FanDuel NFL Wild Card: In-Depth Player Pool With Expert Analysis
Playoffs! We’re talking about playoffs! This should be a fun weekend of football but extremely difficult from a DFS/FanDuel perspective. With three games each day, there are several players who could have a huge game. If you don’t have them, then you are likely not going cash. Even if their salary were not a constraint, it’s impossible to build a lineup with all the players that have a huge upside. As always, we breakdown the matchup to build a lineup with the players who are most likely be the stars who carry their team to the next round.
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’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.
Note: Tagliere’s Wild Card article was Draft Kings specific, so when he is talking about points it for full PPR.
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.
FanDuel Wild Card Weekend Player Pool
Lamar Jackson (SUN, BAL, $9,300) is the highest overall projected QB for both FantasyPros (26.1 projected points) and 4for4 (25) and appears in the optimizer for both sites. “The only teams who allowed more fantasy points per play than the Titans were the Lions, Falcons, and Texans… all teams looking for new head coaches,” wrote Tagliere. “Meanwhile, Jackson has been on a hot streak, finishing with at least 21.3 fantasy points in six of his last seven games, including each of his last five. When paying up at quarterback, you cannot afford to miss, and Jackson offers a rock-solid floor, while we know his ceiling. The lone concern is that Jackson has played two games against this Mike Vrabel defense, and in those two games, he’s thrown for 541 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions while rushing for 194 yards. Still, that’s enough for 46.0 fantasy points, which is what makes him so unbelievably safe. If you’re paying up, it’s him or Josh Allen.” Jackson is an elite play for Sunday only or the whole weekend.
Josh Allen (SAT, BUF, $9.000) is the highest projected QB on Saturday at FantasyPros (23.6) and 4for4 (24.3) and could challenge Jackson for the highest overall QB. “As mentioned in Jackson’s notes, you cannot afford to miss when paying up for quarterbacks because it limits you with the skill-position players you’re able to fit on your roster.,” wrote Tagliere. “He also hasn’t scored fewer than 17.5 points since way back in Week 8, giving you the floor needed when paying up. The matchup with the Colts was a poor one to start the year but hasn’t really been that over the second half of the season. Since the start of Week 9, there’s been just one quarterback who failed to finish with at least 18.6 fantasy points against them, which included Mike Glennon in Week 17. The reason Allen makes a ton of sense is because he’s their only avenue to points. The running backs have combined for just 21.5 touches per game (5th-fewest) and 14.3 PPR points per game (4th-fewest). On top of that, the Colts run defense is among the best in the league. I’m a bit torn on which quarterback to choose right now, but I’m leaning towards the discount with Allen.”
Ben Roethlisberger (SUN, PIT, $7,500) could be a good value choice for QB to fit in with other higher-priced players. Roethlisberger is projected for 18.4 points at FantasyPros, which would be a 2.45X return. “The Steelers live and die by the pass this year, and the Browns matchup just happens to favor the passing game,” wrote Tagliere. “There have been just three running backs who’ve topped 66 yards on the ground against the Browns, while there have been five quarterbacks who’ve thrown for at least 315 yards, including two who threw for 400-plus yards. These two teams met back in Week 6 when the Steelers were still able to run the ball, but a lot has changed since that game where James Conner rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers won that game 38-7 while Roethlisberger threw the ball just 22 times. In a must-win game last week, the Browns secondary allowed Mason Rudolph to throw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.
Philip Rivers (SAT, IND, $6,800) may be the best value play at QB. Rivers is projected for 18.1 points on FantasyPros and appears as the QB of choice for the FantasyPros optimized Saturday only lineup. However, 4for4 projects Rivers for just 14.6 points and is not recommended by that site. I will be avoiding Rivers. He has not scored more than 11.8 points in the last two games as the Colts have increasingly relied more on their running game.
Take A Side
Stefon Diggs (SAT, BUF, $8,700) is hard not to stack with Allen. The matchup is not fantastic for Diggs as he should be covered by Colts CB T.J. Carrie, who has allowed a 48.6% catch rate and 1.34 fantasy points per target. Those are excellent numbers for a CB, but Diggswwillls likely see plenty of targets. “Diggs has transformed into an elite fantasy receiver while Josh Allen has been on his hot streak,” wrote Tagliere. “Did you know he’s caught at least six passes in 15-of-16 games this year? In a PPR format, that’s highly valuable. Now you’re mixing that with a Colts secondary that has trended in the wrong direction as the season has gone on. You probably think of them as a good one, right? Would it make you feel better to know they’ve allowed 10 different wide receivers to score 15-plus PPR points against them over the last seven games, including seven of them who hit 19.8 or more PPR points? They’ve allowed 8.81 yards per target to wide receivers on the season (10th-most), so as long as the volume is there, receivers have produced. Diggs hasn’t seen fewer than eight targets since way back in Week 4, so it’s fair to say he’ll be just fine in that department. With no Davante Adams on the slate, Diggs should be considered the top receiver.”
Robert Woods (SAT, LAR, $6,700) has the best matchup among the elite WRs playing on Saturday. Woods should be covered by Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin, who has allowed a 60.8% catch rate and 1.79 fantasy points per target. Woods’Woods’ biggest question is whether or not QB Jared Goff (Thumb, $7,000) will play, and if he plays, how effective he will be. Monitor the news, Goff plays, and the reports appear he can perform at a high level, then Woods is worthy of consideration.
Allen Robinson (SUN, CHI, $7,200) has the best matchup of the elite high volume WRs. Robinson should be covered by saints CB Marshon Lattimore who has allowed a 54.7% catch rate and 1.82 fantasy points per target. “The Saints have a robust run defense and are stout up front,” wrote Woellert. “I think the Bears may need to take to the air to move the ball against the defense. David Montgomery and Allen Robinson are the focus of this offense. In their Week 8 regular-season meeting, Robinson was targeted eight times. Marshon Lattimore spent most of his coverage snaps on Robinson and was targeted six times, allowing five catches and a TD to Robinson.”
Michael Thomas (SUN, NO, $6,800) seems like a smoking value if he can recover enough from an ankle injury enough to play. Thomas has struggled to reach the field this year, but if he’s healthy enough to play, he has the potential to put up huge numbers. Thomas should be covered by CB Jaylon Johnson, who has allowed a 50% catch rate and 1.75 fantasy points per target.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (SUN, PIT, $6,500) has the third-best matchup on the slate in terms of fantasy points allowed per target. Smith-Schuster should be covered by CB MJ Stewart, who has allowed a 72.9% catch rate and 2.09 fantasy points per target. “Smith-Schuster (knee) is questionable but comes into the playoff weekend on a hot streak. He scored TDs in three of his last four and was targeted 34 times in that span. He’s behind Diontae Johson for second in market share of targets among the Pittsburgh receivers. There’s no doubt Ben looks his way. The Browns are dealing with COVID issues in the secondary. Ronnie Harrison is going to be out, and it’s unknown as to whether Denzel Ward will be ready to go. MJ Stewart looks to draw the start in the slot.”
Marquise Brown (SUN, BAL, $6,300) has by far the best CB matchup of any WR for the weekend. Brown should be covered by Titans CB Adore Jackson, who has allowed a 76.9 catch rate and a whopping 3.25 fantasy points per target. “I was hoping Brown would draw this matchup,” wrote Woellert. “Brown has been one of the most productive receivers since Week 12, scoring touchdowns in five of his last six, including a two-score game against the Bengals in Week 17. He has a slight lead over Mark Andrews for the total share of targets and leads the offense in market share of air yards. Adoree Jackson has had a rough go over the last three weeks of the season. He allowed two scores to Davante Adams and was responsible for a score against the Texans. Jackson has allowed a near 77% catch rate while allowing 3.3 fantasy points per target.”
John Brown (SAT, BUF, $5,700) could be an excellent value play. Brown returned last week after missing six games and caught all four of his targets for 72 yards, and a TD. Brown should be covered by CB Xavier Rhodes, who has allowed a 46.3% catch rate and 1.61 fantasy points per target. Those are reasonably good numbers, but Rhodes has struggled of late. “Xavier Rhodes has had a few hiccups down the stretch,” wrote Woellert. “He’s been responsible for scores in two of his last three games, allowing 14 of his 19 targets to be caught and 2.2 fantasy points per target.”
Derrick Henry (SUN, TEN, 10,200) is the most expensive RB on the slate. Projections indicate that he may be better to spend up at QB and not on Henry. FantasyPros projects Henry for 20.5 points while 4for4 only projects him for 16.7. Neither reaches a 2X projection. The thing is, Henry’s projection more represents his floor than his ceiling. “You have to know the risk of fading Henry in cash game lineups because if he goes off, you’re not making it into the money,” wrote Tagliere. This is the time of year where the Titans allow him to shine, as he’s racked up at least 23 carries in six of the last seven games. Included in that set of games was one against the Ravens, where he ran the ball 28 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. Going back to last year’s playoffs, Henry tagged this defense for 195 yards on 30 carries. If there’s one player who’s a lock for 20 touches at the running back position this week, it’s him. The Ravens have an intimidating defense overall, but the 4.48 yards per carry they’ve allowed to running backs is higher than the league average of 4.38 yards per carry. The reason they’re not viewed as a pushover run defense is that they’ve allowed a rushing touchdown just once every 45.3 carries, which is the second-largest number in the league. You pay for touches at the running back position, and Henry is about as safe as they come for those.”
Alvin Kamara (SUN, NO, $9,000) seems like a smoking cheap value when you consider the last time he played on Christmas, Kamara tied the NFL record with six TDs in route to scoring 54,7 fantasy points. Kamra’s availability is in question because he is in the COVID protocol but does seem on-track to playing. If he plays, one should not expect another 50-Burger performance. WR Michael Thomas (ankle, $6,800) should also be available, which means the offense isn’t likely to go entirely through Kamara. The Saints also face the Bears, who allowed a ninth-best 20.74 fantasy points a game to RBs. Nevertheless, a rested Kamara should easily exceed 2X value and has the potential for much more. If you are playing the whole weekend slate, you will want to check the news on Saturday morning to see if there is clarification on Kamara’s status for Sunday.
David Montgomery (SUN, CHI, $8,400) will likely see 20 touches in a tough matchup against the Saints. Montgomery is virtually gamescript proof, as he was utilized frequently as a pass-catcher in recent weeks with nine targets last week. While the Saints have been dominant against the run this season, having allowed a league-best 14.61 fantasy points a game to RBs, they have not been as effective against the run down the stretch. “They may be catching the Saints defense at the right time, wrote Tagliere. “They’ve allowed at least one running back who totaled at least 14.6 PPR points in three of the last four games, while they’d allowed just two such performances over their first 12 games. You’re paying for the touches with Montgomery, as well as all the goal-line touches as the team’s primary goal-line back. The Bears are the clear-cut underdogs in this game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Montgomery, who’s seen all but one of the Bears’ running back targets since the start of Week 12.” Due to the matchup, Montgomery is likely to be lower owned than Henry or Kamara.
Johnathan Taylor (SAT, IND, $8,200) is an excellent pivot from Henry if you are playing the full weekend slate. Taylor has averaged a remarkable 26.07 fantasy points over the last four games. In the last month, three Colts have shown that they trust Taylor and are willing to give him the ball when it counts the most. The rookie is coming off his best performance of 37.9 points against the Jaguars in a must-win game. “The Bills have a solid defense, though the area of weakness is surely on the ground, as they’ve allowed 57 rushing touchdowns to running backs in the 64 games they’ve played under Sean McDermott,” wrote Tagliere. “On the year, they’ve allowed the 12th-most fantasy points per touch to running backs, which much of stems from touchdowns, like the one they allow every 24.5 carries was more often than all but seven other teams. Taylor has at least 74 rushing yards in six straight games while scoring seven touchdowns over the last four games. Think of him as the cheaper version of Derrick Henry.”
J.K. Dobbins (SUN, BAL, $6,800) is a great low to midrange option that should provide a solid floor with upside. Dobbins is the fifth-highest projected RB at both FantasyPros (14.5) and 4for4 (13.3). Dobbins appears in the optimal lineup for both the whole weekend and for Sunday only on FantasyPros.
J.D. McKissic (SAT, WAS, $5,400) is a great value option to get some higher-priced players in. “This is the clear-cut bargain bin play at running back this week,” wrote Tagliere. “McKissic isn’t a full-time player, but his role in this offense is dictated on gamescript. The Bucs are currently 8.5-point favorites, which suggests Washington will be in a negative gamescript. Here are the splits with McKissic in wins and losses:
|Game Result||RuAtt||RuYds||RuTD||Tgts||Rec||RecYds||RecTD||PPR PPG|
We did see Antonio Gibson flash at times, but it’s also worth noting that his splits are the exact opposite of McKissic. If you’re expecting Washington to win, McKissic wouldn’t be the best play, but that doesn’t seem likely. On top of that, the Bucs have allowed the fewest fantasy points on the ground to running backs (where McKissic doesn’t generate many points), allowing just 141.2 fantasy points all year, while no other team was below 161.0 fantasy points. Through the air, however, they allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. If you are okay accepting a little more game script risk, McKissic looks like a solid value on this slate.”
Mark Andrews (SUN, BAL, $7,000) is the most likely TE to provide a decent amount of fantasy points. Andrews is the highest projected TE on both FantasyPros (14.2) and 4for4 (12.1). Andrews faces the Titans who were middle of the pack against TEs at 12.88 fantasy points a game allowed. The matchup may be better than it appears on paper. “Despite seeing the sixth-fewest targets to tight ends, the Titans allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to them this year,” wrote Tagliere. “The 75.2 percent completion-rate ranked as the highest in the league, while the 8.32 yards and 2.06 PPR points per target ranked as the third-highest marks. When these two teams met back in Week 11, Andrews totaled five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. He was one of six tight ends who totaled at least five receptions against the Titans this year. If you can afford Andrews, he’s the best tight end available this weekend, and the matchup doesn’t do anything to deter you away from him.
After Andrews, there are several TEs who have good matchups. If you want to up at another position and play the TE Wheel of Fortune, any of the following are worthy plays.
Logan Thomas (SAT, WAS, $6,400) is the second-highest projected TE on FantasyPros (9.2) and 4for4 (9.3). Thomas faces the Buccaneers who are in the bottom third against TEs and 13.89 fantasy points game. Thomas has averaged 12.2 fantasy points a game over the last three.
Rob Gronkowski (SAT, TB, $6,000) has vastly more playoff experience than any other TE on the slate. In 16 playoff games, Gronkowski has racked up 130 targets for 81 receptions 1163 yards, and 12 TDs. That’s an average of 8.125 targets a game for just over five receptions that go for nearly 73 yards and three TDs over every four games. That an approximate fantasy average of approximately 14.3 points per playoff game.
Jared Cook (SUN, NO, $5,900) has the best matchup of any TE on the slate. The Bears have allowed a second-most 15.70 fantasy points a game to TEs. Cook gets a boost of either Kamra or Thomas were not to play.
Eric Ebron (SUN, PIT, $5,500) has the second-best matchup on the slate. The Browns have allowed a third-most 15.42 fantasy points a game to TEs. In the last eight games Ebron has played, he has 11 targets twice, five targets once, six targets three times, and seven targets twice. Ebron is coming off the COVID IR list, so effectively he had last week off and should be well-rested.
Jonnu Smith (SUN, TEN, $5,200) appears to be the best value play at TE when you consider the opportunities to score for him maybe greater than any other TE on the slate. “The total on the Ravens/Titans game is 54.5, which is head-and-shoulders above any other game on this slate, and if there’s one position the Ravens struggle with, it’s tight ends,” wrote Tagliere. “Here’s their defensive ranks against each position: QBs 9th, RBs 12th, WRs 9th, TEs 17th. Ok, so they don’t “struggle” with tight ends, but they’re essentially average against them. There were eight tight ends who were able to hit 10.3 or more PPR points against them this year, including Smith himself when he caught four passes for 20 yards and a touchdown back in Week 11. Prior to their Week 17 game, Smith had seen 12 targets in Weeks 15-16.”
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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