For those of you that are trying to cram in every morsel of fantasy football that the 2018 season must offer, playoff pools and DFS for postseason games are here to fulfill our final fantasy needs. I’m going to take some space each week to rank the positions from the remaining teams as a guide to maximizing those final efforts.
The NFL is already an inherently volatile game weekly when we have 16 matchups to dissect, so when we cut the weekly player pool down to eight teams in four games, we’re inviting variance to run amuck. Because of that, I wouldn’t focus too much on the arbitrary player ranking as opposed to the analysis, but hey, we have to put these guys in some order.
In DFS games, we can swerve into that variance to a degree by maximizing player exposure to cover as many angles as clairvoyantly possible. I typically avoid cash games for the NFL Playoffs, but want to run out as many different tournament lineups as possible in multi-entry fields over trying to hit a bullseye in single entry contests. If you’re someone doing a playoff pool, that is much tougher to do. My best advice in those pools is to try and maximize player games as much as possible as suggested in our overall playoff rankings.
1. Patrick Mahomes (vs IND): Last week we had a fairly even quarterback slate and that’s how it played out, with the top-six passers all finishing within three points of each other. This week, we have three standouts at the top and then a gaggle of solid options you can spin a story on if you have to. To start, we have the highest-scoring fantasy player ever in Mahomes. Mahomes is making his first ever postseason start, but his season-low of fantasy points in a game this season was 15.8 and he was held below 20 fantasy points just three times. He just simply has had the highest-ceiling and floor at the position. As for matchup dynamics, the contrast here comes from Mahomes creating splash plays and the Colts doing everything they can to limit them with all of the zone coverage they play. Mahomes led the league in pass completions (4.7 per game) and touchdowns (15) on gains of 20-plus yards while the Colts ranked fifth in amount of those completions (2.5 per game) surrendered. But Mahomes was excellent against zone coverage this season while you have to get consistent pressure on him to get him off his game. Mahomes posted a league-best 132.4 passer rating versus no pressure while a 70.4 rating (16th) during the regular season. The Colts have allowed just 10 touchdown passes over their past eight games, but Mahomes is easily the best passer they will have faced over that stretch after facing Deshaun Watson twice, Dak Prescott, Blaine Gabbert, Marcus Mariota, Cody Kessler, Eli Manning, and Ryan Tannehill over their hottest stretch defensively.
2. Drew Brees (vs PHI): We always like Brees at home and this season was no exception. In seven starts in New Orleans, Brees threw 21 touchdown passes to one interception while averaging 321.6 passing yards per game. That includes a 22-of-30, 364 yard, four touchdown passing game against the Eagles in Week 11. Brees is 5-0 for his career in the postseason while playing in New Orleans, throwing 12 touchdown passes to one interception while averaging 305.8 passing yards per game. The Eagles ranked 30th in passing yardage allowed per game (307.9 yards) and allowed the most passing yards to a quarterback in the opening week of the playoffs to Mitchell Trubisky.
3. Andrew Luck (@ KC): Luck is the counter to Mahomes in the highest-game total (57) of the weekend, which already makes him an intriguing option if you can’t fit Mahomes or Brees into lineups. Luck has thrown multiple touchdowns in 14-of-17 games this season and has averaged an extra 1.9 rushing fantasy points per game over his past six. His floor has been incredibly high, as only Mahomes has more games this season with 17-plus fantasy points (15) than Luck does (13) at this stage of the season. The Chiefs only allowed 14.4 fantasy points per game to passers at home this season, but outside of Philip Rivers (18.5 points) and Jimmy Garoppolo (22.3 points), their rogue’s gallery of quarterbacks faced at home was extremely soft.
4. Tom Brady (vs LAC): After ranking those top three options, the rest of the field is full of strong floor options, but each also has a wart or two that make it harder to objectively find room for a ceiling performance. For DFS purposes, I may not even play anyone from this stage on. I edge to Brady as the next-best of the bunch by default. Brady closed the regular season as a QB1 in just two of his final nine games, averaging 16.2 fantasy points per game over that stretch. Against six top-10 defenses this season, Brady averaged 1.3 passing touchdowns, 258.5 passing yards and 7.4 yards per pass attempts as opposed to 2.1 passing scores, 280.4 passing yards and 7.7 yards per attempt otherwise. The Chargers are in the first bracket, ranking ninth in passing points allowed per game (14.8) and allowed just two passers to reach 20 fantasy points in a game against them this season. That said, it’s tough to ignore Brady at home in the postseason where he averages 19.7 fantasy points per game over 19 starts and 23.7 points per game over his past seven home starts in the playoffs.
5. Jared Goff (vs DAL): Goff was another passer that had his numbers dip to close the season. Over his final five games after the Rams’ Week 12 bye, Goff threw for just 228.2 yards per game, completing just 58.6 percent of his passes for 6.3 yards per pass attempt. He threw more than one touchdown pass in just one of those five games. Where Goff particularly dropped off was downfield. Over that span, Goff completed just 8-of-31 (25.8 percent) pass attempts 15-plus yards downfield with two touchdowns and four interceptions after completing 54.5 percent (42-of-77) of those passes prior for seven scores and two interceptions. Dallas allowed multiple touchdown passes in just seven games this season, with more than two passing scores just once. Despite Dallas limiting high-ceiling games, they did allow 17 or more passing points to three of the past five starting quarterbacks they’ve faced.
6. Philip Rivers (@ NE): Rivers has averaged just 237.8 passing yards per game over his past six games and hasn’t thrown more than two touchdowns in a game since Week 12. The Patriots have just about everyone’s number under Bill Belichick, but they’ve especially had Rivers’. In eight career games against the Patriots, Rivers has thrown 10 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, averaging just 12.2 fantasy points per game over that span. In four games on the road in New England, those totals are 5-7 touchdowns to interceptions for an average of 10.8 fantasy points per game. New England closed the year productive versus the pass, holding opponents to 6.2 yards per pass attempt over their final eight games (eighth) while holding Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Ben Roethlisberger well below their season averages in efficiency over that stretch. Rivers is still plenty capable of having a strong game and putting points up here, but as the road quarterback in the lowest game-total (47) of the week, his highest probable expectations fall between floor and median projections.
7. Dak Prescott (@ LAR): Prescott’s home/road splits were as pronounced as any passer this season, throwing eight touchdowns on the road this season, half of which came in a Week 17 game against the Giants. That was also just one of two games in which Prescott had all season with more than two touchdown passes. The Rams were solid against the pass once Aqib Talib returned to the lineup after their Week 12 bye, In those five games, they allowed just 211.4 passing yards per game with five touchdown passes to eight interceptions. Prescott does have a potential trump card with rushing upside on this slate, something really only Mahomes and Luck offer. Prescott has a rushing touchdown in seven of his past 12 games while the Rams have allowed Josh Rosen (49 yards), Mitchell Trubisky (23), Russell Wilson (92 yards) and Patrick Mahomes (28 yards) to sprinkle some rushing output onto their fantasy lines over their past seven games.
8. Nick Foles (@ NO): Foles’ real-life magic hasn’t completely translated over to fantasy production and this is another week in which he’s drawing the worst objective spot for a starting quarterback. Foles only outscored Rivers last week among the quarterback pool and over his six starts this season, has scored 16.2 fantasy points or fewer in all but one. The Saints allowed just one top-10 scorer over their eight games prior to Week 17, allowing just nine touchdown passes over that stretch with eight interceptions. As the largest road dog on the slate, Foles will need his fantasy production to catch up to his current real-life lore.
1. Ezekiel Elliott (@ LAR): Even in a week where we get both Gurley and Kamara back into the player pool, Elliott is the top back still for fantasy purposes since he doesn’t share any snaps at all with another player and isn’t returning from injury. Elliott has 21 or more touches in nine consecutive games, a span in which he’s averaged 153 yards from scrimmage per game (with a low game of 109 total yards). The Rams ranked 27th in fantasy rushing points allowed to backs per attempt (.605) while Elliott also has at least four receptions in every game over that nine-game run mentioned.
2. Todd Gurley (vs DAL): Gurley sat out the final two weeks of the regular season with a knee injury but is looking good to go for this Saturday night. Dallas has been a tale of two teams at home and away all season, and that has shown up in their run defense as well. At home, Dallas allowed just 70.7 rushing yards per game (second), but that number swelled to 118.8 yards on the road (17th). In their past two games on the road, the Cowboys allowed 178 total yards and two touchdowns to Giants’ backs on 29 touches and 219 yards and two scores to Indianapolis backs on 39 touches. Gurley scored at least one touchdown in 12 games this season, the most for any running back in the league. From a DFS stance, Gurley is also priced at his lowest point all season long on DraftKings and has his second-lowest price of the year on FanDuel.
3. Alvin Kamara (vs PHI): If you like Kamara more than Gurley, I don’t have much push back. Even though we miss the player that was averaging 152.8 total yards per game over the opening month of the season, Kamara has been a steady producer all season despite sharing snaps in his backfield with Mark Ingram. Since Ingram returned to the lineup in Week 5, Kamara has averaged 89.2 yards from scrimmage per game with 98 or more yards in six of his past eight games, including 108 yards a touchdown on 14 touches when the Saints hosted the Eagles in Week 11. He carries strong touchdown upside, leading all running backs in red zone targets (25) and matching Gurley with six games on the season with multiple touchdowns scored.
4. Damien Williams (vs IND): With Spencer Ware out, we get another week with Williams as the lead back in the league's highest-scoring offense. The biggest knock on Williams was his acumen as a rusher, but he’s carried 34 times for 203 yards (5.9 YPC) over that span. The Colts defense is hot, especially versus the run game. Over their nine games since returning from bye, the Colts have allowed 69.2 rushing yards per game to backs, including games against Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Derrick Henry to close the season. One area where they’ve struggled all season though is against backs out of the backfield given how much zone they play, allowing 6.9 receptions per game to backs (T-30th) in the regular season and allowing Houston backs to catch 10 passes to open the postseason. Williams snagged six and seven passes in his two full games prior to Week 17 and has scored six touchdowns over his past four games.
5. Marlon Mack (@ KC): Mack was the player I whiffed on the hardest last week, overweighting the Texans run defense and underweighting the importance of Ryan Kelly returning to the lineup. Mack has now rushed for 5.0 yards per carry with Kelly in the lineup and 3.8 YPC with him inactive. Mack has also just dominated backfield opportunities for the Colts down the stretch, averaging 42.1 percent of the team touches over the past four games after averaging 30.4 percent per game over his first nine games played of the season. The Chiefs were hammered by opposing backfield play all season, allowing 16.6 rushing points per game (28th) to opposing backs and a league-high 4.96 YPC to running backs in the regular season. Kansas City allowed over 100 yards from scrimmage or a touchdown to a running back in each of their final five games in the regular season. The Colts are likely to attempt to ride Mack in hopes of slowing down the game and even if they can’t neutralize the Kansas City offense, the Chiefs run defense has been so consistently poor that Mack can be efficient even if game script reduces his overall touches.
6. James White (vs LAC): The main fantasy issues for White always center around game script and touchdown dependency, but this week sets up as a White game plan week for the Patriots backfield use. The Chargers were modest against the run, ranking 14th in rushing points allowed per game (12.7) and 10th in rushing yardage allowed per game (85.9 yards) to backs, but they ranked 30th in the league in receiving points allowed per game (14.3) to running backs. When these teams played a year ago, Patriots backs were targeted 14 times, catching 12 passes as White himself turned in a 5-85 receiving line. The Chargers are built to rush the passer and they defend the boundaries well, leaving more of a door open for White to be the Patriots back to latch onto this week.
7. Melvin Gordon (@ NE): Gordon just hasn’t been himself since returning from injury in Week 16 and last week suffered another injury in game to his other knee, although he returned to the game and was fine. Over the past three weeks, Gordon has played 66.7 percent, 54.2 percent and 43.8 percent of the offensive snaps for the Chargers, posting overall yardage totals of 54. 66 and 43 yards in those games. The good news is that he did have 18 touches last week against a stiff Baltimore run defense, the most he’s had since returning. The bad news is that the Chargers have reduced him to a lead-down banger as they’ve been working him back through his injuries. Over that three-game stretch, Gordon has run 16, 16 and nine pass routes after averaging 21.7 per game prior to injury. That has led to him catching just seven passes for 40 yards over that span. Gordon has one of the widest gaps from floor production compared to his pricing in DFS but can still offer a high-ceiling if his role and health revert to where they were over the front half of the season.
8. Mark Ingram (vs PHI): Speaking of backfield splits, we do have a good pulse for the amount of touches that Ingram will get on Sunday. Ingram had at least 12 touches in 10 of the 11 games he played alongside Kamara this season, with more than 16 in just one of those games. Ingram has had little involvement at all in the passing game, catching three or fewer passes in every game this season with two or fewer receptions in 10-of-12 games. Since tallying 102 yards and two touchdowns on the Eagles in Week 11, Ingram has averaged 51.7 total yards per game over the past six weeks. Philadelphia was torched on the ground when these teams last played, allowing Ingram to rush for 103 yards on 16 carries and Kamara to run for 71 yards on 13 attempts. That was in the midst of real slump for the Eagles defense, but they have gotten things cleaned up as of late. Over their past four games, the Eagles have allowed opposing backs to rush 48 times for 118 yards. Ingram is still attached to a heavy favorite at home and carries touchdown upside but is another back here that could just provide empty calorie rushing yardage only for lineups.
9. Sony Michel (vs LAC): Like Ingram, we have a good gauge on the carry volume we can expect for Michel. But also, like Ingram, Michel is dependent on finding the end zone on the ground. Michel has 13-17 rushing attempts in each of the past five games, but he hasn’t caught a pass (or even has been targeted) in a game since Week 13 while he's managed to catch at least one pass in just six games this season. I laid out the rushing data for the Chargers when discussing White earlier. Michel still carries the ability to be set up for multiple scoring opportunities and stack second-half touches in the Patriots offense, which always has him in play outkick his coverage but you're really banking on the touchdowns to carry him.
Final Tier: Austin Ekeler, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Nyheim Hines, Rex Burkhead, James Develin, C.J. Anderson, Josh Adams
Hines was a big zero last week, playing just nine snaps total as he was scripted out of the game with the Colts going ground and pound offensively. He should be used more this week as the game script could flip here and the matchup is good against a Chiefs defense that allowed 13.7 PPR receiving points per game (28th) to backfields. The rub is that Hines just hasn’t been used much of late, having six or fewer touches in four of his past five games…Ekeler was the receiving back last week for the Chargers and found his way to 15 touches overall. He is an outright better objective play than Hines given he has higher touchdown probability…The Eagles completely shelved Josh Adams last week and went with a Sproles/Smallwood combo. Sproles had 15 touches to 10 for Smallwood, but both combined for just 75 total yards. The Saints allowed just 96.7 total yards per game to opposing backfields, which was second in the league.
1. Michael Thomas (vs PHI): Wideout is much deeper this week than last, but Thomas stands out as the best mix of floor, ceiling and matchup on the board. Thomas wrapped up one of the most efficient receiving seasons in NFL history this season, catching 125-of-147 targets (85 percent) for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. Like Brees, Thomas crushed at home this season, with 59 percent of his receiving yards (102.8 per game) and 6-of-9 touchdowns coming at home. The Eagles allowed the most receptions, yards and fantasy points to opposing lead wideouts in the regular season -including 4-92-1 to Thomas in Week 9- and then came out and allowed 10-143-1 to Allen Robinson to open the postseason.
2. Tyreek Hill (vs IND): After Thomas, we have a solid 7-8 man group of options that have the potential to have big games. Hill offers the most upside of that group as he’s the league’s best splash-play scoring threat. As mentioned with Mahomes, the Colts defense is predicated on making teams beat them with paper cuts over giving up long passing scores. The Colts allowed just 53.1 receiving yards per game to opposing lead wideouts (fourth) and neutralized DeAndre Hopkins (5-37) a week ago. Hill also has the weird splits of being a better performer away from home this season, something he also did a year ago. At home, Hill averaged 5.0 receptions for 81.6 yards with four touchdowns as opposed to 5.9 catches for 103.3 yards and eight scores on the road. That said, Hill still only needs a play or two to crash his ceiling and the Chiefs are undoubtedly going to take their shots regardless of defensive scheme.
3. T.Y. Hilton (@ KC): After leading the in receiving from Week 10-17, Hilton came out and turned 10 targets into a 5-85 line a week ago to kick off the playoffs. He’s had at least 61 receiving yards in nine straight games with five or more receptions in seven of those nine games. With all the targets, catches and yardage as a true lead wideout, the only blemish on Hilton’s output is that he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 11 and has scored in just one of his past 10 games. We also tend to prefer Hilton to be indoors. For his career, Hilton has caught 30 of his 40 receiving scores inside with five of six this season. In five games outside this season, he averaged 4.6 receptions for 61.0 yards as opposed to 5.9 catches for 107.2 yards per game inside.
4. Robert Woods (vs DAL)
5. Julian Edelman (vs LAC)
6. Keenan Allen (@ NE)
The grouping of Woods, Allen and Edelman is as tight as they come and I wouldn’t push back on your preference of either. Just look at how close the raw per game counting statistics for each of these players from the regular season is.
I’m giving Woods the binary edge here for a few reasons. He has the highest depth of target of the group (11.3 yards) for big-play upside, he comes some added use in the run game -rushing 19 times for 157 yards and a touchdown this season- and plays in the game with the least bit of weather concern.
Edelman has the highest scoring upside of the group, posting a 5.6 percent touchdown rate on the season. Since returning to the lineup in Week 5, Edelman’s 20 targets inside of the red zone are tied with Zach Ertz for the most in the league. No team allowed fewer points to opposing slot receivers in the regular season than the Chargers, but Edelman isn’t the type of player we get concerned with over matchups considering the bankable usage he gets in a strong offense. He has at least 90-yards receiving or a touchdown catch in six of his past seven games.
Allen is on the team with the fewest competing targets as his average 27.9 percent target share per week is the highest of this trio. Allen has slowed down a touch to close the season, but two games against the Ravens can do that. The Patriots were 30th in the league in fantasy points allowed to slot receivers overall during the regular season but were solid against slot options that were focal points for the opposing team’s passing attacks and players you would game plan for. The Patriots faced JuJu Smith-Schuster (4-40) and Adam Thielen (5-28-1) over their hot defensive run to close the season and limited each.
7. Brandin Cooks (vs DAL): Cooks posted a career-high 1,204 receiving yards this season in his first season with the Rams. After playing his first four seasons with Drew Brees and Tom Brady, that says something. From a volume perspective, Cooks is a little more uneven than that of Robert Woods while both offer similar ceilings. Cooks caught a touchdown pass in just four different games this season while he averaged just 48 receiving yards per game over the final five weeks as Jared Goff struggled in the vertical passing department. Dallas ranked sixth in the league in preventing pass plays of 20-plus yards in the regular season (2.7 per game), but let the Seahawks connect for five such plays last week with Tyler Lockett having receptions of 25, 40 and 53 yards in that contest.
8. Alshon Jeffery (@ NO): Over the four games since Nick Foles took back over as the starter, Jeffery has reeled in 22-of-27 targets (81.5 percent) for 383 yards and a touchdown. He’s had yardage totals of 160, 82, 59 and 82 yards in those games after posting six straight games with 50 or fewer receiving yards prior. His target share is still only 17.5 percent over that span, which leaves a bit to be desired for a strong ceiling, but the offensive change has clearly been for the better for Jeffery. There is a slight concern with Jeffery against high-level corner play. He managed just 33 yards on four catches when he played the Saints back in Week 11, catching just one pass in the coverage of Marshon Lattimore, but has shown struggles at points this season, allowing the sixth-most receiving yardage in his coverage among cornerbacks this season per Pro Football Focus.
9. Amari Cooper (@ LAR): Cooper and the Cowboy’s passing splits on the road have been something that’s been talked about for several weeks. In four games away from Dallas, Cooper averaged 4.5 receptions for 43.5 yards per game with zero touchdowns scored, posting yardage totals of 36, 32 and 31 yards over his final three on the road. Cooper also is more than familiar with the combo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters from all their seasons in the AFC West (and Week 1) and the results are not pretty. In five career games versus Talib, Amari Cooper has caught 1-of-7 targets for eight yards and no touchdowns in Talib's coverage. In six career games versus Peters, Cooper has caught 6-of-12 targets for 77 yards and no touchdowns in Peters' coverage. In Week 1, Cooper was target just once in the coverage of either corner. Peters was highly exploitable early in the season but has played well the back half of the season. The Rams have allowed 7.2 yards per target, 126 yards per game with just two touchdowns to opposing wide receivers since Talib returned in Week 13 after allowing 9.9 yards per target, 173.7 yards per game and 18 touchdowns prior.
10. Ted Ginn (vs PHI): Ginn was one of the Saints who rested in Week 17, but when he came back in Week 16 from a knee injury, Ginn stepped right back into a big role, catching 5-of-8 targets for 74 yards against the Steelers. The last time the Saints played the Eagles, Philadelphia tried to roll coverage to Michael Thomas, allowing rookie Tre’Quan Smith to go bonkers, catching 10-of-13 targets for 157 yards and a touchdown. Smith caught 18 passes for 270 yards outside of that game this season. Ginn has also gone along for the ride with the Saints offense at home. Over his two seasons in New Orleans, Ginn has averaged 65.4 receiving yards per game at home as opposed to 39.2 yards per game on the road, catching five of his seven touchdowns as a Saint in those games.
11. Dontrelle Inman (@ KC): Inman has scored in each of the past three games with at least four receptions in each week. Eventually he’ll fail to find the end zone, but he has posted his two highest games in receiving yardage (77 and 53 yards) of the season over the past two games, giving you a little more cushion if that occurs here. Inman is the cheapest piece when stacking the core plays from the potential shootout in Kansas City.
12. Josh Reynolds (vs DAL): Reynolds had at least seven targets in four of the final six games of the regular season, averaging 50.7 yards per game over that span. The Rams featured him heavily in the red zone over that span as he lead the team with 11 red zone targets (31.4 percent of the team total) and tied Robert Woods with four targets from inside of the 10-yard line over those weeks. He’s a third option in the passing game and potentially fourth if Gurley is used as a workhorse again returning from injury, but Reynolds possesses touchdown upside on the cheap.
13. Mike Williams (@ NE): For the first this season in a game in which both were healthy, Mike Williams ran as many pass routes (28) as Tyrell Williams. He was already being target more, so Williams getting more playing time and passing opportunities is a positive step for his upside. Unfortunately, he gets a terrible draw this week against Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore allowed just 46.7 percent of targets in his coverage to be completed, which ranked second in the league. With Hunter Henry coming back and potentially taking away a red zone look or two from Williams on top of the matchup, Williams is a volatile fantasy option.
14. Sammy Watkins (vs IND): Watkins hasn’t played in a game since Week 11 and hasn’t played more than five snaps in a game since Week 9. Returning from a foot injury, he’s still said to have his foot heavily taped while practicing this week. He’s a way into attachment to Mahomes and the explosive Kansas City offense but is just a tough trust in his first game back and the matchup isn’t stellar. The Colts surrendered just 10.6 receptions per game to opposing wideouts this season, second in the league.
15. Nelson Agholor (@ NO): Even though the Eagles remembered they traded for Golden Tate last week, Agholor still was on the field more, running 38 routes to 27 for Tate. Agholor has at least six targets in each of the past three games and is third on the team in targets (21) since Nick Foles took back over as the starter. The only game in which Agholor failed to catch a pass was when he played the Saints in Week 11, but New Orleans has given up a few good games to secondary wideouts with big-play ability to close the year in Calvin Ridley (8-93-1) Michael Gallup (5-76) and D.J. Moore (4-81).
16. Golden Tate (@ NO): Tate’s 27 pass routes last week were the most he’s had in a game since Week 11, his first game with the Eagles. Tate now has eight and six targets over his past two games, but still has managed to cross 50-yards receiving just once as an Eagle and just once over his past 12 games played regardless of team.
17. Michael Gallup (@ LAR): Gallup has found his way to at least six targets in five of the past seven games, scoring a touchdown in two of his past three games. Over that six-game span, Gallup has a healthy 13.2 yard average depth of target. His 424 air yards over that span trail only Amari Cooper’s by 76 over that timespan on 20 fewer targets. That said, those vertical targets have also left him with some inefficiency as he and Dak Prescott haven’t connected a ton of those long balls. Gallup has secured just 17-of-32 targets over that span and has managed to catch more than three passes in a game just twice this season.
18. Chris Hogan (vs LAC): Hogan closed the year with a season-high 11 targets the Patriots Week 17 win against the Jets, catching six of them for 64 yards. That could’ve been solely happenstance as Hogan managed to catch just 6-of-10 targets over the previous six games. Hogan has been a disappointment in 2018 for fantasy purposes, but at least you know he’ll be on the field. In the two games since Josh Gordon exited the team, Hogan has played 83 percent and 94 percent of the team snaps. The Chargers secondary is not one we target for wide receiver play, but Hogan will be on the field a lot Sunday.
Final Tier: Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Demarcus Robinson, Chris Conley, Chester Rogers, Tyrell Williams, Keith Kirkwood, Tre’Quan Smith, Travis Benjamin
Beasley is dealing with an ankle injury and Allen Hurns went down last week, setting up Tavon Austin to play more against his former team. Austin still offers little offensively but is a stacking partner for the Dallas DST for anyone that wants to chase the elusive double-dip special teams score…Dorsett received five targets in the season finale and scored a touchdown. He is back in play as a deep option in the Patriot passing game but ran significantly fewer routes (17) than Hogan (33) in that game…Demarcus Robinson has a touchdown in each of the past three games, but also has just five receptions total in those games. With Watkins returning, he’s solely a punt option in hopes that touchdown streak still has life… Keith Kirkwood (38 snaps) ran over Smith (26 snaps) when Ted Ginn returned to the lineup Week 16 and has been playing as the primary slot wide receiver for the Saints since Week 12.
1. Travis Kelce (vs IND): We get three of the top-four scoring tight ends from the regular season in play this weekend, giving us plenty of reasonable ways to play things. But things start with Kelce. The league’s highest-scoring tight end in the regular season runs into a strong spot to open the postseason. Kelce had at least five receptions in each of the final 15 games of the regular season, failing to hit 50-yards receiving yards just once over that span. He draws an Indianapolis defense that consistently stays in zone coverage, which funnels targets to backs and tight ends. The Colts were 32nd in receptions allowed (6.4) and yardage (74.6 yards) per game to opposing tight ends in the regular season and opposing teams targeted their tight ends 24.5 percent of the time, which was the second-highest rate in the league. Although they allowed Houston tight ends to catch just 3-of-8 targets to open the postseason, Deshaun Watson left multiple wide open targets on the field for splash plays to his tight ends. Asking to have a repeat performance from Patrick Mahomes is a tough ask.
2. Eric Ebron (@ KC): Staying in the same game, Ebron is the premier touchdown producer at the tight end position. After scoring 14 times in the regular season, he found the end zone to open the postseason and nearly had a second touchdown that was broken up on a tremendous play. Kansas City allowed opposing tight ends to find the end zone 10 times in the regular season, which was tied for the most in the league. They also ranked 28th and 30th in receptions and yardage allowed to the position. Even in the two games that Eric Berry played to close the season, the Chiefs allowed a top-10 scoring tight end and two touchdowns to the position. For DFS purposes, I believe you can play both Kelce and Ebron together in an attempt for touchdown leverage.
3. Zach Ertz (@ NO): Ertz is still in the same tier as the first two options, but Kelce’s weekly upside and Ebron’s scoring ability give them the edge as Ertz has the toughest draw of the three in New Orleans. Ertz also has had three soft games in the four starts made by Foles here to close the season, posting games of 3-22, 3-15, and 5-52 surrounding that blowup 12-110-2 eruption in Week 16. The Saints were legit against opposing tight ends in the regular season, ranking third in receptions and fourth in yardage allowed per game to the position, including Ertz’s worst game of the season, when he caught just 2-of-3 targets for 15 yards when these teams played in Week 11. The ray of sunshine is Ertz should definitely clear those lowly totals and the Saints did allow four touchdowns to tight ends over their final three games of the season.
4. Rob Gronkowski (vs LAC): Hard to believe that we have a condensed slate and Gronk is not even an objective top-three option at the tight end position, but that’s the type of season he’s had. After returning from injury, Gronk received just 14.5 percent of the New England passing targets. Since Josh Gordon left the team, Gronk has just five total targets. From a reception stance, Gronk caught three or fewer passes in seven of his final eight games played in 2018. To compound matters, he had just 2-of-34 New England targets all year from inside of the 10-yard line. We know what Gronk is capable of, but we’ve chased that ghost with little to no success all season long, leaving him a tier below the top options at tight end.
5. Blake Jarwin (@ LAR): Last week’s matchup was tough for Jarwin and he provided a lowly 3-15 line on three targets. This week, things get a little better from a matchup stance for him and a worse for Amari Cooper and the outside wideouts for Dallas, leaving the door open for Jarwin to push back towards the 15.3 team target share he held over the previous four games prior to last week. Opposing teams targeted their tight ends 25.2 percent of the time against the Rams in the regular season, the highest rate in the league. That resulted into the Rams ranking 23rd in receptions (5.0) and 31st in yardage (67.2) allowed per game to tight ends.
Final Tier: Dallas Goedert, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Dan Arnold, Mo Alie-Cox
Goedert found the end zone last week, but his playing time was significantly lowered, running just 14 pass routes in the Wild Card Round versus the Bears and 15 versus Washington is Week 17. He’s a touchdown-or-bust option only against the stingy Saints linebacking corps… Hunter Henry has been activated for sure this week, but we can’t really trust him outside of being a situational player in passing downs and in the red zone. Still, any involvement from Henry is a sliver off the small slice of pie for Antonio Gates, who has had more than five targets in just one game this season… Gerald Everett is the Rams tight end to chase if you have to. Everett ran 37 pass routes to just 16 for Tyler Higbee over the final two weeks of the regular season. That’s intriguing if it sticks, but the Rams may have altered their personnel use solely in the absence of Todd Gurley…The Saints run a three-headed tight end attack, with all three players receiving nearly equal passing-game opportunity. Over the past two games with all three players active, Watson ran 26 pass routes compared to 22 for Arnold and 21 for Hill. The group managed two catches for 26 yards when these teams met in the regular season.
1. Greg Zuerlein
2. Wil Lutz
3. Stephen Gostkowski
4. Harrison Butker
5. Adam Vinatieri
6. Brett Maher
7. Michael Badgley
8. Jake Elliott