Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 11
Growing up, the highlight of every year was getting the Fleet Farm Toyland catalog.
Fleet Farm is essentially a Midwest-only version of Home Depot. It was the boring place our parents would drag us on Saturday mornings when all we wanted to do was go to Best Buy and stare at CDs we'd never purchase.
But the holiday season was different. Suddenly, Fleet Farm had aisles dedicated to just toys, and they'd send a full magazine to outline that year's top gets. I clutched that sucker high and tight like I was late-career Tiki Barber.
Around Thanksgiving, you'd have to start making Christmas lists, which meant pouring through the Fleet Farm catalog and circling the things that caught your eye. The problem wasn't finding the good toys; it was deciding which ones you wanted most.
You couldn't simply ask for everything you wanted. If you did that, you might wind up getting the toys that barely made the cut and not the ones that topped the charts. Whittling down the list was a skill that had to be honed over the course of years.
Week 11 forces us to tap into those skills once again.
Even though we'll be without Christian McCaffrey, the main slate features Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, and a bunch of other viable running backs. There are also some lower-salaried options who can help us shovel more Cook and Kamara into our lineups, and more value could open up depending on how injury reports break Friday.
The problem here is that we can't play everybody. If you do so, you'll spread your exposures too thin, capping your ability to haul down a big pay day. What you want to do is commit to your favorites, build heavily around them, and allow yourself to benefit if you pick right.
That's where the decisions for the Week 11 main slate start. We've gotta tear through this toy catalog, rank our favorites at running back, and then go from there. How should we view the running backs and others based on the context of this week's slate? Let's dive in and check it out.
Ranking the Backs
This part will involve some subjectivity. We can't run through the resume of every running back on the main slate, so I'm going to manually cut it down to the ones I think are most in play and run through the appeal of each.
For the purposes of this discussion, we'll pretend Teddy Bridgewater and Matthew Stafford are able to play. We'll run through what happens if they sit later on. We're also going to assume that Kamara and D'Andre Swift play, though that's in doubt after both missed practice Thursday. Neither has been ruled out yet, so we'll include them in the discussion for poops and giggles.
Once we make those assumptions, the guys I'm most willing to consider wind up being Cook, Kamara, Jones, Chubb, Swift, Miles Sanders, Mike Davis, Giovani Bernard (assuming Joe Mixon sits again), Kalen Ballage, and Salvon Ahmed. It's a long list, so this won't be easy.
The way we'll decide this is based on each player's workload and game environment. The workload portion will be what each player has gotten during their most relevant sample, or how much they've been utilized while holding the role they're expected to have this week. That could be the whole season or it could be just one game. But looking at this will give us a good idea of what we should expect on Sunday.
Specifically, the number to key in on is what we'll call "adjusted opportunities." That's simply the player's carry total plus two times their target total. We do this because targets are worth twice as much as carries for running backs on a half-PPR site like FanDuel. It's hard to have a big game without passing-game work, and this number helps account for that.
The game environment will be their teams' implied total and the spread in that game. As we've discussed previously, tight spreads are a good thing for running backs as it allows them to get targets for the entire game. We want those back-and-forth contests even at a position that would seemingly benefit from a super positive script.
Here's how the running backs above grade out in those categories. They're sorted by their FanDuel salary for Week 11.
|Running Back||Carries||Targets||Adj. Opp.||Imp. Total||Spread|
This table should make it clear why we are so drooly for Cook and Kamara despite their salaries.
These two are on teams with the second- and fourth-highest implied totals on the slate, and both have good matchups (Cook on the ground and Kamara as a pass-catcher). There are truly no reservations with Cook, and he's the top running back on the slate as a result.
Kamara's most relevant sample is the three games he has played with Michael Thomas. It's important to note, though, that one of those games was a blowout where neither got much volume in the second half. As such, Kamara is likely better than the chart makes him appear. We'll still want to rank him below Cook, but Kamara's easily the second-best option we've got, assuming he's able to play through his foot injury. If not, you'll want as much Latavius Murray as you can possibly stomach, and he'll be on Cook's tier as one of the top two options available.
The one player outside of Kamara on a team with an implied total higher than Cook's is Ballage. Our sample on him as the Los Angeles Chargers' lead back is just two games, but they should make us feel good about Ballage.
When Justin Jackson was a value option with the Chargers previously, we couldn't go all in because he wasn't getting work close to the goal line. Ballage, though, has a whopping 11 red-zone carries the past two weeks, six of which have come inside the 10-yard line. He has clearly surpassed Joshua Kelley, and head coach Anthony Lynn has said they'll keep feeding Ballage. As a result, you can make the argument for putting Ballage third on the list (behind Cook and either Kamara or Murray) thanks to his $5,800 salary.
Based on the numbers on the table, it may seem as if things are pretty tight between Sanders and Davis. And they could be. It just depends on if you buy into what we've seen from Davis in a more recent sample.
Specifically, in the past four games without McCaffrey, Davis' workload has hit the tubes. He has three straight games of just 17 adjusted opportunities, and he was at 24 the game before that. That's not going to cut it at $7,400.
To add to the concern, Davis is losing red-zone work to Curtis Samuel. Samuel has at least one red-zone carry in seven straight games, and he has half of the team's red-zone rushing attempts the past four games. Davis has just two in that same split.
If you think that Davis' downtick is the result of bad matchups, you can go ahead and go back to him here. But the flaws in his profile seem to go beyond that. It prevents Davis from being a core play and pushes him outside of the top five at running back.
Sanders, though, doesn't have those concerns. In fact, his workload could potentially rise.
The reason here is that Sanders has consistently been good when the Philadelphia Eagles' offense has not. A Sanders rush attempt has added 0.19 Net Expected Points (NEP) on average for the Eagles this year, meaning their expected points for the drive have increased an average of 0.19 points on each touch. That's compared to -0.10 Passing NEP on Carson Wentz drop backs.
This has been the case all year, and the Eagles still haven't become a run-heavy team. So we shouldn't expect Sanders to get 20-plus carries. But it's at least a possibility. Add that to Davis' downward trajectory, and it seems as if we should be inclined to rank Sanders higher than Davis at just $300 more.
On the other side of the Davis game is Swift. He's another guy who could be better than his baseline numbers indicate.
The sample on the table for Swift is three games, starting with the first where his snap rate topped 60%. But last week, it was 72.9%, a career-high by 10 percentage points. He got 26 adjusted opportunities, and he rewarded the Detroit Lions for entrusting him with that volume.
The reason those incremental gains matter so much for Swift is that each touch for him packs a big punch. He gets creative touches in the passing game and also has a red-zone target in four straight games. He's similar to Aaron Jones in the sense that he may not need a massive overall workload in order to pay off for DFS because each opportunity is so valuable.
If you think that Swift's role from last week sticks, he's a really solid value option at $6,900. Given how well he has performed, there are good odds of that happening. As a result, Swift is at least in the same tier as Ballage and Sanders (though likely at the bottom of that tier) and ahead of Davis. Swift sitting would likely lead to a split backfield between Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson, which would sap any appeal out of it for DFS.
Jones, Chubb, Bernard, and Ahmed all have their limitations, and it's enough to put them at the bottom of this list. Because Jones, Chubb, and Bernard are all in projected tight, fun games, we can rotate them in for tournaments. Ahmed's likely someone we can lop off due to the return of Matt Breida and the lack of passing-game involvement.
That's where I'm at on these backs, viewing them in clear tiers with Cook and Kamara (or Murray) at the top, Ballage, Sanders, and Swift second, Davis in the third tier by himself, and then Jones, Chubb, and Bernard as rotational tournament plays. But ideally, you'll use the data in the chart above to rank them based on your process. Either way, it's a slate where you will likely want to manually rank the running backs after accounting for salary and then decide whom you want to prioritize.
The Saints Without Drew Brees
The other big story on this slate is the absence of Drew Brees. This is the game that is most tempting to stack, but there are a lot of moving pieces we have to consider.
(UPDATE: Taysom Hill will start at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and Jameis Winston will not be involved, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Hill should be used in almost every lineup at $4,500 at tight end. His starting drastically lowers the appeal in Michael Thomas and hurts the shootout potential of the game as a whole. Hill starting is fine, though, for Kamara and Murray, depending on Kamara's status for the game.)
Luckily for us, we do have a sample on the Saints' offense without Brees from last year. They were a bit different but not drastically so.
In total, the Saints had five games with Bridgewater and 10 games where Brees played the entire length. The team was similar in in both splits, though with a bit less efficiency. Here, aDOT is average depth of target, and pass rate refers to how often the team threw on early downs in the first halves of games.
|Saints in 2020||Passing NEP/P||aDOT||Pass Rate|
There were little deviations, but for the most part, it was the same offense.
This year, Brees' aDOT is down to 5.4, and they're throwing just 55.5% of the time on early downs in the first half. The offense has been more conservative than it was last year. We can expect at least the target depth aspect to come up a bit under Winston.
Yes, Bridgewater's aDOT was in line with Brees' last year. But Bridgewater's aDOT this year -- in a different offense -- is 6.7. So it seems as though he's naturally a quarterback more comfortable living near the line of scrimmage. Winston isn't as his aDOT last year was 10.4.
We shouldn't expect Winston to sling it the way he did earlier in his career. Scheme still matters, and the Saints' offense isn't exactly brimming with field-stretchers. But it's possible he lets it fly a bit more than Brees did.
If that were to happen, it would put Winston on the map at $7,200, and it would inflate the value of Thomas at $8,200. We just need to toss out two words of caution on them.
With Winston, the concern is Taysom Hill. Hill barely played last year when Bridgewater was filling in for Brees. However, he has played at least nine snaps at quarterback in each of the past two games, according to Pro Football Focus, and Brees was fully healthy in one of those. It was in part due to a blowout in Week 9, but Hill actually had a pass attempt and three rush attempts in the first half of that game.
That's enough to make Hill a highly desirable play as a tight end at $4,500 on FanDuel. Not only does he save you salary, but he gets you access to high-leverage touches in a good offense. You should get a healthy amount of Hill exposure due to the positional eligibility.
It also dings Winston at least a bit. Hill's biggest presence is in the red zone (he has six red-zone rush attempts the past two games alone), and that's where you want Winston chucking it. He's in play at $7,200, but we can't put him at the top of our list at quarterback.
Hill playing would also impact Thomas because he's not as skilled of a thrower as Winston, but the bigger concern with Thomas is popularity. If everyone flocks to him because of Winston's long-ball mentality, it'll increase the incentive to fade the chalk and look elsewhere. You don't have to be out on Thomas, but this is worth considering.
The one caveat there is that Thomas' popularity could slide if Kamara were to sit. That would make Murray a no-brainer play at $5,000 for both cash games and tournaments. Murray would likely be the most heavily rostered player on the slate, and some people would be hesitant to use both him and Thomas. We shouldn't be, though, and any dip in Thomas' popularity is beneficial, even if it means plugging both him and Murray into the same lineup.
Luckily for us, if you want to fade Thomas, you don't have to look far. The Atlanta Falcons' side of this game is also quite fun and is unlikely to be as popular as the Saints' side.
The Falcons are likely to have Calvin Ridley back in the mix, which forces us to reevaluate the team's pass-catchers. Ridley and Julio Jones have monopolized the team's high-leverage targets when both have been healthy. These are their target distributions in four full games together this year (omitting Weeks 4 and 8 when Jones and Ridley, respectively, left early due to injury). Here, a "deep" target is one at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|With Jones and Ridley||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
With this team, we know what to expect. That's a lotta balls going to Ridley and Jones, and we can't ask for much more than that in DFS.
That's what makes them such attractive pivots off of Thomas. They'll likely be on fewer rosters, and they have an established rapport with Matt Ryan. As a result, Jones and Ridley are high-quality tournament plays, and Ryan is fully viable at quarterback, as well, at what will likely be negligible popularity.
Three Games With Decent Pace
With the lack of high totals on this slate, we need to find alternate routes to high-scoring games. Pace could be one of those outlets.
We can get a judge of pace by looking at Football Outsiders' situation-neutral pace numbers, which account for things such as the score of the game to give us a gauge on which offenses operate most quickly. The faster an offense goes, the more plays we get. The more plays, the more volume the skill guys in the game will receive.
On the main slate, there are three games where the average situation-neutral pace rank between the two teams is 12th or lower. It's not the most scientific way of doing things, but it does at least show us which games have teams that won't drag down the play volume.
|Game||Away Pace||Home Pace|
|Jets at Chargers||19th||4th|
|Bengals at Washington||11th||9th|
|Eagles at Browns||10th||14th|
These games don't really stand out at first glance. But, quite frankly, nor do most of the games on this slate. In this specific context, we should give them extra consideration, and there are some fun plays in each.
The one quarterback who can get you jazzed here is Justin Herbert. Herbert is, objectively, over-salaried at $8,500 and thus not a cash-game play. We'd also need the New York Jets to keep pace if we were going to use Herbert in a tournament. Thankfully, there's extra hope that they can do that here.
Before the Jets' Week 10 bye, they had all three of their top receivers healthy for the first time all year. Joe Flacco was dropping dimes, and the Jets actually put up 27 points.
That's not enough to say that we should expect Flacco to duplicate that outing here. But it does mean there is a path to this game actually featuring some points, which is enough to push Herbert into the discussion as a tournament quarterback.
The other lucky thing here is that both sides have logical stacking options. We're now up to four games since the Los Angeles Chargers' bye, and their big-three pass-catchers have been healthy for each of them. Here's the target distribution in that time.
|Past 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
With those usages, all three of these guys are in play.
Even with the dip in high-leverage targets, Keenan Allen still has at least 100 yards in two of these four games, and he has touchdowns in three of them. With Michael Thomas likely to garner so much attention this week, it's possible that Allen -- who is $200 lower in salary -- goes overlooked. That makes him a quality tournament target, though we should likely prioritize Jones and Ridley over Allen due to their share of the high-leverage targets.
Mike Williams can't be touched in cash games due to the lack of overall volume. However, Herbert has been skilled on long balls this year, and Williams has been on the receiving end of those fairly often. If this game does feature a lot of points, his odds of being involved are high, pushing him up on the game-stacking list here.
The two main appeals of Hunter Henry are his position and that he's not as dependent on a shootout to pay off. At tight end, you don't need a ton of points to be a difference-maker (Rob Gronkowski was in the perfect lineup for Week 10 with just 12.1 FanDuel points). Henry's salary is easy to swallow at $5,500, helping to make up for the imperfections in his profile.
With all three healthy in Week 9, Mims led with eight targets, and Perriman was second with seven. Both guys had three deep targets. Crowder was coming off an injury and was limited to just two targets, but one of them was a sick catch in the end zone.
From a matchup perspective, none of these guys are in plus spots. But Perriman is $5,700 and Mims is $5,400 compared to Crowder at $6,600. That extra $900 or $1,200 will go a long way in helping us splurge for the tempting backs.
|Past 7 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Not only has Higgins been getting downfield looks, but he's converting on them, too. He has 70 or more yards in five of these seven games, and he has hit 115 twice. Given the solid pace in this game, that makes Higgins a quality play once again at $6,500.
You can easily mini-stack Higgins on the other side with Terry McLaurin. There's plenty of reason for concern around McLaurin given that Alex Smith has reclaimed his dumpoff crown since taking over for Kyle Allen. However, McLaurin still has 95 or more yards in both recent Smith-centric games, and he's averaging 8.5 targets per game in that span. McLaurin is another guy who is worthy of a mid-level salary at $7,300.
For the Browns, the biggest issue of late has been weather. They've played in monsoons each of their past two games, and it doesn't look like that'll be the case this time around. When they've had good matchups -- as this shapes up to be -- they've generally come through.
As for the Eagles, they continue to get healthier, and the Browns' defense is decently hideous. They rank 24th overall, 23rd against the pass, and 28th against the rush. The Eagles flopped in a good spot last week, but that was another game impacted by 18-mile-per-hour winds.
As mentioned in the running-back section, Sanders is among the top options on the slate, and he's the best play in this game. The Browns' pass-catchers grade out well, too.
Specifically, Jarvis Landry stands out as being an intriguing low-salaried wide receiver. In two games without Odell Beckham, Landry has 36.4% of the team's targets and 3 of their 4 downfield looks. We just haven't noticed because they've thrown so little due to the conditions. With the wind letting up, Landry's new role will become more impactful, and he is finally in play at $5,900. Austin Hooper is another guy in a bounce-back spot at $5,100.
There's less clarity on the Eagles' side because it seems as though Zach Ertz could return this week. Ertz, himself, won't be a consideration because of how little he has done this year, but it would put a dent in the appeal of Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert.
Reagor led the team with seven targets last week. He didn't do much on that volume, but we did see him targeted on long balls earlier in the year. He's in a range we'll likely pepper often at $5,600, and he can be one of the guys we turn to when in that range. Goedert is a hair pricey at $5,800, but he did lead the team in targets the first two games even with Ertz healthy.
Broadly, this is just another game we'll want to attack with mini stacks. The focal points should be Sanders and Landry, but Reagor, Goedert, Hooper, and Chubb all bring varying degrees of interest, as well.
Injuries Abound in Carolina
We've got like 15 bajillion moving parts here, so let's take a second to set the stage.
Bridgewater is likely on the wrong side of questionable after two limited practices, though he hasn't been ruled out yet.
Rhule says he's willing to wait until Sat. or Sun. to see if Teddy Bridgewater can go vs. Lions. https://t.co/OpetzFMINW
— Joe Person (@josephperson) November 19, 2020
If Teddy plays, the analysis on Davis above sits. If Teddy sits, Davis gets knocked down another rung.
The fun part about Bridgewater playing is that it would allow us to consider both Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel. We talked about Samuel's red zone role earlier, which is why he's enticing at $5,600. But in the four games since Samuel returned from injury, Anderson has 27.6% of the overall targets and 40.0% of the deep targets. He'd be an elite tournament option if we get a game with both Bridgewater and Stafford.
If P.J. Walker plays, we do get the narrative around both he and Anderson (and half of the Panthers' roster and coaching staff) having played at Temple. However, it would lower the projected efficiency of the offense and make all those options tougher sells. It's even grimmer if they decide to start Will Grier.
If Golladay sits, it downgrades the entire offense. Stafford averages 0.14 Passing NEP per drop back in games without Golladay compared to 0.19 with him. Add in that the Panthers' defense revolves around limiting big plays, and it'd sap the fun out of everyone except Swift if he were to play. Golladay sitting would also put a slight dent in the appeal of Anderson and Samuel as it would decrease the odds this game shoots out.
If we get miracles on Bridgewater and Golladay, this game will go back to being fun for DFS, especially if Swift can go, too. Right now, that's not looking to be the most likely case, robbing us of what would have been some super fun plays.
Waiting for the Ravens' Offense to Come Alive
If you're like me, you've likely lost money playing the Baltimore Ravens in DFS this year. It has been unenjoyable to say the least.
This week, they're tied for the fourth-highest implied total on the slate, and they're facing the league's 23rd-ranked defense. As much as it may hurt, we've at least got to talk about them.
The big allure of the Ravens is the upside that Lamar Jackson possesses. The Week 11 main slate doesn't include any of the quarterbacks ranked in the top five in FanDuel points per game for the season, and it includes just three of the top 10 passers in that department. We've been plugging Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Josh Allen into every lineup we've been able to this year, but that's not an option here.
Even with the depleted options, Jackson's salary is still a respectable $8,400. And it's not as if he has lost the components that made him so good last year.
He's still averaging 10.0 rush attempts per game, and his aDOT is down just 0.3 yards. He just hasn't hit the long balls like he did then. He also has just three rushing touchdowns, a number that could easily go up.
This will be the fourth time the Ravens have faced a team ranked outside the top 20 in schedule-adjusted defense. The first three times, the Ravens won by more than two scores, so they were able to coast in the second half. If the Tennessee Titans put up points here, Jackson could bring that upside back to the table. He's arguably the top quarterback on the slate as a result.
The question is whether you decide to stack him or not. Right now, it seems like the best route is to run him out there by himself.
Earlier in the year, Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews were getting the lion's share of the looks, and it made them options if you were using Jackson. However, Brown has just 13 total targets in 3 games since their bye, and he has had less than 40 yards receiving in each. You can go back to him in hopes that his role reverts to what it was earlier, but it's an uncomfortable assumption to make.
Andrews' role has been better than Brown's recently, and it has brought his target share for the season up to 22.5%. He's also due for some touchdown regression as he hasn't scored since Week 5.
However, Andrews' salary is $6,500, highest of any tight end on the slate. So although he grades out above Brown, he's not a stand-out play, either.
As a result, the default route here may be to run Jackson by himself. If you have 10 Jackson lineups, it'd be wise to tie a couple to either Brown or Andrews. It's also not out of the question to roll the dice on Devin Duvernay, who ran a route on 29 of 42 pass plays last week, per Pro Football Focus. But if you have just one Jackson lineup, not stacking him could be the way to go.
If you do use Jackson, though, it's wise to bring it back with someone on the Titans' offense. Jackson's best ceiling is when the Titans keep things close, and that would mean someone on their offense would likely go off. The obvious options are Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, but Corey Davis could get you there at a value salary of $5,900.
Davis and Brown have played five full games together this year. In those five games, Davis actually leads with 25.2% of the targets and 35.0% of the deep targets. His salary will help you get to the fun running backs, and stacking him with Jackson allows you to get some mini stacks with your other two receiver slots. It's at least a route to consider despite what the Ravens have done to our bankrolls this year.
A Sneaky Fun Game in Houston
The reason to be into the Patriots' offense is obvious: Houston's defense stinks. They rank 31st overall, making this the best matchup the Patriots have had all year.
Things look pretty good for Houston, too. New England was decimated by opt outs and ranks 18th defensively. Even with Stephon Gilmore likely back, they're not a team we need to avoid.
Bettors seem to agree with that sentiment. The total opened at 47.5 but has risen to 49 at FanDuel Sportsbook. With the spread being tight, this actually does grade out well for game stacks.
Because the Houston offense is so easy to project, they'd be the preferred side here. FanDuel is still discounting players facing New England, so Deshaun Watson's salary is just $7,700. He's another guy -- like Lamar Jackson -- who can generate a 30-point game. Watson's with Jackson in the top tier at quarterback, and it's obvious you'll want to stack him with either Will Fuller or Brandin Cooks.
Cam Newton isn't as enticing as Watson. His floor via rushing is great, and the matchup is fun. However, with how little Newton is throwing, it has been hard for him to generate ceiling games. Newton hasn't topped 25 FanDuel points since Week 2, and unless they change their game plan, it's hard to see him doing so here, either.
The lack of passing volume isn't enough to kill the vibe on Jakobi Meyers, though. In three games since Julian Edelman's injury, Meyers is averaging 10.3 targets per game with an average of 2.0 being at least 16 yards downfield. He's the obvious bring-back option when you're stacking the Texans.
Damien Harris isn't as appealing due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. In order to make you regret not using him, Harris needs to go for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's possible against this defense, but with Rex Burkhead stealing some work in the red zone, it's not all that likely of an outcome. Still, between Watson, Fuller, Cooks, and Meyers, there are enough relevant pieces here to toss out some tasty game stacks and take advantage of the underwhelming defenses.
Questions on Davante Adams
Davante Adams did not practice today, but both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King were full participants for the #Packers
— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) November 19, 2020
As if having Kamara and Swift miss practice on Thursday wasn't enough.
Davante Adams still has a shot to play because he's good enough where he doesn't need to practice. But Adams sat earlier this year despite being limited in practice the entire week leading in. We should at least make plans on how to view this one if Adams sits.
We've got just a two-game sample on the Packers without Adams, and even that sample is jacked up. Allen Lazard -- who is set to return from injured reserve this week -- went off in the first game but didn't play in the second. So our most relevant sample is truly just one game, and even that's tough with Lazard likely to be eased back into action.
Those games, though, did provide relevancy for Robert Tonyan. Tonyan's second- and third-highest target totals came in those two games, and he blew up with 98 yards and 3 touchdowns in one of them. Adams sitting wouldn't make Tonyan a cash-game play, but he'd be viable at $5,600.
We'd also be able to feel more confident in Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Valdes-Scantling's dependence on hauling in deep balls makes him wildly volatile. However, he'll get more raw targets with Adams out, and the odds Aaron Rodgers hits him on those deep balls are higher with this game being in a dome. Valdes-Scantling would be another rotational tournament play at $5,800.
If you use Tonyan, Valdes-Scantling, or Aaron Jones and want to snag a mini stack, you can check out Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman's matchup isn't easy this week with Jaire Alexander and Kevin King returning from injuries, but he got a season-high eight targets last week and is averaging two deep balls per game since his snaps went back up. Pittman's at $5,500, so the mini stacks in this game -- outside of those involving Jones or Adams if available -- aren't that hard to get to. That's appealing in a game that should be competitive throughout.
Clarity on Pittsburgh's Receivers
For the longest time, we couldn't get a read on the pecking order for the Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receivers because somebody was always out of the lineup. Last week showed us that they can all go off at the same time, though, and it gave us now a four-game sample on all three playing together.
It's time to draw some takeaways. Here's the target distribution the past four weeks.
|Past 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Johnson has the fun balance of both raw targets and high-leverage targets. He converted that into 116 yards last week, the first time he has topped 95 in his entire career. That allows us to boost Johnson in our minds and feel good about him at $6,400.
But Claypool obviously has upside, too, and not all of it is shown in the table above. In addition to the deep targets, he also gets red-zone carries. Claypool has three rush attempts inside the five since his Week 5 breakout, giving him just two fewer than James Conner in that time.
Claypool has two sources of upside and seems to have a better yardage ceiling than Johnson. However, Johnson's production is steadier. It's likely best to just play whoever between the two will be less popular, and it seems likely that'll be Claypool this time around.
Andy Dalton's Return for Dallas
We know we like Dalvin Cook. That's not up for debate.
But in order to feel great about Adam Thielen or Justin Jefferson, we'd need the Dallas Cowboys to show life on offense. It's worthwhile to see if that's possible with Andy Dalton back at signal-caller.
In his limited action this year, Dalton hasn't been great, but he has certainly been better than Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. Dalton's 92 drop backs have resulted in -0.08 Passing NEP per drop back compared to -0.30 from that two-headed monster. It's at least an upgrade.
It also helps that this defensive line shouldn't give Dalton as much trouble as he had in his first two starts. Those came against the Arizona Cardinals and Washington, defenses ranked fourth and ninth, respectively, in defensive pressure rate. The Minnesota Vikings are 27th, so Dalton should have more time behind his depleted offensive line.
It may not be the most likely outcome, but there are scenarios in which the Cowboys' offense puts some points on the board here. That's enough to justify tournament exposure to the Vikings' studs, and it could put us on a few Cowboys.
The plus of Thielen and Jefferson is that a large chunk of their targets are high-leverage ones, meaning they don't need a ton of volume to boast a ceiling.
|Week 3 On||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The red-zone work is enough to justify giving Thielen a higher salary than Jefferson. But Jefferson is a full $1,200 lower-salaried than Thielen and has just as much upside. Unless we get Latavius Murray as a bellcow, we're going to need all the savings we can find, making Jefferson a rock-solid tournament play if you think the Cowboys keep pace.
In those Jefferson lineups, it's wise to include a Cowboy, too, because we're assuming the game is semi-competitive. Ezekiel Elliott's workload has been poor of late, so he's not enticing at $8,000. The receivers could be, though.
We've got 81 targeted throws from Dalton with the Cowboys. Here's where those throws have gone.
|With Dalton at QB||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
These ain't the Vikings in terms of funneling high-leverage looks to just a couple of guys. And Dalton has struggled when throwing to CeeDee Lamb whereas he has been decently successful throwing to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
As a result, the optimal approach here is to try to minimize the salary you're allocating. That puts a dent in Cooper, who is $6,900.
Lamb, though, is $5,800 while Gallup is $5,400. As mentioned, we'll be in that range often thanks to the salaries on the running backs. The workload favors Lamb, and we should, too. But Gallup is at least worth considering because of the downfield volume and the $400 savings.