Exploiting Defenses in DFS - Week 7
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When it comes to DFS lineups, looking at matchups and opportunities will be key in constructing a winning lineup. Everyone knows that A.J. Green is a top receiver, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a slam dunk starter every week in DFS (see last week against Buffalo). Green is typically one of the most expensive wide receivers, but there will always be one with a cheaper price tag in a similar spot for production with a better matchup. (Although, it’s worth noting that Green’s price tag was still relatively cheap.)
I can’t believe we’re already headed into Week 7 of the season. Sample sizes are starting to become trends. If a particular cornerback is getting burned, he’s someone to target each week. The same goes for run defense. At this point of the season, if a defense is bad, they aren’t going to magically improve, so start to use the numbers to your advantage.
Each week, I’ll help you exploit specific defensive players and also touch on non-skill offensive players (read: the offensive line) to help you make the right choices on which players to roster and which players to fade in DFS lineups.
Last week we had our hits with the 49ers wide receivers, Emmanuel Sanders, Colin Kaepernick and Golden Tate. In terms of misses, I will not write up Eddie Lacy or C.J. Anderson again, no matter the matchup. We also missed on Adrian Peterson and Shane Vereen. Let’s enjoy the wins and try to increase our hit rate even more in Week 7.
Situations to Exploit in the Passing Game
I try not to speak in hyperbole or absolutes, but the Kansas City Chiefs secondary is historically bad and one of the worst I’ve seen to date. According to our aFPA tool, they are giving up the most adjust fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Martavis Bryant is in a great spot, as he should line up with cornerback Marcus Peters. Peters has allowed six TDs and 412 total yards, including 125 yards after catch, which Bryant excels at. I know it is Landry Jones at QB, but he should be able to exploit this defense.
Staying in this game, Antonio Brown is at the cheapest he’s been in the industry ($8300 on FD/$7900 on DK). Take advantage of the price drop this week thanks to Patrick Peterson’s shutdown coverage last week. Brown should draw Sean Smith, who’s allowing a 64 completion rate on balls thrown his way and a 16.6 yards per catch average.
Mike Evans is another receiver whose price is down across the industry. After seeing 17 targets in Week 3, he’s been targeted 13 times in the last two weeks. I think Evans will draw cornerback Bashaud Breeland with Chris Culliver still missing practice and projected to be out. Breeland is allowing a 55 percent completion rate, but has allowed 240 yards and four TDs. Breeland is 5’11” and Evans is 6’5”, so do the math on that one.
Sunday's Saints-Colts tilt should be a shootout. Donte Moncrief is coming off an 11-target game in Week 6 and is facing a Saints defense allowing more than six targets per game to opposing WR2s. I love the matchup for Moncrief, who should draw cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner has allowed 404 yards in coverage, a 66 percent completion rate, and 140 yards after the catch. Moncrief should be one of the first WRs you place in your lineup this week.
Speaking of historically bad secondaries, let’s look at Baltimore. Ed Reed and Chris McAlister aren’t walking through the door anytime soon. John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald are going to be great plays. If you’re looking for a pivot, Michael Floyd has stepped up. He’s still a third option, however, Carson Palmer knows how to exploit a matchup and Floyd should draw cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith hasn’t been awful, but he hasn’t been good, either. Smith has given up two TDs and 413 yards, as well as 150 yards after the catch. I think Floyd has GPP upside this week.
Update: Brown pulled a hamstring in yesterday’s practice. If Floyd slots in as WR2, he’ll have value in cash games, as well. Jaron Brown becomes a contrarian play to pivot off Fitz/Floyd. Keep an eye on injury reports.
I love Brandon Marshall’s matchup this week with the Patriots. Ryan Fitzpatrick has targeted Marshall nine or more times in all five games this season and has 10 or more targets in three of five. Marshall should draw cornerback Malcolm Butler in coverage this week. Butler has been one of this season's worst cover corners. He’s allowed 349 yards, a 16.6 yard per catch average and 60 percent completion rate. Marshall should be able to abuse Butler all day long.
I’m surprised that Brian Quick isn’t being talked about more. He received 21 snaps and three targets in Week 5 and has emereged from the bye healthy. Joe Haden is still in concussion protocol, so he may not even play. Cornerback Tramon Williams should draw Kenny Britt, with K’Wuan Williams on Tavon Austin. That would leave Quick lined up on Pierre Desir. Desir is allowing 60 completion percentage and 208 yards in coverage. Austin is a sneaky tournament play, and can be stacked with the Rams defense to add some return upside.
Stefon Diggs went from appearing in 56 percent of the snaps in Week 4, to 82 percent in Week 6 thanks to injuries. Diggs saw nine targets and hauled in seven catches and has 19 targets in his last two appearances. I think the Vikings know what they have in Diggs and should get him more involved in a great matchup with the Lions. Diggs should line up with Rashean Mathis, who has allowed 82 percent of the passes thrown his way to be complete and 314 yards. Diggs is averaging 16.6 yards per catch and the Lions are 26th in adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to opposing WRs. Diggs is in a good spot this week, let's just hope he gets the snaps.
I also like Mike Wallace for the same reason. Johnson is coming back from injury, but Wallace should get snaps and targets regardless of whether Johnson or DIggs starts opposite him. Wallace is seeing 78 percent of the snaps and has 19 targets over the last two games and should draw cornerback Darius Slay, who has not been good. Slay has allowed a 69 completion percentage rate, 313 yards in coverage and three scores.
Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin are out, so someone is going to get the targets in Buffalo. If you’re playing a slate with the Buffalo/Jacksonville game, Robert Woods and Chris Hogan are sneaky plays, along with Charles Clay. EJ Manuel targeted Woods six times, however, he could draw cornerback Dwayne Gratz. Gratz has only been thrown at eight times and allowed 30 yards. Hogan should get Aaron Colvin, who has allowed a much more generous 198 yards and a 68-percent completion rate.
If you were going to fade a New England receiver this week, it probably would be Julian Edelman. Edelman may draw Darrelle Revis in coverage, although we are Tom Brady in full-on revenge mode against a divisional opponent. I would target Danny Amendola this week, as he looks to draw cornerback Buster Skrine. Skrine has allowed 220 yards and 97 yards after the catch on 33 targets this season.
Reports were swirling that Dez Bryant was going to give it a go, but it looks like he will be held out another week. Terrance Williams will again be the Cowboys' WR1 this week in a favorable matchup with the Giants, as they are 24th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to WRs. Prince Amukamara is already out for Week 7, which means cornerback Jayron Hosley should draw Williams. Hosley allowed four catches on his six targets for 66 yards last week. Heading into the Week 6 bye, Williams was targeted 16 times between Weeks 4 and 5.
Willie Snead is in another favorable matchup this week and faces the Colts, who are 23rd in adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing WRs. He should draw cornerback Darius Butler, who’s been torched in coverage, allowing 278 yards, two TDs and an 82-percent completion rate.
Steve Smith is another WR I might fade, especially in cash games. Smith is going to draw a solid cover cornerback in Patrick Peterson. Smith is the Ravens best receiver and a target monster, however, Peterson has been up to the task of taking away the opponent's top option all season long.
Ryan Tannehill does a great job of spreading the ball around, so it may not be necessary to stack a player with him this week. I really like the matchup against Houston, as they are 25th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to QBs. Last week, against the Titans, was the first week he didn’t throw 30 attempts; he has three games of 40 or more. Houston cornerbacks are allowing a 103.6 QB rating on balls thrown their way, while Jonathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson (who will miss the game) have allowed six TDs. Tannehill has thrown multiple TDs in four straight games.
I don’t have a problem with Landry Jones as a minimum-priced punt at QB, as his matchup warrants consideration. After Michael Vick suffered a hamstring injury last week, Jones came on in relief and put up 14 yards per attempt on 12 attempts, finishing with 168 yards and two scores. As I mentioned with Brown’s matchup, the KC cornerbacks are allowing a 99.8 QB rating on balls thrown their way. The Chiefs safeties aren’t any better. Ron Parker is allowing an 87.4 QB rating, but the real sieve is Husain Abdullah, who has allowed a 134.7 QB rating and two scores.
Situations to Exploit in the Running Game
This is all I’m going to say about Todd Gurley this week for cash games
You would be wise to target Latavius Murray this week against a bad San Diego run defense. Defensive lineman Kendall Reyes can’t penetrate and the right side of the defense is giving up 5.2 yards per carry. If San Diego gets linebacker Manti Te’o back this week, that will mean an ever better matchup. Te’o has missed 10 tackles and isn't making tackles until ballcarriers reach the second level. Eric Weddle, one of the Chargers better run-stopping safeties, is out as well. The last time Murray faced a bottom-dwelling run defense (Cleveland), he gashed them for 139 yards and a score.
I don't think New England’s run defense is as good as it may be perceived. The Jets will likely aim to play a ball-control offense and run the ball to keep New England's offense off the field. Christopher Ivory has received 20 or more carries in three of the four games he's played this season. When he runs on left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s side, Ivory averages 4.9 yards per carry. The right side of the Patriots' defensive line is allowing 5.0 yards per carry.
Something tells me that Arian Foster is going to go under-owned this week. The Dolphins are 24th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs on the year. If Foster rushes to Cameron Wake’s side of the defense, the Dolphins are allowing 6.2 yards per carry that way. Foster is also an integral part in the passing game, as he’s seen 21 targets in the three games since his return. The Dolphins are allowing just over four targets per game to opposing RBs.
Frank Gore has a good matchup this week against the Saints. The Saints defense is giving up over five yards per carry and Gore and the running game should target defensive lineman John Jenkins. If Gore gets to the second level, he should be able to induce missed tackles on Dannell Ellerbe and Stephone Anthony, as he’s still one of the best in the NFL in forcing missed tackles.
Hopefully, players will take a look at Tennessee’s on-paper rush defense statistics and fade Devonta Freeman. For me, he’s a fade at your own risk. Tennessee has solid defensive linemen, including Jurrell Casey, but when rushing to the left side are giving up 4.2 yards per carry. When Freeman runs behind center Mike Person, the Falcons are allowing Freeman to rush for 5.73 yards per carry. Just plug Freeman in.
Looking for a upside play at a cheap price? Look at Matt Jones this week. He’s looked good in practice and is set to return after missing last week. Jones has a great matchup against a bottom-feeding Tampa Bay run defense. If the Redskins were smart, they’d run Jones behind Trent Williams and the left side of the offensive line, as the line is allowing 5.3 yards per carry. When opponents run toward Tampa’s right side, which includes defensive lineman William Gholston, they are giving up 4.5 yards per carry. Jones has double-digit touches in four of fives games he’s appeared in, even with Alfred Morris getting snaps. Another plus for Jones is that it appears passing down back Chris Thompson won’t be available for this game, leaving Jones as the superior passing game option over Morris. Tampa is 25th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs this year.
The way I feel about Lacy is the opposite on how I feel about Adrian Peterson this week. Take advantage of the recency bias that will people will feel toward from last week's frustrating 26-60 line. Detroit’s run defense hasn't been the same since defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left town. When opposing running backs run to Detroit’s left side, which includes lineman Jason Jones, the Lions are giving up 7.4 yards per carry. Minnesota’s left-side of the line is also strong, allowing Peterson to run for 6.0 yards per carry. The Lions are 28th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs, so definitely consider ADP this week.