2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 7 Tiers

By:

It was a year ago today I started doing my Tiers piece in order to offer some free content mid-week that could help everyone make smarter lineup decisions. I have started to tailor my articles to focus on my overall thought process, showing how I create my projections.

In the long run, explaining how/why I arrive at decisions is going to be more beneficial to you than answering one-off questions such as, “Do I start Jermaine Kearse or Robby Anderson this week?” or, “Is D’Onta Foreman droppable right now?” I will use this platform to do a much deeper dive into my process and shed some light on it, rather than telling you Tom Brady is good at football or that players facing the Saints or Patriots get a boost. Just know that ALL factors are taken into account in the projections that will be reflected in the rankings below.

One last thing to point out is that the projections evolve and increase in accuracy throughout the week as I spend more time digging deeper into data, news, etc. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that these articles are where my projections are at on Tuesday night. There are five whole days after that during which I fine tune everything, so some players may jump up/down considerably in the rankings. I will attempt to be a bit more transparent on how/why that is for certain cases with tweets later in the week that summarize big movements.

Last week I touched on how volume is often overlooked when it comes to short-term value in RBs, and how talent alone is typically over-valued. The examples I used were Adrian Peterson and Marlon Mack, who were ranked 38 and 41 last week by experts on FantasyPros, respectively. I had them much further apart at 32 and 42, due to a big difference in expected volume. Sure enough, Marlon Mack busted for a 22-yard run on his very first attempt and then finished the game with two rushes for 18 yards and zero receptions.

Highlight-reel plays don’t always translate into a ton of points that can help you win. On the flip side, AP carried the rock 26 times for 134 yards and two TDs. He clearly blew away even my expectations, but there is a lesson to be had here. The more times a RB touches the ball, the more likely they are to add yardage stats that can actually help you win. Red zone touches increase a player’s TD chances, no matter what their SPARQ score was when they were drafted. This might all sound pretty silly and obvious, but I really feel like it’s overlooked, based on the questions I get.

Where do we go from here now with AP? Again, I would like to emphasize that spending three paragraphs breaking down AP isn’t worth the time. It’s important, though, to discuss the process of how I will handle a situation like his.

First off, I’m already getting tweets asking if I like AP even more now; whether or not he’s a RB1 all of a sudden; or if he still sucks and this was all a fluke. Before I can even justify saying something like, “Yes, he’s a no-brainer RB1 now,” or, “No, it was all just a fluke and he’s still a low-end RB4,” I first have to update my priors on him in order to create a Week 7 projection. Once I do that and project all other players, I will have a better sense on where I have him ranked going forward.

Each week, I go into it with a projection for every single player/stat, even if it’s projecting a fullback for 0.2 carries for 1 yard. After all of the games are played I can then see exactly where I went wrong and where I went right. Not only does this help update my beliefs on certain players who I might have missed on, but I also have to carefully figure out why I missed on those players. There is a lot of volatility in week-to-week predictions vs. actual outcomes in football. That’s just how it is, so you have to embrace that. I have to be extremely careful not to over- or under-react, walking the fine line between acknowledging my own error vs. blaming random chance. The fantastic book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction is very informative and really does hit on a lot of the practices I seem to have built into my projection system. One of the topics it addresses is finding the right balance between under- and over-rating of evidence through belief updating. In other words, the act of updating projections for Week 7, based on new information we learned from Week 6.

“Belief updating is to good forecasting as brushing and flossing are to good dental hygiene. It can be boring, occasionally uncomfortable, but it pays off in the long term. That said, don’t supposed that belief updating is always easy because it sometimes is. Skillful updating requires teasing subtle signals from noisy news flows, all the while resisting the lure of wishful thinking.

Savvy forecasters learn to ferret out telltale clues before the rest of us. They snoop for nonobvious lead indicators, about what would have to happen before X could.”

I majored in psychology and statistics in college. My background is a blend of being able to spot trends in data while also making sense of it. I enjoy going a bit deeper and really finding the indicators that could lead to new data trends in the future – hence projections! Keep in mind, I do not just have some algorithmic model that does everything for me, nor am I a robot. I have my own opinions, beliefs, sense of humor and complaints, of which you’ll note from my tweets during a daily fantasy slate. While I do channel my own personal expertise in tweaking my projections, I am extremely careful to not hold any sort of bias – to the best of my ability –  that could seep into the projections and make them less accurate.

*Deep breath*

Ok, now that my mini-novel of an introduction is out of the way: let’s look at Adrian Peterson’s Week 6 as a case study! I had mentioned that Andre Ellington’s usage was potentially going to see a decent hit in Week 6. My reasoning was that the Cardinals were using dump-offs to him as their proxy of a run game. This, in turn, gave Carson Palmer a huge boost in passing yards as well. With AP, however, they have a more traditional running back who can handle a 15-20 carry workload. There are a finite number of snaps a team can run each way, so even a subtle shift in their game plan could have a big fantasy impact. This is my version of “snooping for non-obvious lead indicators” from my years of doing this at a high level.

It turns out I was right, but to a much greater degree than I was willing to predict. We saw AP play 73 percent of the snaps to Ellington’s 20 percent. In turn, Ellington didn’t gain a single yard and saw one target. We can certainly take away from this single game that Ellington’s value took a massive blow due to AP’s presence. On the flip side, AP went off. It’s also safe to say his stock is way up after Week 6.

Before we move on to Week 7 and potentially overvalue the Week 6 results, though, we need to play Devil’s Advocate a bit. Could it be that this particular game’s flow led to unique results? As a matter of fact, I think it did. The Cardinals ended up winning 38-33, but the game was nowhere near this close. They were up 24-0 at halftime, and Jameis Winston had to leave the game due to injury. In the second half there was no real need to force the issue downfield, so they kept feeding AP in order to help run the clock out. Given this, we have to attribute some of this result to game flow, and thus these two backs will likely have their usage altered a bit based on that going forward.

Looking to Week 7, I would be willing to bet my mortgage that Ellington will have at least one reception and that Peterson will not match his Week 6 stats. In finding that right balance, I currently have AP projected for 17.5 carries, 71 yards and about a 46 percent chance of scoring a TD. In Ellington’s case, I have him set at 3.8 catches for 32 yards and a 9 percent chance of a TD. This makes AP a solid RB2 and Ellington a low-end PPR Flex.

Thanks for reading that lengthy intro. It’s now time for the actual Tiers! And don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parentheses next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. Without further ado, here are the Week 7 tiers.

Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota is a prime example of someone whose projection/rank could go up or down quite a bit this week depending on reports concerning his hamstring. We saw Monday night that he can’t supply his usual rushing stats with the injury. If managed correctly, he should be able to have a bit more mobility as the year goes on, something I will monitor closely when updating his outlook.

Pro tip: If you check out his player page on FantasyPros you can see my exact updated rank on him later in the week (as with everyone else).

Yes, Brett Hundley really is in Tier 6. The combination of his dual-threat capabilities and great matchup gives him a fairly high ceiling, which makes him a great daily fantasy tournament play. However, his basement-low floor means he is less enticing in a traditional H2H league, since you only need to beat one person in your league each week (not necessarily put up the highest score of the week in your league – huge difference). Even if he puts up sneaky QB2 numbers most weeks, having him under center instead of Aaron Rodgers is still a significant downgrade to the entire Packers offense.

Tier 1

Tom Brady (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Drew Brees (@ GB)
Russell Wilson (@ NYG)
Carson Wentz (vs WAS)
Matt Ryan (@ NE)
Dak Prescott (@ SF)
Kirk Cousins (@ PHI)

Tier 3

Cam Newton (@ CHI)
Alex Smith (@ OAK)

Tier 4

Marcus Mariota (@ CLE)

Tier 5

Tyrod Taylor (vs TB)
Jameis Winston (@ BUF)
Carson Palmer (@ LAR)
Jared Goff (vs ARI)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs CIN)
Philip Rivers (vs DEN)

Tier 6

Brett Hundley (vs NO)
Case Keenum (vs BAL)
Kevin Hogan (vs TEN)
Blake Bortles (@ IND)

Tier 7

Andy Dalton (@ PIT)
Derek Carr (vs KC)
Trevor Siemian (@ LAC)
C.J. Beathard (vs DAL)
Jay Cutler (vs NYJ)
Jacoby Brissett (vs JAX)
Josh McCown (@ MIA)
Mitchell Trubisky (vs CAR)

Tier 8

Eli Manning (vs SEA)
Joe Flacco (@ MIN)

Running Backs

Aaron Jones was a player last week that fell 10+ spots in my rankings come Sunday. You have to keep in mind that, for someone in a situation like his, we can’t simply rank him on talent alone or what he did the previous week. The availability of Ty Montgomery has a significant impact on his outlook, no matter if you think GB should just use Jones as a workhorse back. I’m in the business of trying to figure out what the Packers will do in the upcoming week (aka “understanding McCarthyism”), not what I think they should do.

Once they had announced Montgomery was wearing a flak jacket and would have no limitations or some specific snap count, I made them a 56/44 rush attempt percentage RBBC, making both very weak fantasy options for Week 6. That turned out to be exactly what happened, and I would imagine Montgomery’s increased health this week means that split will be even closer to even this week. That’s just one example of a player(s) whose rank on Tuesday night could swing quite a bit with five whole days of news/updates.

Tier 1

Kareem Hunt (@ OAK)
Le’Veon Bell (vs CIN)

Tier 2

Ezekiel Elliott (@ SF)
Leonard Fournette (@ IND)

Tier 3

Todd Gurley (vs ARI)

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon (vs DEN)
LeSean McCoy (vs TB)
Jay Ajayi (vs NYJ)
Devonta Freeman (@ NE)
Mark Ingram (@ GB)

Tier 5

Jordan Howard (vs CAR)
Carlos Hyde (vs DAL)
Jerick McKinnon (vs BAL)
Adrian Peterson (-2, @ LAR)
C.J. Anderson (@ LAC)

Tier 6

DeMarco Murray (@ CLE)

Tier 7

Doug Martin (@ BUF)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, @ CHI)
Chris Thompson (+1, @ PHI)
Alvin Kamara (+1, @ GB)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs KC)
Tevin Coleman (@ NE)
Joe Mixon (@ PIT)
Derrick Henry (-1, @ CLE)
Javorius Allen (+1, @ MIN)
Isaiah Crowell (vs TEN)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, vs WAS)
Aaron Jones (vs NO)

Tier 8

Frank Gore (vs JAX)
Jonathan Stewart (@ CHI)
Mike Gillislee (-1, vs ATL)
Orleans Darkwa (vs SEA)
Ty Montgomery (vs NO)
Alex Collins (@ MIN)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+1, vs TEN)
Marlon Mack (vs JAX)

Tier 9

Latavius Murray (vs BAL)
Tarik Cohen (+2, vs CAR)
James White (+2, vs ATL)
Chris Ivory (+1, @ IND)
Matt Forte (@ MIA)

Wide Receivers

The availability of Stefon Diggs and DeVante Parker greatly influences the outlooks of their teammates in the passing game, and to a certain extent can impact their QBs’ outlook. If Diggs is ruled out again, expect Thielen to jump up to the top of Teir 4 or higher. If Parker is ruled out again, nearly the same can be said for Jarvis Landry. I also mentioned on ESPN Radio last Friday that Kenny Stills was a sneaky WR3 play with Parker out. That would apply to Week 7 as well.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (vs CIN)

Tier 2

A.J. Green (@ PIT)
Julio Jones (@ NE)

Tier 3

Michael Thomas (@ GB)
Dez Bryant (@ SF)
Mike Evans (@ BUF)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ LAR)
Chris Hogan (vs ATL)
Brandin Cooks (vs ATL)

Tier 4

Demaryius Thomas (@ LAC)
Michael Crabtree (vs KC)
Doug Baldwin (@ NYG)
Tyreek Hill (@ OAK)
Alshon Jeffery (vs WAS)
Adam Thielen (vs BAL)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ CHI)
Jarvis Landry (+1, vs NYJ)
Jordy Nelson (vs NO)
Keenan Allen (vs DEN)
Pierre Garcon (vs DAL)
Rishard Matthews (@ CLE)
T.Y. Hilton (vs JAX)
Stefon Diggs (vs BAL)
Devin Funchess (@ CHI)

Tier 5

DeVante Parker (vs NYJ)
Amari Cooper (vs KC)
Marqise Lee (@ IND)
Nelson Agholor (vs WAS)
John Brown (@ LAR)
Danny Amendola (vs ATL)
Robby Anderson (@ MIA)
DeSean Jackson (@ BUF)
Davante Adams (vs NO)
Ted Ginn Jr. (@ GB)
Terrelle Pryor Sr. (@ PHI)
Eric Decker (@ CLE)
Cooper Kupp (vs ARI)
Sammy Watkins (vs ARI)
Jermaine Kearse (@ MIA)
Robert Woods (vs ARI)
Allen Hurns (@ IND)

Tier 6

Martavis Bryant (vs CIN)
Roger Lewis (vs SEA)
Mohamed Sanu (@ NE)
Ricardo Louis (vs TEN)
Jeremy Maclin (@ MIN)
Kenny Stills (vs NYJ)
Bennie Fowler (@ LAC)
Paul Richardson (@ NYG)
Tyler Lockett (@ NYG)
Taylor Gabriel (@ NE)
Randall Cobb (vs NO)
Juju Smith-Schuster (vs CIN)
Willie Snead (@ GB)
Tyrell Williams (vs DEN)
Kendall Wright (vs CAR)

Tight Ends

Austin Hooper would jump up to Tier 4 if Sanu were to miss another game. It’s important to know when a WR who typically covers the middle of the field is out because it can give the TE a decent boost. To no surprise, Hooper racked up seven receptions on nine targets in Week 6. Even if Sanu plays, the matchup warrants a look for Hooper as a streaming TE play.

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (vs WAS)
Travis Kelce (@ OAK)

Tier 3

Evan Engram (vs SEA)
Delanie Walker (@ CLE)

Tier 4

Jimmy Graham (@ NYG)
Jason Witten (@ SF)
Jordan Reed (@ PHI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ MIA)
Hunter Henry (vs DEN)
Kyle Rudolph (vs BAL)
Cameron Brate (@ BUF)

Tier 5

Austin Hooper (@ NE)
Jared Cook (vs KC)
George Kittle (vs DAL)
Ed Dickson (@ CHI)
Martellus Bennett (vs NO)
Zach Miller (vs CAR)
Jack Doyle (vs JAX)
Tyler Kroft (@ PIT)
Benjamin Watson (@ MIN)

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Dan Bailey (@ SF)
Matt Bryant (@ NE)
Harrison Butker (@ OAK)
Jake Elliott (vs WAS)
Wil Lutz (@ GB)
Greg Zuerlein (vs ARI)
Josh Lambo (@ IND)

Tier 3

Ryan Succop (@ CLE)
Kai Forbath (vs BAL)
Nick Novak (vs DEN)
Adam Vinatieri (vs JAX)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs KC)
Blair Walsh (@ NYG)
Justin Tucker (@ MIN)
Nick Rose (@ PHI)
Brandon McManus (@ LAC)
Phil Dawson (@ LAR)
Graham Gano (@ CHI)
Robbie Gould (vs DAL)
Stephen Hauschka (vs TB)

Tier 4

Mason Crosby (vs NO)
Cody Parkey (vs NYJ)
Chris Boswell (vs CIN)
Zane Gonzalez (vs TEN)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ MIA)
Connor Barth (vs CAR)
Randy Bullock (@ PIT)
Patrick Murray (@ BUF)
Aldrick Rosas (vs SEA)

Defense/Special Teams

Tier 1

Jacksonville Jaguars (@ IND)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs CIN)
Minnesota Vikings (vs BAL)
Tennessee Titans (@ CLE)

Tier 2

Dallas Cowboys (@ SF)
Buffalo Bills (vs TB)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs DEN)
Miami Dolphins (vs NYJ)
New Orleans Saints (@ GB)
Carolina Panthers (@ CHI)
Seattle Seahawks (@ NYG)
Los Angeles Rams (vs ARI)
Denver Broncos (@ LAC)

Tier 3

Cincinnati Bengals (@ PIT)
Chicago Bears (vs CAR)
New York Jets (@ MIA)
New York Giants (vs SEA)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ OAK)
Indianapolis Colts (vs JAX)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ BUF)

Tier 4

Philadelphia Eagles (vs WAS)
Baltimore Ravens (@ MIN)
New England Patriots (vs ATL)
Washington Redskins (@ PHI)
Arizona Cardinals (@ LAR)
Cleveland Browns (vs TEN)
San Francisco 49ers (vs DAL)
Oakland Raiders (vs KC)
Green Bay Packers (vs NO)
Atlanta Falcons (@ NE)

Valencia in Transition

By:

Using STATS Playing Styles and Advanced Metrics to Show How Marcelino’s Valencia are Employing an Effective Counter Attack to Return to Spanish Relevance

Marcelino couldn’t contain his excitement and pulled up short with a hamstring problem after Simone Zaza scored a late winner against Real Sociedad in late September. The injury was of little concern to his club for at least a triad of reasons.

  1. Marcelino, 52, is Valencia’s manager, and no part of a professional football match has hinged on the performance of his legs since 1994.
  2. It was overshadowed by the fact that it gave Valencia yet another result to sway detractors amassed over the past two seasons back in their favour.
  3. This was hardly an exceptional occurrence. Marcelino, as a manager, once injured himself taking a seat for a presser.

It’s unsurprising to see Marcelino competing for the celebratory spotlight with his players in his first season with the club, though he’s said he recognises the need to tone down his touchline merriment. Given the past two campaigns, it’s of greater note that Valencia have had so many such opportunities through their first eight matches with the excitable man in their coach’s box.

Using STATS advanced metrics, we can show his players might need to reciprocate and go crazy for their new manager once in a while, even if he’s being particularly unpredictable when determining whether he’ll include each of them in his starting XI. Eight different lineups in as many fixtures might seem as erratic as the manager’s touchline fervor, but there appears to be something of a method behind it. We’ll get back to that in great detail on team and individual levels.

First, a bit on why Valencia’s strong start matters.

It wasn’t as long ago as it may seem that clubs outside of Madrid and Barcelona won the Spanish top flight. The last were Valencia in 2003-04 and ’01-02, and before that Deportivo La Coruña in 1999-2000. Modest success hasn’t eluded Valencia since. European football had been an expected part of the gig at Mestalla until recently. But there’s no arguing the past two campaigns in which supporters have endured successive 12th-place finishes – their first in the bottom half since 1987-88.

Los Che now find themselves second in the table as one of three unbeatens in what’s arguably Europe’s top league. The other two – Barcelona and Atlético Madrid – have reached at least the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the past four years.

So how do Valencia find themselves back up in the early-season mix for direct Champions League qualification? It’s not for a lack of competition. Quite the opposite, in fact, and it could be argued Valencia’s early-season fixtures have been as demanding as any Spanish club. Four of their eight league matches have come against clubs playing European football. That injury-inducing match came away to Sociedad a week before the same 3-2 scoreline played out in less-exciting fashion at home against Athletic Bilbao, Sociedad’s Europa League contemporary. But those victories bury the lede of quality draws in Marcelino’s second and third matches with the club.

Valencia left the Bernabau with a 2-2 result against the reigning European and Spanish champions after holding a lead into the 83rd minute, then followed the first international break with a scoreless home draw with Atlético.

Most recently was Los Che’s chaotic 6-3 win Sunday at Real Betis, who remain in the top half of the table.

So what’s changed from a season ago? A bit of everything. The manager, of course. Players. Players’ efficiency. Method – and that’s where we’ll begin by calling upon STATS Playing Styles before going more granular with advanced individual metrics.

Last season, Valencia went through four different managerial periods and three different bosses – Pako Ayestarán until Sept. 20, club ambassador and longtime centre back Voro González for the next eight days, Cesare Prandelli from Sept. 28-Dec. 30, and the ever-present stopgap Voro again until the end of the season. In terms of style, that unsurprisingly amounted to very little differentiating from La Liga averages:

Valencia’s 2016-17 playing styles measured against La Liga averages (0%).

They played more of a fast-tempo game than much of the league, but they didn’t sustain threat when doing so and were rather blasé in all other areas. What followed was a minus-9 goal difference for their worst mark since ’07-08 (-14) when Los Che finished 10th.

Through eight matches this term, there’s still not some overhaul of telling possession-based attacking styles that typically signify a dominant club – they rank 16th in possession at 45.3 percent, which is lower than last season (48.3 percent). It’s unsurprisingly a drastic departure from other top teams in the table. Barcelona are first (61.2 percent) and Real Madrid are second (60.6). But there is order to how Valencia score goals. It’s frequently about transition:

Valencia’s 2017-18 playing styles through eight La Liga matches measured against league averages (0%).

That plus-55 percent counter attacking style against the league average leads La Liga – yes, ahead of even counter masters Real Madrid (+37 in second). Among the top-five European leagues, only Benevento in Italy are countering at a higher percentage against their league average. Anyone familiar with the Italian table then jumps to a logical question: Why are Valencia succeeding and Benevento the clear-cut worst side in Serie A with eight losses and a minus-17 goal difference?

The answer is probably that counters ending with a striker tripping over the ball don’t mean much. The Serie A newcomers have had 59 possessions with a counter attacking value of at least 50 percent, and it’s amounted to two goals. And they spend far more time defending, as is evident by their overall style, so they’re not exactly creating chances in other tactically sound ways:

Benevento’s 2017-18 playing styles through eight Serie A matches measured against league averages (0%).

Valencia, meanwhile, are effective in their counter – more effective even than Real Madrid. Among Los Blancos 48 possessions on which their counter attacking style is of a value of at least 50 percent, they’ve scored once. Valencia have 53 such possessions and four goals after scoring eight goals off the counter all of last season.

All of this must originate somewhere, and that’s where counter attack regains come in. Last season, Valencia were 13th in La Liga in regains to begin a counter attack (154). That trailed leaders Real Madrid by 70, so nearly two per match. Their counter attack distance covered (8,705 metres) – made up of the total of counter attack distance carried and counter attack distance passed – ranked 14th. This season, they’re first in regains (53) and distance (3,171 metres) – more than a third of the way to reaching last season’s marks.

There are more reasons transition works for one club and doesn’t for another. To measure the efficacy of the correlating defensive and midfield play, we’ve got to get beyond simple sums. We showed last week how Kevin De Bruyne has been one of Europe’s most dominant offensive players, despite having a comparatively limited direct involvement with goals and assists. We did this with STATS’ ball movement points. BMP is a metric that considers every involvement a player has in a possession to credit or discredit decisions with the ball and reward creativity. It’s what football minds could always see but never quantify. It goes beyond expected assists by looking at the full chain of passes and weighs the probability of that pass leading to a shot later in the play. Passing points generate expected shot points, so if a player generates one BMP, he’s generated passes to lead to – or defend – one shot.

Yeah, that’s ambitious. So how is this done? The process is measured and assigned objective value using machine learning and massive amounts of historical league data to express the level of threat or wastefulness that can be attributed to a player. It’s broken down into categories of offensive and defensive as well as positive and negative with net values telling the more conclusive story.

There’s dBMP+, which measures how many created chances a defender prevents – breaking up attacks in important situations. There’s dBMP-, which measures liabilities in possession – giving the ball away in dangerous areas. Combine that for net dBMP. While Benevento sit in the bottom half of Italy with a 0.13 dBMP rating, Valencia (0.27) lead Spain. So we’d previously established with playing styles that Benevento are spending a lot of time defending, and dBMP helps us show that they’re not making great decisions with the ball when doing so. Valencia might not be the most attack-minded club in Spain, but they’re at least effective in their own half. That might not matter quite as much for ball-dominant clubs such as Barcelona. It absolutely does for sides that have to pick their attacking moments judiciously.

So on the pitch, who specifically is to reward for executing the system Marcelino seems to be implementing?

We’ll start with the sexy goal-scoring numbers from a striker mired in that special brand of Italian sorrow this time last year for his happenings with club and country.

Zaza scored six goals in 20 matches in his time with Valencia last season and has passed that already this season with seven and three winners. With six goals in his last four matches, he seems a healthy distance from his Euro 2016 penalty miss for Italy and his disappointing spell with West Ham United. The numbers back that up with the 26-year-old ranking in the top five in Europe’s top-five leagues in finishing with an expected goal differential of plus-3.5 among a pretty elite group a season after posting a minus-1.9 xGD. Notice than in Spain, he jumped this past weekend ahead of even a guy named Messi:

As we noted before with ball movement points, midfield play has a lot to do with Valencia’s success, and that’s true on an individual level as well. Bringing in on-loan Geoffrey Kondogbia from Inter Milan as a central presence might have displaced 20-year-old Carlos Soler some after the latter became a mainstay in the middle last season, but it seems to be working out for Marcelino. Kondogbia, who’s attracting attention from top Premier League clubs, ranks second among all midfielders in Europe’s top-five leagues in dBMP, and he’s one of three to really distinguish himself from the pack:

Valencia don’t quite make the same use of the corresponding playmaker guiding a dangerous attack at the other end. Their top-ranked player in oBMP among the top-five leagues is Dani Parejo tied for 29th, but when filtering that down to only La Liga, it’s good enough for fifth among a star-studded top 10. It’s rather impressive when considering the opportunities and surrounding creatives much of the rest of this list has to work off of:

(Graphics by Stephan van Niekerk)

Bored yet? OK, let’s talk goals again. We can’t forget about Rodrigo, who scored five goals in 19 La Liga matches last season and was an objectively mediocre finisher with a -0.6 xGD. He was with Spain as they wrapped up qualifying last week for reasons that go beyond David Villa nearing 36 years old. Rodrigo has scored in five straight matches for the club and also got one in his start against Albania on Oct. 6. Although none for Valencia have been match-winners, he has compiled early-season efficiency (+1.6 xGD) to show he’s not exactly feasting on scraps.

Finally, goalkeeping. Neto, who spent the past few seasons behind Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus, has a +2.1 expected save differential, which is calculated by subtracting expected saves from saves to show how a keeper is performing against league averages. That mark ranks sixth in the division and, you guessed it, is better than his former mentor Gigi (+0.7). It’s not quite the level of Pau López (+6.2), Jan Oblak (+6.0) and Guaita (+5.3), but the Valencia keeper is still going above and beyond from time to time. It’s also important here to consider that Valencia aren’t leaning on him to continually bail them out in an unsustainable way.

So Valencia have a manager pushing for some consistency in style, and he has players making it happen at various levels that we’re now equipped to properly measure. That’s what it takes to earn 18 points in Spain through eight matches, three of which have been draws and another three being one-goal victories. But this is La Liga, home to the two most dominant clubs in the world in recent years. Recall Real Madrid’s Spanish-record unbeaten run of 40 in all competitions ending in January. Barcelona notched 39 in 2015-16. Is it right for a club that’s won domestic titles of its own to make much of this just yet?

Given the circumstances of the past two seasons, it somehow feels right for Marcelino to stick with those celebrations.

STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 6

By:

As always, please be aware that I’m not intending to touch on every player, but rather a few unique or pivotal opinions. If I don’t touch on some of your guys, by all means, reach out on twitter (@cshcwartz18) and perhaps I’ll get back to you.

Before I begin, I want to hit on some general themes. First – Detroit in the Superdome at the Saints. In season-long leagues, of course the Lions’ best offensive players are must-starts. Matthew Stafford is a mid-range QB1, Ameer Abdullah is a fine RB2, Golden Tate is a borderline WR1, and Marvin Jones is a startable flex option. Just know I won’t be mentioning these guys below because everybody else agrees. So it’s not exactly controversial or unique.

In fact, these players are actually largely overpriced in DFS. Stafford is priced like the overall QB3 or so (although admittedly cheaper and better value on DK). My overall feeling on these guys in DFS is they are sub-optimal in cash games, but fine GPP stacks if you want to try to guess the correct combos.

Second, I’ve been getting lots of questions about Amari Cooper trades after three consecutive bad games. Last game was a 1/8/0 mess, but that was with EJ Manuel at QB. The game before that was a 2/9/0, but that was against a Broncos defense that does this to plenty of WRs. That leaves just one bad game against Washington in Week 3. Cooper’s been through similar 2-3 week stretches before (end of 2015, for one example), and has not proven to be consistent yet in his career. But he is still mega-talented with a lot invested in him, and he has positive things going, including the return of Derek Carr, a healthy Michael Crabtree to take away defensive attention, and a sneaky easy fantasy playoff schedule (vs. Dallas, at Philadelphia). So no, don’t trade Cooper for the latest, greatest Kenny Golladay hype-train, and if you don’t own Coop, maybe try to buy low.

Now onto some of this week’s calls.

High-End QB Play: DeShaun Watson, HOU (vs. CLE) 

Cleveland has held a lead for approximately two seconds this season. Remarkably, that hasn’t stopped them from allowing the 13th-most passing yards. This is because their pass defense is dreadful – bottom five in yards per attempt allowed, and dead last in opponents’ QB rating. Houston is a double-digit favorite against Cleveland, but along the way, they’ll get there via Watson throws. Add in some rushing stats, and he has a particularly high-floor, high-ceiling outlook, which is unique for such a high-spread game. He’s a great cash game option, and in season-long, I’d only be comfortable starting hall of famers Brady, Rodgers, and Brees over him.

Stack Partner: DeAndre Hopkins – Welcome back to elite WR1 territory, Nuk! Watson loves him, and he’s a PPR beast. He’s not yet priced like it on DFS sites.

High-End QB Play: Kirk Cousins, WAS (vs. SF) 

It’s TIGHT for me between Watson and Cousins. I like Watson a bit more, as Cleveland is a more favorable opponent than San Francisco, but not by much. This is a secondary that Jared Goff tore up on a Thursday. Cousins should throw a lot early in the game, especially with Rob Kelley likely to miss, so he has a nice high floor and is a definite QB1.

Stack Partner: Jamison Crowder – It’s tough to guess Cousins’ beneficiaries from week to week, so you may as well go with the cheapest (realistic) one. Besides, they said they’d like to get him more involved, now that he’s perhaps healthier. Since he’s been so dreadful, his ownership will be low.

Sleeper QB: Case Keenum, MIN (vs. GB)

Unlike most bad QBs, he has proven he has some fantasy upside with an eruption against Tampa in Week 3. He may need to chase some points against Green Bay in a game with sneaky scoring potential, so it’s conceivable another big game could happen for him. He’s dirt cheap on DFS, so he makes for a fine GPP dart-throw, while being an option to start in two-QB leagues.

QB Fade: Matt Ryan, ATL (vs. MIA)

He’s one of the QBs favored to win by double-digits this week, so he has a lower ceiling than usual. Unlike a guy like Watson, he comes with higher weekly expectations and therefore a higher DFS price. Also, conditions aren’t so favorable for him, with his top two WRs banged up (and Mohamed Sanu likely out). I just don’t see why you’d use him in cash this week unless you use him every week. In GPPs, I suppose he’s a nice contrarian option, as these negative factors are likely baked into several people’s lineup decisions, and his ownership will be lower than usual.

High-End RB Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (vs. PIT)

It’s simple – no Ezekiel Elliot this week, and Le’Veon Bell has a worse matchup being on the other sideline against the Chiefs. So Hunt is our overall RB1 yet again, in a tier by himself, and a must-play in DFS cash games. 

High-End RB Play: Mark Ingram, NO (vs. DET)

Sure Adrian Peterson stunk, but he took 30 touches away, or seven per game. If Ingram conservatively eats three of those, then he goes from a 14-touch to 17-touch guy. For perspective, that’s the difference between LeGarrette Blount and Carlos Hyde. With that volume he has enough talent to be a borderline RB1, just like Hyde. Even against a very solid run D like Detroit, the volume is enough to vault Ingram, and he’s not priced like it, as the AP trade happened mid-week.

High-End RB Play: Javorius Allen, BAL (vs. CHI)

Allen was more involved last week, and lo and behold, Baltimore’s offense looked better. The positive team results when Allen gets touches makes for a good indicator they’ll continue to give him touches. In general, Baltimore may take a page out of Jacksonville’s book and go extremely run heavy to beat mediocre offensive teams, and this week’s opponent qualifies. With Terrance West out, that should mean 15+ touches for Allen, making him a solid RB2 and PPR must-start.

RB Sleeper: Semaje Perine, WAS (vs. SF)

This is just a note that many expert rankings don’t yet reflect that Kelley is unlikely to suit up for Washington. In a game in which they’re heavily favored, they may run a lot, and small Chris Thompson will still be limited to 5-10 carries. Perine gets the rest. He makes for a great bye-week fill-in and also a cheap DFS dart throw.

RB Sleeper: Wayne Gallman, NYG (@ DEN) 

Giants play on SNF and aren’t part of the main DFS slate (thank god), so this is more of a deep season-long play. Denver’s been historically good against the run this year, but they’re also that good against the pass. The Giants will need to give somebody some touches, and it may as well be their rookie RB averaging 4.5 YPC (which is like 10 YPC on this Giants team). He’s also looked good in the passing game, catching all 7 of his targets and picking up some blitzes nicely. Even if he averages 3 yards per carry, he could still produce flex value with 15 touches.

RB Fade: Melvin Gordon, LAC (@ OAK)

It was tough for me to find a RB fade, with expectations so low of guys around the league. I settled on Gordon, who I see as more of a mid-range RB1 rather than an elite one. I’m still not convinced he’s 100 percent after knee surgery. Sure, he broke out against a Giants D that was missing Olivier Vernon and that funnels throws to RBs/TEs, but he should face a slightly tougher test against Oakland. He’ll be hard-pressed to repeat last week’s two-TD performance with a low team total of 20. I prefer the equally priced Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman types, and the cheaper Lamar Miller and CJ Anderson, in DFS. Obviously if you have Gordon in season-long, start him with confidence still.

High-End WR Play: Michael Crabtree, OAK (vs. LAC)

Hopkins is my favorite elite WR this week, and I also like Michael Thomas, whom Darius Slay will not be able to stop. Beyond those guys, and into the WR2 range, I see a lot working in Crabtree’s favor. His value has never been lower, so his ownership should be low, and A) he’s working back to full strength, B) Carr is back, and C) Cooper is banged up and in a funk. It adds up to a nice combo of QB/WR talent and volume against a mediocre Chargers D allowing 7.1 yards per throw.

High-End WR Play: Adam Thielen, MIN (vs. GB) 

He’s my preferred stack partner for Keenum, but I wanted to give him his own section since he’s worthy of rostering with any QB. He has been remarkably consistent, getting exactly eight targets and five receptions in each of the last three games, mostly with Keenum at the helm. He has yet to get a TD, which keeps his perceived value down, but regression should be coming (he had five TDs with less volume last year). I want to get out in front and say that TD regression will happen this week, with Stefon Diggs banged up and against Green Bay. Even without that TD, Thielen gets enough PPR volume to be a great DFS cash game play, especially as he’s much cheaper than Diggs.

High-End WR Play: Jarvis Landry, MIA (@ ATL)

Here’s a lesson in how to utilize Vegas lines. Miami has a low implied team total around 14 points, which is bad news for their TD dependent guys (Jay Cutler, Jay Ajayi). They also are large underdogs, which could be good news for their heavy pass volume guy – Jarvis Landry (especially with DeVante Parker out). If Miami loses 25-14 like Vegas implies, Landry will most likely pick up double digit targets and a ton of receptions along the way, as Miami plays catch-up. That makes him a PPR stud and great cash game play.

WR Sleeper: Taylor Gabriel, ATL (vs. MIA)

nlike Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, he’s not priced like an elite player, so if you want to target a Falcon against the bad Miami defense, he’s the guy. He also may have higher floor than usual with other WRs banged up, making him less of a boom-or-bust big-play threat, and more of your standard No. 2 WR. He’s a nice GPP play and flex option in season-long.

WR Fade: Jordy Nelson, GB (@ MIN) 

Aaron Rodgers’ floor is so high that he’s never a fade, but when he has negative matchups, it could impact his receivers’ projections, since there are so many mouths to feed. That’s especially true when they’re all actually healthy, like they are this week. It all adds up to Nelson being more like a mid-range WR1 instead of a top-tier guy, and he’s priced/ranked like a top-tier guy on DFS sites. I prefer Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and (given price) Golden Tate this week.

WR Fade: Danny Amendola, NE (@ NYJ) 

Amendola gets the poor man’s version of Nelson’s write-up. Like Rodgers, Brady is not in a great spot to put up a massive game. Like Green Bay, New England’s receivers should all suit up for the first time in a while, meaning Amendola is back to a part-time guy, one whom New England may treat with kid gloves. That’s bad news in a potentially run-heavy game script. You can do better with your WR3/Flex this week (I like Gabriel, DeSean Jackson, John Brown, and Marvin Jones more).

High-End TE Play: Evan Engram, NYG (@ DEN)

His value isn’t as high as it should be, coming off a 0/0/0. The fact of the matter is he’s the Giants’ new No. 1 weapon, and they have a full week to game plan him in more, instead of last week when the injuries happened mid-game. Even before those injuries, he was a 4/40 guy, and now he has upside above that. In a week where Kelce is banged up and Ertz already played on TNF, Engram is up there as the next best thing behind Gronk. Giants play on SNF, so this is a season-long call – don’t bench Engram after last week’s dud, and try to buy him low.

High-End TE Play: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. LAC)

 Engram isn’t part of the main DFS slate, so the next best thing is Cook. Like Engram, he put up a stinker last week (although 3/25/0 is par for the course for TEs in 2017). Encouraging, though, is that Carr is back. In 4 games with Carr, Cook put up 40+ yards and/or 4+ receptions in each game. With Cooper a little banged up, he could see a slight spike in targets. By default, he’s a mid-range TE1 this week.

TE Sleeper: Ryan Griffin, HOU (vs. CLE) 

If you’re looking for a Watson stack partner or a sneaky season-long fill-in, I like former the UConn Husky this week. As poor as Cleveland is at covering anybody, they’re particularly bad at covering TEs. Griffin had two bad games in a row, but showed he can produce three weeks ago against New England (5/61/1). If he had only good games, he’d be an elite TE1. As is, he’s a TE2 in a nice matchup, with some proven upside, who you should start over guys like Julius Thomas and Jack Doyle.

TE Fade: NOBODY!

TE is so bad this year, and expectations are so low, that there is nobody to “fade”. Beyond the top five or so, they are simply all lottery tickets to score a TD. In DFS, you should simply make your decisions based on price – for example, on FD, Cameron Brate is the fifth-most expensive TE, so he’s the smart fade there. On DK, ASJ is the fifth-most expensive, so he’s the guy to perhaps avoid. At the end of the day, though, these guys are all relatively equivalent in likelihood of scoring either 0 or 12 points, so monitor little pieces of news that could give any of them a slight edge.

Week 6 NFL Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

By:

Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds

STATS and Vegas differed on six favorites last week, and STATS ended up going 4-2 in those games straight up. The misses? Tampa Bay, which had a shot to beat New England on the final play, and the Bears, who got beat on a field goal in the final minute.

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 6 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon. Note that the Indianapolis at Tennessee game is not listed because of Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s uncertain injury status.

Group 1: Occasionally, STATS and Vegas agree – for the most part:

Philadelphia at Carolina

STATS: Panthers -2.28
Vegas: Panthers -3

It’s kind of a shame this battle of 4-1 teams happens when both are coming off a short week.

San Francisco at Washington

STATS: Redskins -9.54
Vegas: Redskins -10

Kirk Cousins faces his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who’s now the head coach of a rebuilding 49ers team off to a 0-5 start.

Detroit at New Orleans

STATS: Saints -7.55
Vegas: Saints -5

Matthew Stafford is hurting, but he could play through it. Either way, it figures that smart money is on the Saints.

Miami at Atlanta

STATS: Falcons -13.25
Vegas: Falcons -11.5

This is the highest spread of the week for STATS and second-highest for Vegas. Who knows if the Dolphins even score.

Cleveland at Houston

STATS: Texans -9.54
Vegas: Texans -9.5

DeShaun Watson padded his stats during garbage time in last week’s loss to Kansas City, but he’s still becoming a quality QB beyond the fantasy points.

New England at New York Jets

STATS: Patriots -7.57
Vegas: Patriots -9.5

The matchup we’ve all been waiting for – Tom Brady vs. Josh McCown.

Tampa Bay at Arizona

STATS: Buccaneers -2.37
Vegas: Buccaneers -1.5

Adrian Peterson makes his Cardinals debut as they try to turn around their running game, but that’s not enough to keep them from being home underdogs.

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

STATS: Raiders -1.86
Vegas: Raiders -3

Derek Carr could be back from the Raiders, who hope to end their struggles against a Chargers team coming off their first win.

New York Giants at Denver

STATS: Broncos -10.27
Vegas: Broncos -12

The Giants are 0-5 and have lost Odell Beckham for the season. These spreads might be underestimating the beating Denver is about to give them.

Group 2: STATS and Vegas agree on the favorite, but the spreads are pretty far apart:

Chicago at Baltimore

STATS: Ravens -10.33
Vegas: Ravens -6.5

Mitch Trubisky had a so-so debut that he looks to make up for in what could be an even tougher matchup.

Green Bay at Minnesota

STATS: Packers -8.77
Vegas: Packers -3

Aaron Rodgers slayed Dallas again in last week’s comeback victory, so going into Minnesota with the Vikings uncertain QB situation shouldn’t be too difficult.

Group 3: Then there are games were STATS and Vegas don’t agree at all:

Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars

STATS: Rams -1.23
Vegas: Jaguars -2.5

This is one of the week’s most intriguing games between surprise 3-2 teams. The Rams and their rather fun offense will get a tough challenge from the Jaguars’ tough D.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

STATS: Steelers -0.46
Vegas: Chiefs -4.5

STATS’ model still gives the edge to the Steelers despite Ben Roethlisberger’s five picks last week. And let’s not forget the Chiefs are undefeated, largely because of Alex Smith’s and Kareem Hunt’s unlikely emergence.

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 6 Tiers

By:

We’re heading into Week 6 of the NFL season, and already we have a rookie quarterback jumping into the top tier. That’s pretty fitting when another rookie has the running backs’ No. 1 tier all to himself.

I would like to point out the projections below aren’t meant to be gospel. There is assumed to be a certain level of error/uncertainty in even the most accurate projection systems. What I use for my weekly rankings are “median projections” and these are essential for choosing which player is more likely to score more points. When playing season-long head-to-head fantasy football, your goal every week is to score more points than one other team in your league – your opponent. This is why I always stress to go with the “safer” play and prefer volume over talent alone. When it comes to playing daily fantasy, specifically large tournaments that have top-heavy payouts, that is when you need to shift your strategy to going with the higher “upside,” more talented back, even if it means taking on added risk.

Keep this in mind when using the rankings below and how to react to news that may come out later in the week. If someone like Ty Montgomery is ruled out, you better believe Aaron Jones will shoot up a tier or two, based on those extra touches being up for grabs.

And don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parenthesis next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. Without further ado, here are the Week 6 tiers.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees and rookie Deshaun Watson join Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the tier that they live in – Tier 1. Watson has exploded into a QB1 over the past couple weeks, which is why I emphasized in preseason that he was an ideal backup to take late because of his sky-high ceiling. This week seems almost too easy with a dream matchup at home against the Browns. I almost feel like he could be a bit of a letdown simply due to having lofty expectations, but he’s still a top QB1 for the week.

This week particularly, we have to be a bit careful of QBs who could be in blowout games. You ideally want a QB that is playing in a tight game or trailing in order to keep them in a game script that requires throwing the ball. Of course, in order to get into a blowout situation, the team needs to score several TDs. In these cases, you need the QB to have a large TD share early on. If they get up early off rushing TDs or defensive/special teams TDs, that QB could be in line for a below-average week despite their team putting up 30+ points.

The QBs that could fall into this group in Week 6 are Brady, Watson, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins and Trevor Siemian. This makes them all higher-floor/lower-ceiling plays in a sense, which is fine for season long H2H formats. If you are trying to win a large DFS tournament, you might want to go with QBs in matchups where they will be required to throw for all four quarters.

Marcus Mariota’s status needs to be monitored carefully. Tennessee doesn’t play until Monday night, so if he’s still a game-time decision heading into the weekend I’m saying to bench him. Since he is dealing with a hamstring injury, it could limit his rushing stats considerably even if he plays, which crushes his value. Right now I’m projecting him to be about 80 percent healthy come game time in a great matchup, but just know I don’t think the risk is worth it, especially considering an in-game tweak is very possible – just like we saw with Sam Bradford in Week 5.

Mariota’s M.A.S.H. unit pal, Derek Carr, is also expected to return from injury this week. He is in a “prove it” spot where I am not starting him with confidence this week. His return is more of a boost to his teammates, especially Amari Cooper.

Eli Manning gets the bottom tier all to himself. He lost three WRs for the season last week including his top target Odell Beckham Jr., and there’s still no indication of Sterling Shepard playing this week. On top of that, he has to play at Denver, which is still one of the worst draws you can get for a QB. You also have to wonder if we will see Geno Smith start games or at least see the Giants eye the No. 1 pick next year in an attempt to get Sam Darnold and develop him with Beckham.

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers (@ MIN)
Tom Brady (@ NYJ)
Drew Brees (vs DET)
Deshaun Watson (vs CLE)

Tier 2

Kirk Cousins (vs SF)

Tier 3

Cam Newton (vs PHI)
Jameis Winston (@ ARI)
Matt Ryan (vs MIA)
Matthew Stafford (@ NO)

Tier 4

Alex Smith (vs PIT)
Marcus Mariota (vs IND)
Philip Rivers (@ OAK)
Carson Palmer (vs TB)

Tier 5

Carson Wentz (@ CAR)
Jacoby Brissett (@ TEN)
Trevor Siemian (vs NYG)
Derek Carr (vs LAC)

Tier 6

Case Keenum (vs GB)
Ben Roethlisberger (@ KC)
Kevin Hogan (@ HOU)

Tier 7

Josh McCown (vs NE)
Blake Bortles (vs LAR)
Joe Flacco (vs CHI)
Brian Hoyer (@ WAS)
Jared Goff (@ JAX)

Tier 8

Mitchell Trubisky (@ BAL)
Jay Cutler (@ ATL)

Tier 9

Eli Manning (@ DEN)

Running Backs

Running back is the most volatile position in fantasy football. In order to best approach the position, you need to embrace that volatility and understand how value works at the position. Far too often I see people get way too excited over the “talent” aspect of a running back. The most important factor when forecasting the immediate value of a RB is expected workload. Talent can help maximize the potential of that workload and often times can lead to a compelling case for a coach to increase that workload. But basing decisions on talent alone can backfire.

Let’s take the Colts for example. Marlon Mack is the most talented back on their roster and I think we can all agree on that at this point. He also proved in college that he is capable of handling a full workload, and his 5-foot-11, 210-pound frame is nearly optimal for that as well. However, we have to temper our expectations on someone like him. Frank Gore and Robert Turbin, whether we agree with it or not, are going to take up roughly 55-60 percent of the available touches this week. Until we start seeing one or both of them missing any time or the coaching staff outright sitting them, we have to realize that Mack will be extremely volatile since he has to produce with limited touches to hit value.

Meanwhile, the values of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara go up immediately this week after the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson to Arizona. In my model, that is nearly 6-10 touches freed up and distributed among these two backs. From a projections standpoint, that is a fairly big spike. Not to mention, the threat of a possible AP “vulture” TD is wiped out, increasing their TD odds.

On the flip side, Peterson now gets to be the feature back in Arizona until David Johnson is able to return. I think those of us who are savvy fantasy football players realize “All Day” is a shell of his former self and is probably not going to light up the box score in the high desert. Having said that, we will likely get volume and goal-line chances from AP. To put things into perspective, if you are in a tight matchup and need to decide whether or not to play Adrian Peterson or Marlon Mack, it would be a no-brainer, on raw talent alone, to start Mack. But let’s use a hypothetical projection set to illustrate why expected volume should always be the first factor considered:

Player A: the old/washed up workhorse back: 16-18 carries with a 3.7 yards per rush + 40 percent chance for a TD

Player B: the young/talented flashy back in a 2-3 man RBBC: 6-10 carries with a 5.5 yards per rush+ 30 percent chance for a TD

Assuming both receiving projections are nearly identical, I would be projecting the bad workhorse player to rush for about 20 more yards, or two more projected fantasy points. Once you factor in the higher TD odds as well, Player A will be nearly three projected points higher than Player B.

Tier 1

Kareem Hunt (vs PIT)

Tier 2

Leonard Fournette (vs LAR)
Le’Veon Bell (@ KC)
Todd Gurley (@ JAX)

Tier 3

Devonta Freeman (vs MIA)

Tier 4

C.J. Anderson (vs NYG)
Lamar Miller (vs CLE)
Melvin Gordon (@ OAK)

Tier 5

Mark Ingram (vs DET)
Jordan Howard (-1, @ BAL)
Jay Ajayi (-2, @ ATL)

Tier 6

DeMarco Murray (-1, vs IND)
Javorius Allen (+1, vs CHI)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs LAC)
Jerick McKinnon (vs GB)

Tier 7

Carlos Hyde (@ WAS)
Ameer Abdullah (+1, @ NO)
Doug Martin (@ ARI)
Alvin Kamara (vs DET)
Mike Gillislee (-1, @ NYJ)
Aaron Jones (@ MIN)
Chris Thompson (vs SF)
Tevin Coleman (vs MIA)
Elijah McGuire (vs NE)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, vs PHI)
Jonathan Stewart (vs PHI)

Tier 8

Rob Kelley (-1, vs SF)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+1, @ HOU)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, @ CAR)
Isaiah Crowell (@ HOU)
Wayne Gallman (@ DEN)
Alex Collins (vs CHI)

Tier 9

Andre Ellington (+2, vs TB)
Frank Gore (@ TEN)
Derrick Henry (vs IND)
Adrian Peterson (vs TB)

Tier 10

Jamaal Charles (vs NYG)
James White (+3, @ NYJ)
Latavius Murray (vs GB)
Tarik Cohen (+2, @ BAL)

Wide Receivers

Instead of simply talking about how a player has a “good” matchup or is a “bad” play this week, I wanted to touch on some more advanced thought processes that I go through at each position when it comes to making projections. I’m talking about some of the decision-making that I feel some may not perceive the correct way based on a lot of the questions I get asked every week.

When it comes to WR, I am seeing people start to overreact to CB matchups alone. As always, there is literally no stone left unturned when it comes to what I base my projections off of. You better believe the WR/CB matchup is important, but I find too often people over-weigh it. The fact is, most teams have a fairly good No. 1 CB. Therefore, if we shy away from a WR simply because he is facing a decent CB, we won’t have many WR left to choose from. Also, any sort of ratings/stats on CB coverage usually regresses towards the average when doing a split-half reliability type analysis. In layman’s terms, much of the perceived greatness of a CB can be chalked up to simple randomness, or is short-lived. Having said that, we certainly need to be cautious of a boundary WR being shadowed by a Patrick Peterson or a slot WR being matched up against Chris Harris. I’m well aware of these high-end talents, and they are always factored into my projections.

Mike Evans will likely get the Peterson shadow treatment this week. This is why he isn’t a top-3 type play at the position this week, but he should see enough volume to be a WR1 still. Winston typically doesn’t care who is on Evans and will force him the ball if needed, since he trusts Evans to win most battles. On the flip side, we may see DeSean Jackson getting matched up with burnable Justin Bethel, making him a solid WR2 this week, which is much higher then he normally is in my rankings due to his often high risk/reward weekly outlook. This means he will very likely be part of some sit/start decisions, but I better NOT be getting any sit/start questions involving Evans unless your other WRs are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (@ KC)

Tier 2

Julio Jones (vs MIA)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs CLE)
Michael Thomas (vs DET)
Mike Evans (@ ARI)
Jordy Nelson (@ MIN)

Tier 3

Keenan Allen (@ OAK)
Brandin Cooks (@ NYJ)
Chris Hogan (@ NYJ)

Tier 4

T.Y. Hilton (@ TEN)
Tyreek Hill (vs PIT)
Michael Crabtree (vs LAC)
Larry Fitzgerald (vs TB)
Golden Tate (@ NO)
Stefon Diggs (vs GB)
Kelvin Benjamin (vs PHI)
Adam Thielen (vs GB)
Pierre Garcon (@ WAS)
Davante Adams (@ MIN)
Amari Cooper (vs LAC)
Demaryius Thomas (vs NYG)

Tier 5

Jarvis Landry (@ ATL)
Devin Funchess (vs PHI)
Emmanuel Sanders (vs NYG)
DeSean Jackson (@ ARI)
Rishard Matthews (vs IND)
DeVante Parker (@ ATL)|
Alshon Jeffery (@ CAR)
Terrelle Pryor Sr. (vs SF)
Randall Cobb (@ MIN)

Tier 6

Taylor Gabriel (vs MIA)
John Brown (vs TB)
Jermaine Kearse (vs NE)
Jeremy Maclin (vs CHI)
Sterling Shepard (@ DEN)
Marvin Jones Jr. (@ NO)

Tier 7

Eric Decker (vs IND)
Martavis Bryant (@ KC)
Danny Amendola (@ NYJ)
Will Fuller V (vs CLE)
Allen Hurns (vs LAR)
Robby Anderson (vs NE)
Cooper Kupp (@ JAX)

Tier 8

Jamison Crowder (vs SF)
Mike Wallace (vs CHI)
Tyrell Williams (@ OAK)
Willie Snead (vs DET)
Jaron Brown (vs TB)
Nelson Agholor (@ CAR)
J.J. Nelson (vs TB)
Marqise Lee (vs LAR)
Sammy Watkins (@ JAX)
Ted Ginn Jr. (vs DET)
Ricardo Louis (@ HOU)
Albert Wilson (vs PIT)

Tight Ends

I keep trying to hammer home that the TE position is a bit of a disaster this year. This should be no surprise considering the position relies on TDs more than yardage output. Touchdowns are much less reliable/predictable than expected yardage and volume. The early season value MVP has to be Zach Ertz. He was drafted much later than Gronk/Kelce and has been a reliable play at a very volatile position all season, with either 80+ yards or a TD in all five games so far. The preseason sub-elite tier of Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham, and Delaine Walker have been rather disappointing, which has given the elite TEs a boost.

For those of us who don’t own any of the TEs mentioned above, it has been a tough weekly decision as to which TE we should roll out.  When living the life of streaming a TE each week, you need to accept the risk that if they do not score a TD you are very likely going to see an unsightly fantasy point total in your starting lineup. Most TEs can’t give you 50-60 yards in the event they fail to hit pay dirt. Last week I, like many others, got burned by Dwayne Allen’s 0-point performance when Gronk was ruled out for TNF. While it’s unsettling seeing a zero locked into your starting lineup as early as Thursday, I urged people to remember that there will be plenty of TE busts to go around. Sure enough, Delanie Walker, Jared Cook and Evan Engram combined for three standard fantasy points. There is a chance you rolled with Allen against a team that had any one of these sure fire TE1’s, and you didn’t lose any ground.

It’s important to use the entire week to decide which TE to stream since any sort of news involving that player or teammates can help give them a bit of a boost. One solid streamer this week would be Ryan Griffin against the Browns, who have been gashed by TEs for over a year now. Those desperate for a streamer play could certainly do worse than him. Another sneaky play may be Austin Hooper, who I feel could see an increase in targets with Mohamed Sanu likely missing Week 6, which would free up some looks over the middle.

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (@ NYJ)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (@ CAR)
Travis Kelce (vs PIT)

Tier 3

Delanie Walker (vs IND)

Tier 4

Jordan Reed (vs SF)
Cameron Brate (@ ARI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs NE)
Evan Engram (@ DEN)
Jared Cook (vs LAC)

Tier 5

Martellus Bennett (@ MIN)
Ed Dickson (vs PHI)
Kyle Rudolph (vs GB)
Hunter Henry (@ OAK)
Coby Fleener (vs DET)
Benjamin Watson (vs CHI)
Ryan Griffin (vs CLE)
Zach Miller (@ BAL)

Tier 6

Jack Doyle (@ TEN)
Austin Hooper (vs MIA)
Jesse James (@ KC)
George Kittle (@ WAS)
Eric Ebron (@ NO)
David Njoku (@ HOU)
Julius Thomas (@ ATL)

Kickers

Tier 1

Matt Bryant (vs MIA)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs CLE)
Dustin Hopkins (vs SF)
Stephen Gostkowski (@ NYJ)

Tier 2

Wil Lutz (vs DET)
Brandon McManus (vs NYG)
Justin Tucker (vs CHI)
Harrison Butker (vs PIT)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs LAC)
Mason Crosby (@ MIN)
Ryan Succop (vs IND)
Matt Prater (@ NO)
Graham Gano (vs PHI)

Tier 3

Nick Novak (@ OAK)
Jason Myers (vs LAR)
Kai Forbath (vs GB)
Adam Vinatieri (@ TEN)
Patrick Murray (@ ARI)
Jake Elliott (@ CAR)
Phil Dawson (vs TB)

Tier 4

Greg Zuerlein (@ JAX)
Chandler Catanzaro (vs NE)
Robbie Gould (@ WAS)
Zane Gonzalez (@ HOU)
Chris Boswell (@ KC)
Cody Parkey (@ ATL)
Connor Barth (@ BAL)

Tier 5

Aldrick Rosas (@ DEN)

Defense/Special Teams

Tier 1

Denver Broncos (vs NYG)

Tier 2

Houston Texans (vs CLE)
Baltimore Ravens (vs CHI)
Atlanta Falcons (vs MIA)
Washington Redskins (vs SF)

Tier 3

New England Patriots (@ NYJ)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ ARI)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs PIT)
Tennessee Titans (vs IND)
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs LAR)
Carolina Panthers (vs PHI)
Oakland Raiders (vs LAC)
Green Bay Packers (@ MIN)
Los Angeles Rams (@ JAX)
New Orleans Saints (vs DET)
Arizona Cardinals (vs TB)

Tier 4

Philadelphia Eagles (@ CAR)
Chicago Bears (@ BAL)
Minnesota Vikings (vs GB)
New York Giants (@ DEN)
Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)
Los Angeles Chargers (@ OAK)
Cleveland Browns (@ HOU)
Indianapolis Colts (@ TEN)

Tier 5

San Francisco 49ers (@ WAS)
Detroit Lions (@ NO)
Miami Dolphins (@ ATL)
New York Jets (vs NE)

Trouble Could Find Him

By:

STATS TVL Data Shows Why Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona’s Decision to Start Trevor Bauer against the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS May Backfire

It’s bold.

The decision to bypass an adequately rested ace in Game 1 of a five-game series comes with the hope that postgame praise of an intrepid call will follow. For Terry Francona, though, there’s reason to think there’ll only be more questions concerning the decision to start Trevor Bauer over Corey Kluber.

Some of the surface-level data supports the Cleveland manager’s decision. Dive a bit deeper into STATS TVL data, and it looks more like the Indians might need to put up some serious offense to not fall into an early hole in their ALDS matchup against the New York Yankees.

TVL tracks pitch type (T), velocity (V) and location (L) for each MLB pitcher and records the data into categories such as usage percentage of a specific pitch, the average velocity of each pitch type and the percentage a batter hits the ball on the ground against that pitch. The data is broken down further to show opponents’ batting average, slugging percentage, swing percentage and swing-and-miss percentage each time a specific pitch is thrown.

A pitcher’s TVL then can be pitted against a hitter’s success when facing specific pitches to project how the hitter would fare versus a particular pitcher, which is what we’re going to use here to give some insight into the specific Bauer-Yankees matchups that’ll take place tonight.

Francona’s reasoning is centered around the series including two days off, so Kluber, the AL Cy Young frontrunner, would still be starting a decisive Game 5 and doing so on a normal cycle. The manager said the routine was important to Kluber, and there wasn’t another viable option to line it up that way. Additionally, if they win in four, then Kluber lines up nicely for Game 1 of the ALCS. But there’s also something to be said for avoiding a 1-0 hole in a five-game series, and few will argue which pitcher gives you a better chance there.

Now, the surface-level data. Both pitchers have been great in two starts against the Yankees this season. Kluber has probably been a bit better, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA and .105 opponent batting average and .381 OPS while chewing up 17 innings. Career: 5-1 with a 1.80 in seven starts with five straight dominant wins.

Bauer went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings, winning both home and away in August with a .229 OBA and .661 OPS. His career numbers against the Yankees aren’t nearly as strong, and they roughed him up as recently as last season with present Yankees Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley all notching two-hit nights and an RBI each to tag Bauer with all five runs in a 5-4 final. So he’s not Yankee-proof.

Such individual matchups, and specifically how the New York lineup projects to hit against Bauer, is where the decision becomes particularly teeth-clenching from a predictive standpoint. Using TVL, the Yankees lineup projects to have a .289 average and .525 slugging percentage against him. Get even more granular, and six batters project to hit at least .303 against Bauer’s entire arsenal of pitches:

There’s a lot of projected doom there, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for Bauer to work through it. Let’s now look into how he might best handle the order and exploit the occasional projected weakness to maintain his manager’s reputation. Bauer’s second-half pitch selection shows how he evolved over the course of the season – just not always for the better.

In the first half, Bauer’s four-seam fastball and curveball accounted for 67.1 percent of his pitches. Those are still his most-used pitches, accounting for 68.5 percent in the second, but the effectiveness of the four-seamer has actually fallen off. In the first half, he threw it 39.0 percent of the time with a .269 OBA and .433 slugging. In the second, 36.6 percent usage with .295 and .476 splits. Return to the chart above, and that doesn’t bode well against the likely Nos. 1-5 in the New York lineup. He’ll also want to be selective with his curve against a few of those bats.

The more positive change for Bauer arrives in that he was in the first half making far more use of a two-seamer (15.3 percent vs. 6.5 in the second half) and cutter (10.7 vs. 5.0). Opponents hit .333 against the cutter with a .704 slugging percentage in the first half. They were at .289 and .566 against the two-seamer – still impressive numbers.

Bauer has in part replaced them with an effective slider, which probably bodes well against the middle of the Yankees’ lineup. But he still only threw that pitch 11.6 percent of the time in the second half. Is that enough to maintain what’s been an impressive 13 innings against the Yankees, or is the bottom about to fall out?

Gregorius is 4 for 9 with a home run and double in the last two seasons against Bauer. Gardner is also 4 for 9 in that time. Todd Frazier is 6 for 14 with a home run and double. Bauer is yet to retire Aaron Judge – 1 for 1 with two walks – and from the looks of it, he should have very little confidence throwing the young slugger either of his go-to pitches.

Those numbers are from Bauer’s top two seasons in the bigs. Many of them also happen to be in line with TVL. Regardless, the 26-year-old’s manager has expressed plenty of confidence in him.

Again, it’s bold.

Week 5 NFL Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

By:

Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds

Things got back to normal in Week 4 after underdogs helped Vegas get paid handsomely the previous week. STATS favored 10 of the 16 winners, with New England’s loss to Carolina and Jacksonville’s loss to the Jets being the most surprising defeats.

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 5 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon. Usually the games break down into three groups, but it’s down to two this week after STATS and Vegas came very close on favorites/spreads for an unusual amount of games.

Group 1: Occasionally, STATS and Vegas agree – for the most part – as noted in the games below:

San Francisco at Indianapolis

STATS: 49ers -3.44
Vegas: 49ers -1.5

San Francisco is one of four winless teams remaining, but there’s so little confidence in the Colts that the Niners are rare road favorites.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

STATS: Steelers -10.45
Vegas: Steelers -8.5

The spreads seem pretty reasonable considering the Jaguars are coming off a loss to the, uh, Jets.

Buffalo at Cincinnati

STATS: Bengals -3.19
Vegas: Bengals -3

Not much confidence in the 3-1, AFC East-leading Bills, eh? Cincinnati won its first game last week, but maybe it should only be half of a win because it was Cleveland.

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

STATS: Giants -5.37
Vegas: Giants -3.5

Get your popcorn ready for the thrilling, exciting, captivating battle between 0-4 teams! No wonder the draft-night Eli Manning-for-Philip Rivers trade from 2004 is still a narrative.

Tennessee at Miami

STATS: Titans -2.41
Vegas: Titans -3

The Jay Cutler-led Dolphins have been outscored 40-6 in their last two games, but Tennessee might have to play without Marcus Mariota.

Arizona at Philadelphia

STATS: Eagles -4.84
Vegas: Eagles -6.5

The STATS model has loved the Eagles all season, and they’ve backed it up with a 3-1 start.

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams

STATS: Rams -2.65
Vegas: Rams -1

So what if the Coliseum will be half empty? The Rams have scored the most points in the league and are downright fun. They’ll get a tough test from Seattle’s defense in what could be the best game of the week.

Kansas City at Houston

STATS: Chiefs -1.34
Vegas: Chiefs -1

Kareem Hunt, meet J.J. Watt, an X-Info favorite.

Group 2: Then there are games where STATS and Vegas don’t agree at all:

New England at Tampa Bay

STATS: Buccaneers -1.38
Vegas: Patriots -5.5

The Patriots won’t really fall to 2-3, or will they?

New York Jets at Cleveland

STATS: Jets -2.83
Vegas: Browns -1

[Insert eye-roll emoji here]

Carolina at Detroit

STATS: Panthers -4.46
Vegas: Lions -2.5

Carolina shocked the Patriots last week, which is part of the reason STATS believes it can win on the road again.

Baltimore at Oakland

STATS: Ravens -4.96
Vegas: Raiders -2.5

Oakland won’t have Derek Carr, and that played into the STATS predictive model.

Green Bay at Dallas

STATS: Packers -1.43
Vegas: Cowboys -2.5

The Packers return to the sight of their thrilling Divisional Playoff victory back in January.

Minnesota at Chicago

STATS: Bears -0.06
Vegas:
Vikings -3

It’s Mitch Trubisky time in Chicago, as the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft makes his NFL debut.

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 5 Tiers

By:

Before I dive into the Week 5 tiers, I want to quickly touch on a few things I get asked quite a bit after posting each week.

These rankings/tiers specifically reflect the projections I create. One of the reasons I feel my rankings are so accurate is due to the fact that I am not simply hand-ranking players off the top of my head or gut. All of my energy is put into making our projections while leaving no stone unturned. Therefore, they are factoring in the player’s talent, matchup, potential game plan/script, recent form, any injuries that player or teammate(s) are dealing with, impacts to workload, weather, etc.

Basically – everything!

This process itself reveals where I have players ranked for that week. I try to focus on general strategy and the landscape of the upcoming week as opposed to quickly saying I have Dak Prescott ranked fourth because he’s “good.” If I don’t discuss a specific player, it does not mean any less time/effort was put into his projection.

Lastly, this article is posted every Wednesday and reflects where my projections were on Tuesday night. With my intense projections process, I am using the entire week to get them right. Therefore, if you check on FantasyPros and notice the rank of a player has changed quite a bit, the most recent rank is always going to be the one to use. Players can sometimes go up/down quite a bit even if their projection doesn’t change much, and it can even be from other players around them moving around. That’s why it’s important to view players more as tiered groups, where there can be quite a bit of turnover in an eight-player set if there is only 0.5 projected points separating them all. The slightest change in projection can shuffle the order some, which is why I don’t give you exact rankings on Wednesdays.

Now on to the Week 5 tiers!

Quarterbacks

Week 5 brings us the first batch of byes, not counting the impromptu Miami-Tampa Bay Week 1 re-schedule). This means that Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, and Trevor Siemian are unavailable, opening up the QB position considerably.

This also means we don’t have the Saints defense to pick on either. Jameis Winston gets the biggest matchup boost this week against an exposed Patriots pass defense. He should be locked in as an elite QB1 and started with confidence.

Deshaun Watson makes his debut as a QB1. I had touted his dual-threat abilities before the season started, which made him the perfect high-upside backup to roster heading into the season. He has exploded onto the scene even quicker than I had anticipated, though. The return of Will Fuller raises his ceiling even more, as we saw last week.

It’s also worth mentioning that we are without Derek Carr and potentially Marcus Mariota. This projections set is assuming Mariota plays, but with his rushing stats curbed a bit due to the hamstring injury.

A potential QB1 fill-in is Jacoby Brissett. He is not going to blow you away with his passing stats, but he has tremendous upside with his legs, as we’ve seen the past couple weeks. His matchup couldn’t be any better with a home game against the 49ers.

Big Ben is in a tricky spot since he faces the stingy Jaguars defense, but he’s at home where he is borderline matchup-proof. I’m cancelling the two out and he’s a low-end QB1 for me.

Jared Goff has been one of the biggest surprises in 2017, but don’t let the much-deserved hype lead you to plug him in against the Seahawks. I think his real-life value is much higher than his fantasy value, leading me to think people will overvalue him in fantasy going forward. You have to realize that he will rarely if ever get you rushing stats, and with Todd Gurley as his back he will have to compete for TD shares. I’m simply urging people to be cautious with him going forward, since he’s still a low-ceiling type of player with a 180 passing yard/0 TD/0 rush yards type of floor.

We get the highly anticipated Mitch Trubisky debut this week. He is of course not in play for fantasy purposes, but we will need to monitor his target distribution this week in order to evaluate his teammates’ rest-of-season prospects with him under center. I know rookie QBs with his playing style typically lean on safety valves like their RB or TE to dump it off once they quickly see their first read is covered. Tarik Cohen’s massive target share could stay intact or even rise as a result. I am viewing Zach Miller the same way – it’s the WRs that are all “avoids” for me this week until we see how this shakes out.

Tier 1

Tom Brady (@ TB)
Aaron Rodgers (@ DAL)

Tier 2

Jameis Winston (vs NE)
Dak Prescott (vs GB)
Russell Wilson (@ LAR)

Tier 3

Matthew Stafford (vs CAR)
Carson Wentz (vs ARI)
Deshaun Watson (vs KC)
Eli Manning (vs LAC)
Cam Newton (@ DET)

Tier 4

Ben Roethlisberger (vs JAX)
Jacoby Brissett (vs SF)

Tier 5

Alex Smith (@ HOU)
Philip Rivers (@ NYG)
Carson Palmer (@ PHI)
Case Keenum (@ CHI)
DeShone Kizer (vs NYJ)
Tyrod Taylor (@ CIN)
Andy Dalton (vs BUF)
Jared Goff (vs SEA)
Marcus Mariota (@ MIA)

Tier 6

Jay Cutler (vs TEN)
Josh McCown (@ CLE)
Brian Hoyer (@ IND)
EJ Manuel (vs BAL)
Blake Bortles (@ PIT)

Tier 7

Mitchell Trubisky (vs MIN)
Joe Flacco (@ OAK)

Running Backs

We lost two more RB1/2 last week as Dalvin Cook and Chris Carson suffered major injuries. The first batch of bye weeks leaves us without Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman, CJ Anderson, and all members of the New Orleans and Washington RBBC situations. This opens up RB2/3 considerably this week, so I am going to focus on them since we have a rock-solid RB1 group this week.

Starting with the main beneficiary of the Dalvin Cook season-ending ACL tear: Latavius Murray. He’s going to be thrusted into an every-down workhorse-type roll. His ankle is nearing 100 percent so the Vikings should be able to throw him in the fire right away – not to mention, he signed a huge contract with them before they decided to draft Cook. Jerick McKinnon is going to be more of a change-of-pace/third-down back who I don’t see as much of a threat. I’m treating Murray as a strong RB2 this week.

With Derek Carr out, I can see the Raiders leaning on Marshawn Lynch a bit more. The stout Ravens run defense is never an ideal matchup, but the volume should be there for Lynch as well as any goal-line opportunities, as I don’t think they’ll try to get cute with EJ Manuel in the red zone.

The other wide-open RB situation this week is a result of Chris Carson being on the shelf. Seattle could employ a three-headed RBBC this week if C.J. Prosise is active. This is a scenario where people may go out of their way to start Eddie Lacy simply because he is listed as their starting RB on paper. I think this is very dangerous if you are starting him over, say, a Jonathan Stewart or Frank Gore. You have to realize his floor is still very low due to the uncertainty of the situation. Yes, he could very well have a good game if he happens to get going early and they ride the hot hand. When it comes to just having to beat one other team in your fantasy league, it’s much more about avoiding duds verses trying to hit the lottery with every play.

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell (vs JAX)

Tier 2

Ezekiel Elliott (vs GB)
Todd Gurley (vs SEA)
Kareem Hunt (@ HOU)

Tier 3

Carlos Hyde (@ IND)
Leonard Fournette (@ PIT)
LeSean McCoy (@ CIN)

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon (@ NYG)
Jay Ajayi (-1, vs TEN)
Jordan Howard (vs MIN)

Tier 5

Lamar Miller (vs KC)
Bilal Powell (@ CLE)
Joe Mixon (vs BUF)

Tier 6

Ameer Abdullah (vs CAR)
Latavius Murray (@ CHI)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs BAL)
Mike Gillislee (-1, @ TB)
DeMarco Murray (@ MIA)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, @ DET)
Frank Gore (vs SF)

Tier 7

Isaiah Crowell (-1, vs NYJ)
Jonathan Stewart (-2, @ DET)
Doug Martin (-1, vs NE)
LeGarrette Blount (-2, vs ARI)

Tier 8

Tarik Cohen (+2, vs MIN)
Ty Montgomery (@ DAL)
Alex Collins (-1, @ OAK)
Javorius Allen (+1, @ OAK)
Derrick Henry (-1, @ MIA)

Tier 9

Wendell Smallwood (vs ARI)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+2, vs NYJ)
Chris Johnson (@ PHI)
Jerick McKinnon (@ CHI)
James White (+2, @ TB)
Andre Ellington (+2, @ PHI)
Wayne Gallman (vs LAC)

Tier 10

Theo Riddick (+1, vs CAR)
Eddie Lacy (@ LAR)
Elijah McGuire (@ CLE)
D’Onta Foreman (vs KC)
Matt Breida (@ IND)

Wide Receivers

The WR position will be without Julio Jones, Emmanuel Sanders/Demaryius Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Terrell Pryor this week. Carr being out knocks Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree out of even WR2 discussion this week. Having said this, we can’t be too shocked about some bizarre WR1’s this week in T.Y. Hilton (despite Jacoby Brissett under center) and Chris Hogan. Other than that, we still have our usual suspects locked in as WR2 plays that I don’t anticipate getting too many sit/start questions about.

It should be noted that Devin Funchess is in fact part of this group now. I think the Greg Olsen injury really opened the door for him considering his massive build really makes him more of a WR/TE hybrid who will continue to dominate red zone targets going forward.

The sneaky plays this week are Jets WRs Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson. They get the Browns in what should be a very tight contest. Both WRs are guaranteed a handful of targets and have sneaky big-play/TDs odds this week. You could certainly do worse than either.

Another matchup to exploit this year has been big-play WRs against the Eagles. Unfortunately, we have the Cardinals drawing that matchup this week when all four of their WRs are in play. If any one of them happened to be out it would have made it easier to key in on one of them (outside of Larry Fitz). I’m too scared to roll them out in season-long, but JJ Nelson makes for a fantastic DFS tournament option this week since his skill set/matchup gives him a sky-high ceiling in Week 5.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (vs JAX)
Mike Evans (vs NE)
Odell Beckham Jr. (vs LAC)
A.J. Green (vs BUF)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs KC)
Jordy Nelson (@ DAL)

Tier 2

Dez Bryant (vs GB)
Stefon Diggs (@ CHI)
Tyreek Hill (@ HOU)

Tier 3

Brandin Cooks (@ TB)
T.Y. Hilton (vs SF)
Keenan Allen (+1, @ NYG)
Chris Hogan (@ TB)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ PHI)
Golden Tate (vs CAR)
DeVante Parker (vs TEN)
Adam Thielen (@ CHI)
Rishard Matthews (@ MIA)
Alshon Jeffery (vs ARI)
Doug Baldwin (@ LAR)
Jarvis Landry (vs TEN)

Tier 4

Devin Funchess (@ DET)
Pierre Garcon (@ IND)
Randall Cobb (@ DAL)
DeSean Jackson (vs NE)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ DET)
Davante Adams (@ DAL)
Amari Cooper (vs BAL)
Sammy Watkins (vs SEA)
Martavis Bryant (vs JAX)

Tier 5

Tyrell Williams (@ NYG)
Allen Hurns (@ PIT)
Jeremy Maclin (@ OAK)
Jermaine Kearse (@ CLE)
Robby Anderson (-1, @ CLE)
Will Fuller V (vs KC)

Tier 6

Sterling Shepard (vs LAC)
Danny Amendola (@ TB)
Brandon Marshall (vs LAC)
Marqise Lee (@ PIT)
Eric Decker (@ MIA)|
Robert Woods (vs SEA)
Cooper Kupp (vs SEA)
J.J. Nelson (@ PHI)
Kenny Stills (vs TEN)
Jaron Brown (@ PHI)
Paul Richardson (@ LAR)
Marvin Jones Jr. (-1, vs CAR)
Donte Moncrief (vs SF)
John Brown (@ PHI)
Tyler Lockett (@ LAR)
Nelson Agholor (vs ARI)
Kenny Britt (vs NYJ)
Kendall Wright (vs MIN)
Adam Humphries (vs NE)

Tight Ends

Tight end has been a dumpster fire in ’17. The reason why is simply due to it being a largely TD dependent position. Anyone past Tier 3 can put up a goose egg any week they don’t score, since we can’t bank on yardage totals from anyone. I have put a ridiculous amount of time and energy into these projections, so feel free to trust my raw rankings, and just know that Tiers 4 and on consists of basically betting on a TD. This also means you shouldn’t simply be looking at their past few games of data. Regression tends to be ignored all too often, which causes people to play whack-a-mole at TE all year. Do not be one of these people!

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (@ TB)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (vs ARI)
Travis Kelce (@ HOU)

Tier 3

Charles Clay (@ CIN)
Delanie Walker (@ MIA)
Evan Engram (vs LAC)
Jimmy Graham (@ LAR)

Tier 4

Cameron Brate (vs NE)
Jason Witten (vs GB)
Martellus Bennett (@ DAL)
Jared Cook (vs BAL)
Jack Doyle (vs SF)
Kyle Rudolph (@ CHI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ CLE)

Tier 5

Tyler Kroft (vs BUF)
Jesse James (vs JAX)
Benjamin Watson (@ OAK)
Eric Ebron (vs CAR)
Zach Miller (vs MIN)
Hunter Henry (@ NYG)

Tier 6

Julius Thomas (vs TEN)
Ryan Griffin (vs KC)
Ed Dickson (@ DET)
George Kittle (@ IND)
Antonio Gates (@ NYG)
Jermaine Gresham (@ PHI)
O.J. Howard (vs NE)
David Njoku (vs NYJ)
Seth Devalve (vs NYJ)

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (@ TB)
Dan Bailey (vs GB)

Tier 2

Matt Prater (vs CAR)
Jake Elliott (vs ARI)
Mason Crosby (@ DAL)
Harrison Butker (@ HOU)
Adam Vinatieri (vs SF)
Greg Zuerlein (vs SEA)
Chris Boswell (vs JAX)
Nick Folk (vs NE)
Kai Forbath (@ CHI)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs KC)

Tier 3

Blair Walsh (@ LAR)
Aldrick Rosas (vs LAC)
Robbie Gould (@ IND)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs BAL)
Ryan Succop (@ MIA)

Tier 4

Graham Gano (@ DET)
Justin Tucker (@ OAK)
Randy Bullock (vs BUF)
Younghoe Koo (@ NYG)
Cody Parkey (vs TEN)
Connor Barth (vs MIN)

Tier 5

Phil Dawson (@ PHI)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ CLE)
Zane Gonzalez (vs NYJ)
Stephen Hauschka (@ CIN)
Jason Myers (@ PIT)

Defenses

Tier 1

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs JAX)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs ARI)

Tier 2

New York Jets (@ CLE)
Oakland Raiders (vs BAL)
Cincinnati Bengals (vs BUF)
Minnesota Vikings (@ CHI)
Buffalo Bills (@ CIN)

Tier 3

Kansas City Chiefs (@ HOU)
Detroit Lions (vs CAR)
New York Giants (vs LAC)
Tennessee Titans (@ MIA)
Cleveland Browns (vs NYJ)
Indianapolis Colts (vs SF)

Tier 4

Baltimore Ravens (@ OAK)
Los Angeles Rams (vs SEA)
San Francisco 49ers (@ IND)
Jacksonville Jaguars (@ PIT)
Los Angeles Chargers (@ NYG)
Miami Dolphins (vs TEN)
Houston Texans (vs KC)
Carolina Panthers (@ DET)
Seattle Seahawks (@ LAR)
New England Patriots (@ TB)
Dallas Cowboys (vs GB)
Arizona Cardinals (@ PHI)
Chicago Bears (vs MIN)

Tier 5

Green Bay Packers (@ DAL)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs NE)

What Not to Throw Aaron Judge (And Other Less Obvious Matchup Stories Assessing the Yankees-Twins AL Wild Card with STATS TVL Data)

By:

Ervin Santana missed with a slider, then threw Aaron Judge a 94-mph fastball up in the strike zone and not nearly far enough away in a 2-1 count. A predictable conclusion followed: The Yankees slugger hit the ball over the right-center field fence for a 1-0 lead in a game the Yankees won 2-1.

It’s everything the Minnesota Twins will want to avoid tonight as they try to make their first postseason appearance since 2010 stretch beyond one game.

It happened in the bottom of the first with one out on Sept. 18. It was the first time the two ever faced each other, but that’s no longer a passable excuse. There was still probably little need for Santana to throw Judge that pitch in that situation, according to STATS TVL data.

TVL tracks pitch type (T), velocity (V) and location (L) for each MLB pitcher and records the data into categories such as usage percentage of a specific pitch, the average velocity of each pitch type and the percentage a batter hits the ball on the ground against that pitch. The data is broken down further to show opponents’ batting average, slugging percentage, swing percentage and swing-and-miss percentage each time a specific pitch is thrown. A pitcher’s TVL then can be pitted against a hitter’s success when facing specific pitches to project how the hitter would fare versus a particular pitcher, which is what we’re going to use here to give some insight into this winner-take-all wild-card game.

Let’s first revisit that Santana-Judge sequence using video exported from the At-Bat Viewer in STATS Video Solution:

In the next at-bat, Santana threw Judge four straight sliders – a pitch he threw right-handed hitters 48.5 percent of the time in comparison to the four-seamer at 34.6 percent. The at-bat begins with a runner on first before Brett Gardner advanced to scoring position on a ball in the dirt, and the outcome was considerably different with a strikeout on a slider out of the zone:

It’s one thing to be able to analyze these matchups after the fact, but with TVL, we can go a step further and project pitch-specific matchup outcomes. Consider the Santana-Judge numbers, and it’s easy to see Santana should be incredibly selective with when he brings the heat, though that varies throughout the New York lineup:

Aside from Judge’s contrast, the number that stands out here is Greg Bird’s suspiciously low projected average against Santana’s four-seamer. He’s 2 for 5 with two home runs in their career matchups, and one of those came off a four-seamer. But that was back in 2015. Bird missed all of last season with a torn labrum and most of this season after undergoing foot surgery. He’s since shown little ability to catch up to that same pitch and is 3 for 38 off right-handed pitchers’ four-seamers this season, while left-handed batters have hit .173 against Santana’s four-seamer. Bird is still able to mash a changeup, which was the Santana pitch that accounted for that other homer, so the Twins should have an idea of how this matchup has evolved over two seasons, despite the two seeing little of each other again in that time.

There are similar insights to be had when assessing Luis Severino against the Twins, despite the right-hander not facing any of his Tuesday night opponents in more than two at-bats. For example, Severino may want to consider setting up Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario differently than Brian Dozier given the ability of the first two to track the slider:

It doesn’t take quite that level of data to show the Twins have lost their last 12 playoff games or that nine have come against the Yankees. But digging that deep might help Minnesota end its plight in another game where one pitch could prove far more costly than it did two weeks ago.

STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 4

By:

I told you last week was going to be nuts! We had tons of home underdogs, and lots of “good player in bad matchup” vs. “bad player in good matchup” decisions – a recipe for chaos. If the Packers’ romp over Chicago on Thursday night – which featured four Aaron Rodgers TDs and a Ty Montgomery injury – is any indication, some normalcy will be restored this week.

That’s good news for prognosticators like us. As always, please know that I can’t touch on every player, so feel free to ask me your sit/start questions on Twitter (@cschwartz18).

High-End QB Play: Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. IND)

The Indy defense may have looked competent against the DJ-less Cardinals and the Browns, but they have a much bigger test this weekend. Seattle, meanwhile, is looking to silence doubters by making a statement on national TV at home. I think this could get ugly for Indy. If so, Wilson will provide more of the same as last week, when he threw for almost 400 yards. It helps that Indy has been competent against the run, meaning Wilson may have to make plays himself in order to get out in front. He’s a consensus elite QB play this week, especially with Rodgers having played Thursday.

Stack Partner: Paul Richardson. Doug Baldwin is a game-time decision but most likely playing. Either way, he won’t be 100 percent and is one hit or tweak away from “not returning.” Richardson is talented, a big-play threat, in a great spot, and cheap in DFS.

High-End QB Play: Trevor Siemian, DEN (vs. OAK)

People have already soured on Siemian after his first bad game of 2017. By no means is he a matchup-proof QB1 – there are maybe 8 or 10 of those guys – but he still seems like a competent QB in a decent offense, and worth using in plus matchups. That is what he has this week against an Oakland team that got shredded by Kirk Cousins last week. Denver’s team total will rarely be higher than the 24.5 they’re getting this week. Most importantly, borderline QB1s like Jameis Winston, Cousins, Matt Stafford, Marcus Mariota and Big Ben all have tough matchups this week, so Siemian slides into our top 10 by default. He’s a great DFS play, especially on DraftKings, where Russell Wilson will not be part of the main slate.

Stack Partner:  It depends – at this point you can’t project much separation between Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. On FanDuel, they are priced the same, so I’d roll with Thomas, who has the higher floor and is due for some TD regression (very, very due). On DK, it’s a tougher call as Thomas is a bit pricier. Both are great plays. Hey, why not play both?

QB Sleeper: Eli Manning, NYG (@ TB)

Gulp – this is a GPP play only, not a guy to start in one-QB leagues or in your cash lineup. Manning seemed to get better in every second half, and also better each game, so perhaps he’s just taking a while to warm up. More logically, Odell Beckham is getting healthier, the O-Line is improving from WOAT to merely just “bad,” and Eli is getting more chemistry on quick throws to new teammates like Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram. In a week where many typical QB1s have poor matchups, I like Eli as a GPP play against a TB defense that got lit up by Case Keenum. Most of TB’s studs are banged up too (Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy, Brent Grimes), so the defense overall isn’t as scary as usual.

QB Fade: Marcus Mariota, TEN (@ HOU)

We tend to receive push-back whenever we rank Mariota outside the top 10 or 12 QBs. The fact of the matter is he has been a high-floor/low-ceiling guy who hasn’t punished those who fade him in tough spots. He has three passing TDs in three games and is always around 200 passing yards. This week, he has a tough matchup at Houston, which has a defense looking pretty good with J.J. Watt starting to look like himself. I’d start a guy like Dak Prescott over Mariota for sure this week, and I’d strongly consider benching him for QB2s with better matchups, like Siemian or Alex Smith.

High-End RB Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (vs. WAS)

Even with some regression, Hunt’s talent, usage, volume, and team situation add up to an elite RB going forward. This week, he’s the consensus No. 1 guy and a must-play in cash games, if you happen to be playing a MNF slate.

High-End RB Play: Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (vs. LAR)

Dallas knows the only way to contain the unstoppable Jared Goff is by running the clock and keeping him off the field (kidding). In all seriousness, if you are playing the main slate (so no MNF), Zeke is the top RB and must-cash guy. The Rams allowed 84 yards and two TDs to Carlos Hyde, 78 yards to Rob Kelley, and 67 yards to Semaje Perine. Elliott is quite better at football than those guys.

Stack Partner: Cowboys Defense. Goff’s strong recent play will lower ownership here, but they’re still a sneaky play if they can create turnovers against a second-year QB. If Demarcus Lawrence keeps up his Pro Bowl play, the sacks are an added dimension as well.

RB Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers, TB (vs. NYG)

The Giants’ pass defense looked pretty stout last week with Janoris Jenkins back, so Philly used the run game to move the ball. Yes, they succeeded in doing so with LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood leading the way. This gives another marginal RB – like Rodgers – hope this week. The Giants’ run defense has looked less elite this year without Johnathan Hankins at DT, and they looked even worse with Olivier Vernon banged up. People may jump to declare this a bad matchup for Rodgers, but I see him as more of a RB2/Flex option this week. With Doug Martin returning next week, Tampa shouldn’t hesitate to use Rodgers a bunch this week.

RB Fade, but also High End RB Play: Le’Veon Bell, PIT (@ BAL)

We have a unique situation here that I must point out. Bell is clearly not a top 2 RB this week in a brutal matchup on the road against a top 5 run D (according to our rating system). Still priced as the overall RB1, this makes him a bad value in cash games. I’d fade him there. On the other hand, you cannot fully fade him in GPPs, as he always possesses perhaps the highest ceiling of any RB, in any matchup. It’s baked into expectations that he has a bad matchup, which should lower his ownership. This makes him a weirdly sneaky GPP play in DFS. Gotta love it.

RB Fade: Chris Thompson, WAS (@ KC)

Thompson has gotten so “good” that it’s time to fade. Last week, with Kelley out, Perine in and out of the locker room, and Washington nursing a lead most of the game, he still only received eight handoffs. He has sustained his value by producing TDs every week, but that cannot keep up without him getting goal-line looks. Nobody has ever scored 15-20 long TDs in a season. He’s still an RB2 in PPR, but this week is a good opportunity to get out in front and fade him against a KC defense projected to hold Washington to just 21 points.

High-End WR Play: Michael Thomas, NO (vs. MIA in London)

Miami just looked plain bad last week, so hopefully you took Sean’s advice and tried to buy low on Thomas. We rate Miami as the No. 6-worst defense against WRs (for fantasy purposes), so this is a plus matchup to say the least. Don’t worry too much about Will Snead’s return. Thomas was a WR1-type last year with Snead and Brandin Cooks on the field, and Snead is more likely to take targets from Colby Fleener and Coleman. With guys like Mike Evans and Tyreek Hill in poor matchups, Thomas is back into high-end WR1 territory this week.

High-End WR Play: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs. SF)

If you own Fitz in season-long, you know to start him every week by now. If you play DFS, hopefully you know Fitz is money in cash games. For some reason, he’s still priced too low for such a target hog and PPR god. He should destroy a SF secondary that got lit up by Sammy Watkins last week.

WR Sleeper: Pierre Garcon, SF (@ ARI)

The other No. 1 WR in that matchup is also a good play, albeit a sneakier one. The Patrick Peterson narrative will scare people away, but the fact of the matter is that Brian Hoyer locks onto his favorite target and forces it. It probably won’t be efficient, but I can see Garcon catching five or six of his 12 targets and having a nice fantasy day, justifying starting him at WR2/3/Flex in season-long leagues. He’s a nice DFS value in GPPs as well.

WR Sleeper: Tyrell Williams, LAC (vs. PHI)

The secondary seems to be the weakness of Philly’s game, as they possess a good offense and stout front 7. Philip Rivers will have to throw, for many reasons. This appears to be baked into expectations for Rivers and Keenan Allen, both ranked in the top 10 by consensus. People are sleeping on Williams, though. Despite Allen’s return, Williams is getting six targets per game, and simply hasn’t generated any big plays yet. This is a great week to bet on a big play against a Philly D that allowed just that to Sterling Shepard last week.

WR Fade: Martavis Bryant, PIT (@ BAL)

Antonio Brown will still get his, as always, and is a tough guy to fully fade in GPPs even in a tough matchup. Bryant, on the other hand, has been big-play and TD dependent. He has only seven receptions on the season, and has put up two stinkers in three weeks – the two weeks he didn’t score a long TD. Bet against the big play this week, and bench him in season-long leagues if you have WR2 and WR3 types with better matchups (Pryor, Tyrell, Landry, Thielen).

High-End TE Play: Zach Ertz, PHI (@ LAC)

I’m just pointing out that he’s here to stay as an elite, top 3 TE. What separates the elite TE from the rest of the pack is the lack of TD dependence. Ertz is a PPR stud who puts up WR2 production in all matchups, so he has arrived at that point. He isn’t priced like it yet in DFS. He may be an even better play than Travis Kelce this week in DFS and season-long PPR formats.

High-End TE Play: Jason Witten, DAL (vs. LAR)

This is another more long-term commentary – Witten is a TE1 by default this year. Reed, Graham, Eifert are banged up, Henry has disappointed, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, 50-year-old Witten keeps chugging along, getting targets and production. He put up a stinker last week – that low floor is what keeps him from the elite. If you don’t have an elite guy, though, he’s basically the next best thing, especially in cash games and head-to-head matchups.

High-End TE Play: Evan Engram, NYG (@ TB)

One of the lone bright spots for the Giants, Engram has been remarkably consistent for a rookie TE (4/44, 4/49, 5/45). He’s been one of the few high-floor TE this year, which by default puts him in the TE1 conversation. This week, he has a suddenly attractive matchup against a TB defense that will probably be without stud LB’s Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. With Reed banged up and guys like Cook and Ebron in tough matchups, Engram looks like a top 10 TE this week.

TE Sleeper: Julius Thomas, MIA (vs. NO in London)

It’s typically wise to target the Saints defense, but Miami may be too bad and therefore risky to go all-in on. They almost got shut out by the Jets. Because of his low expectations and low price, though, Thomas may be the least risky guy to target on Miami. Three receptions each game so far isn’t terrible for a TE2, providing somewhat of a floor in PPR and DFS, and he is a better-than-usual bet for a TD against a bad Saints D. In fact, he has about the same chance of scoring a TD this week as guys like Witten, Graham, and Walker. He’s not quite at their level in terms of yardage projection, but he’s still a sneaky TE2 this week.

TE Fade: Cameron Brate, TB (vs. NYG)

The “target TE against NYG” narrative is strong right now, and Ertz’s TD last week further fueled it. Looking closely, the Giants have played two of the better TE in the league in their three games (Witten and Ertz), and they actually did a pretty good job bottling up Ertz (just 55 yards on his 10 targets). Cameron Brate splits snaps with O.J. Howard and targets with Evans and DeSean Jackson, among others. If he doesn’t score a TD, he likely won’t provide enough volume to help you. In the TE2 / TE punt range, I like guys like Thomas, Griffin, and ASJ more this week.