Larejo is a mid-stakes tournament mastermind who specializes in outmaneuvering 150-max players with a small number of entries
When I was writing the Missed Opportunities article earlier this week, I spent more time than usual trying to dig into how and why I could have identified guys like Julio Jones and Courtland Sutton, before their big games in Week 2. One player (Julio) was combatting a ‘washed’ narrative and was priced right next to Cooper Kupp and Mike Evans, while another in Sutton was coming off a three target game in Week 1, and we believed he was still recovering from his 2020 season-ending ACL tear. I realized my current mindset would have led me to rarely (if ever) click on either name. But why? As much as I preach it sometimes in this space, they were both incredibly uncomfortable plays. Why play Julio when his teammates were likelier to hit? Why play Sutton when it’s possible he could get another three target game? The answers in hindsight were simple. And I think they tell a great tale moving forward.
In order for my research to have pointed me to Julio, I would have seen his Week 1 snap count as stable (78% in Week 1), which tells us his role was secure, and I would have recognized him simply as a leverage play off his teammate A.J. Brown. The biggest reason to have played Julio last week was the narrative surrounding him on a new team. He did not have a good game in Week 1, which may have suggested to people that he’s in a declining phase in his career.
In order for my research to have pointed me to Sutton, I would have noted Jerry Jeudy getting hurt, the Broncos soft matchup with Jacksonville, and also his Week 1 snap count (80%). In hindsight, regardless of his price, we could have said it’s within the range of outcomes for Sutton to dominate as the Broncos WR1 in the absence of Jeudy (especially considering what Brandin Cooks did to this same defense in Week 1). But that’s about it. None of the reasons I just provided are advanced metrics. And they are not really logical reasons to click on Julio and Sutton, instead of similarly priced guys who were carrying better ownership.
I am tasked here with writing the Willing to Lose to try to identify these low-owned plays who give you plenty of risk but could carry your rosters to the top of the leaderboards. As I do this, I dive into advanced stats often, which can indicate a positive regression coming. Said another way, I give you (or try to) logical reasoning behind why a player will break out this week. See the irony? We all nod our heads in agreement that we need uncomfortable, illogical picks to really carry our lineups toward first place. And then we consume content or do research on our own looking for those plays, and we do find real data to provide sound reasoning pointing to a signal in the noise. That was a long intro but as you will see, I will go lighter on the logic behind these low-owned players, while trying to major on the macro environments they are entering into come Sunday.
Note: Kenny Golladay is questionable. Keep an eye on his status this week.
The Giants have an implied total this week of 25 points, and they are three point favorites at home against the Atlanta Falcons. 25+ points is a lot of points for the Giants. Through two weeks, Sterling Shepard has been WR1 in New York. Shepard has played 93% of the snaps, and turned 19 targets into 16 catches for over 200 yards. Golladay, on the other hand, has held an 84% snap share and has turned 14 targets into seven catches for just over 100 yards. While Shepard has led the Giants in receiving yardage, he’s actually third (178) in Air Yards behind Golladay (213) and Darius Slayton (195). Golladay’s role is secure.
This Falcons and Giants game is starting to pick up momentum in the industry as an under-owned pace up game for fantasy points. And I have to say, I love it too. The G-Men offense looked much improved last week against Washington’s notable defense, by going with the highest no-huddle rate of any team in Week 2 (52%). We should expect them to continue to utilize this on Sunday. Atlanta, on the other hand, went with the highest situation-neutral pass rate of Week 2, which seems to be a trend against the Buccaneers. Expect passes often in this one, and I expect Golladay to go under-owned and to over-deliver.
I started to dig into where Taylor blow-up games have come from and found out all three of his 100+ yard games in 2020 came when the Colts were favored to win, with his 250-yard outburst in Week 17 coming against the Jaguars, who were playing for the number one draft pick. Interpretation: this is not the game to lean on Taylor based on his short career indicators. But, what if it is? First, Nyheim Hines has been getting too popular for my liking lately. I’m a bit salty because I too played him last week as Marlon Mack was getting carries in the fourth quarter. You’ll read many times this week about how great Hines was in 2020 in his two matchups with Tennessee (35 touches, 210 yards, two TDs). And with his big contract, the Colts clearly want a role for him. And who is the Colts best player on offense? Jonathan Taylor. Whether Carson Wentz plays or it’s Jacob Eason, I suspect the Colts would like to lean on the run in this way to take pressure off their QB. So although they are five-point underdogs (opened at six), they will try to dominate the game script and slow this one down, in my opinion. Taylor is the best player on an offense where sharp bettors are placing money (moving the spread closer), with an all-too-popular backup, and a QB situation they’d like to hide. We can also pair him with Derrick Henry to differentiate from the normal way the Henry crowd will play the King.
With Lamar Jackson’s big game on Sunday Night Football, and his cakewalk matchup upcoming with the Detroit Lions, he is sure to garner some ownership. Mark Andrews will most likely be the stacking partner for him. I am also confident in ‘naked’ Lamar picking up some steam. But, what about Sammy Watkins? Number one, he’s healthy. Surprisingly, he’s played the most snaps of any Baltimore pass-catcher through two weeks (87.5%). Marquise Brown is hurt, again, and in danger of missing Sunday’s matchup. The aforementioned Lions defense is on tap, which cannot stop a nosebleed. The Ravens are simply running out of options. Watkins still has the ceiling he always has, and he’s the most reliable option the Ravens have outside of Andrews. Watkins has some Julio-esque vibes for me this week. We haven’t seen his ceiling games in a long time, but if he has the opportunity to do it again, this week may be his time.
Speaking of teams running out of offensive options, how about the Cleveland Browns? Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to play a game this season and his status is still up in the air for Sunday. Jarvis Landry just landed on IR. They were always planning to be without Odell to start the season, but losing Landry is sure to disrupt their offensive playbook. He’s a low aDOT, high target rate option for Baker Mayfield, and with the lack of other receiving options, it makes sense for the Browns to go even heavier than their 40+% season rate for having two tight ends on the field. Enter Hooper. He sports a similar-to-Landry aDOT of 4.1 (Landry 2.7). He leads this TE room in snap share (67% through two weeks), and even though his coaches talked him up in August, he has not seen his role expanded yet this season. The icing on the cake for me, though, is with his teammate David Njoku. He is picking up discussion this week as the Browns have given him more opportunity this season. He will be first (or second) along with Donovan Peoples-Jones, who many will turn to if the Browns enter Sunday without Landry and Beckham Jr.