I usually try to offer a piece of advice to begin the article. This week’s counsel can be summed up in a brief plea:
Don’t be a slave to the game log!
It’s the time of year where we finally have an accurate assessment of players’ roles within their respective offenses. Many people peruse game logs to get that information, but it’s only part of the story. Big games come and go with a fair amount of variance; meanwhile, it’s important to stay grounded in your research of matchups, injuries, salary, and all the external factors that tie into daily fantasy football. Recent performance is certainly a part of that equation, but it needs to be placed in proper context.
Remember – We aren’t as concerned about players’ past games as we are the matchup/opportunity at hand.
Game logs can give daily fantasy enthusiast a false sense of security. For example, T.Y. Hilton has been amazing in recent weeks, racking up 25 receptions, 387 yards, and three touchdowns over the past three games. However, the context of those stats tells us that he benefitted from three juicy matchups, and playing on the road against Houston’s top ranked pass defense doesn’t set up for more of the same. On top of that, Hilton is dealing with a hip injury, and his QB, Andrew Luck, has struggled on the road over the past few seasons.
We have a few examples from the opposite perspective, and they are both listed in the “must plays” below. That’s essentially why I’m driving home this point. Kelvin Benjamin and Brandin Cooks have been disappointing as of late. In Cooks case, he ran into a pair of tough matchups before the bye, and he (along with QB Drew Brees) typically performs much better at home. The matchup corresponds nicely … Benjamin was very mediocre with Derek Anderson at quarterback, as the backup signal caller favored the underneath routes (to Greg Olsen) over deep-balls to Benjamin. That should be rectified with Cam Newton back under center, and the draw against New Orleans couldn’t be much better.
Those are true examples of focusing on the situation at hand while forgiving the past. Both Benjamin and Cooks have established prominent roles within their passing attacks, and they have excellent opportunities to succeed despite the shaky recent history.
There’s actually one more player who falls into that category, but I’ll wait to explain in his write-up below.
As usual, this column includes only Sunday games, as that’s considered the main slate on FanDuel.
PLATINUM: Build your lineup around these guys
Drew Brees – QB – New Orleans (FanDuel Price: $8,500)
Drew Brees is great at home. Drew Brees is great after a bye. Drew Brees is great in quality matchups at home following a bye. That’s what we’re looking at this week, as Carolina’s pass defense has been suspect this season. Pro Football Focus graded the Panthers’ secondary dead last entering this season, and we’ve seen glimpses of inability, especially in the thrashing at Atlanta where Matt Ryan finished with 500+ yards passing. Brees and the Saints are certainly capable of exposing Carolina, who’s coming off a short week.
LeSean McCoy – RB – Buffalo (FanDuel Price: $8,200)
McCoy could challenge to be the top scoring running back of the week. He’s one of the few running backs to gobble up virtually all of his team’s carries, including goal-line carries and receiving duties. This establishes his solid floor/ceiling combination, and the matchup against San Francisco serves as the proverbial cherry-on-top. Buffalo should emphasize the running game, likely playing with the lead while hosting the struggling 49ers. A line of 100+ total yards and a pair of scores is not out of the question.
GOLD: Next wave to consider, in terms of priority
Lamar Miller – RB – Houston (FanDuel Price: $7,900)
Miller is an extension of the introduction’s theme. His game log doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, averaging just 10.5 FPPG through five games. However, Miller (much like LeSean McCoy) is the undisputed lead back in Houston. He had a terrible performance at Minnesota last week, but the game flow quickly turned against him upon the Vikings jumping out to a big lead. A home matchup against Indianapolis’ subpar defense sets up a favorable bounce-back situation. I’m expecting 20+ carries, 100+ total yards, and Miller’s first touchdown as a Texan to come in this Sunday night tilt.
Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Carolina (FanDuel Price: $7,800)
I already touched on Benjamin in the introduction. He fantasy production suffered with Derek Anderson at quarterback, as the backup favored the intermediate passing game instead of taking chances downfield with Benjamin. Cam Newton is expected to return, which certainly helps Benjamin’s fantasy potential against one of the worst all-around defenses in the league. This Panthers-Saints matchup should be a shootout that feeds into Benjamin’s upside.
SILVER: Good options that narrowly rank ahead of similar players
Brandin Cooks – WR – New Orleans (FanDuel Price: $7,500)
Cooks was also featured earlier in the article. He has done much over the past few games, but tough individual matchups really held him back. I’m not expecting that to be the case this week, as Carolina lacks a shutdown corner to keep him in check. The Panthers’ secondary has been exposed several times this season, and facing Drew Brees in the Superdome will likely tell the same story. Cooks, as Brees’ favorite wide receiver, stands to benefit.
Brian Hoyer – QB – Chicago (FanDuel Price: $7,000)
I’m all about spending up at running back this week (McCoy, Miller, Bell), which may lead you to value at other positons. If you can squeeze Drew Brees into your lineup, Hoyer is a fine bargain pivot. After all, he ranks third amongst quarterbacks in fantasy points over the past three weeks. He looks comfortable running Chicago’s system, and his opponent (Jacksonville) isn’t a fully imposing matchup. Hoyer could keep rolling with another 20 fantasy point outing this week.
BRONZE: Not 100% necessities, but they mix well into a quality lineup
Travis Kelce – TE – Kansas City (FanDuel Price: $6,400)
Simply put: Kelce is too cheap in this spot. He ranks narrowly behind the likes of Greg Olsen and Rob Gronkowski, yet the price is nearly $2000 cheaper. This Chiefs-Raiders game has some sneaky shootout potential, as Oakland carries a pass-heavy offense coupled with a struggling defense that ranks dead last against the pass.
Cameron Meredith – WR – Chicago (FanDuel Price: $5,400)
I’m taking a chance here as my WR3 pick. Meredith had a monster game last week, hauling in nine receptions (12 targets) for 130 yards and a touchdown. Is he a one-hit wonder, or a reliable fantasy commodity moving forward? Time will tell, but I’m assuming the latter, and here’s why: 1) Chicago’s receiving corps has been battling through injury, as Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery continue to play hurt. Meredith is one of the few “fully healthy” pass catchers on the team. 2) Meredith’s breakout game came on the heels of Kevin White being listed on the injured reserve. If you recall, White was seeing a steady compliment of targets before succumbing to injury, so Meredith is simply stepping into that predetermined role. 3) He’ll see time against Jacksonville CB Davon House, who has one of the worst player grades among regular defensive backs this season (according to Pro Football Focus).
PARTICIPATION RIBBONS: Fell just short of a featured spot
Allen Robinson – WR – Jacksonville (FanDuel Price: $8,600)
Cam Newton – QB – Carolina (FanDuel Price: $8,900)
Le’Veon Bell – RB – Pittsburgh (FanDuel Price: $9,300)
Antonio Brown – WR – Pittsburgh (FanDuel Price: $9,700)
Jimmy Graham – TE – Seattle (FanDuel Price: $6,900)
Buffalo Bills Defense (FanDuel Price: $4,800)
Doug Baldwin – WR – Seattle (FanDuel Price: $7,600)
Will Fuller – WR – Houston (FanDuel Price: $6,900)