Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 16

Growing up, being picky was considered a bad thing.

In pre-school, I just wanted to eat hot dogs for lunch every day. They were clearly the best food ever invented, so why on Earth would I bother differentiating?

You -- a hater with bad taste -- may look down upon this. Why you would do so with salty meat byproduct sticks I have no idea. But that type of selectiveness is frowned upon.

On Week 16's daily fantasy football slate, though, we're allowed to embrace our childhood pickiness.

This week's main slate has a bunch of high-usage players likely sidelined, whether due to COVID-19 or injuries. When high-usage players are out, it naturally funnels volume elsewhere, leading to inefficient salaries and good value.

We don't always get that. There have been times this year where we've been scrounging for value, accepting guys in less-than-ideal roles just because we needed the savings.

We don't have to do that here. We can be selective and lower the number of downsides we're willing to accept. We can be picky.

Today, we're going to run through all those spots where volume is up for grabs and outline who benefits. Then we'll try to use that process to decide which of the value options we should prioritize.

Back to Alexander Mattison

We'll be able to nitpick values on this slate eventually; we won't be doing so with Alexander Mattison.

Mattison has been thrust back into the Minnesota Vikings' lead back role after Dalvin Cook tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Unlike the last time Mattison was featured, his salary is low this week at just $5,500, and that does factor into our analysis.

If Mattison's salary were $8,000 again, we might be able to downplay his appeal. Mattison, himself, just came off the COVID-19 list, meaning he might have some conditioning concerns. We also could have had at least some concerns about Kene Nwangwu, who has flashed on special teams and had some nice gains on Monday night. There's at least some flimsiness in Mattison's role.

The key here is that we have gobs of cushion for Mattison's role to decrease a bit and still be rockstar-level. In three games without Cook, Mattison has averaged 24.3 carries, 6.0 targets, and 149.3 yards from scrimmage per game. He has 46.2% of the team's red-zone opportunities, meaning he emphatically checks all three boxes you want from a value back (work on early downs, in the passing game, and in the red zone). Even if Nwangwu does take some off his plate, Mattison still projects for one of the heaviest workloads on the slate regardless of salary.

In general, the hit rate of low-salaried backs shifting into larger roles is massive. The hit rate when they grade out as well as Mattison does is even higher. It's a spot where we need to suck it up and swallow the chalk, even if he does have some slight dents in his profile.

Using Mattison, though, shouldn't bar us from diving into the passing game. We've got to spend all those savings somewhere, and there aren't a ton of places better than on Justin Jefferson.

We should expect Adam Thielen back out there thanks to his return to practice this week. But even in the 11 games where Thielen has been healthy, Jefferson has gotten the kind of volume you need from a high-salaried receiver. Here, a "deep" target is one at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Weeks 1 to 12 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Justin Jefferson 25.1% 40.3% 28.0%
Adam Thielen 23.0% 33.9% 28.0%
Tyler Conklin 14.1% 6.5% 20.0%
KJ Osborn 12.0% 14.5% 4.0%

Those shares also illustrate why we should include Thielen in game stacks, especially if he's able to log a full practice by Friday. But Jefferson's one of the better routes for splurging after you accept the savings on someone like Mattison.

Sony Michel's New Role

Prior to Week 15, the writing was on the wall that the Los Angeles Rams were souring on Darrell Henderson. His Week 15 return solidified that.

Even with Henderson back, Sony Michel played 71.0% of the snaps, turning 18 carries and 2 targets into 115 yards from scrimmage. He handled three of four team opportunities inside the red zone, as well, making it a pretty complete role.

It's possible this gets scaled back as Henderson gets re-acclimated to the offense. That's what keeps Michel from being a no-brainer at $6,900. But we have reason to think this shift is legit, meaning we'll want to have decent exposure to Michel in tournaments.

Similar to the Mattison discussion, using Michel should not bar us from using the Rams' passing game. This is a high total with a tight spread, the exact formula we look for with game stacks. It helps make Matthew Stafford one of the best quarterback plays on the slate.

Stacking this game gets even easier with all the value at running back because it means we won't have an issue getting up to Cooper Kupp. We're up to a four-game sample on the Rams now since Odell Beckham has been fully blended into the offense, and Kupp's target shares in that time are just absurd.

4 Games Since Bye Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Cooper Kupp 35.6% 29.6% 43.8%
Odell Beckham 18.5% 33.3% 25.0%
Van Jefferson 16.3% 22.2% 18.8%

Beckham and Van Jefferson are both getting enough volume to be in play when you are stacking this game. But Kupp's the top place we should turn with all the excess salary we're likely to have this weekend.

Projecting the Bucs

Even with big names out elsewhere, it's possible the team with the biggest transition on tap is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Luckily for us, we likely can predict how to exploit that.

Last week, the Bucs were able to roll out all of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Leonard Fournette. All three got hurt in-game, though, and are likely to miss this week.

That could lead to a massive down-tick for the offense. But now you're adding Antonio Brown back into the fold, helping compensate for the losses in the passing game.

Brown has been a difference-maker when healthy this year. In 146 drop backs with Brown on the field, Tom Brady's EPA per drop back is 0.26, according to Next-Gen Stats. Without him, that drops to 0.03.

We shouldn't expect Brady's efficiency to go up with Brown back because the losses of Godwin and Evans do matter a ton here. It's moreso that having Brown back can help steady what would otherwise be a cliff-like dropoff.

In other words, we can still expect this offense to be solid even with the losses. That allows us to buy into Brown and Rob Gronkowski, both of whom should get heavy volume. That volume combined with decent efficiency make both standout plays at their respective positions.

It also puts Ronald Jones alongside Mattison as arguably the top value on the slate. We saw Jones play three games last year with Fournette inactive. In those games, Jones averaged 20.3 carries, 4.3 targets, and 111.0 yards from scrimmage per game. He also handled 42.3% of the team's red-zone opportunities. He's likely to lose some work to Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the passing game, but this is going to be a great role.

Jones' salary is just $5,400. He and Mattison will be the chalk of the slate, but it's for good reason. Even when we're being picky, these two guys are hard to avoid.

If you're choosing between the two, the edge belongs to Mattison. We've seen him in his projected role already in 2021 while we're leaning on 2020 data for Jones. Mattison is also less likely to lose third-down snaps than Jones. But this is moreso one of those, "Why not both?" scenarios than anything else.

As for the Bucs' value pass-catchers, things are less clear. With Godwin and Evans leaving early in Week 15, Tyler Johnson ran a route on 49 of 52 drop backs and netted 7 targets. Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden also ran 28-plus routes but neither earned more than 3 targets. We also didn't see Breshad Perriman in that game, and it's possible he's back out there on Sunday.

With Brown back in the fold and plenty of value available, we can likely cross Miller and Darden off our lists. We don't even know if they'll play snaps, much less get targets. Johnson, though, will at least be on the field, and we've seen him get six-plus targets in three games already. He's the top guy in the group and in consideration among the low-salaried receivers but well behind Jones in terms of prioritization.

The Bills' Shifting Pass-Catchers

With Emmanuel Sanders back at practice this week, you could be worried that last week's breakout star, Gabriel Davis, will get his work scaled back. It was Sanders' injury that allowed Davis to finally get a full share of snaps in Week 15.

But with Cole Beasley sidelined due to COVID-19, Davis remains on the menu.

Two things allow us to still consider Davis at $5,300 despite a tough matchup with the New England Patriots.

First, we've seen the Buffalo Bills perform well in tough matchup this year. The Patriots rank second in schedule-adjusted defensive efficiency, according to numberFire's metrics. The Bills have faced a top-16 defense nine times this year. In those, the offense has averaged 27.2 points per game. If we shift that to just 4 games versus top-10 defenses, they still average a respectable 24.8 points per game and have scored 27-plus points in all but 1.

Second, Davis gets high-leverage targets, which allows him to gain points in chunks. Of Davis' seven targets last week, two were deep, and two were in the red zone. It was his third consecutive game with multiple red-zone targets (a streak that started against the Patriots in that heavy wind game).

So, yes, it's a tough matchup. And, yes, we have alternative value options this week. But Davis is still fully worth our time.

The other value outlet on the Bills is Devin Singletary. Singletary is typically a low-upside play, but that changed a bit in Week 15. That's because not only did Singletary play 92.3% of the snaps, but he also had 5 of 10 team opportunities inside the red zone. For him, that's a massive shift in one of the areas that has previously kept his output in check.

That's why we can even consider Singletary on a slate overflowing with value. It is important to note, though, that if we're being picky, we can knock Singletary down below Mattison and Jones.

The primary reasoning is that Singletary just doesn't have the yardage juice of those two. Singletary hasn't topped 100 yards from scrimmage since Week 12 of last year; Mattison and Jones both average at least 111 in their most relevant samples. Singletary also has the toughest matchup of the three. Singletary is in the consideration set, but he's more of a rotational option than a core play.

Making Sense of the Chiefs

There's still a chance that either or both of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill could be activated off the COVID-19 list for the Kansas City Chiefs this week. If they are, you can happily play them after the Chiefs' offense played arguably its most impressive game last Thursday. We should, though, outline how to view the team if they don't.

First of all, it'd push Patrick Mahomes off the map for DFS. Mahomes' salary is reflective of expectations when he has all of his weapons at his disposal. Here, he'd be down two of the best pass-catchers in the league. It's tough to overcome that even when you're arguably the best quarterback in the game.

Second, it'd up the interest in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Playing without key pass-catchers could encourage the Chiefs to run a bit more on a Pittsburgh Steelers rush defense that has gotten shredded recently. Edwards-Helaire also played 69.1% of the snaps last week, his highest rate since Week 1. He still doesn't get nearly as much red-zone work as you'd like, preventing him from being more than a rotational play, but he would carry tournament appeal.

Finally, we'd get to deploy our pickiness principle with the remaining pass-catchers. Byron Pringle has been operating as the number two receiver but hasn't shown much upside within that. Mecole Hardman would get the biggest snap increase but got demoted earlier this year for a reason. And as much as my dynasty rosters would love it, Noah Gray's time to shine likely isn't here yet.

Pringle and Hardman have cases to be considered. But their floor-ceiling combinations -- when compared to other salary-savers -- just don't measure up. They're not bad plays, necessarily; they're just not as good as the options we've got elsewhere. On a slate like this, that's enough for us to move on and hope none of them truly erupts.

Justin Jackson's One Key Flaw

The Chiefs aren't the only spot where we can allow ourselves to be picky. We also have at least some leeway for that with Justin Jackson.

Assuming that Austin Ekeler -- currently on the COVID-19 list -- misses Sunday, Jackson will shift into the Los Angeles Chargers' lead role. He had 13 carries, 1 target, and 99 yards from scrimmage with Ekeler playing a limited role in Week 15, running well ahead of the other backups. He also averaged 12.3 carries, 5.7 targets, and 97.0 yards from scrimmage in the 3 games he played without Ekeler last year. That's a really solid workload.

His red-zone role, though, leaves plenty to be desired.

In that aforementioned three-game stretch last year, the Chargers ran 24 plays inside the red zone. Only one of them resulted in a carry or target for Ekeler. He had 2 of 27 red-zone opportunities in Week 15. It's clear they have preferred other options in that part of the field.

That's why Jackson is not a priority to the extent that Mattison and Jones are. It also puts him below Singletary after the role the Bills gave him last week. Jackson's on that next level down, though.

That could be high enough to nudge into our player pools. That's partly true because it's not as if Jackson has had no red-zone presence this year. In Week 14 -- when Ekeler left early with an ankle issue -- Jackson had 7 of 21 red-zone opportunities. When Jackson ceded work in close last week, that was largely to Ekeler, who wouldn't be an option in this scenario. It's within the range of outcomes for Jackson to check all three aforementioned boxes for a value back. It's just less likely than it is for the other guys ranked above him.

If you can't talk yourself into Jackson, you can still get exposure to this matchup with the Houston Texans via the passing game. The Chargers have let Justin Herbert rip it deep a bit more recently as his aDOT has increased to 9.3 the past 3 weeks from 7.1 prior to that point.

That has led to a bit of a resurgence for Mike Williams. Williams and Keenan Allen have played together for two of those three games, and the target gap between the two has tightened.

Weeks 13 and 15 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Keenan Allen 25.0% 18.8% 37.5%
Mike Williams 22.2% 37.5% 31.3%
Jared Cook 15.3% 18.8% 6.3%
Austin Ekeler 12.5% 0.0% 6.3%

Williams has averaged three deep targets per game and still carries a hyper-manageable $6,600 salary. He and Allen both grade out well here, and Herbert is in the top three at quarterback for the slate.

Mark Andrews, No Matter What

Outside of Cooper Kupp, you may be struggling to find spots to dump the salary you're saving at running back.

Enter Mark Andrews at $8,000.

At first, there may be some sticker shock on Andrews there. His salary was $6,900 just two weeks ago, and this is his first time carrying a tag higher than $7,500.

He has earned the boost.

In seven games since the Baltimore Ravens' bye, Andrews' lowest target total is eight. He has hit double digits in all but two of those, including his 13 last week, which tied a season high. Plus, he's converting on that volume.

It's key to note that this stretch has included stints with both Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley. We don't know yet who will start for the Ravens. But no matter who it winds up being, we'll want to be heavy on Andrews at $8,000.

There are two notes on this. First, Andrews' likely popularity (due to the value elsewhere and his recent explosions) could make Marquise Brown a fun pivot for tournaments.

Brown has played with Andrews in six of the seven games since the bye. In those six, Brown actually holds the edge in both overall and deep targets.

With Brown Since Bye Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Marquise Brown 27.8% 36.7% 19.5%
Mark Andrews 26.5% 30.0% 26.8%
Rashod Bateman 13.5% 20.0% 9.8%

Brown's salary is just $6,400 at receiver. It's a great tier, which should allow him to go overlooked. You can easily justify Brown if you're looking to play things a bit differently than the field.

Second, whether you use Andrews or Brown, you can absolutely game-stack them with some Cincinnati Bengals. That could include Joe Burrow, whose salary is just $7,100. He's in the discussion to be among the top four quarterbacks this week.

The pass-catchers are standouts even in a good salary tier at receiver. We've got a long sample since Tee Higgins returned from his shoulder injury, and both he and Ja'Marr Chase have gotten quality loads in that time.

Week 5 OnOverall TargetsDeep TargetsRZ Targets
Ja'Marr Chase24.0%38.3%28.6%
Tee Higgins24.0%31.7%20.0%
Tyler Boyd16.2%16.7%11.4%

Although Higgins is the one who has produced, Chase is still getting high-leverage looks. We should build game stacks with both given the state of the Ravens' secondary.

James Robinson's Featured Role

We've got tons of good running-back plays on the slate, most of which come at bargain salaries. The stud range is a bit more barren. The best option there may be James Robinson.

The Jacksonville Jaguars placed Carlos Hyde on injured reserve due to a concussion this week. In the previous three games where Hyde was out or limited, Robinson rarely left the field.

Robinson Without Hyde Carries Targets Yards Snap Rate
Week 4 18 2 76 94.5%
Week 6 17 4 101 85.5%
Week 15 18 6 88 83.3%

The one aspect of Robinson's output that has been underwhelming is the yardage. This week's matchup should help there.

The Jaguars are facing the New York Jets on Sunday. Across 14 games, the Jets have let up at least 100 yards from scrimmage to a running back 9 times. Five of those guys topped 140 yards.

We know Robinson will get the volume and the goal-line work. Now, we can boost his yardage expectations due to the opponent. That makes him worth his $8,200 salary even with plentiful options elsewhere. We may not need to get to Robinson in cash games due to those lower-salaried options, but he may be the top tournament play when spending up.

Downgrading the Lions Without Goff

Similar to Hill and Kelce, Jared Goff tested positive for COVID-19 early in the week and, thus, still has a shot to get cleared in time. If he doesn't, though, it likely pushes all Detroit Lions out of play.

That's true even if D'Andre Swift gets cleared to return. Swift is back at practice after his shoulder injury and could return this week. In the one game he played alongside Tim Boyle, Swift handled a whopping 33 carries and 6 targets and turned it into 135 yards. We'd happily take that on a slate devoid of elite plays.

However, that game took place with Jamaal Williams sidelined and before Swift was banged up. In games with Williams, Swift has averaged 99.4 yards from scrimmage per game. We can expect a similar output if it's tied to Goff. But if it's Boyle out there, it'll be tough for the Lions to move the ball.

If Goff does get cleared, it boosts the appeal in both sides at least a bit. Kyle Pitts has a 21.2% target share with 33.3% of the deep targets the past 7 games, marks that could allow him to blow up against such a lackluster defense. Cordarrelle Patterson's floor has been terrible since he shifted into a more traditional running-back role, but he still showed upside with 135 yards from scrimmage in Week 12. Even Josh Reynolds could be a fun lower-salaried receiver target if Goff were to go. But if it's Boyle, this game descends to darkness quickly.