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.
Newton now leads in points over a trailing 16-game period among QBs. He also has the weekend’s best matchup against a New Orleans team allowing 284 passing yards per game and 8.8 yards per attempt. They’re allowing a 115 opposing passer rating on the back of 30 touchdowns against. The Saints looked inept against Brian Hoyer early in Week 12 as the problem owes at least as much to personnel as it did the quixotic instruction from since-dismissed DC Rob Ryan. Although arguably skewed by his prodigious rushing ability, Newton owns a large edge on the field in fantasy points per drop back. (He also easily trumps Aaron Rodgers’ league-leading average from 2014.) The biggest concern here would probably be that the Panthers win too easily – this was true for Carolina a week ago and was also a factor in the New Orleans contest – but that’s obviously a risk you have to take.
Projected Points: 25.2
Fitzpatrick sports the best points-to-salary ratio of any QB this week, and I have him even higher in my personal projections. The Giants are the only team allowing more passing yards per game than the Saints, and their 25-yard margin is the same as that between New Orleans and the ninth-worst squad. Fitzpatrick has been better than most realize and for an extended period. He was sixth best in fantasy points per drop back last year with Houston and is eighth best this season in New York. He’s thrown for as many touchdowns as Drew Brees and has eight multi-touchdown games. Despite questionable arm strength, he’s posted the fifth highest average depth of target (10.3). He can attack deep because in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker he has the luxury of throwing to one of the NFL’s premier receiving tandems.
Projected Points: 19.9
McCoy is probably a bigger name than talent. He’s only forced 26 missed tackles on 151 attempts and has just 3 rushing touchdowns. But he’s also a dual threat with 14 receptions since the beginning of Week 10. McCoy is averaging more than 23 touches per game over the last three and will not face carry competition from Karlos Williams this week. The rookie’s absence locks him into a workload that isn’t fully priced into his salary. This favorable usage offsets a difficult matchup. The Texans are on a defensive tear over the last month and now rank fifth in run defense grade (+37.6). Even with the elite play recently, they’re still allowing more than 100 yards per game on the ground. McCoy will look to dent them like Alfred Blue (139 yards) and Lamar Miller (175) did earlier in the season.
Projected Points: 22.5
Williams is averaging almost a yard less after contact on his 115 attempts than Le’Veon Bell did on his 113 pre-injury carries. Fortunately, this says more about Bell than Williams. The 32-year-old veteran and fantasy’s No. 2 overall RB from 2008 has averaged more yards per carry and more yards after contact than Devonta Freeman. That gives you a sense of his upside in Pittsburgh’s elite offense even before you consider that he caught all 7 of his targets for 88 yards against Seattle in Week 12. In every game Bell has missed, Williams has played on at least 83 percent of the snaps. The Colts have shored up their rush defense slightly but rank No. 22 according to the PFF grades. They allow 115 rushing yards per game and gave up 6.9 yards per carry to Doug Martin last week.
Projected Points: 20.7
With Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington falling prey to injuries, David Johnson is a cheap volume play against the Rams. The rookie hasn’t impressed as a pure runner with only 3 forced missed tackles and 1.8 yards after contact per attempt, but he’s also been the favorite for the high value situational touches in the Arizona backfield. He led Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington with his 4 rushing touchdowns and trails only Lance Dunbar and Matt Jones at the position in terms of receiving yards per route. To help put that in context, his 2.39 yprr trumps both Danny Woodhead (2.28) and Gio Bernard (2.04). It’s worth remembering that his 35 carries may not be representative and that he led all rushers in the preseason with 10 forced missed tackles on 17 attempts. St. Louis ranks No. 1 in run defense according to PFF, and defensive linemen Aaron Donald (24.5), Michael Brockers (11.9), Nick Fairley (10.9), William Hayes (11.2), and Robert Quinn (6.0) all sport positive run grades. Despite those gaudy numbers, the Rams are allowing 110 yards per game because only four teams face more than their 28.6 average attempts against.
Projected Points: 16.9
After Brown was held to 51 yards by Richard Sherman, it will be a relief for fantasy owners and Steelers fans alike that Indianapolis has only used Vontae Davis in shadow coverage once in the last six weeks. Brown runs roughly half of his routes against the side Davis patrols, but that leaves plenty of opportunity for Todd Haley to get him matched up against Greg Toler and Darius Butler on the remaining snaps. This flexibility will play to Brown’s advantage as Toler is more than doubling Davis in yards per coverage snap (2.17 to 0.99). In a favorable matchup Brown’s upside is hard to duplicate. He was held under 10 targets in every game Ben Roethlisberger missed but is otherwise averaging more than 13 targets per game.
Projected Points: 23.9
After a very slow start to the season that saw him fail to take advantage of the opportunity opposite Steve Smith, Aiken has come on recently. He has 37 targets and 24 receptions over the last four games. It looked like his hot stretch would end with the Week 11 injury to Joe Flacco, but he showed immediate chemistry with Matt Schaub, hauling in 6 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown (although two of his other targets were intercepted). Coming off of that performance, he gets a dream opponent in Miami’s Jamar Taylor. The Dolphins’ RCB owns a -10.9 coverage grade and is allowing opposing passers a 123 rating into his coverage. PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Aiken the fifth biggest advantage of Week 13 behind only Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham, and T.Y. Hilton.
Projected Points: 14.9
Hilton has struggled with a foot injury this season, a nagging problem that perhaps explains his contribution to what has been an immensely disappointing Indianapolis receiving corps. His 1.88 yards per route slots him in just below Devin Funchess. On the plus side, Hilton still ranks No. 13 in the NFL with 96 targets, and among receivers with more targets only Allen Robinson and Mike Evans are averaging better than his 16.1 yards per reception. That vertical ability combined with a good matchup puts him back in play for Week 13. Hilton lines up all over the field – 21 percent to the left, 32 percent in the slot, and 47 percent to the right – but he projects to see most of his snaps against Antwon Blake. The Steelers’ LCB is allowing a whopping 1.89 yards per coverage snap and has given up 6 touchdowns.
Projected Points: 17.1
Walker is getting pretty expensive, but the salary is deserved. He leads all tight ends in yards per route at 2.38. That’s better than Greg Olsen (2.32) and better than Rob Gronkowski (2.32). It also happens to be better than Odell Beckham (2.28) and DeAndre Hopkins (2.24). Walker is also seeing the necessary volume to be a fantasy force with 8 or more targets in six of 10 games. Over the last two weeks, Marcus Mariota has dropped back 81 times and thrown for 449 yards. Exactly 200 of those yards have gone to Walker. The Jaguars are poor in pass defense in general and truly dreadful against TEs, a trend that may be accelerating. They allowed Walker’s season high in yardage just two weeks ago before giving up two touchdowns to Antonio Gates in their Week 12 loss.
Projected Points: 14.2