NFL DFS Week 15 Picks
Oh, yes. It’s the most chaotic portion of the NFL DFS season, as teams prepare to sit their best players on doomed teams or make up imaginary injuries to protect their stars for the next season. There’s also the top tier teams that have clinched and have no reason to give their elite players’ usual snaps. These next two weeks are oftentimes the best and worst spots to attack GPPs, with the edge being quite pronounced for those who put in time and research. Thankfully, we don’t have to put in any time or effort for such trivial things. The dandy DailyRoto optimizer cuts out the middleman and generates million-dollar winning lineups as fast as you can say “Why did I roster Aaron Jones?”.
Meanwhile, I’ll be making most of my picks from games that actually matter and/or don’t have any serious injury concerns. Basically, if a team is dead and has no shot at the playoffs then it’s a big ol’ X for me. If a player hasn’t practiced or has a “mysterious” injury, then they likely won’t make the list. In addition to focusing on the important games, I’ll try to highlight some upside sleeper picks in the lackluster games. They are the kind of under-the-radar picks that can take down a GPP or two. Off we go!
We’ve got some injury concerns with several top plays, with Ben possibly missing one of his top weapons in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Luck with Hilton still not practicing. Hilton is more likely to suit up over Juju, but still not an ideal situation nonetheless. Deshaun Watson has a pretty good matchup and seems to have the safest floor among all the other QBs. Even Drew Brees, since the Saints have decided to just go run heavy and let Drew rest his little arms. Watson had a huge comeback win last week with one of his better performances of the season, throwing for 294 yards and 2 TDs despite basically seeing instant pressure on almost every snap. That’s a good thing considering the Jets’ secondary is significantly better than the Eagles. That isn’t much of a compliment though since the Eagles have had a rash of injuries to their secondary that they’ve had to sign literal street free agents just to fill in as warm bodies. Their current starting CBs combined to give up 19/201/0 on 25 targets just this past week. Yikes. Watson has continued his hot streak of completing at least 70% of his passes, which is now up to four games in a row. That should help Watson eviscerate an already vulnerable Eagles defense that’s now given up the 2nd most plays over the last three games (69.7), trailing only the Browns (71). The uncertainty of the slate plus the very good matchup makes Watson the clear top QB play of the week. Doesn’t hurt that he’ll have one of the best WR plays as well. Oops, spoiler alert!
This is probably the easiest pick among all positions, as Dak Prescott gets the honor of being the best value play on the slate. His home/road splits have been alarmingly consistent thus far, crushing at home (262/1.85/.42) and stinking up the joint on the road (214/.57/.71). That’s a pretty distinct difference, with 13 of his 17 passing TDs at home. Is he the new Road Ben? Who knows, but a tantalizing matchup against a putrid Buccaneers defense is enough to propel him into value territory. Sprinkle in some improved play from Dak with the ever-improving chemistry of star WR Amari Cooper, and you can see a delicious fantasy cake begin to form. The Bucs defense has continually struggled to deal with mobile QBs, which would explain why they give up the 4th most rushing yards to QBs. Not that giving up the 2nd most passing TDs means anything either. Anyway, Prescott is clearly a favorite of our robot overlords, and who am I to deny my lords’ wants and needs? Save us, Dak!
While some people may ignore most, if not all of the Lions players, it is important to note the state of the Lions defense. They’ve now bottomed out to a lowly 31st overall DVOA ranking, with now the worst rated pass defense in all of the land. What a fall from grace. The very same Lions defense that shut down Tom Brady and held a top 10 defensive grade in the early goings. Not anymore, and that’s why I’m choosing Captain Kirk as the sleeper QB pick of the week. He’s a guy many may gloss over due to his inconsistency at actually generating fantasy points instead of fumbling it all away. Still, the Vikings are in a playoff push with a relatively healthy offensive group against a tomato can of a defense. QBs are even throwing the 2nd fewest interceptions against the Lions! Lame stat, but still noteworthy. With Thielen facing off against one of the worst slot coverage units and a gameplan that’s begun to involve Cook more often, Cousins looks poised for a nice stat-pad game that he very often took full advantage off as a Redskin. Don’t get left behind on garbage time Kirk!
We’ve got some concerning injuries and reports with some top RBs like Gurley and McCaffrey. Whatever you wanna do with those RBs is up to you, but I am staying far away from a potential rest situation. Ezekiel Elliott likely is the favorite RB play of the week for most people, but I like the Dak/Cooper stack instead and pairing it with cheaper but still strong options like Nick Chubb/Saquon Barkley. Both guys should get full reps and have plus matchups, especially Chubb in particular. The Bengals have been an abysmal run defense for most of the season, ranking at the bottom five for all pertinent RB stats. Teams have been running against the Bengals defense at a high percentage, even more so in recent weeks with the Bengals offense sputtering early and often behind new QB Jeff Driskel. The Browns have been feeding Chubb consistently behind a surprisingly potent offense thanks in part to the increased pace and stellar play from rookie QB Baker Mayfield. Since becoming the starter at Week 7, Chubb has averaged 20.5 touches and 4.65 yards per carry. Those are absolutely RB1 numbers that show the Browns’ faith in their stud RB on a weekly basis. This week is no exception against a garbage dump of a team that gives out rushing touchdowns like no tomorrow. You could always just plug in Barkley and watch him feast on an Indy defense giving up the 2nd most catches to opposing RBs. Easy PPR smash.
With Conner likely out once again, many will probably flock to Jaylen Samuels once more as the de-facto RB1 of the spamming Steelers. However, it’s not a pretty RB matchup against a stifling Saints run defense that’s allowing the fewest rushing yards to RBs. Instead, let’s turn to a sure-fire volume play in what could be a sneaky shoot-out spot. Elijah McGuire is a name some might ignore or just completely forget about, but he received 21 touches in a competitive game and dominated backfield snaps. That’s back to back games with at least 20 touches for the Jets RB. He’ll get another crack as the bell cow in a better matchup, facing a 25th DVOA Green Bay rushing defense that’s below average in most statistical categories. That’s a stark contrast to last week’s game against the 2nd graded Texans run defense. The Packers run defense is allowing 4.5 yards a carry while giving up an average of 120.5 rushing yards in the last four games. Clearly, the Packers’ best defense is their offense. Good sign for a blow-up game from McGuire at a salary-saving price with an almost-guaranteed workload.
The Bears have clinched the NFC North and are unlikely to clinch home-field, so the best they can hope for is more Rams losses to tack on a bye. Otherwise, it’s just another game for the NFL’s best defense. There shouldn’t be anything too crucial or important that would force the Bears to give unnecessary snaps to any of its’ crucial offensive players. They’re even playing against a 49ers team hoping to secure the 1st overall pick of the NFL draft. Easy come easy go. That’s why I’ve chosen Tarik Cohen as a sleeper play in a game that could be overlooked due to the aforementioned reasons. He’s been on fire over the past month with his great receiving work, cementing his mark as a centerpiece for the Bears’ passing attack. He’s been consistently involved as an electrifying scat-back since Thanksgiving, with receiving lines of 7/45/1, 12/156, 4/20. and 5/31/1 in the last four games. That doesn’t include a passing TD that helped push the Bears into overtime. The 49ers just allowed Chris Carson to run buck wild all over them (119/1 rushing, 6/29/0 receiving), give up the 10th most fantasy points to RBs, and allow the 4th highest passes to opposing RBs. Mouth-watering. If the Bears continue to employ Cohen as an explosive chess piece, chances are he’ll repeat his stat-line against the Giants than his dud against the Rams. Huge upside at a decent price in an overlooked spot due to a clinched divisional title in the bag.
Antonio Brown will be one of the favorite chalk plays if Juju indeed does miss the game, but I prefer Deandre Hopkins as the top WR play of the week regardless of Juju’s availability. As mentioned in the Watson piece, the Eagles’ cornerbacks are just a trash heap ready to be lit up by elite WRs. That is where Hopkins comes in, coming off an incredible 10/170/2 stat-line against a solid secondary. Imagine what Nuk will do to those poor Eagles! Hopkins has been as unguardable as any WR could be over the past two months, posting either 100+ yards and/or a TD in seven straight games at one point. He’s 4th overall in air yards, a consistent ranking as he’s also 4th among all WR in the last four games. The guy is an absolute stud in a matchup against absolute bums. The Eagles’ previous starters in Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby were already two of the most targeted CBs before their injuries. Their replacements were not any better, ranking 1 and 2 in most catches allowed with both seeing the 3rd most targets over the last four games. Numbers that likely will go up a little bit more after Nuk’s finished with them. Easy bink.
If Julio Jones were to suddenly miss this week’s game, Ridley would have to be the best value chalk play. Otherwise, it’s slim pickings on a difficult slate to figure out. Try Sterling Shepard again? Robert Woods and hope the Rams give him full snaps while he avoids Patrick Peterson’s coverage? Pick another lowly Jaguars WR? Yuck, yuck, and vomit. Let’s see what the optimizer suggests. Oh, it’s another value play from the Jets! Interesting, interesting. It’s another volume-based play with Robby Anderson becoming the new Enunwa for Sam Darnold. He’s seen 18 targets over the last two games since Darnold’s return, turning them into a very good 11/172/2 stat-line. Anderson’s been an air yard savant for most of the season, only have it go to waste due to inconsistent QB play and little to no time for deep throws. Anderson currently sits at 16th most air yards but ranks 4th most over the past two games and 5th over the last four. He’s been trending up for a while now, and he should be matched up against the CB that’s allowed the most yards in the last four games – Jaire Alexander. Good enough for me. Double Jets value plays, double the workload. Sneaky shoot-out potential with great individual matchups and both guys trending up. Just run a Jets stack for all the MONIES!!!
Let’s just double down on the Cousins sleeper pick with his best stack option in Adam Thielen. Now, Thielen started the season off with a bang, reeling in 100+ yards in 8 consecutive games. Since then? Only one 100+ yard day in the last six games, with a 41 yard average in the five games he couldn’t eclipse the hundo mark. That’s….that’s not good, right? Thankfully, the Lions should be a slump-buster for the fading Thielen, boasting the worst graded slot coverage in the NFL. Thielen runs 58% of his routes in the slot, where he will match up against Nevin Lawson the majority of the time. Or a linebacker. Who knows with how atrocious the defensive assignments has been for the Lions. Anyway, Lawson has allowed the 7th most yards over the last four games with the 5th most TDs allowed all season in the slot. Could be a part of the reason why the Lions have sunk into the worst graded overall pass defense. If Captain Kirk can find his groove, then it almost certainly will benefit Thielen and help increase his upside back to what he was offering during that blistering 8 game streak. Let the man heal your lineups!
All right, all right. I’ll come up with a top play this week. I think you gotta go with the E-Bro in what doesn’t look like an appealing matchup on paper. Eric Ebron has been one of the season’s nice surprises, sort of validating his high draft pick with outstanding red zone play (11 RZ TDs, 5th most) despite not playing full snaps for half of the season. The Giants rank around average to above average in most statistics, but by no means are they a stingy bunch. Case in point – Zach Ertz dunked on the Giants on his way to a typical 7/91/1 stat-line. The numbers say the Giants rank 10th best DVOA against TEs, but a closer look at their most recent games explains the high ranking but average overall production. They played against a Chase Daniel-led Bears team with Burton goose egging, a Redskins offense without Alex Smith and a 38-yard day from Mark Sanchez, and a 0-17 loss to the Titans where Mariota threw for a whopping 88 yards while Henry steamrolled to a 33/170/2 day. Curious, curious. A Titans TE was second in yards though, so there’s that. The point here is while on paper the Giants may seem tough against TEs, but allowing almost 800 yards and ranking near the top 10 worst in catches allowed paints another picture to me. A picture that will have three touchdown catches from E-Bro’s 17.8% team target share and a hefty 23% red zone target share. The Colts are fighting for their playoff lives while the Giants are fighting among themselves on whether or not putting Eli Manning in a senior home is the right decision. Your move.
LOOK AWAY! Oh, man. You looked, didn’t ya? Yeah, it’s a brutal week to punt at TE. You are pretty much forced to pay up at TE for someone like Evan Engram at a reasonable price in a reasonable matchup with a reasonable workload due to Odell missing the game. In two games without Beckham in the lineup, Engram saw his snap count increase slightly with more slot work (20 snaps in the slot last week, more than his last 3 games combined) and his most snaps (45) in a game since Week 8 (63). That has translated into a reasonable stat-line of 11/152/0 on 17 targets. Volume alone makes Engram a favorable play despite the possibility of another Giants let-down. Oh, it is the Giants after all. Hmm, guess you could go with fantasy disappointment David Njoku in a smash spot….for the 10th time this season. The Bengals….nah, never mind. You either get a 5/50/1 day from Njoku in a super plus matchup, or you take your lumps with a goose egg. No ifs, ands, or buts. This is the price you pay for looking at other tight ends! SHAME!
The Falcons play the Panthers in what might be one of the worst games of the week. Why? Cam Newton isn’t playing, McCaffrey may end up not playing, and the Falcons could shut down Julio Jones as to save him for next season. Both teams are out of the playoff picture with little to no gain from playing their starters an extended amount of time. Perhaps we’ll get the vaunted Heinicke vs Schaub gunslinger battle? Perhaps not, which is why I’ve inserted Austin Hooper as the sleeper TE pick of the week. The Panthers may have called it quits on the season, but that doesn’t mean their defense will suddenly be motivated enough to give the team one last hurrah against a divisional rival. Hooper should be able to eat against a Panthers LB unit that’s allowed the 4th most fantasy points and the 10th highest yard per game average to TEs. Probably why they’ve received a 28th DVOA rank covering opposing TEs. Hooper might not be stuffing the stat sheet, but he had been getting consistent targets over the past month before last week’s goose egg. In the four games prior to that pitiful game, Hooper had seen 5+ targets in five straight games while averaging a palpable 39-yard average. Hey, compared to most TEs below the elite tier, getting even 10 yards is worth a pat on the back! He did score two TDs in that span, so that’s something. I have nothing else for you. Good night, sweet prince.