Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 5
Last week, a lack of value at running back forced me into a lot of mistakes. Specifically, I loaded up on Chuba Hubbard, and as you know, that didn't turn out so hot.
Week 5 is shaping up a lot nicer in that department.
We know already that Damien Williams will shift into a larger role for the Chicago Bears, and we might get others added into the mix, depending on how injuries break elsewhere. Plus, with legit featured backs in Saquon Barkley and Austin Ekeler still in the $7,000 range on FanDuel, the board is far more open this week.
We just have to decide which value we should prioritize and where we should allocate those sweet, sweet salary savings.
We'll start today by running through the former in order to inform the latter. What situations are worth monitoring entering the Week 5 main slate? Let's check it out.
A New-Look Bears Offense
Our sample size on Fields is small with just two-and-a-half weeks of data. A good chunk of that is outdated, too, as it took place before Bill Lazor took over playcalling duties. So, what did we learn from the Bears in Week 4 when Fields and Lazor were paired up?
They wanted to pound that rock, baby.
The Bears ran 24 plays on early downs in the first half against the Detroit Lions. They ran the ball 17 times in that span, a 29.2% pass rate. For context, the New Orleans Saints have the league's lowest early-down, first-half pass rate at 42.2%, according to Sharp Football Stats.
Two caveats apply there. First, that was all with Montgomery healthy. Second, Fields shredded on those 7 throws, racking up 0.92 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. NEP is numberFire's expected points added metric, and Passing NEP, specifically, includes deductions for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. Unlike in Week 3, those negative plays were nowhere to be found.
Montgomery's injury and Fields' efficiency could lead to a more air-centric approach in Week 5. But we should still expect this offense to skew toward the run.
That's a plus for Williams, who was clearly being featured following the Montgomery injury before he, himself, got banged up. Williams handled six carries and two targets after the injury before Khalil Herbert got his first attempt.
That's the primary reason to have faith in Williams, who practiced in full this week after the brief injury scare in Week 4. The secondary reason is that Williams has played well. His Rushing Success Rate -- the percentage of carries that increase the team's expected points for the drive -- is 62.5%. He has also gotten more targets in four games than Montgomery had at the time of his injury.
Williams is $5,800. He's likely to get work as both a rusher and a receiver, and this offense perked up with Fields at the helm last week. That's the recipe for good chalk in the value range.
As for the rest of the Bears, the passing game might be a tough sell simply due to the aforementioned run-centric tendencies. Fields showed clear chemistry with Darnell Mooney last week and has targeted him on 29.7% of his throws through 2 starts, but that amounts to just 5.5 targets per game. Mooney's the preferred route here over Allen Robinson, and you can certainly filter him in at $5,600. He just can't be a core play based on the offensive approach last week.
Fields, himself, carries a salary of just $6,400. The talent is there, but with the volume being so muted thus far, it's likely wise to keep a wait-and-see approach. Luckily, using Williams allows us to benefit if Fields impresses, so we're not missing out completely if the coaching staff finally unleashes its weapon.
A Committee in Cincinnati
Similar to Montgomery, we already know Joe Mixon will likely sit this week. The situation behind him is just muddier here.
Bengals off. coordinator Brian Callahan said if RB Joe Mixon is out, it will likely be a "committee" approach with touches split between Samaje Perine, Chris Evans.
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 7, 2021
The dreaded "committee" word. Here, that matters a lot.
The key difference is that both those guys get passing-game work and lots of it. With Samaje Perine, we can bet he'll get early-down touches. But the team seems to regard Chris Evans highly in the passing game, meaning Perine's less likely to contribute there.
Perine's likely to grade out well from a point-per-dollar perspective, so he'll probably catch popularity this week. However, losing targets does put a lid on his ceiling as a target is worth twice as much as a carry for running backs on FanDuel. As such, Perine is a much tougher sell than Williams and potentially someone we can avoid entirely.
That doesn't mean all backs are out of play here, though. Jones on the other side is absolutely viable for tournaments.
In three non-blowouts this year, Jones has averaged 25.0 adjusted opportunities (carries plus double his target total to account for the aforementioned value gap between the two types of opportunities) and 103.3 yards per game. He also has 52.6% of the Green Bay Packers' red-zone opportunities in those games, the highest for any back on the main slate in their most relevant sample. Some backs in the tiers above and below Jones will be better cash-game plays, but Jones' ceiling is juicy.
The same is true for Davante Adams, who is under-salaried at $8,200. Even with the Packers' pace being slower than you'd like, Adams is still averaging 11.3 overall targets, 3.3 deep targets, and 1.5 red-zone targets per game. He and Jones grade out as being far more desirable -- even after accounting for salary -- than the Bengals' backfield.
They're also better investments than the Bengals' passing game, even with stud corner Jaire Alexander likely sidelined. Tee Higgins is returning this week, putting three high-usage players in an offense that has been hesitant to let it rip this year. Unless you think the Bengals unleash Joe Burrow with Mixon sidelined, it'll be hard to allocate $6,700 to Higgins or $7,300 to Ja'Marr Chase in this spot.
Let Mattison Cook
It's very clear Dalvin Cook isn't healthy right now. He missed large chunks of the second half in Week 4, and he hasn't practiced yet this week. It's a bummer because if he were a full-go, we'd happily load up on him against the Detroit Lions.
That's not the case right now, and it does significantly lower Cook's appeal if he plays without a full practice Friday. But if the Vikings decide to rest Cook in a game where they're 9.5-point favorites, it'd make Alexander Mattison the top play on the slate.
We've already seen Mattison's role without Cook. He played 68.0% of the snaps, handled 26 carries and 8 targets, and converted that into 171 yards from scrimmage. If we get that at $6,500, you just hit the lock button.
The most likely scenario is that Cook plays and is limited, which won't be a great one for us. But if Cook decides to rest up, it'll give us one less decision to make on Sunday with Mattison acting as a free square.
A Potential Return for CMC
It's not guaranteed yet, but it does seem as though there's a chance we see Christian McCaffrey suit up on Sunday.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule says he's "hopeful" Christian McCaffrey plays on Sunday but says they won't put him in danger.
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) October 7, 2021
This would have a big impact on how we view the Carolina Panthers' offense in DFS.
First, it would potentially give us another high-salaried back. McCaffrey averaged 22.5 rushes and 7.5 targets per game in the opening 2 weeks, topping 130 yards from scrimmage both times. You'd feel a lot better about it if he were to log a full practice Friday, and we'd still have to put a lid on our exposures, but he'd at least be worth a look.
Second, it would really dampen the appeal in Robby Anderson as a value play. Anderson had 11 targets last week, a number that's far easier to get to when McCaffrey isn't soaking up 7.5 looks himself. Anderson wasn't productive with the volume he got, meaning he'd be far from automatic even if McCaffrey were to sit. Taking away some of that volume would make him a much tougher sell.
We could still feel good about D.J. Moore, though. Even in the two games with McCaffrey, Moore averaged 9.5 targets and 2.0 deep targets per game. His $7,900 salary is high, but with his workload, it's fully justifiable.
When you decide to use one of the Panthers guys, an easy bring-back option is DeVonta Smith. For a salary of $6,000, Smith brings 22.5% of the team's targets with 2.5 deep targets per game. On a Philadelphia Eagles offense that is throwing at a higher rate than expected, that's mighty fine. There aren't a ton of guys we'll want to lean on here, but the ones we do like in Moore, Smith, and potentially McCaffrey are all high-quality plays.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' backfield is typically a nightmare. The exception is when one of the pieces is missing, and we may get that again this week.
Fournette finished with 20 carries and 5 targets, turning that into 138 yards from scrimmage. His 81.1% snap rate was 15 percentage points higher than any other Bucs back had logged on the season prior to that point. The fact that he was productive with it should give him another shot at big volume in Week 5.
This time around, the Bucs are at home against the Miami Dolphins. They're 10-point favorites, and typically, that's not a great thing for backs. It leads to increased popularity, and those heavily favored popular backs often fall short of expectations.
However, the salary here helps alleviate our concerns. Fournette is $6,400. Additionally, the general mistrust of this backfield may keep a lid on his popularity.
It seems more likely right now that Bernard is able to return, in which case this is all moot. But if we get Fournette without Bernard, he'd slot in right in line with Williams in terms of value.
Up-Tempo Tango in Texas
On a slate lacking in clear game-stacking options, the Dallas Cowboys versus New York Giants is an exception. It's a good place to dump any salary we save with the backs mentioned above, and we might be able to find some salary-savers within it, as well.
Each week, numberFire's Brandon Gdula ranks every game by the projected pace and pass rate between the two teams. For Week 5, Cowboys-Giants projects as the second-fastest game. Both teams rank in the top 14 in Football Outsiders' situation-neutral pace, as well, meaning we should see some tasty play volume on Sunday.
Believing in the Cowboys' offense is easy. But a big part of the reason we can like this game is how feisty the Giants were in a tough spot in Week 4.
Not only were the Giants down both Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, but they were facing a top-tier Saints defense on the road. Daniel Jones stepped up with one of his more impressive games as a pro, averaging 0.51 Passing NEP per drop back.
Jones could regress, but that upside should give us confidence in the Giants' offense and in their ability to keep this game close. That boosts the Cowboys' offensive pieces, as well.
The standout on the Giants' side is Saquon Barkley. He played a season-high 88.3% of the snaps and netted 126 yards from scrimmage against the Saints. In three games with a full snap load, Barkley has 50.0% of the team's red-zone opportunities, making him a firm core play at $7,800.
The other guy who popped up in that game was Kadarius Toney. Toney led the team with nine targets, two of which were deep. They were scheming the ball into his hands, and he converted with 6 catches for 78 yards. He's just $5,300, so if Shepard and Slayton sit again, we can lean on him as a low-salaried bring-back.
As for Jones himself, you can at least put him in your consideration set. On top of the increased efficiency, he's averaging 47.0 rushing yards per game, helping him top 27 FanDuel points twice. He's not going to grade out as well as Dak Prescott on the other side due to overall offensive expectations, but he's firmly in the second tier at quarterback.
The reason Jones isn't in Prescott's tier is that Prescott is among the top quarterbacks on the slate. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to run the past three weeks, but we saw in Week 1 that the team will let him air it out in the right situations. With the Giants sitting 26th in schedule-adjusted passing defense, this could be that right situation.
Prescott is $8,100, ranks fourth on the season in Passing NEP per drop back, and ran for a season-high 35 yards last week. He's battling Kyler Murray for the top slot on the slate.
When stacking Prescott, the two standouts appear to be CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. That's not to speak ill of Amari Cooper; it's just that Cooper is banged up, and Lamb and Schultz have had better usage since the Michael Gallup injury.
|Week 2 On||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Neither Lamb ($6,900) nor Schultz ($6,200) carries a prohibitive salary, making it easy to pair them with Prescott. Cooper would be a high-quality tournament pivot if he logs a full practice by Friday, though.
The injury report also bears watching with the backs. Ezekiel Elliott sounds like he'll be good to go this week; if he's not, you lock in Tony Pollard and go from there, and he'd grade out even ahead of Mattison if Cook were to sit.
If Elliott is good to go, we can give him thought. He's averaging 98.8 yards from scrimmage per game this year, and he's getting 37.0% of the red-zone chances. He'd grade out well below Barkley and wouldn't be on the table for cash, but Elliott is worthy of tournament exposure in the best game on the board.
Unleashing Trey Lance
There is no sign of Jimmy Garoppolo on the field as #49ers practice begins.
— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) October 7, 2021
If Lance does start, he's one of the top three quarterbacks on the slate.
It's the rushing appeal that stands out here at $6,900. Lance ran 7 times for 41 yards in the second half last week, helping him score 20.38 FanDuel points across just two quarters.
Part of that was thanks to inflated passing numbers as the result of some broken coverages by the defense. But Garoppolo ranks 11th in Passing NEP per drop back, meaning this passing game has the pieces to be efficient. If you give Kyle Shanahan a week to gameplan, he can put Lance in positions to succeed.
There are situations where Lance doesn't come through if he struggles as a passer. The Arizona Cardinals' defense can cause some chaos, so it's possible that happens. We are looking for ceiling, though, and Lance has it.
When Lance was in during the second half, he leaned heavily on Deebo Samuel. Samuel accounted for 7 of the 17 targets from Lance, 2 of which were deep (at least 16 yards downfield). He's the primary stacking partner with Lance at $7,700, and he works as a bring-back option if you're stacking the Cardinals, as well.
Whether we can also turn to George Kittle depends on Friday's practice. Kittle sat out both Wednesday and Thursday due to a calf issue. He missed those practices last week, too, though, before getting a limited practice on Friday and netting 11 total targets on Sunday. If Kittle gets a full practice Friday, he works for game stacks and can have some standalone appeal. If not, we're better off sticking to just Samuel.
For the Cardinals, there's no guesswork at quarterback. We know Kyler Murray will be there, and we know he's going to play well. He's with Prescott in the top tier at quarterback. The only question is with whom we stack him.
We know that it's worth taking swipes at the Cardinals' pass-catchers even with muted target shares. Both DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk topped 20 FanDuel points in Week 1, and A.J. Green has shown some building blocks for upside, as well. They've got a ceiling; the question is around the floor.
Through the first 4 games, 6 Cardinals have at least 12% of the targets, and nobody has more than 20%.
|Full Season||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Clear as mud.
The "best" stacking partner here is still Hopkins. He leads in overall targets and is either first or second in looks both deep and in the red zone. He's the most likely guy to go off. But he'll also run you $7,500 while the others are $6,200 or lower.
Both Green and Kirk have the ability to pop. Kirk is getting deep balls, which has helped him rack up at least 65 receiving yards in all but one game this year. The lone exception was last week when he ran 43.3% of his routes lined up across from Jalen Ramsey, per Next-Gen Stats. The yardage is enticing enough to put Kirk firmly in play.
Green has shown both the ability to score and get some yardage. He has scored twice and racked up 112 yards in Week 3. He just hasn't yet done both in the same game.
Combine this together and factor in salary, and my favorite stacking partner is likely Kirk. The rough box score last week will likely scare some off, but he has a blow-up game in his range of outcomes. Hopkins would be second for me followed by Green, but they're all defensible.
The target numbers might tempt you into Chase Edmonds, and his floor is good. He just needs to score a long touchdown to truly come through with James Conner sucking up most of the red-zone rush attempts. That could happen, but it's a hard thing to bank on, even at $6,200. (NOTE: Edmonds will be a game-time decision this week, per head coach Kliff Kingsbury. If Edmonds misses, Conner still doesn't project to hold a pass-catching role, making it tough to trust him as a value option at $6,300.)
Receiver Injuries Galore in Jacksonville
Chark went down early in Week 4, meaning we did get at least a glimpse at the Jaguars' passing offense without him. It was a lot of volume to Laviska Shenault without much elsewhere.
|In Week 4||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The overall numbers were muted because the Jags had a lead most of the night, but it was a clear shift in role for Shenault.
The downfield targets, specifically, were nice. Shenault's aDOT was 12.9, up from a full-season mark of 7.2. It gives Shenault a more obvious path to upside, putting him on the map at $5,800.
With that said, Marvin Jones is far from being a cross-off. He had at least 8 targets in each of the first 3 games, and he averaged 2.3 deep targets per game. Jones' salary is a healthy amount higher at $6,600, ensuring he'll be far less popular than Shenault. Shenault's the better option straight up, but Jones is worthy of tournament exposure.
Those two are the big run-backs for Derrick Henry lineups. Henry's 158.8 yards from scrimmage per game blow the doors off the rest of the pack (unless McCaffrey is fully healthy), making him a focal point again. It'll be harder to get jazzed about the receivers.
Brown had 23.3% of the targets in the first two games and could see a spike with Jones sidelined. That allows us to jump in should Brown be removed from the injury report. There's just the lingering risk of aggravation with a soft-tissue injury, and we know the Jaguars will be devoting resources to slowing him down. Henry is the lone core play on this team, especially if we have to wait until Sunday to get the final word on Brown's status.
Two Surging Defenses
The total for the Los Angeles Chargers versus the Cleveland Browns has bounced all around this week, opening at 49.5, dipping to 46.5, and then rebounding to 47.5 overnight Thursday. That's likely due to two teams the public seems to like and two mighty fine defenses to open the year.
The Chargers' skill guys still belong in our core, though.
As mentioned before, Austin Ekeler is under-salaried relative to his role. Ekeler has 100-plus yards from scrimmage in 3 straight games, something you don't get in the $7,000 range often. His red-zone role -- he has just 24.6% of the team's opportunities this year -- remains underwhelming, and it likely indicates he's due for negative touchdown regression. That's what puts him below Barkley, and it might put him below Aaron Jones, too. But Ekeler is still fantastic and won't kill your lineups even if he doesn't score.
With the pass-catchers, we know where the ball is going. And these guys are converting on that volume.
|In 2021||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Allen hasn't scored more than 15 FanDuel points in a game yet this year. But with his combo of deep volume and work in the red zone, the building blocks are there. He has topped 100 yards twice, and if he does that with his meaty red-zone role, he can pop off.
Cook helps you fill tight end without breaking the bank at $5,200. He has 50-plus yards twice, which you'll take at that position. Cook grades out well even if he's used alongside either Ekeler or Allen.
The Browns are tougher to decipher. We know where the volume will go; we just don't know what the production will be.
In his two games back, Odell Beckham has 27.6% of the targets with 4.5 deep targets per game. That's tremendous usage.
As you know, it hasn't mattered much thanks to Baker Mayfield's ineffectiveness. It doesn't help that the Chargers' defense revolves around limiting big plays. It kills the vibe around Beckham even with his salary at $6,400.
Still, we've seen inconsistencies from Mayfield in the past. The Browns opened as favorites in this game, and the total was high for a reason. It might be an overreaction to jump ship already.
That means we can take stabs at Beckham, specifically when we're utilizing Chargers to get access if the game winds up being high-scoring. We should put a lid on our exposure, but he's not totally out of play.
We can take a similar approach with Nick Chubb. Chubb's role is hyper-flawed with no passing-game usage. He has still averaged 97.0 yards from scrimmage per game, and he has 39.1% of the team's red-zone chances. With the Chargers encouraging teams to run on them, Chubb has a path to a ceiling despite his flaws.