While most daily fantasy players are more familiar with the usual salary-cap structure, DraftKings also has tournaments in a pick’em style: There are no player salaries. You simply select one player across each tier.
This style of game allows you to quickly create lineups because you don’t have to spend time weighing cap costs against points. Just choose the best player. For FantasyLabs readers, our Models — powered by Sean Koerner’s No. 1 in-season rankings — are a massive edge in choosing the best players and making weekly profits in Tiers.
Here’s a breakdown of the DraftKings Tiers slate for Week 17.
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest NFL conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.
Tier 1: SEC Alumni
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Jones is our Models’ choice for Tier 1 and has the volume to back it. He’s third in the league in targets (156) and first in air yards (2,245). He’s set up to maximize the value of that volume with this week’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who allow the seventh-most points to opposing receiving units.
Jones is the safest pick in Tier 1.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Michel put together his best performance in four weeks with his 18-116-1 stat line against the Bills last week. A Pats victory was never in doubt — they won 24-12 — and they ran the ball more than 40 times. Vegas expects a similar outcome this week with the Patriots 13.5-point favorites as of writing (see live odds here).
Michel could be in line for another solid workload.
Tier 2: ACC Alumni
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Stacking Ryan with Jones is a great way to capitalize on the upside of their matchup. The Bucs are possible the easiest team to throw against:
- ANYPA allowed: 9.8 (3rd)
- Passing touchdown rate: 6.5% (2nd)
- Interception rate: 1.6% (29th)
Ryan and Jones lead their respective tiers in scoring, so the stack will have to be accompanied by some contrarian picks to be tournament viable.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Hopkins has faced this iteration of Jacksonville’s defense three times and his average stat-line has been 4.7-61.7-1 on 12.3 targets. Hopkins has been fed against the Jaguars, resulting in a touchdown every game and an average of 16.9 fantasy points. The defense has depressed his scoring, but not as much as most would think.
Let other people fear the matchup. Buy Hopkins’ volume against a defense that funnels targets to him.
Tier 3: Big Ten Alumni
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Gordon carried the ball only 12 times last week. The signal in this stat is that those 12 carries account for all but one of the carries out of the Chargers’ backfield — the offense was just suppressed by a phenomenal Ravens defense.
The Chargers face the Broncos this week, who give up 31.8 points per game to opposing backs, the fourth-most in the league. Gordon is set up for a rebound in Week 17.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Tier 3 is filled with obvious picks, and Barkley is the most glaring one for good reasons. He’s hit 20 fantasy points in 12 of his 15 NFL games and has had more than 100 yards from scrimmage or a touchdown in all but one.
Barkley owns the highest floor, median and ceiling projections of all non-quarterbacks.
Tier 4: Pac-12 Alumni
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen returned from injury with a quiet game but he had been dominant since their bye week. From Weeks 9 to 14, Allen had 34% of the team’s targets and 41% of the air yards.
Because of back-to-back disappointments, Allen will likely go under-owned. This makes him the perfect way to differentiate lineups.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh has the second-highest implied total (30 points) this week against the Bengals. Smith-Schuster has also been right behind Antonio Brown in terms of targets. Brown has 168 targets to Smith-Schuster’s 156 — a difference of fewer than one per game.
JuJu is also the Steelers’ go-to red-zone weapon. He’s second in the NFL with 28 red-zone targets and third in targets within the 10-yard line (11). Pittsburgh will be playing for a potential playoff spot, so the team’s starters can be counted on for full workloads.
Tier 5: Big 12 Alumni
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are fighting for nothing with an NFC wild-card spot locked up and no potential for a first-round bye. However, Pete Carroll has said that his starters will play — you keep up with Week 17 starters using our News Tool — and has played starters in similar situations before.
Carson has hit 20 carries in three straight games, and the Cardinals are incredibly susceptible to running backs:
- 27.6 carries per game allowed (32nd)
- 134.1 rushing yards (32nd)
- 1.2 touchdowns
Carson is a risk to get pulled early, but he might only need a half to carve up the league’s worst rushing defense.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
In the rookie’s toughest outing yet, Mayfield will play the Ravens defense — which allows the second-fewest fantasy points to passers — in Baltimore. However, Mayfield faced the Ravens in his second career start and was not phased. His 304 passing yards trail only Patrick Mahomes’ 348 as the most given up by this defense.
Mayfield is a dangerous pick against a punishing defense, but it’s an opponent he’s gotten the better of before. His lower ownership is worth the risk in tournaments.
Tier 6: Non Power Five Alumni
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown is second in fantasy points per game for receivers behind another player in this tier, Davante Adams. Brown has a marginally higher projection this week, but the most important distinction between the two is their ownership. Using standard DFS game ownership projections as a proxy for Tiers, Adams could be up to twice as popular as Brown.
With how similar their points projections are, take Brown with lower ownership.
Note: Brown and Smith-Schuster have a -.33 correlation and stacking them is more risky than the likelihood of a payoff.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs need a win to hold onto their bye, and Kelce has been even more heavily featured since the loss of Sammy Watkins.
Chiefs targets in six games since Sammy Watkins (foot) was injured
Travis Kelce (62)
Tyreek Hill (60)
Chris Conley (28)
Demarcus Robinson (20)
Damien Williams (20)
Demetrius Harris (14)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 26, 2018
Kelce is also the best way to leverage a good day from Mahomes, who isn’t available in Tiers: Kelce and has a .51 correlation with Mahomes, second only to Chris Conley.
Pictured: Julio Jones
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports