TEs, and they have Waller, Hunter Henry (LAC, $6,000, IR), and Travis Kelce (KC, $8,800, will not play) in their division. I prefer to pay up elsewhere than on Waller.
Mark Andrews (BAL, $7,200) has the second-highest projection of TEs at 4for4 at 12.6 points. Andrews faces the Bengals, who have allowed a fifth-most fantasy point a game to TEs at 14.95 points. In a game where the Ravens are heavily favored and have a lot on the line, Andrews should see plenty of targets and makes for a great stack with Lamar Jackson, as non of the Ravens WRs have great matchups,
Robert Tonyan (GB, $6,300) has a great matchup against the Bears, who have allowed a fourth most 15.41 fantasy points a game to TEs. The Packers would clinch a first-round bye with a win so that Rodgers will be highly motivated, and Tonyan could have a big day.
Derrick Henry (TEN, $10,200) has the highest projected score and ceiling at FantasyPros and 4for4. The average projection between the two is 22.7 points. Interestingly, Henry does not appear in the optimal lineup for either site because his projected average of a 2.22X return is lower than other cheaper RBs. What you really need to consider the upside potential. Henry’s projected ceiling on FantasyPros is 29.4 points, which over a TD higher than any other RB besides Saints RB Alvin Kamara at 25.5 points. Henry is a stud that is going to get the ball in a crucial game for the Titans. Tennessee is guaranteed to win the AFC South with a win over the Texans. Houston has allowed a league-worst 32.40 fantasy points a game to RBs. Henry will get fed!
Melvin Gordon (DEN, $6,800) appears in the FantasyPros optimal lineup. Gordon is projected on FantasyPros to score 15.6 points, which gives him the second-highest predicted to return to value at 2.29X. Gordon has the same projection at 4for4, so this is a player where the two sites agree. The Broncos face the Raiders, who have allowed a third-most 29.19 fantasy points a game to RBs. This game has no playoff implications.
Myles Gaskin (MIA, $6,700) appears in the 4for4 optimal lineup. Gaskins is protected to score on 4for4 to score 16 points, which would give him a predicted return to value at 2.36X. That would be the higher return to value than any RB projected on FantasyPros. However, FantasyPros projects Gaskins at 14.4 points, which on their site still provides the sixth highest return to value at 2.18X. Gaskins is coming off a monster game against the Raiders where he had 14 carries for 87 yards and caught all five of his targets for 82 yards and a TD to score 31.4 fantasy points. At the same time, the Dolphins are not in the playoff hunt, this one of the games in Week 17 that will be hard to estimate the level of motivation of the opposing team. The Dolphins face the Bills, who have already clinched their division but can not earn a first-round bye. The only thing at stake for the Bills is they could drop from the two seed to the three if they were to lose and the Steelers were to win, Both teams play at the same time, but there could be some scoreboard watching that affect decision late in the game for Buffalo. The biggest concern is the Dolphins have one of the lowest implied scores at 23.5 points.
J.K. Dobbins (BAL, $6,400) appears in the FantasyPros optimal lineup. Dobbins is projected on FantasyPros to score 14.4 points, which gives him the fourth-highest predicted to return to value at 2.36X. It is worth noting that Dobbins is only projected for 11.5 points on 4for4. Dobbins faces a Bengals defense that 12th worst against RBs, having allowed 23.60 fantasy points a game. With the Ravens favored by 13, the game script favors Baltimore RBs. The only real issue here is how much work Dobbins will get. Dobbins shares the workload with teammate RB Gus Edwards ($6,100), and in recent weeks they have alternated between who sees the most touches.
Jeff Wilson Jr. (SF, $6,300) appears in the FatnasyPros optimal lineup. Wilson is projected on FantasyPros to score 14.6 points, which gives him the highest predicted 2.32 return to value, the highest of all RBs. Wilson is projected only slightly lower on 4for4 at 14.3 points. He is coming off a monster game against the Cardinals where he rushed 22 times for 183 yards and caught one of two targets for 21 yards and a TD to score 26.9 points. The 49ers face the Seahawks, who are middle of the pack against RBs, having allowed an average of 23.26 fantasy points a game. If Wilson were to revive a workhorse load again this week, his ceiling is much closer to what the Seahawks allow per game than his projected score. While the 49ers have been eliminated from the playoffs, Seattle has plenty to play. The Seahawks would click a first-round bye with a win and Packers loss and a Saints loss or tie. The 49ers would love to play divisional spoilers.
Malcolm Brown (LAR, $5,600) is currently in the 4for4 optimal lineup and is predicted to score 12.5 points. That would only be the case if teammate Cam Akers ($6,300, ankle) is ruled out, and at the time of writing, it appeared Akers might play. This is an afternoon game, so you would want clarification before using Brown.
Alexander Mattison ($5,000) is positioned to take on a large workload against the Lions who have allowed a second-most 31.40 fantasy points a game to RBs with teammate RB Dalvin Cook unavailable for personal family reasons. Mattison, however, at the time of writing, had not yet cleared concussion protocol. If Mattison is out, then Mike Boone ($4,600) becomes an extreme value play. In Week 17 of 2019 against the Bears, Boone had 17 carries for 148 yards and a TD and caught two passes for 12 yards to score 23 fantasy points. Boone is capable of a similar performance against the Lions. Either Mattison or Boone provides the cost savings to play Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara in the same lineup. Because the matchup is so good, a unique approach would play both Mattison and Boone.
Take A Side
FanDuel Lineup Build
There isn’t an exact science in what a winning FanDuel lineup looks likes. However, they should tell a logical story, and certain elements are frequent.
When building a FanDuel lineup, I’ll try to check off most of the criteria:
1) QB stacked with a WR: This allows for a double score when the two connect.
2) Opposing WRs: A recent analysis of big tournament winners found a high percentage were constructed with two WRs in the same game from both teams. This combination makes sense because high scoring shootouts allow for opportunity on both sides of the ball. Based on matchups, some of our builds incorporate this.
3) RB stacked with Defense: There is a strong correlation between an RB performing well with their team’s defense. That’s something to factor in when choosing a reason, but in reality, it’s often the perceived best available defense with money left from the build that gets plugged in.
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