We have four elite quarterbacks in plus matchups this week. Tom Brady finally off suspension against the Browns, Ben Roethlisberger against the Jets, Aaron Rodgers against the Giants and Andrew Luck against the Bears. From a raw points perspective, it’s very likely one of those four will be the highest scoring QB of the week. Deciding whether to go outside the box and roster a cheaper QB or stick with the surest things will be an important initial step in roster construction.
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. T.Y. Hilton’s Change in Usage
Only two players have received double-digit targets in all four games this year: T.Y. Hilton and Jarvis Landry. It’s another sign of how Hilton’s role is changing in his fifth NFL season. His average depth of target (aDOT) is down at 12.2 yards, T-39th in the league. That’s a drop from last year’s Matt Hasselbeck-induced 13.5 yards and way off of the 14.5 aDOT he saw when Andrew Luck was healthy for the entire 2014 season. Furthermore, Hilton has run 57.7 percent of his routes from the slot this season, way up from last year’s 28.0 percent and 2014’s 40.4 percent. This change in usage toward more high-percentage routes will continue to bump Hilton’s catch rate, which is critical in DraftKings full-PPR format.
Of course, Hilton isn’t just some possession receiver. His calling card is sub-4.4 speed and the ability to take the lid off a defense. He’ll have plenty of chances to do that this week as the Colts are hosting the injury-ravaged Bears defense on Indy’s fast track. Look for Hilton to get chances against Bears slot CB Cre’Von LeBlanc (rookie UDFA) and journeyman outside CB Tracy Porter (PFF’s No. 87 coverage CB among 100 qualifiers). At home with the Colts saying they want to increase their pace (they’re currently 23rd in neutral-scoreboard seconds per play), it’s an ideal spot for Hilton.
2. Latavius Murray’s Turf Toe Injury
We might not know for sure until Sunday, but I’m not expecting Latavius Murray (turf toe) to play in Sunday’s home game against the Chargers. I’m also not going to overthink the spot DeAndre Washington is in. So far this season, the backup work has been an even split between the fifth-round rookie DWash and the UDFA Jalen Richard. Carries are 23-17 Washington, targets are 7-6 Richard and snaps are 54-51 Richard. However, note that prior to the Week 4 game against the Ravens, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported the Raiders wanted to expand Washington’s role. He went to out-carry Richard 8-2.
So although Richard is a threat to handle roughly 40 percent of the RB market share, there’s still a high ceiling on Washington at just $3,400. This is an explosive player who produced runs of 15+ yards on 43.1 percent of his carries at Texas Tech last year (via Ian Hartitz), turned 41 preseason touches into 188 yards and is currently second in the NFL in YPC at 6.39. The Chargers are 21st in run defense DVOA and has allowed the second-most receptions to running backs. The matchup, price and skill set of the player are too strong to pass on, even if we set projected touches down in the 10-14 range.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Qunicy Enunwa Against the Steelers
Note: Enuwa sat out practice Friday and is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Make sure he’s healthy ahead of Sunday’s lock.
As mentioned in Thursday’s WR Target Projection article, this is a perfect storm for Quincy Enunwa. The Steelers pass game is going to light up the inept Jets secondary, creating a voluminous situation for Ryan Fitzpatrick. With Eric Decker sidelined by a torn rotator cuff and no tight ends to speak of (Jets TEs remarkably have zero catches on the year), Enunwa is locked into a huge snap share (94.3% last week) and solid target share (20.7% on the season). On top of all that, no team has allowed more DK points than salary-based expectation to wideouts over the last calendar year (via Fantasy Labs). Enunwa, who has a slightly better matchup than Brandon Marshall because he’ll see less of emerging CB Ross Cockrell, is significantly underpriced at $4,600 given the spot.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Ryan Tannehill and DeVante Parker
One of the reasons we were on the Texans pass game last week was because it gave us access to extremely beatable Titans CB Perrish Cox. Cox proceeded to get roasted by Will Fuller and is now PFF’s No. 109 CB in coverage among 110 qualifiers. This week it’s DeVante Parker’s turn to come on down and play the turnstile game with Cox. Over the last three weeks, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2015 draft has played on 87.7 percent of the snaps and averaged 7.6 targets per game.
As for Tannehill, he continues to show a high fantasy ceiling despite struggling in real life – much like the Kirk Cousins situation from last week. Over the last two seasons (20 games), Tannehill has gone over 300 yards eight times and thrown multiple TD passes 11 times. Having biases against players because they “aren’t good” at actual football is a mistake as long as the spot is right.
2. Todd Gurley and Rams D
Todd Gurley is not the kind of player I typically roster on DraftKings or draft in season-long formats. As a two-down back, he’s highly dependent on game flow and red-zone opportunities – which is a problem when your quarterback is Case Keenum. That said, there are some rare spots where a runner like Gurley makes sense and this week is one of them. The Bills are coming off back-to-back wins, first a home upset of the Cardinals and then a road win in their Super Bowl at Foxboro. Now they go all the way across the country for a snoozer with the Rams and will be without Sammy Watkins again. It’s a massive letdown spot, giving the Rams an excellent chance to build a lead and finally create a positive expectation for Gurley. Of course, the only way Gurley can have a big game is if the Rams defense creates turnovers and suffocates Tyrod Taylor. So pairing them is the low-floor, high-ceiling, likely low-ownership play we look for in GPPs.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Derek Carr against the Chargers
As discussed in the intro, the four big-name QBs in plus spots are going to garner a huge piece of the ownership pie. I’m also expecting Raiders RB DeAndre Washington to be very popular. So the forgotten men will likely be Derek Carr and Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree. It sets up a leverage opportunity, especially with top Chargers CB Jason Verrett (knee) out and slot CB Brandon Flowers (concussion) questionable at best. It’s difficult to understate how strong this Raiders offensive line is, as they’ve allowed just two sacks and are Football Outsiders’ No. 1 pass protection unit, as well as PFF’s No. 6. With plenty of time to work, Cooper and Crabtree project to be running free often.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Jerick McKinnon, DeAndre Washington (if Latavius Murray is out), Jordan Howard, C.J. Anderson, DeMarco Murray
WR: Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton, Brandon Marshall, Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman (if healthy), Michael Crabtree, Quincy Enunwa (if healthy), Brice Butler (if Dez Bryant is out)
TE: Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry (if Antonio Gates is out), Kyle Rudolph, Zach Miller, Jordan Reed
D: Patriots, Broncos, Dolphins, Rams, Vikings, Steelers
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.