This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Safe Wide Receivers
A couple of tweets I saw recently inspired the following question. First, Rumford Johnny had an opinion on DeAndre Hopkins that seemed ludicrous initially but made sense the more I thought about it (he also had a great pop culture reference with the old SNL Linda Richman picture). Then, our own Sigmund Bloom chimed in with a thought about the elite WR1 tier.
After Week 3, it was a widely-considered notion that having an elite receiver in your cash games was the key to success because they’re so reliable. With that notion mostly disproven, who is the safest Week 6 WR on the board this week? Is it Hopkins simply due to target volume – even with Brian Hoyer as his quarterback?
Phil Alexander: I'm not going to argue with anyone who says it's Hopkins. He's averaging a league-leading 14.8 targets per game. For context, that's 20% more than Julio Jones – the second-most targeted receiver. Hopkins also leads the league in red zone targets, so the volume he's seeing is certainly masking the inefficiency of Houston's quarterbacks. The results speak for themselves; Hopkins has only been held under 20 points on Fantasy Aces once this season, and that was against Carolina's elite secondary. Jacksonville isn't a scary match-up by any means, and Hopkins is still only the eighth-highest priced wide receiver on the site.
If Brian Hoyer still makes you leery, look to Larry Fitzgerald ($5,300; WR10) or Brandon Marshall ($5,200; WR11). Fitzgerald hasn't posted a single digit fantasy game all season and has been remarkably efficient (79.5% reception rate on about nine targets per game). He faces Pittsburgh this week, whose defense allows the fourth-highest completion percentage (70.37%) and sixth-most passing touchdowns per game (1.8). Fitzgerald has been a red zone monster, converting five of seven red zone targets into touchdowns. Like Fitzgerald, Marshall has been extremely consistent, posting between 15 and 20 fantasy points in every game this season. Marshall is dominating targets for the Jets (30.34% market share) and faces off with a banged up Washington secondary at home. It's fair to expect Marshall's usual seven to 10 catches, 80-100 yards, and a better than 50% chance at a touchdown.
Jeff Pasquino: I think Phil did a great job of breaking down the top three guys on my list. The only other group I'd even consider after those three are (gulp) Jaguars, who should be in a pass-happy game against the Texans. Houston may look to have had some solid pass defensive games, but look at the competition so far: Kansas City, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta (who ran all day with Freeman), and an Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis last Thursday. The corners are going to be covering both Allens pretty solid this week though, so they are not in my top three plays.
William Grant: Fitzgerald was the first one that I thought of when I read this. He was in fantasy wasteland when most season-long leagues were drafting, but now anyone that spent a mid-round pick on him is loving life. He just continues to produce week after week. This week he'll be against the Steelers, who showcased their vulnerable pass defense on Monday night. I like him this week, although his salary has been climbing over the last few weeks. I still like him as a safe receiver.
I'm not a fan of Brandon Marshall, just because I think the Jets offense has a lot of questions. But I think that's a pretty safe pick as well. One other guy to consider is Julian Edelman. Before their bye week, Edelman was averaging 14 targets and 10 receptions a week. This week, he didn't see that much, but he came up big on the four receptions that he had and the Patriots were in control the whole game. He and Gronk are pretty safe picks each week as the Patriots have no problem throwing the ball – even in the fourth quarter with a big lead.
Great responses so far, guys. For those of you on board with Marshall – particularly Phil, who mentioned his target share – are you concerned with Eric Decker's return to full health? He played in the team's Week 4 game, of course, but was still playing injured. With a game and a full bye week under his belt, are you worried that a healthy Decker cuts into Marshall's targets enough to make Marshall more of a risk?
Alexander: Not particularly. It seems pretty clear that the way to beat Washington is through the passing game, and we've seen Marshall succeed while sharing targets with a healthy Decker this season. It could be argued Decker's presence will actually help open things up for Marshall.
Chris Feery:Great calls so far, I can’t argue with any of the receivers suggested. For this week, there are two more names I think we can add to the list.
Keenan Allen is fourth in the league in targets, and this week’s game sets up very well for the Chargers to be throwing the ball constantly. As a 10-point underdog at Green Bay in a game with one of the highest projected totals of the week, we can look for the Chargers to be airing the ball out throughout the game and especially in the second half as they attempt to come back or keep pace. Allen had a quiet first half on Monday Night but picked things up in the second half as he received more targets. I would expect him to be targeted early and often this Sunday and he has a great opportunity to pick-up some garbage time stats if the Chargers are coming from behind as expected.
Jeremy Maclin is also in the top-10 in targets and has received double-digit targets for three consecutive weeks. The injury to Jamaal Charles makes him the clear top option in the Chiefs offense, and he could actually see a bump in his heavy target volume. Maclin had two consecutive 100-yard receiving games in Weeks 3 and 4 before dropping to 85 yards last week. He should easily return to the 100-yard receiving plateau this week against the Vikings.
John Lee: I'm chiming in late here, so I missed all the most obvious plays, but I'll just pile on and say that Hopkins, Marshall, Fitzgerald, Allen, and Maclin are all great selections because of their respective roles and consistent volume. Of those options, Brandon Marshall has the best individual matchup lining up across from Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver, who is allowing an opposing quarterback rating of 126.7 when passes are thrown into his coverage this season.
One receiver who has not yet been mentioned but I like for cash games because of his consistency is Jarvis Landry. Landry is often overlooked because he is not an exciting fantasy player due to his somewhat diminutive size and consequent low touchdown totals. For what he lacks in size, he makes up for in volume; Landry averages 11.8 targets/game (third in the NFL) and offers the type of high floor I like in a cash game receiver. This week, the Dolphins enter Sunday with an extra week of preparation after a trip to London and the firing of Joe Philben. Interim Head Coach Dan Campbell, a former NFL tight end, will take the reigns and look to build upon the strengths of the offense, including Landry's receiving prowess. At $4,700, Landry is the least expensive player discussed here and offers a similar degree of safety to his more pricey alternatives.
Denver Running Backs
Cleveland allowed the third-best running back performance in Week 5, the ninth-best in Week 3, they’re yielding a league-worst 147 rush yards per game, and they allow a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry. Can the Denver running game finally get on track against them in Week 6? More specifically, does this make either Denver back an intriguing GPP option at the very least? Would you dare play one in a cash game?
Will Grant: Not a chance. Hillman had one good week back in Week 4, and Anderson has consistently under-performed all season. Yes, his salary has fallen to match, but that's even more of a concern for DFS because salary goes down after a bad performance, not in expectation of one. This week against the Raiders, Hillman and Anderson were a true running-back-by-committee (RBBC). Cleveland does present an interesting opportunity, but the RBBC approach makes it difficult to make a call, even in a GPP matchup. You run the risk of the other guy getting all the action and leaving you down one running back. Hillman is getting more involved in the passing game, so it might make him an interesting GPP play, but you'd really like to see at least some glimmer of hope that the Denver backs would be able to get on track before putting money on them.
Phil Alexander: First of all, there's no way I'd play either Denver running back in a cash game. Even though Cleveland is a match-up to target for opposing running backs, there's simply no way to tell which Broncos rusher is in line for the big game, and we've seen just how low each of their floors can be. But when I took my initial look at pricing and matchups this week, C.J. Anderson's name did jump out a bit as a GPP option. Anderson is the cumulative 58th-ranked fantasy running back this season, yet he's still priced as the RB13 on FantasyAces (for Sunday-Monday contests).
Despite the great match-up, it's hard to imagine more than 5% of the field paying up for the “opportunity” to roster Anderson in a tournament. Anderson, the Broncos offensive line, and Peyton Manning haven't given us any reason to be optimistic about a bounce back, but Anderson has out-snapped Ronnie Hillman in every game this season. And it's worth placing a chip on the running back most likely to see the greatest opportunity against the Browns. If there's anything to reports Hillman and Juwan Thompson came out of last week's game banged up, I'd obviously feel much better slotting Anderson into a tournament lineup.
Chris Feery:I will join the chorus of those taking a pass on the Broncos running backs this week. To echo Phil’s point, there’s simply no way they are trustworthy enough to be used in a cash game. Even for tournaments, there are much better options around the same price point – namely Dion Lewis at $4,800 and Danny Woodhead at $4,650.
Jeff Pasquino: I agree that cash games are off the table here, but let's look at GPPs.
C.J. Anderson is the 13th-most expensive RB this week on Aces at $4,700. Hillman is 15th at $4,650.
If I'm shooting for 4x for a GPP (and certainly 3x if not more), I need 14+ points from these guys with 18-20 point upside. With only half-PPR, you really need 100 yards and a score. Is it possible for either? Yes. Is it likely? Probably not. I would struggle to even see 14-15 point upside here as they probably neutralize each other's value. If forced to pick, I'd take Hillman for his top end speed/breakaway ability, but I'd rather look elsewhere at tailback this week.
John Lee:I, too, have zero interest in the Denver running backs this week. Neither back has carried the ball more than 12 times all season, which means that they would have to average over one point per touch against the Browns to reach cash game value on Sunday; no running back in the league has come anywhere close to that type of efficiency this year, including Devonta Freeman. For GPP's, there is little doubt that both will be less than 3% owned, but that will be for good reason; the volume just is not there to substantiate the necessary upside for tournament play. Avoid.
OK, so no one wants to take the plunge with the Denver backs (hard to blame you all), but you're not getting off that easy. Discuss a premium run matchup that you do plan to exploit this week. Feel free to choose cash, GPP, or both.
Grant: San Diego is giving up 132 yards per game this year. On a short week, they travel to Green Bay where I think Eddie Lacy is going to get a chance to get his running game back on track this week. He's reasonably priced at just $4,950, making him a good cash or GPP option. The Packers are expected to win this game easily (10 point favorites), meaning Lacy should see a ton of time in the fourth quarter against a tired Chargers defense.
If you're looking for a more expensive option, look to Matt Forte against the Lions this week. I've been fading Forte this season because the Chicago offense is struggling, but they have a “get right” game against the Lions this week, who can't seem to stop anyone. The Lions are giving up 126 yards per game on the ground and with limited options in the passing game, Forte should still get four or five catches as well. He's more expensive at $5,800 but should be a good value pick anyway this week.
Feery:I agree with Will. I love the matchup for Forte this week and think he makes for an excellent target against the Lions. One more name to add to the list is Justin Forsett, who is very reasonably priced at $5,350 for his matchup against the 49ers. The 49ers are allowing 108.0 yards per game to running backs and have surrendered six rushing touchdowns so far this year. We’ll have to monitor the news as he’s battling an ankle injury that forced him to miss practice on Wednesday, but if he’s fully ready to go I love the matchup this week.
Pasquino: Arian Foster against Jacksonville is the clearest matchup to exploit from a run game perspective. Doug Martin just destroyed the Jaguars last week, and Houston has more than a week to get ready for the Week 6 trip to Florida. I like Foster for 150+ combined yards and at least one touchdown in a game I expect to have a lot of offense.
Lee:I agree with Jeff and Will that Arian Foster and Eddie Lacy have two of the more attractive matchups on paper this week and should be considered for your cash games on FantasyAces. For your GPP's, though, I might recommend LeGarrette Blount against the Colts. No team on the board has a higher implied team total (33.5 points) than the Patriots this week, and rumor has it that the Colts were the whistle-blowers for "Deflategate," which is enough impetus to get me on board for a blowout Patriots victory. The recent history between these teams is not pretty. Over their past three games, the lead Patriots' running back has carried the ball 91 times for 515 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns! Bill Belichick has gone on record saying that the Colts have not proven they can stop the run, so the Patriots will continue to run the ball until that changes. If New England jumps to an early lead on Sunday night, we could see a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount at an enticing $4450 price tag; with 20-point upside, Blount is an interesting GPP play because most players will be on Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Dion Lewis, leaving Blount under-owned.
Foster a Cash Game Lock?
Considering what Jacksonville just yielded on the ground to Doug Martin in Week 5 and the health-plus-10-days-rest situation for Arian Foster, try to convince me there is a better cash game RB this week.
Phil Alexander: I'm inclined to agree on Foster being the premier cash game option at running back this week. He comes $850 cheaper than Adrian Peterson who faces a stiff Kansas City rush defense, and $800 cheaper than LeVeon Bell, who is playing on a short week against an Arizona team that has only allowed one running back to top 61 yards on the ground this season. Foster was missing some burst last week, but he looked like his usual smooth, elusive self as last Thursday's game wore on. As he continues to round into form (the extended rest should help), we'll start seeing some trademark Arian Foster stat lines.
This week's matchup with the Jaguars should help. While Jacksonville has only allowed 3.5 yards per attempt to opposing running backs, their average scoring margin (-10.4) is fourth-worst in the league, which has led to a bottom-five ranking in fantasy points per game allowed to the position. If middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is out again for the Jaguars, the decision to start Foster in cash games is a layup.
John Lee: I'll take the bait and argue against the majority. Arian Foster is not a lock for cash games this weekend. At $5,550, he needs 16 or more fantasy points to reach value for cash games on FantasyAces, which is basically 100 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars.
The Jaguars are the interesting story here because the vast majority of football fans (and even daily fantasy players) believe that the Jags have no run defense. After all, Doug Martin and Charles Sims combined for 50.9 fantasy points last week, right? Sure, but there's more to that story than just the stat line. Last week, the Jaguars were missing their lynchpin run-stopping linebacker, Paul Posluszny, with an ankle injury, which contributed heavily to the Bucs being able to run all over Jacksonville. Through the first four games this season with Posluszny, the Jaguars were allowing only 3.3 yards per carry against opposing running backs; that number jumped to 4.8 yards per carry last week when Posluszny was sidelined. We saw a similar phenomenon in 2014, which I wrote about a few weeks ago in the Week 4 FantasyAces Roundtable:
"The problem is that not many people recognize the Jaguars are a stout rush defense when Paul Posluszny is playing. Before Posluszny's season-ending injury in Week 7 of 2014, the Jags were allowing only 3.7 yards per carry and 0.8 rushing touchdowns per game; after his injury, those numbers jumped to 4.3 yards per carry and 1.0 rushing touchdowns per game. This season, Posluszny is back and the Jags are only allowing 3.3 yards per carry once again..."
This week, Posluszny is practicing and looks like he'll be active on Sundayagainst Foster and the Texans. Posluzsny's return does not necessarily mean that Foster cannot be rostered for cash games, but it does mean that there is some degree of risk associated with that decision. If the Jaguars hold him to their average 3.3 yards per carry (with Posluszny playing), Fostermustscore a touchdown to even have a chance of reaching value.
Will Grant: Foster is a good pick, but I think Matt Forte is a solid option this week as well. Forte is a little more expensive at $5,800, but he faces a much weaker defense in Detroit. He continues to be the workhorse of the offense, both in the running and passing game. The Chicago receiving corps is a huge question mark with Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal all missing from the lineup last week and Kevin White having not played so far at all this season. Martellus Bennett didn't have much of an impact either, leaving Forte to shoulder the load of the Chicago offense. Whoever the Bears have on offense this week, it's a good bet that they won't be 100%, meaning Forte is the only “sure thing” about the Chicago offense this week against Detroit.
Chris Feery:Foster is a pretty good pick this week, but I agree with Will. I'm more inclined to lean towards Forte as a lock at the running back position. For me, it simply comes down to how the respective teams are playing. In Forte's case, we have a Bears team that is trending up and preparing to face a Lions team that looks to be in the midst of a lost season. As for the Texans, they have simply not looked good this year and will be facing a pretty scrappy Jaguars team. It looks like it will be a pretty close game based on the game line and projected total, but outside of DeAndre Hopkins, there's nothing about the Texans screams "lock" to me.
Pasquino: Put me down in the “Foster is a lock” campaign this week. There are not too many of those these days, but this matchup and price point is too hard to pass up. With 10 roster spot decisions, this feels like an easy one to make while you think about the rest of them. Foster will be the key to Houston winning at Jacksonville, and I think he gets 20+ touches this week. The game script should fall behind him and his price ($5,500) is hard to beat.
Which game will have the most passing touchdowns in it? Which receivers will be the biggest beneficiaries?
Will Grant: The Giants-Eagles game on Monday Night Football looks like the best of a good group this week. Neither team can seem to run the ball, and both defenses are giving up a lot through the air. The Giants are allowing a league worst 304 yards passing per game, and the Eagles are ranked 26th with almost 280 per game. For the Eagles, that means more opportunities for Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Both are receiving a significant amount of targets each game with Riley Cooper starting to pick up steam as well. For the Giants, if Odell Beckham Jr’s hamstring is good, he is almost a must start this week. Reuben Randle was also limited by a hamstring, but his seems more severe, and he may not be able to go on Sunday. Larry Donnell continues to be a quiet boom-or-bust kind of guy. He will definitely see an up-tick if Randle is out and Beckham isn't 100%. Shane Vereen is also an interesting play at RB because he is involved in the passing game more than the other backs. He will get more action this week as well.
Phil Alexander: I really like the call on Zach Ertz, Will. Much has been made of Oakland's struggles against tight ends this season, but the Giants have gotten flamed by the position as well. Even Garrett Celek scored on them last week. If Ertz sees another seven targets, he's a lock for solid production in this matchup.
My pick is New England at Indianapolis. Vegas set the over/under at 55 points, easily the week's highest total. I'm not usually one for narratives, but if you don't think Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have had the Deflategate revenge game circled on their calendar, you haven't been watching football for the last decade. Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Dion Lewis are premium options this week. And even though he's not part of the passing game, remember LeGarrette Blount usually saves his best for the Colts. Andrew Luck is reportedly practicing without limitations, and should be able to move the ball against a New England secondary letting up 8.3 yards per pass attempt (third-highest in the league). T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief should be the main beneficiaries as usual. I am proceeding as though Andre Johnson's big Thursday night game never happened.
Pasquino: While I like both picks here, I have to go with a very non-standard call that might hold up, and if it does, well, enjoy your cash this week. That game is Baltimore-San Francisco.
Both defenses are terrible against the pass, and both are incentivized to show up the other team. San Francisco has two former Baltimore receivers. Anquan Boldin was virtually given away (traded for a sixth-round pick) when he would not take a pay cut, and Torrey Smith got his money from the 49ers as a free agent. Baltimore might get Steve Smith back, but Joe Flacco always seems to find a way regardless of who suits up in his receiving corps. If Justin Forsett is less than 100%, I see Flacco throwing for 300 yards and two scores at a minimum. If Smith suits up, I could see 350-400 and three touchdowns for Flacco. And I think Kaepernick's targets outside against weak corners could put up solid numbers for San Francisco as well.
Alexander: I love that pick as an under-the-radar game to invest in, Jeff. I've written up Flacco, Aiken (assuming Steve Smith doesn't play), and Boldin in my DraftKings GPP column this week. The only thing giving me pause is how much better the 49ers defense has played in front of their home crowd this season. They were even able to bottle up Aaron Rodgers at home two weeks ago.
Grant: But Rodgers was on the road after playing on Monday night. Rodgers still had 224 and a TD plus another 23 running, which is a pretty clean game. Remember that the 49ers couldn't get any offense going (17-3 final), so it was no surprise that the Packers had over 160 yards on the ground in that game either.
Pasquino: So you're saying I'm not crazy (at least in targeting this game)?
Grant: Definitely not. This could really turn into a shoot-out. Green Bay was more of an exception than the rule.
John Lee:While both games have potential, the more likely game to turn into a shootout is on Monday night (Giants-Eagles). As Will already pointed out, both of these passing defenses have not exhibited an ability to shut down any opposing quarterback all season; to date, no quarterback has scored fewer than 15 fantasy points against these defenses (except Tony Romo/Brandon Weeden, who scored 14.62 combined points). Perhaps more telling is that both of these defenses perform well against the rush; both teams are in the top 10 against the rush (yards per game), and both have allowed a paltry 3.5 yards per carry this season. The path of least resistance for both teams will be to throw the ball and a 60-point game (similar to what we saw last December) is not out of the question.
For the Colts-Patriots game to result in a shootout, we need two things to happen: 1) the Patriots to stop running the ball against the Colts, which they have not needed to do in their previous three games; and 2) the Colts need to establish a passing game, which has not happened against less talented teams. Both of those things could happen, but the stronger play is the Monday night game because the salaries are lower, the offensive options are more limited, and the defenses are more predictable.
Chris Feery:Great call on the 49ers-Ravens game Jeff; that could be a sneaky shootout, and Flacco has been on my radar all week. To throw another game into the mix, the Chargers at Packers game has one of the highest projected totals of the week. Surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers has only thrown for three touchdowns over the past two weeks after throwing for 10 in the first three weeks of the season. He has to be considered a huge bounce back candidate this week at home against the Chargers. Randall Cobb has practiced in full this week and appears to be on his way back to full strength. He stands to be the biggest beneficiary, but James Jones has a knack for finding the end zone and a great rapport with Rodgers to boot.
On the Chargers side of the ledger, we can expect them to be throwing constantly as a 10-point underdog. Philip Rivers has thrown for at least 350 yards and two touchdowns in each of the last two games, and the game script sets up well for him to make it three in a row. Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates stand to be the biggest beneficiaries. Allen has received a ton of targets so far, and this week will be no different while Gates returned in a big way this past Monday Night by scoring two touchdowns. This game sets up for plenty of points, you'll definitely want some exposure to players from this game.
Follow the contributors of this Staff Roundtable on Twitter using the buttons below!
Ryan Hester - Moderator