Mark “Hilow” Garcia
In what should become the norm this year, we have six of ten games currently listed with game totals over 50.0 points on the main slate: CIN/BAL (51.0), CAR/ATL (53.5), LV/KC (55.5), JAX/HOU (54.0), MIA/SF (51.5), and NYG/DAL (54), with only PHI/PIT (44.5), LAR/WAS (46.5), ARI/NYJ (47.0) and IND/CLE (47.5) below 50.0. The dynamic of the NFL as a whole has changed this year with the shortened preseason. The fantasy implications, particularly for DFS, have meant higher cash lines in GPPs and cash games alike, with scores of 220-240 needed to take down GPPs on Draftkings. Because of this (and people are finally starting to catch on here), it is likely we start to see the cash lines drop as the season progresses, as people begin focusing more on raw ceiling and neglecting floor. For my SE/3-Max crowd, maintain sound process utilizing narrow player pools, without neglecting floor!
A metric used to quantify the run-blocking efficiency of an offensive line, adjusted for the matchup with the opposing defensive line.
Although we have over half the games on the main slate with game totals north of 50.0, from a macro matchups perspective, we have an entirely different slate than last week, in the sense that individual team rushing matchups are much more difficult. Only Jacksonville and Cleveland see plus rushing matchups, and over half the teams on the slate see difficult rushing matchups. This should lead to lower-than-expected floors for a good portion of the chalk plays this week, giving us a solid edge in cash and SE/3-Max.
Zeke has garnished rush/target counts of 22/4, 22/7, 14/11, 12/8 through the first four weeks of the season, which comes out to 25 running back opportunities (rushes plus targets) per game. The floor is absolutely pristine, but we must keep in mind that two of his better run-blockers are out, he has a matchup yielding “only” 4.235 adjusted line yards on the ground, and there is a likely regression of the 9.5 targets per game he has averaged over the previous two games (averaged 5.5 targets per game in the first two contests against the Rams and Falcons). The offsetting factor here is the fact that the Cowboys have fed Zeke (feed me) 17 red zone rushes over four games, with 14 of those coming inside the ten (Green Zone). This leaves Zeke with a rock solid floor, moderate price-considered ceiling.
(GOOD CHALK with interesting leverage to be discussed later)
After seeing 27 (25/2, rushes/targets) running back opportunities in his first NFL game, CEH has seen 18 (10/8), 26 (20/6) and 19 (16/3) in much more difficult matchups than he saw in a Week 1 matchup with Houston. In the first four weeks, CEH has averaged a 67.75% snap rate, and as the season has progressed, he has become more involved with schemed touches other than rushes. This week, the Chiefs take on the Raiders, who rank dead last in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to the running back position. We should see an increase to the 22.5 touches CEH has averaged over the first four weeks if this game remains close, but there is the ever-present chance that the Chiefs run away with the game early, in which I would be surprised if Andy didn’t get his running back depth chart some touches. Furthermore, in each game we’ve seen the Chiefs control, CEH’s targets have taken a massive hit. The floor isn’t as high when compared to Zeke and the next player we’ll discuss, but the ceiling is there.
(Borderline BAD CHALK for SE/3-Max, with interesting leverage to be discussed later)
In the two full games without Christian McCaffrey, Mike Davis has parlayed an average of 73.5% snap rate into running back opportunities of 22 each week (13/9, 16/6). In both games (at Chargers, vs Cardinals), the Panthers were able to control the tempo and game script, which may or may not be the case this week against the Falcons. We have to remember that this isn’t the up-tempo Panthers of 2019 with Ron Rivera at the helm, as the team is now ranked 26th in the NFL in pace of play, running a play every 28.70 seconds, so weekly volume should be dictated by opposing teams. The good news is that their opponent for Week 5 ranks second in the NFL in pace of play, running a play every 24.41 seconds, and have been absolutely decimated by pass-catching running backs. The floor is slightly lower when compared to Zeke, but I would argue higher than CEH.
(Borderline GOOD CHALK depending on ownership projections, with clear leverage scenarios to be covered later)
I haven’t looked at ownership projections yet, but it would seem to me that Amari will be the highest owned wide receiver on the slate. He checks into Week 5 seeing an average of 12.75 (!!!!) targets over the first four games, but we have to remember, each of those games Dallas was forced to the air after falling behind big early. Dak averaged (again, AVERAGED!!!) 50.25 pass attempts per game over the first four weeks. That’s absolutely unheard of. Now, will the Giants establish an early two-score lead, forcing the Cowboys to attempt 45-50 passes again this week? Not likely. Amari’s likeliest scenario yields 8-10 targets (his 25.37% target market share multiplied by 35-40 pass attempts). Amari currently holds an average yards per target of 7.843, making it highly unlikely he achieves the yardage bonus on Draftkings on his expected volume. This would mean he MUST score twice in order to provide a score we’d be upset about not having.
(BAD CHALK when digging deeper into likeliest scenarios for this week)
There really isn’t an overabundance of clear chalk this week as I’ve progressed through my process, but we can be sure a good 10-15% of lineups will utilize two or more of those three running backs listed, and a good chunk of lineups without Zeke will utilize Amari. In weeks like this, without a large pool of clear chalk, I rarely even look at ownership projections for SE/3-Max, as I found it simply distorts my read on the slate overall and introduces too many biases.
With running back opportunity counts of 17 (16/1), 20 (16/4), 17 (11/6), and 21 (17/4) on the season, J-Rob has shown both floor and ceiling in plus matchups (MIA and TEN). We know Jacksonville would like to run the ball for as long as they remain in the game, which they’ve shown us three out of four weeks to this point. This week, the Jaguars boast the top net adjusted line yards matchup on the slate, at 4.915, and we can comfortably project Robinson for 16-18 carries and 4-6 targets, which puts him right on par with CEH and Mike Davis in likeliest scenario touch ranges. His price has come up in recent weeks, but it still isn’t as high as it’s likely to move in the coming weeks (or as JM has discussed, pricing psychology should keep people from clicking his name this week, as he’s priced around likely chalk in CEH and Mike Davis). He gives us a solid leverage angle this week for my SE/3-Max crowd (playing all of CEH/Davis/J-Rob, for example) and is a viable MME pivot from the likes of CEH and Davis.
We touched on the volume-driven spike in box score numbers for Amari Cooper earlier, but the same holds true for CeeDee Lamb (when factoring in where these two receivers are being utilized on the field, they need volume or multiple trips to paint to provide a GPP-worthy ceiling). The forgotten man once again in this high-powered passing offense is sure to be Gallup, but he is working as the primary deep threat in this offense (2nd in the NFL in aDOT at 17.4!) and remains the likeliest receiver on the Cowboys to return value in a down passing volume game. Without an offense opposite Dallas to force them to be aggressive, it’s much likelier that this game underwhelms overall respective to expected ownership on the Dallas side of the ball.
In his two healthy games, Johnson has received target counts of 10 and 13, both in games that Pittsburgh controlled (NYG/DEN). Something I don’t think a lot of fantasy footballers have caught onto yet is the fact that the Eagles still boast an above average defensive line against the rush, and are still more susceptible to intermediate-deep passing. The reason this is important information for us is because of the low game total and likely emphasis on PIT D/ST from this game, with little to no emphasis on the Steelers’ passing game. We can bank a cost-considered elevated floor from a team likely to remain aggressive through the air at depressed ownership with Johnson this week!
Similar to last week with the MIA/SEA game, I would be looking to bring back a piece of this Giants passing attack (can they be called an attack?) on any roster with a Dallas pass-catcher, as the only way Dallas sees an increase in attempts is if the Giants force their hand. Slayton has the clearest shot to break open this game, while Dallas is most susceptible to opposing slot receivers, so rosters that play into game scripts that have the Giants playing catch-up all game can insert Golden Tate.
I’m honestly not sure where Ridley’s ownership will land this week after he laid a goose egg on national television, but if it is at all depressed, he’s a valuable leverage play. As of this writing (Thursday evening), Julio Jones has yet to practice and I’d be shocked if Atlanta didn’t hold him out this week. This should drive ownership to the receiver who actually caught passes last week, who is priced at the bare minimum: Olamide Zacheaus. Ridley clearly was not at full strength in Week 4, playing only 64% of the offensive snaps (after never dipping below 84% the previous three weeks), but with an extra week to heal up, Julio likely out of the lineup, and a matchup with the Panthers who rank 26th in pass defense DVOA, and anything below 20% projected ownership for Ridley becomes a mistake to capitalize on.
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