Trendspotting: Week 1

Examining player and team-based trends that could identify valuable DFS options

Each week here at Trendspotting, we'll take a look at five games that will be critical to the week's DFS slate. Generally, we'll look at the three or four highest over/unders as projected by Las Vegas odds and pick one or two "wild cards" with intriguing fantasy potential despite a modest projected point total. Anything that is in green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players. Anything in red text is a bad matchup. When a player's name is green, it means that he exceeded 2.75x value on his DraftKings salary that week. If a name is red, it means that player was under 2x his value.

In future weeks as more 2016 data becomes available, we'll be using our Fantasy Points Against data housed here at Footballguys. For this week's column, we'll be using some 2015 data and preseason obervations. It's a reminder that we should probably be careful in terms of the portion of our bankroll that we put in play in the season's early weeks, as most of the staffers who participated in this week's DFS Roundtable cautioned. Lastly, all reference to fantasy points will assume DraftKings scoring rules.

Enough of the disclaimers; let's get to the games!

Oakland at New Orleans (Projected O/U: 51)

Oakland

  • In 2015, New Orleans allowed a league-worst 476 points
  • 57.1% of those points were scored via passing touchdowns (the highest percentage in the NFL).
  • In 13 preseason drives against Jimmy Garoppolo, Brock Osweiler, and Ben Roethlisberger, New Orleans allowed those quarterbacks to combine for 35-54, 440 yards, and three touchdowns (and Roethlisberger only played two drives).
  • Derek Carr was sharp in the preseason, going 24-38 for 251 yards and two touchdowns in 11 drives.
  • In 2015, New Orleans also allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs and the most fantasy points to tight ends
  • They "only" allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to wide receivers.

New Orleans

  • Drew Brees has played 109 home games and 109 road games in his career.
  • Brees has thrown 72 more touchdowns at home than on the road.
  • In the preseason, Oakland allowed the following rushing outputs: D. Johnson (3-31-0 on one drive), Murray (8-40-1), Henry (12-49-1), Lacy (9-45-1)

Takeaways

  • This will be a shootout, but if there's a candidate to disappoint, it's Amari Cooper ($7,200).
  • You could do worse than Clive Walford ($3,000) as a "punt play" at tight end.
  • Mark Ingram ($6,600) and Latavius Murray ($5,600) are each as good a bet for a touchdown as any running back on the slate. They fall in a pricing tier below the elite players but above the value players who are sure to be highly-owned. 

Detroit at Indianapolis (50.5)

Detroit

  • Matthew Stafford was a top-five fanasy quarterback after Detroit's Week 10 bye last season, once new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter installed his offense.
  • Indianapolis allowed a 14-point quarter to Philadephia's lackluster offense in their third preseason game.
  • In 2015, Indianapolis allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks; the eighth-most to wide receivers; and the ninth-most to tight ends.

Indianapolis

  • T.Y. Hilton's volume was down in 2015 while Andrew Luck was injured, but his efficiency remained.
  • In 2015, Detroit allowed a touchdown to its opponent's top perimeter receiver in four of its final six games (five if you considered Davante Adams Green Bay's best perimeter weapon because Randall Cobb is better in the slot). This includes less-than-stellar players such as Josh Bellamy and Torrey Smith.
  • In 2015, Detroit allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Takeaways

  • Indianapolis' defense is as injured as any unit in the NFL right now. This includes Pro Bowl caliber cornerback Vontae Davis.
  • Marvin Jones ($4,600) is priced where his season-long ADP was over a month ago. Since then, the season-long market re-calibrated, but DFS prices were locked in. Jones could see his price tag rise more between Week 1 and Week 2 than any player in the NFL.
  • Due to his price, Dwayne Allen ($3,200) is basically a "set it and forget it" auto-start cash game play this week.
  • Andrew Luck ($8,300) may end up this week's QB1, but there are too many other candidates at lower price tags to take the chance on Luck in cash games. He's a nice GPP differentiator, though, as many will feel that he's too expensive.

Pittsburgh at Washington (50)

Pittsburgh

  • In 2015, Washington was decimated by opposing WR1s at the end of the season, allowing 100+ yards and/or a touchdown in 13 out of 16 games. One game in which they didn't was Week 1 against Miami, who lacked a true perimeter threat.
  • In 2015, Antonio Brown had double-digit targets in 12 games, including every game in which Ben Roethlisberger played. Brown had 100+ yards and/or a touchdown in 10 games.
  • This offseason, Washington signed Josh Norman, who was fourth among cornerbacks in Adjusted Yards per Target allowed in the NFL, per FootballOutsiders.
  • Since 2013, in games Roethlisberger plays, Brown averages 7.82 PPR fantasy points fewer in road games than in home games.
  • In 2015, Washington was middle of the pack (16th) in terms of fantasy points allowed to tight ends; some notable performances against them include: Witten (6-58-1), Ertz (13-122-0), Gragg (1-16-0), Z. Miller (5-85-1), Tye (6-74-0); Olsen (3-54-1). For teams with good tight ends, Washington was exploitable.
  • In 2015, Washington allowed 6+ receptions by running backs eight times
  • In 2015, in the 10 games that DeAngelo Williams played 50 or more snaps, he had 4+ receptions on his own six times.

Washington

  • In 2015, Pittsburgh allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL despite having the seventh-lowest deep pass percentage against (per Chris Raybon's excellent piece on defensive coordinator tendencies).
  • In 2015, Kirk Cousins led the NFL in Completion Percentage at 69.8%, focusing mostly on short, high-percentage passes.
  • In 2015, Pittsburgh allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards and the sixth-fewest yards per attempt (3.8, one of just nine teams under 4.0).
  • In 2015, Matt Jones averaged 3.4 yards per carry, fourth-fewest among running backs with at least 75 carries.
  • In 2015, just 49% of fantasy production came via rushing stats for running backs against Pittsburgh (for comparison, 60% against San Francisco, the league's worst fantasy defense vs running backs, came via rushing).
  • In 2015, when Pittsburgh played a team whose tight end was a featured piece of his team's passing game, they allowed 16.7 fantasy points per game. This sample includes Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert twice (though he left one game in the first half), Gary Barnidge twice, and Jimmy Graham (who also left the game before it was over).

Takeaways

  • Pittsburgh utilizes the no-huddle much less on the road (14% of plays vs. 29% at home). Between that, his personal home/road splits, and the presence of Norman, Antonio Brown ($9,800) is a compelling fade candidate.
  • With unproven pass-catching options surrounding Brown, DeAngelo Williams ($7,000) should see at least six targets in the passing game, making him a high-floor and high-ceiling play with DraftKings' PPR scoring system.
  • If you're not playing Dwayne Allen ($3,200), you're probably playing Jordan Reed ($6,600). Likely to be Washington's most targeted player, Reed could even be a flex option for DraftKings players looking to differentiate lineups.
  • Kirk Cousins ($7,400) is a safe cash game play against a Pittsburgh team that stuffs the run but is very poor in the back four.

Green Bay at Jacksonville (48)

Green Bay

  • In 2015, Jacksonville allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, the seventh-most to running backs, and the sixth-most to tight ends.
  • In 2015, Jacksonville allowed the second-most points per game in the NFL (28.0), but they were 15th in yards per play allowed.
  • Jacksonville added plenty of defensive assets this season, including Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler Jr, Prince Amukamara, and Tashaun Gipson.
  • In 2015, Jacksonville allowed 5+ receptions to a running back eight times (and allowed six more to catch four passes).
  • In 2015, Green Bay running backs made 3+ receptions in a game ten times (James Starks had eight of those).
  • In the preseason, free agent acquisition (a rarity for Green Bay) Jared Cook caught nine passes for 85 yards, and a touchdown on 11 targets. Seven of his catches went for first downs.

Jacksonville

  • In 2015, Green Bay allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and the ninth-fewest to wide receivers.
  • In 2015, Green Bay allowed the most rushing yards and the fourth-most rushing attempts to quarterbacks.
  • Blake Bortles has rushed for 30 or more yards in 12 of 30 career games.
  • In 2015, Bortles accumulated 77.3% of his fantasy production when trailing, third-most in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 100 fantasy points.
  • Per Raybon's article mentioned earlier, Green Bay has seen an above-average percentage of deep balls five years in a row.
  • In 2015, Allen Robinson averaged 17.5 yards per reception (second in the NFL among players with at least 40 receptions), and Allen Hurns averaged 16.11 (11th among the same group).

Takeaways

  • Though research has been conducted that says quarterbacks actually produce more when favored by Vegas, Blake Bortles ($7,200) is accustomed to being behind, has great deep threats, and can boost his floor via rushing production.
  • If Jacksonville's defense is going to improve due to the additions, it's likely going to need time to come together. Identifying the Green Bay player(s) to roster, however, is a tricky proposition.

Dallas at NY Giants (46)

Dallas

  • In 2015, New York allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, the sixth-most to running backs, the fifth-most to wide receivers, and the second-most to tight ends.
  • In 2015, New York's defense faced the second-most plays in the NFL. 
  • In 2015, New York allowed the following performances to opposing WR1s: J. Jones (13-135-1), Boldin (8-107-1), R. Cooper (3-76-1), Cooks (6-88-2), Evans (8-152-0), Amendola (10-79-0), B. Marshall (12-131-1), Landry (11-99-0), Ginn (6-85-2).
  • In 2015, New York allowed the committee of Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar to accumulate 177 total yards and 11 receptions in Week 1 and allowed 152 rush yards and a touchdown to Darren McFadden in Week 7.
  • New York has added Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison to its defensive line and Eli Apple, Leon Hall, and Janoris Jenkins to its cornerback group. It should improve the group but continue to make them susceptible in the middle of the field.
  • In 2015, Dallas was 10th in rushing play percentage despite their poor record. 
  • In 2015, Dallas gave a running back 20+ touches six times (after doing so in every game of 2014).

NY Giants

  • In 2015, Dallas allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, the eighth-most to running backs, the seventh-fewest to wide receivers, and the fewest to tight ends.
  • In 2015, when Rashad Jennings played 30 or more snaps in a game, he averaged 101 total yards, two receptions, and 16.5 fantasy points.
  • Per Raybon once more, Dallas' defense has ranked 20th or lower in percentage of targets allowed to wide receivers in the last two seasons.

Takeaways

  • The 2015 numbers suggest that Dez Bryant ($8,500) is as good a wide receiver play as any this week. But New York's defensive additions and a rookie quarterback throwing Bryant the ball suggest a cautious approach is best.
  • With a few lower-priced bargains available this week, Ezekiel Elliott ($7,300) is a bit under the radar this week. But he should get all the carries he can handle and possibly multiple receptions as well, making him a reasonably safe cash game play.
  • The New York player most favored by the matchup is Rashad Jennings ($5,400), but he's priced at an akward range with players above and below him in better spots.
  • While pricing at other positions could allow for a lineup with both Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr ($9,300), both are in poor situations this week.

Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail hester@footballguys.com