#Trendspotting: Week 7 - Delanie Chalker?

Examining player and team trends to identify valuable DFS options and start/sits in season-long leagues

Graphics Tutorial

I've gotten feedback that my graphics aren't as self-explanatory and intuitive as I think they are, so I provided a guide at the beginning of a past version of this article.

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 2017 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 target volume suggests they should have earned more touchdowns (and might earn more soon).

PlayerTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmRecTDMatchup
Adam Thielen 8.8 26.6% 33.2 0 vs. BAL
Pierre Garcon 9.3 23.5% 39.7 0 vs. DAL
Julio Jones 7.4 22.0% 33.6 0 at NE
Demaryius Thomas 8.8 25.0% 35.2 0 at LAC
Doug Baldwin 7.8 22.0% 35.4 1 at NYG
Keenan Allen 10.2 27.2% 37.3 1 vs. DEN

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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 criteria are used to determine 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
Arizona Cardinals 250.3 90.3 6.6 3.3 73.5% 26.5%
Detroit Lions 244.2 94.3 6.6 3.7 72.1% 27.9%
Miami Dolphins 235.0 80.4 6.5 3.5 74.5% 25.5%
Philadelphia Eagles* 273.5 65.7 6.2 3.8 80.6% 19.4%

Philadelphia is 18th in net yards allowed per pass attempt, placing them slightly outside the range on that criterion. But they still allow significantly more production via the pass than the run.

Week 7 Matchups

  • L.A. Rams vs. Arizona (in London)
  • Detroit: BYE week
  • N.Y. Jets at Miami
  • Washington at Philadelphia

Jared Goff should be fine as long as he stays away from Patrick Peterson. Kirk Cousins is always a viable play and just picked apart another funnel-ish defense in San Francisco. But the takeaway here is the surprisingly-on-fire Josh McCown is streamable again in deep leagues and a comfortable start in 2QB leagues.

"Runnel" Defense

Sometimes, the funnel effect can happen in reverse, where a team is very good against the pass but poor against the run (hence, "runnel" defense) Side note: I didn't create this term; I saw it on Twitter last season, but I can't recall who posted it. If you know, drop me a line so I can give proper credit.

Here's a look at Runnel Defense the criteria:

  • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
  • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for low percentage figures here)
  • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for high percentage figures here)
TeamRuYd/GmPaYd/GmYd/RushNYd/Att% RushYd% PassYd
Pittsburgh Steelers 118.5 153.5 4.7 4.4 43.6% 56.4%
Jacksonville Jaguars 145.7 166.0 5.2 4.5 46.7% 53.3%
Los Angeles Chargers 152.5 186.0 5.0 5.6 45.1% 54.9%
Seattle Seahawks 127.2 202.8 4.9 5.4 38.5% 61.5%

Week 7 Matchups

  • Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
  • Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville
  • Denver at L.A. Chargers
  • N.Y. Giants vs. Seattle

Cincinnati should aim to slow the game down and play keep-away from Pittsburgh's suddenly-maybe-hot-again offense (more on how they might do that later). C.J. Anderson will look for a bounce-back game against a Chargers team that had been gashed before last week. As good as Orleans Darkwa and company looked on Sunday night, asking him to repeat the feat against a rested Seattle team is a tough ask. The same goes for Indianapolis - unless they decided to unleash a dynamic Marlon Mack.

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The Weakest Links

Last Week

Last week's trends were a mixed bag. Non-WR1s vs. Arizona had decent results with both Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson having ok-but-not-outstanding games. Running backs vs. the L.A. Chargers didn't yield a great result, but when their opponent has a better run game and isn't using an injured quarterback and a conservative offense, that one will come back into play. There was one result, though, that we said we'd keep discussing until it stops.

If You're a Tight End, You Have a Good Chance at a Touchdown Against the Giants

Look at all the touchdowns!

NY Giants vs. TEs

That is seven touchdowns by tight ends in six games. While many of the other scorers are players with pedigree, this week's scorer was Jeff Heuerman. This is officially "a thing." This week, the Giants host Seattle. Are you going to bet against the team with Jimmy Graham being the only one not to score a touchdown against the Giants with its tight end? Graham has a shot at a massive week

Not Your Father's Steel Curtain

Despite having a very talented front seven and a suspect back end, Pittsburgh has been abused by running backs this season, particularly on the ground.

Pittsburgh vs. RBs

That's already four backs with over 100 yards from scrimmage against Pittsburgh (and another who had 82 yards on just 9 carries), the majority of whom have done significant damage on the ground. But Ryan, you say, Cincinnati has three running backs. How will I know which one is most likely to take advantage of Pittsburgh? 

PlayerSnapsCarriesTargetsReceptionsRed Zone
Joe Mixon 52.9% 66.7% 41.2% 43.8% 53.8%
Giovani Bernard 29.3% 10.7% 47.1% 43.8% 7.7%
Jeremy Hill 19.4% 22.7% 11.8% 12.5% 38.5%

The table above represents Cincinnati's running back usage since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator in Week 3. This is Joe Mixon's backfield. Cincinnati is an underdog heading into Pittsburgh, which could mean that Giovani Bernard will see a handful of targets, but the backfield is mostly Mixon's for as long as the game is in reach. At just a 5.5-point line at the time of this writing, a blowout isn't exactly a foregone conclusion.

Getting Rammed

The L.A. Rams have definitely improved from last season, but one area where they're struggling is run defense.

LA Rams vs. RBs

  • The Rams are allowing 39.8% of their total yardage via the rush, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • They are allowing 34.8% of their total points to be scored via rushing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • They are ranked 29th and 28th in rushing yards per game and rushing yards per play, respectively.

Only the Seattle backs and the Indianapolis backs - two of the most talent-lacking units in the league - have failed to exceed expectations against the Rams. And it speaks to just how bad they've been that two-thirds of their opponents have been bad enough at running the ball that they deserve such a qualifier. 

They won't face Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott every week, but they won't get to face the weak Seattle and Indianapolis committees either. The truth for the Rams run defense is somewhere in the middle, probably something like the Rob Kelley-Semaje Perine committee. That average-at-best duo combined for 33 carries and 145 yards. Adrian Peterson found the fountain of youth last week to the point that he's a sell-high in many trade articles this week. But if you think Arizona can keep this week's game script neutral or positive, Peterson could have another starter-worthy week in him.

Battles in the Trenches

You might recall the Week 5 column where we listed offensive line vs. defensive line matchups to identify potential overperforming and underperforming offensive units. Our Matt Bitonti has given me a sneak preview of this week's article. Here are some observations:

  • Dallas at San Francisco: both offensive lines have notable advantages over their defense counterparts. San Francisco has the week's fourth-largest advantage (calculated by subtracting the ranking of offensive line minus the ranking of the opposing defensive line), while Dallas has the fifth-largest.
  • Arizona vs. L.A. Rams (London): The Rams have the week's third-largest offensive line advantage and ninth-largest defensive line advantage.
  • Tennessee at Cleveland: Similar to Dallas-San Francisco, both teams' offensive lines have the advantage here.
  • Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh has the week's second-largest defensive line advantage.
  • Seattle at N.Y. Giants: Seattle has the largest defensive line advantage of the week against the beleaguered Giants front.
  • Atlanta at New England: Atlanta has the week's largest offensive line advantage over New England's defensive line.

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New England Patriots (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

New England vs. Atlanta

Notes

  • Atlanta is allowing 23.1% of its total passing yards to running backs, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New England targets its running backs on 25.8% of its passes, the seventh-highest ratio.
  • Atlanta is allowing 25.1% of its total targets to running backs, the eighth-highest ratio.
  • Atlanta is yielding 14.1 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, sixth-most.
  • Per Football Outsiders, Atlanta is 14th against WR1s but 25th against WR2s.
  • Chris Hogan has seen at least one red zone target each of the last four weeks, with nine total over that span.

Commentary

New England's offense is very good, Atlanta's defense isn't terribly difficult, and New England's defense is horrific. That's a formula that leads to anyone from New England being in play. Beyond the obvious plays of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Brandin Cooks, look to James White to see seven or more targets and be a DFS value play or PPR RB2.

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New Orleans Saints (at Green Bay Packers)

New Orleans at Green Bay

Notes

  • Green Bay has allowed 99+ yards from scrimmage to four running backs this season.
  • Green Bay has allowed 3+ receptions to three running backs this season.
  • Mark Ingram II's percentage of running back carries by week, starting with Week 1: 31%, 47%, 56%, 61%, 71%
  • Notable WR1 performances against Green Bay: J. Jones (5-108-0); A. Green (10-111-1); K. Wright (4-51-1); D. Bryant (5-52-1); A. Thielen (9-97-0)

Commentary

The pass-catching notes above might lead many to use Alvin Kamara, but without Aaron Rodgers, New Orleans is a 6-point favorite at Green Bay. If that line is to be believed, the game script would indicate more rushing than passing, leading back to Ingram once again.

As for the passing game, the true target hog WR1s have feasted on Green Bay, but the ones with other viable weapons on the field to compliment them have shared the wealth with their teammates. It's a nice matchup for Michael Thomas, but it's also a nice one for Ted Ginn Jr, Willie Snead IV, and the rest. Ingram is a fringe RB1 in this matchup, and Kamara makes for a likely low-owned DFS GPP play

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Tennessee Titans (at Cleveland Browns)

Tennessee at Cleveland

Notes

  • Cleveland is allowing 53.5% of its points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • As shown in the image below, Tennesee targets its running backs just 10.9% of the time, the lowest ratio in the league.
  • Tennessee targets its tight ends 29.9% of the time, the third-highest in the league.
  • Cleveland is allowing 30.8% of its targets to tight ends, the highest ratio in the league.
  • Of tight ends with five or more targets against Cleveland, five of the six have recorded 10+ fantasy points. Four of the six have recorded 14.9 fantasy points or more.
  • Delanie Walker targets by week, beginning with Week 1: 9-4-6-7-5-8

Cleveland vs. TEs

Commentary

Cleveland is funnel-like in nature. As you can see from the first graphic above, they allow the fewest yards per carry in the NFL. Their cornerbacks are good enough to filter targets to the interior of the field, and teams have clearly taken notice. Walker is a solid choice this week. Especially on DraftKings, where the Sunday Night Football game (and, therefore, Rob Gronkowski) isn't on the main slate, Walker should be the go-to player at tight end, regardless of salary. Sure, players like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Evan Engram are a bit less expensive, but Walker's combination of pedigree and matchup can't be matched. He many not be the "chalk," as the title of the article suggests, but he probably should be.

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Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals - in London)

LA Rams vs. Arizona

Notes

  • Arizona is allowing 3.3 yards per rush, fourth-best in the NFL.
  • Arizona is allowing 26.5% of its total yardage via the rush, the fifth-lowest percentage in the NFL.
  • Arizona has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns to four quarterbacks this season. One of those had three touchdowns; two others had four touchdowns.
  • Arizona has allowed 290+ passing yards to three quarterbacks.
  • Los Angeles is averaging 7.5 net yards per pass attempt, second-best in the NFL.

Commentary

We saw above that Arizona is a funnel defense. We also discussed last week that they're good against WR1s. From last week's column:

Arizona vs. WRs

Sammy Watkins hasn't been the Rams WR1 by targets, but he profiles as such. Meanwhile, Robert Woods has seen seven, six, eight, and seven targets over the last four weeks. Woods leads the team in air yards, targets, and receptions and is just a couple points behind Cooper Kupp for overall PPR points, which is mostly because he has zero touchdowns to Kupp's two. Even if Woods sees some of Patrick Peterson, he won't get him all the time. And he's the guy getting the volume. Woods is a flex option and a cash game option in DFS, while Kupp makes for a potential GPP option.

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Atlanta Falcons (at New England Patriots)

Atlanta at New England

Notes

  • As mentioned in The Weakest Links section, our Matt Bitonti ranks Atlanta's offensive line 3rd and New England's defensive line 31st.
  • New England is allowing 7.2 receptions per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL.
  • New England is allowing 77.0 receiving yards per game to running backs, most in the NFL.
  • New England is allowing 6.0 receptions per game to tight ends, third-most in the NFL.
  • New England is allowing 0.8 touchdowns per game to tight ends, third-most in the NFL.
  • Austin Hooper targets in games Mohamed Sanu has finished: 2, 2, 2
  • Hooper targets in games Sanu has not finished: 7, 9
  • New England has allowed 5+ receptions to five wide receivers.

Commentary

New England allows production to everyone. But let's look at their Football Outsiders rankings to determine where they are the worst. WR1s: 31; WR2s: 20; WR3s: 21; TEs: 13; RBs: 28. This all lines up for Julio Jones, the running backs, and Austin Hooper. Jones is super expensive in DFS but makes for a high-end cash game play; you can rely on him despite his lack of success so far. Tevin Coleman has out-targeted and recorded at least as many receptions as Devonta Freeman in every game but one this year, making Coleman and his big-play receiving potential an intriguing GPP play. Sanu is expected back this week, but Hooper is still intriguing. Even if he can get four or more targets, Hooper is a nice low-cost option.

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Seattle Seahawks (at New York Giants)

Seattle at NY Giants

Notes

  • New York is allowing 50.0% of its total points to be scored via passing touchdowns, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New York is allowing 26.7% of its receptions to tight ends, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Seattle is completing 27.9% of its passes to tight ends, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New York has allowed 250+ passing yards to four quarterbacks and multiple passing touchdowns to three.
  • Jimmy Graham is second on the team in targets and receptions.

Commentary

With Janoris Jenkins outside, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returning from his one-game team-imposed suspension to help man the slot, and a weak spot at WR2 for Seattle, don't overthink this. Seattle has to score points somehow, they aren't a good running team, and the Giants are poor against the pass (especially to tight ends). Graham is one of the best options on the slate; stacking him with Wilson is a viable DFS strategy.

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