The Best of Week 2

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles.

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week.

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.

1. what to do with devonta freeman?

Devonta Freeman is the best running back on the Atlanta roster, but Atlanta is one of a handful of teams with a pair of compelling running back talents. Kyle Shanahan would have loved to take Tevin Coleman with him to San Francisco. This weekend, Atlanta hosts Carolina at home in a divisional tilt with the possibility that Freeman won't play.

An essential feature at Footballguys throughout the year is Jene Bramel's Second Opinion Footballguys Injury Coverage. Jene gives you the medical facts combined with depth chart developments in response to player injuries. His analysis often examines a wide range of possible outcomes and ultimately narrows it to if-then situations to help you make the wisest possible decision given the information at hand.

Jene posts his coverage on Monday, updates it Wednesday, and over the weekend. On the occasion Jene gives a strong opinion, it's recommended you seriously consider it.

Second Opinion listed Freeman among his fantasy patients this week and this mid-week report is a good example of analysis that lacks a strong opinion given the available information but lays out all the details that will help you make the wisest decisions:

Devonta Freeman didn't practice today. The Falcons and beat writers don't seem to be concerned about the injury or missed practice. But Freeman is still sore a week after the injury and it's unclear whether it's related to the multi-ligament sprain that limited him this offseason. The Falcons have a strong option in Tevin Coleman and have already activated a running back from the practice squad this week. There may be no worries by Sunday but this is something to monitor through the Thursday and Friday participation reports.

Our site's statistical projection team factors Jene's work into its analysis. David Dodd's Week 2 Running Back Cheatsheet features Coleman as its No.11 running back. Freeman is No.35 and there's a notation next to his name on the list with a blurb about Freeman's injury quoting a national media outlet.

In this case, Ian Rappaport reports the team says Freeman is "fine," but Second Opinion delivers a more in-depth and updated look into Freeman and the Falcons' activity in response to the injury.

Another informative feature at Footballguys is our Rushing and Passing Matchups, which break down the weekly games based on the opposing units that face each other. Justin Howe, Devin Knotts, and Keith Roberts give you the basics that will help you determine if a player like Freeman given the uncertainty of his health this week, is worth starting this weekend.

ATLANTA FALCONS RUSHING OFFENSE VS CAROLINA PANTHERS RUSHING DEFENSE (BAD MATCHUP)

The Falcons running game was a no-show in Week 1, managing just 55 yards on 15 runs by the backs. But they shouldn’t feel bad – the Philadelphia run defense is a truly menacing unit, and they’re far from the first run game to vanish against them. Going forward, there are better days to come. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman make for a diverse attack, one capable of both ball-control grinding and big-play dynamism. Coleman, especially, is a spark plug as over the past 3 seasons, he’s produced 23 runs of 15 yards or more – an impressive total for a part-timer. The two backs run behind an experienced front line that’s been almost entirely together for the better part of four years. When the Falcons take on front sevens not as suffocating as the Eagles – and the Buccaneers certainly are not – they’re often able to dominate the trenches behind center Alex Mack and left guard Andy Levitre. And when Coleman gets room to bounce outside, this becomes a very productive unit. One cause for concern for the Falcons is that as of Wednesday, Devonte Freeman is still not practicing after leaving the game early with a knee injury against the Eagles.

The Carolina run defense simply refuses to allow big rushing days. Dating back to last season, they’ve allowed just 3 opponents to top 110 yards on the ground, and only two individual runners have reached 80. In Week 1, Ezekiel Elliott generally produced (69 yards and 1 touchdown on 15 carries), but worked hard for his modest total. Aside from a 17-yard breakaway, Elliott found little room against a front seven that swarmed even without run-stuffing tackle Star Lotulelei. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson were quick in space and did a great job of controlling Elliott’s lanes. Simply put, this is a run defense to shy away from in fantasy football. It’s tough (not advisable) to bench a Devonta Freeman-level runner, especially in Week 2, but it’s not wise to project much success for him, either.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Matt's Verdict: When piecing this information together, I see Freeman's situation in three possible ways:

  1. Freeman may be "fine" from the standpoint that the injury isn't serious enough for multi-week rehab time or a surgical procedure but his lack of practice time this early in the season indicates that he may need a week off so that he's not endangering himself to prolonged treatment.
  2. Freeman is literally "fine" and the team is taking every precaution because it's comfortable with Freeman's ability to miss practice and still perform at a high level on Sundays.
  3. Atlanta projects that Freeman could be ready this weekend but really doesn't know, which is why it activated another back to the active roster.

Given the difficult rushing opponent, the strength of Coleman's game, the lack of practice time, and the addition of another back to the active roster, all signs point to Freeman not playing this week. If he does suit up, there's an increased likelihood that he won't earn his typical volume. If I had to project which of the three scenarios above are true, I'd combine all three: Atlanta doesn't believe Freeman's injury is serious but there's range of healing time for the injury that no one can predict and it requires precaution and a contingency plan.

Don't start Freeman this weekend.

2. The kupp will remain full

Kupp has been a significant red zone since joining the Rams. This week, the Rams face the Cardinals and it's a good opportunity to introduce you to Ryan Hester's Trendspotting feature. Hester delivers a variety of data that point to actionable trends for weekly lineup decisions.

Hester explored developing trends this week and notes one for Arizona's defense:

WR2s vs. Arizona - Washington was balanced offensively, but success from Jordan Reed (4-48-1) and Chris Thompson (6-63-1) showed that anyone not covered by Patrick Peterson is viable.

Hester then lists action items for many of these trends. Here are his thoughts on the situation above:

"Anyone but the WR1" is going to be a theme against Arizona pass defense this season, including running backs. And if the Cardinals offense remains putrid, they're even more of a target for runners. No one needs to be told to play Todd Gurley, but from a raw points perspective, Gurley is the only player whose projection should rival that of Alvin Kamara this week.

The Rams spread their targets around in Week 1 (Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods each had nine, while Brandin Cooks had eight). But the player likely to see the least of Patrick Peterson is Kupp, which makes Kupp the best pass-catching points-per-dollar value on the team with the week's highest projected total.

The third section of Hester's piece delivers a data-based breakdown of play-calling information and commentary.

L.A. RAMS (VS. ARIZONA)

Commentary

Again, we're dealing with small sample size here, but the blue circle is worth mentioning. First, it's a refresher for you - dear reader - on what you should be looking for on these graphics and tables. Blue vs. blue should have your attention. Secondly, it's worth noting that the Rams had the eighth-most rushing yards in Week 1, and Arizona allowed the most rushing yards in Week 1.

The fact that L.A. averaged the second-most yards per rush and scored zero rushing touchdowns points to some positive regression in the rushing touchdown department as well.

The Rams are last in the NFL in fantasy points by their tight ends. That's because they targeted their tight ends zero times in Week 1. Nothing to see here.

As discussed in the "Developing Trends" section above, anyone not facing Patrick Peterson is worth playing against Arizona. Chris Thompson had a 6-63-1 receiving line at Arizona in Week 1; even Adrian Peterson had 2 receptions for 70 yards. As the slot receiver, Cooper Kupp is the least likely wideout to see Peterson.

Action Items

  • Do fantasy GMs need to be convinced to play Todd Gurley? In DFS, they do. Because of his involvement in the passing game and the game script that should lead to enhanced rushing production, Gurley is the only challenger to Kamara in terms of raw points projection this week.
  • He's often overlooked, but Kupp is the best passing game value on a team with the second-highest projected total in the league this week.

Matt's Verdict: Hester gave you his verdict on Kupp based on data that pinpoints the value of Kupp in this matchup. Based on my film analysis that I've shared multiple times in my preseason Gut Check column, Kupp is an underrated red zone threat because of the number of times Goff targeted him last year and his activity there at Eastern Washington.

Kupp's failures in the red zone were a combination of drops and slightly off-target passes. In the red zone, slightly off-target passes are a product of players performing in a compressed space and the decision-making and timing is accelerated to the point that any lack of familiarity and experience in these situations together can hurt the outcome. Last year was Goff's first full year as a starter and his first exposure to Sean McVay's offense. Kupp was a rookie.

Goff and Kupp have the best communication among the receivers on the roster and Kupp's work in the middle of the field where he's faced with more options than any receiver makes this communication vital. Look for Kupp to have a productive week against a weak Cardinals linebacker unit based on the data and the film.

3. james conner is an elite fantasy start

Speaking of film, one of the things yours truly puts in the time to deliver readers weekly is The Top 10 — a weekly film breakdown of Sunday's games. The feature delivers film analysis of players, units, and schemes that will help you gain context behind the box score:

  • Who is performing well despite the stats stating otherwise?
  • Where are certain players or units vulnerable?
  • How do players and units help each other in the context of the game?

Among this week's 10 insights, is that Conner has rendered Le'Veon Bell a luxury for the Steelers offense.

Le'Veon Bell is not an essential need for the Pittsburgh Steelers; he's a luxury. There's no doubt that Bell is a superior player to James Conner but football is a team sport and a running back's performance is highly dependent on his offensive line. If the running back is earning what's blocked for him, it still forces defenses to alter its game plan to stop it (as long as the opponent isn't holding a significant lead).

When Bell was a rookie, the Steelers had a young and banged-up offensive line. He was still good, but Bell's production lacked efficiency and fans and analysts panned his selection in the draft and rolled with the convenient narrative that he became good only after he lost weight despite always having the quickness of a small back.

Today, the Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in football and a competent all-around back like Conner can generate chunk plays and keep the offense on schedule.

Conner caught the ball well and handled a variety of targets smoothly.

The only play where Bell might have performed better was a red-zone screen pass were Conner and Roethlisberger weren't on the same page with the pressure and how Conner should have released behind the opponents so he was ready for the ball. Even Myles' Garrett's forced fumble of a Conner carry in the fourth quarter was the type of play that could have easily happened to Bell.

If you drafted Bell, be prepared for a longer hold out. If you have James Conner, use him like a top-15 fantasy runner — and every-week starter in the mold of Jordan Howard as long as the Steelers' offensive line and Ben Roethlisberger remain healthy.

Footballguys Verdict: Considering that the analysis above is mine, let's look around the site to see what Footballguys thinks...

The combination of Conner's skills as a runner and receiver, his usage, the surrounding skill talent to prevent defenses from concentrating solely on the run, and the strength of the Steelers' offensive line make this an elite fantasy running back situation even if Conner isn't an elite running back talent in a vacuum.

4. DFS Percent rostered Data - week 1

If you play in daily fantasy (DFS) leagues or you're interested in trying, Footballguys offers a tremendous slate of daily fantasy coverage. A vital piece of information when playing DFS is understanding the percentage of players earning roster spots in GPP contests.

Steve Buzzard explains:

WHY IS PERCENT ROSTERED IMPORTANT?

Each week this year I will be projecting the percent rostered rates for the medium priced contests on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Percent rostered rates are arguably the most important aspect of DFS, especially for tournaments. As players continue to get better every week thanks to great coverage like we have here at Footballguys it becomes more important to play against your opponents than just picking the “best” value plays. Consider the following example:

You are playing a simple game where you and 100 of your friends have to pick who will score more points between Drew Brees and Tom Brady. All the losers contribute $10 to the pot for the winners to split. Let’s say your prediction is about the same for both of them, 20 points. You might think it doesn’t really matter who you pick. You will win half the time and lose half the time. But let’s say you also know that a lot of people really like Brady and you find out about 70% of the people are going to pick him. Now the obvious choice is picking Brees.

Let’s see what happens to the people who pick Brees when he wins. 70 people that picked Brady must contribute $10 to the pot to be split between the 30 Brees pickers. So each player who picked Brees receives $23.33 calculated as ($10*70)/30 = $23.33.

Following the same process for the players that picked Brady they will receive $4.28 every time he wins.

If your projection is correct and each has about a 50% chance of winning half the time you would receive $23.33 from Brees winning and half the time you would lose your $10 making. This means picking Brees would have the expected value of $6.65 calculated as $23.33*50% - $10*50% = $6.65. Alternatively, Brady would have an expected value of -$2.86.

It is a big difference between the two despite their projections being nearly identical. In this example, you could be way off on the projection for both Brady and Brees but still easily pick Brees as the correct play by seeing how much more often Brady was being picked. This is basically how I have won countless tournaments in all sports over the last few years and you can do the same with these percent rostered projections.

Matt's Verdict: Not much to add other than recommending you to check out Steve's FanDuel and DraftKings Percent Rostered Reports

5. features that will help you as the season progresses

The Best Of will shared highlights from dozens of weekly features this year to help you learn how to combine analysis in a helpful way. Even so, it may not cover everything that will be useful to your specific needs. Let's finish this week's column analysis not mentioned above that I often use. This is by no means a comprehensive list but a good start for those of you new to Footballguys' weekly in-season content.

There are two broad ranges of fantasy players subscribing to Footballguys. One end of the spectrum is the diehards who make the time to research everything themselves and like using the analysis at the site as a springboard for their own work. The other end of the spectrum are players who want the work done for them so they can field competitive teams.

If you're not a diehard or somewhere in between, MyFBG Custom Rankings and Starting Lineup Help is an essential tool. Go to MyFBG Home and set up your leagues and let our analysis do the rest to give you recommendations.

  • Offensive Upgrades/Waiver Report: Sigmund Bloom's understanding of fantasy football and his popularity moves the needle in a lot of online fantasy leagues. When he delivers recommendations on which players' values should be rising and falling as well as recommending a budgetary percentage price to acquire the player's services, it's a good baseline for you as you arrive at your own decisions.
  • Game Recaps: This weekly project delivers enough insight to help you get a basic idea of what happened during a game beyond the box score. You won't get a ton of in-depth context that will help you make effective decisions that go against the grain but it is serviceable research material that goes beyond what you will find most anywhere.
  • Top 200 Forward: Bob Henry is among the best who has ever been in this industry when it comes to projections. He's responsible for this feature that helps deliver a rest-of-the-year look at each player based on a variety of scoring formats and it incorporates a variety of choices for projections offered at the site.
  • Doug Drinen's Stats: The creator of Pro Football Reference, Doug Drinen is a founding father of football analysis in the industry who deserves a ton of credit for what he has done for Footballguys over the years. Doug provides data well beyond this week's stats, including target data based on specific details we find helpful as analysts and fans, red zone details, snap counts, and historical data.
  • Game Predictor: David Dodds combines a lot of data from key spots at this site to project statistical outcomes of offensive and defensive units. It's a strictly numerical look without commentary and a worthwhile tool that becomes more accurate as the season progresses.
  • Dynasty Coverage: Jeff Tefertiller works with the staff to deliver updated rankings, analysis of rankings movement, news, and a devy report from the college game.

There's much more I could list, but this is a good start. You can find the rest for in-season content here, and I'll be sharing much more as the year progresses at The Best Of. Good luck this week.