- Don't forsake the players who have been daily fantasy stars all year long, but trade-offs are the nature of the game. Our experts reveal their optimal lineups.
The fantasy playoffs have begun in season-long leagues, but in the DFS game we’re prepping for just another week. Of course, it’s one of our last four with a full complement of teams. When we turn to the NFL playoffs, players we love in this game, like David Johnson, LeSean McCoy and Drew Brees, aren’t likely to be available any longer. We need to enjoy them while we can. But is Week 14 a good spot for any of those fantasy stars?
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.
Kirk Cousins (DK: $6,300, FD: $7,600) at Philadelphia
I’m not sure how much more Cousins needs to do to enter the full embrace of the fantasy community. His consensus rank on FantasyPros is QB10 this week, despite the fact that we know volume is never an issue and yards per attempt, the best measure of quarterback efficiency, rarely is. This is a DFS column, so price is, of course, nearly as important, and he’s wildly affordable on both sites this week. Fantasy owners tend to overrate the importance of matchup, but it’s worth pointing out that the Eagles are really no better than league average against quarterbacks from a fantasy perspective, allowing 7.54 YPA and 18 passing touchdowns this season. Cousins hit those per-game averages in his first meeting with the Eagles this year, throwing for 263 yards, 7.74 YPA and two touchdowns. Consider that a floor for him on Sunday.
Le’Veon Bell (DK: $9,000, FD: $9,000) at Buffalo; Todd Gurley (DK: $5,100, FD: $6,900) vs. Atlanta; Tevin Coleman (DK: $4,000, FD: $5,400) at Los Angeles
It’s going to take a lot for me to get away from Bell given what he does every single week. Forget about the touchdowns for a second. He’s averaging 146.4 yards from scrimmage and seven receptions per game. That comes out to 21.64 DK points (before yardage bonuses) and 18.15 FD points per game without getting in the end zone. If he hits those averages and scores one touchdown, he’s a top-five back, at worst. In that scenario, he’s a second touchdown away from being one of the best scorers, regardless of position, if not the top overall scorer for the week. When you start with that scoring floor, price almost doesn’t matter. The over/under on Steelers-Bills is 47, with the Steelers at an implied total of 24.5 points. Bell is going to shine, as he always does.
The same cannot be said for Gurley, who has suffered through a terrible second season in the league. It’ll be interesting to see where he slots on 2017 draft boards, but that’s a discussion for next summer. In the present day, there’s reason to buy into Gurley at his depressed price in Week 14. The Falcons have been terrible against the run this season, allowing the third-most points to running backs. They’ve been burned by backs through the air, allowing a league-high 94 receptions, 779 receiving yards, and five receiving touchdowns to backs. With Benny Cunningham limited by injury, the Rams could finally feature Gurley in the passing game this week. Everything is lined up for him to finally play like a first-round fantasy pick this week.
All but one of Coleman’s four best games this season came when he had a significant role as a receiver. The one that stands out is when he caught four passes for 132 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos, but he also caught five passes for 95 yards against the Buccaneers in Week 1, and three four 47, to go along with three rushing touchdowns, against the Saints in Week 3. This week, Mohamed Sanu is out with a groin injury, and Julio Jones will be limited by turf toe. That should lead to a big receiving role for Coleman, in addition to the work he typically does on the ground. He’s one of the best bargains on both sites.
Mike Evans (DK: $8,900, FD: $8,900) vs. New Orleans; Doug Baldwin (DK: $6,800, FD: $7,000) at Green Bay; Emmanuel Sanders (DK: $5,700, FD: $5,900) at Tennessee; DeSean Jackson (DK: $5,200, FD: $5,800) at Philadelphia
Evans is the chalk play at receiver this week with the Saints coming to Tampa Bay. The over/under on Saints-Buccaneers is 51.5 points, suggesting an environment ripe for scoring. The Buccaneers themselves have an implied total of 27 points, and if they’re able to approach or surpass that number, Evans is likely to be a significant factor. He was a surprising no-show against the Chargers last week, and stars like him have a way of showing up in the first game after a down performance. If you can afford him, which is hard to do alongside Le’Veon Bell on DraftKings, he’s well worth the $8,900.
Baldwin makes both of our lineups this week, and he was nearly joined by his quarterback. Russell Wilson is my No. 1 quarterback for season-long formats, but the price tag attached to Kirk Cousins made him, in my eyes, a better DFS play. Still, I wanted a piece of the Seattle passing game, and Baldwin is the next-best way to get invested. The Packers have struggled with receivers all season, allowing the third-most points to the position. They’ve held receivers entirely out of the end zone in just three games this season: wins over the Jaguars, Bears and Eagles. Those aren’t exactly the league’s best passing offenses. Baldwin presents a particular challenge since he does most of his damage out of the slot. He’s undervalued at his price point this week.
In all of the Titans’ last seven games, the top-scoring receiver against them has put up at least 18.5 DK points and 15.5 FD points. That is a trend that cannot be ignored. Both Sanders and Demaryius Thomas make great plays this week. It’s just a matter of choosing the right one, which will depend largely on your budget. Thomas is a bit more expensive on both sites, and I’m maxed out at other positions that I do not want to change. To be honest, that was the determining factor that led me to Sanders over Thomas. The Broncos’ nominal No. 2 receiver has been more productive this season, especially with Trevor Siemian at the helm.
I had to dig deep for my third receiver on DraftKings this week, and a desire to get another line of investment in the Washington passing game led me to Jackson. I originally had this spot reserved for Jamison Crowder, but at $5,600, he was just a bit too expensive to fit onto the roster. Jackson has been a boom-or-bust player this season, but he has been making the big play with consistency of late, posting a catch of at least 38 yards in three of his last four games. With Jordan Reed likely out again, Jackson should have to play a large role in the Washington offense on Sunday.
Jimmy Graham (DK: $5,500, FD: $6,600) at Green Bay; Ladarius Green (DK: $3,900, FD: $5,800) at Buffalo
Not including the first two weeks of the season, when he was still shaking off the rust, Graham has a touchdown or at least six catches and 60 yards in all but three games this season. He has been the New Orleans version of himself with a touch less of both consistency and ceiling. This version of Graham remains one of the best, most explosive tight ends in the game. Again, this helps make up for not being able to get Russell Wilson in the lineup by securing his top two targets. It’s worth noting that the Packers have allowed the sixth-most points to tight ends.
I couldn’t afford Graham on FanDuel, thanks largely to Le’Veon Bell and Mike Evans, but Green is not a bad consolation prize. He exploded for six catches, 110 yards and a touchdown against the Giants last week, and he should be considered among the best fantasy tight ends for the rest of the season. That wouldn’t be anywhere near a bold statement had he been healthy all season, with his skill set a perfect fit for the elite Pittsburgh offense. For the Steelers and his season-long owners, it’s better late than never. For DFS players, now is a great time to get in while his price tag is still affordable, regardless of what else you have around him.
Dan Bailey (FD: $4,700) at New York Giants
In Bailey, we get one of the best kickers in the league playing in a game with an over/under of 47.5 points in which his team is favored by a field goal. That’s a great recipe for a fantasy kicker.
Jacksonville Jaguars (DK: $2,500, FD: $4,200) vs. Minnesota
Yes, this is an unlikely choice. Consider, however, the following factors. First, the Jaguars are cheap, allowing us to afford players like Le’Veon Bell, Mike Evans, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Second, for all their faults, they have a solid pass rush, registering 26 sacks in 12 games. Third, the Vikings offensive line is a mess, leaving Sam Bradford exposed while failing to open up any significant holes for Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Finally, the over/under on this game is 39.5 points. The Jaguars can lose and still put up a strong defensive performance. If you believe they can pull off the upset, as I do, they become a sneaky choice at a near-minimum price.
QB: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Le’Veon Bell
RB2: Todd Gurley
WR1: Doug Baldwin
WR2: Emmanuel Sanders
WR3: DeSean Jackson
TE: Jimmy Graham
FLEX: Tevin Coleman
DST: Jacksonville Jaguars
QB: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Le’Veon Bell
RB2: Todd Gurley
WR1: Mike Evans
WR2: Doug Baldwin
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders
TE: Ladarius Green
K: Dan Bailey
DEF: Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s the time of year to consider bad weather. That means exercise caution for games in Buffalo, Tennessee, Cleveland, Green Bay and New Jersey. Vegas hasn’t set many high game totals this week, either—only Saints–Bucs is over 50. Note: I’ve had two weeks in a row of QB recommendations that didn’t deliver because of weird circumstances after an outstanding season of predicting that position. So law of averages means I’m gonna nail it this week. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
Kirk Cousins ($7,600 FanDuel, $6,300 DraftKings) at Philadelphia
There are a lot of solid QB plays on the board, and Cousins will be lightly owned. I’m not saying go all in on Cousins. I’m going heavy on him and Drew Brees. But Cousins has 10 TDs and two picks in four games against the Eagles. He was just O.K. in his first meeting with Philadelphia this season (263 yards, two TDs, one INT), but the Eagles’ pass defense has crumbled of late as teams have exposed their subpar corners. The Eagles have been better at home, but it’s unclear whether they’re still all-in on this season.
Alternate: I love that Brees bombed last week in an unusual situation. The Lions kept the ball out of his hands, and the Saints never got momentum going. He’ll bounce back on the road this week. And his opponent, Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, could also have a day. Andrew Luck faces a tough Texans D, but this divisional matchup feels like it will have plenty of points. There’s also the weekly Colin Kaepernick question … he has a great matchup against the Jets at home and should produce.
Jeremy Hill ($6,900 FanDuel, $5,800 DraftKings) at Cleveland
Without A.J. Green and Gio Bernard, the Bengals don’t have many other options. Hill had 23 carries last week against Philly and faces the Browns’ No. 31 run defense. He had 168 yards on nine carries against Cleveland in Week 7.
Thomas Rawls ($6,500 FanDuel, $5,700 DraftKings) at Green Bay
I’m probably not alone chasing Rawls’s big points last week (106 rushing yards and two TDs), but at this price it’s worth the risk in a game that could be decided on the ground.
Alternate: If you want to try a Cousins, Winston or Dalton, you might be able to squeeze in David Johnson—the $9,700 FD, $9,800 DK price will help keep his percentage of play down. Lamar Miller torched the Colts the first time the Texans played Indy and should be a good value. No one is really talking about Ezekiel Elliott this week, but he may put on a show in prime time. And the Bears’ Jordan Howard just runs hard and is fun to have in your lineup.
Mike Evans ($8,900 FanDuel, $8,900 DraftKings) vs. New Orleans
I actually prefer Odell Beckham Jr. against the Cowboys’ 29th-ranked pass defense, but the weather situation scares me as of right now. Stay tuned into Jim Cantore. Evans isn’t a bad consolation prize, and he’s a good way to get into Saints-Bucs. He’s coming off a dud last week against San Diego, so his percentage of play could dip.
T.Y. Hilton ($7,600 FanDuel, $7,500 DraftKings) vs. Houston
The Texans’ secondary is banged up, and the Colts will prioritize freeing up their big-play man in a crucial AFC South showdown.
Golden Tate ($6,300 FanDuel, $6,600 DraftKings) vs. Chicago
Tate was awful earlier in the season against the Bears (one catch, one yard), but he has become much more central to the Lions’ attack due to injuries elsewhere. At this price, he’s well worth an investment because of his propensity for big games, like the one he had last week against the Saints.
Alternate: Beckham will definitely try to make a scene Sunday night in front of the big TV crowd. Ted Ginn Jr. could be a sweet bargain with the Panthers in for a high-scoring game. And keep an eye on Terrelle Pryor, who had chemistry with Robert Griffin III in the preseason.
Tyler Eifert ($6,700 FanDuel, $6,000 DraftKings) at Cleveland
I haven’t played Eifert much this season, but he has TDs in his last two games and is starting to look like last season’s 13-TD fantasy superstar. With no Green and Bernard, Dalton is most comfortable with his talented but brittle TE.
Alternate: Ladarius Green had 110 yards and a TD last week and should do work for Pittsburgh against the Bills. Eric Ebron could easily be the Lions’ go-to guy against the Bears. And Antonio Gates is a great way to buy into that juicy San Diego–Carolina matchup.
Josh Lambo ($4,600 FanDuel) at Carolina
Tried to get a guy playing indoors, but I was priced out. The Chargers should be able to score on the Panthers.
Minnesota Vikings ($4,800 FanDuel, $3,900 DraftKings) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Elite defense vs. Blake Bortles is a no-brainer. Don’t overthink this call.