The Primer: Conference Championship Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
We’re onto the final weekend of football before the Super Bowl. These playoffs have brought more surprises than anyone could’ve imagined, as Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are all sitting at home. While there are some of you who’ll be partaking in leagues during the playoffs, this edition of The Primer will be focused on DFS. Fortunately, you’ll still be able to get an idea of how I feel on every player on the slate, as I’ll be taking an in-depth look at each individual player.
For those who are new around these parts, The Primer is something that we do every week during the fantasy season (Weeks 1-16), highlighting every relevant fantasy player from every game, giving you a reason for optimism or a reason to place a player on the bench. We’ll talk about WR/CB matchups, recent snap counts, target shares, and trends that you need to know.
And for anyone diving into DFS for the first time, when we reference “cash” it refers to games where, if you beat half the field, you win. The examples of those are head-to-heads, 50/50s, and Double-Ups. Playing in those contests, you’ll want to do all you can to ensure a high floor out of the players in your lineup. When referring to tournaments or GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pools), only those towards the top portion of entries (typically around top 10 percent) earn winnings. In tournaments, you don’t care about floor as much as you do about a player’s ceiling. I should also mention that we’re sticking to DraftKings pricing, as they have all four games included on the main slate. OK, let’s talk some conference finals.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: KC by 7.5
Chiefs notable injuries: DT Chris Jones
Ryan Tannehill ($5,500): The Titans have now won back-to-back playoff games while Tannehill has thrown for fewer than 100 yards in each of them. He’s been his usual efficient self, throwing for three touchdowns on just 29 attempts, though they haven’t helped DFS players given his low volume. No matter what happens in this game, Derrick Henry will be the centerpiece of the Titans’ offense, which obviously hurts Tannehill’s potential. Also working against him: going into Kansas City to play against a Chiefs defense that held opponents to the fourth fewest yards per attempt (6.62), the fourth-lowest completion-rate (60.4 percent), and the ninth-lowest touchdown-rate (3.61 percent) on the season. The only reason the Chiefs ranked just 12th-best against quarterbacks this year was due to the amount of volume they saw, as quarterbacks averaged 36.3 attempts per game, 10th-most in football. That’s the bad news. Now for the better news. These two teams actually met back in Week 10, when Tannehill completed 13-of-19 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 37 yards. He posted a respectable 18.9 fantasy points in that game despite his minimal attempts. Not only that, we saw Deshaun Watson and the Texans produce big numbers while on the road in Kansas City. Watson threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 37 yards and a touchdown. One thing to monitor, however, is defensive lineman Chris Jones‘ status for this game, as his presence is massive to the Chiefs’ pass rush. Andy Reid said Jones “wasn’t close” to playing last week. If he’s required to miss another game, Tannehill would be more appealing. The hope for Tannehill’s DFS prospects is that the Chiefs jump out to a lead and force the Titans to throw more, though ‘hopes’ are not for cash games. If you want to play Tannehill, it’s going to be narrative-driven, which really only applies to tournaments.
Patrick Mahomes ($7,700): If there’s something we learned last week, it’s that falling behind is a good thing for Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense. It’s not something we see too often, but it was good to see an offensive explosion, as Mahomes hadn’t thrown more than two passing touchdowns since way back in Week 10. Who was that game against? The Titans. It was his biggest passing game of the year, as he completed 36-of-50 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns. To be fair, that was the biggest fantasy performance the Titans have allowed all season, as Mahomes was the only quarterback to score more than 22.9 fantasy points against them; well, not if you include Lamar Jackson‘s performance last week. Despite the Ravens scoring just 12 points, Jackson compiled 365 yards through the air and 123 yards on the ground, on his way to 35.9 DraftKings points. Not that Mahomes can’t get it done against anyone, but the Titans have allowed a stable floor to fantasy quarterbacks, with 11-of-16 finishing with at least 16.9 fantasy points during the regular season. This is due to the fact that the Titans’ run defense has been much more potent than its pass defense. The loss of Malcolm Butler was a big blow to the secondary, even if he wasn’t playing at an All-Pro level, but the defense has stepped up the last two weeks, holding Lamar Jackson to 6.2 yards per attempt and Tom Brady to just 5.6 yards per attempt while allowing just one passing touchdown and three interceptions. In the end, this game isn’t likely to have anywhere close to the fireworks as we saw in last week’s matchup against the Texans, but that’s okay on a two-game slate. Mahomes should come with a stable floor for cash games. You’re also going to have plenty of exposure in tournaments, too, as his huge game against the Titans two months ago suggests. But getting some exposure to Tannehill makes some sense, too, because if Mahomes is going bananas, Tannehill is going to rack up some attempts.
Derrick Henry ($8,700): Despite being saddled with tough playoff games against the Patriots and Ravens, Henry trampled both of them for 377 yards and one touchdown on 34 carries, with another 29 yards through the air. We talked about it last week, but he’s just someone with whom you have to ride the wave. He has clearly improved as the year has gone on, and gets better as the game goes on. Now he has somewhat of a dream matchup against a Chiefs defense that’s been extremely generous to running backs in each of the last two years. After allowing the second-most PPR points to running backs in 2018, the Chiefs came back and allowed the fourth-most PPR points to them in 2019. It’s really no coincidence that Henry had his second biggest regular season performance of the year against them. Back in Week 10, he racked-up 188 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries while catching another two passes for three yards (amounting to a massive 36.1 DraftKings points.) While those 23 carries may have seemed like a lot in the regular season, he’s tallied a ridiculous 64 carries over the last two games. Fun fact: Henry now has the three highest carry totals of the year (34, 32, 30), and each of them has come over the last three weeks. Some may be worried he’s going to get burnt out, but as mentioned above, he’s been getting better as the year has gone on, and as the game has gone on. Maybe the Titans were onto something when they rested him in Week 16. You also can’t forget that everyone is worn down at this point in the season, including the defensive players. We have a team that allowed 12 different running backs to score at least 15.6 PPR points against them, a running back who’s destroying the league as we know it right now, and a two-game slate. You just can’t fade Henry this week.
Damien Williams ($7,000): He kind of walked into a few touchdowns last week, though that’s what happens when you play on a high-scoring offense. The best news for Williams wasn’t the touchdowns, though. He played 59-of-61 snaps in that game, which amounts to 96.7 percent. There was no other game this year where he played more than 73.2 percent of the snaps. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson combined for just two snaps. Williams is the workhorse running back on a team that’s projected for nearly 30 points. The Titans haven’t been a very giving team on the ground this year, and they showed that against the Ravens, holding the Mark Ingram/Gus Edwards duo to 42 scoreless yards on nine carries last week. They aren’t a complete lockdown team, though. There have been seven different running backs who have tallied 100-plus total yards against them, and another two who finished with 96 and 92 yards. It’s worth noting that among all nine of those running backs, eight of them totaled at least 17 touches, so volume is necessary. While that may have been something to worry about in the past with Williams, his snap counts last week suggest otherwise. Outside of Henry, you’re going to have to decide between Williams and Aaron Jones as the only other running backs who are locked into 80-plus percent of the workload on their teams in this slate, which means Williams has cash-game appeal – though you’re not choosing him over Henry, and it’s a close call with him and Jones. He’s obviously in play for tournaments.
A.J. Brown ($5,200): Brown has only one more target (4) than Derrick Henry (3) in their two playoff games. And Henry has more receiving yards than Brown in those games (29 to 13), too. When you don’t see a Titans pass-catcher with more than three targets in either playoff game, you can’t feel confident starting them in your cash games, especially knowing this is the easiest matchup Henry will have had. Not just that, but the last time the Titans played the Chiefs, Brown had what was one of his worst games of the season, catching just one pass for 17 yards. He’s going to see Charvarius Ward, the Chiefs’ best cornerback for most of the season, in coverage most of the time. Ward allowed just a 47.6 percent catch-rate in his coverage, though he was prone to getting beat deep at times, allowing a rather-high 15.9 yards per reception. He’s also coming off what might have been his worst game all year, as he allowed five catches on nine targets for 112 yards and a touchdown in his coverage against the Texans. Look, the Titans are going to ride Henry as long as they can, which may not be very long if the Chiefs’ offense picks up where they left off last week. If the Titans are forced to throw 30-plus attempts, like almost everyone does against the Chiefs, Brown is going to be a much bigger part of the offense. But again, you cannot predict game script (as the entirety of the playoffs has shown us), which means you cannot use him confidently in cash, though DraftKings did lower his salary enough to at least consider him as a value option with upside.
Corey Davis ($4,000): Davis has one catch for three yards and a touchdown through two playoff games. Oddly enough, that’s amounted to more fantasy points than A.J. Brown. It’s been tough for all Titans receivers, as none (tight ends included) have seen more than three targets in each of the last two games. He wasn’t available to the Titans the last time these two teams met, so there’s no history to go off of, but let’s be honest: there weren’t many positives takeaways from Davis’ regular season, even when he did play. This stat blew a lot of minds last week, so I’ll share it again: the 1,956 yards the Chiefs allowed to wide receivers was fewer than the Patriots, Chargers, and 49ers. Only the Patriots allowed fewer fantasy points to the position. Volume was an issue for their opponents, but we can’t pretend like volume isn’t an issue for Davis, either. He’s still yet to see more than six targets with Tannehill under center, which is a problem against the Chiefs, who allowed the fewest yards to wide receivers this year. Even looking for a touchdown could prove tough against the Chiefs, as Davis will see a lot of Bashaud Breeland, who’s allowed just three touchdowns on 66 targets in coverage this year. Davis is nothing more than a tournament option this week, but as a starting wide receiver at just $4,000, he’s not a bad one.
Tyreek Hill ($7,200): In a game that produced 82 points, the odds of Hill not exploding seem quite small, right? Well, he finished last week with just 45 total yards and no touchdowns while seeing just four targets and losing a fumble. It’s a blip on the radar, as it’s possible the big hit he took early-on in the game affected him. Looking forward to the matchup against the Titans, he’s likely going to cause them issues. They have Logan Ryan covering the slot, who’s solid in coverage, but not when he’s asked to cover speed. There have been multiple touchdowns he’s allowed this year where he’s just been outrun and there was nothing he could do about it due to physical limitations (ran a 4.56-second 40-yard-dash when he came into the league back in 2013). He covers the slot for the Titans and that’s where Hill lines up about 45 percent of the time. It should come as no surprise that Hill tagged the Tennessee secondary for 11 receptions, 157 yards, and a touchdown back in Week 10. The only player in this secondary who has the speed to compete with Hill is Adoree Jackson, who doesn’t shadow (and also wasn’t great in shadow coverage). Hill is likely the best wide receiver on the slate this week and worth playing in cash games.
Sammy Watkins ($4,600): The good news: Watkins finished last week with 11.0 PPR points, which was his highest total since Week 9. The bad news: he saw just two targets for the second game in a row. Those are back-to-back season-lows for him (aside from the game he had to leave in the first quarter). He’s still a full-time player in the offense and maybe it helps that Demarcus Robinson dropped, like, 20 passes last week. There was a two-game stretch earlier this year where Watkins had back-to-back three-target games, then bounced back to eight targets after that, so it’s possible you’re getting a full-time receiver who’ll be targeted by Mahomes at a major discount. The Chiefs flip-flop Watkins with Tyreek Hill in the slot, so Watkins will also see a lot of Logan Ryan as well, but he’ll more than likely face a mix of the Titans’ cornerbacks. As a whole, they did allow a solid 8.59 yards per target to wide receivers, ninth-most in the league. The issue is that Watkins didn’t take advantage in the first matchup despite seeing nine targets, finishing with just five catches for 39 yards. At his price, we’d take that performance again, though nine targets appears unlikely with his current role. I wouldn’t say you’re crazy to play him in cash given the uncertainty around wide receivers on the slate, but he’s far from a sure thing. Still, you’re going to need some cheaper options.
Demarcus Robinson ($3,300)/Mecole Hardman ($3,800): After the week that Robinson just had, it should be a given that Hardman plays ahead of him. Sadly, that’s unlikely. The Chiefs have continually run Robinson ahead of Hardman despite what the Chiefs have done with Hardman on the field, averaging 8.73 yards per attempt compared to 7.85 yards per attempt with him off the field. Hardman played just 10 snaps in the divisional round, which gives you no confidence to start him in anything other than tournaments. The Titans did allow 55 pass plays of 20-plus yards this year, so he makes sense in a few tournament lineups if you’re someone who’s setting 10-plus lineups. As for Robinson, I’m okay fading him altogether.
Jonnu Smith ($3,400): His touchdown catch last week was a thing of beauty, but that’s really all he did. He has just three catches for 21 yards over the last two weeks while seeing just five total targets. The crazy part is that his five targets leads the team, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice (sorry if you missed the reference). The Chiefs are someone DFS players continually target due to the fact that they’ve allowed the fifth-most points to the position, though I constantly remind everyone that those numbers never tell the whole story. The Chiefs saw a ridiculous 145 targets directed at tight ends this year (9.06 per game), second-most in the league. That’s a lot. So, yeah, they allowed the fifth-most points to the position, but what about guys who might not see high volume, like Smith? The 6.72 yards per target they allowed to tight ends was the third-lowest mark in the league behind only the 49ers and Vikings. The 1.55 PPR points per target they allowed was also the third-lowest mark in the league. Smith saw six targets in the first game they played against each other and finished with just four catches for 30 yards. There were five tight ends who finished as top-10 options against the Chiefs this year, and each of them saw at least six targets, a number Smith has seen just twice all season. You aren’t playing him in cash with how little targets there have been to go around, but knowing teams have averaged more attempts against the Chiefs, we could see one of the higher-targeted games for Smith. Because of that, he’s in play for tournaments as a cheap option, though maybe in the flex because you’re going to want to play Kelce.
Travis Kelce ($7,100): Remember last week how I talked about Kelce and that he should have cost closer to $8,000 on a four-game slate? Well, maybe that number should have been closer to $10,000 with the way Kelce played. He was a slate-breaker with his 10-catch, 134-yard, three-touchdown performance that netted 44.4 DraftKings points. Seriously, he outscored Patrick Mahomes. DraftKings has raised his price because of that, but it’s still too low for a tight end on a two-game slate. Not only is Kelce matchup-proof, but his matchup against the Titans is above average to begin with. There were six different tight ends who tallied at least 73 yards against the Titans this year, and Kelce was one of them when he tallied 7/75/1 on seven targets in their Week 10 meeting. It’s not just yardage, either, as they allowed five different tight ends to finish as top-five options against them, including a nine-catch, 130-yard game to Austin Hooper. Was it volume-based? Nope, they allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per target to the position. After allowing Tyreek Hill a 11/157/1 line in the first meeting, the Titans have more to worry about than just Kelce. Even on a bad day, the Ravens tight ends combined for 8/92/1 against them last week. Kelce is kind of like Derrick Henry on this slate; you kind of have to play him, though Kittle gives you a bit more wiggle room when it comes to salary.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Line: SF by 7.5
Packers notable injuries: WR Allen Lazard (ankle)
Aaron Rodgers ($6,100): He played a great game last week, there’s no doubt about it. He had his touch nearly all game, ran when he had to run, and did everything Matt LaFleur asked him to do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a whole lot to DFS players, as it netted just 19.1 DraftKings points. The Packers want to win games, plain and simple. They aren’t going to do it in a flashy way or keep their foot on the throttle, and that’s not a great recipe for fantasy points. Rodgers has thrown for 300-plus yards just once in his last nine games. He’s also thrown for more than two touchdowns just once in that span, and hasn’t rushed for more than 24 yards at any point over that stretch. Are we seeing a trend here? Now he goes on the road to play a team that legitimately shut him down in Week 12. Of the 174 games he’s started in his career, the 104 yards he threw for in that game was the second-lowest mark of his career. When you factor in the fact that he had 33 attempts, the 3.15 yards per attempt he averaged in that game was, in fact, his lowest ever. Only three quarterbacks have totaled more than 241 yards against the 49ers all season – and it happened just once in San Francisco (back in Week 16, when they were without safety Jacquiski Tartt, edge rusher Dee Ford, and linebacker Kwon Alexander.) All in all, the 49ers have allowed a minuscule 5.90 yards per attempt this season, which is the lowest mark in the league, and Drew Brees was the only quarterback who threw for more than two touchdowns against them. Rodgers isn’t anywhere close to safe enough for cash and it’s unlikely he has much upside in tournaments, either.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,200): Similar to the Titans’ offense, the 49ers aren’t going to have Garoppolo drop back more than they have to. He threw just 19 passes last week, winding up with 131 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, though there could’ve easily been a second interception in there that was dropped. Like Garoppolo’s regular season, there are some spectacular throws, and then there are some that make you scratch your head. It’s possible there were some jitters while starting his first playoff game, so we don’t want to worry too much. One thing we know about the Packers is that they like to pressure the opposing quarterback, and that was on full display against Russell Wilson last week as he was pressured on a ridiculous 54.5 percent of his dropbacks. That was the sixth time this year they’ve pressured a quarterback on more than 40 percent of his dropbacks. Garoppolo posted a 74.3 QB Rating while under pressure this year, which ranked 14th among 37 qualified quarterbacks, so it shouldn’t be a debilitating blow to his projections. During their first meeting he completed 70 percent of his passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. That was on just 20 pass attempts, as the 12.6 yards per attempt he averaged was his second-best mark of the season. Still, it’s worth noting that there’s been just one quarterback all season who threw for more than two touchdowns against the Packers, while Dak Prescott was the only quarterback to score more than 19.7 DraftKings points against them. On top of that, Garoppolo hasn’t totaled more than 12.6 DraftKings points in any of his last four games. DraftKings is tempting us to use him in cash with that $5,200 price tag but his floor has shown to be just too low. If you want to play him, tournaments would be your best bet, as it allows you to fit some top-tier skill-position players in your lineup.
Aaron Jones ($6,700) and Jamaal Williams ($3,800): The Packers continued to use Jones in a workhorse role last week, as he tallied 23 touches while Williams received just two of them. Over the last two games, Jones has played 84 and 85 percent of the snaps, which are numbers he didn’t reach at all during Weeks 1-16. The results have been great, too. Over the last five games, Jones has racked-up 612 total yards and seven touchdowns. The downside is that the 49ers had his number the last time they played, as he totaled just 38 yards on 13 carries and didn’t catch a single pass. There were just two running backs (Kenyan Drake, Christian McCaffrey) who totaled more than 89 yards on the ground against the 49ers this year, and they allowed just seven total touchdowns to the position. The 0.69 PPR points per opportunity they allowed to running backs ranked fourth-best, though it helps they were one of only two teams who didn’t allow a single receiving touchdown to them. The 1.17 PPR points per target was the lowest mark in the league. If there’s somewhere Jones is going to get it done, it’s on the ground, as they did allow a healthy 4.21 yards per carry, which is essentially the league average. The issue with relying on that is due to the fact that running backs have averaged just 18.9 carries per game against them, so if there’s any hint of him sharing work, it’s going to be crippling to his projection. Jones is in the cash-game conversation with Damien Williams as your sidekick to Derrick Henry, though you’re not going to be able to fit all three in a lineup. I’d likely prefer Williams in cash because of his usage in the passing game while Jones’ work there has been volatile. Jones is certainly in play in tournaments. Knowing that Williams played just nine snaps last week and received two touches, he’s off the radar outside of mass-entry tournaments where you want to take your ‘Tevin Coleman-type shot’ that paid off last week.
Raheem Mostert ($4,300), Tevin Coleman ($5,700), and Matt Breida ($3,400): In traditional Kyle Shanahan fashion, he swapped the roles of the running backs last week, leaving us feeling empty inside. Yes, Mostert left in the fourth quarter with what turned out to be cramps, but to be fair, I’d pointed out that Mostert’s touch counts were not where they needed to be to consider him in cash lineups. The 49ers running backs totaled 42 carries in the divisional round, but none of them tallied a single reception. If there is anything positive we can take away from that game as a DFS players, it’s that Breida is likely buried on the depth chart after fumbling late in the fourth quarter. That means we can safely assume it’ll be 80-plus percent of Mostert and Coleman. While many will assume Coleman has stolen that job back, I wouldn’t be so sure, as that was the first time he totaled more than 12 carries since way back in Week 7. Here are the touch splits over the last nine games with the trio:
Just as the 21 touches Mostert got in Week 13 were an outlier, so were Coleman’s 22 touches last week. If there’s one constant in this backfield, it’s been Mostert, who has received at least 11 touches in each of the last six games. The funny part is that Mostert and Coleman have the same exact number of carries on the season, yet Mostert has 228 more yards and two more rushing touchdowns. Look, there’s no guarantee in this backfield, but Mostert’s price of $4,300 is the most appealing by far. The Packers biggest weakness is his biggest strength, as they allowed the fourth-most fantasy points on the ground to running backs, behind only the Panthers, Jaguars, and Dolphins. Seriously, that’s bad. There’s going to be production out of this backfield this week. Coleman may be a better receiver than Mostert, but the 1.29 PPR points per target the Packers allowed to running backs ranked as the third-best mark, so that’s not where we should be looking for the majority of production. I’d argue that all three running backs on the roster have tournament appeal because ownership will be all over the place, but Mostert is the one with cash-game appeal given how low his price is this week.
Davante Adams ($7,900): He was one of the must-plays last week, so it wasn’t surprising to see him finish with 8/160/2 against a weak Seahawks secondary. He saw 11 targets while no other Packers pass-catcher saw more than four of them. It was the same story in Week 12 when the Packers played the 49ers and Adams led the team with 12 targets while no other receiver had more than four. Unfortunately, his 12 targets netted just seven receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown certainly saved him in that game, though that’s part of his game, as he has scored seven touchdowns in his last seven games. And though the 49ers allowed just 6.74 yards per target to wide receivers this year (3rd-fewest), they did allow a touchdown every 18.4 targets (10th most often). It also doesn’t hurt that Adams lines up on Ahkello Witherspoon‘s side of the field about 45 percent of the time. The 49ers play sides with Witherspoon and Richard Sherman, so don’t worry about a shadowing situation. Over the last five games, Witherspoon has allowed 24-of-31 passing for 314 yards and six touchdowns in his coverage. He allowed a long touchdown to Stefon Diggs last week that got him benched for Emmanuel Moseley, an undrafted free agent from last year. He’s played admirably while Witherspoon dealt with injuries this year, allowing just a 57.9 percent catch-rate and 6.98 yards per target. If they decide to start Moseley over Witherspoon, it’d be a tougher matchup for Adams, but he can beat either of them. If you can find the salary space to fit Adams, he’s playable in cash.
Allen Lazard ($4,400): He suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Seahawks when Aaron Jones was tackled into him from behind. It forced him to miss much of the game, though he did return and wound-up playing 20-of-63 snaps but didn’t see a single target. His practice participation is something to watch, as we could see him used sparingly. Even if he plays, it’s not a great spot for him, as his primary place on the field is at RWR, which is where Richard Sherman lines up. He’s easily their best cornerback, so when you combine that with Lazard’s injury, it’s not a great situation to target in DFS. If he practices in full throughout the week, you can take a stab in tournaments as a low-owned option but avoid him in cash lineups.
Emmanuel Sanders ($4,900): Has the season worn on Sanders a bit? He’s almost 33 years old and made a miraculous comeback from an Achilles injury, which essentially never happens. He’s now seen just 16 targets over his last four games, though it certainly didn’t help his production to know that Garoppolo completed just 11 passes last week. In fact, Sanders hasn’t recorded more than four receptions in eight of his last nine games, which makes you a bit worried in a PPR format like DraftKings. The Packers make you do a double-take, though, as they have allowed 21 different wide receivers tally 50-plus yards against them this year. Sanders isn’t at one spot on the field more than 39 percent of the time, so he’ll see a mixture of all Packers cornerbacks. He was trying to play through a rib cartilage injury the last time they met, so he played just 32-of-48 snaps and saw just one target. The issue is that he’s totaled most of his production at RWR for the 49ers, which is where he’ll see Jaire Alexander, who is the best cornerback on the Packers roster. Sanders isn’t safe enough for cash lineups. He has just one game over 61 yards since Week 9, so he’s not a great tournament play, either, but you don’t want to cross him off entirely knowing he’s flashed multiple 100-plus-yard games this year.
Deebo Samuel ($5,200): He looks to be the No. 1 receiver for this team right now, as he’s got a lot of juice in his legs and is fighting for every single yard. What he’s done after the catch is what’s been most spectacular, as his 8.5 yards after the catch ranked third among wide receivers in the regular season. It’s likely why the 49ers have given him 10 rushing attempts over his last six games, as they’re doing anything they can to get the ball in his hands. Even better is that he runs almost half of his routes on Kevin King‘s side of the field. Of the 888 yards he’s allowed in his coverage, 296 of them have come after the catch, which ranked as the eighth-most in the league. He’s played much better as of late, but he’s still the weakest link among the cornerback trio they have. The 1.66 yards per covered snap he allowed ranked as the fifth-highest mark among full-time cornerbacks while Jaire Alexander was 38th and Tramon Williams was 89th in that category. If you want to play a 49ers receiver, he’d be the one. He may not be a must-play in cash with how little they’d like to throw the ball, but he’s not a bad play, either.
Kendrick Bourne ($4,200): What you saw last week from Bourne is something that’s happened more than most realize over the last two months, as he’s now caught a touchdown in five of the last 10 games. The downside is that he’s failed to top 42 yards in any of those games, meaning he’s touchdown-or-bust for your DFS lineup. Not much will change against the Packers, as Tramon Williams has been phenomenal covering the slot, allowing just 29-of-47 passing for 379 yards and one touchdown in that area of the field, which is where Bourne runs over 50 percent of his routes. As a guy who’s failed to see more than four targets in each of the last seven games, I don’t even think he’s a great tournament option.
Jimmy Graham ($3,700): It appears the Packers are dialing back Graham’s snaps, maybe thinking that having him fresh when on the field will do good things for his production. He played just 24-of-63 snaps last week, which amounts to just 38 percent, and a season-low for him. In fact, both Marcedes Lewis (41) and Jace Sternberger (28) both out-snapped him last week. Not just that but the 49ers defense was the best in the NFL at defending tight ends this year. There were just four tight ends who tallied more than 32 yards against them this season, and three of them saw six-plus targets, something Graham has had just twice all season. One of the sticky stats for tight ends I tend to lean on is yards per target, as touchdowns and volume can skew overall efficiency. The 49ers allowed just 5.52 yards per target, which was easily the lowest number in the league, as no other team was below 6.14 yards per target, and just one team (Vikings) were below 6.72 yards per target. If you’re playing Graham, you’re doing it in tournaments only and looking for a touchdown for him to hit value.
George Kittle ($5,800): You were warned about the matchup for Kittle last week, as the Vikings were one of the best in the league against tight ends, though Kittle’s lack of fantasy points had more to do with the fact that the 49ers threw the ball just 19 times and completed just 11 passes. It’s just one game against a great opponent, so don’t blow it out of proportion. This week is going to be much better for the superstar tight end, as the Packers come back to town. He played against them back in Week 12 where he caught all six of his targets for 129 yards and a touchdown. That was good enough for 27.9 DraftKings points, though it wasn’t even the biggest performance of the year the Packers allowed to a tight end, as Darren Waller secured seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns against them. There was a total of seven tight ends who totaled at least 63 yards against the Packers, including every tight end who saw seven-plus targets, a number Kittle has hit in four of his last five games. Getting a player who’s tallied at least five receptions in seven of his last nine games for just $5,800 against an opponent that allowed a 70 percent completion-rate to the position is highway robbery. Kittle needs to be played this week. Yes, I’m aware that Kelce does as well, but that’s what your flex spot is for.