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
- Wide Receivers on Thursday
- 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 ($9,000 DraftKings, $10,000 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (-4) vs. Arizona Cardinals (49.5 total)
The Rams-Cardinals game is taking place on Monday night of “Super Wild Card Weekend,” so Kupp won’t be available in the more popular DFS contests of the week. (The “featured contests” on DraftKings are for the Saturday and Sunday single-day slates.) However, if you’re playing the full six-game slate (or Monday showdowns), Kupp is a top option.
Kupp leads our Cash Game and Tournament Models on FanDuel and DraftKings this week. Impressively, he has the best Pts/Sal at receiver despite being the most expensive player.
It’s an excellent matchup for Kupp. The Cardinals are the only team this week to allow a positive Opponent Plus/Minus to receivers. Kupp torched them for 34 (DraftKings) points the last time they faced off. If anything, the Rams are likely to lean heavier on Kupp in the playoffs, particularly if Arizona can push the scoring in this one.
There’s no reason not to trust the models and projections on this one. Kupp is the best play on the six-game full weekend slate – though he’s sure to be super chalky.
Tyreek Hill ($7,100 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Kansas City Chiefs (-12.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (46 total)
Moving on to the featured slates, Hill is the best wide receiver option. He’s below $8,000 on DraftKings for the first time since mid-November and the cheapest he’s been on FanDuel all year. This makes him one of the best Pts/Sal options on the featured slates and certainly at the high end.
The price drop seems like a bit of an overreaction. While it’s a tough matchup against a top-10 Steelers pass defense (by DVOA), he’s still Tyreek Hill. This means his standard wide range of outcomes is in play here, of course. Hill saw only two targets in the last game against Pittsburgh.
His ceiling remains unmatched, though (except perhaps by Ja’Marr Chase). Hill’s best game on the season is a full 10 DraftKings points higher than Kupp’s best, and Hill has topped 35 points three times. That would be roughly 5x his current salary, which would obviously be a great score for him.
Hill is a boom-or-bust option but less risky at his current salary than normal. There’s a possibility Kansas City wins this one running away, which lowers Hill’s likelihood of a huge game. On the other hand, he could score two touchdowns on 100+ yards receiving before that happens.
Ja’Marr Chase ($7,400 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (49 total)
Chase is similar to Hill this week, only slightly more expensive. As referenced above, Chase is the only other receiver with Hill-esque stat lines this year, scoring a ridiculous 58.6 DraftKings points against Hill and the Chiefs.
Vegas expects the Bengals to score slightly fewer points than the Chiefs, though, and with a wider distribution of targets. Hill sees an average of roughly two more targets per game than Chase, though Chase is admittedly much more consistent.
On the pro-Chase side of things, the Raiders are a noticeable pass funnel. They rank 10th in rushing DVOA but 21st against the pass. With running back Joe Mixon fresh off the COVID list, we could see a pass-heavy game plan from the Bengals in this one, even with a comfortable lead.
Ultimately, the better play between Chase and Hill likely comes down to Ownership Projections. (This only applies to the six-game slate, of course. Chase is playing Saturday and the top option on the two-game Saturday-only slate.) Hill projects slightly better at a cheaper price, but Chase is the more consistent option in a better matchup.
Mid-Range Wide Receivers
Mike Evans ($6,900 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (47 total)
Evans is comparable to Chase and Hill in FanDuel salary but noticeably cheaper this week on DraftKings. There are some question marks around Evans, though, who only saw seven targets in each of the last two games despite Tampa Bay being without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown.
Projecting Evan’s workload is hard this week. He recently recovered from an injury heading into those games, and Week 18 wasn’t an important one for Tampa Bay (they also beat the Panthers 41-17, reducing overall passing.) It wouldn’t make sense to overload Evans with targets in either of those games, but this week it might.
Tampa Bay is expected to handle the Eagles fairly easily this week, but they just might need to rely on Evans to do so. Outside of tight end Rob Gronkowski, none of the Bucs’ Week 1 starting pass-catchers will be available in this one. This feels like a situation where Evans will be the focal point of the offense as long as the game remains close.
For that reason, Evans makes the most sense as part of game stacks or as a bring-back for Philadelphia stacks. He isn’t projecting particularly well in a vacuum but could be the weekend’s highest-scoring fantasy option if this game remains close.
Diontae Johnson ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Pittsburgh Steelers (+12.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (46 total)
Johnson and the Steelers have the lowest implied team total on the slate, but that might not matter for Johnson – at least on DraftKings. He is the ideal DraftKings wide receiver, thanks to his ridiculous volume of catchable passes.
Johnson has the most receptions of any player in the NFL other than Kupp since Week 6 when JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 2021 season concluded. His low average depth of target (aDOT) of just over eight yards leads to a lot of catchable passes – albeit while limiting his ceiling.
Pittsburgh is also the biggest underdog this week, meaning they’ll likely be playing catch-up most of the game. That’s good for Johnson on a couple of fronts. Obviously, it should lead to a more pass-heavy game plan. It should also quicken the pace, though, with Pittsburgh playing at the sixth-fastest pace when trailing by a touchdown or more. (Kansas City also plays at a top-10 rate with a lead.)
Johnson is a tough tournament play, thanks to noodle-armed Ben Roethlisberger limiting his ceiling. If you’re playing cash games (why?!) on Sunday, he’s a top option, though. He should post a solid price-considered score on volume alone.
Tee Higgins ($6,300 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (49 total)
Lost in the excitement over Chase’s monster games are the performances we’ve seen from Higgins this season. The week before Chase’s 58.6 DraftKings point performance, Higgins dropped 46 on the Ravens on twelve catches.
Higgins actually averages slightly more targets per game than Chase on the season. Since the Bengals Week 10 bye, Higgins has more targets, more yards, and more Air Yards than his more-hyped teammate. (Discounting Week 18, in which Higgins and quarterback Joe Burrow both sat out the week.)
That’s hard to ignore, particularly when considering the $1,000+ savings going to Higgins provides on both sites. Salary can get somewhat tight here (particularly on the Saturday-only slate), so that’s an important point.
Our projections prefer Higgins from a Pts/Sal standpoint as well. He’s the second-best option of the week on FanDuel (behind only Kupp, making him the best option on either of the featured slate). I’d also anticipate his ownership being lower, making him a solid tournament play.
CeeDee Lamb ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): Dallas Cowboys (-3) vs. San Francisco 49ers (50.5 total)
While recency bias favors teammate Amari Cooper, Lamb has been the top option for the Cowboys since missing Week 12 with an injury. He’s run an extra target per game while accounting for more catches and yards than Cooper. Cooper has just .4 extra PPR points – on the strength of three touchdowns to none for Lamb. They have nearly identical red-zone usage on the season, so we can chalk that up to variance.
This game also has the highest total of the Wild Card Round, with the Cowboys favored. There should be plenty of scoring opportunities to be had here. Our projections favor Lamb as well. He leads Cooper in floor, median, and ceiling projections. He also has superior Pts/Sal projections despite being slightly more expensive.
The concern is Lamb’s slot usage. He’s more productive as a slot receiver but generally plays primarily outside when Michael Gallup is out of the lineup. Cedrick Wilson takes over as the number three option in Dallas, but Wilson plays almost exclusively in the slot, forcing Lamb outside. Lamb lined up in the slot 24 times in Week 17 (Gallup played part of the game) and only three times in Week 18 without Gallup. Prior to that, he saw at least 37 slot snaps in four straight.
Lamb’s fantasy scores track with his slot usage as well. He scored at least 10 DraftKings points in the four most recent games he played primarily inside. Over the last two weeks, he’s averaging just over seven a contest. If you believe that trend continues, Cooper is the better play. On paper, though, it’s Lamb.
Hunter Renfrow ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): Las Vegas Raiders (+5.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (49 total)
Renfrow was a huge beneficiary of the loss of Darren Waller in the Raiders lineup. In Weeks 13-17, Renfrow averaged over seven catches and 70 yards per game. However, we saw signs in Week 18 that the good times might not last once Waller returns. Renfrow slipped to a 15% target share, down from the 23% he drew without Waller.
Waller should be back – and closer to full strength – this week against the Bengals. I’d expect the Raiders to lean heavily on their tight end in this one, making Renfrow a thin play. Still, they’re 5.5-point underdogs against a pass funnel defense. (Cincinnati ranks 13th against the run and 24th against the pass in DVOA.)
Those both point to an increase in overall passing volume for Las Vegas, so Renfrow could get there even with a smaller piece of the overall pie. I’d keep my Renfrow exposure to DraftKings, though. I’d rather use him with full PPR scoring, and he’s a solid bargain there. He’s tied for second among Saturday receivers in Pts/Sal, but on FanDuel he ranks sixth.
Value Wide Receivers
Zay Jones ($4,300 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Las Vegas Raiders (+5.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (49 total)
The low end of receivers is very thin this week, especially discounting the Monday game. Jones is the best option, though, and trails only Kupp in Pts/Sal on the six-game slate.
We outlined the reasons Vegas may feature a pass-heavy game plan this week in the Renfrow piece. Those, of course, benefit Jones as well. Unlike Renfrow, Jones might actually benefit from the return of Waller, though. Jones was averaging eight targets per game without Waller – and had eight targets in Week 18 with him.
It’s a small enough sample size that it could just be noise, but I don’t think that’s the case. Waller and Renfrow run similar middle of the field routes – both have aDOTs under 10 yards on the season. Jones, on the other hand, is a deep threat. His average target comes 14 yards downfield.
Those deep routes could be more open if the Bengals are focused on taking away Waller underneath, leading to a better day for Jones. He’s a high variance play but only needs one deep touchdown to pay off his current price.
Tyler Johnson ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (47 total)
Johnson is the best value option on Sunday’s slate, where he ranks third in Pts/Sal. (Behind two receivers that cost at least $6,200 on DraftKings.) He’s third on the Bucs in targets (not counting the now-departed Antonio Brown) since Godwin went down for the year, with 13 over three games.
He should continue to serve as the third option in the league’s pass-heaviest offense throughout the playoffs. Whether that pays off this week in an expected easy win is up for debate. Brady’s pass attempts have been down during the time Tampa has been limited at wide receiver, and the Eagles aren’t expected to force the Bucs to play from behind here.
Still, Johnson doesn’t need a ton of volume at his current price tags on either site. He’s seen at least six targets in three straight, which would be more than enough, especially against an Eagles team that ranks 25th in DVOA against the pass on the season.