Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 6

Khalil Herbert is one of a handful of potential low-salaried running backs projected for a big workload in Week 6. How should we rank those value backs relative to the fixtures at the position?

That the red flag emoji meme chose to blow up on Twitter this week should have told us this slate would be a nightmare.

You found a shootout you loved? BLAM, here are injuries and weather to muck it up.

You thought the stud running backs would be back? Think again, you sweet summer child.

The slate was already in a tizzy mid-week thanks to the potential for wind in several key spots where we'd want game stacks. Then Thursday afternoon's injury reports came in and set ablaze everything we thought we knew at running back.

Those two things will be the keys to dissecting the slate, and it's where we'll start things off for this week. Then we'll dive into other situations impacting the main slate.

Evaluating the Running Back Landscape

Because running backs tend to drive everything in DFS, we gotta start there, especially given how important it will be to find trustworthy value on this slate.

Initially, it looked like Christian McCaffrey and Joe Mixon would be back to full health this week. Then they both missed practice Thursday, making that outlook much hazier. Both still could play, but we have to make contingency plans.

If McCaffrey sits, we'll want to be in on Chuba Hubbard. In two games without McCaffrey, Hubbard has averaged 18.5 carries and 4.0 targets per game. The targets are key with a target being worth twice as much as a carry on half PPR sites, something we can account for by doubling a player's target total, a metric we'll call "adjusted opportunities." Hubbard's 26.5 adjusted opportunities per game rank second on the slate in each back's most relevant sample if you assume there's no McCaffrey.

That may actually undersell Hubbard's role. He lost passing-game work to Rodney Smith in both games, but Smith was released on Monday, a big part of why I had assumed McCaffrey would be back. If McCaffrey now can't go, it'll leave things effectively to Hubbard and Royce Freeman.

This game features a tight spread -- something we should seek out for running backs. If we get Hubbard by himself, he's among the top backs on the slate at $6,900.

Things are muddier for the Cincinnati Bengals. Because Mixon didn't practice and played last week, it seems more likely that he plays than McCaffrey. He has already practiced more this week than he did going into last week, and Samaje Perine is on the COVID list. He might still suit up.

If Mixon gets in a full practice Friday, he'll be a focal point, grading out right ahead of Hubbard due to his matchup. If Mixon is limited and uncertain heading into Sunday, he's still worth tournament exposure but carries more risk.

If Mixon can't go, we'd likely see a mixture of Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams. Evans would be guaranteed passing-game work, but Williams -- currently on the practice squad -- would likely mix in on early downs. A split backfield, even in a great matchup, caps upside for DFS. Evans would be tempting due to the targets, but with other value now available on the slate, he wouldn't be a must-have.

The "other value" is the combination of Devontae Booker, Khalil Herbert, and Darrel Williams. We've known about Booker and Williams all week, and both guys have their red flags. Herbert popped onto the radar in the Thursday tidal wave.

Herbert has fewer red flags than the other two and is likely the top value on the slate.

Three things stand out for Herbert: limited competition, a competent quarterback, and a decent matchup. Even with Damien Williams active last week, Herbert turned 18.0 adjusted opportunities into 75.0 yards from scrimmage. He also had three of the team's seven opportunities inside the red zone, giving him scoring upside.

We haven't seen Justin Fields in a negative script yet, and we could very well see that on Sunday. But the Chicago Bears don't have much choice but to keep Herbert on the field in passing situations, and if you can get an 80% snap rate out of a guy at $5,500, you'll take that every time.

Booker and Williams do still have appeal, though, albeit for different reasons.

For Booker, we can safely assume he'll get volume. He got 24 adjusted opportunities in relief of Saquon Barkley last week while playing 87.5% of the snaps. His chief competition for touches, Gary Brightwell and Elijhaa Penny, were both active, meaning we can reasonably expect him to operate in a similar role this week. He had 6 of 12 red-zone opportunities, and he converted for a pair of scores.

The downside is the quarterback situation. It seems like Daniel Jones has a shot to play, which would be huge for Booker's outlook and the overall appeal of that game (more on that later). If Mike Glennon starts, Booker's still fine, though it would be a downgrade.

As for Williams, we have no concerns about his quarterback or the game; it's all about opportunities. In four games as the team's lead back last year, Williams averaged 18.5 adjusted opportunities per game. He had 20.9% of the team's red-zone opportunities, an issue we saw with Clyde Edwards-Helaire when he was healthy, as well. The Kansas City Chiefs just don't use their backs as much as you'd like.

But that's the best game on the board for stacking, and Williams will at least be on the field for goal-line situations. Those factors matter a bunch.

The final piece of the Thursday news dump was actually a positive.

This is the best outlook we've had for Dalvin Cook since the beginning of the year.

In the first two games, Cook averaged 31.0 adjusted opportunities and 126.0 yards from scrimmage. That'd blow the rest of the slate out of the water if McCaffrey were to sit. The Vikings are 2-3 and in desperate need of a win, and Alexander Mattison fumbled late in Week 5. Cook's volume projection got a massive boost with this full practice.

So, how do we rank these backs after considering all the lingering hypotheticals for Friday and their salaries? Here's my list. (UPDATE: The table below has been updated, adding in Kareem Hunt with Nick Chubb ruled out and omitting McCaffrey after he missed practice again on Friday.)

1Kareem Hunt if Confirmed in on Sat. Night$7,400
2Khalil Herbert$5,500
3Joe Mixon if He Practices Fully$7,000
4Chuba Hubbard$6,900
5Dalvin Cook if Removed From Injury Report$8,800
6Dalvin Cook if Questionable But Full Practice$8,800
7Devontae Booker With Jones$5,900
8Devontae Booker With Glennon$5,900
9Darrel Williams$5,200

Even though Williams is ninth on that list, he's in play. That's the way the slate breaks down. So review the injury reports Friday, weigh your comfort level, and decide how you want to rank these fluid situations based on that info.

Red Birds and Red Flags

If you gave me the Arizona Cardinals versus the Cleveland Browns in a dome with everyone fully healthy, I'd fill a mason jar with drool. It's a very similar setup to what led to last week's eruption between the Browns and Los Angeles Chargers.

This one, though, is very much not in a dome, and they are very much not healthy. Engage frowny face.

The weather side of things could always change because it's still Friday. But as of now, winds in Cleveland are projected at 18 miles per hour. As we discussed last year, quarterbacks in wind speeds of 15-plus miles per hour tend to underperform their projections by about 10%. They hit three-times value (fantasy points per $1,000 of salary) just 14.6% of the time compared to a 24.3% clip for quarterbacks in domes or calm winds. They don't evaporate, but it's a definite downgrade.

The health side is twofold. We already know the Cardinals will be without center Rodney Hudson, a key offseason addition up front. Given the role centers play in conducting the offense, that's another downgrade.

The other component is Kyler Murray's shoulder. Murray appeared to be banged up late in Week 5, and he has been limited in practice as a result.

That game was Murray's worst this season. He averaged just 0.05 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. NEP is numberFire's expected points metric, and Passing NEP includes deductions for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. That was down from 0.41 in the first 4 games. His average depth of target (aDOT) also dipped to 7.2 from 7.7. It's possible it was just a down game, but shoulder injuries ain't no joke, especially with how much Murray declined last year after hurting his shoulder.

If it were just one of these things, the odds that the Cardinals disappointed here might not be too high. Add them all together, though, and the paths to failure become more likely. You don't need to abandon ship entirely -- especially if the weather lightens up a bit -- but we should downgrade Murray and the offense a decent bit.

That's a bummer, too, as we were finally getting clarity on the pass-catchers. DeAndre Hopkins targets were back on the rise, and Rondale Moore was stealing more snaps from Christian Kirk last week. It was making those the top two stacking partners by a decent margin. Here are the full-season target numbers with a "deep" target being at least 16 yards downfield.

In 2021 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
DeAndre Hopkins 21.7% 33.3% 26.9%
AJ Green 16.7% 16.7% 23.1%
Rondale Moore 15.3% 13.3% 19.2%
Christian Kirk 14.7% 23.3% 11.5%

If you decide you're comfortable with the weather and Murray's shoulder, Hopkins' workload is back to the point where we can view him as being worth his salary, and Moore is a solid salary-saver at $5,700. But Hopkins did miss practice Wednesday and Thursday due to illness, so even the glass-half-full view has its flaws.

With the wind where it's at, we could just expect the Browns to pound the rock. But again, it's red-flag week, and ye shall not escape.

Remember happiness? Good ol' days.

In all likelihood, this is just rest after a huge shootout and with a Thursday game around the corner. As such, we can proceed forward under the assumption they'll play, but this slate would never make things too easy on us.

(UPDATE: Chubb has since been ruled out. With Chubb sidelined last year, Kareem Hunt averaged 16.3 rushes and 3.5 targets per game while accounting for 46.9% of the team's red-zone chances. Hunt didn't produce on that volume, but he's now among the top backs on the slate due to his projected role and the circumstances around this game.)

As for the Browns' passing game, the wind may save us from chasing Odell Beckham. He's just $6,000, which is more than low enough to be tempting despite the struggles. Beckham has 21.4% of the team's targets since his return and has gotten open. He and Baker Mayfield just haven't been able to connect.

If the wind lets up a bit, Beckham will have to be in our player pool thanks to that salary, this game environment, and his role. If the wind stays high, we at least have an excuse for holding off and buying back in later.

The Danny Dimes Effect

The Giants deserve to be a focal point on this slate for a couple of reasons. Primarily, they're the source of some massive potential value on a slate where we'll definitely need it, as discussed with Booker. But they also influence how we'll view the Los Angeles Rams in what could be an interesting game. That hypothetical hinges on Daniel Jones' health.

Jones has played well this year, averaging 0.22 Passing NEP per drop back. He was efficient even when he had to face a tough New Orleans Saints defense without Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, both of whom are expected back this week.

Jones was able to practice Thursday and seems to have a legit chance to play. If he goes, it bumps up Booker and could let us stack this game with extra exposure to the Rams' offense.

If Glennon goes, Booker can still be in play, but it'd hurt the other options, and it'd lower the appeal in the Rams' passing game. Glennon isn't a total drag, though. He averaged -0.04 Passing NEP per drop back with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year and was at 0.02 in relief of Jones last week. That's why the spread is sitting at 9 points after hitting 10 at times this week.

The other guy you could target even if Glennon goes is Kadarius Toney. Toney's role is up in the air with Shepard back, but you don't bench that kind of talent. Toney's huge production came with Glennon last week, and it's hard to replace his volume at $6,000.

Toney gets bumped up with Jones, and it might even let us get to Shepard. Shepard had 19 targets in the first 2 games, 4 of which were in the red zone. With everyone gravitating toward Toney, a pivot to Shepard in tournaments is at least an option as long as Jones plays.

Jones' being active would increase the appeal in Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods with the game's shootout probability increasing. The two guys in play regardless are Darrell Henderson and Tyler Higbee.

Henderson did lose some work to Sony Michel last week, but it was still a mighty fine role. He had 99 yards on 65.7% of the snaps, and you'll take that in a plus matchup at $7,300. He's not as attractive for cash games as Herbert or Hubbard if McCaffrey sits, but Henderson's tournament appeal is high.

For Higbee, it's just a bet on the snaps. Higbee has played at least 75% of the snaps in all 5 games, and that's hard to find for $5,500. We have elite options both above and below him in salary, meaning Higbee should go overlooked. He's fully worth swipes in hopes the snaps finally translate to points.

A Perfect Storm in Washington

On paper, things don't get much better for DFS than the Kansas City Chiefs against Washington. It was just hard to know how we'd be able to stack it with salaries high across the board.

Thursday's running back news dump made that a whole heck of a lot easier. We should take advantage and stack the dickens out of this puppy.

Here, we've got two putrid defenses facing offenses that can move the ball. It's also the second-fastest game on the main slate, based on pace analysis by numberFire's Brandon Gdula. Outside of salaries and some slight wind concerns, this is the lone game with no red flags.

The only lingering issue is Tyreek Hill's quad. It has held him out of practice both Wednesday and Thursday, at least forcing us to think about things a bit more. Assuming he's good to go, he'll be the top receiver of the week.

In 2021 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Tyreek Hill 27.9% 40.7% 20.7%
Travis Kelce 23.0% 14.8% 13.8%
Mecole Hardman 16.4% 22.2% 17.2%

Hill has topped 30 FanDuel points twice and 40 once, and he's in the top game for stacking. Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman are both on the table, but Hill is the primary option here if healthy.

On the Washington side, all three of Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Ricky Seals-Jones grade out beautifully.

Despite being $7,400, McLaurin is under-salaried. He has double-digit targets in 3 of 5 games, amounting to 30.8% of the overall targets and 46.7% of the deep targets. We've got the ability to pair McLaurin with Mahomes and Hill, and we should strive to do so. (UPDATE: McLaurin is now questionable after suffering a hamstring injury. Darkness is all that remains.)

Seals-Jones' $5,000 salary will make him popular, but it's for good reason. He played nearly every snap last week with no Logan Thomas and got eight targets, three of which were in the red zone. That makes Seals-Jones justifiable chalk, even if there are pivots in guys like Higbee and Mark Andrews, whom we'll touch on later.

As for Gibson, there's a risk that he'll lose work to J.D. McKissic should they fall behind. That keeps him out of the cash-game discussion. But for tournaments, we know Gibson has upside as he has topped 100 yards from scrimmage twice this year. He also had 6 of 14 red-zone opportunities last week. Gibson's likely to be less popular than both McLaurin and Seals-Jones, making him a way to get exposure to this game without fully siding with the public.

The Slate's Other Shootout

Kansas City versus Washington is the game with the fewest red flags; number two on that list is the Baltimore Ravens against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Similar to that one, we know how to stack it up.

The primary stack here is pairing Lamar Jackson with Mark Andrews. Jackson's obvious after his Monday night madness, but Andrews gets you 23.9% of the targets for $6,300 and fills tight end. With the Chargers clamping down on deep balls, hurting the upside in Marquise Brown, Andrews is the optimal stack. We should still have exposure to Brown when multi-entering, though.

On the Chargers' side, this is a great spot to buy into Keenan Allen. In a vacuum, both Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler grade out better. They both had multi-touchdown games last week, though, and Allen is still getting respectable volume in the offense.

In 2021 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Keenan Allen 26.4% 21.4% 29.4%
Mike Williams 25.4% 46.4% 23.5%
Jared Cook 12.9% 17.9% 11.8%

Allen leads in overall targets and red-zone targets but hasn't scored more than 15 points in a game yet this year. That'll change eventually, and it could very well be here. We should buy back in in anticipation of that uptick while still getting healthy shares of Williams and Ekeler.

As for Herbert, there should be interest here as the public tends to under-roster quarterbacks who are slight underdogs. Herbert's firmly behind Mahomes and Jackson, but he's battling with Dak Prescott for the third slot. Speaking of Dak...

Are There Any Patriots We Can Trust?

Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are in a great spot. They're numberFire's third-ranked offense once you adjust for schedule, and they're facing the New England Patriots' 19th-ranked defense. In a fast-paced game, we can get behind that.

It's just hard to find anyone on the other side worthy of a roster slot.

The backfield here is worth monitoring. Damien Harris could potentially sit due to a rib issue stemming from Week 5. If he does, it'd trim this backfield to Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden. That'd help move the needle at least a bit.

The issue is that Bolden seems likely to suck up a lot of the valuable volume. Stevenson played 34.4% of the snaps in a negative script last week and still got zero targets; Bolden had four. Even on a half-PPR site, if you want to blow up without passing game usage, you need to rack up about 120 yards rushing or get to 80 yards with 2 touchdowns.

That's at least possible for Stevenson if he gets the backfield to himself. But against a high-scoring offense that could put the Patriots in a hole early, the paths to failure there are obvious.

The same is true with the pass-catchers. We know where the ball is going, for the most part. There just isn't much downfield action to get us jazzed.

Below are the Patriots' target totals in three games with James White effectively out. We're going with the raw targets per game rather than the shares to account for the fact that the Patriots rarely throw downfield.

Past 3 Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Jakobi Meyers 10.3 2.0 1.0
Hunter Henry 6.3 0.3 0.7
Nelson Agholor 5.7 2.3 1.0

Getting 10.3 overall targets and 2.0 deep targets isn't bad for Jakobi Meyers at $5,800. But five of those six deep targets came in one game while they were in a massively negative script. That could happen again here; it's just not a scenario you want to bank on.

Meyers is the best run-back option on the Patriots; the only other one worth considering (unless we get Stevenson without Harris) is Hunter Henry. Unfortunately, that's likely to funnel extra popularity Meyers' way.

I am on board with using Meyers here when I'm rolling out Prescott or any of the other Cowboys, which I will do often. But because Meyers isn't the highest-upside option and does have a flop in his range of outcomes, I'm also okay not running it back with any Patriots at times. That's rare for me when utilizing a quarterback, but with this specific offense, I do want to give myself increased wiggle room.

A Clearer Outlook in Detroit

With almost every enticing quarterback playing in wind this week, you could give long thought to using Joe Burrow and his pass-catchers in a dome. I'm very much unopposed to that, even in a game with sluggish pace.

In this one, the bring-backs are obvious in D'Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Despite still giving up work to Jamaal Williams, Swift has averaged 24.4 adjusted opportunities per game this year. That's below a healthy Mixon and below where you'd project Hubbard if McCaffrey sits, but his expectations are similar to those of Henderson, who is firmly in play.

As for St. Brown, he was interesting even before Jared Goff said he wanted St. Brown more involved. With T.J. Hockenson banged up, St. Brown has 8 targets in consecutive games, and 4 of those have been at least 16 yards downfield. He racked up 65 yards in one game and 70 in the other.

In general, our upside checklist at wide receiver is that you need to be able to get either 85 yards or 2 touchdowns to make a perfect lineup. It's possible we eventually learn that St. Brown doesn't have that upside. But based on the information we've got now, it does seem to be in his range of outcomes, making him viable in lineups where you roll out Bengals pass-catchers.

A Bump to the Bears' Passing Game

In two games with Bill Lazor calling plays, Justin Fields has just 37 total pass attempts. That run-heavy nature is likely to change this week.

Not only are the Bears thin at running back, as discussed before, but they're facing the Green Bay Packers. That spread has lengthened to 5.5 points, meaning there's a good chance the Bears find themselves in a hole at some point.

The combination of these factors makes Darnell Mooney a prime value receiver.

Across Fields' 3 starts, Mooney has 28.1% of the team's total targets compared to Allen Robinson at 24.6%.

Robinson has missed practice Wednesday and Thursday due to an ankle injury, further bolstering Mooney's projected target load. We saw the Packers get shredded deep last week in their first game without Jaire Alexander. Mooney has shown he can come through even with muted volume, so the potential for things to open up Sunday is enticing.