The Best of Week 15 - Footballguys

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. Footballguys podcasts

Many of you aren't aware of all the podcast offerings that Footballguys has. You bookmark this page to see a constant update of the latest shows or you can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. The shows are also available on our Footballguys TV YouTube Channel.

If there's a place I'd recommend beginning, its Sigmund Bloom's On the Couch. A deep dive into fantasy football topics with Bloom hosting fantasy writers and football analysts from across the industry.

This week's pod features Paul Charchian — a seminal figure in the fantasy industry — and the duo discusses Minnesota's offense after the firing of John De Filippo, Week 15 quarterbacks, and sage advice for the fantasy playoffs. I haven't listened yet, but I saw a lot of excellent feedback from listeners I trust.

Of course, there is the Audible podcast, which has multiple pods under its umbrella:

  • The Thursday Night Live show hosted by Cecil Lammey and features Bloom, Jene Bramel, and myself. We broadcast live on Google Hangouts at 10 pm eastern. The first 20 minutes we pepper Bramel with injury-related questions and then Lammey, Bloom, and I talk about the issues of the week as well as the week ahead.
  • The IDP Roundtable hosted by Bloom features Aaron Rudnicki and John Norton with news related to individual defensive players. I compete with all three of these guys in multiple IDP leagues and if you're new to the format, I give them my highest recommendation. This show is pre-taped.
  • The Weekly Audible Preview is a Lammey and Bloom pod focusing on start-bench situations for the week ahead. It's often a podcast in two parts. Also pre-taped.
  • The Waiver Wire Special is hosted by Lammey and includes Bloom and Bramel to go over the hot waiver wire pickups.
  • The Weekly Recap is a review of what happened in the NFL earlier that afternoon and features Lammey and Bloom.
  • The Live Sunday Morning Pre-Game Update is hosted by Bloom and features Bramel and me as we discuss last-minute news and preview the games with that updated information. This is available on the Footballguys TV YouTube channel.
Footballguys TV also has a pair of DFS offerings:

  • The DFS Powergrid includes Austin Lee, John Lee, Devin Knotts, and Ryan Hester. These analysts have expertise in the areas of team-building, game choices, and the NFL and college football slates. This is an hour-long show that is filled with data-intensive material from winning DFS players.
  • DraftKings Tips and Picks in a collaborative weekly segment hosted by Footballguys and RotoGrinders and hosted by John Lee. He gives strong advice that's a mix of Vegas data, game theory, matchup information, and results form million-dollar winners.

John's Tips and PIcks video for his week.

For something completely different, I recommend this week's podcast I hosted with Footballguy Daniel Simpkins, a social worker who conducts therapy for a living. Daniel and I had a conversation about off-field issues in the NFL. We covered the subject matter in a way that you won't see in regular media and Daniel deserves the bulk of the credit for sharing his expertise.

Several readers recently emailed me about the episode, praising the subject matter. Here's a recent one:

Wanted to express my appreciation for some of your recent work. While I mainly read your content for the fantasy football insight (which is excellent), I also appreciate quality content that makes me look at things from a new perspective.Your podcast with Daniel Simpkins talking about the Kareem Hunt situation from a human perspective was just such a piece, presenting a perspective that I hadn't seen focused on elsewhere. Humanizing the situation beyond the lens of statistical production for our fictional football teams added a much needed viewpoint that I wasn't hearing elsewhere.I particularly appreciated the discussion of treatment and rehabilitation from the point of view of a professional who has dealt with such things before, addressing Hunt's circumstances and needs while not excusing his actions. An excellent and unexpected choice of guest, and you did excellent work developing that topic of conversation.

Plenty of listening material here at Footballguys or brought to you by Footballguys.

2. The Sharp Report

If you missed the first time, I profiled Ryan Zamichieli's Sharp Report, here's what it's about:

One of the most proficient gamblers that sportsbooks have ever seen, Haralabos Voulgaris, is on record saying the main reason he retired from professional gambling is that he was gradually losing his edge against the sportsbooks. Voulgaris explains that every time he placed a bet, he gave the sportsbook a metaphoric piece to the puzzle that, once solved, would completely erase his edge to the point where he would no longer be a profitable bettor. The same way sportsbooks learned from Voulgaris’ bets and eroded his edge, daily fantasy sports players can learn from their top competitors and eat away at their edge. These top competitors, known as sharps, typically play DFS at a much higher level and for much more money than others. These players normally have very advanced and accurate projection systems that give them their edge over the field. Fortunately, every time they enter a contest the sharp players’ lineups are available to the public to be broken down, analyzed and learned from. The Sharp Report will be a weekly article that uses all available and applicable data to draw conclusions regarding how the industry’s smartest decision makers and their projections systems come to their final conclusions when building lineups. Over the course of the entire season, The Sharp Report’s goal will be to project what the best players in the industry will do in upcoming contests and, in turn, figure out what it is that gives these high-level players their edge over the field.

Throughout each week, more and better information regarding things like player availability, individual matchups, and depth charts will become available. The section of this article projecting which player is likely to be rostered by most of the sharp players next week will be updated by Saturday afternoon each week after all applicable information has become available. If enough data reveals itself that a completely new player is deemed worthy of being mentioned as Next Week's Sharp Play, the original section will appear in red font and the new section will appear in green font. If all available information leads to the same conclusion made earlier in the week, the original section will be changed from black font to green font.

The players analyzed in this article consistently play, and win, in high-stakes contests and are also ranked in the top ten percent in RotoGrinders’ super heavyweight division of DFS players. Players’ names will be omitted from the article, but all lineups analyzed are from the $30K Sun BIG NFL $1,065 30-Man 50/50 on FanDuel.

This week's Sharp Play is Dak Prescott:

At first glance, nobody really jumps off the page this week as the sharp play. However, at the quarterback position, Dak Prescott’s price and matchup make for a great value play on FanDuel. At just $7,300 Dak Prescott’s combination of rushing and passing contributions should make him extremely popular amongst sharps in cash-games in Week 15.

Over the last five games, Prescott has posted three games of approximately 3x value on FanDuel at this price. It certainly does not hurt that Prescott currently sits atop David Dodds’ h-value rankings at quarterback, which has been a strong signal of which quarterback will be the most popular amongst sharp players in cash this season.

Since the acquisition of Amari Cooper there is an added dimension to this Dallas offense that simply was not there to start the season. This week, when the Cowboys travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in the dome that is Lucas Oil Stadium, expect big things from Dak Prescott, potentially through the air and on the ground.

Matt's Verdict: Prescott is a player I'm targeting as an emerging dynasty option (as odd as that sounds, read below for details...). Since Week 9, Prescott is the No.6 quarterback in fantasy leagues. He may not win style points for those mired in quarterback technique like arm-chair jock versions of Ms. Manners, but Prescott is a battler with surrounding talent. I like the pick.

3. The Gut Check's Dynasty League Series: Players I'm targeting

For the past three weeks, I've been writing a series about dynasty players I'm targeting. I covered running backs and wide receivers in previous weeks. This week's focus is on quarterbacks.

Instead of sharing the picks (which you can find in the links above), let's examine the intro that explains how I assess and categorize players for dynasty formats. This sets the table for the rest of my work:

For the next month, this column will profile five players at each position that should be targeted in various dynasty formats. Each player will fit a specific situation that is common in dynasty formats:

  • Anchors: This is a premium value talent with a supporting cast that can help him deliver multiple years of elite production at the position (no worse than a top-12 player and a great opportunity for top-3 value).
  • Fine Wines: Older talents that can deliver starter production for at least another year or two at a reduced cost in the ageist world of dynasty leagues.
  • Emerging Forces: These players have earned playing time but have only scratched the surface of their top value.
  • Futures: Young talents who have the skills but are waiting for an opportunity to put them on display.
  • Rookies: College players who are eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Two other tiers of players you can also classify are "starters" and "contributors." The definitions are self-explanatory once you understand that neither tier has players that you believe have elite production potential. We won't include them for this series.

Before we get to these five quarterbacks, a short conversation about dynasty strategy is in order.

PLAYER WINDOWS

The average NFL career is a little less than three years in length. Early-round picks tend to bolster the length of the average whereas late-round and undrafted players tend to weigh it down.

Using three-year increments to assess the value of your depth chart is a good way to begin evaluating your dynasty team. These three-year increments are called Player Windows. Here are the criteria for each window length (you can adjust them as you see fit):

  • One Window: When projecting the player's value beyond three years is an even greater fool's errand than normal.
    • UDFAs who haven't earned any traction on an NFL depth chart.
    • Players coming off a significant injury with a bad track record for successful rehabilitation.
    • Veterans performing at an age where the majority of long-term starters at his position have already retired or lost starter skill.
  • Two Windows: These players should have at least 4-6 years of starter skills left as long as they stay healthy and have a quality supporting cast.
    • A young running back or receiver with less than four years in the league and has a good track record of health.
    • A top quarterback or tight end with less than seven years in the league.
  • Three Windows: Players with at least 7-9 years of starter skills left as long as they stay healthy and have a quality supporting cast.
    • Rookie running backs.
    • Quarterbacks and tight ends with no more than five years of NFL experience.
    • Receivers with no more than three years of NFL experience.

You should assess every player with these windows and then add the value assessments to each window type:

  • Anchors (these players can have one, two, or three windows)
  • Fine Wines (strictly one-window players)
  • Starters (capable of one, two, or three windows)
  • Contributors (capable of one, two, or three windows)
  • Emerging Forces (capable of two, or three windows -- most will have three)
  • Futures (capable of two or three windows -- most will have three)
  • Rookies (most will have three windows but could have two if enter the league with an injury history)

When you do this exercise, it should give you a clearer idea of the state of your dynasty roster. It will help you determine the strength of your team. Is it centralized and deep at a small number of positions or is it strong at the top of the depth chart at a few positions but spread thin?

This exercise should also help you determine how you should build or maintain your team. For example, this team, which is leading the league in scoring and now a serious contender, was blown up several years ago — trading away the likes of Marshawn Lynch, Peyton Manning, Antonio Gates, and a few other players about three years too early. As a result, it floundered as a below-average team and yours truly compounded the issues by trying to pinpoint specific positions from a draft spot that didn't warrant the picks.

Once yours truly opted to assess his team with this method, it became clear that for this team's situation, stockpiling quarterback talent was better than taking a chance on lesser talents at position need was a better way to go. Although none of these talents (Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes II II, Russell Wilson, and Lamark Jackson) have been traded away for additional resources because the team has improved through the draft and free agency, the stockpiling is hurting other teams in need to quality passers. Eventually, this talent will lead to trades when the need arises.

This exercise should be enough to not only help you assess the players you need but the ones you can actually afford to target without hurting the overall mission of your team-building strategy.

4. FOOTBALLGUYS Roundtable: Risky Plays-Great Matchups

Week 15 has intriguing contests for deeper fantasy leagues than your typical 1 QB, 2 RB, 2WR, 1 TE format. I had the panel predict the best producer for each team and rate their likely range of performance on this scale:

Hot (Must-start)
Warm (Comfortable start)
Lukewarm (Worth a Flex)
Cool (Risky Flex)
Cold (Desperation Only).

Let's begin with Arizona-Atlanta...

Hicks: Since Byron Leftwich took over from Mike McCoy he has tried to utilize his best weapon, David Johnson. Unfortunately, this has not been in the end zone. In the six games since the departure of McCoy, Johnson only has one game with a touchdown and it was two of them against the Chiefs. Under McCoy, it was six touchdowns in seven games. The rushing attempts, yards, and receptions are all there though, so I would expect the dam wall to break sooner or later for frustrated Johnson managers.

Wimer: Atlanta went back to basics last week and made Julio Jones a centerpiece of the passing game. I look for that to continue in this home contest so I consider him a comfortable start. With Christian Kirk now on IR, Larry Fitzgerald figures to see a blizzard of passes in this game and the Atlanta secondary stinks in the middle of the field. I would consider him a Hot prospect for Week 15.

Schofield: The struggles for this Arizona Cardinals offense remain, even with the play-calling influence of Byron Leftwich. Leftwich has shown a willingness to get Johnson involved in the gameplan, much more than previous OC Mike McCoy, and that has resulted in a slight boost to Johnson's production.
But it's just a slight boost. What makes Johnson playable this week is that the Falcons' defense has been banged up as well, and even with the return of Deion Jones to the lineup, this Falcons' defense has given up some big games to opposing running backs.
I'm relying on Julio Jones in two leagues this week. If I trust him, so should you.

Wood: Byron Leftwich isn't a miracle worker, and his playcalling has not turned David Johnson back into an elite fantasy runner. However, the Falcons are reeling and Johnson possesses the same size, speed, and vision that allowed him to dominate two seasons ago.

Remember when Jones couldn't score touchdowns? This year has obliterated that myth, and generally speaking teams on the skids return to their comfort zones. Matt Ryan's comfort zone is Julio Jones, understandably.

Waldman: Let's move on to Oakland-Cincinnati...

Wood: In a year where tight end has befuddled everyone who didn't roster Ertz, Kelce or Ebron, Jared Cook has been the best of the rest. He leveled off after a blistering start but has returned to prominence of late.

Joe Mixon showed in Week 14 why he's deserving of star status. Many avoided Mixon because of the Bengals passing attack being neutered; the fear was game script would rob Mixon of opportunities. Instead, Mixon dominated and defied the game script to help many teams advance into the playoff semifinals. The Raiders defense is terrible, and Mixon should have his way both as a receiver and running inside.

Schofield: The Pittsburgh Steelers tried a variety of players last week to try and contain Cook, but they could not come up with the right answer. Cook's huge game came against a team that was giving up the fourth-most points per game to tight ends.

This week he plays the team giving up the third-most.

It's true that Mixon defied the game script concerns, as Jason so accurately points out. My one hesitation with Mixon this week is that the Raiders' run defense looked fairly capable last week, for the first time in a long time. Granted, it came against a duo of Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley, but it's something to at least mention.

Haseley: Oakland's defense has been porous all year. Jeff Driskel can take advantage, which makes Boyd a must-start as the top target. Cincinnati's weakness is their run defense, but Cook is such a big part of the Raiders passing game, he should still see a decent number of targets in this game.

As indicated above, Cincinnati's weakness is their run defense. Doug Martin has six consecutive games of double-digit carries and he has scored in three straight. I will add, he's definitely worth a flex this week in a favorable matchup. He's a luke-warm option.

Derek Carr and Jeff Driskel. Carr showed well last week, but Cincinnati has been decent against the pass (probably because their run defense has been so poor). Driskel is an option to consider against Oakland, but he has yet to have a game with more than 1 touchdown pass. His ceiling isn't too high right now. Both are risky flexes.

Jordy Nelson has 16 receptions in the last two games, but they have all been of the short or at best, intermediate variety. I don't see this as a game that will yield a game script that is favorable to the Raiders passing game, therefore Nelson is not even a lock for flex duty this week.

Hicks: Cook has four of the seven hundred yard games for receivers in Oakland and with Amari Cooper now enjoying Dallas stands alone as the primary threat in the passing game. With consecutive seven catch, hundred-yard games it will be impossible not to start him this week.

With the Bengals sorely missing A.J. Green and to a lesser extent Andy Dalton and Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon should have one of his best games of the season. The Raiders have allowed well over 200 yards rushing in three of their last five games and I expect Mixon to hammer home the Bengals here.

Wimer: Oakland's Marcell Ateman is seeing a steady diet of targets for the wide receiver-starved Raiders' offense - while he hasn't approached the 10 targets we saw him handle in Week 12 with four targets in each of the last two games, he has been improving in his opportunities and should remain a threat for a garbage-time TD or maybe even two. I'd consider him a luke-warm start.

The Bengals hand the ball to Joe Mixon a lot and throw the ball to him a lot (26/111/1 rushing with six targets for 5/27/0 last week) so as long as the Bengals keep this game close (and Oakland's defense is just about as sorry as Cincinnati's), we should see another RB1 outing from Mixon. I rate him a comfortable starter for Week 15.

Waldman: Let's continue with Cleveland-Denver...

Wimer: Nick Chubb is a no-brainer starter (must start) in this game and every game for the foreseeable future. Phillip Lindsay is also a no-brainer (must start) back for this battle of mediocre teams. Temperatures are predicted to be moderate in Denver this weekend (high of 57 F, low of 32 F) so conditions should be good for both backs to show off their moves.

Hicks: Thankfully Jarvis Landry overcame a succession of poor games with a couple that justifies his price tag. He is still on pace for an 80 catch, 1000 yard season and is just in the WR2 category for the season to date. There were doubts as to whether he and Baker Mayfield were on the same page, but that seems to have been put to bed.

It’s a lot to expect an undersized, undrafted rookie free agent to be carrying a team, but with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and a half-dozen Tight Ends not around anymore, the Broncos will rely on Phillip Lindsay to keep the chains moving. I would expect the Browns to try and shut him down as the 49ers successfully did last week. Case Keenum really has inexperience everywhere at his disposal and will find it difficult to overcome a much better Browns defense.

Schofield: Maybe this seems like more of an outside the box selection, but Njoku is someone I'll be relying on this week. Three of his best games this season came against the Bengals, the Chiefs, and the Raiders. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those are the three teams giving up the most points per game to tight ends.

Despite their growth, this season, the Browns' run defense is still an area where they could use improvement. They're giving up over 133.3 yards per game on the ground and an average of 4.7 yards per carry. They've also given up some huge days to opposing running backs in fantasy terms. Kareem Hunt had a 39-point outing against them in Week 9 (standard scoring) and Christian McCaffrey had a 21-point outing against them last week (standard scoring) in a loss. Lindsay should have a decent day

Wood: Landry hasn't lived up to preseason draft expectations, but is coming off a monstrous game. With the Broncos secondary in disarray, the Browns will have success throwing the ball, and Landry remains the highest odds to dominate in that kind of game script.

Lindsay has been a marvel, but the Broncos offense lacks punch with Emmanuel Sanders out for the year. The Browns defense is up and down but should be able to frustrate Case Keenum. Lindsay is the best bet on the roster, but it's not an ideal gambit.

Waldman: Let's wrap it up with Washington-Jacksonville...

Wood: No one for Washington...

Waldman: You're just sore about the Adrian Peterson faceoff this summer.

Wood: Seriously, who would you pick?

Waldman: If Josh Johnson plays well, which isn't as much of a stretch as it seems...Peterson. But yeah, even a great back working with a fourth-string quarterback and third-string guards isn't a good idea.

Wood: That's what I thought. Fournette should get enough touches to deliver for his fantasy teams, but the Jaguars are chaotic and it's hard to imagine a stellar, league-winning performance. Consider him a flex.

Schofield: Let's put it this way. If you win a league thanks to starting Josh Johnson on a flier in Week 15, you'll have stories you'll tell your grandchildren. Might be worth it for that reason alone.

Waldman: And they'll be just as bored as your friends when you tell them about your fantasy team's heroics...

Schofield: No doubt. Let's go with Fournette by default. Going with an option in the passing game means relying on Cody Kessler so, here we are.

Hicks: I have to agree with Jason here. With Jacksonville much more comfortable at home and a fourth-string quarterback up, this has got mismatch written all over it, despite the Jaguars playing horribly for major parts of the season.

With Washington all but giving up on the season, the Jaguars just have to feed the ball to Leonard Fournette all day to get this game over with. He won’t torch them like Saquon Barkley did last week, but 2 touchdowns and a 100 yards rushing are all within reach.

Wimer: Not even Adrian Peterson can salvage this dumpster fire of an "attack" against the Jaguar's under-performing but talented D. Jacksonville is almost as scary on offense, but they, at least, field Leonard Fournette, who both David Dodds and Maurile Tremblay project close to 100 yards combined with a 50-50 shot at a TD in this ugly contest - he's a comfortable start if any of his fantasy teams are still in contention during Week 15. .

5. Random Shots

Joe Bryant and the Footballguys staff find some funny things related to the NFL. These were my favorites from this week's Random Shots...

Darrell Waltrip lost his keys at the Titans game.

A few thoughts there.

1. I have no idea why I find that so funny.

2. I fully realize most don't.

3. I'm not even sorry about it.

4. At all.

I'm not sure what it is about Kansas City and hacking jerseys. I wrote this back in Week 1.

Jerseys are expensive. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Sunday we saw this.

And looking back at Week 1, I couldn't help but wonder how much fun Fitzmagic would have been this time of year...

Because Yukon Cornelius never gets old.

That's it! Good luck this week.