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.
It takes a little of the fun out of it to simply target the New Orleans defense every week, but Bortles is the choice for PFF Fantasy’s optimized lineup. Although the Jaguars signal-caller ranks only 23rd in the Pro Football Focus adjusted QB Ratings, the man who sits one spot below him tore up the Saints in Week 15. Bortles also has two important items going for him that are arguably more important than yardage efficiency. He ranks No. 3 with 607 drop backs and No. 5 with 31 touchdowns. Bortles completes only 62 percent of his aimed throws, a number that places him 33rd overall, but has an average target depth over 10 yards per play. The NFL average for quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts is 8.8. In the end, Bortles’ yards per attempt and passing touchdowns mirror the numbers for Eli Manning. When you play Bortles, that’s essentially what you’re getting: Eli with rushing ability.
Projected Points: 24.8
Roethlisberger is averaging 8.4 yards per attempt this season, better numbers than all but Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson. He’s been a little hit or miss in the touchdown department. Four times he’s thrown for 3 touchdowns or more and five times he’s managed a single touchdown or been shutout. Fortunately, Big Ben has torched weaker secondaries, and he gets a plum opponent this week. The Ravens are bottom 10 in both our pass rush (8.6) and pass coverage (-26.9) grades.
Projected Points: 24.1
Johnson is the premier RB play this week with Devonta Freeman stuck in neutral against quality defenses and Adrian Peterson questionable. A few weeks ago, I cautioned against taking Johnson’s early-season tackle-breaking numbers too seriously, and he’s roared back with a stretch of performances that have elevated him to the top of the rookie heap in PFF’s Elusive Ratings. His 2.89 yards after contact per attempt and 28 missed tackles forced on 135 touches give him a 59.9 Rating. That trumps Thomas Rawls (56.0), Todd Gurley (54.0), and T.J. Yeldon (50.3). Most importantly, Johnson has three consecutive games with at least 24 touches. His combination of elite rushing ability, passing down volume, and touchdown-scoring prowess makes him the perfect fantasy back. He has a neutral matchup against a Packers squad that ranks No. 12 in our run defense grades (+26.2), but Johnson should see plenty of work in a game where the Cardinals are solid favorites.
Projected Points: 18.5
White lacks the ceiling of a 20-touch player, but New England’s passing down back has a high floor in a matchup where the Patriots may eschew the run altogether. After his 7-catch game against the Titans, White is up into a tie for ninth in yards per route at 1.91. To put that in context, Dion Lewis was averaging only 2.01 yards per route before his injury. The second-year pro has 21 receptions over the last three weeks and has also scored 3 total touchdowns in his role as a poor man’s Danny Woodhead. The Jets have allowed a league-best 2 rushing touchdowns and give up only 82.8 yards per game on the ground. Only the Broncos and Chiefs hold better run defense grades (48.2). Expect the Patriots to attack through the air and White to challenge his career high in targets.
Projected Points: 15.5
On the other sideline the Patriots have been feisty against the run as well. They give up 92.5 yards per game and have allowed 8 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, we’ll see two elite tandems square off as New England’s pair of Top 20 corners – Logan Ryan checks in at No. 6 with Malcolm Butler not far behind at No. 16 – look to erase Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in the passing game. That leaves a lot of potential checkdowns for Powell. New York’s receiving back has been just as hot as White with 20 receptions over the last three weeks and a touchdown in each of those games.
Projected Points: 12
Bryant was held out of the end zone last week but recorded a season-high 10 catches. The vertical threat opposite Antonio Brown is more feast or famine than the superstar, but it’s been a lot of feast this season. Bryant has three games with 100-plus yards and has caught a touchdown in each of those affairs. Baltimore is one of five defenses allowing an opposing passer rating over 100. Bryant projects to see a lot of time against Shareece Wright who has allowed 4 touchdowns on only 235 coverage snaps.
Projected Points: 19.1
The official PFF projections don’t assign a tremendous points-to-salary ratio for Robinson this week, but he owns the top combined matchup grade according to our WR/CB matchup chart. In Robinson you have a 1,000-yard receiver tied for the league lead with 13 touchdowns. In Browner you have a corner who ranks in the bottom 10 in yards allowed (713) and who grades out No. 116 out of 116 qualifiers at the position.
Projected Points: 18.2
Aiken has been on fire over the last month with 90 yards or a touchdown in four of his last five games. He’s averaging over 10 targets since the beginning of Week 10, and the volume should be there again as the Ravens spend Sunday in perpetual catch-up mode. Pittsburgh is allowing 279 passing yards per game and has given up 28 touchdowns through the air. William Gay’s numbers are surprisingly good this season – he hasn’t been credited with a touchdown against – but Aiken has been used all over the formation in recent weeks. The Ravens won’t need to work that hard to create positive matchups.
Projected Points: 16.7
Maclin doesn’t offer huge upside in a game the Chiefs should win easily, but he’s been more explosive than you might expect over the last month. After not throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver in 2014, Alex Smith has tossed four to Maclin in just the last four games. Over that span Kansas City’s No. 1 has not been held below 9 targets or caught fewer than 6 passes. Cleveland is allowing 8.2 yards per attempt this season, a number only surpassed by New Orleans. Maclin runs 32 percent of his routes from the left, 37 percent from the right, and 31 percent out of the slot, so the Chiefs should be able to deploy him in favorable matchups against the Browns’ leaky secondary.
Projected Points: 17.1
Through the first nine weeks of the season, Tye hadn’t caught 5 passes in a game or scored a touchdown. Since the beginning of Week 10, he ranks in the Top 10 at the position in yards (276) and yards per route (1.86). Tye has caught at least five passes in four of five contests and has hauled in touchdowns in back-to-back affairs. With Odell Beckham set to vacate his average of 10-plus targets, Tye’s volume numbers should jump even further this week. The Vikings sport mediocre overall pass coverage grades but have struggled against a weak slate of opposing tight ends. Rookie middle linebacker Eric Kendricks has been especially bad when asked to cover (-12.6).
Projected Points: 10