There was no lack of excitement around the NFL in Week 3. The electric debut of Baker Mayfield, another Saints – Falcons classic, a Monday night stiff-arm for the ages and plenty of upsets that remind of us the parity on the level playing field that is NFL Sunday. When it comes to fantasy football, some trends are starting to show themselves, and we can’t fully take advantage of them profitably in Daily Fantasy Football unless we follow them and dig deeper into why they are happening.
Running backs catching the ball out of the backfield is at an all-time high around the league. I can’t remember this many double-digit reception games by runners during the course of an entire season, let alone through three weeks. Why though? What is causing this? One, I believe running backs in general are simply training themselves to be versatile weapons. Running backs are now better at being receivers, it isn’t rocket science. And secondly and most importantly, teams are willing to play defense in such a way that they are purposefully giving up shorter passes and more running room on the ground in order to shut down the intermediate and deep passing attacks across the league. Pursue, rally and tackle is the name of the game on defense right now (although the tackling part can be tricky at times). More than ever we need to be focusing on which running backs have the ability to catch 6-8 passes in a single game, identify them, and get them into our lineups each and every week when possible.
In Week 3, while we would have undoubtedly pivoted off the lineup I wrote about mid-week, I will still consider that week a loss in the win/loss column because we had too many duds even after receiving all information available regarding injuries. I will do better in Week 4, book it.
QB Philip Rivers (6500) – Rivers is in an excellent spot to deliver a good to possibly great game at home vs the 49ers. Multiple touchdowns in every game thus far this season, while the 49ers secondary has given up touchdown pass after touchdown pass. With a floor of two touchdowns and a ceiling of four touchdowns, Rivers carries one of the best floor/ceilings mixes of the main slate this week.
RB Giovani Bernard (6300) – He will be a very popular play this week on all sites, and for good reason. The Falcons before injuries on defense already were known for allowing running backs to set career highs in reception vs them. And now they face off with a natural receiver out of the backfield that has caught 9 ball over the past two outings. 51 points is the over/under in this game, so expect both teams to put up plenty of yards and points.
RB Austin Ekeler (4200) – At worst he has proven to be worth 2x his salary, with his upside being very reasonably 5x his salary (20 points+). He has caught 11 passes already this year, and in a game in which Rivers and Melvin Gordon should eat early, expect Ekeler’s touches to looks similar to Week 2 in which he carried 11 times for 77 yards and caught an additional 3 balls for 21 more yards. You have to feel pretty good about a player who could fail to reach to endzone, but still reach 3x his value in relation to his salary when he is this dirt cheap.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (8700) – I am going to pay up for a player who can quickly become a ‘week-winner.’ The Saints are the worst team in football at defending the pass, period. And yes they did roll coverage to slow down Julio Jones, but the Giants offense is predicated on getting the ball out quick; so don’t be shocked at all if OBJ winds up catching 12-14 balls in a game the Giants offense will have to do plenty of catching up. Who else are the Giants going to face off with in 2018 in which the total will be dragged up over 50 points? This will be one of OBJ’s biggest games of the season.
WR T.Y. Hilton (7000) – While the Saints hold the league’s worst pass defense, I am not sure any secondary is actually playing worse than the Texans right now. Hilton has had a minimum of 10 targets in each of his three games and despite having his lowest output of the year last week, his price went up $300 on Draft Kings? Hmmm. But they know what I know, Hilton will likely catching 7-9 balls, with 100 yards and the three points bonus that comes with it well within reach vs an exploitable secondary.
WR Corey Davis (5300) – The breakout is coming. Go get him in season-long fantasy right now if you can. He has produced virtually nothing, so it should not cost you too much. Marcus Mariota is back in the starting lineup now for the Titans with Davis obviously being the most featured target in the passing attack. Davis has been targeted just under 8 times per game, and of his 151 yards receiving in 2018, 89 of the have came after the catch. Davis has faced off with Xavien Howard, Jalen Ramsey and Blaine Gabbert. Well, he didn’t actually face off with Gabbert, but everyone reading this knows exactly what I mean. The Eagles secondary does not have the players to hold down this emerging talent, buy now while you can, we will in DFS this week at this price.
TE O.J. Howard (3500) – While I expect the Bucs to have a fairly rough day in the windy city Sunday, only one tight end in football has cleared 50 yards receiving in all three football games this season – OJ Howard. He was my breakout tight end of the year before the season began and he has been showing why. At only $3500, I dare to say he is favored to achieve 4x value. Great salary relief and a high floor, count me in.
FLEX Allen Robinson (5400) – The big breakout is also coming with Robinson soon. He is proving to be healthy and the Bucs secondary is proving to be one of the five most exploitable in the sport of football. Josh Gordon is more expensive than him this week, c’mon now. Robinson doesn’t have an elite quarterback tossing him the rock, but with 28 targets through three games, it is safe to say he is THE trusted target in Chicago and will be reminding people of his redzone prowess soon enough.
DEF Chicago Bears (2600) – This has to be one of the biggest pricing errors of the week. We get the Bears defense at home vs the historically turnover prone Ryan Fitzpatrick. I love this bargain. The Bears have put up 14, 17 and 13 points respectively the first three weeks of the season; sacking the quarterback 14 times already and scoring twice! Fitzpatrick and the Bucs offensive coaching staff have been aggressive this season in their play calling. In this game I expect it to bite them as the Bears get a victory behind their very good defensive unit.