FanDuel NFL Conference Championships: In-Depth Player Pool With Expert Analysis
It’s been a wild ride. Conference Championships marks the end of another fantasy football season. Thank you for joining me in my most successful season of DFSon FanDuel. Let’s finish things on a winning note. Two-game slates are not always popular among DFS experts. I personally enjoy them and have a fair amount of success. The key is typically to find one value player in a good matchup and build around that value with predictable studs.
Early on the season, I tend to only look at optimizers as a quick guide for research. They are good for finding players that may not be on my radar. As the season progresses, they are more valuable in building a lineup because they become more accurate as more information is feed into the system for player projections. I don’t suggest using an optimized lineup because you want your lineup to be unique. Using an optimizer as a guide is certainly a good start, especially on a small two-game slate.
I use the optimizer at 4for4 and FantasyPros. The lineups aren’t going to be the same because they have a slightly different player. Finding players the two agree upon is a great way to create a core group of players and then add your own value play. The three players the two sites agree on for this Sunday are QB Josh Allen, WR Mike Evans, and RB Devin Singletary.
My personal lineup will likely more closely resemble the FantasyPros lineup. The main reason is the use of TE Travis Kelce. Kelce provides the most solid floor of all TEs in the league and had the potential to break a slate. If Kelce goes off for 100 yards and two TDs and scores 30 points, there is a good chance that you can’t win if you don’t play him. All the other TEs on the slate have an actual potential of scoring no points.
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.
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 Conference Championship Player Pool
Patrick Mahomes (KC, $9,000) is projected for 24 points at both FantasyPros and 4for4. Mahomes has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion last week. He certainly has the potential to dominate and be the highest fantasy scorer on the day.
Aaron Rodgers (GB, $8,700) is projected for 22.9 points on FantasyPros and 20.7 at 4for4. Rodgers is most predictable to have a solid performance but lacks the upside running the ball that Mahomes and Allen bring to their game.
QB Josh Allen (BUF, $8,500) is also projected for 24 points at 4for4, while FantasyPros projects Allen for 24.5 points. That makes Allen the highest projected QB average on the two sites. “How do you not play Allen with the way he’s been rolling as of late,” asked Tagliere? “Sure, the game against the Ravens wasn’t as high scoring as expected, but the winds were clearly affecting the deep ball. It was also the Ravens, a defense that’s been shutting down quarterbacks all season. The Chiefs are a solid defense but they’re not the Ravens. In fact, 10-of-16 quarterbacks who played against them this season finished with 19.36 or more fantasy points (just four quarterbacks hit that number against the Ravens). It helps to know the Chiefs have allowed 69.9 fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, which was the fifth-most in football and something that should provide Allen with a sturdy floor. Some will worry about his 14-of-27 passing for 122 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6 against them, but don’t forget what Allen did against the Patriots in their first and second matchups this year. He went 11-of-18 for 154 yards and no touchdowns in their first meeting but then crushed them with 27-of-36 passing for 320 yards and four touchdowns in their second one. His rushing floor might be enough to give him the nod over Rodgers, though weather should also play a factor in which one you choose.”
Tom Brady (TB, $7,800) is projected for 18.2 points on FantasyPros and just 16.9 at 4for4. Despite the discount over the other QBs, he is projected to have the lowest return to value. At the higher FantasyPros projection, Brady would provide a 2.33X return to value. At $700 more, Allen is projected for a 2.88X return.
The toughest part of building a lineup this weekend is picking which of the three elite WRs you will play. There is an argument for all three: Devante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and Tryeek Hill. The next hard decision is deciding between Buccaneers WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. If you are playing one of the top three QBs and TE Travis Kelce, you can build a solid lineup that included one of the elite WRs. Depending on what you do at RB, you can either afford one or both Evans and Godwin.
Davante Adams (GB, $8,900) is the top projected WR. Adams is projected for 18.5 fantasy points at FantasyPros and 20.6 points at 4for4. He does not show up in either site’s optimal lineup because his projections are not dramatically higher than either Diggs or Hill. With Adams, it’s important to remember that Adams showed his
Tyreek Hill (KC, $8,400) is projected for 18.2 points on FantasyPros and 18.3 at 4for4. “Tyreek Hill is always capable of going off,” wrote Woellert. “Cleveland did a good job of keeping Hill in check and not allowing the big play, and when I talk big play, I’m talking the 75 yard TD bomb. Tre’Davious White will likely spend most of his coverage snaps on Hill, but KC does a great job of moving Hill around. Andy Reid does a good job of exploiting matchups, and White has been average in coverage this postseason. White has been targeted 12 times this postseason, allowing 1.9 fantasy points per target.”
Stefon Diggs (BUF, $8,300) is projected for 18.2 points at FantasyPros and 17.6 at 4for4. “The chemistry between Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen hasn’t been seen since Hoyt and Gamble, although I don’t see Diggs throwing hot coffee at Allen anytime soon,” wrote Wollert. “Diggs has received 20 targets over their first two playoff games, turning those targets into 14 catches and two touchdowns. I don’t see anyone from KC being able to keep up with Diggs in coverage. I’d be interested to see if Steve Spagnuolo turns to Tyrann Mathieu in some situations. I think Allen and Diggs target Ward this week. Ward was targeted seven times last week and yielded 2.7 fantasy points per target. Diggs is in a good CB matchup if they choose to take advantage.”
Chris Godwin (TB, $6,800) is projected for 13.4 points on FantasyPros and 12.5 points at 4for4. “Chris Godwin has attracted 19 targets from Tom Brady in their first two playoff games,” wrote Woellert. “Godwin had an uncharacteristically bad Wild Card game when it comes to drops, with five against Washington. He still managed 79 yards and a score last week, but the Saints defense did a good job of minimizing the damage. He faces an average to above-average secondary, but this game shapes up well for Godwin since Green Bay likes to bring pressure with the Smith duo, Z’Darius, and Preston. Christian Kirksey will also see a handful of pass-rush snaps. Godwin should also see a slight uptick in targets with Antonio Brown ruled out. This could also lead Mike Pettine to have Jaire Alexander focus on Mike Evans. Brady doesn’t like pressure and could look to get the ball out quicker. If Godwin is on his game, he’s going to haul in passes. Chandon Sullivan allowed a 100% catch rate in the game against the Rams. Godwin is someone who can create some separation from the slot and has generated 58 yards after the catch.”
Mike Evans (TB, $6,600) is projected for 13.1 points at FantasyPros and 13.0 points at 4for4. Evans should be covered by CB Kevin King, who has allowed a 58.8% catch rate and 1.66 fantasy points per target. “Evans played 82 percent of his snaps at LWR or in the slot last week, which means he’ll avoid Alexander most of the game. Instead, he’ll match up with Kevin King, the Packers worst starting cornerback,” wrote Tagliere. “In his coverage, he’s allowed 40-of-57 passing for 529 yards and one touchdown this year. Despite that one touchdown, those numbers are good for a 105.1 QB Rating in his coverage. Evans is also second in the NFL in red-zone targets, behind only Davante Adams, so that King will be tested. Removing the one game he had to leave early with injury, Evans has seen 66 targets over his last eight games, making him Tom Brady‘s No. 1 target. He’s discounted to the point where it’s hard not to play him.”
Allen Lazard (GB, $5,700) has the best CB matchup of any WR. Lazard should be covered by CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, who we have frequently picked on throughout the season. Murphy-Bunting has allowed a 72.9% catch rate and 2,21 fantasy points per target on the season. That’s the worst stats in both categories among all CBs playing on Sunday. No other CB has allowed a catch rate above 62.3% or great than 1.76 fantasy points per target. Lazard (wrist/back) has been limited in practice this week. If Lazard plays, he is my value play to add to Allen/Evans/Singletary’s core three. “Lazard turned eight targets into four catches and a score in the Divisional Round,” wrote Woellert. “The Buccaneers like to use multiple corners all over the field in different situations. Sean Murphy-Bunting had a few coverage snaps in the slot, while Ross Cockrell also saw some playing time. Cockrell was responsible for one of the TDs allowed to Tre’Quan Smith (Carlton Davis allowed the other). Murphy-Bunting did a good job in coverage, but I think Lazard runs better routes and can get free, especially if Tampa brings pressure and forces Rodgers to get the ball out quick, which he still does with pinpoint accuracy.”
John Brown (BUF, $5,600) is another opportunity at a value play. Brown caught eight of 11 targets for 62 yards against an excellent Ravens defense. Brown should be covered by Bashaud Breeland, who has allowed a good 47.9% catch rate, but a relatively high 1.66 fantasy points per target if Brown has an excellent shot at returning 2-3X value if he were to receive close to double-digit targets again.
Take a Side
Aaron Jones (GB, $8,000) is the most expensive RB on the slate and has the highest projections. Jones is projected for 12.7 points on FantasyPros and 13.3 at 4for4. Despite having the highest projection, he does show up on either site’s optimized value. That because he expected to provide a low return to value. The matchup against the Buccaneers is brutal. Tampa Bay has allowed a sixth-best 20.21 fantasy points a game to RBs. The weather is projected to be slightly below freezing, which is great for RBs. I’m not going to Jones because I would rather play up for Kelce and another elite WR, but to fade Jones is risky.
Leonard Fournette (TB, $7,200) does not appear an optimizer because he only projected for a little over 10 points. Fournette should still be considered in your lineup build because he has scored 40.4 points (21.2 vs. Washington, 19.2 vs. New Orleans) in the playoffs. The matchup against the Packers is by far the best on the slate for RBs. Green Bay allowed a fifth-most 26.93 fantasy points a game to RBs. Fournette is only projected for a little over 10 points because he shares touches with Ronald Jones ($5,600). However, Jones had 17 carries for 63 yards and five receptions for 44 yards last week, while Jones also had 13 carries for 62 yards. Jones (quad/finger) is questionable, while Fournette is healthy. There is a good chance Fournette will see a major workload in a great matchup.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC, $6,200) is projected for 9.6 fantasy points on FantasyPros and 10.4 points at 4for4. Edwards-Helaire (hip/ankle) has been limited in practice this week and is questionable. If he plays, Edwards-Solaire should provide vale to pay up elsewhere. If Edwards-Helaire were to miss, then Darrell Williams ($6,000) should see a decent workload.
Devin Singletary (BUF, $5,800) is in a group of three RBs that are all projected to score a little over 10 points. The other two are Edwards-Helaire and Fournette. Singletary appears in the optimizer in both sites because of his lower cost and thus is projected to have a higher return to value. “There really should be no questions about Singletary’s workload with Zack Moss out for the season, but that wasn’t really the case last week when he received just 10 touches against the Ravens that netted just 37 total yards without a touchdown,” wrote Tagliere. “To be fair, the Ravens are a better run defense than the Chiefs, who allowed the 13th-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs this year. The only way the Bills win this game is by playing keep-away from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, and what better way to do that than through Singletary, who should be as fresh as ever after totaling just 16 touches over the last two weeks.”
Travis Kelce (KC, $8,600) is worth the cost. Kelce is on a streak of six straight games of scoring between 18.8 points and 23.6 points. Kelce has averaged 17.6 points on the season. Take the point here and make the tough decisions elsewhere.
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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