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DFS NFL wild-card tips: Fade one Cowboys star and trust another

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Whether you've played Daily Fantasy on Yahoo before or are giving it a try for the first time, this weekly column will take an early look at the DFS landscape, revealing whom I like building lineups around, stars to fade, undervalued plays and bargain bin options to help you construct a better team.

Lineup building blocks

Joe Mixon ($34) vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Mixon should be fresh after being rested last week (albeit also dealing with COVID-19) and gets a home matchup versus a Raiders defense that allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Mixon averaged 96.4 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns at home this season, and Cincinnati is near touchdown favorites Saturday. Given Leonard Fournette’s uncertain health, Mixon looks like the top RB option in DFS this week.

Cooper Kupp ($42) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Kupp finished the season getting 90+ receiving yards in 13 straight games, and his TD production went up at home this season. He’ll face a Cardinals defense that yielded the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers this season while indoors in a matchup with a high over/under (49.5 points) featuring teams with two of the fastest paces in the league. With Davante Adams not on the slate with the Packers on bye, Kupp is the clear foundational DFS piece in the wild-card round.

Cooper Kupp has the highest DFS salary on the wild-card slate, but is worth paying up for against the Cardinals. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Cooper Kupp has the highest DFS salary on the wild-card slate, but is worth paying up for against the Cardinals. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Mike Evans ($26) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Evans appeared to be healthy while catching two touchdowns in Week 18, and he gets a huge boost entering the playoffs with the Bucs missing both Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. Tampa Bay’s running backs have health issues as well (as does Cyril Grayson), so Evans should be looking at double-digit targets against an Eagles defense that’s better against the run than the pass. Evans recorded the second-most receiving touchdowns (14) this season, giving him added value in Yahoo’s 0.5 PPR scoring system.

Tom Brady has thrown more touchdowns since turning 40 than Troy Aikman did during his entire career.

[Play in Yahoo DFS's $500K Saturday Wildcard Baller contest]

Stars to fade

Ezekiel Elliott ($24) vs. San Francisco 49ers

Whether it be his persistent knee injury that won’t totally heal until the offseason, his age or mileage, Elliott has looked like a shell of his former self, getting just 3.6 YPC over 11 games since Dallas’ bye. Sunday he gets a 49ers run defense that ranked second in DVOA while allowing just 4.0 YPC and the 10th-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. The Cowboys play better at home, but Eli Mitchell in this same game gets all of his team’s work (Tony Pollard should be good to go for Dallas), has the better matchup and is $4 cheaper.

Undervalued options

Dak Prescott ($32) vs. San Francisco 49ers

Prescott got 8.0 YPA with 24 total touchdowns to just two interceptions at home this season, and San Francisco is a pass-funnel defense that ranks second against the run yet No. 16 versus the pass in DVOA. San Francisco’s weakness is its secondary, and this game is indoors and has the weekend’s highest total (50.5 points). Prescott started looking healthier while posting a 12:0 TD:INT ratio over the final three games to end the season (while also running more), and his salary is barely a top-five QB here.

Eli Mitchell ($20) @ Dallas Cowboys

Mitchell finished fifth in rushing yards per game, remarkably leading the NFL in carry% during his rookie season. He finished with the most touches in the NFL without a drop or fumble, averaging a whopping 25.6 over the final five games. The Cowboys have a run-funnel defense, ranking second against the pass but 16th versus the run, and San Francisco had one of the highest neutral run rates in the league this season. Jimmy Garoppolo is also playing through a bad thumb injury. Mitchell’s DFS salary is undervalued for someone projected to get so many touches.

[Play in Yahoo DFS's $500K Sunday Wildcard Baller contest]

Tee Higgins ($21) vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Ja’Marr Chase scored more touchdowns and finished the season with an eruption, but Higgins matched his target% when both were on the field this season and was the more consistent of the two receivers. Higgins averaged 98.8 yards with five touchdowns over eight games at home this season, and the Bengals’ offense is set up for success; Cincinnati rested its starters in Week 18, while Las Vegas played five quarters and 93(!) defensive snaps late into Sunday night.

Bargain Bin

Hunter Henry ($13) @ Buffalo Bills

Henry’s nine touchdowns tied for the lead among tight ends this season, yet his salary isn’t a top-10 at the position. New England may even pass more than usual entering as 4.5-point underdogs to a potent Bills team, and Henry ranked second in fantasy points per target among TEs this season. He’s a bargain at a good position in DFS to go cheap.

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