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Some key items are below:
- All references to fantasy points assume DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
- All stats reference the full 2021 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
- Funnel Defenses
Be sure to follow me on Twitter to stay up-to-date regarding updates to all articles I write here at FootballGuys. Feel free to reach out at any time with questions, comments, and concerns about this article or anything else fantasy football-related.
Tweets of the Week
Chiefs vs Washington in Week 6. To moveable objects on defense.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) October 11, 2021
KC has allowed 30+ points in four straight games for the first time in franchise history.
Washington has allowed 30+ in three straight.
KC 32nd in % of scoring drives allowed (54.2%)
WAS is 31st (52.7%)
The proper approach to the Kansas City vs. Washington shootout
Commentary and Action Items:
- The Kansas City Chiefs' high-octane offense is popular on every DFS main slate that they are on. The upside this passing attack provides week-in and week-out dwarfs that of almost every other offense in the league, even in tough matchups. In Week 6, the Chiefs have an implied team total of over 30 points, the highest tally of any team on the DraftKings main slate of games. A soft matchup against the Washington Football Team's reeling defense is to thank for Kansas City's top-tier team total because, as Rich Hribar notes above, Washington has allowed 30+ points in 3 consecutive outings.
- This weekend, targeting Kansas City's typical producers, like Patrick Mahomes II, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, will be a strong but popular strategy in DFS. Consider paying up for these players in cash games, but they are unlikely to provide the leverage needed to finish first in a GPP.
- Elsewhere, Darrel Williams may start running back, thanks to Clyde Edwards-Helaire's knee injury that landed him on the injured reserve. If Williams starts, he is an elite DFS option at his bargain-bin price tag on all sites, and he is worth considering as a flex option in season-long formats.
- On the opposite side of the football, the Washington Football Team offense features a handful of intriguing options for fantasy football lineups. Washington has an implied team total of around 24 points in this matchup, which is expected to amass approximately 55 points between the two teams. At quarterback, Taylor Heinicke provides a respectable floor of rushing production, running for at least 40 yards or a touchdown in 3 straight games. In a high-upside environment like this game, Heinicke is worth considering as a contrarian quarterback option in GPPs due to his combination of rushing and passing production.
- Besides Heinicke, Washington's offense features a trio of players at offensive skill positions worth considering for GPP stacks. Antonio Gibson has been playing through a hairline fracture in his shin recently, and he has not practiced yet this week. J.D. McKissic already garners a significant portion of the passing-down work, but if Gibson is unable to suit up this weekend, McKissic's receiving ceiling will skyrocket, especially if Washington is playing from behind, as expected. If Gibson is inactive, McKissic is a sneaky salary-saving option for cash games and GPPs in DFS, and he is worth considering as a flex option in deep season-long leagues.
- On the outside, Terry McLaurin is one of the league's best young pass-catchers. The former-Ohio State Buckeye has commanded at least 10 targets in 3 out of 5 games this season while scoring at least 30 DraftKings points in 2 out of those 3 10-target games. Washington will likely need to air the ball out to keep pace with the Chiefs' offense, which should lead to a spike in receiving volume for McLaurin, unlocking his ceiling as an elite DFS option in all formats DFS.
- Lastly, at tight end, Ricky Seals-Jones stepped into the starting lineup last weekend after Logan Thomas landed on the injured reserve. Seals-Jones hauled in 5 out of his 8 targets for 41 yards against the New Orleans Saints in his first start of the season, but he remains exceptionally cheap in DFS. Ricky Seals-Jones is arguably the strongest salary-saving option in DFS this week at the tight end position. Consider utilizing him in contests of all formats against his former team.
The start of the Urban Meyer-era in Jacksonville has been an unmitigated disaster, both for the team and fantasy football managers
Commentary and Action Items:
It cannot be understated how much of a disaster the Urban Meyer experiment has been in Jacksonville this season. The list of mistakes Meyer has made in just five weeks of regular season football is far too long to cover in just one section of an article. However, digging into a few of the biggest mistakes will help to contextualize the catastrophe that his brief NFL career has been thus far and shed light on why this is important for fantasy football managers.
Meyer's first set of mistakes in the NFL came when filling out his coaching staff.
- Urban Meyer's first mistake came when he attempted to hire a strength coach, Chris Doyle, that had just been unceremoniously ousted from his job at the University of Iowa for numerous reasons. Most notably, multiple former Iowa Hawkeyes athletes publicly accused Doyle of racially discriminating against them, belittling them, and making racist comments. Still, despite this information being just one Google search away, Urban Meyer attempted to hire Chris Doyle as the strength coach for the Jaguars. Unsurprisingly, this decision was immediately met with heavy backlash, and Doyle was forced to resign just one day after he was initially hired. For the first time in Meyer's coaching career, his carelessness towards off-the-field conduct blew up in his face just one month into his tenure as an NFL head coach.
- Urban Meyer's next blunder in filling out his coaching staff has been a disaster from a purely on-the-field standpoint. Meyer opted to hire Darrell Bevell as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator. Bevell has been an assistant in the NFL since 2000, and he brings very little to the table in terms of schematic creativity that could bolster an offense's efficiency. Bevell's crowning achievement as an NFL assistant came during his time as the Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator from 2011-2017 when the team won Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle almost certainly would have won two Super Bowls during Darrell Bevell's tenure as offensive coordinator if not for his mind-boggling decision to call a pass play on the one-yard-line instead of opting to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch. Overall, Seattle was not successful due to Darrell Bevell's play-calling; they were successful despite Bevell's play-calling (mostly thanks to Russell Wilson's uncanny ability to make something out of nothing.) Bevell's lack of schematic prowess was exposed in Detroit throughout the last two seasons when he called the plays for the Lions' lackluster scoring attack. It was difficult to figure out what Urban Meyer saw in Darrell Bevell when he first hired him to be Jacksonville's offensive coordinator. Expect the Jaguars to remain a bottom-rung offense in terms of efficiency as long as Darrell Bevell is calling the plays in Jacksonville, due to his lengthy track record of suboptimal play-calling tendencies to go along with a lack of offensive creativity.
Meyer's next set of mistakes involved critical errors in personnel decisions made both before the season and in-games.
- In the 2021 NFL Draft, Urban Meyer perplexingly used his influence over personnel decisions to get the team to zero in on a running back, Travis Etienne, with the 25th selection in the draft. As all 1-15 teams do, Jacksonville had countless holes in their roster this offseason. Running back, however, was not one of them. James Robinson, an undrafted free agent rookie, ran for over 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, and his cap hit is 66-percent smaller than Travis Etienne's. There was no reasonable justification for investing such a valuable asset in another running back. Still, Urban Meyer attempted to explain it away by saying he liked Etienne's upside as a pass-catcher and that he planned to utilize him in the slot quite a bit. In college, Etienne was one of the most efficient runners in recent memory, not a notably talented receiver. Perhaps the only way to worsen this selection would be to take Travis Etienne out of the backfield, where he shined for four years at Clemson, and unnecessarily force him into a new role.
- Now, we get to dive into the nitty-gritty of Heath Cummings's tweet. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Laviska Shenault in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL draft. Then, they followed that up by signing Marvin Jones to a 2-year $12,000,000 contract before the 2021 season to bolster their receiving corps. Yet, a converted cornerback, Jamal Agnew, that had never played more than 50-percent of his team's offensive snaps until last week, led the team in target-share against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5. Not far behind Agnew, Tavon Austin, an unproductive gadget player that has never recorded more than 509 receiving yards in a season, commanded more targets than Laviska Shenault and as many targets as Marvin Jones. Both Jamal Agnew and Tavon Austin are athletic players, but neither player has ever been a productive offensive weapon in the NFL. Urban Meyer almost always had the best athletes on the field during his tenure as a college coach. However, they were typically the most talented players on the field as well. The seemingly automatic combination of supreme talent and athleticism often afforded Urban Meyer certain luxuries when moving players around the field and fitting square pegs into round holes. However, this will not be the case for him in the NFL. Since Meyer never needed to figure out how to optimize multiple weapons within his offenses concurrently as a college coach, it appears he never developed that skill, and it's a glaring shortcoming for him now.
- Talent typically wins out in the NFL by beating out the competition for playing time and earning touches with on-the-field performance. However, nothing Urban Meyer is doing in Jacksonville makes sense right now. Despite high preseason expectations for some of the weapons in this offense, specifically Laviska Shenault and James Robinson (post-Etienne injury,) it is difficult to justify locking any Jaguars into starting lineups in season-long formats for the foreseeable future. Additionally, on DFS slates that include the Jaguars and Jets Sunday morning game in London, steering clear of any and all Jaguars is the optimal strategy due to the unprecedented uncertainty surrounding playing time and opportunity for the team's most reliable producers from previous seasons.
Not sure if anyone cares about this, but I adjust target share allowed to RB/WR/TE -- target share allowed above or below expectation to each position. This is what it looks like through five weeks. (An example of how to use this in the next tweet...) pic.twitter.com/phuL03qk8h— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) October 13, 2021
JJ Zachariason's adjusted target-share rankings from the color-coded table above provide fantastic information for breaking down passing matchups. In the "next tweet" that he refers to, JJ points out that Cincinnati, for example, ranks 1st in target share allowed above expectation to running backs, meaning opposing offenses target their running backs more against Cincinnati than they do against anyone else. The expected target-share that he is using here is a baseline number unique to each position in each offense, not a league-wide average or baseline.
Many thanks to JJ Zachariason for publishing this data for free on Twitter. Here is a link to his account, where he regularly posts similarly actionable fantasy football content, information, and data.
Targets Funneling to Them
- JJ specifically used the Cincinnati Bengals as an example in his explanation tweet to note that DAndre Swift could be in for a ceiling game this weekend. While Swift's ground game has been lackluster this season, averaging just over 10 carries-per-game, his receiving totals have compensated well for the lack of rushing production. Swift is running routes more than almost every other running back in the league, and his target-per-route mark is one of the best in the NFL regardless of position. The second-year running back averages 7.0 targets-per-game, and a soft matchup against Cincinnati's defense that funnels targets to opposing running backs could help DAndre Swift reach double-digit opportunities through the air to produce a stat line good enough for DFS lineups in contests of all formats.
- Houston has been especially poor in coverage against tight ends this season. Unfortunately for the 1-4 Texans, they have to head up to Indianapolis this weekend to take on the Colts, a team that is no stranger to getting its tight ends involved in the game plan. In recent weeks, Mo Alie-Cox has shown signs of the fantasy relevancy that many managers have been craving for years. Across his last two games, Cox has hauled in 6 of 9 targets for over 90 yards and 1 touchdown through the air, good for an average of 13.6 DraftKings points per game. This weekend, at just $3,100, Mo Alie-Cox is a viable GPP option at tight end, thanks to a soft matchup against the Houston Texans and the fantasy-friendly playing environment inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
- As noted earlier, there is serious potential for fireworks in the matchup between Kansas City and Washington. These rankings point even stronger in the direction of J.D. McKissic as a contrarian salary-saver at running back with a massive ceiling of receiving production. Kansas City's defense funnels targets to opposing running backs at the 6th-highest rate in the NFL, and McKissic is the perfect player to exploit this defensive tendency. Last year, despite starting only 7 games, McKissic hauled in 80 out of his 110 targets, tallies that ranked 2nd and 1st amongst all running backs. Although Washington's passing-down running back does not need to do much to pay off his bottom-dollar price tag this weekend, the stars are aligning for J.D. McKissic to reach his ceiling against the Chiefs.
Targets Funneling Away
- Although Dallas Goedert's status is in doubt for Philadelphia's Thursday night game against Tampa Bay, Zach Ertz's fantasy viability tonight is questionable at best. Tampa Bay's defense has been stellar this season at shutting down opposing tight ends, ranking 29th in the league in target-share-above-expectation allowed to the position, and this defensive tendency makes perfect sense, given their personnel. In recent weeks, Tampa Bay's secondary has been decimated by injuries, incentivizing opposing offenses to target wide receivers on the outside. However, the Buccaneer's athleticism at the second level of their defense is elite, giving opposing tight ends nightmares. Although Zach Ertz may be an enticing tight end option at first glance since Dallas Goedert isn't going to play on Thursday Night, exercise caution here, as he faces an exceptionally difficult matchup.
- On the flip side of the DAndre Swift coin this weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals are also one of the stingiest defenses against opposing tight ends. Unfortunately for managers with T.J. Hockenson on their season-long rosters, there may be one more week in his slump since his impressive Weeks 1 and 2. After commanding 20 targets and averaging over 23 DraftKings points per game across the first 2 weeks of the season, T.J. Hockenson has mustered just over 5.1 DraftKings points per game in his last 3 outings. This weekend, Hockenson goes up against the Cincinnati Bengals, who rank 30th in the NFL in target-share-above-expectation allowed to tight ends, which could spell trouble for his fantasy viability once again. Consider passing on T.J. Hockenson once again this weekend in DFS in hopes of a buy-low opportunity in a softer matchup next weekend. In season-long formats, if your roster features a viable replacement for Hockenson, consider leaving the former Iowa Hawkeye on your bench against the Bengals in Week 6.