No one likes seeing one of the league’s best players lost due to injury, and you’ll like it even less if said player takes your lineups down with it. When Jamaal Charles went down early in the second half on Sunday, all you can do is feel bad for the guy and hope that he’s able to be his typical explosive self when he returns next season. The good news about DFS is that your ‘season’ moves forward. Sure, you likely lost the majority of your Week 5 contests where you rostered Charles, but you don’t need to worry about having his handcuff or replacing his production in your lineup here. You just start the process over and pick a new squad. No #seasonlongproblems here.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
We’re on to Week 6.
We’re getting to the point where we have more actionable in-season data that we can lean on. The process of understanding how good or bad a player’s matchup is each week is getting easier and will continue to get easier with each passing week. Most of the stats that I’m referencing here are either opponent or schedule-adjusted, making it easier to contextualize what is actually happening instead of just pulling raw data points.
Week 6 has a solid mix of plays at all price points, making roster construction quite interesting this week. Some of the game’s best have excellent matchups, so choosing which ones to build your lineups around will be extremely important decisions this week.
Thanks to amazing sites like Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and 4for4, there has been a tremendous wave of actionable analytics in football over the past few seasons. The more that you can incorporate them in to your lineup building process, the better off you’ll be. I’ll also be referencing the Expert Consensus Rankings from FantasyPros in order to understand how players are viewed each week, and then related it to their price here on DraftKings.
If you’re new to the daily fantasy community, welcome, you’re in for a whole lot of fun. If you have questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Cream of the Crop
He’s just better than everyone else. Sorry. It’s not very complicated. He’s on the field (95%) more than any other back, is averaging more touches per game (26.7) and we know his value is more than just volume driven. He’s as explosive and elusive as any back and he’ll be even more dangerous in a few weeks when Ben Roethlisberger is back under center. The fact that he’s still producing at this level despite having no help from his quarterback is quite a feat. Arizona (3rd in rush DVOA) has a strong run defense, but Le’veon is as close to a 20-point lock at the running back position as we’ll see.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (@ Jacksonville Jaguars) -$7,000
Last week we saw why running backs like Arian Foster are so valuable. Despite struggling to establish the run against the Colts (19 carries, 41 yards), Foster was targeted 10 times in the passing game, hauling in nine of those targets for 77 yards. Passing catching backs have a higher floor, which is why this top tier is consistently littered with pass catching backs. Jacksonville’s run defense has been quite good thus far (8th in DVOA) but we saw Doug Martin go off on them last week and they’ve really struggled against pass catching backs, allowing the most aFPA (schedule-adjusted fantasy points per average) to PPR running backs through the first five weeks. (Edit: I’ve moved Foster up after reports that he’s practicing in full this week and that he’s over the “mental hurdle” of his hamstring injury. His floor is exceptionally high if he’s getting 80% of the snaps).
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (@ Detroit Lions) -$7,100
I’ll continue to keep Matt Forte near the top of the heap here until I see a clear decline in skills. At 29, he’s not nearly as explosive or skilled as Le’veon Bell but he’s Bell’s closest rival in terms of snap percentage (84%) and average touches (24) per game. In fact, no one has a higher percent of their team’s total touches than Forte’s 48.8%. He’s yet to really get it going on the ground this season, but he’s a high-volume play in a plush matchup against a Lions’ run defense that’s ranked 23rd according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. The Bears are 3-point road dogs here, but game script should rarely impact Forte.
Davonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (@ New Orleans Saints) -$7,000
If there was any doubt left heading in to last week’s contest against the Redskins, we have our answer now. Davonta Freeman is a thing. He may be THE thing, actually. Without getting too deep in to the semantics of it, it’s clear that at the very least Freeman is the lead back in Atlanta’s offense. With Tevin Coleman back from injury last week, Freeman was on the field for 65 of Atlanta’s 77 snaps, while Coleman saw the field for just nine snaps. The touch opportunity count (35:2) was just as telling, and the fact that Freeman continues to produce makes it difficult to envision this scenario changing. The Saints are 18th in run DVOA and have allowed 140 yards per game on the ground this season so the matchup isn’t prohibitive. As a 3-point favorite here, Freeman will be extremely popular and the Thursday night spot will only drive up his ownership so be careful in tournaments.
After a bye week Adrian Peterson and company return to a home matchup against a reeling Kansas City Chiefs squad. What a bad loss for the Chiefs, crapping down their proverbial leg against Smokin’ Jay and the Bears at home and losing Jamaal Charles at the same time. The Vikings are 3.5-point favorites here against K.C., something that’ll likely work in Peterson’s favor as this game plays out. He’s second in the league to Matt Forte in the highest percent of his team’s total touches as the Vikings have run 44.7% of their offense through him, and the Chiefs’ 16th ranked run defense shouldn’t present much resistance.
Middle of the Pack
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (@ San Francisco 49ers) -$6,400
As of Tuesday night, we don’t know enough about Justin Forsett’s ankle injury to confidently say that he’ll be playing or not, but we’ll pretend that he’s a go. They did say that it’s not a high ankle sprain, so that’s encouraging. I wish that the Ravens would utilize Forsett inside the five yard line more, but the diminutive Ravens’ back has been excellent outside of the red zone in back to back weeks. He’s coming off of consecutive 25+ touch-150+ yard performances and he’s still just barely over $6,000. The 49ers are among the league’s cellar dwellers in both run DVOA and aFPA to running backs, which sets up nicely for a healthy Forsett. With the news of Lorenzo Taliaferro being lost for the season, you have to like this spot for Forsett if he’s able to go.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (@ Indianapolis Colts) -$5,800
While a quick glance at touches shows little discrepancy between Dion Lewis and LaGarrette Blount, there’s no doubt that Lewis is the lead back in New England’s high-powered offense. The case can be made that the Patriots can support two viable running backs when the matchup is right, but Lewis’ eight-catch 11-target performance against the Cowboys continues to demonstrate that Lewis is the real deal and his floor is extremely high for a back under $6,000. The only reason I don’t have him higher this week is I feel like this is a Tom Brady game (aren’t the all?) and if I’m targeting Patriots’ skill players I’m going after Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski first. That makes it difficult to target Lewis as well. The Patriots have had a ton of success pounding the ball down the throats of the Colts and daring them to stop them, but Indy addressed their defensive line issues this offseason and have improved their interior run defense quite a bit over last season’s porous unit. Somehow the Patriots have an implied team total of just 31 here, but I’d run to the window and take the over if I were a betting man. Indy will need to turn their fake crowd noise up pretty high to drown out the sounds of grown men crying.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (vs. San Diego Chargers) -$6,300
It’s difficult to put a positive spin on the 2015 Eddie Lacy experience, but I think he’s an excellent tournament play this weekend. His price is down $1,200 from his opening week price of $7,500, a drop that he earned by averaging just 51.4 yards per game. The fact of the matter is he’s still a lead back in the NFC’s most explosive offense, and Green Bay is the only team other than New England with an implied team total north of 30 points this weekend. The Packers are once again 10-point home favorites, this time against one of the league’s worst run units. The Chargers are 30th in both DVOA and aFPA to running backs, setting Lacy up for his best chance to score since Week 1 in Chicago.
I know we keep hearing that this is a committee, but there’s nothing here that’s passing that smell or eye test. Over the past four games we’ve seen Gio Bernard out-touch Jeremy Hill ($5,700) 72 to 40, including 15 to 10 inside the red zone. I don’t think Jeremy Hill is going away, and he still appears to be the preferred option inside the five, but if you’ve watched these two play of late, it’s night and day. Bernard will always be the better and preferred asset on passing downs, but he’s making the most of his opportunities on the ground and they’re starting to increase, week over week. Buffalo hasn’t been great against the run thus far, and they’ve really struggled to defend passes to running backs (31st in pass defense DVOA against the RB position).
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (@ Tennessee Titans) -$4,300
I’m going to play up the #NewCoachNarrative here in making my case for Lamar Miller. Fresh off of a bye that included a coaching change, my hope is that the Dolphins realize how silly it is to give one of their best play makers the ball just 8-10 times in a game and start to become more balanced on offense. Lamar Miller is still the clear lead back in Miami’s offense, they’re just not getting in to +EV running situations enough and tend to abandon any game plan that involves running as soon as they fall behind. I thought Miller was severely under-priced in Week 1 when he was just $5,500, so for $4,300 against the Titans’ 28th ranked run defense I’ll take a share or three.
Rest of the Field
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta Falcons) -$6,000
It feels like everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop with Mark Ingram and it just isn’t happening. That other shoe comes in the form of C.J. Spiller ($3,800), Ingram’s criminally under-utilized teammate, who’s seeing less than 20 snaps and 6-7 touches each game, and until that changes I don’t see why we should expect a major shift in Ingram’s value. He’s shown that he’s a capable pass catcher as well, continuing to haul in multiple catches each game, so a clear game script dependant committee is unlikely here. I won’t force him in to my Thursday night lineups, mainly because I think more than 20% of you will.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Carolina Panthers) -$6,900
After laying an egg in a great spot on Monday night against the Lions, of course Thomas Rawls ($4,800) goes off for 169 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals on the road. Obviously. The reports out of Seattle make it sound like Marshawn Lynch will be back this week though, but it’s clear that Rawls isn’t going completely away. His impact, which is hard to gauge without seeing how it plays out, will likely limit a bit of Lynch’s ceiling moving forward. Part of Lynch’s appeal over the years has been his clear bell-cow roll in Seattle’s attack, and if he’s breaking down a bit and suddenly sharing even 15-20% more snaps than he had been in the past, that’s less than ideal for his fantasy prospects moving forward. The matchup is decent, with Carolina among the bottom third in both DVOA and aFPA to backs.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Houston Texans) -$4,800
T.J. Yeldon is another back whose status is in the air as of this writing, but I’ll approach it as if he’ll play. He left Sunday’s contest against the Buccaneers after straining his groin, but struggled to get much going before he left. He had 11 carries for 32 yards, but also locked up five catches for 31 yards including a score. He continues to be the only Jacksonville back to get more than a touch or two per game, and his 12.1 fantasy points per game continues to play well in cash games at his current sub $5k price. Houston has allowed 119 yards per game on the ground thus far, coming in among the bottom third in both run DVOA and aFPA to backs. (Edit: Be careful with Yeldon this week. He’s yet to practice and clearly a less than 100%)
Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs (@ Minnesota Vikings) -$4,000
I’ve spoke at length here this season about opportunity being king, and Jamaal Charles injury has opened the door for Charcandrick West. The perception has always been that Knile Davis ($4,500) would be next in line, and in seasons past that’s been the case, but West is the superior athlete and was on the field for 18 of Kansas City’s 22 second half snaps after Charles went down in the third quarter while Davis saw just four snaps. That’s a pretty telling sample size, albeit just one game, but it’s enough to give the perceived edge here to West in Week 6.
Some other quick notes:
• Even in a game that saw Melvin Gordon ($4,600) more than double his season total of seven targets (9 vs. Pittsburgh on Monday night), Danny Woodhead ($4,700) still managed to get his, as well. He continues to contribute 8-14 touches per game, mostly through the air, making him a fairly safe play here on DraftKings with the full point per reception. On the road as a 10-point underdog in Green Bay sets Woodhead up to do what he does yet again.
• With Andre Ellington ($5,000) back and Chris Johnson ($4,600) still starting it’s safe to avoid the Arizona running game. Oh, and David Johnson ($4,200) found the end zone on two of his three touches last week. This is a situation to avoid right now.
• Same can be said for the three-headed non-monster ‘attack’ in Tennessee where Antonio Andrews ($3,400), Bishop Shankey ($3,800), and Dexter McCluster ($3,000) are all getting in on the action. Andrews is the most interesting of the group right now but not interesting enough to seriously consider this weekend.
• Prior to their Week 5 bye we saw Chris Ivory ($5,100) run all over the Dolphins in London. Ivory’s heavy volume (29 carries) was impacted by Bilal Powell’s ($3,500) quad injury during the game, and Powell missed Monday’s practice as well. The Jets face Washington’s above average run defense, but Ivory becomes a viable play at home if he’s the sole option for the Jets.
• The squeaky wheel narrative played itself out in Philadelphia on Sunday with DeMarco Murray ($6,000) getting 27 touches in the Eagles’ win over the Saints. The seven receptions are an encouraging sign, but nothing changed here other than optimal game script coming to fruition as the Eagles got up big in the second half. All three Eagles’ backs will still be in the mix here, and the Giants have been excellent (2nd in DVOA) against the run. I’ll be avoiding this mess.
• I don’t want any shares of the Cleveland Browns offense against the stifling Broncos defense, but I love Duke Johnson ($4,600). He has 21 receptions over the past three games and continues to gain a larger market share of carries as well. I’m hoping his price dips again after Denver slows down the Josh McCown train this week.