Loyal readers of mine know that usually I have either some sort of nonsensical or comically long introductory paragraph, sometimes relevant (discussing a DFS concept/tactic/strategy that I think would be helpful for you to digest), often times entirely not relevant. However, in this case, I think the right course of action is to get right to the picks, because frankly, there’s a bunch of good cheap choices at RB this week. That’s because a few injuries to starting RBs after salaries were published caused some insanely good values to open up at the low end, and when combined with the same pair of elite RBs from last week in juicy matchups once again, we’re looking at some tough decision making. So let’s get right to it.
On to the picks…
Patrick Mahomes, $8,900 – The 49ers defense is a below average defense so far this year, ranking 18th in DVOA (22nd in passing defense), but the Chiefs have pretty much destroyed both defenses they have played this year and showed that they can put up lots of points very fast. Both defenses the Chiefs have played were considered one of the better defenses in the league, but that doesn’t matter to Andy Reid when he finally has a QB with an arm and skill player weapons up and down the lineup to unleash an offense that no defense can stop. The Chiefs offensive DVOA is 59.4% (you don’t get to that by running the football) which is 20.1% higher than the next best team (Tampa Bay). The Chiefs passing DVOA is a bonkers 114.9%, and their rush DVOA is 4.6%, which just goes to show you, the Chiefs should never run the ball. The Chiefs 30.75 implied total right now is rightfully the highest of the week and Pat Mahomes is the clear leader.
Jimmy Garoppolo, $7,400 – If the 49ers are going to stay in this game, it’s going to be on the right arm of Jimmy G. Luckily for San Fran, the Chiefs have been absolutely atrocious defensively for over a year now. Last year they were 30th in DVOA and this year, without Eric Berry, they have been an even bigger dumpster fire and are 32nd. Jimmy G is in a juice matchup and he just needs to perform. I will note that this pick is directly at odds with Rudy’s projections, as he has Jimmy G nowhere near the top (currently he’s the 13th best QB on the slate by projected points and 12th best value). Although I think Rudy’s projections are incredibly good and immensely valuable for any DFS player, there will be times when I just outright disagree with the system. This is one of those spots. However, it likely won’t matter (for cash, that is) as most cash lineups today, including my own, will likely have the money for Mahomes, and that’s someone I’m in 100% agreement with the projections.
Deshaun Watson, $7,700 – The Giants are a terrible football team right now, they are not good and hurt defensively, which is usually a bad combo. Watson when he has Will Fuller active is an elite QB with 296 yards per game, over 3 tds per game and 9.5 yards per catch but without Will Fuller, Watson averages 201 yards, 1 and 6.6 yards per catch. Fuller plays this week, so Watson can be fired up with ease.
Latavius Murray, $5,200 – Oh boy. It’s funny because Dalvin Cook probably could have played this game if he “needed” to, but the Vikings probably realized they shouldn’t push their best running back in a game where they’re approximately 175% likely to win (my math may be off). Also real life note: they are running backs and don’t matter; don’t run, throw. Anyway, the Vikings are 16.5 point favorites at the current moment, as they host the comically pathetic Buffalo Bills. Let me remind you how bad the Buffalo Bills are – they are so bad that they drove Vontae Davis to look around at halftime of week 2 and say “F-you, F-you, you’re cool, F-you I’m out”. And they were better in Week 2 than Week 1, by far! Had Cook played, there was legitimate GPP value to Murray because it was entirely possible the Vikings could have given Latavius all the runs anyway once the team got up big (to rest Cook). But now that’s all pointless chatter, since Dalvin Cook’s been ruled out. What we’re left with is the backup RB on a home favorite (again, a 16.5 home favorite) in a spot where he should get quite impressive volume. I’m sure people will argue that the Vikings had showed a fairly equal RB1/RB2 split so far this season – Cook had 63% of the carries to Murray’s 37% (no one else had any). But do you really expect the Vikings to do a 63/37 split with Murray and Mike Boone? Who the heck is Mike Boone anyway? It is true that Cook got 100% of the RB-targets and Latavius stinks as a pass-catcher. If this was full-PPR, it would make the case harder. But unless you think Boone’s going to get all the targets and a significant amount of carries, or the Vikings just pull a Jaguars-sans-Fournette and simply abandon the running game altogether, it’s just impossible to ignore the heavy volume that comes from a home favorite of an absurd 16.5 points against a comically bad team.
Corey Clement, $5,800 – With Ajayi and Sproles out, Clement is the clear lead running back in Philly and a DFS lock. While the Eagles tend to throw (stats), Corey Clement actually is a very nice pass catching back and caught 67% of passes with a 41% DVOA last year and an 83% catch rate and 38.1% DVOA.
Giovani Bernard, $6,400 – When Gio Bernard has been a full time back under OC Bill Lazor, he’s averaged 19 rushes for 101.4 yards and .4 TD. Given that the other 2 RBs are Mark Walton and just signed this week Thomas Rawls, I doubt Gio comes out for passing downs. Even though the Bengals are road dogs, Carolina isn’t a defense worth worrying over and just allowed the Falcons duo of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith to gash them 25 times for 153 yards.
Alvin Kamara, $8,700 – When picking between Kamara and Gurley, you’re always deciding between volume and efficiency. Usually the decision is a no brainer and you take the volume, but Kamara is so efficient at pass catching that it’s actually a question and some weeks (like last week) you get burned if you take the efficiency. If they were the same price, you take the volume that Gurley provides as the Rams feed him near the goal line and also gets a bunch of targets. But when there’s a $600 difference, you go with the cheaper one unless you flat out don’t need the money in your lineup. The plus side for this week for Kamara is that Vegas expects a negative game script which helps him, since you prefer him running the ball when he’s down by the goal line (since the Saints have said they don’t want him to run that often so you don’t want him using up his runs on the Saints own 25, unless he breaks a few). The other thing that helps him is that the Falcons play a scheme that lets opposing RBs catch passes and focuses on stopping the RB after the catch before they get burned. But, the guys who made that scheme work are now injured and the Falcons are likely going to hemorrhage catches and yards to Kamara like they did to Christian McCaffrey last week (14 catches on 15 targets for 102 yards).
GPP Play – Javorius Allen, $4.900 – Volume is king. He gets respectable volume – he’s in a full-blown time share with Alex Collins SNAP COUNT / TOUCHES STATS, yet Collins is priced amongst full time RBs who aren’t appealing, and Allen is priced amongst the guys who don’t play.
Nelson Agholor, $6,600 – Agholor has been a target monster for the Eagles without Alshon Jeffrey. He has 22 targets, 16 catches and 121 yards in his first 2 games. We don’t usually like to see other competent receivers signed and playing in games where we have a volume-heavy player in our lineup, but the Eagles signing and playing Jordan Matthews might be a blessing in disguise if it gets Agholor out of the slot where Kenny Moore has been playing. And, instead of career backup and Phillly’s version of Shang Tsung, Nick Foles, we get Carson Wentz back throwing passes to Agholor. And in case you forgot how good Wentz was last year, i’ll remind you. Wentz was 6th last year in DVOA throwing 471 times for 3,100 yards and 33 TDs. And while the Colt defense hasn’t been the complete dumpster fire it was last year, it hasn’t been good enough this year that you worry something has materially changed.
Cooper Kupp, $6,300 – Kupp is just a consistent performer. In his last 9 games, he’s had at least 5 catches in 7 of them, and he has scored in 3 of them. The Rams have a high total of 27 and Woods and Cooks have tougher than usual matchups on the outside with Casey Heyward. Also, while the trio are all roughly even in their market share, I am drawn to the red zone market share that Kupp provides with 6 red zone targets so far and 4 inside the 10.
Julio Jones, $8,700 – Julio Jones is really really good and the Falcons have made an attempt to throw even more to Julio this year. He’s leading the league in air yards on 28 targets with 477 and has a 39% target share, I know this is a running joke amongst people in DFS circles, but at some point Sarkasian is going to figure out how to get him the ball in the end zone and he’ll score some TDs. And if he doesn’t, Julio will get enough catches and yards to be a solid investment. This is because the Saints defense isn’t playing well this year. Their defensive pass DVOA is 31st in the league and so far they haven’t shown the ability to stop high end WRs. They also have a below average pass rush so far this year, with a 5.4% adjusted sack rate (league average is 6.7%). Also, the Falcons defense is so hurt that the Saints should be able to move the ball at will with Kamara and Thomas and this game should shootout, forcing the Falcons to throw the ball and when they throw, they throw to Julio.
GPP Recommendation – Odell Beckham, $8,300 – The New York Giants have been amongst the worst offenses in the league (I’m not counting the Cardinals, who have been so bad thus far that they have been legitimately breaking the league – at least from a fantasy perspective, and also not counting the Bills, who have been so bad thus far and almost definitely will continue to be so bad that they have been and will continue to legitimately break the league). But Odell always has the ability to have a “Screw this, I’m taking three of these horribly thrown slants from this broken shell of a quarterback to the house and no one can stop me”, or “Screw this, I’m going to catch three of these horribly thrown deep balls and no one can stop me” ability. When you combine that with the fact that he’s priced right smack dab in the middle of a bunch of chalky/popular players such as Julio, Michael Thomas and Tyreek Hill, you’re going to get that potential upside at a extremely low ownership. Just be warned that there’s also “Wow, the coaching staff, the offensive line, and Eli Manning are all so bad that even Odell can’t be productive” potential in there as well.
Eric Ebron, $5,500 – With Doyle out, Ebron is takes over as the #1 TE job on the Colts. Andrew Luck has the lowest ADOT in the league (5) and Ebron should both be able to take over the low ADOT throws that Doyle (5.6) excelled at and do some of the longer ADOT that Ebron (11.3) has. If you’re not paying up for Kelce or Ertz, you should land here.
Travis Kelce, $7,500 – The total is huge, both teams should put up some points and if San Francisco’s TE killer (Jaquiski Tartt) is out then Kelce is the top play at TE this week. If Tartt is in, it makes the decision between Kelce and Ertz as the top play quite close. Kansas City’s passing offense is pretty condensed with Tyreek at 27% market share, Kelce at 29% and Sammy Watkins at 22%. For what it’s worth, Hunt is not involved in the passing game so far this year, only garnering 2 targets, 1 reception and a paltry 4% target share. It may change, but it also may just be the new normal for the Chiefs due to Mahomes desire to unleash the dragon.
Minnesota Vikings, $4,800 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid. Rudy’s projections have them the #1 defense by points at 11.8 – that’s basically a low-end RB1 or a high-end RB2! Why is the projection here so absurd? Well, let’s see – Minnesota is a 17 point favorite at home, so there’s a very strong likelihood the Bills will be passing a ton in the 2nd half trying to catch up. A rookie QB with a cannon arm, questionable decision making and no accuracy, down by multiple scores and throwing because he’s in catch-up mode, facing a great real-life defense? Yikes. If you can afford it, and you should be able to, yes. If, for whatever reason, you can’t afford it, here are some other options (but I must stress that I highly recommend finding a way to the Vikings).
Houston Texans, $4,400 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid, they’re home versus a New York Giant team that 1) Felt that Eli still has something left in his tank (dubious, but play along), 2) Knew he needed weapons if they’re going to maximize whatever talent Eli has left (okay, that’s fine) 3) Knew that the 2017 offensive line had significant problems and only a QB with extremely good mobility, such as Russell Wilson, could even remotely play well with such an offensive line 4) Knew that Eli Manning did not have Russell Wilson’s mobility – and yes, that’s just a slight understatement, 5) Knew that the Giants actually already had a solid trio of weapons in Odell, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, and one of the main problems with 2017 is the first two were hurt, 6) Yet decided to spend the #2 pick on an admittedly quite talented fourth weapon for the offense instead of trading down to get significantly more picks that would allow them to improve the offensive line so that Eli’s limited mobility wouldn’t be a problem and he would have time to fire away at the three weapons already there 7) Expressed shock that the team’s offense has been a complete disaster because you can have all the good RBs and WRs in the world, if you have a statue-esque 37 year old QB and a porous offensive line, your QB is going to be under pressure all game and not effective. For DFS purposes, what matters is that all that pressure that Houston should be able to generate on Eli will result in plenty of sacks, and sacks are points, and points are good.
Dallas Cowboys, $3,400 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid, but they’re cheap and facing Seattle. Remember how I just said sacks are points, and points are good? You think the Giants offensive line is bad, well, Seattle’s offensive line is worse. Their RBs are significantly worse, so they’re going to be in 3rd and long when they try to stubbornly run on first and second (no o-line + no RBs = 3rd and 9 all day). Russell Wilson leads the league in sacks with 12. I shudder to think what it would be if he wasn’t mobile (although some of the sacks probably come from him extending a play that most other QBs would have simply thrown the ball away on). I normally like to focus on heavy favorites, but Seattle, even more so than the Giants, offer such a nice spot for a defense to rack up sacks, which are points, and points are good, and you can save a good chunk of change using them instead of the heavy-favorite defenses.
Chicago Bears, $4,300 – The Bears are only a 5.5 point favorites, on account that their offense hasn’t looked particularly impressive so far this season, but the Arizona Cardinals have legitimately made the Bills look good. Larry Fitzgerald deserves better than this. The coaching staff in Arizona appears to be horrible, even by NFL standards, they can’t figure out how to use David Johnson, the line stinks, the other WRs besides Fitzgerald stink, and Sam Bradford isn’t the type of QB who can make this sort of mess work. Oh, and the Bears have Khalil Mack, who has more sacks than the entire Raiders defense, more forced fumbles than the entire Raiders defense, and more defensive touchdowns than the entire Raiders defense. Good trade there Gruden! Khalil Mack versus an inept offense that will likely be down big in the 4th and throwing in an attempt to try to catch up. Yes please. Oh, almost forgot, defense in fantasy football is stupid.
Also Viable: Miami Dolphins, $3,700
Random Other GPP Thoughts
Even with Mahomes listed as a cash play, I still want to stress this point – I will include this section every week as long as these two are healthy – if you’re a multi-entry GPP guy, always include multiple Patrick Mahomes ($8,900) and Tyreek Hill ($8,200) lineups. There is always a significant chance they’re the high scores of the slate, regardless of matchup.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!