FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 5
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of the top plays in Week 5.
Kyler Murray ($8,500 on FanDuel): Quarterback roster percentages tend to be more flat than other positions, but with a slew of elite fantasy signal-callers off the main slate, it's possible the top options are more popular than we normally see.
One obvious choice is Murray, who's arguably in a tier of his own and is projected for just under 24 FanDuel points by our model -- nearly three points higher than the second-best score.
The undefeated Cardinals are 4.5-point home favorites over the 49ers, and they find themselves in a high-total game, per usual, with the third-highest over/under on the board (49.5). Trey Lance ($6,900) is expected to start for San Francisco, though Jimmy Garoppolo apparently still has a small chance to return this week.
Despite the potentially fluid quarterback situation, the high total and tight spread suggest Murray should be in a fantasy-friendly game environment.
And besides that, it's certainly hard to nitpick Murray's early 2021 resume. Among quarterbacks with at least 90 drop backs, he ranks third in Passing Net Expected Pointed (NEP) per drop back behind only Matthew Stafford and Patrick Mahomes, demonstrating how efficient he's been through the air thus far. And even without a huge rushing game yet, he's fifth at the position in carries (23), tied for fifth in rushing yardage (109), and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (3).
So, yeah, make sure you play Murray in Week 5.
Dak Prescott ($8,100): I'm really torn about Prescott, who looks like an obvious play in what could be a high-scoring game versus the Giants, as this NFC East battle has a slate-best 52.5 total. This also rates as one of the best overall matchups in pace, per our Brandon Gdula.
However, the Cowboys are favored at home by a touchdown, and if they get out to a lead early, we could see them stay with a run-heavy attack, which is what we've witnessed quite a bit from them lately.
Over the past three games, Prescott has logged 27, 26, and 22 pass attempts, which doesn't exactly scream upside from a guy with the third-highest quarterback salary. He still managed to reach 27.02 points in his most recent start, but we can't realistically expect 4 touchdowns very often on 188 passing yards and 22 attempts.
But we also know what Prescott's capable of when he's forced to air it out, which we were reminded of in Week 1 when he chucked it 58 times on his way to 403 passing yards and 3 scores. Prescott ranks fourth behind Murray in Passing NEP per drop back, so he's been as dangerous as ever as a passer, and he's still running a little bit with 17 rushes on the year, which is the eighth-most at the position.
Ultimately, this boils down to whether or not you think the Giants can put up enough of a fight to force the Cowboys to rely on Dak to get the victory.
Daniel Jones ($7,400): If you do think the Giants can keep things competitive, the other option is taking a chance on their signal-caller.
No, it probably won't feel super great to click on Jones' name, but he's actually produced 27-plus points twice already this season, and both of those performances came in high-scoring contests where both teams combined for 59 and 48 real-life points. Given the high total against the Cowboys, we can't rule out a similar result on Sunday.
What's helped Jones to fantasy relevancy is his consistent production on the ground. Among quarterbacks, he ranks third in both carries (27) and rushing yards (188), and he also has two rushing scores to his name.
As you might expect, he hasn't been as productive as a passer, but it might surprise you that he actually tied for 11th in Passing NEP per drop back, so it's not like he's performed poorly, either. In terms of FanDuel points per game, Jones ranks fifth on the slate despite having just the ninth-highest salary.
With so many top quarterbacks off the board, we may not see as many raw points from whoever winds up being this slate's highest-scoring signal-caller, arguably making it less risky to pay down for someone like Jones.
Along similar lines, Trey Lance is worth a look if he ultimately draws the start versus Arizona. Playing just the second half last week, Lance scored 20.38 FanDuel points and rushed 7 times for 41 yards. While there are obvious risks in trusting a rookie, his dual-threat ability in a fantasy-friendly game could work wonders at just a $6,900 salary.
Derrick Henry ($10,400): All three backs with salaries of $9,000 or higher -- Henry, Christian McCaffrey ($10,000), and Dalvin Cook ($9,000) -- have elite workloads when healthy, but Henry's the only one with zero injury concerns entering the weekend.
Henry leads the league with 35.8 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) due to an absurd 28.3 carries and 3.8 targets per game. He has 15 total targets, which is already nearly halfway to last year's season-long total (31).
Henry tops numberFire's running back projections and draws a favorable matchup as a 4.5-point road favorite against a Jaguars team that's winless and dealing with off-the-field distractions from their head coach. According to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, Jacksonville ranks 32nd in total defense and 26th against the run.
Saquon Barkley ($7,800): Barkley makes sense as a way to gain access to one of the top game environments on the slate, particularly if you aren't sold on rostering his quarterback. Since the Giants took off the training wheels in Week 2, Barkley ranks sixth among running backs in adjusted opportunities (24.7), third in snap rate (85.1%), and second in route rate (71.7%).
With Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both getting injured early in Week 3, Barkley's now seen a combined 13 targets over the past two games (18.3% share), and both players could remain out after missing practice again on Thursday. Much like the Barkley of old, the receiving work should keep him plenty involved even if the Cowboys run away with this one.
Austin Ekeler ($7,700): Since curiously seeing zero targets in Week 1, Ekeler has averaged 25.0 adjusted opportunities over his last three games, tied for fourth with Aaron Jones ($8,400) over that span.
While it's not my favorite matchup against a Browns team that doesn't play fast and prefers to run the ball, the Chargers could force Cleveland out of their shell if they get out to an early lead as slight home favorites.
Among running backs, only Henry has scored more FanDuel points per game than Ekeler this season.
Leonard Fournette ($6,400): With Giovani Bernard out last week and Ronald Jones looking more and more like an afterthought, Fournette had easily his biggest role to date in the highly anticipated game against the Patriots. Fournette logged 30.0 adjusted opportunities with an 81.1% snap rate, which would put him among the elites if this holds.
However, Bernard could return this week after getting a limited practice in on Thursday, which puts Fournette's volume into question against the Dolphins. Fournette is an easy value play if Bernard is out again, but even if Bernard is back, Fournette could still produce as the lead back, as Tampa Bay is likely to roll as 9.5-point favorites.
Damien Williams ($5,800): A popular season-long waiver wire pickup this week, Williams pops up as the best point-per-dollar value in numberFire's projections, as he should earn a voluminous workload while David Montgomery is sidelined.
Even if we include the injury-shortened Week 4, Montgomery averaged a solid 21.8 adjusted opportunities over the first four weeks, which seems like a reasonable baseline to expect from Williams, who will have to contend with only Khalil Herbert for touches. Herbert has just three carries all year.
That being said, it's fair to wonder what kind of ceiling we can realistically expect out of Williams, considering Chicago is tied for the third-worst implied total on the board (19.50) and is a 5.5-point road underdog at Las Vegas. Still, we know volume is the most important thing when it comes to running backs, and if Williams gets anything close to the role Montgomery had, it's hard to ignore the number of opportunities we're getting at this modest salary.
Davante Adams ($8,200): With so many upper-tier quarterbacks off the main slate, the natural trickle-down effect is that we're missing some of the top wideouts, as well. That leaves Adams pretty much uncontested at the top, and a spike week is very much on the table against Cincinnati in a game with an appealing 50.5 total and tight spread.
Adams is soaking up the targets in Green Bay as always, owning a 36.0% target share and 39.0% air yards share, and if we exclude the Packers' dumpster fire Week 1 performance, those marks jump up to an absurd 41.3% and 46.2%. He's easily the slate's high-projected wideout in numberFire's model.
Justin Jefferson ($8,000): Jefferson has the second-best wide receiver projection, as the Vikings are expected to crush the Lions as 9.5-point favorites. Detroit ranks 31st in adjusted total defense and 32nd in adjusted pass defense, so Minnesota's offense shouldn't see much resistance in this one.
While Jefferson may not have the same stranglehold on targets that Adams does, this is still a pretty concentrated passing attack, with Jefferson earning a 24.2% target share and 41.6% air yards share through four weeks. The only question is whether the Lions can keep things competitive enough for Kirk Cousins to see decent passing volume, as Minnesota would presumably fall back on the run game if they get out to a big lead.
CeeDee Lamb ($6,900): Lamb and Amari Cooper ($7,100) are the top guys to pair with Prescott in Dallas stacks, and both project as solid point-per-dollar values. Lamb ranks first on the team in both target share (24.4%) and air yards share (36.7%), and with Cooper dealing with a hamstring issue that cropped up in Week 4, Lamb seems like the safest choice.
The matchup also checks out against the Giants, who rank 26th in adjusted pass defense in numberFire's metrics. In game stacks, Kenny Golladay ($6,200) and Kadarius Toney ($5,300) could be the ideal bring-back options if Shepard and Slayton remain out as expected.
Brandin Cooks ($6,300): I don't want to touch this ugly Texans-Patriots matchup that has an abysmal 39.5 total, but Cooks' massive role is undeniable, and with 15-plus points in three of four games, he's still been able to put up points in spite of this underwhelming offense. Not even Adams can match Cooks' league-best 37.1% target share and 55.7% air yards share, and if we narrow things down to just the two weeks with Davis Mills, those marks tick up even higher.
Of course, Mills could put up another stinker against a tough New England defense, and none of these percentages will matter if that's the case. But Mac Jones and the Pats offense hasn't exactly looked like world-beaters so far, and they could be missing as many as four starting offensive linemen this week, which could lead to Houston getting more opportunities on their side of the ball.
Darren Waller ($7,400): With Travis Kelce off the slate, we don't have to be quite as frightened at the idea of paying down at tight end and missing out on a Kelce spike week, but Waller's no slouch as this week's top projected tight end. Waller and George Kittle ($6,500) are the only two projected for double-digit points, and Waller's median projection is nearly three points higher than Kittle's.
While Sunday's contest against the Bears doesn't scream shootout (44.5 total), we're paying for Waller's volume and role, which is virtually unmatched at the position outside of Kelce. Among tight ends, Waller is first in target share (24.8%), first in air yards share (27.5%), first in route rate (89.6%), and second in snap rate (89.3%).
Mike Gesicki ($5,600): We're going back to Gesicki again this week, who still seems under-salaried for his role after getting just a $200 boost. Gesicki has now seen 6, 12, and 6 targets over the last three weeks, amounting to a 20.2% target share that ranks fifth-best at the position over that span.
Even in a mediocre offense like Miami's, Gesicki has scored 14.2 and 13.6 FanDuel the past two weeks, and the Dolphins will almost certainly have to throw to try to keep pace with the Bucs, increasing the likelihood of another double-digit score for Gesicki.
Minnesota D/ST ($3,900): The New England D/ST ($5,000) tops our projections, which shouldn't be a big surprise as they are up against the lowly Texans. But as is often the case with the highest-projected units, they'll cost you an arm and a leg for their services.
In the value range, Minnesota is one defense that pops as a 9.5-point home favorite over Detroit. Goff has been predictably meh for the Lions, ranking 22nd among starting quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back, with his mark of 0.07 being well below last year's league average (0.13). The large spread should mean plenty of drop backs for Goff, hopefully leading to sacks and mistakes.
Carolina D/ST ($3,800): The Panthers' defense failed to live up to their early dominance in a tough spot against the Cowboys, and it's fair to question what their true level is this year after a very friendly schedule the first three weeks. They now rank 15th in total adjusted defense, showing just how much that loss affected their standing.
But Dallas has been one of the top offenses in the league, so it's entirely possible that Carolina is still a top-flight defensive unit and was just beaten by a difficult opponent. With that in mind, this could be a decent "buy low" spot against the Eagles and Jalen Hurts.
Hurts has been great in fantasy due to his rushing upside, but he's been iffy as a passer at times and has propped up his box score numbers with garbage-time production over the past two weeks. The Panthers are slight favorites at home and have looked competent with Sam Darnold, so it isn't unreasonable to think that they can force Hurts to try to beat them through the air.