Greetings and welcome to Week 4 of the 2018 NFL season! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl. Each section includes a short description, and to make things easier for those short on time, every player covered in this column will be listed directly below with full analysis found in their corresponding sections.
As you incorporate this information into your weekly decisions, keep in mind that winning large tournaments presents a difficult challenge. Chasing big payouts makes for fun Sundays, but if you want to be a profitable tournament player, you must branch out and play in smaller contests that have flatter payouts, even if the prize pool doesn’t have the same appeal.
For those that want nothing but the facts, here is every player covered in this column with a quick note on each. For those that want full analysis, keep reading.
- Matt Ryan – having a solid season but now priced at his ceiling.
- Andy Dalton – offense is cooking and gets a great matchup. Hope Green plays.
- Eli Manning – risky but gets a solid matchup at home and surrounded by talent.
- Ryan Tannehill – delivering a good season so far and could be forced into volume.
- Alvin Kamara – last chance to play him while he has the backfield to himself.
- Ezekiel Elliott – dominating touches and gets the best matchup he’s had all year.
- Saquon Barkley – inefficient but a big-play threat. Massive usage in the passing attack.
- Giovani Bernard – a must play if Mixon sits again.
- Chris Carson – risky to chase last week’s production but facing the league’s worst run defense.
- Aaron Jones – part of an ugly timeshare but he looked great last week. Sweet matchup on tap.
- Odell Beckham Jr Jr. – could have a big day against a struggling secondary in a high-scoring game.
- Mike Evans – off to the best start of his career and being overlooked.
- Will Fuller V – deep threat with back-to-back solid games.
- Jarvis Landry – target hog that should benefit from a quarterback change.
- Sterling Shepard – possibly a better option than Beckham due to matchup.
- Antonio Callaway – the deep threat for Mayfield against a soft secondary.
- Marvin Jones Jr – tough matchup but could get loose deep a few times.
- Danny Amendola – could have a big game even if he’s a risky play considering usage.
- Trey Burton – playing against one of the league’s worst defenses.
- Tyler Eifert – finally looks healthy and the offense is clicking.
Week 4 Notes
If you haven’t already, stop what you’re doing and go read Steve Buzzard’s breakdown of the roster that won him well over a million dollars. He does a great job of dissecting his thought process and how to apply game theory in large-field tournaments.
A big element of that game theory is knowing which highly popular players to avoid, and which one-percenters to roster. Exposure percentages, or roster percentages, play a massive role in winning GPPs. But there’s a good way and a bad way to utilize them. The industry sometimes puts way too much weight on roster percentages. As noted in Buzzard’s article, you wouldn’t just roster a bunch of scrubs to be contrarian. There’s a balance, and finding that balance is the difference between profit and loss. As always, the question that you need to ask is “How much of a chance does this player have at logging big game, and is that chance greater than his projected roster percentage?” Keep that question in mind as you build rosters every week.
Thoughts on Chalk
Even though creating roster uniqueness has long been the default strategy for GPPs, there’s a reason why certain players hold the confidence of the public. Remember that fading a player simply because he’s popular checks in as one of the worst processes. You wouldn’t build a lineup full of chalk; nor should you ignore a great situation in the name of contrarianism. With that said, this section will be dedicated to finding reasons why you might consider fading the players listed below. Keep in mind that all of these players are expected to have big games, so outright fades are never recommended, and be sure to check out Steve Buzzard’s percent rostered projections.
QB: Matt Ryan - $8,100
The Falcons’ defense lost yet another defender and now shape up as one of the most vulnerable on the board. In theory, this is good news for Ryan since it all but guarantees added volume every week as opposing offenses pick apart his defense. This week, the Falcons’ defense gets to take on the Bengals who have proven capable of hanging with just about any team. They field an offense that so far has scored the sixth most points despite facing the Ravens’ fifth-ranked defense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA and the Colts’ 12th-ranked defense per the same metric. Conversely, the Falcons’ defense ranks 30th in DVOA, and sudden improvements are not on the horizon.
Vegas agrees that the potency of both offenses compared to the frailty of both defenses (the Bengals have allowed the 13th most points and the seventh most yards) will yield a high-scoring affair. The over/under opened at 48 points and has since climbed to 51 with the Falcons favored by five at home. This sets up Ryan in yet another great spot to finish as a top-five quarterback. Despite an ugly start, he now ranks as QB4—a ranking made possible by a pair of rushing touchdowns last week, which is something we can’t count on often. His seven passing touchdowns, however, trail only five other quarterbacks as the most in the league and his 897 passing yards rank eighth.
Unfortunately, he’s priced at his ceiling after back-to-back monster performances. His salary expectations charge him with 24.3 points needed for tournaments—not a crazy number considering the way his offense has played over the last two weeks. But it’s also a score he failed to reach even once in 2017. Furthermore, if Andy Dalton turns into a pumpkin (as he’s been known to do), and if the Falcons’ rushing attack happens to come to life (especially if Devonta Freeman returns), Ryan’s’ floor feels a bit low for a player that projects to be the most popular at his position.
RB: Alvin Kamara - $9,100
This is the last week Kamara will get the backfield to himself and he has a darling matchup against a Giants’ defense that has allowed the sixth most FanDuel points per touch to running backs. And let’s be honest, it really doesn’t matter who Kamara faces. His market share of targets rivals that of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr Jr., and his 28 red zone opportunities easily rank most of all players. Without question, the crowd will be all over him in what figures to provide yet another high-scoring situation for the Saints’ offense. Get at least as much exposure to Kamara as the crowd and don’t overthink this.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - $8,600
Beckham’s price tag feels like stealing given his past usage and upcoming matchup. Only six players boast a higher market share of targets, and his 271 receiving yards rank 12th. If Evan Engram misses time, it stands to reason that Beckham will see an even higher consumption of targets.
The downside is the Giants’ offense, which has suffocated his ceiling and dropped his overall ranking in terms of points scored to WR29. He has only four red-zone looks all season and zero touchdowns. But a date with the Saints’ vulnerable secondary should help inflate Beckham’s box score on Sunday. If you need a reminder, here are how wide receivers have faired against them:
Julio Jones’ stat line shouldn’t give you much pause. He has struggled to produce monster games over the last two weeks despite being heavily involved in the offense, and the emergence of Calvin Ridley finally took its toll last week. But we should at least consider that perhaps Sterling Shepard gets a much better matchup than Beckham after the Saints lost Patrick Robinson—the veteran free agent they brought in this season to help contain slot receivers. His loss will force a rotation of inferior defenders and adds encouragement to the Giants’ passing attack. Rostering both Shepard and Beckham feels tempting, but that’s almost too much risk to assume considering the lack of quality at quarterback. As it stands, Beckham qualifies as a decent tournament and cash option, but Shepard deserves even more attention (more on him later).
TE: Rob Gronkowski - $8,100
Since opening the season with a monster game featuring seven catches on eight targets for 123 yards and a touchdown, Gronkowski now has six catches for 65 yards and no scores over his last two games. The Patriots’ lack of offensive weapons has finally capped Gronkowski’s ceiling. He hasn’t seen a red zone opportunity all season and now ranks below Will Dissly as TE8 in the standings. Defenses know they can throw double and sometimes triple coverage on him and challenge the Tom Brady to beat them some other way. That worked for both the Jaguars and the Lions over the last two weeks and it will probably work for the Dolphins this coming week who have allowed the 11th fewest FanDuel points per target to tight ends.
Of course, betting against Gronkowski is always risky business, but he’s again priced like an elite wide receiver—a full $1,100 more than the next tight end—and like quarterbacks, there’s no shortage of value at the position. It’s always wise to build a few lineups that include Gronkowski, but he is by no means a must-play for GPPs.Core players need no explanation: they are the meat and potatoes of lineups. Developing a list and building around them is DFS Strategy 101.
Core players need no explanation: they are the meat and potatoes of lineups. Developing a list and building around them is DFS Strategy 101.
QB: Andy Dalton - $7,400
Dalton went from throwing four touchdowns against Baltimore in Week 2 to throwing four interceptions against Carolina in Week 3, but he also logged his highest yardage total of the young season. The four interceptions were a mix of poor receiver play, bad luck, and a meaningless Hail Mary on the final play of the game. He otherwise played a solid game and now has just as many touchdown passes as Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, and ranks 10th overall among quarterbacks in FanDuel scoring.
The Bengals field an intriguing group of players that feature a deep threat in John Ross (who struggled last week but still should be a regular part of the offense), a pair of solid pass-catching ball carriers, an elite wide receiver in A.J. Green, an up-and-coming play-maker in Tyler Boyd, and it looks like Tyler Eifert is finally healthy and playing like the Eifert of days past. In short, this a dynamic group that benefits from a creative offensive coordinator and causes headaches for opposing coordinators.
In Week 4, Dalton and Co. travel to Atlanta where they face a broken secondary now missing three starters and coming off of a 43-37 overtime loss during which they allowed 534 yards. Only three other teams have allowed more FanDuel points to quarterbacks, and only two other teams have a lower sack percentage. In short, Dalton projects to have one of the best matchups available on the main slate in a game Vegas believes will yield the most points (51-point over/under). Even though Dalton never makes anyone comfortable, this is a great situation to target the Bengals’ entire offense. Consider stacking him with a few combos of Green/Eifert/Boyd/Giovani Bernard (if Joe Mixon misses another game).
QB: Eli Manning - $7,100
Drafting Saquon Barkley instead of the future at quarterback may end up ranking as one of the worst moves by any organization ever. But it’s good for us DFSers who view Barkley as an extension of the passing game and a player who at least helps protect Manning’s floor thanks to his big-play potential.
Manning comes into Week 4 with 800 yards on the season but only three touchdowns and a total of 41.5 FanDuel points, which, as you can probably guess, is terrible. Almost half of those points came last week when he managed 297 yards on only 29 attempts and a super-efficient 86.2% completion rate. Naturally, one should expect a high completion rate when one barely throws beyond the line of scrimmage. Manning’s deep ball has been off all year. According to Pro Football Focus, his 14 deep attempts rank 12th, but he’s completed only four of them—one of the worst rates in the league. Those stats alone should almost scare us off him, especially considering the biggest weakness of the Saints’ secondary is getting burned deep.
However, as long as Manning keeps attempting deep throws (only one last week) and as long as the Saints keeping getting burned—a common occurrence that dates back to last season—perhaps he and Beckham finally connect on the many opportunities they’ve missed through three games. The loss of Engram hurts but thanks to Barkley and Shepard, Manning will survive and has a great chance to post a solid game against the league’s bottom-ranked passing defense. We already covered what wide receivers have done against this defense; here’s how quarterbacks have faired:
Taylor represents an accurate picture of Manning’s floor. We haven’t seen his ceiling since this offense has yet to fully come together for a consistent performance. Week 4 offers a tremendous opportunity to chase that performance—the over/under of 50 points is the second highest on the main slate, and the visiting Saints are favored by only 3.5, which means the sharps in Vegas expect a competitive game and credit the Giants with a decent implied total of 23.5 points. He’s risky, but this is as good of a matchup as he’ll have all season. Don’t fear building lineups around Manning, Beckham, Shepard, and Barkley.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott - $8,200
Elliott’s price tag has barely budged all season; nor has his usage. Unless you want to count Tavon Austin, no Cowboys’ running back has even so much as logged a touch since Week 1. Elliott led the team in targets last week and now leads the league in opportunity percentage, ranks second in percentage of team carries, and ranks third in percentage of team red zone opportunities. The problem with all of those stats is that they fail to highlight just awful the Cowboys’ offense has been. It doesn’t matter how much of a team-share a player receives if the offense fields perpetual mediocrity.
Regardless, Elliott parlayed 19 touches into 138 total yards on the road against a decent Seattle run defense last week. He now returns to the comforts of AT&T Stadium and gets to chew into a Lions’ defense that has allowed a healthy 6.3 yards per attempt, the third most total yards per game, and third most fantasy points to running backs. The Cowboys move at a molasses pace, ranking 28th in seconds per play according to Football Outsiders, which is diametrically opposed to the Lions’ eight ranked pace. Even if you average those numbers out, it makes sense for the Cowboys to grind this game down to their pace with good defense accompanied by a ground-and-pound attack via Elliott. With any luck, they’ll also infuse some RPO looks for Dak Prescott and attempt to surprise the Lions deep. In the end, Elliott should once again be in line for 20+ touches. Hopefully, a few of them will land in the end zone. He boasts multiple-touchdown upside in this matchup and is worthy of both his exposure percentage and price tag.
RB: Saquon Barkley - $8,000
Now that he ranks second in targets, fourth in total yards, and fifth in total points among running backs, Barkley feels grossly mispriced by FanDuel. There is no shortage of concerns circling his respective offense, but his ability to make big plays as both a runner and receiver have salvaged even the worst games spearheaded by Manning.
Up next is a daunting matchup against Football Outsiders’ top-ranked run defense by DVOA. On the season, no running back has managed more than 70 yards on the ground against the Saints, who have allowed only two touchdowns to the position and the third-fewest fantasy points. But they haven’t faced elite talent. The Buccaneers destroyed them through the air while Peyton Barber was stuck in neutral, the Browns couldn’t get anything to work offensively while Carlos Hyde turned 16 carries into only 43 yards, and then Tevin Coleman ended up being vulture twice by his quarterback last week. Barkley presents a much more formidable challenge for their defensive line, and the fact that he shares the field with an elite receiver should help keep the ball rolling downhill. Forget not that in Week 1, Barkley blasted the world’s best defense with a 68-yard touchdown run and finished the day with 128 total yards despite catching only two passes. What he lacks in efficiency he more than makes up for with big-play ability, and in a game where points and volume will be required of the Giants’ offense, he offers tournament-swinging upside at a reasonable price tag.
RB: Giovani Bernard - $6,400
Let’s caveat this plug right off the bat; if Mixon ends up playing, it’s best to avoid this backfield and jump on Dalton stacks instead (which may be the best move either way). Bernard proved last week that he is capable of handling lead-back duties. He logged a healthy stat line of 17 touches for 86 total yards and one touchdown. The yardage total was a little disappointing and it prevented him from finishing higher than RB8 on the week. But he did see nine targets and now gets to rip into a run defense that has been perennially terrible at defending against adept pass-catching backs.
Atlanta, as mentioned, has holes all over their banged-up defense and comes into Week 4 ranked fourth in FanDuel points allowed and second in receiving yards allowed to running backs. Vegas pegged this game as one of the highest scoring of the week and if the Bengals fall behind—a likely scenario—Bernard will once again be in for a high target total and should have much more success this week given the weakness of his opponent. He ran 36 receiving routes last week—the second most behind Kamara. And in case you need clarity on his usage, Bernard played 88% of snaps and handled 100% of backfield touches. Make him one of your top guys if Mixon is again ruled out.
RB: Chris Carson - $6,400
Last week, we finally caught a glimpse of how this backfield shakes out when the Seahawks have a firm grip of the game script. Carson logged 32 carries and two catches for a total of 122 yards and a score on his way to finishing as the seventh highest scoring running back of the week. He handled 72% snaps and all but five touches among running backs. While it’s dangerous to chase a sudden bump in production based on one game, especially for a team that has an awful offensive line, it’s also hard to ignore that the Seahawks’ offense looked good against a solid pass rush last week. On tap is a glorious matchup against the Cardinals, whose offense recently made a quarterback switch and whose defense has consistently been rocked by running backs. They’ve allowed the most rushing touchdowns, the second most total yards, and the most FanDuel points to the position. If the favored Seahawks jump out in front again, Carson figures to handle another full load and should make good on his salary, assuming he’s healthy.
WR: Mike Evans - $7,900
The crowd is going to look at the Bears’ defense (particularly their pass rush thanks to Khalil Mack), then look at the Bears’ pitiful offense, and likely come to the conclusion that there won’t be enough passing volume from the Bucs’ offense to validate Evans’ salary. In the process—a bad one at that—they’ll miss out on a wide receiver who is dismantling every secondary he faces. Let’s rewind the season a bit and admire Evans’ game logs to date:
Not pictured is his rank in targets (13th among all players), his rank in percentage of team air yards (first among Bucs, ninth among all players per Next Gen Stats), his rank in total yards (fifth among all players), or his rank in receiving touchdowns (tied with nine other players for the third most). Evans is quietly putting together the best start he has ever had in his career, thanks, in part, to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who the Buccaneers wisely decided to leave in place as their starter for Week 4, or at least that’s’ the general assumption:
From Up to the Minute Live: The #Bucs are in wait-and-see mode on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who I'm told took the majority of the snaps today. One person described it as the snaps a starter would take. pic.twitter.com/Uwlqgn1ZLC— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 26, 2018
This week we may finally learn if Fitzpatrick deserves to be their starter for the remainder of the year. The Bears, as mentioned, present a dominant pass rush that has trickled into the secondary and allowed them to hold quarterbacks to under 225 yards per game while generating five interceptions. But they also haven’t faced a risk-taking, face-paced offense like the one in Tampa—one that’s empowered Fitzpatrick to log three straight 400-yard games. In fact, the Bears’ lofty numbers against quarterbacks are slightly inflated by facing the Cardinals last week and the Seahawks the week before, who can’t protect the passer from anyone. In Week 1, Aaron Rodgers—with one knee—carved them up for 286 yards and three scores.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick has been allotted the third most time to throw among all quarterbacks, and the Buccaneers’ offense boasts the eight lowest sack percentage. It looked like he might come crashing back down to Earth last week after he threw three interceptions and maybe this is the week he finally turns into the pumpkin so many armchair quarterbacks expect of him. But until that actually comes to fruition, the sharp move is to target his best wide receiver, who happens to also be one of the hottest in the league right now. The Bears, despite how good their stats look against quarterbacks, have allowed the ninth-most yards, the fifth highest completion rate, and the sixth most FanDuel points per target to wide receivers. And if their offense can take advantage of the how terrible the Buccaneers’ defense has played, we might get to see more fireworks from Fitzpatrick and Co.
WR: Will Fuller V - $7,600
Fuller has now logged over 100 yards and a touchdown in both games this year since missing the first week of the season. Finally healthy, he looks as dynamic as he ever has and just missed on a few monster plays last week that would have landed him atop the leaderboard among wide receivers. He led the team in targets, pushing his season total to 20, and now ranks as WR7 over the last two weeks in FanDuel scoring—several spots ahead of DeAndre Hopkins (WR16).
Hopkins, as always, registers as a solid play against a Colts’ secondary that seems to be overperforming. But he will continue to draw top coverage which naturally leads to softer coverage for Fuller. The Texans’ don’t have much depth beyond Hopkins and Fuller, and they don’t feature tight ends, so both players project to see double-digit targets, every game, regardless of opponent. Hopkins’ floor is much safer, but Fuller projects as solid GPP play thanks to the discount he gives us compared to Hopkins, and the fact that his 15.9 average depth of target ranks eighth among all players (minimum 10 targets). We like the deep-shot wide receivers, especially when they play with quarterbacks willing to take deep shots. On the season, Watson is tied with Patrick Mahomes for the most passing attempts of 20 yards or more and only one attempt behind league-leader Ben Roethlisberger. Fear not the Colts’ defense and go right back to that Watson/Fuller stack with confidence. At the very least, make Fuller a staple of your lineup builds.
WR: Sterling Shepard - $6,200
Shepard has already received plenty of love in this column, but just to drive the point home, he figures to lineup against whatever second or third-string cornerback the Saints feel comfortable with playing. It won’t matter who that player is considering that their defense will have a difficult enough time preventing Beckham from crushing them deep while also contending with Barkley, who poses a consistent threat to rip off big plays as both a runner and a receiver.
Shepard turned in a fantastic outing last week, catching six of seven targets for 80 yards and a touchdown. With Engram out, more targets will find their way to Shepard in what shapes up as a sweet matchup oozing with barn-burner potential.
TE: Trey Burton - $5,600
Having allowed the most yards, the second most FanDuel points, and the third highest completion rate, the Buccaneers offer the softest matchups for tight ends on the main slate. Enter Burton, who has claimed 86% of snaps on the season and a consistent draw of targets. We’re still waiting for a breakout game and it could be in the cards this week thanks to a darling matchup that all but guarantees a heavy workload for the Bears’ passing attack. On the season, Burton ranks fifth in routes run and 11th in targets among tight ends. He’d be a lock if not for lackluster play from Mitchell Trubisky, which should keep Burton’s exposure down while his ceiling remains intact.
TE: Tyler Eifert - $4,600
If we need proof that Eifert is finally full-health, we can find it by looking at the number of receiving routes he ran last week against Carolina (35 per Pro Football Focus), which ranked fifth among all tight ends and the most for him yet this season. He drew eight targets on those routes and parlayed them into six catches for 75 yards. He now gets a defense that just allowed Ben Watson to log a solid five-catch, 71-yard performance on a much busier offense that tends to spread the ball around. On the season, Atlanta has been good against tight ends (only 7.3 FanDuel points allowed per game), but they were basically awarded a bye in Week 2 (Ian Thomas) and faced Nick Foles in Week 1, who struggled to connect with any receiver. Take advantage of Eifert’s services while he’s healthy, underexposed, and ridiculously priced (nearly site-minimum).
Jacksonville Jaguars - $5,200
If you can reserve enough salary to acquire the Jaguars, it could be a move that pays off. They don’t have a lot of flashy numbers so far this year, but in Week 4, they welcome a Jets’ unit that leads the league in turnovers, ranks 13th in sack percentage, and has scored only 29 points over their last two games. We have yet to see a major blowup game from the Jaguars’ defense this season. A home date against Sam Darnold may deliver that.
Seattle Seahawks - $4,400
Many expected the Seahawks’ defense to take a big step backward this season, and that looked to be the case early on. But they now lead the league in interceptions and rank third in turnovers. They rank fourth in passing defense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and even though they’ve sacked quarterbacks only eight times this season, they should have no trouble dominating the Cardinals vulnerable offensive line. With Sam Bradford under center, the Cardinals led the league in percentage of drives that ended in turnovers. Maybe that changes with Josh Rosen taking over as the starter, but he’ll likely struggle in his first start, especially when protection breaks down. The Seahawks make a great stacking partner with Carson.
Detroit Lions - $3,500
If you need a salary-saver at defense, the Lions rank fourth in sacks and face a Cowboys offensive line that has allowed the seventh most sacks. It’s clear the Cowboys’ offense has major issues aside from Elliott. The Lions have allowed the seventh-fewest yards in the league and the Cowboys’ offense has generated the third-fewest yards in the league. This should be slow-paced, low-scoring game and could feature a few turnovers.
Similar to sleepers, contrarian players are those the crowd has completely mispriced and undervalued. In some cases, it’s a player coming off an injury or facing a difficult matchup but still carries a heavy price tag. In other cases, it could be a player that has struggled recently and therefore deemed untrustworthy. In all cases, guard your exposure to players listed in this section but get them in at least a few lineups.
QB: Ryan Tannehill - $6,800
Apparently, the theme of this week’s column is “Roster the Mt. Rushmore of Mediocrity at Quarterback”. But did you know that over the last two weeks Tannehill has as many passing touchdowns as Brees, Rivers, Kirk Cousins, and Cam Newton? And that last week, after a slow start, he managed a WR7 finish in FanDuel scoring? He also hasn’t thrown an interception since he threw two in Week 1 and is fourth over the last two weeks in rushing yards among quarterbacks.
Traveling to New England could spin those stats in a number of different directions come Sunday’s end. The Patriots’ defense held up well against Watson in Week 1 but was then thrashed to the tune of 377 passing yards and four touchdowns by Blake Bortles in Week 2, and struggled against Matthew Stafford last week (262 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception—a stat line that could have been a lot more impressive if the offense actually needed him). As it stands, they’ve allowed the 10th most yards but have also generated three interceptions.
The Dolphins field a group of quick receivers that can burn the Patriots’ secondary. And per Next Gen Stats, Tannehill ranks fifth (right behind Mahomes) in completion percentage above expectation, and fourth in passer rating (right behind Brees). He also ranks sixth in adjusted net yards per pass attempt, while the overall passing offense ranks sixth per Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Of course, those metrics don’t necessarily always translate to a quarterback posting tournament-winning numbers. But the team is eying a 4-0 start and could take a commanding league by beating a divisional foe who happens to be favored by a touchdown. Mix everything together and you end up with a difficult-to-project situation, but for the price, Tannehill deserves to be sprinkled into a few lineups.
RB: Aaron Jones - $5,500
Rostering Jones violates the typical mantra of “volume wins tournaments” for the running back position. We have zero clarity of the Packers’ backfield rotation other than noting that it’s a three-headed attack. Jones played his first game of the season last week and logged only 25% of snaps. But if he continues to perform as well as he did in limited opportunities, it stands to reason that he’ll lay claim to most of the work out of the backfield going forward, possibly starting this week against Buffalo.
Despite giving up only 88 total yards to the Vikings last week, the Bills have allowed the fifth most FanDuel points to running backs on the season and are tied with the Cardinals for most touchdowns permitted (six). The Packers are 10-point favorites at home and may lean on the rushing attack while Rodgers recovers from a knee injury. Feel free to bet against the Bills pulling a huge upset two weeks in a row and throw Jones in a few lineups. He’s only $5,500, shares the field with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, gets a dream matchup, and has enough big-play ability to justify his spot in GPP rosters.
WR: Marvin Jones Jr - $6,500
The Cowboys’ nearly elite pass-rush is the only reason Jones doesn’t qualify as a core play. He’s the clear deep-threat for the Lions and has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games, while also just missing a few big plays. He splits his time between left receiver and right receive almost equally, so he’ll see plenty of the Cowboys’ top cornerbacks who have held opposing wide receivers to the fifth fewest yards and a 53.3% completion rate. But this unit isn’t elite enough to totally avoid. The Lions’ offensive line has allowed the fewest sacks in the league and consistently provides a clean pocket for Mathew Stafford. They’ll have their hands full in Dallas, but Jones has enough talent and speed to work himself open, and even if this game doesn’t project to showcase many points, Jones only needs one big play to payoff those brave enough to roster him.
WR: Danny Amendola - $4,600
We don’t need revenge narrative to wonder if Amendola could justify his near site-minimum salary. He projects to line up against one of the worst slot corners in the league. Per Pro Football Focus, Jonathan Jones has allowed more yards than any other slot defender and a 131.9 pass rating to quarterbacks who challenge him. The Dolphins spread the ball around a lot but even with DeVante Parker back in the lineup last week, Amendola played 70% of snaps. His target share took a major hit so this is purely a GPP dart-throw if you need a cheap receiver. He has a great matchup and the Dolphins’ offense has functioned well over the last two weeks. Kenny Stills, of course, offers a much safer play and has spent nearly a third of his snaps in the slot, so he’s a great stacking partner with Tannehill. But if you’re building several lineups, make sure Amendola has a place in a few of them.
WR: Antonio Callaway - $4,500
One of the Browns’ wide receivers is going to have a monster game against the Raiders’ inept defense. Landry stands out as the obvious possession guy who should see double-digit targets and will have no trouble working over slot cornerback Leon Hall. Callaway registers as the deep threat and provides a blessing regarding salary relief with his site-minimum price tag. Those two reasons alone make him almost a must-play.
In fact, you could make a case for a Browns power-stack headed by Baker Mayfield, who looked sharp last week off the bench. He’s definitely a wildcard considering we have a tiny sample size from which to draw conclusions, but despite limited reps with the first-team offense, Mayfield looked comfortable and completed 73.9% of his 23 passing attempts while connecting with five different receivers. He was bailed out of a pair of mistakes as well: once after fumbling the ball (an offensive lineman recovered it), and once after he should have been picked off in the end zone but the safety failed to secure the catch. Had either of those mistakes led to turnovers, the Browns might still be looking for their first win.
Still, Mayfield provided plenty of hope that this offense will finally get pushed to its full potential. That’s great news for both Landry and Callaway who get to take on a Raiders’ secondary that’s allowed the third most receiving yards and fourth most FanDuel points to wide receivers. Seven of Callaway’s 10 targets came after Mayfield took over lead duties. While Landry will likely lead the team in targets and receptions, Callaway’s defense-torching speed combined with a discounted salary makes him one of the most intriguing tournament options of Week 4.
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