The end is near. Christmas is coming and so is playoff football, meaning, the regular DFS season for football will be ending soon too. Four weeks left and hopefully your lineups have been more nice than naughty. As a kid, we rarely got everything we wanted on Christmas, but sometimes the surprises were just as good. In DFS, we’re now in the part of the season with new value popping up every day. The last few weeks have seen a lot of player’s opportunities change. The best thing we can do, is stay on top of the news, and try to understand how we can leverage any change on the depth chart.
I’ve included some DFS surprises on the list this week. The players listed are people we either gave up on, or who have seen their circumstances recently improve. Stay sharp and good luck this week.
DFS Targets: Week 14
Josh Allen, vs. NYJ ($5,500)
Back to back weeks of 6X fantasy point production has led to another price increase for the rookie. His career day last week at $5,300 meant he was virtually guaranteed to set new career high for salary. This is just the third time all year that Allen has been over $5,000, and he still could be a significant value as QB19. As the best combination of good match up and recent results, his $200 price increase could look minor compared to what it might be for Week 15.
After missing a good chunk of the middle part of the season to an elbow injury, Allen has stormed back with two great weeks. In Week 12, against a still frisky Jacksonville Jaguars defense, the rookie put up 26.3 points on a line of 160/1/0 while adding another 99 yards and a TD rushing. At the time it was this second best game of the season. Until one week later, when it got bumped down to third. In Week 13, Allen passed for 231 and 2 TDs while again running wild, tacking on another 135. His 33.74 point total was the best of his young career.
Obviously, the main driver of that value is the rushing work. The combined 234 rushing yards the last two weeks is a higher total than all but two RBs, Philip Lindsay and Lamar Miller. That is unsustainable, but also has been necessary for his team’s success. In both Weeks 12 and 13, Allen has been the best rusher on the field for the Bills, showing the athleticism that helped drive is draft stock up in April. We’ve seen him as a willing runner in college. In his red-shirt sophomore season, Allen averaged just over 10 rushing attempts per game and a little more than 37 yards per game. Right now, with his recent elbow troubles, he seems to trust his legs just as much as his arm.
Looking at Allen’s game log, there are some confusing results. His two best games both came on the road, despite being slightly better overall at home. And two of his highest point totals have come against good, aggressive units that were mostly healthy at the time, Jacksonville and Minnesota. This week’s opponent is not an intimidating matchup on paper. Right now, they average 19.1 points per game to QBs putting them 17th. However, the Jets have allowed the eighth most rushing yards as a team. Allen should still see good running lanes open for him.
If he can continue to improve on his passing (which looked much better last week after shaking off some rust in Week 12), Allen is in good shape to take advantage of a team without much to play for. The Jets season is lost, and the only thing at stake is draft position. I expect the home team with the much better defense to put up points, with the knowledge that Allen will be prominently involved in their production.
Jeff Wilson Jr., vs. DEN ($3,800)
As a warning, most of this whole player section will be short. That is entirely because Jeff Wilson Jr. barely has any profile to speak of. In DraftKings, he’s only been in the player pool for one week, making him one of the rare players to see game action without a price. Priced for the first time in Week 13, he was just the position minimum, $3,000. A very productive week later, and now things are aligned for him to be the starting RB for only $3,800. The RB48 will likely be one of 32 starting RBs this week. Obviously, this is bargain pricing at this position, and should not be ignored.
So far, so good for Wilson. A rookie RB from the University of North Texas, Wilson did not seem likely to see much run this year. After being signed off the practice squad, he was installed as the backup to Matt Breida for the 49ers game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What was interesting right away, was the fact that veteran RB Alfred Morris was a healthy scratch in that game. In Week 13, Breida tweaked his previously injured ankle, and missed most of the game. Wilson stepped right in and was more than effective. Running for 61 yards on the ground and more impressively catching eight passes for another 73, Wilson finished with 20.4 points after losing a fumble.
Looking at this college numbers, this kind of production makes some sense. He was a very effective runner, and showed flashes of solid pass catching ability when called to do so. His scouting report highlights his feel for finding space, and hinted at his pass catching potential. It also mentioned his trouble with ball control. In his college career he had 17 total fumbles, losing 11. That might keep his leash short in different circumstances, but on this team now, it likely won’t matter. Head coach Kyle Shanahan knows what Morris is, and chose to sit him for the last two weeks. Now, with Wilson likely to be installed as the starter, that faith in the rookie won’t be erased with a turnover or two. His pass catching ability makes him more likely to see significant work in this game anyway.
The Denver Broncos right in the middle of the league in terms of points per game allowed to RBs. At 25.4, they rank as the 17th most generous defense for RBs. The best thing going for Wilson and the 49ers are the names on the Broncos’ injury report. With WR Emmanuel Sanders going down earlier in the week, the offense will be pressed to replace his production. The offense has been very efficient, with Philip Lindsay leading an excellent backfield, but losing Sanders, and TE Jeff Heuerman the week before, might be too much for them to overcome.
If sustained offense from the Broncos can’t keep the 49ers off the field, the defense will be asked to do more. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big problem but this week is different. Denver has already ruled DBs Chris Harris Jr., Tramaine Brock, and Shaquil Barrett out. Starting LB, Brandon Marshall is also listed as questionable with a knee injury. The Broncos can still rely on a good pass rush upfront, but I’m betting Shanahan can scheme around some of that. San Francisco is one of the most offensively balanced teams, averaging just 5.75 more pass attempts per game than rush attempts. Volume will not be an issue for Wilson, who should see the majority of work Sunday.
Zay Jones, vs. NYJ ($4,200)
A WR1 priced way down as the WR54, Jones is ready to fully embrace his lead WR role. His production had seen him overtake the other WRs on the Bills in recent weeks, but now with Kelvin Benjamin gone, he is the undisputed top guy. Zay received a $600 price increase over last week, cracking the $4,000 salary barrier for the first time this season. Jones will not be a great play every week, but this should be a good one for him.
For Jones, the last three weeks have been an example of where he can go, and how far that destination can seem. In Weeks 10 and 13 he scored more than 20 points and was a typical WR1. He averaged 10 targets, and a receiving line of 6/80/1.5, good for 23.0 points. Unfortunately, Week 12 was in between. In that match up against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he only had one target and was shut out for the game. No, he wasn’t hurt, in fact, he had his highest snap percentage of the season, playing 55 total snaps and 94.8% of the offensive plays the Bills ran. He was just shut down by Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, and company.
Thankfully, Jones was able to bounce back with a great game against the Miami Dolphins on the road. Jones found the end zone three times in the game, twice for touchdowns and one two point conversion. This was important for DFS purposes obviously, but there was a real world concern as well. The other 20+ point game Jones had this year was with QB Matt Barkley. With Josh Allen back, Jones was able to show good chemistry with the rookie, setting up the connection Buffalo hopes will become the centerpiece of the offense. They are so invested in it that they released two veteran WRs this week, and seem ready to roll with Jones, Robert Foster, Deonte Thompson, and Isaiah McKenzie.
Lucky for that new group, this week’s opponent is less than stellar in pass coverage. The Jets give up the second most points per game to WRs, with 42.7. They have allowed the fourth most receiving yards to WRs, though the teams in second, third, and fourth are separated by two yards. Also important to figure into the scoring is that NY has given up the fourth most receptions to WRs. There will be decent volume in the pass game for Buffalo. This will be crucial for Jones, and his team leading WOPR from Week 10 to now.
Jones has been moved all over the field for the Bills, and should benefit from Robert Foster being given more work with Benjamin gone. Allen has been most effective in the shorter and intermediate zones where Jones has thrived so far. This connection should be a good one for Buffalo.
Demaryius Thomas, vs. IND ($4,100)
Even cheaper than Zay, at WR54, is Demaryius Thomas, priced at WR58. Just $4,100, Thomas is at a season low this week. This follows an overall downward trend for Thomas’ price this year. While he has mixed in a few good weeks, his production has dropped off this year. Thomas has been such a disappointment for so many people this year, that I don’t expect his ownership to crack double digits. While I don’t love Thomas, I do believe the hate has gone too far.
Since his trade to Houston, Thomas hasn’t quite caught on like some of the other big names to move this year. But, things have been slowly improving. Each of the last two weeks Thomas has seen 5 targets. In Week 12, Thomas caught two touchdowns, both in the red zone. Just about a month in, he’s just one red zone look behind Coutee and Will Fuller. Since joining the Texans, Thomas has been only behind Hopkins in receiving yards, targets, receptions, and air yards. The main thing holding back Thomas has been a resurgent rushing attack eating into the passing volume.
He has yet to go for more than 61 yards or four receptions for Denver, but he is in a good position to beat both of those marks Sunday. DeAndre Hopkins and Keke Coutee are both banged up, and will not be 100% by game time. Coutee and his hamstring issue are particularly worrisome, as his hamstrings have already caused him to miss time. Any increase in volume will benefit Thomas, who has been fed targets at times. Some of those looks were scripted into the game plan. Now, having been in Houston for a month, he is getting more familiar with their system.
There is real shootout potential to this game. There are six games left on the slate that currently have a game total above 50, including this one. Of the six, three have seen the total drop from the opening line, one stayed the same, and two went up. ATL/GB and IND/HOU have seen bettors hitting the over, causing both lines to be bumped up.
Should this game turn into a showcase for QBs Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck, the WRs on both teams stand to benefit. Indy has starting RCB Nate Hairston listed as questionable, as are two starting defensive tackles, Margus Hunt and Denico Autry. Any shortage of defenders will be bad for Indy facing the hottest team in the league.
Ian Thomas, @CLE ($2,700)
This week will be just the fifth time all season that Thomas has been priced above the $2,500 tight end minimum. On the main slate, his $2,700 price ranks him as TE23. On the year, $2,700 isn’t even his highest price. Every other time he has been priced above the minimum, he’s been more expensive than he is this week. When Greg Olsen missed time earlier this year, Thomas saw modest price bumps of only $300 or $400 dollars over the minimum. Here, it’s even less. As a long shot option, Thomas offers up some interesting upside at a very low price.
Thomas is fresh off of a career day in Carolina’s Week 13 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finished with a line of 5/46 on 5 targets, in a game where Olsen was playing but left early. In games where he started or Olsen left early, Thomas averages a line of 3.25/28.5. On its own, that’s not a great floor, but Thomas has solid potential. Most of those came early in the year, when Thomas was still adjusting to the pro game. Week 13 was his best game, and showed the improvement of his skill set, but also his understanding of the offense.
For the year, in the three starts Thomas made in Weeks 2, 3, and 5, and filling in for Olsen in Week 13, Thomas has had some solid opportunities. He had more targets and receptions than anyone besides Devin Funchess. Lately, Funchess has fallen out of favor in the offense, with D.J. Moore becoming the defacto WR1. Thomas also was the only target (besides Olsen who had one target in Week 13) to not score a TD. Scores should be coming for Thomas, and he gets a decent amount of volume.
With that volume, Thomas is in a good spot against Cleveland. The Browns give up the fifth most points per game to TEs (15.5). That production has come despite only facing two of the top players at the position, Travis Kelce and Jared Cook. It’s been a collection of average Joes driving the production against them. Additionally, they have allowed the most receptions on the most targets to TEs. This is a defense that has fed targets to the TE spot. Combine that with this fact from Pro Football Focus, “When the Panthers are in the red zone, Cam Newton has an adjusted completion percentage of 84.8%, which is the best for all quarterbacks this season.” The Browns should be giving looks to Thomas all day and his QB is the best in the league in the red zone. For a barely above minimum priced option, Thomas is a solid dart throw option.