BY SKEETER ROBINSON
Special to PressBox 790 Sports
What is your objective when playing DFS? I mention this because I saw a Tweet from Travis on Friday morning questioning why someone played Marcus Mariota as captain on the Thursday Night Showdown, when he was not even starting at QB. It is a very logical question: who would take that risk of wasting $10 on a lineup where you play the backup QB? No one would do that in a season-long league or heck, even multiple game DFS slates. But in showdown? It is not an awful play, if you understand and are willing to take the risks of the play. I will tell you my response to him and then try to explain the thought process behind it.
My answer to Travis was because it was likely someone who plays multiple lineups (I will assume the 150-maximum allowed) and these players will “waste” a few lineups and money on the backup quarterback scenario. It does not hit very often; maybe 2-3 times a year. But when the situation plays out that the backup QB comes into the game and produces at an elite rate at less than 1% ownership, your path to the first-place prize is a lot shorter and you will split with less people or even win it all for yourself. So, this goes back to my original question: what is your objective? If you are playing to cash or what is most likely to happen (I tend to fall in this category often), you will never do this. If you are trying to take down a tournament, you must be unique. Over the course of the year, if you employ the backup QB strategy, you will be donating a lot of money back to the site. However, the couple of times it comes through, you have a huge chance of winning the major money. If you are like me and play one lineup, or even if you play 10 or 20 lineups, this is probably not a preferred strategy. But the more lineups you play in showdown, the more viable this is, if you are willing to take the risk. As we get into the Week 15 main slate, keep this thought process in mind: What are you trying to accomplish? If it is to cash, you will probably want to play a $4,200 Chad Hansen instead of a $4,700 Sammy Watkins. But if you are wanting to give yourself the best chance at winning a tournament, the barely hits 2x value Watkins is also a lot more likely to return 8x than Chad Hansen. Think about situations like this as you build your lineups this week (And yes, I am considering both of those players this week).
Quarterbacks: Game of the week: Kansas City at New Orleans. Patrick Mahomes (7,900) is the safest quarterback of the week. I want to get to him, but the pricing is tough this week overall, and while his floor is extremely high with the potential to hit 35+ points, I do not think it is likely. I will be willing to save 2,000 and play Drew Brees (5,900) who has historically put-up big numbers in home games. The concerns: first game off injury and no Michael Thomas. Away from this game, Lamar Jackson (7,500) is looking like 2019 Lamar Jackson and running the ball more. When he does this, he is as valuable as a fantasy QB as you can have. Oh, Jacksonville is a great defense to allow Lamar to run all over. Speaking of bad teams, the Jets are always fun to pick on. Jared Goff (6,300) has had some big games this year, but also has had some duds. The Jets rarely give up “dud games” to quarterbacks. Finally, words I never thought I would utter again this year: Mitchell Trubisky (5,500) is a potentially solid play. The Bears have scored 25, 30, and 36 points in their last three games. Minnesota is a mediocre, at best, defense. At this price, if Trubisky can throw for 200 and two scores, and maybe add 20+ rushing yards, he hits value and allows you to pay up for the names I am about to mention.
Running Backs: Something that we do in life and in fantasy football is overthink things. We try to get too cute with ownership, matchups, ceiling/floor, etc…Sometimes we just need to throw that out the window and look at matchups. Derrick Henry (9,500) loves December and we saw him run all over Jacksonville last week. Wouldn’t it be nice if he got another bad run defense…Oh, he faces the Lions, who give up the second-most points to running backs. Now if we only had that workhorse running back that was facing the worst run defense in the league, we could really do some damage. Houston is the 32nd in this category and they face the Colts, who have smartly decided that it is Jonathan Taylor (7,200) season. Taylor scored 22.5 two weeks ago against these Texans and had 33.5 last week against the Raiders. That is likely the start of my lineups this week. The curveball in all this is now that Drew Brees is back, and Michael Thomas is out, the usage for Alvin Kamara (7,400) should be through the roof. It may make sense to start your lineup with these three players and figure out everything else.
But that may be hard to do so we need to find some cheaper options if you can not play all three. Raheem Mostert (5,800) gets the Cowboys’ bad defense. This should be a great spot for him but realize there is a risk as the 49ers like to rotate running backs all throughout the game. Kenyan Drake (5,500) has seen 20+ touches in two of the past three weeks. There is not much to be scared about the Eagles defense and with Kyler looking healthy again, Drake may have better opportunities to run. Keep an eye on the Dolphins’ backfield situation on Sunday. Salvon Ahmed (4,700) was the lead back before he got hurt. He is questionable, so it is likely either he or Deandre Washington (4,700) will see most touches for the Dolphins against a Patriots run defense that got run over by Cam Akers last week.
Wide Receivers: Yes to everyone above 7k. If I had to rank my top 3, factoring in price, I would go Tyreek Hill (8,800), Cooper Kupp (7,000), and Allen Robinson (7,400). But I do not fault you if you like someone else instead. I mention Kupp, but Robert Woods (6,800) is just as viable. At least one of them will go off against the Jets, but hard telling which one it will be. Brandon Aiyuk (6,300) had 10+ targets in three of his last four games and now gets the Cowboys. He right now is high volume but not really efficient so he is not a must-have. T.Y. Hilton (5,500) has re-emerged in fantasy, putting up 18+ points in his last three outings, and has historically smashed the Texans. I would not play him and Taylor in the same lineup unless playing a game stack. I prefer Emmanuel Sanders (4,200) to Tre’Quan Smith (3,200) in a vacuum; factor in price, and I think both are options without Michael Thomas. Lynn Bowden (3,600) will play in the slot and will see a couple of carries for the Dolphins. They want to get the ball in his hands and the potential to see 10 touches at this price is hard to ignore.
Tight Ends: Remember a couple of weeks ago when there was no tight end over 5,000? Now we have the highest price in recent memory for a tight end: 8,000 for Travis Kelce. It also still may not be high enough as he is putting up 30-point fantasy games consistently. I do prefer him over Tyreek Hill. If I am not using him, I am going to go all the way down to Irv Smith (3,600) who faces a Bears team that is Bottom 5 against the TE and Kyle Rudolph is Out for the Vikings, giving Smith most of the TE snaps. Jared Cook (3,400) is one of those low floor, high ceiling types of plays, who may see a couple of additional targets with Michael Thomas out. Finally, Cole Kmet (3,000) has seen 7 targets in each of his last two games. You will not find anyone else with that many targets at this price point.
Sunday Night Showdown: Not my favorite showdown slate game ever, especially with Daniel Jones unlikely to play. So that just means I will probably captain Nick Chubb (11,200) who the Browns are finally using as the feature back over Kareem Hunt. If you can watch the actives for this game, Evan Engram popped up on the injury list on Friday and is Questionable. This could create opportunities for Kaden Smith (400) if Engram misses. Smith himself is questionable and if he misses or even if he is active and Engram misses, Levine Toilolo (200) would be a very viable punt option as a starting TE. Do not play both in the same lineup, but if Engram is out, either of these two is viable. Toilolo is especially viable if Smith misses as well.