Daily fantasy picks: Who should you start in Week 17?

Fantasy
Daily Fantasy Football: Players to embrace and avoid for Week 17
Friday December 30th, 2016

Most season-long fantasy football leagues end in Week 16 for a reason. The Week 17 schedule is always a little screwy, with playoff-bound teams resting starters and eliminated teams allowing players with the slightest injuries to start their off-seasons one week early. We can avoid those issues in the DFS game by sidestepping teams that will treat Week 17 as a glorified exhibition game. That means teams like the Steelers, Texans, Cowboys and Giants, to name a few, are off-limits for fantasy owners this week. Instead, you want to focus all your resources on teams and players with something on the line.

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

Aaron Rodgers (DK: $7,700, FD: $8,800) at Detroit

Rodgers playing in a prime-time game with the NFC North crown and a playoff game at Lambeau Field at stake? Yes, please. Rodgers was the first player I put in my lineups on both sites, and as I was tinkering I did not for a second consider removing him. He has been on fire since the middle of November, throwing for 2,089 yards, 8.26 yards per attempt, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions over his last seven games. The first time the Packers played the Lions this year, Rodgers threw for four touchdowns in the first half, and the only reason he didn’t throw more was because the Packers took their foot off the gas, almost to their detriment. That won’t be the case on Sunday night. Rodgers will deliver on his hefty price tag.

Running Backs

David Johnson (DK: $9,800, FD: $9,300) at Los Angeles; Devonta Freeman (DK: $7,000, FD: $8,000) vs. New Orleans; Jacquizz Rodgers (DK: $4,900, FD: $5,200) vs. Carolina; Alex Collins (DK: $4,600, FD: $5,800) at San Francisco

Johnson’s assault on the league comes to an end on Sunday, when the Cardinals visit the Rams. Johnson has been one of the lone bright spots in a disappointing year for the Cardinals, and he will end the season as the top-scoring running back or receiver in all fantasy leagues. He has also likely turned himself into the most popular No. 1 pick in all draft formats in 2017. Johnson is going to keep on doing what he has done all season, providing a floor of about 25 points on both sites, and there’s a realistic possibility he surpasses 30.

I couldn’t afford Johnson on DraftKings, but Freeman is not a bad fallback option this week. You’re going to want some investment in Saints-Falcons, and this won’t be the last time someone from that game is mentioned. Freeman has had an excellent season, running for 983 yards, catching 49 passes for 381 yards and scoring 12 total touchdowns, even as Tevin Coleman has carved out a significant role in the Atlanta offense. The Falcons need to win to lock up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye on the NFC side of the playoff bracket, so they’ll be full systems go on Sunday. The over/under is a ridiculous 56.5, the highest total of the season.

Our next two backs are a couple of value options who should get a ton of volume this week. Let’s start with Rodgers, who will be all alone in Tampa Bay’s backfield with Doug Martin suspended and Charles Sims on IR. Rodgers has had at least 15 carries in four games this season. In those four games, he has racked up 387 rushing yards and two touchdowns, averaging 16.45 DraftKings points (before bonuses) and 15.33 FanDuel points per game. Chances are he’ll push up near 20 touches against the Panthers, a team that has played its best football in the second half of the season but can still be beaten on the ground. Rodgers’s first game in the spotlight earlier this season was against Carolina, and he totaled 129 yards from scrimmage. He should turn a big profit this week.

Next up is Collins, who will handle the bulk, and potentially all, of the work out of the Seattle backfield. Thomas Rawls suffered a shoulder injury last week, and while the team doesn’t believe the injury is serious, it’s likely he’ll be kept in mothballs until the playoffs. Collins, a rookie out of Arkansas, looked good in relief of Rawls last week, running for 28 yards on seven carries and catching four passes for 19 yards. Every fantasy owner knows about the 49ers’ struggles defending the run. Collins has an opportunity to be the latest running back to gash the Niners, and he comes at as cheap a price as you’ll find for a back likely to handle 15 to 20 touches.

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Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (DK: $8,100, FD: $8,200) at Detroit; Doug Baldwin (DK: $7,200, FD: $7,100) at San Francisco; Michael Thomas (DK: $6,700, FD: $6,700) at Atlanta; Cameron Meredith (DK: $5,200, FD: $5,800) at Minnesota

Just like Rodgers was in my lineups immediately, so, too, was his No. 1 receiver. Nelson is having an incredible season in his return from a torn ACL, catching 91 passes for 1,191 yards and 14 touchdowns while playing all 15 games so far. Unless disaster strikes, he will notch his third career 1,200-yard, 13-touchdown season, which will make him just the fifth receiver in league history with three such seasons. You’ve likely heard of the other four: Lance Alworth, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Nelson gave the Lions fits the first time these teams met, catching six of his seven targets for 101 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions won’t have any easier a time slowing him down on Sunday night.

I don’t have enough cash for Baldwin on DraftKings, but he makes the FanDuel lineup this week. He had one of his best games of the season when the Seahawks and 49ers played in Week 3, hauling in eight of 11 targets for 164 yards and a touchdown. His production has been more boom-or-bust than last season, but he already has new career highs in receptions (92) and yards (1,084). The Seahawks can get a first-round bye with a win over the Niners, coupled with a Falcons loss to the Saints. Anyone playing DFS this week has to like backing a motivated Seahawks team in San Francisco.

Here we find another line of investment into Saints-Falcons with Thomas. You really can’t go wrong with either him or Brandin Cooks, but you likely want at least one in your lineup. I favored Thomas mostly because he was a few hundred dollars cheaper on both sites. The Ohio State product has put together a phenomenal rookie season, catching 82 passes for 981 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. The first time the Saints played the Falcons this year, he caught seven of 11 targets for 71 yards and his first career touchdown.

Finally, Meredith makes a great value play, a necessity after paying up for the likes of Rodgers, Johnson (on FanDuel), Freeman (on DraftKings), Nelson and Thomas. Meredith has found his groove again over the last three weeks, catching 24 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. That translates to 22.37 DraftKings points per game (before bonuses) and 18.37 FanDuel points per game. He has done nearly all his work out of the slot, which means he’ll avoid Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota’s star corner. He should once again be right at the center of the Bears’ passing attack.

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Tight End

Eric Ebron (DK: $3,600, FD: $5,800) vs. Green Bay

The Lions have just as much to play for as the Packers on Sunday night, so it makes sense to pair one of their pass catchers with Rodgers and Nelson. Ebron satisfies that while helping us save money at tight end. He had one of his best games of the season last week, catching eight of 12 targets for 93 yards. The Packers have allowed the fourth-most passing yards overall and ninth-most receiving yards to tight ends. So long as Ebron gets enough looks from Matthew Stafford, he’ll prove a value this week.

Kicker

Caleb Sturgis (FD: $4,500) vs. Dallas

The Cowboys should pack it in relatively early in this game, if they even play their starters at all. Sturgis has been one of the most consistent kickers all season, and he’s a nice bet at the absolute minimum price in a game where the Eagles should be able to move the ball on a defense presumably made up largely of second-stringers.

Defense/Special Teams

Cleveland Browns (DK: $2,100, FD: $4,000) at Pittsburgh

One of the only ways I was able to afford so many big names was by going to the absolute bottom of the barrel at defense. There’s good reason to believe in the Browns this week, though. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will all take a rest this week, giving way to their backups. The Steelers have nothing to gain on Sunday and are focused on a first-round playoff matchup with either the Dolphins or Chiefs. The Browns may be 1–14, but even they can take advantage of an offense without its three principal actors. Getting them for the minimum only makes them more attractive.

DraftKings lineup:

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB1: Devonta Freeman
RB2: Jacquizz Rodgers
WR1: Jordy Nelson
WR2: Michael Thomas
WR3: Cameron Meredith
TE: Eric Ebron
FLEX: Alex Collins
DST: Cleveland Browns

FanDuel lineup:

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB1: David Johnson
RB2: Jacquizz Rodgers
WR1: Jordy Nelson
WR2: Doug Baldwin
WR3: Michael Thomas
TE: Eric Ebron
K: Caleb Sturgis
DST: Cleveland Browns

Andrew Perloff

Tricky times in Week 17 with starters resting and bizarre young players getting a chance. Probably a great week get solid points with a monster QB like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson and differentiate below to try to win big. I tend to spend a lot more in Week 17 because I’m an idiot, but both accounts are kind of flush right now and I need some extra juice with so many teams out of it.

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers ($8,800 FanDuel, $7,700 DraftKings) at Detroit

You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you to play Rodgers. He’s on fire, the Packers are playing for something and at the time this was written the Lions didn’t know the status of cornerback Darius Slay. So Rodgers, can be the base in your No. 1 lineup even with a huge percentage of play.

Alternates

On the less expensive side, Jags QB Blake Bortles lives for non-consequential moments and could build on last week’s strong performance. New Orleans-Atlanta could be a shootout – you may want to give Drew Brees the edge over Matt Ryan because the Saints QB is cheaper and the Falcons may run the ball more like they did in Week 3’s 45-32 win. And the Seahawks are still playing for something, which could mean another monster week for Russell Wilson against the woeful 49ers defense.

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Running backs

Jordan Howard ($7,200 FanDuel, $6,800 DraftKings) at Minnesota

The Vikings defense has really given up, getting blown off the field by Indy and Green Bay in the last two games.  If Frank Gore can eclipse 100 yards against them, Howard should run wild. Howard ran for 153 yards and a TD against a fully engaged Vikings defense in Week 7. There’s no clear indication of how much the Bears will lean on him, but they’ve been using him often even with the season lost a long time ago.  Howard ran for 118 yards last week but didn’t get in the end zone. Hopefully the coaching staff will reward him with some red-zone opportunities.

Tevin Coleman ($6,400 FanDuel, $5,100 DraftKings)

Coleman had three touchdowns in Week 3 against the Saints. That’s not happening again, but I do expect the Falcons to try to run right over New Orleans once again in Atlanta.

Alternates

Watch the Seattle backfield closely. Alex Collins could be a great bargain if the Seahawks are limiting Thomas Rawls. Even if Rawls does start, Collins could be valuable against the Niners. Tampa Bay’s Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 63 yards and a TD last week against the Saints and will likely be the primary ball-carrier against the Panthers on Sunday. The Packers’ Ty Montgomery struggled a bit last week, which makes him more interesting. Montgomery’s basement is still not bad because of the receptions. 

Wide receivers

Doug Baldwin ($7,100 FanDuel, $7,200 DraftKings) at San Francisco

Chasing points and too popular a play? Perhaps, but c’mon, it’s the Niners and their secondary is dealing with injuries. Baldwin should tear them apart in the slot and feels underpriced on FD.

DeSean Jackson ($7,000 FanDuel, $5,600 DraftKings) vs. Giants

Jackson is right there in the price group with Alshon Jeffery and Brandin Cooks. I like all three, but the Redskins are playing for everything against a Giants defense that is not. New York’s D is good, but ranks 22nd against the pass and Jackson has always had a flair for the dramatic against the Giants.

Jordy Nelson ($8,200 FanDuel, $8,100 DraftKings) at Detroit

I had a choice of high-end WRs between Nelson and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans. Not sure how Nelson hasn’t passed Evans in price on FanDuel. As obvious as it seems to focus on Nelson when you’re playing the Packers, defenses still let him go and a potentially beat-up Lions secondary has no chance.

Alternates

Evans faces Carolina’s 32nd-ranked pass defense, although both he and the Panthers are hard to predict week to week. Jeffery and Cooks are solid mid-price-range options. Detroit’s Golden Tate could benefit if the Lions are forced to pass against Green Bay. And if you don’t want to pay for Nelson, Green Bay’s Davante Adams rebounded well from his TD-drop fest two weeks ago and caught a touchdown.

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Tight end

Eric Ebron ($5,800, $3,600 DraftKings) vs. Green Bay

The Lions tight end was targeted 12 times last week and came up with 8 catches for 93 yards. Detroit probably wants to keep the score down on Sunday, but if the Lions have to go to the air, Ebron will be a primary target.

Alternate

Forgive me for getting sentimental, but Antonio Gates has done a lot for me over the years and this could be my last chance to use him. I have a hunch that the Chargers might make sure he contributes against the Chiefs.

Kicker

Will Lutz ($4,800 FanDuel) at Atlanta

Couldn’t afford Atlanta’s Matt Bryant, so went with my best indoor option.

Defense/Special Teams

Denver Broncos ($4,400 FanDuel, $2,800 DraftKings) vs. Oakland

Both sides of this AFC West game are intriguing: the Broncos against Raiders backup Matt McGloin, and Oakland against a Trevor Siemian–Paxton Lynch combo. The Raiders are cheaper, but since the game is in Denver, I’ll lean Broncos. The Vikings facing INT-prone Matt Barkley in Minnesota and Seattle against the Niners are also intriguing options.

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