LaFellowship of the Ring

Sometimes when constructing a daily fantasy football roster, you are able to fit most of the players that feel like staples. However, if spending up on certain positions, then salary will assuredly need to be saved on others by default. Here are a group of players listed at bargain costs who will help fill in the missing pieces of a mostly-constructed lineup:

Note: Each position includes a player who is expected to be highly owned amongst the value plays at the position (chalk) and one who will likely go vastly overlooked but still is worthy of consideration (contrarian).

Quarterback (QB)

Chalk: Alex Smith, Chiefs, $10,000 – In Week 17, the Chiefs will be playing for the two seed in the AFC. Since the Chiefs have the tie-breaker advantage based on their sweep of the Raiders in the regular season, all they need to do is win to clinch. With Spencer Ware listed as questionable, look for Alex Smith to be the focus of the offense against a Chargers team he torched for 363 yards passing and two TDs in their last meeting. The best part about Smith is his price tag as he is literally priced at the bare minimum. With both Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill emerging as elite playmakers in recent weeks, Smith is still equipped with plenty of weaponry even assuming Ware sits. In a game the Chiefs will be looking to win in order to receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs, Smith should prove to be a solid option in all formats despite his normally volatile skill set.

Contrarian: Andy Dalton, Bengals, $10,100 – While it is true the 5-9-1 Bengals have nothing to play for, that simply makes them dangerous because the players on the field do not have motivation to “take it easy” in order to save energy for an additional game or two. Furthermore, they will be playing their divisional rival Ravens in a game with a spread of 1.0 points (Ravens favored). In what is expected to be a closer game, Andy Dalton is going to have no choice but to sling the football around against a stout opposing rushing defense. Now that it appears Jeremy Hill will miss this week’s game, along with Giovani Bernard who was placed on injured reserve a while ago, the Bengals simply have a collection of scrubs at the RB position. Meanwhile, the Ravens rank first in rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric anyways so even their normal backs would have had issues. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why Dalton attempted 48 passes in the first meeting. Assuming he racks up that sort of volume again, he should be able to exceed expectations for a QB at darn near the minimum cost and therefore projects as a solid GPP QB.

Running Back (RB)

Chalk: Darren Sproles, Eagles, $7,800 – With Ryan Mathews ruled out this week, Darren Sproles and Byron Marshall are the only two healthy running backs heading into the season finale versus the Cowboys. Since the Cowboys have clinched all they need to clinch, they are likely to only play their defensive starters for a short period time (if at all). Maybe more importantly, they are probably going to start Mark Sanchez at QB and Darren McFadden at RB so they should not be expected to dominate time of possession as per usual. Consequently, the Eagles should see a healthy amount of time on offense against a defense giving half an effort and Sproles will be dominating the team’s RB touches. In his first meeting against the Cowboys, Sproles rushed for a season-high 86 yards and caught five passes for 17 yards. Considering the team will be without a legitimate option for him to platoon with, he actually has an opportunity to surpass all those numbers as the team’s true workhorse this week. His skill set is so conducive to the PPR format that any uptick in volume demands attention. This week is no different and Sproles belongs in cash lineups at the very least.

Contrarian: James White, Patriots, $7,400 – Over the course of the last two weeks, Dion Lewis has touched the ball a whopping 37 times so he seems the team’s option 1B at RB behind LeGarrette Blount at this point. However, James White has still found a way to exceed double-digit fantasy points himself twice in the last three games. While the Patriots are not likely going to sit Tom Brady or any of the receivers with the one seed in the conference on the line, it would make sense to ease off of Lewis’ workload for a game due to his frail nature. White is a player this week who projects well whether the starters play for an extended time or not since he is the third back on the roster. Even if it remains close, White continues to see fantasy-relevant touches including three red zone touches and 20 targets over the course of the last month. If the Patriots lay the smack down, White is likely to be included for his three receptions at multiple carries at the very least. If that upside intrigues you with the team implied to score 27.3 points then he certainly is viable.

Wide Receiver (WR)

Chalk: Brandon LaFell, Bengals, $8,800 – Do not look now but Brandon LaFell has emerged as the team’s top receiving option with A.J. Green out of commission. Over the course of the last two weeks, LaFell has been targeted 19 times and hauled in 13 passes for 221 yards and a TD. By comparison, Jordy Nelson has caught 16 passes for 278 yards and two TDs during that span and he ranks as WR1 during the time frame. With the team almost assuredly going to struggle to establish a run game, the team is going to rely on going to the air throughout the course of the entire afternoon. Assuming that is the case, look for Dalton to target the guy who clearly has become his security blanket. LaFell is simply way too cheap in what should prove to be a pretty favorable matchup for him.

Contrarian: J.J. Nelson, Cardinals, $9,100 – Speaking of the last two weeks, J.J. Nelson has caught eight passes for 170 yards and two TDs during that span and he is up a hefty six TDs for the season. Although the Cardinals are not playing for the postseason, there is no indication they are going to fully give up or anything of the sort. The place to beat the Rams is through the WRs as the team ranks 21st in DVOA to opposing number one WRs, 17th against number twos and 31st against all other WRs. Regardless of where Nelson lines up, he will have an opportunity to beat the man matching up against him deep and that makes him an extremely enticing option in tournaments.

Tight Ends (TE)

Chalk: Dennis Pitta, Ravens, $6,600 – Only three teams have allowed more fantasy points to opposing TEs than the Bengals this season and only the Redskins have allowed more yards to the position (and they only have allowed one more yard than the Bengals). Additionally, the Bengals rank 20th in DVOA against the position so the fantasy point tallies are no fluke. As if that were not enough, Dennis Pitta is coming off an eight reception, 11 target, 75 yard performance against the Steelers at it was the second time in a month he had topped eight receptions, 75 yards and 15 fantasy points. While he is a bit volatile from week-to-week, this matchup projects very favorable and the price is right.

Contrarian: Dion Sims, Dolphins, $5,000 – At minimum price, not much is needed from Dion Sims and yet this is a player who quietly has scored four TDs in his last five games. During the last four weeks, here is the list of players who have received more targets inside the 10 yard line than Sims: Kyle Rudolph (end). With this sort of TD upside, why not roster him at this price tag in tournaments? Against the Patriots, the team will assuredly be playing from behind so they will need to resort to plenty of passing plays. The emergence did not start with Matt Moore but he has not affected the mojo so continue to roll out Sims if needing a total punt at the position.


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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