Conference Championship RB/WR Punt Plays
We are now down to just four teams left in the very last week of the NFL DFS season. Naturally, there is a significantly smaller pool of players to choose from, thus the bargain options will largely revolve around injury issues and touches for running backs who share a portion of the workload. For the wide receivers, we’ll want to target the red zone threats and players with big-play ability at a bargain price tag. Below are this week’s final running back and punt play options for this NFL season.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Panthers – FD $4,900, DK $2,700, Yahoo $12
The formula here for unlocking GPP value with extremely cheap options like Artis-Payne is to target a running back who will be the direct beneficiary if Jonathan Stewart suffers an injury. Although Stewart is expected to play Sunday, he was limited during Thursday’s practice and is currently battling nagging ankle and foot injuries. This is the scenario you’re looking for when rostering a No.2 running back. Injury creates opportunity, and Artis-Payne has that with Stewart’s extensive injury history.
The second benefit of this choice is that some DFS players may mistakenly think that Mike Tolbert is the next man up if Stewart goes down. This is not the case, even though Tolbert out-touched Artis-Payne (7-4) last week. Tolbert has always been the a red-zone/goal line only option, leaving Artis-Payne with the lion’s share of the backfield work if Stewart goes down. Look for value with him on DraftKings and Yahoo this Sunday.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals – FD $5,000, DK $2,500, Yahoo $12
It seems like forever ago, but many people may have already forgotten that Ellington opened the 2015 season as the starting running back for the Cardinals. After missing multiple games this season once again due to injury, the door swung wide open for David Johnson to seize job, who ended up running with the opportunity and never looking back. Johnson is also expected to be ready to go for the NFC Championship game, but it’s worth noting that he was listed as limited with a toe injury during both Wednesday and Thursday’s practice.
Last week also the second straight game that Johnson has struggled to get going on the ground. He managed just 35 rushing yards on 15 carries against Green Bay, and produced the same 2.3 yards-per-carry average with 25 yards on 11 carries in Week 17 against Seattle. Ellington is still only 26, and still carries the big play ability that Johnson famously put on display this season. Ellington is a nice GPP pivot on DraftKings and Yahoo.
Steven Jackson, Patriots – FD $5,700, DK $3,000, Yahoo $15
If you’re not terribly excited about rostering old-man Steven Jackson this week, welcome to the club. There are some membership benefits here to highlight. Technically speaking. Jackson is the starting running back for the Patriots, and most affordable back in the player pool by a wide margin.
The Broncos will have their hands full with the Patriots passing attack, which is expected to have all hands on deck, while DEN CB Chris Harris re-aggravated a bone bruise in his shoulder, is questionable for Sunday, and will be less than 100 percent even if he does play. That could set the game script for some sneaky value in the running game for Jackson, who saw 15 touches and ran in for a touchdown in Week 17 versus Miami. Jackson is worth a flier at near minimum salary on DraftKings.
Devin Funchess, Panthers – FD $5,100, DK $3,200, Yahoo $10
Funchess is your prototypical boom-or-bust pick at wide receiver this week. He has shown flashes of brilliance down the stretch in his rookie campaign, finding the end zone in three of the final five games of the season. His biggest game of the season came in Week 17 where Cam Newton found him seven times for 120 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay.
Arizona’s secondary has played well all season long, grading out as the third-best pass coverage unit this season according to PFF. That means it’s reasonable to expect that they may have success taking away Carolina’s primary passing threats in Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr. That would set the stage for Funchess to find a few extra targets and use his 6’4” frame as a red zone threat this Sunday. Funchess is a great bargain option and minimum salary on Yahoo.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – FD $6,000, DK $4,400, Yahoo $16
When trying to evaluate which cheap wide receivers make the most sense to get exposure to on short slates like this, I always try to lean on the best passing quarterback available in the pool. Brady and the Patriots faced off against the Broncos in Denver in Week 12, and he had no problem being productive, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns. With the heavy run/pass split that New England has employed this season (37.85 run/62.15 pass), that allows for the target volume necessary to cash in on a third wide receiving option like Amendola.
The best part of Amendola’s matchup is the fact that he’s projected to draw Chris Harris in coverage, according to PFF’s cornerback/wide receiver chart. Harris re-injured his shoulder last week against Pittsburgh, and is currently listed as a game-time decision. Even if he does play, he certainly won’t be playing at full strength. Amendola is a nice bargain option on all three sites this week.
Brandon LaFell, Patriots – FD $6,100, DK $3,300, Yahoo $12
Lafell falls into a category similar to Steven Jackson this week in DFS. He hasn’t been an exciting option lately, but he’s a cheap wide receiver who’s a starter for the No.2 passing offense in the NFL according to PFF. That means there some upside there. He’s also the only wideout with a double-digit point projection priced in the $3K range.
Lafell also had a stretch during the middle of the season where he had a minimum of seven targets in seven out of eight games. Similar to the way that Jermaine Kearse broke loose last week (11 catches, 110 yards, 2 TDs) as the forgotten man in the Seahawks receivers stable, Lafell has the upside and deep-threat ability to bust loose against Denver. Look for value with his price on DraftKings and Yahoo.
You can reach Josh on Twitter @JoshHayesFS and find him hosting the Daily Slant. You can also find him talking fantasy football on the Rotowire DFS Podcast at Rotowire.com and at thefantasyfootballinsider.com.