Late-breaking injuries are the story of this week. Since prices were set on Sunday we’ve gotten news on LeSean McCoy, Ben Roethlisberger, Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Carlos Hyde. There are also a whole other slew of players questionable. It’s created a situation where we have more viable cheap plays than we need and fitting the right ones into the puzzle will make all the difference. You don’t need me to tell you Mike Gillislee (if LeSean McCoy is out) and Jacquizz Rodgers are strong plays at their price points.
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. Cameron Brate Picking Up Some of Vincent Jackson’s Slack
Although Vincent Jackson (out, knee) wasn’t very good anymore, he was playing on 83 percent of the snaps and averaging 6.2 targets per game. His backups include a guy coming off yet another hamstring pull in Cecil Shorts, a practice squadder in Donteea Dye, a special teamer in Russ Shepard and a slot man in Adam Humphries. So we can safely expect established targets such as Mike Evans (who averaged 12.5 targets per game when V-Jax was out last year) and Cameron Brate to see an increase in usage.
In the three games since the Bucs cut Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brate has played on 79.4 percent of the snaps and ran a route on 84.2 percent of Jameis Winston’s dropbacks. That’s resulted in 21 targets for the 6’5/235 who has six red-zone targets already this year and recorded seven in 2015 despite playing on just 35.7 percent of the snaps. Throw in a 49ers team which allows opponents to run the third-most plays in the league and we have a near-perfect situation for Brate.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Spencer Ware Against the Saints
Alex Smith has just three 300-yard passing games and three 3-TD passing games in his last 36 outings. Since Andy Reid took over in 2013, the Chiefs have ranked 20th, 28th, 29th and are currently 10th in pass attempts per game. In other words, this is a quarterback and a coach that wants to grind games out on the ground and play extremely extremely conservative football. They’ll have no problem doing just that in Arrowhead, where the defense annually allows fewer points vs. road games. That’ll be accentuated by Drew Brees’ well-documented road struggles – in his career he averages 20.1 fewer yards per game on the road and 0.5 fewer TDs per game.
So the spot sets up nicely for Spencer Ware, who out-snapped Jamaal Charles 40-15 last week and out-touched him 26-11. After the game, Andy Reid was asked why Charles didn’t get more touches as he finally appears healthy off his ACL tear: “Is he ready to carry it every down? I don’t think that’s where we’re at right this minute.” It’s not like the Chiefs are in any position to sit Ware down anyway as the dude is averaging 5.32 YPC and excelling in the pass game one year after averaging 5.59 YPC. Even if Charles’ workload is expanded, we can still project Ware to see more of the workload against a Saints “defense” which ranks 22nd in YPC allowed, dead last in rush TDs allowed and 30th in run defense DVOA.
2. Allen Robinson Against the Raiders CBs
Allen Robinson hasn’t topped 72 yards or seven catches in a game all season. He’s failed to top even 57 yards in any of his last four games. If you think the first couple years of Robinson’s career were a fluke, then move along. If you believe Robinson is a freak talent, it’s time to buy on some positive regression. His usage is almost identical to last year, when he ripped off an 80-1, 400-14 line. His 2015 snap rate was 93.1%, he was targeted 9.5 times per game and his catch rate was 52.3%. His 2016 snap rate is 94.0%, he is being targeted 9.4 times per game and his catch rate is 52.3%. The big plays will come and there’s no better place to start than against a Raiders secondary which ranks dead last in YPA allowed, 24th in pass TDs allowed and dead last in yards per game allowed. They are 26th DVOA against No. 1 WRs, via Football Outsiders.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Andy Dalton, A.J Green and Jeremy Hill
It’s become a weekly tradition in this article to highlight the quarterback facing the Browns. They’ve given up the second-most fantasy points per game to the position despite a soft schedule. Carson Wentz went for 19.2 DraftKings points, Joe Flacco 21.2, Ryan Tannehill 25.0, Kirk Cousins 18.3, Tom Brady 32.6 and Marcus Mariota 28.8. This week it’s Andy Dalton’s turn to light up this expansion-caliber unit which may not have starting CB Joe Haden (groin). With Tyler Eifert (back, ankle) likely limited in his first game back, A.J. Green is the obvious no-brainer stack.
Adding Jeremy Hill to the stack at just $4,000 both makes in contrarian and gives us a great shot at all the Bengals’ TDs – which I think there will be a lot of. Yes, Gio Bernard has been out-snapping and out-touching Hill badly the last two weeks, but the Bengals were behind big in both those games (at DAL, at NE) and Hill was nursing shoulder/pectoral soreness. Now Hill isn’t on the injury report and we can safely project his team to be winning, which means he’ll be on the field more often. I’m not expecting Gio to get three chances from the 1-yard line again like he did last week – especially after he failed on those chances.
2. Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray and Titans D
As noted in this space last week, Marcus Mariota continues to flash a higher ceiling than most realize. He’s now accounted for at least three TDs in six of his 18 career NFL games and has back-to-back games with seven rush attempts. He only had one game with at least that many rush attempts in his first 16 NFL outings. Now Mariota and workhorse DeMarco Murray get to face the Colts inept defense which is giving up 29.3 ppg (28th in the league) despite having faced Trevor Siemian, Blake Bortles, Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler in 4-of-6 games. By rostering Mariota with Murray (who ranks 7th among RBs in targets), we soak up all the Titans TDs. And by adding in a quietly attacking Titans D against a Colts offensive line which has allowed Andrew Luck to be sacked a league-high 23 times, we add even more differentiation to the stack. Colts LG Jack Mewhort (triceps) and strong blocking tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) are expected to be out.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Mike Wallace (if Joe Flacco is Healthy)
I believe the most common lineup construction this week will be very cheap RBs and very expensive WRs. That should leave the mid-range of wideouts underowned. Allen Robinson (above) at $7,300 is one way to exploit this and Mike Wallace at $5,800 is another way – as long as Joe Flacco’s throwing shoulder is close to 100 percent. With Steve Smith (ankle) missing a majority of the last two weeks, Wallace has seen 20 targets. His aDOT in Week 5 was a very low 8.3 and was 14.0 in Week 6. With Smith sidelined, Wallace’s target projection and versatility of routes is raised. Of course, I’m always looking for ways to attack the corpse of Darrelle Revis and a Jets funnel defense which is 5th DVOA vs. the run and 32nd DVOA vs. the pass. They’re a dumpster waiting to be set on fire.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton
RB: DeMarco Murray, Jacquizz Rodgers, Mike Gillislee (if LeSean McCoy is out), Mike Davis, Spencer Ware, Devonta Freeman, David Johnson
WR: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Pierre Garcon (if Jordan Reed is out), Tyrell Williams, Golden Tate, Allen Robinson
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Kyle Rudolph, Cameron Brate, Jack Doyle
D: Titans, Jets (if Joe Flacco is out), Ravens, Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals, Vikings
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.