Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 3
As we discussed back in Week 1, the term "situation" refers to the surrounding context that impacts a player's expected performance in a given week. It's a broad term because there are so many factors that go into it.
But when a quarterback switch occurs, everybody's situation changes drastically. And we've got a whole bunch of them in Week 3.
On the main slate alone, there will likely be six quarterbacks starting for their respective teams who did not start in Week 2. This means we've got to re-examine the situation around each and determine what impact it has on the fantasy value of the pieces around them and whether the quarterbacks themselves are in play.
Clearly, we've got a lot of work ahead of us. So let's take a look at some of the biggest situations impacting the Week 3 main slate, starting with all of those signal-callers.
The Saints' Two-Headed Quarterback Attack
At least, that's what we thought initially.
Payton says they’ll go into the game with 2 QBs ready to go, Bridgewater & Hill but won’t make an “announcement” on who their starter is.
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) September 18, 2019
So it could be either Bridgewater or Taysom Hill at quarterback. Sweet.
This uncertainty does at least allow us to cross off Bridgewater and Hill as being fantasy options as they head up to face the Seattle Seahawks. But it also leaves things up in the air for almost everybody else.
Last week after Bridgewater entered, 11 of his 30 targeted throws were directed to Michael Thomas. That would seemingly make him a viable option at $8,000 on FanDuel even when you account for the quarterback downgrade.
But when Hill has been on the field this year, the team's pass rate has dipped to 61.8% from 67.1%, according to The Quant Edge's injury tool. If they were planning on going with a pass-heavy approach, they would probably let Bridgewater shoulder the load. Sean Payton's words make you question whether that'll happen.
That lowers Thomas' projection quite a bit. If you decide to use Seahawks skill-position players, he's still the best player to include in game stacks, but the appeal there is pretty low.
Alvin Kamara could get additional carries if they decide to skew toward the run, but a lot of his value for fantasy comes from the fact that he's tied to an elite offense. That's no longer the case.
Through two games, Kamara is averaging 24 adjusted opportunities per game (adjusted opportunities is carries plus two-times the player's target total to account for the value of a target relative to a carry for a running back in half-PPR scoring settings). That is ranked 12th among all running backs, but Kamara is fifth-most expensive back on the main slate. If you want someone who gets massive work in the passing game, you can slide down to Austin Ekeler and David Johnson, both of whom carry lower salaries.
Kamara's still talented enough to pay off because he can certainly break long touchdowns. But there are better options at our disposal.
Overall, we need to downgrade this offense significantly with the quarterback situation being what it is. It also lowers the appeal of the Seahawks' passing offense because it makes it less likely the Saints will force the Seahawks to throw. Brees' injury is a pretty major bummer for everyone tied to this game outside of Chris Carson.
Mason Rudolph's First Start
Ben Roethlisberger is done for the year, meaning he'll give way to Mason Rudolph this week against the San Francisco 49ers. We got a little sample of Rudolph last week, so we're at least entering this one with a bit more clarity.
Rudolph logged 19 drop backs against the Seahawks last week, and he finished with 0.05 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. NEP is the expected points model we use at numberFire to quantify the difference between a two-yard gain on 3rd and 1 and a two-yard gain on 3rd and 3, giving extra context we don't get from a yards-per-play model. A mark of 0.05 is below average, but it's also roughly equivalent to what Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers have given their teams this year. It's passable.
It really shouldn't be a huge surprise if Rudolph can hold those respectable marks the full season. He was highly efficient in college and is surrounded by talent both on the offensive line and in his skill-position guys. The cupboard isn't bare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
We do need to downgrade the Steelers' offense a significant amount with Roethlisberger out. But they might not be total dust.
We've got a bit of an idea where Rudolph will throw the ball, too. Last week, Donte Moncrief dropped a ball, leading to an interception on Rudolph's second pass of the day, and Moncrief was promptly benched. Rudolph threw 17 passes after that, and here's where they want. A "deep" target is any throw that travels at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|After Moncrief Benching||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
There were five other players who had exactly one target in that time, but the heaviest volume went to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Vance McDonald, and Diontae Johnson. Smith-Schuster's workload in this time was pretty respectable, but he's also the most expensive of the group at $7,500. He's in play in lineups where you want to game stack, but the cost there is non-negligible.
McDonald is $5,900 at tight end and played 91.1% of the snaps last week. He and Rudolph connected for a pair of touchdowns. We generally want to target tight ends in high-powered offenses in order to get extra touchdown equity, but McDonald is an option at a bloody position.
The most interesting discussion is where we view Johnson relative to James Washington as potential value plays.
Johnson was the one who got the volume after Moncrief's benching last week, but Washington out-snapped Johnson for the full game and was Rudolph's teammate in college (as you've likely heard once or twice or thirty times this week). With Johnson at $4,500 and Washington at $5,200, we might be able to justify going at either even with the change at quarterback.
Washington is likely the safer option because he had the larger role prior to Moncrief's role change. He should be the better bet to start alongside Smith-Schuster. But Johnson was a third-round pick this year and seemed to also have a rapport with Rudolph, and he'll also come at lower popularity levels than Washington due to the college narrative. That might make Johnson worth a few shares, as well.
Truthfully, we've got better options with the Philadelphia Eagles' receivers, whom we'll discuss later. It's at least worth noting, though, that we don't need to simply cross off all Steelers with Rudolph taking over.
Danny Dimes' Time
Initially, it was looking grim for Jones' debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Cody Latimer and stud guard Kevin Zietler missing practice Wednesday while receiver Sterling Shepard was limited and still in concussion protocol. But on Thursday, Shepard and Zeitler were upgraded to full, meaning the health of this unit is trending in the right direction.
Shepard's return could seem like a downgrade for Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley with an extra mouth to feed, but it's actually a plus. If the Giants are able to better move the ball, it'll give the team extra touchdown upside, which is a plus for everybody.
The question we have is what differences he'll have from Manning, and we can't really answer that yet. It could go a couple of ways.
First, Jones could represent an upgrade from Manning. That would be an upgrade for everybody involved, and with how well Jones played in the preseason, it's certainly possible.
But we also have to acknowledge that the alternative is in play. Jones could be a downgrade. Manning finished the first two weeks ranked 22nd in Passing NEP per drop back out of 33 quarterbacks with at least 30 drop backs, so the actual on-field product could have been a lot worse, especially when you consider the games were against two very respectable defenses.
The uncertainty there is enough to avoid the Giants in cash games. But we should be looking to take a stand in tournaments.
In reality, one of the above situations is going to happen, and we should have lineups that account for both. If we're multi-entering for tournaments, we should have some lineups that assume Jones is an upgrade for the offense, which would push us onto guys like Engram, Barkley, and Shepard. We could even consider Jones in those lineups given that he ran for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career at Duke, and that includes deductions for yards lost due to sacks. He's going to have some rushing appeal, which is big for fantasy.
We'll also want to have lineups where we assume that Jones' collegiate inefficiency follows him to the NFL, which might put us on the Bucs' defense and off of his weapons. The Buccaneers' defense isn't cheap at $4,300, but they shouldn't be overly popular with a good number of value options and the Minnesota Vikings' defense $100 cheaper.
In an ideal world, we'd be able to sit back and see how things play out before reacting. But one of the above situations will likely happen, and we'll want to have lineups that account for both. If you're doing just one lineup, you can ignore this situation, but those multi-entering tournaments require making assumptions like these at times.
Godspeed, Luke Falk
Luke Falk completed 20 of 25 passes in relief of Trevor Siemian last week, but he's now on the road and facing a top-notch New England Patriots defense. There's a reason the New York Jets' implied team total is 10.75 points.
The big benefactors here are the Patriots' defense and special teams along with Sony Michel. Michel had 21 carries last week and figures to be heavily involved again this week. He lacks slate-changing upside without a role in the passing game, but he's at least an option at $6,800. We could try to talk ourselves into using Le'Veon Bell or any of the other Jets here, but it's hard to see this team racking up the tuddies. Spend your salary elsewhere.
Kyle Allen in for Cam Newton
This one isn't official yet as of Friday morning, but it seems pretty likely that Kyle Allen will be starting in place of an injured Cam Newton. This was setting up as a game we'd want to stack; we just have to ask if that's still the case.
Newton's first two games this year -- as your eyes would tell you -- were pretty rough. He's sitting at -0.04 Passing NEP per drop back, ranking 26th out of 33 quarterbacks with at least 30 drop backs. So the Carolina Panthers' offense might have been in trouble had Newton played.
As far as Allen goes, the only in-season data we have from him comes from Week 17 last year. There, Allen finished with 13.96 Passing NEP on 27 drop backs, which is a super impressive number. But it also came against a Saints team that had nothing to play for and played all of Marshon Lattimore, Cameron Jordan, and Sheldon Rankins for half of the snaps or less. So it wasn't exactly a full-strength NFL team.
The positive for Allen is that the Cardinals aren't a full-strength NFL team, either. They're down both Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford, meaning we should expect opposing teams to move the ball on them. Allen has a good cast around him, so the Panthers' offense is far from dead even without Newton out there.
Even a hobbled Newton is likely a better option than Allen, so we do need to give a slight efficiency downgrade to all of the Panthers' skill players, but the volume here is concentrated enough where that matters a bit less. Here's how the targets have been distributed through two games.
|In 2019||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
D.J. Moore is only $6,500, getting top-receiver volume, and facing a team that is down two good corners. We should feel pretty secure locking him in, especially for game stacks. His appeal outside of game stacks -- again -- takes a hit with Allen starting.
The same is true with Christian McCaffrey. He ranks second in the league in adjusted opportunities through two games and is dynamic enough to break things open himself, even when Newton is sidelined. He's not a must-have target for cash games because of how many other backs are in great spots, but for tournaments, he should be someone we rotate in fairly frequently.
Things are a bit more thin for Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen, meaning their appeal is lower than that of Moore and McCaffrey. Olsen's up to $6,100 on FanDuel, and at that salary, you'd really prefer that he were tied to a more efficient passer. Samuel at $5,800 is a bit easier to swallow, and his downfield skills truly do help. They're options for game stacks, but we probably shouldn't go out of our way to target them as standalone plays.
Josh Rosen, Sacrificial Lamb
In going to Josh Rosen from Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins just alternate from one form of terror to another. Instead of a DGAF-ball-chucking vet with mobility, they go to a DGAF-ball-chucking youngster without mobility. Rosen's unlikely to fare well behind the Dolphins' five bodies they like to call an offensive line, and it means we can still happily plug in Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys' defense and special teams.
Thin Options in Philadelphia
Nothing's official yet, but it seems likely that all of DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert will sit out this weekend's contest against the Detroit Lions. That opens up a ton of targets in the Philadelphia Eagles' offense and even more value in DFS.
Those three combined to play just 17 snaps in Week 2, so we did get a glimpse at the Eagles' target distribution without them. Here's where those looks went.
|In Week 2||Total Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Unfortunately, because we've known all week that these guys would likely miss, it means we've spent all week talking about Agholor and Ertz. That means they're likely to be two of the most popular plays on the slate, which is a bummer for tournaments.
We can likely view Agholor and Ertz as being good chalk. Both are likely to get heavy target volume from an efficient quarterback at home, and they're both pretty solidly underpriced. That's a situation where it does make sense to go with popular options.
But even good chalk can fail. Last year, only 45.8% of all receivers with salaries lower than $6,000 who were popular in the FanDuel Sunday Million managed to reach the salary-based expectation for their position. That was lower than than the position overall -- 47.5% -- and wide receiver was already the position we whiffed on most often. Most of them didn't have situations as favorable as Agholor's, but it's at least something to consider.
Arcega-Whiteside struggled last week, catching just one of his four targets, but that was after not getting any work with the first-team offense prior to that game. He and Hollins are now getting those reps this week while the veterans coach them up.
Arcega-Whiteside was a second-round pick this year and was uber-productive in college, but Hollins is a big play waiting to happen. He also had the better usage and production in Week 2, so, honestly, both are viable pivots.
Another potential reason to favor Hollins is that he lined up in the slot on 27 plays in Week 2, according to Pro Football Focus, while Arcega-Whiteside did so just three times. That could lead to additional Darius Slay coverage for Arcega-Whiteside, which isn't necessarily ideal. That may give Hollins the slight leg up in the battle between the two.
But again, these are merely for tournament sprinkles as you're looking to pivot off of Agholor and Ertz. Both of those guys are great bets for steady volume, and we know that they can produce with those looks. Give Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside looks at times, but most of our exposure should be to the elder statesmen.
Chiefs' Backfield Ambiguity
This is another situation where we don't know how things will shake out just yet. But Thursday gave us a better idea.
With Damien Williams missing practice while LeSean McCoy logged a limited session, it would seem as if McCoy's the more likely back between the two to suit up this weekend. If we wind up having McCoy in and Williams out, it would be a pretty enticing situation for fantasy.
By whittling that duo down to just one remaining piece, we'll have a clearer picture of who will get the volume. Williams' final carry in Week 2 came with a minute left in the third quarter. After that, McCoy handled six of seven running-back carries with Darwin Thompson getting the other. McCoy probably wouldn't be a bellcow for the team because Thompson is electric, but he would get the largest chunk of the carries and chip in with work in the passing game, as well. Even against a tough Baltimore Ravens front, that's a role we should covet at $5,500.
Things would be more complicated if Williams were to practice Friday and play Sunday. In that scenario, we're unlikely to have a great read on the touch distribution before kickoff, and it'll spread out the volume. There, we'd be best suited just avoiding the situation and bathing in the countless other great running back plays on the slate.
The third situation is where both McCoy and Williams sit. That would certainly make Thompson intriguing, but we would also have to expect Darrel Williams to be involved in the gameplan.
Williams played five offensive snaps in Week 2 compared to four for Thompson, though it was Thompson who closed things out after McCoy got hurt. We won't have a good read on that situation, either. So, truthfully, if you want to dive into the Chiefs' backfield, the best situation seems to be where McCoy is active and Damien Williams is not. The other situations seem a bit too murky to inspire tons of confidence.
Ravens' Narrow Target Tree
Sticking with that game briefly, it's fair to have some concerns around the Ravens' offense this week. They've had two of the most ideal spots imaginable the past two weeks, and now they have to go on the road to face a hostile environment. The Chiefs' defense always plays better in Kansas City, and it's not hard to understand why.
Even while acknowledging those concerns, we can still be into their assets in DFS.
It shouldn't be hard to sell you on Lamar Jackson. He ran the ball 16 times last week for 120 yards, which gives him a massive floor, even if his passing efficiency takes a dip. It's also a pace-up spot for the Ravens with Kansas City ranking eighth in Football Outsiders' situation-neutral pace, so keep riding Jackson until he gives you a reason not to.
|In 2019||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Nobody else on the team has higher than a 10% market share of either the overall or deep targets. This offense is a delight.
It's also important to remember that Brown -- while coming off an injury -- played just 14 snaps in Week 1. In Week 2, his snap rate rose to 64.9%, and he netted 13 targets with 4 being at least 16 yards downfield. He's among the best receiver plays on the board at $6,100.
Andrews is more expensive at $6,800, and his snap rate hasn't been quite as savory. He has run a route on 74.6% of the team's pass attempts, which isn't bad for a tight end, but it's also a bit lower than you'd like for such a lofty salary. With his target load and efficiency, he's absolutely in play for tournaments, but Brown should be our preferred stacking partner with Jackson due to the delectable salary.
Monitoring Marlon Mack
The Colts haven't done much in 2019 with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, but they also haven't been expected to. Their first two games were both on the road against respectable defenses, so the bar for success should have been quite low. They covered the spread in both of those games and were able to move the ball.
It's important to keep in mind the context of games when evaluating teams. Even last year with Andrew Luck at the helm, the Colts struggled a bit when they were playing on the road. Here are Luck's numbers on the road last year compared with what Brissett did the first two weeks. "Success Rate" is the percentage of drop backs that increase the team's expected points for the drive.
|On the Road||Passing NEP/P||Success Rate||Team Points Per Game|
|Luck in 2018||0.08||48.8%||24.3|
|Brissett in 2019||0.07||45.0%||21.5|
The team has taken a hyper-conservative approach by running more often, and Brissett has definitely been a step down from Luck. But he has been competent.
Now, they go home to face the Atlanta Falcons. We should expect the Falcons to improve defensively from last year given all the injuries that they had, but this is still a defense we can attack, as the Vikings showed in Week 1. Brissett is just $6,800 on FanDuel, and that's low enough to put him in play.
The true weakness of the Falcons' defense, though, is stopping the rush. That should funnel us toward Mack at $7,000, but now there's uncertainty about his health, putting that plan up in the air.
Mack has logged at least 20 carries and 68% of the snaps in each of the first two games and will be running behind arguably the league's best offensive line. If he gets in a full practice Friday, it's full steam ahead.
If he can't go, then Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines enter the fold. When Mack sat last year, the two split carries almost right down the middle with Wilkins getting 34 and Hines getting 29 in the four games Mack missed. Hines figures to get the passing-down work, but there's enough ambiguity here where we may be best suited avoiding entirely.
Instead, we could pivot to the passing offense. As mentioned, Brissett is super cheap, and T.Y. Hilton has gotten good volume through two games. He hasn't been used as much down the field, but he does have four of Brissett's seven deep targets and four of 10 looks in the red zone. Hilton topped 150 receiving yards three times with Brissett in 2017, all of which came on turf, and he doesn't figure to be overly popular. Hilton is someone we should target in tournaments regardless of whether Mack plays, but his appeal does get a slight boost if Mack has to sit. Running it back and game-stacking with Julio Jones is also fairly tempting.
The Cowboys Without Michael Gallup
Michael Gallup has already been ruled out this week, which opens opportunity in the Cowboys' offense against the Dolphins. We already discussed Elliott, and he could benefit from the Gallup injury if it nets him additional looks in the passing game. There are also some value plays on the table here.
Smith is the one who gets the biggest role change with Gallup out. He'll likely move into the starting lineup after playing 18 snaps last week and catching a long touchdown. Smith is a former second-round pick whose career was derailed by injuries, but he balled out in the preseason and is now getting a fresh start. He's the guy with the most upside in this group.
Cobb is likely the one with the safest floor. His snap rate seems likely to remain around 75%, and he probably won't play in two-receiver sets as often as Smith, but he already has 17.7% of the team's targets for the year along with a pair of looks in the red zone. Gallup's absence could open up a few extra looks for Cobb, and we know what his role will be. There's value in that in such a peachy matchup, though the upside here is more limited than with Smith because of Cobb's role.
Witten is purely a sell-out play in the pursuit of touchdowns, but at such a wretched position, that can work. Witten has four red-zone targets in two games, and he has converted those into two touchdowns. The yardage upside likely will not be there, but that's true for almost any tight end who is just $5,000. Witten is a palatable punt option as long as you are okay with burning a slot on a player who -- like Cobb -- has a lid on his ceiling.
An Ideal Spot for Frank Gore
There aren't many situations in which you'd want to consider Frank Gore in daily fantasy. He isn't a dynamic runner, isn't tied to an elite offense, and doesn't get work in the passing game.
This week might be a rare exception.
Devin Singletary has missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday and seems unlikely to play in Week 3. That will likely lead to more work for T.J. Yeldon in the passing game, so Gore's role isn't likely to change, but it honestly doesn't have to.
Even with Singletary healthy for most of last week's game against the Giants, Gore ran the ball 19 times and added 2 targets. Singletary's touchdown came while Gore was being checked for a concussion, so it's possible Gore could have done even more than his 83 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. That's a pretty solid role, and we might see a similar script on Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills are six-point favorites against a Cincinnati Bengals team that just got gutted on the ground by the 49ers last week. It's very possible the Bills get out front early again and feed Gore to close things out.
It is still the NFL, though, which means the Bengals could very well snag a lead in this game, in which case Gore would get Thanos'd. As such, we can't go here in cash games, and we can't include Gore in our core for tournaments. But he's likely worth some sprinkles, even while we acknowledge the limitations in his profile.
The Packers' Backfield Split
Aaron Jones appeared to break out last week, finishing with 23 carries and 6 targets in a win over the Vikings. Things were setting up well for him in Week 3, too, with the Green Bay Packers favored by 7.5 over the Denver Broncos.
Then Matt LaFleur happened.
Asked Matt LaFleur about #Packers RB Aaron Jones’ touches over long haul of a season following Sunday’s career-high 23 carries. He said keeping Jones fresh is important, and he wants to “even up” touches between Jones and Jamaal Williams. Thinks balance will change week to week.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) September 18, 2019
I'm not mad; you're mad.
At first glance, this makes it seem like we should want to avoid the backfield at all costs. But Jones should still be on our radar this weekend.
Through two games, Jones has 36 of 50 running back carries with the other 14 going to Jamaal Williams. That gap seems likely to decrease, based on what LaFleur said.
But Jones' biggest value for fantasy doesn't come from his rushing volume; it comes from his passing-game work and being tied to Aaron Rodgers.
As mentioned, Jones had six targets last week, one of which was a downfield look and two of which were in the red zone. Those are high-leverage targets that can lead to a big game in a hurry.
The script also sets up for plenty of Jones again, and the Broncos have allowed 47.1% Rushing Success Rate to opposing running backs this year, meaning they're likely to be a below-average run defense. Jones should be efficient on the rush attempts he does get.
Additionally, it's not as if Jones has the salary of a bellcow at $6,900 on FanDuel. He's priced as if he's in a 60-40 committee, which is actually the case here. He's not as appealing as David Johnson (who we'll touch on in a second) or Austin Ekeler, and both are within $700 of Jones, but it's not a terrible idea to still get some tournament exposure to Jones, potentially stacking him with the Packers' defense.
Value Galore in Arizona
There's one team this week that seems to be underpriced across the board on FanDuel. That's the Cardinals as they square off with the Panthers in Arizona.
The Cardinals haven't exactly blown the doors off of people in their first two games, but you also wouldn't have expected them to. Their Week 1 opponent -- the Detroit Lions -- shut down the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2, and the Cardinals had to travel to face the Ravens in their second outing. That's not the easiest of roads to kick things off.
Despite that, Kyler Murray has graded out decently well. He's currently 18th in Passing NEP per drop back out of 33 quarterbacks with at least 30 drop backs, and that includes his wretched first half against the Lions. Pair that with the team's massive passing volume, and Murray is a cash-game option at $7,200.
The same is true with all of his skill-position guys, starting off with the aforementioned Johnson.
Johnson had to exit Week 2 due to a wrist injury, and he wound up missing about a quarter. But back in Week 1, Johnson had 18 carries and 7 targets, one of which was downfield and resulted in a touchdown. He played 86.4% of the snaps in that one, so this dude is a workhorse but checks in with a salary of just $7,000. He has practiced in full both days this week, so the wrist isn't an issue. Once you consider his salary, Johnson is arguably the most attractive back on the Week 3 main slate.
Because the Cardinals have thrown more than any team in football through two weeks, looking at market shares here might sell those two a bit short. A 25% market share in a pass-happy offense is wildly different than one in a ground-and-pound scheme. The raw target totals here show how tasty Fitzgerald's and Kirk's workloads have been.
|In 2019||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
They're getting tons of volume, and a lot of it is down the field. Both of these guys are just $5,900 on FanDuel, which is a screaming bargain.
Because Fitzgerald's overall volume has been higher, he's the guy we should covet for cash games, and he should sit higher on our tournament wishlist. But Kirk may be a bit less popular, so there's value in him, too.
All four of Murray, Johnson, Fitzgerald, and Kirk are in play for cash games and tournaments alike; we just have to decide whom we should prioritize. We don't want to get too much exposure to one team because the offensive-line concerns here are still lingering, and the Panthers' defense isn't some pushover. Overall, Johnson and Fitzgerald are the highest-end standout plays, followed by Murray and Kirk, but they're all worthy of looks in all formats.