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.
Most serious NFL fans are aware that the Saints are allowing 8.9 yards per attempt and an opposing passer rating of 116.6. To put that in context, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady are averaging QB Ratings of 109 and 107 respectively. Palmer sits at 9.0 yards per attempt, but that’s almost a full yard better than the next best passer. In any given week, the quarterback facing New Orleans is better than the best quarterback in the NFL. What many fans do not know is that Hoyer is having another solid year in his own right. He’s only averaging 7.19 yards per attempt, but he sports a better PFF passer rating than Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers. He’s also easily besting both of those signal-callers in fantasy points per drop back. From the benching of Ryan Mallet in Week 4 until his concussion in Week 10, Hoyer managed to put up 13 touchdowns, including 2 or more in five consecutive contests.
Projected Points: 22.1
You would never expect to read the phrase, “Only two quarterbacks are projected for more points than Brian Hoyer this week,” but that’s exactly where we find ourselves. One of those players is Carson Palmer, a player who has morphed from upside flier into boring-but-necessary. Palmer’s consistency and ceiling are both such concrete aspects of his current profile that he was a preferred recommendation against the Bengals despite injuries to Michael Floyd and John Brown. He proceeded to light up Cincinnati for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns. It was his seventh game with 300-plus yards and the sixth with three or more touchdowns. It only gets easier as he faces a San Francisco squad giving up 8.3 yards per attempt. The 49ers rank in the bottom 5 of the pass coverage grades (-24.0) and the pass rush grades (-1.7).
Projected Points: 22.2
Yeldon is the kind of uninspiring runner who needs a huge workload and poor opponent. He’s unimpressive in yards per carry (4.0), doesn’t do much after contact (2.3), and isn’t showing any explosion in the passing game (5.7 yards per reception). Due to his own limitations and his presence in a Jaguars offense that’s probably a year away, he also doesn’t find the end zone with any regularity (2 total touchdowns). Fortunately, he’s one of only a small handful of backs in the top 15 in both carries and targets. That should be all he needs in a matchup with San Diego. PFF graders have saddled the Chargers with a -53.8 grade in run defense. To put that in perspective, only one other defense has a worse total grade.
Projected Points: 15.7
If Yeldon has struggled as a rookie, Coleman has simply been awful. That was especially the case when called upon to replace Devonta Freeman against Indianapolis. He averaged 2.9 yards per carry with a fumble thrown in for good measure. On the season he ranks 51st out of 53 qualifiers in Elusive Rating, PFF’s combined measure of yards after contact and missed tackles forced. Oddly enough, Jeremy Langford sits in dead last. The Bears rookie only averages 1.49 yards after contact per carry – easily the worst in the league – and had only forced 2 missed tackles on 78 attempts heading into Thanksgiving. Langford has thrived on creating big plays with his speed, and Coleman has a similar but even more explosive profile. Moreover, while it’s certainly not fair to call the aforementioned Freeman a system back, it helps to play in a good system. The Falcons rank No. 6 in our run block grades (13.0), and that has helped Freeman to one the NFL’s best marks in pre-contact yardage. This week Coleman faces a Minnesota run defense allowing 110 yards per game. While Linval Joseph has been a force in every area – his run stop percentage of 11.5 is sixth best in the league – defensive ends Brian Robison (6.8 percent) and Everson Griffen (3.7) are consistently washed out in the run game.
Projected Points: 15.4
The matchup isn’t nearly as good against the Steelers as it was in last week’s 30-209-1 evisceration of San Francisco, but Rawls might be so good that it doesn’t matter. Marshawn Lynch has been solid after contact again this season even as he played through a painful abdominal injury, but Rawls 3.35 yards after contact per attempt dwarfs Lynch at 2.65. In fact, only Le’Veon Bell has better numbers this season (3.41) and only Doug Martin has been his equal. Lynch has always struggled to put up yardage totals that match his gaudy broken tackle numbers, but this is easy to forgive as he has no peer in the broken tackle category. Rawls has shown that same fiery personality at the point of contact but is also demonstrating more explosiveness in the open field. He trails only Martin in Breakaway Percentage after bypassing fellow rookie phenom Todd Gurley last week. Pittsburgh is allowing only 93 rushing yards per game this season, but they also face the eighth fewest attempts as teams try to keep pace with their prolific passing game. It’s always possible game script forces the Seahawks to the air, but they remain one of the most stubborn squads when comes to establishing the run.
Projected Points: 15.3
Xavier Rhodes has been asked to shadow Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas this season, but after giving up a 136 opposing passer rating in his second tilt with Megatron, he hasn’t been placed in that position again. He still projects to see a lot of Jones in coverage where PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Jones the biggest “grade” advantage of any tandem in Week 12. Rhodes has generated some name recognition already in his young career but has graded out negatively in eight of ten games. The stage is set for a monster performance from Jones who is averaging 2.97 yards per route and has averaged just a hair under 15 targets a game over the last month.
Projected Points: 24.8
Even with a slower stretch to follow his fast start, Diggs is averaging more yards per route than Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins, and Odell Beckham. After seeing 36 targets in four contests from Week 4 to Week 8, game flow and a minor injury limited him in Weeks 9 and 10 before he jumped back to 9 targets against the Packers. If he sees that kind of volume against the Falcons, he should be in for a big game. Diggs has run 64 percent of his routes starting on the offensive left side, whereas Atlanta shutdown corner Desmond Trufant almost never leaves the defensive left. If trends hold, this means Mike Wallace will see Trufant, Jarius Wright will get solid slot corner Robert Alford, and Diggs will square off with struggling rookie Jalen Collins. Collins is seeing a target once every 6.5 coverage snaps, another indication we should see a big volume day from Diggs.
Projected Points: 11.8
PFF foresees a favorable points-to-salary ratio for Antonio Brown even in a projected shadow situation with Richard Sherman. The unstoppable superstar is coming off of a two-game stretch where he accumulated over 400 yards on 27 receptions, and Sherman surprisingly grades out as the No. 39 CB to this point in the season. I still prefer Bryant this week. Only one receiver in all of football is averaging more fantasy points per opportunity than Brown, and that’s his running mate. Bryant has 5 touchdowns in five games, just hung 178 yards on Cleveland, and should get a heavy dose of Cary Williams. Seattle’s other corner is allowing a 121 opposing passer rating on targets into his coverage.
Projected Points: 14.0
Barnidge has profited from the talent void at receiver in Cleveland to the tune of 71 targets and 667 yards, numbers that rank fourth and third at the position respectively. After seeing only 5 targets through two weeks, he exploded thereafter, scoring seven times in the last eight games. Barnidge could have plenty of room to run against a Baltimore defense that is bottom 10 in passing yards allowed (257 per game), sports a -16.0 pass coverage grade, and struggles against tight ends in particular.
Projected Points: 13.4