Perfect DraftKings Lineup: Defensive and Other Lineup Construction Trends

This five-part series concludes with notable defensive trends as well as some overall lineup construction trends.  While it may not feel or look like it, defense still has a vital role in the league; look no further than Super Bowl 53 when Brian Flores completely shut down Sean McVay’s octane offense.  Defense does win games even in a league that is predicated on offense nowadays as this first trend illustrates.

NO DEFENSE IN THE PERFECT LINEUP LOST ITS GAME

The first two weeks hilariously contained defenses in the perfect lineup that played to ties.  However, coming as no surprise from Week 3 on, the perfect defense won their game straight up.  By predicting who will win games, it can eliminate half of the available pool of defenses to select from.  It’s very rare that the top defense in a week lost its game to the point that it hasn’t happened in fantasy football since Week 4 of 2015 when Detroit amassed 24 fantasy points in a loss to Seattle.

11 OF THE 17 DEFENSES WERE FAVORITES

Like the fans, Vegas is still learning about the 32 teams early on that for as bad as the Bills were offensively in the first half of 2018, they possessed a competent defense that everyone in suicide pools and DFS discovered as 17-point underdogs in Week 3.  Go back to Week 1 in 2017 and Jacksonville made the perfect lineup as six-point underdogs against an awful Tom Savage that ultimately gave DeShaun Watson the starting job.  

Once the first few weeks play out, Vegas has a better pulse on the teams and it shows as no defense heading into their respective perfect game was worse than 3.5-point underdogs.  This trend is an extension of the one listed above and further reduces the pool of suitable options.  It would take balls to start a double-digit underdog as a fantasy defense, the type of balls that less than a percent of people in the Milly Maker had who started the Bills as 17-point dogs.

15 OF THE 17 DEFENSES WERE PRICED NO MORE THAN $3000

Two viable defensive strategies proved effective in 2018.  Rostering the Bears defense each week would have given you nine double-digit fantasy point performances, the most in the NFL.  The other option was rostering the defense against a Cardinals offense that allowed a league-high 10 double-digit fantasy point performances.  Implementing these strategies would be costly as most weeks, the Bears or whoever the Cardinals dueled with were the priciest defenses on the board.

Luckily the best defense on the main slate was over $3000 just twice, demonstrating that paying down at that position can be just as effective as paying up for what are considered to be the top defensive options heading into the week.  Chiacgo and Miami were the top two defenses on the Week 9 main slate with a difference of $1300 in salary and three fantasy points.  That extra salary could find better use in helping to pay up for some top-tiered talent at other positions.  Especially when the top-priced defense was never the perfect defense at any point in 2018.

13 OF THE 17 DEFENSES HELD THEIR OPPONENT UNDER THEIR TEAM TOTAL

In its simplest form, the primary goal of a defense is to keep another team off a scoreboard.  Targeting games with low game totals is one way to go about this process.  Like running back, there is a stronger correlation in utilizing the team totals by rostering defenses against opposing offenses not expected to generate much offense.  The Cardinals were dead last in a variety of offensive categories and metrics last season that it made them a weekly piñata as they only exceeded their team total three times.  

Of course just keeping opponents off the scoreboard won’t be enough to earn a spot in the perfect lineup.  Pitching a shutout nets 10 fantasy points but every defense needed an additional boost to get on the exclusive list.

15 OF THE 17 DEFENSES FORCED MULTIPLE TURNOVERS

Ultimately, the goal of selecting a fantasy defense is identifying the one that has the best chance to hold an opposing offense to as little points as possible while scoring a defensive touchdown.  Forecasting which one will register a pick 6 or special teams touchdown can be as much of a science as meteorologists trying to predict the weather.  Even with the increase in technology and tools, you’d think that they be able to give an accurate report on a daily basis.  Selecting a defense can feel the same way as there have never been more databases and tools for fantasy players to access.  Yet, there are so many variables in 60 minutes of football that determine success and failure for fantasy defenses.  

Let’s not forget the low frequency of defensive/special teams touchdown that occur year after year.  There were 83 occurrences in 2018, an average of 5.18 per week.  Let alone trying to predict who’s going to return a kickoff or punt to the house will be enough to drive one bonkers and is simply not a viable option.

The best course of action in finding a defense that can score a touchdown is selecting ones that best create opportunities to allow that to happen.  12 of the 17 perfect defenses sacked the quarterback at minimum three times, all opportunities that force precious turnovers that increase the opportunity for a defensive score.  In the 15 games in which a defense forced multiple turnovers, nine of them did so in games they scored a defensive touchdown.

Playing on the road, inclement weather, backup quarterbacks, porous offensive lines, and increased wind speeds are just some of the variables that can influence turnovers.  If cognizant of these factors, it can help place you in the best spot to roster the best defense in what can be tough position to project.

OTHER NOTABLE TRENDS

15 OF THE 17 PERFECT LINEUPS FEATURED GAME STACKS

Each main slate featured at least one team stack and that was nearly identical for game stacks as only two of them didn’t feature one.  Of the 21 game stacks that occurred, the most common was an RB+WR which occurred four times followed by an RB+TE and WR+WR stack happening twice.  A variety of other game stacks from WR-WR+WR to QB-RB+WR found their way into the perfect lineup as well as unusual combinations from WR+DEF to RB+DEF.

Stacking as many players from both teams in matchups with low spreads and high game totals is a commonly applied strategy.  Regular season matchups like the Saints-Rams, Chiefs-Rams, and Chiefs-Patriots come to mind though the former two unfortunately weren’t on the main slate.  Like Al Zeidenfeld cleverly professes in these situations, “Play all the dudes.”

Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeSean Jackson formed a stack along with an opposing, underpriced stack of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara at a Mercedes-Benz Superdome known for some shootouts in Week 1.  The following week saw another shootout where Jesse James and JuJu Smith-Schuster slaughtered a Chiefs defense that hardly played any in 2018 against a Steelers defense that had no answer for the duo of Mahomes and Kelce.  

More often than not, you will have the two or three-player game stacks that frequent the perfect lineup.  The RB+WR variety makes sense in that a running back slaughters a team on his own while the opposing offense utilizes a wide receiver in an effort to play-catch-up; Ezekiel Elliott and Golden Tate in Week 4 are the perfect illustration of this theory.  When the stars align and both offenses are clicking, nothing beats having pieces of both teams in a lineup and watching the DK points accumulate.

THERE WERE ONLY SIX INSTANCES OF BACK-TO-BACK ENTRIES IN THE PERFECT LINEUP

Recency bias plays a factor each and every week in any cash game or tournament.  The competition gets gitty when an Amari Cooper or a Tarik Cohen goes off the week before and then is highly disappointed when these players fail to meet the expectations bestowed upon them from the prior week’s performance.  

Observing from a macro level, taking all of the fantasy positions in 2018 other than the kicker, there were 28 occurrences in which a top-3 performance was duplicated the following week.  This doesn’t include perfect lineup figures but encompasses all of fantasy football players in full-point PPR leagues last season.  Of those 28, just three of them stretched multiple weeks with Todd Gurley posting top-3 performances at his position four weeks in a row along with Drew Brees and Zach Ertz doing so in three-week stretches.  

In terms of frequency, the running back position saw the most with 12 posting top-3 performances in consecutive weeks while the wide receiver had just two in Michael Thomas and Tyreek Hill.  With bell cow backs making up a majority of the 12, this reinforces two ideas that were discussed earlier regarding paying up for the top-tiered running backs and paying down at the wide receiver position with the inconsistency at the top of the fantasy point leaderboard for receivers each week.  

There are some variables that impact the low number of back-to-back top-3 performances in the DraftKings perfect lineup.  First, playing on Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night removes those respective players from eligibility on that week’s main slate.  That number of six back-to-back top-3 performances could certainly be higher if the main slate wasn’t limited to just the Sunday afternoon block of games.  Second, salary increases to those who excel the prior week make it more difficult to insert them the following week and still put together the best possible lineup.  Of those six repeat perfect lineup occurrences, running backs represented four of them (Barkley, Gurley, McCaffery, Mixon) while the wide receiver (Thielen) and tight end (Kelce) made up one each.

This teaches us the importance of when the masses zig in one direction, zag in another one.  Naturally it’s easier to go with what’s comfortable and select the player that had an incredible performance the prior week vs the contrary that didn’t post double-digit fantasy points.  If the same players kept repeating their dominant performances, fantasy football would be so easy and predictable that fantasy football analysts wouldn’t be needed and everyone would be printing money in DFS. Another way to understand recency bias is why pay an additional $600-$1000 in salary for a player that excelled the prior week that more likely than not will come back to earth or fall way short of projections? 

THE AVERAGE COST OF THE FLEX POSITION WAS $4135

8 of the 17 perfect flex spots went to running backs who averaged 22.5 touches at an average cost of $4587.  $203.86 per touch isn’t too shabby for trying to squeeze in a player with the last remaining salary available.  Tarik Cohen made it twice as a flex option while those that were in the fantasy playoffs in redraft leagues may recall Derrick Henry’s two games of dominance, one which landed him as a perfect flex off 34 touches and a steal of a $5000 salary in Week 15.

Double tight ends had its spots as five occurrences featured two tight ends making the cut.  Being that it was the most recent main slate, no one would have expected Blake Jarwin’s three touchdown performance in Week 17.  He paired with George Kittle as Kyle Shanahan did whatever it took to feed Kittle towards a record.

Four wide receivers were perfect flex options with two of them pairing with an opposing receiver to form game stacks.  DeSean Jackson and Michael Thomas both went off in a Bayou shootout that saw the Bucs shock the Saints to open the season.  Kenny Golladay has his way with the Panthers secondary while D.J. Moore did his best to duplicate that performance in Week 11

Back around 2015 when both FanDuel and DraftKings invested heavily in television advertising, DK’s commercial would ask who your million dollar player would be.  That commercial referred to the flex position and that low-rostered player that would be the difference maker.  It came in the form of Jesse James, Calvin Ridley, Maurice Harris, and Blake Jarwin at various points of last season.  That commercial still holds credence to this day as 13 of the 17 main slates had one player, not including the quarterback or defense, that was priced under $4000.  

CONCLUSION

While this series was intended to serve as an aid in roster construction, don’t treat it as gospel as these trends as well as offensive and defensive philosophies are subject to change each season.  The NFL is very much a copycat league as those who were looking for a head coach this offseason were trying to find the next Sean McVay.  By the end of the 2019 season, teams with coaching vacancies could be looking for the next Frank Reich or Brian Flores or whoever is the hot name enjoying success and implement their philosophies.

What we know heading into 2019 is that the NFL has become a passing league with quarterbacks and wide receivers posting record numbers in 2018.  While rushing attempts decreased, running backs experienced great success with their utilization out of the backfield which in effect has taken a toll on the tight end position as illustrated in part four of the series.

We can take this knowledge and gear our first few lineups of 2019 towards these trends.  After the first few weeks play out, we can reassess those trends and adjust our lineup construction philosophies if need be.  Staying flexible is an important attribute to have as some of the trends I described may change when I compose this writing following the 2019 season.  As long as we remain keen to what is transpiring on the field, we can remain prepared to generate the best possible lineups in an effort to build the perfect one.

Perfect DraftKings Lineup Tight End Trends

We continue our five-part series with the fourth installment that analyzes a tight end position that leveled out after a horrendous 2017 season.  As many in redraft and dynasty leagues can attest, finding a reliable tight end was quite the endeavor in 2018 after the position was already a dumpster fire the year before.  In fact, 2015 saw 15 tight ends maintain an average of double-digit fantasy points in PPR scoring but that number has dropped to only 13 of them in 2016 to just eight and nine in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

While overall tight end targets and touchdowns have decreased each season since 2015, overall tight end receptions and yards saw a slight bump in 2018 after experiencing the same decreases as the aforementioned targets and touchdowns.  There were 209 tight end touchdowns in 2015 and since that season, that number hasn’t eclipsed 200.

As we discussed in part two of this series, the running back has been integrated more and more into the passing game over the last few years.  Receiving touchdowns from the running back have increased from 94 in 2016 to 108 and 120 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.  Circa back to 2016 when total running back and tight end receptions were nearly identical with 2,516 of them at running back and 2,484 at tight end.  Since that season, running back receptions are up an average of 242 per year while tight end receptions are down an average of 169.  

This helps explain some of the reasoning why tight end fantasy production has been on the decline.  The running backs are syphoning work from their tight end teammates, especially when some of them are the best offensive asset on their respective teams and deserve additional work.  It also validates taking a top-tier tight end in fantasy drafts as early as the second round when Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle all led their offenses in receptions and targets.  The drop off after those three is pretty significant and one can only hope Eric Ebron continues what was an unexpected 2018 season and O.J. Howard rebounds from his season-ending foot and ankle injuries.

This first tight end trend should come as no surprise after reading the intro to this article.  While you were able to find bargains that did pay off, there was safety in paying up for the top options that delivered more than they disappointed.  

12 OF THE 22 PERFECT TIGHT ENDS REPRESENTED THE TOP FIVE IN SCORING AT THE POSITION IN 2018 IN FULL POINT PPR FORMATS

The struggle at this frustrating position could also be felt in the DFS community.  For the first half of 2018, rostering Zach Ertz or Travis Kelce yielded excellent returns as they represented the perfect tight end in five of the eight weeks when both were available on the main slate.  These two continued to dominate in the second half but an injury to Jack Doyle opened the door for the usually unreliable Eric Ebron to post his best season at the NFL level which generated two spots on the list.  Kittle had a December to remember as the top tight end in the final month and one that helped make money for those that rostered him in Weeks 14 and 17.

Ertz, Kelce, Kittle, and Ebron combined to make up half of the perfect tight ends with soon-to-be free agent Jared Cook sneaking into the list in Week 4 to complete the 12 occurrences from the top 5 at the position in 2018.  Pending the Week 1 schedule, the former three should represent the priciest options on the first main slate of 2019.

15 OF THE 22 TIGHT ENDS WERE PRICED UNDER $6000

Even the better tight end options had some pricing errors that made them so enticing, they couldn’t be passed up.  Travis Kelce was inexplicably priced under $6000 in Week 2 as he went off for 32.9 DK points.  Eric Ebron wasn’t correctly priced until week 13 as the DFS community took advantage of this low cost with Jack Doyle lost for the year.  George Kittle was slightly discounted at $5500 when he destroyed the Broncos to the tune of 210 yards and a touchdown.

As maddening as the position could be, 15 of the 17 weeks in 2018 featured at least one tight end not named Ertz or Kelce that scored 20+ fantasy points; Weeks 8 and 15 had no one eclipse that mark.  Like the wide receiver, this shows there were some perfect options that didn’t require breaking the bank in order to get to the coveted bell cow backs.  Austin Hooper took advantage of a Buccaneers defense that was extremely inept against the position prior to defensive coordinator Mike Smith being fired at the low cost of $3500.  Kyle Rudolph had dominated at Ford Field to the tune of 17.56 FPPG in his last three at that venue prior to the 2018 matchup that saw him continue that trend with a 36.2 DK point performance.  $3400 was the cost to roster his best performance of the year.

THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF RECEPTIONS PER GAME FOR THE TIGHT ENDS WAS 7.73 

This figure is nearly identical to the average number of catches for the perfect receivers.  The ceiling was 16 catches by Zach Ertz who slaughtered the Texans while Eric Ebron needed three touchdowns off as few as four touches to cement his spot in perfection.  There’s no secret here, paying up means obtaining a solid floor of volume while rolling the dice on a cheaper option can pay off but is certainly a riskier proposition; ask those that rostered Matt LaCosse and Anthony Firkser who both posted goose eggs in favorable matchups in Week 13 and 15 respectively. 

HOUSTON, CLEVELAND, OAKLAND, DENVER, AND MIAMI EACH ALLOWED TWO TIGHT ENDS IN THE PERFECT LINEUP

All five of these teams have been repeat offenders in the top 10 in FPA to tight ends since 2017.  Cleveland’s spot on this list should come as no surprise as they’ve been inside the top 10 in FPA in each of the last three years.  The Browns looked to have remedied their issues in the first eight games but allowed 17.81 FPPG in the second half to the position.  Pending where Jared Cook lands in the offseason and Gronk’s decision to continue to suit up or retire, the Browns tight end schedule eases up in 2019 as they would only face two tight ends inside the top 10 in FPPG in 2018 in George Kittle and Vance McDonald.  

Oakland and Denver fall victim to facing Travis Kelce twice a year which explains part of their heartache.  Still, the Broncos allowed a tight end playing his first game in the NFL in Will Dissly and an aged Antonio Gates to have their best performances of the season while the Raiders let a cornucopia of Ravens and Colts tight ends destroy them.  The Dolphins will benefit from a retired Gronk if that indeed happens but still deal with Zach Ertz and an Indianapolis offense that almost doubled up every team in touchdowns thrown to the position last season.  The Texans have dates with that same Colts offense and Travis Kelce who the Texans have failed to contain in three of four career matchups.

CONCLUSION

When August comes around and you get to the second round of redraft leagues, you will be faced with the decision of taking one of the big three tight ends or playing the crapshoot at the position.  That’s the same scenario DFS players will face weekly in 2019.   

Playing the defensive matchups can work to your advantage as the last trend indicates where paying down is viable.  However, that’s the headache in what can be an unreliable position.  Will you pay up for the consistent Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz, or let it ride on a cheaper option in a favorable matchup?  Hopefully our struggle is alleviated with the emergence of more reliable tight end options as the 2019 season unfolds.

DFS in Review: Perfect DraftKings Lineup Wide Reciever Trends

Part 3 of the series reviews a wide receiver position that rebounded from a real life and fantasy perspective from 2017.  As a whole, wide receiver receptions, yards, and touchdowns saw sizable increases in 2018.  Also notable, wide receiver rushing attempts and rushing yards had substantial bumps from the prior year.

As you will discover from this piece, the position can be a roller coaster to evaluate each week.  44 different receivers made the perfect lineup out of a possible 55 occurrences.  Compared to the running back and tight end positions that saw 62% and 64% of its respective slots represented by different players, 80% for wide receivers shouldn’t be too surprising.  Especially when you consider there are at least two reliable receivers on most teams vs a single bell cow back or tight end that is heavily relied upon.

Some of these receiver trends aren’t as concrete as those that were presented in the previous two articles of the series regarding the quarterback and running back positions.  The wide receiver position displays more variables that show the fickle nature of the position.  At times, these variables can make it feel rather unpredictable as the trend below and others discussed in this article will illustrate.

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THE PERFECT WIDE RECEIVERS COMBINED FOR A RECORD OF 29-24-2

Tyreek Hill was the WR1 in Week 10 in a win that he did nearly all of his damage when the game was still within reach for the Cardinals.  In opposite fashion, Taylor Gabriel caught two touchdown passes in what already a rout against the Buccaneers.  Remaining cognizant to how coaches and coordinators approach and utilize their passing games in positive gamescript can be critical when a game gets out of hand.  Some may like to keep the foot on the gas while others may be content running the ball and draining clock. 

Negative gamescript can move one from six DK points and WR63 for the week and boost him all the way up to 23 DK points and WR8 on a deep throw in hopes of a late rally.  Of the 50 perfect receivers that did score a touchdown in their respective games, 30 of them did so when their team was trailing.  This isn’t breaking news but sometimes, a reminder of the obvious can be a cure for the overthinking that is possible on a week-to-week basis.  In this case, rostering receivers that are expected to be in a close game or playing from behind.

Defenses that possess a strong competency in stopping the run may be more targeted via the wide receiver.  Take the Saints as they surrendered the fourth fewest FPA to running backs but hemorrhaged the most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers.  These stout rushing defenses can funnel additional passing attempts and create more opportunity for damage through the air, especially when the secondary is a porous one.  The Saints allowed four perfect receivers with their inability to contain the position.

As evidenced, a lot goes into deciding which receiver to choose.  Where the perfect running backs show a positive correlation towards winning their respective games, it’s nearly a 50/50 proposition with their wide receiving counterparts.  Of course, none of this matters if there isn’t opportunity to make a difference on the field.

THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF RECEPTIONS PER GAME FOR THE WIDE RECEIVERS WAS 7.96 

Targets are fantasy gold that create opportunities for wide receivers to produce.  Without them, that receiver serves no purpose in lineups, especially when running backs are seeing increased touches and roles in the offense.  With the limited amount of opportunities they have each week, it is critical for receivers to capitalize on those balls thrown to them.  

For those that achieved perfection, the average number of receptions per game was 7.96 off 10.23 targets.  Michael Thomas saw a perfect lineup ceiling of 16 receptions in Week 1 while Tyrell Williams needed as few as three of them to do his damage.  Of course, Tyrell needed more than three receptions for 118 yards to get on that list by scoring two touchdowns on the day.  It’s no surprise that 50 of the 55 wide receivers on the list posted at least one touchdown. 

35 OF THE 55 WIDE RECEIVERS WERE PRICED AT $6000 OR LOWER

Considering 21 of the 34 perfect running backs, not including flex options, we’re priced over $7000, inexpensive wide receivers needed to be rostered and were available each week.  In fact, at least one perfect wide receiver was priced as low as $5000 in all but one main slate in 2018; Week 2 was the only week that featured all receivers over $6000.  

Needless to say, a wide receiver under $6000 won’t land a team’s #1 option in most cases.  However, a team’s second or third made the perfect lineup in 15 of 17 weeks as 44 different receivers made the list.  Targeting susceptible cornerbacks comes into play in identifying those cheap receivers that have favorable matchups.  P.J. Williams, M.J. Stewart, and Jalen Mills were just some of the corners that were weekly targets in the 2018 DFS landscape.  One secondary fell victim to more perfect receivers than the other 31 teams and resides in a division with strong quarterbacks and receiving corps.

CAROLINA ALLOWED SEVEN PERFECT WIDE RECEIVERS

In one corner sits Matt Ryan with his lethal perimeter receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.  In another contains the surgical duo of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas.  Don’t forget about Jameis Winston and his trio of talented receivers in Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin; it remains to be seen if DeSean Jackson returns in 2019.  That’s a tall order of firepower for any secondary to endure in 6 of 16 games.  

The damage inflicted upon a Panther secondary that was in the top 5 in FPA to perimeter receivers wasn’t just limited to divisional foes.  Kenny Golladay got the best of them at one point as well as a pair of Seattle receivers in David Moore and Tyler Lockett that both posted 100+ receiving yard games en route to the perfect lineup.  Odell Beckham Jr. threw a touchdown pass on top of the carnage he created opposite James Bradberry and Donte Jackson.

Carolina’s 2019 schedule outside of divisional play features some tough perimeter receiver matchups to include Davante Adams, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, the Rams duo of Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, and the aforementioned Tyler Lockett.  For what has been an Achilles heel for this defense the last two years, the Panthers need Jackson to continue to develop as he enters his second year in the league and Bradberry to shut down opposing receivers not just named Mike Evans.

CONCLUSION

DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown were the only two receivers to eclipse 300 fantasy points in PPR scoring in 2017, the fewest receivers to hit that benchmark since 2012 when Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall were the only two to do so.  In 2018, five other receivers joined Brown and Hopkins in this club, reiterating the aerial revolution that is sweeping the NFL.

As long as this pass-first mentality continues, the state of the wide receiver shouldn’t bottom out as it did in 2017 and maintain its current upward trend.  Even with the running backs more involved in the passing game, the current household names at the receiver along with the ascension of some younger stars projects a bright outlook for the position for the next few years.

DFS in Review: Perfect DraftKings Lineup Running Back Trends

Part two of the DraftKings perfect lineup series continues with the running back position that saw a rookie out of Penn State lead the NFL in scrimmage yards.  Saquon Barkley was a dominant force on a Giants team that had no other positives come from their 2018 campaign.  He carved up the Big 10 for three years and now looks like he will terrorize opponents in the NFC East for the foreseeable future.

Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott both eclipsed 2,000 scrimmage yards in 2018, the first time two running backs did so since 2014 when Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray accomplished the feat.  Had Christian McCaffery played the whole game in Week 17, he would have made it three which would had been the most since 2006 when five running backs went over the total.

The bell cow back is alive and well as some of these figures we’ll discuss will certainly demonstrate.  Take Zeke for instance as his targets out of the backfield increased from 3.8 per game in 2017 to 7.0 last year.  When your running back is your best offensive weapon, why not feed him as many touches as possible? 

That’s not to say running backs on the ground didn’t serve a purpose; Sony Michel and Nick Chubb showed that they have promising futures in their rookie seasons. However, part of our success on DraftKings is made off receptions, an aspect that Michel and Chubb’s skillsets are currently lacking.  One thing that 76.2% of the perfect running backs shared was getting the W for their respective teams.

32 OF THE 42 PERFECT RUNNING BACKS WON THEIR GAMES STRAIGHT UP

Christian McCaffery made the perfect lineup four times in 2018 and did so each time in a Panthers loss, averaging 11.5 receptions in those games.  The 10 running backs that made the list off losses or ties averaged 9.1 receptions per game, thus showing the importance of being a back that is either gamescript-independent or ones like Tarik Cohen or Duke Johnson that see an increased role when their team operates under negative gamescript.

While some of the 32 running backs who won their games were the gamescript-independent types, there are some who thrive off operating when their team plays with a lead.  Marlon Mack, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb are those that fall into this category that were perfect at one point last year and perform better in positive gamescript as they don’t see much work out of the backfield.  Mack, Henry, and Chubb saw +9.16, +10.6, and +11.3 FPPG differentials respectively in games that their teams won in PPR scoring. 

It’s critical to roster these positive gamescript backs in games that you believe they will win or they could be a liability if their teams end up falling behind.  In fact, the average margin of victory for the 32 backs that made the list when their teams won their games was 13.88 points.

THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF TOUCHES PER GAME FOR THE PERFECT RUNNING BACKS WAS 24.7

Bell cow backs like Christian McCaffery, Todd Gurley, and Saquon Barkley that work independent of gamescript represented 22 of the 42 perfect running backs last season.  As running backs are being included in the passing game more and more, expect this trend to continue heading to 2019.  This is the main reason why these backs are highly-priced as they are all but locked in for 20+ touches each week whether their teams are leading or trailing.

There are instances where fewer than 20 touches has proven successful.  Isaiah Crowell earned RB3 honors as he torched the Broncos on the ground for 219 yards on 15 carries in Week 5.  A 77-yard touchdown run certainly helped his bottom line that day.  Tevin Coleman converted 18 touches into 32.6 DK points against a lifeless Redskins defense in Week 9.  Needless to say, each back that didn’t get 20 touches crossed the pylons at least once.

Projecting running backs that can produce without a ton of volume can provide salary relief to afford the top-tiered options.  Typically, these backs don’t exceed $6000 on DraftKings; Crowell and Coleman were an affordable $4100 and $4800 when they went off on their respective weeks.

31 OF THE 42 RUNNING BACKS WERE PART OF GAMES IN WHICH THEIR RESPECTIVE TEAM WENT OVER THE TEAM TOTAL

While 54.76% of the perfect backs participated in games that went over the game total, there was a stronger correlation for running backs that hit perfection and their respective teams going over their team totals, occurring at a 73.8% rate.

Positive gamescript usually indicates feeding the running back as much as possible, especially during routs with the leading team eating as much clock as possible.  The Bills didn’t do their part in reaching the game total of 44 in a 37-5 defeat in Indianapolis in Week 7 as it became the Marlon Mack show early in that game and throughout the contest.  The Dolphins didn’t have an answer for Aaron Jones as he turned 15 carries into 145 yards and two touchdowns.  The Packers easily covered their team total of 29 but without help of the Dolphins offense, the teams fell short of the game total of 45.

ATLANTA ALLOWED SIX PERFECT RUNNING BACKS

This should come as no surprise as no team in the NFL has been consistently hurt by running backs out of the backfield more than the Falcons since 2016.  In fact, their defense has allowed the most receptions and targets to pass catching backs in each of the last three years.  The Patriots won Super Bowl 51 by exploiting this weakness as they didn’t have an answer for James White’s 14 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.

In DraftKings full PPR scoring system, targeting running backs who excel out of the backfield against the Falcons is the gift that keeps on giving, especially when Christian McCaffery and Alvin Kamara reside in the NFC South for two meetings each year.  McCaffery made the perfect lineup in both 2018 matchups while Kamara secured a spot in Week 3 perfection.  Other notable running backs who will clash with Atlanta in 2019 include Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Jerick McKinnon, Dalvin Cook, and Dion Lewis.

7 OF THE 17 PERFECT LINEUPS FEATURED RUNNING BACKS THAT BENEFITTED FROM A TEAMMATE EITHER HOLDING OUT, INJURED, OR SUSPENDED

Look no further than Week 1 when James Conner took advantage of Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and reeled off 39.2 DK points off 36 touches and an inexpensive $4500 salary.  Alvin Kamara’s volume was never higher in 2018 than Weeks 3 and 4 during Mark Ingram’s suspension that resulted in 37.0 and 44.1 DK point performances.  With Aaron Jones placed on IR with a knee injury, Jamaal Williams and his $5400 salary were an integral part in being able to roster Christian McCaffery and Antonio Brown in Week 16.  Not only that, Williams was just one of two active running backs available for the Packers in that game and saw all of the touches.

7 out of 17 isn’t the strongest correlation but it warrants attention when the average cost of these running backs, not including Alvin Kamara in Weeks 3 and 4, was $4520.  While Giovani Bernard didn’t make the perfect lineup when Joe Mixon was inactive in Week 3 and 4, he was a chalky play that returned value at his $5900 and $6400 salaries in those respective weeks.  Given the right circumstances, taking advantage of these opportunities to get 20+ touches at minimum cost is highly recommended.

Revisiting the Kamara scenario, we were filled in on the Ingram suspension back in May and while he was still too cheap in Week 1, he was correctly priced by Week 3.  Undoubtedly, he would see a bump in volume and in the two weeks he made the perfect lineup, he touched the ball 55 times at a combined $19100 in that timeframe.  On a dollar-per-touch basis, even as expensive as he was priced in those two weeks, Kamara was a bargain at $347 dollars compared to $383 dollars per touch off 24 touches and a $9200 salary from fellow perfect Week 3 back Todd Gurley.

There was substantial evidence that Melvin Gordon wasn’t healthy in Week 12 after fully practicing on Wednesday but being downgraded to limited on Thursday and Friday.  He would eventually leave the game against the Cardinals with a knee injury that made him questionable throughout the week.  Austin Ekeler was sitting at $3600 and for those who pulled the trigger to roster him in spite of Gordon playing, those people were handsomely rewarded with a 26.3 DK point performance as Ekeler was the flex option in Week 12’s perfect lineup.

These free squares that become available make for excellent flex plays that open up a lot of possibilities in terms of putting together a variety of lineups.  Once the salaries for the upcoming week release during Sunday Night Football, they do not change regardless of transactions, suspensions, or players declared inactive before kickoff on Sunday.  While a heavy focus was dedicated to the running back position, this concept applies to all of the other positions as well; Chris Godwin was a fine example that made the perfect lineup twice with DeSean Jackson declared inactive both weeks.  Other than quarterback, no other position typically touches the ball more than the running back.  When a starter is declared inactive, those 15-20+ touches need to go to the next man up that is usually available at an inexpensive price tag on DraftKings.

CONCLUSION

Looking at a macro level, total running back receptions throughout the league were about the same in 2018 as they were in 2017.  However, running back carries dropped by nearly 800 attempts from 2017 to 2018, further evidence of the passing epidemic that is spreading like wildfire.  To better understand where the league is headed and the magnitude of that number, 800 represents 3.13 fewer rushing attempts per NFL game.

Our lineup construction philosophies should be cognizant of this new utilization of the position.  Ground-and-pound backs will still serve a purpose in not just the league but in fantasy football.  However, in PPR scoring, receptions from the running back position are gold.  It’s why we pay up for Gurley, Barkley, and McCaffery that get nearly all of the running back touches and represent 18-20% of the salary cap on DraftKings.  Expect these trends to continue as we head into the 2019 season.

DFS in Review: PERFECT DRAFTKINGS LINEUP QB TRENDS

Welcome to another offseason in which we track how many Sundays until football graces our TVs once again.  The NFL season is such a whirlwind that Week 1 turns into another Super Bowl champion in the blink of an eye.  Now that it’s over and the Patriots have returned to championship glory, it’s time to reflect on 2018 and begin preparations for the 2019 season.  


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Introduction

Compared to the other three major American sports, the NFL allows us a week in-between main slates for quality preparation and research.  For some, that may not be enough time for those who have work and family obligations that consume large chunks of time.  However, there is enough time from the moment you’re reading this until the first Sunday of football on September 8th to invest time in preparing for the 2019 campaign.  At 15-30 minutes per week, you’re already putting in more time than the masses that will resurface from their fantasy football slumber around the end of July/beginning of August.  

This first article in a five-part series will cover the DraftKings perfect lineups from the 17 main slates in 2018; this will not cover the ones that won the Milly Makers.  It will identify and highlight some of the stronger trends and observations from those lineups that may prove useful in weekly lineup construction beginning with the quarterback position.  While FanDuel and Yahoo aren’t covered in this writing and some of those perfect lineups may be slightly different due to different pricing and PPR formats between the sites, some of the same principles and ideas can be utilized on those DFS platforms as well.  For those that want to access each site’s perfect lineups, they can be found on numberfire.com

Before we dwell any further, it’s important to clarify what perfect means for the purpose of this article.  The perfect lineup reflects the best possible fantasy score per week on DraftKings given the $50000 salary cap.  This differs from the best weekly lineup in redraft leagues that various sites put together that consists of the top QB, top 2 RBs, top 3 WRs, top TE, top flex option, and top DEF.  While there are some weeks when the DK perfect lineup and redraft perfect lineup are identical, most will have a few player variances.

This article is intended to shed some light on lineup construction tips for the novice players that are just getting their feet in daily fantasy and intermediate players that are beginning to find their groove and possibly need an extra boost. 

14 OF THE 17 PERFECT QUARTERBACKS WERE PART OF GAMES THAT WENT OVER THE GAME TOTAL 

Of those 14 games, 10 of them featured a game total of 50 or higher that saw the over go 7-2-1.  Targeting quarterbacks in games with a high over/under has been and will continue to be a strategy worth consideration each week, especially those games that combine high totals with lower spreads that possibly indicate a shootout.  

Overall, there were 73 instances in 2018 with a game total of 50 with the over going just 33-38-2.  Of the 146 quarterbacks involved, only 46 of them went over 25 DK points.  More than ever, the NFL has become a passing league which would lead you to believe that there would be more than those 46 to surpass 25 fantasy points.  This demonstrates that opportunities also exist with game totals under 50 where there is great potential for that matchup to eclipse the number. 

Mitchell Trubisky shredded a Buccaneers defense that surrendered 35.75 points per game away from Raymond James Stadium in 2018 en route to the best fantasy performance from a quarterback in 2018.  The Bears covered not just their team total but also the game total of 46 by themselves back in Week 4.  Fast forward to Week 16 where both the Packers and Jets were out of playoff contention with nothing to lose and possessed secondaries that were hemorrhaging fantasy points to wide receivers.  The teams comfortably hit the total of 47 points in the third quarter as Aaron Rodgers was the QB1 for that week with 45.88 DK points.  

As these two scenarios illustrate, some of the games with lower totals can yield as much fantasy goodness as the low-hanging fruit of the 50+ game totals.  Be prepared for some of those games with the high total to bust as 38 of them did in 2018.  The ability to pivot from the rest of the field when that happens can prove extremely effective if you project low ownership for players in games with lower totals that shows signs of a sneaky shootout.

12 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS THREW FOR OVER 300 PASSING YARDS AND THREE OR MORE TOUCHDOWNS

The other five quarterbacks who didn’t meet this benchmark achieved a spot in the perfect lineup by utilizing their legs; Josh Allen comes to mind as he made it in both matchups against a Dolphins team that he slaughtered for a combined 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns.  Rushing upside can compensate for what isn’t achieved through the passing game and makes quarterbacks like Allen and Lamar Jackson intriguing options.  Cam Newton and DeShaun Watson warrant weekly consideration as they can do it with both their arm and legs on a weekly basis.

300 passing yards and three touchdowns equates to 27 DK points, a solid floor that Patrick Mahomes achieved seven times in what was a MVP season for the first-year starter.  Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston combined to do this five times for a Buccaneers offense that struggled mightily to establish any sort of running game.  Put the two of them together and you have the QB2 for 2018.

Whether it’s operating in a pass-heavy offense, facing a stingy rush defense that forces passing attempts, or dueling in a shootout, you’re looking for a quarterback that’s going to sling the ball early and often and produce as this next subject will expand upon.

10 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS PLAYED IN GAMES WHERE NO RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS WERE SCORED UNLESS REGISTERED BY THEMSELVES

Excluding the formality of the extra point, these 10 quarterbacks accounted for 84.18% of the points on the scoreboard.  Naturally, this makes perfect sense as a quarterback can throw for 400 yards but without passing or rushing touchdowns to compliment that production, it’s a wasted fantasy effort.  

With a lethal aerial attack but an inefficient running back corps that scored just seven rushing touchdowns, the Buccaneers certainly didn’t have as dynamic of an offense as the Chiefs.  However, whether it was Winston or Fitzpatrick under center, Tampa Bay could throw with the best of them as the two quarterbacks joined to throw for the most passing yards and third most passing touchdowns last year.  Not including the extra point, the two accounted for 68.42% of Tampa Bay’s total points scored.  Depending on who started, each made for a viable quarterback option nearly every week as neither was priced over $6200 at any point.


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15 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS WERE PART OF A TEAM STACK

Stacking your quarterback with another teammate should be a fundamental tactic in weekly lineup construction as these figures show.  More likely than not, a quarterback needs a sidekick in order to secure a spot in the perfect lineup.

A QB-WR stack was unsurprisingly the most frequent stack with 10 occurrences, three of them as part of a QB-RB-WR stack.  QB-TE was the other common pairing which happened three times along with a QB-RB and QB-DEF stack each making an appearance once.

14 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS PLAYED IN GAMES WITH EXPECTED WIND SPEEDS OF 10 MPH OR LESS 

Of these 14 quarterbacks, nine played in a fast-paced dome where the elements didn’t play a role in the outcome.  When elevated wind speeds, gusts, and inclement weather become a factor in a game, it shrinks the playbook as running games along with dump-offs and short passes increase while deep throws are either reduced or rendered useless in extreme circumstances.

Running backs typically aren’t affected in these conditions as rushing attempts typically rise and they see more work out of the backfield.  Tight ends don’t see much of an effect as you usually don’t see that position stretching the field for 40+ yard completions.  The shorter passing game works in their favor in these circumstances.

As quarterbacks are affected in these situations, so are the wide receivers as 48 of the 55 to make the perfect lineup also played in games with wind speeds of less than 10 mph.  Monitoring weather reports should be a weekly ritual right around Saturday morning heading into Sunday before the first set of games begin.  

82.35% of quarterbacks and 87.27% of wide receivers that were perfect is enough of a correlation to ensure rostering players in ideal passing conditions.  Further, in 42 games with wind speeds over 10 mph or temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit in 2018, the average FPPG of the 84 quarterbacks was 16.56.  The other 150 outdoor games that were played with less than 10 mph winds and no inclement weather saw those 300 quarterbacks post 18.55 FPPG, a +1.99 FPPG differential in outdoor games played in ideal football conditions.

CONCLUSION

2018 may have felt like the year of Mahomes but Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger quietly put together QB2 and QB3 campaigns with the former overcoming what had become drastic home/road splits in prior years.  DeShaun Watson and Andrew Luck returned from their respective injuries to post solid numbers as the QB4 and QB5.

The league won’t directly say they want more games like the Chiefs-Rams slugfest that took place in Week 11 but with more offenses trending towards more pass-centric gameplans, the future of the fantasy quarterback has never looked brighter.  39 different quarterbacks reached 20 fantasy points at some point in 2018 with each team having at least one representative in that club.  As long as this trend continues, it shows that paying down at quarterback can be just as effective as paying up for the top-tier each week.

WEEK 16 DRAFTKINGS/FANDUEL SELECTIONS

QUARTERBACK

Baker Mayfield: vs CIN (DK 6100; FD 7700)

Winning.  Direction.  Hope.  These are all words that haven’t been associated with the Cleveland Browns organization in years while the Cincinnati Bengals are heading in the opposite direction of their interstate rivals.  No team allows more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Bengals and one that Baker Mayfield enjoyed success against in week 12, throwing for four touchdowns.  Cincinnati gave soon-to-be fired Marvin Lewis one last hurrah in front of the home crowd and now winds down the season on the road and may lack motivation in the final two weeks.  Look for Baker to pierce through a porous, uninspired defense in Cleveland’s home finale to begin putting the finishing touches on its most successful season since 2014.

Dak Prescott: vs TB (DK 5700; FD 7300)

Dak Prescott has been lights out in home games since Cooper became a Cowboy, possessing a +7.89 DK point differential at AT&T Stadium and squares off against a Buccaneers defense that surrenders 37 points per road game.  The DFS community may overlook Dak after his dismal week 15 showing which would be foolish considering Dak has eight touchdown passes at home compared to just one on the road since the trade while the Bucs have allowed multiple touchdown passes in all but one road game.  His ability to scramble goes unnoticed at times but one he can utilize as needed as he’s found paydirt five times with his legs.

Nick Foles: vs HOU (DK 4700; FD 6000)

Rostering Nick Foles is like flipping a coin; will he be the quarterback that scorched the Vikings and Patriots en route to a Super Bowl title or will he be the version that struggled immensely against the Raiders on Christmas night and the Falcons in the divisional round?  He will be forced to throw as the Texans defense allows just 66.35 rushing yards per game but has surrendered the 8th most FPA to tight ends this season and the most FPA to perimeter receivers over the last four weeks.  There’s value to be found at other positions this week where you don’t need to necessarily pay down at quarterback.  If your roster construction involves jamming in two expensive backs or inserting as many high-priced options as possible, Foles allows for that strategy in a game where Philadelphia’s success on offense will be predicated on the MVP of Super Bowl 52.

RUNNING BACK

 

Ezekiel Elliott: vs TB (DK 9000; FD 8800)

The last time he didn’t touch the ball at least 25 times was back in week 9 and both DraftKings and FanDuel neglected to raise his salary heading into this juicy matchup.  Ezekiel Elliott has reached 100 scrimmage yards in every game since week 7 and it’s all but a guarantee he will shred a Buccaneers defense en route to another 100 as the last feature back that didn’t reach that mark against Tampa Bay was Nick Chubb back in week 7.  Zeke’s weekly reliability comes at a hefty cost but it’s a cost worth paying up for as he’s returned value in five of the last seven games.

Nick Chubb: vs CIN (DK 7300; FD 7900)

The Bengals have appeared competent against opposing running backs the last two weeks.  Against Nick Chubb, they will revert back to the turnstiles that allowed 100+ rushing yards in seven of the prior eight games.  Running backs against the Bengals have found the end zone with as much ease as Chubb has in the last month, averaging a touchdown per game in his last four.  As 8.5-point favorites (yes, the Browns are favored by more than a touchdown), look for Chubb to have plenty of opportunities to shred this Bengals defense that has been victim to the position throughout 2018.

Marlon Mack: vs NYG (DK 5500; FD 7000)

From a motivational standpoint, the Giants head into Indianapolis with nothing to play for while the Colts need a win to set up a possible showdown with the Titans for the final AFC Wild Card.  Enemy running backs have run for over 100+ rushing yards in six of the last seven against the G-Men and this is a game where Marlon Mack can once again take over as he did against the Cowboys the week before.  The loss of Damon Harrison to the Lions has really taken its toll on a Giants rushing defense that has struggled since the trade and in a game where the Colts are 9-point favorite, Mack will have plenty of touches to manufacture another solid performance.

Jamaal Williams: at NYJ (DK 5400; FD 5800)

At the time of this writing, Jamaal Williams and the recently signed Kapri Bibbs are the only two running backs on the active roster with Williams being the only one familiar with the playbook.  Essentially, you’re getting a running set to play a minimum of 80% of the snaps on a Packers team that is clearly trying to win this game as Aaron Rodgers is expected to suit up in the Meadowlands.  In an offense that is expected to perform much better now that Green Bay doesn’t have to battle with a vaunted Bears defense, this is essentially a free square in a game that the Packers should win for their first road victory of the season.  Williams totaled 97 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 16 touches in that game at Soldier Field and should see between 18-20 touches this week at a bargain on both sites.

WIDE RECEIVER

DeAndre Hopkins: at PHI (DK 8600; FD 8900)

14.05 yards per reception, the highest target share on the team, the most red zone targets, and a floor of 12 DK points this season; DeAndre Hopkins meets all of the desirable criteria you’d want against an Eagles secondary that is decimated by injuries and can be exploited on the perimeter.  He’s excelled in road games as 7 of his 11 touchdowns and four of his five 100 receiving yard performances have been in hostile territory and it bodes well for Hopkins to continue his road dominance at Lincoln Financial Field.  He’s the second and most expensive option on DraftKings and FanDuel respectively and has a great chance to go off again as he did against the Jets last week.

Amari Cooper: vs TB (DK 7500; FD 7000)

Regression was all but inevitable for Amari Cooper after he destroyed the Eagles in epic fashion.  Like Dak, a good majority of the DFS community will remain sour on Cooper after a disappointing showing in Indianapolis and that’s a scenario to consider rostering him against a Tampa Bay defense that has been killed by wide receivers outside of Raymond James Stadium.  Cooper boasts a +2.17 target differential in games at AT&T Stadium since the trade from Oakland and should feast on a Bucs defense that surrenders a +8.34 FPPG differential in PPR scoring to wide receivers in road games.

Alshon Jeffery: vs HOU (DK 5300; FD 6300)

It lacks logic as to why it may be the case but Alshon Jeffery benefits by having Nick Foles as the starter instead of Carson Wentz.  In 24 games with Wentz under center, Alshon has just one game over 100 receiving yards vs one game over 100 yards in seven Foles starts.  Also, he has a +2.12 FPPG differential in PPR scoring with Foles as the starter, not including the throwaway game in week 17 last year.  These two figures along with a salary that was never adjusted after an excellent performance on Sunday Night Football put him on the DFS radar against a Houston secondary that surrenders the 7th most FPA to perimeter receivers, including the most in the last four weeks.  Given Houston’s proficiency at stopping the run, Foles may be forced to throw more than the 31 passes he tossed against the Rams and Alshon should be the beneficiary of additional targets in a game the Eagles need to win to stay in wild card contention.

Robby Anderson: vs GB (DK 4500; FD 5900)

He leads the team in targets since Sam Darnold returned to action in week 14 and with Quincy Enunwa missing another game against the Packers this weekend, look for Robby Anderson to once again be an integral part of the offense in a favorable matchup.  Anderson will duel with Josh Jackson and Javier Alexander, cornerbacks that are part of a Green Bay secondary that has been hurt by perimeter receivers over the last two months, giving up the 3rd most FPA to receivers on the outside.  It looks like he has recovered from the high-ankle sprain that bothered him earlier in the year and he has another good opportunity to close out 2018 on a good note.

TIGHT END

Eric Ebron: vs NYG (DK 5700; FD 6100)

In two games against Zach Ertz and one game against George Kittle, the Giants surrendered 23 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, an average of 15.06 FD/18.9 DK points per game.  The Giants are not as horrid as they were to the position last year but have been burned by the top-tier of tight ends in 2018 and Eric Ebron is in that tier, especially when Andrew Luck throws to the tight end at the fourth-highest rate in the league.  Lower ownership will come into play after a one catch, eight yard performance against the Cowboys and given he hasn’t posted back-to-back single-digit DK point games all season, it correlates well for Ebron to rebound from last week’s clunker.  

Evan Engram: at IND (DK 4600; FD 5700)

On the other side of the ball, Evan Engram has benefitted from Odell Beckham’s absence as he’s seen a +3.79 target differential and +39.29 receiving yard differential in those two games.  Indianapolis has allowed just the 9th most FPA to tight ends largely in part because the defense keeps them out of the end zone.  However, the Colts have allowed the 2nd most receptions and most receiving yards to the position and if ODB misses his third straight game, fire up Engram with confidence as the Giants should be playing from behind as 9-point underdogs.

David Njoku: vs CIN (DK 3800; FD 5300)

Paying up for tight end didn’t prove effective in week 15 on the main slate as neither Kittle, Ebron, Gronk, nor Cook eclipsed double-digit fantasy points.  David Njoku is a nice pivot in a good matchup for those unwilling to pay up again at the tight end position.  He’s seeing a floor of four targets in five of the last six games and faces a Bengals team that has given up eight touchdowns to the position.  He crossed the pylons against them in week 12 and if he’s able to do so again this week, Njoku will certainly be on his way to easily returning value.

DEFENSE

Los Angeles Rams: at ARI (DK 3200; FD 4900)

The Cardinals allowed seven sacks, three turnovers, and a defensive score to the Falcons last week and now get to deal with Aaron Donald on Sunday.  The offense has been held to under 20 points in 11 of 14 games and after this date with the Rams, it will become 12 of 15.

Miami: vs JAX (DK 2700; FD 4400)

Take away the Dede Westbrook punt return for a touchdown and the Jaguars have averaged eight points with Cody Kessler as the starter.  Not to mention allowing five sacks and 1.5 turnovers per game in that two-game span.

New Orleans: vs PIT (DK 2300; FD 3500)

Contrary to popular belief, the Steelers have been sluggish offensively, scoring 21 or less in four of the last five games with Big Ben throwing 1.5 interceptions in his last four games.  Meanwhile, the Saints have forced multiple turnovers and kept opponents under 17 points in five of their last six games.

PRICE SHOPPING

Each week, I will identify what players are bargains based on the salary cap percentage difference they represent on the respective site.  Here are the notable week 16 bargains from both sites:

NOTABLE DRAFTKINGS BARGAINS

QB Matt Ryan: 1.96

WR Chris Hogan: 2.23

TE Dallas Goedert: 3.3

TE Kyle Rudolph: 2.36

DEF Jacksonville: 2.6

NOTABLE FANDUEL BARGAINS

RB Ezekiel Elliott: 3.34

RB Jaylen Samuels: 2.24

WR Amari Cooper: 3.34