Receiver plays are a week-to-week thought process in NFL DFS due to a variety of outside factors impacting receiver performance. One way to predict who will break out is by examining their secondary opponents for that individual game. Every week of the season, Sam Smith will take a look at advantageous matchups for receivers against vulnerable secondaries, whether it be schematic advantage or merely a weaker cornerback head up on a star receiver. Let’s get into some NFL Matchups and give out some Week 17 NFL DFS picks for your daily fantasy football lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Week 17 DraftKings + FanDuel NFL DFS Picks: WR-CB Matchups
T.Y. Hilton vs. Jaguars (FanDuel)
At this point in the season, you should know who the targetable defenses are: Jaguars, Lions, Raiders, Texans, Panthers, Jets, Cowboys, most notably. At least two of those three have made an appearance in pretty much every week of this column.
The Jaguars are probably my most frequent collaborators, and for myriad reasons. Most importantly, their pass coverage is terrible, but they are also done no favors by a subpar pass rush. Those two factors have combined to create the second-worst pass defense by DVOA and the sixth-worst in terms of yards passing allowed, all while seeing the eighth-fewest pass attempts. On top of that, Jacksonville is a relatively pass-happy offense due simply to being the NFL’s worst team. So though they are near the bottom of the league in yards and points, they still throw the ball seventh most, therefore creating slower games and subsequently benefiting the passing games of their opponents. That little edge makes them a hair more targetable than Detroit on a week-to-week basis (though Detroit is also to be featured today).
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Looming larger is the consideration for how involved the Colts passing game, and specifically T.Y. Hilton, will be on Sunday. While Hilton has been much more involved and reliable in recent weeks, his latest performance was his worst since Week 11 (three catches, 60 yards on seven targets in Week 16). The weeks immediately prior give us a bit more reason to like Hilton since his price is more upper-tier WR2 on FanDuel than lower WR1, but doubt would still be understandable. That is why the matchup with Jacksonville is more important for me this week, as Hilton could conceivably need just two or three big catches to pay off against one of the more exploitable pass defenses. He has strong ceiling potential, though his floor may be on the lower end of top-20 receivers this week.
Hilton is not an overly strong value this week in terms of his points-per-dollar projection — Awesemo likes him 17th most among receivers on FanDuel, and on DraftKings he does not factor. However, there is something to be said about the wildly disparate motivations of the two teams. The Jaguars, while they have the No. 1 pick locked up, are most likely in a trial week for many of their young players, and they do not have much motivation to do anything but see what they have with some depth pieces. Indianapolis, on the other hand, is on the outside looking into the AFC playoff picture. They need to win and one of the Browns, Titans, Ravens and Dolphins to lose to make it. As such, I would expect them to go all out with their offense until the game is 100% in hand.
Of course, that could happen by quarter 3, but Hilton is doing enough downfield of late to think he could make a few lineups this week. He is a bit of a gamble, but circumstances are strongly working in Hilton’s favor.
Justin Jefferson vs. Detroit Lions
From a pure defensive misery perspective, the Lions are poised to carry the belt for worst passing defense into 2021. With meaningful games of their season over with, they will in essence finish the season with the league’s worst pass DVOA and PFF coverage grade, and bottom-three marks in yards and touchdowns passing allowed. No matter their opponent, they have been on the shortlist of fantasy-exploitable defenses this season.
It is anyone’s guess how these lost-cause teams are feeling entering this week. There is not much benefit coming from either a Lions or a Vikings win beyond moral victories and scouting, but you never know with Mike Zimmer. He made a point of calling out his defense last week, and the word “malaise” has never once been used to describe Zimmer’s approach to an NFL game. Maybe this is not the best motivation since it hurts their draft stock, but my guess would be the Vikings are desperate to avoid the NFC North basement. While technically speaking a loss would place them ahead of Detroit in the division standings, they would still be tied for last at 6-10. My assumption is that is enough of a motivator to keep the Vikings offense in full swing, even in a game that means nothing but a possible five-slot swing in the 2021 draft order.
Another side story worth monitoring is Justin Jefferson‘s Rookie of the Year campaign. While it may seem like Justin Herbert has the award sewn up given his record-setting production at a premium position, a big game from Jefferson could throw a wrench into the discussion. Plus, Jefferson is a mere 36 yards receiving away from Randy Moss‘ ridiculous mark of 1,313 in his 1998 rookie season, so conceivably the Vikings could look to force the issue with Jefferson to boost his award campaign.
One other note: This is a bit of a crummy thing to consider for fantasy purposes, but Dalvin Cook is sitting out the final game of the season. So odds are that the Vikings, if they are indeed playing to win, will run their offense more through Kirk Cousins and the passing game than usual. And Jefferson leads the Vikings in targets, catches and yards (though Adam Thielen missed a game), so any pass-heavy game script would likely point Jefferson’s way. Like Hilton, he is a bit more viable on FanDuel since value is a bit more spread out there, but Awesemo likes him fine on DraftKings as well. On either site, his ownership is trending in the 10-15% range, but he also has as solid a floor-ceiling combo as any top-end receiver in Week 17.
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