Greetings and welcome to Week 7 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.
- Jared Goff – great matchup but low ceiling thanks to Gurley
- Kirk Cousins – takes on a busted Jets’ secondary and plays with a solid duo of wide receivers.
- Mitchell Trubisky – should be forced into volume and surrounded by game-breaking talent.
- Joe Flacco – good matchup so long as the Saints’ offense performs against the Ravens’ defense.
- C.J. Beathard – QB11 since becoming the starter and looked great with Goodwin back in the fold.
- Todd Gurley – has reached “can’t fade” territory.
- Kenyan Drake – risky but has a great matchup and game script should bend his way.
- Peyton Barber – finally faced a soft defense and came to life. Another soft defense and favorable game script on tap against the Browns.
- Marlon Mack – only 35% of snaps but 14 touches last week and should get more this week.
- Kerryon Johnson – lack of goal line opportunities caps his ceiling, so a contrarian play only.
- Duke Johnson Jr – stealing half of the backfield snaps and matches up better against the Buccaneers than Hyde.
- Adam Thielen – has reached “can’t fade” territory.
- Jarvis Landry – great matchup but a potential fade candidate due to inconsistencies in the Browns’ offense.
- Stefon Diggs – solid pivot away from Thielen (assuming you don’t play both).
- Kenny Golladay – doesn’t have as good of a matchup as Tate but has flashed big-play ability.
- John Brown – great stacking-mate with Flacco so long as the wind doesn’t ruin deep throws.
- Marquise Goodwin – has a short history of connecting big with Beathard.
- Jermaine Kearse – one of the only healthy receivers for Darnold in a good matchup.
- Damion Ratley – a longshot but one of the best matchups on the board.
- Zach Ertz – always a solid play but not necessary to pay up for him this week.
- Rob Gronkowski – should get off the five-game streak of no touchdowns, even if he’s asked to block more. Worth paying up for in tournaments.
- David Njoku – the best tight end not named Ertz or Gronkowski this week.
- Charles Clay – super risky but a great matchup so long as Anderson looks for him a la Greg Olsen.
Week 7 Notes
This week presents a few interesting challenges with matchups and bye weeks colliding. The four highest scoring quarterbacks aren’t available on the main slate. Three of the top-four running backs aren’t available on the main slate. And four of the top-five wide receivers aren’t available on the main slate. Basically, outside of Todd Gurley and Adam Thielen, the top tier of the three most important positions has been removed. That happens now and then and it always creates additional challenges. But there’s an additional edge to be gained in this scenario too. Without the super obvious, smash-potential matchups, the majority of the crowd will likely cast their lines into the most familiar waters. Thielen, Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Robert Woods, Eric Ebron all project to soak up the most exposure. They’re all great plays, but it’s to our advantage to know where the crowd is putting their money.
Complicating matters even further in this slate is how low most over/under totals are set. Only three games offer totals above 50 points and six sit at 46.5 points or below. Again, there’s a huge edge to be had here. One of the big discussions that’s ongoing internally among Footballguys staffers is how much Vegas lines and totals matter. The consensus seems to be that there is value in analyzing what Vegas is telling us, but that many DFS players put way too much wait on point spreads and fail to correctly identify which high totals to avoid and which low totals to attack. Every week, your best chances of swinging tournament come down to finding contrarian plays. Often, those plays will come from games no one expected to be high-scoring. That will be especially true this week, so buckle up, ignore the discomfort, and prepare to roster a few players that you might have otherwise never considered.
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.
Early projections place Goff at the top of exposure percentages in a matchup that features the highest over/under total of the main slate (52 points). The Rams boast one of the league’s best offenses ranking first in yards per play, second in points scored, and third in success rate. Sponsoring those numbers is Todd Gurley, who accounts for almost a third of their total yards and 11 of their 21 touchdowns. His incredible season partially explains why Goff ranks 22nd in passing attempts per game. Thanks to a trio of excellent wide receivers, Goff has managed to convert his low attempts into the fourth most passing yards and a decent touchdown total of 12. He comes into Week 7 ranked fourth in adjusted net yards per attempt, sixth in yards per game, and 12th in FanDuel points per game.
That last number should give us immediate pause when building tournament lineups. Goff and his offense have been hyper-efficient. And we’ve seen his ceiling once or twice already this season (39.3 points against the Vikings in Week 4; 29.56 against the Chargers in Week 3). But unless you believe that C.J. Beathard is going to challenge the Rams defense to a shootout and force more Goff than Gurley, then perhaps it’s best to avoid Goff’s career-high salary. Note, of course, that Beathard did, in fact, challenge the Packers’ defense last week and forced a shootout with Aaron Rodgers, who in turn dumped 425 yards on the 49ers’ secondary. It’s also worth noting that the 49ers’ secondary has permitted the sixth most points per game to quarterbacks and ranks 26th in passing DVOA. Conversely, they rank 12th points per game allowed to running backs and 11th in run DVOA. So in theory, this is a great spot for Goff even though he’ll be missing one of his favorite red zone targets in Cooper Kupp.
But Gurley is the heartbeat of this offense and everything runs through him. On the season, he ranks first among all players minus quarterbacks in total yards (870), first in touchdowns (11), first in total touches (150), first in red zone opportunities (48), first in FanDuel points (165.5), and second in opportunity percentage. Not that you needed any of those numbers to justify paying his exorbitant price tag, which happens to be the highest salary FanDuel has printed yet this season. But it’s fun to demonstrate just how dominant he has been in nearly every stat category through six weeks. Perhaps this is a fine week to stack Gurley and Goff in the same lineup. Unfortunately, that chops almost a third off the salary cap and leaves you scraping together a likely suboptimal roster. But FanDuel pricing gives us plenty of value options making the rare QB/RB stack viable in tournaments. Or, if you choose to eat the chalk on only one of these players, game theory suggests going with the quarterback and hoping that Gurley somehow disappoints what figures to be a third of the field.
WR: Adam Thielen - $8,700
It’s amazing that Thielen comes into Week 7 ranked first in targets, receptions, receiving yards, market share of targets, and FanDuel points among wide receivers and he’s still not priced like an Antonio Brown or a Julio Jones or a DeAndre Hopkins when they went on similar tears in years past. Thielen’s price tag is simply ridiculous at face value before even considering that he gets another premium matchup on Sunday against a team that has been destroyed by slot receivers this year. To the game logs!
|Marvin Jones Jr Jr||1||4||54||0||7.4||6900|
The Jets rank fourth in FanDuel points allowed to slot receivers thanks to Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry, Dede Westbrook, Emmanuel Sanders, and Chester Rogers—most of that damage was with Buster Skrine in the lineup, who missed last week and looks iffy this week. And now the best slot receiver in the game is coming to town? Some chalk just can’t be faded. Lock in Thielen and don’t think twice about it.
WR: Jarvis Landry - $6,500
We should expect to see a lot of rosters that feature both Thielen and Landry since their price tags somewhat offset and they both get mouthwatering matchups. We covered how bad the Jets have been in defending slot receivers; the Buccaneers are even worse. They’ve allowed the second most yards, the second most touchdowns, and a ridiculous 83.6% completion rate to the slot. The last time Landry faced a weak secondary (the Jets) he went off for 103 yards on eight catches. He enters Week 7 ranked seventh in targets and 10th in market share of targets.
Unfortunately, those numbers have produced a WR40 ranking in FanDuel points per game. Clearly, the Browns’ offense has a hit-or-miss demeanor that, when it misses, destroys fantasy ceilings. Last week it missed and Landry ended up with two catches for 11 yards. That’s the floor we’re working with here. They should perform better against the Bucs’ awful secondary, which allows more points to wide receivers than every other team except the Saints. But the Browns rank 30th in success rate, 30th in DVOA, 21st in points scored, and 18th in total yards. Nothing about this offense suggests any of their players have tournament-winning upside. Of course, a date with the league’s worst defense should help. But keep in mind that the Bucs just fired their defensive coordinator, which may or may not matter (sometimes in-season firings motivate players), and the Browns’ passing defense is still solid despite last week’s performance. This game may fall well short of its seductive 50-point over/under. Landry looks like a fine play, and he does save a lot of salary, so he’s worthy of a few shares. Just don’t go overboard.
TE: Zach Ertz - $7,500
As difficult as his salary is to stomach, Ertz offers a floor and ceiling rivaled only by a handful of players. He ranks seventh in red zone opportunities among tight ends and wide receivers and ranks sixth in both targets and market share of targets among all players. The Eagles might struggle to run the ball against the Panthers, which would then filter the majority of their production through Carson Wentz and his receivers—obviously setting Ertz up with a promising game script. But if you’re going with a chalky tight end, you might be better off saving some salary and dropping down to Kittle, Ebron, or David Njoku, all of whom offer decent upside for a fraction of the cost. And to that end, if you choose to pay up at this position, you might as well snag the best tight end in the game for $100 more, even if his usage this season has disappointed fantasy players.
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: Kirk Cousins - $8,000
We pegged Andrew Luck as a core play in this space last week, noting that the Jets hadn’t faced quality competition. He rewarded us with over 300 yards and four touchdowns—without his two of his top receiving options. Enter Cousins, who ranks fourth in attempts, fifth in passing yards, boasts a solid 71.2% completion rate, and has thrown only three interceptions despite his massive volume. He wasn’t needed as much last week thanks to a home-date with the Cardinals that gave life to the Vikings’ rushing attack. Things will steer in a different direction on the road this week, where they’ll face a secondary that boasts a lot of interceptions yet has yielded a lot of yards to quarterbacks. Cousins and Co. represent the biggest challenge yet for the Jets… by a longshot. All we need is for Sam Darnold to keep pace as he did against the Colts and force another shootout. If that happens, Cousins should log another pass-heavy afternoon. Stacking him with Thielen and Stefon Diggs comes with a heavy price tag but a lot of upside. One way or the other, make Cousins one of your top plays this week even if the forecast calls for some wind. (Unless, of course, you buy into the “angry Jets” narrative as some of the NYC media does regarding Cousins using the Jets to get a better contract from the Vikings.)
QB: Mitchell Trubisky - $7500
In Week 4, like so many quarterbacks before him, Trubisky lit the Bucs’ passing defense on fire with 354 yards and six touchdowns on only 26 attempts. That performance was all but guaranteed to file as an outlier. But then he traveled down to Miami and completed over 70% of his passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Those two performances pushed his FanDuel points-per-game rank to ninth among quarterbacks. Now he welcomes a home-date against a vulnerable Patriots’ defense that’s allowed the second most passing touchdowns and ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate. Back in Week 2, this defense was destroyed by Blake Bortles (377 yards and four touchdowns) and now has allowed three top-five performances to quarterbacks in six games.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears get pushed off their second-to-last pace. Thanks to a conservative coaching staff and a competent rushing attack, they pass on only 54% plays, which ranks them near the bottom of the league. But things change when they enter the red zone, where their 64.4% passing rate ranks eighth, and their success rate ranks seventh. Six of Trubisky’s 11 touchdowns have come inside the 10, which ties him with six other quarterbacks for the third most.
He’ll need to keep that trend alive to seal a home victory against a Patriots’ offense that is just hitting its stride. The Patriots’ defense, though vulnerable, has the sixth most turnovers including eight interceptions (also sixth most), so this is a spot that could be dangerous for the young quarterback. But they have the lowest sack rate of all teams, and Trusbisky offers a solid floor thanks to his fifth-ranked rushing yards. The Bears have a loaded offense of speedsters and reliable pass-catchers all over the formation and match up well in this game. The over/under of 49.5 points feels low, and you could even make a case that the home field underdogs tease an upset. Regardless of the real-life outcome, Trusbisky sets up as a high-volume play with tournament-swinging potential thanks to the offensive talent around him. The hardest part is deciding which Bears’ stack is the correct one.
RB: Kenyan Drake - $6,300
Violating the traditional “chase volume, avoid RBBC” code, Drake gets a plug here based on his matchup, his price, and his likely low exposure. Frank Gore looked great on paper last week after slugging the Bears’ exhausted defense in overtime but was otherwise pedestrian. Drake was also pedestrian and probably should have been benched after he fumbled the ball at the goal line. But instead, his coaches put their trust in him to close out the game, and he rewarded them by turning two rushes and one catch into 22 yards and ultimately setting the Dolphins up with a game-winning field goal.
As it stands, Drake has been out-carried by Gore 52-62, and they’re equal in red zone opportunities with eight apiece. They’re also only separated by one total yard on the season with Drake on the short side (355 yards to 356). So, this is a longshot that probably should be listed as a contrarian-only play. But the fact that the coaches went back to Drake after a costly fumble, the fact that he’s tied for second in team targets and faces a defense that ranks 28th in DVOA against pass-catching running backs, the fact that he ran the fifth most receiving routes among running backs last week, and the fact that the crowd won’t touch him vaults his status as a core play. He’s one week removed from a top-six finish among running backs, ranks 10th in targets at his position, and figures to see a bunch of passes his way as the Dolphins are likely to fall behind with Brock Osweiler under center. This week has nothing but question marks and uncomfortable situations outside of the super chalky plays, so taking a shot on Drake in large-field tournaments makes more sense than usual, even if he’s in a 60/40 timeshare and tied to a horrible quarterback.
RB: Peyton Barber - $6,100
The Browns entered the season with a promising defense, particularly along the defensive line and they looked as good on the field as they did on paper for the first couple of games. But since Week 3, only five teams have allowed more FanDuel points and only two have allowed more rushing yards per game to running backs. Some of this downfall is forgivable. They did face Melvin Gordon III last week in a matchup that put their defense on its heals from the start. But all things being equal, this unit looks vulnerable and limps into Tampa Bay short on linebackers with Joe Schobert sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Injuries and poor play on both sides of the ball place the Browns firmly in the “stream against” category. The timing couldn’t be better for Barber who finally came to life last week on the back of 17 touches, 106 total yards and one touchdown. He also claimed 62% of snaps while all other Bucs’ backs touched the ball only four times. Both of these teams play at an above average pace, and neither defense seems capable of stopping any offenses, which probably explains the over/under total of 50.5 points. The under seems likely as we can expect the Buccaneers to grab an early lead and then settle down in the second half while riding their running backs to victory. But even if there is no guarantee of a 30 or even 20-point ceiling for Barber, this is a fine week to throw his RB3 salary into your lineup and hope he gets a few cracks at the goal line. He has, after all, seen nothing but stout run defenses all season long up until last week, and we already covered how that went.
RB: Marlon Mack - $5,900
It didn’t take long for Mack to reclaim his piece of the Colts’ backfield pie. Despite playing only 35% of snaps, Mack logged 14 touches for 93 yards. Nyheim Hines, once again, led the backfield in receiving routes, but that’s to be expected considering the game script and his familiarity with the offense. Things look a bit different this week. The Colts host the Bills, who own the league’s worst offense by just about every metric and will be forced to start Derek Anderson. Maybe that’s a good thing for their offense given Josh Allen’s ineptitude, but Anderson has a long history of interceptions with 55 vs. 53 touchdowns since 2010. Regardless of who’s under center, the Colts have been blessed as heavy home-favorites, and everything about the implied game script suggest they’ll final give Andrew Luck’s arm a breather after averaging nearly 50 attempts per game over his last three.
The matchup on the ground, however, looks a bit less encouraging. The Bills have allowed only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and rank 14th in FanDuel points per game. But as always, context rules. To the game logs!
|Melvin Gordon III III||2||9||28||1||6||38||2||27.6||8200|
Melvin Gordon III aside, the Bills have faced the Ravens, the Packers, the Titans, the Vikings, and the Texans—a who’s who of mediocre, or terrible run offenses (the Packers could be a good run offense if they chose to be, but their offense runs through the quarterback). The Colts, of course, qualify as a mediocre or terrible run offense, but with Mack finally healthy, they showed signs of life last week and should continue with that trend in a promising game script this week. There’s no guarantee that Mack steps into the bell-cow role on Sunday, but he has logged double-digit touches in both of his games this year and looked good enough last week to at least earn another double-digit afternoon.
WR: Stefon Diggs - $7,600
A full $1,100 cheaper than Thielen, Diggs checks into Week 7as the ninth-most targeted wide receiver and a respectable 14.6 FanDuel points per game. He’s lost in the shadow of his teammate’s incredible season, but that does two things for us: 1) it keeps the crowds low, and 2) it keeps opposing defenses distracted, which will open things up for him more often than not.
We’ll see how the Jets choose to defend this duo. Diggs moves around the formation enough to split his reps against Morris Claiborne and Darryl Roberts, neither of whom pose any real threat to Diggs’ big-play potential. We’ve noted how poor the Jets are at covering slot receivers. Drawing from the stat lines (receptions/yards/touchdowns) of Kenny Golladay (7/114/0), Demaryius Thomas (5/105/1), and Donte Moncrief (5/109/1), we find evidence that the Jets struggle to defend good perimeter receivers as well. Diggs sets up as a solid tournament play and a great pivot away from his super-chalky teammate (assuming you choose not to roster both of them).
WR: Kenny Golladay - $7,000
Golladay enters the week with the 17th most FanDuel points per game among wide receivers—a ranking that certainly makes us question his ceiling. The Lions target their wide receivers at the fifth highest rate in the league. Unfortunately, those targets tend to get spread around due to their dynamic group of receivers. Golden Tate, so far, has chewed up the largest share of team targets, ranking ninth among all wide receivers in that category. He’s a good bet for volume most weeks. But Golladay moves all over the formation causing mismatches wherever he lines up. He could find shadow coverage from Xavien Howard, whose season has been packed with mixed results. But he’ll cede three inches and 20 pounds to Golladay. If Howard doesn’t shadow, Golladay will see plenty of chances against Bobby McCain (assuming he plays), who’ll cede five inches and 20 pounds.
Regardless of size advantage, Golladay has logged the second-most snaps among all Lions’ players and has repeatedly shown big-play ability. He leads the team in air yards and ranks second in average depth of target. That blends perfectly into this matchup considering the Dolphins’ aggressive secondary that ranks first in interceptions with 11 but also first in passing plays of 40+ yards allowed. Even if Cameron Wake returns, he’s unlikely to immediately improve Miami’s fourth-worst adjusted sack rate. Conversely, the Lions’ offense ranks eighth in adjusted sack rate with only nine sacks allowed. Matthew Stafford should have no trouble finding his receivers in this one, and even if Tate projects to draw the most targets (and the majority of the crowd), Golladay’s big-play ability and size advantage makes him a threat for multiple touchdowns every game regardless of matchup.
WR: John Brown - $6,500
The Saints rank 32nd in DVOA against deep passes and only four teams have allowed more passing plays of 40 yards or more. Joe Flacco ranks second in deep passing attempts and 10th in yards. If ever there were a game to stack Flacco with Brown, this is it.
Brown ranks fifth among all players in team share of air yards and ranks 22nd in receiving yards despite the Ravens’ equal distribution of targets. Exacerbating that distribution is Willie Snead IV’s sudden involvement over the last two games, during which he logged more snaps than any other Ravens’ player and ranked second in targets with 17. Opposing defenses rolling safety help to prevent the deep pass (effectively removing Brown) explains most of Snead’s production. He does make for an interesting contrarian option for only $5,400 (especially if you’re into chasing the former-team narrative), but Brown is the main deep threat and should cut back into the target pie against the Saints. As always, we like big-play options in tournaments, even if it means sacrificing our roster’s floor. Note: early weather reports suggest challenging winds, so bump down your exposure to Brown a tad if that ends up being the case Sunday morning.
WR: Marquise Goodwin - $5,500
Goodwin returned to action last week and had an immediate impact on the offense. He parlayed 95% of snaps into four catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns as the 49ers nearly upset the Packers. This week, he gets another favorable game script against one of the league’s best offenses. The matchup looks trickier against the Rams’ 12th ranked pass defense per DVOA. Despite allowing 10 touchdowns to wide receivers (second most), they rank 24th in yards and 17th in FanDuel points per game. But over the last three weeks, they’ve allowed the most FanDuel points, the most touchdowns, the third most yards and the seventh most receptions per game to wide receivers. Goodwin should have no trouble burning their questionable secondary. All we need is for Beathard to find him deep like he did on a few occasions last week, like this:
That play, by the way, wasn’t an outlier. Last year, Beathard found Goodwin on 48-yard pass in Week 7, a 55-yard pass in Week 9, an 83-yard touchdown pass in Week 10, and completions for 23 and 34 yards in Week 12, plus a smattering of eight-to-10 yard completions. Their combined salaries require only 19.8% of the cap and allow for some interesting builds, should you feel brave enough to roster a 49ers stack.
TE: Rob Gronkowski - $7,600
Gronk’s blocking was a major reason why Sony Michel averaged 6.9 yards per carry in the first quarter.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) October 15, 2018
It’s fair to wonder if Gronkowski will, once again, be asked to hang around the pocket and set blocks up for the Patriots’ rushing attack against the Bears. Adding to that concern is the impending matchup against Khalil Mack, who up until last week has been a terror for quarterbacks. The Dolphins neutralized him by double-teaming—and sometimes even triple-teaming—him with backs and tight ends last week.
That’s our downside with Gronkowski. Our upside is what he did against the Chiefs but with more touchdowns. Yes, he was asked to block a lot and didn’t run a lot of receiving routes. But he still managed three catches for 95 yards—most of which came near the end of the game. He hasn’t scored a touchdown in five straight games—the longest stretch of his career without an end zone visit. That should change against the Bears who have allowed a tight end to score in four straight games. Those tight ends happen to be Will Dissly, Ricky Seals-Jones, Cameron Brate, and Nick O’Leary. Perhaps the Bears were taken by surprise as they attempted to shut down other elements of those respective offenses, but we should bank on a Gronk Smash or two in this one while the crowd has grown bearish of his services for tournaments.
TE: David Njoku - $5,700
Last week, as the Browns’ offense crashed and burned, there stood Njoku with a career-high in targets and receptions. He finished the week tied as the second highest scoring tight end and clearly has become one of Baker Mayfield’s favorite targets. Since Week 4, only Ertz and Ebron have drawn more targets, and only Ertz and Austin Hooper have logged more receptions. This week ushers in a glorious matchup against the Bucs, who have allowed the second most yards, the second most FanDuel points, the highest completion rate, and the most points per target to tight ends. He’ll end up as one of the crowd’s favorite plays come Sunday, but he’s well worth his exposure and salary.
Jacksonville Jaguars - $4,400
The Bills went into Houston last week and came out of it with the fourth most FanDuel points of the slate thanks to seven sacks and three turnovers while holding the Texans’ shaky offense down. The Jaguars went into Dallas and got blasted. We should expect them to rebound in a major way at home against a divisional opponent. The Texans coughed up the sixth most turnovers (tied with three other teams) and the second most sacks. They’re expensive, but this sets up as a bounce-back game for the Jaguars.
Indianapolis Colts - $4,100
You hate to roster a chalky defense that has a leaky secondary and ranks 21st in FanDuel points scored on the year, but that’s the state of the Bills’ offense. They’ve allowed the third most sacks, have scored the fewest points, have accumulated the second-fewest total yards, and own the second lowest success rate. Conversely, the Colts’ defense ranks third in sacks and their offense is playing well enough to force the Bills into a narrow, predictable game script. Maybe a quarterback change will help, but Anderson has long-been a turnover machine. Stacking the Colts’ defense with Mack registers as a solid tournament play.
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: Joe Flacco - $7,500
The only reason Flacco doesn’t get the nod as a core play is because of how good the Ravens’ defense has played. They have the ability to slow down every part of the Saints’ offensive attack and could force this game into a low-scoring grind, especially in Baltimore where strong winds are expected.
That said, the Ravens’ passing offense offers sneaky appeal as Flacco and Co. square off against the league’s third-worst passing defense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Flacco enters the week with the second most attempts per game and the 11th most yards. Those volume stats mean little when you consider his floor, which comes into clear focus per his rank in FanDuel points per game (21st) and touchdown percentage (26th). But a matchup that promises a lot of volume and a lot of points at least suggest Flacco could return a fine box score. He has faced only two offenses that rank in the top-10 in overall DVOA—the Bengals and the Steelers. In both of those games, he averaged almost 370 yards and threw four of his nine touchdowns on the season. Two of his four interceptions also came in one of those games, but the Saints have only two all year, and their below-average pass-rush is unlikely to pester him much.
Helping out his ceiling is the fact that the Saints tend to allow big plays. Rebooting the Brown analysis from above: the Saints rank 32nd in DVOA against deep passes and only four teams have allowed more passing plays of 40 yards or more. Flacco ranks second in deep passing attempts and 10th in yards. One caveat: early weather reports say a decent amount of wind could impact chances of deep plays, but even if that’s the case, the Saints have allowed a healthy 71.1% completion rate to quarterbacks and rank third in FanDuel points allowed per game. The Ravens check in as surprise 2.5-point favorites at home. If they’re going to make good on that spread, it’ll be via Flacco’s arm. His salary provides a nice cushion in a high-volume matchup making this is a great week to chase his ceiling.
QB: C.J. Beathard - $6,400
Priced like an elite tight end, Beathard enters Week 7 ranked as QB11 since he took over as the starter in Week 4. He has thrown for two touchdowns in every game and has averaged nearly 300 passing yards with a few scrambles for 47 total rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown. He also has five interceptions, but looked much better last week. As mentioned, the return of Goodwin helped tremendously, and if Matt Breida plays, Beathard will have yet another reliable pass-catcher to help navigate a vulnerable defense.
The Rams most recently allowed Case Keenum to throw for 322 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The week before that, Russell Wilson dropped three touchdowns on them, and in Week 4, Kirk Cousins completed 36 passes on 50 attempts for 422 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. It’s safe to say that Beathard could find some success at home against this secondary. He will most certainly have a few turnovers, but for $6,400, and the notable deep-threat he shares the field with, he makes for a solid tournament play and allows for elite roster builds.
RB: Kerryon Johnson - $6,500
For whatever reason, the Lions’ coaches insist on treating LeGarrette Blount to consistent snap counts and goal-line opportunities despite his obvious shortcomings. Meanwhile, Johnson looks as explosive as any rookie running back this year. Among players with at least 25 carries, his 5.7 yards per attempt ranks fifth. That metric doesn’t mean much until you compare it to Blount’s ineffective 2.5 yards per carry.
The matchup looks good on paper. Miami has allowed the sixth most FanDuel points per game, the fifth most total yards, and the fourth most total touchdowns to running backs. Johnson figures to handle double-digit touches for a fifth straight game and could get even more action if Osweiler returns to typical Osweiler form, allowing the Lions to run out the clock. The only reason Johnson doesn’t register as a top play is because of Blount’s status as a touchdown vulture. In order for him to reach a tournament-worthy ceiling, Johnson will need to break off a long touchdown run or his coaches will need come to their senses. At least one of those scenarios is possible on Sunday.
RB: Duke Johnson Jr - $5,100
If the crowd chases any part of the Browns’ backfield, it’ll likely be Carlos Hyde, who ranks third among all players in rushes and seventh in market share of carries. Johnson, however, has earned more action over the last two games and with another potentially high-scoring matchup on tap, he could end up drawing a fair number of targets. Even if Mayfield keeps pace, the matchup favors Johnson over Hyde. The Buccaneers have allowed the second fewest adjusted line yards to running backs, but rank third-to-last in DVOA versus pass-catchers out of the backfield. The Browns are beat up at wide receiver and their healthy options beyond Landry and Njoku have proven to be unreliable. If they fall behind, a likely scenario, Johnson projects to once against steal half of the backfield snaps and provide an additional receiving option for Mayfield. Hitting tournament numbers based on his cheap salary looks like a favorable bet.
UPDATE: Carlos Hyde has been traded the Jaguars, which leaves this backfield to Johnson and Nick Chubb. Johnson still profiles as a better fit for this matchup, but Chubb at least deserves consideration as near minimum-priced option. This also means that Johnson can no longer be considered "contrarian" for obvious reasons.
WR: Jermaine Kearse - $5,000
Apparently, it’s slot receiver week… 29.6% of Darnold’s targets—the highest rate in the league—have filtered to slot receivers where Kearse projects to spend the majority of his day. When Quincy Enunwa left last week’s game, Kearse stepped up and played his highest snap count of the season, leading the team in targets, catches, and yards. He’ll get another big opportunity Sunday as the team’s main slot weapon against the Vikings’ defense that suffocates rushing attacks but ranks 25th against the pass in DVOA. They’ve allowed the sixth most FanDuel points to the slot where Mackensie Alexander has permitted an 86% completion rate and the ninth most yards. For $5,000, Kearse sets up as a cheap GPP option in a plus matchup. Terrelle Pryor also deserves to be on your radar if he plays. He saw six targets last week and has found the end zone in back-to-back games.
WR: Damion Ratley - $5,100
With injuries everywhere and Antonio Callaway struggling, Ratley clocked into last week’s game and logged six catches for 82 yards on eight targets. Before that, he played exactly one snap all season, marking his sudden explosion onto the stat sheet as more of a mirage than anything. But with Rishard Higgins unlikely for another week and Derrick Willies on IR (after drawing a fair amount of buzz last week until he got injured in practice), the 6’2” speedster should earn another week of WR1 opportunities. Ratley at least gets a solid matchup against the Bucs’ secondary that’s allowing the highest completion rate and the second most FanDuel points per game to wide receivers. FanDuel pricing doesn’t require us to go all the way down to $5,000 wide receivers, especially during a week that has only 10 games on the main slate and is missing a large chunk of the league’s most productive players, but Ratley offers a cheap option in a promising matchup and he’s unlikely to attract a crowd.
TE: Charles Clay - $4,600
When Cam Newton got injured late in Week 4 of 2016, Derek Anderson entered the game and targeted Greg Olsen seven times, connecting five times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Anderson earned the start the following week and connected with Olsen nine times on 13 targets for 181 yards. Clay, of course, isn’t Olsen and Anderson hasn’t played any meaningful snaps since then, but it’s nearly impossible for this to be a bad thing for Clay. It helps that the Colts are next up on the schedule—a defense that’s allowed the fifth most yards and sixth most FanDuel points per game to tight ends. Bottom-shelf tight ends rarely make appearances in this column. But Clay at least stands a chance for a bump in targets and the matchup suggests he’s worth a flier in large-field tournaments.
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