There are six teams on a bye, two playing in London, two playing on Thursday night and two playing on Monday night this week. It leaves a smallish 10-game main slate, one that got turned on its head with the C.J. Anderson injury. I suspect Devontae Booker will be the highest-owned player we’ve seen so far this season – and with good reason. He’s a three-down plus goal-line back playing as a home favorite on a team with the eighth-highest rush rate. And he costs just $3,700.
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 10 Sunday games being played in America.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Jimmy Graham’s Revenge in New Orleans
As discussed a couple weeks ago in this space, Jimmy Graham is back playing at the difference-making level we saw from 2011-13. He’s been in on 96.1 percent of the snaps over the last two weeks and ran a pass route on 80 of Russ Wilson’s 80 dropbacks (via PFF). Graham has seen at least eight targets in four straight games, often showing up as the first read and dominating in 1-on-1 coverage. So I’ve been trying to roster Graham as much as possible and there’s no reason to stop now. He’s in the Coors Field of NFL DFS, aka the Superdome, where the Saints have allowed an outrageous 38.0 points per game over their last eight. Throw in all the revenge stemming from the 2015 trade that sent Graham to Seattle and we have the makings of a perfect storm.
2. Tevin Coleman’s Hamstring Injury
Tevin Coleman actually entered the 2015 season as the likely starter ahead of Devonta Freeman. Then Coleman sustained a concussion in Week 2, allowing Freeman to take the reigns and go completely HAM. So the Falcons know Freeman is very capable of handling large workloads and have said as much this week – after all, he averaged 23.7 touches per game across the Falcons’ final 13 games last year. He’ll likely revert to that kind of massive usage this week with Coleman out – as long as Freeman’s seemingly minor hip injury turns out to be fine. Freeman’s only backups are 2015 UDFA Terron Ward and a washed up Stevan Ridley.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Packers Complementary Receivers vs. Falcons Complementary Corners
Desmond Trufant has been awesome this year, grading out as PFF’s No. 10 CB in coverage among 116 qualifiers. He’s had majority coverage on Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin and Travis Benjamin this year – and held each of them well under their salary-based expectation. However, the Falcons still rank 31st in pass yards allowed and 29th in pass TDs allowed because the rest of their secondary struggles so badly.
Add all that up and we have an ideal spot for Packers wideouts not named Jordy Nelson, who projects to get the Trufant treatment. With only Knile Davis and Don Jackson as true running backs on the roster, we can expect another pass-happy approach from Aaron Rodgers. He’s averaging 47.6 pass attempts over the last three weeks and has used Ty Montgomery as an extension of the run game over the last two (25 targets). Davante Adams played 80.4 percent of the snaps in Week 7 as the No. 3 in the Packers’ 3-WR base and Randall Cobb has seen at least 11 targets in three straight games. All three are very much in play given the matchup and because we know how the Packers will attack. Adams and Montgomery will get even bigger boosts if Cobb’s hamstring renders him limited.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Brock Osweiler, Will Fuller and C.J. Fiedorowicz
Osweiler is the laughing stock of the league right now, as everyone wants to make fun of a guy making $72M who has the 30th-ranked passer rating. But if we look closer, Brock has failed badly against Kansas City, New England (in Foxboro on a Thursday night), Minnesota and Denver. Those are four of the toughest defenses a quarterback can face. Brock has played well against Chicago, Tennessee and Indy – three of the softer spots for a QB. So while every player in the league is matchup dependent to some degree, we can safely say that Osweiler is extremely matchup dependent.
That leads us to this cake Week 8 spot at home against a Lions pass defense which ranks dead last in DVOA, dead last in fantasy points allowed to QBs, 23rd in pass yards allowed per game, 28th in yards per attempt allowed and dead last in pass TDs allowed. On top of that, top Lions CB Darius Slay (hamstring) is questionable. It’s as ideal of a spot we can find for Osweiler, whose price has sunk to $5,400 and I suspect will be extremely low-owned. Pairing him with big-play rookie Will Fuller ($6,000) and/or emerging tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz ($2,800) gives us more savings. Fiedorowicz has quietly earned rave reviews from the coaches and has seen his snap count spike all the way to 74.3 percent last week, even with Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson active. The Lions have given up 5.0 more DraftKings points per game than salary-based expectation to tight ends over the last calendar year (via Fantasy Labs).
2. Josh McCown (if starting), Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge
The 0-7 Browns know that Sunday’s home game against the Jets is their best chance to win a game this year. I suspect they’ll show up big and have an excellent chance to win the game. But how? It’s unlikely to be through the run game as the Jets boast a top-three DVOA run defense. It’s far more likely to be through the air, where the the corpse of Darrelle Revis and the Jets are 31st DVOA vs. the pass. That’s especially true if the Browns’ best quarterback, Josh McCown, returns from his collarbone injury and starts – as expected. The Jets have no one who can handle the 6’4/223 Pryor, who can dominate with both his size and speed. Pryor should be healthier this week after a hamstring issue limited him to only 48.5 percent of the snaps against the Bengals. McCown’s return would also be very good for Barnidge, who averaged 6.1 catches for 86.1 yards and 0.86 TDs in McCown’s seven full games last year. Barnidge is just $3,300 this week.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. John Brown Against the Panthers
The Panthers are a prime example of a funnel defense. Much like the Jets, they are strong up front and extremely weak in the secondary. It’s important not only from a matchup perspective, but also because we can have a good idea of how enemies will attack. The Panthers’ inexperienced and talent deficient secondary can best be exploited by a player like John Brown, who has battled leg problems throughout the first part of the season. Doctors finally discovered what was wrong – it’s wasn’t a hamstring pull or muscle weakness, it was the sickle-cell trait. Now that Brown and the medical team are aware of the issue and how to treat it, he should be far closer to 100 percent. That’s good timing with Jaron Brown (ACL) done and Michael Floyd (hamstring) missing practice. Brown, who is yet to score a TD this year after netting seven last year, is set up nicely for positive regression in this spot.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston
RB: David Johnson, Spencer Ware, Devonta Freeman (if healthy), Jacquizz Rodgers, Devontae Booker, Mike Gillislee (if LeSean McCoy is out)
WR: Julio Jones, Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper, Doug Baldwin, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Gary Barnidge (if Josh McCown starts), C.J. Fiedorowicz
D: Broncos, Jets, Patriots, Texans, Seahawks, Cowboys, Chiefs, 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.