FanDuel NFL Value Plays: Week 2
Week 1 came with its fair share of surprises, such as the lackluster performance from Le’Veon Bell and the devastating injury to David Johnson. That left many fantasy teams, both daily and seasonal, in a bad place last weekend. But as Bill Belichick might say, we’re on to Week 2. We know more about how most teams are going to look in 2017 (except for the Dolphins and the Buccaneers who had their opener pushed back due to Hurricane Irma), but at the same time, it’s just one game. For example, Tom Brady is unlikely to continue having games like his poor showing in Week 1. We should use what we’ve learned, but we must resist the urge to treat it as infallible.
Philip Rivers (LAC): $7,000 vs. MIA
Rivers held his own in Week 1 against a brutal Denver defense. He threw for three scores and only one pick, despite being held to 192 passing yards. Normally, I would be put off by a sub-200 yard passing performance, but against what is likely the best pass defense in the league, I can look past that when Rivers is avoiding the picks and throwing for touchdowns. He’s $100 cheaper this week against a Miami team that has had the start of its season thrown into disarray by Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins defense allowed the sixth-most FanDuel points to quarterbacks last season. It’s no coincidence that they also allowed the sixth-most passing touchdowns. They did have the ninth-highest interception total, but were only 22nd in sacks (all statistics via ProFootballReference unless otherwise noted). Frankly, that interception total is a little skewed by what can only be described as a freak meltdown of Philip Rivers in the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ game at Miami. He had been solid for three quarters, throwing for two touchdowns and no picks. And then he threw four interceptions, all in the fourth quarter. He ended up with 326 passing yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions – still good for 21 FanDuel points. This time, he’ll have Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin to accompany Tyrell Williams, instead of Dontrelle Inman and Griff Whalen (yes, Griff Whalen played 71% of the snaps at wide receiver that game).
Javorius Allen (BAL): $4,900 vs. CLE
Also known as Buck, Javorius Allen is my favorite of a trio of cheap running backs who have suddenly become relevant, because of injuries, unexpected roles, or both. But first, a moment of silence for Danny Woodhead, who cannot seem to stay healthy. However, his misfortune has opened the door for Allen and created our opportunity to get what projects to be a high-volume player at a steep discount. Starter Terrance West combined with Allen for a huge 40 rushing attempts, but it was Allen who got 21 carries to West’s 19. Even more noteworthy, Allen played more snaps than West, 33 to 27 (via our Snap Count Leaderboards). Even if the Ravens don’t run it 40 times to try and cover up how badly Joe Flacco is performing, Allen makes the most sense to replace Woodhead’s pass catching out of the backfield. Before falling out of favor with the Ravens in 2016, he had quite a productive role as a receiver following Justin Forsett’s injury, including 13- and 10-target games.
Ty Montgomery (GB): $6,500 @ ATL
Looking at snap counts gives us another way to measure a player’s opportunity. Of course, carries and targets are the most direct measure, but examining how often a player is on the field gives a less-volatile picture of their chances to score fantasy points, especially for running backs. For example, 19 carries might not scream “bell cow” to you, but that’s exactly what Ty Montgomery is. He played 90% of the Packers’ offensive snaps, the highest mark for any running back. It’s 9% higher than the next most and 20% above the fourth-highest. He’s facing an Atlanta Falcons defense who were, at best, mediocre against the run in 2016 and allowed the 11th-most FanDuel points to running backs. They especially struggle with pass-catching backs (Tarik Cohen ring a bell?) and Montgomery saw four targets and caught them all in Week 1. Montgomery is a lock for volume and a steal at his price.
Nelson Agholor (PHI): $5,500 @ KC
If you had washed your hands of Nelson Agholor forever prior to Week 1, you’re forgiven. I was there, too. But then he launched his 2017 campaign with a six-catch, 86-yard game capped with a touchdown. It’s possible that the key was being able to move into the slot, following the trade of Jordan Matthews. That move will definitely help his Week 2 prospects against the Chiefs. They may have two excellent corners out wide in Marcus Peters and Terrance Mitchell, but slot man Phillip Gaines will primarily be responsible for Agholor. He is not excellent. Look at the Patriots in Week 1: outside receivers Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks combined for four receptions and 96 yards on 12 targets (54 of those yards came on one catch for Cooks), while slot receiver Danny Amendola caught six of seven targets for 100 yards. Nelson Agholor should keep rolling in Week 2.
Adam Thielen (MIN): $5,800 @ PIT
I had high expectations for Adam Thielen entering the season, so it was nice to see him pay off those expectations right away. Granted, it was against the Saints’ awful defense, but that shouldn’t make us overlook Thielen. Sam Bradford, who looked sharp himself, targeted him 10 times. Thielen caught nine of those for 157 yards. He was also one of only three receivers in the NFL to be on the field for 100% of their teams’ offensive snaps in Week 1. In other words, not only was the opportunity there on Sunday, it’s likely to continue to be there every Sunday. His matchup against the Steelers isn’t nearly as sweet, but they are far from a shutdown defense, especially against slot receivers. Like Agholor, his price is just silly for his projected volume and talent.
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI): $6,600 @ IND
The Cardinals have a lot of lost production from David Johnson to make up and I don’t think too much of it is going to come from Kerwynn Williams. Whatever he may offer as a runner, he’s not going to fill DJ’s shoes as a receiver at all, which should force Carson Palmer to run even more of the offense through Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald saw 13 targets, tied for second most in Week 1, in a game where Johnson saw nine targets himself before leaving with his injury. It’s reasonable to think he sees around that many again, if not more. This time, it’ll be against a Colts defense that just made Jared Goff look like a golden god in Week 1. They also allowed rookie Cooper Kupp – who plays slot receiver, like Larry Fitzgerald – to haul in his first four NFL catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Fitzgerald’s price is only up $200, making it easy to continue recommending him as a value option that offers safety and upside.
Jesse James (PIT): $5,400 vs. MIN
“The Outlaw” was one of the most active tight ends in Week 1. In addition to playing 90% of the Steelers’ snaps (only seven tight ends played more), Jesse James also saw eight targets from Ben Roethlisberger (only three tight ends saw more). The late acquisition of Vance McDonald made many wonder if the Steelers saw a role for the young tight end who had a mini-breakout in 2016. It’s still possible McDonald steals more looks as he learns the offense, but I would think the six-catch, two-touchdown performance from James will keep McDonald off his heels for a while. In the first game of the season, James has already matched two-thirds of his touchdown total from a year ago. Early indications are that he’s a key component of the Steelers’ red zone strategy. Three of his eight targets came there, yielding the two touchdowns. The Vikings defense is very tough on wide receivers (29th in FanDuel points allowed to WR), but easier to attack through the air via the tight end (14th in FanDuel points allowed to TE).
Blair Walsh (SEA): $4,600 vs. SF
The Seahawks should have more success on offense this week. Their Vegas-implied point total is 28, the fourth-highest of Week 2. It comes with a massive, two-touchdown spread that, if accurate, would mean the Seahawks are going to blow out the 49ers. Of course, if you’re a football fan, you probably didn’t need Vegas’ help making that guess. Obviously, scoring a lot of points will be good for a kicker, but having a large lead would logically also be helpful, because there would be no need to push for seven points when they can take three. They will be focused on running out the clock, meaning conservative play calling that will lead to more drives stalling out short of the end zone – but hopefully, not out of field goal range. Given Walsh’s leg talent, that’s a long range. If the Seahawks are blowing them out, they’re probably moving the ball well enough that they can continue to get into field goal range, in spite of the more conservative calls.
Baltimore Ravens: $4,700 vs. CLE
Despite showing some promise in Week 1 at home, I’m not ready to buy into the Browns offense, especially on the road against a solid defense. Betting markets aren’t buying it either: the Browns have the third-lowest implied point total this week at only 15.5 against Baltimore. This Ravens squad went in to Cincinnati last week and made the Bengals look completely foolish. Five takeaways and five sacks made the Baltimore D/ST one of the top scoring squads of the week and if any one of those takeaways had gone for a touchdown, they would have been the highest. Deshone Kizer impressed in his debut, but if the Ravens can make the Browns one-dimensional, whether by taking a significant lead or by stuffing the running game, Kizer will be forced to air it out to keep up and will increase the chances of the rookie making a mistake and giving the ball away.
Steve Repsold is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Steve, check out his archive and follow him @SteveRepsold.