The Butterfly Effect:
One of the more difficult aspects of succeeding in GPP’s is finding low owned players that can return at least a multiple of four on their salary. This means if a player costs $4,500, in order for that player to hit value, he must score at least 18 points. With their being so much coverage in the industry, there is little chance of having an obvious sleeper fall through the cracks. In fact, in many cases it becomes a detriment to roster these players, because at best you are keeping pace with 30-50% of the field, and at worst, your team is sunk. My solution to the problem of finding these players is to embrace the theory of The Butterfly Effect.
The Butterfly Effect is a theory that believes “small causes can have larger effects”. To take it one step further though, it is really how a single occurrence can cause several different layers of effects. For DFS purposes, think of an injury to a star running back. Now right off the bat, the backup running back is the most obvious beneficiary, as he will inherit the #1 spot and become an instant source of value. What most people fail to realize though, is that the star running back may have a different skill set that causes the entire offense (and defense) to be affected. Perhaps the backup running back is of smaller stature which precludes him from being an effective red zone option. That would add value to the wide receivers and tight ends who will now see more targets in the red zone. This is a very basic example, but one that happens often.
In addition to injuries, The Butterfly Effect can also be applied to coaching changes, scheme changes and trades. Anytime a significant event or change occurs, this article will be your guide to finding how value has shifted, both positively and negatively. This is not exclusively limited to players with low salaries, in fact top players often qualify as great value plays. The key is in identifying those who are being overlooked for one reason or another.
Key Losses: Damien Williams
Primary Beneficiaries: Kenyon Drake, Jarvis Landry
Damien Williams injured his shoulder last week and had to exit the game, leaving Kenyon Drake as the Dolphins primary running back. Adam Gase has yet to rule out Williams for Sunday’s game against the Broncos but his injury is one that will most likely keep him out of this week’s game, and potentially week 14 too. Drake and Williams were splitting time nearly 50/50, and both were playing on all three downs and in the red zone. The Dolphins offense is not necessarily one you want to stack players on because they struggle to move the ball, but Drake now becomes an every down back that will be in line for a heavy workload against the Broncos on Sunday. Drake is 6’1, 211, not necessarily the frame you see on running backs that can sustain a heavy workload, week in and week out. With that said, all we are worried about is this week. The Broncos have been stout against the run, allowing only one 100+ yard rusher (Orleans Dakrwa) and rank 8th in points allowed to opposing running backs. The other player who should benefit from Williams injury is Jarvis Landry. My first thought was that his volume really can’t increase that much as he’s already seeing 10.6 targets per game. I then thought through it and realized that the Miami game plan cannot be the same as it has been when it had both Drake and Williams. They will have to pass the ball more—perhaps even significantly more in order to keep Drake fresh--and anytime that happens, the player with the highest target volume will automatically increase. The increased targets then funnel down to DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills, both of whom have big play ability. Anytime you increase that volume to big play receivers, their chances at exceeding GPP value increase exponentially. De’Veon Smith will be the running back behind Kenyon Drake, but he will not see the field much having been called up from the practice squad.
Who I’m playing: At $4,900 on DraftKings, Kenyon Drake represents fantastic value if for no other reason than opportunity. As our fearless leader Joe Bryant has said on many occasions, talent + opportunity = fantasy value. Drake has the talent and now he has the opportunity, so he is the perfect GPP play at his current price. The Broncos run defense is very good, so Drake shouldn’t be a player that you too much exposure to, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% - 12% seems correct. Jarvis Landry at $5,900 is the Dolphins player who I will have the most exposure to on Sunday. To hit minimum GPP value, Landry must reach right around 20 points. He draws a tough matchup against Chris Harris Jr, however Landry’s role as a possession receiver has pushed its way inside the red zone this season. He’s scored touchdowns in six of his last eight games, so in order for him to reach GPP value he has to catch seven passes for seventy yards and a touchdown. With his increased target volume, I see Landry being a great value play in GPP’s this week. As far as DeVante Parker ($4,500) and Kenny Stills ($4,700) go, it is impossible to predict how their roles will change with Williams out. They are volatile players that depend on big plays, and the Dolphins offense has not been able to sustain enough drives to give them chances down the field in play action. Stills has been the more consistent player of late, as well as showing an upside that few knew he had in week 11. He makes for an interesting GPP dart in 2-4% of your lineups, but exceeding that ownership level is asking for trouble. I will have 2-4% on both players, but that is mostly as a leverage play against Drake and Landry. I would recommend staying away from De’Veon Smith as he will see perhaps a handful of plays at most throughout the game.
Michael Crabtree put himself before his team, choosing to extend his feud with Aqib Talib last Sunday, rather than help his team win on the field. This selfish act resulted in an ejection and a one game suspension. Amari Cooper is dealing with a concussion and an ankle injury and will not play against the Giants on Sunday. With both of their star receivers out against the Giants, the Raiders will look to the unlikely trio of Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton. Roberts and Patterson will see the most snaps, with Holton playing in three receiver sets. Roberts has struggled with drops this season, but he has two major points in his favor this week. First, the Giants secondary is seriously depleted (Janoris Jenkins was placed on IR) which helps in projecting what Roberts will do, as he is not seeing much of an increase in skillset than he is used to when going against opposing team’s #3 cornerbacks. Roberts is also the #1 wide receiver on a team that is averaging right around 34 pass attempts per game. Someone has to see those targets and Roberts is in the best position to take advantage among the Raiders wide receivers. With that said, Jared Cook is really the guy who should see the most targets. The Giants have been terrible against tight ends this season, allowing touchdowns to tight ends in nine of 11 games this season. That would be hard to do if you were intending to allow touchdowns to tight ends in that many games, and Cook has the talent—and now the opportunity---to take advantage of a horrible Giants secondary. The only thing that can stop Jared Cook would be his own coaches, and what type of game plan they go into the game with. Last week, they leaned heavily on Marshawn Lynch, giving him 26 carries, which he turned into 67 yards and a touchdown. That was eight more carries than Lynch’s previous season high and 14 more than his per-game average. The Raiders are also playing at home, so I would count on them starting the game with a run-heavy scheme and going from there. With this in mind, Johnny Holton and Cordarrelle Patterson remain nothing but secondary options that should see a lot of time on the field but not many targets.
Who I’m playing: Marshawn Lynch is only $4,800 on DraftKings. That is cheap enough where he could get 60 yards rushing and a touchdown as well as two catches for 20 yards and exceed minimum GPP value. That leaves plenty of room for upside, especially when you consider that all three running backs who have seen 20+ carries against the Giants (Melvin Gordon III, Ezekiel Elliot, Samaje Perine) have exceeded 100+ yards rushing. A run heavy game script would result in 20+ carries for Lynch, and that makes a lot of sense with the Raiders missing Crabtree and Cooper. It was also good to see that Lynch had a season high in receptions (3) and yards (43) which will go a long way in helping him reach a 4x+ multiple on his salary. I will have 10-15% exposure to Lynch this week. There are better PP$ plays than Jared Cook ($5,400) this week, but there is not a tight end who sees a better matchup. Add in the loss of Crabtree and Cooper and you have to be out of your mind not to have at least 10% exposure to him this week. The tight end position is so volatile this year, you have to take advantage of these type of situations, even if he will be highly owned. Of Roberts ($3,700), Patterson ($3,400) and Holton ($3,400), Roberts is the only one I will have exposure to this week. He has a great matchup against a weak Giants secondary and could very likely end up with five to eight catches, even with a run-heavy game script. If he catches six passes for seventy yards, you’ve seen a return of 3.5x on his salary. A touchdown would put him over the 5x mark and make him one of the better plays on the main slate. Is it a stretch? Perhaps, but you have to be willing to take chances in GPP’s, especially on players like Roberts who allow you to spend your money on the running back position, which has been the most stable in terms of exceeding large multiples on their salaries.
New York Giants
Key Losses: Eli Manning
Primary Beneficiaries: Geno Smith, Orleans Dwarka
Secondary Beneficiaries: Davis Webb
The Eli Manning has come to a close in New York, and as a citizen of this state and a fan of this team, it is one of the most depressing things I have ever seen in sports. Manning was a first class citizen who won two Super Bowls, and two Super Bowl MVP’s for the New York Giants. Maybe it is says something about the current climate in the NFL (win now, we don’t care what you did for us before), or maybe it says something about the Giants coaching and executive staff. Regardless, the Giants have chosen to bench Eli Manning—and end his NFL high 210 consecutive starts—in favor of the guy who couldn’t win the job for the Jets, Geno Smith. Smith needed a fresh start, as he never even came close to reaching his potential with the Jets. He has the physical tools, but struggled with reading defenses and putting in the work needed to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. This might seem like a good thing for Smith, but in reality, he has one half to prove to the Giants and to the rest of the NFL that he can be a starting quarterback in this league. If he struggles, the Giants will look to rookie Davis Webb to see what he can do. If Smith is a GPP dart at best, then Webb is the fin on the back of the dart. In other words, he has no business being played in GPP's.
Who I’m not playing: For this weird turn of events, I have to flip this section around and talk about who doesn’t benefit from the changing of the guard in New York. Most of all, Sterling Shepard ($7,000) who will return to action this week after missing the last two games. In his last game, Shepard caught 11 passes for 142 yards, but now he returns after missing two games to find Geno Smith under center. Shepard and Smith have not played a regular season down together, so you’d have to expect the type of timing routes that Shepard runs to be thrown out of whack. Shepard and Evan Engram ($5,700) will account for an overwhelming majority of the Giants targets, but for both to reach minimum GPP value they will need to combine for roughly 45 points. That is asking a lot, and I just don’t see it with Geno Smith under center, and even more so if Davis Webb is leading the Giants offense.
Who I’m playing: Orleans Dwarka ($4,600) might be the only beneficiary of this change at quarterback. He’s seen 15.2 carries over his last four games, and will continue to see 15+ carries. His salary is low enough where you can play him in 5-8% of your GPP’s and benefit greatly if he hits a 4x+ multiple on his salary, as he will be very low owned along with the rest of the Giants offense. I've had discussions with colleagues about starting Geno Smith ($4,500) this week, as the Raiders have allowed 300+ yards and three touchdowns to five opposing quarterbacks this season. I see why you would do it, the matchup is very good and it gives you a lineup construction strategy that is very unique, but you are also counting on him playing the entire game and that is not something I am ready to commit to. If you are making 25+ unique lineups a week, then throwing a Geno Smith GPP dart is not something I can oppose. I've seen much crazier lineup strategies succeed in GPP's, and going against the grain is how you win big tournaments. As a Giants fan, he is much worse in real life than he is in fantasy, and that is about the nicest thing I can say about Smith.
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The Butterfly Effect