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.
This is a good week to take on some risk at the quarterback position. Bradford appears to be rounding into the QB many expected to start the season. He’s thrown for 610 yards and 5 touchdowns over the last two contests and gets a cratering Giants defense this week. New York has allowed a league-high 304 passing yards per game. This isn’t a fluke as they rank dead last in pass rush grade (-13.1) and bottom 10 in pass coverage (-15.4). They also just lost Prince Amukamara, their best cover corner (+4.4). Moreover, Bradford has simply been better than it might seem. He’s now moved ahead of trendy passers like Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer in PFF’s accuracy numbers. Among current starters, only Nick Foles has dealt with a higher drop percentage from his receivers.
Projected Points: 17.5
I’ve never understood the quarterback controversy in Houston. Hoyer’s 7.4 career yards per attempt is right in line with Matt Ryan while Ryan Mallett trails Ryan Leaf. Hoyer has been predictably solid this season with moments of extreme ball insecurity interrupting occasional flashes of brilliance. He’s No. 10 in PFF’s adjusted QB Rating out of 36 qualifiers – Mallett is dead last – and also ranks No. 6 in yards per attempt.
This week’s contest should quickly devolve into a shootout. In fact, Blake Bortles would also be a recommended play if not for the shoulder injury. The Jaguars are very poor against the pass and would probably have allowed more passing yardage if they weren’t also so easy to run on (as we saw last week with Doug Martin and Charles Sims). They’re allowing an opposing passer rating of 100 and rank No. 30 in pass coverage (-19.1). With DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns all shredding opposing defenses, I’m a little surprised the over/under isn’t a little higher for this one. Then again, this is Texans/Jaguars we’re talking about.
Projected Points: 15.9
Forte owns the best points-to-salary ratio of the elite backs in a matchup against the fading Lions. Most of last week’s volume-based arguments are good again this week. He leads the league in carries (102) and yards (438) and should be able to add to his paltry TD total against Detroit. Teryl Austin’s bunch has given up the sixth most rushing yards and only Atlanta can match them with 8 rushing TDs allowed (prior to Thursday night). DeAndre Levy, 2014’s No. 2 OLB against the run, is out again after lasting only a handful of snaps in Week 5.
Projected Points: 22.6
Peterson has traditionally been the poster boy for PFF’s Elusive Rating, a combined metric that values yards after contact and forced missed tackles. He currently ranks No. 29 this season and has only crested 2.0 yards after contact per attempt in one of his four games. Fortunately, a soft schedule has allowed him to easily eclipse his career numbers before contact. Five of his 75 carries have gone for 15-plus yards. The Chiefs represent a neutral-to-poor matchup in a vacuum, but Kansas City looks on the brink of collapse after the Jamaal Charles injury. The spread favors the Vikings, and Purple Jesus historically dominates in Minnesota victories.
Projected Points: 19.6
It’s difficult to recommend other backs this week. The rest of the top tier find themselves in bad matchups or represent serious injury questions. It’s also a poor week for cheap, contrarian plays. There’s no obvious injury-induced play as we’ve seen with Thomas Rawls or Karlos Williams in weeks past. It would be tempting to play Charcandrick West, but the next man up in Kansas City projects to lose receptions to De’Anthony Thomas and goal line touches to Knile Davis.
Fitzgerald currently leads the league in both touchdowns (6) and yards per route run (3.18). The Steelers are slightly below average in team pass defense but struggle badly against the slot where they try to hide William Gay, the No. 77-ranked coverage corner. Fitzgerald has run 62 percent of his snaps out of the slot this season and should encounter very little resistance.
Projected Points: 15.6
After paying up at RB, we need some solid middle tier WRs with the potential to outperform. Jones is being targeted more than twice as far down the field as running mate Randall Cobb (14.2 to 7.0), which helps explain his identical points per snap numbers despite having seen 16 fewer targets. Moreover, Chargers slot corner Patrick Robinson has been locking down opponents (0.59 yards per coverage snap). This should funnel even more targets to Jones. He’s expected to spend a decent chunk of the day against the scuffling Brandon Flowers (2.64 yards per coverage snap). It’s worth remembering this is the same James Jones who was justifiably out of the NFL before Jordy Nelson’s injury, but he owns the No. 1 matchup this week according to PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart (a system based on fantasy points per route).
Projected Points: 13.6
Hurns should be a staple of weekly lineups until his salary catches up with the results. He has the second best WR Rating in the NFL at 146.1, which means Blake Bortles has a nearly perfect passer rating when targeting the second year pro. Blake Bortles. Let that sink in. There’s nothing particularly fluky about Hurns’ performance either. His yards per route (2.32) and total routes (185) are high but sustainable. His target depth (11.5 yards) is in the sweet spot for fantasy production, especially as it’s allowed him yardage upside while making it possible for a high catch rate (77 percent). This week he gets the train wreck that is the Houston Texans. Only five teams have allowed more TD passes.
Projected Points: 11.3
As a rookie getting over a nagging hamstring injury, Crowder didn’t play much in Weeks 1 and 2, but he’s been a revelation since. Over the last three weeks, he’s led Washington in receiving yards (197), while barely trailing Pierre Garcon in routes (109) and targets (24). On the season, he’s caught 89 percent of his targets. He’s a very cheap way to get the same production you would expect from Jarvis Landry or Golden Tate.
This is a little bit of a contrarian matchup play as the Jets have fielded an elite pass defense this season, allowing only 186 yards per game and a ridiculously low opposing passer rating of 62.5. Darrelle Revis is likely to see quite a bit of Garcon, which makes Crowder an even safer bet to lead the team in targets. Meanwhile, Crowder’s matchup is quite favorable against slot corner Buster Skrine. The Jets’ DB ranks No. 34 among qualifying slot corners in yards per coverage snap and has a negative coverage grade (-1.5).
Projected Points: 8.5
No NFL tight end is more the focal point of his passing offense than Greg Olsen, and only Rob Gronkowski is a clearly bigger talent. Among TEs with at least 20 targets, only Gronkowski and Jordan Cameron are being targeted further down field than Olsen (10.5 aDOT), and only Gronkowski and Gary Barnidge are averaging yards per catch (14.3). It’s something of a surprise, but Seattle has been one of the worst teams in the NFL against TEs this season. They allowed solid performances to low-end players like Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers before getting shredded for an 8-90-2 line by Tyler Eifert last week. I wouldn’t necessarily expect Seattle’s struggles to continue, but Olsen’s target volume gives him a high ceiling every week.
Projected Points: 12.6