Yahoo Daily Fantasy Football Primer: Week 2
Each week, this piece will go position by position on the Yahoo DFS slate looking at high-priced, mid-range, and value options who are viable in cash and GPP lineups. Every article will also feature a player, team, or situation that holds the key to the week due to their price, matchup, or projected ownership.
It’s signal-versus-noise week, fantasy footballers. We have one week’s worth of data in the books, so decisions about how much we rely on snap counts, target share, and usage for Week 1, compared to 2018's numbers, will make or break our DFS lineups.
As the season moves along, we will begin to see actionable trends and patterns develop in the 2019 data, so don’t be deceived by stats like Anthony Miller’s 29-yard average depth of target (aDOT) on one target, when DeAndre Hopkins’ aDOT of 16.6 (on 13 targets) is likely to be much more reliable.
Here is what the slate looks like this week.
This Slate Hinges On
Antonio Brown ($27) - I mean, what in the world are we supposed to do with this guy? The soap opera that is Antonio Brown makes it nearly impossible to predict whether or not he will even see the field, much less predict a snap count or target share. Brown's latest off-the-field issues have him staring down the barrel of a sexual assault accusation that will inevitably demand some kind of team or league response.
We know if he plays, he can be dominant, even with little time to develop chemistry with Tom Brady, but it is not overstating to say that there is literally something new every day in this AB saga. In a cakewalk matchup against the Miami Dolphins, Josh Gordon ($26) and Julian Edelman ($19) would become auto-starts with even more targets funneled their way if Brown doesn't play. We just witnessed what Lamar Jackson was able to do to this team, so Brady must be licking his chops for this matchup.
Deshaun Watson ($37) – Can a guy get an offensive line, please? The trade for Laremy Tunsil did not pay immediate team dividends as Watson was sacked a league-high six times in Week 1. This is nothing new for the Houston Texans, who allowed a league-worst 3.8 sacks per game in 2018, half a sack more than any other team.
Despite being roughed up in the backfield, Watson delivered a QB6 (for the week) line against the New Orleans Saints, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 40 yards and another score. Watson had the 10th-best Passing NEP per drop back (0.30), and considering his team lost by two points, those six sacks essentially cost the Texans a win.
In Week 2, Watson faces a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that was just shredded by Patrick Mahomes for 378 yards and three touchdowns and posted the fifth-worst Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play in Week 1 -- playing much of the game without the threat of Tyreek Hill.
Lamar Jackson ($31) – The only question mark after that type of performance is why isn’t the price to play Jackson higher? The Baltimore Ravens had one drive on Sunday that did not end in a score or end of a half, so -- unsurprisingly -- Jackson’s Passing NEP per drop back was more than 40% better than any other quarterback in Week 1.
He now faces an Arizona Cardinals team that played at the fastest pace of any team in Week 1 and will still be without Patrick Peterson in their secondary. The scary thing is, we only saw one side of Jackson’s dual-threat ability against Miami. We will likely get to see more rush attempts from Lamar against the Cardinals, who allowed Matthew Stafford to gain 7.3 yards per rush and 0.46 Rushing NEP per carry (sixth-best among all signal callers in Week 1).
Kyler Murray ($23) – On the other side of that game, Murray looks to build on his strong fourth quarter and overtime against the Detroit Lions, where he was 20 for 29 with 238 passing yards and two touchdowns.
You have probably already seen the stat that Murray led the NFL with 570 air yards in Week 1. If not, here it is.
Kyler Murray accrued 570 air yards in Week 1, which are the 21st-most in a single game since the start of 2012, via @FantasyADHD.
Even without overtime, his 443 air yards would be in the 93rd percentile of games in the sample. pic.twitter.com/Sq719oUQgN
— Brandon Gdula (@gdula13) September 9, 2019
While the overall fantasy performance was somewhat propped up by overtime, the environment that currently surrounds Murray should allow for sustained passing attack success going forward. As mentioned above, the Cardinals played at a lightning-fast pace throughout the game and also deployed four wide receivers on 75% of their snaps, which not only forecasts passing plays but also opens up the box and short-field for David Johnson should Murray run into trouble.
Alvin Kamara ($35) – With no Christian McCaffrey on the main slate, Kamara should have the pole position among rushers this week. This New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams game has an over/under of 53.0 and projects to be one of the highest-scoring games on the slate.
McCaffery absolutely demolished the Rams’ rushing defense on Sunday, ranking in the top five at the position in carries, Rushing NEP per carry, rushing Success Rate, receptions, touchdowns, and Total NEP. Unfortunately for LA, they are thrown right back into the fire against Kamara and a Saints team with revenge on their mind after last year’s playoff game debacle.
Against a historically strong run defense last week, Kamara showed well against the Texans. He particularly shined with his pass-catching ability, ranking third among all running backs in Reception NEP per target in Week 1. And while we have come to expect big plays out of Kamara, it was his total usage that was most encouraging. He was in the game on 76% of snaps, putting to rest any concerns that Latavius Murray would steal significant playing time. Kamara’s highest snap count percentage when Mark Ingram played last year was 72%, with an average of 66%; it’s worth monitoring, but we may be witnessing the emergence of workhorse Kamara.
Josh Jacobs ($21) – While Jacobs’ performance on Monday night could be chalked up to pure volume, what was astounding was the amount of volume the rookie received in his first NFL game. Only Marlon Mack out-carried Jacobs in Week 1, as the newcomer was handed the ball 23 times and had the third-most rushing successes, according to our metrics, during an impressive win over the Denver Broncos.
Jacobs not only rated well among rookies during the first weekend – he graded out highly among all rushers, per Pro Football Focus, aided by a league-high eight red zone carries and nine tackles avoided (second most among backs).
As a reward he faces the Kansas City Chiefs in a game with an even higher projected total than Saints/Rams. It’s worth monitoring to see how Jalen Richard fits in when it is a different game context, but if the Raiders keep running him out on the field for 74% of the snaps, we must play him at this price.
Chris Thompson ($13) – Washington is a 4.5-point underdog at home on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, who laid the smackdown on the New York Giants last week. So game script will presumably be in Thompson’s favor despite Adrian Peterson being the nominal starter.
Thompson is known primarily as a third-down, pass-catching back, but with Derrius Guice out indefinitely, there is no other trusted receiver in the Washington backfield. This played out over the game’s final minutes in Week 1, when the Philadelphia Eagles took the lead after trailing much of the game. With that game script, Thompson saw six of his 10 targets on the final drive as Washington was forced into desperation mode.
In the first week, Thompson’s Reception NEP per target was fourth among 18 running backs with at least five targets, proving he is a valuable asset to deploy when his team is trailing or in need of critical third-down yardage or first downs. He will undoubtedly be called upon often on Sunday as Washington tries to keep pace with the high-powered Cowboys.
Michael Thomas ($33) – When I am building lineups this weekend and am trying to choose sides between the Saints or Rams in the projected shootout, I am going to side every time with the team with perhaps the narrowest funnel for targets in the league.
Thomas and Kamara combined for 17 of the 32 receptions for the Saints -- 53.8% of the target share and 56.7% of the total touches -- against the Texans on Monday night. Thomas also found his familiar place atop the target leaderboard, finishing tied for second among all receivers with 13.
While the Rams’ defense on the first and second levels (particularly Dante Fowler Jr. and Cory Littleton) caused havoc in Week 1 for anyone not named Christian McCaffrey, the secondary was decidedly blah and will have their hands completely full with a player of Thomas’ caliber.
He was in the game on 78% of his team’s snaps, a higher number than any other skill player on the Cowboys, including Amari Cooper (76%). Gallup’s 27% target share was a number he never approached in 2018, so in a contest where the Cowboys spent most of the game with a significant lead, it was encouraging to see the combination of snaps and targets that were given to Gallup.
Cooper and Gallup essentially tied for the team lead in aDOT (Cooper at 11.78, Gallup at 11.71), a welcome sign as their next opponent -- Washington -- allowed both DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor to finish in the top 15 highest aDOT among all receivers with at least five targets in Week 1.
Evan Engram ($21) – People who must be ultra-smart keep writing about how this is going to be Evan Engram’s breakout party in 2019. After a dominant game one, I will just let this tweet speak for itself:
The highest Week 1 grade on the #Giants' roster goes to Evan Engram (90.6 out of 100). That included 87.3 in passing game as receiver (44 plays), 87.1 in RUN BLOCK (eight plays), 68.7 on just one pass block snap. Engram had 11 catches for 116 yards and a TD. Big bright spot.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) September 9, 2019
Good luck to the Buffalo Bills against a tight end who finished top two at the position in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and yards after the catch in Week 1. Teams know it is going to be the Engram and Saquon Barkley show, but they still might not be able to slow them down.
Darren Waller ($13) – In his first official NFL game, Waller was one of only two tight ends to play on 100% of his team’s offensive snaps in Week 1 (Kyle Rudolph being the other), and along with Tyrell Williams, he should be the overwhelming benefactor of Antonio Brown leaving town on the crazy train.
He was third among all tight ends in target share at 30.8%, but his seven-catch, 70-yard performance against the Denver Broncos had Jon Gruden talking after the game about how they need to get Waller to ball even more. In a projected high-scoring affair against the Kansas City Chiefs this week, look for Waller to gobble up targets in the middle of the field while Tyrell the Gazelle stretches the defense.
Ryan Kirksey is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice Ryan Kirksey also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username rmkirksey. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.