I’m not sure about you but I’m anxious to put Week 4 behind me. Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, and Odell Beckham were among the players that I loved last week and did absolutely nothing. That’s going to happen some weeks in football but I’m more than ready to get to work in the NFL DFS Game by Game Breakdown Week 5 and get back on track!
QB – In theory, Mac Jones is sort of in play but I’m not sure how you could feel confident about it. He is coming off arguably his best fantasy game with two touchdown passes and over 250 yards passing and that couldn’t quite get him to 18 DK points. While that is over 3x return, it also doesn’t keep up with the quarterback scale. You can find players in the $6,000 range that can go over 25 DK. WHat’s wild is seeing Houston sitting in eighth in DVOA against the pass but bottom 12 in yards allowed. They have already allowed four rushing touchdowns but that’s not something that Jones can take advantage of. Jones is sixth in attempts but I’m not sure we can expect that to continue and even then, he’s 32nd in FPPD at just 0.32.
RB – Typically, Damien Harris is not going to be on our radars for DK because he has such a low receiving floor. He only has eight targets all season and that can be dicey on a PPR site. This game could be a strong exception since the Texans are heavy underdogs and have allowed the fifth-most rushing yards against backs so far this year and three touchdowns. Harris was averaging 15 attempts per game ahead of the Buccaneers game and we should learn to just not pay much attention to those for backs. Tampa’s run defense just doesn’t allow big games and teams are not running into the brick wall. The Texans are allowing 4.5 yards per carry so far and if Harris gets another 15+ carries, he has a good shot at a score (or two) and 80-100 rushing yards. I’m willing to pay $5,500 on DK for that potential even if Harris is a zero in the receiving game. I’m not sure if this game would be the script to try it, but it appeared that Brandon Bolden got the first shot at replacing James White. He played just 32% of the snaps (White played around 44%) and Bolden saw six targets (White was about 6.5) and Bolden is the minimum price. The White role has been valuable to Jones so as a GPP play, you can try it. I could also see this game being super low-scoring and played at a snail’s pace, limiting the need for Bolden.
Update – I was as excited as you can get about Harris but the Patriots will be missing four offensive lineman. I’m not playing a limited running back in that scenario unless you play a bunch of lineups. If anything, I may be more willing to take a flier on Bolden (and Meyers aces a step up as well for PPR sites). If the run game doesn’t do well, the short passing with Bolden and Meyers becomes more important. Both tight ends take a small step up as well.
WR – The only receiver we should be slightly interested in for a full slate is Jakobi Meyers, who is still on the hunt for his first touchdown since college. Even still, he’s playing at the fifth-highest slot rate in football and we love that for rookie signal-callers, along with an aDOT of just 8.9 yards. On a site like DK, he’s far more valuable with a full PPR scoring system and he can still be useful even without a score. He’ll mostly see Desmond King when he’s in the slot, which used to be an issue. King has fallen off however and through nine targets, he’s allowed a 109.5 passer rating and a 1.91 FPPT. With no other receiver earning more than a 14.5% target share, I won’t go further than Meyers.
TE – If we’re going to play a tight end, it seems like it has to be Hunter Henry over Jonnu Smith. I will grant you that Smith has five RZ targets as opposed to two for Henry, but Henry is playing over 73% of the snaps in this offense. The role seems to be expanding as we go with 11 of the 18 targets coming across the past two weeks. The Texans have scuffled against the position as well with three touchdowns allowed (tied for second-most) and sit in the bottom five in receptions and yardage. With Henry being under $4,000, he’s my preferred option out of the duo but both need a score to truly help your lineup.
D/ST – In a vacuum, it’s pretty clear that the Patriots defense would be the best play on the slate. Houston has allowed a pressure rate of almost 29%, has seven turnovers, is 28th in points per game, and the Patriots have five takeaways with 10 sacks. Bill Belichick is going to eat this offense for breakfast. Having said all of that, it’s a very rare week where I want to shell out $4,900 for defense so they likely do not make my build. Even if we get strong running back value on the slate, I’d just as soon spend the savings elsewhere.
Cash Plays – Meyers, Henry
GPP Plays – Jones, Harris, Bolden, Smith, D/ST
QB – Davis Mills scored negative DK points last week and faces one of the best coaches in football history with a sterling track record against rookie quarterbacks. Moving on.
RB – I will continue to not touch this three-headed monster of Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and Phillip Lindsay. Ingram has had just 24 carries since 28 in Week 1, Johnson leads in targets but only has 10 total, and no player has played over 35% of the snaps. That’s just not helpful on an offense that is barely functioning with w quarterback that may not be ready for NFL action and has to go against Bill Belichick in New England.
WR – This side is short and sweet as well because normally, we’d just say play Brandin Cooks and move on. He owns a 56.9% share of the air yards in the offense and has a 37.1% target share. However, I fully expect the Patriots to bracket him relentlessly since they always try and take out the opposing team’s number one option. They’re going to force Mills to come off his primary read and sort the field, which isn’t likely to end well. I won’t have a single Texan in any lineup this week and that’s an easy “stand” to make.
TE – Both Pharaoh Brown and Jordan Akins have a target share under 10%, Akins has two RZ targets, and they both play over 56% of the snaps. When you’re tied to one of the worst quarterbacks on the slate, there’s no real reason to tread this low.
D/ST – The Texans have generated six takeaways thus far and do draw a rookie quarterback themselves but it’s still hard to back them. They only blitz about 15% of the time and have one of the lowest pressure rates in the league hovering around 16.5%. Mac Jones has had some rookie moments to be sure but this is still a mismatch and I believe we can do better even in the punt territory.
Cash Plays – None
GPP Plays –None
QB – If you’re playing Jared Goff, you’re banking on the Minnesota secondary to continue being not that great and him needing to sling it in the second half of the game. Goff is fifth in attempts and that’s a good thing because he only has seven touchdowns and is 23rd in FPPD. What does scare me is the Vikings can get pressure and Goff is 28th in pressured completion rate but he counters that with the third-highest catchable pass rate at 80.7%. He does stand out for his salary and is a large reason why I wouldn’t want to go with Mac Jones. The script here for Goff is much more conducive for him to eat up some garbage time points and he is averaging 20 DK points. You’d be happy with that at the salary and the ceiling has been above 30 DK this season. Minnesota is only 15th in DVOA against the pass and is in the bottom 12 in passing yards allowed. They’d be even lower if Baker Mayfield could hit a receiver.
RB – Coach Dan Quinn said during the week that D’Andre Swift would be getting more work this week, so naturally Jamaal Williams had a 6-1 carry lead after one quarter of play last week. Williams also had a 14-12 lead in touches and to be fair, he ground out some good yardage on the ground but I just don’t get this split. You can still safely play Swift over Williams in GPP since Swift is co-leading this team in targets and is second in targets across the NFL. Really, he would have a good shot at the lead if not for a 19 target game from Najee Harris but I digress. The matchup is a little better as well with the Vikings allowing the fourth-most rushing yards and 20 receptions. I feel like if you play a couple of lineups per week, Swift is always in play at this price point since he has shown 4x ceiling and his defense is going to allow points. Minnesota has a much higher functioning offense than the Bears did last week and the Lions need to get this kid the ball to keep up.
Update – The Lions could be without three offensive lineman as well, so keep an eye on that. I don’t think it has a super strong effect on Swift since we’re playing him more for passing value, but it’s still not ideal.
WR – The matchup is great for both Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus but neither has a target share over 14.1% this year and that is thin. Granted, you’re not paying up for them and we know for sure the Vikings corners can be had. Patrick Peterson would see more of Cephus and has gotten scorched for a 13.9 YPR and a 1.79 FPPT. The other side of the field features Bashaud Breeland and his 2.97 FPPT up against Raymond when he’s not in the slot about 30% of the time. Raymond has a few more targets but these two are similar with an aDOT within 0.2 yards and they both have three RZ targets. Cephus does lead in EZ targets and is cheaper, so that gives a slight edge but neither is a focal point in the passing game to this point.
Update – I overlooked Amon-Ra St. Brown in the first run of the article. I apologize but he saw eight targets last week and produced 6/70. The Lions spent draft capital on him and they need a receiver to start being dependable in this corps. I would stop short of saying dependable yet, but it’s a good step in the right direction and they could be without a major target in this offense.
TE – It was another slow week for T.J. Hockenson with under 10 DK points but he is still tied with Swift in overall targets and RZ targets on this Lions offense. Only Darren Waller of the Raiders has more targets than Hock at the position so when we see him under $6,000, he is still very much in play. I have a difficult time seeing the Detroit defense slowing down the Vikings offense so we should expect a lot of passing from the Lions. Hockenson will be front and center and the Vikes have allowed the eighth-most yards in football to the position. That’s a little bit of a surprise with their personnel but that’s where we are four weeks in. Hock is a strong run-back option if you’re playing a Vikings stack this week like I have a strong interest in doing.
Update – This felt like it sprung up out of nowhere. Hockenson is now potentially going to miss this game. He says he has a “chance” to play and that’s not exactly inspiring. If he’s out, I’d be more inclined to play Cephus or Raymond.
D/ST – The Lions were a very popular punt last week but the Vikings have only turned the ball over twice thus far and have allowed a pressure rate of about 27%. They’ve also only allowed seven sacks through four weeks while the Lions continue to lose key elements to the defense, this week being pass rusher Romeo Okwara. I wouldn’t go here myself.
Cash Plays – Swift, Hockenson
GPP Plays – St. Brown, Cephus, Raymond, Goff
QB – Kirk Cousins got a garbage game out of the way and we can safely go right back after him against one of the most vulnerable defenses in football. Detroit is 30th in DVOA against the pass and don’t let the 1,070 yards allowed fool you. Detroit has faced the fewest appeasing attempts so far this year at just 101 and have already surrendered seven touchdowns. Despite the dud last week, Cousins is eighth in attempts, fifth in touchdown passes, 10th in yardage, and 17th in FPPD. The red “6th” in the matchup column is very misleading and I will be happy to play Cousins this week for certain.
RB – We’ll need to talk during the week about this play. The cliff notes version is if Dalvin Cook is healthy and ready to roll, this is a total smash spot and I love him. If he’s out and Alexander Mattison is playing while Cook sits, this is a total smash spot and I love him. Cook didn’t play over 50% of the snaps last week and may have aggravated his ankle injury. If that’s the case, Mattison is a stone-cold lock in cash games and would honestly be hard to fade in GPP as well. Mattison went down in salary to just $5,500 despite sitting at $6,000 against the Seahawks and the slate releasing well after Cook may have been banged up. Let’s revisit but the Lions have given up the most touchdowns to running backs at nine total and over 540 scrimmage yards in addition to being ranked 26th in DVOA against the rush.
Update – Cook has openly said he’s not 100% and only logged one limited practice this week. If he’s out, Mattison is a lock but if he plays…it gets difficult. I would just play Henry in cash and move on. Cook would be GPP only for me with the chance of re-injury.
WR – Justin Jefferson has been very solid through the season already and has a game of 29 DK under his belt and he really seems primed to do that again this week. He has a 42.8% share of the air yards and leads the team in targets at 37 which is 12th in the NFL. With the Lions being so short on corners, Amani Oruwariye is likely to be tasked with slowing him down and so far in 15 targets, he’s allowed a 2.27 FPPT and a 130.4 passer rating. He is the second-most expensive receiver on the slate but is potentially my favorite spend-up option.
If you can’t fit Jefferson, it’s not a bad thing to settle for Adam Thielen although you’re likely to be much more dependent on the touchdowns there. He’s only seven PPR points behind JJ on the year despite having fewer receptions and yards because he’s scored one more touchdown. The targets are basically the same as well, Thielen just doesn’t get the same downfield looks with an 8.4 aDOT. Jefferson is clearly the alpha but I’d be happy to play either player in my lineup this week. Detroit is down to starting their third and fourth corners on the season.
TE – Tyler Conklin continues to get significant burn in this offense with 76% of the snaps and a 14.4% target share, including a 20% share of the RZ targets. He’s doing this while not being in the top 10 in routes run and not playing hardly any in the slot, which is a compliment to him. With players like Jefferson, Cook, and Thielen on this side, Conklin is never going to be a popular option. He does represent a way to get different with a Vikings stack and if he scores, you’re likely to be pretty happy. Detroit is also in the bottom 10 in yards allowed so there’s a path for Conk to hit at this salary.
D/ST – Minnesota represents one of the more stable options on the slate in my eyes. They aren’t crazy expensive at just $3,000 and they are tied for the third-most sacks so far with a 27.9% pressure rate. That’s with playing blitz only 21.1% of the time and even with a significant weakness in the secondary, it’s questionable if Detroit can take advantage. The two takeaways are not the most appealing stat ever but the price is solid and Goff has been sacked 10 times.
Cash Plays – Jefferson, Mattison if no Cook, Cousins, D/ST
GPP Plays – Cook if active, Thielen, Conklin
QB – I’m not a Taysom Hill fan at all, but if you’re playing Jameis Winston to throw the ball 86 times through four games, there isn’t much point. Hill would at least run and add another dimension to the offense if they’re going to play so conservatively. Jameis is fifth in FPPD but it honestly doesn’t matter when you’re not dropping back ad you sit 29th in yards, 30th in air yards, and under 20th in yards and air yards per attempt. Washington sits 29th against the pass in DVOA but Winston is nothing more than a cheap GPP flier if you’re playing a bunch of lineups. I wish I had more confidence since they also are fifth-word in yards allowed and tied for second in touchdowns allowed.
RB – *Sigh* I really wish I felt more confident in playing Alvin Kamara right now. This is one of the best backs in the entire league but he has 14 targets on the season. What are we doing?? He’s producing on the ground with over 74 yards rushing per game and he ran for 120 yards last week, which is great! He also didn’t score so you only got 15 DK points and at this salary, that really winds up hurting you more than anything else. While Washington has not been anything resembling the defense we thought, they have only allowed 327 yards so far on the ground but they are in the bottom 12 in DVOA. With the severe lack of targets, Kamara is much riskier at this point until we see something change.
WR – Would I love to try and play a receiver here to take advantage of Washington’s secondary scuffling in the first four weeks? Yes, for sure. Then I look at the Saints receiving corps and realize that Deonte Harris leads with 15 targets, good for *checks notes*… 72nd in the NFL. That’s a Big Yikes and Marquez Callaway is sitting at 13. There is simply not any reliable volume to this passing offense right now and there are no signs of it changing. You have to have efficiency or some type of volume when chasing receiver plays and at these price points, I’ll play the Detroit receivers ahead of Harris or Callaway. I would side with Harris out of the two, but wouldn’t feel good about it. You’re hoping he breaks a long touchdown like Week 1 to pay off in any tangible way.
TE – I will continue to not even look at Juwan Johnson, despite a touchdown last week. He has exactly 10 targets through four games and you can’t expect success with that amount of work. He’s run 38 routes on the season, 48th among tight ends. Do we need to say much more?
D/ST – It was a letdown if you played the Saints last week as they didn’t do very much but they still remain a strong defense overall. The surprise is they have only registered six sacks but they mitigate that with eight takeaways already. With Washington only allowing four sacks on the year, this may not be the best matchup for New Orleans. You’re not wanting to rely on two turnovers per game with a pressure rate of just 23%. I would rather just play the Vikings.
Cash Plays – None
GPP Plays – D/ST, Harris
QB – I’m quite surprised to see Taylor Heinicke sitting sixth in FPPD after Week 4, but he’s playing fairly well. He’s definitely running to the good side of variance because he’s thrown 14 interceptable passes so far but he’s 12th in yards per attempt and has thrown eight touchdowns. His weapons are changing in this game but I don’t think that’s a total death sentence. Heinicke sits first in pressured completion rate with a 66.7% rate so while the Saints are sixth in DVOA against the pass, they can be had. I’m not making Heinicke a priority play by any stretch but he is under $6,000 and could get very overlooked.
RB – It really seems like J.D. McKissic is taking a ton of targets away from Antonio Gibson but it’s only a 14-13 advantage for the former. However, it seems that the ceiling for Gibson’s touches is right about 15-18 touches and that’s fine, but you’re going to wish it was more. Gibson hasn’t hit 15 attempts since Week 1 and has a combined five receptions across the last three weeks. Now he walks into a very tough matchup with the Saints who have only allowed 203 yards rushing with two scores and rank inside the top-five in DVOA against the run. They are a little vulnerable through the air with 188 yards allowed (13th most) but playing McKissic is not the most fun proposition with a floor of around 3-5 touches. With the Saints not being a high-end offense at this juncture, Washington may not be in passing mode as much as we would think.
Update – Gibson is playing with a stress fracture in his shin, which frankly sounds pretty awful. I’m not sure it changes anything, but you do wonder if that’s been part of the reason he’s not getting a ton of touches.
WR – Terry McLaurin is a fully grown man and continues to walk through any matchup put in front of him with a backup quarterback. He’s inside the top 10 in points per game, air yards share, yards, and touchdowns so far. He’s also 11th in yards per route and receptions so even though Marshon Lattimore waits on the other side, I’m not scared. Heinicke is throwing the ball regardless of anything else happening and Lattimore hasn’t been a total shutdown corner with a 1.67 FPPT and a 95.5 passer rating.
I’m still very interested in Curtis Samuel. Washington was cautious with him to no shock to anyone as he only ran 16 routes. The good news is he drew four targets on 16 routes and now the Football Team will be without their starting tight end. He was in the slot about 32% of the time so he’ll be moving around and a 25% target rate is nothing to be sorry about. Knowing that Samuel is still minimum priced, he doesn’t need a lot to hit and we can only expect the workload to increase with a game under his belt and another week of practice.
Update – Samuel only logged one limited practice this week, so I would back off taking a shot at Samuel.
TE – With the probable loss of Logan Thomas for this week, Ricky Seals-Jones is the only tight end on the Washington roster to catch a pass this season. He played 93% of the snaps but only saw four targets and that could decrease since Samuel should play more snaps in this upcoming week. As a tone minimum punt, he could make other things fir in the lineup but you have to understand under five DK points is the more likely outcome. New Orleans has only allowed 180 yards and no scores to the position as well, adding a layer of difficulty for Seals-Jones.
Update – Thomas is indeed out.
D/ST – They have been really poor against the expectations but the price is still very eye-opening. They have a 27% pressure rate and run a blitz around 30% of the time. The takeaways and sacks have not been there with just two and seven respectively and that’s been the surprise. Winston has a 28% pressure rate with just seven sacks and the team has just three turnovers. However, at this salary, I have to admit some interest in Washington. New Orleans is a far cry from the explosive offense we’ve known for so long.
Cash Plays – McLaurin
GPP Plays – Gibson, McKissic, Heinicke, Seals-Jones
QB – There are holes back end of the Tampa defense but I’m not sure I want to go after Jacoby Brissett here. He’s 29th in FPPD and only has two passing touchdowns across 119 attempts thus far. Now, the Bucs are tied for the most touchdown passes allowed, they are 31st in yards allowed and are 21st in DVOA against the pass. If Miami is smart, they’re just going to throw a ton because the run game is so unlikely to work. You could twist my arm into it but I remain slightly unconvinced that he has a worthwhile ceiling.
RB – Can I just say “pass” and move on like a game show? No? Alright, fine. We’ve talked all year about not being able to run on Tampa and Miami has given us no reason to think they can buck the trend. Myles Gaskin is not even at 50% of the snaps anymore, nor is he getting RZ rushes with just one on the entire season. Malcolm Brown has seven attempts in the RZ and Gaskin only having a 10% share of the passing game isn’t enough to get me to bite at his price. In this matchup, I would greatly rather finding the $400 to play Harris from New England and be perfectly satisfied with that process.
WR – With the news that Will Fuller is back to the IR with a finger injury, we get a little more safety in both Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker. We also know that the Tampa secondary is in tatters with Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis both missing, so this is clearly the Achilles heel for the defense. I’m still a little annoyed that Waddle is just the low aDOT player at 4.6 since he’s so shifty in the open field and has the speed that he does, but it is what it is at this point. He’s also only one target off the team lead so I can’t really argue too hard and he’s tied for the lead in RZ targets. Waddle could face Dee Delaney at this point who was undrafted in 2018. Parker could face Richard Sherman for some of the game and it’s not a harsh criticism since Sherman hasn’t played all year but he looked terrible Sunday night. Perhaps a full week gets him more up to speed but Miami is going to have to pass a lot and both receivers are well in play. Waddle is a player that is getting talked about for more chances to field punts and he’s going to have a breakout game sooner or later.
TE – Mike Gesicki continues to be super affordable and also the usage continues to climb. He’s sixth in routes run, second in slot snaps, and seventh in target share among tight ends. On top of that, he’s third in air yards and second in air yards share, pointing at the type of role he has in the Miami offense these past couple of weeks. Gesicki has also skyrocketed to sixth in receptions and third in both completed and unrealized air yards. With the Buccaneers defense continuing to be elite against the run, he should have plenty of opportunities this week with the Dolphins needing to take to the air to move the sticks. All the metrics support Gesicki continuing to be a weapon, even with other receiving options. The Bucs have allowed three scores and the second-most receptions against the position as well.
D/ST – I can’t really build the case here. I do get that the Dolphins have a pair of strong corners and in theory, could slow down the passing game, but I don’t expect Tampa to have two poor games in a row offensively. The Dolphins are getting a pressure rate approaching 26% but they only have seven sacks on the season and six takeaways. I don’t see a reason to challenge the Bucs offense.
Cash Plays – Waddle, Gesicki
GPP Plays – Parker, Brissett
QB – I guess age is catching up with Tom Brady since he didn’t throw a single touchdown pass in the last game. Of course, he would have had one had receivers not dropped at least one but I digress. Miami is 12th against the pass in DVOA and has only allowed seven touchdowns so far. Brady still leads in RZ attempts, is second in yards, first in air yards, and 16th in FPPD. When you lead in attempts, the FPPD isn’t as important and we all know that If you’d like to play Brady, you do so. What I may do is instead of trying to get the receiver right to pair with him is just to play the next man we’re going to talk about with added reception upside if Gio Bernard remains out.
RB – It’s not exactly the most fun play on the slate, but Leonard Fournette really is likely too cheap given the share of the Tampa backfield he controls. He’s the clear option ahead of Ronald Jones at basically every level, the touchdown for Ronald Jones notwithstanding. Jones only had six touches while Fournette hogged 23 touches altogether and the (likely) continued absence of Gronk will help keep those targets secure. He has been game-script dependent with only seven touches when they got beat by the Rams but he’s had 15 in Weeks 2 and 4. A matchup with the Dolphins would certainly project to be a winning script through most of it and while we don’t love the fact that he only has seven RZ attempts, Miami has allowed the third-most rushing yards and over 650 scrimmage yards thus far. I think we can feel safe with 15 total touches for Fournette and the price doesn’t reflect being the lead back in one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Update – Gio is questionable and trending towards playing which could take a small amount of stability away from Fournette. That does NOT mean I don’t really like him this week. He is still way, way too cheap.
WR – Taking a stab at which receiver has the best game is always going to be tough with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown all in the mix. AB is difficult to gauge especially since last week he played all of 51% of the snaps but had a whooping 11 targets. He’s playing very little in the slot and has a 25.6% target rate and the best guess would leave AB facing Byron Jones who has only allowed a 1.31 FPPT. Evan would primarily face Xavien Howard and despite being sixth in air yards, Evans has shown us he can disappear with the best of them. Howard has allowed a 1.74 FPPT and a 103.7 passer rating so he’s not been elite, but this is not an easy spot for Evans. The answer could just be Godwin since he plays almost every snap and runs the most out of the slot. He’s number one in routes run and 15th in yards and will face off against Nik Needham. I do want a piece of this offense but I would not play any receiver in cash unless they are projected to be overwhelming chalk.
TE – If you’re going this route while Rob Gronkowski is still on the mend, Cameron Brate almost has to be your guy. He and O.J. Howard both played over 60% of the snaps but Brate was targeted six times to just one for Howard. That’s not exactly new either because Brate had a 6-2 lead in targets even with Gronk active so we just saw a continuation. Brate is a fine option and if you believe the boundary receivers are a bit more muted in this spot, he makes sense to stack with Godwin and take the path of least resistance when you stack with Brady.
D/ST – If I’m in this range (and I won’t be), I’d just play the Patriots unit. Tampa has some injuries throughout their secondary that are helping drag down the performance a bit but they have six takeaways and seven sacks. They also run a blitz around 31% which is the fifth-highest in the league, which should lead to a couple of mistakes from the Miami offense. It’s just too hefty a price tag to be that interested.
Cash Plays – Brady, Fournette
GPP Plays – Godwin, Brown, Evans, Brate
QB – I’m not particularly buying that the Bengals are going to stick at 11th in DVOA against the pass all year, so Aaron Rodgers has the green light and pretty much always does. It’s a bit crazy to see him just 21st in attempts on the season but with the injuries on defense, he could be in line for more work coming up. I will admit, some of his metrics do not look all that great. He is just 18th in yards per attempt, 26th in passing yards, and only 25th in completed air yards. The RZ work helps with the seventh-most attempts but the first four weeks have been slightly underwhelming from a passing perspective. He hasn’t passed 26.8 DK points yet and even then, that took four touchdown passes. If it were a player other than Rodgers, we’d be skeptical of the salary.
RB – This isn’t a slight on him but I feel like I almost never get Aaron Jones correct. He’s just one of those guys that I don’t get along with but that’s just been my luck. I wouldn’t get too worked up about the split between Jones and A.J. Dillon last week. That game was pretty much out of reach by the third quarter (more on that later) so there was no real reason to load up Jones with a ton of work. Even then, he still had 18 total touches and he’s fourth in RZ attempts and he has six RZ targets (tied for the league lead) on top of that. He’s scored five times and while it’s a hair frustrating that four of them came in just one game, it’s hard to find many other players with his touchdown equity from week to week. The Bengals started to show one vulnerability on the ground last week and the Packers offense is far more advanced than the Jaguars. I give the Bengals credit for being a top 10 DVOA defense against the run, but that means very little when it comes to an elite option like Jones.
WR – I’m annoyed that last week I had such large heart eyes for Davante Adams that I totally ignored Randall Cobb. Now, Adams got his normal 11 targets for over 31% of the share which is typically going to work out just like it always does. However, Cobb played 45% of the snaps which was the third most among receivers. Allen Lazard is just out there running cardio while Cobb saw six targets. He’s been running out of the slot over 70% of the time and that means he’s going to face Mike Hilton who has allowed an 82.6% catch rate and a 1.81 FPPT. I certainly wouldn’t expect him to replicate two scores but he is cheap for a larger role in the offense with no Marquez Valdes-Scantling. After Adams disappointed a hefty part of the field, he could be a strong spend-up option because no defense can truly contain him. It was just one of those games last week.
TE – Robert Tonyan is simply not playable at this price tag for me. It was kind of nice to see him get seven targets in Week 4 after only seeing a combined eight during the first three weeks. However, he is strongly touchdown or nothing and he’s over $4,300. Even to be a contrarian, I don’t think there’s a strong case to be made that suddenly Tonyan is a stronger play than Gesicki for $100 more. Tonyan is 18th in routes and about the only path is he’ll see more targets with MVS out of the lineup. Even then, Marcedes Lewis had a higher aDOT this past week even on two targets so I’m just playing Gesicki and getting all those metrics as opposed to hoping Tonyan scores.
D/ST – No, thank you. Not only have they missed linebacker Z’Darius Smith all year, but now they will be without elite CB Jaire Alexander. That’s not ideal against a passing game that appears to be finding their footing and on the road. As it stands, Green Bay is in the bottom half of the league in pressure rate and Cincy has only allowed a 21.7% pressure rate so far.
Cash Plays – Adams, Jones
GPP Plays – Rodgers, Cobb
QB – Joe Burrow may be heating up with his best fantasy game of the year last week and the hope for fantasy is this game just goes up and down. Burrow has yet to throw more than 32 times in a game, which is…surprising, to say the least. In those attempts, he is fourth in yards per attempt and 12th in FPPD so if he starts to sling it more, lookout. Burrow is top 10 in deep-ball completion rate, pressured completion rate, and clean pocket completion rate so really the only metric missing right now is the volume. The Packers offense is more than capable of forcing a ceiling game from Burrow and I am very interested, especially if he gets one of his receivers back from injury.
RB – People who had Joe Mixon on their teams last year are having flashbacks to Mixon being absent for most of the season. Coach Zac Taylor seems to think it’s day-to-day but we’ll see about that. If Mixon suits up, he appears to be fairly cheap since he is behind only Derrick Henry in carries through four weeks and the Packers ranked 25th in DVOA against the run. There is a small issue of Mixon only having nine targets through the season but he’s also barely over $6,000 on DK. If Mixon doesn’t make it for this game, Samaje Perine would appear to be the next man up as he played 28% of the snaps last week and had four touches. At the stone minimum, it would be hard not to make him a building block in cash because he would be borderline locked into 12-15 touches. That’s all we could ask for and the ceiling would be over 15 DK points.
Update – It certainly appears that Mixon is going to be out but keep in mind Chris Evans. The Bengals staff says it will be a committee so I would be hesitant to go all in on Perine this week, even at the salary. I would expect Evans to be active in the passing game a little bit this week.
WR – We’ll have to circle back later in the week with the stats of Tee Higgins (who is a gift at $5,000 if healthy). If he makes it back, Cincinnati could have their full receiving trio back in action just in time to pick on a secondary that is likely to miss Jaire Alexander. While the volume hasn’t been there for the passing game yet, Rodgers and the Packers offense could force the issue here. If Higgins is out, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase become even more priority plays as no receiver is over $5,800. Just remember that when Higgins played in Week 1 and 2, he led the team with 15 targets while Boyd had 13 and Chase had 11. Higgins would be very interesting in all formats if he’s active.
TE – Whispers – I will not buy the C.J. Uzomah game, I will not buy the C.J. Uzomah game! He went nuts on Thursday night and I went back because I assumed I missed the signals that he was playing a larger role in the passing game with Higgins out. While he played plenty of snaps at 77%, he had one target in Week 3 and five combined in the first three games. We can safely say that his six targets on Thursday were the outlier to his season at this point. The 10.5% target share is indicative of his small role and he’s not in the top 12 in routes run.
D/ST – As long as the Packers are relatively healthy, I will not challenge Aaron Rodgers and company.
Cash Plays – Higgins, Burrow
GPP Plays – Chase, Perine, Boyd, Evans
QB – I will have no Drew Lock on this slate if he winds up being the starter. Pittsburgh might be 23rd in DVOA against the pass but Lock is just not a good quarterback and his salary saving won’t matter if he scores around 12 DK points. If Teddy Bridgewater makes it back, we can discuss it because that is a much better option.
Update – I’m not playing him but Bridgewater making it back for this game raises all the pass catchers in the offense. I’m much more willing to play a Noah Fant, for instance.
RB – The split continues with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, to the point where it was legitimately 50/50 last week. Just as we discussed last week, they are close to not playable for the most part because you’d have to pick the right guy to break a long play or score. Williams has only hit double-digit DK points once and he scored and MG3 has done it twice with scores in each game. With Pittsburgh still being stingy on the ground with only 335 yards allowed and sixth in DVOA against the run, it’s hard to support either player. I’m still of the belief that Williams will have a breakout game at some point while he’s splitting with Gordon but predicting it is difficult. The RZ attempts are 11-8 for MG3 and the targets are 11-9 for Gordon so he has a slight edge in usage. Talent should win out at some point though for Williams even if we don’t know exactly when (and it may not be this year, in honesty).
WR – We can look at Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick after a down game for the Broncos offense all around. Sutton especially has an appealing air yards share of almost 40% and even last week, it was 43% even if things didn’t quite connect. Perhaps his largest issue is the fact he has not had a good fantasy game outside of the Jacksonville game and that’s easier to write off as a fluke given opponent. I will point out that Joe Haden has a speed disadvantage and has allowed a 2.25 FPPT and a 13.6 YPR so this could be a quiet spot for Sutton to get right. For Patrick, he’ll be on the opposite side of Haden through most of the game and has a target share of 18% over the past two weeks, just two off the team lead in that time. He’s still fine but as with all of the other offensive pieces, I want Bridgewater in before taking the leap.
TE – I won’t tell you not to play Noah Fant with how many injuries the skill players from Denver have suffered but he won’t be high on my list at this salary. He’s only ninth in routes, which is a surprise to me and his aDOT is 31st among tight ends, not ideal. What he does have going for him is he’s sixth in receptions and second in RZ targets, and that’s what you’re playing him for. I still feel like he’s a hair expensive but Fant is a mountain of the man and could be an issue for the Steelers linebackers. He is only one target off the lead for the Broncos but could be more of a cash play than a ceiling play.
D/ST – The Broncos join the ranks of the Patriots and Bucs in that I LOVE the potential, but can’t pay that much. Denver has a pressure rate over 27% and 11 sacks while Pittsburgh has allowed 10 sacks and has proven that their offense is not functional at the NFL level. Until the Steelers make a quarterback change, the opposing defense is always in play.
Cash Plays – Fant
GPP Plays – Sutton, Patrick
QB – Everyone knows how I feel about Ben Roethlisberger at this point and he has a hip injury (insert the finger quotes) now on top of it. Denver is seventh in DVOA, has allowed the sixth-fewest yards, and has more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed. You can’t even make the argument it’s a strong matchup.
RB – Somehow, someway, Najee Harris continues to produce for fantasy with at least 19 DK points in three straight games. A large part of that is because he is co-leading the Steelers with a 20.4% target share and his 35 targets lead all running backs. While his 19 target game certainly skews things, he is going to continue to get a boatload because his quarterback is done. He can’t make NFL-level throws at all and certainly not with consistency so Harris will have to be a large part of the offense. Denver represents a tough spot on paper since they have allowed just 247 scrimmage yards to backs and only one score. The DVOA backs it up as well as they sit in the top 10 and they almost held the Ravens under 100 rushing yards. hey will be on the road but they also should be able to fully commit to stopping the run and let their secondary handle the receivers in the offense.
WR – With such awful quarterback play, the only player I’ll entertain is Diontae Johnson. He is a target magnet and even with questions about everything else, we can rely on this –
Diontae Johnson targets in non-injury impacted games with Big Ben since Week 1, 2020:10, 13, 15, 10, 11, 16, 13, 12, 7, 13, 14, 16, 10, 12, 13— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 6, 2021
Diontae Johnson targets in non-injury impacted games with Big Ben since Week 1, 2020:10, 13, 15, 10, 11, 16, 13, 12, 7, 13, 14, 16, 10, 12, 13
He is somehow the WR8 in points per game this season, sits 16th in receptions, and seventh in target rate. Patrick Surtain has played pretty well with a 1.49 FPP and 57.7% completion rate allowed so far but Johnson is simply always open. I don’t think he’s a vital need nor do I believe this one to be a strong game stack but I don’t hate him as a one-off or mini-stack with a single Bronco. JuJu Smith-Schuster is currently the WR58 and Chase Claypool needed both Johnson and JuJu to miss time to be relevant.
TE – An unappealing timeshare with two tight ends and a broken quarterback? Sounds terrible, to be honest. Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth have split snaps almost equally and even when the rookie gets an edge like last week’s 55%, he sees just one target. I’d just as soon play Seals-Jones from Washington.
D/ST – This play will be a lot more appealing if Teddy Bridgewater can’t clear concussion protocol because Drew Lock just hasn’t proven to be very good. Pittsburgh is fifth in pressure rate even though their blitz rate has come down to just 16.1%. They have only generated three takeaways and that has been an issue, along with ranking 23rd in total DVOA. This will be dependent on the Broncos situation more than anything else.
GPP Plays – Najee, Johnson
QB – Carolina is a tough matchup as they sit fifth in DVOA against the pass and have allowed the second-fewest yards passing but with Jalen Hurts, that isn’t a deal-breaker. Hurts is 12th in attempts, ninth in yards, ninth in FPPD, ninth in play-action completion rate, and 12th in pressured completion rate. He does still have some struggles with just a 67.6% catchable pass rate but at least for fantasy, the rushing yards mitigate every flaw. He is second in carries, second in rushing yards, and averages over 56 rushing yards per game. Constant pressure from Carolina could lead to extra scrambles for Hurts and I will never have a problem playing a rushing quarterback.
RB – I tried to get Miles Sanders right last week and that certainly did not happen with just 10 touches for 47 yards while Kenneth Gainwell had nine touches and turned that into 89 scrimmage yards and a score. While Gainwell is still only playing about 35% of the snaps, he’s carving out a meaningful role in the offense. Sanders has the easy edge in carries at 34-19 but Gainwell is tied for second on the Eagles in targets at 20. Gainwell also holds a 6-2 edge in RZ targets and only trails by two in RZ rushing attempts. I’m not exactly a huge fan of either, but for an $800 savings in GPP, you could argue that Gainwell is the better play. The receiving work makes it interesting but by no means is he a must-play.
WR – We started to see the ceiling for Devonta Smith last week with 7/122 and he is still under $6,000 for this slate. Now, the matchup isn’t nearly as good as it was last week as the Panthers have given up under 500 yards passing against receivers. They have also faced the second-fewest attempts to the position which is noteworthy and they have allowed five touchdowns. Smith is ninth in air yards and fourth in unrealized air yards early on as well. Smith easily leads the Eagles with a 22.6% target share and could face off with Donte Jackson or C.J. Henderson. Both players are over a 1.80 FPPT and honestly, Smith is already so smooth in his routes that he’s a difficult cover.
Jalen Reagor is still carrying a 14% target share and is capable of breaking a big play, especially if he gets Henderson who is still acclimating to his new team. Both Reagor and Quez Watkins can make things work with one play but also have a floor of zero with the other options involved in the offense.
TE – It’s still a little weird to see Dallas Goedert trail Zach Ertz in targets at 19-16, but that’s how things have gone so far in this offense. Ertz also has the advantage in routes run (only by seven but it still counts), RZ targets by one, and EZ targets by one. With that being said, the salary difference feels a tad extreme. I grant you that Goedert has cleared at least 40 yards in three of four games and has two scores but Ertz has been over 33 yards in three of four and is only one touchdown behind. The Panthers have been middle of the pack against the position so I don’t feel a need outside of maybe part of a game stack, but Ertz at his salary would still be my choice.
D/ST – Philly is just 24th in DVOA and only has eight sacks on the season. They also only have two takeaways and their blitz rate is way down as well. They are of the slightest interest if only because they’re super cheap but I’m not sure if there is a ton of upside, especially if Carolina is healthier this week.
Cash Plays – Hurts, Smith
GPP Plays – Ertz, Gainwell, Goedert, Sanders, Reagor
QB – We’re not breaking new ground to say that Sam Darnold isn’t going to lead the league in rushing touchdowns for much longer but he’s also sixth in yards, 11th in yards per attempt, and 11th in FPPD. Darnold is far from perfect but remains fifth in pressured completion rate at 57.9%, a nice step up for him. Philly is down to 22nd in DVOA against the pass and has only forced one interception. The small turnover concerns that can creep in for Darnold seem to be muted in this one. He may not be my favorite target of the slate, but he remains a fine option.
RB – It would be hard to ignore Christian McCaffrey at $8,700 against a team that has allowed the most rushing yards to backs this year at 509 and 24 receptions as well, injury concerns or not. I mean….when do you ever get CMC under $9,000 and in a cupcake matchup based on our seasonal data? He was in full pads Wednesday and Philly is 28th in DVOA. We’ll check back in later in the week but if CMC is ready to rock, this isn’t a question in my eyes. It really is that easy.
Update – CMC is doubtful, which isn’t surprising even if it is a bummer. My view is Chubba Hubbard is viable, but keep an eye on Rodney Smith. He was brought off the practice squad and they used him in the passing game with five targets while playing 37% of the snaps. Hubbard played just 47% so if Smith is back on the squad, I’d pass on both.
WR – If CMC is back, that would make it more difficult to go after Robby Anderson again although we got the usage that we wanted last week. He had double-digit targets and an air yards share of over 40%, which will typically pay off. One player we don’t have concerns about is D.J. Moore, who has just been incredible so far. The ascension into the elite has been super fun to watch and he’s only 10th in routes, 10th in air yards, and 14th in yards per route. He’s the WR4 because he has the second-most receptions, fourth-most yards, three touchdowns, and the eighth-highest target share. I’m sure he will draw Darius Slay and Slay is playing well with a 1.43 FPPT and 57.9% catch rate. Trevon Diggs was playing well going into Week 4 and Moore still totally smashed, I expect no different here. Darnold absolutely loves him and only six players have more targets than Moore.
TE – The Tommy Tremble Gambit did not pan out last week with a resounding zero points. Ian Thomas had three targets but that was in a super negative game script and we’re better off leaving these players alone this week.
D/ST – Carolina has been knocked down to fourth in total DVOA but they rank first in pressure rate, first in blitz rate, and second in sacks. What’s interesting is the pressure rate could wind up backfiring. Hurts has only been sacked eight times and leads the league in scramble plays. That could send him flying out of the pocket often in this game so I would probably pass on the Panthers defense in this spot.
Cash Games – Moore
GPP Plays – Darnold, Anderson, Chubba if Smith is not elevated
QB – Let’s regroup on this one when we have an update on health. If the Tennessee offense is full steam, there’s little reason to not be interested in Ryan Tannehill. If he doesn’t have his receivers, it would be pretty easy to pass on him and go just about anyone else.
Update – He gets one receiver back which is plenty for this dreadful defense he’s taking on. He’s a play in any format in my opinion but you don’t need to go there for cash.
RB – Derrick Henry didn’t disappoint last week with 177 total yards and a score for almost 30 DK points. The salary is deserving at this point with the most carries in the NFL and 14 receptions through four games with a total of four touchdowns. After a dud in Week 1, Henry has been above 22 DK in the rest of the season and it’s hard to project Jacksonville being the team to slow him down. You do have to give them some credit for facing the fifth-most attempts so far and yielding just 358 rushing yards to backs but they’ve also let up five touchdowns and sit just average in DVOA against the run. We need to see how the top tier of the position shakes out. If Cook and CMC are in, it becomes way more crowded and I think Henry becomes an elite GPP option. If both those players sit, Henry is likely the only back over $8,000 on DK that would carry much popularity and it becomes a much different landscape.
WR – As of Wednesday, Julio Jones missed practice (sigh) but A.J. Brown was limited. While we don’t want to put much stock in Wednesday practice reports, Julio missed all of last week so it would have been nice to see him get back on the field. Brown seems like he has a good chance to make it back and if he has the receiving share to himself….ohhhhh baby. He would destroy this Jaguars secondary and I am 100% here for it. My early lean on the situation would be to either have Henry or AJB in my lineups for the majority of them in this spot. Julio has even up a 28.4% air yards share and an 18% target share and if that goes away, Brown would be in line to benefit. The Jags have allowed the third-most yards to receivers and AJB shouldn’t be under $7,000 if he’s alone this week
Update – AJB is back, insert rocket ship emoji.
TE – This team was missing both of their top two receivers and no tight end exceeded five DK points. I’m not interested in Anthony Firkser and his 10.7% target share on just 49% of the snaps.
D/ST – I’m pretty much repeating what I said last week – I’m not playing the Tennessee defense at this salary with a total of eight sacks and two takeaways all season. The Jaguars offense has not been good this year but saying the Titans have the upside to pay off a high salary doesn’t fit what we’ve seen on the field yet.
Cash Plays – Henry, AJB
GPP Plays – Tannehill
QB – *whispers* I want to play Trevor Lawerence this week. Do not do that in cash but the Titans are sitting 25th in DVOA against the pass, have allowed the 10th most passing yards, and have an 8:2 touchdown to interception ratio allowed. They just made Zach Wilson and the Jets took competent, which says a lot through the early portion of the season. Lawrence has not been great as he sits 28th in yards, 27th in RZ attempts, and 28th in QBR. However, he’s also ninth in air yards and fifth in deep ball completion rate, so he can connect deep down the field. We saw him look fairly comfortable for maybe the first time last Thursday night but this is a spot that can replicate that and Lawerence is cheap enough to take a risk on.
RB – Hey look, James Robinson continues to be good at football! I know that Carlos Hyde was not active but J-Rob took 18 attempts and ground out 78 yards and scored twice. It was quite surprising to see him only get two targets but Jacksonville actually had a led for a large part of this game. That was something new but we’re looking at back-to-back weeks where Robinson has touched the ball at least 18 times and we should expect that trend to continue. Even Urban Meyer in all of his “wisdom” can’t shut the door on Robinson at this point. Tennessee is in the bottom-eight in DVOA against the run and I would stop short of calling Robinson a cash play just because of the Meyer factor and the risks associated with the Jaguars offense. Robinson should in theory play over 70% of the snaps and handle most of the work including a 14.3% target share.
WR – At an early guess, Laviska Shenault could be a pretty chalky option in cash games with the loss of D.J. Chark for the season. I do get it to some extent but I will also throw a word of caution out there. Some I’ve seen are hanging on to his 13.0-yard aDOT and thinking his role has been unlocked. I would disagree because of his 95 air yards, 52 of them came in one play when Lawerence was scrambling. His other six targets have a combined 43 air yards, slightly over a 7.0 aDOT. His season number is 6.9 so don’t see what didn’t exactly happen because of one broken play. Chark still leaves a 27.5% share of the air yards and a 16.2% target share behind so there is work to go around. I’m not saying Viska is a bad play, I just don’t know if we should adjust expectations for the role on the field past extra targets. He could be moving out of the slot more as well. Jones had a rough game but still leads in RZ targets and he’ll see more work as well. This game could be a quiet shootout if Tennessee can keep up and there is no corner to worry about on the Tennessee side.
TE – This is likely going to be my favorite cheap tight end as Dan Arnold played 32% in the Thursday night game despite not being on the team as of Monday morning. His two targets were 9% of the target share that night and he had two practices. Now he has a long week to get more of the offense under his belt and Jacksonville tight ends have a combined target share of about 26%. They are used in this offense without question. Since the Jags traded a top 10 pick to acquire Arnold, I expect him to continue to be a big part of the passing game, especially with the loss of Chark.
D/ST – They have created one turnover all year and have just five sacks. Tennessee has allowed the most sacks in football at 17 but has also only allowed a 20.7% pressure rate. I’m not buying the Jags can get home although I suppose if the Titans are still short receivers we could revisit this as a punt.
Cash Plays – Viska, Robinson, Jones
GPP Plays – Arnold (could be fine in cash too I think), Lawerence
QB – I’m almost not concerned if Andy Dalton or Justin Fields starts in this contest. The play calling was much better when Matt Nagy gave it up to Bill Lazor last week and Fields had more chances to show off his skills. That netted him under nine DK points. He only threw the ball 17 times and while the game script was a strong component in that low number, they have a solid if unspectacular defense and will want to lean on the run. Vegas is 16th in DVOA and even with some possible injuries to the secondary doesn’t exactly make me want to run to Fields. There has been a very little flash of upside to this point, even though I think he will be a very good NFL quarterback at some point.
Update – Fields has been named the starter, which is the right move for the team. I’m still in no rush to get after him at this point.
RB – It’s funny to me that DK made sure they priced Damien Williams close to David Montgomery in case Montgomery is out (and he is), but they left Mattison at $5,500. Assuming Williams plays in this game, he is a strong value. He will get the bulk of the work and is a capable NFL back, not to mention he was being used in the passing game as it was with 10 targets. Vegas is 18th in DVOA against the run and Williams is too cheap for the role he’ll be given. Khalil Herbert stands to get some work in this one as well but it’s much more of a question mark how much. If he gets 10-12 touches and it’s more of a split with Williams, that could be a bit interesting. We’ll monitor practice reports through the week to see where we end up here. Williams will likely be a chalky option if we don’t get a lot of running back value on the slate.
WR – There is a small part of me that says Allen Robinson is one of the better GPP plays on the slate since he has been just a disaster to start the season. Trayvon Mullen is questionable, as is Damon Arnette. That would really thin out the corners for Vegas but there aren’t many metrics that look good for Robinson. He’s 60th in air yards, 64th in routes run, 85th in deep targets, and no higher than 55th in receptions or yards. I’m not sure they could look much worse. He only had three targets last week as well (although posting 9.3 DK on three targets is very solid). It would take some guts but at the same time, we’re not getting Robinson at $5,500 very often and Fields should have to throw more than 17 times this week. Don’t forget Darnell Mooney either since he has a 40.5% air yards share and Fields can throw a deep ball. The target share between these two are very close with Mooney edging him by just two.
TE – The offense played a little better but Cole Kmet still only saw three targets last week and only has 15 on the season. That’s 15% which isn’t terrible but one RZ look at this point is not special, nor is sitting 26th in routes run. That’s simply not enough in a dysfunctional offense to rust and for $200 more, we can just play Arnold.
D/ST – The Bears lead the league in sacks at 15 so right off the bat, they have to be of some small interest at just $3,200. The Raiders offensive line continues to be a little suspect as they have allowed 12 sacks on the season and the Bears have six takeaways this season as well. I don’t mind them since they sit eighth in DVOA total, but I do have some concerns against the receiving options for Vegas. If they go heavy pass in this game, the Bears force a mistake or two but are vulnerable over the top.
Cash Plays – Williams
GPP Plays –Mooney, A-Rob, Fields, D/ST
QB – The slate came out before Derek Carr had a down game and I can’t understand how a quarterback that had three straight weeks over 25 DK was listed at $6,100 on this slate. He’s second in attempts, first in deep attempts (with a developing elite deep threat), first in yards, second in air yards, and being 21st in FPPD doesn’t matter as much when you lead the league in attempts. With the exception of the Rams game, Chicago really hasn’t played a good quarterback to this juncture and Carr has higher upside than it would appear with the matchup on paper, especially at the salary. I don’t think he carries much popularity even at his very affordable salary.
RB – Josh Jacobs didn’t do a whole lot in a dynamite spot last week but with the news Peyton Barber is out for the next few weeks with turf toe, Jacobs will see all the touches he can handle in this spot. Chicago has been stout against the run so far, sitting 12th in DVOA and allowing 397 yards on the ground. It was interesting to see Detroit gain some solid yards this past week and the Bears aren’t so good that you run away from this spot. The main issue with Jacobs is he’s mostly touchdown or bust. Sure, he had five receptions on Monday but that is beyond a rarity for him and even then…he didn’t exceed 10.7 DK points. If we’re playing a back that has low receiving upside and needs to score to pay off, I’m just playing Damien Harris in the much superior game script and for $400 less.
Update – Aikem Hicks is out and he’s been one of the better run stoppers in football. That’s a solid boost for Jacobs.
WR – We’re going to talk about the target share in the past three weeks here in a minute, but we can look at both Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow as plays in this offense. If the alignments hold true, Ruggs could find himself on Kindle Vildor and he will victimize him for a long touchdown if that happens. Ruggs has elite speed in the NFL and even with a target share of just 15.5%, his aDOT is 17.8 yards. Vildor is giving up speed and he’s 121st in the league with a 17.6 YPR. All it will take is one time.
Renfrow continues to roll in the slot over 57% of the time so far and that would leave him away from Jaylon Johnson and facing a lot of Duke Shelley. He’s only been targeted nine times but he’s allowed seven receptions and Renfrow is an important part of this offense. Let’s discuss what it’s looked like lately.
TE – Is Darren Waller an awesome football player? You better believe it. Am I going to shell out $7,300 for him in this spot? Well…that’s a much more murky answer. Since his explosion in Week 1 on Monday Night Football, he has seen just seven targets in each of the next three games. That’s great, and Waller is first across the board among tight ends in routes, targets, target share, receptions, air yards, and he’s third in points per game. I’m just not sure I feel the need to spend up in this particular spot and if we have strong top-tier running back plays, that makes it even harder to justify. Believe me when I say it doesn’t hold a lot of weight based on who Chicago has played, but they have allowed just the seventh-fewest yards to tight ends. My only point is that since Week 1, Waller has a 19.3% target share and that’s the exact same as Renfrow and only one target ahead of Ruggs. Waller easily leads in RZ targets with four, but his price reflects he’s the clear alpha in the passing game and that hasn’t been the case for three of four games.
D/ST – It seems like every time I watch the Raiders, they have a strong pass rush and they do have nine sacks. Chicago has given up 16 sacks already and has four turnovers so this really isn’t the worst mix ever. Vegas is just 16th in DVOA so they aren’t bottom of the barrel and even though they have issues, the sacks can lead to turnovers and they’re under $3,000. Let’s see who starts at quarterback.
Cash Plays – Waller, Renfrow
GPP Plays – Ruggs, Carr, D/ST
QB – Past the fact he can’t hit open receivers, Baker Mayfield is 24th in RZ attempts, 26th in attempts, 22nd in yards, and 22nd in FPPD. The Browns are in the bottom five in attempts total and even when you try to point towards Baker is fourth in deep ball attempts, he’s 27th in deep-ball completion rate at just 28.6%. Perhaps the Chargers can force the Browns offense off-script but they are fourth in DVOA against the pass and Baker looks very unappealing all the way around.
RB – It seems crazy to say (and maybe changes when Jarvis Landry comes back) but Kareem Hunt sure seems to be the safer option of Hunt or Nick Chubb. Hunt has 11 targets over the past two games and his target share is up to 13.6% while he’s trailing 69-43 in carries. Chubb is certainly the preferred option in the RZ by carries at a 16-8 edge, but it’s interesting to note that when the offense moves to inside the five-yard line, it’s only a 4-3 split for Chubb. That kind of continues to be an issue because Chubb has now gone scoreless since Week 2 and even with a touchdown, he’s been over 17 DK points just once this season. The Chargers have been a run funnel so far for the most part and still rank 25th in DVOA against the run. Just know that the Browns are not going to stop using a split backfield anytime soon. Since Chubb only has four targets on the season and is more expensive, Hunt continues to make more sense at the salary in my eyes.
WR – I’m still not over the Odell Beckham game because it should have been massive. Beckham was open all game long and Baker just couldn’t get the job done. Since he has come back, Beckham has owned a 26.7% target share and a massive 47% air yards share. However, I’m not as keen on him this week with the secondary that the Chargers boast. They have corners like Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. along with a safety like Derwin James. Chris Harris could be back as well which would be a big boost. With so many options to take away the clear-cut number one, I’ll pass on Beckham this week. The matchups are just the polar opposite.
TE – Austin Hooper is a fine option but it’s hard to get excited about much more than that. Baker had a terrible game on Sunday and Hooper suffered as well, with just one catch on five targets. Hooper is up to a 14.8% target share but is a whopping 37th in routes run. The positive spin to that is he’s fourth in target rate at 31.4% but this also isn’t exactly the leading passing offense in the league. Hooper is just 21st in receptions so even though some metrics look great, it’s more because of the low volume of the passing game in general as Cleveland is 28th in attempts per game.
D/ST – The Browns are very cheap for what they have put on the field so far, ranking third in total DVOA, are fourth in pressure rate, have 14 sacks, and three turnovers. Now, the turnovers aren’t great but everything else is. The issue is the Chargers have only given up seven sacks on the season and have just four giveaways. I don’t love going against this skilled of an offense, but Cleveland is playing well and should still be over $3,000.
Cash Plays – Hunt
GPP Plays – Chubb, OBJ, Hooper, D/ST
QB – I was a little surprised to see Justin Herbert as only the QB14 on the year because it seems like he’s been so much better than that. Herbert is fourth in attempts, second in RZ attempts, eighth in yards, but he’s only 19th in FPPD. Perhaps it’s been more the eye test because Herbert is second in catchable pass rate and while this isn’t the easiest matchup ever, Cleveland is just 13th in DVOA against the pass. It’s a difficult offense to contain and as long as he’s under $7,000, I’m on board. The only small nitpick is there’s no rushing potential and when you get to this salary, you need the 300-yard bonus or three touchdowns to be very happy.
RB – Austin Ekeler is coming off a monster game against the Raiders with two scores and well over 140 scrimmage yards. Cleveland has been good against the run at fourth in DVOA and allowing just the fifth-fewest rushing yards to the position. Having said that, Ekeler is attached to a great offense and has dual-threat chops as one of the better receiving backs in the league. I will never tell you don’t play him, even if we likely have much higher priorities in cash games this week.
WR – This should be a fun matchup in real football as both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams look to bounce back from a terrible game each on Monday night. Williams would stand to get more of Denzel Ward who has allowed 14 receptions on 21 targets this year for a 1.80 FPPT and Allen will face a lot of the slot corner in Troy Hill. He’s only been targeted six times so far and is under 40 yards allowed. Allen has the clear target lead at 44-35 but Williams has the edge in aDOT at 10.2 against 8.4 and has more EZ targets at 5-3. Allen is still getting heavily targeted in the RZ as well though with eight so for right now, I’ll generally play the cheaper player. That’s Allen by a good bit and he avoids Ward more so it’s a relatively easy call.
TE – I didn’t expect to see Jared Cook at 10th in receptions, 11th in yards, and eighth in routes run at this point of the season. he’s seen at least five targets in three of four games and should have had at least 50 yards or a touchdown in three of four as well, if not for a weird penalty in the Dallas game. Sitting third in targets in a Herbert-led offense is not a bad thing and Cook’s scary remains super reasonable. With so much focus on stopping the other components of this offense, Cook has had some strong opportunities and he’s third in both RZ and EZ targets on the season. For this salary, that is more than acceptable and the floor is about as stable as we can get.
D/ST – I honestly can’t get there. The Browns might be the last team I’d want to face when you can’t stop the run and even though LA had some success against the Raiders, this is not the same style of the run game. Cleveland is going to punt them into submission and I don’t believe they let Baker screw his one up. The Chargers also only have three turnovers forced and have just nine sacks.
Cash Plays – Ekeler, Allen, Herbert
GPP Plays – Williams, Cook
QB – If Trey Lance starts this week, you just lock him into cash and you build from there. Listen, he’s going to make mistakes and likely turn the ball over once or twice, and he may not be the most efficient quarterback ever in this game. Arizona is third in DVOA and has only allowed 955 yards through the air. You know what? Almost none of that matters. Lance rushed for 41 yards and a two-point conversion in just one half of football last week. His legs are an absolute difference-maker and he’s a threat to record a 100-yard rushing game. Whatever passing production you get from that point on is gravy. Even if you go conservative and say he only passes for 200 yards and one score, that’s 12 DK. Count in two turnovers and that knocks him down to 10 DK points. If he rushes for just 50 yards, you’re right around 15 DK which is plenty at the salary in cash games. The ceiling is wildly higher than that in a shootout script and I would be overweight in GPP almost certainly this week.
Update – Lance is going to start but I’m going to backtrack my stance in being overweight in GPP. I allowed myself to get a little giddy because I’ve loved Lance and the fit in San Francisco since draft night. He looked a little rough and while I am more than comfortable to play him in cash, I’ll go with others in GPP in case he just scores 15-18 DK.
RB – Trey Sermon started to look a lot better this week and rolled up 89 yards rushing but I can’t help but think Elijah Mitchell is still the man in this backfield when he’s healthy. The team released backs from the practice squad which makes you think Mitchell is coming back. Whoever is the back gets a nice boost if Lance starts because all the RPO action in this offense is so much more effective than it is when Jimmy G is starting. Arizona is just 16th in DVOA against the run and the 49ers run game could really turn lethal with Lance. Let’s see if Mitchell can make it back for this one.
WR – I looked like Brandon Aiyuk turned the corner in Week 3 and played over 80% of the snaps but he fell under 70% in Week 4 and only saw three targets. He only has 11 on the season and six came in one single game. He saw Deebo Samuel dominate again with a 30.7% target share and a 34.2% air yards share. Even if Lance is the starter, this offense knows how to get the ball in Deebo’s hands and I wouldn’t be that worried. Samuel is ninth in air yards share and sixth in target rate across all receivers, along with leading the league in yards. He’s accurately priced and mostly keeps to the outside, where he should find Byron Murphy. He has only allowed 13 receptions on 26 targets for a 89.4 passer rating, but the YPR is also 16.7. Deebo should be able to get behind the defense at least once or twice in this one and is very stackable.
Update – Murphy is out for the Cardinals, which is a solid boost for Deebo and the passing game.
TE – It hasn’t fully translated but George Kittle is at least getting targets, with 20 over the past two weeks. It seems that game script has plenty to do with that because both those games have been losses and Kittle still isn’t inside the top 10 in routes run. He’s yet to find the paint but is fifth in receptions and fourth in yards in parts because his target rate is 29.6%. Even with the questionable quarterback play, Kittle is under $6,000 and the 49ers almost surely have to put up some points in this game. He still has zero RZ targets and that can only go on for so long.
Update – Kittle is now listed as doubtful, which is less than ideal for Lance as well. Ross Dwelley is the backup but I’m playing Darnold for $200 more.
D/ST – I will not play defenses against the Cardinals until further notice.
Cash Plays – Lance, Mitchell, Deebo
GPP Plays – Sermon
QB – The 49ers are 18th in DVOA against the pass and have given up seven touchdowns to just one interception so far. Kyler Murray is the front runner for MVP at this point at the sportsbooks and is third in yards, second in yards per attempt, third in FPPD, and is top five among quarterbacks in rushing stats that matter. With no Mahomes on the slate, he’s the easy spend-up if you go that route and remains one of the safer options among all fantasy players.
RB – Chase Edmonds always looks so appealing to play and there is some truth to it since he sits third in targets among all players on the Cardinals. He’s tied for third in targets among all running backs, which is a very valuable role when playing for one of the best offenses in football. What can be hard to square up is the fact that James Conner is seventh among backs in RZ carries at 14 and he’s cashed in the past two weeks with a total of four touchdowns. There are two factors to look at before getting excited for Conner in my eyes. The first is he’s had 34 of his 53 carries in the two games that have been blowouts. That suggests you better nail the game script because in the other two games that were more competitive, he only had a total of 20 touches and he’s wildly expensive for that. Second, living on two touchdown games at $5,600 seems awfully dangerous. I don’t think you should be running to play either exactly, but I’m taking Edmonds at the salaries and at least getting some style of floor. Edmonds has yet to score but has not dipped below 12.5 DK points.
Update – Edmonds is questionable and if he’s out, Conner becomes a strong value.
WR – I’m not sure there is a more tilting receiving corps to figure out than this one. DeAnd