Welcome to another edition of Players to Fade on FanDuel. This is it, the final regular season week of the NFL regular season is upon us. We have almost the entire NFL at our disposal for the main slate, with the exception of the AFC South showdown on Sunday Night Football. There are several teams with something left to play for and most of those would be featured in the late afternoon action. DFS is harder than ever these days, but there is still an edge to be had, especially in a week like this where paying attention to the news is key. It’s necessary to not only narrow it down to the best plays but also be aware of who to avoid on a week-to-week basis. I’ll do my best to identify some players that could end up being landmines to our FanDuel lineups. Whether overpriced or in a bad spot, here’s a list of who I’m avoiding in Week 17. Let’s finish strong and have a safe and Happy New Year.
Drew Brees (NO): $8,100 vs. CAR
Again, it’s all about paying attention to the news of who is playing and who isn’t playing a full complement of snaps. This is what John Madden would call a “no-brainer” so I’ll make it quick. The future Hall of Famer has displayed his impressive accuracy all season but struggled in the last matchup with the Panthers just two weeks ago with less than seven FanDuel points on Monday Night Football. Sean Payton has historically sat his starters in Week 17 games that don’t have any implications and that’s the case here. It’s important to get close to guaranteed, safe production when paying over $8k for any player on any slate. That is not the case as the QB has already admitted backup Teddy Bridgewater will see more action on Sunday. Don’t waste this much of your salary cap space on a guy that probably won’t be out there past the first quarter, and maybe even the first series.
Ezekiel Elliott (DAL): $8,800 @ NYG
The last time the Cowboys played the Giants, New York had Damon Harrison clogging the middle and it was tough sledding for Zeke. Now days, the G-Men are absolutely horrible against the run without Harrison. So why is Zeke here? Well, Cowboys Owner and media mouthpiece Jerry Jones has already come out and said that Dallas plans to play all their starters for the entire game this week. Aside from being filthy rich, he’s also a dirty liar. We saw this just two years ago when the Cowboys were locked into their first-round playoff bye week. This year, the Boys are locked into the fourth seed with no chance to improve or worsen their playoff positioning. I do not expect Zeke, Dak Prescott, or Amari Cooper to play beyond the first quarter or even the first series for that matter. Stay away from all the Cowboys this week and don’t be surprised if any of this trio is made inactive.
Jaylen Samuels (PIT): $6,700 vs. CIN
As of this writing, James Conner has practiced every day this week and looks like he’s going to be ready to play. While it’s tough to trust a running back in his first action in a return from a high ankle sprain, the Steelers typically give the workload to one back and stick with him throughout the entirety of the game. That said, I think the only real chance for Samuels to make a fantasy impact is for Conner to leave the game early a la a Matt Breida special. There is simply too much risk in playing Samuels as he was already a touchdown-dependent RB in the first place. Again, pay close attention to this game’s inactive report because if Conner is a scratch, you can scratch Samuels off this list and use him in all formats.
Michael Thomas (NO): $8,400 vs. CAR
I’ll keep it short at the WR spot as there are direct relationships with these pass catchers and their teammates above. The Saints will be sitting most of their starters for almost the entirety of this game. So while the matchup is awesome and Thomas has been an absolute fantasy monster this season, the scenario of paying this much for a guy that might even end up being announced as an inactive is just way too risky for this week in DFS. Stay away from any of the New Orleans starters.
Amari Cooper (DAL): $6,700 @ NYG
See the comments made for Ezekiel Elliott and know that I don’t trust a word that Jerry Jones or Head Coach Jason Garrett say about their plan to play all the starters and “not making the same mistake as last time”. Do not run any of the Dallas skill position players, period. Even though the Dallas staff can seem incompetent at times, they will play this safe. That’s the smart thing to do, sit all the starters and go into their home playoff game as healthy as possible.
Doug Baldwin (SEA): $6,700 vs. ARI
Fading Baldwin after coming off his two best fantasy performances of the season may seem odd, but he’s not been practicing this week with a shoulder injury, this on top of the lingering knee issues he’s experienced all year. Seattle technically doesn’t have anything to lose or gain from this game as they will end up as either the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC. They know they’re traveling to play in their playoff game next week. The question of playing time for the starters comes down to indifference of behalf of Pete Carroll. The incentive for him to sit his best WR far outweighs any benefit in playing him so I’d expect Baldwin to be an inactive this week as Seattle will do all they can to make sure he’s in good shape for a game that counts next week. Even if Baldwin suits up, I expect the Cardinals to stick perennial Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson on him for most of the game. No thanks!
Jared Cook (OAK): $6,000 @ KC
Cook is coming into this game listed as questionable with a rib injury. This could explain why he barely saw the field in the second half of last week’s Monday Night game against the Broncos. Cook was also not targeted after Oakland’s opening drive in favor of other passing options like Jordy Nelson and other tight ends. The Raiders employ four active TEs on a weekly basis and we saw them getting rotated heavily last week. Even when Cook was healthy, Jon Gruden was taking him out of the game routinely on early downs when the Raiders wanted to run. We saw this trend take place last week as Lee Smith and Derek Carrier played a ton on early downs, this was drastically evident when the Raiders had the lead. When you take into account his tender ribs, his inconsistent snap counts of late and his lack of targets, it adds up to me staying away from Cook, $6k is just too much to pay.
Josh Dalley is a DFS correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, follow him on Twitter @JoshDalley72.