Mark “Hilow” Garcia
Man oh man we have some high team totals this week! If you followed me on Twitter during the preseason, I spoke to a possible increase in scoring this year, as the closest comp to what we were going to see in the 2020 season was 2011, when preseason and camps were cut short due to the NFL holdout. Add in no (or speaker-pumped?) crowd noise, and teams are pairing increased pass play rates with longer sustained drives, leading to increased scoring throughout the NFL (not to mention increased defensive penalty rates and decreased offensive penalty rates!). So what does this all mean to us? We should be diligently searching for absolute ceiling (paired with solid floor for my SE/3-Max brethren) moving forward, as it seems the days of sub-200 point totals taking down large field GPPs are long gone. Lets jump in!
See “MIA Passing Game” below. If going here this week, correlation becomes increasingly important, as the only way for “Russ to cook” becomes pressure to “let Russ cook” from Miami. It is also notable that both Seattle and Miami rank bottom seven in the NFL in pace of play, with each team running a play every 28.62 seconds or longer.
(Neither GOOD CHALK or BAD CHALK, but something we’ll keep in mind for our chalk build. Also very interesting leverage spots which we’ll cover shortly)
Per RotoViz, Alvin Kamara averages 20.52 PPR fantasy points with Michael Thomas in the lineup, versus 41.55 PPR fantasy points with Michael Thomas out of the lineup (also, check out Lex Miraglia’s splits with/without either Mark Ingram OR Michael Thomas in the lineup!). Michael Thomas is expected to return this week, after reportedly feeling good last Friday (eventually held out to allow his high ankle sprain to heal appropriately). Yes, the matchup is pristine (3rd-ranked net adjusted line yards matchup on the slate at 4.85), but what we’ve seen from this Saints team in games they have controlled is much more Latavius Murray involvement. Coming off two straight negative game script scenarios, in games that Michael Thomas missed, and we should have a case of “ownership outweighs likeliest scenario.” I’d expect Latavius’ carries total to land in the 15-18 carry range, with lower-than-perceived pass game involvement from Kamara with MT back in the lineup. Bring it all together, and Kamara is about $1,000 overpriced relative to touch expectations. Can the once again efficient Kamara return value at a price of $8,000? Sure. Is it the likeliest scenario? No. With Kamara expected to be the highest owned running back on the slate, there is merit to an underweight approach in MME and a full fade in SE/3-Max.
(Borderline BAD CHALK with excellent leverage, covered below)
Kenyan is an interesting case study in recency bias this week, so let’s dive into the matchup and uncover exactly how we should handle him! Arizona brings a middling 4.37 net adjusted line yards matchup to the table this week, with Kenyan almost inexplicably seeing only five targets to date. His TDs should come, but what we’ve seen so far this year is Drake getting one shot at touches inside the five, followed by Kyler taking over. Arizona has maintained their up-tempo ways (25.07 sec/play) and Carolina has fallen off a cliff in the post-Rivera era (28.20 sec/play), while both teams land in the middle of the pack in pass play rate (ARI: 20th-ranked 55.61%, CAR: 13th-ranked 59.89%). The ceiling is definitely there in a game in which Arizona should control, but realize the floor is just as low as we’ve seen in the previous three contests, as Arizona is plenty content keeping Drake around the 18-22 touch range with a healthy Chase Edmonds. Kenyan becomes more suited to MME-style play and falls out of consideration for me for SE/3-Max.
(BAD CHALK for SE/3-Max, interesting MME leverage play based on projected ownership)
Cincinnati carries Week 4’s second-worst net adjusted line yards matchup (as surprising as that is). Mixon has rushing outputs of 19/69, 16/46 and 17/49 with only nine targets on the season. Ladies and gentlemen, this is NOT a get-right spot for Mr. Mixon.
(BAD CHALK, let’s leave it at that!)
(As opposed to highlighting the individual chalk plays together this week, we’ll instead look at the lineup as a whole (again, something I’ve preached all season). Let me know on Twitter which format for this section you prefer!)
The chalk build this week consists of one spend-up running back and one mid-priced running back (likeliest Alvin Kamara and Kenyan Drake, but can vary) paired with one of the Seattle wide receivers (with or without Russ). On lineups that utilize Russ, the likeliest savings position becomes tight end. Conversely, rosters that choose to pay-down at QB will likely spend up at TE. The clearest roster construction leverages we see this week are a double (or triple) pay-up at running back, leaving Alvin Kamara out, or a double (or triple) mid-priced running backs pairing.
“Let Russ cook!” All offseason we’ve heard this mantra (actually, for about three years now we’ve heard this mantra!). From what it appears, it’s coming to fruition. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Although it seems a stark difference from 2019, the Seahawks currently rank 15th in overall pass play rate, at 59.57%. In 2019, they were passing at a 27th-ranked 54.34%. The biggest difference is in their early down pass play rate this year compared to last year, where they’ve elected to be much more aggressive on first down (2nd behind only KC). In 2019, the Seahawks ran 64.6 plays per game, while in 2020 they are running 62.7 plays per game. Russell Wilson has pass attempts of 35/28/40 (average of 34.33) to start the year, after averaging 32.25 attempts per game in 2019. The difference, to me, has been the opponents that Seattle has opened the year with, as all of Dallas, New England, and Atlanta have forced the Seahawks to remain aggressive on every possession. Because of this, the only way (again, in my opinion) Seattle “Lets Russ cook” is if the Dolphins once again force Seattle to remain aggressive, meaning Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami passing game has put up points (a number of factors have led to Seattle being best attacked through the air, specifically over the intermediate-deep middle of the field). So if the only way for Seattle (and Russ) to hit ceiling is for Miami (and FitzMagic) to hit ceiling, why not grab the same upside, at a depressed price and lower expected ownership? All of DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Mike Gesicki and Isaiah Ford are viable in this matchup, with Parker bringing the highest floor to the table, and all four carrying legitimate GPP upside.
Your number one offensive line/defensive line mismatch on the week is Minnesota, with a net adjusted line yards value of 5.12 and the number one ranked yards before contact matchup. As JM described in the Edge, this Vikings team would like to run the ball for as long as feasible. Up until this point, their only chance of doing so was in a Week 3 close loss to Tennessee, where Dalvin saw a 22/181/1 line on the ground and a 2/18 line through the air on five targets. In addition to both teams having clear avenues to success and failure against the opposing defense (MIN on the ground, HOU through the air), both teams currently rank in the top half of the league in pace of play, with both teams ranked 7th or higher in first half pace of play! Priced at $7,600, Dalvin is both a solid pure pivot (MME) off the expected ownership of Alvin Kamara as well as a solid leverage piece (SE/3-Max) off the chalk build.
Kareem Hunt has yet to practice this week (as of Thursday evening) with a groin injury and Dontrell Hilliard was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad on Wednesday. There are rumors floating around in the Cleveland beat writer community that this promotion was more for special teams, as Cleveland’s return man was just put on IR, but the Hilliard promotion could serve two purposes: for special teams as well as running back depth. Keep an eye on Hunt’s Friday practice involvement as well as his final injury designation, because if Hunt misses this week, Chubb steps into a feature back role (Chubb and Hunt have been splitting snaps almost evenly up to this point), in a plus matchup (6th-ranked net adjusted line yards matchup at 4.75), against an opponent leading the league in pace of play (19.88 sec/play, four full seconds faster than any other team!!!). Priced at “only” $7,000 (low for what would be a featured role in a good matchup), Chubb would approach elite status should Hunt eventually be ruled out.
Did you know, the Rams are currently running the football at a higher rate than every other NFL team in 2020 (54.15%!)? Did you also know, they are PFF’s most efficiently ranked offensive line thus far? Coach speak pegs Hendy as the “starter” moving forward, after he and Malcolm Brown split snaps evenly in Week 3. With dead even snaps played, Henderson out-touched Brown 21 to seven last week. The Rams are currently listed as 14-point favorites at home vs. the Giants. Now, we know buying into coach speak is a risky endeavor, but with Henderson vastly outperforming Brown over the last two weeks, and with Cam Akers once again looking doubtful for Week 4, we can confidently expect a slight bump to Henderson’s snap rate and touches (something in the range of 60% snap rate and 22-25 touches, based on likely game script, prior performance, coach speak and matchup). So what about the matchup? The Giants’ highly graded defensive line (in adjusted line yards allowed) data is slightly skewed based on whom they’ve played thus far. Their Week 3 opponent, the 49ers, currently rank 31st in the league in offensive line adjusted line yards (with Kittle missing the previous two and a half games), ahead of only these same Giants. Both PIT and CHI’s primary ball-carriers (Benny Snell and David Montgomery) averaged over 5.1 yards per carry against the Giants (5.9 and 5.1 for Snell and Montgomery, respectively), and both found the end zone. Furthermore, the Giants currently rank 1st in the league in pass play rate and 3rd in the league in pace of play, which, when paired with the fact that they are heavy underdogs, should lead to increased time of possession, plays run from scrimmage, and touches for Rams’ ball-carriers. At a price of $5,800, Henderson is both a solid pure pivot (MME) off the expected ownership of Kenyan Drake as well as a solid leverage piece (SE/3-Max) off the chalk build.
In Week 2, where Fuller played only 60% of the offensive snaps due to a lingering hamstring injury, Brandin Cooks saw eight targets, which he parlayed into a 5/95 line against the Ravens. Will Fuller was added to the injury report on Thursday (after a full practice Wednesday) with a hamstring injury. Its possible Fuller aggravated his hamstring injury in Thursday’s session. Either way, Fuller clearly is not 100% recovered from the early season hamstring strain, which should open up additional looks for Cooks against a Vikings team ranked 30th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. The leverage increases if Fuller plays and the floor increases if Fuller sits.
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