This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Julio Jones came out Monday and questioned his team's strategy during red zone chances. After four straight scoreless games and some voicing of concerns, is Jones a "squeaky wheel gets the grease" candidate?
Justin Howe: No, not necessarily. I certainly don't think it means much in terms of the red zone. Throughout his career, Jones has rarely been a huge part of the Falcons gameplan near the goal line. And it makes sense; he hasn't been very efficient there. Since he entered the league in 2011, Jones is one of just 27 receivers to draw 30 targets from inside the 10. Only six have caught a lower percentage of those throws, and only one has produced fewer touchdowns from there. As phenomenal a talent as Jones is up and down the field, he just hasn't generated much near the goal line. So I'm not sure Matt Ryan and the Falcons will be willing to boost his already-high red zone role. They like to utilize Devonta Freeman there, and they've got other options on board who produce just as well or better than Jones.
Jeff Haseley: He might be a candidate to receive more red zone looks, but this isn't the best week to expect big things from Jones. In his last four games against Carolina, Jones has struggled to produce big numbers. Josh Norman's presence, especially recently, is a big reason for that. Norman hasn't shadowed many receivers this season, but he has focused his efforts on containing Jones in the past. There has been considerable hype from Panthers camp about Norman covering Jones. I'd venture a guess that Norman plays a lot of man coverage on Jones this week.
Julio Jones vs. Carolina (Last Four Meetings)
Week 17 - 4 recs, 58 yards
Week 11 - 6 recs, 59 yards
No games vs. CAR (injury)
Week 14 - 5 recs, 66 yards, 1 TD
Week 4 - 1 rec, 30 yards
Will Grant: I agree with Jeff; Jones may be the guy asking for the ball more, but this is probably not the week to invest too much in him in DFS games. Two weeks ago, the Panthers went on the road to Dallas and shut down Dez Bryant (two receptions for 26 yards). Over the last four weeks, only one receiver has been able to crack the 100-yard receiving mark against the Panthers. Brandin Cooks had 104 and a touchdown in last week's 41-38 shootout. Jones is the second-highest priced WR on DraftKings this week at $8,900. If Jones turned in a similar stat line this week, you'd feel OK about it, but you would probably want to have someone cheaper in your lineup and pick up extra fantasy points at another position. I think this is a week to fade Jones.
John Mamula: I agree with Jeff as well. This is not the week to target Julio Jones in DFS. The Falcons have the fifth-lowest projected team total this week with 19.25 points. Josh Norman has been an elite cornerback this season allowing just a 39.9 QBR rating in his matchups. There are not many corners that I avoid, but Norman is on my short list. He is part of the reason the Panthers are still undefeated. If you are looking to pay up at WR this week on DraftKings, there are three other high-priced options all with more upside: Odell Beckham ($9,100) at Miami, Antonio Brown ($8,900) at Cincinnati, and DeAndre Hopkins ($8,500) vs. New England.
Stacks in Cash Games
We generally stick to upcoming matchups in this space, but let's insert a "game theory" question this week. Many DFS players talk about the concept of "stacking." Usually, this strategy is used in GPPs. But do you think it can also be viable for cash games? I personally have had success using what I call a "Power Stack," which is a prominent quarterback and wide receiver (a la Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown or even Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr) together.
If you were to use this strategy in cash games, how would it differ from how you use it in GPPs?
Justin Howe: A cash stack is only viable if you're talking about a reliably high-usage and high-impact receiver. By that, I mean one who dominates targets and elevates his quarterback's game. Otherwise, you'll be moving away from the highly owned and high-floor options and banking on suboptimal outcomes -- the unexpected coming to life. And that's strictly a GPP principle, spending your QB and a WR slot on an under-the-radar combo with an outside chance of producing. In cash games, we need to be following the chalk (for the most part) and, more importantly, seeking floors, not ceilings.
Let's say a guy like Pierre Garcon goes off (by his standards, that is, something around 6-70-1). That's great, but it's not the type of high-impact line that contributes to and all but guarantees his Kirk Cousins will post a big or even a useful game. There's no great correlation between a mid-level option like Garcon, who doesn't threaten for high reception or scoring totals, and his quarterback. Most likely, you'll take your 19 points from Garcon, which created just 6.8 for Cousins, and hope that Cousins had a huge day throwing elsewhere as well. And that's the "upside" we're talking about. It may well pan out, but it's not a great bet in any cash game, where we're chasing floors and not ceilings. If you're rostering both Kirk Cousins and Pierre Garcon for their high floors, you're simply not doing DFS right. It's certainly not anything that should be in your lineup-building thought process.
A stack like Cousins-Garcon a far cry from what Ryan calls a "power stack." Say you're stacking Roethlisberger and Brown. Chasing their floors, we can reasonably expect something around 280 yards and 1.5 touchdowns from Roethlisberger (17.2 points) and six receptions, 80 yards line from Brown (14 points). Allow for even a slight increase from those low-ball numbers (in either yardage or touchdowns), and you're cashing easily on them.
Before you stack in a cash contest, it's important to ask a few questions about it. What's the floor? Are these guys roster-able on their own? Does this receiver thoroughly dominate targets? Is this stack even worth the risk of stacking two guys in what is ultimately a low-risk contest like a 50-50 or double-up?
Will Grant: For starters - I want to point everyone to Page 35 of the Cracking DraftKings strategy guide that we published this pre-season. Maurile Tremblay, one of our best DFS gurus, breaks down Expectation vs. Variance and explains why you want more variance in a GPP and less in a Cash game.
When I'm looking to stack in a GPP, I look at the "typical" version - a quarterback and a receiver or a quarterback and two receivers from the same team. For cash games, I try not to stack to spread out my risk and focus on high-value targets. Where I deviate from that is when I run into several players on an offense that I see as high-floor guys where their salary is particularly low. Pittsburgh was a good example last week. DeAngello Williams represented excellent value at only $5,600. I wanted Antonio Brown in my lineup as well, but at $5,600 for Williams, I felt like both had a great chance to reach cash value, and they did. I never expected Brown to go off as much as he did, but the Williams pick clearly paid off. It was all about individual player value.
John Mamula: Justin nailed it. Stacking has become more viable in cash games this season. But it needs to be approached with caution and a matchup-specific point of view. If you are stacking in cash games, I would look to do so with an elite receiver, who has a high floor, in a prime matchup. Make sure you are targeting a team with a high team total. A Ben Roethlisberger-Antonio Brown stack was perfect for cash games last week vs. the Colts. Brown had both a high floor and a high ceiling in the matchup, which is what you want in cash games. The main difference when comparing GPPs to cash games is the type of stack that you should be willing to roster. In GPPs, you can stack Kirk Cousins-DeSean Jackson in the right matchup. However, due to the boom/bust potential of a receiver like Jackson, I would not consider that stack in cash games.
Jeff Haseley: I don't see an issue with stacking in cash game lineups but only if the matchup is favorable. Here's some proposed stacks and their corresponding points per dollar, based on the Interactive Value Chart:
- Winston-Evans = $12,700 (363 pts per dollar)
- E. Manning-Beckham = $15,200 (356 pts per dollar)
- Roethlisberger-Brown = $15,700 (380 pts per dollar)
- Dalton-Green = $14,500 (373 pts per dollar)
- Hoyer-Hopkins = $13,700 (350 pts per dollar)
- Cutler-Jeffery = $12,000 (332 pts per dollar)
- Gabbert-Boldin = $9,100 (278 pts per dollar)
Roethlisberger-Brown looks like the best value stack of the ones I chose. Dalton-Green isn't far behind, and you save $1,200 in salary.
Another GPP strategy is the "pivot." In short, you pivot from a chalk player that you expect to be highly-owned and select someone in his same price range that is unlikely to be on many teams.
For instance, Odell Beckham Jr ($9,100) should be highly-owned after four straight games of 100+ yards. And Julio Jones ($8,900) may not be due to a tough matchup with Carolina. Select a couple chalk/pivot combos that could help differentiate lineups and win some GPPs this weekend.
Justin Howe: This response is nothing against Danny Amendola; he's a true PPR asset who still carries a beautifully-low price. But despite his massive ownership, Amendola isn't an upside guy at all. He produces less than 10 yards per catch and isn't really a presence in the red zone. Between his sky-high exposure and the unlikelihood of a 150-yard or multi-touchdown line, I can confidently project he isn't going to win you any GPPs. I'd move over to Jeremy Maclin at nearly the same price point ($5,500). Maclin is both a target hog and an explosive talent, one who's hit 5x value four times and should feast on a leaky Chargers secondary. And don't forget that Martavis Bryant ($5,700) is priced in Amendola's neighborhood as well. He'll have some decent ownership totals but provides more upside on five-to-eight targets than Amendola offers in a full offensive role.
On the higher end of the WR position, I'll be pretty much avoiding DeAndre Hopkins ($8,500). That's partially due to his semi-slump and partially to the gobs of high-end receiver talent atop the salary board. Despite this, Hopkins continues to see massive ownership, especially as his salary drops for a second straight week. Hopkins projects to just 13.83 points; I know his ceiling is truly awesome, but it is better than that of Beckham, Jones, or Antonio Brown? It's not, and his floor is markedly lower.
Will Grant: Scott Chandler was a big play at TE last week because Rob Gronkowski was out. Chandler had a decent week with 16 points including a touchdown, so his salary took a big jump from $2,500 to $3,800. That should get people to back off a bit, but he'll probably still see a high ownership percentage this week. Consider pivoting to Tampa Bay's Austin Seferian-Jenkins instead. He is back in the lineup now, and he had three catches for 31 yards last week. That kept his salary low at $2,700, but this week he's going against the Saints, who have given up playing defense this season. Opposing tight ends have been mauling them the last four weeks Greg Olsen scored 23.9 points last week; Ryan Griffin had 17.2 the week before; Jordan Reed had 17.9 before that; and Delanie Walker had 30.50 (along with teammate Anthony Fasano putting up 12.3) the week before that. At $2,700, Seferian-Jenkins has some big upside. He'll give you an extra $1,100 in salary over Chandler as well.
John Mamula: Many have been punting at the RB position over the past few weeks. Last week, David Johnson ($3,400) was a key component to building a profitable roster. With Mark Ingram going on injured reserve, many will look to punt at RB again this week with C.J. Spiller, who is minimum salary ($3,000) this week. I am hesitant to roster Spiller for a couple of reasons. First, do we truly know that Spiller will receive the bulk of the workload? Last week, it was clear that Johnson would receive the bulk of the touches for the Cardinals with the injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. The Saints situation is not so clear. Tim Hightower is also a question mark in the Saints backfield. There is a good chance that Hightower could receive more snaps than Spiller. Both are highly risky plays. The second reason that I am concerned about Spiller is the Bucs rush defense, who have allowed 3.5 yards against this season (tied for best in the league with Denver). Tampa Bay has allowed one 100-yard rusher all season. Kudos to Footballguys staff member, John Lee, who provided that information.
While other players are targeting low priced RBs, I believe this is the week to pivot to a couple of high-priced backs. Two that stand out to me are Doug Martin ($6,200) and LeSean McCoy ($6,100). You may have heard that the Saints defense is terrible vs. the pass. Well, they are bad vs. the rush as well. The Saints are allowing a league worst 4.9 yards per carry and 137.8 rushing yards per game this season. Martin is the second-leading rusher in the league with 1,133 rushing yards. Martin is a no-brainer play at RB this week.
If you like to target revenge games, this week provides us with McCoy going back to Philadelphia. McCoy took the off-season trade to Buffalo personally and will make an effort to show up Chip Kelly on Sunday. McCoy has been the model of consistency with a minimum of 21 touches per game over the past four weeks.
San Francisco at Cleveland gives us Blaine Gabbert vs. Johnny Manziel. But it also gives us two poor defenses squaring off. Dare I say that these guys are viable plays this week? At just $5,100 and $5,000, respectively, will you have any exposure to them?
If you aren't so bold as to use these guys, tell us who the lowest-priced quarterback is that you're using this weekend and why.
Justin Howe: I expect Manziel to land in about 5-10% of my GPPs (probably closer to 5%). The Browns have shown that by design, necessity, or both, they'll throw far more often than run. And that's not limited to Josh McCown; Manziel threw 33 and 45 passes in his two recent starts, and even Austin Davis threw 38 last week. All three were blowout losses, which we can expect on any given week from the Browns. There are two legitimate weapons (Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin) with whom he seems able to connect at times, Manziel looks like a pretty fair bet to reach his 20-point value marker.
We're all intrigued by Manziel's rushing upside, but we may not even need to see fireworks there. In the right matchup (like a poor non-divisional defense), he looks capable of a top-10 quarterback day with just moderate production on the ground. Still, I'm not going wild on him. He's still too poor a passer to invest in heavily, and the market is absolutely flooded with great GPP options near the minimum. Alex Smith and Brian Hoyer offer similar upsides within $200 of Manziel. And the week's top value play, Ryan Fitzpatrick, costs just $200 more than that.
Jeff Haseley: I would spend a few hundred more on Tyrod Taylor ($5,400) at Philadelphia. The Bills are banged up at running back this week with LeSean McCoy overcoming a concussion (although he's been cleared) and Karlos Williams battling a shoulder injury. This leads me to believe that Taylor will take to the air more against a struggling Eagles pass defense that has given up at least three touchdown passes in four of the last five games. Taylor himself is coming off back-to-back three-touchdown games. If this is a back and forth game like some predict, Taylor should once again be in line for a nice stat line.
John Mamula: I will have limited exposure to Manziel and Gabbert this weekend. The game total of 41 points is scaring me off of these offenses.
I agree with Jeff that Taylor is in a good spot this weekend. But the low-priced quarterback that I am targeting is Jameis Winston ($5,500) vs. the Saints. The Bucs-Saints game has the highest projected game total of the week at 50.5 points. Winston is a couple of weeks removed from his five-touchdown performance vs. the Eagles. The Saints allowed five more passing touchdowns last week, which brings their season total up to a staggering 35 passing touchdowns allowed. To put that in perspective, the Eagles have allowed the second most passing touchdowns (28), and then it levels off with a few teams at 25 and 24 passing touchdowns allowed. Vegas is projecting this game to turn into a shootout, which provides Winston with a floor of two passing touchdowns. Barring injury, Winston will achieve 4x value this week on DraftKings.
Will Grant: John stole my answer. I doubt I'll take Manziel or Gabbert this week, but Winston would be a guy that I'd target for the Saints.
Another I'd consider would be Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,400) against the Titans. The Titans gave up 322 yards and five touchdowns to Blake Bortles last week. They gave up 330 and three touchdowns to Derek Carr the week before. Add in the fact that Tennessee has a pretty good run defense (16th in the league, allowing just 105 yards per game), and it looks like the Jets are going to have to throw the ball a lot to win this game. The Jets are a seven-point favorite in this game, and I would expect that Fitzpatrick will get his share of rushing yards too.
Follow the contributors of this Staff Roundtable on Twitter using the buttons below!
Ryan Hester - Moderator