Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 5
If you're like me, the Week 5 NFL DFS slate makes you all kinds of skittish.
My process in NFL DFS revolves almost entirely around game-stacking projected tight, high-scoring games. This gives me higher odds of capturing shootouts, and that's how you get monster upside in your lineups.
Week 5 is giving that strategy double-barreled middle fingers.
Of the 10 games on the main slate, only two have a spread of less than 6.5 points. Plenty have high totals, but with the spread skewing heavily in one direction, there's a chance neither team is putting out their best efforts for all four quarters.
This is going to force me out of my comfort zone. I can certainly still focus primarily on the two competitive games, but they're not going to fill all nine roster slots for each lineup. I'm going to have to roster players in those potential one-sided affairs at some point.
So, before we dig into situations impacting the main slate, we've got to take a broad view first and see what types of players can post big point totals even when the spreads aren't tight.
Tons of Hefty Spreads
One route for investigating this is looking back at last year's perfect lineups. All the players in those were clearly profitable DFS options, and not all of them came from games with tight spreads. So, we can look at those who came from less competitive games and see if a certain archetype of player emerged. Thankfully, it did at each of the three main positions.
At quarterback, there was a clear skew toward rushing. The table below shows the stat profiles of the nine quarterbacks who made a perfect lineup while favored by five or more points compared to the seven others.
|2019 Perfect QBs||Pass Yards||Pass TDs||Rush Yards||Rush TDs||FD Points|
|Favored by 5+ Points||342.8||3.8||27.3||0.6||34.3|
|Not Favored by 5+||353.4||4.3||16.9||0.4||34.7|
This should make sense anecdotally.
The players in projected tight games are likely to get passing volume throughout. If the other team is keeping pace, you can't take your foot off the gas. That volume can lead to big point totals.
If you want big point totals without that volume, you need more of a boost from rushing. Players included in the heavily favored sample were Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Russell Wilson, all of whom can do damage on the ground. That's a good archetype to have in mind when you do decide to target the quarterbacks on teams that have the spread decently in their favor.
Our sample at running back is pretty small. Only 8 of 45 perfect running backs came from teams favored by five or more points, meaning we should be working hard to prioritize the backs this week in projected tight games. That's a boon for Mike Davis, Jonathan Taylor, and Kareem Hunt.
As for those eight running backs, it may seem a bit counterintuitive, but they were even more involved in the passing game than the others.
|2019 Perfect RBs||Rush Yards||Rush TDs||Receptions||Rec Yards||Rec TDs||FD Points|
|Favored by 5+ Points||112.1||1.6||5.0||45.4||0.6||31.8|
|Not Favored by 5+||116.4||1.7||4.3||43.8||0.4||30.2|
This is at first confusing because a more positive game script should lead to less passing volume. But we can at least concoct an explanation, and it is a similar one to the quarterbacks.
For running backs, a target in a half-PPR scoring setting is worth twice as much as a carry. So if you want to score more points on less volume, it's wise to get that through the air. Targets are to running backs as rushing is to quarterbacks: it's easier access to points on less volume. That's what we should seek out when using backs on teams that are heavily favored.
With that in mind, figuring out the wide receivers should be pretty easy. We're going to want downfield targets, which give us bigger point totals on less volume.
|2019 Perfect WRs||Receptions||Rec Yards||Rec TDs||FD Points|
|Favored by 5+ Points||7.5||145.0||1.8||28.8|
|Not Favored by 5+||8.4||137.0||1.8||28.9|
That's a bingo.
The heavily favored wide receivers averaged 19.3 yards per reception while the others were down at 16.4. Downfield targets are always valuable, but when they come with projected increased efficiency? Yummy.
Once again, we should skew toward targeting players in the few projected tight games. But when we're forced to deviate from that -- and we definitely will be -- we want that money volume. That's rushing attempts for quarterbacks, targets for running backs, and downfield looks for wide receivers.
Lamar Jackson's Iffy Status
One of the guys who would check the rushing-upside box for the heavy favorites is obviously Lamar Jackson. We just don't know his status quite yet.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (knee) is not practicing for a second straight day. Starting RG Tyre Phillips (shoulder) also sidelined for a second consecutive day. Other players not practicing: RB Mark Ingram, NT Brandon Williams (gets vet days on Thursday)
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) October 8, 2020
Jackson is expected to play, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS, so we can probably assume this will happen. If he does, Jackson fits what we want in a heavily favored player, and so does Marquise Brown. We'd be able to justify both.
If not, we'd probably want to avoid this offense all together. When Robert Griffin III started in Week 17 last year, the team ran a rush-heavy offense with Griffin throwing just 21 passes. With how spread out their volume is at running back, we can't really justify them, either. So it seems like it's Jackson, Brown, or bust in this offense, and hopefully, at least those two options are on the table.
Kareem Hunt's New Role
The only reason this is even a discussion is due to what happened last week. After Chubb went down, it was actually D'Ernest Johnson who led the team with 13 carries compared to Hunt's 11. But we have to remember the context in which that occurred.
Hunt was banged up going into that game, getting in just a limited session on Friday. There was a report (later deleted) from Ed Werder on Saturday that Hunt would play a limited role in the game. That obviously changed once Chubb got hurt.
All 11 of Hunt's carries for the game came after Chubb left, so it seems like the team truly did intend to try to rest Hunt. And yet Hunt was effective in the volume he did get.
This week, Hunt has been more active in practice, getting in limited sessions both Wednesday and Thursday. We should expect him to be healthier this week than he was last, which could lead to a bellcow role.
In the first three weeks -- before the groin injury -- Hunt was averaging 13.0 carries and 3.7 targets per game. That amounts to 20.3 adjusted opportunities per game (carries plus two-times the player's target total to account for the expected scoring difference in the two types of volume). That was a solid workload to begin with, and it's going to get a bump up this week.
Right now, numberFire's projections have Hunt pegged for 17.4 carries and 4.9 targets, which would be 27.2 adjusted opportunities. Chubb averaged 19.0 adjusted opportunities per game in the first three weeks, so Hunt's new role is a big jump up from what Chubb was doing, and Chubb was pumping out big fantasy totals despite the middling volume. As such, we should view Hunt firmly within the top three running backs on the slate after accounting for salary, even against a stout Indianapolis Colts defense.
A Less Terrifying Matchup for the Giants
Daniel Jones has been hideous this year. He's 31st in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back out of 34 quarterbacks with at least 50 drop backs. NEP is numberFire's expected points model, and it includes deductions for expected points lost on plays such as picks, incompletions, and interceptions. Jones has been swimming in each of those this year.
Thankfully, things get a bit easier this weekend against the Dallas Cowboys. And we're going to need them to put up some points.
Each of the New York Giants' first four games have come against teams ranked in the top 15 in numberFire's schedule-adjusted defensive metrics. The Cowboys are 28th. So it's clear that things are looking up for the Giants.
The reason we need Jones to show a pulse here is that the Cowboys' offense is tempting. But if we want them to have their foot on the gas the entire game, the Giants need to not completely poop the bed. Unfortunately, that's still not a sure thing.
Even when you adjust for schedule, the Giants are still numberFire's 31st-ranked overall offense. They grade out worse on that side than the Cowboys do defensively.
That's enough for us to likely cross Jones off our list for DFS. There are other quarterbacks in that salary range in better offenses, so we don't need to turn to Jones here.
But he may do just enough to make this game stackable.
The Cowboys' side of things fits because their offensive players check the proper boxes discussed earlier. Dak Prescott can snag points via rushing touchdowns, and Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 7.5 targets per game. They're both in the top tier at their respective positions. You could even consider Michael Gallup as a tournament option as he is averaging 2.25 deep targets per game (at least 16 yards downfield), though the floor there is lava.
The matchup can also get us in on Darius Slayton as a bring-back option. In two games without Sterling Shepard, Slayton is averaging 7.0 targets and 2.5 deep targets per game. He already flashed single-game upside in Week 1, and the Giants are going to have to throw here. He fits well in lineups where you roll out either Prescott or Elliott.
Evan Engram is less appealing. He has gotten volume with 30 total targets, but not a single one has been deep. For a salary that is $200 lower, you can get Dalton Schultz in this same game, and he is tied to a much more efficient offense. The Cowboys' wretched defense allows us to be in on the Cowboys' offense and Slayton, but we do still want to proceed with some caution elsewhere.
The Texans Without Bill O'Brien
Can a team have a revenge game against its own franchise? If so, we might get a dose of that this weekend.
This will be the Houston Texans' first game without Bill O'Brien after his firing earlier in the week. It comes right before a juicy matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and thankfully, we shouldn't expect them to change much offensively.
Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly remained with the team after O'Brien's firing. He had been in line to lose play-calling duties had O'Brien stayed, but we should be happy he's staying at the helm.
The Texans rank fourth in early-down, first-half pass rate through four games, according to Sharp Football Stats. The Jaguars are also above-average in that department, so we should see plenty of passing here. That's a plus for both sides, and the passing should be efficient.
The Texans and Jaguars rank 28th and 32nd, respectively, against the pass, according to numberFire's metrics. No other game on the slate features two teams in the bottom 10 of the league.
What we get here is a game between two pass-heavy teams that should be able to move the ball efficiently through the air. That's a good recipe for points, and it makes this a game we could potentially stack.
The obvious way to do so is by starting with Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller. Fuller has 18.0% of the team's targets this year, but it's 24.7% if you exclude the game he injured his hamstring. Given his downfield abilities, it's no surprise he has gone over 100 yards twice in four games. A Watson-to-Fuller stack is good enough to be considered for single-entry lineups.
On the other side, James Robinson may actually be the top bring-back option, slightly ahead of D.J. Chark. Robinson is up to 22.5 adjusted opportunities per game, and it's 24.0 over the past three games. The Texans have already let up 100 yards to three different running backs, and they got to 100 in an efficient manner.
As for Chark, last week's showing was a big one. Still, he's at just 16.2% of the targets for the full season, and he'll have a tough assignment against Bradley Roby on Sunday. You can absolutely roll out Chark in game stacks, but if you're rolling out just one, Robinson may be the preferred target. Laviska Shenault would also be in play if he gets in a full practice on Friday after an 86-yard outing last week.
The Falcons Without Julio Jones
One of the few games with a tight spread for this week is in Georgia as the Atlanta Falcons face the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, it seems like that matchup will be lacking one of its stars with Julio Jones having missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday. It forces us to hit the reset button on the Falcons' offense.
Losing Jones represents a downgrade for Matt Ryan, who has struggled with Jones banged up the past two weeks. He's at -0.01 Passing NEP per drop back in that time, down from 0.32 the first two weeks. He does benefit from being back at home against a less talented defense, but Ryan's DFS appeal is much lower than it would be if Jones were healthy.
Jones' absence also hasn't led to a hyper-concentrated target tree, which is disappointing. Players have been in and out of the lineup in this time, but here are the overall target shares the past two weeks with Jones out or limited.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Obviously, Calvin Ridley is the top guy here, even after Monday's donut. He's worthy of his $8,300 salary. After that, it gets messy.
The second-best option seems to be Olamide Zaccheaus, though even he has his imperfections. Zaccheaus got up to 86 yards on Monday, but it came in a game where Ridley was blanked and Russell Gage had just three targets. Zaccheaus will work in limited lineups at $4,800, but you need to wary of going overboard on a player who may not have much upside.
As for Gage, we did see him go bananas in Week 1 with 114 yards on 12 targets. It's within his range of outcomes to have a productive day.
The problem is that we don't get as much salary relief there as with Zaccheaus as Gage is up at $5,600. You'd think with Jones being out, it'd open up extra opportunity, but this team profiles as a headache after Ridley.
Teddy Bridgewater's Fast Start
The other side of that game is easier to figure out, and we don't have to worry about efficiency. Teddy Bridgewater is playing good football right now.
Bridgewater enters Week 4 ranked 13th in Passing NEP per drop back. That's even with a couple of tough matchups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers already in the books. The Falcons won't be as tough of a task, and Bridgewater moves indoors for this one.
In the Panthers' two games without Christian McCaffrey, Davis has gotten 14.5 carries and 7.5 targets per game, amounting to 29.5 adjusted opportunities. Davis is a cash-game option at running back and has shown the necessary upside for tournaments, as well.
Among the receivers, Anderson's usage seems to be that of a player with a high floor. Given his talent, that's a scary proposition.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
That combination of raw volume with downfield opportunities has allowed Anderson to hit 99 receiving yards three times this year. Anderson's up there as one of the best receiver plays on the slate, and you can use Davis and him together thanks to the concentrated volume.
This isn't to say Moore is off the map; he's just not quite on the same level as those two.
For the full season, Moore has 23.2% of the overall targets and 45.8% of the deep targets. That's still really good usage, and he used it to get to 120 receiving yards in Week 2. He just doesn't have the same floor right now as Anderson or Davis thanks to the high-variance nature of his targets.
The way you handle Moore depends on how you think the public will view this team. If Anderson winds up the chalk while Moore goes overlooked, then Moore is a tremendous pivot. However, if the popularity on the two projects to be relatively even, then Anderson is the better process play at the moment.
Bridgewater, himself, is in play here, too, thanks to that efficiency. If a quarterback doesn't run, you need them to be in a tight, high-scoring game to be viable in DFS. That's where we find Bridgewater this week, making him a value outlet at $7,100.
A Potential Return for Henry Ruggs
Henry Ruggs was able to get in a full practice Thursday, signaling he's ready to return from a two-game absence. That benefits everybody tied to this game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs benefit because a healthy Ruggs increases the odds the game stays competitive throughout. That's a boon for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Sammy Watkins isn't as tasty because he doesn't fit our checklist above for heavy favorites as he doesn't get as much downfield volume as Hill and Kelce. Edwards-Helaire fits well with a 12.9% target share for the season, making him among the four best running-back plays on the slate.
The Raiders benefit because Ruggs' speed can open things up underneath for others. Darren Waller is at 29.9% of the targets for the season, but he averaged more yards per game in the two where Ruggs was present (75.0) than when Ruggs was out (48.5). Waller's not an elite tight-end play because his offense may not score a ton of points, but he does get a boost with Ruggs being back.
Ruggs helps Josh Jacobs, too, putting him in play if you decide to stack this game up. If the Raiders score points, it'll allow them to run the ball later in the game. With Jacobs' involvement, it's also likely he contributes to said points-scoring. Jacobs is not a cash-game play, and he has a less-than-satisfactory floor, but he's at least on the map thanks to Ruggs' return.
The 49ers' Slow Return to Health
We're not going to see the full brigade for the San Francisco 49ers yet, but we're inching closer every day.
#49ers practice report 10/8
CB Dontae Johnson (groin)
CB Emmanuel Moseley (concussion)
WR Deebo Samuel (illness)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle)
LB Dre Greenlaw (quadricep)
RB Raheem Mostert (knee)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring)
— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) October 8, 2020
The impact of Mostert is that he takes Jerick McKinnon off the map. McKinnon had 14 carries and 8 targets on 91.8% of the snaps last week, so if Mostert were to miss, McKinnon would be a top-five play at running back. But if both are active, it's hard to trust either.
Garoppolo's return makes George Kittle a borderline priority at tight end. In the two games he has played, Kittle is at 27.4% of the team's overall targets, including 15 alongside Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Those targets should be more efficient from Garoppolo than from the conglomerate of Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard, so at $7,100, Kittle grades out as a stud worth saving for.
Kyle Allen Takes the Reins
Sources: The Washington Football Team is making a QB change. Kyle Allen will get the start vs. the #Rams, while former starter Dwayne Haskins goes to the bench.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 7, 2020
In 2019 with the Panthers, Allen finished 30th in Passing NEP per drop back out of 42 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs. He was right between Sam Darnold and Andy Dalton, which isn't exactly the best company to keep.
Even a bit more concerning is that he did it with a supporting cast that is arguably better than what he'll have in Washington.
In other words, we shouldn't boost our views of the Washington offense as it shifts to Allen. We shouldn't downgrade them, either, because Haskins was far from dazzling. But this grades out as likely being a wash.
That's especially true in Week 5. The one big playmaker Washington has is Terry McLaurin, and he'll see coverage from Jalen Ramsey. That lowers the expectation for McLaurin. Antonio Gibson hasn't quite earned a big enough role to be DFS-viable yet, and it's hard to expect Logan Thomas' bottom-of-the-barrel efficiency to spike with Allen. So at least for Week 5, it's likely best to just ignore Washington's offense and revisit once we see how Allen acclimates.
A Gross Rams Backfield
We don't need to do a lot of analysis here. With Cam Akers back, we're good to avoid the entire Rams backfield.
This was a split backfield even when Akers was out. Now, we're adding a third back into the fold. Will one of them blow up? Maybe! It's a solid run scheme, and both Akers and Darrell Henderson have legit talent. But the odds of a blow-up in a split backfield are low, and the odds we correctly pick which guy goes off are even lower. Hard pass.
Less Terrible Toys for Carson Wentz
Both DeSean Jackson and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are trending toward playing thanks to their practices this week. That's a big upgrade from Week 4 when Carson Wentz's efficiency was lackluster yet again.
This isn't enough to put Wentz on the map. It moreso helps us justify pieces in the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense.
As we've discussed throughout, points for the opposition forces the other team to keep its foot on the gas, which is good for everybody involved. That's true for James Conner, too, who is at 24.0 adjusted opportunities per game in his two full contests. Conner's outside the top tier at running back, but with both Hunt and Davis likely to garner tons of popularity in the same salary tier, Conner can work as a tournament pivot at times.
The passing game gets a bump up, too. Diontae Johnson is likely to see coverage from Darius Slay, and Slay has been one of the Eagles' bright spots this year. However, with Johnson's salary at just $5,800, we should still give him sniffs in tournaments.
The less daunting matchup belongs to Eric Ebron at $5,100. Ebron is at just 13.1% of the team's targets this year, but he's facing an Eagles defense that has been a launchpad for tight-end production the full season. Given how grim things are at tight end, we can accept the matchup and turn to Ebron at times.
All of these positives would, in theory, translate to JuJu Smith-Schuster, too. However, Smith-Schuster has just 17.8% of the team's targets through three games, and only two of those targets have been deep. That's not going to cut it at $7,300. If you have reason to think things will change, then you can go at Smith-Schuster. It just seems like a leap of faith given what we saw before the team's bye.
You might think the New York Jets' offense couldn't get any worse than what it's been so far. We're about to test that theory on Sunday.
Things were rough for Flacco last year. He averaged -0.05 Passing NEP per drop back, a good chunk below the 0.04 mark the Denver Broncos' other quarterbacks put up. Drew Lock, individually, was at 0.14, and Flacco even had better pass-catchers at his disposal.
Darnold was brutal before the injury. He's dead last in Passing NEP per drop back through four games. But as discussed with Washington, a change from something that isn't working isn't always a good thing.
We can still justify using Jamison Crowder on the Jets' side of things. He has topped 100 yards in both of his games this year, and with Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims still out, he's likely to continue to command massive target totals. However, everyone else will be a tough sell -- including Le'Veon Bell in his likely return -- and the Cardinals' offense gets a downgrade with the Jets likely struggling to keep pace.