Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 15
We've got a lot to consider when making decisions in daily fantasy football.
We have to weigh volume, matchup, game script, surrounding talent, etcetera. The list goes on for days, and if we don't take that into account, we're going to make sub-optimal decisions.
Those things are true always. But in Week 15, we have to add a couple extra factors into the docket.
Mainly, those two things are motiviation and an increased emphasis on weather. Both are far more prevalent now than they are before Halloween.
Early in the season, every team has a shot to make the playoffs, and they probably are not on the verge of mutiny with the coaching staff. But once we get this deep into the year, that couch can look pretty alluring if you're out of the hunt, and people's tempers will be tested.
From a weather perspective, you're more likely to get high winds and nastiness this time of year than you are earlier, though it's still a factor then, as well. Weather matters a lot -- especially with quarterbacks and wide receivers -- so we've got to be on our toes and quick to adapt.
As with anything, we don't need to go overboard here and avoid all players who are in bad weather or on teams that are scouring TripAdvisor for January. But games where there's something on the line look a little bit tastier than they did earlier on.
That's what we get down in Dallas this week with the Dallas Cowboys squaring off with the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams still have at least a 29.0% change to make the playoffs, per numberFire's analytics, and we won't be sweating any weather with the game beneath a billion-dollar roof. That sets up pretty well for a game of fantasy delight, and it's one we'll want to think about plenty while making lineup decisions.
Let's dive deeper into that game to figure out how we should handle it while trying to exploit its high-leverage nature. Then, we'll dig into other situations primed to impact the main slate.
Once we account for all the moving gears tilting the Week 15 main slate, how should we view various players in daily fantasy? Let's check it out.
The Rams' Receiver Situation
Not only is Cowboys-Rams high-stakes, but it's between the teams ranked third and fourth, respectively, in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders. We want to gobble up all the pieces in this game.
The Rams are just making that difficult.
Earlier in the year, we knew how to get exposure to the Rams, and it was via Cooper Kupp. He had 27.8% of the team's targets heading into their Week 9 bye, and nobody else was above 20.0%.
Kupp has struggled since then, though, with a pair of fumbles in Week 11 and a dropped-pass-turned-pick in Week 12. It led to a minuscule role in Week 14 (with the routes run data being via Pro Football Focus).
|In Week 14||Snap Rate||Routes Run|
Kupp's snap rate that game was almost lower than his early-season target share. That's sub-optimal.
When discussing Kupp's (and Brandin Cooks') reduced role, head coach Sean McVay said it was due to the matchup and a desire to keep the players fresh. That makes sense. But it also doesn't guarantee that Kupp's role will change back to where it was previously.
This isn't to say that Kupp will never contribute again. Slot guys like Cole Beasley, Jamison Crowder, and Julian Edelman have performed well against the Cowboys' defense, and McVay could go with more three-receiver sets as a result. There's still a path for Kupp returning to relevancy. But his floor is non-existent.
Instead, we can take the path of least resistance and roll out Robert Woods.
Woods has been the focal point of the offense since his return, netting 33.9% of the targets the past three games. He has at least 95 receiving yards in four straight and has twice made a perfect FanDuel lineup without scoring a receiving touchdown. He's one of the top plays at wide receiver for both cash games and tournaments at $7,500 on FanDuel.
Tyler Higbee is the other guy in the cash-game discussion at $5,700. Gerald Everett missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, meaning he's likely to sit again. In two games without Everett, Higbee has 26.0% of the overall targets and 45.5% of the targets at least 16 yards downfield. He also gives us low-salary exposure to a high-paced game, which is something we should actively seek out.
The one point of hesitancy around going at the Rams' passing attack could be a couple narratives around Jared Goff. But he's in a good spot this week even before we account for the projected pace in this game.
The first argument against Goff is that he -- in the past -- has performed much better at home than on the road. That hasn't been true in 2019.
All four of Goff's best games through the lens of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) have come outside of Los Angeles (three on the road and one in London). NEP is the metric numberFire uses to track the expected points added or subtracted on each play, and Passing NEP includes deductions for expected points lost on sacks, incompletions and interceptions. Goff's blow-up games in that metric have all come on the road this year, and putting this game indoors only makes that outlook rosier.
The second is that Goff hasn't been good in 2019. His overall marks are definitely disappointing. But a lot of that has been due to matchups.
Sunday's game will be just the fifth time all year Goff has faced a team ranked in the bottom half of the league against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics (the Cowboys are 20th). He has faced a top-10 pass defense in 38.5% of his games, and there aren't a ton of quarterbacks who would have glowing numbers in that scenario.
When Goff has faced non-top-10 defenses, he has performed much better than the NFL average against similar defenses.
|In 2019||Passing NEP Per Drop Back|
|Jared Goff vs. Non-Top-10 Pass Ds||0.29|
|League Average vs. Non-Top-10 Pass Ds||0.14|
Goff's only negative Passing NEP games this year have come against the second-, third-, and fourth-ranked pass defenses in the league. Given the duct-taped offensive line he's playing behind, Goff has been fully respectable.
When you put that in a blazing-fast game against a below-average defense, it's easy to get jazzed about Goff at $7,800.
Goff's efficiency should also give us faith in rolling out Todd Gurley at $7,600. Gurley's snap rate has been at least 74.0% in four of five games since the Rams' bye, and the lone exception came because they were pasting the Arizona Cardinals. He's also had at least three targets in each of those games outside of the Arizona one. Against the league's 19th-ranked rush defense, Gurley is firmly on the tournament radar, though his passing-game usage likely isn't high enough to justify using him in cash yet.
Cowboys' Home/Road Splits
Given the Cowboys' team-wide struggles and what the Rams' defense has done the past two weeks, you may be hesitant to load up on the Cowboys here, even if you do want exposure to the Rams. But this Cowboys offense is a wild beast when it's in Jerry World.
Since acquiring Amari Cooper last year, the Cowboys have played 11 regular-season home games. Here's what Dak Prescott has done in those games with "Success Rate" being the percentage of drop backs that have increased the team's expected points for the drive.
|Since Cooper Trade||Yards Per Attempt||Passing NEP Per Drop Back||Success Rate|
|Dak Prescott at Home||8.8||0.26||54.3%|
|Dak Prescott on Road||7.4||0.19||50.0%|
Prescott has still been good on the road (the league-average Passing NEP per drop back is 0.09). But he has been superhuman in Dallas.
This is true in tough matchups, as well. The Cowboys have had two home games against top-10 pass defenses this year, and in those, Prescott has averaged 0.23 Passing NEP per drop back with 7.9 yards per pass attempt. The Rams grade out as 12th against the pass, so we should expect the Cowboys to move the ball this weekend.
That makes Prescott an intriguing DFS play at $7,800, the same salary as Goff. The Cowboys opened as 2.5-point favorites, but the spread quickly moved to the Rams -1, according to oddsFire, indicating that the public is more into the Rams than they are the Cowboys. If Prescott flies under the radar as a result, he could give you big upside at low popularity.
Prescott has topped 30 FanDuel points twice this year, and he has hit 25 points five times. He's one of the better tournament plays on the slate.
When stacking Prescott, we have to consider that Jalen Ramsey will be draped over Cooper all game. That does lower Cooper's safety, but he's good enough to win any individual matchup. Cooper's in play. However, it also boosts the appeal in Michael Gallup.
The Cowboys have played six games since their bye, and Cooper, Gallup, and Randall Cobb have played in all six. Here's the target distribution in those games with a "deep" target being at least 16 yards downfield.
|Past 6 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Part of this is because Cooper has had some tough individual matchups in this span, but that'll be true on Sunday, as well. Gallup's usage has been nearly identical to Cooper's, and we can snag him for just $6,800.
Because of that, Gallup seems to be the top stacking partner with Prescott. He's cheaper access to this game, and we need all the savings we can get. If you're multi-entering, snag some Cooper, too, but with a single bullet, Gallup's the best route.
Ezekiel Elliott deserves to be in consideration, as well. As you saw above, his target share has been lower this year, but things have been better of late. He had 10 targets on Thanksgiving and five last week. The five-target game came with Tony Pollard sidelined, and the other was against a Buffalo Bills defense that prioritizes preventing efficient passes. We shouldn't expect Zeke's recent usage to keep up.
Even accounting for that, though, Zeke makes sense. He is $8,500 and getting massive work in a game that could feature a bunch of points. He likely grades out below Gurley in this game due to his salary, but there are still lots of reasons to buy into Elliott here.
The Bucs' Offense Without Mike Evans
We know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be without Mike Evans as he deals with a hamstring injury. On the other side, the Detroit Lions are going to be without Marvin Jones as he is now on injured reserve. That lowers the enthusiasm around this game, but it does open up some value.
One thing we have to keep in mind with injuries, though, is that the effects are not guaranteed to be positive for others. When a team is missing a big play-maker, it increases the odds the team struggles to move the football, which decreases the team's touchdown expectation. That would be true for the Bucs with just Evans out, but they're also dealing with an injury to Jameis Winston.
Progress at Bucs practice: Jameis Winston is throwing ... tennis balls. Another step as he tried to play through thumb injury. pic.twitter.com/i6t8KC6tVR
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 12, 2019
Unless the tennis ball fits NFL regulations, that seems less than ideal. There's a chance Ryan Griffin starts this game, which would up the grimness even a bit more.
Still, we should try to figure out what to expect from a target perspective with Evans sidelined, especially on a slate where we'll take all the savings we can get. The problem is that projecting that volume is tough.
We do have three quarters of data on the offense after Evans' injury in Week 14, which is valuable. And in those three quarters, Justin Watson led the team in targets.
|After Evans' Injury||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Watson is minimum-salary, so we should just plug him in and log out, right?
If only it were that easy.
Wide receiver Scotty Miller was unable to play that game due to a hamstring injury. Miller has returned to practice this week and now is in line to play on Sunday. In the games all three of Watson, Miller, and Breshad Perriman have been healthy, Watson has been left in the dust.
There was a five-game stretch from Week 8 through Week 12 where all three were healthy, before Miller injured his hamstring. Here's each guy's snap rate in those games.
|Snap Rates When Healthy||Week 8||Week 9||Week 10||Week 11||Week 12|
This would push us toward Perriman, who has been logging snaps all year long when healthy. But again, it ain't that easy.
In those final two games, Miller actually ran more routes than Perriman, according to Pro Football Focus, despite leaving early with the injury in Week 12. Watson ran no routes in either game.
So if Miller plays, we can't be sure that Watson will have a role. We also don't know what Miller's role will be off a multi-week absence. That means both are difficult assessments.
We could instead pivot to Perriman and Chris Godwin, but both are crazy expensive at $6,400 and $8,400, respectively, on FanDuel. An expected downtick in efficiency hurts Godwin up there, and it's hard to spend $6,400 on Perriman when Winston has been hideously inefficient targeting him this year. Nobody here is safe, and they all could have capped upside if the offense struggles without Evans.
One potential exception who could creep in is O.J. Howard. Howard has run 61 routes the past two weeks, more than everybody but Godwin and Perriman. He's also cheaper at $5,700 and helps fill a tougher position. You can certainly take stabs at the wide receivers here, which becomes easier if Miller can't get back out there yet, but Howard is the one cheap-ish guy we know will have some sort of a role in the offense.
Marvin Jones to Injured Reserve
The other side of that game is a bit less hazy because we know where the ball will go with Jones out. It's just hard to tell whether it's worth it.
We've got 85 drop backs of sample on David Blough as the Lions' starter. He's at 0.03 Passing NEP per drop back, which definitely isn't bad. It's even better against a poor secondary.
But that was with Jones healthy for the full sample. Now, you're taking half of the team's legitimate pass-catching threats out of the equation, and they are also without tight end T.J. Hockenson. This team has gotten depleted fast.
If it were Matthew Stafford in this environment, he might be able to keep them afloat. Blough is less likely to do so.
We know that Kenny Golladay is going to get massive volume this week. But he's also $7,900, the same salary as Tyreek Hill, and Hill won't be catching passes from Blough. The defense also knows the Lions will be throwing Golladay's way, making him tough to swallow at that salary.
We can likely expect heavy volume to Danny Amendola, as well, and he actually leads the team in targets with Blough at quarterback. He has turned those 16 targets into a whopping 66 receiving yards, though, making it hard to think there's a route to a big game here.
Volume is good. We should seek it out in fantasy football. But with both the Bucs and the Lions, there are legitimate fears that that volume could carry less weight due to a lack of explosiveness. You can defend taking stabs at some of these guys, but nobody on either side stands out as a must-have play.
Try, Eagles, Try
That same discussion is going to be pertinent with the Philadelphia Eagles, as well. Thankfully, things aren't quite as costly here.
We know for sure that the Eagles will have to face Washington without Alshon Jeffery -- who is now on injured reserve -- and Lane Johnson due to a sprained ankle. They also may be without Nelson Agholor, who is yet to practice after missing Week 14. To compensate, the team promoted Robert Davis from the practice squad, giving them now three healthy wide receivers. So at least it's better than it was Monday night.
Clearly, 2019 had not been a good year for Jeffery, so you may be inclined to think that it's not a major loss for the Eagles. However, when the alternatives are what the Eagles have left in the cupboard, it matters.
The table below shows Wentz's Passing NEP per attempt when targeting various players this year. He'll still have Zach Ertz, but it gets dark after that.
|Wentz in 2019||Targets||Passing NEP Per Attempt|
The "others" department looks a lot worse when you remember that sample includes DeSean Jackson. Wentz has more Passing NEP when targeting Jackson this year than he does for all players except Ertz, Jeffery, and Miles Sanders, and that came on just 11 targets. If you take him out, the per-attempt efficiency in the "others" column drops to -0.04.
If you look at Wentz's Passing NEP per attempt this year when targeting players still active and on the team, it's 0.20, which is below the league-average mark of 0.22 when you exclude sacks. And that's even before you account for any decreases with Johnson sidelined.
And the Johnson injury is a big one. The team has played 116 snaps this year without Johnson, and their yards per pass attempt has decreased to 6.22 from 7.08, according to The Quant Edge. Those missed snaps came against the league's 1st-, 13th-, and 27th-ranked pass defenses, but it's a drastic dropoff.
This is all a long-winded way of saying we should expect Wentz to struggle with efficiency this week, something that decreases the DFS appeal of everybody in this offense. Even in a plus matchup with Washington, we need to bake in a dip in efficiency for this offense with both Jeffery and Johnson sidelined.
Even with that dip in efficiency, though, we could potentially snag some value here, especially if Agholor winds up sitting, as well.
The Eagles played both Week 12 and most of Week 14 without Jeffery and Agholor. Jordan Matthews (who has since been released) was active in Week 12 and had six targets, meaning things have gotten even thinner since that game. But Greg Ward actually got some looks in that span.
|Weeks 12 and 14||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Clearly, Ertz is going to be a high-floor option regardless of who plays, and he gets enough volume to generate a ceiling. He's also cheaper than guys like Godwin and Golladay, and he fills tight end for $6,700. Ertz is the best piece here.
Ward is at least interesting, though. He has seven and nine targets in those two games despite being elevated from the practice squad right before Week 12. With a firmer grasp of the offense in Week 14, he played 86.5% of the snaps and was second on the team with 68 air yards, per FantasyADHD.com. For $4,900, that's not too shabby.
You don't have to go at this situation, by any means. This game has the lowest total on the slate, and we generally want our receivers in better game environments. But Ward is at least a value option at wide receiver, and Ertz is a high-floor play at tight end.
Damien Williams' Potential Return
The Kansas City Chiefs' backfield was a hot mess last week, with the previously unemployed Spencer Ware leading the team with a 39.7% snap rate. If it's the same cast of characters this week, we should ignore everybody here.
But if Damien Williams comes back, things are a bit different.
Williams has logged back-to-back limited practices to start the week, meaning he's got a chance to return from a two-game absence. He's the only back on this team capable of fantasy relevancy.
For the full season, a Chiefs running back has played at least 55% of the snaps only four times. All four were by Williams in Weeks 1, 5, 9, and 10. His Weeks 9 and 10 outings were the only times for this team above 70%, and then he got hurt the following week. Nobody else has had a role anywhere near what Williams had in Weeks 9 and 10.
If Williams returns, he'd be at home as a 9.5-point favorite against the league's 13th-ranked rush defense. For $6,000, you could do a lot worse.
Williams isn't a lock to jump back into that volume, so he can't sniff a cash-game roster, and there's risk for tournaments, too. But he averaged 15.5 carries and 3.5 targets in those two games as the team's bellcow, meaning we should at least consider him.
There are other routes for exposure to the Chiefs, though. And weirdly enough, they gain appeal with the way that Drew Lock has played.
The Broncos With Lock
If you want Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' passing game to keep the foot on the gas, you need the Broncos' offense to show a pulse. They've done that the past two weeks with Lock starting.
In Lock's starts, he has averaged 0.40 Passing NEP per drop back, which would lead the league if it were his full-season mark. Clearly, that's not going to stick, and we shouldn't expect it to. But it's superbly likely that he's an upgrade from Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen, who combined for -0.10 Passing NEP per drop back. Lock has been worth an extra half point per drop back over those guys.
We just haven't gotten to see much of Lock and that efficiency. The Broncos have outscored their opponents, 28-0, in the first quarters of those games, allowing the offense to hit cruise control the rest of the way. This will not be the same.
It's a tough task for Lock. The Chiefs sneakily rank fifth against the pass, and playing your third career game in Arrowhead is daunting. But if Lock can be competent, there will be several ripple effects.
The first is that he increases the projected volume for Mahomes and company. When they throttled the Oakland Raiders two weeks ago, Mahomes threw just 29 times, and it prevented any of the pass-catchers from doing anything noteworthy. If you want that to be different this week, you need Lock to show life, which has been the case in his first two starts.
If Mahomes does get big volume, the blow-up potential is there. This is just the fourth home game for Mahomes in 2019, and it's his second with Tyreek Hill healthy. The first was that Oakland game where they ran away and hid while also dealing with high winds.
If you think Lock can put some point on the board, then Mahomes becomes one of the better quarterback plays on the board at $8,300. Hill might be able to come through even if Lock doesn't do a ton.
We've got just three games this year in which all of Mahomes, Hill, and Sammy Watkins have been healthy. Hill has absolutely dominated targets in those games.
|Weeks 10, 13, and 14||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Hill has at least eight overall targets and two deep targets in all three games. He's an elite option if you think Lock shows life, but we can consider him no matter what.
A close game would also benefit Travis Kelce, whose volume has been just decent in this time. That's why he would work if you decide to roll out Mahomes, but with Ertz projecting into a massive role and several quality tight ends in the $5,000 range, Kelce is not as much of a priority as Hill.
In Lock's two starts, he has spread out the targets quite a bit, but all the high-leverage looks have gone to Sutton.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Sutton has four deep targets in two games even with Lock not hitting the 30-attempt mark yet. If they have to throw more to keep pace Sunday, Sutton's upside is tempting.
Sutton has 100 receiving yards twice and 80 receiving yards five times this year all while dealing with poor quarterback play. Things may be better there now, and he's in a spot where the volume should be up. Sutton's the top bring-back option on the Broncos' side when stacking the Chiefs, and we can give him thought as a standalone play.
Fant's target total is low, but it's important to remember that he left early and played just 49.2% of the snaps last week. He had four targets prior to the injury and was able to get in a limited session on Thursday. If he plays, he's a high-risk option, but he's a cheaper game-stacking partner at $5,700.
Lindsay's mostly in play because of his salary, but it's a favorable one at $6,400. Since his role change coming out of the bye, Lindsay has averaged 15.5 carries and 2.5 targets per game. That's not enough pass-game work for cash games. For tournaments, though, there's a scenario where Lindsay takes advantage of the league's 29th-ranked rush defense and comes through. He's another guy who gets a boost due to Lock's performance, and it's enough to make him viable even with imperfections in his profile.
Chris Carson Without Rashaad Penny
Now, Carson gets a bit extra breathing room, though it's for an unfortunate reason.
Penny tore his ACL on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. With Penny going down early in Week 14, Carson played 82.1% of the snaps, his highest rate since Week 10. This should force us to reevaluate what we expect out of Carson this weekend.
Through Week 14, Penny has played at least 10% of the snaps in seven games this year. Here's what Carson has done in those games versus the others in which Penny played less than 10% of the snaps. "Adjusted Opportunities" is carries plus two-times the player's target total to account for the value gap between a carry and a target for running backs in FanDuel's scoring rules.
|In 2019||Carries Per Game||Targets Per Game||Adj. Opp. Per Game|
|Carson With Penny||17.7||3.1||24.0|
|Carson Without Penny||20.3||3.7||27.7|
That may not seem like a major difference. But Penny being out gives Carson a whole heck of a lot more safety, and it gives him better odds of hitting his ceiling.
This slightly increased role couldn't have come at a better time, either. The Seattle Seahawks will be facing the Carolina Panthers, and although that game is on the road, it's against the league's worst rush defense. Devonta Freeman averaged 4.9 yards per carry against them last week, up from 3.4 for the full season. You can move the ball on the ground against this team with ease, and we know that's how the Seahawks want to operate.
Carson's still not the safest guy due to his fumbling issues and the potential for those to sap him of playing time should they persist. But we do need to bump him up in our minds with Penny out, making him one of the better running back plays available at $7,400.
The Panthers' Tight Ends
We could get a value play in here, too. We just don't know which one yet.
That value play would be at tight end, depending on the status of Greg Olsen. Olsen is still in concussion protocol, meaning he may not be able to go. If he does, he's just $4,900, and we could get on board with those savings.
If not, Ian Thomas immediately becomes one of the best tight-end plays on the slate.
Thomas is just $5,300 coming off of a 10-target game where he easily paid off. Of those 10 targets, three were deep, and one was in the red zone. Not many tight ends in the sport have that type of usage, and you're definitely not getting them for $5,300.
Keep an eye on Olsen's status here as it could open up some value. If you want McCaffrey at $10,400, we'll need that value, and getting up to McCaffrey is very much something we should be looking to do. His teammates help get us there.
Will Fuller's Hamstring
The Titans are easy to diagnose. Derrick Henry is an option at running back despite a frustrating role, and A.J. Brown has been good enough to pay off without massive volume. Toss in Ryan Tannehill at $7,600, and we have a good idea of how to handle them when trying to get exposure to this game.
The Texans are more dependent on how things break on Friday's injury report.
Will Fuller is practicing on a limited basis thus far, though he said he's "feeling good," according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. We should prepare for what we'll do whether he plays or sits.
If Fuller's able to go, it would be the sixth game this year in which both Fuller and Kenny Stills have been healthy. Here's the target distribution in those games.
|With Fuller and Stills||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Hopkins' numbers here are good, and we can use him if Fuller plays. As you'll see later, though, his value goes up if Fuller sits.
Fuller's going to be volatile because so much of his work is downfield. He had 140 yards in one of those games and then followed it up with eight in another. He's an option for game stacks, but the standalone value isn't overly high at $6,600.
Fuller playing, though, would be great for Deshaun Watson. Watson is $8,200, just $600 more than Tannehill, who figures to be one of the more popular quarterback plays on the slate. But if you can get Watson with all of his pass-catching toys against a middling pass defense, that's hard to turn down.
If Fuller's not quite ready yet, it would be their sixth game without him this year, and the target distribution has shifted to this in that time.
|Without Fuller||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Hopkins without Fuller becomes Michael Thomas with more deep volume. Giddy up.
If Fuller can't play, then Hopkins is likely the top expensive wide receiver on the board. If Fuller can go, then it's between Hopkins and Tyreek Hill for that top spot. Regardless, Hopkins is someone you'll want to target, and he makes the Houston side of this game pretty easy to figure out, as well.
Raheem Mostert's Evolving Role
The past two weeks have been the Raheem Mostert show for the San Francisco 49ers. He has 263 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns combined, prompting Kyle Shanahan to say that Mostert had forced his way into more volume. With the Atlanta Falcons next on deck and the 49ers 10.5-point favorites, we should want to buy into Mostert's expanded role.
There's only one problem. He's $7,500, $100 more than Carson and $100 less than Gurley. The buying window closed before it even opened.
It doesn't mean Mostert is incapable of having a big game. His 59.7% snap rate last week was the fourth-highest for a 49ers running back this season, and one of the higher rates was by Mostert in Week 13. His role is good comparable to other 49ers backs, and we've seen guys like Tevin Coleman have monster games.
The problem is that the odds for a bust are much higher for him than other backs in this salary range due to the lower touch projection. Even with that jacked-up snap rate last week, Mostert had only 10 carries and 2 targets, which isn't a big workload. You can hang a big number with that volume; Mostert showed that last week. It's just harder.
This makes Mostert a tough guy to trust, especially when other running backs in his salary tier carry a lot of appeal and with center Weston Richburg on injured reserve. You can go at Mostert with the matchup being so good, but the paths to disappointment are fairly clear.
You can still get exposure to this team via the passing game, though.
|With Kittle and Sanders||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Sanders had only one target in Week 12 while dealing with his rib injury, and if you omit that, his overall share goes up to 26.1%. Those marks work for Sanders at $6,900 and Kittle at $7,200.
In general, we want pass-catchers in more back-and-forth affairs, and this doesn't project to be that. That does prevent Kittle and Sanders from being top-tier options at their positions, but they're definitely still on the table. And some injuries on the other side could keep things a bit tighter.
A Battered 49ers Defense
The timing for the 49ers there is fine with the flailing Falcons on deck, but from a DFS perspective, it does increase our interest in the Falcons' offense, and it may help keep things closer for Kittle and Sanders.
That Falcons offense is a bit thinner this week, too, with Calvin Ridley done for the season due to an abdominal injury. Ridley had performed well with Matt Ryan averaging 0.60 Passing NEP per attempt when targeting Ridley, the sixth-highest mark for any receiver with at least 70 targets and the highest for any relevant piece in the Falcons' offense. That plus the matchup are enough to shove Ryan out of consideration, but it also opens up volume for those left standing.
|Weeks 8, 10, and 14||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Now, you're taking Ridley's targets out of the pool, freeing up even more volume for the other guys.
Julio Jones is $7,500, and Hooper is $6,200, so both are cheaper than they've been, and their target projection is likely higher. We just have to wonder if they'll be able to come through on that volume.
Jones does have 100 or more yards in four games this year, and he's due for some touchdown regression with no end-zone trips since Week 4. Even without that, he has at least 9.0 FanDuel points in seven straight games, meaning he has a good floor. If he gets to the end zone, the ceiling will come back.
Because of this, Jones fits well if you want to roll out Kittle and Sanders and bring it back with a Falcon. There is also some appeal as a standalone play, though guys like Robert Woods and Jarvis Landry should be higher on our lists due to their game environments. Overall, a combination of increased volume and a dinged-up opposing defense puts Jones and Hooper on the radar, even if their matchup isn't necessarily elite.
Aaron Jones' Passing-Game Role
It has been a roller-coaster year for Aaron Jones. He has scrored 23 or more FanDuel points in 5 of 13 games, and he has been held to 6 or fewer 5 times. That means he has had just 3 games between 6.1 and 22.9 FanDuel points, and he hasn't been between 5.2 and 27.3 FanDuel points since October 20th. The dude bathes in volatility.
For cash games, that's brutal because you can't afford a dud. But for tournaments, he has shown an ability to hit his ceiling at a decently reliable rate, and his odds of reaching that ceiling may be on the rise.
The main catalyst for upside (unless you are Derrick Henry) is passing-game work. It gives you multiple outlets for yardage and touchdowns, which is likely why 33 of 36 running backs in perfect FanDuel lineups this year have had multiple receptions. Jones was one of those exceptions (and the only guy to make a perfect lineup with a zero in the reception column), but he has had at least 4 receptions for 34 yards in 4 of his 5 highest-scoring games this year. That makes his recent role change abundantly noteworthy.
Prior to Week 13, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said they needed to get Jones more passing-game work. At that point, Davante Adams had been back from his foot injury for three games, and Jones totaled just five targets in that stretch.
LaFleur has been good to his word since that time. Jones has six and seven targets the past two games, respectively, representing 21.7% of the team's targets. He still had a dud in one of those, but he turned around and racked up 192 yards from scrimmage last week.
What makes this even more appealing is that Jones is getting high-leverage looks. Two of his targets Sunday were at least 16 yards downfield, and he has three red-zone targets in this two-game span. Regular targets for a back are good, but these types of targets are great.
This should change the way we view Jones in daily fantasy, though we do need to keep expectations around his floor tempered.
The main reasoning for that is that a role change for a player is never guaranteed to stick. If he slips back into the two to three target range, his odds of busting will shoot back up while his ceiling declines. That's enough to keep Jones out of cash-game rosters.
For tournaments, though, Jones is clearly an option. He has shown a ceiling regularly this year, and his path to getting there is clearer with the increased passing-game usage. Even in a tough matchup with the Chicago Bears, Jones deserves to be someone we use decently often in tournaments.
If this game had happened a few weeks ago, we would have assumed a landslide victory for the Packers. That could still happen because the Packers have spike games on offense. But recent improvements for Mitchell Trubisky change the equation there a bit.
Rock bottom for Trubisky seemed to be back in Week 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles. His 13 first-half pass attempts resulted in 24 yards, and the coaching staff seemed to have lost all faith in him as a passer. With how he was playing, it's hard to blame them.
Since that game, though, Trubisky has had three of his four best games by Passing NEP, including a season-best mark in Week 13. Even when you include Week 11, when Trubisky may or may not have been benched against the Rams, the improvement for him since that Eagles game has been noteworthy.
|Trubisky in 2019||Passing NEP Per Drop Back||Success Rate|
|First 7 Games||-0.05||41.8%|
|Past 5 Games||0.13||50.3%|
A mark of 0.13 isn't elite by any means (the league average is 0.09), and this stretch has featured four plus matchups in five games. But even just seeing life out of Trubisky has a similar effect to what we discussed with Lock.
The obvious takeaway is that this makes the passing-game options here more relevant, and we need that with Allen Robinson boasting a whopping $8,000 salary this weekend.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Robinson's workload is worthy of his salary. But if Trubisky were still posting his previous efficiency marks, it wouldn't matter, and he'd be off the map. The recent up-tick helps quite a bit.
Whether it's enough to make Robinson desirable is up in the air. He's $100 more than Tyreek Hill, and Amari Cooper, Julio Jones, Robert Woods, and Jarvis Landry all possess quality volume in better game environments. As a result, Robinson isn't someone we need to use outside of game stacks.
Anthony Miller's salary is much lower at $6,300, meaning he's a bit more intriguing. He has gotten the bigger role change with Gabriel being out, and his salary only partially reflects that at $6,300. Miller isn't at the top of the list among sub-$6,500 receivers, but he's very much in play.
The second effect of Trubisky's increased efficiency is that he makes David Montgomery more relevant. The Bears have been competitive enough in this five-game stretch where Montgomery has averaged 16.0 rush attempts per game. That's enticing.
Unfortunately, there has been an overlap here with a decreased passing-game role for Montgomery as he has just nine total targets in this stretch. There's a path to a solid game out of Montgomery, and that path is more likely to hit when Trubisky is playing well, but a lack of passing-down work makes Montgomery someone we can use only in tournament sprinkles or game stacks.
Finally, a non-vomit-worthy Trubisky helps force the Packers to keep their foot on the gas deeper into the game, which boosts up their offense. It's hard for Jones to get passing-game work if they're not passing, and the same is true for Adams' appeal. It's not enough to put Jones on the cash-game radar, but his odds of reaching his ceiling do go up.
This is still a repeat divisional matchup where Trubisky will be on the road, and he has some pretty noticeable home-road splits since the start of last year (0.13 Passing NEP per drop back at home versus 0.07 on the road), so we have to proceed with caution. But we should view Trubisky slightly more favorably than we did earlier in the year, boosting the appeal in pieces of the Bears' offense and the Packers' passing game.
A Pace-Up Game for the Browns
The game with the second-highest total -- one that has gone up 2.5 points since it opened -- is out in the desert between the Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns. Both sides of this game are mighty attractive.
The Browns' side is a pretty easy sell. Not only are they facing the league's 31st-ranked pass defense, but the Cardinals are second in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders. It's the best spot an offense can be in, and it makes Baker Mayfield a DFS option even with his recent struggles.
We also know how to stack Mayfield, and -- as alluded to earlier -- that's with Jarvis Landry.
In the five-game sample since Kareem Hunt's debut, Landry has been the team's target monster.
|Past 5 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
You can still use Odell Beckham, but he's also just $200 cheaper than Landry, who has both the preferred volume and production. Beckham is the pivot while Landry is one of the top wide receiver options available.
The running backs are a bit tougher. Hunt's presence has sapped Nick Chubb of passing-game work, and that's big for a running back.
As mentioned with Carson, a target is worth twice as much as a carry for a running back on FanDuel, and we can account for that by looking at adjusted opportunities, or carries plus two-times the player's target total. Here's what Chubb has done there in each game this year with a major inflection point when Hunt came on the scene.
Overall, Chubb has averaged 24.2 adjusted opportunities per game with Hunt, down from 27.3 per game before Hunt made his debut. His max with Hunt active is 29 adjusted opportunities, a mark he hit three times in the opening eight weeks of the season.
A player with Chubb's rush-only workload can still blow up in DFS. There have been six players who have made a perfect FanDuel lineup this year while logging fewer than 10 receiving yards. But those players have averaged 139.6 rushing yards and 2.0 rushing touchdowns per game. That's the kind of day you need out of Chubb for him to pay off in his current role.
Chubb could certainly get there against this defense. He has hit 100 rushing yards six times this year, including a 165-yard day against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. You just have to keep the above numbers in mind and realize how much he has to do with his targets down with Hunt in the fold.
The Downgraded Browns Defense
Even with the spread in this game being tight, you may be reluctant to check out the other side with the Cardinals' offense. Despite having back-to-back home games out of their Week 12 bye, the Cardinals have scored a combined 24 points in those contests. Kyler Murray has made some big gaffes, and the offense has suffered.
A lot of that, though, can be explained by looking at the opponents. The Cardinals have faced teams ranked in the top five against the pass in three of their past five games, and another game was against the 12th-ranked pass defense. The context behind the struggles is important.
For the full season, the Browns are 11th against the pass, which may make them look like another tougher foe. But a lot of that data includes the time before Myles Garrett was suspended and Morgan Burnett hit injured reserve, and those losses have had a big impact on the team.
We're up to a three-game sample on the Browns since they lost Garrett and Burnett. Here's their splits with and without Garrett this year, via The Quant Edge.
|Browns' Defense||Yards Per Pass Attempt||Sack Rate|
Seeing the opposing yards per pass attempt jump more than a yard without Garrett is concerning straight up. It gets worse when you realize the past three games have been against superstars Ryan Fitzpatrick, Devlin Hodges, and Andy Dalton. Murray has better per-drop back efficiency than all three this year.
Once you account for the absence of Garrett and Burnett, the Browns' defense appears to be an advantageous matchup for quarterbacks. Murray has been right about the league average of 0.18 Passing NEP per drop back when he has faced bottom-half pass defenses in his rookie season.
|Murray in 2019||Passing NEP Per Drop Back||Success Rate|
|Versus Top-16 Pass Ds||-0.10||43.8%|
|Versus Bottom-16 Pass Ds||0.19||45.7%|
We shouldn't expect Murray to light the Browns up and rain efficiency down upon them. But we can expect him to move the ball, which is enough to get our attention in DFS.
Murray's salary is very acceptable at $7,600, and he adds juice with his legs. Mayfield has the better matchup, but Murray is at least equally appealing to Mayfield because of what he adds as a rusher.
We also have a very clear stacking partner when using Murray in Christian Kirk.
We're up to a six-game sample now since Kirk returned from his mid-season injury. In those six games, Kirk has a massive target edge with 26.6% of the total looks, and he has 37.5% of the team's deep targets. Getting that at $6,100 on a team that operates at a fast pace is drool-worthy. Kirk is great for game stacks, and he's firmly on the radar (potentially even as a cash-game play) as a standalone option.
The running-back situation is less clear. Kenyan Drake struggled with efficiency again last week, and his 65.0% snap rate was his lowest since Week 10. David Johnson scored a receiving touchdown and had his highest snap rate since that same game. This thing is close to becoming a full-blown committee, meaning Murray and Kirk are easily the best ways to get exposure to this team.
A Dream Spot for Eli
The New York Giants get the Miami Dolphins at home, pairing Manning with the league's worst pass defense. As of now, the wind looks a bit nasty at 16 miles per hour, and that would fully lower the appeal in the passing game. But Manning does give them a bit of life.
We don't have a positive perception of Manning relative to Jones. But Manning has actually been better this year. Here's a comparison of their efficiency along with a look at their aggressiveness. "aDOT" is each player's average depth of target, via FantasyADHD.com, and "deep rate" is the percentage of throws at least 16 yards downfield.
|In 2019||Deep Rate||aDOT||Passing NEP Per Drop Back|
Manning actually has a higher aDOT than Jones, though his deep rate is a bit lower. And it comes with efficiency that is a good chunk better. Manning is quietly a bit of an upgrade for the offense.
That's great for Saquon Barkley, who has been struggling to get going since coming back from his injury. The volume has been there, though, with Barkley averaging 17.7 carries and 4.7 targets per game.
He just needs efficiency, and the Dolphins often provide that. They rank 25th against the rush and 32nd against the pass, which helps explain how guys like Sony Michel, Tony Pollard, and Adrian Peterson all had at least 85 rushing yards against them. Barkley is a great option at $8,300.
The pass-catchers could get a bit of a squeeze if Evan Engram returns after getting in limited practices both Wednesday and Thursday. If Engram plays, it would be just the second time all year the Giants have had all four of their top pass-catching options available at the same time.
In that one game, Engram had 11 targets, and Sterling Shepard was second with 10. It would be tough to trust Engram off of such a long absence, but Shepard could be interesting.
In addition to the 10 total targets, Shepard got four deep looks in the game. He's just $5,900 in a plus spot. As long as the wind doesn't stay too high, Shepard can be a quality value option.
You could consider Darius Slayton at $6,300, but his appeal is a bit lower than Shepard's. He's more expensive, and we haven't yet seen him get big volume in a game where the Giants have been this healthy. He's the secondary option behind Shepard, and both grade out below Barkley.
Value in Patrick Laird
The other side of that game might have some value, as well. Patrick Laird is basically a bellcow for the Dolphins, and he's just $5,500.
In the first game with Kalen Ballage on injured reserve, Laird had 15 carries and 5 targets while playing 81.9% of the snaps. You never get that for a salary this low.
The Dolphins are just a bit of a special case.
There have been only three instances all year in which a Dolphins running back has scored more than 10.0 FanDuel points in a game. Two of those three have been Laird the past two weeks, but volume matters a bit less in this offense than others.
Laird is talented as a receiver, which has helped him top 35 receiving yards three times this year even while playing a limited role. And he might be better than Ballage as a rusher. But with DeVante Parker still iffy for this game, it's hard to expect a huge point total out of the Dolphins. That puts a lid on Laird's ceiling from a touchdown perspective.
For Laird, the floor is there, which puts him on the map. And using someone as cheap as him allows you to get upside elsewhere. But it's hard to envision a scenario in which Laird posts a difference-making score himself on Sunday.
Again, this isn't to say that Laird is off the map. He's definitely on it because he's so cheap. But there are reasons not to use him, as well, given what is likely a muted ceiling.
If Parker is able to go, the appeal in Laird goes up a bit because it increases the odds the team will move the football and score points. Laird's appeal also increases if the wind comes down because teams will be better able to move the ball in chunks. If neither of those things happen, though, there will be legitimate reasons to consider fading Laird in tournaments even while acknowledging that his floor and median projections are quite good.
The Raiders' Running Backs
As of now, we don't know if Josh Jacobs is going to play. He has been limited in practice, but head coach Jon Gruden wouldn't commit to Jacobs being out there. If Jacobs sits, you should go aggressively at DeAndre Washington given the role he played last week. If Jacobs plays, it's a bit more complicated.
Clearly, Jacobs isn't at full health, and that matters. Jacobs has been on the injury report with his shoulder injury since Week 8. In that time, Jacobs has played more than 60% of the snaps just once (Washington was at 63.5% last week). He's still averaging 18.2 carries and 2.2 targets per game in that stretch, so when he's on the field, he's getting the ball. But it's not the best role in the world.
Jacobs is at home against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that seems to have quit. We should want to use him. The shoulder injury combined with the questions around his role just make that difficult.
Since sustaining the shoulder injury, Jacobs has topped 20 FanDuel points just once, and he has 15 points in just two of six games. This means he's sort of in the same discussion we had earlier with Laird: he can have a good game, but the odds he burns you for fading him aren't all that high.
If Jacobs is able to get in a full practice Friday and is removed from the injury report, that ups his value for sure. Outside of that, though, it'll be hard to prioritize him on such a full slate, even with several things working in his favor.
The Absence of DJ Chark
The Jaguars haven't yet ruled out DJ Chark, but all signs point to him sitting this weekend. That would open up volume in the Jaguars' offense, but again, we have to ask if it's worth it.
In the games that Gardner Minshew has started this year while Dede Westbrook has been healthy, Chark has 23.6% of the team's targets, second on the team behind Westbrook. That means a lot of targets are now up for the taking.
However, Minshew has averaged 0.52 Passing NEP per attempt when targeting Chark compared to 0.12 when targeting anybody else. We should expect Minshew's efficiency to go down big time.
Minshew's aDOT is also just 7.1, a number that is low to begin with and could decrease without one of the team's two deep threats (with Chris Conley being the other). A team that has averaged 11.4 points per game in a five-game losing streak may be on the verge of getting worse.
Westbrook and Conley both should get volume, and the same is true for Leonard Fournette. Given how valuable volume is in DFS, we shouldn't just turn them all down. We have to give thought to all of them. But it's hard to go nuts for any of them knowing how poorly this team has performed.
When going at a team like this, the best route is generally to just spend as little as possible, which would put Conley highest on the list at $5,100. He's going to get deep targets -- despite Minshew's lack of aggressiveness -- so there's a path to a big game. Fournette's passing-game work allows him to be an option, too, at $7,700. Just don't get too wild chasing volume on this team with its sights seemingly set on winter vacation.
Adam Thielen's Return
We've gotten far too used to life without Adam Thielen. He hasn't played a full game since Week 6, and it has allowed guys like Kyle Rudolph to periodically pop up and be DFS-relevant. But with Thielen trending toward playing, we have to reset those expectations.
Let's venture all the way back to the first six games of the season. If we add Thielen back into the fold, the Minnesota Vikings' personnel is pretty similar now to what it was then. And we knew where the ball was going.
|First 6 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
We've actually seen Stefon Diggs' target numbers decline since Thielen's injury as defenses have been able to concentrate resources to slowing down just one big threat. Adding a second into the fold would be a plus for Diggs.
Diggs is $7,700, right in a range that is pretty loaded for wide receiver this week. And unfortunately for him, he's in a game with two plodding offenses that will cap the play volume. That makes splurging for an expensive receiver harder to swallow.
Thielen is a bit cheaper at $7,300, but he's coming off an extended absence and has already aggravated his hamstring injury once. That makes him a tough sell, too.
The best route for utilizing the Vikings, then, is likely Dalvin Cook. Cook is more expensive than those two at $8,500, but he got a healthy target load when Thielen was healthy, and the offense could see a spike in efficiency. That's all fine and dandy for Cook.
Cook could also benefit if this game stays close as it would keep him on the field instead of Alexander Mattison. Additionally, Mattison has missed both practices to start the week, potentially giving another bump up to Cook. Cook is undoubtedly the best Viking this week, and he's someone we should make sure we don't overlook among the expensive running backs.