What is this column? Each week I’ll be listing the best and most-interesting plays of the week, grouped by position, and ranked and tiered in some sort of descending order. Keep in mind, we’re looking only at the players available on the main slate for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
This article is long. It’s going to be long every week. Ideally, it’s all you should need to know to be able to profit playing DFS in any given week.
Be sure to also watch our DFS Preview livestream every Friday at 3PM EST. Be sure to get in our Discord — if you’re not in there already, you’re missing out on a lot of important news updates as well as personal guidance and advice from our experts. And, most importantly, be sure to check back on Sunday mornings for the “Sunday Morning Update” – basically a TLDR version of this piece along with any injury-related updates we might need.
Anyway, let’s dive in…
TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read
Notes: As always this is geared more towards cash than GPPs (totally ignoring ownership). Further, there’s still a lot of information to digest. Will Tony Jones play? I’m assuming he is. If not, Mark Ingram looks like a top-3 play. Will Clyde Edward-Helaire be activated? I’m assuming he’s not. Will Cam Newton be splitting work with P.J. Walker? I’m assuming he is, but maybe Adam Schefter will tell us something different on Saturday night. Etc.
Elephant in the Room ([email protected])
Everyone wants to go all-in on [email protected] stacks this week, and, well, I don’t blame them. This game offers a 56.5-point over/under (highest by 6.5-points), and Kansas City and Dallas rank best- (29.5) and 5th-best (27.0) on the slate in implied point total. And projected pace is off the charts; we’re expecting 78 plays, which is 10% more than the next-closest game on the slate. And among all slate-eligible teams, Kansas City ranks 1st in pass rate over expectation (+8.5%) and Dallas ranks 7th (+1.4%).
Although every week on my podcast with JMtoWin I talk about how optimal it is to fade spots like this to give yourself massive leverage over the rest of the field, I have a hard time talking myself into that this week. Instead, I expect to be about even with the field.
If fading this game, your best leverage option is Ezekiel Elliott. Basically, you’re assuming Kansas City struggles offensively, like they have in 3 of their last 4 games, and Elliott posts his 4th multi-touchdown game of the season. But that’s about the only way I’m playing him (on KC-fade lineups).
Both defenses are hemorrhaging big plays in the passing game, ranking bottom-5 in pass plays gaining 30 or 40 yards. Kansas City is giving up the 3rd-most yards per play (6.2) and Dallas is giving up the 7th-most (5.8).
Obviously, that’s huge for Tyreek Hill, who, I think, has (inarguably) the highest ceiling of any player on the slate. He’s also, easily, seeing the best usage of his career. After five seasons ranking as a high-end WR1 by FPG but low-end WR2 by XFP/G, he’s now seeing the best usage of any player in fantasy. Since Week 4, he averages a league-high 23.0 XFP/G and 12.9 targets per game. He’s inherently extremely volatile, and thus, risky, but is still one of the best plays on the entire slate.
Travis Kelce is basically Davante Adams (or at least D.K. Metcalf) with a TE-designation, making him one of the greatest cheat codes in the history of fantasy football. He's been more volatile in recent weeks, but is still the most consistent player in fantasy outside of Christian McCaffrey, averaging 19.9 DK FPG over his last 32 games, and hitting at least 17.0 DK fantasy points 72% of the time. He’s a lot cheaper this week than his typical salary, and especially in contrast to some WRs who aren’t even as productive. (He’s priced as the WR9 on both sites.) Matchups don’t really matter to TEs outside of the polar extremes, and this one projects to be perfectly neutral by the metrics that matter most to me.
Amari Cooper is out, and CeeDee Lamb was already the clear and glaring WR1 of this team. He’s led Dallas’ WRs in XFP in 8 of 9 games this year. And after last week’s monster performance (scoring 28.6 fantasy points on a 16.3-point expectation), he now ranks 13th in XFP/G (16.8) and 9th in FPG (17.6). Interestingly, Lamb also ran a season-high 70% of his routes from the slot, up from 23%. Kansas City ranks middle of the pack against both slot and outside WRs, so it doesn’t really matter if Lamb is in the slot again this week. He’s just an amazing play.
With Cooper out, Dalton Schultz is solidly in play as the most-viable low-owned option from this game. He was averaging 16.0 FPG and 11.4 XFP/G in his last 5 games with Dak Prescott and without Michael Gallup. That’s low-end TE1 volume and high-end TE1 production. The matchup is solidly fringe-top-10.
And, Michael Gallup now easily becomes one of the best value-plays of the slate. He only played on 53% of the snaps in his return to action last week, but is averaging 0.21 targets per route on a miniscule sample. That’s low-end WR3 levels of volume. And he’s just stupidly cheap, priced as the WR47 (DK) and WR48 (FD) of the slate. But he’s fairly fadeable for tournaments, as he’s going to be maybe the single highest-owned player of the slate.
You can also gamble on Byron Pringle, now Kansas City’s WR2, leapfrogging Mecole Hardman in the pecking order. He turned 5 targets and a 67% route share into 46 yards and 14.6 fantasy points last week. And Cedrick Wilson is also a viable punt, he's scored 4.8, 18.8, 8.2, 6.0, 11.0, and 9.7 fantasy points in his last 6 games without Gallup.
We’ll get to Darrel Williams a little later…
Expensive Running Backs
I think if you’re going to be paying up for RBs, you’re really only looking at Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Taylor. They’re the only RBs with massive slate-busting (30-plus point) upside and a 20-plus point every-week median projection. Otherwise, I think you’re just better off chasing value, and especially on weeks like this (and last) with multiple backups thrust into bell cow workloads.
Alvin Kamara is banged up, and hasn’t been the same without Drew Brees, who always targeted RBs at the highest rate in the NFL. Dalvin Cook has seen a major dip in target-volume and receiving production in comparison to recent seasons. Ezekiel Elliott has ceded double-digit touches to Tony Pollard in 6 of his last 8 games. Etc. So, now there are only two true uber-bell cows left in the NFL — McCaffrey and Taylor.
McCaffrey played on just 59% of the team’s snaps last week (but 71% in the first half). And he still walked away with 13 carries and 10 targets (10 catches), totaling 161 YFS. This was good for 26.1 fantasy points (4th-most among RBs), though, keep in mind, he didn’t even score a touchdown. And he only played two snaps in the fourth quarter. And he was tackled three separate times inside the 2-yard-line, and had he scored, would have added an additional +18 fantasy points to his monster outing.
If excluding Week 3 and Week 9 due to injury, McCaffrey has now finished top-2 at the position (by fantasy points scored) in 9 of his last 20 games (45%). Top-6 in 17 of his last 20 games (85%), And top-8 in 19 of 20 (95%). That’s insane.
Taylor is now the bell cow we’ve long dreamed he would one day become. He’s (basically) almost hit a new career-high in snap% in each of his last 5 games. And last week, he played on 84% of the snaps (career-high), handling 23 of 25 carries and 8 of 12 targets out of the backfield. That latter stat (pointing at the increase in pass-game usage), is absolutely crucial, and hints at a newfound lack of gamescript-dependence. Those 8 targets were a career-high, and are typically worth, in weighted opportunity terms, about 12.9 fantasy points, or 8.1 fantasy points more that what he’s typically received (3.0 targets per game).
Since Week 4, Taylor leads all players at all positions in FPG (26.1), with +2.9 more than the next-closest RB (Alvin Kamara). And he’s finished top-6 at the position in fantasy points in 6 of the last 6 weeks.
Both matchups seem tough on paper. McCaffrey gets a Washington defense that ranks as a top-3 pass-funnel (3rd-best in YPC allowed, 4th-worst in passer rating allowed) but top-12 in both rushing and receiving FPG allowed to opposing RBs. Though, by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed, they rank perfectly average (-0.5), and now their best defensive player (Chase Young) is out. However, we also have to factor in a reduced touchdown-ceiling with Can Newton back in the mix.
Taylor’s matchup is even more difficult. Indianapolis enters as 7-point underdogs, against a Buffalo defense that ranks 4th-best by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-4.3), 3rd-best in rushing FPG allowed and 6th-best in receiving FPG allowed to enemy RBs.
So, maybe neither are absolutely necessary this week, but they are, in my opinion, your best bets outside of the value-tier. And know I’ll be prioritizing McCaffrey ahead of Taylor.
A.J. Dillon, RB, Green Bay Packers
[DK: RB12, FD: RB14]
Dillon is easily one of the best plays of the entire slate, ranking 12th (DK) and 14th (FD) in pricing, but 2nd (DK) and 2nd (FD) in our projections. Here’s what I had to say in Start / Sit:
Week 10 RB Leaders by Fantasy Points
1. Darrel Williams (29.4)
2. Rhamondre Stevenson (27.4)
3. AJ Dillon (26.8)
4. Christian McCaffrey (26.1)
5. Jonathan Taylor (24.6)
6. D'Ernest Johnson (22.7)
7. Antonio Gibson (21.8)
8. Mark Ingram (20.8)
backup to injured RB1
Week 10 RB Leaders by Fantasy Points
Last week Aaron Jones played on 46% of the snaps, and Dillon (49% of the snaps) still walked away with 23 touches, 128 YFS, and 26.8 fantasy points. He’s now exceeded 75.0 YFS in 5 of his last 7 games, and averages 94.4 YFS over his last three games. Though, keep in mind, last week was the first time he’s exceeded a 40% snap share all year.
But now Aaron Jones (MCL) joins Kylin Hill on the sideline, and the only other active RB on the roster is Patrick Taylor Jr., who played on 3 snaps last week and has 2 total touches in his career. So, Dillon should now be looking at, what? 80% of the snaps at a minimum, with 95% firmly within the realm of possibilities?
Green Bay ranks 9th in team RB FPG (26.3). So, if we play it conservative and say Dillon can be roughly 80% of that, we’re looking at 21.0 fantasy points. (Only Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor are averaging more than 21.0 FPG.) And 80% feels about right. Dillon feels like a lock for 18-plus carries. But, granted, Dillon (1.8 targets per game) also probably isn’t the receiver Jones is (4.7 targets per game), but, then again, maybe not. John Hansen has been hyping up Dillon’s pass-catching chops all offseason. And Dillon currently leads all of 69-qualifying RBs in YPT average (10.9).
On-paper the matchup looks mostly neutral, though possibly top-12 based on the opposition’s weaknesses in contrast to Dillon’s strengths. Green Bay is favored, but only slightly so (-2.5), against a Vikings defense that ranks 10th-worst in YPC allowed (4.48), 8th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (14.8), but 11th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-2.5). We like him this week as a top-5 option.
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins
[DK: RB18, FD: RB24]
As gross as it may feel, Gaskin is glaringly one of the better values of the slate. He ranks 18th (DK) and 24th (FD) in pricing, but 11th (DK) and 13th (FD) in our projections. Here’s what I had to say in Start / Sit:
Listen, I know what you’re thinking, but try to hear me out here…
Over the last two weeks, Gaskin has appeared to have gained a stranglehold over the backfield, handling 35 of 41 carries (85%), 9 of 11 targets (82%), and 5 of 5 opportunities inside the 10-yard-line (100%). That comes out to 17.5 carries per game, 4.5 targets per game, and 17.1 XFP/G (~RB9).
And this isn’t just a great matchup. It’s a historically great matchup. The Jets rank worst in YPC allowed (4.88), worst in rushing FPG allowed (22.5), 2nd-worst in receiving FPG allowed (15.3), and worst in total FPG allowed to opposing RBs (37.8). They’re giving up an astounding +13.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (1.7X more than the next-closest team) and +17.8 over the last five weeks (1.9X more than the next-closest team). For perspective, the league’s worst defense against RBs last year (Detroit), gave up just +7.8 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs.
Even if we take Gaskin’s lowly season-long average of 11.7 FPG, and we assume he gets the 87% share of the backfield (by XFP) he’s had over the last two weeks, we should be expecting somewhere between 23.5 and 27.2 fantasy points this week, just based on the matchup alone. Obviously, there’s more that goes into it than just that, and he’s rightfully become hard to trust. But you’re still starting him this week as a high-end RB2.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
[DK: RB22, FD: RB17]
Looks like we have another mispriced backup now locked into a bell cow role, with Alvin Kamara expected to miss. And Ty Mongtomery (1 carry last week) is out, and Taysom Hill (11 red zone carries this year) is questionable. The only problem is, Tony Jones is reportedly “on track to be activated.” If Jones is out, Ingram is a top-3 play. If he’s active, I think he’s probably below Jeff Wilson, Darrel Williams, Myles Gaskin, & Co.
With Alvin Kamara out in Week 11, Ingram recorded 14 carries, 7 targets, 22.5 XFP, and an 85% snap share. So, Ingram is clearly a bell-cow RB1 with Kamara out (just as we predicted), and well, Kamara practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but missed Thursday’s practice in either an apparent setback, or an effort by the team to rest him. Regardless of the reason, Kamara’s Week 11 status is in major doubt, and should he sit, Ingram is a top-5 value at the RB position for the 2nd week in a row.
The Eagles rank 7th-worst in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs (15.0), 13th-worst in receiving FPG allowed to opposing backs (11.0), and 7th-worst in PFF rushing grade. Should Ingram capture 96% of backfield XFP (like he did last week) for a backfield that’s averaged 26.3 FPG this season, then he’s not only underpriced, but he’s an easy cash game play on both DraftKings (as the RB22 by salary) and FanDuel (as the RB18).
Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
[DK: RB22, FD: RB22]
The only thing I’ll add to the analysis further below is that if Clyde Edwards-Helaire is active and expected to play, I’ll be fully off Williams.
Darrel Williams has accounted for 67% of backfield XFP since taking over lead back duties for the injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a mark that would rank 12th among all RBs this season. And over his 5 week stretch as the starter, Williams has averaged 17.5 XFP per game, 17.8 FPG, and 5.4 targets per game. Or, put another way, Williams has averaged more XFP per game than Ezekiel Elliott, more FPG than Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb, and more targets per game than J.D. McKissic.
So, with Edwards-Helaire’s status for Week 11 still up in the air, Williams sets up as not just one of the top RB DFS values should he sit, but one of the top RB plays of the entire week. And given this game’s 56.0-point over/under and the Chiefs’ slate-high implied team total of 29.25, Williams — who ranks 4th in goal line carries since becoming the starter — has among the best TD equity of any main slate RB. Should the Chiefs get down in this game, Williams should still be able to produce, as he accounted for 82% of backfield targets last week, and 68% of backfield targets since becoming the starter.
While we may have to slightly ding Williams for the matchup (Dallas is the 8th-toughest matchup for opposing RBs, allowing just 20.8 FPG), his pass game involvement, goalline role, and this games scoring environment more than make up for it. He’s a top-5 RB value and is easily cash game viable should CEH miss Week 11.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
[DK: RB21, FD: RB17]
From Jake Tribbey’s DFS Values: In the five games he’s played this season, Montgomery has recorded the 2nd-best snap share (73%) of any RB. And in his first game back from IR in Week 9, he quickly returned to his bell-cow role, earning a 85% snap share and 86% of backfield XFP. That’s outstanding usage, and with a post-injury price drop, Montgomery is now the 2nd-cheapest he’s been all season on both DFS sites - clocking in as the RB21 on DraftKings (by salary) and the RB17 on Fanduel - despite ranking 9th among slate eligible RBs in opportunities per game (19.4), 13th in red zone opportunities per game (3.0), and 15th in FPG (14.0).
With the Ravens ranking 13th in FPG allowed to opposing RBs (24.0), the primary concern for Montgomery in this spot is gamescript, as the Bears are 5.5-point underdogs and he’s hardly involved as a receiver, averaging just 2.8 targets per game. But even if you expect the Bears to lose, it’s worth noting that 4 of Montgomery’s 5 highest-scoring career fantasy performances have come in losses, rather than wins. I can’t recommend using Monty in cash games, but he may be largely forgotten about in tournaments this week, which sets him up as a solid GPP option given his discounted price.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
[DK: RB13, FD: RB12]
Conner is again an enticingly strong value. But, he’s only viable if Kyler Murray is able to suit up.
James Conner scored 15.4 fantasy points yesterday. But…
- He played on 45/55 (82%) total snaps despite Arizona never being in the game.
- Earned 75% of Arizona's backfield opportunities in the first 3 quarters
Excellent usage in a backfield that's averaged 26.3 FPG in 2021.
James Conner scored 15.4 fantasy points yesterday. But…
Conner’s first week as the Cardinals’ lead back didn’t exactly go great, as he scored 15.4 fantasy points in a game where Arizona was dominated from start to finish, losing 34 to 10. When an offense scores just 10 points and earns 169 net yards, it’s nearly impossible for their starting RB to be on a tournament-winning team. But, those numbers did come with both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins out. Given that PFF lists Kyler Murray as a 7-point improvement over a replacement-level QB (and tied as the 2nd-most valuable QB in football), it’s easy to see how this offense failed in Week 10.
Conner is off the board as a potential play should Murray sit out in Week 11, given the massive difference the MVP candidate has made to the Cardinals offense. But should Murray play, then I’ll be looking at Conner as one of the top RB plays of the slate given the Cardinals averaged 32.1 PPG in Murray’s full games, compared to 20.7 PPG in the games Murray has either missed or not finished.
Conner’s Week 10 usage suggests he’s looking at somewhere between 72-82% of backfield snaps (82% snap share) and volume (72% backfield XFP%), and for a backfield that has averaged 26.3 FPG this season, that would translate to 18.4 to 22.3 FPG. Or, roughly somewhere between the RB7 (D’Andre Swift) and the RB2 (Jonathan Taylor).
And, assuming Kyler plays, this is one of the stronger scoring settings of the week, offering the 4th-highest total (48.5) of the Week 11 main slate. Plus the Seahawks have been vulnerable to RBs this season, allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+8.1) and the most receiving FPG to opposing RBs (16.0) — an important note given Conner has averaged 4.5 targets per game in Chase Edmonds’ absence.
Could a healthy Murray vulture TDs from Conner? Sure. But, Murray is averaging 2.2 less carries per game and 32.9 less rush yards per game this season, and given he will be returning from an injury, I’d expect this Cardinals ground game to be dominated by their RBs.
Conner can be safely used in cash games should Murray start, and should only be faded in tournaments by those worried about his massive ownership (which is likely) this week.
Other / Notes
- Jeff Wilson (RB30 / RB61) is a phenomenal play, joining (actually, probably leading) Montgomery, Gaskin, Ingram, Williams, & co. in that deep value tier. JaMycal Hasty is out and Elijah Mitchell is doubtful. Together Mitchell and Wilson combined for 37 of 37 RB rushing attempts last week. Wilson flashed tournament-winning upside multiple times last season, posting two games with 30-plus DK fantasy points and four games with 21-plus DK fantasy points. And it’s a great spot, favored by 6.5-points against a Jaguars run defense that’s better than most think, but is still giving up the 10th-most rushing FPG to opposing RBs (14.5).
- Like I said at the top, if I’m paying up for a RB it’s only McCaffrey or Taylor. I probably won’t be playing Joe Mixon, but you can make a compelling case for him. Healthier off of the bye, could he return to the bell cow workload he saw in Week 9, when he handled 90% of the backfield XFP. He could, though Perine usually gets about 36% of the work (by XFP), and that’s about what I’m expecting from this week. But the matchup is great; the Raiders are giving up the 5th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+5.8). That said, I don’t expect to wind up with much exposure.
- Similar cases can be made for D’Andre Swift and James Robinson, both of whom I spent a great deal of time on in the Week 11 XFP Report… Swift’s matchup against Cleveland appears tough on paper, but maybe only tough on paper. The Browns rank 9th-worst against RBs over the last 5 weeks (+4.0). Swift saw peak-McCaffrey-esque usage last week without Jamaal Williams, but now with him returning, he’s “merely” a fringe-top-5 fantasy RB. Still, that makes him look like an excellent value at RB8 (DK) and RB9 (FD) salaries. (Update: Nevermind. I want no piece of this offense if Tim Boyle is starting.)… Robinson will be a full-on bell cow whenever he’s fully healthy, and should be viewed no differently from the Robinson of 2020 whenever that’s the case. If that’s this week, he’s a strong value, priced as the RB11 (DK) and RB13 (FD) in a perfectly neutral matchup. Unfortunately, I’m not at all confident he’s close to full health.
- One expensive RB I’ll have trouble not-playing in tournaments is Nick Chubb, favored by 12.5-points, behind the 3rd-highest implied point total of the slate (27.5), against (potentially) a Tim Boyle-led offense. Boyle, for the record, had a career 12:26 TD:INT ratio in college. D’Ernest Johnson will steal some carries for sure, but this matchup is phenomenal. The Lions rank 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+7.7) and are giving up the 4th-most rushing FPG to enemy RBs (17.7). I especially like him if stacked with Cleveland’s DST.
- Michael Carter is a strong on-paper value on DraftKings (RB16), ranking top-6 among all slate-eligible RBs in XFP/G (20.9) and FPG (19.2) since Week 7. However, I’m less bullish with Joe Flacco under center. Mike White did a lot of the heavy lifting for Carter, gifting him an outlandish 22% target share (would lead all RBs). And the matchup is far more difficult than most think, as Miami ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs over the last 5 weeks (-7.7).
- Dalvin Cook is in play as leverage off of A.J. Dillon, but that’s really the entirety of your argument for him.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
[DK: WR4, FD: WR3]
Diggs has been incredibly consistent this season, but without any semblance of a ceiling, though that finally came last week. He's hit at least 12.0 fantasy points in 13 of his last 14 games, but Week 11 was the first time he's hit 24.0 fantasy points all year. On 13 targets (a 46% target share), he caught 8 for 162 yards and a score, looking like the Stefon Diggs of 2020 for the first time all year.
And, well, there’s a great chance he repeats a performance like that this weekend. The Colts are far-and-away the best matchup for any WR1. They rank 5th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.5). And, more importantly, worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+5.5), and worst over the last five weeks (+8.7).
This admittedly feels like a bit of a leap of faith, as he ranks just 8th among all slate-eligible WRs in FPG (17.2), but 4th- and 3rd in salary this week. Still, the volume is there (4th among all slate-eligible WRs in XFP/G), and in this matchup I think he’s worth the risk and the lofty price-tag.
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
[DK: WR5, FD: WR7]
Samuel is $600 cheaper than Davante Adams on DraftKings (WR5) and $900 cheaper on FanDuel (WR7). And yet, he averages 18% more FPG and ranks best on the slate (22.4), and on pace for the 11th-most fantasy points by any WR all-time.
And this doesn’t feel too flukey. Samuel has hit double-digit fantasy points in all 9 of his games this year. His volume isn’t quite as good as his production, but it’s not dramatically worse, ranking 5th among all-slate eligible WRs in XFP/G (17.2). More impressively, he ranks 3rd in target share (29%) and 1st in yardage share (43%).
The matchup is somewhere between above-average to neutral on-paper, but there’s a good chance Shaquill Griffin shadows him on his perimeter routes (72%). Griffin has shadowed each of the last three weeks, and has collectively held A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Stefon Diggs, and Michael Pittman to just 13.1 FPG and 59.0 YPG in shadow games this year. That means this matchup would flip to being slightly below average. But then again, Samuel gets a lot of manufactured touches (including rushing attempts, and especially now without Elijah Mitchell, but primarily WR screens) that makes an individual CB matchup less significant. Plus, Wes Huber loves his coverage shell matchup. Here’s the CliffNotes version:
“The Jags are employing the 13th-highest rate of Cover 3, but that number jumps to 6th-highest the last four weeks… On 34% of career routes, Samuel has gathered 42% of his receptions, 43% of yardage, and 44% of his TDs against Cover 3. He leads all WRs with 0.61 FP/Rt and 3.30 YPRR when defended by Cover 3 during his career. Defenses have dared to put a Cover 3 on the field on 81 passing plays against Deebo this season. On those routes, Samuel has been targeted on a mind-boggling 46%! He’s turned those 37 targets into 30 receptions, 523 yards, three TDs, and 6.41 YPRR.”
But if not the matchup, there are still some more holes you could poke in Samuel. He’s dealing with a shin injury. George Kittle is back and commanding a 25% target share. Brandon Aiyuk is at least supposedly finally out of the doghouse. But still, I’m inclined to just chase the points with Samuel. Again, he leads all slate-eligible WRs by FPG, and by a wide margin, though no one wants to play him and he’s priced as just a mid-range WR1.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans
[DK: WR17, FD: WR19]
The only things I’ll add to the analysis below is that Cooks is seeing an increase in both volume and efficiency with Tyrod Taylor under center. His YPT average jumps from 6.9 to 9.5 with Taylor, and his 29% target share (with Taylor) would rank 3rd-best among all WRs. And Wes Huber loves his coverage shell matchup.
All this, and, of course, he’s clearly mispriced as just the WR17 (DK) and WR20 (FD) of the slate. But though he projects to be extremely chalky, due to his inherent volatility, I still like him a bit more for tournaments than cash.
From Start / Sit:
Cooks is the clear focal-point and near-entirety of the Texans’ offense, and is seeing terrific volume, but he’s only modestly productive, is woefully inefficient, and highly volatile. He’s hit 17.5 fantasy points in 5 (3rd-most) of his 9 games, but averages just 8.4 FPG the rest of the time. He ranks 8th in yardage share (27%), 5th in XFP% (24%), 9th in targets per game (10.0), 10th in XFP per game (17.0), and 23rd in FPG (14.8). So, low-end WR1 volume, low-end WR2 production, and bottom-15 levels of inefficiency. And I think that’s how he should be viewed most weeks, but not this week in a dream matchup.
The Titans rank worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs (+7.7), 6th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (17.8), 6th-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (24.9), and worst in FPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep passes (12.5). I think, with Cooks, you always have to worry about opposing defensive coordinators selling out to stop him with bracket coverage. But, even so, this week’s on-paper matchup is too attractive not to start him as a high-end WR2 at-worst.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
[DK: WR6, FD: WR11]
In my mind Brown is basically now a “rich man’s Brandin Cooks.” Without Derrick Henry and Julio Jones, he has the same problem Cooks has. Opposing defenses need to worry about him, and only him, and thus will build their gameplan around stopping him. Apparently, that’s what happened last week. Greg Cosell told us New Orleans continually shaded safety help or brought bracket coverage to stop him. OC Todd Downing echoed that sentiment here, and, well, clearly it worked. Brown caught 1 of just 4 targets for only 16 yards.
Over his last 5 games, Brown has posted lines of 7/91/0, 8/133/1, 10/155/1, 5/42/0, and 1/16/0. Concerningly, those last two games were the only ones without Henry. But, to be fair, those were also extremely tough matchups (Rams, Saints).
But this week’s matchup is excellent, coincidentally against Cooks’ Texans who rank worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.8) and worst in PFF coverage grade (32.2). And according to Wes Huber, Houston’s high rate of Cover-1 makes this matchup even more appealing:
"Cover 1 + AJB = DFS gold. On 32% of career routes when opposed by Cover 1, Brown has brought in 43% of his receptions, 43% of his yardage, and 52% of his TDs. He’s manufactured 0.75 FP/Rt (fifth-highest), 3.44 YPRR (seventh), and amassed 31% of the targets when facing single high. Brown does just under 60% of his work on the right side. Terrance Mitchell will take responsibility for a good amount of that work. He’s authorizing 1.07 YPCS (39th-best), 0.27 FP/CS (53rd), 0.19 AY/CS (38th), and a 101.2 TPR (53rd) as the 23rd-most targeted outside corner. It’s an absolute that Smith — one of the men responsible for originating the Tampa 2 — will continue to use a top-three rate of Cover 2. But Smith was also a proponent of mixing his two-high with Cover 1. That’s all we need to know for Brown exposure."
Ultimately, he’s a great tournament-play, and an immense value on FanDuel (priced as just the WR11). Or, I should say, a great play on the whole (the potential reward outweighs the risk in a vacuum), but, still, very risky, with the potential to tank your GPP lineups. That said, Vegas doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as concerned as I am, as Tennessee boasts the 3rd-highest implied point total of the slate (27.5).
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
[DK: WR24, FD: WR23]
Tee Higgins sets up for potentially his best usage of the season with Ja’Marr Chase potentially being shadowed by Casey Hayward, and Tyler Boyd facing the 4th-toughest slot matchup (9.4 FPG allowed). Wes Huber also pointed out in Advanced Matchups that the Raiders run Cover 3 at a top-3 rate, and that Higgins has fared far better than teammate Tyler Boyd against that coverage. If we assume Chase gets shut down by Hayward (which is far from a guarantee), then Higgins is due for an obvious boost in pass game work this week.
And while Higgins has largely underperformed his expectation this season (-2.5 PAR), the plus matchup could easily lead to at least league-average efficiency. And if we project Higgins for his weekly XFP average (15.1), then he would rank as our WR10 (by projected fantasy points) this week, despite ranking as the WR24 (by salary) on DraftKings. That would absolutely make him cash game viable on DraftKings, and while I’d also like to play Higgins in tournaments, he’s expected to be fairly chalky, which speaks to the strong nature of this play.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
[DK: WR17, FD: WR16]
I think my analysis last week was spot-on. Lockett is finally healthy. From Weeks 3-7 Lockett averaged just 6.7 FPG, but 22.1 FPG in his other 4 games. Of course, he only scored 4.3 fantasy points last week (on 8 targets), but I think that’s on Wilson, not Lockett.
On the subject of Russell Wilson and the #Seahawks:— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) November 15, 2021
Pass DVOA Weeks 1-5: 59.0% (2nd)
Pass DVOA Weeks 6-8 (Geno): -14.4% (25th)
Pass DVOA Today: -32.1% (24th)
I don't know if he came back too soon or what, but it's one bad game. Wilson was phenomenal before the injury.
Last week Lockett ranked 7th in XFP (21.8), and led the position in air yards (218) and deep targets (5). But Lockett fell short of his volume-based expectation by 17.5 fantasy points, the 2nd-worst mark by any WR in any game this season. If this wasn’t easily the worst game of Russell Wilson’s career, you could have been in line for a massively profitable day. But, alas, it was the worst game of Wilson’s career, or at least the first time he was ever shut out. Perhaps his finger still isn’t quite right, or perhaps he was just rusty from the extended absence. So, that’s the risk we’re dealing with this week, in addition to Lockett’s inherent volatility (like with Cooks and Brown). But if Wilson really is 100% healthy, Lockett is no doubt an incredible value.
Lockett has recorded at least 21.8 XFP in each of his last two games, but despite this, has seen his price fall to its lowest point of the season on DraftKings. So cheap, in fact, that Lockett is $722 cheaper than his average price this season, and since the start of the 2019 season, Lockett has only been cheaper than this once.
Arizona is a more neutral matchup as they are allowing the 12th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (-0.8), but this game environment is certainly a plus, as it’s the 4th-highest total game (48.5) on the main slate.
Lockett is primarily known for his boom or bust nature, and that’s been true again this season as he’s recorded 20.0 or more XFP in 4 of his 9 games, and under 10.0 XFP in another 4 games. While that takes him out of cash game consideration, it does make him an ideal tournament play.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
[DK: WR22, FD: WR17]
This season, Waddle has been the intended target on 24.1% of Tua Tagovailoa’s throws (the #AlabamaConnection). That ranks well ahead of the next-closest Miami receiver (Mike Gesicki, 15.9%), and would rank 16th among all receivers. In addition to better target volume with Tagovailoa (24.1% target share vs. 19.1% with Jacoby Brissett), Waddle is also seeing significantly better target quality (8.8 aDOT vs. 5.4).
Over the last 5 weeks, Jaylen Waddle ranks …
3rd in targets
* 7th in air yards
* 8th in PPR points
Over the last 5 weeks, Jaylen Waddle ranks …
Waddle averages 9.4 targets and 19.4 FPG since Week 6. In Tagovailoa’s four full games, Waddle is averaging 9.3 targets and 16.8 FPG. And, without DeVante Parker (who is out again this week), that jumps to 10.5 targets and 22.2 FPG in a small two-game sample.
Over the past 4 weeks, the Jets are giving up the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+6.6), the 3rd-most FPG to outside WRs, and the 12th-most FPG to slot WRs. So, no matter what, Waddle, who ran 41% of his routes from the slot last week, will have a very favorable matchup this week. Start him with confidence as a mid-range WR2.
D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
[DK: WR19, FD: WR17]
Admittedly, I’ve since soured a bit on Moore. He’s historically underpriced, yes, but this secondary also probably isn’t as bad as it’s been, with CB William Jackson III now back. And this is also a super-nonsense #NarrativeStreet take, but after listening to Cam Newton’s presser from Sunday, it’s clear Robby Anderson is his bff. That makes me a bit more nervous on Moore remaining the clear WR1. Anyway, here’s what I wrote up in Start/Sit:
Moore got off to a hot start, averaging 22.4 FPG through his first four games. And then, both he and Sam Darnold seemingly fell off of a cliff, as he’s averaged just 9.7 FPG in the 6 games since (with a high of only 13.3 fantasy points).
Still, the volume has been there; he ranks 14th in XFP/G (16.8), and 18th over the last 5 weeks (16.4). Although, yes, Christian McCaffrey is back now, to eat a large chunk of the pie. (Though Washington has been tough against RBs, and specifically RBs through the air all year.) And yes, I’m not expecting much from Cam Newton. But by the same token, it’s also hard not to be an improvement on Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, who collectively averaged just 160.7 passing YPG (2TD:9INT) since Week 5.
And, in any case, the matchup is just about perfect, and that’s the key reason why you’re starting him as a high-end WR3 this week. Washington is giving up a league-high 25.8 FPG to outside WRs, which is where Moore runs 81% of his routes.
Other / Notes
Davante Adams has five touchdowns in his last two games against Minnesota, and 100-plus yards in 3 of his last 4, and 100 yards or a touchdown in 8 of his last 8 games against the Vikings. But Minnesota ranks 6th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to WR1s this year (-3.1), and now they’re likely to get Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith back. And Adams hasn’t been posting the tournament-winning weeks we’ve become accustomed to, hitting 23.5-plus fantasy points only twice… But he’s Davante Adams, so he’s a great play. But, I think, I personally prefer Tyreek Hill, CeeDee Lamb, and Deebo Samuel at cost and ownership.
CB Leaders by PPR Allowed per Coverage Snap— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 20, 2021
1 Casey Hayward, Raiders (0.06)
2 Taron Johnson, Bills (0.06)*
3 AJ Terrell, Falcons (0.07)
4 Tavon Young, Ravens (0.09)*
5 Jalen Ramsey, Rams (0.09)*
6 Chandon Sullivan, Packers (0.10)*
7 Nate Hobbs, Raiders (0.10)*
As I argued here, I don’t see Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins as the WR1A and WR1B in this offense. I think Chase is now the clear alpha WR1. My concern this week, however, is that Casey Hayward shadows (because he’s the clear alpha WR1). He shadowed early in the season, but hasn’t done so in at least his last four games. But he’s been excellent, ranking best of 100-qualifying CBs in fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage. I’d put it at something like a 35% chance he shadows Chase. And if he does, Higgins is an absolute smash, with Tyler Boyd also in a bottom-3 matchup. If not, there’s a good chance Chase not only outscores Higgings, but also posts a tournament-winning performance.
For all my worries with A.J. Brown, and given Tennessee's high total, I have to like Marcus Johnson at least a little bit. He ran a route on only 60% of the team's dropbacks last week (2nd-most), but also caught 6 of 5 targets for 100 yards. And though he’s done nothing else all year, he's a viable punt.
Cole Beasley is a decent GPP-punt if we get confirmation he’s 100%. He was seriously banged up, and played on only 9 snaps last week, so that’s clearly the concern. But before that, he averaged 11.0 targets per game over his prior three games, and hit at least 21.5 DK fantasy points in 2 of those 3 games.
Marquise Brown isn’t a glaring value, but he does need to be considered for tournaments every week. I discussed his recent upsurge in volume here, and Graham Barfield spent more time on the matchup here.
Rashod Bateman and Darnell Mooney are popping as top-6 values per our projections. I’m a little less bullish but here’s what Tom Brolley said earlier in the week… Rashod Bateman has posted double-digit FP in his last three games after making his NFL debut just four contests ago. He posted 6/80 receiving on eight targets against the Dolphins, and he ran double the routes (32 to 16) of Sammy Watkins in his first game back from his hamstring injury — slot WR Devin Duvernay finished third in routes with 30. The Bears are giving up the fifth-most receiving yards per game (185.9) to WRs this season… Allen Robinson is out, and Darnell Mooney has hung 12+ FP in three of his last four games, and he posted a season-best 20.6 FP before their Week 10 bye. He finished with 3/41/1 receiving on six targets and he added a 15-yard rushing touchdown against the Steelers. The Ravens are giving up a generous 14.8 YPR to WRs, and the Dolphins had three different WRs reach double-digit FP last week….
I probably won’t play them but Brandon Aiyuk and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are both popping in my coverage movel, against opposing defenses that are much more vulnerable against WR2s than WR1s… Similarly Jamal Agnew has a great matchup in the slot, but I doubt I’ll end up with a single share.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
[DK: TE1, FD: TE1]
Kelce is the clear TE1 this season, and he’s playing in the by far the best scoring environment of the Week 11 main slate. Among slate-eligible TEs, Kelce ranks 1st in FPG (16.7, +1.9 more than next-closest), 1st in targets per game (9.7), and 1st in XFP per game over the last four weeks (15.7). On FanDuel, Kelce isn’t just the cheapest he’s been all season, but he’s $890 cheaper than his average salary this season. And on DraftKings, Kelce is the 2nd cheapest he’s been all year, and is $570 cheaper than his average salary this season.
And once you account for this scoring environment, it becomes apparent just how mispriced Kelce is. The game total of 56.0 isn’t just the highest total on the slate, it’s the highest by 6.0 points — that means 12% more scoring than the next closest game. And the Chiefs have the highest implied team total of the slate at 29.25. Since 2018, Kelce has averaged 20.7 DraftKings FPG and 16.1 FanDuel FPG when the Chiefs implied team total is over 28.0. He’s the top TE play of the slate, and I’m not sure it’s particularly close.
Other / Notes
- Ryan Griffin is John Proctor’s favorite TE-play of the week. He’s minimum priced on DraftKings, has 9 targets over the last two weeks, ran a season-high 71% route share last week, and Joe Flacco typically targets TEs at an above-average rate. But the key point is TE is typically a wasteland, and Griffin allows you to pay up elsewhere at the more important positions with more upside.
- A similar case can be made for Cole Kmet (TE16), with Allen Robinson out, and in a top-3 matchup. He caught 6 of 8 targets for 87 yards last week, and has at least 6 targets in 3 straight games. And this matchup is top-4 by FPG allowed, schedule-adjusted FPG allowed, and TE funnel%. He’s our top point-per-dollar play on DraftKings.
- Dallas Goedert should be back from concussion, and he’s a strong value on DraftKings, averaging 6.3 targets (24% target share) and 66.5 receiving yards per four quarters following the Zach Ertz trade (86% route share). If over the full season, those numbers would rank 9th- (best target share), 3rd-best, and 2nd-best (route share). So, clearly he’s a little mispriced as the TE9 of the slate. But all of this being said, the matchup is brutal (bottom-6).
- Based on OC Greg Olsen’s recent comments, we might have some evidence in favor of the #SqueakyWheelNarrative with Darren Waller this week. I’m not really sure what’s going on with him. I’m worried he’s secretly hurt, and my instinct is to just hold off on playing him before he proves it. But if he finally goes off this week, and at low ownership, he could give you a huge edge in tournaments. That’s the argument for him, and he’s historically cheap, but, admittedly, I don’t feel great about it.
- You can make a more compelling case for George Kittle, who averages 7.5 targets and 20.1 DK FPG in his two games since returning from injury. San Francisco probably goes massively run-heavy but it’s a top-10 matchup for Kittle on paper.
- Mark Andrews averages 16.9 FPG and 15.1 XFP/G over his last 7 games, but gets a bottom-5 matchup this week and Nick Boyle will be returning. He’s in play but isn’t as high on my list.
- As explained earlier, Dalton Schultz is a strong GPP-play. As is Mike Gesicki, against a Jets defense that ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed over the last 5 weeks (+4.3). He’s seen at least 7 targets in 5 of his last 6 games. He’s far too volatile for cash, but that works better for tournaments. He averages 19.8 DK FPG in his 4 best games, but just 3.9 FPG in his 4 worst games.
- Dan Arnold is still at least a little too cheap on DraftKings ($4,100). He’s hit at least 60 receiving yards and led the Jaguars in receiving yards in 4 of his last 5 games. For perspective, Darren Waller has only 3 games with 60 or more yards all year. Since Week 5, Arnold ranks 3rd in targets per game (8.4), 4th in YPG (58.8), 5th in XFP/G (13.1), and 7th in FPG (10.9). It’s a middling to slightly below average matchup on paper.
Quarterback is legitimately hard this week.
Cam Newton may be the highest-owned QB in cash on DraftKings. But when asked if Newton would start this week, HC Matt Rhule answered suspiciously, “He will take the first snap.” Newton is not yet fully up to speed on the playbook, and remember there was a national storyline (or, at least, rumor) over Mac Jones having to teach Newton New England’s playbook this offseason. Both Newton and P.J. Walker took starters reps in practice this week, and Panthers beat reporter Steve Reed expects Walker to play some snaps this week. Of course, Newton only needs a dozen or so throws and a few goal-line carries to hit value, but I feel like all this uncertainty makes him too risky for cash.
Tua Tagovailoa ($5,500) is not without his own warts, dealing with a finger injury, but he is your best “cheap” QB play for cash. The Jets are giving up a league-high +4.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs over the last 5 weeks, and Tagovailoa is, shockingly, averaging 21.1 FPG across his four full starts (would rank 9th-most, above Matthew Stafford).
For FanDuel, all of Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, and Patrick Mahomes are going to be extremely highly owned. I think, with Amari Cooper now out, it’s between Allen and Mahomes for me. It feels like a coinflip, but (on my own lineups) I’ll prioritize Allen. Mahomes is a little tougher to trust after his recent string of down-games before the 406/5/0-explosion, and Allen’s matchup is a lot softer. Indianapolis ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+3.0), while Dallas ranks 9th-best (-1.2). Everything we said about him last week in high-total high-spread games remains just as true this week.
In tournaments, as always, get weird, get creative, have fun. The QB position is always more about the stack (and the leverage you’ll gain if that stack hits) than the individual QB-play itself. Think Ryan Tannehill goes nuclear against a dreadful Houston secondary? Play him, stacked with A.J. Brown. Vegas seems to agree with you. Think [email protected] breaks the slate? Afterall it does offer the 2nd-highest over/under of the slate. Why not play Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Darren Waller? Etc.
Similarly, you should look throughout this article for potential mini-stacks. We wrote up A.J. Brown and Brandin Cooks, who are playing each other this week, so why not consider that as a mini-stack?