Week 14 DFS Locks of the Week
Curious who are this week's DFS must-plays? Mike Tagliere has some suggestions.
Week 14 DFS Locks of the Week
Every week I offer two DFS-focused pieces. On Wednesdays it’s the DFS fades of the week, and on Thursdays come the locks. While the fades let you know who to cross off your DFS list (or at least minimalize exposure), the locks are the names that should be highlighted.
The goal with the locks of the week is to give you players to build your lineups around, while taking minimal risk. You won’t find a player in this list that is top-five at his position in price, because that doesn’t really require insight. As a matter of fact, we are trying to go as cheap as possible, while retaining maximum confidence in our selections. Below, you’ll get two quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, and one tight end.
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Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (at Packers)
Just how adventurous are you? Wilson was in this column last week, and while he failed to live up to expectations, a lot of quarterbacks were in that same boat. The issue wasn’t his play, either, as he was graded above average by our PFF analysts, and still finished as the No. 11 quarterback in fantasy. The issue last week was that Cam Newton didn’t even keep the game within range, so the Seahawks pulled Wilson early in the fourth quarter. This week he’ll face an opponent who actually puts points up on the board in Aaron Rodgers. The Packers defense has been among the worst in football and have actually allowed 30 or more points in five of their last eight games. The teams that failed to hit that mark were the Bears, Eagles and Texans — all teams that lack an actual presence at the quarterback position. Despite facing guys like Brock Osweiler and Carson Wentz, the Packers have allowed each of the last four quarterbacks to play them at least 17.5 fantasy points. Since losing their top cornerback Sam Shields after Week 1, it’s been a downward spiral for them, as they have allowed 22 passing scores over their last 11 games, including five games with three or more touchdowns. While Wilson struggled early in the season, he’s typically one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the game, and the Packers have allowed the third-most points per attempt to opposing quarterbacks on the year, at 0.53 points per attempt. Seeing as Wilson averages 7.8 yards per attempt and the Packers have held just four quarterbacks under that mark all season, Wilson is a sure thing to out-produce his cost in Week 14.
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Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (at Eagles)
You’ve heard the term “the wheels are falling off,” right? Well, the Eagles defense has fit that bill for a while now. After not allowing a single passing touchdown in the first three weeks, the Eagles have allowed 18 of them over the ensuing nine games, which took place after their bye week. It’s almost as if they cooled off during their bye, which can happen. They’ve allowed quarterbacks to march down the field consistently, as each of the last six quarterbacks have thrown for at least 7.1 yards per attempt, including each of the last four to throw for at least 8.0 yards per attempt, which is elite territory. Their cornerbacks don’t align well with the Redskins wide receivers, either, as Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll allow more than 17 yards per catch in their coverage, which is where DeSean Jackson does most of his work. And it’s not just there, because the Eagles have used a combination of Jalen Mills and Malcolm Jenkins in an attempt to slow down opposing slot wide receivers. Jenkins is a safety who is playing out of position, which is why he’s allowed a 75-percent catch rate, and Mills has graded out as PFF’s worst cornerback (203 out of 203). Those two will be asked to cover Jamison Crowder, who has been a terror to defenses as of late. Look for Cousins to continue his free agent push as we close out 2016.
Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Raiders)
This spot was tough, as it came down to either Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill or Ware. Each of those running backs had played the team they are about to in Week 14 earlier in the season, and each of them succeeded in a big way. The difference between them all is that Ware is at home this week, while the others are on the road. While I still think they’re good plays, Ware is also the one with arguably the best matchup. Despite being one of the hottest teams in football while winning six games in a row, the Raiders haven’t been able to stop the run. Over the last three weeks (coming out of their bye week), they have allowed at least 96 rushing yards to all three starting running backs they’ve faced. One was LeSean McCoy, but the others (Jonathan Stewart and Lamar Miller) have been less impressive as of late. You’d have to go all the way back to Week 7 in order to find a week where the Raiders didn’t allow at least one running back 14.8 or more PPR points. Since the bye, they have allowed 394 yards on 76 carries for a robust 5.18 yards per carry, to go along with five rushing touchdowns in just three games. Because of their struggles, PFF has them graded as the No. 26 run defense. Ware had his best game of the season against the Raiders back in Week 6 when he carried the ball 24 times for 131 yards and a touchdown, and chipped in with 32 yards receiving.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Falcons)
I wrote a piece a few weeks back saying that Gurley wouldn’t be as hated as he is in the fantasy community if he hadn’t been selected with a first-round pick in fantasy drafts, because he’s been a very similar player to someone like Frank Gore, who has just 22 more total yards than Gurley and the same amount of rushing touchdowns, though Gore does have three receiving touchdowns. So when you see a good matchup with the Falcons on deck, Gurley is most definitely usable, especially in cash formats. I had Ware as a lock against the Falcons in Week 13, and he finished with over 20 points in PPR settings. Gurley is in a similar situation, where he is virtually a lock for 17 touches against a defense that has struggled to those who see volume. When you’re as cheap as Gurley is this week on a site like DraftKings ($5,000), getting 13 PPR points out of him makes him worthwhile. Below is an updated version of a chart I ran last week touting Ware against the Falcons. It’s a look at only running backs who have seen at least 17 touches against the Falcons:
|Player||Car||Yards||Rush TD’s||Rec||Rec Yds||Rec TD||PPR Pts|
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Texans)
When a wide receiver is playing a division rival, I like to look at past box scores to see how that receiver has done against that opponent before. Well, the last time Hilton played the Texans, he had just three catches for 33 yards. The thing is, there’s a big difference between then and now. Not only will Hilton be at home, where he averages almost two more PPR points per game over his career, but more importantly, the Texans will be without one of their key defenders from when they met in Week 6. That week happened to be the last one that cornerback Kevin Johnson would play in this year, and he was graded as the No. 5 cornerback in all of football. Filling his place in the starting lineup is Kareem Jackson, who mans the slot for the Texans now. He’s been graded as PFF’s No. 186 cornerback of the 203 eligible. On 67 targets in coverage, he’s allowed a ridiculously high 73.1 percent catch rate and has also allowed the most touchdowns (4) of any cornerback in coverage on the Texans. Hilton is a bit of a boom-or-bust wide receiver, but against a Texans defense that has allowed 10 passing touchdowns in their last four games, he’s the best play on the Colts this weekend.
Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens (at Patriots)
It’s rare to get down into the price range Smith is in and find a player who is virtually a lock for at least seven targets, but Smith fits the criteria. We’re nearing the end of what’s been a Hall of Fame career for Smith, but he hasn’t slowed down much, and now draws the Patriots on Monday night. If you recall the last time the Patriots played on Monday night, it was against the Seahawks when fellow slot wide receiver Doug Baldwin scored three touchdowns. They have struggled with slot wide receivers all season, and by the count of our own Scott Barrett, they allow 46 percent of their wide receiver PPR production to those who are primarily slot wide receivers. The cornerback who will cover him the majority of the time is Logan Ryan, who is PFF’s No. 84-ranked cornerback. In coverage, he’s allowed 52 receptions for 573 yards and three touchdowns on 76 targets, which has produced a passer rating of 104.8. Not all slot wide receivers are as skilled as Smith, either. Joe Flacco appears to be stepping up his game as well — after throwing just five touchdowns in the first seven games with a 1.8 touchdown percentage, he’s now thrown 10 over his last five at a clip of 5.3 percent. We’ll go back to the beginning where we talked about Smith’s targets, and then look at his cost, which is 30th on DraftKings and 34th on FanDuel. Smith is a high-floor option for your cash-game lineups.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (at Panthers)
Now that I get down here to the bottom, I realize it’s the week of the future Hall of Famers, because I have Steve Smith above, I debated putting in Larry Fitzgerald, and now here we are with Gates. Philip Rivers made it clear at the start of the season that they wanted to get Gates the record for touchdowns among tight ends. After a red-hot start where he scored five touchdowns in his first seven games, he’s hit a lull in production and we are running out of time. He needs just two in order to tie the record and three to break it, and that work should start this week when they head to Carolina to play the Panthers. Fortunately, the Panthers allow the most points to opposing tight ends, and most of that production came with Luke Kuechly in the lineup. They’ve only allowed the eighth-most yardage to them, but have allowed a league-high nine touchdowns, including one in each of the last three weeks, which is right in Gates’ (and our) wheelhouse. Of the five tight ends to see six or more targets against them, four of them have been able to post at least 90 yards and/or a touchdown. If Kuechly misses this game, it should be considered a bonus, as his replacement A.J. Klein has allowed 11 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets in coverage this year.