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.
Dalton is PFF’s top-rated QB for 2015 and owns the NFL’s best yards per attempt at 9.12. He faces a reinvigorated Steelers pass rush on the road in Week 8, but Dalton is averaging only 2.36 seconds to throw, fifth fastest in the league. This helps explain why the Bengals passer has generally neutralized pressure this season with only 10.2 percent of his pressure situations turning into sacks. He’s also been the sixth most accurate passer in pressure situations. All of which adds up to a big problem for a Pittsburgh coverage unit that ranks dead last in the PFF grades (-29.9) and is allowing 277 yards per game.
Projected Points: 17.7
Newton trails only the aforementioned Dalton in fantasy points per drop back and offers a high floor due to his rushing prowess. With 4 rushing touchdowns already this season, he looks poised to have his best season as a runner since his 14-TD rookie season. After holding his own against the elite defenses of Seattle and Philadelphia the last two weeks, Newton gets an Indianapolis Colts squad that struggles against everything (-11.0 rush defense, -5.4 pass coverage). Even without a legitimate NFL receiver on the roster, Newton continues to push the ball deep relentlessly. Only Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger have a higher average target depth than his 10.7 yards.
Projected Points: 21.4
A year after everything came together perfectly for Forsett, the Baltimore lead back has generally struggled as a runner. He’s been held below 70 rushing yards in four of six games and sports an Elusive Rating of only 36.7. For a little context, he ranks No. 34 in that department and is only averaging 2.17 yards after contact per attempt. It may not be as bad as it sounds, however, as the Elusive numbers still trump the 2015 results for Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Eddie Lacy, and Matt Forte. Moreover, he remains an elite receiving threat. Until facing Arizona last week, he hadn’t been held under 4 receptions in a game. He leads the position with 179 pass routes, a sure sign of steady opportunity. Forsett faces a San Diego defense that is almost impossibly bad against the run, giving up an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The Chargers are also one of the league’s worst against RBs in the passing game.
Projected Points: 20.7
A victim of narrative and arguably his own success, Johnson has found a rebirth under contrarian HC Bruce Arians. The 30-year-old Johnson is objectively outperforming more well-liked elderly backs like Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore, but he’ll struggle to get the credit unless he does something truly astonishing. Right now Johnson ranks No. 2 in yards, No. 6 in yards per carry, No. 5 in yards after contact per attempt, and No. 5 in Breakaway Percentage, and yet pundits and fans alike would prefer to see more of David Johnson and Andre Ellington. Regardless, his Week 8 matchup against the woebegone Browns offers a potential replay of the performance we projected – and received – from Todd Gurley. On a per play basis Cleveland isn’t quite as bad as San Diego against the run, but they’re allowing 19 more yards per game. Johnson’s salary accurately reflects some risk. He’s rarely used in the passing game and has seen five of the eight Cardinals rushing touchdowns vultured by the D. Johnson/Ellington combo.
Projected Points: 15.1
McFadden gets a tough matchup with a hot Seattle defense this week, but at $3,800 every one of his projected touches comes at a sharp discount. On the heels of Lance Dunbar’s season-ending injury, McFadden caught 9 passes in Week 5. He then took advantage of Joseph Randle’s injury and ineptitude to steal the starring role and accumulate 152 yards on 29 attempts against the Giants in Week 7. With Christine Michael’s practice performance evidently validating Seattle’s decision to jettison the athletic freak, McFadden appears to have little competition for targets or carries. Of course, this is Dallas, a team that might always find the “hot hand” in the most surprising of places.
Projected Points: 14.5
PFF Fantasy projects Xavier Rhodes to shadow Jeffery this week. The Vikings putative ascending star was called on to shadow Calvin Johnson in Weeks 2 and 7, while being given that duty against Demaryius Thomas in Week 4 where he drew the assignment on all 20 of Thomas’ outside routes. Fortunately for Jeffery, the young corner has struggled badly this season, getting saddled with a negative grade in every game, including a gruesome -3.3 in last week’s tilt with Megatron. He ranks No. 58 in the league among full time CBs in giving up a reception every 8.2 coverage snaps. Jeffery has missed most of 2015 but drew 11 targets in each of his starts and looked to be getting over his calf and hamstring injuries in burning Detroit for an 8-147-1 line.
Projected Points: 17.1
We have a similar shadow situation in the Baltimore/San Diego matchup where a struggling Jimmy Smith projects to get a full dose of Allen. Smith shadowed Demaryius Thomas in Week 1, Amari Cooper in Week 2, and A.J. Green in Week 3 before the tactics changed over the last month. Part of that may have been due to Smith’s failures and part to the unavailability of Ladarius Webb at times. Regardless, Smith has given up 446 yards, 4 TDs, and a reception every 8.5 coverage snaps. Allen doesn’t stretch the field vertically (8.1 aDOT) or offer much run after the catch (3.9 RAC), but among receivers with at least 50 targets, only Larry Fitzgerald bests his 77 percent catch rate. He should build on his league lead in receptions this week.
Projected Points: 20.3
Adam Jones (8.2 grade) and Dre Kirkpatrick (-12.3) have exclusively played their sides this season, and based on tendencies to this point, Bryant projects to see slightly more time against the exploitable Kirkpatrick. Despite not having played a snap with Ben Roethlisberger, Bryant’s 4.23 yards per route would lead the NFL if he had enough targets to qualify. (Antonio Brown’s 3.01 is tops among players with at least 30 targets.)
Projected Points: 14.7
Bennett has seen at least 5 targets and logged a minimum of 4 receptions in every contest this season. Over the last three weeks in plus matchups against Oakland, Kansas City, and Detroit, he’s averaged 11 targets and 7 receptions. After a bye in Week 7 that should have helped to address any lingering concerns with his quad, Bennett gets a Minnesota team that hemorrhages yards to tight ends. PFF Fantasy gives him the third best points projection and one of the best points-to-salary ratios for the week.
Projected Points: 13.2
Walker is quietly having another excellent season. After catching three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, he’s been held out of the end zone since but averaged nearly 7 receptions a game in that span. Even operating in the Titans’ moribund offense he ranks No. 5 at the position with 2.17 yards per route. Walker has an excellent chance to see his touchdown drought end against a Houston squad that has allowed a league-worst 16 passing scores.
Projected Points: 12.7