Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
Each week this column will focus on projecting ownership percentage in DraftKings’ large field GPPs, and identifying players to target in each ownership tier. If you’re unsure how you should be factoring projected ownership percentage into your tournament roster construction, go back and read the introduction to this series, or this blog post on the topic.
The projected ownership ranges that appear in this space were derived in part from Footballguys’ proprietary algorithms, which take into account historical data, projected scoring, and player salary. Projected ownership percentages for every player, on every slate, can be found each week on our FREE Daily Crusher Mobile App. As always, I’ll be supplementing the algorithms with industry research to create the projections. Please be warned that the projection ranges shown below are by no means infallible and are only meant to be used as guidelines. Ownership percentages in your actual contests will vary.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are last week’s hits and misses. Actual ownership percentages were taken from the Millionaire Maker.
|Projected % Owned
|Actual % Owned
Moving on to this week’s slate...
5% Projected Ownership and Under
Nick Foles - $5,100 vs. CLE
Foles’ 7.88 fantasy point face-plant the last time he was featured in this space are a painful reminder of his scary low floor, but if you can stomach the risk, you may be rewarded with 20 unique fantasy points. Vegas likes St. Louis to score a respectable 23.25 points at home. Todd Gurley is going to annihilate the Browns terrible rush defense, but how likely is he to score multiple rushing touchdowns? 67% of the Rams offensive touchdowns have come via the pass this season, and that number increases to 75% once they get in the red zone. The only time Cleveland failed to allow multiple touchdowns to a quarterback this season was against Peyton Manning and his flailing noodle arm last week. Foles is in a nice spot to reach his ceiling and he provides considerable salary relief.
Shane Vereen - $4,300 vs. DAL
Trying to figure out when a “Vereen game” is coming has been more frustrating in his first season with the Giants than it was with the Patriots. While this is another pick that carries extreme risk (he’s been held under three fantasy points in three games this year), Vereen has the potential for a monster payoff in relation to his salary and projected ownership. The Cowboys have allowed the second-most receiving yards to opposing running backs this season. Six running backs have reached at least four receptions and 46 yards receiving yards against Dallas in their first five games. With Andre Williams fading into the background, Vereen’s snaps have been on the rise the last two weeks. He should be on the field enough to rack up about 10-12 fantasy points via the receiving game, and if Vereen can manage a touchdown (the Giants have the week’s third highest projected point total), you’ll get the 4x return on investment you’re looking for. Vereen’s three red zone looks in Week 5 (the Giants only ran one red zone play last week) provide hope a touchdown is possible.
Jonathan Stewart - $4,000 vs. PHI
I can’t imagine the crowd will chase Stewart’s 21.6 fantasy points from last week. Prior to his unlikely two touchdown explosion at Seattle, Stewart hadn’t exceeded seven fantasy points in a game since Week 1. Now he’s matched up with the Eagles who haven’t allowed a rusher to top 80 yards or score a touchdown this season. But if you watched the Seattle vs. Carolina game, you saw the 2014 stretch-run version of Stewart for the first time this season -- and match-ups didn’t matter to that guy. Stewart was relentless through the hole and made yards on his own where there weren’t any to be had. His snap percentage eclipsed 70% for the first time since Week 2 -- when he suffered a leg injury that finally had time to heal over the Panthers’ Week 5 bye. You’d need about 75 rushing yards, a couple of catches, and a touchdown for Stewart to pay off in GPPs and this game sets up nicely for him, despite the tough on paper match-up. The Panthers are at home, favored to win by a field goal, and projected to score three touchdowns.
Ted Ginn Jr - $3,300 vs. PHI
Prior to last week's dud in a tough match-up with Seattle, Ginn had returned at least 4x his salary in three consecutive games. The 2.8 point performance against the Seahawks will ensure low-ownership in a bounceback spot for Ginn. Philadelphia's secondary has hemorrhaged fantasy points to wide receivers all season, and have specifically struggled to contain the opposing team's WR1. Calling Ginn a WR1 is a bit of a stretch. but his 18.5% target market share leads all Carolina wide receivers, as does his 224 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers have a 24.5 point implied team total (fourth-highest this week) which suggests their offense should be firing on all cylinders. Look for Ginn to get back to his usual six to seven targets and beat the Eagles' rotten cornerbacks for a long gain or two.
Tavon Austin - $4,500 vs. CLE
Austin only averages five targets per game in St. Louis’ low-yield passing attack, but at least he’s making them count. Only five players have caught a touchdown on a higher percentage of their targets than Austin’s 12% (minimum 20 targets). He owes a large part of that scoring efficiency to his role as the Rams primary red zone receiver. Six out of Nick Foles’ 10 attempts from inside the red zone have been aimed at Austin, and to his credit Austin has converted half those looks into scores. I expect the Rams to get within striking range more often than usual this week against a Cleveland defense that has surrendered the fourth-most plays against in the red zone this season. A Foles-Austin stack counts for only 19% of your cap and allows you to create a unique lineup anchored by high-priced studs in great match-ups.
Injury Note: Austin returned to practice on Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury. Jeff Fisher referred to Austin as probable, despite the injury report officially listing him as questionable, which suggests he'll play. Keep an eye on the Rams' inactives before taking a flier on him.
Nate Washington - $3,000 @ MIA
Washington will return from a hamstring injury just in time for Houston’s number two receiver -- Cecil Shorts -- to miss Week 7 with a hamstring strain of his own. Shorts’ absence opens up nine targets per game for Houston and Washington averaged 9.3 targets per game from Weeks 1-3 playing alongside Shorts. The Texans lead the league in plays per game and pass attempts per game, which virtually ensures the volume will be there for Washington as the team’s WR2. And if he inherits a portion of Shorts’ slot snaps, Washington will find the match-up with Miami slot corner Brice McCain accommodating. Considering his bare minimum price and projected heavy involvement, Washington has the floor you’re looking for in cash games and enough big play ability (two receptions of 25+ yards in three games played) for tournament use.
Kyle Rudolph - $3,100 @ DET
Detroit’s secondary has been torched up the middle most of the season, including by Rudolph who posted a 5-30-1 receiving line against the Lions back in Week 2. Minnesota is a road favorite with an implied point total approaching 24 points. When the Vikings find themselves in scoring position, they’ll turn to Adrian Peterson first. But Rudolph -- who has accounted for more than half of Minnesota’s red zone targets and two thirds of their receiving touchdowns -- is clearly option B. This match-up is more than exploitable for Minnesota’s wide receivers as well. Detroit has allowed the highest completion percentage (73.8%) and most yards per pass attempt (8.5) to opposing quarterbacks. Stephon Diggs and Mike Wallace are both solid GPP plays this week at only $4,200 a piece. Of the two, I’d prefer Wallace who should be significantly lower-owned.
New York Giants Defense - $2,800 vs. DAL
The Giants don’t have a good defense, but since when has that been a requirement for a strong fantasy performance against Matt Cassel? Cassel is a career 59% passer, who’s been sacked two times per game on average. With no real passing game weapons to speak of (unless Dez Bryant makes a surprise return) Cassel and the Cowboys are in a tough spot as a five point road underdog.
Kansas City Chiefs Defense - $2,700 vs. PIT
This pick is entirely predicated on Landry Jones starting over Ben Roethlisberger. Jones was god-awful during the preseason and two spectacular Martavis Bryant touchdowns won’t erase those memories for me. Arrowhead is a tough venue for a rookie quarterback to make his first career start, especially when that quarterback is as terrible as Landry Jones. Kansas City’s league-worst secondary and Pittsburgh’s terrific offensive weapons won’t be enough to bail him out.
6%-10% Projected Ownership
Andrew Luck - $7,600 vs. NO
Luck didn’t look spectacular in his return from a two game absence, but he was good enough to drop 30.98 fantasy points on the Patriots. This week’s home match-up with New Orleans points to another big statistical game for Luck. Vegas has the Colts projected as the week’s highest scoring team (28.75 points), and the Saints have arguably the worst pass defense in the NFL. Football Outsiders ranks New Orleans dead last in their pass defense DVOA metric (adjusted for schedule, down, distance, and situation). The Saints have allowed the fifth-most pass attempts per game, and the second most yards per pass attempt. Brandon Weeden is the only quarterback who failed to score multiple touchdowns against New Orleans this season. A second consecutive three touchdown performance for Luck seems more likely than not, and he was only 4.4% owned in a large field Thursday tournament on Fanduel, where he’s available at a similar salary.
Latavius Murray - $6,100 @ SD
This is your weekly reminder San Diego’s defense is terrible at stopping the run. The Chargers allow 132.5 rushing yards per game, and a league-worst 5.4 yards per rush attempt. Despite the attractive match-up, Murray won’t be a chalk play this week due to his recent struggles. After averaging 19.2 fantasy points per game in Weeks 1-3, Murray failed to reach double digits in Weeks 4 and 5. It seems like a shoulder injury was at least partially to blame and the Week 5 match-up with the Broncos defense certainly didn’t help. Murray should be healthy coming off a bye week, and he’s proven capable of high-end GPP numbers in plus match-ups this season (26-139-1 vs. Cleveland in Week 3). With most entrants flocking to Todd Gurley, Chris Ivory, and Doug Martin at the same price point or lower, Murray should remain just low-owned enough to be a GPP difference-maker.
Adrian Peterson - $7,600 @ DET
Peterson was over 17% owned in last week’s Millionaire Maker and disappointed to the tune of 6.7 fantasy points. Recency bias should present us with an opportunity to roster Peterson below his usual ownership rate in a great match-up with Detroit. When these teams met back in Week 2, Peterson totaled 192 yards from scrimmage on 31 touches in a convincing Vikings win. Minnesota is favored on the road this week and expected to score a solid 23.5 points. A league-leading 60% of the Vikings touchdowns have come via the run this season, which doesn’t bode well for Detroit. The Lions have allowed the second-most touchdowns to opposing running backs this season, and the most plays from inside their own 10-yard-line. Peterson has the highest touchdown potential of any running back on this week’s slate, making him an excellent GPP play.
Injury Note: Peterson's finger injury seems like no big deal, but he was downgraded to questionable on Saturday due to illness. Sources close to the Vikings claim he's a lock to play, making the downgrade great news for Peterson's GPP prospects. I fully expect for him to come in under 5% owned due to his high price and availability concerns.
Rishard Matthews - $4,300 vs. HOU
Lamar Miller’s resurgence under new head coach Dan Campbell is getting all the publicity, leaving Matthews -- also a beneficiary of Joel Philbin’s firing -- to fly a bit under the radar. Matthews played on a season-high 90% of the Dolphins snaps in his first game under Campbell. He responded by catching all six of his targets for 85 yards. If Matthews is going to operate as the Dolphins’ primary outside receiver, he’s significantly underpriced. Matthews leads the Dolphins in receiving yards despite being the third-most heavily targeted pass catcher on the team this year. In fact, he’s been the fifth-most efficient receiver in the NFL this season on a yards per target basis. The match-up against cornerback Johnathan Joseph and Houston’s banged-up secondary is favorable, and Miami is projected to score 24 points at home. Considering 70% of the Dolphins touchdowns have come via the pass this season and Matthews has accounted for a third of their passing touchdowns, 20+ fantasy points is well within his range of outcomes.
Mike Evans - $6,400 @WAS
Evans has only met cash game value once, and hasn’t sniffed a 4x return on his salary in an any game this season. As a result, he shouldn’t exceed 7% ownership in a ripe match-up with Washington’s secondary. It’s likely Evans will line up against Chris Culliver on the majority of his routes. Not only is Culliver struggling this season, but Evans has five inches and 32 pounds on him. Since returning to the field (as more than a decoy) in Week 3, Evans has received 32% of Tampa Bay’s targets -- a market share more than capable of carrying a fantasy WR1. Assuming the Bucs’ Week 6 bye allowed his hamstring to fully heal, Evans is primed for the huge performance we’ve been waiting for all season.
Injury Note: Chris Culliver is out for Washington, leaving Will Blackmon to match up with Evans on about half his routes. It's still a situation to exploit -- Evans has five inches and 27 pounds on Blackmon.
Julio Jones - $9,100 @ TEN
Jones is no stranger to this column, but this is the first time he’s been listed outside of the top ownership tier. A string of injury-induced ho-hum performances and a $9,100 price tag should be enough to depress Jones’ ownership in a plus match-up with the Titans. Outside of Perrish Cox (who typically only plays one side of the field), the Titans don’t have a cornerback who can hang with Jones (whose hamstring has had 10 days to heal since the Falcons last played). Jones proved in the first three weeks of the season his upside at the position is unmatched, which puts him in play any time he’s not the most widely owned receiver on the slate.
Injury Note: Perrish Cox won't play this week, leaving everyone's favorite cornerback punching bag, Blidi Wreh-Wilson to match up with Jones. This is fantastic news that makes me even more confident in Julio as a pivot off DeAndre Hopkins in tournaments.
11% to 15% Projected Ownership
Cam Newton - $6,600
I’m high on the entire Carolina offense in a paced up home match-up with Philadelphia. Prior to Monday night’s sloppy win over the Giants, the Eagles had allowed three consecutive quarterbacks -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kirk Cousins, and Drew Brees to top 280 passing yards and score multiple touchdowns against them. Newton leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns this season. Any time the match-up is favorable for passing game production, Newton’s floor and ceiling are basically unrivaled. Considering how close he is in price to chalkier plays Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers, you should be able to roster Newton at a slight ownership discount. He may even top out closer to 8%.
Doug Martin - $4,900 @ WAS
There’s a chance I’m undershooting Martin’s ownership here, but I’m hoping Tampa’s bye week (out of sight, out of mind), a perceived tough match-up with Washington, and the availability of Todd Gurley and Lamar Miller at similar price points are enough to keep Martin’s ownership in check. In Tampa’s last two games before the bye, Martin combined for 301 all purpose yards, four touchdowns, and (very importantly on DraftKings) eight receptions. While some of Martin’s recent success can be attributed to a strong Week 5 match-up with the Paul Posluszny-less Jaguars defense, he also ran well in a tough Week 4 match-up with the Panthers. Martin averaged 5.3 yards per attempt against a Carolina defense that has otherwise surrendered only 3.21 yards per attempt this season. One of Washington’s few team strengths is their defensive front, but that didn’t stop Devonta Freeman and Chris Ivory from running wild on them in their last two games. Whether you believe it’s a bad match-up or not (Tampa is 3.5 point road underdog), only Todd Gurley offers more projected touches per dollar on this week’s slate.
T.Y. Hilton - $6,500 vs. NO
Hilton bounced back to post his best game of the season (19.4 fantasy points) in Andrew Luck’s return last week. But despite his medium range salary (down $1,100 since Week 1), Hilton won’t be the most widely owned Colts receiver. Donte Moncrief is also coming off a strong game, has an excellent one-on-one matchup with Saints cornerback Brandon Browner, and is priced at only $5,200. While I like Moncrief this week, I’d rather roster the lower-owned Colts receiver in tournaments, and I’m not sure Hilton isn’t the better play regardless. Hilton leads the Colts in targets and receiving yards this season, and his touchdown total should start progressing towards the norm beginning this week against the Saints. Hilton’s 31% red zone target share leads Indianapolis and the Saints have let up the second-most red zone scoring attempts this season.
Michael Crabtree - $4,300 @ SD
I have Crabtree ranked sixth at wide receiver in terms of dollars per projected reception. His low price and high target volume (team leading 25% market share) should play nicely in one-on-one match-ups with Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers. Crabtree has four inches and 28 pounds on Flowers, who has given up a league-worst .43 fantasy points per route defended this season (as per Pro Football Focus). David Carr has been forced to pass over 38 times per game this season, which figures to continue with Oakland traveling to San Diego as a four point underdog. Crabtree should have plenty of opportunities to exploit the mismatch.
Willie Snead - $4,300 @ IND
Snead finally fell back down to earth a bit last Thursday, with only 9.5 fantasy points in a great on-paper match-up with the Falcons. Hopefully the down game and $1,000 salary increase is enough to keep him on the lower side of high-owned this week (think 15%). It’s doubtful the Colts elect to give Snead the Vontae Davis treatment. Instead, he should line up opposite Darius Butler on the majority of his routes. According to Pro Football Focus, Butler has allowed the second-most fantasy points per route defended to opposing wide receivers this season. Snead is usually a player I reserve for PPR cash games, but the match-up and projected game script (52.5 point over/under) should be enough to unlock his 20 point ceiling.
Travis Kelce - $4,900 vs. PIT
When a player’s price drops absent of significant changes to their role or upside, it’s often a situation to exploit in GPPs. Kelce’s price is down $100 despite coming off his best game since Week 3, heading into an excellent home match-up with the Steelers. It took Andy Reid until the second half last week, but he finally realized Kelce gives Kansas City the best chance to move the chains now that Jamaal Charles is out for the year. Kelce racked up all five of his receptions and 88 receiving yards after halftime against the Vikings, though it should be pointed out the Chiefs played most of the fourth quarter without Jeremy Maclin (concussion). Pittsburgh has been victimized by top-shelf tight ends this season, allowing a combined 14 catches, 186 receiving yards, and five touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates this season. Even if Jeremy Maclin is cleared to play, Kelce has 20+ point upside.
Carolina Panthers Defense - $3,100
No advanced stats needed for this pick. The Panthers defense forces 2.2 takeaways per game and Sam Bradford has thrown nine interceptions -- second-most in the league. Bradford has gotten solid pass protection this season, but Carolina averages 2.6 sacks per game and should apply enough pressure to force Bradford into a few ill-advised throws.
16%+ Projected Ownership
The following players are this week’s chalk. They’re all highly recommended for cash game play, but can also be used as foundation pieces in tournament lineups because they’re highly likely to finish among the week’s top scorers. Just be aware you’re not sneaking any of them past your opponents and if you use them in GPPs, you’ll need to differentiate your line-ups with lower-owned players at other positions.
Carson Palmer - $6,700 vs. BAL
There’s only one way this game can possibly go for the Ravens, who have allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Palmer is tied for the league-lead in pass completions of 20 yards or more and Baltimore has given up the third-most receptions of 20+ yards this season. Home games have agreed with the Cardinals passing game thus far. Palmer’s average passing yards per game increase by over 25% when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals are 7.5 point favorites with a 28 point implied team total. There isn’t a better set-up imaginable for Palmer to return 4x his salary.
Philip Rivers - $6,500 vs. OAK
Rivers leads the league in passing yards, ranks sixth in passing touchdowns, and is facing the Raiders who don’t have talent in the secondary to match-up with San Diego’s receiving weapons. How he’s priced as the QB9 on this slate is a complete mystery. The Chargers are favored by 4.5 points and projected to score 24.5 points at home, where Rivers’ fantasy point per game average increases by 20% this year.
Todd Gurley - $5,000 vs. CLE
Gurley will unquestionably be the highest-owned player on DraftKings this week -- think 35% or more. There’s always merit in fading a player with such high ownership in tournaments, but Gurley’s match-up, way-too-low price, and projected usage are impossible to look past. Gurley ranked as the cumulative RB7 on DraftKings in Weeks 4 and 5 (his only two weeks as a starter), yet he's currently priced as the RB14. Cleveland's struggles defending running backs are well documented, and Gurley will be coming out of the bye well rested and white hot. Negative game script hasn't been a problem for Gurley, but it helps that the table is set nicely for him this week. The Rams are playing at home, favored by 4.5 points, and projected to score a not-too-shabby 23.25 points. Cash game value (15 fantasy points) looks like Gurley's floor in this match-up.
Devonta Freeman - $7,900 @ TEN
You don’t need to be told to play Freeman anymore, after he put up 2005 Larry Johnson numbers for the fourth straight game. He’s finally expensive ($900 increase), but Freeman would have eclipsed a 4x return on his salary at this price in each of the last four games. Football Outsiders ranks Tennessee dead last in rush defense DVOA. Atlanta running backs have broken the second-most 15-yard rushes this season, and the Titans have given up the second-most rushes of 15+ yards in the league.
DeAndre Hopkins - $8,600 @ MIA
I wouldn't bet on Hopkins cooling off this week, and neither will the masses. Miami ranks in the bottom third of the league in both opponent yards per pass attempt (7.3) and opponent passing touchdown percentage (67%). Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer is averaging 8.19 yards per attempt and 73% of Houston's touchdowns have come via the pass this season -- both marks rank sixth-highest in the league. The only concern with Hopkins is a (long overdue) $900 bump in his price tag, but even at $8,600 he would have met cash game value in all games but one this season. Fade him at your own risk.
John Brown - $5,500 vs. BAL
Brown will likely be a more popular Carson Palmer stack option than Larry Fitzgerald this week. Palmer and Brown had the deep ball working against Pittsburgh and it resulted in 31.6 fantasy points for Brown. As I mentioned in the Palmer blurb above, the Ravens specialize in giving up long pass plays, and Brown (team leading 10.73 yards at the catch point per reception) once again figures to be the main beneficiary. Even if long gains don’t come, Brown isn’t a bad volume play at this price. He sports a healthy 23.32% target market share and his 26.19% share of his team’s receptions ranks 13th highest in the league.
Injury Note: Brown has been dealing with injuries to both hamstrings, but he returned to a limited practice Saturday. Both Brown and Bruce Arians have made it sound like Brown will play, but the injury concerns should knock him below this ownership tier. Thankfully, Michael Floyd makes for an easy pivot off Brown if he's declared inactive on Monday night.
Antonio Gates - $5,000 vs. OAK
Gates has 27 combined targets in his first two games back, resulting in a pair of nine catch, 90 plus receiving yard performances. He deserves to be the highest-priced non-Gronk tight end, yet he’s available for $1,100 less than Greg Olsen. You’ll recall that before Owen Daniels’ Week 5 goose egg, the Raiders had been flamed by tight ends all season. Gates has 100+ yard, multi-touchdown upside in this match-up.
Injury Note: Gates hasn’t practiced through Thursday with a knee injury. Chargers coach Mike McCoy has stated Gates doesn’t need to practice to play, but he looks extremely iffy to suit up. If he can’t go, Ladarius Green ($2,900) becomes a plug and play option.