There are no guarantees in life, and that certainly applies to fantasy sports as well. With Week 13 starting the fantasy playoffs, chances are the majority of you are done with fantasy football. But DFS never takes a week off. To paraphrase the great warrior, Kyle Reese: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop…ever.” DFS can be a just like a Terminator on Sundays, but with a little work, and some luck, you can make it through.
As a way to help you survive, I am back to offer up some cheap value options for DFS consideration. These plays aren’t meant to be chalk plays that should absolutely be used; instead, these are cheap options that can help you pay up elsewhere. There’s some good value available this week, and more is sure to emerge before Sunday. Good luck, and remember, “There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
DFS Targets: Week 13
Baker Mayfield, @HOU ($5,600)
One of the hottest QBs right now, Baker is priced in the middle tier of options. Priced as the QB16, Baker is again under-priced. After back to back weeks of setting new career high fantasy scores, his price has only increased by $100. The pricing for Mayfield would make more sense if Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were still both still in town. Since their departure, Baker has looked like a new man, or like the man who ran through college opposition last year. He offers a significant value this week, and could be a nice pivot off of higher-priced, likely chalk a la Cam Newton or Jared Goff.
There has been so much to like about the recent performances of Baker. Since the coaching change in Cleveland, he has established himself as the class of the rookie QBs. He has scored 20+ points in back to back weeks, and has a 113 QB rating over his last five games. In that same span of games, he has a 13/2 TD to INT ratio. New OC, Freddie Kitchens has worked with Baker and maximized his existing skills. Now, Baker has seen faster throws become a point of emphasis. This has helped boost Baker’s production across the board, and kept him upright. Since Kitchens’ arrival, Mayfield has only been sacked twice, and none in the last two games Cleveland’s played.
As exciting as Baker’s recent success has been, there is still room for improvement. For all his recent success, Mayfield hasn’t thrown for over 300 yards since Week 5. This week will be a test, as Houston is the best defense Kitchens and Baker have faced together in their new roles. The floor for Baker should be solid, and the ceiling is easily within reach for him. Once Jarvis Landry gets back on the same page as Baker, the sky is the limit for Mayfield.
Houston will be tough, but there is room for optimism here. The Texans have been able to pounce on poor passing offenses, holding the Dallas Cowboys (pre-Amari), Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Washington Redskins to under 200 yards passing within the last two months. But they’ve also given up 250+ to Tennessee, Miami, and Denver since Week 8; not exactly a who’s who of powerhouse offenses. The two best weapons on Houston’s defense, Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt can be neutralized through Cleveland’s continued use of a quick passing game. Njoku could be especially useful, as Houston ranks 31st in DVOA covering the TE.
I wouldn’t be scared off of Baker because of this matchup. Chubb and Kitchens have helped Baker unlock his potential, and that should continue this week. Consider Baker if you want to pay down a bit at QB this week, and enjoy the show he and Deshaun Watson put on.
Gus Edwards, @ATL ($4,800)
It has been a sudden rise to prominence for Gus Edwards. He’s gone from not even being a listed player, to minimum pricing, to RB28 in less than two months. His current price is a new high for him, and is a $400 increase over his previous high last week. While that may seem jarring, given his workload the last two weeks, he is still a bargain. Edwards’ ascension up the depth chart has led to his hefty two-week jump, but he is still one of the lowest lead backs on the slate. This pricing for him allows for a great bit of roster flexibility while sacrificing nothing in terms of production. Use Edwards in any format this week, and reap the rewards.
After a brief audition in a 21-0 win over the Titans back in Week 6, Edwards disappeared. The next three weeks only saw Gus receive a total of six touches in three losses. Following Baltimore’s bye week, Edwards took advantage of Collins’ slow start against the Cincinnati Bengals, and ran with the opportunity. Since halftime of that game, Collins has seen one carry, and suddenly the NFL has a new RB nicknamed “The Bus.” Like the previous Bus, Edwards displays good power in a thick frame. Totaling 233 yards on 40 carries, Gus has been a great compliment to new QB Lamar Jackson. The two have teamed up to return an energy to Baltimore that had been lacking with Joe Flacco starting. If he can continue to average 18.65 points, he will be a huge value.
What might be the most impressive thing about Edwards’ production, is how ordinary it seems. His production hasn’t been driven by fluky, chunk plays or crazy game scripts. Despite his 5.8 ypc average over the last two games, Edwards rates as one of the least efficient running backs per NFL Next Gen Stats efficiency rating. Among backs seeing a minimum of 10 carries, he was the least efficient back in Week 11, and 9th least efficient in Week 12. Part of that could be due to offensive line play, but it hints at untapped potential that the undrafted free agent back has yet to draw upon. Edwards will be the feature back again this week, with Alex Collins unlikely to play. There is no real competition for work, with recent acquisition Ty Montgomery as the back with the most work since Edwards took over against the Bengals. Expect bell cow work from Edwards this week, in another nice match up.
Perhaps Edwards’ recent success is a mirage; fueled by the lack of familiarity teams have on new starting QB Lamar Jackson and two bad rushing defenses. If that’s the case, then this week shouldn’t see a major difference in results. The Atlanta Falcons are another bad rush defense, and are tied with Cincinnati for second in points per game allowed to RBs (33.4). The Falcons have already allowed the eighth most rushing yards and TDs. The ground game and ball control will be the easiest path to success for Baltimore, who will be traveling to Atlanta where the Falcons have scored 30+ points in four of six games. A conservative game plan should lead to a nice workload against a bad rush defense for Edwards. That is a nice set up for him to hit value and much more again this week.
Adam Humphries, vs. CAR ($4,200)
A bargain price for Humphries pushes him down well below his recent production, at WR55. Even with that low ranking, this is a season high price for him. After several weeks of crushing value while being priced below $4,000, DraftKings has bumped him up for the third week in a row. This pricing would suggest that Adam has been an occasional contributor, and not stepped at the WR2 for one of the most pass happy offenses in the league. Don’t fall into the same trap as DK, and assume that Desean Jackson is a better option, especially since he’s been ruled out this week. If you want cheap exposure to the game with best shootout potential, this is it.
The passing volume that Tampa Bay provides has made Humphries a very legitimate fantasy asset. As a team, TB has the second most pass attempts, by far the most yards, and the fourth most passing TDs. In that environment, Adam has been especially productive in the last five games. During that time, Humphries has scores of 17.4, 15.0, 7.3, 28.9, and 14.6. The only piece of the Tampa offense that wasn’t involved during part of that stretch of games is O.J. Howard. Humphries has managed those numbers with Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, and Chris Godwin all playing in each of those games. That production isn’t a matter of filling in for a rotation of injured players, just ineffective ones. The single game where he was held to single digit points was the only week Chris Godwin outscored him, in Week 10 against Washington. Godwin was actually the highest scoring WR in that game, also beating Mike Evans.
Even the bizarre back and forth that QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston have been engaged in has not affected Humphries. If it does worry you, Humphries is averaging 12.1 with Jameis as opposed to 11.14 with Fitzmagic/tragic. Don’t let the craziness of that situation scare you off some cheap WR production.
Thanks to Tampa Bay’s relaxed policy on playing defense, this game figures to be a shootout. Currently the odds have this game with a 54.5 point total, the third highest total left to play. A majority of those points should come through the air, and Carolina has been bad versus WRs all year. Currently allowing the ninth most points to WRs, Humphries in particular has a nice match up with Captain Munnerlyn, Pro Football Focus’ lowest rated starting CB on Carolina. Jameis would do well to exploit that pairing, especially considering the 115 passer rating Humphries has on 38 targets from Winston. That number is by far the best mark for a TB WR, more than 20 points higher than the next best WR, Mike Evans. Get some Humphries exposure this week.
Curtis Samuel, @TB ($3,900)
If you thought Humphries was cheap, as the WR55, then let me tell you about Curtis Samuel. Just $3,900, Samuel is the WR68 on the full DraftKings slate this week. This is about as good a value as you’ll find in most weeks. Samuel is actually at his highest price of the season, by $100, but hasn’t seen the kind of increase you would expect given his recent run of scores. My guess is that DraftKings is scared off by the volume, or lack thereof, and has kept Samuel’s price down. Whatever the reason, you stand to benefit in a major way this weekend.
The discussion of Samuel’s production has to start with his absurd TD rate. He now has six TDs on the season on only 24 touches. This has helped drive his scoring, especially in his last four games, when he’s scored four times and hit double-digit points in three out of four. His production has come on the ground and in the air, as he has been the recipient of some pretty good play design by offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Of the six TDs Samuel has scored, two have come via a rushing attempt. As a receiver, Samuel has seen the same number of targets since Week 9 as Funchess, and caught five more passes. His share of the air yards and targets are the lowest of the three top WRs, but he has been so good with the ball in hand that he is a very close second in fantasy points to D.J. Moore. We’ve already seen Samuel burn TB with limited work in Week 9. He scored a season high 19.8 points and scored twice on three touches. He’s a dangerous weapon, no matter how much work he gets.
This production had led many to question head coach Ron Rivera’s usage of Samuel, but that was less of an issue last week when he received a season high 54 snaps. While his touches were down, at least he was on the field. Should Devin Funchess miss another game this week, Samuel should see another significant work load. And those opportunities could be especially useful against Tampa this week.
Here we are, once again talking about Tampa Bay’s strange, pathological aversion to covering slot receivers. This was true in Week 9, but a stretch of accidental competence has made this match up look less inviting on paper. After Samuel beat TB earlier, they faced off against Mo Harris, Sterling Shepard (in a bad Eli game), and Dante Pettis. Pettis had a good game, going for 17.7 points, so don’t think that recent averages mean that TB has fixed this problem. What makes this even more advantageous for DFS players is the injury report for Tampa. There are three CBs that did not participate in practice at all on Friday. The three missing? Just the three projected starters, Brent Grimes, Carlton Davis, and MJ Stewart. Grimes is the only one that hasn’t already been ruled out, but he’s questionable and hasn’t been very effective even when healthy. There are heavy doors that offer more resistance than this secondary, and Carolina should destroy whoever is out there.
Kyle Rudolph, @NE ($3,600)
I will say, if there is a week to pay up for tight end because of serious savings to be had elsewhere, this is it. There is a ton of WR and RB value floating around, and anyone who has been burned by TE roulette this year might want to opt out for a week. But, if you want to cram in as many top options as possible, there is one sub $4,000 who really stands out. Kyle Rudolph is priced as the TE17 on the full slate this week. This is almost a season low for Rudolph; he’s been cheaper only once. He has not been the same guy we’ve seen in the past, but his results from last week and match up offer a good value play.
It’s been ugly for Rudolph this year. His receptions and yardage are actually above his 2017 season numbers, on a per game basis. Where he has really dropped off is in TD production. Only with two through 11 games, he is on pace for his least TDs since a 9 game season in 2014. He has 11 red zone targets on the season, which is, again, above his rate from last year, but has not been able to convert those looks into scores. So it was encouraging to see Rudolph hit double digits last week, without relying on a TD to boost his production. His 7/63 line was his best receiving day since Week 2, when he went 7/72. If he can continue to factor into Minnesota’s offense, he is positioned nicely to have a productive day.
Here is what drives the interest in Rudolph this week. The New England Patriots allow the fifth most points per game to tight ends. That is bad enough, but looking at the players who have managed to hurt them makes it seem even worse. Guys like Trey Burton, Eric Ebron, and Jonnu Smith have combined to really hurt NE. Despite the breakout season from Ebron, that’s not a murderer’s row of TEs ripping through the NE defense. Rudolph is more talented than all of those players, and is in a very good offense that is getting fully healthy. Head coach Bill Belichick will devise ways to remove Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen from the game plan as best as he can. NE loves to force teams third or fourth options beat them, but Rudolph as the skills and the match up to do it.