FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 15
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 15.
(UPDATE: Since the publication of this piece, Sunday's games between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team have been postponed. Those players will no longer be included on the main slate.)
Kyler Murray ($8,800 on FanDuel): Between some lopsided matchups, rising COVID-19 cases, and some key offenses off the main slate, we're seeing rather low totals across the board. As of this writing, not a single game has an over/under that hits even 48.0 points on Sunday.
Therefore, it's entirely possible that we don't get many -- if any -- games that turn into back-and-forth shootouts.
That makes it easier to turn to Murray in what figures to be a blowout win over the Lions, a team that's 31st in numberFire's schedule-adjusted total defense rankings. While the Cardinals boast the slate's highest implied team total (30.00), they're also 12.5-point favorites on the road. Let's just say it wouldn't be the least bit shocking to see Arizona milking the clock by the end of this one.
But we've seen Murray post some big fantasy scores in easy wins this year, and despite last week's off performance against the Rams, he still ranks second in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back behind Matthew Stafford and just ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Of course, what makes him stand apart from that trio is his rushing upside, something he's really leaned into in the two games since his return, averaging 8.5 carries and 60.0 yards while scoring twice.
According to numberFire's model, Murray is projected for the second-most FanDuel points at the position this week -- just barely behind our next entry.
Josh Allen ($8,700): Allen is coming off one of his best fantasy performances of the year -- which included rushing for a season-high 109 yards -- but he also suffered a foot injury, making him a question mark this week. He's expected to play, but it's fair to wonder if any lingering issue will limit his ability to run the ball.
That being said, the Bills are badly in need of a win to keep pace in the AFC playoff picture, so they have all the incentive in the world to leave nothing to chance against a sinking Panthers team that's lost three straight and continues to struggle on offense. Buffalo is an 11.5-point home favorite and carries the second-highest implied team total on the board.
Allen leads the position in FanDuel points per game (24.4), and he and Murray are arguably in their own tier on the slate.
Jalen Hurts ($7,800): Hurts is recovering from an ankle injury, but he's trending towards playing after beginning the week with limited practices. While the injury adds risk for a guy who relies on his rushing prowess for fantasy points, the main intrigue is a matchup versus a Washington team dealing with a colossal COVID-19 outbreak, which includes missing several key players on the defensive line. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke tested positive on Friday, too, further decimating this team across the board.
All of this could allow Hurts and the Eagles to deploy their preferred game plan of running all over their opponents, potentially giving Hurts a path to a huge day on the ground. Hurts is averaging 10.2 carries and 57.9 rushing yards per game, and he leads the position with 8 touchdowns.
Should Hurts remain out -- or you just don't trust him post-injury -- then Matthew Stafford is an appealing pivot at roughly the same salary ($7,700). As noted earlier, Stafford leads the league in Passing NEP per drop back, and despite all of the Rams' COVID-19 issues, he should have all his pass-catchers outside of Odell Beckham. Seattle's defense isn't anything to shy away from, ranking 22nd in adjusted pass defense.
Najee Harris ($8,800): Due to scheduling, this main slate is missing a ton of elite backs, leaving Harris as the top-projected back in numberFire's model.
While his passing game usage hasn't been quite as consistent as it was early in the season, Harris has still averaged 27.6 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) and an 83.2% snap rate since Pittsburgh's Week 7 bye. He's demonstrated a high floor, scoring double-digit points in 6 of 7 games over that span and 11 of 13 games overall this season.
However, at this lofty salary, he arguably also isn't a must for tournaments, as he could have a tough time putting up the type of ceiling performance to make you regret fading him. The Steelers haven't exactly been a juggernaut on offense this season, and their matchup versus the Titans has one of the slate's lower over/unders (42.5).
Cordarrelle Patterson ($7,000): Although we have all these heavy favorites to choose from on Sunday, there isn't much clarity in these backfields, making it difficult to know how we can best take advantage until we learn more. In particular, guys like James Conner and Elijah Mitchell are in fantastic spots but are looking iffy this weekend.
That could make spending down at the position the better way to go, especially given the lack of top-tier plays. Patterson is one such choice despite playing for a middling Atlanta offense.
Patterson has been one of fantasy's biggest surprises this year, emerging as one of the Falcons' top weapons. Over the past three games, his usage has changed to more of a true running back rather than the usual hybrid role, but he's still averaged a solid 23.7 adjusted opportunities, which isn't all that different from what we've seen from him for much of the year.
His snap rate has dipped to 49.5% over that span, as head coach Arthur Smith has stated that he's managing Patterson's touches, but that isn't too much of a concern if he's still getting this level of opportunities.
Although Atlanta's matchup versus San Francisco doesn't rate well in terms of pace, it still has the second-highest over/under (46.0), and the 49ers' offensive roles are pretty concentrated on the other side, making mini-game stacks with Patterson a viable option.
He's projected as the second-best running back value in numberFire's model
Ezekiel Elliott ($6,700): I really don't know what to do with the Cowboys this week. They're 10.5-point favorites over the Giants and have the fourth-highest implied total (27.50), yet it's hard to trust either Dak Prescott or Elliott. Prescott has struggled in three of his last four starts, while Elliott has been at less than 100% and playing with a knee brace.
Elliott's fantasy production has left a lot to be desired over that four-game span, but the volume has remained pretty consistent, as he's averaged 22.3 adjusted opportunities and a 65.8% snap rate. Even if Tony Pollard returns, that shouldn't be a huge hit to Elliott's workload considering Corey Clement was the one who inherited Pollard's touches in Week 14.
For what it's worth, Elliott continues to say positive things about his knee recovery, as well.
I can't say I'm excited to click on Elliott's name, but the role, game script, and matchup are all in his favor, and the salary has dropped to a level where you have to at least consider him.
James Robinson ($6,300): The Jaguars have been a dumpster fire on offense all season, but with the dark cloud of a comically-unlikable Urban Meyer finally lifted, there's nowhere to go but up.
And one of the guys who could directly benefit is Robinson. In the last two games of Meyer's tenure, Robinson curiously played fewer snaps than Carlos Hyde two weeks ago and then logged just six carries in Week 14. The end result? A combined total of 2.4 FanDuel points. Big yikes.
So, we're obviously taking a big leap of faith here, but there are reasons to feel optimistic.
For one thing, interim head coach Darrell Bevell has already declared that Robinson is their starter and that "he will be played as such," suggesting a bigger role than we've seen lately.
But more importantly, Hyde has been ruled out, eliminating Robinson's main competition in the backfield. When Hyde was out in Week 4, Robinson would go on to log a season-high 94.5% snap rate. A true workhorse role should be on the table this weekend.
And to top it all off, he and the Jags are in a get-right spot against the woeful Texans. In fact, since Meyer's firing, Jacksonville now finds itself bumped up as a 4.5-point home favorite, the eighth-best mark on the slate.
According to numberFire's projections, Robinson is the slate's best running back value.
Davante Adams ($8,500): Cooper Kupp, Adams, and Deebo Samuel are the only receivers with salaries above $8,000, and as you might expect, they're also top-three in numberFire's projections.
Adams is arguably the best choice of the three, though. Kupp has been otherworldly this year but carries the highest salary on the entire slate ($9,000), while Samuel's new role as a hybrid running back has seen his targets diminish, putting a dent in his overall opportunities despite continued success scoring touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Adams is dominating targets on Green Bay as always, recording a 32.7% target share and 39.1% air yards share. Just be sure Aaron Rodgers -- who continues to nurse a toe injury -- is out there this weekend as expected.
Baltimore ranks 23rd in adjusted pass defense and has been plagued by injuries in the secondary, setting up Adams for a big day at the office.
Diontae Johnson ($7,200): Although the Steelers' offense remains gross, Johnson's elite volume keeps him propped up -- and especially at this mid-range salary.
Even if we include the games JuJu Smith-Schuster played early on, Johnson boasts a 29.7% target share and 37.6% air yards share for the year, and he's seen double-digit targets in all but two games.
As noted with Najee Harris, this doesn't rate as a very fantasy-friendly spot versus the Titans, but that's not as much of a concern when the volume is this good. Johnson checks in as the best point-per-dollar value among sub-$8,000 wideouts.
Van Jefferson ($6,200): With Odell Beckham expected to be out due to COVID-19, that puts Jefferson in an even better spot to succeed against Seattle. Despite only seeing three targets in Week 14, Jefferson's recorded a solid 18.9% target share over the last three games with Beckham, and that will almost certainly go up this weekend.
Additionally, Jefferson's snaps have been up since way back in Week 7, and prior to last week, Jefferson has seen at least six targets in every game over that span. He makes for a great stack pairing with Stafford if you're reluctant to pay the premium salary for Kupp.
Gabriel Davis ($4,900): The absence of Emmanuel Sanders -- who hasn't been practicing this week -- has opened the door for a true punt in Davis. An early-game injury for Sanders in Week 14 would lead to Davis seeing a season-high 8 targets (15.7% share) while playing 84.0% of the snaps. That target share may not be anything amazing, but the potential for a full-time pass-catcher at this salary with one of the top quarterbacks on the slate is pretty amazing.
Obviously, Stefon Diggs will be the popular wideout to stack with Allen, but don't be afraid to take a chance on Davis, as well.
George Kittle ($7,800): After monster performances of 35.1 and 27.6 FanDuel points, I'm sure you're shocked to learn that Kittle lands atop numberFire's tight end projections. Across those two games, he's averaged 13.5 targets with a gigantic 40.3% target share and 46.5% air yards share. Although Deebo Samuel returned last week, he only saw one target and continues to be utilized more often out of the backfield.
San Francisco has the third-best implied team total (27.75) and is up against Atlanta's 29th-ranked adjusted pass defense. Kittle could very well light it up for the third straight week.
Zach Ertz ($5,300): With DeAndre Hopkins (torn MCL) out for the rest of the regular season, that should bump up the rest of the pass-catchers in Arizona's offense. While Hopkins hasn't held the dominant target share of years past, he still averaged 6.8 targets and a 22.1% target share across his nine fully healthy games this season and was coming off a season-high 13 targets in Week 14.
Whether you look at the season as a whole or strictly the games that Hopkins has already missed, little separates the rest of the Cardinals' top pass-catchers when it comes to target shares, making them somewhat interchangeable.
But in the case of Ertz, he has a slightly lower salary than the wideouts, and he's enjoyed a solid role since joining Arizona. Since seeing a bump in snaps in his second game with the team, Ertz has logged a 78.5% snap rate and 79.2% route rate while earning a 17.0% target share.
We'll gladly take that usage for a tight end, and he has a reasonable shot of cashing in on a touchdown playing for one of the biggest favorites on the board. Despite the modest salary, Ertz is projected for the sixth-most points at the position this week.
Philadelphia D/ST ($4,300): There are quite a few defenses that should enjoy positive game scripts as heavy favorites, but as is typically the case, you're going to need to fork over a good chunk of salary for their services.
That isn't the case for the Eagles, who have seen the spread rise to 12.5 points as home favorites over a vastly undermanned Washington team dealing with COVID-19. Not only is Washington missing its starting quarterback, but both Terry McLaurin and J.D. McKissic are questionable following concussions, which could further thin their dwindling ranks.
It's a tough situation all around for Washington, and Philadelphia stands to benefit on both sides of the ball. They project as the slate's best defense value.
Jacksonville D/ST ($3,600): Much like the offense, Jacksonville's defense hasn't been so hot this year, either. But Meyer's dismissal could very well lift this side of the ball, too.
Narratives aside, though, Houston checks in as the worst adjusted offense in numberFire's metrics. And while quarterback Davis Mills does have three 300-yard games across his seven starts this year, he may only be a marginal upgrade over Tyrod Taylor at best. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs this season, Mills ranks fifth-worst with -0.07 Passing NEP per drop back while Taylor is fourth-worst (-0.10).
Maybe we shouldn't get our hopes up, but the salary is right to take a chance, and the Jags grade out as a good value at the position.