Tom Brady projects to continue his 2015 nose-thumbing at the NFL with a cherry Week 3 matchup, hosting the weak Jaguars in Foxboro. This comes on the heels of a classic dismantling of a fine Bills defense, so the scoring potential here is through the roof. Thanks in large part to his phenomenal red zone productivity, Brady checks in as my No. 1 quarterback scorer for Week 3. Even when the Patriots script a game run-heavy, Brady brings the touchdown potential and overall efficiency to suggest a great floor every week.
But is there a catch? Something to threaten the dominant stat line we expect? Let’s explore that and the rest of a semi-mysterious Week 3 outlook for DraftKings:
Tom Brady ($7,700)
The only real reservation with Brady is the unpredictable nature of the Patriots’ gameplans. This is especially true in matchups like this one, where we expect them to lead for most of the game and worry about Brady’s outlook for attempts. But not even game flow can disrupt a rolling Brady from compiling numbers. Since 2012, he’s thrown more often than any regular starter when nursing a big lead:
|% of play types when leading by 17+ points|
The Patriots shrewdly refuse to take their foot off of the gas when protecting a lead, aware that comebacks are common and shifts in aggressiveness can turn an easy win into a loss. So don’t fret over the idea of Brady spending the second half handing off. He’s as strong a DFS play as ever this week.
Besides, this scenario looks like a strong reminder of the Any Given Sunday adage that permeates DFS. The Jaguars could certainly lead throughout the game, or at least play well enough to keep the Patriots on a pass-heavy script. That’s not a great probability, but it’s a real one, and one that we have to factor into our risk assessment. Clinging too tightly to what you expect from an NFL game – and refusing outright to account for anything else – is a guaranteed path to losing your contests.
Ben Roethlisberger ($7,200)
Roethlisberger has ascended into the elite category of weekly QB options – but he’s not quite priced there. He’s opened 2015 as the QB10 and the QB1, thanks largely to great red zone efficiency and Antonio Brown’s ability to strike from anywhere. On Sunday he draws the Rams, a sneaky-good matchup for the nearly matchup-proof Steelers offense. St. Louis boasts an imposing front seven, but also one of the league’s worst cornerback groups. Opposing QBs have completed 80.9% against them and seen plenty of deep ball opportunities. Le’Veon Bell’s return may ease back Roethlisberger’s yardage, but not by enough to override his awesome touchdown outlook. His $500 discount from Brady could afford you a big opportunity elsewhere, and the two share very similar outlooks.
Tyrod Taylor ($5,800)
Taylor isn’t being merely hidden in an ultra-conservative scheme. He’s not being asked to throw much, but when he does, he dialing downfield, boasting the league’s second-most completions of 20+ yards (9). The fact that he’s run for 42 yards a game boosts him comfortably into the third tier of starting options, but with a discount of $1,000 or more from his peers.
Colin Kaepernick ($6,300)
Kaepernick has enjoyed success thus far in a small-ball scheme, completing 69.4% of his passes for a 98.1 rating through two weeks. I don’t love this matchup one bit, but with his rushing bonus, Kaepernick only needs to chime in about 200 yards and a touchdown through the air to reach GPP utility. Garbage time boosted him to 335 and two scores last week, and garbage time looks to be where this matchup is headed.
They’re your only truly safe bets for scorching RB1 production this week, so if you’re inclined to pay up for that, you’re greenlit. Peterson should torch San Diego’s middling run defense, Charles consistently makes up for his lack of red zone work with receptions and chunk plays, and Bell is a manchild developed in a fantasy football lab. I’d rank them in the above order for Week 3. Bell has by far the sexiest ceiling, but by far the lowest floor as he returns from suspension. Peterson and Charles have their drawbacks, but both are consistent offensive centerpieces clearly in game shape.
James Starks ($3,000)
If Eddie Lacy sits, Starks needs to be a staple in your lineups, regardless of format. He’s always produced well in Lacy’s absence, with two 100-yard rushing games in relief since 2013. He catches the ball well and always inherits Lacy’s high red zone usage. The worst-case scenario would be Starks splitting time with a hobbled Lacy in an offense capable of supporting two RB2/3 options in the same week. That would make Starks a far better GPP play than cash, but at the minimum salary, he brings monstrous value either way.
One of the joys of DraftKings is the full-PPR format, which allows us to take advantage of the “boring” passing down backs that carry cheap yet realistic 15-touch upside. They matter much more here than elsewhere, and they cost far less than their peers that boast huge snap counts but similarly murky fantasy outlooks.
Bernard and Woodhead have the strongest and most stable offensive roles, so they’re the safest plays here. Bernard has caught 39 balls since Week 14 of last year (including playoffs) and taken half of the running game from Jeremy Hill, while Woodhead has a firm grip on the Chargers’ passing down and red zone opportunities. But the real GPP value lies with Lewis, who projects as the week’s sixth-highest scoring back in a great matchup. There’s always risk in rostering a Patriots back, but Lewis is playing well in the hurry-up offense that Tom Brady masterminds, so we have to consider him the lead back for the moment. Dunbar is also a thought, as the Cowboys will be running out a backup quarterback for awhile, but he has no running game presence and looks like a mere lottery ticket.
Jonathan Stewart ($4,900)
He hasn’t produced yet, but it’s coming. This is a decidedly run-rooted offense that has fed Stewart 40 touches over the first two weeks. And he did explode for 155 yards and a touchdown the last time they faced the Saints. Stewart’s value will always take a dip alongside touchdown vulture Cam Newton, but that also goes for his DFS pricing; he’s a clear-cut feature back in a ground-and-pound offense.
As always, it’s hard to go wrong between the two. Both are just magnificent offensive centerpieces on all levels of the field, and Brown has the added appeal of a successful red zone presence. And just like last week, your cash game needs at least one of them involved. Even if you can replace their points from a tapestry of other receivers, you’re still likely to face off against them in just about every contest. Do not skimp and bargain-bin your way out of these guys; there are plenty of solid (and nearly interchangeable) options up and down the RB and TE ranks, so you’ve got no excuse.
Last week, with elite running backs epically crapping the bed, playing both Brown and Jones was all but necessary to gain a strong edge in cash contests. There’s a little less pressure this week with two Tier 2/3 options in play that hold strong WR1 outlooks. Subbing one of these guys in place of the ultra-expensive Brown or Jones shouldn’t net you much scoring loss, if any. Of the two, the ideal play is Marshall, as Eric Decker’s and Chris Ivory’s injuries aren’t factored into his low-WR2 cost. Already a target hog, Marshall looks to have a baseline projection of 10-12 targets as the entire offense flows through him. Edelman projects very well himself, but comes at a WR1 cost and competes for attention with a wealth of fellow Patriots.
Larry Fitzgerald ($5,800)
The three touchdowns were kooky, but Fitzgerald’s fast start makes sense: he posted three top-14 weeks among Carson Palmer’s six starts last season. John Brown is more exciting, and Michael Floyd still has a role, but Fitzgerald remains the preferred target. He’s also returned to his big-play ways, with five receptions of 20+ yards thus far, tied for the most in the league. He should feast upon a scrambling 49ers defense that was eviscerated by the Steelers last week.
Donte Moncrief ($4,800)
One of the most athletically gifted wideouts of the last decade, Moncrief is putting the NFL game together quickly and moving into the No. 2 role in Indy. Andre Johnson frankly offers little as a plodder in a potent Colts offense, while the tight ends and backs are no more than situational targets. He may not be as consistently targeted as he was Monday night – T.Y. Hilton won’t face Darrelle Revis every week – but the fantasy WR2 sky is the limit. He carries as much 3x potential as anyone, so enjoy this pricing while it lasts.
Willie Snead ($3,000)
The undrafted Snead was the team’s best receiver during the preseason and has already carved out a nice little role in the offense. You could even argue that he’s trending ahead of Brandon Coleman, who doesn’t add much to the offense beyond his height. Snead played 39 snaps to Coleman’s 40 in Week 2 and drew six targets, with a red zone touchdown. With his role in place, Snead actually makes for a sneaky cash play at his minimum salary, and his GPP appeal is very high.
Steve Johnson ($4,300)
I won’t stop beating the drum for Johnson, who’s still underpriced considering the offense and his stable role in it. He’s being used all over the short and intermediate areas and producing with the ball in his hands, as well as in the red zone. He fills out a top-heavy roster beautifully at this cost.
If you’re not rostering Gronkowski at his WR1 price tag, these two make for excellent consolation prizes. They may not share Gronkowski’s sky-high floor and ceiling, but they’re not far off, and the $2,400-$2,600 discount they bring along is obviously immense. Both are established No. 2 options occasionally utilized as their teams’ No. 1s, and both make their presences felt in the red zone. It’s hard to pick a loser here, but Kelce’s sheer athleticism and playmaking ability make him the preferred choice. He’s more proficient at creating chunk plays and finding the end zone, and also more likely to dominate his team’s passing game on a given week.
Kyle Rudolph ($3,300)
With a team-high 14 targets and 10 catches, Rudolph is looking like a great security blanket for Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings’ cautious offense. Bridgewater throws downfield less often than most, so his TEs have played a noticeable role since he took over in 2014. Rudolph doesn’t offer much dynamism, but he’s a reliable, big-framed target who seems to have Bridgewater’s trust. The fact that he’s already seen three red zone targets gives him a solid TE1 outlook.
These two have far too much touchdown potential for their salaries. Fleener will take on a chunk of Dwayne Allen’s role due to injury, and it’s a role that’s likely to inflate (or at least stabilize) soon. Both Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck, whose love for the TE position traces back to his time with Fleener at Stanford, have spoken up the importance of Fleener and Allen to the offense this week. Rodgers is more of a dart throw, as he’s rarely involved when the Packers are between the 20s. But Aaron Rodgers also loves to look for his TEs near the goal line, so Rodgers has a solid chance of finding the end zone again at a minimum salary.
Vernon Davis ($3,200)
The Cardinals are notoriously soft against TEs, having allowed eight touchdowns and more yardage than anyone to the position last year. That’s good news for Davis, who is healthy and experiencing a mini-rebirth in the 49ers pecking order with 13 targets thus far.
Seattle ($3,400) / New England ($3,100)
There are no safer plays this week, period. The Pats get to stay in Foxboro and tee off on Blake Bortles, who’s posted a rating of 65 or lower in seven of his last 12 games. He’s also been sacked 60 times across 15 career starts. Still, the Seahawks look to have the easiest (and bloodiest) path to the week’s No. 1 finish. They’ll take on subpar backup Jimmy Clausen with Alshon Jeffery likely to sit; 10 points looks like their scoring range.
The Panthers also look strong, with the floundering Saints offense coming to town as Drew Brees struggles with a rotator cuff injury. New Orleans is struggling to score points and was largely stymied by a shaky Buccaneers defense last week. With Brees hobbled, errant throws and turnovers could fill the air, and the Panthers boast a few sack artists to further boost their potential.
These guys are wreaking havoc thus far, putting up seven sacks and forcing seven turnovers through two games. A dinged-up Matthew Stafford could gift them a few more of each in a high-pressure matchup.
The Vikings make for a nice contrarian GPP play as they host the Chargers. They make for a nice stack with Adrian Peterson, who should control the clock and limit the defense’s exposure on the field. Also, Philip Rivers isn’t quite the same passer on the road as he is in San Diego, so the Vikings’ sack and turnover outlooks are solid.