Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 9

In a week that has been anything but "normal," we're getting a sigh of relief on Week 9's NFL DFS main slate.

My default strategy for DFS centers around stacking games that I think will be close and high-scoring. I also want to spend up for bellcow backs while getting guaranteed volume out of the value options I consider.

Check, check, and check.

Not only does this slate feature games that are absolutely ripe for the stacking, but we've got both Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey ready to fire at running back. The $7,000 range at receiver is brimming with delicious options. And, yes, we do have a couple of outlets where we can save some salary.

This is shaping up to be a massively fun slate and one that allows us to return to our basics in building lineups. With that in mind, let's look at several situations impacting the slate and how they should influence our decision-making.

A Shootout in Buffalo

Ain't no wind in Buffalo this week, everybody. Put on your party hats and load up on this game.

The total for the Buffalo Bills' do-si-do with the Seattle Seahawks has risen four points since it opened, pushing it up to 55. It's two pass-heavy offenses that can move the ball efficiently facing two defenses that we don't need to avoid. This is a stacker's delight.

To make matters even better, we know where the ball is going on each side. You're not getting these guys at a discount, but they come with both a floor and a massive ceiling.

The preferred side of this game may actually be the Bills'. Josh Allen checks literally every box you could possibly want at quarterback: he's at home against a terrible pass defense in a projected tight game, and he adds rushing juice, as well.

Allen has had a rough stretch recently with four straight games of less than 20 FanDuel points. But it's important to remember the context of those games. There was rough weather for two, some tougher matchups, and a game where the Bills just couldn't convert in the red zone. This situation is radically different.

When Allen was in better game environments earlier in the year, he had at least 25 FanDuel points in each of his first four games, and he topped 32 twice. He has both a floor and a ceiling, making him arguably the top quarterback for a single-entry tournament lineup.

In your Allen lineups, you'll want to stack him with Stefon Diggs a healthy amount of the time. John Brown is in consideration, too, though.

Brown logged a full practice Thursday, indicating he's likely past the injuries that sidelined him last month. If you look at Brown's market shares in the games where he has played at full health (excluding Weeks 3 and 6), he has at least gotten enough volume to work in this spot. A "deep" target here is one at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

With Brown HealthyOverall TargetsDeep TargetsRZ Targets
Stefon Diggs29.2%50.0%16.7%
John Brown17.7%20.0%16.7%
Cole Beasley14.6%15.0%16.7%

Diggs is a cash-game play and arguably the best receiver on the slate for tournaments despite likely popularity. But Brown's getting enough to check in as low-salaried access to this game at $5,500.

On the other sidelines, if Allen is the top quarterback on the slate, Russell Wilson is a close second. The reason to give the edge to Allen is due to Allen's higher rushing volume and lower salary. But Wilson belongs right behind him.

The question is which of his other-worldly receivers will go off this week. Based on past evidence, this seems to be a week to favor Tyler Lockett over DK Metcalf.

What we saw in the Seahawks' game with the Arizona Cardinals is that they're willing to attack the opposing team's biggest weakness. For the Bills -- like the Cardinals -- that's the middle of the field. That's where Lockett feasts moreso than Metcalf.

Metcalf will deal with Tre'Davious White here, which is a tough matchup. Metcalf has beaten guys like Stephon Gilmore, so you should still be using Metcalf in tournament lineups; he can boast a ceiling against anyone. But if you've got just one lineup -- or if you want to go here in cash -- then Lockett is your guy.

Similar to the Brown discussion, it seems likely the Seahawks will give us some value, as well. With Carlos Hyde effectively ruled out and Chris Carson not testing his foot until Friday, there's a decent chance we get DeeJay Dallas as the lead back for the second straight game. Dallas did enough last week for us to feel good about him if that's the case.

Dallas wasn't efficient against the San Francisco 49ers, but he handled 18 carries and 5 targets on a 79.4% snap rate. It's possible that Travis Homer will steal some additional work, but Dallas profiles as the more traditional load-carrying back. Dallas wouldn't be the top running back on the board at $5,100, but he'd be a core play for tournaments and at least a consideration in cash games.

A Sneakier Shootout in Los Angeles

If you're not as enthralled with the Bills versus the Seahawks, you can still stack a superbly fun matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Las Vegas Raiders.

A big driver of the incentive to stack here is the matchup between Justin Herbert and the Raiders' secondary. The Raiders rank 23rd in schedule-adjusted pass defense, making this one of the best matchups Herbert has had all year.

In his six starts, only once has Herbert faced a pass defense outside the top 20. That's compared to three games against top-10 pass defenses and another against the 12th-ranked unit. Despite that tough road, Herbert ranks eighth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. NEP is the metric we use at numberFire to track the expected points added or subtracted on each play, and it includes deductions for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. Herbert has excelled here even while facing quality defenses.

That matchup combined with Herbert's efficiency is enough to make Herbert a high-quality play at $7,900. He's not quite on the same level as Allen and Wilson, but he's firmly in the second tier.

We also know with whom to stack Herbert, and that's Keenan Allen.

This will be the fourth game in which all three of Herbert, Allen, and Mike Williams have been healthy. In the previous three, Allen's workload has been simply massive.

Weeks 2, 7, and 8 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Keenan Allen 29.8% 32.0% 15.4%
Hunter Henry 16.7% 8.0% 7.7%
Mike Williams 13.2% 24.0% 7.7%

A 30% target share for $7,500? Clay Davis dot gif, baby.

Allen's salary puts him right between Lockett and Diggs, both of whom figure to be popular. That doesn't mean Allen will go overlooked, but it does at least put a lid on his roster rate. Whether you stack this game or not, Allen needs to be in your player pool.

Both Williams and Hunter Henry work for game stacks, but they're thinner outside of that. Williams' high-leverage work means he can pay off on minimal volume, putting him in play at $6,200. Henry fills a typically dreadful position for $5,600. The salary and position combine to put Henry higher on our list, but they are clear secondary pieces behind Allen.

As for the running backs, it's obvious that Justin Jackson is the top guy here, and his salary is just $5,900. It's just hard to tell what his ceiling is.

The appeal in Jackson is that he gets work as both a rusher and a receiver. In a half-PPR scoring setting like FanDuel, targets are worth twice as much as carries for running backs. In three games without Ekeler, Jackson has at least five targets in each. If we double those (to account for the value gap) and add them to his carries, Jackson is at 24.0 adjusted opportunities per game without Ekeler, and he has hit 27 adjusted opportunities twice.

Unfortunately, none of those carries -- for the entire season -- and just one of the targets have come inside the 20-yard line. Even with Joshua Kelley seemingly falling behind in this backfield battle, Kelley's still going to be the guy getting those looks.

As a result, if you want Jackson to hit the end zone -- a necessity for a non-bellcow back -- you need him to find paydirt on a big play. That's possible, especially against such a bad defense. However, the odds of it are low, meaning our exposure to Jackson needs to be low, as well.

The other helpful aspect of stacking this game is that we know which player to use as our bring-back option on the Raiders. That's either Darren Waller or Josh Jacobs.

If this game shoots out, Waller and Jacobs are highly likely to benefit. Jacobs leads the main slate with 45.6% of the team's carries or targets inside the red zone, and Waller leads all tight ends in red-zone target share. Whenever the Raiders put up points, those two are going to be involved.

Waller's $6,400 salary is reasonable and helps you fill tight end. Since Henry Ruggs' return in Week 5, Waller's market shares have still been hefty.

Past 3 Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Darren Waller 25.9% 13.3% 40.0%
Nelson Agholor 15.3% 26.7% 30.0%
Henry Ruggs 11.8% 26.7% 10.0%

Waller's in the same camp as Allen where he's in play both for game stacks and as a standalone option.

Jacobs doesn't grade out as a priority at running back, but he's arguably the top option in the $7,000 range. Jacobs racked up 31 carries last week thanks to the wind, an indication both that his workload is up and that his nagging injuries likely won't put a cap on his usage. Jacobs is averaging 28.1 adjusted opportunities per game on the season, tied with Derrick Henry for second on the slate behind McCaffrey. He's the easy number two game-stacking option behind Waller here.

The Return of Christian McCaffrey

Normally, it'd be wise to exercise caution with a high-usage back like McCaffrey after a long layoff. That long layoff is enough for us to rank Cook higher among the studs at the position. However, a couple factors allow us to feel good about flocking to McCaffrey right away.

The first is that this isn't his first week back at practice. He actually logged sessions last week before ultimately not being activated for the Carolina Panthers' Thursday night game. That should indicate that his conditioning is closer to max than most guys in his position.

Second, Mike Davis struggled quite a bit in his stretch run as the team's bellcow, increasing the urgency to plug McCaffrey back in.

Our sample on McCaffrey before his injury is just 41 carries, but the damage he did on them was far greater than what Davis has done since. Rushing Success Rate is the percentage of carries that increase the team's expected points for the drive.

In 2020 Rushing NEP per Carry Rushing Success Rate
Christian McCaffrey 0.14 46.3%
Mike Davis -0.08 41.7%

Rushing NEP per carry can sometimes be too heavily influenced by fumbles, but Rushing Success Rate isn't. McCaffrey's nearly five percentage point gap over Davis there says the team should want McCaffrey back in the mix as soon as possible.

It's likely that Davis will take some volume off McCaffrey's plate, so it's tough to expect the 2019 version of McCaffrey right away. However, if we get anything close, he'll come through for DFS, and he's a high-quality tournament play at $9,500. Prioritize Cook but get enough McCaffrey to be overweight on the field and try to pair the two together in at least a few lineups.

The Lions' Offense in Flux

As of now, we should operate under the assumption that Matthew Stafford will play despite being on the COVID-19 restricted list. Stafford can still play Sunday provided that he tests negative the rest of the week, so we're going to plan as if he's going to play.

For Kenny Golladay, we can't make that assumption, and it downgrades the Detroit Lions' entire offense.

Golladay has played at least half the snaps in four of seven games this year. In the other three, the Lions' offense has taken a step back.

Stafford in 2020 Passing NEP/P aDOT
With Golladay 0.24 9.0
With Golladay Out or Limited 0.05 8.5

With Golladay, Stafford has had the efficiency of Matt Ryan. Without him, he has been a step below Kyle Allen. That's enough to take Stafford off the map despite a plus matchup.

It's not enough to completely cross off the Lions' pass-catchers, though. With Golladay leaving early last week, all three of T.J. Hockenson, Marvin Jones, and Marvin Hall got at least 17.5% of the targets. Hockenson got 10 total for the game, making him a decent tight-end play at $6,000.

As for the Marvins, Jones has had a pretty big yardage problem this year. He has topped 55 receiving yards just once. He has had some tough matchups, but there are legit questions around Jones, and he's not exactly free at $6,100.

Hall, though, is $4,600 and turned his seven targets into 113 yards last week. There's plenty of risk in using Hall because he has no floor, but he's interesting due to the potential for upside and his non-existent salary. That's not to say that Jones is off the radar. It's just that the concerns around his upside prevent him from being a priority.

The other ripple effect of Golladay being out is that it decreases the odds this game shoots out. That's less of a concern for Cook, who -- again -- is the top running back on the slate. It does impact the receivers, though.

The best script for Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson is a back-and-forth affair where the Minnesota Vikings need to keep chucking it. If the Lions' offense is less efficient, our hopes for that go down.

Both Thielen and Jefferson are viable plays because the kinds of targets they get allow them to have a ceiling with minimal volume. However, they have more paths to failure than the other receivers in their salary tier. They're intriguing as tournament pivots -- Jefferson, especially -- but it's hard to view them more favorably than that due to the Vikings' pure hatred of the forward pass.

A Luscious Opportunity for Chase Edmonds

With Kenyan Drake yet to practice this week, it seems like DFS Twitter will finally get its wish. It's the Chase Edmonds breakout game, everybody.

Edmonds -- assuming Drake sits -- is the exact kind of mid-salaried back we should cherish in DFS. He's the obvious benefactor from a volume perspective, and a healthy chunk of that volume will come via the air.

Even on limited snaps this year, Edmonds has a whopping 13.6% of the Arizona Cardinals' overall targets. He's averaging 4.6 per game. That number may not go up much with Drake out, but it doesn't really need to.

We've also already seen this coaching staff make Edmonds a workhorse in the past. He handled 27 carries and 93.8% of the snaps in Week 7 last year. If they felt comfortable giving him that workload then, they're likely to do the same this weekend.

Edmonds is $6,700, so his salary did get jacked up with the possibility Drake would sit. However, that's not high enough to reflect his likely role. As such, Edmonds is a cash-game option and should be one of the backs you build around alongside Cook.

The Deceptive Allure of Miami's Backfield

We've also got an injury on the other side of that game, but it's far less likely to lead to fantasy goodness.

With Myles Gaskin heading to injured reserve, there's a big hole in the Miami Dolphins' backfield. The problem is that -- unlike with Edmonds -- we don't know who's in line to benefit. It could wind up being three people, and that's a gross situation.

Because Matt Breida has missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, it seems likely that Jordan Howard, Patrick Laird, and Salvon Ahmed will be splitting the work. Howard can get the tuddies while Laird and Ahmed get the passing-game work.

Gaskin has had the third-down-plus-goal-line role the past three games with Howard inactive, and his max FanDuel output in that time was 17.6 points. If they're going to chop that three ways, then this team -- despite the opportunity -- is an easy avoid.

Another Absence for Mark Ingram

Things are less grim for the Baltimore Ravens. Mark Ingram missed practice again Thursday, giving us another game with JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards in higher-profile roles. It's enough for us to rotate Dobbins in for tournaments.

Here's how the volume was divvied up in the first game with Ingram sidelined.

In Week 8 Carries Targets Snaps
JK Dobbins 15 2 65.9%
Gus Edwards 16 1 31.7%

Although Edwards got more carries, Dobbins' snap rate and involvement in the passing game (he has multiple targets in five straight) give him the edge.

Dobbins has also been phenomenal on the volume he has gotten, and efficiency does matter for fantasy. It's just not enough to make him a priority for two reasons.

First, the Ravens will be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley for this game. That downgrades the entire offense, which makes it tough to expect that efficiency to stick.

Second, the Indianapolis Colts are a tough defense, especially now that Darius Leonard is back in the fold. That amplifies the loss of Stanley and puts another dent in the projected efficiency for Dobbins.

Lamar Jackson is a quality, difference-making quarterback, so the offense won't collapse with Stanley out. And again, Dobbins seems to have solid talent. That's enough to keep Dobbins in play. The other aspects of his profile prevent him from being more than a rotational value piece in tournaments.

It might not be a bad game to pivot to Marquise Brown instead. Brown has the squeaky-wheel narrative in his favor after complaining about his role in the offense this week. Brown still has 24.6% of the team's targets, and he gets to play indoors on turf this week. If Dobbins' popularity goes up too much, then Brown serves as a fun pivot for just $5,800.

Calvin Ridley Trending the Wrong Way

Another game with a tight spread and a high total this week is in Atlanta for the Atlanta Falcons versus the Denver Broncos. It's still a game we can potentially stack, but it looks like it'll be lacking one of the true prizes within it.

After injuring his foot last week, Calvin Ridley is yet to practice heading into Week 9. That doesn't mean he won't play, as we saw with Julio Jones a few weeks ago, but it does put him on the wrong side of questionable.

We haven't yet seen the Falcons' offense in a full game without Ridley. When Jones missed time earlier in the year, the offensive efficiency went in the tubes, and it hurt everybody here. We should likely expect a downgrade if Ridley misses, making Matt Ryan less appealing for DFS. But we could still use guys like Jones and Hayden Hurst.

In the five healthy games he has played -- all alongside Ridley -- Jones has 23.4% of the team's overall targets while averaging 2.8 deep targets per game. Those numbers are likely to rise with Ridley sidelined. This game environment isn't as good as the one in Buffalo, but Jones is still someone to whom we need to have exposure in tournaments.

Hurst is the value option here. He got off to a slow start, but he now has seven targets in two straight games and six in four of the past five. That does include some downfield looks, giving him a path to yardage. Those games have come with Ridley in the lineup. If he gets a couple additional looks, he's a quality mid-range option at $5,600.

Hurst also serves as a pivot off of Noah Fant on the other side of that game. Because of the matchup, Fant's likely going to be popular. But Hurst would save you $200 in salary and likely brings a similar range of outcomes.

That's not to say that Fant is a poor option by any means. In the three full games he has played with Drew Lock, Fant has 21.0% of the overall targets, and he has averaged 1.7 deep targets per game. That's a great workload for a tight end. If you're okay with using the more popular option, then Fant is a high-quality process play at $5,800.

Another pivot off of Fant if you're wary is his teammate, Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy hasn't flashed yardage upside as he is yet to top 75 receiving yards. However, part of that came with a backup quarterback, and the games he has played with Lock have generally been in tough matchups.

In the three games with Lock and Fant, Jeudy has 2.3 deep targets per game. Although the yardage hasn't been there yet, the building blocks for it are. Jeudy's floor takes a hit with Tim Patrick trending toward playing, but Jeudy's upside is better than his raw numbers would indicate at $5,700.

Evaluating James Conner's Ceiling

In a traditional sense, James Conner is a rockstar play this week. He's his team's lead back against a brutal rush defense, and that team is favored by 14 points. That's the old blueprint for running backs in DFS.

We just have to ask if that's still the blueprint in 2020.

The key issue here is upside. Everything about both Conner and his situation indicates that his floor is high, and that's valuable. It's just hard to tell if his ceiling is equally tempting.

Before delving into Conner himself, it's important to put a number on what we mean by "upside." We need to know the bar Conner needs to clear in order to be a must-have player for DFS.

To get a grasp on that, we can look at perfect FanDuel lineups. These were the players you needed to take down a tournament, and they can give us the groundwork for digging into individual players.

From 2019 through the first eight weeks of 2020, 26 running backs have made a perfect lineup with a salary of at least $7,500. Conner's at $8,200, which is a bit below the median of $8,500 in this sample.

The lowest FanDuel point total for any of those 26 running backs was 22.0 points. Only 4 of 26 scored fewer than 25.0 FanDuel points with the median at 28.1 and the average at 31.3.

This helps illustrate just how much of a ceiling you need to crack a perfect lineup with a salary as high as Conner's. And it's not a ceiling he has shown much of in 2020.

Across seven games, Conner's maximum output is 22.9 FanDuel points. That came in Week 3 and is the only time he has topped the 20-point mark this season. It was also in a similar situation as the Pittsburgh Steelers were at home against a Swiss-cheese Houston Texans rush defense.

This situation -- in the traditional sense -- is better than that one as the Steelers are heavy favorites. So it's possible we've yet to see Conner's ceiling this year.

The problem is that Conner has question marks around both his yardage and touchdown upside, the two clear paths to a ceiling game. His maximum outputs this year are 109 rushing yards and 40 receiving yards. He has topped 20 receiving yards just twice. The high-salaried backs in perfect lineups averaged 128.7 yards rushing and 44.7 yards receiving, and those two marks seem to be his ceiling in each department.

Instead, it seems likely Conner would need to get that juice via touchdowns. But since the team's bye, Conner has been losing some goal-line work to Benny Snell Jr.

Since Bye Rushes Inside the Five
James Conner 5
Benny Snell 4
Chase Claypool 2
Ben Roethlisberger 1

It's not as if Conner isn't getting any goal-line work. But there's a thin margin for error when your salary is as high as his.

Those are the concerns around Conner himself. We also should have concerns around the game environment.

Going back to those 26 high-salaried running backs in perfect lineups, none of them were on teams as heavily favored as the Steelers this week, and very few even came close.

The largest spread for any of the backs to crack the perfect lineup was 13 points. That was one of only two games with a spread of more than eight and only three games where the team was favored by more than a touchdown.

Instead, these backs largely came from projected tight games with 19 of the 26 backs in games with a spread of five points or less. Two others were 5.5-point underdogs. Across all 45 perfect running backs in 2019, there were just as many running backs on teams that were underdogs by more than five points as those that were favored by more than five points.

You can tell yourself a story about why this is the case. When a team salts a game away early, they may not lean on their bellcow back as heavily in the fourth quarter, opting to rest them, instead. They're also less likely to get targets, and as mentioned, a target is worth twice as much as a carry for a running back. Both of those are negatives that we don't have to deal with in closer games.

Basically, Conner's big issue this week is that his range of outcomes isn't large enough. His floor is great, and there's value in that. But it seems like he comes with a muted ceiling both due to his workload and the poor game environment. With how much ceiling matters at $8,200, that makes him someone on whom we may want to go underweight in tournaments, even with the plus matchup.

If your process in DFS is to shoot for a good floor, Conner is your guy. He has that for sure. But if you want to take down a tournament, you need to shoot for ceilings. As a result, even as scary as it may be, this shapes up as a week to fade this particular popular running back in favor of others in projected tighter games.

Jake Luton's Debut

In theory, the Houston Texans' matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars should be a dandy. It's a good, predictable offense against a terrible defense.

We just need the Jaguars to show life and force the Texans to keep pushing all four quarters.

That's in question this week because Jake Luton will start with Gardner Minshew sidelined. Luton is a sixth-round rookie, automatically meaning our expectations need to remain in check. It's not a situation, though, where we should assume the Jaguars' offense will fold.

Luton put up decent numbers in college, posting an 8.8 AY/A his final year. The most impressive part of Luton's game, though, was his deep ball. Luton actually led the nation in quarterback rating on throws 20-plus yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus. The Jaguars' coaching staff has talked up Luton's arm strength, which does at least in theory bode well for the Jaguars' offense's ability to move the ball.

We still need to be at least a bit wary here given the uncertainty around Luton. But the potential for him to sniff competence does have big implications.

First, it does allow us to check out the Texans' offense. Deshaun Watson is in the same tier as Herbert among the quarterbacks, trailing just Wilson and Allen. That's enough for him to work for tournaments.

It also gives us the green light on Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. Cooks holds a slight target edge on Fuller, 21.9% to 20.2%, but Fuller has 37.1% of the team's deep targets. Both are on the map for tournaments, but we should favor Fuller due to his yardage upside and proximity in salary to the likely chalk at the position.

This would also -- in theory -- bode well for David Johnson. But he has similar problems to the ones we discussed with Conner.

Johnson's maximum FanDuel output this year is 18.4 points in Week 1. He hasn't even topped 15 points since then, including an 11.3-point game against the Jaguars earlier this year. He's just not generating yardage right now, and that makes him nothing more than a rotational consideration at $6,800.

Instead, you should just try to find the $500 to get to the other running back in this game, James Robinson.

Unlike Johnson, Robinson has shown a ceiling with 27 FanDuel points in two separate games and three games higher than Johnson's max total.

For the season, Robinson has averaged 24.4 adjusted opportunities per game thanks to a healthy, consistent dose of targets. The Texans have the 28th-ranked schedule-adjusted rush defense -- only two spots better than the Jaguars -- making Robinson the preferred running back play in this game.

A quarterback change could also benefit DJ Chark. In his healthy games, Chark is at 19.6% of the team's targets and has multiple deep targets three times. It just hasn't mattered because of how inefficient those looks have been.

This isn't to say that Luton immediately makes Chark an elite play. However, with how bad things have been, it can't hurt. If you decide to roll with Watson plus Fuller or Cooks, at least give some thought to Robinson and Chark as bring-back options.

A New Role for Anthony Miller

If we want guys like Cook, McCaffrey, and the $7,000 receivers, we'll need more value than just considering John Brown, DeeJay Dallas, JK Dobbins, and Marvin Hall. One name to keep in mind there is Anthony Miller.

Miller's in a largely unappealing game with the Tennessee Titans, but he got a role change last week that may allow him to be viable despite that. Miller played 75.7% of the snaps and ran a route on 40 of 47 pass plays, according to Pro Football Focus. That extra time on the field allowed him to rack up 11 targets, almost doubling his previous season-high of 6.

Miller didn't get any deep looks there, but he had eight in the first three games alone. Those deep targets from Nick Foles haven't been all that fruitful, and this isn't a game we want to stack. As a result, Miller doesn't need to be a core play. But at $5,100, he can be one of our rotational value pieces, allowing us extra flexibility to snag studs elsewhere.