Week 14 DFS Strategy & Picks – Real Deal Fantasy HQ – Favorite Plays, Values, Stacks – RIP Charley Pride

Week 14 is the start of the season long Fantasy Playoffs for many leagues but for DFS players it is just Week 14, filled with injuries and absences to create value so that we can jam in all the studs and fade playing all of the duds. But there is a little more than that to consider.

If you are playing a DFS tournament and you read my articles a lot (thanks!) you will hear me talk about finding a contrarian play and creating leverage in your lineup against the Chalk Players (players being rostered or owned by a high percentage of players). You will also see me talk about Pivots too, which are slightly under-owned players or strategies in the same game as a Chalky player. For instance this weekend Derek Henry is projecting to be the chalk running back so to gain leverage off of that, I will build a team with Ryan Tannehill and a pass catcher. Not that Tannehill or the pass catcher aren’t also popular plays but if Derek Henry is the most popular play by fading him and then the Tennessee run game ends up a bust but the and the Tennessee Passing Game ended up being the stronger play, it will give me leverage. Does that make sense?

So with this article I want to do a few things for you. First, I will talk about a few players that are projecting to being the “chalk” and where I think you can get leverage in your lineups against that player. If I think the player is good chalk, I will also make sure to mention that. The second part of this article will be about my favorite core plays in each position (including players that are at the time of this writing are projecting at being surprisingly under owned) as well as sleepers that I think you should target. Lastly I will highlight a game that I think is flying way under the radar but could be fantastic to stack from or pull pieces from as you build your lineups. So let’s go!

Chalk Plays & Leverage

I already mentioned Derek Henry and the Titans passing game above but let me say this. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Derek Henry should feast. The Jaguars are 3rd worst in the league against running backs and are averaging nearly 140 yards on the ground per game. SO believe me I think there is great reason why Derek Henry is going to be such a popular play but while I will probably have quite a few lineups with Henry in them, I will also have a few squads with Ryan Tannehill and AJ Brown or Corey Davis stacked as leverage from the Chalk Derek Henry especially since the Jaguars are just about as bad against pass catchers as they are running backs.

JD McKissic is currently projected to be the second highest owned running back on Draft Kings and the 4th highest on FanDuel. On both sites, 20% or higher ownership. To me that classifies as Chalk and I can understand why. First Alex Smith loves to target McKissic and second, he played 70% of the offensive snaps last week once Antonio Gibson left the game. Now Gibson is out, McKissic should be a lock for 20+ touches and 10+ targets. BUT keep in mind that last week the Football Team was in a knock down drag out against the then undefeated Steelers and playing from behind nearly the entire game. So there was a lot of reason why Alex Smith was throwing a lot and a lot at McKissic. SO is there a guarantee that will happen again this weekend against the Nick Mullens led San Francisco 49ers? If it is the 49ers team we saw on Prime Time last week that shows up on Sunday, I could actually see the shoe being on the other foot and it is the 49ers having to play catch up.

So I have two pivots off of McKissic that I’d like to throw out there. First as much as I shudder when I write this, Peyton Barber. Here me out. McKissic has never been known as a between the tackles 3 down back and in fact he has more been own as a Pass Catching 3rd down specialist. If the Football Team goes up in this game, they could lean on Barber to grind out the clock. We have seen Barber already this season get tough 3rd downs and Goal Line runs, so they clearly like him in that ‘thumper role’. So I don’t mind taking a shot on an uber cheap and less than 1% owned Barber on the chance that the Football Team doesn’t need to drop back and pass 40 Times to win the game. He makes for a contrarian pivot on a lineup that doesn’t have McKissic. I would correlate that lineup with a San Fran Pass Catcher though, in the hopes I am getting the best out of that game.

I think the safer way to go, if you want to get leverage off McKissic is to to target Alex Smith and a Pass Catcher such as Terry McLauren projecting at under 5% ownership. Yes the Football Team’s defense is a strong one, but should this game become a mini shootout I certainly don’t have any qualms on taking shots on Smith and McLauaren especially if McKissic’s ownership continues to rise. The 49ers passing defense hasn’t been bad but it certainly isn’t what it was in week 1 and I could see a fantastic route runner like McLauren finding success against them. You could even stack McKissic with Smith and McLauren and allow the low ownership on the QB and Receiver to help offset the chalk of McKissic. You could correlate a lineup like this with either Raheem Mostert or Jeff Wilson Jr, or another San Fran Pass Catcher.

And if you didn’t want to have anything to do with this game, for only $300 more on DK and $700 more from McKissic you could pivot to Wayne Gallman who is taking on Arizona and has scored a touchdown in 2 of his last 4 games and is riding a 135 yard performance against Seattle into Week 14.

Austin Ekeler also is projecting to be one of the highest owned Running Backs on the slate and with little competition for touches and playing against Atlanta he could be in line for a big game. But as one of the highest owned running backs on the slate, I naturally look to see where I may be able to gain leverage.

So what if I were to tell you in that same game Justin Hebert and Keenan Allen are projecting for sub 10% ownership? I think there is as much of a case to be made for Ekeler smashing as there should be for the potential shootout that could occur with two sub par defenses taking on two explosive offenses and lets say it’s Keenan Allen who gets 2 touchdowns and the 100 yard game? At less than half the ownership, if you had a lineup with Herbert and Allen stacked you would gain a measure of leverage on the field. Or use Mike Williams with Herbert and Ekeler and allow cheap and under owned Mike Williams to be the contrarian piece to that stack.

Or if you wanted to look elsewhere for a pivot play, for nearly $1,000 less you could grab Ronald Jones against Minnesota, another strong matchup for running backs in a game that should stay competitive. Not to mention RoJo is projecting to come in at a 3rd less ownership that Ekeler.

Breshad Perriman is currently projected to be the second highest owned wide receiver on the slate. Yes a Jet is projected to be that highly owned. Why? Well first, team mate and fellow deep threat on the team Denzel Mims is now on the Commissioners exempt list and will not play. Additionally Jamison Crowder did not practice on Friday and he may not play either. So sure – why not take a shot on Perriman in this game. The other reason? Perriman is cheap and see some targets.

But at such high ownership, I would take a look at Braxton Berrios or even Jeff Smith as pivots. If Both Crowder and Mims are out, Sam Darnold will be chucking to who he sees open and particularly when Crowder is not on the field, Berrios sees an uptick in targets. Without Mims, Jeff Smith could be your man streaking down the sidelines too. I really don’t like taking shots on Jets players, but if so many people are on Perriman, I think it’s only smart to consider a lineup with Berrios in it instead of Perriman. Both Berrios and Smith are cheap but at a fifth of the ownership of Perriman.

Or take a look at other players in that price range. Two that stand out to me that are even cheaper than Perriman are Michael Gallup taking on Cincinnati and Darnell Mooney taking on the Houston Texans. I think if you are already playing a dart throw like a Jet to begin with, why not spend $500 less and take a dart throw on Mooney who Trubisky has been targeting and who is playing the second worse pass defense in the league? Both Gallup and Mooney project at literally 80% less ownership than Perriman.

Robbie Anderson also is projecting to be one of the highest owned Wide Receivers on the slate. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Curtis Samuel‘s ownership gets up to the top as well by the time Kickoff Happens. Why? Well DJ Moore is on the Covid-19 List and will not play. Additionally Christian McCaffery will not play in this game. The Target Funnel for Teddy Bridgewater seems a lot tighter, taking on Denver who doesn’t scare me, I think Samuel and Anderson are solid plays.

But a pivot for the Chalky Panthers – look at the other side of the game. Tim Patrick. Jerry Jeudy. The Broncos will want to keep this game competitive and look for Drew Lock to be throwing. I could easily see a bounce back game for Jeudy here and Tim Patrick has been one of Lock’s most consistent targets all season. Neither Patrick or Jeudy are garnering anything near the ownership of the Panthers, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If the Panthers are throwing enough to give both Anderson and Samuel plenty of targets, wouldn’t the Broncos need to put up some points? I think Patrick or Jeudy are fine mini stack options with Samuel or Anderson too.

Another way to pivot from the Chalky Receivers is through the run game. Mike Davis will get another turn under center and while the matchup isn’t great against Denver, he will have plenty of volume on the ground and will see his share of targets. Or what about Melvin Gordon who has been on fire as of late. The Panthers have been hot and cold in their run defense and Gordon has been HOT. I think attacking the running backs in this game will be a contrarian approach and could gain leverage if the Panthers Pass Catchers aren’t able to perform at a level where their ownership in tournaments is expecting them to.

The purpose of the above exercise is not to discourage you from playing Derek Henry or JD McKissic or Austin Ekeler or any of the receivers I mentioned. Most of them are great plays, it’s just ownership on this slate looks like it may a little bit of a bottleneck and I want you to try and think differently with your lineup builds. There is more than one way to skin a cat ~ right?

Quarterbacks:

  • Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rogers and Russell Wilson are your three most popular plays at quarterback on Sunday and each should be in line for big games. I probably don’t need to go too deep on the statistical reasons why these three make for great plays but for me if I am using one of them it is Mahomes.  Of the three I think Mahomes comes with the most upside as I could easily see the Packers leaning heavily on the run game against Detroit’s league worst run defense and I could also see the Seahawks largely do the same as heavy favorites in that game. Mahomes meanwhile will get Miami who is playing to win their division and make the playoffs and I could see that game having the potential to shoot out especially with the Chiefs missing a couple key pieces from their defense. So of the three, I like Mahomes the best.
  • With so much ownership going to the big three above I think a lot of people are overlooking that Tom Brady is playing the Vikings with all of his receivers – healthy.  We have been targeting offenses all year long against the Vikings so why stop now?  I like the Brady Godwin stack or three man with Gronk a lot and because ownership on Brady is so low, the Tampa Bay stack makes for a contrarian play.  Or you could exchange Godwin for Evans and Antonio Brown for Gronk in that stack too.  I really don’t hate the Tampa Bay running game here either.  
  • I also really like both sides of the Falcons Chargers game. Justin Herbert will be a popular play but much like Brady, no one seems to be really looking at Matt Ryan.  Now I do believe his sub 5% ownership has a lot to do with the news Julio Jones will not play but you are still looking at a QB that is throwing 30+ times per game and I think the Ryan – Ridley stack is flying under the radar.  Plus I love the run back options for the Chargers with no one outside of Austin Ekeler is seeing ownership above 10%.  I really don’t mind a full game stack here too as I think it could be a high scoring affair and I like attacking it with Ryan. 
  • I think Mitchell Trubisky is an interesting sleeper pick too playing the second worst pass defense in the league in the Houston Texans. Trubisky is cheap and could crush here and I think a stack with Allen Robinson could be very interesting.  David Montgomery will be a chalky play against one of the worst rush defenses in the league, but I like Trubisky and Robinson more. Deshawn Watson wills figure out a way to score points and Trubisky could be forced to throw often in this game.  

Running Backs

  • Derek HenryDavid MontgomeryAustin Ekeler and JD McKissic are projecting to be the top 4 highest owned running backs on the slate. While I think Ekeler and McKissic are fine plays I think my favorites in the group are Derek Henry against the Jaguars and Montgomery against the Texans.  However due to the bottleneck of the Top 4, ownership is really spread around and there are a bunch of other guys that you may be surprised to know are looking to come in severely under owned, especially with their matchups.  
  • How about Aaron Jones at sub 15% ownership against the league’s worst Lions run defense?
  • Or Ezekiel Elliot at 6% ownership against the Cincinnati Bengals?
  • I think you can take a strong look at Jonathan Taylor at 5.3% ownership against the Raiders
  • I also think Ronald Jones at 3% ownership is being severely overlooked against the Vikings 

Admittedly these numbers could all go up by kickoff but if these ownership projection holds, there are some really strong plays here that the rest of the field is missing out on, but I won’t be!

There are four more running backs I want to highlight.  Their matchups are not the best but to see each of them at the ownership projections that they currently are at – I think they are well worth mentioning. 

James Robinson has been getting it done week after week and now in a matchup with the Titans and under 20% ownership he makes an excellent pivot off of Derek Henry on the other side of this game.  Right behind Robinson is Chris Carson who gets the Jets on Sunday. I think the spectator of Carlos Hyde must be what is causing sub 15% ownership but for the opportunity he has, I think you have to take a look at Carson.  Alvin Kamara has been limited due to Taysom Hill recently, but now with Hill facing a tougher defensive line in Philly he may be forced to throw to the explosive running back and right now Kamara is sitting at sub 10% ownership!

And my sleeper pick – Dalvin Cook.  Cook projects to have his lowest ownership of the season as he takes on the tough Tampa Bay defense but at sub 10% ownership I’m willing to bet on talent and volume here.  He could literally catch a lot of DFS players not looking if he ends up with a 100 yards and a touchdown or two and I’ll have some shares of Cook in my lineups.  That ownership is just too low! Not to mention Alexander Mattison will miss this game which means it’s Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah backing Cook up.  Cool may play 80% of snaps and get 20 touches!

Wide Receivers

  • The Top 4 highest projected owned wide receivers are Davante AdamsRobbie AndersonTyreek Hill and Allen Robinson.  You don’t fade Davante Adams against Detroit. Anderson is in a great spot as we discussed. Tyreek Hill can go off at any time and Allen Robinson plays the terrible passing defense of the Houston Texans.  But there are other plays I think you need to be aware of that are coming in at low ownership that you can take advantage of…
  • Michael Thomas projected at 8% ownership against the Eagles 
  • Keenan Allen at 10% projected ownership against Atlanta
  • Chris Godwin at 6% ownership against the Vikings
  • Calvin Ridley at 5% ownership against the Chargers 

I could go on and on and yes things could change  by kickoff but literally play anyone you want because outside of the top 4 no other wide receiver is projecting higher than 16%.  Including the Titans at Jacksonville or the Seahawks at the Jets.

Tight Ends that I am looking at not named Travis Kelce:

  • Logan Thomas coming off of his biggest game of his career and only $3,300 on DK
  • Robert Tonyon taking on the terrible Detroit Lions Defense at $4,200 on DK
  • Darren Waller – priced up to $6,800 on DK and $7,100 on FanDuel against the Colts
  • Evan Engram at $4,800 on DK against the Arizona
  • Dalton Schultz against the Bengals (more on that later)
  • Mike Gesiki against the Chiefs – $4,500 on DK, $5,700 on FD
  • Hunter Henry against Atlanta – $4,400 on DK, $5,600 on FD
  • Cole Kmet at only $2,900 against Houston
  • Gronk smash Vikings
  • Irv Smith with no Kyle Rudolph – dart throw – $3,100 on DK
  • Ian Thomas with no DJ Moore playing – dart throw – only $2,500 on DK
  • Dan Arnold against the Giants – $3,600 on DK, $5,00 on FD
  • Trey Burton at only $3,100 on DK against the Raiders
  • Jacob Hollister at only $3,100 on DK against the Jets

Kinda like I said about Wide Receiver, play who you want. No one outside of Kelce projects for more than 16% ownership at the time of this writing.

I will close this Week 14 DFS Opus by mentioning a game that is completely flying under the radar

The Cowboys vs the Bengals. Andy Dalton Revenge Game. It is incredible how much this game is flying under the radar. Did you see how bad the Cowboys looked in prime time against running backs? Take a shot on Gio Bernard! Did you see how bad the Cowboys looked in Zone? Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins – AJ Green?! Ok maybe not AJ Green. But how is it that no one is looking at Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb or Michael Gallup or Dalton Schultz against the Bengals? C’mon. Did you see Zeke’s ownership? How are the Bengals going to stop Zeke? While I really don’t have a lot of interest in Dalton or Brandon Allen, the pieces of both offenses interest me and you could create some fun mini game stacks fairly cheaply in your lineups. Gio and Amari or Zeke and Boyd or Higgins. Things like that. This game could be a butt ugly shootout – so don’t sleep on grabbing a piece or two from it when you are building your lineups. ‘

Good Luck in your Contests!

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