There are so many stars I want to play this week. Guys like Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Keenan Allen and Antonio Brown are all in great spots to smash. Of course, it’s impossible to fit very many of these studs into our lineups. So instead of going in depth about why all those expensive guys are great plays, I’m going to focus this on some cheaper guys I like to save salary.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap count, usage and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Nate Washington on a depleted and fast-paced Texans squad vs. the Titans
The Texans got humiliated at Miami last week (were down 41-0 at halftime), lost Arian Foster for the season and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) remains sidelined. That’s all good news for DeAndre Hopkins and Nate Washington. Note that the Texans continue to play at the fastest pace in the NFL, as they average just 22.5 seconds per play overall (1st in league) overall and 25.8 in scoreboard neutral situations (3rd in league). After ranking ninth in plays per game last year (66.4), the Texans are at an outrageous 76.0 this year.
All of that is a long way of saying there’s going to be a ton of chances for Washington in this one as he takes on his former team, the Titans. Note that in the four full games Nate has played this year, he’s seen 11, 8, 9 and 16 targets while playing 91.7 percent of the snaps. Of course I’d rather roster Nuk Hopkins against a Titans secondary that is injured and due for regression. But if I can’t fit his $8700 salary, Washington at $3600 is just too cheap for a guy who’s a realistic bet for eight targets.
2. Stefon Diggs vs. the Bears
I don’t think we’re “chasing points” by going back to Stefon Diggs this week. Even with Charles Johnson and all the other Vikings WRs healthy last week, Diggs led the unit in snaps (80.9 percent) and targets (nine). He’s now seen at least nine targets in each of his three NFL games, going 6-87-0, 7-129-0 and 6-108-1. This week, I expect the Vikings to be trailing (see below), and the matchup is ideal against struggling Bears CBs Tracey Porter and Kyle Fuller. I hate getting on guys a week late after their price has gone up, but I’m making an exception for Diggs.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Darren McFadden’s potentially massive workload
Darren McFadden is a great bet to be among the league leaders in running back snaps played this week. Even before Joseph Randle (oblique) was ruled out, he had been passed by McFadden on the depth chart. We know the Cowboys have zero faith in Christine Michael – they wanted to start him last week against the Giants but he couldn’t get it together mentally. Even though Randle went down in the first quarter, Michael played just seven snaps.
So now we have the Cowboys’ no-doubt passing-down back playing a feature role. When you add those two things together, you get Devonta Freeman/Matt Forte/Le’Veon Bell kind of usage. Obviously, I wish McFadden wasn’t facing the league’s No. 6 rush defense in yards allowed and No. 5 in YPC allowed. But I can safely project McFadden for 15 touches and I don’t think 21-24 is out of the question. That kind of opportunity at a $3800 pricetag doesn’t grow on trees.
2. Martavis Bryant still underpriced
Antonio Brown is a great play this week as his price dropped $1400 while Ben Roethlisberger was hurt. Le’Veon Bell has a pristine matchup against Cincy’s leaky run D and his massive floor/ceiling combo is back now that the Steelers project to be in the red zone more often. But don’t forget about Martavis Bryant, who is a very good play as well. I’ve wanted to capitalize on his role change for the last couple weeks, but couldn’t pull the trigger with empty jerseys Mike Vick and Landry Jones at quarterback. Now that Big Ben is healthy, it’s time to get on board before his $5300 price tag rises.
Bryant played on just 43.5 percent of the snaps as a rookie last year, never reaching the 60 percent mark in a game. This year he immediately and predictably put Markus Wheaton on ice once off suspension, playing 62.1 percent of the snaps in Week 6 and 65.5 in Week 7. So we’re getting one of the most gifted No. 2 wideouts in the game now with an elite quarterback for $5300 in a game where the Steelers have an implied team total of 25 points.
CONTRARIAN GPP PLAYS
1. Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery
This MIN/CHI line opened Vikings -2.5 and he majority of tickets were on Mehddy Bridgewater’s crew. Yet the line has moved to Bears -1, a sure sign that the high-dollar sharp bettors are on Chicago. They likely see a now-healthy offense coming out of a bye that is finally stacked with Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Martellus Bennett all available for Jay Cutler. Getting exposure to this unit’s 1A tandem is easy with Cutler $200 over min-price and Jeffery down at $6400. Note that Jeffery opened the season at $8300, hasn’t been healthy all year, has gone 5-78-0 and 8-147-1 in his two appearances – yet now costs $6400.
1. Chris Johnson at Cleveland
I get why Chris Johnson is going to be popular this weekend. The Browns rank dead last in run defense DVOA, 31st in YPC allowed, dead last in rushing YPG allowed and 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs. However, I think this is a regression spot for a resurgent CJ?K. First of all, it’s a difficult spot on the whole for the Cardinals. Win a Monday night game at home then go east on a short week to face an “easy win” Browns team on the week before a bye. Note that the Browns have shown well at home all year, beating the Titans and narrowly losing to the Raiders and Broncos. If the Cardinals’ true rating as a team is 80 of 100, there’s a good chance they lay an egg here with a 20 out of 100 performance.
That’s a concern for Johnson because he’s not a passing back. The Cardinals have Andre Ellington and David Johnson to do that work, as evidenced by CJ?K’s meager five total catches and 9.71 routes run per game on the season. So I think Johnson’s floor here is much lower than perceived and there’s also a lot of opportunity cost with so many running backs in great spots this week. We can only roster three of them and I don’t want to burn a spot on Johnson.
WHO I’M CONSIDERING IN DRAFTKINGS CASH GAMES
(No particular order)
QB: Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Drew Brees
RB: Todd Gurley, Devonta Freeman, Le’Veon Bell, Darren McFadden, Justin Forsett, Danny Woodhead
WR: Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Martavis Bryant, Stefon Diggs, Nate Washington, Michael Floyd (if John Brown is out), Eric Decker, Alshon Jeffery
TE: Ladarius Green (if Antonio Gates is out), Tyler Eifert, Greg Olsen
D: Rams, Cardinals, Falcons, Jets, Seahawks