FanDuel NFL Divisional Round: In-Depth Player Pool With Expert Analysis
That’s was fun! The Wild Card Weekend was profitable with three good FanDuel wins. My whole weekend lineup cashed. I also had two entries into the new Single Game Pro tournaments. I noticed that the
$100 entry tournaments were not going to fill, and within the last few seconds before kick-off, I entered two tournaments. Both tournaments fell short of filling by 20-30%, which meant they paid out more than they collected. I finished in 5th place in one of those entries for a $500 win.
Let’s keep it going! Despite there only being four games, there is still value players to be found. Two RBs on the cheap side are poised to take on a workhorse load. A WR costs less than $5,000 who is coming off of IR and has the best possible CB matchup on the weekend.
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 Division Round article was Draft Kings specific, so when he is talking about points; it is 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 NFL Divisional Player Pool
Patrick Mahomes (SUN, KC, $9,200) has the highest QB projection on both FantasyPros (29.8 projected) and 4for4 (24.9). The average projection between the two sites is 27.35, for an average projected return to value of 2.97X. Mahomes is the only QB on the weekend, close to an average of 3X projection. “If you’re able to pay up, Mahomes is the quarterback you should be looking at here,” wrote Tagliere. “Not only is he the best quarterback in the game, but the matchup against the Browns is one that gives him an additional bump. They’re what’s known as a funnel defense, allowing the fifth-fewest points to the running back position but the eighth-most to the quarterback position. It’s also important to keep in mind that they played three games in high winds and rain, which dragged down the passing numbers a bit more. . . . Mahomes is as safe as they come with his 32.3-point team-implied total.”
Josh Allen (SAT, BUF, $8,800) and Lamar Jackson (SAT, BAL, $8,000) faceoff with similar projections and implied value. Allen is the second-highest projected QB at FantasyPros (23.7), and 4for4 (22.5) has a combined average of 23.1 points for a projected return of 2.63X. Lamar Jackson SAT, BAL, $8,000) is the third-highest. FantasyPros projects Jackson at 22.8 points while 4for4 projects 21 points. That gives Jackson an average of 21.9 for a 2.73X. Based on value, Jackson appears to be the preferred QB of the Saturday only slate. However, either one of these QBs could easily go over 30 points. The choice between the two really comes down to stacking and overall lineup construction.
Baker Mayfield (SUN, CLE, $7,400) is my favorite value play for QB on the weekend. Mayfield is projected on FantasyPros for 22.6 points but just 15.9 on 4for4. The 4for4 projection looks dramatically low. Mayfield can score points both through the air and with his legs. The game has the highest over-under projection at 57 points. While the Chiefs are favored by 10, that’s a game script that will be ripe for Mayfield to give it his all. Even with the 4for4 low projection, the average of the two is 19.25 points with a value of 2.60X. The lower price of Mayfield allows for you to spend elsewhere.
Drew Brees (SUN, NO, $7,300) maybe the value play at QB for the weekend. Brees is projected on FantasyPros for 18.2 points, and on 4for4 he is projected for 17.3. While that is only a combined average of 17.75 points for a 2.43X, it’s easy to see a scenario where Brees far exceeds that. “This game will be played inside a dome, and we know Brees has been a much better quarterback at home over the course of his career,” wrote Tagliere. “This game also has the second-highest total on the slate at 52.0 points, so we must find where the points will come from. The Bucs defense was the No. 1 defense against the run in 2020 and have allowed just 8.8 fantasy points per game on the ground to running backs. Because of that, quarterbacks have had to carry the load. Since Week 9, there’s been just one quarterback who’s failed to score 17.1-plus fantasy points against the Bucs, and that was Chase Daniel (a backup). The last time these two teams met, Brees completed 26-of-32 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns. He should come with a solid floor in what’s expected to be a high-scoring game.”
Take A Side
Stefon Diggs (SAT, BUF, $8,600) has as one of the better CB matchups. Diggs should be covered by CB Marcus Peters, who has allowed a 57.4% catch rate and 1.68 fantasy points per target. That’s plenty high enough for the volume of targets that Diggs receives. “Diggs saw nine targets last week, and I don’t think the matchup with Marcus Peters is going to deter that this week, wrote Woellert. “Cole Beasley and John Brown should get theirs, but Diggs should be moved around the field. Although he may run most of his routes on Peters, Buffalo could scheme to get him on Marlon Humphrey. Peters allowed the lone target to be caught while on A.J. Brown, and Brown was moved around to match up on Humphrey. Peters allowed 13.1 yards per catch during the regular season so that he can get burned.”
Mike Evans (SUN, TB, $7,100) has the second-best CB matchup on the slate in terms of fantasy points allowed per target. Evans should be covered by CB Marshon Lattimore, who has allowed a 54.7% catch rate and 1.82 fantasy points per target. “Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore matching up reminds me of the scene in Major League where Ricky Vaughn was called out the bullpen to face Clu Haywood. Haywood had owned Vaughn throughout the season, but manager Lou Brown uttered, “I know he hasn’t done real well against this guy, but I got a hunch he’s due,” wrote Woellert. Kind of like Evans with Lattimore. Lattimore has done a good job on Evans, but I think Brady is able to get him the ball. Evans was targeted 10 times, burning Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby for 89 yards. Lattimore got burned deep by Javon Wims and he got bailed out when the ball went right through his hands. Against Allen Robinson, he allowed both targets to be caught for 20 yards and a first down.”
Rashard Higgins (CLE, SUN, $5,300) has seen five to 10 targets in four of the last five games. That will likely continue this week against the Chiefs in what is expected to be a high scoring game. Higgins should be covered by CB Bashaud Breeland, who has allowed a 47.9% catch rate and 1.66 fantasy points per target. “If this game gets out of hand for Cleveland early, they’ll be chucking the ball,” wrote Woellert. “Breeland has allowed four scores this season and a 66% catch rate on catchable targets this season. We’ll see how rusty the Chiefs are after not playing for three weeks. Something tells me they’ll be ready to roll.”
Josh Reynolds (SAT, LAR, $5,200) has the best matchup among the value WRs on Saturday who sees a reasonable number of targets to suggest he has a decent upside. Reynolds should be covered by Packers CB Kevin King, who has allowed a 57.8% catch rate and 1.66 fantasy points per target. That’s the best matchup for any of the Rams WRs. In a game that nearly a TD favors the Packers, the Rams should be throwing the ball plenty late and create opportunities for Reynolds. It would not be shocking if Reynolds scores in garbage time late in the 4th quarter.
Tre’Quan Smith (SUN, NO, $4,800) is dirt cheap because he is coming off of IR from an ankle injury. He also has the best CB matchup on the weekend. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting should cover Smith. Murphy-Bunting is one of our’s to pick on. Murphy-Bunting has allowed a 72.9% catch rate and 2.21 fantasy points per target. He is the only CB this weekend to have allowed more than two fantasy points per target. “In these short slates, you might need an off-the-wall play, and Smith could be that guy,” wrote Woellert. “He was just designated to return and returned to practice this week but hasn’t officially been activated. It does look like he’s on track. Sean Murphy-Bunting has been of the weak links in the Tampa secondary. Last week, he allowed 43 yards and was responsible for the Steven Sims score. . . . . If Smith happens to miss this week, Lil’Jordan Humphrey ($4,700) played 41 snaps and could be in line for the snaps matching up with Bunting.”
Alvin Kamara (SUN, NO, $9,000) is a very tough fade. If you don’t play Kamara and he goes off, you are likely not going to cash. However, if he does just average or below that like Derek Henry did last week, you have a huge edge on the field by not playing him. The reason for the fade is the matchup is pretty brutal. The Buccaneers have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points a game to RBs at 20.21. The Buccaneers have already held Kamra to just 13.4 points on November 8th. In a short slate, it’s usually better to spend up on players in good matchups. That’s the risk I’m going to take this week. The same logic applies to Aaron Jones (SAT, GB, $7,800). Jones faces the Rams, who have allowed a fourth-lowest 19.86 fantasy points a game to RBs.
Nick Chubb (SUN, CLE, $8.200) has the second-best matchup on the weekend. The Chiefs have allowed an eight-most 25.89 fantasy points a game to RBs. However, if the Browns lose by 10 points, the game script could be problematic for Chubb. I personally believe this game is going to be high scoring but a lot close than anticipated. On Sunday, I plan to take a unique approach in playing both Chubb and Kareem Hunt ($6,200) in a near-complete game-stack. Hunt is coming off an 18.6 fantasy point performance against the Steelers, who allowed a league second-best 18.73 fantasy points a game to RBs. “Kansas City allowed 50.7% of the PPR scoring yielded to RBs via receptions, wrote Matt Schauf in his Divisional Round Sleepers column for Draft Sharks. That was the league’s 3rd-largest share for the regular season, behind only Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Hunt certainly did not own the passing-game portion of backfield opportunities. But he has edged Chubb in both route rate and the total share of passing snaps in their shared, healthy games.” Chubb also scored 22.5 points in that game, for a combined total of 41.23 points. If this game does turn into a shootout, Chubb and Hunt’s duo could again be dynamic in a short two-game slate.
Cam Akers (SAT, LAR, $6,000) has the best matchup for any RB this weekend. The Packers have allowed a fifth-most 26.93 fantasy points a game to RBs. Akers is coming off a 30 touch performance last weekend against the Seahawks. Akers had 28 carries for 131 yards and a TD and caught two passes for two yards to score 24.6 fantasy points. Akers is in a good spot to repeat that performance this weekend.
Leonard Fournette (SUN, TB, $6,300) should be a good value based on volume. Fournette took on the lead back role last week after Ronald Jones suffered a quadriceps injury on pre-game warmups. Fournette rushed 19 times for 93 yards with a TD and caught four passes for 39 yards to score 21.2 points against a very good Redskins run defense. The matchup doesn’t get easier this week against the Saints, who have allowed a league-best 17.84 fantasy points a game to RBs. If Jones (questionable) were to miss again, Fournette will likely still reach greater than 2X value with the volume he should see. If you are playing the full weekend slate, Kareem Hunt at $100 less would be an easy pivot from Fournette if Jones were to play.
Devin Singletary (SAT, BUF, $5,700) looks to be the value play among RBs. Singletary should see a workhorse load with teammate Zack Moss (ankle) expected to see the rest of the season. The matchup isn’t fantastic against the Ravens. Baltimore has allowed the 12th fewest fantasy points a game to RBs at 21.51. The Ravens also shutdown RB Derek Henry last week. While that is something to consider, the ravens’ Ravens’ game plan was to likely focus on Henry. This week they will likely be more focused on the Bills passing game. Singletary should see over 20 touches in a high scoring offense. All he needs is one TD to likely more than exceeding a 2X value.
Travis Kelce (SUN, KC, $8,500) is the only TE that I’m considering playing on Sunday. He is the only TE who can basically pencil in a score of somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 points. Kelce has averaged 17.4 fantasy points a game this season, and 21.33 points over the last four games. If Kelce is just average and you play anyone else and don’t have a huge game, you way behind in a small slate. “If you can afford Kelce, you play him, no questions asked,” wrote Tagliere. “In fact, you can play him in the flex if you’d like, as he should cost as much as the top-tier wide receivers. You’d have to go all the way back to Week 7 to find the last time he finished with fewer than 16.2 DraftKings points, and just once during that eight-week stretch did he fall below 22.8 DraftKings points. He’s a cheat code at the position with zero predictability. On top of that, the Browns are the second-easiest matchup for tight ends based on their adjusted-schedule rank. Tight ends playing the Browns have averaged 21.1 percent more PPR points against the Browns than they have versus their season-long average.”
Mark Andrews (SAT, BAL, $6,600) is the best performing TE playing on Saturday, and he is in the best matchup. The Bills have allowed a fifth-most 14.83 fantasy points a game to TEs.
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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