The Conference Championship Round is just the time for using our fantasy football picks to click to win some cold, hard cash!
Top Pick: Tom Brady (NE), $17,800 vs (IND)
The lack of a value pick is not an oversight. With just one quarterback on rosters this week, picking the best option was my goal, and Brady fits the bill. He is the cheapest arm of the bunch, and he’s the highest scoring quarterback from the previous week (though, that’s not really a major factor in my decision). Tom Terrific is coming off another banner year, and while he’s facing a Colts defense that ranked third in pass coverage at Pro Football Focus (PFF) and 10th in pass defense at Football Outsiders (FO), they struggled to get after the quarterback. PFF ranked the Colts 30th in pass rush, and if you don’t get after Brady, he’ll shred you.
Top Pick: Marshawn Lynch (SEA), $15,600 vs (GB)
Lynch had his typical workhorse season and finished the year fourth in rushing yards with 1,310, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns with 13. He’s the “linchpin,” pardon the bad pun, of the Seahawks offense that totaled the second most rush attempts in the league this year. In addition to Lynch’s rushing exploits, he makes for a great play thanks to his matchup. The Packers are the worst run defense that’s still playing, and PFF ranks them 28th while FO ranks them 24th.
Value Pick: Shane Vereen (NE), $9,000 vs (IND)
With a short slate of games, and thus, a limited number of players to choose from, cutting corners is essential. Running back is a good spot to scale back on spending with Vereen. I’ll add this caveat, however, if either of the Patriots power backs (LeGarrette Blount or Jonas Gray) is deactivated, I actually prefer the active back to Vereen. That said, against a soft Colts run defense, I expect all three backs to be active, and Vereen’s role is the most predictable of the bunch as the pass catching change-of-pace option. The Cal product’s pass catching exploits should come in handy this week against a Colts defense that FO ranks 31st defending running backs in the passing game.
Top Pick: Jordy Nelson (GB), $15,550 @ (SEA)
As many folks who follow the NFL are aware, Richard Sherman is quite the lock down corner. What many folks know, but not everyone, is that he’ll cover one side of the field and not simply shadow a team’s number one receiver. That is important because in a mostly fluff piece filled with superlatives exchanged between Aaron Rodgers and Sherman, it was noted that in the NFL season opener Nelson was lined up on the opposite side of the field of Sherman. With Darrelle Revis likely to shadow T.Y. Hilton, and Vontae Davis making things difficult for either (or both) Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, I like Nelson as the top pick at the wide receiver position since the Packers can manipulate things so that he’s not battling Sherman. Oh, and Nelson is pretty damn good, too. He finished the season ranked fourth in targets, sixth in receptions, fourth in receiving yards, tied for second in touchdown receptions and tied for sixth in YPRR at the receiver position.
Value Pick: Donte Moncrief (IND), $9,300 @ (NE)
With Revis likely blanketing Hilton, life should be easier for the secondary pass catching options on a Colts team that will air it out a ton. Vegas Insider currently has the betting total for the game at 54 points, and the Colts are a 6.5 point underdog, so that means there are plenty of points projected to be scored and incentive for the Colts to air it out as they play catch up. If things go according to plan, Moncrief looks like a strong play. In the Divisional Round playoff game against the Broncos, Moncrief was credited by PFF for playing 43 snaps, just 14 fewer than Reggie Wayne, and a whopping 21 more than Hakeem Nicks. The gap in meaningful usage between Wayne and Moncrief is a bit misleading using snap counts too, as Moncrief ran just four fewer routes than his veteran teammate. The explosive rookie receiver has enough positives working in his favor that he makes for a strong play this week.
Bonus Pick: Jermaine Kearse (SEA), $8,000 vs (GB)
The unfortunate injury suffered by rookie Paul Richardson helped pave the way to increased playing time for Kearse and a season best showing in the Seahakws playoff game last Saturday. Kearse reeled in three receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. Getting back to his usage, Kearse played 47 snaps, second at wide receiver to only Doug Baldwin’s 50 snaps, and he tied the team’s number one wide receiver in pass routes run with 25. The Seahawks should find the sledding easiest on the ground, but when they do air it out, Kearse is likely to have a substantial role in the passing attack and is a nice bargain option to offset the bigger ticket items.
Top Pick: Rob Gronkowski (NE), $17,850 vs (IND)
Keeping things short and sweet with Gronk, he’s the best tight end in the NFL, period. He ranks at or near the top of the position in literally every meaningful statistic. The monstrous gap in price between Gronk and everyone else at the position accurately reflects the gap in talent, and he’s worth every penny. He should have little trouble spanking the behinds of a Colts pass defense that FO ranked 27th defending tight ends.
Value Pick: Luke Willson (SEA), $8,950 vs (GB)
Willson was a preseason favorite of RotoViz due to his freakish athleticism, among other things. His sophomore season wasn’t spectacular statistically, but his preseason hype makes his late season emergence look like less of an anomaly. In his last three games Willson has caught a total of nine passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. The second-year pro could also prove to be a beneficiary of the unfortunate injury suffered by Richardson, and he’s a decent speculative play as either a flex or tight end for those veering away from studly Gronk.