Yahoo Daily Fantasy Football Primer: Week 4
Each week, this piece will go position by position on the Yahoo daily fantasy slate, looking at high-priced 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 price, matchup, or projected ownership.
I have it on good authority that when Pete Townsend wrote in 1965 "I know sometimes I must get out in the light...The kids are alright," he was predicting Week 3 the 2019 NFL season. Last week, the kids came in and (mostly) smashed. We witnessed elite performances from Daniel Jones, Kyle Allen, Jacoby Brissett, Darren Waller, Tony Pollard, Mecole Hardman, and Terry McLaurin, to name a few. Popular stacking candidates Mason Rudolph and James Washington largely disappointed, but for the most part, the shiny new toy, grass-is-greener gambles paid off.
We are going to get round two of these masterful performances in Week 4 and be able to witness what happens when teams have time and tape to help game-plan against their Week 3 strengths. This will be a fascinating slate of games to help analyze if these performances that stood out in Week 3 are sustainable.
Let's dive into the position-by-position analysis.
Deshaun Watson ($34) - The reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week, Watson was able to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge his way around a formidable San Diego Chargers defensive line for 351 passing yards, three touchdowns, and another 18 yards on the ground. The three touchdown passes on Sunday are especially noteworthy, because they are indicative of why Watson has been so successful this season despite poor offensive line play.
Against the Chargers, Watson threw touchdown passes of 15, 16, and 53 yards. Success on these long plays downfield have been Watson's calling card in the first few weeks of the seasons. According to our metrics among passers with at least three attempts, Watson has the second-highest Net Expected Points (NEP) per pass attempts on throws at least 16 yards down the field (1.73 NEP), trailing only Aaron Rodgers (2.11). This success has also not come on just a few deep balls sprinkled in here or there:
Largest increases in deep-ball rate (20-plus yards passes per pass attempt) from 2018-2019 (PFF)
Lamar Jackson: +13.4%
Matthew Stafford: +10.7%
Josh Rosen: +9%
Deshaun Watson: +8.3%
Jameis Winston: +8.2%
Dak Prescott: +6.2%
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 25, 2019
It certainly helps when you have a wide receiver whose hands are made out of superglue (DeAndre Hopkins) and a burner with a 99th percentile 40-yard dash score (Will Fuller), but Watson is putting the ball on the money this year, and the Carolina Panthers looks to be his next victim.
Daniel Jones ($29) - After just one game, I am a believer. As predicted in this column before Week 3, Jones used the combination of his passing and rushing ability to dismantle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lead the Giants to their first win of the season. While the Giants will surely suffer due to the loss of Saquon Barkley for several weeks, Jones should be the beneficiary, especially from a rushing perspective. Without the Barkley safety valve, Jones may end up calling his own number as he did on Sunday. Inside the Buccaneers' 10-yard line, the Giants put their faith in Jones on a quarterback option play, which led to his first rushing touchdown of the day.
Surely by now, you have seen some of the data floating around the Twitterverse that show how Jones accomplished in one game several statistical feats Eli Manning only accomplished a handful of times in 16 seasons, but there are several under-the-hood metrics that give us hope that this was not a one-week fluke. Under pressure against Tampa Bay, for example, Jones was simply phenomenal. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones completed 14-of-19 passes for 243 yards and a passer rating of 133.1, showing poise well beyond his years in his first start. After this one game, Jones' passing success rate (46.7%) and Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play (.79) exceed what Lamar Jackson has done so far in 2019. Those numbers need more sample to make sure they are not just noise, but against a Washington Redskins defense allowing the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks this year, Jones has the stage set for a strong encore.
Austin Ekeler ($31) - Sometimes...
A look at the league leaders in #FDPoints per game by RBs through the first 3 weeks of the NFL season pic.twitter.com/3kqDl7RiDH
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) September 25, 2019
fantasy football is...easy.
Ekeler is projected for our second-highest Yahoo point total in Week 4 and I really don't need to tell you why. Also, don't sleep on Justin Jackson ($18). So far, the Miami Dolphins have allowed 10.4 points to James White and 20.3 points to Tony Pollard, both in backup roles.
Kerryon Johnson ($19) - If you like vanilla ice cream and Big Bang Theory, just go ahead and play Wayne Gallman ($10) this week. Everything will be fine and your DFS outcomes will also be fine. But why not actually live your life and take a chance on a running back averaging 2.6 yards per carry so far this season?
Seriously though, Johnson has accounted for almost 55% of the Lions' rushing share through three games, including an incredible 71.4% this past Sunday. With C.J. Anderson no longer in town, Johnson's lead role is secure, and he now gets to face the Kansas City Chiefs at home, a team that has allowed 6.1 yards from scrimmage per touch to running backs through three games. In their first three games the Chiefs have allowed 20.1 running back points per game - 10th worst in the league - which would surely be worse if not for the fact that teams are consistently trailing the Chiefs and take to the air to try and catch up. I expect the Lions, a team with the eighth-lowest pass/run ratio in the league, to try and control clock at home and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes' hands by feeding Johnson heavily.
Julio Jones ($38) - Julio Jones is, of course, doing Julio Jones things in the early part of 2019. Among wide receivers, he is second in fantasy points, eighth in targets, fifth in air yards, first in touchdowns, and tenth in yards after the catch. No surprises there, but will the Tennessee Titans allow the strong start to continue?
On the surface, this seems like a daunting matchup for Jones. Tennessee's pass defense is ranked fourth overall by our NEP metrics, and they allow a mere 190 passing yards per game. But in their first three games, the Titans faced three quarterbacks all in the bottom third of Passing NEP per dropback (Marcus Mariota Gardner Minshew, and Jacoby Brissett). Now, the Titans travel to Atlanta to face Jones and company in a dome, the toughest challenge of their season by far. Jones' individual matchup should place him across from Malcolm Butler, ranked number 68 among cornerbacks for fantasy points allowed per game, according to Player Profiler.
Curtis Samuel ($16) - When we think of offenses that funnel their targets and opportunity to a limited and predictable number of players, teams like the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers, and Minnesota Vikings come to mind. We don't, however, often think of the Panthers when in fact they have one of the more reliable passing trees in the league. D.J. Moore, Samuel, and Greg Olsen all have between a 21%-23% target share. They each have between 25%-28% of the air yards share. All three average between 8.0 and 8.7 targets per game. These three receivers average between 10.19 and 10.67 average depth of target (aDOT). The definition of consistency.
You can truly take your pick between Moore (also $16) and Samuel against Houston who have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the position so far, a number that's attributed to more than just Keenan Allen's massive outburst in Week 3. Houston allowed 73 yards to Chris Conley and 55 yards plus a touchdown to D.J. Chark in Week 2 in Minshew's first-ever NFL start. They allowed Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., and Alvin Kamara to total 296 receiving yards in Week 1. My money is going towards Samuel as he will be primarily be guarded by Jonathan Joseph (left cornerback on 78% of his snaps) who just allowed Allen to torch him for six catches and 68 yards on eight defended targets.
Evan Engram ($26) - Blech. I don't like having this list be 25% New York Giants any more than you do, but their remaining skill players are in such a strong position this week against Washington that it's difficult to overlook. Engram, as many predicted, is balling out with his expanded opportunity, no matter who is behind center. For all the talk about Darren Waller's astounding share of the passing game in Oakland, Engram has more targets per game, more receiving yards per game, and almost identical air yards and yards after the catch. With Barkley shelved for the next month or two, look for Engram to be the featured player in Daniel Jones' blossoming offensive repertoire.
Washington's pass defense is currently ranked 29th in terms of passing NEP per play, and after getting torched by Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and one half of Mitchell Trubisky, the aforementioned Jones get to take his shot. If Jones can continue to target Engram on short crossing patterns and in the space between the defensive line and linebackers, it should be an unbeatable game plan against the Redskins. On the season, Engram's aDOT is merely 5.6 yards per target, but the Redskins allow a staggering 111.9 passer rating on throws that are short middle, left, and right, according to Sharp Football Stats. Those short passes are frequently turning into large gains for Engram, and Washington will likely provide little resistance on Sunday.
Will Dissly ($18) - Not much more can be said other than the Arizona Cardinals allow 21.6 points per game to the tight end position in 2019, 9.5 points more than any other team, according to FantasyPros. Seattle just traded tight end Nick Vannett to the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, so the pieces are in place for Dissly to have the perfect combination of usage, pace, and matchup. At least give the fine folks at Yahoo credit, they recognized this and raised his price almost 30%. Dissly makes for a tremendous pivot off Waller chalk at the same price.
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.