Welcome to the Week 14 FanDuel Primer, brought to you by RotoGrinders. I’ll be breaking down a number of our stat pages/tools that we feel are solid predictors of success from a daily fantasy standpoint.
Before we get deep into the targets/percentage of workload analysis, let’s start things off with our Defense vs. Position page. This page gives you an idea of how each team defends a particular position. This is one of my favorite tools to use each week, and I rely on it more each week as the sample size continues to grow. All player salaries listed below are from FanDuel.
Quarterback – Tyrod Taylor ($7,500) vs. Philadelphia (31st vs. QBs)
At this point in the season we all know how bad the Saints Defense is, and DFS players will continue to attack that unit with Jameis Winston this week. While Winston is a fine play, I’m finding myself pivoting to Tyrod Taylor in tournaments. Taylor’s matchup is just as good as Winston’s, but the narrative is that New Orleans has been far and away the leakiest pass defense. The Eagles have struggled in their own right, allowing the most pass plays of 20+ (72) and 40+ yards (18) of any team this season. That works perfectly in Taylor’s favor, as he doesn’t benefit from volume, but rather from big plays. Sammy Watkins’ outlook couldn’t be much better, as he should feast on a defense that isn’t capable of stopping a WR with his skill set. Considering he’s available at almost half the ownership percentage in Thursday leagues, I’ll take Taylor over Winston in tournaments.
Running Back – Shaun Draughn ($6,500) vs. Cleveland (27th vs. RBs)
Draughn has been seeing a very consistent workload since taking over as the 49ers lead back, and he’ll have his easiest matchup as a starter on Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns have allowed the most rushing yards per game to RBs, and while Draughn has been reaching value at a consistent rate as a starter, he’s yet to exceed 60 yards on the ground in any game. His value has been coming in the passing game, and while he should continue to be a favorite target of Blaine Gabbert’s, he’s in a great spot this week to pick up extra production on the ground. The public has caught on to Draughn’s situation judging by his Thursday ownership (he’s the fourth-most popular RB per the RotoGrinders Field Report), but he remains a strong play in any format given that his price is still sitting below $7,000.
Wide Receiver – A.J. Green ($8,500) vs. Pittsburgh (30th vs. WRs)
Green went off last week with Tyler Eifert out and he’s in a great spot to follow it up with another strong performance. It looks like the Steelers have benched Antwon Blake, who was struggling mightily on coverage, which does make Green’s matchup a bit tougher. The good news is that he runs routes all over the field and likely won’t be shadowed, and Green won’t be a match for any of Pittsburgh’s corners. The Steelers have allowed the third-most FPs to WRs and Green has lit them up once already this year, posting 11-118-1 on 17 targets. In the two meetings with Pittsburgh last season, Green totaled 19-306-1, and there isn’t any real reason to think he’ll take much of a step back this week. While Green has been fairly volatile this year, he’s a great bet to crack his season average in FPs this week.
Tight End – Greg Olsen ($6,600) vs. Atlanta (24th vs. TEs)
Despite Cam Newton completely dominating the Saints Defense this past Sunday, Olsen was not able to find the end-zone despite a productive day in the receptions and yardage categories. Olsen has now gone two consecutive weeks without scoring, and he’s yet to go three straight without finding pay dirt this year. The good news for him is that Desmond Trufant should take one side of the field away, allowing the receiver opposite him to feast against Jalen Collins, who has graded out very poorly per Pro Football Focus metrics. Olsen himself won’t have to deal with Trufant much and should be able to feast on an Atlanta defense that has been in the bottom third of the league in terms of defending the TE positon. Expect Newton’s favorite target to once again exceed double-digit targets, making him an option in any format this week.
Let’s transition to the Targets page, where you’ll find a breakdown of touches, targets, red-zone targets and percentage of workload, among other. It’s an invaluable tool that can help you find players who are in the best positions to succeed; it’s no secret that you want players on your fantasy team who are heavily involved in the offense, especially those that are also key cogs in the red-zone. Instead of hand-picking a few players to touch on, I’m going to give a general overview of what’s happened through 13 weeks. I will not be including any players from Thursday’s game.
Wide Receivers that have averaged at least 9.5 targets per game, per Sportradar:
Julio Jones – 13.17
DeAndre Hopkins – 12.67
Odell Beckham – 11.08
Allen Robinson – 10.33
Mike Evans – 10.00
Calvin Johnson – 9.83
Jarvis Landry – 9.75
Michael Crabtree – 10.58
Julio Jones is stuck in arguably the toughest WR/CB matchup of the week – he’s expected to be shadowed by Josh Norman. In two meetings last season where Norman shadowed Jones, Julio posted lines of 6-59-0 and 4-58-0, which doesn’t inspire a ton of hope considering Norman has become an even tougher draw since last year. DeAndre Hopkins will most likely see Malcolm Butler, but regardless of whether or not it’s him or Logan Ryan, Hopkins won’t be in a great spot. With that said, he’s about as matchup proof as they come and he remains a solid GPP candidate this week. With Pacman Jones expected to sit on Sunday, Antonio Brown will primarily face off with Troy Hill, who saw the first action of his career this past week. Brown should feast and will also be in a favorable spot when he runs routes against Dre Kirkpatrick. Fire him up confidently in any format. The Bears haven’t been throwing the ball much over the past month, but when they do air it out, it’s most likely heading Alshon Jeffery’s way. He has a mediocre draw this week against a Washington secondary that has been improving in coverage. I wouldn’t be comfortable with him in cash games, but the GPP appeal is there. Odell Beckham is the top overall WR option of the week. Brent Grimes will most likely shadow him, but it’s not a real concern. Grimes isn’t a lockdown corner and Beckham is simply too talented for him to handle.
Demaryius Thomas has one of the best CB draws of the week, as he’ll primarily face off with D.J. Hayden, who has been awful in coverage when he’s been able to find the field. Thomas moves around the field and will also likely see a fair amount of David Amerson, who has improved a ton from last season. Thomas is only playable in GPPs due to the lack of explosiveness from the Broncos Offense. Brandon Marshall has been red-hot of late and has another great draw on Sunday. The Titans weak spot on defense is at CB, where Perrish Cox, Coty Sensabaugh and now D.W. Webb will roam. Regardless of who Marshall matches up with, he’ll undoubtedly have the upper hand – he’s playable in any format. Allen Robinson may see Vontae Davis for the majority of the game, but he’s turned into a truly elite receiver this season and shouldn’t be faded based on the matchup alone. Allen Hurns is still making his way back from injury and Robinson is consistently targeted by Blake Bortles regardless of who is covering him. Expect another productive week from Robinson, although he may not match his salary-expected output.
Mike Evans couldn’t ask for a much better situation. Despite game flow projecting for more of a run heavy Tampa attack, Evans will square off with a combination of Delvin Breaux and Brandon Browner. The latter is the matchup we’d prefer for Evans, as Browner has consistently struggled in coverage and has committed far more penalties than any other CB to this point in the year. Evans is a very nice high-upside target against New Orleans. Calvin Johnson isn’t in a favorable spot against St. Louis. He’s sandwiched a monster game against Philly between a handful of middling performances, and I’d be very surprised if he ended up on any GPP winning teams this week. He’s only in play as a contrarian GPP option, but is best left alone. Jarvis Landry is in a prime bounce-back spot against the Giants. Ryan Tannehill had just 19 passing attempts in Week 13 and five of them went in Landry’s direction, so it’s clear that the usage is still there. Game flow was his worst enemy against Baltimore but it’ll hopefully keep his ownership percentage down on Sunday. Landry will run his routes against slot corner Trevin Wade, giving Landry the best draw among the Giants CBs. Michael Crabtree will line up against a combination of Denver’s three elite CBs, making him a fairly easy fade on Sunday.
Top Five WRs in terms of Percentage of Workload (POW, which indicates the percentage of team touches that player has received):
Jarvis Landry – 18.13% (18.60% RZ POW)
Antonio Brown – 16.87% (13.79% RZ POW)
Julio Jones – 16.45% (15.63% RZ POW)
Tavon Austin – 14.31% (16.95% RZ POW)
DeAndre Hopkins – 13.83% (15.79% RZ POW)
I’ve already touched on four players on this list, but a quick note about Tavon Austin – he’s a potential dart-throw GPP on any given week, but his matchup this week isn’t friendly. He’ll spend time against Darius Slay and may end up being shadowed by him, and that coupled with his low volume (despite a high usage percentage) makes him a relative afterthought.
Tight Ends that have averaged at least 7 targets per game:
Antonio Gates – 8.71
Greg Olsen – 8.67
Jordan Reed – 8.30
Delanie Walker – 7.82
Gary Barnidge – 7.75
Julius Thomas – 7.00
Antonio Gates has built his target average up over a smaller sample size, but he’s clearly been a focal point for Philip Rivers. Kansas City’s defense has allowed the fewest FPPG to TEs and the Chargers are dealing with multiple injuries to their offensive line, so Gates’ outlook isn’t good. He’s a contrarian option considering the Chargers may be without Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman, and the passes have to head in someone’s direction. If both of those receivers are out, Gates should see upwards of 8-9 targets but his upside remains somewhat limited by the matchup. I’ve already discussed Greg Olsen but the fact remains that he’s an elite play in any format. The Panthers are going to score points and Olsen is a key factor in the red-zone. Delanie Walker is in a great spot this week against a Jets Defense that excels more on the perimeter. Darrelle Revis should shutdown either Kendall Wright or Dorial Green-Beckham, which should lead to an increased target count for Walker. He’s already Marcus Mariota’s favorite weapon and that shouldn’t change in this matchup. Gary Barnidge is a tough sell without Josh McCown throwing him the football. It’s strange to say that McCown is an upgrade, but Johnny Manziel still has a long way to go in terms of being a productive passer in the NFL. Manziel has showed more chemistry with Travis Benjamin and Barnidge won’t be on my list of TE targets this week. Julius Thomas is an especially attractive option if Allen Hurns were to once again sit out. Allen Robinson would then very likely be shadowed by Vontae Davis, opening up space in the middle of the field for Thomas.
Top Five TEs in terms of Percentage of Workload:
Delanie Walker – 12.69% (13.16% RZ POW)
Gary Barnidge – 11.34% (13.54% RZ POW)
Greg Olsen – 10.71% (11.45% RZ POW)
Travis Kelce – 9.98% (8.74% RZ POW)
Jason Witten – 9.93% (8.98% RZ POW)
Kelce is in an interesting spot against the Chargers this week. San Diego may choose to shadow Maclin with Jason Verrett again, which does not work in Maclin’s favor. Maclin is best avoided in all formats, which makes Kelce an intriguing target. Jason Witten isn’t viable as long as Matt Cassel is running the show for the Cowboys.
Welcome to Value town, parts unknown. I won’t be recommending the Aaron Rodgers’ of the world here, but instead will highlight a few players with price tags that don’t add up to their level of talent, opportunity and/or matchup. The ultimate goal is to find players at the bottom of the salary chart who have the upside to produce at an elite level.
Quarterback – Jay Cutler ($6,700)
Cutler hasn’t had the volume in terms of passing attempts in recent weeks, which has suppressed his fantasy totals. The Bears may be able to get by with a run-heavy approach again Sunday, but Cutler’s upside is appealing at his $6,700 price tag. Washington hasn’t been notably strong against the pass this year and they boast an average set of CBs, so Cutler should be able to connect with Alshon Jeffery on a few big plays. Martellus Bennett’s absence won’t help, but Cutler still has contrarian GPP appeal when he’s priced this low.
Miller finally got back to a big workload after totaling just 12 rushing attempts in his previous two games. He should once again be in line for an expanded workload against a Giants Defense that has allowed the eighth-most FPPG to RBs this season. Jay Ajayi isn’t a huge threat to Miller’s workload quite yet, and the Dolphins seem content on sticking with a run-heavy approach when they’re able to. T.J. Yeldon finally found the end zone on the ground last week, and he’s in another nice spot this week against the Colts. Indy has played league-average run defense, but Yeldon may benefit from a nagging injury to Allen Hurns and the fact that Vontae Davis will be roaming in the Colts secondary. He’s a candidate to hit 20 touches this week and that’s a very solid return at his price tag. Eddie Lacy appears to be out of Mike McCarthy’s doghouse after encouraging comments this week, setting him up to be a nice value target at $6,200. Green Bay shouldn’t have much trouble controlling this game and Lacy should see upwards of 16-18 touches. If he finds the end-zone, he’ll be an elite value at this price.
Hurns is still dealing with injury concerns, but he was able to practice fully on Wednesday while turning in a limited effort on Thursday. His Friday status should go a long way in determining his availability, and if healthy, he’s a very nice tournament target. Hurns roasted the Colts for 11-116-1 earlier this season and if Indianapolis pays extra attention to Allen Robinson, expect another big output. LaFell has not looked good to this point in the season and is dropping too many passes given the opportunity he’s had. Regardless, he’s now a key component of the Patriots passing game, and the usage he’s seeing makes him very viable at $6,400. LaFell saw nine targets last week but still turned in a pedestrian effort; if he’s able to keep up that target count, it won’t be long before he turns in a big performance.
With Brandin Cooks looking like he’s going to miss Sunday’s game, Ben Watson could end up being Drew Brees’ most heavily targeted man. Especially with Willie Snead still banged up, Brees is very short on weapons. Marques Colston and Brandon Coleman won’t be able to fill the big void left at WR, so expect Watson to see a healthy workload on Sunday. Will Tye is a very sneaky GPP play against a Dolphins Defense that has allowed the fourth-most FPPG to TEs. Since Larry Donnell’s injury, Tye has seen target counts of 6, 7, 8 and 4. Tye has yet to find the end-zone, but that will come if he continues to be a top target for Eli Manning.