DFS sites (DraftKings in particular) have been extremely aggressive the last few years in pricing up players who are filling in for injuries — with the thinking seemingly being: “If we’re going to give our users tight pricing, we need to make sure we don’t leave gaping, obvious holes that lead to ridiculously concentrated ownership.” It seems that most of the DFS community is in pretty universal agreement that a middle ground here would be preferred (with tight pricing, but not so tight that it leaves variance-embracing as the only true path to slate-breaking upside), but this is what we have, so it is what it is.
This week, however, we have a rare instance of a lead back emerging at the bottom of the price range, as Josh Jacobs was ruled out on Wednesday with his fractured shoulder, well after pricing was set. Two weeks ago when Jacobs missed, DeAndre Washington played 39 of 62 snaps (62.9%) and saw 20 touches (14 carries; six receptions), while Jalen Richard saw nine touches of his own (7 // 2). The macro matchup against the Chargers is not great, as this team has faced the fewest opponent plays per game, which has led to them allowing the fifth fewest yards and the 13th fewest points. Only four teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than the Chargers; only one wide receiver has topped 100 yards against the Chargers; and only two running backs have topped 100 yards in this spot (both of whom required 25+ carries to get there). The Raiders are without Trent Brown and can’t get anything going through the air outside of Darren Waller (who has a tough draw this week with the Chargers’ secondary healthy), and Derek Carr tends to struggle when facing pressure (which he’ll likely be facing this week). But Washington provides cheap access to what should be 16 to 22 touches (with a few targets mixed in), and there’s plenty of value in that.
Waller is priced next to Ertz this week (recent target counts for Ertz of 11 // 14 // 6 // 13 // 10, compared to recent target counts for Waller of 7 // 6 // 9 // 6 // 10), and he has the tougher matchup, so he should be considered a risk/reward play that needs to bust through in a tougher spot and top Ertz in order to provide value. The rest of this passing attack has been nothing but prayers behind Waller, with little upside to show for your efforts. Hunter Renfrow is set to return this week to soak away volume from both Tyrell Williams and Waller. Tyrell is a ceiling play with thin paths to get there. Renfrow is a floor play with some thin paths to price-considered usefulness.
The Chargers are expected to control this game as seven point favorites (with a Vegas-implied team total of 26.0), and in games the Chargers have controlled, they have run the ball nearly as often as they have passed — opening a “likeliest scenario” in which Melvin Gordon sees around 16 to 20 carries (19 to 23 touches) while Austin Ekeler sees six to nine carries (10 to 14 touches). The matchup for these two is attractive against a crumbling Raiders team that ranks 25th in DVOA against the run — with game flow likely working in favor of the Chargers’ backfield as well.
The matchup is also a bonus through the air for the Chargers, where the Raiders rank 31st in DVOA against the pass and are allowing the most yards per pass attempt in the league — with a 13.8% boost added against the league-average aDOT, and with an 11.4% boost against the league-average YAC/r. The aDOT element is especially noteworthy here, as volume is only likely to pile up for the Chargers’ passing attack through an unlikely game flow scenario. You could bet on those outlier scenarios by stacking this game with one or two Raiders pieces that you think can turn the Chargers more pass-heavy with some early scoring (opening the door for volume-based production from L.A.), but your likeliest path to notable production here is through big plays.
This points to Mike Williams as the best bet here — with target counts of only 5 // 7 // 3 // 9 in his last four games, but with 45+ yards in 12 straight, 69+ in seven of those games, his first two touchdowns of the year in his last two games, and the first two 100-yard games of his career in his last six. While he has not yet shown this: his largely-limited targets give him a somewhat low floor; but Williams also hasn’t shown his true slate-breaking ceiling. He’s an intriguing tourney option.
As we are well aware, Keenan Allen is best deployed as a “bet on volume” piece, though he could conceivably work a bit deeper this week, giving him an outside shot at hitting on sub-10 looks. Hunter Henry, meanwhile, has somehow managed to rack up only nine total targets in his last three games combined (after having picked up nine targets in a single game before this stretch). He’s a thin play against the tight ends he has to outscore this week, but the matchup does provide upside paths if you want to chase them on a small number of builds.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Philip Rivers has looked about ready to retire over the last couple months, but he has still been doing enough to provide value to his pass catchers. I doubt any player from this offense will find his way toward the center of my builds, but both running backs and Mike Williams are in the mix for me. Depending on how everything looks once I read through the Edge, I could even see Keenan approaching one or two builds as well.
On the Raiders’ side, the only interest I’ll have is in the backfield — though I will have a decent level of interest, given the price and role on Washington. The Raiders are built so heavily around the run that 14+ touches is highly likely for Washington, and that’s enough to make him valuable for his expected floor/ceiling at his price. He isn’t a must-play as part of a split backfield on a road underdog, but most paths have him producing above his price level, and there is certainly visible ceiling in this run-centric offense.
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