Another week of NFL football is in the books, which means that more NFL football is right around the corner. With both Fanduel and DraftKings having released their Week 5 DFS pricing, it’s time to look ahead to next Sunday’s DFS slate.
Here are the most glaring values I’ve found after analyzing pricing.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers (AT ARI)
DraftKings: $5,700 (QB15) | Fanduel: $6,900 (QB16)
#49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo anticipates being out a couple of weeks with his calf injury.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) October 4, 2021
If Trey Lance starts in absence of Jimmy Garoppolo this Sunday, look out, because Lance will be far and away the most popular QB play of the week.
Lance crucially offers the best rushing upside of any QB in the 2021 class, and consequently, some of the best fantasy upside of any QB in the NFL, if he’s a Week 5 starter. During his lone season as the starter at NDSU, he earned an insane 5.16 yards after contact per attempt and forced 40 missed tackles on just 134 rush attempts. Playing for the coach who orchestrated Robert Griffin III’s illustrious rookie campaign and averaging 13.3 rushing FPG in college translate to Lance’s Konami Code upside being off the charts.
And what did we see in Week 4? Lance only played a half, but still managed to score 20.4 fantasy points, and is currently QB12 on the week. He also rushed 7 times for 41 yards. All that fantasy success came with HC Kyle Shanahan noting that “the gameplan wasn’t built for him” as the 49ers weren’t aware that Jimmy G couldn’t play until right before the 2nd half started.
Now imagine what Lance and this offense could do when they know he’s the starter, with a full week of practice under their belts? Yea, Trey Lance is arguably the biggest QB value of the season heading into Week 5.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (AT DAL)
DraftKings: $7,300 (RB7) | Fanduel: $7,800 (RB7)
Saquon Barkley last two weeks:— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) October 4, 2021
* 117-of-134 snaps (87%)
* 40-of-43 RB touches (93%)
* 13 targets for a 17.3% target share
Saquon Barkley is back to being Saquon Barkley, but his price hasn’t quite caught up, yet. Since being ‘fully unleashed’ in Week 3, Barkley has averaged 20.0 touches per game, 110.0 YFS per game, and 25.5 FPG. Over the last two weeks, those numbers rank 6th, 7th, and 1st. At full health, with this usage, Barkley is basically the closest thing we have to Christian McCaffrey. And yet he’s the RB7 (by salary) on both DFS sites this week. And he gets a premier matchup against a Cowboys defense that’s earned PFF’s 8th-worst rush defense grade, in the 2nd-highest total game (51.5) of the slate. Barkley has only previously played in three games with a total of more than 50.0, but he’s averaged an insane 28.9 DraftKings FPG and 25.0 Fanduel points in those instances. And his worst outing in that albeit small sample was 22.0 DraftKings points and 19.0 Fanduel points. If we believe Saquon is back to being Saquon (spoiler: he is), then he’s a clear value while he is priced outside the top-5 RBs on both sites.
Damien Williams, RB, Chicago Bears (AT LV)
DraftKings: $5,600 (RB21) | Fanduel: $5,800 (RB28)
David Montgomery suffered a hyperextended knee on Sunday, and he’s not expected to play in Week 5 and beyond. That leaves Damien Williams as the Bears lead rusher in Week 5 (if we assume Montgomery is out), presenting arguably the top RB value of the slate. This season, Montgomery has averaged 18.8 touches per game, 89.5 yards from scrimmage per game, and 15.0 FPG. Among the RBs who have played in every game this season, those numbers rank 5th, 10th, and 15th.
Rookie Khalil Herbert should rotate in, but given that he's only played 10 career offensive snaps, we can safely assume this is Williams’ backfield for Week 5. And let’s forget that Williams is an underrated talent. He sat out the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, but in 2019 he ranked 4th among all RBs with 3.59 yards after contact per attempt (Derrick Henry’s career average is 3.74, for reference), and was 2nd among all rushers in PFF’s elusive rating with a mark of 89.2.
Playing the Raiders in Week 5 sets up the Bears as underdogs, but Williams should stay involved regardless, as he has a respectable career 1.44 YPRR, and has finished with a PFF receiving grade over 70.0 in five of his six full seasons.
It should be evident by now that Williams projects to see more touches per dollar of salary (especially on Fanduel) than just about any other player in Week 5. That’s the definition of a DFS value.
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots (AT HOU)
DraftKings: $5,500 (RB24) | Fanduel: $6,500 (RB19)
The Patriots are 9-point favorites against Houston this week, and that should mean a massively run-heavy gamescript for RB Damien Harris. Harris saw 17 or more touches in both Weeks 1 and 2, in a close loss to Miami and a dominant win over the Jets. Weeks 3 and 4 saw fewer than 8 touches in each game for Harris, as New England failed to establish a lead and get their run game going. So on a week-to-week basis, New England’s gamescript will be the largest determining factor towards Harris’ workload. Thankfully, there’s arguably no better opponent for a positive gamescript than the Texans.
Houston has allowed 28.5 FPG to opposing RBs, good for 6th-worst in the NFL, while also allowing the 5th-most opponent rushing attempts per game (30.8). They are PFF’s 7th-worst graded run defense and the 3rd-worst rush defense by Football Outsiders DVOA. And with Davis Mills being PFF’s worst graded QB, New England should have no problem getting ahead, and maintaining that lead by feeding Damien Harris. Harris should be one of the most popular RB options in Week 5 with the very real possibility of 20 or more carries.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (VS. DEN)
DraftKings: $6,500 (WR11) | Fanduel: $7,000 (WR13)
Johnson ranks 1st among WRs in targets per game (11.7) and 8th in FPG (19.4). Over his last 18 games, Johnson has seen double-digit targets 13 times, and in the five games he didn’t see double-digit targets, he was either injured, dealing with an injury, or Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play. So in every healthy game with Big Ben since the start of last season, Johnson has seen 10 or more targets. That’s borderline unprecedented volume and is surely worthy of a top-8 WR price tag. DFS sites don’t seem to agree, as Johnson clocks in as the WR11 on DraftKings and WR13 on Fanduel. That may be due to a perceived difficult matchup against Denver, but the Broncos have allowed 31.1 FPG to opposing WRs this season, good for 15th in the league. In a neutral-at-worst matchup, Johnson will either have another double-digit target game, end up injured, or do both, as he’s shown over the last two seasons there is no in-between.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins (AT TB)
DraftKings: $4,800 (WR43) | Fanduel: $5,400 (WR45)
Waddle ranks 25th among WRs in targets per game (7.8) and 28th in target share (21.2%). Waddle and DeVante Parker are the clear top receiving options on this team, but they both play very different roles. Waddle is basically only running routes close to the line of scrimmage, as his 3.8 aDOT ranks as the 2nd-lowest among all WRs. Low-aDOT, primarily slot WRs like Waddle aren’t usually DFS targets, as they just don’t offer the game-to-game ceiling of other WRs who run more routes downfield. Still, Waddle is getting peppered with short targets, and he has the elite athleticism necessary to turn short receptions into the big plays that win DFS tournaments. So I’m more willing to write off the ‘limited ceiling due to short routes’ complaints with Waddle than with players like Adam Humphries or Tyler Boyd, who just don’t possess the same game-breaking speed or dynamism.
A Week 5 matchup against the Buccaneers defense seems #bad on paper, until we remember that Tampa Bay has given up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing WRs (45.4). And TB ranks middle of the pack in both Football Outsiders pass DVOA (17th) and PFF coverage grades (10th) so this isn’t a matchup to run away from in any sense. Crucially, Miami is a 10.5-point underdog this week, so they will have no choice but to put the ball in the air. And with Will Fuller’s (broken finger) status unknown for Week 5, Waddle could be headed for monster target numbers playing for a likely pass-happy Dolphins team.
Curtis Samuel, WR, Washington Football Team (VS. NO)
DraftKings: $3,000 (WR90)
The race to be the No. 2 receiving weapon in Washington is on, especially now that TE Logan Thomas has been deemed week-to-week with a hamstring injury. Curtis Samuel’s season debut in Week 4 wasn’t flashy, as he earned a 37% snap share and ran a route on 31% of dropbacks, but he did still see four targets, which tied for the 3rd-most on the team. If there’s one thing we know about Ron Rivera, it’s that he loves to get Samuel designed touches. That was on display in Week 4, as despite his limited playing time, two of Samuels four targets were deemed ‘screens’ by PFF. We saw this the last time Rivera and Samuel were together with the Panthers in 2019, when Samuel led all WRs in carries (19) and ranked in the top-20 among WRs in screens (9). When we play min-priced WRs, we are almost always just trying to avoid complete disaster. Samuel’s locked-in touch floor makes the worst-case scenario of a goose egg score almost impossible, and that should make him quite a popular salary-saving option in Week 5.
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Washington Football Team (VS. NO)
DraftKings: $2,500 (TE37) | Fanduel: $4,900 (TE22)
Logan Thomas has been deemed week-to-week with a hamstring injury, and that opens the door to a near full-time role for Ricky Seals-Jones in Week 5. After Thomas left Washington’s Week 4 game against Atlanta in the 1st quarter, Seals-Jones finished 2nd on the team in routes (31), 3rd in targets (4), and lined up in the slot or out wide on 74.4% of his routes. That’s a very fantasy-friendly workload.
Prior to Week 4, Logan Thomas ranked 1st among all TEs in route share (93.2%), and 9th in target share (15.4%) while averaging 11.9 FPG (TE6). Now imagine he was a slightly worse player, and the minimum price on DraftKings. That’s Ricky Seals-Jones in Week 5. Expect RSJ to be the TE chalk if Thomas misses time.