This article is part of our DFS Tournament Guide series.
This guide focuses strictly on the main slate of Sunday afternoon games, with recommendations meant to be used for large-field, GPP tournaments. Player prices will only be mentioned for the two largest DFS sites, though much of what's discussed can be applied throughout the industry.
Variance and low ownership are desirable in large DFS tournaments, but we still need a few building-block players that are strong bets to outperform their price tags even if they don't have the highest ceilings and/or are likely to be popular plays. We'll also want to keep a close eye on injury situations with potential to create value for teammates (this is covered at the bottom of the page).
RB Jaylen Samuels, PIT (at OAK), ($3,700 DK; $4,600 FD)
Stevan Ridley ($3,300 DK; $4,500 FD) may be the favorite for clock-killing work while James Conner is sidelined with an ankle injury, but the plodding 29-year-old shouldn't really stand in the way of Samuels, who revealed Wednesday that he expects to get the start. The rookie fifth-round pick has served as Conner's primary backup since a Week 7 bye, holding a 54-16 snap advantage over Ridley during the six-game stretch. Samuels' receiving ability should make him a natural fit in the pass-first Steelers offense — a scheme that's allowed Conner to average 4.3 catches for 39 yards on 5.7 targets per game. Given his unusual background as a TE/RB/H-Back in college, Samuels should provide an instant upgrade on Conner as a pass-catching weapon, albeit with a clear sacrifice on the ground. The soft matchup reduces any concerns about Samuels' lack of experience/instincts as a running back, with Oakland allowing 5.1 yards per carry and 7.2 per target to the position. Given that the Steelers are 10.5-point favorites with an implied total of 31, there's room for Samuels to lose a bunch of work to Ridley and still easily outperform his DFS salary.
RB Jeffery Wilson, SF (vs. DEN), ($3,800 DK; $5,600 FD)
Wilson experienced the value of sheer volume after Matt Breida (ankle) was removed from last week's 43-16 loss to the Seahawks, taking 15 carries for 61 yards and catching eight of nine targets for 73 more. While we obviously shouldn't expect a repeat of the receiving volume, there's a lot to be said for simply being the last man standing in a Kyle Shanahan offense. Unlike many other teams with ugly records, the 49ers have maintained a commitment to their rushing attack, ranking 22nd in pass-play percentage (57.0) for the season. If last week is any indication, Shanahan intends to get a good look at the undrafted rookie while Breida is unavailable, rather than wasting carries on a 29 year old (Alfred Morris) or a special teams player (Matthew Dayes). My only real concern is the matchup with a Broncos team that seems to have fixed its leaky run defense from September and October. The volume should be enough to allow for a productive outing even if Wilson is limited to a round 3.5-4.0 YPC.
Falcons at Packers
I find myself locked in on just one game for Week 14 stacks, opting for the third-highest over/under (51) on the main slate rather than the obvious Saints-Bucs contest (O/U 55). Part of that is due to concerns about a blowout (Bucs +8), especially with the Saints benefiting from extra rest and good health in a matchup that should allow for a productive, clock-draining rushing attack. There's also the matter of possible thunderstorms and wind, which is more of a concern for downfield passing than the freezing temperatures in Green Bay.
Last but not least, the Falcons-Packers matchup appears to have an edge in terms of both pricing and ownership, with Aaron Rodgers ($6,000 DK; $8,100 FD) and Matt Ryan ($5,600 DK; $8,200 FD) coming at a discount compared to Drew Brees ($6,600 DK; $8,500 FD) and Jameis Winston ($6,200 DK; $7,700 FD) — though Winston admittedly is interesting at his still-too-low FanDuel price.
Rodgers struggled the last two weeks and now finds himself in an unfamiliar position without Mike McCarty or any hope of a playoff spot, but I'm thinking none of that really matters against a Falcons defense ranked 28th in opponent passer rating (103.2) and dead last in Football Outsiders' DVOA. Davante Adams ($8,400 DK; $8,700 FD) pretty much always belongs in a Rodgers stack, and this week is no exception in a matchup that should pit him against Robert Alford much more often than Desmond Trufant (the Falcons strictly play sides of the field with their cornerbacks).
I'll discuss the last part of my preferred stack at greater length below, making a case for Julio Jones ($7,900 DK; $8,000 FD) to rebound in a huge way. The Rodgers-Adams-Jones stack would normally be a tough sell due to the pricing, but it works out just fine in a week with so much value at running back.
While not nearly as important as quarterback-receiver combos, RB-Defense mini-stacks present another opportunity to take advantage of positive correlations in tournament lineups. We're generally looking for teams that are comfortably favored to win, preferably with a starting running back who dominates goal-line and clock-killing work.
Saquon Barkley ($8,900 DK; $8,900 FD) + Giants D/ST ($2,500 DK; $3,500 FD)
Down to Mark Sanchez at quarterback with a defense in steep decline, the Redskins are now 3.5-point underdogs in a home game against a 4-8 team. Only the Jets and Bengals have lower implied totals (18.75) on the main slate, and both are facing excellent defenses. The Big Blue defense isn't great or even good by any stretch of the imagination, but there's clear potential for a big game with turnover-prone Sanchez getting the starting nod less than three weeks after signing. Even after losing safety Landon Collins to a season-ending shoulder injury, the Giants are in a nice spot to come up with multiple sacks and takeaways. Meanwhile, Barkley should reach triple-digit rushing yards for a fourth straight game, facing a defense that allowed at least 4.3 YPC to each of the last five starting RBs it faced. Barkley was actually the last starter to fall shy of that mark, but he still displayed his versatility with nine catches for 73 yards at a time (Week 8) when the Redskins looked like a real playoff contender.
Justin Jackson ($3,800 DK; $4,500 FD) + Chargers D/ST ($3,500 DK; $4,600 FD)
This is the reverse of Barkley+Giants, sending us to the top of the price scale for a D/ST and the bottom for a running back. The matchup against a lifeless Bengals team puts Austin Ekeler in a nice spot to rebound from last week's huge disappointment, and it also creates the opportunity for Jackson to build on his breakout. This is the kind of spot where two running backs can finish with impressive stat lines — something we've seen from Ekeler and Melvin Gordon (knee) a few times the past couple years. Jackson's backup role does leave him with a low floor, but he'll probably land closer to his ceiling if the Chargers defense has a big game in an easy win, thus allowing the rookie to pile up carries after halftime.
WR Julio Jones, ATL (at GB), ($7,900 DK; $8,000 FD)
Coming off his worst game of the season in a brutal matchup, Jones offers a nice combination of reduced price and (presumably) reduced ownership for Sunday's battle with a Green Bay defense that consistently struggles against top perimeter threats. The Packers have been roasted by Josh Gordon (5-130-1), Stefon Diggs twice (9-128-2, 8-77-1), Josh Reynolds (3-42-2), Marquise Goodwin (4-126-2) and Kenny Golladay (4-98-1), only finding relief in matchups with the likes of Chicago, Miami, Washington, Buffalo and Seattle. Playing as a four-point underdog against a soft secondary, Jones should get back to his usual production after losing his six-game streak with triple-digit yards.
Fading The Field
Every week we see at least one or two players carrying high ownership without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often the motivating factor, as many DFSers subconsciously overestimate the predictive value of recent results.
WR Courtland Sutton, DEN (at SF), ($4,500 DK; $6,400 FD)
The appeal here is obvious in the absence of Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles), but the point-per-dollar projection isn't quite good enough to outweigh the combination of high ownership and low ceiling. Sutton has already been getting plenty of snaps without much to show for it until last week, and he still figures to run most of his routes outside while playing in an offense that primarily tries to attack the middle of the field. There's a good chance he lands right in his accustomed range of 3-to-7 targets and 1-to-4 catches — numbers he hasn't deviated from through the first 12 games of his career. There are other, cheaper ways to take advantage of Sanders' absence without running into high ownership, namely WR DaeSean Hamilton ($3,000 DK; $4,500 FD) and TE Matt LaCosse ($2,700 DK; $4,500 FD). There's also a chance the Broncos adjust by simply giving more carries to stud rookie Phillip Lindsay ($6,300 DK; $7,900 FD).
The Bargain Bin
QB Eli Manning, NYG (at WAS), ($5,100 DK; $6,500 FD)
QB Ryan Tannehill, MIA (vs. NE), ($4,800 DK; $6,900 FD)
RB Gus Edwards, BAL (at KC), ($4,500 DK; $6,400 FD)
RB Justin Jackson, LAC (vs. CIN), ($3,800 DK; $4,500 FD)
RB Jeffery Wilson, SF (vs. DEN), ($3,800 DK; $5,600 FD)
RB Jaylen Samuels, PIT (at OAK), ($3,700 DK; $4,600 FD)
WR Tre'Quan Smith, NO (at TB), ($4,500 DK; $5,700 FD)
WR Zay Jones, BUF (vs. NYG), ($4,200 DK; $5,100 FD)
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (at CLE), ($4,000 DK; $5,700 FD)
WR Antonio Callaway, CLE (vs. CAR), ($3,900 DK; $5,400 FD)
WR Bruce Ellington, DET (at ARI), ($3,800 DK; $4,900 FD)
WR Michael Gallup, DAL (vs. PHI), ($3,700 DK; $5,100 FD)
WR DaeSean Hamilton, DEN (at SF), ($3,000 DK; $4,500 FD)
TE Ian Thomas, CAR (at CLE), ($2,700 DK; $4,900 FD)
TE Matt LaCosse, DEN (at SF), ($2,700 DK; $4,500 FD)
D/ST Cardinals, (vs. DET), ($2,300 DK; $3,700 FD)
Pricing Discrepancies Between FD and DK
The aforementioned Lindsay stands out as a far better value on DraftKings, priced No. 10 among RBs on the main slate (compared to No. 5 on FanDuel). Other DK-specific plays include QB Matt Ryan ($5,600), QB Ryan Tannehill ($4,800), RB Marlon Mack ($4,600), WR Adam Humphries ($4,900) and TE Chris Herndon ($3,000).
The most obvious FanDuel-only play is JuJu Smith-Schuster, priced at WR5 on DK and WR11 on FD. The list of site-specific bargains is otherwise headlined by QB Jameis Winston ($7,700), RB Chris Thompson ($5,600), WR Michael Thomas ($8,300), WR Julian Edelman ($6,900), WR Amari Cooper ($6,900), WR Jarvis Landry ($5,800), WR Marquise Goodwin ($5,000), TE Eric Ebron ($6,400) and TE David Njoku ($5,300).
Injury Situation(s) to Monitor
Crowell (foot) returned to practice Friday on a limited basis, setting himself up to play through a 'questionable' tag Sunday in Buffalo. However, it's still a situation worth monitoring with one eye, as Elijah McGuire ($3,400 DK; $4,600 FD) could be forced into a heavy-usage role if Crowell doesn't give it a go. McGuire holds a 128-38 snap advantage over Trenton Cannon in the past four games since returning from a preseason foot injury. This could give us a decent, low-priced alternative to the high-ownership discount RBs (Samuels, Jackson, Wilson).
With Dontrelle Inman (shoulder) and his 5.4 targets per game already ruled out, the Colts will be in major trouble if Hilton ($6,300 DK; $7,600 FD) can't play through his own shoulder injury. This is the rare case where I'm actually watching the situation because I want to use the injured player rather than any of his potential replacements. Fortunately, it seems Hilton is on track to play after practicing on a limited basis Friday, with coach Frank Reich saying he's cautiously optimistic. Based on the differences in pricing, I'm mostly looking at Hilton on DK and Ebron on FD. I'm not so sure a Hilton absence would even help Ebron's outlook, as the bump in targets might be outweighed by the impact of efficiency loss. The Colts don't have any other pass catchers that warrant serious attention from opposing safeties (or DFS players).
It appears another week will go by without the first snow game of the season, but there is some potential for a combination of freezing temperatures and wind to impact the Falcons-Packers game in Green Bay. There are also projections for wind in the 10-15 mph range in Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Dallas — not a major concern at the moment, but it could be an issue for passing games if the forecast shifts upward to around 20 mph. While I don't currently plan to avoid any of these games, it's at least something to keep an eye on Sunday morning.