Welcome to the Week 3 FanDuel Primer, brought to you by RotoGrinders. Now that we have a few weeks in the books and more data to analyze, I’ll be switching up the format this week to highlight some new aspects of our stat pages. This week’s column will focus more on targets and percentage of workload data, something I touched on briefly during the first two weeks of the season.
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.com. 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.
Before we get deep into the targets/percentage of workload analysis, let’s start things off with our Defense vs. Position page. This page gives you an idea of how each team defends a particular position; we’ve been using 2014 data up until this point, but we’ll now rely more on what we’ve seen so far this year. This is one of my favorite tools to use each week, and I rely on it more each week as the sample size continues to grow. All player salaries listed below are from FanDuel.
Quarterback – Nick Foles ($6,500 on FanDuel, vs. Pittsburgh)
What was once referred to as the “Steel Curtain” has more or less turned into a cotton curtain, at least when it comes to fantasy points allowed to QBs. Since Week 7 of last season, the Steelers have allowed an average of over 22 FPs per game to opposing QBs. Every QB they’ve faced in that time span has put up a top 10 performance (among QBs) except Alex Smith, who also happened to be the only QB to not throw for 2+ TDs against them, per J.J. Zachariason (@LateRoundQB). Thus far in 2015, Pittsburgh has allowed the most FPs to opposing QBs, including six total TDs and an average of over 300 yards per game.
This all obviously sets up well for Foles. He’s had a relatively slow start in St. Louis, but we can’t expect nearly the same volume in terms of pass attempts as he was accustomed to in Philly. Regardless, he’s in a great spot to succeed in Week 3, and at just a $6,500 price tag, he’s a top dollar per point play at the QB position. I’m comfortable with him in any format (cash games and GPPs) at that price.
Running Back – Le’Veon Bell ($8,800, at St. Louis)
He’s back! After serving a two-game suspension to start 2015, Bell will look to pick up where he left off in 2014. At least according to 2015 DvP stats, Bell steps into a great matchup in Week 3; the Rams have allowed the most FPs to opposing backs through two weeks. St. Louis was an above average run defense in 2014 and I definitely expect them to regress towards the middle of the DvP pack as the season moves along, but they’ve struggled against the run so far. They were able to hold Marshawn Lynch relatively in check (18 carries for 73 yards, no TDs), but struggled mightily against the Redskins’ RB tandem last week (37 carries for 182 yards and two scores). Pittsburgh is a very narrow favorite in this game (-1.5 as of this writing), which bodes well for Bell, although he’s a factor in the offense regardless of game flow. There aren’t many safer options at the RB spot in Week 3.
Wide Receiver – Brandon Marshall ($7,400, vs. Philadelphia)
To say the Eagles secondary has been a problem would be a massive understatement. They drew a rough Week 1 assignment with Julio Jones and Co., but things didn’t improve a ton in Week 2 when they faced a Dez Bryant-less Cowboys Offense. Byron Maxwell has been absolutely atrocious, allowing a perfect passer rating through two weeks, including two TDs and 15 catches for 240 yards. Marshall will likely draw him in coverage, which appears to be the matchup we’d want. Through two weeks as a Jet, Marshall has racked up 19 targets and two TDs, which is especially impressive considering he drew Vontae Davis in coverage at points on Monday night. I think we can expect a stat line similar to his Week 2 performance (7-101-1), but the ceiling is considerably higher than that.
Tight End – Jimmy Graham ($6,300, vs. Chicago)
Have you heard the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? Graham is the squeaky wheel this week after reports have surfaced that he’s unhappy with his role in Seattle (big surprise!). The former Saint has averaged just 5.0 targets per game, although it’s worth noting that four of his ten targets have come in the red zone. Seattle has a great opportunity to get their best pass-catcher going this week; Chicago allowed the most FPs to opposing tight ends in 2014. They have been stout against the position in 2015, but most of that has to do with the two opponents they’ve faced (Green Bay and Arizona, neither of whom have highly targeted TEs). The Bears allowed 13 receiving TDs to TEs in 2014, making Graham a good bet to find the end zone on Sunday.
Let’s transition to the Targets page, where you’ll find a breakdown of touches, targets, red-zone targets and percentage of workload, among other stats (big ups to Brian Hourigan, aka CruzinToVictory, on improving our Targets page for Week 3 and beyond). 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. Instead of hand-picking a few players to touch on, I’m going to give a general overview of what’s happened through two weeks.
Wide Receivers that have averaged at least 10 targets per game through two weeks:
Julian Edelman – 15.5
Demaryius Thomas – 12.5
Steve Smith – 11.5
There are quite a few predictable names on this list, but also a few that are eye-opening. Julian Edelman has been a PPR machine through two weeks and is in another good spot in Week 3 against Jacksonville. Along with Antonio Brown, he’s a safe cash game play on almost any given week. Even with Peyton Manning seemingly losing some of his swagger, both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas continue to be high volume options. They are both solid tournament plays in Week 3 against a Lions Defense that was picked apart by Philip Rivers in Week 1. If DeAndre Hopkins is forced to miss Week 3 (he’s been diagnosed with a concussion), Cecil Shorts would be an excellent punt play on FanDuel for only $5,200. It’s very rare to be able to find someone you can pencil in for 8-10 targets at that price tag.
Wide Receivers that have averaged at least two red-zone targets per game through two weeks:
We see some of the same names from the list above here (Edelman, Hopkins, Hilton, Landry). If you can find players with a high volume of targets that are also important factors in the red zone, you’ll set yourself up for success by rostering them. Heading into Week 3, Jarvis Landry is my top dollar per point play of this group, as his $7,600 price tag is still a tad below where it should be. Vincent Jackson’s role in the red zone will diminish somewhat with Mike Evans back in the fold, and it’s always tough to trust any of Colin Kaepernick’s pass-catchers (Anquan Boldin). Boldin will likely finish the season as a top-25 WR as he always seems to do, but he’s hard to trust as a cash-game staple in DFS.
Top Five WRs in terms of Percentage of Workload (POW) through two weeks (in terms of total touches):
Julian Edelman – 24 touches, 23.53% POW (e.g. Edelman receives 23.52% of his team’s touches)
Jarvis Landry – 18 touches, 20.93% POW
Julio Jones – 22 touches, 20.18% POW
Antonio Brown – 18 touches, 19.35% POW
Emmanuel Sanders – 17 touches, 17.53% POW
Tight Ends that have averaged at least seven targets per game through two weeks:
Rob Gronkowski – 10.5
Kyle Rudolph – 7.0
This list is fairly small for now, although I’d expect guys like Martellus Bennett, Travis Kelce and potentially Jimmy Graham (if the squeaky wheel gets the grease) to approach the 7.0 targets per game threshold in the coming weeks. As for what we’re working with now, it’s absolutely no surprise to see Rob Gronkowski as the most utilized TE in the league. He’s more or less impossible to defend, and if you have the cap space, he’s a great option at TE in cash games (and GPPs) this week. If you are playing the Thursday night slate, give Jordan Reed a long look. He’s gelled nicely with Kirk Cousins and is still a good deal cheaper than he should be on FanDuel. Zach Ertz and Eric Ebron are the wildcards of the group. Ertz has just six receptions despite being targeted 15 times, and he’ll be very hard to trust as long as the Philly offense is in a rut. Eric Ebron seems to have meshed well with Matthew Stafford, and has eaten into Calvin Johnson’s workload in the red zone. Don’t forget that the Lions used a very high pick (10th overall in 2014) to select Ebron, so they certainly want to see what they have in the athletic TE.
Tight Ends that have averaged at least two red-zone targets through two weeks:
Heath Miller has double-digit fantasy points in both games this season, although his workload was much higher in Week 1. I don’t think his production drops off too much (if at all) with Le’Veon Bell back, but Miller’s red-zone workload will take a hit when Martavis Bryant returns. Until that happens, Miller is a nice mid-range play at TE ($5,800 on FanDuel this week).
Top Five TEs in terms of Percentage of Workload:
Jared Cook – 10 touches, 13.51% POW
Jason Witten – 15 touches, 12.82% POW
Tyler Eifert – 13 touches, 12.15% POW
Rob Gronkowski – 12 touches, 11.76% POW
Jordan Reed – 13 touches, 11.11% POW
It’s a bit surprising to see Jared Cook at the top of the list. The Rams haven’t thrown the ball a ton in the season’s first two weeks, but Cook has garnered a fair amount of attention from Nick Foles. With Foles in a great spot to succeed in Week 3, Cook could be a great option to pair him with in large-field tournaments.
Welcome 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.
I’m actually fairly comfortable using either one of these guys in cash games this week. I wrote up Fitzpatrick here last week and noted that Tyrod Taylor was the safer cash game play – that still holds true this week. Taylor is a tad too pricey to own any property in Value Town ($7,000 on FanDuel), but his floor (and ceiling) is higher than Fitzpatrick’s. What Fitzpatrick does have going for him is that he’ll face an Eagles Defense that allowed the third-most fantasy points to QBs in 2014, and things haven’t improved a whole lot since then. Their prize in free agency (Byron Maxwell) has given up a perfect passer rating through two games, so look for Fitzpatrick to utilize his most dangerous weapon (Brandon Marshall) early and often on Sunday.
I’ve already discussed Foles in detail, but the main takeaway is that the Steelers simply cannot defend the pass. They’ve been picked apart by opposing QBs since the mid-way point of last season. Foles is an option in cash games if you need to spend down at QB, but he’s better used as a GPP option.
Jonathan Stewart hasn’t rewarded his DFS owners to this point in the season, but he’s still seeing the workload of a lead back (40 touches through two games); he just hasn’t found the end zone yet. Game flow sets up nicely for Stewart yet again this week with the Panthers getting the Saints at home, so expect him to see 20-something touches yet again. Freeman and Starks are both the beneficiaries of injuries to lead backs, making them very strong DFS plays as long as they are priced like backups. Tevin Coleman is expected to miss a few weeks with a rib issue, so look for Freeman to take on a much bigger responsibility in Week 3. He’s not an ideal lead back and is better used as a change-of-pace option or as a pass-catcher, but the touches should be there for him to exceed value at $6,500.
Starks’ value is still somewhat up in the air. Eddie Lacy’s status should become clearer at the conclusion of Thursday’s practice, but as of now it still seems like he has a chance to suit up. If Lacy is ruled out, Starks would be the top dollar per point play at the RB spot on FanDuel. Starks finished with 24 touches last week after Lacy left with an ankle injury.
Moncrief has come flying out of the gate in 2015 and has a chance to keep it going with the Titans secondary on deck. With T.Y. Hilton not at 100%, Moncrief led the Colts in routes run on Monday night with 38 (Hilton had 36, Johnson 31). Andre Johnson hasn’t looked good in either of his first two games as a Colt, and I have to believe that Moncrief has passed him on the targets totem pole. Hilton may still be hampered by his knee, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Moncrief lead the receiving core in routes run again this week.
Cecil Shorts has been a big part of the Texans aerial attack so far in 2015. Much of that has to do with the sheer volume of pass attempts for Houston through two games, but they’ll likely be in those types of spots more often than not this year. If DeAndre Hopkins sits out, Shorts’ value will get a boost, and Nate Washington would also become a viable GPP target.
I typically only play the Thursday night slates to fade that game completely (it can give you a big edge in Thursday GPPs), but Reed is a solid target if you want some exposure to the TNF contest. Reed’s percentage of workload has nearly mirrored Rob Gronkowski’s so far this year and he’s Washington’s top option in the red zone. The price tag is still too low. As for Cook, he appears to be Nick Foles’ favorite target in St. Louis, and I’ve already noted on numerous occasions how poorly the Steelers defend the pass. Pittsburgh has given up four receiving TDs to TEs already this year (the Raiders are the only other team to have allowed more than three), and allowed 11 (T-3rd most in the NFL) to the position last season.