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.
Green Bay Packers
With the Packers playoff chances hanging on by a thread, Green Bay looked to Aaron Rodgers in week 15 against the Panthers. Rodgers was understandably rusty, throwing for 290 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in a loss to Carolina. The loss ended the Packers postseason hopes, and along with it, Aaron Rodgers season. The Packers have announced that Brett Hundley will start the remaining two games, and although the Packers don’t have much to play for, Hundley is essentially auditioning for a starting job somewhere when his rookie contract expires. Hundley’s preferred target, Davante Adams, was knocked out of the game last week in the first half with a concussion and will miss this Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Adams was already having a monster game at the time of his injury (five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown), but now the Packers will look to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in Adams’ absence. To a larger extent, the Packers will continue to lean on their rookie running backs, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Williams had stepped up and produced three straight games of 23+ points before totaling only three points in last week’s loss to Carolina. He was outplayed by Aaron Jones who doubled Williams’s points (6.3 points), despite logging only four touches to Williams 10. The Packers coaching staff had commented last week that Williams would remain the workhorse back, and the division of touches--70/30 in Williams favor last week—reflected that. Jones may see a slight uptick in his volume, but I don’t see this being a true timeshare. The biggest area of concern for me is Williams reduced role in the passing game last week, where he did not draw a single target. Williams had averaged 3.6 catches and 37.3 receiving yards per game with two receiving touchdowns in his six starts heading into last week, with his role in the passing game representing 47% of his fantasy points.
Who I’m playing: Brett Hundley ($5,000) will have his work cut out for him going against a Vikings defense that picked him off three times in week six when Hundley came in for the injured Aaron Rodgers. In eight starts, Hundley has only produced three games where he returned a multiple of at least 3x on his salary, and those games came against the Browns, Steelers and Lions. Green Bay does play at home, so I will use Hundley as a single GPP dart in a stack with Randall Cobb ($6,100). Cobb drew 14 targets last week when Davante Adams went down, compared to only six for Jordy Nelson ($6,800) and remains the more attractive Point Per Dollar (PP$) play. Nelson will also draw Xavier Rhodes in coverage, which should further limit his involvement. Cobb is a sneaky play this week, and I will have 5%-8% exposure, but I will limit stacking him with Hundley to only one lineup. Jamaal Williams ($5,300) and Aaron Jones ($4,000) will have a tough matchup going against a Vikings defensive line that has given up the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Both are priced very well, and for that reason are worth a small investment. Jones is a GPP dart that is worth a play in a large tournament where you can differentiate yourself from the field, but there is also significant risk attached because his volume of touches has been so small. Williams is the better PP$ play because he has significant upside and returned salary multiples of 5.2x, 4.9x and 6.4x in week’s 12-14, where he totaled five touchdowns on 74 total touches. As I mentioned above, Williams’s lack of involvement in the passing game last week was troubling, but with Hundley back under center and Adams ruled out of Saturday’s game, Williams should resume his role as a receiver and there should be ample opportunity for him in a game-script that calls for Green Bay playing from behind.
Key Losses: Antonio Brown
Secondary Beneficiaries: Eli Rodgers, Jesse James
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a tragic blow in their heartbreaking loss to the Patriots last week, losing Antonio Brown to a partially torn calf muscle that will keep him out for at least the remaining two games of the regular season. It is often debated who is the more important piece of the Pittsburgh offense, Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell, but the truth is they are very much equals and benefit from the other being on the field. I debated listing Bell as a secondary beneficiary because his volume is so large to begin with (27.6 total touches per game), it is hard to imagine the Steelers leaning on him even more with the playoffs around the corner and having already clinched the AFC North crown. With that said, a win over the Texans on Monday night—combined with a Jacksonville loss or tie—would give the Steelers a first round bye and home field advantage against any other team but the Patriots. So if there was a game where Bell could see 35-40 touches, this would be it. Brown’s absence creates a large void in the passing game, as he accounted for 30.6% of Ben Roethlisberger’s targets. The good news for the Steelers is they have a pair of really talented receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant, who in tandem, can provide enough playmaking ability to keep the Pittsburgh passing game humming. Bryant has an opportunity to step up and prove his worth to potential suitors in free agency. After coming into this season with quite a bit of hype, Bryant has averaged only 3.1 catches for 36.8 yards per game, with three touchdowns. Eli Rodgers and Jesse James are interesting options this week. Both have the ability to step up and have a big game, but they are also the #4 and #5 options in the passing game, so it really comes down to how much volume is distributed to Shuster and Bryant.
Who I’m playing: Le’Veon Bell ($9,900) is a no brainer this week. With the Steelers playing on Monday night, they are off the main-slate, which means Bell’s ownership percentage will be through the roof. Regardless, I don’t see a scenario where you can win a short-slate GPP without Bell, and if you are playing Sunday-Monday slates, he still needs to be in at least 20% of your lineups and that is on the low side. I will have between 30%-40% exposure to Bell, and expect him to be owned in the 50%+ range. JuJu Smith-Schuster ($6,400) and Martavis Bryant ($5,600) are fantastic options going against a Texans secondary that has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Due to Bryant’s downfield ability, I am going to give him the slight edge in PP$ value, as the Texans have been getting dusted on the deep ball this season. With that said, you can’t go wrong with either player this week. I will have 20% exposure to Bryant, and 15%-20% on Schuster. I will have lineups that feature both receivers stacked alongside Ben Roethlisberger ($6,700). The Texans have given up the second most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, so Roethlisberger remains in play this week even with Antonio Brown. If you were to stack Bryant and Schuster alongside Roethlisberger, you would need 56 points to hit minimum tournament value and 75 points to gain a big edge on the field in large GPP’s. Those numbers are absolutely attainable. Eli Rodgers ($3,800) and Jesse James ($3,400) provide great value in a fantastic matchup, but of the two, I prefer James. He’s had games this season where he’s returned salary multiples of 7.3x, 4.6x and 6.7x. Although he’s thrown up some pretty poor performances in between those monster games, the upside is there and without Brown on the field, James should see a significant uptick in his targets. I will have 10% exposure to James and 3%-5% on Rodgers.
Key Losses: Marqise Lee
Secondary Beneficiaries: Allen Hurns, Jaydon Mickens
Leonard Fournette missed last week’s game with a quad contusion, but was a full participant in practice the last two days and is expected to play on Sunday against the 49ers. If for some reason he were to reinjure his quad before Sunday’s game, TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory would split time with Ivory seeing the lion’s share of carries, while Yeldon would play the majority of third downs. The real injury news in Jacksonville is that of Marqise Lee, who injured his ankle last Sunday against the Texans and was forced out of the game without recording a catch. Lee is the Jaguars leading receiver this season, but you would be hard pressed to see his absence in the final score, as Jacksonville put up 45 points on the Texans. Blake Bortles completed 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns with a 143.8 passer rating. Over his last three games, Bortles is averaging 301 passing yards per game with a 71% completion percentage and seven touchdowns to no interceptions. Yes, you read that correctly. The most interesting part of this story is that Bortles has done that without his pre-season #1 (Allen Robinson) and #2 wide receivers (Allen Hurns), and last week’s outburst came without his #3 wide receiver (Lee) and his #1 running back (Fournette). Stepping up at the wide receiver position was Keelan Cole, who caught seven passes for 186 yards and a touchdown, including a 73 yard gain. Last week marked the third straight week Cole has scored a touchdown, and he also had a 75 yard catch in week 14. The Jaguars have been missing a big play threat on the outside since Allen Robinson went down, so Cole’s role is a very important one and he should continue to see opportunities alongside DeDe Westbrook. Westbrook had quiet day against the Texans, catching only two passes for 21 yards, but prior to that he had caught 17 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown in his previous three games. Westbrook will be the de-facto #1 receiver if Lee is out on Sunday and should be a consideration against a 49ers secondary that has given up the 12th most points to opposing wide receivers. Also stepping up in Lee’s absence was Jaydon Mickens, who had caught only one pass for 11 yards prior to week 15. He made his presence felt against the Texans though, catching four passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Allen Hurns has not played since week 10 (where he caught seven passes for 70 yards), but it looks as though he will play this Sunday due to Lee being out, despite the fact that he has publicly stated he is not 100% healthy, and does not believe he will be for the rest of the season. Hurns is the only active Jaguars receiver taller than 6’0 and weighing over 200 pounds, (he is 6’3, 201), and remains their best red zone option.
Who I’m playing: Much like Le’Veon Bell, if Leonard Fournette ($7,500) is healthy and starting on Sunday, you should have a good deal of exposure to him going against a 49ers defense that has given up the second most points to opposing running backs this year. San Francisco has had trouble defending bigger backs like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot and Adrian Peterson, who are all in the same mold as Fournette. At $7,500, Fournette is priced fairly and has a great opportunity to return a 3x+ multiple on his salary, with the upside to reach 4x-4.5x. Without Lee in the lineup, Fournette should see some more volume in the passing game, which is a specifically where opposing running backs have killed the 49ers this season. Blake Bortles ($6,500) has seen his salary rise from $4,900 in week 12, all the way to $6,500 this week after posting salary multiples of 4.8x, 5.1x, 3.7x and 4.9x in weeks 12-14. To hit 4x this week, Bortles will need to score at least 26 points, which is certainly doable against a 49ers secondary that has allowed nine quarterbacks to score 20+ fantasy points this season. I will have roughly 10% exposure to Bortles. DeDe Westbrook ($6,100) and Keelan Cole ($4,700) are both in play this week. Despite Westbrook seeing consistent targets, I prefer Cole this week as the superior PP$ play. He is a burner, and the 49ers could not contain TY Hilton (seven catches for 177 yards), John Brown (four catches for 99 yards) or Sterling Shepard (11 catches for 142 yards). It is very likely that Cole gets behind the 49ers secondary, and his attractive price guarantee’s he hits value with one long touchdown. I will have 7%-10% exposure to Cole, while I will stick to roughly 5% on Westbrook. Jaydon Mickens ($3,700) and Allen Hurns ($4,100) are both GPP darts that you could make the case for playing in one lineup in a large GPP. Of the two, Hurns is the better play because of his size and ability to make plays in the red zone, as well as his chemistry with Blake Bortles.
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