DFS Player Pool Week 12
This might be the ugliest slate we see all year. There isn’t a lot of exciting value popping in DraftKings’ pricing, and injuries and the matchups are taking a lot of solid plays out of the DFS player pool. Top end decisions feel a little more important at each position, but luckily some of the bye weeks have freed up a small bit of salary at the QB position. It will be a tough main slate, but luckily we’re all in the same predicament. The DFS player pool is here once again to help guide some choices and help players hit that cash line.
DFS Player Pool Week 12
Matt Ryan, $6,700, vs. TB
The top end of the QB position looks a bit different this week. Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray are all off the main slate. So, we are left with the QB of the home team in the game with the highest total of the week. Ryan gets the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Atlanta as the Falcons have won two division games on the road the last two weeks. His last two games are actually in the bottom three days he’s had, but that might not matter given his opponent.
This season, Tampa has been fantasy gold for opposing QBs. Since Week 3, Daniel Jones’ first career start, every opposing QB has had a top-12 day at the position. That includes five top-5 finishes. The Bucs don’t stop there (sorry). In 2019, Tampa has been one of the most extreme pass funnel defenses. Per Football Outsiders, they rank 1st in rush defense DVOA while ranking 30th in pass defense DVOA. Atlanta won’t worry too much about that anyway, with Devonta Freeman questionable to play after missing last week with a foot injury. Backup to the backup, Brian Hill, was less than effective filling in last week. Even against a very generous rush defense in Carolina. The Falcons will need to pass to win.
Thus far, Tampa allows an average line of 302.5/2.5/0.6, good for 24.5 DK points. That is the floor for Ryan. Even with Austin Hooper out, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are good enough to exploit this defense and return excellent value at this price.
Baker Mayfield, $5,900, vs. MIA
This is the very definition of a risky QB play, but Baker has been much better recently. Last week was just his 2nd, 20+ point day this season, and now CLE will be without their star DE to help the defense. The addition of Kareem Hunt to the offense, much to the dismay of fantasy players everywhere, has impacted the running game. But, that has been a positive development for Mayfield. Hunt has been a solid outlet for Mayfield, filling the void left by Njoku and the other TEs this season. Pairing Nick Chubb and Hunt with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. give the Browns one of the most versatile offensive groups in the league.
They’ll be opposed by one of the worst defenses in the league, traveling up to Cleveland. After putting up decent defensive days in Weeks 9 and 10, the Dolphins got back to tanking last week; getting smoked by Buffalo in the process. Miami allows the 6th most points per game to QBs, with Josh Allen last week becoming the 5th QB to put up a top 10 positional finish against them. For his salary, Mayfield offers a ton of upside and pairs nicely with any of the other offensive weapons mentioned above.
Jeff Driskel, $5,500, @ WAS
One of the oddest fantasy developments this season has been unfolding in Detroit. The last two weeks have seen the Lions’ backup QB score an average of 23.3 points. On the main slate that is tied for the 3rd highest average. To make it even more bizarre, those scores have come against two very good passing defenses, the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. Those two teams rank as the 5th and 8th best QB defenses in DraftKings scoring, respectively, and Chicago was on the road.
His third start will come on the road against a Washington team allowing 19.3 points per game to QBs. While he might not be chasing points in this matchup, the floor provided by his rushing ability will help him maintain a high floor. Driskel has put up 88 yards in two weeks which isn’t unusual considering his college production. Both times he managed to play double-digit games in college he averaged 34 and 25 rushing yards per game. It isn’t exactly Lamar Jackson-type production, but he’s shown the ability to rack up points on the ground.
Nick Chubb, $8,100, vs. MIA
Cleveland had a bit of an odd week, but their matchup is about as good a get-right matchup that exists right now. Chubb remains the best early-down back on the Browns with Kareem Hunt being used mostly as a pass-catching option. While there is some risk for Chubb to receive less work in this game, he still is a safe bet to rack up points early in this game. He is the current leader in attempts per game to this point, and even in the last two weeks with Hunt active, he has had 27 and 22 touches. If it wasn’t for Christian McCaffrey being a fantasy outlier, he would also be leading the league in yards per game and yards per carry. In other words, his workload is safe.
From a matchup standpoint, Miami, as mentioned above, is coming at a great time for a team in turmoil. Cleveland is in for quite an uphill battle to reach the playoffs. Thankfully, it shouldn’t be hard for the Browns to rack up yards safely on the ground. The Dolphins are third in rushing yards allowed, and 7th in points per game to RBs. Of the 6 teams ahead of them in RB scoring, only Carolina has allowed fewer of those points through the air. This favors Chubb’s production profile more than Hunt. And given that Miami is back to starting Kalen Ballage at RB and missing Preston Williams, it should be a long day for the Dolphins defense.
Ezekiel Elliot, $7,500, @ NE
Among the top-level RB options, there are workload concerns, price issues, or injuries. Zeke merely has the top fantasy defense standing in his way. New England is an interesting case of extremes this year. Early on, their defense looked unstoppable. Decimating teams and often scoring more points than the offense they were matched up against, but as the competition has improved, the results have been mixed.
In Week 8, Nick Chubb racked up 131 rushing yards, but a couple of costly turnovers ruined the Browns’ day. Then, in Week 9, Baltimore ran them out of the stadium. As a team, they ran for 210 yards on 41 carries. A bye week and a Week 11 game against a toothless Philadelphia Eagles offense told us nothing, as Miles Sanders and Boston Scott totaled 64 yards.
Still, this is the way to beat New England. Just as Bill Belichick has focused his defenses on taking away what their opponents do best, the Cowboys should remove the Pats’ biggest strength and run the ball early and often. Backup Tony Pollard hasn’t had double-digit touches since Week 3; he is no threat to Zeke’s workload. Dallas can keep this game close with New England likely missing Mohamed Sanu and Philip Dorsett if they commit to controlling the ball. Elliot’s exposure will likely be down a bit given the matchup, but don’t fade Zeke.
Derrick Henry, $6,900, vs. JAX
Ignore the weird history of Henry to light up the back half of the year with stud RB days. Henry has a good chance for an RB1 finish this week. In Jacksonville’s last two games they have allowed three RBs to rush for 100+ yards. Jonathan Williams assumed RB1 duties for the Indianapolis Colts last week after Marlon Mack got hurt, and went for 116 yards on 13 carries. That was after Mack had gone 14/109/1 and Carlos Hyde ran for 160 in Week 9. None of these backs have the upside Henry has, even Mack.
Now, Henry, who has scored 4 TDs the last two weeks while totaling 251 rushing yards, is next up. Even with the $500 price bump, Henry is a solid value against a team he has ripped in the past. Really, both starting RBs are viable in this matchup, but for a minor salary saving, he’s the slightly better play.
Le’Veon Bell, $6,400, vs. OAK
The New York roller coaster continues. After bottoming out by losing to the then winless Miami Dolphins, the Jets have bounced back to win back-to-back games against NFC East opponents. With Sam Darnold looking like he’s done seeing ghosts, the Jets offense has put up 27 and 34 points against the Giants and Redskins, respectively. Bell is a shoo-in for a solid touch floor and gets a solid discount compared to other unquestioned lead backs. He has only had 3 games with less than 20 touches, and they all just happen to be his 3 lowest scoring games. Bell should see a good amount of carries against Oakland and should thrive against their pass defense as well. Oakland has given up the 10th most yards receiving to RBs and is tied for 2nd in receiving TDs to RBs. Bell’s skill set makes him game script proof, so even a Raiders road win shouldn’t affect his workload.
Patrick Laird, $3,400, @ CLE
Things are about to get weird. This is a VERY risky play, but there just isn’t a ton of value to be found this week and Laird could be a solid low price play. His production depends entirely on his receiving work. Last week he had 6 receptions for 51 yards, and on the season, 8 of his 11 touches have been receptions. This isn’t a fluke thing either, as he totaled 96 receptions his last two years in college at UC Berkeley.
Miami is down an RB with Mark Walton rightfully being cut after a domestic violence incident with his pregnant girlfriend. The Dolphins seem to be all set with giving Kalen Ballage RB1 duties, so look for Laird to get some more run here. This is important in a game where they should be facing a negative game script for most of the day. Again, this is a very risky play, but one that allows a ton of salary flexibility.
Michael Thomas, $9,300, vs. CAR
Michael Thomas is a fantasy football GOD. The matchups don’t matter. The QB throwing to him doesn’t matter. The fact that this is a home game where he has been 8 points better this season helps. James Bradberry shadowing him doesn’t matter either. He is on pace to break the single-season receptions record with 150 (vs. 143) and will be within a few big games of the single-season yardage mark as well (1,826 vs. 1,964). The price is high, but so is the floor, as MT hasn’t scored below 16.4 points yet this season. Fitting him in is tough, but the savings at QB this week can help squeeze him in.
Julio Jones, $8,000, vs. TB
For a steep $1,300 discount from Thomas is the WR2 by salary this week, Julio Jones. Jones gets the dream WR matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Four different WRs in the last three weeks have gone for 100+ yards against them (Thomas, Christian Kirk, Tyler Lockett, and D.K. Metcalf). Since their Week 7 bye, they have allowed 10 receiving TDs to WR. On the season, Tampa is still first in points allowed per game to WRs. In fact, the margin by which they lead that category is the same as the margin between the 2nd place team (the New York Giants) and the 14th place team (the Tennessee Titans). They are really, REALLY bad. There was a slight injury concern with Jones’ foot but he was a full participant Thursday. If he can’t go, it’s an easy pivot to teammate Calvin Ridley ($6,500) and you can use the extra $1,500 somewhere else.
Odell Beckham, $7,000, vs. MIA
It hasn’t been easy for season-long Beckham owners this year. There are many reasons he hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype, but this could be the week that all is forgotten. In his easiest matchup since Week 2 against the New York Jets, Beckham will be a popular play this weekend. Putting the matchup aside, Beckham is ready for a big fantasy day. Of the top 20 WRs in receiving yards, none have fewer TDs than Beckham, and only D.J. Moore has the same number as him, 1. Chasing TDs is a fool’s errand, but Miami has allowed the second-most TDs to WRs. One of these trends has to break and the smart money should be on Beckham.
D.J. Chark, $6,400, @ TEN
Clearly the Nick Foles to Chark passing concerns were unnecessary. In Week 11, Chark led the league in air yards and produced the second-best WR day last week. His final line of 8/104/2 came on a whopping 15 targets (tied with D.J. Moore for another league-high number). Even crazier, is that his outstanding day was just the second-best game he’s produced in 2019. There should be no more doubts about his status as a WR1 for this season, and this week he should be a very solid producer again. Tennessee has been mediocre across the board against WRs aligned across the field. Matchups here will not slow him down any more than the Titan’s slow pace of play will. But Chark dominates the target share and air yards for Jacksonville, so looks will come his way regardless.
DeVante Parker, $5,200, @ CLE
This might seem like an obvious name, but there isn’t a ton of value to be found at WR in the Week 12 main slate. The argument here is simple: expected bad game script for Miami leaves the door open for high passing volume. Parker is the unquestioned WR1 with no Preston Williams or Kenny Stills, and Albert Wilson being a huge bust. He has actually been tapping into his immense potential this season, forming a nice chemistry with veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Every week from Week 4 on, Parker has scored in the double digits. In that same timeframe, he’s scored 4 times, and in the 3 games he didn’t he scored at least 11.9 points, including last week’s 23.5 point performance. The targets are there at the end of the day, and garbage time counts exactly the same in fantasy.
Zach Ertz, $6,000, vs. SEA
That makes two games in a row where 2019 Zach Ertz looked suspiciously like 2018 Zach Ertz. For just the 3rd time this year, Ertz received double-digit targets and converted them into 18.4 points against the toughest secondary in the league. Ertz will again look to be an oft-targeted man with Alshon Jeffrey questionable to play and the other receiving options still being bad. Of the top-priced TEs, Ertz has the best positional matchup, with Seattle 8th in points per game allowed to TEs. The Eagles will be desperate to win this game to keep any playoff hopes alive, and leaning on Ertz might be Philly’s best chance.
Ryan Griffin, $4,200, vs. OAK
Griffin is a very hit or miss play this week. He has two 24+ point games in his last four but also has thrown in a 0.8 bomb in Week 10. Against the Giants. But, his matchup this week is much friendlier than NYG, as Oakland allows the 5th most points per game to TEs. His price increase indicates a much higher projection this week from DraftKings, but he occupies the small positional middle class at TE this week. If he can continue to operate as a down the field option to complement Jamison Crowder underneath, Griffin could again cash in with a high double-digit scoring day. His 21.8 yards/reception from last week is most likely not replicable, but he should have coverage drawn away from him by Robby Anderson.
Cameron Brate, $3,600, @ ATL
There is a very real chance O.J. Howard sees single-digit snaps this week. He could also easily outscore Brate. What is certain at this point is that Brate has always had a much better relationship with Jameis Winston. After Howard was effectively benched last week, Brate had an excellent day, finishing with 10 catches on 14 targets. At this price, the yardage almost doesn’t matter with that kind of passing game involvement. While Atlanta has been much better defensively during their recent stretch of competence, Greg Olsen and Jared Cook both scored in the double digits against them.