Welcome to the FanDuel Week 16 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. With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s worth taking a look at the playoff standings to see who is still playing meaningful football. The effect isn’t huge, but teams that have packed it in may be quicker to turn to younger players, while teams in the hunt will be going full throttle.
Let’s kick off Week 16 with the RotoGrinders 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.
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Matt Stafford vs. Chicago (32nd vs. QBs) – Stafford’s $8,200 price tag and elite matchup make him one of the safer cash game plays of the weekend, although we’d obviously prefer this game to be played inside in Detroit. It’s not expected to fall below freezing at Soldier Field on Sunday and no precipitation is in the forecast as of Wednesday afternoon, so weather shouldn’t be an issue for the Lions passing game. With Megatron healthy and Golden Tate still rolling, Stafford has a nice arsenal of weapons at his disposal and who better to show it off against then the disaster known as the Chicago Bears? They’ve allowed a league-high 33 passing TDs this season and the defense hasn’t shown any recent signs of improvement, so it’s wise to continue picking on them. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some Calvin-to-Stafford combinations at the top of GPP leaderboards this weekend.
C.J. Anderson vs. Cincinnati (28th vs. RBs) – While they’ve shown some signs of improvement in the second half of the season, the Bengals Defense isn’t nearly as tough as they were last year. They’ve allowed 14 rushing TDs to the RB position through 14 games, the 3rd most in football, and it’s also worth noting the struggles they’ve had with pass-catching RBs. Cincinnati has allowed the 8th most receiving yards to RBs including the 9th most receptions, so there aren’t many stats working in the Bengals favor against a tough Denver running attack. Anderson is still getting the large majority of the work with Juwan Thompson occasionally spelling him, but it is possible that Ronnie Hillman makes his return on Sunday. I’d still bet that Hillman sits, but even if he suits up, he’s not likely to eat into Anderson’s workload to the point where C.J.’s fantasy outlook would take a dive. Anderson has averaged 27.25 carries in his last four starts, including five total TDs in that span, so take advantage of the matchup and sub-$8K price tag this weekend.
Marques Colston and Kenny Stills (28th vs. WRs) – The price is simply too good on these guys given the matchup with the Falcons in the Superdome. At $6,100, both players qualify as punt plays and can go a long way in helping you afford a top flight option elsewhere in your lineup. Marques Colston showed his worth on Monday night with red-zone score and a 5-65-1 line against the Bears secondary, a line he could very well match or exceed indoors against the Falcons. Since he’s playing a higher number of snaps and is more consistently involved in the red-zone, Colston is the Saints WR I’m most likely to roster this weekend. Don’t sleep on Stills though, he’s a guy that can hit value on a single play. Since playing on 44% of the snaps against Pittsburgh in Week 13, Stills has played on at least 60% of snaps in the past two weeks. He’s also out-targeted Colston over the past four weeks by a 27-23 margin, so the lower snap count hasn’t had much of an impact on his usage. Simply put, Colston is the safer cash game play while Stills is better served as a high-upside GPP option.
Up next is 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.
Fred Jackson ($6,700 on FanDuel) – The top two names on the RB targets list aren’t surprising, but the name in the #3 spot may open some eyes (in case you can’t tell, it’s Jackson). His 14-target Week 14 is an obvious outlier that I certainly don’t expect him to come close to matching this weekend, but his involvement in the passing game does help to keep Jackson’s floor relatively high given his price tag. With C.J. Spiller on the shelf, he’s the no doubt #1 RB in this offense and with Oakland due up this Sunday, the Bills should be in control most of the afternoon and will likely lean heavily on the run late in the game. Jackson is also his own goal-line back and with 3-5 catches to go along with his rushing totals, he’s a very capable producer for $6,700 in this matchup. Old Faithful (not sure if that nickname will stick) is now averaging nearly 6.5 targets per game on the season and his opponent on Sunday just happens to allow the 2nd most fantasy points to the RB position in 2014. If he’s able to find the end zone on Sunday, Jackson could prove to be a GPP difference maker with the Bills still in the race for a playoff spot.
A.J. Green ($8,600 on FanDuel) – Speaking of playoff races, the Bengals are in a heated three-way battle with the Steelers and Ravens for a playoff spot, and a victory at home over the Broncos on Monday night would be absolutely huge. It’s tough to figure out what the problem has been with Peyton Manning over the past few weeks, but I’m still chalking it up to an anomaly and fully expect the Broncos to come out firing. If the Bengals hope to keep pace, they will need another big performance from leading man A.J. Green. Jeremy Hill stole the show in Week 15 and Cincinnati could play the time of possession game and pound him into the ground, but I really like the consistent target totals that Green has seen since getting healthy towards the middle of the season. He’s averaged 11.33 targets per game over his last six, which would slot him #2 in the NFL in targets per game if it were scaled to a full season. Green is a big factor in the red-zone, and while I really like both of the Broncos outside CBs (Chris Harris and Aqib Talib), matchup isn’t as big of a factor when a guy with Green’s ability takes the field. He’s going to win one-on-one battles with almost anyone, and if the Broncos don’t shade some extra coverage his way, another huge stat line could be in the works.
Now onto the Market Watch page, 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.
Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers (10,000 and $9,900, both down $200) – I grouped these two together since there really isn’t a whole lot to say here; it’s tough to find enough value to roster high-end signal callers this week, but if you can do it, these two have very high floors in excellent matchups. The concern with Rodgers is a blowout, but if the Pack are up enough to turn away from the pass, it’s likely he played a big role in building that lead. Tampa Bay allows the 4th most fantasy points to opposing WRs, which is great news for a guy who has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb at his side. It also doesn’t hurt that Green Bay has the second-highest team total of Week 16. As for Luck, he’ll be taking on a Cowboys squad ranked in the bottom half of the league against QBs, and this matchup is expected to be among the highest scoring of the weekend (55 O/U, with DAL as a -3 favorite). He’ll likely air it out 40+ times, and although the Cowboys Defense is better than we expected this season, they are by no means elite. Luck should have his way in this matchup.
Vincent Jackson ($6,700 on FanDuel, down $200) – After productive games in Weeks 14 and 15, I can’t figure out why Jackson’s price is falling, but I’ll take it! Mike Evans is the 1A WR in Tampa and he’s going to be a very good player for a long time, but Jackson is still a high-level talent in his own right and he has more than enough in the tank to take advantage of any extra coverage thrown at Evans. Given his so-so 2014 season, it’s a little surprising to see Jackson tied for 4th in total targets, and even more surprising that he’s received more red-zone looks than his Evans (who has 11 TDs to Jackson’s 2). With a combined 27 targets in the last two weeks, expect Jackson to see a healthy number of looks against a Packers Defense that has allowed the 11th most fantasy points to opposing WRs.
Julius Thomas ($6,000 on FanDuel, down $300) – It’s definitely hard to trust Thomas after what we’ve gotten from him the past two weeks (he didn’t play a single snap in one of them despite being active), but his price tag reflects that. I would’ve never guessed I’d see Thomas’ price fall this far after his red hot start. It’s still pretty amazing that he’s tied for the league-lead in receiving touchdowns despite being a ghost on the fantasy front in recent weeks, and I’m sure he’s well aware of his current standing in the race. If he’s remotely healthy and isn’t limited in terms of snaps or routes run, Thomas should finally break out of his slump and make his way into the painted grass. Denver’s passing game has struggled mightily since his injury.
Welcome to Value Town, parts unknown. Here I’ll highlight a few players with price tags that don’t add up to their level of talent and/or matchup. You won’t find the Peyton Mannings of the world here, but rather players towards the bottom of the salary chart that have the upside to produce at an elite level. Most of these plays are geared towards GPPs, but some of them will be playable across all game types if the price is right. FanDuel has a relatively loose pricing setup (although it’s tightened up some this year) that doesn’t force you to go cheap at more than a few positions, so hopefully a player or two listed here can help you fill out your lineup.
Quarterback – Mark Sanchez ($7,500 on FanDuel)
After a loss at home in a huge division battle with the Cowboys, Sanchez and the Eagles will look for redemption against a Redskins team that is the definition of a dumpster fire as the season winds down. Although most of the attention in Washington is on a coach who clearly doesn’t like his team’s “franchise quarterback,” the most notable issue in D.C. (from a fantasy perspective, at least) lies with the porous Redskins pass defense. Per Pro Football Focus, Washington has the league’s worst rated pass coverage despite having an average pass rush (14th best). David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland are arguably the worst starting CB duo in the league and they’ve been getting absolutely roasted by opposing QBs since DeAngelo Hall and slot corner Tracy Porter have been out. The Skins have holes at safety as well and it’s very likely that the Eagles try to exploit those weaknesses early and often on Saturday afternoon. LeSean McCoy was bottled up by this defense earlier in the year and while I expect a better performance from the Eagles running game, I’m still very high on Sanchez at an appealing $7,500 price tag. For those playing in Sunday only leagues, Kyle Orton is available for $7,200 and steps into a matchup with the Raiders, who own the league’s 6th worst pass coverage on the season (per PFF). Orton isn’t someone I’ll play in cash games, but he’s a nice tournament option in a plus matchup.
Running Back – Tre Mason ($6,500 on FanDuel)
Mason has been somewhat of a boom or bust player in what is the toughest division in all of football for opposing RBs (playing SEA, SF and ARZ twice isn’t exactly a cakewalk), but he’s got a great shot to go “boom” in Week 16. The Giants have allowed the 8th most fantasy points to opposing tailbacks this year and Mason has seen some big workloads in games that have stayed competitive. Mason was held to 13 touches last week with the Rams playing from behind, but the good news is that Benny Cunningham only accounted for two carries of his own (Zac Stacy hasn’t touched the ball since November). The Rams will likely try to establish the ground game with a very inconsistent Shaun Hill at the helm, so I’m expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 touches from Mason. If he’s able to find the end zone, a big day could be in store and his $6,500 price tag certainly doesn’t break the bank.
Wide Receiver – Brandon LaFell ($6,800 on FanDuel)
The Jets have the league’s top-rated run defense according to PFF, so we should attack them with one of the league’s better aerial attacks. Rob Gronkowski is my favorite option in New England, but Brady’s outside WRs deserve a long look in this matchup. With Julian Edelman priced out of play for me at $7,600, I’ll roll with the high-upside option in LaFell for under $7K. The former Carolina Panther has posted a few huge stat lines this year thanks to solid yet unspectacular usage in the red-zone (13 total RZ targets), and he’ll remain a factor in close when the Pats are throwing. LaFell has seen at least seven targets in six of New England’s last seven games (11+ in three of them) so his overall usage has been fairly consistent as of late, which isn’t something we’ve come to expect from any of the pass-catchers outside of a healthy Gronk. Even with a discounted $6,800 price tag, LaFell will likely still fall a bit under the radar, and he makes a fantastic GPP play with the Patriots still playing for playoff seeding/home field advantage late in the season.
Tight End – Travis Kelce ($5,600 on FanDuel)
As mentioned above, I’ll be heavily targeting Gronk as a cash game tight end since the mid-range options are very inconsistent, but I’ll be diversifying in GPPs. Kelce will be a big part of my large-field tournament lineups now that he’s playing a higher number of snaps and seems to have earned a slightly larger role in the passing game. He’s racked up 15 targets in the last two games combined, and while that’s not usually worth writing home about, it’s worth noting that he has the highest average YAC of any tight end this season. He was coined as a game-breaking player during the preseason and he’s shown flashes of that when given the opportunity. Pittsburgh has allowed the 5th most TDs to tight ends this season, further entrenching Kelce as a viable GPP option in a Kansas City offense that boasts little talent at WR.
Defense/Special Teams – Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,600) and Buffalo Bills ($5,100)
I’m cheating with the Bills at $5,100, but there really isn’t a unit I’d feel comfortable rolling out in a cash game below that price. They have a matchup with a turnover prone Raiders Offense that features a rookie QB, and the Bills have been one of the league’s better defensive units on the season. Buffalo allows the 5th fewest passing yards (7th best pass rush, 8th best pass coverage per PFF) and the 9th fewest rush yards (4th ranked run defense per PFF), so the $5,100 price tag actually seems like a bargain. This unit hasn’t scored fewer than six FPs since the middle of October, so I’ll have significant exposure to them in cash games. If you are playing in leagues starting on Thursday, the Jaguars D/ST is a nice way to save some cap. They draw a matchup with a putrid Titans Offense that will likely be relying on Checkdown Charlie Whitehurst this week, so it’s fair to expect limited offensive output for Tennessee on a short week.