The Reid Option: Week 5
Each week, Sammy Reid will break down each position in detail, pinpointing his favorite plays at various salary ranges. Who should we be focusing our core on this week? Read below to find out!
The times, they are a-changin’, my friends.
Scoring in the NFL is up – way up. There have been 17.3% more touchdowns scored from this season to last, and there are eight QBs on pace for 5,000+ passing yards, when last year’s league leader finished with 4,577 (h/t Davis Mattek and Adam Levitan). 38% of NFL teams are averaging more than 280 passing yards per game; last season zero teams did. Five teams are scoring more than 30 points per game, last season zero teams did.
Obviously, we’re dealing with a somewhat small sample of four weeks here. But with the rules changes and the evolution of offensive systems, I’m a believer that it’s real. As is always the case in DFS, those who adapt to changing environments the quickest will be the ones making the money.
The first half of 2016 was the best run of NFL DFS I’ve had. This was the season where the Zero-RB draft strategy became mainstream, and DFS players took those same ideas into the daily game, anchoring their cash lineups with the Antonio Browns and Odell Beckhams every week. Meanwhile, the bellcow backs – particularly David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell – were priced ~$1500 lower on DraftKings while getting 25+ touches per game … and people weren’t playing them! It took until midseason for the sites to adjust their pricing and for the DFS market to correct their behaviors. Meanwhile, we were printing money.
A similar opportunity exists this season – it’s a matter of finding the best way to take advantage of this changing offensive environment. My personal theory is that cheap WRs have become the new market inefficiency, and no better example of this existed than in Week 4 when Sterling Shepard, Tyler Boyd, Corey Davis, Taylor Gabriel, and Keke Coutee (among others) smashed at bargain prices. And with so few true bellcow backs available to us, optimal cash game construction often looks paying up for the RB studs and paying down for the pass catchers is the way to go.
Of course, every slate has its own dynamics, and the sites are likely to adjust as the season goes along. So take advantage and get in while the getting’s good.
On a typical NFL week, I put together multiple cash game lineups across multiple sites which will have significant player overlap. I diversify to take advantage of different price points on different sites, as well as hedge on the players I don’t feel as strongly about to reduce variance in a game where it’s inherent. The players I feel strongest about will be in the majority of my lineups – these are my “high exposure” picks. The “moderate exposure” players will be in roughly half of my lineups, and the “GPP” picks are higher-risk, high-reward plays that I believe will be under-owned by the masses. I can’t write up every single player I’ll be using in time to put this column out on Thursday, but I’ll do my best to give you the most pivotal plays I can. The rest is up to you.
QUARTERBACK – HIGH EXPOSURE
BLAKE BORTLES @ KC – Playing Bortles in cash feels grosser than showering in vomit, but one of the early-season cheat codes has been to close your eyes and play whichever QB is facing the Chiefs that week. Thus far KC has been dunked on for the 2nd-most passing yards in football and has given up an average 3.1 points above the opposition’s implied team total (h/t TJ Hernandez) per game. Leonard Fournette has already been ruled out of this game, and Bortles has shown significant splits without LF in the lineup (counting last week as “without”, where he left the game in the first half):
With Fournette (14 G): 203.9 YPG, 1.2 pass TD per game
Without Fournette (6 G) 305.8 YPG, 1.8 pass TD per game
RUNNING BACK – MODERATE EXPOSURE
MELVIN GORDON III vs OAK – MG3 has a ton going for him: He gets carries (15+ in three of four games), work through the air (24% team target share is 3rd in the NFL), and is his team’s goal-line back. The Chargers are also 5.5-point home favorites and hold a 29.5-point implied team total against a Raiders defense that has the backbone of a jellyfish. The one knock against Gordon is that Austin Ekeler is getting roughly 1/3rd of the Bolts’ backfield work, leaving him a bit shy of true bellcow status. On DraftKings, I’m just as fine rostering Christian McCaffrey for $600 less; his 28% team target share is tied with Alvin Kamara for tops among RBs and he’s seeing 15.3 carries per game to boot. Only a lack of touchdown equity keeps him from being a no-brainer lock in all formats.
DAVID JOHNSON @ SF – This week seems way thinner on cheap RB value than has been the case so far this season, but sometimes the value is hiding in plain sight. We’re dealing with a one-game sample here, but DJ received 25 touches in his first game with Josh Rosen under center, and the Cards put up seasons-highs in points scored (17), first downs (18), total plays (56), and total yards (263). These aren’t great numbers and they admittedly came against the Seahawks, but all DJ needs is a somewhat-functioning offense to succeed. And this week he draws the 49ers, a team that has allowed 132.8 rushing yards per game without Jimmy G in the game to lead their offense over the past two seasons. I think we get 20 touches here against a soft defense, making DJ a sweet value play in cash games.
T.J. YELDON @ KC – I’ll be honest with you – this is a play I’m trying to avoid, but it may be inevitable on DraftKings. Yeldon has been serviceable in Fournette’s absence, averaging 11.7 carries and 5.0 targets per game in Weeks 2-4, and the Chiefs have been more generous to opposing running backs than the President is to pornstars. Like staying a night at a Days Inn, he doesn’t excite me, but he’s fine.
WIDE RECEIVER – HIGH EXPOSURE
JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER vs ATL – With Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Richardo Allen snapped through, the middle of the Falcons defense is softer than a government job, which sets up beautifully for the Steelers slot man. Not only is he moderately priced exposure to the sweetest game on the slate, he’s a legit target monster: His 49 looks are the 3rd-highest total in the NFL, and his 26% target share is a top-10 mark. Besides, you haven’t lived unless you’ve mirrored JuJu’s touchdown dance in front of the TV while your dogs look at you quizzically, and you can only do that if you roster him in DFS. So, I think we’ve established him as a lock.
WIDE RECEIVER – MODERATE EXPOSURE
Rests his head on a pillow made of targets … again
Maybe he’ll see a little better secondary … oh yeah
Oh hands out
Catches that he sees time again, they’re so familiar … aw yeah
Oh jam in
He can’t help that his air yards look insane … wooo
Points arrive like butterflies
Oh we don’t know, how he’s under 8k yeah-e-yeah
On Sunday yet, he’ll go win this fight again
Fight again, fight again
Lookin through the box score yo fo sho he’s so elite, oh yeah
On a secondary that hasn’t showed us anything
Understand the Vikings pass game blizzard’s on its way
Oh his ceiling
Few and far between games he don’t reach it every day, hey
Points arrive like butterflies
Oh we don’t know, how he’s under 8k yeah-e-yeah
On Sunday yet, he’ll go win this fight again
Oh winnin’ things, for his boy Sammy
He’s the play, he’s the play-e-yeah
DOUG BALDWIN vs LAR – In his Week 4 return, Baldwin played 76% of the Hawks’ snaps and received 27% of the team’s targets while commanding 49% of the team’s air yards. Against the Rams offensive juggernaut, I expect Russell Wilson to have to throw far more than the 26 times he did in Week 4, and that could mean nice things for ya boy D-Bald for just $5k on DraftKings.
TAYWAN TAYLOR @ BUF – Corey Davis was the star of Week 4, but quietly, Taylor saw nine targets – good for a 21% team share – with Rishard Matthews freshly jettisoned like an old CD collection. Davis is set to be shadowed by blue-chip CB Tre’Davious White, meaning that Taylor may have a few touches manufactured for him to take some pressure off Mariota. At just $4k on DraftKings, I have no issue with Taylor as your WR3 if you love the rest of your lineup. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is also a low-priced option if two or more of the GB wide receivers can’t suit up.
TIGHT END – HIGH EXPOSURE
VANCE MCDONALD vs ATL – Vancy Pants keeps trending upward, playing 63% of snaps and running routes on 67% of Pittsburgh’s dropbacks in Week 4 (h/t Ben Gretch). He’s now received five targets in three straight games and has upside for more a game with the highest shootout potential of the week. Still cheap across the industry, he’s yet another way to get cheap exposure against the weak middle of the Falcons defense.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS – MODERATE EXPOSURE
TITANS @ BUF – The Titans are the most expensive DST on DraftKings, but on FanDuel they check in at just $3900, 13th among DSTs. They have a great matchup against the Bills, a team that allows sacks like Amazon allows employees to live below the poverty line. Buffalo’s 14.4% adjusted sack rate is by far the worst in football; the next-most generous team (the Giants) are at 11%.
EAGLES vs MIN – The Vikings have a bevy of offensive weapons to be sure, but their o-line is weaker than a supermarket brand paper towel. As Mike Lombardi likes to say “bad offensive lines don’t travel”, and as such, I’m fully expecting Philly’s vicious d-line to go full piranha in this game and force bad throws and a several sacks. For just $2600 on DK, they’re my go-to cash D.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER vs ATL – Look. If you’ve learned anything about this season so far, it’s that there are a handful of teams that are fantasy Wildfire – terribad on defense and strong enough on offense to create back-and-forth shootouts: The Chiefs, Buccaneers, Texans, Saints, Falcons, and Steelers. And when two of these teams face each other, fantasy points start raining down like glitter at the gentleman’s club. Literally every skill position player in this game is a GPP option – I’m not going to write each one up, but just know that Ben will be my #1 tournament QB and while this game will be quite popular, I’ll be contrarian by being over-exposed to it compared to the market.
PATRICK MAHOMES vs JAX – Last night, I drank wine. My eyelids grew heavy, and I succumbed to sleep. And at last I dreamed. I found myself walking through a swamp in the dead of night. The crickets sang and the mosquitoes buzzed. Fireflies illuminated my path. I saw a will-o’-the-wisp glowing over the shallow, murky water and I followed it. Yet no matter how far I trudged towards it, it always remained in the distance, flickering and teasing me. After a time I became weary, and I sat on a log to rest. The night air was crisp and cool, and I was at peace.
After a time, a frog hopped up on the log next to me, and looked at me with large, unblinking eyes.
“Sup frog”, I said.
“Sup fool”, he croaked back.
I felt neither surprise nor worry that the frog had replied. I dangled my feet in the water, basking in the night air and the glow of the fireflies.
“You sound like Patrick Mahomes, I said.
“I am Patrick Mahomes, he replied, in a high-pitched croak.
No cause for alarm, I thought to myself. This all seems very normal.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so finally I replied, “that’s cool, man.”
“Yeah it is pretty cool”, he said. “You should play me in DFS this week.”
“Nah, I’m actually good on that”, I said. “Jacksonville’s defense is a beast.”
“DON’T BE A FOOL”, he exclaimed, his vocal sack puffing out to an enormous degree. “JACKSONVILLE BEATS ON TEAMS THAT TRY TO PLAY THEM STRAIGHT UP. YOU THINK ANDY’S GONNA ATTACK THAT WAY? NAH, BRO. HE’S GONNA COME THROUGH THE SIDE DOOR AT THEM. JET SWEEPS. SHOVEL PASSES. RPOs. SCREENS. DID YOU KNOW THEIR DEFENSE IS HELPLESS VS 12 PERSONNEL? LEMME LINK YOU BRO. YOU DON’T THINK ANDY KNOWS THAT? OH HE KNOWS THAT. I’M THE BEST FANTASY QUARTERBACK IN THE LAND AND I HAVE AN ELITE OFFENSIVE MIND BEHIND ME. I’M AT HOME, I’M CHEAP, AND PEOPLE AREN’T GOING TO PLAY ME. I REPEAT: DON’T BE A FOOL.”
I decided that indeed, I did not wish to be a fool. I pulled out my phone to make a Mahomes lineup immediately, but there was no reception in the swamp.
“Do it when you get home”, Mahomes frog croaked at me. “Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.”
I opened my crusted eyes and peeled my face off the couch. A small pool of dribble had formed under my mouth; I wiped it up clumsily with the back of my hand. I picked up my phone and opened the DK app, pleased to find that it wasn’t just a dream – he was only $6200. I quickly made a lineup with him at the helm, and I thought, thank you frog. Thank you.
AARON JONES and JIMMY GRAHAM @ DET – As of early Thursday morning, it appears as though Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, and Davante Adams are all unlikely to play Sunday. In response, I could see Green Bay going to the run to try to take pressure off the inexperienced WR corps, and if Mike McCarthy acquiesces to Aaron Rodgers’ wish to have more Jones on the field, this could be a breakout game for him. The time to take a shot on that is before it happens, not after. The Jimmy Graham play is obvious and he’s likely to be my highest-owned GPP TE. Aaron Rodgers is going to need someone he trusts to throw to, especially around the goal-line. Don’t overthink this one.
MATT BREIDA vs ARI – A home game against the team that has allowed the most attempts, touchdowns, and the second-most rushing yards to opposing running backs? Can that RB have the 4th-most rushing yards in football and coming off a game where he plays his highest snap share of the season? Yeah? Well then, don’t twist my arm.
DEDE WESTBROOK @ KC – As Evan Silva notes, Dede leads the Jags in receptions, receiving yards, and air yards. He also has a sick college pedigree, winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2016 while finishing 4th in the Heisman race. He’s my top option to pair with Bortles in GPPs and is fully cash viable as well.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Let’s go make some money in Week 5.