Heading into Week 3, we have more of a refined understanding of defense’s preferences in man vs. zone coverage, as well as single vs. two-high looks. At the same time, we’re still at a point where last season’s data remains necessary to consider from both a team usage and individual player perspective. I’m here to share some notable DFS value plays this week based on 2023 usage and trends from last season.
All stats in this article are from the Fantasy Points Data Suite, unless otherwise noted
Team defenses thru Week 2 pic.twitter.com/bJDivUWJ4e— Football Insights 📊 (@fball_insights) September 21, 2023
We’ll begin by looking at quarterbacks. The following chart shows QB salaries on DK, as well as their opponents’ defensive EPA per play allowed on dropbacks this year:
QBs above the blue line are “values” relative to their cost. Veteran Andy Dalton makes his first start for Carolina following rookie Bryce Young’s injury. Kenny Pickett, Mac Jones, Desmond Ridder, and Zach Wilson may not be the most “digestible” to consider investing your DFS funds in, though they are technically popping as values.
The next chart is based on each QB’s opponent in Week 3. The X-axis represents the opponent's pass rate seen on defense, and the Y-axis is EPA allowed per throw. For example, Baker Mayfield faces the Eagles, and opposing offenses have been extremely pass-heavy against them this season:
It’s important to look at these because even if you can’t stomach one of the suspect QBs, at least a favorable matchup would bode well for their skill players that you are interested in.
Falcons @ Lions
ATL/DET is not only one of the higher projected scoring matchups on the Week 3 slate, it’s also an interesting game to comb through, given the notoriety of weapons. QB Desmond Ridder has an encouraging matchup on paper, but nothing is a given in Arthur Smith’s Stone Age offense.
Things gain more traction for DET. On defense, ATL has deployed two-high coverage at a top-five rate (54%). Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown ($7,900 on DK) has some interesting splits between single vs. two-high looks so far this season:
Amon-Ra St. Brown coverage shell splits this season:— Football Insights 📊 (@fball_insights) September 19, 2023
Single high (62% routes)
- 0.34 TPRR / 4.40 YPRR
- 42% first read share
Two high (33% routes)
- 0.11 TPRR / 0.26 YPRR
- 13% first read share
DET plays ATL this week, Falcons running alot of two-high this year.
The Falcons have allowed fewer than 100 receiving YPG and 17 total receptions to WRs in 2023. They’ve also deployed zone coverage on >70% of their defensive snaps.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs ($6,600) leads DET with 11 targets/9 receptions vs. zone. His 0.46 TPRR vs. zone is also the highest in the NFL among players with 10+ targets.
Matchups at Ford Field have been incredibly high-scoring throughout the Dan Campbell/Ben Johnson era. Given the respectable 46.5 total and 3-point spread, Gibbs and/or TE Sam LaPorta ($4,000) are ancillaries within the Lions offense that represent solid pivots away from ARSB if you aren’t looking to pay up.
Colts @ Ravens
Rookie QB Anthony Richardson likely won’t be playing, so Gardner Minshew and HC/magician play caller Shane Steichen lead the Colts to Baltimore against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
The Colts have allowed >300 passing YPG this year, albeit in a few closer game scripts. They’ve also given up the second-most DK PPG to receivers (56.1) and particularly the highest through the slot (35.1).
TE Mark Andrews is the Ravens’ most costly pass catcher ($6,000 on DK), followed by WRs Zay Flowers ($5,400) and Rashod Bateman ($4,600). Andrews made his debut last week, and in Week 1, we witnessed Flowers get peppered with designed targets vs. Houston in his NFL debut:
Zay Flowers: 60% designed target rate on 10 targets yesterday.— Football Insights 📊 (@fball_insights) September 11, 2023
Among all weeks from 2022, there was one instance a player had 60+% designed rate with 10+ base targets:
DeVonta Smith (Week 5)
Things took a sharp turn upon Andrews’ arrival. Last week, he had a team-high 8 targets, and trailing him was veteran WR Nelson Agholor with 6. 7/8 of Andrews and 5/6 of Agholor’s targets came from the slot, which means that Flowers appears to be Todd Monken’s matchup-dependent toy to play with based on opposing defenses.
The Colts have deployed single-high at the league’s third-highest rate on defense (71%). Flowers leads BAL in targets and owns a 2.94 YPRR vs. single-high thus far in 2023:
In 2022, however, Andrews led the team in targets, including a 2.59 YPRR vs. single-high.
With no OBJ and RB JK Dobbins’ unfortunate season-ending injury, Zay Flowers could be a hedge to the more costly Mark Andrews in a matchup where the Ravens are projected to put up 25+ points at home.
The rookie train keeps on rolling. Colts WR Josh Downs ($3,500) could be a value in a negative game script. The Ravens have allowed the following per game to WRs:
19 receptions | 3rd
45.1 DK points | 7th
26.1 DK points through the slot | 8th
Michael Pittman Jr. is also a relative bargain ($6,200), but Downs may be the underneath weapon seeing an uptick in action from a predominantly pocket-passer in Minshew opposed to Richardson. Downs has seen 10 slot targets. The rest of the team has 9 total this year.
Opposing offenses throw often against the Ravens, averaging 40+ attempts/game. The Ravens also deploy man coverage at a 35% clip, top-five in the NFL. Josh Downs has similar efficiency and target rates as Michael Pittman against man in 2023:
Sometimes we need to fill that last FLEX spot with a $3,500 and under skill player, and Josh Downs is an underrated candidate for that duty this weekend against the Ravens.
Chargers @ Vikings
Both teams are coming off tough Week 2 losses, and the markets like their matchup from a scoring perspective, owning this week’s highest total with 54.0 points.
As our own Jake Tribbey pointed out, Chargers WR Mike Williams ($6,000 on DK) has seen some underrated usage compared to his more expensive teammate Keenan Allen ($7,600). Both defenses are top two in DK PPG allowed to outside WRs, and Mike Williams leads the team with 14 outside targets this season (including a 3.13 wide YPRR). The Vikings also allow the second-fewest PPG to slot WRs (10.1), where much of Allen’s dominance is derived from.
Likewise, the Vikings have deployed two-high coverage looks at a top-five rate in the NFL this year (54%). Williams shares an 18.5% target share with Allen against two-high shells but owns the higher TPRR at 0.26.
For the Vikings, Justin Jefferson needs no explanation ($9,300), but their other pass catchers have notable splits. The Chargers have been an abysmal coverage unit and have played more zone (64%) than man, and more single-high (49%) than two-high. Rookie WR Jordan Addison has slightly fewer zone targets/routes than teammates KJ Osborn ($4,000) and TJ Hockenson ($6,500) but has been more efficient:
However, Addison hasn’t been anywhere close to an effective receiver against single-high looks, albeit on a smaller sample size:
All the Vikings pass catchers have very limited work against man coverage this season. It’ll be interesting to see who QB Kirk Cousins targets other than Jefferson, and it looks like that may depend on how Brandon Staley and the Chargers first come out schematically on defense.
If you’re looking for a secondary pass catcher to Justin Jefferson in this projected high-scoring affair, Mike Williams is a relatively strong value given the coverage matchup.
Saints @ Packers
Another value play at receiver is New Orleans’ Rashid Shaheed this week against Green Bay ($4,200 on DK).
The Packers have played in zone coverage on 91% of their pass play snaps this season, most in the NFL. Among skill players with 100+ zone routes in 2022, Shaheed finished with the highest YPT (15.9) and second-highest YPRR at 3.24.
Teammate Chris Olave is a dawg, but is priced at $7,000 on DK (Michael Thomas $5,300). Shaheed is lightning in a bottle within this offense and is the high-upside and value play in this matchup.
Bills @ Commanders
Ron Rivera and the Washington defense play two-high coverage at the league's highest rate (56%). Bills WR Gabe Davis ($5,800 on DK) fares out on a more competent level against this look compared to teammate Stefon Diggs this season ($8,100).
Both wideouts own a 31.6% first-read target share against two-high this year, and Davis (2.23 YPRR) has been a more efficient receiver than Diggs (1.63) against this defensive look.
Further, WAS allows 12 YPT and 2.84 YPRR to outside receivers, both the highest among defenses. BUF has run quite a bit of 12 personnel (2-WR sets), so Diggs eats into targets. But 59% of his total routes have come from the outside compared to Davis’ 89%. Davis can be a frustrating play but is a high-ceiling hedge to Diggs, depending on your risk tolerance.
$3,900 DK salary (TE11)
Lions allowing 18.8 PPG to TEs (third-most)
Lions allowing 87.0 YPG to TEs (most)
$3,500 DK salary (TE18)
Cowboys play single-high at top five clip
Ertz: 0.43 TPRR vs single-high — highest in NFL, min 10 targets
$7,000 salary on DK (RB3)
Steelers allowing most PPG to RBs (34.8)
Steelers allowing 6.1 YPC (highest in NFL)
Steelers allowing 166 rush YPG (highest in NFL)
Jacobs: averaging -5.9 fantasy points over expected/game — bottom-three among all RBs appearing in two games, due for positive regression
$9,000 DK salary (WR2)
Playing man-heavy Broncos defense
Owned a 52% first read share vs man coverage in 2022, highest in the NFL
Owned a 55% air yards share vs man coverage in 2022, highest in the NFL
Owned a 52% yards market share vs man coverage in 2022, highest in the NFL
0.38 man TPRR in 2022 (tied for highest in the NFL)
Amon-Ra St. Brown is currently dealing with an injury, and his coverage shell splits are notable:
1-High: 62% routes | 0.34 TPRR | 4.40 YPRR | 42% first read share
2-High: 33% routes | 0.11 TPRR | 0.26 YPRR | 13% first read share
Could be Jahmyr Gibbs and/or Sam LaPorta weeks, as ATL plays two-high at top-five clip (54%)
Gabe Davis coverage shell splits are notable:
1-High: 44% routes | 0.10 TPRR | 1.48 YPRR | 6% first read share
2-High: 32% routes | 0.19 TPRR | 2.09 YPRR | 28% first read share
Could be stronger value over Diggs, depending on cost, as WAS plays two-high at highest clip (56%)
Hunter Henry coverage shell splits are notable:
1-High: 62% routes | 0.09 TPRR | 0.93 YPRR | 8% first read share
2-High: 36% routes | 0.19 TPRR | 1.56 YPRR | 15% first read share
NYJ plays two-high at top-10 rate (49%)
DeAndre Hopkins is the Titans’ alpha against single-high defenses:
0.39 TPRR / 46% first read share vs single-high
0.21 TPRR / 20% first read share vs two-high
CLE plays 74% single-high coverage, most in the NFL
QB Ryan Tannehill finished with the highly accurate throw rate (62%), second-highest YPA (9.3), and third-best adjusted completion percentage (80%) among all QBs with 100+ DBs vs. single-high coverage last season
Zay Flowers coverage shell splits:
8 targets, 2.94 YPRR, 38% designed target rate vs single high
5 targets, 1.00 YPRR, 80% designed target rate vs two high
Ravens play Colts, and IND has played a lot of single-high
Mark Andrews dominated personally and team with single-high looks in 2022, not with two-high
However, in one game this year, Andrews shredded two-high, not single-high
Rashid Shaheed is a value play vs. GB:
Packers most zone coverage this season
Among WR/TEs with 100+ zone routes last season, Shaheed finished with the highest YPT (15.9) and the second highest YPRR (3.24)
AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith are both regression candidates:
Smith: +15 net fantasy points over expected, second-most among all WRs through Week 2
Brown: -8.9 net fantasy points over expected, tied for seventh-fewest among all WRs through Week 2