Once you've identified your key lineup building blocks 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: Andrew Luck ($7,000 DK; $8,300 FD)
The Colts-Raiders game is projected to be the highest-scoring game of the week, with an over/under of 52.5. Meanwhile, Luck ranks fifth in the NFL with a total of 28 touchdowns, and in the past three weeks he has reached the end zone eight times through the air. That sets up nicely heading into Oakland to play the Raiders, a team that ranks 19th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns allowed in 2016. Oakland also ranks 23rd in the league in passing yards allowed per game (269.5), which is all the more reason to like Luck in this matchup.
McCormick's play: Aaron Rodgers ($6,700 DK; $8,600 FD)
The Vikings have been stingy to opposing passers in the larger sample, but just ceded a solid day to Luck last week. Rodgers still mustered 19.4 fantasy points against the Vikings in a sack-filled Week 2 loss. He hasn’t lost a game at Lambeau in December since 2008, so it's fitting to find the Packers positioned with an encouraging team total of 25 points as sizable favorites, per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Rodgers leads all signal-callers in points per game in ESPN standard scoring and on both DraftKings and FanDuel for the season, and yet is eighth in pricing among quarterbacks on DraftKings this week. His success has been fueled in part by an uptick in passing volume after the team's early bye week, as he was just 28th in the league with 31.3 attempts per game through the first three games, but is fourth in the NFL since the start of Week 5 with 39.9 attempts per game. It also helps that Rodgers leads the NFL in red zone attempts and is tied with Drew Brees for touchdowns in the red zone. With a high floor and emboldening ceiling given these encouraging trends, Rodgers is a foundation piece in daily fantasy this weekend.
Kaiser's play: Todd Gurley ($6,500 DK; $7,900 FD)
Yes, it has been a miserable season for Gurley and his fantasy owners. He hasn’t rushed for more than 76 yards in the past 11 weeks and hasn’t exceeded 85 yards in any of the Rams’ 14 games this season. He has averaged only 3.2 yards per carry and reached the end zone just five times while being a virtual non-factor in the passing game (36 catches for 270 yards and no touchdowns). So why, then, would anyone want to consider Gurley at this late stage of the season? Here’s why: San Francisco ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed (22) and yards allowed per carry (5.0). If there were ever a chance for a big game, this is the one for Gurley.
McCormick's play: DeMarco Murray ($7,000 DK; $8,400 FD)
Like Rodgers, Murray enjoys league-leading opportunity rates. In a resounding revival season with the Titans, this veteran workhorse leads the NFL with 2.29 goal-to-goal touches per game. Murray's high fantasy floor is supported by a volume-driven role, as he's fourth in the league with 22.7 touches per game and subsequently fourth in yards from scrimmage per game with 113.2. The Titans rumbled for 214 rushing yards against the Jaguars in Week 8, with Murray producing 128 yards from scrimmage. Incredibly, Murray's nadir on DraftKings this season is 12.5 points, while he has managed at least 19 fantasy points in 10 outings. If paying up for Le'Veon Bell against a stout Baltimore rush defense or David Johnson in the unfriendly confines of Seattle appears prohibitive in cash games, Murray is the premium pivot to consider.
Kaiser's play: Mike Evans ($8,500 DK; $8,900 FD)
Evans has scored in seven of Tampa Bay’s 14 games this season and is overdue after being held out of the end zone in each of the past three games. While New Orleans managed to limit him to four catches and 42 yards two weeks ago, Evans remains a good option against a Saints defense that was carved up for 41 points last week against a bad Arizona team. The Saints are an average defense, at best, this season and Evans (84 catches, 154 targets, 1,159 yards, 10 touchdowns) is too talented to end the final weeks of the regular season quietly.
McCormick's play: Julio Jones ($8,100 DK; $8,500 FD)
The way the overall player pool looks it seems like a prudent week to pay up for an elite wideout. There is some risk in deploying a player coming off a multiweek injury, but there also is hazard in fading Jones against the Panthers, a team he has eviscerated since the start of last season. Maybe Jones is simply comfortable exploiting Carolina's Cover 3 zone? He still leads the league in yardage despite missing the past two weeks, thanks to his 300-yard opus against the Panthers in Week 4. In his past three meetings with the Panthers -- a team that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wideouts on DraftKings' scoring key this season -- Jones has 28 catches, 566 yards and two touchdowns. Looking to Vegas, the Falcons and their league-best offense claim a robust implied team total of nearly 28 points, suggesting Jones could again deliver a slate-shifting performance.
Kaiser's play: Delanie Walker ($4,300 DK; $6,400 FD)
Walker hauled in four catches for 75 yards the last time the Titans faced the Jaguars back on Oct. 27, and that is the type of production we’ve come to expect on a weekly basis out of the Titans tight end. Walker ranks seventh in the NFL in targets with 86, an average of 6.6 per game, and his six touchdowns is tied with Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph for third among tight ends behind only Tampa Bay’s Cameron Brate and San Diego’s Hunter Henry. There’s much to like about Walker, who has a high floor and high ceiling in Week 16.
McCormick's play: Cameron Brate ($3,900 DK; $5,600 FD)
Brate has at least five targets in seven of the past eight games and since the start of Week 3 claims a team-leading 27.3 percent share of the Bucs' red zone targets. Tied for the lead among tight ends with seven touchdowns and with a rewarding 17.2 percent share of Tampa's targets since the start of Week 3, Brate is an affordable path to this inviting potential shootout in the Superdome on Saturday.
Kaiser's play: Jonathan Stewart ($5,200 DK; $6,400 FD)
Stewart is coming off a big week against Washington (25 carries, 132 yards) and he has an excellent matchup this week against the Falcons, a team that allows an average of 18.4 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs. That’s seventh worst in the NFL. As long as Stewart continues to have the workload that he has had the past two weeks, averaging 24.5 carries per game, he has a strong chance to put up impressive numbers against this Falcons defense, which has allowed opponents to rush for 12 touchdowns and 4.4 yards per carry in 2016.
McCormick's play: DeAndre Hopkins ($5,200 DK; $6,600 FD)
It has been an entirely disappointing season for re-draft investors in Hopkins, but at this depressed price point and with the team's meaningful shift behind center, I'm building around him in daily lineups this weekend. Brock Osweiler is last among qualifying passers this season with just 5.25 yards per dropback and is second-to-last in passer rating, which explains the unique decision to shift to Tom Savage behind center even as Houston sits atop the AFC South. Savage peppered Hopkins with 14 targets last week, comprising 38.8 percent of his attempts. Last season saw Hopkins thrive via similar volume from replacement-level quarterbacks, something Savage might be and Osweiler almost surely isn't. The Bengals rate 21st in pass coverage on Pro Football Focus, while a valuable blend of targets and reasonable pricing signals immense value for Hopkins on Saturday night.