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.
With Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger off the board, Drew Brees dealing with injury, and Peyton Manning facing a tough Minnesota defense, this is a relatively straightforward week for those willing to pay up at the quarterback position. After shredding the Chiefs on Monday night, Rodgers gets a San Francisco team that ranks in the bottom 5 of PFF’s grades for both pass rush and pass coverage. 49ers corner Kenneth Acker held up better last week, even picking off a pass intended for Michael Floyd, but he still sports a -3 coverage grade. He’ll likely struggle with James Jones. Tramaine Brock was equally ineffective against John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald last week, getting scorched for 87 yards and a touchdown. He’s logged the most slot snaps among San Francisco defenders and has allowed 2.05 yards per coverage snap, third worst at the position. This is another dream matchup for stack candidate Randall Cobb.
Projected Points: 22.4
At the other end of the price spectrum, Carr is the rare cheap QB option with plenty of built-in safety. Oakland is favored by a field goal on the road at Chicago, and with the Bears already planning for the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft you might even be concerned that the Raiders will win too easily. (Game script explains why Chicago ranks sixth in passing yards allowed despite their absurd 123 opponent passer rating.) After being forced from the game in Week 1, Carr’s 79 drop backs rank No. 12 over the last two weeks. Although it’s mostly just interesting, no quarterback with more drop backs has bettered his 8.5 YPA during that time. He’s also getting a little help from his receivers this season with Amari Cooper as good as advertised and peripheral receivers like Seth Roberts (118 WR Rating) and Michael Crabtree (18-184-1) looking surprisingly passable.
Projected Points: 16.4
Ranking No. 32 in Elusive Rating and No. 44 in fantasy points per opportunity, Gore hasn’t exactly been a panacea for the Colts’ run game. He rebounded in Week 3, however, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, gaining 45 yards after contact, and scoring 2 touchdowns. Most importantly, he out-touched Josh Robinson 15-2 after losing a healthy chunk of the touches the previous week. The game script should be more favorable against a Jaguars team with the fourth worst PFF rush defense grade.
Projected Points: 14.5
With LeSean McCoy expected to be inactive and the impressive rookie sporting a bargain basement price tag, Williams will be almost universally owned this weekend. You still want to get him into your lineup and diversify in other areas. Williams ranks in the Top 10 with a gaudy 3.0 yards after contact per attempt. It’s a small sample exaggeration to be sure, but those numbers stand in stark contrast to McCoy’s 53rd-ranked 1.40 YCo/Att. The difference in size and speed between the two players practically leaps off the screen. The New York Giants are only allowing 75 rushing yards a game and represent a poor matchup in a vacuum, but Williams looks to have a safe opportunity floor with the Bills favored by almost a touchdown.
Projected Points: 13.9
Gordon has been quietly awesome through three weeks, ranking ahead of players like Adrian Peterson in yards after contact per attempt (2.73 to 2.66) and Elusive Rating (62.5 to 58.2). With the Chargers frequently playing from behind, he’s been limited to 44 carries and been kept out of the end zone, but all of that should change against arguably the NFL’s worst team. The Browns have allowed a league worst 158 rushing yards per game and field three rotational defensive linemen with negative PFF run grades. Voluntarily starting Josh McCown (6.8 YPA) over Johnny Manziel (9.1 YPA), Cleveland will struggle to convert first downs even against San Diego’s middling defense.
Projected Points: 14.6
Using Karlos Williams at running back should allow you to roster the week’s most expensive player. Jones has been unstoppable in 2015. Catching a sterling 79 percent of his league-leading 43 targets, he’s exploded for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns. Current tendencies suggest he will frequently square off with Kevin Johnson. Houston’s rookie corner has been targeted only once every 9.8 coverage snaps but is allowing an opposing passer rating of 133. He and Jonathan Joseph are both neutral matchups in terms of fantasy points per route. Neither should be much of an impediment for Jones.
Projected Points: 22.8
Hopkins currently leads the NFL with 152 pass routes, 15 more than any non-teammate. Even with abysmal quarterback play he’s turned those opportunities into 253 yards and 3 touchdowns. It’s unclear if Arian Foster will make his 2015 debut this week, but Houston should still air it out against a heavily favored Atlanta squad. Although Hopkins has been utilized all over the formation, he should see a lot of Robert Alford unless the Falcons change their tendencies. While teammate Desmond Trufant has been a Top 5 corner in terms of yards per coverage snap, Alford has floundered. He’s allowing opposing passers a 136 rating into his coverage.
Projected Points: 17.8
Jones has come through in consecutive weeks as a cheap upside play, yet his salary and matchup remain favorable in Week 4. Target opportunity is the biggest concern for the situational deep threat, a worry somewhat mitigated his route usage this season. Jones trails A.J. Green by only 8 routes on the season and ran an identical 36 against Baltimore. After missing most of 2014 with an injury, he looks ready to reprise his 2013 season where he led the Bengals in WR Rating and finished only a single touchdown behind Green. Although the Chiefs’ poor numbers in pass defense owe a lot to facing Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, they’ve struggled badly in coverage outside of impressive rookie Marcus Peters. Before creating too much exposure to Jones, keep in mind that Sean Smith returns from suspension this week. He was PFF’s No. 5 corner in 2014.
Projected Points: 8.6
There aren’t many surprises at TE this week as salaries track very closely with expected points. Olsen remains a no-brainer playing with a hot quarterback and on a team where the top receiving option is somehow Ted Ginn. The Carolina star has run exactly 100 routes so far this season and Rob Gronkowski is the only tight end with more routes who owns better per route efficiency numbers. With Jonathan Stewart likely out and the Panthers favored against Tampa Bay, somebody has to score points for Carolina.
Projected Points: 13.8
Clay’s salary remains extremely palatable after tearing up Miami for 82 yards and a touchdown. This feels a little like chasing the points, but Clay’s snap percentage in Week 3 was actually his lowest on the season (89 percent). Although the 55 yards after the catch were obviously somewhat fluky, you have to like the floor as long as he continues to average 5 targets a week. He could even soak up a few more looks with Sammy Watkins inactive. The Giants are struggling badly against the pass in general (335 yards a game) and against tight ends in particular. They are yet to hold a starting TE below 60 yards receiving after getting sliced up by Jason Witten, Jacob Tamme, and Jordan Reed.
Projected Points: 9.2