K.J. Osborn, DFS Star?

Minnesota Vikings WR K.J. Osborn
Minnesota Vikings WR K.J. Osborn
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 18 - The traditional fantasy season may be over, but daily formats offer opportunities to play fantasy games in Week 18 and throughout the playoffs. So I'll continue to detail the players with the best and worst matchups and values relative to their DFS prices from now until February.

The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven)—home and road and dome and outside—the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.

You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.

Quarterbacks

Best Week 18 Matchups - Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
K.Cousins MIN 1 CHI Rk 10 9 9 7  
Pts   +1.7 0.0 +1.3 +3.0
J.Herbert LAC 0 LV Rk 4 2 2 2  
Pts   +1.7 0.0 +0.4 +2.1
M.Stafford LAR 1 SF Rk 10 8 8 8  
Pts   +1.8 0.0 +0.2 +2.0
J.Love GB 0 DET Rk 32 31 31 30  
Pts   +0.9 0.0 +1.0 +1.9
T.Hill NO 0 ATL Rk 6 4 4 4  
Pts   +1.4 0.0 +0.4 +1.8

Sean Mannion's 189-yard, one-touchdown performance in Lambeau last Sunday hardly approached Mike Glennon levels of futility. But it should cast Kirk Cousins' weekly averages of 265 and 2.0 in a better light, at least from a fantasy perspective. Cousins will make his return from a COVID absence to start in Week 18. And while his Bears opponent is a shaky plus quarterback matchup as the No. 1 increaser of passing touchdown rate at 37% but the No. 10 pass defense by DVOA, Cousins should benefit either way from a home game in the dome in Minneapolis. Domes increase home quarterback passing yards and touchdowns by 5% and 10% per attempt versus neutral weather. And much of Cousins' fantasy competition will have worse than neutral weather this week with sub-40-degree temperatures in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Buffalo, a chance of precipitation in the latter four, and predicted high winds in the latter two. With relatively easier conditions, Cousins jumps from 10th in my true-talent rankings to seventh at the position this week.

Best DraftKings Values: Taysom Hill ($1,000 underpriced at $6,200), Kirk Cousins ($800 underpriced at $6,100), Justin Herbert ($400 underpriced at $7,100)

Best FanDuel Values: Kirk Cousins ($700 underpriced at $7,200), Taysom Hill ($600 underpriced at $7,700), Matthew Stafford ($400 underpriced at $7,400)

Taysom Hill has made my top-10 rankings look silly his last two starts with unsurprisingly meager passing totals and just one total touchdown. But I don't buy the rationalization that Hill was less safe a fantasy option than some pocket passers. Hill has taken 11, 11, 11, and 12 carries his last four starts, comparable totals to a top-30 running back like Javonte Williams (51 total his last four games) before he even threw a pass. I think it was simple bad timing that Hill ran in his pair of touchdowns from the previous month in just one game in Week 14, and likely before your fantasy playoffs. If you can overcome that disappointment, I would happily play Hill in daily formats in Week 18. The Falcons' 30th-ranked run defense may not boost Hill's likely rushing production that way it would for a running back, but they are similarly bad in pass defense (26th) and boost passing touchdown rate by 13%.

Worst Week 18 Matchups - Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
Z.Wilson NYJ 0 BUF Rk 25 26 26 28  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -1.2 -1.6
T.Tagovailoa MIA 1 NE Rk 15 18 19 22  
Pts   -0.5 -0.1 -1.0 -1.6
P.Mahomes KC 0 DEN Rk 2 6 5 6  
Pts   -0.7 +0.1 -0.5 -1.1
J.Hurts PHI 1 DAL Rk 6 7 7 8  
Pts   -0.4 +0.2 -0.9 -1.1
D.Prescott DAL 0 PHI Rk 9 12 12 12  
Pts   -0.7 +0.1 -0.2 -0.8

Dak Prescott won't have precipitation and wind to deal with in Philadelphia this Saturday night. But he will have cold temperatures. And he'll have his own recent history of scoring 7.2 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road to overcome. Prescott's slump between Weeks 11 and 15 this season featured four of five games away from Dallas. The last two weeks, he has thrown four and three touchdowns at home even with some uneven play. It's reasonable to expect him to land somewhere between those two extremes this weekend, but the road start knocks Prescott outside of my true-talent top 10 to 12th among quarterbacks this week.

Worst DraftKings Values: Aaron Rodgers ($3,500 overpriced at $7,800), Dak Prescott ($400 overpriced at $6,800), Tom Brady ($300 overpriced at $7,500)

Worst FanDuel Values: Aaron Rodgers ($2,500 overpriced at $8,200), Carson Wentz ($300 overpriced at $7,200), Dak Prescott ($200 overpriced at $7,700)

Joe Burrow told reporters he does not plan to play this week, a decision that seems smart with his tendency to take a lot of hits and the Bengals' lack of realistic paths to dramatically improve or weaken their playoff seeding. Aaron Rodgers told reporters that he, Davante Adams, and the normal Packers starters plan to play. And although that might technically be true—Rodgers is famous for his transparency—I'm skeptical that any of the important Packers skill players will last more than a series or two. The team has clinched the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, so the only obvious incentive to play in Week 18 is to stay sharp for the playoffs. The top-seeded Packers played in Week 17 last season under Matt LaFleur, but they still needed the win to secure a first-round bye. It's a guess that they won't play in full this season, but one that seems prudent to make—at least in daily formats, where Rodgers maintains his typical salaries of $7,800 and $8,200 in DraftKings and FanDuel. There are plenty of other top quarterbacks to select this week.

Running Backs

Best Week 18 Matchups - Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
A.Dillon GB 0 DET Rk 19 18 18 13  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +1.5 +1.8
A.Ekeler LAC 0 LV Rk 5 4 4 3  
Pts   +0.8 0.0 +0.9 +1.7
D.Singletary BUF 1 NYJ Rk 13 13 15 11  
Pts   +0.1 -0.1 +1.1 +1.1
D.Foreman TEN 0 HOU Rk 17 17 17 16  
Pts   0.0 0.0 +1.0 +1.0
D.Freeman BAL 1 PIT Rk 13 13 13 15  
Pts   +0.1 +0.1 +0.4 +0.6

The Packers playing time question is complicated by a Lions matchup that is incredibly appealing from a fantasy perspective. The Lions rank 29th in pass defense and 31st in run defense DVOA and boost both passing and rushing touchdowns by 23% per attempt. That plus matchup may not persuade me to start Jordan Love with his uncertain playing time and an even more uncertain aptitude for NFL quarterbacking. But I'm ranking AJ Dillon as an RB2 with the boost and an assumption that he may play more than his recent 50% snap share if the team opts to rest starter Aaron Jones. Dillon isn't a backup in the way Love is, but a logjam at running back has limited the second-round sophomore to just 246 touches in his two seasons. Najee Harris has 366 touches just this season. It's a guess as well, but the Packers may want to offer their young runner this opportunity to see some work and develop. And even without the threat of the likely MVP under center, Dillon would likely do fine facing a porous Lions run defense.

Best DraftKings Values: Devonta Freeman ($1,300 underpriced at $5,200), Samaje Perine ($1,300 underpriced at $5,300), Jonathan Taylor ($1,100 underpriced at $9,300)

Best FanDuel Values: Devonta Freeman ($1,400 underpriced at $5,600), Samaje Perine ($600 underpriced at $6,500), Dare Ogunbowale ($500 underpriced at $5,600)

Samaje Perine is a safer bet to see an increased workload this weekend. Because even if the Bengals hadn't planned to sit their featured back like they do with Burrow, Joe Mixon landed on the COVID list and can't play on Sunday. Perine's $5,300 and $6,500 DFS salaries are season-highs, and he could fall short of his typical efficiency with Brandon Allen at quarterback and facing a Browns opponent that cuts rushing touchdown rate by 10% per attempt. But with a shot at 20 touches, Perine still pops as a leading daily value as just the 31st- and 24th-most expensive back in DraftKings and FanDuel this week.

Worst Week 18 Matchups - Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
C.Hubbard CAR 0 TB Rk 38 40 40 42  
Pts   -0.2 0.0 -0.5 -0.7
B.Scott PHI 1 DAL Rk 23 22 22 24  
Pts   +0.1 +0.1 -0.6 -0.4
S.Barkley NYG 1 WAS Rk 26 26 26 27  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.3 -0.4
D.Johnson MIA 1 NE Rk 28 27 27 28  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 -0.5 -0.4
D.Ogunbowale JAX 1 IND Rk 31 31 31 33  
Pts   0.0 0.0 -0.3 -0.3

Dare Ogunbowale continues to be a compelling daily option at his modest $5,200 and $5,600 salaries and with an increased workload with his teammates James Robinson and Carlos Hyde out for the season. But in a traditional format, Ogunbowale may not justify a flex start this weekend. For one, he saw his snap share slip from 82% in Week 16 to 66% in Week 17. With a week to prepare for life without Robinson, the Jaguars readied Ryquell Armstead to take a handful of snaps and touches. Further, the Jaguars are poised to face a Colts defense that is better against the run (third in DVOA) than the pass (14th) and cuts run plays by 10% per game and rushing touchdowns by 10% per carry because of it. Ogunbowale can't fall too far thanks to his receiving contributions. But I have him outside my top 30 at 33rd at the position this week.

Worst DraftKings Values: Aaron Jones ($2,400 overpriced at $7,300), Nick Chubb ($1,600 overpriced at $7,900), Saquon Barkley ($500 overpriced at $6,100)

Worst FanDuel Values: Aaron Jones ($1,600 overpriced at $7,300), Nick Chubb ($1,300 overpriced at $8,200), Rashaad Penny ($1,000 overpriced at $7,800)

Nick Chubb may go off against the Bengals if Brandon Allen can't sustain offense and maintain a neutral game script. But Chubb pops as a player to avoid in DFS this week in any case because Kareem Hunt may finally return to action. D'Ernest Johnson has played incredibly well in Hunt's absence, but he hasn't dominated the team's running back receptions the way that Hunt did. In Weeks 1 to 6 when Hunt was healthy, Chubb averaged a modest 1.3 targets per game. But since Week 7, Chubb has jumped to 2.4 targets per game. Expect one fewer catch for Chubb this week.

Rashaad Penny has enjoyed a career renaissance with 481 rushing yards and five touchdowns in his last four games. And while that success and heavy workload have jumped him into my true-talent top 20 this week, consider that a soft schedule likely contributed to that recent outburst. Penny ran for 137, 135, and 170 yards and scored all of his touchdowns against Texans, Bears, and Lions defenses ranked 24th, 23rd, and 31st in run defense DVOA. He only managed 39 yards and 3.6 yards per carry against the Rams ranked fourth in run defense, and at least on paper, he has as difficult an opponent this week in a Cardinals defense ranked fifth in run defense. Even in the dome in Arizona, the matchup drops Penny outside of my top 20 backs. I have him 21st at the position this week.

Wide Receivers

Best Week 18 Matchups - Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
C.Kupp LAR 1 SF Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +2.1 0.0 +0.3 +2.4
K.Osborn MIN 1 CHI Rk 20 16 15 11  
Pts   +1.1 0.0 +0.4 +1.5
B.Cooks HOU 1 TEN Rk 10 7 7 7  
Pts   +1.3 0.0 -0.1 +1.2
O.Beckham LAR 1 SF Rk 32 26 26 24  
Pts   +0.8 0.0 +0.2 +1.0
H.Renfrow LV 1 LAC Rk 17 12 12 14  
Pts   +1.0 0.0 -0.1 +0.9

I wasn't surprised to see Minnesota receiver K.J. Osborn increase his target share from 12.2% before teammate Adam Thielen's Week 12 ankle injury to 18.6% since. The Vikings have a top-heavy depth chart at the skill positions, and Osborn is their clear temporary No. 2 receiver even with his physical limitations. But I have been pleasantly surprised to see Osborn score a touchdown in four of his five games since his promotion and support that outburst with 2.7 expected touchdowns, a top-10 total at his position in that time. Maybe Kirk Cousins' passing offense deserves at least a little credit for Thielen's standing as one of the premiere touchdown-scorers at the position. And I like Osborn's odds to score again in Week 18. The Bears may rank 10th in pass defense DVOA, but they are a top-10 booster of touchdowns per target for No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. The entire Vikings passing offense should rebound nicely with Cousins back under center and back home in their dome in Minneapolis.

Best DraftKings Values: Cooper Kupp ($1,700 underpriced at $9,700), Cyril Grayson ($500 underpriced at $4,400), K.J. Osborn ($500 underpriced at $5,500)

Best FanDuel Values: Gabriel Davis ($800 underpriced at $5,200), Christian Kirk ($600 underpriced at $6,200), K.J. Osborn ($400 underpriced at $6,400)

Antonio Brown drew a lot of attention with his shirtless tirade last Sunday. But now that he is presumably finished with the team, there's room to consider the fantasy implications. Brown and injured receiver Chris Godwin averaged 8.9 and 9.3 targets in the games they played this season. Mike Evans is back and should reclaim his role as the team's No. 1 receiver, but there still should be plenty of available targets to allow another Bucs fantasy option to emerge. My money is on Cyril Grayson. After spending the bulk of the season on the practice squad, the former LSU track star provided some explosive plays in recent weeks, most notably his game-winning touchdown catch in Week 17. And Grayson easily set season highs with a 54% snap share and eight targets on Sunday, totals that already threaten Tyler Johnson's typical workloads and lap those of Scotty Miller, mostly a special teams player at this point. At just $4,400 in DraftKings, Grayson is a compelling tournament play for daily players who spend up at the other positions and want some inexpensive upside.

Worst Week 18 Matchups - Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
E.Moore NYJ 0 BUF Rk 34 40 39 43  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.6 -1.0
C.Lamb DAL 0 PHI Rk 9 13 13 16  
Pts   -0.5 -0.1 -0.3 -0.9
D.Moore CAR 0 TB Rk 16 21 21 22  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.5 -0.9
B.Berrios NYJ 0 BUF Rk 50 54 54 57  
Pts   -0.3 0.0 -0.5 -0.8
J.Waddle MIA 1 NE Rk 8 10 10 10  
Pts   -0.3 -0.1 -0.3 -0.7

Braxton Berrios may have won some deeper leagues with his eight catches and two touchdowns in Week 17. But Berrios' recent outburst seem to me to have followed the injuries of his teammates Jamison Crowder and Elijah Moore. Berrios had not exceeded a 32% snap share or three targets between Weeks 4 and 13 when both teammates were typically active. I would leave him on my fantasy benches if Crowder and Moore manage to play. But even if one or both can't, Berrios will face tougher sledding in wintry conditions in Buffalo. The Bills defense is a top-three cutter of both yards and touchdowns per target for No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. Frankly, I wouldn't even be thrilled to start Moore in fantasy, as exciting as he is as a potential future star. Assuming all three Jets receivers play, I have Berrios ranked 57th and Moore ranked just 43rd among wide receivers this week.

Worst DraftKings Values: Davante Adams ($4,900 overpriced at $9,400), Ja'Marr Chase ($4,800 overpriced at $8,300), Tee Higgins ($3,800 overpriced at $7,200)

Worst FanDuel Values: Davante Adams ($3,200 overpriced at $8,800), Ja'Marr Chase ($3,200 overpriced at $8,000), Tee Higgins ($2,100 overpriced at $6,800)

The Joes Burrow and Mixon are announced as out for Week 17, and while Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins will play, my guess is that they cap at the same series or two played as I assume of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Don't risk any of them in DFS this weekend.

Tight Ends

Best Week 18 Matchups - Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
D.Waller LV 1 LAC Rk 5 4 4 4  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +0.8 +1.1
D.Schultz DAL 0 PHI Rk 8 7 7 7  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.3 +0.5
Z.Ertz ARI 1 SEA Rk 10 10 10 9  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.3 +0.5
T.Higbee LAR 1 SF Rk 13 12 12 12  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 0.0 +0.2
P.Freiermuth PIT 0 BAL Rk 9 9 9 10  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 0.0 +0.2

The Chargers and Eagles defenses have been dueling for the most touchdowns allowed to tight ends this season. They're at 13 and 12, respectively, with just the Raiders at 10 joining them in the double digits. Even back-end TE2s are fantasy options in those plus matchups. But this week, the Chargers and Eagles face a pair of tight ends that fantasy players are eager to start independent of their matchups. Darren Waller is back in practice and hopefully poised to make his first start since Week 12. He may not see his typical top-two target share after so lengthy an absence, but the matchup bumps Waller from my No. 5 true-talent ranking to fourth at the position this week. Meanwhile, I had already improved Dalton Schultz to eighth in my true-talent rankings following his teammate Michael Gallup's season-ending ACL injury. But the Eagles matchup jumps him another spot to seventh at the position this week.

Best DraftKings Values: Dan Arnold ($900 underpriced at $2,500), Brevin Jordan ($700 underpriced at $2,700), John Bates ($500 underpriced at $3,000)

Best FanDuel Values: Pat Freiermuth ($500 underpriced at $5,200), John Bates ($400 underpriced at $4,600), Gerald Everett ($200 underpriced at $4,900)

If you'd prefer to save some salary at tight end, there are a few compelling options. Dan Arnold had a top-eight 19.7% target share in his last six healthy games in Jacksonville. And he could return from his sprained MCL and the COVID list this week and may even have the team's tight end targets all to himself with James O'Shaughnessy dealing with a hip injury. Rookie John Bates had out-snapped Ricky Seals-Jones for three straight weeks even before the veteran crashed into a cameraman on Sunday and suffered a concussion. And among the tight ends with 50 or more targets, Pat Freiermuth ranks third with 10.0 touchdowns and sixth with 7.1 expected touchdowns per 100 targets this season. And he'll draw an increasingly plus matchup against a Ravens defense that has lost a bunch of starters and slipped to 30th in pass defense DVOA.

Worst Week 18 Matchups - Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
M.Andrews BAL 1 PIT Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   -0.4 -0.1 -0.4 -0.9
R.Gronkowski TB 1 CAR Rk 4 5 5 5  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.4 -0.8
M.Gesicki MIA 1 NE Rk 12 13 13 14  
Pts   -0.3 0.0 -0.4 -0.7
T.Kelce KC 0 DEN Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 -1.0 -0.7
G.Everett SEA 0 ARI Rk 17 17 17 17  
Pts   0.0 0.0 -0.3 -0.3

Several of the top tight end options face difficult matchups this week. And while difficult defenses won't cause anyone to bench Mark Andrews, Rob Gronkowski, or Travis Kelce, they could move the needle for Mike Gesicki. Gesicki earns his back-end TE1 value thanks to catches and yards more than touchdowns. His 6.8 targets per game are top-eight at the position, but he has just two touchdowns and 4.0 expected touchdowns all season. That skew could be a bad fit for a Patriots defense that is neutral for tight end touchdown rate but is the No. 1 cutter of tight end catch rate and yards per target at 19% and 33%. The matchup makes Gesicki a TE2 for me this week.

Worst DraftKings Values: Mike Gesicki ($1,200 overpriced at $5,100), C.J. Uzomah ($600 overpriced at $3,500), James O'Shaughnessy ($100 overpriced at $3,200)

Worst FanDuel Values: C.J. Uzomah ($600 overpriced at $5,100), Mike Gesicki ($500 overpriced at $5,700), James O'Shaughnessy ($300 overpriced at $5,000)

I'm not sure where the Bengals would draw their line for players they prefer to rest in Week 18. C.J. Uzomah seems to me to be closer to the play side than, say, Ja'Marr Chase or Tee Higgins. But the Bengals do have a capable tight end alternative at Drew Sample, and so I wouldn't risk starting Uzomah at his typical $3,500 and $5,100 DFS salaries.

Comments

2 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2022, 8:05pm

1 Twosome Hill

Hill and the Saints play against the Falcons not Jets

2 Re: Hill

In reply to by dlouytr

Yes they do, thanks for letting me know. It's updated, and luckily the Falcons defense is also bad.