This looks like a 12-game slate, but it’s actually much tighter. Of course games such as NE/BUF, OAK/IND MIN/CHI and JAX/DEN could turn into fantasy-friendly affairs, and there undoubtedly will be some strong fantasy performances in them. But from a probabilistic standpoint, it’s very unlikely those games stretch toward 60+ total points. If we’re hunting for game stacks and offensive shootouts, we’re mostly looking at an eight-game slate.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the 12 Sunday day games.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Daniel Jones against the RedskinsIf you followed preseason, you know Danny Dimes’ smashing regular season debut was not a fluke. Jones was the most impressive quarterback I saw this preseason, and the mobility he showed against the Bucs last week is the icing on the cake. Now comes a home debut for Jones against a Redskins team on a short week and lacking talent across the board. Josh Norman is PFF’s No. 81 CB among 101 qualifiers, the Redskins have PFF’s No. 28 pass rush plus No. 26 coverage grade. Jones will be a $6K quarterback before too long, but he’s at $5,300 for now as pricing struggles to free itself from the ill-fated pre-draft talent evaluation.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Last chance on Austin EkelerIt’s been a fun ride for Ekeler as the feature back in place of Melvin Gordon. I do think Ekeler will have a bigger role than people think once Gordon gets back in Week 5, but it still will take a while for his salary to normalize. So this will be the last chance for us to profit on Ekeler’s unique role for a while. He came into the season averaging .12 catches per snap in his career and actually has exceeded that mark in 2019 as he has 19 catches on 143 snaps. On top of that, Justin Jackson (calf) is banged up and the Dolphins are dead last by a wide margin in yards per play allowed. With Hunter Henry out, Mike Williams playing hurt and Jackson in doubt, Ekeler still can find a ceiling on his $8,000 salary.
2. David Johnson’s receiving floorIn the two games Johnson didn’t have a wrist scare, he played 86% of the snaps. In those games, he caught 12 balls on 16 targets. It’s the kind of three-down plus goal-line usage we covet, and one that’s not often available at $6,800. This week’s matchup against the Seahawks is not ideal as they want to control the clock and have excellent run-stuffing personnel. But thanks to Arizona’s woeful defense, Kyler Murray still projects to be among the slate’s leaders in pass attempts. Once we can project 5-7 catches, it’s not hard to find paths to 20-25 DK points for Johnson.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Baker Mayfield and Odell BeckhamThe narrative around the Browns so far is they’re an incompetent, discombobulated offense with no hope. And now they’re going to Baltimore, where they’ll struggle to move the ball. So this is a chance to get on one of the most talented stacks in the league at expected extremely low ownership and a matchup that’s not as bad as people think. The Ravens, missing CBs Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young, are 20th in pass defense DVOA. Kyler Murray hit them for 349 yards in Baltimore, and Patrick Mahomes did whatever he wanted last week for 374 yards. We should expect a pass-centric, aggressive approach from Freddie Kitchens as he’s under fire for the conservative playcalling that’s led to a 1-2 start.
2. Matt Ryan and Calvin RidleyI’m not sure exactly why, but no one ever seems excited about clicking Matt Ryan ($5,900). It’s odd, as he finished as 2018’s No. 2 QB in fantasy points per game and has three straight 300-yard games plus eight TDs to open this year. So while games against Tennessee aren’t supposed to yield shootouts because of Marcus Mariota’s limitations plus its pace, Ryan is mostly immune to matchups. We also have a squeaky wheel situation as Calvin Ridley embarrassingly posted a 1-6-0 line on one target last week in a game Ryan threw it 34 times. With all the attention on Julio Jones, expect Ryan to focus on getting Ridley ($5,000) going in this one.
1. Will Dissly against the CardinalsUsing strictly fantasy points to make defense vs. position claims is a dangerous path. That’s particularly true just three games into the season, and that’s particularly true at the tight end position. Yes, the Cardinals have been destroyed by TJ Hockenson, Mark Andrews and Greg Olsen so far. But this defense has been destroyed by everyone, and the way those players are used by their teams is not the same way Dissly ($3,600) is used. Those three previous opponents also combined for four touchdowns, an extremely noisy stat in small samples. And perhaps most importantly, the aforementioned trio that lit the Cardinals on fire are far better players with far better roles than Dissly, who ran a 4.87 at his Combine and is just one year removed from a patellar tear. Note that Dissly is only running a route on about half of Russell Wilson’s dropbacks. Luke Willson has been re-signed to fill the Nick Vannett role.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.