Each week during the NFL season, I will offer up a variety of top-five lists because, well, who doesn’t love a top five list? With that universal love of lists in mind, I offer up some exploitable running back/wide receiver matchups and QB streaming options for Week 7.
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Fun with Numbers - 5 Interesting Stats
Defensive Pass Interference – I have long contended that drawing pass interference penalties should be a category that skill position players get credited for in fantasy leagues. How about if that player gets the fantasy value of the penalty yardage awarded (standard is 1 point per 10 yards)? If that were the case, DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas would be the recipients of the highest point total addition, as both have amassed 97 yards in DPI penalties (Hopkins is 7-for-97 and DT is 5-for-97).
Jacksonville Pass D – The Jaguars allowed a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins in Week 1. They haven’t allowed a TD to a WR in the five games since then, and have allowed WRs to find the end zone just three times in its past 13 regular-season games. No team has allowed fewer Fantasy Points Per Catch to WRs than Jacksonville this season (Buffalo is next closest).
Leonard Fournette, Jac, RB – Fournette has scored a touchdown in each of his first six NFL games, which ties a record set by former Pats RB Robert Edwards and former Bills RB Karlos Williams. He also has two rushing touchdowns of 75-plus yards and, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, the two plays (by a ball carrier) with the highest clocked speed came on those Fournette runs - 22.05 mph on a 90-yard TD run in Week 5, and 21.76 mph on a 75-yard TD run in Week 6.
Pass-fed Running Backs – The top 10 leaders at the RB position in Fantasy Points Per Game derived in the passing game (PPR, 1 point per 10 yards receiving, 6 points per TD catch): Christian McCaffrey (13.05), Chris Thompson (12.8), Melvin Gordon (12.37), Todd Gurley (10.92), Duke Johnson (9.82), Kareem Hunt (9.75), James White (9.7), LeSean McCoy (9.18), Alvin Kamara (9.18) and Tarik Cohen (8.95)
Receiver miscellaneous – New England’s Brandin Cooks leads the NFL with 18 catches of 15-plus yards. He has 24 receptions in total, which means he catches a pass of 15-plus yards 75 percent of the time; Just call Tampa Bay’s Adam Humphries a garbage-time All-Star. He leads all players in receptions in the fourth quarter/overtime with 14 (for 176 yards, 68 percent of his season total of 258 yards); More from NFL’s Next Gen Stats department, Philly’s Alshon Jeffery has gained an average separation between his defender on intended targets of 1.3 yards. That’s the smallest average separation distance among all WRs that average at least five targets per game. It certainly speaks to the laundry list of elite cover corners that Jeffery has had to contend with this season. On the flip side, KC’s Tyreek Hill is getting 3.7 yards of separation per target, tops among wideouts.
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5 non-Obvious Week 7 Matchups at RB/WR to Exploit
Orleans Darkwa, NYG, RB vs. SEA –Despite facing loaded boxes (eight-plus defenders) 47.5%% of the time (third-most among RBs with at least 40 carries), Darkwa has still managed 5.7 YPC and has six carries that have gone for 15-plus yards this season. Among RBs with at least 40 carries, Darkwa’s ratio of a 15-yard run every seven carries is second-best in the league behind Alex Collins, who averages a 15-yarder every 6.5 carries (eight out of 52). Darkwa will host a Seattle defense that has uncharacteristically struggled against the run this season, allowing a healthy 4.84 YPC to the RB position and the 11th-most Fantasy Points Per Touch to RBs. After rushing for 117 yards on 21 carries against Denver’s stingy defense in Week 6, Darkwa has the look of a RB2 this week against the Seahawks.
Danny Amendola, NE, WR – As New England’s primary slot receiver, Amendola should see a lot of Atlanta slot cover Brian Poole, who has allowed the sixth-most receiving yards in slot coverage and the second-worst Cover Snaps Per Reception rate (6.8). And, of course, we can’t forget that Amendola was good for a 8/78/TD line against these Falcons in the Super Bowl back in February.
Marlon Mack, Ind, RB – A rumored increased workload never materialized for Mack in Week 6, as he handled just two carries on Monday night against Tennessee. But an arm injury to Robert Turbin in that game proved to be a season-ender, leaving Turbin’s 5-6 touches up for grabs in the Indy backfield. This should open the door for Mack to push (and very likely surpass) double-digit touches this weekend against a Jacksonville defense that is allowing 5.36 YPC to the RB position, highest in the league. In the two games in which Mack received double-digit touches (Week 1 and Week 5), he finished 17th and fifth at the RB position in fantasy points, respectively.
Eric Decker, Ten, WR – Decker is coming off his best game of the season, picking up 88 yards on seven catches on Monday night against Indy. He’s in position to keep the good times rolling as he heads to Cleveland in Week 7. The Browns have allowed the third-most Fantasy Points Per Catch to the WR position.
Wendell Smallwood, Phi, RB vs. WAS – When last we saw Smallwood (Week 4), he posted 79 YFS and a TD against the Chargers. He’s been sitting out since then with a knee injury. But he’s practicing this week and is expected to be back in action against Washington. On paper, Smallwood’s return looks advantageous, as Washington has allowed the fourth-most Fantasy Points Per Touch to the RB position. He has flex appeal, assuming he’s able to make it back for Week 7.
Top 5 Fantasy Tight End Values for the Rest of the Season after the Big 3 (Gronk, Ertz, Kelce)
Delanie Walker, Ten – Walker has yet to find the end zone, and his numbers have lagged the past two games with QB Marcus Mariota dealing with a hamstring injury, but he’s No. 5 in targets and catches at the tight end position, and No. 7 in receiving yards. Walker has at least 60 catches and 800 yards in each of the past three seasons, a feat that only Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce can match at the TE position.
Evan Engram, NYG – Expectations were high for Engram after Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall were lost for the season in Week 5, and Engram didn’t disappoint in his first outing without the team’s top two receivers, stepping into a leading role in the passing game with a 5/82/TD line vs. Denver in Week 6. He’s had at least four catches and 40-plus yards in five games this season, which is tied for the NFL lead.
Jimmy Graham, Sea – Graham was headed towards Bust City through the first two weeks of the season (combined four catches for nine yards), but started to gain steam in the three weeks leading into his Week 6 bye – with 170 yards and a TD, Graham was No. 8 at the TE position in fantasy points from Weeks 3-5. On paper, Graham has the ninth-easiest ROS schedule for a tight end. Seattle QB Russell Wilson has made second-half surges a routine. Assuming Wilson once again saves his best for the stretch run, Graham should be a big part of that upturn.
Cameron Brate, TB – O.J. who? Brate has a TD in four straight games and in 12 of his past 18 games played going back to Week 3 of last season. Brate is also behind only Gronk and Buffalo’s Charles Clay in Yards Per Route Run (2.2). Last season, Brate was a surprise top-six finisher in fantasy points at the TE position, and he’s right back among the elite through the first six weeks of the ’17 campaign (No. 3).
Hunter Henry, LAC – After fairly evenly splitting snaps with Antonio Gates for the first month of the season, Henry has moved out to a clear lead role the past two games, out-snapping Gates by a 113-78 margin. He’s made the extra work count as he combined for 132 yards and a TD in those two contests. Henry, who now has 665 yards and 10 TDs in his past 16 games, faces the easiest ROS schedule at the TE position.
5 QB Streamers for Week 7
Tyrod Taylor, Buf vs TB – Just the 24th-most owned QB heading into Week 7, Taylor has a ripe matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to the QB position. Last week, Arizona’s Carson Palmer needed just 22 passes against the visiting Bucs to finish as a top-six fantasy signal caller for the week, completing 18 of those passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Tampa Bay was also especially brutal in its other road contest, allowing Minnesota’s Case Keenum to finish as the No. 3 fantasy QB in Week 3 with 369 passing yards and three touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if Taylor slides into the back-end of the QB1 class this week.
Brett Hundley, GB vs. NO – The Saints are definitely improved in pass defense compared to recent past seasons, but they still rank as the sixth-most fantasy-friendly unit to the QB position, with Matthew Stafford, in Week 6, becoming the third QB to throw for three touchdowns against New Orleans this season. Green Bay is likely to dial down the passing volume with Hundley behind center, but Hundley brings some rushing upside to the table that could help boost his fantasy standing – he averaged 43.7 rushing yards and scored 30 rushing TDs in 40 games at UCLA.
Blake Bortles, Jac @ IND – It’s a great matchup for Bortles this week as he draws a Colts’ defense that allows 298.5 passing YPG (third-highest in the league), 8.5 Yards Per Pass Attempt (second-most, right behind New England) and has also yielded 34 pass plays of 20-plus yards (NFL high). Bortles has played especially well against Indy in recent seasons, as he’s finished as a top 10 fantasy QB in three of the past four times he’s faced the Colts, with his other finish landing at No. 15 overall.
Trevor Siemian, Den @ LAC – Siemian suffered a shoulder injury in Week 6, but it’s considered to be minor and he’s expected to play in this week’s rematch with the Chargers – Siemian faced LA in Week 1, and finished as the week’s No. 4 fantasy QB on the strength of two TD passes and a rushing score. Overall, the Chargers have been solid against the QB position for fantasy purposes, but Siemian has the weapons and familiarity with this defense to be at least serviceable this week as a QB streamer.
Jared Goff, LAR vs. ARI – It still might be hard to fathom Arizona as an advantageous matchup for an opposing QB, but the numbers make for a very compelling case. The Cardinals have allowed 13 TD passes, second-most in the league. They have also allowed the seventh-most passing yards per game and 10th-highest QB Rating and Passing Yards Per Attempt. Goff has struggled the past two games, but that’s come against two of the three best defenses (SEA, JAC) at limiting the fantasy points of opposing QBs. Goff should see his numbers rebound this week.