With the growing popularity of daily fantasy football and more new users arriving by the day, simply looking at the basic information and statistics available to everyone will not give you the edge you need to consistently submit winning lineups. Using data from sites like Pro Football Focus and RotoGrinders provides a unique way to look at player statistics and participation not found anywhere else.
I’ve gone with some less obvious and contrarian picks worth using in large field tournaments with a lower ownership percentage. That doesn’t mean there won’t be chalk players listed – there are still players that need to be in your lineup.
Outside of helping you find Justin Forsett and a touchdown for punt play Andrew Quarless, the recommendations from this article last week were suboptimal. That was directly reflected in my scores across the industry, but the best part of DFS is that we can dust ourselves off, learn from our mistakes, and refine our process. Let’s get to it.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $2.5 Million Fantasy Football league for Week 11's games. It's only $25 to join and first prize is $300,000. Starts Sunday, November 16th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
Here are the picks this week.
QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, $8,500
Philip Rivers gets top billing at quarterback this week. Why you ask? Anyone looking at recent game logs is going to look right over Rivers in the player pool when they see a negative output in his last outing prior to the Chargers’ bye week. Miami took San Diego to task and Rivers was ultimately pulled in the second half. That shouldn’t deter us from looking at Rivers’ larger body of work and the impressive season he had put together to date. One of the big reasons Rivers has struggled in recent weeks was the lack of a running game threat with play action. With Ryan Mathews in the lineup for the first two games of the season, Rivers used play-action on 13.8% of his drop backs. In Weeks 3-9, his play-action percentage has dropped to just 8.3%.
This week the reeling Chargers welcome the Raiders to town. Fresh off their bye and a three-game losing streak, we should not expect them to show any mercy to their divisional rivals. Just to keep pace with their AFC rivals in the Wild Card race, they need this win badly. Vegas odds are projecting them as two-score favorites with approximately four touchdowns scored. Given the flux of the running game, most of those scores are going to come from Rivers. Oakland has allowed opposing passers to average 265 yards and two touchdowns in their last three games – which includes the 340 yards and five touchdowns to Peyton Manning last week. Don’t forget that Rivers threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns at Oakland in Week 6. You could argue that Rivers has just as much upside as the high-priced studs this week at a sharp discount. Fire up Rivers this week and use variance against your opponents.
Philip Rivers Projection
QB Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins, $7,400
Robert Griffin III makes it two-for-two with quarterback recommendations coming off a bye week. RGIII made a successful return to the field in Week 9 at Minnesota following his ankle injury in Week 2 and now looks to keep momentum going this week against a subpar Tampa Bay defense. Griffin hasn’t been himself this year in Jay Gruden’s new offensive system, but his last game gives us hope of things to come. Gruden called six designed runs for Griffin (excluding one scramble) for a total of 24 yards – accounting for 25% of the team rushing attempts. He also managed to complete 64% of his passes while throwing deeper (10.2 aDOT) than his average in the last two years. This will also only be his third full game with DeSean Jackson. Jackson has seen 24% of Griffin’s throws for an aDOT of 14.8 yards downfield. A big game is there to be had between the two this week.
Tampa Bay has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL in allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. Through nine games they have allowed an average of 288 yards passing and 2.1 touchdowns. They have shown improve in the last three weeks – allowing an average of just 253 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. Although it has not been a murderers’ row with Teddy Bridgewater, Brian Hoyer and Matt Ryan sputtering at times. Each of RGIII’s receivers has a plus matchup in coverage this week. Given RGIII’s improving health, a vintage performance could be in store for the Washington signal caller at a steep discount across the industry.
Robert Griffin III Projection
RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, $8,700
Using a little fun with statistics, Jamaal Charles has yet to top 100 yards rushing in any of his eight games this year. He’s had at least 90 yards in three of those games though. It is hard to see him changing course this week with a perceived tough matchup against Seattle at Arrowhead Stadium. The Seahawks have been the 12th-best team at limiting fantasy points to running backs per our NFL Defense vs. Position tool. The one area they have been more vulnerable has been in the passing game to running backs – they are tied for third in the league with 6.2 receptions allowed per game. Per Pro Football Focus, Seattle has been graded at the ninth-best run defense (+23.1 rating). However, the defense suffered a huge blow this week with defensive tackle Brandon Mebane tearing his hamstring and now out for the season. His projected replacements have graded worse in run defense year to date at PFF. We won’t know the direct impact of his loss to the defense until we see some actionable data, but it is enough to make Charles an intriguing GPP pivot from Matt Forte and Arian Foster.
Charles has turned his season around in recent weeks, but still has yet to have the signature performance we’ve come to expect from him in recent seasons. It is hard to argue with five rushing touchdowns in his last four games though. The most intriguing thing about his usage is not him splitting time with Knile Davis to keep him fresh – it is that the running back screen isn’t as prevalent in Andy Reid’s play-calling through nine weeks. Charles is seeing three less targets per game and about two less catches per game. That would be a huge boost to his value, because it’s not priced into his current salary across the industry. With game temperatures projected to be on the colder side and with several bad matchups for the Chiefs wide receivers, Charles is going to be the primary source of offense this week. It is worth noting that in the Seahawks’ last two road games (loss to Rams, almost loss to Panthers) they have allowed large days on the ground to Jonathan Stewart (19 touches for 94 yards) and Tre Mason (18 for 85 and a touchdown).
Jamaal Charles Projection
RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, $8,000
Mark Ingram’s breakout season continues after another monster fantasy output against the 49ers last week. He is in his fourth NFL season, and we have to remind ourselves he will be only 25 years old next month. It may have taken him awhile to justify his lofty first round draft status, but we know what he is now – the primary Saints’ bellcow runner due to injuries. It is unlikely that we see Pierre Thomas or Khiry Robinson again this week, leaving 87% of the carries up to Ingram like he has in the last two games (57 attempts). Most of us have known that Ingram would fare better similar to Marshawn Lynch with more carries per game – allowing him to find a rhythm and punish defenses as the game wore on.
The Bengals should offer little resistance on the ground this week. By any measure their run defense stinks. They have the third-worst graded run defense per PFF and have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing runners with 117.6 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game. In their last three games, they have been even worse allowing 128.7 yards and two touchdowns per game. With the Saints projected to score four touchdowns this week, it is hard to imagine Ingram not involved with one or two of those scores.
Mark Ingram Projection
RB Shane Vereen, New England Patriots, $6,500
The Patriots and Colts have one of the highest projected total points of the entire season, let alone for just Week 11. It’s not hard to imagine why with two of the premier quarterbacks in the league squaring off with each other with potent offenses. So, we need exposure to this game and Shane Vereen is one of the most cost-effective players to do so. Any time the Patriots have been involved in high-scoring matchups when the tempo of the game is going to increase, they lean on Vereen to be a force in the passing game and take advantage of draw play situations when the defense is spread out. Two of his highest-carry games have come in his last three games when he had 11 carries each. In that same stretch, he has 13 catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns.
The Colts are vulnerable to running backs in the passing game. They have allowed an average of 5.2 catches for 58.3 yards per game. However, in their last two games they allowed a staggering 16 catches for 163 yards. In his last game against Denver with a similar game outlook and game script, Vereen was on the field for 73% of the offensive snaps and handled 42% of the carries and saw 20% of the team targets. This could be a vintage Vereen performance and his price is suppressed across the industry, so take advantage while you can.
Shane Vereen Projection
RB Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers, $5,100
There are not a lot of sneaky running back punts this week, but Jonathan Stewart could easily be overlooked. He is in a timeshare with teammate DeAngelo Williams at the moment that limits some of his appeal on the surface. However, in his last two games he has clearly been the better runner (1.5 more yards per carry) and has the edge in snaps played (53% to 38%). Stewart quietly leads the PFF Signature Stat for running backs that measures Elusive Rating. He has a commanding 18-point lead over the second place Ahmad Bradshaw with 37 missed tackles forced on 92 touches. He is averaging 2.8 yards per carry after contact. This shows that despite struggles of his blockers, he is still having a successful season given his circumstances.
This is a game that Las Vegas has the Panthers as a slight home favorite in a pick’em game that sets up favorably for Stewart to recapture some of his old form. Cam Newton is clearly less than 100% healthy at the moment, so a heavy dose of the ground game makes the most sense. As we have pointed out many times before in this space, Atlanta is bad against the run. They are the worst in the league at allowing running backs to score fantasy points on a weekly basis. The price and opportunity is right to take a chance on the veteran slowly working himself back into form.
Jonathan Stewart Projection
WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers, $9,000
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Antonio Brown is a good football player and has a good matchup this week. However, he has such a good matchup against the Titans despite the Steelers’ road troubles that you will miss out on the biggest Monday night hammer. It helps that Brown had a disappointing fantasy output at the Jets by his standards with eight catches for 74 yards – so he could be overlooked due to his high price tag.
Brown will be running most of his routes against second-year cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Wreh-Wilson grades as the second-worst cornerback in the entire league and allows an average of 4.1 catches for 57.6 yards and 0.6 touchdowns each week. Wilson’s running mate Jason McCourty at left cornerback has not fared much better with 5.2 catches and 71.8 yards allowed per game. At least McCourty has yet to surrender a touchdown this season. Brown will see Wreh-Wilson (48%) and McCourty (39%) an equal amount. On a nationally televised game, it is hard to image that Brown doesn’t come up with a monster day.
Antonio Brown Projection
WR Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers, $6,400
Keenan Allen’s sophomore slump has been one of the more puzzling things to figure out this NFL season. His fantasy output is way down despite seeing 1.5 more targets per game than he did as a rookie. Allen’s per game receiving totals are off by almost 20 yards per game and touchdowns down from 0.5 per game last year to just one touchdown scored in nine games. His play was improving just prior to the Chargers’ bye week, so it shouldn’t be all gloom and doom going forward.
As I mentioned above, the Chargers are in a good spot this week against Oakland and won’t hesitate to run up the score to get back on track. The 27 points that Las Vegas projects them to score could be conservative when it’s all said and done. Allen has a plus matchup this week with either Tarrell Brown (45%) or D.J. Hayden (42%). Hayden (5-72-2) and Brown (9-91) were exploited last week against Denver and we should see similar results this week as well. One of the reasons the Broncos had a big passing week last week was that Peyton Manning didn’t hesitate to go after Charles Woodson at safety. Woodson allowed six catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns himself (Sanders and J. Thomas). This game feels like a get right game for Allen, and his price tag is low across the industry because of his lack of touchdowns this year. He has multi-touchdown upside this week.
Keenan Allen Projection
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings, $6,000
Cordarrelle Patterson is too tantalizing of a talent to overlook despite the obvious struggles he is encountering as a sophomore in the NFL. So why is he a recommendation coming off a one catch for nine yard performance prior to his bye week? Well of course part of it is the Bears’ pending further implosion but the underlying metrics indicate that Patterson just missed a big day. Despite drawing the ire of Mike Zimmer after his last game for dropping a screen pass, Patterson is going to be all right. He saw seven targets last time out and obviously only converted one of them. However the breakdown of those targets paints a different picture. Four of those targets only had an aDOT of 4.2 yards. The other three had an aDOT of 45 yards downfield and none of those connected. That was the second time in his last three games he had a similar target breakdown. If he can just connect on one those throws from Teddy Bridgewater it is going to go to the house.
As we mentioned, the Bears are teetering on falling over the edge in a lost season. Aaron Rodgers took care of business last week, and it’s not to say that Bridgewater will have similar success, but this defense can be exploited. The main corners Patterson will see in coverage offer little resistance. Kyle Fuller (54%) and Tim Jennings (30%) both struggled last week and for the season have combined to allow 90 yards and 0.7 touchdowns receiving each week. Jennings had a particularly horrible day against Jordy Nelson. He allowed five catches for 112 yards and his long touchdown in coverage. The touchdown was caught 33 yards downfield and Nelson gained the extra 40 yards after the catch for the score. For the season, the Bears have allowed opposing receivers to catch 12 passes for 166.3 yards and 1.2 touchdowns a week. However, that total has risen to 12.5 catches for 188.5 yards and two touchdowns in the last three weeks. At a reduce salary across the industry, Patterson could have his first signature breakdown game of the season.
Cordarrelle Patterson Projection
WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers, $5,200
Davante Adams was a popular recommendation last week across the industry that ultimately disappointed everyone with his one catch for 10 yard performance. People may have just been a week early with him. Part of the reason he didn’t see many targets is that he just wasn’t on the field. He had been nearly a full-time player as the Packers’ third wide receiver, but a heavy usage of their tight ends led to Adams to just 56% of the offensive plays. Without getting extremely complicated, Las Vegas projects this game as one of the highest of the weekend. Aaron Rodgers is firing on all cylinders and this passing game should have no issues moving the ball against the Eagles. However, Adams appears to be the biggest beneficiary. Both Jordy Nelson (Bradley Fletcher) and Randall Cobb (Brandon Boykin) have below average matchups. That doesn’t mean either is a fade this weekend, but we should temper expectations. It is Adams that will line up mostly across from our weekly target in Cary Williams. You may recall that Kelvin Benjamin saved the world last week with his two late touchdowns. You may see where I am going with this. Yes! Cary Williams was in coverage for both touchdowns. Adams has some sneaky value this week, and no one who had him a lineup last week will think twice about going back to that well for a second week in a row. Advantage you.
Davante Adams Projection
TE Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, $5,200
Some of the Washington receivers have good matchups this week, but Jordan Reed offers some of the best value on the dollar at a scarce position. Reed didn’t have instant chemistry with Robert Griffin III in his first game back with just one catch on one target for 17 yards. We should look to Reed to recapture some of that 2013 magic and see his weekly targets climb back up and score his first touchdown of 2014.
As mentioned above, the Buccaneers defense stinks. Reed should be able to exploit the Cover-2 system that Lovie Smith runs by sitting down in the zones and take chunk plays at a time. For the season, the Bucs are allowing an average of 6.5 catches for 70 yards and 0.3 touchdowns a week to tight ends. Reed makes a good pivot where the masses are going to gravitate to Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, and you can save a ton of cap in the process.
Jordan Reed Projection
TE Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, $5,300
The 49ers’ usage of Vernon Davis this season has been puzzling at best. There may be an underlying injury that has not been reported, or he could still be feeling the after effects of the massive hit he took to his back in Week 4. Either, his snaps (98.5%) and targets indicate he is on the mend and ready to become a focal part of the offense again. Last week he only caught one of four targets for eight yards, but he was targeted with a 19.3 aDOT on his other targets. He will be aided by the fact that the Giants will overlook him and they have struggled with covering tight ends all year. On average they allow 3.9 receptions for 58.9 yards and 0.7 touchdowns each week. That sounds like music to Davis’ ears.
Vernon Davis Projection