Trendspotting: Week 11

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

Reader's Guide

  • Green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players.
  • 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.
  • All reference to fantasy points assumes DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
  • All stats reference the full 2016 season, unless otherwise specified.
  • All fantasy points rankings in the matchup graphics are on a per-game basis to account for bye weeks.

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

Targets Lead to Touchdowns

In this section, I'll attempt to identify potential regression candidates whose workloads suggest they should have earned more touchdowns. This week (and going forward), I'll be using only the most recent four weeks as the examination period. The qualifications here are:

  • at least seven (7) targets per game
  • at least 20% of their team's Target Market Share
  • on teams in the top one-third of the NFL in passing attempts per game
  • zero touchdowns if the team has played three games in the four-week period, or one touchdown if they've played all four weeks

Last week's calls were LeVeon Bell, Allen Robinson, Larry Fitzgerald, Allen Hurns, and Willie Snead. Bell and Robinson scored one receiving touchdown each (and Bell added another via the ground), while Snead grabbed a pair. I say this not to toot my own horn (though it was a good week) but rather to say that when regression candidates regress, not many more are left in the next week.

PlayerTDTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmMatchup
Stefon Diggs 1 11.8 30.3% 38.8 vs. ARI
Larry Fitzgerald 0 14.3 25.3% 56.7 at MIN
Jordan Matthews 1 9.5 24.7% 38.5 at SEA

Not only are there just a few positive touchdown regression candidates, but they all face very difficult matchups. If I had to wager on one of these players scoring, it would be Fitzgerald. But I'd be more likely to guess that all three show up here again next week.

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Funnel Watch

A "funnel" defense is one with a stout run defense but a suspect (or worse) pass defense. These units "funnel" production to the exterior and deep parts of the field (places where passing games focus) and away from the short middle (where the running game typically occurs). The following criteria are used to determine funnel defenses.

    • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
    • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
    • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for low percentage figures here)
    • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for high percentage figures here)
TeamPaYd/GmRuYd/GmNYd/AttYd/Rush% PassYd% RushYd
Green Bay Packers 253.8 85.3 7.1 3.6 74.8% 25.2%
Carolina Panthers* 272.6 79.0 6.8 3.4 77.5% 22.5%
New York Jets* 260.5 85.4 6.8 3.5 75.3% 24.7%
San Diego Chargers* 274.4 87.5 6.5 3.9 75.8% 24.2%
Buffalo Bills* 242.2 108.9 6.9 4.0 69.0% 31.0%
New Orleans Saints* 292.7 107.9 7.4 4.1 73.1% 26.9%

The teams with asterisks miss just one of the criteria and generally miss it by a narrow margin. This section wouldn't be incredibly valuable if it only listed one team.

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New England Patriots

New England (at San Francisco)

Notes

  • San Francisco has allowed 320+ passing yards and/or 2+ passing touchdowns in its last six games.
  • San Francisco has allowed at least 3.2x value to quarterbacks in four straight games and five of its last six.
  • San Francisco is allowing 2.11 passing touchdowns per game, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 256.3 passing yards per game, 10th-fewest in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing the lowest percentage of overall yards via the pass and the highest percentage of overall yards via the run.
  • San Francisco is allowing 9.1 receiving points per game to running backs, 13th-most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 24.7 rushing points per game to running backs, most in the NFL (the next-worst team is allowing 19.7).
  • San Francisco is facing 30.6 rushing attempts per game to running backs, most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 1.67 touchdowns per game to wide receivers, most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 164.7 yards per game to wide receivers, 11th-most in the NFL.
  • Notable tight end performances against San Francisco: Gresham (4-37-0), Hill/Fleener (7-82-0), Brate (3-29-0), Clay (5-52-0), Witten (7-47-0), Graham (6-100-1), Olsen (5-122-1)

Commentary

San Francisco gives up points to all positions. However, the production against them by quarterbacks and wide receivers is largely touchdown-driven. Attempts and yardage (especially yardage) are more predictive, and I like to follow the volume. The one place where production allowed and volume are a perfect match is the running back position. And the Niners allow huge production to backs via rushing, not passing. #BlountGame, anyone?

Rob Gronkowski's absence is a big story and makes Martellus Bennett a very popular play this week. Despite San Francisco's DvP ranking being better against tight ends than wide receivers, much of that appears to be driven by a lack of quality tight ends faced.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh (at Cleveland)

Notes

  • Pittsburgh is scoring 58.9% of its points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland is allowing 49.8% of its points via passing touchdowns, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland is allowing 125.4 rushing yards per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL. 
  • Cleveland is allowing 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game to running backs, fourth-most in the NFL. 
  • Cleveland had allowed 75+ rushing yards to five running backs in a three-game stretch prior to last week.
  • Cleveland has allowed 75+ yards from scrimmage to seven running backs in its last four games.
  • Since his return in Week 4, LeVeon Bell has handled 93.5% of the running back touches, including 31-touch and 26-games in which he handled every one.
  • Bell's snap percentages since Week 4: 88%, 96%, 96%, 99%, 94%, 100%.
  • Cleveland has allowed eight touchdowns to wide receivers in its last five games.
  • Cleveland has allowed at least 3x value to nine receivers in its last six games.
  • That list includes players like Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Cole Beasley, Quincy Enunwa, and Kendall Wright. A.J. Green hung 8-169-1 on Cleveland in Week 7.
  • Cleveland is allowing 7.2 receptions, 77.4 yards, and 0.9 touchdowns per game to tight ends, all are most in the NFL.

Commentary

The 75+ yards from scrimmage stat above stuck out at me most. While 75 is a low bar, the stat suggests that multiple backs were achieving it in the same game against Cleveland. As shown in above, Pittsburgh isn't a team that uses more than one running.

Ladarius Green is getting a lot of hype this week due to his return combined with the matchup against Cleveland. But I'm still skeptical. You're certainly not using him in cash games due to undetermined playing time, and what's his real GPP upside? His 3.75x multiplier is just 9.4 points. That's such a low number that I'm tempted to include it in my picks below just to pad my stats, but I don't want to give bad advice.

Charles Clay ($2,600 at Cincinnati) and Will Tye ($2,700 vs. Chicago) are better bargain basement plays. Both of their opponents have had struggles against tight ends, and both have more 2016 track record than Green. Even Vance McDonald ($2,700 vs. New England) should benefit from enough volume in a pace-up game that he's a better play. If you go with Green, it's not a terrible call. But just know there are other options too.

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Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis (vs. Tennessee)

Notes

  • Tennessee has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in six of its last seven games.
  • Tennessee has allowed 275+ passing yards in five straight games (330+ yards in four of those five).
  • Except Melvin Gordon in Week 9, Tennessee has allowed no more than 83 yards from scrimmage to any running back in its last six games.
  • Tennessee has allowed 6+ receptions to 12 wide receivers (including eight in their last five games).
  • Tennessee has allowed at least 3.1x value to two wide receivers in four of its last five games (seven of the eight total receivers were 3.7x or greater).
  • Since Donte Moncrief's return in Week 8, the wide receiver targets have gone like so: Moncrief - 9 and 6; Hilton - 6 and 8.
  • Since Donte Moncrief's return in Week 8, the wide receiver snap counts have gone like so: Moncrief 59/66 and 66/68; Hilton - 54/66 and 59/68.
  • In that time, Hilton has zero red zone targets; Moncrief has two (one per game) and has a touchdown in each game to Hilton's zero.

Commentary

All roads lead to Andrew Luck here as Tennessee has been reasonably good against running backs but bad against quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. Considering Indianapolis' "target tree" is wide at tight end (i.e. they use multiple players there, and predicting their usage is a near impossible chore), the DFS focus should be on Luck and selecting which wide receiver is the better option. Price and recent usage would suggest Moncrief is the pick, but Hilton's big play ability is difficult to ignore.

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Detroit Lions

Detroit (vs. Jacksonville)

Notes

  • Jacksonville has allowed 300+ yards to only one quarterback (270 yards is the only other performance over 250).
  • Jacksonville has allowed eight passing touchdowns in its last seven games.
  • Jacksonville faces 24.6 rushing attempts per game by running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • Jacksonville is allowing 100.7 rushing yards per game to running backs, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • Jacksonville is allowing 26.3 receiving yards per game to running backs, second-fewest in the NFL.
  • Jacksonville has allowed zero receiving touchdowns to running backs, one of eight teams to accomplish that thus far.
  • In the two games after he returned from injury, Theo Riddick handled 19/23 and 15/25 of the running back touches.
  • Wide receivers who exceeded 3x value against Jacksonville this season: A. Wilson, Wright, R. Matthews, Crabtree, Meredith, Dorsett, S. Smith, T. Benjamin, Adams.
  • Wide receivers who failed to exceed 2.5x value against Jacksonville this season: Hopkins, Conley, Cooper, Jeffery, Hilton, Wallace, Nelson.
  • Notable performances by true receiving tight ends against Jacksonville this season: Kelce (5-58-0), Walker (4-75-0), Z. Miller (6-36-0), Pitta (6-42-0), Gates (3-15-1).

Commentary

Despite the receiving DvP stats for running backs, I'm not concerned about playing Riddick. Often, teams that limit receiving stats to opposing running backs do so simply because they're trailing the game, and the opponent has no need to pass with heavy volume or to check down to the running back. Conversely, teams who allow a lot of receiving production to backfield players tend to be facing opponents in catch-up mode who will check down to backs against soft defensive looks. Riddick is a part of Detroit's passing game regardless of game script, so he should get his looks no matter what.

None of this mentions, of course, that Riddick is priced at RB14 among Main Slate running backs. He's $200 cheaper than Derrick Henry, who is a pure backup, and $100 cheaper than Jacquizz Rodgers, who is a pure backup that probably won't even play. Riddick should be a cash game staple and could be overlooked in GPPs as well with this week's pricing liekly steering the masses towards paying up at the position.

In terms of other receiving options, Jacksonville just allowed two tight end touchdowns last week to Houston after having only allowed one all season leading up to that game. The way Detroit uses Eric Ebron is similar to a slot receiver as much as a tight end, and Jacksonville has been significantly better against WR1s than against secondary options. Football Outsiders Defensive Efficiency Ratings ranks Jacksonville's defense by position as follows. This is particularly relevant for Ebron and for Golden Tate.

  • vs. WR1s: 17th
  • vs. WR2s: 27th
  • vs. Other WRs: 22nd
  • vs. TEs: 12th
  • vs. RBs: 1st

Ebron, in particular, makes an excellent GPP option. He's facing a difficult-on-paper DvP matchup, and he's in an awkward pricing tier with players both below and above him that are more desirable.

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Washington Redskins

Washington (vs. Green Bay)

Notes

  • Green Bay is facing 32.9 pass attempts per game, third-fewest in the NFL.
  • Green Bay is allowing 2.0 passing touchdowns per game, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • Green Bay has allowed at least 3.2x value to four running backs in its past five games (the other game was against Chicago when Brian Hoyer was hurt mid-game).
  • Green Bay is allowing 1.56 touchdowns per game to wide receivers, second-most in the NFL.
  • Green Bay is allowing 11.4 receptions per game to wide receivers, second-fewest in the NFL.
  • Notable receiver performances against Green Bay: Hilton (6-82-0) / Moncrief (3-55-1); J. Jones (3-29-0) / Sanu (9-84-1) / Gabriel (3-68-1).
  • Green Bay is allowing 0.44 touchdowns per game to tight ends, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • Green Bay is allowing 71.9 yards per game to tight ends, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • Jordan Reed only saw four targets in his return last week, but he did play 50/63 snaps and saw two red zone targets (including one from the four yard line).

Commentary

Despite them showing up in "Funnel Watch" every week, Green Bay has been yielding more production on the ground lately. However, Washington doesn't have a back the caliber of the ones that have been torching the Packers lately, making their most likely path to success via the air. Green Bay has been stout against WR1s lately but allowed secondary options to produce big games. However, much of their overall production yielded to wide receivers is touchdown-driven, which is less predictable than yardage-driven numbers. Their tight end production allowed, however, has the yardage to go along with the touchdowns

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New York Giants

NY Giants (vs. Chicago)

Notes

  • Chicago has allowed 275+ passing yards four of its last five games.
  • Chicago has allowed 80+ scrimmage yards to zero running backs in its last six games.
  • New York running back touches in Week 9 - Rashad Jennings: 14, Paul Perkins: 14.
  • New York running back touches in Week 10 - Jennings: 18, Perkins: 9.
  • New York is scoring 13.2% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the fifth-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • New York is gaining 21.8% of its total yardage via the rush, the lowest ratio in the NFL, which means...
  • New York is gaining 78.2% of its total yardage via the pass, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Chicago is allowing 14.9 receptions per game to wide receivers, tied for the most in the NFL.
  • Chicago is allowing 184.2 yards per game to receivers, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • Chicago is allowing 1.11 touchdowns per game to receivers, ninth-most in the NFL.
  • Recent WR1 performances against Chicago: Evans (4-66-0), Diggs (8-76-1), Nelson (1-9-0), Robinson (3-49-0), Hilton (10-171-1).
  • Recent WR2/3 performances against Chicago: Humphries (5-46-0), Thielen/Patterson (6-76-0 combined), Adams (13-132-2) / Cobb (11-95-1) / Montgomery (10-66-0), Hurns (5-74-0) / Lee (6-61-0).

Commentary

As you can see, Chicago is vulnerable against wide receivers, and much of their production is via volume and yards (rather than touchdowns). And as we said in the New England section, yards are a better predictor of fantasy success than touchdowns. Secondary receivers have been performing much better than their WR1 counterparts against Chicago, but the number one's who had success (Diggs and Hilton) profile similarly to Odell Beckham Jr as they are smaller, shiftier, and can run routes from any position on the field (slot included). Beckham also has a teammate at the same position who will make an appearance as we try to exploit the trend of secondary receivers out-performing WR1s against Chicago.

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Tennessee Titans

Tennessee (at Indianapolis)

Notes

  • Indianapolis has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in six straight games.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 298.2 passing yards per game, second-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 25.4 completions per game, fourth-most in the NFL, and 38.6 attempts per game, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 100.8 rushing yards per game to running backs, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 49.9 receiving yards per game to running backs, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis has allowed four receiving touchdowns to running backs, tied for the most in the NFL. 
  • Indianapolis has allowed five touchdowns to wide receivers in its last two games.
  • Indianapolis has allowed 5+ receptions to six wide receivers in its last five games (but no more than four to any Tennessee receiver in the previous meeting)
  • Rishard Matthews has six touchdowns in his last six games (a period that started with Week 5).
  • Since Week 5, Matthews has 39% of the wide receiver receptions and 35% of the wide receiver targets.
  • However, among the whole team, Matthews has just 19% of the receptions and 18% of the targets in that time.
  • Indianapolis has allowed 6+ receptions to five tight ends in its last five games; this includes Richard Rodgers.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 7.1 net yards per pass attempt, sixth-highest in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 4.7 yards per rush, second-highest in the NFL.

Commentary

The Colts can be beaten in any manner their opponent chooses. They allow plenty of fantasy production via the pass and the run. Where some teams have a distinct pattern among production allowed to wide receivers, Indianapolis' fantasy points allowed to receivers shows little pattern, meaning their opponent's best receiver is often that opponent's best/favorite target.

In regards to Tennessee, Matthews is their obvious number one wide receiver, but Delanie Walker and DeMarco Murray also soak up some passing game looks. Walker lead the team in target market share and has a great DvP matchup; he's my preferred stack partner if you're using Marcus Mariota (or Andrew Luck and one of his receivers and want a game-stack).

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Green Bay Packers

Green Bay (at Washington)

Notes

  • Washington has allowed at least 2.8x value to the last three quarterbacks they have faced.
  • Aaron Rodgers is averaging 45.8 pass attempts since Week 5.
  • Washington is allowing 37.3% of its points via rushing touchdowns, most in the NFL.
  • Green Bay is scoring 8.1% of its points via rushing touchdowns, the second-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • When Green Bay runs, they do so effectively, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt, eight-most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 106.9 rushing yards per game to running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • In its last four games, Washington is allowing 79.5 rushing yards per game to running backs.
  • Washington has allowed 90+ yards to four wide receivers in its last three games (including 121 to A.J. Green in Week 8 and 164 to Stefon Diggs in Week 10).
  • Washington is allowing 6.8 receptions per game to tight ends, second-most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 63.2 yards per game to tight ends, ninth-most in the NFL.

Commentary

Green Bay is strong on offense where Washington is strong on defense. Green Bay is weak on offense where Washington is weak on defense. Aside from the confusion that brings, figuring out who Green Bay's top target will be is always difficult. When I can't identify the "right" stack partner for a quarterback, it makes me more reluctant to play them in GPPs. Rodgers is always a strong cash game play due to volume, his skill level, and having three nice weapons to target.

There's one GPP leverage play for Green Bay who could benefit from multiple things: work in the pass game, volume in the run game, and perhaps a fall into the end zone after an efficient passing game gets the team down the field and in close. James Starks will have little competition for carries; he had all seven last week (yes, they only had seven all game), and the seven should increase as Green Bay isn't likely to get crushed like they did in Tennessee.

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This Week's Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Tom Brady $7800 21.5 NE at SF
Andrew Luck $7200 19.8 IND vs. TEN
Aaron Rodgers $7600 20.9 GB at WAS
LeGarrette Blount $6400 17.6 NE at SF
LeVeon Bell $8800 24.2 PIT at CLE
Theo Riddick $5100 14.0 DET vs. JAX
Golden Tate $5300 14.6 DET vs. JAX
Odell Beckham Jr $8500 23.4 NYG vs. CHI
Martellus Bennett $3700 10.2 NE at SF

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This Week's GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Kirk Cousins $5800 21.8 WAS vs. GB
Marcus Mariota $6700 25.1 TEN vs. IND
Frank Gore $5000 18.8 IND vs. TEN
James Starks $4200 15.8 GB at WAS
Donte Moncrief $6100 22.9 IND vs. TEN
Golden Tate $5300 19.9 DET vs. JAX
Sterling Shepard $4700 17.6 NYG vs. CHI
Eric Ebron $4100 15.4 DET vs. JAX
Jordan Reed $5900 22.1 WAS vs. GB
Delanie Walker $5700 21.4 TEN at IND

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Looking Back

In order to keep myself honest and not just dish out wild prognostications with no repercussions, I'll list my Cash Games and GPP Plays from last week's column . I'm going to aim for a 55% hit rate on Cash Game Plays (with a target of 2.75x per $1,000) and a 20% hit rate on GPP Plays (with a target of 3.75x), as those tend to correspond with cut lines in those contest types. Players who left their game due to injury or had notable injury situations that would have decreased confidence in playing them will be noted and won't count towards the final total.

Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Tom Brady $7400 20.4 15.3 No
Matt Ryan $7300 20.1 13.7 No
Jay Cutler $5300 14.6 9.0 No
LeVeon Bell $7700 21.2 34.4 Yes
Darren Sproles $4300 11.8 15.6 Yes
Tyrell Williams $5700 15.7 26.5 Yes
Alshon Jeffery $6600 18.2 8.7 No
Austin Hooper $3100 8.5 1.8 No
  • Last Week: 3-for-7 (43%)
  • Season: 35-for-64 (55%)

GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Ben Roethlisberger $6800 25.5 31.4 Yes
Jay Cutler $5300 19.9 9.0 No
LeGarrette Blount $4900 18.4 24.9 Yes
Darren Sproles $4300 16.1 15.6 No
Dontrelle Inman $3400 12.8 9.3 No
Eli Rogers $3500 13.1 14.2 Yes
Rob Gronkowski $6900 25.9 8.6 No
Zach Ertz $3700 13.9 11.5 No
  • Last Week: 3-for-8 (38%)
  • Season: 19-for-53 (36%)

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