The Fade: FanDuel Week 10

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

We’re all starting David Johnson this week. Well, at least 60 percent of us are. This is just a guess but he will have the highest ownership of any player ever in the FanDuel Sunday Million. That’s my bold prediction for this week, which isn’t very bold.

I won’t bore you with stats. You know how bad the 49ers run defense is. Actually, I am going to bore you with stats. The 49ers are allowing over 200 yards per game to running backs. They’ve allowed 13 touchdowns to the position in their last six games. Seven running backs have scored at least 16 points FanDuel points against this defense, and three have scored at least 30. One of those three was Johnson back in Week 5 when he clobbered them for 185 total yards and two touchdowns. In San Francisco. Without his starting quarterback. He’s the most expensive player on the board yet he’ll still be the highest owned player.

What’s crazy is you can plug in his $9,400 salary and still build a monster lineup thanks to FanDuel’s soft pricing. There are good and bad ways to be contrarian. Fading Johnson is the latter. Heck, I’m tempted to start both Johnson and Andre Ellington, just so I can reap the benefits when he ends up taking over in the fourth quarter.

Ignore the ownership projections. Get Johnson in most, if not all of your lineups. 

Quarterbacks

Carson Palmer - $7,900

The first few lineups I built this week included both Palmer and Johnson, giving me full access to the Cardinals’ offense against a weak divisional opponent. At first glance, it sounds like a good idea. Johnson has a killer matchup and will, as discussed, be the highest owned player of Week 10. Palmer also has a sweet matchup. The 49ers have allowed more real points per game than any other team and the ninth most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks. And that includes Week 1 when Case Keenum scored 4.2 points. Everything about this matchup screams “START CARDINALS!”

But Palmer hasn’t been the most consistent quarterback in the world and his price isn’t the easiest. He comes into the week as our 16th ranked quarterback from a point-per-game metric. The last time we saw him he went on the road to Carolina and turned his second-best performance of the season with 363 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. But in the four games prior, he failed to score more than 15 points, despite have some cake matchups. From Week 3 through Week 7 he was QB30, which includes one missed game, but clearly, not the superstar we need to swing tournaments. Maybe a home a date with the 49ers is exactly what he needs to return a top-five performance (which he has yet to do this season). The Cardinals are favored by a massive 13.5 spread and their projected team total of 30.75 points easily leads the week. So I’ll chase this game with a Palmer/Johnson stack in a few tournaments, but I fear it could be mostly Johnson followed by the starters being benched in the fourth quarter. And it’s also worth noting that Palmer has contributed just 19.1 percent of the Cardinals total fantasy points—tied for the lowest rate among quarterbacks.

Russell Wilson - $7,400

It’s nice that Wilson’s price still makes him a value play, and it’s nice that he finally ended his three-game streak of not scoring touchdowns. He finished as QB5 last week in a thriller against Buffalo. It was only the second time all season he scored more than 15 points and his price actually dropped $400. I’m not chasing that discount even if this matchup could lean towards the high-scoring side. The Patriots have, for the most part, held opposing passers in check. Ryan Tannehill is the only one to surpass 300 yards. Only two have thrown multiple touchdowns. From a raw stats perspective, the Patriots rank 16th in points allowed to the position, but if you remove rushing stats, they drop to 23rd. Normally, I wouldn’t remove rushing stats when analyzing a player like Wilson, but it’s clear he still can’t run well (though he did have a rushing touchdown last week for the first time this season).

All things being equal, the Patriots don’t have the toughest defense in the world. They haven’t been getting to the passer, ranking 28th in sack percentage, and they’re allowing the sixth most points per game. They’ve also allowed only nine passing touchdowns to five interceptions. That might have more to do with the quarterbacks they’ve faced. Landry Jones, Charlie Whitehurst, and Brock Osweiler have contributed to making the Patriots raw numbers look much better than they are. But what concerns me is A) the Seahawks offensive line is still terrible and the Patriots are going to come after it knowing Wilson is still limited, and B) only three teams have a lower projected team total than the Seahawks, who are seven-point underdogs on the road. There are not a lot of no-brainer plays at quarterback this week, so I won’t blame anyone for taking a discount and praying Wilson’s floor is safe. But I’ll keep my exposure low until he proves he’s back to 2015 form.

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott - $8,900

The Pittsburgh Steelers run defense looked a whole lot different with healthy players last week as they held the Ravens to 50 rushing yards on 29 attempts. Of course, the Ravens don’t have Elliott or the Cowboys’ offensive line. Without question, he’s a matchup proof player. We might find out this week if he’s game script proof as well. The Cowboys have earned a reputation for slow-pace, keep away football and most of that is because of how well they’ve been able to pound defenses with their rushing attack. We’ll see how well that works against the Steelers, who run a faster-paced offense than most teams when Ben Roethlisberger is healthy.

That’s the key ingredient to consider to this game. Roethlisberger looked terrible last week and is clearly nowhere near 100%. His offense was stuck in park for the majority of the game and failed to put points on the board until the fourth quarter. They oddly chose to go with a conservative game plan and it failed. I wonder if said plan was because of Roethlisberger’s health. So the thought is this: if you believe he will return to form this week and the Steelers’ offense comes out swinging, Elliott is a good play because he’s so involved in the Cowboys’ offense, even as a receiver. But if you don’t think Roethlisberger is healthy and believe that what we saw last week wasn’t an outlier, then Elliott is a good play because the Cowboys will grind the clock out just as they have all season.

That’s not very helpful, is it? Basically, here’s why I’m fading Elliott: since FanDuel only allows us to start two running backs, and one of those is going to be Johnson, I would rather go with a less expensive option and maybe even one that’s not as highly owned. Melvin Gordon III, Le'Veon Bell, and Lamar Miller all make that list. I will have some exposure to Elliott because it would be careless not to, but I don’t think he is a must-play this week and I’m fine with chasing other options for my second running back.

Devonta Freeman - $7,000

You would think Tevin Coleman’s absence would automatically mean Freeman pushes 25 touches a game. But in the two weeks without Coleman, Freeman has 15 and 19 touches and not many yards to show for them. He did find the end zone twice in Week 7, which saved what would have been an otherwise terrible day. And he managed just over 100 total yards while his quarterback distributed four touchdowns to receivers last week. Perhaps Freeman’s midseason slump is just a matter of unfortunate events. But expecting things to turn around as he travels to Philadelphia might be foolish. The Eagles have been tough on running backs all season. They haven’t faced the hardest schedule when it comes to rushing attacks, but they recently held Elliott to 16.8 points and have permitted only five total touchdowns all season to the position. Matt Jones’s performance gives us the most optimism; he clobbered this defense for 135 rushing yards and a score—one of two running backs this season to score more than 19 FanDuel points against them. The other was Theo Riddick, who had six catches and two touchdowns.

In fact, if you look at the Eagles’ normalized strength of schedule against running backs, you see they are above average and typically a matchup we should avoid. Overall, they rank 20th in FanDuel points per game allowed to the position. This is not a great situation for Freeman, even if it could be a high-scoring game. The Falcons started the season as one of the best rushing/receiving combos among running backs. They’ve now fallen to the middle of the pack as Matt Ryan and his receivers have been their entire offense. Don’t bother with Freeman this week.

Darren Sproles - $5,100

Typically, players like Sproles don’t make an appearance in this space because players like Sproles don’t typically have high ownership. But as you can see from the tweet above, I can imagine a lot of DFSers jumping all over his salary so they can pimp out their rosters at other positions. I’m fine that strategy. But only because it means my rosters have a better chance. You know what you’re getting with Sproles. And just in case, here are his game logs from this season:

YR

WK

OPP

oSNAP

RSH

YD

TD

TARG

REC

YD

TD

FDPts

2016 1 CLE 38 5 12 0 5 2 24 0 4.6
2016 2 CHI 41 12 40 0 2 2 8 0 5.8
2016 3 PIT 24 2 -1 0 6 6 128 1 21.7
2016 5 DET 34 5 45 0 4 4 23 0 8.8
2016 6 WAS 23 4 20 0 1 1 4 0 2.9
2016 7 MIN 26 3 26 0 3 2 23 0 5.9
2016 8 DAL 63 15 86 0 7 5 17 0 12.8
2016 9 NYG 60 13 57 0 9 3 14 0 8.6

Can you spot the outlier? Don’t get distracted by the number of snaps he’s playing. Yes, he’s apparently the Eagles’ No. 1 running back. And yes, he has a solid matchup this week against the Falcons, who have been tough up front but have also allowed the most receiving yards, the second-most receptions, and are tied with three other teams for the second-most receiving touchdowns permitted to running backs. In fact, this is a perfect storm because the Falcons will likely score of a lot of points and push the Eagles into throwing more than they normally do (they have the 8th fewest passing attempts per game).

Sproles is in a good situation this week. It also helps that 33.9% of the Eagles’ fantasy points have come from the running back position—the third highest rate of all teams. Furthermore, this contest has the highest over/under of the week with the Falcons slight favorites. I won’t blame you for putting all that information together and nominating Sproles as your second running back. However, keep in mind that his touchdown upside nearly nonexistent. Ryan Mathews is still on the team. The Eagles have struggled offensively lately and rank 20th in points per game over the last three weeks. If FanDuel scored a full point per reception or gave us a flex spot, I think Sproles would make sense. But that’s not the case. While I’d love to take a discount, I’m sticking with the strategy that’s been working all season, which is paying up for stud running backs.

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald - $7,200

If you read the intro and read my take on Palmer, then seeing Fitzgerald in this spot should come as no surprise. We know what we’re getting with him. He’s one of the best plays based on volume alone. Only three receivers average more targets per game, and despite said volume, he still manages to catch nearly 70 percent of passes, which is one of the best rates in the league (eighth among receivers with at least 50 targets).

His opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, have allowed the most touchdowns to receivers this season (including two to Fitzgerald already) and the ninth most points per game, despite being targeted at the lowest rate in the league. The reason they aren’t being targeted is because teams just floor them with running backs, which is the biggest case against Fitzgerald. I am all in on Johnson and think he runs through this defense with ease.

If only Colin Kaepernick and Co. could mount some offense—not likely against Arizona in Arizona—then maybe I’d feel more comfortable with Fitzgerald and his friendly salary. As it stands, he has scored more than 17.5 fantasy points only twice all season and has five games of 12.4 points or fewer. But he does have five touchdowns and currently ranks 10th among wide receivers. So you certainly could do worse in a week where there aren’t a lot of obvious plays. Just keep in mind that over his last three games, Fitzgerald is WR23, and he hasn’t caught a touchdown pass from Palmer since Week 2. Just like Sproles, if this were a full-point PPR situation, I’d be more inclined to enlist his services. That said, if you are going to chase Cardinals’ receivers, best go with a power stack and lock in Palmer and Johnson while you’re at it.

Brandon Marshall - $7,100

You don’t need anyone to tell you that Ryan Fitzpatrick is destroying Marshall’s season on a weekly basis. It’s now been four games without a touchdown for the Jets’ top receiver. He is averaging 4.4 catches per contest and has topped 100 yards just twice. He gets a Rams’ secondary that’s been easy to beat for the most part. They’ve allowed the fifth most receptions and the 10th most FanDuel points per game. So maybe this is the week we all wish we had more exposure to Marshall. Unfortunately, putting faith in a Fitzpatrick-led offense that’s averaging the sixth fewest points per game isn’t wise. As much as I’d love to take advantage of his salary while it’s competitive (the lowest it has been since Week 11 of 2014), I just simply can’t recommend it. This game has the lowest over/under of the week and points are going to be hard to come by. The upside doesn’t exist for Marshall on Sunday.

Emmanuel Sanders - $6,900

I could be way off but the passing game for Broncos is ill. Like, it makes me ill. I am tempted to jump on Sanders’ friendly salary and nearly guaranteed volume. He has 21 targets over the last two games and the sixth most among wide receivers this season. His reception rate of 57 percent isn’t great, but he ranks 10th in yards and 23rd in points per game. Seems to reason that his price makes him an excellent volume play.

However, the Saints usually porous secondary hasn’t been as good of a source for fantasy points as perceived. They rank 20th in points per game and have allowed only five touchdowns. They just got their best cornerback back from injury, who hasn’t played since the first week of the season. That at least should patch up the 187 yards per game they allow on average to wide receivers—fourth most in the league. Matchup aside, Sanders has been consistent this season, scoring no more than 11.5 points in all but two opportunities. He does have three touchdowns but they came in two games back in Weeks 3 and 4. His quarterback isn’t very good. And the Broncos might just try to run the ball to hide the fact that they can’t throw it. I’m staying away from their receivers this week.

Tight Ends

Antonio Gates - $5,700

The old man still has it! Despite not having knees that bend in either leg, Gates snared five his nine targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. That’s his second straight game with a score and now has four on the season. He’s on the injury report, of course, because 36-year-old tight ends tend to be a little banged up. I don’t doubt he’ll play. I do doubt he’ll own the snap counts. Hunter Henry is expected back this week and it’s likely the two will split reps when they’re not on the field together. Making matters worse, the Dolphins have been solid against tight ends all season, ranking 20th in points per game allowed. However, context usually is needed. They have been beaten up by good tight ends:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Charles Clay 7 2 29 0 3.9 5100
Nick O'Leary 7 1 7 0 1.2 4600
Jesse James 6 2 13 0 2.3 5400
Xavier Grimble 6 1 11 0 1.6 4500
Delanie Walker 5 5 66 1 15.1 6400
Anthony Fasano 5 1 10 0 1.5 4500
C.J. Uzomah 4 4 45 0 6.5 5000
Gary Barnidge 3 5 66 0 11.1 5800
Malcolm Johnson 3 1 3 0 0.8 4500
Martellus Bennett 2 5 114 1 19.9 5500
Luke Willson 1 2 26 0 3.6 4800
Jimmy Graham 1 1 11 0 1.6 6100

So this isn’t a terrible matchup. But I just hate buying into a committee situation at this position. The silver lining is that the Dolphins run defense is quite good; meaning the Gordon Show could struggle this week and filter more of the offense through Philip Rivers and his receivers.

Jason Witten - $5,400

Not a great week for future hall of famers, it seems. As mentioned under Elliott, the Steelers’ defense is finally healthy, particularly with Ryan Shazier back in the lineup. He’s a key component in the middle of the field for their defense and can also rush the passer. Witten isn’t fast and even though he’s always a big threat in the red zone, I don’t see him having a monster day in Pittsburgh. His salary is great because it comes with a built-in floor that promises five or six targets, right about his average, but his performance last week was the result of playing the Browns’ defense. We can expect Witten to return to his usual TE18 ranking, which is where he was before his explosion last week. To be fair, it won’t be that low, but there are a lot of other options to consider in Week 10.

Defenses

I think it’s safe to say that the Cardinals ($5,200) will be the chalkiest defense to own. The last time they played the 49ers they allowed 21 points but also had seven sacks and one interception. That was pre-Kaepernick, however, so we’ll see if that makes them a better play or worse. My money is on the former so I don’t mind paying up and getting what looks like a sure thing (Johnson/Cards stack is definitely in play).

I don’t’, however, have any faith in the Jets ($4,800). There’s just not enough upside to rostering a team that can’t stop quarterbacks. In fact, I’m tempted to roll out a few Case Keenum stacks as a result. Fade the Jets even though they’re at home.



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