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 start Week 5 with our 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. Players on a bye week will not be included here.
RBs averaging at least 5.0 targets through four weeks:
Theo Riddick (5 RZ targets) – 6.5
Duke Johnson (2 RZ) – 6.25
Giovani Bernard (4 RZ), Le’Veon Bell (1 game, 0 RZ) – 6.0
Fozzy Whitaker (0 RZ) – 5.0
I’m not a fan of Riddick’s matchup, but if Dwayne Washington ends up sitting, Riddick should be locked into at least 15 touches regardless of game script. He’s still cheap ($6,200) so the upside is there, but it’s not a viable move in cash games. The Eagles have allowed the second fewest FPPG to the RB spot so far this year, and their defense looks very much like the real deal. Assuming things go as expected, Duke Johnson should see some extra opportunity in the second half against the Patriots. The Browns are double-digit underdogs on the NFL odds board and the Patriots will likely do what they have to take away Isaiah Crowell and force Cody Kessler to beat them through the air. He’s likely to see 7-8 targets with an upside for even more if Kessler chooses to stay underneath. Giovani Bernard saw a season-high ten carries in Week 4 but tied his season-low in targets with four. He’s too erratic for my liking and I’d prefer Hill if I had to target a Cincinnati back in Dallas. The Jets are allowing just 66 YPG on the ground to opposing RBs (fourth best), but Le’Veon Bell is usually able to make up for limited rushing totals through the air. He’s a top three overall play even in a tough matchup, as he didn’t miss a beat in his return and will handle the large majority of the work in that backfield while he’s healthy.
Speaking of the Jets, Bilal Powell is your leader in RZ targets at the RB position through four weeks. He’s still not a recommended DFS play while Forte’s healthy, but he’ll surely be intriguing if Forte misses time at some point. For those playing in Thursday contests, David Johnson is still a viable target despite Carson Palmer’s absence. He’ll see more stacked boxes and will be the focal point of the 49ers defense, but that still probably isn’t enough to slow him down. The 49ers have given up the fourth most rushing yards per game, and if you take out their Week 1 victory over the Rams, they’ve allowed the most rushing yards over the last three weeks. Their inept offense puts them in a bad situation since Chip Kelly is intent on playing up-beat. Johnson is also a force in the short passing game and that isn’t likely to change with Drew Stanton under center. DeMarco Murray surely does not miss Philadelphia. He’s been a true workhorse through four games and with Marcus Mariota struggling mightily, expect that to continue in Week 5. The Dolphins have faced the most rushing attempts per game so far and Murray is accounting for such a huge portion of the Titans Offense, so roll him out confidently in any format.
WRs averaging at least 9.5 targets through four weeks:
Mike Evans (4 RZ targets) – 12.0
Emmanuel Sanders (8 RZ) – 10.5
Evans is a fine play this weekend and those who saw Julio Jones tear this defense apart last week will surely want to hop on board. His target volume is immense and these two teams have both played at a fast pace this season, but it’s not like Carolina had been a sieve to WRs before this past weekend. I’m certainly not suggesting an all-out fade, but I think you can make a decent case to fade him given the Buccaneers offensive struggles in general. Antonio Brown is set to explode again this week against a Jets secondary that has been regularly roasted to start the year. They’ve allowed the seventh most passing yards per game despite facing the third fewest attempts, and all that has come against average passing attacks (CIN, BUF, KC, SEA). Brown is the top overall play at WR and should be used heavily in all formats. There are just two receivers who have recorded at least ten targets in each game this year: Jarvis Landry and T.Y. Hilton. Landry is as dependable as they come in the receptions category; the problem is since the large majority of his targets are shallow, yardage can sometimes be an issue. It doesn’t help that the Dolphins average the fewest offensive plays per game. As for T.Y. Hilton, he’s someone I’ll be utilizing heavily in a plus matchup with the Bears. The Chicago secondary is still beat up (Kyle Fuller was placed on IR last week) and while the Bears have been attacked more on the ground, Hilton is seeing a big workload and has the big play ability to pay off his salary in one snap. He also happens to rank third in red-zone percentage of workload (RZPOW%) among WRs. Emmanuel Sanders is also integrally involved in his team’s red-zone plans (21.05 RZPOW%, tied for the most RZ targets with 8) but is limited to a degree by his QB play. He’s clearly Trevor Siemian’s favorite target, but it remains to be seen whether or not Siemian will be able to play Sunday. Even if he can’t Paxton Lynch looked in Sanders direction quite a bit in his relief duty.
With Tyler Eifert expected to miss another game, A.J. Green should dominate the targets (include red-zone work) against the Cowboys. Dallas has been pretty tough on opposing WRs so far, but Green is matchup proof when he’s this heavily involved. I’d rather pay up for Antonio Brown or pivot down to Jordy Nelson or T.Y. Hilton, but I’ll definitely have some exposure to Green. I’m finding it tough to roster Larry Fitzgerald in Thursday contests with Drew Stanton at the helm. In Thurs-Sun contests, look elsewhere. I expect the Patriots to make more of an effort to eliminate Isaiah Crowell, so Terrelle Pryor has some GPP appeal. Cleveland should be doing plenty of throwing and Pryor is far and away the best weapon they have in that department. It is really tough to pay for him now that he’s creeping up over $7K, but he is 11th among WRs in POW at 12.77%. It’s been a rough start for Odell Beckham, but he’s not performing all that differently from last season outside of the TD department. The Packers have been awful against the pass this year, and have particularly struggled with the deep ball, allowing 27.3% of the completions against them to go for at least 20 yards (per Rich Hribar’s Worksheet). He is someone I’ll be well overweight on in terms of my ownership percentage vs. the field. Brandon Marshall is going to remain the focal point with Eric Decker on the shelf, and he’s another guy I’ll be targeting more than the field will in GPPs. He’s scored just one touchdown on the year, but is tied for the league-lead in red-zone looks.
TEs with at least 6.5 targets per game through four games:
Greg Olsen (5 RZ targets) – 10.0
Jordan Reed (5 RZ) – 8.75
Kyle Rudolph (6 RZ) – 8.25
Cameron Brate (5 RZ) – 6.5
Even if Cam Newton isn’t able to play, Greg Olsen is a great play at the TE spot if you can afford to pay up there ($8,000 is a lot to shell out at that spot). He’s very much involved in close (18.52% RZPOW) and has had success in the past with Derek Anderson under center. Jordan Reed leads all TEs in POW (13.51%) and finally found the end-zone last weekend (twice) after going scoreless through the first three games. Kirk Cousins finally appears to remember who his best option is near the goal-line. He’s neck-and-neck with Olsen as the top overall play at the position. Kyle Rudolph keeps right on rolling, and with Stefon Diggs being the only viable WR the Vikings have, Rudolph is the unquestioned second option in the passing game. He’s still not priced like it at $5,500. With at least seven targets in each game, Rudolph is a safe option in any format. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of town, Brate is showing how valuable he is as a complementary option to Mike Evans. Brate has seen at least eight targets in both games since ASJ was cut, and at $5,400 he’s well worth considering on Monday night. He’s third among TEs in RZPOW (20.00%).
Let’s shift our attention to the Usage page, which is new to RotoGrinders this season. It takes things like snap counts and target percentages into account to give us a usage rate – if you are familiar with NBA DFS, it’s a very similar statistic. I’ll handpick a few plays at each position (WR, TE) that are higher on this list than most would expect. Especially this early in the season, we should be able to find some players who have underperformed relative to their workload.
Wide Receiver – Jordan Matthews (20.59% usage rate, 21st among WRs)
Matthews sits at a fair $7,000 in Week 5 against a Detroit defense that has given up the sixth most FPPG to opposing WRs this season. He’ll run most of his routes against Quandre Diggs, who has graded out very poorly per PFF metrics and stands at just 5’9 (Matthews is listed at 6’3). The Lions are vulnerable against TEs (more on that later), but I expect them to lean on Matthews more often than any of the other WRs. Nevin Lawson is very beatable opposite Darius Slay, so whichever outside WR gets that matchup should thrive also. His three target game against Pittsburgh should keep his ownership down considerably, but that came with the Eagles in full control of the game from the start – Carson Wentz attempted just 31 passes and no other Eagles receiver finished with more than five targets. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Matthews eclipse double-digit targets Sunday.
Wide Receiver – Robert Woods (19.23%, 25th among WRs)
Woods is a nice low-cost option that will make it easier to roster a guy like Antonio Brown. He’s 25th in POW yet isn’t priced anywhere near the top 25 WRs, and a good chunk of these numbers came while Sammy Watkins was still playing. Woods is now the de-facto #1 WR in Buffalo, something that should afford him 8-10 targets on Sunday. The Rams have surprisingly allowed the most receptions per game to opposing WRs (17.25), although that also comes on a league high (by 3.5 targets) 28.25 targets per game. The lack of red-zone usage (Woods has just one RZ target on the year) makes it tough for me to target him in cash games, especially with the Bills having one of the lowest team totals of the weekend. Regardless, a receiver this cheap with a shot at ten targets is well worth your attention in GPPs.
Wide Receiver – Julian Edelman (14.29%, 47th among WRs)
I’ll use this as an opportunity to note an incoming spike in usage rate for Edelman, who now has his good buddy Tom back under center. All of the New England receivers have been unplayable without Brady in the lineup, as the Patriots predictably took a run-heavy approach, attempting the fewest passes per game through four weeks. That will absolutely not continue. This week’s game sets up as another chance for them to stick to the ground game, but Edelman’s price ($7,000) and usage in games where Brady is active makes him appealing nonetheless. He spends most of his time in the slot so he’ll likely avoid Joe Haden – if Haden is even active – for the majority of the afternoon. He’s going to be overlooked because of the limited production, but Edelman is well worth a spot on your GPP teams.
Tight End – Jason Witten (22.35%, 3rd among TEs)
This play has a very low floor, but if Dez Bryant sits again it’s very likely that Witten at least comes close to his nine targets from Week 4. His target count has varied greatly over the first four weeks – he’s had counts of 14, 4, 2 and 9 – but figures to be on the higher end of that scale as a safety blanket on a team that lacks much talent at WR behind Bryant. Witten is third among TEs in usage rate and is fifth in target percentage, and most of that came with Dez still in the lineup. I’d prefer Zach Ertz at a $200 discount, but sprinkling in some Witten exposure in otherwise chalky lineups is viable.
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 GPP QBs at or under $7,500: Jameis Winston
The Lions have been an absolute sieve to QBs over the first four weeks, and with Wentz still very cheap he’s a great bet to exceed value at his $7,500 price tag. Detroit is allowing the second most FPPG to the position and they’re allowing a 12-1 TD/INT ratio to this point, so they aren’t generating much in the turnover department. They rank middle of the road in terms of getting pressure on the QB, but their shortcomings in the secondary is a lot to overlook. Wentz doesn’t have that elite ceiling, but he’s a very solid $/point option for Week 5. As for Hoyer, he’s another arm that doesn’t carry a terribly high ceiling but should still pay off his price tag. He’s been throwing it often (85 pass attempts over the last two games) and will face off with a Colts Defense that struggles to get pressure on the QB or generate turnovers (four turnovers through four weeks). Hoyer has thrown for at least 300 yards in his two starts and despite the fact that he’ll be without Kevin White, Hoyer showed some nice chemistry with Eddie Royal and still has a relatively healthy Alshon Jeffery at his disposal. I have absolutely no issues using him in cash games at $6,000. Jameis Winston is the one cheap QB outside of the two names above that I’d consider in GPPs. He’s a fine option to pair up with either Mike Evans or Cameron Brate, both of whom I have highly rated at their respective positions. The Panthers Defense has taken a pretty big step back this year – they are allowing 8.1 yards per attempt to QBs and 12.7 yards per completion, both of which rank second worst in the league. Both Carolina and Tampa Bay have run a high number of plays per game so this one should be played at a fast pace, giving Winston a nice shot at a high volume day.
Gore has seen at least 20 touches in three of the Colts four games, and saw 16 touches (vs. DEN) in the only game where he didn’t hit that mark. The Bears have been run on frequently (they are facing the second most rush attempts per game) and Gore has proven that he can handle a heavy workload early in the season, so I’m a big fan of his at $6,500. McKinnon posted his first DFS-friendly stat line of the season in Monday night’s win over the Giants, but he’ll have another tough test ahead with the Texans coming to town. While Houston is very tough against opposing QBs, they are not nearly as tough against the ground game, allowing over 100 YPG to opposing backs through four weeks. Given that he is a nice bet for 18-20 touches, McKinnon is a viable cash game option at $6,200. Assuming the Ravens aren’t ready to hand Kenneth Dixon a decent workload, Terrance West should be locked into the lead back role in Baltimore for another week. The Redskins have allowed over 100 yards rushing in each game this season and are coming off of a game where they were gashed by Isaiah Crowell and the Browns, so the upside is well worth targeting here at $6,400. I’d be fine with this play in cash games also if Dixon wasn’t around to muddy the situation. The Dolphins have stated that they are going to do away with the four-headed RBBC, although they’ve yet to name a starter. Adam Gase has said that he hopes to get one or two backs involved heavily and have them get into a groove, and Ajayi appears to be the most likely to get the first crack at that role. The floor is very low, but at Ajayi’s price it’s a risk worth taking if you’re rolling out multiple lineups.
After playing second fiddle to Mike Wallace for the first two weeks (in terms of production, at least), Steve Smith has seen at least 11 targets in the past two games and figures to at least approach that total again this week against the Redskins. Smith lines up in the slot plenty so he’s not likely to see Josh Norman for any extended period of time. With Eric Decker out again this week, Quincy Enunwa is a fine cash target at his current price tag. He’s averaging nine targets per game over his last two contests and doesn’t figure to be any less involved this week. Eddie Royal caught all seven of his targets in Week 4 and with Kevin White placed on IR, he should see at least that many looks against the Colts this weekend. At $5,700, it’s very hard to argue with his opportunity. The Chargers WRs (Williams, Benjamin, Inman) are all fine GPP plays, but the production between the three has been very spread out so far this year. I wouldn’t go heavy on any one of them, but sprinkling in some exposure is warranted against a vulnerable Raiders secondary. DeVante Parker should get to run a fair amount of his routes against Titans CB Perrish Cox, and that alone makes him a viable deep threat. His target count has been very inconsistent this season, but the Dolphins should continue to be a pass-heavy offense and Parker is their best playmaker outside of Jarvis Landry.
Ertz will face off with a Lions Defense that was not only destroyed by the TE spot in 2015, but is predictably getting roasted by the position again this season. They’ve allowed a league-high six TDs to TEs already this year. Zach Miller’s three targets in Week 4 are definitely concerning, but with Kevin White out and Alshon Jeffery a little hobbled, Brian Hoyer doesn’t have many other weapons in the passing game. Miller had some really bad draws to open the year, but has stepped into some better matchups over the last few weeks. Kyle Rudolph has been remarkably consistent through four weeks and while I’d like to consider him closely in cash games, he’s behind Ertz and neck-and-neck with Miller for me. The Texans are very tough on opposing TEs which is the only thing keeping him in GPP territory.