Week 12 daily fantasy advice: Previewing the Thanksgiving slate

With three games scheduled for the holiday, Tyler Loechner runs through the holiday slate to find the best DFS options.

| 7 months ago
Kirk Cousins

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Week 12 daily fantasy advice: Previewing the Thanksgiving slate

Things I’m grateful for this year: My wife, my family, my friends, my readers and a sweet Thanksgiving-only DFS slate.

Things I’m not grateful for: Calvin Johnson being on Dancing with the Stars instead of on the football field tearing it up on Turkey Day. If he joined the Lions on Thursday morning, I’d still put him in my DFS lineup.

I digress. This week’s DFS preview article is going to focus on Thanksgiving only. As usual, this column will provide some thoughts on players, salaries, matchups or anything else I find noteworthy in my initial pass through the players on DraftKings and FanDuel for Thanksgiving’s slate.

The Vikings and Lions square off at 12:30, followed by the Cowboys and Redskins at 4:30. The nightcap features the Steelers and Colts at 8:30. Below are some of my musings from the three-game Thanksgiving slate.

(Note: I’m providing only DraftKings and FanDuel salaries as I live in Florida, where Yahoo does not operate.)


Andrew Luck’s concussion has put a damper on the quarterback options. He was my must-start quarterback for Thanksgiving’s games. But I’m not alone: He was also the Colts’ must-start quarterback. There are still several other high-scoring quarterbacks playing on Thursday, however, so we aren’t left floundering. (The same cannot be said for the Colts.)

Assuming Luck misses the game, Ben Roethlisberger is the most expensive option on both DraftKings ($7,300) and FanDuel ($8,500). He’s not a bad play against the Colts’ suspect defense, but he’s expensive, and I’m much more interested in Pittsburgh’s running game in this contest, especially given the Luck news. If I’m only making one Thanksgiving DFS lineup, Roethlisberger isn’t in it.

Dak Prescott has been straight fire for most of the season — but especially over the past five weeks. He’s the second-most-expensive option (third if you include Luck) on both sites, and he remains stackable with Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant. There is an illusion that Prescott does a lot of damage with his legs, but this simply isn’t the case. Over the past three weeks, Prescott has run just six times for 36 yards. Meanwhile, in that span, he has attempted 95 passes, completing 70 of them (73.7 percent) for 867 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s a legitimate quarterback, and he’s scoring fantasy points the “real way.” You can’t go wrong by taking Prescott, and he’s my second favorite quarterback on the slate. Trailing only…

Kirk Cousins is my favorite quarterback playing on Thanksgiving, given the Luck news. He’s significantly cheaper than Prescott and Roethlisberger — and even cheaper than Matthew Stafford on FanDuel — and I suspect people will either pay up for one of the two aforementioned quarterbacks, or pay way down for Scott Tolzien. I’ll take the middle road with Cousins, who has been fantasy’s No. 2 quarterback over the past four games he’s played. Cousins’ ceiling is as high as any other quarterback playing on Thursday, but I don’t expect his ownership rates to reflect this, which is why he’s my go-to if I’m making just one lineup.

Running backs

Thursday’s slate features a ton of fantastic running backs, including Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Frank Gore, Theo Riddick, Rob Kelley and Roosevelt Nix. (Did I just make that last guy up? Nope.) But you probably won’t be able to just slap Bell and Elliott into your lineup and call it a day, due to price constraints. You’ll have to find a bargain.

Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott are both obvious plays on Thursday. If I had to choose between one or the other, I’d go Bell, because I expect his game script to favor him more than Elliott’s. But honestly, you can’t go wrong with either, and you probably shouldn’t fade both of them. The odds of these two finishing the day as the two highest-scoring backs are high. Don’t get too cute.

Since you probably can’t afford both Bell and Elliott, you have to look elsewhere. Rob Kelley now jumps off the page, thanks to his monster Sunday night performance in Week 11, in which he carried the ball 24 times for 137 yards and three scores. It wasn’t a completely unpredictable performance. Kelley had 21 totes for 87 yards and a score in Week 8 and 22 carries for 97 yards in Week 10. The Redskins had been riding him. And he doesn’t just “take what’s given and no more.” On the year, Kelley has gained 3.11 average yards after contact per attempt, fifth among all running backs. I expect him to be the most popular back not named Bell or Elliott.

I am interested in Frank Gore as a contrarian play (or as contrarian as you can be in a three-game slate). Behind Bell, Elliott and Kelley, people may overlook Gore. The Colts will likely rely on their running game a bit more than usual if Luck misses time, not only to keep the ball out of the unproven Tolzein’s hands, but also to play keep-away from Roethlisberger and the talented Steelers offense. Gore quietly ranks ninth in rushing attempts this year and ninth in fantasy points (PPR leagues). The Steelers have also given up the third-most fantasy points to running backs this season. This game sets up well for Gore. My only concern is that the game might get away from the Luck-less Colts early. However, Roethlisberger’s road struggles may keep it close.

Wide receivers

Antonio Brown is always a good play, T.Y. Hilton is now without Andrew Luck, and Dez Bryant could get the Josh Norman treatment. I try to make sense of the top wideouts this week, and find some cheaper options as well.

No matter what the question is, Antonio Brown is always the best play. But if you want to save some money, consider Dez Bryant. Yes, he should see Norman in coverage. However, Bryant caught seven of 12 targets for 102 yards in Dallas’ Week 2 tilt against Washington. He has scored at least 24 DraftKings points in three of his past four games played. With all the buzz surrounding Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Bryant is flying under the radar.

Golden Tate was a huge disappointment in Week 11 — a game that set up favorably for him — but I like him to bounce back on Thanksgiving against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have been one of the toughest matchups of receivers this season, but Tate had a big 11-79-1 showing against them just three weeks ago. Tate is not a must-start, but he’s extremely cheap on this slate, and the more lineups I build, the more often he’s in them.

Pierre Garcon is absolutely in play. He’s only $3,900 on DraftKings and $5,600 on FanDuel. Both of those prices are way too low. Garcon has caught at least six passes in three straight games and in four of his past five. Garcon has been a top-10 fantasy receiver in PPR leagues over his past three games. Most people are enamored with Jamison Crowder, since he has been such a great red-zone threat, but Garcon has more targets and receptions than Crowder on the year, and he has only 44 fewer receiving yards.

Tight ends

There are so few games to choose from, and yet, there are plenty of tight end options. Jordan Reed is the obvious play, but he’s also the most expensive, by a lot. Should you consider anyone else?

Is Jordan Reed worth $6,200 on DraftKings ($2,200 more than any other tight end) and $7,400 on FanDuel ($1,400 more than any other tight end)? If you’re playing in a tournament, then he definitely is, since his ceiling is higher and more realistically achievable than all of his counterparts. Reed has at least one catch of 23-plus yards in six of eight games this year, but he has yet to top 100 yards in a game. That’s a streak that will end sooner rather than later, especially with Kirk Cousins firing on all cylinders. If you can fit Reed into your lineup, then go for it.

Eric Ebron is an intriguing play this week. He squares off against the Vikings, a team that has actually struggled against tight ends this season — particularly recently. They have only given up two touchdowns to tight ends this year, but each has come in their previous two games. In their past four contests, the Vikings have given up 9-101, 7-92 (this was Ebron), 5-107-1 and 3-55-1 to tight ends. And in Ebron’s three previous games, he ranks second among all tight ends in targets (23) and yards (241). He also scored a weird rushing touchdown last week, and while that’s not likely to be repeated, it does indicate that the Lions are interested in giving him looks near the end zone.

My favorite tight end play of the week is Kyle Rudolph against the Detroit Lions, who have given up the second-most fantasy points to the position this year. Rudolph actually had a mostly bad game against Detroit in Week 9, but he did score a touchdown on his only reception, salvaging his day. He should be more of a focal point in Week 12, especially if Stefon Diggs misses the game or is limited.

Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

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