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.


Carson Palmer

The caveat here is that Palmer has faced two abysmal pass defenses in New Orleans and Chicago, but he’s on fire through two weeks and remains affordable heading into another plus matchup. The 49ers looked solid at home against the Vikings in Week 1 but collapsed against the Pittsburgh blitzkrieg. Failing to slow a Steelers team with Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant is one thing. Getting shredded by DeAngelo Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey is another. As a result, Pittsburgh ranks in the bottom 10 of the PFF grades in both pass rush and pass coverage.

Larry Fitzgerald has played 61 percent of his snaps in the slot and 32 percent on the right, which suggests he’ll get a heavy dose of Tramaine Brock who’s logged 41 percent of his snaps in the slot and 59 percent on the left. Brock has an interception but has otherwise allowed all 9 of the passes into his coverage to be completed. Meanwhile, John Brown should see a lot of Kenneth Acker. Only four qualifying corners have allowed more yards per coverage snap than Acker’s 2.18. With both Arizona stars seeing favorable matchups, Palmer looks like an upside play at home.

Salary: $6,600
Projected Points: 19.5

Blake Bortles

After Bortles and Allen Robinson shredded the Dolphins defense in Week 2, the Jaguars signal-caller looks like a good play for DFS gunslingers. Super Bowl star Malcolm Butler has already allowed 183 coverage yards and a 127 QB Rating despite coming down with a pick. He’s one of the three CBs with a worse number in yards per coverage snap (2.23) than the aforementioned Acker and projects to see quite a bit of Robinson where he’ll give up four inches and 20 pounds. Bortles owns a 115 rating or better when targeting either Robinson or Allen Hurns and also looks to benefit from the re-emergence of Marqise Lee. Although betting on garbage time can be a risky proposition, the official PFF projections foresee Bortles finishing in the Top 10 in attempts (36.6) for the week.

Salary: $5,100
Projected Points: 16.9

Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch

Lynch is only averaging 13.3 points through two weeks, a number that somehow ranks below DeMarco Murray (he of the 11 yards on 21 attempts). All of that should change this week at home against Chicago. With the Seahawks expected to score almost 30 points and win by two touchdowns, this is the dream matchup for an elite RB. Lynch is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry after games against St. Louis and Green Bay, but he’s been as ferocious as ever with 14 forced missed tackles on 41 touches. Surprisingly, scatbacks Giovani Bernard and Dion Lewis are two of the only three runners with more. (Carlos Hyde is the other.)

Salary: $7,400
Projected Points: 19.4

Dion Lewis

Lewis gets more expensive this week and is quite a bit riskier in the Patriots’ box-of-chocolates offense, but encouraging signs abound. He leads the position in receiving yards while maintaining admirable efficiency at 2.13 yards per route. Moreover, Bill Belichick didn’t blink at his second fumble in as many weeks, using him heavily after the first half miscue against Buffalo. Jacksonville would traditionally be viewed as more of a “LeGarrette Blount game,” but the Jaguars have allowed only 73 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry in 2015. Placed within the context of Blount’s preseason travails, it’s hard not to like the gaudy 3.3 points-to-salary ratio Lewis provides.

Salary: $4,200
Projected Points: 14.0

Melvin Gordon

This is a contrarian play with the PFF projections seeing a similar point total for the cheaper Danny Woodhead. The rookie faced heavy criticism within the industry for his poor preseason as stage whispers about his tendency to “stop his feet behind the line of scrimmage” reached theater of the absurd proportions, but one of the best runners in college football history has turned it on during the real games. He’s averaging 2.9 yards after contact and has forced 9 missed tackles on his 34 touches, a number that stands in stark contrast with Woodhead’s 1.6 YCo/Att.
Carlos Hyde is the only RB with more carries who also possesses a higher after-contact average, numbers he mostly accumulated against Gordon’s Week 3 opponent. The Vikings were one of the league’s worst units in run defense a year ago before surrendering 168 yards to Hyde. Even after slowing Detroit’s nonexistent running game, Minnesota still sports a bottom 5 rush defense grade.

Salary: $5,000
Projected Points: 13.3

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall

Among Top 10 receivers in the PFF projections, Marshall owns the best ratio of points-to-salary and looks primed to outperform even those optimistic projections. The Philadelphia defense has performed admirably through two weeks given the struggles of their offense, but the weak spot has definitely been Byron Maxwell. The free agent prize has been almost impossibly bad, allowing 240 yards, 76 yards after the catch, 2 touchdowns, and a perfect opposing passer rating. Meanwhile, Marshall ranks No. 9 among receivers in fantasy points per snap and is poised to see an even bigger workload with Eric Decker dealing with a PCL injury. Unless the Eagles adjust their scheme, Maxwell will be forced to contend with Marshall for most of the game on Sunday.

Salary: $6,200
Projected Points: 16.9

Julian Edelman

Edelman has run 56 percent of his routes out of the slot where he will likely see a good amount of Aaron Colvin. (He leads the Jaguars with 46 percent of his coverage snaps assigned to the slot.) While Colvin received an excellent coverage grade for his performance against Miami, all six of the passes in his vicinity were completed. Meanwhile, Edelman has been almost unstoppable through two games. He leads the NFL in targets (31), ranks eighth in routes (84) and fourth in yards (194). Despite those lofty numbers, nine players are more expensive.

Salary: $7,000
Projected Points: 17.4

Emmanuel Sanders

Although Detroit’s Week 1 debacle versus Keenan Allen was a full team effort, Rashean Mathis gave up 7 receptions on 8 targets. He’s giving up a reception once every 4.9 coverage snaps. Only Kyle Arrington has been worse. Sanders has had the expected struggles as he acclimates to Gary Kubiak’s system – his yards per route have fallen from 2.45 in 2014 to 1.75 so far this season – but he’s turned in back-to-back 12 target performances and assuaged concerns about his possibly fluky 2015 TD rate with two scores against the Chiefs. Normally Demaryius Thomas would be the play when the two Denver stars are priced this close together ($8,000 to $7,600), but Darius Slay quietly put together a breakout season in 2014. He’s been almost as good as Mathis has been bad in the early going. Based on both teams’ alignments through two games, he’ll see more of Thomas.

Salary: $7,600
Projected Points: 18.6

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce

This is probably a good week not to overthink the tight end position as breakout stars Kelce and Tyler Eifert aren’t prohibitively priced. The Packers are nearly touchdown favorites at home against Kelce’s Chiefs. Kansas City won’t have the option of abandoning him as they did in their Week 2 implosion. (Kelce ranked 17th in pass routes last week.) PFF projects him for the second most targets at the position in Week 3. After finishing with 2.2 yards per route in 2014 – strong numbers for a receiver and superstar numbers for a tight end – Kelce is a no-brainer with the likelihood of improved volume.

Salary: $5,000
Projected Points: 12.9

Jared Cook

PFF’s next two tight ends are struggling with scheme (Jimmy Graham) or dealing with injuries (Jason Witten). The two best players in terms of points-to-salary are Eric Ebron and Jared Cook. Both players have started fast but remain difficult to own due to questions about the offenses in which they play. Of the two, Cook is extremely cheap ($2,800) and leads the Rams in both targets (12) and yards (132). The Steelers allowed 3 touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski in the opener, although that’s an obvious apples-to-oranges comparison. Vernon Davis managed a 5-62-0 line in Week 2.

Salary: $2,800
Projected Points: 10.5

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