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Prime Picks Week 17

Tom (@BestballUKNFL) returns with his best picks of the Week 17 slate.

It’s been a successful season for him so check out who he likes in the final week of the season

(Now with added Latavius)

Welcome to the final regular-season edition of my column. Thank you so much to everyone who has read along, shared it and interacted with me and Adam on Twitter. It takes more hours than I’m willing to admit to bringing you this and it’s 100% worthwhile because of those interactions Editor note: Seconded, I know the hours we put in each week and apprecaite all comments. I’ll still be putting out content through the playoffs, although the column will look a bit different due to fewer teams taking part each week. I’m pleased with my record on the season and hopefully, I’ve helped you find some great plays along the way. Please do give us a shoutout if you appreciate our efforts. It was only July when I decided I needed a Twitter account specifically for my fantasy ramblings and it’s turned into this column that I’m rather proud of. Happy New Year!

Tom Strachan

@BestBallUKNFL

Week 16 Review

Another week that was adversely affected by Covid designations and it stopped us being able to play Baker Mayfield or Rashard Higgins. We also didn’t get any clarity on the Jaguars running back room before the game, which made it obvious we needed to fade both Ozigbo and Ogunbowale. Let’s start with the bad plays because there was some last week and I won’t hide from them. Jared Goff, in particular, played a stinker and I was probably trying too hard with that one and hoping the game would explode into a shootout. Antonio Gibson looked healthy enough but Washington’s complete ineptitude killed the play and forced him to play fewer snaps with McKissic (who I did also suggest), being the preferred pass down back. Lastly, Lev Bell let down the entire industry who thought he’d be in for a decent week and Russell Gage didn’t find himself in the shootout we hoped for with the Chief’s surprisingly kept to a low total alongside the Falcons. Slightly better plays were found in Ito Smith, Darrell Henderson, J.K Dobbins, Evan Engram and Donald Parham, who all scored enough to justify their plays at their price tags. 

Finally to last week’s great plays and there were some. Andy Dalton balled out with 30.58 points returning almost six times his points to dollar ratio. Matt Ryan and Drew Lock both surpassed a 3x value. J.D McKissic and David Johnson were great play’s undoubtedly, and neither picked up high ownership. Amari Cooper could have had an even bigger night with a dropped touchdown opportunity, but he still returned great value. Jamison Crowder at $4500 got us 29.32 points and might easily have been one of my best suggestions of the season. 

Plays so far this season (based on price to points ratios):

Great plays: 102 (45%)

Good plays: 71 (32%)

Bad plays: 50 (23%)

Week 17

Before we get into the picks, it’s important to point out how many teams may look to rest playoff-bound players or take a look at rookies if they have nothing else to play for. The games we’ll focus on will predominantly have something to play for. Whether that’s playoff position and seeding, or if it’s a coach or players last chance to put some film out there before their contract expires. Week 17 isn’t easy, but with the right plays, we can take advantage of the causal players not paying as close attention to the news. 

Quarterbacks

Kyler Murray $7500 @ Rams

40.5 over/under

Cardinals -3.5 favourites

In terms of the playoffs, this game has huge implications. Both the Rams and the Cardinals need to win to be sure of a playoff spot and both sides of the ball are dealing with issues. With Jared Goff having thumb surgery on Monday, the Rams are set to start former Arizona Hotshot quarterback, John Wolford. Kyler Murray is also dealing with a leg injury but expects to suit up. After picking up far too early talk of being the MVP, Murray’s season has come back to Earth somewhat but he still averages 26.9 Draftkings points per game. The Rams defence ranks best in the league in PPG given up to the QB, but they are 16th in the league in yardage per QB rush attempt allowed, with 4.37. In Kyler’s last three games he has averaged nine rushes per game, as opposed to three per game in the previous three. It seems clear his health is better and he’s more confident rushing again. The Cardinals cannot get into the playoffs with anything less than a win, they will attack this game all guns blazing and even above my usual value thresholds, this play is one I can’t ignore. 

Ryan Tannehill $7000 @ Texans

56.5 over/under

Titans -7.5 favourites

Here’s another slightly higher priced quarterback who finds themselves in a must-win situation. The Titans could win the AFC South or with a loss, possibly find themselves sitting home during January wondering how they missed out. Fortunately for them, they face a Houston Texans team that J.J Watt called out this week for a lack of effort. They might be lacking in effort in some areas, but for fantasy purposes, the Texans still put up points. Having put up 20+ points in all but one of their last five. This tells us we can expect Deshaun Watson to keep things competitive and push the game all the way against a division rival. Tannehill will face a poor secondary that allows the seventh-most passing yards per game (273.93) and ranks dead last in interceptions (3). There’s always the danger the Titans turn the game over to Derek Henry, but given the nature of this game, I expect Tannehill to put up numbers as his depleted defence fails to stop Deshaun Watson. 

Kirk Cousins $6300 @ Lions

53.5 over/under

Vikings -6.5 favourites

Strictly speaking, this matchup lacks a little oomph, but it will probably be Darrell Bevell’s last game as Interim Head Coach of the Lions. Hopefully, this pushes him to be aggressive and with Dalvin Cook ruled out the Vikings may choose to pick on what I believe is the league’s worst defence, through the air. The Lions allow the most fantasy points per game to the Quarterback (26.93) and the most passing touchdowns per game (2.33). Cousins finished the fantasy season as the QB12 with only two games in the last eight featuring less than two passing touchdowns. The Lions have allowed the fourth-most 20+ yard completions in the last six weeks and 9.2 yards per attempt over the last five weeks. The Vikings may have nothing to play for, but does Mike Zimmer need to see Sean Mannion on the field instead of Cousins?

Andy Dalton $5600 @ Giants

44.5 over/under

Cowboys -2 favourites

Boy oh boy, did Andy Dalton deliver for us in week 16. I believe if it wasn’t for the injuries and Covid related time missed, Dalton would be getting talked about in much brighter terms. In his last four weeks, he has more fantasy points than Mitch Trubisky, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Justin Herbert to name a few. Somehow the NFC East went from the most disgusting division to one of the most intriguing. With a win against the Giants, the Cowboys will secure a chance to lose in the first round of the playoffs to a team that deserves to be there. I digress… in recent weeks the Giants were talked up for having a resurgent defence but they still lack pass rush and playmakers. Simply put I believe the Cowboys passing game is far too good to be stymied here. On any given week Cooper, Lamb or Gallup can go off and if the Giants are going to stop Dalton they’ll need to show something they haven’t recently, having surrendered 20.6 DK points per game over the last three games along with five touchdowns. They also surrender the fifth most 20+ yard plays per game over the last six weeks. It all sets up for a good game for the Cowboys passing attack.

Massive Punt Alert 

John Wolford (Good surname, though he can’t spell it correctly) $4900 v Cardinals

40.5 over/under

Cardinals -3.5 favourites

I won’t be playing Wolford. Let’s make that clear from the jump, this will be his debut and Blake Bortles returning from Denver to a system he knows is a worry in terms of playing time, but it’s week 17 and the Rams have to win to get in. Wolford was legitimately a star of the AAF but he has played very little since. You also won’t need me to explain the differences between the AAF and the NFL. In his two final years at college Wolford ran for over 1200 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran for more than 20 yards per game in his time in the AAF, so we know he has some mobility. That rushing stat, combined with Arizona giving up 26.47 rushing yards per game to the quarterback, made me understand why someone might consider this punt play if it meant guaranteeing salary for a great play elsewhere. Arizona plays the highest rate of man coverage in the league, which we know makes a rushing quarterback’s life easier… maybe… just maybe?

Other quarterbacks with something to play for: Tua Tagovailoa ($5100), Baker Mayfield ($5500), Phillip Rivers ($6000) & Mitch Trubisky ($5600). 

Running Backs

Melvin Gordon $5700 v Raiders

51.0 over/under

Raiders -2.5 favourites

Something just didn’t sit right for me with Melvin Gordon last week. Despite Phillip Lindsay being ruled out, I couldn’t bring myself to play him anywhere and he went 16-79 for 7.9 Draftkings points. As I look back on it I think it comes down to the Denver passing game. It feels broken and I lack faith in Drew Lock keeping the team in games. However, in week 17 the Broncos play the Raiders who have flopped to the finish line failing to take advantage of some favourable matchups. There is nothing to play for in this divisional matchup but I imagine Gordon still finds the field a lot as behind him there is the injured Royce Freeman and the UDFA, LeVante Bellamy, who saw a few snaps this past week. The Raiders rank 30th against the run, giving up an average of 106.47 yards per game and the third-worst touchdown average per game (1.13). In recent weeks they’ve given up huge games to Myles Gaskin (33.9) and Jonathan Taylor (33.5). Gordon may not be quite what he once was and despite last week’s performance, he ranks as the RB11 in the last four weeks, ahead of Austin Ekeler, Kareem Hunt and Kenyan Drake. Coming off a disappointing game we may be able to catch him with low ownership. 

Nyheim Hines $4900 v Jaguars

49.0 over/under

Colts -13 favourites

With Jonathan Taylor’s late-season breakout Hines has been somewhat pushed aside from fantasy lineups. Despite Taylor’s great form, Hines has averaged 12 Draftkings points per game over his last five. Whilst that’s not quite the value we’re looking for, on Sunday the Colts face the Jaguars in a must-win game after they crumbled against the deeply average Steelers last weekend. They’ll need to win and have help elsewhere or January will be spent writing thank you letters for their Christmas presents. Fortunately for the Colts, they face a Jaguars team that has actively tanked in recent weeks. The Jaguars rank 29th on defence and give up the third-most yards per game (117.40) and more importantly for Hines, the sixth most receptions per game to the position (5.67). They also give up the fifth most yardage to pass-catching running backs (46.0). Taylor may be the headline play, but I fancy Hines to continue his reasonable form and do well here. 

Gus Edwards $4900 @ Bengals

44.0 over/under

Ravens -13 favourites

Two weeks ago I preached my love for Edwards at $4400 and sadly he only returned 9.8 points, then last week he turned in a 14.2 point performance and I hadn’t played him anywhere. Edwards has seen back to back weeks with over 35 receiving yards. This is a new area to Edwards’ game and not yet one we can count on, particularly with Lamar Jackson not favouring the checkdown. The real reason I bring Edwards up again is his astonishing jump in agility between last year and now. Edwards was seen as the back who would pick you up three yards no matter what. A strong downfield runner with good ball security. In recent weeks, however, The Gus Bus has shown an ability to shift on a dime, with previously unseen lateral movement. There’s no doubt Edwards will share time with J.K Dobbins, over the last two weeks it was 25 carries to 24 in favour of Dobbins, and both saw 4+ carries inside the ten. They are both usable and both worth playing against a Bengals team that is only playing for pride. If the Ravens win, they guarantee they’re in. 

Phil Hoffman/baltimoreravens.com

Dare Ogunbowale $4500 @ Colts

49.0 over/under

Colts -13 favourites

In week 16 I suggested it was too dangerous to play either Ogunbowale or Ozigbo as we had no clear lean from the coaches as to who would play more. Against the Bears, we saw that Ogunbowale is the first choice as he out-snapped Ozigbo 39-11 and had 17 of 21 running back touches, along with a season-high 13.5% target rate. I prefer paying for Edwards at $4900, but if you need the salary, I’ll understand the play. The Colts will have to win to get into the playoffs and if the Jaguars win they’ll still retain the first pick of the draft. Is this Doug Marrone’s last stand? If so, can he inspire a performance? I’m not sure, but if saving money here opens up a big play, roll with it in tournaments. 

Alexander Mattison $6100/Ameer Abdullah $4000 @ Lions

53.5 over/under

Vikings -6.5 favourites

Sadly Dalvin Cook’s father passed away earlier this week, resulting in him understandably missing out for a meaningless game in week 17. Mattison has been dealing with a concussion that has seen him miss out since week 15, but reports are trending in the right direction. There’s a sneaky revenge game narrative for Abdullah who was cut by the Lions in 2018, after never quite showing the promise his second-round draft pick deserved. This feels like a possible trap play for both players, but the Lions do rank last on defence against the position allowing 25.67 points per game, so it’s possible that without Cook, one or both can return value. If Mattison gets in some full practices I’ll be much more confident about playing him. Editor Note: Keep an eye on Boone TD prices, he has a nose for the endzone, scored last week at 16/1

Rodney Smith $4000 v Saints

47.5 over/under

Saints -6.5 favourites

With CMC and Mike Davis missing out it looks highly likely Rodney Smith will lead the backfield with only Reggie Bonafon behind him. For what it’s worth, Bonafon was CMC’s backup in 2019, but this year has fallen out of favour. As Davis has struggled with knocks, Smith has seen an average of five rushing attempts per game since week 10. Smith has also seen seven receptions on eight targets, in his last three games. The Saints defence are very good against the run but with them needing the Packers to lose to the Bears to grab the 1 seed, they may decide that outcome is unlikely and rest starters. I’m not confident in this play, but it’s week 17… this is how it gets. 

Latavius Murray $5600 @ Panthers

47.5 over/under

Saints -6.5 favourites

With Alvin Kamara hitting the COVID-19 list we’re gifted a real value play that will be heavily owned for good reason. In last weeks game Kamara stole all the headlines with a six touchdown performance but Murray was in good form also, averaging 6 yards per carry for 72 rushing yards and adding 3-24 through the air. Murray has a reputation for being a strong downhill runner but the Saints don’t see him that way and have happily used him in the passing game with 23 receptions on the season. The matchup also works in his favour, with Carolina’s 8th worst rushing defence having nothing to play for. Ranked 3rd worst in the league for rush yards per attempt (4.86), it would be surprising if Murray doesn’t hit 15 points in this game. If you’re looking for a pivot away from this chalky play, maybe it’s possible Ty Montgomery ($4000), gets some involvement but he’s only totalled three offensive touches on the season. My bigger concern would be Taysom Hill coming in and vulturing goal-line work. 

Wide Receivers

Michael Gallup $5000/CeeDee Lamb $5200 @ Giants

44.5 over/under

Cowboys -2 favourites

As I mentioned earlier, the Cowboys play in a must-win game for both sides at the Meadowlands. I like this game a lot for stacks and it can be hard to pick just one receiver out of the talented Dallas trio. Against the Eagles the group went:

(targets-receptions-yards-touchdowns)

Cooper: 6-4-121

Lamb: 5-3-65-1TD

Gallup: 8-6-121-2TD’s

This kind of situation can lead to people deciding to leave all three alone or play just the cheapest. In that situation, I like to play the middle priced player, In this situation, Lamb. It’s not scientific but often people pay up or pay down, leaving the middle man slightly under-owned. Lamb averages 14.3 DK points per game and has seven games scoring over 16 DK points this year and leads the Cowboys receivers in points per game over the last four weeks. Michael Gallup is the hot hand coming off his best performance of the season. He’s been used mainly as a deep threat and in this must-win game that projects to have a lot on the line, it’s not ridiculous to project several deep shots to him. 

Sterling Shepard $5200 v Cowboys

44.5 over/under

Cowboys -2 favourites

I like Shepard, to the point where I snapped him up in 25% of my best ball leagues this off-season. Despite Daniel Jones atrocious quarterback play this season, Shepard has managed to return reasonable fantasy value at times, with five of his eleven games returning over 12 DK points. Against the Ravens, in a negative game script, Shepard went for 22.7 points and now he gets a far friendlier matchup against the 3rd worst defence against the position. The Cowboys defence leads the league in touchdowns allowed to the position with 1.67 per game. The next nearest is 1.40. I’ve mentioned previously how much I like this game for stacks and I lean Shepard on the Giants side of any bring backs. 

James Washington $3500 @ Browns

42.5 over/under

Browns -8.5 favourites

This play is speculative so please don’t consider it for cash, unless you need the savings. Mike Tomlin has talked about resting key personnel this week as the Steelers have very little to play for. Washington has been the consistent WR4 on the team and would be the main beneficiary of any receivers taking snaps off. During 2019 when the Steelers were quarterbacked by a combination of Rudolph and Hodges, Washington turned in a run of solid games. Routinely putting up double-digit fantasy scores. The Browns are in a must-win scenario and will hope Mason Rudolph is more focused on avoiding Myles Garrett than finding Washington, but their defence gives up the 24th most points per game to the receiver position and if Rudolph can retain his composure, Washington has as good a shot as any receiver in sending the Browns home regardless of their winning record. 

Dez Bryant $3100 @ Bengals

44.0 over/under

Ravens -13 favourites

Win and in time for the Ravens against a Bengals team that has taken great pleasure in preventing them from getting to the playoffs in the past. Bryant has had a tricky road back to the NFL with his Achilles injury soon after signing for the Saints in 2018 and then landing on the Covid list the day of his chance to face the Cowboys this year. Seemingly now he’s established his role in this team and he’s established trust with Jackson. Through four games Bryant has eleven targets but more importantly, he has touchdowns in back to back weeks. Jackson seems to trust Dez in the end zone and wants to make this relationship work. At $3100, this is the cheapest play I’ve found that I can get behind at receiver. If you’re looking to stack Lamar Jackson, this will be a way to leverage off Marquise Brown.

Tight Ends

Mark Andrews $5800 @ Bengals

44.0 over/under

Ravens -13 favourites

If you’re looking for a pricier tight end this week then Mark Andrews seems like the most likely option to have something to play for. The Ravens must beat the Bengals to secure their playoff spot. Above him, Kelce, Waller and Kittle all have nothing to achieve. Andrews gets a cupcake matchup against the 29th worst defence against the position. The Bengals allow the second-most yards per game to tight ends (64.0), the third-most yards per catch (12.31) and have seen big games for Andrews in the past. Most recently in week 5 where he went 6-56-1TD. The Bengals have also allowed massive games to Evan Engram (6-129), and Mike Gesicki (9-88-1). Andrews has seen 22 targets in three games since his return from the Covid list. Lamar and Andrews will be a popular stack.

Mike Gesicki $4200 @ Bills

44.5 over/under

Bills -1.5 favourites

In 2019 the Bills were often a team to avoid when looking at tight ends, but in 2020 they’ve softened up dramatically, ranking 27th against the position. The Dolphins will face a Buffalo team likely to rest key players as the game goes on, whilst they must win to get into the playoffs. Whether it’s Tua or Fitzpatrick under centre we’ve seen Gesicki have a rapport with both. Over his last four games, Gesicki has averaged 17.05 DK points and has four touchdowns in that spell. In the week 2 matchup of these teams, Gesicki went 8-130-1TD. With the wide receivers still banged up, Gesicki continues to be the focal point of this passing offence.

Hayden Hurst $3700 @ Buccaneers 

50.5 over/under

Buccs -6.5 favourites

One of the fantasy world’s favourite candidates to breakout at the position in the off-season, sadly it hasn’t quite materialised but Hurst did still finish as the TE8 in PPR. Through the season he’s been a solid if an unspectacular option, averaging 36.2 yards per game. In what is believed to be Raheem Morris’s last game in charge of the Falcons, Hurst gets a reasonable matchup and has some semblance of form. In the last two games, Hurst has back to back touchdowns and averages five targets per game going back to week 12. The Buccs defence started the year in great form but in the last four weeks has given up an average of 12.7 DK points per game to Tight Ends. 

Good luck with your entries and we hope you’ve found these columns useful through the season.

Keep an eye out for our contests in the post-season we will be setting up slates for each weekend and probably a few showdown slates on individual matches as well.

Tom, and Adam.

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