Welcome to the FanDuel Week 15 Primer, brought to you by RotoGrinders. This column will highlight a number of our tools that we feel are the best predictors of success on any given week. Now that we have less than a quarter of the regular season still to go, we can confidently trust the sample size we’re working with. We’re just about at the point of the season where it’s worth keeping an eye on playoff standings, but that won’t become a vital piece of the puzzle until the final week or two.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $2 Million Fantasy Football league for Week 15's games. It's only $25 to join and first prize is $200,000. Starts Sunday, December 14th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
We’ll kick off Week 15 with the Defense vs. Position page, which gives you an idea of how well certain teams defend a particular position. It’s still worth taking each team’s opponents to this point into account when evaluating DvP ranks, but this is one of the tools I value the most, especially this late in the season with as healthy a sample size as we can hope for.
Eli Manning vs. Washington (32nd vs. QBs) – This pick certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but Manning does have a terrific Week 15 matchup and he’s already torched this defense once this year. He threw for 300 yards and 4 TDs in the Thursday night matchup between these teams way back in Week 4 in a game the Giants controlled right out of the gate. It’s obviously unfair to expect a repeat performance this Sunday, but something like 275 yards and 2 scores is well within reach. Washington’s pass rush hasn’t been particularly effective this season and the secondary is in shambles right now (David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland may be the worst starting CB duo in the league right now), so attacking the Skins through the air seems like a good idea. Washington is allowing the 3rd fewest FPs to RBs and Rashad Jennings is obviously not operating at full strength, so expect a nice game from Odell Beckham. Larry Donnell is also not a bad lottery ticket in this spot, but Manning looks like the best value of the bunch at $7,500 on FanDuel.
Le’Veon Bell vs. Atlanta (32nd vs. RBs) – If you’ve played Bell in recent weeks, your bankroll has likely seen a nice boost from Pittsburgh’s feature back getting all the work he can handle. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him hit $10K in salary this weekend, and the $9,600 price tag doesn’t separate him from the field enough to make me play the fade in cash games (Murray, Forte, Charles and Foster are all priced between $8,900 and $9,300). Atlanta has allowed the most rushing TDs in the league, but that isn’t the best part for Bell; the Falcons have also allowed the 7th most receptions and the 4th most receiving yards to RBs. There is nothing about this matchup that worries me; if Bell sees a heavy workload, he’s going to continue producing like the #1 pick he’ll be in next year’s season-long drafts. He’s taken full advantage of LeGarrette Blount’s departure and is a good bet for 25-30 total touches.
Dez Bryant vs. Philadelphia (29th vs. WRs) – Despite what you may have seen on Thanksgiving, I very much trust Dez Bryant against the Eagles secondary this week. The Cowboys offensive line is rated the 6th best by Pro Football Focus in terms of pass blocking efficiency, but they certainly didn’t live up to that ranking in Week 13 against the Eagles. The Philadelphia defense (especially the pass rush) is better than people give them credit for, but they still allow a boatload of fantasy points to opposing QBs/WRs and that trend will continue as long as Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are the starting CBs. Dez hasn’t scored a touchdown in the last two weeks, yet he hasn’t reached three straight scoreless weeks since the middle of last season. He’s a very nice high-upside play in a game that means a ton to both teams. I’m expecting production in the neighborhood of 7-90-1 from Bryant, but could see him finding the painted grass multiple times against a secondary that lacks any elite talent.
Now onto the Market Watch, which tracks the movement of player salaries week-to-week. It’s a great way to get a sense of who is coming off of a strong/poor performance, but most importantly it allows you to find solid buy-low candidates available at depressed price tags.
Alfred Morris ($7,000 on FanDuel, down $500) – After totaling 17 yards on nine touches in Week 14, Morris is a prime bounce-back candidate in GPPs as a contrarian play. Here’s an interesting statistic that works in Morris’ favor: With RGIII under center, Morris is averaging 5.46 yards per carry in 2014. With Colt McCoy/Kirk Cousins at QB, Morris is averaging just 3.44 YPC. Griffin’s mobility helps to keep defenses honest, and the Skins could be a little more aggressive with their “franchise QB” in the final few weeks since there is a legitimate chance this could be his last season in D.C. Morris’ matchup is a good one as well, with the Giants having allowed huge rushing totals to DeMarco Murray (twice), Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy dating back to Week 6. New York allows the 11th most points to opposing RBs, including the 9th most rushing scores allowed to the position. With Morris likely an afterthought for most daily players, take advantage of the low ownership percentage in GPPs (I’m not likely to roster Morris in any cash games, to be fair).
Jordan Matthews ($7,000 on FanDuel, down $500) – Staying in the NFC East, we have another exploitable $7,000 salary. Jordan Matthews has come bursting onto the scene since Mark Sanchez took over as the Eagles starting QB, but he’s coming off of a down week (along with the rest of the Eagles) which has dropped his price $500 from Week 14. Sanchez threw for a total of 96 yards against Seattle, so there was no hope for any of the Philly receivers to post a solid stat line. Back when these teams met on Thanksgiving, Matthews totaled 4-51-1 in a game where the Eagles didn’t have to throw much in the 2nd half. Orlando Scandrick (Dallas’ slot corner) is rated as PFF’s 9th best CB on the season (8th best in pass coverage) which doesn’t bode particularly well for Matthews, but Scandrick also covered the slot on Thanksgiving when Sanchez didn’t have trouble getting Matthews the ball. Like Morris, Matthews isn’t likely to find himself in any of my cash game lineups, but he’s a very nice, high-upside GPP play.
Jimmy Graham ($6,900 on FanDuel, down $200) – Third time’s a charm? I’ve been fortunate enough to profit the past two weeks while having a decent amount of exposure to Graham, but I think this is the week he gets it going again. The Bears Cover 2 defense leaves them especially vulnerable to crossing routes with tight ends, something Rob Gronkowski exploited when he tagged the Bears for 9-149-3 (37.4 FanDuel points) back in Week 8. Chicago is ranked dead last at defending TEs on the season, while allowing 11 total TDs to the position. We prefer to target the Saints pass-catchers when they play at home, but I’ll be taking advantage of the discount on Graham in nearly all formats this week.
We’ll keep things rolling with the RotoGrinders Targets page, where you’ll find a breakdown of touches, targets, red-zone targets and percentage of workload, among other stats. 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.
Demaryius Thomas ($9,000 on FanDuel) – I’m well aware that Peyton Manning has played some of the worst football of his career in the last two weeks, but I really don’t think anything of note has changed with Manning since Week 12 (his last 25+ FP game). He may be feeling the effects of a long season and it’s possible that past injuries are bothering him again, but I’m not overly concerned. His poor performance of late will only help to keep his ownership down. The same goes for Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos’ leading WR who managed 11 yards on two Week 14 receptions. On the season, DT still leads the NFL in red-zone targets (30, 2.31 per game) and red-zone percentage of workload (34.88%), so this could be a great week to pounce on him in GPPs with the public worried about Peyton. Thomas’ five Week 14 targets were far and away his lowest total of the season, as he’s been targeted at least nine times in 11 of 13 games this year (he saw double-digit targets in nine of those games). Thomas, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are the only three players in the NFL to top 140 targets this year.
Larry Donnell ($5,200 on FanDuel) – Larry Legend hasn’t been a target monster since early in the season, but he’s still managed to lead the position in red-zone targets on the year (20, 1.54 per game). The scary part about Donnell is that he hasn’t seen double-digit targets in a single game this season, even in his Week 4 match-up between the Giants and Redskins where Donnell found the painted grass three times. The saving grace with the Giants tight end is that he’s seen at least six targets in six of the last seven games; while those numbers aren’t anything to write home about, the tight end position as a whole is rather thin and Donnell’s $5,200 price tag makes him an appealing cap-saving option. The Redskins allow the 2nd most TDs to opposing TEs (11 total) and have surrendered the 3rd most FPs as a whole to the position.
Quarterback - Johnny Manziel ($6,700 on FanDuel)
It’s about time, Mike Pettine! Johnny Football has finally been let loose, as the word has come down that he’ll be the Browns’ starting QB heading into Sunday’s game with the Bengals. Mike Pettine is probably a few weeks late on making the switch, and it may end up costing the Browns a playoff spot, but we’re only worried about Week 15, and Manziel’s salary makes him an excellent option. He’ll likely be the most popular play at QB this week and he’s a fine play in any format thanks to the $6,700 FanDuel price tag. Playing the fade in GPPs may be a viable move, but I’ll want exposure to JFF in all formats. He’s a solid bet for an extra 4-6 points with his legs (with upside for more) and assuming Josh Gordon isn’t randomly limited once again, he’ll have one of the NFLs most talented pass-catchers at his disposal. Cincinnati’s defense is in the bottom third of the league in passing yards against even with a 2nd half resurgence (where they’ve faced Tampa, Houston, Cleveland and Jacksonville), so this isn’t a particularly harsh matchup. I really like the matchup for Andrew Luck this week, but I’m much more likely to roll out Manziel in cash games due to the enormous salary difference between the two.
With Cam Newton very unlikely to play as of this writing, Derek Anderson would make a nice cash game play at $5,000. He doesn’t need to do much to pay off his price tag, and faces a Tampa Bay secondary that has had major issues defending the pass this year. Calling Anderson an average talent would be putting it nicely, but a 10-15 FP day would pay off his price tag.
After hearing that Herron would likely receive a bigger part of the rushing workload about an hour before kickoff last week, he climbed a few spots in my running back ranks against a Cleveland defense that is very vulnerable against the run. As it turned out, Herron matched his Week 13 carry total with 8, finishing with just 26 yards. He did contribute nicely in the receiving game, and the lack of carries was partly due to Indianapolis playing catch-up most of the afternoon. Since he struggled last week, most of the field may be afraid to go back to the well, but I see him getting 12-15 carries here with a few receptions to boot. Indianapolis should theoretically be nursing a lead late in the game to boost Herron’s rushing totals, and he’ll be a very solid cap-saving option if he’s able to find the end zone.
LeGarrette Blount likely has a higher ceiling compared to Herron, but as is the nature of Patriots running backs, he’s a tough guy to trust in cash games. Miami has allowed the 22nd most rushing yards this season while allowing the 3rd fewest passing yards, so the Pats may choose to attack the Dolphins with the power running game. When these teams met in Week 1, Belichick’s strategy was much different. Brady threw it 56 times while the running backs (Ridley, Vereen and Bolden) combined for 65 yards on 17 carries. New England had a 20-10 lead at halftime in that game, but the pass-heavy approach led to some turnovers (Brady fumbled twice) and Miami shut out the Patriots 23-0 in the 2nd half. I’m expecting a much more balanced approach this week, which should lead to a healthy number of carries for Blount. He was the only New England back to touch the ball inside the ten-yard line last week, so he remains the favorite to take on any goal-line work. I’d still prefer Herron in cash and Blount in GPPs, but both could hit value at discounted price tags.
The Bears Defense is currently ranked 25th against WRs (per the RG DvP page) and they’ve been getting thrashed by the pass all season long, so despite Drew Brees’ recent struggles, I’m taking a chance on the Saints again this week. Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills were three of the biggest disappointments of Week 14 in a prime matchup at home, but a short memory in DFS can go a long way in giving you an edge week-to-week. Between Stills and Colston, Stills remains the preferred play. The concern with Stills is that he was only on the field for 25 of 56 offensive snaps, despite the Saints needing big plays from the passing game to have any prayer at a comeback. Regardless, he’s the big play threat among the New Orleans pass-catchers and with his price falling a few hundred dollars from last week, he’ll remain in serious cash game consideration for me. Despite having a lower ceiling than Stills, Colston may have a slightly higher floor. Both Stills and Colston move around in formations so it’s tough to tell who will see more of Tim Jennings; Jennings has played much better than rookie Kyle Fuller in recent weeks. Fuller hasn’t had a positive pass coverage rating since Week 6 (per Pro Football Focus), but the best matchup may actually lie with whoever spends more time in the slot against the Bears Cover 2. I’m more likely to play Kenny Stills in cash games, but both receivers are nice dollar per point targets under the bright lights in Week 15.
If you are looking for a high-upside option at the bottom of the barrel, Marquess Wilson is an excellent option at minimum price ($4,500). He’ll start alongside Alshon Jeffrey with Brandon Marshall out for the year, and should play most if not all of the offensive snaps in Trestman’s offense. He’s a physically gifted receiver at 6’4 and the Bears were very impressed with him during offseason workouts, so he could finally have his coming out party after making a minimal impact so far in 2014.
Tight End – Delanie Walker ($5,300 on FanDuel)
Speaking of Week 14 disasters, Walker qualifies as a heartbreaker after receiving ten targets but finishing with a 4-27 stat line. The blame certainly doesn’t fall squarely on Walker’s shoulders, though; the Tennessee offensive line was atrocious, and Zach Mettenberger didn’t look at all comfortable in the pocket since he was constantly under duress. While the Jets have been stout against the run this season, they are vulnerable to the pass (particularly to tight ends). Mettenberger is almost certainly not starting this week (it’s been reported that he’s out for the year, although Ken Whisenhunt has only gone as far as to call him “doubtful” for Week 15), which is actually good news for Walker. He’s shown better chemistry with Jake Locker (10-142-1 in Week 2 stands out), and as mentioned earlier, the matchup with the Jets is favorable. New York has allowed more touchdowns to TEs than any team in football, and allows the 5th most total fantasy points to the position.
Defense/Special Teams – Kansas City Chiefs ($4,900 on FanDuel)
A matchup with the Oakland Raiders in Arrowhead? For under $5,000? Sign me up! If you’ve streamed defenses against the Raiders this season, you’ve done fairly well for yourself at the D/ST position. While Latavius Murray is an exciting player, his emergence doesn’t fix the number of problems the Raiders have on the offensive side of the ball. Derek Carr is turnover prone and I don’t see Murray torching the Chiefs for 28.0 YPC again this week (like he did on four carries in Week 12), so fire up the Chiefs as a safe cash game play at $4,900.