Unlock More Content Like This With a Footballguys Premium Subscription
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE
As you read, you may run into some colors in the text. Blue text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players. Red text is a bad matchup. Some other key items are below:
- All red/blue highlighting in tables is relative to the entire NFL, even when showing a limited number of teams.
- All reference to fantasy points assumes DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
- All stats reference the full 2020 season unless otherwise specified.
- All fantasy points rankings are on a per-game basis to account for bye weeks unless otherwise specified.
This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
- Tweets of the Week
- Under Pressure
Next week marks the halfway point of the 2020 NFL season, as a result, #Trendspotting will take a deep dive into as many different topics as possible to encapsulate what the dominant trends of this unusual season and try to identify some opportunities to gain an edge on your competition down the home stretch of the season-long regular season and in weekly DFS contests.
Tweets of the Week
In some good news, Kyle Allen only has eyes for Terry— JetPack Galileo (@JetPackGalileo) October 20, 2020
First play just going to ignore a wide open Dontrelle
Second play just going to ignore a pretty obvious Bradberry
That's true love pic.twitter.com/6ifF4tEhlf
Commentary and Action Items:
- Although Terry McLaurin's raw totals without Dwayne Haskins under center have been underwhelming through two games, he projects to be one of the strongest wide receiver options in the league, regardless of who is under center in Washington. Given Washington's lack of talent elsewhere in the receiving corps, McLaurin will remain firmly planted atop the team's depth chart as the focal point of their aerial attack for as long as he is healthy. As JetPack Galileo pointed out, Washington's current starter, Kyle Allen, is peppering McLaurin with targets regardless of what defenses throw at him. This unrelenting dependence upon one emerging pass-catcher in Washington is reminiscent of the way D.J. Moore's role in Carolina grew throughout the year last season with Kyle Allen at the helm. McLaurin ranks miles ahead of his peers in Washington in market share of team targets and air yards, which should lead to him scoring points in bunches for fantasy teams throughout the rest of the season. Consider making a buy-low offer on McLaurin in season-long formats following a pair of mediocre performances since Haskins' benching, and make him a staple of your DFS lineups in Week 7. For deeper analysis regarding why McLaurin is a top-tier DFS option this weekend, check out The Sharp Report, where McLaurin is featured as the Projected Sharp Play of the week.
Commentary and Action Items:
- Carson Wentz entered the NFL as a relatively mobile quarterback, but following a torn ACL that cut short what was potentially an MVP-worthy season in 2017, Wentz became more selective with when he opted to tuck the ball and scramble from the pocket. Now, in 2020, where Wentz only has one other opening day starter healthy alongside him on offense, Wentz has returned to his old ways by making plays with his legs early and often in games. Wentz averages the fourth-most rushing fantasy points per game amongst quarterbacks in 2020. Rushing production from quarterbacks is an x-factor that can change a mediocre fantasy asset up a tier into a startable fantasy asset or from a startable fantasy asset up a tier into the tier of elite fantasy assets. In Wentz's case, without many reliable pass-catchers flanking him, his rushing production makes him a startable fantasy asset with passing upside down the line if/when Philadelphia's offense gets healthy. Carson Wentz is a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback throughout the rest of the season. While his rushing production has likely reached its ceiling, with four rushing touchdowns across his last five games, improving his passing production is where he could potentially take his game to another level as a fantasy asset in 2020.
Since the start of the 2019 season, Ryan Tannehill ranks:— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 19, 2020
1st in passer rating (116.0)
1st in YPA (8.9)
2nd in PFF Grade (93.3)
2nd in fantasy points per dropback (0.68)
4th in fantasy points per start (22.9), ahead of Patrick Mahomes II
Commentary and Action Items:
- While Derrick Henry (rightfully) draws most of the attention in Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill's uncanny efficiency in the Titan's offense is what has taken this team over the top since he won the starting job midway through last season. Tannehill's efficiency has not only led to dramatic improvements for the Titans in the wins and losses columns, but he has quickly become one of the league's best fantasy quarterbacks. Tannehill has scored over 25 fantasy points in 3 out of 5 games this season while throwing for at least 300 yards or multiple scores in every outing. This week, Tannehill and the Titans have a difficult matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers' top-ranked defense. Consider using Tannehill, who has been extremely efficient against defenses of all calibers as the starter in Tennessee, in GPPs this weekend, where he should appear on an extremely small number of lineups, relative to his typical percent-rostered totals.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has run a pass route on 96.1% of the PIT dropbacks, fourth among WRs.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) October 19, 2020
He is being targeted on 15.9% of routes (85th).
Career-low 5.0 depth of target, 8.4 yards/catch.
Yardage of 69>48>43>28>6
2 targets all season over 15 yards downfield, neither caught.
Commentary and Action Items:
- It is officially time to sound the alarms on JuJu Smith-Schuster. Entering this season, the main reason to believe a bounceback season was in store for Pittsburgh's young wide receiver was the emergence of a second pass-catching weapon to complement JuJu and take attention away from him. Smith-Schuster thrived early in his career when he was working alongside Antonio Brown without being the number-one focus of the opposing defense. Pittsburgh's ancillary receiving weapons have largely surpassed preseason expectations, as Diontae Johnson was emerging as an impact player before sustaining numerous injuries, and now Chase Claypool is dominating opposing secondaries on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, JuJu Smith-Schuster's production and efficiency have not seen the expected uptick to go along with the emergence of dangerous weapons he can work alongside. Smith-Schuster has not registered a 10-target game since late in the 2018 season, and he has only surpassed 50 receiving yards once in his last 10 games. Avoid rostering JuJu Smith-Schuster in DFS contests until he proves to be capable of posting the receiving numbers he regularly did across his first two NFL seasons. In season-long formats, if Smith-Schuster is on your roster, consider feeling out the trade market and finding a suitor that believes this dip in production is a fluke rather than a sustained and worrying drop-off in involvement and efficiency.
Determining how much time the quarterback will have to make decisions can be a key factor when assessing offensive prospects each week. We've sorted the table below by the defensive teams who produce the least pressure. Ideally, the offenses opposing these teams also allow a low pressure rate.
The chart above shows the top five defenses in the NFL (not on a bye this week) in pressure %. Accompanying this data is the opposing offensive line's pressure % allowed and the average dropbacks per game for both the offense and defense. Here, a high pressure % for a defensive line is good and a low pressure % for an offense is good.
- The Cleveland Browns only allow pressure on the quarterback on 18.1-percent of their total dropbacks, the 7th-lowest mark in the league amongst teams playing this week.
- The Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, which only apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks on 16.9-percent of total dropbacks, the lowest rate of any team playing this week.
- The New Orleans Saints only allow pressure on 13.8-percent of their total dropbacks this season, the lowest rate in the NFL.
- The Carolina Panthers' defense, which will lineup opposite the Saints' offensive line in Week 7, applies pressure on opposing quarterbacks on just 18.5-percent of total dropbacks, the 4th-lowest rate of any defense in the NFL that plays this week.
- Although Baker Mayfield has struggled at times this season, especially when under pressure, this weekend, he should stay clean in the pocket against a dismal Cincinnati pass-rush; when Mayfield has time to operate within the pocket and make his reads, he is fully capable of making impressive throws and capitalizing on the talent advantage he typically has on the outside with his talented wide receivers. Consider stacking the Cleveland Browns in GPPs this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals, where the Browns should have a substantial advantage in the trenches to keep Baker Mayfield upright and clean in the pocket. Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry are the most enticing options to pair alongside Cleveland's third-year quarterback, while Austin Hooper is another viable candidate for these stacks.
- The New Orleans Saints' offensive line ranks amongst the best units in the league. This weekend, against a banged-up Carolina Panthers' defensive line that has struggled to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Drew Brees should have plenty of time to survey the field and the defense apart. While Brees struggled early in the year, to a startling level, he was rounding into form before the team's Week 6 bye. Utilize the New Orleans Saints' passing attack in all formats of DFS contests this weekend, as they offer substantial floors and ceilings across the board. Alvin Kamara, out of the backfield, plays a massive role in the team's passing game, and he ranks amongst the best overall plays on the slate at running back. On the outside, Emmanuel Sanders and Drew Brees seem to finally have some chemistry together, as they connected 12 times for 122 yards in their last game before the bye week. Lastly, Michael Thomas is questionable for this weekend's game. If Thomas is able to play, he ranks as one of the best wide receivers of the week, and he makes for an elite option to include in a New Orleans stack.
The chart above shows the bottom five defenses in the NFL (not on a bye this week) in pressure %. Accompanying this data is the opposing offensive line's pressure % allowed and the average dropbacks per game for both the offense and defense. Here, a high pressure % for a defensive line is good and a low pressure % for an offense is good.
- The Kansas City Chiefs apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks on 30.9-percent of dropbacks, the 2nd-highest rate amongst teams playing this weekend.
- The Denver Broncos' offensive line allows pressure on the quarterback on 27.3-percent of the team's dropbacks, the 5th-highest rate of any team playing this weekend.
- The New England Patriots apply pressure on the opposing passer on 27.7-percent of total dropbacks, the 4th-highest rate amongst teams playing in Week 7.
- The San Francisco 49ers allow pressure on their own quarterback on 27.1-percent of total dropbacks this season, the 6th-highest mark amongst teams playing this week.
- Given Denver's struggles to protect their young quarterbacks this year, the team has made very little progress becoming a more efficient team through the air. Drew Lock, John Elway's latest attempt at developing a franchise quarterback, has been mediocre throughout most of his brief NFL career, and this weekend should be more of the same. The Kansas City Chiefs' top-tier pass rush will likely apply pressure on Lock and disrupt his timing in the pocket regularly throughout their Week 7 matchup. Steer clear of the entire Denver Broncos' passing attack this weekend, as the project to struggle to maintain a clean pocket for Drew Lock to throw from against Kansas City's intimidating front-seven. Denver's passing attack has been brutally depleted by injuries already this season, and despite the appearance of a few salary-saving options on this roster, they should be avoided at all costs in DFS this weekend.
- San Francisco's passing attack posted impressive totals last week against the Los Angeles Rams, but numerous risk-averse behind-the-line-of-scrimmage dump-offs artificially manufactured those totals. Jimmy Garoppolo, one week after being benched, averaged just 4.4 air yards per attempt, by far the lowest mark in the league. This weekend, against New England's top-end pass-rush, expect a heavy dose of quick touch passes and screens out of the San Francisco passing attack. Typically, a matchup between an elite pass-rush and an offensive line that has consistently allowed pressure on its quarterback would lead to a situation we want to avoid. In this case, however, with Kyle Shanahan calling the plays for San Francisco, we can trust the 49ers' offensive genius to recognize this mismatch and scheme around it. Expect Shanahan to maximize the playmaking talents of players like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on jet sweeps, screens, and other gadget plays. Consider rostering Garoppolo, Samuel, and Aiyuk in GPPs this weekend against the New England Patriots, when most of the field will avoid San Francisco's passing game entirely in a difficult matchup.
ONE THING TO KEEP AN EYE ON THIS WEEK
It is no secret that Philadelphia's offense has been decimated by injuries this season. The Eagles enter Week 7 with only 2 out of their 11 opening-week starters available to play. As a result, previously unknown players have been forced to step up, like Travis Fulgham. One player whose results have disappointed early in his tenure as a member of the Eagles is John Hightower. Hightower made the Eagles roster after being selected in the 5th round of the 2020 NFL draft. Hightower's achilles heel in the NFL has been obvious: drops. The rookie receiver out of Boise State is Carson Wentz's favorite deep threat, but Hightower has failed to haul in a handful of critical deep-balls in recent weeks. In college, Hightower never had any issues with drops-- he totaled seven drops across his final two seasons in college-- and he typically ran the same type of deep routes that Philadelphia is sending him on. Across the last 2 weeks, Hightower has amassed nearly 40-percent of the Eagles' total air yards, but he only has 3 catches for 68 yards to show for it. Keep an eye on the youngster on Thursday night against the New York Giants, where his role in this passing attack could grow with both Zach Ertz, and Miles Sanders sidelined due to injuries they sustained in Week 6.
Potential developing trend to keep an eye on: Will John Hightower remain the preferred deep threat in Philadelphia's passing attack despite his struggles in this role throughout his first few weeks playing a significant portion of the team's offensive snaps?
Hypothesis & risk-tolerant way to capitalize on this developing trend a week or two early: Hightower excelled in this role in college, and his successes at Boise State hauling in the deep-ball were ultimately the reason Philadelphia drafted him and kept him around after training camp. Given the Eagles' depleted receiving corps, I do not believe there is a more capable option currently on the roster to fill this role (unless DeSean Jackson is finally able to suit up for a full-game of action on Thursday night.) I expect Hightower to convert his high-upside role in this offense into real production in the near future, and a matchup against the struggling New York Giants appears to be the perfect opportunity. In GPPs, consider utilizing Hightower as a salary-saving option on any slate that includes Thursday Night Football in Week 7, but only if you're comfortable with the risk associated with the play.
What if this isn't the case?: If Hightower continues to struggle, then Philadelphia may attempt to push another player onto the field and into this role. Hightower's playing time could also be limited by the potential return of DeSean Jackson, the Eagles' veteran deep-ball specialist. Suppose Hightower does not convert this opportunity into production soon. In that case, he is likely to find himself on a practice squad or riding the bench for either Philadelphia or another team in the NFL that needs depth at wide receiver.
As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @StillZam with any questions, comments, or concerns about this article or anything that has to do with fantasy football this weekend.