Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 15
It's nugget-hunting szn, friends.
The NFL this week has been an avalanche of news. COVID positives, injuries, head-coaching changes, and more. It's hard to keep up.
In a typical NFL week, each bit of news will be digested, analyzed, and applied to a daily fantasy football slate. That'll happen for the most part this week, too. But the odds something key goes overlooked increase when there are just so many things altering the landscape.
I'm going to miss some stuff, too. Even with a debilitating Twitter addiction, I'm going to let a few slip past the keeper. Our goal should be to just minimize how many nuggets we miss in order to have the most complete view of the slate. If we do, we should be positioned well to fill out some slick lineups.
Today, we're going to run through (hopefully) all of the pertinent news and how it impacts this slate. More breaking news buzzers will undoubtedly sound after this goes up, so we're going to have to keep our sniffers going all the way until lock, but let's at least try to pin down an initial road map here.
(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.)
Good news for those of you looking to win the consolation brackets in your season-long leagues: James Robinson might finally get more work this week.
It's just not for the reason you may think.
The thing everyone is pointing to is the firing of Urban Meyer. And that does make sense as NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported last week that Meyer ordered Robinson's benching due to a fumble in Week 13. That plays a certain role.
If that were the only thing working in Robinson's favor, he might be a guy to fade in tournaments. The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense is wretched, and they don't have the talent to reverse that just because Meyer was fired. Robinson's situation wouldn't be changing all that much.
Hyde has been out or limited in two games this year. In those, Robinson's snap rates have been 94.5% and 85.5%. Those are the only games this year he has played more than three quarters of the snaps.
As such, if Hyde does sit, we can expect Robinson to play at least 80% of the snaps, handle all of the early-down work, and get some looks in the passing game, as well. That's a lot working in his favor for a guy at $6,300 on FanDuel and facing the Houston Texans.
Robinson still has obvious paths to failure due to the Jags' struggles, and we can rest assured that he will be popular this week. That could make a pivot to Marvin Jones enticing for tournaments. But if Hyde sits, the incentive to be underweight on Robinson will be lowered significantly.
Bracing For a Lamar Absence
Earlier in the week, there was optimism that Lamar Jackson would be able to play despite a sprained ankle. That optimism is quickly drying up.
Lamar Jackson did not practice Thursday. It’s the second straight practice he’s missed with a sprained right ankle.
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 16, 2021
Obviously, Jackson could still play. But we should dig into expectations should Tyler Huntley be called upon again.
Luckily, we do have a decent sample size on that. Huntley started one full game and played most of last week. Here are his numbers side-by-side with Jackson's. EPA/DB is expected points added per drop back, a Next-Gen Stats number that tracks the expected points added while deducting for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. aDOT is the average distance each throw travels beyond the line of scrimmage, and CPOE is the player's completion percentage over expectation.
For context, the league averages are -0.01, -0.5%, and 7.9, respectively. So it's clear this is a downgrade despite Huntley's late-game heroics.
The other key is that Huntley isn't as aggressive downfield as Jackson is. That's a building block for upside in pass-catchers; we want those prayer balls. We're less likely to get them with Huntley at the helm.
As such, we should significantly downgrade all of Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and Rashod Bateman. Their salaries are based on the team's play with Jackson, and we're unlikely to get that here. It's why the Ravens' implied total is down at 19.5. Andrews is the most appealing of the bunch after accounting for Huntley.
The person whose outlook is altered least is Devonta Freeman. That's simply because Freeman's workload is better than his salary would indicate. He has played two-thirds of the snaps in consecutive games and logged at least 13 carries and 5 targets in each. Freeman has also topped 80 yards from scrimmage in 3 of his past 6 games, a stretch that spans before his role increased. It doesn't feel great to roster him, even at $5,900, but there are pretty clear paths to success here even with Huntley starting.
Monitoring Aaron Jones
That's not a lock, though, after Jones missed practice Thursday. It was due to a knee injury and an illness, so it's still likely Jones plays. If he sits, Dillon becomes arguably the top back on the slate.
In one game without Jones, Dillon played 74.1% of the snaps, logging 11 carries and 6 targets. He turned that into 97 yards from scrimmage. On this specific slate, that'd be a mighty fine number.
The Baltimore rush defense is stout, leading the league based on numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. It doesn't matter, though. If we're going to get a featured back on an offense this good for $7,500, you don't say no. Jones will probably be in there, but if he's not, we should load up on as much Dillon as we can tolerate.
COVID Calamity for Rams Versus Seahawks
Given everything going on this week, that streak's end felt inevitable.
The Seahawks just placed WR Tyler Lockett and RB Alex Collins on the COVID-19 list.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 16, 2021
This game had a good setup with a decently high total and tight spread for an indoor game between two teams with concentrated market shares. Now, there's shakiness everywhere.
Just to set things up, as of Friday morning, here are the key players currently on the COVID list.
Henderson has the best chance to be activated because he tested positive over the weekend, but there are decent odds all of these guys miss this game. So, how do we view it with the remaining pieces?
We can likely still feel good about the Rams' offense. The Seahawks rank 22nd against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, and the key cog -- Cooper Kupp -- is still kicking. Having that plus a dome game and a tight spread helps elevate Matthew Stafford to near the top of the quarterbacking list this week.
Beckham's absence also elevates the other pass-catchers. We've got a three-game sample on them with Tyler Higbee since Robert Woods' injury -- all played with Beckham -- and the volume for the secondary options has been fully acceptable.
|Weeks 10 to 13||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The salary on Van Jefferson is just $6,200. That's super low for a guy likely to get a good combo of overall targets and high-leverage work. You'd still rather get to Kupp, but Jefferson is another borderline priority here.
If Henderson doesn't wind up getting cleared, Sony Michel will be one of the best running-back plays on the slate. On Monday night, Michel became the second running back this year to play every single offensive snap for a team in a game. In 2 games without Henderson, he's averaging 22 carries, 2.5 targets, and 104 yards per game while handling 43.5% of the red-zone opportunities. You can't turn that down at $6,800.
If Henderson is activated, we can avoid the backfield. Henderson has missed a decent amount of time now, and he was at risk of losing work to Michel prior to his initial injury. It'd likely be a split backfield, and we can find better outlooks elsewhere.
Lockett's testing positive is a bigger detriment for Russell Wilson than Beckham's is for Stafford. That's because the depth on this team is just so much thinner.
Since Wilson's return, three players -- Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Gerald Everett -- have accounted for 63.7% of the targets. Outside of them, nobody else has more than 12 targets in the five-game sample. Thus, the dropoff with Lockett removed is larger than it is. This is enough to take Wilson out of the top tier at quarterback.
It also negatively impacts Rashaad Penny. Penny blew up last week and now doesn't have to compete with Collins for work. But Adrian Peterson is trending toward playing, and Lockett's absence lowers the team's projected efficiency. That hurts the team's touchdown projection and decreases the odds the team is in a positive script. Both of those hurt Penny, who netted just one target last week. Penny is still in the consideration at $6,100, but he's not someone we must have in our player pool.
The decrease in efficiency does also impact Metcalf. Although Metcalf will get a target bump, he already had eight targets in four of five games since Wilson's return. He hadn't topped 60 yards in any of those games, though, and now the team may struggle to move the ball. Metcalf is still firmly in play at $6,800, but we should downgrade this entire offense with Lockett sidelined.
As for the non-Metcalf pieces, I'm not sure we'll need to play the guessing game. We have good value elsewhere at receiver, and we don't need to splurge at running back. Plus, both D'Wayne Eskridge and Freddie Swain have yet to practice this week. Metcalf is the one priority bring-back in the team's current state. The others are more dart throws.
Trimming the Cardinals' Usage Tree
All year long, the Arizona Cardinals have spread out targets. Nobody enters Week 15 with a target share higher than 17.3% for the season. Week 15 figures to be a lot different with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined.
Cardinals’ WR DeAndre Hopkins is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a sprained knee, but the team is hopeful to get him back at some point in the postseason, leagues sources tell me and @JFowlerESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2021
Typically -- as discussed with Lockett -- losing a top receiver downgrades the entire offense. But with the Cardinals' depth, we can absolutely find value here, and Murray is still near the top of the quarterback pool.
Hopkins missed three games earlier this year. In those, Colt McCoy averaged 0.13 EPA per drop back. That's a downgrade from Murray's mark of 0.17, but it shows that this team has the infrastructure to excel even when they're not at full strength.
That means we don't need to downgrade Murray much. It also should increase interest in the remaining pieces.
|Weeks 10 and 11||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
That's sweet for a tight end at any salary. But with Ertz's at just $5,300, he's alongside George Kittle among the top options on the slate.
As for Rondale Moore, there's massive flukiness in his numbers. In those games, he ran a route on less than half of the drop backs but benefited from an 11-target game in Week 11. Unless his route numbers change with Murray in there, it's hard to see Moore feasting this week.
The path to success for Green and Christian Kirk is much clearer. Both have more than 24% of the team's deep targets for the season, and they each got 4 deep targets against the Rams on Monday. Kirk's salary is $6,000 while Green's is $5,700. I'd give a slight edge to Kirk as he's the steadier piece between the two, but these two should be in our player pools on Sunday.
The other thing to keep tabs on is James Conner's status. Conner has missed practice each of the past two days, putting him up in the air to play Sunday. If he sits, we'd have no choice but to consider Chase Edmonds, who is likely to come off injured reserve this week. Edmonds practiced heading into Week 14 but wasn't cleared in time. With his meaty role in the passing game and his salary at $6,500, Edmonds is the type of player who could pay off even without a touchdown. Those touchdown odds would also go up if Conner were sidelined.
Things are pretty thin if you're looking for a run-back. T.J. Hockenson is done for the season, and D'Andre Swift is likely out after missing another practice Thursday. That trims the list to Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds. Both have paths to 85 receiving yards, though they get there in very different ways (St. Brown via gobs of targets and Reynolds via downfield attempts). Both will work, but this is a spot where there's nothing wrong with running the Cardinals out there by themselves.
The Cowboys Without Tyron Smith
The biggest concern this week, though, is the loss of left tackle Tyron Smith.
Smith is likely out after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. As you can see in the data below via Next-Gen Stats, the offense has taken a step back when Smith has been off the field.
Although the aDOT has gone up, the efficiency marks take a massive hit. It's enough where we should downgrade Prescott even without accounting for any lingering calf issues.
The receivers, though, are still at least interesting, in large part due to reasonable salaries. We finally got a full game with The Big Three all together in Week 14, and they all got enough volume to eat.
|In Week 14||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
With CeeDee Lamb's salary at just $7,400 and Michael Gallup's at $5,900, we can overlook the downgrade with Smith out. Amari Cooper is purely a tournament pivot off of those two and thus more dependent on faith in Prescott without Smith.
As for the backs, Tony Pollard returned to practice Thursday, which is a blessing. If Pollard were to sit, we'd be obligated to use Ezekiel Elliott again. His flop last week was in large part due to the lopsided score, and he'd get enough volume to be in play again at $6,700. If Pollard plays, though, we can unplug our noses and use less vomit-worthy plays at running back.
The Thin Dolphins
This piece is going up on Friday morning, so I'll be honest with you: I have no idea who is playing running back for the Miami Dolphins this week. They've got half the population of Monaco on the COVID list, but some could be activated by Sunday. That's one aspect we'll just have to figure out later.
Things with the pass-catchers are more clear, though. We're going to want to roster DeVante Parker.
That's because Jaylen Waddle was added to the COVID list on Thursday. That vacates a huge number of targets in this offense. But honestly, Parker was in play even before Waddle was ruled out thanks to hefty shares in three full games with Tua Tagovailoa.
|With Parker and Tua||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
You'll take that at $5,800. But with Waddle out of the picture and the New York Jets on the other sideline, Parker is another guy worth prioritizing.
The same line of thought does apply to Mike Gesicki. Parker's the one likely to garner the most attention, and Gesicki should fly under the radar with Kittle above him and Ertz below. He's merely the pivot, though, with Parker being the better process play.
On the other side, the Jets will get Michael Carter back, but we might want to pump the brakes on putting him in our lineups. He's returning to a team that's devoid of talent at receiver, sinking expectations for the entire offense. If they can't move the ball and score, it's tough for Carter to burn us for not using him. As such, it's likely just a one-sided game unless you find reason to believe in the depleted Jets.
Uncertainty in Philadelphia
Washington is dealing with a massive COVID outbreak that has been particularly harsh to their defense. That should push us to check out the Philadelphia Eagles. Their available bodies, though, make that tougher.
Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, and Jordan Howard have all logged limited practices to open the week, potentially indicating all three will go. We haven't seen Sanders in a full game with Howard since he returned from injury. It's possible they just split the touches, and with Howard threatening to steal goal-line work, this backfield is underwhelming.
Hurts' outlook is also tough. If his ankle still isn't fully healthy, he may not run as much as he typically does. That's the whole reason you use Hurts in daily fantasy. Additionally, Hurts struggled pretty mightily in his final start before his injury. It keeps Hurts from being a priority despite Washington's issues.
Finally, as annoying as this may be, we'll likely want to avoid the pass-catchers even if Gardner Minshew gets the start. In Minshew's Week 13 outing, the team's early-down first-half pass rate was 44.8% (league average is closer to 54%). He just happened to have out-of-his-mind efficiency. Against a depleted defense, that could happen again. But it's the one true path to this passing offense blowing up until they shift philosophies.
The one player who grades out even somewhat decently in this game is Antonio Gibson. J.D. McKissic seems likely to sit out his third straight game. Gibson has played 67.7% of the snaps or more in each of the first 2 games, and he has topped 100 yards from scrimmage in 3 of 4 games where he has played at least two thirds of the snaps. He gets a downgrade due to the guys missing along the offensive line, pushing him well below Robinson among guys under $7,000, but Gibson would still be in play.
Deebo Samuel, Running Back
With Elijah Mitchell trending toward another week on the sidelines, we're likely to get more Deebo Samuel in the backfield on Sunday. That changes the way we view the San Francisco 49ers in an elite matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.
We've got a four-game sample on the 49ers with Samuel getting more reps as a rusher. But we can't look at target shares in those games because they ignore the work Samuel has gotten as a rusher. Those points still count.
Instead, we'll simplify things and look at the two key pillars of FanDuel scoring: yards and touchdowns. We'll usage yards from scrimmage for the yardage portion, and for touchdowns, we'll use red-zone share (which includes rushes and targets). Here's the breakdown of those two categories in those four games.
|Weeks 10, 11, 12, and 14||Yards Per Game||RZ Share|
Yes, the scores Samuel has put up have been fluky. That's why it'll be tough to get to him at $8,200. But the concerns around Samuel may be overblown if he's going to continue to put out such yardage totals. He's over-salaried but far from off the map in this role.
The question is what we do with George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk as their salaries rise. For Kittle, it's going to be tough to avoid him. He was held to 50 yards or less in 3 of the 4 games above, but he also popped off for 151 last week. It seems very possible that the start of this stretch undersold his floor. We shouldn't expect him to erupt for 150-plus yards in a third straight game, but he's still the top tight end on the slate.
Aiyuk belongs third in this pecking order. While Samuel has averaged 91.0 yards per game in this stretch, that's Aiyuk's max yardage output for the entire season. We've also got some desirable options around his range. That's not enough to push Aiyuk out of game stacks; it's mostly just to say he ranks third on this team in terms of appeal.
In your Samuel/Kittle/Aiyuk lineups, there's plenty of reason to consider Cordarrelle Patterson as a run-back. Patterson's similar to Samuel: his role has changed recently, but he's still producing.
Over the past three games, Patterson has shifted to getting more early-down work as a traditional running back. He has still managed 96.7 yards from scrimmage per game while getting 48.0% of the team's red-zone opportunities. You can do a lot worse than that for $7,000. Bring-backs aren't necessary, but Patterson fits there and is an option as a standalone play.
Gabriel Davis' Expanded Role
Week 14 was the first time this year that Davis had played more than 55% of the snaps. He wound up at 83.3% in part due to Sanders' injury, but he had also played 55.6% of the snaps in the first half. Davis was earning more playing time before this due to his quality play.
On the season, Josh Allen has averaged 0.32 EPA per drop back when targeting Davis, according to Next-Gen Stats. With Allen at 0.29 EPA per drop back when targeting others, it's clear Davis isn't some scrub shifting into a larger role. He can play.
With the elevated snaps, Davis' target share was at 15.7% in Week 14, trailing Stefon Diggs (25.5%), Cole Beasley (21.6%), and Dawson Knox (17.7%). It's pretty likely Davis remains fourth in the pecking order for overall targets. But Davis has more deep targets than both Beasley and Knox for the full season despite a limited role, and he has three red-zone targets in back-to-back weeks. That means there's some juice in the looks he does get.
As such, there's enough here to justify giving Davis a sniff at such a low salary. Allen's fully on the map at quarterback, and that appeal does extend to Davis. If Davis tracks to be popular, then we'll want to consider paying up for Diggs or Knox in order to be contrarian, but overall, there is a lot to like with Davis in the bargain bin.
The Steelers Against Quality Defenses
One spot where we can find dependable, high-volume studs is on the Pittsburgh Steelers. They funnel work to just a couple of guys, helping make up for their overall meh-ness on offense.
We just have to make sure they can hold up against decent opposition.
This week, they get the Tennessee Titans. The Titans rank ninth in numberFire's schedule-adjusted defensive metrics, and they just shut out the Jags last week. They're not too shabby.
Sunday will be the fifth time this year the Steelers have faced a top-10 defense. Their results in the other four games have been mixed.
|Week||Def. Rank||Points Scored|
Basically, they're volatile. Volatility isn't automatically bad as long as there's upside involved, and with the Steelers, that is at least somewhat true.
That allows us to keep the Steelers in the rotation despite the spot. Our job then becomes identifying the top piece.
To me, that's Diontae Johnson. Johnson has been a target hog all year long, boasting a 29.7% target share in the games he has played. But in the three games since Eric Ebron went on injured reserve, that has gotten even more extreme.
|Past 3 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Topping a 30% share in all three categories is huge. Getting that at a salary of $7,200 is even better.
The other reason to prioritize Johnson is that we haven't seen many upside games out of backs against the Titans. They've allowed 20-plus FanDuel points to a running back just once, and that was also the only game they allowed more than 70 rushing yards. Even Jonathan Taylor had just 70 and 64 yards in 2 games against them. That doesn't push Najee Harris out of play, but it does make Johnson the preferred way to get access.
The Titans' Backfield Committee
The Steelers' backfield is abundantly clear: Najee's the lone ranger. The Titans' backfield is more of a too-many-cooks situation.
|In Week 14||Carries||Targets||Yards From Scrimmage||Snap Rate|
That split came even in a game the Titans dominated from start to finish. Had it been closer, we may have seen McNichols get even more work as the passing-game back.
Foreman is going to get talked up this week with the Steelers getting gashed on the ground. But a plus matchup can go only so far if the volume's not there, and at least with Foreman, his workload is flimsy enough to make him a player to avoid.
The one Titan worth considering is Julio Jones. Jones was eased back last week, playing just 45.1% of the snaps in his first game off of IR. Part of that, though, was due to the score as Jones had a 63.9% snap rate in the first half. His target share that half was 29.4%. You absolutely shouldn't be loading up on Jones, but at $6,000, there's enough here for him to be an option, especially in lineups where you use Johnson.