Trendspotting: Week 6

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

Thanks for bearing with me last week as I shortened the column a bit from my typical amount of information provided due to Hurricane Matthew looking like it was going to hit Florida pretty hard. Thankfully, it shifted east, didn't impact central Florida too much, and didn't have much impact on NFL weather.

One good thing came from the minor short-cutting of last week's article, and that's the graphics that I used. I received feedback from a few folks that they really enjoyed the color-coded matchup charts, so those are here to stay! The old saying says "a picture is worth a thousand words," but in this case, each picture probably saves me from writing (and you from reading) 500 words. Regular readers know that's a good thing. I can get long-winded.

Before I do that again, let's jump right into the reader's guide and then look at the topics and teams I'll be covering this week.

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 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 one-third of the NFL in passing attempts per game
  • zero or one touchdown

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
Amari Cooper 1 9.4 24.6% 191 vs. KC
Jeremy Maclin 1 9.2 22.7% 163 at OAK
Julian Edelman 0 7.4 24.3% 152 vs. CIN
Quincy Enunwa 1 7.8 20.1% 194 at ARI
Dennis Pitta 0 7.4 17.3% 214 at NYG

Cooper scored last week, but he still makes the list, both due to statistical measures and also because he almost had three or four touchdowns last week, being narrowly out of bounds on end zone catches multiple times. When we last saw Kansas City, they allowed five passing touchdowns. They may not be that bad all the time, but they aren't good enough to scare me off Cooper. On the other side, Jeremy Maclin hasn't scored since Week 1 but is seeing plenty of looks and has a great matchup with Oakland's poor defense. Those two could both score in a potential back-and-forth game.

It's worth noting that I "cheated" a little bit including Edelman here. New England is not in the top one-third in pass attempts per game, but a certain change to their lineup last week has me thinking they'll be there soon enough. Pitta also missed the 20% Market Share, but after the injury to Steve Smith last week, Pitta emerged. Smith isn't expected to play this week. If he does, I wouldn't include Pitta here.

Negative TD Regression?

I know you all come here for the goodplays, but there's one player I've noticed this week who could be in for some negative touchdown regression. That player is Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown a touchdown every 12.8 passing attempts. Last year, that number was every 22.3 attempts. The former is best in the NFL; the latter was 19th. The "truth" for Roethlisberger is probably somewhere in the middle.

It's also worth noting that Pittsburgh has one rushing touchdown since Week 1. And that touchdown came in a blowout from one yard out by DeAngelo Williams after LeVeon Bell busted a long run to get them there. The game was out of hand, and Pittsburgh definitely wasn't going to throw at that point. Hello, Mr. Bell this week.

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Funnel Watch

Hopefully you know what a funnel defense is by now. Check out the Week 4 column for a full description. But the criteria I have assigned are below:

  • 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 274.5 42.8 6.9 2.0 86.5% 13.5%
New York Jets 302.4 68.4 8.2 3.0 81.6% 18.4%
Carolina Panthers 246.4 94.8 7.3 3.4 72.2% 27.8%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 262.4 103.8 7.9 3.7 71.7% 28.3%
San Diego Chargers 291.4 83.6 6.5 3.6 77.7% 22.3%
Buffalo Bills 257.0 97.2 6.7 3.5 72.6% 27.4%

Green Bay and New York (Jets) are the only "true" funnel defenses based on the criteria discussed above the table. But four others are very close. Carolina and Tampa narrowly missed in terms of the percentages of yardage they allow; San Diego is actually middle of the pack (15th in the NFL) in Net Yards per Pass Attempt, but on a gross basis, they allow plenty of yards and can be targeted by passing games. Buffalo is 20th in Net Yards per Pass Attempt, narrowly missing that qualifier.

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New England Patriots (Team Total 27.75 / 2nd-Highest This Week)

New England (vs. Cincinnati)

Notes

  • Cincinnati has yielded at least 2.75x value to three of five quarterbacks faced. The only ones to fall short were Ryan Fitzpatrick (who made it to 2.5x) and Ryan Tannehill.
  • As shown above, Cincinnati has allowed the eight-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
  • Not shown above, here is who they have faced: Week 1 - no one (really, the Jets didn't target a tight end); Week 2 - Jesse James and Xavier Grimble; Week 3 - John Phillips and Jeff Heuerman; Week 4 - Dion Sims; Week 5 - Jason Witten.
  • Also not shown above, Cincinnati has allowed three touchdowns to tight ends -- that group of tight ends!

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Tom Brady ($7,700) - Target: 21.2 fantasy points
  • Martellus Bennett ($4,500) - Target: 12.4

I wouldn't worry about Bennett being the "second" tight end. He played 55 snaps (third on the team behind Rob Gronkowski's 65 and Julian Edelman's 59) and out-targeted Gronkowski eight to seven.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • None

Either Edelman or Chris Hogan are going to "pop" for GPP value this week; I just can't decide who. If you're playing GPPs, you're likely playing multiple lineups, so be sure to get a good sprinkling of both across your multiple entries.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (27.5 / 3rd)

Pittsburgh (at Miami)

Notes

  • Miami is poor against quarterbacks, but that's more touchdown-driven, which can be a less reliable predictor of future results than yardage.
  • Miami is middling against running backs, but that's also touchdown-driven; in this case, that's driven by a lack of touchdowns allowed (just one).
  • Miami has allowed 120+ rushing yards to two running backs and 50+ to five additional running backs.
  • Miami has allowed 5 receptions to two running backs and 3 receptions to two additional running backs.
  • Miami has allowed 7+ receptions to a wide receiver in every game where they haven't played against Tennessee's mediocre-at-best receiver group.
  • Miami has allowed 4+ receptions to four tight ends and 65+ yards to three tight ends.

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • LeVeon Bell ($7,900) - Target: 21.7

As always, Antonio Brown is a nice play from a "raw points" perspective, but his salary this week has skyrocketed into five figures at $10,000. This seems like more of a week to pay up for running backs and find mid-to-low priced options at receiver.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • None

Roethlisberger and any of his targets could offer nice GPP value each week, and if there's ever a week Brown will be under-owned, it's this one. But Pittsburgh has a history of making the easiest road games very difficult, so I'm not looking at another week where a feasible lineup has three or more Steelers in it.

But if you do want a solid-yet-contrarian stack, Roethlisberger-Bell could work. Bell is overdue for a touchdown, so perhaps he explodes for multiple. With his pass-catching prowess and the amount of targets he's seeing, it's not inconceivable to think one could be on a reception.

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Arizona Cardinals (27.25 / 4th)

Arizona (vs. New York Jets)

Notes

  • Check out the second team listed in the "Funnel Watch" section.
  • The Jets have allowed at least 4x value to three quarterbacks (and 3.1x to another).
  • The Jets have allowed five wide receivers and one tight end to average over 15 yards per catch in a game.
  • The Jets pass defense is on its way to being historically bad. See below:

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Carson Palmer ($6,000) - Target: 16.5

Obviously, you have to play slates that include Monday Night Football to get access to these players, but the Jets defense is one that is so poor, I couldn't resist covering them here. While "slate-reaching" (new term I believe doesn't exist yet so I'm coining) leads to potentially over-owned players in the "island" games, Palmer is very solid this week.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • John Brown ($4,500) - Target: 16.9

A player whose best skill is going deep against a team giving up more deep balls than any other in the NFL? Yes, please.

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Buffalo Bills (26.25 / T-5th)

Buffalo (vs. San Francisco)

Notes

  • San Francisco has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in each of their last four games but have allowed over 2.75x value to only two quarterbacks.
  • San Francisco has allowed five rushing touchdowns to running backs in their last three games. But since yards are my preferred predictor of future results, let's look at what they're allowing in terms of rushing yardage recently:

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • LeSean McCoy ($6,900) - Target: 19.0

McCoy could be the most heavily-owned player in the league this week, and even so, fading him in even the most chalky of cash games might not be a good play. His workhorse status, his matchup, the projected game script, and the extra built-in volume that comes with the San Francisco defense provides McCoy with a great high-floor/high-ceiling combination.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • Tyrod Taylor ($5,300) - Target: 19.9
  • Charles Clay ($2,900) - Target: 10.9

While most GPP strategy centers around stacking, using running quarterbacks without a stack partner can be a viable strategy as their rushing points are solely theirs and give them plenty of upside. If you are hooked on stacking Taylor with one of his pass-catchers, use Clay, who shows up on both lists above. He's dirt cheap, so value could come with one or two plays, and he has seen the second-most targets on the team in the last two weeks.

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Tennessee Titans (26.25 / T-5th)

Tennessee (vs. Cleveland)

Notes

  • As shown above, Cleveland allows the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. The 27.8 DraftKings points per game they allow dwarfs the second-highest in the league (Atlanta's 19.8).
  • Not shown above, Cleveland allows the most opportunity per game to tight ends as well.
  • The 11.8 targets, 9.2 receptions, and 102 (!) yards per game to tight ends are all league-highs. The next-highest per-game yardage total is Dallas' 79.4.
  • Even removing the Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski explosion last week, Cleveland has allowed 19.9 fantasy points per game to the other tight ends they have faced this season. That would still be most in the NFL.
  • Since Tajae Sharpe's 11-target Week 1, he has averaged 6.25 targets per game. In that stretch, Delanie Walker has averaged 7.3 in three games (missed Week 3 with an injury).
  • Walker's Target Market Share over the last two weeks is 28.5%. If that were a season-long number, he would rank 10th in the NFL.
  • Cleveland has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in every game this season and three in each of their last three games.
  • Cleveland has allowed at least 2.8x value to a quarterback in every game.
  • Cleveland has allowed just two running backs to eclipse 75 rushing yards and one to surpass 90 total yards (thought the backs they've faced have mostly been talent-lacking committee backs).

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Delanie Walker ($5,500) - Target: 15.1

You might be wondering where DeMarco Murray is. Similar to Antonio Brown in last week's column, he's a solid "raw points" recommendation; I'm just leaving him off here because his 2.75x number is a little too high to guarantee (and I'll be recommending multiple other backs for cash).

Cleveland has allowed over 15.8 fantasy points four tight ends already. Walker can do better than that. As a matter of fact, let's double-dip.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • Delanie Walker ($5,500) - Target: 20.6

Walker is likely to be too highly-owned to be a true GPP recommendation, but sometimes you have to take the raw points and forget about ownership. Mariota might also be better suited for GPPs due to his ownership likely being low with many other solid quarterback options on the board. So if you use Walker in a GPP, pairing him with Mariota for a solid stack is a differentiation play.

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Seattle Seahawks (26.25 / T-5th)

Seattle (vs. Atlanta)

Notes

  • Atlanta has allowed 60% of its points via passing touchdowns, tied for third-most in the NFL.
  • Atlanta is 27th in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed but just 15th in Net Yards per Pass Attempt.
  • Seattle is seventh in Net Yards per Pass Attempt.
  • Atlanta has allowed 3+ passing touchdowns in every game except Week 5 where they faced Paxton Lynch.
  • Notable WR performances against Atlanta: Thomas (5-49-1), Sanders (7-80-1), K. Benjamin (3-39-1), Cooks (2-13-0), M. Thomas (7-71-1), Cooper (5-71-0), Crabtree (4-31-1).
  • Based on the bullet above, it shouldn't be surprising that Atlanta despite being the 27th-ranked pass defense, Football Outsiders ranks Atlanta as 12th-best at defending WR1s.
  • Atlanta allowes the fifth-most targets, sixth-most receptions, and fifth-most yards per game to opposing tight ends.
  • Jimmy Graham has two straight 100-yard games and has 17 targets in that span.

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Russell Wilson ($6,900) - Target: 19.0
  • Jimmy Graham ($4,900) - Target: 13.5

This duo could be a nice stack to use in GPPs or even multipliers to give the lineup a boost but have a safe floor as well. Doug Baldwin doesn't profile as the prototypical WR1 that Desmond Trufant would shadow, but receivers that have had success against Atlanta have been the secondary/slot players (and said success hasn't been incredibly notable anyway).

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • Christine Michael ($6,800) - Target: 25.5

Michael's target there feels quite high, but is 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns out of the question? That would be 24 fantasy points alone, and it's not as though he's LeGarrette Blount in the passing game. This is as much a "raw points at low ownership" call as it is a proclamation that Michael hits the 25.5. He might be a "miss" in next week's "Looking Back" section when it's all said and done, but I don't see him missing by much. And in a week where there are at least a handful of more desirable backs from a points and value perspective, Michael could sneak up on the DFS world.

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New Orleans Saints (25.0 / 9th)

New Orleans (vs. Carolina)

Notes

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Drew Brees ($7,900) - Target: 21.7

Brees could even be a GPP play. If there were ever a week where he might be under-owned while playing at home, it could be this week. But 3.75x would require 300 yards and four touchdowns. So for raw points, consider him there, but I'm only "locking" him into the 2.75x level. 300 passing yards is 15 points on DraftKings. At home, that has to feel like a near-lock, especially against a secondary that allowed that many yards to one receiver just two weeks ago. So Brees would "only" need two touchdowns in addition to 300 yards to reach cash value.

If there's such a thing as a semi-contrarian cash play, it could be Brees with so many folks talking up Brady ($200 cheaper) this week and chasing Roethlisberger ($400 cheaper) and his pristine last two weeks.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • Brandin Cooks ($7,600) - Target: 28.5

This is a lofty target. I am fully ready to miss it narrowly, but I do think Cooks is a 20-point play this week. So it would be irresponsible to not leave this here:

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Chicago Bears (24.5 / 10th)

Chicago (vs. Jacksonville)

Notes

  • Chicago's Yards per Play ranking jumped off the page at me; they are, however, 30th in the NFL in plays run per game.
  • Cameron Meredith received 29% of the team's targets last week on 95% of the snaps (63/66).
  • As shown above, Jacksonville is 24th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks.
  • Not shown above, Jacksonville has allowed 4.5 rushing points to quarterbacks per game (including two rushing touchdowns).
  • That rushing total to quarterbacks is third-most in the NFL.
  • If rushing stats allowed to quarterbacks were removed from all teams, Jacksonville would be 15th in fantasy points per game allowed.
  • Despite being sixth in rushing yards per attempt, Chicago running backs have only scored three total touchdowns. (Perhaps Jordan Howard should have appeared in the Regression section).
  • Jacksonville has allowed 5+ receptions to three running backs in their last two games.

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Jordan Howard ($6,200) - Target: 17.1
  • Cameron Meredith ($4,100) - Target: 11.3

I'm not scared to "run it back" with Meredith. His ownership will rise, but we don't care about that too much in cash games. He's not the most talented receiver on his team, but he is the most targeted -- especially from Brian Hoyer. Last week, we included Howard in both Cash and GPP sections. I knew he would get the carries to reach Cash Game value; the GPP selection was just in case he got receiving work. His salary has risen, but now we know he's capable of getting receiving work. Because of that -- and because running back is super deep this week, which should drive Howard's ownership down -- let's "double-dip" Howard again.

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • Jordan Howard ($6,200) - Target: 23.3

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Kansas City Chiefs (22.75 / 17th)

Kansas City (at Oakland)

Notes

  • Oakland has allowed at least 3.9x value to four quarterbacks this season. Those same four quarterbacks passed for at least 295 yards.
  • Oakland has allowed 3+ passing touchdowns to three quarterbacks.
  • Oakland has allowed 100+ yards to six wide receivers and seven touchdowns to wide receivers in five games.
  • Oakland has allowed 52.6% of their points via passing touchdowns, ninth-most in the NFL.
  • Read the "Targets Lead to Touchdowns" section as it pertains to Jeremy Maclin.
  • In Week 4 (Kansas City's last game), Chris Conley played 70 of 75 snaps.
  • He only received 7 targets out of 49 pass attempts (14%) but had 6 of the 30 receptions (20%) and 70 of the 287 receiving yards (24%).

Cash Game Plays (seeking 2.75x value)

  • Alex Smith ($5,700) - Target: 15.7
  • Jeremy Maclin ($6,300) - Target: 17.3

GPP Plays (seeking 3.75x value)

  • Chris Conley ($3,100) - Target: 11.6

There is a lot of chatter around Smith in DFS and season-long circles (Kansas City's upcoming schedule is very friendly, starting this week), so Smith-[receiver] stacks are getting some buzz. But that receiver is almost never Conley. He has elite athleticism, and his salary is low enough that he's basically an "all it takes is one big play" guy.

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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 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?
Aaron Rodgers $7700 21.2 17.9 No
Ben Roethlisberger $7200 19.8 33.2 Yes
Paxton Lynch $5200 14.3 13.7 No
Carson Wentz $6400 17.6 17.9 Yes
Joe Flacco $6200 17.1 13.0 No
Brian Hoyer $5500 15.1 26.8 Yes
DeAndre Washington $3400 9.4 10.2 Yes
Jordan Howard $5200 14.3 28.3 Yes
Emmanuel Sanders $6800 18.7 15.0 No
Steve Smith* $5300 14.6 5.9 No
Alshon Jeffery $7800 21.5 12.7 No
Odell Beckham Jr $8500 23.4 16.6 No

*left his game early due to injury

I like recommending options across multiple pricing tiers to give you, dear readers, flexibility to build lineups in multiple ways. But I'd rather give quality than quantity of options, so as you may have noticed above, I was more selective this week with the plays in an effort to increase the hit rate and provide my most confident selections.

The guys I played most last week were Roethlisberger, Hoyer, and Howard. I played Antonio Brown more than any of those, though. As discussed last week, he was a play on a "raw points" basis but didn't make this list because hitting 2.75x on his massive salary is a big ask.

Cash Game Plays

  • This Week: 5-for-11 (45%)
  • Season: 11-for-22 (50%)

GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Andy Dalton $5900 22.1 22.2 Yes
Eli Manning $6000 22.5 11.1 No
LeVeon Bell $7500 28.1 24.4 No
Jalen Richard $3300 12.4 15.7 Yes
C.J. Anderson $6900 25.9 9.2 No
Terrance West $4800 18.0 10.9 No
Jordan Howard $5200 19.5 28.3 Yes
Zach Ertz $3500 13.1 6.7 No
C.J. Uzomah $2500 9.4 9.3 No
Will Tye $2600 9.8 5.7 No

Uzomah was decimal points from hitting, and Eli Manning missed Tye on what would have yielded 5x value on its own. But alas, those are the breaks. After all, fortune broke my way with Dalton when he racked up two garbage time touchdowns.

GPP Plays

  • This Week: 3-for-10 (30%)
  • Season: 6-for-21 (29%)

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