Trendspotting: Week 7

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

This week should be a fun one, mainly because last week wasn't (you can skip over the "Looking Back" section if you'd like). Let's get right to it.

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 so far this season. 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
PlayerTDTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmMatchup
Julian Edelman 0 7.3 23.5% 31.7 (24) at PIT
Jeremy Maclin 1 8.0 21.6% 38.2 (10) vs NO
Amari Cooper 1 10.0 26.8% 37.8 (12) at JAX

Eventually, Cooper won't be on this list any more. But that time isn't yet. Had he just scored one of the three near-touchdowns he had a couple weeks ago, he'd already be ineligible. Maclin makes the list, but his team would rather not be in the top-third in terms of passing attempts. The biggest question mark for him this week is whether or not New Orleans can be effective enough offensively to make Kansas City pass aggressively.

Edelman doesn't technically qualify on the pass attempts, but New England is a notable exception there due to the suspension of Tom Brady. Since his return, he has averaged 37.5 pass attemps. The tight ends have been all the rage in New England (rightfully so), but Edelman is still seeing 20.4% of the market share over the last three weeks. Speaking of the last three weeks...

As we all know, the NFL season is a long and winding road. And throughout the journey, depths charts change, players emerge, and quarterbacks find new favorite targets. So going forward, I'll be breaking out this section into a "last [x] weeks" sub-set. This week, we'll just go back three weeks since that's half the season so far. But in future weeks, perhaps I'll make it a four-week look as an homage to Matt Waldman's theory on how each NFL season is a series of four-week mini-seasons.

PlayerTDTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmMatchup
John Brown 0 9.0 22.1% 40.7 vs SEA
Mike Wallace 0 9.7 20.0% 48.3 at NYJ
Mike Evans 1 11.5 37.1% 31.0 at SF

Brown's matchup is obviously the most difficult, and Wallace barely makes the list on market share. So while it's not much a limb to go out on, Evans is the call here. He should get fed plenty of targets this week. Wallace would be the next selection. His deep ball ability meshes perfectly with the Jets tendency to allow long passes. If Joe Flacco doesn't play, however, I wouldn't recommend Wallace in any scenario.

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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 table should help illustrate 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 266.6 72.4 7.1 3.0 78.6% 21.4%
New York Jets 290.0 85.5 7.9 3.4 77.2% 22.8%
Carolina Panthers 282.0 89.5 7.8 3.3 75.9% 24.1%
New England Patriots 255.0 92.0 6.4 3.7 73.5% 26.5%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 262.4 103.8 7.9 3.7 71.7% 28.3%

Green Bay and New York are the only two teams to meet all of the criteria, but the others meet three and are close in the fourth. The Jets are still a funnel team, despite being exploited on the ground by Arizona last week. New England is a new addition to the list, but their a "fringe" funnel as they're 15th in terms of Net Yards per Pass Attempt. It seemed notable to include them, though, as they have a great run defense and now get to face a Landry Jones-led Pittsburgh team.

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Atlanta Falcons (Implied Team Total 30 / Highest This Week)

Atlanta (vs. San Diego)

Notes

  • San Diego has allowed 315+ passing yards or two passing touchdowns in all but one game (last week against Trevor Siemian).
  • San Diego has allowed 4+ receptions to seven running backs.
  • San Diego is allowing 17.9 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL. That includes 9 receptions per game (most) and 70.5 receiving yards (second-most).
  • Tevin Coleman has 320 receiving yards this season, most among NFL running backs.
  • Coleman averages 17.8 yards per reception, most among NFL running backs with at least six receptions.
  • Matt Ryan weekly finishes among quarterbacks, beginning in Week 1: 5th, 2nd, 10th, 1st, 18th (at Denver), 8th (at Seattle).

Commentary

There's no reason this shouldn't be the shootout of the week. Get whatever piece you can. Sometimes, it's best to grab the cheapest asset, particularly in GPPs as they're likely to be under-owned due to uncertain role or committee at their position. Tevin Coleman comes to mind. 

Cash Game Plays and GPP Plays

For recommended plays, see the sections below the team-by-team breakdowns (putting them in tables will make it easier on me to re-create the tables and use them in the subsequent week's "Looking Back" section).

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Kansas City Chiefs (28.5 / 2nd)

Kansas City (vs. New Orleans)

Notes

  • New Orleans has allowed at least 3.3x value to three of five quarterbacks faced and 319+ passing yards to four of five.
  • New Orleans has allowed multiple rushing touchdowns to three running backs.
  • New Orleans is allowing the fifth-most rushing yards per game and the most touchdowns per game.
  • New Orleans has allowed 39.3% of points via rushing touchdowns, most in the NFL.
  • New Orleans is allowing the second-most receptions the most receiving yards per game to wide receivers.

Commentary

Teams have been able to beat New Orleans in whichever way they please. I think we know which way is Kansas City's preferred method. That might not point to a Chief I want to play but rather to one or two who I don't.

Friday update: with news of Jamaal Charles experiencing knee swelling on Friday, I have added Spencer Ware to my cash game plays. Even if Charles is active, to me, this news is basically a lock that Charles won't cut into Ware's workload any more than he did last week. With situation of being a home favorite against a very weak rush defense, 20 touches for Ware would be gold. In fact, if Charles is active, Ware is a nice GPP play because his ownership may not skyrocket as much in that case.

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Cincinnati Bengals (27.5 / 3rd)

Cincinnati (vs. Cleveland)

Notes

  • Cleveland has allowed at least 2.8x value to every quarterback they have faced.
  • Cleveland has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in every game, including four games with three touchdowns allowed.
  • Cleveland has allowed 100+ rushing yards to only one running back.
  • Cleveland is allowing 3.5 receptions per game to running backs, second-fewest in the NFL, and 32.5 receiving yards to running backs, 11th-fewest.
  • Cleveland has allowed 54.5% of points via passing touchdowns, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Cleveland has allowed 8.3 receptions per game to tight ends, most in the NFL (1.3 more per game than the next team).

Commentary

A running back by committee against a team that is atrocious vs. the pass and deceptively ok (that's a new term) vs. the rush has me running away from the Bengals running backs. A.J. Green won't make either the cash or GPP lists because his multiplier is too high, but he's an excellent "raw points" play (especially with so many values elsewhere).

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New England Patriots (26.25 / 5th)

New England (at Pittsburgh)

Notes

  • Pittsburgh had allowed at least 3x value to four straight quarterbacks prior to last week (Ryan Tannehill).
  • Pittsburgh has allowed 250+ passing yards in every game, including 300+ passing yards three times.
  • Tom Brady averages 4.3 more fantasy points per game as a road favorite of seven points or more.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed 6+ receptions to three running backs and 100+ yards to two.
  • Pittsburgh as allowed four out of five running backs with double-digit carries against them to average over 4.4 yards per carry.
  • LeGarrette Blount averages 2.9 more PPR fantasy points per game as a road favorite of seven points or more.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed 5+ receptions to 11 wide receivers but only one has caught at least 8 passes.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed 3 touchdowns to wide receivers.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed 29.3% of points via passing touchdowns, ninth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 5.7 receptions per game to tight ends, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • In four career games against Pittsburgh, Rob Gronkowski averages 6.5 receptions, 100.75 yards, and 1.75 touchdowns. That's a total of 26 receptions, 403 yards (15.5 yards per catch), and seven touchdowns (including two three-touchdown games).

Commentary

Throw all of the stats that say players are better fantasy plays when at home. New England can travel, and they'll be playing in a game against a Landry Jones-led Pittsburgh team. The only reason for concern here is that the Patriots don't have to put forth a full effort for four quarters. Spoiler alert: the final bullet above won't be the last time Gronkowski's name appears in this article.

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Jacksonville Jaguars (24.75 / 8th)

Jacksonville (vs. Oakland)

Notes

  • Jacksonville has gained 77.8% of its yardage via the pass, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Oakland has allowed 100+ yards to three running backs in its last four games.
  • Oakland has allowed 205 yards per game to wide receivers this season, second-most in the NFL.
  • Notable wide receiver performances against Oakland: T. Benjamin (7-117-0), S. Smith (8-111-1), Snead (9-172-1).
  • Marqise Lee has been targeted 6+ times in each of the team's last four games.
  • Lee's snaps this season, starting with Week 1: 50%, 64%, 64%, 71%, 73%. 
  • The 73% came despite Julius Thomas' return to the lineup (Thomas played 83% in Week 6).

Commentary

Oakland has allowed most offenses to do whatever they have wanted, but their opponents have been very strong offenses. One notable pattern is the ability of secondary/slot receivers to outperform expectations.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24.25 / 9th)

Tampa Bay (at San Francisco)

Notes

  • Tampa Bay's top running back has at least 17 touches in every game that player has finished.
  • Jacquizz Rodgers' primary backup is an undrafted free agent rookie.
  • San Francisco has allowed 100+ rushing yards to five players in their last five games.
  • San Francisco has allowed nine rushing touchdowns in their last five games.
  • Mike Evans receives 31.0% of Tampa Bay's targets, the second-highest market share in the NFL.
  • Evans receives 37.1% of the team's targets, most in the NFL, over the last three weeks (two games for Tampa Bay).
  • Since last season (the time he has played with Jameis Winston), Evans averages three more targets, one more reception, and 35 yards more per game when Vincent Jackson is not in the lineup. Jackson was just placed on Injured Reserve.
  • San Francisco has allowed multiple touchdowns to wide receivers in four games and have allowed two individual receivers to score twice
  • San Francisco has allowed at least 3.6x value to seven receivers in their last five games.
  • San Francisco has allowed 5+ receptions to four tight ends this season.

Commentary

Rodgers and Evans will be chalky, but they'll be that way for a reason. Check out the GPP Plays section for a nice leverage play off of those guys if you still want a piece of this offense (or a piece against this defense).

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Buffalo Bills (23.5 / T-13th)

Buffalo (at Miami)

Notes

  • Notable quarterback performances against Miami (pass yards-touchdowns-interceptions, rush attempts-yards-touchdowns): Roethlisberger (189-1-2), Mariota (163-3-0, 7-60-1), Dalton (296-1-0), Kessler (244-0-0), Garoppolo (232-3-0), Wilson (258-1-1, 4-16-0).
  • Miami has allowed 100+ yards from scrimmage to three running backs and 100+ rushing yards to two.
  • Miami has allowed 38.3% of its yardage via the rush, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Miami has allowed 17.9% of its points via rushing touchdowns, 11th-lowest in the NFL.

Commentary

Don't be fooled by their FPts ranking in the chart above. Miami's rank against running backs is modest mostly because they haven't allowed many touchdowns on the ground. But fantasy points follow opportunity, and attempts and yards are a better indicator of opportunity than touchdowns.

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San Diego Chargers (23.5 / T-13th)

San Diego (at Atlanta)

Notes

  • Atlanta has allowed at least 2.75x value to zero quarterbacks since Week 3.
  • Atlanta has allowed at least 3x value to at least one running back in every game.
  • Atlanta is allowing 70.5 receiving yards to running backs, most in the NFL along with 8.7 receptions per game to running backs and 17.7 receiving fantasy points to running backs, both second-most in the NFL.
  • Atlanta is allowing 0.83 touchdowns per game to tight ends, fourth-most in the NFL.

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This Week's Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Matt Ryan $7200 19.8 ATL vs. SD
Andy Dalton $6000 16.5 CIN vs. CLE
Jacquizz Rodgers $4300 11.8 TB at SF
Spencer Ware $5800 16.0 KC vs. NO
DeMarco Murray $7200 19.8 TEN vs. IND
Mike Gillislee $3000 8.3 BUF at MIA
Mike Evans $7800 21.5 TB at SF
Rob Gronkowski $7200 19.8 NE at PIT

Julio Jones is the "1" to Evans' "1A" this week, but he's a "raw points" play, not one I'm calling out for the 2.75x marker. With the value elsewhere, Jones should be justifiably chalky. Get him in if you have the funds.

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This Week's GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Blake Bortles $6200 23.3 JAX vs. OAK
Tevin Coleman $4900 18.4 ATL vs. SD
Mike Gillislee $3000 11.3 BUF at MIA
Tyrell Williams $4400 16.5 SD at ATL
Marqise Lee $3200 12.0 JAX vs. OAK
Cameron Brate $2900 10.9 TB at SF

I was close to including Gronkowski here as well, but 27 points is a hard thing to "guarantee." However, with Brate, Vernon Davis, Jack Doyle, and Gary Barnidge all being nice options at cheap prices, Gronkowski could be an under-owned asset, making him a nice GPP play.

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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?
Drew Brees $7900 21.7 36.6 Yes
Tom Brady $7700 21.2 30.2 Yes
Russell Wilson $6900 19.0 11.5 No
Alex Smith $5700 15.7 8.9 No
LeSean McCoy $6900 19.0 37.2 Yes
LeVeon Bell $7900 21.7 18.8 No
Jordan Howard $6200 17.1 12.0 No
Cameron Meredith $4100 11.3 25.3 Yes
Jeremy Maclin $6300 17.3 7.9 No
John Brown $4500 12.4 10.4 No
Delanie Walker $5500 15.1 3.1 No
Jimmy Graham $4900 13.5 14.9 Yes
Martellus Bennett $4500 12.4 9.8 No

*left his game early due to injury

Brees, Brady, McCoy, and Graham were lay-ups. Walker was about the only chalk of the week that tanked. Smith and Maclin were deterred by weather and his team's sheer will to run the ball with everyone but himself. Bell was close considering his team self-destructed both figuratively and -- in the case of Ben Roethlisberger's knee injury -- literally around him.

  • This Week: 5-for-13 (38%) yuck
  • Season: 16-for-35 (46%)

GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Carson Palmer $6000 22.5 12.4 No
Tyrod Taylor $5300 19.9 21.0 Yes
Jordan Howard $6200 23.3 12.0 No
Christine Michael $6800 25.5 23.3 No
John Brown $4500 16.9 10.4 No
Brandin Cooks $7600 28.5 33.5 Yes
Chris Conley $3100 11.6 5.6 No
Charles Clay $2900 10.9 10.2 No
Delanie Walker $5500 20.6 3.1 No

*left his game early due to injury

Arizona decided to run on the Jets, which submarined the Palmer-Brown duo. Clay was very close, and for $2,900, still had a nice day and allowed you some other high-end players. Cooks was the guys whose multiplier I was most concerned about, but he made it from a raw points perspective and still blew past the goal. Michael was another in the same boat who came close, despite losing a third short-yardage touchdown to backup rookie Alex Collins.

  • This Week: 2-for-9 (22%)
  • Season: 8-for-32 (25%)

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