NFL DFS DEEP DIVE: Week 18

Week 17 Review

Week 18 is here! Everyone else might be tuning out for the playoffs, but just because your redraft is over it doesn’t mean DFS is done. Week 18 is filled with some weird situations of what matters and what doesn’t but for now, we’ll take a look back quickly into last weeks results. 

The highs were high and the lows were low. Particularly given the amazing week we had in week 16 it felt disappointing but upon reflection, it was a messy slate and I can’t be too downtrodden. Let’s hit the bad stuff first. Tua picked a rotten time to have an atrocious game and pick up just 6.3 points as the worst of our quarterback selections. Ronald Jones in an absolute smash spot against the Jets put up only 3.7 points… a miserable 2.6 yards per carry. I was hoodwinked by the kneecap-eating Dan Campbell on D’Andre Swift, and it cost me a lot in my lineups, apologies if those 5.9 points got you too! At tight end, Everett somehow only put up 6.6 points in a day where Russell Wilson rediscovered D.K Metcalf. Foster Moreau busted with 1.9 points and that was 0.1 points more than extreme dart throw Stephen Anderson managed. 

The good news though is that we had Trey Lance and Mac Jones putting up four times their salaries in points and Taysom Hill just squeaking into 3x territory. Sony Michel, Devin Singletary and Darrell Williams all performed excellently at running back, with RB13, RB2 and RB3 performances respectively. At receiver we had Mooney put up 19.9 points as a play almost nobody was on. Amon Ra St.Brown continued his hot streak and was the WR2 of the slate. Berrios, The Chalk God went to WR4 at just $3700! Lastly, Tyler Higbee put up a TE6 performance, again at relatively low rostership numbers. 

The full list is below including all of those middle-ground plays. 

For the season that leaves us at:

Great plays (3x$) – 116 (49%)

Good plays (2x$) – 64 (26%)

Bad plays (<2x$) – 60 (25%)

Week 18 Preview

Lots to consider this week, for instance, are you worried the Chargers and Raiders will kneel the entire game out, and if that happens will it be Bryan Edwards most involved game of the year? There are a lot of teams seemingly with nothing to play for but even in some of those games, we can find players on the cusp of contract incentives and typically teams like to help their players reach those if at all possible. Be wary of teams heading to the playoffs and with little to play for. We already know Joe Burrow won’t play at all, nor will Baker Mayfield but we’re trying to stick to fantasy-relevant players. It would be surprising if Aaron Rodgers plays the entire game with his ongoing toe situation. I would highly recommend reading the excellent article Establish The Run have put out for free this week on incentives and milestones. I’ve included some players who may see big increases too playing times and are very cheap. Be careful with these players and think about your constructions around them. As ever, I really appreciate your likes, RT’s and feedback, it really helps to hear what you’re thinking and helps others see the content on Twitter.

https://establishtherun.com/nfl-contract-incentives-and-milestones-to-note-for-week-18/

Quarterback

Tyler Huntley $5700 vs Pittsburgh Steelers – 41.5 over/under

Tyler Huntley didn’t have quite as big a day against the Rams as he’s had in previous weeks, putting up his lowest completion percentage of his starts and just 197 yards. It’s worth noting that he was returning from Covid and whilst it’s been hard to predict how players will do, perhaps we can chalk some of that up to his mediocre performance. Next up it’s the Steelers, at home, in a must-win game and with a very outside chance at reaching the playoffs. John Harbaugh doesn’t like to leave anything on the table and I can’t imagine he’ll be taking his foot off the gas at all. It seems very unlikely Lamar Jackson will play and by now we’ve seen that Huntley can return value in relation to his salary with an average of 19.31 DK points in the games where he’s been featured. Harbaugh is also well known to like records and don’t be surprised if Huntley peppers Andrews (who is in range for the most TE yards ever in a season – yes one more game than the previous record), and Marquise Brown (who needs 40 yards to have the best Ravens WR season since 2016). Pittsburgh makes for a reasonable but not scary defence, ranking 14th in fantasy points allowed over the last five and 15th on the season and will be playing on a short week whilst dealing with covid issues. **Lamar Jackson was ruled out on Friday**

Derek Carr $5600 vs L.A Chargers – 49.5 over/under

It’s been a little while since we featured Derek Carr in this column and technically he’s not on the main slate and there are plenty of people who enjoy playing the all-day sunday slate. It’s been a bit of an up and down adventure this year for him. Normally the Raiders start hot and then fade a few weeks before the end of the season, but this year they’re still fighting till the last day potentially. Regardless of if their playoff route is blocked by the time they play on Sunday, I’d like to think the Raiders will be trying to put on a show for a stadium crammed full of loyal fans. The Chargers kept Carr to 15.44 points in Week 4, but over the last five games, they’ve ranked 28th in most points allowed to the position and in that spell they’ve had games against Drew Lock, Davis Mills and Mike Glennon. Derek Carr should be able to return value here and with Darren Waller returning I fancy the Raiders to go out in good fashion. 

Case Keenum $4800 vs Cinncinati Bengals – 38.0 over/under (Very low)

Tell me it’s week 18 without telling me it’s week 18… Baker Mayfield made some interesting comments after the game about prioritizing his health and needing to speak to his agent before deciding whether to play. Ultimately he made a decision he probably should have made weeks ago and has decided that he can’t play. We’ve seen what Case Keenum is by this point in his career, good and bad. Whilst Baker seems to find his ways into sacks more than any other starter, Keenum is slightly quicker releasing the ball in the pocket and has frequently put up better completion percentages than Baker’s 56.3% since he missed a game in Week 7 and the injuries started to mount up. Whilst the Browns have nothing whatsoever to play for because despite the off-season hype they won’t be making the playoffs, they will be facing a Bengals side resting at least their starting QB and are at home for this game. Should the Bengals decide to rest more starters then their defence which ranks 25th against the QB in fantasy points will look rather weak for this matchup. Starting Keenum is much more about his price than anything, with him rarely being a fantasy star over the years. I’d consider him for multi-entry tournaments, and also stacked with Landry who could be potentially playing his last game in Cleveland if the team decides to move on from him. A 15 point game shouldn’t be out of reach here and if you can pack out studs around this play, it could pay off.  

Trey Lance $5500 @ L.A Rams – 44.5 over/under

You didn’t think I’d miss my guy out, did you? Sunday started a little bumpy and it felt like Kyle Shanahan, not for the first time this year, was coaching scared and restricting his quarterbacks play into a limited fashion. Thankfully after Lance seemed to settle down in the two-minute drill before halftime Shanahan let things loose a little more and returned to an excellent play from the pre-season to see Deebo Samuel score a great touchdown. Lance was incredibly close to a bigger fantasy day with a touchdown to Aiyuk called back followed by a rushing touchdown that was also penalised. As of Thursday, it seems perhaps 60-40 that Lance will play ahead of limited quarterback Jimmy G who put in a limited practise on Wednesday and Thursday in a limited attempt to rescue his job. Keep an eye on reports and of course, I will update, but if Lance goes I’m returning to the well and loading up in this matchup that is a must-win for the 49ers. Whilst the Rams squeezed by the decimated Ravens they largely allowed the Ravens to control the game clock and I firmly believe that a similar approach from a Trey Lance led 9ers could work in a game that the Rams don’t have much to glean from. 

For what it’s worth if Jimmy G ($5500) starts I’m not playing him. I think Lance’s game is more suited to this matchup from a fantasy perspective. 

Running Backs

Samaje Perine $5300 @ Cleveland Browns – 38.0 over/under

Joseph Mixon heads to the covid list in what may be good timing, providing that he experiences nothing worse than mild symptoms like most players are, in which case he’ll return for the playoff games. Meanwhile, Samaje Perine should step in as the workhorse ahead of occasional role player Chris Evans ($4400). Whilst Mixon has been healthy this year the team has leaned heavily on him when using a running back and Perine has had limited opportunities to shine but has managed to earn a 20.2% opportunity share compared to Chris Evans 5.7% and averages a very healthy 4.5 yards per carry. Perine has also been used in passing situations with 27 targets compared to Evans 11. Whilst we know that the Bengals will be starting Brandon Allen at QB, which is a ding to the overall offence, Allen himself put up some reasonable showings when Burrow was injured last year, including a game in Houston in week 16 where Perine and Allen combined on four receptions and they put up a combined total of 52.74 PPR points. Perine is a salary relief option that should be played with safer players in your lineups on the off chance he isn’t used as heavily as expected. 

D’Onta Foreman $5700 @ Houston Texans – 43.0 over/under

I’m not expecting The Big Dawg Derrick Henry to return this week, it feels too soon to push in unnecessarily. Whilst Henry has been out the Titans have managed excellently to replace his workload. A win here will secure the most surprising of Bye’s heading into the playoffs and Mike Vrabel should have plenty of confidence that he can go into his old team’s home and have enough without Henry. On 112 carries Foreman has averaged 4.4 yards per carry, 0.1 more than Henry did on 219. Whilst there’s no doubting that Henry is the better back, Foreman has stood out amongst the trio of backs the Titans have used and last week even used him in similar wildcat packages that Henry would normally be a part of. Since the Titans started relying on this trio, Foreman has the highest opportunity share (44%), the most yards (497) and the most touchdowns (3). Houston ranks dead last against running backs in fantasy over the last five games and I like Foreman’s chances here in a game that might be a bit slower than we’d ideally like, but in situations where the Titans aren’t forced to pass they lean run-heavy. 

Saquon Barkley $6100 vs Washington – 38.0 over/under (very low)

Despite only playing on 30 snaps in Week 17 Saquon Barkley set a season-high in rushing yards with 102, going over 65 yards for the first time this season. Whilst it’s hard to write this season up as anything but another disappointing year for Saquon perhaps we can eke out one more week of fantasy goodness from him before an off-season of questions washes over the Giants. Those 102 rushing yards yielded Barkley’s second-best yards per carry of the year (4.9) and now he’ll face a Washington side that allows an average of 111.8 yards per game on the ground. We’re not in the realms of a comfortable play and this is 100%, not a cash game play, but if you’re looking to leverage off more chalky pieces in a similar price range, Barkley is the best offensive player the Giants have healthy and they seem to be aware of it!

Cam Akers $4700 vs San Francisco – 44.5 over/under

Are we really talking about a running back recovering from an Achilles injury and playing within just a few months? I’m no doctor, but that sounds incredible to me. Fair play to Akers for attacking his rehab and doing everything he could to get back, as well as the team for having faith in his ability to do so. This feels way more of a trap than last week’s D’Andre Swift play, but I’m intrigued as to what the team throws at Akers with Sony Michel their only RB of note who is healthy. Heading into the playoffs the team will need to know what they have and if Akers is only playing a mediocre amount of snaps his explosive style could still seem to pay off his value. I wouldn’t play this in anything but large multi-entry approaches and even then you’ll want to pay attention to news reports and any updates I add to this page.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn $5300 @ Carolina Panthers – 41.5 over/under

Another player who could see increased reps if the Buccs remove their starters, or possibly regardless of that is Vaughn. Currently, Vaughn is projected to be the only Buccs RB on the roster next season and it’s pretty clear how the team feels about Ronald Jones, who is struggling with injuries ahead of this game. As I’ve mentioned before, the Panthers defence looks tough on paper, ranking fourth against RB’s for the season, but over the last five weeks it drops 24th, they are just ready for the sweet warmth of the end of the season. Vaughn showed better than RoJo last week and he’s somebody I’m sneaky high on for GPP teams. **Ronald Jones has been ruled out. Perhaps Lev Bell gets some reps, but he really doesn’t look like he has much left these days.**

Honourable mention

Marlon Mack $4800 @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 44.0 over/under

Hat tip to Jamie Byrom for this one, who pointed out this very well could be Marlon Mack’s last game for Indy against a poor Jacksonville side and you’d like to think Jonathan Taylor has earned some rest. Again multi-entry GPP’s only, but Mack is an extreme dart throw as he opens up salary and could beat down on a poor team as the Colts ease off their starters. 

Michael Carter $5000 @ Buffalo Bills – 40.5 over/under

Carter has become the clear first choice in the Jets backfield and it was unfortunate a concussion knocked him out of the Week 17 game when he was off to a strong start. Now Carter is cleared to play and will be in a matchup that the Jets are expected to be in negative game script throughout. Carter dominates the Jets RB room when healthy with a 53.5% opportunity share dating back to Week 6 and his pass-catching role gives him a nice floor in this game.

Wide Receivers

Darnell Mooney $5900 @ Minnesota Vikings – 43.5 over/under

I really liked this play more when Justin Fields was set to play before he went on Covid I.R, and now it’s a bit more ‘meh’, but Fields has had success with Andy Dalton and the matchup against the league’s worst defence against receivers is good enough that I can’t quite shy away yet. Mooney has been fairly boom or bust in his second season with six games under 10 points but also six games over 15 points, and four over 20. If Mooney had found his way to a few more touchdowns than his current four, he could have really made some noise this year. The Vikings don’t plan on resting any players, but that doesn’t really matter given how poor a defensive unit they are against the pass. The Vikings have allowed the seventh-most passing yards per game (252.1) and the seventh-highest yards per attempt (7.0). I’m also very open to playing Allen Robinson as one of the most appealing cheap plays ($4000), but I’d expect his roster % to be in the mid-teens or higher.

Ray-Ray McCloud $3800 @ Baltimore Ravens – 41.5 over/under

If you’re looking for a punt in this receiver core I would shepherd you towards Ray-Ray McCloud ($3800). Since Week 13 McCloud has out-snapped James Washington 69.6%-31.5% and seen 33 targets compared to Washington’s 15. On Saturday Washington was placed on the covid list, making McCloud’s path to a clear workload even clearer. The Steelers have to win to have any chance of making the playoffs and McCloud has only been out-targetted by Johnson in the last four weeks (39-29). Whilst his targets tend to be close to the line of scrimmage and not particularly high value, McCloud can pay off value in our PPR format. I like this play with Huntley and Andrews stacks.

Marquez Callaway $5000 @ Atlanta Falcons – 40.5 over/under

Quietly over the last three weeks, Marquez Callaway has dominated target share amongst the barebones receiver room of New Orleans, despite the changes at quarterback during that period. In those three games, Callaway has seen team-leading target shares of 36.0%, 27.8% and 43.5%. Whilst it would be nice for Callaway to have a more lethal quarterback under centre he’s been getting by and averaged eight targets per game in this spell. Next up he faces the Atlanta Falcons in a game where the Saints need to win to get into the playoffs. The Falcons defence has been porous to put it politely and allows the fifth-most points to receivers. Callaway is only behind Alvin Kamara in red-zone targets (8) and has twice as many touchdowns as any other receiver (6 vs Deonte Harris’s 3). As one of a few games that have some meaning to it I like Callaway a lot as he faces the Falcons defence allowing fifth-most actual points per game (26.7) and the fifth-most yards per attempt (7.26).

Cyril Grayson $4400 vs Carolina Panthers – 41.5 over/under

After Antonio Brown left the game for whatever reason he truly did, Cyril Grayson found himself propelled into just his second career game with more than two targets. Since arriving in the league in 2017 Grayson bounced around practise squads and active rosters without a single target until the last game of the 2019 season where he caught one ball for three yards. That’s pretty much been the story of his career till now, adding three targets and no catches in 2020 and then in week 16 of this season with the Buccs hit by injuries and Covid he was called upon. Now he’s had back to back games of 81 yards and has touched the ball 10 times. For whatever reason, the Buccs aren’t using Scotty Miller this year and Brady seems to have taken a shine to Grayson. The Panthers are a reasonable side but are on the road, in a game that means nothing to them and big changes are coming. Whilst they’ve been the sixth-best team against receivers this year, over the last five weeks that has slipped to 13th. It also helps when your quarterback is Tom Brady. Expect a lot of people to jump on Gronk as a good play with so many incentives available to him, but as a stack, or leverage play, Grayson is worth a look.

Gabriel Davis $4900 vs New York Jets – 40.5 over/under

The Bills have to win to secure the division title over the Patriots and they’re in a great spot against the lowly Jets. Since Week 13 Gabriel Davis leads the receivers in touchdowns (4) and is second in yards (198) and leads the group in receiving expected points added (15.9). With Sanders doubtful to play again expect to see Davis involved plenty. It’s worth mentioning that Cole Beasley is $4800 and will be less rostered than Davis, but his ceiling is no doubt lower. Lastly, it’s worth noting that Stefon Diggs needs six catches to make $1.55 million.

Dart Throws

Ben Skowronek $3000 vs San Francisco 

Skowronek has emerged as the fourth choice in the L.A Rams receiver room as the season has gone on and if the Rams get out to a lead and can take the opportunity to rest players he could be worth a dart-throw for large field multi-entry GPP’s only, coming off the back of his highest usage since Week 10 when OBJ had just arrived. 

Equanimeous St. Brown $3000 @ Detroit Lions

St. Brown is another player who could see increased snaps as starters are held out. St. Brown has been used as the WR4 at times on the Packers and has flashed occasionally. With Adams, Lazard and MVS all potentially in line to not see a lot of game time, ESB might be a fine GPP play in the battle of the St. Brown’s! Of all of the dart throws this one is in the more confident section.

Antoine Wesley $4100 vs Seattle Seahawks

Perhaps Wesley doesn’t belong in the dart throws given that over the last few weeks since DeAndre Hopkins went to I.R he leads the team in end zone targets, and also leads the receiving group touchdowns (3) and in fantasy points per touch (3.9). In a game where the Cardinals have #Motivation there are worse supplemental pieces than the 6’4 Wesley who keeps seeing high-value targets.

Tight Ends

Darren Waller $6100 vs L.A Chargers – 49.5 over/under

There are not many more likeable players in the NFL than Darren Waller. Not only has he overcome major addiction struggles and turned his life around but he’s also an absolute beast on the field. I have doubts that Derek Carr can sustain two fantasy options, mainly because he’s never done it before, and whilst Renfrow has been great this matchup is perfect for Waller. Only the Bengals have allowed more points to tight ends over the last five games and on the season the Chargers have allowed the worst record in the league to the position. $6100 is normally a bit higher than I’d like to talk about in this column for tight ends, but it feels like a big value for a player who could score 20 points. 

Dan Arnold $2500 vs Indianapolis Colts – 44.0 over/under

It’s a little strange to see Dan Arnold coming back off I.R for a pointless game in Week 18, but the Jaguars did trade for him this season and perhaps they want one more look at him before we go into the off-season where they may have to make a lot of player decisions. It’s not clear yet if he’ll play but if he does I’m all over this play at this price. Following his trade from Carolina Arnold put up four weeks of double-digit performances over a five-week spell and has averaged 4.6 targets per game in Jacksonville. The Colts give up the third-most points to the position on the season and the seventh-most over the last five games. It’s quite a dart throw but I love a dart throw at tight end when it’s $2500. 

Pat Freiermuth $4600 @ Baltimore Ravens – 41.5 over/under

The MOOOOOOOTTTTTTTHHHHH, as Pittsburgh fans chant when he catches the ball, has shown out well in his rookie campaign. Injuries to Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster probably helped him see opportunities slightly earlier than he might have but what matters is that he’s been reliable when called upon and finished the fantasy season as the TE14 in PPR. We’ve already discussed the Steelers lack of Diontae Johnson above and the Ravens defence has struggled against the pass for weeks. The matchup is friendly with the Ravens allowing the tenth-most points to the position dating back to Week 13. Freiermuth has been held under 10 points in three of his last four games but I fancy him to correct that here. Don’t be surprised if this play gets chalky. 

As ever, check back on Saturday and Sunday for updates. My DM’s are always open on Twitter should you want to bounce ideas off somebody. Go get that bag!

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