The start of this week had no RB value and it just looked like a stuff Gurley, Zeek and McCaffrey into lineups week, but that’s the fun of the NFL. We saw the Browns make a good trade and get rid of Hyde to let Chubb and Duke run wild (though i’m still skeptical that coaching staff can figure out how to use those two). Theo Riddick is out, opening up Kerryon Johnson as a 3-down back and I became way more OK with Peyton Barber value as the week progressed. All this value opening up combined with a lot of the elite RBs not being on the main slate means that we might, for the first time, all season, have a WR in the flex and win the million dollars. So while normally I’d say if you’re rolling a WR in flex in FanDuel GPPs, it’s 100% wrong, the lack of stone cold locks at RB this week means you can probably get away with a WR and in fact you could conceivably place high and maybe even win. But if one or two of the value RBs go off, you’re going to need them and odds are your WR-as-flex GPP is in a boatload of trouble.
Jameis Winston, $7,800 – Bucs have a high total (27.25), are at home and are favored. All the checkmarks of a good QB play. I honestly have no idea if the Browns are going to force the Bucs to throw a lot because who really knows what Hue is going to do in any given day. But, considering that the Bucs defense is really really bad, to the point that defense might matter, the Browns should be able to keep it close. There are a few reasons why Winston is also quite good at the whole QB thing. Every year he has improved his completion % (58.3% – 75.4%). He’s got the best weapons he’s ever had in Evans, Jackson, Godwin, OJ Howard, Cam Brate and Peyton Barber make up a bunch of guys who compliment each other really well. And then, we have Todd Monken, an air raid OC, and you guys know how much I like those.
CJ Beathard, $6,400 – Playing a QB versus the Rams is one of the best examples of the difference between real life and fantasy football. In real life, the Rams rank 14th in pass defense DVOA. However, over the past four weeks, the Rams defense has ranked 17th, 23rd, 26th and 18th in regards to fantasy points given up to opposing QBs (to clarify 1st means stingiest, like the Ravens versus Mariotta, and 32nd means most generous, like the Bucs versus Trubisky). While I’m sure some of you are saying “but why just the past four weeks, if you look at the whole season, they rank 11th!”. And yes, that is true. But they rank 11th because the average includes a week 2 complete and utter destruction of Sam Bradford – one singular fantasy point. Yes, one fantasy point. But I digress. The point is – over the last four weeks, the Rams defense has given up decent fantasy performances despite being an above-average pass defense. The reason should be obvious – the Rams offense is so good at moving the football and scoring points that the opposing team invariably finds itself down big and needing to throw a lot in order to catch up. Look at last week’s game – the Broncos absolute live and die with #establishtherun yet Phillip Lindsay had 4 carries for 18 yards and Royce Freeman had 9 carries for 22 yards. Meanwhile, Case Keenum threw 41 times for 325 yards and 2 TDs. C.J. Beathard isn’t that bad of a QB, scoring 19 and 22 fantasy points in the two games he’s started. In other words, it’s a not-that-bad QB facing a decent-but-not-amazing pass defense in a game-script that is almost guaranteed to force him to throw a ton in order to try to keep up with the truly-ridiculous-McVay-Rams insanity. In more other words, #DefenseDoesn’tMatter. Don’t believe me? Rudy’s projections have him as the 3rd best value on the slate.
Blake Bortles, $6,500 – Well, if Beathard is #3, who are the two guys above him? As long as the Jaguars don’t have a big, plodding RB behind Bortles, they actually call for an offensive game plan that allows Bortles to throw the ball a lot and show that he’s actually a below average NFL QB who struggles when he actually has to throw the ball. But that doesn’t matter for us, we just want him to throw for yards and TDs. When I heard that the Jaguars were trading for Carlos Hyde, I went to scratch Bortles off the list because Hyde absolutely fits the bill of the type of RB who would cause the Jaguars to revert back to calling 25 plodding runs up the middle and turn Bortles into a guy who is going to throw 18 times a game as the team tries to win 13-3. But then news came out that Hyde isn’t going to play tomorrow and much rejoicing was had as we can turn to Bortles knowing the Jaguars will actually let him throw and he will do DFS well because he throws a lot, and for the price, he’ll definitely get the job done value-wise.
GPP Recommendation – Baker Mayfield, $7,100 – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been the single most generous team this year in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing QBs. The fewest points they’ve given up is 17, to Big Dick Nick, who is nowhere near good enough to have such a nickname. The other performances? 37, 30, 55, and 33. Mayfield’s price has come up enough that he’s probably not playable in cash, but fire him up in GPPs because he could easily become the fifth QB (out of six) to score a ton of points against the Buccaneers, and heck, maybe he’ll go full-blown Trubisky and drop 40+.
Todd Gurley, $10,200 – This is obviously the highest price he’s been this year, and justifiably. He gets the volume week after week. He’s been a guaranteed 20 touches on the best offense in football, giving him massive TD equity, and boy has he capitalized, scoring a TD in every game. He’s facing the 49ers, who are terrible at defense (ranked 25th in DVOA) even though defense is kind of tough to gauge when you aren’t elite or unbelievably bad. They also are going to be without Cooper Kupp, meaning the only other guy who gets meaningful red zone usage is gone. I don’t know if Gurley can literally get 100% red zone usage, but we might find out this week.
Ezekiel Elliott, $8,400 – Zeek is the volume king. If the game is close, he’s going to get 20 carries and a bunch of receptions, if the game is out of hand, he’ll either get a ton of rushing volume or a lot of passes. The Cowboys offense isn’t any great shakes so they have to rely on their best offensive skill player. Washington under Alex Smith isn’t an explosive offense, they have scored over 30 once (31 vs the Packers) and that took some luck and magic to get there, so I expect a close game here and Zeek to get massive volume and as we know, in DFS, volume is key (unless you’re Jarvis Landry or Antonio Callaway, stupid Browns).
LeSean McCoy, $6,200 – McCoy, while a terrible human, can win you money this week. He’s stealthily been back to being the bellcow back on an NFL team. The last 2 weeks he’s averaged 20 carries and 2.5 catches. The Bills are upgrading at QB this week, when Derek Anderson starts for them. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence and that you, dear reader, have to read it and for it to be true. But anyway, a running back with that type of volume for $6,200 would normally be a lock, but the Bills have been so bad offensively this year that no one pays any attention to them. All the projections i’ve seen absolutely love McCoy, including Rudy’s who has him as the 3rd best RB value on the slate.
Nick Chubb, $4,800 – The single biggest “flaw” in DFS sites pricing algorithm is that they price clear backups (the guys that season long people would label “handcuffs”) at or near the absolute minimum (note: I think this is a feature, not a bug). As a result, if there is an injury (or a once a year trade) that vaults the backup into a starting role and into similar volume that the previous guy was getting, you now have a way too cheap cash game lock. Well, that happened this week when the Browns traded Carlos Hyde and then announced Nick Chubb will be starting. Given the Browns steadfast desire to have a running back and a passing back, Chubb’s going to get all the run game work and some pass game work since the Browns don’t have enough WRs to play a full game. The value here is just fun.
GPP Recommendation – There are so many GPP running backs this week, TJ Yeldon, Sony Michel are 2. However, I think my GPP recommendation here is actually a fade – fade Nick Chubb in GPPs. Although things could change between now and Sunday, as of this moment I believe he’s going to be overwhelmingly chalky. And while it’s entirely reasonable for him to be this chalky, he’s not an absolute lock to get 30 points or something. The Browns could decide to give Duke the vast majority of the passing game work, leaving Chubb for early down plodding. Red Zone TD variance could also strike against him. And the Browns could fall behind early and have to pass the majority of the game. You could easily have 14-60 with 1 catch for 8 yards. While 7.3 from $4800 won’t hurt you in cash, it probably kills your chances of shipping a GPP. So if you simply fade Chubb and get RBs who have big days, voila, you’ve got a massive lead on the field. Thank me later.
Robert Woods, $7,700 – Without Cooper Kupp, the Rams lose 21% of target market share and 5 TDs. Robert Woods is the heavy favorite to replace a large chunk of that. Last week, Woods had a 35.7% market share and San Francisco is terrible, but their offense hasn’t missed a Beat without Jimmy G and even though the Rams should win this game fairly easily, San Fran shouldn’t let this game get too out of hand leading to a better Goff game as well. Projection wise, Woods is the 2nd best value play at WR on the main slate.
Jarvis Landry, $6,500 – What do we do with Jarvis Landry? Since Baker Mayfield’s first start, Landry has had target totals of 10, 10 and 10. Unfortunately he had reception totals of 4, 4 and 2. If I could guarantee a player with 10 targets a game, you would snap play him. But he just has not connected with Mayfield yet. Tampa Bay is going to force the Browns to throw early and often, so the targets will be there for him again and I think at $6,500 he once again is a great play, if continues to get 10 targets a game from Mayfield at some point they will start to connect and the explosion will come. There’s also a squeaky QB/WR connection going on, where Mayfield recently said “He’s the best receiver in the league in my opinion…I have to find ways get him the ball more.” And if you need another reason to like Jarvis, he’s Josh Hermsmeyer’s #2 WR in his buy low air yards model.
Adam Thielen, $8,700 – He’s had at least 10 targets in every game. He’s had at least 6 catches in every single game. He’s had at least 102 yards in every single game and he’s scored a TD in 4 of 6 games. The only reason not to play him is if you think Zeek is the other player to pay up for with Gurley, and given the amount of RB value that’s opened up this week, i’m not sure that’s wrong.
GPP Recommendation – Stefon Diggs, $7,600- If everyone is going to be on Thielen, Diggs is just as good, and has more of the play breaking ability. Diggs has 26% of the market share compared to 31% for Thielen. The other thing that Diggs will do is make your lineup into a more balanced lineup and gets you out of the high priced guys. Given the volatility of WR, that makes a lot of sense to get to in GPPs.
David Njoku, $5,700 – The last 3 weeks, Njoku leads the team in market share with 23% of targets. He’s going to get a lot of targets and from the TE spot at this salary, it’s basically a free square. Just play Njoku and move on.
Zach Ertz, $7,500 – Ertz is #1 amongst TEs in market share at 28%. The Eagles just feed him targets like he’s an elite WR, and they do this because their actual WR aren’t that good and Ertz is. There isn’t that much to say about the matchup. Panthers will play slow, which limits the number of plays this game will have since neither defense is elite or bad, same with the offensive lines and defensive lines. The game is just sort of meh, except Ertz.
GPP Recommendation – Cameron Brate, $4,700 – Jameis Winston loves throwing touchdown passes to him. Given that this game figures to be a shootout, there’s nothing wrong with saving some money in a GPP lineup and throwing a “TD-or-bust” TE dart at the wall, and given that Brate and Winston apparently have some #chemistry or #connection, Brate’s as good as any dart.
Indianapolis Colts, $4,100 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid. The Buffalo Bills offense is comically bad, and this week, they’ve got a new QB, and they probably cleared the comically low bar of finding someone better than Josh Allen. I’ll go into further detail in the Bills defense section, since the mockery works better in that section. The point is, the Bills offense is absolutely beyond pathetic. Three different defenses have scored more than 20 FP against the Bills. Another two have scored over 10. Only the Vikings with their beyond-bizarre-meltdown against the Bills in Week 3 failed to break 10 FP. If you can afford the Colts, play them here, and trust that the Bills offense is the single worst offense in football.
Detroit Lions, $3,800 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid. Yes, I know many people played the Bears last week in what was legitimately the juiciest matchup for a fantasy defense ever – Khalil Mack and the #1 real-life defense (by DVOA) and the #1 scoring fantasy defense, versus Brock Osweiler, a QB so bad that, well, there’s about 100 ways I could go with this, so I’ll just take the quickest one and say the Houston Texans gave up a 2nd round pick just to get rid of his contract. And then we all watched as Brock Osweiler proceeded to put up the second highest score for a QB and won someone $1 million on DraftKings at 0.5% ownership. Again, defense in fantasy football is stupid. That said, I’m willing to go back to the well here. Brock Lobster sucks. Legitimately sucks. The fact that the Lions aren’t particularly expensive makes this play far more palatable on the small chance that somehow Osweiler puts up another good game, because you’re not paying up (unlike last week, when you paid a full premium for a supposedly elite defense and watched Brock Lobster somehow work).
Buffalo Bills, $3,400 – Did you know that the Buffalo Bills are the 3rd best defense in DVOA? They’re the 2nd best against the pass! Did you know that they’re tied for 7th in most fantasy points as a defense? I feel legitimately sorry for the guys on this side of the ball as they’ve had to crush opposing offenses while knowing that they’ve got either one of the worst QBs in the league (Josh Allen), or a QB who legitimately does not belong in the league and legitimately may be the single worst QB of all time (Nathan Peterman) trying to score points on the other side of the ball. In other words – if they give up two or three scores, they know the game’s over. And they’re still performing well! At least this week they’ll get a new QB and maybe he’ll turn things around for this team and make it so the defense doesn’t have to be beyond perfect…wait, it’s Derek Anderson? The Derek Anderson who took one good season with the Browns into a few years as a starter (where he promptly stunk) and then like six seasons doing nothing other than coming in whenever Cam Newton took a nasty head-shot, handing the ball off a few times, and then going back to the bench as Newton would be magically cleared to play? OK, congratulations Bills, you still managed to get a QB better than Josh Allen, which is an embarrassingly low bar. Tyrod Taylor’s not doing anything…oh wait…and oh yeah, defense in fantasy football is stupid.
Random Other GPP Thoughts
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 ($9,000) and Tyreek Hill ($7,800) lineups. Of course, they’re not on the main slate, again, because they got flexed into a second straight Sunday Night Football game, this time against the Bengals, If you have any lineups in the Thursday-Monday slate or the Sunday-Monday slate, I cannot stress enough that there is always a significant chance they’re the high scores of the slate, regardless of matchup, and to roster the two of them frequently if you’ve got multiple GPP lineups.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!