This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
The staffers we talked to this week are Phil Alexander, Justin Howe, Devin Knotts, John Mamula, Chad Parsons, Jeff Pasquino, and BJ VanderWoude.
Hester: Dez Bryant didn't lead Dallas in targets; Odell Beckham Jr only had eight targets (good for 28% of the team's total); DeAndre Hopkins didn't lead Houston in targets, catches, or yards; Jordy Nelson scored but only had 32 yards; Brandon Marshall had his worst fantasy output as a Jet and had as many targets as Quincy Enunwa.
Outside of Beckham, who gets the putrid New Orleans defense and should be everyone's projected WR2 at worst, which bounceback candidate is your favorite DFS play in Week 2?
Alexander: It should only get better from here for Nelson. The box score wasn't too impressive in his first game back from ACL surgery, but it's promising Nelson was thrown right back into the fire for Green Bay after missing the entire preseason (84% of snaps). Nelson led the Packers with a 27.3% target market share in Week 1 and was one of only three pass catchers in the league to record more than one target from inside the opponent's 10-yard line. As he continues to get his legs back under him, the long downfield gains we've grown accustomed to from Nelson are sure to follow (career 15.1 YPC). Green Bay travels to Minnesota this week, where the Vikings will likely be without their top cornerback, Xavier Rhodes. Hopefully, the rest of the crowd will be scared off by Nelson's high price tag and middling Week 1 box score. He still possesses the multi-touchdown upside you're looking for in GPPs.
Knotts: I agree with Phil that Nelson is in a great spot to rebound this week. He had nine targets last week as he comes back from the ACL injury. Last week was essentially his preseason, and he should be ready to go for this week.
Parsons: Bryant had an interesting game. He had a few deep shots tipped away by defensive backs, one sideline pass out of bounds from Dak Prescott, and a touchdown which was called a score on the field but ultimately reversed on replay. There was some bad luck at play for Bryant's poor stat line in Week 1. That said, I am down on Bryant in general without Tony Romo. Bryant has been one to disappear for quarters at a time more than the other so-called "stud" receivers over the years. Prescott was looking primarily 15 yards and in, with a focus on the run game - an approach unlikely to change in the next few weeks.
Will Fuller had 31% of Houston's targets in his first NFL game, only the fourth rookie to have 100+ receiving yards and a touchdown in his opening week since the merger. It is a great sign for Fuller overall, but there will be plenty of down weeks with a well-rounded offense and Hopkins on the opposite side. Fuller is more high-variance upside shot than consistent target accumulator.
Additionally, don't forget about Austin Seferian-Jenkins. While he played fewer than 30% of the snaps in Week 1, he drew a defensive pass interference penalty on the opening third down of the game as a split out receiver. Later in the game, Seferian-Jenkins had one of the highlight plays of Week 1 - a gorgeous full extension contested grab for a touchdown. Despite having been in the doghouse in the preseason, expect Seferian-Jenkins to move up in playing time with as much touchdown upside weekly as any non-Rob Gronkowski tight end.
Mamula: I expect the Arizona Cardinals offense to bounce back strong in Week 2 at home vs. Tampa Bay. Vegas has set an opening total of 50 points for this game. Carson Palmer is in a prime spot to pass for around 300 yards and multiple touchdowns this week. During Week 1, Michael Floyd was held in check with three receptions on seven targets for 61 yards vs. the Patriots. This did not surprise me, as the Patriots had multiple weeks to develop a defensive scheme to slow down the Cardinals passing attack. Floyd will find things much easier this week vs. a below average Tampa Bay defense. Floyd will break out this week for at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. Palmer and Floyd are still moderately priced across many DFS sites this week.
Howe: Sticking with the Cardinals, I expect at least a moderate bounceback from John Brown, sooner rather than later. He's typically a little more involved than Floyd, and he sees plenty of work right around the goal line; Brown doesn't necessarily need the deep balls he's known for to hold a fantasy floor once he's right.
But that could be a week or two off; Brown's preseason concussion was serious, and he may not be ready for a full load yet. On the more dependable side, I figure Julio Jones will uncork against a shaky Raiders secondary. Outside starters Sean Smith and David Amerson look like major question marks, and Jones should be in position to destroy either down the field. Jones will always carry red zone concerns in comparison with the other top options, but I'd be shocked if he weren't fed several deep balls into iffy man coverage this Sunday.
I also like Tyler Lockett's shot at a Week 2 mulligan. His eight targets were solid - pretty much in line with preseason expectations - but I think he'll see more room to operate in a more wide-open game. This matchup is touted for its defensive showdown, but they've posted 65- and 54-point totals over the last two years of the series. There will be far more red zone scoring opportunity here and a lot more than 17 yards for Lockett. He has, by most accounts, developed into a truly dynamic downfield target in addition to his burgeoning slot prowess. His 8-target games going forward should yield far, far more upside than we saw last week.
Pasquino: I am going off the board and taking Emmanuel Sanders. Demaryius Thomas will probably draw Darius Slay in coverage, and we all saw how open the Lions were getting again that terrible Indianapolis secondary. Trevor Siemian looked good against a very solid Carolina defense, and Andrew Luck will probably try and make this game another high scoring affair. I can easily see Sanders with 10+ targets this week.
Knotts: I am really scared about Marshall and don't think he is a great bounce back candidate this week. The preseason injury combined with the age really worries me. He is now 32 years old which is where we started to see other receivers such as Roddy White fall off. He says the hip is fine, but I don't trust him as he is the ultimate competitor and will be out there every week even if he is less than 100%.
A little bonus bounceback candidate since we are throwing them out there is Gary Barnidge. This was a player who absolutely was a different player and a top-three tight end in football with Josh McCown as his quarterback last season. McCown threw for 457 yards last year at Baltimore, and Barnidge was the big beneficiary of this as he had eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. I expect big things from him this week after not registering a catch last week.
Hester: Pick something that happened in Week 1 that won't happen again in Week 2. Discuss how shrewd DFS players can exploit it.
Parsons: The Saints may even be worse than we saw in Week 1 now that cornerback Delvin Breaux on the shelf with a broken fibula. While some trends take a month or more to solidify in-season, the New Orleans defense is a clear target already. Having a quality offense of their own helps to spur shootouts. I doubt many New Orleans games this year will have a Vegas total below 50 points.
As for a trend I don't see continuing, I definitely do not buy the pass-happy Chiefs. They got down early at home against San Diego, so I chalk it up to game script and the Chargers horrid defense struggling to get off the field.
Mamula: I agree with Chad that the Saints will be worse than what we saw out of them in Week 1. I have a feeling that I will be targeting the Saints defense every week until further notice.
Alexander: Let someone else get fooled by the boxscore on Melvin Gordon's two-touchdown game in Week 1. The Chargers were leading Kansas City 24-3 at one point, and Gordon still only played on 32% of the offensive snaps. If a big workload wasn't there for Gordon in what should have been a decidedly run-heavy game script, I'm not sure it will be all season. Besides, when is the next time San Diego figures to build a big lead? Their defense is abysmal and their offense takes a huge hit with the loss of Keenan Allen.
It's far more likely San Diego is forced into pass-first mode in the majority of their games, which makes Danny Woodhead the far better play in the Chargers backfield going forward, regardless of scoring format. And that's saying nothing for the fact Gordon's price is up between $900 and $1,000 across the industry due to his Week 1 output, while Woodhead – who saw 60% of the team's backfield touches and was far more efficient against the Chiefs – saw a far more modest price increase, even on full PPR sites.
Mamula: As far as an outlier from Week 1, I am pretty sure that Adrian Peterson isn't going to average 1.6 yards per carry moving forward. The Titans did a great job containing Peterson to 31 total yards in Week 1 and daring Shaun Hill to beat them through the air. As soon as we see Sam Bradford under center, I expect defenses to respect the Vikings pass offense a bit more which will open up some rush lanes for Peterson.
VanderWoude: The two I see that were a function of their opponent, as opposed to a reflection of their outlook going forward, are Oakland and Baltimore. The Raiders allowed the most points to receivers mainly on the strength of Sean Smith being completely toasted by Brandin Cooks on a 98-yard touchdown where Cooks was untouched on the play. Smith was subsequently benched due to his poor coverage. He is a big, physical cornerback that can body up on prototypical sized receivers, but his matchup with Cooks – who is very quick in short space and is listed at 5'10", 189lbs – was not an advantageous one. The Raiders most likely learned their lesson here, and Smith won't be tasked with covering receivers who can beat him off the line of scrimmage with their athleticism and quickness. Oakland's ability to stop the run turned the Saints into a one-dimensional passing attack, which played a big part in their comeback after being down 14 points in the third quarter. Allowing yards in the passing game seemed to be part of the Oakland gameplan, and in the end, it allowed them more possessions, which ended in a victory. The Raiders won't see an all-world quarterback each week, and they will do a better job of putting their secondary in a position to win the battles off the line of scrimmage.
Baltimore won't allow the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. They have to play Ben Roethlisberger twice, which will put them behind the eight-ball to begin with. Their Week 1 performance came against Tyrod Taylor and the Bills, with star wideout Sammy Watkins limping his way through the game. The Bills have no other viable options in the passing game aside from Watkins, and it showed in this game. The Ravens won't be as lucky in the coming weeks, as they face off against four quarterbacks who are stacked with offensive weapons. They travel to Jacksonville in Week 3 and then host the Raiders and Redskins in Weeks 4 and 5 before traveling to play the Giants in Week 6. Blake Bortles (7th), Derek Carr (13th), Kirk Cousins (10th), and Eli Manning (6th) all ranked in the top-13 in passing yards, and as a group averaged 265 yards passing, two touchdowns, and less than an interception per game in 2015. The Ravens have their work cut out for them over the next four weeks and won't be able to sustain the defensive production they put up in Week 1. And all of that is before they even see Roethlisberger and the high-flying Steelers for the first time in 2016.
Hester: Good point, BJ. While they did improve towards the end of last year, Baltimore was a defense DFS players targeted frequently. The argument now becomes whether their 2015 improvement was an aberration/regression taking effect or a sign of things to come in 2016. But as you said, they face some difficult opponents coming up, so they're likely to look exploitable once again.
Does anyone see Baltimore allowing Cleveland any production this week? Gary Barnidge was excellent last year and at his best when Josh McCown was throwing him passes. Terrelle Pryor continued to like a deep ball virtuoso last week, and Duke Johnson could catch some passes here if projected game script is to be believed. What impact does McCown have on Cleveland, and is there any production to be had in Week 2?
Howe: Sure, Ryan. I'll probably carry around 5% ownership of McCown, who was a garbage-time dynamo last year and should see a neutral or negative script throughout Sunday's game. Unlike last year, he's armed with some serious playmakers on the outside. It's true that the preseason fireworks we saw from Pryor, Corey Coleman, etc. came with rocket-armed Robert Griffin III at the helm. But McCown made a 1,000-yard name out of Travis Benjamin last year, and considering he's probably a superior passer to Griffin in every other facet, I think he carries better GPP appeal than Griffin would. I worry about overall volume outlook; with Hue Jackson in charge, McCown won't be winging it 40+ times nearly as reliably as he did last year, if ever. But I love the big-strike and second-half potential of an offense like this one.
But there's another, even wonkier, outlier that I'd bet my first-born won't hold up in Week 2. The Jaguars will see more run in the red zone against a shoddy Chargers defense, and I figure their scoring opportunity will boost markedly. Last year, Bortles led the NFL in passes from within the 10-yard line with 51 (3.2 attempts per game), yet he didn’t throw one against the Packers. Obviously, that’s due to the fact that the team only ran one snap altogether from inside the 10 – T.J. Yeldon’s 5-yard touchdown run. This game should meet all the scoring hype that the Packers matchup had offered, and Bortles looks like a great bounceback play.
Pasquino: No way does that Dallas game script get repeated. Dak Prescott would be wise to hand the ball off to either Ezekiel Elliott or Alfred Morris 35+ times in Week 2 against Washinton, as the Steelers carved up the D.C. defense on the ground with a big DeAngelo Williams performance (26-143-2). I think we see some negative bias against Dallas after Dak's bad game (in which the supporting cast was depressed as a result), but I fully expect a ground-led attack from the Cowboys in Week 2. Grab some shares of Elliott as we are likely to see the rookie's first ever 100-yard game in the NFL.
Knotts: I'm going to disagree with John as I don't think Peterson is going to see any additional running room this week. We see it all the time that if the defense isn't threatened by a passing attack, the running back struggles due to game script. Peterson is now 31 years old and has a lot of wear on his legs; I just don't think we can assume he is going to immediately rebound to be the Peterson that we have seen over his career.
I am going to take a stab at the Saints defense not being as bad as we think they will be. There is going to likely be thunderstorms in this game, which typically lowers the total output of the score. This is a team that held the Raiders to 13 points in three quarters, and only after the Saints went to a prevent style defense did Oakland start to move the ball. The Breaux injury will hurt, but let's go back and watch the actual tape instead of just looking at the box score. Due to the thunderstorms keeping things close, the Saints defense is likely going to be playing four quarters of defense and not going to the prevent style we saw on Sunday. Also, from a game theory perspective, the Giants are going to be so highly owned, that it makes sense to not start them as if the Saints defense is just average you will be able to have a huge leg up on the field. I am not saying the defense is going to be good, but they are going to be average this week compared to the historically bad expectations everyone has.
Hester: Last week, the contributors discussed being more cautious in Week 1 than a typical week and playing more GPPs than cash games due to lack of data, anticipated lineup overlap due to soft pricing, and the expected variance that it could bring.
Do you see the cash game/GPP ratio changing this week? Are you putting more of your bankroll in play now that we have one week of data and pricing has adjusted?
Howe: Each year, when I project my Week 2 DFS numbers, I typically ignore Week 1 performances and roll based on my preseason projections. So much is unknown, and there are usually a handful of wonky Week 1 outliers that can skew the numbers and tell you to start less desirable guys. But this past week, exciting as it was, was relatively sane. There were few wild outliers, and certain unsure backfields looked more established and reliable than I'd expected. This Week 2 actually makes me a feel a little more stable about many of the floors in play.
As a result, I'm likely to boost my cash participation. There's some chalk this week – the Saints/Giants game, of course, and sexy pricing on a few backs who were Week 1 workhorses – that I'd like to take advantage of in cash contests. Not to mention, the GPP well has dried up a bit with the pricing shift. Cheap guys like Will Fuller, Tajae Sharpe, and LeGarrette Blount will draw more ownership after facing uncertain Week 1s, making tournaments a fraction harder to win. I really cut loose last week (25% of bankroll played, with 40% sunk into large GPPs), but this Week 2 finds me ready to come back to Earth.
Mamula: I slightly increase my bankroll allotment (% of bankroll in play) for each week over the course of the first three weeks of the season. Last week, I recommended dialing back your bankroll allotment to 5% due to the uncertainty of Week 1. For Week 2, I will up my bankroll allotment to around 7%. For Week 3, I will bump it a couple of percentage points again to around 9%. Once we reach Week 4, I feel that we have enough in-season data. At that time, I adhere to my normal 10-15% bankroll allotment in play. As far as cash/GPP ratio, I recommended a 90-10 split in favor of cash games each week if you are trying to slowly build your bankroll.
VanderWoude: I will be treating this week in similar fashion to Week 1. I will continue to invest around 80% of my normal weekly buy-ins, with an increase of 5% each subsequent week moving forward. I don't think pricing has stabilized just yet, as there have been players who have seen their salaries increased rather drastically off of nothing more than ownership percentage. Marvin Jones is a good example of this. On one site, he was 25% owned and returned a 2.7x multiple on his salary, but his price jumped by roughly 15%. I want one more week of comparing salaries before I am ready to declare them as stable. It is an important seasonal benchmark for me because it is a driving force in both bankroll management guidelines and game selection, so like many other areas, it is important to have as much data at your disposal as possible.
Pasquino: I am more aligned to BJ's response, but with the added twist of being poised to take advantage of overlays in contests on different sites. Week 2 is going to be tougher with tighter pricing and more of a level field of information, but values will still pop up. I will be a little more cautious until we get three or four games under our belts.
Knotts: I am in the same boat as Jeff. I don't start getting to my normal bankroll strategy until about Week 4, when we have a few games under our belt. This helps prevent Week 1 bias, which tends to hurt a lot of people. I do up the bankroll in play every week slightly, so last week I had 6% of my bankroll in place, this week I will likely have 8-10%, which is still significantly less than the 15% of what I will have come mid-season. My GPP/cash strategy really depends on the week and what other people are doing that week. For example, if there is a week where everyone is on a player as a must-play for cash game and I don't see him that way I will likely play more cash games. Consequently, if there is a team or a group of players that I think no one is on, then I will up my GPP strategy, so it really depends on the week and the games more so than just being Week 2 of the season and having more data.
Defenses to Target
Hester: Here at Footballguys, we have a staff chat session on the group communication platform "Slack." During the games this past Sunday, John Mamula quipped "Start your guys vs. Saints, Colts, and Browns. Got it," which he followed up with a smiley emoji.
This week, however, Indianapolis and Cleveland face Denver and Baltimore, respectively. Both are teams with less-than-rock-solid fantasy situations. Who are some other defenses that could turn DFS players into smiley emojis this week?
Alexander: I see no reason to shy away from targeting the Saints, Colts and Browns defenses again, but I have a feeling I'll be picking on the Falcons most this week. Atlanta visits Oakland as five point underdogs one week after allowing Jameis Winston to throw four touchdown passes against them on their own field. The Falcons pass rush, open field tackling, and pass coverage looked like major problems in Week 1, and the Raiders (in Oakland) do not qualify as a get-right opponent. I'll have multiple variations of Derek Carr stacks this weekend and see nuclear potential for Amari Cooper against a secondary that got exposed last week.
Mamula: I am going to stick to targeting the Saints and Colts defenses until proven otherwise! The Giants are in a phenomenal spot against one of the worst defenses of all time, the New Orleans Saints. As it has been well documented, the Saints allowed 45 passing touchdowns last season (six of which came against the Giants during Week 10). The previous record was 40 passing scores allowed by the 1963 Broncos. Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux suffered a broken fibula during Week 1. He will be out at least six weeks. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr will be very chalky this week in most DFS formats but for good reason. If they produce a similar stat line as last season at New Orleans where Beckham went for eight receptions, 130 yards, and three touchdowns, you will need Manning and Beckham on your team to win, plain and simple.
I will also be targeting C.J. Anderson in a number of my DFS lineups this week. The Colts defense was a trainwreck in Week 1 with injuries. If that does not change this week, Anderson is a lock for at least 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Broncos run blocking looks improved, and Anderson will be the centerpiece of the Broncos offense this season. One other defense that I will be targeting is the Chargers rush defense. Spencer Ware gashed this defense with 199 total yards and a touchdown last week. T.J. Yeldon will assume the bulk of the Jaguars touches with Chris Ivory expected to miss another game.
VanderWoude: I will expand upon John’s final thought. I like the idea of targeting San Diego’s defense, both in the rushing and passing game. San Diego gave up the 13th-most yards as a defense in 2015 and didn’t get off to a good start in 2016, allowing 446 total yards and four touchdowns to Kansas City in Week 1. The most surprising part was Alex Smith throwing for 363 yards and two touchdowns, with the passing yards being the second-highest total of Smith’s 11-year career. Much of the damage was done by Ware, who accumulated 199 total yards and a touchdown, including 129 receiving yards. The Chargers let up 7.5 yards per attempt in the passing game, and 4.3 yards per rush. Looking ahead to Week 2, the Chargers will face off against a much more explosive — albeit less efficient — Jacksonville Jaguars offense.
San Diego was very aggressive with their blitz packages in Week 1, sacking Smith three times and disrupting several other plays. This also worked against them, though, as Ware completely destroyed them in the second half when San Diego became overly aggressive and failed to contain him in the screen game. This is where I could see Jacksonville taking advantage of an undisciplined San Diego defense. Yeldon is an effective receiver out of the backfield, and tight end Julius Thomas can cause problems in the middle of the field. When healthy, Jason Verrett is one of the better cover corners in the league, but both he and Brandon Flowers will have their work cut out for them with the size/speed combinations of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, especially when you consider they will receive little safety help from a group that is among the league's worst after losing Eric Weddle last season. All in all, I will have a good amount of exposure spread out among Blake Bortles, Yeldon, Robinson, Hurns, and Thomas.
Howe: Surprisingly, the Raiders are having big trouble at cornerback. I loved their Sean Smith signing, for example, but he was scorched twice by Brandin Cooks - including that 98-yard touchdown - and ultimately benched. That wasn't a great look for a guy's first game on a new team. On the other side, David Amerson is a major question mark; he was utterly atrocious for three years in Washington, then outstanding in his 2015 Raiders debut. I usually don't buy such drastic turnarounds at cornerback, and Willie Snead's huge day suggests the Raiders still have a ways to go in the secondary. The pass-centric Falcons come to town this week, armed with two start-worthy wide receivers. Julio Jones is Julio Jones and capable of stupefying any cornerback, and his general dominance opened up the field for Mohamed Sanu in a Week 1 semi-breakout.
So, I'm generally in on the Raiders secondary as one to target, until further notice, against high-powered downfield passing games. Sanu should win his share of one-on-one battles on the outside - a repeat of his 5-80-1 performance is a fair ceiling - and shoddy cornerback play would render Jones unstoppable on the other side. I often worry about Atlanta's touchdown outlooks due to shaky red zone trends, but both starters are in position to make big plays this Sunday.
Pasquino: I am targeting the run game for Dallas against a bad run defense in Washington. DeAngelo Williams could not be stopped last Monday night, and I see no reason why Dallas doesn't give the ball 20+ times to Ezekiel Elliott and at least 10 times to Alfred Morris for some revenge factor. Targeting that bad run defense takes pressure off Dak Prescott too,and keeps a good passing game on Washington's sideline.
I also see no reason to fade away from Carolina against San Francisco. The 49ers are not as good as the Rams made them look, and now we have the 49ers on the shortest schedule possible heading to the East Coast for a 1:00pm EST start against the NFC Champions who had four extra days off. Give me plenty of Panthers this week.
Knotts: The Saints are the obvious one, so I am going to ignore them. The one defense that I am targeting this week is the Buccaneers. Matt Ryan had a monster game last week that Arizona should be looking to duplicate at home against a bad Tampa Bay defense. The Cardinals are in a very important game after losing one that they shouldn't have lost to New England. The Patriots defense is significantly better than the Buccaneers, and Carson Palmer was still able to throw for 271 yards last week. I also like David Johnson in a stack with Palmer as even though Johnson only had six targets, he was able to turn that into four receptions for 43 yards. This game is expected to be a shootout, and the Cardinals are one of the highest projected scoring teams on the slate, so I will be using a lot of Palmer, Johnson and some Fitzgerald.
Follow the contributors of this Staff Roundtable on Twitter using the buttons below!
Ryan Hester - Moderator