Daily fantasy picks: Who should you start in Week 15?

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Saturday December 17th, 2016

Le’Veon Bell’s, 298-yard, three-touchdown game against the Bills in Week 14 was felt across the fantasy landscape. If you own him in your season-long league, you are almost certainly in the semifinals this week. If you faced him, your season likely ended in the first round. Bell’s impact was just as strong in the DFS game. He put up 54.8 points on DraftKings and 49.8 points on FanDuel. Unless you were playing in a head-to-head where your opponent didn’t roster him, you likely needed Bell on your team to cash in a DFS contest last week.

Bell is one of the few players in the league who can make his presence a requirement for winning in DFS in a given week. Recency bias will likely drive up Bell’s ownership rate this week, and while he’s always an understandable choice, you may want to go in a different direction at the running back position this week. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing on both sites.

Below are my ideal picks for both DraftKings and FanDuel. I will be playing lineups other than the ones I present here, but these are my go-to lineups for both sites. Be sure to read on and check out Andrew Perloff’s plays, as well.

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Quarterback

Alex Smith (DK: $5,400, FD: $6,800) vs. Tennessee

I know, I know. No one ever wants to trust Alex Smith with his or her DFS fortunes. This is simply too good a setup to ignore at the price, though. Over the last eight weeks, the worst weekly finish by a quarterback against the Titans has been QB13, and they’ve averaged 324 yards. We’re not talking a list made up of solely elite passers, either. Cody Kessler, Blake Bortles, Matt Barkley and Trevor Siemian have all scored at least 20.3 standard-league points against the Titans during the last two months. Smith may not be the No. 1 quarterback this week, but given his price point, he’s going to provide major bang for your buck. The emergence of Tyreek Hill and dominance of Travis Kelce only serve to raise Smith’s ceiling, and Jeremy Maclin’s return can’t hurt, so long as Smith knows where his bread is buttered. If last week is any indication, Smith fully understands that Kelce and Hill are this offense’s best weapons. By rostering Smith, we’re able to pick out stars in multiple running back, wide receiver, and tight end spots, without sacrificing much, if anything, at quarterback.

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Running Backs

LeSean McCoy (DK: $8,900, FD: $9,000) vs. Cleveland  

McCoy is as obvious as a play gets in Week 15. Forget about how great he has been this season for a second. The Browns have surrendered the second most fantasy points to running backs, allowing a 20-point scorer in five of their last seven games. McCoy has topped 100 yards from scrimmage in eight of the last nine games he did not leave early because of injury. The Browns aren’t going to slow him down one bit on Sunday. Another factor in his favor is that the Bills are favored by 10.5 points, and could be pounding the ball on the ground for the entire second half. While everyone else goes for David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, you should go for the guy who is truly the No. 1 back this week, especially after you take the price tag into account.

Latavius Murray (DK: $5,800, FD: $6,800) at San Diego

I’ve been singing Murray’s praises for weeks, and he might be even better in the DFS game than he is in the season-long format. The stats all count the same, but Murray still isn’t getting the respect he deserves in DFS contests in terms of his price. Murray’s rubbing elbows with Spencer Ware and Jeremy Hill on both sites this week, two backs to whom he is clearly superior. Over his last five games, Murray has averaged 18.6 carries and 21 touches per contest. He has turned those into 515 total yards and seven touchdowns. The Raiders have turned Murray into a true workhorse back, and his legs are still relatively fresh for a workhorse at this point of the season, thanks to the committee in the Oakland backfield during the first half of the year. The Chargers have allowed the 10th-most points to running backs this season.

Tevin Coleman (DK: $5,000, FD: $6,500) vs. San Francisco

Coleman checks in as one of the best running back values of the week. Even if Devonta Freeman returns to primacy in the Atlanta backfield on Sunday, Coleman is going to thrive against the 49ers soft run defense. They’ve allowed the most points to running backs this year, and have been an equal opportunity defense, regardless of who’s on the other side of the line. In five games this season, a pair of running back teammates has finished as top-24 backs when playing the 49ers. Freeman and Coleman will do the same, and the latter has the same ceiling as the former, despite coming at a fraction of the price.

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Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (DK: $7,300, FD: $7,700) at Chicago

It is going to be brutally cold in Chicago on Sunday, with a forecasted high temperature of -1 degree, but the Packers offense should be capable of putting that out of its collective mind for three hours. Nelson hasn’t had the same yardage ceiling this year, but he’s scoring touchdowns at the greatest rate of his career, and his on pace to make 15 trips to the end zone this season. The Bears shut him down the first time these teams met, but they will not do the same on Sunday with Green Bay’s offense in its best form of the season.

Dez Bryant (DK: $6,800, FD: $7,500) vs. Tampa Bay

Many of Bryant’s season-long owners bowed out of their playoffs last week, thanks in part to his one-catch 10-yard, one-fumble effort. The silver lining for those who moved on, as well as DFS owners considering him, is that he got 10 targets in the game. Before that, Bryant was on a four-game run during which he racked up 21 catches, 352 yards and four touchdowns. In other words, last week’s lack of production was an anomaly. The Buccaneers offense has made marked improvements over the season, but Bryant should be able to get back on the right path, at least from an individual perspective, against them on Sunday.

Steve Smith (DK: $5,300, FD: $6,200) vs. Philadelphia

I struggled deciding between Smith and teammate Mike Wallace, but I was certain one of the Baltimore receivers would be in my lineup. I ultimately went with the slightly more expensive Smith thanks to his consistency. The Eagles have allowed the fifth-most points to receivers this season. In each of their last nine games, at least one receiver has scored double-digit points against them, with the nine receivers in question averaging 15.1 standard-league points. No team has a higher pass rate than the Ravens 65% this year, and Smith, when healthy is comfortably their lead receiver. The price is right to get him into DFS lineups this week.

Tyreek Hill (DK: $5,700, FD: $6,400) vs. Tennessee

Hill has taken on a crucial role in the Chiefs offense as either the No. 1 or 1a weapon, alongside Travis Kelce, depending on the week. The Chiefs are finding ways to get the ball in his hands at least seven or eight times in every game, and Hill has, more often than not, made good on those touches. The Titans have been one of the pass-friendliest defenses in the league all year, allowing the third-most points to receivers. They’ve let at least one receiver score at least 18.5 full PPR points and 15.5 half PPR points in all of their last eight games. Hill is a better bet than Jeremy Maclin to add his name to that list this week.

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Tight Ends

Travis Kelce (DK: $5,900, FD: $6,900) vs. Tennessee

Kelce is easily the top tight end on the board this week, and thanks to Alex Smith’s cheap salary, I can afford him on FanDuel. Kelce has topped the 100-yard mark in four straight games, making him the third tight end in NFL history with such a streak. The other two are Tony Gonzalez, who did it with the Chiefs in 2000, and Jimmy Graham, who achieved the feat with the Saints in both 2011 and 2013. With the Titans foundering against the pass, it stands to reason that an offense’s most dangerous receiving weapon would thrive in a matchup with them. Even though Tyreek Hill has turned into a serious threat, Kelce is undoubtedly the team’s best pass-catcher. He has a great chance to extend that 100-yard streak to five games on Sunday.

Ladarius Green (DK: $3,700, FD: $5,600) at Cincinnati

If you cannot afford Kelce, which was my case on DraftKings, Green makes a great pivot. He flopped last week, catching two passes for 25 yards in the Steelers 27-20 win over the Bills. The good news was that he got six targets while playing just 28 snaps. Green’s usage is through the roof, with the big tight end netting 26 targets on 97 snaps, translating to a 26.8% target per snap rate. Mike Evans, who leads the NFL in targets, has had the ball thrown his way on 18.3% of his targets this season. Green’s incredibly high usage rate owes in part to small sample size, but the fact remains that Ben Roethlisberger looks his way whenever he’s on the field. He’s a great cheap option at the position this week.

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Kicker

Kai Forbath (FD: $4,500) vs. Indianapolis

Forbath is 10 for 10 on field goals since joining the Vikings, with four of those coming from 40 yards or longer. He’s the minimum price for a kicker this week, and the Vikings have an implied team total of 24.75 points this week. That’s good enough for him to get into the FanDuel lineup.

Defense/Special Teams

New York Giants (DK: $2,900, FD: $4,600) vs. Detroit

A strong pass rush is the surest path to consistent fantasy scoring, and the Giants rank 12th in the league with 30 sacks on the year. Even without Jason Pierre-Paul, who will miss the rest of the regular season after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia, the Giants pass rush can give the Lions offensive line fits. The Lions have allowed the 30 sacks on the year, which also ranks 12th most in the league. The over/under on this game opened at 44 but is down to 41, a signal that the betting sharps expect a low-scoring game. With the Giants favored by four and playing at home, the formula is perfect for their defense to show up with a big fantasy day.

DraftKings lineup:

QB: Alex Smith

RB1: LeSean McCoy

RB2: Latavius Murray

WR1: Jordy Nelson

WR2: Steve Smith

WR3: Tyreek Hill

TE: Ladarius Green

FLEX: Tevin Coleman

DST: New York Giants

FanDuel lineup:

QB: Alex Smith

RB1: LeSean McCoy

RB2: Latavius Murray

WR1: Jordy Nelson

WR2: Dez Bryant

WR3: Steve Smith

TE: Travis Kelce

K: Kai Forbath

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Andrew Perloff

Bad weather and bad QB matchups seem to narrow the choices this week. The Pats have to deal with Denver’s no fly zone defense…the Packers are playing the coldest game ever…the Colts and Titans face stiff defenses. I can’t wait to try out guys I haven’t used most of the season. I’m such a nerd. Note: This is all built around using questionable Charles Clay at TE, so watch the injury news.​

Quarterback

Derek Carr ($7,900 FanDuel, $6,300 DraftKings)

With multiple lineups, I’m alternating between Oakland’s Carr and his opposing QB, Philip Rivers. Both could have big afternoons on a sunny day in San Diego. Carr is coming off a bad outing against the Chiefs, which could keep a lot of people off him. But I’m looking big picture with everything he’s done this season and think this could be the highest scoring game of the day.

Alternates

In addition to Rivers, it’s always a good idea to invest in the QB facing the Browns. Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor has been OK, but could easily end up with one of the top five QB scores of the week.

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Running backs

David Johnson ($9,800 FanDuel, $10,100)

A cheap tight end option below let me spend like crazy and nab the running-catching fantasy superstar. He’s coming off a disappointment and is still crazy expensive, so hopefully people will be off him a bit.  

Carlos Hyde ($7,000 FanDuel, $5,900 DraftKings)

The Niners back broke out last week against the Jets with 193 rushing yards. This game should play out much differently. But Hyde will still be on the field even if the Niners fall behind. And Atlanta’s defense gives up fantasy points – especially in the pass game.

Alternate: The two Falcons backs could go off against the NinersDevonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. But which one do you choose? I used both in various lineups. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Ezekiel Elliott and he faces a red-hot Bucs defense. But the Cowboys are back home and super-motivated to get their star rookie the ball.

Wide receivers

Emmanuel Sanders ($6,600 FanDuel, $6,600 DraftKings)

The Broncos WR has had nine or more targets six weeks in a row and 100 receiving yards or more two of the last three weeks. The Patriots defense is tough against the run, but middle of the pack against the pass.

Taylor Gabriel ($5,800 FanDuel, $5,600 DraftKings)

Assuming Julio Jones is still out (why would they play him in this game?), this is a good week to try out the Falcons third-year receiver if you haven’t yet. Wide receivers have thrashed the Niners. Gabriel, who’s always had killer speed, is coming into his own.

Odell Beckham Jr. ($8,600 FanDuel, $8,000 DraftKings)

This fell into my lap in FanDuel and to be honest, I just don’t love any of the top receiversor the guys a level below. So why not stick with the Giants’ only real offensive option. Eli Manning is much better at home and will score on the Lions defense. 

Alternate: The Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas is a good play for the same reasons as Sanders. The Titans’ Rishard Matthews is a juicy bargain on both sites. And I actually am sneaking in some Stefon Diggs this week because he is getting healthier and is still priced at a slightly injured rate.

Tight End

Charles Clay ($4,500 FanDuel, $2,800 DraftKings)

My guy Tyler Eifert struggled against the Steelers last season so I'm gonna bargain hunt here. That means dipping my toes into the Clay pool. The Bills tight end has been a disappointment this season, but he faces a Browns team that allows the most points to TEs.

Alternate: I'll also have Travis Kelce exposure with a good matchup against the Titans in lineups where I go a bit cheaper at RB. Steelers tight end Ladarius Green burned a lot of people last week so his percentage should dip enough to make him interesting in tournament play against a Bengals D that can't stop tight ends. And don't ignore Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph playing indoors against the Colts.

Kicker​

Matt Bryant ($5,100 FanDuel)

I just have a lot of money left and am able to go inside in what could be a high-scoring game.

Defense

Baltimore Ravens ($4,700 FanDuel, $3,100 DraftKings)

Something tells me the Eagles have sort of given up and have their eyes on the future. Add in a little weather and a desperate Ravens defense feels right.

Alternate:The Bills could feast on the Browns’ offensive ineptitude and the Falcons have a good chance of following up on last week’s monster effort with a big game against the Niners.

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