Have you had success with my daily fantasy football (DFS) picks this year? I know I have, just not enough. I took a beating a couple of weeks here and there, plus I had to take more out of my winnings from my big weeks for personal expenses than I would have liked. So my stake is really low, and if my Week 12 DFS picks don't hit, I'm in trouble.
But that's also another way to say that I'm not messing around this week. Perhaps these picks are very conservative or even reek of desperation. But they are well-researched and well-intentioned. And I've been right more often than I have been wrong. I'm confident with these picks, but I also believe in full disclosure.
Because I have been here before. It drives my wife crazy how both myself and my oldest kid can let things get so bleak but manage to come through in the clutch. The latter will sometimes be in serious trouble of killing her GPA but will somehow manage to get extra credit or ace the final and ends up finishing with high marks. I'm the same way. My DFS stake is low, but I'm confident that my fantasy football picks this week will bring my stake back to a healthy level. Let's get to the clutch picks!
Teams on bye: Arizona, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota
Week 12 DFS Picks
Safe QB: Russell Wilson at Eagles (DK $6800, FD $8200)
I do like Lamar Jackson better this week, but since he is not on the main slate, Wilson is the choice. Apparently I'm not the only one liking the Ravens quarterback more...
I don't think I need to tell you all the reasons to start Wilson though. Yes, he's on the road, and the Eagles' defense has been playing better lately. But Wilson's floor is high enough that I'm willing to pay the premium. Let's move on to a player whose floor is not so high.
High Risk/Reward QB: Baker Mayfield vs. Dolphins (DK $5900, FD $7500)
I'll be honest, this pick makes me cringe. And I know, even I have referred to Mayfield as a fantasy nightmare. But Mayfield was likely picked up this week by everyone looking for a bye-week replacement. The fact that he was available in a lot of leagues is pretty telling. But he does have a great matchup against Miami.
Furthermore, Mayfield has improved after a miserable start to the season, giving fantasy football owners hope for next year. I'm not sure I'm willing to grab him in a keeper league, but for one week against one of the worst teams in the league, sure, why not?
Safe RB: Leonard Fournette at Titans (DK: $7300, FD: $7000)
Barring an injury, Fournette has one of the highest floors of any running back this week. Fournette has yet to score less than nine points on FanDuel. He has yet to score less than double digits on DraftKings. That's a floor I'm willing to lock into my lineup. The Titans are neither great nor bad in limiting opposing backs. Furthermore, I would expect Fournette to exceed his floor given what we have heard this week from head coach Doug Marrone. Fournette is reasonably priced this week and should absolutely return value. Speaking of Marrone, let's move to a player on his former team.
High Risk/Reward RB: Devin Singletary vs. Denver (DK: $5400, FD: $6300)
If Marrone were still coaching the Bills, I have a feeling he'd be yanking us around with the running back situation as well. Because the ageless Frank Gore has been a real thorn in the side of Singletary's fantasy success this season. The Bills refuse to give Singletary the 25-30 carries a game he deserves and instead continue to give Gore double-digit attempts.
Gore is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and has not even reached the 3.0 mark in any of the last three weeks. Singletary, meanwhile, is averaging 6.1 yards per attempt and has more than double Gore's output each of the last three weeks.
Meanwhile, Denver is still the NFL's fifth-best passing defense. Expect the Bills to run the ball 30 times. Even if Singletary only gets 15 carries but averages six yards per, that's 90 yards. Furthermore, the Broncos have given up a rushing touchdown in each of the last four weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if that number gets to five. Given Singletary's current price, I'm willing to gamble.
Safe WR: Calvin Ridley vs. Buccaneers (DK: $6500, FD: $6700)
I was initially inclined to go with Odell Beckham Jr. here, but he is currently questionable for Sunday's game against the Dolphins. Instead, I will go with one of the best matchups. The Buccaneers are giving up a league-worst 46 fantasy points per game to wide receivers.
I am deliberating saving some salary by using Russell Gage. And Julio Jones is always tempting. But I decided to split the difference and select Ridley, who is coming off of an eight-reception, 143-yard outing with a touchdown. I'm expecting a huge day from Matt Ryan. A shootout is definitely foreseeable given the high over/under.
One might worry about Jones being the weapon of choice, but I'm not. Yes, the Bucs are giving up the most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to WR1s, but they're also giving up the most to WR2s. For example, in Week 9, Tyler Lockett scored 40 fantasy points against the Buccaneers, but DK Metcalf still scored 27. In Week 4, Robert Woods scored nearly 30 fantasy points, while Cooper Kupp had nearly 27. I'll gladly take 27 points from Ridley, who is mispriced by at least $500 on FanDuel.
High Risk/Reward WR: Tyler Lockett at Eagles (DK: $7600, FD: $7400)
So the "risk" here is the injury concerns. Remember, Lockett had to leave last week's overtime game because his shin injury was so bad. As of Friday morning, he is "expected" to play. He also might play and be more of a decoy. His prices don't really account for the injury risk, and given the high cost, I'd be checking every medical report I can between now and lineup lock.
If Lockett is at 100 percent though, his ceiling is sky-high against the Eagles, who are giving up nearly 40 fantasy points per game to WRs. The 49ers kept Lockett in check before he left the game, and the Seahawks had last week off for their bye. But before that, he torched the Buccaneers on 13 of 18 targets for 152 yards and two touchdowns. As I said, well worth the risk.
Safe TE: Cameron Brate at Falcons (DK: $3600, FD: $5400)
Given some of the high-salary players I am rolling with this week, I need to go with a cheaper option at tight end, and Brate fits the bill. I don't think he will get the 14 targets he saw last week. But I think half of that is a reasonable expectation, and at $3600 on DraftKings, that's a prudent decision. As stated previously, this game could easily be high-scoring, and I like Brate to share in the fireworks. The fact that Atlanta is giving up right around the league average fantasy scoring to tight ends helps support my stance.
High Risk/Reward TE: Greg Olsen at Saints (DK: $4100, FD: $5100)
The Superdome has been anything but super to Olsen over the years. He has had some of the worst games of his career there. Since he became a Panther in 2010 (and a regular Saints opponent), Olsen has just one touchdown in New Orleans. And Olsen has yet to score since a Week 3 matchup against Arizona. Thus, there's reason for caution.
And I'm still not sure he sees the end zone this week either. But two items of note. One, Olsen has 13 receptions on 15 targets the last two weeks, so he is absolutely part of the offense. Two, he is just one of three tight ends playing this week who averages 10 or more fantasy points per game. The other two are Darren Waller and Zach Ertz, a pair of far more expensive options (by more than $1000) on both sites. Olsen feels like a sneaky but smart pick this week.
Safe DST: Browns vs. Dolphins (DK: $3800, FD: $4500)
The Browns make more sense as a play on FanDuel than DraftKings. The latter has them as the second-most expensive DST on the slate, but on the former, Cleveland barely cracks the top 10 by salary. Either way, I'll have shares of the Browns on both sites. After all, it is the Dolphins they are playing.
High Risk/Reward DST: Jaguars at Titans (DK: $2800, FD: $4200)
I was crushing it once again with my Broncos pick in this space last week, as they were up 20-0 on the Vikings. And then there was the comeback. Sigh...
So maybe I can pick a sleeper DST that does it for all four quarters this week? Well, Tennessee's offense is not known for its quick-strike capabilities. The Titans are in the top 10 for fantasy points allowed to DSTs, which is not surprising, given they are 26th in the NFL in total offense. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is fifth in sacks (33) and tied for 11th in interceptions (8). I don't think the Jags will keep Derrick Henry from a big day, but given the price, I do like Sacksonville this week.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.