We never have an especially big sample size of in-season data to draw conclusions from during a 16 game NFL season. But with at least 25% of 2016 officially in the books for all teams (and 31% for most), we’ve reached the point where this year’s data is beginning to stabilize and can be used moving forward to draw intelligent conclusions.
Specifically, it’s become apparent which positions are best to target against certain defenses. My favorite Footballguys tool for reviewing how defenses have performed against each position group is the Game Log Dominator. Over the summer, I showed you how to use the Dominator, and gave an example of how it helped me uncover a pair of low-owned players that led to my most profitable week of the 2015 NFL season. If you’re unfamiliar with where to find the Game Log Dominator, or how to use it, click the link below and check out the article and instructional videos.
My goal this week is to use the same process that won me a bunch of money last season to help you uncover a few players in terrific spots that will receive fairly low ownership in Week 6 GPPs. Hopefully, in addition to using the Game Log Dominator, the analysis will give you a better idea of other factors to look for when trying to outmaneuver the masses in mid-large field tournaments.
Lamar Miller hasn’t reached 14 Fanduel points in any game this season, which has the crowd fed up just in time for a home matchup with the Colts. Here is what the Game Log Dominator shows us about Indianapolis’ performance against running backs this season:
|Theo Riddick||2016||1||DET @ IND||W, 39-35||7||45||6.43||1||5||5||63||1||22.8|
|Ameer Abdullah||2016||1||DET @ IND||W, 39-35||12||63||5.25||0||5||5||57||1||18|
|C.J. Anderson||2016||2||DEN IND||W, 34-20||20||74||3.7||1||5||3||19||0||15.3|
|Devontae Booker||2016||2||DEN IND||W, 34-20||9||46||5.11||0||1||1||5||0||5.1|
|Melvin Gordon||2016||3||SD @ IND||L, 22-26||16||35||2.19||1||7||4||43||0||13.8|
|T.J. Yeldon||2016||4||JAX IND||W, 30-27||14||71||5.07||0||5||4||46||0||11.7|
|Chris Ivory||2016||4||JAX IND||W, 30-27||8||29||3.63||0||1||0||0||0||2.9|
|Jordan Howard||2016||5||CHI @ IND||L, 23-29||16||118||7.38||0||3||3||45||1||22.3|
The Colts have allowed 810 total yards to running backs, which trails only Washington, to go along with seven total touchdowns and 4.63 yards per rush attempt. When you factor in quality of opponent, those numbers are even worse than they appear. Indianapolis ranks 13th in raw fantasy points allowed to running backs, but Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule chart shows they’ve let up the third-most schedule adjusted fantasy points to the position.
Last week in this space, I was able to identify a low-owned big game from Tyrell Williams, in part by analyzing his matchup, but also by anticipating statistical progression towards the mean. Williams was seeing too many scoring chances to have come down with so few touchdowns, and he ended up converting on a 29-yard end zone target from Philip Rivers against a weak Raiders pass defense. Miller might be more overdue for a touchdown than any player in the league, but unlike Williams, it’s not because he’s been coming up empty on his scoring opportunities.
He simply hasn’t had any.
Miller has one carry from inside the opponent’s five-yard line, which is the Texans’ only run from inside the five this year. The league average per team is 5.53. In comparison to Miller’s 23 touch per game workload, such an extreme lack of scoring opportunity can’t possibly last. Here is the list of running backs besides Miller since 1999 with at least 100 carries, 10 receptions, and zero total touchdowns through their first five games per Pro Football Reference:
Steven Jackson, 2009
That’s it. Miller and Jackson are the entire list.
Of course it’s possible this isn’t the week Miller is suddenly presented with short scoring chances, but he still checks off every other box we should be looking for in a DFS running back. His team is a home favorite with an implied team total over 24 points. He’s playing against one of the worst rush defenses in the league, and he has zero competition for carries. Miller’s 78% market share of Houston’s backfield touches trails only Todd Gurley (91%) and LeSean McCoy (81%).
While I expect Miller to be a popular play within the hardcore DFS community for the reasons outlined above, the public won’t be clicking on his name. Everyone’s last memory of Miller is eight carries for 20 yards last Sunday against Minnesota (and their league best defense). With Le'Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, and Ezekiel Elliott poised to hog ownership this week, Miller is not only in a prime spot for production -- he’s in a prime spot to help you catapult up the standings.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. will never be a player that flies completely under the radar in tournaments, but there are signs he’ll go more lightly-owned than usual heading into a great matchup with the Ravens. While he salvaged a decent fantasy performance with a late touchdown last week against the Packers, his 14.1 fantasy points were still disappointing considering his high salary and plus matchup.
Through five games, Beckham has failed to top 16 fantasy points on Fanduel. As a result, his price has come down $800 from Week 1 and $300 from last week. Significant price drops like these are often an indication of low ownership, and anytime you can roster a player with Beckham’s ceiling in GPPs when the crowd is looking in a different direction, it’s worth considering.
The Game Log Dominator shows Beckham has an exploitable matchup this week:
|Robert Woods||wr||1||BUF @ BAL||L, 7-13||5||4||20||5||0||2|
|Sammy Watkins||wr||1||BUF @ BAL||L, 7-13||6||4||43||10.8||0||4.3|
|Andrew Hawkins||wr||2||CLE BAL||L, 20-25||3||3||28||9.3||0||2.8|
|Corey Coleman||wr||2||CLE BAL||L, 20-25||8||5||104||20.8||2||22.4|
|Terrelle Pryor||wr||2||CLE BAL||L, 20-25||10||3||32||10.7||0||3.2|
|Allen Hurns||wr||3||JAX BAL||L, 17-19||8||4||40||10||0||4|
|Marqise Lee||wr||3||JAX BAL||L, 17-19||7||5||44||8.8||0||4.4|
|Allen Robinson||wr||3||JAX BAL||L, 17-19||11||7||57||8.1||2||17.7|
|Michael Crabtree||wr||4||OAK @ BAL||W, 28-27||12||7||88||12.6||3||26.8|
|Amari Cooper||wr||4||OAK @ BAL||W, 28-27||6||5||48||9.6||0||4.8|
|Jamison Crowder||wr||5||WAS @ BAL||W, 16-10||3||3||35||11.7||0||3.5|
|DeSean Jackson||wr||5||WAS @ BAL||W, 16-10||7||3||35||11.7||0||3.5|
|Pierre Garcon||wr||5||WAS @ BAL||W, 16-10||7||5||56||11.2||1||11.6|
Baltimore has the top ranked rush defense (Football Outsiders DVOA), which forces teams to try to beat them by passing. 75% of the touchdowns Baltimore has allowed this season have come via the pass, and as the Dominator shows, the Ravens have difficulty keeping the opposition’s WR1 out of the end zone. Aside from shutting down a hobbled Sammy Watkins in Week 1, and DeSean Jackson last week (in a game that saw 30+ mile per hour gusts of wind), Baltimore has allowed multi-touchdown performances to opposing WR1s in each of their other three games.
The popular narrative is that Beckham’s numbers are down due to the presence of Sterling Shepard and a healthy Victor Cruz as other viable weapons for Eli Manning, but the numbers simply don’t bear it out. Beckham has received at least eight targets in every game this season, and his 27.3% team target market share is higher than it was last year when he finished with 80 catches, 1,450 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Beckham is past due for an explosion, and a return home to face a soft pass defense after consecutive tough road games feels like just the spot for it.
In terms of point per dollar value relative to expected ownership, Landry is my top play on this week’s slate. Fresh off a 4.5 point outing in what looked like a great matchup with the Titans, Landry will be a forgotten man. His price is down $600 from last week and 81% of the tickets are on the Steelers to cover by more than a touchdown in Miami -- both great indications the crowd will be off Landry and the Dolphins in general.
Prior to last week’s off-script stinker, Landry had received double digit targets in every game this season. His cumulative 32% target market share is tied with Emmanuel Sanders for the league lead. Volume has never been a problem for Landry, and he should see more than usual vs. Pittsburgh. The Game Log Dominator reveals an interesting trend for wide receivers against the Steelers:
|Pierre Garcon||wr||1||WAS PIT||L, 16-38||6||6||51||8.5||0||5.1|
|Jamison Crowder||wr||1||WAS PIT||L, 16-38||10||6||58||9.7||0||5.8|
|DeSean Jackson||wr||1||WAS PIT||L, 16-38||10||6||102||17||0||10.2|
|A.J. Green||wr||2||CIN @ PIT||L, 16-24||8||2||38||19||0||3.8|
|Brandon LaFell||wr||2||CIN @ PIT||L, 16-24||8||3||39||13||0||3.9|
|Tyler Boyd||wr||2||CIN @ PIT||L, 16-24||8||6||78||13||0||7.8|
|Nelson Agholor||wr||3||PHI PIT||W, 34-3||3||3||21||7||0||2.1|
|Josh Huff||wr||3||PHI PIT||W, 34-3||5||4||20||5||0||2|
|Dorial Green-Beckham||wr||3||PHI PIT||W, 34-3||4||3||33||11||0||3.3|
|Jordan Matthews||wr||3||PHI PIT||W, 34-3||3||2||19||9.5||1||7.9|
|Albert Wilson||wr||4||KC @ PIT||L, 14-43||8||5||52||10.4||0||5.2|
|Jeremy Maclin||wr||4||KC @ PIT||L, 14-43||8||5||78||15.6||0||7.8|
|Tyreek Hill||wr||4||KC @ PIT||L, 14-43||7||5||24||4.8||1||8.2|
|Chris Conley||wr||4||KC @ PIT||L, 14-43||7||6||70||11.7||0||7|
|Quincy Enunwa||wr||5||NYJ @ PIT||L, 13-31||7||4||51||12.8||0||5.1|
|Brandon Marshall||wr||5||NYJ @ PIT||L, 13-31||15||8||114||14.3||1||17.4|
|Robby Anderson||wr||5||NYJ @ PIT||L, 13-31||2||1||10||10||0||1|
Teams are funneling targets to their slot receivers against Pittsburgh, even if those receivers are not the primary options in their respective offenses. Jamison Crowder was targeted 10 times in Week 1, Tyler Boyd eight times in Week 2, Albert Wilson eight times in Week 4, and Quincy Enunwa seven times last week. It’s also worth noting Philadelphia’s primary slot receiver, Jordan Matthews, scored a touchdown against the Steelers in Week 3. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh’s nickel corner, Sean Davis, owns Pro Football Focus’ sixth-worst coverage grade of the cornerbacks expected to be active this week.
Normalized Strength of Schedule hammers Landry home as a great value play. The year-to-date data shows the Steelers have allowed the second-most normalized pass attempts and completions per game. Don’t be surprised if they lead the league in both categories after this weekend. The Dolphins are 7.5 point underdogs whose lousy defense is faced with the unenviable task of stopping Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell. Ryan Tannehill will be forced to air it out, either to keep pace or play catch up.
When you combine the implied game script with Pittsburgh’s league-high 70% opponent pass play percentage, and susceptibility to slot receivers, a 15 target game for Landry can’t be ruled out.
Allow the Game Log Dominator to state the obvious about Washington’s ability to stop opposing running backs:
|Fitzgerald Toussaint||1||PIT @ WAS||W, 38-16||3||6||2||0||0||0||0||0||0.6|
|DeAngelo Williams||1||PIT @ WAS||W, 38-16||26||143||5.5||2||9||6||28||0||29.1|
|Alfred Morris||2||DAL @ WAS||W, 27-23||5||7||1.4||1||0||0||0||0||6.7|
|Lance Dunbar||2||DAL @ WAS||W, 27-23||3||6||2||0||2||2||26||0||3.2|
|Ezekiel Elliott||2||DAL @ WAS||W, 27-23||21||83||3.95||1||2||2||4||0||14.7|
|Shane Vereen||3||NYG WAS||L, 27-29||11||67||6.09||1||5||2||28||0||15.5|
|Orleans Darkwa||3||NYG WAS||L, 27-29||10||53||5.3||1||1||1||9||0||12.2|
|Duke Johnson||4||CLE @ WAS||L, 20-31||8||45||5.63||0||8||6||31||0||7.6|
|Isaiah Crowell||4||CLE @ WAS||L, 20-31||16||120||7.5||1||4||3||22||0||20.2|
|Javorius Allen||5||BAL WAS||L, 10-16||4||18||4.5||0||1||1||0||0||1.8|
|Terrance West||5||BAL WAS||L, 10-16||11||95||8.64||0||3||2||-6||0||8.9|
If it hadn’t been for the coaching malpractice that cost Marc Trestman his job last week, Terrance West would have become the latest mediocre rusher to abuse Washington on the ground. The Redskins have allowed 5.3 yards per carry to running backs this season, which ranks last in the NFL. It’s clear this is a great spot for Ryan Mathews, but very few will click his name due to the perception he’s mired in one of the league’s most frustrating backfield committees.
It’s true the Eagles have played all four of their running backs in recent weeks, but make no mistake -- when Mathews is healthy, he’s going to split work with Darren Sproles right down the middle. We saw it happen in Week 1 when Sproles and Mathews’ snap counts were dead even, and again last week when Mathews returned healthy from the bye week for 25 snaps, compared to only one apiece for Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner.
Despite being on the field for only 33% of the Eagles offensive snaps this season, Mathews leads the team with a 41% share of their total backfield touches. And just like in years past, Mathews has been efficient with those touches from a fantasy perspective, averaging 0.87 fantasy points per touch, which ranks seventh among running backs with at least 50 touches.
Mathews owes his efficiency to his role as the Eagles goal line hammer. 57% of his fantasy points have been scored on carries from inside the opponent’s five yard line, which is the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Goal line carries are difficult to predict, but the only running back with more than Mathews’ seven this season is C.J. Anderson, who has eight but has also played 136 more snaps.
Mathews’ reliable role on the goal line plays well on sites without full PPR scoring where touchdowns carry added importance. With the Eagles favored in Washington and projected for a respectable 23.5 points, Mathews has a strong chance of finding the end zone again, especially considering 57% of the touchdowns Washington has allowed this year have come via the rush.
The most common roster construction this week will include two high priced running backs (and probably three on sites that include a flex spot). Provided he finds the end zone again, Mathews can rack up enough yards against this defense on 15 total touches to easily pay off his price tag, and allow you to spend up at wide receiver to construct a contrarian roster in GPPs.