After being too free with injury information in the past, Jay Gruden has been making a concerted effort to be less forthcoming in order to gain an edge (because this is obviously the biggest of Washington’s problems). As of this writeup (late Wednesday night), Case Keenum was in a walking boot and missed Wednesday’s walk-through; Colt McCoy has been all but confirmed as the “number two” by Gruden — but McCoy would be unlikely to start on the off chance Keenum misses, as he would have only two practices under his belt after missing the last six weeks. This means that we’ll likely get Dwayne Haskins if Keenum misses — and given that Gruden still seemed to imply that Keenum will play, this opening paragraph setting the parameters within which we’re working will probably prove to have been unnecessary. More than likely, we have Keenum. If we don’t, we’ll have Haskins — and while this would be a downgrade against some teams (throughout the offseason, it appeared that Haskins had a ways to go before he would be ready to read and execute against more complex defenses), Haskins would likely prove to be an upgrade against the ineffective blitzes and poor coverage of the Giants, where his big arm and his carryover connection with college teammate Terry McLaurin would have potential to really pop in this spot.
Snapshot Of Each Team ::
The Giants are probably a better offense than most people think.
The Giants are as bad on defense as most people think.
The Redskins are more creative and explosive on offense than most people think — though they are still not very good.
The Redskins are fundamentally sound on defense — but as with the offense, they are not very good.
Because each team has some explosive potential and a below-average pass rush and attackable coverage units, this game that opened at 46.5 has been bet up to 49.5 — the second-highest total on the slate. (Note: in addition to carrying the second-highest total on the slate, this game features two teams with a fairly narrow distribution of offensive touches.)
Giants, Expanded ::
We have talked consistently this year about how the Giants’ offense flows through a narrow band of players (and for good reason, as Saquon // Engram paid off as one of our favorite player blocks in Week 1, and Shepard // Engram paid off as one of our favorite player blocks last week), but I actually want to start the Giants’ writeup with a player who is not in that narrow group: Darius Slayton.
The Giants ran a wide receiver rotation last week behind Shepard, with Slayton playing 27 of a possible 62 snaps (one more than Russell Shepard, and 11 fewer than Bennie Fowler), but he was schemed downfield looks when he was on the field, seeing five targets and hauling in three for 82 yards. Heading into Week 1 (against DeSean Jackson and the Eagles), we talked about the fact that Josh Norman had struggled with the speed of Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson at times in training camp. Norman not only got burned by Jackson that week, but he also got beat for a deep touchdown by Devin Smith in Week 2 and for a deep touchdown by Taylor Gabriel in Week 3. Slayton comes with a low floor, but it seems likely that the Giants increase the rookie’s snap count another week removed from the hamstring injury that sidelined him the first two weeks — and it seems certain that they take another four to six downfield shots to him this week. If he connects on a couple, he could turn into a really nice tourney piece with his 4.39 speed.
Next up on this side of the ball is Wayne Gallman, who is sure to be mega chalk this week — making this a good place to touch on a few pertinent numbers:
In 11 of his 19 career games, Saquon Barkley has failed to top even 15 carries (and he has failed to top 100 yards on the ground in more than half his games). His big value in DFS comes from his pass-catching role and his ability to score from anywhere on the field — and Gallman does not boast the latter talent the way Saquon does. As for the pass-catching role: Barkley’s best receiving yardage total in his last 11 games is 41 yards (and he required seven receptions to get there), and in nine of his last 11 games, he has four or fewer receptions.
If we played out this slate a hundred times, a fair median projection for Gallman would be three to four catches for 20 to 30 yards — and again, there is no guarantee he piles up yards on the ground. Gallman will likely get four to eight weeks as the starter before Saquon returns, and during that stretch, he will have anywhere from one to three games in which a touchdown (or two) or a broken play (or two) makes him a really nice piece. But in tourneys, there is a case to be made for fading him at high ownership while possessing a clearer understanding of his likeliest range of outcomes than most of the field will have, and hoping he misses the mark this week and you can jump on board at lower ownership another week. (With that said: running back is fairly ugly this week, so I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you decided to just side with ownership here and grab differentiation elsewhere.)
While I’ll potentially be looking for ways to be underweight on Gallman myself this week, I do like him as part of a four-man player block (I haven’t run the numbers on FanDuel, but on DraftKings, the typical five-man player block scores anywhere from 70 to 90 points in a non-exciting, steady-production week; and with how narrow the Giants’ distribution is, you could play Jones // Shepard // Engram // Gallman and get the production you would get out of a five-man block). While I expect the Giants to be comfortable putting the ball into the hands of Daniel Jones and allowing him to win this game, adding Gallman to a “Jones + pass-catchers” stack provides insurance against a scenario in which Gallman soaks up the touchdowns.
In the passing game, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard are going to be focal points on this offense again after combining for 38 targets in their two games played together, with each being used on high-floor routes underneath and being given a couple shots at busting a big play or scoring a touchdown. There is nothing in the matchup that scares us, as each can win in man coverage in this spot, and there will be plenty of Washington zone that allows these two to settle into soft spots and pick up easy points. The ceiling on these two isn’t quite as high as it was in last week’s game environment, but the ceiling does still exist, and the floor is really nice.
Redskins, Expanded ::
The first half of this writeup might prove to be longer than any other full-game writeup we’ll hit this week — and we haven’t even gotten to one of my favorite offenses on the slate this week in Washington. The Redskins will be taking on a Giants defense that has no pass rush and no ability to shut down opposing passing attacks, and the severely underpriced Washington passing attack has the pieces to take advantage.
There are a couple clear ways this game could play out.
1) Jones could hit a few more bumps this week than he hit last week, which could allow Washington to take control of this game to an extent and lean more run-heavy — sapping some of the upside from the Washington passing attack.
2) This game goes back-and-forth, or the Giants play from in front. Contrary to the belief of the field, Washington is very comfortable attacking through the air, and they won’t mind being in a situation in which they have to “win” on offense (i.e., doing more than just “trying to not lose”) — attacking through the air throughout.
Even in the first scenario, there will be enough work for the Washington pass catchers to produce at their prices, while in the second scenario, Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson will have enough upside to really matter.
Based on to-date production against Week 4 pricing, there is no skill position player on the slate more underpriced than McLaurin on both FanDuel and DraftKings — with his production to-date completely legitimate (target counts of 7 // 9 // 8; 10th in the NFL in average depth of target; third in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards; third in the NFL in red zone targets, and fourth in targets inside the 10), making him the sort of “process play” that leads to profit over time.
Richardson has been the intermediate compliment to McLaurin, and is also underpriced against his 2019 production. McLaurin is the “in isolation” play, but these two also work nicely as a player block, as they are averaging a combined 14.3 targets per game and have five touchdowns between them against three really good teams (and two really good defenses) in the Eagles, Cowboys, and Bears. This is their best matchup on the season. In terms of price-considered floor/ceiling, these guys really pop this week.
Also involved in this scheme will be Vernon Davis, Trey Quinn, and Chris Thompson. With Quinn and Vernon, you are hoping for a touchdown, as Quinn’s short-area role doesn’t yield much upside otherwise, and Vernon’s usage is too unpredictable to bank on. Thompson has a role no matter what, but he is best used opposite Giants pass game pieces in the hopes of capturing a sneaky, potentially under-owned shootout.
Further involved will be Adrian Peterson, who always feels ugly to lock in these days given his one-dimensional role on a team that will rarely be in position to control games; but especially if you end up leaning heavily on the Washington passing attack this week, it’s a solid play to hedge in MME play with some Peterson rosters that bet on the scoring going through him, and/or that bet on Washington controlling this game. Outside of MME: a big Peterson game is less likely (and lower-floor) than the pass game pieces; but the upside is certainly there in this spot that you could make a case for chasing, even on tighter builds.
JM’s Interpretation ::
On the Giants, I like the passing pieces a lot, with Jones, Engram, and Shep all at least ending up in Tier 2 with their high floors, and potentially cracking Tier 1. Gallman is a fine fade this week from a big-picture view (as laid out above: he’ll have some solid games, but they’re by no means guaranteed, creating a game theory case for avoiding him on weeks he’s chalk), but he’s also likely to get 18+ touches with at least three or four catches — and at his cheap price, I wouldn’t argue against siding with ownership rather than taking on the “one game sample size” risk (and this is especially true in cash). I also like Slayton as a tourney piece, and I’ve even tested out at least one tighter build with him to see what it would look like taking those savings on DraftKings (where he’s only 6.4% of the salary cap) — and while that type of risk is likely unnecessary on a tighter build, you can build in enough floor in other spots to justify it if you want to play around with some crazier approaches in small-field tourneys this week.
On Washington’s side, Keenum is actually underpriced as well for his likeliest range of outcomes (and if Keenum misses, Haskins will be in play) — but the big pieces are McLaurin solo and McLaurin // Richardson in a pairing, with Thompson // Peterson both viable for me in larger-field contests as well.