Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 2
The preseason is all about sunshine and daisies and everything that's glorious about football. We get to see a little bit of action, and each team can have at least some hope entering a new year.
Week 1 is a gruesome reminder that this sport is an absolute brute.
The NFL is always going to run high on injuries, but over the offseason, it's easy to forget about those. Then you have a game like we saw between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars, where the camera is focused more on the blue injury tent than the play on the field, and reality comes back to slosh cold water on your happiness.
Because of that, even with just one week of data in the books, some of the numbers we've got are already tainted. The Chiefs are going to look a whole heck of a lot different without Tyreek Hill, and we've got to account for that. A whole lotta situations have changed between now and the opening kickoff to 2019.
As such, let's dive into some situations that will impact the Week 2 main daily fantasy football slate. Not all of them will be injuries; some will be coaching tendencies and roles we saw crop up in Week 1. But they're all worth noting before you finalize your lineups.
The Chiefs Without Tyreek Hill
The Chiefs are the big story here as they play without Hill for the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era. There's definitely some uncertainty about what impact this will have on the rest of the offense.
Thankfully, Hill wasn't a player who logged 100% of the snaps last year, so we do at least have some sort of a sample on what the team does when Hill is out. In the snaps that Mahomes played without Hill last year, here's how his numbers shifted, according to The Quant Edge's injury tool. "aDOT" is Mahomes' average depth of target, or how far each pass traveled beyond the line of scrimmage.
|In 2018||Yards Per Attempt||aDOT|
|Mahomes With Hill||8.9||8.8|
|Mahomes Without Hill||7.8||9.5|
Mahomes was still chucking it deep, but his per-pass efficiency did take a bit of a hit. That's largely what you'd expect when a difference-making receiver leaves the field.
We've also got a decent amount of playing time from last week where the Chiefs had to play without Hill as he left with 3:23 left in the first quarter. After Hill's departure, Mahomes attempted 25 passes and racked up 10.49 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), numberFire's efficiency metric, which shows the expected points added or subtracted on each drop back, including adjustments for expected points lost on sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. His 0.42 Passing NEP per drop back was actually better than his full season mark of 0.39 when he was the league's MVP, and Mahomes did this without the team's biggest play-maker on the road against a tough defense. They're going to be just fine.
That allows us to get in on Mahomes, even at $9,000 on FanDuel. He's expensive, but as you'll see later on, we've got plenty enough value elsewhere to justify it. We just have to decide which piece to pair him with.
The correct answer here is likely "everybody" because we want access to players of Mahomes' abilities, and the usage could be even more concentrated with Hill out of the picture. But here's how the targets were divvied up after Hill left last week with a "deep" target being any target at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|After Hill Injury||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Clearly, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce are going to have massive roles this week. We need to give them boosts in our minds, and both make for great stacking partners with Mahoems at $7,400 and $8,000, respectively.
Damien Williams is risky given that LeSean McCoy had some giddy-up in his legs on Sunday and may have earned himself a larger role. But Williams -- as you can see -- was a fixture in the passing game, and he lined up somewhere other than the backfield for eight snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, implying that he could be used on the field at the same time as McCoy if the Chiefs wanted. Williams' workload concerns push him out of consideration as a core play, but there's enough juice there to include him in some game stacks.
Finally, we get to Mecole Hardman, who had just one target last week despite playing 77.9% of the snaps in that game. That means his floor is non-existent. It should not, however, keep us from using him completely.
The Chiefs have known all week that Hill will miss this game, meaning they can gameplan around the personnel they have, an area in which head coach Andy Reid has always excelled. The team got Hardman the ball in creative ways during the preseason, and they seem to value his speed. Additionally, using Hardman gets you access to Mahomes' arm for only $4,700, and that's something we should always covet. Watkins and Kelce are the potential cash-game plays, and then Williams and Hardman deserve at least some looks for tournaments.
Raiders' Concentrated Touch Distribution
Sticking briefly with that game, we also got our first look at the Oakland Raiders' offense with all of its turnover, and things went well in a win against the Denver Broncos. It's too soon to tell if that efficiency will stick, but we don't always need efficiency in fantasy if we know where the ball is going. That seems to be the case out in Oakland.
|In Week 1||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
That was a game in which the Raiders led wire-to-wire. Now, they're 7.5-point underdogs, which will likely lead to a healthy increase in passing volume. This makes both Waller and Williams desirable plays for DFS, and they're at least in the discussion for cash-game rosters.
Josh Jacobs also got a lot of work on Monday night, handling 23 carries and 1 target while playing 74.1% of the snaps. If you make the assumption that the Raiders keep this game close, allowing them to still run the ball late in the game, then Jacobs is a solid play for DFS. Because that's within the range of outcomes, it'd be wise to have exposure to Jacobs at $6,500. His safety isn't as high as that of Waller and Williams, though.
Jacobs' big workload came in an ideal game script. Because the Raiders got the lead early, they were able to feed Jacobs the whole night. But we don't know what his role will look like if the team falls behind.
Jacobs had just the one target, and he ran 10 routes out of 27 total drop backs. Jalen Richard ran eight routes and would potentially be on the field if the Raiders were in obvious passing-down situations. Given that the Chiefs could very well build an early lead in this game, there's some risk that Jacobs' role when trailing may not be as robust.
Again, this shouldn't shove us all the way off of Jacobs. The NFL can get weird, and if the Raiders win this game -- or even just keep it close -- the odds that Jacobs comes through are solid. But if you're doing just one lineup or looking for cash-game plays, you've likely got better options elsewhere.
Tevin Coleman's Absence
Speaking of better options, one of them might be Matt Breida.
Breida is likely to step into a larger role with Tevin Coleman dealing with a high ankle sprain. Breida's just $5,600, and he seems likely to get good volume in this spot.
Breida got a couple of cracks as the lead back on the San Francisco 49ers last year when Alfred Morris was out, and he was able to finish two of those games without injury. In those two games, Breida played 60.3% of the snaps and averaged 15.5 carries and 4.5 targets per game. In Kyle Shanahan's run-friendly scheme and against a poor defense, that's drool-worthy.
The 49ers are underdogs in this game, but the spread is tight, and Breida is going to be a cheap source of volume. We should happily accept that when we can find it.
Joe Mixon's Injury
The other side of that game could also give us value at running back. Joe Mixon missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and it seems as if his status may be in doubt all the way up until Sunday.
Zac Taylor today on Joe Mixon: "We'll just see day by day how he feels and the most important thing is he's healthy on Sunday so we're gonna do our best to get him to that point." #bengals
— Adam Baum (@AdamJBaum) September 11, 2019
As of this publication, we don't know if Mixon will play. If he's active Sunday, then Giovani Bernard is likely someone to avoid. But he'd be on par with Breida as a desirable value if Mixon were to sit. (UPDATE: Mixon returned to practice Friday and -- according to the team's website -- looks "good to go" for Sunday's game, significantly lowering the odds he does not play.)
Mixon missed two games last year. In those two, Bernard played a combined 73.2% of the snaps while averaging 13.5 carries and 6.5 targets per game. That's 26.5 adjusted opportunities (carries plus two-times the player's target total to account for the discrepancy in value between a carry and a target in half-PPR scoring) per game, more than the 24.5 adjusted opportunities Breida got in his two healthy games without Morris last year. Bernard is also at home, meaning he would be arguably the best value on the slate if Mixon were to sit.
Additionally, it now looks like the Cincinnati Bengals are running a system that perfectly suits Bernard's strengths.
Last week, the Bengals threw on first and second down 78% of the time, according to Sharp Football Stats, the highest mark in the entire league. New head coach Zac Taylor comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree, and McVay has always been a pass-happy play-caller while games have been close; Taylor seems to be taking a similar approach.
Not only does this suit Bernard, whose biggest value is in the passing game, but it also figures to increase the play volume in the game. That's a boon for both Bernard and Breida.
The total in this game had held firm at 45 points, but it went up to 46 overnight on Thursday. This game hasn't been talked up all week like the Chiefs versus the Raiders and Los Angeles Rams versus the New Orleans Saints, which makes this a sneaky spot for game stacks and should increase our desire to use both Bernard and Breida.
Todd Gurley's New Role
You're probably sick of reading about Todd Gurley's role right now. I don't blame you. So we'll try to make this short and sweet.
In Week 1, Gurley lacked the high-leverage looks you need to be a beast in DFS. He had just one target, and he didn't get any of the team's six red-zone carries. That's going to lead to a lot of hollow volume.
On the flip side, Gurley did play 70.1% of the snaps, looked spry when he was out there, and is now in a game that we absolutely want to stack. His salary ($7,000) also now accounts for his new role.
Gurley looked good enough on Sunday to still be able to bust off a long run, which could allow him to pay off even without getting those high-leverage looks. You're just taking a big leap of faith by using him. Because this is something Gurley could still do, he's someone you can rotate in while stacking this game, but if you're firing out just one lineup, you're likely better suited using that roster spot on someone else.
Gardner Minshew Taking Over in Jacksonville
Minshew finished with 6.21 Passing NEP on his 26 drop backs, which ranked 14th on a per-drop back basis in Week 1. That's certainly not bad, but it was also against a team that was largely able to play prevent defense in the second half. The Houston Texans play prevent defense only when they're actively trying to let Drew Brees drive for a game-winning field goal.
Minshew is also on the road now, and although the Texans' defense is nothing special, it does still have J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus rushing the passer. With potentially two inexperienced tackles flanking him (left tackle Cam Robinson was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday), Minshew's likely to have his hands full on Sunday.
That allows us to use the Texans' defense at $4,800 on FanDuel. But what about the Jaguars' skill-position guys?
After Minshew entered the game, he threw it 25 times. Here's where those 25 targets went.
|With Minshew||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The targets were spread pretty thin here, and Minshew wasn't pushing the ball down the field. That's not exactly what you want, especially when you're not expecting the offense to be overly efficient.
The one exception here could be Leonard Fournette. Fournette had six total targets in the game and played 86.2% of the snaps. That's a full-on workhorse role that you don't see often out of guys with salaries at $6,900.
The best analog to Fournette -- assuming the offense does struggle -- is 2018 David Johnson. Even though Johnson's team was putrid, he still topped 15 FanDuel points five times, and we'd take that from Fournette given his discounted salary. There's upside for more out of Fournette if the offense functions better than expectation, which is certainly possible, and his floor seems steady. As such, we can still go at him in tournaments even though the situation around him leaves plenty to be desired.
Antonio Brown's Potential Debut
Reports surfaced on Tuesday that New England Patriots receiver Antonio Brown is being sued in a federal civil court over allegations of sexual assault and rape. Some situations matter more than football; this is very much one of them.
As of right now, it's uncertain whether Brown will suit up for the Patriots on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Brown was likely to play Sunday unless the NFL were to intervene, meaning our baseline assumption -- as of right now -- should be that Brown will play.
If he doesn't, we can look at what the Patriots did in Week 1 and make judgements based on that. But Brown playing would likely lead to a major shift in playing time.
In Week 1, the Patriots ran 21 of 67 plays with three receivers and two running backs on the field, according to Sharp Football Stats. The Chicago Bears were the only other team to do this on more than two plays in Week 1, but Tarik Cohen was basically a wide receiver in that game.
In other words, the Patriots operate differently than other teams. They run an offense around the strengths of their personnel, and their strengths would shift if Brown were to play.
Because of this, we don't really know who would be set to lose playing time. Phillip Dorsett is the most likely candidate, but given how often the Patriots had two backs on the field in Week 1, we could also see Rex Burkhead, James White, or Sony Michel get reduced snap rates if the personnel philosophy were to shift. All those assets will be hard to trust.
The safest players here seem to be Tom Brady (bold statement, I know), Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon. All three seem likely to hold down meaty roles even if Brown does play, and as such, we can at least give them looks here. Gordon is especially interesting at just $6,300, but even Edelman could be cheaper than he should be at $7,100.
This is a game script that sets up for a lot of running, which would in theory shuttle us toward the backfield. We just don't know how the playing time will shake out there. Michel and Burkhead led the team in carries last week, and Burkhead added eight targets, so those two may be palatable outlets, as well. But overall, there's just a lot of uncertainty within a team we'd love to use in this spot.
Chargers' Mounting Injuries
Chargers announce Hunter Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee during last Sunday’s game versus the Indianapolis Colts. Per the team, Henry will continue to be evaluated, and the time frame for his return has not yet been determined.
— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) September 11, 2019
As if the Hunter Henry knee injury weren’t problematic enough, Chargers’ HC Anthony Lynn said today he is concerned about WR Mike Williams’ knee as well.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 11, 2019
It isn't truly football season until the Chargers have a horrifying list of injuries to impactful players. We've made it.
This is going to boost the projected target volume for both Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, who already had 10 and 7 targets, respectively, in Week 1. Allen had three deep targets and three in the red zone, which is about as good as it can get for a wide receiver. Their floors in Week 2 are rock solid if Mike Williams sits.
The question would be more about their ceilings. And that's a bit of a more complicated discussion.
Injuries open up opportunities for volume, and we want that for fantasy football. But we also want touchdowns, and it's harder for a team missing three impactful offensive players (four if you want to count Melvin Gordon) to light up the scoreboard. That does put a slight dent in the true ceiling of each guy.
Then you look at the opponent. The Detroit Lions' motto this offseason was to turn the clock back as far as humanly possible and pretend the forward pass was a witchcraft to be shunned. The Lions threw on first and second down 54% of the time in the first half of last week's game, according to Sharp Football Stats, the 10th-lowest mark in the league. They want to slow things down, which makes it harder for the Chargers to run a ton of plays. That's another downward bump for Allen's and Ekeler's ceilings.
This is not to say that you shouldn't use Allen and Ekeler. Again, they've got paths to huge volume, and that's always valuable. It's just worthwhile to consider that the offense may not be firing on all cylinders before you load up on too much exposure to the two of them.
Chris Carson's Passing-Game Usage
If you're looking for an alternative to Ekeler in the same salary tier, search no further than Chris Carson. His Week 1 role should get us all antsy to lock him in at $7,400, even as a road underdog.
All offseason long, the Seattle Seahawks said they were going to increase Carson's role in the passing game. They did exactly that in Week 1, giving him 7 of 20 overall targets, the most on the team. That was a career-high number for Carson, and it's not a mark that many backs see in a given week.
Once you combine that with Carson's 15 carries, you wind up with 29 adjusted opportunities. That was tied for fourth among all running backs in Week 1. But two of the guys ahead of him -- Christian McCaffrey and Le'Veon Bell -- aren't on the main slate, which makes Carson's usage even more noteworthy.
We should expect volume increases for Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, and James Conner as they (potentially) play in tighter contests this week, so Carson is not a must-use back for cash games. But with a spread that will likely push others away and an under-appreciated role, Carson seems to be an ideal target for tournaments.
Minnesota's Run-Pass Ratio
The Minnesota Vikings won a game while throwing the ball 10 times in the year 2019. The run? Consider it established.
But there was a bit of flukiness in that game that may have gone a bit overlooked.
The Atlanta Falcons had a nightmare start to that game. After the Falcons went three and out, the Vikings blocked a punt and recovered it on Atlanta's 21-yard line. Three plays later, they were up 7-0.
The second drive didn't go a whole lot better. The Falcons did pick up a first down, but on the next play, Anthony Harris picked off Matt Ryan, setting the Vikings up in Falcons territory again. And four plays later, they were up 14-0.
That was with 8:28 left in the first quarter.
At that point, the Vikings were able to coast the rest of the way, not needing to throw at all. But on those first two drives, they threw four times compared to three rush attempts. That's a little bit different than what the final box score will tell you.
Overall, we need to expect the Vikings to be a run-heavy team in 2019, and they're going to kill the clock when they're able to get leads. That's a major detriment from a pace perspective for both them and their opponents. But we also don't know what they'll look like in neutral game script because our sample there is just seven plays.
They could get more of that this weekend against the Green Bay Packers, a game with a spread of 2.5 points. The Vikings very well could wind up being more balanced than we saw in Week 1, which would allow us to at least consider assets on both sides of the matchup.
This is not a plea for you to bet the over because this game is still pretty gross from a play volume perspective, and either team could bleed that clock once ahead. But it does mean we can still consider assets like Dalvin Cook at $7,900, the Vikings' receivers, and potentially Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the other side, feasting against the Vikings' corners not named Xavier Rhodes.
Sterling Shepard's Concussion
In their Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Eli Manning threw the ball 44 times. Evan Engram controlled 13 of those with 8 going to Cody Latimer, 7 to Shepard, and 6 to Saquon Barkley. If you take Shepard out of that fold, it seems like the other three should be in line for pretty massive workloads.
Engram's the obvious one at $6,400. We generally want to tie our tight ends to more high-powered offenses, but the volume here is too good to pass up.
Barkley didn't get much rushing volume in that game, but he looked tremendous when he did get the ball, picking up at least 6 yards on 8 of 11 carries. His true value is his work in the passing game, though, so we can trust him even at $9,200 against a very good Buffalo Bills defense.
Latimer's a bit harder to diagnose. He did get eight targets in that game with four at least 16 yards downfield, but he could see heavy coverage from Tre'Davious White. Latimer was in the slot for only five snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That number could go up if Shepard were to sit, but there are no guarantees there. Latimer also missed practice on Thursday with a calf injury after practicing in full on Wednesday. Losing Latimer would have a similar effect discussed above for Ekeler and Allen where it might just lower the team's overall efficiency. But if Latimer plays, you can sprinkle him in for tournaments, and we can expect big target volume for Engram and Barkley regardless.
Devin Funchess on Injured Reserve
One of the tougher situations to diagnose is what the Indianapolis Colts will do to replace Devin Funchess, who is on injured reserve with a broken collarbone. There are a lot of possibilities but very few answers.
After Funchess and T.Y. Hilton, no other receiver played more than 40% of the snaps in Week 1. The two most exciting pieces there -- Parris Campbell and Deon Cain -- didn't even combine for 50% of the snaps.
The saving grace here is that we don't have to attack this situation. We've got plenty of other value options on the slate, and the Colts are facing a feisty Tennessee Titans defense on the road. It could lead to a slight bump for Hilton and potentially someone like Eric Ebron if they decide to go with more two-tight end sets, but we're likely better off just sitting this one out and gathering information for future lineups.