When I’m studying the DFS slate each week, I like to go game by game and identify players or situations that intrigue me. In every game, on every team, there’s a situation that’s relevant for DFS purposes. Whether it’s for a positive or negative reason, doesn’t matter. It informs us of how we should be attacking each slate. Each week, I’m going to go through that process here and give my view on a player or situation based on what we know so far and what we can expect to see in the future.
The Cardinals “offense”1 is anemic. They have scored a grand total of 37 points through four weeks, limping to a 0-4 start. Arizona is 4.5-point underdogs against the C.J. Beathard-led 49ers. David Johnson ($6,300) is at a very palatable price again this week against an average run defense. Melvin Gordon put up a 30+ point game against the 49ers, but five other RBs have scored at least double-digit points on them as well. DJ saw 10 more opportunities and had seven more expected points in Week 4 than he did in Week 3. Hopefully, that’s cause for hope compared to what we originally thought of with his usage.
I considered Devonta Freeman ($6,500) since he’s returning, but they face off against the Steelers, who haven’t allowed more than 15 PPR points to a back yet this season. They don’t show those same teeth against pass catchers. So instead, I’m going to tell you about Julio Jones ($8,500). While everyone’s staring at the new shiny toy, Calvin Ridley ($5,800), I’ll just take Jones. Let’s take a look at how they stack up against the rest of the league on a per game basis.
|Per Game Stats||Julio Jones||Calvin Ridley|
Someone with the sixth-most targets and the most air yards in the NFL reasonably could have the most yards. Julio, check. Someone with the 62nd most targets and 42nd most air yards maybe shouldn’t have the most touchdowns. That’s obviously an oversimplification, but I think you get the point. I’m more comfortable banking on Julio’s production being sustainable than I am with Ridley’s.
John Brown ($5,600) is underpriced for a couple of reasons. For one, the matchup is juicy. The Browns have allowed five receivers to break 15 points. Brown has seen at least seven targets over the past three games with an aDOT of 20+ yards in each game. These targets are incredibly valuable. He’s just 33rd in targets per game but all the way up at third in air yards per game. The Weekly Stat Explorer puts his ceiling at 21 points, which is something I’ll sign up for at $5,600.
It appears that the Packers could circle the wagons a bit better than the Bills this past weekend. Buffalo plays host to Tennessee as 3.5 point underdogs. There’s not a ton to get excited about when it comes to the Bills’ offense. Somehow, Robert Foster ($3,000) has accumulated the second most air yards on the team despite only seeing eight targets. Kelvin Benjamin ($3,500) has the lion’s share of the targets and is averaging 94 air yards per game. Unfortunately, he’s only been able to haul in 7-of-21 targets.
An integral part of my process each week, besides the Weekly Stat Explorer, is toying around with the Game Level Similarity Projection app at each position. This week, the first RB I checked was Christian McCaffrey ($8,000). I used the last ten games from McCaffrey and filtered the app to assume at least 15 opportunities (targets plus carries).
A median projection of 20 points at that price is about as solid as it gets. Through four weeks the Giants have given up four double-digit games to RBs, including the Alvin Kamara show last week. Considering he had 30 opportunities last time out, it’s safe to say that McCaffrey’s workload will be significant moving forward.
While it’s tempting to play a running back from a home team that’s favored by nearly a touchdown, the situation is murky. Giovani Bernard was a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice and Joe Mixon was limited. Let’s take a look at the passing game, then. If the Bengals are going to score 28 points this weekend, it would seem that Andy Dalton ($5,900) would have a say in that. He’s QB10 right now and has shown that he’s a threat to score 20+ points, which he’s done twice and has a 17 point game mixed in as well. Looking at the matchup, the Dolphins appear to be pretty stout against the QB but if we look at who they’ve faced it’s less impressive. They held the signal callers from the Titans, Jets, and Raiders below 14 points, but allowed 19 to Tom Brady last weekend. Dalton is not Brady, but he is closer to the Patriot QB than he is to the Gabberts and Darnolds of the world. The Weekly Stat Explorer’s projections have him with a 16 point floor and a ceiling of 21 points. Not bad for under $6,000. You can stack him with Tyler Boyd ($5,700) and feel very good about it.
The Ravens are coming into Cleveland for a tilt with the 1-2-1 Browns, who are home underdogs by a field goal. The Browns are only implied for 22 points but David Njoku ($3,400) is an interesting cheap option. With Baker Mayfield ($5,300) under center last week, Njoku saw a bump in usage. Through two and a half Tyrod Taylor games, Njoku was averaging just over five targets for 23 yards. With Mayfield, he turned seven targets into 52 yards. Baltimore hasn’t faced a TE that has seen more than five targets in a game yet. At TE, we’re looking for a reasonable number of targets at a cheap price. Njoku fits the bill on both fronts.
The Broncos are heading out to play the Jets as 1-point underdogs this week. Demaryius Thomas ($5,600) faces a Jets secondary that has allowed five receivers to score more than 15 points. His air yards have been up and down so far this season but he’s seen the highest target share and is tied for the team lead with four red zone targets. Touchdowns could be coming for Thomas and this week is as good as any.
The Lions are full of confusing situations. I mentioned why Kerryon Johnson ($4,600) should see more work last week, so I won’t beat that drum here again. It’s clear that Golden Tate ($6,700) is going to continue to see the most targets in this offense. He’s led (or at least been tied for the team lead) the team in targets every week. Kenny Golladay ($6,000) has a clear role as well, though. Marvin Jones ($4,700) leads the team in red zone targets. Stacking up any of these options with their QB makes sense, but the cheapest option that sees red zone targets makes even more sense.
Green Bay Packers
There’s a small corner of DFS Twitter that is discussing Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($3,300) this week with all of the injuries that Green Bay has at WR. He finished last week with one catch for 38 yards on three targets. As of this writing, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, and DaVante Adams aren’t practicing. If even two of those guys miss time this Sunday it’s hard to make an argument against a pass catcher at $3,300 that will see a decent dose of targets from Aaron Rodgers ($6,300). A stack of Rodgers and Valdes-Scantling lets you fit some more expensive options into your lineups.
The Blake Bortles-led ($5,500) Jaguars travel to Arrowhead. They are three-point underdogs and are implied for 23 points. Bortles was sharp last week, completing over 75 percent of his passes and throwing for two TDs along with almost 30 yards on the ground. Counting on 25-30 rushing yards gives him a bit more of a floor than he gets credit for each week. The only QB that Kansas City has been able to stifle is Case Keenum. Before Week 4, they hadn’t held an opposing QB under 22 points. The Stat Explorer is giving Blake a median projection of 20 points and a ceiling of 26. If you’re looking to pay up elsewhere, Bortles allows you to make a lot of other plays work.
Kansas City Chiefs
The other quarterback in the Jags-Chiefs game is pretty good himself. You’ll get Patrick Mahomes ($6,200) at a bit of a discount this week thanks to a tough matchup. The Jaguars are only allowing 8.9 points to opposing QBs. We know they’re one of the best defenses in the league but they have had relatively easy opponents so far: Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota, and Sam Darnold. The only quarterback to score more than 12 points against them is Tom Brady. Something’s gotta give in this matchup and Mahomes has all of the tools necessary. Mahomes is over 8 adjusted yards per attempt with all five of his favorite targets.
Los Angeles Chargers
I swear I’m not just copy-pasting this section every week. It’s just that Melvin Gordon ($8,600) makes sense again. The Chargers are implied for 30 points at home and are favored by 5.5 points. They face the Raiders who just gave up 14 or more points to three running backs in the same game. The most similar RB Oakland’s faced is Todd Gurley, who had a 24 point day against them. Gordon’s usage rate hasn’t dipped below 44% at any point this season.
There isn’t enough of a target concentration in Miami for DFS purposes. Five different pass catchers are between 15 and 19 targets. None of them have more than one red zone target. Kenny Stills ($5,400) leads the team with 329 air yards (the next highest is Albert Wilson with under 200). None of the Dolphins are very enticing.
New York Giants
The Giants passing offense is a mess. Both Odell Beckham Jr. ($8,000) and Sterling Shepard ($5,600) saw significantly fewer air yards in Week 4 than they had to start the season. If Beckham’s aDOT is going to live around 7-8 yards like it has the last two games, we are going to have to start looking elsewhere in DFS. If we’re not looking at the passing game, Saquon Barkley ($7,700) is worth a look. Their opponent, the Panthers, have a reputation for being stout against the run. But Tevin Coleman, Gio Bernard, and Ezekiel Elliott all scored 17+ points on them. None of Barkley’s games have resulted in fewer than 20 points. Our GLSP – RB App gives him a median projection of 20.8 points.
New York Jets
We need the usage Quincy Enunwa ($5,200) saw in Miami to make it’s way back into the game plan. In that game, he saw 119 air yards on 11 targets. In the past two games, though, Enunwa has seen just 64 air yards on 14 targets combined. The six red zone targets are encouraging but only two of those have come in the past two weeks. Hopefully, the game goes how Vegas thinks it well and stays close so that the Jets will be forced to take some shots.
Oakland has run the gamut from a 20 point loss to a win by a field goal. He’s hitting the price where you may have to think twice but Marshawn Lynch’s ($5,500) role is something we want in DFS. While the $100 Million Dollar Man might be running the Raiders into the ground, Jon Gruden is impressed with Lynch. He sang his praises after the game on Sunday saying “If that’s not a hall of fame back, I don’t know what is.” Lynch’s opportunities have gone up each game. Not only is he getting chances between the 20s, but he’s earned 17 red zone opportunities.
Zach Ertz ($6,500) has seen 47 targets already, with no game under 10 targets. The Eagles play host to the Vikings. On a per game basis, they look strong against the TE, but Jimmy Graham and George Kittle dropped 16 and 14 points on them respectively without finding the end zone. Ertz and Travis Kelce should see similar ownership at the top of the price range, but Ertz won’t be the highest owned TE on the slate which makes him interesting in GPPs.
The Steelers are implied to score 30 points at home in the highest total game on the slate. It’s a complex decision between Antonio Brown ($9,100) and JuJu Smith-Schuster ($7,500). Brown is seeing a higher aDOT and a few more targets than Smith-Shuster. On the other hand, Smith-Schuster sees nearly three times as many red zone targets. The cheaper price for Smith-Shuster is enticing with the added looks in the red zone. Atlanta has been less than stellar defending WRs as they’ve given up ten double-digit PPR scorers to the position through four weeks.
San Francisco 49ers
CJ Beathard ($4,900) is under $5,000. If that doesn’t get you going, I’m not sure what will. Roll a stack with him and George Kittle ($5,400). Kittle turned 62 air yards and eight targets into six catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Arizona should be able to generate pressure on Beathard which will lead to plenty of checkdowns on Sunday.
It looks like the Seahawks are heading in the wrong direction despite their 2-2 record. Even though they’re at home, you’d have to figure it’ll be tough to keep up with their division rivals. The play is Russell Wilson ($5,100). It’s not every day where we get someone of his talent level all the way down at this price. So far this season he’s only had one game below 15 points. Once the Seahawks fall behind he’ll be forced to throw and should hit value pretty easily when all is said and done.
In last week’s game against Philadelphia, the Titans went to who they should’ve been targeting all along. Corey Davis’ ($6,400) price is starting to reflect that market share, but it’s clear that Marcus Mariota is looking for him all over the field. He saw 213 air yards last week and finished with 31 points. We’ve seen target hogs like Adam Thielen and Davante Adams put together solid games against the Bills defense already this season. They’ve allowed an average of two WRs per game to score double-digit points against them.
- Yes, I’m using passive aggressive air quotes around offense. (back)