DRAFT Conference Championship Breakdown and Top Plays
With just four NFL teams left to hash this season out, this is our last week of playing NFL DFS contests on DRAFT. Dry those tears folks and get ready to milk this final weekend for all that we possibly can. We’re looking at a two-game slate, with both games taking place on Sunday.
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 normally can choose from head-to-head, 3-team, 6-team, 8-team, or 10-team contests, with varying dollar amounts per contest. This week your choices are H2H or 3-team contests, with Dream Team contests also offered in multiple size fields. With each draft, players must select five position players: 1QB, 2RB, and 2WR/TEs. There are no salaries, no ownership percentages, and no massive 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.
Tom Brady (NE) vs. JAX
We all know this needs zero explanation, but for formality sake, here it is... Brady is far and away the best QB left in the postseason and actually faces the defense with the lowest rank in QB aFPA. New England’s golden boy is the highest-projected scoring QB this week with 18.20 projected DRAFT points.
Blake Bortles (JAX) @ NE
Last week Bortles went 14-of-26 for 214 yards and a score, plus an additional 35 rushing yards against the Steelers on their home turf. He also had zero turnovers and took zero sacks. Can this version of Bortles show up in Foxboro on Sunday for the AFC Championship? Anything is possible, which is why they play the games. He’s averaged 17.35 DRAFT points per contest this season and is slated to post QB2 numbers this week behind Brady, with a projection of 16.5 points.
Leonard Fournette (JAX) @ NE
The Jags rookie RB is the top dog on this week’s slate. He’s a lock for at least 20 touches and posted an impressive 30.9 DRAFT points versus Pittsburgh last week on 25 rushing attempts. Look for Jacksonville to use Fournette to try to slow the game down, and keep Brady off the field as much as they can. He tops both 4for4's RB rankings and DRAFT's RB projections, and he should be the first RB taken in all contests.
Dion Lewis (NE) vs. JAX
Despite the potential return of Rex Burkhead, Lewis is still my second-favorite RB this week. He’s averaged 25.57 DRAFT points over the past three weeks, with a rushing and receiving touchdown in two of his last three contests. It’s tough to imagine a team going away from their hot hand, but if anyone were to do it, Bill Belichick is the guy. I still feel comfortable drafting Lewis here, and hope my opponents go for Rex Burkhead or James White.
Latavius Murray (MIN) @ PHI
Murray nearly doubled teammate Jerick McKinnon in touches last week against the Saints (21 to 11), but he didn’t have a fabulous performance overall. Sure, he’ll have his work cut out for him this Sunday versus Philly’s second-ranked defense in RB aFPA, but it’s the playoffs. Murray should see somewhere close to the 21 touches he averaged the last handful of regular season games, and we always chase volume in DFS.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Rob Gronkowski (NE) vs. JAX
The perennial mismatch, as I like to refer to him, is the top guy in the WR/TE category this week by a long shot. Nobody has an answer for the freakishly large TE, and despite facing a tough Jags defense, Gronk should continue to produce on Sunday. He’s averaged 15.0 DRAFT points per tilt this season and is slotted to drop 12.8 on Jacksonville at Gillette Stadium.
Up until that final play in Minnesota last week, Thielen’s numbers were almost identical to those of teammate Diggs. Both guys have big-play potential and sit next to each other in both DRAFT WR projections and 4for4's WR rankings. Philadelphia’s secondary allowed opposing WRs to score eight touchdowns in Weeks 13-17, proving they can be scored upon. Draft one, or draft both as Thielen and Diggs are projected to put up 10.50 and 11.40 DRAFT points, respectively.
Brandin Cooks (NE) vs. JAX
Despite Danny Amendola’s big game last week, Cooks is the player to draft early for the Patriots in the Conference Championship game. He led the New England offense in targets, touches and fantasy points this season, and should stay the course versus the Jags secondary on Sunday afternoon. With a projection of 9.70 points, Cooks is DRAFT’s fourth-highest ranked WR/TE.
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.
Case Keenum (MIN) @ PHI
In Keenum’s first ever postseason start, he was held in check for most of it, aside from an incredible walk-off 61-yard touchdown toss to Stefon Diggs. He faces a tough Eagles defense ranked fifth in QB aFPA, but who have also shown signs of struggle over the latter part of the season, allowing Eli Manning to throw for 434 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 15, and Russell Wilson to post a combined 258 yards with 3 scores in Week 13. Keenum should put up serviceable numbers as he offers a decent floor with potential upside.
Nick Foles (PHI) vs. MIN
Foles has the toughest task ahead of him, as the Vikings sit first in the NFL in QB aFPA, surrendering the fewest fantasy points this season to opposing signal-callers. He played fairly well against the Falcons last week, throwing for 246 yards with 0 interceptions. He’ll need to be on his game against Minnesota on Sunday, and could use the help of his RBs by hanging onto the rock. Foles’ sweet spot seems to be run/pass option plays, and if he can move the chains he should accrue fantasy points for those who draft him.
Jay Ajayi (PHI) vs. MIN
Arguably the best offensive weapon in last week’s victory over the Falcons, Ajayi rushed 15 times for 54 yards with another 44 yards through the air. His early game fumble was a concern, but he rallied. As long as he can hang onto the ball, Ajayi should see near 20 touches on Sunday and will add to your mini, five-player DRAFT roster. He’s the third-ranked RB on the slate with 11.50 projected points.
James White (NE) vs. JAX
New England knows they will need to keep the ball away from the Jaguars' elite corners, so White could see some extra work catching passes in the backfield. He only averages 8.27 DRAFT points per game but posted 18.0 last week versus the Titans in the Divisional Round. With such a small number of players available this week White should be in the mix, and you never know, he could have a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl, where he posted a record-tying three touchdowns.
T.J. Yeldon (JAX) @ NE
If the Patriots grab an early lead, Yeldon could be a difference maker. In catch-up mode, Jacksonville could look to the third-year RB in short yardage situations, which could rack up the garbage points for your squad. He managed to put up 15.20 DRAFT points in last week’s victory over the Steelers and could be the contrarian key to cashing in a contest or two.
Rex Burkhead (NE) vs. JAX
Before his injury, Burkhead was New England’s red zone back, but as we all know, their backfield is one crowded kitchen, with way too many cooks. Drafting any Patriot RB assumes some risk, but with only four rosters of players to draft from, it’s something we all have to do. Depending on how many contests you participate in, it’s a good idea to alternate between Lewis, White, and Burkhead to ensure you have their backfield covered. (I don’t recommend Brandon Bolden here, but you could certainly throw him into a Dream Team lineup, which I go over below.)
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marqise Lee (JAX) @ NE
Jacksonville’s receiving corps is a tough one to figure out, and as soon as you think you’ve nailed it, they do the opposite. With Lee back in the fold, he should be the No. 1 WR in this offense and led the wideouts in targets last week with six. New England’s defense ranks 15th in the league in WR aFPA, so they are certainly capable of surrendering some fantasy points to the position.
Danny Amendola (NE) vs. JAX
Brady tends to lean on his underneath slot guys in big games, especially if this right-hand injury has any validity to it. The Jags secondary is no picnic, but Amendola can play spoiler along with the best of them. As I stated earlier, I’d draft Cooks first, but Amendola is a great choice in the 3-man contests if Cooks goes super early.
Nelson Agholor (PHI) vs. MIN
He hasn’t exactly flourished in the Nick Foles-led Eagles offense, posting only 14.7 DRAFT points in his last three games combined, but Agholor should fare much better in this contest. His teammate Alshon Jeffery should draw talented corner Xavier Rhodes, leaving more favorable coverage, plus the Eagles could be playing from behind in the latter part of the game, providing plenty of opportunities for Agholor.
Zach Ertz (PHI) vs. MIN
Philly’s TE is always in the conversation, especially with such a limited amount of playmakers to choose from this week. His last few games have been mediocre at best, but on Christmas Day, Ertz was targeted 14 times, resulting in a solid 12.6 DRAFT point performance. Foles could lean on the fifth-year TE again to move the chains on Sunday, and he’s certainly draftable in all the 3-team contests.
I’ve lumped these two together because they are both one notch up from a dart throw. Jacksonville’s WR corps is as foggy as the Patriots backfield, and it's tough to really see one emerging over the other. The Jaguars are an 8.5-point road underdog in this contest, so it’s safe to assume they may need to air the ball out late in the game. Bortles' garbage time points are the best ones, and he usually delivers.
Kyle Rudolph (MIN) vs. PHI
Without salaries to worry about, Gronk will be everyone’s top pick, if they draft a TE at all. Rudolph makes a nice contrarian selection in 3-team contests, as Keenum has shown his propensity to throw to his colossal TE in the red zone this season. He had eight touchdowns on the season and just might grab another one or two on Sunday in Philly.
These contests are similar to GPP tournaments on both DraftKings and FanDuel but without the restriction of salary caps. They vary in size of teams, and for this week, it appears you can enter Dream Team contests with three, five, 10, 11, 33, or 111 teams. It’s the same concept, with the same five position types, only not a draft-style selection process. You pick a QB, two RBs, and two WR/TEs.
Strategy can vary on these, depending on the size of the contest. For smaller ones, I’d roll with chalk players, guys you know will have the volume to score. In tournaments with 33 and 111 teams, look to go contrarian for at least one player, maybe even two, in the hopes they break out.
Grab a mixture of the guys I listed in the H2H section, with some of the gambles such as Yeldon, Rudolph, or any Jags WR. A few guys I would also consider for larger Dream Team contests are Jarius Wright, LeGarrette Blount, Trey Burton, and Chris Hogan.
Enjoy the Conference Championship games degenerates! it’s been quite a year! Go get that money and I look forward to doing it all over again in the fall!