WATCH: VALUE ALERT – CAMERON MEREDITH
Running backs stand out in a big way this week. It’s the kind of slate I wish I could roster about eight of them instead of only three. From Le’Veon Bell up at $7,900 down to Jordan Howard at $6,200, you’ll find a potpourri of three-down plus goal-line backs with good matchups. Of course, this means the most common lineup construction for Week 6 will be expensive RBs and cheap WRs. If you’re looking to differentiate your roster, do the opposite.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to be both a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the 13 Sunday games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Cam Newton in a Must-Win Spot
I typically try to spend down at quarterback in an effort to secure more reliable volume from my position players. But this is a unique spot for the most expensive QB on the board, Cam Newton. With the Panthers at 1-4, it’s time for Superman to put his cape on and save the season. There’s no way the team can limit the read-option or coddle his running ability because he’s coming off a Week 4 concussion. It’s almost like a playoff game, which is what we saw late in the 2014 season when the Panthers were fighting for a postseason spot and Cam averaged 9.8 carries over the final four weeks. In his actual playoff career (six games), he’s averaged 9.2 rushes – well above his career regular-season average of 7.6.
I also typically avoid players on the road in the division. However, I actually prefer to use opponents of the Saints in New Orleans because Drew Brees’ home/road splits create the Coors Field of NFL DFS. With Brees extremely likely to be efficient and excellent against the Panthers’ inexperienced/struggling secondary, Newton will have to keep his foot on the gas just like so many QBs before him in the Superdome. That’s often not the case when the Saints’ horrific defense is on the road because Brees and the offense can’t keep up.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Jimmy Graham Against the Falcons’ Linebackers
Jimmy Graham’s rehab off a patellar rupture sustained just 11 months ago has been nothing short of remarkable. He played on 72.4 percent of the snaps in the three games before Seattle’s Week 5 bye, running 83 pass routes while being asked to pass block just 11 times. Most impressively, Graham has regained the dominant basketball-player athleticism that made him one of the game’s biggest mismatches. Now he gets to face a Falcons’ defense which has been ravaged by injuries at the linebacker position, leaving them very vulnerable against tight ends. Greg Olsen posted 6-76-1 in Week 4, Coby Fleener went for 7-109-1 in Week 3 and Clive Walford returned a 6-50-1 line in Week 2. Overall, the Falcons have given up the second-most raw fantasy points and five TDs to tight ends through five games.
2. Jordan Howard Against the Jaguars
Boosted by No. 5 overall pick Jalen Ramsey, the Jags have actually played reasonable pass defense so far this year (7th DVOA). But they’ve been weak against the run, ranking 14th in YPC allowed and 29th in DVOA. So it’s an excellent matchup for Jordan Howard, the NFL’s newest member of the three-down plus goal-line, game-flow independent RB club. If this were a normal week with a standard amount of RB value, Howard would be massively owned as the chalk. But with Le’Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Christine Michael and Lamar Miller among those in very plus spots, I believe Howard’s ownership will be depressed. He’s playing on 90.6 percent of the snaps and getting 90.0 percent of the RB touches over the last two weeks. He out-snapped Ka’Deem Carey 63-2 last week, handled three red-zone touches and has been targeted seven times through the air the last two weeks. His usage is as ideal as it gets right now.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones
The Rams’ defense is a shell of its former self. Starting defensive linemen Michael Brockers (hip), Robert Quinn (shoulder) and William Hayes (ankle) are very questionable. Franchise player CB Trumaine Johnson (ankle) is out, leaving 2015 UDFA Troy Hill to start against the Lions. Hill is already on his third NFL team and is PFF’s No. 115 CB in coverage among 117 qualifiers. We saw this defense give up 23 offensive points last week in a home game against the Sammy Watkins-less Bills.
A trip to Detroit represents a much stiffer task, as Matthew Stafford has averaged 20.5 DK points at home vs. 17.4 on the road across his last 35 starts. He’s also reached his salary-based expectation 66 percent of the time at home vs. 52 percent of the time on the road. So with Golden Tate continuing to be used as a low-volume extension of the run game and Eric Ebron (back, ankle) out, the easy stack is with explosive Marvin Jones. He’s coming off two relatively poor games, but one was on the road in the division and the other was against the Eagles’ top-5 secondary. That should help keep Marvin’s ownership depressed.
2. Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker and/or DeMarco Murray
The Browns’ expansion-caliber defense is a steroid for opposing quarterbacks. Starting with last week: Tom Brady 32.64 DK points, Kirk Cousins 18.32, Ryan Tannehill 24.96, Joe Flacco 21.18 and Carson Wentz 19.22. Now it’s time for Marcus Mariota to spread his wings. Although we know the yardage won’t be there (gone over 300 pass yards just twice in 17 NFL games), we have seen big touchdown upside from Mariota. He’s accounted for 3-plus TDs in five career games, including last week’s 4-TD outburst in the win over Miami. Most importantly for stacking purposes, we have a tight concentration in Tennessee’s offense. Delanie Walker led all tight ends in targets per game last year and has seen eight in back-to-back games since coming off a hamstring injury. DeMarco Murray, dominating snaps and touches ahead of Derrick Henry, currently ranks third among all RBs in catches (24) and fifth in targets (27).
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. All the WRs in the $7K Range
I think the most common lineup construction this week will feature expensive RBs, expensive QBs and cheap WRs. A simple way to turn that on its head is to pay up at wide receiver, and there’s a lot to like in the $7K range. Allen Robinson projects to be shadowed by middling 30-year-old CB Tracy Porter and he already has eight RZ targets in four games. T.Y. Hilton is the only player with double-digit targets in all five games, being used as a chain-mover plus lid-lifter. Amari Cooper draws a plus matchup (weather permitting) as Marcus Peters will see most of Michael Crabtree. Brandin Cooks is in his preferred home spot and gets to face a woefully inexperienced and talent-deficient Carolina secondary which is bordering on dumpster fire. Marvin Jones is set up nicely, as mentioned above. There are plenty more relatively expensive WRs to consider, all of which will force us away from this week’s likely standard lineup construction in GPPs.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson
RB: Jordan Howard, Le’Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Lamar Miller
WR: Cameron Meredith, Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates (if healthy), T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper (weather permitting), Jarvis Landry, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas, Will Fuller, Jeremy Maclin, Marvin Jones
TE: Charles Clay, Coby Fleener, Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett, Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen
D: Bills, Seahawks, Titans, Patriots, Texans
Adam Levitan and Peter Jennings are promoters at DraftKings and also avid fans and users (usernames: AdamLevitan and CSURAM88) and may sometimes play on their personal accounts in the games that they offer advice on. Although they have expressed their personal views on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and they may also deploy different players and strategies than what they recommend above.