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.
The New York Jets
The Jets season has been abysmal to say the least, but it got much worse on Sunday when Josh McCown was knocked out of the game with a hand injury. It was later reported that McCown had broken his hand, and it would need surgery, thus ending the 2017 season for one of the “good guys” of the NFL. Say what you want about McCown’s career, he was never a franchise quarterback, and the seasons where he did start, he was either a stop-gap or the replacement for an injured player. With that said, I have a feeling that there will be plenty of guys who talk about McCown as an excellent leader, locker room presence and mentor to younger players. It isn’t often that NFL injuries affect me too much, other than the occasional really serious injury where I worry about a player’s health and well-being long term. But this was one of those cases, because McCown had actually played some really good football this year with suspect talent around him. He is the primary reason why the Jets are 5-8, when the talent on their team points to them being a one or two win team. Of those five wins, four of them came against teams that are either going to make the playoffs, or be in it come the last week of the season. He nearly beat the Patriots, Falcons and Dolphins (for the second time), and the Jets division record is 2-3 currently. Now all of that matters, because now the Jets have to turn to Bryce Petty as their #1 quarterback. Petty lacks McCown’s leadership, experience and moxie, but most of all he lacks the “it” factor that McCown had, which convinced the Jets they could go out and beat any team on any given Sunday. The Jets were getting smoked by the Broncos last week before McCown got hurt, but Petty was about as bad as you’ll see a third year quarterback play. He was 2-9 for 14 yards, but the way he looked was even worse. He had no patience in the pocket, and his head was whipping around so fast I thought for sure he was going to get whiplash and that was before he even took a hit from the Denver defense. The most obvious question about McCown’s injury is, how will it affect Robby Anderson? It would be impossible for me to say that Anderson has gained any value with the quarterback switch, but I also think the majority of pundits got it wrong by saying that Anderson can no longer be trusted as a starter. In fact, if you go back and look at how Anderson fared with Petty under center last season, you will see he was the preferred option by a wide margin over other Jets receivers, including Brandon Marshall. In the four games that Petty started and the two he took over for in relief, Anderson amassed 36 targets and averaged over 18 yards per catch. Concentrating on just the three games that Petty started last December (Anderson missed one of his starts with an injury), Anderson totaled 16 catches for 243 yards and two touchdowns, which averages out to be 16.6 DraftKings points per game. Anderson’s average this year is 14.5 DraftKings points per game. The other consistent trend that appeared with Petty under center was his penchant for checking down to his running backs, which makes sense when considering how inexperienced he is and how often coaches want to simplify the playbook and progressions for young quarterbacks. Bilal Powell was the starting running back for three of Petty’s four starts, and in those three games, he totaled 18 receptions for 126 yards. With Matt Forte and Elijah McGuire both questionable for Sunday’s game, Powell has an excellent chance to be this week’s sleeper running back. Just to dispel any notion that Petty could halt the entire Jets offense, just look at Powell’s stats in his three starts with Petty. Powell totaled 60 carries for 289 yards and two touchdowns, and when combined with his receiving stats, averaged 24.8 DraftKings points per game in his three starts alongside Petty.
Who I’m playing: I will not be going overboard with my exposure to Robby Anderson ($5,600), but I am also not shying away from him either. The Jets play in New Orleans, which should quickly turn into the Jets being down two touchdowns and having to pass the ball. On turf, Anderson’s speed is even more dangerous and Bryce Petty ($4,600) showed last year that he is not afraid to target to Anderson deep. In fact, Petty’s deep ball is probably his best weapon as a quarterback, as he struggles with accuracy and touch in the intermediate passing game. Petty should scare the majority off of Anderson, and his price is cheap enough where he can hit value with one long touchdown and a couple other routine receptions. I will most likely settle in the 10-15% range on Anderson. I don’t see any reason to target Petty, but if you do, I would make it a super stack alongside Anderson and either Bilal Powell ($4,000) or Matt Forte ($4,000). Forte has been the preferred option on third downs for the Jets, so if he plays, there should be enough work in the passing game to justify playing him in the 5% range. However, if Forte is ruled out, then I would invest much more heavily in Bilal Powell. If he has no competition for touches from Forte or McGuire, Powell could roll out of bed and get 10 points in the passing game with the Jets having to throw all afternoon. That is a tight projection of his floor, but he has the potential in that game script to pass 20 points rather easily, especially if he’s able to get a cheap punch-in touchdown. In that situation, I will have at a minimum 15%-20% exposure and could go as high as 25%. This is not an ideal situation for a team stack, but it will absolutely be a low owned one with enough upside to justify it playing them in a large GPP. In their two starts together alongside Petty, Powell and Anderson combined for 26 of Petty’s 43 completions.
Green Bay Packers
Key Additions: Aaron Rodgers
The return of Aaron Rodgers is as highly anticipated as we’ve seen from any injury this season. In his absence, Brett Hundley has done about a good a job as anyone in the organization could have hoped for, piloting the Packers to a 3-4 record in his seven starts. Those losses came to the Saints, Lions, Ravens and Steelers, all teams that are either in the playoffs or fighting for a wild card spot. Given his limited experience as a starter, Hundley kept the Packers playoffs alive by winning the three games that he should have, and he has grown leaps and bounds in those seven games. The Packers have to travel to Carolina this weekend, then play at home against the Vikings and then travel to Detroit to finish the season. They need to win all three to have a shot at the playoffs, so the return of Rodgers could not have come at a better time. In Rodgers absence, the Packers offense has gone from one where you could legitimately start three wide receivers on your fantasy team, to only being able to start Davante Adams. Jordy Nelson’s stock plummeted faster than Bear Sterns during the housing bubble, and Randall Cobb has become someone not even worth considering for daily fantasy. It is amazing how fast things change when an all-world quarterback like Rodgers is injured. On the flipside of that, Davante Adams has blossomed into a star, totaling 39 catches for 477 yards and four touchdowns in his last six games, while averaging 19 DraftKings points per game. His two touchdowns last week—including the final one in overtime—perhaps saved the Packers season while on the brink of losing to the Browns. With Aaron Rodgers back, it is hard to imagine that Adams value will increase, but with him playing at such a high level, there is no reason to think he would drop off much, either. In his first six games with Rodgers, Adams totaled 28 receptions for 339 yards and four touchdowns, or 14.3 DraftKings points per game. It is a significant difference, but Adams ceiling is higher with Rodgers at quarterback, even if his targets decrease by a small percentage. The biggest beneficiary is Jordy Nelson, and it is not even close. Rodgers and Nelson have the type of chemistry and sixth sense that most quarterback-wide receiver tandems dream of. Nelson excels at every phase of the passing game, especially down the field and in the red zone, the two places that fantasy wide receivers earn their paycheck. Just to give you an idea of how much Nelson’s fantasy value is tied to Rodgers, his salary shot up from $4,500 to $6,300 on the news that Rodgers was going to play. That is the only reason, as Nelson was coming off games of 7.3, 6.7, 4.1 and 4.4 DraftKings points. Randall Cobb becomes a GPP dart, if for no other reason than Rodgers understands how to spread the ball out, and get Cobb into space where he can make plays. Jamaal Williams has come on strong the last three games while given the opportunity as the Packers starter, and has flashed the type of lead-back potential that the Packers have been looking for since they drafted Eddie Lacy. It’s hard to top what Williams has done the last three weeks, with scores of 29.5, 23.3 and 30.8 DraftKings points over that span. He may continue to see the type of volume that he has while Rodgers is out, especially if the Packers elect to bring Rodgers along slowly. Regardless, he will have more opportunities in the red zone, and he will see less men up front, because defenses don’t dare Aaron Rodgers to beat them through the air like they did to Brett Hundley.
Who I’m playing: Each of the last three games for the Packers are important, as one loss and their season is most likely done. I don’t think the Packers can afford to bring Aaron Rodgers ($6,800) along too slowly, as they will need their offense humming right from the jump against the Panthers on Sunday. His price isn’t absurd, and Rodgers was averaging 24 DraftKings points per game over his first five games this season, with three 300+ yard games and three games of three or more touchdowns. This will be the lowest Rodgers salary we see all year, and I think there is serious appeal to starting him in a full Packers team stack. As long as he’s starting on Sunday, I will have around 10% exposure to him. I would push it to 15% or maybe even 20%, but there is always risk of re-injury, even something as small as a pulled hamstring because he isn’t in perfect game shape. Along with Rodgers, I will be investing 10% in Jordy Nelson ($6,300) and 15% in Davante Adams ($6,800). I could see going as high as 15% and 20%, respectively, but I’d like to hear what the Packers coaching staff says tomorrow before I make that decision. Randall Cobb ($4,900) doesn’t have anywhere close to the ceiling that Nelson or Adams have at this point, so I would keep my exposure percentages in check for Cobb. As good as Rodgers is though, 3%-5% is certainly fair given Cobb’s ability to hit a 4x multiple of his salary. Jamaal Williams’s salary has shot up to $6,500 this week, but that is not discouraging me in the least bit. The Panthers have one of the better run defenses in the league, but Williams has shown the ability to produce in the run or passing game, and he’s taken advantage of his red zone opportunities. With Rodgers back, Williams will see more chances in the red zone, and he more running lanes while defenses opt to drop more men back in coverage. I like Williams at 15%-20%, both in stacks with Rodgers and without, as he could give you the leverage you need to take advantage of an off-game from Rodgers. Ideally, you want to wait a week and see how Green Bay performs with Rodgers back, as well as how the targets are distributed. That isn’t an option though, as next week could be too late if Rodgers does what he has his whole career, rack up yards and touchdowns and lead the Packers to victories. Jump on early while you can, you don’t have to go overboard with your exposure to take advantage of big games from Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, Adams or Williams.
Key Losses: Carson Wentz
I feel for you Eagles fans. After a monster win against what appeared to be their main competitor in the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams, the Eagles were dealt a death blow with the news that Carson Wentz had torn his ACL, would need surgery and was out for the rest of the season. Wentz was in the short conversation for MVP this year, having piloted the Eagles to an 11-2 record, the NFC East title and had all but wrapped up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Wentz had thrown 33 touchdowns to only seven interceptions, was averaging 253.3 yards passing per game and had also chipped another 300 yards on the ground. He was the engine of the Eagles offense. His ability to extend plays made opposing defenses have to drop more in coverage, which then opened up running lanes for his running backs. Now, all of that is gone and the Eagles have to turn to Nick Foles. In all fairness to Foles, he is one of the better backups in the league and has shown that he is capable of leading an offense. In 2013, Foles started 13 games and combined for 3,116 total yards with 30 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In relief duty last week, Foles was 10 of 14 for 98 yards, including an impressive throw on third down to Nelson Agholor that clinched the game for the Eagles. So what does Wentz’s absence do to the rest of the Eagles offense? Well, Doug Peterson is familiar with Foles and from everything I am hearing, he is not going to simplify the offense much. I think the biggest beneficiary has to be Zach Ertz (or Trey Burton if Ertz was inactive again), as well as the stable of Eagles running backs, most notably Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. The Eagles made an investment in Ajayi, with the thought being that when the temperature gets colder, there is nothing more effective than a power running game that can wear down opponents and be successful regardless of what the weather is like outside. Ajayi has not been given a large volume of touches since arriving in Philadelphia, although that is mainly due to Peterson dividing his carries amongst Ajayi, Blount and Clement, as opposed to Ajayi not being effective. This may be the week to play Ajayi and Blount together in a lineup or two, as they face a Giants defensive front who is ranked 30th with respect to points allowed to opposing running backs. If Ertz is healthy and active, then he has to be one of the best tight end plays of the week. The Giants have struggled against tight ends, giving up the most touchdowns to the position this season. Combine that with Foles wanting to build momentum through high percentage passes, and Ertz should be in for 10+ targets.
Who I’m playing: I am focusing my Eagles exposure mainly on the tight end position this week. If Zach Ertz ($6,000) is active—and it looks like he will be—I will be investing at least 20% in him, with that number possibly creeping up as high as 30%. Part of that is due to how well Ertz has played this season while also keeping in mind he has the absolute best matchup of the season against the Giants. Another part is due to Foles likely looking to him as a security blanket, and the last part is due to how weak the tight end position is on the main slate this week. Ertz has scored 13+ points in nine of his 11 games this year, and I see 15 points as his floor this week with the potential to get to 25. Nick Foles ($5,500) is an interesting option, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing him in 5%-8% of your lineups. He has a great matchup, but anything more than that and you are asking for trouble until we can see how he looks in a full game. Jay Ajayi ($5,000) and LeGarrette Blount ($4,100) are both priced rather well, and if you are playing Foles in around 5% of your lineups, it would be a good idea to match that exposure with Ajayi, as it gives you solid leverage with a nice amount of upside. Blount and Corey Clement $(3,900) are both much more difficult decisions, and ones that are probably best kept to a single lineup as a GPP dart. With Foles under center, I cannot recommend Ashlon Jeffrey ($5,900) or Nelson Agholor ($4,400) just yet, because we have yet to see how the Eagles coaching staff balances their run/pass ratio. I will say this though, Wentz has done an excellent job this season with respect to how well he balanced out his targets. This made it possible for five skill position players to have a big week, something that you rarely see on other teams. There is a small chance that Foles locks onto a specific player, and if that player is Jeffrey, it could have monstrous results. When Jay Cutler peppered Jeffrey with targets in Chicago, he was one of the best fantasy wide receivers in the league. His skills have not diminished, and the only thing keeping him from real fantasy stardom is his current target volume. I like Jeffrey as a GPP dart in the 5% range, enough where you can profit from being right, but it won’t kill you if you are wrong. That seems to be the consensus on the entire Eagles offense this week, at least until we see how the offense evolves under Foles.
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