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King for a Day: Cuts Like a Knile

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 league wrapped up in Week 16, it's a great time to start playing fantasy football contests on DraftKings.

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 17

QUARTERBACK

Cam Newton, CAR, $8000 at ATL
– Needing a win to lock up the NFC South and a bye week, Newton and the Panthers have everything to play for against one of the league’s worst defensive teams. Disappointing fantasy season aside, Carolina’s Superman still has enormous upside in any given week. In the first matchup between these teams, Newton threw for one touchdown and ran for another, leading his team to an easy 34-10 win, despite tossing a pair of interceptions. The Falcons are far feistier than your average 4-11 team, but no amount of effort will compensate for a shocking lack of talent on the defensive side. The aforementioned 34-10 beatdown in Week 9 was actually one of Atlanta’s better defensive performances this season.

Jay Cutler, CHI, $6800 vs. GB – As hard as it is to trust Cutler right now, the matchup and weapons mean that Chicago’s gun slinging signal-caller has a Week 17 ceiling that can’t be matched by other QBs in the same price range. In a game that may serve as a referendum on Cutler’s entire tenure with the Bears, it won’t be surprising if No. 6 falls flat on his face against a weak defense. Of course, it also won’t be surprising if Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery bombard an overmatched Green Bay defense. For those of you in a gambling mood, just do what Cutler does when he sees Marshall in double coverage – go for it.

RUNNING BACK

Matt Forte, CHI, $8100 vs. GB
– A far safer play than his team’s quarterback, Forte will likely thrive regardless of the game context. With 70 receptions and an average of 4.6 yards per carry, he’s proven to be a useful fantasy weapon in pretty much any situation. If you care to go back to the last time these teams met, Forte piled up 179 yards from scrimmage, five receptions, and a rushing touchdown in a 27-20 Week 9 victory. The Packer defense can’t stop a nosebleed, and they certainly can’t stop a running back of Forte’s caliber. With linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb) out for Week 17, a bad defense has lost yet another key piece.

Eddie Lacy, GB, $6600 at CHI – Speaking of bad defenses, Chicago’s may be even worse than Green Bay’s. The Bears own the league’s last-ranked rushing defense (161.5 yards per game), and quite frankly, that undersells just how bad they’ve been against the run. See, Chicago actually did a decent job against opposing running backs at the beginning of the season, before falling apart amid an unfortunate string of injuries. The team’s primary weakness was on full display in Week 16, as Philadelphia gashed the Bears for 289 rushing yards and four touchdowns, just hours after Lacy put up 84 rushing yards (5.6 YPC) and a pair of touchdowns against the Steelers. Despite what you may have heard a few weeks ago, the terms “rookie wall” and “Eddie Lacy” don’t belong in the same sentence.

Knile Davis, KC, $3000 at SD –Kansas City is already locked into the No. 5 seed, and the Chiefs would be wise to rest their starters. Whether they take that approach remains to be seen, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on the news if you’re eyeballing Davis for Week 17. The 5-foot-10, 227-pound Arkansas product possesses a rare size-speed combination that only comes along once or twice per decade. While that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll have success in the NFL, the Chiefs will likely want to explore Davis’ upside at some point in time. A meaningless Week 17 contest against a soft defense provides the perfect opportunity to do exactly that.

WIDE RECEIVER

DeSean Jackson, PHI, $7100 at DAL
– With Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy hogging most of the attention, Jackson has quietly put together the best season of his six-year career. While there have undoubtedly been some duds along the way, Philadelphia’s fleet-footed wideout has reached the 25-point mark on DraftKings four separate times this season. He’ll be looking to make it five on Sunday, when the Eagles take on the Cowboys in a winner-take-all battle for the NFC East. The first matchup between these teams ended in a surprisingly low-scoring 17-7 Dallas victory, but the rematch figures to be a shootout, if not a blowout. The Cowboys rank 31st in passing defense and dead last in total defense, while the Eagles have scored 24 points or more in each of their last seven games. Jackson, Foles, and McCoy all make for strong Week 17 plays, and Jackson’s price tag is the most affordable of the bunch.

Eric Decker, DEN, $6600 at OAK – The Broncos need a win to lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so it should be bombs away for Peyton Manning, who has a chance to further pad his record-setting statistics. With Wes Welker (concussion) still sidelined, there should be plenty of targets available for Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and TE Julius Thomas. Decker’s done his best work in recent weeks, producing three 100-yard receiving efforts and an incredible seven touchdowns over the last four games. The matchup couldn’t get much better, as the once-feisty Oakland defense has been an absolute pushover since mid-season.

Andre Holmes, OAK, $3600 vs. DEN – A mid-season roster addition, Holmes has surprisingly emerged as Oakland’s de facto No. 1 wide receiver, piling up 33 targets and 19 receptions over the last four games, while topping 50 receiving yards in each contest. Even with Denarius Moore now healthy, Holmes continues to see starter snaps, though it was Moore who technically got the start in Week 16. Yes, there’s a bit of a timeshare going on here, but Holmes led all Oakland wideouts in snaps during Weeks 14 and 15, falling just short of the same accomplishment in Week 16. While the upside here is somewhat limited, the friendly price tag makes Holmes a perfect fit for a stars-and-scrubs approach.

TIGHT END

Dennis Pitta, BAL, $4000 at CIN
– Pitta returned from his major hip injury with a bang, catching six passes, including one for a touchdown, in Baltimore’s Week 14 win over Minnesota. The fourth-year tight end has since been quiet, catching just six passes on 11 targets in the subsequent two games. The resulting price plummet makes Pitta an intriguing, albeit somewhat risky, buy-low candidate in Week 17. We know that Joe Flacco loves throwing to Pitta, and the miserable Baltimore running game probably won’t have much success against a strong Cincinnati front-seven. If the Ravens are going to win this game, or even keep it close, they’ll likely need big performances from Pitta and WR Torrey Smith.

TEAM D/ST

Dolphins, $3600 vs. NYJ
– The Dolphins have been a bit disappointing on defense this season but should step up to the plate for a must-win home game against a lousy offense. Geno Smith and Co. have been particularly inconsistent on the road, and the Dolphins already handed the Jets a Week 13 beatdown at the Meadowlands, during which Smith and Matt Simms combined for 108 passing yards, two interceptions, and four sacks, as the Jets managed to scrape out just three points in one of the worst offensive showings of the 2013 campaign. The rematch could very well shape up as the lowest-scoring game in Week 17, and there’s little doubt about which of these teams is better, despite the fact that they are separated by just one game in the standings.

KICKER

Mason Crosby, $3000 vs. CHI
– Crosby buried his 2012 demons this season, turning in arguably the finest year of his career. His excellent range is no secret, though it may be a bit limited Sunday, depending on the weather in Chicago. No worries if game-time conditions are looking ugly, as there are plenty of decent $3000 kickers this week. Crosby’s my favorite, but I’ll be replacing him if the weather in Chicago is particularly bad.