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The Butterfly Effect:
One of the more difficult aspects of succeeding in GPP’s is finding low owned players that can return at least a multiple of four on their salary. This means if a player costs $4,500, in order for that player to hit value, he must score at least 18 points. With their being so much coverage in the industry, there is little chance of having an obvious sleeper fall through the cracks. In fact, in many cases it becomes a detriment to roster these players, because at best you are keeping pace with 30-50% of the field, and at worst, your team is sunk. My solution to the problem of finding these players is to embrace the theory of The Butterfly Effect.
The Butterfly Effect is a theory that believes “small causes can have larger effects”. To take it one step further though, it is really how a single occurrence can cause several different layers of effects. For DFS purposes, think of an injury to a star running back. Now right off the bat, the backup running back is the most obvious beneficiary, as he will inherit the #1 spot and become an instant source of value. What most people fail to realize though, is that the star running back may have a different skill set that causes the entire offense (and defense) to be affected. Perhaps the backup running back is of smaller stature which precludes him from being an effective red zone option. That would add value to the wide receivers and tight ends who will now see more targets in the red zone. This is a very basic example, but one that happens often.
In addition to injuries, The Butterfly Effect can also be applied to coaching changes, scheme changes and trades. Anytime a significant event or change occurs, this article will be your guide to finding how value has shifted, both positively and negatively. This is not exclusively limited to players with low salaries, in fact top players often qualify as great value plays. The key is in identifying those who are being overlooked for one reason or another.
Key Losses: DeMarco Murray
Primary Beneficiaries: Derrick Henry
There have been several difference sources reporting that DeMarco Murray has a torn MCL, yet strangely enough, the Tennessee Titans have yet to rule him out of Sunday’s game. In fact, the Tennessee coaches have stated that he will be a game time decision. This may be a little bit of jockeying considering that the Titans have to win against the Jaguars in order to make the playoffs as a wildcard in the AFC. Regardless, the smart bet is that Murray will not play on Sunday, which opens up the door for Derrick Henry to make his first start of the season. Henry is a power-back who can handle a large workload, so I would expect the Titans to feed him the ball 20+ times. Looking at this season, Henry has outplayed Murray with respect to running the ball. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 148 attempts, while Murray is averaging 3.6 yards per carry on 184 attempts. Henry also brings a big-play component to the Titans offense, having ripped off touchdown runs of 72 and 75 yards already this season. Henry has seen double digit carries in seven games this year, and it is no surprise that the Titans are 7-0 in those games. Assuming Henry picks up 90% of Murray’s workload, which when combined with his own would put him at 19.6 carries on average, for this Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. That still leaves three carries to be spread out, and you can expect to see those carries go to Marcus Mariota. Murray was averaging a little over three targets and two catches per game, so there is an opportunity for other Titans receivers to pick up those targets as Henry is not known for his pass catching ability (In two seasons, Henry has only caught 10 passes). Assuming those targets go to Rishard Matthews, that would be the difference between Matthews having four catches for 60 yards and Matthews having six catches for 90 yards. That is just playing along with averages, there is much more potential for Matthews to have a big game, and the same goes for Corey Davis and Delanie Walker. The Jaguars have given up the least amount of points in the NFL to opposing wide receivers this season. The Titans receivers have their work cut out for them if the Jaguars play their starters the entire game, however the increased opportunity combined with this being a win or go home game for the Titans, I think Matthews, Walker and Davis are all sneaky plays who have excellent Point per Dollar value this week.
Who I’m playing: Derrick Henry ($5,500) will be a very popular play this week, going against a Jaguars defensive front that has allowed the ninth most points to opposing running backs this season. This week is filled with uncertainty, as teams who have already locked up playoff spots and secured their seeds have nothing to play for. Generally, this means they will sit their starters if not all together, then for a large majority of the game. With Henry set to see a large workload in a must-win game for the Titans, it makes sense to have him in a large percentage (40%-50%) of your lineups. Yes you will be sharing him with most of the field, but running back is not the place for unique plays this week, we can differentiate ourselves from the field at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end. Marcus Mariota ($5,000) had 14 points in his first meeting with the Jaguars, and this time he is playing at home with his season on the line. His salary has leveled out at $5,000 which is as low as you will see for a full-time starting quarterback, there are even two backup quarterbacks who are more expensive than Mariota this week (Derek Anderson and Teddy Bridgewater). I wouldn’t go overboard on Mariota, but he definitely deserves to be in 10%-15% of your lineups, as that is where I have him now. Rishard Matthews ($4,100), Corey Davis ($3,600) and Delanie Walker ($4,400) are interesting plays this week. Their salaries are as low as they’ve been all year and considering they have something to play for and will be in the game for all four quarters, you have to roll with the guys who will definitely have opportunities to make plays, which is not something you can say for 70% of the teams this week. I will have the most exposure to Walker, mainly because tight end has been a wasteland this year and he has scored 12+ points in seven of this last nine games. I will have 20% exposure to Walker, 5%-7% to Mathews and most likely a single lineup with Corey Davis.
Key Losses: RT Bobby Massie (Questionable) G Josh Sitton
Primary Losers: Jordan Howard, Mitchell Trubisky
Primary Beneficiaries: Tarik Cohen
The Bears are facing a hungry Vikings teams this week that have publicly stated that this game counts as more than one win. The Vikings are 12-3 and having already won the NFC North crown, they will be playing for a first round bye against the Bears. Win and they will get the next week off, lose…and well, they can still get the bye with a Panthers loss, Saints victory or a Rams win. Still, the Vikings have a blue collar coaching staff led by Mike Zimmer and will want to take care of business and secure the bye with a win in front of their fans. All of the talk has been about how important this game is to the Vikings, but no one is talking about the Bears having something to play for as well. They can upset the Vikings and put them on notice that Mitchell Trubisky is the up and coming quarterback in the NFC North. You may not think that the Bears view this game as an important one when they are 5-10 and have been out of the playoff picture almost since the season started. With that said though, ending the season on a high note for Trubisky is something the organization wants badly. He is their franchise quarterback and beating a Vikings team that is 12-3 and division champs would be a momentum builder for a team that is very young and still trying to find its identity. The first time these two teams played, Minnesota won 20-17 on a Kai Forbath field goal with 12 seconds left. It was Trubisky’s first start,, The task would be a tough one ordinarily for the Bears, but it will made even harder this week with right tackle Bobby Massie and guard Josh Sitton both questionable to play against the Vikings. Sitton is an all-pro who grades out in the top five at his position this season and Massie is a very effective run-blocker. The Bears want to run the ball, and then run it some more…that is where they have an advantage with Jordan Howard churning out yards between the tackles and Tarik Cohen getting to the edge and using his speed and explosiveness to make big plays. However, with Massie AND Sitton questionable to play this game, the Bears will be at a big disadvantage against a Minnesota defense that ranks third, with respect to giving up fantasy points to opposing running backs. Jordan Howard and Mitchell Trubisky will be the players most affected by the loss of Massie and Sitton. Howard will not see the holes open up like he normally does, and Trubisky will see pressure in his face the entire game. The antidote to aggressive defense is getting the ball out quickly and drawing the defenders in while the offense sets up blocking downfield. Paging Tarik Cohen, The Human Joystick. Cohen is the perfect player to help combat the Vikings aggressive defense. He had a tough game against the Vikings the first time they played, but look for him to make a big impact in this game. Kendall Wright has seen 30 targets over the last three games and will continue to be Trubisky’s go to receiver. He has a knack for creating separation from the onset of his routes, which should help the Bears if they decide to go to a quick passing attack. Benny Cunningham has eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown over the last three games. If the Vikings shut down the Bears rushing attack, Cunningham could see more work as a receiver where he’s averaging 12.3 yards per catch. Josh Bellamy has emerged as the Bears #2 receiver. Over his last three games, Bellamy has caught 10 passes for 171 yards (17.1 yards per catch), including five catches for 70 yards against the Lions. In that game he caught passes of 13, 16, 18 and 19 yards, which qualifies him as the Bears big play receiver.
Who I’m playing: The Bears do have one thing going for them, and that is they have John Fox as their head coach. He’s a veteran and taken two different teams to the Super Bowl, so if they are down two important offensive lineman, he will figure out a sound game-plan to combat that. I think that game-plan will revolve around getting the ball out quickly to Tarik Cohen ($3,600), Kendall Wright ($4,100) and Josh Bellamy ($3,100). Kendall Wright is the safest play of the three as he is averaging roughly 30% of Mitchell Trubisky’s total targets. At $4,100, Wright has been returning a 3.6x multiple on his salary over the last three weeks and the game script should be one that gives Wright plenty of targets and opportunity. I will have 12-15% Kendall Wright this week. Tarik Cohen represents a very difficult matchup for the Vikings, despite the fact that they shut him down completely the first time they played. The Vikings have had trouble defending running backs in the passing game, Mark Ingram caught five passes for 50 yards, Benny Cunningham caught two passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, Isiah Crowell caught four passes for 54 yards, Chris Thompson caught three passes for 41 yards and Ameer Abdullah caught six passes for 44 yards. I will have 7%-10% exposure to Cohen this week, and I will probably have closer to 5%-7% exposure to Jordan Howard. I think Cohen is the superior Point Per Dollar play this week. Josh Bellamy is on my radar as a GPP flier, and I will have him on one team that I stack with Mitchell Trubisky ($4,400). Trubisky’s salary is just so low, there is plenty of room for him to return a 4x multiple on his salary, something he’s done two out of the last three weeks (4.1x, 4.2x, 3.8x). That is equivalent to Philip Rivers putting up 26 points, or Russell Wilson putting up 28 points. The only difference Trubisky is offering salary relief, so you can stack your team with the high end running backs it is going to take to win tournaments this week. I will have 5%-7% exposure to Trubisky.
Los Angeles Chargers
Key Losses: Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry
It is being reported that Melvin Gordon is walking in a boot due to an ankle injury that he suffered in the Chargers week 16 win over the Jets. Gordon had been playing very well up to that point, scoring 21.8 DraftKings points. The Chargers face a must win game against their cross-town rival, the Oakland Raiders. With the Chargers just moving to Los Angeles, it is highly likely that the Raiders fans will inhabit the Chargers stadium and turn this into an Oakland home game. Regardless, the Raiders can spoil the Chargers playoff hopes and that is certainly something that will get players up and ready to go, especially when it involves another team in your division. Much like the Bears, the Raiders have had a rough season, but a win in week 17 would end the season on a positive note and give them some momentum heading into next year. They are still a very young team. The Chargers on the other hand, are getting older quickly. Philip Rivers is still playing fantastic football at 36 years old, but this post-season with Antonio Gates is most likely their last chance to make a run together. With Hunter Henry on injured reserve, Gates was once again the man at tight end for the Chargers. In Antonio Gates like fashion, he caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown and reminded everyone he can still play at a high level when called upon. Melvin Gordon is officially questionable to play on Sunday, and it will come down to him being a game-time decision. If he can manage the pain, then he’s going to give it a go, but ankles are tricky injuries for running backs who depend on cutting as their bread and butter. Even if Gordon gives it a go, there’s a high likelihood that he cannot finish the game. In steps Branden Oliver, the same Branden Oliver who was the #1 running back for eight games in 2014 for the Chargers. Over those eight games, Oliver rushed 125 times for 487 yards and three touchdowns, while also catching 27 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. The #1 running back in the San Diego offense generally plays on all three downs and in the red zone, as well as goal line touches. Whoever it is, you want to have them on your teams. Oliver has the talent to produce a very big game against a Raiders defense that has given up seven rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and games of 36 points to Melvin Gordon, 32.3 points to LeSean McCoy, 33.8 points to Chris Thompson and 25.8 points to Kareem Hunt. All of those players are active in the passing game and in the red zone, which is exactly the opportunity being handed to Oliver if Gordon cannot play. Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen are both players you want in your lineups regardless of whether Gordon plays or not. With that said, if Gordon does not go, then the Chargers will look to Allen to carry the offense. Oliver will get a big workload, but it will be Allen make the tough catches on third down when Philip Rivers needs a first down. After all, when the Chargers were on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs after losing consecutive games to the Patriots and Jaguars, Rivers looked to Allen to carry the offense. That is exactly what he did, averaging 32.5 fantasy points per game over the next four games, all Chargers wins.
Who I’m playing: Philip Rivers ($6,600) and Keenan Allen ($7,800) are both players that I will have 30% exposure to this week. Most of those teams will be a stack with Allen alongside Rivers, and several of them will include Branden Oliver ($4,000) or Antonio Gates ($4,200). If Melvin Gordon is out on Sunday, I will invest 25%-30% in Branden Oliver. A running back who’s going to see a big workload in an offense where the running back plays on all three downs and in the red zone? That is a gimme and you have to take it. The salary is a bonus, and I would not hesitate to stack Rivers, Oliver and Allen on the same team. I’ll take it a step further and say that I will have a team with those three AND Antonio Gates on it, as I think there is enough offense to go around where they can return a multiple of 4x as a group, which would be 90 points. That may seem crazy, however the group of Rivers, Allen, Gordon and Hunter Henry did exactly that in a week 12 win over the Cowboys, scoring 99.8 points as a group. I will have roughly 20% exposure to Antonio Gates, but that could very well end up around 30% if news comes out that some high profile tight ends are going to sit week 17. The Chargers offense scores a lot of fantasy points to begin with, but when you consider the Chargers have something to play for, combined with the fact that there is so much uncertainty when it comes to other team’s starting lineups, you cannot go wrong by heavily investing in the Chargers skill position players.