Whether you’re playing with house money or just trying to make back your regular-season league dues, we’re going to build off our 2016 Wild Card Weekend rankings and offer the best value picks for weekly fantasy owners hoping to get the most out of their budgets.
Below we’ve identified the players at each top position (QB, RB, WR, TE) that stand to provide the most value for every fantasy dollar. But there is one qualifier prospective owners must understand.
Each pick isn’t necessarily the best one at each position, but choosing one or several will allow owners to spend the rest of their salary cap on one or even two star players in FanDuel or DraftKings leagues. For example, opting to buy and start Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, who’s just the fourth-most expensive back in FanDuel and fifth-most expensive in DraftKings, will allow you to splurge on say Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson or Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown.
So, starting with a $60,000 FanDuel and $50,000 DraftKings budget, we’ve parsed the best value picks to maximize your lineups during Wild Card weekend based off FantasyPros optimizer and player salaries.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, $8,100
It’s easy to trace how former MVP Rodgers could wind up as the just the third-most expensive QB in the opening round of the postseason against the surprising Redskins. Injuries to his top receivers, his No. 1 running back, and the offensive line, not to mention his own shoulder, have put Rodgers’ playoff potential in peril and he’s only $100 more expensive than Kirk Cousins.
But all that has simply provided weekly fantasy players the chance to start an All-Pro passer who’s tossed 23 touchdowns compared to seven picks for a 101.0 rating in 12 career playoff games and next faces a Washington secondary that allowed 18.82 ppg to opposing QBs this season. The Redskins are No. 22 in fantasy against QBs, or rather the worst in fantasy of any playoff team this season.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals, $6,700
The potential for Giovani Bernard to steal some carries is there, but it has been all season, and despite a nearly 400-yard drop-off in total rushing yardage compared to his rookie season, Hill still tied for the NFL lead with 11 rushing scores. He has a very difficult matchup with Pittsburgh, which ranked No. 2 in fantasy against opposing backs, but with AJ McCarron potentially running the show the Bengals will pound the ball inside. Hill’s your pick in standard formats, while Bernard ($5,600) is your best bet in PPR leagues.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers, $6,900
As the most expensive receiver of the week, we already know Antonio Brown will get the bulk of the Bengals’ attention. So why not go with Bryant, who set new career-highs with 50 receptions for 765 yards while appearing in just 11 games. Furthermore, Bryant has 14 touchdown receptions in a mere 21 career regular season games, and with the Steelers potentially facing a very depleted backfield Bryant may get plenty of targets in short-yardage situations.
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers, $5,600
Standing as Ben Roethlisberger’s third-favorite target, Miller’s a sleeper pick against Cincy’s No. 6-ranked work against TEs this season. We like him in PPR leagues, in particular, since he’s averaged nearly five targets and 3.5 receptions in 13 career playoff games.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs, $5,300
Changing gears to a nearly 20-percent tighter budget, Smith’s actually slotted well behind injured Andy Dalton and even Houston’s Brian Hoyer. But that just means Smith will pay off even greater dividends should he pan out against the Texans No. 11-ranked fantasy secondary. There’s lots of reasons to believe Smith will excel, especially given the health of the weapons around him.
Kansas City will roll out Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, a very balanced and largely healthy unit whose only rival might be Seattle, in terms of depth and talent up-and-down the roster. Adding Smith immediately opens up huge avenues to splurge at every other position, and he should be a stronger consideration for owners.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers, $4,500
There was very little to like about Lacy’s third year. He hit career lows in total yardage, rushing touchdowns, yards per game, and receptions. Part of that was due to injury, and a question over his fitness and game preparation. It also has to do with the Packers gimpy offensive line and Rodgers mediocre play of late.
Lacy’s our biggest sleeper/boom-or-bust play of the week, but just remember the 174 yards he put up in last year’s playoffs off 40 attempts and the fact that Washington finished No. 26 in the league with 122.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs, $6,400
The fourth most-expensive receiver of the week has a difficult uphill battle against a Texans secondary that finished No. 3 overall and fifth in fantasy against opposing WRs. However, Houston has been susceptible to big plays down field, tied for No. 21 in the league with 12 plays of 40-plus yards allowed.
With so much to preoccupy J.J. Watt and company upfront and inside the box, Maclin can burn the Texans secondary and your opponents this week.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals, $5,000
Eifert missed the first two games that Dalton sat out, but he developed a rapport with AJ McCarron and caught all four of his targets for 51 yards and a touchdown in Week 17. Angling for a new contract in the offseason, Eifert’s averaged a touchdown a game this season and Cincinnati will have to go to him early to open everything else up for receiver A.J. Green, Hill and Bernard.