DraftKings NFL: Tournament Strategy for Wild Card Saturday

DraftKings NFL: Tournament Strategy for Wild Card Saturday

This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.

Jonathan Taylor ($7,900) is the most expensive player on Saturday's slate and the only RB priced above $5,900. There's plenty of star power at quarterback and wide receiver, but the lack of high-priced options at running back and tight end means the $50k budget on DK doesn't feel too constraining.

It shouldn't be any problem to fit a premium stack like Josh Allen ($7,500) + Stefon Diggs ($7,700) or Russell Wilson ($6,600) + DK Metcalf ($6,700), even if you already have Taylor locked in as your RB1. Before we break the slate down position-by-position, let's take a quick look at the games:

TimeOver/UnderRoad TeamRoad ITHome TeamHome IT
Jan 9th 1:05 PM51Colts22.25Bills28.75
Jan 9th 4:40 PM42Rams19.25Seahawks22.75
Jan 9th 8:15 PM44.5Bucs26.25Football Team18.25

Only the Indy-Buffalo contest is expected to be high-scoring, and none of the spreads lands within a field goal. Two of the six teams have implied totals below 20 points, though the Rams might bump up above that number if Jared Goff (thumb) appears on track to play.

If you're interested in additional analysis of the upcoming slate, I wrote a special edition of Exploiting the Matchups for the wild-card round, taking a look at each of the six games. We'll also have a second DraftKings article posted for the Sunday slate, which features Baltimore-Tennessee, Chicago-New Orleans and Cleveland-Pittsburgh. But first, here's a look at Saturday's action...

   

Quarterback

Given the loose pricing on this slate, Josh Allen ($7,500) is an easy choice for cash games. Tom Brady ($6,900) figures to be the second-most popular play in tournaments, after putting up 26.4, 32.9 and 34.3 DK points the past three weeks. His season didn't feel dominant, yet Brady finished with 40 TDs and 12 INTs.

TB12 and Allen both face good defenses this week, but the Colts have been mediocre against the pass the past couple months, while the Washington defense really hit its stride late in the season to earn a playoff berth even as the team's offense was in the process of collapsing. 

Russell Wilson ($6,600) is the third QB on this slate with a ceiling north of 30 fantasy points, but his matchup is arguably even tougher than Brady or Allen's, facing a Rams defense that allowed the second fewest points to QBs this year. (Wilson scored 12.9 and 19.9 points in his two regular-season matchups with LA.)

Looking at the middle group of quarterbacks, you might notice that Goff ($6,000) and Philip Rivers ($5,400) face defenses that have given up a lot of fantasy points to quarterbacks. Just remember that the Seahawks and Bills played much better defense in the second half of the season, and the big fantasy totals for opponents were often driven by volume rather than efficiency.

Rivers is always a tough sell for DFS tournaments, as he reached 20 DK points in just three of 16 starts this season, contributing absolutely nothing as a runner. It doesn't help that the Colts sometimes bring in Jacoby Brissett near the goal line, depriving Rivers of TD opportunities.

If we're going the discount route, better to go all the way down the ladder for John Wolford ($4,900) or Taylor Heinicke ($4,100)... if one of them ends up starting. Wolford didn't do much through the air last week, but he did run for 56 yards, and he'd have Cooper Kupp back in the lineup for Saturday.

Top Plays: Josh Allen, Tom Brady

Secondary Plays: Russell Wilson, Taylor Heinicke (if he starts), John Wolford (if he starts)

Stay Aways: Philip Rivers, Alex Smith, Jared Goff

  

Running Back

Jonathan Taylor ($7,900) ran for 74 or more yards in six straight games to close out the regular season, with his workload even including the majority of third-down snaps the past two weeks. The use on passing downs suggests he'll still get touches even if the Colts fall behind, whereas earlier this season we'd have worried about Nyheim Hines ($4,700) taking over if the team started slow.

That's not to say Hines is totally out of the picture, but his target total (seven) from Week 17 is deceiving, as he played only 12 snaps in the win over Jacksonville. He does still get most of the work in the hurry-up offense, so we'd likely see more of Hines if the Bills were to really lay it to the Colts this Saturday.

Maybe you use Hines rather than Taylor if your lineup is already banking on an easy win for Buffalo, e.g., you're using Zack Moss ($4,600) and the Bills defense ($3,500) rather than an Allen-Diggs stack. Personally, i'll just stick with Taylor, who has a higher ceiling and more different paths to a solid fantasy stat line.

Apart from Taylor, Chris Carson ($5,900) is the closest thing to a three-down back on this slate. However, his share of the Seattle carries hasn't been dominant, while Antonio Gibson ($5,700) and Ronald Jones ($5,500) have handled larger percentages of the rushing workloads for their respective teams when they've been healthy.

However, part of that is the Seahawks being conscious of Carson's workload, as his lengthy medical history includes four missed games with a foot injury this season. He did play 70 and 63 percent of snaps Weeks 15 and 16 when the Seahawks were battling for the NFC West title, before sinking back to 46 percent in the regular-season finale. 

Even with the playing time being variable, Carson got 11 or more carries and two or more targets in five straight games to close out the season. And while his matchup is tricky, it's no worse than what Gibson and Jones will deal with in the Tampa-Washington game where both teams have dominant front sevens.

Cam Akers ($5,100) is another lead back with a tough matchup and no assurance of targets, plus he's playing through a high ankle sprain. Gibson is also battling an injury — turf toe — but he looked okay the past two weeks.

Top Plays: Jonathan Taylor, Chris Carson

Secondary Plays: Ronald Jones, Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Zack Moss, Cam Akers

Stay Aways: Nyheim Hines, Devin Singletary, Leonard Fournette, Malcolm Brown

    

Wide Receiver

It's tough to get a read on the WR spot with both Buffalo's Cole Beasley (knee) and Tampa's Mike Evans (knee) appearing truly questionable. Chris Godwin ($7,000) And Antonio Brown ($6,100) become more interesting if Evans is out, while John Brown ($4,700) and Isaiah McKenzie ($3,300) would have more appeal with Beasley out of the picture.

I say McKenzie rather than Gabriel Davis ($4,000) because it was the former who filled in for Beasley last week, whereas the latter stepped up when Brown missed games earlier this season. McKenzie's comfort working inside apparently makes him the backup to Beasley, who led the NFL with 947 slot yards this season.

However, the Colts have one of the league's top slot corners in Kenny Moore, so Stefon Diggs and Brown should have better matchups on the perimeter against Xavier Rhodes and TJ Carrie. The Bills move Diggs all over the formation, so he'll likely see a mix of Rhodes, Moore and Carrie, considering the Colts haven't shadowed top receivers this year. (Diggs technically is listed as questionable with an oblique injury, but he doesn't appear in danger of missing the game).

On the other side of that Indy-Buffalo game, it's been T.Y. Hilton ($5,000) and Zach Pascal ($3,700) doing most of the damage recently, but Michael Pittman ($3,500) showed flashes earlier this season and still has a three-down role (80-plus percent of snaps in eight of the past nine games). 

The Bills sometimes shadow with top CB Tre'Davious White, so it is possible Hilton's matchup becomes pretty darn tough. Pascal arguably has the best matchup, though Bills slot corner Taron Johnson has played much better since October.

Looking to the Rams-Seahawks game, we know Tyler Lockett ($6,900), DK Metcalf ($6,700), Robert Woods ($6,200) and Cooper Kupp ($6,000) will be seeing a lot of the targets. However, Metcalf and Lockett will be working against a top-five defense that has already shut them down twice this year, while Woods and Kupp may be catching passes from a backup quarterback. All four are in play as DFS options, but none feels like a must.

Terry McLaurin ($6,300) is the one WR on this slate who can be called the far-and-away, unquestioned No. 1 receiving option for his team. Of course, his team stinks at moving the ball and scoring points, especially now that McLaurin (ankle) and QB Alex Smith (calf) are playing through injuries. On the bright side, Tampa could be missing top CB Carlton Davis (questionable - groin) on Saturday, and we know McLaurin will be a priority. (Cam Sims ($3,900) also gets a ton of snaps, and he's seen a few more targets recently.)

If Evans doesn't end up playing for Tampa, both Scotty Miller ($3,400) and Tyler Johnson ($3,000) would be likely to take some wideout snaps. Last week, Miller got three targets and 42 percent of snaps, while Johnson saw two targets and 27 percent. 

Top Plays: Stefon Diggs, John Brown

Secondary Plays: Chris Godwin, DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Robert Woods, Antonio Brown, Cooper Kupp, Cam Sims, Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman, Scotty Miller (maybe), Isaiah McKenzie (maybe)

Stay Aways: Tyler Lockett, T.Y. Hilton, Gabriel Davis, Josh Reynolds

Note: upgrade Godwin and Brown to 'Top Plays' if Evans is out.

    

Tight End

Logan Thomas ($4,900) is the target hog, while Rob Gronkowski ($3,900) is the best bet to score a touchdown. Most lineups figure to use one of the two, given the loose pricing on this slate.

Personally, I like Dawson Knox ($3,200), who got four or more targets each of the past five weeks. The Bills have phased out their other tight ends, and they could be less inclined to go four-wide if Beasley is out or limited.

The three-man TE committees in Seattle and Indianapolis are best avoided — even on a three-game slate — but the Rams' two-way split between Tyler Higbee ($3,400) and Gerald Everett ($3,000) could produce a big receiving line for one of them. 

Higbee caught six of 12 targets for 94 yards in two games against Seattle during the regular season, while Everett caught four of six for 40 yards. The former actually finished the year with two more targets, but the latter scored three more TDs and averaged 2.2 more PPR points per game. 

Top Plays: Dawson Knox

Secondary Plays: Logan Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett

Stay Aways: Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Jacob Hollister, Will Dissly, Greg Olsen, Mo Alie-Cox, Cameron Brate

   

Defense

This spot usually depends on the construction of the rest the lineup as much as anything else. I probably wouldn't use the Colts defense against the Bills if this were a regular-season DFS slate with 11 games, but it's a reasonable strategy for our three-game slate if my lineup is already fading Josh Allen.

In terms of value relative to projection, the Seahawks ($2,700) really stand out here, as they're No. 4 in salary but No. 2 for opponent implied total (19.5). The Seattle defense scored five or more fantasy points in each of its past eight games, including a nine-point showing in the Week 16 win over Los Angeles. It's a solid play even if Goff suits up.

Top Plays: Seattle

Secondary Plays: Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Washington, Indianapolis

Stay Aways: None

  

Favorite Stacks

QB Allen + RB Taylor + WR Diggs + TE Knox

QB Allen + RB Taylor + WR Diggs + WR Brown + WR Pittman + TE Knox

QB Brady + WR Godwin + WR Brown + TE Thomas

QB Wilson + RB Carson + WR Metcalf + TE Higbee

QB Brady + RB Jones + WR McLaurin + TE Gronkowski

RB Carson + Seahawks D/ST

RB Jones + Bucs D/ST

RB Moss + Bills D/ST

    

Weather and Injuries

RotoWire NFL Weather Page (no significant wind or precipitation projected for Saturday)

    

1:05 ET - WR Cole Beasley (questionable - knee)

   

4:40 ET - QB Jared Goff (questionable - thumb)

4:40 ET - CB Shaquill Griffin (questionable - hamstring)

4:40 ET - DT Jarran Reed (questionable - oblique)

   

8:15 ET - WR Mike Evans (questionable - knee)

8:15 ET - CB Carlton Davis (questionable - groin)

8:15 ET - QB Alex Smith (questionable - calf)

   

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jerry Donabedian plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: jd0505, DraftKings: jd0505.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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