First off, let me start by saying Happy Thanksgiving! No matter where or how you decide to celebrate this year, I hope your day is full of happiness, food, and love. Every Thanksgiving, we not only get the joy of the holiday but a three-game NFL DFS DraftKings slate ripe with picks, pivots, game theory, and of course: tilt! What DFS picks can we trust on Thanksgiving day? Which of the NFL games on Thanksgiving are bound to shoot out and which are destined to flounder? Let’s dive in and find out.
General thoughts on the Thanksgiving slate
Seeing as it’s only a three-game slate, the sound plays will be over-owned, the good spots over-rostered, and the less ideal players and games will be avoided more than they usually are. I don’t normally play cash games on this slate, but I think it’s a good week for single entry and three-entry max tournaments. I imagine many players who don’t normally play or play less frequently will be more apt to partake in turkey day contests.
This situation breeds more expected value from playing the Thanksgiving NFL games if you’re at least an average player who knows what to look for when making optimal NFL DFS picks for tournaments. I touched on some of those principles in last week’s article.
Podcast: Moneyline and Wine Note: This article continues after the podcast player. To subscribe to Moneyline and Wine with Jessica Gridiron and Anita Marks, find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Thanksgiving Day DFS Picks: Positional Values
Deshaun Watson ($7400)– The Houston Texans have the highest implied team total (26.75) on the slate, play in a dome, and (aside from Lamar Jackson), Watson has the most rushing upside from the QB position. There’s plenty of “punts” you can roll the dice on in tournaments to afford Watson. However, if the Texans are going to be popular, it might behoove you to look at my next QB pick in Thanksgiving DraftKings tournaments.
Andy Dalton ($5600)– The Cowboys have the second-highest implied team total (24.5) and will also play in a dome this weekend against their long time NFC East rivals, the Washington Football team. Dalton doesn’t offer any rushing upside but does correlate well with the top non-QB play on the slate, Terry McLaurin. McLaurin will be popular, but I doubt many will look in the direction of Dalton this Thursday. My favorite pairing with Dalton includes Ezekiel Elliott ($5400) and Amari Cooper ($5700). But, in a tournament, anyone is liable to “go off.”
Gus Edwards / Justice Hill ($4000)– With Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins set to miss this game, Edwards and Hill become two of the top values on the slate. Well, I should say Edwards becomes a top value, while Hill offers intrigue as one of my contrarian DFS picks on Thanksgiving day. The Steelers defense is a terrible matchup for RBs, but one o of these players will see enough volume to pay off their price.
Duke Johnson ($5700)– I can’t tell you if the way the Texans use their RBs is non-conducive to fantasy points, if this three-game stretch is small sample size noise, or if Johnson sucks. I can tell you that Duke has seen an 84.3% snap share in that time frame, 95.2% of the RB carries, and 91% of the RB targets. If that usage continues, Johnson is a good value for your DraftKings Thanksgiving picks.
Antonio Gibson ($6000)– Gibson offers direct leverage off of McLaurin, as if Gibson is getting the touchdowns, McLaurin is not. Gibson has seven of the 12 red zone rushing attempts for Washington the past two weeks, according to FTN Daily. He hasn’t been featured in the passing game but has still been good for a few targets each week. I don’t think Gibson should be played in cash games, but is an excellent tournament play for the Thanksgiving NFL games.
Terry McLaurin ($7000)– McLaurin is the top projected non-QB play and will be one of the most popular NFL DFS picks. How you handle McLaurin in tournaments will likely dictate how your Thanksgiving day DFS picks perform. I will probably take some chances fading McLaurin in some lineups while building lineups with maximum correlation should he indeed “go off.”
Will Fuller ($6400) / Brandin Cooks ($5300)– Cooks will probably be a popular play in tournaments, as he has a total of 22 targets in the past three weeks. However, Will Fuller led the Texans in targets against the New England Patriots in Week 11. If Cooks is going to be popular, and considering the ownership McLaurin will receive, Fuller becomes one of the best leverage picks on the DraftKings Thanksgiving NFL DFS slate.
Diontae Johnson ($6200)– I can’t confidently say where Johnson’s ownership will come in on turkey day. What I can say is, he’s been the alpha WR in every game he has not left early this year for Pittsburgh. According to Sharp Football Stats, his 20% target share is more impressive than most considering the Pittsburgh Steelers throw at one of the highest rates in the league in any situation.
Tight end has some surprisingly playable options on this short slate. Mark Andrews ($5200) carries the most upside, while T.J. Hockenson ($4700) should see close to eight targets again if the Lions continue to be decimated with injuries.
For punt options, Logan Thomas ($3500) is there for all you masochists out there. Jordan Akins ($2900) could see the same elevated target share Hockenson will, considering Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills are expected to miss this game. Or you can roster whatever TE is on the same team as your QB.
For a slate this small, roster whatever defense fits. Houston will probably be the most popular defense, so avoid them if you can.
Thanksgiving DraftKings Picks: Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) Strategy
GPP Onslaughts and the Steelers
I don’t advocate for onslaughts (QB+RB+WR/TE/+WR/TE) on a normal-sized slate, considering the odds of one team outperforming twenty or more is minimal. On a shorter slate, however, those odds increase, making an onslaught viable. Don’t be afraid to double-stack one team and “run it back” with two players from the other team either. It’s a way to play good plays and differentiate yourself in tournaments as the percentage of people with that specific combination will be lower than it should be on a small slate.
In this case, I’m willing to stack Ben Roethlisberger ($6600) with a full complement of his pass-catchers, limiting my Baltimore run-back to one player. Pittsburgh passes the ball above league average (at least 60% in most cases) in almost any situation you can think of. They know their offense’s strength lies in their receivers, and they aren’t afraid to exploit it.
Their team total is on par with Dallas and Detroit, but I don’t think many players will roster Roethlisberger as he lacks the rushing upside Watson and Jackson possess. He will need to throw for over 350 passing yards and at least three touchdowns to have a GPP winning game, but I don’t see why that isn’t feasible.
I think rostering two Pittsburgh pass-catchers without Roethlisberger is also viable for our DraftKings Thanksgiving NFL DFS picks. You can get two 20 point performances from the Steelers’ WRs and have your QB outperform Ben from a point per dollar or raw points perspective. I don’t think a lot of the field will be on the Pittsburgh passing game, so I love targeting them in GPPs this Thursday.
Don’t overemphasize late-swap
Several people like fading the first game on Thanksgiving solely because it’s the first game of the day. While seeing where you stand regarding points and ownership after a third of the slate is advantageous, don’t let that sway you from stacking the Texans and Lions if you think that will be the GPP winning game. Don’t fade it just because it’s the first game of the day.
That’s all the picks I have for you on this Thanksgiving day DraftKings slate. Again, I hope your day is full of food, happiness, love, and of course, a lot of money from DFS. Good luck, enjoy the NFL games and Happy Thanksgiving!