DFS Player Pool: Week 16
Just one week to go in the regular season means that there is just one more DFS player pool after this. The top options at QB (Lamar Jackson), RB (Christian McCaffrey), and WR (Michael Thomas) are all solid plays again this week but will not be discussed below. They are all excellent plays with their own compelling narratives this week.
Jackson and the Ravens will look to wrap up the top seed in the AFC while avenging their most lopsided loss of the season. CMC and MT will, respectively, be gunning for the single-season yards from scrimmage and single-season receptions records. They all should be fixtures in DFS player pools this weekend, and there is a decent bit of value to be found that makes fitting one or two of them manageable. But, there are plenty of other players worthy of inclusion in this weeks’ DFS player pool. Best of luck on fantasy championship weekend!
DFS Player Pool: Week 16
Russell Wilson ($7,000) vs. ARI
The QB2 behind Jackson this week, Wilson has been in a slump lately. He hasn’t hit 3X since his Week 9 matchup with Tampa Bay, but this week is an excellent opportunity for Wilson to end that streak. Arizona has been a QB friendly defense all season, and even the return of top CB Patrick Peterson back in Week 7 did little to slow that trend. In 5 of 8 games since his return, the Cardinals have allowed a top 9, or better, finish to opposing QBs. On the season they allow the most points per game to the position, most passing yards, and most passing TDs. Offset that with the 2nd fewest INTs and the 7th lowest pressure percentage, and Arizona is a fantastic matchup.
Wilson makes an excellent, high floor option for cash game lineups, and has the upside to help in tournaments too. With Jackson on the main slate, Wilson can offer a nice savings with an excellent ceiling. A shootout is very possible here too, with Seattle in a similar position defensively as San Francisco last week. Several starters are either doubtful or questionable, including DE Jadeveon Clowney, DBs Quandre Diggs, and Shaquill Griffin, and LB Mychal Kendricks.
Matt Ryan ($6,200) vs. JAX
There are few options with a better projection this week than Matt Ryan. For savings with a safe floor and high ceiling, Ryan is a great play. The Falcons are a week removed from a surprising upset of the shorthanded San Francisco 49ers. While Atlanta is short-handed themselves, the personnel they do have are enough to win regardless. Feeding Julio Jones 20 targets last week resulted in his best game since Week 12 of 2017. Austin Hooper is two weeks into his return from injury and looking more like the TE1 he was before he got hurt.
Jacksonville is a team with no grasp of its future. Removing Tom Coughlin from his executive vice president position signals a changing of team philosophy and this group might be ready to pack in a lost season. Two weeks ago Philip Rivers passed for 3 TDs against them. Derek Carr scored 15.88 points throwing Darren Waller and the worst group of WRs in the AFC outside of New England. Ryan should encounter little resistance moving the ball Sunday.
Kyler Murray ($6,100) @ SEA
Making another appearance in the DFS player pool, Murray has a great matchup ahead. As mentioned above, Seattle could be extremely short-handed this week against the Cardinals. Seattle is even worse than Arizona at generating pressure, and will likely be without Clowney, by far their best pass-rushing option. Despite an oddly low sack total (3.0), Clowney is still 6th among DE in hurries. Removing him from the equation, as well as S Quandre Diggs, means Murray will have plenty of time to make his reads. If there is nothing available, Murray will also have ample space to run. On the season Seattle has allowed the 6th most rushing yards to QBs. This game could turn into barn burner, making Murray a very interesting play again.
Dwayne Haskins ($4,700) vs. NYG
Here are a couple of interesting numbers to keep in mind concerning Haskins:
1: the number of starting QBs priced below Haskins this week. Only Will Grier, making his first career start, is cheaper.
2: the number of weeks this season that the New York Giants haven’t allowed a top 10 finish by the opposing QB. It also is the number of times Haskins has hit 3X value.
It is true that Haskins was terrible in his last game against New York, but that was his first regular-season game. He has come along slowly since then, but is just a week removed from his best game as a professional. Last weeks game was against a much better team with much more at stake. This week, Haskins should again find Terry McLaurin open early and often. His big-play ability alone should fuel Haskins to near value. A sub $5k QB makes CMC and MT a real possibility in the same lineup.
Saquon Barkley ($8,300) @ WAS
Is he back? Barkley did exactly what analysts everywhere expected him to do against the Miami Dolphins last week and set a new season-high fantasy points. Last week was the first full game that Barkley played without a carry for a loss, as he took advantage of a plus matchup against the Dolphins. He gets another solid matchup this week against the Washington Redskins. On the season, Washington is only two places behind the Dolphins in terms of points allowed to RBs. They have allowed the 5th most rushing and receiving yards to RBs. As one of the few true three-down backs, Barkley will have ample opportunity to match the last two starting RBs to face the Redskins: Miles Sanders (38.2 points) and Aaron Jones (31.2).
Joe Mixon ($6,600) @ MIA
Even though they returned Andy Dalton to starting QB, the Bengals have given up on this season. For fantasy, though, that works in Mixon’s favor. He hasn’t had fewer than 18 touches since Week 7. Given Cincinnati’s win-loss record, the expectation might be that he has driven those numbers up with short receptions. Instead, the Bengals have shown a willingness to continue to feed Mixon, with no regard to the score. In a Week 9 blowout loss to the Ravens, Mixon got 16 second-half carries despite the Bengals trailing by at least 3 scores. In Week 15, immediately after the Bengals fell behind by 17 to New England, Mixon carried the ball on 4 of the next 5 plays.
Against Miami, Mixon will continue to have his usual allotment of touches. After seeing 4 of the top 7 rush defenses per Football Outsiders DVOA metric, the Dolphins should be a breeze. In those 4 games (vs. NE, NYJ, PIT, and LAR) Mixon averaged 16.02 points. In his recent run of success, he’s also faced the 26th and 28th rush defenses by DVOA (CLE and OAK). In those two he averaged 23.95. Miami is ranked 29th. Like Barkley, Mixon is a three-down back for his team. Fellow RB Gio Bernard hasn’t had more than 3 targets since Week 4. This is Mixon’s backfield and he is set for an RB1 outing.
Miles Sanders ($6,400) vs. DAL
Sanders will be a key part of the Eagles’ push to return to the playoffs. This game against Dallas is a must-win for Philly, and Sanders is coming off his best game of the season. Last week, Sanders scored 38.2 points, good for the 3rd best RB score of the week. The Cowboys aren’t as generous a fantasy RB defense as Washington (19th vs. 7th), but they have given up 2 top 10 finishes to RBs in the last 3 weeks.
Todd Gurley and Devin Singletary were both able to score through the air against them. Dallas has allowed the 8th most receptions to RBs and Sanders should have that to fall on, even if this game gets out of hand. He has 15 catches in his last 3 games and has a safe floor thanks to that production. It helps that Philly is still very thin at WR and will need to rely on their few remaining playmakers to have a chance.
Melvin Gordon III ($5,600) vs. OAK
Definitely the riskiest inclusion in the DFS player pool thus far, Gordon does have a nice opportunity to bounce back from a nightmare game last week. Between losing two fumbles and a negative game script, Gordon has his fewest carries in a game this year. As for the fumbles, he has lost 9 total in his career. Ball security is not an issue for him. Luckily his poor outing helped drop his price to its lowest point since the last time Gordon faced Oakland. In that Week 10 game, he scored 23.3 points. Austin Ekeler does eat into his ceiling a bit, but they both can be solid plays against the 13th highest scoring defense vs. RBs.
Myles Gaskin ($3,800) vs. CIN
This is strictly a tournament play, and even then there is a fair amount of risk, but Gaskin could be the Miami RB that gets a higher ROI this week. The DFS community has been infatuated with his teammate, Patrick Laird the last few weeks (he even made an appearance in this part of the DFS player pool in Week 12) but his scoring has dropped each of the last 3 weeks. The combination of some poor play by Laird last week and good gains by Gaskin could make this a real committee. After an even split in snaps last week, Gaskin looks ready for more. His 12 touches and 72 total yards were career highs, and his cheaper salary (Laird is $4,600) makes him a much better value.
The Bengals are a great team to face, too. They are right behind the Dolphins in RBs points allowed per game (6th) at 28.6. Making Gaskin even more attractive is how those points have been scored. The Bengals have allowed the 4th most rushing yards to RBs, while only giving up the 5th fewest RB targets and 10th fewest RB receptions. Even if Laird remains the main receiving threat between the two, Gaskin could be the more productive overall.
Julio Jones ($8,000) vs. JAX
This isn’t a hard choice to justify. As mentioned above, he is coming off a monster game last week and appears healthy for this game. There will be very little competition for targets here, though seeing 20 again is unlikely. Jones is pricey, but also possibly the second safest WR play of the week for cash games. Stacks with Matt Ryan are in play, though it does take the other top options (CMC and MT) out of play. Use Jones without fear this week.
Keenan Allen ($6,300) vs. OAK
Allen seems to have come out of a rough middle stretch of his schedule and returned to the bargain WR1 he has been in the past. In the last 4 weeks, he has hit 3X twice and just missed out in doing so a 3rd time. He’s had double-digit targets in 3 of 5 and scored in 2 of his last 4. That recent production points to a potential breakout performance on the horizon for Allen. While overall, Oakland is in the middle of the league in terms of points allowed to WRs, several top WRs have had success against them. Just two weeks ago, A.J. Brown toasted the Raiders secondary for a 5/153/2 line. Brown, like Allen, moves around the formation, aligning both out wide and in the slot. The range of outcomes is favorable, with Brown’s day the ceiling and Allen’s 16.6 point day against OAK a reasonable floor, assuming a healthy amount of targets.
Terry McLaurin ($6,200) vs. NYG
Continuing his excellent rookie season, McLaurin makes the DFS player pool facing a vulnerable Giants secondary. McLaurin has an outside chance at 1,000 yards. It would be quite an accomplishment considering only 20 rookie WRs have done it since 1950. Oddly enough, two other rookies have a chance as well, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf. That would make the trio the first since the historic group of Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin (one of those is not like the others). McLaurin could make some nice progress against New York this week.
In the first week since the release of top CB Janoris Jenkins, DeVante Parker scored 23.2 points. McLaurin isn’t as tall as Parker but offers a similar size and speed combination. He should pose the same kind of coverage problems he has all season. He is a bit boom or bust, having scored 3 games in the 20s and 2 under 3 points, but his upside is the type that can win a GPP.
Golden Tate ($4,800) @ WAS
The return of QB Daniel Jones may not provide a net benefit to the Giants, but at least one player will welcome him back. Golden Tate was much better in the games with Jones under center:
Recently, slot WRs have had successful days against the Washington secondary. In Week 15, Greg Ward had a 7/61/1 receiving line, and in Week 13 Curtis Samuel had a similar 4/61/1 game. Tate has the talent to match and surpass that kind of production. Making this matchup even more interesting is the fact that Washington’s two starting CBs are both expected to be out. His floor is concerning, but for his price, he can easily approach 3X value.
Steven Sims Jr. ($4,000) vs. NYG
Yes, it is odd to have so much invested in this WAS/NYG game, but the pricing makes one more player in the game worth mentioning. Steven Sims Jr. is set to be the WR2 for Washington. Trey Quinn has joined Paul Richardson on IR as of Tuesday this week. Sims has seen 18 targets the last two weeks and is ready to fill the Patrick Laird sized void in DFS players’ hearts. Lining up mostly in the slot, Sims can take advantage of the talent deprived Giants’ secondary. The Giants are already bad covering the slot, ranking 6th in points allowed to slot WRs, but losing Jenkins and hanging with McLaurin will push them to the edge.
Zach Ertz ($6,400) vs. DAL
The depth at WR has been depleted so much that Greg Ward is the default WR1. Alshon Jeffrey is on the IR, and Nelson Agholor is questionable to play. Even when healthy he’s questionable at best to catch targets sent his way. Ertz remains the top target for the Eagles in a must-win game. Ertz has seen double-digit targets in 5 of his last 6 games, and temporarily saved Philly’s season with an overtime TD reception against the New York Giants. In that 6 game stretch, he scored 5X twice, 4X once, and just missed out on 2 3X games. He did mix in one baffling single-digit game against Miami, but that is the nature of the TE position in the last two seasons. Dallas allows the 5th most points per game to TEs, making this a nice match of player talent and defensive opportunity.
Mark Andrews ($5,900) @ CLE
It seems odd to consider Andrews a risk, given his production this season, but so much of his production has been TD dependent. Of his 8 games with 10+ points, only one came when he failed to score. Andrews has not seen more than 9 targets in any game, either. The whole Baltimore passing game is such a high-efficiency operation that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Andrews bust. While he is not listed on the injury report, it would make sense for Baltimore to begin to protect their players with the playoffs in mind. Still, he is Lamar Jackson’s preferred red zone target and Cleveland is not an imposing defensive squad.
Jonnu Smith ($3,800) vs. NO
Now only battling Anthony Firkser for TE1 usage, Smith has averaged 14.3 points the last two weeks. Tennessee also worked in a toss sweep play for Smith last week against the Texans, which went for 57 yards. It showed the athletic ability he possesses and a willingness for the Titans to incorporate him into the game plan. If Marshon Lattimore shadows A.J. Brown, Smith is a solid secondary option in the passing game. The Saints have allowed 5 of their last 6 opponents a top 13 or better TE finish. Smith is a solid bet at this price to hit value while also offering significant savings.