Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 12
To believe, or not to believe? That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler to buy into small samples and suffer the ills of variance or take arms against those changes and believe what we've seen all year.
Shakespeare is clearly just as confused about the Atlanta Falcons' defense as we are.
For the first half of the year, we were indiscriminately targeting offenses facing the Falcons, loading them up even if they had struggled to that point. And it was successful.
The past two weeks, though, have clearly been a deviation as the Falcons have allowed just 12 total points to the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, both of those performances coming on the road. Now, they're back at home, and they're facing friend of the turnover, Jameis Winston.
At the same time, the total here is 51.5 points, and 93% of the money is on the over, per oddsFire. That's the highest total on the slate by four points, meaning the betting markets aren't totally buying into this trend. It also means this slate is lacking in potential shootouts, so we can't bide our time and wait for a larger sample; we've got to decide now if this turnaround is legit.
Let's give ol' Shakespeare a hand now and figure out how we should view this game between the Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's going to be one of the key decision-points for this weekend's main slate, so it makes sense to start there. Then, we'll dive into other situations and injuries impacting the main slate.
To Play D, or Not to Play D?
You've likely seen the numbers around the Falcons' turnaround recently, so we don't need to regurgitate those. They sucked, and then they didn't. We just have to decide whether it's legit.
Two of the big reasons the Falcons have performed well is that they've made high-impact plays. Specifically, they've been getting sacks and picks, whereas those weren't happening before.
For this game, we know the Bucs are very willing to indulge opposing defenses looking for those things. The Bucs are 22nd in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders, and Winston has the highest interception rate in the league. That puts the Falcons' defense in play at $4,300 on FanDuel.
It does not mean, however, that we need to avoid Winston and the Bucs' pass-catchers.
When you target the Bucs in DFS, you're not going there for efficiency; you're going there because Mike Evans and Chris Godwin get you massive volume, and that's not going to change. So even if the Falcons do continue to be efficient, the main appeal of the Bucs would still be in play.
We also don't know for sure that this performance is sticky for the Falcons. Sure, they changed play-calling duties on defense, and that matters, but the personnel is the same. The Saints versus Falcons is a massive rivalry game, and then last week, Kyle Allen completely bottomed out. It's very possible we've just seen two flukes in a row, and things could revert a bit back to the status quo this weekend.
With how well the Falcons have played on defense the past two weeks, we probably don't need to go at the Bucs in cash games, and it's likely wise to avoid them there. For tournaments, though, they're definitely viable.
Perhaps the bigger concern for Tampa Bay than the Falcons' defense could actually be that the previously concentrated target tree has gotten spread out a bit. They have integrated their tight ends and running backs more the past two games, which has kept Evans and Godwin from coming through. And it has lowered their overall workloads, as you can see below with a "deep" target being a target at least 16 yards downfield.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Those market shares are super disappointing, and it does matter. But we shouldn't bail just yet.
Again, we're not going at the Bucs in cash games; this is a tournament-only team. And there may not be a wide receiver in 2019 with a higher true ceiling than Evans, given all the high-leverage targets he has gotten. That's why we can take some risks here, even though things have gotten a bit more grim recently.
That's true for Winston, too, at $7,600. We can expect massive volume, and if Winston throws a pick-six, that volume will only go up. It's pretty easy to justify that salary for a quarterback we expect to throw a ton against a defense that has struggled for the lion's share of the season.
The Thinned-Out Falcons
Based on what we saw above, we should be willing to use the Bucs this weekend. But they're not the main attraction in this game. Instead, that's the Falcons, who are at home against the league's 24th-ranked pass defense. And they're trending the opposite direction of the Bucs from a usage perspective.
Within the past few weeks, the Falcons have had to play without all of Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, and Devonta Freeman. Sanu's now with the New England Patriots, and Hooper has already been ruled out for Week 12. Freeman missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, meaning he's trending toward sitting again, giving us a pretty good idea of where the volume is going.
|In Week 11||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Not only did they both command more than one-fourth of the targets, but they controlled all six deep targets. When going at an offense in DFS, we want a narrow target tree, and the Falcons are giving us exactly that.
This is the first time the Falcons will play at home with Matt Ryan since the Sanu trade, meaning we should expect an up-tick in efficiency. He doesn't even need that, though, after averaging 0.41 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back last week with Sanu, Hooper, and Freeman all out. NEP is the model numberFire uses to track expected points added or subtracted throughout the course of the season, and Passing NEP takes into account the expected points lost on sacks, interceptions, and incompletions. The league-average Passing NEP per drop back is 0.10, so Ryan was highly efficient, and he now gets to go back home for a tastier matchup.
Because of that, Ryan is arguably the best quarterback play on the slate at $7,900. His efficiency and matchup give him a safe floor, and there's potential for a great ceiling if the defense regresses and lets the Bucs keep it close.
Stacking Ryan is simple, too, with the volume that Jones and Ridley have gotten. Jones is $8,400, and Ridley is $6,700. Jones has had the stickier volume this year and is up to a 26.4% target share since the Sanu trade, so if we can afford him, he's clearly an elite option. Ridley is a high-quality consolation if we can't, though.
If Freeman sits again, it would give us Brian Hill in the role of the team's lead back again. It just might not be a role that is all that enticing for fantasy.
With Freeman out, Hill played 60.0% of the snaps and handled 15 of 21 running-back carries. Those are good numbers! But it's pretty hollow volume.
On FanDuel, we need to value work in the passing game because a target is worth twice as much as a carry for a running back. Hill had just three targets in that one, down from Freeman's season-long average of 4.9 targets per game. Hill also got that volume in an ultra-positive game script against a putrid rush defense. The Bucs have the league's best rush defense, per numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. So things could very easily swing the other way this week.
We're desperate for value on this slate, and Hill could be his team's lead back at just $5,500 as a home favorite. But given the nature of that volume, he's not someone we must include in our player pool this weekend.
A Potential Breakout in Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns have got some serious stink on them. Even disregarding the Myles Garrett incident, the team has been erratic at some points and abysmal at others, potentially giving you some doubt about rolling them out even in a matchup with the tanking Miami Dolphins.
Although that hesitance is understandable, at least some of the Browns' issues this year stem from the schedule they have faced.
This Sunday will be the Browns' 11th game of 2019. It will be just their second against a team ranked outside the top-20 in schedule-adjusted pass defense. They've faced one bottom-12 team compared to five top-12 teams, including the first-, second-, third-, and sixth-ranked pass defenses. Four of those five tough games were on the road, as well.
Once you adjust for facing such a difficult stretch, the Browns are actually the 16th-ranked passing offense in football, according to numberFire's metrics. That won't blow your doors off, but it's a whole heck of a lot better than they've looked straight up. It's also a high enough ranking for us to use them against the league's worst pass defense.
That matchup should put us on Baker Mayfield at $7,500 on FanDuel. Mayfield's average depth of target (aDOT) has dipped to 7.0 over the past 5 games, according to FantasyADHD.com, as the Browns have been getting the ball out of his hand more quickly in order to avoid pass rushes, and that puts a lid on his ceiling. However, that number could go back up against a lesser defensive front. Mayfield deserves to be in our player pool at quarterback.
When deciding with whom to stack him, our most relevant sample is going to be the two games since Kareem Hunt made his debut. Hunt has gotten plenty of work, meaning it does alter the way we view the offense. Here's where the targets have gone in that two-game stretch.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Mayfield hasn't thrown deep often of late, but when he has, it has gone Odell Beckham's direction. Beckham has five deep targets and 290 air yards in that stretch, meaning the upside is lurking.
The plus matchup and heavy overall target volume should give him a floor, too. Beckham has had more than 13.1 FanDuel points just once all year, but at $7,000, he's someone we should target liberally for both cash games and tournaments.
Jarvis Landry is only $100 less than Beckham, and there seems to be an upside gap between the two with Beckham getting all the downfield work. Landry, though, will get higher-percentage targets closer to the line of scrimmage, meaning the odds he converts on his targets are higher. That's likely not enough for us to favor him over Beckham, even in cash games (we should also value ceiling in cash games to help make up for whiffs at other slots in our roster), but we can go to Landry if stacking Mayfield in multiple tournament lineups.
Hunt has been playing a role similar to what James White has had with the Patriots, and at $5,600, there's enough juice there where you can consider Hunt himself. The bigger impact, though, seems to be on Nick Chubb.
Chubb's early-down work has remained steady as he's averaging 23.5 carries per game. The impact has come in his work in the passing game with his target share plummeting to 7.5% from 12.3% before Hunt debuted. Chubb has five total receiving yards in two games alongside Hunt.
Not getting work as a pass-catcher impacts Chubb's floor and ceiling because it deprives him of one additional way to net yardage. There's a pretty narrow set of circumstances in which we should feel great about backs who get work exclusively as a rusher. It just so happens that Chubb is in one of those circumstances this week.
If you want a rush-only guy to pay off in DFS -- especially at Chubb's salary of $8,200 -- you basically need them to pop off with 120 yards and 2 touchdowns. As an 11-point home favorite against the league's 26th-ranked rush defense, that's very much in Chubb's range of outcomes. We should likely favor Mayfield and Beckham as outlets for getting access to this offense, but Chubb can very much be a fringe-core play at running back in a similar vein to what Josh Jacobs was in Week 11.
The only thing that could potentially kill our enthusiasm around the Browns is weather. As of Friday morning, wind speeds are projected at 15 miles per hour, which would be a bit higher than you'd like. If that number were to stay that high, it would increase the odds that the Browns bust despite the plus spot. Check back on that Sunday morning, and if it comes down a bit, feel free to finally plug these bad boys in.
Downgrading the Browns' Defense
If you want to feel good about using a quarterback and a wide receiver in DFS, it helps to have them in a spot where they'll have to put up points. If they can get a lead and coast, it'll put a cap on their second-half volume and limit their upside.
Through Week 11, the Browns rank eighth against the pass, per numberFire's metrics. That's with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams missing a good chunk of time, so it's pretty impressive. Losing Garrett and Burnett makes it hard to think that number will stay so high.
The Browns rank fifth in adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders. But 10 of their 30 sacks have come via Garrett. Another five are by Larry Ogunjobi, who is also suspended for Sunday's game, and Olivier Vernon -- who has missed the past two games and has not practiced this week -- has three. With Burnett also logging two sacks, the Browns could be playing without guys who have notched 66.7% of their sacks this season. Their season-long defensive stats are now meaningless.
This is bad if you're a Browns fan, but it's sweet if you want to justify using Mayfield and Beckham. We've also got a clear option on the Dolphins for game stacks in DeVante Parker.
The Dolphins have played two games since Preston Williams' season-ending injury. Parker has 10 targets in both of those, amounting to 26.0% of the team's total. He has four deep targets in that time, too, giving him a path to a ceiling.
Parker has a tough matchup against the Browns' corners, and that does matter. But with the Browns' defense banged up, the Dolphins should be able to move the ball, and their primary route for doing so right now is via Parker. At just $6,000, Parker's in play both for game stacks and as a standalone option.
Bargain-Shopping in Philly
One of the keys to this slate will be finding value. Most of the cheap wide receivers we've been leaning on all season have finally had their salaries adjusted, so we're scraping along, trying to find guys who can save us a bit.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of issues right now, but they could be an outlet there, depending on how things break from an injury perspective.
The big guy to monitor is Jordan Howard. Howard has been limited in practice this week, though he reportedly has not been cleared for contact yet. Howard's absence led to a pretty solid role for Miles Sanders last week, and he'd be in play again if Howard can't go.
Sanders didn't come through for DFS, but his role was really solid. He played 85.3% of the snaps and ran 42 routes, according to Pro Football Focus. Seven of those routes came either in the slot or out wide, so the team was moving him around the formation and trying to generate mis-matches. It led to just 11 carries and 4 targets, but the path to volume is very much there.
One thing to consider here with Sanders is that stud right tackle Lane Johnson is on track to sit after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday due to a concussion. That's a major factor, and the Eagles' offense cratered back in 2016 when Johnson missed time due to a suspension. We do need to lower the Eagles' offense in our minds because of that.
The Eagles are better-equipped to deal with that now than they were, though. They've had first-round pick Andre Dillard at right tackle in practice, which would be an upgrade from Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who had to fill in for Johnson after Johnson went down last week. We'd obviously rather have Johnson out there, but the Eagles' depth at tackle means they shouldn't completely collapse without him.
If Howard is out, we'd be getting a heavily-involved running back who gets work in the passing game for $5,600 as a slight home favorite (though the spread has been trending steadily toward the Seattle Seahawks). Sanders would be an option for cash games if you needed to dip that low, and he'd be a respectable tournament play, as well.
For the pass-catchers, it looks like Alshon Jeffery is trending toward playing after practicing in a limited fashion Wednesday and Thursday, saving us from viewing Nelson Agholor as a value at $4,900. Agholor also missed the first two days of practice, further solidifying that thought. But we can still go at the tight ends.
Assuming Jeffery comes back, we've got a four-game sample on the Eagles with Jeffery since Dallas Goedert's role expanded. Jeffery, Goedert, and Zach Ertz have all gotten respectable volume in that split.
|Weeks 6 to 9||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Agholor also has 17.8% of the targets in that sample, so an absence for him would potentially make things even rosier for the others.
Jeffery would be interesting at $6,200 if he were to play, but we'd likely prefer it if he were to get in a full practice on Friday. Additionally, the $6,000 range is loaded at wide receiver, and he's just a bit cheaper than DJ Moore, over whom we will gush shortly. The main attraction here is Ertz.
Ertz is just $6,100, making him the fourth most expensive tight end on a slate that is sorely lacking in good options. He easily leads all tight ends on the slate in target share the past five games, and if you can get that without breaking the bank, you should happily do so. Ertz is the ideal cash-game tight end if you can afford him.
Goedert is one of the top low-dollar tight ends and is in play for tournaments. He has at least four targets in five straight games, and he's getting a good number of looks near the goal-line. He'll work at $5,200 if you can't find a way to get up to Ertz.
Monitoring Tyler Lockett
#Seahawks HC Pete Carroll on if he thinks WR Tyler Lockett (shin-limited weds) will play vs. #Eagles. “I do. He thinks that, too.”
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) November 21, 2019
The baseline assumption seems like it should be that Lockett will play. If he doesn't, though, it would be a massive downgrade for Wilson.
Wilson is a great quarterback, so his efficiency numbers are dazzling across the board. When he targets Lockett, though, the numbers go through the roof. "Success Rate" is the percentage of attempts that increase the team's expected points for the drive.
|Wilson in 2019||Passing NEP per Attempt||Success Rate|
That's not an indictment of DK Metcalf or anybody else; it's just to show that Lockett is a really freaking good football player, and losing him would downgrade Wilson in fantasy.
Additionally, this Eagles defense has been playing much better as their secondary has gotten healthier. Cornerback Jalen Mills made his season debut in Week 7, and the defense has been radically better with him on the field, as you can see with these numbers via The Quant Edge's injury tool.
|Eagles' Defense in 2019||Yards Per Pass Attempt||Pass Success Rate|
|With Jalen Mills||5.9||40.8%|
|Without Jalen Mills||8.4||50.0%|
They've played some bad quarterbacks in this sample, so we shouldn't expect them to keep shutting people down. We should expect them to be better than they were earlier in the season, though.
If Wilson has Lockett, you can make a pretty easy case for him at $8,200. That said, there are paths to a dud of a game with both teams outside the top 20 in situation-neutral pace, per Football Outsiders, so Wilson is best left to exclusively tournaments.
Lockett at $7,400 is tough to trust fresh off an injury, unless he can get in a full practice on Friday. The cheaper pieces in the passing game may be better routes for exposure, even if Lockett does play.
The big one (literally) is Metcalf at $6,700. In four games since Will Dissly's injury, Metcalf's target share has shot up to 24.8%, and plenty of those looks have been either downfield or in the red zone. Metcalf would be in play for cash if Lockett were to sit, but the appeal for tournaments is present no matter what.
Jacob Hollister is far from being a value at tight end, but he's still someone we could justify at $5,800. Luke Willson is expected to sit, and the recently-activated Ed Dickson is coming off an extended injury. That should keep Hollister in his role as the pass-catching tight end.
With Willson banged up in Weeks 9 and 10, Hollister had 16 targets, 21.3% of the team's total in that time. Five of those targets were in the red zone. He has a solid athletic profile, so for $5,800, we're getting respectable volume and cheap exposure to Wilson.
The one other noteworthy name here is Josh Gordon, who made his debut before the team's bye. Gordon played 37.8% of the snaps there, so we can't target him if Lockett plays. He would be a low-floor option at $5,100, though, if Lockett were forced to miss the game.
An Expanded Sample on the Saints
We've got two weeks of data on the Saints now since their bye when their health ticked up, meaning we should have a good idea of how to handle them this week. With their implied total being the highest on the slate, let's check out the usage there to see which guys stand out.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Even at $9,200, Thomas is still worth it. That combination of workload and efficiency is impossible to match.
Last week was a key one for helping us gauge Kamara's value for this matchup. We hadn't yet seen the dynamic between Kamara and Latavius Murray in a game where the Saints had a healthy lead and could potentially rest Kamara. Murray's workload certainly went up, but Kamara's role was still superb.
Kamara finished that game with 13 carries and 10 targets. Again, a target is worth twice as much as a target, meaning he had 33 adjusted opportunities, second-most among all running backs in Week 11, trailing only Christian McCaffrey at 42. The $2,200 salary gap between McCaffrey and Kamara helps make up the difference there.
Kamara could lose goal-line and fourth-quarter work to Murray, which is a risk. Last week, though, Kamara scored 17.2 FanDuel points without hitting paydirt, and he has scored double-digit points in five straight despite scoring no touchdowns in that time. Against the league's 32nd-ranked rush defense, Kamara is an elite play.
How you view the tertiary pieces depends on what you think of the Panthers' offense. If you think they can keep things close, then there could be enough volume to justify rolling out Jared Cook, Ted Ginn Jr., and Tre'Quan Smith. If you don't see that happening, it's all about Thomas and Kamara.
Cook would be the one potential exception there. He's more expensive than he should be based on his role at $6,000, but there's a path to a multi-touchdown day and healthy volume. When that also helps fill a wretched position, it'll work. Although you should try to get up to Ertz at $6,100 if you can, Cook can work for tournaments.
The Fall of Kyle Allen
Kyle Allen SZN was fleeting, and the ship has sailed on the notion that he's someone who can elevate an offense. 'Twas fun and strange while it lasted.
The big reason we can go to the Panthers' offensive pieces despite Allen's lack of efficiency is that we know where the ball is going. McCaffrey is going to bathe in volume, and Moore has been a fixture in the target tree the past five games.
|Past 5 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
That sample is relevant because it's the time in which Allen has been more willing to go deep, and most often, those longer looks have gone to Moore and Curtis Samuel. Moore is the rockstar here.
In this five-game sample, Moore has averaged 12.4 FanDuel points per game. At $6,400, that's 1.9-times his salary-implied value, putting him just a hair below what you'd want from someone carrying that salary. But Moore has done all of that without scoring a single touchdown, and with the number of yards he has racked up, you would expect a tuddy or three. His floor has been awesome.
Moore has the ability to top 100 yards (he has 95 or more in three straight), and his red-zone usage implies that he can capitalize with touchdowns, as well. It'll be hard to turn him down at $6,400, and Moore is an ideal game-stacking partner with Kamara and Thomas.
McCaffrey's salary is lofty at $10,500, and it's hard to justify a running back at that number when the team's implied total is just 18.75 points. He's a unicorn in that discussion, though.
Last week, McCaffrey scored 24.6 FanDuel points and was the highest-scoring running back on the slate. As a result, he was in the main slate's perfect lineup. He did all of that without scoring a touchdown at the same tag he's carrying this week. That's nuts.
Even if you exclude all of the points McCaffrey has scored on touchdowns this year, he's still averaging 18.9 FanDuel points per game, which is more than all running backs except Dalvin Cook and Aaron Jones even when you let them keep their touchdowns. That means he can absolutely pay off at this tag even if the Panthers get blanked, which lowers the importance around the discussion of the implied total.
What that implied total does do, though, is lower the need to jam McCaffrey into as many lineups as we did last week. His odds of dropping a 40 burger decrease if his team isn't expected to run up the score, which should be the baseline expectation for this weekend. McCaffrey is a very good option despite his salary and his poor offense, but you can still build a respectable cash-game lineup without jamming him in.
As for Samuel and Greg Olsen, both are volume-based options at their salaries ($5,700 and $5,100, respectively). Olsen should likely sit higher on our list because he helps fill tight end, and Samuel's proximity in salary to the more heavily-utilized Moore dings him a bit. Regardless, both can be considered after weighing those factors.
The Patriots' Injuries at Receiver
The Patriots got great news this week with left tackle Isaiah Wynn being activated from injured reserve, providing a much-needed boost to the team's offensive line.
But with how things have gone this year, you knew the good vibes wouldn't last long.
Mohamed Sanu reportedly could miss some time with an ankle injury. DETAILS: https://t.co/6bTJotyiOj pic.twitter.com/2m9cSFfoMF
— NESN (@NESN) November 21, 2019
Mohamed Sanu injured his ankle in last week's game, hasn't practiced this week, and is now potentially facing a multi-week absence. That's while Phillip Dorsett is in also in concussion protocol. It has been a rough year to be catching passes on this team.
Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice and reportedly could be cleared prior to Sunday's game. We should, though, plan ahead for how to handle this team if Sanu does, indeed, have to sit.
Both Sanu and Dorsett got hurt during Week 11's game with the Eagles, though Sanu kept playing despite the injury. Julian Edelman dominated targets there with 10 total looks and would be a high-floor, high-ceiling option at $7,500 whether Sanu plays or not. That floor would just get a kick in the right direction if there were one less option in the fold.
The guy who seemed to get the biggest role change due to the injuries was N'Keal Harry, who was making his debut. He had the highest snap rate of the other options at 43.2%, and he ran 21 routes, according to Pro Football Focus. Jakobi Meyers played 25.7% of the snap and ran 14 routes.
Harry is $5,000, and we don't know what his role will look like. If both Sanu and Dorsett sit, then Harry is an option for cash games as he'd likely be on the field almost the entire game. Even if Dorsett's able to go, Harry would still be an option for tournaments.
One of the reasons we should be willing to risk it a bit with someone like Harry is that this game is pretty appealing for fantasy. The Patriots and Dallas Cowboys are first and third, respectively, in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders. There's going to be a lot of play volume here, and that's something we should seek out. That's especially true when it comes at such a low salary and with an elevated snap count.
The other side-effect of that elevated pace is that it means we should consider the pieces within the Cowboys' offense despite the strength of the Patriots' defense. The Cowboys have the best schedule-adjusted passing offense in football, per numberFire's metrics, so if anybody's going to move the ball against this secondary, it could be them. It's not entirely idiotic to consider all of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb.
We can also at least show some interest in Ezekiel Elliott. The narrative around Bill Belichick is that he likes to take away the opposing team's best weapon, and right now, that's the Cowboys' passing game. He could very well invite the Cowboys to run Zeke at will, and Kellen Moore and Jason Garrett have been willing to take that bait at times this year. We should be concerned about Elliott's lack of work in the passing game, but his $8,100 salary accounts for that, and there's a scenario in which Zeke gets monster volume here. It's an attractive game overall, so it's wise to give a good amount of thought to all of the assets tied to it.
Increased Work for Le'Veon Bell
For the past few weeks, Le'Veon Bell has been dealing with dings and dents, and it has seemingly taken a toll on his workload. Bell's snap rate hit a season-low 54.9% last week. But there's reason to believe that trend could reverse on Sunday.
During Wednesday's practice, Bell was not listed on the team's injury report. That means he got in a full practice for the first time since Week 9, and it was also the first time Bell had done anything on a Wednesday since that same week. That signals a deviation in his health, which could lead to a deviation in his workload.
Even with the injuries, Bell's volume has been really respectable of late. Bell has at least 17 carries in three straight games, and he has 16.1% of the team's targets in that time. Additionally, some of Bell's missed snaps last week came because of a lopsided score as he had 11 carries and 2 targets in the first half compared to 7 carries and 0 targets in the second.
Bell checks in at $7,300 as a slight home underdog against the league's 22nd-ranked rush defense. There's enough here where you can certainly look his way as mid-level running back in tournaments.
You can still attack this Oakland Raiders defense even if the thought of using Bell makes you a bit skittish. The passing game is in a plus spot, too, with Oakland sitting 27th against the pass.
At this point in his career, it feels accurate to call Sam Darnold volatile as a passer. That's not necessarily a bad thing because he showed last week that he can definitely hit the high end of that range of outcomes. We just have to account for the lows, too, which he showed versus the Dolphins a few weeks ago.
Darnold has scored at least 21.70 FanDuel points in two straight games, and that's more than Derek Carr on the other side has scored in any game this year. Carr could see his upside rise against a team that forces him to throw, but it does seem like Darnold has a bit more juice for DFS and should thus sit higher on our list.
As far as stacking Darnold, you can certainly pair him with Bell. Bell gets enough work as a receiver to justify that, and it would likely get you access to each of the Jets' touchdowns.
As for the other pieces here, they've played six games since Darnold returned from his bout with mono. Chris Herndon was able to play a decent number of snaps in one of those, so we'll exclude that one from the sample and look at where the balls went in the other five.
|Past 5 Without Herndon||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
This is definitely not ideal. Things are spread out, and there's not one dude handling most of the high-leverage work. It makes stacking Darnold (outside of pairing him with Bell) more of a guessing game.
Jamison Crowder clearly has the best floor of the group, and he has come through in that volume. Crowder has at least 75 receiving yards in five of the seven games Darnold has played, meaning he's not getting exclusively bunny targets. There's a bit of juice in there, too.
The downside of Crowder is that he's probably never going to pop off for 125 yards, and some of the other guys in this range (Moore, specifically) are very capable of doing that. We can definitely pair Crowder with Darnold, but we should keep in mind that it does put a bit of a lid on our upside.
The opportunity cost on Robby Anderson is lower because his salary has slid down to $5,400. That's justified because Anderson hasn't had more than 43 receiving yards in a game since his blow-up against the Cowboys in Darnold's return. The floor here is a goose egg.
With that said, Anderson does still lead the team with 30.0% of the air yards in the aforementioned sample, according to FantasyADHD.com, meaning a path to a big game is still there. Anderson also fits what we should look for in a cheap wide receiver as a slight home underdog against a bad defense. The salary combined with the yardage upside may actually make Anderson the preferred stacking target with Darnold.
The reason excluding the game that Herndon played from the sample was important was that Ryan Griffin's snap rate fell to 64.6% there, and he had just one target. He has played at least 80% of the snaps in every other game this year, and he has gotten some high-leverage looks recently. Griffin is $5,600, so he's close in salary to all of Ertz, Cook, and Hollister. Still, Griffin has flashed some yardage upside with 109 yards last week and at least 50 in each of the past three games without Herndon, so he's another stacking option with Darnold. You don't need to use him if you're going with limited Darnold lineups as Griffin does grade out below all of Bell, Anderson, and Crowder, but if you are dumping in a bunch of lineups, it's not a bad idea to have some Griffin in there, too.
Spread Out Volume for the Raiders
If we're going to use Darnold at quarterback, we likely should want to bring it back with someone on the Raiders. So let's check them out quickly to see what the best route would be there.
Josh Jacobs would be a bit of a tough sell at $8,000. He's facing the league's fourth-ranked rush defense, and Jacobs doesn't get a ton of work in the passing game. The talent is there, but the usage isn't quite the type you want to target yet in this type of matchup.
The problem is that he's the only guy you know will get volume. They've played four games since Tyrell Williams returned, and nobody has been able to separate.
|Past 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Based on this, it seems like Darren Waller is the top bring-back option. But even he has his warts.
Waller has gotten far less overall and high-leverage volume than he got prior to Williams' injury, so this stretch has been disappointing. Still, he surged back with 78 receiving yards last week, and he helps fill tight end at $6,200. Waller is an option as a standalone play (though less of a priority than Ertz, who is $100 cheaper), and he does stack well with the Jets' guys.
In these four games, Williams has a total of 19 targets; 11 of them have been at least 16 yards downfield. When he's cheap, that's not a big issue because a low floor is acceptable. The problem is that he's $6,400, putting him in the same range as Moore and Crowder, both of whom have better floors, and Moore's ceiling is also better than Williams'.
There's still a chance that Williams hauls in a long ball, and he has topped 80 receiving yards twice in this four-game sample. That's why we can look his way in game stacks. It's just a harder sell as a standalone play.
As for Carr, the big reason for his lack of upside is that he doesn't chuck it deep all that often. Even in the four games since Williams returned, his aDOT is 7.7, ranking 22nd in that time, according to FantasyADHD.com. That's not exactly what you want in tournaments.
The counterpoint is that another ding to Carr's upside has been the team's run-heavy nature as they rank 29th in early-down pass rate in the first halves of games, according to Sharp Football Stats. If they recognize how good the Jets are against the rush (and with how well they've played this year, we should give Jon Gruden some benefit of the doubt there), they may throw more, inflating Carr's volume. That gives his upside enough of a nudge where we can use him in tournaments, though we should favor Darnold within the same game.
A Potential Sterling Shepard Return
Sterling Shepard has been a full participant in practice this week, meaning he could be close to clearing concussion protocol. He'd be returning to a team likely missing Evan Engram, and it would alter our view of the New York Giants' offense.
In the three games Shepard has played with Daniel Jones this year, Shepard has 26.9% of the team's targets, getting at least nine in each game. Seven of those targets were at least 16 yards downfield, so Shepard had some upside, as well.
Golden Tate played in only one of those games, but Engram was active for all three, giving Jones two top-end options in each. Shepard still got a sizable piece of the pie.
Shepard is $6,500, which seems a bit lofty for someone coming off an extended absence on a team with the third-lowest total on the slate. He's not off the map there, but he's also not a priority.
What he does do, though, is elevate the appeal in Saquon Barkley. Adding Shepard into the fold likely increases the team's offensive efficiency, amping up the odds they'll generate touchdown drives.
Our most recent memory of Barkley is his 13-carry, 1-yard performance against the Jets before the Giants' bye. But we have to remember the context of that game. Not only was Shepard out, but so was Engram, and the team had to play without starting center Jon Halapio and right tackle Mike Remmers. Then left tackle Nate Solder went down during the game. The Meadowlands cat was one injury away from holding down Jones' blindside.
Now, all three linemen were full participants in Thursday's practice, and Shepard is likely returning. Barkley also got banged up during that game but isn't listed on the injury report coming out of the bye. With Barkley's salary down to $7,900, he's a really attractive tournament option, and it's superbly unlikely he carries much interest off that dud of a performance.
Hip to Be Benched
We're never going to know whether Mitchell Trubisky was actually hurt prior to his benching last week. But head coach Matt Nagy is running with that, and it doesn't sound like it's definitive that Trubisky will start this week.
However, Trubisky did practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday, so we can probably assume he'll start. And with the lowly Giants defense on deck, why not give the dude a shot to jolt his confidence?
We probably shouldn't use Trubisky himself because he's only $400 cheaper than Darnold, $500 cheaper than Mayfield, and $600 cheaper than Winston, all of whom are at less of risk of a mid-game benching. But the pieces in the offense could have some appeal.
Despite Trubisky's struggles, the Bears have still thrown 58% of the time on early downs in the first half since Trubisky returned from injury, according to Sharp Football Stats. They haven't completely ditched the forward pass even with Trubisky averaging -0.08 Passing NEP per drop back in that time.
That means we can at least entertain the thought of using his pass-catchers. Our most relevant sample with them is the four games since Taylor Gabriel's snap rate got back above 60% following his concussion, and he's actually leading them in targets during that time.
|Past 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
We could make jokes about how this is part of the problem, but Trubisky has also been more efficient when targeting Gabriel than when targeting Allen Robinson in this span. It's just not going to leave a good taste in your mouth.
A lot of Gabriel's volume came last week against the Los Angeles Rams when Robinson had to deal with Jalen Ramsey. So we should absolutely expect the usage pendulum to swing back toward Robinson this week.
It just might not matter. Robinson is $7,500 on FanDuel, the same salary as Edelman and right between Cooper and Lockett. All of those players are in games infinitely more attractive than this one, and their quarterbacks are just a smidge better. Robinson has talent, but it's hard to get to him.
Meanwhile, Gabriel is $5,600, which is a lot better. His fantasy output has been decent this year, but he has lacked upside with a max of 75 receiving yards. In this offense, it's hard to expect too much more. Even with a salary more appropriate than Robinson's, it's hard to get jazzed about Gabriel.
Perhaps, then, the best route is to go at this team via the ground game. That brings us to David Montgomery at $6,600.
Montgomery saw his role change four weeks ago against the Los Angeles Chargers as he had 27 carries and 5 targets while playing 73.2% of the snaps. He hasn't duplicated it sense, but we know a heavy-usage day is within Montgomery's range of outcomes.
Last week, Montgomery's snap rate slipped to 46.1%, but it's important to remember he was questionable going in after turning his ankle in practice. This week, he's absent from the injury report. Montgomery's the best route for getting exposure to the Giants' defense, though we need to look elsewhere in cash games.
A Fluid Steelers Backfield
Conner's absence would seemingly put Jaylen Samuels in a spot where he could soak up targets again. However, Benny Snell Jr. seems likely to return from a knee injury. Samuels was losing snaps to Trey Edmunds when Conner and Snell were out, and now Snell's likely back in the fold. Especially with Samuels at $6,900 and center Maurkice Pouncey suspended, that's enough for us to stay away.
The pass-catchers are a bit cheaper and less grim. Mason Rudolph's aDOT is up to 8.7 since he returned from his concussion, too, meaning he is no longer the tap-pass king.
We just have to decide who will benefit most from Smith-Schuster's absence. Diontae Johnson seems likely to play despite last week's concussion after logging full practices both Wednesday and Thursday. That gives us him, James Washington, and Vance McDonald as potential outlets.
Excluding Week 11 when Johnson left early due to the concussion, here's the target distribution since Rudolph's return.
|Weeks 8 to 10||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Taking Smith-Schuster out of the equation should tighten the distribution a bit. That may be enough for us to consider McDonald and Washington.
McDonald is $5,300 and has seven targets in three straight games. He has not exceeded 33 yards in a game this year, but that number could get a nudge via volume alone with Smith-Schuster out. McDonald is the cheap way to get exposure to this Bengals defense.
Washington is more expensive at $6,100, putting him in striking distance of other receivers in much better offenses. Still, he did connect with Rudolph on a long ball two weeks ago, and he's unlikely to leave the field now. Washington is a mid-range option at wide receiver as long as you accept that the upside of everybody in this one is capped due to a poor game environment.
The New-Look Lions
Speaking of poor game environments, we get Jeff Driskel versus Dwayne Haskins this week in the nation's capital. The total has fallen 1.5 points since open, according to oddsFire, and even 40.5 may not be low enough to encapsulate how stanky this game looks.
Still, Driskel and Bo Scarbrough have been surprise contributors of late, and they've got a good matchup. We should at least discuss them briefly.
Driskel has rushing juice with 44 rushing yards per game in his two starts, and that's great. However, in one of those games, he cleaned up in garbage time. In the other, he was playing at home in a dome against the Cowboys, who rank third in situation-neutral pace. Washington is dead last there. We should find the extra money to get up to guys like Darnold, Mayfield, and Ryan rather than using Driskel at $7,300.
The salary is a major red flag for Scarbrough, too. You are getting no discount on him at $6,400. Additionally, he ran just nine routes last week, according to Pro Football Focus, meaning the odds he contributes in the passing game are negligible. We want players who have multiple routes for gaining yardage, so Scarbrough is much more of a season-long option than one we should seek out in DFS.
If you want exposure to this game (outside of potentially considering Derrius Guice should Adrian Peterson wind up being inactive), you could get it via the Washington defense and special teams. They're the cheapest defense on the board on a slate where there are very few palatable, cheap defenses. Driskel is fun for fantasy, but we should remember the Cincinnati Bengals had Driskel work out as a wide receiver before cutting him in the preseason. Seems good! Washington's defense is pathetic, but they let us pay up in other spots, so they may be the most attractive route for dabbling here.
DJ Chark: Target Monster
We talked last week about the potential impact of Nick Foles' return for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team didn't do much overall in Foles' first game, but whew, baby, did he pump volume to DJ Chark.
Foles wound up throwing 47 times, and 15 of those throws were Chark's direction.
|In Week 11||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Chark also had 7 of 10 high-leverage targets, meaning he had both a floor and upside. You'll take that at any salary for a wide receiver.
This week, the Jaguars are facing the Tennessee Titans, who rank 14th against the pass. Although it's not a matchup we must target, they have struggled with speed this year, allowing at least 75 receiving yards to John Brown, Tyreek Hill, and Chark the first time the two teams met. Chark is $7,000 and serves as a high-quality pivot off of Beckham, especially if the winds stay elevated in Cleveland.
Leonard Fournette isn't in as good of a matchup (the Titans rank fourth against the rush), but we can still consider him at $7,000. Head coach Doug Marrone said this week that they didn't get Fournette enough work last week, so Fournette has the squeaky-wheel narrative in his favor. He also gets enough work in the passing game to pay off even if he isn't efficient on the ground. This game is certainly the undercard on the afternoon slate with Patriots-Cowboys as the main event, but with Fournette and Chark, there are at least two high-quality plays within it.
Some Separation for Phillip Lindsay
Last Sunday morning, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that Phillip Lindsay would see an expanded role for the Denver Broncos' matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. That's exactly what happened, and it makes Lindsay at least worth discussing at $6,300.
In that one, Lindsay played 64.2% of the snaps, his first time above 50% since Week 3 and easily his highest rate of the season. He finished with 16 carries and 2 targets in a game the Broncos led almost the entire way (though they did eventually lose).
The 16 carries are definitely intriguing. The two targets, though, were disappointing. It's also hard to expect change there, given how rarely Brandon Allen has targeted running backs compared to Joe Flacco.
|Broncos in 2019||RB Target Rate|
Instead, Allen has been chucking it to Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton whenever possible. Those two are definitely options as a result, despite terrible quarterback play. It just lowers the appeal in Lindsay a bit.
Because the Broncos are playing Josh Allen, who can still make the occasional blunderous gaffe, there's a chance the Broncos get a lead here. If that happens, we could have Lindsay getting good volume against the league's 29th-ranked rush defense. As such, Lindsay is on the map at running back at $6,300, though he's not quite a priority.
The same could be said about the other main running back in this game, Devin Singletary, who is also $6,300. His matchup isn't as good (Denver is 11th against the rush), but we can expect him to play a bunch of snaps.
In fact, last week, Singletary played a season-high 73.6% of the snaps. That was despite fumbling twice and losing work down the stretch to Frank Gore as a result of those fumbles.
Since gaining more early-down work in Week 9, Singletary has averaged 14.3 carries and 3.7 targets per game, amounting to 21.7 adjusted opportunities per game. Lindsay had 20 last week. Singletary, though, is a home favorite and has the potential for more work in the passing game. Singletary should be our preferred running back in this game, but both are relegated to being tournament-only options with no cash-game appeal.