#Trendspotting: Week 9 - Buying Low

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 workloads suggest they should have earned more touchdowns. This week (and going forward), I'll be using only the most recent four weeks as the examination period. 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 in the NFL in passing attempts per game
  • zero touchdowns if the team has played three games in the four-week period, or one touchdown if they've played all four weeks
PlayerTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmRecTDMatchup
Pierre Garcon 8.5 21.1% 40.3 0 vs. ARI
Devin Funchess 7.8 20.8% 37.5 1 vs. ATL
Demaryius Thomas 9.7 23.7% 41.0 0 at PHI
Jamison Crowder 8.0 20.9% 38.3 0 at SEA

Notes

Of all the players on here, Devin Funchess seems like the best bet this week. First, he's a huge target who should be good in the red zone. Secondly, his target share should increase a bit with the trade of Kelvin Benjamin. Lastly, he won't be facing Patrick Peterson, Seattle's secondary, or catching passes from Brock Osweiler. After playing an average of 71.4% of the team's snaps in the three games between Week 3 and Week 6 (Washington had a Week 5 bye), Jamison Crowder has played 90.6% and 94.9% of the snaps over the last two weeks. Seattle isn't the same "Legion of Boom" of past seasons, but they are still strong on the perimeter, leaving interior opportunity for Crowder.

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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
Detroit Lions 254.6 91.6 7.1 3.6 73.5% 26.5%
Houston Texans 238.0 96.6 6.9 3.8 71.1% 28.9%
Philadelphia Eagles* 256.8 70.4 5.9 3.8 78.5% 21.5%
Buffalo Bills* 266.4 80.1 6.3 3.5 76.9% 23.1%
Cleveland Browns** 229.3 84.3 6.6 2.9 73.1% 26.9%

Notes

  • Detroit travels to Green Bay on Monday. We miss you, Aaron Rodgers.
  • Houston has allowed 100+ rushing yards to two running backs: Leonard Fournette (100) and Kareem Hunt (107).
  • Houston has allowed no more than 58 rushing yards to any other running back.
  • Houston has allowed 4+ receptions to zero running backs and no more than 24 receiving yards to any running back.
  • Houston has allowed one rushing touchdown to running backs.
  • Philadelphia may not be on this list next week. If they aren't it will likely be due to Denver not being able to pass enough to keep Philadelphia's pass yards per game above the thresholds here.
  • Philadelphia and Buffalo narrowly miss on the Net Yards per Attempt criterion but are 26th and 29th, respectively, in pass yards per game and 1st and 3rd in rush yards per game.
  • Cleveland is only 18th in pass yards per game, but they're 24th in Net Yards per Attempt and allow the fewest yards per rush. With volume, they're a funnel. They also have a bye this week.

"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
Jacksonville Jaguars 138.6 161.7 5.2 4.2 46.1% 53.9%
Los Angeles Rams 123.1 205.0 4.6 5.8 37.5% 62.5%
Pittsburgh Steelers* 106.6 180.0 4.5 5.0 37.2% 62.8%
Los Angeles Chargers 135.1 201.9 4.6 5.6 40.1% 59.9%

Notes

  • Jacksonville is coming off a bye and facing Cincinnati's anemic run game. For those reasons, they can progress towards righting the ship this week.
  • The L.A. Rams travel to New York to play the Giants. "Runnel" as they are, the Giants run game can't be recommended.
  • Pittsburgh narrowly misses the bottom-third in rushing yards per game (16th) but are well within the range for the other criteria. They have a bye this week.
  • The L.A. Chargers are also on a bye this week.

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The Weakest Links

Sometimes, trends begin early in the year and last most (or all) of the season. Other times, they develop in the middle of the year due to injuries, schedule strength, or any number of factors. In his article Fantasy Overview, my colleague Jeff Haseley details some trends that have developed over the last four weeks. It's a great read. Here's a positional matchup that was an "avoid" early in the year but has become one to target.

Galloping Past the Colts

Notes

  • Indianapolis has allowed 100+ yards from scrimmage to three running backs in the last four games.
  • Indianapolis has allowed four rushing touchdowns to running backs in the last four games.
  • Prior to facing Cincinnati's poor run game, Indianapolis had allowed 120+ rushing yards to running backs in two straight games.
  • On the season, Indianapolis has allowed seven rushing touchdowns to running backs, tied for the most in the NFL.

Welcome Back, Pack

Green Bay returns from their bye week to take on Detroit on Monday Night Football. Detroit's wide receivers just had a nice effort against Pittsburgh and should be able to build on that against Green Bay.

GB vs. WRs

Bonus: Denver vs. Tight Ends

We know Denver is very stout against wide receivers, and we'll see below that they're also a difficult matchup for running backs. If production can be had against Denver, it's via the tight end position. Denver's opponent this week (Philadelphia) has no issue with that. Let's look at how these teams target their players and yield targets by position. The rate at which Philadelphia targets its tight ends is the third-highest percentage in the league, while the rate at which Denver opponents target their tight ends is the second-highest percentage.

DEN vs. TEs

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Matchups to Avoid

Last week in this space, we discussed the L.A. Chargers vs. wide receivers, Carolina vs. running backs, and Denver vs. running backs. Each of those trends held. Here are some highlights to extend some of what we discussed last week:

  • To wide receivers, the L.A. Chargers have allowed 7+ receptions oncetwo 80+ yards twice, and 100+ yards zero times.
  • To running backs, Carolina has allowed 70+ rushing yards once (last week, Doug Martin got 71) and more than 15.5 PPR points zero times.
  • To running backs, Denver has allowed 55+ yards oncezero rushing touchdowns, and 10+ PPR points just three times.

The one trend we listed that may have broken was Pittsburgh vs. quarterbacks. It seemed schedule-driven considering the weaklings Pittsburgh had faced at the position. Matthew Stafford didn't throw a touchdown pass, but considering his 400+ yard performance and his team's five field goals, that could be blamed on coaching as much as Pittsburgh's defense. We have one more to add this week to replace Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati vs. Wide Receivers

Notes

  • Cincinnati allows 107.7 receiving yards per game to wide receivers, second-fewest in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati allows 7.7 receptions per game to wide receivers, fewest in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati allows 51.8% of its targets to wide receivers, the fifth-lowest percentage in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati allows 40.6% of its passing yards to wide receivers, the lowest percentage in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati allows 47.4% of targets to wide receivers to be caught, the lowest percentage in the NFL.

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New Orleans Saints (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

NO vs. TB

Notes

  • Tampa Bay has allowed five rushing touchdowns to running backs in the last three games.
  • Tampa Bay has allowed 5+ receptions to two running backs in the last two games.
  • Per colleague Austin Lee's Normalized Strength of Schedule, Tampa Bay is allowing the third-most normalized rushing yards and the second-most touchdowns over the last five weeks.
  • Tampa Bay has allowed 10+ PPR points to 14 wide receivers and 15+ PPR points to 8 receivers this season.
  • New Orleans is last in the NFL in fantasy points produced by tight ends.
  • Tampa Bay allows the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends

Commentary

The production for New Orleans is a thinner distribution than in previous seasons. Instead of having four or more wide receiver targets and a couple of viable tight ends, the Saints have been more run-focused with Mark Ingram II. When they do pass, Michael Thomas sees the lion's share (25.5%) of targets with Alvin Kamara and Ingram being second and third on the team. Ingram's salary keeps rising, but he's still a solid cash game play this week as a home favorite by a touchdown.

But if just using one New Orleans player, Thomas is the one to roster in DFS. It's certainly possible that Ingram outscores Thomas, but the salary relief Thomas offers at his position makes him more valuable. His price tag isn't likely to be this low in subsequent weeks after he exploits this great matchup.

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Seattle Seahawks (vs. Washington Redskins)

SEA vs. WAS

Notes

  • Washington is allowing 23.0 rushing yards to quarterbacks, second-most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 3.16 rushing fantasy points to quarterbacks, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • Russell Wilson has 194 rushing yards, fourth among quarterbacks.
  • Wilson averages 5.39 yards per carry, fifth-most among quarterbacks with at least 15 carries.
  • Seattle scores 51.4% of its points via passing touchdowns, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Seattle scores 5.9% of its points via rushing touchdowns, the fourth-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • Washington's Football Outsiders Pass DVOA by position ranks: WR1s - 6, WR2s - 7, Other WRs - 12, TEs - 28, RBs - 19.
  • Washington is allowing 79.3 yards to tight ends, most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 33.5% of its total passing yards to tight ends, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Seattle targets its tight ends on 24.3% of their passing attempts, the eighth-highest percentage in the NFL.

Commentary

Last week's cover boy on this article was Jimmy Graham. The article's title was "The Forgotten Elite," and Graham looked elite once again, scoring twice against Houston. It's easy to chase points in fantasy football, but using Graham again this week is a sound decision; he's a great play in all DFS formats (especially in cash), and season-long owners would be hard-pressed to find a better option. If Seattle is producing yards and scoring points, they're coming from Wilson, who is also a great option. The wide receivers are GPP plays -- Paul Richardson Jr and Tyler Lockett for their boom/bust nature and Doug Baldwin because there are more attractive/safer DFS options priced all around him.

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Dallas Cowboys (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)

DAL vs. KC

Notes

  • You may remember from last week's column that Kansas City is bad against wide receivers. Let's review:
  • Kansas City has allowed 11 touchdowns to wide receivers in its last five games.
  • Kansas City has allowed 20+ PPR points to four wide receivers in its last four games and five this season.
  • The stats above include the Week 8 game against Denver's anemic offense.
  • Kansas City allows 68.1% of its targets to wide receivers, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Dallas targets its wide receivers on 68.1% of its pass attempts, the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Per Football Outsiders, Kansas City is 29th against WR1s but 5th against WR2s.
  • Dez Bryant leads Dallas in target market share with 28.7% of the targets. The next-highest wide receiver is Cole Beasley with 13.9%.

Comments

Kansas City is also struggling against running backs, especially when factoring in strength of schedule. Their 4.9 yards per rush allowed is tied for third-worst in the NFL.

KC vs. RBs

Multiple running back-by-committees have kept the individual totals down, while weak strength of schedule is helping to keep the overall "Defense vs. Position" ranking down. Good running teams have performed well (Lamar Miller, Le'Veon Bell, and Denver's trio).

Bryant will be highly-used this week, especially given his salary. He'll be an attractive WR2 for teams paying up at the position and a solid fallback WR1 for teams paying up elsewhere. Alfred Morris is a GPP play with the reports that he's the RB1 in Dallas. Both the misleading rankings of Kansas City vs. running backs and the uncertainty should lead to low ownership.

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Kansas City Chiefs (at Dallas Cowboys)

KC at DAL

Notes

  • Dallas allows 4.8 yards per rush, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • Kansas City gains 4.9 yards per rush, second-most in the NFL.
  • Since his last touchdown in Week 3, Kareem Hunt has averaged 23.6 touches per game.
  • Only seven running backs average more touches over that span. Those backs average 3.6 touchdowns in that span.
  • Dallas has been successful against WR1s but not against WR2s or slot receivers.

DAL vs. WRs

Commentary

The players highlighted in red above are WR2s on their team, while those highlighted in blue are slot receiver types. As you can see, all have performed better than their WR1 counterpart, especially relative to their DraftKings salary for that week (FP/$ column). Kansas City is a difficult offense to classify, but Travis Kelce is basically their WR2. He leads the team in targets, but he isn't often covered by defensive personnel that would cover a perimeter WR1. Kelce also runs plenty of routes from the interior. Kelce is a GPP play this week due to his high price tag and the desirable less expensive options, but he's a candidate for 100 yards and multiple touchdowns every time he suits up.

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Tennessee Titans (vs. Baltimore Ravens)

TEN vs. BAL

Notes

  • Baltimore allows 195.8 gross passing yards to quarterbacks, third-fewest in the NFL.
  • Baltimore allows 17.5 completions, fewest in the NFL.
  • Baltimore intercepts 1.5 passes per game, second-most in the NFL.
  • Baltimore allows 28.5 rush attempts by running backs, most in the NFL
  • Baltimore allows 119.0 rushing yards to running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • Baltimore allows 41.8% of its total yardage via the run, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Baltimore allows 0.8 touchdowns per game to tight ends, second-most in the NFL.

Commentary

Baltimore is 20th in yards per rush allowed, which is the only thing keeping them from being a "Runnel" Defense. However, the volume they allow makes opposing running backs attractive even in the absence of efficiency. DeMarco Murray had a bye week to rest his balky hamstring. He's still the lead back on this team, and his team is a 5.5-point home favorite. Murray is risky for cash games due to the presence of Derrick Henry, but his low salary keeps him viable in all formats. Another player to keep in mind is Delanie Walker. If a player leads his team in target market share (23.1% for Walker) and is facing an opponent weak against his position, I'm looking his way. Walker is a nice GPP pivot off Jimmy Graham. The only objection is Baltimore not keeping up and this game turning into a very low-scoring affair.

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Carolina Panthers (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

CAR vs. ATL

Notes

  • Carolina has one rushing touchdown from a running back this season.
  • Atlanta allows 0.3 rushing touchdowns by running backs, tied for third-fewest in the NFL.
  • Atlanta allows 7.1 receptions per game to running backs, most in the NFL.
  • Atlanta allows 15.4 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL.
  • Christian McCaffrey leads Carolina in targets, with 8.3 per game.

ATL vs. RBs

  • Carolina gets 35.1% of its receptions from running backs, the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Atlanta allows 30.9% of its receptions to running backs, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.

Commentary

Much like Ty Montgomery in Week 2, McCaffrey would appear to be in a great spot against Atlanta. However, McCaffrey offers next-to-nothing in the run game to supplement his passing game involvement. It's also worth noting that while McCaffrey leads the team in total targets, he's just fifth in air yards (excluding Greg Olsen) with only 9% of the air yards and a 2.8-yard Average Depth of Target.

Devin Funchess, however, leads the team in air yards with a 32% market share in that category. It seems reasonable that Funchess would receive at least a couple of the 6.4 targets per game left behind by Kelvin Benjamin. While Atlanta is reasonably strong against wide receivers, they have allowed at least one touchdown to a wide receiver six times over their last six games. They have also allowed 60+ yards to four wideouts in their last three games.

There's a case to be made for both McCaffrey and Funchess, but both are tied to Cam Newton. Similar to the case for Russell Wilson last week, Carolina isn't going to score via the run (unless it's Newton himself), leaving the production mostly to Newton. That makes Newton a must-start in season-long leagues and a solid DFS play, especially in GPPs where he's likely to be owned less than other quarterbacks priced around him.

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