If we rewind to last week for a moment, we see that some of the week’s top chalk selections delivered in a big way, while others delivered resounding duds. Tom Brady and LeSean McCoy fall in the former camp, while Antonio Brown and Delanie Walker clearly reside in the latter category. While it’s an incredibly small snapshot, it provides a fascinating glimpse into following the chalk on a weekly basis.
It can be incredibly tough to go against the grain when a player’s prospects for the week are screaming must play. Let’s look at Delanie Walker as an example. He had a prime matchup on the table against the Browns in Week 6, a club that had notably been obliterated by opposing tight ends for the previous two weeks. Things didn’t work out too well for Walker, as he delivered a line of 1/21/0. To add insult to injury, fellow Titans tight end Anthony Fasano also caught only a single pass - but his was in the end zone.
Having a can’t-miss prospect blow up in your face can be a pretty painful experience, especially for those that have a good deal of exposure to that player via multiple lineups. Walker is the latest example to not place all of your eggs in one basket, as game plans and in-game injuries can quickly lead you to rue that decision. For the multiple lineup crowd, it’s always a good idea to mix things up and not have 100% exposure to a player across all of your lineups. On the single-entry front, Walker’s implosion can be chalked up to a simple factor: it happens, and it’s best to dust yourself off and move on to the next week.
Chalk plays can offer up some phenomenal production, but there’s a risk of implosion as with any other player. While that doesn’t mean we need to shy away completely due to the scarring we may have received from a play such as Walker, it’s an important factor to keep in mind when we’re penciling the production into our lineups. Over time, a solid research process will win out more often than not, and that will more than compensate for the occasional anomaly such as Walker.
Let’s take a look at this week’s chalk selections, starting with a pair of games that are popping up on everybody’s radar.
New Orleans Saints @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Saints take their talents on the road to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs this week, and they also make yet another appearance in one of the chalk games of the week. This game is a little tough to get a read on in some spots, but the projected total points us to some potential fantasy goodness.
This game is a little unique from a chalk perspective as neither signal caller is screaming must-play. Alex Smith disappointed in a good spot against the Raiders last week, and the Chiefs offense continues to chug along on the conservative trail. That doesn’t mean that Smith isn’t worth a spot on a GPP lineup, but it’s certainly a situation in which we don't want to place all of our eggs in that basket.
Enthusiasm will be slightly tempered on Drew Brees due to his playing on the road, but in this case we can take it as a sign to raise our antennae up. While the Chiefs defense held the Raiders in check last week, that also came in a game with some pretty poor field conditions, and the seasoned signal caller that is Brees will be able to pick his spots and produce.
Passing game targets point us to Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas. Maclin has had a disappointing start to 2016, and if he can’t get it in gear against the Saints secondary, his season will likely fall into the realm of less than stellar. We’ll look for Maclin to have a small breakout this week, but once again we won’t consider it an all-in situation. Cooks exploded last week, but he’ll likely be closely acquainted with the ball-hawking Marcus Peters for much of the game. He’ll still produce, but those looking for a repeat performance may walk away disappointed.
Kelce and Thomas make for fine pivots off of the anticipated high ownership percentages of Maclin and Cooks. Both are affordable and receive their fair share of targets, and a trip to the end zone is within the realm of reasonable expectations in a projected high-scoring affair. Other passing game targets worth mentioning include Willie Snead IV, Coby Fleener and Chris Conley. Fleener is the safest play of this triumvirate, while the other two are in the contrarian neighborhood.
The running games offer us the options of Mark Ingram II, Jamaal Charles, and Spencer Ware. For the Saints, Ingram has been very hit or miss this year, so it’s hard to look to him for the reliability that you would expect from a chalk selection. While the Chiefs backfield is pointed towards RBBC, there’s still production to be had from both Ware and Charles. We’ll give the edge to Ware until the workload split becomes something closer to 50/50, and consider him an interesting selection due to the fact that others may be hesitant due to the uncertain number of carries. The Saints have a porous run defense, and a strong ground game such as the one from the Chiefs will produce.
San Diego Chargers @ Atlanta Falcons
The game with the highest projected total of the week offers up plenty of appealing options, starting with the respective signal callers. We can expect ownership percentages to be high for both Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, and there’s no reason to bypass either player. Productive matches are on the table for both of them, and two pass-friendly offenses should produce some fireworks.
Julio Jones will likely be the most popular target from this game, in spite of his hefty price tag. A salary of $9,200 is a lot to cover, but the upside is strong in this matchup. Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu are the other Falcons to keep on the radar, with Freeman the most likely to offer up solid production of the three. The Chargers are a little tricky as they continue to spread the wealth, but Melvin Gordon III, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry deserve consideration. Gordon and Benjamin are the top two choices, but Gordon is not at the must-play status that he’s been bestowed with over the past few weeks for this one.
While ownership percentages will be high for both Rivers and Ryan, there’s still plenty of uniqueness to be had this week at other spots to set your lineups apart. If you’re sold on their prospects, feel free to stack them up with a top target and look for a contrarian option or two for another spot in your lineup. The other way to approach the game is strictly through the passing game targets, with Jones the clear-cut top choice, and Benjamin or Williams as interesting possibilities.
Let’s take a look at some of this week’s other chalk selections by position, as well as some options that make sense if you’re looking to shake things up.
QB Andy Dalton, $6,000
While Tom Brady will likely be higher-owned this week, his ownership percentage may dip slightly due to a potential blowout against the Steelers. Quickly on Brady: he can produce enough in the first half even if the Patriots call the dogs off after halftime, but we’re not as confident in him as we were in prior weeks due to the blowout risk. He’s definitely on the GPP radar, but not an all-in situation.
For Dalton, the combination of facing off against the Browns and an affordable price tag will likely lead to an ownership spike. A Dalton and A.J. Green combo looks like an appealing GPP stack, but there is some blowout risk here as well. We won’t totally avoid him, but he’s not exactly a must-play in Week 7. For a little more uniqueness, you can stay at the same price point and look towards Marcus Mariota. He’s coming off back-to-back solid games, and he also has an appealing matchup on the table against the Colts.
RB DeMarco Murray, $7,200
Of this week’s expensive running backs, Murray has the best matchup on paper. His ownership percentage should be sky-high, but he may be one of those selections in which we just want to pencil him in and spend our time researching other spots. The Colts have a porous run defense, and Murray has been one of the more productive backs in the league thus far. That points to Murray padding his totals nicely in Week 7, and we’ll look to place him on a good portion of our rosters.
If you’re looking to mix it up a bit, head north on the salary chart and land on David Johnson. It’s a tough matchup on paper against the Seahawks, but they’re not going to completely shut him down. Johnson continues to dazzle, and he has five touchdowns to his credit over the past two games. He offers some interesting upside this week, and his ownership percentage should be much less than it would be against another opponent.
WR Mike Evans, $7,800
The signs point to Evans being a clear must-start against the 49ers, and we’ll concur. He’s been targeted a whopping 62 times thus far, and he has a tremendous opportunity to produce against a club that’s allowed a pair of touchdowns to opposing wideouts for three consecutive weeks. Evans deserves a spot in your lineups this week.
If you’re looking to pivot away from the highly-owned Evans, you can look to Brandon Marshall and save a couple of hundred dollars in salary cap space. While the offensively-challenged Jets have handed the reins over to Geno Smith, they’ll be facing off with a Ravens secondary that brought Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. back to life last week.
TE Rob Gronkowski, $7,200
Gronkowski proved that he was back last week in a big way by dropping a line of 9/162/1. There’s no reason to believe his target volume will drop this week, and he makes for a fine play against the Steelers. That being said, the price tag is steep, and we already mentioned the blowout risk that’s on the table for this one. That’s somewhat offset by the potential for a multiple touchdown performance, which can never be ruled out when Gronkowski’s on the field.
If you’re pivoting off Gronkowski, you can save a ton of cap space by looking towards Jimmy Graham. He’s another stud tight end that finally appears to be fully healed up, and he’s established a really nice rapport with Russell Wilson to boot.
D New England Patriots, $2,900
There’s several appealing expensive defenses this week, namely the Vikings, Bengals and Bills, but most players will look at the savings offered by selecting the Patriots, who just so happen to be facing off with a backup quarterback. There’s good potential for the Patriots to force a turnover or two in this one, and all signs point to this being a solid approach to filling your defense spot in Week 7.
If you’re not interested in the Patriots and/or would like a little uniqueness, you can spend up a bit for the Eagles or Cardinals. Both squads offer upside, but they may not have as much of a ceiling as the Patriots do for this week.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 7. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.