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.
If you’re looking for a high-upside quarterback this week and are willing to pay for the privilege, Brees is the top projected scorer at the position. One of the best fantasy quarterbacks of all time, his performance jumps another notch at home. Since the start of 2013, he’s averaged nearly 7 more points per game at the Superdome. The Buccaneers will struggle to mount any sort of challenge as they received the second worst pass defense grade of the first weekend, and that was against a rookie QB playing without elite receivers. After being targeted 13.6 yards down the field in the preseason, Brandin Cooks saw his 8 targets against Arizona at a depth of only 7.6 yards. Expect Sean Payton to remedy that in Week 2 and consider Cooks as a prime stack option.
Projected Points: 22.1
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cheap or contrarian option, Fitzpatrick owns the weekend’s best ratio of points to salary. He earned a 2.6 PFF grade against the Browns, good for fifth best in Week 1. Not known for his big arm, the Amish Rifle’s averaged pass depth of 12.7 yards was highest among qualifying passers. He still completed 68 percent of his passes and wasn’t sacked. With Brandon Marshall and the always underrated Eric Decker at his disposal, he has much better weapons than during his previous tenure with Chan Gailey. He now travels to face a Colts defense that fields Vontae Davis and not much else.
Projected Points: 18.4
Forsett owns the week’s third best RB projection and a better salary-to-points ratio than the two players ahead of him. After forcing zero missed tackles on 18 touches and managing a paltry 13 yards on 20 pass routes against Denver, his ownership percentage is likely to drop this week even as his matchup improves. The Raiders allowed 2 touchdowns and missed 5 tackles against Jeremy Hill. They could be the perfect remedy for a flailing Baltimore offense after losing Nate Allen and Charles Woodson to injury.
Projected Points: 16.8
Abdullah got more expensive this week, but he still offers plenty of upside after confirming the dual threat explosiveness we saw in college and during the preseason. He matched a 24-yard touchdown run with an impressive 3.67 yards per pass route. This week he gets a Vikings defense that earned a staggering -17.1 grade in rush defense for their starring role in Carlos Hyde’s breakout game. The overmatched Lions coaching staff is reeling a bit themselves after giving up 30 unanswered to San Diego, but Abdullah is somewhat insulated from that incompetence. His value in both the run and pass games makes him the focal point of the offense regardless of game script.
Projected Points: 14.3
While Andre Ellington’s unfortunate injury brings David Johnson one step closer to center stage, Chris Johnson is expected to carry the load this week. Ellington and C. Johnson combined for 27 pass routes against New Orleans, and, if the coaching staff is to be believed, few of those will be siphoned by the rookie. The elder Johnson averaged 2.6 yards after contact per attempt in 2014, a better number than players like C.J. Anderson, DeMarco Murray, and Le’Veon Bell. His demise is overstated and probably the result of his own success. No one is going to look good compared to the Chris Johnson of that epic 2009 season where he set the NFL record in yards from scrimmage. The Bears are no longer a laughing stock in run defense but did allow 85 yards and a touchdown to Eddie Lacy on 19 carries last week. With Arizona favored on the road, Johnson projects to a fantasy-friendly workload.
Projected Points: 13.1
Darius Butler ranked 94th in the CB grades last week. Splitting coverage against Robert Woods, Charles Clay, and Percy Harvin, he allowed all six passes into his coverage to be completed, and they went for 119 yards and a TD. This week PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects him to see quite a bit of Eric Decker. While he rarely engenders serious enthusiasm from the fantasy community, the Jets’ motley cast of quarterbacks had a higher rating when throwing at Decker last year (94.6) than the Bears’ signal-callers did when targeting Brandon Marshall (92.1). Consider what happened to Sammy Watkins last week against Vontae Davis – the shutdown corner allowed an opposing passer rating of 38.8 in 2014 before completely eliminating Watkins to start 2015 – and go with Decker over Marshall for your lineups.
Projected Points: 12.7
I’m willing to give Byron Maxwell a pass on the 80 yards and a touchdown allowed to Julio Jones, but the 59 yards he squandered to a swiftly declining Roddy White are a bigger concern for Philadelphia’s prize free agent acquisition. Of course, Terrance Williams isn’t Jones, but the Cowboys will have to funnel targets somewhere after the loss of Dez Bryant. Tony Romo posted a 119 rating last season when targeting Williams. The temporary No. 1 is unlikely to be as efficient when forced into a bigger role, but the target uptick makes Williams a must-start. He saw only 62 total targets in 2014 but still managed six double figure fantasy performances.
Projected Points: 13.4
Wright needed only 13 routes to explode for 101 yards last week, easily leading the position in yards per route. Tennessee’s leading receiver would be a much bigger name – and much more expensive – had he received better quarterback play early in his career. That may be about to change. The Titans face a more difficult matchup this week against the Cleveland Browns, but Wright ran 77 percent of his Week 1 routes out of the slot. This should help keep him away from Joe Haden and Tramon Williams, although slot corner K’Waun Williams did play well in 341 snaps last season.
Projected Points: 11.8
Witten ran the third most routes (39) and saw the fourth most targets (9) of the position group last week. He wasn’t particularly efficient from a yardage perspective with only 1.54 yards per route – Austin Seferian-Jenkins managed 4.07 – but he did haul in two touchdowns, including the game-winner. With Bryant out and a game environment where Dallas could be forced to throw early and often, the veteran TE earns the second best points-per-salary ratio among fantasy relevant tight ends.
Projected Points: 13.5
Reed also benefits from the absence of a star receiver. DeSean Jackson’s early departure with a hamstring injury led to the tight end seeing 11 targets in Week 1, the highest number at the position. He’s also a bigger fantasy factor when Kirk Cousins gets the start, or perhaps merely when anyone other than RG3 is behind center. He scores roughly 5 fantasy points more per game when either of those conditions is met. The St. Louis defense was much better at defending TEs than WRs in 2014, so that may give you pause. They held Jimmy Graham to 1.1 yards per route in Week 1 but did allow 51 yards and a TD. Washington is likely to be even more reliant on Reed.
Projected Points: 10.9