NFL DFS, Week 13: Take advantage of Calvin Johnson’s bottomed-out DraftKings salary

calvin johnson

I can’t remember the last time a healthy Calvin Johnson has been this affordable on DraftKings – and I can’t imagine it happening again soon.  Take advantage while you can of his salary – #11 this week – and reap the benefits as he tears into an ultra-porous Chicago secondary.  (And while you’re at it, shoot a glance at his QB.)

Week 12 Recap: Was it Profitable?

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This was my most profitable week of the season.  I moneyed and/or won every contest I entered except one, a 40-player tourney that I fell out of with the last-minute Brees-to-Graham touchdown.  My lineups were highlighted by Eli’s big night against the Cowboys, who allow a ton of red zone touchdowns.  (It was for that very same reason I also went heavy on Randle and Donnell, but both were majorly upstaged, Randle by Odell Beckham, Jr. and Donnell by drops.)  I also hit big on Green, who tangoed with a very burnable Texan secondary that allowed him 12 catches.  Welker’s late TD was very helpful, as he didn’t contribute much throughout the game.  Crowell is clearly in a timeshare despite his “starter” tag, so I bet on his ability to find the end zone, which he did twice.  Tamme and Hogan were massive, massive busts that I don’t want to talk about, though I still managed to money in their lineups as well.

DraftKings Plays & Fades, Week 13

by Justin Howe, DFS Editor/Content Manager

QUARTERBACKS

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Tom Brady (@GB, $8,400)

If you’re spending big money on your QB (which I don’t recommend), I think Brady presents Week 13’s best mixture of upside and value.  He’s likely looking at a fast-paced shootout against the league’s best offense, so the ball will likely be in the air for much of the game.  And while I love the Packers’ corners, Brady doesn’t really test those guys that often, doing his damage on underneath timing routes and intermediate throws to Gronktavious.  I just can’t foresee either QB in this matchup landing below 300 yards and 2-3 touchdowns.

FADE WITH GLORY: Peyton Manning (@KC, $9,500)

Peyton is obviously matchup-proof and never a poor fantasy play.  But given my feelings on DFS QBs and the glut of attractive mid-salaried options, I’d pass on this mammoth price tag as he travels to Arrowhead.  Kansas City has stifled or even dominated a few great passing games this year, and they certainly won’t make anything easy for Peyton in a divisional must-win.  He’ll probably find his way to 325 and 2-4 scores, but it’ll be hard-earned and I won’t be paying for it.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Mark Sanchez (@DAL, $6,800) – Chip Kelly’s lotta-plays offense allows all of its QBs to fling the ball at an impressive volume, resulting in Sanchez averaging an insane 41.3 attempts/start.  Two things make that number extra fantasy-worthy: (1) the Eagles are loaded with playmakers that have boosted Sanchez’s yardage to 328.3 yards/start, and (2) that passing volume doesn’t waver based on game flow, as they’ve attempted 37 and 43 passes in blowout wins during the Sanchize Era.  His Thanksgiving matchup with Dallas just screams shootout, as both offenses are potent and both defenses quite porous.  So fire him up.

Matthew Stafford (vCHI, $7,200) – Yes, Stafford has disappointed you (me) in yearly leagues.  No, this Joe Lombardi-led Lion offense hasn’t produced near expectations.  But there are reasons to love Stafford this week – reasons beyond the sorry state of the Chicago pass defense.  Stafford has thrown for 264+ yards in four of his last five games, and with Megatron back on board, it’s easy to expect the TDs to surface.  Especially when facing a defense that’s coughed up 25 TDs (second-most in the league).  And if you’re into history, note that Stafford has averaged 349 yards and thrown six TDs over his last three Thanksgiving matchups.  There’s a good chance the #9 salary produces a top-four line this week.

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Zach Mettenberger (@HOU, $5,800) – Nobody seems to like this guy’s starting chops.  He doesn’t look like a franchise QB, but with his live arm and the Titans’ propensity for trailing in games, he’s posted some nice yardage totals as the Titans’ starter.  He’s thrown for 263+ in three of his four starts, with 345 Sunday in Philadelphia.  (Garbage time counts, too.)  And Houston has allowed big plays and big yardage to some pretty blah QBs lately – including Mettenberger himself, who rang up 299 and two TDs last month.

RUNNING BACKS

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Eddie Lacy (vNE, $7,300)

Don’t be fooled by the Pats’ recent success in corralling opposing run games.  They’ve stamped out some pretty iffy rushing “attacks” in blowout wins – the Broncos, Colts, and Lions attempted just 58 rushes over the last three games – and been gashed by most of the talented run games they’ve faced.  This showdown in Green Bay looks like anything but a Patriot landslide, and Lacy has game flow on his side anyway, seeing 25 targets over his last five.  He’s producing in a big way, will see a workload in any type of game landscape, and comes with a massive discount from the top-salaried tier of backs.

FADE WITH GLORY: Matt Forte (@DET, $8,700)

I’ll never project a crappy fantasy output for Forte, regardless of matchup or game flow.  But I’m not paying this salary against this defense.  The Lion front seven is unreal – last week was the first since Week 4 in which an opposing team has topped 78 rush yards – so it’s hard to expect much rushing output.  And while Forte is always a candidate to catch 6+ balls and find his way to 100 scrimmage yards, those are outliers you can’t project in a devastating matchup.  And you certainly can’t pay the #2 salary for the guy.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Jeremy Hill (@TB, $5,300) – Any questions left about the Bengals’ plans for Hill with Giovani Bernard in the fold?  Yeah, me either.  Sunday’s usage seemed to indicate that the team has finally realized the obvious: Bernard makes for a fine change-of-pace back, but Hill represents the future of their run game.  He’s a powerful, purposeful runner who can handle his share of passing downs.  He posted 130 scrimmage yards/game during Bernard’s absence, then churned out 98 on 19 touches with both dressed; it’s safe to say he’s earned a prominent role.  Wanna hear another appealing factoid?  Unlike Bernard, Hill has run just as well on the road (5.0 YPC) as at home (4.9).  Fire him up for the #19 salary against a porous Buccaneer D that’s allowed big days to plodders Steven Jackson and Alfred Morris over the last three weeks – and has trouble preventing TDs in the red zone.

Latavius Murray (@StL, $3,800) – First things first: Murray is back at practice and likely to clear the concussion protocol this week.  So he’s likely to draw the lion’s share of opportunity, assuming the Raider coaches have working eyeballs.  Now, when we evaluate our DFS plays, we should look beyond opportunity at talent, matchup, and price tag, so let’s do that.  Talent-wise, Murray looks awesome, of course.  He’s a massive speedster who cranked out 112 yards and two scores on four carries last week.  The matchup is murkier, as the Rams have alternated great and awful run defense this season.  What it comes down to is this: Murray looks like a dicey play in cash games due to all of these question marks, but a potential week-winner in tournaments with his real 20-point potential.  And this is a hell of a price tag for that potential.

Shane Vereen (@GB, $5,400) – While the Patriots’ power back role is constantly in flux, Vereen has become by far the most sure thing in terms of playing time.  He’s led the team in snaps by a comfortable margin in every game since Stevan Ridley’s injury.  And while a Bill Belichick backfield is a nightmare to project, you can typically expect Vereen to return solid (if unspectacular) value in competitive games, in which the Patriots are more apt to throw 40 times and have less use for a hammer between the tackles.  This matchup certainly looks to fit that bill.  DraftKings scores a full point/reception, making Vereen even more valuable in his five-catch outings.  He looks like a steady RB2/flex this week.

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Andre Williams (@JAX, $3,000) – Last Sunday, Williams cut noticeably into Rashad Jennings’ playing time, snagging 11 looks (carries + targets) on 25 snaps.  Most importantly, he took double the red zone carries (4-2) and dominated the goal line.  Williams is a tournament-only dart throw, but one worth a look with a minimum salary.

WIDE RECEIVERS

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Dez Bryant (vPHI, $7,900)

Everything just adds up nicely for Bryant this week.  The talent is rare and undeniable.  The opportunity is golden (he’s ninth in the league in targets and first from inside the five-yard line).  The matchup is sizzling (likely CB opponent Cary Williams has allowed a 105.6 passer rating and five TDs in coverage this year).  And the price tag is embarrassingly low (seven wideouts are costlier this week).  You want to play Dez, and you want to play him hard.  Be advised that his ownership percentage will be sky-high, as he plays on Thanksgiving, making him a better bet in cash games than in tournaments.  Most importantly, though, he’s an excellent bet for a huge fantasy output in any format.

FADE WITH GLORY: Jordy Nelson (vNE, $8,400)

Revis Island certainly isn’t what it once was, but the combination of his talent and the Patriots’ “shut down the high-powered passing games) scheme has wrought havoc on some fine #1 WRs this year.  The last four they’ve faced – only Calvin Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Demaryius Thomas, and Brandon Marshall – have averaged a weak 4-61 line, and none got into the end zone.  While Jordy is an outstanding wideout who WILL contribute this Sunday, he’ll be far more valuable to the Packers than to his fantasy owners.  Skip this price tag, then proceed to covet the man like gold next week.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Calvin Johnson (vCHI, $7,000) – Didn’t expect to find Megatron in THIS bin, did you?  If DraftKings were an old-timey (read: 1990s) record store, Week 13 Calvin Johnson would be The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylandiscounted due to recency bias, but fresh as a daisy upon closer inspection.  Calvin looks golden this week, taking on a Bear secondary that borders on the pathetic and costing less than a rookie who catches passes from Josh McCown.  Unless he’s still nursing an injury – unlikely, considering his season-high 64 snaps from last week – it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Calvin doesn’t post 20 DraftKings points against rookie Kyle Fuller, who has regressed since his white-hot NFL debut.

Anquan Boldin (vSEA, $5,700) – The Seahawks’ outstanding CB machine tends to scare off fantasy owners of opposing wideouts.  This week, you can use that to your advantage by rostering Boldin and his low ownership rate.  Boldin works primarily from the slot, where he’ll see plenty of inexperienced Marcus Burley.  And while Burley isn’t garbage, he is allowing a 73.2% catch rate and the third-most YAC of all slot corners according to Pro Football Focus.  And if you’re worried about Colin Kaepernick’s efficiency, you can feel toasty warm about the volume here: Boldin has seen 10 targets/game over his last five, averaging 86 yards and scoring three times.  He looks like an upper-tier WR3 type this week.

DeAndre Hopkins (vTEN, $5,400) – Here’s another good-looking WR2/3 type you can likely play without worrying about high ownership.  After his impressive start to the season, Hopkins’ production cooled with Ryan Mallett under center.  Now back to the saddle comes none other than Ryan Fitzpatrick, the early-season starter who made Hopkins the preferable fantasy option to Andre Johnson.  Hopkins’ targets have increased wildly of late – he’s seen 48 over the last five games, compared to 50 for Johnson – and with his remarkable talent level, he looks ready to break into the WR2 tier as soon as this week.  The matchup is sexy, as likely opposing CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson has been a punching bag, surrendering the 11th-most yards/snap in coverage (and 12th-most YAC) in the league, in addition to five TDs.  Hopkins is a better tournament play than cash one due to the slight risk involved with WRs from run-heavy teams, but for the #26 DraftKings salary, he’s at least a solid play anywhere.

Chris Hogan (vCLE, $4,800) – I wrote up Hogan the other day, so I’ll give you the 25-cent tour: he’s more athletic than Sammy Watkins by combine measurables (it’s true), he’s been one of the league’s most efficient wideouts this year, and he’s posted five catches and 57 yards or more in four of his last six games.  His production is a bit sporadic, but his matchup makes him an intriguing Week 13 play: the Buster Skrine, the Browns’ primary inside corner, has allowed four TDs from the slot this year.

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Davante Adams (vNE, $3,000) – For the DraftKings minimum, I’d take a shot at Adams finding the end zone in my tournament games.  True, his targets have decreased dramatically from his midseason peak.  But I outlined above the Patriots’ ability to shut down #1 WRs, and considering Aaron Rodgers is on absolute fire, we have to expect the throws to go somewhere.  I’m expecting a huge Randall Cobb day and a solid chance for the supporting players – Adams and the TEs – to crack the goal line at least once.

TIGHT ENDS

HIGH-DOLLAR BOYS

PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Jimmy Graham (@PIT, $7,100)

In a season of horrendous TE underproduction and uncertainty, Graham is both a top-dollar player and a solid value, with a solid chance of winding up as the TE1 on a weekly basis and a manageable price tag ($700 less than Gronktastic).  Not that Graham can be bothered with matchup concerns, but note that the Steelers have allowed eight TDs to tight ends thus far.

FADE WITH GLORY: Greg Olsen (@MIN, $5,300)

Olsen’s not a bad play per se, but he’s probably not worth the #3 salary this week.  He hasn’t found the end zone in his last five games, drawing just one red zone look over that span.  And the Vikings do a solid job defending the TE, allowing just three TDs all year and 44 yards/game.  You can likely get similar or better production for less money.

FROM THE BARGAIN BIN

Travis Kelce (vDEN, $4,300) – Kelce’s monstrous upside has been held in check by the presence of blocking specialist Anthony Fasano, who played just two snaps last week due to a knee injury.  Kelce capitalized with a 4-67 line on his highest snap count of the season.  His production depends upon the Chiefs’ gameplan; when Alex Smith is required to throw 35+ passes, Kelce shifts from spectator to weapon.  And it’s safe to expect the Broncos to force the Chiefs to air out the football this Sunday.  Note also that Denver is allowing 59 yards/game to TEs.  Kelce could be in line for a monster day.

Tim Wright (@GB, $3,400) – Wright is as risky a TE proposition as they come.  He’s averaged just 19 snaps/game this year, but that usage could be trending upward – he saw 59 against the Lions last Sunday, turning in a 5-36-2 line that won a lot of DFS tournaments.  You probably don’t want to play him in many cash games, as he’s just as likely to post a 1-5, but you need to note that he’s tied for second league-wide in targets inside the five – ahead of Gronktacular, Martellus Bennett, and Dwayne Allen.  He’s a weekly threat for 1-2 TDs, and if he’s indeed becoming a more regular piece of the offense, he’ll be another strong tournament play going forward.

CHEAPER THAN DIRT

Jacob Tamme (@KC, $3,100) – Julius Thomas has yet to practice this week and looks likely to miss another game.  Tamme burned us baaaaaaad last week with his 0.9 DraftKings showing, but it could be well worth this low price tag to bet on Peyton Manning’s love for intermediate TEs.  Tamme could just as easily post a 7-70 as flop this week, so if you could use some major salary relief, buy in at his near-minimum salary.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Dolphins (@NYJ, $3,200) – Whether Geno Smith or Michael Vick gets the nod, expect the elite Miami defense to harangue them with turnover-causing pressure and keep them largely out of the end zone.

Ravens (vSD, $3,100) – Philip Rivers may or may not be nursing a painful rib injury.  Either way, his Chargers’ production has fallen off a cliff lately, and the Ravens look poised to capitalize at home.  They’ve registered 12 sacks over the last three weeks.

Texans (vTEN, $3,100) – The Titan offense is punchless and led by a rookie, making them a targetable opponent just about every week.  They’ve coughed up 10 turnovers over their last five games, and Zach Mettenberger has been sacked five times in two of their last three.  Playing the Texan D gives you a modest discount on a likely top-eight unit.

Lead photo attribution: “Calvin Johnson” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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