Football C-Riddicks All Agree: Play Theo

On Sunday morning, fantasy owners will inevitably struggle through decisions of which similarly priced players to start. Let fantasy expert Ricky Sanders guide you through five difficult decisions many will dealing with heading into Week 13:

QB – Drew Brees/Anyone Else – There simply is no decision at the QB position this week, especially in cash games, because Drew Brees is in the absolute ideal spot. Brees has produced a 116.7 QB rating at home this year compared to just 100.1 on the road in an equal amount of games in each split. In fact, Brees has thrown 19 TDs at home compared to just 11 on the road and he has only failed to reach 300 passing yards and three passing TDs once (Seahawks). One of his home games came against the Broncos, aka the team that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to the QB position, and he still torched them for 303 yards and two TDs. Now, Brees and company will square off against a Lions defense that has allowed the fifth most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to opposing QBs and ranks dead last in passing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. If past data against the same team is your forte, Brees lit up the Lions for 341 yards and three TDs at home in their only meeting last season. Get ready for a monster performance from Brees as he possesses both the highest floor and ceiling of any QB on the slate. Verdict: Drew Brees

RB – David Johnson/Le’Veon Bell – Spending up at QB and for both of the elite backs is damn near impossible so a decision is going to have to be made. On one hand, David Johnson’s matchup is incredible on paper as he will face literally the worst ranked rushing defense according to DVOA. For that reason, his price actually exceeds Le’Veon Bell’s which is a difficult pill to swallow. Why? Since Bell returned from suspension, he has caught one less pass (57) than teammate Antonio Brown! Amazingly, he has caught two more passes than Johnson despite playing in three less games. He is so incredibly involved in the passing game for a RB that he is an incredibly painful fade on any week…especially when it involves paying more for a different back. If the extra salary is available at the end of roster construction, moving up to Johnson is fine but I have them projected at virtually identical outputs (around 28 fantasy points). Therefore, if choosing one, it makes sense to just take the less expensive guy with the highest floor of any player at the position due to the receptions (RECs). That man, of course, is Mr. Bell. Verdict: Le’Veon Bell

RB – Mark Ingram/Theo Riddick – The closest correlation between Vegas totals and fantasy output comes via the RB position. Typically, backs on teams implied to score a lot of points come through in the end (with normal football volatility outliers included). Therefore, both backs from the game with the highest projected over/under are viable, right? The answer is a firm “yes,” but the question remains as to which one is the superior play. Coming off a monster week (14 carries, 146 rushing yards, one rushing TD, one REC, 21 receiving yards, one receiving TD), Mark Ingram seems to have earned the trust back of the coaching staff. Sure he is dealing with a full-blown committee (Tim Hightower touched the ball 17 times and scored a TD last week as well) but the Lions also rank as the 28th rushing defense in terms of DVOA so they are definitely beatable. Meanwhile, Theo Riddick draws a fantastic matchup as well against a Saints team that ranks dead last against opposing backs in the passing game. This is a huge piece of information for fantasy owners because Riddick led the position in RECs last year and has caught the third most passes this year. Riddick can rack up fantasy points quickly when he is targeted because he is explosive as well. In what should prove to be a ridiculous shootout, the game environment is simply perfect for Riddick and his receiving ability gives him the edge. Verdict: Theo Riddick

WR – Antonio Brown/Julio Jones – Antonio Brown is a monster and probably the best player at the WR position and playing in a comfortable environment for his QB. Like Brees, Ben Roethlisberger’s sample size of dominant performances at home can no longer be overlooked. Simply put: it is no longer a coincidence but rather an ongoing trend. In Brown’s last four games at home, he has produced 22.40, 22.80, 21.90 and 37.40 fantasy points respectively. Essentially, it is difficult to make a strong case against him other than the Giants’ dominant pair of corners (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins) that both rank as top 12 overall cover corners so far this year, per Pro Football Focus. As for Jones, well, the matchup is superior on paper. Unlike last week when he faced a true top corner, Jones will have a distinct talent advantage on Marcus Peters who will attempt to cover him. Okay, so this is circumstantial evidence but it has been amazing how Julio Jones has bounced back from every bad performance this year; he has failed to reach double-digit fantasy points four times now and has produced at least 28.10 fantasy points in the game following on all three other occurrences. In those contests, Jones has averaged a whopping 36.33 FPPG and now the Falcons and Steelers are implied to score virtually the same amount of points this week. It is certainly a tough decision but I lean Jones due to matchup and his ability to bounceback from duds. Verdict: Julio Jones

TE – Jimmy Graham/Travis Kelce – Not typically thought of as a defense to target, the Panthers defense has actually been a disappointing unit especially against the pass this year. Only seven teams have allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing QBs than Carolina and, more importantly, they rank 20th in TE defense DVOA. Over the course of the last two weeks, only the Redskins, Broncos and Cowboys have allowed more fantasy points to the position. The loss of Luke Keuchly certainly did not help this unit as he has graded as the top overall linebacker this year including the fourth best in coverage. However, the news that Jeremy Maclin will miss another ballgame is enough to lean towards Travis Kelce instead against a Falcons team that allows 27.5 points per game (PPG). On the weekend slate last week, Kelce finished as TE1 despite not even finding the end zone. Both he and Tyreek Hill are virtually the only targets Alex Smith routinely relies upon in the passing game so this is one of the easier offenses to predict. A huge concentration of their targets are directed at the duo of Hill/Kelce so the volume should be high once again this week in another game projected to be a shootout. I am looking forward to this Kelce encore. Verdict: Travis Kelce

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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