Welcome to the playoffs! In this piece, I’ll be discussing the top fantasy wide receivers in the context of our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models.
This piece will be focused on multi-game contests but is actionable for Showdown slates as well. All salaries listed are based on the six-game Saturday-Monday slates.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
- Quarterbacks on Wednesday
- Tight Ends on Friday
- Running Backs on Friday/Saturday
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
High-End Wide Receivers
Cooper Kupp ($8,600 DraftKings, $9,500 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (48.5 total)
As always, Kupp is our highest projected receiver this week (both in median and ceiling projections). However, the gap is starting to close – both in terms of his projections and his salary. Kupp’s usage has dipped back into the mortal range, with “only” seven targets in each of the last three games. While that’s certainly not bad, Kupp has at least nine in every prior game while averaging 11.7.
Of course, Kupp can still get there at that usage. He’s scored a touchdown in three straight and has a 100-yard game in that span. That’s not why I’m interested in Kupp this week, though. This game sets up perfectly for some regression to his mean in terms of targets.
First, the Bucs face the highest opponent pass-play rate in the NFL. Tampa is also favored, which points to more passing from the Rams. The Rams also had less incentive to pass to Kupp over the last three games, with the final two regular-season games not being particularly important and their wild-card game being a blowout win.
Going away from Kupp in those games made sense; doing so against a pass-funnel Tampa defense doesn’t. Particularly when Tampa represents the best wide receiver matchup on the slate from an Opponent Plus/Minus Allowed standpoint.
We’re also getting Kupp at his cheapest since mid-October. That has Kupp tied for first place in Pts/Sal on DraftKings, trailing only Davante Adams on FanDuel.
Kupp’s ownership is likely to be among (if not the) highest on the slate, so keep leverage in mind when building around him. He’s the top receiver play on the DraftKings slate, though.
Davante Adams ($8,500 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel): Green Bay Packers (-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (47.5 total)
Adams joins Kupp as the only receivers to post a 30% or higher target share on the year. His overall target volume is noticeably less, though, thanks to Green Bay playing at the slowest overall pace in the league and throwing the ball on slightly fewer plays than the Rams.
We all know how good of a play Davante Adams is on a weekly basis, with this week being no different. It’s a solid matchup against a Niners team that’s more exploitable through the air (16th in DVOA against the pass, second on the ground), but the cold weather in Lambeau should roughly cancel that out. Adams can win in any circumstance, though.
That means the decision to play Adams largely centers around his value relative to Kupp. The savings on FanDuel is significant, making him the better raw play there. On DraftKings, it’s a more interesting discussion.
Kupp is projecting better (both overall and on a Pts/Sal basis) and is the better on-paper play. But is he better enough to justify the higher ownership? This is a case where we need to weigh Adams’ chances of having a higher score against the relative ownership between the two. (Of course, you could play both of them – there’s no rule against it – but the salary is very tight if you do.)
Until ownership projections come out, it’s hard to give a firm answer to that question. For what it’s worth, Adams outscored Kupp in six of his 16 games played. I’d give Kupp slightly higher odds this week given the matchup and environments, so roughly speaking, I’d be willing to roster Adams if his ownership projections come in at half of Kupp’s or less.
Deebo Samuel ($7,600 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel): San Francisco 49ers (+6) at Green Bay Packers (47.5 total)
Samuel was the PPR WR3 this season, coming in just behind Adams despite 49 fewer targets on the season. (And those targets coming from far worse quarterbacks.) Of course, he accomplished that with his eight rushing touchdowns, as Samuel played a receiver/running back hybrid role for much of the season.
His production this week hinges on that role continuing in a tough game environment against a run-runnel Packers defense. Samuel saw a season-high 10 carries for 72 yards and a score last week against Dallas – which is a good sign.
An additional 10 carries is a big ask this week, with the 49ers as six-point underdogs. They’ll have to throw the ball more than the 25 times they did last week if this game goes according to the line. Still, that could help Samuel as well – he saw only three targets last week.
Thanks to the fragility of his passing role, I prefer Samuel on FanDuel this week. The half-point PPR scoring is more forgiving for Samuel, and he has a 64% Bargain Rating there.
Mid-Range Wide Receivers
Ja’Marr Chase ($7,100 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel) and Tee Higgins ($5,700 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): Cincinnati Bengals (+3) at Tennessee Titans (47 total)
Over the last three games (not including Week 18 when the Bengals rested their starter), a Bengals wide receiver has scored at least 25.9 DraftKings points with a 48 and 58-point performance in two of them.
Chase led the team (from a fantasy standpoint) in two of those games, with Higgins being the leader in the other (Higgins had the 48-point score). Higgins pulled a weird disappearing act in last week’s game, with only one catch for 10 yards – leading to his cheap salary this week.
It’s likely that one of the pair will have a big game this week, though picking between them is obviously challenging. This is another case where ownership projection will be a big factor. If recent bias pushes projections more heavily towards Chase, Higgins is the better play (especially at his savings).
Of course, you can roster them both together, particularly in Joe Burrow stacks. That probably has a lower likelihood than usual of paying off, though. The Titans are returning Derrick Henry and will be looking to keep the explosive Bengals offense off the field.
Our projections prefer Higgins form a Pts/Sal standpoint, though Chase has higher median and ceiling projections on both sites.
Tyreek Hill ($6,600 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Kansas City Chiefs (-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (55 total)
Hill is another player who needs no introduction. His massive weekly ceiling is in play here, as the Chiefs face the Bills in the highest-total game on the slate.
It’s interesting how much DraftKings has adjusted the salary on Hill, though. Buffalo’s defense is best in the league (both overall and against the pass) from a DVOA standpoint, but Hill can get the better of any matchup. At $6,600, this is the cheapest Hill has been all year. FanDuel has stuck more within Hill’s normal salary range, but certainly on the cheaper end.
That makes Hill the best Pts/Sal play of the DraftKings slate, but those projections are a bit misleading. Hill’s median projection is effectively meaningless. He has one of the wider range of outcomes of any player, with four games under 10 DraftKings points this season and three games over 35.
That makes Hill a much better tournament play than cash game play. That’s true every week, but especially in a fairly difficult matchup. Besides their DVOA prowess, Buffalo is the toughest matchup this week for wide receivers from an Opponent Plus/Minus Allowed standpoint.
Stefon Diggs ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): Buffalo Bills (+2) at Kansas City Chiefs (55 total)
The other top receiver in the slate’s best game environment is Diggs. He is priced right behind Hill this week. Despite his reputation as something of a fantasy disappointment this season, Diggs is the WR7 on the season in PPR scoring.
Unfortunately, five of the six players ahead of them are also on this slate (including Hill).
The problem has been the lack of true blow-up games for Diggs, who has only one DraftKings score above 23.9 this season. Those are fine scores (he’s been in the 20-24 range five times) but certainly not enough to win you a tournament.
That makes it tough to find a reason to play Diggs this week, except as part of Bills stacks (or as a bring-back in Chiefs’ stacks, though we’re probably looking for cheaper options there). It’s a deceptively hard matchup, with the Chiefs playing much better defense in the latter half of the season. They rank behind only Buffalo this week in terms of Opponent Plus/Minus allowed.
Given his similar price point to Hill, Diggs could be overlooked by the field this week though. Fitting in Diggs and one of the top receivers is fairly doable this week, and Diggs is likely to come in with lower ownership projections than Hill by a decent margin. Still, I’d keep my exposure to Diggs to lineups where I’m betting on this game to blow up – and the other games to disappoint.
Value Wide Receivers
Breshad Perriman ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel) and Tyler Johnson ($3,700 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2) vs. Los Angeles Rams (48.5 total)
Value is fairly limited this week, with most of our old favorites not being on playoff teams. That leaves us with the Bucs tertiary options (behind Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski) as the best bets. Perriman has 12 targets over the last three games, while Johnson has 16.
That has my lean for the better option being Johnson, though it’s obviously very close. Our projections have Perriman as the better raw play, though Johnson is the better Pts/Sal option. Johnson has also run the bulk of his snaps from the slot, which is another good sign for him.
Brady historically gets the most out of his slot receivers (Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Chris Godwin). It will also be a tough matchup for the Bucs in the trenches, as they face the Rams’ dominant pass rush without two offensive line starters. That could force more quick throws to slot receivers, instead of waiting for players to get open downfield.
Neither player is a high-confidence option this week. There are other viable cheap plays (Randall Cobb and Marquez Valdez-Scantling of the Packers, Gabriel Davis and Cole Beasley of the Bills), but Johnson leads the bunch in Pts/Sal on DraftKings. He’s my preferred punt at wide receiver.