FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 3
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of the top plays in Week 3.
Kyler Murray ($9,000 on FanDuel): Last week, Murray cracked the perfect FanDuel lineup for the second straight main slate, and expectations should be high yet again, with the Cardinals boasting a 29.50 implied total against the Jaguars. Murray barely beats out Patrick Mahomes ($8,700) for the slate's top score in our projections.
While Murray has actually done most of his damage through the air and hasn't posted gaudy rushing totals, his running ability has still proven to be invaluable after already tallying two rushing scores. Through two weeks, we've seen four quarterback performances of 33-plus FanDuel points (Murray [twice], Lamar Jackson, and Mahomes), and in all four cases, the signal-caller ran at least five times and scored at least one rushing touchdown.
Sure, a quarterback can still get there by slinging it for, say, roughly 400 yards and 4 scores, but this once again shows how much of a, err, leg up even a little rushing ability can bring to the table when we're talking about ceiling.
Of course, Murray adds more than just a little in the ground game, and the only real concern this week is whether Arizona lays off the gas if they steamroll Jacksonville as 7.5-point road favorites. That said, we already saw Murray went nuts in a blowout win over the Titans in Week 1, so it might not even matter.
Lamar Jackson ($8,400): Following a modest Week 1 performance by his standards, we saw Jackson in all his fantasy glory on Sunday night against Kansas City, as his 16 carries for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns helped him to a massive 34.26 FanDuel points. He now gets to face a poor Lions defense that ranks as the 32nd overall unit through two weeks in our schedule-adjusted metrics.
However, his situation is similar to Murray, as Baltimore is also a 7.5-point road favorite over Detroit, so this might not be the same type of fantasy-rich game environment as the one the high-flying Chiefs brought to the table last week.
Still, this game has a solid 50.5 total, and it's not like the Ravens' defense has been lights out thus far, ranking 29th in schedule-adjusted pass defense after getting shredded by both Mahomes and Derek Carr.
Russell Wilson ($8,400): We have some tantalizing game totals on this slate, and the two that are tied for top honors at 55.5 belong to the Seahawks-Vikings and Buccaneers-Rams. Both games also have spreads below three points, which points to both games being tight, high-scoring affairs -- exactly what we want in game stacks.
But of the four quarterbacks, Wilson is the most intriguing play as the one with the most rushing potential -- he was one of just four quarterbacks to exceed 500 rushing yards in 2020.
The fear with Wilson is always whether he can throw for enough volume to contend for the highest quarterback score, but both teams are coming off shootouts and rate pretty well in average pace on the slate, per our Brandon Gdula.
I don't expect Wilson to be as popular as the other top quarterbacks, so using stacks with him could be a way to differentiate in tournaments. He's one of just five quarterbacks projected for over 23 FanDuel points in numberFire's model.
Justin Herbert ($7,500): The next highest game total belongs to the Chargers and Chiefs (54.5), and you already know that Mahomes is in play pretty much every single week. But this is also a great opportunity to roster Herbert despite posting underwhelming fantasy scores in both of his games.
Herbert may not have the results yet, but everything points to a lucrative fantasy day coming soon. He attempted over 40 passes in both his starts, throwing for 338 and 337 yards, yet was held back by notching only 2 touchdowns compared to 3 interceptions. But he's still averaging a rock-solid 0.22 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back -- 0.13 was league average in 2020 -- which actually puts him right alongside Tom Brady for the year (0.21) in spite of the sizable difference in touchdowns.
Opposing offenses have no choice but to keep up with the Chiefs in order to have any shot of winning, so Herbert should keep chucking it again this week, as well. This game ranks as the highest in average pass rate on the slate, per Gdula.
And while no one will confuse Herbert for the next Lamar Jackson, he can also run a little here and there after recording five rushing scores in his rookie campaign.
In the past, Henry has been a near zero in the passing game, but he's surprisingly logged 10 targets over the first two weeks, and if this sort of usage continues, it could put Henry on a whole new level. Henry leads the slate with 36.0 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) per game, barely trailing the near untouchable McCaffrey (37.5).
It remains to be seen if this added element to Henry's game is here to stay, but even with a dip in targets, game script should be in his favor as a 5.0-point home favorite over Indianapolis.
Dalvin Cook ($9,500): Cook ranks second on the board in adjusted opportunities (31.0), and he's in a fantastic situation as a key cog in this potential Seattle-Minnesota shootout. He tops even Henry in our model as the only back projected for over 20 points.
However, Cook has missed practice so far this week, so we'll have to keep an eye on his status entering the weekend. Alexander Mattison ($5,200) would become an instant "free square" value if Cook were to sit out on Sunday.
Austin Ekeler ($7,000): Well, Ekeler emphatically proved that any worries about his usage in the passing game were silly because all he did was go out and log 9 targets against Dallas, helping him to 27 adjusted opportunities. The receiving work ought to be closer to the norm for Ekeler, and that should mean plenty of looks his way in this fantasy-friendly showdown with the Chiefs.
It also can't hurt that Kansas City ranks 32nd in adjusted run defense thus far, which is an area where they struggled last season, too.
Saquon Barkley ($6,000): With a plethora of high-total games at our disposal, the ones that fall into that next tier probably won't draw as much attention. That potentially includes an intriguing contest between the Falcons and Giants, which sits at a solid 47.5 total.
Even if you don't feel compelled to go all-in on a game stack, Barkley is looking like a possible value after jumping up to an 82.8% snap rate in Week 2, which was the fourth-highest at the position. Last week's 19 adjusted opportunities won't blow you away, but Barkley's clearly trending in the right direction after just 16 adjusted opportunities and a 47.5% snap rate the week prior.
Both of these defenses rank in the bottom third of our metrics, and this game ranks second in average pace, so there's definitely a path to this one exceeding its total. Even Barkley's dual-threat quarterback, Daniel Jones ($7,400), could have some appeal after putting up 29.46 points in his last start.
Tyreek Hill ($8,700): Hill tops numberFire's wideout projections as one of the primary beneficiaries of what ought to be another high-scoring Kansas City game, and what makes it even more appealing is how easy this is to stack on both sides.
We know Hill and Travis Kelce ($8,500) should dominate the Chiefs' targets, while Keenan Allen ($6,900) and Mike Williams ($6,000) are the top pass-catchers on the other side. Add in both quarterbacks and Ekeler, and we already have a ton of guys to mix and match before getting to any secondary pieces.
As for Hill himself, he's coming off a quiet Week 2 but still boasts a 30.2% target share and 43.8% air yards share through two games.
Justin Jefferson ($7,400): Is this the slate we finally get a spike week from Jefferson? He leads the Vikings in both target share (24.1%) and air yards share (46.7%), yet both Adam Thielen ($7,600) and K.J. Osborn ($5,100) have the edge on him in fantasy points in the early going.
While Jefferson isn't going to sneak by anyone, I also don't expect him to be especially popular, either. In a game tied for the highest total on the board and separated by a mere 1.5-point spread, I definitely want exposure to Jefferson this week.
D.K. Metcalf ($7,200): While Tyler Lockett ($8,000) is making all the headlines -- and rightfully so after back-to-back main slates on the perfect FanDuel lineup -- he and Metcalf have seen the exact same number of targets, registering identical target shares of 30.8%. Lockett does have the upper hand in air yards, but that figures to even out of the long haul, as Metcalf held the edge in that department last year.
It's only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back towards Metcalf for a ceiling game, and he's the better value at an $800 discount from Lockett.
But in Week 2, Woods played 98.3% of the snaps with a 31.0% target share and 43.1% air yards share, so it's hard to imagine him being an afterthought in what should be a pass-heavy attack against Tampa Bay.
At this salary, he looks like one of the better lower-salaried choices on the slate along with the previously mentioned Mike Williams.
Darren Waller ($7,400): It's Travis Kelce who leads our tight end projections (duh), but Waller is the only other one who comes within his stratosphere, and he comes at a $1,100 discount.
While Waller predictably came back down to earth after recording 19 targets in Week 1, he still tied for a team-high 7 last week and owns a fantastic 29.2% target share and 31.7% air yards share through two.
This Dolphins-Raiders game isn't expected to be exciting for fantasy purposes, but Vegas is a 4.5-point home favorite, and Derek Carr is off to a strong start to the year as the surprise early leader in passing yards through Week 2.
Tyler Higbee ($5,500): Once you get past the top two, you could argue just about everyone in the $6,000 range is viable, with Mark Andrews ($6,000), T.J. Hockenson ($6,300), Kyle Pitts ($6,200), and Rob Gronkowski ($6,500) all projected for double-digit points.
But you'll probably be looking for extra cash to save in some lineup builds, and Higbee is a way to gain cheap exposure to one of the highest totals on the board. Yeah, Higbee was a total bust after seeing one measly target in Week 2, but it wasn't all bad, as he logged 100% of the snaps for the second straight week, and Logan Thomas and Andrews are the only tight ends with a higher route percentage than Higbee's 87.9%.
Particularly against a stout Bucs run defense, the Rams should throw more than they have the first two weeks -- particularly if this shoots out as expected -- which should give Higbee plenty of opportunities to bounce back.
Cleveland D/ST ($4,200): The Denver D/ST ($5,000) leads numberFire's projections against the Jets after Zach Wilson imploded for an absurd four picks versus the Patriots last week, but fitting them in won't be easy. And speaking of the Pats, the New England D/ST ($4,700) are projected to perform well again this week, as well, versus a Saints offense that took a nosedive in Week 2.
But if you don't have the coin for any high-salaried units, Cleveland is one way to go, as they'll be facing Justin Fields in his first NFL start.
Could Fields crush it? Of course. But as we've seen from the top two picks in the draft, Trevor Lawrence and the aforementioned Wilson, even highly-touted rookies get off to rough starts sometimes. Plus, the fact that Chicago opened the season with Andy Dalton as the starter may not sit well with fantasy managers, but it isn't exactly a vote of confidence for Fields from this coaching staff, either.
The Browns' defense hasn't exactly been amazing thus far, but they're favored by 7.5 points at home, and the matchup bumps them up as a top-five value in numberFire's projections.
Buffalo D/ST ($4,100): Unlike Cleveland, Buffalo's defense is off to a strong start, and they're coming off a shutout against the Dolphins. The Bills rank second overall in adjusted defense so far, and they also have the league's fourth-best pressure rate, per Pro Football Reference.
Washington's Taylor Heinicke has had his moments in his limited opportunities dating back to last year, but we should expect some duds along the way for a 28-year-old with just two regular season starts over his NFL career. Buffalo is a touchdown home favorite, so Heinicke ought to be forced to drop back often in this one, leading to sack and turnover opportunities for the defense.