JAGUARS // GIANTS OVERVIEW
Heading into the week, only two games have a lower Over/Under than this one, indicating a spot without big DFS interest; but that doesn’t mean this game is entirely bereft of quality options. Probably the biggest thing that makes this an iffy proposition for me is simply the question marks that come with the coaching change in New York. For all his flaws as a head coach (and as an offensive mind), Ben McAdoo loved playing at a fast pace — which meant more plays per game…and since the Giants’ offense was so bad, it effectively meant more plays for their opponent. The Jaguars already finished fourth in the NFL last year in plays per game, but it would have been a nice boost if they were playing an opponent that could be expected to allow the fourth-most plays per game in the NFL (as the Giants did last year). For now, we will have to assume that this will no longer be the case.
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
As noted by Adam Levitan on Twitter, Leonard Fournette was in on nine third-down plays in the Jags’ Week 2 and 3 preseason games, and he received five targets (for a 5-35-0 line) across 52 preseason snaps. Fournette quietly averaged 23.4 touches per game last year — which was more than Todd Gurley, and was even more than David Johnson in 2016. In this game, he’s a workhorse running back on a favored team, taking on a Giants defense that ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards last season and 20th in yards allowed per carry, while boosting running back production by at least 5% (compared to league average expectations) on FantasyDraft, FanDuel, and DraftKings. Fournette costs 13.3% of the salary cap on FanDuel and 14.2% on DraftKings, but on FantasyDraft he will require you to invest only 12.9% of your available salary.
[Note: If you are not familiar with FantasyDraft (where profit is always easier to find!), I have broken down FantasyDraft strategy and scoring for you here. If you’re familiar with DraftKings, it’s a super easy shift to make.]
One of my favorite statistics from the Jaguars last year was this:
They led the NFL in rushing rate, running the ball on a ridiculous 49.49% of their plays (for context: the league average was 42.14% — so the Jags ran the ball at a 17+% increase on the league-average rate), and yet, they still finished 21st in the NFL in pass attempts. This is one of the bonuses of having an absolutely elite defense: your offense ends up with a lot more plays than the average team. In spite of ranking 18th in pace of play, the Jags ranked fourth in plays per game. People often seem to get concerned about the “low volume of the Jaguars’ passing attack” — saying that the Jags are trying to hide Bortles, and that this means volume is too low to trust. The Jags do try to hide Bortles. But because of how many plays they ran last year, they still threw the ball more times than the Rams and the Texans, and I don’t recall people being concerned about volume there.
None of that is intended to pretend like the Jags are going to let loose and go shootout style (this is still a team with below-average passing volume), but it’s not such a big concern that their weapons need to be avoided in quality matchups — especially given the circumstances surrounding this game, as Marqise Lee is done for the year, and his injury did not occur until pricing was set.
Last year, the Giants allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league and the most yards-after-catch in the league. Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook were both significantly below-average in YAC last year (while Donte Moncrief has never been a big threat in this area…or in any area), and each guy posted a below-average catch rate (which can be pinned on Bortles as much as on the receivers). As such, neither guy (or “none of them,” if you want to throw in Moncrief) should be considered a lock for production; but we should see around six to eight targets for both Westbrook and Cole (with Moncrief potentially pushing for similar numbers), which makes each guy intriguing at his artificially-depressed price.
This passing attack wraps up with Austin Seferian-Jenkins taking on a Giants defense that is annually abysmal against the tight end position. Last year, the Giants allowed production boosts north of 30% above the league average to tight ends, across all three DFS sites — second-worst in the league, behind only the Dolphins. ASJ is not a big yardage threat outside of broken plays, but his touchdown ceiling is as high as any tight end outside the higher ends of the price range.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
Last year, the Jaguars finished the season ranked 26th in yards allowed per carry, but only three teams allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to the position, only one team allowed fewer red zone touches to the position, and only eight team allowed fewer receptions. Quite simply, the Jags just have an awesome defense (top two last year in points per game, yards per game, and passing yards per game), and an awesome defense means fewer scoring opportunities. Saquon Barkley should debut in a three-down role, and he’ll be able to pick up yards between the 20s. Given his talent and expected workload, he is underpriced on all three sites. But ownership would likely have to slip below 10% before he could be considered a +EV play, as he would likely only post a week-winning score in this spot one out of ten times. (If ownership does project to be low, he’s an interesting tourney play, as his yardage expectations and his workload keep him at a pretty high floor even in a sub-optimal matchup, and he obviously has the upside to hit big if he hits.)
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
On FanDuel, DraftKings, and FantasyDraft, the Jaguars held wide receivers last year to about 75% of league-average output from the position — an incredible mark that was by far the best in the league. To put that in the context of DFS: a wide receiver would have to see at least a 25% drop in his usual price before he could be considered +EV against the Jags (and even then it would be an iffy proposition, as the reason to roster a low-owned guy is not for him to get you a serviceable score, but is for him to get you a week-winning score…and the chances of that are even lower against the Jags). The one case you could conceivably make here is that Odell Beckham and (to a lesser extent) Sterling Shepard can take a short reception to the house — but even that path gets cut off quickly by the fact that no team in the NFL allowed fewer yards after catch last year than the Jags. The Jags were also a top-three defense against the tight end last season (fantasy points allowed — all three sites). Everywhere you turn, they get you.
I am excited to roster Fournette in this game — especially on FantasyDraft, where you get an extra FLEX spot and Fournette is cheaper than he is on the other two sites — as he is a true workhorse on a favored team against a below-average run defense. I am also interested in Cole and Westbrook from a “value with upside” perspective, and I will toy around with Austin Seferian-Jenkins, as I love this matchup even if I don’t love his upside in general.
I really wanted to like Saquon in this game — and absolutely, I don’t think he’ll have a bad game — but the Jags just make it too difficult to score touchdowns for us to feel comfortable that he has 100-yard, two-touchdown upside (which we should always be targeting). I’m not against the play, but his chances of posting a week-winning score are slim.
I am much more excited about the Jags’ defense, as this unit ranked second in sacks last season and second in takeaways, and they are likely to go overlooked. On paper, this is not as good of a play as the Ravens (for all his flaws, Eli Manning can limit turnovers and sacks), but again: DST is a volatile position, and the Jags have as much upside as any unit out there.