This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Williams a Lock? (Part II)
In last week's Roundtable, I asked if DeAngelo Williams was a lock. The consensus answer was "no," making it seem as if the panel was wrong in their thought process. Pittsburgh passed for over 400 yards, though, without a passing touchdown (quite a rare feat). So the anti-Williams logic due to Oakland's poor secondary was on point.
This week, without Ben Roethlisberger and against a porous Cleveland run defense, should Williams be a cash game staple?
Dan Hindery: If everything checks out with Williams’ foot and he is able to practice on Friday [Moderator's note: Williams practiced Thursday], I see him as one of the top three-to-five options at the running back position this week. Whether he is a “lock” or a “must-play” comes down to semantics, but he’s not quite at that level based on how I’d define the terms.
Landry Jones looked good in his limited action last week, but he also came in to face a Raiders defense that already seemed defeated. With Cleveland having a week to game plan for Jones, the Steelers are highly unlikely to score nearly 40 points again. In fact, their team total sits at just about 23 points. This profiles as a typical AFC North game that usually ends up close and low-scoring (as the over/under of just 41 suggests). Still, Williams is likely to dominate the running back touches. He is involved in the passing game. Cleveland is weak against the run. The Steelers are a home favorite. There’s quite a bit to like here. Even as one of the more expensive backs this week, there’s a strong case to be made for Williams as one of the top options.
I also see strong cases to be made for the following guys:
- Todd Gurley ($7,300) at just $800 more than Williams as a big home favorite. He’s just a better player at this point of his career than Williams, and St. Louis has a higher team total than the Steelers.
- Mark Ingram ($6,400) at basically the same price has a really similar projection this week. Both guys should see 20-25 touches and catch a couple passes. The tie-breaker for me comes down to the touchdown odds. With Ingram, you have a much better chance of the game turning into a shootout. But you also have higher odds of all of the team’s touchdowns coming through the air. I’m probably leaning just slightly towards Williams over Ingram, but they feel like pretty similar options.
- Darren McFadden ($4,900) is one of a few backs I find intriguing in the $4,800-$5,400 range. McFadden projects to have a similar workload to Williams and also has a nice matchup (at Tampa Bay). Both teams (Dallas and Pittsburgh) are sporting backup quarterbacks and have an elite wide receiver to keep defenses honest. Can you get similar production to Williams and save $1,600 to upgrade elsewhere?
Scott Bischoff: Something I've thought about since LeVeon Bell was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft is that the Steelers offensive scheme and personnel at the quarterback and wide receiver position makes their running backs much more productive than they would be elsewhere. We saw Bell enter the league as a big, bruising type, but he has shed weight and now looks like a completely different player than he was at Michigan State. Make no mistake, I'm not saying Bell isn't one of the leagues best running backs, because he is, but I am saying that playing in the Steelers backfield makes him look better than he is.
Bell was out for the first two games of the season and is now out again for the year, and that makes DeAngelo Williams the number one back in Pittsburgh. He has been very good, showing very nice ability and delivering great production with Bell out, which speaks to what I've hit on earlier. This scheme makes the running backs incredibly productive, and Williams will definitely benefit in Week 10. I'd say he is easily one of the top options in cash games.
The Browns are dead last in the NFL in rushing defense, and they've given up 147.6 yards per game and 11 runs of 20 yards or more. Williams will be heavily involved in the passing game, which boosts his value in this full PPR scoring system. I'm adding Williams into as many lineups as I can in Week 10.
Jeff Pasquino: There's no question that Williams is at the top of the cash game list this week. Even with Cleveland knowing that they have to stop him first and foremost, that is easier said than done. Landry Jones is not bad, but he is not great either. Williams is a two-dimensional back as a rusher and receiver, blocks well on third/passing downs and has virtually no one behind him on the depth chart. That means he will be on the field nearly all the time for the Steelers, and even with the Browns knowing that Williams will get 20+ touches, that doesn't mean that they can stop him. I see 100+ total yards and a score this week for Williams.
Jeff Haseley: I was all-in on Williams being a huge value play last week [Moderator's note: too bad Mr. Haseley wasn't on the schedule last week because he would have been "lone wolf" on Williams...and would have been right] and it panned out nicely. Why stop now? He is "1b" to LeVeon Bell's "1a," and now that Bell is out of the picture he remains a high production start. I look at deciding to play Williams as if he's Bell. Would I decide to start Bell? Yes, of course. Moving forward, until he shows consecutive games of poor results, Williams is a must start with the same expectations as what we would have for Bell. That's how I see it.
BJ VanderWoude: I think Williams has to be considered one of the better cash game options due to the consistency he's displayed while filling in as the feature back. Without Ben Roethlisberger, though, there are points that can be made both for him and against him.
Pittsburgh will not be able to move the ball the way they do when Roethlisberger is under center, so the result is a significant loss of red zone opportunities for Williams. Considering his breakout games came on the strength of three and two (respectively) touchdown efforts, Williams' ceiling has to be lowered.
However, for cash games, I am much more concerned with a player's floor than his ceiling. Without Roethlisberger, Williams' volume of touches should increase slightly, which goes a long way in stabilizing his floor. He plays on all three downs and in the red zone, which is something that cannot be said for many running backs. Additionally, Williams still has some big play ability, accounting for a 50+ yard play in each of his last two games. For these reasons, Williams is cemented as a solid cash game option.
Washington is allowing 4.8 yards per carry and 132.5 rushing yards per game (30th and 29th in the NFL, respectively). How much exposure will you have to Mark Ingram in Week 10? (hat tip to Chris Raybon for the informative tweet)
Dan Hindery: I touched on Ingram briefly in the DeAngelo Williams topic, and I think you have to view Ingram through the lens of comparing him to the other options at running back. For me, there looks to be an early “big four” for cash games with Williams, Ingram, Todd Gurley and Darren McFadden all looking like very strong options. Obviously you can’t fit all of them into your lineup.
A major part of the decision will be how you want to construct your roster. Can you afford the extra $900 to go with Gurley over Ingram without cutting out a player you really like elsewhere? Is the $1,500 savings in going with McFadden worth it to pass on Ingram?
In the GPP format, I love Ingram. There will be a strong recency bias in favor of Williams and Gurley, and Ingram should come in with a lower ownership percentage than either. The “play the RB facing Cleveland” theme has been out there all season. It’s not a bad strategy, and there’s a lot to like about the matchup for Williams. But Washington has been getting destroyed by opposing backs over the past month as well.
Scott Bischoff: Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on fire right now, throwing for 10 touchdowns over the past two games. In those two games, Ingram had 20 touches two weeks ago and 26 touches last week. It's safe to say he's being fully utilized in this offense, even in games when the passing game has done the majority of the damage.
Ingram gets a great matchup in Week 10 on the road in Washington, and he'll be one of the running backs I'll consider in GPP play (I'm wanting three of the four Dan mentioned -- one as a flex). I'd say he'll be in the majority of my GPP lineups because of his lower ownership numbers than the others. I'll estimate that he'll be in 75% on my GPP lineups and 30-40% of my cash game lineups.
Jeff Pasquino: I actually love Mark Ingram this week for several reasons:
- Washington's pass defense is terrible.
- Drew Brees has been red hot.
- Mark Ingram did not score a touchdown last week.
Now, that may sound like crazy talk, but hear me out. Ingram got goal line carries last week but did not punch it in. Drew Brees had a one-yard (really less than one yard) dive touchdown after Ingram was stopped, and there was also a short, one-yard TD pass Brees threw to a backup tight end. That means the Saints were there inside the five and willing to give Ingram a shot to score, but the luck was not on his side. He very well could get that shot again this week.
The other factor is Brees. Recency bias is going to have people rostering him because he lit up teams for touchdowns the past few weeks, but his road/home splits are not good. Where was he when he blew up? In New Orleans. Where is he this week? Washington, D.C. If these trends hold true, and the Saints get a first and goal, I see Ingram scoring a touchdown this week, and I also see him getting 100+ yards and some catches. At $6,400 for Ingram, he needs 19.2 points for cash and 25.6 for tournament value. 100 yards, 3 catches and a score is 22 points, so I think he definitely hits cash, and GPP value is within 30 yards, which is certainly possible here in what I expect to be a shootout. I'll have him on a few rosters for sure.
Jeff Haseley: I mimic exactly what Dan, Scott, and Jeff said. Out of the four running backs that Dan mentioned as strong starts this week (Gurley, Williams, Ingram and McFadden), Ingram looks like he will be lowest on the ownership meter. The fact that he'll be on the road also adds to people potentially skipping him for their roster. He's an ideal choice in GPP lineups, as previously mentioned.
I think people will gravitate to Darren McFadden in cash games, due to his lower price ($4,900) and one of Williams or Gurley as their other back. The flex gives the option of a third back, and Ingram fits the bill there as well.
BJ VanderWoude: I'll have to agree with the consensus here; I like Ingram this week. I liked him quite a bit last week as well, and as mentioned, he was a punch-in-touchdown away from having a good week.
When Khiry Robinson went down with a season ending injury, Ingram's value shot through the roof. Robinson had matched Ingram's touchdown total, and had started to become the preferred option in the red zone. Between Robinson's success, and Ingram's failure to get in the end zone last week, I wanted to see if this was a trend, or just a small sample size. It turns out that Ingram has the second-most red zone rushes on the season (29), second only to Devonta Freeman (33). And his success rate is pretty good considering only a third of those carries came inside the five yard line. I am confident that he will convert those goal line opportunities in future situations.
In addition to seeing red zone touches, Ingram has been incredibly effective in pass protection, which has kept him on the field on third downs and given him added opportunities to rack up catches. He has already surpassed his career high in catches and has caught at least four passes in five of his nine games.
There are several running backs I like this week, specifically Williams, McFadden and DeMarco Murray, but Ingram is at the top of that list. I will have in the neighborhood of 10% exposure to Ingram.
Dan Hindery: I’m not buying on Hoyer or Mariota this week. Hoyer has to face a Bengals pass defense that is better than it maybe looks on paper. Cincinnati hasn’t given up 25 fantasy points to a quarterback yet this season. The Bengals held the Steelers to 10 points (and Roethlisberger to 11.48 fantasy points) two weeks ago and dominated the Browns last week. Houston is projected to only about 18 points. Mariota is in a similar boat. He looked great against the Saints last week. But so have all the other quarterbacks that have faced the Saints in recent weeks (more on this below). With a team total of around 19 points and facing a very good Panthers defense, I’m not interested in Mariota this week.
There are good cases to be made for both Bortles and Cousins. Both have been playing well and face favorable passing matchups. Bortles travels to face a Baltimore defense that is stout against the run but extremely vulnerable against the pass. The team total of 22 isn’t great, but it’s not too concerning when you take into account that most of the Jaguars yardage should come through the air. With Julius Thomas now healthy and both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns playing at a high level, Bortles has a really nice group of targets to throw the ball to, and he should be able to find favorable matchups to exploit.
Cousins faces the aforementioned Saints defense that has been destroyed through the air over the past five games. Let's look at the last five quarterbacks to face the Saints:
- Week 9: Mariota - 375 yards, four touchdowns
- Week 8: Eli Manning - 350 yards, six touchdowns
- Week 7: Andrew Luck - 333 yards, three touchdowns
- Week 6: Matt Ryan - 295 yards, two touchdowns
- Week 5: Sam Bradford - 333 yards, two touchdowns
Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 29.8 points on DraftKings against this Saints defense since Week 5. With Cousins priced at just $5,200, he could pretty easily hit 5x value against this Saints defense in a game Vegas projects to be the second-highest scoring of the weekend.
Jeff Pasquino: I'm in agreement with Dan here. I'm passing on Mariota and Hoyer, but if you forced me to take one of them I'd pick Hoyer as the Texans rely on the pass more than the run, and that is where the skill position talent is in Houston.
I'm also in agreement that I like Bortles and Cousins this week. Washington cannot run well these days, and one of their best backs is Chris Thompson who does more as a receiver than anything else. With DeSean Jackson back for a second week, I see a very sneaky stack with Jackson and Cousins with a ton of upside against the Saints defense that gives up a lot of yards and points through the air.
Bortles should also have a field day against the Ravens, who are coming off of a bye week but are abysmal against the pass. They have been lit up all season long, so the only hesitancy I have with using Bortles is that Allen Hurns is not at 100%. If Hurns is out though, Julius Thomas and even Bryan Walters (a great punt play) could have a lot of catches and production against Baltimore. I like Cousins over Bortles for that reason.
Jeff Haseley:Cousins is my choice here. Washington is at home, and as already mentioned, the Saints defense is definitely one to exploit. Opposing team's quarterbacks are averaging a 112 QB rating against New Orleans. They have allowed a league-high 24 passing touchdowns in nine games (2.6 per game). This has all the makings of a great low-priced quarterback choice that can elevate your score at a fraction of the cost spent.
Pay Up for Gronkowski?
According to DraftKings scoring, the New York Giants are 30th in the NFL at defending the tight end. In Week 7 (the last time New England was without Dion Lewis), Rob Gronkowski recorded 11 catches, 108 yards, and a touchdown. Does this all add up to him being a value play -- even at his high $8,000 price tag?
Dan Hindery: Gronkowski has only exceeded 3x value in two of the past six weeks. He’s only hit 2x value in half of his past six games. It’s certainly possible he has a big week, but he’s not enough of a sure thing for me to go that direction in a cash game. Gronkowski is always a top notch GPP play though, and that is especially true coming off of a down week and possibly looking at much lower than normal ownership levels. If his ownership ends up being projected at under 10% in GPPs, he becomes a great option in that format.
Besides his up-and-down usage in recent weeks, here are some other reasons I am unlikely to own Gronkowski in the cash format:
- In terms of roster construction, it’s a tough week for me to find obvious value in the sub-$4,000 range at RB and WR. That makes it extremely tough to take a “stars and scrubs” approach. I am much more inclined to load up my roster with players in the $4,900-$7,000 range this week instead of paying up for the top guys at any position.
- Based upon my early analysis, I really like the idea of rostering a trio of top options at running back. The salaries of Todd Gurley ($7,300), Adrian Peterson ($7,100), DeAngelo Williams ($6,500) and Mark Ingram ($6,400) all look appealing to me.
- If there’s value anywhere to be found this week, it’s at tight end. While the injury updates later in the week will provide more clarity, I’m already eyeing Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($2,800), Crockett Gillmore ($2,800), Richard Rodgers ($3,000), Kyle Rudolph ($3,000) and Jordan Reed ($4,600) as salary-relief options to allow myself enough cap space to be aggressive in the mid-high tiers at RB and WR.
Scott Bischoff: Dan has made some very valid points, specifically the roster construction aspect to how he's putting together lineups this week. I agree with him on the tight end options he has chosen to target, especially at the price savings you'll get going from Gronkowski to a cheaper option.
The question is whether Gronkowski is a value play in Week 10. I'd consider him a cash-game value if he exceeds 24 points and a GPP value if he can clear to 32 points. To get to 24 points, he'll need around eight catches to go with 100 yards and a touchdown. To get to GPP value, Gronkowski needs around nine catches to go with 110 yards and two scores.
I think he can get to the numbers he'd require to be a value in a cash game, but we have to consider that the roster limitations he creates quite possibly makes him a negative overall addition to a roster even if he gets to value. I agree with Dan that I'd use Gronkowski as a GPP play because of his high ceiling, but I'll be trying to find value with players like Jordan Reed ($4,600), Gary Barnidge ($4,800), and Delanie Walker ($4,700) for cash games.
Jeff Pasquino: Gronkowski is always in play as both a cash game and GPP option, as he has the highest ceiling of any tight end in the NFL. That said, the arguments this week are well covered already by Scott and Dan; the matchup is good, Brady is hot, and recency bias is against using Gronkowski.
But, as Dan and Scott also pointed out, there is also value to be had by going in a different direction. Reed, Barnidge, Walker, Kyle Rudolph and even Gillmore are all viable options, and they can be had for 40-70% of the cost of Gronkowski.
I think it really comes down to the type of lineup and the risk you want to take with that roster. If you think Gronkowski is a lock for 100 yards and a score, then I see cash value at hand because that's a minimum of a five-catch game and 24 points with a 5-100-1 stat line. The question is if you believe that it is his floor with Brandon LaFell back. I tend to believe that it is as Gronkowski is going to be one of the most targeted receivers for the Patriots this week (right along with LaFell and Julian Edelman) and that New England lost Dion Lewis, so his targets have to go somewhere. If you can fit in two strong RBs and WRs that you like, I would even consider using two tight ends in a cash game lineup this week, so you can have the best of both worlds, such as a Gillmore or Walker with Gronkowski.
Jeff Haseley: Selecting Rob Gronkowski at $8,000 means you're going to have to trim your salary in other areas, and I see how that can be a challenge, especially after hearing that he has only exceeded 3x value in two of the last six weeks (thanks for that gem, Dan). Having said that, Gronkowski could easily make your week with a 100-yard game with two scores. The fact that he's up against the Giants (second-most fantasy points allowed to tight ends) is also reason enough to consider the plunge of paying up for him. I will likely construct a lineup with Gronkowski and one with Jordan Reed. Both are excellent plays this week primo match ups. I may even look to create a lineup with both Gronkowski and Reed.
BJ VanderWoude: Dan made some good points. Gronkowski has the sixth highest salary ($8,000) among all players on DraftKings, higher than Aaron Rodgers ($7,500), Drew Brees ($7,400), Larry Fitzgerald ($7,400), and Todd Gurley ($7,300).
He also owns the widest salary gap across all positions, topping out at $1,700 higher than the next most expensive tight end (Greg Olsen $6,300). For context, the next highest salary gap is Tom Brady ($8,600), who is $1,100 more expensive than Aaron Rodgers ($7,500). In order for that stack to hit cash game value, they would have to combine for a minimum of 50 points, which is asking a lot, even against a poor defense.
If anyone can do it though, it is the Patriots. With Lewis out, I expect the trio of Edelman, Gronkowski and LaFell to pick up the slack. Gronkowski is averaging 5.5 catches per game, but part of that has been the absence of LaFell, which has forced Gronkowski to run a higher percentage of intermediate and deep routes. With LaFell back and Lewis out, Gronkowski should start to convert more of his targets and pad his totals a bit more than he has up to this point.
Gronkowski has a good chance of hitting cash game value at 24 points, but it is not a lock and can really hurt your team if he ends up with a mediocre total (6/60). I feel much better about Reed ($4,600, 13.8 points cash game value) and Walker ($4,700, 14.1 cash game value) hitting their cash game thresholds, and would prefer to spend the left over money at running back and wide receiver.
Risk vs Reward, I agree with Dan in that he is much better suited for GPP lineups this week.
Jeff Pasquino: One last point on this topic. The TE position is the most disparate salary range of all. You can get a viable TE at $3,000 or even lower, but that's not true of any other position (except Defense, but they are all in the $2,000-$4,000 range). WR would be next as there are 19 players at $6,000 or more (2x of a $3,000 punt), and only seven RBs are at $6,000 or more (and none over $6,300). My point is that you can get much more value at a bargain price at tight end than at any other position, as a top-20 TE can be had for only $3,000, but that is not the case at any other spot.
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Ryan Hester - Moderator