As simple as it seems, football is a game. Its creation was intended to bring enjoyment to its participants. It’s been thoroughly recorded throughout the history of the NFL that, when individuals lose sight of that enjoyment/fun, their play follows closely behind. They devote less time on the upkeep of factors that brought them to the opportunity in the first place.
DFS is a game. It’s creation was intended to capitalize on the following firestorm that passionately devoted themselves to season-long formats. Built directly into the name, providing a daily infusion to zealous season-longers looking to mass-inject a 24-hour enjoyment/profit that previously took months to achieve. The rest, as we know, is history.
But, just as with actual NFL players, losing out on that basic enjoyment can lead to diminishing returns. Watching your rostered players rack up numbers with the chance to cash should be a process we perceive as fun. And it is. But no other DFS contest type results in the emotions located on the opposite end of the spectrum than GPPs, particularly the 150-entry variety. When you invest the funds required to “consistently” succeed in large-field GPPs, the process can take turns that can lead you to a dark place. A place where every single player on an active roster can haunt your process as a “but if this happens then it’s possible INSERT NAME HERE could break the slate.”
With the intention of sidestepping that trap, this contrarian-focused series will provide recommendations that are anticipated to be overlooked, make for compelling pivots, or can be found with bottom-barrel pricing (aka punts) at each position. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate all of the volatility, these recommendations will be drawn from a process devoted to separating the assets from the chaff. Only players expected to be rostered in less than 5% of GPP lineups will be featured in this series.
Here are the facts:
- No matchup this weekend is anticipated to result in more points scored.
- When these teams last met (AFC Divisional Round last season), Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to average 5.6 YPC.
- When Patrick Mahomes was forced from that game for concussion protocols suffered during the fourth quarter, Baker Mayfield and the Browns led the Chiefs 17-15.
- During his NFL career, Mayfield has averaged 0.48 FPs/dropback against Cover 1 (eighth-best among all QBs).
- When facing man coverage schemes, Mayfield threw 13 TDs to one INT last season.
- On dropbacks against Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4, and Cover 6 combined, he threw four TDs to seven INTs.
- The Chiefs ranked with the seventh-highest Man coverage rate last season.
- The Browns’ O-line was the only unit last season to permit less than six QB pressures/game.
- The Chiefs’ defense tolerated the second-most FPG to opposing QBs over their final four games last season.
- Bashaud Breeland — currently a member of the Vikings — led all KC corners in yards allowed/coverage snap (YPCS) and FPs allowed/coverage snap (FPCS) last season.
Two additional details that are not facts, but strong opinions on quality:
- If Cleveland’s O-line isn’t the best unit in the NFL, it’s at least in the top-three.
- If Chubb and Hunt aren’t the top RB duo in the NFL, they are at least in the top-three.
The Bottom Line: Mayfield will be protected from a bottom-10 Kansas City pass rush with, in my opinion, the most dominant O-line in football. While Cleveland handed the ball off at the fourth-highest rate last season, the Chiefs are implied to score the second-most points of Week 1 (29.3) — lending the expectation the Browns will need to take to the air in order to keep up. And reports indicate the Chiefs’ top cover safety, Tyrann Mathieu, is doubtful to play. Did I forget to mention that Mayfield is expected to be rostered in less than 2% of lineups?
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA at NE ($5.4K DK | $6.6K FD | O/U: 43.5 | ExpOwn: 1-2%)
Mayfield isn’t the only QB of a team projected as a road ‘dog, facing a defense missing multiple key secondary contributors. Tua Tagovailoa and his Dolphins will face a Patriots’ team favored to win by three points. New England has already placed Stephon Gilmore on IR. Even if Jalen Mills does manage to suit up, he will play on an ankle that’s far from 100%.
Patriots have perfect attendance. Jalen Mills is here but looked limited in the warmup we saw. pic.twitter.com/yngTQHO1my— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) September 9, 2021
The Dolphins will be without Will Fuller V. But Tagovailoa dealt with talent issues at WR behind DeVante Parker all of last season. And the Miami front office provided Tagovailoa with his most talented WR yet when they drafted Jaylen Waddle. Parker, Waddle, and Mike Gesicki provide Tagovailoa with more than enough detached weaponry to succeed. Plus, Myles Gaskin is 100% healthy, providing the offense with a multidimensional skill set (more on him later).
The Bottom Line: Exposure to Tagovailoa does not require blind faith. In Week 15 last season, Tua threw for only 145 passing yards. That said, a positive game script had shifted the offense into clock killing mode. Tagovailoa completed 77% of his attempts, added a pair of rushing scores, and closed out the 22-12 victory with 19.7 FPs. At his price point, we only need Tagovailoa to generate 16.2/16.5 FPs to cover value. And he provided evidence for the type of upside he can provide when Miami is forced to play from behind against Kansas City in Week 14 when he racked up 31 FPs — the type of output we salivate over when we set our GPP lineups.
Matt Ryan, ATL vs. PHI ($6.0K DK | $7.3K FD | O/U: 48.5 | ExpOwn: 2-3%)
Trevor Lawrence, JAX at HOU ($6.2K DK | $6.8K FD | O/U: 45.5 | ExpOwn: 2-3%)
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF at DET ($5.5K DK | $6.9K FD | O/U: 45.0 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Javonte Williams, DEN at NYG ($4.0K DK | $5.6K FD | Spread: -3.0 | O/U: 41.5 | ExpOwn%: 2-3%)
Bottom-barrel pricing anyone? If you do not enjoy watching college football, you missed out on quite a string of performances from Javonte Williams at North Carolina. I’ll sum up his 2020 season by simply stating that he entered the year as a promising collegiate backup, and he ended it with being drafted three picks outside the first round. Even as a fantasy analyst, I spend more time scouting football talent than I care to admit. When I’m researching for/writing an article, if anything reminds me of a promising high school or college player that I’ve yet to research, I will stop everything I’m doing to familiarize myself with their game.
With Williams, I did my due diligence watching his film after a solid second season with the Tar Heels. I was impressed with his patience working within their Gap scheme — a trait vital to its success, and developing footwork. I ultimately decided against selecting him in my Devy drafts since I considered him too raw to be a quality stash. I still stand behind that decision, but it’s a rare example of trusting in my process when I wish I would’ve gone against it. We just cannot predict when a kid’s lights will go on bright enough for the motivation to reinvent themselves. That’s precisely what Javonte did the offseason prior to his true junior season. He committed himself to being mentored by teammate Michael Carter, setting the stage for the arrival of the player currently slated to split the backfield with Melvin Gordon III on Sunday.
The Broncos didn’t just select Williams with the 35th pick, they traded their second- and fourth-rounders to move up five spots to secure him. Javonte’s response to only narrowly being selected in the first round: "Just having to sit there throughout the whole draft yesterday was hard for me, but I've always been overlooked my whole career." This kid is clearly his own worst critic.
The Bottom Line: The matchup Williams will face in the Giants will be far from the most vanilla on the slate. NYG limited opposing backs to the ninth-fewest YPC last season. However, they permitted Dalvin Tomlinson — not only a massive presence, but one of their top-five run defenders — to sign with the Vikings. They also approved the 13th-highest rate of rushing first downs, and the 11th-most FPG to opposing backfields.
Vegas is calling for the Broncos to come away with only a three-point victory. That number seems low in my mind. New York’s O-line is a bottom-three unit that will be eaten alive by Denver’s pass rush. When Daniel Jones is able to find the time to throw, he’ll deal with what could be the most gifted secondary in football. And the Broncos’ offense should be far more efficient with Teddy Bridgewater under center. With his team’s ability to sustain drives combined with the Giants’ inability to do the same, a positive game script is likely to come into play. It would be considered a monumental disappointment if Javonte fails to at least secure the 12/14 FPs we need from him to cover floor value. But the upside for far more is also ingrained.
Myles Gaskin, MIA at NE ($6.0K DK | $6.0K FD | Spread: +3.0 | O/U: 43.5 | ExpOwn: 1-2%)
One of the significant factors that has mostly been overlooked with the negative opinions passed around concerning Miami is the impact from the transition from former OC Chan Gailey to Eric Studesville and George Godsey. Something I consider to be a mistake, especially with respect to the value of Myles Gaskin. Studesville served as the RBs coach of the Broncos for eight years. During that time, his top back averaged 224 carries/season. It’s clear that, when he was able to decide on a lead back, they set out to generate big fantasy seasons. When Studesville joined Miami in the same role, his backfield suffered in his first season as Adam Gase stalwart Frank Gore stood in the way of Kenyan Drake.
It was during transition periods following the departure of a lead RB that resulted in a messy backfield under Studesville. We saw the worst of his coaching career in Brian Flores’ first season as HC. But when Studesville finds his guy, a big season is on the horizon. Gaskin is that guy. The coaching staff played some mind games on Gaskin this preseason. If you think about it, attempting to determine if the guy you will be relying upon to shoulder a massive workload is ready for the responsibility, wouldn’t it make quite a bit of sense to test his solidarity? Gaskin was tested by playing him with the second-stringers early in the preseason; it appears he passed Flores and Studesville’s test.
Brian Flores says Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin has really improved in pass protection. "He's made that a part of his game that he's not a guy we have to take out in those situations." He also touted his professionalism, coming in early, leaving late to do extra work.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) September 6, 2021
The Bottom Line: In addition to averaging the ninth-most rushing attempts/game (14.2), Gaskin averaged the fourth-most goal line attempts/game (1.8), and fourth-highest yards gained/route run (YPRR, 1.87). When I’m attempting to determine whether a RB possesses the receiving upside to develop into a bell-cow, I only ask to see 1.00 YPRR. Gaskin blows that expectation out of the water. He’s such a receiving threat that he ranked inside the top-10 RBs in the number of routes run while detached.
In the games Gaskin was healthy after Studesville named him the lead back (Week 3), Gaskin averaged a 71% carry share. He averaged 21.4 touches in those games. Facing a New England defense that bled a top-10 rate of rushing yards, TDs, and rushing first downs, 20-plus touches with Gaskin’s receiving ability are more than worth our GPP attention. Especially since he’s expected to only be rostered in around 1-2% of lineups.
AJ Dillon, GB at NO ($4.0K DK | $5.0K FD | Spread: -3.5 | O/U: 50.0 | ExpOwn: 2-3%)
James White, NE vs. MIA ($4.4K DK | $4.8K FD | Spread: -3.0 | O/U: 43.5 | ExpOwn: 1-2%)
Carlos Hyde, JAX at HOU ($4.0K DK | $4.8K FD | Spread: -3.0 | O/U: 45.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Tony Jones Jr., NO vs. GB ($4.0K DK | $4.5K FD | Spread: +3.5 | O/U: 50.0 | ExpOwn: <1%)
We have a significant opportunity with Jakobi Meyers this week. After filling a depth role as an UDFA in 2019, he produced games of 15.9, 18.3, 20.1, and 31.9 FPs last season. However, since he never managed to reach paydirt and only averaged 6.3 FPG over his remaining 10 games, Meyers is currently sliding under the radar. If you are among the population who are unaware, Meyers is going to be a star.
The only WR who ever managed to make a name for himself while working with Cam Newton is Steve Smith. Newton is no longer in play. Mac Jones will now be distributing the ball after feeding DeVonta Smith with perhaps the finest season in history for a collegiate WR. And, during his only season leading the Alabama offense, Jones heavily targeted the slot. In his first taste of first-string NFL pressure, expect to see that preference continue on Sunday.
The Bottom Line: All throughout the training camp and the preseason, news dropped on what seemed like a daily basis anointing Meyers as the most impressive offensive player for New England. Nelson Agholor was able to take the practice field on Friday, appearing set to face an impossible matchup from Xavien Howard. Byron Jones will do his work across from Kendrick Bourne. That leaves Nik Needham to deal with Meyers. Despite facing a beatable matchup with a high likelihood of double-digit targets, Meyers will still be rostered in less than five percent of GPP lineups.
Chase Claypool, PIT at BUF ($5.6K DK | $6.0K FD | O/U: 48.5 | ExpOwn: 3-5%)
Justin Jefferson received all of the attention last year, but Chase Claypool also had himself quite a rookie season. In Jefferson’s case, the target share left behind by the departure of Stefon Diggs provided him with the means to go off for 1,400 receiving yards (87.5/game). Despite sharing targets with Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Claypool still managed to post a 67/932/11 rookie season. And those numbers for Claypool were actually depressed by leading the league in yardage lost (191) on interference penalties.
The Buffalo defense is a worthy opponent. They limited opposing WRs to the seventh-fewest FPG last season. And their secondary only improved as the season progressed. Ben Roethlisberger also played one of his worst games of the season when these teams met in Week 14 last season. It was a game where Claypool only managed 4.5 FPs. But word out of Pittsburgh’s camp passes along that Claypool didn’t only take a step in his development, he accelerated to a level nobody expected him to reach so quickly.
The Bottom Line: When we’re filling out our Cash and Single-Entry lineups, the number of elite options at WR facing elite matchups leave Claypool facing a difficult challenge from the Bills in the dust. However, we want to populate our large-field GPP lineups with upside. When a kid throws together 45.6 FPs in his fourth NFL game, I’m pretty certain that qualifies as the upside we are seeking. Even oozing with the potential to blow up against any opponent, Claypool is still scheduled to be rostered in less than 5% of leagues. Easy decision.
Quez Watkins, PHI at ATL ($3.0K DK | $4.6K FD | O/U: 48.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
You say you want upside? How does untapped 4.35-speed, a starting role in an offense led by a QB who averaged 10.1 air yards/attempt, and facing a defense that paced all others in FPG surrendered to opposing WRs (44.6) sound? Quez Watkins isn’t built to drive his way through contact, but he’s quick enough to get around defenders, and fast enough that he only needs a glimpse at a seam to make a house call.
The Bottom Line: I should probably mention that Watkins will only require the minimum salary to roster. And that his ownership percentage will teeter on nonexistent. All of Atlanta’s attention will be on containing the reigning Heisman Trophy winner (DeVonta Smith) and on preventing Jalen Hurts from using his legs to reach the edge. Watkins was the Eagles’ most impressive WR all throughout camp, even described as unguardable, no less.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, CLE at KC ($3.0K DK | $4.7K FD | O/U: 53.0 | ExpOwn: <1%)
We’ll end up seeing every one of the rookie WRs selected in the first four rounds of the 2021 draft rostered in far too many GPP lineups this weekend. We always do during Week 1 when positivity is through the roof. When Week 2 arrives, those previously optimistic percentages plummet as reality sets in. There are certainly no rules or unseen forces in place preventing a rookie wideout from snagging a few balls, maybe even finding the end zone. But expecting a rookie WR to produce enough to matter in DFS right out of the starting gate is foolish.
History tells us that most wideouts require multiple seasons to put everything together. And few rookies are even provided with a target share high enough to matter. Dating back to his time in Ann Arbor, staying healthy has always been the factor that has stood in the way of Donovan Peoples-Jones succeeding. To this day, due to burning my bankroll on a pair of occasions with what appeared to be minor ailments with Michigan, I still refuse to even consider adding DPJ to my Cash/SE lineups. But we want bracket-busting upside fueling our GPP lineups. And, until we see Anthony Schwartz and his sub-4.3 speed acclimate to the NFL, no other Cleveland wideout comes close to offering the upside of DPJ.
The Bottom Line: Until I see Odell Beckham Jr. prove that he is still capable of the jaw-dropping performances that defined his early career in New York, yes, the “no other Cleveland wideout comes close” statement even applies to OBJ. Besides, Beckham’s status is up in the air for Sunday. The Browns will be desperate for a receiving threat to succeed at the third level on Sunday to keep pace with the explosive Kansas City offense. Peoples-Jones offers them their best chance in that regard.
Adam Thielen, MIN at CIN ($7.0K DK | $7.3K FD | O/U: 47.5 | ExpOwn: 3-5%)
Russell Gage, ATL vs. PHI ($5.3K DK | $5.7K FD | O/U: 48.5 | ExpOwn: 1-2%)
Allen Lazard, GB at NO ($4.0K DK | $5.6K FD | O/U: 50.0 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Zach Pascal, IND vs. SEA ($3.7K DK | $4.9K FD | O/U: 49.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Gabriel Davis, BUF vs. PIT ($3.4K DK | $4.9K FD | O/U: 48.5 | ExpOwn: 1-2%)
Deonte Harris, NO vs. GB ($3.2K DK | $5.3K FD | O/U: 50.0 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Byron Pringle, KC vs. CLE ($3.3K DK | $4.7K FD | O/U: 53.0 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Terrace Marshall Jr., CAR vs. NYJ ($3.0K DK | $4.9K FD | O/U: 44.0 | ExpOwn: 1-3%)
When you begin those GPP lineups with Baker Mayfield as the headliner, you can choose your stack/s hoping Jarvis Landry will see enough volume accumulate, that DPJ will track down a pair of long TDs, and/or hope the Cleveland staff stays true to their word in expanding Austin Hooper’s involvement in the offense. When checking the FPG allowed numbers, it’s easy enough to learn that the Chiefs permitted the sixth-most FPG to TEs last season. But the fact that their defense of TEs degraded a further 35% over their final four games would elude most.
The Bottom Line: With Tyrann Mathieu (COVID) missing a third-straight practice on Friday, he is trending in the proper direction for Hooper exposure. Kansas City closed out the season allowing a big Super Bowl showing to Rob Gronkowski. If Hooper is going to receive additional looks this season, this is a prime spot to unveil those promises. And his miniscule ownership percentage will look quite nice next to top-five TE output.
Zach Ertz, PHI at ATL ($3.8K DK | $5.0K FD | O/U: 48.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Everyone wanted to see Zach Ertz traded out of Philadelphia. Including Zach Ertz. A deal was never struck. And everything passed down from the team states they view him as a big part of their plans. As much as we would all love to see him featured in another offense so we can expand the available number of quality TEs by one, it doesn’t appear to be imminent. And it wouldn’t be fair to blame either DraftKings or FanDuel for the pricing of Ertz and Dallas Goedert. We all thought Ertz would end up elsewhere, with Goedert commanding a large target share.
The Bottom Line: Ertz is still in town and actually leapfrogs Goedert this week in potential DFS value. Whereas Goedert is still set to be one of the top-10 most owned TEs, nearly the entire population of DFS participants have forgotten about Ertz. Yet everything from the Eagles’ staff indicates Ertz will be a massive part of the game plan. Ertz may’ve lost half a step from the player that used to fall in behind Travis Kelce as one of the very elite TEs in the game, he is still fully capable of producing GPP numbers when he’s provided with a solid target share.
Robert Tonyan, GB at NO ($4.2K DK | $5.4K FD | O/U: 50.0 | ExpOwn: 2-4%)
Mike Gesicki, MIA at NE ($4.5K DK | $5.5K FD | O/U: 43.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Tyler Conklin, MIN at CIN ($2.9K DK | $4.4K FD | O/U: 47.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Kaden Smith, NYG vs. DEN ($2.5K DK | $4.1K FD | O/U: 41.5 | ExpOwn: <1%)
Carolina Panthers, CAR at NYJ ($3.6K DK | $4.6K FD | Spread: -4.0 | O/U: 44.0 | ExpOwn: 1-2%)
Green Bay Packers, GB at NO ($3.5K DK | $4.5K FD | Spread: -3.5 | O/U: 50.0 | ExpOwn: 2-3%)
Miami Dolphins, MIA at NE ($2.9K DK | $4.0K FD | Spread: +3.0 | O/U: 43.5 | ExpOwn: 4-5%)
Tennessee Titans, TEN vs. ARI ($2.3K DK | $3.5K FD | Spread: -3.0 | O/U: 52.5 | ExpOwn: 3-5%)