As fantasy football managers polish their newly secured hardware, DFS takes over the conversation as each week presents an entirely new set of challenges to those looking to win contests. With the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs on the horizon, here are our picks for DFS sleepers and busts for this weekend.
2022 NFL Divisional Round DFS Sleepers
As lineups are set, who are the fantasy sleepers in the NFL Divisional Round of the playoffs? Let’s dive in.
Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs ($4,800)
When the Chiefs ruled Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of last week’s game against the Steelers, Darrel Williams was the obvious player who would step up. In recent weeks, he had been acting as the RB1 and looked good doing it. Andy Reid had other ideas: Jerick McKinnon dominated the backfield. This was likely also caused by Williams dealing with a toe injury.
Nevertheless, McKinnon’s split is noteworthy. He played on 51 of the 65 offensive snaps to Williams’ 8. In opportunities, it was an 18-to-1 domination by McKinnon. He rushed 12 times for 61 yards and caught all 6 targets for 81 additional yards and a score. His 26.2 PPR points made him the RB1 of Wild Card Weekend. There’s no question Buffalo is a far superior defense, but if Edwards-Helaire is out, McKinnon at $4,800 is a great play due to his third-down and passing-game utilization.
Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills ($4,600)
Few receivers have been as hot as Gabriel Davis, though you haven’t really heard about it. Since the start of December, Davis is averaging 6.5 targets per game and has a team-high 5 touchdowns. Against the Patriots, Davis led all Bills WRs in snaps (40) and was No. 2 in routes behind Stefon Diggs (18).
Ideally, we would want more consistency. Still, in a game that’ll likely feature lots of points scored, Davis’ red-zone prowess is worth considering in a Bills stack. And while the Chiefs have been better at times, they are still 30th over their last four games vs. WRs at 43.99 points per game. Davis could be an interesting play this week in DFS.
Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($5,000)
The question of the week for Tampa Bay is health. What is the status of RT Tristan Wirfs? He was in a walking boot following Sunday’s game. How about the health of Leonard Fournette? We initially believed Fournette (hamstring) would have been activated last week, but the Bucs chose not to bring him back from injured reserve.
Instead, we got a split backfield between Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard. It’s Bernard who intrigues me the most. Fantasy managers spent the offseason believing Bernard could be Tom Brady’s passing-down back — a role that has been fruitful for fantasy football. Bernard did just that on Sunday against the Eagles.
Playing on 36 snaps, Bernard rushed 13 times for 44 yards and a touchdown, bringing in 5 of 7 targets for 39 yards in his first action since Week 14. If Fournette is back against the Rams, forget all of this and play him. Yet, if Fournette is out again for some reason, Bernard at $5,000 is an intriguing DFS sleeper for the Divisional Round.
Jauan Jennings, San Francisco 49ers ($3,400)
At $400 over the minimum, Jauan Jennings has turned into a bit of a budget baller for DFS. He has seen 5+ targets in five of his last six games, and he’s played on 50% of more of the snaps in his last two games. In the regular-season finale, Jennings had himself a day, catching 6 of 7 targets for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is undoubtedly his ceiling, but that momentum carried into the playoffs — he saw 5 targets against Dallas.
With George Kittle serving as a sixth offensive lineman, Jennings has room in this passing game. He is by no means a safe option, but the Packers are 20th against the pass to WRs (35.63 ppg), and we assume the 49ers will need to keep up against Aaron Rodgers. At his price, Jennings could be an intriguing sleeper.
2022 NFL Divisional Round DFS Busts
When the lights shine the brightest, some players cave under pressure. Which players are risky NFL DFS picks due to their likelihood of underperforming based on expectations?
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams ($5,500)
If you watched Monday night’s game, the sound you heard in the background was Cam Akers’ fantasy value shooting up to the moon. He is back, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Roughly six months removed from tearing his Achilles, Akers rushed 17 times for 55 yards and also caught 1 of 2 targets for 40 yards. He led Sony Michel in snaps, routes, targets, and rushes — a clean sweep. This is and will be Akers’ backfield moving forward.
The downside of that is it happened right in time to face Tampa Bay’s top-ranked rush defense. While they are No. 15 in points allowed, the Bucs allow the fewest total of fantasy points on the ground (8.84 per game) and are No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game to RBs (63.7). Last week, LA’s game script favored the run; it’s the exact opposite in the Divisional Round as the Bucs are a pass-funnel defense. I get it from a volume play, but Akers is a player who could bust in DFS considering the matchup.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers ($5,300)
We need to talk. George Kittle has been non-existent for four weeks now. He has three games with 2 or fewer receptions and has yet to record over 30 yards or score a TD in his last four — all while playing on 96.5% of the offensive snaps. His target rate is just 6% during this time. For fantasy, he’s scored 17.4 PPR points combined (4.35 per game). For Kittle, one of the best in the business, this is inexcusable.
This downturn is immediately following a three-game stretch where Kittle hauled in 28 passes for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns. On Monday, head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed this with the media, saying that defenses have been focusing on Kittle, which opens things up for Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings. Basically, Kittle is now a decoy and a run blocker. Got it. If the 49ers want to win, Kittle needs to touch the ball. Yet, if Green Bay takes him away as others have opted to do, we could be in line for another bust performance from Kittle in DFS.
Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams ($4,200)
For a second, it looked like Van Jefferson was indeed the Rams WR to roster aside from Cooper Kupp once Robert Woods went down. From Weeks 7 through 13, Jefferson averaged 7.3 targets per game with 3.7 receptions, 60 yards, and 3 touchdowns. But Odell Beckham Jr. returned to the player we once knew, so Jefferson’s opportunities have dried up.
Since Week 14 (six games), Jefferson has only seen more than 5 targets once (Week 16) and has five games of 2 or fewer receptions. He has not scored in five games, and he’s only once crossed 60 yards receiving during that span. He does have splash-play potential, recording 4 receptions of 20+ yards over that timeframe, but he lacks consistency. At $4,200, Jefferson could be a decent value if he hits, but he is at best the fourth option on this offense based on recent trends.