Greetings and welcome to Week 6 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.
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.
- Jameis Winston – great matchup after plenty of time to prepare. Solid play regardless of chalk.
- Andrew Luck - ranks first in passing touchdowns, passing yards, passing attempts, passing completions, and FanDuel points scored over the last two weeks.
- Matt Ryan – huge bounce-back game on tap against one of the league’s worst defenses.
- Sam Darnold – risky, matchup-only play with an affordable salary.
- Todd Gurley – elite production even in bad games. Great matchup against the Broncos soft front.
- T.J. Yeldon – potential fade candidate given the Cowboys strong defense and the Jaguars questionable offense.
- Ezekiel Elliott – managing elite numbers in spite of the Cowboys’ predictable, lazy offense.
- James Conner – tough draw against the Bengals defense and questionable ceiling.
- Joe Mixon – same as Conner but gets home-field advantage.
- Jordan Howard – don’t let one big game by Cohen distract you away from this premium matchup.
- Chris Carson – easily the Seahawks’ best running back and draws a favorable matchup.
- Ronald Jones II – super risky but Falcons’ defense worth exploiting.
- Julio Jones – hard to ignore the best matchup he’ll have this season.
- Adam Thielen – setting records and gets another plum draw against the Cardinals.
- Antonio Brown – solid play in a decent matchup. Dominating target share over the last two games.
- Mike Evans – likely one of the chalkiest plays of the week. Split his exposure with shares of Jackson.
- Doug Baldwin – great matchup on tap. Worth targeting despite last week’s disappointment.
- Chester Rogers – 22 targets over the last two weeks and the fifth most receptions. Hilton unlikely.
- Quincy Enunwa – bounce-back candidate in a sneaky shootout matchup.
- Cameron Brate – Winston’s favorite end zone target but super chalk.
- Eric Ebron – ranks second in FanDuel points, third in receptions, and fifth in yards since Doyle’s injury.
- Jordan Reed – might be the best play on the board at tight end.
Week 6 Notes
The tight end apocalypse is upon us this week. The standards of Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and even George Kittle are unavailable on the main slate. That’s going to cause most lineups to cluster around the likes of Cameron Brate, Austin Hooper, and Eric Ebron—who now ranks third in FanDuel points on the season after a massive game last week. There’s a chance all three of those players end up with similar numbers, so the best bet might be to fade all of them, or simply go with the cheapest option.
This week also features a challenging set of matchups for running backs. Aside from the Broncos, all the weakest run defenses face offenses which feature committee attacks, or flat out can’t run the ball (looking at you, Vikings). This scenario will likely push most of the crowd to expensive wide receivers with much more attractive matchups. So, there’s an edge in rostering three of the top-tier, top-priced backs regardless of the defenses they face. For example, it’s possible to plug Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, and Melvin Gordon III into a lineup and still build a competitive roster. It may not look great Sunday morning, but it will feel great Sunday night after it hits.
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: Jameis Winston - $7,400
Making his first start after a three-game suspension and a half-game benching, Winston couldn’t ask for a better matchup aside from playing his own defense. Atlanta’s secondary makes weekly appearances in this column and they seldom disappoint. After permitting five offensive touchdowns to the Steelers last week, the Falcons now rank second in total FanDuel points allowed and fourth in quarterback points allowed per game.
That’s good news for Winston who showed plenty of rust in limited action against the Bears but should get back on track with the offense after a bye week. Hopefully offensive coordinator, Todd Monkin, still has no interest in five-yard plays. His offensive play design pushed Ryan Fitzpatrick into the history books with three straight 400-yard games. During that stretch, Fitzpatrick led all quarterbacks in passing yards, yards per attempt, was second in passing touchdowns, seventh in deep passing attempts, and first in FanDuel points.
After taking over for Fitzpatrick in the second half of Week 4, Winston managed an 80% completion rate on the back of short throws, while being harassed by the Bears’ pass-rush. He also threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was a tipped pass. The other was a terrible decision. But after a long time to prepare for a soft defense, Winston has a favorable outlook this week. If you need a reminder of his ceiling, he passed for over 300 yards in six of his 13 starts last year. He does have a history of interceptions and already has two in a half of a game this season, but as mentioned, the Falcons and their 27th ranked adjusted sack percentage offer an easy task for Winston and Co. He’ll be massively popular due to his matchup and his price, but we’re best siding with the crowd.
WR: Julio Jones - $8,500
“If Jones fails to turn in a top-five wide receiver performance due to zero touchdowns again, we can avoid him until further notice.” – this column, Week 3.
Through five weeks of play, here are Jones’ fantasy finishes among wide receivers: 8th, 51st, 32nd, 9th, and 41st. He didn’t even so much as log a catch last week until the fourth quarter, despite a game script and matchup that should have carried him to a solid afternoon. He does, however, rank third in yards, fifth in targets, and second in target share among all wide receivers. So, there’s at least a pulse that indicates a big game is coming.
This week he takes on a defense that has allowed the highest reception rate, the most fantasy points per targets, the second most touchdowns, and the second most FanDuel points per game to wide receivers. As per the quote above from Week 3, consider this your notice. He’s going to be one of the most popular plays in Week 6, but if ever a monster game was in store, it’s this one. Ignore his projected roster percentage, ignore his abysmal touchdown rate, ignore his WR14 ranking in FanDuel points, and roster him with confidence. (Well, maybe not with confidence but definitely with high hopes in a matchup that almost can’t go wrong.)
RB: Todd Gurley - $9,500
There’s no reason to belabor the point here: Gurley registers as an elite play every single week. He had arguably the second worst game of his season last week, and it didn’t even matter. His usage in the red zone protects his floor and raises his ceiling, and now he gets to chew into a Broncos’ defense that was most recently gashed by the Jets to the tune of 318 rushing yards. They come into Week 6 having allowed the second most yards per game and the second most yards per attempt. Fading Gurley, once again, feels ultra-risky despite his high salary and high exposure.
RB: James Conner - $8,200
The Bengals come into Week 6 with a below average run defense that handed Kenyan Drake 21 FanDuel points last week on only 13 touches. Seven of those touches came via the pass, which Drake turned into 69 yards and a touchdown. Preventing running backs from catching passes is a developing trend of this defense, which ranks 26th in DVOA against pass-catchers out of the backfield. On the season, the Bengals have allowed the 11th most points to running backs despite facing minimal talent outside of Christian McCaffrey, who crushed them for 184 rushing yards on 28 carries back in Week 3.
All the concerns about Conner’s usage abruptly ended last week after he took ahold of a positive game script and turned 25 touches into 185 yards and two touchdowns. He’s unlikely to face a similar script this week on the road against a competent offense. But his involvement as a receiver and market share of carries—a league-leading 77.8%—keep his floor alive. Concerns about his usage in the red zone bear consideration. And those same concerns do limit his ceiling to some degree, but in a week where the most favorable matchups for running backs belong to committee backfields, it makes sense to roster the guy who has a monopoly on carries and gets a matchup that figures to provide a lot of points. The Steelers have a healthy implied team total of 25.5 points and should have no trouble taking advantage of the Bengals’ defense.
That said, Conner projects to be one of the most popular running backs, and his salary makes it difficult to squeeze in high-priced wide receivers. This matchup has historically produced low-scoring, hard-hitting football that favors defenses. That’s not a knock on Conner, but it does reduce his already shaky ceiling. It’s best to come in under the crowd on this one.
RB: T.J. Yeldon - $7,100
The whole world will probably roster Yeldon thanks to his promising usage and low cap-hit. Last week, the Cowboys defense knocked around the Texans’ offense yet still yielded 118 combined yards to Alfred Blue. Most of those yards (73) came via eight receptions. That’s good news for Yeldon, who last week turned 10 targets into eight catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, while also averaging over five yards per carry.
And now for the bad news. First and foremost, whenever a backup running back vaults to the top of everyone’s roster decisions, we should be immediately suspicious. Next, the Jaguars’ offense plays down to their opponents. Meaning, when they face a slow-paced, predictable offense that doesn’t score points, the Jaguars will also turn into a slow-paced, predictable offense that doesn’t score points. That’s what happened against the Titans, at least, which could have been an outlier. It could also happen against the Cowboys’ respectable defense, which happens to matchup quite well against the Jaguars.
All things being equal, the Cowboys’ fifth-ranked run defense per DVOA tends to leak yards to pass-catching backs, so you definitely want to sprinkle Yeldon into your lineups. But game theory wants you to come in under the crowd given the Vegas point total (lowest of the week), the pace of the two offenses (17th and 19th in neutral situations), and the quality of both defenses.
WR: Adam Thielen – $8,600
Thielen enters Week 6 with his name printed in history books as the only wide receiver to log five straight 100-yard games in the first five weeks of the season. There’s nothing about Sunday’s matchup that suggests he’ll fall short of a sixth straight 100-yard effort and extend his domination. He gets another soft matchup Sunday against Budda Baker, who has allowed the second most yards among slot corners. Unless the Vikings suddenly stumble into a successful running game—which is possible against the Cardinals’ bottom-ranked run defense—Thielen deserves every bit of his price tag and projected roster percentage. We could fade him and hope that running attack comes to life, but his floor and ceiling beg us to reconsider.
TE: Cameron Brate $4,500
It makes perfect sense to punt the tight end position this week, and Brate sets up as the most obvious option. He has two touchdowns over his last two games and has long been one of Winston’s favorite end zone targets. Given what we saw in Week 4 with Winston throwing underneath, Brate projects to earn a decent amount of attention against a soft Falcons’ defense.
Note, that O.J. Howard returned to practice this week and could earn end up playing a handful of reps. That’s actually great news since it could shoo away the crowd and suppress Brate’s likely massive ownership. Conversely, if Howard scratches, there’s some value in fading Brate given his projected exposure percentage, because in theory, when this position deserves to be punted, you want to punt the crowd along with it. But his forgiving price tag in a week that lacks quality tight ends makes fading him difficult.
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: Matt Ryan - $8,300
With any luck, the crowd will shift their focus away from Ryan thanks to last week’s tough performance and this week’s concerns about his foot injury. But he’ll likely draw a lot of exposure thanks to his QB3 ranking on the season and the impending matchup.
The Falcons’ defense has already been mentioned as a regular of this column. The Bucs’ defense almost makes them look good. They come into Week 6 having allowed the most overall FanDuel points, the most points to quarterbacks per game, the most points to tight ends per game, the second most to wide receivers per game, and the sixth most to running backs per game. In real life football, their defense has generated a measly five turnovers and only eight sacks, while allowing the most passing touchdowns, the highest completion rate to quarterbacks, and only a single interception on the season. What else can you even say about Ryan’s prospects for a huge bounce-back this Sunday? The Falcons boast the highest implied team total of the main slate (30.25 points) and are 3.5-point home favorites with a monster 57.5 over/under. Fire him up with confidence even though he’ll be chalky. Oh, and if you need closure, his ankle looked just fine as of Wednesday:
QB: Andrew Luck - $7,800
After throwing a combined 121 passes over the last two weeks, Luck ranks first in attempts and owns a respectable 66.5% completion rate despite massive volume. His average depth of target sits at an abysmal 6.7 yards, and a lot of noise was made regarding his arm strength after he was pulled in favor of Jacoby Brissett for a Hail Mary in Week 3. The concerns of Luck’s ability to throw deep were validated by his lack of attempts throwing deep—only seven in the first three games. But over the last two weeks, only Patrick Mahomes has thrown more deep passing attempts. Of course, throwing deep means nothing if you don’t connect. Pro Football Focus credits Luck with only three completions on 13 deep balls (and three drops), but the offense appears to be opening up.
On tap is a defense that ranks ninth in defending the short pass and 19th in defending deep passes, while ranking sixth overall per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Those numbers certainly put a chill on rostering Luck in large tournaments where ceilings matter. But a closer look at their opponents alleviates the concerns to some degree:
After shocking the Lions in Week 1, then facing Tyrod Taylor for a half followed by a rookie for a half, the Jets have allowed a healthy 72% completion rate and an average of 382.5 yards to Blake Bortles and Case Keenum. Luck is better than both of those players combined and comes into Week 6 ranked as QB9 in FanDuel scoring and tied with three other quarterbacks for the third most passing touchdowns on the season (only Philip Rivers and Mahomes have thrown more). Over the last two weeks, Luck ranks first in passing touchdowns, passing yards, passing attempts, passing completions, and FanDuel points scored.
His offense is banged up, but that didn’t matter last week. He sets up as a solid tournament play with the crowd likely avoiding him in a game that should easily surpass its over/under of 45-points, so long as the Jets’ offense shows up—a concern worth considering given their bottom-ranked pace. But in New York, with the fastest paced offense coming to town (the Colts, if you weren’t sure), it’s worth being bullish and targeting offensive players in this matchup, starting with Luck.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott - $8,100
The Cowboys field the league’s least creative and most predictable offense, yet Elliott leads the league in rushing by a full 65 yards over second-placed Gurley and leads all players in explosive plays according to Marcus Mosher. The fact that Elliott has managed a healthy 5.2 yards per carry and comes into Week 6 owning the sixth most FanDuel points among running backs, despite the ineptitude of his respective offense, just goes to show how great of a player he is.
He’ll need to be truly great this week if he’s going to make good on his salary expectations. The Jaguars are coming to town with the league’s fourth-ranked run defense in DVOA. They’ve allowed only two touchdowns and sixth fewest yards per game. But there is a number of reasons why Elliott averages the fourth most projected points per our lineup optimizer. Usage, for one, pushes him above almost every other running back. He ranks third in touches among all players and first overall in opportunity percentage. His 551 total yards rank second to only Alvin Kamara, and his 89.1% snap rate ranks second among running backs.
Obviously, the amount of time a player spends on the field means nothing if his offense spends all day chasing third-and-long situations. But the Cowboys’ defense matches up well against the Jaguars, and even though the rushing matchup is subpar, Elliott’s involvement in the passing attack keeps his floor intact. His season-long stats look even more impressive when you consider that, per Next Gen Stats, he has faced a stacked box of eight+ defenders 25% of the time. The crowd will be chased away from this matchup, which provides an opportunity to roster an elite talent with elite volume and a low expected roster percentage. Of course, you could take all of the arguments made against Yeldon under the “Thoughts on Chalk” section and apply them to Elliott. But at least he plays at home and has proven capable of placing the offense on his shoulders.
RB: Joe Mixon - $7,500
On the other end of the Steelers/Bengals tilt, we have Mixon, who returned from injury and parlayed 78% of snaps into 25 touches, 115 total yards, and one touchdown. He’ll get the backfield all to himself again this week. Unfortunately, he’ll face a defense that’s allowed the fifth-fewest points and third-fewest yards per game to running backs. The good news is that both of these offenses rank top-12 in pace in neutral situations, and both defenses rank top-five in plays allowed, which suggests that Mixon will be awarded plenty of opportunities. It also helps that both secondaries have been getting crushed by opposing quarterbacks, so that should help alleviate crowded boxes and open things up for the league’s 10th ranked DVOA run offense.
Similar to Conner, Mixon faces a tough challenge Sunday and may not have enough upside to win tournaments, but the ceiling we’re betting on is his talent, his workload, the fact that he plays at home, the Bengals rushing success so far this year, and a game that’s expected to produce a lot of points.
RB: Jordan Howard - $6,200
Nagy: “Jordan Howard is a big part of this offense and I think that for us to continue to keep trying to grow, everybody in this offense has a role.”— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 10, 2018
📰: https://t.co/JWfaVywX3y pic.twitter.com/VpSwn3071b
Nagy went on to say that “Howard has a big-time role. But if it's an advantage to us to go a different direction for that game or for that play or that series, we're going to do that.” To translate: the Bears intend to use a committee approach and will allow game-flow and matchups to dictate who gets the ball. That’s exactly what happened in Week 4 when they trounced the Buccaneers at home. It was the first time Tarik Cohen logged more carries than Howard in their careers, and the first time this season Cohen logged more snaps. But Nagy explained this by saying that the matchup favored Cohen’s skill sets more so than Howard’s, even if the game script didn’t.
That logic makes sense when you look at the numbers. The Buccaneers have been strong against traditional running backs with only 256 yards allowed on the ground this year. Conversely, they’ve allowed the fifth-most receiving yards on only 36 targets. Advantage Cohen. Enter the Dolphins, who are bleeding yards to running backs of all shapes and sizes. Check out their game logs and note which players had the most success:
While the performances of Dion Lewis and James White suggest this could be another Cohen-type game, Mixon, Lynch, and Michel—all of whom profile closer to Howard than Cohen—returned decent performances. And let’s not forget that Howard, up until Week 4, had more targets, more receptions, and more receiving yards than Cohen, suggesting that Howard matches up well against the Dolphins.
Coming into Week 6, only five teams have allowed more yards per game to running backs, and only two have allowed more total touchdowns than Miami. The Bears are 3-point road favorites and field a defense that sets up positive game scripts and short fields for the offense. Don’t be afraid of Cohen’s one big week. Howard’s 74 total touches rank 10th among all players, and he leads all Bears in red zone opportunities. If the offense picks up where they left off before their bye week, he should be in line for a solid afternoon and offers great value with a decent floor.
WR: Antonio Brown - $9,100
Nothing fixes a disappointing start to the season like a matchup against the Falcons. Headed into Week 5, Brown ranked 19th in FanDuel points and logged only one week as a top-10 wide receiver. Things changed last Sunday after a solid six-catch, 101-yard, two-touchdown performance. Brown travels to take on a Bengals’ defense that’s allowed the 10th fewest FanDuel points per target but the 11th most points overall to wide receivers. We can ignore those numbers, however, since the only elite player they’ve faced is Julio Jones, who clocked them for nine catches and 173 yards. Brown has a supreme matchup—as if it matters.
The downside, however, comes in the form of his target share and red zone opportunities. He ranks eighth among wide receivers in the former and 19th in the latter. We can blame JuJu Smith-Schuster for both of those numbers, who ranks first in red zone opportunities and 12th in target share. The Steelers’ target distribution caps both players ceilings and best serves their quarterback. You could consider stacking Ben Roethlisberger with Brown and Smith-Schuster, but that tactic hasn’t yielded fruitful results through five weeks and given the history of both of Bengals/Steelers games (low-scoring), it’s best to limit your roster to just one of Brown or Smith-Schuster.
The upside favors Brown. The majority of production allowed by the Bengals secondary has filtered to perimeter wide receivers. And even though Brown barely edges out Smith-Schuster in market share of targets, he has dominated that category over the last two games 24 to 15, while logging 163 yards and three touchdowns compared to Smith-Schuster’s 94 yards and one score. Brown also ranks fifth in market share of air yards among all wide receivers and doubles that of his teammate. All signs point to him registering as a solid play in all formats this week, especially since his price will push the crowd to other top-tier wide receivers in sexier matchups.
WR: Mike Evans - $8,000
One of those top-tier receivers with sexier matchups is Evans, who quietly ranks fifth in total yards among all wide receivers and was on pace to set new highs in career targets, receptions, and receiving yards. That all changed when he faced a tough Bears’ defense in Week 4 and had to adjust to a quarterback switch midway through the game. The kinks of that switch should have been ironed out over the bye week. With Winston a full two weeks removed from shaking off the rust, Evans’ ceiling looks as good as ever. Insuring that ceiling is a Falcons’ secondary that has allowed 10 touchdowns and the eighth most FanDuel points per target.
Evans figures to spend most of his afternoon in Desmond Trufant’s coverage, who will cede five inches in height and has allowed over 90% of passes his way to be completed on the season. It would be a mistake to assume this an elite matchup for Evans, but it is at least exploitable given his size advantage and aggressive nature of his quarterback. He will end up as one of the most popular plays thanks to his price point and attractive matchup, so it might be wise to split your exposure in half and roster DeSean Jackson almost equally, or even consider a Winston/Evans/Jackson stack with Jones on the other side. Doing so puts a lot of chalk in your lineup, but it also provides a seductive ceiling that, if it hits, will vault up the leaderboards.
WR: Doug Baldwin - $6,200
Despite facing one of the best slot corners in the league, Baldwin was touted in the space last week as a core play with sneaky upside. The pick flopped tremendously even after the game script went as predicted. Baldwin wound up with only one target and one catch for one yard. Redemption, however, is on the horizon this week in London. The Seahawks take on the leaky Raiders, whose secondary enters Week 6 with the fifth most yards allowed to receivers and the 30th ranked pass defense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
Baldwin projects to line up all night against Leon Hall, who has allowed an 81% catch rate and the fourth most yards to slot wide receivers. The Seahawks boast a healthy 25-point implied team total, and even though they could simply ground-and-pound their way to a victory, the Raiders offense might do just enough to prevent that from happening and force Russell Wilson’s arm. It’s safe to go back to the well and roster Baldwin, who has practiced fully as of Thursday.
WR: Chester Rogers - $5,700
T.Y. Hilton looks doubtful and will likely miss a second straight week, which helps Rogers in that he’ll command slot duties almost exclusively whenever the Colts run three wide receiver sets. Should the Colts fall behind—not a given but Vegas favors the home field-Jets—Rogers will spend most of his afternoon against Buster Skrine, who has allowed a nearly 74% completion rate and the third most yards after the catch.
Since the beginning of the season, many analysts have criticized Andrew Luck’s lack of deep throwing ability and notable shallow depth of target. That’s actually a great thing for Rogers as he figures to run short routes across the middle of the field. He also happens to rank sixth among receivers (tied with three others) in targets over the last two weeks with 22, and his 16 receptions rank fifth. Those receptions haven’t produced tournament-winning numbers, but if you’re looking for a salary-saving wide receiver with volume on his side, Rogers offers an intriguing option. If he can luck into a touchdown and hold his 75.5 yards per game pace of the last two weeks, he’ll swing tournaments, especially if Luck is forced into 50+ passes for the fourth time in six games.
TE: Eric Ebron - $6,400
In a week where the tight end position deserves a punt (again), paying up for Ebron and his inconsistency feels a bit risky. But with Hilton missing another week and the Colts struggling to mount a decent running attack, it makes sense for them to target the middle of the field and give Luck a big-body second-read. The Jets present an interesting challenge in that they’ve allowed the fewest yards, fewest receptions and fewest FanDuel points to tight ends. But they’ve also faced a cast of nobodies outside of David Njoku, who has yet to emerge as a consistent part of the Browns’ offense. All of the elite tight ends either don’t play on the main slate or don’t play at all this week, which makes Ebron the most expensive of the slate. But since taking over as the starter in Week 3 with Jack Doyle sidelined, he ranks second in FanDuel points, third in receptions and fifth in yards. He’s worth every penny if you can sacrifice those pennies to acquire his services.
TE: Jordan Reed - $6,200
You might read various reports that point to how Vernon Davis was more involved and looked better than Reed last week. Ignore that nonsense. We should be rostering him for as long as he’s healthy. He played 64% of snaps last week and ranks second in team targets to Chris Thompson, who is danger of missing Week 6. The Panthers enter the week carrying the 10th most FanDuel points allowed to tight ends despite facing the Giants sans Evan Engram and the Cowboys sans offense. The Bengals tight ends put 19.3 FanDuel points on this defense in Week 3, and even Hooper managed a fine outing with five catches for 59 yards and a score. This is a great spot for Reed, who might be an even better play than Ebron if you’re paying up at tight end.
Houston Texans - $4,700
This is your “no duh” defensive play of the week. The Texans are favored by 10 points at home and welcome a Bills offense that has allowed the most sacks on the season while scoring the fewest amount of points. The Texans’ pass rush is getting hot with six sacks over their last two games. Their secondary looks terrible, but it probably won’t matter against Josh Allen and Co.
Minnesota Vikings - $4,600
The last time the Vikings were big home favorites and their defense was an obvious play, the got crushed and took down a lot of lineups with them. Here we are again, with the Vikings favored by 10 points at home. Things should go much better this time around with a lousy Cardinals’ offense coming to town that’s generated the least total yards and second fewest points on the season. They’ve been decent and protecting the ball, but the Vikings rank seventh in sack percentage and put up 13 FanDuel points on the road last week against a much better offense. They’re a solid play at home against Josh Rosen’s sub-50% completion rate.
Baltimore Ravens - $4,000
The Ravens rank 10th in sack percentage and have allowed the fewest points to opposing offenses this year. They travel to Nashville this week to take on a Titans offense that hasn’t yielded many sacks or turnovers but has scored the fifth fewest points and features a quarterback known to make mistakes. This isn’t necessarily a smash spot for Baltimore, but their price allows for a competitive roster builds and with a low-scoring game in the works, they should provide enough points to
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: Sam Darnold - $6,800
In the bargain bin, we find a quarterback that managed a QB14 finish last week with 19.42 FanDuel points on only 10 completions. Darnold wasn’t asked to do much after the first half of the game thanks to the Jets smashing the Broncos with three long scores in the second quarter. One of those scores was this absolute beauty of a throw by Darnold as the pocket collapsed around him:
He hit another score a few plays later for 35 yards on his way to three touchdowns, 198 yards, and one interception. We obviously shouldn’t chase games like this one and should focus more on Darnold’s season overall, which so far has produced only 1,006 pass yards and seven touchdowns to six interceptions. But he’s also faced the second (Cleveland), third (Jacksonville), and fifth (Miami) ranked pass defenses in DVOA in three straight weeks. He finally caught a soft defense last week and put his deep ball on display.
This week, he gets the easiest matchup he’s had all year with the Colts coming to town, who looked okay to start the season but have allowed the fourth most FanDuel points to quarterbacks over the last two weeks. Granted, those quarterbacks were Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson. But the Colts secondary has been a known vulnerability. On the season, they’ve allowed the fifth-most passing yards and the third highest completion rate. Though it might feel uncomfortable, this is a good spot to target Darnold and his salary-saving price tag, especially if you have faith in Luck’s recent performances being an indicator that he’s finally back.
RB: Chris Carson - $6,400
The worst thing to happen to Carson this season was Mike Davis running a solid game while Carson missed a week with an injury. But even with both players logging meaningful snaps last week, Carson clearly looked like the best back after rolling 20 touches into 127 yards vs. 14 touches and 75 yards for Davis. Unfortunately, it was Davis that got the touchdown, so his afternoon looked a lot better on paper. But Carson carried the load for the most part, and he matches up well against the Raiders, who allow the third most FanDuel points per touch and over 150 yards per game to running backs. The Seahawks’ offensive line has plowed the way to three straight 100-yard rushing games—two of which belong to Carson who, over his last two games, has logged touches of 34 and 20 while piling up the 14th most yards per game and the 12th most FanDuel points per game since Week 3. He’s a risky play, but he saves us some salary and offers decent upside in a week where cheap running backs might swing tournaments.
RB: Ronald Jones II - $5,600
Perhaps Week 6 presents a new approach and a changing of the guard at running back for the Buccaneers. Peyton Barber hasn’t been effective all season, and he played his lowest percentage of snaps in Week 4 with Jones making his rookie debut. Said debut wasn’t great—Jones managed only 30 yards on 11 touches—but he did out-touch all other Bucs’ backs and played nearly a third of snaps. The matchup this week suggests we should roster at least one of these guys. The Falcons have been gashed by running backs, particularly those that operate as receivers out of the backfield. Jones ran eight receiving routes in his first game while Barber ran 14. Both saw a pair of targets and neither generated useful yardage. It’s difficult to feel good about rostering players on a team that provides no clarity and little production, but someone in this backfield stands to have a good game at a low price, especially with the Buccaneers likely playing catchup (leading to more check-downs). Jones shapes up as that guy after his usage in Week 4. He’s a long-shot, but he doesn’t need to do much to justify his affordable price.
WR: Quincy Enunwa - $5,800
Lost between Robby Anderson’s pair of long touchdowns and Enunwa’s donut is the fact that Enunwa has drawn the most targets and red zone looks every week among Jets’ receivers. It feels like forever since his outstanding debut in Week 1 when he parlayed 10 targets into six catches, 63 yards, and one touchdown. He followed that effort up with seven catches on 11 targets for 92 yards the next week. Then came matchups against the Browns’ second-ranked pass defense per DVOA, the Jaguars’ third-ranked, and the Broncos 18th-ranked. With Darnold attempting 22 passes and only completing 10 of them, and the Jets’ backs racking up 318 yards on the ground, it’s no shocker that Enunwa flopped against Denver.
Things look a lot different this week. Luck and his high-volume passing attack head to New York and unlike the Broncos, the Colts field an above-average run defense. They also should force the Jets passing attack in a game that has sneaky shootout protentional, despite a middling over/under of 45 points (for the record, 97% of public bets currently reside on the over). All signs point to Enunwa drawing a decent target share while battling the Colts’ shaky secondary. Fire up at least one Darnord/Enunwa stack this week as an affordable contrarian option even it comes with a scary, nay, terrifying floor.