Ownership will likely be heavily clustered this week around players such as Melvin Gordon, Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Howard and Marvin Jones. Some of that is due to obviously elite matchups, part of it is a function of the season’s first bye weeks and a bit is due to some players ticketed for very high usage at very low prices. Deciding how to handle this “chalk” will be a big 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 12 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Kirk Cousins’ Ceiling Against the Browns
Cousins is in an almost identical spot to the one Ryan Tannehill was in last week. He’s a high-ceiling fantasy quarterback who people aren’t excited to roster because of his questionable real-life ability. Just like Tannehill, Cousins is at home with an inept run game but a deep stable of pass-game weapons. And just like Tannehill, Cousins is facing a JV-level Browns defense which has been hit for 19.2 DK points by Carson Wentz in Week 1, 21.2 DK points by Joe Flacco Week 2 and 25.0 by Tannehill last week.
For those questioning Cousins’ fantasy viability because he’s “not good,” note that he’s now averaging 285.3 passing yards per day in his 27 full NFL games. That would be good for most in the history of the NFL, ahead of Drew Brees’ 281.7. Cousins came into the week second in the NFL in pass yards and T-5th in attempts. Also realize he has thirteen 300-yard games in his 28 total starts, a rate of 46.4 percent. That’s more than Peyton Manning (34.9%), Brees (44.7%), Aaron Rodgers (35.2%) and Tom Brady (31.8%).
2. Carson Palmer Off a Four-Interception Game
We knew it would be tough for the Cardinals to go across the country for a 1pm ET start at the Ralph to face a Bills team in desperation mode and on a long week. So while Carson Palmer’s hideous zero-TD, four-INT outing is revolting on paper, it was somewhat expected. Now he’s set up for a get-well spot as he’s home against a Rams defense which is fourth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed but showed its pass-defense warts last week when Jameis Winston ripped them for 405 yards and three TDs. The best part is that Palmer’s ownership will likely be negligible thanks to the poor Week 3 outing and his price has come down a whopping $900 to just $6,300 aka $1,300 over minimum. Declining popularity, sinking price and plus matchup are three key traits of a good GPP play.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Zach Miller vs. the Lions
Due to both scheme and personnel, the Lions and Giants have clearly established themselves as the two worst teams against tight ends. This Lions unit gave up another TD to a tight end last week, giving them a whopping 17 touchdowns allowed to TEs in their last 19 games. So it’s literally the best matchup Zach Miller will see all year as he’s home against the Lions and is predictably establishing himself as a go-to option. He averaged 5.0 catches, 55.2 yards and 0.5 TDs on 6.7 targets in the four games Martellus Bennett missed last year and is at 5.0 catches, 41.6 yards and 0.6 TDs this year while playing on 84.8 percent of the snaps. Miller is nearly free on DraftKings as he costs $2,700, just $200 over the minimum and 5.4 percent of our total cap space. He’ll be a safer play if the more competent Brian Hoyer starts over Jay Cutler (questionable, thumb).
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and Julio Jones
Kelvin Benjamin played 61 snaps last week and caught zero balls on one target. Afterward, Cam Newton said that “can’t happen” and “won’t happen again.” It’s an obvious squeaky wheel spot (similar to Allen Robinson last week) ahead of a potential shootout with the Falcons. So while some people won’t use Kelvin because he’s coming off an airball and others won’t use him because he’ll be matched up with Desmond Trufant, we can get a piece of two extremely high-ceiling players. Note Benjamin has five inches on Trufant, size he used to put 6-91-1 on the Broncos’ elite secondary in Week 1.
A positive-expectation play when trying to win large-field GPPs is to roster opposing WR1s in the same lineup. If we are going to have a shot to win the tournament, Cam and Kelvin will have to go off in a big way. If that happens, the Falcons will be forced to be extremely aggressive through the air. Enter Julio Jones, who is coming off one the worst games of his career and only played on 73 percent of the snaps – likely due to calf/ankle issues. But he practiced each day this week, says he’s not injured and is now home against a very inexperienced Panthers’ secondary. This is a chance to get Julio in a plus spot at likely low ownership.
2. Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller
Brock Osweiler looked like one of the worst QBs in NFL history in Week 3 on a nationally televised game at New England. Big deal. A lot of quarterbacks have looked terrible when facing Bill Belichick on a short week, especially given that this version of the Patriots is one of the best Belichick has ever had. So I’m not ready to write off the Brockness Monster just yet as he gets set for a home game against the Titans’ funnelish defense. The best part of using Osweiler stacks is that we know exactly where the usage is going thanks to high concentration. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller have combined to see 47.7 percent of the Texans’ targets and slot man Braxton Miller (hamstring) remains sidelined. We also get to use Nuk and Fuller is optimal matchups as Titans CBs Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty are extremely flammable. Cox is PFF’s No. 101 CB among 101 qualifiers.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Brice Butler Stepping in for Dez Bryant
With Dez Bryant (knee) out, it’s finally time for Brice Butler to spread his wings. This is a 6’3/215 specimen who ran a 4.37 at his 2013 Pro Day and has shined every August when given preseason opportunities. Butler has also shown good chemistry with Dak Prescott as the duo connected for a touchdown in the second preseason game and also had another called back by a questionable OPI penalty. Butler finished that game with 3-74-1 (all from Dak) while playing just 20 snaps. So while everyone flocks to underwhelming slot man Cole Beasley and extremely volatile Terrance Williams, the player actually seeing the biggest difference in his role will be Butler. That’s good news as he faces a 49ers team which plays at the fastest pace in the league and has been scorched by Doug Baldwin/Kelvin Benjamin for a combined 15 catches, 272 yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks. Butler also costs the stone minimum $3000.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford
RB: Melvin Gordon, Jordan Howard, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller
WR: Antonio Brown, Marvin Jones (if healthy), Larry Fitzgerald, Travis Benjamin, Cole Beasley, Terrelle Pryor, Tyrell Williams, DeAndre Hopkins
TE: Jordan Reed, Zach Miller, Hunter Henry (if Antonio Gates is out), Greg Olsen, Coby Fleener, Dennis Pitta
D: Texans, Patriots, Redskins, Ravens, Cardinals
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.