WATCH: LEVITAN’S LEVERAGE – WEEK 10
This week’s slate revolves around an unlikely spot: Matt Forte (knee) is out, so Bilal Powell will likely become one of the most popular plays and with good reason. He costs just $4,000 and has averaged 20.6 carries plus 5.0 catches in the last five games Forte has been out/limited. Figuring out how to handle Powell in tournaments will be a key to the week.
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 11 Sunday day games.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Matthew Stafford Against the Browns
The Browns quietly have one of the league’s premier rush defenses, ranking first in yards per carry allowed (2.90), fourth in rush yards allowed per game (84.3), eighth in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs (21.4) and first in rush defense DVOA. We can expect opponents to take a pass-centric gameplan, which is just fine by the Lions. Their run game is sputtering once again, as Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner have combined to average a pathetic 3.23 YPC with three TDs all season. So expect plenty of volume for Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones against a Browns pass defense ranked 28th in DVOA, 25th in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks and 31st in passer rating allowed. The matchup lines up perfectly for Stafford, who has averaged 3.09 more DraftKings points per game at home vs. on the road over the last four seasons.
2. Ben Roethlisberger Against the Colts
Yes, Ben Roethlisberger has underperformed this season, as he ranks an astounding 28th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. Everyone also knows about his drastic home/road splits, which have seen him averaging an absurd 9.90 more DraftKings points per game at Heinz Field vs. elsewhere over the last four seasons. But this Colts defense is the ultimate chicken noodle soup for quarterbacks. The Colts are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to the position despite having faced Jared Goff, Carson Palmer, DeShone Kizer, Russell Wilson, Brian Hoyer, a one-legged Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton and Tom Savage so far. Every one of those guys except Savage beat their salary-based expectation on DraftKings.
The Colts specialize in giving up big plays, as evidenced by their 44 pass plays of 20+ yards allowed – nine more than anyone else in the NFL. Meanwhile, Big Ben is throwing deep at a very high rate, ranking third among all quarterbacks in Average Depth of Target at 10.8 yards. Only Jameis Winston and Deshaun Watson have been more aggressive throwing deep. When the Steelers played at Indianapolis on Thanksgiving last year, Roethlisberger went 14-of-20 for 221 yards with three TDs and no INTs before taking his foot off the gas against the fightin’ Scott Tolziens. The improved play of Jacoby Brissett makes this a spot where Roethlisberger more likely will have to keep throwing.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Cameon Brate’s Increased Target Share
Mike Evans’ suspension leaves 9.1 targets per game on the table. It’s unlikely we see a giant bump for DeSean Jackson, who is not the kind of wideout you funnel volume through. It’s also unlikely we see huge bumps for slot man Adam Humphries or gifted-but-unproven rookie Chris Godwin. The player most likely to benefit from Evans’ absence is “move” tight end Cameron Brate, who is the one guy capable of soaking up red-zone usage. Evans leads the Buccaneers in targets inside the 10-yard line with five this season, but Brate isn’t far behind with three. He’s also capable of filling a wideout-esque role, as he’s lined up in the slot on 63.8 percent of his routes this season. That’s the third-highest rate among all tight ends. To put the cherry on top, the Jets have given up at least six catches and 72 yards to tight ends in each of their last five games – a run which has included five TDs allowed during that span.
2. LeSean McCoy Coming Off a Bad Game
LeSean McCoy scored just 2.5 DraftKings points in a Thursday night game against the Jets last week, meaning a lot of people likely will be scared to pull the trigger this week. That’s a mistake, as this is a much better spot. McCoy dominates when at New Era Field in Buffalo, averaging a whopping 23.6 DraftKings points per game there since joining the Bills in 2015. He gets just 14.4 DK PPG on the road. Meanwhile, this Saints defense has proven to be a reverse-funnel, meaning the best way to attack it is on the ground. The Saints are fourth in pass defense DVOA but 28th against the run. So we should expect a very run-heavy gameplan out of the Bills, highlighting McCoy, who will be fresh after 10 days off. He has at least 21 touches in all four home games this season, averaging a massive 27.2 DK points in them. Given his pass-game role (4.8 catches per game), the volume projection here is too big to ignore at $8,300.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. An Extremely Fresh Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournette (ankle, bye, team-imposed suspension) hasn’t played since Week 6, giving him nearly a full month off. He’ll be extremely fresh and ready to handle a big workload, something he’s done throughout a rookie season that has seen him average a strong 21.6 carries and 2.5 catches per game. Fournette has seen massive red-zone usage, ranking fifth in carries and second in touchdowns from inside the 5-yard line despite only playing in six games. The gameplan for the Jaguars is always Fournette-based, but that particularly will be true this week, as the Chargers have one of the league’s best pass rushes and pass defenses. Thanks to Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams, the Jaguars’ pass game is in big trouble. The way to beat the Chargers is by running, where they are 26th DVOA and 28th in yards per carry allowed. Fournette could go under-owned, as he’s priced at $8,400 — between LeSean McCoy and Todd Gurley/Le’Veon Bell.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Eli Manning, Sterling Shepard/Evan Engram and Garrett Celek
The Giants officially hit rock bottom last week, humiliating themselves in a 51-17 home loss to the Rams. Even if they’ve given up on lame-duck coach Ben McAdoo, we can expect a more professional performance this week. That’s especially true when we consider the opponent is the 0-9 49ers, who rank near the bottom of nearly every pass defense category yet are playing at the sixth-fastest neutral situation pace in the NFL (via Football Outsiders). They have three of Pro Football Focus’s bottom-11 cornerbacks and have given up at least two passing touchdowns in four straight games.
The good news is that if Eli Manning does play well, we know it will be through Sterling Shepard and talented rookie Evan Engram. With Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall done, there are simply no other options. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ pass-catching corps has also been thinned out as Pierre Garcon, Trent Taylor, George Kittle and Cole Hikutini all are out. That leaves tight end Garrett Celek as a candidate to play nearly every snap against arguably the league’s worst defense against tight ends. The Giants have given up at a touchdown to every single tight end they’ve faced this season, are 22nd DVOA vs. tight ends and are dead last in fantasy points per game allowed to the position.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Carlos Hyde, Jordan Howard, Devonta Freeman, Bilal Powell
WR: Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Julio Jones (if healthy), Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Sterling Shepard, Mohamed Sanu, DeSean Jackson, Corey Davis
TE: Evan Engram, Jack Doyle, Vernon Davis (if Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder are out), Cam Brate, Garrett Celek
D: Jaguars, Lions, Steelers, Rams, Bears, Jets
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.