Week 2 was a story of injuries with a ton of big name players going down, especially at the running back spot. Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Thomas Rawls, Danny Woodhead, Ameer Abdullah and Jonathan Stewart were just a few notable names to go down during Sunday’s contests, and while that opens up value going forward, it certainly didn’t appease the Week 2 owners of those players. A week like that it is a big reason why DFS is so appealing; we get to start from scratch this weekend.
For those who are new to the FanDuel Primer this season, I’ll be breaking down the week ahead using a variety of research tools available on RotoGrinders. This column will evolve as the season wears on, and will highlight different research tools and statistics that I use when building my own DFS teams. We’ll still be relying on last season’s data to an extent, but I’ll certainly be positioning most of the recommendations below based on different things we saw the past two weeks. We’ll kick off Week 3 with our NFL Targets Page, where you’ll find a breakdown of touches, targets, red-zone targets and percentage of workload. 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. Since the FanDuel main slate doesn’t include Thursday or Monday players, they’ll be omitted here.
RBs averaging at least 5.5 targets through two games:
Yeldon is only usable if Chris Ivory misses another contest. Ivory returned to practice in a limited fashion Wednesday, which is an ominous sign for those hoping to utilize his services. He didn’t do much against San Diego, but the game script was working massively against him with Jacksonville falling behind big early. He was able to contribute in terms of receptions, but turned his eight catches into a paltry 10 yards. Giovani Bernard is an interesting GPP play given the Broncos strengths against other positions. Denver has allowed a league-low 16 catches to WRs this season and fared extremely well against the position last year, setting up relatively low expectations for A.J. Green. This also is a bad spot for the Bengals to heavily deploy Jeremy Hill.
DeAngelo Williams is only likely to be a feature back for one more game, so he’s taking plenty of contact through the first quarter of the season. He leads the league in touches through two games (68) and his usage should remain high against an Eagles Defense that hasn’t really been tested yet. He may not exceed the 30 touch mark again, but if he does miss that mark it won’t be by much. Per Rich Hribar’s Worksheet, DeMarco Murray has been targeted on 18.9% of the Titans' passing attempts, tied with Williams for the highest rate among RBs. The Raiders have been gashed in all facets through the first two games, although it should be noted that they had to face the Saints on the road and faced a Falcons Offense that had some bounces go their way on Sunday. It’d be nice to see Murray’s rushing totals pick up, but his receiving ability helps keep his floor high. He leads all RBs in red-zone targets with four.
David Johnson is my top overall RB for Week 3, so I’ll just leave it at that. He’s not going to cede many carries to Chris Johnson in games that remain competitive. It looks like Jamaal Charles will sit against the Texans, but Spencer Ware isn’t a guy I’m going to be rostering. He’s still splitting far too much time with Charcandrick West which keeps both his floor and ceiling down. It’s not like this is a good draw for the Chiefs running game anyway.
WRs averaging at least 10 targets per game through two weeks:
Mike Evans – 12.0
Mike Evans has scored in both games to open the season, but his 17 targets last week was a product of the Bucs falling behind big right off the bat. He only corralled six of them (6-70-1), but it’s clear he’s the number one option in this offense. Tampa will be able to deploy a more balanced attack against the Rams, who were stout against a banged-up Russell Wilson on Sunday yet allowed a healthy line to Blaine Gabbert the week before. He’s a fine GPP target, but he won’t be someone I’ll look to often. T.Y. Hilton, on the other hand, will be. He should avoid Jason Verrett’s coverage while he operates out of the slot, and figures to be an even bigger focal point with Donte Moncrief on the shelf. He also has four red-zone targets, tied for fourth most. The Browns have made two underwhelming receiving corps seem above-average (Philadelphia and Baltimore) and I expect the Miami receivers to continue that trend. The Dolphins lack much of a running game and Landry should be relied on heavily once again, especially considering he isn’t going to see much of Joe Haden. Pittsburgh has allowed over 300 receiving yards in the first two games, which sets up well for team target leader Jordan Matthews. He dropped what should have been an easy touchdown on Monday night, but should continue to be Wentz’s most utilized weapon.
Antonio Brown had a dreadful Week 3, but he should get right back on track against a very questionable Eagles secondary. Philadelphia’s defense isn’t the sieve it was last year – a lot of that has to do with the slower paced offense – which isn’t presenting opponents with a ton of opportunity thus far. Still, Brown is the top overall target at the WR spot. Jeremy Maclin has a tough on-paper draw with Darrelle Revis, but his target totals and the fact that Revis has looked beatable so far (not sure I’m buying into that completely at this point) makes him an interesting GPP target.
A.J. Green has one of the toughest assignments of the week against a very stout Denver secondary. They’ve been excellent against opposing WRs to this point, holding them to the fewest reception total (16) of any team. Green is always in play given his target share and TD potential, but it’s tough to pay the price tag for him this week. Kelvin Benjamin may be in a similar situation if Xavier Rhodes is able to suit up on Sunday. Rhodes is the Vikings best cover corner and I’d expect him to slow down Benjamin to an extent as long as he’s moving well. The Vikings Defense is legit and it’s not a unit I’m looking to exploit. Larry Fitzgerald leads WRs in red-zone targets through two weeks (six), with Michael Floyd coming in right behind him (5). I don’t believe in the Bills Defense and will be rostering almost all of the Cardinals skill position players (Palmer, Johnson, Fitzgerald, Floyd) heavily. Given how stout the Packers are against the run, Marvin Jones sets up to receive another healthy workload in Green Bay. Not only does he lead the Lions in targets, but he also leads the team in aDOT (average depth of target), giving him a very nice ceiling. If he had scored in either game, he’d be getting much more love this week (he’s seen two red-zone targets). You can leave Tavon Austin off your board this week. If he keeps getting this type of volume he’ll break a big play eventually, but this Rams Offense has looked awful through two games.
Jordy Nelson should see plenty of Darius Slay on Sunday, something that does not bode well for his DFS upside. He’s not on my Week 3 radar. Allen Robinson has had a really poor start to the season, although it’s not going to be long before he breaks out in a big way. He ran into Jason Verrett this past week so his production was predictably down; expect a bounce back against a Ravens secondary that was just roasted by rookie Corey Coleman. Stefon Diggs is still priced far too low on FanDuel, making him an elite target in cash games. He’s a decent GPP fade, but he’s seeing a huge share of the Vikings target share and has been consistently targeted down field. The Titans have really struggled with WRs to start the year (Stefon Diggs in Week 1, Marvin Jones in Week 2) and the test only gets tougher with Amari Cooper coming to town. Cooper is a very strong GPP play given that the Titans are exploitable through the air while being fairly tough against the run.
TEs with at least seven targets per game through two weeks:
Greg Olsen – 8.5
Travis Kelce – 7.0
Reed is the top overall TE this week against a Giants Defense that struggles mightily with the position. Their core of linebackers simply cannot slow down TEs, making Jason Witten look like an elite option in Week 1. Coby Fleener had his share of chances to shine in Week 2, but wasn’t able to make good on them. I fully expect the Redskins TEs to end up with 15 targets (Vernon Davis should steal a few looks) which sets up Reed for a very productive afternoon. Witten has a fairly good draw against a Bears Defense that was just exploited by Trey Burton, and his four red-zone targets leads the position (Reed has three). Still, I don’t project him for more than about six targets, so it’s tough to pull the trigger. Greg Olsen is a fine target, and his upside may spike if Kelvin Benjamin is forced to deal with Xavier Rhodes’ coverage.
Dennis Pitta is a legitimate punt play in any format against the Jags this weekend. He’s priced very fairly at $5,000, and should remain a focal point for Joe Flacco while the TE is able to stay healthy. His usage in this offense is very real even with Mike Wallace and Steve Smith in the picture. I still can’t get behind the idea of rostering Kyle Rudolph. Travis Kelce is also someone I’ll be ignoring, with the Jets having kept tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski in check dating back to last season.
Let’s shift to the Vegas Odds page, where I’ll break down a couple of the weekend’s most anticipated games, at least as far as DFS players are concerned. Besides just simply being aware of the games total, make sure you are tracking line movements throughout the week, as they are a good indicator of where sharp money is heading.
San Diego at Indianapolis (-3, 51.5 total on the NFL odds board) – This game has the highest total outside of the Monday night tilt in New Orleans. It’s fully expected to be a shootout on Indy’s fast track, with both QBs in good spots to succeed. Luck is my top overall QB on the main slate despite the lingering injury concerns around him (he didn’t practice Wednesday). Luck’s floor is consistently high given the enormous amount of passing attempts he typically churns out, and despite the injury issues he’s still a threat to add a handful of points with his feet. The Colts have passed on 70.2% of their offensive plays (6th highest) and T.Y. Hilton figures to be the main beneficiary this week. Donte Moncrief is going to miss multiple weeks and while Phillip Dorsett will likely see the biggest target bump, he’s more prone to run into Jason Verrett’s coverage. Hilton should avoid Verrett on any routes he runs out of the slot, and given that Hilton is both second in targets and red-zone targets through two games, we shouldn’t expect him to slow down. I’m always a little wary of Frank Gore, but his usage his been fairly steady (17 touches per game) and the Chargers were among the worst in the league against the RB spot last season. I don’t mind Dwayne Allen as a way to get cheap exposure to this contest, but Jack Doyle’s presence is making it more of a timeshare than we anticipated. I still like Allen’s TD potential, but Doyle has received three red-zone targets to his one.
On the San Diego side, options are equally as plentiful. Philip Rivers has had his best playmaker go down in each of the first two games, yet he’s still one of the top dollar per point plays at QB. The Chargers have been ahead nearly all season which has led to a run-heavy approach, but Rivers has still been productive thanks to five passing TDs. He should have plenty of room to operate against a Colts Defense that lacks much of a pass rush and is still without Vontae Davis. Melvin Gordon is in a great spot for a multitude of reasons. First, Danny Woodhead’s absence should lead to another full workload. The Chargers probably would prefer more of a time-share, but I don’t see it happening this week. Second, the Colts have already managed to allow three big fantasy scores to RBs through just two games. Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah both exploded in Week 1, with C.J. Anderson having his way with them this past Sunday. Lastly, Gordon’s price ($7,100) is still more than reasonable given the matchup and opportunity. As far as the receivers go, both Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams are recommended targets. Benjamin will get more hype this week after a two-TD performance, but Williams saw the same number of targets (6) and has plenty of big play ability of his own. Given that Williams will carry a lower ownership percentage and price tag, he’s the guy I’ll be looking to more often in GPPs. Both receivers would get a nice bump in value if Antonio Gates – who is legitimately questionable for Sunday – is going to miss time.
Oakland at Tennessee (-1, 47) – This game opened with a total of 48 (it’s already jumped down a point) and although it carries one of the higher totals of the week, I’ll be recommending fading it for the most part. I do see intriguing targets on both sides – we’ll get to those shortly – but I also see big problems with some of the early season stats that point to this being a good spot. Marcus Mariota has received some buzz this week considering that he’s facing off with an offense that has allowed two top tier producers at the position already (Drew Brees in New Orleans, Matt Ryan). Both Brees and Ryan are far more polished passers and it’s always tough to slow down the Saints in the Superdome, so I’m not buying into the Raiders being this big of a mess defensively. Mariota won’t be someone I roster much, but I do like the potential for Delanie Walker and Tajae Sharpe. Oakland has been a notoriously good spot for TEs, something Jacob Tamme showed off last week with a 5-75-1 line on eight targets. Expect Walker to keep on rolling after a productive Week 2. Sharpe drew a tough assignment with Darius Slay for most of Sunday’s game and posted a poor 4-33-0 line on seven targets as a result. I’m going back to the well against a much more burnable secondary. Sharpe’s target total should jump back towards double-digits against a weaker secondary. DeMarco Murray is also very much in play for GPPs, although his low rushing outputs are a little concerning.
On the Oakland side, Derek Carr is still a fine option after posting healthy totals against the Saints and Falcons in the season’s first two contests. He torched the Titans in the meeting between these teams last year and has a good shot at exceeding 300 yards again here. Tennessee is very stout against the run, something that should also aid the Oakland aerial attack. Latavius Murray has seen his snap count and usage decrease from last season, and the tough draw makes him an even easier fade. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both have plenty of upside in this matchup, you’re just hoping to hit on the right one. Cooper is the more dangerous playmaker, but Crabtree has been more reliable in the red-zone.
Welcome back 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. The format will be a little different going forward – instead of picking a player per position, I’ll list out a handful of plays at each position and note which formats I prefer them in (cash plays are also playable in GPPs).
Potential Cash QBs at or under $7,500: Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill should have a fairly high floor given the Dolphins struggles in the running game. They’ll likely roll out a committee at RB and still figure to be much more active through the air. Cleveland has been friendly to the QB position dating back to last season and stacking Tannehill up with the likes of Jarvis Landry or DeVante Parker should give you plenty of GPP upside without breaking the bank. I’m not in favor of stacking Tannehill up with more than one receiver in GPPs, I just don’t see him possessing enough upside to make that viable.
Carson Wentz has posted two pedestrian totals so far, but has had some TDs dropped and still hasn’t flashed his upside as a runner. He’s going to go very under-owned and if Pittsburgh ends up building a lead, Wentz could see enough volume to make this a worthwhile play. Kirk Cousins is a guy I’m ending up with in some GPPs, but it’s as much of a product of how often I’m rostering Jordan Reed as anything else. I expect those two to hookup often and if Cousins can add some production elsewhere he shouldn’t have much trouble paying off this price tag. Prescott has been doomed by his touchdowns being vultered via the run game, and with his volume remaining high it’s not a bad idea to go back to the preseason darling. He’s going to be very lightly owned and if he can improve on his downfield playmaking abilities, it could be his first breakout performance. Chicago’s defense is dealing with some injuries and wasn’t intimidating to begin with.
Riddick played 65% of the offensive snaps once Ameer Abdullah went down, and given that he’s already a regular for the Lions in passing situations, he’s a fine play against a Green Bay defense that should force the Lions into plenty of those. He’s still going cede some early down work, but should see an uptick in usage overall. Charles Sims is the beneficiary of Doug Martin’s injury, but he’s in a similar situation to Riddick in that he’ll likely still be operating out of a committee. However, there is much less talent behind him. Jacquizz Rodgers was recently signed and doesn’t figure to take on much early-down work, setting up Sims for ample volume. I don’t have much interest in either Jerick McKinnon or Cameron Artis-Payne. McKinnon is the more appealing of the two, but I still expect him to cede work to Matt Asiata, especially in the red-zone. A matchup with Carolina as touchdown underdogs also doesn’t set up well. In regards to Artis-Payne, he’s reportedly going to be used as a feature back which should lead to somewhere between 10-15 touches. Fozzy Whitaker and Mike Tolbert are going to see some work and Cam Newton will be the go-to-guy in close, which greatly caps Artis-Payne’s ceiling.
Shepard should benefit from Odell Beckham being locked up with Josh Norman for most of the game. Norman should see Beckham on all of ODB’s snaps outside the slot, which should free up Shepard to see close to (if not more) targets on the afternoon. The Baltimore/Jacksonville game could end up turning into a shootout, making Wallace and Hurns playable for different reasons. Wallace has been a TD monster through the first two games and while those will regress, his big play ability still remains and the Jags were gashed for several of those against San Diego this past Sunday. Hurns has really disappointed out of the gate, but still figures to be somewhat of a 1-B to Allen Robinson. If the Jags passing attack can finally take off, he’s very likely to bounce back.
Speaking of slow starters, Steve Smith has seen three more targets than Mike Wallace, but has seen about half the fantasy production. That number will start to even out very soon. Terrelle Pryor is one of my favorite punt plays with Corey Coleman likely to miss multiple weeks after breaking his hand in Wednesday’s practice. Pryor actually leads the Browns with 17 targets through two weeks. Cody Kessler is obviously a huge question mark which leads to a very low floor for Pyror, but the Browns just don’t have many other options and they should be throwing after falling behind early.
Gates’ status is up in the air after he missed practice on Wednesday, but if he’s able to get even a limited amount of work in and suits up Sunday, he should see plenty of work against the Colts. Eric Ebron had a touchdown nullified in Week 2 and will continue to be heavily utilized in the red-zone with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate both being relatively undersized. Jimmy Graham is reportedly getting back to full strength and that showed last week when his snap count rose considerably (82% in Week 2 after seeing 38% in Week 1). He’ll get to face off with a 49ers team that will allow a ton of defensive possessions due to their fast-paced-yet-inefficient offense, making him a worthwhile GPP gamble with Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett banged up. Jesse James has played every snap for the Steelers so far this season, something that immediately makes him valuable at minimum price. The Eagles are tough on TEs, but he should still see somewhere between 5-7 targets. After filling in admirably for Zach Ertz on Monday, Trey Burton should get another chance to shine. Pittsburgh has been targeted 23 times with opposing TEs through two games, tied for the highest mark in the league. Burton tied for second on the team in targets against Chicago.