The Fade: FanDuel Week 5

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

Before getting into the action, I just want extend my best wishes to those of you dealing with Hurricane Matthew. Stay safe. Don’t temp the storm and relocate if needed or possible. Do what’s best for your family and friends.

Since this column is about fantasy football, I have to mention the storm as it relates to our fantasy football decisions. But none of what I have to say in the paragraphs that follow mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I won’t go as far as saying “it’s just a game”, because I don’t believe that for a second. But I sympathize with the hundreds of thousands of people that don’t get to enjoy a normal weekend. Also keep in mind that this massive storm obviously affects more than just Americans. Haiti has already experienced unthinkable damage. There are thousands of people out there that have lost everything. So I encourage you, if able, to do what you can to help. Perhaps consider matching whatever you’re playing in DFS this weekend and donating to a charity of your liking. Or skip DFS altogether and donate instead. It’s that important.

General Week 5 Thoughts

We have another great feature available for you this week that you recognize from last year. Austin Lee, of The Footballguys’ Daily Fantasy Hour and dubsmash fame, has released his normalized strength of schedule. It’s one of the most useful tools available.

The highest projected point totals of the week are, in order, are the Raiders vs. Chargers, Colts vs. Bears, Steelers vs. Jets, Packers vs. Giants, and Broncos vs. Falcons. I’ll have most of my action on the Steelers and Packers games, while avoiding the Colts/Bears and Broncos/Falcons.

As mentioned, Hurricane Matthew is major threat. Games in Baltimore, Miami and Charlotte are at most risk. I’m avoiding them completely, especially the Dolphins/Titans, which could be delayed and/or moved. The game in Baltimore is probably okay, but there aren’t many players in that matchup I’m in love with anyway (I see you, Terrance West).

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady - $8,700

Welcome back, Touchdown Tom. The team really needs you. Oh, not your actual team. They’ve been fine up until last week. Your fantasy team needs you. Wait, sorry for the confusion, our fantasy team. So welcome back.

I’m sure there’s a lot of you that are excited to finally drop your second quarterback now that Brady has returned from suspension. In DFS circles, we are blessed with a weekly option whose salary will always be a drag on our rosters, but whose ceiling always has potential to swing tournaments.

And he couldn’t have picked a better week to return. The Browns provide a nice tune up. They’ve allowed 10 touchdowns to passers—third most—and the ninth most FanDuel points. Brady’s ownership will probably be down just a touch since it’s his first game back. The crowd tends to be shy about these situations, but he’ll still be plenty popular. I’m not going to say “fade Brady” outright. I think it’s important to have exposure. But it’s also reasonable to lower expectations. He hasn’t practiced or participated in football activities since the preseason. The Browns offense aren’t likely to make this game a high-scoring affair (although, the Patriots have a projected team total of 28.25 points, and it’s not like they slow down their offense because of the scoreboard). And at some point, his age is going to show up on the football field. That may not be this week, or even this year. But it’s on the way. Again, I’m not recommending an outright fade—just don’t go all in.

Aaron Rodgers - $9,100

Pardon the cliché, but Rodgers dumped his one “R-E-L-A-X” game on us right before the bye. Now he gets a bad Giants team that just played a physical Monday night game. Four total touchdowns for Rodgers might be his floor. I love him this week. But it’s my fiduciary duty to point out that the Giants’ defense has allowed only four touchdowns to quarterbacks. They have yet to allow a 300-yard passer. No quarterback has scored more than 19.34 FanDuel points against them. Even from a points per attempt metric, the Giants rank 23rd. And it’s not like they’ve faced scrubs:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Sam Bradford 4 26 36 262 1 0 4 6 0 15.08 7100
Kirk Cousins 3 21 35 296 2 0 3 -5 0 19.34 7200
Drew Brees 2 29 44 263 1 0 0 0 0 14.52 9200
Dak Prescott 1 25 45 227 0 0 2 12 0 10.28 5000

Okay, that’s it. I’ve literally exhausted every reason to fade Rodgers (other than Week 3 being an outlier), and there’s no substance to it. The only reason to fade him is if you can find a cheaper option that has a similar ceiling. Perhaps his opponent Sunday night fits that bill.   

Matt Ryan - $7,700

Ryan’s presence in this space should come as no surprise. The season’s highest scoring quarterback gets to face the league’s premier defense. You don’t need anyone to tell you there are better matchups to target. You could make a case for Ryan as a contrarian play since his ownership will take a hit. But where’s the upside? If you removing rushing points, the Broncos have allowed the 30th fewest points to quarterbacks and have intercepted more passes than touchdowns allowed. Don’t get cute. Look for a different game.

Running Backs

Le'Veon Bell - $8,600

Bell had a fantastic opener last week. He failed to find the end zone as the Steelers crushed the Chiefs, but turned 18 carries into 144 yards, and five receptions on six targets into another 34 yards. He’s back, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s going to be difficult from this point forward to build tournament rosters that don’t include him.

This week he faces a much harder front seven. The Jets have allowed just 264 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown on the season. Their rushing points per attempt rank 29th. The good news is they can’t stop the pass. So Bell’s floor remains safe since he is such a big part of the passing attack. That said, the Steelers are touchdown favorites at home, and will likely funnel their offense through Ben Roethlisberger. If that happens and the game gets out of hand, it would be logical for the them to give DeAngelo Williams a decent amount of touches (not that Mike Tomlin has a history of doing what’s logical for the safety of his players).  

Jordan Howard - $7,200

 

Do be like this me. I listed Howard in this space last week and warned that John Fox tends to lean on veterans vs. rookies. He then proceeded to give Howard 26 touches and played him on 91.3 percent of snaps. He made the most of it too, racking up 132 total yards. The most encouraging sign was his involvement in the pass game. He saw four targets and secured three of them for 21 yards. That’s huge considering this week the Bears will be without Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery doesn’t appear to be healthy.

The matchup sets up perfectly for Howard, as the Colts have allowed the fourth most points to running backs and are vulnerable both on the ground and through the air. As the lead dog, and basically the only offense the Bears have outside of Hoyer and Zach Miller (who’s also banged up), he could be in for a huge game.

But here’s where we should have some concern: this contest could turn into a stinker. Look, both defenses are bad. There’s no question about. But neither offense is particularly good. The Bears are tied with the Titans for the fewest points scored on the season. The Colts have been a lot better, but watching them play, I don’t feel very confident in their ability to blow open a barnburner. And usually teams have a bye week following a London game. The Colts elected not to do that for some reason. Despite the over/under of this contest being a healthy 47.5 points, I’m nervous that it’ll fall well below that. Of course, a close game could be good for Howard. And it’s possible the already bad Colts’ defense, complete with jetlag, gets gashed on the ground. But there are a few other good rushing matchups this week we can exploit, while also avoiding heavy crowds.

DeMarco Murray - $8,400

It’s interesting that the Titans, the league’s lowest scoring offense, have provided the league’s highest scoring running back. Murray has been excellent this season. He has scored a touchdown in every game in Week 2, and even then he still turned in an RB8 finish by converting 12 carries into 89 yards and catching all seven targets for another 56 yards. After opening the season with a $6,500 salary, he’s now our second most expensive running back on the board in the main slate. This week he travels to Miami to take on a Dolphins’ defense that has been better against the run than public perception. Football Outsiders has them ranked 12th against the run, and from a points per touch metric, only two teams have allowed fewer FanDuel points. Perhaps their success has been a matter of competition? Here’s their defensive game logs:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Jeremy Hill 4 21 71 0 0 0 0 7.1 7000
Giovani Bernard 4 10 18 0 3 24 0 5.7 5500
Duke Johnson Jr 3 10 69 0 5 12 0 10.6 5100
Isaiah Crowell 3 15 79 0 0 0 0 7.9 6900
LeGarrette Blount 2 29 123 1 0 0 0 18.3 6000
James White 2 4 19 0 2 10 0 3.9 5600
Christine Michael 1 15 66 0 2 5 0 8.1 4800
Thomas Rawls 1 12 32 0 3 26 0 7.3 7400
C.J. Prosise 1 1 -2 0 1 13 0 1.6 4900

Not exactly loaded with hall of famers. It’s more a matter of touchdown luck than anything, having allowed only one on the season.

Either way, there’s evidence that you can move the ball with running backs against the Dolphins, and Murray has embarrassed nearly every team he has faced. But his salary is a tough one. Plus, there’s the weather issue. I’m not as worried about that, since they could just move the game to a neutral site. But eventually, the Titans’ offensive ineptitude is going to collide with Murray’s production, and I don’t want him in my lineups when that happens.

Melvin Gordon III - $7,700

No thanks. Moving on.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown - $9,600

This may be Brown’s last appearance in this column unless there’s some evidence that we can build better lineups without him. Look, he’s going to be one of the highest owned players every week. But that’s not a reason to fade him. Here’s the thing about his matchup this week: the Jets’ secondary has been targeted only 66 times—the third lowest rate in the league. They’ve still allowed the fourth most yards to go along with four touchdowns to wide receivers. That’s not a perfect metric by any means, but it works out to nearly half a point per target. Simply awful. Figure out how to get Brown into your lineups and stack him with Ben Roethlisberger.

(I didn’t write up Roethlisberger because there’s just no reason to fade him. He’ll be the most popular play this week and it doesn’t matter. I’d play him over Brady in every format. In fact, if you’re looking for a reason to fade Rodgers or Brady, it’s Roethlisberger.)

Demaryius Thomas - $7,700

Thomas has only 27 targets through four games, ranking 45th among all players. Which means he’s either been incredibly efficient with his usage and will continue to be an elite wide receiver option, or a massive cliff is coming and we should be entertaining offers for him in season-long leagues. It’s probably somewhere in the middle, but looking at his game logs, I’m a leery. In Week 2, 44 of his 90 yards came on one play. In Week 3, 55 of his 100 yards came on one play. Last week he was a little more consistent, but still had a 31-yard catch to account for a third of his total. Look, we can’t hold big plays against a receiver who is especially capable of making big plays. But we should guard against the probability that those plays won’t happen every week.

The Broncos haven’t said who their quarterback is going to be on Sunday. Trevor Siemian was been great, but left with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder last week and hasn’t been practicing. Paxton Lynch looked great in relief, but we should generally avoid offenses led by inexperienced quarterbacks (Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott notwithstanding). And then there’s Desmond Trufant, who is emerging as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and could be covering Thomas for a chunk of this game. Oh, and then there’s that pesky hip injury Thomas has been dealing. Tie all that together and you have plenty of excuses to avoid his WR9 salary.  

Marvin Jones Jr - $7,800

It’s not fair analysis to just say “45 percent of his FanDuel points came in one game” but that’s the situation with Jones. And it’s understandable. Any time a player blows up for 205 yards and two touchdowns, his per game stats will be slanted. He’s the most important player for the Lions’ offense and will be a major part of their game plan every week. The Eagles’ defense knows this. And so far, they’ve held all wide receivers they’ve faced to 26.4 FanDuel points per game—the 28th fewest. Again, context is important. The best player they’ve faced is Antonio Brown, who tagged them for 120 yards on 12 catches. But guess what. Jones isn’t even in the conversation with Brown. Last week, Jones had a tasty matchup against a horrible Bears’ secondary and managed only 74 yards. The Lions’ offense cannot be trusted, especially against a defense that is emerging as one of the league’s best and coming off of a bye. I’ll pass on Jones.

Eddie Royal - $5,700

Just a word of caution here for those of you looking to take a discount with Royal given the fact that Kevin White is out: the Bears didn’t have White for the duration of last season and Royal scored more than 18 points only once. He was also banged up for most of the season so that’s certainly a big part of it. But we learned our lesson with Cole Beasley last week. That being, the main receiving target for an offense sitting on the sideline doesn’t always translate to big games for lesser players. Royal looked great last week. And he could be in for a big workload given the injuries to Bears’ players. He also has a great matchup against the Colts. But he hasn’t practiced yet this week, and you already know how I feel about this game.  

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski - $7,200

There’s a few school of thoughts we need to consider with Gronkowski. The first is that Brady is back so things are trending up for the league’s best tight end. His return is a great sign for Gronkowski.

His salary is only $7,200. It won’t be long before he’s close to or above $8,000, so now is the optimum time to take advantage while he’s still affordable.

He played nearly 70 percent of snaps last week. This is interesting because Martellus Bennett played 78 percent of snaps last week, suggesting that the Patriots are getting back to playing two tight ends by default.

Given that he played 70 percent of snaps, his hamstring must be getting better. If he practices in full on Friday, it’s all systems go.

But even with all of that positive regression, and a cake matchup against the Browns, I’m still worried that he’ll be out there more as a decoy or blocker and less as a playmaker. If anything, this is the week to play Bennett. So guard your exposure to Gronkowski. He always has multi-touchdown upside; I’m just not so sure this it’s in this game.

 Jason Witten - $5,800

Witten enters Week 5 as our TE13 on the season. His 29 targets are tied for fifth most at the position, which also ties him with Beasley in team targets, confirming his security-blanket role for a rookie quarterback. But there’s a noticeable lack of touchdowns on Witten’s resume. This week he faces the Bengals who, despite giving up three scores to tight ends so far, have allowed only 107 yards (granted, that’s on only 18 targets). I don’t think Witten will have very high ownership, but without a great matchup, his salary pushes me away.

Kickers and Defenses

As always, we won’t weigh you down with kicker analysis. The most important thing is avoiding potentially bad weather. That means I’m staying away from Dustin Hopkins ($4,800), Justin Tucker ($5,000), Andrew Franks ($4,500), and Ryan Succop ($4,500). Only a couple of those guys are worth playing in a given week anyway, but this is an especially good slate to avoid them. I love Stephen Gostkowski ($5,100). He’ll have super high ownership but is probably the best play on the board if you can afford him.

There’s no doubt that the Vikings ($4,800) will be the chalk play and I see no reason to avoid it. They’ll allow points but the potential for lots of sacks remains high, even if the Texans’ offensive line has done a great job protecting the quarterback.  

I don’t love the Steelers ($4,900), who have a great matchup on paper but also have a horrible defense on paper. Their salary doesn’t match the fact they’ve scored just 19 FanDuel points on the season and aren’t generating many sacks or turnovers. Even with the Jets coming to down, I prefer to go cheaper, or more expensive, at defense.



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