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This is an interesting slate because there are so many elite options in play (playoff teams have good players, imagine that). So, be sure to check out the mid-range and value plays below to help you fit in the studs you want. As always, if you have any questions about players feel free to hit me up on Twitter @ohnjz. Good luck this week!
Tier 1: Stud Stack Targets
As usual we’re going to look at pairing a stud WR with the top QB from STLCardinals84’s excellent QB/RB Grind Down, forming a ‘Stack’ of players whose fantasy values are linked. This approach can really put you ahead in tournaments -- check out the theory behind ‘Stacking’ or ‘Handcuffing’ in NFL DFS here.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers, $9,000 (2nd-most expensive WR)
Pair With: QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, $9,700 (MOST expensive QB)
Total Stack Cost: $18,700 (31.2% of cap)
Jordy Nelson checks pretty much every box for a #1 WR in DFS. He plays a ton of snaps, is seeing a high volume of targets (averaged 9.25 over the Packers’ final 4 games), and has the physical traits to be both a matchup nightmare and a big-play/red-zone threat. And this week, he gets the cherry (or orange, if you will) on top: a matchup with Cowboys CB Brandon Carr. Carr has recently been shadowing opposing #1 WRs, which somehow resulted in him ONLY allowing 5-85 to Calvin Johnson (and 8-105 overall) last week --the first miracle of the new year. Last week’s porous coverage is pretty standard work for Carr, considering it was also the 9th time he’d allowed at least 80 yards or a TD in his coverage. On Carr’s Facebook page, some of his Likes include: hanging out in the Bottom-10 of all qualifying CBs in yards allowed, TDs allowed, and QB Rating allowed. Dude isn’t good. He eluded allowing a massive day to Megatron last week, but he won’t be so lucky against Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson. You know what to do.
Tier 2: The Next Best Things
We can’t roster ALL the stud WRs, so every week we’ll take a look at players who offer solid upside at a more modest price.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, $7,300 (7th-most expensive WR)
Tucked away in a price tier below the stud WRs this week is Julian Edelman. Rostering Edelman allows us to both save a little salary (especially important in a week where there isn’t much for salary relief), and more importantly, it allows us to pick on the [Insert Insulting Adjective Here] Ravens secondary. We did the same thing with Steelers WR Antonio Brown last week and were predictably rewarded with 9 receptions and 117 yards (and nearly two TDs to boot). Edelman is no Antonio Brown, but he should still feast on the ‘coverage’ of a still-smoldering Lardarius Webb (allowed 9-106-1 on 12 targets last week), and slot men Anthony Levine (an UDFA) and Matt Elam (owner of PFF’s 2nd worst coverage grade among safeties). While he doesn’t have the same TD upside of most #1 WRs, Edelman provides a high floor of receptions and yards against this sorry CB corps.
Doug Baldwin, Carolina Panthers, $5,900 (12th-most expensive WR)
Keeping with the theme of hammering individual matchups in this week’s WR/TE Grind Down, Baldwin draws arguably the best one in the game that most people will be avoiding in DFS this week. I don’t anticipate much scoring in the Panthers/Seahawks game, but I do expect that the majority of aerial success the Hawks have will come from Baldwin abusing coverage-deficient slot man Colin Jones. Jones allows a 77.4% completion percentage and 107.9 QB Rating on throws in his coverage, per Pro Football Focus. Baldwin should be a high floor option as a result.
Tier 3: Bargain Bin Ballers
These are the low-salary plays that allow you to go BIG at other positions. Usually made up of rookies, injury replacements, or emerging players – upside and increased opportunities are the name of the game here!
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts, $5,500 (14th-most expensive WR)
You’ll need to close your eyes, or plug your nose, or have a stiff drink nearby to help you stomach the bargain options at WR this week. Whereas last week we at least had a few high-upside, tournament-style plays to choose from (such as Martavis Bryant, last week’s BBB of choice), this week we’re reaching for players that have a lower floor than we’re used to, and less chance of reaching their ceiling as well. Such is DFS some weeks. One of the top cheap ‘upside’ plays this week is Colts WR Donte Moncrief. Yes, we’re going back to Moncrief, who scored as many fantasy points as you or I did in Week 15 (0 catches for 0 yards), and had just 5-21 over the Colts’ final 2 regular season games. But Moncrief miraculously showed up again last week, hauling in 3-54-1 that included a beauty of a 36-yard TD on a pristine throw by QB Andrew Luck. While not for the faint of heart, Moncrief’s big-play potential makes him viable if you’re mining for tournament gems this week.
Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys, $5,300 (16th-most expensive WR)
If you’re looking for a Bargain Bin Baller with a higher floor, Cowboys WR Cole Beasley has been a sneaky option over the last quarter of the season. You wouldn’t think it, but the 5’8, 177 lb. slot man has been seeing a healthy amount of targets lately – and he’s parlayed those opportunities into at least 41 yards or a TD in each of the Cowboys’ final 6 regular season games, including 4-63 in last week’s Wild Card win against the Lions. Assuming the Vegas NFL oddsmakers have this game right, Beasley should find himself on the field often with the Cowboys trailing this week. That’s been a recipe for targets and production before with Beasley – and you can’t ask for much more from a $5,300 player.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, $7,900 (MOST expensive TE)
Guess who! We found out that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder last week, when Gronk’s absence meant ancient bores like Owen Daniels and Heath Miller topped the TE leaderboards. Gronk returns to his lofty TE throne this week, just in time for a matchup with a Ravens team that made Heath Miller look relevant again with 6-76 last week. I wouldn’t worry too much that the Ravens were awfully stingy to TEs to close out the season (7th-fewest FPPG over their last 4 games). People were concerned when the Pats played the Chargers (who finished the season allowing the 5th-fewest FPPG to TEs) in Week 14, yet Gronk still had 8-87-1 despite the Chargers attempts to corral him with bracket coverage from a LB and safety. The concerns continued when the Pats played the Dolphins in Week 15 -- Miami was allowing the FEWEST FPPG to TEs at the time -- and Gronk still had 3 catches for 96 yards and a TD. This man/demigod cannot be stopped. He’s the top TE this week, and it is seriously not close.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys, $5,500 (t3rd-most expensive TE)
WR Price Equivalent: WR14 (Donte Moncrief)
Witten was recommended as a ‘value’ option here last week, and he again provided steady receiving production with 5-63 on 7 targets against the Lions. It’s hard to argue with the ‘safety blanket’ theory for Witten, as the veteran TE closed the regular season with 7-69, 7-90-1, and 4-49 prior to last week’s solid performance. Witten has basically become the Cowboys #2 option in the passing game over that stretch, a role that should continue to equal fantasy production this week, in a game where Vegas assumes the Cowboys will be trailing.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, $5,500 (t3rd-most expensive TE)
WR Price Equivalent: WR14 (Donte Moncrief)
Remember what happened the last time these teams met? I’m sure the Colts LBs and safeties do – especially considering they were demolished for 7-104-3 by Orange Julius in Week 1. Of course, this Julius Thomas looks an awful lot different than the dominant and healthy version we saw in Week 1. This Julius Thomas lacks the explosive athleticism we’re used to, and has been getting fewer snaps as a result. We can only hope that the time off last week means the old Julius will show up for the rematch. And while beat writers report that Julius isn’t likely to be 100%, Thomas’ own comments instead suggest he’s improved. We’ve seen players make surprising turnarounds in just a week’s time already this season, and Julius is capable of monstrous performances when healthy. Sometimes in DFS you have to be willing to roll the dice when others shy away; there is no bigger example of that philosophy than with Orange Julius this week. He is the ultimate risk/reward play of the Divisional Round.