This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
Thursday's Thanksgiving slate is a little lighter than what we were expecting, as the Ravens vs. Steelers game has been pushed to Sunday due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests. However, there are still lineups to be built and money to be made, so let's dive in to see where many fantasy players will be going and how to differentiate in large-field tournaments.
Deshaun Watson, HOU at DET ($7,400): Watson is the most expensive quarterback on the slate, but he also figures to be the most popular given his excellent production and game situation. The Texans are 3.0-point road favorites in the game with the highest implied total on the slate (51.5), and Watson comes in with more than 280 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in six of his last seven games (his down game during that span had heavy wind in Cleveland). With pricing fairly loose on this slate, it's not difficult to pay up for Watson even with higher-priced guys at other positions, which is why he's likely to be very popular. Watson's popularity should push contrarian players to the other quarterbacks on the slate, with Matthew Stafford ($5,800) likely to be on more rosters than Alex Smith ($5,400) and Andy Dalton ($5,600) because the Lions are expected to score more points. That being said, he's likely missing his top receiver while Dalton has three excellent ones, so it may be more prudent to go with the Cowboys' signal caller if you're fading Watson.
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL vs. WAS ($6,800): Things were much easier when we had Gus Edwards ($4,000) available as the starting running back for the Ravens, but with their game against the Steelers postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak, we're left having to make some tougher choices. Despite some pretty poor play for much of the season, Elliott still figures to be popular even against a Football Team defense that's allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. If anything, fantasy players could go to the other side of this game for Antonio Gibson ($6,000), who has scored a touchdown in four straight games, while the Cowboys are 16th in the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs. The difficulty is that Gibson loses almost all the passing-down work to J.D. McKissic ($5,100), who figures to be unpopular because of his limited role overall.
Duke Johnson, HOU at DET ($5,700): The case for Johnson is that he's playing for the team with the highest implied total and facing a defense that's allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. Sounds great, right? Well, Johnson has had a few other excellent matchups recently and the Texans just don't seem comfortable giving him any kind of significant workload, topping out at 16 carries in Week 9 against the Jaguars when he rushed for 41 yards. He does have at least four targets in three of his last four, but the solid fantasy performances just haven't been there. Johnson will likely not be as popular if D'Andre Swift ($6,500) is cleared from his concussion, as he figures to potentially be the most popular running back because he's facing a Texans defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to the position, including the most rushing yards and yards per carry (only the Lions have allowed more rushing touchdowns). Obviously Adrian Peterson ($4,700) and Kerryon Johnson ($4,300) will inherit that matchup if Swift is ruled out, though their split workload doesn't provide much optimism.
Terry McLaurin, WAS at DAL ($7,000): Only the Seahawks have allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Cowboys, who have actually allowed only the ninth-most receiving yards but the most receiving touchdowns (19). McLaurin has had at least seven targets in every game this season and could be the most popular wide receiver despite being the most expensive. There are certainly other ways to buy into the team facing a terrible secondary, but McLaurin is really the only consistent pass catcher for Football Team, which is why he'll be on many cash-game and GPP teams.
Brandin Cooks, HOU at DET ($5,300): Cooks had his second-fewest targets last week against New England, but he still managed to put up 85 yards, his third-highest total of the season. The Lions have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, and they've been particularly awful against them in the past two weeks, allowing 254 yards to Football Team in Week 10 and 243 to the Panthers last week. Given the matchup, fantasy players could surely also consider Will Fuller ($6,400), who would have been easier to fit salary-wise if we had Edwards available. Given the slight salary constraints, Cooks figures to be more popular in cash games, while Fuller surely has the upside for tournaments.
Michael Gallup, DAL vs. WAS ($3,500): The wide receivers toward the bottom of the salary scale don't really offer much (that's why they are down there), but Gallup is a big-play threat who was targeted 24 times in the past three games. He's only been able to catch five for 65 in the past two, but his low salary and ability to break long plays any time he has the ball make him an ideal GPP option, while teammate Amari Cooper ($5,700) profiles more as a cash-game play because of his consistent targets and receptions.
Jordan Akins, HOU at DET ($2,900): Mark Andrews ($5,200) was heading to be the most popular tight end because he's been the most active and isn't much more expensive than the other top guys, but now that he's off the slate many fantasy players could pivot all the way down to Akins, who had five catches on six targets for 83 yards last week and is playing for the team expected to score the most points. Every tight end on the slate is touchdown dependent, so there's really no one who jumps out in terms of significant upside, and Akins' salary is likely to be more helpful than the handful of catches and yards anyone else gets.
Football Team, WAS at DAL ($3,700): Andy Dalton ($5,600) makes the Cowboys' offense better, but he's also far from a mobile quarterback, which plays well into Football Team's strength, which is pressuring the quarterback. While they had only three turnovers in the past four games, they also registered 16 sacks in that span. If the salary isn't there, fantasy players could turn to the Cowboys ($2,800) against Alex Smith ($5,400), though he doesn't usually throw down field enough to make it easier for interceptions.