Thanksgiving is the true MVP of the football season. An entire day that revolves around the four F’s: Food, friends, family, and football.
And a fifth F: Fantasy. Specifically, DFS.
This year’s three-game Turkey day slate features Minnesota at Detroit, Los Angeles (Chargers) at Dallas, and New York (Giants) at Washington.
Here are some of my thoughts on this slate, on a position-by-position basis. Note that my thoughts here are geared toward tournaments, since I tend to only play tournaments on short slates.
(For the Thanksgiving DraftKings guide, click here)
The quarterback position is fairly loaded for this slate.
Kirk Cousins is attractive against an atrocious Giants defense that ranks bottom-three in every major defensive category. Cousins has 20-plus FanDuel points in six of his past eight outings. The Redskins have the highest implied team total on the slate, so you have to like Cousins’ upside at home in this one. He’ll be the highest-owned quarterback on the slate.
Matthew Stafford has been on a hot streak for nearly two months now, but it’s definitely a stiff test against the Vikings. You have limited options with only three games to choose from, however, and this should be a pace-up game, so there might be more fantasy goodness here than meets the eye:
Lions have a 47-percent no-huddle rate at home (15-percent on the road). Giddyup. https://t.co/UDMepKdALe
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) November 21, 2017
Dak Prescott is coming off two awful games, but we shouldn’t be so quick to disown him. He was a top-five fantasy quarterback for the first half of the year, and we shouldn’t let his two downers define him. Prescott will be low-owned because of his recent performances despite the fact this game has the highest over-under and the Cowboys are at home. His 0.55 fantasy points per dropback ranks fourth at the position, even counting his last two games. He’s probably my third favorite quarterback here.
The three road quarterbacks — Philip Rivers, Case Keenum, and Eli Manning — are all decent options in their own right. They’ll be lower-owned, especially because only Manning truly provides salary relief (down at $6,700). However, both the Chargers-Cowboys and Vikings-Lions games could realistically turn into shootouts.
You really only take Manning here if you’re looking for the extra savings, but his floor is so low there’s a chance he single-handedly sinks your lineup. Short slates typically require production from everyone if you want to cash in tournaments.
The running back situation for this three-game slate is weird, to say the least. I mean, Samaje Perine is the second-highest-priced option, way up at $7,600.
Honestly, though, Perine isn’t a bad option. He had 24 touches in Week 11, and it wasn’t some fluke. He had 20-plus touches in his first two games, as well. With Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson out, Perine is a virtual lock for another 20-plus looks as a big home favorite against the Giants. I just wish he were cheaper.
Melvin Gordon ($8,400) is the most expensive back. He’s been losing some work to rookie Austin Ekeler, though. His snap rate over the past four weeks is a little bit worrisome: 69 percent, 58.9 percent, 68.1 percent, 50 percent. He was in the 75-85 percent range Weeks 1-6. It’s a bit of a concern, and if this were a larger slate, I’d probably be fading Gordon. But the Cowboys have been much softer defensively in the past two weeks, and Gordon is still good for 15-20 touches.
Minnesota’s backfield is officially a two-headed monster with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon splitting duties. Murray has scores in three of his past four, and McKinnon remains the preferred back out of the backfield. Both are good for 15-20 touches, and both make for fine GPP plays here. The Lions have given up at least one rushing touchdown in five straight games. The true contrarian play would be to just use them both and fade the Vikings receivers.
Orleans Darkwa is nursing a hamstring injury, but he should be good to go on Thursday. He’s a good bet for 60-80 yards with a 50/50 shot at scoring, but his ceiling isn’t all that enticing. I think he displayed it last week with his 16-point outing. I don’t like his chances of being one of the two highest-scoring backs on this three-game slate.
Detroit also sports a two-back backfield. Ameer Abdullah (311) and Theo Riddick (266) have seen a similar amount of snaps this year, though Abdullah holds a 161-73 lead in total touches and a 4-to-2 lead in total touchdowns. Neither player is a great option against the stout Vikings run defense, though.
Dallas’ Alfred Morris should see 15-20 rushing attempts. That should be enough to do legitimate damage to the Chargers, who actually have the worst run defense in the NFL in terms of raw yardage given up. Morris gained 91 yards on 17 totes in Dallas’ Week 11 disaster. He’s not a bad tournament play here, especially if you think Dallas will bounce back.
A fringe guy I’d consider is Ekeler. Ekeler has 12-plus FanDuel points in three of his past four, although he’ll probably only touch the ball about 10 times.
I’ll just go through each team’s wideout unit for this one:
Vikings: Adam Thielen is matchup-proof, and he draws Quandre Diggs in Week 12. Diggs was terrible in 2016 and a matchup we always picked on, but he’s actually been good in 2017. Thielen is a fine play either way. Stefon Diggs is way more inconsistent, but for a tournament setting, that’s fine. If I’m choosing just one of these guys, though, it’s Thielen.
Lions: Marvin Jones is too cheap at $7,000. He’s not seeing double-digit targets anymore, but he’s still a red zone threat and he racks up the yardage in a hurry (16.4 YPC, tied for 13th in NFL). Golden Tate is always a better play on DraftKings, but he does have 85-plus yards in four of his past five games.
Chargers: Keenan Allen is obviously in play against a Cowboys defense that ranks bottom-10 in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing wideouts. Allen reminded everyone on Sunday that he’s still a monster, posting a 12-159-2 line. Travis Benjamin is injured (keep an eye on this), but if he plays, I love him in this spot, for tournaments only. He’ll be low-owned and provides some salary relief. If Benjamin sits, Tyrell Williams probably becomes a must-play for me.
Cowboys: Dez Bryant is a high-volume player who, surprisingly, hasn’t displayed any semblance of a ceiling this year. He’s not an awful play, but he’s definitely not a must-play at $7,400. Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams don’t really have worthy ceilings, either. I’m not sure I want any Cowboys receivers here. Chargers corners Desmond King, Casey Hayward, and Trevor Williams all grade in the top 15 this year. Jacksonville may have the best high-end corners, but this is the best cornerback trio in the league.
Giants: If Sterling Shepard plays, you can roster him, even though his price tag of $7,300 is a bit worrisome. I’m not saying he’s a great play, but you could also think about Travis Rudolph, if Shepard were to miss. Rudolph has six targets in each of the past two games he’s played. He hasn’t done much with those looks, but nobody will own Rudolph. You just have to monitor Shepard’s health this week.
Redskins: Washington’s receivers are hard to figure out, but this is a great matchup against a Giants squad that ranks bottom-three against the pass. Josh Doctson has seen seven targets in each of his past two games, and he appears locked into that volume. I like him at only $6,600. Jamison Crowder has finally come to life with 32 targets over his past three games. That kind of volume ranks top-five in the NFL. He’s a good play against Giants slot man Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is allowing 79.3 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed this year.
We have an embarrassment of riches at tight end this week. It’s a bummer we can only play one on FanDuel.
The most obvious play will be to take either Vernon Davis or Jordan Reed against the Giants (depending on Reed’s health). The Giants have given up a touchdown to tight ends in every game this year expect for one, and in that one game they ceded 100-plus yards to Travis Kelce. If Reed plays, I still like Davis as lower-owned option. He was routinely gaining 60 yards per game even with Reed healthy.
Evan Engram provides both elite volume and red-zone usage, with a touchdown in four of his past five. Box score hunters might see his 1-9-0 line from Week 11 and look in another direction, which could lower his ownership rate. I really like Engram here as a pivot off of the popular Redskins tight end. And it’s not like it’s a bad matchup: Washington quietly ranks bottom-five against tight ends this year.
Every other tight end on the slate has a below-average matchup. Jason Witten, Kyle Rudolph, and Hunter Henry are all capable of finding the end zone, so they aren’t awful plays, but you might be best off going with the chalk at this position.