Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 10
"Small sample" is a dirty phrase when you're talking about stats in sports. Small samples are high-variance, lacking in context, and can easily lead you down a path toward despair. In general, it's good to avoid them.
This should push us to make each sample as large as we can, and with Week 10 now on the horizon, we've got some solid data on each team in action. That should be a good thing!
The problem is that all that data is tainted, and our precious large samples also suck.
Think of a player -- any player -- whom you are considering for this week. Has the situation around them changed at all since Week 1? Do they have new teammates, has the quarterback changed, is the offensive line different now than it was? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then it's hard to justify obsessing over those full-season numbers, even if they do provide us with the largest sample.
For example, you could look at David Montgomery, see that he's averaging 14 rush attempts per game while playing 58% of the snaps, and think that he's a bit dusty when tied to such a poor offense. If we could expect that going forward for Montgomery, then sure! You'd want to avoid him.
But we know that things have changed for Montgomery since he got six carries and one target in Week 1, meaning that all of his season-long data is pretty worthless. Instead, we need to dig in to try to find his -- and each player's -- most relevant sample.
Basically, how has the player been used while the team has had the personnel we expect to be out there on Sunday? Have they been a focal point, or has their usage slid from where it was earlier in the season? Focusing on this rather than the full sample is how we spot salary inefficiencies and know whether a player is someone we should use or skitter away from in daily fantasy.
That's especially relevant in Week 10. A bunch of mid-tier running backs recently got role changes, and several teams are primed to get key pieces back from injury. We'll have to work with smaller samples, but when the tradeoff is better data, that's really not a bad thing.
As such, let's dive into the Week 10 main slate and try to identify who benefits when we focus on their most relevant sample. This could also lead us down the wrong path as we are taking on some variance, but if we want to pinpoint good plays and get in front of the pack, that's just something we'll have to deal with.
Role Changes for Mid-Tier Running Backs
During last week's games, a whole lotta old data got chucked out the window. We saw guys playing roles they hadn't played the entire year, and it had a big impact on their appeal for DFS. A handful of them were running backs, and plenty of those guys are now on the main slate.
How we handle those backs is going to be a fairly large decision point for the slate, so we're going to lump them all together in one section. We'll take a look at their workloads in their most relevant sample -- which may be just last week -- and see if any of them check in as being value options at a spot where we generally want to spend up.
Below are five running backs -- all with salaries between $6,700 and $6,000 -- who have played a different role recently than they did earlier in the season. Listed are the average workloads they've gotten within their most relevant sample with "adjusted opportunities" being carries plus two-times the player's target total to adjust for the value gap between a carry and a target in a half-PPR scoring setting.
|In Most Relevant Sample||Carries||Targets||Adjusted Opportunities||Snap Rate|
Montgomery is the only guy on the list whose most relevant sample includes two games, which is why he is the only one with non-whole numbers. But it's also a big part of the reason why we might like him most of this group.
One of the factors to consider when thinking about a running back's workload is whether that workload will stick when a team is trailing. In other words, if that team falls behind, will the player still be on the field? We've already seen that for Montgomery, and the answer was yes.
In Week 8, the Chicago Bears lost, but they actually had a lead until halfway through the fourth quarter. So it would have been fair to remain skeptical of Montgomery after that one.
The following week, though, Montgomery still played 73.3% of the snaps even though the Bears were down 19-0 early in the third quarter. The Bears ran 22 plays after falling into that hole, and they included 11 runs and 1 target for Montgomery. Despite the deficit, he was still playing snaps over Tarik Cohen.
Now, Montgomery gets to head home to face a Detroit Lions team that ranks 27th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to opposing running backs, according to numberFire's Brandon Gdula. Because of the offense he's in, Montgomery is not someone we need to prioritize in cash games, but if you feel the need to spend down there, Montgomery could be the option best suited for that format among these players, unless we get some injury news from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If you could guarantee right now that Jaylen Samuels would play the exact same role he played last week, he'd sit above Montgomery, and that's possible with James Conner now unlikely to play. Samuels' targets are crazy valuable, and he scored 12.8 FanDuel points despite losing a fumble and not scoring a touchdown. That floor is dumb. But there are some reasons to be a tiny bit wary.
Namely, Samuels lost out on a lot of work to Trey Edmunds, especially after losing a fumble late. He lost the fumble on a reception with about 12 minutes left. In those final 12 minutes -- including a drive in which the Steelers were trailing -- Edmunds out-carried Samuels, three to one, and Samuels didn't get any additional targets. Edmunds gained 73 yards on his 12 carries compared to 10 on 8 carries for Samuels, meaning Edmunds is unlikely to just go away, even before we consider the fumble.
However, we have ourselves a good ol'-fashioned twist. Edmunds missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with a rib injury, as did both Conner and Benny Snell Jr. It's possible Samuels is the only legit running back on this roster on Sunday. If that happens, he's pretty much a lock for cash games again, and we'd want to be overweight on him in tournaments, as well. If Edmunds is able to practice in full Friday and play Sunday, then we can focus on the fumbling concerns again and knock Samuels down behind Montgomery and potentially another additional peg.
The guy who could pass Samuels for second is Devin Singletary, largely for some of the same reasons discussed with Montgomery.
Last week, the Buffalo Bills slaughtered Washington, meaning that Singletary's carry total likely wound up being a bit inflated. That's a negative if we're trying to extrapolate last week's load forward. But if the Bills fall behind, we know Singletary will be on the field over Frank Gore, and it could bump up Singletary's target total. His four targets last week were actually his fewest in a game this year in which he played at least half the snaps.
If the Bills get a lead, then we'll see Gore mix in more, and he could get some goal-line work. Gore handled three of five running-back carries inside the five-yard line last week, so we're not completely out of the weeds with Gore, and it does impact Singletary's odds of reaching his ceiling. But with Singletary firmly locked into a role in the passing game and getting more early-down rushing work, he still deserves consideration, even with Montgomery and Samuels being fairly solid plays.
We're going to talk more about the return of Patrick Mahomes in just a bit, but his presence really bolsters the appeal in Damien Williams. Williams likely won't get a ton of carries, but we always want to tie our running backs to quality quarterbacks, and they don't get much better than Mahomes.
The reason we can put Williams beneath Montgomery, Samuels, and Singletary is we don't yet know the stickiness of his role. LeSean McCoy has been in the doghouse for some fumbling issues, but he's still lurking in that backfield. Additionally, outside of his 91-yard touchdown last week, Williams hasn't had any other carry go for more than 10 yards all season. It's not as if he has cemented himself as the clear bellcow here.
That's why we put Williams lower on the list. The reason we keep him in our running back rotation for tournaments is that getting Mahomes' top running back for $6,000 is highly desirable, and the Kansas City Chiefs use their running backs in creative ways in the passing game. Williams needs less volume to pay off than others, which is a major upward nudge from a DFS perspective, even while considering the potential downsides.
The uncertainty around Williams may make it seem curious that we'd have Ronald Jones lower on our lists after head coach Bruce Arians confirmed that Jones will have a bigger role going forward. But there's just not as much juice in Jones' touches.
Sure, in using Jones at $6,200, we're getting the top back on the team with the second-highest implied total on the slate, which is good. And we can assume that he's going to get a bunch of carries. It's mostly the passing-down work that gives us pause.
Even on a half-PPR site, getting work in the passing game is a major boost to a player's floor and ceiling because it gives them stability while jacking up their yardage upside in a hurry. Although Jones ran a season-high 18 routes last week, according to Pro Football Focus, that's still fewer than Williams, who ran 21 last week and has exceeded 20 in four of seven games this year. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the field, there's little incentive for Jameis Winston to throw Jones' direction.
Jones is worth considering, but his upside will be a bit muted unless he suddenly sees an increased role in the passing game. That's enough to put him behind all of Samuels, Montgomery, Singletary, and Williams, even if Edmunds is able to go.
The Return of Mahomes
Given that Mahomes is practicing in full this week, it doesn't feel like we're jumping the gun to re-anoint him as the Chiefs' starter. Assuming that happens, it might be the healthiest the Chiefs have been since the first quarter of Week 1.
That was when Tyreek Hill went down with an injury, meaning we haven't had a full game yet this year in which Mahomes, Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce have all been on the field. Sure, the opposing Tennessee Titans are solid, sitting 12th against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, but that can't push us off this team.
It's worth noting that the Chiefs aren't quite back to full health. Left tackle Eric Fisher seems likely to miss this game, though he did return to practice on Thursday. Fisher has been out since early in Week 2, so it'll probably take more than two practices to rev him back up. He's likely out again, though it is worth monitoring as his presence would be another bump up for the rest.
In order to get a "most relevant sample" on the Chiefs with this personnel, we actually have to go back to 2018. There, Watkins played at least half the snaps in eight separate games, which is a solid sample to draw from.
In those eight games, Mahomes averaged 0.49 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. NEP is numberFire's expected point model, which shows the number of expected points added or subtracted on each play throughout the season, helping quantify the difference between a two-yard rush on 3rd and 1 and a two-yard rush on 3rd and 3. Passing NEP takes into account expected points lost on events like sacks, interceptions, and incompletions. For context, Drew Brees leads the league in Passing NEP per drop back this year at 0.40, and Mahomes was at 0.36 before his injury. He was a full 0.13 expected points better on a per-drop back basis when he had all three of his toys last year.
That's part of why we should be interested in Williams at $6,000. But it also jacks up the interest in all the pass-catchers.
Here's a breakdown of the target distribution for those triplets in the eight games where Watkins was healthy last year. A "deep" target is any target at least 16 yards downfield. You knew where the ball was going, and there's a heck of a lot of value in that.
|With All Three in 2018||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The guy who should stick out most there is Travis Kelce, and he's shaping up to be a mighty fine play at $6,700.
Back when the Chiefs' offense was clicking last year, Kelce would regularly carry a salary in the mid-to-high $8,000 range. This year, in games Mahomes has played, Kelce's salary hasn't been lower than $7,200. We're getting him at a clear discount.
You can poo-poo Kelce's output if you'd like, but a lot of that is due to a lack of touchdowns. He has topped 85 yards four separate times, and he may now see softer coverage with Hill and Watkins healthy. It's really hard not to view Kelce as being an elite play for tournaments at this salary, and he's cash-game viable if you have the salary to get there.
Hill is expensive at $8,000, and there are a number of high-cost wide receivers who stand out this week. But he was connecting on deep balls with Matt Moore starting, and he now gets the downfield deity himself back behind center. We should rank Kelce higher due to salary, but Hill is worth targeting, as well.
As for Watkins, you can get him down at $6,400. He's not going to get as many high-leverage looks as Hill or Kelce, and that does matter quite a bit. However, a blow-up day is still within his range of outcomes, as he showed even before Hill went down in Week 1.
The best way to handle Watkins is to include him in game stacks but to be lower on him than the others as a standalone option. If Watkins blows up, it's likely an indicator that the game as a whole was high-scoring. There are also other receivers in his salary range whom we'll discuss later who come with a much loftier floor and a similar ceiling.
As for Mahomes, he's $8,400 on FanDuel, the cheapest he has been by $300 the full season. And if you think the Titans keep pace, then it makes sense to go for Mahomes. We should lower our expectations a bit in case they limit him or the Titans don't force the Chiefs to keep pushing, but he's very much in play as a quarterback we can target in tournaments.
Trimming the Titans' Target Tree
The Titans have been a much more efficient offense with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback than Marcus Mariota, which is great in theory. But the targets have been so spread out that it really hasn't mattered.
|With Tannehill Starting||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
In a run-heavy offense, it's hard to be excited about anything there, outside of Jonnu Smith as a punt tight end. But removing Davis from the equation would open things up a bit.
The best option would likely be Smith, who is back down to $5,100 after a dud last week. He has far more yardage upside than most tight ends in this salary tier, meaning he's on the table even if Davis does wind up playing. If Davis can't go, the safety and upside for Smith both shift steadily in the right direction.
As for Brown, he played a season-high 69.3% of the snaps last week, and his usage would get go up with Davis being out. We still probably wouldn't want to go there in cash games, but Brown would be viable for tournaments at $5,500, and he and Smith would be the two key elements for Titans exposure in game stacks.
The two players who would get a knock down if Davis were to sit are Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Having to lean on Tajae Sharpe and Kalif Raymond would likely lower the efficiency of the offense. If they can't generate scoring drivers and get a lead, that hurts Henry. The decreased efficiency would hurt Tannehill, and the Chiefs have been better than perception this year, ranking seventh against the pass, based on numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. It's not to say that you should omit Tannehill and Henry from your player pool, but they would get a downgrade if both Davis and Walker were to sit.
The Saints Come Marching In
Just like the Chiefs, the health arrow is trending steadily up for the New Orleans Saints. They might be the most potent they've been since Week 1, which should be frightening for the Atlanta Falcons' defense.
Drew Brees was able to return before their bye. Then on Thursday, all three of Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, and Tre'Quan Smith were able to get in full practices, meaning they're positioned to make their respective returns, as well. Brees got hurt in Week 2, as did Smith, meaning we haven't seen the Saints with a full complement of studs since the opener.
That game was against the Houston Texans, and it was a back-and-forth affair. That'll influence the way the targets get distributed, and we should keep that in mind. But here's what those targets looked like in that game.
|In Week 1||Total Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Brees threw 39 times in that game, which is a big number. But in their 31-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals before the bye, he threw 43 times, and they threw 60% of the time on early downs in the first half, according to Sharp Football Stats, an above-average rate. The Saints have been content to run a bunch when heavily favored in years past, but there should at least be enough juice here where we can have faith in the passing game, and we can certainly roll out Brees himself at $8,300.
That makes Michael Thomas one of the best options at wide receiver for the entire slate. He has 112 or more receiving yards in both games with Brees this year, and he has fallen short of 11 targets only twice even when you include the games with Teddy Bridgewater. With all the mid-tier running backs, you'll be able to afford him here, and we should be looking to do so when possible.
Kamara finished that game with 13 carries and 8 targets, which amounts to 29 adjusted opportunities. When they're tied to such an electric player and an elite offense, there's tons to love in that. We just probably shouldn't expect quite the same workload here.
Latavius Murray balled out while Kamara was hurt, meaning the Saints likely don't need to go crazy hard with Kamara until the playoffs. Kamara played 75.6% of the snaps there with Murray at 27.3%, and we shouldn't be surprised if that's closer to a 65/35 split going forward.
Still, Kamara's a great option at running back. If they do take work off of Kamara's plate, it's more likely to be as a rusher than a receiver, and his true value comes from what he does in the passing game. His salary at $8,300 is also not as high as it has been at times in the past. Kamara's safety isn't as high as Thomas', but we need to get exposure to him in tournaments, and he's certainly a cash-game consideration.
Among the tertiary pieces -- Ginn, Smith, and Cook -- the Week 1 usage says that Ginn should be our top option. Ginn hasn't gotten seven targets again since that game, but even when Bridgewater was starting, Ginn still averaged 2.5 deep targets per game. Ginn is only $5,300, and he's not as attractive as Calvin Ridley on the other sideline, but we should include him in our game stacks.
Finally, we get to Cook. He's not as likely to bust off a huge play as Ginn, but he helps fill tight end, and there's value in that. Additionally, Josh Hill has been limited in practice this week with a calf injury, and Hill was eating a bit into Cook's role before his injury. Cook is a rotational piece at tight end, but the main attractions here are clearly going to be Kamara and Thomas.
The New-Look Falcons
Part of the reason we can feel okay about attacking the Saints' passing game is that the Falcons' offense isn't that bad. They're 13-point road underdogs, but the stink around their defense may be unfairly tainting the way we view the offense, as well.
Matt Ryan has gotten in limited practices each of the past two days, meaning we should expect him to return after missing Week 8 with an ankle injury. It'll be the first time we've seen him start with Mohamed Sanu gone, and it means we can get pieces of this passing offense.
The biggest ripple effect of Sanu's departure was that Ridley suddenly started playing more often in two-receiver sets. His snap rate there was 80.0%, his second-highest mark of the season, helping give a boost to his floor. Ridley has averaged 2.1 deep targets per game, and he -- unlike Julio Jones -- will likely not see much coverage from Marshon Lattimore this weekend. Ridley at $5,300 deserves some consideration in cash games, but he also helps us afford guys like Kamara and Thomas when stacking this game.
Jones and Austin Hooper didn't see much of a difference in the first game without Sanu, so we can likely keep the two of them similar to how we viewed them earlier in the year. They're good options, but their salaries also reflect that. Ridley is the main benefactor here, and we should target him pretty liberally while sprinkling in the others. Russell Gage had nine targets in Week 8, but his lower snap rate makes him simply a dart throw at $4,700.
Brees is the quarterback in this game who should be higher on our list for game stacks, but we should have some lineups with Ryan, as well. With their implied team total down at 19, he shouldn't be on too many rosters. But their passing volume should be huge, and Ryan has been decently efficient this year despite the team's overall struggles. Even with a tough matchup in a difficult environment, Ryan shouldn't be totally off the radar at $7,500.
The Banged-Up Colts and Dolphins
If the Miami Dolphins weren't dumpster slush defensively, we could probably ignore the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. The Colts will start either Brian Hoyer or a hobbled Jacoby Brissett, and T.Y. Hilton seems likely to miss his second consecutive game. However, reality is that dumpster slush is likely the most flattering phrase used to describe the Dolphins' defense, so we're forced to look into what we should expect from the Colts offensively.
The most likely scenario here is that the Colts will try to ride Marlon Mack in order to coast to victory. That'd suck the life out of most of the other pieces in this game as it would lead to a sluggish pace and reduced play volume. The likelihood of that means we probably don't want to go crazy with stacks here.
But not having Hilton also thins things out a bit and may allow us to look at pieces other than Mack.
With Mack out last week, Zach Pascal's snap rate topped 90% for the second consecutive game, and he was effective with 76 yards and a touchdown. Pascal has just flat out been a good football player when he has gotten volume this year, and he should get that again here.
The one problem is that Pascal's salary jumped up to $6,400, which is fully appropriate. He's playing well and in a great spot, so Pascal's still not off the map, but the overall game environment here means we don't need to make him a priority.
The guy who didn't get a salary hike is Jack Doyle, and we may be able to turn to him when trying to get cheap exposure to this Dolphins defense. In the two games Hilton has missed this year, Doyle has 12 targets with 2 deep and 4 in the red zone. That's a pretty solid role for a tight end who is $5,200. We can boost him up if Brissett plays, and he's alongside Smith as being one of the more palatable cheap tight ends of the week.
As for Mack, it's hard for a running back in his mold to generate a ton of upside. His lack of passing-down work means he doesn't get the half points for a reception, but it also saps him of reception yardage, which is a downgrade for his ceiling. That's why passing-game usage is so important, even on a half-PPR site.
However, this is a spot where a running back in his mold can generate that ceiling even without getting work as a receiver. A multi-touchdown day is firmly within Mack's range of outcomes. We should still view him as being below backs who will be more involved in their team's passing offenses, and it's likely fine to avoid Mack in cash games, but we can rotate him into tournament lineups.
If you decide that you want to use Mack, Pascal, or Doyle and run it back with the Dolphins, you will at least have a decent idea of where the ball is going. That's likely to DeVante Parker.
With Preston Williams going down, it opens up 21.4% of the targets in the offense. Parker was already involved with 23.5% of the team's targets since Ryan Fitzpatrick took back over, and that number could go up with Williams out. Parker will get volume at $5,800, and that matters. Just remember that it's still the Dolphins' offense, and the pace here could be disappointing.
Michael Gesicki is the other name to monitor here with the vacated targets. He finished with six targets last week, tying his second-highest total of the season. He racked up 95 yards, meaning he has a path to a big game, which is more than a lot of guys in this tier can say. We should favor Smith and Doyle among the cheap tight ends because their teams are not actively trying to lose, but you could do worse than Gesicki.
With Mark Walton being suspended the next four games, it puts Kalen Ballage into a spot where he could be the bellcow in this offense. However, Ballage has been hideously inefficient this year, they could try to get a look at Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird, and the Dolphins aren't going to generate a ton of scoring drives. It's fully okay to ignore this backfield even with Walton out of the picture.
The Cardinals With Drake, Kirk, and Johnson
Outside of Ronald Jones, we haven't yet discussed the game with the highest total on the slate. Let's amend that now.
That's the Cardinals versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and we're going to want to stack this game for sure. The Tampa Bay side isn't all that hard, but the Cardinals may be a bit of a tougher task.
Drake played well in his debut with 162 yards from scrimmage, meaning he's likely earned a role going forward. We just have to decide if that role will be big enough to shove Johnson out of consideration for DFS.
The baseline assumption could be that with Johnson coming back, he and Drake would split the work down the middle. But it really seems as if the two could be playing alongside each other plenty.
"I think there is some creativity that you can fit in, and we’ll try and be effective and efficient in doing that as much as we can."
RB David Johnson expected to play this week for @AZCardinals, combining with new RB Kenyan Drake.https://t.co/wp3pM6daTP
— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) November 4, 2019
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury also said in that piece, "If you have two really good players, you find ways to get them both the ball and on the field at the same time." That's about as rosy of an outlook here as you could reasonably expect.
In the games that Johnson has finished, he has averaged 13.8 carries and 8.0 targets per game. That's the same role we discussed Kamara as having back in Week 1. Clearly, there's a gap in the offenses, but it's a good role.
If Johnson can wind up somewhere near 10 carries and 7 targets per game, he'll still be in play for DFS, especially with how good he has looked as a pass-catcher this year. That's why he's worth discussing at $6,800. But we don't know for sure what the role will look like, and we've got a healthy number of running backs cheaper than him with more predictable roles. Johnson (and, to a lesser extent, Drake) is an option for game stacks, but we might want to take more of a wait-and-see approach on him as a standalone play.
Fret not, though, Cardinal backers. If you want to use Kyler Murray against this wretched secondary (and you should), you can just stack him with Kirk.
In two games since coming back, Kirk has 29.1% of the Cardinals' overall targets, twice as many as anybody else on the team. If we include the four games before Kirk got hurt, he has 24.5% of the team's targets and 31.4% of the deep targets for the season. You're getting that for only $5,700 against the league's 22nd-ranked pass defense. That's lick-your-lips good.
Kirk is a no-brainer inclusion in a game stack, he's the primary player we should pair with Murray, and we can certainly go his way as a standalone option. He's one of the better plays at receiver on the slate.
O.J. Howard's Triumphant-ish Return
For the full season, the Cardinals have allowed 810 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. The second-highest marks in each category are 675 and 6, respectively. We definitely want tight ends facing this defense.
O.J. Howard is going to test the limits of that.
Howard is practicing in full, so he should be back after missing the past two games. That means we can ignore Cameron Brate after his goose-egg last week, which is always a blessing. It's just hard to say whether it means we can go at Howard himself.
Before his injury, Howard maxed out at five targets in a game, and his overall target share was at 8.5%. He got some looks down the field, and he played a lot of snaps, but that's a crazy low number.
Howard is $5,000, which is appropriate for his role. But with Smith likely getting another game as the Titans' main option and guys like Doyle, Gesicki, and Greg Olsen available elsewhere, it's hard to justify rolling out Howard, unless you think he gets a role change on his return.
It's wiser to just take the path of least resistance and go with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The question is which guy will go off this time.
In a vacuum, Evans is the better option. He has more overall targets than Godwin, more deep targets, and more red-zone targets. His true weekly ceiling is going to be higher than Godwin's.
But we're not playing this one in a vacuum. We know that Patrick Peterson will see Evans more than he sees Godwin given how often Godwin is in the slot, and even with Peterson struggling off his suspension, that matters. And it may be enough to make Godwin the better option.
The last time Evans faced a stiff matchup was against the Saints back in Week 5 as he squared off with Lattimore. In that one, Evans had three targets while Godwin went off for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's one of four games in which Godwin has topped 120 receiving yards, so he has a pretty tasty ceiling himself.
Jameis Winston has shown a willingness to target the player with the softer matchup, and this week, that seems to be Godwin. You should get plenty of both, but the pendulum should swing a bit more in Godwin's direction than it has the past two games.
What makes these discussions more critical is that this game looks like the best one to stack of the slate. It's a tight spread that has gotten tighter since the open, and neither team can stop opposing aerial attacks. It's hard to find paths to disappointment here. Winston and Murray are two of the best quarterback plays on the slate, and with guys like Kirk and Godwin looking like standout plays, we should have pretty logical ways to load up on both sides.
Not Enough Cooks
Brandin Cooks is fun guy to watch play football. It is a good thing that he will not play Week 10 as he deals with his second concussion of the season, and protecting him long-term is infinitely more important than getting him back out there. But it's still a massive bummer.
Cooks' absence opens up targets in the Rams' offense, and with how good they've been the past two and a half years, that's something we should covet. It's just a really gross game.
The total here is down to 43.5 after opening at 45, and it's easy to see why. With Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jalen Ramsey joining the defenses, neither offense is going to have an easy go of it here. It's especially daunting for the Rams, who have had trouble preventing pressure this year and now have to face a Steelers defense that ranks second in adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders. Jared Goff's probably going to be scrambling for his life, and that downgrades the entire offense.
If you want to try to exploit Cooks' absence, you should be looking for cheap routes to do so, and that cheap option is Josh Reynolds.
Reynolds stepped in for Cooks in their game against the Cincinnati Bengals and played 88.7% of the snaps. Reynolds finished second on the team behind Cooper Kupp with eight targets, four of which were deep. He's only $5,200, so for his role, he's clearly underpriced. From a volume perspective, he should sit ahead of guys like Ridley and Ginn in a similar range, but those two are in games that are much more attractive for stacking. Reynolds is definitely viable, especially if you are prioritizing floor in a given lineup.
Not having Cooks could encourage Goff to funnel more targets to Kupp, Robert Woods, and Gerald Everett, but none of them are nearly as cheap as Reynolds, and that means our dollar exposure to this mediocre game would go up. Outside of Reynolds and Samuels on the other side, this is a decent game to largely ignore.
Limited Options for Danny Dimes
The Battle of the Meadowlands is the polar opposite. Both the New York Giants' and New York Jets' offenses find ways to stop themselves regularly, but those defenses can cure a lot of ills. We might want exposure to both sides of this game, so let's tackle that now, starting with the Giants.
If you're hoping for a shootout (the total here has risen to 44.5 from 43.5), you need the quarterbacks to put forth some level of efficiency. Daniel Jones' odds of accomplishing that are sinking with Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and a pair of starting offensive linemen missing practice both Wednesday and Thursday. That's a downgrade for Jones, who is in the same salary tier as Winston, Murray, and Ryan. We don't need to write him off, but we also don't need to go out of our way to use him, even in a plus matchup.
Engram and Shepard missing, though, would open up a good amount of value among the pass-catchers, and it'd make Golden Tate one of the better mid-range plays at wide receiver.
Going back to our "most relevant sample" discussion, we technically don't have one in which Engram and Shepard sat while Saquon Barkley was active. That means whatever data we do view is not necessarily going to represent what we should expect on Sunday.
However, when the Giants played the New England Patriots, they did so without all of Engram, Shepard, and Barkley. We can at least look at that game for some hints at where the ball will go and then adjust for Barkley's presence.
Here's the breakdown of the target distribution there.
|In Week 6||Overall Targets||Deep Targets|
Rhett Ellison is the guy most likely to be impacted by Barkley's presence. Ellison is in the same salary range as players with legitimate yardage upside, so you could go there if you wanted, but there are probably better ways to spend down.
Even with Barkley being back, we should expect big roles for Tate and Darius Slayton. Tate caught a long touchdown in that game and had four deep targets. It's one of three games this year where Tate has hit the 80-yard barrier, meaning he's going to have both a floor and upside. He's viable for both cash games and tournaments at $6,300.
With Slayton, there's a bit more risk because he's less likely to get the gimme targets near the line of scrimmage, meaning a disappointing day is easier to envision. With that being said, he's still a really good tournament play. He has been getting deep looks even when Engram and Shepard have been healthy, and he's now the best field-stretcher they've got. Although we should favor Tate in cash games and when we can afford him in tournaments, Slayton is a hyper-respectable consolation prize if you can't get there.
As for Barkley, he's someone we need to utilize this weekend, as well. Like Tate, he's firmly in the cash-game discussion.
Most of that stems from Barkley's involvement in the passing game. Since returning from his ankle injury, Barkley has 19.8% of the team's targets, and four of those have come in the red zone. That's the highest target market share of any stud back on the slate, and now he may get even more with Engram sidelined.
It's also not as bad of a matchup as it seems on paper. The Jets do rank fourth against the rush, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, but that sample includes the time before Leonard Williams was traded to the Giants. They'll also be without C.J. Mosley yet again. Barkley is the second most expensive back on the slate at $8,600, but he's well worth that and is one of the top options at a loaded position.
Le'Veon Bell's Uncertainty
The bad is that we don't know if he'll still have his old role, making him a bit of a tough case for DFS.
Last week, in a script that was far more neutral than the previous two games, Bell had 17 carries and 9 targets, the 9 targets tying his highest of the year in games Sam Darnold has played. Because of that, he was able to score 16.1 FanDuel points without a touchdown, and at $6,900, that's pretty desirable.
The issue would come if the Jets were to take away any of his workload due to the injury. All of Bell's value in DFS comes from his volume, and if some of that goes away, his appeal dries up in a hurry.
We should still dabble in some Bell this weekend, especially if he's able to practice in full and come off the injury report on Friday. That would bode well for his workload. We just shouldn't have the same level of confidence we'd have in guys like Montgomery and Samuels in this same $6,000 range given the question marks around how the Jets will use Bell.
Even if you do ignore Bell, it's still a good idea to look at pieces within this Jets offense. They may have lost to the Dolphins last week, but Darnold was able to move the ball and averaged 0.09 Passing NEP per drop back. This is a hideous number when you account for the matchup, but they get another easy matchup this weekend with the Giants sitting 24th against the pass.
Darnold at $7,200 has a similar issue to Jones on the other side: his salary is very close to those of Winston, Murray, and Ryan, all of whom are in more exciting games. That means that if you're just filling out a handful of lineups, you can very easily exclude him from your player pool. You can include him (and Jones), though, if you decide to stack this game up. Both are erratic and prone to mistakes, but they also both have paths to upside against such putrid pass defenses.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of that Miami game was Robby Anderson, who finished with just 4 targets and 33 yards. That's not going to cut it at any salary. This week, though, he fits an archetype we established as being desirable during the offseason.
When looking at cheap wide receivers in last year's perfect FanDuel lineups, a clear trend emerged. A lot of them were at home (68.0% of those with salaries below $6,000), slight underdogs, and big-play options. Basically, they were volatile plays who hit the high end of their range of outcomes. It makes sense that those players would be more likely to hit that high end at home where passing efficiency generally increases, and if they have to throw a bit extra as slight underdogs, that's even better. Anderson, himself, made that list twice, both at home, though the Jets were slight favorites in both games. His big blow-up game this year came as a home underdog against the Dallas Cowboys.
This week, the Jets are 2.5-point home underdogs, and Anderson ranks 11th in average depth of target among 83 players with at least 40 targets, per FantasyADHD.com. If Anderson's going to hit again, it's likely in a spot like this where the Jets are in a favorable matchup at home. He should sit above Slayton on our list but below someone like Kirk, who will likely have higher volume and steadier quarterback play.
Jamison Crowder doesn't have Anderson's upside, but he's another name we can roll out there if we decide to stack this game. He leads with 22.2% of the Jets' targets since Darnold's return (Anderson is at 20.6%), and Crowder actually does have six deep targets in those four games. He showed last week that he can come through in that volume, as well. We'll want to rank him beneath Tate due to safety and Anderson due to upside, but our game stacks should certainly include shares of Crowder at $6,500.
The Bumbling Bengals
The AFC North has a new elder statesman. With Andy Dalton hitting the bench, Dalton is no longer the oldest starting quarterback in the AFC North. Instead, it's his rookie teammate, Ryan Finley, who will take that crown, having been born a couple of months before Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph and two years before Lamar Jackson. Giddy up, Gramps.
Finley gets to make his debut against the Baltimore Ravens this weekend, and luckily for him, the Ravens' defense isn't what it once was. They're 14th against the pass, based on numberFire's metrics, so it could certainly be worse.
However, Finley will not have the services of A.J. Green, who is now out indefinitely due to a setback with his foot injury. If Dalton couldn't perform well in these conditions, it's hard to see a world where Finley does.
With decreased quarterback efficiency and a spread out target tree, it's going to be hard to go at any Bengals this weekend. It's likely going to be a spot where the Ravens are able to control the game throughout, which should set up well for someone like Mark Ingram. However...
A Developing Committee in Baltimore
We know that Ingram has big upside in this spot against a leaky Bengals defense. He has three 100-yard games this year, including one just this past week in the huge win over the Patriots. He also has a pair of multi-touchdown games, meaning Ingram could certainly go nuts.
The problem is that he has been steadily losing work to Gus Edwards, and it's eroding both his floor and his upside.
In the first five games of the season, Ingram's snap rate was 58.2% or higher three times, and one of the exceptions was when they didn't need him late as they dusted the Dolphins. And over the past three games, the Ravens have won by an average 12.3 points per game, in line with what we'd expect this weekend. That should be a good script for Ingram. But his workload hasn't been near what it was in the opening stretch.
|Snap Rates||Week 6||Week 7||Week 9|
Ingram hasn't had more than 15 carries or 3 targets in any of those games, and he has averaged just 10.7 routes per game, according to Pro Football Focus. There's lots of juice in the work he does get because this offense is efficient, but this role is gross.
To make things even worse, Ingram has a salary of $8,000 this weekend, meaning he is only $300 less than Kamara and $600 less than Barkley. His workload is lesser than that of a lot of the discount backs we discussed at the open, but you have to break the bank to get this guy in.
Ingram can go off on low volume, and his three-touchdown day against the Chiefs came on just 16 carries. However, that game also came before Ingram's role started to decline. You don't have to fully fade Ingram if you don't want because of that upside, but he's hard to justify -- even in an ideal environment -- with so many other good backs on the slate.
If you want access to the Ravens' ground game, just ride with Jackson, instead, at $8,600. He missed practice Thursday, but it was reportedly just an illness and not injury-related. Jackson has had more rushing attempts than Ingram in three straight and has the same number of 100-yard rushing games. He also won't sap you of a running-back slot and costs just $600 more than Ingram. It's pretty clear which guy is the better option between the two.
Some Shakiness in McCaffrey's Role
All year long, we've been happily plugging Christian McCaffrey into our lineups, accepting our 25 to 90 points, and going about our days. It has been pretty easy money.
Now, though, McCaffrey is up to $10,500 on FanDuel for a date with the Green Bay Packers. If we were guaranteed McCaffrey would play his old role, that salary would be totally acceptable against this leaky rush defense. There are a couple of holes starting to develop, though, which we should consider before blindly clicking on his name.
The two catalysts for McCaffrey's monster season (outside of his big-play ability) have been his snap rate and usage in the passing game. He played literally every snap in three of the first four games this year, and when they hit their bye week, he had posted a snap rate lower than 92.1% just once.
Since the bye, though, his snap rates have been 78.3% and 85.9%. The low one came in a blowout loss to the 49ers, but the other was in a win last week versus the Titans. That's not a huge thing because he'd still have one of the better snap rates in the league, but it's noteworthy.
What makes it even more concerning is that this dip in snap rate has coincided with a decline in his passing-game usage. In Kyle Allen's first three games as starter, McCaffrey's target share was a whopping 26.1%. We always should have expected that to come down. But he hasn't had more than five targets in a game since then and is now at 19.4% of the team's targets in Allen's six games. That's similar to Barkley, who is $1,900 cheaper this weekend.
If those two things were happening in a vacuum, it wouldn't be a huge issue. Sometimes, we'll see trends where they don't exist, and McCaffrey's decreased usage could have just been variance. But he has now been on the practice injury report in consecutive weeks, sitting out entirely this Wednesday before returning to a limited session Thursday. He's likely not hurt, and they're probably just trying to get their NBA on with some load management. It's smart. But it's just another tiny red flag in the profile.
McCaffrey has gotten by without the passing game work recently by feasting on big plays. Three of his five longest runs of the year have come in the past two games, helping mask that he has had fewer than 40 receiving yards each time. If those big plays don't happen, and the usage trends continue, we're going to have some issues.
Again, this could all just be fluky variance, and McCaffrey has an elite matchup on Sunday. We just need to be aware that there are some warning signals here, and they should factor into our decision-making.
Because McCaffrey's workload has still been very good and his matchup is elite, we need to use him in tournaments no matter what. It'd be silly to fully fade him there.
The bigger dilemma comes in cash games. Do you shove in McCaffrey at $10,500, or do you save salary on guys like Barkley, Kamara, and one of the mid-range backs instead? It's a question you'll have to decide for yourselves. You can certainly afford him with the quality value at wide receiver and options at tight end, but he's far less of a no-brainer now than he was a few weeks ago.
Wind Concerns in Green Bay
Sticking with that game, it looks like a great spot for Davante Adams. Panthers corner James Bradberry has missed practice the past two days, and Adams returned to an 11-target outing in his first game back. He actually now leads the Packers in targets again despite missing four games. The weather here, though, may put a damper on that enthusiasm.
Right now, the forecast calls for 16-mile-per-hour winds and a 34-degree day. The temperature isn't a major concern, but the wind is. It would likely lead to a more run-heavy approach and decrease each team's efficiency when they do throw.
If the wind stays where it is, then we'll likely see the total in this game decline (it has already gone down 1.5 points since open, according to oddsFire), and it'll lower enthusiasm around using Adams. We could, though, look for a bounce-back out of Aaron Jones.
Jones would also get a dip in expected output if the wind stays elevated. It would lower the touchdown expectation for both teams, and that hurts the running backs, as well. But the volume on the ground would be there for sure in an elite matchup.
The Panthers have allowed the 25th-ranked Rushing Success Rate to opposing backs, and only the Packers have been worse from an expected points per carry perspective. Jones has the second-highest Rushing Success Rate out of 40 running backs with at least 60 carries, so they're going to be able to move the ball on the ground if they want to. If the wind is high, they likely will.
Jones is due for serious negative touchdown regression at some point, and Jamaal Williams isn't going way as he has also been effective this year. But we know Jones has a monster ceiling, is $7,600, and is likely to go overlooked after a dud last week. He's a solid option for tournaments as long as you're okay with the risk in his profile.
Kareem Hunt's Browns Debut
Right above Jones in salary is Nick Chubb, who is $7,900. Chubb has a salary that high because he has had a big workload all season long, and he has also shown a propensity for big plays.
That workload, though, may take a slight hit this weekend.
Kareem Hunt is set to make his season debut after having served an eight-game suspension to open the year. We know Hunt is a talented back, and the Browns likely didn't sign him and deal with a half-season suspension simply to let him ride the bench. The dude is going to play.
That means we have to figure out what the split will look like here and decide whether we can trust either in daily fantasy.
At bare minimum, Hunt will likely take on the Dontrell Hilliard role within the offense. Hilliard has played around 40% of the snaps the past two weeks and taken on a bunch of passing-game work. That would make a lot of sense. It wouldn't alter Chubb's role, but it would tighten the cap on his passing-game work.
If Hunt goes a bit beyond that and eats into Chubb's early-down work, then we've got problems. And that could very well happen.
#Browns HC Freddie Kitchens on balancing Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt: "I think Nick's about one thing and one thing only. Winning. I think Nick gives us a great opportunity to win. I think we're adding another chip to give us those chances, too (in Kareem Hunt)." pic.twitter.com/bg2xTXTzjK
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) November 6, 2019
Head coach Freddie Kitchens also said the two could be on the field together, which would improve Chubb's outlook. But there's some definite shakiness here.
Hunt's unlikely to play a big enough role to become viable himself, even at $4,500. We need at least some path to a ceiling, and it's hard to say he has one right now. But his return is also enough to lower Chubb on our wishlist and likely exclude him from our player pool this week.
Unfortunately, that may deprive us of exposure to this game entirely. The wind speeds here are also a bit high, projected at 14 miles per hour, which lowers interest in buying into Jarvis Landry's steady role at $6,000. It also dings John Brown on the other side. Brown has had an impressive floor all season long, and we'll want to buy into him eventually. It's just hard to do so with elevated winds in a game with a total that's down at 40.5.