I’m going to get right into my plays this week. I think it’s a ‘Load up on running backs’ type of week, but the player pool is thinned out. Let’s try to navigate through it, and be sure to check out Mark Lee’s sleeper and value picks for some cheaper options.
Allow me to make a case for C.J. Beathard. The first feather in his cap is his price. He’s just $4,800 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel. To put that in perspective, he is priced the same as Tyrod Taylor on FanDuel and Ryan Fitzpatrick on DraftKings. In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, neither Taylor or Fitzpatrick are starters now. Beathard has looked much better than he did last year. Here are his three game logs since taking over the starting job in Week 4.
- Week 4 @ Chargers – 23-37, 298 yards, two passing touchdowns, 19 rush yards
- Week 5 vs Cardinals – 34-54, 349 yards, two passing touchdowns, seven rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
- Week 6 @ Packers – 16-23, 245 yards, two passing touchdowns, 21 rushing yards
Now then, he did turn the ball over a decent amount in that span, but he reduced that to only one INT against Green Bay. In Week 7 against the Rams, the 49ers are going to have to score points to keep up. Beathard should throw the ball 40+ times in this game, and I think he can realistically top 300 yards and find the end zone a couple of times. If he does that, he is the QB play on both sites.
Baker Mayfield had a horrible game in Week 6. A lot of that has to do with the poor weapons around him. Or maybe I should say poor use of weapons. The inept coaching in Cleveland along with all the drops have really limited his ceiling. However, this week he faces off against the worst defense in the league, the Tampa Bay Bucs. If not here, then when? I had this to say in last week’s article, regarding the Bucs pass defense:
“They have allowed a 100+ quarterback rating to every quarterback they’ve faced this season, including Nick Foles. If we throw Foles out, they’ve allowed a 120+ QB rating to the to the other three QB’s, which were Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Mitchell Trubisky. Those last three combined for just over an 80% completion percentage, 1,146 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and just one interception.”
Well, Matt Ryan proceeded to produce a 125.5 passer rating, 354 yards passing and three touchdowns. Their total passing yards per game now sits at 369.2. That’s incredible. The Bucs did fire their defensive coordinator, but I fully believe that he was just a scapegoat. This defense isn’t going to magically be better.
There is a new flow chart at running back that will help you win money. In fact, it’s not new, it’s just taken me a long time to fully adopt it. It goes like this:
Is Todd Gurley playing football Sunday?
Is Todd Gurley less than 50% of the total salary?
PLAY TODD GURLEY!
In all seriousness, it’s ridiculous how good he’s been. His price actually went down on DraftKings after he went for his best game of the year with 39.5 DK points. The 49ers have allowed the 12th most fantasy points to opposing running backs on the year. But when you consider that they’ve faced three teams in the bottom 10 in rushing, Detroit, Minnesota, and Arizona (dead last), and only one team inside the top 12, that number should go up here. Lock Gurley in and build around him.
Running back is thin this week, as a lot of the top guys are playing overseas or in one of the primetime games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night, respectively. Of the top 8 projected guys on ESPN, four of them are not on the main slate. Therefore, I’m going to lock in work loads. Ezekiel Elliott is a guy who we know has a floor. That’s important at the position. You can’t afford to miss at RB. Since Week 4, Elliott has touched the ball 29, 27, and 25 times, respectively. He’s rather affordable on both sites, as of right now, I’m going to try and prioritize both he and Gurley.
Sony Michel plays the Bears, and the Bears had been really good at defense. Last week however, they allowed 158 yards on 28 carries to the Frank Gore led Miami Dolphins. To put that in perspective, they allowed 205 yards on 70 carries through the first four weeks combined. The Patriots really like Michel and it’s obvious he’s becoming a work horse, after 67 rushes for 316 yards and four touchdowns over the last three games. I’m not sure I’ll do it, but he’s in play at his fair price.
The Philadelphia Eagles supposedly had a good run defense. That was until Week 6 when Saquon Barkley ran for 130 yards and a touchdown on 10 yards per carry and caught nine balls for 99 yards. Take a look below at the chart from the strength of schedule page on Sharp Football Stats:
The Eagles have had a very easy schedule in terms of rush efficiency of their opponents. As you’ll notice that takes a big dive this week, as the Panthers have been the fourth best. This is a spot where Christian McCaffrey could be in for a big game a reduced ownership. Coming off of a couple of average weeks, this is a sneaky bounce back spot.
If you want to bet on talent and opportunity, Lesean McCoy is really cheap and has touched the ball over 20 times in each of the past two games. He’s squarely in play for cheap volume at just $5,600 on DraftKings and $6,200 on FanDuel. Derek Anderson is starting this game, so the Bills would be smart to feed McCoy early and often. The Colts have given up the fourth most receptions per game to opposing running backs.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE
As the week has gone on, I’m really getting excited to play Tarik Cohen. I think this is the first time in a year and a half, that I’m finally come around to Cohen as a thing. Part of that might be that Matt Nagy knows how to use him. Against the Patriots slow defense (which I noted below with Gabriel), Cohen is the perfect fit to be schemed for big plays. I don’t see how the Patriots can stop him, so hopefully he’ll get all the usage he can handle and turn in a big fantasy day at a discounted price.
If I’m paying up at running back, we’re going to have to save some money at receiver. There are some guys I like though in the lower price tiers. Last week, three of the top four wide receivers were low-priced guys that were under one percent owned, so there are opportunities to find players in the lower tiers that can score with the top guys. However, it’s very hard to find cheap RB’s, most weeks, that can match the top guys.
Jarvis Landry has to break through soon. He gets too many looks to not have a big game coming. Last week, the Chargers did a good job of making it very hard for him to get open. Most of his targets seemed to be Mayfield just forcing the ball his way for the sake of throwing his top target the ball. He should have his way with this Tampa Bay secondary this week. I won’t be surprised to see a massive line of something like 10-108-1 this week.
I have NO doubt that Antonio Callaway will beat this secondary deep at least two or three times in this game. The question is, will Mayfield throw him the ball and if he does, will he catch the ball. The second is a really big if. He has seen nine or more targets in three of the four games since Baker took over. The issue is he’s only caught 34% of those passes. I don’t trust it, but one big play could pay off most of his salary on both sites.
Michael Crabtree finally had a good game, catching six balls for 93 yards and a touchdown in Week 6. You may not realize it, but over the past five games, Crabtree has seen target counts of 10, 10, 8, 12, and 9, respectively. In this matchup against the Saints, the Ravens would be well served to give Crabtree 10+ targets again. The Saints have allowed the highest QB rating of any team to quarterbacks when targeting their wide receivers. They give up 10.6 yards per attempt (worst in the league), 1158 yards (worst in the league), 72% completion percentage (third worst), 10 touchdowns (second worst), and 61% success rate (worst). Stats courtesy of sharpfootballstats.com.
For these same reasons, I also like John Brown. He is a good bet to bounce back this week and I wouldn’t fault you for throwing a stack with both receivers and Joe Flacco in a large field tournament. If you really want to take a deep shot, you could consider Willie Snead IV. He has a matchup against P.J. Williams, who has been ProFootballFocus’s fourth worst graded corner among corners who have played 100 coverage snaps.
Taylor Gabriel is one of my favorite plays at the position this week. If you haven’t noticed yet, the Patriots defense is really slow. That was evident front and center in primetime on Sunday night, as Tyreek Hill carved them up for 142 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, the Gabriel was named the ninth fastest player in the NFL by one study and in OTA’s this year, he was clocked running 24 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, the fastest a player has been clocked (with the ball in hand) is Tyreek Hill at 23.24 mph in 2016, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Over the past two games, Gabriel has 12 catches on 12 targets for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t be surprised to see him shake loose in this one for some big games.
If you have money left over at wide receiver, Adam Thielen is the goat play. In fact, he could almost be considered as safe as our top-tier wide receivers. Thielen is probably my favorite real life player not on my favorite team (Lions). It feels weird because it’s a divisional foe. I don’t know how anyone could not respect his journey and what he’s doing right now. He is the best receiver in the NFL this season. On top of him being matchup proof, he will be covered by PFF’s worst graded corner, Parry Nickerson. Just when he seems like Thielen couldn’t get any better, I’d argue that his ceiling hasn’t been reach yet and he’ll reach the peak this week.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE
With Quincy Enunwa on the shelf for a while, Jermaine Kearse is in a great spot. We saw him step in and catch nine balls for 90+ last week and sets up nicely again this week. The Vikings are stout against the run, so we should see Sam Darnold funnel passes to Kearse and Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is a tough roster, but in a very large field tournament, he’s worth a shot. He actually stepped into the Enunwa role on quite a few snaps and caught five balls for 57 yards and a touchdown. It is risky, but I would not be surprised if he ended up with a better fantasy day than Kearse.
Robert Woods is one of the best plays at any position this week. I wish there was a way to include Gurley, Zeke, Woods, Thielen, and Cohen into a lineup. It just doesn’t look like it’s going to fit. With Cooper Kupp out, Woods will actually funnel into the slot role on a large portion of the Rams offensive plays. Woods was already having an outstanding season, but this slot role should increase his projections even more. This is the first week of the year that I might end up prioritizing my WR1 and WR2 above my RB2. We’ll see where we’re at on Sunday, but that’s the way I’m leaning right now.
To go along with the Browns passing attack, I’ve got to mention David Njoku. He’s seen 23 targets the past two weeks, with over 10 in each. The only problem is that along with the rest of the passing offense, he’s been very inefficient. But again, they’re playing the Bucs this week, so it could mean big things for Njoku. The Bucs have given up 100 yards and/or a touchdown to tight ends in each of their last four games.
If you really want to scrape the bottom of the barrel, James O’Shaughnessy is in play. You may be saying, “Huh?” In case you haven’t heard of the guy, let me make a case. O’Shaughnessy is the next man up in Jacksonville, after Niles Paul left the game last week with a season ending knee injury, to follow Austin Sefarian-Jenkins being lost the week before. JOS, as we’ll call him, saw four targets, catching three for 29 yards in Week 6. That’s not that impressive, but it did show that he’s as least involved. The Texans continue to be one of the worst teams in terms of efficiency against tight ends. They only trail the aforementioned Bucs in terms of passer rating of opposing QB when targeting tight ends. They have allowed a 76% completion percentage and three touchdowns on 29 catches to the position. The allure here is his min price on both sites. He’s $4,000 on FanDuel and $2,600 on DraftKings.
I don’t love taking road teams, and bad road teams at that, but the Buffalo Bills are sticking out to me at their price on both sites. This is a decent defense. They have forced multiple turnovers in each of the past four games, with 11 total. They also have 15 sacks over that time frame. Andrew Luck has multiple turnovers in each of his last three games. The Colts may score some points, but the Bills should still be able to produce some fantasy goodness. The only scare here is the fact that they may be on the field a lot, because their offense may not be able to sustain a drive the entire game.
Unfortunately, the Bills finally gave up on Nathan Peterman. Derek Anderson will start this week. Anderson has been serviceable in the past, but he also hasn’t been on the team very long. You can play the Colts defense here at home. It does worry me that the Colts have given up 30+ points in each of the past three weeks, but again, it’s Derek Anderson and the Buffalo offense. With that said though, this is the NFL, where anything can happen. Brock Osweiler won someone a million dollars last week.
That’s it for this week. As I mentioned before, I will be adjusting the format as we go, so if you have any input about what you like or don’t like, feel free to let me know on twitter @mrclutchdfs. Best of luck this weekend!
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