Whether you've played Daily Fantasy on Yahoo before or are giving it a try for the first time, this weekly column takes an early look at the NFL 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
Patrick Mahomes ($40) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Mahomes is running more in the playoffs as he’s done throughout his career, and it’s helped him rack up 78+ fantasy points in Yahoo DFS over the last two weeks. He gets another home game in the conference championship against a middling Bengals defense that ranked 24th against the pass in DVOA this season. In a slate with just two games, the KC/Cincinnati matchup projects to be higher scoring, with the Chiefs sporting by far the highest implied team total. Mahomes has a 20:2 TD:INT line (8.5 YPA) over the last seven games and should only be avoided in DFS this week if you’re trying to be contrarian in tournaments.
Cooper Kupp ($40) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Kupp’s dream season continued with another eruption last week, and Sunday he gets a matchup against a San Francisco defense that’s far more vulnerable to the pass than run. He’s averaged more than a touchdown per game at home this season, and Kupp is the clear DFS building block along with Mahomes this weekend.
Tyreek Hill ($29) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Hill’s salary is cheaper than both Travis Kelce and Ja’Marr Chase and just $3 more than Tee Higgins. Hill’s heel looked healthy last week while posting 150 yards, and he’ll benefit from the projected shootout. Hill is especially intriguing during a slate in which all the running backs have question marks.
Stars to fade
Joe Mixon ($33) @ Kansas City Chiefs
Mixon was held to 46 scoreless yards on 12 carries when these teams met earlier this season, and the Bengals have struggled running in the playoffs. He should stay busy in the passing game with Cincinnati 7.5-point underdogs, but the improved Kansas City defense allowed just one running back to reach 20 fantasy points after Week 1. It’s better to invest in the Bengals’ passing attack.
Jerick McKinnon ($18) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Eli Mitchell ($23) and Cam Akers ($21) are both affordable given their projected workloads, but they also have tougher matchups (with banged-up left tackles). McKinnon dominated touches, snaps and routes run over a returning Clyde Edwards-Helaire against the Bills. McKinnon has quickly broken down after increased workloads in the past, but he’s racked up 13 targets over two postseason games and ran a route on 72% of Mahomes’ dropbacks last week. McKinnon looks like a bargain as Kansas City’s new lead back who’s dominating passing down work. The Bengals allowed the fifth-most receptions and the sixth-most receiving yards to running backs this season.
Odell Beckham Jr. ($24) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Beckham saw eight targets against the Buccaneers and should be busy again Sunday with the Rams facing a 49ers run defense that ranked second in DVOA this season. OBJ has looked good and completely taken over the team’s WR2 role since joining Los Angeles. He’s also going to be a big part of the NFC title game with Cooper Kupp demanding San Francisco’s attention.
Kansas City Chiefs DEF ($14) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Despite being at home and the biggest favorites this weekend, KC’s fantasy defense is a distant third in salaries. Joe Burrow took the most sacks (51) in the league during the regular season and was dropped a whopping nine times in the divisional round, and he’ll likely have to throw a ton of passes Sunday.
Jauan Jennings ($11) @ Los Angeles Rams
Jennings had his best game of the season, catching 6-of-7 targets for 94 yards and two touchdowns during the last matchup between these two teams. With Trent Williams either inactive or playing compromised through a sprained ankle, the 49ers might struggle to run against a strong Rams front (and George Kittle could be asked to block more). Jimmy Garoppolo’s injuries are expected to hinder him less now playing indoors, and Jennings is an intriguing flier at the near minimum.