*Editor's Note: Each Thursday leading into the NFL games, contributing writer Jonathan Auping will break down a few things to consider as fantasy owners set their weekly lineups, including players to start or sit, along with trends to remember. Whether your game is the traditional fantasy league or the daily games from DraftKings, this weekly feature should help you get prepared for the fantasy weekend. *
Make the Smart Plays:
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks, (DraftKings Salary $5,500)
The good news is that Jimmy Graham seems to have returned to his almost-elite tight end potential that he exhibited in his prime years in New Orleans, and he's emerged as one of Russell Wilson's favorite targets—he's only eight targets behind Doug Baldwin for most thrown to player on Seattle. The bad news is that the Seahawks' offensive line struggles to keep Wilson upright long enough to throw the ball.
But as long as Wilson is pressured Graham will serve as his security blanket, which gives him a very high upside under point per reception rules (which DraftKings adheres to). When the Seahawks played Carolina last year Graham hauled in eight catches for 140 yards.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans, (DraftKings Salary $6,000)
The theme this week is taking advantage of lowered salaries. The downside of Hopkins is that he is playing with a quarterback who has been just borderline-competent in his best games this season. There's no getting around the risk that Brock Osweiler presents for playing Hopkins.
But $6,000 is the lowest Hopkins' salary has been in any game over the past two seasons. So you're essentially drafting one of the most talented receivers in the entire league against a dismal Packers' defense that doesn't have a decent cornerback to put on him. It's a risk, but winners of big DraftKings tournaments usually score a payoff on similar risks.
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams, (DraftKings Salary $5,000)
Gurley's DraftKings salary dropped $700 from last week, which is drastic considering the Rams looked more offensively competent than they have in over a month. He only managed 50 yards on the ground, but quarterback Jared Goff found him for a 31-yard reception. He figures to keep getting looks in the passing game with Goff at quarterback, which means Gurley will be involved regardless of the game situation.
Gurley is likely to reach the average production for his price tag, and based on usage alone, he has a high ceiling against a less than intimidating New England defense.
Tom Brady, (DraftKings Salary $7,500)
The secret's out: the Rams' defense isn't nearly as good as its talent might have suggested coming into the season. Last week, Drew Brees had a field day against the Rams, throwing for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Carson Palmer and Jameis Winston each went for over 300 yards on the Rams as well.
In three career games against the Rams Brady has thrown seven touchdowns and just two interceptions with an average quarterback rating of 104.4. He's only thrown one interception all season. There really is no convincing evidence that would suggest Brady is going to struggle at home this week.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles, (DraftKings Salary $5,700)
Matthews is a perfectly average receiver on a team that doesn't move the ball through the air. Only Buffalo, San Francisco, and Houston have less passing yards on the season than Philadelphia. Matthews has a low ceiling and a low floor. You play him with the hopes that he'll produce an average performance, and I just don't see the appeal of that unless his salary shrinks down another $1,000 or so.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings, (DraftKings Salary $3,900)
I don't expect the Vikings to put up much of a fight against the Cowboys, but Dallas' passing defense is vulnerable and Sam Bradford will be throwing a lot of passes if his team falls behind early. Patterson is the best value of any of the Vikings' receivers, especially with Stefon Diggs coming off of a knee injury. Patterson also has the added value of being given periodic rush attempts.
The Redskins wrote the formula for racking up garbage time stats on a Cowboys' defense almost allowed enough of them to the point of a Washington comeback. Even if Dallas is up 30-13 in the fourth quarter it still leaves plenty of opportunity for Patterson to reel in first down catches.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
(Season Record: 10-2)
(Off the Board: Bengals, Ravens, Chiefs, Redskins, Steelers, Bills, Packers, Vikings, Dolphins, Panthers, Cowboys, Titans)
New England Patriots over the Los Angeles Rams
The Patriots aren't losing to the Rams at home. This feels a bit like when a college football team from a Power Five conference plays a small or traditionally unsuccessful football program. Even if the Rams play well by their standards, it's hard to imagine them winning a close game in the fourth quarter against New England. And that said, I wouldn't imagine this game being particularly close.