Trendspotting: Week 5

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

Welcome back to Trendspotting. Let's take care of some housekeeping first. I'm going to put the recap of last week's plays at the end of the article. If you want to keep tabs on how I did, feel free to check that out.

This week, I've done away with the bulleted lists of trends and instead introduced some fancy graphics showing how each offense matches up with its opposing defense, both from a "real" and fantasy points perspective. I'll still call out Cash Game and GPP plays, but commentary will be around those plays only (as opposed to the usual statistical bullet points). With a hurricane bearing down on my home state and power loss all but imminent, I hope you'll excuse the brevity so I can submit the column before I lose lights!

This Week's Teams and Topics

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

Targets Lead to Touchdowns

In case you didn't read last week's column or don't remember, this section will be used to identify potential regression candidates whose workloads suggest they should have earned more touchdowns. 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-12 of total passing attempts (this week, that cut-off is 152)
  • zero touchdowns

Last week, the list included five players. Three of those players scored a combined four touchdowns. Therefore, we have some turnover on the list. Let's see this week's candidates:

PlayerTDTgt/GmMS%TmAttMatchup
Odell Beckham Jr 0 9.8 25.7% 152 at GB
Amari Cooper 0 8.8 23.0% 152 vs SD
Brandon Marshall 1 9.8 25.5% 153 at PIT
Jeremy Maclin 1 9.2 22.7% 163 BYE
Steve Smith 1 9.0 21.4% 168 vs WAS
Quincy Enunwa 1 8.0 20.9% 153 at PIT

Besides Beckham, we see Cooper on the list again. I would say that Cooper is the top candidate here due to his presence two weeks in a row, but his targets prove that not all targets are created equal. Cooper has all of zero red zone looks this season. Both Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts have multiple. As we get further into the season, the amount of players with zero scores will become very small (after all, that's the entire premise of this exercise).

So I've included four players who meet all of the criteria but only have one touchdowns. Of these players, only Maclin is below Cooper in my ranks of "who will score this week." Note Maclin's matchup. If he were playing, he'd be above Cooper. Enunwa and/or Marshall are good bets this week, but not as good as Beckham.

There has been a lot of talk this week about Beckham's temper, attitude, and lack of production. The first two are immeasurable, so I won't try. But the third is actually quite similar to last season, with the notable difference being touchdowns. Don't believe me? Have a look for yourself.

SeasonTargetsTgt MS%RecYdsTD
2015 41 29.5% 24 307 2
2016 39 25.7% 22 303 0

As a bonus this week, I'll give you, dear readers, some positive regression candidates from other positions. Eli Manning has thrown one touchdown in his last 124 pass attempts (0.8%); Manning's career touchdown percentage is 4.7%. In that time (three full games), the team has three rushing touchdowns that have gone a combined four yards. At running back, we have Lamar Miller. Here's his case:

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Funnel Watch

We described what a "funnel" defense is last week. Please go check that out so I can save on my already too-high word count. This week, I added some criteria to make the list more well-defined:

  • top one-third in yards per rush allowed
  • bottom one-third in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • top one-third (i.e. lowest percentage) in percentage of yards allowed via rush
  • bottom one-third (i.e.e highest percentage) in percentage of yards allowed via pass

All figures below are defensive (yards allowed) stats.

TeamPaYd/GmRuYd/GmNYd/AttYd/Rush% PassYd% RushYd
Green Bay Packers 6.3 14.0 7.6 1.8 87.8% 12.2%
New York Jets 8.1 12.0 8.3 3.1 80.2% 19.8%
Carolina Panthers 12.5 11.5 7.6 3.5 74.0% 26.0%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14.8 12.3 7.4 3.3 73.0% 27.0%

Remember: these are the defenses you want to target with passing game players on opposing offenses. This will become a theme as we get into this week's teams.

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Green Bay Packers (Team TOtal 27.75 / 2nd-Highest)

Green Bay (vs. New York Giants)

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Aaron Rodgers ($7,700) - Target: 21.2 fantasy points

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • n/a

Jordy Nelson is also a nice cash game play, but with the Giants being much improved against the pass (especially against wide receivers), I'd prefer to pay up for Antonio Brown or save some money with some safer players in the $7,000ish range like either one of the Denver duo.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (27.5 / 3rd)

Pittsburgh (vs. New York Jets)

Cash Game Plays

  • Ben Roethlisberger ($7,200) - Target: 19.8

Roethlisberger might be the safest player on the board this week in any format. With a number of players likely to be using Tom Brady or turning to low-priced bargain quarterbacks, Roethlisberger is someone with a great combination of a plus matchup (the Jets are a funnel defense) and a sky-high ceiling.

Antonio Brown is always a great cash game play as well, but calling him out above means I'm signing up for 27 fantasy points. If anyone can do it, he can, but that's a tall order. Remember, though, we're looking for raw points more that points-per-dollar, so if you have the money to pay for Brown and he "only" gets 2.6x value, that's still 25 fantasy points. He's not making my list where I'm keeping score, but your lineups should start by clicking his name.

GPP Plays

  • LeVeon Bell ($7,500) - Target: 28.1

Bell is a risk due to the tough rush defense he's facing. But because of said matchup, it may be common for owners to "sacrifice" Bell for lower-priced players like Jordan Howard or Jerick McKinnon. Those guys are probably better options that similarly-priced players at wide receiver, which could make Bell a contrarian play with elite talent. While his rushing stats may not be what we're used to with Bell, Pittsburgh may abandon the run game, which would could give Bell seven or more catches as the team's de-facto number two receiver. Along with that, efficient passing games often yield goal line chances for their running backs, meaning Bell could still have a touchdown or two, even if he has fewer than 50 rushing yards.

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Oakland Raiders (26.75 / 4th)

Oakland (vs San Diego)

Cash Game Plays

  • DeAndre Washington ($3,400) - Target: 9.4

GPP Plays

  • Jalen Richard ($3,300) - Target: 12.4

Latavius Murray was spotted in a walking boot this week and is unlikely to play. These selections are contingent upon Murray being inactive. Washington makes for an excellent play in all formats. Jalen Richard ($3,300) is near the minimum price as well and could be a nice GPP pivot from Washington, who is likely to be more popular. The two should split the workload, but how the split shakes out remains to be seen.

Despite Richard's target being higher, Washington is probably the safe play. Richard is a GPP target simply because he's likely to be owned in fewer lineups.

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Denver Broncos (26.25 / T-5th)

Denver (vs Atlanta)

Cash Game Plays

  • Paxton Lynch ($5,200) - Target: 14.3 OR
  • Trevor Siemian ($5,200) - Target: 14.3
  • Emmanuel Sanders ($6,800) - Target: 18.7

Obviously, I'm only recommending one quarterback. It's a great matchup for both of them. Lynch could be a sneaky GPP play, though, as his ownership if he started would likely be lower than Siemian's if Denver's second-year "veteran" were declared healthy enough to start.

GPP Plays

  • C.J. Anderson ($6,900) - Target: 25.6

Regardless of Denver's quarterback situation, the talk is all around their passing game parts. This could easily be a grind-it-out game with Anderson, particularly if Denver takes a lead and leans on Atlanta. After a high-flying emotional home win in the division, Atlanta could be in a let-down spot, making a run-heavy game script for Denver (and multiple touchdowns for Anderson) very much play.

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Philadelphia Eagles (24.5 / 7th)

Philadelphia (at Detroit)

Cash Game Plays

  • Carson Wentz ($6,400) - Target: 17.6

GPP Plays

  • Zach Ertz ($3,500) - Target: 13.1

Detroit is brutal against tight ends. Perhaps Ertz goes overlooked because he hasn't played since Week 1 due to injury.

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Baltimore Ravens (24.25 / 8th)

Baltimore (vs Washington)

Cash Game Plays

  • Joe Flacco ($6,200) - Target: 17.0
  • Kenneth Dixon ($3,600) - Target: 9.9
  • Steve Smith ($5,300) - Target: 14.6

GPP Plays

  • Terrance West ($4,800) - Target: 18.0

There's plenty of buzz around Dixon, but West could get the first shot as the team eases in the rookie. If he gets hot, he may keep the bellcow role throughout the game. And getting hot against Washington's pathetic front is well within the realm of possibility.

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Cincinnati Bengals (23.25 / T-9th)

Cincinnati (at Dallas)

Cash Game Plays

  • n/a

Much like what I described with Antonio Brown in the Pittsburgh section, A.J. Green is always a solid cash game play because even if he fails to deliver our 2.75x marker, he's still very likely to deliver enough raw points to make him an asset.

GPP Plays

  • Andy Dalton ($5,900) - Target: 22.1
  • C.J. Uzomah ($2,500) - Target: 9.4

Dallas is quite poor against tight ends, and Cincinnati has had a week and a half to think of their red zone woes (they settled for five field goals last Thursday night).

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Chicago Bears (21.75 / T-15th)

Chicago (at Indianapolis)

Cash Game Plays

  • Brian Hoyer ($5,500) - Target: 15.1
  • Jordan Howard ($5,200) - Target: 14.3
  • Eddie Royal ($4,200) - Target: 11.6
  • Alshon Jeffery ($7,800) - Target: 21.5

Royal hasn't practiced as of Thursday. If he doesn't play or is even a game-time decision, I'd be skeptical of his status as a DFS asset. Jeffery's status here is solid either way, but if Royal is out, Jeffrey should see as many targets as any player in any game all year, making him a lock for cash game status.

GPP Plays

  • Jordan Howard ($5,200) - Target: 19.5

Generally, running backs in road games and running backs who are underdogs aren't great assets, but Howard should get touches regardless of game script. And there's a chance that Chicago could control this game with Indianapolis potentially having tired legs after their trip back from London last week. They're the first team ever to not have a bye week after a London game. They requested to have one later in the season.

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New York Giants (20.25 / 21st)

New York Giants (at Green Bay)

Cash Game Plays

  • Odell Beckham Jr ($8,500) - Target: 23.4

GPP Plays

  • Eli Manning ($6,000) - Target: 22.5
  • Will Tye ($2,600) - Target: 9.8

Beckham is an anti-Narrative Street play. He is likely to be under-owned as well with many likely opting to just spend up for Antonio Brown and sacrifice elsewhere. The touchdown regression due for Beckham and Manning, Green Bay's funnel defense, and a lack of ownership could make the Giants passing game pieces very profitable commodities this week. Manning is definitely in play for cash games, as well, but I'm feeling bold, so I think you should be too.

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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 and a 20% hit rate on GPP Plays, as those tend to correspond with cut lines in those contest types. Players who left their game due to injury will be noted and won't count towards the final total.

Cash Plays (looking for 2.75x value)

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Melvin Gordon $6300 17.3 24.9 Yes
Philip Rivers $6900 19.0 22.8 Yes
Kirk Cousins $6500 17.9 18.3 Yes
Antonio Brown $9700 26.7 22.4 No
LeVeon Bell $7500 20.6 25.8 Yes
Cam Newton* $7800 21.5 15.6 n/a
Matthew Stafford $7300 20.1 10.2 No
Marvin Jones $7300 20.1 12.4 No
Ezekiel Elliott $6900 19.0 25.7 Yes
Emmanuel Sanders $6400 17.6 22.8 Yes
DeAndre Hopkins $8400 23.1 1.4 No
Terrelle Pryor $4300 11.8 15.0 Yes

*left his game early due to injury

This wasn't bad considering Brown's salary is always going to be so high that he should be evaluated more on a "raw points" basis than a multiplier basis. And had Newton not been injured, he would've seen value easily since Derek Anderson came in and scored 14.9 fantasy points in half a quarter. Sanders was also a near-miss, while Stafford, Jones (because of Stafford), and Hopkins were terrible.

Cash Game Plays

  • This Week: 6-for-11 (55%)
  • Season: 6-for-11 (55%) *began tracking using this method in Week 4

GPP Plays (looking for 3.75x value)

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Tyrell Williams $4400 16.5 9.0 No
Kirk Cousins $6500 24.4 18.3 No
Matt Jones $4300 16.1 24.8 Yes
LeVeon Bell $7500 28.1 25.8 No
Kelvin Benjamin $7100 26.6 12.9 No
Dwayne Washington* $3800 14.3 2.4 n/a
Dak Prescott $5700 21.4 18.1 No
Cole Beasley $3900 14.6 10.3 No
Trevor Siemian* $5400 20.3 6.7 n/a
Will Fuller $5300 19.9 27.1 Yes
Alex Smith $5600 21.0 18.7 No
Travis Kelce $4800 18.0 13.3 No
Isaiah Crowell $4400 16.5 26.2 Yes

*left his game early due to injury

Crowell was the big surprise here and was a great example of GPP game strategy. His teammate was going to be very highly-owned, which suggested there would be some semblance of success in the offense. But Crowell was the player going against the opposing defense's biggest weakness, so he made for a great pivot. Prescott was a near-miss, but part of the reason he made the column in the first place was only so I could call him "Stack Prescott." Let's move on, shall we?

GPP Plays

  • This Week: 3-for-11 (27%)
  • Season: 3-for-11 (27%) *began tracking using this method in Week 4

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