NFL DEEP DIVE – WEEK 5

Hi. Andrew Barron here, eager to get into some NFL talk with you all. Many of you know me from the PGA world, but NFL is a DFS game I play just as heavily and a sport I have been following as a fan for much longer. I will be involved in making the weekly projections here this year, which we are really excited about.

We will be powered by the Pro Football Focus premium statistics database, which is something I’ve wanted to be able to use in my analysis for a long time. The point of this column is to use that data to go beyond surface analysis to find the truly best plays, which often will be the chalk but often will not. Find us in slack to keep discussing every week, as a major part of the system is leveraging ownership versus projection as we get closer to lock and have a clearer idea of the week’s total picture.

Now let’s get into it.

Quarterback:

Jameis Winston is my favorite QB play on the week and someone I will be jamming in Thursday-Monday cash games.

Carson Palmer (FDraft 11, DraftKings – 5.9, FanDuel – 7.2) ARI at PHI: Not gonna lie, that was scary last week, as Palmer needed overtime to get anything going at home against a meh at best 49ers defense. This matchup isn’t necessarily any easier, but I do think it will be easier for big plays due to the wretched secondary. And ultimately, we have a guy under 6k who has attempted 10% more passes than anyone else in the league and loves to work downfield.

Russell Wilson (FDraft 13.3, DraftKings – 7.1, FanDuel – 8) SEA at LAR: For those of you that know me from golf, Wilson is basically my J.B. Holmes, and after a couple games I was worried we were looking at a similar gloomy season. Whatever, I stubbornly kept playing him and he’s BACK. It’s amazing that a Rams game is one of the premier spots this week but here we are. I really thought the Rams defense would continue to be pretty good, especially up front, but at this point it’s just Aaron Donald. Chris Long is gone, Nick Fairley is gone, Dominique Easley is done for the year, Robert Quinn is dust. Well, there isn’t a player in football better equipped to handle pressure if he knows where it’s coming from. Is this really gonna be a shootout?!?

Aaron Rodgers (FDraft 15.3, DraftKings – 8.1, FanDuel – 9.5) GB at DAL: Again, I really hope at least Bahktiari comes back this week, but Rodgers is just so nasty and can use so many weapons that if he gets up the requisite number of plays he should be pretty good. I definitely prefer the savings of Palmer or Russ in cash as I’d like to be able to afford Le’Veon Bell, but the Packers are great GPP plays if they can keep Dallas from running constantly and using up a ton of clock. Packers DT Mike Daniels coming back would be a major boost to that.

Philip Rivers (FDraft 10.9, DraftKings – 5.8, FanDuel – 7.3) is another volume chucker who could pay off in tournaments matched with some of his weapons. Janoris Jenkins doesn’t always shadow, but if he is projected to hang on Keenan Allen than a pairing with big and fast Tyrell Williams gets you a lot of savings, and I like doing that with Odell running it back. This game has somewhat underrated potential for a lot of fantasy value with the prices and aggressive nature of the defenses.

I mean if you’re feeling crazy Jay Cutler (FDraft 10.2, DraftKings – 5.2, FanDuel – 6.7) with free Kenny Stills and/or large downfield threat Devante Parker is a nice GPP idea. I don’t think anyone will be on it after Miami couldn’t do anything against the woeful Saints D, but those London games are often underwhelming. This Titans defense looks like it might be terrible too, and it is equal opportunity against pass and run (both bottom 10 DVOA and dreadful PFF grades).

Running Backs:

Running back, for me, is much less about some kind of physical mismatch as it is workload, expected game script, and access to touchdowns. With wide receivers and even quarterbacks I can often find reasons to get wacky if I find something beyond the box score, but for the most part with RB I don’t overthink it and play the Vegas sheep role. There are other ways to get weird. This week specifically it is going to make sense to pay up for secure volume at running back in cash unless some injury opportunities pop up.

Those playing Th-M should take advantage of the Minnesota situation with Dalvin Cook out for the season. I know most of us remember McKinnon and Asiata  being useless the last few years whenever Adrian Peterson was out, but this offensive line seems to be fine now, and the difference between “fine” and “worst” is pretty huge (see Gurley, Todd).

That’s a big price hike but Le’Veon Bell (FDraft 18, DraftKings – 9.5, FanDuel – 9.5) PIT vs. JAX is the only skill player on the slate I have projected for more than a touchdown. The volume is nuts, the O line is very good, and the opposing pass defense is so sick that it makes a lot more sense to try and attack on the ground. This makes me a little nervous for tournaments as the price is exorbitant and I think the fact that the Jags are 32nd in rush DVOA will pick up tout momentum. In reality they are most likely middle of the pack, but Lev is also the safest play on the board if you have the money.

Todd Gurley (FDraft 15, DraftKings – 8, FanDuel – 7.8) LAR vs. SEA: Sounds insane to me too. However, there are a number of contextual factors between the Rams high total and the Seahawks defense looking banged up that point in Gurley’s favor. More importantly, there are real reasons for the change in his production up to this point. It starts with the improved offensive line, as I have hit on a few times in this column. Add to that the crew of receivers they have assembled, that spread out the defense to the point that Gurley has the space he needs to be able to make plays in the pass game. So far this season he is averaging 4.1 more yards per reception on nearly two more receptions per game compared to last year. It’s not a fluke.

Andre Ellington (FDraft 9.1, DraftKings – 4.6, FanDuel – 5.4) ARI at PHI: That Ellington touchdown that was called back last week really would have made things a whole lot better for me personally. That said the work was there, with Ellington on the field for more than half the snaps and seeing north of 25% of the targets and picking up five carries. There are a lot of outs for him to meet value, and I like to see that on a cheap RB. It isn’t the greatest feeling, but with the pricing so sharp this year riding cheap Cardinals has been continually been a reliable way to pick up bargain volume.

Melvin Gordon (FDraft 11.3, DraftKings – 6, FanDuel – 7.1) LAC at NYG: I think I can explain. Two weeks ago he got hurt mid game. Last week they fell behind against a pretty strong funnel defense in the Eagles and aired the ball out. This week, well, the price drop is just too much. He still played over 70% of snaps and had over75% of the team’s carries in the Philly loss, and this Giants defense looks like it might be legitimately bad outside of a few stars. On the roads with some health issues makes it more of a tournament play, but I think the public is further don on him than they should be.

Jay Ajayi (FDraft 12.3, DraftKings – 6.6, FanDuel – 7.3) MIA vs. TEN: Sort of similar to Gordon, we have a (formerly?) workhorse back who has been banged up early priced waaay down, maybe for a nice tournament play. As bad as Miami has looked let’s not forget they get to face Matt Cassel at home this week, which could make for a pretty great script for Ajayi/MIA DST stacks. Tennessee got torn up by a bad Houston O line last week, and I think that may have something to how to defend a QB who likes to throw deep and is dangerous rolling out of the pocket. That’s Cutler’s MO too, he moves better than most chain smokers.

Wide Receivers:

The running backs are much more stable to me this week, so I will be mostly bargain hunting at wide receiver in cash. As always some shots at the mega studs are a good idea in tournaments, but I feel more comfortable spending down in cash.

LOVE Mike Evans on the Thursday-Monday slate.

Jaron Brown (FDraft 8.8, DraftKings – 4.5, FanDuel – 4.5) ARI at PHI: Played 95% of the snaps last week even with John Brown back. I buy this continuing, as both John and J.J. Nelson are short, one dimensional burners, while Jaron has a more well-rounded skill set. Should be a top receiver for the offense that throws the most in the league, at above average depth (9.9 aDOT is 8th) against a bad secondary, for 4900? Done.

Pierre Garcon (FDraft 11.4, DraftKings – 6.1, FanDuel – 6.7) and T.Y. Hilton SF at IND (FDraft 11.3, DraftKings – 6, FanDuel – 7.3):  Nice plays on both sides of the ball here as both guys are clear number ones coming off awful matchups (Garcon the Patrick Peterson blanket, T.Y. at Seattle, the worst place for speed receivers) who haven’t seen a price bump because of that. Neither team here has an imposing secondary, although Indy likely has the better overall defense. I like Garcon more as the cash play, while Hilton’s speed makes him a constant threat for a big one. I continue to believe teammate Donte Moncrief’s (FDraft 7.7, DraftKings – 3.9, FanDuel – 5.1) skillset to be a better match with Brissett and he continues to be free so I will probably have a few shares despite poor results thus far. Oh, and Garcon’s teammate Aldrick Robinson (FDraft 6, DraftKings – 3.1, FanDuel – 4.6) played 87% of the snaps last week and is 3.1k. The 12 targets is a mirage because no one throws at Peterson, but 6-8 at near min sal is a reasonable expectation. These crappy games keep being the places to target with the extra sharp pricing.

Odell Beckham (FDraft 16, DraftKings – 8.5, FanDuel – 8.9) LAC at NYG: Of the super-premium cornerbacks out there, Casey Hayward gets thrown at a lot and gives up a healthy number of yards per cover snap compared to his peers. Yet he always grades out well, and makes a number of exciting interceptions. What does this tell me? He’s a gambler. I made the analogy of Hayward as young Russ Westbrook on D last week, always right up players’ shit but often getting burned being too aggressive trying to jump passing lanes, and subsequently ending up a little overrated as a defender. Well, who is the worst dude you can imagine to gamble against? Who can turn a tiny mistake into a 70 yard touchdown? I agree!

Jordy Nelson (FDraft 15.3, DraftKings – 8.1, FanDuel – 8.6) GB at DAL: The price tag is up there, but the Dallas defense stinks and the cornerbacks are all short. Jordy let the league in red zone targets last year, the guy who was 3rd last year (Adams) took a brutal hit last week and is questionable, and the run offense is gross. I sure hope they get some tackles back as last week they literally were playing some dude from the Cardinals practice squad, but the Rodgers/Jordy connection is too good on a week with limited/tough options.

Allen Hurns (FDraft 9.2, DraftKings – 4.7, FanDuel – 6) JAX at PIT: Last week Hurns picked up 10 targets in a game on the road, where Jacksonville threw a lot, where Hurns had six inches on his opposing slot corner and had been seeing the majority of the red zone looks. Same exact situation this week, man this job is easy sometimes!

Jarvis Landry (FDraft 11, DraftKings – 5.8, FanDuel – 6.6) MIA vs. TEN: Kinda hate this play for tournaments as the miserable 5.1 aDOT leaves a pretty low ceiling, but he’s a great bet for 7-9 receptions, which makes for a nice floor. Add in the playing from ahead chance against the Cassel led Titans and his “extension of the running game” role could get more heavily emphasized without them needing to take chances to keep pace.

Tight Ends:

Tight end is awful this week. Ertz is too expensive for cash with priority spends elsewhere, and his lack of athleticism scares me off the upside for tournaments. Unfortunately this looks like a week to dumpster dive. Some “favorites”:

Jack Doyle (FDraft 7.3, DraftKings – 3.7, FanDuel – 5.1) SF at IND: I mean I don’t think I’ve ever played this dude in my life and I have him in cash right now. I hate it to be honest, but I think he’s the easiest way to pick up 4-6 cheap targets and hope one gets in the end zone. Is in the concussion protocol but practicing already, signs are pointing towards being fine.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (FDraft 7, DraftKings – 3.5, FanDuel – 5.5) NYJ at CLE: Very similar argument to Doyle. This guy has more pedigree, being a first round pick, and is a little bit more athletic (neither are great in that regard), but he’s also been a disaster in the league up to this point so I don’t think that makes him any safer.

Evan Engram (FDraft 7.8, DraftKings – 4, FanDuel – 5.4) NYG vs. LAC: It’s entirely possible that the return of Odell Beckham is making this entire Giants offense click by creating space for everyone else to work. Neither of the LA safeties scare me in coverage, and the linebackers look like a wreck. Even Ingram and Bosa collapsing the pocket aren’t necessarily as big of a deal as so much of the Giants offense is predicated on getting rid of the ball quickly. Engram is small, very fast tight end, and is a match up problem for linebackers.

Defenses:

There are people out there who still actively target low team totals when picking a defense. Approximately 73% of offenses scored between 14 and 34 points in a given game last year, which is a difference of TWO fantasy points for your defense. We want pressure, pace, and putrid playmaking (that means bad QBs, sorry was going for the whole alliteration thing). Tournament winning defenses almost always have a touchdown, and that is going to come from turnovers.

Shockingly, with so many offenses in bad spots, there are a lot of defenses in great spots. This may be a week to spread it out more than usual.

Bills at CIN: Back to picking on Dalton and the Bengals O line now that they are facing another defense that can get pressure. Dalton is actually pretty willing to take sack under pressure rather than make a crazy throw, which lowers the ceiling a little but ups the floor. At 2600 I don’t mind it in cash with such a priority on the expensive RBs.

Eagles vs ARI: Cardinals O line is bad, and Palmer can’t move, so the floor is like three sacks. I went after both the Cardinals offense and the 49ers defense heavily last week, I’ll be doing the same this week with Cardinals and Eagles.

Cardinals at PHI: The Eagles throw the ball a lot too, and the Cardinals still have plenty of playmakers even if the unit has taken a big hit on the whole without Calais Campbell. Guys like Peterson and Mathieu are built to take advantage of young QBs doing dumb stuff.

Dolphins vs. TEN: If Mariota is out this is such a great spot to load up against Cassel. He has been an abomination when given the chance ever since he left New England, making ill-advised throws all over the field. The Dolphins have two strong pass rushers in Suh and Wake, should be playing from ahead, and while the corners aren’t great, they’re all tall and have pretty big hands, which is generally a trait of more ball hawker-y types.

Jets at CLE: Deshone Kizer might end up being good (I believe he can actually), but he is a turnover machine that holds the ball forever right now. Keep attacking.

Go and get it everybody.

Find me on Twitter @andrewmbarron or in the FanVice Premium Slack athotmajik if you wanna talk strat/make jokes/argue