Once you've identified your key lineup pieces on DraftKings and FanDuel, we are here to help with close calls throughout the rest of your daily fantasy football lineup.
ESPN Fantasy analysts Joe Kaiser and Jim McCormick comb through daily fantasy pricing to determine assets in the same pricing tiers at quarterback, running back, receiver and flex that you might want to play or pass on. In order to discuss similarly priced commodities, we focus on players eligible at the same positions within $500 of one another on one of the main fantasy platforms.
Let the healthy DFS debates begin!
Kaiser's play: Derek Carr ($6,300 DK; $7,900 FD)
Carr completed only 17 of 41 passes and failed to throw a touchdown for the second game this season in the Week 14 loss to the Chiefs on a frigid night in Kansas City. This is where recency bias comes into play. Those who watched that game are likely to pass over Carr this week, despite a 24-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a favorable Week 15 matchup against the 5-8 Chargers. Remember, Carr torched San Diego for two touchdowns and 317 yards in a thrilling 34-31 win in Week 5, and I look for him to have similar success in this one.
McCormick's play: Kirk Cousins ($6,800 DK; $7,500 FD)
Washington averages 6.85 yards per play at home -- best in the NFL -- while its robust rate of 2.97 points per drive at home is second best in the league and 57.1 percent higher than the league average per-drive production pattern. Cousins is on pace for just shy of 5,000 passing yards this season and leads the NFL with 318.2 yards per game since Week 9. The metrics from the desert also support a big night from Cousins, as Washington's implied team total of 28.5 points is the second highest of the slate, per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Cousins is reasonably priced at the helm of an elite offense playing host to a Carolina defense that has ceded the ninth-most fantasy points to enemy arms in ESPN leagues. It all adds up to a high floor and coveted ceiling for Cousins.
Kaiser's play: DeMarco Murray ($6,900 DK; $7,400 FD)
The Chiefs have a reputation of being a stout defense against the run, but they rank just 14th in the category. That puts Murray in position to have another strong performance in a season marked with one big game after another; the Titans running back has rushed for nine touchdowns, scoring via the ground in eight of 13 games, and he also has added three scores through the air. He has averaged 19.2 carries per game while running for 4.5 yards per attempt, and is primed for a big game against the Chiefs, who have allowed three rushing touchdowns in the past two weeks.
McCormick's play: Devonta Freeman ($6,700 DK; $7,700 FD)
Sticking with the theme of elite offenses, the Falcons lead the league in yards per play and are tops with 3.13 points per drive at home this season. We also find positive Vegas trends in place, with Atlanta afforded an astounding implied team total of 32.5 points as massive favorites over the 49ers. There is a strong positive correlation between running back production on healthy home favorites. Adding to this plus setup for Freeman, he has enjoyed 29 red zone touches at home this season, second in the league. As for the matchup metrics, the 49ers have proved uniquely inept against the run, ceding 148.9 rushing yards per game to running backs, the highest in the NFL and the most generous allowance since the 2010 Bills. In fact, this year's 49ers rush defense ranks fourth worst since 2001. With such a confluence of positive trends, Freeman is a top tailback this week.
Kaiser's play: Willie Snead ($5,600 DK; $5,900 FD)
Snead hasn’t scored in four games, but he has been targeted at least five times in 11 of the 12 games he has played in this season, and it’s just a matter of time before he finds his way back to the end zone. Following a pair of ugly losses to Detroit and Tampa Bay, this week Snead and the Saints face a team trending in the opposite direction -- the 5-7-1 Arizona Cardinals -- and this is a matchup against the undermanned Cardinals secondary where Drew Brees can get back on track. That’s why Snead makes sense at this salary range.
McCormick's play: Rishard Matthews ($4,600 DK; $5,800 FD)
We should forgive Matthews' sluggish Week 14, given the Denver Broncos have allowed the fewest receiving yards to wideouts this season and nearly 38 percent fewer yards to the position than league average. Evaluating sizable stretch success from Week 5 to Week 13, Matthews ranked eighth in fantasy points per game among wideouts in ESPN standard scoring over this eight-game sample. Marcus Mariota enjoyed a robust passer rating of 138.5 targeting Matthews during those eight games, while this week's matchup offers much more upside, as the Chiefs have ceded the most yards to wideouts this season and nearly 90 percent more than Denver's stingy rate. The price point for Matthews is entirely affordable, which proves important in a week that appears best for paying up for elite running backs.
Kaiser's play: Kyle Rudolph ($4,300 DK; $5,800 FD)
Indianapolis is allowing tight ends to score an average of 7.8 fantasy points per game, which is the ninth-worst mark in the NFL and an encouraging stat for Rudolph this week, following three consecutive games of at least eight targets. Rudolph reached the end zone for the sixth time this season on a 3-yard pass against Jacksonville last week, and he provides a great combination as a heavily targeted pass-catcher who's also a favorite red zone target of Sam Bradford.
McCormick's play: Ladarius Green ($3,700 DK; $5,600 FD)
We also should forgive Green's sluggish showing last week, as the Pittsburgh passing game played second fiddle to Le'Veon Bell's offensive opus in Orchard Park. Looking past the surface stats, Green still netted a target on 28.6 percent of his routes last week and leads all tight ends with 20.2 yards per reception over the past three weeks. As a key downfield read for Ben Roethlisberger, we appreciate Green's big-play ability at this shallow position and the fact Cincinnati has allowed the most yards to tight ends this season.
Kaiser's play: Tevin Coleman ($5,000 DK; $6,500 FD)
Coleman has nine touchdowns this season (seven rushing, two receiving) and four of those have come in the past four weeks. There are multiple reasons why he’s appealing in Week 15. For one, he faces a 49ers defense that has allowed the most rushing touchdowns (19) in the NFL and a league-high 4.9 yards per rush. On top of that, Coleman stands to benefit if this game turns into a blowout (Atlanta is a 13.5-point home favorite) because that’s a scenario in which the Falcons would likely look to rest Devonta Freeman.
McCormick's play: Carlos Hyde ($5,900 DK; $7,000 FD)
Lost in the hype over Bell's historic fantasy performance last week was Hyde's career-best 200-yard showing against the Jets. With an eroded San Francisco offense, Hyde should near or top 20 touches, while the Falcons have yielded the second-most points per drive and the second-highest rate of touchdowns per drive this season. The Ohio State product is ninth in the NFL with 3.09 red zone touches per game, as sole claim to meaningful goal-to-go work drives upside in the touchdown department. The 49ers' position as sizable underdogs isn't ideal for Hyde's floor, but his ceiling in tournaments at this price point remains enticing.