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Conference Championship DFS value plays: Can Matthew Stafford hit a huge ceiling?

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Quarterback

You have to look at this position from a game-to-game perspective on such a small slate. The AFC Championship has the higher-end salary players at the quarterback spot. Patrick Mahomes is the cream of the crop at $40 and deservedly so.

If you’re looking to get a little salary relief in the NFC matchup, there’s only one guy to reasonably consider this weekend.

Matthew Stafford $31

You’re getting a nice little discount going down to Stafford’s salary from the upper-tier for the AFC Championship game. Of course, this game does have the lower total (47 compared to 50.5) and Stafford has chucked four picks against the 49ers this season. Nevertheless, this game could get relatively fantasy-friendly if Kyle Shanahan and co. can pick on the middle of the field in the passing game. We know that’s where Jimmy Garoppolo loves to throw the ball and conveniently, where the Rams’ pass defense is most vulnerable. This would bode well for Stafford, who will have to throw and put up points to answer.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) enters his first Championship Round
Matthew Stafford is in the Championship Round — how will he do? (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Running back

Running back is the hardest position to find salary relief. There’s only one player, Joe Mixon, who is over $30, and the 49ers Eli Mitchell sits at $23. If you’re looking to go lower than those guys, the two other lead backs from the other teams are the only realistic options.

If you go even lower, you’re playing with fire.

Cam Akers $21

Akers comes with the lightest salary among no-doubt feature backs this weekend. I’m comfortable closing the book on any idea the Rams will have a committee backfield after Akers touched the ball 27 times to just three for Sony Michel. The 49ers' run defense is stingy — 72 rushing yards per game allowed in the postseason — but fumbles notwithstanding, Akers has still run well enough the last two weeks to deserve consideration at $21.

Jerick McKinnon $18

McKinnon has touched the ball 33 times this postseason. Even with Clyde Edwards-Helaire back for the Divisional Round, McKinnon led the backfield with 10 carries and drew seven targets to just two for CEH. If you’re picking a Chiefs back, it has to be McKinnon. He’s been an integral part of the offense as a receiver by breathing some life back into the long-dormant screen game for Kansas City.

Wide receiver

All playoffs we’ve been treated to fantastic wide receiver play. Even as a few guys like Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs have left us, we still have fantastic options north of $26. Below that group, there are a few guys who could be volatile but potentially high-end options.

Odell Beckham $24

Beckham saw a postseason-high eight targets in the Rams’ win over the Bucs. They were the most he’s drawn since Week 16. His involvement as a red-zone weapon with his vice grip hands makes him a decent bet for a touchdown every single week.

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Tyler Boyd $18

If you’re looking to be contrarian with your Bengals receivers, consider Boyd while Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins collect beefy roster rates. The slot man has scored a touchdown in four of his last five games.

Brandon Aiyuk $17

Aiyuk blanked in the stat sheet while the 49ers basically played the game in neutral last week in Green Bay. It’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of that kind of script in sunny Los Angeles this weekend. Aiyuk collected seven targets and went over 100 yards last time he faced the Rams, as he’s the one who will run most of his routes against LA’s weaker perimeter corners.

Byron Pringle $16

Pringle has established himself as the No. 2 receiver in KC down the stretch. He’s scored three touchdowns this postseason and posted five catches on seven targets in each game.

Van Jefferson $13

Total value flier. He’s the lone receiver under $15 that runs consistent routes with any regularity as a full-time player.

Tight end

George Kittle and Travis Kelce are still dominating the high-end tight end position with a $10 salary gap between them. It’s worth trying to squeeze them in but it is indeed going to be a tight bind. If you want to jump up at quarterback and wide receiver, you can consider one strong and one desperation dart throw.

C.J. Uzomah $18

Uzomah has six-plus catches in back-to-back games and posted 135 yards with one score through the playoffs. As mentioned, tight end has two high-end options at the top but if you want to get up on the salary scale elsewhere, you could chase a touchdown with Uzomah in a high-scoring game.

Kendall Blanton $10

If you’re getting extra weird you can chase another touchdown from Blanton, who scored the first of his career last week. It’s a desperate move.

Defense

The 49ers are an extremely attractive play at $18 because those guys are hunting when they rush the passer. If you want to pass them by, there’s another team with a gorgeous sack-based floor.

Kansas City Chiefs

KC has some strong pass rushers and the Bengals offensive line is as weak of a link that remains in the playoffs. We could see them push for five-plus sacks, no question.

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