Turkey Targets: Thanksgiving DFS Spotlight

Turkey Targets: Thanksgiving DFS Spotlight

By Nathan Smith
The purpose of this article is to break down each Thanksgiving NFL game from a DFS perspective. Strategies and player recommendations are given, in accordance with DraftKings strategy and player pricing. This isn’t a player by player pick column, but rather a strategy article designed to ignite your thinking and research process for this three game Thanksgiving slate. 

Thanksgiving, NFL, and DFS: what more could we ask for? Everyone has many different ways of celebrating this classic American holiday, but differences aside, one thing most people all seem to love is NFL football. I am certainly thankful to have it as a core part of the day long celebration. As is tradition, 2017 brings us a great trio of games that will air on national television back to back to back. Before we get started breaking down the action, here’s how the three game slate shapes up:

  • Minnesota Vikings (8-2) @ Detroit Lions (6-4)
    • 12:30 PM Eastern on FOX
  • Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
    • 4:30 PM Eastern on CBS
  • New York Giants (2-8) @ Washington Redskins (4-6)
    • 8:30 PM Eastern on NBC

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 45, with the Vikings being favored by 3 points. This indicates that Las Vegas expects the Vikings to win this game, but they also expect the Lions to play well in front of their home crowd.

Weather & Injuries

This game will be played inside the dome setting of Ford Field, meaning we don’t have to worry about any weather concerns. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about injuries. The Vikings are dealing with injury concern for two key defensive stars in Xavier Rhodes and Everson Griffin. On the flip side, the Lions are unsure if stud DE Ziggy Ansah will be able to suit up. Minnesota’s injury report is quite extensive, although many players appear closer to probable than doubtful. Here’s how both teams look as of now:

  • QB Sam Bradford (OUT)
  • RB Dalvin Cook (OUT)
  • OT Mike Remmurs (Questionable)
    • Remmurs appears closer to doubtful with a concussion.
  • CB Xavier Rhodes (Questionable)
    • Rhodes is one of the games elite cornerbacks. It would be a devastating blow to the Vikings if he was ruled out, but he appears closer to probable according to Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
  • CB Mackensie Alexander (Questionable)
  • S Andrew Sendejo (Questionable)
    • Sendejo and Rhodes injuries are certainly big concerns for Minnesota. Much of the secondary is banged up, with four players appearing on the injury report.
  • S Anthony Harris (Questionable)
  • DE Everson Griffin (Questionable)
    • Griffin is the Vikings best pass rusher, playing at an all pro level. If he is unable to go, Lions’ QB Matt Stafford will have more time in the pocket. 
  • DE Brian Robison (Questionable)
    • If Griffin and/or Robison miss this game, it’s great news for the Lions’ passing attack. 
  • LB Emmanuel Lamur (Questionable)
  • DE Ziggy Ansah (Questionable)
    • The most significant injury for Detroit, as Ansah deals with a back injury. His absence would not be good news for the Lions defense.
  • CB/KR Jamal Agnew (Questionable)
    • A knee injury has Agnew looking closer to doubtful for this game.
  • RB Dwayne Washington (Questionable)
    • Not a very significant injury as Washington is buried on the RB depth chart.

Game Breakdown

This NFC North showdown features the first place Vikings traveling to the Motor City, to take on the Lions, who are also in playoff contention. The Lions always host a game on Thanksgiving. After losing every Thanksgiving game from 2004-2011, Detroit has rebounded to win four straight, with victories over the Bears, Packers, Eagles, and Vikings. Last year brought us a low scoring affair, with the Lions hanging on for a 16-13 victory over the Vikings. These teams matched up again in week 4 of this season, with Detroit winning 14-7. Since both teams tend to struggle defending the middle of the field, I break down which players can take advantage of this and more.

The main focus for me in this game is on the wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups on both teams. In three career games against the Vikings, Lions WR Marvin Jones has had subpar performances to say the least. He has only converted 7 of 21 targets, turning that into 101 yards with no touchdowns. Jones lackluster performances can be almost exclusively attributed to Minnesota CB Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks, with the ability to shut down even the most elite receivers in the game. Rhodes is questionable for this game, but looks to be on track to play. As long as he is healthy, I expect him to continue his domination over Marvin Jones.

I have no interest in playing Marvin Jones nor Eric Ebron. Jones faces the aforementioned tough matchup and Ebron specializes in dropping passes and underachieving. With two Lions pass catchers eliminated from my player pool, my focus shifts to the remaining ones. If the Lions are going to move the ball successfully—which I think they will—then it will likely mean Golden Tate and/or one of the running backs will perform well. The Vikings are well aware of his ability, as Tate burned them badly last year. Despite the Vikings efforts, I don’t expect them to be able to contain Tate in the slot. He seems to always do his best when the lights are shining. In big time games and national television appearances, Tate usually elevates a game to another level. Golden Tate is a great play in my eyes.

Adam Thielen has had one of the best fantasy seasons of any wide receiver in the NFL. With at least 5 catches in every game so far, Thielen has shown he has a high floor, and as well as great upside. Lions cornerback Darius Slay may not be on the same level as Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes, but Slay is still very good in his own right. In week 4, he didn’t shadow a particular receiver, but indications are he may shadow WR Stefon Diggs this week. While that presents a tough matchup for Diggs, it brings an even tougher matchup for Darius Slay. There is no reason to be scared of playing Diggs here or thinking he can’t bounce back. It just comes down to which WR the Lions choose to treat as the #1 threat. Throughout the last two seasons, the Lions have had a propensity to shutdown or at least limit the opposing team’s #1 wideout. If you’re asking yourself what that means for the #2 WR, you’re on the right track. The Steelers @ Lions game in week 8 was a perfect example of how this plays out. All-world receiver Antonio Brown was limited to only 5 catches for 70 yards. On the flip side, #2 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster went off, turning 7 catches into 193 yards and a touchdown. The takeaway from this of course, is that whoever the Lions decide to treat as the #2 WR has a great chance to do well in this game. The Lions are also known to struggle against receivers over the middle of the field, which certainly sets up well for Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. The best way to attack this situation is to follow beat writers and other reports leading up to the game, to see if there is any indication of who, if anybody, CB Darius Slay will shadow. If you’re comfortable making more lineups, you can also alternate Diggs and Thielen with a 1v1 swap in your lineups, to ensure that neither one of them can burn you.

Kyle Rudolph is in play for me at tight end, as my interest in playing him is growing throughout the week. In the backfield, the Vikings feature RBs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. Murray is the thunderous between the tackles runner, with McKinnon playing more of a scat back role. In a GPP setting, I find myself wanting to play McKinnon more than Murray. After last week’s two touchdown performance, many people will gravitate towards Murray, inflating his ownership. I don’t think he is necessarily a great play, but he can turn an average game into a good one due to his prominent goal line role. With McKinnon’s ability to break off a big play touchdown at any time, I would rather take a shot on him. While it is far from guaranteed that McKinnon will do so, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he rushed for a 50+ yard touchdown. With rookie Dalvin Cook out of the mix with an injury, McKinnon has also seen more usage in both the running game and passing game. With three games over 25 fantasy points, it is clear that his expanded role, and game breaking upside make him a phenomenal play on Thursday.

The Lions backfield is made up of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Neither player has broken out this year, but both are versatile and talented enough to do so with enough usage. This situation is close to a toss up in my eyes. At 3900 and 3600 respectively, there is absolutely a ton of merit to rostering either player. Dig deep on this game if you want to find an edge between the two players. Either one of them could very well pay of their salary with ease, and add some flexibility to your salary cap while they’re at it.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 48. It is a Pick Em game, meaning no team is favored as the line is even. Las Vegas is indicating that they expect the score to be extremely close throughout this game, with neither team having the true upper hand on paper. One more takeaway is that this game is projected to be higher scoring than the other two contests, although all three games have similar totals.

Weather & Injuries

AT&T Stadium features a state of the art retractable roof. They will likely have it closed on Thursday, but If they do opt to have it open, there shouldn’t be any concern. The forecast has low, almost non existent winds and a temperature in the mid-60s. Furthermore, no rain is expected, so we can completely ignore weather conditions in the first two games. More of a concern will be injuries, as Ezekiel Elliot (suspension) isn’t the only notable Cowboy set to miss this game.

  • OT Joe Barksdale (Questionable)
    • With three offensive lineman listed as questionable, the effectiveness of the Chargers running game could be limited. Melvin Gordon is far and away the highest priced RB on this slate, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
  • OT Russell Okung (Questionable)
  • C Spencer Pulley (Questionable)
  • WR/PR Travis Benjamin (Questionable)
    • Benjamin is a streaky inconsistent player. He has deep threat home run ability, and is a threat to return a punt for a touchdown at any time, when healthy. 
  • WR Mike Williams (Questionable)
    • Williams role has steadily increased in the Chargers passing game. If he were to miss this game, it would be a big upgrade for the other Chargers WRs.
  • DT Corey Luiget (Questionable)
  • LB James Onwuala (Questionable)
  • RB Ezekiel Elliot (OUT—suspension)
    • The Cowboys have featured a running back by committee approach since Zeke’s suspension actually started. Alfred Morris is the key beneficiary, with Rod Smith contributing in the passing game. Many people fail to realize that Darren McFadden‘s role is virtually non-existent, as he continues to be a healthy scratch in almost every game.
  • OT La’el Collins (Questionable)
  • OT Tyron Smith (Questionable)
    • The combination of Zeke being out, along with these two offensive lineman being questionable does not bode well for the Cowboys offense. 
  • LB Sean Lee (OUT)
    • Lee is the heart and soul of the Dallas defense. They play much, much worse when he is absent from the lineup. 
  • LB Anthony Hitchens (OUT)
  • DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Questionable)
  • DT Maliek Collins (Questionable)
  • K Dan Bailey (Questionable)
    • Mike Nugent will be the kicker for Dallas if Bailey misses the game. 

Game Breakdown

Like the Lions, the Cowboys always host a game on Thanksgiving. Dallas sports a 6-4 record in their last ten turkey day showdowns, including a 31-26 victory over the Redskins last season. This time around, a couple elements have changed as Dallas won’t have the luxury of relying on star running back Ezekiel Elliot, like they did last year. They will be facing an AFC foe in the Chargers, who unlike last year, are fairly healthy for the most part.

On this three game slate, running back is clearly the weakest position, with virtually no elite talent to speak of. Melvin Gordon is nearly $3000 more expensive than the next closest running back, which will drastically inflate his ownership. Inevitably, your roster construction on this slate will revolve around whether you or not you roster Gordon. DFS expert JM Tholine broke down the pros and cons of playing Melvin Gordon in his weekly article featured on RotoGrinders. I agreed with his take on the situation, and I’ll also break down two different ways to look at this scenario from a game theory perspective. Both outcomes offering a contrasting type of strategy. You’ll have to dig deep to find out which type of thinking, and which one of strategies you want to employ.

  1. Strategy #1: You lock in Melvin Gordon. The reality of a three game slate is that raw points matter. If Melvin Gordon doesn’t beat his price tag and go for 3X or 4X his salary, you will still be fine as long as he doesn’t totally bust. No other running back offers as safe a floor as Gordon does, or as high of a ceiling as he does. The Cowboys are extremely banged up on defense, and have no chance to stop the Chargers rushing attack. With Ezekiel Elliot out with a suspension, Dallas won’t be able to dominate time of possession like they normally do. This creates more opportunities and more potential carries for Gordon. Lock and load Melvin Gordon into 100% of your lineups and don’t think twice about it. Even if he only scores 15-20 points, it will still be worth it, as long as multiple low priced RBs don’t go off. If you don’t roster Gordon, and he goes off, you might as well consider your lineups dead. In that scenario, you simply won’t have a chance to do well on this slate. Again, if Gordon somehow doesn’t do very well, you can argue that his poor performance won’t even hurt you too badly, as as much as 70% of the field could roster him as well. It is absolutely plausible for him to score under 20 points and not kill your lineups.
  2. Strategy #2: You fade Melvin Gordon. No matter how much of a lock a player appears to be, there is always a set of circumstances that can enable them to fail. Gordon will be at least 50% owned, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the highest owned player on the slate. With Gordon being a volume dependent player, he will need to see a big workload in order to be most effective. The Chargers have several ways they can put points on the board without overly relying on Gordon. Quarterback Philip Rivers has no problem slinging the ball all over the field and feeding his wide receivers and tight ends. Dallas could sell out to stop the run, which would free Rivers to go into gun-slinger mode. As we saw last week, the Chargers defense is also capable of scoring on their own. If their dominant pass rush is able to force Dak Prescott and company into some turnovers, they could end up with yet another pick six or fumble return touchdown. Further limiting Gordon, is the emergence of rookie handcuff Austin Ekeler. Ekeler played on only 7% fewer offensive snaps in week 11 compared to Gordon. The Los Angeles coaching staff knows that Gordon is injury prone, and they won’t force him to be the bell cow. If Ekeler vultures a touchdown and/or a few catches here and there, we could see Gordon limited to 10-15 fantasy points or fewer. When you also add in the injury risk, there is a ton of merit to being underweight compared to the field on Melvin Gordon. In the event that he busts and scores for example 8 points, you will have a significant advantage on your competition by not rostering him.

Again, there are two different strategies when it comes to rostering Melvin Gordon. If you are playing cash games, don’t even consider fading him for a single second. The same goes for head to head games, as there is absolutely no upside to it. However, when it comes to large field GPP tournaments (which are a much better bet to play on this short slate), you will have to choose between strategy 1 and strategy 2. Some DFS players don’t like to heavily rely on game theory, but the reality of this slate is that you must do so in order to be successful.

Los Angeles has not featured either of their tight ends very regularly over the past few weeks, or this season in general. Antonio Gates is doing his best to prove to everyone that  he’s the slowest skill position player in the NFL, and at this point he isn’t even capable of stringing together a few catches and a short touchdown. Unless you like giving money away, do not play Gates. Hunter Henry‘s stat lines have been just as bad as Gates recently. The difference here is Henry actually has talent. Obviously, Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, but at this stage of his career, he is miles and miles behind the skillset of Hunter Henry. Henry can be considered for large field tournaments, but you might be doing yourself a favor if you look elsewhere as Henry doesn’t have a large enough role in this offense at this current point in time.

My main interests from the Chargers offense will come from the passing game. Austin Ekeler could see a decent amount of targets and usage out of the backfield. With over 40 fantasy points in his last two games, 4200 seems like a bargain for the un-drafted rookie out of Western State. I wish playing him was a little bit more sneaky than it actually is, as I have the feeling that many people have noticed his increased role as of late. A possible way to be even more contrarian is to play both Gordon and Ekeler in your lineups, as they could both easily see double digit touches. As far as the wide receivers, there is plenty of reason to be intrigued here. WR Keenan Allen is coming off his best game of the season as he smashed the Bills for 12 catches, 159 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He could once again feast this week, as there is nobody in the Dallas secondary that can truly contain him. As we have seen in his career, Allen is absolutely capable of stringing together consecutive huge performances, as he and Rivers are very capable of getting hot together. In week 11, Tyrell Williams actually led the team in snaps played, but he hasn’t really had a good game this year other than in week 4, when he scored over 25 fantasy points. That was more of an outlier than a trend, thanks to Williams’ 75 yard touchdown against the Eagles. In this matchup in Dallas, Williams is in play as a large field tournament play. If you’re fading Melvin Gordon, you are likely reasoning that production will come from other places on the Chargers offense. If you’re making multiple GPP lineups, its worth taking a shot on ‘Tyrell The Gazelle’. Travis Benjamin is a speedy big play threat who is nursing an abdomen injury. If he plays this week, he is likely to be limited due to the injury. Further cementing his lack of upside is his unusually low snap count of 21 in last week’s game. Rookie Mike Williams seems to be slowly working his way up the depth chart. Coming out of Clemson, there was little doubt about Williams talent level, as the Chargers thought highly enough of him to take him with the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft. As long as William’s nagging knee injury isn’t bothering him too much, he has a good chance to find the end zone or at least rack up enough targets to be productive. With a 6’3″ frame and impressive playmaking skills, Williams has a solid chance to be a matchup problem for cornerbacks in the NFL for years to come. On Thanksgiving, the Chargers passing attack will come down to the health of Benjamin and Mike Williams, as well as the Cowboys ability—or lack thereof— to limit Keenan Allen. There is a good chance that the winning GPP lineup in tournaments has a Chargers offensive player other than, or in addition to Melvin Gordon.

The Cowboys offense has a considerably worse DFS outlook this week, despite this game being a pick ’em game. With questions about the status of multiple starters on the offensive line as well as the guaranteed absence of Zeke Elliot, the Cowboys rushing attack is no longer formidable. Running back Alfred Morris is certainly in play, based on volume alone, but it’s hard to get overly excited about the idea of playing him. It is worth noting that the Chargers defense is much worse against the run than the pass, which does set up well for Morris. However, his upside is limited considering that Dallas has leaned on a running back by committee approach since Elliot’s suspension kicked in. RBs Rod Smith and Keith Smith contribute to this backfield as well, but quite frankly, neither are very good players and don’t have enough volume or upside to be anything more than large field GPP shots in the dark.

Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled immensely last week against the Eagles, as he actually finished with negative fantasy points. Prescott will once again have the burden of carrying the offense this week as he will not only be the key cog to the passing attack, but also the run game as well. Prescott has been extremely effective in his young career, but almost all of his success has come with running mate Ezekiel Elliot by his side. With Elliot gone for a few more weeks, defenses have decided to key in on stopping the Prescott to Dez Bryant connection. Can you blame them? Bryant seems to be the only player on the Cowboys offense at this point that is talented enough to take over a game by himself. Los Angeles will be more than happy to greet him with stud cover cornerback Casey Hayward, as the Chargers try to force the Cowboys to rely on other receivers. With the possibility of Dallas being down two of their offensive lineman, the Chargers relentless pass rush can really pin their ears back and get after Prescott. With L.A. defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa in his face all afternoon, Prescott may not have time to go through his full progression, further limiting the chance he has to connect with Bryant over the top. If this predicted outcome does indeed play out, a couple different DFS plays stand out to me. The Chargers defense is the obvious and surefire one, as they come into this game on fire, and with favorable circumstances. Los Angeles was able to harass Bills rookie QB Nathan Peterman to the tune of 5—yes, 5— interceptions last week in the first half—yes you read that right—in the first half alone. Dallas pass catchers other than Bryant have a chance to be good value plays. WR Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are far from guaranteed to have successful afternoons, but along with veteran TE Jason Witten, they all certainly have a chance to put together a decent PPR stat line. The Cowboys completing quick passes on shorter routes to these three seems much more plausible than Dez Bryant burning through the secondary all afternoon. After all, the Dallas productive has to come from somewhere. Dak Prescott can still be considered as a contrarian play, as Dallas will surely be amped up for this Thanksgiving game in front of their home crowd. While Prescott has looked bad without Elliot, he is far from a bad quarterback. If you agree with me that the Dallas offense will continue to struggle, you may have also arrived at the conclusion that the Chargers defense is indeed a good play. Paired together with Melvin Gordon, this is an elite correlation play on this 3 game slate.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 45, with the Redskins favored by 7.5 points. This is the largest spread on the 3 game slate and it indicates that Las Vegas expects the Redskins to easily defeat the rival G-Men.

Weather & Injuries

It is expected to be a clear night with little cloud cover and no precipitation in the forecast. Temperatures should start in the forties and finish in the high thirties by the end of the game. This is the only game played outside on Thanksgiving, but thankfully the weather doesn’t appear to be much of a concern, with wind also not playing much of a factor. On the injury front, both teams have significant problems that will have a huge impact on this game.

  • OL D.J. Fluker (OUT)
  • OL Justin Pugh (OUT)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (OUT)
  • LB Calvin Munson (Doubtful)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (Questionable)
  • LB Kelvin Shepard (Questionable)
    • The Giants are notably banged up at linebacker, as well as the offensive and defensive line, and wide receiver. This will have a huge impact on how the Redskins’ offense operates. 
  • DE Olivier Vernon (Questionable)
  • DT Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison (Questionable)
    • Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon are two of the Giants most important lineman. One or both of them missing this game would be great news for the Washington run game and passing game. 
  • WR Odell Beckham (OUT)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (OUT)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Questionable)
    • Beckham and Marshall have been out for a while while Shepard has missed some time as well. The Oklahoma product looks like he will miss this game as well, which completely drains the Giants receiving core of any legitimate talent. 
  • LS Zak DeOssie (Questionable)
  • The Redskins injury report is so unbelievably lengthy that they were actually unable to field a full practice this week. They merely did walk throughs, as they are missing so many players that its almost unheard of. To view the Redskins full injury report, simply click here.
  • The most notable injuries for the Redskins are on offense with three of their four best pass catchers on the shelf:

Game Breakdown

These NFC East rivals clash yet again, with both teams coming in extremely banged up. This entire game feels like it is dictated by injuries, as added usage will have to be accounted for amongst players filling in. Both teams are terrible at defending tight ends, which is where my initial focus went to when researching this game.

As the center of the Giants passing attack is rookie tight end Evan Engram. With the top three Giants receivers ruled out with injury, QB Eli Manning has no choice but to heavily target Engram. With a huge workload and a plus matchup, Engram should have a nice bounce back game on Thanksgiving. Engram did have his worst game of the year last week, as New York grinded out a 12-9 victory over the Chiefs. A combination of intense wind, as well as the Chiefs defensive focus limited Engram to only 1 catch. It is much less likely the Redskins are able to contain him this week, as they have notably been torched by tight ends all season. If you think the Redskins will actually be able to halt Engram, then you might want to take a shot in the dark on a guy like WR Roger Lewis or RB Shane Vereen.

The New York player that stands out as most appealing to me is RB Orleans Darkwa. His nickname is literally “The Dark Horse”. A sign that he’s a dark horse candidate to perform really well on Thanksgiving? Quite possibly so. I will have a decent amount of exposure to Darkwa in tournaments, as the Giants have to rely on somebody. With a struggling and depleted passing attack, the Giants might as well try to take some time off the clock and establish the running game against the rival Redskins. In the likely event the Redskins are leading throughout part or most of the game, running the ball won’t be nearly as optimal for Big Blue.

The Redskins backfield did have one of the best receiving RBs in all of the NFL. That was, until last week when Chris Thompson went down with an injury, and was ultimately placed on Injured Reserve. With Thompson now joining fellow RB Rob Kelley on the injury list, the backfield is firmly in the possession of Oklahoma product Samaje Perine. Perine himself is questionable with a finger issue, but should be able to suit up. He has a great chance to succeed with an inevitable usage increase, due to the now non-existent depth in the Redskins’ backfield. The alternate perspective on Perine is that he will likely be extremely high owned on Thursday, and we do want a fair amount of lineup differentiation. It is crucial to identify which players are ‘good chalk’ and which players are ‘bad chalk’. If the Redskins do plan on leaning more on the passing game, Perine could fail to to put up big numbers, and instead be more of chains mover with low upside. Despite this possibility, I find it to be more likely that he does indeed have a fairly decent role. As far as dark horse player emerging with value from this backfield, its a long shot, but you can get risky and roster Byron Marshall if you’re feeling froggy. He was recently signed from the Eagles practice squad, and has somewhat of a chance to step into a poor man’s Chris Thompson role, as Perine is not very adept as a pass catcher.

The Redskins have the highest projected point total of any of the six teams on this slate. Not only is Kirk Cousins the highest priced quarterback on this slate, but he will will probably be the highest owned QB as well. While Cousins very easily score 20-30 points, the tournament player in me wants to fade him, save 1100 and play a guy like Lions QB Matt Stafford. I definitely won’t be fading Cousins, but I’ll have a large chunk of lineups in which I go contrarian at QB and find another option. As DFS expert Al Zeidenfield noted earlier this week, you can get exposure to the Washington passing attack without necessarily playing Kirk Cousins. Cousins won’t be able to rely on RB Chris Thompson, WR Terrelle Pryor, or TE Jordan Reed in this game. Increased usage is guaranteed to be spread around to other receivers, as the Redskins can’t put their whole game plan on the shoulders of Samaje Perine.

The Washington receiving core is now mainly made up of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Ryan Grant. Tight end Vernon Davis also figures to be heavily featured, with backup TEs Niles Paul and Jeremy Sprinkle having smaller roles. While Paul and Sprinkle are salary saving GPP long shots, my main interest comes from starting tight end Vernon Davis and the other three Redskins wide receivers. I will be playing not only Crowder, but also Doctson and Grant. I will likely have several different combinations of them as well, as it is very hard to predict the exact production for all three receivers. With injuries playing such a huge role in this game, the Redskins are now thinner than ever before. It will be extremely interesting to see how the roles and usage shake out amongst the Washington receivers.

#PlugPlayers of the Week

On a three game slate, it is very rare that I will have 100% exposure to multiple players. The #PlugPlayers listed here are just some of the ones that I will plan on having the most exposure to on Thanksgiving, as I believe them to have a safe floor as well as a high ceiling. Therefore, these players make for fantastic core plays in both a cash game format and in GPPs as well.

  • Lions WR Golden Tate (6200)
  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen (7600)
  • Redskins WR Jamison Crowder (5400)
  • Redskins TE Vernon Davis (5500)
  • Chargers RB Melvin Gordon (8100)

Sneaky Tournament Targets

These players will be sprinkled into some of my lineups, for two reasons. First of all, they are extreme salary savers, that open up my budget so I can afford more high priced studs. Second, they are all flying way under the radar, compared to how much they should be talked about. Note that many more tournament targets are listed throughout this article as well.

  • Lions RBs Theo Riddick (3600) & Amer Abdullah (3900)
  • Giants RB Orleans Darkwa (4600)
  • Cowboys WRs Terrance Williams (3400) & Cole Beasley (3600)
  • Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (4200) & WR Tyrell Williams (3400)

Contrarian Strategy & Recap

Plenty of tournament targets are listed throughout this article, so the #PlugPlayers are by no means the only players you should focus on. To win a GPP on this slate, we will need to differentiate our lineups in multiple creative ways, to make sure we don’t get lumped in with the rest of our opponents. It is important to separate the idea of differentiating lineups, and the idea of playing low owned players just to do so. Just because nobody will be playing a certain guy, doesn’t mean it makes sense to use him. There are also ways to use high owned chalky players, in a non-chalky way. For example, you can play multiple Redskins WR without Kirk Cousins, you can play both Vikings WR instead of one or the other, or you can even experiment with playing both Lions RBs. No matter what strategies you decide to use, I heavily encourage everyone to use a lineup optimizer, which you can find on various DFS websites. This will help you stick to your ownership goals, as well as help you find the most optimal lineup(s) possible, based on your projections.

Last but not least, to wrap things up I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you find what you’re looking for both at the dinner table, as well as in your lineups. For more DFS strategy, be sure to follow me on Twitter. If you haven’t followed our main page already, make sure to give the New York Groove a follow as well. Best of luck this week everybody. Cheers!


Published by

Nathan Smith

I write about the NFL and more for TheSportsTalk Follow me on Twitter: @Nathan___Smith

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