Yahoo DFS plays for Conference Championship

Mike Tagliere goes through his Week 20 Yahoo DFS lineup, and explains why you should pay up for not one, but two tight ends.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

Yahoo DFS plays for Conference Championship

It’s the end of the world, as we know it. Ok, maybe it’s not the end of the world, but it’s most definitely the end of the fantasy season.

This will be the final Yahoo DFS article of the year, and although it is bittersweet, the research in the offseason has already begun to make it bigger and better next year. The Yahoo DFS article grew throughout the year as we figured out the pricing models and where to allocate our funds.

That leads us into Week 20, where there are just two games being played, amongst four teams. The odds that you have a lineup unlike anyone else’s is slim to none, but fortunately Yahoo caps the amount of entries at just 11,400 in their 100K Baller tournament.

With the small amount of games being played, contrarian is not the approach to go with here. You want to maximize the projected points with the salary that you are given, it’s that simple. The tough part is figuring out where to take your chances.

Let’s take a look at the tournament lineup in Week 20 that you’ll want to use.



Cam Newton QB, Panthers ($36)

This one is likely no surprise to anyone. Newton has been atop quarterback list almost all season, and he hasn’t really slowed down, scoring 20 or more fantasy points in seven of his last 10 games.

There may be some scared off of him after he has now scored 14.28 points or fewer in two of his last three games, but one of them was against the Seahawks, who had allowed the second least amount of fantasy points to quarterbacks this year, and the other was against the Falcons, who had allowed the seventh fewest points to them.

You can point to the Cardinals defense and say that they are up there in the top six in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but the loss of Tyron Mathieu looms large. Before losing him for the season, the Cardinals had allowed just 14.1 points per game to quarterbacks.

Since losing Mathieu, they have now allowed two quarterbacks to top 19 fantasy points in just three games, something they allowed just one quarterback to do in the 14 games with Mathieu. Newton is going to have to carry a Panthers team that is having trouble running the ball with a banged up Jonathan Stewart.


Running Backs

James White RB, Patriots ($19)

Rather than trying to overanalyze why you shouldn’t use White, I encourage you to look at reasons that you should use him.

Since taking over in the Dion Lewis role in Week 13, White has scored the third-most fantasy points amongst running backs in PPR leagues. A large part of that is due to his receiving totals, considering he has carried the ball just 10 times in that span (never more than three times in any one game).

The Broncos are a team that defends wide receivers better than anyone in the league, and will have their hands full with Julian Edelman, who appears to be near 100 percent, and Rob Gronkowski.

There were just two teams in the NFL that had faced more running back targets in the passing game than the Broncos, and that bodes well for White who has hauled in 30 of his 35 targets since Week 13. He has also graded out as best running back in that span (+9.2), which is higher than the Cardinals David Johnson (+6.8).

Just stop picturing White as a running back, and you’ll feel a lot better about putting him into your lineup. He is the equivalent of a slot receiver that doesn’t get covered like one.


C.J. Anderson RB, Broncos ($22)

After being considered a bust early in the season, Anderson is now looked at as a player that simply doesn’t get enough carries. While that is true, most don’t understand the extent of how good he has been.

Since his bye in Week 7, Anderson got his ankle right and has averaged 6.1 yards per carry since that time, easily the highest in the NFL amongst those that carried the ball at least 50 times.

He has played in 10 games since then (playoffs included) and has carried the ball just 100 times, which comes out to just 10 carries per game. By comparison, teammate Ronnie Hillman has carried the ball 57 more times, but that has amounted to 34 fewer yards.

The Patriots are a team that showed well during the season against running backs, but a primary reason was due to the fact that they didn’t see a lot of carries due to game script. There were just three running backs all season that saw more than 15 carries against them.

Anderson himself tagged them for 153 total yards and two touchdowns back in Week 12, and there is no belief in Peyton Manning to carry this team right now. With how well the Broncos defense has played, Anderson should see a bump in carries this week.


Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald WR, Cardinals ($34)

Once the NFL regular season concluded, research begins for us here at Pro Football Focus. While looking for trends and stats that might be out of the ordinary, Fitzgerald was an interesting one.

After starting the year on a tear with 35 catches for 490 yards and six touchdowns in his first five games, most wanted to believe that he was back to his old self now that Palmer was back. Those numbers added up to 7.0 catches, 98.0 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game, which is 17.0 fantasy points per game or 20.5 points in Yahoo DFS formats.

He finished the year with 174 fantasy points in standard leagues, and that caused a lot of people fell off the Fitzgerald bandwagon, because if we take out the 85 points he scored in the first five weeks, he averaged just 8.0 standard points per game in Weeks 6-17. Unfortunately, his performance last week raised some eyebrows.

In Week 20, Fitzgerald has the best matchup of all the Cardinals wideouts, because he will see Josh Norman the least. As pointed out in Mike Clay’s shadow report, Norman doesn’t go into the slot to cover receivers, and that is where Fitzgerald goes nearly 60 percent of the time.

While his ownership will be high, he is worth every penny considering how he steps up in the playoffs, and the fact that he will be lining up across from Cortland Finnegan.

Devin Funchess WR, Panthers ($10)

When looking for a cheap option to make the rest of your lineup come together, Funchess is one of the guys that can provide the ceiling you would like in a tournament setting.

He did only haul in 51 percent of his passes this year, but you can’t forget that he is a rookie and his drop rate was somewhat similar to that of his teammate Kelvin Benjamin in his rookie year.

The truth about Funchess is that he progressed as the season went on, and was just as productive as Ted Ginn down the stretch, if not more.

After his first eight games amounted to seven catches on 19 targets for 90 yards and zero touchdowns, Funchess turned a corner. Over the season’s final nine weeks, Funchess was targeted 42 times where he hauled in 24 of them for 383 yards and five touchdowns. Ginn on the other hand saw five more targets in that span, which provided the same amount of catches with just 13 more yards.

Funchess is the dark horse in this game because Patrick Peterson should see a lot of Ginn, and the Cardinals aren’t going to let Greg Olsen just do whatever he wants.

Brandon LaFell WR, Patriots ($12)

It seems like LaFell’s price drops every single week, and it now stands just $2 above the minimum salary on Yahoo. It’s for good reason, too. He has now gone three straight games without reaching 20 yards, and has saw an amazing 74 targets from Tom Brady in 2015 without a single touchdown.

The good news is that he has played at least 89 percent of the snaps over the last seven weeks, and they do not have anyone on the depth chart that is going to take those away.

His average depth of target stands at 14.1 yards on the year, which is easily the highest among Patriots receivers, with the next closest being Keshawn Martin at 10.5 yards. All Brady needs to do is connect with him one time, and the $12 salary will have been the smartest decision made in this lineup.


Tight End

Rob Gronkowski TE, Patriots ($27)

If you read last week’s Yahoo DFS article, you would have had Gronkowski in your lineup. It didn’t matter what Chiefs held tight ends to on the year, because Gronkowski is in a league of his own. You must dedicate two guys to him, or it will end badly.

The Broncos met the Patriots back in Week 12, where he went off for 88 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos won that game and felt like they contained him, so there isn’t much of a reason for them to change their strategy. Julian Edelman was out for that game, which just adds another layer to the puzzle.

There were actually six games this year in which the Broncos allowed opposing tight ends nine or more fantasy points in standard leagues, but as stated earlier, you can’t really look at Gronkowski as a normal tight end.

Chris Harris is also playing hurt (if he plays at all) for the Broncos and that helps Gronkowski’s chances to rack up points and put everything over the top. Harris is their best cover corner they have and would likely try and help out when Gronkowski plays in the slot, so his absence would most definitely hurt the Broncos.



Greg Olsen TE, Panthers ($27)

Playing two tight ends in a lineup is nothing something we would advocate often, but when two of the best and most consistent guys are left on the table and they are cheaper than the top four wide receivers, it’s the smart play.

Olsen has improved every single year in terms of fantasy points per game over the last five years, and it doesn’t hurt that Cam Newton is playing the best football of his career.

After grading negatively throughout the first eight weeks of the season (-7.9), Olsen found himself at No. 58 of the 66 graded tight ends in the NFL. Since that time, he has been graded (+12.5) as the third best in the league, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Delanie Walker.

Tight ends have scored nine or more points against the Cardinals in seven of the last nine games, which bodes well for Olsen. Include that with the loss of Tyron Mathieu, and you have the recipe for success. There aren’t many options as consistent as Olsen to start with, let alone when there are just four teams remaining.



Denver Broncos ($13)

Unless you believe that the Patriots are going to blow out the Broncos, this is going to be a close, low-scoring game. The Broncos defense has held opponents to 24 points or less in all but one game since November 15, but haven’t had that splash play like they did back in Weeks 1-6. Tom Brady hasn’t quite looked the same, and although he should throw a few touchdowns, you have the guys that should be catching them.

I wanted to wish you the best of luck in your Week 20 DFS matchups, and hope that we see you again next year when we are back, better than ever. If there are any questions that you have in the offseason, don’t hesitate to ask me on Twitter @MikeTagliereNFL where I am always available. Until next time, my friends.

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