This is a special Thanksgiving edition of the NFL Breakdown, which offers data-driven analysis for NFL daily fantasy contests. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
Thanksgiving is here. For some people, the holiday is a great excuse to sit on their butts all day eating as much food as possible while watching football and ignoring their families. In other words, it’s just like Sunday.
Kirk Cousins ($7,100 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel): Cousins has the slate’s best matchup: The Giants have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 21.4 DraftKings and 20.1 FanDuel points per game (PPG). Cousins is playing as well as he ever has with his 8.4 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), and the Redskins have a slate-high implied total of 26.0 points as -7.5 home favorites. As has been the case all season, the Redskins have injury issues along their offensive line — starting left guard Shawn Lauvao (neck) and starting center Spencer Long (knee) were just placed on Injured Reserve — and Cousins is also without pass-catching playmaker Chris Thompson (leg), but even so he is almost certain to have the highest ownership at the quarterback position. He’s expected to play in the game with the worst weather (37 degrees Fahrenheit), but Cousins still has position-high median, ceiling, and floor projections and is nearly the consensus No. 1-rated quarterback in our Models for both DraftKings and FanDuel. He leads all quarterbacks in Pro Trends.
Dak Prescott ($6,700 DraftKings, $8,900 FanDuel): Similar in price to Cousins, Dak is a natural pivot on the chalk quarterback. Dak is coming off the worst game of his career on Sunday Night Football — he had four turnovers, 145 yards passing, and a 0.32 AY/A — and now he has to face a Chargers defense that is seventh against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) and coming off a five-pick outing. The Cowboys have averaged just eight PPG over the last two weeks without All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (groin) and running back Ezekiel Elliott (suspension), but Smith reportedly expects to play on Thanksgiving, and even if he’s not at full health he should help the offensive line slow down Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who are Pro Football Focus’ two highest-ranked edge pass rushers. Prescott should have significantly lower ownership than Cousins, but at AT&T Stadium he should benefit from his extreme home/road splits: In 14 home games (including playoffs), he’s averaged 21.89 DraftKings and 21.31 FanDuel PPG with +4.22 and +4.38 Plus/Minus values.
Matthew Stafford ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): The Lions opened as -1.0 home favorites but now are +3.0 dogs against a Vikings team that has won six straight games. Stafford is playing the best football of his career (8.1 AY/A) as the Lions have hit their implied Vegas total in eight of 10 games, but they’re in for a tough matchup: The Vikings are strong against the pass with edge rushers Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter and five starting defensive backs who have PFF grades above 75.0.
Case Keenum ($5,300 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Lions cornerback Darius Slay didn’t shadow Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs in Week 4, and Adam Thielen didn’t run all of his routes against slot corner Quandre Diggs, but Slay has shadowed outside receivers in seven of 10 games, and Thielen has run 54.3 percent of his routes from the slot. Cornerback D.J. Hayden is utterly exploitable — he’s had poor PFF grades below 58.0 for five straight seasons — but for most of the game it’s likely that Slay and Q. Diggs will defend S. Diggs and Thielen. The Slay-Q. Diggs duo isn’t unbeatable, but Keenum’s upside will be limited against the Lions. Even though the over has gotten 80 percent of the tickets, the line has stayed at 44.5 points. Translation: There’s sharp money investing in this game’s downside. If you’re interested in Keenum, it’s probably best to roster him at DraftKings, where he has a position-high 99 percent Bargain Rating and is the No. 1-rated quarterback in the Levitan Model.
Melvin Gordon ($7,600 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): As mentioned on the special Thanksgiving edition of the Daily Fantasy Flex pod, Gordon is a chalk lock. Although his inefficiency (3.8 yards per carry for his career) is loathsome, since the beginning of last season he has turned 19 carries and 5.0 targets per game into 104.2 yards, 3.5 receptions, and 0.95 touchdowns per game (minus an injury-shortened, eight-snap Week 14 outing last year). Coming off a 20-touch outing, Gordon will have high ownership against the Cowboys, who are 30th in rush DVOA and in Week 11 allowed 202 yards rushing and two touchdowns to the Eagles backfield. The Cowboys will be without All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring), and in the four games in which he hasn’t played the majority of defensive snaps the Cowboys have allowed 33.5 PPG as well as an average of 168.8 rushing yards. Gordon is the No. 1 back in the Levitan Model and has slate-high median, ceiling, and floor projections: #Smash.
Samaje Perine ($5,000 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): With Thompson and Rob Kelley (ankle, knee) both on IR, Perine is likely to be a market share monster in the Redskins backfield: He had 76.7 percent of Washington’s non-quarterback carries last week. Although he disappointed early in the season, Perine still has the potential to crush as a rookie. In college he had one of the greatest true freshman rushing seasons of all time (263/1,713/21 in 13 games), and last week he put some of that talent on display, turning 23 carries and two targets into 126 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins are big home favorites, and the Giants are 25th in rush DVOA. Running backs tend to correlate with their defenses, and the Washington defense/special teams could be popular against the Giants, who have the slate’s lowest implied total. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Perine and the Redskins D/ST.
Alfred Morris ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel) and Rod Smith ($3,400 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Most DFS players prefer not to roster opposing running backs since they limit each other’s playing time, but even some MG3 investors will be drawn to ALF. He hasn’t played at a Zeke-like level, but he has turned 28 carries into 144 yards rushing over the last two games with limited offensive support. The matchup is ideal in that the Chargers have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing backfields with 28.5 DraftKings and 24.0 FanDuel PPG. If the Cowboys keep the game close or play with a lead, ALF could get 20 touches. If the Cowboys fall behind, Smith could play a lot of snaps as the passing-down back: He’s led the backfield with 54.0 percent of the offensive snaps since Week 10. What he primarily has going for him is his low salary on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated back in the Bales and Levitan Models.
Jerick McKinnon ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel) and Latavius Murray ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): In the six games since Dalvin Cook (knee) suffered a season-ending injury, McKinnon has turned 13.8 carries and 5.7 targets into 88.5 yards, 4.5 receptions, and 0.67 touchdowns per game. While those numbers are good, McKinnon hasn’t established himself as the workhorse, as Murray has averaged 17 opportunities for 67.5 yards and 0.67 touchdowns per game in the same span. As Ben Gretch notes in Deconstructing Vegas, Murray has five carries inside the 10-yard line over the last two weeks, and the Vikings have the slate’s highest rushing points expectation. Latavius has high touchdown equity, and McKinnon leads the position with six Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated back in the Bales, CSURAM88, and SportsGeek Models. It’s unfortunate that McKinnon and Murray cannibalize each other’s production, but they’re both intriguing.
Theo Riddick ($3,600 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): If you’re investing in the Vikings, you could consider running the stack back with Riddick in case the Lions have a pass-heavy game script. Riddick is tied for the position lead with five Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated back in the CSURAM88 Model.
Austin Ekeler ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): It’s hard to find productive backs with single-digit ownership, but that describes Ekeler. MG3 investors are unlikely to stack him with his change-of-pace rookie teammate, so Ekeler will be a contrarian play. An undrafted small school superstar who dominated Danny Woodhead’s old Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (Division II) for four years at Western State Colorado University, Ekeler had 5,857 yards rushing, 1,215 yards receiving, and 63 touchdowns from scrimmage in 40 games and then displayed good speed (4.48-second 40) and agility (6.85-second three-cone) at his pro day. At 5’9” and 199 pounds, Ekeler is the new Woody. He’s played only 35.0 percent of the snaps over the last four games, but he’s averaged 6.3 carries and three targets in those contests for an efficient 60.5 yards, three receptions, and one touchdown per game. Even in a minor role Ekeler could have major production against the Lee-less Cowboys.
Adam Thielen ($7,600 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel) and Stefon Diggs ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Even though Thielen and Diggs have tough-ish matchups, they’re always in play because of their high usage and strong efficiency. Even with Keenum at quarterback, Thielen and Diggs are top-10 fantasy receivers. While Diggs is more of a tournament option, Thielen will be highly popular in cash games, especially on FanDuel, where he has a position-high six Pro Trends and 83 percent Bargain Rating. Thielen leads all wide receivers with his median and ceiling projections.
Jamison Crowder ($5,400 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel), Josh Doctson ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel), and Ryan Grant ($3,700 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): Even though Cousins tends to spread the ball around, the top Redskins receivers will be popular. Running 74.1 percent of his routes from the slot this year, Crowder has averaged 9.5 targets in the four games in which the injured Terrelle Pryor (ankle) hasn’t played the majority of offensive snaps. The emerging Doctson has played 86.7 percent of the snaps in five such Pryor-deemphasized games, averaging 5.4 targets and a team-high 77.2 air yards per game. With Crowder and Doctson likely to be popular stacking partners with Cousins, Grant will have reduced ownership even though over Washington’s past five games he has a 17/180/1 receiving line compared to Doctson’s 15/210/1. Of the three, Crowder is the most rosterable in cash games as the highest-rated FanDuel receiver in the Levitan Model.
Keenan Allen ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel), Tyrell Williams ($3,400 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel), and Mike Williams ($3,100 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel): After running 56.1 percent of his routes on the outside since Week 4 to make room in the middle for tight end Hunter Henry, Allen ran a season-high 66.7 percent of his routes in the slot last week with epic results: 12 receptions for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 13 targets. If Allen runs the majority of his routes in the slot again, he could crush: The Cowboys are 23rd and 25th in pass DVOA within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage and in the middle of the field. With Travis Benjamin (abdomen) uncertain to play, the Williamses are likely to be the primary receivers on the outside, where they should thrive against cornerback Anthony Brown, who has allowed a league-high six touchdowns. With the exploitable matchup and low salary, Tyrell the Gazelle is the consensus No. 1 DraftKings receiver in our Pro Models.
Golden Tate ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel), Marvin Jones ($5,700 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel), and Kenny Golladay ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadowed Jones on 88.9 percent of his routes in Week 4, when Jones had just two receptions. Rhodes seems likely to shadow Jones again, so ownership will shift toward Tate, who has run 80.1 percent of his routes out of the slot, where he’ll have a respectable but winnable matchup against Terence Newman. With Rhodes in shadow coverage and Newman in the middle, Trae Waynes will defend the third Lions receiver, which will likely be Golladay. Waynes isn’t bad (75.7 PFF grade), but only four players have allowed more than his 43 receptions and 537 yards receiving. Golladay has a reception of 40-plus yards in each game since his hamstring-induced layoff, and he played the majority of offensive snaps last week. With prototypical size (6’4” and 218 pounds) and good athleticism (4.5-second 40), Golladay has multi-touchdown upside.
Dez Bryant ($6,400 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel), Terrance Williams ($3,700 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel), and Cole Beasley ($3,600 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel): The Chargers feel so confident in the play of second-year corner Trevor Williams that they haven’t used Casey Hayward in shadow coverage since Week 7. While it seems that Dez won’t be followed by PFF’s No. 1 cornerback, he won’t have it easy when facing Tr. Williams, who is also a top-10 PFF corner. With rookie slot man Desmond King and veteran safeties Jahleel Addae and Tre Boston all sporting PFF grades above 82.0, Dez, Te. Williams, and Beasley will be challenged. Of the three, Dez is the safest for cash games: He leads the position with six Pro Trends on DraftKings and is the No. 1 receiver in the CSURAM88 Model for FanDuel.
Evan Engram ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): Although he disappointed last week, Engram has led the Giants with 44 targets, 22 receptions, 252 receiving yards, 388 air yards, 140 yards after the catch, and four touchdowns receiving since wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) suffered season-ending injuries in Week 5. Engram has at least five targets in every game but one and is in the middle of one of the best rookie tight end campaigns of the modern era. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (illness) missed practice on Tuesday and is trending toward a Thanksgiving inactivation. In his three games without Shepard, Engram has averaged four receptions for 50.3 yards and 0.67 touchdowns on 8.3 targets. The Giants will likely have a pass-heavy game script as +7.5 road underdogs against the Redskins, who have allowed top-four fantasy marks of 17.2 DraftKings and 14.0 FanDuel PPG to tight ends. For DFS players who want to stack the Redskins, Engram will be a popular option on the opposite side. Engram has position-high median, ceiling, and floor projections in our Models.
Vernon Davis ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): Jordan Reed (hamstring) hasn’t practiced all week and is unlikely to play, so Davis will function as the primary tight end for the Redskins for the fifth straight game. Davis has stark Reed splits with Washington: 3.4 targets for 38.1 yards and 0.06 touchdowns per game with Reed and 6.1 targets for 57.5 yards and 0.25 touchdowns without him. Likely to be the chalk tight end, Davis is in a #SmashSpot against the Giants, who have allowed the most fantasy points to the position with 18.3 DraftKings and 15.1 FanDuel PPG. On DraftKings it might be possible to roster Davis in a contrarian way if he’s game-stacked with Engram, as DFS players usually prefer not to roster two tight ends, especially in the same game. Davis leads the position with six Pro Trends on DraftKings and is the highest-rated tight end in the Bales, Levitan, and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel.
Kyle Rudolph ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): Rudolph has at least seven targets and five receptions in each of the last six games, and he has a massive 36 targets inside the red zone since last year. With S. Diggs and Thielen likely to be locked up with Slay and Q. Diggs for much of the game, a few more targets could be funneled to Rudolph, who has a nice matchup: The Lions are 29th in pass DVOA against tight ends. Strong safety Miles Killebrew and safety/linebacker Tavon Wilson have allowed 68.8 percent of targets in their coverage to be completed. Rudolph is the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the CSURAM88 Model.
Hunter Henry ($3,300 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): As inconsistent as he is explosive, Henry has turned just nine targets into 43 yards over his past three games. For this game he has two factors in his favor: He’s facing the Cowboys, who are 23rd in pass DVOA against the position, and he’s cheap on DraftKings, where he’s the consensus No. 1 tight end in our Pro Models. Burn your money.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the Thanksgiving games for yourself with our tools and read the Week 12 positional breakdowns when they come out on Friday.
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