Sunday, Feb 2nd — Early
Bye Week:
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Week 12 Player Grid

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This Player Grid will hold little value for you without first reading this.

Note: Players in a given tier are not listed in any particular order.

FantasyDraft Players :: I’ve added a FantasyDraft Addendum to the bottom

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This is a strange slate — creating a strange week for the Player Grid. After reading through the research myself, I ended up with six total players in Tier 1: a pair of quarterbacks, one running back, two tight ends, and a defense. Sheesh.

I toyed around with the idea of pulling a few players up through the levels and indicating the guys who were not “true Tier 1 plays” — but ultimately, allowing the Player Grid to tell the true story of the slate feels like a better way to approach things. By understanding the sort of slate this is, you can take steps to build appropriately. (If you missed it, Adam Levitan and I discuss this throughout this week’s Square Table.)

With that, let’s get to one of the more interesting weeks we have seen this season.

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Remember to check out this week’s “Free OWS for Life” contest!

TIER 1

Quarterback

  • Jameis Winston // Lamar Jackson :: These are the two guys hanging out in Tier 1 for me this week. This is my take on the “Jameis or Jackson” debate :: If you remove Lamar Jackson’s longest run on the day last week, he averaged only 3.65 yards per carry — against a run defense that is just as bad as Oakland’s. Most of his runs were directly toward the sidelines, with very little opportunity for upside. Given that the talented offensive brain trust on the Ravens is going to need to add some fresh wrinkles to surprise the Raiders, I’m beginning to believe something like 15 to 20 carries is more reasonable for Jackson this week, which would create an opportunity for him to finish well shy of 100 yards on the ground. If Jackson picks up 60 or 70, this really isn’t such an edge on the 20 to 40 Jameis will likely pick up, and with Jameis likely to throw for 300+, he would appear to gain a small edge in the “Jameis or Jackson” debate. Jackson will likely need to “out-touchdown” his counterpart to come out on top. That’s how I am beginning to view things. There is still a chance Jackson tops 100 rushing yards and/or rushes 25+ times, but I’m viewing Jameis as a 60/40 (or possibly even 65/35) favorite in this spot. Take it as one man’s opinion — but it’s an opinion that I feel is backed up by the evidence.

Running Back

  • Marlon Mack :: Mack could have a case made for Tier 3 placement, as his “yardage and touchdown” role creates opportunity for him to dud without a big day on the ground; but given the matchup against a Miami team that is gifting running lanes and getting gashed for chunk plays each week, I feel very comfortable betting on one of the best run-blocking units in football with an explosive back. The Colts should handle this game fairly easily, which should lock in 20+ touches for Mack this week.
  • Austin Ekeler — If :: If Melvin Gordon misses this game, Ekeler will be an every-down player on a huge home favorite. I would have a ton of interest in him in that scenario. Even though he disappointed somewhat the last time he had this role, that was a much more difficult matchup, and the score he produced was still respectable for the price.

Tight End

  • Zach Ertz :: He has seen nine or more targets in all but two games this year, and he should hit that mark this week — landing somewhere in the range of nine to 12 looks, against a middling tight end defense. His touchdown upside is a bit low against a Giants team that has been great against the pass in the red zone (especially against tight ends), but even if he doesn’t score, he’ll provide a solid floor. And he has multiple paths to upside (i.e., yardage, receptions, scores).
  • George Kittle :: Kittle should see seven to nine targets here, in a game in which the 49ers will almost certainly have to throw at least 30 to 33 times. Kittle provides so much upside every time he touches the ball, and the Tampa defense is so bad against tight ends, it’s hard to not like this play.

DST

  • Chargers :: Josh Rosen takes a lot of sacks. Josh Rosen turns the ball over a lot. The Chargers rack up a solid number of sacks. The Chargers take the ball away a lot. This is a strong spot this week.
  • Colts :: I expect the Colts to be leading this game, and to force the Dolphins to the air — which will open opportunities for Ryan Tannehill mistakes against this speedy, aggressive Colts defense. This feels like a play that will go overlooked, but it stands out to me as one of the safer, higher-upside options on the slate.

TIER 2

Running Back

  • James Conner (Tier 1 on FanDuel) :: Heading into the creation of the Player Grid, I was undervaluing Conner’s role in this offense and the safety it provides. In a matchup against what has actually been a pretty tough Denver run D (this team had a rough game against the Jets and then got gashed in their next game for 208 rushing yards from Todd Gurley, but outside of those two weeks, this unit has been stout), his expectations are a bit lower than we would love at his price. But something like 5-40-0 is a reasonable floor through the air, and 60 yards is a reasonable expectation on the ground. Add in his role close to the goal line and the opportunity for him to add a few more points in the reception and yardage department, and it will be difficult for him to fail. I don’t expect one of his week-winning scores here, but I’m not seeing many of those on the slate, so he becomes pretty valuable for the safety and “upside potential” he provides. I have him right next to Mack on FanDuel, where they are priced about the same. On DraftKings and FantasyDraft, Mack comes at a bigger discount relative to the salary cap.
  • Saquon Barkley (Tier 1 on FanDuel) :: Behind one of the worst run blocking units in the NFL, Saquon is never a lock for more than 40 or 50 yards on the ground, but it’s surprising when he doesn’t go at least 5-55-0 through the air, and he has more room than Conner to climb to eight or nine receptions. I am not expecting a huge game from Saquon, as the Eagles were embarrassed by him last time around and will be emphasizing him at every turn in practice this week; but a typical Saquon output (which is still pretty awesome) is very much on the table. I’m not moving around salary to get him, but I’m certainly happy when I build a roster that features him in one of the running back slots.
  • Christian McCaffrey :: McCaffrey has just about the same floor as Conner and Saquon; but his ceiling is a little bit lower, and his chances of hitting his ceiling are lower as well. I always feel safe with CMC, but if we played out this slate a hundred times, the other two would prove to be slightly more +EV plays.

Wide Receiver

  • Adam Humphries :: His role in this Tampa offense isn’t sexy (aDOT of 6.2), but with Tampa pulling the defense deep and creating space underneath for Humphries to work, he has a YAC per reception rate of 7.2, which ranks 10th in the NFL. Only Mike Evans has seen more targets from Jameis on the year. Humphries is unexciting — but same as last week, he is underpriced on all three sites.
  • Julian Edelman :: A matchup against a Jets team that allows a ton of production to slot receivers is a great way to take some floor for your roster. We don’t typically think of Edelman as an “upside” guy, but he does have touchdown upside, and he has a solid shot at reaching 80 to 90 yards. On a week without a lot of safe plays, the floor on this spot is nice.

TIER 3

Quarterback

  • Cam Newton :: Cam has been back and forth between Tier 1 and Tier 3 for me. I like that he is in a competitive game where a lot will be put on his shoulders. I don’t love that he’ll be playing a solid defense. Ultimately, Cam is slightly below Lamar/Jameis for me, but I would be totally fine swapping either of those two for him..
  • Ben Roethlisberger :: When the Steelers need to pile up points against a tough defense, they often turn to Big Ben for heavy volume to his elite weapons — and more often than not, Ben comes through. This is not the best spot on paper, but I do expect a nice game from the Steelers’ quarterback this week.
  • Andrew Luck :: I do not expect this to be a heavy volume game for the Colts’ quarterback, but Luck has been too good lately to not consider in tourneys. The blowout concerns create floor concerns in this spot, but the ceiling remains in place.

Running Back

  • Sony Michel // James White :: While neither of these guys has a high enough floor at his price to be considered “optimal” from a floor/ceiling perspective, either can be played in tourneys for the multi-touchdown upside.
  • Nick Chubb :: Given the way this week looks, I would have no qualms with adding Chubb to Tier 1, though he offers about the same thing as Mack without standing out quite as much. Ultimately, I would be fine playing either running back this week.
  • Gus Edwards :: Edwards could take 16 carries for 70 yards this week, catch zero passes, and score zero touchdowns. He could also take 22 carries for 120 yards this week, catch one pass, and score a couple touchdowns. Something in the middle is the likeliest outcome, but Edwards will ultimately need a touchdown in order to truly be in play on this slate. This takes him out of Tier 1 — but at his price, he’s a solid bet for the potential he carries.
  • Josh Adams :: We can’t forecast more than 12 to 15 touches for Adams, but he should get into that range, and he has a matchup that should lead to one or two opportunities for touchdowns. There’s a bit of guesswork, and the floor is low, but the upside makes this play interesting.
  • Leonard Fournette :: Since returning from his long layoff, Fournette has touched the ball 29 times on 39 snaps and 30 times on 35 snaps. The Jags want to get the ball into his hands, and that will continue in this spot. The Bills have been a top 10 run defense on a per-play basis, and Fournette’s pass game role will be limited if the Jags take a lead, but 24+ touches is 24+ touches, creating plenty of opportunity for Fournette to hit.

Wide Receiver

  • Josh Gordon :: We prefer to attack the Jets in the slot, but Gordon should continue to be involved enough (with primarily downfield looks) to have an opportunity to hit. The floor is not secure, but the upside is there.
  • Mike Evans :: Not many players have a broader range than Evans — from literally just above zero to literally “highest score on the slate.” A matchup against a team that limits opponent efficiency introduces some risk, but Evans should get eight or more targets (with potential for as many as 12 or 13), and he has serious upside on these looks.
  • Kendrick Bourne :: The only times Kendrick Bourne has played significant snaps, he saw the following usage and production: Week 5 vs ARI — 42 snaps, 29 pass routes, seven targets, 4-33-0 // Week 8 at ARI — 54 snaps, 30 pass routes, 10 targets, 7-71-0 // Week 10, 69 snaps, 42 pass routes, six targets, 4-33-0. The range here is a bit broad, but with Pierre Garcon sidelined again, Bourne will play heavy snaps. Against a team that allows the highest catch rate in football, an expected six to eight targets has value, and Bourne failed to connect with Mullens last week on a couple seam routes that are winners against this Tampa zone defense. He also has three touchdowns on the year, with a respectable seven red zone targets on his limited work. If he pieces together one of his higher-yardage games and adds a touchdown, he could carry some serious price-considered value
  • Tyler Boyd :: If Green comes back this week, Boyd will have less attention on him and will have a nice shot at hitting — especially as Denzel Ward will likely spend most of the day on Green, sending a few extra targets Boyd’s way. If Green misses, Boyd will be locked into eight to 11 targets, and he will still be avoiding Ward, as he runs over 80% of his routes in the slot. Either way, it’s a nice setup for him to bounce back to the heights where he was earlier in the year. He has had a few unpredictable duds this year, pushing him down to Tier 3, but this shapes up as a nice week for him to get back on track.
  • Odell Beckham :: I expect Beckham to post a solid game here, and he has upside for a top-of-the-slate performance; but since I expect the Eagles to sell out to stop him (and since this game is on the road, against a tough pass rush, with Eli Manning at quarterback), there is some risk that Beckham posts a disappointing score for how expensively he is priced. Because his price-considered floor has to be taken into account, he’s listed in Tier 3. But I think he’ll be solid this week. I’m not making him a priority, but there is at least some chance he ends up on my Main Build, and he’s obviously a solid tourney piece.

Tight End

  • All the rest :: Jeff Heuerman, Chris Herndon, and Cameron Brate should all be fine salary-savers, and any of them could become more than just a “fine salary-saver” with a touchdown // Vance McDonald has huge YAC upside, but the looks in this offense are inconsistent, giving him a lower floor to go with his ceiling.

DST

  • All the rest :: Most people would prefer to put the Ravens in Tier 1, and I’m okay with that; they boast an aggressive defense and have a tremendous matchup against a tanking team // The Bills and Jags will both have opportunities to capitalize on mistakes from the other, bringing both defenses into play // the Eagles boast a strong pass rush against a quarterback in Eli Manning who has been constantly overwhelmed by pressure this year

 

Hopefully this gives you a great opportunity to compare your thoughts against my own.

I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend; and I’ll see you on the site next Thursday morning for the Week 13 edition of the NFL Edge!

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FantasyDraft Players:

If playing the Full-Sunday slate on FantasyDraft:

Adam Thielen would become a legitimate Tier 1 play for me at wide receiver, given the expectation that he will still see 10+ targets even if the Vikings tilt toward the run in this matchup, and given that these targets will primarily come in the area of the field where the Packers’ defense is most vulnerable. He has a high floor and a high ceiling this week.

Stefon Diggs would become a Tier 3 play — with as much upside as any player on the slate, but with the low floor that comes with his unique role (which calls for a lot of potentially low-floor targets at the line of scrimmage and a lot of sideline routes that can lead to a low catch rate at times), but with a ceiling that is genuinely as high as any player on the slate (see: Diggs’ games against Green Bay // New Orleans // Chicago).

Davante Adams is stuck with yet another difficult draw, but as we know by now: Aaron Rodgers is feeding him the ball no matter who is covering him — and these two are able to make such incredible connections in tight windows, Adams’ floor remains as solid as any receiver out there. I don’t expect a blowup game from him, so at his price, I’ll slide him into Tier 2. He’s safe — but he has only a slim shot at popping off for a big point-per-dollar ceiling.

Finally, I’ll put Dalvin Cook in Tier 3, but there is an iffy Tier 1 case to be made. If the Vikings give Cook 20+ touches, he should boast a high floor and a high ceiling. He’s playing enough snaps to clear 20 touches no problem (with a legitimate shot at 24+), and the Packers invite teams to run on them; but the Vikings’ offensive line has been so poor this year, they have continued to attack through the air even in matchups like this, creating concern that Cook could land on far fewer touches than his Week 11 snap share would otherwise suggest.

Everyone else in this game would be out of play for me, given the matchups, the expected usage, and the other available plays on the slate (for matchups and expected usage, of course, see the NFL Edge). But there are at least a few other guys who could hit for upside, if you decide to dig around.