FanDuel NFL Value Plays: Week 7
Brutal. That’s the only way to describe the carnage that’s taking place on the field and the toll that injuries are taking on some teams. It does, however, help us in our quest to stay one step ahead of the FanDuel pricing algorithm. Some other situations continue to be in flux as well. The most notable is the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. At the moment, he’s slated to play, but that has changed a couple of times this week already. If he doesn’t play, then one (or even both) of Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris become top values immediately. Personally, I think Zeke plays and we won’t have to worry about which Dallas back to roster, but it’s definitely a situation to watch as we get closer to game day. I’d prefer if he plays, in part to avoid the uncertainty of who will benefit, and in part because we’ve already got some solid values at running back. (Statistics via ProFootball Reference)
Brett Hundley (GB): $6,500 vs. NO
Of all the injuries we’ve seen this year, none is more brutal and damaging for their team than the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers for the season. Now fifth-round quarterback Brett Hundley out of UCLA gets his first real chance to show the NFL what he can do. Taking over near the end of the first quarter last week, Hundley had some mixed results. If you only looked at the box score, you might wonder why I’m recommending him. Hundley went 18/33 for 157 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. The good news is he played a lot better than his statistics look (and I don’t say that very often). Let’s start with the interceptions, since they are the most glaring flaw there. The first one was tipped by his receiver right into the hands of the defense. On the second pick, Harrison Smith made an exceptional defensive play. The pass was a bit risky, but it would have been difficult to anticipate the way Smith broke on the ball – and then made a one-handed grab. The last came in garbage time as the Packers desperately tried to put up one more score and it too was tipped by the receiver. At worst, only one of them was truly Hundley’s fault. Hundley should have had a second touchdown on an easy throw to Ty Montgomery out of the backfield, but it was overturned on review because Montgomery did not have control all the way through the process (or whatever it is that constitutes a catch these days). Hundley looked surprisingly comfortable, moving in the pocket in a manner reminiscent of the man he’s replacing. He put to good use the athleticism he showed at the NFL Combine, where his 4.63 40-yard dash time ranked him in the 91st-percentile among quarterbacks and his SPARQ score put him in the 98th-percentile (via PlayerProfiler). He moved through his reads quickly, made decisive throws, and wasn’t afraid to check it down if no one was open down the field. The Saints’ defense isn’t nearly as bad as the common wisdom suggests, but they’re much worse than the Vikings, allowing the 12th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Hundley has an elite set of weapons at his disposal at all the skill positions, putting him in a great spot to deliver a big fantasy performance on the cheap.
James White (NE): $4,800 vs. ATL
It’s safe to assume that this game, the rematch of last year’s Super Bowl, is important to both teams. Neither has started this season well. The Falcons are reeling from a home loss against the Jay Cutler-led Miami Dolphins, while the Patriots struggled to defeat the Jets. It’s puzzling to me that the MVP of the Super Bowl comes with such a bargain-basement price tag this week. You probably remember him catching 14 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, while adding six carries, 29 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground. The backfield in New England has changed, but White still leads the team in snaps (averaging 35 per game) and is averaging 8.2 targets per game (removing the Week 3 one-target outlier). The Falcons’ defense has struggled to defend pass catching backs and White seems like a lock for heavy usage in what is expected to be a close, high-scoring game.
Marlon Mack (IND): $5,300 vs. JAC
One of the more under the radar injuries that could have a significant impact is the loss of Robert Turbin for the Colts. Turbin was handling a little over 20 snaps per game and splitting the change of pace role with Marlon Mack (roughly 10 snaps per game). Mack has been a guy to watch all season, as an exciting fourth-round rookie out of South Florida. He’s only seen a handful of carries (27) while giving Frank Gore a breather, but he’s used them well, rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns, good for 4.8 yards per carry. I learned long ago never to bet on Frank Gore getting injured, but it seems likely that instead of expanding the aging veteran’s role, the snaps Turbin was playing will go to Mack, who represents the future of the Indianapolis backfield. The Jaguars’ defense has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs, while their pass defense is stifling. I expect the Colts will look to move the ball on the ground more, which should mean more work for Marlon Mack.
Adrian Peterson (ARI): $6,300 @ LAR
Well, that escalated quickly. In just a few days, Adrian Peterson went from a forgotten relic gathering dust on the Saints’ bench to the focal point of the Cardinals’ offense. I’m not entirely sure whether that says more about Peterson, the Saints, or the Cardinals’ offense. But what I do know is Peterson got 26 carries in his first game with Arizona and he made the most of them. He ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns – and he looked every bit as good as those numbers imply. Honestly, I’m a little confused by the sudden, massive change, but the opportunity is clearly there. Five of those 26 carries came inside the opponent’s 20. That kind of red zone usage adds a nice ceiling to the floor offered by 26 touches. The Rams have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season, making it nearly impossible to say no to All Day at this price.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT): $5,300 vs. CIN
Martavis Bryant was supposed to be “the guy” after Antonio Brown this season, but that just hasn’t happened. It’s been rumored that he asked for a trade, though he denies it. Regardless, we’re seeing a shift in Pittsburgh and last week, JuJu Smith-Schuster, the second-round rookie from USC, outsnapped Martavis Bryant for the first time, 44-33. Antonio Brown has a death grip on targets from Ben Roethlisberger, but the gap between Bryant and Smith-Schuster is fairly small. Removing Week 1 (when Smith-Schuster did not play), Bryant has only five more targets than Smith-Schuster (28-23). Smith-Schuster has been a go-to guy in the red zone, receiving eight targets inside the 20 compared to only three for Bryant. The Bengals’ secondary is pretty good, but Smith-Schuster has run most of his routes from the slot. That should match him up with Darqueze Dennard the most and keep him away from Adam Jones, who is by far their best corner. It’s not a safe play, but he’s a bargain option with a good shot at a touchdown.
Adam Thielen (MIN): $6,900 vs. BAL
I feel like I’m always writing about Adam Thielen, but his price is staying too low and his opportunity keeps increasing. He’s averaged 8.8 targets per game for the season, but last week with Stefon Diggs out, he received 13 targets, catching nine for 97 yards. Diggs still isn’t practicing and looks doubtful for Sunday’s game. Michael Floyd has also popped up on the injury report with a hamstring injury. That means the Vikings’ starting wide receivers could be Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, and Laquon Treadwell. Thielen is lucky that he runs most of his routes out of the slot, because the Ravens have some stellar outside corners, especially Jimmy Smith. Slot man Ladarius Webb is the weakest of their corners and is a full five inches shorter than Thielen. Even if Diggs and Floyd play, I think Thielen has a great game. Without them, the Vikings will have no choice but to make Thielen the focal point of their offense.
Austin Hooper (ATL): $5,000 @ NE
Another surprise standout from Super Bowl LI, Austin Hooper caught three passes from Matt Ryan for 32 yards and one important touchdown. He’s been a boom-or-bust option this season, but Ryan seems to be looking his way more lately. In the last two games, he has 12 catches on 16 targets for 98 yards. Hooper showed he can exploit the Patriots’ defense in the Super Bowl and they’ve continued to be vulnerable to tight ends this season, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. While I anticipate a big performance from Julio Jones, the other Falcons wide receivers have struggled. Neither Mohammed Sanu nor Taylor Gabriel has cracked 100 yards in a game. This should be a pass-happy, high-scoring game on Sunday and there will be plenty left for Austin Hooper.
Jake Elliott (PHI): $4,600 vs. WAS
Consistency is not something you find often from a kicker, but Jake Elliott has scored double-digit fantasy points in every game he’s played this year. He’s barely above the minimum salary. In fact, he’s the top-ranked kicker in our Value Play Tool. The Eagles have the third-highest implied team total. Vegas betting markets believe they’ll score over 26 points, putting them behind only the Patriots and Falcons. Washington is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to kickers.
Minnesota Vikings D/ST: $4,700 vs. BAL
I don’t know what the Ravens are doing. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Joe Flacco is barely a replacement-level quarterback this season. Actually, I’m being too kind. Flacco’s 3.26 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A, a metric that adjusts yard per attempt to factor touchdown, interceptions, and sacks) ranks 32nd this season, ahead of only DeShone Kizer, who can’t hold down the starting gig for the Browns. Both Alex Collins and Javorius Allen had higher yards per rush attempt last Sunday than Joe Flacco‘s yards per pass attempt (and that is without adjusting it for the two picks and three sacks). However, the Ravens seem utterly committed to Flacco, letting him haphazardly sling the ball around 41 times against the Bears despite his complete lack of competence. He’s thrown it 40 or more times in two of the last three games. The Ravens are only expected to score 17 points, the lowest implied team total of the week. Almost forgot: the Vikings’ defense is actually pretty good. It’s puzzling that they are so cheap, making them the top defense in the Value Play Tool.
Steve Repsold is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Steve, check out his archive and follow him @SteveRepsold.