FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Wild Card Round (Saturday)
The NFL postseason gets underway with a two-game slate on Saturday with games between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers as well as the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of course, that means a nice two-game slate for daily fantasy football purposes.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of the top plays of the slate on FanDuel.
We have four quarterbacks (naturally) on the slate, and while anything can happen on a small slate, the relatively small salary gap between Justin Herbert ($7,800) and Trevor Lawrence ($7,700) over Brock Purdy ($7,100) and Geno Smith ($6,900) puts the AFC passers in much higher esteem.
My simulation model for this slate considers Herbert to be 43.6% likely to get to at least 20.0 FanDuel points with Lawrence (37.4%), Purdy (33.1%), and Smith (22.3%) following.
Herbert will need to overcome a situation with stud receiver Mike Williams being less than 100%. Williams is trending toward a questionable status entering the game. In recent contests with Keenan Allen and Josh Palmer active and playing heavy snaps but with Williams out or limited, Herbert has averaged 290.5 yards and 2.0 touchdowns for 21.0 FanDuel points. The Jaguars are much better against the rush (8th via numberFire's adjusted, per-play metrics) than the pass (26th). Herbert is the top priority in most situations.
In games with Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram, Marvin Jones, and Travis Etienne all active and playing heavy snaps since the James Robinson trade, Lawrence has been much more efficient (0.18 EPA per drop back over expected) than outright productive (245.3 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game). The Chargers are very beatable on the ground, so Lawrence makes sense but should be viewed as the QB2 on the slate.
Purdy -- in four recent games with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Elijah Mitchell -- has also been hyper-efficient (0.25 EPA per drop back over expectation) but is a low-volume passer (219.6 yards per game) and is getting by on big efficiency. He's a viable pivot from Herbert and Lawrence if you're playing the angle that the AFC game underwhelms.
As for Smith, he has played just above expectation from an efficiency standpoint (0.03 EPA per drop back over expected) in full games with both D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and now faces a difficult situation as a huge underdog. He's an afterthought for a reason, and the path to playing him is banking on chaos in the night game or a bad enough blowout that Smith racks up incredible yardage. Smith had 238 yards and a touchdown in Seattle's most recent matchup with San Francisco.
There are two studs on the slate with Christian McCaffrey ($9,800) and Austin Ekeler ($9,000), and it's hard to find a lot of fault with either.
McCaffrey has averaged 19.3 FanDuel points per game with the 49ers as well as 110.0 scrimmage yards per contest. The one potential drawback is the recent return of Elijah Mitchell ($5,500). In games with Mitchell active down the stretch, we've seen McCaffrey's snap rate tick down to the 65.0% range. My simulations still have McCaffrey as 47.0% likely to get to 20.0 FanDuel points, so I'm not talking anyone out of him, but for those who are looking to fade him, they could at least make the case of Mitchell stealing too much work.
Mitchell himself is still viable based on the workload he's been given when active. He has had a carry or target on 61.3% of his snaps -- ranking him fifth among all backs in the league with at least a 20.0% snap rate over at least two games.
Ekeler could easily see a boosted role in terms of his target share with Mike Williams ailing. In games with Williams limited down the stretch, Ekeler has averaged 6.8 targets (a 16.5% target share) as well as 11.3 carries for 88.0 scrimmage yards per game. He's also averaged 3.5 red zone rushes per contest (73.7%).
Despite the status of those two studs, Travis Etienne ($7,100) also really stands out from a value standpoint. Etienne faces the Chargers, who are allowing 1.53 rushing yards over expectation per carry -- no other team is above 0.95.
Those four -- Etienne, McCaffrey, Ekeler, and Mitchell -- rank above Kenneth Walker III ($6,600) despite the lower salary for Walker. Walker's matchup is pretty tough with the 49ers ranking as the best overall running back defense in the playoffs.
The lone receiver with a salary above $7,500 is Keenan Allen ($8,400), who comes at a pretty sizable opportunity cost. Rostering Allen with either McCaffrey or Ekeler (for a Chargers onslaught stack) is technically doable but puts the squeeze on the rest of the lineup. Allen himself projects out well and has a 24.4% target share in the aforementioned games with Williams limited lately -- but he's not a building block for me as a result of the roster construction at other positions.
The next tier is more appealing with D.K. Metcalf ($7,100), Deebo Samuel ($6,900), and Zay Jones ($6,300).
Metcalf, in full games with Tyler Lockett, has a 27.1% target share, a 41.1% red zone target share, and a 51.4% end zone target share. That also comes with 4.5 downfield targets per game (10-plus air yards), and if you weigh the red zone and downfield targets for the proper value, his weighted target share is 30.4%. He's a great play despite the matchup, and the workload itself isn't reflected in this salary.
Samuel returned to play 67.2% of the 49ers' snaps in Week 18, and while the production wasn't elevated (3 targets and 1 carry for 24 yards), that workload is encouraging in his return from injury. Samuel, in four games with McCaffrey and Mitchell in the backfield, has had a 21.9% target share to lead the team and added 2.5 carries per game, as well.
While I still like Christian Kirk, it's worth noting that Zay Jones has had really good splits lately, too. With all of their pass-catchers healthy and since the James Robinson trade, Kirk does lead the team with a 22.3% target share and a 31.3% red zone target share. However, Zay Jones is close behind with rates of 21.5% and 28.1%, respectively. That's not reflected in the salary discrepancy ($7,500 to $6,300), so Zay Jones is shaping up as a true core play.
Mike Williams ($7,000) is a fun target if he does suit up without any restrictions, but in the (seemingly likely) event that we see him scaled back or out entirely, then Josh Palmer ($6,500) would become part of that tier, as well. In recent games without Williams playing big snaps but with Allen active, Palmer has averaged 6.0 catches, 8.5 targets, and 65.3 yards per game.
The tight-end conversation centers on whether or not you're projecting a big game for George Kittle ($7,700). If Kittle goes off, then the opportunity cost of not having him in your lineups will likely prove great enough that you're not having the best day possible. But on the flip side, a 30-point outing from McCaffrey or Ekeler will do the same. My simulations show Kittle to be a bit overrated due to the questionable volume projection. He's a heads-up differentiation play but really has no room for error at this salary.
The better value is Evan Engram ($5,700). In relevant games for the Jaguars based on current health, Engram holds a 20.7% target share and 15.6% red zone target share. Those 7.1 targets per game have been turned into 60.6 yards with a catch rate over expectation of +4.8%. The Chargers are allowing the only double-digit average depth of target (10.2) to tight ends in the NFL, and the league average is just 6.9.
Gerald Everett ($5,600) would get boosted up without Mike Williams -- but it won't put him in the same tier as Engram for me. In recent games without Williams playing big snaps, Everett is at an 11.0% target share (5.0 per game) with a dreadful 3.8-yard average target depth.
Two Seahawks tight ends are in play between Noah Fant ($5,100) and Colby Parkinson ($4,700). I'm leaning toward Parkinson. In two games without Will Dissly, Parkinson has a 71.6% route rate and a 79.4% snap rate. Fant's marks are 58.2% and 63.8%, respectively.