FantasyLabs is a daily fantasy tools and real-time analytics platform that enables players to test theories, create and backtest models, and construct customized lineups. In this piece, Editor-in-Chief Matthew Freedman leverages the same Tools and Models used by co-founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) for each slate.
In guaranteed prize pools, a player’s ownership rate is just as important as his expected production. At FantasyLabs, Adam Levitan and company work hard to project and update each player’s GPP ownership on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Here are five players we project early in the week to have significantly lower ownership than other players in their salary ranges. We will update our ownership projections throughout the week as news breaks and the market develops.
QB C.J. Beathard: $4,800 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel
With presumptive franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo waiting to take the field, C.J. Beathard is basically a dead man walking — or running for his life behind the 49ers offensive line, which has given up the second-most sacks in the league with 32. Ranking 31st of out 33 qualified quarterbacks with a horrid 24.4 Total QBR, Beathard has little to recommend him to fantasy players. Although he played in a pro-style passing attack at Iowa (without much success), he’s a rookie trying to run head coach Kyle Shanahan’s sophisticated system without his starting left tackle, top outside wide receiver, top inside wide receiver, and top tight end in Joe Staley (eye), Pierre Garcon (neck), Trent Taylor (rib), and George Kittle (ankle). The winless (0-9) 49ers have scored just 10 points in each of Beathard’s three starts.
This week, though, the 49ers opened as -1.0 home favorites against the Giants, who are descending into chaos. Offensively, the Giants can’t sustain drives — they have four starting linemen with Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades lower than 60.0 and are without their top wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) — and on defense they have three starting linebackers with PFF grades lower than 45.0 and are without their top cornerback in Janoris Jenkins (suspended). At FantasyLabs we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual vs. expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous players at comparable salaries. This year quarterbacks against the 49ers have top-two fantasy marks with 22.3 DraftKings and 20.6 FanDuel points per game (PPG) with +5.07 DraftKings and +2.96 Plus/Minus values. Averaging 41.7 passes per start, Beathard has some upside at what will be almost nonexistent ownership.
RB Devonta Freeman: $6,000 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel
After opening the season with five touchdowns in four games, Devonta Freeman has disappointed over the last month, scoring no touchdowns and accumulating just 294 yards. In his studly 2015-16 campaigns, Freeman averaged 21.1 opportunities per game; in his last four games, he’s averaged 14.8 opportunities. He simply hasn’t gotten the touches in his recent outings to be a top-tier producer — but he could get those touches this week.
Although the Falcons aren’t scoring at last year’s prolific pace — they’re second to last in the league with a -5.59 Vegas Plus/Minus — they’re still second in the league with 6.2 yards per play and third with 35.8 yards per drive. They still have a good offense, and this week they’re -3.0 home favorites against the Cowboys, who are bottom-five against the rush in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. Freeman is the cheapest he’s been all season, and he should have reduced ownership relative to his matchup, situation, and historical production. Freeman is still averaging a respectable 14.61 DraftKings and 13.05 FanDuel PPG this year, and no running back has scored more touchdowns than Freeman’s 34 since he entered the league in 2014. In the Dan Quinn era, Freeman has been at his best as a home favorite, averaging 21.52 DraftKings and 19.25 FanDuel PPG.
RB Orleans Darkwa: $3,800 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel
I highlighted Orleans Darkwa in last week’s piece, and I’m giving him the rock again after he was owned at just 3.75 and 0.6 percent in DraftKings and FanDuel tournaments in Week 9. Darkwa has averaged only 25 snaps per game over his last four contests, but he leads the Giants backfield with his 40.0 percent snap share over that time. Impressively, Darkwa is averaging 0.64 opportunities per touch as the lead back and has a minimum of 12 opportunities in each game over the last quarter of the season. Of all the Giants backs, he’s the only one with a game of at least 100 scrimmage yards. In his four NFL seasons, Darkwa has had eight games with at least eight carries, four of which are his most recent games: He’s averaged 65 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns in those contests.
What’s intriguing about Darkwa this week is his matchup: The Giants opened as +1.0 road underdogs, but the line has shifted toward them, making them -1.0 favorites against the 49ers, who are horrible against the run. They’ve allowed the most fantasy points to opposing backfields this season with 32.0 DraftKings and 27.5 FanDuel PPG, and going back to 2015 — ever since Jim Harbaugh left San Francisco — the 49ers have allowed 58 touchdowns to running backs in 41 games. With a limited passing game, the Giants could choose to employ a run-heavy attack in what’s expected to be a close contest. This is one of the best matchups Darkwa will have all season; if there were a spot for Darkwa to have a multi-touchdown performance, this would be it.
WR DeAndre Hopkins: $7,500 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel
The fantasy gawds giveth, and they also taketh. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (knee) was in the middle of literally the greatest rookie quarterback season of all time — he had 19 touchdowns passing in 6.5 games, and the rookie record is 26 in 16 games — but Watson suffered a season-ending injury in practice last week, and backup ‘quarterback’ Tom Savage tried to lead the Texans offense in Week 9 with little success. He finally got off the schneid by throwing his first NFL touchdown — he now has one in 149 attempts — but his presence under center hurts the entire offense. Savage’s 55.0 percent career completion rate is horrid, his 5.7 adjusted yards per attempt is rookie-esque, and his 9.1 sack rate is, to borrow from Evan Silva, sloth-like. Savage starting for the Texans is the worst thing that has ever happened to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins . . .
. . . except for Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, and Brock Osweiler, all of whom are various shades of #notgood. Hopkins has spent the supermajority of his career making lemonade out of the passes thrown to him by quarterbacking lemons. In his first four NFL seasons, Nuk managed to accumulate more yards (4,487) and touchdowns (23) through the air than all but five wide receivers in their first four campaigns: Randy Moss, Torry Holt, Jerry Rice, A.J. Green, and Larry Fitzgerald. Since his Pro-Bowl season in 2015, Hopkins has more targets (435) than any other player except for Antonio Brown (441). Hopkins still leads the league with eight receiving touchdowns, and he has 11.5 targets per game. Regardless of matchup, Vegas data, and quarterback, if a top-five wide receiver with a reduced salary is getting double-digit targets at single-digit ownership, he warrants exposure in guaranteed prize pools. Last week Hopkins was owned at just 2.41 and 3.83 percent on DraftKings and FanDuel.
WR Keenan Allen: $5,400 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel
For at least the third time this year, I’m highlighting a wide receiver playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are holding receiver units to league-low marks of 23.0 DraftKings and 17.8 FanDuel PPG. Live dangerously. There’s no denying that the Jags have an elite pass defense, as defensive ends Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr., and Yannick Ngakoue have combined for 23 sacks and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye both have top-10 PFF grades. Through eight weeks, Ramsey and Bouye have allowed just 39 receptions, 502 yards, and no touchdowns on 90 targets (PFF). In Week 9, Ramsey got so deep into A.J. Green’s head that Green started a fight and was ejected.
Despite the negative matchup, Keenan Allen is an intriguing pivot play. He’ll have reduced ownership, and he’ll also match up against slot corner Aaron Colvin for a high percentage of his snaps. Of the five defensive backs in the Jags nickel package, Colvin is easily the worst: He’s not bad, but he’s the only one with a PFF grade lower than 80.0, and he is allowing a top-eight mark to opposing wide receivers with one reception for every 8.6 coverage snaps. Averaging 9.1 targets per game, Allen has the underappreciated opportunity to produce in this game; at some point, his 1.37 percent touchdown rate this year will progress to his 2013-16 mark of 4.97 percent.