Exploiting FBG Tools for DFS Success: Week 15

Using the various research tools included with a Footballguys Insider Pro subscription to uncover top DFS values.

It took three quarters of the season, but we’ve finally covered every Footballguys tool that can be used to supplement your weekly DFS process. But fear not -- just because there isn’t a new Footballguys DFS tool to cover this week, it doesn’t mean the end of the Exploiting Footballguys Tools series.

From here on out, I’ll be giving you my top tournament plays at each position, and showing you how (at least) one of the previously covered Footballguys tools helped me arrive at those players. If you haven’t been following this season, here are links to the previous articles in this series that will show you where to find our DFS tools and how to use them, or you can click here for our complete Video Training Library.

Data Dominator Interactive Value Charts Snap Counts
Vegas Value Chart Target Stats Game Log Dominator
Normalized Strength of Schedule eVALUEator Historical Stats
Site Projections Game Predictor Custom Fantasy Points Allowed

Moving onto the Week 15 slate…

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton - Newton is officially out of the circle of trust after scoring 12 fantasy points in three of his last four games, but he still has 30 fantasy point upside in any given week and his price is down across the industry.

Newton isn’t an attractive tournament option this week due to his recent performance, but rather Washington’s tendency to create high scoring game scripts. The lowest combined point total in the last four Washington games was 49 points, which came last week against Carson Wentz and the struggling Eagles offense. Vegas forecasts another high scoring Washington game, with Monday night’s 51 point over/under tied for the highest of the week. Although the Panthers are 4.5 point underdogs, their team total is over 23 points, which implies the possibility of three offensive touchdowns.

Four of the last five quarterbacks to face Washington have thrown for at least 300 yards (a list that includes Sam Bradford, this year’s version of Carson Palmer, and Wentz). The one who didn’t -- Dak Prescott -- rushed eight times for 39 yards and a touchdown. Prescott’s rushing performance is notable since he’s the only “running” quarterback Washington has faced this year, but not the only one to rack up bonus fantasy points against them. Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford both rushed for over 30 yards vs. Washington this season, and Andy Dalton managed 21 yards and a touchdown.

You don’t need me to spell out Newton’s rushing upside, but it might get lost in a disappointing season that he once again leads the league in both total quarterback carries and quarterback carries from inside the opponent’s five-yard line. In a potential back-and-forth game, in which he projects for at least moderate success through the air, Newton’s opportunity as a rusher puts him over the top. Aside from maybe Drew Brees (who is more expensive, in a tough matchup, and also not playing well), you won’t find a quarterback with a higher ceiling and lower ownership than Newton this week.

*** Keep an eye on the practice reports. Newton sat out on Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder injury, though an MRI revealed no structural damage and he is expected to start on Monday night.

Joe Flacco - Flacco won’t garner much attention this week because it’s never any fun clicking on his name, but he’s relatively inexpensive across the industry, playing well lately, and in a great spot at home against Philadelphia. The Eagles have allowed an average of 293 passing yards and exactly two touchdowns to each of their last three opponents. Philadelphia’s pass defense has been especially bad on the road lately, where they’ve been trounced by Dak Prescott (28 fantasy points), Eli Manning (24 fantasy points), and Andy Dalton (22 fantasy points) in three of the team’s last four away games.

Flacco enters this matchup on a roll, with a combined 705 passing yards and six touchdowns over his last two games. He has the big arm and downfield weapons to take advantage of Philadelphia’s struggling defensive backfield. The Eagles have allowed 30 pass plays of 25+ yards this season, which is good for third-most in the NFL. Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace, who each have six catches of 25+ this season, will put Philly’s flammable outside corners -- Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll -- to the test on deep routes.

While volume is not necessarily something we’re looking for at the quarterback position in DFS, Baltimore’s play calling tendencies are at least worth noting. The Ravens have run 67.7 offensive plays per game this season (third-most in the league). In home games that average increases to over 70 (second-most). The team's paced-up offense combined with their 66% pass play percentage have resulted in back-to-back games with more than 45 pass attempts for Flacco.

Considering 70% of the total yards and 68% of the touchdowns allowed by Philadelphia this season have come via the pass, this shapes up as a potential blow-up spot for Flacco -- especially if the Ravens second ranked defense provides him with short fields (Carson Wentz has seven interceptions in his last three road games).

Running Back

LeSean McCoy - You won’t be sneaking McCoy past anyone in tournaments, but he’ll receive lower ownership than his home matchup against the Browns warrants. Particularly on FanDuel, McCoy’s $9,000 price tag makes it likely most entrants who are considering him will pay up another $400 to LeVeon Bell instead. I already made the case for McCoy in this week’s Roundtable, but since he checks off (nearly) every box I look for in a DFS running back, it’s worth repeating here:

  • The Bills implied point total is a healthy 26.5 – tied for third-highest on the Sunday-Monday slate. They’re also favored by double digits against the winless Browns, which suggests an ideal game script for McCoy.

  • McCoy has ranked as a top-5 running back in each of the last three weeks.

  • In those last three games, McCoy has accounted for 80% of Buffalo’s backfield touches.

  • He’s been heavily involved as a receiver, with a combined 13 catches for 142 yards over the last two games, proving McCoy is one of the few game flow agnostic backs in the league (not that this game figures to go off-script).

  • The Browns are the worst defense in football, ranking dead last in overall DVOA. They’ve failed to hold opponents under 27 points in 10 of 13 games this season. Only the Falcons have allowed more raw fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.

  • McCoy has generated a league leading 335 of his rushing yards on carries that have gone for 20+ yards, making him the premier big play threat at running back this season.

  • The forecast is calling for snow in Buffalo on Sunday, which favors a run-heavy attack for the Bills.

The one question on McCoy is his role at the goal line, as the Bills have insisted on carving out a role for Mike Gilislee, but McCoy can score from distance, has three touchdowns in his last three games, and it was encouraging to see him score from three yards out last week against the Steelers. In a week where everyone will be piling on Johnson and Bell (rightfully so), McCoy offers similar upside, a lower price, and reduced ownership.

Ezekiel Elliott - Speaking of high priced running backs whose ownership will be buried by Johnson, Bell, and (to a lesser extent) McCoy, Elliott is an excellent tournament play this week. In addition to being overshadowed by the other expensive backs, there will be some recency bias against Elliott after he posted his lowest fantasy output of the season last week.

Fantasy football’s cumulative RB2 (FanDuel scoring) is in a great bounceback spot at home against Tampa Bay. The Bucs defense has stiffened during their current five game winning streak, but Melvin Gordon proved as recently as Week 13 (22 fantasy points) Tampa’s 21st ranked rush defense (DVOA) can still be beaten on the ground.

Elliott’s Week 15 situation isn’t altogether different from McCoy’s...

  • Positive Game Script - The Cowboys are favored by a touchdown at home, with an identical 26.5 point implied team total, which leaves room for three offensive touchdowns.

  • Consistently Elite Production - Elliott has eclipsed 20 standard fantasy points in five games this season, which trails only David Johnson (seven) for the league lead.

  • Huge Workload - Elliott has handled 79.5% of his team’s total backfield touches this season, which ranks behind only Todd Gurley and Johnson.

  • Involved as a Receiver - Elliott is by no means an elite receiving back, but he’s on the field enough to at least make a dent catching passes out of the backfield. His 322 receiving yards ranks 13th among running backs. At the very least, you can count on two catches and 25 yards -- plus with Elliott there’s always a possibility one of those catches goes for a big play, which leads us to…

  • Big Play Ability - Elliott’s 11 runs of 20+ yards lead the NFL. His 308 yards generated on those runs trails only McCoy’s 335.

  • Matchup - Tampa Bay is no Cleveland, but they can be beaten on the ground. Besides, Elliott has still averaged over 100 rushing yards per game in five contests against top-10 run defenses this year.

Jordan Howard - I don’t have nearly as much enthusiasm for Howard as I do for McCoy and Elliott, but he’s much cheaper (down a whopping $1,200 on FanDuel from Week 14), will come with even lower ownership, and has flashed a ceiling well over 3x his current salary on several occasions.

Two full weeks will have passed since Howard’s 32-117-3 drubbing of the 49ers, which is long enough to erase him from the short memories of the crowd, especially in a perceived tough matchup against Green Bay.

While the Packers rank as a top-10 run defense (DVOA), Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule shows they’ve allowed 20.3 fantasy points per game to running backs over the last five weeks, which is sixth-most in the league. In particular, the Packers defense struggled badly on the ground in their last two road contests, giving up ceiling games to DeMarco Murray (17-123-1) and Rob Kelley (24-137-3). Thomas Rawls ran well on Green Bay in Lambeau last week (5.58 yards per carry), but was held to just 12 carries due to bad game script.

Howard’s home/road splits are obviously slanted by his huge performance vs. San Francisco, but it’s worth noting all five of his rushing touchdowns have been scored at Soldier Field. And even if you discount the 49ers game completely (which you shouldn’t), he’s still averaging over 95 rushing yards and 4.65 yards per carry in the other four home games in which he’s received at least 15 carries.

The implied game script (Green Bay -6) isn’t a reason to push your chips in on Howard, but the weather forecast in Chicago is. If we’re to believe the meteorologists, Packers vs. Bears could be one of the 10 coldest games in NFL history, with winds reaching 15 miles per hour -- not exactly ideal conditions for airing it out with Matt Barkley (which would be a pretty lousy game plan for keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field in the first place).

Even if the Bears are forced to play catch up, Howard would maintain upside. He’s losing some passing down work to Jeremy Langford, but has seen at least five targets in three of the last four games, with the one exception coming in the 20 point victory over the 49ers, where Barkley only had to throw 18 passes.

Howard is one of a few running backs clustered in the $7,000 range I’ll be rotating around my core players in multi-entry tournaments, with the others being Latavius Murray, Carlos Hyde, and LeGarrette Blount, with a dash of Jeremy Hill and Spencer Ware sprinkled in.   

Wide Receiver

Mike Evans - We’ll likely have access to Evans’ 30 point ceiling in a week he won’t attract heavy ownership. Aside from Odell Beckham Jr., none of the top-priced wide receivers are in great spots this week, which should keep ownership pretty flat at the top WR tier in general. Evans is coming off consecutive single-digit clunkers in weeks he was priced as the WR3 and WR1, respectively -- a pair of letdowns that shouldn’t endear him to the masses in a game the Bucs are projected to score less than 20 points.

It sets up as the perfect spot to pounce in tournaments. Dallas is favored by a touchdown at home against Tampa Bay, which suggests Jameis Winston will be forced to keep his foot on the gas for the entire game. It’s no coincidence Evans’ production has spiked downward the last few weeks, as the Bucs have been able to win by controlling time of possession. Over the last three games, no team has called a higher percentage of run plays than Tampa Bay’s 54%.

If Winston’s pass attempts figure to rise, Evans’ targets are sure to follow. Evans commands a 30.6% target market share -- the highest in the league, and also places inside the top-5 in team touchdown and yardage market share. It’s worth noting in the three other games the Bucs have been underdogs of five points or more this season, Evans has seen his targets spike from 10.3 to 13.7, and his PPR fantasy points bump from 18.4 up to to 22 points per game.

Evans couldn’t ask for a much better opponent to face with a pass heavy game script. The Cowboys are 23rd in pass defense DVOA, a ranking supported by the Game Log Dominator. After coming down $700 in price from Week 14 (usually another indication of low ownership), the eVALUEator shows you should get more exposure to Evans on Fanduel this week if you’re playing on multiple sites.

Michael Crabtree - The field never seems to pile on Crabtree, but I’d expect him to be 15-20% owned on FanDuel this week. The popular roster construction will be to pay up at running back, which will make Crabtree especially appealing to the crowd at just $6,100 in a potential shootout with San Diego (over/under 49.5 points).

Still, this a case where you should choose to differentiate your roster someplace else, as the value is too good to pass up. With the way the targets have been trending over the last five games, it’s tough to argue against Crabtree as Oakland’s WR1 for fantasy purposes. Since Week 11, Crabtree owns a 26% target market share, compared to 18% for Amari Cooper. For the season, Crabtree now leads the Raiders in targets, and is one of 15 pass catchers with a touchdown market share over 30%.

While Crabtree might be the Raiders top fantasy target, it’s doubtful the Chargers will treat him that way in the real life game. In San Diego’s Week 5 meeting with Oakland (the first game star cornerback Jason Verrett sat out for the Chargers), Cooper burned them for six catches, 138 yards, and a touchdown. But since then, Casey Hayward has emerged as shutdown corner and San Diego has been using him to blot out the opposition’s WR1. Kelvin Benjamin (1-11-0) and Mike Evans (3-38-0) are the two most recent examples.

Based on how badly Cooper hurt the Chargers in their last meeting, it’s a safe bet he’ll be Hayward’s primary assignment in coverage. While Cooper is dealing with a top-5 cover corner, the heavily targeted Crabtree (6’1’’, 215 lbs.) should find much easier sledding against Trevor Williams (5’11’’, 191 lbs.). According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per route defended among the cornerbacks expected to be active this week. The size advantage gives Crabtree an added edge in the red zone, where his 25% target market share and five touchdowns are both team-highs.

Crabtree is dealing with a finger injury, but I’m not too concerned since he hasn’t missed a practice this week.

Tyrell Williams - Last week’s Exploiting Footballguys tools coverboy, DeSean Jackson, paid huge dividends by doing what he does best -- catching deep passes -- against a defense that has struggled to cover wide receivers downfield. It’s the exact position Williams finds himself in this week against the Raiders, who have allowed the most pass plays of 20+ and 40+ yards in the league.

Williams has six receptions and three touchdowns of 40+ yards this season, which ties him with Odell Beckham Jr. for the league lead in both categories. Dontrelle Inman has outscored Williams in each of the last three games and costs $1,000 less. Most entrants will note Williams’ targets have declined in the two games since it was announced he was dealing with a labrum injury, and opt for the discount on Inman when looking to buy shares of the Chargers passing game. It should keep Williams’ ownership in the 5-7% range, despite the matchup fitting him like a glove.

When Oakland played San Diego back in Week 5, Williams enjoyed one of his best games of the season, posting a 6-117-1 line that included catches of 50 and 29 yards. While the labrum injury sounds worrisome, it hasn’t had an effect on Williams playing time, as he’s logged at least 94% of the team’s wide receiver snaps in each of the last two games. And the injury didn’t seem to hamper him much on the 40+ yard bombs he caught in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively.

Williams is admittedly a touch more expensive than I’d like, but the IVCs have him as the WR16 on the Sunday-Monday slate and Fanduel has him priced as the WR17, so at worst he’s being valued appropriately.

Tight End

Ladarius Green - There’s not much at tight end this week that moves the needle. Travis Kelce has four consecutive 100 yard games, but doesn’t fit into the roster construction I like best (pay up for two running backs and one wide receiver). Tyler Eifert is even more expensive than Kelce. Jordan Reed is in a great matchup but clearly playing hurt. Greg Olsen’s recent production has fallen off a cliff. Delanie Walker will be the next tight end to get erased from the game plan by Eric Berry and the Chiefs. And everyone and their mothers will be on Kyle Rudolph (for good reason).

I’ll have some Rudolph and Eric Ebron in my GPP portfolio, but the player I’m most intrigued by is Green. After following up his 20 point breakout game with a 3.5 point dud last week, Green’s ownership shouldn’t top 8% in a plus matchup with the Bengals. Cincinnati has allowed the most normalized fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and over 40% more raw fantasy points to the position than the league average.

It was disappointing to see Green’s snap count dip back down below 40% last week, but we can chalk it up to a combination of the weather and Buffalo's inability to stop LeVeon Bell on the ground. Clearly run blocking is not what the Steelers brought in Green to do, as he still commanded six targets on just 37% of the snaps.

It’s hard to believe, but Green leads the Steelers in red zone targets since returning in Week 10, even though he hasn't played on more than half their offensive snaps in a game yet. In GPPs, we’re after tight ends who stretch the field and catch touchdowns, which is exactly how the Steelers are deploying Green, who’s only getting healthier. Green always projected as a high variance play (again what we’re after in GPPs). Don’t let one down week deter you -- his ceiling is just as high as any tight end’s on the slate.