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.
After a run of 11 touchdowns in three games, Carr came crashing down to earth in Week 10 with a mediocre performance against the Vikings. The matchup improves significantly against Detroit as Carr goes from PFF’s No. 9 ranked pass defense to a Lions squad languishing in 26th. The Lions were struggling even before losing Rashean Mathis and Josh Wilson to IR with concussion and knee problems respectively. Nevin Lawson played only 15 snaps prior to the Mathis injury, then logged 139 in Weeks 8 and 10. He put up a -1.7 grade during that time but may himself miss Sunday’s game with a concussion. Detroit’s secondary will have a practice squad vibe as it attempts to contain Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Projected Points: 24.2
Following last week’s evisceration of the Seahawks, Palmer enters Week 11 ranked No. 1 in points per game over a trailing 16-game time period. He’s averaged more than Tom Brady, more than Aaron Rodgers. His 2015 resume is even better as he ranks No. 2 in yards per attempt at 8.93 (behind Ben Roethlisberger) and in touchdowns at 23 (behind Tom Brady). Even with the absences of Michael Floyd and John Brown at different junctures, Palmer’s 681 deep passing yards comes in third. The Bengals don’t count as a plus matchup, but they aren’t a huge impediment either with pass coverage (-0.6) and pass rush (14.7) grades in the middle of the pack. The heavily favored Cardinals are projected for almost 27 points this week, numbers which reflect a solid floor and high ceiling for Palmer.
Projected Points: 23.5
The post-Jamaal Charles era started slowly for West with a -3.8 grade in Week 6 followed by a -2.4 grade in Week 7. He responded in a big way, sandwiching impressive performances around the Week 9 bye. Only six RBs have outscored West since the injury and only Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman have done so in the same number of games. It would be unrealistic for anyone to truly fill Charles’ shoes, but it was important for the former UDFA to inherit the full role. Since taking over the starting job West has also excelled in the passing game, averaging 1.45 yards per route on 16 targets. This week he gets a San Diego squad allowing 4.9 yards per carry and 123 yards per game. The Chargers rank last in run defense grade, and their top four defensive linemen in total snaps bear negative grades. Donald Butler (-12.2) and Manti Te’o (-7.1) are two of the worst linebackers at stopping the run.
Projected Points: 21.6
Whether due to age, a lost season, or merely as a result of narrative applied after the fact, Peterson has appeared visibly tentative at the point of contact this season, ranking a surprising No. 34 in Elusive Rating and sitting in a tie for seventh in missed tackles forced. That’s never a spot you’d expect to see Purple Jesus in any season where he leads in attempts by a wide margin. Of course, the good news is exactly that: Peterson’s 195 carries are best in the league and by a wide margin. He also continues to show off his signature explosiveness when a hole presents itself. 396 of Peterson’s 961 yards have come on runs of 15 or more yards. That’s 50 yards more than Gurley and over 100 better than Doug Martin. Averaging 25 carries a game over the last three, AP shouldn’t see a usage decline against a Washington squad allowing a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry.
Projected Points: 20.1
Blount’s value cratered at the season’s advent with the early-down bruiser losing a game to suspension and falling behind Dion Lewis in the New England pecking order. Beginning in Week 3, Blount has once again emerged as one of the most efficient runners in the NFL. Over that time, he’s broken 25 tackles on 115 attempts. Doug Martin and Jonathan Stewart are the only runners to have forced more missed tackles during that stretch and only Devonta Freeman has more touchdowns. Moreover, Blount appeared to be cutting into Lewis’ workload even before the injury and that trend will only accelerate in the resulting touch vacuum. He’s averaging almost 22 carries a game over the last three. The Bills haven’t been particularly stout against the run this year. Their 2.0 rush defense grade ranks No. 21 and coincides with a per carry average that’s tied for 17th. In a game where the Patriots are expected to score 27 points and win by a touchdown, Blount’s projected usage and likely high leverage touches come at a discount.
Projected Points: 15.8
At 32 years of age, Fitzgerald is having his best season in a half decade. Only one non-Pittsburgh receiver slots in ahead of him in fantasy points per opportunity. Only Eric Decker has a better WR Rating and only Odell Beckham has caught more touchdowns. Healthy again and playing with a QB in the midst of a career year, Fitzgerald strafed the Legion of Boom for 10 catches and 130 yards on Sunday night. It was the third time in four weeks that Fitzgerald had seen at least 10 targets and hauled in at least 8 receptions. That he’s only found the end zone once during that stretch gives you a sense of the upside available once he inevitably resumes his early season TD hot streak. It’s not a great matchup in Week 11 as Cincinnati slot corner Leon Hall has played well. He’s allowing a reception only once every 13.5 coverage snaps. But the Bengals haven’t faced a murderer’s row of opposing offenses, and Hall hasn’t faced a team that deploys their top target out of the slot. With Michael Floyd and John Brown both expected to be limited, Fitzgerald could reach his highest target number of the season.
Projected Points: 21.3
PFF is projecting an exceptionally high number of “shadow” situations this week, but no secondary receiver is poised to take advantage quite like Crabtree. Darius Slay will draw the assignment of slowing Amari Cooper. As detailed in the Derek Carr blurb, the Lions very literally have no else. Crabtree has seen 82 targets this season, five more than the rookie, and the respect shown the neophyte has clearly paved the way for the veteran’s renaissance. With 8 or more targets in seven of nine contests and 4 TDs in his last four games, Crabtree earns our fourth highest projection in this week’s juicy matchup.
Projected Points: 19.3
Amendola will be a trendy usage play following the injury to Julian Edelman, but the opportunity could be even better than it appears at first blush. Brandon LaFell hasn’t been playing particularly well and PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart shows him to be overmatched against Stephon Gilmore. Meanwhile, Amendola should square off with slot corner Nickell Robey, the weak link of an otherwise sterling pass defense. Robey sees a target every 5.8 coverage snaps, a highly problematic number for a player allowing a 115 passer rating against.
Projected Points: 17.5
Ertz hasn’t scored a touchdown this season, a failure that obscures positive trends in other areas. He saw a season-high with 10 targets in Week 10 and now has 38 targets over the last five weeks. He’s recorded at least 4 catches and 40 yards in each of those games. While 4-40-0 isn’t a week-winning line, the upside is much higher. With Philadelphia receivers challenging to be the worst in the NFL, Eagles tight ends combined for 11 catches and 202 yards against the Dolphins. Brent Celek was the star in that one, but as Ertz holds a 56-11 edge in targets, he’s a strong favorite to be the future beneficiary.
Projected Points: 11.5