Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 6
On the Week 6 main slate, we've got a lot of running backs who check all the boxes.
The default process at running back is looking for players who get both rushing and receiving work in plus matchups at home. You can easily make a list of six different guys -- in all different salary tiers on FanDuel -- who fit the process to perfection.
At the same time, we've got other bellcows in less obvious spots. The easiest path to upside is moreso via volume than a plus matchup.
This means we have to decide how we view those high-volume backs in tougher matchups relative to those who get the cupcakes.
That'll be the central focus for us on the Week 6 NFL DFS main slate. We're going to run through both groups and the players who fit within them and decide who stands out for cash games, who works as a strong tournament play, and who might be best off excluded from our player pool.
The Free Squares
From a cash-game perspective, we don't need to over-complicate things. We can just take the guys in obvious spots and plug them in. So let's start there.
Assuming Sunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons is a go, Alexander Mattison will be the guy. Dalvin Cook is likely to sit, and Mattison had 18 carries in the second half of Sunday night's game. You don't overthink someone like Mattison; you lock him in and build from there.
The other running backs who check basically all of the traditional boxes are Derrick Henry, Mike Davis, James Robinson, David Montgomery, and Myles Gaskin. You can make arguments for others, but these five all seem likely to be among the most popular backs on the slate outside of Mattison.
Our job is to dig into their workloads and see whom we should prioritize.
The way to do so is dissecting each back's most relevant sample and extrapolating how much work we should expect them to get. The most relevant sample is generally how much work they've gotten in their current situations with the other personnel around them similar to what we'll see this week.
The key number to look at is what we'll call "adjusted opportunities." This is carries plus two-times the player's target total as targets are worth twice as much as a carry for a running back on a half-PPR site like FanDuel.
Also included are each player's salary, their team's implied total, and the spread for their game.
|Running Back||Salary||Rushes||Targets||Adj. Opp.||Imp. Total||Spread|
Even with a middling total, Davis seems like the best option here. The workload is too good to pass up.
In three games without Christian McCaffrey, Davis has at least 28 adjusted opportunities in each, and he has scored a minimum of 19.1 FanDuel points. If you eliminate the touchdowns from his scoring, he's still at a floor of 13.1 FanDuel points and an average of 15.4 points on just yardage and receptions alone. After Mattison, Davis is the top back on this slate. They should be locks for cash games, and we should feel comfortable going overweight on them in tournaments.
Henry is more of a mystery. In the Tennessee Titans' return on Tuesday, Henry's snap rate cratered to 51.5%, and he ran a season-low 11 routes, according to Pro Football Focus. That was even with Darrynton Evans getting banged up as Jeremy McNichols played big snaps.
The Houston Texans rank 22nd in success rate allowed to opposing running backs, so it's a great matchup, and he's a home favorite. The spot makes sense. But Henry's profile isn't nearly as alluring as Davis', and Davis is a $1,500 salary discount.
The sample on Montgomery is just the past two games, and it's a bit misleading. In those matchups, the Chicago Bears faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, two of the best run defenses in the entire league. The Carolina Panthers are 24th and just lost Kawann Short to shoulder surgery. We should expect more than 10 rush attempts this time.
We should also expect healthy work in the passing game. Montgomery has 16.7% of the team's targets in two games without Tarik Cohen, averaging 7.0 targets across those two games. This is a massive role change, and it dramatically alters his DFS appeal.
In this spot, we should expect increases in both volume and efficiency for Montgomery, and he's just $5,900. He's a hyper-viable value option in Week 6.
The question is where Montgomery grades out relative to Robinson and Gaskin, who are both at home.
Robinson is the guy who is more likely to get goal-line touches -- unless Jordan Howard is inactive again -- and the Jacksonville Jaguars are in a projected tight game. We want that even at running back as it allows them to get targets deeper in the game, which provides a lift to their ceilings. So when you combine the script with Robinson's goal-line work, he grades out ahead of Gaskin.
How you grade Montgomery relative to Robinson is likely just personal preference. For me, Montgomery holds the slight edge because there seems to be more potential for his volume to increase due to the plus matchup whereas Robinson is more of a known entity. But Robinson is easily justifiable, as well, and both guys are fine routes for exploiting easy matchups.
With Mattison and Davis, there's really no decision to be made. You can lock them in and feel good about things, whether it's a cash game or a tournament.
The true dilemma is more about how you utilize the other running back spot on your roster (assuming you plug a back into your flex, which you should on this slate). As mentioned, guys like Henry, Robinson, Montgomery, and Gaskin are all in play. But we might be able to expect more volume out of others in tougher spots.
Specifically, we're talking about Aaron Jones, Kareem Hunt, and Joe Mixon. All three have elite-level workloads and will get the money touches. We just have to decide if that's more valuable than the plus matchups.
Let's go through the same exercise as above, laying out each running back's workload in their most relevant samples. Here's what we have there.
|Running Back||Salary||Rushes||Targets||Adj. Opp.||Imp. Total||Spread|
If we were playing things strictly based on volume, these guys would all grade out ahead of Montgomery, Robinson, and Gaskin, and they're -- at the very least -- on par with Henry, as well. Jones and Hunt are also in projected tight games, which boosts their appeal even a bit more.
Of the three, Hunt seems to be the one most desirable. His 28 adjusted opportunities last week came even though he was cramping in the fourth quarter. The Pittsburgh Steelers' rush defense is among the league's best, but Hunt's main appeal is what he gets in the air. For $7,000, Hunt is in play as a top-three running back if you're rolling out just one lineup.
Mixon isn't in as good of a spot from a team perspective, but he's a close second behind Hunt all things considered. The Cincinnati Bengals seem to have committed to Mixon as their go-to guy as he has 16.0% of the targets the past three games. The Bengals' offensive line is going to struggle with the Indianapolis Colts' front, but having Darius Leonard likely out again nudges Mixon in the right direction.
Jones ranks third of this group, but there's still healthy tournament appeal. Although he's going to lose snaps and touches to Jamaal Williams, we know that Jones will get the high-leverage touches. In addition to a solid number of overall targets, Jones is getting creative ones with a 4.2-yard average depth of target (aDOT), the third-highest mark of all running backs. Montgomery, Davis, and Alvin Kamara have all gotten at least eight targets against the Bucs, meaning there is a path to a ceiling game for Jones even if he doesn't do much on the ground.
Once you add up the volume and matchups, it's clear that Mattison and Davis belong at the top of the heap. There's no denying that.
After that, it's a bit of a pick-your-poison type of slate. Personally, I'm going to wind up putting Hunt third because I value volume more than matchup, which allows him to shift in front of Robinson, Montgomery, and Gaskin. Mixon is in that same tier, as well, though I'd likely put him behind both Robinson and Montgomery. Gaskin and Jones are worthy of tournament exposure, but the flaws in their profiles would put them at the bottom of this list.
This is one of those slates where you have to trust your own individual process, though. If you value matchups over everything, you've got options. If you just want to hoard volume, you've got options there, too. Assess how you want to play things and rank the players in your mind based on that.
High-Profile Receivers in Bucs vs. Packers
The reason we looked at Jones' splits with Davante Adams is that Adams is on track to return this week after logging full practices on Wednesday and Thursday. He may not be the only star receiver getting back on the field.
Chris Godwin returned to a limited practice on Wednesday, and it sounds like he has a legit chance to play on Sunday.
Mike Evans drops the injury report when talking about keys to beating the Packers: "We got the playmakers, got guys back from injury, like CG (Chris Godwin). That's gonna be huge. J Watt. And myself getting more healthy." #Bucs
— Grace Remington (@GraceRemiWTSP) October 15, 2020
This is fun because we need more healthy stud receivers. But it also makes this game attractive for stacking.
Mike Leone of Establish the Run uses things such as win probability, down, distance, and situation to track each team's pass rate relative to expectation. Through Week 5, the Bucs and Green Bay Packers rank fifth and fourth, respectively, in pass rate above expectation, and they're the two most pass-heavy teams on the main slate. Passes are great for DFS because they either stop the clock or result in a completion, both of which are desirable outcomes. We should see plenty of those in this one.
Neither pass defense is a sieve, but we don't really need to shy away from them, either. So it's arrows up on getting exposure to both sides.
Adams, specifically, stands out. It's his first game back from injury, but Adams was able to practice in Week 4 before ultimately sitting. He has had a bye since to get further rested. He should be in line to play his first full game since he got 17 targets in Week 1. Because so many of the appealing running backs are in the middle salary tier, we can afford Adams' $9,000 salary, and we should actively try to do so.
The other option -- outside of Jones -- would be Marquez Valdes-Scantling. MVS has three deep targets (at least 16 yards downfield) in three of four games this year, including when Adams was healthy in Week 1. He's a big play waiting to happen, and he should see lesser coverage with Adams back. Valdes-Scantling's main appeal will be as a part of game stacks, but you can justify him as a standalone play as long as you can tolerate an iffy floor.
You can pair any of those three options with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Rodgers has averaged 0.52 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back this year. NEP is numberFire's expected points model and includes deductions for expected points lost on plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. The league-average Passing NEP per drop back is 0.15, and no other quarterback is higher than 0.39. That efficiency gives Rodgers upside even without the rushing, putting him on the map even for single-entry lineups.
Tom Brady isn't as easy of a sell unless Godwin gets in a full practice by Friday. Mike Evans will likely see plenty of coverage from Jaire Alexander, who has been lights out this entire season. You can still use Evans, but it would put a dent in his floor. And Brady's alternatives would be just middling if Godwin were still hampered.
You can definitely check out some of the individual pieces here, though. Evans and Godwin would both be bring-back options if you were to use one of the Packers' studs. Scotty Miller is risky with Justin Watson trending toward returning as Watson out-snapped Miller in both Weeks 2 and 4. However, Miller has exceeded 70 receiving yards in 3 of 5 games, including one of the games where Watson out-snapped him.
Nobody on this side has a firm floor, which does complicate the stacking situation. But the downsides of a reduced floor are worth it in a game with this much shootout potential.
The Arrival of Chase Claypool
There were a couple of factors that led to Chase Claypool's big game. He had big efficiency, and at least some of his volume was thanks to Diontae Johnson's injury. Neither of those things are locks to stick going forward.
That doesn't mean Claypool goes back in the box now. (UPDATE: Johnson has since been ruled out, elevating Claypool's floor but putting a slight dent in Roethlisberger's ceiling.)
Although this isn't always the case in the NFL, past productivity can often lead to future volume. When said productivity includes dropping four tuddies on the Philadelphia Eagles, you know this guy's going to have a role moving forward. Why on earth would the Pittsburgh Steelers bottle him back up after what he did?
It's also encouraging that the Steelers acknowledged Claypool's talent. They gave him three rush attempts in Sunday's game. It's an indication they want the ball in his hands, in addition to the points you can squeeze out of a rush attempt. Both of those are valuable.
So, will Claypool see 11 targets when Johnson is healthy? Maybe not. But he might not need to in this matchup.
The opposing Cleveland Browns rank 27th against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. They're going to have a tough time slowing down Claypool, and it's a game we should be inclined to stack. Claypool should be a part of those stacks.
This isn't to say you should write off Johnson, assuming he gets the green light to play. He had 23 targets the first two games, and he had a pair of deep targets in both Weeks 2 and 3 (despite being limited to just 19 snaps in the latter). We should just prioritize Claypool as it seems likely he'll be the one getting the hyper-valuable downfield looks between the two, but Johnson would be a potential pivot if we get clearance on his health.
The path to upside is tougher for JuJu Smith-Schuster. As mentioned, both Claypool and Johnson have multiple games with at least two deep targets. Smith-Schuster has two deep targets the entire season. He hasn't topped 69 yards yet in a game, and unless you expect his role to change, it's hard to see that outlook getting brighter.
Instead, you could consider Eric Ebron as the tertiary outlet within the offense. Ebron has at least five targets in three straight games, and among relevant options, his aDOT is second on the team behind Claypool. Ebron fills a gross position for just $5,200 and is facing a Browns defense that has already allowed at least six targets to six different tight ends this season.
In the lineups where you use Claypool, Johnson, or Ebron, Ben Roethlisberger is a viable quarterback play, even though he hasn't shown upside yet this year.
A big part of the reason for Roethlisberger's lack of a ceiling is that he isn't throwing deep. His aDOT is 6.8 overall, and you need some big run-after-the-catch action or touchdown luck to pop on that. However, Roethlisberger's aDOT is 7.4 in the two games with Claypool's snaps up, and it could inch higher if we get both Johnson and Claypool active. That's enough to justify taking a swing at Roethlisberger in the ideal script for a quarterback in DFS.
As far as bring-back options on the Browns, Hunt is clearly the top gun, as discussed previously. You could also consider Odell Beckham, who has 27.1% of the Browns' overall targets this year along with 35.7% of the deep targets. Beckham missed practice Thursday due to illness, but as long as he's good to go, he and Hunt are good stacking partners with the Steelers' offense.
T.Y. Hilton Shows a Pulse
There's a good chance T.Y. Hilton is completely toast and unusable in daily fantasy. However, his usage has been shifting recently, and we should at least take note of that.
The past two weeks, Hilton's target share is 25.0%, up from 17.5% before Pittman's injury. They aren't bunny targets, either, as Hilton's aDOT is 10.4 in that time and 12.2 for the season.
We just haven't seen the fruits of that volume yet, but we could on Sunday. Both games were played outdoors whereas this one will be inside. It's just the third home game of the season for the Colts. In both of the others, they built a massive lead early and were able to put the passing game on ice.
That could happen again here because the Bengals aren't exactly a juggernaut. But if the Bengals keep things close, we could see Hilton re-emerge within the offense.
Hilton's certainly not a priority at $5,800. But nobody's going to use him with several other high-profile plays in the same range. He's worth consideration if you're multi-entering in tournaments.
You can also mini-stack Hilton with Mixon, Tyler Boyd, or Tee Higgins. Higgins, specifically, looks intriguing thanks to the deep volume he's getting. His snap rate rose in Week 2, and since then, he's averaging 3.3 deep targets per game.
|Past 3 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The overall targets appear muted, but it helps that the Bengals are a pass-heavy offense.
Higgins is the exact same salary as Claypool. Claypool checks more boxes because he's at home, on a better team, and in a better matchup. However, there's some credence to considering Higgins as a pivot off of Claypool if people chase Claypool's big game. Using Higgins and Hilton together would allow you to use whichever plays you wanted elsewhere as it's unlikely to be a popular combination.
Still No Julio
Since they didn’t practice today, here’s an estimation of what the Falcons’ injury report would have been. pic.twitter.com/8LwnpmOS2L
— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) October 15, 2020
With no practices for Jones the past two weeks, we can safely assume he won't be out there if this game is played. (UPDATE: Jones practiced in full on Friday and was taken off the injury report. This provides a boost to Ryan's ceiling and the appeal of the Vikings' passing game.) That's a downgrade for the Falcons' offense and some of the Vikings.
We've had three games with Jones either out or extremely limited. In those, Ryan has averaged -0.02 Passing NEP per drop back. If that were his full-season mark, he would rank 30th, right between Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins. Not ideal!
That pushes Ryan out of play. It also impacts the secondary options as it hurts the efficiency of the offense as a whole. The lone remaining bright spot is Calvin Ridley, who is well worth his lofty salary.
In the past two weeks -- with Jones out or limited and Russell Gage playing full snaps -- the targets after Ridley have been super spread out.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Ridley's 20.3% target share is despite going catchless in one of these games. He has double-digit targets in four of five games and has gone over 100 yards in each of those four. He's a great standalone play or mini-stack option with Mattison. You can talk yourself into Hayden Hurst, but that's due only to the general poop-show-ness of the position.
If the Falcons can't pump out big efficiency on offense, it lowers the odds the Vikings have to chuck it late in the game. That kills the appeal in Kirk Cousins as the Vikings have an active aversion to the forward pass. Even with that, we can at least give some thought to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
We're up to a three-game sample since Jefferson's breakout. In that time, almost every high-leverage target has gone to either Thielen or him.
|Past 3 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
If you're not going to get a ton of pass attempts, you at least need to know where the ball is going when they do decide to throw. Here, we have that knowledge.
Thielen, specifically, is getting enough volume where you can plug him into lineups alongside Mattison if you want. He'd be a better option at $7,400 if Julio were to play, but even without Julio, Thielen still seems to provide both a safe floor and a high ceiling.
Jefferson's floor is much more of an open question after he had just 23 yards last week. In this offense, five targets is within his range of outcomes, and anybody can bust at that number. But Jefferson also had 103 yards in Week 4 on just five targets, so his ceiling is decent. He's a tougher sell in lineups with Mattison because his volume is lower than Thielen's, but he can work at times as a pivot in the lineups where you decide to omit Mattison.
Downgrading the Jaguars
D.J. Chark isn't on the same level as Julio Jones yet. But he's another guy whose absence would likely ding a bunch of players in his game.
Chark is yet to practice this week after injuring his ankle late in their Week 5 game against the Houston Texans. He seems likely to sit this week, and the last time that happened, things went poorly for the Jaguars' offense.
In the four games Chark has played, Gardner Minshew has averaged 0.24 Passing NEP per drop back. In the one game Chark missed, that dropped to -0.16. That was against the Miami Dolphins. Miami has played well defensively this year, but that ain't great.
This makes Minshew hard to swallow in DFS even in a tough matchup. He's never hit 26 FanDuel points in his entire career, so his ceiling is capped to begin with. Chark sitting won't make it any higher.
The two guys who can still grade out decently in the offense are Robinson and Laviska Shenault.
Shenault got in a limited practice Thursday, meaning he should be in line to play this week. His role seems to have been shifting the past two games with his target share up to 17.5%, and he has exceeded 75 receiving yards in both. Shenault isn't a core play at $5,800, but you can certainly put him in your player pool.
If the Jags' offense doesn't cook, it's harder to envision Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions hanging a big number. We can still consider Kenny Golladay and T.J. Hockenson even with that being the case.
Golladay has been back for two games now, and he has wasted no time in getting back to his target-hogging ways.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Golladay's getting big volume from a quality quarterback against the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense. Even with the Jaguars' defense getting healthier this week, Golladay is in the same realm as Thielen as a trustworthy receiver play in the $7,000 range.
Hockenson hasn't gotten downfield targets since Golladay returned, but he did top 50 receiving yards in each of the first three games. He's in play largely due to his position, but he's palatable at $5,700.
Relying on the Jets' Offense
The Dolphins are at home with a big implied total and facing a dumpster fire of a defense. That gives them all a great floor, and we can consider them for DFS as a result.
The problem is that the path to a big ceiling is a shootout, and it's hard to see the New York Jets providing us that.
Joe Flacco will start again for the Jets, and -- in a surprise to everyone -- he struggled in Week 5. He turned 35 drop backs into 195 passing yards. Cool!
Things may get better if Breshad Perriman is able to return from injury, but this team is wretched. The Dolphins could get out to a big lead early. If they do, Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker would be likely to play a role, and they're viable for DFS because of that. It's just hard to put them at the top of the heap unless you think the Jets will keep pace.
The two guys who are more immune to that are the aforementioned Gaskin and Mike Gesicki. Gaskin does get a slight downgrade if the Jets don't keep pace, but as mentioned before, he's still in that top nine discussion at running back.
As for Gesicki, we just don't need as much volume at tight end as we do at other positions. The other plus with him is we can expect the volume he does get to be of the money variety.
Of Gesicki's 28 targets this year, 9 have been at least 16 yards downfield. He has 34.6% of the team's deep targets -- a massive number for a tight end -- and he adds 35.0% of the team's red-zone targets. It's hard to find that kind of usage at the position.
Even with the concerns around the Jets' offense keeping pace, Gesicki is arguably the best tight-end play on the slate at $5,600. He's in play even for single-entry tournaments.
If you do decide to use either Fitzpatrick or Parker, it's a good idea to include Jamison Crowder, as well. Crowder has at least 10 targets and 100 yards in all 3 games he has played, showing he is the exception to the Jets' ineptitude. Crowder's $6,600 salary doesn't fully encapsulate the value of his role, so you can target him in any lineup where you use one of the Dolphins' pieces.
Lamar Jackson's Decreased Rushing Volume
There's no doubt that Lamar Jackson is running less this year. His rush attempts per game are down 3.5 from last year, and it has led to 32.8 fewer yards per game.
We just have to decide if that's reason enough to avoid him this week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Part of the issue is that the Baltimore Ravens haven't been in many competitive games. For the entire season, the Ravens have run just 74 plays in the second half in which the game was within 14 points. For comparison, the Kansas City Chiefs have run 120 such plays. The Jets are the only other team yet to have their bye who have run fewer than 80 such plays. That means fewer passing chances for Jackson and less incentive for him to make plays with his legs.
The Eagles have certainly struggled this year. However, it seems like they'll get DeSean Jackson back, and the offense showed life last week. (UPDATE: Jackson and right tackle Lane Johnson have since been ruled out.) They might not force a shootout, but they could at least keep it to the point where the Ravens need to keep their foot on the gas later in the game.
That's one plus for Jackson. The other is the matchup.
The Eagles enter Week 6 ranked 29th against the pass. Jackson had a plus matchup with Cleveland in Week 1, but since then, he hasn't faced a pass defense outside the top 20. He gets that here.
In other words, this could be the best situation Jackson has had for fantasy all season. He may not regain the ceiling he had last year, but on a slate lacking in surefire quarterbacking options, this seems like a good spot to find the $9,000 to plug him in.
|In 2020||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
We'll see Brown get shadowed by Darius Slay, which is a tough matchup. That does put a bit of a dent in Brown's appeal, but he's still in play for sure at $6,300. It could, though, shuffle a couple extra targets Andrews' direction.
Andrews is -- objectively -- over-salaried at $7,600. That's way too high for a guy averaging just 5.8 targets per game, and it means he won't be a quality play in most instances.
This time, though, he's pretty interesting. The Eagles have struggled against tight ends for the season, the Ravens may have to push for the entire game, and Brown's matchup may bump Andrews' target projection. Both Jackson and Andrews are worth their salaries at positions lacking in can't-miss options for the slate.
The Titans With AJ Brown
If you -- like me -- are a bit wary of Derrick Henry due to passing-game volume, you can still get exposure to the potential shootout between the Titans and Texans. Will Fuller is the obvious route now that he seems to have a solid floor, and Brandin Cooks showed last week he has a path to upside. But we can also go at the Titans via A.J. Brown or Jonnu Smith.
Brown missed practice Thursday, but it could have been maintenance after playing Tuesday. We'll make that assumption for now and proceed as if Brown is good to go.
Brown has played two games so far this year for the Titans. Both Brown and Smith have gotten decent volume in those games.
|Weeks 1 and 5||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The sample sizes on the high-leverage targets are small because Ryan Tannehill hasn't gone deep often this year, and red-zone data is always sparse. But the overall numbers will certainly work.
Brown's matchup with Bradley Roby is a tough one. He's also just a $200 discount from Fuller, so it's hard to view Brown as the top priority in this game. However, he should still get volume even in a tough spot, at least making Brown an option.
Smith's matchup won't be as tough, and he's also getting good work. Although Smith's touchdown pace will come crashing back to earth eventually, he has a yardage floor that not many tight ends possess. We should view him as being below Gesicki for sure, but Smith is a way to change up things if you don't want to commit at a chaotic position.