TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read
This is an absolutely gross, brutal slate. Here’s an example: per the DFS SuperModel, only 4 players offer at least $400 in savings on DraftKings. Typically that number is at about 15. So yeah, tough week.
Make sure you’re reading the Sunday Update every week. If we get the right or wrong news on Chase Edmonds, Ezekiel Elliott, Alexander Mattison, Marquise Brown, DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Mike Gesicki, etc. this could look quite a bit different tomorrow.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
[DK: RB1, FD: RB1]
Henry is by no means cheap, but he is a top value – ranking 3rd among RBs on DraftKings and 5th on FanDuel according to our projections.
Henry gets stronger as the season goes on. Opposing defenses wear down, El Tractorcito does not. That’s a fact. And it’s also a fact that this is Henry’s best matchup of the season. And another fact – he hit 40.0 fantasy points in 2 of his 3 softest matchups thus far (HOU, JAX, JAX). The Titans are 11.0-point favorites this week, against a Lions team likely to be without starting QB Matthew Stafford. The Lions rank 7th-worst in YPC allowed (4.57), 3rd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (18.6), and worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+7.5). Henry has a massive ceiling but also a significantly underrated floor – he averages 24.3 DKFPG over his last 20 games, hitting 30.0 DKFP in 35% of those games and 19.0 DKFP in 70% of games.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
[DK: RB3, FD: RB3]
Drew Brees will start at QB this week, with Michael Thomas out. This season, Kamara averages 21.5 XFP and 27.5 FPG in Drew Brees starts. He averages 22.0 XFP and 28.8 FPG in games Brees started and Thomas sat out. All of these numbers rank best at the position, rivaling only Christian McCaffrey. In more simplistic terms, he also averages 12.5 carries, 9.7 targets, and 153.3 YFS per game over this span. His lowest output during this stretch was 19.9 fantasy points. And he’s now about $600-1,200 cheaper than he was at any point during that stretch.
This game offers the highest over/under of the slate (52.0), and Kansas City is only favored by 3.0 – their 2nd-lowest spread of the season. They’re also – quietly – the league’s biggest run funnel if adjusting for game script and situation. Teams are running on them 42% of the time vs. a 37% expectation. They rank 8th-worst in YPC allowed (4.55) and 8th-worst in rushing YPG allowed to opposing RBs (102.8), and again, despite leading the league in point differential and positive game script rate. And again, this game should be much closer than Kansas City is used to.
Derrick Henry seemed well worth paying up for this week, but that was before we got news Brees will play and Thomas will be out. Now, Kamara looks like the obvious choice, $2,100-3,000 cheaper. He could be 40% owned and it would feel warranted. He could score zero touchdowns and still easily hit his 3X expectation. He’s a great play.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: RB4, FD: RB5]
I spent a lot of time breaking down Taylor in the Week 15 XFP Report. I wrote a lot of words talking about how I was concerned that his recent upsurge in production wasn’t sustainable because he was still being capped at around 50% of the team’s snaps and 50% of the team’s backfield XFP. And then I concluded with the fact that, ultimately, none of that matters this week. Taylor is on an unreal heater, feasting in back-to-back-to-back pillow-soft matchups. And this week’s matchup is even softer than any of those. The Colts are favored by 7.5-points, against a Houston defense that ranks worst in FPG allowed (31.6), worst in rushing FPG allowed (21.2) and worst in YPC allowed (5.38) to opposing RBs. Over the last 3 weeks, Taylor is averaging 18.3 carries, 3.0 targets, 6.02 YPC, 138.0 YFS, and 22.8 FPG. He's rightfully a top-5 value for us on both sites (per our projections).
But if he’s likely to be massively owned, he might be worth fading in large-field tournaments. Again, he’s failed to reach 60% of the team’s snaps and 60% of the backfield’s XFP in 10 straight games. That makes him far riskier than the field will realize.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
[DK: RB15, FD: RB20]
Dobbins ranks as our top-overall RB value on FanDuel, ranking 11th in our projections but just 20th in salary. On DraftKings, he ranks 6th-best. Here’s what we had to say in Start/Sit:
Has Dobbins finally been unleashed? I think so. Well, at least sort of. Dobbins – who ranks 3rd among all RBs in YPC (5.25) – has led the backfield in snaps, carries, and XFP in 3 straight games, averaging 13.7 touches, 69.7 YFS, and 13.6 FPG over this span. Dobbins has played on 63% of the team’s snaps over his last 2 games, compared to Gus Edwards’ 24%, Justice Hill’s 11%, and Mark Ingram’s 5%. This is a far-cry from a workhorse role or bell cow usage, but it is good enough to rank him as a low-end RB2 in this soft matchup. Baltimore is favored by 13.0-points against a Jaguars defense that ranks 5th-worst in rushing FPG (17.3), 7th-worst in receiving FPG (11.6), and 4th-worst in total FPG allowed (28.9) to opposing RBs.
He’s another risky play – even riskier than Taylor, and far too risky for cash – but he is a strong value and a great play for tournaments.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
[DK: RB7, FD: RB11]
Sanders was always in a position to be a 2020 league-winner. For one thing, he’s always on the field. He’s played on 73% of the team’s snaps in his 9 full games this year, which would rank 3rd-best among all RBs (behind Ezekiel Elliott’s and Christian McCaffrey, both at 76%). For another, he’s really freaking good. He ranks 2nd-best in YPC (5.65). And he’s reached at least 75 YFS in 8 of 10 games despite being held to 10 or fewer touches in 3 of 10 games.
The only thing holding him back was questionable play-calling and incompetent QB-play. But maybe those concerns have since been remedied. The Eagles played maybe their best game of the season last week, in Jalen Hurts’ first career start, and Sanders smashed in their new more RPO-heavy offense. Sanders turned 14 of 17 carries and 5 of 6 targets into 136 YFS and 32.6 DK FP. Arizona is a perfectly average matchup on paper, and though game script is unideal (+6.5) he sees enough work in the passing game to not be too concerned. As just the 11th-highest priced RB on FanDuel, he ranks as our 2nd-best value at the position (per our projections).
Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
[DK: RB10, FD: RB12]
Our projections have Akers as the 4th-best RB value on FanDuel, where he’s priced as just the 12th-most expensive RB on the slate.
Here’s what I had to say in the Week 15 XFP Report:
Akers was one of my must-draft targets for a large bulk of the offseason. And it’s been quite the rollercoaster ride. He earned 15 touches and the start in Week 1. Things were looking good. He earned the start again in Week 2, but suffered a serious multi-week rib injury immediately after seeing the first 3 RB touches of the game. He struggled to see the field after that, but burst back onto our radar in Week 12, turning just 9 carries into 84 yards and a score.
Since then, Akers has played on 71% of the team’s snaps, averaging 25.0 carries, 2.0 targets, 144.0 YFS, 20.8 XFP, and 19.2 FPG. Akers ranked 7th in XFP in Week 13, and 3rd in Week 14. He ranked 2nd in Snap% in Week 14 (79%). Over this span, he’s handled 79% of the XFP out of the backfield (90% in Week 14). If he managed a 79% share of the backfield XFP throughout the whole season, he’d be averaging 18.9 XFP per game. Or what would rank 2nd-most among all RBs to play at least 7 games.
So, what’s going on? Is he who we drafted him to be – the rightful heir to Todd Gurley, beasting in a bell bow workload when it matters most (during the fantasy playoffs). I don’t know for sure. Sean McVay’s quotes were pretty discouraging at the end of last week’s game. But the good and bad news is we’ve learned by now we can never trust him. And, luckily, Akers’ Week 15 matchup has made things easy on us. The Rams are favored by 17.0-points against the Jets. So, there’s no way you can bench him in the spot.
All of this being said, he’s only $100 cheaper than Sanders, who we also like. So, you have a tough decision there. And the Jets have actually held their own against opposing RBs this year, despite frequently trailing by double-digits. Only 1 RB has reached 100 rushing yards against them, and they rank just 14th in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (13.9).
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[DK: RB36, FD: RB29]
Fournette was a healthy scratch last week, but led the team in snap share and played on at least 50% of the team’s snaps in 5 of their prior 6 games. Last week, Ronald Jones was the workhorse, as expected, with LeSean McCoy (31%) and Ke’Shawn Vaughn (8%) trailing him in snap share. With Jones likely out for Week 15, Bruce Arians was asked (on Wednesday) who would take his starting role. He answered definitively, “Leonard will step back into that spot [if Jones cannot play], yes.”
So, what sort of workload should we expect from Fournette? Over the team’s prior 6 games, Fournette averaged 12.2 XFP to Jones’ 10.7. No other RB saw a single touch. I think that means Fournette should be locked into at least 12.2 XFP, or better yet the 14.9 XFP Jones saw last week, but there’s a chance he sees a full-on bell cow workload. What I mean by that is there’s a small but legitimate shot he earns 70-90% of the backfield’s total XFP (~22.8) this week. For perspective, 77% would be 17.8 XFP, or mid-range RB1 usage, tied with Derrick Henry. 65% would be worth 14.9 XFP, which would rank about 15th, nearly tied with Kenyan Drake.
Of course, all of this being said, Fournette has been atrocious this year – averaging 3.77 yards per opportunity (carries plus targets) minus one big run. He was benched last week for a reason. We should probably be discounting his XFP by about 20% right off the bat. And this week’s matchup is brutal – Atlanta ranks 4th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-5.0). But at the end of the day, he’s still a strong value, ranking as only the 36th-most expensive RB on DraftKings. I’m probably not as bullish, and especially not if he’s going to be chalky, but the SuperModel thinks he’s the best RB value on the site. If I play him, it will likely be with him stacked to Tampa Bay’s defense.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: RB20, FD: RB14]
Excluding Week 7, when Drake was carted off the field with an ankle injury, he’s averaging 19.4 FPG across his last 6 games. That would rank 5th-best between Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones if over the full season. And he’s either scored a touchdown or rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last 7 games. Since Week 11, he averages 19.8 XFP per game which ranks 3rd-most. And he totals 15 of the team’s 18 rushing attempts inside the 10-yard-line over this span. He ranks as the 2nd-best RB value on DraftKings (per the DFS SuperModel), where he’s just the 14th-most expensive RB on the slate. That’s the good news.
The bad news is, the matchup is tough. Arizona is favored by 6.5-points, but Philadelphia ranks 3rd-best in YPC allowed (3.70) and 10th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-2.0). Kyler Murray looks back to full health, rushing 13 times in Week 14. That means more dropbacks, less reliance on the RBs, and a massive threat to vulture rushing TDs. Drake’s usage has been strong in recent weeks, as outlined above, but it still amounts to just 65% of the backfield XFP and 53% of the snaps.
But more good news – Chase Edmonds missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday before getting in a limited practice on Friday (ankle). If he sits, I’m willing to go all-in on Drake. If he’s limited in any capacity, that’s still a massive boost to Drake who, remember, was averaging 19.4 XFP with just a 65% XFP market share.
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys
[DK: RB22, FD: RB57]
According to the SuperModel, Pollard is the best overall play on FanDuel. When a guy I wasn’t really on stands out, I often ignore it. And am often burned. I ignored this early on, failing to mention him in DFS Values, but now Ezekiel Elliott is questionable after failing to practice all week. At the very least, this signifies to me an increased role for Pollard – the guy getting all of the reps in practice is usually the one more involved in the game/gameplan.
With Elliott banged up last week (practicing all week, but only in a limited capacity), Pollard earned 19 of 51 snaps (37%), 11 of 23 carries, 2 of 5 targets, and 2 of 3 opportunities inside the 10-yard-line. Since entering the league, Pollard ranks 6th-best in YPC (4.93) and 3rd best of 83 qualifiers in missed tackles forced per touch (0.26). Dallas’ backfield offers 25.0 XFP per game in usage, so 84% of that would be tied with Dalvin Cook. 71% of that would be tied with Derrick Henry. 65% of that would be tied with Josh Jacobs. Keep in mind, he’s probably going to be at about 95% of that if Elliott sits out – no other RB has played a snap all year.
San Francisco is a tough matchup, ranking 3rd-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-5.1), and Dallas’ offense has been apocalyptically bad. But he’s also very cheap (especially on FanDuel). If Elliott is severely limited, Pollard a fine punt. Even if Elliott is active with no additional news, Pollard is worth a gamble on at least a few FanDuel lineups. If he’s out, he’s a borderline must-play.
Other / Notes
- Dalvin Cook is probably overpriced. But he’s also Dalvin Cook. And he’s going to draw low ownership, far lower than typical. And that’s the argument for him. It’s a solid one. The argument against him, I laid out here.
- We’re all abandoning James Robinson after 1 bad game? Really? He averages 18.0 XFP and 19.2 FPG on a 79% snap share since Week 7. Over this span, those numbers rank 6th, 3rd, and 1st among RBs. Of course, the big concern (beyond, obviously, the matchup and how bad his team is) – he played on just 56% of the snaps last week. He came into the week with a knee injury (limited in practice all week) that he seems to still be dealing with (limited in practice all week before practicing in full on Friday). He’s probably still a top-8-ish play for tournaments, and he’s likely to go low-owned.
- I spent a great deal of time discussing David Montgomery here. He’s a fine play. I think his recent upsurge in production – literally the 3 best games of his career over his last 3 games – is mostly due to a soft strength of schedule. But probably also, a long-overdue regression to the mean, Bill Lazor now calling the plays, and Cody Whitehair moving to LG. This week’s matchup is much tougher, but usage has always been phenomenal. He’s not high on my radar but he’s in play.
- If D’Andre Swift is fully healthy, there’s a chance he can go back to the bell cow workload he saw in Week 10, when he played on 71% of the snaps, earning 16 of 21 carries and 5 of 6 targets out of the backfield. Even if Matthew Stafford is out, it’s notable Chase Daniel was a checkdown machine in Chicago, targeting Tarik Cohen on 21% of his throws. He’s vaguely in play for tournaments with no one else talking about him.
- You should go back and read the concerns I laid out on Jonathan Taylor (here). There’s a pretty good chance Nyheim Hines out-snaps him this week. He’s a fine, but not great, leverage play for large-field tournaments.
- I’m assuming Salvon Ahmed is out. If he’s active I’ll have something for you in the update.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
[DK: WR55, FD: WR51]
Per the DFS SuperModel, Gallup is popping as our top-overall value on DraftKings, priced at only $3,500. Here’s what Joe Dolan had to say in Vantage Points:
“Per SIS, the 49ers are ripe for Gallup to have a big performance — they’re more vulnerable to intermediate and deep passes (29th in YPA) than they are to short passes (2nd in YPA). Meanwhile, Gallup is 1st on the Cowboys in targets of intermediate or deeper… and 5th on short targets. The Niners have also allowed 9.1 YPA to receivers aligned out wide (2nd-worst in the NFL) and 6.1 YPA to receivers in the slot (best in the NFL). So, it’s a bad matchup for CeeDee Lamb, who aligns in the slot 91% of the time, but not Gallup who is out wide 84% of the time.”
I’m in full agreement. Gallup averages 8.2 targets and 80.3 air yards over his last 6 games. The 49ers are giving up the most FPG to opposing WRs on deep passes (11.5), and Gallup ranks 16th-overall in deep passing attempts (18). He’s also seen his target share jump from 11% to 18% with Andy Dalton under center. And as a bonus, ranks as one of our top-5 XFP-related values of the week.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers
[DK: WR17, FD: WR16]
Last week Deebo Samuel played on just 1 snap before succumbing to injury, and Aiyuk clearly benefited from his absence. He ranked 2nd among all players in XFP, totaling 25.2 on 16 targets. And he was productive with that volume, scoring 24.9 DK FP. We were higher on him than anyone else in the industry, writing him up as a borderline must-play for DFS, so maybe this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Here are some crazy stats (now updated) that led up to that call:
Since Week 3, Justin Jefferson ranks 19th in XFP (13.8) and 7th in FPG (18.5). Since Week 7, he ranks 18th in XFP (14.4) and 14th in FPG (16.5)
Since Week 3, Aiyuk ranks 8th in XFP (16.0) and 12th in FPG (17.1). Since Week 7, he ranks 3rd in XFP (19.6) and 3rd in FPG (20.5).
Aiyuk has long been dominating Jefferson in volume (by XFP). And Since Week 3, he’s been returning 92% of Jefferson’s production (by FPG). Since Week 7, 124%. And yet, he’s just 86% of Jefferson’s salary on DraftKings this week, priced as only the 17th-most expensive WR on the slate. On FanDuel, he ranks just 16th in salary. And, again, that’s in spite of the fact that he ranks top-3 in volume and production over the last 8 weeks of the season.
We’ve long been viewing Jefferson as one of the best picks you could have made in the offseason. And as one of the most exciting and electric rookie WRs in some time. But we haven’t been doing that with Aiyuk, even though he’s been right there with him. And I don’t really know why.
Over his last 5 games, Aiyuk averages 11.2 targets, 99.0 receiving yards (low of 75), and 21.7 DK FPG (low of 19.7). Over this span, he’s seen target shares of 28%, 32%, 57%, 26%, and 39%, which amounts to 35% overall. For perspective, DeAndre Hopkins leads all receivers with 30.1%.
With WR Deebo Samuel reportedly “out a while”, and the 49ers now up against a Dallas defense that ranks dead-last in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+7.2), you’d expect us to be pretty high on him this week. And that’s exactly the case – per the SuperModel, Aiyuk is a top-2 overall value on both sites.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
[DK: WR25, FD: WR18]
The DFS SuperModel has Hilton ranked as the 3rd-best overall value on DraftKings, offering $640 in added value off of his $5,500 price-tag. He’s risky – he might be someone to fade if he’s likely to be very highly-owned – but he’s still no doubt a tremendous value, priced as just the 25th-most expensive WR of the slate. Here’s what we had to say in Start/Sit:
T.Y. Hilton is back? Maybe! Hilton is by no means a sexy start, but you could do a lot worse if looking for a flex-play. After being a total non-factor through the first 11 weeks of the season, Hilton has been on quite the hot streak, averaging 7.7 targets, 92.3 receiving yards, and 22.9 FPG (low of 18.1) over his last 3 games. He also draws a top-3 matchup this week, against a Bradley Roby-less Houston defense he shredded in Week 13 (25.0 fantasy points) and has historically dominated throughout his career (19.9 FPG over his last 8 games against the Texans). In games without Roby this year, opposing WR1s have averaged a whopping 31.1 FPG against Houston – Davante Adams (44.6), D.J. Chark (27.6), Hilton (25.0), and Allen Robinson (27.3).
[DK: WR1, FD: WR1]
Last week we discussed the possibility of Tyreek Hill being Exodia down the stretch and through the fantasy postseason. He averaged 35.5 DK FPG and 14.5 targets per game over his prior 4 games. And before that he had seen 6 or fewer targets in 8 of 10 games. What happened last week? He touched the ball only 4 times and still scored 26.1 fantasy points. He’ll go lower-owned this week, but he’s still a phenomenal play with unrivaled slate-busting upside. With the spread close (-3.0), Mahomes may be forced to continue to force-feed him – as he did during that stretch, where Kansas City won 3 of their 4 games by 4 or fewer points. Really, just read what I wrote last week (here) and understand that even if this is a tough matchup, he’s matchup-immune. And maybe it’s not even a bad matchup. Here’s what Joe Dolan had to say in Vantage Points: Per SIS, Lattimore ranks 13th-worst in yards allowed (511) and is tied for 5th-worst with 5 TDs allowed among all CBs. Meanwhile, the Saints are playing the most man coverage in the league, at a 64% clip over the last five weeks, and Hill has caught 6 of the Chiefs’ 9 TD passes against man coverage.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
[DK: WR2, FD: WR5]
I asked one of my go-to tape experts what he thought about Tyler Lockett. Here’s what he told me: “Is he hurt? Yes, clearly. He’s not being used as the first option on many concepts and is being targeted mostly on underneath routes. If he’s healthy, he’d be a stud, but I’m not seeing the signs of him doing so yet.”
Here’s what our WR expert, Wes Huber had to say on Metcalf:
If I had a vote in the NFL Coach of the Year, Washington HC Ron Rivera would take my entry in a landslide. In his very first season, he flipped the NFL roster sans an official team name from a 3-13 record in 2019 to one currently leading the NFC East at 6-7. Do not forget that the Football Team started 2-7 … or that Rivera dealt with squamous cell lymphoma along the way. With winnable matchups over the final two weeks -- Carolina and Philadelphia, a playoff spot is entirely possible. If they can pull out an upset over Seattle this week as host in Prince George's County, they’ll have put together a five-game winning streak.
One of the most important decisions Rivera made upon arrival was the hiring of Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator. Del Rio converted the previous man-heavy scheme into one utilizing either three or four deep defensive backs (Cover 3 and 4). Currently playing zone at the eighth-highest rate (70 percent) permits Washington to drop seven-or-more defenders to oppose the pass. They have been able to achieve the transition so quickly due to the elite play along the D-line from Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen.
A true breakout from former University of North Carolina walk-on, 2019 fifth-round Sam LB Cole Holcomb led to a featured role following their Week 8 bye. His ascension to the starting lineup directly coincided with Washington’s evolution from an overreliance on 4-3-4 personnel (DL-LB-DB) toward additional snaps with a 4-2-5 and 4-1-6. They are still utilizing a 4-3-4 to defend obvious run situations, but they’ve been able to add CBs to the field -- at the expense of LBs -- while greatly improving both their pass rush, and run defense. Truly remarkable. Holcomb’s outstanding coverage ability has also aided in the containment of slot production from opposing offenses, as I’ll discuss later.
With offenses finding the sledding tough out of the slot, a slight weakness on the outside has emerged. WFT currently ranks first permitting only 10.0 FPG allowed to the slot, but 18th versus outside receivers at 21.6. That’s the fifth-highest difference in the league. DK Metcalf will not be shadowed by Kendall Fuller within any coverage shell he’ll face. Fuller will only be responsible for one-quarter of the field deep -- hence Cover 4 being referred to as Quarters -- when in Cover 4, and one-third of the field deep when in Cover 3. Since Metcalf has run well over half of his routes from left wideout, he’ll face Fuller during every one of those routes.
Fuller is currently allowing 1.00 yards/coverage snap (YPCS, ranked 29th-out-of-96 qualified outside CBs), 0.25 FPs/coverage snap (FPCS, 39th), and 0.142 air yards/coverage snap (AYCS, 17th). Metcalf has turned 21 percent of career routes against Cover 3 into 27 percent of his yardage and 29 percent of TDs. That’s a 19 percent spike to his yards/route run (YPRR), 21 percent increase in FPs/route (FPRt).
It’s the intention of a Cover 4 to funnel receivers underneath at the expense of the deep stuff. Metcalf has still managed 2.24 YPRR (22nd-highest) over 13 percent of career routes against the scheme. Since Tyler Lockett’s ability to generate offense out of the slot is likely to be stunted, it will be interesting to see if Metcalf is the recipient of something similar to the 41 percent target share he received in Week 12. If that proves to be the case, we’ll need a good amount of exposure to the “Wolverine” in DFS.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team
[DK: WR14, FD: WR16]
McLaurin is popping as a good-to-great value on both sites. Here’s what I said about McLaurin in Start/Sit:
McLaurin has struggled over the past 2 weeks, averaging just 6.0 targets, 2.0 catches, 19.0 yards, and 3.9 FPG. You can chalk this up to tough matchups, Alex Smith getting hurt (last week), or the fact that Washington won both of these games and were able to play more conservative throughout. But none of these factors are significant concerns this week. Seattle ranks 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+3.8). Though they’ve been better in recent weeks, they also haven’t really faced any WR1s of note (NYJ, NYG, PHI). Washington is optimistic Smith will play again this week, and even if he doesn’t, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Dwayne Haskins would draw the start in his absence, and McLaurin actually averages +4.0 FPG more with Haskins under center this year. Seattle is favored by 5.5 points, so there’s little concern Washington will have the luxury to play conservative against Seattle’s pass-funnel defense. But most importantly, McLaurin is awesome, and very good at football. He ranks 12th in XFP per game (14.7) and 11th in YPG (77.0) despite being dealt one of the toughest CB schedules in football, drawing shadow coverage in 6 of 13 games this year.
Notes: Haskins WILL start this week.
Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans
[DK: WR27, FD: WR29]
Here’s what Wes Huber had to say (Advanced Matchups): The release of Kenny Stills, suspension of Will Fuller V provided a prime opportunity for Keke Coutee over the final six weeks. He has responded to the opportunity with 17.8 FPG facing stout Indianapolis (W13), and Chicago (W14) zone secondaries. Since he’ll once again face the Colts, this two-minute video showing each of his Week 13 receptions provides the detail we need to establish Week 15 expectations. Before digging deeper, let’s establish that Deshaun Watson did a tremendous job in pre-snap coverage diagnosis against Indianapolis. After that’s understood, we can see that Coutee also displays his ability to uncover the holes within Indy’s Cover 3. That strength served him well to collect 4/99/0 of his 8/141/0 total line against the three-high scheme over the last two.
For whatever reason, Watson didn’t look Coutee’s way last week. Keke finished with only three targets, behind Chad Hansen (seven), Steven Mitchell Jr. (five), and Jordan Akins (five). Coutee was on the receiving end of this scramble drill TD, the only of the game from Watson. We also need to consider that the Colts played twice as many of the Cover 3 snaps (14) Coutee feasted upon than did Chicago (seven). An ability to exploit Cover 3 is not the worst speciality since it’s the second-most common NFL shell, nor is it a bad one to have in a rematch with Indianapolis’ collection of zone schemes.
However, NFL defenses will pick up on that trend if it proves to stick. Another difference from Week 14 against the Bears was the absence of Brandin Cooks. But Cooks was able to practice on a limited basis today:
HC Romeo Crennel did pass along that he expects Cooks to return this week. He also said the same prior to missing last week. A return from Cooks would be big to prevent Coutee from drawing DC Matt Eberflus’ opposing No. 1 WR-stopping eye. If he’s unable to return, Coutee will only be worthy of a couple of darts. If Cooks plays, I wouldn’t argue against Coutee in a much wider array of game types.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
[DK: WR6, FD: WR11]
Okay, so, Wes Huber actually has some concerns on Robinson as it relates to his Week 15 matchup. But I also don’t think it’s difficult enough to not make him a strong value on FanDuel (where he ranks 15th in salary). Especially with the level of volume he’s been seeing from Mitch Trubisky, which seemingly isn’t baked into his $7,300 price-tag. Here’s what I had to say in the Week 15 XFP Report:
Mitchell Trubisky has targeted Allen Robinson on 29% of his throws this season, compared to Nick Foles’ 22%. Robinson averages just 7.6 targets, 71.2 air yards, 11.8 XFP, and 13.5 FPG over his last 5 games with Foles under center. However, over his last 13 games with Trubisky, he averages 10.8 targets, 113.6 air yards, 18.9 XFP, and 19.4 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, and 4th-best.
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
[DK: WR12, FD: WR10]
Woods has led Los Angeles’ WRs in XFP in 4 straight games, averaging 18.0 XFP per game over this span (10th-most). He also averages 11.5 targets and 19.0 DK FPG over this stretch, hitting 11 targets and 80 receiving yards in 3 of 4 games. The Jets are the league’s biggest pass funnel, with teams throwing on them 58% of the time vs. a 53% expectation. They’re starting backups at all 3 CB spots, and rank bottom-10 in FPG and fantasy points per target allowed to opposing outside WRs. He’s a great play, but Cooper Kupp also isn’t too far behind. 3 of the last 4 100-yard games the Jets have allowed have gone to slot WRs in Keenan Allen, Jakobi Meyers, and Cole Beasley.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
[DK: WR5, FD: WR4]
Here’s what Wes Huber had to say (Advanced Matchups): So many great matchups for receivers deserving of individual analysis this week. While I’ll provide some quick hitters on a few of them, it’ll serve you better if I focus the extra attention outside of the top-five salaries. Okay, I did already cover DK Metcalf in the Matchup of the Week. Since true shadow corners are in such short supply, the ones we do have in action are facing vanilla matchups. Anyway, back to the present. At the cost of the WR7/WR6, you can have exposure to the WR, A.J. Brown, who’s racked up the second-highest overall FPRt this season (0.54). Brown will face what arguably amounts to the absolute worst overall defense, the Detroit Lions.
The Lions are terrible against the run, but they are abysmal in pass defense. As if that weren’t enough, they are generating the fifth-fewest QB pressures/game. While I prefer my ATS pick in favor of the Titans giving 10.5 points without him, the absence of Matthew Stafford would be the one reason I might consider a pivot away from Brown. Detroit has allowed the third-most overall FPG to opposing teams this season (104.0). As if allowing the fourth-most FPG to WR units (42.0) wasn’t enough, they’ve been generous in giving out the second-most over their last four (52.9), and the most over their last two (51.3).
Facing the highest rate of Cover 1 snaps (42 percent), Brown will be a kid in a candy store with the ninth-highest FPRt (0.61) -- 28 percent increase to his overall average -- when facing Cover 1 during his career. On 30 percent of snaps facing the scheme, he’s tracked down 37 percent of receptions, 39 percent of yardage, and 44 percent of career TDs. Not only can we expect Derrick Henry to, once again, approach 200 rushing yards, consider Brown a near lock for at least a 5/100/1 line.
Other / Notes
- From Weeks 2-5, with Drew Brees starting, Michael Thomas out, and Emmanuel Sanders healthy (but also with Jared Cook missing about 38% of this stretch), Sanders averaged 14.5 FPG, hitting at least 15.0 in 3 of 4 games. Tre'Quan Smith averaged 11.5 FPG over the same span. Sanders also bested Smith in XFP (12.9 to 9.1) over this span. Sanders is no doubt the better play (he’s actually a lock-button play per our projections), but Smith is a strong play in his own rights as well.
- Everyone wanted to be all-in on Minnesota’s WRs for 5 straight weeks, and now they’re all going to be lower-owned. When they faced Chicago in Week 10, Adam Thielen dropped 20.3 and Jefferson scored 21.5. And now Chicago is likely to be without 2 of their 3 starting CBs (Buster Skrine, Jaylon Johnson) who both played in Week 10.
- DJ Chark ranks 4th in air yards per game (102.2), 16th in XFP per game (14.0), 24th in targets per game (7.5), and just 42nd in FPG (11.6). Yeah, that’s not good, but he’s still a strong regression candidate. Especially with Gardner Minshew re-announced as the team’s starting QB. The matchup is average or slightly below average, but he’s cheap and projects as a decent boom-or-bust upside bet for tournaments.
- Greg Ward is $3,000 on DraftKings and he’s Jalen Hurts’ most-targeted receiver (20%). Arizona is giving up the 4th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (16.7). That’s the argument for him.
- Lynn Bowden caught 7 of 9 targets for 82 yards last week. He also rushed for 2 yards and attempted a pass. He's cheap. He's a fine punt.
- DeAndre Hopkins leads the league in target share (30%) and Arizona has the 6th-highest implied point total of the slate (27.5). Over Darius Slay’s last 4 shadow games, opposing WR1s are averaging 25.4 FPG. He’s currently questionable to play. If he plays at the level we’ve seen from him recently, awesome. If he’s out, even better. Outside CB2 Avonte Maddox has already been ruled out, as has S Rodney McLeod.
- I like Christian Kirk as the sneaky low-owned upside-stack to Kyler Murray. In games Arizona has surpassed or met their current implied point total, Kirk averages 15.4 FPG to Hopkins’ 16.0. Outside CB2 Avonte Maddox is out. Darius Slay really might be dust, but, I mean, what if he’s not… He’s over-priced and not a great play on paper, but I like him as an ultra-contrarian play if stacked to Murray (who I like a lot).
- Marvin Jones is in play, but only if Stafford suits up and starts. I talked about him here.
- Russell Gage is playing more on the outside and has 8 and 7 targets and 18.8 and 15.1 fantasy points over his last 2 games. No one is looking at him, but Wes Huber likes him, and talked about how (here). He thinks Tampa Bay brackets Calvin Ridley this week.
In such a gross week, I’m going to make things easy on myself. The tight end position this year has looked an awful lot like the team DST position. Low-upside and super hard to predict. Only two players have been worth paying up for – Travis Kelce and Darren Waller (off of the main slate). So, this week, I’m really only looking at 2 TEs. I’m either paying all the way up or all the way down.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
[DK: TE1, FD: TE1]
Here’s what Wes Huber had to say (Advanced Matchups):
You just don’t want to pay what amounts to WR4 salaries on a TE outside of some Cash/SE love. Travis Kelce will cost you around 15 percent more than the second-highest priced TE, Darren Waller. However, to make sure I launch my point out of the ballpark, let’s remove Waller and his salary from the equation, and consider Mark Andrews as having the second-highest salaries. Since I am listing Waller as a fade down below, scratching him from our list is warranted. In this scenario, Kelce will cost 31 percent more on DK, 20 on FD than Andrews. Let’s continue with a comparison-narrative on percentages.
In return for your investment, Kelce’s average FPG (22.0) is 42 percent more than the next qualified TE (Robert Tonyan). The Chiefs pass at the league’s fourth-highest rate, eight percent higher than league average. “Zeus” can be counted on to run two-of-every-five routes from out wide -- 68 percent higher than the qualified TE average, two-of-every-three from a detached alignment (from the slot or wide) -- 25 percent above average. Kelce is garnering 28 percent more targets/game over the second number on the list (6.8) to go along with 25 percent more YPRR over the qualified No. 2 (Mo Alie-Cox).
Kelce is averaging 93.6 air yards/game that’s 26 percent more than any other TE, which would tie him at 20th among qualified WRs. Since I’ve already established the lack of TD consistency at WR, Kelce’s nine receiving TDs would rank him above all but six at the position. Finally, that 22.0 FPG average ranks him above all sans two WRs -- Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, from which Kelce checks in considerably cheaper.
Rostering Kelce is outside of what the kids are into these days … but isn’t that precisely what we’re after in GPPs? We can look at the matchup with New Orleans from the perspective that they’ve only accredited 11.5 FPG to TEs (20th). However, Kelce manufactured at least 24 FPG facing the Raiders (21st, twice), Chargers (16th), Broncos (tied for 23rd), and Dolphins (tied for 23rd). In fact, the difference between teams allowing the eighth-most FPG to TEs and 21st-most is only 2.99 FPG. All the more reasoning in favor of the individual TE over season averages in defense of TEs. For me, Kelce is in play in all game types, and matchup-proof sans anticipated shadows.
Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears
[DK: TE21, FD: TE19]
Jimmy Graham is currently questionable with a hip injury. Here’s what Wes Huber had to say (Advanced Matchups):
Based on the ownership in recent weeks, far too few DFS degenerates have taken notice to Cole Kmet seizing the starting role from Jimmy Graham. Let’s examine the evidence. Percentage of dropbacks with Kmet running routes over the last four games: 51, 68, 53, 62 percent. For Graham: 43, 34, 42, and 41 percent. Target shares over the same stretch for Kmet: 13, nine, 21, and 19 percent. For Graham: six, nine, three, and 13 percent. Although, Graham did catch the TD in Week 14 to bring his season total to six.
It would be unwise to discount the 166-game experience from Graham providing him with the wisdom to identify the holes in red zone, goal line coverages. With time, Kmet will learn the nuances toward doing the same. However, we are discussing a TE costing around the same capital as a DST at $3.0K/$5.1K. Kmet has responded to the seven target/game opportunity over his last two by establishing a strong connection with Mitchell Trubisky to the tune of 11.5 FPG. With the Bears’ No. 1 WR facing an unexpected challenge this week -- discussed later, Trubisky may need to place even more trust on the shoulders of his rookie TE.
Other / Notes
- Very quietly, Jared Cook could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Drew Brees' healthy return. In games Brees started and finished, and Cook also started and finished, Cook averages 13.6 FPG over his last 16 games. He's hit at least 11.0 fantasy points in 12 of those 16 games. And he averaged 12.7 FPG across his 4 full games Michael Thomas sat out.
- We wrote up T.J. Hockenson here. He’s in play if Matthew Stafford can suit up.
- Logan Thomas is on a heater. He’s a decent value on both sites.
- Mark Andrews, Jordan Akins, Irv Smith, Rob Gronkowski, Dallas Goedert, Hayden Hurst. Whatever.
Another week, another copout with the QB section. QB is a mess. There’s a ton of guys in play. A ton of different directions you can go with your lineups. For tournaments, play whoever makes the most sense for your lineup. Make sure your lineups are “telling a story.” Make sure you’re stacking optimally. But here are my two favorites:
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
[DK: QB11, FD: QB18]
Hurts has scrambled on 17% of his career dropbacks. He also had 11 designed runs in last week’s game, and 18 rushing attempts total (Lamar Jackson has only done that 4 times.) Sportsbooks are putting Hurts’ yardage props at 209.5 passing and 58.5 rushing. That’s 14.2 fantasy points (or 355.8 passing yards), and without touchdowns included. (Shoutout to Chris Raybon for these stats.) With just 1 touchdown last week (passing) he still scored 23.3 DK FP. He averages 0.66 fantasy points per dropback this season, which can be compared to Patrick Mahomes’ 0.58.
Last season, at Oklahoma, Jalen Hurts became 1 of just 5 Power-5 QBs to ever reach 3,500 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. Those other 4 QBs were Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, and Johnny Manziel. And his 2019 season ranks 5th-best in total fantasy points over the past 15 seasons, ahead of only Jackson, Manziel, and Patrick Mahomes.
Hurts has a massive ceiling and a massive floor for fantasy. The Konami Code advantage is real and it is glorious. He’s severely mispriced as just the 18th most-expensive QB of the slate on FanDuel. Keep in mind, he’s the expert consensus QB10 on the week (non slate-eligible QBs included). Wes Huber went in-depth on why this is also a very favorable matchup here.
Most rushing yards per game in final season of college:
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: QB4, FD: QB5]
I’m not sure any QB has the upside Murray does. In games Arizona has matched or exceeded their current implied point total, he averages 28.3 FPG. No other QB (this week or in general) comes close. Philadelphia is a tough matchup for RBs, but far more vulnerable to QBs and especially mobile QBs. And especially now with CB Avonte Maddox out, S Rodney McLeod out, and CB Darius Slay questionable. Here’s what Wes Huber had to say (Advanced Matchups):
Several tough lessons were learned last week. To be honest, that can be considered the case every week of every season from the NFL. Nobody has an ironclad bink strategy free from variance. During some weeks, pure luck can rule over the most dedicated of analysis. Coming from someone who’s dedicated his career to analytics, admitting that luck has any part in DFS results is a tough pill to swallow. Why does luck stick its ugly head into the game? The answer is genuinely pretty obvious. It’s actually every bit of the analysis that we devote our time towards that can turn around to bite us.
For example, let’s say that the metrics tell us to avoid Players X, Y, and Z. Those three have been solid FPG contributors most of the season, but they’ve hit recent bumps in the road, and they will be opposed by an extremely tough matchup. Whereas we limit our exposure to those players, others who avoided much research at all viewed the trio as direct plug-and-plays. Of course, that triplet produces directly in the face of those overwhelming odds, leaving our lineups high-and-dry. That might not be the conventional definition of “luck,” but it certainly applies with DFS.
Such was the case in Week 14 with Kyler Murray, in a roundabout way. As described in last week’s release, Murray’s rushing volume previously dropped by 79 percent heading into Week 14 facing the Giants due to the Type 1 AC Joint sprain in his throwing shoulder. While Murray fell 15 percent short of value, it was not due to a lack of ground production. Kyler ended up carrying the ball 13 times, second-highest this season. Even with the current injury protocols in place, NFL teams are still able to hold back crucial information on current recoveries. With Murray showing nothing from the Week 14 film to suggest he’s still experiencing pain in that shoulder, we can move forward under the narrative that he’s at 100 percent health.
The same cannot be said for the Eagles, Murray’s Week 15 opponent:
Avonte Maddox wasn’t having a great season by any stretch of the imagination but, in addition to improving each week, he provided a stable presence for Philly. I’m relatively confident we’ll see Darius Slay on the field this week. If he doesn’t pass through the protocol, DeAndre Hopkins exposure will no longer be optional. However, the loss of Rodney McLeod should not be underestimated. McLeod was simply one of the top free safeties in coverage this season. He wasn’t an elite run defender, but he was another foundational defender for the Eagles.
In place of the two, expect to see plenty of Kevon Seymour and Will Parks this Sunday. These are precisely the type of forced substitutions that result in bracket-busting performances for playmakers. With Philadelphia already surrendering the seventh-most FPG to opposing teams over their last four games, getting healthy couldn’t have come at a better time for Murray. The Eagles had already allowed 3.72 pure rushing FPG to opposing QBs this season (13th-highest). Expect that number to rise after Week 15.
Other / Notes
- If there’s a close 2nd to Murray, it has to be Lamar Jackson who averages 1.28 fantasy points per dropback over his last 2 games. That’s 2.2X more than Patrick Mahomes’ season-long average. Is he back? He might be. He hit a triple-digit passer rating in each of his last 2 games, while also averaging 109.0 rushing yards, 2.5 rushing touchdowns, and 32.3 DKFPG. And that’s despite missing a chunk of last week’s game due to craps cramps. He’s now hit at least 50 rushing yards in 10 of his last 11 games. Jacksonville ranks worst in fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.560) and gave up 50-plus rushing yards to the 2 somewhat mobile QBs they’ve faced this year (Deshaun Watson, Justin Herbert). He’s a slightly better value on FanDuel, but so is Kyler Murray.
- Jared Goff with the 2nd-highest implied point total of the slate (30.75), working as Cam Akers leverage, and up against the league’s top pass funnel defense? Why not? We’ve seen a number of blow-up games from QBs against New York this season – Patrick Mahomes (36.6), Derek Carr (32.7), Josh Allen (28.2), Justin Herbert (27.7), Kyler Murray (27.3), Cam Newton (24.6), Russell Wilson (23.1), etc.
- Ryan Tannehill as Derrick Henry leverage (or as an unorthodox stack, because they’re nowhere near as negatively correlated as people think), behind the highest implied point total of the slate (31.5)? Sure.
- Always play Patrick Mahomes? Especially when the spread is close and this game has the highest over/under of the slate (52.0)? Similarly, Drew Brees is also playing in that game and is exceedingly cheap. His 4X salary expectation on DraftKings is 23.6 DKFP, which (if we spot him 0.1 DKFP in one game) he's hit in 4 of 8 healthy games this year. (Like with Brees, similar arguments can be made for Matt Ryan and Mitchell Trubisky, by the way. Both are very cheap.)
- Tom Brady is cheap in what’s been the best-possible QB matchup all year (worth a boost of +4.3 FPG), and now Ronald Jones is out? Their implied total is only 0.25 off of the Chiefs.
- Philip Rivers is cheap and his implied total is only 2.25 behind the highest of the slate. He also offers leverage off of Jonathan Taylor. Deshaun Watson ranks 2nd in DKFPG since the Bill O’Brien firing (26.9), just 0.6 behind Pat Mahomes. That’s insane. It’s a tough matchup, but he’s just the 5th- (DK) and 4th- (FD) most-expensive QB of the slate.