FantasyLabs is a daily fantasy tools and real-time analytics platform that enables players to test theories, create and backtest models, and construct customized lineups. In this piece, Editor-in-Chief Matthew Freedman leverages the same Tools and Models used by co-founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) for each slate.
In guaranteed prize pools, a player’s ownership rate is just as important as his expected production. At FantasyLabs, Adam Levitan and company work hard to project and update each player’s GPP ownership on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Here are five players we project to have significantly lower ownership than other players in their salary ranges.
QB Aaron Rodgers: $7,000 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel
Several high-priced quarterbacks have great matchups this weekend, but Aaron Rodgers is not among them. While Ben Roethlisberger (at Cleveland), Cam Newton (at San Francisco), and Russell Wilson (at Green Bay) all face teams that were bottom-eight last year with 30-plus touchdown passes allowed, Rodgers faces a tough Seahawks defense that in 2016 held opposing passers to the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game (PPG). As a result, we’re projecting Rodgers for a single-digit ownership rate, while Roethlisberger, Newton, and Wilson (all of whom are on the road) could reach double-digits.
A perennial top-two fantasy quarterback who last year had a league-high 40 passing touchdowns, Rodgers gets the benefit of playing at home, and the Packers are currently third in the slate with an implied total of 27.0 points as 3.0-point favorites (per our Vegas Dashboard). At FantasyLabs we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual vs. expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous players at comparable salaries. Over the last three years, Rodgers as a home favorite has averaged 25.26 DraftKings and 23.76 FanDuel PPG with +5.06 and +3.29 Plus/Minus values (per our Trends tool).
RB LeSean McCoy: $8,200 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel
The third-most expensive back behind David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy has been a top-five fantasy back over the last two years despite losing 21 rushing touchdowns and three receiving scores to Mike Gillislee, Karlos Williams, Jonathan Williams, Anthony Dixon, and Reggie Bush. After their dominating performances last year, Johnson (at Detroit) and Bell (at Cleveland) are likely to receive the “Jam ‘Em In” treatment with ownership rates that exceed 30 percent. McCoy, however, will likely be owned in the teens.
The Bills are much worse than the Cardinals and Steelers, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (concussion) is not certain to play, but McCoy has several factors in his favor, as the Bills have a respectable 25.0-point implied total as slate-high 9.5-point home favorites against the Jets. With a dearth of backfield options behind him, a strong offensive line in front of him that returns all five starters, and a new offensive coordinator in Rick Dennison who historically has featured the ground game, McCoy has the potential to crush. Over the last two years as a home favorite he’s averaged an outstanding 24.71 DraftKings and 21.15 FanDuel PPG with +7.96 and +7.47 Plus/Minus values, hitting his salary-adjusted expectations in 75.0 percent of games.
RB Jay Ajayi: $6,500 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel
In comparison to McCoy, Jay Ajayi has an even steeper ownership discount. In the second tier of runners with Devonta Freeman (at Chicago), DeMarco Murray (vs. Oakland), and Jordan Howard (vs. Atlanta), Ajayi is expected to lag the group in ownership with a rate of less than five percent primarily because the Dolphins are implied for only 19.25 points as 2.5-point underdogs in what’s expected to be a low-scoring game against the Buccaneers.
While Ajayi trails Freeman, Murray, and Howard in projected ceiling, it’s wrong to think that he lacks upside. Last year, he became only the fourth back in history to rush for 200 yards in at least three games, joining Hall-of-Famers Earl Campbell and O.J. Simpson as well as the All-Pro Tiki Barber. After breaking out in Week 6 against the Steelers, Ajayi led the league with 229 carries and 1,155 yards rushing, and over the course of the season he captured an elite 69.7 percent of his team’s rush yards even though he started only 12 games. With Miami looking to keep the talented Tampa Bay offense off the field, minimize the negative impact of new quarterback Jay Cutler, and feature Ajayi more as a receiver, he should see a heavy workload at home.
*EDITOR'S NOTE: The Miami-Tampa Bay game has been postponed to Week 11. More details here.
WR T.Y. Hilton: $6,900 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel
This pivot play is not for the faint of heart. Priced in the second tier of receivers with Jordy Nelson (vs. Seattle), Dez Bryant (vs. New York Giants), Amari Cooper (at Tennessee), and Doug Baldwin (at Green Bay), T.Y. Hilton is expected to garner no more than a four percent ownership rate. Given that quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) has been ruled out for Week 1, it makes sense for fantasy players to be cautious of Hilton, whose Colts are implied for only 19.0 points as 3.5-point road underdogs to the Rams. Considering that on a per-game basis Hilton throughout his career has been better at home (80.5 yards) than on the road (69.5), as a favorite (85.0) than an underdog (59.3), and with Luck (76.9) than without him (63.0), Hilton as a Luckless road dog is in the worst possible situation.
Nevertheless, Hilton is advantaged in that he is facing the Rams, who last year allowed the third-most fantasy points in the league to opposing wide receiver units at 41.9 DraftKings and 33.0 FanDuel PPG. The Rams seem likely to be without contract-holdout All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and their ability to pressure fill-in quarterback Scott Tolzien will be diminished. With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Rams are transitioning from a 4-3 to a one-gap 3-4. Although they eventually will be dynamic, they could struggle in their first game in the new scheme, especially in the secondary, which has been substantially altered in the offseason. All it takes is one defensive mistake for Hilton to turn a short reception into a long touchdown and return value at his projected ownership. He’s still the guy with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and a league-leading 1,448 yards receiving last year.
TE Tyler Eifert: $4,600 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel
With Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce playing on Thursday night and Kyle Rudolph, Hunter Henry, and Antonio Gates playing on Monday night, the main slate is thin in talent. After Jordan Reed (vs. Philadelphia) and Greg Olsen (at San Francisco), the quartet of Jimmy Graham (at Green Bay), Delanie Walker (vs. Oakland), Zach Ertz (at Washington), and Tyler Eifert (vs. Baltimore) form a second tier. While Graham, Walker, and Ertz all get the benefit of facing defenses that last year allowed double-digit fantasy PPG to tight ends, Eifert has to face the divisional rival Ravens, who were third against the position in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. Ertz in particular will be popular as the primary middle-of-the-field receiver for the Eagles with Jordan Matthews now in Buffalo. Eifert could have one-third of Ertz’s ownership.
Even with his tough matchup, Eifert has significant upside. In fact, he leads the position with his FantasyLabs ceiling projection. He’s missed 26 of his last 48 potential games, but when he’s played, he’s dominated. In his 19 healthy games over the last two seasons, he’s scored 18 touchdowns. No tight end has more touchdowns since 2015. Since being drafted in 2013, Eifert has been quarterback Andy Dalton’s best receiver, gifting the passer with 8.9 adjusted yards per attempt on 179 targets. With the Bengals as three-point favorites, Eifert at home is in a good spot. Over the last two seasons Eifert has averaged 15.69 DraftKings and 13.19 FanDuel PPG and +5.73 and +5.90 Plus/Minus values in his 16 games as a favorite.