Yards Per Gretch: Week 6
Ben Gretch, Editor in Chief of Fantasy Insiders, takes an ultra-high resolution look at the upcoming NFL week. If you haven’t yet been introduced to Ben’s level of thinking, get ready for great takes loaded with analytical insight.
On a week where FF Twitter has been mired in a debate about the impact of defenses on player performance, we continue to see, on DraftKings particularly, how pricing is challenging us to consider top options in what look like subpar spots. Ezekiel Elliott is $7000 against Jacksonville while David Johnson is down to $5900 as Arizona heads to Minnesota. Add in injury replacements like Tevin Coleman and T.J. Yeldon and the biggest takeaway for me is there’s almost no reason to be overexposed to committee backs when you can lock in guaranteed touches at significant discounts.
I’m targeting a number of guys this week who are due for some regression. That’s an overused term, but these are cases where the early-season trends have either been far too extreme, or the player has a long track record of something we haven’t seen yet this season. Let’s get to the picks.
T.J. Yeldon @DAL
Blake Bortles threw 61 times last week, for a 2018 NFL single-game high of 601 air yards, which boosted target numbers across the board for Jacksonville. There’s reason to be somewhat skeptical of T.J. Yeldon’s 10 targets.
What is harder to be skeptical of is his 93% snap rate. Yes, Corey Grant got injured, and that left the depth chart thin. Jacksonville also waived Brandon Wilds this week, and added two new backs including Jamaal Charles this week. It’s hard to imagine Charles or David Williams as little more than change-of-pace options, and Yeldon has been plenty effective in all phases, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 8.8 per reception.
Whether the touches come in the passing game or on the ground, Yeldon looks poised for another big workload. Because Leonard Fournette has been in and out of the lineup, his consistent workload has flown a bit under the radar. He has at least 12 touches and multiple catches in every game, averaging 11.8 carries and 4.4 receptions. The offensive line is a bit banged up, but Dallas is without Sean Lee again, a significant blow to their defensive unit. The game has a low total, but Yeldon’s expected touches per dollar more than account for that.
John Brown @TEN
In Week 1, John Brown saw 4 targets for 47 air yards. For four consecutive games since, he’s totaled at least 189 air yards, finishing first or second in the league in total air yards each week. He was targeted at least 7 times in each of those games, averaging 10 per. He leads the NFL in air yards over the past four weeks to such an extreme degree only 11 other WRs in the league have even half his total. And yet, while he’s been productive, he’s left a ton of meat on the bone.
Still priced as a mid-level WR, Brown’s ceiling is overlooked. Though downfield targets carry a lower expected completion percentage, and because of that Brown has never carried high catch rates, he’s caught just 16 of the 40 targets he’s seen over the past four weeks, a putrid 40% conversion rate. That’s been good enough for him to average 88 yards per game in that span, because, again, this guy is seeing otherworldly downfield volume.
That’s about all there is to it. The matchup isn’t an issue, but more than anything he’s a total volume play at his price. There are a lot of deep threats in the NFL; none is seeing volume even close to Brown’s.
After Devonta Freeman returned in Week 5, Coleman’s price for Week 6 is $1,000 cheaper than its 2018 peak on both major sites. With Freeman out again, we can expect Coleman to get plenty of run in a game with a massive total. Ito Smith is a minor concern, as his role grew while Freeman missed time and he scored a short touchdown last week even while Freeman was back in the lineup. But while Coleman remains a high-variance player, his ceiling at a discounted price tag makes him worth the headache with 15 touches looking like the floor.
Coleman isn’t the only Atlanta play with an uncertain red zone role, of course. Julio Jones comes off a down week where he didn’t catch a pass until the fourth quarter, and his price has also dipped in advance of an absolute smash spot. He still maintains the league’s highest Weighted Opportunity Rating (WOPR), and the key for me is at a discounted price, he can hit value even without reaching paydirt. A score or two could be gravy.
Keenan Allen @CLE
Always more of a preferred play on DraftKings, Allen’s price has dropped $800 over the past two weeks on the full-PPR site. He’s a total “don’t forget about this guy” play after failing to either score or hit the 100-yard bonus in four straight games, since he did both in Week 1.
Allen matches up with T.J. Carrie in the slot for Cleveland, a matchup he can certainly win. He got going a bit last week, catching 8 of 9 targets for 90 yards. And that’s his game. He’s not a player who can score long touchdowns, but his career game log is littered with high-catch games that establish a high PPR ceiling.
Seven times last season, Allen broke 100 yards receiving. He had a stretch of five games in the middle of the season where he didn’t top 70 yards, then went for 100 in three straight, finishing the season with 29 or more DK points in 4 of the season’s final 7 games. A sublime route runner, he posted those ceiling games by catching at least 9 balls in each, and it’s long since been clear Philip Rivers has no problem locking onto Allen when a team simply can’t guard him. He hasn’t had a double-digit catch game yet in 2018, and is thus unlikely to be a popular play. I’ll likely have weekly exposure to him until that game comes, and this week is a great bet.
David Johnson @MIN
I made the full case for Johnson last week, but I’m contractually obligated to mention his price on DraftKings fell again despite his first 20-point game. The key remains play volume, as his raw targets don’t reflect his solid 16% share and his 17.8 touches per game don’t reflect that he’s the only show in town, especially with Chase Edmonds banged up. And, again, the Cardinals have run the fifth-fewest plays in a team’s first five games since the merger, a stat I’ve referenced before, and still don’t believe will sustain.
Johnson himself appears fine, though his usage remains an issue. Arizona has been extremely predictable on first down, routinely tipping runs, which has led to Johnson posting 1.8 yards per carry on 36 first down rushes compared to 4.6 yards per carry on 38 rushes on all other downs. He’s been called touchdown dependent, but he’s converted 4 of 5 rushes inside the 10 for scores, and has 37 touchdowns in 38 career games. He remains an elite red zone producer, and it’s not like that’s the only way he can get home.
The team situation and his specific usage looks grim, but I’m still of the mind there are more ways things can improve than get worse. And you still don’t have to pay for it and people still don’t want to play him.
Each week, I look at usage trends to highlight players whose roles outpace their pricing and public perception, and who are in good spots.
Nyheim Hines @NYJ
I’ve highlighted Hines here before, but he has now played over two-thirds of the snaps in three straight games and is a perfect fit for Indy’s short passing offense. With T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle still out, Hines looks poised to continue his streak of three straight games of 5+ targets. Because he’s more of a receiving back, he’s flying a bit under the radar as his team’s clear RB1.
David Moore @OAK (in London)
It’s unlikely many are going to point-chase Moore given he was targeted just 4 times, catching 3 for 38 and 2 scores. But he’s extremely cheap, and he ran 16 routes on 23 Russell Wilson dropbacks, while Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown combined for just 7. While Moore is often discussed for his athleticism — he boasts a 95th percentile SPARQ-x score — he also had impressive age-adjusted production metrics at small-school East Central Oklahoma, with a well above average dominator rating and breakout age. Given Wilson threw just 21 times in Week 5, Moore’s 4 targets were nearly a 20% target share. Seattle isn’t looking to throw a lot, but Moore’s large-field tournament viable on the hope his usage shares stay solid and script turns against the Seahawks, forcing them to throw 35+ times.
Touchdowns Per Gretch
One of my favorite ways to gain some context about implied team totals is to apply team scoring tendencies for both the offense and opposing defense. Let’s take a look at some of the highest-total teams on the week and see what conclusions we can draw.
Atlanta Falcons (30.25 implied total) vs. TB
I touched on Julio Jones above, but there should be plenty of optimism he breaks his touchdown streak this week. Tampa Bay has allowed a league-high 13 passing touchdowns despite already having their bye. Atlanta’s slate-high implied total in what projects to be a shootout has them atop this week’s passing points projection, which boosts not just Julio’s ceiling but brings the other receiving options into play. My favorite of the secondary pieces this week is Mohamed Sanu.
Los Angeles Rams (29.25 implied total) @DEN
Denver’s defense has tended to allow rushing touchdowns more frequently than scores through the air, relative to league average rates for both. Todd Gurley’s price has reached five figures on DK, and while I also like Brandin Cooks as a sneaky play off his concussion (assuming he’s active), Gurley looks worth his salary if you can make it fit.
Per Gretch: Todd Gurley scores twice
That’s it for this week. Good luck in your Week 6 contests!
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