DFS Three And Out 2018 Week 21
Three DFS players I'm investing heavily in for tournament (GPP) play this week. ... And one I'm not.
For those not familiar with the DFS Single-Game Slate rules, here’s a quick recap, via PlayerPicks.com: In the “Showdown” mode on DraftKings, there are five utility spots and a “Captain” slot, who receives 1.5x multiplier for all DK points accrued. Pricing differs for players when selected in the Captain spot versus the FLEX spots, with all players required to fit under a $50k salary cap. All options are in play from QBs, RBs and WRs, to kickers and D/ST from each team. On FanDuel, single-game contests include an MVP spot (1.5x multiplier) and four utility spots with a $60,000 salary cap. Positive and negative scores are impacted by that multiplier, so if you choose a quarterback as MVP and they fumble, you will lose 3 FD points. Conversely, each passing TD is 6 FD points (4 in standard scoring) and a rushing or receiving TD is worth 9 FD points (vs. 6). The price is the same for all five positions on FanDuel.
So with the formalities out of the way, let's jump on in. ...
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots ($15,900 on DraftKings; $15,500 on FanDuel)
So if you listened to this week's FootballDiehards Podcast, you know I'm all in on Brady in this one, which means I'm all in on paying up. First and foremost, I feel more comfortable rolling with somebody who is equally comfortable playing on this stage. For me, it's about experience in the big game. At 41, Brady will be the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl. But it goes beyond that. Brady has already played in eight Super Bowls, the most in NFL history giving him more Super Bowl experience than the Rams' entire roster. The Rams' whole roster has just four players who have played in a total of five Super Bowls: C.J. Anderson has played in two with the Broncos, Aqib Talib has played in one with the Broncos, Brandin Cooks has played in one with the Patriots and Sam Shields has played in one with the Packers. But that's not a surprise. After all, Brady now has more Super Bowl appearances than every team in the NFL (except for the Patriots). But let's dig deeper. As CBSSports.com's Mike McClure noted earlier this week, Brady is worth his steep price because of his track record in his recent Super Bowl appearances, which have included a completion percentage of almost 66 and 18 total touchdowns. And though it came in a loss to the Eagles last year, McClure notes that Brady’s performance in Super Bowl LII might've been his best individually, as he put up eye-popping numbers that included 505 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Thus far in the postseason, the Rams gave up 266 yards and two total touchdowns to Dak Prescott and 249 yards and two touchdowns to Drew Brees. McClure expects Brady, who has already thrown for almost 700 yards this postseason, to expose Los Angeles through the air and provide massive returns for DFS players yet again. I agree and I'll be using Brady in my Captain and MVP spots this weekend.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams ($15,000 on DraftKings; $15,500 on FanDuel)
So volume matters. It's why we love running backs. It's also why we love quarterbacks more. The ball is in their hands almost every offensive snap (which the obvious, rare exceptions). And while I'm okay rolling out both QBs, I do have concerns for Goff. But my concerns for the QB extend to the entire Los Angeles offense. Remember, New England's 94 offensive plays (48 runs and 46 passes) against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship two weeks ago were the most any NFL team has run in any game since 2002. But again, I think another busy afternoon for the Patriots offense would have less impact on Goff than it would the team's running back duo of Todd Gurley and Anderson. Goff will have to deal with some pressure (per Pro Football Focus, New England's defense pressured Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes on 50 percent of his dropbacks, by far the most of any quarterback in the championship round). Goff will likely have to deal with the same combination of pressure and coverage. Theoretically, however, USA Today's Doug Farrar notes that New England's man-heavy coverage should play right into Goff's hands. The third-year man has fared better against man coverage than zone schemes this season. Whatever the case, all of the lineups I've built heading into this weekend feature both QBs with Goff holding down the Captain and MVP spots in the cases where Brady is not.
Defense, Los Angeles Rams ($4,500 on DraftKings) and Defense, New England Patriots ($4200 on DraftKings)
This is obviously a DraftKings-only call, but I do like both defenses in lineups with the opposing QBs (although I'm only playing one of them in lineups with both QBs). Since I have higher expectations for Brady, I'm probably running back at him with the Rams defense (certainly more than I'll be using New England's), but there are arguments for both units. In all three of Brady's Super Bowl losses, defenses have battered the quarterback, sacking him eight times, generating 18 QB hits and 48 pressures, per Pro Football Focus. It's not necessarily getting sacks that affect Brady, but rather forcing him to move off his spot. In last year's Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, Brady was pressured on 46.9 percent of his dropbacks -- the only sack came on a Brandon Graham (lined up inside) strip to effectively end the game. The trend continued in the 41-year-old quarterback's 2018 campaign. Brady threw two touchdowns and two interceptions with a 63.1 passer rating when pressured from an interior pass rusher this season, per NFL Research -- compare that to seven TDs, zero INTs and a 118.7 passer rating against edge pressure. On paper, the Los Angeles Rams appear to own the perfect foil to discombobulate Brady during Super Bowl LIII, starting with presumptive Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, with Donald and Ndamukong Suh, the Rams own the pass-rush ability from the interior to make the quarterback's life hell. Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks from his defensive tackle position and pressured the quarterback on 13.1 percent of pass rushes this season (highest among 85 interior defensive linemen with 200-plus pass rushes). Again, having play-makers on the D-line doesn't guarantee success, as the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs found out. In two playoff games against teams with good pass rushers -- including a K.C. defense that was tied for first in the NFL with 52 QB takedowns -- Brady was sacked zero times on 90 pass attempts. But Patra went on to explain defenses that play primarily zone coverage or do not press receivers are inviting Brady to pick them apart with quick strikes. So the dichotomy between the pass rush and secondary is one key for the Rams. With Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot, the Rams appear to have the personnel to press Pats receivers at the line. But Rams coordinator Wade Phillips was able to hold Brady to one of the worst tilts of his postseason career in the 2015 AFC Championship Game (48.2 completion percentage, 16 QB hits, four sacks in the loss) against the Denver Broncos. Phillips specifically used man coverage to slow Brady four years ago and he could do so again with a player of Talib's caliber at his disposal. Would Phillips flip from the zone coverage that worked for the Rams at the end of the season back to a scheme in which they'd struggled, but has proven to be more effective against Brady? We'll see. Whatever the case, the Rams have the kind of disruptive playmakers at all levels it takes to create big plays and even find the end zone. The same obviously goes for New England, so which defense you roll with can be based on how you see the game playing out.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams ($14,000 on DraftKings; $13,500 on FanDuel)
Due to the limited slate, I don't know that anybody on either team can truly be ruled "Out" for DFS tournament purposes this week. I mean, I'm not keen on making the decision between Gurley and Anderson. Again, if you listened to this weeks' podcast, you'll know I'm skeptical of Gurley's health. I mean, you don't limit a player of Gurley's caliber to just four carries without a better reason than game flow. Nor do I believe the fact Gurley failed to make a couple catches early in the game is the reason the highest-paid running back in NFL history inexplicably spent a majority of the game on the sideline (save for a 6-yard touchdown run), while the recently-signed veteran backup Anderson rushed for 44 yards in 16 carries. There's more to this than we're being told. So if you made me pick one player I'm leery of this week, it's Gurley. That said, I'll stress again that nobody is off limits in this one -- and that includes Gurley, Anderson or any of the Patriots' backfield crew (I'm heavily invested in Sony Michel this week, but James White, Rex Burkhead and even James Develin are all viable plays this week). So I'm listing Gurley here even though he is in some of my lineups.