These fantasy football players will lead your Monday and Thursday teams to the dough!
Top Pick: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), $15,600 @ (TEN)
There is one top flight quarterback among the quartet playing in the weekday prime time games, and his name isn’t Jake Locker (sorry, Jake), it’s Roethlisberger. Prior to Sunday’s games, Big Ben ranked second in Pro Football Focus (PFF) QB Rating and passing yards, fourth in Yds/Att and touchdowns, and second in completion percentage among quarterbacks who took 50% or more of their team’s snaps. Alex Smith is a game manager, make no bones about it, and rookies Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger aren’t in Roethlisberger’s class either. Spend the big bucks on the Steelers signal caller.
Value Pick: Zach Mettenberger (TEN), $7,500 vs (PIT)
With a trio of ho-hum starters to pick from, I’m opting to save the most money possible and grab Mettenberger. None of Smith, Carr and Mettenberger have high ceilings, so why pay the extra money for a few more piddly points? Smith is clearly the second best starting quarterback in these contests, but he ranks a pitiful 24th in passing yards and tied for 18th in passing touchdowns. He could be the most efficient quarterback in the history of the game, and such a low yardage and touchdown output wouldn’t cut it from a DFS perspective. That leaves Mettenberger and Carr as your best values, and while Carr has earned praise from the scouting types on Twitter and in the NFL media, the numbers don’t warrant paying the extra money to roster him over Mettenberger. Furthermore, the Chiefs are the best defense playing in these matchups. No fancy number calculations here, treat your QB2 like a punt position.
Top Pick: Jamal Charles (KC), $13,200 @ (OAK)
I’ll be using both Le’Veon Bell and Charles on my Monday-Thursday rosters, but Charles is the top back of the two. Charles is a more integral part of the Chiefs offense and he has to share touches with less talented teammates than Bell. The gap in offense talent among teammates is best illustrated by the difference in touchdowns scored by the two players. Before Sunday’s games, Charles held a five rushing touchdown edge over Bell and his paltry one score, and that was despite a gap of 231 snaps played according to PFF. Charles is also coming off his best game of the season. He posted a monstrous line of 20 carries for 159 yards rushing with two touchdowns and a pair of receptions for 19 yards against the Seahawks, a team with a far better run defense than the Raiders. One sneaky factor that helped earn Charles the nod over Bell is the fact that Football Outsiders (FO) ranked the Raiders 30th defending running backs in the passing game, while the Titans rank ninth.
Value Pick: Bishop Sankey (TEN), $6,400 vs (PIT)
With the Titans not competing for a playoff spot, Sankey is getting regular work as the feature back so that the club can assess what they have in their second round pick from this year’s NFL Draft. Since week eight, PFF credits Sankey with 66 snaps played and 25 rushing attempts. The rest of the Titans running backs have combined for 58 snaps and eight carries. The rookie runner hasn’t been a fantasy star, but he’s exceeded 50 yards from scrimmage in four straight games, and has seven catches in his last two games. He’s done a good job picking up tough yards averaging 2.7 YCo/Att, tied for 23rd best at the running back position. There is enough to like here to slot him as your RB2 or flex at his cheap price since he’s also going to be aided by facing a Steelers run defense ranked 19th by PFF and 17th by FO, and one that struggles defending running backs in the passing game ranking 23rd.
Top Pick: Antonio Brown (PIT), $15,150 @ (TEN)
Like at the quarterback position, there is only one elite receiving option, and Brown is priced like it. Of course, being paired with the only elite quarterback playing in the weeknight contests further enhances his chances of being the top scoring wide receiver in those games. The league’s leader in targets, receptions, and receiving yards this year entering the weekend’s contests also was tied for second in touchdown receptions at the wide receiver position with eight. The advanced metrics are favorable too, with him ranking fifth in PFF WR Rating and third in yards per route run (YPRR). The Titans defense, one that ranks 20th in pass coverage according to PFF and 21st in pass defense according to FO, will have no answer for Brown. The Steelers are projected to be the highest scoring of the four teams in these games as Vegas Insider has them as a six point favorite with a betting total of 46. Expect Brown to play a big role in the Steelers offense putting points on the board.
Value Pick: Justin Hunter (TEN), $5,650 vs (PIT)
Hunter has come up well short of delivering on the breakout season some expected entering the year, but it’s not entirely his fault with so much overturn at quarterback for the Titans. He has done himself no favors either with a whopping seven drops. No one is going to call Hunter sure handed, but he is a big play threat averaging a hearty 17.5 Yds/Rec, good for tied for eighth among wide receivers that have played 25% or more of their team’s snaps. You can also count on him being on the field for the Titans since no receiver on the team has played more than his 476 snaps this year according to PFF. Being on the field could prove fruitful for the inexpensive Hunter since he’s facing a Steelers defense that PFF grades out 21st in pass coverage and FO ranks 25th in pass defense. A long touchdown reception isn’t out of the question for a big play receiver like Hunter.
Top Pick: Travis Kelce (KC), $8,150 @ (OAK)
With Delanie Walker’s playing status in question, Kelce was a fairly easy choice for top honors at tight end. He led the Chiefs in receptions and receiving yards on Sunday, albeit with just three grabs and 37 yards, but he’s a matchup nightmare that is shining in his first healthy NFL season. He’s averaging an obscene 8.3 YAC/Rec, the most of any tight end with double digit receptions, and he’s atop the leaderboard in YPRR among tight ends who’ve played 25% or more of their team’s snaps. Even as an inexcusably under utilized option in the vanilla Chiefs offense, Kelce still ranks fourth at tight end with 623 yards receiving. I think that Charles will be the primary source of scoring for the Chiefs against the Raiders, but with the visiting team serving as a seven point favorite in a game with a betting total of 43, there is wiggle room for Kelce to reach pay dirt too, something he hasn’t done in the team’s past two games.
Value Pick: Mychal Rivera (OAK), $7,350 vs (KC)
In a bleak, thus far winless, season for the Raiders, Rivera has been something of a bright spot of late. Carr loves his tight end, and has been throwing his way a ton. ESPN credited Rivera with five targets on Sunday that he turned into three receptions for 40 yards. The game was something of a down effort of late from Rivera, too. No tight end had been targeted more than Rivera (27 targets according to PFF) in weeks eight through 10. Small sample and arbitrary end points warnings are necessary, but clearly Carr likes airing it out to the University of Tennessee product. The underdog Raiders will likely be playing catch up to the Chiefs, and that means Carr throwing early and often. Expect Rivera to be the recipient of many of those throws, and a positive return on his sub-$7,500 price tag is a more than reasonable as a result of the probable volume of work.