For the Thanksgiving slate on FantasyDraft, it was only fitting to describe the games in festive terms. In this article, Fantasy Expert Ricky Sanders will cover the “main course” expensive plays who should be staples in fantasy lineups. He will also cover the “side dishes” or mid-tier plays who make sense to complement the main course(s). Lastly, he will discuss a “green bean casserole” or a controversial play that not everyone will agree with. Without further do, here are some plays for the Turkey Bowl (Thursday’s NFL slate):
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, $17,000 – Once again, just like last week, fading Le’Veon Bell is a scary proposition on this slate. After facing one of the worst defenses against opposing backs last week, in a game where he dropped 37.10 fantasy points, he will now face a Colts team that has allowed a whopping five receiving TDs to the position. Quite clearly, there is no better receiving back in the league than Bell so this matchup is completely conducive to his strength. Additionally, the Colts rank dead last in rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) statistic so this projects as just about the best possible matchup for Bell…on par with last week. As icing on the cake, Andrew Luck is unlikely for this game so the Steelers almost assuredly are going to dominate the time of possession and play from ahead. In that scenario, Bell will see even more touches than usual so he quite easily rates as the top play on the entire slate. Fading him to be contrarian is simply overthinking it.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, $16,100 – Ezekiel Elliott gives Bell a run for his money as the best RB in football and the Cowboys are implied to score 29.3 points against the Redskins on Thursday. The strongest correlation between implied points and fantasy production is tied to the RB position…and what is not to like about this matchup? As always, Elliott is running behind one of the best offensive lines in football and will be squaring off against a Redskins defense that has surrendered 11 rushing TDs (fifth most of any team). According to DVOA, the Redskins rank 30th in terms of rushing defense. If fading one of the backs in tournaments, Elliott is the move, but going contrarian around these two backs is the preferred play.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings, $13,000 – The one WR to lock and load into all lineups is not Antonio Brown but rather Stefon Diggs due to a matchup against the Lions. Darius Slay is one of the better cover corners in the game, as evident by his job mostly shutting down Allen Robinson last week, but the Vikings are more creative with formations than the Jaguars. Quite often (58-percent of the time), Diggs lines up in the slot and Slay has done almost no shadowing this season (lines up in the slot four-percent of the time). Even after Bortles struggled against this defense last week, the Lions are still allowing the third most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs including a whopping 22 receiving TDs allowed. Diggs is a one man show on offense at times as evident by 13 receptions (RECs) in back-to-back games prior to being shadowed by Patrick Peterson last week. With room to work, he should be back to the huge volume once again. UPDATE: Diggs is unlikely to play so use Adam Thielen for much cheaper instead.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys, $12,000 – Most will probably look to the much cheaper Kirk Cousins in a game where he should be playing from behind but the Cowboys defense is tough. At least in cash games, Dak Prescott is a safer play especially with his team projected to score the most points of the day. He is synonymous with cash games these days as he has not sunk below 18 fantasy points since Week 1 and has not dipped below 20.50 fantasy points since Oct. 9 against the Bengals. With Elliott balancing the offense marvelously, opposing defenses have to respect the play action and even the screen game. Those aspects help create room for players such as Jason Witten and Dez Bryant who Prescott has developed a rapport with. In the Cowboys’ previous meeting against the Redskins (Week 2), Prescott threw for 292 yards and finished with 18.30 fantasy points. He has improved drastically since that point so that could prove to be his floor in this game.
Rob Kelley, Redskins, $8,500 – Do not look now but Rob Kelley is bordering RB1 territory. The problem with Kelley is literally everyone is going to be on him this week due to price tag. In cash games, there is absolutely no reason to fade him because his talent far exceeds the price tag as evident by his 137 rushing yard, three TD performance against the Packers on Sunday Night Football. As four tournaments, there certainly is a case to be made partially because he has caught two passes all season long. In FantasyDraft’s PPR format, this means he will need to exceed 100 yards rushing or score at least one TD to make a real impact and neither are a sure thing against a stout Cowboys defense. Not only do the Cowboys rank sixth in rushing DVOA but they rank first in time of possession (average of 33:08) and have allowed the third fewest rushing yards (844). In other words, it is within the realm of possibility that Kelley whiffs in this matchup so the choice is yours as whether you believe in the high ceiling or the low floor.
Theo Riddick, Lions, $10,100 – On paper, Theo Riddick probably faced the toughest possible matchup for him last week as the Jaguars ranked dead last in DVOA to RBs in the passing game…and Riddick still managed eight RECs (on 10 targets) for 70 yards. The Vikings were dominant defensively to begin the season but have since regressed especially against opposing backs. Five weeks ago, Eagles backs rushed for 101 yards on 26 carries and the backs caught three passes for 50 yards (on four targets). Four weeks ago, Jordan Howard carried 26 times for 153 yards and a TD and even caught four passes for 49 yards. Three weeks ago, Riddick rushed for 70 yards on just 14 carries against them. Two weeks ago, the Redskins carried 28 times for 128 yards and the backs caught four passes. Last week, David Johnson went absolutely nuts against them to the tune of 160 yards from scrimmage and two total TDs. Do you get the picture? Riddick is a great start against a defense struggling against the position in what is now an extensive sample size.
Green Bean Casserole
Matthew Stafford, Lions, $11,200 – This Lions offense just does not possess the same mojo as years past; over his last four games, Matthew Stafford has not even made it to the 18 fantasy point plateau once. Hell, Stafford, the king of yardage, has not passed for 300 yards since Week 3 in Green Bay. Therefore, people will rightfully be skeptical to roster him this week against a top tier passing defense; the Vikings rank fifth in passing defense DVOA. Like most QBs, Stafford has much preferred playing at home this season and it shows in his statistics: 107.4 QB rating at home versus 96.1 on the road. Just a few weeks ago, he faced the Vikings in Minnesota and threw for 219 yards and two TDs. At home provides another slight advantage and Riddick is the perfect kind of back to exploit this defense. Since his team is implied to score the fourth highest total of any team on Thanksgiving, he will come at a depreciated ownership (especially with many likely to flock to Kirk Cousins). In tournaments only, this is an opportunity to use game theory and roster him because hardly anyone else will. If he comes through, he could be the key to winning the $25 Thanksgiving Main Course contest. While rostering him certainly could blow up in your face, it has the potential to be epic.