Nov 19, 2017
The stretch run has begun, and the next few weeks will see a crush of division games start to hit. This week there are only two division games and they’ll start and finish the day on Sunday. Even with all of the advanced scouting that goes into a team’s preparation, seeing the same players and coaching staff and their tendencies twice a year can depress some fantasy numbers. We also get another NFL game abroad, this time in Mexico City. It’s shaping up to be a potentially weird week and there are a good batch of plays to make this week because of it. Lots of bad defenses matching up, and the aforementioned unfamiliarity of some of these games could lead to a very busy day of score checking. The targets this week also have an unfamiliar feel, as only one of these players has been mentioned before this week. Smart players will always be looking to leverage new usage for players into good value, and hopefully that’s exactly what will happen with these players.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
So we’ll get the one repeat name right out of the way. Alex Smith has himself a very nice matchup against the pathetically bad New York Giants defense this week after his team’s bye. There’s almost no way the Giant’s defense doesn’t look horrible. They are giving up the 3rd most passing yards per game, the 4th highest QB rating against, they are tied for the lowest sack percentage, and have the 4th lowest INT%. So, they don’t pressure the QB, don’t force turnovers, and can’t cover. The Giants are also looking at potentially being down Jason Pierre Paul and Damon Harrison along their defensive line, which would make this matchup even more Chiefs friendly. Smith has a very favorable matchup while still keeping a relatively reasonable price, only $6700. He should have no problem putting up points here and hitting his value threshold.
Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots
Typically, choosing a Patriots running back is like a game of Russian roulette. The constantly changing nature of the Patriots’ offensive attack has made leaning on one of their RBs tough, but Burkhead has a lot going for him this week. His snap counts have been steadily climbing since his return from a rib injury a couple of weeks ago, going from 13 to 27 to 36 last week. While Rex has seen his stock rising, Mike Gillislee has become an afterthought, and he was a healthy scratch last week. Part of that has to do with head coach Bill Belichick’s love of special teams and versatile players. Burkhead has been heavily used on kick and punt coverage teams, offering a bit of roster flexibility that Gillislee doesn’t, and has over taken Dion Lewis’ secondary role as a pass catcher out of the backfield. James White remains the top receiving threat from the backfield, but it’s been Burkhead who has seen more passing action behind White. Casual observers might assume Lewis is the better recieving threat, but by the numbers Burkhead has been much more effective in that role. In fact, Lewis hasn’t seen more than 3 targets in a game since Week 3. The Pats’ next opponent, the Oakland Raiders, have been very bad against the pass, ranking dead last in pass defense DVOA per Football Outsiders. They also have been 30th against short passes (passes less than 16 yards) by that same metric, where Burkhead has seen the majority of his targets. With Chris Hogan already ruled out and Danny Amendola still bothered by his knee issue, Burkhead should be able to return value on his $3900 price through his receiving numbers alone.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
Some late breaking news solidifies Coleman a a solid play this week against the Seattle Seahawks. Devonta Freeman has been ruled out due to a concussion, and Coleman is ready to step in as the feature back. It’s funny, but Coleman could have been the back Freeman became. Back in Coleman’s rookie season, he won the starting job, and was regarded as the much better prospect of the two. An injury early in the season gave Freeman the lead back role, and he took his opportunity and ran with it. Now, Coleman will be looking at only the second game of his career with more than 20 touches. In those two games, he rushed for 80 yards against the Eagles in 2015, and then last week when he ran for 83 and a touchdown against a solid Dallas defense. Coleman has the explosive ability to turn any touch in space into a big gain, and facing the Seahawks should be a little easier with their injury issues. Safety Kam Chancellor was put on IR with his neck injury on Saturday and Richard Sherman is also done for the year with an Achilles injury. Add their names to Cliff Avril and Michael Wilhoite and this defense has seen a lot of turnover. The Falcons will be playing desperate as they are in more danger of missing out on a playoff spot with two teams ahead of them in their division as opposed to Seattle, who only have the Los Angeles Rams ahead of them. With his price set at $5800, he’ll be getting bell cow work at backup pricing in a game that could turn into a shoot out.
Bruce Ellington, Houston Texans
Much like Tevin Coleman, Ellington is ready to take advantage of his teammate’s absence to step into a larger role. Will Fuller has been ruled out for this week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, and top DB Patrick Peterson is expected to shadow DeAndre Hopkins all over the field. Ellington has been a bigger part of the offense the last two weeks, seeing 8 and 9 targets in that time. This work has come after the DeShaun Watson injury, so there shouldn’t be any issue working with Tom Savage. He’s turned those targets into 5.2 and 14.1 points and has caused his head coach, Bill O’Brien to say that he needs to get him more involved. Despite being a part of the Belichick coaching tree, when he says something he generally means it and has had no problem giving negative assessments to his own players when they deserved it. If a larger role is in store for Ellington, he’s looking at getting more work against a team that has been giving up the 9th most points per game in DraftKings to WRs. Ellington is super cheap, costing only $3000, leaving lots of room for other high end plays elsewhere in potential lineups.
Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals
This matchup all comes down to the Denver Broncos defense,and especially the terrible defense they’ve played against the tight end position. The non-elite options at the tight end position have been a revolving door of production with many different names being relevant week to week. The best players can do is leverage the matchups as best we can, and Denver has been great for TEs lately. The last five games have yielded 20.8, 12.7, 26.3, 19, and 26.3 points from the opposing TEs. Denver hasn’t been as dominant as the last few years, but they have turned into a good funnel defense with their pass defense slipping far behind their rush defense. Luckily, the Bengals probably won’t have many delusions about rushing the ball any more than they need to. The combination of Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard haven’t managed 50 combined rushing yards since Jeremy Hill went on IR, so if the Bengals want a chance to compete against Denver they’ll have to pass. When they do, Brandon LaFell might not be able to play and A.J. Green will be tightly covered on the outside. QB Andy Dalton’s safest bet to move the ball will be Kroft. The best number in Kroft’s favor has to be his low price, only $2,900. With that price he would have hit value in 4 of his last 6 games. Even with a 1.4 point performance last week he had been averaging just about 11 points in that time. He should have no problem hitting around that mark again this week and is poised to go well above.Back to DFS