NFL DEEP DIVE – WEEK 4

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:

This is a pretty efficient week for QB pricing, and I think you can save the spot for last when building cash lineups. It really says something when Carson Palmer is my earliest favorite from a points/dollar standpoint. As a matter of fact, I’m moving QB down a couple spots in the article because that it where it should be. The larger standard deviation of the outcomes typically means you are winning or losing based on your skill position players, and they should be prioritized first.

If you have not previously attempted to build lineups this way in the past, give it a whirl for fun and see if you create different lineups than what comes out of your usual process.  Shaking things up and looking at the puzzle from a different perspective may help.  And of course, you can always go back to your tried and true methods as well.

Wide Receivers:

Deandre Hopkins (FDraft 12.1, DraftKings – 6.4, FanDuel – 7.3) HOU vs TEN: The volume should still be there. We did see Deshaun Watson spread the ball out a little more last week, but upon closer review it was mostly pushing the ball into the middle of the field at the slot and TEs, which makes sense given New England’s strong pair of outside corners. Tennessee is the opposite, easier to attack on the outsides, and I think we will see things move back that way. The efficiency is definitely questionable but this is your favorite to lead the week in targets at 6.4k, pretty nice for cash.

Marqise Lee (FDraft 8.8, DraftKings – 4.5, FanDuel – 6.2) JAX at NYJ: Not that exciting to have your value plays headed up by a guy (or two) with Blake Bortles throwing him the ball, but the cap is tight and we have to save somewhere. Even if projecting the Jags to throw the least amount of passes on the slate (they definitely want to and could get away with it against this horrible Jets team), Lee projects for 8+ targets against failed lottery pick DB Morris Claiborne, which at a league average points/target gives him around 15 points. Also have some interest in slot man Allen Hurns (FDraft 9.2, DraftKings – 4.7, FanDuel – 6.4), who is tied for 4th in the NFL with five red zone targets and will have six inches on his primary opponent Buster Skrine.

A.J. Green (FDraft 16.3, DraftKings – 8.6, FanDuel – 8) CIN at CLE: I was not into this play last week, as even if you bought the squeaky wheel narrative (I did) you still had him relying on a QB who has been horrible under pressure his whole career against a decent and aggressive pass rush. At 11 targets I pictured more like 6/75, a more expensive Hopkins. He got 13, caught 10, hit a TD and the 100 yards bonus.

Now he gets a team with no pass rush, no corners (and short!), and their two real players on defense still likely out. This is where I’d expect the Antonio Brown game, as Green catches everything near him and should be able to do some things afterwards against a AAA defense.

Cardinals Receivers at SF: Okay, maybe not all of them, but Larry Fitzgerald (FDraft 11.4, DraftKings – 6.1, FanDuel – 6.7) and Jaron Brown (FDraft 7.8, DraftKings – 4, FanDuel – 4.5) are nice plays. Fitz has actually maintained his usual pace, even if the 13 catch explosion against Dallas and the quiet three catch game against Indy got us there in a somewhat unexpected way. Indianapolis is not as shitty on defense as we thought (middle of the pack so far in both pass and rush def DVOA). They replaced every starter from a year ago and we probably shouldn’t have been so confident to pencil them into being worst at everything again.

Regardless, Fitzgerald should get the work, and Jaron Brown has somewhat quietly out targeted JJ Nelson (FDraft 10.6, DraftKings – 5.6, FanDuel – 5.9), even during the huge game that the latter had in week two. Brown remains silly cheap at 4k, while Nelson has some tournament upside as a deep threat against a bad secondary.

Brandin Cooks (FDraft 14.3, DraftKings – 7.6, FanDuel – 7.9) NE vs CAR is sooo fast. Carolina just doesn’t have anyone that can keep up with him despite being a pretty solid defense on the whole. We saw how easily he blew past everyone after catching that cross against Houston last week, and I think that is the real way the Patriots will start using him. Brady just isn’t great at hitting guys on deep go routes. Quite expensive so tournament only, but what he did last week is in play again.

Kenny Golladay (FDraft 8.1, DraftKings – 4.1, FanDuel – 5.5) DET at MIN: Get used to this, because third option deep threats against Minnesota are going to show up in this column often. It worked for Desean Jackson last week and Martavis Bryant two weeks ago, and I think the good times can keep rolling.

DBs Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith should be preoccupied with the more featured parts of the Detroit offense, and Golladay should have a chance to go deep one on one against very fast but very boneheaded Trae Waynes. Golladay is a big guy and should be able to win in the air by out physicalling (almost definitely not a word but…) his scrawnier opponent, even if he doesn’t beat him outright.

Adam Thielen (FDraft 11, DraftKings – 5.8, FanDuel – 6.4) MIN vs DET: I’m fading the career renaissance of CB Quandre Diggs, and Thielen runs 69% of his routes in the slot. He can go deep too. Bradford back would just be a bonus, but this is a very achievable price tag even with QB Case Keenum under center.

Mike Evans (FDraft 14, DraftKings – 7.4, FanDuel – 7.9) TB vs NYG: I guess this is more of a tournament play because Janoris Jenkins has definitely shown incredible ability to shut dudes down, including fellow big guys Dez Bryant and Alshon Jeffery the last couple of weeks. But Mike Evans is a different animal. He has seven inches in height, 3.5 inches in arm length, and 3.5 inches in vert on Jenkins, and unless they start doubling with Landon Collins (trouble with Desean Jackson spreading the floor) I think Evans should be able to win the matchup in the 10-15 yards downfield area with some regularity. Add in his always crazy volume and you could end up with the A.J. Green last week game at $700 less.

Odell Beckham Jr NYG at TB (FDraft 16.7, DraftKings – 8.9) and Julio Jones ATL vs BUF  Julio Jones (FDraft 16.6, DraftKings – 8.8, FanDuel – 8.4) are 100% in nuke possible spots even if the per dollar doesn’t seem totally right. If it looks like either is going to be under 10-12% I’d definitely try to go overweight on that in tournaments.

 

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.

Running back is also BRUTAL this week, nice work by DK making the pricing tough.

Wendell Smallwood (FDraft 8.1, DraftKings – 4.1, FanDuel – 5.3) PHI at LAC: Here is your punt play. I actually thought the Chargers were going to be really good this year, and I do respect their defense quite a bit, but Smallwood is super cheap, Sproles managed to break his entire body on one play, LeGarrette Blount is on the short list for most one dimensional back in the league, and that’s all they have. Philly passed a ton last year and is doing it again this year, and Smallwood could see a Ty Montgomerian percentage of snaps played this week.

C.J. Anderson (FDraft 10.5, DraftKings – 5.6, FanDuel – 6.9) DEN at BUF: Denver is a much tougher team at home, and their defense matches up really well against what the Raiders like to do on offense. If they can play from ahead Ceej could certainly find himself in another 25 carry game against a run defense that is Khalil Mack and :tumbleweeds:.  I’m not sure I can get there in cash as the Mack vs. Menelik Watson matchup could easily lead to that script being reversed early, but it is very easy to see this paying off big should a couple things break right.

Andre Ellington (FDraft 7.4, DraftKings – 3.8, FanDuel – 4.8) ARI vs SF: I mean, this guy was a huge deal a couple years ago, got hurt, and then David Johnson put an absolute stranglehold on the job. If he has somehow learned the DJ light role than he is much more valuable to the Cardinals than Chris Johnson, and has 10/10 rush/target upside at practically free against a bad defense at home. This is one to monitor the beat reporters on, as we really don’t know how the Ellington/Johnson split will go, but Kerwynn Williams looks to be out of the picture after only playing one snap against Dallas on Monday night.

Melvin Gordon (FDraft 13.3, DraftKings – 7, FanDuel – 7.5) LAC vs PHI: Last week was a little misleading, as Gordon came out cruising with 78 yards and a touchdown in the first half before banging his knee and barely playing in the second half, finishing with 79 yards and that touchdown. Oof. He is on the injury report, and that Philly front seven rotation is legitimately terrifying, but they are “favorites” at “home” and if Gordon is good to go he should see the vast majority of the work. This is a game that is underrated to shoot out. Both teams have some very good parts of their defenses and some very suspect ones, which inherently brings more variance into that already fairly high total.

If the money opens up I don’t think it gets much safer than Le’Veon Bell (FDraft 16.3, DraftKings – 8.7, FanDuel – 8.6) PIT at BAL, despite the tough matchup and questionable to this point quarterback play. He’ll get his 20+ touches regardless of what happens, and when the other very expensive running backs (Lesean Mccoy and Ezekiel Elliot) have their own questions I will lean towards the guy who has not only shown more recent success but also been very consistent over his years in the league.

Christian McCaffrey (FDraft 12.7, DraftKings – 6.8, FanDuel – 6.4) CAR at NE: Ha, I can’t believe I’m going back here after the price hike and how much I am down on the guy’s  future anyway, but the Panthers offense is in a brutal spot and McCaffrey is almost definitely their best receiver still standing. My big argument against him in general and for him last week is one of speed at the NFL level, and the Patriots are much faster at linebacker and safety than the Saints. I also don’t buy that they are this bad overall. But there’s no one else to throw to anymore, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get 12+ targets. If he breaks just one for 30 or a score he should crush value and the Patriots have given up a lot of communication breakdown huge plays on the season. Really wish he was still 6k but I can get down for GPP.

Quarterback:

Carson Palmer (FDraft 11.4, DraftKings – 6.1, FanDuel – 7.4) ARI vs SF: He’s still out there slinging it. Arizona didn’t have a great run offense before David Johnson went down and it is non-existent now. This is about 40+ throws against a bad defense at home, simple as that.

Jameis Winston (FDraft 11, DraftKings – 5.9, FanDuel – 7.3) TBB vs NYG: I think the Giants might be getting a little too much Vegas love at this point. I know their defense was tough last year but there are real reasons for concern and they are taking the show to what should be some stifling Tampa-in-September heat. Jameis has been inconsistent at best thus far, but I really like the set of weapons he has, specifically to attack a soft-in-the-middle defense like the Giants. On the other side, if the Bucs are missing their eight best defensive players or whatever then Eli Manning (FDraft 11.6, DraftKings – 6.2, FanDuel – 7.9) is probably worth a shot, especially if you are planning on some Odell and Engram.

Tom Brady (FDraft 15, DraftKings – 8, FanDuel – 9.5) NE vs CAR: Brady has been all about throwing it downfield this year with his speedier weapons, and though the Panthers defense is pretty good, it is not particularly well equipped to deal with speed. There will be instances when Luke Kuechly is the fastest player on the field for them, and that’s not gonna get it done. Hogan is stronger than everybody, Cooks is faster than everybody, Gronk is bigger than everybody. Ridiculous team.

Case Keenum (FDraft 10, DraftKings – 5, FanDuel – 6.8) MIN vs DET  I think that can be used in the Jacoby Brissett last week mold. The Minnesota receiving corps looks legit, and I think the Detroit defense is playing over its head a bit. We love Thielen against Quandre Diggs in the slot, Darius Slay is fine but not a shutdown guy (esp. if Steph Diggs is really this good, which is in play). Keenum has chucked up 12 deep balls in two games, a per game rate that is top four in the league. Connect on 3-4 of those and that 5k price tag gets smashed easily.

Tight Ends:

Zach Ertz (FDraft 12, DraftKings – 6.3, FanDuel – 6.9) PHI at LAC: My initial thought when Travis Kelce turned in a dud last week was that he got stuck helping out against Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but according to PFF he didn’t stay in to block on a single snap last week. This bodes well for Young Dad, who keeps racking up targets, got in the end zone last week, and gets to play a team that on a per snap basis is much softer in the middle of the field than the outsides. You have to pay for it now but is he keeps up the current production this is a reasonable tag on a tough week.

Rob Gronkowski (FDraft 12.3, DraftKings – 6.6, FanDuel – 8.5) NE vs CAR: Gronk IS someone that can get stuck blocking if either the Patriots run game or the Panthers pass rush are working, especially with Danny Amendola taking snaps directly from Dwayne Allen (60% week two, sub 35% weeks one and three), and Kuechly and Adams are scarier than anything he has had thrown at him since Eric Berry week one. BUT Gronk is pretty healthy and one of the best red zone targets to ever live and he’s barely more expensive than freaking Zach Ertz.

And….that’s kinda it right now. I think Evan Engram (FDraft 5.9, DK 3.0, FanDuel 5.2) NYG at TB is kind of interesting if the Bucs defense down a bunch of dudes and can’t get to Eli. Cameron Brate (FDraft 7.4, DK 3.8, FanDuel 5.3) TB vs NYG is okay if you buy Jenkins getting to Evans and that Brate is working that part of the field. Jared Cook (FDraft 6.6, DK 3.4, FanDuel 5.5)  OAK at DEN maybe, if you’re thinking path of least resistance in Denver. I will have more ideas on this as the week progresses, you can always hit me up in slack.

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.

Bengals at Cleveland: Listen, I still hate the Bengals. But their defense was never the problem, they mount a pretty good pass rush, Kizer has been a disaster in and out of pressure, and the Browns like to push, which allows for more plays wherein he could screw up.

49ers at Arizona: I am 100% picking on this defense on the other side, but they are also min priced against maybe the worst pass blocking line in football and a quarterback born in the 70s. There will be big plays from the Cardinals offense, but again, it’s not about points allowed. Palmer can make big plays for both sides.

Chargers vs Philadelphia: This is another instance where I really can get down with both sides. The Philly offensive players are really cheap, but we also have some very good pass rushers and a ball hawk on the Chargers defense against a pass happy 2nd year player. Casey Hayward is live to both give up and score a touchdown, and the reasons are actually somewhat similar. He gambles. Think Russ Westbrook or Rondo getting 5 steals and giving up 30 points.

Bills: Raiders at Denver: This is my fun shot in the dark tournament play. Trevor Siemian isn’t good, the tackles as mentioned above are the league’s worst pair, and Buffalo Oakland has a reasonable crappy defense that can should create pressure if Khalil Mack is ever left one on one.

Slight edit and last week’s write-up still works! Trevor Siemian sucks, I’m going after him for a while.

Go and get it everybody.

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