In Advanced Targets we’re going under the hood and using all of the advanced stats generated by the Pro Football Focus game-charters to find the best DraftKings plays this season. I’m also providing the weekly projections from the award-winning minds at PFF Fantasy and occasionally presenting contrarian plays where the advanced stats suggest upside far beyond the official projection.


Looking for more NFL content? Check out these articles:

NFL WR Target Projections
Levitan’s Leverage
NFL Consensus Rankings
NFL Cheat Sheet


Quarterbacks

Tom Brady

Brady is almost prohibitively expensive this week. There are also legitimate concerns about the Patriots becoming slightly more run-heavy as the injury to Dion Lewis appears to have coincided with a mild LeGarrette Blount resurgence. On the other hand, PFF foresees only two quarterbacks coming within 5 points of Brady’s projected total. Passing on Brady costs you both safety and upside. This week’s opponent is a defensive trainwreck, ranking last in pass rush (-16.2) and bottom 10 in coverage (-18.6) according to the PFF grades. (Jason Pierre-Paul graded negatively in his first game back, but he did record 4 QB hurries and 2 QB hits.)

Projected Points: 26.1
Salary: $8,600


Kirk Cousins

If you go the bargain route, Cousins finds himself squaring off with a Saints defense that has just been carved up by Eli Manning and Marcus Mariota in one of the worst two-game stretches ever. The Saints are allowing a silly 112 opposing passer rating and have been bombed for 5 more aerial touchdowns than any other team. Is that enough to make a Washington quarterback playable?

Cousins has been an unappealing fantasy signal-caller and ranks No. 28 in fantasy points per dropback. Fortunately, he’s been a slightly better reality QB. He ranks ahead of players like Ryan Tannehill, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck in PFF’s adjusted passer rating and ranks No. 10 overall in accuracy. Of course, his accuracy is artificially inflated by the depth of his passes. He throws deep on only 11 percent of his dropbacks and has been accurate on an egregiously poor 17 percent of those. However, with DeSean Jackson back for his second game after a long layoff, Cousins finally has a legitimate field-stretcher.

Projected Points: 19.2
Salary: $5,200


Running Backs

Todd Gurley

Gurley isn’t even one of the two most efficient rookie RBs on a per opportunity basis – that distinction falls to David Johnson and Karlos Williams – but we finally have a Best Back Since who actually seems worthy of the title. The numbers confirm the highlights as Gurley ranks No. 6 in yards after contact per attempt (2.95) and No. 1 in Breakaway Percentage (52 percent). Adrian Peterson 2.0 is a long touchdown waiting to happen. Gurley is also a good volume play with at least 19 carries in five consecutive games. The Bears should be little impediment as Gurley looks to re-start his streak of 120-plus yard games, a string that was snapped at four in the loss to Minnesota. Only five teams are allowing more than Chicago’s 4.6 yards per carry.

Projected Points: 22
Salary: $7,300


DeMarco Murray

Despite Murray’s embarrassing start and the painfully obvious superiority of Ryan Mathews – Mathews is averaging almost as many yards after contact (3.4) as Murray is averaging overall (3.9) – Philadelphia’s prize free agent recruit has rallied impressively in the fantasy points department. Nothing jumps out about Murray’s profile, but a high floor in terms of carries (106) and targets (36) combines with his solid touchdown (5) numbers to make him a triple threat. He’s now crested 20 points in three of his last four games. This week he gets a Dolphins squad allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 142 yards per game. A fleeting improvement followed the head coaching change, but that may have simply been randomness. Only seven NFL teams own a run grade worse than -13. The Dolphins scored -13.7 in the Week 9 humiliation alone.

Projected Points: 20.2
Salary: $6,200


Theo Riddick

If you need a cheap option this week, Riddick can do a workable Danny Woodhead impression at a fraction of the cost. He trails only Woodhead and DeVonta Freeman in RB targets with 51 and ranks No. 7 in yards per route (2.13). Detroit’s receiving back has recorded at least 5 receptions in five of eight games and scored a TD in one of the other three. The Lions are expected to lose by double digits to the Packers this weekend, and game flow could easily see Riddick match the 13 targets and 10 receptions he notched in their Week 5 blowout loss against the Cardinals.

Projected Points: 11.2
Salary: $3,300


Wide Receivers

Allen Robinson

Only 11 players have more targets than Robinson’s 76 and none of those players is being targeted as far down the field (17.1 average depth of target). It’s a formula that gives Robinson a tremendous weekly ceiling. After beating Darrelle Revis’ shadow coverage (42 of 48 routes) for 6-121-0, handling Jimmy Smith should be easy. The Ravens are allowing 8.4 yards per attempt and an opposing passer rating of 106. Out of 91 qualifying corners, Smith is in the bottom 15 in both yards and touchdowns allowed.

Projected Points: 19.3
Salary: $6,700


Brandon LaFell

After missing the first five games with an injury, LaFell was beyond rusty in his return against the Jets with 5 dropped passes on 8 targets. He’s dropped only one of his subsequent 15 targets and broke out for 102 yards last week against Washington. With Julian Edelman playing so well this season, it’s easy to forget that LaFell scored three more TDs in 2014 and only finished with 18 fewer receiving yards. This week he should see a lot of Jayron Hosley. Pressed into action by injuries in the secondary, Hosley has been solid on a per play yardage basis (1.1 yards per coverage snap) but is allowing a 115 passer rating against.

Projected Points: 15.9
Salary: $4,100


Michael Crabtree

Crabtree has become a weekly fixture in PFF’s optimized lineup. The comeback player has been surprisingly efficient (2.21 yards per route) with better than expected volume (77 targets). He’s not showing a ton of playmaking ability – he’s averaging 1.9 yards per target less than Amari Cooper despite being targeted 2.8 yards farther down the field – but has 5 touchdowns. Four of those scores have come in the last three weeks during Derek Carr’s emergence as a fantasy star. Xavier Rhodes has shadowed Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas this season, and although he’s unlikely to shadow Cooper, the Vikings’ top corner spends most of his time on the side Cooper also frequents. That leaves Crabtree to square off with 37-year-old Terrance Newman. Newman’s objective coverage stats are mediocre, but he ranks No. 71 with a PFF coverage grade of -1.8.

Projected Points: 18.6
Salary: $5,800


Davante Adams

Since his Week 8 return from the ankle sprain, Adams has led the Packers in routes (83) and drawn more than twice as many targets as James Jones. Adams eclipsed 100 yards on both of his double digit target games as a rookie. He failed to do so against the Panthers, but his 7-93-0 line should be compelling for value seekers. No team in football allows as many yards per attempt as the Detroit Lions. Adams projects to run the majority of his routes against Darius Slay. Although he’s come on over the last month, but Slay is still allowing a 116 passer rating against.

Projected Points: 13.0
Salary: $4,200


Tight End

Eric Ebron

You should obviously be playing Rob Gronkowski as he faces off with a New York Giants squad that gives up more yards to tight ends than any team in the NFL. If you’re not, Ebron represents an intriguing option. The No. 10 pick from the 2014 Draft is playing on 76 percent of Detroit’s snaps, and those snaps overwhelmingly come on pass plays (192 to 70). He hasn’t been heavily targeted, perhaps due to the Lions overall struggles, but a 79 percent catch rate works in concert with an average of 6.7 yards in RAC to give him sneaky upside. (Among fantasy-relevant TEs, only Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski are averaging more after the catch. Ebron’s athleticism is as advertised.)

Projected Points: 10.9
Salary: $3,300