Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 8

Photo credit: foxsports.com
No real bad beat stories from Week 7, and thanks to Lamar Miller and others it was a solid week. DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald were busts but as highly owned chalk plays, their poor performances were mitigated in cash games, but they likely did a number on many tournament teams. That's where going against the grain in GPP's pays off.

As usual, top plays are more focused on players to play in cash games, but will be solid tournament picks if you diversify your roster elsewhere. Tournament shots are guys who are not safe for cash consideration on full-slate games, but could be difference-makers in a big GPP.

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: October 29, 2015

If you read this article for the Wednesday night slate, you were likely treated to 45-point performances from Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, James Harden and Danilo Gallinari on your way to some solid return on investment on a 14-game night. Thursday brings us a small three-game slate, and a rather unexciting one at that, if Vegas has anything to say about it.

Read the rest at The Fantasy Fix ($)

Week 7 Rookie Report: Yeldon returns, speedy receivers make their mark

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We’re at the point in the NFL season where rookies who didn’t come out of the gate hot have had a month and a half to get their feet wet in the pros, which usually leads to an increased comfort level as October comes to a close. This week’s edition of the Rookie Report features a slow-starting rookie running back who carried his team’s offense to a Week 7 win, as well as two speedy wide receivers who made the most of their opportunities in their team’s victories. Chris Tripodi breaks it all down in this week’s report. 

T.J. Yeldon (RB-Jax)

Just one year after signing Toby Gerhart to a three-year, $10.5 million contract, the Jaguars admitted the failure of that move by drafting T.J. Yeldon with the fourth pick in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Yeldon burst onto the scene as a freshman at Alabama, rushing for 1,108 yards while sharing carries with Eddie Lacy and totaling over 3,000 rushing yards in his three years with the Crimson Tide. Jacksonville saw enough in Yeldon to make him the third running back off the board, hoping he could spark a running game that put too much responsibility on a raw Blake Bortles last season. After missing Week 6 with a groin injury, Yeldon’s career-high 115 yards against the Bills in London on Sunday played an important role in Jacksonville’s close victory.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: October 28, 2015

Photo credit: Getty Images
The first night of regular-season NBA DFS is officially in the books, but the real fun starts Wednesday with a 14-game slate. Only the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks have the night off, which means nearly every NBA player is available for tonight’s action. Stephen Curry‘s huge night was the story Tuesday but unfortunately, the reigning NBA MVP won’t have an opportunity to repeat until Friday. Enough about last night, and on to the jam-packed Wednesday slate.

Read the rest at The Fantasy Fix ($)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Buster Skrine's quick recovery gves Jets' secondary a boost

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Just before halftime of the Jets' Week 6 victory over the Redskins, Buster Skrine left the field with what was later diagnosed as a concussion. Dexter McDougle played well in place of Skrine in the second half, and would have been set for an increased role in Week 7 if Skrine didn't pass through the NFL's mandatory concussion protocol.

After practicing with a non-contact jersey early in the week, Skrine shed the jersey Friday after passing the protocol and is listed as probable for Sunday's game, meaning the Jets' secondary will be at full strength as they prepare to take on Tom Brady in Foxboro. Darrelle Revis still seems likely to shadow Julian Edelman even when the Patriots receiver mans the slot, as Skrine has plenty of outside experience as well.

Skrine's versatility is the big reason his return is so important to the Jets' defense. With Revis set to stick with Edelman in a battle that will likely occur as often inside as it does outside, the Jets need a reliable presence to shore up the boundary when Revis slides to the slot. While McDougle looked good against the Redskins, Kirk Cousins and Tom Brady are in completely different leagues and Brady would very likely have put a target on McDougle's back, thrusting the second-year player into a spotlight he may not yet be fully ready for.

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 7

Week 5 it was Devonta Freeman. Week 6 it was DeAndre Hopkins. My fading of highly owned players has certainly cost me the past two weeks. My teams performed well enough in Week 5 to survive Freeman's outburst, plus I did have him on a few teams, but playing Hopkins in Week 6 would've made me quite a bit of money, as most of my cash teams finished within 10 points of the money, and he outscored players I played in a similar price range by 20-plus.

Lesson learned on both, as you'll see below. They are STILL underpriced despite rising $1,000 or so from last week. This may be the final week of the season you'll get Hopkins for less than $9,000 and Freeman for under $8,000, and their matchups aren't intimidating. If you can fit both in cash games, do it.

As usual, top plays are more focused on players to play in cash games, but will be solid tournament picks if you diversify your roster elsewhere. Tournament shots are guys who are not safe for cash consideration on full-slate games, but could be difference-makers in a big GPP.

Photo credit: profootballtalk.com
Quarterback

Top Plays

Carson Palmer ($6,700) vs. BAL
Philip Rivers ($6,500) vs. OAK
Andrew Luck ($7,600) vs. NO

From three road suggestions last week to three home ones this week. Carson Palmer has a great argument for the top spot at QB altogether for cash games regardless of price, as he's yet to score fewer than 18 points in a week. The Ravens are dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and bottom-five in yards allowed and yards per attempt. Taking into account his price point, Palmer is the unquestioned top play of the week.

Philip Rivers is coming off a 500-yard week in Green Bay, and returns home to San Diego to face the Raiders. Oakland has been an average pass defense so far this season but is elite against the run, although that may not be sustainable. Regardless, the Chargers have struggled on the ground so far this season, and this projects as another high-volume week for Rivers, who has topped 48 pass attempts in each of the past two weeks.

Andrew Luck looked as comfortable as he has all season in last week's loss to the Patriots, and the Colts return home to face a Saints team that allows the second-most yards per attempt so far this season. Luck's priced has dropped from its early-season spot and still keeps him behind Palmer and Rivers, but he's a good option if you have some extra money, or you want to use him in a tournament.

Tournament Shots

Blake Bortles ($5,400) vs. BUF (London)
Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,200) at NE
Drew Brees ($7,000) at IND

Blake Bortles' shoulder issue didn't keep him from throwing 53 passes last week and with seven TD tosses in his past two games, he's as hot as anybody in the fantasy realm, where his subpar completion percentage doesn't count against him. The Bills have struggled to rush the passer this season, which could allow Bortles to work from a clean pocket, a deviation from his norm. A third straight big week is possible, although the floor still feels low.

Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't generally viewed as a high-upside quarterback, but unless the Jets get out to an early lead and can pound Chris Ivory at will, he's going to have to throw. A lot. That may lead to an interception or two, but could also lead to his first 300-yard game of the season. Sprinkle in the potential for multiple touchdowns with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker playing as well as they are, and you could get some nice production at a near-minimum price.

Speaking of shoulder issues, Drew Brees has also bounced back nicely after missing a week of action to rack up three straight 300-yard games. Problem is, his receiving corps is weak enough that he has yet to throw for three touchdowns in a game this season, and he has the fourth-highest price among QBs this week. He's a lock to go very low-owned and if he can pull out a 350-yard, three-TD performance against a poor Colts secondary, he could provide a nice boost if Palmer and Rivers don't explode.

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Running Back

Top Plays

Todd Gurley ($5,000) vs. CLE
Devonta Freeman ($7,900) at TEN
LeSean McCoy ($5,500) vs. JAX (London)

If you don't play Todd Gurley this week, good luck making any money in cash games. He has over 300 rushing yards since taking over the starting job, and the Browns rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. No more analysis is needed, and he's a really tough fade in tournaments too. He'll likely be a top play every week until his price rises closer to $7,000.

Freeman has four straight games with over 35 fantasy points and gets a Titans defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry. Sometimes this game plays itself, and that's the case with Gurley and Freeman this week. Fade at your own risk in cash games.

After the top two plays, there is much less clarity this week. LeSean McCoy looked good last week despite claiming he wasn't fully healthy, and the Bills gave him most of the backfield work. The Jaguars allow just 3.4 yards per carry but due to game flow, they've faced almost 30 carries per game and were gashed by Doug Martin in Week 5 away from home before holding Arian Foster in check last week in Jacksonville. Without Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin out, this week should be all about McCoy once again, giving him a decent floor at his price in a game the Bills are projected to control as four-point favorites in London.

Tournament Shots

Chris Ivory ($5,800) at NE
Lamar Miller ($4,600) vs. HOU
Christine Michael ($3,000) at NYG
With the Jets instilled as nine-point underdogs in New England this weekend, game-flow concerns will likely keep Chris Ivory from being highly owned. Maybe it's the Jets fan in me, but I'm not buying that spread and think this game will be played within a touchdown. The Jets know they have to ride Ivory to stay in the game, and the Patriots' run defense allows 4.9 yards per carry on fewer than 20 rushes per game. If the Jets stay close and Ivory gets to 20 touches, he could have another nice day with potentially low ownership.

Last week was a great time to use Lamar Miller in a tournament, but this week isn't too bad either with the Dolphins returning home as favorites against the Texans. New coach Dan Campbell is obviously committed to running the ball, unlike Joe Philbin, and Miller is still priced in the low-end RB2 range, which means he's about $1,000 underpriced. Most teams will take Gurley at this price point at RB, meaning Miller could still be somewhat underowned even with some chasing last week's points.

Even at minimum price, Christine Michael is the ultimate boom-or-bust play this week. He's never shown anything at the NFL level and while he may be starting this week, the Giants play solid run defense and his workload is uncertain. He's also likely to be somewhat highly owned, which is why he's only third on my list of tournament shots.

Wide Receiver

Photo credit: torotimes.com
Top Plays

DeAndre Hopkins ($8,600) at MIA
Larry Fitzgerald ($7,400) vs. BAL
Willie Snead ($4,300) at IND
Eric Decker ($5,300) at NE

I'm a week late to the Hopkins party, but I did recommend him in Week 5 on the Thursday slate. Anyway, enough about past regrets, and on to this week. Hopkins has been uncoverable this season, and he's seeing about 15 targets per game. With Brian Hoyer able to get him the ball better than Ryan Mallett, Hopkins' floor and ceiling are each insane. He's scored at least 27 fantasy points in five of six games, and could easily go for 40-plus in any given week. He's a must-play again this week, as Miami doesn't have anybody that can slow him down.

Larry Fitzgerald continues his 2015 resurgence with Carson Palmer under center, and he's yet to truly disappoint this season. A lock for at least 15 points, Fitzgerald gets a primetime matchup with a brutal Baltimore secondary. All members of the Cardinals' passing game are great options this week, with Fitzgerald being the top dog in cash games.

In order to fit players like Freeman, Hopkins and Fitzgerald into lineups, you have to go cheap somewhere. Enter Willie Snead, who looks to be the No. 1 receiver in New Orleans. I have my doubts as to whether Vontae Davis will shadow Snead this week, as I still think the Colts will put him on the more explosive Brandin Cooks. A reliable possession receiver who runs great routes, Snead's floor is high.

Eric Decker started the season overpriced at $6,000, but that has corrected itself over the past few weeks. He has scored in all four games he's played this season, and averaged 6.5 targets per game. That number isn't high enough to sustain great production without the scores, but Decker has a great chance to push 10 targets this week in a game the Jets project to be trailing in. While I don't buy the big spread, the Jets will need to throw to keep up, and any early lead they build will come with some production from Decker. The Patriots tend to shut down opposing No. 1 receivers, making Decker the safer play among Jets receivers this week.

Tournament Shots

John Brown ($5,500)/Michael Floyd ($3,200) vs. BAL
Martavis Bryant ($4,700) at KC
Allen Hurns ($5,300) vs. BUF (London)
Brandon Marshall ($7,800)at NE
I said all members of the Cardinals' passing game were great plays this week, and I meant it. I'll be rolling out a Carson Palmer-Fitzgerald-John Brown-Michael Floyd stack somewhere, and Brown is always a tournament option in good matchups. He's a little boom-or-bust, but he can provide top-five production at a mid-level price. Floyd has been more involved in the offense of late and is always a threat for a long TD or a look in the red zone (he had three last week). Brown will be the higher owned of the two, but both are nice plays.

If we knew Ben Roethlisberger was playing, Bryant would probably graduate to top plays this week over Snead. But with Landry Jones still looking likely to be under center, it's tough to fully trust a boom-or-bust player like Bryant, even at his sub-$5,000 price. He gets a great matchup against the Chiefs, however, who have allowed 14 passing touchdowns, second-most in the NFL. As seen last week, Bryant's ceiling is unreal.

Allen Hurns has been one of the surprises of the young NFL season, and No. 2 receivers have fared better than No. 1 options against the Bills this season. Hurns is $1,100 cheaper than Allen Robinson and while both are viable in a stack with Blake Bortles, Hurns is better as a standalone tournament play. He's shown the potential to push for 30-point weeks.

While I mentioned the Patriots tend to shut down opposing No. 1 receivers, Marshall has been unbelievably consistent this year. While the latter part of that sentence is generally better for cash-game consideration, Marshall could be a contrarian option in the top tier of receivers this week. If he gets an extra boost from expected volume and can beat Bill Belichick's schemes against him, he could post his first 30-point game of the season.

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Tight End

Top Plays

Antonio Gates ($5,000) vs. OAK
Travis Kelce ($4,900) vs. PIT

Antonio Gates is another obvious play this week in cash games, as he gets the Raiders' soft tight-end defense and has been rolling since his return. At an affordable price even with the other studs in great spots, Gates is a must-play in cash.

Travis Kelce could see a boost if Jeremy Maclin misses Week 7, but even if Maclin plays, Kelce should be forced targets against a Steelers defense that has struggled to slow down tight ends this season. The only thing that makes Kelce risky on a week-to-week is Andy Reid's playcalling, and there's a big gap between he and Gates this week. For the extra $100, just use Gates.

Tournament Shots

Julius Thomas ($4,500) vs. BUF (London)
Jacob Tamme ($2,900) at TEN

The Bills are vulnerable up the seam this season, especially with the success Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore have found on the outside. Gilmore has been a bit inconsistent himself, but an "up" week from him would be a boon for Thomas, who had seven receptions for 78 yards and a TD last week. Some may still be loathe to trust him coming off injury and being new to the offense, but he's definitely worth a play in tournaments as a pivot off the guaranteed-to-be-popular Gates.

Tamme is a cheap punt against a Titans team that hasn't covered tight ends well this season. If you're playing a lot of high-priced skill guys this week and need a low-priced TE or FLEX play, Tamme is worth a look in case he can get to double digits for the third time in six games. If he can't, he didn't cost much.

Defenses

Rams ($2,400)
Seahawks ($3,800)
Bills ($3,100)
Redskins ($2,500)

The St. Louis defense is an excellent real-life unit, and comes off its bye week with a solid matchup against the Browns. Josh McCown has surprised this season, but predictably struggled against another strong defense last week against Denver. Only four defenses are cheaper than the Rams this week, and they're a borderline top-five unit. I see very little reason to use another defense this week, and they pair well as a correlation play with Gurley.

The Seahawks have a nice matchup against the 49ers, but Colin Kaepernick has been better of late since people were actually calling for Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks aren't a bad option for those with some extra money playing the Thursday slate.

The Bills have been a frustrating fantasy defense with their inability to get to the quarterback, despite having tons of pass-rushing talent. Will Rex Ryan adjust this week to get after a shaky Jaguars offensive line? It's tough to say, which renders the Bills just a tournament option.

Washington is another bottom-barrel play as far as price goes, but they host turnover-prone Jameis Winston and the Bucs. Despite being gashed on the ground for two straight weeks, this unit is still solid up front. If they can keep Doug Martin in check and force Winston to throw the ball 30 times, the turnover and scoring potential becomes high. Although for the price tag, it's hard to justify this unit over the Rams for any reason besides the desire to be different.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Week 6 Rookie Report: Diggs bonds with Bridgewater and two rookie LBs impress

Photo credit: draftinsider.net
While many highly drafted rookies are already making an impact in their teams’ starting lineups, some had yet to see an opportunity to start sitting behind veterans on the depth chart. This week’s Rookie Report breaks down three rookies who shined filling in for injured starters and stated their case to keep their newfound roles, while a first-year Packers cornerback made the list for a second straight week. Chris Tripodi breaks down the best of Week 6’s rookie performances. 

Stefon Diggs (WR-Min)

A former five-star recruit out of high school, Diggs slid to the fifth round of the this year’s draft after two injury-plagued seasons at Maryland, including a broken fibula that cost him six games in 2013. As a result, Diggs ended up being a nice value according to our WR board, which had him rated as a late-third or early-fourth rounder. With ineffective starter Charles Johnson sidelined for the second straight game, Diggs caught seven passes for 129 yards in Sunday’s win over the Chiefs just a week after making six receptions for 87 yards in his first significant playing time of the season.

Diggs put on a clinic in the first quarter, making Chiefs cornerbacks look silly with his precise route-running. His first catch came on the Vikings’ initial drive, as Diggs lined up outside to the right. He sold the deep route well at his stem before sharply cutting out to the sideline, turning fellow rookie Marcus Peters around and creating great separation. He showed nice extension to make the grab above his head along with the awareness to tap his feet before his momentum took him out of bounds.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 6

For the first time in five weeks, the previous week's format will be carried over and maintained, as I finally like the look of this column. What I didn't like last week was my decision to fade Devonta Freeman against a Washington front seven that had been excellent through the first four games of the season. Freeman is looking matchup-proof at this point, even with a huge price bump and he's a top-two option in cash games again this week on the Thursday-night slate, as he'll likely be very productive and highly owned.


Photo credit: forbes.com
Quarterback

Top Plays

Tom Brady ($8,100) at IND
Carson Palmer ($6,600) at PIT
Matt Ryan ($6,900) at NO

Usually I wouldn't have three road quarterbacks in my top-three slots, especially with Aaron Rodgers playing at home, but all three are in terrific spots. Tom Brady gets a struggling Colts' defense in a potential shootout with an over/under of 54.5, and he's the undisputed chalk play of the week in cash games.

Carson Palmer's price refuses to rise thanks to him consistently playing less than four quarters, which is definitely something to take advantage of while we can. The Steelers have been better at defending the pass over the past few weeks, but they're unlikely to be a match for the high-flying Cardinals' passing game.

Matt Ryan is usually a better target at home, but Falcons-Saints has the second-highest over/under of the week (51.5) and the game will be played in a dome, just like Ryan's home field. If you don't want to pay up for Brady on the Thursday night slate, Ryan is a great way to diversify your cash games if you play all seven different timeslots.

Tournament Shots

Sam Bradford ($6,000) vs. NYG
Colin Kaepernick ($5,000) vs. BAL
Andy Dalton ($5,700) at BUF

Prince Amukamara's injury is a nice boost for the Eagles' spread-the-wealth offense, and a huge issue for the Giants' secondary. Sam Bradford has gotten on track after a slow start in Chip Kelly's offense, and the over/under for this game is set at 49.5. You can successfully stack Bradford with Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz and even Darren Sproles.

Colin Kaepernick is an enigma this season, but the Ravens are dead last in fantasy points allowed to QBs and he costs as much as quarterbacks who won't even see the field. Pairing him and Anquan Boldin together gives you over $40,000 to fill out six other positions and a defense, and even 30 combined points from the two puts you in good position in a tournament if your studs hit.

I suggested Marcus Mariota against the Bills last week, and that didn't quite work out so well. I'm going back to the well with Andy Dalton this week, however, and the only thing that will keep him from being underowned is his price tag. He has the second-highest scoring average at the QB position, and has three or four potential partners in a stack (A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones and Gio Bernard). Ride the wave.

They aren't listed here, but Jay Cutler ($5,200) at Detroit and Teddy Bridgewater ($5,300) vs. Kansas City are tempting low-cost options as well. Neither opponent defends the pass well, and both QBs could give you 200 yards and 2 TDs with room for more.

Photo credit: bleacherreport.com

Running Back

Top Plays

Dion Lewis ($5,800) at IND
Devonta Freeman ($7,000) at NO
Charcandrick West ($4,000) at MIN
Eddie Lacy ($6,300) vs. SD
Arian Foster ($7,000) at JAX

Dion Lewis continues to put up numbers, and anybody who still thinks his performance is a fluke is in danger of missing the boat. His price jumped over 20 percent from last week but he's still a bargain; he'll soon find himself just slightly cheaper than Freeman, possibly even next week if he has another 20-point game. With a good matchup in a game where New England should have no trouble scoring points, he's chalk this week.

As alluded to earlier, fading Freeman was a mistake, and one that won't be repeated this week on the Thursday slate. The Saints have a great case as the NFL's worst team, and their defense is in worse shape than their offense. While this game could be a tight one in New Orleans, it won't be because the Saints can stop the Falcons offense. Fire up Freeman in cash games to keep pace with your opponents.

After those two easy plays, the RB position gets a little shaky. Charcandrick West isn't min-priced; his tag jumped from $3,000 to $4,000 solely based on Jamaal Charles' injury, and a potential timeshare with Knile Davis ($4,500) looms. I've never been a believer in Davis' skill set and West has athleticism and pass-catching skills on his side; the floor is high enough here for cash games considering his price, even in a neutral matchup. He'll probably be somewhat popular too, which lowers his upside but raises that floor.

Eddie Lacy was a top play last week and fell flat on his face against the Rams, whose up-and-down run defense had an "up" week at home. The Packers return home this week to face the Chargers, who allow fantasy points by the boatload to RBs. I'd play the three guys above Lacy where available in cash games, but he's my top tournament play of the week at RB. His continued underperformance will scare people away, even in a near-perfect situation.

Arian Foster struggled on the ground last week against the Colts, but his nine receptions for 77 yards saved his game and provide a safe floor moving forward. With limited options in the passing game outside of DeAndre Hopkins, Foster should continue to see targets out of the backfield and faces a Jaguars run defense that was finally exposed by Doug Martin of all people, although Martin was one of my "tournament shots" last week. If you followed that advice, congrats on your money.

Tournament Shots

Mark Ingram ($6,000) vs. ATL
C.J. Spiller ($3,800) vs. ATL
Darren Sproles ($3,800) vs. NYG
LeGarrette Blount ($4,400) at IND

Frank Gore ($4,900) vs. NE

Atlanta's rush defense looks good on paper with its third-ranked 392 yards allowed, but the Falcons have been average on a per-carry basis in addition to allowing eight rushing touchdowns. Mark Ingram's upside is based on his touchdown potential in addition to his involvement in the passing game - he has 24 receptions in five games this season. The Saints will need to score points to keep up Thursday and with Drew Brees struggling to create big plays, those touchdowns will likely come in the red zone. Many will avoid Ingram in cash games because of game-flow perceptions and his lack of a sky-high ceiling, but 20 carries for 80 yards and 2 TDs with a few receptions could have him push for 25-30 points. Sometimes, low-owned value is a great goal in GPPs.

From last week's writeup: "C.J. Spiller is nothing more than a shot in the dark until we see confirmation that his usage will increase, but his 80-yard TD catch to win the game in overtime last week showed the Saints what he can do, and provided fantasy owners with a glimpse of his upside." Obviously Spiller's usage continued to wane last week, but the Saints will need all hands on deck Thursday night. If not now, I wonder if Sean Payton will ever find a way to get Spiller more involved.

Similar to Spiller, Sproles is a shot in the dark hoping for a gameplan adjustment. Also like Spiller, he has the potential to pay off his price tag with just one big play. It's not easy to find 20-point potential under $4,000 this week, but Sproles has it and he seems to be unleashed in primetime games for the world to see. The Eagles and Giants are set for a potential Monday night shootout. Pairing Sproles with Sam Bradford could be fun.

LeGarrette Blount finds his way onto the tournament list yet again, after a week of 7.4 fantasy points followed up his 28.2-point explosion in Week 4. Last week shows why he can never be trusted in a cash game, but he still saw 13 carries as the Patriots blew out the Cowboys; he just didn't hit paydirt. Dion Lewis isn't going away, but Blount has multi-TD potential in a high-scoring game that has slight laugher potential. Just don't be shocked when he plays eight snaps - there's a reason he's fourth on this list.

Like Ingram, Frank Gore is another perceived "low-upside" player. With Andrew Luck's return on the horizon for Week 6, however, Gore's scoring potential increases exponentially. Unless Luck is miraculously back to 100 percent, which seems unlikely, the Colts should continue to feed their workhorse the rock, so volume isn't a concern. If Luck can't stretch the field like usual, Gore could also find himself on the other end of a few receptions out of the backfield. The veteran likely won't be a high-owned player and, like Ingram, could pay off with good bang for the buck.

Wide Receiver

Top Plays

Julian Edelman ($7,600) at IND
Photo credit: akronchildrens.org
Willie Snead ($3,300) vs. ATL
Brandon Marshall ($7,100) vs. WAS
Anquan Boldin ($4,300) vs. BAL
Eric Decker ($4,900) vs. WAS

From last week's rundown: "Julian Edelman is always a great cash-game play." That was just a brief snippet, but Edelman's 25-point week certainly paid off his price tag, even without his usual target volume. Expect him to have another nice day, although his price is slowly creeping closer to his value.

Willie Snead topped my tournament plays last week and after a six-reception, 141-yard outing, he's graduated to a legitimate cash-game option as well with a price increase of just $300. He's the most trustworthy option in the Saints' passing game, which will see a lot of action Thursday night.

Brandon Marshall has been very consistent so far this season despite catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Jets' Week 6 matchup with the Redskins shouldn't come with expectations of a slowdown. Marshall has six receptions in all four games this season, and has scored or gone over 100 yards in every one as well.

Anquan Boldin may not seem like a wise cash-game investment based on the struggles of Colin Kaepernick, but at $4,300 his price builds in a safe floor for the receiver. Considering the rest of my top plays are somewhat pricy, Boldin has fit his way into a few of my cash lineups. While I'm not a big believer in narratives, Boldin does face his former Ravens teammates, who have struggled mightily to defend the pass. It's tough to envision a single-digit performance.

Two Jets receivers are top options? What world are we living in? Decker has scored a touchdown in all three of his games this season as the obvious No. 2 option in the offense behind Marshall. The Redskins' front seven is better than the secondary, and even if they run the ball successfully with Chris Ivory, there should be plenty of balls to go around for both Marshall and Decker to pay off their price tags.

Tournament Shots

Mike Wallace ($4,500) vs. KC
Donte Moncrief ($5,000) vs. NE
Marvin Jones ($3,500) at BUF
Jordan Matthews ($6,200) vs. NYG 
Rueben Randle ($4,400) at PHI

It was tempting to list Mike Wallace under top plays this week, but the nature of the Vikings' offense means it's tough to rely on any of their pass-catchers. I do like the Bridgewater-Wallace stack this week, as the Chiefs haven't stopped anybody through the air and have been good against the run. Even keeping that in mind, the Minnesota offense runs through Adrian Peterson, rendering Wallace a better GPP play than cash.

Donte Moncrief's floor was on display last week, as Matt Hasselbeck fed Andre Johnson against his former team. Expect a correction this week against the Patriots, who will likely focus on keeping T.Y. Hilton from busting big plays against them. Andrew Luck's return can only help the speedy Moncrief, who could lead Indianapolis in receiving in what projects as a track meet.

Marvin Jones is another boom-or-bust receiver who deserves mention, even against a good Bills' defense. Rex Ryan's proclivity for blitzing leaves his corners on an island often, and while both Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby have played well this season, Jones has chemistry with the resurgent Andy Dalton and the ability to win in the air against the 5-11 Darby. At his price point, all he needs is a touchdown to pay off.

Jordan Matthews' style is generally more conducive to cash games, but his price drop resulting from his recent struggles make him an interesting contrarian option, since most won't want to pay for his lack of production. The Eagles like to spread the ball around, but Matthews should theoretically be able to get open at will against a beat-up Giants secondary. Few will play him in tournaments, making him interesting at the least.

Rueben Randle was a suggested GPP play last week, but his five-catch, 42-yard effort disappointed as the Giants surprisingly struggled against the 49ers. Whether New York overlooked its opponent or not, that won't happen this week in Philadelphia. Much like Odell Beckham Jr., Randle is dealing with a hamstring injury, but seems probable to play. His injury and inconsistency will be a reason for many to fade him, but this game could be full of fantasy points. He's worth a flier if you enter multiple GPPs.

Photo credit: usatoday.com
Tight End

Top Plays

Rob Gronkowski ($7,600) at IND
Martellus Bennett ($4,800) at DET
Tyler Eifert ($4,900) at BUF

Rob Gronkowski was quiet against Dallas last week, which means he'll probably explode on Sunday night. The Colts have nobody to match up with Gronk and have struggled against the tight end. If you can afford to play him, fire him up without hesitation. Gronk loves the spotlight.

Martellus Bennett struggled with increased attention last week in Kansas City, but Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal are on track to return Sunday. While that might seem to limit Bennett's targets on the surface, both receivers may be playing at less than 100 percent. Their presence will draw attention from Bennett, but his skills along with Detroit's shaky defense make him a solid play this week.

Tyler Eifert is coming off a monster game and draws an easier matchup than both A.J. Green and Marvin Jones this week. His production has been a bit boom-or-bust so far this season, but he's trustworthy this week in cash games. I'm playing Gronk everywhere anyway, so Bennett and Eifert are unlikely to matter.

Tournament Shots

Jacob Tamme ($2,500) at NO
Zach Ertz ($2,900) vs. NYG
Richard Rodgers ($3,100) vs. SD

Tamme is another solid play from the Thursday night options. Generally I like to fade players on Thursday nights thanks to the sloppy brand of football that comes with a short week, but this game projects to be full of fantasy goodness. Coming off an eight-catch, 94-yard game against a struggling defense at minimum price, Tamme comes with some nice upside, especially if Julio Jones is at all hobbled.

Zach Ertz was in the same spot last week and responded with 11 fantasy points. Nothing exciting, but he more than paid off his price tag, even without a touchdown. A similar line is possible this week against the Giants' bad tight-end defense, with the possibility of a score adding to his upside.

Richard Rodgers is not an exciting player on his own, but anybody catching passes from Aaron Rodgers has potential. San Diego has good cornerbacks who can prevent breakout games from Randall Cobb and James Jones, leaving Rodgers with a good opportunity for a couple extra targets against a lackluster linebacker group. His price has risen from the minimum over the past few weeks, but Rodgers still has some upside. I'm probably not using him much, though.

Team Defense

Top Plays

Packers ($3,200) vs. SD
Vikings ($2,900) vs. KC
Ravens ($3,400) at SF 
Panthers ($3,000) at SEA

Just like last week, I'll be rolling out Eddie Lacy and the Packers' defense in multiple tournaments. Maybe this week, Lacy will come through like his defense did. The Chargers have struggled offensively on the road this season and while Philip Rivers is a good quarterback, he is occasionally susceptible to the pick-six, as seen against the Steelers last week.

The Vikings are a solid defense coming off a bye week against a team that just lost their best offensive player, and much of their identity as a team. The Chiefs were already a good matchup for opposing fantasy defenses but with extra pressure on Alex Smith to perform, they're an even better one.

Both the Ravens and Panthers hit the road, which generally leans me away from a defense, but Baltimore gets the sack and turnover-prone Colin Kaepernick. Even if they allow some points and yardage, which I expect with Kaepernick as a GPP option, there's a chance for some big plays as well for a defense with four sacks in three of five games.

Carolina faces Seattle, who is struggling to protect Russell Wilson so far this season. They likely
won't be highly owned, but could be a decent contrarian option for tournament play.

Week 5 Rookie Report: Rawls, Strong take advantage of extra playing time

Photo credit: draftinsider.net
As is generally the case when the NFL calendar flips to October, injuries are beginning to dominate the league landscape. Continuing a theme from last week’s report, another rookie running back stole the show in Week 5, this time while filling in for his team’s injured starter. An AFC South wide receiver made the most of his opportunities after being activated for the first time this season, and a couple first-year defensive backs made big plays in the secondary. Chris Tripodi breaks down this week’s impressive rookie performances. 

Thomas Rawls (RB-Sea)

With Marshawn Lynch hobbled ever since Seattle’s Week 2 game in Green Bay, Thomas Rawls has taken the reigns in the Seahawks backfield over the past three weeks. An undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, Rawls impressed enough in training camp to convince Seattle he was ready to be their primary backup, and they shipped 2013 second-round pick Christine Michael to Dallas and waived Robert Turbin before signing Fred Jackson to work on passing downs. Despite a rough outing in Week 4, Rawls has made the Seahawks look smart for entrusting him behind their 29-year-old workhorse, especially after his 23-carry, 169-yard performance in a loss to the Bengals on Sunday.

The 5-9, 215-pound rookie made his presence felt on Seattle’s initial touchdown drive in the first quarter Sunday, showing both patience and vision as a runner. His first run went for seven yards, as he beat backfield penetration to turn the corner before being shoved out of bounds. After a couple two-yard runs, Rawls took a second-and-six handoff out of the shotgun for 23 yards, doing an excellent job of patiently waiting for tiny openings and quickly darting through them. Once at the second level, Rawls ran right through a Pacman Jones tackle attempt for an extra 10 yards, and the Seahawks scored three plays later.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sheldon Richardson's return to have immediate impact for New York Jets

Photo credit: YouTube.com
After serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Sheldon Richardson will return to the Jets for their Week 6 showdown with the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. The third-year defensive end will look to put his additional legal troubles behind him and help fortify a defense that has excelled in his absence, thanks in large part to rookie defensive end Leonard Williams.

Much like Richardson did during his first two NFL seasons, Williams has shown a knack for both harassing quarterbacks in the passing game and shutting down opposing running games. While the first-year defensive end has just a half-sack to his credit through four games this season, he was great as a pass rusher against the Dolphins in London, hurrying Ryan Tannehill consistently and hitting him several times as Miami’s franchise quarterback struggled to get his offense moving.

With Williams’ early success and Muhammad Wilkerson’s continued dominance (21 tackles, 3.5 sacks) fueling the Jets’ 3-1 start, one might wonder where Richardson fits in upon his return. In Pro Football Spot’s early look at how the third-year star’s absence would affect the defense, the focus was on his pass-rushing abilities rather than his run defense, which was set to be in good shape with Williams in tow.

Through four games, those predictions have held mostly true, as the Jets are allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, tied for seventh in the NFL, while their rebuilt secondary has helped them allow just 5.7 yards per pass attempt, tied for first in the league. Williams has made an immediate impact rushing the passer, which wasn’t a certainty heading into the season, but the Jets have still averaged less than two sacks per game. This is where Richardson will come into play.

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 5

Last week wasn't my best week, but Devonta Freeman's second straight explosion made sure the week wasn't a total loss. He was only listed as the No. 4 option on my cash plays, but he really should have been No. 2 ahead of Frank Gore and Melvin Gordon, especially with Andrew Luck sitting. Gore turned out just fine but Gordon busted, which shouldn't be surprising considering his timeshare with Danny Woodhead. In the end, I'm glad I only had Gordon in my afternoon cash games.

On to Week 5 though, which provides many good options on DraftKings. Again, the format of this article will be changing, and it will include "Top Plays" and "Tournament Shots" rather than cash and tournament suggestions. In reality, Top Plays are the top plays in any format, and using 1-2 of the players listed in "Tournament Shots" could be a good way to differentiate your teams while not going too contrarian, something I've been guilty of in tournaments so far this season.

Photo credit: profootballtalk.com

Quarterback

Top Plays

Carson Palmer ($6,600) at DET
Peyton Manning ($7,000) at OAK
Philip Rivers ($6,200) at PIT

Carson Palmer has scored 20 fantasy points in three of four games so far, and the fourth saw him drop 19.98. The Lions' pass defense has struggled this season and even on the road, I think Palmer is the safest play at quarterback this week, especially since his price has remained relatively stable.

Peyton Manning has been anything but consistent so far this season, but a matchup with the Raiders should help him post a respectable stat line. The upside isn't what it once was, but he's played well in his two good matchups this season at Kansas City and at Detroit. This week should be no different, although I'm playing Palmer over Manning wherever I can.

Philip Rivers never seems to get the respect he deserves, but a home date with the leaky Steelers secondary is a good spot for him. Rivers has averaged over 25 points per game in two games in San Diego this season.

Tournament Shots

Marcus Mariota ($6,000) vs. BUF
Sam Bradford ($6,000) vs. NO
Jay Cutler ($5,300) at KC

Marcus Mariota is the type of quarterback who can beat the Bills' blitz-heavy defense with short passes by getting the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately in the short field and using his legs to extend plays and escape the pocket. Any blitz-heavy defense tends to be vulnerable on the back end, and the Bills' defense is 29th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to QBs, but it's tough to trust a rookie against Rex Ryan in cash games. In GPPs, however, Mariota is a nice stack with Kendall Wright and/or Delanie Walker.

Sam Bradford finally showed a willingness to attack down the field last week, and it almost helped the Eagles even out their record at 2-2. The Saints' secondary is unlikely to offer much resistance if Bradford continues to stretch the field, but this offense's inconsistency so far makes its QB impossible to trust in a cash-game lineup.

Jay Cutler made a surprise return to the lineup last week and was very effective as the Bears edged the Raiders without Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery seems likely to return this week, and the Chiefs have allowed an NFL-high 11 touchdown passes. With Cutler's near-minimum price, he's a tempting stack with Jeffery and/or Martellus Bennett.

Photo credit: masslive.com
Running Back

Top Plays

Dion Lewis ($4,800) at DAL
Eddie Lacy ($6,700) vs. STL
Le'Veon Bell ($8,500) at SD
Todd Gurley ($4,300) at GB
Justin Forsett ($5,800) vs. CLE

A Patriots back has to be excellent to find his way into the circle of trust, and Dion Lewis has been just that. He's still underpriced and has a great matchup with the Cowboys this week. The game should be high-scoring, at least for New England, and while the large point spread means LeGarrette Blount could be involved late again just like he was in Week 3, Lewis will a big part of any big lead the Patriots build in Big D.

Despite being a consensus top-five RB to enter the year, Eddie Lacy still isn't priced like one. The Packers are a big home favorite against the Rams, whose run defense has struggled so far this season. Despite his pedestrian numbers so far, Lacy is trustworthy in cash games and a great tournament option, as his "struggles" may keep him somewhat under-owned this week.

Le'Veon Bell is expensive, but the Chargers have allowed a league-high 4.9 yards per carry this season. Bell's involvement in the short passing game always gives him a high floor, but a matchup like this gives him a sky-high ceiling as well. He's easily the No. 1 RB play on the board, but Lewis and Lacy provide better bang for the buck.

Todd Gurley busted loose against a good Cardinals' defense in the second half last week and should be a lock for 15-20 touches in Green Bay this weekend. St. Louis could fall behind quickly, which would mean more work for Benny Cunningham, but top-tier talents like Gurley don't sit at $4,300 for long. Despite the big spread in this game, I think the Rams are a good enough to keep this game close, and Gurley will be a big part of that.

Justin Forsett finally came through last week, and with Steve Smith Sr. unlikely to play this week, the Ravens will need to rely heavily on their running game. Even with an increased focus on stopping the run, the Browns are still likely to give up a ton of yards; they've allowed 141.5 rushing yards per game so far this year. Forsett had four receptions in every game before last week's explosion as well, boosting his floor.

Tournament Shots

LeGarrette Blount ($4,500) at DAL
Matt Jones ($4,000) at ATL
Doug Martin ($4,700) vs. JAX
T.J. Yeldon ($4,400) at TB
C.J. Spiller ($3,800) at PHI

The Patriots could be in for a repeat of last week, which makes both Lewis and LeGarrette Blount viable options in tournament play. Blount could easily find himself with 10-15 carries in clock-killing mode, but expecting another three TDs is crazy.

Matt Jones can't be fully trusted but if you want a potential tournament-winning play this week, he's as good a choice as any. We've seen his upside, and it's high, and the Falcons have allowed a league-high seven rush TDs. He could see some goal-line work, and has the skills to bust a big run or two as well.

Martin is coming off a big game, but that doesn't mean people are going to trust him enough to expect another, especially splitting work with Charles Sims. Martin's 20-carry upside in a good matchup is hard to find under $5,000, and another 20-point week isn't a crazy thought.

T.J. Yeldon has yet to go off, which means he'll be very low owned in tournaments. He's an every-down back who has seen 20 carries in a game twice already this season, and the matchup is good despite the loss of starting guard Brandon Linder. The Jaguars probably won't get blown out, so they can keep the ball on the ground and feed Yeldon, which could lead to a nice day that few will have rostered.

C.J. Spiller is nothing more than a shot in the dark until we see confirmation that his usage will increase, but his 80-yard TD catch to win the game in overtime last week showed the Saints what he can do, and provided fantasy owners with a glimpse of his upside. Mark Ingram could have a tougher time than usual against a good Eagles' front seven, which could result in more snaps for Spiller along with his work in the passing game.

Photo credit: usatoday.com
Wide Receiver

Top Plays

Julian Edelman ($7,000) vs. DAL
Pierre Garcon ($5,300) at ATL
Jeremy Maclin ($6,000) vs. CHI
Julio Jones ($9,200) vs. WAS
Kendall Wright ($5,400) vs. BUF

Julian Edelman is always a great cash-game play and the Cowboys' pass defense has played over its head so far this season. Expect a slight correction this week, even playing at home, and there will be plenty of targets for Edelman to meet his 10-reception-per-game average. 

Pierre Garcon has a limited upside with Kirk Cousins at QB, but his floor is enticing at his price point. With at least five receptions and 11.4 fantasy points in every game this season, he's a safe bet even in an average matchup. Luckily for him, Desmond Trufant doesn't shadow opponents' No. 1 receivers. I'd lean away from Garcon in tournaments where possible, although he could push for 20 points with a touchdown. Or garbage-time receptions.

Jeremy Maclin is another player who is limited by quarterback play, but it hasn't stopped him from averaging nearly 30 fantasy points over the past two weeks. The Bears have allowed 10 passing touchdown, second-worst in the league, and even if Alex Smith keeps Maclin out of the end zone for the fourth time in five games this season, the receptions and yards will be there.

Julio Jones is the top WR play this week and if there's any week he may go slightly under-owned in tournaments, it's after last week's gameflow-induced bust. The key word is slightly, because most will recognize why Jones' numbers were low last week, but every percentage point matters in a GPP, especially when you're talking about a guy who could post the highest point total of the week. I'm locking him into at least half of my tournament lineups and hoping some overreact to one bad game.

Kendall Wright and Marcus Mariota are perfect for each other, and the Bills have struggled with receivers who thrive in the slot this season. Wright plays everywhere and the Titans will move him around, meaning he'll see enough snaps away from Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby to give him a good floor. He also has the skill set to take a short pass to the house on any given play, which is always a possibility against a team that blitzes a lot and leaves fewer defenders in the back end.

As a quick addendum, DeAndre Hopkins is a great play on the Thursday slate if Vontae Davis sits out for the Colts. If Davis plays, I wouldn't go out of my way to play Hopkins, although he should still be solid. He's a Thursday-slate cash-game lock without Davis.

Tournament Shots

Willie Snead ($3,000) at PHI
Leonard Hankerson ($4,000) vs. WAS
Michael Floyd ($3,000) at DET
Terrance Williams ($4,300) vs. NE
Rueben Randle ($4,400) vs. SF 

At minimum price, Willie Snead is a sneaky GPP play this week. At 5-11, 195 pounds he doesn't scream touchdown upside, but adding a score to his six-catch, 89-yard game last week gets you 20 points from a $3,000 player. Even if he doesn't score, his floor is good enough for GPP consideration at his price in a matchup with the Eagles, and Drew Brees trusts Snead arguably more than any other receiver on the roster.

Leonard Hankerson has been a boom-or-bust player so far this season, with two weeks of single-digit scoring and two weeks with at least 19.7 points. The Redskins' secondary scares nobody and if they focus on stopping Julio Jones, Hankerson could be in for another nice day. It's possible that more than a few of your opponents will be on him at $4,000 after last week's big game, however, which keeps him behind Snead for me.

Unlike Snead, Michael Floyd's size-speed profile screams touchdown upside, but he's never actually put it all together on the football field. His role in the offense is increasing, however, after his five-catch, 59-yard game last week. It's a definite shot in the dark, but Floyd could break loose for a long touchdown and pay off his salary with just one play.

Terrance Williams is not fit to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and the Patriots have stopped their opponents' top target on numerous occasions. There's a ton of risk using Williams, but that will keep the general public away from him and, like Floyd, he always has the ability to bust a big play for a score. Plus, he may see some extra looks in garbage time if Dallas falls behind. If they stay competitive, it'll likely be because Williams has already scored.

Rueben Randle will probably never gain anybody's trust, but a great home matchup with the 49ers and touchdowns in two straight weeks gives him legitimate upside at $4,400. Just don't be shocked if he grabs two balls for 28 scoreless yards, either.

Photo credit: profootballmock.com
Tight End

Top Plays

Jason Witten ($4,500) vs. NE
Delanie Walker ($3,800) vs. BUF
Charles Clay ($4,100) at TEN

Jason Witten is easily the position's safest bet for 10 fantasy points outside of Rob Gronkowski, especially with Brandon Weeden's checkdown tendencies. The Patriots have struggled against tight ends so far this season so while Witten's upside is limited for GPPs, he's a bankable cash-game asset.

Like Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker has benefited from Marcus Mariota's arrival in Tennessee with at least 13 fantasy points in the two games he's played so far this season. Walker could be Mariota's hot read against the blitzing Bills in Week 5, giving him a nice floor along with decent per-dollar upside and a likely low ownership.

Charles Clay was a chalk play last week and could very well be again this week, despite his $800 price rise. With Sammy Watkins likely to sit once and a great matchup against the Titans, Clay is a good cash-game option. I might look elsewhere in tournaments, since he could very well be highly owned, but that's not a certainty after his price jumped almost 25 percent.

Tournament Shots

Owen Daniels ($2,700) at OAK
Zach Ertz ($2,900) vs. NO
Derek Carrier ($2,500) at ATL

Owen Daniels will be a popular play this week thanks to Oakland's well-publicized struggles covering tight ends, but I can't bring myself to trust him in cash games. That probably means I won't use him at all since he'll be highly owned in tournaments, but I couldn't avoid mentioning him this week. At his price, he's very, very viable.

Zach Ertz is the one player of these three who's likely to be on virtually no teams this week thanks to his terrible start. Plugging him in is not much more than a blind-faith move based on his receiving talent and a great matchup, but it's possible it pays off. Just not likely.

Derek Carrier has a great physical profile at 6-4, 238 pounds with a 4.5 40-yard dash, but he's never really had an opportunity to shine during the regular season. Jordan Reed's injury has provided Carrier with that opportunity, and Kirk Cousins loves to pepper his tight ends with targets. He'll likely be more highly owned than Ertz but less so than Daniels, making him a nice contrarian play at this price level.

Team Defense

Top Plays

Ravens ($2,900) vs. CLE
Giants ($2,900) vs. SF
Chiefs ($2,800) vs. CHI
Packers ($3,100) vs. STL
Patriots ($3,300) at DAL

Pairing Justin Forsett and the Ravens defense is a viable correlation play in tournaments this week, as is Eddie Lacy and the Packers defense. LeGarrette Blount and New England's defense is another solid tournament pairing, and I don't mention Dion Lewis there because he will be on A LOT of teams. Still viable, though.

The Giants have a great matchup against turnover-prone Colin Kaepernick and if they build an early lead, they'll neutralize San Francisco's offensive strength - running with Carlos Hyde - and expose their linebackers less. The Chiefs will be low-owned this week, but playing at home as a big favorite makes them a solid contrarian option, albeit one I'm shying away from. I just don't buy the nine-point spread but if you do, fire up Kansas City.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Week 4 Rookie Report: Gurley, Duke bust out at RB, Saints' rookie LBs make instant impact

Photo credit: draftinsider.net
After the 2014 NFL Draft produced what was hailed as the best wide receiver class in NFL history, albeit one that has struggled so far this season, the 2015 NFL Draft was one of the strongest drafts in recent memory when it came to the running back position. To nobody’s surprise, each week of the NFL season has featured a breakout performer at the position. Week 1 saw Ameer Abdullah electrify before Matt Jones busted out in Week 2 and Karlos Williams got loose during Week 3.

The trend continued this week with not just one, but two rookie running backs looking to put a stranglehold on their team’s starting jobs. Chris Tripodi breaks down those two running backs, along with a couple Saints linebackers who helped their team to a much-needed win in primetime Sunday night.

Todd Gurley (RB-StL)

After sitting out the first two games of his NFL career to complete his recovery from a torn ACL suffered last November, Todd Gurley returned to the field with a six-carry, nine-yard performance in Week 3. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher vowed to get his team’s first-round pick more involved in Week 4, but after the No. 10 overall pick had just four first-half carries for two yards and found no room to run behind St. Louis’ shaky offensive line, it looked as though his second week back on the gridiron would be just another lost game on his road to recovery. Little did anybody know what Gurley had in store for the second half.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Projecting the Second Quarter of the New York Jets' Season

Photo credit: cdanews.com
The Jets head into their Week 5 bye with a surprising 3-1 record, on the back of a once-again outstanding defense and a schedule which has seen them face opponents with a combined 5-11 record. Of course, if they had started 0-4 their opponents would have an 8-8 record, so that should be taken with a slight grain of salt at this point in the season. Their next four opponents have combined for an 8-7 record, so the schedule gets a little tougher, but four of those wins belong to likely non-contenders in the Redskins and Raiders.

New York started their season with a win over Cleveland, which wasn’t much of a surprise, even to somebody who picked them to start 1-2. That preview of the team’s September schedule had them losing to both Indianapolis and Philadelphia, but did include this quote about the Week 2 matchup with the Colts.
“The Jets have a chance if they can win the time-of-possession battle, win the turnover battle by at least two and keep the Colts’ offense under 24 points. The third part of that will likely be the toughest.”
The Jets kept possession for 31:48 compared to 28:12 for the Colts and forced five turnovers, while giving the ball away just once. Those five turnovers were a big part of holding the Indianapolis offense to seven points, although the Colts haven’t been the well-oiled machine many expected this season thanks to a shaky offensive line and the demise of Andre Johnson.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the next four games on the Jets’ schedule and see how they match up. 

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. vs. Washington Redskins 

The Redskins have ridden a formula similar to that of the Jets to start their season 2-2. Washington leads the league in rushing yards with 558 and has two running backs with over 200 yards on the ground this season, Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones. Their defense has been very good through four games as well, helping them control time of possession and run 69 more plays than their opponents. The Redskins are second in the NFL in run defense as a result, despite averaging a middle-of-the-pack 3.9 yards per carry against. They’ve allowed the seventh-highest QB rating against, however, and their secondary is extremely vulnerable.

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dissecting DraftKings for NFL Week 4

Photo credit chippewa.com
Three weeks are in the books in the NFL, and we're starting to get a better idea which teams are good, which are bad and which are somewhere in between. The same goes for individual players and matchup data, which makes it slightly easier to project player performance. I say slightly because, if it were easy, we'd all be millionaires. Alas, that just isn't the case, and some data is still skewed by one good or bad performance.

There will be a slight adjustment to the format of this post for this week, and hopefully it's the last one and this can stay as is from here on out. Who knows, though, my brain may continue to come up with new ideas. I cashed in all my cash games last week for a nice, healthy double up, so hopefully you used some of my picks!

Quarterback

Cash Games

1. Aaron Rodgers ($7,900) at SF
2. Russell Wilson ($7,100) vs. DET
3. Tyrod Taylor ($5,800) vs. NYG 


In general, I tend to pay up at quarterback in cash games. A value bust at RB or WR is usually palatable because those plays cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000. A QB bust at $5,000 or $6,000 does far more damage to your cash lineups. Just ask Nick Foles. That leads me to Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers may not be playing at home, but he gets to face a 49ers secondary that has been destroyed by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer over the past two weeks, albeit away from San Francisco. Palmer would've had a much bigger statline than 311 yards and two touchdowns had the game not been decided early. Rodgers is as safe as they come this week, but I'm not sure the upside is there for tournaments at his price point.

Russell Wilson has a nice matchup against the Lions, whose defense hasn't been the same without Ndamukong Suh this season. Like Rodgers, Wilson doesn't quite have the per-dollar upside we want in a tournament play, but his rushing ability (137 yards in three games) adds almost five points per week to his floor. Detroit is 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks through three games.

Picking Tyrod Taylor goes against my general cash-game strategy, but he's the only quarterback this week who checks every box when it comes to a potential high-scoring game, a great matchup and an appealing price point. LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins may be hurt, but Karlos Williams (more on him later) shouldn't have a problem picking up the slack on the ground, and Watkins has been mostly quiet this season. Taylor is another QB whose rushing ability (96 yards in three games) helps buoy his floor.

Tournaments

1. Tyrod Taylor ($5,800) vs. NYG
2. Andy Dalton ($5,900) vs. KC
3. Derek Carr ($5,300) at CHI

Taylor's appeal was just stated, and he's also a top-notch tournament play this week. Pair him with tight end Charles Clay or wide receiver Percy Harvin, or both if you're feeling real frisky. Andy Dalton gets a Chiefs secondary that has been decimated this season, and while they get Sean Smith back, he may be limited and they lost Phillip Gaines to a season-ending injury. Dalton still has plenty of weapons, and he'll be in great position to use them. Both A.J. Green and Marvin Jones are good options for a stack with Dalton.

Derek Carr is the cheapest option of these three, and present similar upside as Dalton and Taylor against the Bears' secondary. The Raiders historically haven't traveled well, but Carr and company rolled the Browns on the East Coast last weekend and could be on their way to bucking that trend. Carr and Amari Cooper make for an outstanding tournament stack.

Running Back

Cash Games

1. Karlos Williams ($3,400) vs. NYG
2. Frank Gore ($4,700) vs. JAX
3. Melvin Gordon ($4,900) vs. CLE
4. Devonta Freeman ($5,200) vs. HOU
5. Eddie Lacy ($6,900) at SF

Karlos Williams will be the chalk play at RB this week, and he's nearly unfadeable, creating the highest RB score in my algorithm so far this season. I wasn't a huge fan of his talent coming out of Florida State, but he's performed nicely in Buffalo in a change-of-pace role and gets a brutal Giants' run defense this week as a home favorite. He checks all the boxes

Frank Gore is another runner who checks all the boxes, just with a higher price. Even if Andrew Luck sits out Sunday, it's tough to see the Jaguars being able to stop Gore even with a heightened focus on him. His volume will only rise, and a second straight 20-point fantasy performance isn't outside the realm of possibilities. Gore is an excellent play whether or not Luck is on the field.

Melvin Gordon is another top play this week, as the Chargers host the Browns, who have allowed a 90-yard rusher in every game this season, including Dexter McCluster in Week 2. Yes, Dexter McCluster. A 100-yard game with a touchdown isn't far-fetched for the explosive Gordon, although Danny Woodhead will remain involved in the offense.

Devonta Freeman exploded last week and is still priced reasonably, although a matchup with the Texans' solid run defense limits his upside. He stills contributes in the passing game and has a high touch floor, but his matchup is the reason he's not higher on this list.

Eddie Lacy escaped Week 3 fully healthy after splitting the load with James Starks; don't expect him to give up another 17 carries this week. The Packers are favored and the 49ers' run defense is just a porous as their pass defense, plus Lacy's price has dropped $600 from Week 1. He's the same player he was then, so take advantage of the injury discount while it's there.

Tournaments

1. Karlos Williams ($3,400) vs. NYG
2. Melvin Gordon ($4,900) vs. CLE
3. Frank Gore ($4,700) vs. JAX
4. Mark Ingram ($6,000) vs. DAL
5. Lance Dunbar ($3,600) at NO

There are many situations where I like to fade the chalk play in tournaments, especially when I'm not a huge fan of the player. Williams is not one of those situations this week, and you'll likely see his name all over the top 25 teams in any tournament. I have Gordon at No. 2 even though 20 touches may be his ceiling, because he could turn that into 150 yards and two touchdowns. If Luck misses Week 4 though, you could justify Gore over Gordon.

I often mention "checking all the boxes," and Ingram is a player that does just that, although it's muted this week. The Saints are a small home favorite in a game that projects to be slightly higher-scoring than average, he's still a bit underpriced and Dallas got gashed by Freeman last week, who's an inferior runner to Ingram. I'm also expected him to go somewhat underowned, and a 100-yard, two-TD game could be in the cards as long as Drew Brees plays. If he doesn't, Ingram is not a recommended contrarian play.

Sticking with the Cowboys-Saints game, the game script outlined above also benefits Lance Dunbar, who turned 10 receptions into 100 yards last week. Brandon Weeden will likely rely heavily on Dunbar once again thanks to his uninspiring receiving targets, and the Saints linebackers aren't a group that is likely to be able to hang with Dunbar out of the backfield.

Wide Receiver

Cash Games

1. Randall Cobb ($7,400) at SF
2. Donte Moncrief ($5,000) vs. JAX
3. A.J. Green ($7,600) vs. KC
4. Amari Cooper ($6,300) at CHI
5. Stevie Johnson ($4,400) vs. CLE

Randall Cobb is in play as a cash-game target almost every week, as his floor is high with Rodgers at quarterback and consistent involvement in the red zone. He also gets to face off with Tramaine Brock, who has allowed 13 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown on 18 targets this season. Cobb will also move around the formation, and this isn't the game to expect him to slow down. His price should settle in around $8,000 eventually but until then, ride the wave.

Donte Moncrief is in play only if Luck plays Sunday, as he won't be a high-floor option with Matt Hasselbeck running the show. With Luck in the lineup, though, Moncrief has hit value every week this season and doesn't face a tough task this week against the Jags. For all the Colts' talk of getting Andre Johnson more involved, it's doubtful any of that will take away from the vastly superior talent in Moncrief. That was weird to say.

A.J. Green was high on my list last week and if you played him, you most likely won your games. He's a big reason why my cash teams did so well last week with 10 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns and a relatively low ownership percentage. This week should be no different, as the Chiefs have nobody that can stop Green. Few teams do. Expect another big week, but more people will be on him.

Amari Cooper has at least seven receptions and 109 yards receiving in his past two games against the beatable Ravens and Browns' secondaries. Heading to Chicago this week, the Bears' don't pose any more of a challenge than the last two teams the Raiders' burgeoning offense has faced. Cooper will be chalk this week, but it's easy to see why.

Stevie Johnson doesn't have a ton of upside, but his floor at $4,400 is appealing as cash-game filler. Even in a poor three-catch, 46-yard game last week, his 7.6 fantasy points weren't far off value for his price tag, and he draws a better matchup this week against Cleveland rather than Minnesota. Joe Haden will be shadowing Keenan Allen, who is prone to disappearing, which may lead Philip Rivers to look Johnson's way a bit more often.

Tournaments

1. Donte Moncrief ($5,000) vs. JAX
2. James Jones ($5,300) at SF
3. Marvin Jones ($3,800) vs. KC
4. Allen Hurns ($3,900) at IND
5. A.J. Green ($7,600) vs. KC

Again, Moncrief is 100 percent dependent on Luck's status. Even though he's a chalky play, every tournament-winning team you see usually has about half their roster filled with chalk. Sometimes the best plays are just that, and don't require any overthinking.

While Cobb is the recommended cash-game play in San Francisco, James Jones is the high-upside tournament option in the Packers' offense. It's tough to find 30-point upside in the low-$5,000 range, but Jones had 29.9 last week in a similarly juicy matchup. You can fade Jones too considering he'll be popular with Davante Adams out and has a low floor, but if he goes off, he's the type of guy that makes a profitable tournament team.

Marvin Jones is an excellent stack option with Dalton this week, and I wouldn't even try to push you off a Dalton-Green-Jones stack against the Chiefs. I'm not worried about Dalton laying the egg he's well-known for against a non-division foe, and you won't find a player who can hit 100 yards with multiple scores under $4,000 very often. Dalton's past keeps Marvin Jones below James Jones here, but you can argue for either without being wrong.

Allen Hurns is another under-appreciated player and at a similar price to Jones, he provides the upside for a long touchdown, even if it comes in garbage time. I'd play Hurns regardless of Luck's status, as Vontae Davis should at least hold Allen Robinson down from a huge day. The rest of the Colts' secondary is extremely porous.

Green has as much weekly upside as any receiver in the game, so he's a nice target in the $7,000 range rather than paying up for Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. Cooper isn't listed here, but makes for a great stack if you decide to use Derek Carr in a tournament lineup. Again, chalk isn't always a bad thing in a big tournament.

Tight End

Cash Games

1. Charles Clay ($3,300) vs. NYG
2. Martellus Bennett ($4,500) vs. OAK
3. Jason Witten ($4,400) at NO

Charles Clay is going to be a popular play this week, but he's easily the top cash option on the board. He's paid off his price in every game so far and while his big game last week can be attributed to revenge against his former Dolphins team, he gets a boost this week with Sammy Watkins out of the lineup. The Giants don't defend tight ends well, if at all, so lock Clay in as a cheap top-eight option and move along.

If you don't trust Clay and/or the Bills, Bennett is viable this week even with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. He only caught four passes for 15 yards last week, but that was against the stingy Seahawks. Last week, Browns tight end Gary Barnidge destroyed the Raiders' defense with Josh McCown at the helm. Bennett is far better than Barnidge, and I'm not sure Clausen is that much worse than McCown; they're both awful. There's a solid floor here.

It's easy to make arguments against Clay and Bennett, more so Bennett, and for those who want to shy away from them, Jason Witten is a good option. He's scored at least 12.5 fantasy points in each of his three games so far, and while Brandon Weeden caps Witten's upside, he might actually raise his floor due to Weeden's inability to do anything well besides check down. The Saints don't have a linebacker or safety to make Witten a risky play.

Tournaments

1. Charles Clay ($3,300) vs. NYG
2. Jimmy Graham ($6,000) vs. DET
3. Greg Olsen ($5,400) at TB

Clay checks in as the top option for both cash games and tournaments, as his high floor comes with good price-point upside as well. Jimmy Graham has a good matchup with Detroit, although the likely return of linebacker DeAndre Levy puts a slight damper on his matchup, although Levy may not see a full complement of snaps.

Greg Olsen could be highly owned after last week's explosion, but many players like to go cheap at tight end and spend up elsewhere. The Bucs have been good against tight ends so far this season, but they've only faced one decent one in Delanie Walker. And Walker had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown despite not playing the entire game in Week 1.

Defense

1. Seahawks ($3,700) vs. DET
2. Cardinals ($3,400) vs. STL
3. Broncos ($3,300) vs. MIN
4. Colts ($2,800) vs. JAX

The Seahawks are easily the chalk cash play on defense this week, with a Lions offense that is struggling with poor line play coming into Seattle. The Cardinals are actually my preferred tournament play, however, as less people will choose them and they have arguably a higher touchdown upside, as seen last week. Nick Foles is known for scoring often for the other team.

The Broncos defense could pitch a shutout of the Vikings if they keep Adrian Peterson in check, and sacks could come in abundance, but Teddy Bridgewater is less likely than Foles or Matthew Stafford to throw a pick-six. The Colts are an option if Luck plays, as they may be playing with a nice lead at home against another pick-six machine in Blake Bortles. Unlike the first three teams listed here, however, they aren't actually a good defense in real life, so this is strictly a tournament play.

Breaking down Ryan Fitzpatrick's struggles throwing downfield


After starting the season with wins over the Browns and Colts, the Jets were looking to return home to MetLife Stadium and treat their fans to a 3-0 start against an Eagles team that looked listless in their first two games, particularly on offense. Instead, Philadelphia came in and took it to New York, opening an early 24-0 lead on its way to a 24-17 win.

The Jets’ defense recovered after a tough start, but it was their offense that held them back on this day. Without Eric Decker and Chris Ivory, who was active but didn’t play a snap, the Jets’ offense started and ended with Brandon Marshall, who suffered a few drops and a bone-headed lateral attempt despite an impressive 10-catch, 109-yard statline.

Regardless of who was hurt and who struggled, the real issue with the Jets’ offense was an ability to stretch the field. Despite the return of second-round pick Devin Smith, a vertical playmaker with 4.4 speed, New York couldn’t push the ball deep successfully. Ryan Fitzpatrick was just 3 for 9 targeting Smith, but 32 for 49 targeting his other receivers. And none of those three completions went for more than 16 yards.

The Eagles understood Fitzpatrick’s limitations coming into the game, as they stacked the box even with the Jets starting Bilal Powell at running back. The following screenshot from the game’s first play shows eight Eagles defenders in the box, with the Jets having just seven players to block them, one of whom was slot receiver Jeremy Kerley. Predictably, the play gained just three yards. Two short passes later, and the Jets were forced to punt.


The Jets repeated the same formula for three-and-out on their following drive, but did dink-and-dunk their way to a first down late in the opening quarter. On their first play of the second quarter with Zac Stacy in the backfield, this is what the Eagles’ defense looked like.


Again, eight Eagles defenders in the box against seven Jets. The play went for two yards. Philadelphia had such little respect for the Jets’ passing game that they loaded up to stop the run on first down, hoping to force the Jets into second-and-long situations that their offense struggles with.

The response to stacked boxes in the NFL is play-action passes and taking deep shots down the field. Unfortunately, the Jets didn’t throw a pass over 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage until they were facing a 24-point deficit with just over a minute left in the second quarter. Fitzpatrick completed the pass to Quincy Enunwa for 26 yards over the middle, but it wasn’t pretty.


Enunwa was breaking from left to right on the screen, but Fitzpatrick’s pass was woefully behind his man, and Enunwa did a great job to reach back and make the play before going to the ground and rolling for extra yardage. Fitzpatrick didn’t have the opportunity to lead Enunwa, as that would’ve taken him into the defenders to the right of the screen, but he didn’t anticipate the throw early enough to hit him in stride, either.

Fitzpatrick still hadn’t attempted a pass that traveled over 20 yards in the air until the second-to-last offensive play of the half, when he had Devin Smith open in the endzone for an easy touchdown. In the screenshot below, Smith is moving towards the vacant middle of the endzone as Fitzpatrick releases the pass from the 19-yard line. In the shot after, you can see where the ball ends up.




Another pass thrown well behind the receiver, and one that kept points off the board. Fitzpatrick did hit Marshall in the front of the endzone for a 16-yard score on the next play from scrimmage, giving the Jets their first points of the game heading into the half.

In the third quarter, Fitzpatrick attempted his second pass of the game over 20 yards. The result was an airmailed pass to Enunwa, a 6-2 wide receiver who couldn’t come close to getting a hand on the pass.


On the ensuing third-and-10, Fitzpatrick tried to find Smith deep down the left side, but the ball was underthrown and broken up by Eric Rowe. After another deep incompletion to Marshall on the next drive, Fitzpatrick threw a back-breaking interception deep in Philadelphia territory on, you guessed it, an attempted deep ball. Looking for Smith again in tight coverage, the pass was short and easily intercepted by Rowe.


If you’re counting, that’s zero completions for Fitzpatrick on five attempts over 20 yards down the field. On his next deep attempt, again to Smith, Fitzpatrick actually gives the two Eagles defenders a better chance to make a play on the ball than he does Smith. Luckily for the veteran, the interception was dropped.


Out of a whopping 58 pass attempts in a game the Jets were trailing by multiple possessions most of the way, Fitzpatrick tried to push the ball 20 yards downfield just six times. He completed zero of those attempts, and none of them were particularly close.

The Jets are likely to get Ivory back for a Week 4 matchup with the Dolphins in London, but Decker is still uncertain to play. Having Ivory back will help the running game, as he’s talented enough to take care of the extra defender in the box, either with a quick cut or by lowering his shoulder and running through the tackle. As useful as Powell is as a do-it-all backup, he doesn’t possess that kind of physical talent.

Although having Ivory back will help, the Jets need to be able to open up the playbook and take shots downfield, especially with Smith healthy. The lack of chemistry between Fitzpatrick and his rookie receiver was evident, as Smith was injured well before Fitzpatrick took the reins from Geno Smith and missed valuable practice time.

Even with chemistry, though, the question remains as to whether Fitzpatrick has the arm to stretch the field. Even when he had receivers open, he was a beat late with his throws, which is not the way to make up for a lack of arm strength. Fitzpatrick needs to be able to anticipate these throws to make them work, but that’s not something he’s ever been capable of in his first nine NFL seasons. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

With Fitzpatrick at the helm, the only way the Jets can win games is by building an early lead and controlling the game script, something they did in the first two weeks thanks to 10 forced turnovers from their defense. The Eagles took care of the ball and scored points early, which looks to be the blueprint to beat this year’s Jets with Fitzpatrick under center.

It’s a flawed formula, but one that can work against below-average teams without standout quarterbacks. The Jets’ schedule isn’t too daunting from here on out, as the only top-10 quarterbacks they face are Tom Brady (twice) and Tony Romo, if he’s back in time for a Week 15 matchup with the Cowboys. Besides the Pats and Cowboys, the Bills and Raiders are the only teams left on the Jets' schedule who currently have more than one win.

If the Jets’ offense falls flat again in London this weekend thanks to an inability to stretch the field, Todd Bowles will have a big decision on his hands. With Geno Smith healthy and possessing the arm strength necessary to challenge defenses deep, would Smith give the Jets a better chance to win? The coaching staff threw all of its support behind Smith this offseason even after the Fitzpatrick trade, which seems to imply they believe he gives their offense the greatest upside. They had no choice but to throw their full confidence behind Fitzpatrick once Smith broke his jaw, and Bowles may find himself in another spot where he is forced to make a move.

Fitzpatrick is a career backup and a game manager, and he’s made one heck of a career playing that role. He’s always been stretched as a starter, however, and another loss may mean it’s time for the Jets to give Smith one last chance. Smith has seen the team’s gameplan for success from the sidelines, and if he gets another opportunity, the only question remains: “Can he play within that blueprint while adding the deep ball to the Jets’ offense?” If Fitzpatrick falters again in Week 4, we may find out.