RotoWire Partners

King for a Day: Vereen the PPR Machine

Jerry Donabedian

Jerry Donabedian

Jerry Donabedian writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

For the uninitiated, DraftKings runs fantasy salary-based football contests where users can take home cash each week instead of waiting for the end of the season. If your season-long teams are out of the running, it's a great time to start playing fantasy football contests on DraftKings, as new depositors receive a free qualifier ticket into the Millionaire Grand Finale.

Now that we’re deep into the season, prices will largely reflect what a player has done to this point in the year. Players emerging with new roles will frequently offer excellent value, while some disappointing veterans will carry reduced price tags. Unproven running backs forced into action by injuries are some of the most valuable commodities, as they’re rarely expensive, and are often assured of touches. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on matchups, though DraftKings’ prices are adjusted to reflect the difficulty of opponents. It might not make sense to fork over $8000 for a stud receiver, if that receiver is facing an elite pass defense. Likewise, you’ll probably want to spend some extra money, rather than starting a cheap D/ST unit that’s facing the Saints or Broncos.

Now, on to some of the best picks for Week 15

QUARTERBACK

Matt Ryan, ATL, $7500 vs. WAS
– For the second week in a row, Ryan carries a reasonable price tag against a dreadful defense. However, this time he won’t have to contend with the cold at Lambeau Field, as the Falcons will be home at the Georgia Dome, where Ryan owns a 10:1 TD:INT ratio for the season. Washington has surrendered a whopping 8.5 yards per pass attempt in 2013, while allowing opponents to throw for 256.7 yards and 1.9 touchdowns per game. Ryan is better than the average quarterback that Washington has faced this year, and with Roddy White looking like his old self again, Ryan is more dangerous now than he was earlier this season.

RUNNING BACK

Shane Vereen, NE, $7500 at MIA
– With Rob Gronkowski (torn ACL) out for the season, Vereen is arguably Tom Brady’s favorite remaining target. The argument isn’t a tough one to make, either, as Vereen has 45 targets and 33 receptions in four games since returning from a broken wrist. Given that he does most of his damage in the passing game, it’s hardly relevant that Vereen will be up against a tough Miami run defense. While he may not be a superstar in standard scoring leagues, Vereen is an elite running back option in DraftKings’ PPR format.

Danny Woodhead, SD, $5100 at DEN –The Chargers’ scat back draws an ideal matchup this week, as his team is up against a superior opponent with a shaky defense. San Diego may be forced to throw the ball a bunch, which would boost Woodhead’s value and leave Ryan Mathews to watch from the bench. It didn’t play out that way when these teams met in Week 10, but the first matchup was in San Diego, and the Broncos have won every home game by a double-digit margin. With the second game scheduled for Thursday at Mile High Field, Philip Rivers and Woodhead should stay active while trying to play catch-up.

Note: Injuries took a heavy toll on the running back position in Week 14, leaving us with the potential for some excellent value plays, depending on which starters miss time. Here’s a list of some cheaper backs with the potential to fill in for injured starters in Week 15:

Detroit’s Joique Bell ($5600 vs. BAL), Miami’s Daniel Thomas ($5500 vs. NE), Minnesota’s Toby Gerhart ($5000 vs. PHI) and Matt Asiata ($3000), Oakland’s Marcel Reece ($4300 vs. KC), Jacksonville’s Jordan Todman ($3800 vs. BUF), Green Bay’s James Starks ($3500 at DAL).

WIDE RECEIVER

Antonio Brown, PIT, $7500 vs. CIN
– As consistent as they come and still carrying a sub-elite price tag, Brown has established himself as one of the few matchup-proof wide receivers in the league. He’s on pace for a 111-1,526-9 receiving line that would compare favorably with the numbers of any wideout not named Josh Gordon or Calvin Johnson. Furthermore, Brown’s Week 15 opponent isn’t as tough as the numbers might indicate, as the Bengals have suffered some key losses on the defensive side this season, notably DT Geno Atkins (knee) and CB Leon Hall (Achilles). While Cincinnati has done an excellent job overcoming those losses, it showed some vulnerability against the Colts last week, allowing Andrew Luck to throw for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

Eric Decker, DEN, $6800 vs. SD – Everything lines up here, as we’ve got a red-hot receiver facing a soft defense, with one of his team’s other top receiving options (Wes Welker-concussion) expected to miss the game. Decker has 16 receptions for 291 receiving yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks, yet he’s somehow been overshadowed by Cleveland’s Josh Gordon. Unless the weather in Denver is unexpectedly awful Thursday, both Decker and Demaryius Thomas ($8100) should be strong options. As of Tuesday afternoon, conditions for the game were not worrisome.

Da’Rick Rogers, IND, $4700 vs. HOU – An early-round talent who went undrafted due to off-the-field concerns, Rogers seems to have found a home in Indianapolis towards the end of his rookie year. After handling just 13 snaps in Week 13, Rogers saw significant playing time in two-wide sets during a Week 14 loss to the Bengals, finishing with a 6-107-2 receiving line on nine targets. While the risk-averse may want to look elsewhere, Rogers offers intriguing upside at a price below $5000, and there’s no reason to think that his role in the offense will decrease this week.

TIGHT END

Jordan Cameron, CLE, $5100 vs. CHI
– Cameron finally came through with his long-awaited bounce-back performance in Week 14, catching all nine of his targets for 121 receiving yards and a touchdown. Sure, his 72-825-7 receiving line is largely the result of a fast start, but Cameron never lost his talent and now has 26 targets over the last three weeks. Having reestablished himself as the secondary option behind Josh Gordon, Cameron should be in for a big game against the porous Chicago defense. Look for his price to creep back up above $5500 by the end of the season.

TEAM D/ST

Panthers, $4300 vs. NYJ
– While I rarely spend big on a defense, the cheap options simply aren’t cutting it this week. The appeal of an elite defense facing Geno Smith is rather obvious, despite the Week 14 beating Carolina took from the Saints. I won’t necessarily abandon this selection before Sunday, but the weather reports will be worth keeping an eye on. Some of those weaker defenses may start to look better if the conditions are harsh.

KICKER

Garrett Hartley, NO, $3000 at STL
– Hartley has made his last five field goal attempts and is backed by an elite offense. While his production has been a bit disappointing this season, I’m still happy to get Hartley at $3000 in a dome.