The story of Week 2 was injuries as Danny Woodhead, Ameer Abdullah, Doug Martin, Jonathan Stewart, Adrian Peterson, Donte Moncrief, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler and Arian Foster were among the notable players that went down. That means Week 3 will be all about capitalizing on replacement value correctly.
Each situation is different. For example, Theo Riddick isn’t suddenly going to become a 25-carry player and the Chargers aren’t suddenly going to try to use Melvin Gordon the same way they used Woodhead. By understanding skill sets and depth charts, we can strive for accurate usage projections on the multitude of players thrust into a bigger role this 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 14 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Allen Robinson off two bad games
Panic has set in among Allen Robinson backers in the wake of his 6-72-0 and 3-54-0 start to the season. That makes it a perfect time for us to pounce, as his price has gone down $800 since Week 1 and I think his ownership will likely be deflated as well. Robinson has had sub-optimal matchups so far, squaring off with Packers CB Sam Shields in Week 1 and then emerging shutdown Chargers CB Jason Verrett in Week 2. This week, he gets a plus matchup as he’ll see the Ravens’ duo of Jimmy Smith (PFF’s No. 87 CB in 2015) and Shareece Wright (No. 48). It’s also a squeaky wheel situation with A-Rob coming off a five-target game. Afterward, Blake Bortles said “we have to find ways to get him the ball.” It’s similar to Week 1 when Delanie Walker got just five targets in a difficult spot vs. the Vikings and the Titans said they would make it a point to get him going. In Week 2, Walker hit the Lions for a 6-83-1 line – even using him on tight end screens.
2. Charles Sims stepping in as a feature back
Theo Riddick will still be part of a committee in the wake of Ameer Abdullah’s foot surgery. It’s unclear if the Chargers are comfortable using Melvin Gordon in third-down, two-minute or hurry-up situations even with Danny Woodhead (ACL) done. Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker will share work while Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) is sidelined, as will Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata in place of Adrian Peterson (knee). The Dolphins are expected to use a 3- or 4-man committee to replace Arian Foster (groin).
So out of all the running backs to go down last week, Doug Martin’s absence is the one that will create the most new opportunity. Jacquizz Rodgers knows Dirk Koetter’s system from their time together in Atlanta, but has averaged just 3.69 YPC in his career and was cut by the Bears two weeks ago. UDFA rookie Peyton Barber is not expected to be ready to handle any significant work. So that leaves Charles Sims, a pass-down specialist behind Martin but one the Bucs at least want to see handle a more featured back role. Sims played just 41.8 percent of the snaps last year and averaged 3.2 catches per game. With a bump to at least 60 percent of the snaps now coming, there’s a solid built-in floor here plus the upside of handling a majority of the carries as well.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Sterling Shepard vs. the Redskins slot corners
In Week 1, the Redskins allowed Antonio Brown to destroy Bashaud Breeland while Josh Norman watched from the other side. In Week 2, Dez Bryant was doing the same until Norman got on Dez late. As we head into Week 3, it appears the Redskins are finally going to try something different with their $75M corner. Reports out of Washington say Norman will shadow Odell Beckham, therefore leaving Breeland with a matchup he can definitely win vs. Victor Cruz. The best place for Eli Manning to attack this Redskins secondary will be in the slot, where underwhelming Eli Rogers and Cole Beasley have already hit them for a combined 11-134-1 through two weeks. Now comes a far stiffer test in impressive rookie Sterling Shepard, who has run 91 percent of his routes from the slot so far and caught 11 of his 12 targets. At $5,500, Shepard is at least a price-point pivot off likely chalk Travis Benjamin ($5,200).
2. Jordan Reed vs. the Giants linebackers and safeties
Kirk Cousins has been horrific through the first two weeks, ranking 26th in QB rating and 12th in yards per attempt. Last year, he was 5th and 8th in those categories. One way the Redskins can get him back to last year’s level is to revert to last year’s game plan, which involved featuring mismatch-creating tight end Jordan Reed relentlessly. And there’s no better place to do that than against the Giants, who are inept against tight ends from both a scheme and personnel perspective. Their slow linebackers and poor covering safeties have allowed 4.1 more DraftKings points per game than salary-based expectation to tight ends over the last calendar year – the second-worst mark in the league (only the Lions are worse).
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Derek Carr and Amari Cooper
The Titans were quietly a funnel defense last year, ranking 8th in Yards Per Carry allowed but 29th in Pass Yards Per Attempt allowed. There’s little reason to think that will change this year, especially after they held Adrian Peterson to 19-31-0 in Week 1 and each member of the Lions’ committee under 40 yards with no TDs in Week 2. So far this year, Titans LCB Perish Cox is PFF’s No. 98 coverage CB among 98 qualifiers and RCB Jason McCourty is No. 68. So we have a defense that pushes opponents’ game plans to the air, where the corners are major liabilities. It’s a boom spot for Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Cooper is the one predictably moving toward the top of the target totem pole in his second NFL season. He’s at 24.4 percent of the team targets through two weeks after coming in at 21.4 percent last year. More importantly, Cooper is out-targeting Crabtree 20-14 after trailing 146-130 last year.
2. Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin or Travis Kelce
The demise of Darrelle Revis has become a national story. We were fortunate enough to be on it Week 1 for the A.J. Green eruption and then missed out as Revis got roasted by Marquise Goodwin on Thursday night in Week 2. This week, Revis and the Jets’ funnel defense travels to Kansas City for a date with the highly concentrated Chiefs pass game. Note that Maclin and Travis Kelce have combined for 43.2 percent of Alex Smith’s targets so far this year after coming in at 47.6 percent last year. If the Chiefs are going to have success passing the football against the Jets – and there’s every reason to believe they will – it will be through these two. Any stack involving Alex Smith will always be contrarian because of his game-manager label, but he’s had six 20-point games on DK over his last 18 outings. That’s only one fewer than Aaron Rodgers’ seven during the same span.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Ezekiel Elliot vs. the Bears
This is a prime spot for the Cowboys as they catch the Bears traveling on a short week. An already shaky defense lost ILB Danny Trevathan (thumb), OLB Lamarr Houston (ACL), NT Eddie Goldman (ankle), S Adrian Amos (concussion) and CB Bryce Callahan (concussion) against the Eagles – plus starting QB Jay Cutler (thumb). So the Cowboys offense should not have any trouble doing their thing, which means hogging the ball and allowing their league-best offensive line to do work. That’s a great setup for Ezekiel Elliot, who needs this chicken-noodle soup spot after getting outplayed by Alfred Morris in Week 1 and getting benched for fumbling twice in Week 2. Expect Elliot to be fed heavily in a game the Cowboys can win easily as the franchise tries to justify using the No. 4 overall pick on a running back. Elliot is leverage against the popular players around his price-range on DK – namely Jarvis Landry ($6,600) and DeAngelo Williams ($7,500).
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers
RB: David Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, Theo Riddick, Melvin Gordon, Charles Sims, Jerick McKinnon, Christine Michael (if Thomas Rawls is out)
WR: Jarvis Landry, Antonio Brown, Travis Benjamin, Marvin Jones, Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, Jeremy Maclin
TE: Delanie Walker, Dennis Pitta, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Travis Kelce
D: Seahawks, Dolphins, Cowboys, Panthers, Bengals, Packers
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.