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

Arizona’s signal-caller has looked like the Palmer of 2005 before elbow problems and ACL tears derailed his career. He currently sits in the Top 5 of virtually every category with 1737 yards (4th), 14 touchdowns (T-2nd), 9.0 yards per attempt (2nd), 64 percent of yards in the air (4th), and a 98.9 PFF QB Rating (3rd). This week he gets a home contest with a Baltimore Ravens unit that is one of seven squads allowing opposing passers a rating over 100. They’ve struggled to that extent despite facing Peyton Manning, Derek Carr, Michael Vick, Josh McCown, and Colin Kaepernick.

Projected Points: 21.7
Salary: $6,700

Phillip Rivers

Although Tom Brady holds a big edge in fantasy points per drop back, he and Rivers are surprisingly similar in some interesting statistical categories. Neither spends much time challenging the defense – only Alex Smith’s 6.7 average depth of target is closer to the line of scrimmage than Rivers’ 7.0 – and they rank 1-2 in adjusted completion percentage at 80.4 and 80.3 respectively (min. 100 attempts). The difference is in volume as Rivers trails only Andrew Luck with 45.3 drop backs per game. San Diego’s run/pass split could be even more exaggerated this week. The Raiders are solid against the run (+8.9 grade) and struggle against the pass (-16.4). Only the 49ers have allowed more than Oakland’s 299 yards per game against. The Chargers could rely almost exclusively on Rivers and the short passing game as Melvin Gordon’s ball security issues and minor injuries have left them without a viable runner.

Projected Points: 22.4
Salary: $6,500

Running Backs

Todd Gurley

Gurley owns the second best projection among RBs for Week 7. The rookie offers the same fantasy profile as a young Adrian Peterson. He carried the ball 30 times in Week 5 and ranks No. 1 in Breakaway Percentage. He already has five 15-plus yard runs, and those runs have gone for 180 total yards. Any time you combine volume and explosiveness you have the recipe for a potential 200-yard, multi-touchdown game. Of course, it always helps when you’re also facing the NFL’s worst rush defense . . . and by a wide margin. Only 10 teams have negative grades in that category with Cleveland leading the way at -33.6. They’re allowing a ridiculous 149.9 rushing yards per game.

Projected Points: 21.4
Salary: $5,000

Lamar Miller

Miller is mostly a salary play, but he also figures to be the biggest beneficiary of the coaching change in Miami. Coming out of the bye he saw his highest workload (19 attempts), set a season best in yards per carry (5.9), and scored his first touchdown against Tennessee. Efficiency numbers for RBs are volatile-bordering-on-random, but the evidence over the last year and a half suggests Miller is an elite runner in search of lead back usage. He should get that this week in a game where the Dolphins are solid home favorites against Houston.

Projected Points: 16.5
Salary: $4,600

Chris Ivory

The Patriots -15.7 grade in run defense is fifth worst in the NFL, a number which jibes with their 4.9 yards per attempt allowed. (Employing the “Bill Belichick takes away the opponent’s best player” narrative, we might expect Brandon Marshall to be the defensive focal point.) Ever since his New Orleans days where he was head-and-shoulders better than Mark Ingram, the Jets bell cow has seemingly been on the verge of a true breakout. He may be finally managing it this season, ranking No. 2 in Elusive Rating among backs with at least 50 carries (behind Carlos Hyde) and No. 2 in yards after contact per attempt (behind Le’Veon Bell). Ivory has generated those numbers despite a heavy workload that has included 20-plus carries in three of his four games.

Projected Points: 16.4
Salary: $5,800

Wide Receivers

John Brown

Larry Fitzgerald has the second best PFF projection at the position this week, but Brown is a cheaper way to play the Cardinals excellent matchup against Baltimore. (He’s tied for the best points-to-salary ratio among players in this week’s Top 15 in points.) Brown will likely ply his trade against Ladarius Webb and Kyle Arrington, players who alternate between LCB and slot corner. Both DBs are on the wrong side of mediocre in coverage, allowing 1.18 and 1.20 yards per coverage snap respectively.

Projected Points: 15.4
Salary: $5,500

Michael Crabtree

Crabtree’s status this week is something of an open secret, making him a poor contrarian play but still an excellent value for the salary. Rookie Amari Cooper holds a 17-route edge on the season (186 to 169), but Derek Carr has attempted five more passes in the direction of the veteran. (In a note of caution, I’d remind that Cooper has gained almost 70 more yards even though Crabtree’s targets come 4.9 yards further down the field. There’s a big talent gap at play.) PFF gives the Week 7 edge to Crabtree due to the presence of hero-maker Brandon Flowers. Among corners in the bottom 10 of passing yards allowed, none has allowed more touchdowns (5) or anything close to Flowers’ 2.27 yards per coverage snap.

Projected Points: 13.8
Salary: $4,500

Willie Snead

Snead ranks No. 8 at the receiver position with 2.55 yards per route. That’s better than players like DeAndre Hopkins, Julian Edelman, and Keenan Allen but only really matters if the breakout UDFA sees enough volume. Snead’s snap percentage has settled in the high 60s/low 70s, but those snaps are disproportionately passing plays. On the season, he’s played on 181 passing downs to only 69 runs. It’s not helping the offense that the league has caught up to Sean Payton’s play-telegraphing personnel groupings, but this does help explain why a part-time player has 4-plus receptions in five consecutive games. Drew Brees has a 122 rating when throwing to Snead, numbers which drop to 78.3 when targeting Brandin Cooks. The gap could be even wider than usual this week as Cooks faces Vontae Davis (13.9 coverage snaps per reception), while Snead sees Darius Butler (6.7 coverage snaps per reception).

Projected Points: 12.1
Salary: $4,300

Stefon Diggs

I like Diggs in the cheap, stat-chasing department this week. The Vikings didn’t need to pass much to defeat the woebegone Lions in Week 2, but it figures to be a tougher matchup at Ford Field. Minnesota is still a field goal favorite, in part because opposing No. 1 receivers have sliced through the Lions all season. The focus this week has been on Diggs’ likely elevation over Charles Johnson, but it’s just as important to note that he’s also more fantasy relevant than Mike Wallace. (NFL teams are giving more lip service to analytics, but Diggs falling to the draft’s 5th round helps emphasize that this type of evaluation is still in its football infancy. Draft agnostic WR projection algorithms tended to spit out Diggs as the second best 2015 prospect behind Amari Cooper.) Rashean Mathis figures to draw the rookie, and although his coverage numbers are superficially mediocre (1.55 yards per coverage snap with a 93.7 passer rating against), he’s earned negative grades in four out of six games.

Projected Points: 10.4
Salary: $4,200

Tight End

Delanie Walker

Walker’s 244 receiving yards place him well outside the Top 10 at the tight end position, but injuries and an early bye help obscure his efficiency and keep the salary in check. Only Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, and Greg Olsen are averaging more than his 2.30 yards per route, a number which rivals many elite receivers. It’s probably more trivia than predictive stat, but during his Titans tenure Walker has averaged 15 yards per game more with Zach Mettenberger under center. The Falcons have undergone a mild defensive revival this season, but they’re still struggling against the pass in general (290.7 yards allowed per game) and the tight end position in particular, a fact underlined by Ben Watson’s career game (10-127-1) a week ago.

Projected Points: 13.1
Salary: $3,900