As the NFL playoffs arrive, DraftKings introduced a new contest with some startling differences.
For one thing, the contest includes just one game -- the Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints wild-card round game at 4:40 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 7. For another, participants pick a lineup of six players: four offensive players (regardless of position) and two individual defensive players.
The entry fee is $8 and the total field is 29,411 entries. Multiple entries are permitted up to 150. The prize pool is $200,000 with $25,000 to first place and payouts going to the top 7,240 finishers.
Without getting too deep into the weeds about the parameters of how daily fantasy sports is perceived to be in compliance with federal and state laws, by and large there was an understanding that DFS contests needed to include more than one event. However, it's hard to imagine DraftKings would offer such a contest unless it felt that it was on safe ground.
The scoring for individual defensive players is extremely new (solo tackles, assisted tackles, and so on) if your experience has been mostly with DraftKings and FanDuel, where defense/special teams is a team category.
As a point of information, the highest-priced individual defensive player is Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly ($6,700). The highest-priced player overall is Saints running back Alvin Kamara ($13,800). The salary cap allowance is $50,000 for the six-player lineup.
There will be no attempt here to handicap the DraftKings' "NFL $200,000 Showdown Launch Special," but we thought it may be of interest.
Here are this week's value picks for the four-game playoff slate Jan. 6-7.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: The stinker that Bortles put up in the regular-season finale against the Tennessee Titans was an outlier for him throughout the second half of the season. For the start of the playoffs, the Jaguars are at home against the Buffalo Bills, which will likely have problems offensively, especially if running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) cannot play or is limited.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: Fellow Titans running back DeMarco Murray is out for the game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Obviously, that means Henry gets the majority of touches for a team that runs the ball just a bit more than the league average. He is the ninth-highest priced running back on DraftKings and FanDuel, making him a thrift choice.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers: In the two previous games this season against the Saints, McCaffrey registered 23.7 and 15.9 fantasy points (DraftKings scoring). Those numbers were mainly due to pass-catching. On the fast track of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, he should approach 14 to 20 fantasy points, making him a cash game pick.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs: Hill, the No. 3-priced wide receiver on the leading websites, has every likelihood of matching the fantasy production of the two receivers that cost more, the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones and New Orleans Saints' Michael Thomas. It makes sense to save the cap room for help at other positions.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams: Kupp's appeal is that his fantasy value has not been tied to scoring touchdowns because he gets so many targets and he makes good on them, but that also means he's more valuable on full point-per-reception websites in cash game contests because of his reliable floor and limited ceiling.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers: If you can figure out how to squeeze top-priced Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce in your salary cap, go for it. However, Olsen is considerably cheaper and he's still one of QB Cam Newton's favorite targets.
Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers: Kickers in domes are always preferable and Gano is cheaper than opposing Saints kicker Wil Lutz.
Kansas City Chiefs: If you can get Jacksonville and its top defense under your cap, that's certainly the way to go, but the Chiefs offer similar fantasy points potential and are $1,000 cheaper on DraftKings and $800 cheaper on FanDuel.