FanDuel NFL Value Plays: Week 6
In addition to the ever-present merry-go-round of injuries, this week we’ve got a trade and a demotion helping to open up value. The trade was well-timed (for DFS players), because the slate and salaries had already been posted. Then we have some guys whose prices never seem to go up, even when they’re in great spots. But first, let me say that I have learned my lesson about Jay Cutler. He took my lowest possible expectation and cut it in half (and he didn’t even care). No matter how bad the opposing defense, his name will not appear in this column unless it’s recommending a D/ST against him. Statistics via ProFootball Reference unless otherwise noted.
Kevin Hogan (CLE): $6,100 @ HOU
DeShone Kizer has struggled so much this season that Hue Jackson has chosen to bench his rookie starter in favor of second-year man Kevin Hogan. There isn’t much to say about Hogan’s NFL career to this point. He’s seen action in seven games, but this will be his first start. Last year wasn’t pretty; this year has been much better. But it’s hard to learn much from 68 career dropbacks. He has shown a willingness and an ability to run, which is great for fantasy purposes. According to PlayerProfiler.com, he was a solid passer in college (and a decent athlete). He averaged 9.4 yards per attempt and an 85.9 QBR, both good for 91st percentile among quarterbacks coming out of college.
We know only a little about Hogan, but we know a lot more about what’s going on with the Houston defense. They are reeling from the loss of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. The void left behind in leadership and morale is significant enough, but combined with what these men did on the field, it’s a huge boon to opponents. They were already a good matchup for quarterbacks, allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game (18.6) and the tenth-highest passer rating to opposing QBs. That includes a Week 1 matchup with Blake Bortles and a Week 4 game against the Titans that saw Marcus Mariota throw two picks before being injured and replaced by Matt Cassel, who threw two more picks. If you remove those two games, their 221 passing yards allowed per game balloons into 291 yards per game (250 if you only remove the Tennessee game). They will once again be without cornerback Kevin Johnson and their best corner, Johnathan Joseph, is in doubt. He had not practiced as of this writing, but no official word has been given about an injury. The Texans have serious issues on defense regardless, but if they lose Joseph and the leadership he brings as one of the remaining veterans, it would be even more devastating and even better for Kevin Hogan.
Mark Ingram (NOS): $5,900 vs. DET
Adrian Peterson‘s stay in New Orleans barely lasted longer than Mardi Gras, but his absence opens up opportunities for the two talented backs they still have, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. We can’t be certain what Sean Payton will do with the extra touches, but there are good reasons to suspect Mark Ingram will benefit more than Kamara. Ingram is more of a early-down, between-the-tackles runner (though he can also catch well), while Kamara is more of a third-down, pass-catching back (though he can also run between the tackles). In fact, their numbers in our Snap Count Analysis are mirror images. They’ve both been utilized on 47% of their snaps (a carry or a target), but Ingram has carried 31% of the time and been targeted 16%, while for Kamara it’s 16% carries and 31% targets. Given that Adrian Peterson (despite his insistence otherwise) was not much of a pass catcher for the Saints, it’s reasonable to think Ingram will get the majority of the work opened up by his departure. Detroit’s defense is fairly stout against the run (18th in fantasy points allowed to RB and 29th in yards per carry allowed), but Ingram is simply priced wrong now that Peterson is gone. The volume for the price outweighs the matchup concerns.
Samaje Perine (WAS): $4,900 vs. SF
Rob Kelley is doubtful, which would make Perine the favorite to get the early down work for very cheap. The 49ers defense has allowed 117 rushing yards per game this season, despite a low 3.6 yards per carry allowed. But they’ve been trailing most of the season, so teams are running the ball against them all the time to kill the clock. They’re expected to lose by more than 10 points according to Vegas betting markets, so Washington should be looking to kill time, too. Without Kelley, Perine becomes the clock killer. Getting the first shot at early-down work and getting to close the game out later should lock Perine into a much bigger workload than his price tag implies.
DeSean Jackson (TB): $6,400 @ ARI
One thing is certain for any team facing the Arizona Cardinals: your top receiver is going to struggle. Patrick Peterson has been one of the best corners in the league for years and that hasn’t changed. He frequently shadows the top wide out and he will likely follow Mike Evans around all day. DeSean Jackson has had just one game over 100 yards receiving and one touchdown this year, but he’s been consistently targeted, averaging 7.25 targets per game. With Evans dueling with Peterson, he could see a few extra targets come his way and he should have better success against Justin Bethel. Bethel’s not too bad, either, but his 4.58 speed is not going to keep up with Jackson’s 4.35. Jameis Winston loves to throw the deep ball. He’s thrown the seventh-most deep passes this year – in one fewer game than most others. If Jackson can get behind Bethel, Winston will be looking for him deep. Hopefully, this week he’ll get both 100 yards and a touchdown.
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI): $6,600 vs. TB
Tampa Bay also has one corner who no one wants to mess with – Brent Grimes. But unlike Peterson, Grimes usually doesn’t shadow. He stays on the right side. Larry Fitzgerald plays almost exclusively out of the slot, which means he’ll mostly face Robert McClain, a corner six inches shorter than him who hasn’t played well all season. Fitzgerald has had some mixed results this season, but the targets have always been there. The fewest he’s received is six, but he’s also had games of 10, 13, and 15 targets. The Tampa Bay defense has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Larry Fitzgerald is hugely underpriced for what is a solid guaranteed floor with a big ceiling.
Ryan Griffin (HOU): $4,500 vs. CLE
Despite seeing an average of five targets per game over the last three games, Ryan Griffin is still minimum salary on FanDuel. He even managed to put together a decent fantasy performance in one of them. I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek, but his salary isn’t that absurd, because the risk is big. However, tight ends against the Browns have run freely and stockpiled fantasy points. They’ve allowed the second-most and it’s not like they’ve faced Gronk every week. I can’t decide if the scariest tight end they’ve faced is Jesse James or Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Either way, the point is that even tight ends of Griffin’s caliber have embarrassed the Browns. Repeatedly.
Evan Engram (NYG): $5,300 @ DEN
I feel for the Giants. Their top three wide receivers right now are Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, and Tavarres King. That’s quite a drop off from Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall. Naturally, this week they face one of the top pass defenses in the league on the road. It’s hard for me to imagine these receivers beating Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, and Chris Harris. The only chance the Giants have and the Broncos’ biggest weakness on defense is the tight end, namely Evan Engram. In many ways, Engram is a wide receiver by another name, so I do worry that the Broncos could put Chris Harris on him, even in three-wide sets, and let one of the linebackers take Tavarres King. But historically that defensive scheme is most vulnerable to tight ends (seventh-most fantasy points allowed this year) and Engram is the only legitimate weapon the Giants have left. He should see a ton of balls thrown his way regardless of who’s tasked with covering him.
Dustin Hopkins (WAS): $4,700 vs. SF
Picking a kicker is always a bit of an adventure. Generally, we’re looking for a team that’s going to score a lot of points (duh) against an opponent who won’t. We want big leads. The 49ers are good at giving up big leads, which is probably why they’ve allowed the most fantasy points to kickers this season. Hopkins is just a little above the minimum salary.
Washington Redskins: $4,700 vs. SF
Much of what I said about Samaje Perine and Dustin Hopkins applies here, too. San Francisco is on the road, traveling to the East Coast for a 1 pm game. They’ve struggled on offense, especially in the passing game. Brian Hoyer has thrown just four touchdowns to four interceptions, while taking 15 sacks (T-10th most). No one knows what they’re doing with their running back touches after they benched Carlos Hyde, easily their best offensive player, for unproven, undrafted rookie Matt Breida. While Breida has definitely shown promise and Hyde definitely made a couple of mistakes, that was a bad call and it may have cost the 49ers the football game. Now even their running game, which had been their strength, is more of a question mark. If you want to pay up, some defenses clearly have higher floors (hello, Broncos), but for the value, the Washington defense has similar upside.
Steve Repsold is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Steve, check out his archive and follow him @SteveRepsold.