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.
Matthew Stafford suffered a painful bruise on his throwing hand in last week’s surprising blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It was initially feared that Stafford had actually broken a bone in his hand, which should give you an idea of the type of severe pain that Stafford was in directly after the injury occurred. The injury occurred when Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs inadvertently stepped on Stafford’s hand, and it was reported that Stafford felt a “burning nerve pain” after the game, although Thursday’s reports have said that the nerve pain has subsided. Stafford was limited during Wednesday’s practice, throwing the ball a minor amount and avoiding the type of throws where his fingers would really have to snap the ball. Thursday’s practice was better, with Lions beat reporters saying that he was “spinning the ball” rather well considering he had his pinky, ring and middle fingers taped together. It doesn’t sound like the Lions are worried about Stafford injuring his hand further, so whether or not he plays, and in what capacity, will come down to pain tolerance. Stafford has played through injuries to his throwing hand before during his career, and has proven to have a high pain threshold with respect to not letting that hold him back from being out on the field. The Lions are a passing team, and use the pass to set up the run, so having a healthy Stafford out on the field is paramount to keeping their dwindling playoff hopes alive. The Lions have a fantastic matchup this week against a Tampa Bay secondary that has been very generous to opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers. If Stafford is limited at all, Golden Tate would be the biggest beneficiary of the wide receivers, while Marvin Jones Jr Jr. would take the biggest hit, as he has done most of his damage down the field this season. Tate excels in the intermediate passing game as much as the short passing game though, so it’s not like he would gain a ton of value. If he ran the type of routes that say a Jarvis Landry did, that would be one thing, but he relies on Stafford to make tough throws down the field, he just isn’t as dependent on it as Jones Jr. If Stafford was to be kept out of Sunday’s game, Jake Rudock would take over as the Lions quarterback. I have Kenny Golladay as a secondary beneficiary because he and Rudock had impressive chemistry in the preseason. It is a little bit of a stretch, as the Lions would likely cut down on three wide receiver sets if Rudock were to be under center, but it is something to consider when looking at GPP fliers this week. Ameer Abdullah is questionable for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay with a neck injury that kept him out of last week’s game. Tion Green and Theo Riddick played very well last week, but that was with a healthy Stafford playing nearly all four quarters. Riddick’s value might actually increase without Stafford, as Rudock would be more apt to throw short, high percentage passes, and that is right in his wheelhouse. With that said, the Lions offense would suffer greatly without Stafford, so any increase in volume for Tate or Riddick would be offset by the fact that they would have less chances in the red zone to score.
Who I’m playing: This is a tough situation, as the Lions have such a good matchup that depending on how Stafford ($6,300) progresses in the next 48 hours, it really may be worth playing him against a weak Tampa Bay secondary. I will top out at 5% this week though, I just don’t see it being worth the risk with so many other solid options at quarterback. That goes the same for Marvin Jones Jr Jr. ($6,800) and Golden Tate ($6,400), but if I had to pick one, Tate would be the guy. The best value on the Lions is Theo Riddick ($4,500) though, as he could very well see an increase in volume regardless of Stafford’s health. If Stafford’s hand is going to limit him during Sunday’s game, I will increase my Riddick shares so that I have roughly 10%. Tion Green ($3,600) will see in the neighborhood of 9-12 carries, and the red zone touches, but his ceiling is capped due to Riddick playing on an overwhelming majority of passing downs. He is a GPP dart that can be played in a lineup or two, but there isn’t enough upside to justify playing him in any more than that. If Stafford were to miss Sunday’s game, Kenny Golladay ($3,900) would be an interesting flier given his chemistry with Rudock, but one that would be best kept to one or two lineups.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers put their top draft pick, cornerback Kevin King, on Injured Reserve today. They were also without cornerbacks Davon House (questionable with a shoulder injury) and Davon House (questionable with a hamstring injury). House injured his shoulder in last Sunday’s win and is questionable to play on Sunday against the Browns. Goodson actually took King’s spot on the active roster after being activated off the PUP list, where he’s been since injuring his knee over a full calendar year ago. Even if one of/or both of House or Goodson can go, they will be at best not 100% healthy, and in Goodson’s case, very stiff after not playing in a game since early in the 2016 season. The Packers will be very short staffed throughout their secondary, and that can only help out Deshone Kizer, Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon and David Njoku. Kizer has had an up and down rookie season, but as a passer, it has mostly been down. He’s thrown six touchdowns to 15 interceptions and is only completing 52.5% of his passes. Getting a healthy Corey Coleman back, as well as a healthy and drug-free Josh Gordon back, was supposed to invigorate the Browns passing attack, but it was much of the same in their first game together against the Chargers. The Browns vs Packers game has a projected total of 40.5 points, but with the Packers secondary troubles, this game could very well blow through that number. This is a perfect example of how the Butterfly Effect works, as injuries to the Packers cornerbacks could very well influence the pace of their offense, and the fantasy outlooks of Brett Hundley and Davante Adams. If the Browns are able to break a couple big plays down the field, move the chains consistently and exploit their mismatches in the red zone (Gordon, Njoku), they have a great chance of putting up 24+ points, something they’ve only done twice this season. On the flipside, the Packers have given up 24+ points in six of their 12 games. Hundley has shown the ability to excel when the game script turns fast paced, and Davante Adams has clearly been the #1 receiver with Hundley on the field.
Who I’m playing: This matchup represents GPP gold to me. Two overlooked teams that have one of the lowest projected totals of the week. This wouldn’t normally be a matchup where you wanted to initiate a game stack with four or more players, but that is exactly what I will be doing. I will definitely have 15%+ invested in Josh Gordon, Brett Hundley and Davante Adams, while I will also be investing 5% or so in Corey Coleman, and 5%-8% in David Njoku. Duke Johnson Jr is also in play, as well as the Green Bay backfield committee of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Jones return from injury makes it much harder to play either of these guys, but Williams is a very sneak play, and should see at least 12-15 carries.
Key Losses: Joe Mixon
Primary Beneficiaries: Giovani Bernard, AJ Green
Joe Mixon has been declared out for week 14, due to a concussion he suffered in the Bengals week 13 loss to the Steelers. Mixon had looked good in weeks 12 and 13, so it was a shame to see his momentum cut short. With Jeremy Hill already on Injured Reserve, Giovani Bernard will step in as the Bengals #1 running back, something he has not been since his rookie year in Cincinnati. Bernard stepped in for Mixon and performed very well against the Steelers, rushing 13 times for 77 yards while catching two passes for 19 yards. His pass catching ability makes him a fantastic GPP play, especially at his current salary ($3,100). With such an affordable salary, Bernard will end up being the most popular GPP play at running back this week. Bernard doesn’t project to be a bell-cow running back like Mixon was, and without that type of every-down player, the Bengals will resort to throwing the ball more often. This was evident by AJ Green’s 16 targets against the Steelers, and that is a trend that continue against the Bears on Sunday. The trickle-down effect of the Bengals passing more makes Tyler Kroft and Brandon LaFell great options as well. Kroft has seen his targets dwindle over the last four games, but that should correct itself, and LaFell has done very well with limited targets this season, so an increase in his volume makes him a GPP flier to consider.
Who I’m playing: Giovani Bernard has got to be in your lineups at $3,100. It is a situation where his ownership is going to be so high that fading him in certain tournaments should be a strategy to consider, but you will need at least 10%-15% to keep pace should he hit a multiple of 5x+. If you are going to invest less than 20% in Bernard, then you should be looking to invest 20%+ in AJ Green ($7,300), who represents a fantastic leverage play on Bernard. I will be investing around 20% in Bernard, and 25%-30% in Green. Due to his inconsistency as of late, I will be investing roughly 10% in Tyler Kroft ($3,300) and 5% in Brandon LaFell ($3,500). With so much invested in AJ Green, I think the proper investment strategy for Andy Dalton is right around 1/3 of your investment in Green, so in my case, it will be roughly 10%.
Primary Beneficiaries: Stephen Anderson
The Houston Texans placed Bruce Ellington and CJ Fiedorowicz on Injured Reserved this week, a move that didn’t make too many headlines, but could have a significant impact on the fantasy relevance of an unknown tight end named Stephen Anderson. With Fiedorowicz knocked out of last week’s game, Anderson stepped in and caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. Anderson was an undrafted free agent out of California, who played wide receiver in college and converted to tight end his first year in the NFL. This is important because Anderson is not a blocking tight end, when he is on the field, he is running routes and gives the Texans a mismatch to exploit in the middle of the field. He is definitely in play this week regardless of the status of Will Fuller V V or Braxton Miller, who are both questionable to play in Sunday’s game against the 49ers. Ellington had stepped up and played well as the Texans #2 receiver in Fuller’s absence, but his injury does nothing more than increase the already massive volume of DeAndre Hopkins. That is why I have Hopkins listed as a secondary beneficiary, it is hard to see how his volume could increase much more than where is currently at, but then again, he did see 13 targets last week. The Texans signed Andre Ellington to compliment Lamar Miller, and in his first game with the Texans he caught five passes for 56 yards. The loss of Fiedorowicz and Ellington, and with Fuller and Miller recovering from injuries, Ellington is likely to see three to five targets a game, but he is not a guy you want to count on for anything more than that while Miller is healthy.
Who I’m playing: The injuries of Fuller ($4,300) and Miller ($3,100) are something you want to watch closely. If Fuller plays, I will keep my ownership percentage of Anderson ($3,200) somewhere in the 10%-15% range, while investing around 20% in DeAndre Hopkins ($8,500). If Fuller is unable to play, then I will increase my ownership of Anderson to roughly 20%, while pushing Hopkins to 30%. Braxton Miller is not on my GPP radar, as he has not shown the ability to compliment Hopkins in a way where he will receive significant volume in the passing game. With Tom Savage ($4,800) at quarterback, the Texans can sustain a high volume receiver like Hopkins, and one complimentary piece like Anderson. Anything more than that and you are asking for trouble, especially considering Andre Ellington will play on some passing downs. The 49ers have been very generous to opposing offenses, so if you are going to play Hopkins and Anderson with frequency, a super-stack with Savage ($4,800) is definitely something to consider. I will have Savage super-stacks in roughly 3%-5% of my lineups.