By Sean Weymouth
Can I say I’m excited to see the Miami Dolphins play in primetime, no, no I cannot. However this is one of those games that will only be more fun with a little cash on the line – and Draft King’s is here for ya! And Fan Duel and Yahoo and Fantasy Draft I know, but I play Draft Kings so that is what pricing you’ll see listed here. However, you can certainly use the picks and strategy I use anywhere, should you choose to.
Let’s start with brief review of strategy which if you have read any of my showdown slate articles you probably know mine by now. If I am starting a QB I’m trying to stack as many pass catchers with that QB as possible to get double points on everything they do. Likewise if I am playing a receiver I’m not leaving his QB off my lineup for the same reason. Exceptions to this rule can be made, particularly because you cannot have a full lineup based on one team … but for the most part, if I’m playing a “Steelers Wide Receiver” Mason Rudolph will be along for the ride and I’ll try and pinpoint a point of difference with my Dolphins play before filling out the rest of my Steelers lineup as best I can, based on budget.
I also like to pair a Defense with their opposition’s Kicker, since in theory if your defense performs the other team may be relying heavily on their kicker after stalling out in the red zone.
A couple things to note regarding this game before I get into my picks:
⁃ Miami currently ranks bottom 2 for points per drive as well as top 2 (as in 2nd worst) for turnovers per drive
⁃ Miami also is averaging a sack allowed on roughly 10% of all drop backs
⁃ The Steelers Defense is 5th best in Sacks coming into tonight with 20 on the season thus far.
⁃ James Connor despite a few recent “good” fantasy games has actually failed to run more than 55 yards per game
⁃ The Dolphins have ceded the most points per running back per game and allowed an average of 5.1 yards per attempt.
⁃ The QB to throw for the most yards this season against the vaunted Buffalo Bill’s Defense is Ryan Fitzpatrick with 282 yards passing last week and 21.8 fantasy points scored.
⁃ Lastly Kenyan Drake is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
So the Steelers are the favorite going into Monday Night Football tonight. No surprise since they are playing a defense I have repeatedly referred to as the NFL’s Cheat Code for opposing offenses. But does that mean that all of the Steelers Studs will ‘get right’ tonight? Probably, yes… but are they all worth the money? Here’s my take:
James Connor: $20,100 Captain, $13,400 Flex. Wow! Captaining James Connor may be a smart play but it will severely hamper your ability to build a great roster underneath. Also, is Connor really worth this investment? Yes the Miami Dolphins stink against running backs but over recent games we have seen Jaylen Samuels ($6,600 Captain, $4,400 Flex) and Benny Snell ($3,600 Captain, $2,400 Flex) cut into Connor’s touches. Sure two weeks ago Connor went out with a bum quad, but Snell touched the ball 17 times and he was excellent with 75 yards on the ground and 14 yards on one target. Regarding Samuels look back to week 4 when both Connor and Samuels were healthy and playing another tomato can in the Bengals. Samuels got 10 touches on the ground and caught 8 balls. He also scored a TD. I would be mindful of this if Samuels plays, in relation to Connor’s value of a 20k Captain. However, that he is so expensive I’d expect many to be off Connor as Captain which, should you choose him, may be a difference maker against your competition. I would consider playing Snell or Samuels in the same lineup though, for both savings and to ensure you are getting all of the RB touches in this very appealing matchup.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: $15,900 Captain, $10,900 Flex. Oh where oh where has our JuJu gone? Right? In season long, there really may be no bigger disappointment than JuJu. Now he gets the Dolphins who (outside of Xavien Howard) have holes in the secondary large enough to drive a bus through (Bus, Steelers, c’mon you get the reference). Anyway, I do think this is a game that JuJu is worth the money. He is playing over 88% of snaps. That is about the most positive I can say about him thus far. However, JuJu primarily operates out of the slot which the aforementioned Howard only patrols on average 10% of defensive snaps. On top of that for all of the great that Howard is, he is still averaging a 81.3% completion rate against him. I think JuJu has a great opportunity to go off here, possibly break the slate. Then again – you have to be concerned with the guy throwing him the ball and his ability to hit JuJu in stride, or over the middle for more than 7.1 yards per target. So there is risk. But then again – there is plenty of reward if JuJu breaks 1 or 2 for long touchdowns in the first half. I say the first half because there is high likelihood that the Steelers will be up in this game by halftime enough that the run game dominates in the second half. It will be tough to put both JuJu and Connor in your lineup but if you can figure it out, maybe with a cheap Benny Snell, it may be well worth it.
Mason Rudolph $16,200 Captain, $10,800 Flex. Half a season ago would you ever think the backup Steelers QB would cost more than JuJu Smith-Schuster in the Captains seat? Well here we are. Now look, Mason Rudolph has done a fine job filling in for Big Ben, make no mistake about it. With a 5:2 TD to INT ratio and he has completed a hair under 70% of his attempts across his four games. However the trouble spots come with his average yards per attempt being a mere 7.2 and his average points per drop back being .49. Against any other team I may say stay away, but I have to stay on brand. Against the Dolphins, he’ll likely look great tonight and if you are playing JuJu, you have to play Rudolph anyway. If JuJu catches a ball 7 yards deep and then runs 77 yards for a TD you get those points on both guys remember. That being said, you may want to pivot from JuJu to the guy who seems to get his number called by Rudolph more than anyone in Diontae Johnson ($11,700 Captain, $7,800 Flex). Johnson has seen his fair share of targets from Rudolph with his receptions going from 3 in week 3 to 6 in week 4 and 5 in week 5. He averaged 52 yards per game over those three games and scored a TD in two out of the three. The last name I’ll bring up here is the big TD Vance McDonald ($9,600 Captain, $6,400 Flex). Keep in mind, Vance has only been 100% in one of Mason Rudolph’s 4 starts. In that game Vance he caught two Touchdowns! Oh yeah and much like every other skill position, Miami can’t stop a Tight End from catching anything thrown anywhere on the field. He may be a very sneaky play in what is otherwise a very pricey Steelers stack.
Lastly the Steelers Defense is a fine play tonight. The Steelers have been fantastic at causing turnovers and sacks, as I mentioned. I expect that the Steelers D ($12,000 Captain, $8,000 Flex) will be an immensely popular pick for either Captain or Flex, but I also could easily see where you won’t cash unless they are in your lineup. Therefore if I had to start a lineup tonight, I may consider strongly starting with the Steelers defense. Good news is that the Miami Kicker is only $3,200 as a flex and can cross off your need for a Miami player with your JuJu, Connor, Rudolph stack ..
Do I have to talk about the Dolphins? Ok, ok, I will.
Ryan Fitzpatrick $12,600 Captain, $8,400 Flex. Fitzmagic makes the game fun – right? I mean how many true throw first and throw long gunslingers are left in the NFL after all. And by the way if Miami happens to have any hope in being competitive in this game they need to hang on tight to that mighty beard as he tries to throw deep too. Here’s the problem though. The Steelers are really good at defense. The secondary, the sacks, the whole Steel Machine will be facing Fitz and with no ‘revenge’ narrative behind him (see last week against the Bill’s) he is as risky a play as possible – but what is risk without reward, right? Over the last two weeks as a starter 2:1 touchdowns to Interceptions and last week against the stout Bill’s D, he even ran one in. Fitz doesn’t play to lose in other words and as volatile and as crazy as that sounds, it’s actually why he’s my favorite play tonight and I think a very contrarian choice for Captain too. I mean be honest, as bad as this game is – don’t you just want to see what this guy comes up with next? I do. And lest we forget, garbage time points are still points after all.
Mark Walton $9,000 Captain, $6,000 Flex. I cannot in good conscience tell you to play a Miami running back tonight. I do not think the game script favors it nor (and more importantly) do I think Mark Walton and the Offensive Line are good enough for what is coming from the Steelers. But the volume will be there for Walton since Kenyan Drake is now a Cardinal. However it is actually his price tag that will keep me off him. $6K tonight? Really Draft King’s? I can’t do it, except for that one lineup that I build full of Dolphin’s players that I roll out to hedge all of my Steelers lineups. The other reason why I hate Mark Walton tonight is he is clearly not the back the Fins turn to at the goal line. That would be one Kalen Ballage who has two touchdowns in as many weeks with only 6 total carries over that time. When they get into the red zone it’s Ballage ($2,400 Captain, $1,600 flex) and not Walton they turn to and dollars to donuts they don’t even get to the red zone via Walton’s running but much more likely on Fitzmagic’s arm. Now it was very encouraging to see Walton get 14 carries and 66 yards against the Bills last week but, if you watched the Eagles Bills game from Sunday it appears that is how you beat the Bills. The Steelers are not the Bills. I’m staying away from Walton. Ballage makes for a very cheap option as a Flex in a heavy Steelers lineup but beware the touchdown dependency.
The only three Miami receivers I will have in my player pool are Davante Parker ($10,800 Captain, $7,200 Flex), Preston Williams ($9,300 Captain, $6,200 Flex) and Tight End Mike Gesicki ($5,400 Captain, $3,600 Flex) and none will be in my Captains chair despite the price. Of the three I’d expect Williams to be the most popular as the Fantasy Football Analyst’s darling. Which is why I’d prefer to pivot to Parker who has a Touchdown in 3 of 5 games this season. Now Williams has seen more Red Zone looks than Parker and he also was able to manage 82 receiving yards against Buffalo last week, but I don’t see the Dolphins having many actual red zone looks tonight to begin with. I expect if there are points to be scored by the Dolphins it will be Fitz slinging it deep and that is why I would trust him to have Parker as his target more often than not, with his experience as a route runner. But don’t forget about Gesicki who could be a nice security blanket underneath for Fitz as he faces a very stout pass rush from the Steelers. There is a little bit of a game theory about the Steelers Defense over the middle against Tight Ends, mainly due to Hunter Henry’s success against them their last time on the field, which could make Gesicki a sneaky pivot play. If you play Fitz tonight, I am not going to cast shade on you for pairing him with at least one of these three. That’s good sense, even in a bad matchup.
Good Luck in your Contests!