Originally posted: November 10, 2017
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Another week, another court hearing (or two) to determine if Ezekiel Elliott can play. It seems like he won’t (but it did at this time last week, too), so don’t forget about Alfred Morris. Assuming Zeke remains out, Morris is a lock in cash games and a solid play all-around. In Week 9, almost all our value plays delivered, with standout performances from Marvin Jones, Ted Ginn, Jack Doyle, and Jacoby Brissett. I’m giving DeMarco Murray a pass because he did sustain a minor injury during the game that opened the door for more Derrick Henry, but the distribution of touches in that backfield is so unstable that I’ll do my best to avoid it in the future.
It’s a fun week to scrounge for value, so let’s dig in.
Eli Manning (NYG): $6,700 @ SF
It’s hard to be excited about rostering Eli Manning at this stage of his career. His season has been dismal and he’s lost his greatest weapon, Odell Beckham. I have never been a fan of Eli, so I was eager to believe that he had simply run out of gas – a belief that seems pretty common this year. But looking closer, I found reasons for optimism entering his Week 10 matchup with the 49ers.
The matchup is the single most compelling argument in favor of playing Eli Manning. San Francisco’s defense has been tragically bad. They’ve allowed the second-most real points per game (26.5) and the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. They’ve been slightly worse on the ground than through the air, but the Giants hardly have a run game to speak of. Opponents have still passed for 245 yards per game on average against the 49ers.
What if I told you that Eli Manning’s season hasn’t been as bad as it’s looked? Consider his opponents and their rank in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this season:
|Game||Opp||FPA Rank||Manning FP|
The first thing that stands out is what a tough schedule it is. Four of his eight games have been against bottom-10 matchups for quarterbacks – plus one against the Broncos, who have uncharacteristically slipped out of the bottom-10 (but mostly because of Carson Wentz’s big day). In his other three games, Manning averaged 20 fantasy points, even counting the 7.7-point stinker to open the season. He got Sterling Shepard back last week and you can see the difference that having a competent receiver besides Evan Engram made in the chart above.
The 49ers’ putrid defense hasn’t allowed less than 14 fantasy points to quarterbacks all year. Even Drew Stanton last week put up 15. I don’t expect that to change with Manning. In addition to that solid floor, the hapless Niners’ defense gives any quarterback a high ceiling. Eli Manning is the second-most undervalued quarterback according to our tool.
James White (NE): $4,600 @ DEN
I don’t know why FanDuel hates James White. Despite paying off his salary in six of eight games this season, White’s salary has been tumbling since Week 1, when it was $5,700. Granted, Patriots running backs are notoriously difficult to predict, but White has been the lone spot of consistency, no matter what Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and/or Mike Gillislee are doing. He’s gotten five or more targets in all but one game. For the season, his average is 6.6 targets per game, the second-highest average among all running backs.
Denver is solid against the run, ranking 28th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 31st in rush yards per attempt allowed. However, White’s carried the ball more than five times only once this year. The Broncos being stout against the run works in White’s favor. The Patriots are looking to him in the red zone. In the last four games, he has five red zone carries and six red zone targets. James White has a lot of opportunities to produce, and he is essentially free at $4,600, making him our Value Play tool’s second-most undervalued running back.
Devonta Freeman (ATL): $6,500 vs. DAL
Devonta Freeman has also seen his price plummet over the course of the season. In Week 1, he cost $8,300 to roster. Now he’s $1,800 less against a Cowboys defense that might not be as stout against the run as they initially appear. By fantasy points allowed, they are 22nd in the league against running backs. However, they’ve allowed the eighth-highest yards per carry. Their combined opponents have run the second-fewest rushing plays against them, creating that odd discrepancy. This is a game-script thing. The Cowboys have won and won big (+48 point differential, fifth-highest), meaning opponents have been forced to abandon the run in an effort to catch up. It’s no coincidence that three of the top four running back performances against the Cowboys came in their three losses.
Vegas has the Falcons as small, three-point home favorites over the Cowboys. That may be an overreaction to the (presumed) lack of Ezekiel Elliott this week – though I have learned not to count on that – but betting markets definitely do not anticipate the Cowboys blowing out the Falcons. That bodes well for Freeman, who has averaged 15.45 fantasy points in the Falcons’ four wins but only 10.65 in their four losses. His performance recently has been lackluster, but he’s gotten no less than 15 touches each of the last three weeks. He’s averaged almost 72 total yards per game over that span. The real problem has been a touchdown drought since back on October 1st. If he can find his way back into the end zone against Dallas, he could have a huge game.
Terrance Williams (DAL): $4,600 @ ATL
Following an explosion of nine catches on nine targets for 141 yards against the Chiefs, Terrance Williams’ salary… stayed the same. Works for me. To be fair, Williams has many question marks. He hadn’t done much in the eight preceding games, though he’s received an average of five targets per game. Dez Bryant was forced out of the game early last week, but not before accumulating 11 targets himself. Bryant will play this week, but that shouldn’t hurt Terrance Williams much. Overall, the Falcons have held wide receivers to the 24th-most fantasy points. But Williams should see Desmond Trufant in coverage most of the time. Trufant has been burned this season, allowing a 103.2 passer rating when targeted. With the absence of Ezekiel Elliott perhaps encouraging Dallas to pass more, Williams offers considerable value at his almost-free salary.
Sterling Shepard (NYG): $5,700 @ SF
If I’m looking for one receiver to pair with Eli Manning, I’m taking Sterling Shepard over Evan Engram. For starters, Shepard is $1,700 cheaper than Engram, despite receiving only one fewer target last game. Shepard is the second-most undervalued player in our tool. For all their struggles on defense, the 49ers have somehow held tight ends to the 28th-most fantasy points. However, against wide receivers, they’ve allowed the 12th-most. In the five full games Shepard has played, he’s averaged 7.2 targets. Last week, Shepard returned from a two-game absence to grab five catches on nine targets for 70 yards. K’Waun Williams, San Francisco’s slot corner, has struggled all year, allowing a 101.2 passer rating. Shepard lines up in the slot roughly 85% of the time. He has a huge opportunity to prove that Evan Engram isn’t the only promising young pass-catcher on the Giants.
Kyle Rudolph (MIN): $5,400 @ WAS
I have a feeling this Washington vs. Minnesota matchup is going to smash the conservative 42-point total anticipated by Vegas. Even if it stays low-scoring, Kyle Rudolph should be heavily involved. If the Vikings want to move the ball through the air, they will need to look to their tight end. He’s already a big part of their offense and his role has increased over the course of the season. Overall, he’s averaged 5.9 targets per game, but over the last four, that jumps up to eight per game. He has essentially no competition from other tight ends; he’s been on the field for 94% of all snaps this season.
Washington is especially vulnerable to tight ends and especially solid against wide receivers, which ends up funneling touches to the former. They’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends, but the 27th-most to wide receivers. Given their three excellent corners – Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland, and of course, Josh Norman – that’s no surprise. Rudolph’s price doesn’t seem to reflect what should be an expanded role for him in this game, making him the most undervalued tight end.
Chris Boswell (PIT): $4,800 @ IND
When selecting a kicker, the first thing I consider is which teams I expect to score the most real (not fantasy) points. That sounds basic and obvious, but unlike other positions, kickers only get fantasy points when their team scores real points. There’s no garbage time for kickers. The Colts allow points of all kinds left and right. They’re third in fantasy points allowed to kickers and first in real points per game allowed. But not just first. They’re first by more than two points per game. The Colts have allowed a staggering 28.8 points per game, while the next highest, the 49ers, have allowed 26.5. Teams are running up and down the field on the Colts, accumulating 3,542 total yards in just nine games, an average of 394 yards per game.
There’s no reason to think the Colts’ defense will do any better against the Steelers, despite any Ben Roethlisberger-on-the-road narratives. Chris Boswell, so far as I can tell, is just a guy. He’s accurate enough, making 18 of 20 field goals this year, matching his career 90% success rate. His longest field goal in the past two years was 49 yards (career-high was 51 yards in 2015). But he’s a guy that’s going to get points every time a great offense scores against a pathetic defense.
Chicago Bears D/ST: $4,300 vs. GB
Over the past three games since losing Aaron Rodgers for the season, the Packers have scored 44 points. Not per game. Just 44, total. The team that put up 35 points in a single game against the Bears earlier this season is no more. Brett Hundley, despite the insistence of Mike McCarthy, is not good. He’s passed for only one touchdown and rushed for two more, but he’s turned the ball over six times in just three games (four interceptions, two fumbles). His 7.6% sack rate ranks 11th-worst (>= 80 pass attempts). Hundley’s 2.75 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A) ties DeShone Kizer for last. Hundley’s propensity for taking sacks sets up a nice floor for a Bears’ defense that has no fewer than two sacks in every game this season, especially considering how hard it’s been for the Packers to score points. He’s also turnover prone and any one of those could go for a defensive touchdown and a massive score for the Bears D/ST.
Source: Fantasy Pros
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