DRAFT Wild Card Weekend Breakdown and Top Plays
Wild Card Weekend can be heavy on the wild factor, but as fantasy degenerates, we take that challenge head-on. The first weekend of the 2018 NFL playoffs is a small four-game slate, with only two of these eight teams returning from last year’s postseason.
DRAFT's weekly fantasy contests are not your typical salary cap format. Instead, they offer a series of snake-style draft contests with differing team amounts. You can choose from head-to-head, 3-team, 6-team, 8-team, or 10-team contests, with varying dollar amounts per contest. With each draft, players must select five position players: 1QB, 2RB, and 2WR/TEs. There are no salaries, no ownership percentages, and no large tourneys.
Below, I take a look at some of the best plays of the week, according to league size. You will see multiple references to aFPA, which is our schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric. By using aFPA, we remove bias so that we can level the playing field and compare matchups in an "apples-to-apples" manner. One more note: remember that DRAFT is a snake-style format, so you must plan accordingly in larger contest sizes.
With only two drafters involved, your cumulative score just has to be higher than that of your opponent. Since only 10 players are involved, stick to the elite DFS chalk here.
Alex Smith (KC) vs. TEN
I’m pretty certain no one saw this coming at the start of the season, but here we are with Smith as my favorite QB on this slate. His 20.01 average DRAFT points per contest is higher than the other seven QBs playing this weekend, and he faces a Titans defense that sits in the middle of the league in QB aFPA. The Chiefs are 9-point home favorites, which makes Smith even sexier this week.
Cam Newton (CAR) @NO
I went back and forth between Newton and Goff here, but Cam’s mobility won out in the end. Since we don’t have to worry about ownership percentages or salary, drafting the Carolina QB should be money. He racked up an impressive 4,056 combined yards and 28 total touchdowns during the regular season, posting an average of 19.72 DRAFT points per game.
Todd Gurley (LAR) vs. ATL
Atlanta ranks first in the league in RB aFPA, but we’re talking about matchup-proof Gurley. He’s averaged 23.42 DRAFT points a game this season and is tough to shut down for any defensive unit. The over/under on this contest sits at 48.5, the largest on the slate, with a hearty 27.5 implied points for the Rams. Gurley is the top dawg this week, according to both DRAFT's projections and 4for4’s John Paulsen's rankings. (Yes, I spelled dawg like that on purpose as Gurley & I’s alma mater Georgia will play in the college national championship game on January 8th.)
Leonard Fournette (JAX) vs. BUF
On the other side of the spectrum, Fournette gets the best possible scenario, as the Bills occupy the worst spot in the NFL when it comes to RB aFPA. Buffalo surrendered a league-high 18 touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards to RBs this season, which sets up nicely for Fournette’s potential production.
Alvin Kamara (NO) vs. CAR
Drafting a guy who shares the rushing load against a tough Panthers defense isn’t without risk, but Kamara is still in play this week in New Orleans. The Saints rookie is always a threat, as he can run both inside and out, and is quite the receiving back. Kamara burned Carolina for 126 total yards and a couple of scores in Week 13 and should fare well again on his home turf Sunday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Thomas (NO) vs. CAR
Thomas is the clear No. 1 WR this weekend, as he gets a juicy matchup against a Carolina defense who sits dead last in WR aFPA. In both meetings with the Panthers this season, Thomas posted at least 70 yards and a touchdown, and the Saints wideout has only had two games with single-digit fantasy points in 2017. He’s consistent, solid, and chalk for Wild Card weekend.
Julio Jones (ATL) @ LAR
I struggled with where to put Jones this week, as he faces a very stout Rams defense hungry for a postseason win. On the road versus a tough opponent, the Falcons may be forced to toss the rock more than usual, and involving Jones is their ticket to victory. He provides the largest upside this week at receiver and will be drafted in all contests.
Tyreek Hill (KC) vs. TEN
A rested Hill is a potential monster in Week 17. In his last four contests, the Chiefs WR put up 457 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, and he has averaged 13.91 DRAFT points this season. His insane speed is always a threat as Hill lines up against Tennessee’s 20th ranked defense in WR aFPA on Saturday.
When you enter a contest with only three teams, you’re either picking two players at a time, or you’re in the middle of two drafters doing just that. Same studs apply here; draft accordingly.
6, 8 or 10-Person Draft
Below you’ll find a few more player recommendations to assist in filling out five-player rosters when more players are involved. You’ll need to dig a bit deeper into the rankings to find a player or two who will out-produce the players your opponents draft.
Jared Goff (LAR) vs. ATL
I noticed Goff was the highest-priced QB on those other sites, which is another 2017 surprise considering Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton are all playing in Wild Card games. This NFC showdown has the highest over/under on the slate, with 27.5 implied points for the Rams. Goff and his talented squad are also favored to win by 6.5 points. These are all factors we look for in a quality DFS QB. Well rested after taking Week 17 off, Goff is projected to score 17.6 DRAFT points this weekend.
Drew Brees (NO) vs. CAR
Brees is DRAFT’s highest-ranked QB of the week, with a projected 19.0 points. He tends to play better at home and gets the 22nd-ranked Panthers defense in QB aFPA on Sunday. This NFC South matchup should be a high-scoring one so Brees makes for a safe choice this weekend.
Blake Bortles (JAX) vs. BUF
I don’t love Bortles this week, but he should be serviceable in larger contests over Marcus Mariota or Tyrod Taylor. His negative is that the Bills rank eighth in QB aFPA, but are dead last when it comes to RB aFPA, so the Jaguars' game script could lean towards the run-heavy side of things. Bortles has averaged a respectable 16.42 DRAFT points this season and projects to post 15.50 this week versus Buffalo.
Kareem Hunt (KC) vs. TEN
Hunt has been all over the place this season but has still managed an average of 16.79 DRAFT points per outing. He’s posted 5 touchdowns in his past four contests, and draws a Titans defense ranked 16th in RB aFPA. With both LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman potentially sidelined, Hunt is a must draft in contests over three teams deep.
Mark Ingram (NO) vs. CAR
Most players will be all over Kamara, but Ingram is a great play, too. He’s had the best regular season of his career, with 1,540 combined yards and 12 touchdowns, with an average of 15.56 DRAFT points per game. Ingram faced the Panthers at home in Week 13 and managed to rush for 85 yards and a score, with another 37 receiving yards on the day. He gets the perfect storm of home-field advantage, a solid floor, and a perceived two-back hindrance. DRAFT has him projected as their fifth-highest scoring RB this weekend, and he's our No. 5 ranked RB for this weekend's slate of games.
Christian McCaffrey (CAR) @ NO
Carolina’s offense has taken a beating, with the exception of the talented rookie. While his team struggled versus the Saints this season, McCaffrey shined, racking up 117 total yards in Week 3 and another 49 plus a score in Week 13. He may not get you a plethora of traditional RB points this week, but his ability as a receiver makes him worthy of a spot on your mini-DRAFT roster.
Derrick Henry (TEN) @ KC
With Demarco Murray sidelined with an MCL injury, Henry carried the load in Week 17 versus a tough Jacksonville defense. The third-year RB struggled in the backfield but managed to post 18.2 DRAFT points based on volume alone. This week he gets a Chiefs defense ranked 10th in RB aFPA, but 26th against the pass. Henry may be called upon in more of a receiving role if Tennessee finds themselves in comeback mode against Kansas City, and could be a difference maker in larger contests. Also in his favor, Murray has already been ruled out for this weekend's game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Robert Woods (LAR) vs. ATL
After missing three weeks with a bum shoulder, Woods returned to post 13.5 and 4.8 DRAFT points, respectively, then sat out for Week 17. He’s healthy and motivated and is among Jared Goff’s go-to guys. Woods boasts the highest number of targets per game on the Rams offense this season with 7.1, despite being sidelined for three contests. DRAFT projects 10.0 points from the fifth-year wideout on Saturday night.
Travis Kelce (KC) vs. TEN
The Titans rank 28th in the league when it comes to TE aFPA, boding well for Kelce’s potential in this AFC showdown. He leads the Chiefs offense in both total targets and targets per game this season and should eat this Saturday versus a Tennessee team lucky to even be playing this weekend. DRAFT projects Kelce as the third-highest scoring WR/TE on the week with11.90 points.
Mohamed Sanu (ATL) @ LAR
Sanu ended the regular season with a career-high 67 catches for 703 yards. His 5 touchdowns this season were all red zone driven, as he’s become one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets inside the 20-yard line. He’s not the safest play out there, but Sanu just may be your money-maker in a tough-to-predict Wild Card weekend.
Ted Ginn (NO) vs. CAR
Despite it being their third meeting this season, I still count this as a revenge game for Ginn, because, why not? Carolina is the worst in the league in WR aFPA so Ginn is certainly an option in larger contests. He averaged 8.87 DRAFT points a game, and the speedy WR could bust out big for a much larger point total on the grand stage Sunday afternoon.
Keelan Cole (JAX) vs. BUF
The Jaguars rookie WR is first in targets (30) and non-QB fantasy points (45.2), among Jacksonville’s offense over the past three weeks. While most will draft Dede Westbrook, it’s Cole who could provide that extra boost your roster needs to take down a large-sized contest.
Greg Olsen (CAR) vs NO
Panthers stud TE Olsen has been hit or miss since returning from a foot injury in Week 12, but will need to be involved in Carolina’s offense in order to win this Wild Card matchup. He’s healthy and well rested and has led the Panthers offense in targets over the past three weeks. Newton knows he can count on Olsen in key moments, so the veteran TE should be a large factor in moving the chains on Sunday afternoon.
Good luck everyone on this always wacky Wild Card weekend, and go get that DRAFT cash!