I have two major regrets from last week, with the first being the fact (as I mentioned in the video at the top of the NFL Edge) that I overthought the tight end position and leaned on Evan Engram over “Will Dissly vs the Cardinals,” and with the second also centered on the Giants, as I felt that ownership would outweigh the +EV viability of playing Wayne Gallman. Everything noted last week about A) Saquon’s usage to date and B) Gallman’s production expectations over a large sample size in this role was accurate, and if Gallman’s ownership had been as high as I was expecting it to be, “playing him in cash games and going underweight on him in tourneys” would have been the correct call regardless of results. But it seems that the entire industry ended up thinking along that track, and this left Gallman at about half the tourney ownership I expected him to have.
Unfortunately, last week was the week to get in on Gallman, as the matchup this week against the Vikings is not ideal. On the season, the Vikings have allowed only 3.77 yards per carry to running backs, while also allowing the fourth fewest running back receiving yards in the league. Working in Gallman’s favor is a workhorse role that should yield 18 to 22 touches this week; but the matchup closes off a number of the paths he could have had to slate-breaking upside in this spot. (A best case scenario here has Gallman disappointing and his price/ownership staying low in future weeks; though the Giants really don’t run into a quality running back matchup until December 1 when they face the Packers, at which point Saquon will be back.)
The Vikings defense is also (unsurprisingly) in the bottom half of the league in targets allowed to wide receivers, but only four teams have faced more targets to tight ends. As noted in this week’s Angles email :: Darren Waller and Austin Hooper combined to go 22-211-0 against the Vikings on 23 targets, while even Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton went 4-29-0 on six targets last week. With Golden Tate back for the Giants this week, their ultra-concentrated target distribution from the first few weeks will begin to loosen up a bit (and as noted previously: Engram’s targets and upside are already baked into his price, while scoring expectations in this game are not high as a whole for the Giants), but there are clear paths for a double-digit target game for Engram in this spot, making him an interesting name to keep in mind.
It will also be interesting to see how the Giants adjust their offense to account for what is essentially a pair of high-end slot receivers with limited downfield skill sets, and one clear and obvious way to play this game as a DFS player is to use this tough matchup as a “wait and see” spot on this offense (collecting information that you can begin using once they get past the Patriots in Week 6). The Vikings have notably allowed a 76.6% completion rate to wide receivers so far this year, but this hides the fact that the Vikings have also shaved 13% off the league-average aDOT and have allowed the lowest YAC-per-reception rate in the league. Even with the high catch rate allowed, Minnesota has the seventh lowest expected yards per target on defense, creating a tough spot for a quarterback in Daniel Jones who is only one for six on passes that have traveled at least 20 yards downfield (and who was 0 for 3 with two interceptions last week on passes traveling 15 yards downfield).
On the Vikings’ side, we know very clearly what to expect at this point (and Kirk Cousins has done nothing through four weeks to make the Vikings think they should do anything different), with this team leaning on the run as long as A) the game stays close, and B) the rush lanes are there — turning to the pass only as a complement.
We’ll look at the pass first ::
Even “as a complement,” there is clear and obvious upside potential against this Giants pass defense that ranks 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt with the third-deepest aDOT allowed in the league. But target counts for the two core/only-relevant pieces on this passing attack have looked like this:
With these numbers in hand (and with Vikings WR FOMO still leading to higher ownership on this team than we should be seeing, and pricing on these guys remaining way too high to justify the production we have seen on them since the middle of last season (with these two wideouts combining for — ready for this? — three total games of 80+ receiving yards in their last 23 games combined)), it’s difficult to call either a +EV play. Anyone who has been chasing Vikings WRs outside of clear funnel spots since the middle of last season has been consistently losing money, so this spot is simply “hoping you guess right on a broken play or a multi-touchdown game” even with the matchup working in the Vikings’ favor.
Because, Dalvin Cook ::
And part of the reason we are not seeing the Vikings shift from this approach is the awesome play of Dalvin Cook. Cook currently ranks first in PFF’s rush grades, first in PFF’s Breakaway %, and seventh in PFF’s Elusive Rating, while the Vikings new-look offensive line has further helped by ranking fourth in adjusted line yards. With touch counts of 23 // 23 // 20 // 20, Cook isn’t quite in the workload range of CMC and Zeke, but his breakaway ability and his matchup against what should be an overmatched Giants defense (16th in run defense DVOA in spite of facing Adrian Peterson, the Tampa backs, and the Bills the last three weeks) keeps him very much in the “top play on the slate” conversation this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
With the exception of Engram, I expect to leave the Giants’ side of the ball alone; and with the exception of Cook, I expect to leave the Vikings’ side of the ball alone.
Engram is an interesting option as he has paths to a solid price-considered score; and the more expensive a player is, the more valuable “a solid price-considered score” becomes. Though given that this is still a matchup against a Vikings team that can limit yardage and points, Engram is more appropriately-priced than underpriced; and the potential for this offense to run into trouble as a whole makes him more of a tourney play than a cash game staple.
As for Cook: I’m going to spend a chunk of the second half of the week trying to sort through the high-priced running backs, as Zeke // CMC // Cook // David Johnson all have really strong cases (while there are a couple less expensive backs who are attractive as well). But regardless of how you feel he compares to those other three, he’s very much in the mix, with one of the highest floor/ceiling combos on the slate.