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Week 15 NFL DFS Advice: Sleepers, Busts and More

NFL DFS Advice Week 15 - Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Week 15 promises to be an interesting one. You are not getting the usual massive array of studs to choose from. Not only did Patrick Mahomes play on Thursday Night Football, but there are also two games on Saturday, one on Sunday night and one more on Monday.

None of them are on FanDuel’s main slate.

That makes the main daily fantasy football slate much weaker than normal. I actually love it, though. It could level the playing field and it could either make going balanced a brilliant strategy, or it will come down to who nails the right value plays.

With a small number of studs, it might make sense to stack the very best options and then find some value to jam into your roster. But there are more ways to look at it this week.

Before you finalize anything, though, join me as I break down a few different takes on some of the best options for week 15 at FanDuel:

NFL DFS Studs to Target

Christian McCaffrey continued to be a monster last week, Drew Brees was fine enough and Julio Jones got the job done. Zach Ertz wasn’t the dominant beast you paid for him to be, though, while the Denver defense couldn’t corral the 49ers.

It wasn’t an awful weak for my core studs, but it wasn’t a total smash job, either.

Like I said, this is a weird week for studs. They’re kind of obvious, but that might be part of the problem. Regardless, here’s my favorite core over at FanDuel for week 15:

  • Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks ($8k)
  • Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants ($9.4k)
  • Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8.6k)
  • Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots ($6.9k)
  • Seattle Seahawks Defense ($4.2k)
Russell Wilson
Wilson was an epic fail in week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings, but this week he gets a much softer matchup. He’ll be facing the 49ers, who rank 25th against fantasy passers and gave up four scores through the air to Wilson two games ago.
Saquon Barkley:
Barkley has been such a monster during his rookie season that he’s yet to dip below 12 fantasy points in a single game. He’s extremely safe and has as much upside as anyone. His matchup with the Titans isn’t off the charts, but he’s proven to be fairly matchup-proof to this point.
Antonio Brown:
Antonio Brown hasn’t always looked right in 2018, but from a DFS perspective he’s plenty fine. He turned in a goose egg last week in a great spot against the Raiders, but I expect him to bounce back this week. New England has actually been a terrific matchup for wide receivers in 2018, with 15 touchdowns allowed to the position.
Rob Gronkowski:
Sticking in that Steelers vs. Patriots game, I also am high on The Gronk this week. He saves you a little cash as a pivot off of George Kittle and he’s got a way better matchup. Gronkowski resurfaced with 20 fantasy points last week and should keep it going against Pittsburgh, who rank 28th against tight ends this year.
Seattle Seahawks Defense:
There are more expensive defenses in week 15, but none are for sure better than Seattle. The Seahawks get the 49ers for a second time in three weeks and the last time they face them they racked up 16 fantasy points. Seattle has done just that in two consecutive weeks and will be playing to finalize a spot in the NFC playoffs. I don’t anticipate them turning up lame in this spot.

NFL DFS Players to Avoid

I also like to point out players that disinterest me, whether it be due to price, matchup or another reason. I whiffed on fading Patrick Mahomes, but Jimmy Graham was a spare, Melvin Gordon was scratched and the Texans defense gave up 24 points.

Mahomes wasn’t even that bad of a fade based on his absurd price. On FanDuel you don’t get the yardage bonus that DraftKings offers, so while Mahomes was perfectly fine, he wasn’t as good as you probably would have needed him to be.

With that, let’s look at a few options I may stay away from in week 15:

  • Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8.6k)
  • James White, RB, New England Patriots ($6.9k)
  • Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons ($8.8k)
  • George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers ($7.4k)
  • Washington Redskins Defense ($4.6k)
Ben Roethlisberger:
Big Ben could easily put up solid numbers this week. He’s at home in a huge game against the Patriots, who are from from elite against the pass. That being said, Roethlisberger hasn’t been putting up enough big numbers lately to warrant being the top-priced quarterback on this slate. I’ll save some cash and use someone else.
James White:
White isn’t super expensive, but he’s pricey enough to the point where it makes little sense to use him. The healthy return of Rex Burkhead and the presence of Sony Michel really cloud things up in New England’s backfield. It’s good for the Pats to have all of these useful bodies, but not ideal for White’s DFS value.
Julio Jones:
Jones is obviously a monster in just about every spot and he can have some of his biggest games in his home dome. Unfortunately, he’s got a lot working against him in week 15. Not only is he the most expensive wide receiver on the board, but he’s got a toe issue, has had a bout with the flu and could draw a lot of Patrick Peterson coverage. I’ll take my chances elsewhere.
George Kittle:
I love me some Kittle most weeks and obviously, he was amazing last week. But he was fairly pedestrian two weeks against a good Seattle defense. The Seahawks happen to allow the third least production to fantasy tight ends, too, so paying up and banking on huge numbers feels like a reach.
Washington Redskins Defense:
The Redskins are expensive this week because they face the Jaguars. That’s pretty much it. The results have otherwise not been there and a bad offense hurts what’s left over of a respectable defense. Washington could take advantage of a Cody Kessler-led Jags offense, but I’m not willing to pay up to find out if they do.

Contrarian Options

It’s one thing to know who to use and who to stay away from. It’s another to use that information and purposefully go against it in the name of low ownership.

That can be a dangerous game, but in tournaments, it can also be the NFL DFS strategy that allows for you to strike gold.

Last week I pivoted off of some chalkier plays to use Tom Brady, Mark Ingram, Tyreek Hill, Rob Gronkowski, and the Saints defense. The only miss was the New Orleans defense, which simply wasn’t elite.

That Brady/Gronk pairing at low ownership was fun, Hill against the Ravens was a solid contrarian play and Ingram was just fine enough at a discounted price tag.

There are several more players that could be considered “contrarian” going into week 15, but the following might be my favorite:

  • Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers ($8.1k)
  • Doug Martin, RB, Oakland Raiders ($6.3k)
  • Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($7.3k)
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings ($5.6k)
  • Atlanta Falcons Defense ($4k)

I’m not down for betting against Aaron Rodgers. The matchup is terrible and Green Bay faces long odds to make the playoffs, but there’s a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. After the Packers looked like a different team last week, it’s not that crazy to see Rodgers step up and lead Green Bay past the Bears. If he does that, he’ll be a steal and nobody else will be on him.

The Muscle Hamster isn’t what he once was and using players from the Raiders gives me stomach cramps, but there is logic to it. Obviously, the Bengals are a killer matchup (rank dead last vs. RBs) ad Martin has been involved enough (TD in three straight games) to lean on. He’s also cheap, so if you want to stack wide receivers this week, he’s not a bad value RB to start with.

Please Note:

I’ll admit I’m technically not super high on Mike Evans. He hasn’t done much in recent weeks and Baltimore has a very good defense. However, he’s a great price, Tampa Bay puts up passing numbers better than anyone and nobody will be on him. Cue the Mike Evans explosion.

Rudolph is certainly coming with risk considering the weak year he’s endured, but that’s been largely due to Minnesota’s system. With a changing of guard at offensive coordinator, it wouldn’t be crazy to imagine him suddenly getting more involved in some capacity. Aiding that notion is the fact that Miami ranks 27th at stopping tight ends this season.

The Falcons are not a good defensive team at all, but they’re at home and facing Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals. That’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s also not nothing.

Bounce-Back Targets

It is always fascinating to watch struggling players pop off for huge games. Whether they’re down for 1-2 weeks or have been bad all year, eventually elite talent and/or an amazing matchup will help people produce.

I saw the upside in guys like Cam Newton, David Johnson and Michael Thomas last week, but MT was the only one to really deliver. He hauled in 11 catches for 98 yards, but didn’t score.

This week I have my eye on a different group:

  • Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings ($7.8k)
  • Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars ($8.2k)
  • Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings ($8.2k)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars Defense ($4.8k)

Cousins has been flat out bad the past two weeks in a fading Minnesota offense. Two good things are happening, though; the Vikings changed offensive coordinators and the Miami Dolphins are coming to town. With Minnesota’s playoff lives hanging in the balance, there’s no time like the present for him to step up and deliver a gem.

Fournette followed up a string of elite performances with a sad sack outing against the Titans. He is held back by a bad passing game, but I refuse to let one bad game define him. He’s still a talented back with a huge role and will go up against a defeated Redskins squad. He’s also arguably too cheap for what he’s capable of.

The same goes for Thielen, who was everyone’s favorite DFS crush for the entire year and thanks to a rough stretch he’s now chopped liver. I see a bounce-back performance coming with the changes in Minnesota, while the Dolphins aren’t the most imposing defense through the air.

I am not confusing this rendition of the Jacksonville defense for last year’s, but it’s impossible to ignore they’ve looked good in spots. Week 15 gives them an amazing situation, as they’ll face Josh Johnson and a bad Redskins offense. This should work in their favor.

NFL DFS Sleepers

Lastly, after you get through all of the studs and duds, you’ll want to consider which under the radar cheap options could be worth plugging into your roster.

Nailing those 1-2 daily fantasy football sleepers can be huge, as nobody will be using them (usually) and they also can save you cash to pay up at other spots.

Last week I saw value in Eli Manning, Jaylen Samuels, DaeSean Hamilton, Hayden Hurst, and the Giants defense. Samuels was super chalky and Hurst didn’t do much, but Eli, the Giants, and Hamilton were all money plays.

For once, we didn’t have to see this pouty mug:

If you used those guys and mixed in the right studs, you could have done very well last week. Let’s since which NFL DFS sleepers might be able to help you in week 15:

  • Josh Johnson, QB, Washington Redskins ($6.5k)
  • Zach Zenner, RB, Detroit Lions ($5.3k)
  • Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders ($5k)
  • Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins ($5.3k)
  • New England Patriots Defense ($3.2k)

While I do have interest in using the Jacksonville defense this week (a lot), I don’t see the harm in hedging your bets a bit with an ultra cheap Josh Johnson. He’ll get the start for Washington and put up 25 fantasy points in 1.5 quarters. What’s the harm in trying to ride that wave once or twice in GPPs?

The same goes for Zach Zenner, who got the call a bit last week and answered with 11 fantasy points. The Bills aren’t a dream matchup, but if Kerryon Johnson is out or limited again, Zenner could again try to make the most of his latest opportunity.

Jordy Nelson has looked done for much of 2018, but he’s resurfaced of late as one of Derek Carr’s top weapons in Oakland’s passing game. That normally wouldn’t mean much to me, but this week the Raiders get the Bengals. Cincinnati doesn’t do anything well on defense these days, so a cheap Nelson feels like a viable GPP dart.

Consider this:

Davis may be an even better GPP flier and you can pair him with JJ or try him naked as a cheap TE. I don’t love tight end beyond Gronk up top anyways, so saving at this position is a goal of mine. Davis can always spring a big play and Jacksonville (18th vs. TEs) isn’t that imposing of a matchup.

The Pats are far from an elite defense and shutting down the Steelers on the road is a tall order. However, they’re dirt cheap and they have beaten Pittsburgh five times in a row. There is something to be said of a mental hold and unless this game is an insane shootout, there’s a chance New England can offer elite value here.

Summary

As I said, this is going to be a very interesting week in daily fantasy football. The slate is smaller than usual, there aren’t as many elite options to use and the ones that are on the board are painfully obvious.

That could mean the top studs will have ridiculous ownership, which can have your NFL DFS lineup building process going in a number of directions. The two most likely directions are going with more contrarian studs and fading the chalky plays, or simply stacking the same studs everyone else will and finding the right sleepers to roll out.

Another stance is to just stack the studs where you have to. I think that’s at the running back position, where I’m not viewing a team I love without Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott on it. That doesn’t mean you can’t drop down to Joe Mixon and save in other ways, but if you pick your stance and start there, the entire process should start unfolding for you.

Whatever you decide, hopefully my week 15 NFL DFS advice column helps you in some way. Good luck and enjoy the games!

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