Many consider Week 16 to be the finale of fantasy football. While that’s not the case for DFS, I intend on providing “championship” caliber picks this week. In the past we took some time to talk about players to avoid — now, let’s put some extra focus on the guys you play.
Note that game slates are all over the place for this Week 16. This includes Sunday and Monday games only. Time to bring home the bacon.
All values are subject to DraftKings’ prices and scoring format. All ownership data is courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Fire ‘em up
Jalen Hurts @ DAL, $7,000 (Projected ownership: 13.3 percent)
Hurts was a big hit on my DFS lineup last week, and that momentum should continue into this week. He’s well worth paying up for as Dallas has allowed over 21 fantasy points per game since Week 9. What are some of the quarterbacks they faced in that span?
Ben Roethlisberger (QB7). Kirk Cousins (QB5). Lamar Jackson (QB6).
Thanks to facing Alex Smith, Brandon Allen and Nick Mullens, quarterbacks who have been fantasy irrelevant regardless of the matchup, Dallas looks like a middling play for quarterbacks. In reality, it’s a smash play for quarterbacks who resemble the former group — and Hurts does thanks to his rushing volume. We saw the upside — he finished as the QB1 last week. Hurts should be in that territory again in Dallas.
Melvin Gordon vs. LAC, $5,600 (Projected ownership: 10.3 percent)
The revenge game narrative didn’t come to fruition when they first met, but things have changed. Joey Bosa and Uchenna Nwosu are both out for this game, two big losses for a Chargers defense that has done well in covering the run thus far. Meanwhile Phillip Lindsay is out with a hip/knee injury.
So the situation could not be better for Gordon who has been on a roll lately. He’s been over five yards per carry in four of his last five games and caught seven passes over the last couple weeks. In a lost season with no real option behind Gordon, Denver can let the former Charger wreak havoc and dominate for fantasy. The matchup is solid due to injuries to key Chargers defenders. The talent is enough, particularly while Gordon is in a groove. The opportunity is there with Lindsay hurt.
Those are the three keys to fantasy — and Gordon has them.
A.J. Brown @ GB, $7,600 (Projected ownership: N/A)
The matchup and price tag should scare off any chance of a high ownership, but it shouldn’t. Brown is a tremendous talent capable of great upside that holds great value in DFS. The problem, of course, is lockdown cornerback Jaire Alexander.
But Brown is elite in his own right. He’s a mismatch for most cornerbacks who cover him and Alexander at 5’10”, 196 pounds is no exception. Allen Robinson and Adam Thielen both had WR1 games against Green Bay, so this isn’t a death knell for fantasy wide receivers when it comes to elite talent. Kevin King, as the larger cornerback, could also rotate onto Brown while Alexander spends time on the slightly smaller Corey Davis. It’s a matchup to attack where the Titans might be forced to air it out — and Brown is capable of making it happen on any given play.
Cole Kmet @ JAX, $3,000 (Projected ownership: 5.3 percent)
People have been calling for the Kmet breakout for weeks. He’s shown flashes and his snaps are finally those of a locked-in starter, playing every single snap last week in the Bears dominant win over the Vikings. The low-price tag, great matchup and known upside does make him a slightly higher owned DFS option but that shouldn’t make you shy away from him. The Jaguars have allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this season and if Kmet is going to be out there, he’s a good bet for one or two.
At $3,000 and a middling ownership projection is enough to get a solid tight end while stacking up the rest of your lineup.
Washington Football Team vs. CAR, $3,000 (Projected ownership: 11.3 percent)
I always like taking players from teams with playoff implications, so in this case I’ll just take the whole defense. There are a handful of respectable DST plays this week, including Carolina on the other side of this game. But Washington is a talented defense in a good spot — they’ve allowed more than 25 points just once since Week 5. Defensive end Chase Young is starting to steamroll defenses and without Christian McCaffrey to save the day, it should be another tough day for the Panthers.
Alex Smith/Dwayne Haskins vs. CAR, $5,200 (Projected ownership: 2.7 percent)
The beauty of DFS is that you can take chances here that you couldn’t in your championship matchup.
This time of year, people need to remember that some defenses improve. Seattle, while allowing 23.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks on the year, has allowed just 17.7 fantasy points per game since Week 9.
Carolina is not one of those defenses — they’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points to the quarterback in their past six games. Haskins had 55 attempts last week and with Gibson likely to be limited if active at all, Washington will likely lean on the passing attack again.
Washington has leaned on the passing game before without much fantasy success — they’re overdue for positive passing touchdown regression.
J.D. McKissic @ CAR, $6,400 (Projected ownership: 2.7 percent)
DFS players may be scrambling to find the cheap wide receiver to be the sneaky play with Terry McLaurin (ankle) doubtful to play. They may choose tight end Logan Thomas of the bunch — not too expensive at $4,900 with proven production. They may even shy away from McKissic with Antonio Gibson possibly returning to the fold.
But the McKissic is the right answer. With Alex Smith looking ready to return from his calf strain, it’s important to remember their relationship on the field. In games where Smith played at least 50% of the snaps, McKissic averages over eight targets a game. Those games INCLUDED Terry McLaurin and outside of two games, Antonio Gibson. I’d expect both to miss or at least play severely limited roles which puts McKissic in line for a repeat performance of last week when he logged a season-high 88% of snaps which resulted in him finishing as the RB4.
And if Smith doesn’t play? McKissic just saw 10 targets with Dwayne Haskins.
Allen Lazard vs. TEN, $4,200 (Projected ownership: N/A)
A few weeks back I called for Lazard’s bounce back, and that didn’t quite happen. He was still working his way back from his devastating core injury and the snaps didn’t jump like I expected. Now they have returned to where they were earlier in the year — Lazard played 77% of the snaps last week and should jump right back to the mid-80s against Tennessee. I’m taking the chance that Lazard finds his early-season form against a Titans defense that has allowed over 44 fantasy points per game over the past four weeks to opposing wide receivers, which leaves plenty of room on the other side of Davante Adams.
It’s fair to wonder whether Robert Tonyan, who stepped up when Lazard fell injured, has made it so that Lazard’s ceiling is no longer there. I choose to gamble on that one last time at an outrageously cheap price of $4,200.
Austin Hooper @ NYJ, $3,500 (Projected ownership: 4.2 percent)
Like my Kmet pick this is solely based on touchdown upside in New York, who has been gashed by tight ends all year. The Jets have allowed over 27 fantasy points per game to the tight end over the past four games — that’s utterly ridiculous. Hooper got it going last week when he found the end zone and he can do it again now. There’s enough upside and enough floor here to make him a solid start against the Jets — they’ve also allowed 100 yards receiving per game to tight ends during that aforementioned stretch. Maybe they should have kept Avery Williamson…
Cincinnati Bengals @ HOU, $2,300 (Projected ownership: 0.9 percent)
Make no mistake — this is not a high ceiling play. You won’t be screaming for joy at this back-alley DST play. But they can grab you a few scrappy points in an intriguing matchup against Houston. Since losing Will Fuller to suspension, Houston has allowed over seven fantasy points per game to DSTs. Now, it’s fair to say that they have played tough defenses like Indianapolis and Chicago, and the Bengals are not that.
But the Texans also sent standout right tackle Tytus Howard (concussion), who hasn’t missed a snap all year, to the injured reserve this week. He’s been replaced by fourth-round rookie Charlie Heck who has not played a meaningful snap all year. Between that and the Texans scoring under 16 points per game since losing Fuller, the Bengals defense is an incredibly cheap play that could get the job done coming off their impressive defensive performance against the Steelers.