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 is our highest projected quarterback this week and remains a strong play despite his lofty salary. The Tampa Bay defense has the worst PFF pass coverage grade (-50), worse even than the historically bad New Orleans Saints (-44). The Buccaneers do not give up as many yards or touchdowns, mostly because they only face the ninth fewest attempts per game (34.3). Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Newton leads the position in fantasy points despite ranking No. 18 in drop backs (528). He doesn’t need heavy volume to create huge games. Add in the potential for a more pass-heavy game plan in the absence of Jonathan Stewart, and we could be looking at another 300-yard, 5-TD performance like we saw in Weeks 13 and 15.
Projected Points: 24.3
Eli has three games this season where he was held below 200 yards passing, and he threw for only 1 total touchdown in those performances. One of those contests was in Week 6 against Philadelphia where he threw for 189 yards and 2 interceptions. He should get his revenge in the rematch. The Giants and Eagles are tied for fourth in pass attempts faced and rank No. 6 and No. 9 in pass attempts. We could see a record number of passing attempts between the two squads. New York is a train wreck against the pass according to both traditional and advanced stats, and while the Eagles are actually much better than most people realize – they rank No. 17 in pass coverage (-8.9) and No. 5 in pass rush (54.7) – there is a lot of potential for them to collapse under the volume in this week’s likely shootout. Manning’s 33 passing touchdowns are better than all but three other quarterbacks, and he may be playing for his coach’s job this weekend.
Projected Points: 23.6
Freeman has arguably been exposed as an early down runner over the last month. He’s failed to average even 3.5 yards per attempt in any of his last four games despite managing a not insignificant 73 carries during that span. Of course, it’s still more important that he’s seen 96 total touches and is locked into goal line work with Tevin Coleman out. (He’s been seeing goal line work anyway, but a healthy Coleman would have been worth an expanded look.) Freeman appears primed for a gigantic game against a Saints squad that is allowing a league worst 5.0 yards per carry and struggles against runners in the passing game.
Projected Points: 27.8
Over a small four-game sample to finish the season, David Johnson has been the NFL’s best running back. He’s averaging well over 100 yards from scrimmage and more than a touchdown a game. With a similar average in yards per carry, yards after contact per attempt, and forced missed tackle rate, Johnson is essentially a version of Todd Gurley who plays like a wide receiver in the passing game. The rookie has five games with 40 or more yards receiving and has scored 4 receiving touchdowns. His 12.8 yards per reception is better than Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, and teammate Larry Fitzgerald. It’s a very poor matchup against an elite Seahawks run defense (24.1), but the combination of usage, salary, and possible ownership percentage makes him a strong selection.
Projected Points: 21.4
The Chargers have allowed the third worst yards per carry (4.7) and the fifth most rushing touchdowns (15). As a result, their run defense grades are quickly headed for the bottom (-49.2). This sets up perfectly for a big game from Anderson. After a terrible start to the season, the erstwhile bell cow has begun to consistently generate big plays. He’s now up to fourth overall in yards after contact per carry (2.99), a staggering result after he failed to crest 50 yards rushing in his first six games. Ronnie Hillman has continued to out-touch Anderson, but his efficiency levels have trended in the opposite direction. Beginning in Week 8, Anderson has averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Hillman doesn’t have a single game with a per carry average above 4.9 in that span, and he’s been held below 4.0 yards per carry seven times. We have Anderson projected for a very sturdy points-to-salary ratio with upside for a lot more if his touch numbers spike.
Projected Points: 12.3
Jones has the best cornerback pairing of Week 17 according to our WR/CB matchup chart. Delvin Breaux made some nice plays against Allen Robinson last week, but he hasn’t been used in strict shadow coverage since Week 8. Robinson eventually found himself paired with Brandon Browner, and the result was a flurry of big plays. Jones will mostly face Browner who plays the RCB role on 70 percent of his snaps. Only Antwan Blake and Marcus Peters have allowed more yards than Browner’s 890. Only Jamar Taylor and Brandon Flowers have given up at least 500 yards receiving and are allowing an opposing passer rating higher than Browner’s 120.
Projected Points: 24.2
Based on Cleveland’s coverage tendencies, Bryant will spend slightly more time against Tramon Williams than Charles Gaines. Williams has been solid this season, allowing 1.58 yards per coverage snap. On the other hand, Bryant will also get a healthy dose of Gaines, especially if the Browns make an extra effort to take Antonio Brown out of the contest. Gaines has played 272 snaps since making his first appearance in Week 10. The results have been catastrophic with the rookie giving up a reception every 6.8 coverage snaps. The catches have turned into a 124 passer rating against. Meanwhile, Bryant no-showed in fantasy championship week with a single catch for 6 yards. His ownership percentage will likely drop, but his 101 WR Rating is still better than that of Brown.
Projected Points: 18.2
Aiken hasn’t seen fewer than 7 targets or 5 receptions in any game since the beginning of Week 10. He caught all 8 of his targets against the Steelers to raise his catch rate above 63 percent. Baltimore’s fill-in No. 1 will face Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. Both corners have objectively similar numbers and hold opposing passers below an 80 QB Rating, but Kirkpatrick grades out very poorly (-20). Only Antwan Blake and Brandon Browner are worse.
Projected Points: 15.3
Matthews has three games this season with 100 yards and a touchdown, and two of them came in the last two weeks. He has 18 targets and 14 catches over that span. Matthews runs 94 percent of his routes out of the slot, and Giants corner Trevin Wade covers the slot on 90 percent of his snaps. This is a matchup Matthews should win as Wade gives up a reception every 8.6 slot snaps and pairs it with a 94.5 passer rating allowed.
Projected Points: 14.5
Ertz offers another good way to play the Philadelphia/New York game. On fire as of late, the Eagles tight end has turned in lines of 5-98-0, 8-78-1, and 13-122-0 over the last three. He leads the position with both 34 targets and 26 receptions. Only Delanie Walker is within 5 targets since the Week 14 kickoff. The Giants aren’t just bad in general through the air, they struggle quite a bit against opposing tight ends.
Projected Points: 10.5