The Primer: Week 10 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Line: SF by 6.5
Russell Wilson: He’s the current MVP. We don’t even need to talk about his five-touchdown performance last week. For those who’ve been saying the 49ers defense needs to play some real competition, they’ll get their wish this week. After watching Kyler Murray complete 17-of-24 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, Wilson’s owners suddenly aren’t as concerned, though it’s worth noting that 88 yards and a touchdown came on one pass. Murray was the first quarterback to average more than 7.4 yards per attempt against the 49ers, but as I mentioned earlier, the quarterbacks they’ve played haven’t been what most would describe as top-notch. They’ve played Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, Case Keenum, Kyle Allen, and Murray. Still, holding 6-of-8 quarterbacks to less than 200 yards and outside the top-20 is an incredible feat. The 49ers play a zone-heavy scheme which typically allows more underneath completions and relies on quarterbacks to make a mistake trying to push the ball down the field, missing a defender in the zone. Knowing Wilson has just one interception on the year, it’s not likely he’ll be making those mistakes. The biggest concern here is that the 49ers opponents average just 53.9 plays per game, which is easily the lowest mark in the NFL. We also don’t see the Seahawks pass very often, as their 51.7 percent pass-rate ranks as the fourth-lowest in the league. Wilson should still be considered a low-end QB1 with bye weeks here, but it’s not likely he has a massive game with such low volume here.
Jimmy Garoppolo: What in the world got into Jimmy G. last week? After not throwing the ball more than 33 times in each of their first eight games, he threw 37 passes against the Cardinals, completing 28 of them for 317 yards and four touchdowns. Sure, it was the Cardinals, but the Seahawks may be equally as bad. Their overall numbers may not be as bad, but it’s all about the level of competition. As stated last week, here are the quarterbacks they’ve played this year (in order): Andy Dalton, Mason Rudolph, Teddy Bridgewater, Kyler Murray, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Matt Schaub, and Jameis Winston. There are just three of them who rank inside the top-16 quarterbacks on a points per game basis, yet 7-of-9 have finished as the QB14 or better. It’s quite odd that they’ve still yet to allow more than two passing touchdowns, which is something that hurts Garoppolo, as he offers nothing on the ground, which happens to be a big weakness of the Seahawks defense. A lot of the points quarterbacks have scored have come from volume, as four quarterbacks have totaled at least 44 pass attempts. It’s extremely hard to see Garoppolo getting there in this game. With the defense playing the way they are, this may be a lower scoring game with minimal pass attempts on both sides. Without legs to compensate, he’s just a mid-to-high-end QB2 with minimal upside.
Chris Carson: After a relatively easy schedule early in the year, the 49ers have started to show some vulnerability against the run over the last couple weeks. Christian McCaffrey was able to total 151 yards and a touchdown through essentially three quarters, while Kenyan Drake was able to rack up 162 total yards and a touchdown. It also won’t help that they lost linebacker Kwon Alexander for the year with a torn pectoral muscle in Week 9. The part that most have missed with the 49ers is that they’ve allowed at least 4.16 yards per carry in 6-of-8 games, with the Bengals and Steelers being the only two teams who failed to hit that mark. The issue hasn’t been efficiency. The issue has been volume. Opposing running backs have averaged just 22.0 touches per game as a team, which is one of the lowest marks in football. That creates issues for running backs who are stuck in timeshares, but Carson isn’t one of them. He’s totaled over 75 percent (181-of-236) of the Seahawks’ running back touches available this year and has netted at least 16 touches in every game, including 20-plus touches in 7-of-9 games. You shouldn’t be worried about the matchup for Carson. Keep him plugged in as an RB1 in this game.
Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida: In case you didn’t know, I’ve had trust issues with Coleman for quite some time. It seemed we’d turned a corner back in Week 8, but he reminded me why those trust issues exist in Week 9. Here are the touch-splits with the 49ers backfield:
|Player||Wk 1||Wk 2||Wk 3||Wk 5||Wk 6||Wk 7||Wk 8||Wk 9|
Somehow, there’s yet to be a game where they haven’t totaled at least 33 touches, which is incredibly rare. Something has to give here, as the Seahawks have faced an average of just 23.1 running back touches per game, one of the lowest marks in the NFL. When touches do come for running backs, they’ve been very effective, though. The 0.98 PPR points per opportunity ranks as the fourth-highest mark in the league, though that number is quite propped-up by touchdowns, as they’ve allowed one every 16.5 carries, which is the second-most often in the league. The only running backs who’ve been able to finish better than RB18 against the Seahawks are those who’ve touched the ball at least 18 times, which is something only Coleman has done, though his touch counts have trended in the wrong direction. Coleman should be treated as a middling RB2 who you have to accept the wide range of outcomes, while Breida is in the high-end RB3 conversation as someone who gets 13-17 touches per game when healthy.
Tyler Lockett: There have been just five wide receivers who’ve totaled more than 53 yards against the 49ers, but fortunately for Lockett, four of them were slot-heavy receivers, and the other one was John Ross, who’s a speedster, like Lockett. It’s still not a good matchup, as they’ve allowed just a 52.5 percent catch-rate to wide receivers and a touchdown every 23.5 targets. The lack of volume has been the concern, as receivers have averaged just 17.6 targets per game. Knowing volume has been an issue for Lockett, his efficiency may not hold up in this matchup. You have to start him in season-long leagues as a WR2, but you should be dialing back expectations in this game and avoiding in DFS cash games.
D.K. Metcalf: Adding Gordon to the lineup is going to hurt Metcalf the most, as he’ll move to the clear-cut No. 3 receiver in the offense. While we’ve seen solid performances out of Jaron Brown this year, they’re far-and-few between. The Seahawks receivers are averaging just 18.6 targets per game, which is why it’s such a crushing blow, as there’s not much to go around. The 49ers have allowed just seven top-30 performances to receivers this year, including just a 52.5 percent catch-rate to the position. When you have a receiver with limited volume going against that, it’s tough to play him. The 49ers have also allowed just 15 passing plays that have gone for 20-plus yards, which is the lowest in the NFL. Metcalf is just a hail-mary boom/bust WR4 in this matchup.
Josh Gordon: Some may wonder just how quickly Wilson and the Seahawks will utilize Gordon, the answer should be very quickly. Why? Well, we watched Metcalf, a receiver with a limited route tree coming into the NFL, and also one who had a knee scope that required him to miss much of the preseason, yet he’s leading the team in air yards this year. Gordon is a much more complete receiver than Metcalf at this stage of their careers, though Gordon may not have as much speed. The Seahawks receivers present a lot of problems for opponents, though we don’t have to wonder about what the 49ers will do. They stay in their zones, which should mean we see Gordon match-up with Richard Sherman most of the time. That’s not ideal, as he’s been extremely good in coverage this year, allowing just a 51.5 percent catch-rate in his coverage and one touchdown on 33 targets while intercepting three passes. Knowing the 49ers have allowed just seven top-30 performances through eight games, it’s obviously not a great team to make his debut against, but knowing how many teams are on bye weeks, he’s in the WR4/5 conversation.
Emmanuel Sanders: The chemistry between Garoppolo and Sanders seemingly came together overnight, as he was getting thrown the ball before coming out of his breaks in the route. It was a thing of beauty and Garoppolo also targeted Sanders when under duress, so he’s the clear safety blanket. It also doesn’t hurt to know that there have been 14 wide receivers who’ve finished top-36 against the Seahawks this year, including every receiver who saw more than five targets. Sanders has seen 14 targets over his first two games in a 49ers uniform, including nine last week. Knowing opponents average 22.9 wide receiver targets per game against the Seahawks, it would be fair to say Sanders should hit that mark. He’s been playing all over the formation for the 49ers, so there’s not a single cornerback he’ll see more than 40 percent of the time. He should be in lineups as a WR2 this week, and if Garoppolo continues to throw more with him in the lineup, we could see him hop into the top-15 conversation.
Deebo Samuel: With Sanders in the lineup, the snap-counts among 49ers receivers has been: Sanders 119, Samuel 90, Kendrick Bourne 49, and Dante Pettis 42. They’re clearly running Samuel as the No. 2, which could have some value against a team that’s allowed 14 wide receivers to finish as top-36 options. He did let a touchdown bounce right off his hands last week and had another drop, which could hurt the confidence when throwing to him. He now has four drops on just 32 targets this year, so it’s possible. Samuel does line up on the side of Trey Flowers most often, a cornerback that’s been continually roasted in coverage. Since the start of his career in 2018, he’s allowed a 61.8 percent catch-rate for 14.4 yards per reception along with a touchdown every 20.5 targets. Of the 115 cornerbacks who’ve played at least 25 percent of snaps, PFF has Flowers graded 112th. Samuel is just a WR4/5 option due to the uncertainty with 49ers receivers, but he has the best matchup most of the time.
Jacob Hollister: We talked about Hollister in a good light the last few weeks and it was great to hear some use him as a streamer in Week 9, including a few who made some money in DFS due to having him in their lineups. The two games Hollister has seen six targets have been the two games Wilson has eclipsed 40 pass attempts, something that rarely happens (he’s thrown more than 35 passes just three times all year). Against the 49ers, quarterbacks haven’t averaged many plays (53.9) or pass attempts (28.1), which hurts someone like Hollister. On top of that, the 49ers have been the worst matchup for tight ends. They’ve only faced 39 targets, but on those targets, they’ve allowed just 25 receptions for 165 yards and one touchdown. That amounts to a miniscule 4.23 yards per target and 1.22 PPR points per target. You can find better streaming options than Hollister this week.
George Kittle: It appeared Kittle was okay after playing through a knee injury that had him hobbling around during their Week 9 win over the Cardinals, though adrenaline can do a lot for players mid-game. He was held out of practice both Tuesday and Wednesday, so stay tuned for updates on his status. The Seahawks have been one of the most giving teams when it comes to tight end production, as we’ve seen Vance McDonald, Gerald Everett, Austin Hooper, and Ricky Seals-Jones finish as top-five options against them. Mark Andrews probably should’ve had a top-five performance as well, but he dropped too many passes. The 8.44 yards per target they’ve allowed to the position ranks as the seventh-highest mark in the league and teams haven’t been shy about targeting tight ends against them, averaging 7.8 targets per game. The one piece of red tape, however, is that the Seahawks did acquire Quandre Diggs from the Lions two weeks ago, though he hasn’t played for them just yet. He’s expected to return to practice and potentially play this week, though swapping safeties mid-season is not an easy task. Kittle is in lineups as a TE1 no matter what, provided he’s healthy, so stay tuned for updates. *Update* He didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday and is already being dubbed as questionable for this game. You’re likely forced to wait it out with Kittle, who doesn’t play until Monday night. If you’re able, snag Jacob Hollister as a last-second replacement in case Kittle is inactive.
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Line: OAK by 1.5
Philip Rivers: The Chargers utilized the run-game a bit more with interim play-caller Shane Steichen in Week 9, as Rivers threw the ball a season-low 28 times. He was efficient, though, as he tallied 294 yards on those attempts, which amounts to 10.5 yards per attempt. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but the fact that the run-game got moving is what’s important as it’ll open up things in the passing game. Rivers played this defense twice last year and in both games, he failed to throw more than 27 times. Still, he was able to compile 339 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting, and then 223 yards and two touchdowns in the next one. The Raiders were supposed to be an improved defense with the additions they had this offseason, but they’ve lost a starting safety, cornerback, and inside linebacker over the course of the year. It took an average of 25.2 fantasy points to finish as a top-five quarterback in 2018, a number that quarterbacks have hit four different times against the Raiders. The only team who’s allowed more of those performances is the Cardinals, who we constantly attack in matchups. While some fantasy points allowed stats can be skewed with mobile quarterbacks rushing for a ton of yards, but that’s not the case with the Raiders who’ve allowed five different quarterbacks to throw for three-plus touchdowns. They’ve also allowed three quarterbacks to throw for 400-plus yards. That doesn’t happen by accident. Rivers should be in lineups as a QB1 this week.
Derek Carr: The issue with Carr remains. He had a very competent game in Week 9, yet he finished outside the top-12 quarterbacks because he offers nothing with his legs. It’s still good to know he’s finished with 19-plus points in back-to-back games after failing to hit that number at all in the first six games. Now to play the Chargers, a team that tends to have one of the slowest paced games in the league. Their games are averaging just 118.7 plays per game, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. That’s why despite their injuries on defense and high-efficiency they’ve been allowing, they still allow just the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to the combination of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Quarterbacks have competed a sky-high 72.0 percent of passes against them with a rock-solid 7.90 yards per attempt and a 5.12 percent touchdown-rate, all numbers well above the league average. The issue, however, is that they’ve averaged just 28.2 pass attempts per game, which will suppress fantasy output. No quarterback has thrown more than 35 passes against them this year. In fact, Deshaun Watson was the only quarterback to finish inside the top-12 against them. Fun fact: Carr has scored 16 or more fantasy points in three straight games just twice in his career, which came back in 2015 and 2016. Knowing his lack of consistency in fantasy, combined with the low volume matchup, it’s tough to say he’s anything more than a high-end QB2. In two games against Anthony Lynn’s defense last year, he totaled 13.2 and 7.9 fantasy points. While Carr has played better, he’s a veteran we’ve seen of enough to know what he brings to the table.
Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler: There was still a timeshare under their new interim play-caller, though Gordon received 20 carries for the first time since Week 14 of 2017. The Chargers did allow Ekeler to have a few goal-line runs, but eventually went back to Gordon to let him pound the ball in on fourth-down. We’ll consider this a 60/40 timeshare for the time being. The Raiders have continually played well against the run this year, holding opposing backs to just 3.96 yards per carry with just three rushing touchdowns through eight games (two of them were to Vikings running backs). Dalvin Cook has been the only one who rushed for more than 83 yards against them, so the matchup hasn’t been kind to early-down backs. Fortunately, Gordon and Ekeler are both involved in the passing game. The 113.1 PPR points the Raiders have allowed through the air to running backs ranks as the fifth-most in the league. It’s not just volume, as the 1.82 PPR points per target ranks as the sixth-highest mark. Ekeler has been the favorite in the passing game, totaling 35 targets to Gordon’s 20 targets since his return, though they each received four targets in the new offense. This was a matchup Gordon crushed in last year, but the Raiders weren’t stopping many running backs at all during that time, while they’ve been much better this year. Gordon should net somewhere in the range of 15-18 touches and be considered a high-end RB2 with the recent dedication to the run, though the matchup isn’t a great one, and we only have a small sample size of success with Gordon against a bad Packers run defense. Ekeler should still be the primary pass-catcher, which has plenty of value in this matchup, so even though he projects for around 8-12 touches, he’s able to be played as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3.
Josh Jacobs: The great news with Jacobs is that he got 28 carries against the Lions and racked up 120 yards and two touchdowns on them. The bad news is that he saw just two targets and didn’t catch either of them. He’s been capped at just three targets through eight games, which doesn’t really allow for elite production unless you’re scoring a lot of touchdowns. He now has six touchdowns on the season, though all of them have come over a span of three games, so the production has been a bit more up-and-down than we’d like. The Chargers limit the overall plays of their opponent, so Jacobs will have to make the most of his opportunities here. The 57.8 plays per game they allow ranks as the third-fewest in the league. Still, teams have decided to go run-heavy against them, as the 46.9 percent run-rate is the sixth-highest mark in the league, which has allowed running backs to generate 28.2 touches per game. Jacobs has netted 66.8 percent of the Raiders running back touches, so 18-plus touches should still be within reach here. The Chargers have allowed seven different running backs hit 16-plus PPR points, which is the third-highest mark in the league, behind only the Bengals and Lions (the team Jacobs just crushed). Gamescript is a concern for Jacobs with his lack of involvement in the passing game, which is why he’s not among the elite options at running back, but in a divisional game against a Chargers team who’s won just two games by more than six points, it shouldn’t be an issue. Consider him a low-end RB1/high-end RB2.
Keenan Allen: Ever since his hot start that had him as the WR1 through three weeks, Allen has hit a wall in production and hasn’t topped 61 yards in six straight games. It’s not due to a lack of trying, either, as his 42 targets over that span rank 17th among wide receivers while his 511 air yards rank 13th. He also hasn’t scored since way back in Week 3. We have far too much history of Allen producing to think this will continue, so let’s just call it a slump. If there’s a matchup he can break out of it, it’s this one. The Raiders have been tormented by wide receivers this year, allowing 41.2 PPR points per game to the position, including six different receivers who’ve hit the century-mark against them. Just how bad has it been? The 9.24 yards per target the Saints allowed to receviers last year was the worst mark in the NFL. The Raiders are currently allowing 10.32 yards per target to wide receivers. As a team, they’ve allowed 59-of-81 passing for 747 yards and five touchdowns in the slot, which is where Allen runs 55 percent of his routes. Again, he’s too good not to bounce back at some point and this matchup is pristine, so continue plugging him in as a low-end WR1.
Mike Williams: When you think of wide receivers who’ve gone off the last month, Mike Evans tops the list, right? Well, he’s the only player with more opportunity than Williams. Since the start of Week 5, the top five receivers in air yards are Evans, Williams, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, and Julian Edelman. Not bad company to be in, eh? And it’s not as if his quarterback isn’t good. The Raiders are coming off a game in which they allowed both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay to combine for 258 yards and two touchdowns. Similar to Williams, their average depth of targets were way down the field (both over 15.0 yards). The Raiders cornerback duo of rookie Trayvon Mullen and veteran Daryl Worley is one of the best cornerback units to attack with fantasy receivers. The 12 touchdowns the team has allowed to receivers ranks as the third-most in football, so we could see Williams lose the donut in his touchdown column here. It’s a little disheartening to see him and Allen see just four targets apiece in the new offense, but the gamescript kind of called for it. With the Raiders defending the run, we should see more this week. Williams is a low-end WR2 with upside in this matchup.
Tyrell Williams: The touchdown streak finally ended for Williams in Week 9, as he’d tallied a touchdown in five straight games to start his Raiders career. The concern is that Williams has now finished with less than 50 yards in five of the last six games, so touchdowns have kept him afloat. He’s still yet to top seven targets with the Raiders, which is kind of odd considering the lack of other options at receiver on the team. Now on to play a Chargers team who only faces an average of 16.4 targets per game to wide receivers. For those who love narratives, it’s Williams’ old team who moved on from him this past season. The Chargers secondary is anything but scary, as they’ve been a team you can have efficiency against, despite what the Packers receivers did/didn’t do last week. They’ve allowed a 72.3 percent completion-rate to receivers, though the 11.9 yards per catch is one of the lower marks in the league. There have been just five receivers who’ve recorded more than 12.9 PPR points against them due to the low volume, as each of the receivers who topped that mark found the end zone. So, essentially, it’s touchdown or WR4-type numbers for many. That’s what we’ve come to expect with Williams, who should be considered a volatile WR3 with a lackluster ceiling.
Zay Jones: He’s moved into the No. 2 role opposite Williams, though it hasn’t amounted to much opportunity while totaling just six targets over the last two games combined. He’s still learning the offense and trying to develop chemistry with Carr, but the matchup with the Chargers isn’t one you need to attack. Jones should be on waiver wires in redraft leagues.
Hunter Renfrow: He scored a touchdown and saw seven targets last week, which will lead some to wonder about his appeal with so many teams on bye. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but he’d seen in between 3-5 targets in each of the previous five games. With his average depth of target being just 6.3 yards, he’s going to need a lot more than a handful of targets. The Chargers have Desmond King as their slot cornerback, and while he was one of the best in the league last year, he’s struggled a bit this year while getting beat over the top with all the injuries they’ve dealt with at safety. After allowing a 34-plus yard play in his coverage three straight games from Week 2 through Week 4, he’s gotten back on track the last five games. There’s not nearly enough of a sample size to trust Renfrow in this matchup.
Hunter Henry: We didn’t know what the new play-calling would bring, but it apparently didn’t hurt Henry at all, as he saw a team-high 10 targets against the Packers, netting seven catches for 84 yards. He’s netted at least five targets in every game and has totaled 10.0 or more PPR points in 4-of-5 games despite scoring in just one of them. The Raiders have been a team to attack with tight ends since Jon Gruden/Paul Guenther arrived. After allowing a league-high 10.29 yards per target and 2.28 PPR points per target to tight ends in 2018, they’ve come back and allowed 8.31 yards per target and 2.04 PPR points per target this year. While it’s a slight decline, it’s been enough to support three top-four tight end performances against them, as Darrel Fells, Travis Kelce, and Jimmy Graham all netted at least 16 PPR points against them. They’ve also allowed three other tight ends to finish as top-13 options, so it’s absolutely a plus-matchup for Henry, who should be an auto-start TE1 every week anyway. Here’s little bit extra juice for Henry owners: He’s averaged 87.8 air yards per game since returning to the lineup. Over that time, no other tight end has averaged more than 76.5 air yards per game. His opportunity is massive.
Darren Waller: After seeing at least five targets in seven straight games, the Raiders threw the ball to Waller just twice in Week 9. Fortunately, he was able to haul in both for 52 yards, but we have to chalk it up as a one-time scenario. The Chargers have yet to play against a tight end who’s seen more than five targets, yet they’ve allowed two top-eight tight ends this year. The 31 targets they’ve seen from tight ends is the eighth-fewest in the league, so to see them allow the ninth-fewest points to the position isn’t all that surprising. Knowing both safeties are backups should net fantasy points, but when you look at the competition, you can see why they haven’t allowed a whole lot of production. The list consists of Eric Ebron, T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Akins/Darren Fells, Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, Vance McDonald, Jonnu Smith, Trey Burton, and Jimmy Graham. None of those tight ends intimidate opponents. Plug Waller in as a rock-solid TE1.