Every week of the season, Ricky Sanders will break down NFL GPP tournaments with his core plays, intriguing plays and hot takes. Take home all the money!
NFL GPP Core
Here are the players who will be in a majority of my NFL GPP tournament lineups in Week 12:
Josh Allen – The chalk at the QB position is tough to avoid this week with Josh Allen matched up versus one of nine defenses allowing more than 27.0 points per game (PPG). Sure, the Chargers just activated cornerback (CB) Chris Harris Jr. from injured reserve, but CB Casey Hayward has been ruled out and so has pass-rusher Melvin Ingram. Opposing QBs versus the Chargers have thrown multiple touchdown (TD) passes in five straight games, including 20 total TD passes over the course of the last nine games.
Meanwhile, Allen has thrown for multiple TD passes in all but two games this season, and he has topped the 29-fantasy point plateau a whopping five times overall. His sky-high ceiling is apparent and enhanced by the fact he ranks sixth in rushing yards per game amongst starting QBs this year. In fact, only Kyler Murray and Cam Newton have scored more rushing TDs at the QB position than Allen. With the Chargers ranking 27th in passing DVOA, there are multiple ways for Allen to rack up the fantasy points on Sunday.
Derek Carr – Facing a funnel-to-the-pass Falcons defense, the Raiders should have no choice but to throw the football. Opponents have called passing plays at a 61-percent rate versus the Falcons this season, which rates as the sixth-highest number in the league. Not only do the Falcons rank as a top 10 DVOA defense against the run, but they are one of nine teams allowing fewer than 107 yards rushing per game, as well. If Josh Jacobs’ progress is hindered at all, Carr will be forced into a higher volume game than normal in a dome against a dreadful passing defense.
Thus far, only the Seahawks are allowing more passing yards per game, and the next team after the Falcons is 12 yards per game behind them. Despite ranking ninth in DVOA, the Falcons have allowed the highest opposing QB rating of any defense, including a 107.7 QB rating allowed in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Carr is one of the top five most accurate QBs in the league, so this is a matchup in which he should feast. The Raiders’ 28.0-point implied total is fourth highest on the main slate, which tells the story here.
Patrick Mahomes – Whereas the Buccaneers began the year as an elite passing defense, they have been torched recently and now will be missing top CB Jamel Dean. Seriously, the Buccaneers are yet another defense that has allowed multiple passing scores in five consecutive games, and that is bad news, considering Patrick Mahomes is coming to town in Week 12. Due to the expensive price point on Mahomes, the field may not be in a hurry to spend up at QB, especially if they are trying to spend up at tight end (TE). As you will find in this article, there are value options scattered throughout virtually every position, so spending up for a Mahomes stack is not as difficult as you may think.
Sammy Watkins is returning this weekend, which means the offense is basically at full strength and just in time for a meeting against a struggling pass defense. What really needs to be said about Mahomes? His team owns the highest implied total of the weekend in a game with the highest total, and he sits second in QB rating behind only Aaron Rodgers. If playing at least three lineups, a minimum of one should include a Chiefs stack.
Dalvin Cook (DK only) – At some point, the price point for an elite back rises to levels where they are unplayable, but Dalvin Cook has not reached that level yet (especially on a week with seemingly unlimited value) …at least on DK. At $11,000 on FD, Cook’s price tag is a lot more difficult to swallow, but there are still ways to make it work. This play, though, is DK specific, and he is someone most should be interested in playing versus a defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry (YPC).
To this point, only the Lions, Packers, Texans and Raiders have allowed more fantasy points per game (FPPG) to the RB position than the Panthers, and it should be noted how heavily targeted backs have been against the Panthers (86 targets in 11 games). Over the course of his last two games combined, Cook has been targeted nine times, which equates to a 15.0-percent target market share.
With both Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr. out, it would not be surprising for Cook to continue to see an outlier number of targets (comparatively to his norm). If he can sustain anywhere near a 15.0-percent target share in such a fantastic matchup for backs in the passing game, then Cook truly has the makings of a $10,000-plus back in this spot (as he leads all RBs in FPPG this season already).
Brian Hill – Since training camp, Falcons beat writers have been raving about Brian Hill’s play, and now he will finally get his time to shine. Todd Gurley III has been ruled out for this weekend’s meeting versus a Raiders defense that ranks dead last in rushing DVOA. With Gurley battling injury last week, Brian Hill played 41.9-percent of the snaps to Ito Smith’s 9.7-percent. Qadree Ollison did not even see the field, which personifies the sort of split fantasy owners should expect with Gurley on the sidelines.
Hill should play a role reminiscent of a bell cow, while Smith should see the field a fair amount, as well. Playing a majority of the snaps against a defense that has yielded 4.4 YPC and a league-worst 16 rushing TDs places Hill in a good spot. Although the sample is much smaller for Hill this season, he is both averaging more YPC and more yards per reception (REC) than Gurley. Really, the opportunity is all that matters here, especially for a back priced at just $4,000 on DK in an elite matchup, but the solid efficiency signifies the potential absurd per-dollar upside.
Derrick Henry – Normally, targeting an opposing back against the Colts is a losing proposition, but their defense is in shambles this week. Not only has the one-time All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner been ruled out but so has defensive end Denico Autry and linebacker Bobby Okereke. What fantasy owners have learned with the Ravens is that a defense sans a dominant defensive tackle loses their luster at defending the run (as the Ravens have looked like a totally different team without Brandon Williams). Even with Buckner active the first go-around, Henry rushed 19 times for 103 yards, but he did fail to find the end zone (which led to him failing to reach 15 DK fantasy points). In that game, his 20 touches were tied for his second-lowest mark of the year, so he comes equipped with upside beyond his output in the latest meeting also.
Early roster percentage projections have Henry coming in at around 7.5-percent on DK, which is much too low given the context. Since Buckner will be sidelined, the Colts should be expected to play as more of a league-average DVOA versus the run rather than a top-five defense (which is where they have rated overall).
Stefon Diggs – Two players in the NFL have averaged more than 8.0 RECs per game (Davante Adams, Keenan Allen), but Stefon Diggs is not far behind at 7.3 grabs per game. John Brown has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest, which means the volume should flow through Diggs once again. In two games without Brown this year, Diggs has been targeted a ridiculous 13.5 times per game versus just 9.3 targets with Brown active. Since defenses have been able to hone in on him a bit, he has not quite been as effective in those two games, but that sample size includes a total flop against the Jets.
Diggs ranks second in 20-plus catches this season behind only Justin Jefferson, so his efficiency should not be a huge concern (especially given the consistent volume). It remains to be seen how healthy CB Harris Jr. proves to be in his return, but his performance tailed off in 2019 and was lacking at the beginning of 2020 (per Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) player grades). Essentially, he is not a player to be scared of, and Diggs should still get his in an overall extremely favorable game environment.
Justin Jefferson – Can Justin Jefferson function as the number one receiver? We surely will find out this weekend without Thielen and Smith Jr. The presence of Cook in the backfield always sets up play-action passes nicely on this offense, and that is the reason Jefferson leads the NFL in 20-plus yard RECs. Like correlation? Well, the Panthers defense has already been burned for 37 passing plays of 20-plus yards, which puts them 20th in explosive pass play rate. Of course, with two of the top pass-catchers missing, the game-plan will likely lean more run-heavy than normal, but Jefferson is still by far the most competent pass-catcher left. By default, Jefferson should fall into double-digit targets, and Jefferson has topped 24 DK fantasy points both of the weeks in which he has received 10-plus targets.
Amazingly, Jefferson has averaged 158.7 receiving yards per game in the three contests in which he has received at least nine targets. In college, Jefferson caught a ridiculous 112 passes in his final season, so this is a player whose success has translated rather quickly. Having acted (and succeeded) as a top target before, there is plenty of reason to put faith in him once again, despite the popularity.
DeVante Parker – The return of Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting QB can only mean one thing…DeVante Parker is back in full force. In the seven games in which Fitzpatrick has thrown a pass, Parker has averaged 14.1 DK FPPG, including 60.7 receiving yards per game and 0.43 TDs per game. On the other hand, Parker only averaged 8.3 DK FPPG in the three games with Tua Tagovailoa on the heels of 32.7 yards per game and 0.33 TDs per game.
The presence of Fitzpatrick alone enhances the potential of Parker, and that is before mentioning the Jets rank dead last in DVOA versus number one receivers. Yes, WR1s have averaged 91.2 yards per game against this defense, and there is not a single CB worth fearing in the secondary. Tagovailoa has been ruled out, so there is no chance of him stepping in mid-game if the coach has a change of mind. This will 100-percent be Fitzpatrick’s show, barring injury, which means it should be the Parker show, as well.
Sterling Shepard – You may not have noticed, but the Giants’ 25.5-point implied total is more points than the Giants have scored in all but two games this year. Coming off a 27-point outing against the Eagles, the Giants offense now gets to face a Bengals squad that sits just 30th in overall DVOA. Quietly, Sterling Shepard has been remarkably consistent since returning, as he has caught six-plus passes in four straight games (and in five of six total games this year). He has emerged as the clear WR1 on the Giants, and yet, he is not priced as such.
Unfortunately, the Bengals have held their own against number one receivers this season (10th in DVOA), but they have only used William Jackson III to shadow twice. It would be shocking if the team used him to shadow Shepard, given the lack of offensive success overall for the Giants this year, and that should lead to plenty of favorable matchups against LeShaun Sims. Through seven games and 198 coverage snaps, Sims has yielded a hefty 1.90 yards per snap, including a 133.8 QB rating and four TDs. Jones will look to his guy Shepard early and often, and this individual matchup jumps off the page.
Darren Waller – Travis Kelce plays on this slate, so it can just be assumed he will be the most popular TE on the slate (as per usual). That simple fact alone creates an opportunity to roster Darren Waller at some level of depreciated roster percentage against the league’s worst TE defense. No team has allowed more yards per game to TEs, and the Falcons have allowed production 43.8-percent above seasonal average to the position. Only one TE has averaged more targets per game than Waller (8.3) this year and that is, you guessed it, Kelce. Falcons force opponents to pass more than usual, which means Waller should flirt with double-digit targets by accident in a game with a 50-plus total. Any more questions?
Kyle Rudolph – Even with two staples in the passing game missing, Kirk Cousins cannot simply lock onto Jefferson all game long. Instead, he will have to find a secondary target, and last year when Thielen was out, that second target was Kyle Rudolph. In six games without Thielen last year, Rudolph was targeted 21 times, caught 18 of those passes, and scored an impressive four times. To put it differently, Rudolph averaged 10 DK fantasy points during that six-game span, and he is priced near the bare minimum across the industry.
Only Smith was out a few weeks ago, and Rudolph caught 4-5 targets (both season-highs) for 63 yards (also a season-high). However, Thielen is the more impactful loss, and Rudolph was already on the field for 78-percent of the snaps with just Smith out. Expect him to be way more involved than usual, and that is before mentioning his work around the goal line (as Thielen leads all WRs in red zone TDs). On a slate filled with studs, Rudolph should give them all a run for their money in per-dollar production.
Other Strong Single-Entry GPP Options: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Wayne Gallman, James Robinson, Tyreek Hill, Tyler Boyd, Christian Kirk, Hunter Henry
Intriguing Plays of the Week
Kareem Hunt – Nick Chubb returned from injured reserve a few weeks ago and, since that point, Hunt has touched the ball just three fewer times (39-36) than his backfield counterpart. The Browns feature one of the league’s best rushing attacks, which is unsurprising given their coach (Kevin Stefanski), the talent in their backfield, and the fact their revamped offensive line easily grades the highest in terms of run blocking this year according to PFF. They are one of the few offenses in which multiple backs can be expected to consistently succeed, and Hunt is the much cheaper of the two on both sites.
In betting markets, the Browns’ implied total has shot up since the open, moving from 26.5 implied points to 28.2 at the moment. High implied totals are most tightly correlated to the team’s backs, and Hunt has out-carried Chubb 9-2 in the red zone over the last two weeks alone. Clearly, he is the safer bet to score of the two, making him the safer play of the two given the sizable discount. Unlike some of the other backs mentioned in this article, Hunt may not break 10-percent roster percentage, and I am not sure why that is the case.
Nyheim Hines – On Saturday, the Colts placed Jonathan Taylor on the COVID-19 list, which effectively rules him out on Sunday. His absence leaves Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins to split the rushing workload a week after Ian Rapoport reported the team wanted Hines to lead the backfield in touches. That, of course, did not come to fruition, as Taylor produced his best game as a professional and left Hines in the dust (nine touches).
While the Colts are listed as favorites in this game, the injuries to their defense (and now in their backfield) could lead to the Titans surprising the betting market, which would actually benefit Hines. If the Colts were in more of a competitive game than, say, a game which they led handily, then there would be more of a need to incorporate Hines. It remains entirely possible the Rapoport report was just a week early, and Hines is still only two weeks removed from a 17 touch, 28.5 fantasy point outburst against this very Titans team.
Gabriel Davis – Andy Isabella seems to be gaining momentum this week as the preferred minimum-priced punt, but Gabriel Davis is the one who will be making his way into more of my lineups. If an Allen ceiling game is truly upon us, then he is likely throwing for multiple scores, and he has thrown for 300-plus yards five times already this year. Even with a Diggs big game on the other side of the field, there still would be production to go around if Allen were to get there, which means Davis is very much in play against a Chargers defense that ranks 29th in DVOA versus number two receivers.
In two games without Brown this year, Davis has been targeted 12 times and caught six passes, but he did post a total stinker in a game against the Jets (where the team did not score an offensive TD). Coming off a bye, the Bills hopefully have a much better game-plan against this bottom-tier defense, and Allen should be able to sustain multiple receivers in this one.
Austin Ekeler (if active) – According to Austin Ekeler’s Instagram account, he says he is playing this weekend, which would negate the industry love for Kalen Ballage immediately. The Bills rank 30th in DVOA to passes in the middle of the field, and Tre’Davious White will be shadowing Keenan Allen. With the team’s best corner patrolling a specific receiver, that should leave the middle of the field open for the rest of the team…including a returning Ekeler.
Unlike the fill-in backs, Ekeler is oozing with potential upside, as he has caught as many as 11 passes in a game this year. Of course, this will all be dependent on him suiting up, but if he is not lying on his own social media, then he will be worth every penny of his $6,100 price point in one of the top game stacks. Most will run back (Josh) Allen lineups with (Keenan) Allen, but Ekeler would be my preferred option if he plays.
QB Pool in 150 Lineup MME Set
Josh Allen – 18%
Derek Carr – 18%
Patrick Mahomes – 18%
Ryan Fitzpatrick – 15%
Justin Herbert – 8%
Kyler Murray – 8%
Daniel Jones – 5%
Taysom Hill – 5%
Matt Ryan – 5%
(only if Julio Jones is healthy)
Feel free to sub out Ryan if Jones still seems like he is going to be limited
QB Underweight Play of the Week: Matt Ryan (if Julio Jones is out or limited)
RB Underweight Play of the Week: Josh Jacobs
WR Underweight Play of the Week: Keenan Allen
TE Underweight Play of the Week: N/A
Potential Slate Edges: Austin Ekeler
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