Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 7
If you want to game stack on the Week 7 slate, prepare for a healthy serving of self-loathing and stress.
Sunday's main daily fantasy football offering features just 10 games, which in itself lowers our standards. But of those 10, 3 feature a spread of at least 12 points. Back in Week 1, the largest spread was 8.5 points.
This makes sense given we're deeper into the year and know more about each team. Bookmakers can pump a spread up when they've got more info.
But it also means we've got more info. And the info tells us these games are stanky.
My general process revolves around stacking games with high totals and tight spreads, hoping they devolve into a back-and-forth shootout. There are some that fit the bill this week. But most of the high-level offenses on this slate are facing opponents that simply can't keep up.
Obviously, the pieces in these games will broadly still be fine. If you're going to blow a team out, somebody's gotta score points, and there's value in that. But we have to decide how we view those players relative to the ones in more competitive setups.
Let's start things off there this week, outlining what history tells us about heavily favored teams from a DFS perspective. Then we'll dive into other situations impacting the way we view the main slate.
What the Public Does
There are two things to consider when weighing this situation: we have to look at what has worked traditionally and what the public tends to do. Lucky for us, we've got ways to measure both.
We can see what has worked by looking back at perfect lineups. These are the best lineups you could have built in a given week while staying under the salary cap. It's a good show of what types of players in which contexts tend to generate difference-making upside.
As for the public, we've got roster-rate data over at numberFire. We can actually dig into which players wind up being on rosters most often, giving us a good idea of what to expect this weekend.
Once we have those two data points, we can compare them. If players in certain contexts are popular more often than they wind up being in perfect lineups, it illustrates an inefficiency in the market.
Across the board, the public over-rosters players on teams that are heavily favored.
The table below compares popular players in 2020 FanDuel Sunday Million lineups versus perfect lineups on main slates in last year's regular season. The definition of "popular" is the three most heavily rostered quarterbacks, tight ends, and defenses along with the top seven options at running back and wide receiver. The "perfect" column shows what percentage of players in perfect lineups at that position were on teams that were double-digit favorites.
For context, 6.1% of all teams last year were favored by at least 10 points.
|On Heavily Favored Teams||Popular Rate||Perfect Rate|
To further explain what this means, only 4.8% of all running backs on perfect lineups last year were on teams favored by double digits. Despite that, 13.4% of popular running backs in the Sunday Million were heavy favorites. We rostered them often, but they weren't fixtures in perfect lineups.
It is worth pointing out that at every position except running back, the rate of appearances in perfect lineups was higher than the baseline rate of 6.1%. But wide receiver barely cleared that mark, and the perfect rate fell short of what was popular across the board.
To put it more succinctly: the players on heavily favored teams are absolutely fine for DFS, specifically in cash games and small-field tournaments. But if you're trying to hit the nuts in a large-field tournament, we have an incentive to be underweight on them relative to the field.
This is especially important when stacking games (using players from both teams in a single game), which should be a focal point in our lineup-building process. Of the 25 game-stacking instances in last year's perfect lineups, only 1 came from a game with a double-digit spread (4.0% versus 12.1% of all games with a wide spread). That game wound up being decided by two points. In general, it's tough to expect big games out of teams that are heavy underdogs, and that's what we're doing by game-stacking contests with heavy spreads.
Obviously, we're going to be tempted by the Los Angeles Rams' offense, especially in what is a revenge game for Sean McVay against Jared Goff. And as we'll discuss later, I still think Leonard Fournette is a great play this week despite a heavy spread in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' favor. But based on the data above, it seems obvious that a healthy chunk of our lineups should still revolve around those potential two-sided shootouts.
The Lone Shootout
If you're wondering where to turn when you deviate from those massive favorites, the obvious outlet is the one traditional shootout on the game. That's Kansas City Chiefs versus the Tennessee Titans, a game we know how to stack.
The Chiefs have made things easy on us this year, keeping the status quo in funneling volume to their top two studs even with Tyreek Hill playing at less than full health. Here's their target breakdown for the season with a "deep" target being at least 16 yards downfield.
|In 2021||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
As is typically the case, stacking Hill with Patrick Mahomes is the top pairing on the slate. It will run you a pretty penny with their salaries at $8,500 and $8,800, respectively, but they're worth that.
You can also offset their salaries a bit by including Darrel Williams in the mix. In his lone game without Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Williams had 21 carries and 4 targets. If you double his target total to account for the fact that targets are worth twice as much as carries for running backs in half-PPR scoring, you get 29 adjusted opportunities. That ranks second among backs on the main slate in their most relevant sample.
Williams won't erupt from a yardage perspective, but he's getting volume in a great offense, and he had 6 of 14 team opportunities inside the red zone. That makes him heavily under-salaried at $6,700.
You probably guessed the only guy on the slate with more adjusted opportunities per game than Williams. It's Derrick Henry. I'll give you a second to pick your stunned jaws up off the floor.
Henry's salary is $11,000, a full $2,500 higher than any other running back. But he's worth it thanks to his 153.5 yards from scrimmage per game and 49.1% red-zone share. As long as you're willing to take on value elsewhere, you can make a Mahomes/Hill/Henry game stack work. It's worth the requisite gymnastics.
You won't be able to get to Henry in every lineup, though. Luckily, we can save a bit by targeting the Titans' passing game.
We don't know who will play as of yet. A.J. Brown should be good to go despite missing practice Wednesday and Thursday due to food poisoning. Meanwhile, you'd think Julio Jones would be more iffy, but he got in a limited session on Thursday.
As long as Brown is out there, we can fire up pieces here.
Brown is the key standout, especially with his salary at just $7,000. He has 26.9% of the targets in full games he has played with 46.7% of the deep targets. That's hard to turn down. He's easily second behind Henry in terms of bring-back options, and he's fully in play as a standalone option, as well.
Jones seems to have massive aggravation odds, which prevents him from being a focal point until he's fully healed. We can at least sprinkle him in, though, especially if he logs a full practice on Friday. Jones has been effective when he has played, leading the team with 2.5 yards per route run, per Next-Gen Stats. There's big risk, but an explosive player on minimal rosters at $6,900 is worth a shot.
Whether Jones plays or not, we can certainly put Ryan Tannehill in our quarterback pool. He's just $7,600, a massive discount from Mahomes. Tannehill has struggled in fantasy this year, but part of that is because the team has 6 passing touchdowns versus 12 on the ground. Eventually, the pendulum will start to swing the other direction, in which case Tannehill's production will spike up.
It's worth noting, too, that we can stack Tannehill with Henry despite Henry's muted passing-game involvement. Pairing the two together guarantees you access to nearly every yard and every touchdown the Titans score. You won't get the double-dipping, but we've seen previously that both are capable of blowing up in the same game as long as the script is right. In this game, that could very well wind up happening.
As of right now, it seems likely that Antonio Gibson plays this week. He returned to a limited practice Thursday, putting him on the same schedule he had last week when he ultimately suited up. He's probably going to give it a go again.
If he doesn't, we should be in on J.D. McKissic.
McKissic played two games with Gibson sidelined last year. In those, he averaged 12.0 carries, 7.0 targets, and 96.5 yards per game. That workload is more than big enough for us to consider him on FanDuel.
You could counter by saying that they didn't have Jaret Patterson at the time, but they didn't use Patterson much, even on early downs, with Gibson banged up last week. McKissic played 24 early-down snaps, per Next-Gen Stats, compared to just 2 for Patterson. That'd likely expand if Gibson were ruled out, but McKissic would get a blend of carries and targets similar to what we typically see out of D'Andre Swift, who comes at a much loftier salary.
If Gibson sits, McKissic is the top back on the board with a sub-$6,000 salary. If not, we can still squeeze out value via Ricky Seals-Jones.
Seals-Jones has played basically every snap in two games without Logan Thomas, something we'll happily take at $5,400. He also has 18.2% of the overall targets, including 3 of 5 looks inside the red zone. Terry McLaurin serves as a high-quality pivot in what shapes up as a stackable game, but either McKissic or Seals-Jones can give us access without breaking the bank.
The primary reason is that Jones' workload continues to be a smidge underwhelming. His 24.0 adjusted opportunities rank seventh among each back's most relevant sample on the main slate. He's still getting 47.5% of the red-zone opportunities, but he did lose more work there to A.J. Dillon two weeks ago. Objectively, Jones is over-salaried.
You can still justify Jones in tournaments as it's easy to envision a 120-yard, 2-touchdown game in this matchup. But it should be limited exposure when multi-entering in tournaments whereas Adams carries appeal in all formats.
Lane Johnson's Return
Another game with a relatively high total and tight spread is the Las Vegas Raiders against the Philadelphia Eagles. We've got some interesting options on both sides of this one, and the Eagles' offense gets a boost with Lane Johnson back in the mix.
Johnson has missed the past three games while attending to his mental health. The Eagles did put up a big showing without him in Week 4, but they really struggled outside of garbage time the following two weeks. That's likely not a coincidence.
The Eagles' splits with and without Johnson have been massive dating back to Carson Wentz's rookie year. This year has been no different. Here are the team's splits with and without Johnson via Next-Gen Stats. EPA per drop back is the expected points added on a per-drop back basis, and Success Rate is the percentage of drop backs that result in a positive EPA.
|Eagles in 2021||With Johnson||Without Johnson|
It's a massive upgrade to have Johnson out there, and it should up our view of everyone on this offense.
Jalen Hurts has been paying off thanks to garbage-time production with Johnson out. But his odds of not needing said garbage time go up when Johnson is healthy. In what could be a high-paced game, we can confidently rank Hurts within the top five options at the position.
All three of Miles Sanders, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert can get you access here without breaking the bank. Goedert's a bit riskier as he wasn't cleared to return from the COVID list until Thursday, but the paths to success are pretty obvious for Sanders and Smith.
Sanders' snap rate has been elevated all year long. He hasn't played less than 62.3% of the snaps yet; they just haven't given him the ball. That could change this week, though, as offensive coordinator Shane Steichen has said they need to get Sanders more involved. Sanders' 3.8 targets per game give us some baked-in usage, so any bump in the rushing will be welcomed. If we don't get McKissic, then Sanders is the top sub-$6,000 running back of the week.
The appeal in Smith is twofold. First, we know the usage will be there; he leads the team with 22.1% of the overall targets and 40.6% of the deep targets. Second, he benefits when the offense ticks up as it makes Hurts more efficient and increases the team's touchdown upside. It has been frustrating to trust the Eagles this year, but this does seem like a spot where some enthusiasm is warranted.
Waller hasn't done much recently, but he still leads the Raiders with 24.1% of the overall targets. He also has 34.6% of the red-zone targets. He has lost some yardage upside with Derek Carr chucking it deep to Henry Ruggs, but the Eagles typically do a good job of limiting downfield attempts against them. That could lead to a bump for Waller, and it would come at a reasonable salary of $6,800.
Jacobs is the opposite of Sanders: he has the usage but none of the efficiency. Since returning from his injury, Jacobs is averaging 22.1 adjusted opportunities per game and getting 47.6% of the team's red-zone opportunities. That ranks second on the slate behind Henry. And he checks in at just $6,900.
The Eagles rank just 26th against the rush, based on numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, and have gotten torched by low-level rushing offenses at times. You won't want to go too hard at Jacobs, but he's likely to go overlooked and does have a lot of the elements we want out of our running backs.
Sunday Afternoon Lenny
As mentioned before, we do want to give preference to running backs in tight games so they can get targets for all four quarters.
The biggest exception for me on this slate is Leonard Fournette.
Fournette got a role increase back in Week 4, playing 81.1% of the snaps. That came with Giovani Bernard sidelined, though, so we should toss it out of our most relevant sample.
Even in two games with Bernard back, though, Fournette has had a meaty role.
|Leonard Fournette||Carries||Targets||Total Yards||RZ Share|
Fournette's 28.0 adjusted opportunities per game in that span ranks third on the slate behind Henry and Darrel Williams. His 118.5 yards per game is second behind Henry. He has been a legit featured back. He has played well enough, too, for us to project him to keep that role in the near future.
Fournette's salary is just $7,000, lower than it should be for a guy with his role. He's in consideration for cash games and among the top tournament options on the slate.
We also -- despite the wide spread -- might get daylight to target the receivers here. Neither Antonio Brown nor Rob Gronkowski has practiced yet this week. If they both wind up sitting, it'd dramatically up the appeal in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
One reason to be wary of the Bucs as heavy favorites is that the market shares are spread out. Thus, even if you get massive efficiency from the offense, you might not correctly pinpoint who benefits. Trimming a couple branches off the target tree would help with that.
Godwin's salary is just $6,700, which would make him the preferred outlet. But Evans is starting to rack up high-leverage targets again, making him viable at $7,100. Either way, arrow would be up on them, in which case you'd likely want to run it back with Darnell Mooney, who has 29.3% of the targets in games Justin Fields has started.
Optimal Access to the Rams
We do want to target our running backs in tight games, as you saw before. At least with Henderson, we can say with confidence he will be the guy while the game is in reach. He has had an 80% snap rate in 3 of 5 games this year, and he has topped 99 yards from scrimmage in 3 straight since returning from injury.
The lone downside -- outside of the blowout potential -- is the salary. Henderson is no longer a value at $8,000. His workload is very similar to that of Fournette, but Fournette checks in at just $7,000. Between the two, we should favor Fournette. But Henderson grades out above everybody else in the $7,000 range.
As for Higbee, the chart in the open showed that we don't need to worry as much about a shootout at tight end as at other spots. This makes sense as a single touchdown can basically make a tight end usable in DFS. The Rams should get plenty of those, and Higbee will at least be in the mix.
He has at least 5 targets in 4 of 6 games this year, and Higbee leads the team with 27.3% of the red-zone targets. That final point there is why if I'm using just one piece to get access to the McVay revenge narrative, it's going to be Higbee at $5,500 by a smidge over Henderson.
Taking the Bateman Bait
As mentioned at the top, you can jam in Mahomes, Hill, and Henry this week. You just need value to make it happen. We've already talked about a couple of routes with Sanders, Higbee, and (potentially) McKissic. You can add Rashod Bateman to that list.
Bateman made his debut last week and had a full workload. His 20 routes run were tied for second most for the game, and he was tied for the team lead with six targets.
The production -- 4 receptions for 29 yards -- was muted. But it came against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that defines itself by limiting the downfield passing game. Bateman may wind up being a guy who lacks yardage upside, but we can't conclude that based on Week 6.
Bateman's salary is just $5,300. He's tied to an elite quarterback in Lamar Jackson, and this game could be decently competitive. We should try to get to Marquise Brown for a bounce-back at times, but in our stars-and-scrubs lineups, Bateman's worth a roster spot.
Buying Low on Ridley and Parker
It hasn't been a fun week for the Miami Dolphins. They went from a loss in London to a long flight to trade rumors surrounding their quarterback. The vibes here are unsavory.
What better antidote than improving health and a date with the Atlanta Falcons?
On the health side of things, the Dolphins are likely to get DeVante Parker and Preston Williams back. Both have been limited in practice to open the week, and they traveled with the team to London, indicating they were close to playing there. (UPDATE: Parker may need another week and appears to be on the wrong side of questionable for Sunday's game.)
Despite some hideous mistakes, Tua Tagovailoa was efficient without them against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He averaged 0.23 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, above the league average of 0.15. Passing NEP is numberFire's expected points metric, which accounts for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. Even with the mistakes, Tagovailoa was still fine, and that came with Parker and Williams sidelined.
That performance should give us confidence in using Parker if he's cleared to return. Parker had 81 receiving yards in his lone full game with Tagovailoa this year, and he led the team in targets before his injury.
|First 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
We've also got an obvious buy-low option on the other side in Calvin Ridley. Ridley hasn't blown up yet, but before missing Week 5, he was soaking up all of the team's high-leverage targets.
|First 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Ridley's salary is $7,300. If you pair him with Parker, you're getting a whole lotta targets for an average salary of $6,450. It's a fun mini-stack that won't break the bank.
The Depleted Giants
After last week's drubbing, it's hard to have faith in the New York Giants. The saving grace is that we likely know where the ball is going. I just wish it were for a less grim reason.
As of now, it seems likely that all of Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, and Kenny Golladay will miss Week 7. Darius Slayton is likely to come back, but we should still expect to see a bunch of Sterling Shepard and Devontae Booker.
Booker's the key piece here as it's harder to justify a receiver in a game with such a low total. In two games without Barkley, Booker has averaged 22.0 adjusted opportunities per game while handling 33.3% of the team's red-zone opportunities. Those are decent peripherals at $5,800.
The problem is that he hasn't done much with it, averaging just 63.5 yards per game. The Carolina Panthers rank just 28th against the rush, but the ineffectiveness is enough to push Booker behind Sanders and (potentially) McKissic among the salary-saving backs.
In three games without Christian McCaffrey, Anderson has 26.4% of the team's targets. He has turned that into 87 yards combined across the 3 games. He may eventually progress, but it's also possible the Panthers realize that plan of attack isn't working and start to shift volume elsewhere.
For Hubbard, his roles in the passing game and in the red zone -- the two easiest ways to score points -- remain underwhelming. Even with Rodney Smith having been cut, Hubbard still had just three targets last week. The team is already using Royce Freeman there and may bring in Ameer Abdullah this week, as well. With Hubbard also getting just 20.0% of the team's red-zone opportunities in 3 games without McCaffrey, he appears over-salaried at $7,300.